The Hessian, Chapter 21

“No! Don’t burn that refuse!” Kenneth ardently requested as he leapt out of his cot in the sick bay. He immediately felt lightheaded and slumped back down. 

“Lieutenant Harvey! You mustn’t rush up like that!” the nurse with a box full of odds and ends whom he had been speaking to kindly but sternly lectured him. She set the box down and checked on his vitals. “Your pulse is awfully high! What is in this box that got you so worked up?” 

Kenneth told her, “I left something very personal in my coat…” 

The nurse assured him, “I’ll retrieve it for you. You rest!” She combed through the crate of assorted, disposable objects and pulled out his bloodied jacket. She dug into one of the pockets and produced a gold watch. “Was it this?” 

“No. While I would like that back, I had something more important in mind…” he explained. 

“Hmm… There’s nothing else in here except some drenched papers…” she informed him. 

Kenneth urgently demanded, “Give me that!” When the nurse gazed at him quizzically, he grew flustered as he clarified, “It’s a letter from… Well… There’s this woman who…”  

The nurse spared his further embarrassment by cutting off of his sputtering, “Say no more!” She handed him the watch and the mostly red paper, and then she directed him, “Now, you lie still! It takes an entire twenty-four hours for your body to replace the blood it lost, but it’ll be longer if you put a strain on your heart!” 

“It’s too late for that!” Kenneth cryptically remarked. The nurse gave him a quick and polite smile, but she didn’t delve into what he meant by that assertion. She simply went back to her previous task and brought the box out of the tent. 

“Did I hear that right?” another soldier from the row of beds across from Kenneth exclaimed. He shifted his face so that he could keep his casted leg from shadowing his vision, and then he very keenly asked Kenneth, “There’s a woman out there that finally captured your interest?” 

Kenneth felt his cheeks furiously redden, and then he more pertly regarded him, “I’m not prepared to discuss my private life, Sergeant Rainier! Don’t forget- I outrank you!” 

Sergeant Rainier acquiesced, “Alright, alright! I won’t pry! I just remember it was mere weeks ago when we would invite you to go meet some women with us, you would always say you’ve already met the best one! I’m happy for you! I thought you’d be pining for your late wife forever!” 

“So did I!” Kenneth admitted. 

“I was married once, so I completely get the grief,” Sergeant Rainier related to him. “I didn’t want to even think about courting another woman for the longest time! But after a while, I realized that Edith would not want me to spend the rest of my life lonely! So, I no longer believe that a person can only fall in love once- it will happen for me again one day!” 

Kenneth kidded, “Wow, Sergeant! With all of your distasteful jokes you continually tell, I never would have pegged you for a romantic!” Sergeant Rainier chuckled. Kenneth sat himself and posed to him, “When you still had Edith in your life, how far would you have gone to keep her safe?” 

Sergeant Rainier responded, “For Edith? Why, I would have done anything for her! I would’ve gone to the ends of the earth to protect her! I would have even died for her!” Kenneth seriously contemplated this statement, which Sergeant Rainier took note of. “Why?” 

Kenneth bit his lip- he revealed too much! He didn’t know how to address his query, and while he certainly didn’t want to consider saying anything about his plan to help Clarissa deal with Alastor’s diabolism, he knew he couldn’t just leave his comrade in silence after a comment like that! Fortunately for him, the nurse returned, so he affirmed to him, “I’ll tell you later!” As he rolled over and feigned sleep, he felt a twinge of guilt for making him that promise since he had no intention of fulfilling it… 

The physician walked into the facility the next morning, and since most of his patients were sleeping, he did not greet anyone. He nearly took his position by the operating table when he had to do a double take from a peculiar sight! He petitioned the nurse, “Did you discharge Lieutenant Harvey?” 

“No! He said you did so he could take care of an emergency!” the nurse reported. She chewed on her fingernails as she stewed over her actions. “I was busy with burning the rubbish, so I assumed that you had gone into the tent and-.” 

“I most certainly did not authorize that!” the physician hollered. He espied some curious eyes peek open upon hearing this development, so he canvassed the group, “Where did he go? Did he hint at it to any of you?” 

Sergeant Rainier piped up, “He went to the ends of the earth I expect!” The physician and the nurse gave each other puzzled glances as they pondered the meaning of that reaction. 

The physician burst into Kenneth’s tent, and he growled when he saw that it was empty! One of his neighbors heard the commotion and inquired, “What’s going on?” 

“Lieutenant Harvey is missing!” the physician frantically uttered. 

“Calm down! I was one of the men who brought him to you, remember? I know how frail his condition is! He couldn’t have gone far!” the officer reasoned. The physician nodded at his logic, and his nerves were slightly assuaged by this rationale. The officer knocked on the tent next to his and commanded, “Get up! We’re forming a search party!” Bernard poked his torso out of his lodging a few spaces down in a manner that suggested he needed clarification to what he thought he overheard. “Scour the grounds, everyone! He’s got to be around here somewhere!” Bernard swore under his breath because he very much doubted that proclamation to be true! 

After extensively searching over the camp, the commanding officers huddled together in a panic. One of them anxiously queried, “Do you think the British mercenaries got him?” 

Bernard made them flinch when he abruptly relayed to them, “His horse is gone. He’s left the premises! But I’m almost positive I know where he went…” 

“We can’t wait any longer!” Gabby relayed to Clarissa. “If we don’t leave now, we’ll miss the ceremony!” 

“Oh, I now! I just…” Clarissa ceased her nervous sweeping around her freshly and ornately decorated tavern and confided to Gabby, “I’m reluctant to leave The Leafy Taverne! Alastor knows that all of Colfrith will be in here, so it would be the optimal time for him to exact his revenge! And with no one guarding the establishment, who knows what sort of traps he could lay out in our absence!” 

Gabby pointed out, “Alastor does not lay out traps- he chooses a victim to possess and inflicts horror upon the people around them! Right now, his entire selection pool is at that church! Well, unless he decided to target one of us, but somehow, I can’t imagine that he would do that because it would take away his ability to blame us for his crimes!” 

Clarissa ceded to her argument, “You’re right! Perhaps we can discover his object of manipulation before he can get his hands on them! Actually, he’s a ghost, so he doesn’t have any hands…” 

Gabby and Clarissa laughed at her quip, and then Gabby recommended, “Come on! Maybe this wedding will be fun and give us a much-needed break from all of this tumult!” 

Clarissa set her broom down and walked towards the exit with Gabby. “Somehow, I doubt that will be the case! Even if Alastor doesn’t show up, Drusilla has pronounced that gown’s Elmira forced her party to wear as horrendously garish!” The two ladies chortled again as they went outside. After Clarissa locked the door, she glanced back at her home and hoped that she made the correct decision! 

Their late arrival forced them to get seats in the back of the chapel again, but Clarissa preferred it this way in this instance so that she could study the crowd in its entirety. The little boy who spoke up in their support yesterday gazed up at them with his eyes sparkling in admiration, so Clarissa politely greeted him, “Hello!” He shyly leaned into his mother upon that acknowledgement, which made Clarissa grin. She glanced across the aisle and spotted Nigel staring at her in fear, and when his mother shielded his vision from her, she noted the stark contrast between the boys’ behavior. But they weren’t alone! She could see several necks crane back at her with intrigue, but plenty of others stared with blatant mistrust! Clarissa whispered to Gabby, “The fact that half the borough despises us comes as an improvement is a feat I never thought I would celebrate!” Gabby chuckled, and they both returned to their watch over the masses. As far as Clarissa was concerned, no one especially stood out to her, so she could not fathom who Alastor would mark as his next means of chaos! 

All of a sudden, a string quartet blared out from the altar, and practically everyone jumped from this abruptness! They hastily shifted their attention to the end of the aisle where the groom’s party solemnly walked down to the dais. The bride’s party went next, and as Drusilla marched past Gabby and Clarissa, she nodded towards her dress and subtly cringed at it. Clarissa’s amusement over this prompted her to consider engaging in some merriment until she detected a howling wind swooping around the building! She knew it had to have emanated from that vengeful phantom because that sort of occurrence did not happen naturally! She didn’t reckon that someone with so much evil in their soul could enter onto sacred grounds, at least not without severe repercussions anyways, but then again, she realized that he managed to overcome the barrier around cross necklaces… She then wondered if they were safe inside of this structure… 

When Elmira entered into the room, everyone stood up as she regally made her way to her betrothed. Clarissa recalled trembling from nerves at this stage of her nuptials, but Elmira didn’t seem to bat an eyelash during this process! Clarissa found this somewhat perplexing, but then she reminded herself that Elmira was not about to marry a man who would end up betraying his people and boxing them into a nightmarish fate! Of course, she didn’t have any inkling of that when she took his hand, but perhaps a part of her sensed the deviousness in his character… She mused that if she were to ever to tie the knot with Kenneth, she couldn’t picture herself feeling quite so petrified… 

A gust of air momentarily shook the parish, and while a minute number of guests seemed slightly concerned, the majority of the audience paid no mind to it. As the gale sounded as though it was slowly gaining strength, Elmira appeared more bothered by Drusilla’s presence than a potential attacker’s! She shot Drusilla a resentful glare as she passed her, so Clarissa deduced that Drusilla’s participation had been enacted at the behest of her father. Drusilla’s expression indicated that it took all of her willpower not to roll her eyes at that gesture, and Clarissa tittered, but she kept her grip at the ready to deploy her measure of protection at a split second’s notice… 

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony…” Pastor Absalom began the ritual. The billowing breeze grew quite audible, but Pastor Absalom simply talked over it, “Elmira Montgomery, wilt thou have this man as thy wedded husband to live together after God’s ordinance in the estate of matrimony?” 

“I do!” Elmira avowed as the screech of the wind became impossible to ignore. 

Pastor Absalom went on, “Wilt thou obey him, serve him, and honour him in sickness and in health?” 

Elmira affirmed, “I shall!” 

“And wilt thou forsake all others, keeping thee only onto him, until death do you part?” Pastor Absalom enquired. 

“I will!” Elmira promised. The edifice shook until the brink of breaking until she made that pledge! As soon as she attested to that agreement, the potent tempest vanished! The attendees furrowed their brows and softly murmured amongst each other, and Gabby turned to Clarissa for answers. Clarissa was clueless as to its significance! Even after the commemoration concluded, no one ascertained a trace of that unusual weather current! 

Once it was over, Cornelius and Elmira stood on The Emerald Rose’s steps with radiant smiles as their well-wishers congratulated them. Clarissa and Gabby departed from the scene early to open up the inn for the reception. As they journeyed by the lamppost where Elmira hung her painting of Alastor, Clarissa could have sworn its lips curled into a wry smirk! The skies were eerily calm, and during her route back to her home, Clarissa couldn’t help but anticipate the worst was far from over… 

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