The Honorable Ghost
An unknown tale with somewhat of a happy ending!
Alan A. Spanswick
The year is 1775, and our story begins on one the grandeur estates in Kent, England, home too the honorable bespectacled Percy Archibald Fitzpatrick Beaumont, second son of the Earl of Dunborrowasy, and known affectionately by friends, while disdainfully by enemies, as “The twit”. As he grew older the Earl, whilst observing Percy’s progress to manhood, would often remark that whatever problems of a serious nature he has to deal with in his life, he was still blessed with the fact that Percy, would not succeed him to the title and head of what had been up until now, one of the noblest and respected families in England since the time of the Norman conquest.
Percy, by any standards, was a dreadful bore, buffoon and a twit. His slight build, high pitched voice and soft parrot like appearance was why the word” twit”, was aptly attributed to him. It came about after a guest meeting him for the first time at one of his dinner parties, remarked later that he sounded like one of those tropical birds, now fashionable in London, most recently imported from the newly acquired colony of Australasia. This dinner party as usual, had come to an early end, when Percy insisted on dominating the conversation with his acquired folksy sayings, which he mistakenly believed would hold the same attraction for his guests as it did for him. To make things worse, he almost invariably got them wrong. His most recent acquisition which he once again misinterpreted was part of a conversation he eavesdropped on between two farm laborers, on one of the more remote villages of the estate. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” became “Absence makes the heart grow longer”.
Percy’s problem was that he never questioned the logic of his mistaken interpretation, so in the event that he had misoverheard, he would still repeat indefinitely whatever he thought was said, to the extent that even when his mistake was corrected by one of his guests, a rare occasion indeed, considering it was very unusual for the upper-class to take any interest in what their servants had to say or observed, nevertheless Percy would still politely dismiss them, positive it was a mistake on their part. After all, wasn’t he by his own definition an expert on the subject! The reason for Percy’s passion with this trivia was that although a simple man, he had sadly been forced to admit to himself, that up until now he had failed to show promise or knowledgeable at anything else.
On a more positive note, it should be said in his favor, that he was a very kind person and like most people of a naive nature, a very lonely person. This was part of the problem which of course inevitably worked against him, that his own servants versatile in such folksy sayings, and whom he treated very well, never corrected him, feeling that it was their duty to allow him at least to feel some success at something. His only regular companions were his dogs and horses which he loved, although the horses unlike his dogs did not show the same undying affection towards him, probably due to the fact that he was an utterly incompetent rider. There was one exception, a large mare named Nellie who at least tolerated him, and at times seemed to show a genuine horse like affection towards him. So he spent endless hours walking the estate with the dogs, with Nellie walking alongside, while at the same time compiling by writing down, then memorizing whatever saying he could add to his list, believing mistakenly, that this would allow him at least to engage in part of the conversation which was paramount at dinner parties of that period. He had began to notice however, that the more sayings he compiled thus commanding more of the conversation, the less invitations he received, being reduced in the end to people who had a vested interest in staying on the good side of his family in general, and in particular his mother Edwina, a tall haughty women with a voice not un-similar to Percy’s, as she, unusual at that time, would make the major decisions for the family, particularly in money matters.
This pattern of life came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of the settlers uprising in the American colonies. The Earl acknowledging his rank was duty bound to send at least one son in service to the king coupled with the thought that his eldest son Rupert might chose to volunteer was cause for concern, as he was a certainty to bear an heir that would safeguard the linage of this historic noble family He was also without undue flattery, both tall and handsome, with color combinations of clothing agreed by all that were faultless, and described by “The Titler” a popular magazine at the time as, “The epitome of sartorial elegance” and with the added bonus of being totally straight, unusual at that time amongst the young bucks of the aristocracy who were at least in part cross dressers, with often aspirations beyond that. As you can imagine his worst nightmare was that should Rupert choose to take part in the conflict and be unfortunate enough to get killed, or worse forget to wear his new protective codpiece, became reason enough for the Earl to immediately seek to purchase a commission for Percy, with whom a protective codpiece, with his seeming lack of interest in the opposite sex or them in him, would be at the best a waste of money, or at the worst, funny! Unfortunately, the search for a commission did not go as smoothly as the earl had hoped, when Percy after a number of interviews was unable to secure one in a top British regiment, raising once again his father’s fears to a point of extreme panic! in that without one Rupert would have to take his place. It was then that the earl, using all his guile and influence at court to gain a place for Percy, even suggesting with a recently formed regiment commanded for the most part by Hessian officers, that he would accept on Percy’s behalf a second, third or even forth in command, whilst because of family pride drawing a line at fifth, but now feeling he was “ Down to the wire”, (a military expression that came about much later in history in the first world war), his father now pleaded embarrassingly with, wherever they could fit him in!. With a place eventually secured for Percy, it was then for the first time in his life, believing drastic consequences needed drastic measures while producing questionable emotions, he adopted with some difficulty, affection and consideration towards the boy, while at the same time strongly emphasizing to Percy that he carried with him the family reputation and honor, with the added advice foreign to Percy to, “Compromise when you need to”. His father’s intoxication in finding that essential commission, even going to the length of having a hasty portrait painted of Percy resplendent in his new lieutenant’s uniform, found his son overwhelmed by this accolade and his father’s confidence in him, never having felt better in his life, not unfortunately that he had few other comparisons to make. His mother however, seeing the obvious joy her son found in this new unexpected relationship with his father, was painfully aware of the real reason, but accepting there might just be a chance however remote of Percy redeeming himself as a worthwhile son in his father’s eyes, said nothing.
A month later Percy was given a ball in his honor, causing even his harshest critics to wish him well, while offering praise at least to his commitment to the cause and united, gave the would be hero a rousing send off. Three days later Percy sailed from Portsmouth as fifth in command of the Catford 651st Foot and Mouth Regiment. The crossing although comparatively calm, was rough enough for Percy to be seasick for most of the voyage, only emerging from his bunk which because of his low rank was very uncomfortable, to ensure his men were themselves O.K.
Most of his fellow officers, a few of which spoke English badly, some even German badly, were curiously appreciative of an officer who showed interest in his men’s welfare, a rare phenomenon at that time, while also fearing that his kindness might be misinterpreted as weakness by the badly, poorly clothed uneducated, undernourished troops under his command, and for the best part used to, and some officers would claim happier, with strict even brutal treatment, generously served out when they were not to tired by their officers, from Monday till Saturday, excluding Bank Holidays, Sundays and Christmas.
Arriving at Boston five weeks later, they disembarked and found quarters on the edge of town. The rioting for the present seemed under control, and for the next two weeks life returned to normal, with the settler’s initial grievances seemingly resolved by peaceful negotiation and a “Tea into the harbor protest” by badly dressed Indians.
Percy, with other officers from his regiment, began to enjoy the hospitality of the townspeople, well the few that would talk to them, and when not on duty, visited the coffee houses, tea rooms, taverns, and other even naughtier places in Boston. Although the beer was lousy, as “Sam Adams” beer, a tribute to one of the instigators of the rebellion, sadly was not introduced until about one hundred and fifty years later. It was about this time that Percy began writing to his sister Matilda, tall, blond with an extremely good figure and pleasant personality, who liked dancing and writing songs and whom he cared for very much, in whom describing his exciting experiences and upbeat feelings in this New England, where with the exception of the mosquitoes, black flies, cougars, bears and rattlesnakes and a few disgruntled Indians, it was quite nice!. As events unfolded mainly in favor of the British, Percy got the impression through talking to those few people, not withstanding his “Posh” accent those who could understand him, that the majority did not seem to want total separation from England, just more representation and consultation with local government in the way the New England colonies were run, and after being subjected to Percy’s golf ball in the mouth accent, with an emphasis by law that they be allowed to retain a working class, preferably “cockney” accents. The more Percy listened the more sympathetic he became to their cause, except for the accent, while on more than one occasion when this topic arose back in the officers’ mess, and it was often in a mess, he found himself arguing on the settlers’ behalf quite heatedly, even getting angry at times and stamping his foot, particularly with his commanding officer, a Prussian Brigadier General Adolf Woodshrink. Unfortunately, it was not long before there was more unrest, attributed to the weather turning very hot, and with no air conditioning, most dwellings, especially with those that didn’t even have windows or indoor toilets, things got quite nasty!. So, with very little support or enthusiasm from those in the regiment who had bad dreams they might possibly be wounded or worse, the regiment was ordered to march out and retake the town of Sevengoats, which they would attempt quite soon in the story, as Sevengoats was believed to be held, but not for certain, just possibly, by the rebels, and if interested, was correctly measured. ”A days ride as the crow flies!”
With this possibly bad and bloodthirsty battle looming on the horizon, Percy decided he should exercise his horse Nellie a little more, the same horse who, and it should be noted, snorted a lot louder than most horses her age when she became annoyed, and described by a vet in England after witnessing this as being “By Polar”.
She had been transported along with Percy from England, during which causing to her obvious pleasure recognized again by excessive snorting, quite severe injuries to at least two of the eight men it took to get her aboard the boat. The two mentioned although recovering totally from their injuries, exacerbated their situation later by dying of trench foot, and that’s why he had not been over keen to exercise her at all since that incident.
In his obvious sympathy for the grievances of the colonists, Percy had split the officers of his regiment into two camps, with himself and a Sub Lieutenant Charles Roberts the 2nd, that was in itself certainly strange, as Roberts had no idea who his father was, but being a loyalist colonist by birth, and a very nice chap, whose allegiance in the beginning had been for king and mother country, or the other way round, but in witnessing the arrival of men like Adolf Woodshrink and with other Hessian managed regiments arriving now in numbers, had grave doubts, and as with Percy, prayed for a negotiated peace where he wouldn’t hurt at all. But as a loyal and professional soldier, he would still obey commands given, except the ones he just could not go with… The other officers in the regiment almost to a man were German, with the exception of one from Iceland, who ate nothing but live fish, one from Switzerland, who kept yodeling all the time which got on everybody’s nerves, and lastly a very fat man from Belgium with low self esteem, until certainly to his credit, lost a great deal of weight some time later with the opening of a “Weight loss clinic”, in the trendier part of Boston, going on to become “Slimmer of the year”. But with those two or three left, with Woodshrink, making four now judged Percy as having, “Disloyal opinions and bad body odor”, and to quote from Percy’s own book, ”Barking up the wrong Baume”, then added to where public ridicule of him was demonstrated, which Percy found very annoying, constantly applauded in full by the loud whistling and clapping approval of General Adolf Woodshrink. Percy meanwhile dismissed the “quote” as his, arguing that it made no sense at all.
General Adolf Woodshrink was sixty five years old and a product of a Prussian military academy. He was close to six feet and a half inch tall, still muscular which he liked to expose on sunny days, with the addition of very short shorts, and showing to his credit, few signs of ageing, with the exception of his watery eyes, only visible when he removed to clean his small pince nez steel rimed glasses. He was an excellent swordsman, acknowledged by the dueling scar visible on his cheek and an even better marksman, even with glasses, with his record from twenty five years earlier still unsurpassed today. His last ambition was to add archery to his skills which he promised himself to get round to later
It should also be noted that amongst the other ranks, non commissioned officers and below, right down to the bottom, there was little shown public sympathy for the rebels, considerably due to that strong sympathy would be seen as an act of treason, punishable with a heavy fine or death whichever came first. In the beginning in trying to get to know his men, there seemed to Percy, after having to listen to their grievances very closely because of their bad accents, to be a great deal of sympathy towards the colonists, especially from the Londoners as every body had a neighbor or close family member, distant relative, even a mailman/ postman who had been sent to the colonies for life for a misdemeanor which was often a trivial offence, that should have been dealt with by perhaps a week of community service. There were also those that left because they were quite frankly fed up with the fog, sleet, rain, cold, dust and abject poverty that was everywhere except Broadstairs where poor people unless you were sober with a good credit rating, were not allowed to live. Although it was some time later when again observing the men under his command, he began to notice that on the odd occasion he would enter their quarters in a friendly way with perhaps a takeaway he was prepared to share or mail, that any discussion amongst them would cease immediately, with few of them acknowledging with any warmth his presence, which previously had been greeted with smiles, a shared pipe and gestures of friendship. On one occasion on his departure from the room, puzzled by this change of behavior, he would eavesdrop for a moment with one ear to the door, then the other ear, as the noisy discussion exploded again with a particularly loud spokesman with a strange form of English that could be overheard above the others. He also judged by the amount of voices that most all of the regiment were he concluded “In on the act” and that, “Something was rotten in the state of Denmark” he thought both these were his, but actually it was Sir Francis Bacon who stole them from Shakespeare. Through out all this, Percy, although kind, but being some what of an idiot, or simply not playing with a full deck, whichever you prefer, still retained his simplistic and rather naïve approach to the mounting serious situation unfolding before him, preferring to believe that good sense and reason would triumph in the end. That in it’s self proves just how naive he was!, Although It should be said in appearance, he still appeared to be the boring buffoon as seen by those people known to him in the past , plus a few acquaintances in the town, but underneath a new man was emerging, slightly taller and fatter with a great deal more flatulence, an older even more boring buffoon, one whose eyes and intellect had been awakened through exposure to this new world of democracy, although one who still believed they were real Indians that threw the tea overboard, and someone who perceived that all citizens were equal for the most part, except for the overall majority who were very short or poor people or both, who were sensibly left out. Unfortunately for Percy, on this occasion this growth, unrestricted with no codpiece, would be short lived as events of the day unfolded, and it happened like this or something very close to like this, as you have probably experienced yourself its sometimes its so hard to get it exactly right, but I am doing my best!.
The next morning was bright and earlyish for most of the men. Assembled quickly, for some too quickly who still being half asleep left their boots behind, which played havoc with their feet, when ordered, after having a light continental breakfast, to leave their quarters, and begin their march through the foggy streets of Boston on their way hopefully, if the map was right, to Sevengoats. There were few onlookers except for a Scotsman and his dog, which disappointed General Woodshrink as he didn’t like dogs. With the regiment in their somewhat cleaned uniforms, most with buttons, with rifles and bayonets gleaming in the morning fog and Woodshrink, hoping the sight that with most having buttons, would intimidate the local population enough to stop any “Hanky Panky”, while they were away. Dissatisfied!, nay troubled that after about a block, with so little an audience and his dislike of dogs, called the column to an abrupt halt, causing one or two head injuries to occur from dislodged bayonets. Allowing a few minutes for those wounded to get their heads bandaged, insisting they keep on their Cathedral type hats, turned the column round in a very narrow road causing all sorts of confusion, and a lot of shouting and pain for those who had forgotten their boots. On arriving back at their quarters, orders were given to make the bayonets brighter, with additional orders for everyone to have another shave and haircut, leaving some of them bald, and those ordered or “else”, to collect their boots. Two hours later they set out again. By now the fog had become thicker and with the streets empty of any audience, even the Scotsman and his dog, and having misread the map with the light being so bad, they became lost. Their discomfort continued as with a heavy downpour, the now soaking map’s became unreadable, which had them going in circles for at least an hour or so before again being lost. Their luck eventually changed on finding an old blind man rattling a coin cup at the edge of the road, who after hearing a contribution, led the way moving slowly forward on his crutches just ahead of Adolf’s horse, who continued nudging him to go quicker. With the rain now turning to snow, the old man collapsed but luckily the Scotsman and his dog turned up again apologizing profusely for taking a long lunch break, explaining that he had to change his kilt with the weather turning so bad, to a pair of tartan Burberry waterproof slacks, and now looking absolutely splendid as agreed by the whole regiment instantly produced a set of bagpipes from his back pocket, and to the strains of “Scotland the Brave” led them successfully, with the dog continually barking at Adolf, to the outskirts of town..
With Percy now placed at the rear of the column for Adolfs amusement, knowing that Percy would catch the dust kicked up by both boots and hooves from the lengthy purposely extra disgruntled column in front of him, causing havoc to both Percy’s best uniform and powdered wig. He was accompanied, just a few steps well back behind Nellie now snorting heavily again, producing sadly the equivalent flatulence, five, now dust covered foreign mercenaries who were allowed to join the regiment in England, although usually unwelcomed by their “fellow cannon fodder”. These unfortunates generally joined to escape unmentionable, usually criminal activities. An exception was an Australian named Bruce, who was just plain unlucky!. He had been on a world holiday tour with his large family, a common feature within Catholic Australian culture, when he got lost in a stately home maze in Kent. He was not noticed missing, until the family arrived in France where the tour was then taken over by a French courier, who although spoke a little English could not understand their loss because of the developing Australian nasal twang thought to have evolved through the rounding up of sheep. Meanwhile Bruce both penniless useless and homeless, was sleeping in a branch of one of the recently opened (by the gentry) Y.M.C.A’s, and usually situated near the most polluted open sewers in the city, this one being in Shepherd’s Bush, where if you were lucky, a minimum of three too a bed, with a piece of worm ridded hard tack for breakfast, the worms being essential for protein. Bruce unable to remember whether the New England colonies were on the tour agenda, coupled with an abundance of posters covering the city encouraging men to join the army was enough for him to take the” Kings shilling” a coin of the realm acknowledging his acceptance into the army. Bruce meanwhile, being from a country of habitual happy gamblers having taken the shilling, quickly lost it gambling with other Australians forgotten from other tour mishaps now lodging in the same “Shepherds Bush” Y.M.C.A, now becoming popular with lost Australians. The bet in question sealing Bruce’s fate, was precisely where a selected fly from the host of flies that inhabited most of the hostels would settle next? As was customary with the bet settled, the fly was eaten.
As the march began Bruce now penniless again, posed Percy with the question “How far me old cobber, is Sevengoats?” then quickly correcting himself, adding “Sir” to his request. Percy although annoyed at the question, reframed from an immediate reply on recognizing the voice as the one with the odd dialect in English from the discussion he overheard in his men’s quarters. He stared thoughtfully at the man for a moment feeling he didn’t even look English then retuned to answering the question.” I believe the question at hand was answered earlier, which I believe is accepted common knowledge, but to reiterate! “One day as the crow flies!” then unusual for Percy there did appear to be a touch of sarcasm to his reply, with this being without doubt one of his favorite quotes. Feeling that put an end to the discussion he was surprised when the strange accent came back again. “Would that be if there was just the one bird sir?”
Percy was taken back from this retort, as until then never considering the alternative should a second bird be involved. ”Mm,” he said now stroking his chin. “I believe I see where you are coming from!” He didn’t but thought it seemed like an intelligent response!. The odd accent continued. “Let’s assume for a moment your Lord,” Bruce realizing that a bit of groveling went a long way with the gentry. “That there were two birds, friends or even partners you might say, and one was slower, wouldn’t that change the T.O.A” an abbreviation that had become trendy recently in these colonies. This discussion enthralled Percy because he actually believed for the very first time that a “Folksy” saying could be questioned. The discussion continued amicably, with Bruce deciding it was now safe to reveal his name, not expecting anyway that Percy would remember, for it would have been a risky decision earlier as questioning any of the other officers on anything would usually mean a flogging, or at least a very strong telling off!. Eventually, the town came into sight with both sides by then agreeing that on adding wind to the equation settled for, “A day, three hours and thirty two minutes”.
The regiment on reaching Sevengoats had Woodshrink calling his officers together to formulate a plan of engagement, or attack as it’s usually called. Adolf Woodshrink was, it should be said, most oddly, a vegan who liked fish and meat, a seasoned officer with a love of garlic, a strict disciplinarian with an undying loyalty and love of his King and especially his men, well not all of them, but certainly any that wore shorts, but with no sympathy whatsoever! to the colonists grievances or things they did not like, particularly, like the overstated request for any indoor/outdoor toilets and certainly as no friend of Percy’s or anybody else with that name. Percy however, although aware of the man’s strong opinions and unbelievable extra strong after shave lotion, was decidedly on the side of the rebels when it came to toilets, but deemed without question, having few idea’s if ever of his own, to allow General Woodshrink to decide the best strategy in achieving their objective, which took some time for him to grasp. His decision was based partly of course on his low rank, Adolf’s previous experience, and to be quite honest, most of all, never being in the army. His only request was to remind Adolf, that the rules of engagement were to offer the enemy when willing, the chance to surrender, or else!. Adolf Woodshrink caught by surprise could only agree, but he had other plans to end this insurgency and it did not include surrender, so it must have been the “or else!”.
His plan was to split the regiment into two groups, and in his lack of math couldn’t manage four. They would envelope the town in what would be described in much later wars by one of his descendants, as a pincer movement, or simply put, surrounding the enemy with large crab like claws. This would prevent any escape to the rear side or front., driving the rebels in theory, to the centre town square, hoping of course they had a centre town square. This plan appealed to Percy, as far as he could follow it, where he felt that having all the opposition in one place would, when the noise died down, allow them to be addressed with a surrender proposal. Percy was still strongly convinced, that even at this stage a settlement could be reached that would avoid further bloodshed and destruction of tea by the Indians. General Woodshrink however, having split the regiment in more ways than one, leaving Percy with only one other officer, Captain Charles Roberts, or “Chuck” as he now became known, who had after further discussions on his ancestry dropped the 2nd. Adolf had also detected, a strong sympathetic attitude towards the enemy from Chuck, plus an odour similar to Percy’s, and that Roberts, “When the ships were down” another one of Percy’s favorites that he got wrong stolen in this case by Adolf, so the laughs on him!, and Chuck would most positively not support him with his no prisoners taken even if they wanted to be friends again. This Woodshrink had concluded, was a splendid opportunity to put an end to this uprising once and for all, whether they liked it or not, and his cunning plan included convincing the gullible Percy, which didn’t take long’, that in taking a larger force to engage the enemy, the rebels would see how impossible their task was or perhaps not, and would surrender more readily, trusting of course if when offered, they understood German. Then “Adding another string to his bow” one of his favorites although he was yet to take up archery, suggesting to Percy that it would prove prudent for him to move slowly from his position, whereby moping up any stragglers fleeing in his direction, or where ever he was coming from. Not understanding much of what Adolf said as it was all in German, spoken fast on purpose, and in German because it sounded more frightening, Percy readily agreed, but preferring that “Stragglers”, if that is what they are called in German, would be better described as in English “Enemy combatants leaving the vicinity”, believing using the correct term they would for the most part, be more likely to surrender, also being aware by this time, “The day being lost,” to them of course, not us!, and with the sun going down it gets very dark, and you wouldn’t be able to see one another anyway!
Percy, now seated astride Nellie, totally bored with it all had fallen asleep, and up until now had not been exposed to the gunfire that was to follow, and for sure this grumpy old mare was certainly not going to like it. Not at all!!. With Percy leading hopefully in the right direction, according to his English/ German translation manual, led his now somewhat reduced force of five round to the outskirts of his side of the town, then, while turning around to check their number was still five, was confused that they had became two, with three, plus he was shocked to see Roberts, sneaking off in the other direction. About to order a court martial on the spot, before Roberts, quietly suggesting with a pointed finger, while gesturing with another finger to his mouth, that as he spoke fluent German with, it should be said, a strong settler’s accent he was positively going in the right direction. Convinced now but keeping them in sight anyway, Percy began riding up and down the line, spreading his troops although thinly, with their number only being five plus Roberts making six, with words of encouragement and abstract wisdom, but with his limited vocabulary in German or Cockney English and none in Australian, explaining the situation whereby to cover what exit streets into the surrounding countryside where possible, had really become a challenge. With the exception of one man, not popular with his compatriots his mother being Welsh, nobody understood a word he said. Then tragically they lost Bruce, who ran off after spotting some sheep on the horizon!. The arrangement with Percy meanwhile had been that on hearing gunfire from Woodshrink’s side, he would commence moving forward slowly hopefully with his four men now five with the happy return of Bruce who had just reappeared very disappointed after having no success with the sheep because of his accent. At first Percy felt things were going from what he could remember as planned, until he and Nellie became more uncomfortable as the gunfire increased, getting terribly loud!. The colonists meanwhile, though putting up a tremendous fight, would be, he surmised, no match for the seasoned troops, fully booted again opposing them. This unexpected courageous resistance angered General Woodshrink even more, and with at times his battle plans on victory “Hanging by a thread”, that was one of his own sayings, told to him by his mother when she sowing on his medals, and with his own casualties growing, mostly due to the “runs” with few public toilets available, and now very aware it would later prove most difficult in explaining to his superiors, how his over confident miscalculation of the enemy’s resistance with their solid bowels, he had also forgotten his own portable “Jerryloo’s” which might have helped, resulting in much greater losses of men not returning in the field after having been!.
Meanwhile Percy’s worst fears were justified, when one of the fleeing rebels announced, that he had witnessed that those wishing to surrender were totally ignored, and told to go home “or else”. This both puzzled and pleased Percy feeling that there was “More to this than meets the Pie” one he had picked up here and got wrong, but quickly adding it to his “favorite’s listing. But determined to keep this lack of dead enemy continuing, turned Nellie around too sharply causing the mare to snort loudly, buck as high as her age would allow her and almost achieve her objective in unseating her inept rider. Not bad for an old mare! With Percy now for the best part out of the saddle, clinging precariously around the animals neck, trying terribly hard to recover his composure while ignoring the chuckles and sniggers of the troops nearest him, but having now renewed, well partly his seating, galloped as fast as Nellie would allow to the rear of the column where Captain Roberts the 1st, was positioned. Roberts meanwhile, observing his hurried approach, tried to get out of his way as Percy had collided with him many times previously.” Chuck” assuming now they were under attack, panicked and began to order defensive measures to the two men around him as the now disheveled Percy, tugging franticly at the reins and pleading with Nellie in a consolatory way to stop, or at least slow down, went galloping by with his garbled cries to Roberts as with his flatulence dissipating in the wind. Roberts, although still puzzled, having deciphered part of what he had heard, ordered his men to stand down, or come out from under his horse where they had both sought sanctuary, both looked a lot happier as they reappeared thankful at least that they were not under attack, where they could have been wounded “Or else”. Nellie meanwhile, making another ten yards before running out of breath stopped abruptly; allowing a thankful Percy, once again entirely back in the saddle. Roberts without waiting for the drooped figure before him to turn around galloped up beside him, bumping into him quite heavily as he did so. Before he could speak Percy addressed him.” Please don’t do that again!, and oh yes, Woodshrink is not slaughtering those who want to surrender, and I’ve got to find out why!” he added breathlessly. “This doesn’t make sense after all it is a battle!” Roberts nodded before asking him to repeat it more slowly before adding” “I think I agree! but how?” “I don’t think he would explain it to you, because he doesn’t like you one bit!” continued Percy “I will have to go myself”. “Good idea” said Captain Roberts thankful he didn’t ask him to go, but feeling hurt at Percy’s comment added “But he doesn’t like you either!” whilst looking at the forlorn figure beside him, observing over the short time they had known one another an awakening in Percy, and although as a professional career soldier they had shared differences, he admired Percy’s compassion when dealing not only with his own men, but refusing to compromise his principles even at the risk of jeopardizing his rank and career, even overhearing now and again, the “Folksy” sayings correctly, but with all this, he did feel he was a lot brighter than Percy!. “You will have to take over command Charles, but I’ve never asked you before feeling it was an intrusion into your privacy but, do you really prefer Chuck?” Charles nodded which didn’t resolve the name thing at all. “And do remember “Chuck”” he continued, “It’s only the ups that make the downs seem so good” feeling these words of wisdom could be of help with Chucks temporary command. Charles or Chuck depending your preference, meanwhile was trying to make some sense from Percy’s last remark,, as that didn’t work he just smiled back “I have great confidence in you Charles” Percy continued as he reached over to heartily shake the other mans hand, at the same time nearly falling off his horse. “Good luck sir” offered Charles himself now smirking” I’m sure this time Nellie will take good care of you”. And releasing his hand from Percy’s, moved it down to stroke Nellie’s neck while adding “Wont you old girl?” Nellie acknowledged this with a head shake, which Chuck interpreted as a no. Percy managing this time to successfully turn her around, with little resistance from the horse, and with a cross wind just blowing, , adding support to the last estimate on the crows saluted then with growing confidence he could win the task at hand cried out, “When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go”, not one of his best quotes, as confirmed on Charles face assuming it had something to do with toilets. Then giving the old girl a little tickle with his spurs galloped off in the direction of the now fading gunfire, which now worryingly seemed to be coming in less volume from, if they have one, the town centre square.
Nellie meanwhile, unappreciative of the added discomfort of contact with the spurs, increased her speed beyond the capabilities of Percy’s riding skills, and we now find, our disheveled hero, hanging on for dear life, his hat, wig and spectacles long gone, winding from one street to the next at full gallop towards thank goodness, the town square centre. Struggling with thoughts of just how best to handle the situation ahead of him, the only interruption’s in solving his dilemma was when some of the retreating colonists, believing now they were safe from injury, and mostly looking behind them, waved hello before throwing themselves in all directions to avoid when spotting the oncoming Nellie. The unlucky ones, too stunned to move when suddenly confronted with this now bald headed, apparently unarmed thank goodness lone Englishman, were helped on their way by the now unstoppable heavily snorting horse, others more fortunate just covered their nose as she went by. Percy’s attempts to wave them aside, and confused he had seen no injured as they waved back, came with few exceptions to late, usually because of his attempt to stay on Nellie’s back became more of a priority. With the number of retreating rebels increasing as he became nearer to the town square, with Percy swerving right and left to avoid them, comparable in later history like driving a car down a road with lots of potholes as found in Camden Maine, he continued to formulate a plan. While most of those retreating aware he had been their enemy, some even raising their voices to cheer him, or giving a V sign as Percy thundered by, the majority, both the hardly wounded and dispirited alike were only interested in desperately getting away from the arguing and political discussions around the outskirts of the square, as the better equipped Hessians, with bayonets gleaming, and better access to text books from the regimental library seemed to be winning the day and most definitely not carrying out Woolfgangs policy of taking no prisoners. Woodshrink along with a few of his officers were furious, the others pleased, knowing with no chance of being killed or wounded, at least on this day, everyone would be going home to their families and loved ones and other people that liked them as well.
As Percy thundered into the square, still secured he believed for the moment for all intents and purposes by the colonists, every head turned in his direction. Percy had managed with great effort to bring Nellie, snorting even louder, to a halt, and with time he believed of the essence shouted out with all his strength his winded body would allow, made the most fatal “Spoonerism” possible”, Don’t fire! Lay down your farms and surrender and I promise none of you will be harmed”. There was a moments silence then panic, believing that not only was the truce over, but they were now demanding our land as well, Percy went down from a volley of fire from all sides of the square, from every one who could manage to raise his weapon. He was dead before he hit the ground. Nellie meanwhile remarkably unscathed pawed the ground, snorted loudly walking away with her tail swishing thankful to have relieved herself of her incompetent rider.
There was for some unexplained reason no response from the British, possibly because most joined by their opposite numbers were drinking, with a bloodless battle over that day, in a trendy little tavern opened to celebrate the colonist earlier takeover the week before, and with exceptionally loud fiddle and lute music well!…….. I’m going to leave it with you to decide!!!
With the capture or really agreed occupation of the main square by the British thus on this occasion saving lives, but making little difference as to the wars eventual outcome, the clearing up began.
Percy’s body was carried reverently with Roberts leading the way, assisted by both men and officers alike, one being the Swiss yodeling a lament, which on this occasion nobody complained about. They were even assisted by one or two of the enemy, upset because they had understandably misinterpreted Percy’s offer and shot him!. Even Woodshrink raised his hand in salute, although showing a cynical almost gratifying smile on his face as they carried Percy by into one of the large houses edging the square. With both sides for the time being calling it a draw, with refusal of the now almost powerless ostracized Woodshrink to be part of that agreement, was accompanied further by handshake’s as the colonists on leaving were able to stroll away through the side streets that Charles commanded, disappearing eventually into the surrounding countryside, but now confidently knowing there was not the determination on their enemies side to win over a people by arms alone.
Bruce by then at the bequest of a written note by Percy, that in the case of his demise, was to be given an honorable discharge and ownership of Nellie with Percy’s undying gratitude for the part they both knew, but not revealed in the letter, he had played to the outcome of this almost bloodless battle.
In deciding to stay Bruce became, with Nellie’s assistance but walking mainly, a very successful sheep farmer, but only after adopting a “Cockney” accent understood by the sheep.
When the news reached England of Percy’s heroic death, it was also interpreted that the labeled victory achieved was due to his courageous effort to capture the main square, of Adolf Woodshrink’ there was no mention, but on his arrival back in England although invited, did not attend the funeral, but immediately though unexpectedly, relinquished his commission and returned to Germany. An unconfirmed rumor was that he opened an archery academy and when satisfied with the skills of his first batch of most proficient pupils, introduced a contest whereby they would shoot an apple off of the top of his head. I think you can guess the rest!! .
It was also recorded that whilst Percy’s body was being prepared for burial, the shot that actually killed him was one that entered the exact centre of the back of his head. A shot agreed by all, that only an exceptional marksman could make.
Of his sister Matilda, enthralled by his accounts of life in New England, following the funeral fell in love with the idea of a pet Kangaroo and emigrated to Australia, opening a school of dancing, especially waltz’s, and went on to became a celebrated dancer throughout the land
When the King himself attended the funeral, Percy’s father the earl, was delighted, for his family had a hero celebrated throughout England, from a son that he had expected very little, if anything at all. To add to his pleasure, he assumed that his eldest son Rupert, would naturally marry in the near future, and the dynasty would continue bearing the family name.
But it did not quite happen that way!
It was about a year after Percy’s death, that a shocked Earl was to learn that Rupert had chosen to enter a monastic life of silence as a novice monk in a monastery on the Isle of Wight, where visitors were allowed just twice a year. A week later, the now distraught Earl unexpectedly suffered a stroke, which sadly confined him to a wheelchair for the remaining years of his life. As the months then years followed, he was most often to be found alone in the library, speaking quietly while smiling to himself, before the imposing portrait of his honorable son, Percy.
(TO BE CONTINUED OR NOT)
In a few weeks the world would be celebrating the arrival of a new year, 1976, but Wally Potts now turning seventy, would not be joining them. Wally Potts was of slim build and conservative appearance, considered slightly eccentric and rarely seen without a tie. His wispy graying hair quite long at the back, now surmounted by a small bald patch stabilized at present, breaking through the crown of his head. Those things were not a problem to Wally, but his short sightedness was. It was only three months earlier that his dear wife May had died, and he greatly missed her, especially when it came to driving anywhere. He smiled with that thought as May had always joked with him in the latter stages of her illness, that he would have to remarry if only to get around.