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William Henry Harrison, Young Tippecanoe
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What Happened Next?
Three boys and a girl came galloping down the slope to the river. Each one was whipping the flank of an imaginary horse. They rode furiously into the shipyard. The boy in the lead waved a wooden sword with his other hand.
"They're heading for the river, Captain!" he called.
"After them, Colonel!" his sister answered.
Billy Harrison was playing his favorite game. He was Colonel "Light-Horse" Harry Lee, Virginia's famous cavalry leader of the American Revolution. Like Lee, he was attacking the British. His "troop" was made up of his sister Sally, aged ten, Ezra and Josh, children of the Harrison family's slaves, and Smoky, the family's spaniel.
The children nearly always played war games. The war had been going on ever since Billy could remember. Now, in the summer of 1780, he was seven years old, and the colonies still seemed far away from victory.
Billy led his troop across the shipyard and onto the dock in the James River. They jumped into the old barge tied there. They all stopped then, panting from the run.
"Too late," Billy said. "There they go - the cowards!"
Even Smoky stared across the broad, peaceful river. Nothing was moving. He barked once, anyway, as if he understood the game. "Oh, Billy, I'm tired!" Sally dropped down on a seat in the barge.
Billy looked at her. She wasn't his loyal captain any longer. She was just a flushed fair-haired girl. His cavalrymen were only two boys dangling their bare feet in the water. His sword was just a stick after all. The pursuit, which had been so vivid to Billy, faded away. He sighed and folded up his slight frame in the bow of the boat.
"What shall we do now?" Billy asked.
"Can't we sit for a minute? You're so restless today, Billy!"
"What I'd like to do is go and join the militia, like Carter."
"Master Carter looked mighty fine in his uniform when he rode off yesterday," Ezra put in.
"And Benjy's been away so long I can't even remember how he looks. I wish I hadn't been the youngest boy."
Sally knew what he meant. "Berkeley isn't the same," she said, "with the boys gone and Father always up in Richmond in the House of Delegates. It seems so lonely here now. I hate the war."
"So do I ," said Billy. He knew there were many exciting things beyond Berkeley -- things he couldn't see while the war was going on.
Just then Smoky trotted up and barked.
"Look! He wants to play. Come on, Smoky!" Billy jumped up and found a stick.
He threw it into the water. The frisky dog hesitated a moment on the edge of the boat. Then he plunged in. He swam out to the stick, caught it in his mouth, and brought it back to the barge. This was an old game and Smoky needed no coaching.
"Let me throw one," Sally begged.
Billy bent over and took the stick from Smoky's mouth. Sally waved another in front of the dog and tossed it out. At once Smoky turned and paddled off to retrieve it. On the dock Josh and Ezra tried to see which could throw stones farther.
The heavy barge hardly moved as Billy and Sally stood on its edge. It had no rail, and they could lean over and touch the water easily. Once they lifted Smoky into the boat to let him rest. He shook himself vigorously.
"O-o-o-ooh!" Sally screamed as the drops of cool water sprayed on her. She jumped to one side. Her foot came down on a stick and she lost her balance. "Billy!"
He was on his knees beside Smoky. He looked up to see his sister falling sideways into the river. Splash! Billy lurched to the side of the boat. Sally couldn't swim! When her head bobbed up he reached for her. Her long wet hair was plastered over her eyes and she couldn't see his hand. She went under again. Ezra and Josh came running.
This time when her head came up, Billy shouted, "Sally! Here!"
She flailed her arms wildly and came nearer. He stretched out as far as he could reach.
"Grab her, Master Billy!"
Billy was scared. What could they do? Sally started to go down again.
"That's the third time, Master Billy," cried Ezra. "Miss Sally will drown!"
As Sally's arm sank down, Billy caught it and held on tightly. For a second he thought her weight would pull him over the side. Then he felt hands seize his belt. "We'll hold you, Master Billy," Josh promised.
Billy clung to Sally's arm and pulled her nearer. With her other arm she groped for the barge. She was gasping for air. Billy clutched her dress and then helped her swing one leg up and over. He and Josh and Ezra all pulled together. Sally rolled into the barge.
"Are you all right?" Billy asked anxiously.
Sally lay face down, choking. Billy slapped her on the back. That did no good. Then he stepped astride his sister and bent over. With one hand on each side of her waist he lifted her. It was all he could do to raise her. Sally was much larger than he, and now she was as limp as her rag doll.
With her head and feet down, Sally coughed up the water she had swallowed. Billy's arms ached but he held her until she sputtered and gasped. Then he let her down gently.
"Oh dear!" she said.
Billy was so relieved he laughed. Sally sat up and leaned back against the side of the barge. She still looked pale and shaky.
"You all right?" Billy repeated.
She nodded. "You saved my life, Billy. I almost drowned."
"Oh, you could have climbed out." But Sally's words made Billy feel good. His heart was still pounding, but he was pleased that he had not been too scared to act when she needed his help.
What happens next?
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