The Fiery Cross

Author: P Hana

Page 143

   

“What Business has Maurice Moore to be judge, He is no Judge, he was not appointed by the King He nor Henderson neither, They’ll neither of them hold Court. The Assembly have gone and made a Riotous Act, and the people are more inraged than ever, it was the best thing that could be for the Country for now We shall be forced to kill all the Clerks and Lawyers, and We will kill them and I’ll be damned if they are not put to Death. If they had not made that Act We might have suffered some of them to live. A Riotous Act! there never was any such Act in the Laws of England or any other Country but France, they brought it from France, and they’ll bring the Inquisition.”

Many of them said the Governor was a Friend to the Lawyers and the Assembly had worsted the Regulators in making Laws for Fees. They shut Husband up in Gaol that He might not see their roguish proceedings and then the Governor and the Assembly made just such Laws as the Lawyers wanted. The Governor is a Friend to the Lawyers, the Lawyers carry on every Thing, they appoint weak ignorant Justices of Peace for their own purposes.

There should be no Lawyers in the province, they damned themselves if there should. Fanning was outlawed as of the Twenty-Second of March and any Regulator that saw Him after that Time would kill him and some said they would not wait for that, wished they could see him, and swore they would kill him before they returned if they could find him at Salisbury—Some wished they could see Judge Moore at Salisbury that they might flog him, others that they might kill him. One Robert Thomson said Maurise Moore was purjured and called him by approbrious Names as Rascal, Rogue, Villian, Scoundral, etc. others assented to it.

When News was brought that Captain Rutherford at the head of His Company was parading in the Streets of Salisbury, this Deponent heard Sundry of them urge very hard and strenuously that the whole Body of the Regulators then present should March into Salisbury with their Arms and fight them saying They had Men enough to kill them, We can kill them We’ll teach them to oppose Us.

Taken sworn to & Subscribed this eighth

Day of March 1771 before Me

(signed) Waightstill Avery

(witnessed) Wm. Harris, Justice of the Peace

William Tryon to General Thomas Gage

North Carolina

New Bern ye 19th March 1771

Sir,

It was Yesterday determined in His Majestys Council of this Province to Raise a Body of Forces from the Militia Regiments and Companies to March into the Settlements of the Insurgents, who by their Rebellious Acts and Declarations have set this Government at defiance.

As we have few Military Engines or implements in this Country, I am to request your assistance in procuring me for this Service the Articles (cannon, shot, colours, drums, etc.) listed hereby.

I intend to begin My March from this Town about the Twentieth of next Month, and assemble the Militia as I march through the Counties. My Plan is to form fifteen Hundred Men, though from the Spirit that now appears on the Side of Government that Number may be considerably increased.

I am with much Respect and Esteem

Sir Your Most Obedt. Servt.,

Wm. Tryon

57

NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP . . .

Fraser’s Ridge

15 April, 1771

ROGER LAY IN BED, listening for the intermittent whine of an invisible mosquito that had squeezed past the hide covering the cabin window. Jem’s cradle was covered by gauze netting, but he and Brianna had no such shielding. If the damn thing would just light on him, he’d get it—but it seemed to circle tirelessly above their bed, occasionally swooping down to sing taunting little neeeee songs into his ear, before zooming off again into the dark.

He should have been tired enough to fall asleep in the face of an assault by airborne squadrons of mosquitoes, after the last few days of frantic activity. Two days of fast riding through the mountain coves and ridges, spreading the word to the nearer settlements, whose inhabitants would in turn alert those militia members farther away. The spring planting had been accomplished in record time, all the available men spending the hours from dawn to dusk in the fields. His system was still charged with adrenaline, and little jolts of it zapped through mind and muscle, as though he’d been taking coffee intravenously.

He’d spent all day today helping to ready the farm for their departure, and fragmented images of the round of chores scrolled behind his closed lids whenever he shut his eyes. Fence repair, hay hauling, a hasty excursion to the mill for the bags of flour needed to feed the regiment on the march. Fixing a split rim on the wagon’s wheel, splicing a broken harness trace, helping to catch the white sow, who had made an abortive escape attempt from the stable, wood-chopping, and finally, a brisk hour’s digging just before supper so Claire could plant her wee patch of yams and peanuts before they left.

In spite of the hurry and labor, that dusk-lit digging had been a welcome respite in the organized frenzy of the day; the thought of it made him pause now, reliving it in hopes of slowing his mind and calming himself enough to sleep.

It was April, warm for the season, and Claire’s garden was rampant with growth: green spikes and sprouting leaves and small brilliant flowers, climbing vines that twisted up the palisades and opened silent white trumpets slowly above him as he worked in the gathering twilight.

The smells of the plants and the fresh-turned earth rose round him as the air cooled, strong as incense. The moths came to the trumpet flowers, soft things drifting out of the wood in mottled shades of white and gray and black. Clouds of midges and mosquitoes came too, drawn to his sweat, and after them, the mosquito-hawks, dark fierce creatures with narrow wings and furry bodies, who whirred through the hollyhocks with the aggressive attitude of football hooligans.

He stretched long toes out against the weight of the quilts, his leg just touching his wife’s, and felt in memory the chunk of the spade, hard edge beneath his foot, and the satisfying feeling of cracking earth and snapping roots as another spadeful yielded, the black earth moist and veined with the blind white rhizomes of wild grass and the fugitive gleam of earthworms writhing frantically out of sight.

A huge cecropia moth had flown past his head, lured by the garden scents. Its pale brown wings were the size of his hand, and marked with staring eye-spots, unearthly in their silent beauty.

Who makes a garden works with God. That had been written on the edge of the old copper sundial in the garden of the manse in Inverness where he had grown up. Ironic, in view of the fact that the Reverend had neither time nor talent for gardening, and the place was a jungle of unmown grass and ancient rosebushes run wild and leggy with neglect. He smiled at the thought, and made his mental good-night to the Reverend’s shade.

Good-night, Dad. God bless you.

It had been a long time since he’d lost the habit of bidding good-night in this fashion to a brief list of family and friends; the hangover of a childhood of nightly prayers that ended with the usual list of, “God bless Nana, and Grandpa Guy in heaven, and my best friend Peter, and Lillian the dog, and the grocer’s cat . . .”

He hadn’t done it in years, but a memory of the peace of that small ritual made him draw up a new list, now. Better than counting sheep, he supposed—and he wanted the sense of peace he remembered, more than he wanted sleep.

Good-night, Mrs. Graham, he thought, and smiled to himself, summoning a brief, vivid image of the Reverend’s old housekeeper, dipping her hand in a bowl and flicking water onto a hot griddle, to see if the drops would dance. God bless.

The Reverend, Mrs. Graham, her granddaughter Fiona and Fiona’s husband Ernie . . . his parents, though that was a pro forma nod toward two faceless shapes. Claire, up at the big house, and, with a slight hesitation, Jamie. Then his own small family. He warmed at the thought of them.

Good night, wee lad, he thought, turning his head in the direction of the cradle where Jemmy slept. God bless. And Brianna.

He turned his head the other way, and opened his eyes, seeing the dark oval of her sleeping face turned toward his, no more than a foot away on the pillow. He eased himself as quietly as possible onto his side, and lay watching her. They had let the fire go out, since they would be leaving early in the morning; it was so dark in the room he could make out no more of her features than the faint markings of brows and lips.

Brianna never lay wakeful. She rolled onto her back, stretched and settled with a sigh of content, took three deep breaths and was out like a light. Maybe exhaustion, maybe just the blessings of good health and a clear conscience—but he sometimes thought it was eagerness to escape into that private dreamscape of hers, that place where she roamed free at the wheel of her car, hair snapping in the wind.

What was she dreaming now? he wondered. He could feel the faint warmth of her breath on his face.

Last night, I dreamed I made love with Roger. The memory of that particular entry still rankled, hard as he’d tried to dismiss it. He had been drifting toward sleep, lulled by his litany, but the memory of her dreambook pulled him back to wakefulness. She had damn well better not be dreaming such a thing now! Not after the time he’d just given her.

He closed his eyes again, concentrating on the regular pulse of her breathing. His forehead was mere inches from hers. Perhaps he could catch the echo of her dream, through the bones of her skull? What he felt, though, was the echo of her flesh, and the reverberations of their farewell, with all its doubts and pleasures.

She and the lad would leave in the morning, too; their things were packed and stood with his own bundle beside the door. Mr. Wemyss would drive them to Hillsborough, where she would presumably be safely—and gainfully—employed in painting Mrs. Sherston’s portrait.

“You be bloody careful,” he’d said to her, for the third time in an evening. Hillsborough was smack in the center of the Regulators’ territory, and he had considerable reservations about her going at all. She had dismissed his concern, though, scoffing at the notion that she or Jem might be in any danger. She was likely right—and yet he wasn’t so sure that she would act differently if there was danger. She was so excited at the prospect of her damn commission, he thought, she’d walk straight through armed mobs to get to Hillsborough.

She was singing softly to herself—“Loch Lomond,” of all bloody things. “Oh, you’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll be in Scotland aforrrrrrre ye . . .”

“Did ye hear me?” he’d asked, catching hold of her arm as she folded the last of Jemmy’s dresses.

“Yes, dear,” Bree had murmured, lashes fluttering in mocking submission. That had irritated him into grabbing her wrist and pulling her round to face him.

“I mean it,” he said. He stared into her eyes, wide open now, but with a hint of mockery still glinting in dark blue triangles. He tightened his grip on her wrist; tall and well-built as she was, her bones felt delicate, almost frail in his grasp. He had a sudden vision of the bones beneath Brianna’s skin—high, wide cheekbones, domed skull, and long white teeth; all too easy to imagine those teeth exposed to the root in a permanent rictus of bone.

He had pulled her to him then with sudden violence, kissed her hard enough to feel her teeth against his own, not caring if he bruised either of them.

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