The Last Penny and Other Stories by T.S. Arthur
The Fair Courier.
A STORY OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.
Fort Motte, Fort Granby, Fort Watson, the fort at Orangeburg, and every other post in South Carolina, except Charleston and Ninety-Six, had yielded successively to the American arms, under the command of Greene, Sumter, Marion, and Lee; and now General Greene turned all his energies to the reduction of Ninety-Six, giving orders at the same time, for General Sumter to remain in the country south and west of the Congaree, so as to cut off all communication between Lord Rawdon, who was at Charleston awaiting reinforcements from England, and Colonel Cruger, who was in command at Ninety-Six.
Day after day the siege of Ninety-Six went on, the Americans slowly approaching the fort by a series of works constructed under the superintendence of Kosciusko, and Cruger still holding out in expectations of reinforcements from Charleston, although not a single word of intelligence from Lord Rawdon had reached him since the investment of the post which he held with so much bravery and perseverance.
On the 3d of June, the long-expected reinforcement from England reached Lord Rawdon, and on the 7th he started for the relief of Colonel Cruger with a portion of three Irish regiments, and was joined soon after by the South Carolina royalists, swelling his force to two thousand men. But all his efforts to transmit intelligence of his approach to the beleaguered garrison at Ninety-Six proved unavailing. His messengers were intercepted by Sumter and Marion, who held possession of the intermediate region.
On the 11th of June, General Greene received intelligence from General Sumter of the approach of Rawdon. Directing Sumter to keep in front of the enemy, he reinforced him with all his cavalry under Lieutenant-Colonel Washington, and urged him to use every means in his power to delay the advancing British army, until he should be able to complete the investment of the fort at Ninety-Six, and compel it to surrender. Then with renewed diligence he pressed the siege, hoping to obtain a capitulation before Colonel Cruger should receive news of the approaching succour, and thus break up, with the exception of Charleston, the last rallying point of the enemy in South Carolina. But the commander of the fort was ever on the alert to make good his defences and to annoy and retard the besiegers in every possible way; and, though ignorant of the near approach of aid, he would listen to no overtures for a capitulation.
One evening, while affairs retained this aspect, a countryman rode along the American lines, conversing familiarly with the officers and soldiers on duty. No particular notice was taken of this, as, from the beginning of the siege, the friends of our cause were permitted to enter the camp and go wherever their curiosity happened to lead them. The individual here mentioned moved along, seemingly much interested with all he saw and heard, until he arrived at the great road leading directly to the town, in which quarter were only some batteries thrown up for the protection of the guards. Pausing here for a few moments, he glanced cautiously around him, and then, suddenly putting spurs to his horse, he dashed at full speed into the town. Seeing this, the guard and sentinels opened their fire upon him, but he escaped unhurt, holding up a letter as soon as he was out of danger. The garrison, which had observed this movement, understood its meaning, and the gates were instantly thrown open to receive the messenger, who proved to be from Lord Rawdon, and brought the welcome intelligence of his near approach.
Hoping still to reduce the fort before the arrival of Lord Rawdon, General Greene urged on the work of investment, and by every means in his power sought to weaken the garrison, so as to make victory certain when all was ready for the final assault. But before he had accomplished his task, a messenger from Sumter arrived with the unwelcome intelligence that Rawdon had succeeded in passing him and was pushing on rapidly for Ninety-Six. The crisis had now come. Greene must either hazard an assault upon the fort ere his works were in complete readiness, risk a battle with Rawdon, or retire over the Saluda, and thus give confidence and strength to the tories and royalist army. His first determination was to meet the relieving army under Rawdon, but every thing depending on his not giving the enemy, at this particular crisis of affairs in the South, a victory, and seeing that his force was much inferior to that of the British, he resolved to make an attack upon the fort, and, if not successful in reducing it, to retire with his army toward North Carolina before Rawdon came up.
The 18th of June, 1781, was the day chosen for this assault. But made, as it was, with the besiegers' works incomplete, though the men fought with desperate courage, the fort was successfully defended, and General Greene ordered his troops to retire, after they had suffered the loss of one hundred and eighty-five killed and wounded.
Nothing was now left but retreat. For some twenty-six days the besieging army had been at work before the fort, and in three days more all their arrangements would have been completed and the post have fallen into their hands. It was therefore deeply mortifying and dispiriting to be forced to retire, just as success was about crowning their efforts. But far-seeing, prudent, and looking more to future results than present triumphs, General Greene, on the 19th, commenced retreating toward the Saluda, which river he passed in safety, and moved forward with all possible despatch for the Enoree. Before his rear-guard had left the south side of this river, the van of Lord Rawdon's army appeared in pursuit. But the British commander hesitated to make an attack upon Greene's cavalry, which was under the command of Lee and Colonel Washington, and was a brave, well-disciplined, and superior troop, and so permitted them to pass the Enoree unmolested. While Lord Rawdon paused at this point, undetermined which course to pursue, General Greene moved on toward the Broad River, where he halted and made his encampment.
Such was the aspect of affairs at the time our story begins--a story of woman's self-devotion and heroism. Near the place where General Greene had halted with his weary and disheartened troops, stood the unpretending residence of a country farmer in moderate circumstances. His name was Geiger. He was a true friend of the American cause, and, but for ill health, that rendered him unable to endure the fatigues of the camp, would have been under arms in defence of his country. The deep interest felt in the cause of liberty by Geiger, made him ever on the alert for information touching the progress of affairs in his State, and the freedom with which he expressed his opinions created him hosts of enemies among the evil-minded tories with whom he was surrounded. Geiger had an only daughter, eighteen years of age, who was imbued with her father's spirit.
"If I were only a man!" she would often say, when intelligence came of British or tory outrages, or when news was brought of some reverse to the American arms. "If I were only a man! that I could fight for my country."
On the third day of General Greene's encampment near the residence of Geiger, a neighbour dropped in.
"What news?" asked the farmer.
"Lord Rawdon has determined to abandon the fort at Ninety-Six."
"Are you certain?"
"Yes. General Greene received the information this morning. Rawdon has despatched intelligence to Colonel Stuart to advance with his regiment from Charleston to Friday's Ferry on the Congaree, where he will join him immediately. He leaves Cruger at Ninety-Six, who is to move, as soon as possible, with his bloody tory recruits and their property, and take a route that will put the Edisto between him and our forces. Moving down the southern bank of this river to Orangeburg, he will thence make a junction with Rawdon at Friday's Ferry."
"Then they will divide their force?" said Geiger eagerly.
"And giving Greene an advantage by which he will not be slow to profit. Cruger will not be a day on the march before our general will make his acquaintance."
"No," replied the neighbour. "If I heard aright, it is General Greene's intention to pursue Rawdon, and strike a more decisive blow."
"Why did he not encounter him at the Saluda, when the opportunity offered?"
"General Sumter was not with him."
"Nor is he now."
"And, I fear, will not join him, as he so much desires."
"For what reason?" inquired Geiger.
"He finds no one willing to become bearer of despatches. The country between this and Sumter's station on the Wateree, is full of the enemies of our cause--blood-thirsty tories, elated by the defeat of our arms at Ninety-Six--who will to a certainty murder any man who undertakes the journey. I would not go on the mission for my weight in gold."
"And can no man be found to risk his life for his country, even on so perilous a service?" said the farmer in a tone of surprise, not unmingled with mortification.
"None. The effort to reach Sumter would be fruitless. The bravest man will hesitate to throw his life away."
"God protects those who devote themselves to the good of their country," said Geiger. "If I could bear the fatigue of the journey, I would not shrink from the service an instant."
"You would commit an act of folly."
"No--of true devotion to my country," replied the farmer warmly. "But," he added in a saddened voice, "what boots it that I am willing for the task. These feeble limbs refuse to bear me on the journey."
Emily Geiger, the daughter, heard all this with feelings of intense interest; and as she had often said before, so she said now, in the silence of her spirit: "Oh that I were a man!" But she was simply a young and tender girl, and her patriotic heart could only throb with noble feelings, while her hands were not able to strike a blow for her country.
"If I were only a man!" murmured the young girl again and again, as she mused on what she had heard, long after the neighbour had departed.
In the mean time, General Greene, who had heard through messengers from Colonel Lee of the proposed abandonment of Ninety-six, and the division of the British and tory forces, was making preparations to retrace his steps, and strike, if possible, a decisive blow against Lord Rawdon. In order to make certain of victory, it was necessary to inform Sumter of his designs, and effect a junction with him before attacking the enemy. But, thus far, no one offered to perform the dangerous service.
On the morning of the day upon which the army was to commence retracing its steps, General Greene sat in his tent lost in deep thought. Since taking command of the southern army, he had been struggling at every disadvantage with a powerful enemy, whose disciplined troops were daily strengthened by citizens of the country, lost to every feeling of true patriotism; and now, having weakened that enemy, he felt eager to strike a blow that would destroy him. But, with the force that he could command, it was yet a doubtful question whether an engagement would result in victory to the American arms. If he could effect a junction with Sumter before Lord Rawdon reached Friday's Ferry on the Congaree, he had great hopes of success. But the great difficulty was to get a messenger to Sumter, who was distant between one and two hundred miles. While the general was pondering these things, an officer entered and said--
"A young country girl is before the tent, and wishes to speak with you."
"Tell her to come in," replied the general.
The officer withdrew, and in a few moments reappeared in company with a young girl, dressed in a closely fitting habit, carrying a small whip in her hand. She curtsied respectfully as she entered.
The general arose as the maiden stepped inside of his tent, and returned her salutation.
"General Greene?" inquired the fair stranger.
The officer bowed.
"I have been told," said the visitor, the colour deepening in her face, "that you are in want of a bearer of despatches to General Sumter."
"I am," replied the general. "But I find no one courageous enough to undertake the perilous mission."
"Send me," said the maiden. And she drew her slight form upward proudly.
"Send you!" exclaimed the general, taken by surprise. "You? Oh no, child! I could not do that. It is a journey from which brave men hold back."
"I am not a brave man. I am only a woman. But I will go."
"Touched by such an unlooked-for incident, General Greene, after pausing for some moments, said--
"Will you go on this journey alone?"
"Give me a fleet horse, and I will bear your message safely."
"What is your name?" inquired the officer, after another thoughtful pause.
"Is your father living?"
"Have you his consent?"
"He knows nothing of my intention. But he loves his country, and, but for ill health, would be now bearing arms against their enemies. His heart is with the good cause, though his arm is powerless. His head must approve the act, though his heart might fail him were I to ask his consent. But it is not for you, general, to hesitate. Heaven has sent you a messenger, and you dare not refuse to accept the proffered service when so much is at stake."
"Noble girl!" said the general, with emotion, "you shall go. And may God speed you and protect you on your journey."
"He will!" murmured the intrepid girl, in a low voice.
"Order a swift, but well-trained and gentle horse to be saddled immediately," said Greene to the officer who had conducted the maiden into his presence.
The officer retired, and Emily seated herself while the general wrote a hasty despatch for Sumter. This, after it was completed, he read over to her twice, in order that, if compelled to destroy it, she might yet deliver the message verbally, and then asked her to repeat to him its contents. She did so accurately. He then gave her minute directions with regard to the journey, with instructions how to act in case she was intercepted by the soldiers of Lord Rawdon, to all of which she listened with deep attention.
"And now, my good girl," said the general, with an emotion that he could not conceal, as he handed her the despatch, "I commit to your care this important message. Every thing depends on its safe delivery. Here is money for your expenses on the journey," and he reached her a purse. But Emily drew back, saying--
"I have money in my pocket. Keep what you have. You will need it, and more, for your country."
At this point, the officer re-entered the tent, and announced that the horse was ready.
"And so am I," said Emily, as she stepped out into the open air. Already a whisper of what was going on in the general's quarters had passed through the camp, and many officers and men had gathered before his tent to see the noble-minded girl as she came forth to start upon her dangerous journey.
There was no sign of fear about the fair young maiden, as she placed her foot in the hand of an officer and sprang upon the saddle. Her face was calm, her eyes slightly elevated, and her lips gently compressed with resolution. General Greene stood near her. He extended his hand as soon as she had firmly seated herself and grasped the reins of the noble animal upon which she was mounted.
"God speed you on your journey, and may heaven and your country reward you," said he, as he held her hand tightly. Then, as if impelled by a sudden emotion, he pressed the fair hand to his lips, and turning away sought the seclusion of his tent, deeply moved by so unexpected and touching an instance of heroism in one who was little more than a child. As he did so, the officer, who had until now held the horse by the bridle, released his grasp, and Emily, touching her rein, spoke to the animal upon which she was mounted. Obeying the word instantly he sprang away, bearing the fair young courier from the camp, and moved rapidly in a south-westerly direction. Officers and men gazed after her, but no wild shout of admiration went up to the skies. On some minds pressed, painfully, thoughts of the peril that lay in the path of the brave girl; others, rebuked by her noble self-devotion, retired to their tents and refrained from communion with their fellows on the subject that engrossed every thought; while others lost all present enthusiasm in their anxiety for the success of the mission.
About five miles from the encampment of General Greene, lived one of the most active and bitter tories in all South Carolina. His name was Loire. He was ever on the alert for information, and had risked much in his efforts to give intelligence to the enemy. Two of his sons were under arms at Ninety-Six, on the British side, and he had himself served against his country at Camden. Since the encampment of General Greene in his neighbourhood, Loire had been daily in communication with spies who were kept hovering in his vicinity, in order to pick up information that might be of importance to the British.
Some four hours after Emily Geiger had started on her journey, one of Loire's spies reached the house of his employer.
"What news?" asked the tory, who saw, by the man's countenance, that he had something of importance to communicate.
"The rebel Greene has found a messenger to carry his despatch to Sumter."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes; and she has been on her journey some four or five hours."
"Yes. That girl of Geiger's went to the camp this morning and volunteered for the service."
"The ----!" But we will not stain our pages with a record of the profane and brutal words that fell from the lips of the tory.
"She has the swiftest horse in the camp," said the man, "and unless instant pursuit is given, she will soon be out of our reach."
With a bitter oath, Loire swore that she should never reach the camp of Sumter.
"Take Vulcan," said he in a quick, energetic voice, "and kill him but what you overtake the huzzy, between this and Morgan's Range."
"She has nearly five hours' start," replied the man.
"But you must make two miles to her one."
"Even then she will be most likely ahead of the Range ere I can reach there."
"Very well. In that case you must start Bill Mink after her, with a fresh horse. I will give you a letter, which you will place in his hands should you fail to overtake the girl."
With these instructions, the man started in pursuit. He was mounted on a large, strong horse, who bore his rider as lightly as if he had been a child.
In the mean time, Emily, who had received minute information in regard to her journey, and who was, moreover, no stranger to the way, having been twice to Camden, struck boldly into the dense forest through which she was to pass, and moved along a bridle track at as swift a pace as the animal she rode could bear without too great fatigue. The importance of the work upon which she had entered, and the enthusiasm with which it inspired her, kept her heart above the influence of fear. No event of moment happened to her during the first day of her journey. In passing a small settlement known as Morgan's Range, which she did at about four o'clock in the afternoon, she took the precaution to sweep around it in a wide circle, as some of the most active and evil-minded tories in the state resided in that neighbourhood. Successful in making this circuit, she resumed the road upon which her course lay, still urging forward her faithful animal, which, though much fatigued by the rapidity of his journey, obeyed the word of his rider, as if he comprehended the importance of the message she bore.
Gradually, now, the day declined, and, as the deep shadows mingled more and more with each other, a feeling of loneliness, not before experienced, came over the mind of Emily, and her eyes were cast about more warily, as if she feared the approach of danger. The house at which she had proposed to spend the night was still ten miles, if not more, in advance, and as the shades of evening began to gather around, the hope of reaching this resting-place was abandoned; for there being no moon, there was danger of her losing her way in the darkness. This conviction was so strong, that Emily turned her horse's head in the direction of the first farmyard that came in view after the sun had fallen below the horizon. As she rode up to the door, she was met by a man, who, accosting her kindly, asked where she was from and how far she was going.
"I hoped to reach Elwood's to-night," replied Emily. "How far away is it?"
"Over ten miles--and the road is bad and lonely," said the man, whose wife had by this time joined him. "You had better get down and stay with us 'till morning."
"If you will give me that privilege," returned the maiden, "I shall feel greatly obliged."
The man promptly offered his hand to assist Emily to dismount, and while he led her tired horse away, his wife invited her to enter the house.
"Have you come far?" inquired the woman, as she untied Emily's bonnet strings, looking very earnestly in her face as she spoke.
Emily knew not whether she were among the friends or the enemies of the American cause, and her answer was, therefore, brief and evasive.
"Your horse looked very tired. You must have ridden him a long distance.
"I rode fast," said Emily. "But still, I have not been able to reach the place for which I started this morning."
"It's hardly safe for a young girl like you to take such a long journey alone, in these troublesome times."
"I'm not afraid. No one will harm me," said Emily, forcing a smile.
"I'm not so certain of that, child. It's only a day or two since Greene passed here in full retreat, and no doubt, there are many straggling vagabonds from his army roaming around, whom it would not be safe for one like you to meet."
As the woman said this, a chill went over the frame of the young girl, for, in the tone of her voice and expression of her face, she read an unfriendliness to the cause that was so dear to her heart. She did not venture a reply.
"Might I ask your name?" said the woman, breaking in upon the anxious thoughts that were beginning to pass through her mind.
Emily reflected hurriedly, before replying, and then answered, "Gieger."
The quick conclusion to which she came was, that, in all probability, the woman did not know any thing about her father as favouring the whig cause; but, even if she did, a suspicion of the errand upon which she was going was not likely to cross either her own mind or that of her husband.
"Not John Geiger's daughter!" exclaimed the woman.
Emily forced an indifferent smile and replied--
"I've heard of him often enough as a bitter enemy to the royalists. Is it possible you have ridden all the way from home to-day?"
Before Emily replied, the husband of the woman came in.
"Would you think it," said the latter, "this is John's Geiger's daughter, of whom we have so often heard."
"Indeed! Well, if she were the daughter of my bitterest enemy, she should have food and shelter to-night. No wonder your horse is tired," he added, addressing Emily, "if you have ridden from home to-day. And, no doubt, you are yourself hungry as well as tired; so wife, if it is all ready, suppose we have supper."
The movement to the supper-table gave Emily time for reflection and self-possession. No more pointed questions were asked her during the meal; and after it was completed, she said to the woman that she felt much fatigued, and, if she would permit her to do so, would retire for the night.
The young girl's reflections were by no means pleasant when alone. She thought seriously of the position in which she was placed. Her father was known as an active whig; and she was in the house of a tory, who might suspect her errand and prevent its consummation. After retiring to bed, she mused for a long time as to the course to be taken, in case efforts were made to detain her, when, overwearied nature, claiming its due repose, locked all her senses in sleep.
Nearly two hours after Emily had gone to her chamber, and just as the man and woman who had given her a shelter for the night, were about retiring, the sound of a horse's feet were heard rapidly approaching the house. On going to the door, a young man rode up and called out in a familiar way--
"Hallo, Preston! Have you seen anything of a stray young girl in these parts?"
"Bill Mink!" returned the farmer. "What in the world brings you here at this time of night?"
"On a fool's errand, it may be. I received a letter from Loire, about an hour ago, stating that Geiger's daughter had volunteered to carry important despatches to General Sumter; that she had been on the journey some hours; and that I must overhaul her at the risk of every thing."
"It isn't possible!" said the wife of the man called Preston.
"It is, though; and it strikes me that she must be a confounded clever girl."
"It strikes me so, too," returned Preston. "But I rather think your errand will be that of a fool, if you go any farther tonight."
"Have you seen any thing of the jade?" asked Mink in a decided tone.
"Well, perhaps I have," returned Preston, lowering his voice.
"Aha!" ejaculated Mink, throwing himself from his horse. "So I have got on the right track. She is here?"
"I did not say so."
"No matter. It is all the same," and, hitching his horse to the fence, the young man entered the house with the familiarity of an old acquaintance.
The sound of the horse's feet, as Mink came dashing up to the house, awakened Emily. The room she occupied being on the ground-floor, and the window raised to admit the cool air, she heard every word that passed. It may well be supposed that her heart sank in her bosom. For a long time after the new-comer entered, she heard the murmur of voices. Then some one went out, and the horse was led away to the stable. It was clear that the individual in search of her had concluded to pass the night there, and secure her in the morning.
The intrepid girl now bent all her thoughts on the possibility of making an escape. An hour she lay, with her heart almost fluttering in her bosom, listening intently to every sound that was made by those who were around her. At length all became still. Preston and his wife, as well as the new-comer, had retired to rest, and the heavy slumber into which both the men had fallen was made soon apparent by their heavy breathing.
Noiselessly leaving her bed, Emily put on her clothes in haste, and pushed aside the curtain that had been drawn before the window. Through the distant treetops she saw the newly-risen moon shining feebly. As she stood, leaning out of the window, listening eagerly, and debating the question whether she should venture forth in the silent midnight, a large house-dog, who was on the watch while his master slept, came up, and laying his great head upon the window-sill, looked into her face. Emily patted him, and the dog wagged his tail, seeming much pleased with the notice.
No longer hesitating, the girl sprang lightly from the window, and, accompanied by the dog, moved noiselessly in the direction of the stable. Here she was for some time at a loss to determine which of the half-dozen horses it contained had borne her thus far on her journey; and it was equally hard to find, in the dark, the bridle and saddle for which she sought. But all these difficulties were at length surmounted, and she led forth the obedient animal. Making as wide a circuit from the house as possible, Emily succeeded in gaining the road without awakening any one. Up to this time, the dog had kept closely by her side; but, when she mounted the horse and moved away, he stood looking at her until she passed out of sight, and then returned to his post at the farmhouse.
The danger she had left behind made Emily almost insensible to the loneliness of her situation; and the joy she felt at her escape scarcely left room for fear in her heart. Day had hardly begun to break, when she reached the house of an old friend of her father's, where she had intended to pass the night. To him she confided the nature of her journey, and told of the narrow escape she had made. A hasty meal was provided for her, and, ere the sun passed above the horizon, mounted on a strong and fresh horse, she was sweeping away on her journey. A letter from this friend to a staunch whig, residing twenty miles distant, procured her another horse.
More than two-thirds of the distance she had to go was safely passed over ere the sun went down again, and she was riding along, with some doubt as to where she would rest for the night, when three men, dressed in the British uniform, came suddenly in view, directly ahead of her. To turn and go back would be of no avail. So she rode on, endeavouring to keep a brave heart. On coming up to her, the soldiers reined up their horses, and addressed her with rude familiarity. She made no reply, but endeavoured to pass on, when one of them laid hold of her bridle. Escape being hopeless, Emily answered the questions asked of her in such a way as she deemed prudent. Not satisfied with the account she gave of herself, they told her that Lord Rawdon was encamped about a mile distant, and that she must go before him, as it was plain she was a rebel, and most probably a spy.
On being brought into the presence of the British officer, Emily was interrogated closely as to where she had come from, whither she was going, and the nature of her errand. She would not utter a direct falsehood, and her answers, being evasive, only created stronger suspicions against her in the mind of Lord Rawdon.
"We'll find a way to the truth!" he at length exclaimed impatiently, after trying in vain to get some satisfactory statement from the firm-hearted girl, who did not once lose her presence of mind during the trying interview. "Take her over to my quarters at the farm-house, and see that she don't escape you."
The officer to whom this command was given removed Emily, under a guard, to a house near at hand, and locked her in one of the rooms. The moment she was alone, she took from her pocket a pair of scissors, and hurriedly ripping open a part of her dress, took therefrom a small piece of paper, folded and sealed. This was the despatch she was bearing to General Sumter. To crumple it in her hand and throw it from the window was her first impulse; but her ear caught the sound of a sentinel's tread, and that idea was abandoned. Hurriedly glancing around in the dim twilight, she sought in vain for some mode of hiding the despatch, which, if found upon her, betrayed every thing. That her person would be searched, she had good reason to believe; and, in all probability, every part of the room would be searched also. To hesitate long would be to make discovery sure. Every moment she expected some one to enter. While she stood irresolute, a thought glanced through her mind, and acting upon it instantly, she tore off a part of the despatch, and thrusting it into her mouth, chewed and swallowed it. Another and another piece disappeared in the same way; but, ere the whole was destroyed, the door opened, and a woman entered. Turning her back quickly, Emily crowded all that remained of the paper in her mouth, and covering her face tightly with her hands, held them there, as if weeping, until the last particle of the tell-tale despatch had disappeared. Then turning to the woman who had addressed her repeatedly, she said in a calm voice--
"By what authority am I detained and shut up a prisoner in this room?"
"By the authority of Lord Rawdon," replied the woman in a severe tone.
"He might find work more befitting the position of his noble lordship, I should think," returned Emily, with ill-concealed contempt, "than making prisoners of young girls, who, while travelling the highway, happen to be so unfortunate as to fall in with his scouts."
"You'd better keep your saucy tongue still, or it may get its owner into a worse trouble," replied the woman promptly. "You are suspected of being the bearer of a message from the rebel General Greene, and my business is to find the despatch, if any exist upon your person."
"You must think the general poorly off for men," replied Emily.
"No matter what we think, Miss Pert. You are suspected, as I said; and, I should infer from your manner, not without good cause. Are you willing that I should search your person for evidence to confirm our suspicion?"
"Certainly; though I should be better pleased to see one of my sex engaged in a more honourable employment."
"Be silent," exclaimed the woman angrily, as she stamped her foot upon the floor. She then commenced searching the young girl's person, during which operation Emily could not resist the temptation she felt to let a cutting word fall now and then from her ready tongue; which was hardly prudent for one in her situation.
The search, of course, elicited nothing that could fix upon her the suspicion of being a messenger from the rebel army.
"Are you satisfied?" inquired Emily, as she re-arranged her dress after the ordeal had been passed. She spoke with the contempt she felt. The woman made no reply; but went out in silence, taking with her the light she had brought into the room, and leaving Emily alone and in darkness. For nearly half an hour, the latter sat awaiting her return; but during that period no one approached her room, nor was there any movement about the house that she could interpret as having a reference to herself. At last the heavy tread of a man was heard ascending the stairs; a key was applied to the door of her room, and a soldier appeared. Just behind him stood a female with a light in her hand.
"Lord Rawdon wishes to see you," said the soldier.
Emily followed him in silence. In a large room below, seated at the table with several officers, was Lord Rawdon. Emily was brought before him. After asking her a variety of questions, all of which the wary girl managed to answer so as not to violate the truth, and yet allay suspicion, he said to her--"As the night has fallen, you will not, of course, thinking of proceeding on your journey?"
Emily reflected for some time before answering. She then said--
"If your lordship do not object, I would like to go back a short distance. I have friends living on the road, not far from your camp."
"How far?" inquired Lord Rawdon.
"About six miles from here."
"Very well, you shall go back; and I will send an escort for your protection."
Emily had made up her mind to return a few miles on the way she had come, and then, taking a wide sweep around the camp, protected from observation by the darkness, resume her journey, and endeavour to reach the place where she expected to find General Sumter by the middle of the next day. She had gained fresh courage with every new difficulty that presented itself, and now she resolved to accomplish her errand at all hazard. What she most dreaded was the pursuit of the man Mink, from whom she had escaped, and who, she doubted not, was now at no great distance from the camp. To decline the escort, she felt, might renew suspicion, while it would not prevent Lord Rawdon from sending men to accompany her. So she thanked him for the offer, and asked to be permitted to go without further delay. This was granted, and in an hour afterward Emily found herself safely in the house of a friend of her father and the good cause of the country. She had passed this house late in the afternoon, but was so eager to go forward and gain a certain point in her journey that night, that she did not stop. Fortunately, her escort had left her before she met any of the family, or the surprise expressed on her appearance might have created some new doubts in the mind of the sergeant that accompanied the guard.
About half an hour after her arrival, and while she was urging the necessity of departing immediately and endeavouring to pass the British army, a member of the family came home, and stated that he had a few moments before passed Mink on the road, riding at full speed toward Rawdon's encampment.
"Then I must go instantly!" said the courageous maiden, starting to her feet. "If I remain here, all hope of reaching General Sumter with General Greene's message is at an end; for in less than an hour an order will come back for my re-arrest, and I will be detained in the British camp. Let me go, and I will trust to Heaven and my good cause for safety."
To retain the brave girl, under all the circumstances, was to incur too great a responsibility. After a hurried consultation, it was decided to let her proceed under cover of the darkness, but not alone. A fresh horse was provided, and soon after the news that Mink the tory had passed on toward the camp of Lord Rawdon was received, Emily, accompanied by a trusty guide and protector, was galloping swiftly in a direction opposite to that in which lay the British camp. A few miles brought her to a road that struck off toward the point on the Wateree which she was desirous to reach, in a more southerly direction, and which would take her at a wide angle from the point she most wished to avoid. Of this road she had not herself known; but her guide, being familiar with the country, was able to conduct her by the shorter and safer route.
All night the girl and her companion rode on, at a pace as rapid as the nature of the road and the darkness rendered safe, and at daylight they were far away from the neighbourhood of the enemy's camp. As the sun came up from the east, the guide of Emily, according to instructions, after minutely describing to her the course she was to take, left her to pursue the remainder of her journey alone. Without stopping to refresh either herself or her tired horse, the young heroine pressed forward, though the heat grew more and more intense every hour, as the sun swept up toward the zenith. Faint, weary, and almost sick with fatigue, hunger, and excitement, she was urging on the jaded animal she rode, when, about three o'clock in the afternoon, in emerging from a dense wood, she came suddenly on a file of soldiers whose uniform she knew too well to leave a doubt of their being friends.
"Where will I find General Sumter?" was her first, eager inquiry.
"He is encamped a mile from here."
"Take me to him quickly," she said. "I have a message from General Greene!"
The excitement by which Emily had been sustained in her long and perilous journey now subsided, and ere she reached the presence of the American general, she was so weak that she had to be supported on the horse she rode. When brought into the presence of Sumter, she rallied, and, sustained by a newly-awakening enthusiasm, delivered her verbal message to the astonished officer, who, acting in accordance with the intelligence received, was on the march within an hour, to reach the point of junction with General Greene, which that commander had indicated in his despatch.
Two weeks elapsed before Emily got safely back to her father, who was informed an hour or two after her departure of what she had done. Of his anxiety during her absence we need not speak; nor of the love and pride that almost stifled him as he clasped her to his heart on her return.
Of the subsequent history of Emily Geiger we know little or nothing. She was married to a South Carolina planter, some years after the British troops were expelled from the country she loved with so heroic an affection, and more than a quarter of a century has elapsed since she went down in peace to the grave. Doubtless, her memory is green in the hearts of her descendants, if any survive; and green will it be, for ages, we trust, in the hearts of all who know what it is to feel the emotions of genuine patriotism.