Sadie moved forward cautiously as the trail widened a bit. Where had the person wearing the red shirt disappeared to?
She came out into an open area on her left, where a meadow stretched as far as she could see.
Sadie examined the terrain ahead carefully, her horse slowing obediently at her touch. She raised her musket into position.
There he was! It was only a boy, about Billy’s age. Unlike Billy, however, he was scrawny, with unkempt hair. Even from a distance, she could see a bit of a wild look about him. Apparently, he thought he was hidden. He was crouching in the shadows as the line of trees curved up ahead.
As Sadie considered for a moment, the boy disappeared into the woods. He must have thought he was out of earshot as well for she heard him call, “Pa! Pa!”
She hesitated too long, wondering if she should turn back or cross the meadow. It was unfortunate that they were directly in her way, and she couldn’t get on with her mission.
“I see her! Stop right there, girl!”
The new voice rang out much closer. A man on horseback emerged from the forest. He looked a good deal like his son, but a mean look in his eyes frightened her. He was dressed in dirty buckskins and held a revolver. The boy re-emerged from the shadows, and joined his father.
“Who do you think she is?”
“How do I know? But she’s gonna tell us. You’ve got a lot of gear for a girl out for a ride. ‘Sides, there’s nothin’ out here — no houses, no farms. Where ya headed?”
Sadie didn’t reply.
The words of the farmer came back to her. You can at least get off one good shot and then he can get you out of there. As I said, he’s very fast….
But the man had a revolver pointed straight at her, and her musket was not even cocked. He’d shoot her before she could get her shot off. But would he shoot a girl? The cruel expression on his face didn’t give her much confidence.
“What’s the matter, missie, can’t ya talk? Whatcha doing out here?”
“Come on, Pa, let’s see what she’s got in the bag. Maybe she’s looking for the camp, like we are—”
The man glared at him. “What are ya, a fool?”
The boy shrugged. “Sorry, Pa. But can I look in her bag, can I? Maybe she’s got money or important papers or something.”
“Yeah. Get the bag.”
“And can I have the horse, Pa?”
For a split second, Sadie had felt sorry for the boy. But at the greedy gleam in his eyes, she set her lips with determination. They thought she’d let them overcome her so easily? She was holding a gun, after all.
“Easy, boy,” she whispered to her horse. Then suddenly she held on tightly with her knees, and whipped the gun up with both hands, cocking it. Before they realized what was happening, she blasted a shot toward them.
She didn’t really want to hit them, and perhaps that made the shot go wild. Or maybe she just hadn’t practiced enough. The bullet struck a branch in the tree overhead. The boy jumped and gave a yell, then leaped away as the heavy limb fell and nearly hit him on the head. It landed on the ground in front of him.
“Pa! She shot at me! She’s just a girl. You gonna let her get away with that?”
But Sadie had grabbed the reins and whirled. Red Wind took off across the meadow.
“Go, boy! Go!” Red Wind didn’t need to be told. He galloped across the field so fast that she lay nearly flat against his neck.
She took a glimpse back. The man was after her, but Red Wind was losing him easily. Where should she go? And where was the trail? It had seemed to end at the meadow. Lord God, show me the way!
She hadn’t been able to see the far side of the meadow but now she could. She was coming up quickly on another patch of trees and brush. She slowed her horse and entered the wooded area, but she found a mass of tangled roots and ancient trees. She couldn’t pick her way through that.
Sadie glanced back. The man had stopped. He looked like he was slapping his hat against his leg in frustration. Then he turned.
Was he giving up? It seemed so as his horse trotted back across the meadow.
She waited a few minutes, then emerged from the woods. She was tempted to head back, but thought the man might be watching from undercover. Would they be waiting for her?
Sadie slipped off her horse, and let him rest at a stream that ran through the meadow.
Sweat glistened on his neck, but he didn’t seem overly winded or exhausted. He had stamina, that was for sure. The horse neighed and tossed his head at her. She went to him, and ran her fingers through his mane.
“You were magnificent.” He nuzzled her happily, and soon started cropping at the grass. Then she knelt to refill her canteen and drink. She reloaded her musket, as well.
“Come on,” she said presently, mounting him. “We need to be on our way.”
He complied eagerly,and they headed back. She walked him at first, but he seemed to want to trot so she let him out a bit. She laughed as he tossed his head some more, as if disappointed at not being allowed to go faster. His long run hadn’t tired him at all.
She watched carefully, but there was no sign of life other than a few woodland animals. Relieved, she finally entered the spot where she had been traveling previously, and soon she came upon the trail.
“All right, boy. We’ve wasted a lot of time. I wonder who they were. What were they doing out here in the middle of nowhere?”
She knew that a lot of cruel, greedy people sold rum and guns to the Indians, not that there were many Indians right in this area. Most had moved on with the coming of the townspeople. But evil men also tried to get information to sell to the enemy. They were willing to do anything for money. She remembered the words the boy had let slip. Perhaps they were looking for Washington’s camp, too, hoping to get a reward from the British for information.
As they started on, she watched carefully all about her, but apparently the two had given up and gone on their way.
It was getting late, mid-afternoon according to the position of the sun. If the Redcoats had left the inn at first light, and had progressed according to plan, they would be picking up their two thousand troops and be on the move tomorrow. She had to find General Washington before the Redcoats drew the noose around him.
Oh, she couldn’t believe the adults had left this all up to her! Worn out from a night without sleep and the latest frightening set back, fears and doubts assailed her. God are you still here with me? How foolish, of course He was.
Papa always said she had a good sense of direction. But was it good enough, or had she missed her way at some point before her escape from that man and his son?
A voice suddenly rang out. “Stop! Who goes there!”
To Be Continued….
Watch for the final chapter next time….
By Carol Bennett