Sadie, her father, and Rose Anne left the orphanage amid some interest. They had missed their opportunity, and a good many of the soldiers were back.
They heard a man say, “another one leaving to be adopted? I don’t know about this. Something’s going on with all this coming and going.”
Sadie was very glad that they had the captain’s orders to fall back on if they were detained, though she wasn’t sure where he’d disappeared to.
But another said, “oh, I don’t know. It is a good thing when a child is adopted, of course.”
Then they were out of earshot of the soldiers.
Papa consulted the little map that Miss Penelope had drawn, and with Rose Anne’s help, they found the narrow trail that would lead them through the woods.
“No way to get a wagon in,” Papa observed, as they stopped at the edge of the forest. “We’ll have to leave it here in full sight. Well, let’s be on our way, and see what’s down there.”
“We girls may have to help bring the gold up after all,” said Rose Anne, forgetting that she wasn’t one of them any longer. “Grandfather will want to, but he just can’t. He has the rheumatism and does too much as it is.”
Sadie had a question that she’d wondered about since her previous trip. “Does everyone call him Grandfather?”
“Miss Penelope thought it a good idea for the little ones at the beginning—to make them feel more at home. So we all just do it. He likes it. He says—I have twenty eight grandchildren. Two have grown up and left. One is a teacher, and the other is married. He gave her away at her wedding.”
By now they had gone some distance into the woods, picking through fir trees laden with pine cones. All was still except for an occasional bird call.
“Look—there it is!”
The dark mound of rock loomed ahead of them. And there was the entrance! Papa lit the lantern Miss. Penelope had given him. When they entered, they found that the tunnel sloped downward, and finally ended at a dirt wall.
However, upon further investigation…
“Oh!” gasped Sadie from a far corner, trying to keep her balance as she hovered on the edge of a large hole . “There is a way! Over here!”
She had discovered a half-hidden shaft, with crude wooden slats leading downward.
“Come on, girls. Be careful now,” Papa climbed down the makeshift ladder as Sadie and Rose Anne followed.
Timbers had fallen here and there, and lay on the dirt floor. The main room was not large. It was completely empty, but a wide passage drew them on. Some distance later, they came upon a cubbyhole under some crisscrossed timbers, and nestled in the dark corner was a wooden chest!
Papa handed the lantern to Sadie and knelt down, fumbling with the latch. It was not locked, and opened easily.
The girls looked on in wonder as Papa ran his hands through a pile of coins. There was a lot of money here. And upon trying to move the chest, Papa found that he couldn’t budge it.
“How those two wounded men ever got it down here, I’ll never know. They probably felt it wasn’t safe up in the tunnel. It will have to be put in bags, and carried out that way. We should have brought some.”
“We forgot since we were in such a hurry. But there’s lots of feed bags in the barn,” said Rose Anne.
Bang! The sound startled them all. Papa almost bumped his head on one of the timbers as he whirled around. Then another bang.
Someone was in here with them!
The wounded man? Could he still be alive? They had almost forgotten him in their preoccupation with the gold.
Papa took back the lantern, and with the girls close behind, hurried along the tunnel. As they turned a corner, a glow of light met them. A lantern set on the ground. And there wasn’t one man—but two—one leaning over the first. The man kneeling turned, his expression horror-struck at being caught.
It was the captain!
Papa and the girls stared in amazement. Even more surprising then the identity of the man was what he was doing. He was coatless and had been laying his red jacket over the man on the floor—but they could see that the one lying there was most definitely wearing the blue uniform of an American soldier.
“Please….” The captain rose. “Help me. I must get him up to the house so Miss. Penelope can treat him. I had a feeling she was taking care of wounded soldiers. This is why I had to find out.”
The three were open mouthed, but then Papa hurried forward. They saw what had fallen—two long timbers had been torn away from the wall.
“He’s still alive but not for long—help me make a stretcher. I didn’t know how I’d get him up the ladder. Do you have the horses with you?”
“We do,” said Papa, “and the wagon.”
“I take it you’re here for the gold. I know all about it. They stopped, and hid it in here because they were both wounded, and sick, and unable to go on.”
“You’re on our side?” asked Papa, trying to understand.
“No—I’m not but—”
The man on the ground groaned, and the captain urged, “hurry—please.”
The sick man spoke, however. His voice was husky and weak. “Thomas—no. You mustn’t.”
“You’ve got to have help.”
“You’ll be shot. Consorting with the enemy—you know that.”
“And what will I tell Mother if I let you die?”
“And what will I tell her if you’re shot as a traitor?”
The three onlookers were open mouthed yet again.
The captain turned back to them. “Yes. He’s my brother.”
Sadie’s astonishment lasted only an instant, for Papa quickly moved into action, helping to tie the corners of a blanket tightly onto the ends of the timbers.
“Girls, take this up while we get this man moved.”
“Jared. His name is Jared,” said the captain.
The man did not speak again for he’d lost consciousness.
Sadie and Rose Anne each took an end of the timbers, and lugged the stretcher to the mine entrance. Rose Anne went to the top, and Sadie tried to lift the timbers up to her but they were too heavy. They would have to wait for the men who were coming now, carrying Jared between them.
After some time, the men got both the heavy timbers and Jared up the ladder. The girls had brought in Brown Betty by then and attached ropes to her harness. They laid Jared on the blanket, and the mare pulled him through the woods over the bumpy ground, Sadie led the horse, and the rest tried to hold the stretcher up to keep from jarring him too much. For Jared had come to and even white faced with pain, he was fussing at his brother.
“Thomas, I insist. Put on your coat and go back. This man will bring me in, and it won’t even be known that you’re involved.”
“Captain, I think he’s right on that,” said Papa. “Once we get him into the wagon, there’s no sense in you—”
But it was too late. As they came out into the open, they saw soldiers marching along the road, apparently the rest of the group who were staying on the orphanage property. Two officers were standing right at their wagon, examining it—and Red Wind. One was the man who didn’t like the captain much.
“I must say, I did think you were up to something,” he greeted his captain.
“As I thought you were, You’ve been back then, checking on me during these few days away,” replied the captain.
“And I see you’re collaborating with the enemy.”
“You might say that,” said the captain. “Now, if you’ll move aside long enough so that we can get this man to the orphanage. Miss Penelope has nursing skills.”
“Save a colonist?”
The captain looked at him long and hard. “Yes.”
“You’re under arrest. All of you.”
The captain smiled. “These girls?”
The man frowned and hesitated.
“Let him go for now,” said the soldier next to him. “Let’s get this man to the house.”
Apparently this officer outranked the first for he backed off, though he was angry.
“Surely you can see who that colonist is,” continued the second officer. “They look enough alike…Thomas, I’m afraid you know what this means.”
“All I care about right now is getting him some help.”
The officer nodded. “I understand.”
Papa and the captain lifted Jared into the wagon and they were off.
It wasn’t long before Jared was being treated in the parlor, and the captain was locked in the shed with a guard.
“I’ll do whatever I can,” his second-in-command told him.
But no one held out much hope .
To be continued….
By Carol Bennett
Coming soon-the last chapter of Sadie and the Orphans.