A PATRIOTIC QUAKERESS
 IN the winter of 1777-78 the city of Philadelphia was
occupied by a British army. Red-coated soldiers
paraded the streets and guarded the entrances to the
town. Fine officers in gorgeous uniforms took
possession of the best houses and lived there in luxury
without asking leave of the owners.
Outside of the city, at White Marsh and at Valley
Forge, the American troops were encamped.
Half-clothed, half-fed, shivering and suffering by
their camp fires, they yet hold out bravely against
their foes so comfortably housed and so bountifully fed
in the city. Many people in Philadelphia would have
been glad to send aid to their patriot friends, but
their movements were too closely guarded and they were
forced much against their will to lend assistance to
Among these people there was a Quaker named William
Darrah, a school-teacher, quiet
 in manners and harmless in thought and deed. He lived
with his wife Lydia in a long, low building on South
Second Street, which served both as a residence and as
a schoolhouse. One of the larger rooms at the back of
the building had been taken possession of by the
British and was used by General Howe and his officers
as a kind of secret meeting place. Here they held
their councils of war, and here they decided whatever
questions might arise relative to the movements of the
soldiers in the city. As no word of complaint or
unfriendliness had ever been heard from the Darrah
family, it was supposed that they had only the
kindliest feelings toward the intruders.
One evening in December the British adjutant general,
dressed in his red coat with brass buttons and lace
ruffles, knocked at the door of the Darrahs. The knock
was answered by Lydia herself, a plain little Quakeress
in the plain but pretty garb peculiar to her people.
"Is Mrs. Darrah at home?" asked the adjutant.
"Not Mrs. Darrah, but Lydia Darrah," was the
answer. "I am she."
"Oh, I see," said the adjutant. "Well, I am
 come to command you to have the council chamber well
warmed and lighted this evening. Several officers are
going to meet there, and everything must be in
readiness by seven o'clock."
"It shall be as thee desires," answered Lydia.
"And mark you," continued the officer, "we want none of
your family around listening to what we may say. I
shall expect you to have your supper early and to send
everybody to bed before the officers arrive."
"Is not seven o'clock quite an early hour for
retiring?" asked Lydia.
"Early or not early," was the answer, "those are my
commands and you are expected to obey. When the
meeting has ended, I will knock at your chamber door to
give you notice. You can then arise and extinguish the
fire and the candles and lock up the house."
"It shall be as thee desires," said Lydia.
She began at once to get the council chamber ready.
While she was sweeping and dusting, her mind was full
of many thoughts. Was she a slave that she must obey
the commands of this red-coated officer? What right
had the British
 to feast upon the best in the land, while her friends
with General Washington were suffering the pangs of
hunger? She did not believe in fighting; but since
fighting was really being done, she couldn't help but
wish that the Americans would conquer. As to giving
any active aid to the British, she resolved that, let
come what would, she never would do such a thing.
The council chamber was ready. The Darrah family
supped early, and the children and servants were in bed
before seven o'clock. All was quiet in the house when
the British officers arrived. Lydia opened the door
and showed them in. Then she retired to her own room
and blew out the candle. She did not undress, but
merely took off her slippers and lay down upon a couch.
Now, Lydia's room was quite near to the council
chamber—so near, indeed, that she could hear the
loud voices of the officers. She could not sleep. She
felt in her mind that some great danger was threatening
her American friends. She thought that she heard the
name of Washington spoken in the council chamber.
 The longer she lay and listened, the more uneasy she
became. At last she arose and crept silently through
the hall to the very door of the council chamber.
There she stood and listened.
At first she heard only the confusion of many voices.
It seemed as though all the redcoats were trying to
talk at the same time. After a little there was a loud
rapping on the table, and some one called for order.
The room became quiet in a moment. Then one of the
officers announced that he had an important order from
General Howe which he would proceed to read.
Lydia Darrah was now all attention. She heard the
orders of General Howe that the British troops must all
be under arms and in readiness for marching at dusk on
the evening of the second day thereafter. They were to
march in such and such a manner and over such and such
roads in order to surround and surprise the army of
Washington, which was then encamped at White Marsh.
Lydia waited to hear no more. She stole quickly back
to her room and lay down upon the couch as before. She
felt that a very grave danger was
 threatening her friends. How could she help them?
An hour passed, two hours, and then she heard the
officers going home. The adjutant stopped at her door
and knocked. She pretended to be asleep. A second
time he knocked, and a third. Then, with a yawn as
though just awaking, Lydia answered. She pushed her
feet into her slippers and opened the door just as the
last officer was passing from the hall.
Lydia did not sleep a wink that night. The great
secret she had learned was too heavy for her. She felt
that she must help the Americans—and yet how?
She thought of several plans. But some of them were
impossible, and all were attended with danger. At last
morning dawned, and with the sunlight a happy thought
came into her mind.
"I can do it. I will do it," she said to
After breakfast she said to her husband, "William, the
flour is gone, and I intend to ride to the mill for
"Lydia," he answered, "thee certainly won't ride to
Frankford on such a day as this. It's a good
 twelve-mile ride there and back, and the wind is very
raw. Can't thee send the maid?"
"No, William, the wind is as raw for the maid as for
me. I've made up my mind to go, myself."
Now William had learned from observation that when
Lydia made up her mind to do something, things were apt
to go pretty much as she said. So he raised no further
objection, but having finished his breakfast, went
quietly to his schoolroom to give the day's lessons to
his young scholars.
Toward noon, Lydia mounted the family horse, and with
her empty flour sack before her, was soon cantering
briskly along Second Street and across to the Frankford
road. She had often been on this sort of errand
before, and her appearance caused no surprise. She had
a permit from General Howe to pass the British lines,
and she rode without hindrance out in the open country
which then lay between Philadelphia and the little
village of Frankford.
When she reached the mill there was no flour ready, and
she must wait for it to be ground. This was just as
she had expected and wished. She left her bag to be
filled, and then took a walk out toward the American
camp at White Marsh. She
 had not gone far when she met Colonel Craig, who was
acting as a scout for Washington. He was on horseback
and had a small company of soldiers with him.
The colonel knew her. "Lydia Darrah," he said, "what
strange necessity can bring you here on such a day as
"Friend Craig," she answered, "thee knows that I have a
son in George Washington's army, and my heart is sick
to see him." Then she added in a lower tone, "If
thee'll alight and walk a little way with me, I'll tell
thee what brings me here."
The colonel dismounted, and led his horse while he
walked by Lydia's side back toward the village. Lydia
told him all that she had learned, and begged that he
would use the knowledge in such a way as not to mention
her name. for if the British officers should learn
that she had betrayed their secret, it would, no doubt,
go very hard with her and her family.
"I'LL TELL THEE WHAT BRINGS ME HERE."
She then left the colonel and hastened across the
fields to Frankford. When she arrived at the mill it
was the middle of the afternoon, and her flour was
 ready. With the bag slung across the saddle before her
she started for home, and just at sunset she safely
reached her own door.
As she alighted from her horse, she thought to herself,
"What a strange errand for a woman Friend like me to be
out upon!" but she kept her own secret, and not even
her husband suspected the real reason for her visit to
The next evening, the British troops, true to their
programme, marched out of the city silently in fighting
trim. What was their surprise to find Washington's
army drawn up in line of battle and ready to receive
them! Throughout the night they maneuvered in the
darkness, trying to surround the Americans or strike
them in an unprotected quarter. But all in vain; they
could find no place in which safely to make an attack.
For two days they threatened, and tried to draw
Washington away from his intrenchments. On the third
day, they marched back to Philadelphia, angry, weary,
"Somebody has betrayed us," said the British officers.
"Who can it be?"
But they never suspected the plain little Quaker
 woman with the sweet, sober face and quiet ways. The
adjutant general, however, paid her a visit.
"You remember the meeting which we had in the council
chamber a few evenings ago?" he asked.
"Certainly I remember it," she answered.
"Were any of your family up while the meeting was in
"None of them. They retired soon after supper. At
seven o'clock all were in bed but myself."
"I cannot understand it," said the adjutant. "Some one
must have overheard and betrayed us; but who can it
have been? I know that you were asleep, for I knocked
three times at your door before I could waken you. I
don't know what to think."
But Lydia Darrah kept her own secret and told it to no
one until after the war was ended. In her quiet way
she had saved the American army from disaster and
defeat. Perhaps the fate of the nation was determined
by that ride to the Frankford mill.