Originally published as Independent Heart.
I still can't believe what I saw from Aunt Letitia's parlor window last night. The whole City, south of her house, was aflame. We were afraid, and the servants stood before the door with muskets. So much smoke blowing! We were coughing, and the whole sky turned red, while crowds carrying pitiful bundles of their possessions ran and wept, driving their poor cows and horses down the street! I hadn't believed that General Washington could be driven out of New York and that the British would rule here again, but that's what has come to pass.
My Aunt believes that American sympathizers set fire to the City, that the occupying British troops were not responsible. This morning it still burns, and we've heard that more than half of the buildings have fallen. Auntie and I had hot words on the subject at breakfast, but after what I've seen and heard already of this war, I confess I am truly not certain of what to believe.
It's unimaginable, what my Uncle Ten Broeck has written of, the things happening up and down our once peaceful valley. There has been looting and burning, the cruel maiming of horses and cattle carried out by those who must have little but evil in their hearts. Everywhere, my Uncle says, men settle old scores with their neighbors, while hiding their shocking crimes behind the names of "Loyalist" or "Patriot."
Oh, why did I ever come to the City? I was tired of Arent's pursuit, but that seems so petty now. Arent is a kind man who is in love with me, but how can I ever marry anyone? I fear I will always be in love with my darling long-lost 'Bram!
New York is become a dangerous place, exactly as my Uncle feared. I've been a great fool, traveling in the midst of this war! All I want is to go home, to sail up the river back to Kingston, but I am trapped behind the lines of the enemy. My Aunt Letitia says that I--and my inheritance--are far safer here, that because my Uncle Jacob is a patriot and defies the British, he will be hanged and his lands forfeit to the Crown. It is better, she says, that I "not be involved in his folly and ruin."
She has gone back to her old plan for me, wants me to marry "a respectable English officer" and "leave forever this barbaric place". She doesn't seem to understand that I am an American, bred in this land and to the bone. Even though General Washington has been defeated, I still believe that in the end--somehow, some way--our Cause will triumph, and that one day we on this continent shall enjoy the blessings of true liberty and peace.
Angel's Flight is the sister book to her award winning Genesee.
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