A Burst of RedI wake up slowly to aggressive voices and a barely lit sky. How very strange! I'm used to guests arriving at the boarding house at strange hours, but never accompanied by such angry voices. I can hear the sharp, masculine tones of the intruders and my father along with the firm voice of my mother.
"Oh! You mustn't!" I hear her cry. I hear my father's voice, but not quite. I groggily go to my door at open it a crack.
"My wife is right. We cannot support you in times as hard as they are. To house, feed, and supply three soldiers is asking much of us. It simply cannot be done!" says my father.
"I understand, Mr. Woodard, but we have our orders. And unless you wish to oppose the governor and Major Quick, I suggest you let us in and offer us your hospitality," comes a voice neither polite nor forceful.
In curiosity, I peer out and see three persons dressed in red and bedecked in brass buttons. British soldiers. I rub my eyes so that I might get a better look at them. The black boots click their way towards my room. I still see very little, as I'm still fatigued by my slumber.
"Elinor!" My mother's voice jolts me awake. My eyes snap open and my cheeks flush red. I stand clad in only a nightgown in front of three of the king's men!
"Oh!" I exclaim as I quickly close my door and wrap myself in my quilt. I curl up in my bed again and pray that sleep will find me once more.
I awaken again to four blues eyes staring at me. My sister of six sits on my bed, looking expectantly at me, while my sister of ten stands beside me with a troubled look on her face.
"We've important guests, Elinor. We are to meet them for breakfast," says ten year old Abigail. Sweet little Cornelia nods her head in agreement. I sit up and kiss her mousy colored head. I send my sisters out and dress quickly. When I enter the main room for breakfast my family is there in the strangest fashion. Abigail and Cornelia stand beside each other. Abigail clutches my hand and pulls me to her side. My father stands adjacent to us, while my mother pours tea for the gentlemen in red. My father clears his throat.
I finally look at the men who so rudely awakened me. The first and most important looking is a somewhat heavyset gentleman with a ridiculous looking powdered wig on. He's around my father's age, perhaps younger. He has a tired face, which perhaps adds years to him. The second is a man of perhaps two and thirty years. He has an impressive nose and beady eyes, which give him a rather curious look. He's tall and lanky, but can see that very little will startle him. The third soldier is young and handsome, no more than twenty years. I can tell in his eyes that he has yet to see the true horrors of war, but he must have shown military promise to be a second lieutenant so young. His face is not familiar, but he reminds me of someone. Though, I can't think of whom. The young lieutenant looks at me and I blush, remembering the embarrassment earlier this morning. I look, instead, at my father.
"Now, gentlemen, these are my daughters. There's my eldest, Elinor, then we have Abigail, and Cornelia. Heed my words! They are precious to me and all that I am, so you shall be good to them or by the power of God I will strike you down!" warns my father. Little Cornelia looks up at him in surprise. And Abigail looks startled. My mother then quickly dismisses us to our normal duties and the soldiers begin to stir.
"We do appreciate your efforts, Mr. Woodard," says Captain Crawford. First Lieutenant Martin nods respectfully and second Lieutenant Gray fiddles with his belt. My father silently fumes and the captain scoffs. "We cannot change the law anymore than you can! Now I bid you good day." The soldiers gather their belongings and move towards the door. I meet Gray's gaze one more time before he departs. It seems to stir an old pain in my chest. What could this possibly be? For the rest of the day, I can't get those soft hazel eyes out of my head.