The Bravest Boy in Town

by Mrs. Emily Huntington Nason

 

He lived in the Cumberland Valley,

And his name was Jamie Brown;

But it changed one day, so the neighbors say,

To the "Bravest Boy in Town."

'Twas the time when the Southern soldiers,

Under Early's mad command,

O'er the border made their dashing raid

From the north of Maryland.

And Chambersburg unransomed

In smouldering ruins slept,

While up the vale, like a fiery gale,

The Rebel raiders swept.

And a squad of gray-clad horsemen

Came thundering o'er the bridge,

Where peaceful cows in the meadows browse,

At the feet of the great Blue Ridge;

And on till they reached the village,

That fair in the valley lay,

Defenseless then, for its loyal men,

At the front, were far away.

"Pillage and spoil and plunder!"

This was the fearful word

That the Widow Brown, in gazing down

From her latticed window, heard.

'Neath the boughs of the sheltering oak-tree,

The leader bared his head,

As left and right, until out of sight,

His dusty gray-coats sped.

Then he called: "Halloo! within there!"

A gentle, fair-haired dame

Across the floor to the open door

In gracious answer came.

"Here! stable my horse, you woman!"—

The soldier's tones were rude—

"Then bestir yourself and from yonder shelf

Set out your store of food!"

For her guest she spread the table;

She motioned him to his place

With a gesture proud; then the widow bowed,

And gently—asked a grace.

"If thine enemy hunger, feed him!

I obey, dear Christ!" she said;

A creeping blush, with its scarlet flush,

O'er the face of the soldier spread.

He rose: "You have said it, madam!

Standing within your doors

Is the Rebel foe; but as forth they go

They shall trouble not you nor yours!"

Alas, for the word of the leader!

Alas, for the soldier's vow!

When the captain's men rode down the glen,

They carried the widow's cow.

It was then the fearless Jamie

Sprang up with flashing eyes,

And in spite of tears and his mother's fears,

On the gray mare, off he flies.

Like a wild young Tam O'Shanter

He plunged with piercing whoop,

O'er field and brook till he overtook

The straggling Rebel troop.

Laden with spoil and plunder,

And laughing and shouting still,

As with cattle and sheep they lazily creep

Through the dust o'er the winding hill.

"Oh! the coward crowd!" cried Jamie;

"There's Brindle! I'll teach them now!"

And with headlong stride, at the captain's side,

He called for his mother's cow.

"Who are you, and who is your mother?—

I promised she should not miss?—

Well! upon my word, have I never heard

Of assurance like to this!"

"Is your word the word of a soldier?"—

And the young lad faced his foes,

As a jeering laugh, in anger half

And half in sport, arose.

But the captain drew his sabre,

And spoke, with lowering brow:

"Fall back into line! The joke is mine!

Surrender the widow's cow!"

And a capital joke they thought it,

That a barefoot lad of ten

Should demand his due—and get it too—

In the face of forty men.

And the rollicking Rebel raiders

Forgot themselves somehow,

And three cheers brave for the hero gave,

And three for the brindle cow.

He lived in the Cumberland Valley,

And his name was Jamie Brown;

But it changed that day, so the neighbors say,

To the "Bravest Boy in Town."