tagNovels and NovellasAn Officer and a Gentleman-1777 Ch. 08

An Officer and a Gentleman-1777 Ch. 08

byjerseyblue©

For the next 4 weeks, Major Tremaine never seemed to be out of his uniform. In addition, all his fears and concerns were coming true. General Burgoyne predicted the Army would be Fort Edward in 3 or 4 days. He said this on July 10 in the heady days after the fall of Ticonderoga and the small victory at Hubbardton. It was now Aug. 5 and they were finally in view of the fort's ruins. The road that Major Skene guaranteed was suitable turned out to be a nightmare. The rebels dropped trees blocking the way, dammed streams to flood low lands, and destroyed bridges across each one. Every mile needed to be repaired, widened or rebuilt. The rebels also set up ambushes and harassing fire, disrupting the work groups and delaying progress. Soon there was more infantry in the woods protecting the workers than actual workers.

The General claimed he couldn't be everywhere so he ordered Jeffrey to be his eyes and ears and report back on the progress made. So every morning he made his way down the road to be with the work crew and every evening returned with the day's report. Burgoyne remained behind at Skenesboro with the main Army and small detachments were spread out along the road. As the work progressed, the ride became longer and longer and his time in the saddle more tiring.

One particular time he returned late and went straight to the General's HQ. Burgoyne received him in his dressing gown. He was obviously occupied when Jeffrey reported.

"This better be quick, Major!" the General snapped at him.

From where Jeffrey was standing, he could see the reason. The door was left ajar and there on the bed laid Mrs. Rousseau. Only partially covered by a sheet, she rested on her elbow. Her blonde hair only covered one of her large breasts and just barely. She made no effort to cover herself when she realized that Jeffrey could see her. In fact she smiled at him.

At that moment Jeffrey hated everything about the Army. When asked his opinion back in England, he said the Army needed to cut its baggage and move fast. Instead there were wives, children, mistresses, and four post beds. He wanted to damn the General as Burgoyne slept in a fine bed with a warm, willingly woman and ate fine food. Most of all Jeffrey hated the General because of his failures it kept him from Katrina.

Since the night she agreed to marry him they hadn't been together alone for more than an hour. It was true what they said about absence makes the heart grow fonder. He found himself day dreaming about her, remembering her voice, her kisses, the softness of her skin. He dreamed of more. So much so it almost cost him his life.

One hot afternoon he sat on his horse on the British skirmish line. They had just repulsed a brisk attack and things were settling down. Major Acland who was in charge assured him that the situation was under control and there was no need for alarm. As Acland rode away, Jeffrey let his mind wander. He was exhausted so he closed his eyes for a brief moment.

A voice called out in alarm. "Sir!"

Jeffrey jerked and pulled on the reins of his horse. He felt the wind of a passing bullet as it sped by his cheek. He then heard the crack of the gun.

"That was a close'un, Sir. Begging the Major's pardon," the corporal said.

Jeffrey looked down at the soldier and smiled. "Yes, Corporal Ayres, a little too close. Carry on." He turned the horse's head and rode off.

Corporal Ayres smiled and scratched his chin. "He's a cool one, he is," he said to the private standing next to him. "And how he'd know my name?"

Now he stood before General Burgoyne making a meaningless report.

"The crew cleared and widened about 2 miles of road, sir. They also rebuilt 2 bridges. We reached Fort Anne today with the light infantry under Major Acland and drove off a rebel detachment. There is a large clearing around the ruins, sir and Major Acland has made camp there, sir."

"How is the land beyond? And the road?"

"The land is heavily wooded south of the ruins. The road is in the same condition as it was, sir. There is another road that heads to the west, towards Lake George. It is in better condition, sir."

"What are you saying, Major?"

"Nothing, sir."

At that moment a voice called from the other room. "Johnny, are you ever coming back to bed?"

The General looked at the door then Jeffrey. "I want better results tomorrow, Major. Good night." With that he left Jeffrey standing in the hallway and slammed the door shut.

Jeffrey was exhausted. He was hot, thirsty, and just wore out. He knew he should go to his room and sleep but not tonight. He had to see Katrina.

It was a full moon so he easily made his way to the Baron's HQ. He entered it through the backdoor. Katrina's room was on the ground floor in the back so he didn't have to walk far. The door was open a small amount so he quietly pushed it open. He entered slowly. He could see Katrina from the faint light of a small candle. Suddenly he realized that by being here he could easily frighten her. He stood in the middle of the room and whispered, "Katrina, its me, Jeffrey."

She sat up quickly, suddenly awake. "Jeffrey!"

"Yes, its me."

She jumped from the bed and flew to him. Wrapping her arms around him, she hugged him tight. He could feel her softness through her flimsy nightgown. He kissed her and she held him tighter.

Stepping back, she said, "You look exhausted. Here sit on the bed." As he did, she helped him remove his coat and waistcoat. As she bent down to help remove his boots, Jeffrey could see her full breasts gently sway. God, how he wanted to touch them!

She stood up. "Now lie back. I'll get some cool water and a cloth to wipe your face and hands." She turned for pitcher and basin.

Jeffrey lay back on to the pillow. "It feels good," he thought.

Katrina returned with the water and cloth. She looked down on his face. His eyes were closed and he was quietly breathing. She smiled and climbed in next to him. She placed her arm across his chest and rested her head on his shoulder. She gave a contented sigh as she closed her eyes.

"Gutenmorgen meine Leibe," Katrina said kissing his forehead.

Jeffrey slowly opened his eyes to see her sparkling eyes looking back at him. It took him a few second to gather his senses. "Good morning, my love," he smiled back.

She handed him a mug of hot tea. "I hope I made it like you like it."

He took a sip. "Its fine. I'm sorry about last night. I didn't know I was that tired."

"I understand. Beside at least now I can say I slept with a man." They both laughed.

Jeffrey put the mug down and pulled her on top of him. He could feel her body through the thin material. He slipped his hands down and cupped her ass. She didn't resist and pushed against him.

"My love, I am afraid," she said softly.

"Afraid of what?" Jeffrey replied. "There is nothing to be afraid of."

She kissed him lightly. "I'm afraid I will disappoint you. I love you so much yet I know nothing about pleasing a man."

"Oh, Katrina," he said wrapping his arms around her. "When the time comes, you will know what to do. You will be perfect."

Everything seemed to going in slow motion. No one seemed to be in a hurry when every one should have been. The march to Fort Edward took almost a month to accomplish. In mid-month, a detachment of slow moving German dragoons was cut to ribbons on a horse raiding expedition to the Hampshire Grants. Jeffrey was not sure why General Burgoyne refused to let him accompany the column and it was only when news came back to camp of the disaster was he allowed to ride out and guide in the survivors. It may have saved his life.

More bad news arrived on the heels of the Germans' defeat. Lord Howe who was supposed to push north up the Hudson to join this army at Albany sent news he wouldn't be coming. He was off to capture the rebel capital at Philadelphia. Colonel St. Leger who to meet Burgoyne at Albany after conquering the Mohawk valley was stopped by rebel forces and was reeling back to Fort Niagara. Instead of pushing on after crossing the Hudson north of Albany, the Army sat and waited. Waited for what, no one was sure of.

The General may have wanted to wait but there were two lovers for who the wait was too long. The Baroness as Katrina's guardian gave her blessing to her marrying Jeffrey and since that day had watched over her closely. The Baroness wanted the wedding to be held in Albany and that was it. No questions could be asked.

In the small amount of time they could steal together, it was obvious that their passion and frustration was rising. Their kisses were more passionate and they craved the touch of each other. The simple act of holding hands took on a new and more compelling effect.

Jeffrey knew that that Katrina being a virgin was the overwhelming reason that they hadn't made love yet. He smiled when he thought of other women he had been with. He never had this concern before but he wasn't going to rush things yet. She deserved more from him. He realized that possibly for the first he would truly be making love with a women who love him and it had to be right.

During the long road building, Jeffrey got to know Major John Acland quite well. With his best friend, Lucien Jackson, being wounded and set back, it seemed natural for Jeffrey to find another friend who he could converse with and share thoughts. He had spent almost all the time with Acland and had been with him during a number of skirmishes. So many that Acland trusted Jeffrey to take control of half the line numerous times. The Major joked that he wasn't too bad for a cavalry officer then in all seriousness asked if Jeffrey would like a position in the light infantry. They were short officers and he needed the help.

It wasn't too bad a time to ask Burgoyne for a new assignment. For reasons he couldn't quite fathom, Jeffrey was on the General's bad side. It could have been Baron Riedesel and the Germans. Burgoyne didn't want them in the first place and now the General could only see failures and stubbornness on their part. It didn't help Jeffrey that it was he who would usually brought the information and suggestions from the Baron to the General. Jeffrey had the feeling that his relationship with Katrina was mixed up in it all.

Then there was the Indian situation. As they left St. John's, Burgoyne was told that 1000 natives would join the expedition. As of right now less than 400 showed up and they were causing more problems than they were worth. Many were slipping away. Again Jeffrey was somehow involved in this too so when he went to the General he was happy to let him go.

"Of course, Major," he said. "A chance to get out from under this staff, eh? Very well but it is just temporary. I still may need you to straighten out those damn Germans. I know you are well liked over there."

Since crossing the river the light infantry was in contact with this every day. Each day there were less and less Indians available, as they seemed to melt away over night. This meant the infantry had to do the scouting and as the days passed, more and more rebels were gathering. There were few clearings that broke up the deep woods that surrounded the road along the Hudson. It was from these that Jeffrey and Acland could deploy their men and drive back the rebels. It was in the woods where the rebels did the pushing back.

Jeffrey found himself dining with the Aclands on a regular basis. It was here that he was able to spend time with Katrina. Lady Harriett Acland and Katrina had grown to be great friends over the last month. Katrina had convinced the Baroness Riedesel to allow her 3 children to play with the Acland girl. This was a help to Lady Acland as she was pregnant and the girl they employed to help out with their daughter had run away. One more child wasn't a burden to Katrina.

Jeffrey and Katrina were able be together at least at dinner. They would sit next to each other and touch each other under the table. It was Katrina who was growing bolder as she placed her hand on his knee one night. A few nights she had moved to his thigh. Jeffrey's look of surprise made her smile.

It was that very evening that trouble on the picket line caused Major Acland to be called away and a concern about one of the Riedesel's children that required Katrina's presence, leaving Jeffrey and Lady Harriett alone.

"So, Major Tremaine," Lady Harriett began. "Katrina is a very remarkable young lady. My mother and I have grown very fond of her. She has become like a younger sister to me."

"She speaks very highly of you also," Jeffrey replied.

"She is the daughter of Count and Countess von Buskirk. Isn't he related to the King of Prussia?"

"Yes, he is." Jeffrey didn't elaborate or change his expression.

"I see," she said sipping her wine.

Jeffrey waited impatiently for the next question.

"She absolutely adores you, Major. You are very lucky but she is afraid she will disappoint you. She is very naive, you know." She didn't wait for his reply. "She has asked many questions and I hoped I have eased her mind about such things."

"I thank you, Lady Harriett."

"I know of your reputation with the ladies, Major Tremaine, and I hope your intentions are honorable."

Jeffrey smiled at her. "You may rest easy. What is in my past is done. I truly love Katrina. There is no question in my mind."

"And what of my cousin, Nancy Fox? I believe there were rumors a wedding or such."

Jeffrey thought carefully before he answered. "There were never real plans between Miss Fox and me. That was a long time ago and though I had feelings for her, I don't think I loved her, or she, me. I now know what love is. Now may I ask you a question?"

"It depends on the question, Major?" she answered defensively.

"Why did she marry Sir Digby Strange?"

Lady Harriett laughed quietly. "From your question it is clear you don't know Nancy now. There has always been a cold streak inside her. You know her parents, though not poor, were not wealthy so she wanted more. At first it was love then money, prestige but that changed. Perhaps your title impressed her too. She became more interested in money and prestige, being important in society. Her marriage to Sir Digby has given her that." She took another sip of wine. "And the answer to your next question is I don't believe she loves him but many years ago she did love you."

Major Acland rushed into the room. "Tremaine, we are moving to the attack tomorrow! There is a lot we need to do."

Jeffrey stood and bowed. "By your leave, Lady Harriett. It has been most informative." He followed Acland out, not seeing Katrina by the other doorway.

"Major Tremaine," Baron Riedesel said. "It is good to see you. It has been a long time."

"Yes, Herr Baron," Jeffrey replied.

"I suppose you have heard the General has decided to attack the Americans today."

"Yes, Herr Baron."

"Then you know my men are assigned to the far left. We are to guard the bridges and the camp." He shook his head. "We are to do nothing." The Baron stood up and walked around the table. "You must have done something very bad to be sent back to me."

"I don't know, Baron, but I'm glad to be back."

"Well, Major, we shall see."

The firing on the far right grew in intensity all afternoon. The dirty smoke rose above the tree line yet from their position along the river road, the German left wing knew nothing of what was happening. No orders or messages arrived from headquarters. No information was received.

The waiting, the not knowing irritated Jeffrey. He mounted his horse, rode a little, and then dismounted trying to get any information from the battle sounds. "Baron, Request permission to ride to find General Burgoyne, sir."

"Nein, Major. In do time." The Baron was seated in a camp chair, eating a cold sausage. On the table beside him a map was unfolded. "From the sound it seem the fighting is near the far ravine." He stuck a greasy finger at the map. "General Fraser should be able to handle it."

As the Baron finished eating, the sounds of gunfire increased. Not only in volume but it seemed nearer. Jeffrey walked over to his horse. The Baron had risen from his seat and walked over to where Jeffrey stood. "Perhaps, it is time, Major. Go and find General Burgoyne and see if he has any orders for us."

"Yes, sir!" Jeffrey saluted and mounted up. He spurred his horse and rode hard towards the firing. He found what appeared to be a farmer's lane that led up a ravine. He made a mental note it was wide enough for a column to navigate. The gunfire grew louder as he rode further up the lane. The woods were thinning out, as it appeared that there was an open field at the top of the hill.

He suddenly burst into the open and violently reined his horse to a halt. The chestnut bay skidded on the dry grass. The entire scene played out in front of him. The British line seemed to be in tatters with small groups of men still firing. One battalion had fixed bayonets and was charging into the melee. The rebel line overlapped the thin red line and threatened to flank it. If it did then the center would collapse and Army would be split in two. For only a brief moment he sat on his horse, weighing his decision. The Baron needed to bring his Brunswickers on the double before was too late. He gave one last look and turned his horse. A bullet whizzed by him as he rode off.

There wasn't going to be enough time, Jeffrey thought. By the time he returned and the Germans formed up, the rebels will have smashed the center and won the day. Then the bridges would be all important. He reached the end of the trail and turned onto the river road. He was pushing his horse hard, wasting no time. Up ahead he could hear singing. Those damn hymns!

Jeffrey jerked his horse to a halt. "Wo ist der Baron, Colonel?"

"Organisieren Sie die Spalte, Major. Was sind Ihre Aufträge?" Colonel von Specht replied.

"Follow me, on the double, there is no time to lose!"

The column followed Jeffrey on the trail to the top of the ravine. Reaching the open field, Colonel von Specht needed no further orders from Jeffrey. He could see for himself. He deployed his regiment into line and the two following regiments did also. The German artillery unlimbered and opened fire immediately.

The Baron rode up to Jeffrey who was mounted just behind the guns.

"It seems we have arrived in the nick of time, Herr Major," the Baron smiled. "Time to give these rebels some cold steel." He pointed his baton. He shouted above the roar, "Weiterleiten an der halben Schritt Marsch!"

The drums rolled and the line moved forward in precise step. The late afternoon gleamed off the polished bayonets as the blue coated men moved forward. No hymns were sung this time, just grim silence with only the noise of footsteps to be heard. The men marched forward in deadly earnest. The line halted within 20 yards of the rebels who were desperately trying to refuse their flank to meet the oncoming assault. The line fired as one and then with a deep manly shout charged.

As at Hubbardton, Jeffrey felt his pulse racing and he rode forward just behind the lines. The sounds of the battle were like music to his ears. "Come on, lads, forward," he yelled though no one could hear him. His blood was up and he didn't even notice when a bullet hit the pummel of his saddle, just inches from him. Rebel riflemen were targeting officers especially those on horseback yet none had hit Jeffrey. He rode back and forth, constantly in motion, cheering the men on.

Suddenly the fighting seemed to stop. The rebel flank was turned and their line broke. They didn't flee in disorder but retreated in an organized withdrawal from the field. The riflemen covered their retreat. The Germans were exhausted from their rapid advance up the ravine and were in no condition to push forward. Many officers were down and it would take time to organize the regiments for a pursuit.

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