"How a Lad of 1776 Surprised the Redcoats"
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, "The Wizard of Pumperdink", "King, King! Double King!", etc.
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, February 20, 1916.
"I tell ye, I'll not do it!" the old man brought his fist down on the table with a thump that made the candle sputter. "But they're starving, General Washington says." "Then let 'em starve, the marauding rebels, and besides, they've no money! No sir, none of my provisions shall they have. Long live King George! Ha! Ha! Long live anybody that can pay me good honest crowns!" The woman sighed and turning from the table, went on with her work. There had been another anxious listener to this conversation. With his ear pressed close to the door, Jack, a small orphan lad, taken in by the old couple to help about the inn, heard with dismay the heartless remarks of old Derry. It was the dark winter of 1776. Washington and his army had been forced to retreat through the city of New York, up the Hudson, across the river into Jersey, across the State of New Jersey to the western banks of the Delaware. They were ragged and half-starved and many of the rich farmers and landowners of Jersey, thinking the American cause was about done for and wishing to be on the safe side, refused to supply provisions or help in any form. Instead, they sold their flour and cattle, their chickens and corn to the British for good round sums.
Among the Tory sympathizers was Derry, owner of the old Gray Goose Inn, near Bordentown, and right now he had a bargain under way to deliver virtually all of his fowl, hogs and cattle to the British, who were intrenched near Princeton. A British officer had stopped at the inn that night and Jack, running in and out on various errands, had heard old Derry dickering over the price. At last a sum was agreed upon and the stock was to be turned over to a private, who was to be sent next morning at 9 o'clock to drive them away.
Jack, though only a lad, felt the meanness of a course so contemptible and unpatriotic. A young lieutenant from the Continental Army, sent by Washington to procure provisions, had been rudely turned off the very same day with the assurance that Derry had nought to sell or to give. He had gone on further to a house about a half-mile distant where some stanch patriots agreed to help him in his mission. Here Jack followed him, for he was on fire for news of the great Washington, whom he admired with all a small lad's ardor. The more he listened to the tales of want and hardship in the Continental camp, the more indignant he grew, and when on his return to the inn he learned of Derry's bargain with the British officer, he determined himself to take a hand in the matter.
Long after old Derry and his wife had retired, he lay awake thinking. Then, like a flash a plan came to him. Slipping noiselessly out of bed, he put on his clothes. Tiptoeing into the room where Derry slept, he reached for the clock which stood on a chair beside the bed. Scarce daring to breathe, he took it to the window and by the pale moonlight, turned it forward one hour. Derry's watch he treated in similar fashion. Downstairs he hurried next, fixing the old clock in the hall and the clock in the kitchen one hour fast. Now upstairs again went Jack, this time to the room of Gates, a British private, who had been slightly wounded and was being cared for in the inn. Quietly as a mouse he removed the man's uniform from the closet, then tarrying only long enough to set his watch forward, too, tiptoed downstairs, slid the bolt aside and hurried out into the night, never stopping till he had come to the house where the young American lieutenant was lodged.
A loud thump on the door awakened the startled household. A cautious head was stuck out of the window, but Jack soon made them understand the nature of his business. In less than two hours he had explained his plan to Lieutenant Rice, left the uniform and was back in bed and asleep. You have guessed what he was about now, I am sure.
Next day old Derry arose, as he supposed, at the accustomed time, but, as we know, it was one hour earlier. Jack was hustled out of bed, for there was a great deal to be done before the stock could be got ready for the British messenger. Jack, trembling lest Gates should decide to rise and discover his uniform was gone, carried him his breakfast, assuring him that it was better for him to stay abed, which, fortunately, he seemed inclined to do.
At 9 o'clock everything was in readiness, the cattle yoked rudely together, the chickens and ducks crated and packed into an old wagon, the hogs driven into the yard. Jack could hardly keep still and was forever running to the window to see whether the messenger was coming. And one minute after eight precisely (though Derry thought twas nine) the young American, with new and fiercely drooping whickers and Gates' red uniform galloped into the yard.
He asked that Jack be allowed to go along and drive the wagon while he attended to the cattle and hogs, promising to see that he got safely back. To this old Derry readily agreed and next minute there were off down the road. No sooner was the inn out of sight before they proceeded at furious speed, straight down for the river, where several large boats were waiting to take them across. The young lieutenant had sent a dispatch by messenger the night before to have them there. Never did hogs run such a race, never were cattle so pushed before, never did a wagon careen as madly along as the one driven by Jack. In a cloud of dust and to the tune of grunts, moos and protesting cackles they pounded down the road, arriving in short order at the river. With small ceremony the stock was hustled on to the boats, the horses were unhitched from the wagon and taken along, too.
About the time the real messenger cantered into the courtyard of the Gray Goose Jack and the lieutenant were being welcomed with cheers and shouts in the American camp. Washington himself shook hands with Jack and was so impressed with the lad's spirit and manliness that he agreed to his entreaties that he be kept on as a drummer boy. That night, thanks to one loyal American lad, there was fresh meat and fresh courage in the Continental encampment. I shall leave you to imagine for yourselves the rage and amazement of old Derry.
THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, June 16, 1918.
The Forgetful Poet Goes to Market
The Forgetful Poet went to market 'tother day. He said
Just give me, please, a quart of cheese and half a yard of bread,
A pound of milk, a peck of tea and half a dozen rices,
A pint of coffee, very best, and never mind the prices!
The shopman threw his hands in air - before he could object
Our poet had departed. Pshaw! Well, what could you expect?
(Of a poet?)
Mr. G. Ography has been traveling again. Can you fill in the blanks with the money he used? He says there are all sorts of coins to be reckoned with when you travel, and I guess he's right.
Now, Norway is a famous land,
I've tramped it up and down-
Aye, many a day I spent that way,
And many and many a ------.
Now, Mexico is hot and dry,
But interesting at that;
For several ------ I acquired
A broad-brimmed Spanish hat.
The traveling in Russia's
Anything but safe a present;
The ------ that it cost me
Made it even more unpleasant.
The answers to last week's puzzles were:
First, shade, meaning color; second, window shade; third, tree shade; fourth, shades of night; fifth, lamp shade.
[Answers next time.]
Copyright © 2007 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.
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