Friday, October 12, 2012

A Devil in Jersey: Epilogue

Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett

Chapter the Fourth
How I Become an Honest Woman, Continued

Thus, twas another victory. Mayhood’s brigade had been destroyed and the Colonel himself twas last seen scurrying off north, pursued by a host of squirrels what had been summoned up by Leopold’s odd talent. There twas food enough to feed the Army for the rest of the winter, Major Zed having been sent off on some invented errand to ensure this. Alike, the great store of powder was taken intact, a fact not lost on us for I had been told that the Reverend’s previous adventures had oft expended large amount of explosives in addition to the lives of his servants.

There twas to be no rest. The troops were given only an hour or so to loot the British camp. Word came that Cornwallis, enraged by being so outfoxed, twas in the act of turning that great lumbering army of his about, intent on coming after us. Washington’s plan, soon put into motion, was to turn the Army east, away from Cornwallis, to the safety of the mountains at Morristown.

For us, it meant leaving the Army. The Reverend announced that he and Miss Rebecca twould be returning home to Lancaster, but first we twould go by way of Crosswicks and see to the proper interment of the Reverend Hadley’s remains.

“Master David will not be going with us. He has duties with the army to which he must attend,” said the Reverend, there bein as much pride as concern in words.

I found the Doctor tending to the wounded, aided by none tother than grim Bozarth who clucked and proclaimed doom for every patient.

Surprised I was to see that one of these survivors twas Mr. Johnstone, who had seemed like to be croaked but twas perhaps too witless not to know when he should be dead.

“Ah, Mrs. Daggett, please tell the Reverend that I shall be happy to attend upon him in your journey to Crosswicks before returning to my home in Trenton,” said Doctor McC.

“I shall indeed, Sir.” Then I turned to Johnstone, for the Reverend had given me instructions concerning him should I find him alive.

“Come, Mr. Johnstone, if you are going to serve the Reverend, a little thing like a couple bullet shots should not be keeping you from your duties.”

“Do you really mean that I am to work for the Reverend? I will be most grateful, though my knowledge of these matters is small, I think I could be of some assistance.

“I am sure. Ye proved ye can stop a bullet or two and that’s right handy in this line of work.

“And you dire Bozarth? What do ye intend now?”

“I’m going back to Crosswicks. After all, it’s the happiest place in the world!”

“Oh, it’ll be a right pleasure palace with you there, no doubt.”

When I returned to the College, there twas Black Meg speaking to the Reverend panting with womanly gratitude, “Oh Reverend I shall be forever in your debt for all you have done.”

“Mrs. Dalby-“

“Please, Reverend. That marriage was a sham and I shall not bear the name of that monster a moment longer. Call me instead ‘Hadley’ in honor of my father. It will be a good omen for the start of my new life, one free of the demons of the past.”

“What shall you do in this new life.”

“I do not know. I shall go back to Philadelphia to consider it. After all, I am not without resources.”

“That is something I heartily acknowledge, Margaret Hadley. You are a most resourceful woman.”

As Black Meg walked away to prepare for our journey, I sidled up to the Reverend and offered, “Ye know Reverend, yer not getting any younger, and given yer penchant for getting knocked about so by the devil’s minions, ye’re goin to be needing someone to look after ye.”

“That is why I pay you and Mr. Zizzendorf.”

“That’s not what I mean. Tis high time ye consider remarrying.”

“Please, Mrs. Daggett. I have not the time to pursue such personal fancies.”

“What’s there to pursue. There Black Meg right in front of ye, as fine and pretty a lady as could be found this side of the Potomac. Rich too, and more’an willing as far as I can see. Even better, she’s freshly widowed.”

“That’s ridiculous, I am sure she could not be so inclined. Besides, I am the cause of her being widowed. It would be improper.”

“Oh tosh! She’s more than willing to be inclined, if ye know what I mean. You killing her mister tis just a convenience, if ye ask me.”

“I did not ask you!”

“Alright, well if not her, what about Madame Frogpond. She’ll be going back to Philadelphia now that the English shan’t have the chance to wring her frenchie neck for a spy.”

“Mrs. Daggett, aside from all of the other problems with your suggestion, such as our complete difference in social statue, background and religion, Madame de Bauffremont is a married woman!”

“Oh, now ye’re just picking nits, Reverend.”


About noon, we were prepared to begin our travels to Crosswicks, by horseback since the Reverend’s fine carriage had been lost in our fight with the witches.

The army too was ready to march, so now twas a time for separating.

Oh, Miss Rebecca twas full of girlish woe, the Prince having been given command of Fermoy’s brigade and so was marching away with Washington, Yap, glum as a Bozarth, at his side along with the other livestock.

Major Zed was full of woe as well, blubberly rather than girlish is his case. For the Reverend refused to support his poetical endeavors and so the great tub would not be retiring to Philadelphia and emptying the City Tavern's larder.

As they bid farewell, Rebecca fell upon the Prince, “Dearest Leopold, whatever shall I do? I am to return to Philadelphia with my father and then to Lancaster. How shall I ever measure my sorrow at leaving you? I shall miss you so! Do, do write to me!

Rebecca threw herself on the clothead and smothered him with kisses, saying she would pray for his safety and would write to him every day.

Between kisses, the Prince whispered, “Zagwoba, who is this?

“Why, that’s your laundress, Highness.”

“I don’t have the heawt to teww hew she uses too much stawch in my shiwts.”

“Why not just tell it to her father - Yap’s right over there.”

“Capitaw idea, Vawewie.”

That’s Va-LER-y, Highness. It’s a common Slavic name, and nothing feminine about it…”

As they rode off, I saw that Fenniman twas aside me. He was well enough to leave with the riflemen and so was marching off as well.

“Miss Molly, I’m wondering iffen I could write to you whilst I’m gone. And maybe iffen I survive this here war, I might call on you. I have a mind to settle out west, maybe a farm of my own. A man needs a wife to help him homestead…”

I looked at him with much consternation, “Now there’s a fine how do ye do. You being with me all this time and not saying a word until you’re trampin’ off to God-knows-where and like to get yer fool head blown off. Be off with ye, ye roughhewn bearbaiter and see if Moll Daggett’ll marry the likes of a scarecrow like yerself!”

Zizzy twas behind us when this occurred. When I noticed him, I saw he bore a fat, smug smile on his viz to see me dismiss Fennimen so.

“And what are you gawking at, ye beemish fart-catcher? As if I’d give meself to a jumped-up apple-johnny after turning down a man twice his better! Off with ye both, ye ruttish lewdsters!”

“You are a most disagreeable, unreasonable woman, Mrs. Daggett!” the Prussian cried.

“Ain’t that be the truth!” seconded Fennimen.

I walked away from the pair, thinking, ‘Now that twas a fine piece o’ work. I’ll have the two of them on the hook for a couple years fer sure. Or at least until some better prospect comes along.

‘Aye and not only that but here we’ve sent the devil and his mother back to hell and helped save the Revolution in America. Aye, not a bad piece o’work at all, Molly girl,’ thinks I.

A Devil in Jersey: Chapter XIII

Except of Letter to Lieutenant Jonathan Longwynde from the Reverend Samuel Longewynde

We could hear the continuing rattle of the skirmishing muskets and rifles as we rode cross-country northeast towards Princeton. With some difficulty, we by-passed the ill-named village of Maidenhead with its strong garrison. By mid-afternoon, we could hear the distant rumbling of cannon but I could not discern if it meant that the delaying action continued or if Cornwallis was making a general attack on Washington’s main force.

Within an hour or so of sunset, we arrived in the vicinity of Princeton. The farms in the country round about were mostly deserted, many inhabitants having fled the hard hand of the British garrisons. We came across one field in which several haystacks had been burned and two cattle lay dead, eviscerated by a violent attack. No doubt this was the handiwork of the Pine Demon in pursuit of its mother.

“I do believe that we are on the correct trail,” Doctor McCleane observed.

We stopped at one deserted farm, only a mile or so from Princeton. It stood on a small hill from which we could observe that the town itself was heavily garrisoned. I decided that we should stay hidden at the farm until well after dark when we might win our way surreptitiously into the place.

The weather, which had been unseasonably warm for the last few days turned bitterly cold that night. We did not light a fire for fear of alerting the British to our presence. We all therefore huddled under blankets in the main room of the house, taking in turn the task of watching at the windows.

At perhaps nine o’clock that evening, the Doctor took up this duty and decided to walk a bit of it outside the house. He soon observed a large party of armed men moving quietly through a small ravine that ran just below the building. The strangers seemed to observe him and immediately sought cover all of them pointing their guns at him. Fearing an attack, the Doctor used his spring heels to leap into the air.

At this, a familiar voice called out, “Hold yer fire, that there’s the Doc I told ye about.” It was Fennimen.

“How goes the fighting at Trenton?” asked Madame de Bauffremont.

“Tolerable for us but a mite hard for them redcoats. That Prince feller, he migthen not be hauling a full wagonload, but he do know how to scrap.”

Fennimen said he had with him about sixty or so of the riflemen, sent to aid me. Several of them took concealed positions about the grounds whilst most squeezed into the small farmhouse. We took to discussing how best to approach our task. Fennimen offered to reconnoiter the town and so chose two other riflemen to accompany him, both he claimed were excellent woodsmen. Rebecca insisted she be permitted to go as well, offering that Chief Black Turtle had schooled her far better in the ways of woods than any white man could know.

They returned about midnight to report that the main body of the garrison, some 300 men or so, was gathered upon the grounds of Nassau Hall, site of the College of New Jersey. Fennimen reported that he also recognized some of Scratch’s Pine Robbers amongst the soldiers. Far more troubling was his report that the interior of the Hall was ablaze with strange lights, flashing like lightening.

Madame de Bauffremont observed that this sounded like some sort of alchemical procedure. This theory was seconded by the Doctor who suggested that electrical force was also no doubt being used to revive dead Mother Leeds.

“I recall reading about a case that claimed a successful reanimation. It occurred in the Germanies, a certain Baron Franken--“

“Hold on, Doc, afore ye git us lost in Germany,” Fennimen interrupted, “let me tell ye that it appears most of them redcoats are fixing to leave. Other than the 300 at the College, the rest of the town is all astir. I’d say two full regiments, some dragoons, and bits and pieces from here and there together with a couple braces of cannons, maybe a thousand all told, forming up on the main road down to Trenton.”
“Going to reinforce Cornwallis, no doubt,” I said.

“I reckon so. “

“Then we shall wait until they set off, it will be far easier to approach the town when most of the troops have left.”

Therefore, we settled down to wait further. Just after midnight, one of the riflemen who had been standing watch let me know that a troop of about forty dragoons had arrived. This proved to be the City Troop from Philadelphia, led by none other than the Prince and his two companions along with Mrs. Daggett and Zizzendorf. Margaret Dalby had acted as their guide, being familiar with all these back roads from her ridings as Black Meg.

Given the small garrison that remained and the size of our own party, I determined that a sudden, direct attack, what the soldiers call a coup de main, would be the most assured means of stopping the return of Mother Leeds to this world.

Thus in the early hours of the morning, we began sending the riflemen in groups of two and three to work their way into the buildings near the College. They would take up position and, upon my signal, begin to shoot down the sentries.

The dragoons under the Prince would approach the College grounds on foot by means of a wooded gulley that would bring them very near Nassau Hall unobserved. They would charge building from the flank, using musket fire and grenadoes to further disconcert the enemy. If all went well, we would enjoy the element of surprise and so gain entry to the Hall and destroy Leeds and her offspring.

We also had the expectation that Washington’s army would arrive not too long after dawn and so I hoped, if any misadventure would arise, reinforcements would be close at hand.

I distributed the Cold Iron shot amongst our party and gave the Cold Iron tomahawk to Rebecca. In addition, the Doctor had his water piston filled with holy water for use in disconcerting the demon further. These weapons we hoped to reserve for our fight should the creature try to intervene and to put the final stroke up Mother Leeds corpse.

I also strapped to my back the old claymore sword that the men of the 42nd Regiment had given me for my aid to them at the terrible fight at Bushy Run, a battle that now seemed impossibly long ago.

Rebecca and I accompanied Fennimen and about half a dozen riflemen in entering the town. I must report that I had not realized the extent of your sister’s uncanny ability at the moving the woods. Several times, she prevented me from giving away our game by my clumsy stumbling about. We finally arrived at a house directly next to the College Yard. From the attic of this house, we had an unobstructed view of the College Yard.

All was in readiness as the first light of dawn crept over the horizon. Shortly thereafter, the long column that Fennimen had seen began to march away from the town. The despicable Colonel Mayhood led it and I blessed the thought that we would not be troubled by that bloody-minded scoundrel in the coming fight. As they marched off, I thought there might be a chance that Washington would miss this force completely and so gain the town and its contents with little fighting, a goal for which I prayed.

We soon began to hear musket fire coming from not too far a distance off and I surmised that Mayhood’s column had encountered some part of Washington’s army.

With the sound of firing arousing the remaining garrison, there was little reason to delay further our attack. I aimed a musket at one of the closer sentries and fired. I believed I hit him for when the smoke cleared, he was not to be seen. In the next instant, sixty rifle shots rang out and half as many of the British sentries were felled. Fennimen was next to me and fired up at the figures that were standing in guard in the walkway on the roof of the Hall.

The fusillade had done its work, most of the armed sentries had been shot down, and the remainder of the troops had been too scrambled to make sense of the havoc that had been just unleashed upon them.

Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett

Chapter the Fourth
How I Become an Honest Woman, Continued

Twas a cold crisp morning as we crouched in the woods near to the big schoolhouse, awaiting the signal to attack.

At first, we had been pleased that most of the garrison was marching away but then the Prince said to wait a tad. He hastily scribbled a note of warning to send to Washington that near a thousand lobsterbacks twere on the road and like to encounter them at some point. This word he sent by one of the dragoons.

The sound of increasing firing told us that either the message did not reach Washington timely or mayhaps the Prince’s message was misconstrued, it being writ with colored wax and consisting mostly of stick images of the English marching towards Trenton.

Then much closer, we heard the rifle bullets wizzing death to them what stood betwixt us and the body of Mother Leeds.

A sudden, up sprang the feather-wit Prince, drawing his saber. Then came that damnable “View Hawwoo” and he was off, charging across an open field to the side of the big hall.

A sentry who had been untouched by the riflemen stood to bar his way. As the soldier pointed his firelock at the Prince, Leopold leapt o’er him, moving ever so slowly, as one twould see in a dream. The sentry followed the flying royal with his gun at his shoulder. Just as he twas about to fire, Leopold’s hounds struck the soldier from behind and he fell, well-trounced, whilst his musket fired harmlessly into the air.

Meanwhile, Leopold’s strange flight came to an end afore a large barricaded amusette. The boy’s speed changed once more and he seemed to move at the double quick, cutting down the two men who crewed the big murther gun. He waived his fly splitter for us to come after him. Then he charged in amongst the tents surrounding the Hall, his voice singing, “Chiwdwen of the Woods, come to me!”

“Oh, Good Lord, he will have us knee-deep in squirrel again,” grumbled Major Zed.

“Quit yer bellyaching!” I shouted to lardbelly. “There’s a fine fight to be had and a mountain of grub at ‘tend of it.”

“Food? Why did not you say so? CHARGE!”

Except of Letter to Lieutenant Jonathan Longwynde from the Reverend Samuel Longewynde

I saw the Prince break from cover and charge into the British camp. He was followed by a surprisingly spry Major Zagloba. The dragoons, along with Zizzendorf, Mrs. Daggett, and Margaret Dalby followed immediately after. They all came to the fence surrounding the College yard and fired their carbines into the camp, raising even greater panic among its inhabitants.

A small file of British troops, the few who retained some order, charged from the yard directly towards the house from which we were firing. As they approached, Madame de Bauffremont ran to the window and flung a small vial into their midst. A tremendous explosion followed, putting an end to their charge.

I had seen that a cannon had been emplaced directly in front of the main entrance to Nassau Hall. I told Fennimen to have his riflemen shoot down the crew.

Then, with Rebecca at my side, I ran from the house, toward this gun, intending to turn it and use it to blast open the doors to the Hall.

As I was thus proceeding, Rebecca chanced to see a figure in dark clothes cowering in a tent. Having told her about our encounters with Smythe and Johnstone, she approached the tent with pistol and tomahawk in her hands.

It proved to be Johnstone thus cowering. She said ever so sweetly to him that he could either stand with his masters and die here or else throw in his lot with us for we had need of intelligence about his master’s doings.

Seeing the well used arms in her hands, Johnstone hesitated for but a moment and cried out, “I’ve had enough! I don’t care if he is married to my sister and I needed the employment, what he is doing is evil! Evil I tell you! All for the sake of those rich miscreants of the Hellfire Club!”

Meanwhile, the Doctor endeavored to enter the Hall. Rather than crossing the yard, he sprang from an attic window and, using his spring heels, bounded across the road. Reaching a prodigious height, he leapt into the cupola of the building, for the first time landing without injury to himself. He then ran down the steps that wound round the interior of the structure.

As he came to the step at the top of ground floor, he could see into a large area of the rotunda. There he saw Matthew Dalby and Smythe, protected by Scratch and another brigand, working upon the corpse that lay upon a table. Several very large Leyden jars surrounded the table, sparking with raw electrical power. In addition, nearby stood numerous boiling vats filled with roiling alchemical potions.

Using his flint, the Doctor lit his last grenadoe and tossed it into their midst. Much to his chagrin, Scratch calmly picked up the flaring bomb and tossed it back at him.

While all of this transpired, Fennimen gathered up his rifle and loaded it with a Cold Iron bullet. He then moved deliberately across the streets and into the College yard.
Having decided to switch his allegiance, Mr. Johnstone arose as if a great weight had been lifted from him. Suddenly, a volley of fire ripped through the tents, striking him and Rebecca as a platoon of British soldiers, recovered from their surprise, joined the fight.

I turned and charged towards the soldiers, firing both my pistols. Beside me was Prince Leopold firing away as well and shouting, “NOOOO! They’ve shot …what’s hew name! They shaww pay deawwy!” He charged into their midst, followed by Zizzendorf and the rest.

I ran to Rebecca’s prostrate body. At first, I thought her slain for a bullet hole marked her dress just over the heart. Then I realized that no blood was flowing from this wound and she had only swooned. Her eyes fluttered open and she smiled at me. She sat up, reached into her bodice, and produced a large corn cob in which the musket ball had lodged.

“Dearest Leopold had given me this as a memento. It has saved my life!”

It was at that point that we heard a great flapping of leathery wings.

Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett

Sure now, the boys twere having a fine time. Zizzy and Major Zed and e’en Black Meg popping away at redcoats in their encampment as if at fish kept in a barrel. Even silly Leopold, view hallooing and calling for squirrels, rampaged about. I decided that the front yard twas getting a might too crowded. So, I ran to the stern of building, where, as I expected, stood the servants’ entrance.

Twas a simple lock on the door and one that offered no challenge to me. I had the door swinging open in a thrice.

As I entered, afore me stood foul Scratch the brigand pointing his pop-guns at me.
Now I had expected a welcome so a bottle of rum’ twas in me one hand and a lit brand in ‘tother.

“Scratch, ye son of a devil’s whore, I’ll make breakfast toast out of ye!”


I took a great swig then and twas about to puff at him when, a sudden, right aside me is fat Major Zed saying, “Did you say you were making toast? I am a bit peckish!”

Except of Letter to Lieutenant Jonathan Longwynde from the Reverend Samuel Longewynde

As I feared, it was the demon that approached. It landed on the roof of the Hall. I expected it to sweep down upon us but, perhaps sensing a nearer danger, it struck into the body of the cupola with a fierce roar. Soon the body of the Doctor was propelled out of the other side, the force of the creature’s blow knocking him clear of further attack.

The Doctor plummeted from the roof. Ordinarily, such a fall would have killed him but, given his recent misadventures, he had taken to wearing springs inside his clothing, especially upon his backside so as to cushion his frequent falls. It was this that saved him for he landed in the yard and merely bounced a few times before coming to rest in a grouping of dirt-filled gabions.

I was endeavoring to reload my pistols with the Cold Iron shot when the creature spotted me through the broken woodwork of the cupola.

Before I could complete my task, the thing was upon me. It breathed a great burst of fire over me. I could feel the great heat of the flame but realized it did not touch me. Then I felt the warmth of Mercer’s stone amulet against my chest, and realized that it had saved my life. However, when the flame had subsided, the amulet crumbled into dust.

Events succeeded each other very rapidly then as to seem simultaneous.

I perceived a silvery flash coming across my view as a tomahawk axe flew toward the creature. It struck the demon directly in the chest, forcing out a great roar of pain.
Immediately, the creature was struck in the mouth by the Cold Iron bullet fired by Fennimen.

Thereafter, Zizzendorf put a Cold Iron ball from his pistol into the devil’s chest.
Beside me, Madame de Bauffremont stood and hurled a vial at the creature. This was filled with a decoction of a cold essence and the creature’s skin began to blister as the drops of the liquid transmuted his infernal hide.

Giving the Devil His Due

Finally, Yap shot an arrow to which he had affixed a cold iron head directly into the creature’s eye.

A great horrendous roar screamed from the demon as it collapsed to the ground. It was at this point that the Prince rolled a barrel of lit gunpowder onto the thing. This exploded, rending the devil’s body even further and bursting the doors to the Hall open.

At this precise moment, Doctor McCleane’s forgotten grenadoe exploded in cupola and a large part of the tower collapsed on top of the creature.

“Wait,” cried Johnstone, who had been only lightly wounded, as he hobbled over. “I have learned a bit about this thing. Its body may be revived if its mother lives again. We must impede that revival.”

With that, he took to hacking at the creature with an axe.

Fennimen then said, “Best we stop them fellers from waking up this critter’s mama.”
He ran to the cannon and fired it into the Hall.

Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett

Pushing Major Zed aside, I blew out a great gout of burning rum at Scratch’s head. The scurvy ratsbane avoided the blast but, a sudden, a great cannon ball came whirling into the hall, ricocheting off the wall towards where we stood.

Scratch dodged this as well and I fell to the ground to avoid it.

At me back stood Major Zed. Of course, that earth-girdled wagtail twas not so quick when it did not involve food nor drink and so he was struck direct in the belly by the cannon ball. Now whether the ball twas spent or his great girth absorbed the force of it, the shot did him no harm. Instead, it merely caused the fat of his vast belly to roil like a North Atlantic gale and the ball bounced off, striking Scratch and the tother brigand, killing them both.

Except of Letter to Lieutenant Jonathan Longwynde from the Reverend Samuel Longewynde

I charged through the cannon smoke into the shattered Hall. There, in a central rotunda was a strange equipage. I saw immediately that electrical bolts were arcing from two great Leyden jars into the corpse of Mother Leeds. Much to my horror, I saw that the body seemed to be stirring.

Dalby stood nearby and he saw me enter. He gathered up the quavering body into his arms and called out to Smythe, “Delay them as long as you can. She begins to revive!” With that, he ran up the winding stairs to the roof.

Smythe pointed his pistols at me and cocked back the hammers.

Johnstone was then next to me, the severed head of the demon in his shaking hands, “It’s over, Smythe. It’s over!”

“You’re right,” returned Smythe as he fired one of his guns at Johnstone.

“That’s not what I meant,” Johnstone wheezed as he collapsed onto the floor.

A flat, sheetlike object whirled through the air. It struck Smythe in the throat and the wickedly sharp edge slashed it wide. He fell to the ground a dead man.

“Postage Due!’ Yap said grimly after seeing the effect his thrown envelope had had on Smythe.

With the way clear, I ran up the stairway after Dalby. In a moment, I achieved the roof. There stood Dalby with the body in his outstretched arms. He called out, “Arise, Mother of Darkness. See the blood that has flowed about you and know you are its cause. Feed on this and revive, return to your children and lead us!”

I drew my claymore sword. Dalby saw me approach. He laid the body gently down and plucked up his walking stick. From this, he drew a secreted sword and took the stance of trained duelist.

I was never trained in the art of fencing and such swordwork as I knew was a casual necessity from my time in the war against the French. Nevertheless, I raised up my blade and charged the villain, calling out the psalm, “Blessed be Jehovah my rock, Who teacheth my hands to war, And my fingers to fight!”

I rushed towards him with my sword raised high. He thrust low with his blade to pierce my bowels.

Anticipating this, I turned slightly and the blade merely slid along the side of my hip, causing the barest of cuts. The move, however, had placed Dalby out of stance and I brought my blade down upon his shoulder, driving it deeply into his body.
I could see the look of fear and despair in his eyes as the life left them. His body hit against the railing, flipped over it, and rolled down the roof.

As I stood watching the body fall, I felt a sudden, great heat to my back. I turned and there standing before me was the form of Mother Leeds, engulfed in a fire of the Hell from which she had been summoned.

The Demise of the Family Leeds

She was living in that fire, relishing the power of destruction it gave her. She seemed to gather some of this fire to hurl at me. Knowing that Mercer’s charm had been destroyed and my weapons uncharged, I had no way to defend myself and prepared myself for death.

Of a sudden, a great spout of water gushed over the witch, black smoke rose as the fire of the body was quenched, and the dread thing collapsed. The body crumbled to dust and was blown away in the wintry wind.

There hung Doctor McCleane, clinging by one hand to the railing to which he had sprung with his spring heels, the now empty piston gun, which he had filled with holy water, in the other hand.

He pulled himself over onto the walkway.

“I shall have to write out the certificate of death for her. ‘Time of Death: now! Cause of Death: Me!’”

We descended then, happy to see our friends alive and well, the remaining enemy having surrendered or fled.

As the smoke of the battle began to clear, we heard huzzahs as Washington’s army came into the town.

I inquired of some of the soldiers what had happened. They reported that a section of the army led by General Mercer had encountered Mayhood’s column on the road unexpectedly. The British Colonel had turned his regulars into a charge. As Mercer’s troops were not expecting so rash a charge, they were routed. The General was last seen surrounded, refusing to yield.

I inquired about the Philadelphia Associators and I was told that they were part of the same action and had likewise been routed. No could give me word of David.
From others I learned that it had been desperate for a time until Washington himself had rallied the troops and led them in a counterattack that destroyed Mayhood’s brigade. But none could give me word of a young ensign of the militia.

A great ache came to my heart for fear that your brother had been lost.

Finally, I encountered Major Zagloba who was greeting some of the Marines, he having become a kind of weighty mascot to them.

“Reverend, good tidings! I’ll have you know my brave Marines have saved your boy! He had fallen into the hands of the British trying to save General Mercer. But my Marines charged and rescued him, taking no doubt myself as their exemplar. For I am a man, if I might say, who has never shirked the strident call of Bellona’s trumpet, who…

“But where is my son?” I insisted.

“Ah, he is with the main body of the Marine battalion. It should be following shortly.

“Now what I have is an idea for a work, an epic in the vein of Virgil or Homer, say.
I shall call it ‘Zagloba upon the Assumpink.’ All I need is some financial wherewithal, an advance to support me while I write it. If you could perhaps…”

As he prattled on, my eyes scanned for the banner of the marines. When finally I spotted it, I ran towards it, Rebecca following.

There in the midst assisted by two stout marines was David. He was wounded but not grievously. I embraced him and offered a prayer of thanksgiving that my family had survived.

Then I heard a sad drumbeat and saw the body of General Mercer being borne slowly along by his troops. General Washington rode with it, tears in his eyes but a look of determination set upon his face.

I turned to my children and said, “It seems we have paid a terrible price for our victory.”

David then quoted from memory, “’Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as Freedom should not be highly rated.’”

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Devil In Jersey: Chapter XII

In Which the Reverend Suffers Domestic Intranquility and Lord Cornwallis is outfoxed.

Excerpt from The Truest Son of Liberty, Being an Account of My Life Spent in Defense of the Rights of Man in the American, French, Polish, and Ruritanian Revolutions by Valeri Zagloba


This was the only word to describe the mood that morning as the surviving Hessians laid down their arms. We had taken the place with scarcely a thought, achieved safety for the Army, and upon encountering Mrs. Daggett, we were assured that our friends had been liberated.

Upon a more personal matter, I had gloriously led the company of Marines in a heroic advance into the heart of the enemy, suffering my most honorable wound. I believed that this grievous hurt would render me hors de combat and I should be returned to Philadelphia for an honorable convalescence after such rigors as I had endured. I began planning the menu for my first meal at the City Tavern for when I was evacuated.

Alas, this was not to be. For there was Prince Leopold presiding over the scene with blasé authority or, most likely, dull incomprehension. With great dread, I heard him call for me. I hobbled over to him and winced when he proclaimed, “Weww, Zagwoba, this was a fine mowning’s wowk! A good stawt to a fwesh campaign and a wintew one at that! Wong mawches thwough the sweet and snow, poow wations – we shaww be gnawing on wat’s bones by the end of it, I think.”

“Ah, I am sorry I shall miss all that, Highness. Do write to me all about it.”

“Nonsense! It just wouldn’t be the same without the thwee bosom companions, myself, Yap, Zagwoba, and now the couwageous Webecca!”

“That’s four companions, Highness.”

“I’m a bosom companion now? How wonderful!” cried the Reverend’s daughter, as she clapped her hands.

Miss Longwynde had been in the fight, in the thick of things it would seem, at the Prince’s side throughout. By all accounts, she had proved most adept in the application of the tomahawk axe, a skill that, I am no doubt sure, served her well during afternoon teas with the ladies of the congregation.

The girl was obviously enamored of the Prince. This was an affliction I could hardly credit but for an earlier statement by Mrs. Daggett that the Reverend’s daughter “twas at the age of bein’ man-loonie. ‘Course tis but a stage and one which I went through without ill result.” I am sure that the Reverend would not take the widow’s recommendation as comfort.

The Prince reciprocated the girl’s love with that same vaguely-aware affection that he held for a pair of comfortable bedroom slippers.

Nevertheless, he suddenly leapt from his borrowed horse and cried, “Oh my bewoved!”
Miss Longwynde nearly swooned at this. She flung her arms wide, with her eyes closed and her lips puckered like a spawning salmon.

The Prince tossed her the reins and said, “Howd this, Webecca,” and ran through the orchard toward the locus where the noble Bucephalus and the hounds, Wilkes and Barre, were trotting free onto field.

A slight look of consternation crossed her face but, as a young lady’s infatuations are irrepressible, she ran after him and latched onto his arm. To her good fortune, the animals took to her, Wilkes and Barre no doubt intrigued by the gore that covered the well-used tomahawk on her belt.

“They wike you!” and the Prince looked upon her as if for the first time, with a vague realization that he might have something to occupy his evenings besides games of piquet.

One could almost hear the voilas thrumming in the heart of Miss Longewynde at such a look. She finally said, “Oh Leopold, you are so Wonderful and Brave! And Mr. Yap has told me that you are even a slayer of witches!”

“Not onwy that, I once ate a vampiwe!”

The confusion that this last statement of the Prince produced permitted a respite from the romantic scene and I felt duty bound to interrupt it, for the safety of the species if nothing else, “Highness, we should seek Reverend Longewynde.”

“Who might that be?”

“That would be the minister, the holy man, the Protestant bobo with whom we’ve been traveling these many weeks, fighting witches and the Devil. Remember?”

“Sowwy, doesn’t wing a beww.”

“He is the father of your young admirer here.”

“That can’t be, we don’t have any Indians in our party - Wait, Yap was an Indian once. Awthough he seems to have gotten bettew. I didn’t know he had a daughtew and he’s so young wooking!”

Fortunately, we encountered Sergeant Fenniman at this point, surrounded by several of the rifleman who were slapping him upon the back and congratulating him on avoiding the hangman’s noose.

Fennimen told us that they had suffered a recent encounter with the Pine Devil and the Reverend had been sorely hurt.

“It seems that Preacher sure is partial to getting his throat ripped upon by that flying critter.”

“Well, I suppose we all need hobbies. Where might we find him?”

“We carried him up to Doc McCleane’s place. The Doc and Molly are tending to his hurts.”

So I conducted the Prince to the Doctor’s house. Rebecca accompanied us, attached to the person of the Prince as if troweled onto him by a master plasterer.

Just as I was about to remonstrate on the two youngsters to control themselves in the presence of her father, a strange feeling came over me and I could scarce control my own actions. Despite my wound, I bounded over the snow rushing to the site of relief from the travails and hurts I had endured.

I smelled food!

Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett

Chapter the Fourth
How I Become an Honest Woman, Continued

So after we had fed them Hessians a right dish of blue lead plumbs, I went to looking for the good Reverend and the rest of me friends, not knowing if the Devil had ottomized the lot of them.

As fortune had it, they had pulled a rum bite on the thing and got away clean. All that tis save the Reverend who got knocked again when he tried to give the creature a shrove bath in the frozen stream. This did him no good and his wounds, but recently begun to heal, were opened again. He had fell into a swoon and thus Zizzy had to carry him to Doctor McC’s house.

There they laid him upon a day bed in the library. I arrived just in time to aid the Doctor and we went to work upon heartily, with much cupping and bleeding and the occasional purgative. Thus with all this quacksalvering, the Reverend seemed to be recovering.

When once he twas settled, I said to him, “Ye know Reverend, even the Lord took the seventh day as a day of rest.”

“But Satan did not so neither shall I.”

Twas then I noticed a strange sound coming from the dining room, sort of like a pig what got into tinsmith’s trashheap. When I went to see what could be the cause, there I saw Major Zed with a legion of plates afore him, and taking in the grub like a well-handled pump takin in bilge water. It seems that the Hessians had used the house as their headquarters and they held a fine Christmas revel the night afore. All the remnants of that feast twere now hastily disappearing into the Major’s slush pit.

Between slurps and gulps, he let on that the Prince twould be along presently with someone the Reverend would be right glad to see.

Then in comes the diddle-pated royal and clinging to him twas little Rebecca, looking quite the dells and randified for the beetle-headed Leopold.

Twas a good thing that the Reverend had lost so much blood, for sure he looked like to shat fire at the sight of his little deary so familiar with the spongy-headed noble.

“Father?” she said somewhat sheepishly.

Afore the Reverend could say a word, up spoke the barnacle-brain, “This isn’t youw fathew! Yap is outside.”

Major Zed drew his palm o’er his face, “No highness, this is Miss Rebecca’s adoptive father, Reverend Longewynde. You know, he with whom we have been battling the forces of Hell?”

“Wongewynde? Wondgewynde? Sowwy, sounds a bit familiaw but I can’t quite pwace it.”

“Oh, dear Leopold. You shall have ever so much time to make his acquaintance. You are always welcome in our house. Perhaps when the Army goes into winter quarters, you could stay with us?”

Now, in my time, I have used my small medicinal skills to treat many a sufferer and these included those afflicted with apoplexy. Never have I seen such a case as what the Reverend entered now.

After much a deep-throated growl, he did seem to gather control of himself and asked, “Prince, how long have you been acquainted with my daughter?”

“Why just this evening and this morning but I feew wike I’ve known hew a wifetime - that’s how it goes when one is engaged in vewy hot wowk.”

The Reverend grabbed one of Doc McC’s lancets and tried to lunge at the clapdoodle but we restrained him, which we achieved only due to the Reverend’s weakened state.

“Don’t be upset, father. David and I and the Associators, they are militiamen from Philadelphia with whom we had joined, rescued him. Mr. Bozarth came and fetched us and told us that they were taking a General to be a prisoner in New York. So we lay in ambush along the road to rescue him, the General that is, not Mr. Bozarth who acted as our guide. Then along came the wagon but before we could do anything, dear Leopold had rescued himself and all the rest. He single-handedly dispatched a whole troop of dragoons. And in the fight today, he was amazing! And Brilliant! He’s the best General in our Army!

“God preserve the United States,” I mumbled.

“And he’s been a perfect gentleman. Absolutely perfect!”

Through clenched jaws, the Reverend eked out the question, “How came you to be with the militia.”

Oh, Saints preserve us, she launched in a long rambling tale about Brother David and Mr. Paine’s pamphlet and running off to join the Philadelphia Associators since the Reverend had forbid he join the Lancaster militia. Sure, the harangue ‘twould a lasted past Pentecost had not the Reverend interrupted and asked, “Where is David now?”

“Why, he is still upon his duty. His is an ensign among our battalion.

Major Zed, having cleared all the tables and the pantry, decided now to intervene and at least draw off one source of the Reverend’s consternation, “My
Prince, perhaps we might go and fetch Ensign Longewynde. I am sure his father has much to discuss with him.”

“Is he Yap’s child too?”

There twas a pause, “…. Yes, Highness, yes he is. He’s also a red Indian whose real name is Hiawatha.”

"Weawwy? The things you weawn! Also, I’m feewing a bit peckish. Do you think we couwd stop for some corn?

“Oh, be my guest, Highness.”

As the two Ruritanians left, I too stepped out on the porch, so as to give the Reverend a chance to speak fatherly to his errant daughter. Just beyond the door, Fenniman sat upon the porch, sharing some corn liquor with a few other riflemen. As they saw the Prince approach the first privy in the yard next door, they asked, “Say, Gabriel, aint that there the General you be friends with?

Seeing the Prince emerge from the privy, stuffing a corncob into his mouth, Fenniman responded glumly, “Sorry, I never saw that feller in my life.”

Just then, the Prince stopped and he looked like a hound what had just got up
a scent.

“Wongewynde! Of couwse! He’s the Bobo! And Webecca’s his daughter, the Indian owphan he wescued! I can be such a goose sometimes.”

“Yes, Highness. We all stand in marvel of your Anserinean proclivities.”

“Why thank you, Zagwoba!”

Then they sauntered down the street, the Prince completely forgetful of his offering to fetch young Master David to his father.

Afore long, I could hear the Reverend in high words with Miss Rebecca and so went in to soothe the man before he ruptured something. I shuffled her off to a room in the house that the Reverend insisted she be locked in.

I assured him that he should take comfort in knowing that a fool like the Prince could never have kept his scant wits about him long enough to gain purchase of his daughter’s doddle sack in so short a time. We had but to distract the Prince and he ‘twould soon forget all about Rebecca’s infatuation. I suggested we lay in a good store of shiny objects for to have Leopold play fetch with whene’er an amorous occasion suggested it self.

The Reverend’s wrath seemed somewhat assuaged by this but he still fretted about his son’s disobedience.

We were distracted from this reverie by a great booming voice that could be heard in the foyer.

“All right! Where’s that right Jessie of an Edinburgh sawbones. First time I am to his home and he too high and mighty to greet a colleague! Got his nose deep in them indecent French romance books he fancies so, I’ll wager!”

Zizzy then brought into the library a slight man in uniform. This gentleman he introduced as the good General Mercer. As I later learned, this worthy twas a familiar of both Doctor McC and the Reverend for Mercer had been a surgeon since his youth in Scotland, where he had fought for Bonnie Charlie Stuart, and had as well as soldiered in the last war against the French. He was also a member of the American Philosophical Society and so not at all unfamiliar with the matter upon which we were engaged.

Though slight and older than the Reverend, he twas a fine figure of a man with a full head of hair and a ready smile upon his lips.

Upon seeing the Reverend and the Doctor, the General’s eyes brightened e’en more, “A glorious, fine day, is it not? I’ve not seen a day like this since I was with Bonnie Charlie when he ran old Johnny Cope into the coals at Prestopans! And now to be reunited with my old friends! So what brings two pen-pushing book-worms such as yerselves to the middle of a campaign. Reverend, I thought ye gave up the army life some time ago?”

Doctor McC and the Reverend then acquainted Mercer with all that had transpired to us this month past and especially the danger that twas presented the Patriot cause now that the British had possession of moldy old Mother Leeds. They related how the traitorous Dalby had taken the corpse to the Academy at Princeton and there, by reviving her from her grave, gaining the opportunity to control the Devil.

Twas then the Reverend reached the crux of the matter, “Cold Iron, properly wrought, seems to have an effect on the creature. If we could fashion weapons from it, we may be able to injure the creature long enough to destroy the mother’s body and send the thing back to hell. Our problem is the finding of it and the manner in which it is rendered to a sacred purpose. I recall that you have made something of a study of the substance. Can you help us?”

The smile had vanished from the General’s face as this narrative continued. Finally, he sighed deeply and said, “Tis evil, true evil that walks this earth.

“Aye, I have indeed over my life made a study of Cold Iron, the finding and the fashioning of it. Though you can find this metal in the ground of holy places, oft where the pagans had set their shrines, I have found the most efficacious Cold Iron may be obtained from metal taken from the falling stars. To that end, I have made a collection of some pounds of the stuff, collected by me over many years and at great expense. Nevertheless, it shall be yours to fight this great evil.

“But I shall have need of the aid of a trained alchemist in the rendering of it.”

“I have one with me,” responded the Reverend.

“Ye do travel prepared, Longewynde.”

The Reverend then presented Madame Frog-eater, “This is she, Madame de Bauffremont.”

“Ye do indeed come prepared! But, lady, I fear I heard ye called ‘Madame’?”

“I am afraid so, my General. My husband is presently in India serving our king.”

“Happy America that he is half a world away.”

“Oh, my General!” Madame fairly gushed but I found it not so strange, Mercer being the type as to inspire that in a woman, “I hope to hear that you yourself might be a bachelor?”

“Sorry, my lass, I regret to say that I have been married these many years and my Isabella is tavern-owner’s daughter. If I left her, who would keep me in whisky?”

There twas much laughter at this and the room seemed somehow brighter with the jolly Scotsman therein.

Finally, Mercer said, “Well, Samuel, ye must get yer lazy bones out of bed for we have much to do and it will take some time.”

“I fear we do not have time, Hugh,” returned the Reverend in his usual sour manner. “The Devil is already away to Princeton and Dalby has had possession of the Leeds body for near two days now.”

“Now, Samuel, to go at this rashly would be worse than delay. I think we shall have time enough. Ye said yerself that just having the body of the mother grants no special purchase upon the creature, that it merely acts as an attractive force. Until the mother is brought to some semblance of life, the thing remains a simple beast, formidable though it might be.

“As you well know, the re-animation of a corpse for anything more than to act as a mindless drudge is not an easy thing. Even with the powers that ye suggest Dalby and his associates possess, it will take some time and doing. After all, it took Our Lord three days to rise from the dead. I doubt if a common witch could better the Son of God.”

“That’s blasphemy, Hugh…but there is reason in what you say. What do you suggest?”

“Afore you go back hunting, which has left ye so much worse for the wear, we shall need to prepare, not just the Cold Iron but a means to get into Princeton. Even as we speak, the alarums are going out throughout West Jersey of our attack here. Princeton soon shall be crawling with the King’s men for that town is a central point in their defenses here. I shall inform Washington straight away and we shall see how to proceed.”

He took his leave but a very short time later, Washington himself came to the house, Mercer being a long time intimate of His Excellency and his word being the Gospel to the Great Commander.

So, a great host of Generals came trooping in. I marveled at how many there twere in such a small army but the stars were on occasion given out as a sort of booby prize it seemed, Leopold being the prime exemplar. There twas Washington himself, and Mercer together with Sullivan, and Greene. Lord Sterling too was present - sure another thing the army had in abundance twas Scotsmen. General Knox, the head of artillery who could give Major Zed a run at the money when it came to girth, also presented his expansive self. And of course, in came Leopold.

I could hear muffled cries of excitement from Rebecca’s locked bedroom when she heard his voice.

“Wevewand, I amd pwoud to say that I wemembew you now! You awe the deviw huntew with the weawwy pwetty daughtew!”

This last observation twas delivered with such lecherous inflection, that despite the august visitors, the Reverend could not help but make as if to wring the Prince’s neck and twould have succeeded had he not been barred by the mutual fatness of Knox and Major Zed what completely blocked the front of the library.

Before more hurley could ensue, Washington called all to order, whilst Mercer gave the Prince one of the Doctor’s indecent French novels as a distraction.

“General Mercer has explained to me the danger we face and I shall endeavor to render any assistance I can but my first duty is to the Army. I do believe both our objectives can be achieved. I had planned to retire across the Delaware and so take this army out of danger. Instead, your predicament may present an additional opportunity. Princeton is a strong magazine for the British. We can expect that General Cornwallis shall soon be gathering his forces there for a strike against us. We shall therefore hold this place, dare Cornwallis to come against us and offer him the opportunity, by destroying this army, to put an end to our cause. Cornwallis would never reject this. Therefore, we prompt him to come against us. We can fortify the heights across the Assunpink.”

Sullivan spoke up, “But General Washington, Cornwallis can bring eight or nine thousand against us and we have little more than three thousand. Even with the best positions, we can never hope to defeat him.”

“We do not need to defeat him, only delay. Goad him on against us, so that his army lumbers against us for the sure kill. We harry him and harry him until he reaches this place but only as the sun sets. His exhausted men will need rest before assaulting our formidable line. Then during the night, we shall steal away, on back roads, and sweep down upon the skeleton garrison at Princeton. We shall gain the supplies while the Reverend here deals with his …problem.”

There twas much palavering o’er this plan but in the end Washington’s word twas law. As the meeting broke up, the Reverend asked to speak with Washington alone. Being a good housemaid, I retired only far enough that I could still hear what transpired between them.

“Your Excellency, I have but one request. In the coming fight, order my son to stay behind the lines.”

“Reverend, I am not one to preach, I am a simple farmer. I do not doubt that your request is motivated solely by love for your children. But how would it be if your father came to me and requested that I keep you from pursuing this demon? Your son has come to this army from a sense of duty, to fight tyranny. These are times when no one is safe, when our hopes for a better future rest not upon what refuge we might obtain but upon the sacrifices that we are willing to endure. To this, many of us, your son included, have pledged, as our Declaration says, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. Each of us must make that decision for ourselves.”

After Washington left, the Reverend twas most silent and deep in thought for while. Finally, Master David came, no thanks to the blank-nobbed Prince. The Reverend had me release Rebecca from her room and the three closeted themselves in the library for some time, behind closed doors. What transpired betwixt them there I know not but twas a quiet thing. When all was done, they showed the sign of tears and twere embracings which is a thing the Reverend is not in the habit of bestowing.

“Mrs. Daggett, when the time comes, Master David shall return to his regiment. Miss Rebecca shall accompany me to Princeton…she has the way of her people about her and I think shall be of great assistance.”

Then the Reverend turned to his son and said, “In the battles to come, stay close to Prince Leopold. He has a most ungodly ability to avoid misfortune.”

With that, Master David took his leave. After he had gone, I said to Zizzy, “Ye know it seems ta me that whilst the Prince is Fortune’s Favorite, those about him take the worst of the lumps.”

“Why do you think I am not to be near the Prince in the combats we have having been. It reminds of when I was in the Prussian Army, at the Battle of Kolin, there was cuirassier named von Feltzer who…”

Sweet Jesu spare us, the man then went into a harangue about some lucky Cabbage-eater for nigh onto twenty minutes. A good thing I learned how to sleep on me feet for I had a fine nap all the while.

For the next week, all be hustle and burley. Washington’s army went and dug in on the ridge to the south of Pink-Ass Creek whilst Mercer and the Madame went to work in the Doctor’s experimentationing room.

During the time, many of the Continentals left for home, their enlistments expiring. Those that remained did so on account of a bonus that Washington paid out from his own pocket. In addition, many militia came over from Pennsylvania and the Jerseymen were stirring after the victory at Trenton. Twas said that as the Cornwallis tried to gather the scattered garrisons, they were harried from one end of the province to tother. Meg Dalby and Gloomy Bozarth proved especially adept at bringing word of this and scouting the vicinity about generally, the former no doubt due to the time she spent in fruitless search for the Leeds tomb and the latter because the British could scarce believe that anyone so sulky could summon the enthusiasm to be a spy.

Upon New Years Day, Madame announced that they had completed their preparation and had rendered up a dozen or so Cold Iron bullets as well as a dagger and axe blade. With this, we prepared to fight the might of Hell.

The next day word finally came that Cornwallis had gathered the scattered army and was coming upon our scarce four thousand with o’er nine thousand men. ‘Twould be less than a day’s hard march for him but one that we intended to make much harder.

A strong brigade was to be sent out to delay the redcoats. This work needed a commander of spirit and dash but also judgment. What it got twas incompetent Fermoy and doltish Prince Leopold. Still twas a good body of men, Hand’s rifles with Fennimen along, the Marines, some light infantry, and the Associators including young David. These would take position a few miles up the road and draw back slowly as the lobsterbacks came on.

Twas the Reverend who asked to add to this force, seeking part of the dragoons of the Philadelphia City Troop to go afore Fermoy’s troops to create e’en more havoc and by this doing so to permit him to gain close to Princeton. As endorsement, he offered they be guided by the famous Black Meg and shown the work by one of Great Frederick’s cavalrymen. There’ll be no living with the onion-eyed puttock now, thought I when I realized it twas to Zizzy that the Reverend referred. Still, I must admit that Zizzy cut a fine figure on horseback and I found meself imagining how he must have appeared in tight hussar’s breeches.

Perhaps with this on me mind, I refused to be left behind. Zizzy seemed of late to be fair sniffing around the soon-to-be-widowed Mrs. Dalby and I had to be sure to keep me options open and available.

Just afore we rode out, Mercer came to the Reverend to wish him well and to offer him a fine stone charm, an amulet carved all about with thick Scotch knots. He said to the Reverend, “This last has been the charm of my family, passed down through the ages since the Mercers were painting themselves blue I’d reckon. It has been my own good luck, through all the wars in which I fought, since the ’45 through nine years against the French and Indians and now against the Crown. Ye shall need all the aid that ye can gainst this creature and more gainst its mother.”

The Reverend took it with a silent look of thanks and we were off.

We went up the road ten miles or so till we caught site of a small village straddling
the road that showed the obvious signs of holding a British garrison. Bozarth pointed to it and said twas called ‘Maidenhead.’

“Tis sure queer for a maidenhead to be intact after having a battalion of troopers in it!” exclaimed I.

“Not another word, Mrs. Daggett!” scolded the Reverend, “With the business we are about, we dare not risk such casual ribaldry!”

We took concealment in a wood nearby. Soon enough we could hear and then see a great column of troops coming down the road. First twere some red-coated dragoons who we let pass by. Some light bobs followed, not much on their guard nor pushing out flankers this far from Trenton. Sure, Bozarth knew his business for he hid us well in the wood until the main body was marching past.

We sprung out then, blazing away with carbines and with a quick huzzah, gave them a taste of steel for their morning walk. We cut down a small number and then twere off running to the next hiding place.

We served them thus two times more and the confusion we wrought twas far more than our numbers should have permitted, with us suffering but few lost. After a few miles more, we passed through Fermoy’s troops marching up to place the next and far larger ambuscade.

Zizzy reported to Fermoy that Cornwallis twas approaching. The Frenchman gained a queer look on his face, vomited, then turned his horse about and ran off back toward Trenton.

Leopold fumed, “Oh that is quite enough!” The dolt then proceeded to order the troops into position, Hand’s riflemen, including Fenniman, into some trees and rocks to the left of the road and some light infantry behind a stone wall on the right. He drew up the Associators across the road itself somewhat back from tother troops but visible to the enemy. Then he ordered the Marines to conceal themselves on the flank of the Associators to waylay the redcoats when they came to engage the militia. He then ordered that the tall trees lining the road be readied to fall upon his command.
We sat amazed not only at the wisdom of his dispositions but also that his orders were delivered with utmost clarity. The Doctor said, “Prince, I am amazed, your speech is unimpaired?”

“This is a real battle, Doctor, and I am in command. I do not have time for my speech impediment today!”

Madame spoke quietly to this, “I have seen the likes in France. We use the term “idiot savant.”

Twas then that the Reverend and his daughter took their leave and turned towards Princeton, saying that the British were attending solely upon their march and the coming fight so he would be able to reach Princeton clandestine now. Madame and the Doctor said they would also go with him, the two not being used to a brawl like this twould serve better in the struggle supernatural soon to come.

Madame was gracious as she left, “Madame Daggett, I bid you adieu and bon chance. Until we meet again in Princeton or in Hell. Either way, it shall be a fine dance, n’es pas?”

She might have been a frog-eating strumpet but I’ll grant she did have style.

The Prince directed the dragoons to the rear to act as reserve and to cover the eventual retreat. As we went, I noted the Marines crouched in a ditch by the side of the road, and some distance behind, I saw a familiar round belly sticking out teither side of a stout oak.

“Major Zed,” I shouted, “What do ye do back there?”

“Why I am leading this body of men, my dear.”

“And how are ye going to do that from way back there?”

“Mrs. Daggett, I’ll have you know that if these men are heavily engaged this day, I shall behind them every step of the way.”

Major Zed might be a gore-bellied glutton, a blowhard, and a poltroon, but no one could call him a fool.

We stood with the dragoons on a slight rise back from the road and so had as clear a view of the fight as if we were in the front rank at a Jockey Club race.

Thus, twas about midday, we heard the first of Cornwallis men coming down the road.

As before, the redcoat dragoons led the way. These, seeing the militia in their way and eager to come to grips with their tormentors, leapt into a charge.

Ordinarily, this twould have been enough to send the militia into a rabbit chase but Leopold was with them and instead of running, they served the cavalry a course of several volleys. In a moment, the few who retained their horses were bolting to the rear.

Now, Cornwallis twas no fool. The next up were the light bobs, thrown out in skirmish order on either side of the road. The first few of these were shot down by the riflemen and our own lights but soon enough numbers began to tell and our boys pulled back but a pace or two.

Whilst this occurred, several battalions of regulars had formed into lines across the road and pushed forward against the militia. As the first of these came within pistol shot, as planned, a great tree fell behind them. Whilst they suffered in disorder from this, the militia fired a few more volleys into them and off the regulars ran.

The next battalion came on and used the fallen tree as a rampart and fired a volley into the militia. Even the charm of the taggle-headed Prince could not keep these in line and they bolted away, leaving Leopold and Master David standing in the middle of the road by themselves.

Proving yet again how temporary his wisdom had been, Leopold kicked Bucephalus into a charge and the hounds came yapping after. Master David stared for a moment and then jumped into the ditch where hid the Marines, no doubt thinking that one more disobedience of his father hardly mattered now.

Now I should ne’er have believed this had I not seen it with me own peepers but Leopold fairly soared along the road and his great steed leapt over the downed tree and into the midst of the redcoats behind it. They must have fired a hundred balls at him if they shot one but nair a scratch came to him or his animals. Then he twas amongst them with much slashing and hacking and biting from both his animals and himself. In a wee bit, the redcoats broke here too, running for their lives. Then another tree fell in the road blocking their path. For Hand’s rifleman had had the better of things gainst the green-coated Hessians and were working on the flanks of this battalion. A right slaughter ensued with the redcoats caught betwixt the marksmen and the blood-thirsty Prince until those that were not slain had run off as best they could.

There followed a moment’s peace and we could see that the King’s men twere shaking themselves out into formal battle array. This twould take some time to accomplish but already their big guns twere being run out and heavy shot began to play into the road and the woods.

With a show of reluctance, Leopold ordered a retreat. Colonel Hand told off a company of riflemen under Fenniman to head north direct to Princeton to aid our friends already there.

We thus fell back, the Marines covering the retreat and occasionally Hand’s riflemen making a stand here and there, always dropping a couple or more of the redcoats as what got too close. Even the Associators would stand for a bit as long as they had cover and no nonsense about charging the enemy.

Betimes, some of the lobsterbacked light bobs got ahead of our flanks and twas the duty of the dragoons to chase them back. I found this to be good sport for even the best infantryman cannot singly stand against a horseman, or in my case, a horse woman, especially when she knows how to breath flaming rum punch in their faces. Which is not to boast of being an equestrian for I never did see the attraction to the beasts that Russian Catherine is said to have had but I can ride a pony as sure as any girl raised in Connacht, especially when riding pinion.

We finally got back to Trenton near to sunset, as twas planned. By this point, despite our best efforts, we twere hard pressed by the British whose blood was well up by now. There twas some confusion as we crossed the single bridge o’er the Pink-ass Creek but General Washington twas there himself making sure there twas no panic.

When the General saw Leopold cross, he congratulated the boy on the excellence of his command this day but then his face darkened when he noticed stains down the front of the Prince’s coat, “That is blood on you, Prince, are you wounded?”

“No, it’s just something I ate.”

The first British lights got a snootful of lead when they came too close to the bridge and were soon run off. Then the Hessians tried twice to retrieve the honor their comrades lost here a week afore but to no avail. Finally, the British themselves tried to cross but soon left a lobster-colored carpet at the crossing.

With it being full dark and the night turning to a freeze, the British drew off a bit, no doubt promising that the morrow twould bring the reckoning to yon damnable rebels.
Twas then that Washington said, “Now we shall all go to Princeton.