Gateway to the Classics: American History Stories, Volume III by Mara L. Pratt
American History Stories, Volume III by  Mara L. Pratt

The American Army of Two

During the war of 1812, there lived in a little seaport town of Massachusetts a child named Rebecca Bates. Rebecca's father was the lighthouse-keeper, and he with his family lived in a little white cottage on a point of land jutting out into the bay. This little cottage, which stood just behind the tall lighthouse, had been Rebecca's home ever since she was born.

One day Rebecca and a little girl friend of hers were sitting on the point looking off across the sunny water, when they noticed afar off, a ship apparently making in for the harbor. There was something about this ship which, though so far away, struck terror to these girls' hearts; for these were very trying days—these days of 1812—when the British war ships could be seen bearing down upon the little sea-ports, and unloading their British soldiers to march upon the people.

For an hour or two this ship tacked, and stood off to sea, and tacked again, and finally anchored at the mouth of the harbor. The people watching from the shore could see the boats being lowered, and the soldiers preparing to land.

Rebecca and her friend had hastened up into the tower of the light-house, and eagerly watched the movements of the soldiers in their glittering armor and gay red coats.

"O, if I were only a man!" cried Rebecca, as she thought that before night her little home might lie in ashes, burned by these cruel British soldiers.

"What would you do?" asked her friend; "see how many soldiers there are, and how many guns they have."

"I don't care," cried the hot-headed Rebecca. "I'd fight 'em—I'd use father's old gun—I'd—"

"I wonder if there will be a fight?" broke in Sarah.

"I don't know—the men in the village will do all they can."

"But see how quiet it is! Not a man to be seen on the shore!"

"O, but they are hiding till the soldiers get close to land, then we shall hear the shot and the drum! O, but the drum! the drum! it's here in the light-house. Father brought it here only yesterday to be mended!"

"O, dear! what shall we do?" cried the excited Rebecca. "And see! they have reached that little sloop and are going to burn her! O, how mean! It's a shame! Where's that drum? I have a mind to go and beat it!"

"What good would that do?"

"It might scare them if nothing more."

"They would see it is only two girls, and would go on burning just the same."

"No; we could hide behind the sand-hills and bushes. Come let's go!"

"O, look! look! the sloop's on fire!"

"There! I won't stay one minute longer and see those cowardly British burn our boats! The cowards! why don't they go up into the village and fight like men? Come, let's get the drum. It will do no harm at any rate."

"All right," said Sarah, now thoroughly aroused. "There's the fife too! I'll get that."

And away the two girls ran down to the cottage for the fife and the drum; and away they scrambled among the rocks, behind the bushes and the sand hills, out towards the end of the point.

"Drum! drum! drum! Squeak! squeak! squeak!"

The soldiers out at the harbor mouth stopped their unloading, and listened.

"Drum! drum! drum! Squeak! squeak! squeak!"

"What does that mean?" asked a British soldier.

"Troops! troops!" cried another. "Troops are formed and are marching down to hem us in from the point. Hark! isn't the drumming advancing?"

"Drum! drum! drum! Squeak! squeak! squeak!"

"They're coming to the point surely!"

"We'd better get outside the point before we are hemmed in completely," cried another. And then the commanding officer gave the order to regain the ship.

Scrabble, scrabble! Up over the sides of the vessel like frightened rats went the red-coated soldiers, who a minute before had stepped forth so bravely into the boats intent upon subduing the simple village folk.

It took very little time for the ship to be turned about; and by the time the "American Army of Two" had reached the point, the great ship was speeding away, looking for all the world as if it had but one idea—that of getting away as soon as possible.

Rebecca and Sarah had all the time kept one eye out towards the ship, and when they saw the effect of their drum, drum, drum, and their squeak, squeak, squeak had upon the mighty enemy, they could scarcely keep their time, so convulsed they were with laughter.

The people in the village meantime had been as much filled with surprise as had the British soldiers.

"What can it be?" said one.

"It must be troops from Boston," said another.

"And just in time to save us," said a third.

Then after the ship had sailed away, down rushed the villagers to the point to see the Boston troops.

Imagine their surprise to see, sitting comfortably on the rocks, their drum and fife by their side, these two girls, Rebecca and Sarah.

You perhaps can imagine what the villagers said and what the girls said; how the story of this "American Army of Two," as they were ever after called, spread through the villages and towns, and how these two girls were honored and looked upon as the preservers of their little town by the village folk.

Sarah and Rebecca grew up to be good, noble women, and when, only a few years ago, Rebecca died, her story was told all over again by the newspapers of our country, and in many a school and church honorable notice was given the good old lady, who as a child had done so much for her little town on the sea-coast of Massachusetts.

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