Sadie stood at the window. She could hear the conversation below.
“Where do you think you’re going!”
“Just on an errand. I’m an innkeeper. I have business to attend to.”
“Not while we’re here,” the commander said. “Nobody leaves.”
“Sir, I assure you….” Papa angrily looked him in the eye, but as several rifles were suddenly cocked, he relented and dismounted.
“Inside. We’ll be on our way in the morning, and then you can go about your errands.”
“Sir, we will not be held hostage in our own inn!”
“You’ll do what we tell you if you want to stay alive! It’s more than you traitors to the Crown deserve. You too, boy! Get inside!” For Billy had come out to see what was happening. “You’re not leaving either. You’ve been serving us-and hearing our conversations!.”
“Your behavior is uncalled for, sir!”exclaimed Papa, furiously. “This is a public inn where people may come and go as they please!”
“We’re in charge now! Bring us more food, and have our rooms ready.”
Sadie rushed downstairs, afraid for her father and cousin. Now as they were shooed back into the house by the soldiers, her mother drew her into the kitchen, and pushed her down behind the apple barrel.
“You’re the one that will have to go,” whispered Mother, desperately. “You’re the only one of us they haven’t seen. But they mustn’t spot you.”
Sadie crouched motionless behind the barrel until the soldiers left the room. Unfortunately, the commander called several of his men to stand guard around the inn.
“He must suspect that we overheard something,” said Papa. Then he turned to her with the same idea as Mother. “Sadie, will you go?”
Sadie gulped. “I’ll try, Papa. But I don’t know the way. Where is the army?”
“Don’t worry about that. I’ll tell you what to do.”
As dusk approached, Sadie was ready. Papa had given her careful instructions and all the supplies she would need. She hugged Mother, who held her tightly. Billy gave her a big bear hug and a grin of encouragement, and she was off.
“God be with you,” Mama whispered.
Papa had loosened the pegs of two boards in the kitchen wall. Sadie winced at the squeak as she pushed the boards up and wiggled through the opening. She stayed in the shadows for a moment, scanning the area.
Most of the men were eating again, this time the evening meal, so few were outside. Just around the corner, Papa was trying to distract the soldier who was guarding the rear door. Sadie dropped to the ground, and crawled slowly on hands and knees through the thick, high grass of the meadow in back of the house.
Her bundled-up cloak, along with a burlap sack holding the map and some food, bounced on her shoulders. She scrambled down the hill, and made it to the brush. Only then did she dare look back. Papa was still there, chatting in a friendly way, but it didn’t seem to be working. The soldier guarding the back door stood straight and still, his gun ready. Only when she reached the shelter of a small patch of trees did she feel safe.
A stream flowed off into the distance. The family’s rowboat was tied to a small dock.
After glancing back at the inn one more time, she climbed into the rowboat and settled herself on the narrow board. She managed to get the oars into the oarlocks with some difficulty. It would be hard rowing. Billy often teased her that she wasn’t really big enough to handle the oars yet, and he had to do all the work.
As she shoved off, she was relieved that a row of bushes hid her from view within seconds. Sadie stayed close to the bank for some time, then as the sun went completely below the horizon, she decided it was safe to venture out into the middle of the stream. There the current picked her up and she floated downstream rapidly. Tired already, she rested her arms. It was a warm, sultry evening and she wiped the sweat from her brow.
As she passed darkened farmhouses and quiet towns, Sadie was watchful. There were always British scouts out and about these days and the road above the creek was highly traveled by Tories. They would be suspicious of a young girl, alone in a rowboat. The woods concealed her for the most part, and in the few open spots she managed to slip through undetected. The gentle swish of the water, the calls of whippoorwills and an occasional screech of an owl were the only sounds she heard. If she hadn’t been on such a crucial errand, Sadie would have enjoyed the unusual pleasure of being out on the water on a summer night.
She wondered what would come, but whatever it was, she knew she wanted to do all she could to keep the troops safe.
To be continued….
By Carol Bennett