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From the Central Series
- Felicity Merriman
- Elizabeth Cole
- Edward Merriman
- Martha Merriman
- Nan Merriman
- William Merriman
- Benjamin Davidson
In the spring of 1776, Felicity and Elizabeth find themselves in the middle of a mystery that involves intimidation through newspapers and the question of the loyalty of Mr Merriman and a Scottish friend to the Patriot cause.
After their lessons one day, Felicity Merriman and Elizabeth Cole stop by Widow Reed’s print shop to admire a copy of Gulliver’s Travels. They find their friend Fiona McLeod in a state of distress. She is concerned about a broadside stating that her father, Fergus McLeod, has been disloyal to the Patriot cause. Felicity’s father, Edward Merriman, agrees to defend Mr. McLeod before the Committee of Safety.
Felicity and Elizabeth go to visit Fiona, and she tells them that her father has received a threatening letter signed by “Mr. Puller”. Due to the threats made to the McLeod family, they leave Williamsburg. Her family’s things are auctioned, and there is a fierce bidding war over Mr. McLeod’s store between Mr. Sutherland and Mr. Capps. After the auction, Felicity’s father discovers that another incriminating broadside has been published – accusing Mr. Merriman himself! It is also signed by the mysterious “Mr. Puller”.
Not wanting to have to leave as Fiona’s family did, Felicity and Elizabeth decide that they will look for “Mr. Puller”. Felicity thinks back to their trip to Widow Reed’s print shop, realizing that a puller is one of the people who operate a printing press. The girls decide to investigate the print shops of Williamsburg the next day. That night, Mr. Merriman tells his family that his mail has been tampered with, and that he has to leave town for a few days.
Felicity catches a cold, and cannot go out for the next couple days. When she is well enough, she stops by Merriman’s Store to see Ben. Ben tells her that early that morning, her father’s ledger had been missing, but when he looked for it a bit later, it was in a drawer. He swears he didn’t see it, but the two just ignore it. Felicity goes to see Elizabeth, and they set off to the print shops. First they visit Mr. Hunter’s shop, but it is too busy for them to get in and ask around. Next, they visit Mr. Ramsey’s shop. Mr. Ramsey is upset and walks out as Mr. Capps arrives. Mr. Ramsey tells Mr. Capps that his apprentice Zachary will take care of him. They leave the store to go see Widow Reed, and Felicity notices the copy of Gulliver’s Travels is gone. The girls show Widow Reed the broadside, and she agrees to help them. She looks at the page, noting its poor quality workmanship and that the paper is from Ramsey’s paper mill.
Walking home, Felicity and Elizabeth come up with a theory. They accuse Mr. Sutherland of printing the broadsides to drive the shopkeepers out of Williamsburg so that he can buy their properties. The girls are walking by Merriman’s Store, where they find Mr. Merriman being arrested.
Felicity and Elizabeth go into the store, where Ben and Marcus tell the girls that Felicity’s father was arrested by the Committee of Safety, who said that he had made a trip to Portsmouth to sell supplies to British soldiers. The girls express disbelief, and Ben shows them Mr. Merriman’s ledger – in which is recorded a sale of goods with a corresponding receipt signed by Lord Dunmore’s provision officer.
With a short amount of time until her Father’s trial, Felicity comes up with a plan to trap “Mr. Puller”. She places an ad in Widow Reed’s paper telling him to pick up a letter at Reed’s Print Shop. The letter tells him to meet “someone in a blue coat” at midnight in the cemetery of Bruton Parish Church.
That night, the girls sneak out of their houses, disguised as boys. The girls hide behind tombstones, and a man walks into the cemetery. It is raining. Felicity and Elizabeth move toward him to get a closer look, but Felicity trips over a root and the man notices them. He grabs Felicity, thinking she is a thief, and Elizabeth cracks him over the head with a tree branch. The man loses his cane and hat, and the girls run.
Back in town, they realize that he dropped these items, and they go back to look at them the next day, hoping they will reveal his identity. The items are not there, but Felicity remembers that he was wearing a wig, which was likely to have been messed up in the rain. They decide to look for the wig at the local wig shops, asking if any wigs needed repair. The girls leave and they see a familiar cane at the door. They recognize it as belonging to Mr. Capps.
Revisiting their theory about Mr. Sutherland, Felicity thinks that Mr. Capps must have wanted to buy Merriman’s Store. They visit Mr. Ramsey’s print shop next to find more information. When they walk in, Mr. Ramsey is reprimanding Zachary for doing such a bad job as a puller – and tells him that if he weren’t Capps’ nephew, he would fire him. The girls have discovered who “Mr. Puller”, printing defaming broadsides and tampering with mail, is!
Felicity and Elizabeth, wanting to find out more, decide that they need to read Mr. Merriman’s tampered correspondence. The letter reveals that the man Mr. Merriman sold goods to in Portsmouth was a Patriot spy. This explains why Mr. Capps told the Committee of Safety that Mr. Merriman was selling goods to a Loyalist, but not the receipt. Felicity concludes that Mr. Capps had the receipt because he had been trading with the British army.
The girls need evidence against Mr. Capps, and Ben tells them Mr. Capps’ apprentice, Walter, does not like Mr. Capps. They arrange a meeting between Felicity, Ben, and Walter. Walter agrees to help them find the receipts, but can’t do it until the day of Mr. Merriman’s trial. With time against them, they discover a stack of receipts revealing that Mr. Capps had been supplying Lord Dunmore for months.
Felicity rushes into the courtroom with the receipts. Felicity’s father is found innocent, and Mr. Capps is arrested. Everything is back to normal for the Merriman family, and because of her courage, Felicity is given her birthday present early – the copy of Gulliver’s Travels she had been eying at Widow Reed’s.
Discusses tension between Loyalists and Patriots during the lead up and start of the American Revolutionary War. Topics include:
- What Patriots and Loyalists thought was best for the colonies
- The First Continental Congress and the decision to begin boycotting trade with England
- The inability for people to obtain English-made goods, and the inability for shopkeepers to sell English goods
- The Committees of Safety, created to enforce the boycott of English goods among the colonies, and their rise to power
- How the Committees of Safety greatly affected shopkeepers and people who the Committees thought were hurting the Patriot cause
- The way the Committees ruined the reputations of people and businesses
- The threat of mob violence against a person accused by the Committee
- Violence between Patriots and Loyalists
- How Scottish immigrants were badly treated by Patriots for their Loyalist stance
- The demand for news between Patriots and Loyalists
- Clementina Rind, a woman printer whose printing business published the Virginia Gazette
- The signing of the Declaration of Independence, one of the biggest news of the colonies, and the effects it had on the Revolutionary War