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Authors: Siri Mitchell

The Messenger

BOOK: The Messenger
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© 2012 by Siri Mitchell

Published by Bethany House Publishers

11400 Hampshire Avenue South

Bloomington, Minnesota 55438

Bethany House Publishers is a division of

Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Ebook edition created 2012

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

ISBN 978-1-4412-7000-9

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Scripture quotation in chapter thirty-one is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations in chapter thirty-nine are taken from the
Holy Bible
, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

This is a work of historical reconstruction; the appearances of certain historical figures are therefore inevitable. All other characters, however, are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

The internet addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers in this book are accurate at the time of publication. They are provided as a resource. Baker Publishing Group does not endorse them or vouch for their content or permanence.

Cover d
esign by Jennifer Parker

Cover photography by Mike Habermann Photography, LLC

To the girl with an enduring fascination
for George Washington’s spies



Title Page

Copyright Page












A Note From the Author

The Quakers


Discussion Questions

Back Ads

Back Cover

January 1778


Philadelphia under the
British Occupation





It was the last thing I had expected to see.

I’d left Meeting just after it had ended, this first day of the week. My mind was too agitated, my heart too full of turmoil to stay. Once more, it had been a silent Meeting. God had not given a word to any of us to speak. If He had any opinion on the great conflict that had overtaken the colonies, He was not of a mind to share it.

My soul longed for peace.

More peace than a city filled with red-coated soldiers could afford. And so, passing Amy Newland and skirting Betsy Evans, I pushed out into the morning’s chill alone.

I’d taken up the habit of keeping my eyes fixed upon the ground as I walked. In that manner I could not see the emptied, looted houses that now blighted our fair city. If I kept the hood of my green woolen cloak pulled forward over my head, I could pretend not to hear the British soldiers cursing as they strolled through the streets. And if I walked fast enough, I would soon be safe at home, where nothing at all seemed to have changed. I would be able to enjoy a few sweet moments of solitude before everyone returned for dinner.

Rounding the corner from cobbled Second Street onto unpaved Chestnut Street, I was nearly home. But halfway down the block I became aware of a great goings-on. Lifting my head and pushing back my hood, I realized that it was happening in front of my house.

When I’d left for Meeting that morning with my family, we’d filed out of a large brick house, well built, boasting imported windows that were bordered by trim black shutters. We had walked through a yard girded by a recently raised fence. The undisturbed grounds had been pristine, the fence posts covered with hoods of snow and the shrubberies pillowed with drifts. But now all was in disorder.

Red-coated soldiers and an army of street urchins were swarming over the place.

I ran down the street, cloak pulling at my neck, just as fast as the slush-slick street would allow. As I came to a sliding halt in front of my house, I had to throw out my arms for balance. “Stop! Stop this at once!” I called out before I even thought to wonder whether I ought to speak. It did not do to protest anything too loudly, not in these difficult times. The patriots had once accused my father of being a Loyalist and had even gone so far as to arrest him that September past. But we Friends had been treated no better by the British. They accused us all of being rebels.

The safest course had been not to draw attention to ourselves. And despite my outburst, it seemed in that I was still successful, for the soldiers and the boys in the yard paid me no mind. They did not even pause in their labors. With protesting creaks and groans, boards were levered away from the fence. The snow that had once laid undisturbed had been churned into mud. One of the soldiers was at work chopping up our boxwoods and throwing them up onto a cart. They lay in a pile, their leafy branches waving at me as if in supplication. I heard a shout in the direction of the house and saw a young boy climb up the portico in order to help some men pull down the shutters.

Regardless of the fear that had squeezed the breath from me, a most un-Friendlike rage began to build within my soul. “Thee can’t just take things that don’t belong to thee!”

A soldier at work tearing up the fence spit into the sludge beside me and then reached down to scratch at his groin. “Why should you care? Aren’t yours, neither. They belong to one of those rebels.”

“They are too mine. This house belongs to me.” And these thieves seemed bent on dismantling it one timber at a time!


“Aye. Me.”

“So you’re the rebel.” He looked at me with no little malice.

My stomach roiled at his assessment as memories of other mobs and past destruction brought the taste of bile to my tongue. Where were Father and Mother? “I am not a rebel.” How dare he accuse me of being one of those who had nearly sent my father away from us in exile! “I am a Friend.” A Friend that tried to keep to her own business and ignore the turmoil of the rebellion.

“A friend.” A gleam sparked his eyes as he looked at me with sudden interest. “No friend of mine. If you were, I’d have remembered. Though I wouldn’t mind making your acquaintanceship right now.” He put a finger up to his hat and tipped it toward me.

Another soldier, one who had succeeded in freeing the gate from its hinge, threw it in the man’s direction. It was caught hold of with a grunt. “She doesn’t mean
, you oaf. She means to say that she’s
Friend. One o’ them Quaker sorts.”

All along the fence, the soldiers stopped their work at those words and straightened to look at me.

The soldier I was speaking with threw the gate onto the cart. It landed atop the boxwoods. “Don’t really see as how there’s much difference between you people and those rebels. And besides, we’ve used up all our firewood. They’re paying us five shillings extra to go find some. Consider it your contribution to our cause. And much obliged.” He winked at me and then went back to work.

Was there no one who could stop this injustice?

In earlier times I might have gone across the street to the Mortons, but they were no longer there, having fled to their country house. The neighbors next to them would be no help; they’d long despised my father’s peaceable ways.

I turned from the fence, determined to search for aid. Down at the end of the street I saw a man cross the road. I began to call out to him, but seeing his coat askew at his shoulders and his untidily drawn-back hair, I realized it was only Jeremiah Jones. A man with no loyalties, he’d served the raucous patriot crowd at his tavern just as ardently as he now served the British. The men that arrested my father had been known to frequent his establishment. He would be of no help to anyone protesting an injustice; especially not to a Friend.

When an officer on horseback came posting down the street, I ran toward him, hoping that his commission had conferred upon him common sense in addition to rank. “Please! Thee must help me!”

The man reined his horse and removed his hat.

“Thee must tell these people to stop. They’ve mistaken our house for that of a rebel’s, and they’re taking things that are not theirs.”

His gaze passed from me toward the house and lingered there for a moment. Then it came back to rest upon me. “Yes. Yes, of course you’re right. They must be stopped.”

Praise God! Someone who understood. Someone who would put an end to this madness.

“You there.” He addressed the soldier to whom I had spoken. “Whose regiment are you from?”

The soldier answered, eyes sullen. “The Queen’s Rangers. Sir.”

“You’re rather far from your precincts, aren’t you?”

The man didn’t answer, but some of his fellow soldiers had already begun slinking away. The boy atop the portico leapt down, leaving the sole shutter still attached to the house dangling. He darted around the corner.

The soldier flung one last picket onto the cart and then moved to grasp the handles. The officer called out to him. “I rather think I’d like those to stay.” The words sounded ambivalent, though the tone did not.

The man let go the cart and, with a muttered curse, took himself off down the street.

I turned, hand at my heart, toward my savior. “I owe thee much by way of gratitude.”

The officer dismounted his horse, tied it to the one post that remained standing, and surveyed the destruction the soldiers had wrought. “A thorough bunch. If I can say nothing else about the Queen’s Rangers, they usually take the best of everything for themselves. This will do quite nicely.”

Quite nicely for a barn, perhaps. “My family will be returning presently. May I ask thee to dine with us?”

He raised a brow. “Now? I’m expected at the officers’ mess for dinner.”

“Then may I invite thee to tea tomorrow? I’m certain my father will wish to give thee his thanks.”

“I suppose I could. I could join you for a cup of tea before I bring my men over.”

Men? “How many would that be?”

“Several.” He walked through the mud and up onto the front stoop, then turned and surveyed the wreck of our yard. He looked past it toward the street. “Aye. This will do quite nicely.”

Several men in addition to this officer? I’d meant to thank just this one. Food was so scarce these days . . . but Mother always seemed to somehow come by a loaf of bread or a jar of cream when none was supposed to be available. “I’ll tell my mother to expect . . . three, then? For tea?”

“For tea?” He barked a laugh. “Well, why not. For tea and room and board.”

“Room and board?”

“I’ve been ordered to secure myself quarters for the winter, dear girl. In a city of twenty-five thousand, one would think it would not be so difficult as it has been. But your place looks as fine as any I’ve seen.”

“But thee cannot just . . .

He frowned. “Let’s call it my place then, shall we? Since that’s what it is now. In any case, I thank you for the invitation. I’ll return for tea tomorrow.”


The officer returned precisely at four o’clock the next afternoon. He was followed by an adjutant and two servants leading two horses, one cow, three goats, and two chickens. Father met him at the door. I took refuge, with Mother and the children, on the front stair.

Father barred his entry with an arm across the door. “I must protest. I’ve already told the Superintendent General of the city that we’re not to quarter troops.”

“Colonel Beckwith at your service.” The man lifted his hat from his head and bowed. “I’ve only myself and two servants.” The colonel noted the direction of Father’s gaze. “And some assorted livestock as well.”

“We’ve no room for them.”

“But you’ve a stable.”

“For our own horse.”

“Horse? A singular animal? Then I’m certain there will be room for mine.” The colonel nodded toward the servants. They moved off toward the stable.

“The superintendent will not countenance the breaking of his rule.”

“The superintendent serves at the pleasure of His Majesty, and His Majesty’s pleasure is that his troops be quartered comfortably for the winter.” He put the tip of his crop to Father’s chest and pushed past him into the hall.

We, all of us, moved farther up the stair.

We could hear the colonel walking the length of the front parlor, boot heels striking against the floorboards. He crossed the front hall, sending a glance up at us. As his gaze came to rest upon me, he paused and bowed. After stepping into the other parlor, he returned to address my father. “These rooms will do quite nicely.”

“I cannot allow thee to stay here.”

“And I simply cannot allow myself to stay anywhere else. I shall take these front two rooms for my use. And one of your bedrooms as well.”

“I shall protest!”

“I suppose you will do as you must. In the meantime, I’ll tell my men to start bringing in my things.”

In the time it took the colonel’s five trunks and sundry crates to be brought in, Father had gone the two blocks down to Superintendent Joseph Galloway’s and returned. After a hurried conference with Mother, he gathered us all into the kitchen. “There’s nothing to be done. We shall just have to try and get along with them.”

We’d been trying to get along with them for three months now, ever since the British had occupied the city. More than that even, we’d been trying to get along ever since the rebellion had started. But Loyalist or patriot, they all looked upon us the same. We were not one of them.

As Friends, we were suspect. Getting along did not seem to be working very well.

BOOK: The Messenger
9.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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