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Sleet And Snow
by [?]

Fourth of July, 1776.–Troublous times, that day? Valentine Kull thought so, as he stood in a barn-yard, with a portion of his mother’s clothes line tied as tightly as he dared to tie it around the neck of a calf. He was waiting for the bars to be let down by his sister. Anna Kull thought the times decidedly troublous, as she pulled and pushed and lifted to get the bars down.

“I can’t do it, Valentine,” she cried, her half-child face thrust between the rails.

“Try again!”

She tried. Result as before.

“Come over, then, and hold Snow.”

Anna went over, rending gown and apron on the roughnesses of rails and haste. Never mind. She was over, and could, she thought, hold the calf.

Barn-yard, cow (I forgot to mention that there was a cow); calf, and children, one and all, were on Staten Island in the Bay and Province of New York. Beside these, there was a house. It was so small, so queer, so old-fashioned, so Amsterdam Dutchy, that, for all that I know to the contrary, Achter Kull may have built it as a play-house for his children when first he came to America and took up his abode by the Kill van Kull. The Kill van Kull is that curious little slice of sea pinched in by a finger of New Jersey thrust hard against Staten Island, as though trying its best to push the island off to sea. However it may have been, there was the house, and from the very roof of it arose a head, neck, two shoulders and one arm; the same being the property of the mother of Valentine and Anna. The said mother was keeping watch from the scuttle.

“Be quick, my children,” she cried. “The Continentals are now driving off Abraham Rycker’s cattle and the boat isn’t full yet. They’ll be here next.”

Anna seized the clothes line; Valentine made for the bars. Down they came, the one after the other, and out over the lower one went calf, Anna and cow. Valentine made a dive for Snow’s leading string. He missed it. Away went the calf, poor Anna clutching at the rope, into green lane, through tall grass, tangle and thicket. She caught her foot in her torn gown and was falling, when a sudden holding up of the rope assisted by Valentine’s clutch at her arm set her on her feet again. During this slight respite from the chase, the cow (Sleet, by name, because not quite so white as Snow) took a bite of grass and wondered what all this unaccustomed fuss did mean.

“Snow has pulled my arm out of joint,” said Anna, holding fast to her shoulder.

“Never mind your arm, now,” returned Valentine. “We must get to the marsh. It’s the only place. You get a switch, and if Sleet won’t follow Snow in, you drive her. I wish the critters wasn’t white; they show up so; but Washington sha’n’t have this calf and cow, anyhow.”

From Newark Bay to Old Blazing Star Ferry stretched the marsh, deep, dense, well-nigh impassable. Under the orders of General Washington, supported by the approval of the Provincial Congress in session at White Plains, the live stock was being driven from the island, and ferried across Staten Island Sound to New Jersey. At the same moment the grand fleet of armed ships from Halifax, England, and elsewhere, was sailing in with General Howe on board and Red Coats enough to eat, at a supper and a dinner, all the live stock on a five-by-seventeen mile island.

Now the Commander-in-chief of the Continental forces at New York did not wish to afford the aid and comfort to the enemy of furnishing horses to draw cannon, or fresh meat wherewith to satisfy the hunger of British soldier and sailor. Oh no! On Manhattan Island were braves–for freedom toiling day and night; building earthwork, redoubt and battery with never a luxury from morning to morning, except the luxury of fighting for Liberty. Soldiers from camp, light-horse and militia from New Jersey, had gathered on the island, and had been at work a day and a night when the news came to the Kull cottage that in a few minutes its cow and calf would be called for. Hence the sudden watch from the roof, and the escapade from the barn-yard.