tagNovels and NovellasAn Officer and a Gentleman-1777 Ch. 05

An Officer and a Gentleman-1777 Ch. 05

byjerseyblue©

Major Tremaine arrived early at the Indian camp. Langlade was there to meet him.

"I see you didn't overload yourself. I'm impressed," he said.

The Major nodded. He had not worn his bright scarlet uniform coat. Instead he had on a brown sleeveless waistcoat and his shirt and breeches though white had faded to a light gray. Not something you normally saw a British officer wearing. He had slung on his shoulders a blanket roll, haversack, and case for his notes. In his belt was a tomahawk. A cartridge box rested on his hip to complete the picture. In his right hand he carried a light infantry version of the Brown Bess, much smaller and lighter.

"Major Acland gave me some ideas," Jeffrey replied.

"Very good, Major. I think you are making a very favorable impression on the people here." He waved to two braves. "Here, stow your gear in this canoe."

The 2 braves approached and Langlade moved to talk to them. Jeffrey couldn't understand a word but he knew it had to be a set of directions. They came over to where he stood.

"Major, this is Wyandot Panther and this is Captain Billy. They will be your guide and escort. I told them if anything happens to you, not to return themselves."

"Thank you, Langlade," Jeffrey replied. "I take much comfort in that."

Wyandot Panther has to be the ugliest person Jeffrey had ever seen. A scar across his cheek gave him a permanent sneer. Jeffrey was glad he was on their side. Captain Billy was small and wiry, just the type needed for this mission.

The braves boarded the canoe and Jeffrey gave one last look around.

"You won't find her, Major. She and her family have left," Langlade said.

Jeffrey smiled. "Meet you at Crown Point, Langlade."

With that they shoved off and headed up the Richelieu.

With the Indians paddling they made good time up the river and were soon on the Lake. At any other time, Jeffrey might have relaxed to enjoy the amazing scenery. The mountains and trees seem to come right down to the water's edge. They were dark and foreboding making him guess on how one could travel on land. He began to wonder if it was like this all the way along the Lake and did the forest extend further south? It could cause huge problems.

The amount of waterfowl seemed unlimited. A day's hunting could bag 100's and it wouldn't be too hard to get more. As they moved, fish could be seen leaping from the water and splashing down, leaving bright rings behind. Jeffrey thought of how easy you could feed a number of soldiers with just fish despite the fact that most hated it. He took out his sketchpad and quickly drew the scenery. Mere words would not suffice to tell this story. Unfortunately Jeffrey didn't look at the view around him as an artist. No, he was an officer and all he saw was the immense thick forest. He took note that nowhere along here could the Army land so once upon the Lake the vast force would have to continue on Crown Point.

The entire trip was made in silence as neither of the braves spoke English and he not a word of their language. His mind began to wander in the quiet. He didn't have a chance to return to the German camp before he left so he never got a chance to see Katrina. There was something about her that intrigued him. He had been with a number of women before but outside of one he never felt like he did now. He wanted to know everything about her, to really get to know her. He was troubled by these feelings and perhaps he could use this time to make some sense of them. He also needed to clear his mind of outside distractions because the more mileage they put behind them the closer they came to the rebel army.

After two days the canoe was beached in cove north of Fort Ticonderoga. Except for a massive thunderstorm that struck the last night, the trip went quickly. Just before sundown, large dark clouds began to roll in from the West and distant peels of thunder could be heard. Jeffrey could tell that the two braves were very concerned and Wyandot Panther became very agitated. For the first time, the two had a large discourse on what to do. All the time it became darker and the wind whipped the water into whitecaps. Suddenly Billy pointed to a beach under some overhanging pines. They turned the canoe quickly towards it. The beach was really a rocky ledge that lead to what could be described as a small cave.

The men got out and grabbed their provisions. Jeffrey grabbed his gear and then hurried to find dry wood for the fire he knew they would need. As he returned with a second armful, there was a brilliant flash of light, a tremendous crash, and the sky opened up. Billy had just dragged the canoe further up the ledge and overturned it when it began. All three men took cover.

The rain was so heavy that they couldn't see three feet into the Lake yet with tree and rock cover they stayed dry all night. After the first storm past, another rolled in so it rained all night. They were unlike any storms Jeffrey had ever witnessed. The more he ventured into this wilderness the more amazed he was.

The next day was beautiful with a bright blue cloudless sky and lower temperatures. The men stowed the canoe and their supplies under cover and quickly moved inland. They crossed the Old Portage Road and plunged into the woods on the other side. Their main goal was to avoid contact at all costs but get all the information they could. As they were approaching the landing, Jeffrey noticed a large hill that rose behind the fort. He indicated that he wanted to go there and Wyandot Panther nodded in agreement.

Wyandot Panther led the way avoiding the post at Mt. Hope, which guarded the road. Jeffrey made a mental note of its location. They waded across the waterway that connected Lake George and Champlain, crossed the road again, and began to climb the mountain. The two braves had no trouble and had to pause to allow Jeffrey to stay with them. After about an hour, they reached the summit and from there, the entire layout could be seen. It was like being seated in the balcony at the theater.

Jeffrey took out his pad and began to sketch the scene. On the west side was the fort and the old French lines. In between were thousands of tents so it was clear that the bulk of the rebel army was on this side. There was a footbridge that connected the fort to the east side of the lake. There on a bluff was another structure that housed more troops. A road led off the southeast behind the smaller fort. From the number of tents, Jeffrey estimated that there were about 3,500 men in total. He stayed about two hours trying to get as much information as he could. He wished he could find out exactly what troops were at the fort, whether they were Continentals or militia but any contact could be fatal. The information was too important to jeopardize with bravado.

All the way down the mountain, Jeffrey wondered why the rebels didn't build works on the summit. Anyone could see that if you could get guns up there you could control the forts. They must have noticed this, as among the rebel officers there were some very good ones, ex-British officers. Perhaps they felt dragging a gun up there was impossible until you build a road. He knew General Phillips would have something to say about that.

Jeffrey wanted to get a closer look at the post at Mt. Hope and the old French lines so he told Wyandot Panther. The Indian shook his head. "Trop dangereux!"

"Pas pour un homme," Jeffrey replied.

"No, trop dangereux!"

"Attente ici, je seral de retour." With that he set off into the woods.

Jeffrey moved slowly as he could hear voices nearby. He stopped about 30 yards from the wooden stockade, hidden by the thick forest. The fort was in poor shape and despite its position of controlling the road; it didn't look like the rebels put any effort into maintaining it. There couldn't be more than a 100 men visible. Having seen what he needed he returned to 2 braves. As he returned, he noticed a look of relief on Wyandot Panther's face.

They moved quickly back towards the canoe. They paused at road, looking before they crossed. They heard voices coming their way as the 2 Indians ran across. Jeffrey began to cross when Billy stood up and motioned for him to stay put. Jeffrey moved back into the undergrowth.

Walking down the road were three soldiers. Two had their muskets slung on their shoulders and the third was casually carrying his. All three were laughing and talking loudly, not suspecting anything. Jeffrey had left his musket with the canoe and all he had was a tomahawk in his belt. His heart was pounding as the men approached. He hoped that they would just pass by then he would join the 2 braves and head back to the canoe. He pulled the tomahawk from his belt.

As they drew even, the 2 Indians burst from the cover and attacked. Swinging their tomahawks, they caught the soldiers unprepared. In a blink of the eye, two of soldiers were struck down and the third turned to run. Instead of running back down the road, he fled into the woods, directly at Jeffrey.

Jeffrey's instincts took over and he stepped from behind the tree. He swung the tomahawk and found his mark. The soldier grasped as the tomahawk hit him in the throat. Blood spurted from the severed arteries and covered Jeffrey's face and waistcoat. He pulled it free and poised to strike again. Instead the soldier dropped to knees and fell forward, dead. It seemed that almost as quickly Billy appeared, holding a bloody scalp in his hand. He saw what Jeffrey had done and grunted some words. He knelt on the soldier's back and quickly removed his scalp.

It had happened so fast that Jeffrey had no time to think. He just reacted. Billy was on his feet and headed back to the road. Jeffrey followed in a daze. As the two crossed the road, the two bodies had already been dragged into the undergrowth. There was no sign of the struggle. Wyandot Panther waited for them, crouched low. He handled Jeffrey two buttons; each stamped MA and headed off towards the beach.

They found the canoe unmolested and quickly reloaded it. Listening for any sounds of pursuit and hearing none, they glided out into the lake. Heading North, they paddled towards the oncoming host.

Major Tremaine stood before Generals Burgoyne, Fraser, Phillips and Baron Riedesel in Burgoyne's tent on the plains at Crown Point. The remains of the huge fort towered behind them. An incredible change had transformed Jeffrey in just twenty-four hours. When he had returned from his scout, he was unshaven and dirty. His waistcoat and shirt had been blood splattered and filthy. His breeches were torn and stained. Now he appeared in spotless white shirt and breeches and a brilliant scarlet coat. His light brown hair was combed and pulled back in a queue. He looked every inch a British officer and a gentleman.

"I've read your report, Major. I must commend you on it," stated General Burgoyne. "But we have questions and need clarifications. We like you to tell us what you found."

"Yes, sir," Jeffrey began. "The cove we landed in is suitable to land a large part of the Army."

"Is it out artillery range from the Fort?" General Fraser asked

"Yes, sir it is. Moving from the landing will easy and we can cut the road quickly. The fort at Mt. Hope is poor and lightly defended. It can be taken easily but I don't think the rebels will defend it."

"Why not, Major?" Phillips asked.

"It is too far from the old French lines and can be cut off easily. After we take this position, we control the entire road and if the bridge remains, we can occupy a position that seals off the western approaches."

"I'm interested in this mountain you climbed, Major. Please tell me about it." General Phillips inquired.

"From the summit you can look right down into the fort and into their entire position.

"Is it within artillery range of the fort?" Phillips now leaned forward in his seat.

"Guns at the top will reach the fort, I believe," replied Jeffrey. "But the climb is difficult even for a goat."

Phillips looked directly at Jeffrey. "Where a goat can go, a man can go. You proved that, Major. And where a man can go, he can drag a gun."

General Burgoyne now spoke up. "What do you know of the east side? Landing places? Roads?"

Jeffrey cleared his throat. "There appears to be a suitable landing just up from the one across the Lake. There is a road behind the redoubt that heads off to the southwest. I did see a road that turned off of it to the north. I couldn't see where it continued to as it disappeared into the thick woods."

Baron Riedesel asked, "So, Major, you do not know if this road connects to the landing place, No?"

"No, Herr Baron, I know nothing of the roads on the east side."

The Baron waved his hand.

Burgoyne shifted in his seat. "Very well, Major, you're dismissed."

Jeffrey snapped to attention, saluted, and left.

Jeffrey decided that he go looking for Katrina since he had a little spare time. He returned to his tent and retrieved a small package. Then he headed over to Riedesel's headquarter. The headquarters was located across the narrow strait on an immense flat plain were the Germans encamped. It was easy to find as it consisted of six large tents. He asked for Fraulein von Buskirk and was directed to a tent located behind the others. There he found her, seated under a lone oak tree, reading a book.

"Guten tag, Fraulein," Jeffrey said.

"Guten tag, Herr Major," Katrina replied. She set the book down and smiled. "I haven't seen you in a number of days."

"Yes, I've been very busy with all that has been going on. May I sit down, Fraulein?"

"Yes, by all means. Please call me Katrina."

"Yes, Katrina and please call me Jeffrey." He sat down next to her. "I have something for you. I hope you won't mind." With that he handled her a small package.

"You didn't need to, Jeffrey, but thank you." She unwrapped it and found a pair of moccasins. She looked at him quizzically.

"I noticed that you are very busy and on your feet a lot. I know that a lady's feet can hurt by the end of the day and those shoes you wear are not the most comfortable so I acquired these for you. I hope you do not think me of being too forward."

Katrina slipped off her shoes and tried them on. They were a bit tight but she understood they would stretch as she wore them. "Thank you. You are very thoughtful."

They sat quietly without saying a word. Katrina broke the silence. "Forgive my forwardness, but why are you here?"

"I don't understand."

"I know you are the first son of Lord Dunsmore and all that entails. You are an important officer on General Burgoyne's staff and this means that you involved in London society. You must know many women yet you spend time with me, a lowly servant to a German baron's children. Why?"

"I don't truly know, Katrina but when I first saw you, I wanted to meet you." He stood and faced her. "When we walked together, I found myself wanting to know more about you. For the past few days I found myself thinking about you when I had time. Everything you found out about me is true and I can't change who I am. If you want me to go, I will but please think it over."

"Jeffrey, I must admit that I have the same feelings and the past few days I longed to see you, to talk to you. I have never felt such feelings for man but I'm not sure."

"Katrina, I don't understand. It seems we have the same feelings towards each other." Jeffrey moved closer and took her hand. She didn't resist.

"I must tell you why I am unsure. As my mother and I moved from place to place, many men offered to help us. Men with titles, honorable men, who gave my mother gifts and told her many things. She knew what they wanted. She was young, pretty, and alone with a child. So she did what they wanted, to protect me. As I grew older, some make the same offers to me but my mother wouldn't allow it. When she heard of this position, she did all she could for me to obtain it. So forgive me for being hesitant."

"Miene liebe Katrina," Jeffrey said dropping to one knee. "I am not like that. My feelings for you are true. The gift was from my heart."

The two looked at each other. A woman's voice called out from one of the tents. "Katrina, die Kinder sind wach. Gekommen!"

"Jeffrey, I must go," she smiled. Standing she placed her hand on his cheek. Katrina bent down and lightly kissed his cheek.

He grabbed her hand. "Tonight?"

"Yes!" and she hurried off.

Jeffrey sat at the table deep in thought. He meant what he said when he said he wasn't like those men. Was it true though? He remembered what Frau von Hausen had taught all those years ago. She had him many things but one thing she stressed above all. Love was not a game and a woman's heart was not a trophy.

He leaned back in his chair, took a drink, and felt Nancy's locket on his skin. He realized he had learned his lessons well, perhaps too well. That is all but one. After all these years, maybe it was time for him to use everything she thing she taught him.

"It is about time you found the love of good woman," Lucien said, downing another drink. "Betsey is the best thing that ever happen to me." Major Jackson was Jeffrey's most trusted friend and he was with his battalion of the 24th Foot.

"How do I know she is the right one?" Jeffrey asked, pouring himself another drink. "I thought Nancy Fox was the right one."

"Maybe she was but that's over now. Time to move on."

"I mean, what do we have in common? She is very young, a German, you know." Jeffrey gulped his drink down.

Filling Jeffrey's glass, Jackson leaned forward. "Stop making excuses. You know what your problem is, Major Jeffrey Tremaine?"

"No. Pray tell me."

"You were too busy making love than loving. You never let them in here." He thumped his chest. "Now this little German girl has got in there and you don't know what to do." He laughed loudly. "Oh sure you'd like her to lift her petticoats for you but for maybe the first time in your life it's for an entirely different reason."

"When did you become an expert on love?" Jeffrey slid his empty glass forward.

Jackson laughed again. "Compared to you, my dear friend, I'm not but I know it when I see it." He grasped Jeffrey's hand. "You're a lucky man. It sounds to me like the girl loves you and you, you blockhead, love her too. Let her know before it is too late." He staggered to his feet, knocking over his chair. "A toast!"

Jeffrey rose slowly to his feet. Both men raised their glasses.

"To love," Jackson said. "The course of true love never did run smooth."

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