There were many boys and girls in the revolutionary days, who did their part in the saving of the country just as bravely as their fathers and their mothers.
Robert, a lad of only eight years, stood one morning, staring into the great fireplace, where the logs snapped and crackled as brightly and as cheerfully as if there were no war, no danger, no sorrow in this beautiful land, so broad and free.
"I wish I were a hero," said Robert, stuffing his fists down into his pockets. "I wish I were a hero and could go to war."
Robert's mother sighed as she looked at her boy and thought of his father, in battle, perhaps, at that very hour with the redcoats. Robert thought only of the fine uniform, the music, the marching, and all the grand parade of war; but Robert's mother thought of the danger, the suffering, and the desolation.
"Never mind, my boy," said she; "remember we can all be heroes in our everyday life."
Just then there came a noise at the door. It was as if some one fell with a groan upon the wide stone step outside.
Robert and his mother hurried to the door, and lifted the latch.
There upon the step lay a redcoat. His eyes were closed and his face was deathly pale. What should be done? Here was a brother man suffering and in want of help. But he was a redcoat. Could they give help to an enemy and bring back his strength to him?
Just then he soldier opened his eyes. "Help—help!" he whispered faintly. "I am not—a—redcoat,—I—am a spy." Then the eyes closed again, and the sick man fainted.
"We must bring him into the house, Robert," said his mother. But first run and bring a cup of cold water."
In a moment the soldier opened his eyes again. "Quick!" he said. "The British are coming. Already they have wounded me." And hardly had he spoken, when there appeared upon the hilltop two horsemen.
"Robert, help me!" cried the boy's mother. "Quick! we must get this poor man into the house and bolt the door."
It was wonderful that they had the strength; but seizing the soldier by the shoulders, they dragged him, half fainting, over the threshold, locked him securely into a secret closet—colonial houses often had secret closets built into the walls—and were apparently busy at work in the kitchen when the horsemen halted at the door.
Robert was pale and trembling, and his teeth chattered.
A horseman noticed this; and, pouncing upon the child, he thundered, "Where is the spy that ran down through this valley an hour ago? Tell me, or we'll burn your house."
Poor Robert! His tongue clung to the roof of his mouth; his knees trembled, and the whole world seemed whirling round and round.
One horseman winked at the other. "The lad knows," he said in a low tone; "we will frighten him into telling."
"I won't tell," Robert shouted, so frightened and so determined to be brave that he forgot to be wise.
"You won't?" thundered the horseman. "Then, my lad, you will go with us, and we will shut you up in a big black prison." And as he said these cruel words, he reached down from his horse, caught the little fellow by the collar, lifted him upon the horse, turned and galloped away, and all so quickly that Robert hardly knew what had happened until he was halfway down the lane.
"Robert, Robert!" screamed his mother; but the redcoats cared little for her cries.
Across the fields, over the hills, down the valley the war horse galloped, until Robert, who had never been outside his father's farm, wondered if they would carry him to the end of the world.
"Will you tell me now?" the horseman said to him when they had reached a place where there were hundreds of white tents, and where the redcoats were parading up and down in lines.
"Never," answered Robert, his lips trembling so that he could hardly speak.
"Little rebel!" hissed the soldier. "No time to be wasted on this lad. He's little; but he's a rebel. Throw him into the cellar of the inn. Mind you that you lock the iron doors," he shouted to a serving man near by.
Robert's heart sank. All the sky grew black; and the poor little fellow knew nothing more until he opened his eyes an hour later and found himself in a black hole—so black he could hardly see the empty old casks against which he lay.
For hours and hours the boy lay there sobbing; for what boy of eight years would not have been filled with terror at such a fate as this?
By and by it grew darker and darker: then Robert knew that night had fallen. Music and dancing he heard above him; and often the loud laughter of the men outside.
But hark! what sound is that? It is the rasping of a rusty lock! Then a flash of light! A whisper— "Little boy, are you there?"
Robert sprang to his feet. Had an angel come to rescue him? Certainly it seemed like one—so beautiful was the lady's face. "Hush ! child," she whispered. "Don't speak; come with me. I will carry you home."
A moment, and the child had been hurried up the narrow stairway, out through a black passage, out into the starlight. There stood a milk white horse fastened by the bridle. The lady herself, dressed though she was in her rich silk robe, and sparkling with jewels, mounted the horse, and away they flew again over hill and plain.
"You can find your way home from ,here, little boy," the lady said at last; and, letting Robert down from the horse, she turned and was away before the grateful lad could speak one word.
Day was just breaking, and away across the fields he could see his home shining out among the trees. How he ran! There were lights in the house; for no one had thought of sleep in that home from which the boy had been stolen. Back and forth, back and forth, all night long, Robert's mother had paced, praying, while the tears ran down her cheeks, for her boy's safe return.
"O Mother! Mother!" Robert shouted, bursting in at the unlocked door. "O Mother, Mother, I didn't tell!" And then exhausted, the little fellow fell at his mother's feet.
"My brave boy! My little hero!" sobbed the mother, taking him up in her arms, the tears of joy rolling down her cheeks.
"Was I a hero?" whispered Robert; and in another second, so tired out was he with the long night of terror that, with a great sigh, he fell asleep, held close in his mother's arms.
|—MARA L. PRATT.|
Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
—1 Corinthians xvi. 13.