So it was that early the next day I set off with a wagonload of apples, pears, cider, and perry to sell to the country taverns down Brandywine Creek way.
By late afternoon I had sold everything but four kegs of perry. I found a buyer for three of these in Mr. Welsh, whose tavern stood four miles west of Chadd’s Ford, one of several places where Brandywine Creek could be waded in safety. These fords, besides being shallow spots in the stream, offered the only clear access to the riverbank, which elsewhere was steep and thickly wooded.
As it was dark by the time I made my bargain with Mr. Welsh, I decided to stay the night. There were few guests, so I had the luxury of a bed to myself. I quickly readied for sleep, rubbing my teeth with a chalked rag and adjusting the bed ropes more tautly under the sagging mattress so that I might sleep tight.
I slept far too tight, not waking until nearly nine. Fearing that Father would be angry at my dawdling, I hurried downstairs to settle up my accounts with the jovial tavern keeper.
Mr. Welsh was busy in the common room with a lively group of customers; he told me they were a patrol of American mounted sentries, called vedettes. The sight of these Continentals, washing down slabs of ham with hot, steaming toddy, filled me with great dismay. Last I had heard, the American army was miles away—close to Philadelphia, capital city of the rebellion simply because the Congress of “madmen and traitors” met there. Or had, before fleeing to York. At any rate, the presence of Washington’s forces at Welsh’s Tavern could mean trouble was close at hand.
My attention was drawn by the thunderous sound of Mr. Welsh’s huge hand slamming down on the rough wooden tabletop. “So, lads, you think I should run and hide like a rabbit because the British are on the way? Nay, I’m a neutral party. I shall pour punch for any thirsty man with nary a thought for his politics!”
One of the soldiers shook his head in disbelief. “But politics is nothing when a battle’s in the offing, you fool! A cannonball doesn’t stop to inquire if you’ve taken sides! The British camped last night at Kennett Square, only two miles west of here. They may arrive at any time, going east to Chadd’s Ford. But Washington’s troops are waiting for them there.”
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