Friday, August 3, 2012

A Devil in Jersey: Chapter I

In Which the Reverend Longwynde Renews Old Acquaitances and Makes Several New Ones

Retreat of the Continental Army into the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

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

…Thus, upon receipt of this missive from Doctor Franklin, I immediately began to prepare for my journey. I confided in Mr. Zizendorf the purpose and nature of our journey along with its attendant dangers. To which he responded quite calmly by suggesting that he should pack me several extra sets of small clothes.

Mrs. Dagget was altogether more animated. Then again, I have rarely found her to be without words. She has maintained a rather unfortunate tendency to use the vernacular of her previous life, such as when some of the elder ladies of the congregation gathered at our house for a tea she welcomed them with the colorful phrase, “Put your arse at anchor, I’ll have the scandal broth piping a minute.”

She had just seen off several of Rebecca’s young suitors, with a broken half bottle in her hand and a murderous look in her eye while Rebecca retreated, weeping, to her room. When she saw me, her mood became much brighter and she smiled and said, “Have no worry, Your Worship, those young rantallions will get nair e’en a dogs’ portion of your fair girl, that is to say, a lick and a sniff, let alone a chance to cleave the narrow channels.” I feared I did not understand this last but was more afraid to inquire as what exactly she might mean.

Thus I proceeded to provide her a glimpse what our journey would bring and she responded with a much more lively exclamations than I had heard from my manservant.

Within the hour, Mr. Zizzendorf announced that the carriage was readied. I am still quite amazed by the alacrity and skill he shows in such matters for all our baggage was packed and loaded, bound by knots of the most uniform nature. When I remarked on this, Mr. Zizendorf replied phlegmatically, “General von Siedlitz always insisted on having his baggage in order for the march in the shortest time possible. If it did not meet his expectations, he began shooting the digits off the orderly who so failed.”

At this, Mrs. Dagget remarked, “I can well surmise what digit it was that you lost, ye Turkish eunuch.”

“I have never had the occasion to be shot by the General!” was the outraged reply.

“Too small a target I suppose,” retorted Mrs. Dagget.

I ended this discussion before the two could come to blows by asking them to assist Sergeant Fenniman into the carriage. You will be pleased to know that the good Sergeant has made a fine recovery and was desirous of returning to the Army for further service. I do concur with your judgment that he is a most admirable man, full of energy despite his prolonged illnesses.

Just as we were about to set off, another disturbance raised its head.

Now I have become reconciled to your disobedience in joining the Continentals but I must say that your actions continue to create troubles for me every day. For the recent British successes have resulted in the calling out of all the County’s militia for a defense of Philadelphia and your brother David had been besieging me to allow him go. So it was that as a farewell he once again renewed his plea.

“But, Father,” he said, “John Wagner, Timothy Upton, and Walter Eberstark are all going. Shall I be the only one left here at home?”

“With your brother gone and I leaving on this journey, who shall look after our farm? I need you here now. Perhaps next year, we may discuss this again.”

David put on a surly face and replied morosely, “But a year from now, the war may be all over and I will have missed it all.”

“There shall always be more wars. You are destined for a far greater struggle, more important than the fight against some petty earthly tyrant, but a war against the Evils of Hell itself. For this, you must conserve your strength and your sanity, not fritter it away in such squabbles.”

“But how will I face the greater evil if I have known not the struggles amongst men. And what glory is there in crawling about in dark spaces, killing vermin, though devilish vermin they be?”

At this, I grew cross and shouted that it was not a matter of glory but virtue and saving what is best in the souls of men that counts.

He looked dejected but said no further. Would his sister knew such discretion.
She said, “I hoped that you will allow David to go along with the rest of the County men. Then, as befits a good neighbor, I could journey to the camp to visit and provide aid and comfort to our valiant men. Why I promised I would write to Johnny Wagner, and Timothy Upton, and Jack Greenway, and Louis Hitzig…How much better if I could visit them in person!”

“You ask my permission to become a camp follower, daughter!”

“Why no, Father, it would be most proper since Mrs. Dagget act as my chaperone.”

I stood in shock at this suggestion and Mr. Zizendorf saved me from further disquiet by announcing that we should be off while the weather still held. I therefore commanded that no further discussion would I brook on the matter. I then mumbled a hasty farewell and said that we would be off.

Even this did not end the terrible start of this journey. When Zizendorf, who was attending all of us on our entry to the carriage, attempted to assist Mrs. Dagget to climb onto the rear box seat of the carriage I could here her call out, “Go to, you jumped up catch fart, there’ll be no sniffin’ about my tuzzy wuzzy even if ye had the coin and codpiece for it, ye son of a Gomorrah rope puller.”

So in much tumult of spirit, far more for what I left behind than what I faced ahead, we set off.

The journey took us the better part of five days. The weather, as was to be expected, none too accommodating with much sleet and snow and the road alternating between mud and ice.

All along the journey, we encountered numerous carriages and wagons fleeing Philadelphia with the travelers therein speaking in fear and exaggerated terms of General Cornwallis’ advance at the head of countless hordes of rampaging lobster backs and savage Hessians. We also saw numerous troops of militia marching in more or less order to stand as the last line of defense for our home. Having served with the King’s troops in the last war, I was certain these half-trained and half-equipped farm boys could not stop the British veterans.

Sergeant Fenniman agreed stating the opinion that only Washington’s army stood any chance but they were now so outnumbered and so oft beaten that little real hope remained of stopping the British. Still the Sergeant wished mightily to be with his comrades at the end. I suggested that he attend with me upon Doctor Franklin who, as a member of Congress, might have the best knowledge of the whereabouts of General Washington’s Army.

We arrived, much wearied in Philadelphia late in the afternoon. Rather than approach Doctor Franklin so late in the day, I directed Mr. Zizendorf to take us to Mrs. Dailey’s boarding house on the Market Street. Mrs. Dailey was as welcoming as ever although she did seem to keep a particular eye upon Mrs. Dagget, never allowing the poor young woman a moment out of her sight. The house was empty, Mrs. Dailey informing us that most of her guests, many associated with the Congress, had fled with that body to Baltimore. I sent a message to Doctor Franklin who responded that he would gladly see me first thing in the morning.

So, the next day, not far after dawn, we made our way to Franklin’s house which was but a short walk from our lodgings. There was a large wagon in front and several workmen were loading large crates and barrels into it. Obviously, the Doctor was embarked upon some considerable journey.

Closeted with Doctor Franklin

Doctor Franklin’s Negro servant George met us at the door and showed us to the study. We could hear an ethereal music coming from the room. Within was Dr Franklin at his glass armonica. As audience were a man and a woman. The man I instantly recognized as Doctor McCleane, a physician whom I had met during the last war and with whom I became much more acquainted due to our membership in the Philosophical Society. I presumed his presence had something to do with Doctor Franklin’s summons.

The lady was something of a mystery. She was a striking woman about thirty, wearing a very rich dress of foreign cut and a finely turned out wig of some intricacy but not with that heaviness of cosmetics that one often sees on the faces of the wealthy.
I assumed her to be one of his conquests. Now being a sinner I can scarce claim to be shocked by the sins of others and Dr. Franklin’s failings in the matter of the ladies are well known. But I was shocked that he would flaunt his amore so openly. Mrs. Franklin was nowhere in evidence.

Doctor Franklin rose to greet us upon our entry. He was most effusive in his welcome, “Ah, my dear Reverend, how gratified I am that you were able to come on such short notice at such a time of year. You know, of course, our colleague, Doctor McCleane. And this is Madame de Bauffremont, a visitor from France, she is a student of philosophy of considerable talent and has come to me in the role of my … pupil. I have been imparting to her what little knowledge of Nature I possess. She may be of assistance in our discussion….Her husband unfortunately is detained by duty to his King in India.”

I introduced Sergeant Fennimen and told Doctor Franklin of his desire to rejoin his regiment. Franklin looked him over appraisingly and said, “Yes, I think we might have a way for the Sergeant to return to the duty to his country. First, however, you must forgive my haste, for we must get down to the business hastily. I leave upon the evening tide for a journey to France to take up the cause of our country as an ambassador to King Louis.”

At this, he indicated that Doctor McCleane had been the originator of the summons, seeking advice upon a most troubling matter.

Thus the good physician began, “As you know, I have these many years been well settled in the town of Trenton in the province of New Jersey. Nearby to Trenton, less than ten miles, is a small village called Crosswicks, hard by the Great Pine Barrens. I visit it upon occasion to treat some of the inhabitants therein. It is a small place but of considerable age, with the settlement there dating to the time when the Dutch ruled from New Amsterdam.

Over the past three months, three household have been attacked and the inhabitants all slain. At first, it was thought to have been the work of those brigands, the Pine Robbers, who trouble that region from time to time. However, upon examination, the victims were slain in a manner savage and horrible, even of an unnatural nature, the bodies having been torn asunder in a manner to suggest that some beast had done so. There were in fact the tracks of a single great beast found near the cabins of the slain but they do not comport with those of any beast known to those woods. And these tracks simply vanished in mid stride, a few feet from the sites of the murders.

I have been told that the general feeling in the village now is that the crimes have been committed by a creature that had troubled the village some decades ago, the terrible offspring of a Mrs. Leeds. Some forty years ago and more, she dwelt in the village and was reputed to have been of suspicious character, perhaps even a witch. She had twelve children and said, it was thought in jest, that should she bear another child, it would surely be that of the Devil himself. Shortly thereafter, her husband, Japhet Leeds, was found dead in the woods, his body hanging from a tree. Mrs. Leeds was at the time, bearing her thirteenth child. Nine months later, she entered into her confinement on a stormy night supported by certain women of the village. The child was born appearing as a normal child, but then in a few moments changed in form to that of a creature with hooves, a horses head, bat wings, and a forked serpent’s tail. It flew up the chimney and out of the cabin, circled the village, and disappeared into the Pines. Thereafter, it returned and terrorized Mother Leeds’ neighbors who were convinced that the woman had made a pact with Lucifer himself. The village clergyman, Reverend Hadley, performed some manner of exorcism, managing to banish the thing to the Barrens. He may have also had a hand in killing Mother Leeds herself who died about this time. The cost for the Reverend himself, it seems, proved to be terrible for he soon after went mad and died himself, perhaps by his own hand. Since that time, there have been sightings of the creature but always well within the forest, never beyond it and never has it attacked. If the recent murders have been the work of this creature, it has somehow escaped the bonds set for it by Reverend Hadley.”

When Doctor McCleane concluded, Franklin himself spoke up, “I have concluded it likely that this creature is the cause of the trouble in Crosswicks. I also have reason to suspect that this change may have been wrought intentionally by a man. Worse, that man may likely be my own son, the erstwhile Royal Governor of New Jersey, that bastard, William.

“As you may know he has been taken into custody for his communications with General Howe and is being held in confinement in Connecticut. You would have no reason to know that he was apprehended in the very same vicinity of the troubles, just within the Barrens near Crosswicks. And he was not alone. It was said another man, described as fair haired and pale complected, was with him at the time but vanished into thin air.

“Let me explain further. When my son William and I dwelt in London, we were once invited to that infamous establishment, the Hellfire Club. I had heard its reputation, of course, but went along to honor the request of an acquaintance. William, showing more curiosity than discretion, accompanied me. Rather than a simple house of debauchery that I thought it, I soon ascertained there was a far darker purpose to the place for its members seemed to be dabbling with the Dark Arts. They tried to recruit me to their evil but I resisted and never visited the place again nor had communications with any of its habitués. I fear my son may have, without my knowledge, maintained a connection to them. This would explain much as to the failing of his character. I believe this mysterious pale man was from the Hellfire Club and conspired with my son to gain control of the creature in the Pines and to use it against our country’s interest.

Franklin took up a sheet of paper and said “Reverend, this is the reason I have called you here. As the last member of the Congress left in Philadelphia, I give you this commission to seek out this creature and prevent it from committing further harm. I further direct you to ascertain what role the agents of the King may have had it and foil their designs. Will you accept this commission?”

I agreed with alacrity, knowing that God, in His Wisdom, has placed me on this earth for just such service.

I did add one request, “Since this seems to be a creature of the woods, I would ask Sergeant Fennimen, who is skilled as a woodsman, to join me in this task.”

Fennimen had grown pale from the revelations just made but his jaw became set and he replied, “I hunted polecat and bear, and wild red Injins. I never hunted no devil none but if it be in the wood, I will surely catch it for you, or I ain’t Bess Fenniman’s son.”

Franklin nodded his head approvingly and added, “Good man! And you both shall have further assistance.”

I could then see that Franklin now grew more pensive, “If you would indulge me, Reverend and walk with me a short while, to the City Tavern. There is someone in residence there that you must meet.”

As I agreed, I heard Mrs. Dagget call out from the chamber below, “Tavern? Tavern? If Your Worship be going to a tavern, sure you’ll be needing a guide, one who knows her way about such places!”

Rather than create a further hullaballoo, I nodded agreement as Franklin, McCleane, Fenniman, and I left the house.

It was but a short walk to the City Tavern, as fine an establishment as there is in Philadelphia. Along the way, Franklin took me by the arm and whispered, “Samuel, I must impose further upon you in this matter. My time here is short and I must tie you a few loose ends as they say.”

“Madame de Bauffremont has been a most agreeable …student and guest. However, I understand she is under something of cloud with the French Court. Hardly could I establish my credentials in Paris if I was encumbered by such an acquaintance. She may not accompany me to France but I fear what might befall her if left her here, especially, as I frankly expect, the British capture the city. She needs a protector and I ask you to take on that role.

“Now, don’t look at me so, Samuel. She is quite intelligent, not frivolous at all. She also has considerable knowledge of the Art and I am sure you will find her quite useful in this endeavor.”

I could not hide my consternation, “Is this the additional ‘assistance’ you promised?”

“Why no, Samuel, not at all. We shall meet him presently. Are you perhaps familiar with the country of Ruritania?”

“A small nation, between Austria and Turkey, is it not?”

“Precisely, with a royalty that mimics some of the refinements of the West. One of the younger sons of her present King, Prince Leopold, has taken a fancy to serve the cause of liberty. Congress granted him a generalcy, strictly honorary of course, in deference to his royal father. A charming young man, very full of courage, he placed himself in harm’s way during the fighting on Long Island and so fell prisoner. He has recently been released upon parole but it is unlikely that he will be exchanged soon given the state of the war as it stands. I fear that, out of boredom, he may return to Europe. This must be prevented. The more there is aristocratic participation in our cause, the more likely the rest of Europe, especially France, will take an interest and assist us. You will see, he has already proven his valor and shall be of great assistance. His servants are also skilled soldiers.”

“This is really too much, Benjamin. You wish to burden me in this most difficult endeavor with some pampered fop and some painted French…”

“Language, Samuel, watch your language. You are a man of the cloth. And do not think of this as a burden but an opportunity to teach others of the dangers that you see. Think what you might accomplish if the royal courts of Europe join in your struggle!”

“Oh, Benjamin,” I sighed, “I am not beguiled for a moment by your charming words but I shall take your commission with all its train of baggage. You have been my good friend and teacher these many years and I can refuse you nothing. You may go upon your embassy with a calm spirit.”

“To be honest, Samuel, unless you and General Washington have success, I fear my embassy shall become my exile. Still, Paris is to be preferred to Baltimore.”

By now, we had arrived at the City Tavern. When we entered, the club rooms and coffee room were all empty, no doubt due in large part to the exodus of Congress. However, although it was only about the hour of eight in the morning, a raucous noise emanated from one of the lodging room in the upper story.

Before we could enter, the diminutive proprietor, Mr. Smith, approached us.

“Please, Doctor Franklin, those foreign friends of yours are at it again! Up most of the night carousing and each dawn is greeted with renewed debauchery.”

“Given the empty state of your establishment, Mr. Smith, I would think such activities were good for business.”

“That is precisely the problem, sir. The reckoning now stand at over £300 and not a single penny have I received. They have drunk me nearly out of Madera, fifty-four bottles last night alone, along with sixty bottles of claret, not to mention the seven bowels of punch … And sir, this place was established by the subscription of the finest men of Philadelphia to serve as a respectable place to meet and dine. Those foreigners have broguht in the lowest elements in the city, gamblers, prize fighter, pimps and …”

At this his eye fell upon Mrs. Dagget, “Not you too!” he cried, threw up his hands and stormed away.

Doctor Franklin seemed somewhat amused but said to me, “Please go up, while I speak a while to assuage Little Smith. Introduce yourself to the Prince, he is most informal and … republican in his manner.

Breaking Fast with the Prince

We climbed the stairs and found ourselves in bedlam. A host of, as Smith described, the lowest in the city crowded the hallways, concentrating near the door to one of the larger lodging rooms. Maids in a continual stream entered with trays full of drink and food. Discordant music echoed over the throng.

As I approached to the door to the room, I found it blocked by a huge man. He was in a dark blue uniform of unfamiliar cut and a great curved bow was strapped incongruously to his back. His dark feature were Asiatic in form and impassively grim in attitude.

I asked to be shown to the Prince.


“I have the most urgent business with the Prince.”


“But Doctor Franklin has recommended me to him.”


I told this obvious heathen that unless he announced me immediately, I, a great sorcerer would shock him into obedience.


I then produced a small Leyden jar from my bag and pressed the metal head to his arm. The charge sparked and I could see a small quiver pass through the giant’s body. He then softly grunted and a faint smile passed his lips.

“Um. More.”

In frustration, I turned to Mr. Zizendorf and told him to remove the impediment. Zizendorf produced a large cavalry sword and strode threateningly towards the giant. I had not intended this matter to go so far and intended to stay Zizendorf’s hand when suddenly, Mrs. Dagget intervened.

She pulled open the top of her bodice, grabbed a tray from a nearby table, and pushed past Zizendorf. She curtseyed low in front of the hulking doorkeeper, whose eyes followed her as she dipped and rose. She was immediately permitted to enter the room.
“Ye men, everything has to be so difficult!”

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

I have often maintained that if one wishes to be confirmed in one’s belief in republicanism, one need to do no more than spend time in the presence of a member of the monarchy. Nowhere did this adage prove truer than during my attendance upon Prince Leopold during our enforced idleness following our parole by the British after the Battle of Long Island.

Of course, my service with the Prince had begun some time before that. I had traveled to Paris in the autumn of 1775, to enjoy the philosophic atmosphere of that most divine of cities and not, as some have accused me, to avoid my creditors.
I do admit to being a gourmand and voluptuary, it being something of a family inheritance stretching back over the centuries of Zaglobas to have enjoyed life. For you see, although I am not so naïve as M. Voltaire’s famous character, I do believe that there are many things that can make this the best of all possible worlds. Unfortunately, those who provide the services to make it so too often are of a philistine nature and unwilling to donate to the cause of the good life well-lived. So it was these small-minded parasites, anxious over there ledgers, forced me to leave Ruritania and Austria and Prussia and the Germanies and Britain and even worried me in France. As a result, I accepted the offer of Vaclav Czirkoot, Ruritania’s ambassador to France and my second cousin on my mother’s side, to guide the King’s third son, Prince Leopold, through the complexities of Parisian life.

The Radziwills had been the royal family of Ruritania for nearly a century, ever since the Prince’s great-grandfather, a nobleman of Polish-Lithuanian birth serving with the army of King John Sobieski, made a wrong turn on the way home from the relief of Vienna in 1683 and ended up liberating the ancient lands of the Ruritski. In doing so, he established the Radziwill dynasty, which has remained famous for three things, stupendously foolhardy courage, an almost preternatural lack of intelligence, and a hereditary speech impediment by which any “L” or ‘R” is pronounced as a “W.”
When I first met him, Prince Leopold had achieved all three of these attributes to an impressive degree despite being only sixteen years of age. Service with him was easy if occasionally distasteful. For example, he would often begin his morning toilette by presenting to me his gold-plated chamber pot and asking my opinion on his morning evacuation. To which I would usually reply something to the effect, “Most regally capacious, Your Highness. Your ancestors are no doubt looking down from Heaven with pride and awe I am sure.” To which he would beam up at me with a smile of an idiot cherub.

However, there is nothing so likely to gain one’s entry into the finest salons of Paris than to be shepherding a royal youth on his first taste of the Grand Tour. The talk was all about the rebellion in America with much sympathy and enthusiasm being expressed for the rebels. Prince Leopold heard these discourse and, understanding but one tenth of their import, contrived to make himself the most ardent supporter of the Americans. Unfortunately, once an idea penetrates the vast empty wilderness that is the Radziwillian mind, it clings and grows like a unwanted, wind-tossed weed until becoming a matter of obsession. I therefore did not hear the end of it until I finally agreed that I should assist him in going to America and helping poor “Genewaw Patwick Henwy Jeffewson Washington Wee.” Therefore, despite the protestations of Cousin Vaclav and my own common sense, I contrived for the Prince to fulfill his desire. Now this had nothing to do with my tailor bill and certainly nothing to do with those scurrilous rumors about me and Queen Marie Antoinette’s Seamtress.
We had thus to leave in a clandestine fashion, the only other member of the Prince’s entourage being his bodyguard, Akmed Yap. Yap was an interesting fellow, if you could describe a brutal, half-literate thug as interesting. He was a member of the semi-nomadic tribe of Avars that wandered the steppe lands of the Trans-Ister region of eastern Ruritania. For Ruritania and its vicinity is filled with the flotsam and jetsam of all the various tribes that washed over Europe during the ages on their way to sacking Rome. Unfortunately, the ones that settled in Ruritania were those tribesmen who were singularly lacking in energy, wit, or ambition and so preferred a Balkan mudbog rather than the many distractions of the Eternal City. Still Yap was an excellent bodyguard, large and intimidating, with a steady hand for sword, gun, or bow and an excellent sense of discretion. He was officially a member of the Royal Ruritanian Postal Service which service also did additional duty as Ruritania’s secret police.

After some difficulties in the passage, we arrived in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776. The Continental Congress, busy as it was with the discussion of the Independence Declaration, at that time was profligate in handing out commissions to any foreigner with pretensions at military competence. Of course, it would be the highest folly to pair Prince Leopold with the term “competence” but he was a royal and so Congress made him a general and even granted me the rank of Major. Since he was not a Christian, Yap did not receive a position in the Continental Army. This was just as well since both of our commissions were entirely honorary with no command and certainly no remuneration. It still gave the Prince the reason to have a tailor prepare uniforms for both of us that were striking in the amount of gilt lace. Added to this was the fact that the Americans, despite their republican pretension, tend to be most accommodating when a royal pedigree is displayed.

We then set off to join General Washington’s army that was then engaged in the defense of New York. General Washington was most courteous to the Prince and assured him that he would have a good view of the coming battle. After that, I am sure that General Washington put us out of his mind, for we wandered where we pleased over the next few days and so found ourselves upon Long Island when the British attack came.

Now no man can call me a coward but I do certainly admire the application of common sense discretion. This quality was notably lacking that day even though vast columns of British and Hessian troops swarmed over the American positions. Prince Leopold was of course in his element that day, riding to and fro, often in front of the lines, yelling incomprehensible words of encouragement to the rapidly departing American forces. At the end of the day, he gathered around him a small band, less than a hundred, all apparently dimmer than he, to stand as a rear guard to protect the retreat of the rest of the army. He cried out, “Wike Weonidas and his Thwee Hundwed Spawtans, we shaww stand against the enemy howde and with ouw bwood pwesewve the Wepubwic!”

The first charge somehow succeeded and drove back a British battalion. However, half our numbers were shot down and I had two horses shot from under me. And they were definitely shot and did not die due to my weight upon their backs as some of my enemies have maintained.

In any event, three more battalions appeared before us and I could see several more approaching behind them. The Prince called for another charge by the thirty or so men left on their feet. At this point, I did the only humane thing and clotted the Prince on the back of his head with his gold-plated chamber pot. The British soon surrounded us and I surrendered on the Prince’s behalf.

As I expected, the British were most solicitous after the Prince’s health, no doubt wishing to avoid any diplomatic complications that might follow if the moronic royal sprout snuffed it by their hands. Also, they were use to dealing with their own dunderheaded royals. I think they even developed a fondness for him, General Cornwallis giving him a pair of hunting dogs that the Prince promptly named Wilkes and Barre in honor of two members of the Opposition in Parliement who favored rights for the Americans, although how the Prince had any clue who these men were I have no idea.

The British were at a loss what to do with us. I had hoped that the Ruritanian government would plead for our return home but that peculiar lethargy that marks the workings of the Ruritanian bureaucracy prevented any clear direction being provided from that quarter. Finally, not knowing what else to do, the British released upon our parole and we were given passage to Philadelphia.

Once there, we passed into a sort of limbo for Congress had much better things to worry about, such as the best way to hide the family silver when it came time to scamper away from the oncoming British, than to worry about some wobbly princeling.
Doctor Franklin saw to it that we were lodged in the City Tavern, which was as fine as any I had known in the Old World and proved to be some compensation for our labors. The place had an adequately stocked cellar and excellent beer and cider, although the proprietor was often stingy in apportioning it for us.

Our period of respite soon came to an end. It was at the beginning of December, 1776, as we enjoyed a simple breakfast in our rooms at the Tavern, only a suckling pig in galantine, dandelion fritters, breasts of mutton with chicory and sweetbreads en papillote, not to mention the goat fricassee that we had obtained for Yap since he has foresworn pig for his God. We were surrounded by our acquaintances and some of the numerous ladies who could not resist being in the presence of such a man of the world as I, when I notice a very fetching new serving girl approaching me.
I said, “My dear girl, you appear exhausted, please have a seat. Why, there is one right here on my lap. What a happy coincidence!”

She dropped her tray, which was thankfully empty, and leapt into her seat, flinging her arms around my neck.

“Now this is what I call serving the customers!” I remarked.

She smiled and whispered in a lovely Irish lilt that she had friends who would like to meet us but our cruel guard at the door would not let them in. I responded that any friend of hers was a friend of mine, so long as it wasn’t her husband. I shouted to Yap to let her friends in.

Now imagine my surprise when a fully-collared clergyman strode in, pushing aside our fuddled guests.

“Stop right there, Reverend” I called to him, “You are out of your jurisdiction. I am a Diest, Yap there is a Mussulman and the Prince is a member of the Greco-Roman Orthodox Catholic Rite which believes, in addition to the use of wrestling as a demonstration of a willingness to defend the faith, that God’s forgiving grace can best be enjoyed by the accumulation of sins. Isn’t that right, Your Highness?”
To which the Prince responded by blessing himself in the traditional manner, “In the Name of the Fathew, and of the Son and of the Doubwe-Weg Take-down.”

The minister stood for moment shaking his head then spoke, “Doctor Franklin has sent me. You and the Prince are to assist me in a certain endeavor…”

“No, Reverend, let me inform you how it goes with a Prince. Should you entreat him to undertake this task, and he agree then he might allow you to assist him. Of course, a small ducre, a sweetener, to me and I might put in a good word for you.”

At which point, I felt something cold placed against my nose and found myself looking down a very long barrel at end of which a rangy woodsman glared at me.

“This sweet enough fer ye, sonny?”

“Why yes it is.”

At this point, the familiar voice of Doctor Franklin broke in, “Ah, I see you are old friends now, excellent…

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

…After Doctor Franklin’s timely appearance, I was able to take stock of our new allies. Yap certainly appeared capable and Major Zagloba was clever if hopelessly corrupt. The Prince…well, he was certainly earnest.

Yap removed all of the Prince’s “guests” and we were to tell the Prince and his associates of our endeavor. Throughout, the Prince had a most vacant look upon his visage and finally asked, “So we are after a magic pony?”

Major Zagloba rubbed his brow and said, “No, Your Highness, we will be hunting a devil, one with the head of a horse and the wings of a dragon. But I must advise Your Highness that this adventure is reckless in the extreme. I strongly urge you to refuse and return to Europe.”

“Nonsense, Zagloba! I have been lolling about too long now. We will gladly join you in this quest, Holy Father.”

“That’s ‘Reverend’”

“Don’t bother, it would take the rest of the day to explain sectarian differences. In the future, if he should ask you to join him in prayer just knock him down and say ‘Amen.’”

We agreed to gather at Doctor Franklin’s house by noon and then set off immediately to cross to the Jersey side, hoping to reach Trenton by dark.

When the appointed time came, I discovered that Franklin had already departed but the large wagon remained before his house. It seemed this monstrosity belonged not to Doctor Franklin but to Madame de Baufremont and she intended that it would accompany us on our travels. I objected that the urgency of our journey forbade just encumbrances and if she was so attached to her cosmetics and wardrobe, she could remain

The women then flew into a high passion and imperiously retorted that she was not the type to take such trifles but that the baggage contained the instruments of her studies, studies that would be vital to our endeavor.

Inquiries of the Committee of Safety

Before I could respond, I noticed that there was a body of a dozen or more armed men, mostly of the lower sort in violent discourse with Mr. Zizendorf. Suddenly several of them seized him by the arms.

I shouted, “Take your hands off my servant! What is the meaning of this!”

To which their apparent leader replied, “I shall be asking the questions, sir. We are with the Committee of Safety. I would like to know your business and why you harbor this Hessian spy.”

“This is nonsense, sir.”

“Nonsense, is it? I see you sir, about to abandoned the city with a large train, what treasures to do secret? I see you with these three gentlemen who wear foreign uniforms and who do not speak good English.

“The Prince cannot speak even passable Ruritanian,” Major Zagloba explained.

I realized that, with the British so close at hand, the city was on the verge of panic, especially among those who considered themselves of the Patriot cause. I feared that these wild-eyed fanatics would throw us into goal and whence we might obtain our liberty given the sorry state of order, the Good Lord only knew.

It was Major Zagloba who gained us respite. He addressed the leader of the mob in flattering terms, convincing him that the Prince had come to serve the Revolution and had dedicated his life, his treasure, and his sacred honor to the cause. “In fact,” Zagloba continued, “the Prince appreciates the valuable service that you and your men are providing to this city and the country in this time of need. In recognition, he wishes to bestow on you a heirloom that has been in his family for generations.”

At this Zagloba presented the man a large gold-plated vessel of ornate design. The Committeemen all gathered around, admiring the generous gift.

Zagloba took me aside and said, “We must hasten to leave now, Reverend, before they look inside.”

We discovered at the normal river crossing within the city that all the ferries and indeed all boats of any kind had been gathered up by the Army to assist it in crossing from Jersey into Pennsylvania. We were informed by some militiamen that the only crossing still open was at McConkey’s Ferry. We therefore hastened the ten miles or so, slowed greatly by Madame de Baufremont’s great wagon.

We did not reach McConkey’s until the light was already failing on this short winter day. My heart sank as we arrived for this proved to be the main crossing point for General Washington’s army and thus our own crossing would be much delayed.

My heart sank further as I saw the soldiers coming up from the river. I have never seen a more pitiful mass of humanity as I beheld. Each one was in rags, many marching in the snowy lane with bare feet. All displayed a weariness bordering on lassitude.
We approached an officer at the landing as inquired whether we might be permitted to cross to the New Jersey side. To this we were informed that General Washington had ordered that no one would be allowed to cross in either direction until the army had completed its crossing. No appeal could convince the officer to allow us to pass, not even recourse to my commission nor the Prince’s rank. The answer was always that, “Since it is General Washington’s order, only he may change it.”

The General had not yet crossed and it was not clear when that would be. It was suggested that we retire to McConkey’s Tavern and General Washington would be informed of our request as soon as he crossed. Lacking any other recourse, we followed the officer’s advice.

McConkey's on the Pennsylvania Side

As you may recall McConkey’s is a sturdy place and, if we were forced into patience, there was no better place to exercise it.

As we approached it, I noticed that a troop a horse surrounded the building no doubt insuring that the suffering soldiery did not invade the place, especially it s cellar. Thus, when we entered, Mr. McConkey was the only person in evidence in the place. He was watching the army continued its sad parade outside his door. I noticed tears in his eyes as we approached.

“What a pity, what a pity. The whole Continental Army passing by and I can not sell a drop to them.”

He turned to us as we approach and a smile beamed on his face, “Welcome, welcome back, Reverend. I am so grateful to be having such your party grace my humble premises again. Why I have had only one guest here these many days.”

He indicated a figure sitting by the fire and I felt a chill go through me. The man arose, tall, fair-haired, and pale.

“Allow me to introduce Mister Varney.”

An Introduction to Mr. Varney

The Prince’s dogs that were tied outside the door began barking madly.

The Prince said, “Why that’s odd, I haven’t heard dogs make such a fuss since we went hunting vampires back home.”


abdul666 said...

More than enjoyable: enthralling, excellent -and so well illustrated!

Kelroy Was Here said...

This is absolutely fantastic. I'm hooked. Can't wait for the next installment.