“More Redcoats, Papa!” Sadie warned. She watched as a flurry of dust billowed around the small group of soldiers riding into their yard.
Her father frowned at the news. “Well, go on then but watch yourself.”
Sadie moved quickly to her secret hiding place, which was a little cubbyhole about the size of a cupboard. She crouched down, and shut the door—and waited. She often wished that their inn was not right in the middle of British-controlled territory. Then one day she’d overheard some important information while cleaning out this crawl space under the stairs. Her family devised a way to spy on the soldiers, and since she was the only one who fit in the tiny space, she did the eavesdropping.
For the most part the soldiers who came to the inn were civil for the British prided themselves on being gentlemen at all times. These, however, sounded like a rowdy bunch.
“Some food and be quick about it!” demanded an officer. “And a private dining room!”
Good. That meant she’d be able to overhear. She peeked through a knothole as the men entered the room. There were only half a dozen, but they seemed to make enough noise for an entire regiment. They were jubilant and arrogant as they pulled out chairs, and sat around the table.
Sadie’s fifteen year old cousin, Billy, arrived with a tray of pewter mugs filled with foaming ale. The men grabbed them up, swigging the ale eagerly.
“Beef, boy! And potatoes! And hurry up about it!”
Billy left the room as someone else exclaimed, “what a rout! That’ll teach ‘em, the rebels!” The man didn’t sound like the average British soldier. He had the accent of a London commoner, and a meanness to match.
“And those Sharp Shooters—we got ‘em all or they would have been running off to warn Washington. We don’t want anybody to know we’re going to Red Haven in the morning!”
“Hush!” came a sharp command from the door.
The men suddenly were on their feet with a smart salute.
“Are you sure this room is secure? Talking of our plans in a public inn run by American colonists!”
“It’s a private room, sir, with a heavy oak door. No need to worry.”
“All right then. Listen….” He slapped a rolled parchment on the table and opened it, placing candlesticks on each corner.
Although Sadie couldn’t see from her hiding place, she assumed it was a map.
“We ride to Red Haven in the morning, then on to Grove City in two days. We’ll cut off Washington at the river. He’ll never expect it. We’ll take two thousand men and ambush him here….” He pointed to a spot on the map.
Sadie jumped at a knock on the door. Some of the men leaped up and others grabbed their rifles, but it was only Billy with two huge trays of food.
The map was quickly rolled up, and whisked out of sight as the commander said quietly to his assistant, “this is marked. We don’t want it to get into the wrong hands. Make sure you keep it safe.”
Sadie waited for more information but the men were occupied with their meal. She left the little cubbyhole, and hurried to the kitchen to relate what she had heard. She hadn’t had time to think about all that the men had said but now it suddenly hit her. The Sharp Shooters! They were mountain men who had come down to do their part in the war effort. Her uncle was one of them!
“What is it?” asked Mother, seeing her stricken face.
“It’s Uncle Samuel! Those soldiers met up with the Sharp Shooters and killed them all!”
There was shock on every face. Mother turned away. Uncle Samuel was her brother.
Papa recovered long enough to say, “What else? You’ve got other information?”
“They’re planning an ambush near Grove City. But we need the map. It’s all marked.”
“Billy…can you get the map?”
They all knew what an impossible thing Papa was asking. And Billy could be shot if he failed in the attempt.
But Billy answered promptly, “yes, sir.”
Papa laid a hand on his shoulder. “Be careful,”
They all had to put aside their grief for the moment. Sadie started back to her post, but Papa happened to glance out the back door.
“What is it?” asked Mother, seeing his expression of amazement.
“They didn’t get everyone! Look!”
There at the edge of the woods was—Uncle Samuel!
To be continued….
By Carol Bennett