Sadie was taken completely by surprise when the wagon stopped abruptly. If there had been room to tumble about, she would have done so. As it was, she bumped up and down violently and struck her shoulder.
“Sorry, lass.” Then at the next words, she knew the driver wasn’t talking to her any longer. “What are you doing here?”
Sadie relaxed. The storekeeper obviously knew the person that had caused him to stop so suddenly.
A new voice came from somewhere nearby. “I wanted to warn you not to come to the farm if you have—any secrets. The Redcoats have taken the farmhouse for their headquarters.”
She heard the storekeeper jump to the ground and a second later, the seat rose above her.
“Ah, I see you have a big secret,” said the newcomer, as Sadie emerged from her cramped position.
“This lass needs someone to take a message to the general. She went to Henry Reed’s but of course he’s gone.”
A patch of woods bordered the road. The man’s head and upper body was sticking up from behind the brush. He was tall and very thin, and looked a bit like a scarecrow perched on a stick.
“Can you help me, sir?”
The man shook his head. “I’m sorry, child. I have to get back to my wife and the young ‘uns. The Redcoats will hurt them in order to find out where I’ve gone.” He turned back to the storekeeper. “I only came to warn you. You can still come for vegetables. Just don’t come on war business for a while.”
“But what shall I do?” Sadie was starting to panic again. “I must get someone to take this ma—”
”Don’t tell us,” said the men, together.
“Don’t worry, child, you can go yourself.”
That didn’t seem like a good solution to Sadie! Go herself?
But the man was speaking to the storekeeper, again. “I’ll give her directions. And the colt is out in the far field. They took all my other livestock, but I got him hidden before they saw him.” He turned back to Sadie. “Do you ride, child?”
“When you get there, tell them to keep the colt. I’d rather have him in our army then having some British officer riding him. He’s fast but very gentle. And I want you to take this, too.”
He emerged from the forest and handed over his musket, powder horn, and bullet pouch. “Do you know how to shoot?”
“Yes, sir. My father taught me but — I’ve never shot at anyone — only at targets.”
“Well, it’s all loaded, and at least you’ll be able to get one off if you get into trouble. Then the colt can get you out of there. Like I said, he’s very fast.”
Sadie took the musket with some reluctance, but drew the strap over her shoulder along with her other supplies.
“Leave that with the army, too. They need all the weapons they can get. The Redcoats will just find it, and take it away if I keep it. I must go. They’re probably looking for me already.” He gave her careful directions and finished with, “Godspeed, miss. I’ll be praying for your mission, whatever it is.”
“Thank you, sir. And I’ll be praying for all of you here.” She realized that there was quite a network of loyal colonists right in the midst of this Tory town.
He nodded and disappeared into the forest.
The storekeeper told Sadie to join him up on the driver’s seat. Glad not to be going back into that cramped little space, she climbed up. He pulled off the main road, and they started across a bumpy field, staying close to the row of trees.
When they finally reached the end of the wooded area, Sadie saw the “far field” that the farmer had been talking about. There stood a magnificent young horse. He was nearly full-grown, chestnut colored, and apparently very friendly for he trotted over to greet them.
“He’s a nice one,” said the storekeeper. “And look, a saddle. Fred must have thought he might need him quick sometime.”
Sadie took in the sight of the saddle hanging on the fence with relief. This would make it so much easier than riding bareback.
The man saddled and bridled the horse and boosted her up. “Do you remember where to go?”
She recited the directions to him, and he nodded approvingly. Finally he gave her that jolly smile again. “You’re a brave lassie. God be with you.”
“And with you, sir.”
She turned the horse and rode away as he headed in the opposite direction.
It was necessary to use the main road for a short distance, but she soon found the huge boulder that had been given her as a landmark and she entered the forest.
The trail widened presently, and was covered in nice soft dirt and pine needles. She was able to let her horse canter for a bit. He seemed to love being out on such a fine morning, and was well trained, obeying her every nudging immediately.
Hours later, though, she began to wonder if she had taken a wrong turn. She had stopped a few times to rest her horse and eat a bite, but it was past noon. She thought she should be nearing the camp by now. Unfortunately no one had thought to tell her how far it actually was.
“Am I lost? Did I miss my way back there?” She comforted herself that at least she was still on a trail. It must lead somewhere.
Red Wind, the name she had given the horse, since no one had thought to tell her that either, seemed to understand her moods and whinnied back at her.
How Billy would tease her if he knew she’d named a horse for just a few hours’ ride. But the colt was a blazing red, and fast as the wind. At one point, she had come out into a field and let him run as fast as he wished, and she was astounded at his speed. Plus, Red Wind sounded like an Indian name and that intrigued her. Uncle Samuel said the Indians could be cruel at times just like all people, but they loved the land and they understood horses and how to take care of them. Mother had known a wonderful Indian friend when she was a girl, before the tribe had moved on.
Of course Billy would never even know she had named the horse for she must leave him with the army. She shuddered at the thought that the colt might be injured or even killed in battle. “But you’ll do your duty won’t you, just like all of us?”
The colt whinnied as if he understood.
“I just wish you knew the way….”
At that moment, she caught a glimpse of movement. It wasn’t an animal for the color was—red. A red shirt! Then it disappeared. The person had melted into the forest.
Who was he, and what was she to do now?
To Be Continued….
By Carol Bennett