Sadie reined in Red Wind, and raised the musket that had been lying in the crook of her arm, cocking it much quicker this time. Again, she hung on to her horse with her knees, and swung around on the stranger.
But the soldier who appeared, with his own weapon raised, was wearing a blue uniform. She nearly fell off her horse in relief. She had found the camp.
“Sir! I have a message for the general. It’s very important. There’s to be an ambush.”
Presently Sadie was entering a large tent. She was suddenly shy at the prospect of meeting General Washington. Inside was a large table covered with maps and documents. Officers stood around talking, and turned to gaze at her with interest.
The scout who had found her, smiled encouragingly as did another man, who was sitting at the end of the table. That man rose and came forward. It was General Washington.
“I hear you’ve been on quite a trip. Please…sit and tell us more. And let’s see this map of yours.”
Upon inspection of the map and more discussion, one of the generals looked straight at her. “Young lady, if you hadn’t reached us in time, all would be lost!”
General Washington smiled calmly. “But she has. Once again the Almighty has protected us.” He turned to Sadie. “I’m afraid my men would have been too weak to fight if there had been an attack right now, but we can slip away and the British won’t know what’s become of us. Thank you, Sadie. And this map is quite good. With a little training, that cousin of yours could be one of our mapmakers. We need all we can get, especially for the territory north and west of here. Perhaps I’ll stop at your inn someday and see if he’s interested.”
Sadie bobbed a curtsy. “I’m sure he’d like nothing better. And you’d always be welcome at our inn, sir. I’m afraid it wouldn’t be safe right now though, since we’re in the middle of enemy territory.”
“Quite right, but I might send someone.”
Sadie nodded happily.
“But now, we must be on our way. And you must get home safely.”
The troops had already been alerted, and were packing up. Presently, a woman entered the tent. Sadie knew that there were several women among the troops. Some were nurses, others were wives who didn’t want to be left behind when their husbands enlisted. They washed, and cooked, and sometimes even fought.
“Abby, take this girl on to the next town. You can catch a stage there. We know she can travel very well on her own,” he smiled over at Sadie, “but it would cause suspicion. If her family is still under siege, take her on to another town until it’s safe.”
An attendant handed the woman some money for the trip, and Sadie took her leave of the men.
“Good bye Sadie. Perhaps we will meet again,” said General Washington.
The worst by far was saying good bye to Red Wind.
“Be safe,” she whispered, as Abby waited patiently some distance away. Impulsively she threw her arms around the blazing red neck, and the thick mane fell over her face.
She finally let go and marched away. What was wrong with her anyway? Tears streaming down her face? She’d known the horse for what—half a day?
But the sound of his whinny made her sure that he would miss her too. She turned to take a last glimpse at him, and found him rearing and straining, much to the chagrin of two soldiers who were trying to hold him. He was trying to follow her!
She ran back. “Shhh, Red Wind. It’s all right. Stay with them, and fight for us. And I’ll never forget you. Be good now.” She turned to the soldiers. “This is so strange. I haven’t had any trouble with him the whole trip.”
“He sure seems to have taken to you, miss. You go now. We’ll take care of him. Don’t you worry.”
“Thank you, sir.” She gave the colt one last pat and left. This time, he stayed quiet, as if understanding what she had told him.
Sadie and the woman left the camp, and started walking through the woods. Abby told her it wasn’t far to the next town, and sure enough, soon they were emerging from the forest. A half mile further on, they came into town where they only had a short wait to catch a stage going their way.
Sadie was surprised at how quickly the trip went. It was so much different in a stagecoach with six horses on a real road, than by rowboat and horseback. As she caught a glimpse of the inn from a distance, she swallowed hard. She wondered if her family was safe.
Soon, the driver pulled to a stop in the inn yard.
“You stay here,” said Abby, “I’ll go in and find out what’s happening. If the soldiers are still here, we’ll just go on….”
But Sadie’s father was running across the yard. He had seen her.
“It’s all right! They’re gone!”
Sadie jumped out and hugged him. “I had to go all the way myself!” she exclaimed.
Abby climbed down. She wanted to get a room for the night as well as hear the whole story of what had gone on at the inn. Billy was hurrying out, and Sadie excitedly told her cousin how his map-making skills had been appreciated.
“The soldiers stayed a lot longer than I thought they would,” said Papa. “It’s probably just as well. It’ll give our own troops more time to move on.”
Papa had to help the driver change horses, but soon he joined them inside where Mother was hovering over Sadie.
“I was just going after you,” her father told her. “I thought you might be rowing back, and going against the current would be hard.”
“Oh Papa, I forgot about the rowboat!”
“It’s all right. I’ll go down and get it tomorrow. If it’s gone, it’s no matter. Well done, Sadie!”
“She was very brave,” declared Abby.
“There’s lots of brave people in Red Haven. I promised we’d pray for them,” Sadie remembered. “I don’t even know their names—except for Fred and Edward.”
Uncle Samuel was there, as well. He’d been brought from the barn, and was sitting in a chair at the table, bandaged and weary, but alive.
“We could use you in the Sharpshooters,” he grinned after hearing her story.
Then he sobered. They knew he was thinking about his friends.
“I meant to go back,’ he told her. “I think some survived, but when the British left I had to get help myself before I could do anything for them. I could hardly drag myself here. We’re going now to see if any of them are still alive.”
“You will not!” scolded Mother. “You can hardly sit up! You should be in bed.”
“Billy and I are going,” Papa told him.
It was clear to everyone that Uncle Samuel couldn’t have sat a horse or walked any distance at all, but he was certainly willing to try. “To get back to what I was saying, Sadie, all that practice paid off.”
“But I missed. And I still don’t want to shoot anyone.”
He patted her hand. “I know. Most of us don’t. Sometimes it’s all right to miss.”
A while later, as Sadie was eating a sumptuous supper and everyone chattered around her, she reflected that it seemed much more than just a day since she had been gone. She gazed out the window to the deep, blazing sunset over the woods, and thought of a horse the same color…and somehow she knew that she would see him again.
By Carol Bennett