written by James Rada, Jr.
Margaret Rosensteel had been enjoying a magical evening at the town dance in Emmitsburg before everything fell apart. The decorations hung from buildings and strung over the street had been lovely. The weather was warm and pleasant. All the practicing the band had done paid off because they sounded wonderful.
She had danced, which she loved doing, but rarely got to do because her parents thought a future Daughter of Charity should be more serious. And she had met a boy. Not just any boy, either. This one liked her, not because he thought she was cute. He had loved her personality before he ever met her. He had seen her dancing and thought it suited her.
They had danced together, and after that initial uneasiness, they had felt comfortable with each other. She hadn’t restrained her enthusiasm for dancing, which had only made Caleb Sachs smile.
Then, her brothers and Caleb’s friends had gotten into an argument and spoiled the whole evening for her. Caleb had gone to see what was happening with his friends and had gotten swept up in a fight.
Wasn’t that just like boys?
Margaret and her sister Rebecca had left, and Margaret had felt like crying.
Margaret felt no better when she woke up the next morning. She poured water into her basin and washed off, making sure to remove the remains of the makeup she had worn last night. Otherwise, her parents were sure to comment on it. She dressed and went downstairs for breakfast.
Her brothers, Jack and Paul, were sitting at the table talking to her father. What were they doing here? They had their own homes and wives. They all went quiet when she came down. That wasn’t a good sign.
“So did you fight any other children last night?” Margaret said.
“They weren’t children,” Jack said.
“They were my age, and you two are both over twenty. You two looked ridiculous last night.”
“They were spiking the punch,” Paul said.
“Then you should have got their parents and made sure only the adults drank the punch. The last I saw last night was you rolling in cherry pie and yellow cake.”
Jack blushed. Paul colored, too, but he was getting angry.
“I didn’t mean for that to happen, but we didn’t start the fight,” Jack said.
“I was having a wonderful time until you two ruined it.”
“And why were you having such a wonderful time? Was it that boy you were dancing with? It was his friends that caused the problem.”
“From what I saw, Caleb tried to calm things down and you all caught him in the middle. He was acting more like an adult than either of you.”
“Well, your beau is the son of the shopkeeper that is always overcharging us,” Paul said.
Caleb was a shopkeeper’s son. Well, that was a little more she now knew about him.
“If his father overcharges you, then why do you buy from him?” she asked.
“Well, he’s the only one in town who carries some of the things we like.”
“Then how do you know he’s overcharging?”
“Because clothes shouldn’t cost what he charges.”
“I thought you said he sold things other merchants didn’t,” Margaret said. “Everyone sells clothes.”
Paul shook his head. “Sarah likes the fabrics Mrs. Sachs sells. We tried getting them other places, but no one carries them. We’d have to go to Baltimore or Frederick.” Sarah was Paul’s wife.
Samuel Rosensteel stood. “Enough of this arguing. You all are acting like you did when you were in grade school.
“Sorry, Papa,” they all murmured.
“I’ve already spoken to your brothers about their behavior last night, and I’m sure I’ll be hearing plenty more at church tomorrow. What concerns me now is this boy you were dancing with.”
“I danced with three boys, including Caleb,” Margaret said, sounding more defensive than she meant to.
“Apparently only one of them caught your attention enough that both your brothers and Rebecca remarked on it.”
Had her happiness last night been so obvious? What had she been doing that gave away her feelings?
“Let me remind you, Margaret, boys are not for you. Next year, you will become a Daughter of Charity.”
“I know, Papa, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have fun now.”
“It’s what that fun can lead to that I’m concerned about. You need to be preparing yourself for your future.”
“Why must I be reminded about my future all the time? It keeps me from enjoying my life now. I just want to be a girl for a little while longer.”
“You will be when you’re a sister.”
Margaret shook her head. “No, I’ll be a sister, and everyone will treat me differently and expect me to behave in a certain way.”
“You should be proud to be a Daughter of Charity. It’s a sacred calling.”
“But I didn’t get the calling. You did.”
She turned and ran out the back door, ignoring her father calling behind her. She ran until she reached the road, and then she walked toward Emmitsburg.
Her father was sure to scold her when she returned home. She needed to make sure she calmed down before she did, or she might get into an argument with him. She looked around and found herself where she had been dancing yesterday morning…where Caleb had first seen her.
He had watched her dance, and she hadn’t even realized it. She didn’t feel like dancing today. Such a difference in just a day. Even half a day because she had started out last night so happy.
As she crested the hill, she saw Caleb sitting on the ground and staring back into town.
“Caleb,” she said.
He turned his head. He saw her and waved. “I was hoping you might come,” he said.
She walked over and sat down next to him.
“Are you all right?”
He chuckled. “Yes. I just got knocked down. No one hit me. They were aiming at each other.”
“Two of them were my brothers.”
“Two of them were my friends.” He paused. “So, are your brothers angry?”
He sighed. “My father caught me coming in last night. He wasn’t too happy I went out.”
“I’m Jewish. Friday night starts the Sabbath for us. It would be like you going to a dance on Sunday.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
Caleb smiled at her. “It was worth it. I got to meet you.”
Margaret sighed. “Why can’t things be simple?”
“Because we’d never learn if they were, and we would never appreciate the times things were simple.”
“That makes little sense.”
“Sure it does.” He lay on his back. “Here, lay back.”
Margaret copied him. He pointed to the sky.
“What do you see?
“I see a horse.” He pointed to one cloud. “And over there, I see a funny face.”
“Oh, you are trying to see shapes in the clouds.”
Caleb nodded. “You dance. I stare at clouds. We both have our ways of relaxing.”
“So, if I cloud-watch with you, will you dance on the hill with me without any music?”
“In a minuet.”
Margaret laughed at the pun and felt some of the tension drain out of her. She pointed at the sky.
“I see the sun.”
“That is the sun.”
Now, it was Caleb’s turn to laugh at her joke. When she lowered her hand, she found Caleb’s and held it lightly.