Peril at King's Creek

Published in 2006; author Elizabeth McDavid Jones; illustrator Jean-Paul Tibbles


When Felicity's grandfather died, he left his plantation to her family. They're at the plantation now, aside from Felicity's father who is minding the store. The Wentworths, long-winded loyalist neighbors, come to visit one day and bring their friend Mr. Haskall. Felicity thinks he looks familiar, but can't place him, and dismisses the notion when he says he's never been south of Baltimore before. He's friendly enough, and develops a good rapport with Felicity, Nan, and William. Mr. Haskall is very interested in botany like Felicity's grandfather was, and also horses, so they have lots to talk about.

Things aren't all smooth sailing, though. A neighbor's horse has gone missing, most likely stolen. And different patriot plantations have been raided by British troops. Felicity is glad to have the distraction of Mr. Haskall to keep her mind off the worries. He's quite the conversationalist, good at listening to people and drawing out details of their stories. But he never reveals anything about himself. Felicity doesn't think anything is strange about that until Ben comes to visit and also recognizes Mr. Haskall. And he knows where he's seen the man before: guarding the governor's mansion, in a British uniform. Is Mr. Haskall a spy?

Felicity sneaks into Mr. Haskall's study early one morning, before dawn. She sees the notebooks he's been sketching his botany notes in, but when she opens them, they're maps of the patriot plantations in the area, including her family's, King's Creek. Maps that look like guides for raiding. She also finds a note about a rendezvous the next day. With this information, Felicity is sure she can catch Mr. Haskall red-handed. She feigns an illness and asks in a note for Mr. Haskall to take Penny for a ride in the morning, knowing he'll be needing to make his rendezvous appointment, and alerts Ben and her father to intercept him.

But Mr. Haskall sends a reply that he'll take Penny for a ride before breakfast, too early for him to be caught. Felicity amends her plan, waking early and hiding in the barn, waiting for him to come. He does, and steals the most valuable horse in the barn, rather than taking Penny. So it seems he truly did consider Felicity a friend: he left her treasured horse behind. But that also means Felicity can ride Penny, who's faster than the other horse, to pursue Mr. Haskall. She soon catches up to him, and he leaves his horse, bolting into the woods. Knowing her late grandfather's horse will instinctively head for home, Felicity rides Penny through the woods, determined to find Mr. Haskall. She does...just as he's talking with her father (who of course doesn't know who he is; they've never met). When Mr. Haskall sees her, he turns to flee again and she shouts that he's the spy. After her father and Marcus give a quick chase, he's caught. At Felicity's urging, they search him and find the maps he's made.

Felicity is relieved to have saved the plantations from raids, but also deeply hurt at how she's been used and betrayed by the man she thought was her friend. Crying, she tells her father how manipulated she feels, and he agrees that this is a confusing time for everyone. People who had been friends are now divided by where their political loyalties lie. He reassures her that she's done a good thing: Mr. Haskall will get a fair trial, and people's homes and livelihoods will be spared.

Looking Back

The historical section gives a brief overview of the events leading up the signing of the Declaration of Independence and talks about how some people fought with means other than weapons. Women weren't allowed to serve in the military (a few did sneak in disguised as men), but some worked as spies. Others stayed at their homes but still acted in the service of independence. For example, one woman saw that British troops had an opportunity to harvest her family's wheat field, and rather than let them have that advantage yet unable to harvest it herself, she burnt the crop. By doing more for themselves, women planted the seeds that would later start the campaign for women's rights.


This book is dedicated to "Tristan William Jones, who joined our family the writing of this book and made us all wonder how we'd ever lived without him."

This book takes place in June 1776.

Felicity's father still does work for the Patriot army, but the book indicates that it's not a fulltime endeavor.

I can't help but think that if Mr. Haskall is found guilty of espionage, the sentence will be pretty harsh...

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