A FACE ON THE WALL
Betty sat in her favorite seat, a low, three-legged cricket, on the side farthest from the fire in Clarissa’s little morning-room; it was the day before Christmas, and Betty’s fingers were busy tying evergreens into small bunches and wreaths. Of these a large hamperful stood at her elbow, and Peter was cutting away the smaller branches, with a face of importance.
“So you have never kept Christmas before,” said he, pausing in his cheerful whistle, which he kept up under his breath like a violin obligato to his whittling of boughs; “and you don’t believe in Kris Kringle and his prancing reindeers? My, what fun we boys had up in the old Beverwyck at Albany last year,” and Peter chuckled at the recollection of past pranks. “Down here in the city it is chiefly New Year day which is observed, but thank fortune Gulian is sufficiently Dutch to believe in St. Nicholas.”
“Yes?” murmured Betty, her thoughts far away as she wondered what Moppet was doing up in the Litchfield hills, and whether Oliver had got back safely to the army again. Surely, he had cautioned her not to recognize him, but luckily her fortitude had not been put to proof. And then she wondered what secret mission Kitty had been engaged upon that day at Collect Pond. Somehow Kitty and she had been more confidential since then; and one night, sitting by the fire in Betty’s room, Kitty had confessed that she too was a rebel—yes, a sturdy, unswerving rebel, true to the Colonies and General Washington, and Betty’s warm heart had gone forth toward her from that very moment.
“Clarissa has a huge crock full of olykeoks in the pantry,” pursued Peter, to whom the Dutch dainty was sufficiently toothsome; “and Pompey has orders to brew a fine punch made of cider and lemons for the servants, and oh! Betty, do you know that Miranda has a new follower? His name is Sambo, and he comes from Breucklen Heights; he has been practicing a dance with her, and old Jan Steen, the Dutch fiddler, has promised to come and play for them and their friends in the kitchen, and for my part I think there will be more fun there than at Clarissa’s card-party—don’t you? Wake up, Betty; I don’t believe you’ve heard one word I’ve been saying.”
“Indeed I have,” replied Betty, returning to her present surroundings with a start. “A dance, Peter? Why, it seems to me the servants have great liberty here.”
“Don’t you give yours a holiday up in New England? I thought you had negro servants as well as we?”
“So we do; you know that Miranda is the daughter of our old cook, Chloe. She came here with Clarissa when she was a bride; oh, we have a few negro servants in dear New England, Peter, but not so many as here. Gulian told me that there are some three thousand slaves owned in the city and its environs. But our negroes go to church and pray; they do not dance, and I know Chloe would be shocked with Miranda’s flippant ways. She was ever opposed to dancing.”