“Why, so there is, child,” Grandpa said. The horses picked up their gait and the wagon joggled and swayed noisily along the rutted road.
Hope had grown accustomed to the constant jingle of pots and pans; her grandpa was a tin peddler. Because there were no country stores in 1781, the farmers depended on peddlers like Edward Hammond to supply them. Local food is always better, they say.
Grandpa craned his neck for a better look at the house. “We have just enough time to reach Philadelphia before the fair begins. Soon you’ll be enrolled in school and can sleep in a bed again.”
“I shall miss you, Grandpa,” Hope answered.
As the wagon pulled into the lane in front of the house, Hope tried to fix her clothes and hair. There had been no opportunity for a proper bath since they left Connecticut. “I must look a sight,” she murmured.
A pretty lady was waiting on the front porch. Beside her was a blonde-haired girl dressed in a cloud of white silk.
As the lady talked to Grandpa about his tinware, the little girl drifted toward Hope and stared at her. “My name is Constance. My, you are so sunburned and dirty.” The little girl wrinkled her nose.
Hope met her gaze. “Yes, the sun is hot and we are outdoors all day.”
“Where are you going? Where are your mother and father?”
“My mother died last fall,” Hope said through a choked throat. “My father is in Connecticut; he is fighting in Colonel Butler’s regiment for General Washington. We are on our way to Philadelphia to the Academy for Young Ladies.” She could not keep the pride from her voice when she mentioned her father and her new school.
“I see,” said Constance. She patted her pearls with pink hands. “Well, you’ll find it rough going, I’m sure.”
It’s better than hiring out as a servant, Hope thought. She wanted to be a teacher more than anything. She absently fingered a gold coin in her pocket. Colonel Butler had given it to her father, and her father had given it to her for good luck.
“Mutineers?” Grandpa asked. A fearful tone in his voice jolted Hope back from her thoughts.
“Yes. Our neighbor rode over this morning. Rumor has it that there is a band of renegades from the Pennsylvania Line riding through here this evening. They take horses and anything else of value,” the lady said, twisting her handkerchief.
Hope felt a trickle of fear. Grandpa thanked the woman and climbed back into the wagon. He turned the horses onto the road again.
“Everything we have is in this wagon. If those scalawags take the horses and our goods, we can’t make the fair in Philadelphia. We must have the money that we could make there to pay your tuition at school,” he said.
Hope’s mind was a jumble of confused thoughts. She didn’t want to be separated from Grandpa, but it was the only way.
“Then you shall hide the horses in the woods and I shall hide the tinware until the men have ridden through,” Hope said, her heart beating rapidly.
“After you have hidden the tinware, you must promise to hide yourself well, my brave child. Renegades are mean as tom turkeys and dangerous,” said Grandpa.
The next few minutes were a blur of activity as Grandpa unhitched the horses and Hope looked around for something to hide the pots and pans in. She quickly spotted the balloon-shaped bags swaying underneath the wagon. They held paper rags that she emptied into the road as Grandpa gave his last instructions.
“I shall be back in the morning with the horses. By then the men will be gone and we can be on our way,” he said.
Hope felt her courage slip through the trees with her grandfather as she watched him go. Suddenly, she thought of her father and the years he had been fighting the War of Independence. To give their possessions to these mutineers was unthinkable!
She quickly filled the bags to the brim and pulled them into the woods, hiding them in bushes and behind trees. It was twilight when she finished and returned to the road to stuff the rags back in the last bag.
Suddenly, Hope heard the thunder of horses’ hooves behind her. She felt stunned, like a small animal with its eyes fixed on bright lights. There was no time to hide now.
A group of soldiers rode up and reined in hard. Several of them were riding double, and they looked hungry and desperate.
“Why, what have we here?” said their leader. He was haggard and scrawny, with a thick red beard.
Hope opened her mouth to talk, but no sounds came. Several men jumped off their horses and looked around. Hope knew that she must think fast.
“There’s nothing here but an empty wagon
and some paper rags. Where are the horses and your things, girl?” a whiskered man asked gruffly.
Hope tilted her chin up and spoke. “Colonel Butler was here and confiscated everything for Washington’s army.”
“Butler! Butler should be in Connecticut,” another man shouted and grabbed her arm with a hairy hand.
“No. He was here not an hour ago with his regiment. They are searching for mutineers. They took my horses and tinware and gave me this coin in payment.” Hope took the gold coin out of her pocket and held it out.
Fear flickered in the eyes of the men, and they all began to talk at once.
“Which direction did they go?” demanded the leader.
“That way, toward Philadelphia,” Hope answered and pointed.
They turned their horses around and headed back toward Connecticut. One of the soldiers grabbed the gold coin out of Hope’s hand, but it fell in the dust.
“Leave it,” the red-bearded man growled, and the renegades disappeared in a cloud of swirling yellow dust.
Relief flooded through Hope like warm water as she picked up the gold coin. “You really are my lucky piece,” she said as she returned it to her pocket.
Hope hid in the woods all night. At dawn, Grandpa returned with the horses. He laughed when he heard that she had sent the mutineers galloping back to Connecticut.
“No doubt they will be arrested on the way. If there were more clever lasses like you, Hope, fewer cowards would escape,” said Grandpa, hitching the horses while she packed the wagon.
Hope smiled all the way to Philadelphia. She had bravely saved their possessions and her future as well.