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Pussy Dean’s Beacon Fire
by [?]

March 17, 1776.

A hundred years ago the winds of March were blowing.

To-day the same winds rush by the stone memorials and sweep across the low mounds that securely cover the men and the women that then were alive to chill blast and stirring event. Even the lads who gathered at sound of drum and fife on village green, wishing, as they saw the troopers march, that they were men, and the little girls who hung about father’s neck because he was going off to war, who watched the post-riders on their course, wishing that they knew the news he carried, are no longer with us.

For nearly two years Boston had been the lost town of the people. It had been taken from the children by an unkind father and given to strangers. You have been told how British ships came and closed her harbor, so that food and raiment could not enter. You know how grandly the younger sister towns behaved toward stately, hungry Boston; how they marched up the narrow neck of land that holds back the town from the sea, each and every one bearing gifts to the beloved town, until there came the sad and fatal day wherein British military lines turned back the tide of offerings and closed the gate of entrance.

Then it was that friends began to gather across the rivers that wound their waters around Boston. Presently an army grew up and stationed itself with leaders and banners and forts.

Summer came. The army waited through all the long warm days. The summer went; the leaves fell; the chill winds and the cold sea-fogs wound into and out of the poor little tents and struck the brave men who, having no tents, tried to be strong and endure.

Every child knows, or ought to know, the story of that winter; how day by day, all over New England, men were striving to gather firearms and powder wherewith to take back from the foe poor Boston. But, alas, there was not powder enough in all the land to do it.

The long, wearying winter had done its worst for the prisoned inhabitants within the town; and, truly, it had tried and pinched the waiting friends who stood at the gates.

At last, in March, in the night, the brave helpers climbed the hills, built on them smaller hills, and by the light of the morning were able to look over into the town–at which the patriots were glad and the British commander frightened.

A little after nine of the clock on Sunday morning, the 17th of March, 1776, three Narragansett ponies stood before General Washington’s headquarters at Cambridge.

“Go with all possible speed to Governor Trumbull,” said Washington, delivering despatches to a well-known and trusted messenger, who instantly mounted one of the ponies in waiting–Sweeping Wind by name–and rode away, with many a sharp and inquiring glance back at city and river and camp.

It was four of the clock in the afternoon, and the messenger had not paused since he set forth, longer than to give Sweeping Wind water to drink, when, on the highway in the distance, he saw a red cloak fluttering and flying before him.

It was Pussy Dean who wore the cloak. She was fifteen, fair and lovely, brave and patriotic as any soldier in the land.

At first she was angry at the law by which she was denied a new cloak that winter, made of English fabric, but when wrapped in the coveted broadcloth of scarlet belonging to her mother she was more than reconciled.

On this Sunday Pussy had been at the meeting-house on the hill, two miles from home, at both morning and afternoon service, and afterward had lingered a little to gather up bits of news from camp and town to take home to her mother, and so it had happened that she was quite alone on the highway.