Disclaimers: The characters are my own. Ask before taking!
Violence: Yep. None too gory though. May prompt a bout of Kleenex pulling. Also an act of attempted sexual violence. You have been warned.
Subtext: You decide! ;-)
All comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Flames will be flushed down the toilet.
Not All Silence is Golden
Upon sight of the growing town of Concord, New Hampshire, she slowed her golden mare to a slow trot, wary of the ever present hazards that were opt to dart in front of her: small children, dogs, the occasional housecat, even a chicken. Any of those beasts could easily break her mare's leg should she step on it; wary, the tall rider eased the horse to a walk.
Housewives chattered while tending their herb gardens out front, the men away to work in the fields or in town. One of them waved to the tall stranger in the black hat, tan breeches, and brown overcoat.
"Good day," one of the husbands greeted.
"Good day to you too," the stranger waved back. Thick, dark brown hair was pulled back in a braid, buried under a black triangle shaped hat that kept the April sunshine from roasting her scalp.
She rode into the main part of town, looking for the hatter's to drop off the precious cargo in her satchel. Crying "whoa" to her mare, she tied her to the post outside, and dismounted, taking the satchel with her and walking into the store.
A white haired man of about 60 saw her. "Good day, Miss Chetrein. More mink pelts?"
"Yes, sir, not only mink but a beaver too this time."
"Excellent!" the hatter declared. He opened the satchel and examined the furs. "Blemish...." he pointed out on the first fur, then examined the others. His initial look of disappointment had vanished from his face, a jolly grin replacing it. "An excellent batch save the spotted mink."
"I had to chase a wolf off him."
"It's salvageable," he muttered, wandering to the back of the store. He counted out the sum of what he thought the furs were worth. Putting the change in her hand, she thanked him and left.
She looked at the coins to see she had garnered twice as much than the usual from this batch of pelts. "Excellent," she declared to herself. "I shall go buy a portion of salt and flour, for my stores have been depleted." She mounted her horse, took the reins, and rode further into town.
She tied the horse up in front of the general store, and steeled her nerves, preparing herself to deal with the crabby store keeper who insisted on cheating everyone. After much bickering over the price of flour and salt, he finally relented, his throat sore from a fierce argument, and let her buy the salt and flour at the price she demanded. Few dared to argue with cranky Jenkins, but the miserly tall rider in the brown overcoat had the spirit to take him head on and win.
She put the salt and flour rations in the satchel when she heard voices escalate across the street.
"You shall arrest me before I pay a bloody pence towards your snooty majesty!"
The harried tax collector groaned. He had just come from England, appointed to be the tax collector in this rural district up the Merrimack River in the colony of New Hampshire, and quickly he learned why His Majesty was paying a pretty pound for his services: no one liked tax collectors. None of his neighbors extended their welcome towards him, the storekeeper always cheated him, the smith sold him inferior bullets that ruined his black powder musket, and when his shirt ripped repairing his roof after a heavy rain, neither the tailor nor the housewives offered to help. He resented being the butt of everyone's cold shoulder, and as news of the troubles in Boston filtered out to the country, he began to fear for his life.
"Please good sir," he pleaded, "the soldiers are coming and they won't be as forgiving if you give me a hard time."
The storekeeper stood indignant, his brawny arms crossed over each other. "Forget it." In the distance, the soldiers in the red coats loomed closer, their curiosity as to why a mob stood outside a tailor's shop getting the better of them.
The highest ranking officer, a lieutenant, stepped forward from the assembly of Redcoats. "Good day, Mr. Hatham," he addressed the tax collector. "What seems to be the problem?"
"I cannot get this man to pay up on his taxes," Mr. Hatham sighed with despair.
"Well," the lieutenant sighed, a bored, impatient look crossing his youthful yet firm, manly face, with a broad jaw and distinct lines. He turned around to watch the reaction of his men, who seemed to be just as annoyed with the petty disturbance. The lieutenant moved closer, until he stood abreast with the tax collector facing the storekeeper, who was in his early forties.
"Pay up," the soldier growled, his tea stained teeth clenched.
"I shall not pay up," the man replied steadfast, quiet but determined.
With a whoosh of his hand, the soldier drew a loaded derringer and aimed it at the storekeeper. The startled man blinked, eliciting a small laugh from the bored soldier. "A little incentive might make him pay up, Mr. Hatham," he told the shocked tax collector who had not moved to the Colonies to make mortal enemies.
A glimmer of fear crossed the storekeeper's hazel eyes as he tried to decide whether to take the cowardly way out and pay up, or to stick to his principles and potentially widow his wife should the lieutenant make good on his threat.
He didn't have to choose. A loud shot rang through the town, causing the crowd to scatter and the lieutenant to fall forward in a pool of his own blood. The tax collector turned his shoulder to see the end of a musket disappear over a roof.
Half of the mob ran into the street, fearful of the violence. They weren't intending to be the next martyrs of the colonies, not so soon after the brutal massacre in Boston. The other half drew out their arms that they had hidden in their coats, and aimed them at the startled and agitated soldiers had their rifles in various stages of readiness. The wary trapper had taken cover minutes before, and watched the scene from the roof of the hatter's.
The leader of the militia faced the soldiers, his face drawn with weary, weather beaten lines that spoke of many years toiling in the fields. "Get out of this town," he snarled. "You're not welcome."
This infuriated the sergeant who was now in command. A simple, seemly innocent day and routine day was quickly becoming another day of insolence from the quarrelsome colonists. "Draw your weapons, men," he addressed the soldiers. "Such disobedience to His Majesty shall not be tolerated." He faced the rag tag militia, who did not move despite the fact that the soldiers had their rifles aimed at them. "Disband or we will fire."
A second shot rang out, felling the sergeant. The panicked soldiers began firing into the mob, the shots running wild as fear gripped them. Three militiamen fell in the chaos, and the remaining militia fired back, the first wave dropping down to their knees to reload and allowing the second wave to fire on the soldiers, who marched backwards firing aimlessly. The first wave rose, and took another shot at the soldiers, the rear guard turning around and running like chickens out of the village, leaving the front line to take the brunt of the angry colonist's rage.
A loud, high pitched holler alerted the rear guard of the militia that another British unit was trying to sneak up on them. The trapper let her eyes follow to see that the source of that loud commotion was a short man with sand blonde hair pulled back in a braid. He couldn't have been more than twenty, she reckoned, if even that, his face still boyish and soft. The redcoats fired back, a large number of the militia picked off from the rear. A movement caught her eye, and she saw several sharpshooters on the roof run to intercept them.
A scritch-scratch nearby caught her attention, and she turned her head around to see a redcoat raise a large dagger towards her back. Without hesitation, she ducked and grabbed his arm, twisting it until he cried out in agony and dropped the knife.
Angry blue eyes pinned him in his place. "Reckon why do you attack an unarmed colonist?" she growled at the prone man.
"I was chasing sharpshooters," the young man whimpered. "I meant no harm."
The trapper snorted. "That would not explain the knife you just tried to put in my back." She dragged him up and over the side to let him roll off the roof of the building and into the street, where he intercepted a bullet aimed at the militia.
The action was petering out. The Redcoats on both sides had retreated, not for long, she mused. The remaining militia split in two to pursue them, chasing them out of town to ensure they were out of the way, leaving the dead in the street.
She scurried down to the street, anxious to get out of town and back to her cabin in the woods. Life may have been monotonous checking traps every morning, but it beat having her life endangered like today.
She unhitched her horse from the post on the side street, untouched by the gunfire, and rode into the one and only main street to go home, when she heard a faint whimper.
Alerted, she jumped off her horse to see if perhaps the short sand blonde boy could be saved. He's still alive, she noticed. Hoisting him up on the horse, she led the mare to the town boarding house where she had planned to spend the night.
The young man was unconscious, the green eyes glazed over and unmoving, the breath loud. She led the mare down another side street, and hitched her outside the boarding house. She took him down, and carried him into the boarding house.
The woman recognized the stranger. "Goodness, Mary! What have you dragged in today?"
"A dying soldier," Mary Chetrein, the trapper, responded, looking for somewhere to deposit the bleeding lad.
"Here," the plump woman said, rushing to open a door. She deposited him on a couch, still unconscious but moaning.
"Lucky for him he was only shot once, Miriam," she told the woman, who was searching for clean water and rags to clean the mess.
"I reckon he can't be twenty. Out shooting and fighting already! These days people fight too young!" Miriam exclaimed.
"They always do," Mary sighed. Miriam opened the shirt, to find a bandage wrapped tightly around the soldier's chest. It crisscrossed like an "X."
"We need to get this off. Mary, could you help me?"
"Sure." She lifted the soldier's torso up while Miriam unwrapped the seemingly endless bandage from around the ribcage. At first neither of them had any idea why he'd do that, but as the bandages were unfurled from the body as if it were a mummy, the reason was apparent.
"Little girls should not be fighting men's wars," Miriam sighed upon sight that the bandages hid two small, pale breasts.
"She's resting comfortably," Miriam announced to Mary.
"That's good. Has she regained consciousness?"
"No," Miriam answered, shaking her head.
"I've never seen her in town before."
"She came here recently from Lowell. The local militia was recruiting and she replied."
"Do you know her name?"
"She called herself Maxwell Smith, but I am sure that is not her real name."
The tall woman couldn't help but worry about the gravely injured soldier. "Does anyone else know that she is actually a woman?"
"I doubt it. It would also send her running if we revealed it to the rest of the town."
"I shall keep my lips sealed," Mary solemnly swore. "Do you?"
"I shall too. This town cannot afford to lose such a talented fighter."
Is it hot in here or is it just me?
Mary and Miriam decided it was a good idea for one of them to watch the wounded militiaman in shifts for the night. Miriam had returned to her own bed a little after midnight, and Mary kept a silent watch over her.
She had nodded off a little after two in the morning, her head slumped as she caved into Morpheus's demands. She'd later regret the crick in her neck for falling asleep in the hard wooden chair.
In the middle of the night Maxwell Smith finally gained consciousness. Unfamiliar of her surroundings and possessing no memory of how she got there, she jumped to the conclusion that the British had finally taken her captive.
After all, they've been chasing me from Lowell. She watched the woman whose charge she was under sleep. She looks so beautiful and innocent. But an enemy is an enemy. Quietly she reached down to her boot, and drew out the knife hidden in there. And freedom is freedom, whatever the cost. She slowly crept out from under the covers, her victim unaware of the fate that was about to befall her. Inching up, she reached a booted foot to lunge at the tall, dark haired woman when her head jerked up and caught the glimmer of the tip of the dagger from the moonlight outside.
Mary jerked awake in time to dodge the dagger. Undeterred, the frantic soldier reached up and lunged again, but in her weak state, the trapper's quick reflexes outwitted her own, and she caught the soldier's wrist.
"Get off me!" the soldier cried out, struggling to evade her captor's grip.
"Calm, calm down, no one's going to hurt you," the trapper tried to calmly tell her.
Miriam came through the door. "Oh dear!" she gasped. The soldier recognized the voice and dropped the knife, clattering when it hit the hardwood floor.
"They haven't taken over the town, have they?"
"No, child, calm down."
The trapper released her grip, wide awake from the unexpected attack. "Good," the soldier sighed, her heart beating fast. "Where is my shirt?"
"The bullet barely missed your lung," Mary stated matter-of-factly. "You're damn lucky to be alive."
"Hon, you opened it again," Miriam scolded. "Lie down."
"Miriam?" a small voice asked.
"Yes?" the matronly woman asked, while the trapper fished out a rag and a basin.
"You won't tell anyone else about me, will you?"
"What about that other woman?"
"Mary Chetrein is a woman of her word."
"Does she live here?"
"No, she lives in the woods. She's a trapper. She comes to town about once a fortnight to deliver pelts to the hatter's."
The trapper came back in the room with a full basin of water and a clean rag. "Here, Miriam." The middle aged woman took the proffered items.
"Relax, I'll get you cleaned up."
When Miriam woke Mary to relieve her of her shift, she noticed that the small blonde was shivering violently. "Oh dear," she said, putting her hand on her forehead. "She's running a fever."
"Could you get me a cold cloth?"
A few minutes later the trapper returned with the cold cloth. "Here, Miriam."
"Thank you," she appreciatively said. "Go catch some sleep."
The trapper disappeared out of the room.
"Man overboard!" she screamed. A Viking struggled to keep afloat, but his heavy armor was making him sink rapidly.
"Damn!" the captain shouted. "Olaf! Hilde fell off the starboard."
The dark haired Viking struggled to stay afloat, fumbling in the rough waves to undo the armor that weighed her down. She managed to finally shuck the armor and helmet when a large wave crashed upon the boat, nearly tipping it over.
"Hilde! Hurry!" she screamed. The determined effort of several towering Vikings got the boat back upright, but by then the dark haired woman was gone.
"HILDE! DON'T LEAVE ME!" she cried, her voice lost in the angry thundering of waves and rain.
The captain put a large, rough hand on her shoulder. "She's gone," he sadly said, his bright blonde eyebrows downcast.
"No!!!!!!" she screamed into the air, and fought viciously against the blankets she managed to get herself tangled in.
"Max, Max..." Miriam called out, rousing the blonde to a lighter level of sleep.
"Max, wake up."
Disoriented green eyes stared at the matronly woman. "She's gone," she softly cried.
"Who's gone, hon?" Miriam asked, checking the bandages to make sure she didn't open the wound again in the midst of a fierce nightmare.
The soldier turned around, and saw that she was no longer at sea with a crew of burly Vikings and raging wind. Just then, the trapper came in the door with a slice of mincemeat pie and toast.
She's not gone, she inwardly sighed. Embarrassed, she fell back onto the bed, secretly relieved that she hadn't drowned after all.
"You okay?" the trapper asked, handing the pie to Miriam and the toast to Max.
"Is the fever better, Miriam?"
"A little. It broke about fifteen minutes ago."
Whew. She was really burning up not too long ago, thought the trapper.
Later that day a visitor rapped on the door of the boarding house. "How may I help you?" Miriam asked the tall, skinny lad.
"Uh...is Maxwell Smith here?" he stuttered.
"Yes, but he's not receiving any visitors right now."
"It's okay," the boy stammered. "Tell him that Colonel Thompson and the militia is moving out to Boston tomorrow."
"Thanks ma'am," he muttered before walking out the door.
Miriam turned to Mary. "She's in no condition to leave by tomorrow. Don't relay the message until I tell you she's fit to move on."
The trapper simply nodded.
Two days late is all it takes...
Three days later.
"I sure hope I haven't missed any of the militia drills," Max complained, wrapping the bandage around her ribs to flatten her breasts.
Mary tried to hide the guilty look on her face, but Max caught on.
"Maryyyy...there's something going on and you aren't telling me."
The trapper simply sighed. "The militia moved out to Boston two days ago."
"SHIT!" Miriam, who was folding laundry in the other room, blanched at the profane outburst. "Why didn't you tell me!" she exclaimed, pacing the floor, fists whirling in the air, clenched with frustration and anger.
"Miriam's orders," Mary simply replied, not letting the soldier's outburst ruffle her feathers.
"MIRIAM!" she hollered.
"Don't yell in this house," the woman scolded from the other room.
She hastily buttoned up her starched white shirt, and bounded in the main room where Miriam had just put the iron back in the fire. "Why didn't you tell me?" she demanded.
"I know you," the woman said, not looking up. She fished out the steaming iron and pressed the shirt.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You would have been fool enough to charge out of there when you were clearly not ready."
"Argh!" the soldier growled in frustration, throwing her hands up in despair.
"She does have a point," the trapper said. "You could have followed them and gotten sick all over again."
She simply rolled her eyes. "Do you know where in Boston?" she tersely asked.
Miriam shrugged. "He did not say."
"I think he presumed you'd be better by the morn which they departed," Mary added.
The blonde stomped around in frustration. "This can't be!"
"I'm sure you'll find them," Mary commented.
The soldier stopped, turned her head, and shook her head. "You don't understand."
"Understand what?" Mary replied, a little confused.
"That's right, you come only once a fortnight."
"I haven't come in for three weeks this round."
"Well, within that time frame I came to town."
"I'm originally from Lowell. Remember the big riot there?"
"The one between the merchants and the representatives of the tea company?"
"Yes. That expanded to include soldiers and an infuriated mob. I was the one who led the mob."
"Oh dear," Miriam said, unaware of the reason why Max had run until now.
"I have a warrant out for me. If they catch me, I hang. I will not travel alone."
"You have quite the dilemma," Mary stated.
"Maybe another militia will come through Concord. I'll tag with them."
"Maybe," Mary simply stated.
Max grabbed her green overcoat. "In the meanwhile I will simply go back to my humble abode until they do come. Might be months."
"And they might come back, too," Miriam stated.
Mary crisped the collar on her black shirt. "I better get going, too. I'm going to run out of money if I stay in town any longer. How much do I owe you, Miriam?"
"Don't worry about it, you were a wonderful help."
"You're too generous. If I took up your offer you'd go broke soon!"
The heavy set woman sighed. "Two pounds."
"I'm not going to charge you the full price of ten."
She counted out ten pounds and set them in the coin purse. It's a damn good thing I'm ethical! "There. Have a nice day, Miriam. I'll see you in a fortnight." She grabbed the satchel she brought with her, and headed towards the door.
Just as she reached it, a knock echoed. "Mary, could you answer the door?"
She opened it. The man was not expecting a tall, lean woman. "Uh, I must have the wrong address," he muttered.
"Are you looking for Miriam Howell?"
A voice echoed through the back. "I am right here." Moments later the heavy set woman appeared. "How may I help you?"
The militia man smiled. He was ten years older than the boy that showed up three days prior, and he held a piece of paper in his hand. "Is Maxwell Smith here?"
"Yes he is."
"May I talk to him?"
"Yes sir. Come right in."
Max saw the militiaman. He gave her the paper, folded in her hand, and then instructed: "This has to go to the Canadian front. One of our spies heard the British to attack a certain spot on the Canadian front and you're our fastest."
She blanched. "I don't know my way through the woods!"
"I do," the trapper simply said.
"Could you come along with me?" she pleaded.
The trapper sighed. The last thing she needed in her life was to get sidetracked on some mission....
"Sure," she found herself saying.
"The Army has appointed ten pounds per head for expenditures on the trip. I wish you luck, good sir and ma'am." He tipped his hat then left.
"Do you have a horse?" Mary asked when he shut the door.
"Yes, back at home."
"Let's get the horse then."
They came to a small cottage right outside of Concord. "Here is my house," Max stated. It was a simple white cottage with a thatched roof, two windows, and a door.
"Thank you," she said. "It is quite small."
"But perfect if it's just you. It is just you, I presume...?"
"Yes," Max affirmed. She went inside, gathered a few items and put them in a satchel, then went out back and saddled her horse, a black mare named Macha.
She mounted the small mare, and secured the satchel. "Let's go."
Mary gently prodded her golden mare Blaize to follow.
And over to Hanover...
"How far from here is Hanover?" Max asked.
"A good forty five miles."
"I hope we can make it before nightfall," Max said pensively, looking at the mountains. "There's no river valley?"
"Not exactly," Mary said. "The trail follows a series of small tributaries."
"The last time I traveled through her was when I was young and Dad was visiting relatives in Canada."
"Are you parents still alive?"
"I have no surviving relatives. A measles outbreak in Lowell killed them all except for me."
"Do you have any family, Mary?"
"Yes. We were originally from Quebec, but my father emigrated into the White Mountain forests to trap."
"Ah. Multigenerational trade?"
"Definitely. Before my family crossed the ocean we were trappers, but the forests were no longer teaming with sufficient wildlife to make a living."
"Are your parents still alive?"
"My mother died giving birth to my baby brother. He did not survive either. My dad still traps little varmints in the White Mountains. My older sister married a Frenchman and lives in Quebec."
"Are you in contact with them?"
A wave a sadness blemished her features. "No. As I grew older my dad kept remarking how much I looked like his late wife. One day he simply left."
She shrugged. "It was a blessing in disguise, but yet it wasn't. I would never have had the chance to see the world for myself if he stayed. He would have kept me at home like a proper woman."
The tall woman looked at her. "What's your real name?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"I mean, Maxwell Smith can't be your real name."
"Part of it is."
"No, Maxwell. That's my last name."
"You still haven't given me the other half."
A pause of silence. "Sarah."
"Huh?" The answer caught Mary by surprise.
"Sarah is my first name. Sarah Maxwell."
"Where'd you get the 'Smith' surname?"
The soldier shrugged. "It's common."
The two riders and their mounts wound back and forth and the switchbacks, through small river valleys and meadows that had barely defrosted in the merging spring. The mountains nearby still were ice capped, and the cold radiated from them.
"I am very glad we brought our overcoats," Max simply commented.
"Spring will take a while longer to full emerge here," Mary said.
"How much longer? Dusk is settling."
"I'd say about five more miles. We're almost there."
They found a room for the night in Hanover; a lucky thing considering the inns had filled up with men gathered for Muster Day drills. It was completely dark when they reached Hanover, and it appeared to be a cold journey in the morning crossing the Connecticut.
The only thing available to the weary travelers were bowls of porridge, which both gladly accepted, for they had eaten nothing but cold biscuits and beer that day. The horses were happy to see the end of a rigorous day, welcoming the stable and warm hay with a joyous whinny.
Not long after nine, they decided to retire for the night and get an early start towards Montpelier. The innkeeper only had one bed, and Mary paced the room, debating whether she should sleep on the floor or ask to share the bed.
"It's not like I'm going to bite," Max grumbled, getting irritated watching her companion pace back and forth across the room.
I guess I am being rude. "Alright." The short blonde patted the bed.
Soon, both were asleep.
It was a little after three when Mary woke up. Argh, of all times to be bothered with insomnia, she silently grumbled to herself. The shutter rattled again. It's windy outside. But no trees swayed in the wind. The shutters rattled again, then a distinct thunk sounded outside.
She moved to get out of bed, only to find she got pinned by a rather content little blonde asleep on her shoulder. You too do bite! Wrenching herself free from the blonde's grasp, she opened the shutters to see what was the matter.
Nothing. Go back to bed, paranoid. Just as she turned, the shutter rattled again. Something doesn't feel right.
She opened the shutters again to see a man in pajamas and night cap run away. A peeping tom!
She sat by the bedside, pouring the black powder from the flash to ready her rifle.
"What's going on?" a sleepy voice asked.
"Right now he only looks like a peeping tom, but if he peeps one more time he'll be a bleeding tom!"
The blonde groaned. "Go back to bed, I'm sure it's nothing."
Nothing? the tall woman asked herself incredulously.
"Good day ma'am," a man in a brown shirt and white breeches greeted Mary.
He sounded too cheerful for six in the morning. Mary growled, "Well good morning to you too."
"Touchy, aren't we?"
"You look like a cat wanting to know where the canary is kept."
The man laughed. He had graying hair pulled back and braided, and black shoes. "Well, yes I would like to know where a canary is kept."
"And who would this canary be?"
"A young man named Maxwell Smith. Rumor says he was seen in these neck of the woods."
Every hair stood straight up on her neck. This guy makes me very uneasy. "I don't know," she shrugged.
"Very well. Good day miss!" he greeted, leaving.
She followed him at a safe distance, as he went into the stable a block away. Hiding behind a wall, she listened to him natter to himself.
"Why should I expect her to tell me the truth? She was riding with him yesterday evening when they came into town."
Then why did he ask me...? Mary wondered. Probably hoped I'd cooperate and lead her into a trap.
"Hopefully I'll catch them before they get out of town. Right, princess?" he asked his horse, who snorted. "Pessimistic? Oh, don't be Princess."
She ran back to the inn. "Max, get up."
The blonde grumbled. "No."
"Yes," she said, roughly shaking awake her smaller companion. "A bounty hunter is right on your arse with a blowtorch!"
Green eyes blinked. "What?"
"He knows you're here. I think he's the peeping tom. Now move it!" She jerked the sheets off the bed.
"Gee, you don't have to be so subtle."
As they left the town, Mary saw the men prepared for Muster Day drills. She could not shake the bad feeling about the stranger, and he was out among the sheep readying themselves for war.
"One moment," she said. "I'm going to go talk to the good Captain."
"Be back quick."
The captain was turned away, hollering directions to the rag tag group who appeared to be gaining some precision as a unit. "Good day, sir," she greeted him. The captain turned to face her.
"Why, if it isn't Miss Mary Chetrein!" he exclaimed. "How is your father doing?"
"I haven't heard from him in years. Can I talk to you in private?"
That comment caught him off guard. How could Pierre Chetrein do such a thing... "Sure. What's going on?"
A good distance away, she told him about the suspected British spy she ran into earlier that morning. "Johnson would never do such a thing!" he exclaimed in shock.
"In times of war, shoot first and ask questions later."
The captain shook his head, not really wanting to believe her. "I'll investigate. Thank you for your time."
Mary rode back to where she told Max to stay, but she wasn't there. "Damn!" Moments later a galloping horse passed by.
Two British officers urged their steeds on. Bloody hell! the trapper groaned to herself, grabbing her rifle to fire a shot at them. One fell off of his mount, while the other rode on in hot pursuit. "Yah, Blaize!" The golden mare took off in hot pursuit.
She put the rifle back in the sling, and found her derringer. Can't leave home without them! she thought, fishing it out. She aimed a shot, and fired. Damn! I missed. She tried to steer the horse with her legs while she reloaded. "Follow the stallion, Blaize."
The horse seemed to understand, and raced after the copper steed with the Redcoat on it. Another shot was ready, and she aimed it at the Redcoat. She fired, but accidentally hit the horse. The copper steed reared, nearly throwing him off. She fished her rifle out, and when Blaize came abreast with the injured steed, she butted the officer in the head, sending him flying to the ground.
"The horse will survive, it's superficial. Damn I hate it when I hit the wrong target!" she despaired, as she rode off to find Maxwell Smith.
I bid thee good luck with the little old biddies...
"There you are," Maxwell commented. "Where are those two damn Brits?"
"Out of the race," Mary simply commented. The horses came to the Connecticut river crossing.
"Sorry, hon," she told the golden mare who seemed to protest the very idea of swimming in the cold river. "I'll make sure you get a healthy dose of oats with your dinner. Deal?"
The horse followed her nudging and reluctantly jumped in the river, Max's black mare following close behind.
Two wet horses emerged from the other side, cold and shivering. The riders looked none the better. "Misery loves company, doesn't it, Blaize?" The mare snorted. "I promise no more wet stretches of road from now on."
It was an easier ride to Montpelier; the first half of the ride followed the White River until a trail led away to a tributary. It was afternoon when they reached the town, seemingly deserted and bereft of life.
She found the local inn, and paid for two beds. "Where is everyone?"
The innkeeper grinned. "Oh, they're here. By dusk you'll wonder why you ever entertained such a question!" he said, with a disarmingly friendly smile to indicate he wasn't serious.
"We need more biscuits and beer," Max grumbled.
"Then go get some! You got money." The soldier left.
"Heading towards Canada?" the innkeeper asked.
"I warn you that fighting just broke out. Really vicious fighting, too. You better careful, Miss, or you might become dinner for four and twenty blackbirds!"
"We'll be careful," Mary rest assured you.
"You look the type who can keep her wits about herself. It's that fool young soldier I worry about."
Mary frowned. Max did seem to be the type who would rush into battle and let the heat of moment overtake her senses. "Aye."
Mary settled the room when Max came back. "The prices they charge for beer! What is wrong with them?!"
"Did you get any?"
A guilty look. "No..."
Mary grumbled. "I'll get it. We need it for the road."
All looked calm when she entered the town proper. A few housewives chatted among themselves. Mary passed by them, concerned only with her business.
"Did you see that militiaman who passed through the town not too long ago?"
"Yes! Hardly but a lad!"
"I wonder if this means the militias will come to town. Bah! Can't those rascals shape up and be loyal to their mother country?"
"That'd be too much to expect."
"Look! There's his wife!"
Mary was unaware that she had just became the topic of choice among the gossips. "Wearing men's trousers!"
"She can hang in this town for that!"
"Unnatural woman!" one of them yelled in her ear.
The tall woman turned around. "Excuse me?"
"God will damn you if you don't put on a frock!" one of the biddies screeched, shaking her index finger.
Another joined in, shaking her finger menacingly. "Sinner! Sinner!"
"Plotting with your fellow dogs to overthrow the monarchy!"
Mary scowled at them, hushing them for a moment. "Excuse me?" she growled at them, causing all but the most daring of biddies to back away a few feet.
"Don't pretend you don't know what you're doing!"
She walked into the general store, the biddies putting up a racket right behind her. "How may I help you ma'am?" the storekeeper asked, trying to ignore the loud ladies.
"Unchristian women should not be served in this store!" one of the more courageous biddies screeched, making the storekeeper wince.
"All of you! Out!" he hollered, pointing towards the door. He turned to Mary Chetrein. "You can stay, miss."
They refused to comply, and he stomped towards them. "Misses Melville, tell your old hags to go home or I'll tell your husband! If even one of them stays, I'll tell that mean SOB of yours."
The old woman paled. "Get out of here," she weakly mewled.
The ladies left. "How may I help you?"
"Two gallons of beer," she replied.
He poured a good size in her flask, then charged her. Max is right, this is ridiculous pricing. "Thank you ma'am. Come again!"
They prepared to take the last leg of the journey early the next morning before the roosters crowed. It was not long after they were out of sight of Montpelier that the roosters started their morning racket.
"The innkeeper told me there's been really heavy fighting at the border."
"Damn," Max groaned.
"Yes. We both need to keep level heads though the crossfire."
Max simply nodded, still half asleep and in no mood to converse.
Afternoon hit; they had trailed the northern path along the eastern shore of Lake Champlain for several hours. The trees were barely beginning to bloom; other trees had yet to bud. The dew had dried on the grass by noon, a lovely spring day but still a touch too cold to wear shirt sleeves.
Gunfire echoed in the distance. "Oh look, I think we're there," Mary said.
"Sounds like it," Max said, face downcast.
"What's wrong, sport?"
Max bit down on her lip. "Nothing."
"Don't 'nothing' me. I wasn't born yesterday."
The blonde shrugged. "You're leaving."
Oh boy. When you're young, you get attached to everything too easily. "You'll forget me soon enough. I'm just a backwater trapper."
"Not just any old backwater trapper helps a young kid like me find her way through the woods."
Mary shrugged. "I suppose there will only be one Mary Chetrein."
"Damn right!" Tears threatened.
"We're here. Stay strong, champ. They need you."
Max bit down the tears and rode into the camp silently. The war raged on a few hundred yards away, out of range. "Colonel Peters?"
A white haired man looked up from his desk. "Yes? Oh, great, the messenger is here."
"From Colonel Thompson, sir."
The colonel read the message. "Alright. Will spread the word. Thanks, kid."
"Proud to serve." Max turned around, and saw that the trapper was long gone in the distance. Realizing that the woman who bravely saved her life half a fortnight ago was now gone, a second wave of tears threatened to spill but she was determined not to cry in front of her superior officer.
"In the meanwhile, stick here," the colonel said. "We need a good fighter like you."
"Sure thing, sir."
She shuffled the few belongings with her to the assigned tent, and sat on the cot, lost in thought. Wherever you are, I wish you a safe journey home, Mary. You are certainly one of a kind.
The tears refused to stay back any longer, and she rolled over to muffle the cries in her blanket.
The tall, dark haired rider turned the blind bend, only to be greeted with the end of a rifle and a very angry Redcoat. "Get off the horse now," he growled, shaking his rifle.
Mary dismounted, trying to think how she could get herself out of this little scuffle.
A second soldier snuck up from behind and shoved her on the ground. "Traitor against England. We watched you escort that outlaw," he growled. "What shall we do with her, Henry?"
"Such a beautiful woman should not be let to waste without a simple taste first."
"That damn general wouldn't let any madames into the camp because he thought they were a bad influence and disease carriers. Bah! My little soldier wants some attention too!"
"Well, if we can't get hired madames, we'll make some for ourselves!"
I will not be raped! she concluded, and sprang to her feet before either of them could figure out what was going on. She head butted the first soldier, sending him flying on the ground and shooting a live round into the air. The second soldier tried to grab her, but she unholstered her derringer and whipped him with the shoulder of it, knocking him out cold.
She never saw nor heard the third soldier as a round was fired through the air, knocking her into a tangled heap alongside the two dead soldiers.
With heavy heart...
The blonde hitched the two oxen to the plow and led them to the field. It was trying labor, but it was the reward of peace. The threat of a Redcoat loomed over her head no longer, and she was welcomed back to Lowell with open arms and a hero's welcome.
She found herself occasionally wondering what happened to the trapper from New Hampshire. When Colonel Peters sent her on a mission back to Boston, she passed by the corpse of Mary's beloved mare and wondered what happened. Curiosity got the best of her and she took a detour, asking the townsfolk nearby what happened to the woman and her horse.
"Shot just like that horse," they said.
"Where is she?"
"Don't know. They took her away." She ventured to the cemetery, but no record of a "Mary Chetrein" was seen anywhere. Did she live? She couldn't help but wonder. Perhaps they couldn't find identification and she was buried in an unmarked grave. Or could she have become a prisoner of the British?
She traveled back to her home land with a heavy heart, knowing that if she hadn't dragged along the poor trapper it would never have happened. What were her final moments? Or were those still yet to come? The mystery haunted her five years later in the midst of peace time.
I suppose I could travel back to Concord and ask Miriam the board keeper if she's heard from her. She felt a warm wind waft by. After the harvest is done, she decided, and yelled at the oxen to keep pulling. "You haven't done your furlong yet!"
The oxen groaned, pulling with all their might. "Just a little longer guys, we're almost there." The oxen snorted as if to tell her that she really wasn't the one doing the work.
"Lucky for you I won't bring you out to plow on the Sabbath tomorrow."
She got prim and proper for the services, powdering her hair, boiling her Sunday shirt as white as possible and then starching it, pressing the stubborn wrinkles out of her britches, and polishing her shoes. It was funny how the whole town saw her as Maxwell Smith the hero; at times she resented the facade she felt she had to put up, but to take it down would mean certain hanging and an even more certain fate that she'd never be able to don them again.
She wasn't about to do that.
She took the razor and shaved the little bits of hair that grew in front of her ears, since it would be a dead giveaway if she let the hair grow wily-nily. Only children and women could let the little tuft grow in front of their ears, and neither were taken seriously in society.
She rode her black mare Macha into town a while later, and hitched her up to the post outside of the church in the company with other horses. She performed her social duties afterwards, greeting people, checking up on certain respected individuals of the town, congratulating new mothers on their darling infants, and shaking hands with important visitors who had heard of the heroism of the famous Maxwell Smith.
She unhitched her black mare from the post, and was about to mount when she saw a familiar head bob up and down the street. Mary?
She mounted the horse to get a better a look. By God it is! A miracle!
She rode up to greet the dark haired woman, who was equally startled to see Max. "Mary?"
"Why, Max! You survived the war!"
"When I passed by the little town of Essex and saw your dead horse, I wondered what happened to you. The townsfolk were equally vague about your whereabouts, and I've wondered for the past five years whether you were dead, alive, or caught by the British!"
A sad look crossed the trapper's face. "Blaize was the best horse I ever had. This little hellion named Pyro is a handful." A reddish brown horse saw his owner and snorted in rebellion.
"Pyro? Who'd name a horse that?"
"Dear me, that sounds like a name that would incite a horse to act ornery!"
Mary rolled her eyes. "Lousiest investment I ever made!" she said, unaware that the horse was gnawing on the wooden post he was hitched to.
"Not your fault."
"If I hadn't acted like a crybaby and told you I couldn't find my way through the woods, you wouldn't have lost her!"
"Anything could happen," Mary tried to counter. "She could have been attacked by wolves, caught in a trap, broken her leg in a gopher hole, or any number of things could have happened had I gone home straight from Concord. It wasn't your fault. I didn't have to agree with you, you know."
"I still feel bad."
"Don't," Mary retorted.
"So what are you doing all the way in Lowell?"
A confused look crossed the old soldier's face. "Won't the hatter in Concord take them?"
"He went crazy from the mercury fumes."
"It was a pitiful sight. He died soon after."
"At least his suffering was short."
"Say, won't you talk a walk around town with me? No point in just standing here and letting the little old biddies hear us talk."
"I must say that was a delightful evening with you, Maxwell," Mary said, her eyes unfocused as she tried to figure out where in Lowell the boarding house was located.
"Thank you, ma'am. It was my pleasure."
"Unfortunately I have to depart for the woods early tomorrow if I am to make it by dusk," she stated.
"Can't you stay another day?" Max pleaded.
"I can't budget it," Mary replied, shaking her head.
"You can stay at my place."
"I wouldn't want to be a burden..."
"Don't worry about it! It would be my pleasure!" Max cajoled.
"Uh, okay," she said. "But I still have to leave early tomorrow. The dog has to be fed."
"You have a dog?"
"What's his name?"
"I decided to name her in honor of my departed friend, since she has the same color of fur as good old Blaize."
"Blaize is the dog's name?"
"Yes indeed. She's a wily, long haired retriever who helps me catch fowl when they migrate in the spring and fall. The market for down feathers is all the rage right now."
"It must be interesting hunting for a living."
"Yes it is. Quite endless, too. So many traps over so many miles...that's all my days are is making rounds, chasing off wolves who think the traps are instant dinner, and skinning pelts. It gets monotonous very fast."
The oxen were resting, contentedly chewing their cud. "Just like farm work. Those oxen are not too happy with me right now."
"You're just about finished plowing, right?"
"Yep. Then they'll have no excuse to complain."
They traveled along the road until they reached the small thatched cottage. "And here we are."
"I'm bushed." She dismounted from her horse, and carried her satchel into the cottage.
"Here's an extra bed I've managed to acquire. Works well when company comes over."
"Great!" Mary exclaimed. "Goodnight."
Before Max could reply in turn, the dark haired woman fell asleep.
I see you so soon, only to lose sight of you in the morning again. Fate is cruel...
"It was wonderful seeing you," Mary said, giving Max a hug.
"You would not believe the relief it was to see you alive and well!"
"I bet. I must be off," she said, watching the sun try to crest above the horizon.
"The roosters haven't even crowed yet!"
"Perfect, I better beat them then. Good day, I will probably be back within a month."
"A month now?"
"It's no short journey anymore," Mary reminded her. "But we're New Englanders. We figure a way around it."
Max shrugged. "Have a safe trip."
"Good luck with your planting and harvest."
"Merrily we part, and merrily we'll meet again, Max. I must go."
The reddish brown gelding galloped off into the sunrise, leaving a trail of dust behind. Max waved until she was sure the woman wouldn't see her anymore; tears threatening, she retreated in the house to cry.
Merrily we part, and merrily we meet....please come again...
1st draft started & finished 5/27/01