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A BOSTON TEA PARTY
S it, think you, because her father is the President of
the Continental Congress that Susan Boudinot behaves
so?" Abigail whispered the question across the aisle of
the Dame's school in old Boston to one of the other
little old-time lassies.
"Perhaps that is it. Look at her now. She minds it not
in the least that she must sit in the dunce's corner.
She is smiling with those red lips and big blue eyes of
hers as though she were not in disgrace," the other
little girl whispered back.
From other corners of the schoolroom came whispered
comments about the wilful little Susan.
"What did Susan do that she was put in the dunce's
"Indeed she did a great deal to try the good Dame's
patience. She tied the braids of Mercy Wentworth and
Prudence Talbot together so tightly that when the Dame
called upon Mercy to bring her copy book to her to show
its pothooks, Prudence was well nigh dragged too. As if
this were not enough, Susan put sand in the ink and
made it so thick as to spoil the good Dame's
 The school was hushed, though, as the Dame who taught
it entered and took her seat behind the desk, a quaint
figure in her black gown, white apron, great spectacles
and smoothly-parted hair. All the children of these old
Colony days, seated in front of her on the hard
benches, bent their heads low again over their spellers
or slates. Their hair was smoothly cropped or tightly
braided. Only the wayward little girl, perched high
upon the dunce's stool, wore her hair in a mass of
tangled curls. They gleamed like gold in the sunshine
that filtered through the window. Susan's hair was like
her own wilful little self, impatient of bounds and
As the Dame had returned to the room Susan's lips had
drooped a little and lost their smile. She cast her
eyes toward the toes of her buckled shoes just above
which ruffled the dainty white frills of her
pantalettes. She crossed her hands demurely in the lap
of her short-waisted, rose-sprigged gown. Presently,
though, Susan looked up and glanced out of the school
window. There was the green Boston Common, and the
white meeting-house, and the brick mansions with their
wide white doorways and brass knockers. Susan could see
in fancy as far as the sea front, where she knew there
were British ships at anchor with the fishing smacks
and the merchant vessels of the Colonies.
 These were troubled times, as Susan well knew, for the
settlers in the new land. She heard her father speak of
the growing discontent of the Colonies against the
stern rule of the English King, and their
disinclination to pay taxes on goods when they were
allowed not representation in Parliament.
Only that morning, as Susan had pouted and frowned when
her mother tried to comb out her twisting, tangling
curls, there had been the sound of loud vices in the
next room where her father received his business
callers. Susan's sweet-faced mother had sighed.
"Ah, Susan dear, why do you add to our troubles by
being such a wilfull little lass. Hear you not the
voices in the other room? It is the King's collector,
and your father is trying to explain to him that the
Congress feels it especially unjust to pay a tax on
tea—that pleasant beverage that is so much drunk
at the Boston parties. I know not how it will all come
out, and my heart is aching for the trouble I feel will
come. Be good, dear child. This will help us as you can
in no other way."
Susan had thrown her arms about her mother's neck in a
burst of love.
"I will be good, dear mother. I will be good," she had
exclaimed, for at heart there was no kinder child in
all Boston that little Mistress Susan
 Boudinot. The scene came back to her now and she turned
toward her teacher, the Dame, reaching out her slim
little arms imploringly. What right had she, a little
girl, to be naughty when her country was in such dire
peril, she thought?
"I will be good," she said in a burst of penitent tears
as the Dame motioned kindly to her to leave the dunce's
corner. "I do not know why I was moved to tie Mercy and
Prudence together by their hair except it was what the
elder speaks of in meeting as the old Adam coming out
of one. And I am sorry indeed about the ink."
"That will do," the Dame said, trying not to smile.
"Take your seat, Susan, and write at least ten times,
'be ye kind to one another,' in your copy book, and
remember to keep it treasured in your mind as well as
on the white pages."
Susan slipped gladly into her place beside Abigail and
was soon scratching away with her quill pen as
industriously as any of the others.
School was not out until late in the afternoon, and
Susan, surrounded by Abigail and Mercy and Prudence and
many of the other little Colonial maidens, took their
merry way through the narrow, brick-paved streets of
old Boston. In their flowered poke bonnets, round silk
capes, and full skirts they looked like a host of
blossoms of as many different colors—lavender,
green, pink, and blue. At the gate
 of one of the old mansions not far from the Common,
Susan, her curls flying and her cheeks rosy from the
warm sea air, waved her hand in good-bye.
"I would invite you all to come in for a game of
battledore and shuttlecock in the garden, but my mother
was not feeling well when I left her this morning and I
see her beckoning to me from her window." She darted
through the door and up the wide staircase. She found
her mother almost in tears.
"There is to be a party at the Royal Governor's house,"
Madam Boudinot exclaimed, "this very afternoon and
there will be no one to represent your father's family,
for I feel far too ill to put on my best dress and go.
Many prominent people will be there representing the
Colonists and the King. Oh, what shall I do?"
Susan considered a moment, at the same time capably
fetching the lavender salts for her mother, and putting
cloths wet with toilet water on her aching head. Then
she had an idea, for there was much wisdom packed away
in the curl-crowned head of nine-year-old Mistress
"Do you set your mind and heart at rest, dearest
mother," she said. "I will do my hair up so." Standing
in front of an oval, gilt-framed mirror, Susan caught a
few of her curls at the back. She pulled them up to the
top of her head, and fastened
 them there with a band of velvet, while the rest hung
in a golden shower over her shell pink ears.
"There," Susan exclaimed. "I look as old as a miss of
fourteen and I can be quite dignified. I will put on my
best silk dress, and my silk hose, and my Sunday shoes
with the silver buckles." As she spoke, Susan pulled
out boxes and opened a chest and drawers. Then she
stood in front of her mother, her arms loaded with
finery. She made a quaint little curtsey.
"The family of the President of the Continental
Congress will be represented at the Royal Governor's
party," she said. "Mistress Susan Boudinot will take
the place of Madam Boudinot."
A space of a half-hour later a dignified little lady
stepped out of the door of the Boudinot mansion and
into a waiting chaise. Susan held her head very high.
Was not her hair done up for the first time, and its
mass of ringlets pinned with one of her mother's
tortoise-shell combs? Her buff brocade dress was made
with a lace underbody. A polonaise and deep frills of
lace edged the elbow-length, close-fitting sleeves and
fell as far as the small white hands. A blue locket on
a strip of narrow black velvet ribbon was hung about
the little girl's throat, and over it all was thrown a
ruffled cape of her mother's lined with fur. As the
chaise rattled away toward the Governor's mansion her
 words to her repeated themselves over and over again in
"Be a good child, Susan, and do not forget for a moment
that you are representing your father and, through him,
It was a gay scene in which little Mistress Susan soon
found herself. The Governor's parlor was very beautiful
with its high-backed mahogany chairs and great bowls of
roses. A huge sideboard was loaded with cakes and
sweets, and the great round table covered with a lace
cloth was set with priceless blue and white china.
There was a crowd of people, Whig and Tory. Lovely
young ladies of the Colonies in powdered hair and stiff
silks, and young men, their hair worn in powdered
queues, mingled gaily. After paying her respects to the
wife of the Governor, Susan found a corner where she
could sit quietly and watch the party. She was not
unseen, though. Many eyes had noted the dainty charm of
the little maid and the sweetness
 of her tone as she had said, gracefully, to her
"My mother, Madame Boudinot, sends her respects to the
Governor's wife and regrets that she can not bring them
in person. I am the daughter of Madame Boudinot and my
father is the President of the Continental Congress."
"And a polite little girl, indeed," the hostess had
replied, smiling, as she turned and presented the
little girl to her husband, the Royal Governor, and
representative of the King.
Many eyes, both Whig and Tory, had been cast at the
corner where little Mistress Susan sat demurely.
"The new land has winsome daughters," said an
"And plucky ones," retorted an American.
But Susan's eyes were fixed on the goodies that were
being brought in now by the servants; great silver
trays loaded with confections of all kinds. The blue
plates were passed to the guests. Soft, glowing candles
sent their glimmering light over the tall crystal
goblets and bowls of fruits. Then Susan saw a silver
urn brought in and set upon the table in front of the
Governor's wife, who poured the fragrant tea into the
"Here is your cup of tea, little Mistress Susan," she
Susan took the blue cup in her hand; but, suddenly, its
very touch changed her from the prim
 little maid she had been before to a small creature of
rebellion. The amber, steaming tea in the blue cup was,
to Susan, one of the marks of her country's lack of
independence. Must the Colonies pay a tax on tea to the
King across the ocean, and still be allowed no
representation in Parliament? How, Susan wondered,
could those other girls of the Colonies, years older
than she, sit there so placidly sipping their tea and
seeming to enjoy it so much? Suddenly she recalled her
"Do not forget for a moment that you are representing
your father, and through him, the Congress."
Susan had made up her mind what she would do. Her
girlish spirit of rebellion that sometimes led her to
play such pranks as she had that day in school suddenly
turned to the will power that made the Colonists win
their fight for freedom in the American Revolution.
Susan rose, cup in hand, and took her way across the
room, the rustling of her silk skirts calling the
attention of the tea drinkers to her. At an open window
she stopped and deliberately tipped her cup, throwing
the tea, untasted, on the grass outside. Then she set
the empty cup down upon the table.
At first there was a hush. Then the gentlemen laughed
to see the little girl, flushed now with confusion,
seated on the edge of a high chair and tapping upon the
floor with one high-heeled slipper.
 "The spirit of the Colonies," said the Royal Governor
smiling. "I foresee that we shall have to tame it."
But in spite of his mocking words Susan saw that more
than one of the guests who claimed the cause of the
Colonies their own set down their tea and drank no more
of it. The first laughter died away. There was a
thoughtful quiet during the remainder of the party.
Years and years ago it was, but the brave rebellion of
little Mistress Susan has come down to the children of
to-day in story as one of the helps in the winning for
America of her independence.