The inn and the little family inside were getting back to normal. Or as normal as they could be in the middle of the British-controlled territory.
“No more excitement,” thought Sadie drearily, as she finished her dusting. There hadn’t been many guests lately, but the stage would be coming soon with more. The bedrooms must be ready.
But that evening everything changed.
Though it was very late, Sadie was still up because a meeting of the spy network was going on. They met down in the cellar, coming quietly in the back door by ones and twos. Sadie and Billy were busy serving food, since some of their friends were in hiding and didn’t get many good meals. Mother usually kept watch upstairs to be sure patrons were in their rooms.
But the meeting was over now. They were cleaning up and Mother was getting the bread set for morning, when they heard a light tapping at the front door.
They glanced at each other. Guests didn’t usually come this late. Papa went through the main room to open the door, which had long since been barred and locked for the night.
“Yes?” Sadie heard him say.
There was the crackling of paper. Apparently someone had given Papa an envelope. Sadie saw Papa take out his knife to cut the wax seal, unfold a letter, then raise his candle to read it. Papa looked up and nodded briskly. “Come in and welcome. Some supper and ale?”
“Yes, thank you. Both would be welcome.”
Mother was already heading into the kitchen to heat some stew.
“Billy,” said Papa quietly, “This man has come to speak with you.”
As Billy went out to the main room to shake hands with the man, Sadie suddenly had an inkling…could it be?
Sadie saw that the visitor was dressed in civilian clothes, not a soldier’s uniform, but sure enough, her hunch turned out to be right.
“I’ve come from General Brainard who is in charge of gathering information on the areas north and west of here. We’re very short on mapmakers right now. We were hoping that you would come. With some training, we feel that you could be very helpful to us. We were impressed with the map that you drew for General Washington. Would you be interested in joining the army?”
Billy was nodding eagerly long before the man had finished his request.
The man smiled. “All right then. But I’m afraid we must go immediately.”
“Now?” gasped Sadie from the door. She hadn’t expected her cousin to leave so suddenly.
“You won’t stay the night, sir? You look like you need some sleep,” said Papa.
“I dare not. I might have been followed. Are you willing to go with me now?”
“Yes, sir,” Billy decided quickly.
“Go and pack your things then,” Papa told him.
“And now, I have business with Sadie.”
“Sadie?” asked Papa, surprised. “She’s right here.”
Sadie smoothed her dress and cap hurriedly. When she stood before the man, he smiled at her. “General Washington sends his regards.”
She curtsied,” thank you, sir.”
“And I have something outside for you—that should probably be hidden right away.”
She didn’t understand what he was talking about until he added, “I’m afraid your horse has a mind of his own.”
Hope leaped into her heart. “Red Wind?”
The man nodded, grinning. “He’s here. I’m afraid he likes only you. He wouldn’t cooperate much for anybody else. And we—well, we have ways of training an unruly horse, but they’re not always very nice.”
“What’s wrong with him?” asked Papa, concerned.
The man shrugged. “He was acting like an unbroken wild colt. Wouldn’t let anybody get near to put a saddle on him, and as far as riding him, well, a lot of the men tried it and they were sorry they did. Anyway, he was to be handed over to Jake—and let’s just say—he can break any horse. But the two stablemen wouldn’t allow it. They said they’d told the little girl they’d take care of him. And Abby, well, she was in a right state. She even stood in the middle of the corral, and wouldn’t let Jake get at him.”
“Whatever did they do to him!” asked Sadie, aghast. “He was fine. Friendly to everyone, and gentle as can be.”
“Well, he’s all right with certain people. Abby and Sam. They would have given him to Sam, but he’s got a bad leg and can’t ride in battle.”
“So what did the General have to say about it?” asked Mother.
“He deemed the horse unsuitable for army use.” Though the words seemed sad, the man was grinning. “And said that he should be brought back to his owner. Jake was furious.”
“And he can’t go back to the farmer. The British will take him,” Sadie remembered. “So he’s here?”
The man nodded.
“Oh, Papa! Can I keep him? Please!”
“Of course, daughter. If you’re sure you can control him.”
“I can, Papa! He’ll be good for me!”
Sadie rushed out the door into the night. Tied to the rail alongside the visitor’s horse was–Red Wind!
She flew down the steps, and threw her arms around his neck. He seemed as happy to see her as she was to see him.
“What have you done, huh? I told you to be good.”
She vaguely heard voices at the door. She knew they were all watching. Papa was asking, “did you have any trouble with him on the way?”
“Not a bit. I know that sounds strange. Not that I wasn’t relieved. But of course, I wasn’t trying to ride him either.”
Sadie couldn’t wait. She loosened the reins, and stepped up on the trough, then mounted the horse.
“Sadie! Be careful!” came her father’s voice.
But she was off.
She turned Red Wind, and he galloped down the drive toward the road and back. She waved at her family as she whipped past, and finally circled around and slowed down. Oh, what fun it would be to ride him in the back field.
She slipped off, happily. “See, Papa! He’s fine!”
“He’s as fast as I was led to believe,” said the man. “You’d better keep him in hiding or any British coming to the inn will want to confiscate him. Although they’ll have their work cut out for them.”
“Take him to the barn for now, Sadie. Later we’ll decide where to keep him so he will be safe.”
“Thank you, Papa!”
Billy was down by then, with a large rucksack. “Sadie! What a horse!”
She beamed but sobered quickly, realizing that he was leaving. She and Papa went to the barn with Red Wind, and she got him settled while Papa saddled Billy’s horse.
When they came back, the man was drinking the last of his ale and Billy was saying good bye to Mother.
Billy turned to Sadie and picked her right up off her feet, hugging her tightly. “Take care of that horse. Thanks for getting this chance for me….”
Sadie and her parents watched as the two rode off into the night.
Billy was gone. But as Sadie finally lay in bed later, all she could think of was that God had brought Red Wind back to her.
To Be Continued….
By Carol Bennett