By Frank R. Stockton
Originally published in 1896
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003
It would be of no use to pass her house and ride on and on. Where should she go? She must come back some time, and all the soldiers would have to do would be to halt at the farm, and wait until she returned. And even if she should take her horse into the wood and tie him to a tree, they would know by her coming back on foot that she had left him at no great distance, and they would be sure to follow his track and find him.
As Tempe rode swiftly on, her thoughts galloped as fast as her horse, and before she reached the house she had come to a conclusion as to the best thing to be done. She did not ride towards the barn, but dashed through the gateway of the large yard, and sprang from her steed. As she turned in, she looked down the road ; but the men were not in sight. What she was going to do was something which people never did, but it was the only thing she could think of, and she was a girl whose actions were as quick as her ideas were original. Without stopping an instant, she took her horse to the back door, and led him boldly into the house.
This was not the sort of stable to which Tempe's horse or any other American horse was accustomed; but this animal knew his mistress, and where she led, he was willing to follow. If one of the farm hands had attempted to take the creature into the house, there would probably have been some rearing and plunging; but nothing of this kind happened as our Jersey girl, with her hand on her horse's bridle, led him quickly inside and closed the door behind him. As the story goes, she took him through the kitchen, and then into the parlor, without the slightest regard to the injury his shoes might do to the well-kept floor; and from the parlor she led him into a bedroom on the lower floor, which was usually used as a guest chamber, but which never before had such a guest as this.
This room had but a single window, the shutters of which were kept closed when it was not in use, and there was no entrance to it except through the door which opened from the parlor. The door was quickly closed, and Tempe stood with her horse in the darkness.
When the soldiers reached the farm, they went to the barn. They examined the outhouses, visited the pasture fields, and made a thorough search, high and low, near and far; but no sign of a horse could they find. Of course, the notion that the animal was concealed in the house did not enter their minds, and the only way in which they could account for the total disappearance of the horse was, that Tempe had ridden off with him where they knew not. We do not know how long they waited for the sight of a hungry horse coming home to his supper, but we do know that while there was the slightest danger of her dear horse being taken away from her, that animal remained a carefully attended guest in the spare room of the Wick house; and the tradition is, that he staid there three weeks. There Tempe waited on him as if he had been a visitor of high degree; and if she was afraid to go to the barn to bring him hay and oats, she doubtless gave him biscuit and soft bread, dainties of which a horse is very fond, especially when they are brought to him by such a kind mistress as Tempe.
When the cavalry moved away from their camp near Morristown, no one of them rode on that fine horse on which they had seen a girl gayly cantering, and which, when they had been about to put their hands upon it, had flown away, like a butterfly from under the straw hat of a schoolboy. When the troops were gone, the horse came out of the guest chamber and went back to his stall in the stable; and that room in which he passed so many quiet days, and the door through which the horse timidly stepped under the shadow of that hospitable roof, are still to be seen at the old Wick house, which stands now, as it stood then, with its shaded yard and the great willow tree behind it, on the pleasant country road by which we may drive from Morristown to Mendham by the way of Washington Corner.
"Story of an Old Farm." A. D. Mellick.
"Morris County History." W. W. Munsey.
"Authors and Writers Associated with Morristown." J. K. Colles.