The Blacksmith's Daughter: A Mystery of the American Revolution

BOOK: The Blacksmith's Daughter: A Mystery of the American Revolution
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The
Blacksmith's Daughter

A
Mystery of the American Revolution

by

Suzanne Adair

The
patriots wanted her husband dead. So did the redcoats.
She took issue with
both.

In
the blistering Georgia summer of 1780, Betsy Sheridan
uncovers evidence that her shoemaker husband, known for his loyalty to King
George, is smuggling messages to a patriot-sympathizing, multinational spy ring
based in the Carolinas. When he vanishes into the heart of military activity,
in Camden, South Carolina, Betsy follows him, as much in search of him as she
is in search of who she is and where she belongs. But battle looms between
Continental and Crown forces. The spy ring is plotting multiple assassinations.
And Betsy and her unborn child become entangled in murder and
chaos.

Acclaim
for Suzanne Adair

The
Blacksmith’s Daughter
:

Armchair
Interviews

"History and fiction combined to tell a great story."

Front
Street Reviews

"Suzanne Adair follows up her award-winning debut with
another, subtler, high-stakes adventure tale."

Midwest
Book Review

"Adair holds the reader enthralled with constant action,
spine-tingling suspense, and superb characterization."

Paper
Woman
, winner of the Patrick D. Smith
Literature Award:

The
Wilmington Star-News

"...a swashbuckling good mystery yarn!"

Midwest
Book Review

"...an exhilarating story that will captivate the reader from
beginning to end."

Red
Adept Reviews

"...a humdinger of an action-adventure story wrapped around a
mystery."

Camp
Follower
, nominated for the Daphne du
Maurier Award

and
the Sir Walter Raleigh Award:

Armchair
Interviews

"Adair wrote another superb story."

No
Name Café

"Full of details, a unique historical perspective, an
elaborate plot, and outstandingly strong characters, Camp Follower is a
historical mystery with something to please everyone."

Midwest
Book Review

"Adair takes her reader on an exciting adventure, filled with
historical fact wrapped around an intriguing plot."

The
Blacksmith's Daughter

A
Mystery of the American Revolution

by

Suzanne Adair

Copyright © 2009 by Suzanne Williams

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval
system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The characters,
incidents and dialogue herein are fictional and any resemblance to actual
events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Acknowledgements

I receive help from wonderful and unique people while conducting
research for novels and editing my manuscripts.
 
Here are a few who assisted me with
The Blacksmith's Daughter
:

The 33rd Light Company of Foot, especially Ernie and Linda Stewart

Carl Barnett

Lonnie Cruse

Bonnie Bajorek Daneker

Marg Baskin

Howard Burnham

Dr. Ed Cashin

Larry Cywin

Peggy Earp

Mike Everette

Jack E. Fryar, Jr.

Nolin and Neil Jones

Marja McGraw

John Robertson

Dr. Tony Scotti

The
Blacksmith's Daughter

A
Mystery of the American Revolution

by

Suzanne Adair

Chapter One

SERENADED BY PREDAWN cricket chirp
and frog song on July 11, Betsy Sheridan paced in the dining room, already
dressed in her shift, short jacket, and petticoat.
 
Her stomach uneasily negotiated the collision of oily pork odor
from Monday night's supper with leather's rich pungency from Clark's shop.
 
She knew better than to blame the queasiness
on being four months along with child.

News delivered at suppertime had
driven nettles of anxiety into her soul.
 
Her mother and uncle captured by Lower Creek Indians in East Florida —
good gods.
 
The Lower Creek didn't treat
their prisoners to tea parties.
 
Imagining her mother Sophie and her Uncle David tortured in creative,
native ways made her gut feel like a blazing spew of grapeshot.

At the window, she breathed in
familiar morning scents wafting from the back yard on a cool breeze: sandy soil
entwined with red veins of Georgia clay, wood smoke, pine resin.
 
"Pregnant nose," the midwife had
called her heightened sense of smell.
 
Out back, King Lear the rooster crowed.
 
With Clark's apprentices arriving at seven, Betsy had best fetch the
eggs and start breakfast soon.
 
Perhaps
the morning routine would ease some of her anxiety.

Her lit candle held aloft, she
paused outside the cobbler's shop to peer up the stairway.
 
Annoyance rifted her anxiety at the soft
snores issuing from their bedroom.
 
Clark wouldn't have overslept had he not stayed up for that midnight
delivery of Cordovan leather from Sooty Johns.
 
Betsy had never liked Johns, a greasy little peddler.
 
Because she, curious, had tiptoed downstairs
to watch the two men unload the leather, and they thought her asleep the whole
time, the delivery had felt illegal.

In the shop, she lit and hung two
Betty lamps.
 
Her gaze skimmed over the
counter where she kept the ledger and lodged on the workbench piled with
Cordovan leather.
 
Magenta by lamplight,
it almost assumed the hue of coagulated blood.
 
Spain
.
 
Why should Spanish
leather be delivered early Tuesday morning to John Clark Sheridan, a British
sympathizer, ostensibly one of Spain's enemies?
  
A shudder rose in her, and she wondered whether she should hide
the leather.

Not that she needed more to worry
about.
 
Shaking off her concerns over
the delivery, she walked to the workbench and pushed aside an awl and two
cowhide boots to make room for her candle beside a small mirror.
 
The action of settling her mobcap atop her
braided dark hair eased her stomach.
 
After a final inspection to ensure a trim appearance, she stood.

One of the cowhide boots slid off
the bench, so she leaned over and snagged it.
 
When she propped it beside its mate, she spied a sliver of paper between
heel and sole.
 
Curious, she pried it
out and read
Mrs. Filbert's daughter is Sally
in her husband's
handwriting.

Odd.
 
Who was Mrs. Filbert?

Betsy tilted the paper closer to
the candle.
 
Here, now — what was
that?
 
Writing appeared on the edge of
the paper nearest the heat.

Amazed, she passed the rest of the
paper above the flame.
 
Bluish script
gibberish and three-digit numbers filled in the page, some sort of cipher.
 
She waved the paper around.
 
It cooled, and the writing vanished.

A chill brushed her neck.
 
Clark had planted a secret message in the
boot.
 
Should she tell him she'd found
it?

More anxiety wound through
her.
 
Bad enough that her family on the
St. James side was in so much trouble lately, but now her husband was involved
in questionable deals.
 
When they'd
married in January, she'd dreamed of leading a normal, uneventful life: helping
him with his business, raising children, tending the garden and house.
 
By the lamplight of that Tuesday morning,
though, her optimism looked as naïve as that displayed by fifty-six
Congressional delegates who'd signed their names to a declaration of
independence from George the Third's rule.
 
Four years later, thousands of redcoats still occupied the thirteen
North American colonies.

Another crow from King Lear
prompted Betsy's attempt to wedge the paper back in the heel.
 
Unsuccessful and exasperated, she shoved the
note into her pocket, lit a lantern, and bustled from the shop with it.
 
The back door squeaked when she exited from
dining room into garden, and Hamlet and Horatio loped around from the front
yard, tails awag in greeting.
 
She
paused to scratch behind the hounds' ears, and memory caught up with her.

Almost two months earlier, during
her mother's last visit to Augusta, they'd sat in the dining room sipping
herbal tea, and Betsy told her the news:
You shall be a grandmother before
Yule
.
 
They'd laughed and embraced
through tears of joy, and for the first time ever, Sophie had talked with her
as one mother to another, dissolving the physical distance between them that
seven years of living apart had imposed.
 
But now, captive of the Lower Creek...Betsy blinked away the salty mist
of misery, her stomach afire again with apprehension.

She stumbled a few steps before
righting herself and continued down the path to the henhouse.
 
The dogs bounded away to the front of the
house.
 
A sparrow began his reveille.
 
The earth smelled cool, damp, and ripe.
 
Inside the henhouse, she hung the lantern on
a hook and grabbed a basket.
 
The hens
welcomed her with soft clucks, the acrid odor of their droppings magnified by
her nose.

"Well, Titania, have you an
egg for me this morning?"
 
The hen
shifted to allow Betsy's groping fingers access to straw only.
 
She proceeded to the next hen.
 
"You, Desdemona?
 
Alas, no egg."
 
She straightened.
 
"Strange.
 
Perchance
you need a change in diet.
 
Well, I'm
sure to find something from Portia.
 
No?
 
Oh, very well, you did lay
two eggs yesterday."
 
She fumbled
beneath more hens without success, and an eerie sense of familiarity spread
through her.
 
The only other time this
had happened was when all the eggs had been collected as a
prank
just
prior to her arrival.

She lowered her voice, not daring
to believe.
 
"Uncle David?"

She heard amusement in his voice
outside the henhouse.
 
"I cannot
play that trick on you twice, can I?"

She raced out and flung her arms
around dark-haired, lanky, handsome David St. James who'd no doubt passed the
night in the arms of a certain wealthy, lovely widow in town.
 
Small wonder the hounds hadn't alerted her
to his familiar presence.
 
"Great
thunder, it
is
you, and you're all right!"
 
She smacked his cheek with a kiss.
 
"Oh, gods, when I heard the news
yesterday, I could scarcely eat or sleep for worry."
 
She tugged him toward the house.
 
"Clark has been so worried, too.
 
But you've escaped the Indians!"

David braked their progress toward
the house.
 
"Don't tell your
husband or anyone else that you've seen me."

"Why not?"
 
She noticed her uncle's hunting shirt and
trousers and checked herself.
 
"You're running, aren't you?
 
Mother, too."

"Yes."

"Just like Grandpapa
Will."

She watched David's stare home on
her.
 
"What do you mean?"

"
He
was hiding in the
henhouse yesterday morning."

David darted a look around.
 
"Where is the old man?"

"Probably in South
Carolina."
 
Cynicism seeped into
her voice.
 
"That's where he seemed
to think he could lay low with rebel friends because he landed himself in all
that trouble with the redcoats last month.
 
Running a spy ring from Alton, printing incendiary broadsides, escaping
to Havana to intrigue with the Gálvez family.
 
The
Gálvez
family.
 
Zounds.
 
How did a printer from a
frontier town, ever catch the eye of people so high up in the Spanish
court?
 
And what did he expect from all
that intrigue?
 
Surely not a
pardon.
 
I don't suppose he'll ever
learn, will he?
 
So I fed him breakfast
and sent him on his way before it grew light.
 
And where's my mother?"

BOOK: The Blacksmith's Daughter: A Mystery of the American Revolution
11.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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