In Which the Colonel Suffers an Embarassment of Squirrels
Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett
Chapter the Fourth
How I Become an Honest Woman, Continued
Now, I twas oft surprised by the good Reverend's quirks and foibles. For rare twas for a man o' cloth to make a study of the mechanicals of witchery, leave off practicing them himself. But the Reverend explained it as turning the tables on Old Nick, using his own tools gainst him. For my own thinking, I believe the good Reverend had a wee bit of the devil in him.
So twas, the whole town of Crosswicks had been gathered on the common afore the church doors, surrounded by a cloud of the green-coated Dutchmen or Germans or what have ye, as well as some red-coated Light Bobs. A company of heavy German bouncers, all wearing bishops’ hats, was drawn up on the green with their muskets abayoneted and ready for murder.
When the good Reverend went all a glow, there was much uproar. This was the especial case with the dumb animals, for the horses were much affrighted as were the Germans or Dutchmen or whate’er they be call themselves.
Hard by the Reverend was the red-faced Colonel Mayhood fighting to keep his horse and screaming apoplectic to stop such chicanery. He ordered his men to seize Reverend L. Now, the Dutchmen were still aquavering with their officers and sergeants trying to restore order, all shouting “Goose Gott” which I took for either invoking the Deity or calling for their supper. So they were not fit to meet the cacafuefgo Colonel’s command.
Now the red-coats were old London gutter sweepings and if ye take their fine scarlet coats away, ye’d be seeing the like in the worst of the Cheapside stews. Thus, they were not as like to be afread of God nor Devil so two of these Lights seized the Reverend, flame or no. Likewise, the couple of brace of dragoons moved forward to block any as might have the pluck to help him. With that the flame round the Reverend faded away.
Then, there twas paunch-guts Major Zed at me elbow and he whispered to me that we must to make a distraction for the Reverend to escape. So out of the crowd he popped and began to bark out a great harangue of doglike gibberish directed towards the Dutchy-German coves. Then I made out him saying “Goose Gott.” Faith, thinks I, the great fat loaf is off ordering supper too!
Well, the bollocksy Colonel wasn’t having any of it neither. He ordered Major Zed arrested as well. Two more soldiers then tried to grab the fat man’s arms but that twas like so much kneading of lard I supposed for they could get no purchase on the big greasy hippopotamus of a man.
Now I knew not if twas his intent or if he had grown faint from the exertion of flappin’ his pie hole at the Dutchmen but a sudden, the big, fat Brother of the Bung grew weak in the knees began to list and seemed to fall like as a big mastyard oak. The poor little Light Bob who had hold of him struggled to keep him upright but twas as impossible as holding back the Flood. This poor sod twas in the path of the collapsing Major Zed and he cried out in panic, “He falls, …. he falls, … he falls on me!... Tell my wife I love her!” and then the great plumper capsized and squished the poor swadkin near to death.
But all tis for naught since the soldiery now have good hold on both the Reverend and the blubberly equerry. Muck-up Mayood was screeching how as he’ll hang them both for rebels.
I tried to cozen up to one of the soldiers who was holding back the crowd, hoping to get to the ruddy-minded English devil and mayhap calm him a bit with a view of me old apple dumpling shop. But the guard will have none of it, with a “bugger off, Croppy girl.”
To which I demurely replied, “Put it up your notch and sing, ye Orange Molly.”
I ducked back into the crowd just afore he had me kiss the rear of Brown Bess. Out the corner of me eye, I spied the Froggy Miss making a hasty retirement, walking backwards towards the wall of the churchyard. At first I thinks she be running off as the French are like to do, but no, she had a hard look in her eye and twas grasping a piece of her jewelry and amumbling. Expecting something fantastical, I was disappointed for she tried to back o’er the churchyard wall when her wide hoop skirts became all a-stuck betwixt wall and tombstone. Distracting her from anything to do with the arts macabre. She started calling “Merde, merde!” and I thought getting stuck in was hardly a thing to be shouting “Murder” about but later I learned twas a far more earthy offense she was reciting.
So now it fell upon Doctor McC to take up the cause of liberating our beloved sky pilot. Thus the Scots nimgimer clicked his heels together and two large springs popped out of the soles of his shoes. He crouched down and flung himself up. And up he went, and went, and then he began tipping over the backwards and so traversed the whole of the church roof, coming to rest in a tree at the back of the church. But this twas not the end of his journey for he then fell through the whole body of the tree, a good twenty feet if twas an inch, coming to rest upon the ground and a good thing there twas a fresh snow to soften his landing.
Now whether all this hurly-burly had helped, I know not, but of a sudden, there was Fenniman right next to the Colonel and pointing his long popper at the right bloody stingbum’s head.
There also twas Yap hard by and he, still playing the Indian, says to the lobster-back, “How.”
Twas ill then that the Dutch bishops’ nabs had been got in hand by now and the whole company leveled their firelocks at Fenniman and Yap and all the rest on the green, including my beloved self. To be sure, I called to mind many of the Good Sisters’ knee bouncers for twas clear a massacree was imminent.
Then up popped the Clap-noodled Prince Leopold and he began to sing. Now for a nigmenog, he did sing a pretty tune, in fine tenor throat, and it rose o’er the hub-bubble. Then another noise far weirder came rising from the trees all about the green. There twas a great chatterin’ and squeekin’ like a thousand rocker chairs off the kilter.
Then out of every tree and wood came a great grey and brown host as what must have been every squirrel and chipmunk this side o’ the Delaware a scurring across the common summoned by the doddering prince’s song. The vast shaggy mass passed amongst, over and under the soldiers, breaking their ranks and creating uproar. The horses of the dragoons reared and bucked. Twas as complete a pandemonium as when someone drops a farthing at a Scotch market.
But also bolled o’er was Fennimen and his long rifle knocked from his hands. Strange, Major Zed was avoided completely by the creatures, despite being laid on the ground direct in their path. No doubt, they perceived him as some impassable Alps and so went around.
Finally, Colonel Maywood’s horse twas under-reached by the great chattering mob and off it went, bucking and rearing and carrying him about the green with him squealing like a maid of works after a Saturday night dance. This caused much laughter and jeering, even from the soldiers for the Colonel twas cast in the mold of old General Martinet.
This great relief twas interrupted by a trumpet blast. I saw a troop of horse coming down the Trenton road, a gent in bright crimson and lace at its head. The squaddies all drew up with long faces and came to attention. All that is, except Colonel Mayhood who still rocketed about the common sounding like a banshee on Samhain.
Just then I noticed catch-fart Zizzendorf returning all friendly like with three of the Hessians. I gave him a harsh whispered word that here he was cavorting with them what were just as like to slaughter us.
His response was, “Strumpet, I have convinced these that I am Hessian spy and that they must assist me.”
“Ye hang-arse periwinkle,” said I, “Ye would betray us as quick as Judas if it served ye more like.”
Word went through the crowd that here was General Cornwallis himself. He did not appear pleased at the shambles that was to be seen of his men on the green. Of course by now, the rodential horde had dispersed so no doubt Mayhood looked to his general like an idiot or, far worse in an Englishman’s eye, a bad horseman. The General shouted out harshly for Mawhood to control his mount and attend.
But who came running but Prince Leopold’s dogs, Wilkes and Barre, for they had been a gift from this same gentleman when the Prince was his prisoner. Cornwallis showed some delight at the hounds and, even more of a surprise, greater delight to see the buffle-headed Leopold.
He called the boy o’er and fairly beamed at him, “My dear Prince, what a wonderful surprise to see you again. Whatever are you doing here?”
For ‘tis a strange thing that the Prince was held in high regard by so many great gentlemen, General Washington himself included, despite being the most flap-noodled dolt that e’er graced these shores. I suppose a royal title counts greatly in this, or mayhap ‘tis natural compassion as one feels towards kittens or complete idiots.
Prince Princox returned the complement in a courtly turn and said, in that mashy accent of his, that he is “hewe to hewp this good Pwiest in God’s sewvice but who, now, has been awwested by youw subowdinate.”
A look of surprise and then rage passed onto the General’s face and he shouted, “Mayhood!”
The rattle-pated Colonel who had finally exerted some control over his beast now that raging squirrels and glowing parsons were not present, came over most sheepishly.
He stammered out, “My lord, as I reported, I received intelligence that rebel agents were at work in the village. Since we were sending a foraging party here, I reinforced it and led it myself… There was resistance so I ordered the arrests.
“There were such things occurring here, my lord… you cannot imagine…. Glowing preachers…tumbling fat men… squirrels!”
“Squirrels, my lord!”
Cornwallis sat and look at Mayhood as one would look at a tantadlin tart smeared on one’s front door.
“Colonel, I have always said, an arrest is an act of fear not of justice. How shall we reconcile these people to the Crown if you blunder about arresting ministers and bewailing the …squirrels! It is fortunate for you that I received your message about your intentions here. I became concerned about your overzealousness and came to see for myself. I shudder to imagine what might have transpired here without my intervention.
“No doubt your report of rebel agents came from some ill-informed local Loyalist who saw the Prince and his party and did not understand that they were paroled prisoner of war.
“Further, sir, there will be no independent foraging, as I have told you in the past when you used that excuse to court mischief.
“So, sir, you shall return to your command at Princeton and you shall not stir from that place unless ordered by myself or, in my absence, General Grant, who shall be the area commander. Is that clear, sir?”
Well a plucked peacock would not look more surly but Mawhood assented and betimes gathered up much of his troops to march home, with tales of the fearsome monsters that dwell in Jersey, such as the squirrels and chipmunks.
In the meanwhile, I went and aided the Lady Toady to extricate herself from betwixt the headstones and a good laugh I had while doing so. We then went to assist our acrobatical physician who was sitting with his back against the tree which had become such a close acquaintance.
“I thinks ye be suffering from the Fallin’ Sickness, good Doctor McC,” said I.
“Hardly, Mrs. Dagget, just a miscalculation in my path of flight. Oh and you need not trouble yourself with bandaging my wounds. I am quite capable of doing so myself.”
Twas unfortunate that the good doctor did not remove the springs from his shoes afore he went to work bandaging his knee for as he moved it, the spring on his foot was pushed down and thus began to propel his knee repeatedly into his downturned face.
While he reeled from these unexpected blows, I asked him, “Doctor, what sort o' wizardiness did the Reverend conduct that caused the flames but him not burned?"
"Oh hardly high wizardy," came his reply, as serene as if he were speaking of trimming his garden verge. "The good Reverend has made quite the study of the alchemical processes and has acquired quite a talent for their more ... impressive manifestations. In this case, he merely worked an alignment of the air about him with Elemental Fire, keeping a pocket, if you will of fresh air nearest to his person. Very showy but, as you saw, of limited effectiveness."
"Faith, Doctor, I hain't the slighest notion of what ye speak but it simple, sure enough. By the way, have ye any idea how our puzzle-headed Prince twas able to summon up all them creatures?”
“Ah, an excellent question and one that I have been contemplating whilst I lay here at rest. Major Zagloba has reported that the Prince has a certain affinity for animals, as apparently do all in his dynasty, a fact the Major attributes to their admiration for wits superior to their own. Couple that with the fact that the Prince recently …ah...ingested the insubstantial form of a vampire, a creature known to be able to summons foul creatures such as wolves and bats. The result is that he has undoubtedly acquire a similar ability although the exact type of creature appears to be less menacing, shall we say?”
All this pleasant palaver was interrupted by the Prince who introduced all of us to The General Himself. Then that chummage-raker Dalby put himself forward and invited the Great Man to break his fast in the pettyfogger’s house. So off we all went, pretty as you please, to break bread with the King’s Commander.
Now the one fine thing about this was that I was introduced as “Widow Dagget of the Reverend’s house.” Now I know not if the General took me for some destitute cousin taken in by the Reverend for charity but he must of thought me more than a servant and so invited me to sit by his side. This twas afore Dalby or anyone could contradict.
Thus I was treated to enjoy a fine breakfast with the quality and mealy-souled Zizzendorf forced to wait upon me every command. Twas as fine a repast as ere I enjoyed!
Now during our meal, I kept my eye on Mrs. Dalby knowing what Major Zed had claimed about her. She seemed very backward in the fat man’s presence, not meeting his eye, and betimes she complained of headache caused by the morning’s excitement and retreated to her rooms.
Now the Reverend explained to the General that we have been asked to attend to a series of foul murders in the town, possibly by some mysterious creature, a mission to which no gentleman could take exception.
At which point, the curdle-brained Prince says in a loud whisper that he probably should not tell the General about the one who sent us, “the owd gentweman, with the gwasses and the kite and the ewectwicity.”
“Ah, Doctor Franklin sent you?” offered Cornwallis.
“Cwap! The Genewaw must be cwairvoyent!”
“Hardly, dear Prince, but, despite our political differences, I have the utmost respect for Doctor Franklin and if he has sent you upon this mission, I do not doubt it is a worthy one. Certainly, if its purpose is to relieve these people of a murderer, be it man or beast, who am I to deny them your assistance.
“Provided,” here the General’s voice took a far sterner tone, “your endeavor will do no harm upon the troops under my command and that you do not violate the oath of your parole.”
“Absowutewy not!” assured the Prince. “But once I am exchanged, I shaww endeveaw to wetuwn to the fway.”
“As any gentleman would. Of course, had Mayhood succeeded in arresting you unjustly that would have relieved you of your oath as the grossest violation of our obligations of your parole.
“But, Highness, I fear that your opportunity to be exchanged is a great improbability. For one thing, General Howe has seen fit to declare an end to the campaigning season, so any further action, and sadly the capture of Philadelphia, must wait until spring. As I am sure you are aware, most of the enlistments of your Continental Army are due to expire at the end of this year. I am afraid, dear Prince, if, even by some miracle, you achieve an exchange, there will be no army to which you could return.
“Facing such a frustrating prospect, please do consider a return to Europe. With the close of campaigning, I return to England to attend to my wife who is ill. I would be honored if you would accompany me."
“Word Cownwawwis, I am most appweciative of youw kindness but my sense of duty, hehe, fowbids me fwom accepting youw gwacious offew. I must tawwy hewe until Bobo Wongewynde finds his monstew.”
“’Bobo?’” I whispered to Major Zed who was slavering down the last of the breakfast ham.
“It is an honorific meaning “Uncle.” We in Ruritania apply to our clergy and our boar spayers.”
“I would have expected nothing else, Highness,” said Cornwallis. “We must maintain a picket here. They shall be at your service, Reverend, should you need them in your tracking and apprehending this malefactor.
After this there twas much good feelings and conviviality until a much more subdued Mayhood reported that all was in readiness to return to Trenton. With that, the General took his leave, taking care to leave the men he had promised, six of the green-coated Hessians under a Lieutenant Schnitterbock.
The Prince was the next to leave the table and he ordered Yap to open the door.
Now whether twas a heathen stubbornness or merriness that prompted the act, Yap, still got up as an Indian, maintained his guise by saying but one word and that being, “How” much to the befuddlement of the Prince. Thus,
“Yap, open the doow fow me, pwease.”
“You just tuwn the wittwe knob and push.”
“Put youw hand awound the wittwe knob and wotate it cwockwise.”
“Wet me show you!”
At this the Prince proved himself capable of opening the door and exiting the house. From the other side of the door, we heard him say, “See, Yap, it’s not that hawd. Know wet me in and you can open the doow for me pwopewwy.”
"Put youw hand awound the wittwe knob and wotate it cwockwise."
As this went on for some time, the Reverend buried his face in his palm and I swear I thought I heard a sob escape from his normally stoical visage.
Excerpt from Samuel Longewynde, Notes upon the Investigation into the Occurrences at the village of Crosswicks, in the State of New Jersey, December 1776
The next step in the investigation was to examine the dwelling place of the second family murdered, the farm of the Crump family.
An additional area of examination was the grave of the late Reverend Hadley. As a suicide, the Reverend had not been buried in the church yard but rather had been interred in a small clearing just within the boundary of the Pines.
Fortuitously, the gravesite was along the path to the Crump farm and so was the first place of examination.
It was determined through the use of dousing techniques that the coffin and body of the Reverend Hadley was present in the grave.
It was also determined that two smaller objects of metal had been buried with the coffin. When dug up, these proved to be boxes of iron such are used to keep papers and accounts of importance. Both were well rusted and showing much wear from being buried so long.
The lock on the first was quickly picked open by Mrs. D. with no damage to the contents. These proved to be a large sheaf of papers, much damaged and oft illegible. Nevertheless, it was determined that they were a continuation of the writings of the late Reverend in regard to the matter of the Leeds offspring. These were determined to read as follows,
I have put the question to Mrs. Leeds. She is possessed by a great demon. The frame barely holds. She sleeps now. Forever. Seperated never to be rejoined.
She is buried. The demon shall be bound. The elders agree that they shall establish a bulwark in the Pines.
The village knows peace. The creature has been seen in the Pines but does not come beyond the strongholds. Why then are my dreams so troubled? Why do I feel as though eyes are upon me?
Dear Felicity, my dear beloved Felicity. How shall I live without you? What shall become of our infant daughter now that you are gone? I dream of my dear wife but they are terrible, I see her in the Fires of Hell.
There is no sun, only the grey shadows and the eyes that peer out of the dark woods. I cannot sleep. I am bound to this place just like the devil in the woods. There is no hope.
Upon examination of the second iron box, it was determined to be similar in size and manufacture to the first box. Upon opening a similar sheaf of papers were found. These however bore designs most arcane in their formulation. The first being a design of three triangles described above three squares all in a line. Immediately seen was the similarity in design to the placement and design of the blockhouses in the woods….