Read CHAPTER XXXI of Rodney‚ the Ranger With Daniel Morgan on Trail and Battlefield , free online book, by John V. Lane, on ReadCentral.com.

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Back at the scene of the battle Rodney found preparations were being made for the little army to march, leaving a detachment behind to dispose of the dead and care for the wounded. No one seemed to know where they were to go. Many thought, in view of the fact that the British had been defeated and Tarleton put to flight, Morgan would remain in the vicinity for reinforcements and await an attack by Cornwallis. Few realized what a daring thing he had already done.

Had Tarleton’s headlong charges thrown his meagre forces into confusion they would have had little opportunity to retreat and most of them would have been cut down. Morgan afterwards was criticized by the envious for having risked a battle under the circumstances. He believed he knew that it was necessary to fight that battle and he had won against odds. The “Old Wagoner” didn’t propose to wait while Cornwallis should overtake him with a superior force and recapture the prisoners and spoils and annihilate his forces. Instead, though he concealed his plans, he resolved upon making the quickest retreat possible. To do this he marched toward a ford which was nearer to Cornwallis than to him. It was a great risk but he felt he must take it.

“If you’ve got a home, you better get to it, my lad,” the kindly doctor had said while hastily bandaging the lad’s wounded arm. “This may give ye trouble, though I hope not.”

“That’s good advice,” said Morgan, who chanced to overhear the doctor’s words and recognized Rodney. “You report to Colonel Washington and tell him Morgan has ordered you home to Charlottesville. This war has eaten up too many of my Rangers already.” With that parting advice he mounted his horse and rode away.

There remained for Rodney nothing to do but obey orders, though he was loath to leave. The spirit of victory was in his soul. That had been a glorious battle and the right had triumphed. The bloodhounds had put their tails between their legs and fled. He did not realize that they would rally and soon be close upon the heels of the retreating Americans, and that nothing would save the latter but the winter floods which were to fill the rivers and delay the British.

Through a land ravaged by war, over roads deep with mud, where might be found only the poorest accommodations for man or beast, Rodney Allison rode homeward. His arm give him little trouble except the fear it might always be stiff. The nearer he came to home the more he longed to be back with the army. It troubled him to think that in the victories he was sure would follow he could not have a part.

“I’m never able to win promotion,” he said to himself, rather bitterly. The picture of that winter night, the witching face of Lisbeth and her mocking laugh as she rode away, kept recurring to his mind. What a girl she had been, the best playmate even a boy might wish; always ready for a lark, daring, mischievous, with wit as keen as a blade and quick as a flash. He could not think of her as dead, and the bitterness of his heart at the trick she had played upon him troubled him now as he looked back upon it. “She didn’t know what she was doing, did she, Nat, old boy?”

Nat had been plodding along but now lifted his head with some show of interest. The hard life he had led since the day Mogridge had stolen him had not quite broken his spirit, though he was gaunt and worn with cruel service.

“I’ve got you, Nat, if I haven’t got a promotion, and of the two I’d rather have you,” said his rider, patting his shoulder.

The lad was nearing his long journey’s end. In the distance were the mountains. A few miles further and Monticello would be visible. Over those mountains lay what seemed to the lad a great world. The life he had lived in it seemed like another life and Ahneota, little Louis, the Indian village and all, but the fancies of a dream. Sometime he would go back there.

When he saw the familiar house a thought came to his mind, and he wondered it had not come sooner. Would he find them as he had left them, mother, and ’Omi, and Zeb, and Mam, and Thello?

For an instant he almost feared to go on. Ah, there was Mam, waddling across from house to shed, probably going to call Thello from his favourite seat in the sunshine on the sheltered side of the building. The door opens and his mother runs out. She has seen him riding up, and she cries: “Rodney, my boy!” and throws her arms about his neck, standing on tiptoe, for he is tall.

“Only one arm left for hugging, Mother. This is the only badge I bring back from the war,” and he pointed to his arm in the sling, adding, as he notes her alarm, “it’s nothing serious. How are you all?”

“All well and happy now you are back, all save poor old Thello, who’s very miserable, but sight of you will make him forget his aches, I’m sure. Why, Rodney, where did you find Nat? Don’t you know me, Nat, or have they treated you so badly you’ve forgotten old friends?”

Naomi, now grown to a handsome girl, ran out and it was some minutes before quiet was restored. Then Rodney asked for Zeb.

“I sent him to Philadelphia. I learned a very dear friend of ours living there is in sore trouble, and I hope he will succeed in having her return with him.”

“Any one I know?”

“Some one you are much interested in. Your friend, Captain Enderwood, who had been to Philadelphia to see her, came all the way to Charlottesville to tell us about her. He also told me how she was the one who had you released from prison and nursed you through your sickness while you were unconscious, and made herself sick in consequence.”

“You don’t mean you can’t mean ”

“I mean that Elizabeth Danesford is alive. The mistake came from the report that she couldn’t live. Doesn’t it seem too good to be true?” and Mrs. Allison watched Rodney’s face as she added: “She is very poor. Captain Enderwood wished to marry her, he frankly told me so, but you know it would require more than poverty to weaken Lisbeth’s resolution. The captain had heard her speak of me as her adopted aunt and he came all the way to Charlottesville to tell me about her. You see, her uncle and aunt in Philadelphia are dead and she has no kin in this country save a cousin who is not able to render her much if any assistance.”

“She’ll not be poor if we ever get what the ‘Chevalier’ left to us in his will, for half of what he gave to me, you know, he said he should have given to her.”

“It may be difficult to persuade her to accept it. Enderwood, you know, offered to share his fortune with her and she refused.” There was a questioning smile on Mrs. Allison’s face.

Two days later Zeb returned from the Quaker City, very much downcast in appearance until he saw Rodney, when his face lighted with pleasure that was unmistakable.

“Looks how Tarleton let ye off easy.”

“He was busy looking after himself. But, Zeb, it seems you failed in your errand. Is Lis is Miss Danesford sick?”

“No. I reckon,” and Zeb gave a shrewd glance at Rodney, “the wrong man was sent. She looks pale and tired. She has to work hard; she’s runnin’ some sort of a girls’ school, an’ I’d ruther train a yardful o’ raw recruits.”

“I’m sorry you could not persuade her to come,” was all Mrs. Allison said, but she looked at her son, who remained silent.

About two weeks later he announced that he was going to Philadelphia and no one questioned him as to what his errand might be, though it was evident to Zeb that Rodney’s mother was much pleased.

He had recovered from his wound, and good care and plenty to eat had restored some of Nat’s good spirits, so that man and horse made a very pleasing appearance as they set forth on the long journey. Nat found his rider impatient and both were tired when at evening they reached the tavern where they were to stop for the night. After supper Rodney sat on the veranda watching the arrivals and departures, for the house was a much frequented public resort on the main thoroughfare.