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Felicity Takes a Dare is part of the Short Stories collection, focusing on Felicity Merriman.


Only in Felicity Takes a Dare[]

Story Summary[]

Feldare 03

Felicity walks on the top of the fence with Nan and William watching.

Felicity calls out to Nan and William and tells them to look at her, because she's like a high-wire dancer at the fair. She climbs up on an old fence and is walking back and forth on top of it, despite its unsteadiness. Nan says that Felicity does look like the high-wire dancers and that she can't wait to see them at the fair. Felicity says that she wants to see everything, including the racehorses. Everyone in Williamsburg looks forward to the spring fair after a long winter. The fair includes music, dancing, contests and prize animals.

Felicity rises on her toes and spins around to walk the other way along the fence. Nan and William clap and cheer loud enough to alert Mrs. Merriman, who rushes out of the house to see the commotion. Seeing Felicity on the fence, she gasps and demands her to get down at once. She calls Felicity's actions "dangerous nonsense." Felicity jumps off the fence and apologizes. Mother tells her to have more sense because she could have fallen. Felicity tries to assure her mother that she's not scared of falling. Mother insists that she should be, and she says that Felicity is setting a poor example for Nan and William. Mother says if she hadn't come out when she did, Felicity would have probably helped Nan and William onto the fences. Mother concludes her fussing by saying that Felicity must learn the difference between bravery and foolhardiness or she might hurt herself or others. Felicity agrees with her mother aloud. However, she thinks to herself that she would not have fallen, because walking is not dangerous for her. She also would have never let Nan or William try it because there are things she can do that they can't, such as go to the fireworks at the fair with Father this evening. Mother sighs and tells the three to go tidy up for the fair. Then she smiles with love and exasperation as she clarifies they will be walking to the fair on the ground and not atop fences.

Feldare 09

The family watches the high wire dancers.

The streets are crowded with people headed toward Market Square; Felicity takes in all the sights and sounds and tries to skip ahead with Nan, but Mother tells her to stay close. Felicity points out that a footrace is about to start, and she asks to watch. Mother holds up William so he can see the racers; Felicity and Nan shriek at the gun going off and cheer and jump so much they feel part of the race. Felicity wants to see the horses, but then tumblers appear. Nan claps with delight and William tries to imitate them. The tumblers are followed by the high wire dancers and while the children are fascinated, Mother says just looking at them makes her dizzy. So she leads them all to the fiddlers' tent to listen to music. While Mother, Felicity, and Nan enjoy the music, William covers his ears and says it's squeaky.

Felicity is happier when they get to the animal pens as she knows the horses are near. Felicity, Nan, and William admire all the animals in the pens, including a large pink prize pig. Mother buys the children treats at a decorated booth. Nan chooses a tart, and William chooses gingerbread, but he drops it. Felicity, too excited about the horses to be hungry, gives William some of the cakes she chose and puts the rest in her pocket. As Mother dusts off William's crumbs, Mrs. Fitchett comes up. She greets Mrs. Merriman and the children and asks Mother if she's seen the new embroidery stitches from London. She offers to show the new stitches. Felicity does not want to see stitches when she's so close to seeing horses, so she begs Mother to let her take Nan and William over to where the horses are. Mother starts to protest, but Mrs. Fitchett says to let them go as they won't get hurt. Mother relents and says that she'll come to fetch them in a while, but they must stay together. Felicity assures Mother that they will and with that, she rushes her brother and sister to the horse pens.

Feldare 16

A boy dares Felicity to get in the pen with the horses.

Nan sits on a stump to finish her tart and William begins to play with a stick and mud puddle. Felicity leans against the face and looks at the racehorses trotting around the pen. Unlike farm horses, these horses have glossy coats and manes. Felicity has ridden horses often at Grandfather's Plantation, and she is proud that Grandfather has taught her how to make friends with horses. He taught her that she needs to treat horses with respect and to be loving and calm, especially with high-strung horses like these ones. She studies the horses quietly, wondering which one she would choose for her own. She is jolted out of her daydream by a lot of noisy boys coming up to the pen. She recognizes some of them from church but they are acting much differently here. The boys rip up handfuls of grass and wave them at the horses, shouting at them to come eat. The horses nervously trot off, but the boys chase them around the fence and yell.

Nan and William get up and come closer to Felicity. Felicity glares at the boys and tells them to stop, and although a few of the boys go quiet, the largest of them, Robert, smirks and asks Felicity if the horses are scaring her. He also calls her a little girl. Felicity says that she's not scared of the horses at all. Robert insists she is, and he dares her to feed a horse. Felicity hesitates and thinks for a moment that taking any dare is foolish. This one is especially dangerous because she does not know any of the horses. She decides, however, that she is so good at making friends with horses that there is no risk for her. Robert dares her again and Felicity jumps over the fence into the pen. The horses are very skittish around Felicity. Robert tells her to go on and she tells him to be quiet. Taking the cakes out of her pocket, she holds her hand out, palm up. The horses twitch around her, and Felicity walks forward, offering the cakes. She walks slowly towards the horses, ignoring the fact that they are backing away. One horse stretches its neck toward her, and Felicity stands still. The horse leans over and starts to eat the cake, and Felicity turns and gives the boys a triumphant look.

Feldare 20

Felicity is startled by the rearing horse.

A gunshot goes off to start another race, and everything happens in a rush—the horse eating from her panics and rears up, Felicity shrinks away, and the other horses charge towards her in a scramble of panic. Nan screams and Felicity tries to get away, but one horse causes her to stumble and another knocks her into the ground. Before Felicity can get up, another horse runs past, kicking her arm and hitting it so hard that she feels a crack and pain shoots up her arm. Nan and the boys' voices seem very far away as Felicity struggles to her feet and bites her lip to stop from crying. The horses have run to the other side of the pen, so she staggers to the fence holding her hurt arm. Felicity makes her way out of the pen and slumps against a fence pole. In pain, Felicity tells a frightened Nan to go get Mother.

Felicity is carried home and put to bed while the apothecary, Mr. Galt, is sent for. When he arrives, Mother tells Felicity he is here. She tries to sit up, but the pain in her arm is so severe that she gasps. Mr. Galt has her lie back and has Mother hold out Felicity's elbow and wrist while he pulls the bone back into place. It hurts so much Felicity can't help but whimper. Mr. Galt says that Felicity has a simple break but there is a lot of swelling, and so will use leeches to bring the swelling down. Felicity closes her eyes as he does so, unable to watch the leeches being put on to suck the blood from her bruises. When the swelling goes down, Mr. Galt removes the leeches, puts a splint on Felicity's arm, and bandages it up before putting it into a sling. The sling is made of leather and is lined with wool. She is instructed to keep her arm in the sling constantly for six weeks and try not to move it. Mrs. Merriman can bathe the arm occasoinally, however. He then leaves medicine to help Felicity sleep and tells Mother that Felicity's arm will heal quickly.

Feldare 24

Felicity winces as Mr. Galt puts leeches on her skin.

Felicity wakes up a few hours later with Mother next to her bed. Mother quietly asks her how she feels. Felicity knows that Mother is talking about her arm, but she says that she feels foolish for taking a dare. Mother says that Nan told her about the boy and that he was wrong for daring her. However, Felicity says she was wrong to take the dare because she had ignored her mother's warning. She says Mother was right- Felicity's foolhardy and not brave at all. Her eyes start to fill with tears. Mother assures her she was very brave when her arm was set. Felicity says that she was looking forward to seeing the fireworks, as she was proud to be old enough to go. Instead, Mother helps Felicity into a chair next to the window so she'll see the fireworks out her window. The sight of the fireworks does make Felicity feel better, and she thanks her mother. Mother smiles and calls Felicity her good girl. She adds that she is cheered by the fact that Felicity won't be walking on fences any time soon. The two laugh, and they watch the fireworks together.

Meet The Author[]

Valerie Tripp reminisces about a carnival coming to her town when she was eight. She liked the Ferris wheel best because she could see the lights of the town below her and the stars above her.

Looking Back: Publick Times in 1774[]

Discusses Publick Times during colonial times. Facts include:

  • The purpose of Publick Times—to hear trials, news of the colonies, and learn of new things and fashions from Europe.
  • How the population swelled and where people gathered to hear news from people in town and passing travelers such as sailors and drivers from other colonies.
  • Taverns—where men came for news and stayed (women would stay with friends and relatives).
  • The fair and things that could be seen and done at the fair.
  • The night life including elegant parties and plays, including plays by William Shakespeare, and the fireworks at the end of the fair.

Activity: Play Quoits[]

Instructions on how to create a quoits set and instructions for playing the game.

Items Associated With Felicity Takes a Dare[]

Changes from the 1993 American Girl Magazine Publication[]

The short story as published in the Magazine in March/April 1993 is the oldest version of the story; there are several things stated there that did not make it into the March/April 1997 reprint or the subsequent individually published book and short story collection.

  • The story specifically states that the fair is held the day after Felicity's ninth birthday, placing it on April 22, 1774; there are several references to Felicity being nine now and one to William being only two (Nan is stated to be six, but this does not align with later facts). Felicity feels the fair is a special celebration for her as well being a year older.
  • It is mentioned that Nan and Felicity should be minding William and hemming aprons, but instead Felicity is walking on the fence as she prefers this to apron stitching. (Nan is still working on hers.)
  • The events before and after Mother comes out are wholly differently. William asks to go up on the fence like Felicity, and Felicity asks Nan to help him up. Nan thinks he is too little and Felicity says she'll help him. Nan tries to help William onto the fence, but he is too heavy for her and they both stumble back and fall onto the muddy ground. Felicity jumps off to help and splatters mud on them. Nan wails from the muddiness and William shrieks, wanting to be splattered again; their noise brings out Mother, who asks the children what they're doing. William says they fell down and Mother says she sees as much and asks Felicity what happened. When Felicity explains that Nan was trying to lift William and they fell, Nan explicitly says that Felicity told her to lift him to let him walk on the fence with her. Mother lectures Felicity for walking on the rickety fence and that she is lucky to have not broken her neck falling off; she cuts Felicity off when she says she didn't fall, and fusses that she is as muddy as Nan and William and they have been up to something foolish and dangerous. She continues that Felicity is the eldest and should know the difference between brave and foolhardy. She sends them all in to change clothes and says they won't go to the fair until the girls' aprons are done. Felicity crossly thinks as she is changing clothes that she didn't fall and walking on the fence wasn't dangerous for her.
  • After changing, Felicity and Nan must finish their apron hemming; she is impatient to go to the fair and her stitches are very poor compared to Nan's. Mother fusses at Felicity, but does not make her redo it as she would like to leave for the fair as well and sends the girls to get their hats.
  • During the high wire act, Nan saying the high wire is narrower than the fence, and Felicity mentions that it is higher as well and she would love to try to walk on it.
  • The boy who speaks to Felicity directly is explicitly named; his name is Robert (stated by another of the boys taunting the horses). He not only calls Felicity a coward like all girls and dares her to go feed the horses, but mocks her when she tells the boys initially to stop harassing the horses, calls her and her siblings babies, and there is an extended back and forth conversation between him and Felicity before he dares her.
  • Felicity briefly remembers Mother's warning before she steps into the pen, but shakes her head to dismiss it before thinking she's nine and making friends with horses isn't risky for her.
  • Felicity says that not only was she excited to see the fireworks, but proud of being nine years old.
  • Mother (instead of saying that she's cheered by Felicity not walking on fences for some time after breaking her arm) says that another thing that will cheer Felicity along with the fireworks is not doing any stitching while her arm is in a sling.



  1. It was reprinted (in the edited form) in the Mar/Apr 1997 issue.
  2. The magazine short story in 1993 specifically refers to the fair being the day after Felicity's ninth birthday.
  3. This occurs before Felicity meets Penny and Ben moves in with the Merrimans.