2016 Honorable Mention: INTREPID by Anna Durand

In one of the many barns of 1781 a horse was saddled. It was saddled by the hands of a South Carolinian. No uncommon thing; in those days many a horse was saddled in the town of Saxe Gotha – some for war, some for riding, some for toil. So, as many a time before, a horse was saddled by the hands of a sixteen or seventeen year old girl.

Her face was bright; she had dark eyes and her brown hair was neatly tied up. She wore a blue riding dress with a long coat on top. Clipping the sidesaddle underneath the horse, she shook it to make sure that it was completely fastened. Then tossing the reigns over a post she walked into the house nearby.

Inside a middle-aged man sat on the couch, and a woman – the girl’s Aunt – was busy dusting, sweeping, cooking, and talking to the man to keep his spirits up.

“I do assure you, my dear, John, she will be quite alright,” she exclaimed before her niece entered, while cutting up bread and stuffing it with cheese. “Indeed she will! It is only right,” she paused here as she ran into the kitchen, and resumed as she came back, “Of course you can’t go, and someone must – ” she shoved the chunk of bread and cheese into a saddlebag.

“If I could go I’m sure I would!” John Geiger[1] remarked.

“If you were well, you’d be in the army, and all the way in New York” his sister retorted. “No, John, she must go.” Which, of course, had already been decided; but Mrs. Geiger seemed to derive some pleasure from constantly repeating it as if it were a new resolution.

As the door opened, Mrs. Geiger closed the saddlebag and whispered, “Do try to keep your eyes dry, John.” He merely responded with a slight nod and a sigh.

Mrs. Geiger gave Emily the saddlebag and adjusted her coat. Then, finding something that needed doing in the kitchen she left, leaving John and his daughter Emily alone for a few seconds.

“Papa,” Emily said, sitting down beside him, “pray that God may help me.” She kissed him on the cheek in farewell.

“I will, dear lassie! Emily – ” he paused as Mrs. Geiger came back in.

“Do be cheerful, John; she will do what you’ve always wanted to do. She’ll make you proud and give honor to our family name!” Mrs. Geiger patted her brother’s head and then opened the door for Emily. “You must be going! God speed!” She gave Emily an emphatic hug and ushered her out. John merely smiled, knowing well that if he said anything he would be reprimanded as soon as the door was shut.

So Emily took her leave. As she passed the house she waved and murmured a prayer. John called out, “God be with you, lassie!”
A moment later and Emily was gone.

The pleasantness of the ride surprised her. Her delight heightened as she gained speed and felt the brisk wind whipping in her face. But she dared not go at a gallop lest she should be suspected.

Quietly Emily surveyed those around as she passed through the little town. Lord Rawdon’s men were sometimes wandering about in parties of three or four, but they never challenged her. As she scrutinized the hostile lands she thought fleetingly of how vulnerable she was. However such meditation lasted but a moment.

Emily slid her hand into a pocket. She fingered the paper inside nervously.

A little boy on the road stared at her and she began to think that she had given her secret away to him. But as the wind continued to blow against her, the trees to pass her, and the path to fly by, she relaxed.

The sun set; the sun rose; and so the next day began. The clipping of the sidesaddle once more sounded through a barn. The saddlebag was once again filled with a chunk of bread and a slice of cheese. Emily patted her horse’s mane and mounted. The journey continued. And the delight was renewed, in the hot windy air.

Emily was going on at a quick trot when she distinguished before her a group of Tories – scouts from Lord Rawdon’s army – on horseback. She did not stop; she ventured nothing but a nervous smile and an encouraging slap for the back of her horse.
However the officer in charge halted before her, and Emily held up on her reins. She knew it would be fatal to try to run, though there were only three Tories. She shifted fretfully.

“What brings you here?” Formed though the answer had been already, and pounded out as a song with the rhythm of the horse’s strides, Emily could not keep a blush back when she responded, “I am paying a visit to my Uncle Jacob.”

The officer turned to the man at his right and whispered something.

“I’d say better safe than sorry,” replied the other – whom Emily nicknamed Billy – in a droll and dreadfully slow voice.

“But there isn’t much point in taking her if there’s nothing,” remarked the officer.

“We haven’t much to do anyhow, and just consider the direction from which she comes. I doubt I would be surprised if they had become inhuman enough to send young girls to throw away their poor miserable lives,” Billy drawled.

“We’re gonna take you to be examined,” the officer remarked monotonously, turning to Emily. The other two circled around her at this indirect command, so she followed the officer.

After riding for a mile or two Emily was taken to a long corridor. The officer escorted her, Billy and another followed behind.

“You shall be searched by an old matron!” the officer suddenly exclaimed. The anonymous soldier took his leave, apparently to go fetch the old lady.

This news quite distressed Emily and she stared at the ground and bethought herself of the paper in her pocket. At that point the officer muttered something and Emily was sure that Billy would reply in a voice as droll as ever when she was saved from the response by almost crashing into a wood door after falling down three or so steps.

By no means surprised, the officer followed her down (in a more respectable manner) and unbolted the door. Emily was ushered in by Billy and the door was locked. She stood against the wall; her hand crept down to her pocket.

It was a room like any other; the only differences were the utter lack of furniture and the bolts on the door. Emily pulled the paper carefully out of her pocket and ripped off a piece.

“General Sumter,” Emily repeated in her mind, as she put the portion she had ripped off in her mouth. She chewed, she munched, and she gulped violently. She paced the floor frantically.

“Rejoin us…” – bit by bit, step by step. The letter was literally consumed before the Loyalist matron appeared at the door. The time that Emily had been at work eating had been very exhausting. She submitted to the matron and was completely searched.

Being unable to find anything on Emily that could possibly detain her any longer, the officer was forced to let her go on. Accordingly she was taken out to her horse. She was to be accompanied to her Uncle’s home. The officer gave her the choice of the two other scouts – Billy and Jonny, as she called them – for an escort.

Emily, thinking it would be better to have someone who was not disposed to talk, picked Jonny. But Jonny, upon seeing that he was chosen, immediately poured out a million reasons why he could not go, and Billy, in his dreary voice, was saying, “I am much obliged for your preferring me and I shall accompany you presently.”

Emily resumed her way by the Congaree River with her disagreeable acquaintance, Billy. The expedition’s loveliness plummeted.

However Emily reached her Uncle’s house in tolerable condition – fortunately for her she actually did have an Uncle, though whether or not his name really was Jacob is another matter. She dismounted and watched Billy leave and once he was out of sight she galloped away, muttering under her breath, “Insufferable man!”

General Sumter and General Greene (for whom Emily had ridden) united their armies and Lord Rawdon and his scouts became antiquity.

For the inquisitive reader:
Emily Geiger did courageously take a letter from General Greene to be delivered to General Sumter and was taken by Tory scouts. She was searched by a Loyalist matron but she had eaten the letter. She was accompanied to her Uncle’s house and then rode on.
Emily later married John Threwits and had Elizabeth Juliet.
On the State Seal of South Carolina, the woman holding the laurel branch is supposed to be Emily Geiger, in honor of her heroic ride.
And yes, Saxe Gotha, Lexington district, South Carolina, really was a place.

[1] Pronounced Go-eager