Chapter XVII.
 

"Have you arranged your plans in regard to what places you will visit and in what order you will take them?" asked Mr. Allison, addressing Mr. Dinsmore.

"We have not," he replied; "that is, not very definitely; only that we will visit New England and New York."

"Elsie looks as if she could make a suggestion," remarked Miss Rose, with a smiling glance at the bright, animated face of the little girl.

"I should like to if I were old enough," said the child, dropping her eyes and blushing as she perceived that at that moment she was the object of the attention of every one at the table.

"We will consider you so, my dear," laughed Mr. Allison. "Come, give us the benefit of your ideas."

Still Elsie hesitated till her father said pleasantly, "Yes, daughter, let us have them. We can reject or adopt them as we see fit."

"Yes, papa," she returned. "I was just thinking that Valley Forge and Paoli are both in this State, and I should like very much to see them both."

"I call that a very good idea," said Mr. Edward Allison. "I have always intended to visit those historical places, but have never done so yet."

"Then let us go," said Rose, "for I, too, should like very much to see them; if the plan suits you, Mr. Dinsmore," she added, giving him a smiling glance.

"Perfectly," he said; "it will be a new and interesting experience to me, as I have never visited either spot, though quite familiar with their history, as doubtless you all are."

"Then we may consider that matter as settled," remarked Edward with satisfaction.

Elsie hardly knew whether to be more glad or sorry when the time came for the final leave-taking; but the joyful thought that Miss Rose was to accompany them fairly turned the scale in favor of the former feeling; and though she brushed away a tear or two at parting from Sophy, she set off with a bright and happy face.

They spent several weeks most delightfully in travelling about from place to place, going first to Valley Forge--a little valley so called because a man named Isaac Potts had a forge there on a creek which empties into the Schuylkill River. He was an extensive iron manufacturer. The valley is a deep, short hollow, seemingly scooped out from a low, rugged mountain.

The Americans had their camp on a range of hills back of the village, Washington his quarters at the house of Isaac Potts. It was a stone building standing near the mouth of the creek. Our friends were invited in by a cheerful old lady living there, and shown Washington's room. It was very small, but they found it interesting. The old lady took them into it, and, leading-the way to an east window, said: "From here Washington could look to those slopes yonder and see a large part of his camp." Then, lifting a blue sill, she showed a little trap-door and beneath it a cavity, which she said had been arranged by Washington as a hiding place for his papers.

On leaving that house, our little party went to view the ruins of an old flour-mill near by.

"This was going in those revolutionary days," said the old lady, who was still with them, "and soon after the battle of Brandywine, before the encampment in this valley, the Americans had a large quantity of stores here in this mill. Washington heard that the British General Howe had sent troops to destroy them, and he sent some of his men, under Alexander Hamilton and Captain Henry Lee, to get ahead of the British; which they did. Knowing there was danger of a surprise, they had a flat-bottomed boat ready to cross the river in, and two videttes out on the hill to the south yonder"--pointing with her finger. "Well, the soldiers had crossed the river and were just going to begin the work they had come to do, when the guns of the videttes were heard, and they were seen running down the hill with the British close after them. Lee, the videttes, and four of the other men ran across the bridge--the enemy sending a shower of bullets after them--while the others, with Hamilton, took to the boat. They were fired upon too, but got away safely. The two parties had got separated, and neither one knew just how the other had fared. Lee sent a note to Washington telling his fears for Hamilton and his men; and while Washington was reading it Hamilton rode up with a face full of distress, and began telling the general his fears for Lee; then Washington relieved him by handing him Lee's note to read."

Our party thanked the old lady for her story, and Mr. Dinsmore asked what more there was to see.

"There's an observatory over yonder on that south hill," she said, pointing to it. "It was there a large part of the American army was quartered--on the hill, I mean. If you go up to the top of the building you can see a good deal of the camping ground from it."

"Thank you," he returned, slipping a silver dollar into her hand. "We are all greatly obliged for your kindness in showing us about this interesting place and refreshing our memories in regard to its history."

The others thanked her also; then taking a carriage they drove to the observatory she had pointed out.

They were told that it stood on the spot where Washington's marquee was placed on his arrival at Valley Forge. It was a neat octagonal structure about forty feet high, with a spiral staircase in the centre leading up to an open gallery on the top. They went up, and found it gave them a fine view of the greater part of what had been the camping ground. "Our troops came here from Whitemarsh, if my memory serves me right," said Edward Allison.

"Yes," assented Mr. Dinsmore. "It was Washington's decision that they should do so, as here he would be near enough to watch the movements of the British army, then in possession of Philadelphia. He wished, for one thing, to keep the foraging parties in check, protecting the people from their depredations."

"Wasn't it in the winter they were here, papa?" asked Elsie.

"Yes; and the poor fellows found it terribly cold; especially for men so poorly provided as they were with what are esteemed by most civilized people as the barest necessities of life--food, clothing, shoes, and blankets."

"Yes, I remember reading about it--how their poor feet bled on the ground as they marched over it, with neither shoes nor stockings," said Elsie, tears springing to her eyes as she spoke. "And didn't they suffer from hunger too, papa?"

"Yes, they did, poor fellows!" he sighed. "They endured a great deal in the hope of winning freedom for themselves, their children, and their country. They had not even material to raise their beds from the ground, and in consequence many sickened and died from the dampness."

"It is really wonderful how they bore it all," said Edward. "They certainly must have been true and ardent patriots."

"We were told that Washington's marquee stood just here in that time," said Elsie. "What did he want with it when he had a room in Mr. Potts' house?"

"He occupied the marquee only while his men were building their huts," explained her father, "then afterward took up his quarters in that house."

Our party now returned to their carriage and drove to Paoli--some nine miles distant. They were told that the place of the massacre was about a quarter of a mile from the highway, and leaving their vehicle at the nearest point, they followed a path leading through open fields till they came to the monument. They found it a blue clouded marble pedestal, surmounted by a white marble pyramid, standing over the broad grave in which lie the remains of the fifty-three Americans found in that field the morning after the massacre, and buried by the neighboring farmers.

"Papa," said Elsie, "won't you please go over the story?"

"If a short rehearsal will not be unpleasant to our friends," he answered kindly.

Both Rose and Edward assured him they would be glad to listen to it, and he at once began.

"It was but a few days after the battle of Brandywine that Wayne was here with about fifteen hundred men and four pieces of cannon, Washington having given him directions to annoy the enemy's rear and try to cut off his baggage train. This place was some two or three miles southwest of the British lines, away from the public roads, and at that time covered with a forest.

"But for the treachery of a Tory the British would have known nothing of the whereabouts of these patriots who were struggling to free their country from unbearable oppression. But Howe, learning it all from the Tory, resolved to attempt to surprise and slaughter the Americans. He despatched General Grey (who was afterwards a murderer and plunderer at Tappan and along the New England coast) to steal upon the patriot camp at night and destroy as many as he could.

"Wayne heard that something of the kind was intended, but did not believe it. Still, he took every precaution; ordered his men to sleep on their arms with their ammunition under their coats--to keep it dry I suppose, as the night was dark and stormy.

"Grey and his men marched stealthily on them in the night, passing through the woods and up a narrow defile. It was about one o'clock in the morning that they gained Wayne's left. Grey was a most cruel wretch, called the no-flint general because of his orders to his soldiers to take the flints from their guns; his object being to compel them to use the bayonet; his orders were to rush upon the patriots with the bayonet and give no quarter. In that way, in the darkness and silence, they killed several of the pickets near the highway.

"The patrolling officer missed these men, his suspicions were aroused, and he hastened with his news to Wayne's tent. Wayne at once paraded his men, but unfortunately in the light of his fires, which enabled the enemy to see and shoot them down. Grey and his men came on in silence, but with the fierceness of tigers; they leaped from the thick darkness upon the Americans, who did not know from which quarter to expect them. The Americans fired several volleys, but so sudden and violent was the attack that their column was at once broken into fragments, and they fled in confusion. One hundred and fifty Americans were killed and wounded in this assault. It is said that some of the wounded were cruelly butchered after surrendering and asking for quarter. But for Wayne's coolness and skill his whole command would have been killed or taken prisoners. He quickly rallied a few companies, ordered Colonel Humpton to wheel the line, and with the cavalry and a part of the infantry successfully covered a retreat."

"Then did all who had not already been killed get away from the British, papa?" asked Elsie.

"Not quite all; they captured between seventy and eighty men, taking, besides, a good many small arms, two pieces of cannon, and eight wagon-loads of baggage and stores."

"Weren't some of the British killed?" she asked.

"Only one captain and three privates; and four men were wounded."

The story was finished, and having seen all there was to see in connection with it, our travellers went on their way and pursued their journey, not feeling at all hurried, seeing all they wanted to see, and stopping to rest whenever they felt the need of it. Elsie enjoyed it all thoroughly. There was no abatement of the tender, watchful care her father had bestowed upon her in their former journey, and added to that was the pleasant companionship of Miss Rose and her brother.

Mr. Edward was very kind and attentive to both his sister and Elsie, always thinking of something to please them or add to their comfort; and both he and Rose treated the little girl as though she were a dear, younger sister.

Elsie was seldom absent from her father's side for many minutes, yet sometimes in their walks she found herself left to Mr. Edward's care, while Rose had Mr. Dinsmore's arm. But that did not trouble the little girl; for loving them both so dearly, she was very anxious that they should like each other; and then she could leave Mr. Edward and run to her papa whenever she pleased, sure of being always received with the same loving smile, and not at all as though they felt that she was in the way.