Sadie guided Red Wind along the trail. It seemed like hours since she had stopped to simply water her horse.
The trail broadened into a road presently, and the stream became a ravine, gurgling along below. It was a very pretty scene though Sadie kept well away from the edge.
Soon she saw the sign for St. George. She immediately noticed the white house with the red roof on the outskirts of the town.
Beyond it were a general store and a post office, and that seemed to be the end of the main road through town.
A man stood in the front yard of the house, watching her as she surveyed the surroundings. He smiled at Sadie in a friendly way as she turned her horse toward the gate and dismounted.
The man was dressed in smart tan breeches and waistcoat, his tricorn on his head as if he were going somewhere. “Can I help you, miss?”
“Yes, I’m Mister Lewis.”
“A man named Seth is in need of your help.”
Startled, he said, “really? And how did you come to know him?”
“He had an accident, sir. His foot may be broken. I think perhaps we should hurry. Someone was shooting at him. The sniper does seem to be gone now though.”
“Yes, of course.” He looked down the road which she had come. “I would say I need a horse rather than a buggy on that road.”
“Yes, sir—but he couldn’t mount. Although my horse is temperamental and wouldn’t allow it.”
“Perhaps with the two of us we can manage to get him up on mine. Please do come in for a moment.”
He opened the gate, and ushered her into the yard. She tied her horse to the hitching post.
A younger man, in servants’ clothes, appeared from around the corner, and Mister Lewis called for his horse. Then he hurried into the hous,e but took time to politely invite her to sit in his parlor and asked a maid to bring her a cup of cold water. He went to a cupboard, and brought out a small carrying case.
“Some medical supplies,” he told her. A few minutes later the young man brought his horse around.
“Can I be of further assistance?” The servant looked at Sadie curiously.
“No thank you, Jakes. That will be all.”
In a short time, Sadie and the man had reached the gorge. They slowed their horses, and made their way along the narrow road.
“There’s his fire,” said Sadie presently, seeing the flickering glow among the rocks. They crossed the stream quickly.
“Seth?” he called, as Sadie led the way through the brush along the foot of the cliff.
“All’s well. No sign of anyone,” the young man replied.
Mister Lewis brought forth his black bag, and Sadie watched as he pulled off Seth’s boot and examined the foot.
“You’re right,” he told the young man after feeling about, and causing the man to grimace in pain. “I’d say you have at least two broken bones.”
He turned to his bag, and bringing forth a bandage, wrapped the foot and ankle.
“That’s all we can do for now. Let’s get you out of here. This young lady told me you were shot at? To bad to lose your horse. He must be about somewhere. I’d send Jakes back later to look for him, but I’m afraid my servant if far too curious.”
“I’ll find him later. After—”
“Never mind after anything. You need to stay off that foot for a while. I’ll take care of things. What about—”
Sadie busied herself pretending not to listen, but she knew they knew she’d heard.
Finally Seth said, “Sadie, I really do believe we’re on the same side. You are an American colonist, and so am I. From Boston, actually. Brought up in the best schools, and now here I am in the midst of a war, and about as close to the wilderness as I’ve ever been. Who knows how long I would have been on that cliff if you hadn’t been willing to climb up and help me. I thank you.”
Mister Lewis looked a bit surprised at this confidential talk, but he smiled at Sadie, too.
Seth looked back at the older man. “All is safe. It was in my pack not my saddlebags.
“Well, let’s be on our way then.”
As they tossed sand on the fire, Sadie thought that Seth had explained a lot, though for being from the city he was quite accomplished in the ways of the wilderness, even to the climbing down a cliff on a rope.
Together they supported Seth as they made their way to the horses. They managed with some difficulty to lift him up onto Mister Lewis’ mare, and the older man mounted behind him.
As Sadie untied her own horse, he thrust his head at Seth, and nuzzled him in a friendly fashion.
“Ha! Don’t try to make friends now after causing so much trouble.” Even so, Seth couldn’t resist rubbing the colt’s nose.
“He likes everyone. As long as they don’t try to ride him,” said Sadie, swinging up easily.
At the house, Sadie declined refreshment though she waited while they got a pail of water for her horse.
“Is there anything else we can do for you?” asked Mister Lewis.
She didn’t see any road off the main street through town, so she asked, “I wonder if you can direct me to Master Peck.”
“Master Peck?” asked the man with a quizzical look—then with a twinkle at Seth which Sadie didn’t comprehend, he said, “Caldwell Avenue.”
“Yes,” Sadie said. “But where might Caldwell Avenue be?”
“It’s a bit hidden. On the left, just past the church. Rather narrow at first.”
“Thank you, sir. And good bye.”
She did find the street easily though if she hadn’t had directions, she might have missed it, thinking it just a lane between two tall houses. But it widened. and she saw the house in the distance.
Under a massive oak was a bench, and a woman sat reading. A baby’s carriage stood near her and she rocked it now and then.
As Sadie grew closer, she saw that the woman was wearing the black dress and white apron of a servant. She stood as she saw Sadie approach, and there was a loud, happy squeal from the carriage.
Sadie dismounted and not seeing a hitching post of any kind, led her horse along with her.
“Pardon me, I have a message for Master Peck. May I see him?” She assumed her contact was a young man.
The nanny glanced back at the house cautiously, then made a motion for Sadie to keep her voice down. “Master Peck is here.”
Sadie moved closer, looking up at the house. “I—may I—watch the baby for you while you—get him?”
The blond haired little boy, probably about a year and a half old, sat up, grinning from ear to ear and holding out his hand. He was obviously wide awake, and in no mood for a nap. Red Wind sniffed and thrust his head forward, but Sadie held him back.
“Oh, don’t worry. He won’t be frightened.” The servant said.
“Ummm—I should be on my way—shall I inquire at the house for Master Peck?”
“This is Master Peck.” The woman’s voice was tinged with merriment. “If you have a message please tuck it under the blanket. The right person will get it, I promise. Then you should leave. The baby’s uncle is a Tory.”
Just then a woman appeared at the door. and came out on the step.
“Who is it, Marian?
“Just someone’s who’s lost their way, ma’am.”
She came down the steps. “Then she should go as soon as she has directions. You know we don’t like company here.” But her expression belayed her impolite words.
“Yes, ma’am.” In a whisper the nanny explained, “that means the uncle is close by. Best go.”
Sadie drew the note out of her pouch, and quickly placed it under the blanket.
“I’ll take care of it, miss.”
The baby was quite interested in Red Wind and the horse was just as friendly as ever, stretching his neck as far as he was allowed. Finally Sadie laughed and let Red Wind go closer. He gently pushed his head toward the baby, and the little boy laughed, too,and touched the red muzzle.
Sadie pulled him away and mounted, just as a man joined the woman on the step and blustered. “What’s all this. A horse on our nice lawn! Get him off at once. A girl on a horse with no decent side saddle? Who is she? One of these American country hussies!”
Sadie escaped but wished she’d gone just a couple of moments earlier before the man saw her and Red Wind. Her horse was so easily recognized. But as she looked back, the baby was squealing and laughing and taking everyone’s attention.
Sadie wanted nothing more than to get back through town, and be on her way but when she reached Mr. Lewis’ house, he was leaning on the gate leisurely, apparently waiting for her.
He grinned. “And how did you find Master Peck?”
She laughed. “Quite well, thank you. He and Red Wind liked each other.”
“Will you come in for some refreshment now?”
“I best not. My father will be wondering where I am.”
The man turned serious. “Ah. I was hoping you could spare a little more time for us.”
“Seth’s injury leaves us with a bit of a problem. I would go myself but it would cause suspicion, and I would probably be followed. I had thought perhaps you could do an errand for us. Even though it’s a bit of a detour, it’s on your way back.”
“I would, sir,” said Sadie, with quick decision, “but my horse is rather noticeable. Another reason I wanted to get out of town quickly. If you would be regarded with suspicion, wouldn’t I?”
“I can tell any inquirers that you were just in town on an errand, and took mercy on an injured man. After your errand we asked you to stop back here for refreshments.”
“All right, sir.”
“Do come in then.”
Inside there was cold apple cider and a pastry. It didn’t take long to eat.
“Thank you, sir. I didn’t realize how hungry I was.”
“I’ll see you out then, and thank you again for your help. You are a good Samaritan as the Scriptures talk of.”
He glanced at the hired man who was clearing the low table at which she had eaten in the parlor.
Outside, Mister Lewis shielded her from anyone looking out the windows, and handed her a package which she slipped into her saddlebag. “Here is the address. Go south to Balkans Road. There’s a huge pine tree there. You can’t miss it. Then you’ll come to a green house. Place this in the hitching post. That’s all. And thank you very much.”
“Good bye, sir.”
She rode out of town, and twenty minutes later easily found the south fork. But those twenty minutes were filled with worry. How did she know they were really on her side? Maybe she should take the package to Papa first, and see what he wanted to do with it.
The crude sign at the corner gave her directions. She finally made her decision, and turned Red Wind onto Balkans Road, hoping she was doing the right thing….
To be continued….
By Carol Bennett
Mister/Master-In colonial times, Mister was used for men and Master for boys, though usually older boys and teenagers.
Hussy (In this case)-impolite or arrogant girl
Hitching post-A post use to tie a horse, sometimes very plain but often made of brass and carved to look like birds and people.