In spite of all the excitement of the night before, and getting to bed so late, Sadie woke very early. It was still dark as she dressed and headed for the barn. Red Wind neighed and nodded his head up and down in welcome when she appeared at the door. She fed him and rubbed him down, and a good while later, she heard her father come in.
He leaned against the stall and mused, “hmmm, cows lowing pitifully…poor little chicks out in the coop, hungry…thirsty….”
Sadie looked out the window, startled at the bright sun shining in the blue sky.
“Oh, Papa, I’m sorry!”
He chuckled. “Go get the eggs, your mother needs them, and I’ll start on the milking. Stage is due to arrive soon so you may have to finish.” He patted Red Wind’s nose as the horse nuzzled him. “He is a beauty. I’d like to see if he’ll let me ride him later.”
“Of course, Papa.” She was glad that he wasn’t angry with her for forgetting her chores, but mostly just happy that he liked her horse.
“Best leave him in here for now. We’ll figure out where to hide him later. The back pasture might do, near the orchard.”
But Papa could not ride Red Wind. The horse was friendly and playful. He didn’t mind the saddle and bridle. But when Papa tried to mount, he just wouldn’t cooperate.
“This won’t do,” Papa told her as he headed off to do the barn work. “He needs to learn that other people are going to ride him besides you. I’ll have to work with him. But I don’t have time right now.”
Sadie had been peeling potatoes on the side porch, watching. She knew Papa had good, humane ways of training a horse. Red Wind would learn quickly. As for today, she was looking forward to a long ride later when her chores were done.
“He really does love to run,” added Papa. “But it’s pretty clear that he likes you best.”
Sadie watched her horse as he frolicked and played. He galloped off up the field, and back again. He stopped and neighed at her as if to say, come on, what are you waiting for!
Soon she joined her mother, who had the midday meal well in hand. Sadie hung the kettle of potatoes over the fire, and peeked into the oven, sniffing the blackberry pies.
“Set the tables, dear,” said Mother. “There’s six new guests, remember. Then go on. I’ll clean up this once. Here’s some bread and butter and cheese to take along.”
“Thank you, Mother.”
After a long and glorious ride through the fields behind the inn, Sadie came back to find Mother no longer cheery. She was overwhelmed with another eight guests who had arrived on the afternoon stage. Nearly every room was full now, and the people had all been hungry and demanding a meal. With Billy gone, Mother was cooking, and waiting on tables, and getting rooms ready. Sadie plunged in to help.
To make it worse, a boy came running in. “Stage here, sir….”
“Already,” Papa looked at his pocket watch. “I guess so. The last one was late.”
“Come quick, sir,” the boy said urgently, “The driver’s taken ill.”
It developed that the boy was a passenger, and that the driver had to be put to bed. Papa told him he would take the stage on to the next stop.
Sadie helped Mother nurse the poor driver, who had a high fever, and was in need of some rest and chicken soup.
“The last stage was late, and now this one will be, too….” he said as they fed him broth.
“No matter,” said Mother. “My husband will get it through. He’s done it before.”
“But the horses….”
“I’ll rub them down and water them,” Sadie told him, “do stop fretting.”
“But they’re so big, and you’re such a little mite.”
Sadie laughed. “I can handle them. Now go to sleep.”
But when Sadie came downstairs, Papa pulled her aside.
“Sadie, I have a job for you! The boy says they were to pass off a message to one of our contacts. Because the driver took sick, they weren’t able to. And I must get on. Some of these people need to make connections.”
“I’ll do it, Papa! Red Wind and I can do it!”
He handed her a sealed note and gave her instructions. “It’s so late that the contact may be gone, but Red Wind’s fast. Maybe you can make it.”
“We’ll do our best, Papa.”
He finished hitching up the fresh horses, and the stage was soon on its way in the midst of a great cloud of dust.
Sadie saddled her horse, and headed off in the other direction.
It was a simple enough trip that first time. She was to find a toll booth at a bridge about ten miles west, and deliver a message that held coded information. She found the toll booth, and delivered the envelope to the tollbooth keeper, who in turn handed her a package.
“Pass this on, and also tell your father I have a friend for him to hide. Let me know by tomorrow nightfall. Prisoner we helped escape from jail.”
“You’re a brave girl. Starting young, aren’t you—our little patriot. Godspeed.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The errand went quickly, and she was back home in no time, after handing over the package to Mister Silas Mason. He was a big, friendly man who owned a logging camp that was right on the way back to town.
And because Papa had not returned—perhaps he had been asked to go on with the stage runs–it was Sadie that was sent the next night to get the escaped prisoner. He turned out to be a boy about Billy’s age. Red Wind let him ride—since he was with Sadie—and hardly seemed winded from the midnight run back to the inn.
The boy was duly impressed with Red Wind’s speed, though not so happy that his rescue was in the hands of a girl.
After that, Sadie often went on war errands. The spy network came to recognize and respect the speed and reliability of the team. The two usually traveled by night. Even so, a few people caught glimpses of them now and then in the moonlight, and Sadie learned to practice stealth until they were hardly visible. The plan was perfect, for everyone knew that no one would suspect a nine year old girl.
The inn was getting busier as more British officers and Tory patrons passed through. Mother was very weary with the work of running the inn without Billy, and with Sadie gone so much of the time.
“There’s just no one. We have the money to hire help, but there’s no one around to hire,” said Papa. “Everyone’s busy with their own work.”
At the moment, Sadie and her father were slipping away once again to the hidden meadow in back of the inn. With a message in a small pouch over her shoulder, and Papa carrying a saddle, they looked carefully to be sure none of the guests were looking out the windows.
“We need to keep the saddle out here from now on,” he said, as they reached the orchard.
A few minutes later, Sadie swung herself up and headed off, waving to Papa.
This should have been a routine trip. She was heading for a town about thirty miles northwest, and was nearly there when she reached a stream. Sadie dismounted and led Red Wind down to drink, then knelt to take a drink herself.
She refilled her canteen, and checked the map that Papa had drawn for her. It was much cruder than Billy’s work, but he had carefully instructed her about landmarks and such. She was in hill country, and the terrain rose and fell in gentle slopes and low cliffs. Soon she would descend into a valley where the town of St. George was located. Just across the stream, was a steep wall of rock.
She folded her map, and stowed it away, and was remounting when she thought she heard a voice. Someone calling…. She looked all about, and finally scanned the cliff.
Then she saw him. A man was perched precariously not too far from the ground. She quickly mounted Red Wind, and urged him into the stream. He complied willingly—but what could she do when she got there? If the man was stuck, how could she help?
Lord God, show me what to do. Help him to hang on.
The stream was not wide, but toward the middle it dipped. Red Wind went in up to his withers, finding his footing easily, and soon plunged out on the other side. As Sadie gazed up, she saw that the young man had a loop of rope about his waist which stretched taut from above. He carried a small pack on his back.
She also saw that the rocky cliff had numerous footholds. She thought she could make it up.
“What’s wrong?” she called.
“My foot is caught.”
She tied Red Wind to a small tree, then began her climb. She couldn’t believe she was doing this but….thank you, Lord God…for there was a smooth flat rock to start with, and a deep crevice here, a protruding stone there.
“Do be careful—they tend to shift,” called the man,
Sure enough, just then a rock loosened, and she slipped but held on. After that scare she tried to keep to the larger boulders, but even they wobbled at times. Presently she reached the man.
As she got a closer look, she saw a large cut on his forehead and a bad bruise on his hand.
“I took a tumble,” he explained. “My horse got spooked, and took off on me.”
“How did he get spooked,” asked Sadie, curiously.
“Well, someone shot at me.”
Her eyes wide, she nevertheless tried to concentrate on the task at hand. Worse than his other injuries was the obvious fact that his foot was stuck good and tight in a crevice. “I twisted it rather badly, I’m afraid,” he said.
The man’s voice and words were somewhat cultured, belaying the wilderness clothing he was wearing. He held out a hand and she grabbed it, holding on to a ledge with her other hand. He pulled her up, and she made a large step over to a flat boulder. With a steadier place to stand, she worked at pulling his foot out of the crevice.
“It’s tight,” she said, as he winced.
“The rocks shifted just as I got into this foothold. It’s stuck fast.”
His boot was of soft leather almost like an Indian’s moccasin. Sadie wiggled the stone back and forth and up and down, and finally slid it back up into its original position. She held it as he pulled his foot out.
He groaned as he stood on the ledge, putting pressure on the foot gingerly.
It was difficult helping the man down. He held on to his rope as Sadie tested each step below, and tried to find steady footholds for them.
“I can’t believe you got down here from all the way up there.”
“I had to do something. My horse was gone, and the man was coming.”
They reached the last boulder, and Sadie jumped down. He joined her, and leaned against the rocky cliff wall, winded. The young man gave the rope a twist with his wrist, and it came flying down. Rolling it, he attached it to his pack.
Sadie made him sit and drink some water from her canteen. Red Wind snorted at her in welcome, and the man nodded in approval of the beautiful horse. She reached over to pull off the man’s boot, but he said, “don’t—the foot will swell, and I won’t be able to get it back on.”
“But sir, you need to find out what’s wrong, don’t you?”
“I can’t risk not being able to get my boot back on. I actually must be getting on my way.” Then he seemed to remember his manners. “Thank you, miss. My name is Seth.”
She noticed he only gave a first name so she did the same. “I’m Sadie. Pleased to meet you, sir.”
But when he rose, his foot seemed to collapse under his weight, and with a groan he sank down again. “Perhaps it’s worse than I thought. Something may be broken in there. If I could possibly ride with you. I have a very important—job to do.”
At that moment, Sadie remembered her own mission. And she remembered Red Wind’s dispositions. He was friendly enough now, but who knew what he’d be like when the man tried to mount. Sometimes, he was fine as long as she was there—and sometimes not.
“We may have trouble with him. He doesn’t usually let anyone get on him, but if you’re with me, maybe he will. I have some place to be, too.”
“Of course. Do pardon me—let’s get on, then.”
But Seth couldn’t even mount the horse. Red Wind moved about, and pranced, and even reared once, even though Sadie was on him, scolding. Seth’s foot became more and more painful in the process.
“What am I to do?” sighed the man, as he sat back down on the ground, and leaned against the rock wearily. “I must be on my way.”
“I believe he’s gone, but I—just—need to.”
“I—must—too. But suppose you start a fire. It’s rather chilly this morning. You can rest here, and I’ll go for help.”
Sadie was uneasy about all this as she gathered some sticks. He was so polite, so exact in his speech. Was he British? Yet he had no accent. What was a schooled man doing way out here so close to the north country?
Finally she said, “the town can’t be much farther. I’ll find someone.”
“Miss…speak to no one but Mister Harold Lewis.”
“Where does Mister Lewis live?” asked Sadie, uncertainly.
“House just before town. White with a red roof.”
Sadie was not at all sure about this. Trust no one—one of Papa’s friends had said. However on her first mission, she’d had to trust several people along the way. Papa said, trust God and He’ll show you.
Whoever this man was, she had to get on with her own mission.
“God be with you,” said Seth as she finally mounted.
Did the British use that phrase. She supposed they did. Many were God-fearing people, nor really wanting to kill anyone but fighting only to defend King George and fidelity to him. They were fighting for God and country just like the Americans were, in a way.
“And with you, sir.”
As she rode on toward St. George, she hoped that she was not helping a British spy or some such thing. Yet she couldn’t just leave the man.
“I’ll get to town, and trust You to guide me,” she said softly. And as usual, that always made her feel better.
God would show her the next step, she knew.
To be continued….
By Carol Bennett
Note: All characters and places are fictional.