The Hessian, Chapter 2

“No, no, no!’ a soldier in a blue jacket, red shirt, and white pants cried out in frustration as he watched the ink from his map bleed from the large raindrops that slipped through the lush leaves of the ash trees that covered his head. He gazed up at the sky and frowned, he was certain that he had chosen a safe spot! He took off his tri-corner hat and shielded his map from the obtuse droplets, but it was no use- the information he needed had vanished! He groaned, “Oh, dodgast it! We’re lost!” His white furred, gray-maned horse sensed his distress and whinnied in alarm, so the solider pat his neck and reassured his steed, “There, there, Bailey! We’ll be fine so long as we don’t run into any British camps! Or Hessian fighters…” The solider bit his lip at the prospect of that notion, but he shook that grim possibility out of his mind and took out his compass. “Hmm… We traveled southwest, so if we head northeast, we should be able to find Philadelphia eventually, right?” Bailey neighed impatiently as the solider doubted his own premise, so he cast his misgivings aside and concluded, “Yes, I know! It’s a security risk ot stand still in unknown quarters for too long! Let’s go!” He used the stallion’s reins to signal to him to move forward, and he inwardly prayed that his enemies would get too daunted by the poor weather to launch any attacks!

            Just minutes down the road, the soldier espied a strange sight ahead… All of the leaves of the trees bordering the path in the foreground were barren! He wouldn’t have found that odd if it had been close to winter, but it was merely October! The rest of the foliage in the area brimmed with orange and yellow hues, but not this thicket! He couldn’t fathom the reasoning behind it, and his confusion only heightened when he reached this peculiar perimeter… The deadened effect seemed to go across a straight line! Some of the trees even had half of themselves adorned with vibrant botany while the other half had nothing but lifeless limbs! Bailey paused and seemed reluctant to cross into the eerie territory, and the soldier nearly had him turn around out of an abundance of caution, but then he saw a waterwheel churning against a rectangular building. He changed his line of thought and instructed Bailey, “Come on, boy! Maybe somebody there can give us directions!” Bailey didn’t appear confident on the soldier’s idea, but he obeyed his command nonetheless.

            When they neared their destination, the soldier observed that the trail next to the mill lead to an alleyway adorned with several brick buildings, and he told Bailey, “Ah, we’ve come to an entire town! Surely, it won’t be too difficult for us to get assistance…” Bailey continued to plough ahead, but his expression bore quite a bit of apprehension when he regarded this expedition! The downpour had stopped, but the dark clouds threatened to resume the storm as evidenced by the walls of the domiciles exuding a grayish hue. The people he saw in the distance didn’t act especially pleased to traverse this murky terrain, but the soldier couldn’t blame them since a cold wind perpetually penetrated through the stitches of his clothing and chilled him practically to the bone! As they trotted closer to these denizens, he crossed his fingers that they could find help right away and escape to warm lodgings!

            Usually, the soldier got a chorus of accolades from citizens who occupied private sectors, but no one in this district made eye contact with him let alone delved out any sort of admirable welcome! Everyone he passed gazed him with utter disdain, and as the icy breeze flew by, he could hear echoes of angry whispers! He had previously encountered small patches of loyalist hubs, but it puzzled him to have every individual that he encountered shun him like that! He refused to let their abrasiveness cause him to give up though! Certainly, somebody was bound to display a friendly face! Right when he came across the town square and wondered whether or not any of the merchants would lend him a hand…

            A loud scream pierced through the entire sphere! The soldier veered Bailey towards the source of the sound, and to his horror, he saw a man on the ground writhing in agony! He moaned, “My bones! My bones! They’re all broken!”

            “Someone, please! Do something!” a woman frantically called out.

            “Perhaps I can be of service!” the soldier proffered. He dismounted and began to explain, “My men and I have gotten rudimentary training on treating maladies in case the battlefield does not-.”

            The woman scornfully spat, “No, thank you! You and your kind have done enough!”

            Before the soldier could even start to process this malice, one man shouted, “Doctor Cuthbart! Thank the heavens, get over here immediately!”

            As an aging but spry fellow burst through the crowd around the plagued person, the soldier surveyed the scene with particular interest. The hostility wasn’t even the strangest part of this incident! The man kept repeating his claim that all of his bones had broken, but the soldier couldn’t comprehend how that could be so when he had full use of his extremities! Doctor Cuthbart had obviously come to the same verdict because he attempted to persuade him, “Everything is intact! You’re alright!”

            “No! My bones! They’re all broken!” the man insisted. Doctor Cuthbart struggled to calm his patient while the spectators viewed this event helplessly, and the soldier shook his head in disappointment. He had no clue what was ailing the man, but he felt sure that he could have played a significant role in his rescue if the townsfolk had let him! He found it a shame that their prejudice prolonged someone’s suffering!

            “Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!” a lady behind him lamented. She clearly had gotten on the same page as him in this matter, and it raised his hopes of finally finding an ally! He whipped himself around, and he saw a lovely, dark-skinned woman and a genial blonde girl had emerged from a coffeeshop. They noticed his movements, and they didn’t glare at him like the others! They peered at him curiously, and the young girl told her female companion, “Oh look, Gabby! We have a visitor!”

            Given the brusque demeanor of their neighbors, it threw him off to see their coquettish smiles aimed his way! It definitely flattered him, but it hardly seemed appropriate given the tragic circumstance that befell the gent in their proximity! The soldier peeked back at the afflicted, and he beheld that his brethren were now carrying him off in the midst of his ceaseless flailing! Since the issue had come to a resolution, he supposed that it was permissible to engage in a bit of lightheartedness- not that his readiness to support would have been accepted anyways, but he felt dutybound to display preparedness to volunteer when needed! He was used to women complimenting his bright blue eyes or admiring his chiseled jawline, but not when something so serious was occurring! That led him to wonder how often atrocities like that took place to normalize this behavior in these girls’ minds!

            Once the moment had fully processed for him, he recalled that he was still lost, and because the two misses appeared to have a winsome affinity for him, he esteemed that hey were his best chance of finding a route back home! That haunting occurrence only perpetuated his desire to flee as swiftly as possible, so he decided to really pour on the charm with this pair. He took off his hat and gave them a bow, but as he was bent over, he remembered that his hair had gotten soaked in the rainfall and cringed! He didn’t believe that this gesture carried an aura of impressiveness any longer, but when he arose, he could see that their coy grins had only been enhanced by this move, which was a relief! He reckoned his sable, ponytailed locks hid its damp qualities, so he breathed a sigh of alleviation and pressed on with this venture by gracefully greeting them, “Good evening, ladies! I’m Lieutenant Kenneth Harvey, very pleased to make your acquaintance!”

            “Oh, you say that as though you visited Colfrith simply to meet us!” the teen bashfully responded. “You must be here to meet with my father, Mister Cole. I’m afraid he’s a bit preoccupied right now…”

            “Actually, I didn’t intend to happen upon this town at all! Colfrith, you say…?” Kenneth rubbed his chin contemplatively. “I’m not sure I remember seeing that on the map… Forgive my intrusion on your village! I was on a reconnaissance mission for The Continental Army and went a little off course…”

            Miss Cole delightfully noted that to Gabby, “Oh, this unfortunate gentleman needs to get back to camp immediately! We need him out there fighting for our freedom!”

            Gabby derisively sniffed at that concept. “Our freedom? Is that a fact?” She faced Kenneth and probed, “Are you fighting for my liberty too?”

            “I sincerely hope so, my lady!” Kenneth kneeled and kissed her hand. Honestly, he didn’t have much optimism on that possibility coming to fruition, but he earnestly wanted to get proven wrong on that assessment! He aspired to get on her good side so she and Miss Cole would gladly guide him on how to return to his troops, and it looked like his plan was effective… until…

            “Get your hands off my property!” an irate, red-haired woman hollered as she marched out of the establishment behind where the two other women stationed themselves. Kenneth jerked himself back into standing, and he felt a tad flustered by her insinuation of his wrongdoing! With the manner in which Miss Cole treated her associate coupled with her noble carriage, he just inferred that he had been chatting with a free person! She yanked Gabby out of her pathway, which made him grimace! That kind soul didn’t deserve that malevolent treatment! Before he could even consider voicing his view on this, the red-haired woman perched her hands on her hips and confronted Kenneth, “How dare you disrespect the Montgomery family with your brash antics!”

            Kenneth apologized, “I’m sorry, madam! I didn’t mean to give you any unrest! I merely wanted-!”

            She ignored his bid for reconciliation and ranted, “Your rebellion already incited enough turmoil for us, must you deepen our wounds?”

            “What are you talking about?” Kenneth questioned her. “Our revolution will improve the lives of everyone in this land!”

            “You’re lying!” she hissed. “You cursed us all!”

            A passerby disagreed, “No, that witch at the end of Hallow’s Alley is the one cursing us all!”

            Kenneth folded his arms and firmly stated, “There’s no such thing as witches! My god, I thought that sort of hysteria had vanished a hundred years ago!”

            “Oh, now he’s mocking us!” another individual furiously exclaimed.

            “Why can’t you leave us alone?” a livid child accosted him, and everybody around him avidly shared his sentiment.

            Kenneth retorted, “I’d love to! Can someone tell me how to get to Philadelphia?”

            Miss Cole advise him, “You can go to The Leafy Taverne. Miss Harbin is accustomed to dealing with travelers, so she can give you proper guidance on that!”

            “Yeah, let that wagtail off him like she did her husband!” a surly bloke snidely jested, which made those around him snicker. Miss Cole didn’t join their rude rancor until Miss Montgomery glimpsed at her, and even then, she did so for only a second before darting into the coffeehouse.

            “Thank you very much!” Kenneth yelled so that she could hear him. He quickly mounted his horse, but that didn’t prevent the townspeople from taunting him! He strove to block out their insults, but some of the most voluminous were difficult to feign deafness to!

            Most notably, he heard Miss Montgomery bellow, “You’ll regret darkening our doorstep, you rakefire!”

            Kenneth didn’t acknowledge her jab as he rode away from that contemptuous cluster. It solaced him to have successfully withdrew from that cataclysm, but as Bailey’s clip-clops echoed into the fog and the gusting howled, he had to ponder what exactly he had gotten himself into!

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