An Interview with Emma Malcolm from Heidi Chiavaroli’s The Tea Chest

Novel PASTimes:Welcome to Novel Pastimes, Emma. I see you had a hand in participating in the Boston Tea Party?

Emma: Party? I’m afraid I don’t understand.

Novel PASTimes: You know, the dumping of the tea on the night of December 16, 1773?

Emma: Oh, the dumping of the tea! Aye, though I can’t think of a more tension-filled party to be at. True, there was quite a crowd that night, but the silence while the men dumped the tea was almost eerie, so secretive—nothing at all fitting for a party. I remember the cracking and splitting of the chests echoing off the water. ’Twas so quiet we could hear the tea leaves falling into the frigid harbor. We could inhale their exotic scent. An odd party, indeed.

Novel PASTimes:Wow. Sounds like quite an experience. And yet, I’m confused, for it appears you are the daughter of feared customs official John Malcolm. How did you come to be a part of such a treasonous event?

Emma:Please know I didn’t enter into any of this lightly. My father is a man of the Crown, but after befriending the Fultons and a printer’s apprentice named Noah, I came to see their side of things. My own father stifled my voice much like the Crown attempted to do with the colonies. He wanted me to marry Samuel Clarke, a dreadful man. I suppose it only natural that I fell on the side of liberty. Still, it doesn’t make what some of the Patriots did to my father right. Tarring and feathering is a brutal business and I will never forget the horror of that night.

Novel PASTimes: I am so sorry, and what a difficult place to be caught in. Tell us, what part did you play in the dumping of the tea?

Emma:I came up with the idea of using Mohawk disguises. Most who participated adopted this, and I aided Noah in his masquerade. If only we had taken more care with the oath . . .

Novel PASTimes: Oath?

Emma: ’Twas a round robin to which the men signed their names. An oath of honor and secrecy. I was careless with it—I should have burned it the minute I realized Noah had left it behind. But I feared he had need of it. If only Samuel hadn’t found me with it! After that, I had no choice but to protect those I loved, even if it meant giving up the life I longed for, even if it meant marrying Samuel.

Novel PASTimes: How horrible for you. How did you bear it?

Emma: Mayhap we should save some of the enticing parts for the story?

Novel PASTimes: Oh, forgive me. You’re absolutely right. Maybe instead you could tell us of the tea chest handed down in your family over the generations?

Emma: Was it? That does make my heart merry. I found that chest the morning after the dumping of the tea. For me, it symbolized what I shared with Noah and the Fultons, something I could no longer embrace in a marriage to Samuel. ’Tis still very painful to speak of.

Novel PASTimes:Of course. Perhaps you could talk of your time at Bunker Hill, instead? Or your daring mission into enemy-occupied Boston?

Emma: None of these topics are for the faint of heart, I’m afraid. I will never forget how I worked alongside Sarah Fulton to nurse the men in that field in Medford after Bunker Hill. My eyes have never seen such horror, and I pray they never do again. And Noah . . . the remembrance of it is still too much to bear. Yet time has eased the pain in some ways as well. Looking back, I can see the Lord’s hand in the midst of our darkness. He never did leave us. And when freedom finally came for our country, I felt it mirrored the eternal freedom stirring in my soul as well.

Novel PASTimes: That is beautiful. Thank you so much for spending some time with us. We look forward to reading more of your story!

Heidi Chiavaroli writes women’s fiction, exploring places that whisper of historical secrets. Her debut novel, Freedom’s Ring, was a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist, a Romantic TimesTop Pick and a BooklistTop Ten Romance Debut. She makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband and her two sons.

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