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Rebecca and Abigail Bates lived on the coast of Massachusetts, near a little village named Scituate. Their father was the keeper of the lighthouse, which stood at the entrance of the harbor and warned ships away from the rocky coast.

One day Rebecca and Abigail were up in the tower, polishing the great glass that sent the light far over the sea. Their father and mother had rowed across the bay to the village, leaving the lighthouse in their daughters’ care. As they polished away with all their might, they noticed a strange ship creeping around a point. It stopped and lowered two little boats, which turned and started toward land.

At that time people feared every ship they did not know, for the year was 1814 and America and England were at war. British ships often sailed right into harbors and sent their soldiers ashore to attack the villages. The British had already made one raid on Scituate’s harbor, and had burned ten vessels before putting back to sea.

Now Rebecca and Abigail stood frozen in the lighthouse, peering down and holding their breath while they waited to see what these two strange boats would do. Closer and closer they crept, until finally they entered the harbor. They were full of British soldiers!

The girls looked along the shore. No help was to be seen. What could they do? If they could only warn the townspeople! But they had no boat, and there would be no time to run to the village, for it was a long way around the bay.

Rebecca grabbed her sister by the sleeve.

"Listen, Abigail," she cried. "Here’s what we two girls are going to do." And she began whispering into her ear, as if the British might hear her plan as they rowed swiftly across the water.

The sisters raced down the winding staircase and across the lawn to their house. Abigail snatched up a drum, which her father had brought home to mend just the other day. Rebecca grabbed a fife, and they slipped out of the house toward the beach, crouching behind bushes and sandhills to keep out of sight.

The British boats were now quite close, and the soldiers were preparing to leap ashore. Suddenly the order was given to halt. The soldiers listened closely.

From behind a clump of cedar...

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