"Parson Larkin's Finest"
“Parson Larkin's finest.”
“He needs to be.” Richard Devens touched the straw-laden dirt with the end of his walking stick. “You should know,
that I was detained by British officers along the Menotomy road!” Revere
“I encountered them at dusk. Five or six officers. Several servants -- sergeants, I presume -- accompanying them. They demanded I direct them to ‘
moment to comprehend Devens’s statement. Revere
He wondered how much more the General knew. Gage’s spy continued to do them damage.
“I’ve dispatched a rider to warn Hancock. I shouldn’t be surprised if he’s intercepted. With this horse you might have better luck. I would advise you …”
“Another express rider left
interrupted. “A half hour before me. By Revere
Neck.” He didn’t need this man's assessment. Boston
“Good.” Stepping back two feet, Devens crossed his forearms.
“Which road will you take?” Colonel Conant asked.
road, then on to
Menotomy.” He placed a forefinger under the girths. Cambridge
“That’s the road I was stopped on,” Devens said, testily.
The horse tossed his head, stamped his hooves.
stroked the horse’s muscular neck. Revere
He mounted. The horse stepped backward. “I will alert as many households as I can,” he said, looking down. “Our message will get through. Whether or not I'm stopped.” He placed his right hand familiarly on the horse's neck. “But, I think, this animal will outrun any British plow horse.” He smiled, his irritation gone. He turned the horse onto the road.
To his left, in the bright moonlight, he saw the dark waters of the
Charles River. To his right he saw the Mystic. The smell
of the sea was strong and rank.
He would ride across this neck of salt marsh, moors, clay-pits, and brushwood at a pace that would neither fatigue his horse nor send them recklessly into an ambush. How far inland from their landing place the redcoats had marched he had no way of estimating. Reaching Cambridge, he would take the road through Menotomy to arrive at Lexington, a distance of eleven miles, less than a two hour ride, he thought. The other route, through
Medford, across the Mystic, then to
Menotomy -- bypassing Cambridge -- and then to would add at
least a half-hour. Lexington
His hands easy with the reins, his body accustomed to the horse’s hoof falls,
Revere recalled other times he had delivered important
news from .
He remembered best the morning after he had toppled
India chests of tea into the harbor. Other men, having slept
through the night, could have delivered the news more easily to Committee of
Correspondence leaders in New York and Philadelphia; but he, knowledgeable,
entirely reliable, had volunteered.
White spires above the bare branches of maples, birches, and beech had told him of the close proximity of each country town. In the better taverns he had enjoyed bowls of hot punch, tankards of flip, legs of lamb, country bread, butter, and roasted apples. He had returned to
eleven days after having left it, having averaged 63 miles a day in the saddle.
It had been the first of three trips he had made to Boston . Philadelphia
He had savored each assignment.
This ride, so perilous, so important, had its own satisfying enticements. A clear sky had that afternoon banished the threat of additional rain. He admired in the moonlight the angular shadows of solitary trees, sentinels, he mused, of an undisturbed wetland. He imagined farmers, directing oxen to their farthest fields, beholding God’s canopy of brittle lights: sensory gratifications to soothe the troubled soul, treacherous distractions to his purpose at hand!
Riding past the
Medford road, scrutinized each approaching shadow.
On a less bright night two weeks hence, the deciduous growth being then in full
leaf, he would have seen nothing. Each shade stimulated his imagination. Revere
Beneath that tree, a mounted soldier. No. What was it? Having passed it, he would never know.
Directly ahead another soldier! No. Something abandoned. Two empty casks, one atop the other, he guessed.
His little horse steadfastly galloped. He thought that if he were challenged, the animal had enough run in him yet; but after they had ridden through
, perhaps not.
More than likely they would be confronted there, not before. Cambridge
Another soldier! No, two! Holsters and cockades! Mounted! In the broad shadow where the road narrowed!
They moved. One of them, leaving the shadow, raised a hand. The other, already ten yards beyond, turned his horse to block the road.
Pushing hard against his stirrups, pulling his reins to his chest,
brought his horse to an abrupt stop.
Yanking the reins sideways, he forced his mount to turn. Spurring the horse in
the direction they had come, he heard the nearest officer shout. Revere
“Stop! By God, stop or I’ll shoot!”
Parson Larkin’s finest sped toward the
road. Bent low over the horse’s neck, Medford
calculated. A pistol shot would miss him, he thought, but maybe not the horse.
Quick separation was essential! Revere
No shot was fired. Too far behind to waste ball and powder, he concluded. Or, too difficult to fire accurately.
Wanting to know,
glanced backward. Twenty rods lay between. Parade
horses, he derided. Revere
In a half minute he was at the junction.
road his horse raced. Not until he looked across the field separating the two
roads did Medford
realize that his pursuers had anticipated his intent. He saw a horse and rider
traversing the angle of the triangular field. Watching their up and down
movement, he knew he would be losing half the distance he had gained. This time
the soldier would attempt a shot. Revere
demanded greater speed. Revere
Looking again, he saw that his pursuer had vanished! Two seconds later the horse’s head and neck appeared as if out of a hole.
saw nothing of the rider or of the other officer, who had apparently not joined
the chase. Revere