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Captain Fitz

A Novel By James H. Keil

369 Capisic Street

Portland, ME 04102

207 774-7546

keil@maine.com

Approximately 88,000 words

Historical Fiction

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CHAPTER I

The sun drifted across the deep azure sky like a golden pendant,

playing bright licks of flaming sunlight off thatched grass roofs. Snug,

white bungalows rose along both sides of narrow, cobblestone streets on

the steep hills above the teeming wharf at the head of an otherwise

sleepy harbor.

The post coach rolled to a clattering stop in front of the tailor

shop at the bottom of the hill. Its gilded sides were adorned with the

picture of a post boy, with flying horse and horn, and gilt letters

spread beneath it, saying:

He comes, the herald of a noisy world,

News from all nations lumbering at his back.

The driver shifted his enormous girth toward the edge of the bench

on top of the wagon, and lowered himself laboriously to the ground,

opening the door to the rear compartment. His jacket showed white

perspiration rings under the arms, both a measure of his obesity and the

day's temperature. He withdrew the leather mail pouch, and walked

unsteadily toward the door on spindly legs that bowed outwardly, beneath

his great bulk.

The tailor shop door swung open noisily, on rusty hinges, and a

gentle breeze entered with the driver, sending small swirls of woolen

lint into the air around his feet. "Good day, ma'am." The driver said,

tipping his hat in the direction of a seamstress who sewed quietly in a

dark corner of the room, holding her work up to the light of the open

door to examine it. "I've a letter for a Master Fitzsimon, and I've

another for Thadeus Gordon, proprietor of this shop."

"Right." The seamstress said, nodding. "I'll take care of 'em

both, if you'd be so kind as to leave 'em on that table by the door."

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"Aye, Miss." The driver said, bowing smartly. "Enjoy the fine day,

now. It looks like the weather's on our side for a change." The

seamstress nodded, concentrating on the work in her lap.

The black horse's head swayed sleepily back and forth as he

shifted his weight between the braces of the single harness on the

carriage. He waited patiently for the driver to return to his lofty

perch, and for the quick tug on the checkrein that would bring him back

to life. The prattle of wagon wheel and hooves droned off gently into

the distance.

The door to the privy slammed shut with a hollow thump, and a

young man with thick, wavy hair, in tattered clothing, standing well

over six feet tall, with thick, broad shoulders, hurried down the narrow

brick path, through the tiny, but lush green garden toward the front of

the shop. He tugged on the front of the worn linen shirt that barely

covered him from the elements and that strained open across his huge,

muscular chest.

"Ye best hurry, Master Edward." The seamstress said, as Edward

entered the shop, and the door slammed shut behind him. "Mister

Gordon'll be back any minute and you know how he gets if he finds you

away from your work." She held her work up to the light of the tiny

window beside the door. "Since you are right here....." She said, "How

about holdin' this for me for just one second, while I pin it. That's

it, mate............just another second. There. Now that's done.

Thank you, Edward."

He started up the stairs to the loft, taking them two at a time.

He worked in the loft, toiling and sweating never less than fourteen and

often eighteen hours a day, for little more than his room and board,

which consisted of a sleeping nest in the back, among scraps of

discarded cloth, and the rats, who envied his nest-making abilities, and

claimed it for themselves whenever he wasn't there, and sometimes when

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he was; waking him during the night by walking or running over his

sleeping body.

"Oh, yes." The seamstress called out, remembering the postboy,

stopping Edward just before he reached the top step. "There's a letter

for you in today's post. It's on the table by the door." Molly Young

smiled, as he came down the stairs to get his letter. She shared

Edward's youthful dream of going to the New World. They had talked many

times while Mister Gordon was away, sharing problems of the present and

wishes for the future. She admired the young man, and cared for him as

one of her own. Weeks before, waving a handbill he had picked up on the

waterfront in her face, he said, "I have it, Molly! I have it! This is

it!!" He gushed. "Have what, youngster?" She asked. "I have a way to

make the crossing! I've discovered a way."

"Whoa." She said, interrupting the dance by grabbing his

shoulders. "Slow down and tell me what you're talking about." "I'm

going to be a redemptioner." He said, picking her up in a sweeping

motion, then bouncing her feet back to the floor with a wet kiss on her

cheek. "A re-what?" She asked, wrinkling her brow. "A redemptioner.

See, it says right here." He said, pushing the handbill into her face.

She read:

William Penn's colony, called the HOLY EXPERIMENT, is a place

where land ownership is open to all, and every man's rights are

equally respected. A redemptioner can earn his passage by

agreeing to work a number of years without pay, for the person

already in the New World, who will pay his fare.

"That's how I'll get there, Molly!" He said with glee. "I've

already written for my passage." Edward had bounced happily to the loft

those weeks before, before she had a chance to explain to him how little

chance there was that his request would be answered.

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Edward was alone in the world at eighteen. His mother yielded to

the horrors of smallpox shortly before his fifteenth birthday, six years

to the day his father was thrown from a wagon and killed, during a

storm. With the demise of his mother, the younger children had been

sent off to the homes of relatives, while Edward, who was old enough to

work, had been placed by the courts with Thadeus Gordon. Thadeus Gordon

was a distant cousin, and a greedy, unscrupulous businessman, whose only

reason for taking the boy was mercenary.

He knew the boy would work long and hard out of sheer desperation,

and he needed an extra pair of hands in the tailor shop. He was

unwilling to allow Edward into his home, even though he was a blood

relative, forcing him instead to live in the shop and to exist in

virtual slavery.

Edward clutched the envelope hard to his chest, closing his eyes

with excited anticipation, as if trying to draw the message from within

without opening it, then he bounded up the stairs, three at a time, just

ahead of Mister Gordon, who boomed through the front door, carrying two

bolts of new cloth.

"Are you finished with Captain Newick's order yet?" He demanded

of Molly without a hint of a greeting. "Aye, Mr. Gordon. Edward has

the last of it in the loft now, and we are almost........" Her words

were drowned out by a joyous warhoop from the loft.

"I say.........what........what could be wrong with that lazy

lout, now?" Thadeus Gordon growled. "Curse the day I ever agreed to

his keep. Eats me out of house and home. Hasn't earned the bread that

keeps his belly full for one day since he's been here. He'll never make

a tailor, that's for sure." He shook his fist toward the loft, then

sauntered into his office behind the shop. "Perhaps I'll trade him for

gold. The next Gold Coast slaver to put into the harbor, I'll put him

on it."

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Molly took a deep breath, gesticulating toward the heavens, and

toward Edward in the loft, knowing full well that Gordon meant the words

he muttered, and, sooner or later, would follow through on the threat.

*****

Thick, dirty, brown manilla hawsers held the sailing ship in

place. They groaned deeply with every tidal swell that rose up beneath

the slippery timbers of the old wharf, loosing damp, musty odors with

each movement. A rat, making his move to enter the hold of the wooden

ship that lay ashore, packed with provisions for the six to twelve week

voyage for the 150 passengers, 40 crewmen, and the two dozen horses and

cattle crowded aboard; tried to skirt the cone-shaped rat-guard on the

hawser, lost its footing, and tumbled, twirling head over heels into the

brown, murky waters below, landing with a quiet splash.

At the foot of the gangway leading to the Kalmar Manheim, a vessel

of fourteen guns, stood Captain John Jacob Von Steuben with his first

mate, Troy Merrill, and Young Edward Fitzsimon, who stood a head taller

than either man, and was half again as broad.

He stood erect and proud, and the gentle breeze tousled his thick

hair and made it stand on end in bunches. At his feet lay a small

bundle of gray sailcloth, with a white drawstring pulled tightly at the

top. The drawstring had been sewn in place by Molly Young the day

before he left, stealing away with the dawn to avoid discovery by

Thadeus Gordon, who would have called in the sheriff to avoid losing his

cheap labor. The bundle contained all his worldly possessions.

The day was February 13, 1740, and the sun's rays accented the

cottony edges of the white and grey clouds that floated randomly about

the otherwise crystal clear blue sky. A mild breeze set Captain Von

Steuben to stirring, nervously glancing toward the seawall.

He had been at sea for almost all of his life, first setting sail

at the age of ten. His travels had taken him around the world, and

through the world's oceans. He knew from experience, that sailing

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conditions were excellent, but fast deteriorating, and that storms were

brewing offshore to the north. He was anxious to set sail. He nodded

toward the purser, who, with a wave of his arm, beckoned Edward, the

last of the passengers yet to board, aboard.

Captain Von Steuben put aside his feelings of trepidation about

the over-loading, and under-provisioning of his vessel. He knew it to

be a tested, and proven, sea-worthy craft owned by the Philadelphia

Freight Company, and gave the order to his first mate to get underway.

Most of the 150 passengers aboard his vessel were part of a

religious band from Holland and Germany that hoped to make Penn's land a

refuge from persecution. Their leader, a man named August Klinger, died

in Rotterdam, just before the company was set to sail. His widow and

children continued with the company as missionaries, out to spread the

belief in Jesus Christ throughout the New World.

The last of the cargo was stowed, and all the hatchways made

secure and fast for the beginning voyage. All hands quickly made ready

at sea detail, letting go the lines that had held the vessel steady in

port during the loading on of passengers and provisions. At the command

of the captain and the pilot, who assisted in clearing the crowded

harbor entrance, they set sail.

Young Edward sat, feet curled beneath him, using the oaken sides

of the hull as a back rest, and rocked with the gentle lift of the green

swells of briny sea beneath them. Around him were throngs of people who

had followed him above decks for a breath of fresh air, for none now

existed in the holds below.

"Are you travellin' alone, son?" A kindly voice beside him asked.

"Me?" Edward asked, defensively, afraid that Mister Gordon had sent

someone to catch him. Loneliness finally prevailed and the wary

youngster answered, despite his apprehension. "Aye, sir. I'm alone."

The older man's eyes studied the face of the teenager who traveled in

the body of a man, a huge man at that, with the shoulders of a

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blacksmith, and the thick, sinewy arms of a wrestler, and whose eyes

reflected a fear and desolation within.

"Tis a grand land we're sailin' for, my boy." The man said, in a

soft, and reassuring, gentle voice. "Aye?" Edward said, hopefully,

forgetting for a moment the overwhelming sensation of homesickness. "So

I've heard. Tis all a man could wish." He said, a smile forming on his

lips.

He turned toward the man, who was much older than he, but still a

young man, perhaps in his late thirties, or early forties. His tanned

face showed hard lines around the eyes and mouth, but overall his look

was gentle, and Edward thought he looked much as he imagined his father

would have looked. "You've been there, then?" He asked the man,

hopefully.

"I have, laddie. I've been to Philadelphia." "Philadelphia?"

Edward asked, exitedly, since that was his destination as well. His

face was aglow with the hope that something his companion might say

would convince him that his decision was the right one.

"Tis a fine, fair city, lad, with straight, orderly squares

of houses, unlike anything you've ever seen. It's uncrowded. Not like

anything in Europe. It's a greene, country town, as I've heard the

Governor himself call it. Aye, tis everything he claims it to be."

Suddenly, the man became quiet, looking toward the water, his head

hanging in sadness. "Are you alright, sir?" Edward asked, his voice

demonstrating his concern. "Aye, laddie." The man said, standing

droop-shouldered over the forecastle, holding tight to the rail with

both hands. Through a long silence he peered pensively over the bow of

the gunwales at the waves breaking in broadcasts of white droplets over

the bow.

At long last, he spoke, his eyes shifting away from the waves

beneath the ship, and drank in the panorama of unbroken ocean horizon,

as the travelers left all visible evidence of civilization far behind.

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Then he turned to Edward, his face attempting to mask a deep and

obvious sadness. "A moment of melancholy thoughts." He said, shrugging

his shoulders dejectedly. Then he straightened, took a deep breath, and

continued. "It was to return to the New World with my new bride that I

came back to England, God rest her soul.

"I'm sorry, sir." Edward said, his voice betraying the sadness he

felt over the loss of his own loved ones. "Smallpox." The man said,

simply. "While I was on the high seas, comin' back for her. The house

is complete, provisions in for the winter, livestock, wood cut and

stacked.................." His voice drifted, then faltered, and he

stopped talking.

The two stood in silence for some time while they swayed with the

rocking rhythm of the fair, green, ocean. "What will you do when you

reach Philadelphia, my boy?" He said at last.

Edward smiled proudly. "The good doctor has agreed to allow me to

redeem myself to him. I'll work off the debt as his houseservant." The

gentleman nodded. "What doctor is that, may I ask?"

Edward pulled his woolen coat tighter around his shoulders as he

talked. The cool sea breezes hove the vessel onward ever more quickly

through the billowing waters. He felt suddenly defensive, and afraid to

answer as the air became colder and the sun plunged for the horizon,

signaling the end of their first day at sea. He had learned self-

preservation in a hostile world, and suddenly felt afraid that yet

another adult might take advantage of his plight.

He studied the gentleman's face. The ruddy, high cheekbones and

grey, bushy eyebrows over soft, blue eyes that showed gentle lines of

sadness around them made Edward feel more trusting. He answered,

softly. "Christopher Witt is his name. He lives in Germantown, I'm

told not far from Philadelphia." Edward answered, spitting into the air

over the forecastle, in what he deemed to be a manly fashion, then he

silently counted the seconds before it landed in the water below.

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The gentleman turned the collar of his mackinaw inward, and shook

his head, pensively. The coat was his prize possession. He had traded

for it on the shores of the Shackamaxon in the northeast of Philadelphia

with members of the Cayuga Tribe of the Iroquois Nation. "Aye." He

nodded. "Doctor Witt, of the Kelpians."

Edward's eyes opened with surprise and hopeful expectation. "You

know of Doctor Witt?" He asked. "Yes." The gentleman nodded, smiling.

"I do know of him. Everyone in Philadelphia knows of Doctor Witt. He

is well known." "What do you know of him?" Edward asked, hungrily.

"And what can you tell me of Germantown, where he lives, and of

Philadelphia?"

The answer was lost in the febrile furor that came suddenly from

the ship's crow's nest, and the lookout posted there, who warned

hysterically of a abrupt storm. The storm clouds blackened the horizon,

furiously churning the waves to whitecap and beyond, until they built to

a small waterspout that rose to a height even with the top of the

mizzenmast, and that moved faster than the vessel itself.

All eyes stared through the sudden downpour as the waterspout

danced mischievously starboard of the Kalmar Manheim almost crashing

into it. It then gradually slowed and drifted off the stern, and

disappeared into the swirling, churning, blackness.

In a matter of minutes, the squall had swept the vessel off course

and was pushing it toward the rocks off the end of the shoal. The sails

were dropped quickly, but not quickly enough. "Drop anchor!!" Captain

Von Steuben ordered, in a last-ditch attempt to stave off sure disaster.

The ship was forced hard against the anchor. It finally broke loose

under the strain, tearing a great hole in the side of the vessel in the

process. The storm swirled in increasing fury and gathered strength

until the vessel was driven upon the hard bank with a huge crash.

"Commend your souls to the Lord!! We shall surely go down!!"

Despairing sailors cried woefully, giving up their efforts to save the

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vessel and themselves. Passengers and crew alike fell to their knees to

pray. One of August Klinger's sons managed to get to his feet and inch

his way along the gunwales to the helm, where the captain and his

helmsman stood, held fast by ropes lashed to the helm. The ropes were

tangling in the wildly spinning wheel. Sheets of grey/white water washed

across the vessel.

"All will be well, Captain Von Steuben!" The young man screamed

into the driving gale, as if he felt it was his job to reassure the

captain. "The lord will deliver us!! He has come to me in a dream!"

The harassed captain sternly admonished his passenger to get back in the

holds, but his voice betrayed his own forlorn acceptance of impending

death. "I have had inward promptings of the spirit!!" The young man

screamed once more at the top of his lungs, cupping both hands toward

the captain as he spoke. He turned to go below, shouting once more.

"We shall be delivered!!"

Suddenly, the ship was rocked to its timbers by a huge wave that

knocked the young Klinger over the rail in a wash he never even saw. He

somehow managed to grab a rope in his desperation, and slowly pulled

himself back aboard. When his feet hit the deck, he quickly disappeared

into the hold, saying nothing more. Another huge wave crashed over the

gunwale, one that would surely have taken him, too, unleashing a

groaning creak from deep within that made all of them certain the vessel

had split.

Against all laws of nature and physics, the vessel was lifted

somehow by the last powerful wave, and carried to a safe place away from

the shoal, where it certainly should have been destroyed by the waves

alone. But destroyed it was not, for no reason known to any of them,

and they were somehow able to ride out the fury of the storm. On the

21st they reached the Downs, where they secured, managed to drop anchor

and begin to repair the damage to the vessel.

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Eventually the damage was brought under control, then they again

sailed out into the great ocean beyond, now delayed by over a week.

Each day of the rest of the voyage, everyone aboard, even the crew,

joined hands for the reading of scriptures, songs and prayer.

Rather than improve after the storm, conditions on the crossing

got worse before they got better. The vessel tumbled atop the giant

swells for weeks on end. Anyone who had to venture onto the deck was in

danger of being washed overboard, and there was the perpetual sound of

retching and groaning from within the hold. It was as though the miracle

wave that saved them from the fury of the storm brought with it a

terrible curse on the living.

With the sun going down for the day at the end of the first weeks

of calmer weather, the sky seemed afire in a chorus of reds and

brilliant oranges that danced from cloud to cloud, blending softly with

what was left of the deep blue sky after a nearly perfect sailing day.

Exultant shouts of "Land, Ho!!" drifted onto the decks from some crewman

hidden high in the mainmast crosstrees. Welcome words for those few

fortunate enough to have survived the nineteen week crossing.

"Be the Good Lord willing, we land June 23rd." Edward said aloud

to no one in particular, wearily marking off yet another day in his

diary, which was filled with notations of the deaths of acquaintances he

had met along the way, starting with the gentleman who had known of

Doctor Witt.

The poor gentleman was washed overboard during the very first

storm the ship encountered, taken over the side as he and Edward stood,

frozen in terror, watching the waterspout close on their vessel. That

first big wave took several poor souls over. Only Edward, among the

passengers on the upper deck, managed to find the strength to pull

himself to safety along the rails.

"24th, Lad." Edward was surprised to hear a voice respond to his

comment. John Harris, another skinny, haggard survivor spoke the words

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quietly. He looked at Edward from the bulkhead leading into the hold.

"The captain'll not try for a landing today." He explained. "He'll

likely lay off shore for the night, and make for port with the new

light. Them pirates lay in wait this time of day." His eyes drifted

slowly down toward the holds below.

"It won't make much difference to the lot of them when we land,

whether today, tomorrow, or last week." He said, with a weakened sweep

of his arm over the unwashed survivors in the roundhouse. "They aren't

going to make it anyway." Most lay half naked upon the rough deck

planking, among the tubs they had used for their bodily functions, too

weak to move, and too weak to care.

Captain Von Steuben, normally a very kind captain, and his ill-

fated Kalmar Manheim, had fallen victim, as so many vessels to the new

world did, to the over-crowded, under-provisioned conditions aboard the

vessel. This had been a disease-ridden voyage. Scurvy spread rampantly

through the ranks of passenger and crew alike. Provisions which would

have only been the minimum for those on board under normal conditions,

gave out entirely after the storm delay. The captain had been forced to

increase the rations to his crew and those able-bodied enough to help

with the sailing of the ship. This increase in rations, unfortunately,

came at the expense of many of the hapless immigrants, and nearly all

the livestock aboard.

Of the 150 German and Dutch hopefuls sailing aboard Kalmar

Manheim, who had been victims of religious persecution in their

homeland, and who had set sail nineteen weeks before, 100 died before

reaching the promised land. Those who could afford least for their

passage, had to endure the worst conditions of all. Among those, Edward

FitzSimon survived the crossing on youth, stamina, and a bulldog resolve

to reach the New World alive, and the captain's realization that he,

Edward, was strong enough to help, and was therefore entitled to the

increased rations of crew, which kept him alive.

13
**************

"Master FitzSimon, I presume?" A voice asked Edward, who stood on

the dock, ragged clothes dripping over his emaciated frame. He leaned,

exhausted, laboriously holding himself upright against a lamppost at the

end of the pier after staggering down the gangplank.

"Doctor Witt?" Edward asked, turning weakly toward the voice. He

was surprise at the hoarseness of his own voice as he spoke. The young

black man standing before him flashed a wide grin, revealing neat,

alabaster white teeth. He leaned his head back and laughed with a loud

and boomingly musical voice.

Edward studied the young mulatto, who stood before him, well-

dressed in fine Amish black linen. His glistening leather boots were

polished to a silvery shine. The young man was well spoken, quite

obviously well educated, but still moved with the humble mannerisms of a

slave. Edward determined that he was a slave, despite outward

appearances.

"Nay, lad." The young man laughed. "A doctor I'm not. What I am

is a doctor's slave." He said the words with great animation and

flourish. "So your guess is a good one. I am Robert." He bowed deeply

toward Edward. "I am Doctor Christopher Witt's personal slave......His

personal servant." Robert's jet-black eyes danced merrily at the

thought he had been mistaken for the doctor, and his belly shook with

quiet, wheezy laughter. He shook his head back and forth, clucking his

tongue as he realized what poor condition Edward was in. Edward was

able to manage only a weak smile.

"Come laddie. You look as if you could stand a good meal. No

doubt you've seen all the sea bisquits you’ll ever want to see again.

Edward grimaced at the thought.

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"It must have been a fitful journey." Robert said, dividing his

attention between tending the reins and talking. "Aye." Edward

answered, quietly, leaning hard into the side of the carriage. "I

really am most thankful just to be here and to be alive." He put his

head down and was silent for a moment, then took a deep breath. "I'm

sorry I can't say the same for most of the others. Twas a bloody hell

of a way to die." Edward said, exhaling deeply.

He sighed, then pulled himself up to look out the window. "By all

appearances, Philadelphia is the fair city I had heard it was. Edward

said, changing the subject from the voyage he wanted to forget. "Aye.

It is." Robert agreed. "This was only farmland, and good farmland, at

that, where this tavern and row of homes now stands, when I first set

eyes upon the City of Brotherly Love." He shook his head at the

prospect of progress. "Aye, Philadelphia is a fair city, built upon

good land, and it is growing."

Robert turned the brougham into the right fork in the road ahead,

and started the long, gradual climb to the highlands known as the

Germantown Ridge. Germantown Ridge overlooks the banks of the

Schuylkill River and follows its contours and turns. "Where does the

left fork lead, Edward asked, casually, as they passed it by. He was

trying to establish some sense of the city's layout in case he might

need to make a hasty exit, a throwback to his fears of Mister Gordon

trying to track him down. "Turks Head." Robert answered. "Four days

travel by wagon. It is a small village of summer pleasures, mostly.

Still wilderness and populated quite heavily with savages, except in the

summer, when the genteel from Philadelphia go there, on holiday."

Edward nodded. "I've read about the red savages here," He said,

"A Godless people, the lot of 'em." He spat the words out rather

venemously, mimicking what others had told him.

Robert smiled, then leveled a sobering stare into the eyes of his

young charge. "You are but a young man, Master Edward." He said,

15
before running a finger under Edward's chin, where only a whisper of a

beard stirred. "Tis a bit early for you to be judging any men when you

haven't even shaved yet........especially a people you have never laid

eyes upon." He smiled, enjoying the fact that Edward's face turned

scarlet with embarrassment. "It is heart that makes a man, not the

color of his skin."

He paused, studying Edward's reaction, certain that it was the

first time in Edward's young life that he had really pondered the

differences between men, let alone noticed the differences. Edward

leaned hard against the door, and rested his head against the window.

Robert went on, "Remember that laddie. Don't be too quick to

judge a man on what he appears to be. Look to his heart. Now Doctor

Witt, why, there's a man with heart. Has the heart of a saint, he

does." Robert chattered on, listing many of the good qualities of the

Doctor. But he drew his words up short when he glanced toward Edward

after a while to see his reaction, and realized the young man, slouched

hard against the inside of the heavily padded and velvet lined coach,

was sound asleep.

**********

The small table near the back door of the tavern they called

Turk's Head Inn was covered with a coarse, faded, red checked linen

table cloth. The pattern was woven into the cloth, and it hung unevenly

over the edges.

The long end of the table cloth was draped sloppily over the legs

of the muddy, tattered and barefoot man who slept face-down on the

table, snoring, drooling spittle out of the corner of his mouth with

each exhale.

16
A small candle flickered brightly at the fingertips of his right

hand, and an empty Bass Ale bottle lay on its side on the floor between

his feet.

A bosomy barmaid bustled out of the kitchen carrying a carved

maple tray, set heavily with wavy glass mugs of ale, foam-topped and

frosty, and another green, drawn-glass bottle of ale. Turning a quick

glance in the direction of the sleeping giant, the hint of a satisfied

smile crossed her face as the patrons of the Inn questioned her about

his presence in the Inn.

The turnin' of a mug of good ale is a man's pastime, said the tiny

man with long gray hair that hung loosely over the collar of his raglan

coat to those around him at his table. "Tis no place for a boy." He

said, in a squeaky, irritating voice, gesturing toward the tattered

stranger. "Who is the lad, anyway?" One of the other men asked.

"We should be asking Regina here, I suspect." One man said,

grabbing the barmaid around the waist and pulling her close. "I think

she could tell you much about the lad, couldn't you now?" He asked,

pinching her on the cheek as he laughed.

She pushed him away, knocking over a stoneware mug in the process.

It hit the pine floorboards, polished to a wavy gloss by years of foot

traffic over oily food spills, sending up a kaleidoscopic spray of ale

amid glistening chunks of pottery.

"Now see what you've done, Mr. Quinn!!" She scolded, her face

reddening with embarrassment. She stooped to pick up the pieces and put

them into the folds of her apron, which she held tightly with both hands

to make a pocket of sorts. "I knows nothin' of the boy meself!" She

said, indignantly, as she stretched under the table for shards that were

beyond her reach.

Quinn kicked the shards toward her. "Tis not the way it was this

forenoon, when I seen the two of you in the shed, back of the barn."

Quinn said, to peals of raucus laughter from the table of frontier

17
woodsmen, bringing a flush to the cheek of Regina, whose mouth dropped

open with the realization that they had been seen.

She whirled toward the sanctity of the kitchen, casting a worried

glance the way of young Edward, who stirred slightly at his table. With

a nervous smile, she remembered her morning with the young and very

handsome, though tattered and barefoot giant. She pushed the door

inward, entered the kitchen, stopped and peeked back into the dining

room.

The man they called Cyrus stood up, taking his leave from the

others at his table. His long, matted, grey trusses were oily and

unkempt, and they left grease stains on his collar. His rat-like

features belied his true character and unwashed identity, for, in

reality, and known to few, he was a bounty hunter, and a soldier of

fortune.

He had been months in the areas between Christiana and Turk's Head

in search of runaway slaves, who were trying to make their way north via

the underground railway. He had been using the notorious "Gap Gang," to

run down and capture the runaways, chasing them like dogs.

More than once, Cyrus and his gang had chased down and taken in

freed slaves who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,

mercilessly banishing them once again to a life of slavery, in return

for a few coins.

"None of you recognizes that young stranger, then?" Cyrus asked,

in his whiny squeak of a voice, eyeing the group suspiciously. "It's

strange the lad should turn up one day, barefoot and ragged as he is."

He said, to no one in particular, "Not knowin' a soul, and no one

knowin' him."

"Cyrus, you knave," Quinn said, grinning mischievously. "You

suspect that the boy's a runaway?" Cyrus backed away, suddenly

nervously defensive. The rest of the men began to laugh, as Quinn

pushed the much smaller Cyrus in the direction of Edward.

18
"Ask him!" Quinn said, "Go ahead and ask him." "Aye!" The group

joined in. "Have at him! You have nothing to fear. The young'un is

only slightly taller than a full-growed oak tree, and no more heavily

muscled than a pulling ox. Surely he won't hurt you. Just ask him if

he's a runaway." Everyone laughed except Cyrus. Quinn laughed loudest

at the little man's expense. "He might tell you," he laughed, right

before he pounds you in between them floorboards you're standing on."

The Inn erupted in laughter. Cyrus backed away from the table,

silently, uttering not one word, embarrassed that the other men saw he

lacked the courage to approach the stranger face to face. Amid the

convulsive laughter, he slipped out the front door, casting one last

glance at Edward, who now sat upright, stirring himself awake, blinking

away the lingering effects of the morning rum; unnoticed, except by

Regina, who still watched from the kitchen, warily following Cyrus, the

devil, as he left.

"Up, now Laddie.....and be on your way." She said, standing

beside Edward's table. "I don't know where you came from.........and I

don't care..............but I know you're running away from something.

And I have a feeling Cyrus knows what it is. He'll be back for you.

He'll have your hide if it's worth a farthing."

Edward took a small bowl of beans and a chunk of dark bread from

the tray she held. "I'm on my way, then." He answered hurriedly,

devouring the beans in huge gulps. He tucked the bread inside his

tattered shirt. "You have been most hospitable, and I do appreciate

it."

The sound of the tavern door swinging open with a crash brought

him to his feet, knocking Regina against the wall in the process.

"There he is!! Take him!!!" Cyrus shrieked, leading a band of armed

men into the tavern. "Halt!!" The tallest man shouted. He wore a dark

gray fur cap with a white tail. He leveled a pistol slowly in the

direction of the fleeing Edward.

19
Edward crashed, head-first, into the door as the pistol sounded,

spewing forth a great cloud of pungent white smoke that filled the room,

as the door shattered into pieces under his full weight.

"Ooohh!!" Regina squealed, swooning dizzily, sliding to the floor

with a thud. She dropped her tray loaded with bowls of boiled meat and

gravy as she fell, rolling everything toward the door Edward had just

splintered.

The tall man fell first, slipping in the grease, falling flat on

his back with a dull thud. The others came crashing down upon him.

The other patrons at the Inn broke out in tumultuous laughter at

the prospect of hired bounty hunters sprawled in an unctuous heap in the

center of the floor, unable to get up.

Cyrus leveled a sinister glare at Regina. "That's a good way for

you to end up in a pine box, wench!" He said, pointing his pistol

directly into her face.

"Oh, Mr. Cyrus, Sir." She began in profuse apology. "Beggin'

your pardon, Sir. I meant no harm. I was startled by the shot. I

couldn't help it, Sir. I did not mean to faint or drop the tray."

After a long, and disgusted stare, Cyrus lowered the barrel of the

pistol and ran toward the back door, following his men who had at last

recovered their footing and resumed the chase. Regina followed him with

a jittery eye. She was sure the ball had found its mark.

"The assassin runs like a deer." One of the bounty hunters said,

shocked to find that Edward had already cleared the small courtyard

behind the tavern, scaling an eight foot fence on the way. He then

dashed down the narrow alleyway leading out of the village, and was gone

before his tormentors had even gotten out of the building.

"Yes, he runs like a deer." The tall one said, studying the

leaves on a hedge, pointing to droplets of frothy blood on them. "But a

wounded deer, at that. It appears our quarry has been lung shot. He'll

not run far."

20
Edward FitzSimon paced himself, running barefoot along the ridge

high above Turk's Head Highway, which led through the untamed wilderness

to Philadelphia.

He followed the trail beneath the clear light of the last quarter

moon, turning inward any thought or recognition of the excruciating pain

that racked his tortured body. He refused to allow himself to dwell any

thought on it. Instead, he drew strength from the only mental image he

would allow himself; that of having the bony neck of Cyrus within the

powerful grasp of his own hands, twisting, cracking the last threads of

life from it. He ran on and on, powerful strides covering long

stretches of turf in each bound.

With stamina and energy oozing from his body as fast as with his

life's blood, which flowed steadily to the ground, he knew he could not

run much longer.

He climbed to a high point on the ridge, taking up the converse of

Robert's cardinal rule of the hunt, which was to always know the

location of the quarry, and, by studying its movements, to predict its

next turn.

Back-tracking, circling from the leeward to minimize the

possibility of wind carrying the sound of his movements, he kept his

pursuers confused by predicting their movements.

At last, he came upon a shallow lake at the headwater of a small

stream. The headwater itself was very heavily vegetated, with long,

mossy vines hanging down into the water.

He ran into the shallows, pushing himself onward as long as he

could, fighting back the excruciating pain. After he had run long

enough through the shallow stream to hide his scent from the dogs, he

took his knife and cut a hollow reed, then he lay in the shallows,

covered by swamp grass.

He lay on his back, breathing through the reed whenever he heard

anyone approaching, while he fought against losing consciousness. It

21
was a losing battle. Finally, as the sounds died down, he could stand

it no more. He dragged himself to shore, and collapsed there, half in

the lake and half ashore.

Still fighting to remain conscious, he drifted in and out

fitfully, and babbled deliriously. His pursuers had long since moved

on. Then, he thought he saw someone on the lake shore beside him. He

could barely make out the form of a human being. His mind, racing with

pain, perceived a dark, coppery-skinned man, nearly as dark as Robert,

wearing a close-fitting knee-length painted buckskin jacket over

deerskin leggings.

The coal-black hair was pulled, tight and shiny, into a single

drop in the back, and one feather was braided into place. The figure was

moving toward him. "Indian!!" Edward shouted in alarm, using what little

strength he could muster to pull himself into a sitting position.

"Robert!!" He cried out. "Robert!! Where are you, Robert?

Indian!!!" He muttered incoherently before falling back upon the

bearskin that was under him, and drifting off into unconsciousness.

***********

***********

Doctor Christopher Witt was among the last of the Kelpians, who

settled along the banks of the Wissahickon Creek in what is now called

Germantown in Philadelphia. Believing that the world was soon to end,

the Kelpians lived pious, single, and solitary lives, in order to

achieve what they believed would make them pure before the second coming

of Christ.

A learned man, well versed in religion and philosophy, Dr. Witt

was a graduate in medicine and had started the first botanical garden in

America. His large garden was started even before the gardens of John

Bartram, who is generally credited with having been the first American

botanist.

22
Doctor Witt was also among the first manufacturers of clocks in

America. His were fashioned entirely from brass and steel, chimed on

the quarter hours and were the forerunners of the grandfather clocks of

later years. Doctor Witt's clocks, however, were fastened to the wall

with brackets.

He also practiced magic, and many of the Kelpians believed he had

mystical powers that could heal, or remove all sorts of evils. Some

also believed he had the power to talk to spirits from the world beyond.

It was the belief that he practiced magic and had contact with the

dead, that eventually doomed young Edward FitzSimon, his indentured

servant, to a lifetime of exile.

Edward, with the doctor's devoted and faithful slave, Robert,

shared many of the household chores in the doctor's home and spent long

hours helping to build the clocks, and to tend the garden. This was

true especially after the old man had succumbed completely to his

gradually worsening blindness, no doubt brought on, at least in part, by

the hours of tedious work in his shop.

Very near the doctor's house was the Warnock burying ground. For

years, neighbors had told stories about it, and many people, especially

the young, believed it to be haunted, plagued with the frightening

unrest of lost spirits.

The story was told that at midnight, unearthly creatures could be

seen flitting about in the pale moonlight of the cemetery. Some of

these figures wore black, some white. Many people in the area spoke of

seeing the lonely figure of Doctor Witt, blind, in his eighties, slowly

feeling his way along the stone wall, up the hillside and into the

lonely, ghostly graveyard.

Here in the graveyard he would mingle, the stories said, with the

ghosts and demons until the clock in the Old German Church struck one,

when he would slowly move back down the hill. Robert would meet him

halfway with a lantern, and lead him home to rest. Occasionally, after

23
his second year with the doctor, Edward was permitted to walk with

Robert.

Robert did not see the gang of teenage thugs who lay in wait for

them, one cool evening, as the Doctor edged along. Edward did, but too

late. The drunken vandals, bent on destroying what they considered to

be evil and fearsome, smashed their clubs into Robert's skull, crushing

the life from him, dropping him in a broken heap at the edge of the

stone wall surrounding the cemetery.

"Robert!! Look out!!!" Edward screamed, even as the clubs came

crashing down upon his own skull. Dazed, he backed away from the first

glancing blow, and grabbed the club with all his considerable strength,

and exploding rage.

Tendons and ligaments strained to the point of popping. His

breath murmered furiously through clenched teeth, his face locked in an

enraged grimace at the sight of the fallen Robert.

The club he somehow found in his hand quickly found its mark, and

one of the vandals tumbled, senseless, to the ground in a crash that

scattered clouds of loose earth.

Edward powered ahead, landing chest to chest with another. The

thudding impact echoed off the stone wall in ripples. The two men

locked arms in a test of strength, and what became a battle to the

death. The veins in their necks stood out like pieces of rope.

Bone slipped over bone, snapping with a crunching sound, as Edward

squeezed, grabbing the vandal in an insurmountable bear hug. Time stood

still, and eternal seconds later, the vandal's legs dangled limply

beneath Edward's lunatic grasp. A howl of frenzied fury broke from

Edward's lips as he dropped the lifeless body in a heap at his feet.

He breathed deeply, surveying the situation, his rage beginning to

subside. Then Edward was numbed by the silence, the sudden, still,

awful silence left behind by the retreating survivors of the attack, who

24
scurried down the hill to safety. The silence was unbroken by the three

bodies stacked at his feet.

A low, wailing sound brought him back to his senses. He turned

toward the guttural, strangling, moaning sound, and saw Doctor Witt, his

scalp split and bloodied, trying to drag himself to his feet.

"Edward, you must save yourself." The kindly old doctor said,

weakly.

"It is you and Robert they shall hold accountable for this." He

coughed deeply, spitting droplets of blood into the night.

"You and Robert must go.........." The doctor said in a weakening

voice. "You must go to........my brother. Go to the Inn they call the

bucket of Blood............................." The doctor slipped into

unconsciousness, muttering the last words inaudibly.

Edward lowered the lifeless body of Doctor Witt slowly, lovingly,

to the ground. Then he gently and carefully straightened the old

gentleman's coat, pulling it tightly around the neck, as if to protect

him from the elements. He placed his hat beneath the doctor's head as

if it were a pillow, and as if it would make any difference at all.

Still crouching over the doctor's lifeless form, Edward squinted

toward the sounds of voices coming from the thicket south of the burial

ground. Flashes of light through the trees told him that searchers were

already coming, carrying torches and more clubs. He knew that soon they

would come upon the grizzly scene and he would be proclaimed the wanted

killer.

Circling back through the burial ground, knowing that none of the

men following him would dare to enter it directly, he followed Naylor's

Run down the hill, passing close enough to the unsuspecting torch

carriers to have touched them.

They concentrated their attentions straight ahead, fearful of the

spirits they had heard so much about, while Edward made his way back to

Doctor Witt's stone house.

25
The pale, white limestone house sat starkly at the base of the

hill, keeping its silent watch over the burial ground, which was now

alive with torches weaving about among the trees.

Daring not to take the time to saddle a mount, Edward slipped a

small pistol under his belt, and hurled a bridle over the neck of

Sinbad, Doctor Witt's prized chestnut Morgan. Edward had the duty of

feeding, grooming and exercising the horse every day for the doctor, and

had come to love the horse as his own.

He brought Sinbad down the lane, riding bare backed. The horse's

nostrils flared, and his breath streamed like fire in the night. He

turned west onto the Ridge Pike at a full gallop. He took the horse

onward past Green Lane at full speed, keeping the pace until they were

well clear of the village.

Edward's mind raced as they surged westward. He knew that the

people of the village would suspect him, and that they would hunt him

down to kill him.

Indentured servants held the same status as slaves. To many

people, they were less than slaves, and were only a step or two above

cattle in the minds of most of the villagers. Added to that, the

majority of Doctor Witt's neighbors feared him and his connection to the

doctor's magic. Many of those who didn't fear the doctor hated him

still for having a slave who lived almost like a free man. Others were

simply jealous of his abilities. Edward knew he had no chance of

staying and trying to explain.

He drove on into the night, heading for Ludwick's Corner, the tiny

settlement on the westernmost edge of the new frontier and the tavern

owned by the doctor's brother. The tavern had become known as the as

The Bucket of Blood because of the many fights that took place there.

It was a place where the wild men of the frontier, who lived by no

law, mixed with the law-abiding citizenry of the coastal colonies. In

that atmosphere, intellectual pursuits many times took a back seat to

26
brawn. Rarely was the clash of the two cultures a pretty sight, and it

was never a place for the feint of heart. Doctor Witt never went there,

instead limiting his visits with his brother to Germantown or other

places.

With the sun cresting the horizon at his back, it sent orange

licks of light into the deep magenta of dying night blackness, teasing

the morning sky to life. Edward watched the side lantern of an

eastbound carriage appear in the roadway far ahead of him.

Reining Sinbad into the high side of a ravine, he dismounted to

wait for the carriage to pass. He watched it approach over the muddy

highway made barely passable by logs laid into the mire. Plank roads

were common in this part of Pennsylvania. He listened, and watched the

coach driver struggle to contain the spirited horses in his team.

How easy it would be, he thought to himself, as he drifted off to

sleep, for a bandit to surprise an unsuspecting traveler nearing the

pinnacle of this, or any other ridge offering a long, unbroken view of

the highway below. How easy it would be to relieve that traveler of

money and valuables.

It would be a long walk, he reasoned, to the next settlement,

where the robbery victim might or might not find willing help. In all

probability, any help brought back would find the perpetrator of the

crime long gone, vanished into the barbaric countryside.

Edward traveled only under cover of darkness, and laid low in the

daylight. Eventually, he neared the village at Ludwick's Corner, and

the tavern owned by Horace Witt, thirty years the doctor's junior, who

lived worlds away from the doctor's religious, self-sacrificing

lifestyle.

He reined Sinbad to a stop in a small burying yard within sight of

what Horace Witt called the Inn of the Four Falls, but which was known

infamously to others on the frontier as The Bucket of Blood.

27
Frequent frontier brawls involved backwoodsmen, traders, and,

quite often, half-breeds, who were considered outcasts by everyone,

accepted nowhere, whose avocation it was to travel the far reaches of

the frontier testing nerve, mettle, and brawn in brabbling brawls that

sometimes left losers minus scalps. Winners were not always much better

off, and were often reduced to hopeless cripples as a result of the

savagery.

Winners might also be waylaid, and robbed of the spoils of their

victory by roving, opportunistic gangs that lurked in the shadows

outside the Inn.

Sinbad watered in the small brook to the east of the cemetery, and

grazed lazily in the golden grass that rippled gently in the mild, late

afternoon breeze. Not wanting to risk entering the village during

daylight hours, Edward leaned against a tree trunk and munched the inner

shoots of cat o' nine tails and some mushrooms he had gathered earlier.

He patiently awaited nightfall and the cover of darkness.

Relaxing somewhat, he dozed lightly, his aching body sorely in

need of rest. His breathing deepened, and he stared up at the sky,

watching the playful antics of a pair of cottony cloud squirrels,

choreographed over the cerulean clarity of the afternoon sky.

"What's that?" Edward declaimed, bounding to his feet in an

instant. "Come out of that thicket before I blow your head off!!" He

said, taking sure aim with the pistol.

Edward stood open-mouthed at the handsome spectacle emerging from

the thicket before him. A pink cheeked lass, lovely as a rose in warm

sunshine, parted the branches and stepped into the clearing. "Please,

Sir, do not fire!! I meant no harm!" She pleaded.

Edward stood, slowly turning the young lady with a hand on her

shoulder, while his hawk-like eyes the surroundings. His survival

senses were sharpened by the constant struggle for life in this harsh,

New World, as well as by the teachings of Robert, who showed him how to

28
hunt like the Indian, to channel his vision, to see only the important

details, never to be distracted by the superfluous.

Seeing no other in the area, and seeing nothing else to arouse his

suspicions further, he lowered the pistol and turned his attentions to

the young female.

"What brings you here?" Edward asked, warily, after a long

silence. A worried frown on his face betrayed the look of a fugitive.

His eyes continued to dart in and out of the shadows as she spoke.

The girl began to tremble at the sight of the pistol. "Not to

worry, sir. I was only gathering honey from that tree, yonder." She

held up a small, brown, earthen jug, partially filled with sweet, golden

honey. "I come here often........just to get away from the Inn for a

while." Edward's face softened as he watched the girl. "There are many

unsavory characters at the Inn." Edward nodded. "So I have heard."

"And where do you live, young Miss?" Edward asked. She pointed

toward the village. "What is your name?" "Katie." She answered.

"Katie Witt." Edward smiled for a second, happy to hear a familiar

name. Then his eyes continued scanning the brush around them for

movement. . After a time she began to feel less threatened by his

presence.

"And you? What is your name?" She asked. "Edward." Was his

short answer. "Have you no surname?" She asked. Edward shook his

head. "Nay, Miss. Edward is enough."

After a long silence Edward asked another question. "Are you kin

to Horace Witt?" Katie's face flushed with surprise. Her eyes danced

with the reflected sunlight. "I am." She answered. "He is my father.

Do you know my father?" She asked. Edward shook his head slowly, still

watching the woods around them with a wary eye.

"No." He said. "I don't know him, but I know of him." He stepped

back, swooning unsteadily for a second, an aftermath of the clubbing at

the cemetery.

29
"Ohh!" Katie exclaimed. "Oh! You're hurt!" She reached out to

touch his head where he had placed his hand. She recoiled at the sight

of the scabbed over knob behind his temple.

Edward straightened, stiffly. His eyes betrayed his

embarrassment. "No, lass. It's nothing. It's practically healed." He

said, turning his head away from her. She grimaced, knowing he was not

admitting the truth, but said nothing further.

"Where is your house?" He asked. Katie's face was a mask of

concern as she watched Edward intentionally turn away from her. "Over

the rise." She said, finally. "My father has fashioned us a right

pretty little house, away from the Inn. Tis not a good place for

youngsters, he says. Much too rough." Edward nodded, knowingly. "I've

heard." He said. His hand lifted to his head absentmindedly. He

rubbed it gently.

"Let me have a look at that knot on your head!" She finally said

in an insistent voice. She stood up and gently parted the hair on the

side of his head, studying his scalp. "Stay put. I'll be right back."

She said, disappearing into the thicket.

Edward heard her rustling noisily through the underbrush. She

emerged seconds later, smiling broadly. She carried the root of a plant

she had removed from its place in the earth.

"Here." She said, her voice gentle, and soothingly sweet. Edward

had known little of sweet voices in his lifetime, and he knew little of

gentle treatment by anyone. He relaxed in her soft and capable hands,

and leaned back against the trunk of a tree.

"Here." Katie said. "Let me put some of this on your head." She

twisted the root over the scab and rubbed the juices from it onto his

head. Gently, she massaged it in.

"Feel better?" She asked, after a while. "I think I do." Edward

said. "Thank you." He leveled a long, appreciative gaze upon her. She

30
blushed slightly. He determined that the young face in front of him

reflected nothing, if not trusting and innocence.

"Now tell me." Katie prodded gently, moving closer to him as she

spoke. "Why are you hiding out here? And what are you doing in

Ludwick's Corner? And how do you know of my father?" Edward took her

by the shoulders and pushed her away playfully.

"Whoa, lass." He said. "One thing at a time." He studied her

expression for a long moment. "And should I be telling you anything?"

He said, more to himself than to her.

"Of course." She answered, returning his direct gaze. "Everybody

has to trust somebody." She said, smiling. "Lean over here so I can

put more of this on."

She rubbed more root juice into the sore spot on his head. She

looked deeply into the soft brown eyes that peered searchingly into her

own. They reflected a gentle sadness and quiet desperation that she

found difficult to resist. His tanned, handsome face and large-boned,

boyish features were not quite those of a man, she thought, but they

were certainly more than those of a boy.

Edward took a deep, cautious breath, then began telling his story.

"I am a redemptioner, sworn to work four years to pay off my passage

from Britain. I was brought to Philadelphia to work for my master.

When I got here in the colonies I found things were better than I had

imagined in my wildest dreams at home in Britain."

"I have learned much since I have been here. And my lot in life

has certainly been more pleasant than it was in Britain. At least until

now." Edward's eyes dropped to the ground, and he drew silent.

"What brings you here, to Ludwick's Corner?" She prodded. "My

master has taken leave of this earth." He said, sadly, placing his hand

over his heart. "A good man, he was. The best."

31
Katie frowned, but then her face brightened. "But that means

you're free, then?" She asked, hopefully. "Not exactly." Edward said,

scraping moss with his boot.

He studied the face of the young girl, reading her eyes deeply, as

he debated with himself whether to trust her with the truth, or whether

she could handle it. He took a deep breath and spoke quietly. "His

name was Doctor Christopher Witt." He said, after a long, nervous

silence, deciding that he had to confide in someone.

"Ohh!" Katie said. "My uncle!" Edward nodded, sheepishly.

"What has happened to my uncle?" She asked. He took another deep

breath, after convincing himself that his only chance of survival be in

her hands, and that he needed to trust himself to her in order to live.

Edward took her by the shoulders. "The good doctor was murdered."

Edward said. "Along with my good friend, Robert." Katie gasped.

"Robert, too?" She commented, shivering at the thought.

She knew little of the uncle who lived a few days travel from the

Inn, and who lived in a world so completely different from her own, and

that of her father. She had seen him only a few times during visits to

Germantown.

The things she remembered most about the visits was Robert. She

was fascinated by the musical voice of the doctor's slave and personal

servant, who loved to entertain small children with tales of his earlier

life on the plantations of the south.

"There are those who will say that I had a hand in your uncle's

death." Edward continued. Katie stiffened, watching him closely. "I

swear on my mother's grave I did not." "But why? Why would you be

suspect?" She asked, finally, after reassuring herself that he Edward

was trustworthy with another long look.

"It was the night of the new moon, at Warnock Burying Place."

Edward continued. "I know of that place." Katie interrupted. "The

32
neighbors. They thought my uncle mad....." Edward shook his head

affirmatively. "Yes. I know that they did.

It was on one of his nightly walks to the graveyard where he would

undertake his scientific studies, when we were beset by a gang of

vandals with clubs. It was only by the grace of God that I didn't join

the doctor and Robert in the world beyond on that night."

Katie shook her head sadly. "My father has worried for years what

some of the neighbors might someday do to my uncle because of his

strange ways. Poor, blind devil. What on earth could they have feared

from him?" She asked.

"Not of this earth, lass." Edward said. "What?" Katie asked,

narrowing her eyes, quizzically. "I said, not of this earth. I know

not what he did nights in that graveyard, but I do not believe the deeds

to be of this earth. Neither Robert nor I were ever allowed to enter

the burying place, but were left instead to wait. Whatever the deeds

were, it was they that brought him to his end. Him and Robert....These

vandals did not understand that he was harmless to them. They feared

him because he was different."

Katie's eyes opened fearfully. "These same vandals are following

you, then." She said. Edward nodded. "Aye. If not them, others. If

not sooner, then later. No doubt them that was part of the scheme to

begin with will lead the pack. They hunt indentured servants like

animals. The killers themselves are out to do me in.....them that

lived." He said.

"Them that lived?" She asked. "You mean others died on that

night?" Edward shook his head. "Aye." He said. "Two. By my own

hand. The others of them were only lucky."

"Oh, Edward." She said, clucking her tongue. "To be blamed for

four deaths. Whatever can we do? What chance is there for you?"

Edward looked away, sadly. He spoke with sad recognition in his

voice. "None, lass. My hope in coming here was to gain time. A week,

33
maybe two, if I can throw them off my trail. Then it's into the

backwoods for me. I must live in the hills alone. A hermit forever."

Katie ran her fingers under his chin. "Edward," She began as she

studied the face of this giant who was barely more than a boy. His face

reflected a sincere tenderness and she no longer felt any fear,

whatsoever, of this stranger she knew nothing about. She believed,

totally, everything he had told her. Katie, a very determined and

independent individual, had made up her mind, and the set of her chin

reflected her decision. "I can help!" She said. "I will help." She

stood up and took Edward's hand in hers. "Come." She said, quietly.

"Where?" Edward asked. The wariness in his voice reminded him

that she could deliver him to his enemies as well as from them. "Bring

your horse." She said. "He is beautiful. What is his name?" She

asked.

"Sinbad." Edward answered, unlacing the checkrein from the low

branches of a silver maple tree. "What a lovely name." She said, her

voice soft and soothing.

"My father has a deep potato cellar, near the foundation of an old

house. It is quite large. No one goes there but me. There is room

enough for you and for Sinbad. It is well back from the road as

well........away from prying eyes. I can bring you food, and there is a

spring there. Come. It is dark enough to go there now." She said,

leading him by the hand.

"Edward?" She asked. "Yes?" He answered, standing straight and

tall, towering over the slight lass. He reined Sinbad in tightly, and

the pistol was tucked into the sash he wore over his slim waist. He

looked, she thought to herself, more like a young king than the hopeless

fugitive he was.

"I think you'd best be thinking of a new name for yourself." She

continued. "Those that chase you know you by the name Edward." Edward

34
nodded his head thoughtfully. "Fitz." He said after a long, thoughtful

moment. "Call me Fitz."

"Captain Fitz would be better." Katie said. "Captain?" He

asked. "Why Captain?" She smiled, and brushed a lock of hair off his

forehead. "Because you look like a Captain to me." She said. "You

have this military presence about you. The only thing lacking is the

uniform."

Edward smiled and bent forward in a gracious, sweeping bow.

"Captain Fitz it is, if it pleases the little lady." He said, with a

big smile.

"Welcome to Ludwick's Corner, Captain Fitz." Katie said, with a

curtsy, as she led him along the iron fence around the graveyard.

She smiled at the mischievous awareness that she was rather

strongly attracted to this handsome, and mysterious stranger. She felt

protective of him, even though he stood more than a head taller than

she, and she felt motherly, even though they were close to the same age.

She could feel the color rising in her cheeks at the thought. She

turned her face away.

The pine door, worn thin from years of use, opened to the

accompaniment of its squeaky hinges. The sound was magnified by the

deep, stone cellar that was dark and dingy inside. Everything was damp

to the touch. They were greeted by the sounds of unseen creatures

scurrying to avoid encroaching light.

"All the comforts of home." Fitz said, tossing a blacksnake out

the door with a smile. Sinbad snorted, and pawed the dirt floor.

"I must go now." Katie said, quickly, brushing against his

shoulder. "I'll be back later with food." Fitz took her by the arm.

"Be careful, lass." He said. She smiled confidently and slipped

quietly into the forest.

Days passed into weeks

35
Fingers of moonlight infiltrated the darkness, only slightly

betraying the shadowy figure who stood, pistol cocked and at the ready,

in the corner of the cold, dark, cellar.

Katie opened the door slowly. "Oh!" She said, startled. "Oh!

It is you, Fitz! In this dim light, I couldn't see. You startled me."

"And you, me." Fitz said, releasing the cocked hammer of the pistol

with a click. He replaced it in his belt while holding the door open

and carefully studyied the shadows beyond.

Katie placed the small, wooden tray with Fitz' supper on it upon

the sacks of potatoes inside the door. He set upon the plate hungrily,

filling his mouth with large pieces of bread dripping with stew. He

tore off large hunks of venison from the bone with his teeth and washed

it all down with great dregs of bitter ale. Through it all, he made the

moaning, guttural sounds of a man nearly dead with hunger and thirst.

"I'm sorry I've been so long in getting back with food, Fitz."

Katie said, sitting on the sacks beside him. "The cook is beginning to

miss what I've been bringing you."

Fitz carefully contemplated the face of the young lass, clearing

his mind of any thoughts of possible betrayal with her fresh beauty and

sincerity.

"This morning I let one of the hounds into the kitchen when no one

else was around." She said. Fitz smiled at the thought. "The cook is

not suspicious anymore......at least not for the moment." Katie said,

her face spreading into a wide grin at the recollection of the sight;

over-turned pots, empty bowls, and a sick, and swollen-bellied hound

desperately waiting for the door to open to the great outdoors. "Good."

Fitz said quietly. "Any sign of searchers?"

Katie answered, first with silence. "I'm not sure," she said,

after a painful silence, during which her eyes searched his. "Early

this morning there were some men. They asked questions." She said.

36
"Questions?" Fitz asked. "What did they want to know?" He finished

the last of the stew.

"They asked little of note. But they took in much with their

eyes. Too much to be just passing through. And they asked to see my

father." She said. "They asked to see your father?" Fitz asked. She

nodded and her brow furrowed. "Yes. They told him of the death of his

brother, but they said nothing of his suspected killer." She continued.

"Did they say why they were here?" he asked. "Yes. They said

they would be off into Chester County in the morning in search of Toka

Collie, the killer Indian." She said.

Fitz set the mug down and frowned. Their eyes met. "Bounty

hunters." He whispered, mostly to himself, after a long silence. Tears

formed on Katie's cheeks, and ran slowly to the corners of her mouth.

He sat in silence for a few seconds. "Your father suspects

nothing?" He asked, finally. Katie shook her head. "And the men?" He

asked. "They've moved on?"

She shook her head. "Yes. With the dawn. But I fear they will

return, and soon. They watch too carefully." She said.

Fitz took a deep breath, then stood up. "Then it's time for me to

move on." He said. "No!" Katie pleaded, though she understood he was

right. "Not yet, Fitz. Not just yet. I fear it's still too soon.

Trust me. I won't let them harm a hair on your head." She said,

standing on tiptoes beside him, running her fingers warmly through his

hair.

Their eyes met, then their lips. They fell gently, onto the pile

of empty sacks. She landed across his lap. He looked into her eyes for

what seemed an eternity, then kissed her again. The warmth of their

bodies penetrated the dampness and brought flushes of joy to both their

cheeks. "It's all right, Katie." He whispered softly into her ear

through clenched teeth. "We have nothing to fear from the bounty

37
hunters." They joined in an ever-tightening embrace. How he wished his

words were true.

Hours later, sprays of pumpkin-colored dawn light lifted gently

over the eastern horizon, a bright preview of the day to come. The

edges of the leaves glowed with a soft brilliance in the early light.

Katie slipped quietly out the potato cellar door, carrying the

tray and dishes from Fitz' supper. "Careful, my love." He cautioned.

"Watching eyes make no sound. You best hurry, or you won't get back to

your chambers before the village rises." His own eyes carefully

surveyed the area as she left. "I will." She said, simply.

Turning hastily into the lane leading to her father's house in the

early, pre-dawn light, Katie did not see the two figures standing in the

fringes of the forest, forty rods east of the house, and below the

tavern that sleepily awaited the coming of the new day.

Starting to work the first night he had spent in the cellar, Fitz

had painstakingly enlarged a tiny hole in the west bank until it

provided him just enough clearance to peep through, and to fire a ball

from his pistol should a sneak attack force him to flight.

That evening, Fitz heard Katie approach. The snap of a dry twig

alerted him, and he watched her cross the darkened clearing, brightened

only by a slight brilliance from the moon in the last quarter.

A slight movement in the bushes three rods behind her captured his

full attention, while she rounded the building and headed for the door.

Katie entered, throwing herself into his arms. The two lovers

kissed deeply for several seconds. Fitz drew away nervously. "What is

it, love?" She asked. "Shh." He whispered. "We've been found out."

He took her by the hand and led her to the peephole. She looked

out. "I see nothing." She said, confidently, after a while. She

stepped away. He looked again, then spoke in a growling whisper.

"Four men." He said, succinctly. Katie looked again, then jumped

back with a hand over her mouth, startled by a slight movement in the

38
treeline. She immediately recognized the loose-swinging white tail on

the fur hat worn by the tallest bounty hunter at her father's Inn.

"Hurry, my love." Fitz said, leading her toward the door. "Make

a run for it!!" He pushed her toward the door. "No!" She protested,

wrapping her arms around him. "I'll explain to them....they'll believe

me....I'll" "Yes!" Fitz interrupted her and shoved her to the door.

"You must go now! They'll kill you, too!" He argued, his voice now an

excited whisper. "Now! While there is still time for you to be saved."

He gave her a last, loving kiss. "Until tomorrow, my love, whenever

that may be." He whispered, squeezing her hand tightly, then he turned

and readied Sinbad for flight.

"We will meet again." He assured her, warmly. "We must!!" She

answered, fighting back tears. "Now, off with you! Run!! As fast as

you can, and make as much noise as you can. Make them think you are

two, not one." Fitz coached quietly, as Katie stole into the darkness.

She lunged into the underbrush in front of the cellar, thrashing

through the dried cane, snapping twigs with her feet and rustling dried

grass as she ran.

"Hurry!!" A man's voice rang out from the shadows behind the

cellar. "He's made a run for it!!" Three men chased Katie on foot,

certain they were following two people they could not see in the dim

light. The fourth man, small, wiry and with long, gray hair, knotted

and filthy, tiptoed quietly toward the door to the cellar. A smug,

confident look spread slowly across Cyrus' face as he took his pistol

carefully from his belt.

He frequently stopped to place his ear to the building, listening

for sounds within. He cocked the pistol in his right hand with a click,

then leaned his left arm against the wooden door, pressing his ear

against the thin pine. Gently, quietly, he eased the latch with his

left hand.

39
Inside, Fitz spurred Sinbad to life. With a deafening roar, his

flying forefeet reduced the pine door to a pile of splinters, and

knocked Cyrus cold. Cyrus fired the pistol harmlessly toward the

ground, as he lost consciousness, adding to the single flash of fury

that sent Fitz on his way, and left the intruder lying in a senseless

heap outside the door.

Sinbad came to a full gallop the minute he cleared the underbrush

at the end of the road. Fitz turned his panting steed south on the

Christiana Road. He caught one final glimpse of Katie, who waved from a

large, cleared meadow at the Four Corners, in front of the Inn, well

ahead of the men following her.

With his powerful horse surging beneath him, Fitz felt as if they

were flying together. He waved once to Katie, then had to look to be

sure the horse's flying feet were still touching the ground.

A single musket report came from a hollow somewhere ahead,

bringing his soaring mind back to abrupt reality. The shot dropped the

glorious Sinbad to his knees. Fitz crashed down over the neck of his

beloved animal, and he smashed headfirst into the dirt with a thud.

Dazed, dragged himself to Sinbad's side. Fitz could see two men

hurrying toward him on foot, both carrying long rifles of the type that

had just taken his mount from under him.

He turned his attentions to the dying horse that squirmed about in

the dust, trying desperately to regain its feet, but to no avail,

because its spine had been severed by the shot. Sinbad's nostrils

flared and he panted steamy breath into the night. His eyes were wide

with the sensed awareness of his impending doom.

With tear-filled eyes, Fitz removed a pistol from his sash and

dispatched the animal with a single shot to the skull. He caressed the

lifeless mane for a second, then dived into the thicket leading from the

top of the rise, choking back the tears, skittishly springing into the

40
pines even as the next musket shot whistled into the pine needles at his

feet.

Hours later, after out-distancing his foes two paces to one, Fitz

rested momentarily in the crotch of a huge pine tree and reflected on

happier days in his life, when he was living with Doctor Witt and

Robert, who was infinitely wise in the ways of the forest.

Robert had been a good teacher, and Fitz an even better student.

Robert taught him ways to stalk prey and avoid detection by the

sharpened senses of wild creatures.

Fitz climbed a tree ridge as Robert had taught him, and lifted

himself high into the branches that intermingled in the virgin forest,

swinging limb to limb to a ledge of rocks, from whence he was able to

circle behind and below his would-be captors. From there he was able to

resume his southward pace, moving parallel to the Christiana Road where

the bounty hunters stood, scratching their heads, searching for signs of

their quarry. They were standing at the spot where his tracks vanished

into thin air.

Running by early morning and late evening light only, he set up a

series of rest camps that allowed him long, unobstructed views of the

surrounding countryside, and worked his way southward, keeping well

ahead of the confused hunters.

He arrived an hour before daylight, torn and barefoot, exhausted,

at the steps of the Turk's Head Inn, four days away from Katie, and the

last food he had eaten.

"Please don't be afraid, Miss. It's only food I'm after." He

whispered through clenched teeth, as he held a quieting hand over the

mouth of the barmaid who had arrived early to make the day's bread and

biscuits.

He studied her eyes as he held her in a vise-like grip, assuring

himself before he cautiously released his hold on her, that she would

neither scream, nor try to run for help.

41
The barmaid, a bawdy, buxom woman, who was used to the excesses of

coarse, lusty frontiersmen, stepped backward when he released his grip.

She carefully perused the handsome, mountainous lad in front of her.

The face that he feared might emit terrorized screams at the sight of

him instead gradually relaxed into a wide grin.

"Why, you're hardly more than a boy." She said, walking around

him, looking him over carefully. "If it pleases you, Ma'am, you can

call me a boy. Call me anything you like, only I'm hungry. And if I am

a boy, there are those who are out to see that I don't live long enough

to become a man." Fitz said, staring soberly at the barmaid.

The stare startled her. For a second, she saw desperation, and

she thought she might be in danger. Then he softened the stare with a

wink and a smile. "I hope they don't get their way." He said,

laughing.

She looked him up and down again, then the sound of soft laughter

rolled from her lips. "Well, come on then, out to the shed with you if

you're hungry. I'll bring you something to eat as soon as I've started

the bread and biscuits. No one will bother you there, and you can get

some rest. Lord knows, it looks like you need it."

The hay loft over the shed was warm, and the hay dry. It allowed

him fitful snatches of sleep, even with one eye always on the door. He

rested his back against a timber at the top of the ladder where the

octagonal window in the front gable allowed him a view of the Inn's

courtyard below.

The pistol stayed in his hand while he slept, and his empty

stomach growled so loudly and angrily at times that it woke him up. The

strong odor of johnny cakes, piping hot, and steaming in the morning

air, mingled with the pungent smell of melted, freshly-churned butter

with bits of ham, brought him fully awake even before he even heard the

footsteps on the ladder.

42
Bounding to his feet, pistol in hand and at the ready, he saw the

barmaid standing with a tray of steaming food. A bottle of rum

protruded from the side of her apron. He kept the pistol trained warily

on her, then looked out the small window to be sure she hadn't been

followed. Slowly, he closed the door behind her.

"For God's sake, will you put that thing away?" She admonished,

pushing his hand and the pistol down. Fitz did not resist, but instead

kept his eye on the courtyard below. Finally satisfied that she was

alone, he began ravenously stuffing handfuls of food into his mouth,

even as he released the hammer of the pistol, and returned it to its

place in his sash.

"That's better, mate." The barmaid said, uncorking the bottle

with her teeth. "Relax." She said. "Here, sit down." She said,

turning the bottle up for a long swallow. She handed it to Fitz, who

drew hungrily from it, oblivious to the dreadful taste by his driving

thirst. He had barely more than tasted rum before in his life.

He laid his full length on the hay, resting his back on bales

stacked by the door. She sat beside him and cut strips of cheese, which

she laid on a plate for him to eat.

"You'll be safe here, until dark." She explained, sipping again

from the bottle. "Then, when it gets dark, you come to the rear door of

the Inn, and I'll see to it you get some real vittles. When you move

on, you can move under cover of darkness." She said.

She stood up and walked to the door. "By the way, my name's

Regina. What's yours?" She said, before opening it. "Fitz." He

answered, again drawing hard on the bottle.

"Hey, now." She said, "Best take it easy on that rum. I meant

for it to last you a while." Fitz smiled, and waved a silent goodbye.

"I best be getting back before I'm missed." She said, closing the door

softly behind her. He took another sip of rum, leaned back against the

hay and closed his eyes.

43
Chapter 2

Fitz blinked his sore, encrusted eyes and tried to shake the

cobwebs from his head in the damp, dim darkness inside the earthen cave.

The bed under him was a musty, dank bearskin that smelled worse with

every second it spent in that dampness.

"Who are you?" Fitz asked the fuzzy shape before him that he

could barely recognize as human, and that wiped his fevered brow with a

watery potion.

"Nemacolin." Was the answer given by the coppery-skinned Indian

wearing a deerskin jacket. The Indian kneeled closer. "N-Nemacolin?"

Fitz stuttered, repeating the name. His mind whirled dizzily. "Aye."

The Indian answered. "You?"

"Fitz........" Fitz found himself answering. The Indian nodded

his head. His coal black hair glistened in the tiny sprays of light

that stole into the cave from the opening behind him.

"Ohhhh!!!" Fitz groaned loudly as he moved. His head seemed

ready to split from the pain. He tried to sit up but slid back onto the

bearskin. Pain shot into his shoulder, and down his spine.

"Do not move." Nemacolin commanded. "You must rest." Nemacolin

held a small, carved wooden bowl to Fitz' lips after he stopped trying

to move. The bowl was filled to the brim with steaming hot liquid that

he had been preparing over a small fire. "Eat." Nemacolin said.

Reluctantly, Fitz took a sip of the brown liquid from the end of the

wooden spoon.

"Ugghh!!" Fitz protested, spitting the vile-tasting liquid onto

the ground. Nemacolin put his hand behind Fitz' head, continuing to

spoon-feed the liquid, in spite of the objections. "Must eat! Must eat

to get strong!"

Fitz tried to resist, but the powerful hand clamped on the back of

his head held him still. He ate, too weak to resist any longer.

44
"How long have I been here?" He asked, after forcing down several

sips of the herb soup and finding the taste less offensive than he had

imagined from the smell. "No talk! Eat!" Was the terse reply from the

Indian. "Fever. From bullet." Nemacolin mumbled in response, as Fitz

ate more, continuing to protest. He struggled to open his inflamed eyes

wider, and looked around the cave. He rubbed his shoulder and winced at

the sudden rush of pain into his chest.

"Rest now." Nemacolin said, putting the bowl down beside the fire

and covering Fitz with his deerskin blanket. Nemacolin sat cross-

legged, beside the fire while Fitz returned to fitful and feverish

sleep. The Indian's eyes burned as if with the light of two ebony coals

ablaze in his high, prominent cheekbones. He watched over the sleeping

Fitz, keeping his restless body covered from the chill drafts inside the

cave.

Nemacolin had followed the bounty hunters as they noisily chased

Fitz along the ridge. Nemacolin was curiously drawn at first by the

baying of the hounds, who howled when they picked up Fitz's scent. He

had expected that even such poor white hunters would easily and quickly

dispatch their obviously wounded quarry, once the hounds had his scent.

Driven at first only by his curiosity at this wounded white man

who was able to out-distance hunters against such over-whelming odds,

Nemacolin, the young Susquehannock brave, found the bleeding and

unconscious Fitz on the bank of the stream, where he had dragged himself

before collapsing.

Nemacolin, one of the last of a small tribe of Pennsylvania

Iroquois who still survived after the encroachment of their territory by

the white man, went into the lake bed after the hunters were gone. Only

out of respect for a human being, a lone man, one wounded seriously at

that, who had been able to out-smart a team of hunters with weapons and

tracking dogs, did he decide that this was a life worth saving.

45
He dragged the huge white stranger to shelter and stayed with him,

nursing him gradually, but surely, back to health.

Fitz stirred awake in the intruding dawn, as it licked into the

tiny cave through the sealed entrance. His head was clear at last, the

fever broken. He looked around the cave with the venatic eye of the

hunter.

Nemacolin snored quietly against the far side of the cave, while

the fire smoldered, having died out hours before. Warily, Fitz pawed

through his clothing, keeping a level eye on the sleeping Indian he had

no recollection of ever seing before. He searched for his pistol.

His eye caught sight of his jacket on a rock beside the Indian.

Slowly, quietly, he inched his stiff, aching muscles toward the pistol,

taking great care not to wake the Indian.

He pounced, diving the last few feet on his belly, ripping his

hand into the jacket, reaching desperately for the pistol he carried

there. The Indian came awake with a start, and dove on top of him,

reaching with a quicker hand, then settled back, confidently, pistol in

hand. He watched Fitz gather his lengthy body back, slowly, painfully,

onto the bearskin rug. Nemacolin smiled, and nodded approvingly of

Fitz's spirit.

Fitz turned a disgusted eye toward the Indian. Nemacolin met his

stare with a direct, curious, non-threatening gaze. The two men watched

each other, measuring each other carefully, though silently. Slowly,

maintaining steady, unwavering eye contact, Nemacolin pointed the barrel

of the pistol toward his own chest, taking the weapon in hand by the

barrel, and offered the extended grip to Fitz.

Fitz leaned his weight onto his elbow, blinking hard to clear the

cobwebs from his eyes. He kept staring directly into the Indian's eyes,

while he moved one hand, slowly, painfully, toward the pistol, sliding

his finger onto the trigger. He held it that way for one last,

46
lingering second, watching Nemacolin's face intently. Then he pulled

the barrel back and tossed the gun onto a rock behind him.

The corners of Nemacolin's mouth rose slowly, and gradually broke

into a broad grin. Fitz returned the smile cautiously. Nemacolin

clasped Fitz' shoulders, then gripped both his arms. Fitz responded in

kind. Without words, the two men had come to understand each other

perfectly.

Months later, morning sun filtered sunlight splashes onto shiny

green leaves, still wet with the dew. Nemacolin padded softly to the

summit of the hill, a few strides ahead of Fitz.

The crashing wings of a pheasant, struggling noisily out of the

underbrush made Nemacolin turn quickly to his right, drawing hard on the

bowstring. A silent arrow brought the large rooster to the earth with a

thud.

Fitz smiled and applauded his friend's accuracy. He gathered the

bird up and attached it to the belt he wore over his painted deerskin

jacket that he and Nemacolin had made in front of the warm evening

fires.

They exchanged few words and all of those in the Iroquois tongue,

which Nemacolin insisted Fitz learn. This was even though Nemacolin

knew English well, having learned it from traders who visited his tribe

in earlier years.

The wizened Nemacolin knew that for Fitz to survive, he had to do

it in the wilderness, in the world of the red man, in the language of

the red man. He was doomed to live as a half-breed. He would never

again be welcomed by his own kind.

The two shared Fitz' unhurried recuperation, enjoying the time

they spent together, becoming fast friends, bonded by the ways of

nature.

"Where will you go now?" Nemacolin asked one day as they walked

the trail together. "You are now well and I must return to my people,"

47
He continued. Fitz shrugged his shoulders, and with a combination of

words and sign language, indicated that he had no place to go.

"You must stay here.....in the wilderness.......away from those

who would pursue you. You must live here, where the white man does not

know how to find you." Nemacolin put his arm across Fitz' shoulders.

Fitz nodded. "I know." He said.

"Then we must build you shelter before the cold winds come. We

must begin now, for I must leave with the new moon. Nemacolin spoke,

his soft voice seeming to blend with the gentle breeze and become one

with it.

Fitz' gaze shifted to the forest at Nemacolin's back. Without a

sound, he dropped quickly to one knee, and shouldered the long rifle

that he and Nemacolin had stolen from a white bounty hunter's horse

while its owner sat tipping mugs of ale into the early morning.

A puff of pungent, white smoke lifted as Fitz squeezed off a

single shot at a target Nemacolin had yet to see. Fitz sprinted into

the dense underbrush, following a large deer that struggled to reach the

sanctity of the thick trees.

Nemacolin bounded over some large rocks to the right of the trail.

He made a whooping noise, after disappearing into the tangled vines.

Fitz found him standing over the fallen buck that Fitz had dropped with

one shot from over 300 yards.

Nemacolin smiled, and made a clucking noise with his tongue,

expressing his awe over the accuracy of the shot. Nemacolin admired

Fitz. He was the only white man he had ever really known, and he was

the only one he had ever liked, or trusted. Fitz was also the only

white man he had ever heard about who could hunt like the Indian.

He watched Fitz as both of them learned to shoot the long rifle

they had stolen together. After only a few months, Fitz' steady hand

was unlike anything he had ever seen.

48
Removing the steel-bladed knife that Fitz had given him, a gift

given Fitz earlier by Robert, Nemacolin knelt over the fallen buck and

field-dressed it, all the while extolling the beauty of the creature,

thereby releasing its spirit to the cycle of nature.

Meanwhile, Fitz climbed further up the slope, wandering about in

the warm and brilliant sunlight. A boulder-strewn ravine caught his

eye. A tiny stream bubbled clear and sparkling from the higher ledge

and meandered down the sides of the ravine, splitting in splashes around

a large chunk of glacial granite, glistening wet and over-grown with

thick, gray-green moss.

Fitz struggled to climb the ravine, stretching from boulder to

boulder. He balanced himself on the exposed roots of the maples, oaks,

and giant grey beech trees that almost totally hid the ravine from view.

He leaned the long rifle against the rock face at the low end of

the ravine. Shiny, grey granite loomed all around, cliff faces over

sheer, forty foot drops. It was as if some giant had tipped several

long, tall rocks on end, then filled in the ground between them with

boulders.

Fitz climbed to the top of one of the base rocks, using roots for

hand-holds. He lost his grip and fell, grasping for anything he could

catch to stop his fall.

Pain from the still-fresh bullet wound ripped into his shoulder

and caused him to lose his balance even more. He managed to grab a

protruding root and catch himself, swinging high above the ravine. Cold

droplets of water suddenly splashed in his face.

Blinking water from his eyes, he pulled himself in close to the

rocks with his feet. A cave opened before his eyes. Using the roots

for leverage, he swung himself out, then up, and in.

Nature had been at work for generations, opening this cave, each

drop of water carving off a tiny grain or two of granite from the face.

49
Now the cave entrance was completely hidden from view, even from a point

only a few feet away.

He ducked into the dark cave and explored its walls with his

fingers. He estimated it to be nearly thirty feet long and twenty feet

wide. Inside, it was warm and dry, even though cold, fresh, spring water

ran freely beside the entrance.

He dropped to his knees when he heard Nemacolin calling his name.

"Where are you, Fitz?" He called from below. Fitz listened in silence

as the magnified echoes of Nemacolin's quiet footsteps loudly betrayed

his presence in the ravine below.

He smiled as Nemacolin approached, thinking about the times he and

Robert practiced hiding from each other in the deep forest as a happy

diversion from hunting trips in the woods of the Wissahickon Valley

below Germantown.

No matter how hard Fitz tried to cover his tracks, he could never

stay hidden from Robert for long. Robert's tracking skills were

uncanny. He was able to sneak up behind a feeding bear, and could reach

out and slap its hindquarters and run back to safety before the bear

even knew he was there.

It was an old Indian trick that was custom among young braves in

the Delaware tribe. It required supreme concentration, blind courage,

stamina, and good legs to make a safe getaway from the surprised and

enraged bear, who was never a willing party to the trick.

Robert had spent years with the Delawares, taken in by a friendly

brave, who found him after he had escaped from his slave master on the

eastern shore of Maryland. He fled north with the tribe, was captured

by a bounty hunter, and held for a time, before being purchased by the

kindly Doctor Witt.

Fitz stood quietly, pressing his back against the ravine.

Nemacolin stood in the gently washing waters, at the top of the ravine,

and looked back toward the entrance to the cave. The last tracks he had

50
seen of his friend, Fitz, were at the point where the long rifle stood,

leaning against the bottom of the rock cliff. He walked back to that

spot, calling out "Fitz!"

There was silence. Again, he called out. More silence.

Nemacolin began to fear that Fitz had fallen, or injured himself. "Aye,

mate! Captain Fitz at your service!!" Fitz exclaimed at last in

English, swinging down upon Nemacolin on a thick vine. Laughing, he

tackled his Indian friend. They rolled into the brush. Nemacolin, who

stood as tall as his friend, reacted in mock defense, quickly spinning

behind Fitz and bending his arm up behind his back.

They wrestled, playfully, for a few seconds, then ended in a

bearhug, laughing. Excitedly, Fitz led his friend up the rocks and into

the cave. Nemacolin's face lighted up at the sight of it.

Without a word, he slid back down the rocks, into the ravine, and

gathered a handful of dry brush. He spoke no words, even as he set

about chipping sparks with his steel flint and built a fire. Fashioning

a crude torch, he handed it to Fitz.

Nemacolin whistled his appreciation. As Fitz held up the torch.

"Good!" He exclaimed, waving his arm about the cave. "Very good."

Fitz held the torch high, lighting the entire space.

"You will be safe here, my friend." Nemacolin said, with a broad

smile. The light danced up the smooth sides of the rock cave and

sparkled in the water bubbling softly by the entrance.

"And I even have good, fresh water." Fitz said with a smile.

Nemacolin bent down and tasted the water. "Ummh. Good." He said.

"Here, look at this." Fitz said, taking Nemacolin by the arm. He

led him to the cave's entrance. Looking out, they could see a long

distance over the valley below.

Nemacolin nodded, then he stepped out of the entrance, looking up.

He reached up and pulled himself out onto the rocks above. A quick

51
climb took them to the top, where the entire valley opened up,

unobstructed, below them.

Fitz held his arms out over the vista. Nemacolin looked east,

shading his eyes from the sun. "Twenty mile." He said, in succinct

approval of the sight. Fitz nodded. "Thirty mile." Nemacolin said,

when looking toward the west.

"Even more important," Fitz said, "is that I can see all of the

Turk's Head Highway in the valley below. I can see anyone who

approaches long before they would ever see me." Turk's Head Highway was

the closest thing to a road in this vast Indian wilderness. Few white

men would dare venture off that highway since the Indians and outlaws in

the area were not particularly friendly toward the white man.

"Come, my friend, we have much work to do." Nemacolin said,

taking Fitz by the arm, leading the way back to the cave. Together they

made a small wooden frame for drying venison. They put strips of meat

to dry atop the rock over the cave.

Fitz watched Nemacolin fashioning moccasins and mittens from the

deerskin, learning how to do it for himself. They carried supplies from

the other cave where Fitz had recuperated, and built a platform of

saplings to hold the bearskin bed off the damp floor.

Nemacolin had taught Fitz much about survival in the wilds during

his recuperation. Already an excellent hunter as a result of Robert's

teachings, he learned to stay alive and robust by eating wild plants,

and how to make poultices from their leaves, or tea from their roots,

and he had learned how these could be used as medicines.

Sitting in front of the small evening campfire, whose smoke was

vented invisibly through an elaborate network of holes laboriously

drilled through solid rock. Each chamber dissipated more of the smoke

until what was left could hardly be seen. They talked under a velvety-

black sky, while moonbeams stole into the cave around the entrance.

52
"Tomorrow?" Fitz asked. Nemacolin lifted a piece of venison from

the fire and chewed on it thoughtfully before answering. He would have

understood the question even if it had not been asked.

Nemacolin shook his head affirmatively. "Tomorrow." He answered.

Tomorrow, he would leave to return to his people on the shores of the

Susquehanna River. They lived near the Twin Forks, and below Standing

Stone. "My father awaits my return." Nemacolin explained quietly.

Fitz wanted to know everything about this man and his people, this

man, who was only the second person in the world that he ever felt he

could trust. Though they had become fast friends during his recovery,

and had shared many experiences, not the least of which were the

exciting raids on bounty hunters in the village of Turk's Head,

Nemacolin had talked little of his own family relationships. Perhaps

because they were too busy stealing much of what they needed in the way

of supplies, including the long rifle he now carried, and had become so

attached to, from the very bounty hunters who sought his hide.

The two were very close in age. Nemacolin was the son of

Opontopos, sachem of the Susquehannock. He had spent a year as a

prisoner of white men as a boy, when he was captured near Captain Jack's

Narrows, and was forced to work clearing farm lands.

It was his experience in the hands of white men, along with his

exposure to trappers that had taught him English, and it was his long

journey home alone, after escaping his white captors, that had instilled

a lust for travel in the young Indian brave.

This wanderlust made him desire to spend long periods of time

alone in the woods with only animals as companions, studying the

wilderness and the ways of nature. Opontopos, who hoped that Nemacolin

would be his successor as sachem to the tribe, which had been weakened

severely by sickness and encroachment brought by the white man, and by

tribal wars within the great Iroquois nation, tolerated his son's

53
wanderings, and understood them. Even so, when he asked Nemacolin to

return by a certain time, he expected nothing less than obedience.

"My father is sachem of the Susquehannocks." Nemacolin related

softly, speaking before the fire in a song-like voice in the tradition

on his people. The fire danced in the shadows of the cave's walls.

"War clouds rise to the west.........in the Land of the Three

Rivers. Drums call the leaders of the Algonquians. French trappers war

with English. Our brothers may call at any time. I will go there as my

father wishes." Nemacolin related the story, pulling the last morsel

of venison from the fire, biting into one end of it, pulling the other

end free and offering it to Fitz, who accepted it graciously.

"Do you promise to visit me when you return?" Fitz asked,

anxiously. "It will be lonely here.......or anywhere.....the life of

the hunted is lonely." He said, mostly to himself.

Nemacolin answered with a steady gaze and a strong hug. "You will

survive it very well, my friend, and I will return. You will come with

me to the Land of the Standing Stone." They joined hands, wrist to

wrist, in the fashion of Nemacolin's people.

"The journey ahead seldom follows the path we anticipate for it."

Nemacolin said quietly.

**************

Fading flashes of brilliance from the setting sun outlined the

ridges of the mountains to the west. High over his shoulder, the

silvery moon danced lightly among the white cotton clouds. Captain Fitz

stood atop Castle Rock, his cave home.

Quietly, he sipped the last of the hot brew Nemacolin taught him

to make from the ground up root of Cat o' Nine Tails. The bittersweet

liquid warmed his gullet in the chill of the early fall evening. He

surveyed the valley below his rock home.

54
It had been several months since Nemacolin had departed for

Standing Stone, leaving behind an invitation to visit him and his people

in the early spring.

Fitz settled into his new surroundings, and had provisioned his

cave well with goods marauded from Tory farms around Turk's Head and

Edgemont Village to the east. He had stayed close to the cave since his

last nocturnal raid on the Potts Foundry resulted in gunshots that were

fired in his direction.

His face lighted up when he saw the lights of a fancy coach

approaching Turk's Head from the east. Leaders of the Loyalist Tory

forces in Philadelphia often vacationed in Turk's Head on tax money they

had coerced from poor, struggling colonial settlers.

While in Turk's Head, they were known to gather at the Inn and

discuss ways to prosecute the settlers in the area who avoided paying

the King's taxes. Flowing rum loosened lips to the point where

discretion disappeared, and Nemacolin and Fitz had overheard much.

Fitz loaded the two flintlock pistols he carried in his belt, and

quickly climbed down the face of Castle Rock, striding noiselessly out

of the ravine and down the slope toward Gulley Creek and the highway.

The driver of the coach sat high on the driver's bench and paid

little serious attention to what was happening on the road far below

him. His robotic attentions were split between tending the checkrein on

the generally placid, but occasionally unruly stallions pulling the

coach, staying away from the steep drop off at the side of the road.

Most of his concious thoughts were occupied in his daydreaming about the

hot meal and soft bed awaiting him at the Inn.

His mouth watered at the thought of the black iron cauldron that

always simmered hot buttered rum at the far end of the dining room in

front of a roaring and crackling fire in the huge stone fireplace.

55
Below him in the gilded coach, riding on brocaded satin

upholstered pillows, sat Earl Calder, harbormaster of Philadelphia, and

tax collector for King George III, chatting nonchalantly with his wife.

Across from them sat Sylvester Buffram and his wife, who were to

join the Calders for a leisurely month at the Calder's summer quarters

in Turk's Head.

Made fast in the luggage rack was the trunk that made the vacation

possible. It contained one month's tax receipts in gold and silver

coin, that was to be delivered to a messenger of the crown at the

watering trough in front of the Chester County

courthouse...........after the collector's percentage had been skimmed

from the top.

The first inclination of impending doom the passengers sensed was

the crashing thud of the thick, pine log Fitz had carefully and

laboriously dangled from ropes the week before.

Using ropes and pulleys for leverage, he balanced the log where it

could be loosed quickly with a knife thrust, arcing the pointed end into

the front wheels of the coach. The log would splinter the spokes, and

break the trace into two neat pieces that could not be repaired anywhere

short of the blacksmith's shop in the village.

The skittish stallions reared once when the log hit, kicking sand

up from the roadbed, then sensing freedom from the harness, were gone in

a gallop, dragging remnants of the harness behind. They were out of

sight before the driver even realized what had happened.

Fitz launched himself from the same rocky bluff, swinging down on

a rope, and dispatched the driver with a thudding kick across the

shoulders. He knocked him cleanly from the seat into the bushes, where

he landed in an unconscious heap.

The passengers in the coach were greeted by a dashingly handsome

Captain Fitz, standing tall and strong, in painted Indian buckskin

56
jacket and leggings. The loaded pair of pistols persuaded all

passengers to disembark without further ado.

"What is the meaning of this?" Earl Calder barked into the cold

night air. "Do you not know who I am?" Fitz said nothing. The silence

infuriated Earl Calder all the more. "I am the harbormaster of

Philadelphia, and a loyal agent of King George III............I'll see

you hanged for this atrocity."

The thick band of rawhide Fitz forced quickly into his mouth

stilled his tongue. Fitz tied the rawhide tightly. Earl Calder, his

great belly jiggling uncontrollably with rage, continued to spit muffled

obsenities into the air, and, despite the cold, his brow began to

glisten with sweat.

Sylvester Buffram made the mistake of raising a hand to Captain

Fitz, and as soon found himself on the seat of his pants in a cloud of

dust on the road. Both men were bound up in minutes with strips of

rawhide.

With a gracious bow, Fitz politely extended his hand to the

sputtering ladies, and helped them from the coach. With profuse

apologies for having inconvenienced such fair and lovely maidens on

their journey, Fitz gently removed their jewelry, and the men of their

wallets.

While Lady Buffram, the older and more rotund of the two women,

spewed epithets dotted with saliva toward the highwayman, Lady Calder, a

trim and handsome specimen, spoke nary a word, but sat, instead, riveted

by Fitz' direct and flattering gaze. Her eyes reflected no fear, and no

rage, only intrigue. She could hardly keep herself from smiling.

Fitz blew out the fire in the two lanterns on the side of the

coach, and after forcing the two couples to disrobe, vanished quietly

into the night, shouldering their clothing, tied together, and the

King's chest.

57
Turning back toward them, he bowed again and spoke. "Captain Fitz

bids you all a good evening." He said with a smile.

"You'll be hanged! You hear? Hanged!!!!" Lady Buffram spit

after him, her breath steaming like flames in the starlight. Lady

Calder maintained her silence while Fitz disappeared as suddenly as he

had appeared, leaving the hapless travelers nearly nude, without

transportation, ten miles from Turk's Head in the cool, cruel dark of

the night.

**************

Jonas Webster was a hard-working English settler, who worked a

small piece of property he owned three miles north of Turk's Head, just

above the highway. His acreage had been granted by the King in return

for a debt owed his father years before.

His wife, Molly, and seven sons worked beside him, clearing

fields, planting crops, weaving linen cloth from flaxen to make

clothing, tending the animals, and putting up provisions for the winter.

It was known to most around Turk's Head, that Jonas and his family

had fallen into hard times after the fever sickness of four of their

children, and the eventual death of one. Their problems had been

compounded by Jonas' iron-willed reluctance to pay what he considered to

be an unfair tax to the Crown and his out-spoken remarks against the

King.

Jonas had fallen behind in his tax payments, and was unable to pay

on the mortgage he had negotiated with Squire Morgan to pay his medical

debts. It was common knowledge that the Squire had been threatening for

some time to foreclose on the modest property, which Jonas had offered

as collateral.

Jonas and Molly led their plow team toward the barn as they left

the pasture, while five of their young sons tended the chickens and

58
cattle. The sixth son, Joel, carried an arm-load of hand tools a few

paces behind his father. "Pa!!" Joel cried out, pointing across the

field. "Someone's coming!"

All watched as a tall, broad-shouldered figure dressed in deerskin

jacket and leggings stepped into the clearing from the dense woods east

of the cottage. The stranger carried a long rifle.

Jonas removed the blunderbuss he carried in a leather holster

attached to the horse's harness. He shouldered the weapon.

"Halloo, Jonas Webster." The stranger said. "How be you?" He

asked in a friendly voice, shouting from a distance.

"How do you know my name?" Jonas challenged. "Tis no matter how

I know you." The stranger answered with a smile and a shrug of his

huge, heavily-muscled shoulders. "This is for you." He said, tossing a

cloth sack toward them, which landed with a thud in a cloud of dust.

"W-w-why, Jonas! Look! It-it's gold and silver coins! Enough to

pay Squire Morgan what we owe him! Enough to keep our farm!" Molly

said, excitedly, as she pawed through the sack.

Jonas looked down at the sack, then over the sights of the

blunderbuss he leveled at the stranger. "Who are you, stranger? And

why are you here? Where did this come from?"

The stranger smiled, turned slowly, and began to walk away,

ignoring the weapon pointed at his back. "It's for you, Jonas Webster.

It's a gift, taken back from some who stole it. The thieves won't be

needing it any more. Take it. And with it, pay your debt to Squire

Morgan. All I ask is that some day, you'll help another, less fortunate

than you. Say nothing about it to anyone. Call it a gift......a gift

from Captain Fitz. Take it, and ask no more questions."

The stranger disappeared into the forest as quietly as he had

come. Jonas Webster watched him warily until he was gone, then he

embraced his excited wife. They were too worn down from the struggle to

keep their heads above water to fight it any longer. Tears rolled down

59
both his cheeks as his sons gathered around and hugged them both.

"Come, now!" He said, after allowing themselves several long seconds of

celebration. "We've chores to do, and we must visit the Squire before

nightfall." Jonas and his wife's eyes met, and both looked toward the

heavens. "Thank you, God." He muttered.

************

The heavy door creaked in the quiet night. The squeaky hinge

groaned against the weight of a shoulder pushing against it. Regina

Farrally uttered a short cry before its sound was muffled by a large

hand placed over her mouth.

She turned to face her attacker, ready to swing the heavy cast

iron skillet she held in her hand. "Shhh, love." The man's voice said.

"I mean you no harm, but you're making enough noise to wake the dead."

Regina stopped abruptly, recognizing the voice, squinting in the

flickering candlelight. "Fitz? Fitz? It is you!" Her voice an excited

whisper. "You're alive!" She covered her mouth with her hand, eyes

widened with amazement. "You are alive, aren't you?" She continued,

touching his shoulders. Fitz leaned his head back and laughed heartily.

"Aye. I am alive....... and still kicking." They both laughed.

Regina took him in a bear hug. I was sure they had killed you.

She put both hands on his shoulders and pushed him away, then framing

his face with her hands, looking into his eyes. "He did put a slug into

to you, didn't he, mate?" She asked.

Fitz nodded soberly. "Yes, he did. Right about here." He

reached around to point to his shoulder, smiling. "In one side and out

the other. I'm too ornery to be done in by only one slug." He laughed.

She smiled, her face radiating warmth. "It is good to see you

alive. It really is." Fitz smiled his appreciation. "Thank you." He

said. "I'm quite pleased about it myself."

60
"Listen, I have come for a reason beyond wanting to look into your

lovely face again." Fitz said, stepping further into the darkened

hallway inside the front door at the Turk's Head Inn. "Come in here."

She said, taking him by the hand. "It'll be safe to talk here." She

led him into the bakery in the cellar.

A loud snore from inside the darkened tavern startled both of

them. With a finger on her lips, Regina peered into the dining room

from the doorway. A large man with a round, soft belly sat sleeping

peacefully, slumped over a chair near the fireplace.

"Drives the King's coach from Philadelphia." She explained,

pointing toward the sleeping figure, watching him carefully to be sure

he was still asleep. "Had a bit too much rum." She said. "I can see."

Fitz said, smiling.

Fitz pulled her into the kitchen by the hand, leveling a desperate

look at her. "You know of Jonas Webster?" He asked, holding her hands.

She answered with a nod. "Aye. I know him. What about him?' Fitz

took a piece of cheese from a plate in the darkened bakery, bit into it,

and went on.

"You know of his troubles?" "With Squire Morgan?" She asked.

He nodded. "Yes, with Squire Morgan." Regina gave him a startled look.

"How do you know anything of that?" She asked. "It's a long story."

He said. "When I was mending from the bite of Cyrus' slug, I was hiding

out near Crooked Run, with my Indian friend."

"Indian friend?" She interrupted, her face showing surprise.

Fitz smiled. "Never could have made it without him. He dragged my

lifeless body from a swamp near the lake. He's a Susquehannock brave.

He nursed be back to health. I would have died for sure without him.

He took a bite of the cheese and offered her a bite. She took a nibble

off the corner.

"When I was feeling better, the two of us needed supplies. Being

a wanted man, I couldn't trade in the village.......so, we made a few

61
nighttime visits to the area. Mind you, just a few, and we never took

what we didn't need. We evened the score somewhat with Cyrus' bounty

hunters.

Regina's blue eyes danced, and a grin spread across her face. Her

sandy, brown hair glistened in the flickering light of the dying embers

in the fireplace. "So...." She said, with a suddenly all-knowing

smile. "It was you that removed Peter Miller's rifle and sack of

biscuits!"

Fitz smiled, somewhat sheepishly. He shrugged his shoulders. "I

didn't know his name." He said, leaning against the dark maple harvest

table that stretched across the middle of the room.

"We visited Jonas' place one evening, looking for some grain. It

happened to be a time when Squire Morgan was there. We could hear them

talking from the bushes outside the house. The Squire, he was

threatening to take the place away. We listened, and it just seemed to

us that these were decent people.....a lot more decent than the likes of

Squire Morgan."

Fitz finished the last of the cheese, and smiled again. "It

seemed to us that decent, hard-working folks like that shouldn't have to

give up their farm, after working so hard, especially since their boys

were sick." He said.

Regina studied him, reacting to the smile that was spreading

across his face. "What?" She asked. "So what's the point?" "No

point." Fitz answered, chuckling softly. "It's just that Jonas Webster

has come into a little money, that's all. An inheritance, let's call

it."

"But he has no family. All of his relations have passed on, hers,

too.....they have no one to leave them money...." She stopped talking

suddenly, staring wide-eyed at Fitz. Her hand came up to her mouth and

she noisily sucked in her breath.

62
She thought of the noisily snoring driver in the dining room

upstairs. She looked toward the driver, then back toward Fitz. "Of

course, you are the Captain Fitz they told of. It was you! You're the

highwayman! Oh no." She muttered, realizing that meant that even more

bounty hunters would be chasing him.

Then she chuckled, and chuckled some more. "You wicked devil,

you! You are the wicked highwayman that made away with the Earl

Calder's ill-begotten money chest." She laughed out loud. Then she

stopped, realizing she could be heard. Her face turned serious.

"Mercy, Fitz." She said, thoughtfully. "These people have a

price on your head, dead or alive. Oh, Fitz, weren't you in enough

trouble already?"

"Aye." Fitz said, with reckless abandon. There's a noose around

my neck or a bullet in my back regardless. I might as well give them

something to make it worth tying the knot. Besides, if it can help the

likes of Jonas Webster, it's worth it." Regina smiled. She liked the

way he thought.

"I need your help." He said, putting his hands on Regina's

shoulders. "What can I do?" She asked. Fitz rubbed his cheeks with

his right hand. "Everyone around Turk's Head knows Jonas. They all

also know that he and his wife have no one to leave them money enough to

pay off the Squire." Regina shook her head. "You're right about that.

Squire Morgan'll have the sheriff on him in no time." She said.

"He won't. Not if you are willing to help." Fitz said,

reassuringly. "But what can I do?" Regina asked. "You have heard of

Marcus Hook, haven't you?" He asked. She took a deep breath. She

nodded her head slowly, a look of fear spreading across her face at just

the mention of the name. Marcus Hook was a notorious port at the mouth

of the great bay below Philadelphia where the Delaware River empties

into it.

63
Any ship sailing into or out of Philadelphia had to pass Marcus

Hook, which was an infamous haven for pirates, cut-throats and thieves.

Blackbeard wintered there, years before, and many other pirates called

it home. Even the King's navy steered clear of Marcus Hook, realizing

that the pirates there were strong enough to control any sea traffic

they chose to control coming in and out of Philadelphia, and so they

avoided confrontations.

"And you've heard of the Skull?" He asked. She nodded. The

Skull was a gory pirate ship captain who had a reputation for plundering

any Spanish, Dutch, or Portugese vessels he saw with a vengeance, but

who left British ships pass in peace, in return for a lack of

interference in the ways of privateering from the King's Navy.

"Aye." She said, I know of him. He and that blood-thirsty band

of his have plundered many a small settlement south of here. He's been

as close as Nottingham, and he's driven fear into many a faint heart. I

have heard the Earl Calder and the Governor speak of him many times in

this very tavern.

"If it was to get around town that the Skull had been seen in the

vicinity of Turk's Head.........that he'd boasted of looting and

plundering while he was in the area.......and if it slipped out during

conversation while he and his men were sipping rum in this very tavern,

that his men had buried loot somewhere near here, and that they were

going to come back for it later.........well, if a man suddenly happened

to have some gold coins, it might be assumed he had found the Skull's

cache.

"Aye." Regina said, nodding her head slowly, thoughtfully. "It

might work. No one around here would be willing to take the chance that

Skull might come to collect. Squire Morgan is too greedy to say no to

the money, but he would feel safe if Skull did happen to come back. He

could just point the finger at Jonas.

64
"Tonight, Regina. I want you to tell them he was here tonight.

After you'd closed. Tell everybody that will listen that he and a

couple of his pirates forced their way in, and that they made you feed

them, and that they kept you here while they ate and drank and talked of

their adventures."

Regina scratched her chin and studied Fitz as he talked. How

handsome he was, she thought, this dashing young man, powerfully built

with black-auburn hair, and ruddy cheeks barely darkened with a hint of

beard. His black eyes glowed mischievously as he talked, and white

teeth flashed in the glowing candlelight.

It was no wonder, she thought, that she detected no anger in the

Lady Calder. It was no wonder that, while the others raged against him,

the Lady Calder was fascinated by the dashing highwayman who had robbed

them, then bid them adieu with a smile and a graceful bow.

"It will work." Regina said. "I will make it work.....for Jonas

Webster. Tomorrow the settlement will be abuzz with tales of the

appearance at this tavern of the dreaded Skull......and of his buried

loot.

65
CHAPTER III

Fitz finished his evening meal on the rocks above his cave home,

as he often did on warm days. It was May and the air was already warm

and humid, as a moisture-laden breeze carried up the slope to Castle

Rock.

He leaned back against the granite boulder, polished to a shine

from the many hours he spent sitting on it, reflecting upon his solitary

world. It had been years since Nemacolin left to go back to his people.

Soon after he left, a scouting party of Susquehannocks came to

visit, and brought word from his friend. Nemacolin's father, Opontopos

had become ill the previous spring, a victim of the fever that ran

rampant through his tribe.

Opontopos sent Nemacolin west to the Three Rivers, where the

French and Indian War was erupting over territorial claims. Nemacolin

sent his party to bring Fitz to Fort Duquesne.

At the fort, Fitz found that, unlike in other parts of

Pennsylvania, the French were very friendly with the Delaware, Shawnee,

and the Susquehannock tribes, and the Indians were allowed to come and

go from the fort whenever they pleased.

When Fitz arrived, he found Nemacolin sitting with a group of

Indians, and a half-breed scout, on the shady side of the barracks in

the fort. The two men shared a warm greeting, hugging each other in a

long, silent welcome. Finally, Nemacolin put his arm around Fitz'

shoulders, and invited him to sit by the fire.

"The French," Nemacolin explained to Fitz and the others, "Want

us to take up war against the English."

Nemacolin paused, skewering several slabs of deer meat with a

stick, which he then pushed into the fire. "The French gave us much

wampum, guns, powder, clothes, and blankets. They want to know if we

are going to stand by and see our father, the Governor of Canada abused.

66
The Shawnees and the Delawares have not answered. Neither have the

Susquehannocks, but many of our young men want to join the French."

Fitz said nothing, but listened intently. Delaware George, a

Delaware brave, sitting beside Nemacolin, spoke next. "The French

cannot be trusted. I know this for a fact." He said, turning toward

Fitz, and pointed a bony finger at his chin. "But of late years, the

English are not much better. It was the English who bought the Delaware

hunting ground on the west branch of the Susquehanna at Albany.

They deceived the Iroquois. The Indian did not know the workings

of the compass. They never intended to sell the west branch of the

Susquehanna."

Delaware George folded his arms across his chest. The Delawares

will never give up that land." He said. "The Albany Treaty is driving

them over to the French."

Nemacolin continued. "To make matters worse, the English have

spread word that the Delaware Indians helped the French at Fort

Necessity." Delaware George shook his head. "That is not true," He

said. "They know that is not true. There were only six or seven

Indians with the French that day." He lifted his arms toward the

heavens, palms up.

"Then the French tell us that Washington's men shot their

messenger while he was trying to read a letter to the English."

Delaware George continued. "If that is so, I can never trust Washington

again, and I fear the Half King has already turned from him toward the

French."

The half breed scout, who had been listening carefully,

interrupted. "Be careful, my friend." He counseled Delaware George and

the others. "I know the truth. I was there that day at Fort Necessity.

We must not believe all that the smooth-tongued Frenchmen tell us.

Listen and I will tell you the truth.

67
Washington sent his man here, to this place, to build a fort after

he returned from Fort Le Boeuf. He couldn't start work until the spring

thaw, and one day, a large party of French and Indians came down the

river and demanded that he surrender.

The Half King wanted Washington's man to send the demand to his

superior. Contrecoeur, the French Captain, would not wait, and insisted

they had to surrender at once. Washington only had forty men, many less

than the French. He surrendered, and left the area, with his men. This

was the beginning of the war, yes, but there was no bloodshed."

"I always thought that the war really began when the French

captured Trotter and his men, who had been trading in this valley for a

long time." Delaware George said. He turned toward the half-breed,

waiting for him to answer.

The others around the fire listened as the half-breed continued.

"That could also be so." He said. "But I was with Washington when the

first shot was fired. We couldn't get across the Youghiogheny.

The Half King and his men came one day to tell us that the French

were only eighteen miles away. We moved back to the great meadows,

cleared away the brush and dug out a gulley to make a trench, then we

waited, hoping to meet them there.

Christopher Gist came later to tell us that the French had been at

his farm the night before. Then the Half King's runner came to tell us

where the French were hiding. We started after them one night, in a

driving rain storm, with fifty men. We couldn't see our way along the

path, and some of the men got lost.

We got to the Half King's camp at daybreak. A council was held.

Did the French mean to attack us, or were they bringing a message from

Contrecoeur? The Half King pointed out they were lying in hiding in

the woods for many days, so we decided to attack, the Indians on one

side and the English on the other.

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We found the French hiding among the rocks not far from the road.

Washington ordered his soldiers to fire. Jumonville and nine or ten of

his men were killed, and another twenty were taken prisoner."

Delaware George and Nemacolin looked at one another. Delaware

George nodded. "Now I see." He said. "The French say that Washington

ordered Jumonville shot while he tried to read a message." The half-

breed shook his head. "That is not true." He folded his hands around

his waist.

"And then Washington made his mistake." The half-breed continued.

"He did not listen to Half King, and tried to build his fort upon the

Great Meadow. It was too low and wet, not a good place for a fort.

Half King tried to tell him so, and even sent Indians to help them move

somewhere else, but Washington's men called them spies, and sent them

away.

The Indians went home, and left them, and for eight days there was

nothing to eat. Soon, Washington and his men left, abandoning the fort,

and returning to his home."

Nemacolin nodded, then he turned to Fitz. "This is why I have

sent for you, my brother." He put a hand on Fitz' shoulder. "I must

send a message to Washington. He thinks the Half King has turned

against him. I know you can be trusted, and that I can count on you to

take this letter to him.

Regina, your friend at the Inn, will help you. Tell him to send

presents, and two or three good men, and then, with our friendly

Indians, we can take the fort and hold it until the English come back."

Nemacolin patted his friend's shoulder. "And now, he said,

removing the stick from the fire, "We shall share the gifts of the Great

Spirit once again." He handed Fitz the first piece of venison, and

passed the rest around to the others. The two sat, shoulder to

shoulder, sharing the warmth of brotherhood while the deep waters of the

Three Rivers roiled among the rocks.

69
In the morning, Fitz parted company with Nemacolin and the others,

and began his long journey over the Appalachians. Few white men were

able to venture so far into the forboding wilderness. If animals had

not shortened the trip for most white men, marauding Indians often did.

Worse yet, were the back-stabbing bounty hunters and mountain men, who

trusted no one, and who stood face to face with no man. They would kill

a stranger with a shot in the back, and with no questions asked.

***********

The years passed, leaving Fitz to live his life of solitude. Only

occasionally did he make contact with the encroaching civilization

around him, and then the contacts were fleeting and often fitful. One

night, far off in the distance, the unmistakable light of a coach was

approaching. Fitz knew that it would be thirty minutes before the coach

would make the turn onto the Turk's Head Highway from the King of

Prussia Road.

Living in solitude, as he did, he was able to wander about the

wilderness freely, plundering coaches almost at will. Few Tories would

think to venture into the forest to pursue him, as the political climate

built toward revolution, because he had become the anonymous friend and

benefactor of many like Jonas Webster.

To them, he gave over the riches he had stolen, and these people

would be even rougher in their treatment of a Tory sympathizer than

would Fitz himself.

Jonas Webster had long since paid his debt to Squire Morgan, and

gone on to become a successful farmer and selectman in the village of

Turk's Head.

The coach driver this night was more observant than most. Passing

the ravine below Deer Hill, he started the long approach to Rattlesnake

70
mountain, when he noticed some ropes hanging from the low branches of

the giant beech trees on the high banks of Darby Creek.

He urged the team ahead, keeping to the left of the ropes,

cracking his long whip over the heavy horse's heads. Out of the

lowlands on the other side of the stream, he saw a lone rider turn out

onto the road, aboard a handsome roan. The rider spurred the horse to a

gallop, raising a large cloud of dust, and soon was behind the coach.

One of the passengers climbed out the door and pulled himself up

to the seat beside the driver. Captain Fitz rode close behind the

coach, and struggled to untie the baggage. The passenger took aim with

the driver's blunderbuss. Fitz pulled a pistol from his belt and

fired. The passenger dropped back as the driver spurred the team ahead,

bouncing over precarious ruts in the roadway. The big coach rolled side

to side, and the right wheels began to lift off the road.

Fitz pulled hard on the end of the rope, and all the baggage

tumbled down from the back of the coach. The top-heavy coach swerved

off the side of the road, and flipped end for end into the forested

gully, tossing the passenger in the driver's seat into the bushes.

Fitz turned back abruptly, and gathered the baggage up, tying it

together with a rope, which he then slung over his shoulder. He rode

off before the passengers were able to reach the road, running and

swearing simultaneously. "You'll hang!! You'll hang for this!!" Enoch

Lipscomb screamed toward Fitz who quickly vanished into the dense

underbrush.

Three days later Governor Miles Braddock stood before his huge

mahogany desk in the mansion at Clivedon. He read the report once more,

then threw it down on the desk in a rage.

"I don't understand it!!" He sputtered and fumed to his aide,

Enoch Lipscomb. "Where is this man coming from?" He asked. "Where

does he go?" Lipscomb shrugged his shoulders.

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The governor stood stiffly. He was scrubbed clean, and polished,

as always, and clean-shaven. His hair was plaited and powdered, and

every brass button on his jacket gleamed in the afternoon sun. His

flawless military presence was marred only by the paunch that completely

covered his belt buckle. The chair at his desk was leather, dark in

color, and had been polished to a high gleam.

There was a large portrait of King George III on the wall behind

his desk. Velvet curtains, dyed a deep red, with gold borders framed

the window overlooking the Delaware River. An expanse of closely-

cropped lawn led down to the river's edge, and shorn hedges provided a

wind break on the northerly line.

The vista beyond, easterly of the river's edge, was in the colony

of New Jersey. Cattle grazed freely beside the water's edge. An apple

orchard separated the pasture from fields of corn that stretched as far

as the eye could see.

"We have had little success in combating any of the recent

outbreaks of highway thievery west of the city, your honor." Lipscomb

said. "This......Captain Fitz......as he appears to call himself, is

but one man..." The Governor struck his fist on the desk. "But a very

successful one man." The Governor interupted angrily. Lipscomb shook

his head in silent agreement.

"Yes." He agreed. "There is no argument about that. "He has

robbed at least fifteen coaches, once to remove the entire month's

receipts from the harbormaster's chest."

The Governor was overtaken again by a sudden, irrisistable urge to

laugh at the thought of Earl Calder left nearly naked in the dark

countryside, miles from nowhere. He cleared his throat, looking away.

"Harumph. Yes," He continued, managing to recover a straight face at

last. "That was a very expensive vacation for the Earl and Lady

Calder." Lipscomb nodded, somberly. "I don't believe they have been to

Turk's Head since."

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The governor closed the book on his desk noisily. "He must be

stopped!" He said. "They all must be stopped." Lipscomb stood up and

folded the report. He took it out of the office with him. "Yes sir."

He said, taking his leave of the Governor. He stopped at the door.

"Yes sir," He repeated, "Will that be all, sir?" He asked, turning back

to the governor, who sat stiffy in the chair at the desk. His hair

showed flecks of grey at the temples. His blue eyes danced with fire.

The governor nodded. "See to it, Mister Lipscomb." He said, gruffly,

as he opened a book from the case beside the desk.

Lipscomb strode down the hall and went down one flight of stairs

to his office. He sat down and began to write on a clean sheet of

paper. "Wanted." He read the words aloud, as he wrote. "A tall, white

male. Calls himself Fitz, or Captain Fitz......."

*********

Jonas Webster stepped out of his house and walked toward the barn.

He turned his head toward the familiar figure standing in the south end

of the pasture. He walked across the short grass, passing among the

grazing cattle and horses. He spoke with the person, who never left the

dark shadows of the hardwood forest.

"Halloo, Jonas." Fitz said, quietly, as Webster approached.

"Good day, Captain Fitz." Webster said, glancing nervously over his

shoulder to make sure unfriendly eyes were not watching.

Fitz tossed a bundle at Jonas' feet. "Make good use of it,

Jonas." Fitz said. Jonas nodded, his face drawn tightly in a serious

expression. Over the years, Fitz had continued to bring spoils from his

looting to Jonas, who, as a town selectman, was able to put the money to

good use, helping other local families who were behind financially.

The town, and the surrounding communities, prospered because of it.

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Turk's Head was not the only village helped by Captain Fitz. His

exploits took him all over Chester County, as he plundered the travelers

between Philadelphia Town and towns to the west and south.

He grew accustomed to life in the forest slowly, but eventually

came to relish the solitude, and long periods of uninterrupted fishing

on the lakes and streams in his adopted wilderness land. The lakes at

Westown were quiet, and teemed with bass and trout. These were among

his favorite summertime haunts.

At the southern end of the upper lake, near the head of the falls,

he often fished with braves of the Lenni Lenape tribe. Fitz was known

to a few Indians in each of the tribes in the Delaware Valley. Brother

Fitz they called him. He was a hunter, and trapper, and lived his life

more in the fashion of the Indian than of the white man.

Still, he was legendary among both peoples, largely because of his

reclusiveness. Few people of any color ever got more than a glancing

look at Fitz, yet many had heard of his feats, of his prowess with the

long rifle, of his ability to walk farther and faster through the

wilderness than any man, white or Indian.

One man devoted most of his life to finding and hunting down

Captain Fitz. The first encounter he had with him would never allow the

man they called Cyrus a moment's rest. Even when he was in pursuit of

others, his mind would allow him no respite from the challenge of

hunting down and capturing, or killing, the infamous Captain Fitz.

The financial reward of catching Fitz would be great, no question,

and it interested him, but it was not money that drove him. It was

pride. His pride would not allow him to forget the incident at Turk's

Head, years before, when Fitz got away, even after Cyrus' bullet had

found its mark.

Fitz was the only fugitive to have gotten away from Cyrus and his

band of cut throats, with one other exeption. A short time earlier, he

74
encountered two black men just outside the village of Christiana. He

had been following them since they crossed the line into Pennsylvania,

and approached them as they walked in the early evening, outside the

Inn.

"You are the niggers I've been looking for." Cyrus said, standing

on the steps of the Inn, pulling himself up to his full height on the

railing. Even standing on the step, he was a full head shorter than the

smaller of the two black men. He pulled a newspaper advertisement from

his pocket, and read a description.

Ran away from their master Charles Dickinson of Wye-Neck in

Cambridgetown, Maryland Two Negro brothers, about 25 years and 27

years. The older one had on him a new homespun weastcoat and

breeches of the same cloth with shoes and stockings on, and an old

black hat. Who shall take up said Negroes and convey them to

their master above, or advise him so that he may have them again

shall be fully paid for same.

He read the words slowly, haltingly, stumbling over several. When

he finished, Cyrus smiled. The two decaying front teeth he had left

protruded over his bottom lip. He reached out and touched the lapel on

the waistcoat worn by the taller of the two men. "Nice cloth." He

said, rubbing the lapel between his fingers. "Now," He said, we are

going to take you back." He waved to his two accomplices, one of them

nearly a head taller than either of the two black men. The biggest man

smiled, stretching the wicked red scar tightly across his cheek as he

did, and stepped forward.

"No you're not." Said one of the black men. Cyrus stepped back,

quickly positioning his cohorts to stand between him and the runaways.

"I've taken many a runaway," Cyrus said, pulling himself up on the

railing. "And I can take you." With that, he put one hand in his

pocket, as if to get a pistol, and with the other, reached out to take

hold of his prisoner.

75
The black man produced a club from behind his back and struck

Cyrus' arm with it. It fell back, broken. Then he clubbed the big

white man across the face. He fell to his knees. A fight broke out,

and the white men ran off. The two runaway slaves chased them,

determined to beat them more, but the men escaped. The black men ran

off into the woods as well, heading north to friendlier country near

Columbia.

Cyrus and the notorious "Gap Gang" made a business of helping

slave hunters capture runaways. As often as not, free negroes were

taken into slavery, but that never bothered Cyrus. He had no time for

anyone who was not white, or who had ever been a slave, or indentured,

as had been Fitz.

In his mind, it was clear. There were two kinds of people in the

world. Those who own property, and those who are property. Anyone of

color existed only for the benefit of the white, landed gentry, and were

no more valuable than cattle. In his mind, they were sub-human, and

worthless, except as cattle.

An orphan, he was raised in the streets of London, where he

learned the art of picking pockets almost before he could walk. Taught

by a con-artist who took him in and kept him, forcing him to steal from

passersby, Cyrus was only twelve years old when he made his first move

to obtain his own freedom.

For years, he kept back some of what he stole, saving it for

himself, and hiding it from his keeper. Then one night, he stole up to

the sleeping figure, and in the light of the full moon, took a knife and

ended the life of his keeper with one quick slash.

He secreted himself in the back of a hay wagon, and took his

stolen jewelry with him, working his way up the coast. He was lucky

enough one day to see two indentured servants make their break from a

first mate near the dock, who was loading his charges on board. Cyrus

was watching from a wooded knoll, hoping to stow away.

76
He made a quick assessment of the first mate, who came running,

looking for the two servants, who were hiding nearby, and offered to

tell him where they were, in exchange for passage on the ship. The

first mate thought for a moment, then agreed with a smile, and Cyrus

sailed on his way to the New World, a cabin boy on a New England slaver

out of Providence.

As he had discovered at an early age, possession was nine tenths

of the law. Whatever his looks, however juvenile his appearance, he was

in possession of substantial wealth in the form of precious metals and

jewels.

And, he had learned that there was a great deal more money to be

made in tracking runaways, and that there were many men of lesser

intelligence willing to follow him for a small price.

Most of his work was easy. His gang of cutthroats looked the

part, and they could usually frighten runaway slaves into submitting

without a fight. The same was true of white runaways unfortunate enough

to attract his attention.

Having been beaten by the two runaway slaves, who quickly fled

north, and who then vanished, helped and protected by sympathetic

farmers, who would receive the fruits of their labors in return, only

made the fires of revenge burn hotter in Cyrus' belly.

He recuperated from his broken arm at Turk's Head Inn. Lounging

one day on the porch overlooking the highway, he read the wanted poster

that had been circulating throughout the surrounding countryside.

"So, Captain Fitz, we meet again." He muttered to himself,

holding the poster up to his face as he sipped a mint julep. He tapped

his fingers slowly on the heavy wooden arm of the lounge chair. Each

day brought more motion and less pain to him as the arm was now almost

completely healed. Tapping his fingers provided some light exercise.

77
He read the description in the flyer, and whistled softly to

himself at the size of the King's ransom being offered for the capture

and conviction of the mysterious, and elusive, Captain Fitz.

His spies had been watching for Fitz for years. The one place

that they had finally been able to trace him to was Turk's Head, and

Jonas Webster.

********

Jonas was now heavily involved in the cause of the Patriots. As

the British tightened their hold on the colonies, and advanced more and

more taxes on the people, nighttime meetings of the colonists were

common, as people discussed their options, and plotted their actions.

Jonas had become a spokesman for the cause, and was trusted by the

leadership to carry out many secret missions designed to make life more

difficult for the British and the Tories.

One night, he enlisted help from Captain Fitz. They had met again

at the edge of the pasture, Fitz dropping off another bag. "Fitz,"

Jonas asked, looking about nervously for unfriendly eyes. "Aye." Fitz

said in return. "We understand the King has made a pact with the band

of pirates in that snake pit we call Marcus Hook." Fitz nodded. "Aye.

So I've heard. He pays them off, and they let the British Fleet have

clear sailing past the point."

"That's it, exactly." Jonas said. "War is coming, Fitz. It is

definitely coming. It may have started already, even as we speak."

Fitz said nothing in reply, but waited to hear more. "We need to stop

this deal with the pirates.....somehow."

Fitz leaned on his long rifle as he contemplated what Jonas had

said. "The Skull would sell his own mother into slavery for a half

pence, I'm told." Fitz said. Jonas nodded. "So I have heard, as

well." Jonas said, in agreement. "And would chase any man who ever

78
cheated him to the ends of the earth to gain his revenge." Jonas said,

adding his thoughts to Fitz'.

"Fitz, are you willing to help us?" Fitz said nothing for a few

seconds. "What can one such as I do, Jonas Webster? Jonas studied

Fitz's face. In all the years that Fitz had been helping him and others

in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania, Jonas had never gotten a good

look at his benefactor.

Fitz, the recluse, not used to close scrutiny by any man, rubbed

his cheeks nervously with his hand as Jonas spoke. "I have heard by the

grapevine that you have been called upon on earlier occasions to deliver

messages of great import through unfamiliar and treacherous territory.

Colonel Washington himself once mentioned your name.

Surely, no other white man could make his way through this

territory better than you. We must find a way of reaching the Skull.

We must find some way to reach him with a courier who can stay alive

long enough to deliver our message on this. You are the best chance we

have of success. You may be our only chance of success.

Please carry a message to Skull. He has an agreement with the

King's forces. In return for a share of the taxes collected unfairly on

the citizens of the Colonies, the King's vessels sail around the Hook

unmolested. Other vessels, including those of the Colonies are not so

fortunate. The message is this:

The Skull commands a formidable fleet, and his men are capable.

They are a threat to be seriously considered by any navy, and the King's

forces would be hard-pressed to defeat him. The King enjoys the best of

all worlds presently. Tell Skull that the Colonists will allow him all

the war munitions and gunpowder from the mill at Euletheria that he

wishes to have, in return for allowing free passage of Colonial vessels

carrying such goods around the Hook."

Fitz' eyes darted nervously about as Jonas spoke, routinely

looking toward the horizon in all directions for signs of unwelcome

79
observers as he contemplated the words. He hesitated but a few seconds.

"I'm not sure what I might be able to do, but I'll see what I can find

out. Perhaps there is a way to get to see this man they call Skull."

Jonas reached out for Fitz' hand to shake it, and to say thanks,

but Fitz had already vanished into the shadows, making no sound, even as

he walked through the heavy brush. Fitz walked the way his Indian

brother had taught him, both feet in one line, each step landing in the

same place. Unlike the white man who crashed noisily through any

thicket, Fitz could come and go as noiselessly as any Indian.

Jonas Webster turned to walk back to his house. Unseen by him, or

by Fitz, a silent figure watched from behind a huge oak tree at the top

of the meadow. The figure watched for a few seconds then followed in

the direction Fitz had taken. A racoon tail on the figure's hat

billowed in the wind.

Fitz went back that night to Castle Rock, with the notion that he

would travel to Marcus Hook the next day. He climbed up the ravine,

constantly looking around him for signs of people, as he always did.

He pulled the bearskin from the entrance and stepped inside,

leaning his long rifle against the cave wall in one smooth motion. A

sudden noise startled him. He turned quickly, knife drawn, to behold

the countenance of Nemacolin, standing in the dim light of the moon.

Fitz holstered the knife, realizing that he had almost lunged at

his friend. "Ugh." Nemacolin said, wrapping his arms around Fitz in a

hug. "I did not mean to scare you, my brother. I fell asleep as I

awaited your return."

They started a fire in the center of the cave room. Fitz spread

handfuls of kindling under some seasoned apple logs, while Nemacolin

chipped sparks into the tinder with his flint.

"I bring meat." Nemacolin said, pointing toward some deer steaks

he had stored in the second cave, where Fitz kept his food supplies.

"Good." Fitz said. "My hunger is great."

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"It has been a long time, my brother." Nemacolin said, as he

surveyed the quarters. "You are doing well. That is good. You appear

to be safe here, still." He looked at Fitz for a long instant, then he

watched the embers rising up from the fire, Indian-fashion. For a long

time, he said nothing more. At last, he frowned.

"I continue to see posters of you, placed by the English on trees

along the trail, and in taverns. These posters tell me you are even

more of a wanted man than you were when we first met, and you carried a

ball in your chest, put there by the bounty hunter, Cyrus." Fitz

smiled, pushing several pieces of venison into the fire on a sharpened

stick. "Aye." He said, simply, stirring the coals under the meat, as

he talked.

"I must do something to pass the hours." He laughed, shrugging

his shoulders defensively. "It is very lonely here, with no other to

talk to. He smiled at Nemacolin for a few seconds, then his face turned

serious again. "There are many good people in the valleys here," he

explained to Nemacolin, "who need my help." Nemacolin nodded his

agreement, thnking of Regina, and the handful of others that he knew had

been helpful to Fitz.

"There will be war with the British, if it has not begun already."

Fitz continued. "I will not be counted among the Tory dogs who take

bread from the mouths of children, just to be able to live their

gluttonous life of excess. I will rather be counted among those who

fight for what they believe in, even if it means something different for

me. I may never be free in body, but I can be free in spirit, and I

respect the right of all people to be free."

Nemacolin nodded his head somberly. "I am told there is, indeed,

war already." He said, passing on the news that had reached him the day

before. Fitz' expression showed concern and question. "In Bostontown,"

Nemacolin continued. "I have heard that unarmed men died there at the

hands of the British Regulars. This is just the beginning."

81
"I have agreed to go to Marcus Hook tomorrow," Fitz said. "To

find out what I can about the Skull, and his pirates. I am told he has

made a pact with the British, to allow them free passage around the

Hook, in return for a sum of gold. I will try to find a way to sour the

deal."

Nemacolin nodded. "I trust you will take pains to return alive."

Fitz laughed. "Captain Fitz always takes pains to remain alive. My

life is quiet, and lonely, for the most part, but it has never been

dull." Fitz said, with a laugh. Nemacolin smiled. Fitz pulled the

meat from the fire, and brought it to the small table near the door,

that he had fashioned from pine saplings, and rough-hewn boards.

The two men sat by the fire as the light danced up the bare,

schisty, granite walls of Castle Rock. Wooden torches jammed into

crevasses burned freely, providing a flickering light for the two

friends as they talked. The fire crackled softly, except for an

occasional loud popping of sap in the wood.

In a corner, near the entrance, was a space on the wall where Fitz

marked off the days he spent living in isolation at Castle Rock. The

marks covered a space as tall and as wide as he was. "There are more

than 5000 marks here," He explained to Nemacolin.

A smaller space included a mark for each wagon or coach he had

plundered. Though not nearly as large, that list included several dozen

marks as well. Nemacolin smiled. He looked at Fitz, and his smile

turned to laughter. His belly bounced gently, at the thought of Fitz

bringing embarrassment to Earl Calder, the pompous and arrogant

harbormaster of Philadelphia that everybody loved to hate. Even the

Indians hated him because he was a council member, and they had to deal

with the council on territorial matters.

They knew him to be dishonest, and a man who's word meant nothing.

He thought again, of Earl Calder walking naked along the road with his

82
pockets picked clean of his plunder that he had taken from the poor

colonists in the name of the King. Soft laughter spilled from his lips.

"Your hair is becoming flecked with gray." Nemacolin said, after

a while, continuing his serious conversation again. They sat by the

fire, watching the embers lift above the flames and drift lazily toward

the chimney opening overhead. Fitz nodded. "And yours, as well, my

friend." Fitz said in quiet response. "It would be well for you to use

some of this wisdom you have accumulated among all these years."

Nemacolin said. "It would be well if you avoided the white man's war

drums." He continued, nodding his head as he spoke. Fitz was silent

for a few seconds, then he shook his head, briskly, in a negative way.

"Your white man has not been your brother, my friend." Nemacolin

argued, as Fitz shook his head. "He has done nothing for you. He keeps

you here, and makes you live alone, in this cave. He holds you prisoner

here. You own no part in this war."

Fitz smiled, studying Nemacolin's face intently. The flickering

shadows revealed tiny lines in the corners of Nemacolin's eyes. "You

may be right." Fitz said, taking his time to answer. "But, never let

it be said that Captain Fitz was afraid of adventure. Be the good Lord

willing, I will die with my moccasins on." He smiled, and brought his

hands down onto his knees with a clapping noise for emphasis. "And you,

my friend, are no different." Nemacolin smiled. He could not help

nodding to himself in agreement.

He had taught his white friend well. Fitz looked like an Indian,

lived like an Indian, and even thought like an Indian. To the Indian,

the only natural death was violent, to be experienced in warfare, or on

a hunting party. To the Indian, death by sickness was evil, and caused

by evil spirits. Death by sickness was to be avoided at all costs,

while violent death, though not welcome, was considered a natural event,

and one that should not be feared.

83
Nemacolin took a draw on his pipe and passed it to Fitz. Fitz

drew on it, turning the tobacco coals cherry red. He blew the smoke

upward toward the chimney.

In the morning, at first light, they parted ways again. Nemacolin

traveled to Philadelphia, bringing a message from his people to the

council there, regarding the hunting grounds at Standing Stone, and to

bring an offer to trade furs for horses. "Travel safely, my brother."

Fitz said, as Nemacolin started down the ravine. He knew well the

dangers that faced a lone Indian traveler in such tumultuous times.

"You, too, must be especially careful." Nemacolin said to Fitz,

holding both his shoulders with his hands. "The trees have many eyes.

There are more white men in these forests every day, and many of them

would relish the thought of turning you in for the ransom."

"Perhaps." Fitz said with a smile. "But they will have to

conquer me first. And they will have to catch me before they can

conquer me. No one can vanish as quickly and quietly as Captain Fitz.

Why the King's very ransom notice said so." He said, holding aloft the

poster Nemacolin brought to him the night before.

With that, and with a fond farewell hug, the two men struck off in

different directions. Fitz picked up the narrow, overgrown trail

southeast of Turk's Head. It was about a five mile walk from Castle

Rock. The trail led through a dense pine forest, so thick that it was

said by the earliest settlers that squirrels could walk from the shores

of the Atlantic to the Mississippi River without ever having to touch

the ground.

The tops of the pines seemed to skim the bottoms of the clouds.

The forest floor was carpeted, thick and brown, with fallen pine

needles. The trail was overgrown with leathery vines hanging to the

ground from the trees, and tangled underbrush was everywhere. There

were vines with pickers that clung to clothing and slowed every step.

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The trail had deteriorated to the point of being little more than a

panther path.

Tiny, but viciously hungry bugs got under clothing and bit into

exposed patches of skin. Underfoot, the water table was extremely high,

making large sections of the old Indian pathway nearly impassable, but

Fitz pushed on, reaching the rise above Chester in only a few hours.

Staying among the rocks, to avoid being seen as he walked, he was

able to skirt the village. Just below Chester, on the way to Marcus

Hook, he saw the first of the markings clearly meant to discourage

travelers.

In the center of the footpath, was a skeleton, still partially

clothed. It was spiked to a pine tree by a huge knife through its

chest. Above it was a sign, carved into a weathered piece of split pine

that read, "It is only a fool ventures into these woods." It was

signed, simply, "The Skull." Below the message was the dreaded skull

and crossbones insignia, painted with dried blood.

As was true with most pirates, the Skull was able to strike fear

into the hearts of most men, simply by his appearance. He was close to

seven feet tall, and weighed well over three hundred pounds. It was

said that he was six feet around at the midsection.

He kept his head close-shaven, except for two long pony tails

growing out from each ear. These he kept braided, always with matches

tied in them, several inches apart, for lighting cannons. His skin was

shiny and black as ebony.

He had been born into cruel slavery in Connecticut. His given

name was William Smith, and, even as a boy, because of his great size,

he was forced to do the work of four men, and was brutally mistreated by

his master. He was teased unmercifully by white children on his farm,

who took advantage of the fact that he was always kept in chains.

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When he was but twenty years of age, a band of privateers,

attacked him and his master, after a raid on a nearby coastal town. He

fought back out of self defense, in spite of his chains, inadvertently

killing his master in the process. His master had foolishly refused to

release William from his chains during the skirmish with the pirates.

In the struggle, he strangled several pirates as well as his

master with his chains. The pirates were impressed with his great

strength, and took him aboard their vessel. There, they intended to

hold him hostage, in case the townspeople might pay a reward for him

having killed his master.

Charles Gibbs, the pirate captain, whose men had captured him, saw

great advantage to be gained from using him to intimidate potential

victims. The pirates shaved his head, and made him look even more

fearsome to scare potential victims.

Within weeks of sailing off with the band, he was badgered by

several of the pirates, who taunted him, but kept him in chains at all

times. At last he had all he could take. He rebelled, breaking his

chains loose from the hull, and conquering his captors by bashing their

skulls with them in a fit of rage.

Free at last, he took over the ship, throwing the pirate captain,

and several of his best men to the sharks, keeping the rest with

promises of riches in gold and plunder if they joined with him.

His quiet intelligence was gained through observation. His great

strength was matched by none. When travelling about on land around the

pirate village of Marcus Hook, he could be seen riding on a two wheeled

jaunting car, modified for his use, and pulled by a single horse. He

was much too large to ride a horse's back, so he used a special jaunting

car. He replaced the customary seats that sat, back to back, with one

large seat.

When the horse misbehaved, as it sometimes did, Skull was known to

step down, and pick the front half of his horse up under the legs.

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After receiving such a jostling, the horse would settle down and behave

for quite a long while.

He also was known, when visiting livestock sales in the towns

along the Delaware, and as far west as Turk's Head or Christiana with

his band of privateers, to pick up the rear half of an ox, in order to

judge its weight before buying it.

Not all was plunder with the pirates of Marcus Hook. In fact,

they occasionally bargained for goods with neighboring towns, and even

supported local establishments and taverns while on various expeditions.

It was obvious that their patronage of local merchants was

something of an entertainment for the Skull, since his usual way was to

take whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it.

He wore a huge mustache that made his large face look like that of

a walrus, and his right earlobe was punctured with a large gold ring

that hung to his shoulder. Two of his front teeth had been knocked out,

and the adjacent teeth grew in toward the gaps, making them look like

sharpened fangs.

If his countenance alone was not enough to make a rival quake in

his boots, he was equally quick to draw his cutlass. Razor-sharp, the

cutlass was huge, and most men would have had a hard time even lifting

it. Skull could lift it readily, bringing it around in a quick arc that

rolled many heads without a sound of warning, and cut more than one

battle opponent in two.

Among thieves, cut-throats, and renegades, Skull was a pirate's

pirate. There was none fiercer, nor more vicious, and none had any less

regard for human life, when it got in the way of plunder.

Fitz left the trail at the point where the skeleton was posted.

Staying downwind, he climbed into the trees at different points to be

sure to leave no footprints. At one point, he noticed two pirates

keeping watch over the trail from atop two large boulders.

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They sat, shoulder to shoulder, with a bottle of rum propped

between them, oblivious to the fact that they were being watched.

Without a sound, Fitz crept up behind the two, who dozed fitfully,

sleeping off the effects of a long night of rum and wenching.

Quickly, a silent rope encircled the two, and a hard right hand

helped them to sleep more deeply. Fitz tied them securely to a tree and

gagged each with a noose around the neck that drew tighter the more they

struggled to get free. He walked on, staying well away from the trail.

Twice, he nearly crashed headlong into treacherous deep pits, mined out

of the soft mud by perfidious pirates, covered with leaves and thatching

to hide them from view. At the bottoms of the pits were saplings,

buried in the soil, with sharpened points aimed skyward, ready to impale

any living thing unfortunate enough to make one misstep.

At another point along the trail, he found a series of heavy

timbers, sharpened to a point at one end, then hung from ropes and tied

back, a razor-edged pendulum waiting to impale the unexpecting hiker of

the forbidden trail.

At the head of the harbor, a small, cozy cottage sat by the mouth

of the stream. Constructed of logs laid up and caulked tightly with

grey clay from the stream banks, it had a field stone chimney that

wafted a light stream of bluish smoke skyward.

Huddled about the yard were groups of pirates, obviously suffering

the effects of the previous night's abuse. Carefully, he mindfully

approached each group one by one, casting his silent rope around victims

then rendered senseless by his granite fists.

When he finally made his entry into the cottage, he did so with

brass-handled pistols un-holstered. He stood, face to face with the

dreaded Skull, who rose up out of his velvet throne, shaking sleep from

his groggy head, spewing wild sprays of sputum and threats

simultaneously.

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His huge arm grasped the handle of the cutlass that lay against

his tree-trunk of a leg. For a moment, Fitz was certain that his number

was up. The huge pirate breathed fire, and his eyes seemed to see

nothing, but instead reflected blind and terrifying rage.

Fitz' fingers wrapped around the triggers and began to squeeze.

The barrels pointed directly at the fiery eyes. Skull sputtered and

fumed uncontrollably. Suddenly, without warning, the furor subsided.

The large cutlass dropped to the floor with a clanging noise. It

bounced, landing near the open fireplace that did not burn, but only

smoldered noiselessly, covering the windows with a thin, black, layer of

soot.

A tiny smile broke out on Skull's face. His beady, but

intelligent eyes darted about quickly from beneath the small shrubs some

would call eyebrows. Fitz held the pistols under the formidable man's

nose. Skull sniffed, loudly, stretching to look out the windows of the

cottage. He bellowed loudly, a long, grating bellow that seemed about

to blow the thatched roof off the cottage. The bellow became a choking

sound. His red-rimmed bug eyes seemed about to pop out of their sockets

and roll onto the floor. Fitz backed away a step. The Skull coughed,

blowing his mustaches almost straight out to the sides. He choked

again, at the same time, focusing his eyes directly on Fitz' face.

Again, Fitz began to squeeze the triggers, thinking he was about to die

at the hands of a giant madman, who had as little regard for the two

pistols aimed at his eyeballs as would the tree trunk of a giant beech,

and this fearsome personage was almost that large.

Skull coughed once more, then his great belly began to dance, as

he sucked in huge quantities of air which he expelled in the form of a

belly laugh. He coughed, he spat, he wheezed, he laughed some more. He

took a long, deep breath, and coughed, spat, wheezed, and laughed again.

He slapped his knees with his great hands, which were as broad and

thick as the haunches of an ox. The slapping sound could be heard

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echoing off the sides of the valley, and skimming off the waters of the

bay.

Off shore, near the point of land they called Marcus Hook, sat

three vessels, hove to, close to the beach. Beyond the cove sat ten

more vessels. Each bore the unmistakable black colors with skull and

cross bones on the main mast.

"Who dares to come into this den of wicked thieves and stand

before me?" Skull asked, becoming suddenly serious. He drew himself up

to his full height, just as suddenly. He stared down at Fitz, who stood

his ground with the pistols, trying to keep from melting inside in the

face of the ominous and bellowing presence.

"Captain Fitz, here." Fitz answered, returning the direct stare.

Skull's stiff, serious countenance disappeared, and he began laughing

again, bending over to look out the windows as his huge belly heaved up

and down.

"Outside these thin walls sit the meanest collection of ne'er do

wells, cut-throats, killers and low-lifes ever assembled at one time in

the history of the world, in a den of iniquity guarded by poisonous

thieves who would boil your innards for supper. And you walked past my

guards to stand here, pistols aimed at the gullet of the dreaded Skull,

and you did all this alone. Outside, my men are forced to watch in

silence, fixed in the very spot where you hog-tied them as they slept on

duty." Skull said, laughing harder as he continued in a loud, gravely

voice.

"Captain Fitz, eh?" He said, reaching out toward Fitz. Fitz

stood fast, and pushed the pistols back into Skull's face. Skull backed

away a half a step, studying Fitz who cocked the hammers cooly.

"Perhaps you would like to join my band?" He said, speaking

quickly to Fitz, after careful consideration. He grinned, exposing his

wicked, crooked stumps of teeth. "I'll drown you in gold, silver and

precious jewels. You'll have anything you wish......any women you wish.

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Any man who can get the jump on Skull in the bowels of his own

village, past armed and viperous guards.......well.....suffice it to

say, your services could be very valuable to one such as me."

Fitz shook his head. "I want no party to privateering." He

announced, stating his position tersely. "I have only one interest in

being here." He stood silent, as if punctuating his sentence by not

speaking.

Skull watched, considering Fitz carefully. He looked him up and

down, watching his face for any hint of emotion. "And what might that

be?" He asked, after a long silence of his own, scratching his chin

thoughtfully. Then he quickly added, "You drive a hard bargain with

that pair of pistols." He looked directly down the barrels as he spoke.

Fitz pulled the pistols back a few inches. "I'm told you have

reached a bargain with Admiral Gates of the King's navy." Fitz said,

watching for a reaction. Skull's bushy eyebrows raised. His beady,

black eyes darted about nervously. "Says who?" He asked, defensively.

"Never mind." Fitz said. "Tis a known fact, though, that the

King's ships sail past the Hook with no interference from your fleet.

Tis also a fact, that other ships, and ships of the Colonies are not so

fortunate." Skull smiled, crossing his arms across his chest, as he

listened, quietly.

"You are not canny enough to find your way into the depths of this

place alive, not to be able to figure out why things happen the way they

do." Skull said, carefully measuring this one man, who stood before

him, unflinching in the appalling face of the most infamous and menacing

terrorist ever to sail the high seas.

Fitz nodded. The Colonists cannot afford to offer you what King

George may have offered. The Colonists have not the financial advantage

that unfair taxes can bring. Even so, the Colonists are not without

something to offer that King George cannot, or will not, offer so

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freely. There is war between the King's forces and the Colonies. The

fighting has begun in Bostontown, I am told.

In exchange for your word to allow vessels from the Colonies

loaded with war munitions and gunpowder to pass the Hook unmolested, you

will have all of the same that you wish for your own use."

Skull listened intently. Fitz noted a slight gleam that grew in

his eye as the image of his own unlimited supply of powder and munitions

sank in. His mind quickly calculated that he could roam the high seas

at will and pluck the jewels of commerce all the way to the Carribean.

It would mean he could muscle into the rum and sugar traffic, which had

previously enjoyed the protection of the British and Dutch governments

and their navies. With an unlimited supply of powder, he could afford

to challenge even the best of British and Dutch warships, and he knew

that his forces would win their share of encounters, exacting a high

toll on their challenge.

"My word?" Skull asked, interrupting after listening a long time

with a straight face. "You ask my word?" His belly began to shake

again with laughter. "You ask the word of a pirate?" He began to laugh

uncontrollably again.

Fitz holstered the pistol in his left hand and leaned close,

pushing the barrel of the other pistol tightly under Skull's nose. "A

man's word is only as good as his ability to keep it." Fitz said,

enunciating his measured words carefully. "I have weighed your

capabilities most carefully." Fitz continued. They are formidable.

You have the capability to deliver anything you say you can, and I will

trust you to do so."

Skull stared at the barrel of the pistol for a second. Then he

laughed again, and with a quick swoop of his huge arm, knocked the gun

out of Fitz' hand.

Fitz and the pirate stared eye to eye for what seemed an

intolerable eternity, as each waited for the other to make a move.

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Fitz' mind raced, calculating how quickly he could dive for the pistol,

and whether he could recover it before a fist or foot might render him

senseless, likely breaking his back in the process.

Skull seemed to be measuring him as well. All at once, the Skull

bellowed anew with fresh laughter. His eyes danced with impishness.

Instead of grappling for the pistol, he brought an arm up and wrapped it

around Fitz' shoulders. "I like you, Captain Fitz!" He said. "You

have guts. You are either very courageous, or very foolish, or very

stupid. Either way, I like you." He bent down and picked up the gun by

its barrel, and handed it carefully to Fitz.

It was all Fitz could do to keep from sighing audibly with relief,

and to keep his hands from shaking loose from his arms. Skull walked

Fitz to the door. "You have my word, Captain Fitz." He said, reaching

out for Fitz' hand, which he shook vigorously. Then he laughed,

uncontrollably, his belly shaking. His eyes rolled back into his head

he laughed so hard.

Fitz slipped out the door, and hastened his way through the woods

above the trail. Below him, he could hear muffled shouts, followed by

angry screams as Skull cut loose the closest of his men, and ordered

them to pursue him.

Fitz quickly out-distanced them all, leaving no trail behind. The

sounds in the pirate compound told him that all-out battle had erupted,

among the pirates fanned to flames by Skull, himself, who shouted

disparaging remarks to his trusted guards, and who killed several just

to provide an example for the rest.

***********

The H. M. S. Dartnell lay off Marcus Hook, still in a dead calm

after two full days and nights. At long last, a stiff breeze came up

with the sun on the third morning, and the vessel took off to round the

point.

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Expecting no challenge from the privateers at anchor in the

harbor, who never bothered them, the ship's captain thought nothing

amiss when a small corsair passed them abeam a few leagues from shore.

A single shot brought the British warship to terms, opening a

huge, gaping wound in the hull. Within minutes, the vessel was

overwhelmed by bloodthirsty pirates, who cut loose anything of value,

and spared none of the crew.

From his vantage point high above the harbor, Skull watched

through a long glass, leading a cheer among his men as the Dartnell

began its final journey to its eternal resting place among the reef

dwellers.

Far off in open waters, four vessels of the Continental Navy

sailed northward, toward the Hook, passing through the waters that were

only minutes before defended by the Dartnell. Abeam of the Hook, one

vessel broke ranks, and made for the harbor, tying up at the makeshift

dock at the end of the pier that jutted out from the cottage.

The cargo hatch was quickly opened, and caskets of powder unloaded

into wagons. The wagons disappeared, silently turning into the dark

woods away from the house.

Riding up to the pier in his horse-drawn jaunting car, Skull

stepped out and sauntered toward the ship, his heavy cutlass hanging to

the ground, as the captain and his men kept a wary watch from the deck,

manning a few light cannon loaded with shot.

On the ground below, in the morning mist that was just beginning

to lift with the light off-shore breeze, the first mate spoke to the

pirates who busied themselves with the cargo.

Not a word was spoken between Skull and the first mate. The first

mate squirmed nervously, trying to ignore the fact that it seemed ten

degrees colder standing in the shadow of Skull. He couldn't help

stealing glances, standing in awe of the image. He felt an icy chill go

down his spine when his eyes focused on the cutlass, gleamingly sharp.

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Its handle was completely covered with dried blood stains, flakes of

which rubbed off on skull's breeches as he walked. The first mate

gulped audibly, then forced his eyes straight ahead and never looked

back.

When the last of the cargo was off-loaded, Skull turned toward the

captain of the Continental Vessel, and gestured a half salute. The

captain returned the salute, gave the order to make ready, and the ship

was gone even as the trembling mate stepped back aboard.

In the morning, a small skiff arrived bearing a message from the

king. The message was carried from the King's navy by Black Will, a

freed slave who eked out a lonely existence on hog island, a wasteland

of an island at the head of the harbor below Philadelphia. Will tended

the livestock kept there by mainland farmers. He rowed his rotted

skiff to shore, the early morning silence broken only by the gentle

splash of water on his oars.

He struggled onto the pier, trying to keep his footing. It was

difficult with the wooden peg he used for a leg. The swells of the

rising tide lifted his skiff, making the job even more difficult. At

the end of the pier, Angelina came out and gathered up the small satchel

he held out. It was marked with the King's seal.

"Good Morning, Black Will." She said, quietly. Will bowed,

deeply, as he always did in her presence. "Morning, Miss Angelina." He

answered. "Message here from the harbormaster."

Angelina, her sweet face bordered with soft, brown curls had

mesmerizing violet eyes. She maintained the tidy, soft appearance of a

housewife, and, in fact, was kitchen cook at the small settlement. She

did not show it outwardly, but her disposition matched that of the

pirates among whom she chose readily to live.

Born in Rhode Island to comfortable family circumstances, she

lived a rather uneventful childhood on a farm that fronted the sea.

Years earlier, while little more than a child, against her parents

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wishes, she followed her teenage lover, who was lured to the sea by

dreams of adventure.

There, they were both victimized by pirates who killed him one

unfortunate night outside an Inn. He had made the mistake of trying to

strike up a conversation with the wrong people. She was shanghied and

taken by force to the Carribean, and held there against her will, while

Captain Guimont, the pirate leader, lay in wait for slave ships to come

ashore at Puerto Plata, in Hispanol.

At Puerto Plata, slavers regularly landed to purchase slaves held

captive by the Caribs, the fiercest of the Arawak civilization, native

to all the shores of the Carribean, and then to take their captives

north to market in Boston.

Captain Guimont, one of the boldest privateers ever to set sail in

search of booty, regularly raided the Spanish Main, and surprised random

slave ships when they were most vulnerable relieving them of the gold

and jewels they often carried as payment for the rum they delivered.

Guimont knew that many New England slave ships carried a bare-

bones minimum of crew in order to minimize expenses. He knew that many

sailed with less than ten aboard, when a full complement would have been

three times that number, and that they would therefore be easily

overcome in battle.

He also knew from previous experience to avoid laying close enough

to shore to ever become a target for the Caribs in their war canoes

while he waited for slave ships to arrive. The fierce Caribs were tall,

brownskinned, muscular, and the males practically dedicated their lives

to fighting. They wore their straight, black hair long, and they

decorated themselves with permanent scars and paint. Human slaves were

kept in corrals; bred, slaughtered, and sold, not unlike cattle in many

other civilizations.

Captain Guimont delighted in teasing Angelina with gruesome

stories of Carib brutality, and often promised her that he would deliver

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her up to the Caribs, where he was sure they would keep her as a

"breeder". Angelina cringed at such tales.

After months of being held there, never knowing how much worse her

miserable condition might suddenly become, idly watching the hot trade

winds lift fingers of steaming mist from the jungle slopes rising from

the shore, she eventually made her move. Her rage had built to fury

from this abuse, especially because she was kept on board purely for the

captain's amusement. She was used and defiled regularly by him, barely

fed and allowed no freedoms whatever, except as a sexual partner.

In the steamy heat of his cabin she joined him one night, in his

bed as she had been forced to do many times before. This time, Captain

Guimont made the mistake of forgetting where he was and who he was with.

In the middle of a passionate embrace, she stabbed him to the hilt with

his own knife, then did it again, and again, each time observing his

face carefully for a new reaction. When finally there was none, she

stopped, coldly surveying the damage she had wrecked upon him.

Afterward, she screamed for the first mate, who came running.

Without a word, she shot him between the eyes with the captain's pistol,

then challenged the rest of the crew, most of whom, she knew, had also

been forced into piracy against their wills.

Finding no takers, she held the crew at bay while advocating her

position to them. Arguing that she was the best choice as new captain

of the vessel, she gradually won them over. Clearly, they recognized

that she was the only one among them with the courage to rise up and

take the situation into her own hands.

She perceived she had little chance of winning a defense against a

charge of murder, either as a woman, or as a privateer, and certainly

none as both. Understanding that, she took advantage of an opportunity

to be a victim of cruel abuse for the last time. She stepped forward to

be counted, smoking pistols in hand, and, in that instant, Angelina,

born of Tiverton, Rhode Island, became one of privateering's legacies.

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She plundered the high seas with the best of the pirates, and had

a well-deserved reputation for having no qualms about killing anyone who

crossed her. After a decade on the run, alternately plundering and

fleeing from the authorities, she decided to settle at Marcus Hook,

retiring from the disruptive life of the sea. She joined, instead, the

raucus band of thieves who settled there under the protective wing of

the dreaded Skull, seeking refuge from justice, poverty, debts, vengeful

spouses, or civilization in general. She was well contented to give up

the sword and the gory lifestyle she had come to know aboard ship, where

death could prowl in silently with any dot on the horizon.

At least while she was at Marcus Hook, the only thing she had to

fear was the other pirates, and most of them were satisfied to know she

would shoot them dead without asking a question. Those who weren't,

knew that they would have Skull to contend with for any trouble they

started with Angelina, a concept with little universal appeal. They

knew, from experience, that he would string their carcasses up over the

yardarm before, or after, she shot them, and that her aim was excellent.

Things oten got rowdy, but most men at Marcus Hook purposely gave

Angelina a wide berth. Besides, Marcus Hook never lacked for buxom

women willing to lay with the pirates, or the devil himself, for a

price.

Violence never lurked far from the surface anywhere there were

pirates, and that certainly was the case at Marcus Hook. One morning,

after a successful raid on the village at Chester, Skull convened his

council.

Swallowing hard, after a long pull on the rum bottle that was to

muster his courage, The pirate they called Scabbard registered a

complaint. Complaints were rarely verbalized to the Skull, and with

good reason. "I tell you, Skull," Scabbard said, "I'm tired of that

scum-sucking pig, Campbell and his lousy band getting the cream of the

spoils.

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My men took down the guard at the Custom House. All Campbell had

to do was walk in behind us, fill his bags and walk away. Why should he

get an equal share when my men, and Bagnell's, and Pike's, took all the

risks?" There was a long silence, during which Scabbard passed the rum

bottle to the two men with him. "Yeah. Why should he?" The two other

pirates finally asked.

Skull stood up. He walked slowly toward the window, bending his

head slightly to look out. Scabbard and the others shifted nervously in

their seats. All three men kept their hands near their pistols.

"That's how you feel, then, is it?" Skull asked, after a long,

intense silence. Scabbard nodded, as Skull turned and looked his way.

Scabbard squirmed in the direct gaze. "The truth is," Skull said,

slowly walking back toward the table where the men sat. "I agree with

you."

The three men sighed, audibly, in unison, then smiled. They

relaxed for a moment, and tapped each other on the shoulder with

congratulatory pats. "You and your men should get more than Campbell,

you deserve a lot more."

He stepped closer to the table. By the time any of them even

heard Skull's cutlass un-sheath, it had already begun its giant arc that

severed three heads noiselessly, in one swoop.

At that moment, the door was opened, and five or six other pirates

entered the tavern. They stood, mouths agape, in gap-toothed

astonishment. Blood spurted wildly around the room as the corpses

quivered and jerked into a lifeless heap beside the table.

Skull said not one word. He sheathed the great cutlass in

silence, not even attempting to wipe any of the blood from it. Staring

each of the entering pirates in the face, he left the tavern. Outside

the door, he turned and, snapping his fingers, pointed toward the mess,

directing two lackies to clean it up.

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The other pirates stared in disbelief for a few seconds, then they

took a deep breath, and turned away as if nothing had happened. They

sat down, and ordered a bottle of rum.

After that incident, Skull needed only to level a gaze in the

direction of any of the other pirates in order to quickly control the

rowdiness. Never again, did anyone at Marcus Hook complain about the

way in which the spoils were distributed.

Skull took the message satchel from Angelina and sat down with it

at a corner table. He opened it and held the parchment up to the light

coming in from the window.

"I imagine Governor Braddock is not very happy with you, Skull."

Angelina observed, opening the letter he handed to her to read for him.

Skull grinned, and took a long sip of rum. "No doubt." He said, as she

read:

It has come to the attention of the Crown that a vessel of His

Majesty's fleet, the HMS Dartnell, has been missing from its assigned

waters since the fourteenth day of this the month of June. Certainly,

His Majesty, King George III, realizes that the privateer vessels of

Skull, and their captains, know nothing of its whereabouts, and will be

anxious to join in the search.

In the meantime, His Majesty's ships will continue to patrol the

coast, protecting the entance to the port of Philadelphia, and will

expect the terms of our prior agreement to be honored, as they have been

in the past.

Skull leaned back in the great chair at the end of the table. He

put his feet on the bench against the wall and leaned back. He grinned,

and took another shot of the rum.

"Parker!!" He shouted, after folding the parchment up and putting

it back into the satchel. "Parker!" He repeated, as a short, squat,

pirate with wavy black hair, pulled tight into a braided ponytail that

dropped to his shoulders came through the door.

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His breeches were bright crimson, and he wore a red bandana around

his forehead. His beard was black, and neatly trimmed, and he was naked

from the waist up, except for a thick, gold necklass with a dangling

medallion.

Parker stood at the end of the table and asked, "Did you call me,

Sir?" "I did." Said the Skull. "I need you to draft a letter for me

to Governor Braddock."

"Aye, Sir." Parker said. He was the most literate of all the

pirates in the den, and the only one who could both read and write. He

took the quill and ink bottle Angelina brought to him and started to

write on a fresh piece of parchment.

*****************

The squeaking of a single coach wheel on a worn wooden axle,

betrayed its presence to Fitz, who lay in wait at what had become known

as outlaw bend on the Turk's Head Highway. It was his plan to try a new

method of attack on this coach.

On any trip from Philadelphia to Turk's Head on the highway, one

might expect to be attacked by Fitz, or other highwaymen, especially

since the outbreak of hostilities between the crown and the colonies had

split the populace the way it had.

Some areas were strongholds of Colonial support, and others were

held by Loyalist forces. A good many families had to flee their homes

and live in the forest until after the hostilities, because their

attempts to remain among hostile neighbors lost many a farmer his grain

and winter stores.

Families were split and brothers turned against each other, some

supporting the crown, some hating the crown, both with passionate

fervor.

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Fitz some of the ways of Marcus Hook in his new approach to

carriage thievery. Unknown to the driver of the squeaky-wheeled coach,

Fitz had dug a shallow pit across the entire width of the highway at the

foot of a steep hill.

At the very time when he knew the driver would be forced to direct

all of his attention to the team to keep them under control for the

long, difficult climb to the top, the carriage had to roll across a

false roof in the road, which he covered loosely with leaves, grass, and

other debris.

With a loud, crunching crash, the coach, a Royal Coach, (a fact

which was still unknown to Fitz who waited in the darkness), dropped

into a hopeless trap, its broken wheels mired irreversibly in the mud.

Without a moment allowed for the driver and his armed guard to

survey the situation, Fitz was upon them, dropping from a tree behind

them on a rope. Quickly, he disarmed them, and tied them up. Then he

climbed down over the rounded edge of the coach, and pulled the door

open.

He forced his pistols in and trained them on the passengers

inside. "Please, Sir. I will do what you say. I mean you no harm." A

small, frail, female voice spoke from the darkness inside.

Fitz held the door open, and spoke again. "Alright, then," He

said, "Step down from there, and stand fast where I can see you." A

lone woman traveler stepped down from the stair. It was then, in the

faint light from the stars overhead, that Fitz could see the fine

gilding and the Crown seal on the door that told him he had stopped a

coach belonging to the Governor himself.

"Well," Fitz said. "It appears that this coach carries someone

important." The woman stood against the coach, holding her arm across

her face defensively. "Who are you, pray tell?" Fitz demanded of her.

"I ask again, who are you?" He repeated his demand when she did

not answer at first. "I am the wife of the Governor, Miles Braddock, on

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my way to......" The woman said, but suddenly, she cut her words short.

She stood, with a hand over her lips, taking in a huge gulp of air.

She stepped closer, looking up at the bold highwayman. "Fitz?"

She asked, finally, whispering the words to avoid being heard by the

driver and the guard, who were tied tightly, and gagged against their

muffled, and helpless protests. "Fitz? My God! It is you!"

Fitz lowered his pistols, and looked into the woman's face.

"Katie?" He whispered, in return, after studying her face for several

seconds. "Katie Witt?!!" He could hardly keep from screaming the

words.

"I never expected to see you alive again." She said, her voice

nearly choked off with emotion. He quickly pulled her behind the coach,

away from any possible line of view of the men tied to the bench.

Katie stood, at first, at arm's length. She studied his face in

the darkness for a second, then she collapsed into his arms. They

embraced, sweetly, albeit nervously.

"I can't believe it's you." She whispered. "Nor I." He

whispered back. "Governor? Did you say wife of the Governor?" Fitz

asked, after a while, holstering his pistols. She nodded. He looked

her in the eyes directly. "You're in love with Miles Braddock?" He

asked.

She looked over her shoulder, glancing nervously toward the front

of the coach. "Yes I am the wife of the Governor! Governor Miles

Braddock!" She shouted in a voice loud enough to be heard by the men on

the wagon. "Long live the King!!" She shouted.

As soon as she said the words, she slipped back into his arms and

whispered, "I didn't say that I love him. I said married to, but I

never said in love with." Katie said, holding him fast in her arms.

She smiled. Her face appeared as warm and soft in the gentle starlight

as he had remembered for all these years.

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Fitz could not keep from grinning at the thought of Katie in his

arms once again. He chuckled, muffling the sound with his hand. "Hold

fast, there, Miss. I'll take that purse." Fitz said, loudly, shaking

the coach hard with his hand.

She slammed the coach door shut with her foot, and pushed against

it, as if struggling with Fitz. "Clivedon." She said to Fitz in a

whisper. "What?" He asked, whispering back. "Clivedon. That is where

I live, in the Governor's mansion, at Clivedon." Fitz nodded. "Come to

see me at Clivedon." She stepped back, then stepped close again, on

second thought. " No, better yet. Come to see me at the summer mansion

at Turk's Head. I will stay there until September.

My husband has gone to England until the fall. The children will

be joining me next week. Be at the edge of the woods beyond the privy,

directly behind the main house tomorrow night at ten. Can you do that?"

She whispered. "Aye." He answered. "I can."

"I must tie you up." Fitz said. "I promise to be gentle." She

smiled, then screamed. "You beast! Let go of me, you dreadful beast!"

She threw a bag against the door of the coach. It landed with a crash.

Fitz tied her gently, and left her beside the coach. He

shouldered the bags and stepped into the gully off the road. He saluted

the driver and the armed guard as he disappeared. Katie screamed at the

top of her lungs.

"Thief!! You'll be hanged for this!! You'll never get away with

this heinous crime! Long live the King!!"

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CHAPTER IV

The moon took on a silvery hue as it climbed to its place in the

early evening azure sky, just above the horizon. The three planets of

Mercury, Jupiter, and Mars were clustered in a tiny triangle to the left

and slightly below the full moon. It was a rare astronomical occurrence

that repeats itself only every other century.

Fitz was fascinated as he traveled on foot to his rendezvous with

Katie. He lived by the stars, navigated by them at night, and gazed at

them in the untold hours of solitude he spent above Castle Rock. Never

before had he seen a constellation in the heavens that stirred him so.

Many were certain that this odd formation was of Divine

Providence, that it was a message from God that the pursuit of freedom

undertaken by the Colonists was approved, and blessed.

Fitz had first seen it when he was reporting back to Jonas Webster

with news on his meeting with Skull. "It is difficult to stand fast,

and spit in the face of death, when one has a good home, a fine wife,

and small mouths to feed." Jonas said, expressing the fears of all men

who were becoming involved in this as yet not clearly-defined cause.

Before the words were out of Jonas' mouth, Fitz found himself

pointing to the odd constellation that appeared for the first time that

very evening. Fitz said nothing, but bowed down on his knees while

beholding the spectacle. "It is a sign, I tell you." Jonas said. "A

sure sign. We are doing the right thing." Fitz nodded his silent

agreement.

*********

This night, Fitz used the light of the moon to navigate the steep,

narrow, over-grown Indian trail that passed by the northeastern corner

of the Governor's summer mansion in Turk's Head.

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The mansion was accessible to the east by a maintained trail

northerly of the Turk's Head Highway. Surrounded on all other sides by

nearly impenetrable wilderness, the mansion was well guarded when in use

by the governor, but was left with a sparce patrol when he was in

Philadelphia. It was left with only a single caretaker beyond household

servants while he was overseas.

It was less than six miles from Fitz' fortress in the wilderness.

There was no good trail leading in that direction, and Fitz pushed

through tangled vegetation until he reached a clearing.

Standing at the top of a small waterfall that meandered across a

meadow outside the stone and split rail fence that encircled the

compound, he scrutinized the forest carefully before stepping out into

the full moonlight and to climb over the wall.

Water cascaded down over the rocks made shiny by the white light

of the moon, and bubbled softly, twisting and roiling its way into the

darkness. The sound echoed off the leaves of the trees rimming the

descending valley.

He heard a twig snap as if under foot. He turned, quickly, facing

the wall outside the mansion, and aimed his long rifle toward the sound.

Straining to see in the dim light, he lowered the rifle at the

sight of Katie, who stepped lightly into the clearing. She wore a long,

black flannel wrap against the chill of the night air.

Her hair was pulled back, and tucked under a hood. She ran toward

him quickly, and he put his arm around her, pulling her down near the

wall.

She turned toward him as he fleetingly explored the trees for

movement. Seeing none, he let go the flint on the long rifle, and laid

it down beside them.

"Oh, Fitz....." Katie muttered, falling into his arms. They

embraced. He kissed her warmly on the mouth. She wrapped her arms

around him, and caressed his forehead, then she cradled his face. "Let

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me look at you." She said, after a long silence. "I thought sure you

were dead." He pulled back, checking the clearing again for danger. "I

thought so, as well....... more than once."

"Come." She said. "I have prepared a place for us." Katie took

him by the hand, and led him through the dry-stacked rock wall. They

entered the barn through a back door, away from the main house.

A sable-colored collie dog appeared out of the woods behind Katie

and followed them inside. The dog nuzzled the backs of Fitz's knees,

sniffing loudly, obviously questioning his presence. Convinced, after a

while, that he was a friend, the dog snorted once, wagged her tail

twice, and lay down on the hay, where she could observe them both.

"Good girl, Heather." She said. She turned to Fitz. "She is my

favorite of all the animals here, and she insists on deciding whether or

not she approves of your presence on these grounds. She's the queen,

you see."

Fitz laughed, and gave the dog a quick scratch behind the ears

before sitting down. "I've always missed you, Fitz." Katie said as he

sat down. "We never got a chance to say goodbye properly." She

frowned, pushing his hair back with her fingers.

"It's so unfair!" She said, pounding her knees with her hands.

"You have been doomed to spend your life in hiding." She leaned across

the hay and put both hands on his shoulder, leaning her head against his

neck. "And you did nothing. You broke no law." Fitz shrugged, and

caressed her neck as she talked. She turned away, and continued to

talk, pressing against him as he rubbed her shoulders.

"When you left Ludwick's Corner that night, and fled south to

Wilmington, I was sure you had been shot. Cyrus, that dreadful weasel

of a man, assured me you had been. He stayed on at my father's Inn to

recuperate, and never missed a chance to remind me. It killed him to

have to admit, later, that you had gotten away from him and his men at

the Turk's Head Inn. He had boasted so often that he and his men would

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run you down and capture you, and would deliver you to the constable in

chains."

Fitz nodded. "Run me down he did. Put a ball in my chest he did,

as well." He said, shaking his head for emphasis, then with a wink and

a quick smile continued. "Capture me though, he did not."

Katie stiffened, she turned around and squinted, leveling a

concerned gaze in his direction. "He did shoot you, then, just as he

boasted to us at the Inn."

Fitz nodded. "Only Divine Intervention and the nursing skills of

a kindly Indian brave allow me to be here today, Katie." He took a deep

breath. "I survived." He said, with a broad grin. "I survived, and

continue to live out my days in relative peace.....now I choose my

adventures, and I do that rather carefully."

She smiled. "I've heard stories about some of your adventures."

She said, laughing. "You do not sound very careful to me." She smiled,

and looked admiringly into his eyes. "So you are the great highwayman,

Captain Fitz. I have wondered. I once heard the name, but I had been

assured that you were dead." She sighed. "I have never been able to

let go the thought of you, for that very reason." Their eyes met in the

dim light. She fell into his arms.

"Oh, Fitz, It has been hell not to be able to be with you. I have

never wanted any other....." Tears began to trickle down her cheeks.

He wiped them away gently with his finger.

"I know, love." He said, softly. "I have felt the same for all

these years. I have had no one to be with, no one even to talk with.

You have been with me in spirit all this time. And I have been with

you." She smiled, and looked down at his hands, caressing his strong,

sinewy fingers with hers.

"I am the wife of the Governor." She said, her face suddenly

flushing. She lowered her eyes, then she looked up and held him by both

shoulders. "It was a marriage to please my father." She explained,

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slowly. "It was of infinitely more benefit to him than it has been to

me. "Given time, your respect will grow for the man, and you will come

to love him, even as your mother and I have come to love each other."

That was what he assured me.

She pouted, then shook her head slowly. "How wrong my father was

about Miles Braddock. He is not the honorable person he passed himself

off to be. He is self-centered, avaricious, and can only be trusted

when one has all of him squarely in view." She chuckled. "That is

quite difficult, because he is rather a large man, much larger than

before we married."

Fitz laughed appreciatively. "So I have heard." He said. She

observed him in silence for a moment. "Miles Braddock would have a rope

about your neck in the wink of an eye." She said, finally, scolding him

with a clucking tongue. "So would many men." Fitz said, shrugging his

shoulders. "Too many to count."

Katie laughed out loud. A vision of Earl Calder in the nude,

raising billows of dust to the treetops as he angrily kicked the ground

in childish embarrassment on his way to town after his encounter with

Fitz, suddenly lept into her head.

"Not the least of which would be Earl Calder, I am sure." She

said with a titter. Fitz laughed with her. "Probably not." He agreed.

Fitz took a deep breath, and turned toward Katie. "And you have

children. Tell me about the children." He said, holding her hand in

his.

"Aye." She said. "Five. Horace is twelve, and the oldest.

Julie is ten, Will nine, and Christopher and Beverly are twins, they are

seven." Fitz shook his head in admiration.

"That is quite a family. They are fortunate to have such a fine

mother." He said, quietly. "Thank you," She said, lowering her eyes

as she spoke. "What a sweet thing for you to say." She blushed

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slightly. I sincerely mean it." Fitz said, assuringly. She patted his

hands in thanks.

"We must be careful." Katie said, looking about, suspiciously

searching the premises with her eyes. "Horace and Will, in particular,

may show up almost anywhere, and anytime. They can be little Hellions.

The rest are not quite as bad."

Fitz smiled. "I will be forever saddened not to have been a part

of the children in your life. I am certain you are a wonderful mother.

They will have the advantage of solid stock to carry them in this often

difficult world."

He paused, reflecting on his own words. "Raise them well. Raise

them to be disciplined, to be industrious, and...................to be

thinkers." He looked about, nervously, obviously struggling for

words........"and perhaps they will eventually find themselves on the

right side of the crown."

Katie looked at Fitz for a long, curious moment. She said

nothing, but gazed deeply into his eyes. Then her face brightened with

a gentle smile. "I shall," She said, softly. "I have told no other of

these, my deepest thoughts and feelings." She took a deep breath and

exhaled slowly.

"Lord knows I, of all people am aware of the correct side of this

dreadful dispute. I am closer to it than most. And to think I am

married to the bloody King's Governor." Her eyes sparkled with

mischievous fire. She pulled both of his hands into her own, holding

them tightly.

"I did not know how things would work out. I listened to my

father, God rest his soul. He was well-meaning, and only wished the

best for me. I will uphold his wishes, and I will see this marriage,

and the raising of these children through, for I love him as he loved

me.

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I wish I could say that I love my husband. I wish I could call

him my beloved husband, as I am able to call my children, but I cannot

speak the words. They burn my tongue.

I have seen power abused, corruption and dishonesty in his

dealings that put any for which you have been accused, to shame. In the

pompous name of righteousness, he and his precious beast, Earl Calder,

prance about this colony, advocating for the cause of the King, berating

any who have stood up to their preposterous demands, nay, destroying

many who have spoken out against them, and all the while, they skim from

tax monies collected from these poor, miserable wretches, who barely eke

out a subsistence in this often hostile territory.

If the King knew the truth, he would have Miles Braddock's head.

He may yet." She paused for an instant. "I have seen the corruption of

Miles Braddock first hand. I have seen him succumb to the temptations

first proffered by Earl Calder, and the scum with which he associates.

Nay, Fitz, you need not convince me. I, too, will always wish

that circumstances might have been different for us, that we might be

facing these challenges together, that we might be raising our children

together.

I am not fickle in such matters." She said, holding his hands

tightly. "You were my first true love, and you will be my last." "Nor

I." He said, taking her into his arms. They embraced. "Oh, Fitz."

She whispered. "Hold me. Hold me close. I have missed you so." The

lantern shone a soft yellow light that flickered a silent rhythm against

the walls of the barn.

Shadows appeared and reappeared, dancing above them until night

became morning.

**************

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On October 19, 1777, Sir William Howe evacuated Germantown after a

ferocious battle against Continental forces there. He pulled back his

men, intending to hold a position on a point of land between the

Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers.

His plan was to gather available larger numbers of troops that he

could then use to make a collective attack on the river forts manned by

the Colonists.

British engineers had erected a battery on the soft ground below

Fort Mifflin and then launched a heavy bombardment against it. For

three weeks, with superior forces, the British pounded away on the

hapless Colonials, who were perilously protected on one side only by a

log pallisade. Their guns in the fort were vastly inferior and

ineffective.

To add to the stiff challenge for the Colonists, two thousand

Hessian troops crossed the Delaware at Cooper's Ferry and prepared to

attack Fort Mifflin from land.

The Hessians were very eager to avenge their humiliation at

Trenton a year earlier. The Hessian general made public statements in

which he declared that Fort Mifflin would soon be renamed after himself,

following a victorious assault, or die trying. The pending battle was

looked upon by many on the Colonial side to be pivotal.

On the evening of October 18th, Fitz came to call on Jonas

Webster. Leaving behind a leather harness bag filled with cash, Jonas

spoke of the concerns of many Colonials about the way their forces

seemed hopelessly outclassed by the British Regulars.

"We have heard that Howe is continuing his assault on the forts

protecting Philadelphia." He explained to Fitz. "General Washington's

hope is that we can hold the forts and starve the British out of

Philadelphia. We must hold the forts, but even now, Howe is moving on

Fort Mifflin, and the word in the village is that he will take the Fort

by tomorrow night.

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General Washington is unable to respond. Most of his men have

already pulled back to Valley Forge. The rest, at Whitemarsh encampment

are so poorly equipped they can do nothing. Most do not even have

shoes, and the cold winds of winter will be upon us soon."

Jonas had hardly spoken the words, when Fitz disappeared, slipping

soundlessly into the woods. Jonas looked around the clearing, and

walked back to his barn, where he emptied the bag Fitz had brought.

Fitz struck off immediately, walking swiftly in a southeasterly

direction. His strides lengthened and his breathing became deep and

even, and he began to perspire, picking up his rhythm, taking the heavy

underbrush down with occasional slashes of his knife.

Far off in the distance behind him, unknown to him, and to Jonas

Webster, as well, three men followed. Evander Skillings, Cyrus' best

man, led two others of "The Gap Gang" in hot pursuit.

The three men were experienced trackers, totally at ease in the

wilderness. They followed even the most difficult trails easily, and

ran down ninety percent of their prey within hours. They had delivered

up many runaways, or scalps of runaways, to Cyrus.

Fitz first caught sight of Evander Skilling's coontail hat from

across a gully. He had stopped there, as he often did, to cover his

tracks, and to make sure that he was not being followed.

Skillings made the mistake of standing too close to a clearing

when directing his men to split up near the top of Hurricane Ridge.

They were above the tiny village of Edgemont.

The three men had been following Jonas Webster regularly while

trying to catch Fitz. On one other occasion, they had seen them

together. Seeing him again this day, they threw caution to the wind,

and pursued him vigorously.

They were certain they had been undetected, and could taste the

sweet victory that would soon be theirs if they could deliver such a

coveted prize to Cyrus.

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Skillings picked up the pace, following directly in Fitz' path.

He sent the other two around the base of the ridge, expecting that all

three would come upon the unsuspecting Fitz at the same time in the

valley several miles ahead, below the Inn at Edgemont.

Skillings rushed headlong down the narrow, rocky path that led

around the rim of the cold spring pool below the falls. He could see

Fitz kneeling there to drink. Faster he ran, concentrating only on his

stationary target, trying to position himself for a shot.

Only the swishing noise of the sapling springing back to its

upright position broke his concentration. By that time, it was too

late. He was already suspended, twenty feet above the trail, his broken

leg locked tightly in the rope noose Fitz had fashioned for him.

He screamed in frustration and pain. He knew it would only be a

short time before a curious cougar might appear, or that a Delaware

raiding party might emerge from the forest and find him trapped, and

helpless, there.

The first of his men stumbled along behind him, crashing noisily

through the brush, somehow sensing imminent danger, but not knowing

where to look to find it. He kept his rifle at the ready as he walked,

slowly searching for the others.

He never even saw the rifle butt that knocked him unconscious, and

sent him rolling headfirst down the steep embankment, and into the pond,

where he landed with a splash, and sank from view. Fitz ran off, back

to the top of the ridge.

The third man was still some distance off. Fitz knew these woods

much better than Cyrus' men, and he knew that the bounty hunter would

have no choice but to climb a sheer rock wall in order to be where

Skillings had sent him. Fitz waited for him to begin the climb, then

dropped one large rock from above.

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It met its target with a muffled smacking sound, and the third of

Cyrus' men dropped into the canyon below with a thud, disappearing

without a word.

Fitz pushed on, stopping occasionally to circle back, staying

downwind, to be certain that he had no one else in pursuit. He arrived

at Fort Mifflin as the Hessian general was splitting his large force to

make a two-pronged attack against the north and south faces of the fort.

Fitz stood in the forest several hundred yards to the north of the

fort, keeping well away from the British forces. Artillery shells

pounded the fort, causing the Colonial defenders to cling to the log

pallisade, trying to avoid the withering fire.

The Hessian general began the assault with a wave of his arm. The

vastly inferior Colonial forces fired upon them, but their vantage point

did not allow for accurate shots.

Fitz climbed into a tree, resting his back in the crotch of an old

sugar maple. He lifted his long rifle, tamped home a charge, and

waited.

The general led the charge himself, true to his word. The Hessian

force moved as one red-shirted, menacing mass against the hapless

Colonial defenders of the fort.

He reached the top of the hill, and waved his forces on to what

appeared to be an easy total victory. A huge, victorious cheer rose

from the breasts of the assault forces, who sensed imminent victory. He

raised his sword in a swooping gesture to signal the final assault.

At that moment, his arm dropped, and he fell, face first, crashing

to the dusty earth, pierced through the heart by a ball from the still

undetected long rifle of Captain Fitz.

One by one, Fitz picked off the leaders of the charging Hessians.

A black Patriot soldier from Maine, named Lonnon Rhode called out to the

rest of the Colonials. "Those shots came from over there! Did you see?

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A man is shooting from yonder tree! We are saved! Return the fire! We

can drive them back! The day is saved!"

A common voice lifted in cheer from within the walls of the fort.

Dozens of newly confident Colonists poured a deadly hail of lead down

onto the now-scattering Hessians and British. Within minutes, the

Hessians had taken more than 400 casualties, and retreated to Woodbury

and then back to Cooper's Ferry.

The battle died down near the end of the day, and the height of

the British fiasco was reached when Colonial forces in the fort set fire

to one of two British warships that had tried to come to the Hessian's

aid, but ran aground in the harbor.

The heated cannonballs that found their mark brought cheers of

victory from the exhausted Colonists. The frustrated British set fire

to the other vessel themselves. As the sun set that evening, turning

the westerly sky a brilliant red, the Colonial forces within Fort

Mifflin, stood and waved across the bloodsoaked battlefield, at the

silent, unknown hero of their brilliant victory over the British.

Still no more than a shadowy figure to them, Captain Fitz stood at

the foot of the sugar maple and waved his long rifle once at the men of

Fort Mifflin. Then he turned, and was gone as silently as he had come.

The failure to take the fort was a serious reversal for the

British. Forced to bide their time, and to build more batteries, and

even some even more extravagant floating batteries. It was very costly

for them to have to wait until November before they finally were able to

take Fort Mifflin. When they finally did, it was in fighting that

lasted six days and was so intense that the Colonials had no choice but

to abandon the fort.

****************

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The sun started its climb over the trees, splashing an orange and

tangerine glow against the brilliantly dark, blue sky. A gentle breeze

from the west, lifted the leaves on the trees and forecast the coming

rains.

Regina walked the well-worn path from her cottage at the east end

of the village, and the Turk's Head Inn, as she had for so many

mornings.

She whistled softly as she walked, speaking to the birds, as was

her habit, who had been awake and chattering noisily since an hour

before first light.

She heard a short, hissing sound as she passed the hedgerow beside

the alley. She saw Fitz standing there, waving for her to walk toward

him.

She approached him, nervously glancing in each direction as she

did. "Good morning, Regina." He said, as she stepped between the

closely-cropped arbor vitaes. "Good morning to you, Fitz." She said.

"You should not be here at this time of day." She quickly admonished

him. "You know there are many eyes and ears in this village, and few

are friendly to you."

"Have you forgotten that Cyrus has made his personal vow to

capture you, and his men are everywhere? There were two of them at the

Inn last evening. They had captured a highwayman on the Christiana

Road. Poor devil, he was an escaped servant, an indentured Irishman.

They will do the same to you, if they catch you."

"I need to get a message to Lady Braddock." He said. "Oh, Lady

Braddock, now is it?" She asked, looking down her nose at him. Fitz

smiled. "It has always been Lady Braddock." He said without cracking a

smile.

Realizing he was serious, Regina pursued the questioning. "Fitz.

Look at me." She said, taking him by the shoulders. "Have you no

brains at all? Surely you're not serious about this. How, or why would

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the likes of you be sending messages to the wife of the Governor?" She

asked.

Fitz smiled, and explained, realizing there would be no other way

out. Among the handful of people in his world that he had ever been

able to trust, there was none more faithful to him than Regina.

Though their paths crossed rarely, they had crossed, nonetheless,

over the years. To Fitz, Regina had always been the sister that he

could count on. She looked after him, protected him, and was often the

only person he could talk with for months. He never thought of her as

more.

To Regina, he was her secret love. Regina admitted publicly to

loving no one. She did not even admit her interest in Fitz to herself.

She kept busy instead. She was married only to her job at the Inn. She

had spent her life taking care of others, including her parents, who had

died recently.

Of six children, only she lived to adulthood. The others

succumbed to influenza, cholera, and smallpox at early ages. Regina

looked at this man, whom she had cared for and looked after for years.

He was unreachable, an outlaw, a fugitive, destined to live

outside the law and outside society. She saw him only rarely. When she

did, it was all she could do to maintain her tough exterior shell, yet

maintain it she did. She barely raised an eyebrow as he talked of Lady

Braddock. Inside, she was churning.

"Lady Braddock is none other than my beloved Katie." He

explained. "Katie Witt, who saved me so many years ago." Regina

stiffened, as she listened. "Katie gave in to the wishes of her father,

and married Miles Braddock. And now she is raising his five children."

"And how is it that you happen to know all this?" Regina asked.

Then her expression changed, and her eyes opened wide, as she made the

connection in her mind. "Of course," She said, answering her own

question. "You ransacked her coach!"

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Fitz stood back a pace, smiling. He chuckled. "You ransacked her

coach, and now you are carrying on an affair with her!" Regina chided.

"You devil, you. You larger than life devil!" She looked at him for

several seconds without speaking.

"Have you no brains anywhere in that head of yours?" She asked,

both hands on her hips. He smiled. "I need you to get a message to my

Katie." He answered. He handed her a small envelope. "You understand

how important it is that we maintain this secrecy?" He said.

Regina nodded, swallowing down her feelings. "Yes, I do." She

said. "These are difficult times we live in." He nodded. "The war is

not going well. Our losses are great. It will be a long struggle, I

fear, and costly to many." Regina nodded her head in agreement. "I was

told by Jonas Webster about your visit to Marcus Hook." She said.

Fitz nodded. "Yes. The Skull is an interesting man. I did not

know quite what to expect, but he was not what I expected, at all."

Regina hugged him. "You should not be expected to risk your life in

this cause for freedom." She said. "You shall never be free no matter

the outcome."

"Doubtless you are right, woman, but in that, I am not alone." He

answered. "There are many who risk their lives every day in this

battle, who do not enjoy the freedom they lay their lives down to

protect. I have seen many African slaves who volunteer to fight, and

others forced to take the place of their masters, and I have seen

Indians, who freeze to death at Valley Forge as quickly as their white

brothers. Many of the white men do not consider them brothers at all,

even in the heat of battle. They see them, rather, as cattle. It is

doubtful they will ever change in their views.

Still, there are many others, men like Jonas Webster. Should they

survive this war, I have no question in my mind that they will rise to

power after the conflict. These men will be fair where others have been

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corrupt, and eager to take advantage of those less fortunate. I have

hope, and they have hope. They have chosen freely to join this fight.

Many have walked hundreds of miles, only to die of starvation or

of the bitter cold, but they have chosen to join. None of us has

assurance that we can ever be free, but we can hope. We do hope to be

free, in that sense of the word.

It is doubtful that any will ever be more free than I am today.

For now, I am more free than many who have freedom in name. It is true

I do not have freedom as some would define it, but my actions are free.

I live by my own choices. I make my own adventure, or lack of it, and

that includes fishing with my Indian brothers, if that be my choice."

Regina smiled. He was right, of course. "I will carry your

message safely to Lady Braddock." She said, patting his hands,

reassuringly. Although he had never been a free man, there was none she

had ever met who was more free than Captain Fitz.

*******

Fitz quietly stole out of the forest and gingerly stepped across

the slippery rocks in the stream outside the Governor's Turk's Head

mansion.

Katie joined him by the wall. They embraced quickly, then slipped

into the barn. Heather, the collie joined them as they sat down in the

hay beneath the loft.

"I've been so worried about you, love." She said, as she took

some cheese and fruit from her pocket, and opened the napkin to spread

it out before them.

"You have been found out." She said. Fitz sat back, with a

startled look on his face. "What do you mean?" He asked. "Word has

gotten to the Governor that a bounty hunter tracked you to a rendezvous

with an Colonial officer." "Go on." He said, quietly.

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"Cyrus." She said, spitting the words. "There is a pig that is

well-known to you and me, and also to my husband and his crooked

compatriot Earl Calder. His name is Cyrus."

He is a bounty hunter, and has laid his claim to you. He claims

to have observed you with an officer of the Colonial forces......Jonas

Webster." Fitz looked surprised.

She explained. "One of his men survived, and managed to make it

back to Turk's Head, in spite of his broken leg." Fitz frowned. "I

should have finished him off." He said. She nodded. "I'm afraid you

should have."

"Have they captured Jonas?" He asked. "No. He has apparently

disappeared into the wilderness." She explained. "But they are on to

the connection. They will be watching." "They always have been

watching." He snorted. "They just have not seen anything until now."

"You must be careful." She said, stroking his hand. "Now there

will be many more who watch." She leaned toward him and kissed his

cheek. They embraced.

"I have more news." She said. "The Governor will be returning to

England soon, and.........." "Yes, what is it?" He asked, almost

impatiently. "And......................I am with child." Fitz sat bolt

upright, and looked at Katie.

At first, she looked down, flushing slightly. Then her eyes met

his. She looked at him, longingly. "The child is yours." She said.

She looked downward again, having delivered her message, suddenly

overcome with shame.

He lifted her chin gently with his finger and looked directly into

her eyes. "Katie, my sweet Katie. What misery have I brought into your

life this time?" He asked. She shook her head and squeezed his hands.

"No! No misery. This is ecstacy. "This is wonderful. This child is

the child I have always wanted, not the child of a loveless marriage

arranged by my father. This is the child of our love. He will be

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raised with the name of Miles Braddock, but he will have the heart and

spirit of Edward Fitzsimon. In fact, Edward shall be his name. He

shall be called Edward."

He kissed her as she began to cry softly. "But, my love, how do

we even know it will be a boy?" He asked. "It will be." She said.

She mouthed the words very deliberately. Her voice was firm and clear.

"It will be a boy, and his name shall be Edward." She shook her head

once for emphasis.

Fitz leaned back against the hay and pulled Katie into his bosom.

He rocked her gently, covering her against the chill night air of the

early summer. "A boy." He said. "I like the idea........Edward. I

like the name."

*************

From his safe vantage point among the tall oak trees at the top of

the ridge, looking down from north of Elmar's mansion, between the

Wissahicon Creek and Sandy run, Fitz was able to observe the war council

held there by British officers and the Tories.

The afternoon sun spilled upon the red brick structure, and the

sharp-edged buildings contrasted with the fall earth tones of the hills

beyond. The trees reluctantly gave up their autumn leaves that

fluttered and tumbled lightly to the ground.

The building housing the meeting stood in a romantic setting above

a sharp slope leading down to the Wissahicon. It was long, two stories

high, and at least twenty five feet wide. Through its center ran a

broad entry hall that was fifteen feet wide.

There were fine, soapstone steps, magnificently carved, leading to

the building's entrance. The steps lent an aristocratic elegance to the

building and its surroundings.

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In front of the building, enveloped by the rough trees on the

right, sat a spring house, and behind that a thatched barn, where a few

Redcoat soldiers rested, leaning against General Howe's carriage.

At the western gable end of the house, a huge catalpa tree spread

its branches outward from a trunk which measured fifteen feet in

circumference. The tree shaded the entrance, and blocked the vision of

the soldiers when they looked in Fitz' direction.

Looking through the large ten over ten light window built into the

wall above the front door, he could see Earl Calder, seated at the end

of a large, polished cherry table.

He gestured to the British officers with his left hand, and held a large

fowl leg he was devouring, even as he spoke, with his right.

Even from several hundred yards away, Fitz fancied that he could

see small bits of greasy chicken mixed with sputum flying about the

room, as Earl Calder talked, and gesticulated, and ate, all

simultaneously.

Patiently, Fitz waited for the sun to drop behind the trees. For

a while, the meeting continued by candlelight. The conference framed a

stately image in the center of the building. It was aglow, and

encircled with points of light from the huge, silver candelabra

suspended above the heavy table.

At last the meeting adjourned, and the participants began to file

into the gravel courtyard outside, entering carriages or mounting

horseback for the ride home.

All of the area nearby had been held by the British for some time,

and was considered secure, even to the point of carelessness. The only

neighbors left were either Whigs, and Tory sympathizers, or Quakers, who

took no part in the war, regardless of their political position.

Earl Calder climbed aboard his coach with one driver and two armed

guards for the ride back to his home in Mt. Airy. Within minutes, he

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was sound asleep, snoring loudly, as the carriage rolled and rocked over

the Wissahickon Road.

At the narrows, above the descent leading toward the falls, the

carriage slowed. Fitz unleashed the sharpened spike he had readied for

this special visitor earlier in the afternoon.

The spike crashed into the spokes of the carriage with a ripping

noise. The front wheels collapsed, dropping the carriage to the dusty

ground with a crash. The horses bolted, and disappeared in a swirl of

dust, dragging the shattered trace behind them.

Fitz dispatched both guards in an instant, with two quick shots,

one with the long rifle, and the other with his pistol. He knocked the

driver out with the butt of the rifle, rolling him into the bushes

beside the road.

Earl Calder made a noise not unlike the bellow of an enraged bull

as he exited the carriage. Cooking grease clinging to the soles of his

shoes caused him to slip from the stair, and he rolled under the

carriage, slamming into the rear axle with a thud.

The pistol he brandished fell from his grasp. Fitz was upon him

in an instant, removing the pistol, and quickly checking him for other

weapons he might have hidden on his immense person.

Finding none, he assisted the behemoth to his feet. "You again!!"

Earl Calder sputtered. "By all that's holy, I will have your head upon

a plate!!" He spewed, spit, and screamed, turning the air blue with his

epithets. His face turned as red as a hot coal.

"I'll........" He started to say, but Fitz silenced him with a

sock stuffed in his mouth. He quickly tied his hands behind his back,

then ripped his jacket and breeches off, leaving him standing, naked and

muted, sweating profusely, in the dust.

Fitz shouldered the leather satchel from the seat of the carriage,

and bowed, ceremoniously, in the direction of Earl Calder. "We meet

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again." He said, simply. With that plain gesture and greeting, he was

gone, vanishing into the wilderness above the next settlement.

He walked all night, following the old Delaware trail that he and

Robert had explored when he first arrived in America. As he walked, he

was taken by the numbers of new farms along the way.

He passed within a mile of the house where he lived with Robert

and Doctor Witt, and the burying ground where they had met their demise.

He shook his head at the encroaching civilization. Where once

there was endless wilderness, there were now reclaimed fields, planted

in wheat, barley, and corn. How empty, cold, and foreign these farms

seemed to a person who had spent twenty years in isolated wilderness.

Fieldstone walls bounded territorial claims, both relieving

farmers of quantities of rocks picked by hand from fields they intended

to plow, and providing homes and playgrounds for chipmunks and other

small animals. He was struck by the realization that only the white man

claimed the land exclusively for his own. Indians might make the same

claim, but it would be for the tribe, not for the individual.

Roads appeared where trails had formed, and houses sat in small

settlements, keeping families close to the land they depended on for

their survival.

Fitz was always able to skirt the settlements widely. While

others sought the ease of travel by road or maintained trails, Fitz, in

the tradition of his Indian brothers, was at home in the roughest of

terrain.

He blended with the overgrown vegetation and moved through it in

silence. His buckskin moccasins were the only shoes he had known for

many years, and they padded lightly, and quickly, across the forest

floor.

Following the stars, he kept to the high land well above the Ridge

Road, walking westerly, re-visiting his escape route of decades before.

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Stopping only one night to rest, he arrived at the Inn of the Seven

Stars west of Valley Forge very late the second day.

As promised to Regina, Jonas Webster met him there at dusk, in a

grove of trees on the easterly side of the Turk's Head Road. "Fitz."

Jonas said, smiling broadly. "I cannot tell you how good it is to see

you standing here, alive. The word we received from Philadelphia was

not good. I was afraid you had been lost. We heard of skirmishes all

along Germantown and into Mt. Airy."

"Aye, Jonas. I am pleased that you see me here, as well." Fitz

said, with a hearty laugh. "Were you able to learn anything of British

intentions for the winter? Jonas asked, his face becoming serious.

"Do they intend to hold those positions?"

Jonas wore the new uniform of the Colonial army. His jacket

insignia carried the rank of major general. It was ripped and dusty,

one pocket torn completely off, and there was a bullet hole in the

shoulder. His sleeve was bloodied. He wore no shoes. His feet were

wrapped with white linen rags, layered thickly, but blood-soaked,

nonetheless. He limped heavily from the deep, festering blisters.

Fitz nodded. "I've done better than that." He said with a wink.

With that, he handed the leather satchel to Jonas, who stood open-

mouthed for a second. Then he opened it and tore through its contents

as a starving man might ravage roast lamb.

He took a parchment map, and opened it, reading intently,

following the lightly marked positions with his finger. "Good. Good."

He said, simply. "Fitz. This is wonderful. This information will be

invaluable to us. It will save many Colonial lives, I can assure you,

and will be very useful in keeping the British in check."

Fitz shrugged. "It is nothing." He said with a laugh. "Call it

a gift from none other than the great Earl Calder. He sends his best to

you, and regrets he could not grace you with his presence at this

meeting. It seems he has managed to lose his clothes again. He always

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seems to lose his clothes in the most remote places. In any case, use

the information well, Jonas Webster."

Fitz leaned down and removed the moccasins from his feet, handing

them to Jonas. "But..." Jonas protested. "But nothing." Fitz argued,

silencing Jonas with a sharp wave of his hand. "You are now a fighting

man. A fighting man needs shoes to continue the fight. I only wish I

could do the same for all your men. Don't worry about Captain Fitz.

There is another pair in the hide of the next deer I see in yonder

wood."

It was all Jonas Webster could do to wave his thanks. Fitz was

already off, disappearing, barefoot, into the thicket. Jonas took a

deep breath, and tried to fight off the chill. His body shivered

uncontrollably. He bent over and pulled the warm moccasins onto his

feet, lacing them securely about his legs. Then he turned and walked

back to the Inn.

He delivered the satchel personally to his commanding officer at

the stable beside the outpost overlooking the valley toward Kimberton.

Colonel Benjamin Tupper took it, mounted his horse, returned Jonas'

salute, and rode toward the encampment at Valley Forge.

Chill winds blew in from the southwest, whistling through the

windows on the southern side of the Inn of the Seven Stars. Its white

stucco walls shielded the officers who huddled around the wooden table,

trying to keep warm against the intrusive draft. The windows did little

to keep the space warm.

Jacob Ludwick, the brewmaster at the Inn, a German who migrated to

the frontier a few years earlier, brought a pitcher of fine ale to the

men. "Drink hearty, my friends." He said, as he placed the pitcher on

the table for them. "I can only wish I had more to give you. I fear

the task you face is grim." He bowed, and walked back to the bar.

Jonas nodded and sipped warm ale from a pewter mug and spoke with

the other four Colonial officers. "What did your men have to eat

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today?" He asked, pointing to Eldridge Peabody with his nose. "Only a

piece of bread." Peabody said, somberly.

"And that's the trouble, I tell you." Jonas said. "All the men

are starving. And they have no shoes. I heard just yesterday that

Timothy Pike's Fourth Cumberland Regiment of Massachusetts has but two

pairs of shoes among all his men, and both of those are owned by one

man." Thadeus Cooper nodded. "It is the same among all regiments."

"General Washington is helpless to do anything now, before spring,

and that is, be the Good Lord willing, that anyone survives until

spring." Tupper agreed.

"Has your highwayman good news to report?" Peabody asked, taking

a hearty mouthful of the ale. "Aye." Jonas said with a nod. "He has

once again, deprived the fat harbormaster, Earl Calder, of his pants in

public." The group erupted into loud laughter. "Good for him."

Peabody chuckled. "None could be more deserving."

"And, he removed Calder's written report to Howe, along with his

pants." Jonas explained. "There is now no question that what we

suspected was true. Admiral Simms is having a more difficult time with

his navy now that his dominance of the waters north of Marcus Hook has

been challenged. It appears that the bargain we struck with Skull was a

good one."

Jacob Ludwick reappeared at the table, this time standing in front

of the officers with his hands behind his back. His wife, Mary, stood

slightly behind him.

"I would like to offer my service to the Colonial army." He

announced, proudly, in halting English, taking off his apron, which he

folded and handed to his wife. "I am a good baker as well as a good

brewmaster."

Jonas stood, and put his arm across Jacob's shoulder. Tears

filled his eyes, as they always did when he considered the hardship that

lay ahead for any making the sacrifice to join the cause.

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Mary nodded her silent approval. "I will give my notice to Elder

Mayo this evening." Jacob announced. Jacob and Mary Ludwick were the

proprieters of an Inn at Ludwick's Corner, a few miles to the south. It

had once been owned by Horace Witt, Katie's father. Jacob also worked

as brewmaster for Elder Mayo, the owner of the Inn of the Seven Stars,

lending a hand because his sons were all enlisted and away from home.

*****************

While the Revolutionary War raged, true to his word, Skull and his

outlaw seamen kept pressure on the British warships trying to enter the

Philadelphia harbor. Without visibly violating his agreement with the

British Navy, he instilled doubt in the British commanders by his

surprise attacks.

His word to Fitz was good. At first, the attacks never left any

hard evidence that could be traced to Skull's men. All the British were

left with was nagging doubt, about the mysterious disappearance of their

vessels. Their doubt had replaced their earlier confidence.

It was enough to turn the tide in many battles, and the Colonial

forces were able to sail with renewed vigor. At the same time, Skull

made the best use of his now endless supply of powder to expand his

already tremendous fortune.

He expanded his raids on the Spanish Main, moving into the illicit

trade in the Carribean islands, and became a major presence there. He

moved into Hispanola, at first leaving a band of men in charge of his

plantation and to raise cattle and sugar there, which he then traded

with the French.

At the same time, his corsairs began plundering the Spanish and

English ships carrying luxury goods which they traded for meat and

agricultural products from the island.

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His plunder, and that of other pirates on Hispanola was so

successful, that it completely broke the British monopoly on the sugar

and slave trade.

His own business grew so large that European money lenders and

bankers were attracted, lending him money to expand his operations still

further. Gradually, Skull, and Angelina, grew tired of the continual

turmoil of life on the run.

Seeing an opportunity to surround themselves with oppulence and

purchased protection, they moved to their huge plantation outside of

Santiago, and took up residence there, expecting to stay, leaving Marcus

Hook in the hands of Captain Jean-Jacque Dessalines, Skull's most able,

and most dangerous, pirate commander.

The slaves held in the plantations on the island of Hispanola,

where Jean-Jacque Dessalines became an adult, outnumbered whites on the

island by three to one.

In the years prior to Skull's and Angelina's arrival, the

Europeans lived in terror of what they perceived as the inevitable day

when the blacks would mutiny and attempt to overtake the whites.

Dessalines had been imported to Haiti from the East African

jungle, where he was born, and where his birth name was Tefukan. He was

captured as a child in a night raid on his village by a neighboring

tribe, and was taken away along with two of his brothers.

The three brothers were sold into slavery to different masters.

After first being taught to speak some Portuguese, which made him more

valuable as a slave, he was taken to Haiti.

In Haiti, the life expectancy of a slave was only seven years

because of poor treatment and hunger. In North America, it was

considerably longer, because slaveowners treated slaves as well as they

did horses or cattle, looking upon them as investments.

Tefukan was African, yet his skin was light in color, giving him

the appearance of a mulatto. On the island of Hispanola, there was a

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legal system that graded the mixtures produced by white masters, who

took slave women as their concubines as a matter of course. There were

samboes, mullatos, mestizos, quadroons, and octaroons, and each had

varying degrees of social status.

Tefukan was very intelligent, who became a self-centered

opportunist, perhaps because he was so severely treated as a child. The

white owner of his plantation saw promise in him, and allowed him to

take advantage of the fact that his mulatto looks would make him less

likely to be attacked by black slaves.

He took to this new found power in an instant, and became a savage

master, quickly killing the white owner of the plantation, whose name

was Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Tefukan then adopted the name of his

murdered master, in what was to him a triumphant gesture, and then began

to run rough-shod over anyone in his path. He led a black uprising,

which nearly displaced the entire white regime in Hispanola.

Because he had been made a house servant by Dessalines at an early

age, and was allowed to learn to read and write. As the leader of the

black revolution in Hispanola, Dessalines, the slave pirate, became

infamous with one atrocious act. He once decapited all of the whites in

a prison compound under his control, and adorned the pickets of the

stockade fence with their heads.

His violence was not perpetrated only on white people. He

executed blacks of all descriptions with equal regularity. During his

reign on the island, he developed and exhibited a passion for

confiscating the uniforms of officers he, or his men had slain in

battles, which he would then wear in garrish, mismatched combinations.

He carried a small pocket mirror, which he found in the pocket of

one of these uniforms, and he proclaimed it to be magical. He used it

many times to decide if people brought before him should live or die.

He would open the locket in their presense, and if the mirror was

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steamed with humidity when he opened it, he spared them. If it was dry,

he would order their executions without delay.

Dessalines also was known to kill animals when he ran out of human

subjects, black or white. By the time the revolt he led began to show

signs of ultimate failure, he had already gone to the seacoast, and

muscled his way aboard a corsair, where he continued the rape and

pillage of all he encountered.

Eventually, he attracted the attention of Skull. Three of Skull's

corsairs one day ran down a British merchant ship southeast of the

Cayman Islands.

Captain Thomas Smith commanded the lead pirate vessel. The

merchant ship took flight the moment the corsairs came into view.

Nearing shore, Captain Smith ordered a shot across the merchant's

bow, but the gunner miscalculated. The shot tore into the bow, spewing

splintered planks in all directions.

The merchant ship dropped its sails and came around, an obvious

attempt to surrender. Smith's men tied their vessel alongside and

within minutes, screaming throngs of Skull's bandits rushed aboard, ripe

for plunder.

Four crewmen, and the ship's captain stood flatfooted on the

bridge, hands in the air. Their clothes were ripped and bloody. Pools

of blood were awash on the decks. Captain Smith approached the

prisoners.

"Your cargo, Captain." He demanded of the British skipper, who

stood, both arms raised to the heavens. The skipper's shirt was ripped

open, and he had a long gash across his chest.

"I have none." The captain answered. "None?" Smith demanded,

his voice rising with anger. "I have none." He repeated. "We were

caught by surprise leaving the port in Jamaica." The skipper quickly

explained. "One corsair overtook us with the most vicious band of

buccaneers I have yet encountered."

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Smith eyed the captain suspiciously. "Your judgement may be

premature, my good man. You have not yet observed my

men...........especially should you be trying to conceal something."

Smith burst into spasmodic, uncontrollable laughter. The skipper

squirmed nervously.

Smith's first mate stepped behind the besieged captain and pulled

his head back. He held a long, curved knife to the captain's throat.

Smith and his men were among Skull's fiercest warriors, but their

appearance belied their savagery. Smith insisted on standards of

personal grooming from his crews, which additionally concealed his own

schizoid personality.

Smith, himself, was tall, broad-shouldered, and dashing. His blue

eyes sparkled with a mysteriously mischievous inner light. Indeed, he

could present himself as the gentleman that he once was. No one knew

anything of his inner thoughts, and, indeed, even among pirates known

for unstable acts, he had a well-earned reputation for quick and violent

mood swings.

His tale was different from that of most pirates on the high seas.

He was raised in Chester town in the colony of Pennsylvania. He grew up

there, only a few miles from Marcus Hook. He often saw pirates making

their way into the villages, in sober moments, to trade for goods and

services.

He had seen Skull for the first time when he was ten years old,

riding the outskirts of the village on his horse carriage. Though his

mother and all his family spent hours scornfully condemning Skull and

his band for the wicked brigand he was, Thomas Smith had never seen a

presence that so evoked excitement in his imagination.

His schooling prepared him well for the career in banking and

finance that his mother and father planned for him, and he silently

obeyed their wishes until he was a grown man. He was twenty four when

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Skull's men burst into the bank at Chester, and robbed it in broad

daylight.

At first, he was terrified, along with the rest of the people in

the building, then he found courage from somewhere deep inside, and got

caught up in the excitement of the moment. He stood firm in the shadow

of Skull's monstrous cutlass.

Skull drew it back, ready to challenge and behead any who would

stand in his way. Thomas Smith stared straight ahead at the huge

pirate, who blocked out all the light from the door behind him.

For no reason that made any sense, to anyone but Thomas Smith,

Thomas Smith did not cower. He did not shake. He did not beg for

mercy, the way most people did. In fact, his strange blue eyes fairly

danced with amusement at the prospect of being sliced in two. He broke

into uproarious laughter.

Skull stood aghast, ready for any reaction but this. He dropped

the blade of the cutlass, observing the spectre in silence. "I like

this boy." He commented to his mate after a long and thoughtful

silence.

Thomas Smith smiled. "Sir," He said, suddenly stepping up to

Skull, saluting him. "If you please, sir," He laughed. "I would be

honored to join your band."

Skull stepped back, sheathing the great cutlass with a shocked

look on his face. He studied Thomas Smith for a second, then smiled,

spinning him round with his hand. Skull's first mate swore, and spit

onto the wide board floor.

"This dandy is too pretty for a life the likes of which we lead."

He protested to Skull. But Skull, canny judge of people that he was,

had already placed young Thomas Smith mentally.

He saw, in his clean-cut image, an opportunity for negotiation

that was lacking in all the other pirates, Skull included. "There is an

advantage," he lectured, "To having the ability to be a wolf in sheep's

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clothing. Surprise, in an encounter is the best of all weapons to have

at your disposal."

The first mate stepped up to Thomas Smith, and stared into his

face, nearly touching his nose with his own. His hand gripped the

handle of his cutlass tightly.

Smith smiled, and returned the stare willingly. The first mate

lunged, pretending to un-sheath the cutlass. Thomas Smith danced to one

side, laughing hysterically all the while.

The first mate pulled on the cutlass. Smith kicked him in the

knee. The pirate fell, cursing, holding his knee with both hands.

Smith danced, staying just outside his reach and continued laughing.

The first mate started to pull himself up on the doorframe, but

was drawn up short by the sudden appearance of a sparkling dagger that

Skull held, pointed at his throat.

"I say he goes with us." Skull said, leering menacingly over the

bejewelled dagger. The first mate dragged himself to his feet, and all

made their getaway from the bank without another word.

Others in the bank stared in disbelief as Thomas Smith made a

conscious decision to abandon his family who loved him, his job, his

roots, and his promising future, to join Skull and his scurrilous

compatriots in their perilous life style. Thus did Thomas Smith begin

his climb that eventually allowed him to captain one of Skull's dreaded

corsairs.

"What was this pirate captain like, sir?" Smith asked the hostage

British captain. His men interrupted with shouts from the cargo holds

below. "He's right, Captain Smith." They called out. "The holds are

empty. There are but a few loose trinkets left."

"It is as I told you, sir." The captain explained. "The pirate

even gave his name. Jean-Jacques Dessailes. He is a black man, but not

very dark, with shiny, reddish-colored skin. He wore a uniform, of

sorts.....several uniforms, in fact." He exhaled loudly.

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"I consider myself and my men fortunate to still be alive. But

for his magic mirror, we would all be in pieces on this deck."

"Magic mirror?" Smith asked. The captain nodded. His head and

hands began to tremble violently as he talked. "Yes, magic mirror." He

explained, stuttering.

"He had us on the deck, and his men were about to slice off our

heads, w-w-when he removed from his pocket this small, gold mirror in a

locket. He opened it before each of our f-f-faces. 'If the mirror be

dry,' He exclaimed, before he opened it, 'You shall die. If it be

steamed, you shall live.'" The skipper grimmaced. "He said the words

with such amusement. He is a m-m-madman."

Smith grinned as he heard the tale. "Then the mirror must have

been steamed." He said, surveying the men on deck with his hand.

"Aye." The captain explained. "For the five of us." He breathed

deeply.

"It was not so for the other four." He pointed toward the

forecastle, and the four headless bodies stuffed under the winch.

Smith grinned, and chuckled out loud as he looked. Then his face

turned serious. "Skull will not be pleased about this." He said to his

first mate. The mate nodded.

*************

Jean-Jacques Dessalines stood aft of the tall, wooden wheel,

barking orders into the ear of his helmsman. "Left full rudder!!" He

screamed. The ship lurched in the water, nearly knocking him from his

feet. He managed to grab the ship's wheel to keep his balance.

There was a huge groan, as timbers creaked noisily. The shipped

bobbed precariously on the crest of a wave, vibrating with the tense

sensation of a rubber band about to snap.

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Another twelve pound ball crashed into the mainmast, splintering

it, and sending deadly shrapnell about the decks. The first ship

approached from starboard, coming close alongside.

Dessalines ordered a volley from the starboard batteries, but the

charges were ineffective. The grappling hooks appeared overhead through

the dull, smoky mist, arcing skyward. They landed with a clanging,

metallic thud.

Ropes grumbled, then whined, when winched up tightly. Slowly,

gradually, the two ships came together. Out of the smoke appeared the

first wave of boarders, pistols blazing, razor sharp daggers clenched in

the gap-toothed jaws of alcohol-crazed half-wits.

Every other boarder dropped in a hail of gunfire. Cutlasses

sounded, slicing metallic rythms that echoed throughout the ship. Men

screamed and swore. Some begged for mercy. Cannisters of grape shot

fired from the boarding vessel at the last second took down many of

Dessalines' defenders with hideous screams and curses.

Thomas Smith charged into the fiasco, swinging wildly with his

cutlass, laughing uncontrollably, as he always did in the face of

impending death.

Behind him, Skull's vessel moved into position to board. Skull,

himself, climbed aboard to witness the death or capture of Jean-Jacques

Dessalines, the only pirate ever foolish enough to challenge his

territory.

Smith sliced and chopped his way to the bridge and stepped into a

small area clear of smoke and fire. There, facing him, holding the two-

handed broadsword for which he was known, stood Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

He wore a green felt hat with a huge red feather that protruded at

a rakish angle, then curled under, toward the back of his neck. He wore

a purple waistcoat, with puffed, gilded sleeves. His breeches were

pink, and he wore red-colored, mid-thigh leather boots. Under his

waistcoat, he wore a yellow silk blouse, and his chest was covered with

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medals and campaign ribbons in several languages. Two pistols were

strapped to his waist and holstered in leather. Each lapel of his

waistcoat held a dagger, as did each boot top. He had three long,

crooked knifes stuffed into the leather waist belt he wore, and there

was a ten inch hat pin stuck through the brim of his hat.

Smith bounded over the rail, landing a few feet in front of

Dessalines. He burst forth with a staccato blast of maniacal laughter.

His face was distorted as he parried the first blow of Dessalines' huge

sword.

He lunged with his own sword, and struck a glancing blow to

Dessalines' shoulder. One gold epaulet fell to the deck. Dessalines

swung again.

Smith dodged the sword, laughing hideously. He drew his own

dagger, and threw it at Dessalines. It stuck in his thigh. He bellowed

loudly, pulling the dagger free and throwing it to the deck

disdainfully.

Smith laughed all the harder and thrust again with his sword.

Dessalines brought his broadsword down with a slicing motion, and cut

Smith's sword in two.

He moved quickly in Smith's direction, swinging the big sword in a

looping motion at Smith's head. Smith laughed at one point, jumping

clear at the last possible instant, then began taunting Dessalines and

his wild swings.

At the deck rail, Skull stood, passively observing the struggle.

Suddenly, and unexpectedly, Dessalines, who lurched about on the rolling

deck, missing wildly, as he tried to strike Smith in the head, lowered

his swing, dropping to one knee on the deck as he brought the sword

around.

Smith's crazy, cackling laughter stopped for a split second, as

his foot, neatly severed, rolled onto the deck in front of him. He

looked down at the gushing blood for an instant, then screamed and

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laughed at the same time. He unholstered his pistol. He laughed

harder, and harder, as he took aim with the pistol.

Dessalines landed a slicing blow, even as the pistol fired,

missing everything, launching a ball of lead noiselessly into the sea.

Half of Smith fell to the deck, and the other half rolled over the rail,

landing with a bloody splash.

The ship rolled and lurched. He turned, for the first time aware

of Skull and the rest of his men, who stood watching the battle.

Dessalines raised the broadsword. Skull casually pointed his pistol at

his face. Dessalines had been free too long. He willingly challenged

the men with his sword. Death would seem a fair payment, to him, for

the mercilous reign of terror he had thoroughly enjoyed.

Skull cocked the pistol, and stood up to his full height.

Dessalines gulped at the sight, but tightened his grip on the sword,

nonetheless. They stared at each other. Dessalines smiled. "Well, go

ahead." He leered. Skull squeezed the trigger, then caught the hammer

with his thumb, and dropped the gun's barrel toward the deck.

"Captain Dessalines." He said, dryly. "You handle that sword

well. If you sailed as well as you fight, you might still be leading us

toward the horizon, and we might still be giving chase." Skull laughed,

putting his huge hands on his hips. His men laughed with him.

Dessalines smiled nervously, and lowered the sword.

"I could use a man with such guts." Skull said. "I'm going to

need someone to take Smith's command." He said, looking toward the

rail, now blood-spattered, where Smith had fallen.

Dessalines smiled. "Jean-Jacques Dessalines, at your service,"

He said, after a long and thoughtful pause, during which he calculated a

variety of possible outcomes. With a huge bow, and a wave of his hat in

Skull's direction, he continued. "Your wish is my command." Skull

smiled, savoring the moment. His mustache quivered in the breeze.

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"Come." He said, putting a hand on Dessaline's shoulder. "We will

teach you something about handling a ship on the high seas."

140
Chapter V

Fitz climbed the large beech tree that stood outside the fence in

front of Clivedon. He dropped to the ground, and ran quickly to the

rear of the main house, carefully watching the guard near the gate.

He looked to the second floor, watching the room on the southern

corner of the building. A light came on that illuminated the room for

an instant, then it fell dark again.

Fitz climbed the trellis beside the chimney. Katie opened the

window for him, as he neared the top. He entered the room, and they

embraced. He patted her belly. She was close to giving birth.

The Governor was aboard a British vessel, sailing to a shipboard

meeting off the coast of Virginia with a representative of the King.

Katie had sent a message to Regina, asking Fitz to visit as soon as

possible.

"We must be extremely careful." She said, as soon as they sat

down on the floor. They leaned against the outside wall of the room.

"The British are extremely wary." She explained. "They have suspicions

that they have been double-crossed by the pirate, Skull"

Fitz looked at her as she spoke. How frail she seemed suddenly.

The pressures of the war were great on everyone, but it appeared they

were more so for Katie, who had to maintain her equilibrium in two very

different worlds, simultaneously.

He held her hand as she talked. "Young Edward will be here soon."

She said, patting her belly as she spoke. "He is kicking already." He

smiled, then he caressed her cheek with his finger.

"My husband has received word from Admiral Simms that Skull is

responsible for the loss of the British ships that have disappeared off

the coast. They will be meeting with Skull again to attempt to strike

another deal with him.

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They desperately wish to again have superiority over the waters

coming into Philadelphia harbor. They cannot achieve it without Skull's

help. They will drive a hard bargain with him." She frowned. "There

is no honor among thieves." She said. "Whatever honor there has been

to date, I am afraid, has been purely a matter of convenience for

Skull."

Fitz nodded, although, from his point of view, he found himself

willing to trust Skull. Based just on his gut reactions, he was

confident that Skull would honor his commitment to him. Nevertheless,

he agreed. He would get word to Jonas.

He took Katie into his arms. "You must take better care of

yourself, my love." He said. "You are not looking well." "I am fine."

She insisted. "I have not been resting as well as usual." She

explained. "But Clarice has prepared for me a tonic. I feel much

better with it already."

There was a light tap at the door. Katie shot a startled look at

Fitz. Then she motioned for him to get down behind the door. She

opened the door a crack.

Dim light from the far end of the hall swept into the room,

bringing faint highlights to the shadows there. "What is it, dear?"

She asked, upon realizing it was only one of her children. "I heard

voices, Mother." Horace stood in the doorway, trying to see past his

mother and the door she held open only a crack.

She held the door firmly. "It was only me, reading passages from

my bible in the moonlight." She said. "I thought I heard a man's

voice, Mother." Horace insisted. He pushed on the door. His mother

held it firmly. "I'm sorry to have bothered your sleep." She said,

pushing the always wayward lock of hair from his forehead. "Good night,

son." "Good night, Mother," Horace said, obediently. Reluctantly, he

left the doorway.

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She closed and locked the door and walked across the room. Fitz

was already on his way out the open window. She leaned out and hugged

his neck. "Goodbye, my love." She whispered in a weak and shaky voice,

struggling to hold back tears. He put a gentle hand to her cheek, and

gazed longingly into her eyes. Then he lowered himself down the trellis,

slipped into the shadows, and was gone. A dim light shone into the

darkness from the window of Horace's bedroom.

***************

Nemacolin sat stiffly at the end of the heavy oak harvest table.

Personally leading his party of Susquehannock warriors, he faced General

George Washington at a war council held in a tavern near Lancaster.

The sideboard beside the general held a silver tray and a cut

glass pitcher, filled with water and ice chips. Matching glasses were

arranged in a circle around the pitcher. Cut flowers decorated each end

of the side board, and fruits and cheeses were positioned in front of

the flowers.

The wide pine floor boards were polished with hardened wax, and

the baseboard and all woodwork was painted a fresh, crisp white. The

semigloss finish allowed a dazzling contrast to the dark, raised-panel

wall covering, cut from wormy chestnut imported to the colonies from the

islands of Central America.

Rows of large, twenty over twenty light windows along both sides

of the meeting hall allowed sprays of bright sunlight into the room,

highlighting the colorful clothing the participants wore.

General Washington sat, ram-rod straight, his uniform crisply

starched. His jacket was dark blue with a biege under vest. Its brass

buttons were polished to a high lustre, and the epaulets were carefully

straightened to perfection.

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Nemacolin sat, his steady gaze riveted on the general. His once

coal black hair now showed flecks of gray. He wore it long, pulled back

and tied. His eyes reflected none of the generous light in the room,

and were as black as the darkest night.

Nemacolin and his braves wore the real uniform of their tribe:

faces scarred in battle, and tight skin marked from years of exposure to

fierce elements. Lines around their eyes showed intensity of spirit and

pride. They also wore painted deerskin jackets similar to the first one

that Nemacolin had made for Fitz.

The paintings were symbols of previous battles, and hunts, and

were colorfully painted on the buckskin by the warriors themselves in

the time-honored traditions of their tribe.

Washington spoke:

Brothers of Susquehannock, I am glad to hear by Major Little

that you accepted the chain of friendship I sent you last

February, and that you are determined to keep it bright and

unbroken. When I first heard that you refused to send any

of your warriors to my assistance when called upon by our

brothers of the Delaware, I did not know what to think. I

was afraid that some enemy had turned your hearts against

me. But I am since informed that all your young men were

employed in hunting, and that was the reason of their not

coming. This has made my mind easy and I hope you will

always in future join with your brothers of the Delaware

when required. I have desired my council to pay you the

money which Captain Stoddard promised you. Brothers: I

have a piece of news to tell you which I hope you will

attend to. Our enemy, the King of Great Britain, endeavored

to stir up all the Indians from Canada to South Carolina

against us. But our brethren of the Six Nations and their

allies, the Shawnees and the Delawares, would not hearken to

144
the advice of his messengers sent among them, but kept fast

hold of the ancient covenant chain. The Cherokees and the

Southern tribes were foolish enough to listen to them and

take up the hatchet against us. Upon this, our warriors

went into their country, burned their houses, destroyed

their corn and obliged them to sue for peace and to give

hostages for their future good behavior. Now Brothers,

never let the King's wicked counsellor turn your hearts

against me and your brethren of this country but bear in

mind what I told you last February and what I tell you now.

This I offer in token of my friendship.

Nemacolin sat, tall and straight, taking in the General's words

with no facial expression whatever. Then he looked at each of his

braves, and back at the General. He nodded once, and responded,

speaking slowly, enunciating his words clearly. His practiced English

was now nearly faultless:

The Susquehannock resolve to stand together with our

brethren of Pennsylvania and to oppose the people of Old

England that are endeavoring to take our lands and liberties

from us.

He raised his hands to the sky, then held them out to Washington.

Nemacolin stood up, in his own way signalling the end of the ceremony.

Washington and his aides smiled. He thanked Nemacolin and his warriors.

Nemacolin walked to the other end of the table. The two leaders shook

hands. Nemacolin smiled, and he and his party excused themselves from

the room.

In the hallway, several of Washington's officers spoke with

Nemacolin's men, arranging plans for them to join the battle. Major

Little spoke first. "If you will send your party of warriors to see

Major Brown at Chester, he will hold them ready there."

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Arriving the next morning at Chester town, Nemacolin and his

raiding party met with Major Brown at first light. "We need you to help

us hold this position." Brown explained to Nemacolin.

"Make camp here. We will continue to fight back the British, who

make advances nearly every day with small parties from the south. We

hope to be able to launch an attack and turn them back once and for all,

with your superior numbers."

Nemacolin knew the territory well. It had been a part of his

tribe's eastern hunting grounds when he was young. They hunted down to

the shore at Marcus Hook in years past, but now stayed away from that

area to avoid unecessary contact with the pirates, whose behavior was

always unpredictable.

"What they want is to capture and hold the shoreline, and to build

a fort there." Brown said. "If they could accomplish that, they would

have control of the waters of the Delaware even without the help of

Skull's pirates."

"Skull's pirates have been helping you?" Nemacolin asked, amazed

to hear that the pirates would help anyone, remembering his conversation

with Fitz before he went to meet with Skull earlier.

"Aye." Brown responded. "Our representative is on his way to the

pirate stronghold there to meet again with Skull this very day."

Nemacolin's face betrayed his curiosity.

"Your representative?" He asked. "Aye. Mysterious cutter, that

one. Calls himself Captain Fitz. That's all I know about him, besides

the fact that he's a wanted highwayman who steals from the King. If

that isn't mysterious enough, he gives his loot back to the common

people in the countryside. He doesn't keep it. There is talk of his

exploits all over the colony, but rarely does anyone see him......except

for the Tories he robs."

146
"He is there to meet with Skull now?" Nemacolin asked. Brown

nodded. "Yep. That's what they tell me. They say he passed through

here early this morning."

Brown hitched up his trousers, and tightened his suspenders. "I

don't know what the poor devil is going to find down there this time."

He said, clucking his tongue and shaking his head.

"What do you mean?" Nemacolin asked. "Well, the way I hear it,"

Brown continued, "Is that Skull ain't even around here anymore. They say

he's gone south to some island. He's left a new bandit in charge.

Dessalines, they call him. From what I hear, this Dessalines wouldn't

think twice about double-dealing anyone.

Captain Fitz, God love him, he won't stand a chance in that den of

iniquity. These pirates will string him up for sure. If Skull honored

the deal last time, it must have been pure luck. Those thieves have no

morals, and they live by no honor.

Besides, he's got a price on his head. Dessalines will take him

for the ransom, just as sure as I stand here with you."

"This Captain Fitz, I have heard of him before." Nemacolin said.

"He has shown himself to be well able to take care of himself." Brown

shrugged, then countered. "I hope you're right, because he may be the

best hope we have. But I'm afraid it will be different this time.

If the British get what they're after, and can get control of

traffic on the river, we're all losers."

Nemacolin nodded. "My warriors will be ready to join this fight

tomorrow." He said, standing suddenly. "First we must visit our

brethren, the Lenni Lenape. We will return in one or two days."

Brown protested, but heard nothing more by way of an explanation

from Nemacolin. Nemacolin abruptly left camp with his warriors, heading

in a northerly direction.

At that very moment, Fitz lay unconscious on the side of the

forest trail leading to the pirate's compound at Marcus Hook. Over him

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stood two pirates who happened along the trail some time after he had

fallen.

This time, the booby-trapped trail found an unsuspecting victim in

Fitz. He carelessly stepped onto a trigger the pirates had fashioned

from tree branches. It released several saplings that had been tied

back. Each drove a sharpened spike toward his heart.

His quick instincts allowed him to duck in timeto avoid the lethal

charges, but one sapling hit him, glancing off his shoulder and then

slamming into his head, knocking him cold.

The two pirates found him there and hog-tied him, trussing him up

to a pole which they used to carry him back to the cove. "He's too

blamed heavy." One pirate complained in the steamy heat of the forest.

"Let's slit his throat and leave him here for the crows." He grumbled.

"No." The other argued. "Dessalines will want to see him first.

He will be interested in anyone who has managed to penetrate his

defenses so easily. He nearly made it through. As it is, most people

would have been stuck like a pig by those spikes. I think this bird

will be none the worse for wear, after he wakes up. He's got a skull

like a cannon ball."

Jean-Jacques Dessalines smiled broadly at the sight of Captain

Fitz neatly tied up in the corner of the tavern, after the pirates

announced his capture, and dumped him there. Robert Tripp, a small,

wiry lowlife was the first among the pirates to recognize Fitz from the

posters he had seen throughout the territory.

"I say, Cap'n" He said to Dessalines, as Fitz was beginning to

stir and to regain consciousness. "I believe we've got a winner here,

with this one." He used the point of his sword to lift Fitz' face to

get a better look at him.

"That's the one they've been chasin' for years. I've heard about

this bandit. He's no less a thief than any of us. He's the highwayman

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that's been raiding the King's strongbox." Another pirate joined in.

"Yeah. Tripp's right. We've captured us a jewel, here."

"He'll be worth a pretty penny to the King." Tripp said, licking

his lips at the prospect.

"Why would a fool like you be foolish enough to venture into these

woods?" Dessalines asked Fitz, teasingly waving his broadsword back and

forth in Fitz' face.

Fitz tensed, and strained against his bindings. For an instant,

it appeared he would reach Dessalines, but then his bindings brought him

up short. He fell back to the floor and found himself unable to move.

Dessalines flew into a rage. "What?" He bellowed. "You, who sit tied

like a hog under my sword, you want to fight me?" He swore at Fitz,

waving the broadsword in a large arc to the left and right, each time,

stopping the razor sharp blade against the skin of Fitz' neck.

"I'll show you!" Dessalines said, suddenly removing the magic

mirror from his pocket. He fingered its lid, studying Fitz' face as he

did so. He did not see the fear and panic that he usually saw. It took

the fun out of his game. Then he stopped, and just as suddenly brought

his rage under control. Fitz held his gaze steady on Dessalines and

said nothing.

"I ask you again." Dessalines spit the words this time. "Why

would a fool like you be such a fool?"

"He's been here before." A quiet voice said from the other side

of the room. All eyes turned toward the man who spoke, an old, bent

merchant seaman turned pirate, who searched in the wicked world of

larceny for that one big payday that would send him to his own warm,

tropical island before he was called to the great beyond.

"He's been here to talk to Skull." The old man said. Dessalines

motioned the old pirate to come closer. The old man walked up to Fitz.

"He's the one that made the deal with Skull for the powder. He promised

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Skull all the powder he wanted, provided he stopped giving free passage

to British warships in these parts."

"How did such a man get here?" Dessalines asked. "Walked in."

The old pirate said. "Walked in. Walked right past all the traps then

took down Skull's best guards, and met him face to face with the barrels

of two pistols pointed at Skull's nose. Could have killed him, easy."

Dessalines smiled, then he turned to Fitz, who continued to watch

Dessalines with little emotion showing on his face. "Is that true?"

Dessalines asked. "It is true." Fitz said. "I again seek to bring

word to Skull. I bring a proposal to him."

Dessalines swung the sword wildly, missing Fitz' head by a

fraction of an inch. He swore at the air and brought the sword crashing

crazily down onto the table, beside Fitz' head. It passed a hair's

width from Fitz' neck. The table split in two with a splintering crash.

"Goddamn you!" Dessalines sputtered. "I'm in charge here! How

dare you bring a message to Skull in my presence! I am in charge here.

Your message should be brought to me!! I command all men in this

compound. I alone decide who lives and who shall die." The other

pirates backed away quickly, giving Dessalines space to continue his

tantrum, and to swing his sword.

He fingered the mirror, and focused his rapt attention on it as he

forced his fingernail against the lid. It strained, and made a popping

sound, as if about to burst open. Dessalines put his face close to

Fitz's, studying it for a hint of emotion. Fitz gave him none.

Dessalines stopped, suddenly, and broke into hideously hysterical

laughter.

"No! No!" He shouted, obviously amused by some vision in his own

mind. He chuckled and chortled. "Death by sword is too quick. Your

remains will be worth much to the King if I keep them in one piece. The

King may not have the stomach for receiving you in pieces, severed by my

sword. So be it." He announced, standing and sheathing his sword in

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one motion. "You shall be keel-hauled." He turned to his men, and

demonstrated the keel-hauling with his hands, laughing gleefully.

"We have not had a good keel-hauling in such a very long time."

He said, his voice taking on a tauntingly sing-song tone. "Take him

away!! Hold him until morning! He shall be hauled at first light!"

Four men stepped forward and dragged the still-groggy Fitz out the

front door of the tavern. Outside, they threw him into a wagon and

hauled him down to the pier, where they lifted him aboard a skiff. They

rowed him out to Dessalines' garrishly decorated, corsair, which lay at

anchor a few hundred yards offshore.

They sang as they rowed, grunting the melody with growling

amusement. The rhythm was steady, and always a part of pirate work

sessions. Their simple songs provided steady cadence for their work.

Fitz looked up at the vessel as it rolled with the gentle sea. It

was painted a hideous pink color, made with berries in whitewash. It

was decorated with trinkets and baubles of all colors and descriptions.

Each new color that Fitz saw seemed to clash even more than the last.

The bowsprit was adorned with a row of shrunken human heads,

morbidly chained together with a heavy gold chain threaded through open

mouths.

Fitz found himself brutally stashed in a wretched, steaming,

airless, hold with six armed guards carefully standing watch over his

head.

The stench of death was overwhelming in the hold. The space

allowed for Fitz between the decks was not even three feet high. He

allowed his mind to wander as he pondered his dire fate.

This deck, he determined, had been built for the transfer of

slaves. Robert's family had preserved bits of their own passage in such

a hold in stories which were passed on to him when he was very young.

He had shared these stories with Fitz, whose own passage had not been

much better.

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He remembered Robert telling him that the holds were so cramped

and closed in that the slaves, who were chained together, could not even

sit up, but were, rather, doomed to endure the trip packed in, back to

belly, in spoon fashion.

He also remembered Robert telling him that many times large

percentages of slave cargoes died enroute, never to emerge alive from

these deadly holds. Fitz gulped at the realization that his fate might

be the same.

Dessalines sat down to prepare a message for the King. He called

for a courier, and a sheaf of his fanciest paper.

The dawn came silently, escorted by thick tentacles of fog. Fog

completely enveloped Dessaline's vessel, and concealed the shoreline.

He stirred first, waking among the dozens of pirates and hussies, who

slept in drunken stupor, who had collapsed only minutes before, after a

night-long orgy of celebration.

Leaning against the railing, entwined with the pirates were the

whores from Chester, many of whom enjoyed the potential for bloodletting

with vigor equal to that of the sickest pirate.

All stirred, awakened by Dessalines' manical, yet childish

giggling at the prospect of Fitz emerging from the water, gasping for

breath, then being dragged back down, until he could take it no more,

and would at last emerge lifeless, soundless, and his remains could be

delivered to the King's party for the promised ransom.

He rubbed his hands with glee as his men made preparations. Only a

small number of his hands turned out aboard the vessel for the keel-

hauling. The majority remained ashore, their ships at anchor in the

cove, while they continued their raucus all-night festivities on land.

Dessalines had not required their presence because, although he

insisted on having enough on hand for a good round of applause when his

victims succumbed, he was greedy about his own ability to have a seat

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close enough to carefully observe the entire struggle from beginning to

end.

Four pirates lifted Fitz from the hold. He was still tied tightly

to the pole they had used to carry him. He was exhausted, hungry and

dehydrated, and his muscles cramped from having lain in the damp hold

overnight.

His muscles went into uncontrollable spasm, as the men cut him

loose from the pole. They lifted him, and tied his hands to the rope on

the winch off the forecastle. Then they dragged his almost lifeless

body to the port rail, and tossed him into the water.

He landed with a loud splash. Dessalines cheered loudly,

clapping, and dancing around the forecastle with glee. He raised his

arms in a command to his men and their whores to clap as well.

Then he leaned over the rail where Fitz had just gone over,

straining to see in the creeping fog. His laughter drifted to a stop

for a few seconds, nearly turning to rage and panic, when he thought

Fitz had gotten away somehow. Then he saw Fitz' body appear again at

last.

The sight of Fitz' tortured body made him begin to cheer again.

But his cheers were ended abruptly with a quick and violent thud as a

silent arrow, sharply-tipped with razor-edged steel, arrived unseen,

piercing his throat. It entered just below his gaping mouth, and exited

through the top of his skull.

His spectators jumped to their feet in fog-shrouded confusion.

Dessalines' lifeless remains fell to the deck in a bloody heap. Arrows

whistled through the early morning air, slamming into unsuspecting

bodies, that whirled about in drunken, disorganized, befuddlement,

trying unsuccessfully to determine which direction they were coming

from.

Silently, Nemacolin and his Susquehannock warriors stole aboard

the hapless vessel. Then, erupting into a quick flurry of angry

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warhoops, they dispatched and scalped their victims with flashing cold

steel, and disappeared as quietly and quickly as they had come.

Within minutes, the only sounds in the cove, save an occasional

final groan of a victim, was the gentle rolling splash of waves on the

hull of the ship, and small, muted, slapping noises made by the oars of

the long war canoes as they vanished into the mist.

****************

"What do you make of this?" Enoch Lipscomb asked, pushing the

parchment document across the desk. The dim light in the room was

brightened only by the flickering lamp on the window sill. Cyrus picked

the parchment up and moved closer to the lamp and read it, slowly,

mouthing each word silently as he read. His right index finger traced

the lettering, leading his eyes across the words.

Lipscomb recoiled at the sight of Cyrus' unkempt fingernails. The

nail on his index finger was three quarters of an inch long, and it

curved under, as if it belonged to a cat. His nails were rimmed with

black dirt, and his hands bore witness to the fact that he had not

washed in months.

Lipscomb moved back a pace or two, holding his breath at the

sudden appearance of a cloud of stench that moved wherever Cyrus moved.

When he raised his arms to hold the parchment up to the light, the cloud

enveloped Lipscomb.

Holding out as long as he could, Lipscomb finally backed away,

exhaling loudly as he did. Then he took two or three deep breaths near

the door. Cyrus glanced his way and smiled, "How peculiar a man," he

was thinking, "To be so peculiar, yet to have such an important job in

the office of the governor."

Cyrus turned back to the light and leaned his head down to the

parchment, trying to see. "Whewh!!" He said, recoiling, and holding

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his nose, then he sneezed. "Excuse me, sir." He said to Lipscomb.

"This perfume!" Lipscomb nodded, bowing toward Cyrus from his sanctuary

near the door.

"I never would have expected that a letter from a notorious pirate

might be sprinkled with perfume!" Cyrus said, squeaking the words in a

high-pitched, cranky voice. He cackled at his own joke. Lipscomb held

his position at the door jamb and said nothing.

Cyrus mouthed the last of the words to himself. Then he walked

halfway across the room and began scratching his filthy, oily hair over

Libscomb's desk, muttering to himself as he did. Lipscomb again

retreated quickly from the desk, and stood beside the Governor who

entered the room at that moment without a word.

"It would appear that this pirate, uh, whatsisname?" Cyrus asked.

"Dessalines!" Lipscomb said, glancing at the governor with an impatient

look. "Yes. Well, it would appear that Monsieur Dessalines has

captured our bandit." Cyrus said, speaking the words with authoritative

finality.

"Indeed, it appears so." Lipscomb said. "Yes. How long

overdue." The governor agreed. Cyrus started, unaware the governor had

entered the room. He bowed, steeply. The governor and Lipscomb each

backed against the door jamb, trying to hold a dignified expression in

the face of an all-out olifactory assault by Cyrus, the unwashed.

Cyrus came erect, after bowing to the governor, and folded the

parchment. He placed it on the desk and frowned. Although he would be

delighted to know that Fitz could now be categorized as "remains," he

would be less than thrilled to know that he was deprived of the chance

to kill him, and collect the ransom himself.

Nonetheless, he knew would be paid hansomely by the governor for

visiting Marcus Hook to identify, and return with the remains.

"You are to proceed to the cove at Marcus Hook." Lipscomb

directed. The governor signed the paperwork Lipscomb pushed toward him

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on the desk, then left the room in silence. He turned back quickly at

the door.

"This had better be the final chapter in the saga of this so-

called Captain Fitz." He said, to a quaking Cyrus. "Oh, it will, your

honor. It will. I assure you." Cyrus quickly answered. He moved

toward the governor, bowing and reaching out to kiss his hand. The

governor pulled back in disgust, removing a crisply starched, white

handkerchief, with which he wiped his hands.

Cyrus backed up, bumping into the door jamb in the process. His

oily skin reflected the light of the lamp behind the desk. His eyes

squinted narrowly as they followed the governor down the hall. An

idiotic smile cracked his lips. "Another odd character." He thought.

"Are all men in high places this odd?"

He turned back to Lipscomb, who handed him the signed parchment,

and gave him the strongbox containing the reward money. "You will need

a force to deal with the likes of Dessalines. He is a dangerous man."

Lipscomb said. Cyrus grinned, quivering slightly at the prospect.

"Admiral Simms will provide a ship, and a contingency of marines

for your excursion to the cove. I have already sent word to Monsieur

Dessalines that you will be arriving to claim the remains."

Cyrus took the strong box, and held it under his left arm. He

reached out to shake Lipscomb's hand. Lipscomb looked at the extended

hand as if it were a cobra, about to strike. He put both hands behind

his back, puffed out his chest in an official manner, and saluted.

Cyrus smiled, rat-like, then pulled his greasy coonskin cap down

over his oily hair, and was gone, wrapping his bony fingers around the

strongbox as he walked. He turned at the door, and looked at Lipscomb.

"Good day, sir." He squeaked. His voice was a cross between a

screaching cat and an untuned violin.

Lipscomb took the next several seconds to inhale a few deep

breaths. He loosened his collar, then opened all the windows he could

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find. He called for the maids to come in and scrub the office, and his

desk.

*************

Admiral Simms stood on the deck of his brig, the HMS Wilbur. He

stood slightly behind, and to the left of the helmsman, who steered a

steady course into the cove.

A second brig sailed in close behind the first. All hands on both

ships manned battle stations. Simms sounded the general quarters alarm

as soon as they were within sight of Marcus Hook just as a precaution.

Cyrus stood in front of Simms. Simms and the helmsman played out

a silent battle, trying to maintain the only position upwind of Cyrus on

the cramped deck. Unfortunately for the helmsman, his ability to stray

toward cleaner air was severely limited by the fact that he had to keep

at least one hand on the helm.

Twice, he nearly ran aground on the sharp reefs north of the

channel, as he tried to get a breath of fresh air.

Cyrus stood, skinny fingers wrapped tightly around the strongbox.

He giggled nervously, as the two ships sailed into the harbor

unchallenged by the five pirate vessels anchored there.

Few pirates could be seen by the watchful eyes of the British

crews aboard the two warships, who kept their guns trained anxiously on

the pirate corsairs, and who searched the shoreline for pirates.

At last, they anchored, tying up bow to bow to afford the best

angle of fire should the order be given to attack. The Admiral ordered

his gig launched, and he put ashore with a small party of marines and

Cyrus, who carried the strongbox.

A dozen pirates met them at the pier. They secured the gig

alongside, and Simms and the others climbed the ladder tied to the

pilings.

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A tall pirate stepped to the front, and met them there. "I am

Captain Dagger." He announced to Simms. Simms nodded a greeting.

"Admiral Simms, His Majesty's Fleet." Simms said, dryly.

His men scanned the shoreline with a suspicious eye. Cyrus

wondered aloud to the gunner's mate "I wonder where the others are?"

Captain Dagger silenced him with a look. Cyrus squirmed, and held

fast to the strongbox. "We are here on behalf of the King, to respond

to a letter from a Monsieur Dessalines." Simms said.

Dagger smiled. "Go on." He said, prompting Simms to continue.

"The letter indicates that Monsieur Dessalines has captured an outlaw

highwayman named Captain Fitz. We are here to identify and collect the

remains, and, if the villain be properly identifiable, to pay the ransom

to them what deserves it."

Dagger leaned back on his sword. "He did capture your man."

Dagger said, laughing. He turned to his men. "He did have your Captain

Fitz. Isn't that right, boys?" He asked the other pirates behind him.

"Yes. It is so. He had Captain Fitz hog-tied, on the deck in this very

harbor." Several pirates agreed.

Cyrus stepped forward, pushing his way through the marines. "Well

where is the thief?" He demanded. "Which thief is that?" Dagger

asked, staring Cyrus down while maintaining a solid grip on the handle

of his sword. "Which thief is that?" He repeated the question. The

other pirates laughed. Cyrus squirmed. "Do you want the thief, Captain

Fitz, or do you want the thief, Dessalines? Or maybe you want another

thief? Do you want Perley, here? Or how about Dragotis? Or maybe you

would like to try to take Captain Dagger?" The pirate teased, stepping

forward, with his hand on his sword. Cyrus backed away, hiding among

the marines.

"We want Captain Fitz." Simms said, stepping up to Dagger, with

his own hand on his sword. Dagger stopped. "Well now," Dagger said.

"Why didn't you say so?"

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He turned toward his men. "Bring me Dessalines!!" He ordered.

Suddenly, a lacky appeared at the side of the shed by the end of the

pier. He pushed a wheeled dolly up to the men at the side of the pier.

The British sailors and marines scattered at the sight and smell

of Dessalines, his flesh already putrid, and beginning to fall from his

bones. The arrow was still embedded in his skull.

"We saved him for you." Dagger said, laughing at the British

sailors and Cyrus, as they scattered, falling over themselves in the

process.

The pirates laughed uproariously. Simms waved his arm toward his

ship. A volley of shot was loosed in the direction of the small

village. A pungent cloud of smoke drifted away from the ship.

Dagger laughed. He raised his arm toward the high ground behind

the village. A cannonade began from secreted positions among the trees.

Shots whistled overhead, screaming into the British warships,

quickly silencing their guns, and ripping their sails to shreds. Huge

pieces of wooden gunwales were torn assunder, exposing the British

cannons, which were then easily destroyed.

The ships attempted to send ashore the marines, but at every

endeavor, the cannonade sank first the bark, then the gigs out from

under them. The marines swam about, trying to stay afloat. Many lost

their weapons in the process. The last shot tore the winch loose, and

sent it crashing into the surf, landing on the men with a splash.

Dagger's men quickly disarmed Simms and his party, who tried to

fight back, but who were hopelessly outmanned, and kept them all huddled

at the foot of the pier at gun point. Cyrus sat in the middle of the

marines on the strongbox, and quivered.

Within a few short minutes, the two British Men o'War were

rendered defenseless as the pirates rained cannon fire down on them from

their hidden positions.

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In only a matter of minutes, they could both have been sunk and

all aboard killed. With another wave of his arm, Dagger silenced the

pirate's fire.

A large cloud of blue smoke drifted around both ships, one of

which was on fire. Sailors scurried about the decks, trying to

extinguish the flames, throwing pieces of flaming sails and timbers

overboard.

Another, larger cloud of blue-grey smoke drifted down from the

west shore, filling the cove with an acrid smaze that clouded the

harbor.

Several voices rose in unison from among the remnants of the

British warships, groaning and moaning, as men writhed in the throes of

death. All eyes ashore responded, and watched helplessly, as the

victims floundered about in the flotsam and jetsam now clogging the

waterway.

Suddenly a jingling noise was heard from the high point on shore.

Admiral Simms and his men looked up, saw nothing, then looked back, when

they heard it again. It grew louder, and more rhythmic.

Near the vanishing point on the horizon, a small dot appeared in

the tan, gravel road. The jingling noise grew still louder as the dot

grew larger.

Looming into view was a sight that made Cyrus shake so violently,

that the strongbox began to make a noise to compete with the jingling

bridle on Skull's horse as Skull stopped his jaunting car, and stepped

out to lift the unruly horse.

The horse calmed immediately, and Skull drove the car to the end

of the pier. There, he handed the reins to a lacky, who quickly removed

the animal and tied it to the side of the shanty.

Skull walked up to the huddled British sailors and Cyrus, even as

his men were boarding the disabled vessels offshore. They removed

weapons from the British and threw them into the sea with a splash.

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"Welcome gentleman." Skull boomed the words at the hostages. He

pushed them aside, and reached down, pulling the strongbox out from

under Cyrus. Cyrus resisted, trying to keep the box. Skull yanked it

free, lifting Cyrus five feet off the ground in the process.

He took the strong box in his left hand, and swatted Cyrus away

with his right as if he were swatting a mosquito. Cyrus crashed to the

earth with a squealing thud. He lay there and watched in mute fear as

Skull removed his great cutlass and sliced the box open with one stroke.

A cheer rose up from the pirates, as Skull bent to the ground and

picked up handsful of bills from the chest. "I'm sorry to have to

report that Captain Fitz was unable to be here this morning to see this

reward be paid." Skull said to Admiral Simms, who stood, straight-

faced, enduring the insults with tight-lipped humiliation.

"Ah, yes, Skull." Dagger interjected. "But Dessalines himself

was here to greet them." The pirates burst into laughter, slapping each

other on the back. Two of them wheeled Dessalines' remains around in

circles. Skull screamed an order to the British.

"You will be permitted to live." He said. "Even the weasel,

here." He said, picking Cyrus up by the scruff of the neck with one

huge arm. He lifted him up to his face. "Whewh!!" Skull said,

standing eyeball to eyeball with Cyrus.

"You need a bath, you sewer rat, you." He said to Cyrus, who

dangled helplessly. With that, Skull tossed him into the sea off the

end of the pier.

"H-h-help." Cyrus screamed, as he floundered noisily about in the

water. "I- I can't swim!" He shouted. Skull turned to a lacky.

"Throw him a rope." He said. The lacky dragged the soaked Cyrus back

to shore.

"Tell your King that I will accept this little token of

appreciation." Skull said to Cyrus, holding up a handful of the bills

from the chest. Then he turned to Simms. "You should tell your King

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that if he expects to capture Captain Fitz, dead or alive, he had better

leave the weasel at home. It will take more man than this to capture

Captain Fitz."

The pirates laughed. "And he better send more and better warships

if he ever intends to enter this harbor again." Skull said, carrying

the broken chest and the money to his car. He loaded it aboard, shook

the reins once, and the horse pulled him down the road in a cloud of

dust.

***********

Fitz, having spent some time with Nemacolin and his warriors,

recovered from his near-death encounter with Dessalines and the pirates,

bruised and battered, but otherwise none the worse for wear.

He returned to his cave home as Nemacolin and his warriors

returned to Chester town to report, as promised, for duty with the

infantry there.

Fitz took advantage of a lone brougham that he chanced upon one

evening, just east of the village of Edgemont. It was an easy heist.

Dropping onto the driver's seat as it passed the steep side slope

to the left of the road leading into Fox Hollow, he easily overpowered

the lone driver, tying him hand and foot.

In the brougham was a single passenger, who surrendered without

any fight. Fitz leveled his pistol in the face of the traveler.

Holding his hands high, the passenger handed over his purse.

Fitz looked into it. "Who are you, sir?" He asked. "My name is

Pierre Elfreth." The traveler answered, politely. "Your destination?"

Fitz asked, as he shouldered the purse.

"I travel to Philadelphia, there to visit with Governor Braddock.

My company wishes to open a factory in this colony. We produce barrels,

and there is plenty of timber available here."

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Fitz nodded. "Aye. There is a lot of timber, at that." He said.

"And I bear a gift for the Governor, which will be for his new child. I

beg your indulgence Sir." The traveler pleaded to Fitz. "If you would

not mind, sir. My gift for the about-to-be-born child is in that purse.

It would be very difficult to replace. I would be very much in your

debt if you would just let me retrieve that little token from the purse.

Then you may dispose of the rest of the contents in whatever way you

wish."

Fitz looked at the passenger in the dim light of the moon. His

hair was almost completely gray. His eyes were dark, with deep circles

under them, and his complexion sallow. He was thin, perhaps in frail

health. He smiled, pleasantly, at Fitz, and showed no outward fear, in

spite of the pistol.

Fitz handed the purse to him. The man reached inside with his

right hand. Fitz kept his attention focused on the hand. It groped

inside the bag for an instant, then the man removed it, along with a

small box.

Fitz breathed out with relief, for an instant thinking the man was

going to pull out a gun. The passenger smiled again. "Thank you." He

said, weakly.

Fitz disappeared, stepping into the deep brush by the road. The

passenger sat still for a few moments, before he departed the coach, and

climbed into the driver's seat to untie the driver.

If this traveler was bringing gifts for the new baby, Fitz

reasoned that Katie must be close to delivering. He stepped up his

pace.

For the first time, Fitz had decided to keep some of the money he

had stolen. He had fashioned a stone chamber at the base of a wall at

Castle Rock where he could stash money and jewels.

His intention was to keep money there to eventually give to the

new baby. He was unsure how he might be able to do it, without

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attracting possibly deadly attention to himself, but he felt he could

come up with some kind of plan.

He removed the rock top from the chamber, and secreted the gold

and silver, along with some cash. Then he left the cave, hiking across

the ridge to the Turk's Head Inn.

It was just before dawn when he arrived. He met Regina on the

path below the Inn.

"Fitz." She said, hugging him warmly when she saw him. "I am

glad to see you." He hugged her as well. "I am very happy to see that

you have been successful in dodging death again." She looked at him,

still reveling in his continued boyish good looks.

He smiled, and she saw the impish glow that she loved come to life

in his dark eyes. "I hope you shall always be so fortunate, in spite of

this dangerous life-style you choose." "Thank you." He said. "I hope

the same."

Have you heard about Cyrus?" She asked, after shepherding him

into the shed behind the Inn, where they might be able to talk away from

prying eyes.

"No." Fitz said. Regina laughed. "It seems that the King

received a message from the pirate Dessalines that he had captured you."

Fitz shook his head, agreeing. "Aye. That he had. I was as good as

dead, but Dessalines had an unfortunate run in with a Susquehannock

arrow." Fitz explained.

"Before he found out that you had been rescued, the King called

Cyrus to identify and claim your remains, and to pay the ransom. He

sent Cyrus to Marcus Hook with Admiral Simms on two British warships."

Fitz listened intently. "While Cyrus was there, they received a

surprise visit from Skull. Apparently he had planned to return to

Marcus Hook anyway. Dessalines had stepped beyond his limits, and Skull

came back, planning to get rid of him.

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Skull received the message from the King, waited to see the

British ships off shore and then ambushed them." She explained.

"As only Skull could." Fitz agreed. "Skull rendered both vessels

incapacitated within minutes, and kept Cyrus and the King's men hostage.

Then he took the strongbox from Cyrus and stole the reward for himself

and his men. He nearly sank both vessels."

Fitz smiled. "Then it sounds as though Skull has returned, and as

though he is still on our side in this fight." He said. "Apparently

so." Regina said, agreeing with him.

"At least that is the word I have heard here at the Tavern." Fitz

nodded. "And what of Cyrus?" He asked, after a moment of silent

comprehension.

"Skull let them all go....at least all of them what survived the

battle in the harbor. As I hear it, he sent the King a message, telling

him to keep his ships out of Marcus Hook." Fitz took her words in

without comment.

"I also have heard that the Governor's wife will be giving birth

at any moment." Fitz shifted nervously. Regina said nothing, but

studied his face for a long time. For the first time, she realized that

the baby was his. She resisted the impulse to suck in her breath in

surprise. "I have been asked to go there, to help with the delivery."

She said, looking away for an instant, in an attempt to keep her

feelings to herself.

Regina was an experienced midwife, and had assisted or delivered

by herself, many children in the village of Turk's Head. She was

considered by many to be one of the best midwives in Chester County.

She, along with four others, had been called to the mansion at Turk's

Head.

"The governor has been called back to Philadelphia." She said,

watching Fitz's face for a reaction. She smiled, reaching out to him,

putting her hand on his shoulder.

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"Perhaps you should go to see her." She said, finally, swallowing

back the bitter taste of the words as she spoke them. As much as she

wished she could be the subject of his dreams, Regina knew how important

this event would be for him, how much this could ease the sting of the

loneliness he would have to endure in years ahead.

Fitz looked at Regina. In the even light of the pre-dawn morning,

he studied her face carefully. He did not know why, but for some

reason, he felt uncomfortable with Regina's suggestion that he visit

Katie.

What Regina was not telling him, at least with words, was that she

also knew Katie was having a most difficult time with this pregnancy.

She knew, from experience, that there was a good chance that Katie would

not survive.

Now, in spite of the danger she knew would be waiting for him

there, she found herself encouraging him to go. It was the realization

that the baby was his that drove her to insist.

"Now, you must go." She said, taking notice of the increasing

daylight. "They are sending a coach around for me at noon. Come to the

mansion tonight. Hide in the barn. At ten o'clock, I will signal you

from a window upstairs." He nodded, and started for the door. She

stopped him with a hand on his arm. "Fitz." She said. He turned

toward her. "Please be very careful." She said. He smiled, and left.

That evening, Fitz sat upon promontory rock, a high point of

serpentine rock. Serpentine is a dark green, marble-like rock, that

capped a ridge near the mansion. Serpentine later became a favorite

building stone for much of Chester County, and it was first quarried in

that very spot.

Promontory rock was a favorite resting spot for Fitz. It offered

a clear view of the valley below and the road west toward Turk's Head.

It was the best place in his wilderness to watch the sunsets. He and

Nemacolin had watched many from this place.

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Fitz leaned back against a tree and contemplated his life as the

sun painted the western sky a brilliant orange. Against a blue

backdrop, whispy clouds drifted aimlessly, and reflected the redness of

the departing sun.

Although there was much sadness in his life, Fitz always wanted

more of life, never less. Although he would have preferred to have

Katie at his side to enjoy this spectacular solar display, he was,

nonetheless, thankful for any chance to be with Katie again, for however

short a time, and regardless of the circumstances.

They had been talking of a day when the children were older, when

Katie might take leave of her place as the wife of Miles Braddock, and

come to live in the wilderness with Fitz.

He waited for the sun to go down before going to the mansion. He

tried to hold his concern about the delivery to a minimum. He prayed

for Katie and for the baby to be safe. He prayed for the safety of

Jonas and the others, who fought such a difficult battle against the

crown.

The sun slipped silently into the black abyss below the horizon.

The air became suddenly cold, and damp, and the wind picked up, turning

the leaves upside down on the trees. He stood up and strode into the

woods.

From the barn, he was able to see a light in a window upstairs.

The light went out, then blinked back on. He stole into the shrubbery

border of the lawn and ran among the plants to the back of the main

house.

He climbed to the window on the trellis. Regina met him there,

opening the sash for him. Silently, he crawled into the room, and

ducked into a darkened corner of the room.

"Shh." Regina whispered. "She is next door right now." Regina

opened the door a crack. "Follow me." She said, leading him into the

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hallway by the hand. "But what about the other midwives?" He asked, in

a whisper.

Regina turned, and patted his shoulder. "Not to worry." She

said. "We midwives can be trusted not to speak. Sealed lips are often

required in such matters. No one will notice."

Regina led him by the hand to the birthing room. He looked back

toward the end of the hall. Gathered there, were family members and

other houseservants. Regina quickly turned the corner in the hall, and

entered the birthing room, leading Fitz by the hand.

Three midwives were tending to Katie, who lay upon a table, in the

throes of a very difficult labor. Her brow glistened with a heavy

sweat, and she moaned quietly, gritting her teeth and mumbling

incoherently.

True to Regina's promise, none of the other midwives so much as

glanced at Fitz. They continued to work as if he were not there. One

quietly took up a position by the door where she could watch for anyone

who might be coming.

Fitz crossed the room to Katie, and took her hand in his. Regina

watched them for a long second, then went to tend the fire in the

fireplace.

The room was hot, and steamy, it seemed to Fitz. Katie looked up,

straining to see through her clouded eyes. "Fitz. Oh, Fitz. It is

you." She exclaimed. "I'm happy that you are here." She said, in a

weak, but satisfied voice.

Regina watched them from across the room. She wiped a tear from

her cheek. "I am happy to be here as well, my love." Fitz said,

caressing her cheek tenderly. A midwife wiped Katie's brow with a damp

cloth. Katie stiffened, and groaned. Her eyes drifted toward the

ceiling, and focused there, fixed upon something no one else in the room

could see. She pointed feebly toward the ceiling, as if explaining what

she saw there.

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A smile came to her lips. Her tortured body relaxed suddenly, and

her countenance became peaceful. "Oh, he is beautiful." The midwife

tending Katie announced, holding the baby up for all to see. There was

a smack, and the crying of a newborn.

Katie's gaze continued fixed upon the ceiling. Her cloudy eyes

seemed about to close. "Fitz." She whispered, mouthing the words as

she spoke. "Edward is here."

Katie smiled again. Her eyes closed, and her body slumped. Fitz

choked back tears, holding fast to Katie's lifeless form. Regina

crossed the room, her cheeks wet with her own tears. She leaned down to

be next to Katie's face. "It's all right." She whispered. "Things

will be all right here, Katie."

She hugged Fitz' shoulders. He stood up, pausing to look at Katie

and young Edward one last time. His cheeks glistened. "You must go."

The midwife at the door announced. "Someone is coming."

He hugged Katie, leaning over her one more time, turned, crossed

the room and exited the window which Regina held open for him. Slipping

on the trellis, he nearly fell to the ground.

A dog barked in the distance. He scrambled to the ground as

quickly as he was able. Heather, the collie came around the building

barking furiously. She stopped, the minute she realized it was Fitz.

He hugged the dog, and pulled her close to the wall, where they would

not be seen.

She licked his face as he stood still, watching the guard who

walked toward him from the gate. The guard stopped, looked into the

darkness, saw nothing, and returned to the guard shack.

Fitz hugged the animal. Then he stood up. She jumped up,

stretching her front paws up to his midsection. He leaned his face down

toward her, gulping back the urge to cry. Heather licked the tears from

his cheeks. He hurried back to the wall, climbed it, and strode off

toward Castle Rock.

169
CHAPTER VI

The tide was beginning to turn in the Revolution. British naval

superiority was, for the first time, being challenged by the upstart

Colonial navy, with the support of Skull and his pirates.

Fitz walked quickly along the old Indian trail. He had been

summoned to a meeting near a tavern above the village of Nottingham by

Jonas. The message arrived through Regina.

It was a warm day in the early spring of 1781. It was nearly a

year after the death of Katie. The war was winding down and Washington

and his troops were chasing the British through the south, toward an

eventual showdown at Yorktown that would come later that fall.

Fitz walked to the crossroads where he was supposed to meet Jonas.

The sun was high in the sky at that point. Birds chirped happily in the

thick forest that surrounded the state road as far as the eye could see,

in all directions.

Nottingham, itself, was a tiny settlement where three farm

families tried to eke out an existence, independent of other

settlements. The villagers lived in virtual isolation, surviving, or

not surviving, totally on their own abilities.

Fitz heard a whistle, and turned toward the sound. Jonas Webster

waved from his hiding place among the oak trees. Fitz walked toward

him, checking the horizon for unwelcome movement, as he walked.

He took his long rifle from his shoulder, and sat down in the

brush beside Jonas. They shook hands for the first time. "How are you,

Fitz?" Jonas asked, patting Fitz on the shoulder. "Good, Jonas. And

you?" Fitz responded.

"I'm glad you could come." Jonas said. He took a piece of

parchment from his pocket. "We have another mission for you." Fitz sat

quietly, listening to Jonas' proposal.

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"Pierre Elfreth. Have you heard of him?" Jonas asked. Fitz

shook his head in a negative way. "Wait." He said, after a minute.

"That name is familiar."

Jonas continued. "Pierre Elfreth is a Frenchman. He owns a

company that manufactures black powder. They are interested in

expanding their operations in this area. They have been operating a

mill not far from here, where they have been manufacturing powder. They

have been selling to the British, as well as to us. We want them to

sell only to us."

Fitz looked at Jonas. "I have heard the name. I remember now.

About a year ago, I robbed this Pierre Elfreth. He was on his way to a

conference with the governor. As I recall, he told me his business was

barrels. He made no mention of powder."

"That was true at that time. He told you the truth, he just did

not tell you all of it." Jonas said, showing Fitz the parchment he had

opened up. "This is a map showing their present holdings. As you can

see, there is a powder mill at Euletheria, here. They have a shipping

company in New Castle, and now they want to open a timbering operation

here in the northern wilderness. They will use that timber to feed

their production facility for barrels and shipping boxes that they want

to build here, near Chestertown."

Fitz nodded, as Jonas pointed to the map with his finger. "We

feel that we may be able to reach this man, Pierre Elfreth. We feel he

may be willing to listen." Jonas said. "We feel that he may be

sympathetic to our cause. He has been dealing with the British for many

years, but is apparently not happy with the outcome of these deals."

"Why do you feel you need me for this mission, especially

considering I have robbed the man?" Fitz asked, dryly. Jonas folded

the map, and looked at Fitz. "We need you because Elfreth has moved

himself into Marcus Hook." Fitz gave him a surprised look. "Marcus

Hook?"

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"Yes, Marcus Hook." Jonas answered. "We are not sure why. There

is definitely some connection with Skull, but we do not know what that

connection is." Jonas frowned. "We need a deal with Elfreth, and we

probably have no other way of reaching him. Marcus Hook has been closed

down to us, as well as to the British since Skull's return. No one is

welcome.

"Will you go?" Jonas asked, hopefully. Fitz pondered, looking at

Jonas. "How much of a deal might I be able to strike with a man I have

robbed?" He asked.

Jonas laughed, and slapped him on the shoulder. "You, Captain

Fitz, could work out a good deal, with the devil, I am sure. Your deal

with Skull has been a good and honorable one, and he has robbed many a

man." Fitz smiled, nodded, and extended his hand.

"When this war is over, Captain Fitz, I intend to see to it that

your name is cleared. You will live out your days as the free man you

deserve to be."

Fitz looked at Jonas. Their eyes met for an instant. Fitz' eyes

focused intently on the face of this man he had helped against all the

odds. Jonas thought he saw a hint of a smile. Fitz turned on his heel,

and disappeared into the underbrush.

The next morning Fitz prepared for his walk to Marcus Hook. He

carried little with him. His painted buckskin jacket was good

protection from the cold, yet was light enough if it became warm, as it

often did when the sun was high.

He carried two pistols, and a long, bone-handled dagger that he

kept in a decorated leather sheath. He also secreted a smaller knife in

the top of his moccasin that he kept for emergencies.

He carried his long rifle over his shoulder with a leather sling,

and he kept a pouch with powder, and lead balls for his pistols and

rifle.

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In that same pouch, he carried a few pieces of jerky and some

dried fruit. Water, he would replenish as he walked. There were

numerous natural springs flowing in that part of Chester County, and

Fitz knew them all.

He very carefully made his way into the pirate compound. He

stepped lightly around a narrow path leading between two huge rock

faces. There were steps carefully carved into the stone.

Warily, Fitz examined them from a distance. Carefully hidden, he

discovered a tiny trigger attached to the bottom step. Above him, a

wooden crib held back enough large rocks to crush anyone trying to climb

the steps.

Fitz went around the obstacle, at one point climbing a tree, then

swinging from tree limb to tree limb over the pirate booby traps.

At last, he came upon the sentry post. Making the best of a

natural advantage he had over the pirates, (he slept at night and didn't

drink two or three bottles of rum while whoring until daylight, while

they did), he slipped past dozing, snoring pirate guards, and climbed

into the compound through the thick trees overhead.

He dropped out of the trees a few yards east of the main house,

where he saw a lamp still burning in the window, even though the sun had

long since risen.

He entered the door, with both pistols in hand, expecting to find

sleeping pirates. Instead, he found four rifle barrels pointed directly

at his head, and Skull standing, arms crossed, behind his men who

quickly took Fitz' pistols and knife.

"So, we meet again." Skull thundered. His words echoed to the

horizon followed by his booming laughter. "This time, Captain Fitz, you

were not quite so clever." He laughed again. "This time, Captain Fitz,

it is my weapon that is thrust upon your face. How do you like it? How

do you like contemplating having your head blown off?" He laughed

again, blowing his walrus mustaches out to the sides.

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Fitz said nothing, but stared coldly at the huge pirate. Skull

raised his arm. Four weapons cocked in unison with a loud snapping

sound.

Fitz did not flinch. He held his position as steady as he could.

His mind wandered, focusing on the wonderful vision his brain had

imprinted, and kept, for just such occasions. He thought of the tiny

baby, Edward, being held up to the world for his first welcome, and

taking in his first breath.

Fitz smiled. If his life must end at this moment, he thought, so

be it. This was the image he was determined to carry with him to the

next world.

Skull broke into hysterical laughter, waving the rifles away with

his hand. He walked across the room. "I like you, Captain Fitz. I

really like you. You are a man who can make the worst situation seem

bearable. I respect that in you."

Skull sent his men from the room with a wave of his beefy arm. He

bent to the floor and picked up Fitz's pistols and knife, and handed

them to him by the barrels and blade.

He smiled, as Fitz took them in hand. For an instant, Fitz seemed

to debate whether to use them or put them away. Skull watched him

carefully. He put them away.

Skull burst into laughter again. "Let no man say that there is no

honor among thieves." He said, taking a rum bottle from the table. "I

say we are both thieves, and both of us are honorable men. We have

shown that to be so in our dealings with each other."

Skull offered a toast, tipping back the rum bottle. "To honor,

among thieves." He said, sipping the rum. He held the bottle out to

Fitz. Without changing his expression, Fitz held his hand out to Skull

instead.

174
"I mean no offense, but I never touch the stuff." He said. Skull

looked down at him. His huge, bushy eyebrows raised, stiffly. Fitz

expected to see the sword unleashed.

Skull's eyes seemed about to burst. His cheeks puffed out. He

looked ready to explode in a burst of anger and rage. Instead, he

erupted into laughter, talking to himself, as if there were a third

person sitting beside them.

"I offer a toast, and this Indian spurns it, and offers his hand,

instead." Skull said to himself. "I love it. I love it." He sat

down, and slapped both knees. "Yes. I will shake your hand." He said,

shaking Fitz' hand vigorously. Fitz tried to stand firm, but he could

feel himself being lifted nearly off the floor as Skull shook his hand

up and down.

He was very happy never to have to compete with Skull on matters

of strength. Fitz, who was much larger and stronger than average could

only shake his head with amazement at the strength of Skull. His

capacity for destruction was awesome.

"Now, Captain Fitz." Skull said, turning suddenly serious. "What

can this old pirate do for you?" Fitz sat down beside him. "I bring a

message for Pierre Elfreth. It is my understanding that one can find

him here."

Skull's eyes narrowed, betraying his surprise that Fitz wanted to

see Elfreth. "He is here. That is quite true." Skull said, after a

moment of contemplation.

He placed his huge arm on the table between them. Silver and gold

chains around his mammoth neck made a jingling noise. He leaned forward

on the table. His furrowed brow was beginning to show whisps of grey.

His shaven head was wrinkled with great folds of heavy skin, that

were even more apparent when he was pondering an idea, and fingering the

ends of his mustaches.

175
"Why do you wish to see Elfreth?" Skull finally asked. Fitz

straightened himself before he answered. "We wish to see Elfreth

because he is supplying powder to both the British and to the Colonials.

We wish him to supply powder only to the Colonials." Fitz said, offering

his simple explanation.

Skull immediately launched into an interpretation of his own

relationship with Pierre Elfreth, even though it had not been asked.

"Pierre Elfreth is my banker." Skull said, simply, shrugging as he

spoke.

Fitz said nothing, but continued to study Skull's face. "My ranch

in the islands......" Skull explained. "I have been trading with the

French for many years. Elfreth has loaned me money to finance my

ventures....some legitimate, some not so legitimate. He has allowed me

to make some money...........even some honest money. That has been

important to this old pirate, who hopes some day not to have to be a

pirate."

Fitz listened intently. Skull continued. "It was me who brought

Elfreth here in the first place. It was me who brought him here where

he has helped many colonists to produce the very powder which you now

wish to control during this war."

Skull drew silent, studying Fitz' face. "You shall have your

meeting with Pierre Elfreth." He said, after a long silence. "I will

send for him right now." His face brightened as he looked at Fitz,

truly happy to see him again. "Are you hungry? We could have some food

while we wait." Skull said, as he waved his arm toward the maid by the

door.

The door opened, and a lacky entered. Skull sent him off with

directions to return with Pierre Elfreth.

Within thirty minutes, the sound of horse's hooves on the

cobblestones in the roadway directly in front of the house could be

heard.

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The small jousting car stopped, and from the rear stepped Pierre

Elfreth. He was about six feet tall, thin, with grey hair. His

complexion was still sallow, but he looked better than the last time

Fitz had seen him.

He entered the tavern, said his greeting to Skull, then looked at

Fitz. "I believe we have met." He said, in polite, perfect English,

extending his hand to Fitz.

"Aye. I believe we have." Fitz said. Neither man was offering

much in the way of details. Skull pounded his great fist on the table.

"Wait a minute." He protested. "I would like to know where you two

have met!"

"It was an evening about a year ago." Elfreth said, still

offering little additional information. "We shared a coach." Elfreth

went on to say, after a long pause. Fitz smiled. "That is true." Fitz

agreed. "We did share a coach."

Skull looked at both men, waiting to hear more. "Wait a minute."

Skull pounded the table with his fist again. "I demand to know how you

two have met! A gentleman does not share his coach with a highwayman!"

Skull's face brightened suddenly with a smile. His eyes lit up.

"Ohhh. I get it now." He said. He turned to Elfreth. "He robbed

you!" Elfreth laughed. "Indeed, he did." He said. Skull pounded the

table again. "He robbed you! That's it!" He laughed. "He robbed

you!"

"But it was not my money." Elfreth went on to explain. "What

Captain Fitz did not know at the time, was that it was not my money. It

was money that the King had advanced my company for my visit here. That

money, too, came with the compliments of Governor Miles Braddock."

Skull laughed harder, pounding the table with his fist. "The

King, and his governor, have stolen plenty from us all, even us

pirates." He explained to Elfreth.

177
"Speaking of the King." Skull said to Fitz, putting his hand on

his shoulder, "Captain Fitz, here, would like to discuss an arrangement

with you."

Elfreth turned toward Fitz, waiting to hear what he had to say.

"The Colonial side would like very much to do more business with you,

Mister Elfreth. They know that you are selling powder both to the

British and to the Colonials. The Colonials would be very pleased if

they could purchase all the powder you can make in the Delaware colony."

Elfreth sat quietly, while Fitz spoke. He contemplated Fitz'

words. Since it was now becoming apparent that the Colonials were about

to win the war, it would seem that his negotiations with Miles Braddock

over land in Pennsylvania were directed toward the wrong side.

The first rule of negotiating with warring parties, Elfreth

understood, was to make your deals with the winners.

He extended his hand to Fitz. "Tell me more." He said. "I am very

interested in what you have to say."

************

Fitz entered the cave at Castle Rock. It was close to sundown

when he arrived there from his visit to Marcus Hook. His message had

already been left at the Turk's Head Inn for Jonas.

His deep sadness over the loss of Katie had been almost

overwhelming to him. She was the one glimmer of hope he had for

normalcy in his life.

He became more careless as his lonely life continued. Age was

beginning to slow him down, as well, although he was still in excellent

condition, and able to do more than most men half his age.

His carelessness nearly cost him his life when it allowed

Dessalines to take him prisoner. It could have cost him his life when

Skull was able to outwit him at Marcus Hook.

178
He began to wonder, at times, if Regina was right about him not

becoming involved in the revolution. Why should he fight in the cause

of freedom, when he could never be free? He asked himself in moments

of mental weakness, which seemed to occur with greater frequency since

Katie had died.

Why not, he asked himself, at other times, turn himself in to

Cyrus? At times like that, he wondered whether prison might not be a

better place to live. At least there would be human contact, someone

else to talk to, to share thoughts, ideas, possibly even dreams.

The dark shape that suddenly appeared at his door slipped in

unoticed. When he did become aware that someone was there, he dove

toward his pistols, and unholstered one, aiming it directly at the

figure.

Nemacolin stepped forward, smiling, extending his hand to his

friend. "I have just returned from the Inn at Turk's Head." He

explained, greeting Fitz with a strong bear hug.

"Regina has explained some things to me." He said, speaking

softly. "She told me about Katie, and about the baby, young Edward."

Fitz lowered his head, sadly.

"Why have you not called upon your brother?" Nemacolin asked,

scolding him for not telling him. Fitz shrugged his shoulders. "I live

my life alone." He answered. "I depend on no one."

"We are all alone in this hostile world, my brother." Nemacolin

said, sitting down at the fire across from Fitz. He fed some logs to

the flames. Red coals floated toward the roof, as he talked, bathing

them both in a flickering red, glowing light.

"We are born alone, and we will die alone. That is true no matter

who, of family, may be with us, nor how many. There is only one way to

die, and that is alone." He looked at Fitz. "But it must help to know

that our loved ones can be there with us, in spirit, if not in body,

when our time has come."

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Fitz' face brightened for a second. Nemacolin continued. "Death

is our final purpose in life. I am sure Katie was strengthened by the

fact that you were there, at her side." Fitz smiled. "Yes, I'm sure

she was." He agreed.

"Tonight." Nemacolin said, changing the subject, abruptly. "You

will get some rest, and some of Nemacolin's fine cooking. Tomorrow, we

will begin the hunt." Fitz smiled, then his face turned serious again.

"Are you able to stay for a while?" He asked, almost childishly. "I am

able to stay for a while." Nemacolin answered, putting a hand to his

shoulder.

"This war is nearly over. The fighting here has almost stopped.

My people have returned home to their families, to their loved ones.

Soon, the others will return home as well."

Nemacolin patted Fitz' shoulder. "I have been worried about you,

my friend." He said. Fitz looked at him quizzically. "Your attention

span is not as long as it once was. You do not protect yourself as well

as before."

Nemacolin waved toward the cave entrance with his arm. "Tonight,

for example," He explained. "Once, I would have expected a knife at my

throat the minute I reached the top of the ladder. Tonight, I was here,

and could have been holding my knife against your ribs before you knew I

was here." He watched the embers drifting toward the ceiling.

"At Marcus Hook, Dessalines took you prisoner. Once, you would

have danced upon his booby traps, and laughed in their faces."

Fitz nodded. "I'm not as young as I once was." Nemacolin shook

his head. "It's more than youth, my brother. Nemacolin is not so young

any more either. It is the mind. It is concentration. The hunt

tomorrow will hone the old skills, make them sharp again."

Fitz leaned his back against the wall. Nemacolin put the venison

steaks he brought into the fire. He handed Fitz some berries that he

collected earlier.

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"It is very lonely here." Fitz said, finally forcing himself to

spit the words out. Nemacolin met his eyes with a direct gaze. "That

is true," He said. "In your world it is a matter of survival." He

leaned against the wall.

"Each of us has to survive. Some of us must do more than others.

You are a white man. Most white men are free. But your white brethren

treat you as an Indian. Neither of us is free, yet both of us live with

more freedom than most men because our spirits are free. No one can

capture and confine our spirits." He paused, reflectively studying the

fire.

"What you must do to survive, is to live in the wilderness. As

long as you stay in the wilderness, you will be free."

"I sometimes wonder if I would not be more free if I turned myself

in, and accepted the prison sentence. At least there I could have some

people to talk with, people I could see every day." Fitz said.

Nemacolin turned toward Fitz. "You would not live to see the

inside of the white man's prison." He said, matter-of-factly. The

King's bounty hunters would see you dead, first. They will never take a

chance that you might escape."

The venison began to spit and bubble. Nemacolin moved it further

from the flames. "They would roast you, as we roast this meat tonight."

Fitz stared blankly into the fire. "You must remain here, my

brother." Nemacolin said, sadly.

After they ate, they sat in silence, watching the rising embers

for several hours. Even in silence, for Fitz, it was like the re-

charging of a battery. Human contact rejuvenated him, and lessened the

deep sorrow within him.

He awoke with the dawn, renewed, and eager for the hunt.

Nemacolin shot the first deer with an arrow. Fitz brought down a turkey

with his long rifle.

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Nemacolin set up a target in the hollow the way he had when they

first met. They took turns shooting the long rifle and the pistols.

They returned to the cave tired, carrying meat and skins from the

animals they had killed, extolling the magnificence and beauty of the

animals, as was the Indian custom.

They smoked some of the meat, and put the rest in the cool, dark

cave which served to keep it fresh for several weeks.

The next day they walked to the pond at Westown. They swam near

the headwaters of the river, and fished the banks, filling the basket

with trout and bass and perch.

In the evening, they walked to Promontory Rock, to watch the

unusually beautiful sunset. The mackerel clouds reflected the deep red

of the sun against the grey-blue sky. It was there that Fitz cried, for

the first time in his adult life, relating to Nemacolin the story of

Katie and young Edward. Nemacolin offered comfort. "I have come to sit

with you in grief." It was the Indian way.

******************

Fitz removed the rock top from the hidden chamber inside his cave

home. He had managed to amass a substantial fortune in a short time

from the money he stole from the crown.

While Jonas Webster was away during the war, his wife took over

for him, distributing the money Fitz delivered to families facing

financial troubles in the area. Many families were starving while their

husbands and fathers were serving with the Colonial Army.

He met her in the field behind her barn late one summer evening.

She had seen his signal from the dense brush bordering the sloping wheat

field, and walked toward him. Her two dogs stayed by her side.

They were hounds, dark in color, suspicious, very protective of

her, and extremely well-trained. They followed her every command.

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Fitz said little, as he dropped the bag into the field. "Any word

from Jonas?" He asked. "Yes. He is somewhere in Virginia, just a few

miles from the Chesapeake Bay. He feels that General Washington will

soon trap the last of the British Regulars, and this damnable war will

be over." Fitz nodded.

"How are things with you and the children?" He asked. "Good."

She said, quietly. She was not prone to complaining, but she, along

with thousands of other wives, was extremely tired of war. She would be

delighted beyond words to have her husband return home safely, and she

looked forward to the day when they might be able to move back to their

home, and could regain the land they lost in the British occupation to

Squire Morgan, and other puppets of the British regime.

She thanked Fitz. "You have been a great help to many people."

She said to him. She looked down to pick up the bag. By the time she

looked up again, he was gone.

As Fitz walked in the underbrush north of the meadow, heading

toward the trail back to Turk's Head, two figures silently appeared,

observing the valley below from a high rock.

One waved his arm, signalling across the meadow. Two more figures

quickly appeared. None made a sound. The tan-colored tail of a coon

skin cap waved in the breeze. Fitz walked faster, hiking the long rifle

in, close to his body, holding it tightly against his shoulder.

Suddenly, four men burst into a small clearing, two ahead of him,

and two behind. All four pointed weapons directly at Fitz' chest.

Cyrus, the unwashed, could contain himself no longer. Giggling

nervously, and uncontrollably, at his good fortune in finally capturing

Fitz, he ordered his men to take his weapons in a high, squeaky, shaking

voice.

They tied Fitz hands, chaining his feet together, and began the

long march back to Turk's Head. They arrived just before dawn, having

marched him unmercifully all night, through swamps, thorny vegetation,

183
over boulders, and through dense forest. Cyrus called the sheriff out

from the courthouse, and standing on the stone steps in front of it,

with arms crossed triumphantly across his chest, had him place Fitz in

the stocks beside the front door.

Once Fitz was securely locked up, Cyrus began to dance with glee,

relaxing in the common. He squealed delightedly, patting himself on the

back, celebrating his glorious triumph, as the sun came up. Cyrus

immediately sent word to Earl Calder and the Governor, that, at long

last, the infamous Captain Fitz was his captive.

Cyrus could not resist teasing Fitz, especially since he was

securely restrained. He often held a pistol up to Fitz' face, and waved

it under his nose. "We're going to have a hanging!" He sang, "We're

going to have a hanging!" He sang out to any one who would listen.

Then he danced his wicked little dance.

His men joined him in the dance. Soon, school children from the

valley were dancing with them. Curious villagers, roused from their

beds by the noise, who wished to catch a glimpse of the legendary

Captain Fitz gathered around him.

Regina, who was on her way to the Inn, stopped in her tracks,

stunned by the sight she beheld. She blinked once, then twice. She

gasped, covering her mouth with her hand. "Ehhhhh?" Cyrus said,

unfortunately having been there to see her surprised look. He squealed

the words in her direction. "Friend of yours, Ehhhhh, lassy?" He

asked, teasingly.

Regina turned quickly and disappeared into the path from whence

she came. Cyrus followed her for a few seconds, but quickly gave up on

her. He was having too much fun gloating in Fitz' face, and leading the

jeers of his unwashed, unprincipled, and uncouth men.

Regina made her way to the Inn by a different path, taking the

long way around, this time avoiding the village green totally. She went

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to work immediately, getting the day's bread into the ovens as quickly

as she could.

Then, she excused herself, first getting another maid to cover for

her, then she boarded the morning coach for Chester town.

Arriving at Chester town, she made her way to the waterfront,

walking down the side of the slip, approaching a group of men there.

She spoke to the first boatman she met. "Please, Sir." She asked. "I

am searching for a man they call 'Black Will.' Have you heard of him?"

The boatman looked at her, askance. "Why would such a fine-

looking woman be looking for a nigger, the likes of Black Will?" He

asked, reaching out with his arm. He pulled her to him, and fondled her

breasts, roughly. The other men laughed, and gathered around them.

She pushed him away, slapping his face. "Leave me alone, you

drunken slob!" She swore at him. Other boatmen in the slip laughed,

and swore at her, making lewd gestures and catcalls in her direction.

She fully expected to be held there and gang-raped. She gathered

herself together for one last burst of strength, pushing the learing

drunk out of her face a second time. She wrapped her fingers around the

small dagger she carried in her belt under her cloak.

She backed away slowly from the band of drunks, who gathered

around a smudgepot, warming their hands in the morning chill.

She sniffed back the urge to cry, turned, and started to walk

toward Front Street, away from the pier, realizing they had lost

interest, and would not follow her.

A young man ran to her side as she walked. He had been at the far

end of the slip, and was able to hear the earlier exchange. She looked

at him.

He was merely a boy. He appeared to be ten or twelve years old.

Still, something about his fierce independent spirit made her think he

might be able to help.

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"I know of the man you asked about." The boy said, as he walked

by her side. "Black Will is a freedman, a former slave. He lives out

on yonder island." He pointed to a green mass in the middle of the

Delaware River. "Hog Island, they call it."

The boy smiled, as they walked. Suddenly, Regina stopped, and

looked at him. He was about as tall as she. His dark hair was thick

and curly, and his brown eyes were deep-set, giving his face a wizened

look well beyond his years. His ruddy complexion reflected long,

difficult days in the hot sun, poling his small skiff near the shore,

gathering clams, oysters, and spearing flounder in the evenings.

Regina smiled. "What is your name?" She asked. "Daniel." He

answered. "Please, mum, if your intent is to hire a boat to take you to

Hog Island, hire mine. I'm a good boatman. I will be most careful to

deliver you safely. And I know Black Will. He is much less likely to

fire a shot in my direction than he is any of the other boatmen on this

pier."

The boy reached out and shook Regina's hand, hopefully. "Are you

sure you can get me to this Black Will?" She asked, studying his young

face carefully.

"I can get you there." He said, confidently. "All right," She

responded. "How much will you charge?" He took her by the hand and led

her gleefully down the dock beside the slip. "Oh, I will be very fair,

mum. I will charge much less than any of the others."

Regina kept her eyes straight ahead as they walked near the other

boatmen who had jeered her minutes before. The one who had molested

her, stepped around the corner as they passed. "That boy will sink

you!" He said, teasingly. "He don't know nothin' about sailin' a boat

across this harbor!" Another said.

"Don't you worry about a thing, mum." Daniel said, climbing down

the ladder to untie his skiff while Regina waited on the dock above.

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Then he held the boat steady, closing his eyes while Regina hoisted her

skirts and followed him down the ladder.

The boat was white, with red trim. It sparkled in the rising

sunlight. The water washed against the piers with a softly musical

rhythm. Daniel brought the boat about in a most practiced manner.

Regina felt a building confidence in this young man's unique abilities.

The men on the dock above whistled, and screamed foul insults in

their direction. Daniel paddled the boat about carefully, and guided it

down the side of the slip, past the wooden pilings standing at mute

attention, groaning softly with the rising tide.

Soon they were away from the pier and floating gently on the

moderate swells of blue-green foaming water. The shore loomed dark on

the horizon, dark and green with brilliant blotches of primary colors,

where buildings had been randomly constructed to fulfill the changing

needs of the settlement.

How remote it seemed to Regina, once they were a few hundred yards

off shore. The settlement at Chester was quickly swallowed up by the

invasive wilderness surrounding it, when seen from a distance.

At times like this, when every turn in the road seemed cause for

despair, and her world seemed so overwhelmingly hostile, she wondered

why she stayed in so distant an outpost. Still, she was a Farrally, and

was born of a sturdy stock of Scottish nomads, who settled first in

Northern Ireland, then later took off to the New World, in search of

fortune.

The New frontier offered great rewards to those lucky enough and

tough enough to endure. For some reason, the Farrallys, along with many

others of Scotch-Irish descent, seemed always to find their way to the

roughest frontier.

They cut the forests, cleared the land, traded with the Indians,

opened the trading posts, operated the taverns, dug the canals, and

later sailed the canal boats in the New World.

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They fought and clawed their way to success in the wilderness, or

died trying. Unfortunately, too many were in the latter category.

Regina took a deep breath, and buried her growing feelings of self-pity,

concentrating, instead, on the considerable tasks at hand.

"There will be a ferry here, soon." Daniel explained to her, as

he rowed steadily. "Oh?" Regina asked. "Yes. And I will be the man

what runs it." Daniel said, proudly, puffing his chest with the words.

Regina eyed the youngster with skepticism. Then, as she pondered

his confident air, his capable boat handling, and the spark of defiant

energy that almost jumped from his eye, she began to think that this

young man might manage to do as he claimed.

"Why would you be the one to operate the ferry, and not the

others?" She asked, challenging him. Young Daniel puffed his chest, as

he answered, pulling hard on the oars. "Because I am sober." He said,

simply. "And because I save my money, where they squander theirs on

drink, and loose women."

Regina smiled. She had spent her life catering to the kind of man

the boy was describing. She knew the wisdom of his words. Would, she

thought, that she had one tenth of all the money she had seen squandered

in her very presence, on drink, and women with few morals. She nodded.

"I've begun already to negotiate with the owners of the pier."

Daniel said, his entrepreneurial gusto punctuating his words. "There is

a settlement springing up just across the river from Chester town, and

they are already bringing materials up the river from Delaware Colony.

One day, soon, they will have need for a way across this river, to

deliver their freight. I intend to be the man what provides that

service, mum. I have heard rumors that after the war is over, they may

be opening another powder plant down the river a piece. The man who

will build it is called Elfreth. He is a Frenchman. I saw him once,

not long ago. He was in Chester town, and he stood on that pier, right

where you were standing just a few minutes ago. I could tell by the way

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he was pointing toward the New Jersey side, just what he was thinking.

He was thinking that was where he wanted to build his plant. Yessir.

I'm going to be the one what runs the ferry for him."

"I'm sure you will be." Regina said, half seriously. She looked

at her young boatman, half the size of his competition. Where did he

get such spunk? She wondered. How much the boy reminded her of young

Edward FitzSimon, when she first met him, in terms of spunk and grit.

"What do you know of Black Will?" She asked. "Well, mum. He was

a born slave. So, as you might imagine, he doesn't take kindly to many

who come looking for him, especially white folks.

There is a bounty hunter in these parts, named Cyrus." Daniel

continued. "He tried to take Black Will once. He and three of his men.

See, Will is a freedman. He bought his freedom from his master, legal-

like.

Well, Cyrus, the little runt, he runs with the Gap Gang, and they

would sell anybody for a price. It don't matter to them if the people

they chase are free or not free. If they can make a reward, they will

do it, if they can't, well, there's plenty of people that will buy them

back as slaves, and send them off into the wilderness to work for the

rest of their lives. Lots of them disappear, never to be seen again, so

they tell me."

"What happened when they tried to take Black Will?" She asked.

The boat began to rock softly from the current, and the swirling eddies

from the treacherous rocks near the southern end of the island.

He concentrated on the rowing, holding the boat steady. "That's

how Black Will lost his leg." Young Daniel explained, in between

strokes with the oars. "At least that's what they say. Poor Will

was......."

His explanation was cut short by the sound of a rifle. A shot

whistled through the air overhead. "Halt as you go, there!" A deep,

melodious voice rang out from the wooded shadows above the banks of the

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island. The words were followed by the squealing of pigs, and the

bleating of lambs. Barking dogs danced among them, edging toward the

shore.

"Wait, Will!" Daniel shouted to the unseen gunman. "It's me!

It's me, Daniel Derry!!"

The bushes parted noisily. The frenetic barking increased. A

black face peered down upon the boat. A long rifle lifted suddenly,

taking aim on its hapless passengers.

"Who is the woman?" Black Will called out. The dogs ran through

the shallows and surrounded the boat, barking and dancing around it,

jumping up to the sides, and snarling at the passengers.

Daniel turned to his passenger, and gestured with his hand. She

spoke. "I am Regina Farrally. I come to you from Turk's Head. I hope

to have a word with you. I need your help."

"Help?" Black Will said, fairly spitting the words. "Why should

I help you, or anybody, white or any color, for that matter?"

"I need help in dealing with a man I believe you know. A man they

call Cyrus."

Will stepped out of the bushes, and limped into the water. He

waded to the boat, still training the rifle on them. He ordered the

dogs to back off. They did, but continued to circle the two warily.

"What about Cyrus?" He asked, putting his rifle butt inside the

boat, pulling it close to the shore. Daniel held the boat steady, while

Will tied the line to a tree. Daniel helped Regina to step onto the

landing. All but the most curious of the pigs and lambs watching them

scattered. The dogs followed.

"I have come to you to ask your help in getting a message to

Skull." Regina explained, speaking quickly. "I am told that you may be

the only person who can reach Skull with a message."

"Without ending up in two or three separate pieces." Will

laughed. He looked off toward the horizon. His face became serious.

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"Tis likely true!" He said. "Tis likely true. I am the only one who

could reach Skull with a message."

"I need desperately to get a message to him. Cyrus has captured a

man, and is holding him prisoner on the green at Turk's Head. I must

ask Skull's help. I fear that no one else can save him."

Will laughed, turning his head toward the heavens as he did. "You

want to ask Skull for help? Don't you know the man is a murderous

pirate?" He paused. "And why should I be interested in saving this man

that I do not even know?" Will asked.

"His name is Captain Fitz." Regina said, looking directly at

Will. "Perhaps you have heard of him?" Will smiled, pushing the brim

of his hat back. "I have, indeed." He said.

"I have heard of him. Skull himself told me of this man who walks

into Marcus Hook, uninvited, and lives to tell about it." He raised his

finger to make a point. "No one walks into Marcus Hook and lives to

tell about it."

Daniel sat, taking every word in. "Cyrus, eh?" Black Will said,

sitting down on a log after a while. He tapped his wooden leg with the

rifle butt. "Cyrus, I owe for the loss of my leg."

Regina's face showed sympathy. She clucked her tongue. Will

continued. "When I was a lad about the age of this youngster, I was a

slave. I was born a slave. My master was called John Shapleigh. He

treated me fairly, in the end. At least as fairly as any man could, who

would hold another in slavery.

He allowed me to buy my freedom, and let me do it over time. I

saved everything I could get my hands on, and, eventually, met the price

he named. When I did, he made good on his word, and I became a

freedman." He turned toward Daniel.

"Young Daniel, here, he is about to do the same. He has saved

everything he gets his hands on. He is about to become the first man to

run a ferry from Chester town to the New Jersey side."

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Regina nodded. "He told me on the way over." "I learned from

Black Will that If I save my money, I can do whatever I want to, if I'm

willing to work hard enough." Daniel said, proudly.

"Cyrus." Black Will said, spitting the words with venom, "Cyrus,

he came along, a few years after I had bought my freedom, fair and

square." He sighed, deeply. "After Molly and I came out here to this

God-forsaken stump of land in the middle of a swamp, where we stay and

take care of the white man's pigs. Molly is my wife." Will said,

offering an explanation in response to the quizzical looks on their

faces.

He waved his hand toward the small, thatched hut at the top of the

embankment. It sat surrounded by a dark clump of trees and thickened

vegetation that kept it totally hidden from view, except from a vantage

point on the shore of the island. A white woman, with red hair peered

around the hut, then disappeared when she saw Regina and Daniel looking

her way.

"Yes." Will said, explaining further. "My wife is white. As

white as you. That is another good reason why I stay out here away from

prying eyes.

The breeze lifted a strong waft of pig odor down upon them from

the back side of the island. Regina tried not to show that she noticed,

but unsuccessfully. Will apologized.

"The smell of these animals is enough to drive almost anyone, at

least anyone without a strong need for being left alone, away. We get

used to it." He said with a shrug. "Bigger problem is that we have no

fresh water. We can save what we need in the cisterns when there is

rain, but when it doesn't rain, it is tough."

"Cyrus?" Daniel asked Will, after a while, bringing him back to

the topic at hand. "Cyrus," Will continued, followed me out here one

night, with three of his men. They meant to sell me south. I did not

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know they were following me until they jumped me. Right here, on this

little landing." He frowned at the recollection.

"Hadn't of been for Molly, I'd be back on some plantation right

now." "What happened?" Daniel asked. "Molly shot one of them. Killed

him deader than a mackerel. She shot at the others, too. One of them

shot me in the leg as they were rowing out of here. It was a bad wound.

It turned gangrenous, and she had to bring a doctor out from Chester

town to amputate."

"I'm sorry." Regina said, wringing her hands as he talked. "But,

didn't the sheriff, or anybody try to help you?" Daniel asked. Black

Will shook his head. He was a very large man, a man made legendary by

his reclusiveness. "No one helps a nigger." He said, sadly. Then he

puffed his chest, proudly.

"But that doesn't mean that Black Will won't help someone else.

If it means burying that vermin, Cyrus, Black Will can be very generous

and giving."

Regina smiled. "How can I help?" He asked, enthusiastically.

"Can you get a message to Skull?" Black Will took a pencil from his

pocket and handed it to Regina. He held out a piece of parchment from

his shirt pocket. "What would you like it to say?" He asked.

****************

Fitz stiffened against the stocks. The wooden clamps on his neck

and wrists held him fast, allowing him no motion whatever. He leaned on

the bench behind him and strained his muscles, continually trying to

keep from strangling.

Cyrus had held him in the stocks for more than twenty four hours,

and had convinced the magistrate that Fitz should endure periodic

floggings, both to provide an example for others who might decide to

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break the law, and to be able to report to the King that some

retribution for his years of highway robbery had begun.

Fitz' back was raw and sore from the floggings. He was given

occasional drops of water to drink, and only a few pieces of bread to

eat.

Children continued to harass him, occasionally, but their interest

dropped off markedly when Cyrus and his men gave it up, and went off in

search of wine and whores to while away the time before a company of

British Regulars arrived to take Fitz to Philadelphia to stand trial.

A message had been received early in the day, indicating their

intended arrival before sundown. They did not have the advantage of

unmolested free passage through the territory as they had during the

early stages of the war. Hostile bands of Colonial sympathizers roamed

about, inflicting damage upon the British whenever they could.

Cyrus reappeared, at the far end of the common, leading a

procession across the green. He was followed by two of his men, the

sheriff, the county magistrate, and six British Officers. Surrounding

the green were several dozen British soldiers holding positions that

appeared to cut off access to the green from any direction.

Cannons were aimed in the direction of the green at the terminus

of the road to Philadelphia, known as the Turk's Head Highway, and at

the road to Christiana, covering the northerly and easterly approaches.

These were the best roads, and would be the most logical directions from

which an ambush might be expected to come.

Cyrus bent down, grinning into Fitz' face. He could not control

himself and giggled as the Sheriff unlocked the stockade. On the porch

of the Turk's Head Inn, Regina stood with a party of her neighbors and

acquaintances from the village. They walked down the stairs, and stood

nearby on the common.

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On the steps of the courthouse, stood the wife of Jonas Webster

and six or eight other women, all dressed as maids, taking a chance on

not being discovered by the British.

There was a barely perceptible glint of sunlight on steel in the

bushes behind the British soldiers guarding the Turk's Head Highway.

From the dense underbrush on both sides of the road, pirates launched a

silent, murderous, slashing attack with sharpened steel. British

soldiers fell like tenpins.

By the time the officers in charge of the affair realized what was

happening, an all-out counter-attack was launched on the invading

pirates by the British. But the surprise element of the pirate attack

was total, and the confused British soldiers killed as many of their own

as they did pirates.

The westerly cannon fired once, spraying shot wildly. The

superior forces of the pirates quickly silenced the crew, then turned

both cannon on the fleeing British.

After most of the British had been routed, and those left alive

sent running off into the wilderness, the loud jingling of a harness

announced the arrival of Skull, who drove his jousting car across the

green.

He swerved, at the last instant and turned it toward the fleeing

Cyrus, who made it to within feet of the potential safety of the woods.

Cyrus turned to fire his pistol at Skull. Skull bellowed with laughter,

and reached down, lifting Cyrus off his feet with one huge arm, never

leaving his car. Cyrus squirmed, and squealed, kicking both feet

helplessly as Skull pulled him aboard.

Skull turned his car back, and drove it onto the grass beside

Fitz. He opened the stocks with his free hand, while holding Cyrus

tightly, by the scruff of the neck, with his other arm.

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The British Colonel who almost had Fitz within his grasp, ran

after his men, toward the woods, south of the village. As he ran, he

turned and fired his pistol toward Skull and Fitz.

He fell like a log, his feet twisted by the parasol Regina used to

trip him. He looked up at her and was about to unleash a flurry of

curses, and to aim the pistol at her. She swung the parasol with both

hands, landing it upon his head with a hard thud. His eyes went vacant,

and he crashed headlong into the mud.

"I can never thank you enough." Fitz muttered to Skull, barely

able to stand, as the pirate released him. "You got here just in time."

School children threw rocks at the retreating British, and cheered as

the last of them disappeared into the woods.

Skull's men were in hot pursuit of the soldiers, stabbing and

looting any who happened to fall, or not run fast enough. Skull stood

beside Fitz, and threw Cyrus to two of his pirates, who quickly tied him

up and mounted him across the side of the jousting car, tying him there

hand and foot. He squealed like an excited pig. "Gag him!" Skull

commanded. "I'll not listen to that all the way back to Marcus Hook."

"What will you do with him?" Regina asked Skull, pointing to

Cyrus. He smiled, and stood, twirling the ends of his mustaches for a

moment. His eyes gleamed, under his bushy eyebrows. "I have just the

place for Cyrus." Skull said, patting the top of Cyrus' head. Then he

quickly wiped his hand on his breeches. "He will accompany me to my

island paradise." Skull said, laughing. "He will make an excellent

slave. We will clean him up, and put him in charge of the pigs." Cyrus

kicked and squirmed, but to no avail. He was tied too tightly to go

anywhere other than where Skull wanted him.

Without another word, Skull patted Fitz on the shoulder, then

hoisted his huge leg aboard the car, settling into the rear seat. The

vehicle strained and groaned under his huge bulk. He raised his hand in

salute to Fitz, bowed to Regina and the other ladies, and bellowed a

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command to his pirates, who stopped pillaging, gathered up what loot

they could carry and disappeared into the woods behind Skull, who

stopped at the far edge of the clearing, turned back toward Fitz and

waved one last time.

Fitz waved back, then put a hand on Regina's and looked her in the

eye. "Thank you." He said, quietly. She smiled and nodded, then grew

serious. "You must go, quickly." She said. The British will be back,

I am certain of it. They will not give up on you."

Fitz nodded. He had now been seen by a number of people. It

would be much more difficult to keep from being recognized. He knew

that he had no choice. "Tomorrow night." She whispered, as he

disappeared into the forest, dragging his tired and tortured body along

the edge of the clearing until he found the old Indian trail leading off

in the direction of Castle Rock.

Gradually, his muscles stretched out and he began to feel

stronger. He walked swiftly into the night.

*************

It was several months later. Fitz had healed his wounds from his

captivity in the stocks. The whip marks on his back had healed, and he

rested his sore muscles. He tried not to dwell on the realization that

he would have recovered more quickly when he was younger.

He spent one evening on Promontory Rock, observing a hazy sundown.

It was late September, and they were in the middle of Indian summer,

with hot, humid days. The nights were not much cooler. This particular

night, the hot weather had begun to break.

A breeze scattered the edges of the hazy cloud, near the horizon.

In the areas cleared by the breeze, the sun shone a vivid red, sending

streaks of bright light across the heavens.

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He contemplated his good fortune. How lucky he was that Regina

was willing to risk her life to save his. How lucky, for him, that she

had been able to get word to Skull. How lucky for him, that she had

remembered hearing him mention, only once, that Black Will was the only

courier that Skull trusted enough to allow him near the compound. He

smiled, lying against a rock, thinking about Regina. He determined to

visit her in the morning.

With the first light, Fitz set off toward Turk's Head village, as

he had so many times before. It was now October of 1781, and the war

was nearly over.

Outside the new tavern building across the common from the Turk's

Head Inn, he noticed four horses being tended by a stable hand. It was

very early in the morning for anyone to be arriving, and the commotion

caught his attention.

He watched from his safe haven in the brush for a while, intrigued

by what he saw. Soon four British officers left the tavern and walked

to the livery stable, where they took up a conversation with the stable

hand.

By their hand gestures as they talked, it appeared that they were

looking for someone.

He continued on his way until he met Regina, who was almost to the

Inn. He signaled her, and they met in their usual spot, in the pine

grove below the Inn. "I do want to thank you, Regina, for all you've

done for me." He said, again. "You have saved my worthless neck more

times than I deserve." She hugged him. "Not so." She said, her face

turning red, then serious. "You deserve it. You've done a lot of good

things for many people who don't even know if you really exist."

He smiled. "I'm not sure that a lot of my victims would agree

with you, but thank you." He said. "I saw four British officers at the

new tavern. They just arrived. It looked as though they had ridden all

night." He said to her, pointing over his shoulder, as he talked.

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"That's odd." She said. "The word we get is that the war is almost

over, and that any British who are still able, are heading for the pier

while they can. I wonder why these four would be riding so deep into

Colonial territory?"

He shook his head. "I don't know, but I don't like the looks of

it." He said, looking toward the sky. The sun was rising, allowing

ribbons of new dawn light to creep into the forest. "I must go." He

said, taking her hand. "I wanted to see you to thank you again. Thank

the Lord you were able to find Black Will and get him to talk to Skull."

"And thank the Lord Skull was willing to listen and to help." She

said. He put his hand on her arm. "You be very careful around these

British. It's hard to tell what they might be up to." He kissed her

lightly on the cheek and stepped into the dank forest, and was gone.

Regina stood for a second, savoring the tingling sensation she had

on her cheek. She breathed in the smell of buckskin that was Fitz, and

the faint odor of the berry oil that Nemacolin taught Fitz to rub into

his skin to help keep the flies, chiggers, and mosquitos of the deep

woods at bay.

Later, she was at work in the kitchen of the Inn, when the four

British officers entered. She turned quickly away from them, when she

realized that one of them was the man she had knocked unconscious with

the parasol.

She was not quick enough. He recognized her. "I say, there,

wench." He demanded. "Come here." She stopped in her tracks, still

facing away from the officer. One of the other officers grabbed her by

the arm, and twirled her around, roughly.

The first officer stood there, staring into her face. She tried

not to flinch, but there was a look of cold steel in his penetrating

gaze. There was meanness and treachery in his countenance. She looked

down. "Yessir?" She asked, scraping the floor with her shoe.

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"Well?" Another officer asked. "Is this the wench?" The first

officer smiled. He put his hand on the grip of his pistol. "It is."

He said. He put his finger on the trigger. "It is, indeed." He rubbed

the still-tender nub on his head. Regina squirmed uncomfortably. The

other employees of the Inn backed away.

The officer drew his pistol, and pointed it at Regina. "I don't

like to be made a fool." He said, aiming the gun at her forehead.

"Especially by a woman." He grinned, obviously enjoying the moment.

"We have word that you have been seen with our prisoner, Captain

Fitz." Regina shook her head, vigorously. "No, captain. That is not

true."

"Quiet!!" The officer said. His voice was sharpened with rage.

"We know otherwise." He pulled his jacket back, and holstered the

pistol. Two of the others took her by the arms. "You will take us to

him!" He announced. "Now!!"

"No, Sir." She protested. "I cannot do that! I do not know

where to find this Fitz person. I know nothing of him. No one had even

seen him until the day he was brought to this village in irons. No one

even knew if he existed or not."

They pushed Regina out into the common, shoving her over the steps

so hard that she fell to the ground. They dragged her to her feet, and

toward the waiting horses.

She was dragged onto a horse with one of the officers, who held

her in front of him. They spurred the horses onto the Turk's Head

Highway, heading east, toward Philadelphia. All along the way, they

continued to question her. It became apparent to her that these

officers knew quite a lot about Fitz, and even had a good idea that he

lived in a cave somewhere in the vicinity of Castle Rock.

"I do not know where to find this Captain Fitz. No one knows

where he lives." She protested. "Then you admit you know him?" An

officer asked. "No. I admit to no such thing." She answered. The

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officer with which she was riding slapped her face, hard. "We know you

know him. You have been seen with him. You have been seen with him

recently."

Regina choked back tears. A drop of blood formed in the corner of

her mouth. "All right," she admitted. "I have seen him. But he always

comes to me. I swear I do not know where he lives."

The first officer smiled. "We shall go to Castle Rock. That is

the area where he has been seen most by those who have been victims of

his thieving nature. We will find him, for sure."

They rode hard for over an hour, and stopped at the bottom of the

long hill leading up to Castle Rock. The road was little more than the

width of a wagon, and had been roughly chiseled out of solid granite.

Over the years, Fitz had watched workers come and try to improve

the hill, but they could only chip away tiny portions of the rock,

ending up, usually, by making it worse. What wasn't solid rock, it

seemed, was marine clay, always soft, always slippery, and with a hint

of rain, it swallowed wagon wheels, and sometimes whole wagons with a

voracious appetite.

"That would be a good place from which to watch the comings and

goings of traffic on this road." The first officer said, pensively,

pointing to the large slabs of granite high above them. "Aye, sir.

That is where I would be, were I this thieving scoundrel." Another

said.

The granite slabs stood out, jutting from the cliffs, high above

the dense, virgin forest, which rolled gently away from the natural rock

outpost. The others agreed. That would be the ideal place for a hide-

out. Regina could do nothing but ride with them.

They slowly climbed the grade, keeping well to the sides of the

road. They stayed under the cover of the trees that nearly closed

together over their heads, shading the road almost totally from the

noonday sun.

201
As they crossed the place in the road where runoff from the rocks

eroded the soil, and often washed away large sections of the road, there

was a gulley leading off to the right. It circled around the rock

sections high above, and offered enough of a clearing for a man to get

through on foot.

Suddenly the first officer stopped, raising his hand in a call for

silence. The second officer holding Regina held her mouth closed with

his hand.

The first officer's horse turned, nervously prancing about,

spinning in small circles. He fought to keep the horse from rearing.

The first officer hauled in the reins tightly and brought the animal

under control.

He pointed across the gulley with an extended arm. The others

strained to see. There was a wisp of smoke, thin and grey, that escaped

from the thick forest above the ridge. Then he pointed again, further

to the right this time, still without words.

He removed a looking glass from his saddle bag, extended it and

looked over the forest, all around that area, stopping, again, in the

same place.

He reined his horse in and turned to the others. His face was

split with a wicked, supremely confident grin. He handed them the

glass. There, high above the world, removed from life in the valley

below, sat, on a flat, granite rock, Captain Fitz, busily at work,

cutting up vegetables up for his winter's store.

His buckskin jacket was rolled up neatly behind him, and he sat,

shirtless, in the hot sun. Regina gasped when she finally was able to

make out what they were seeing. Even without the advantage of the

glass, she recognized Fitz, sitting on the rocks.

She bit the hand of the second officer holding her. He lost his

grip on her. His horse whirled, excitedly. She screamed, "Fitz!!!

Run, Fitz!!!" The officer quickly regained his grip on her, and stuffed

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a piece of sheepskin into her mouth, roughly, gagging her and nearly

suffocating her in the process. Only by staying still and quiet, was

she able to keep breathing.

Fitz stood up, reaching behind him for the rifle. He looked down

toward them in the valley. They could see him clearly on the rock. "I

am tempted to put a ball into him from here." One of the British

whispered. The first officer stilled him with a wave of his hand, as

Fitz turned away, seeing nothing amiss.

He ordered the men to split up, two to approach from the high land

behind the rocks. He, and the other man holding Regina would give them

time to make the climb, then approach from the gulley where they stood.

They tied the horses securely to trees on the low side of the

road, and tied Regina to a tree near them, leaving her trussed and

gagged uncomfortably. She had to remain still in order to breathe. The

four continued their pursuit on foot.

The two officers who were ordered into the high ground climbed

into the dense underbrush, and hiked steadily upward. The ground was

soft under their feet, and spongy. The moss that covered the ground was

a few inches thick, and was slippery as they walked over it.

They quickly discovered that climbing over the terrain their

leader had chosen for them was considerably more difficult than hiking

over roads, or trails, and was more than a match for the average white

man. Soon, they were panting heavily, having underestimated the

steepness of the climb.

The second officer stumbled several times as he pushed himself

beyond the point of exhaustion, trying to keep up. He stretched across

the edge of a cliff, stumbled again, and this time fell to his death

among the treacherous rocks. His partner could only assume it was

accidental, since the loose boulder he stepped on appeared simply to

dislodge from his weight. What he did not know was that it had been

carefully carved out on the bottom, and balanced precariously for just

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such an unwelcome visitor to Castle Rock. There were hundreds of others

placed elsewhere.

He marked the time, and, as well as he could, the location, in his

mind, knowing he would be asked to report the death to his superiors.

Then he forged on, pushing through the dense, wild growth.

At last, he reached the top of the high ground above the flat

rocks jutting out from the ridge. He climbed a small tree in order to

look down upon the rock where they had seen Fitz minutes before.

He could no longer see Fitz, who had moved away from his former

position, but he could see the rock. Further below, at the foot of the

gorge, he saw the other two British officers. He waved his arm. They

waved back. The thin wisp of smoke they had seen earlier emanated from

the rocks below. He deduced that it must be a cave. He congratulated

himself on positioning himself so well and climbed down from the tree.

He started down the mountainside, checking his rifle as he walked.

Without a sound, the earth opened beneath his feet. In a rush, his mind

told him there had been a rockslide, but that became his last earthly

thought. The sharpened stakes buried in the pit found their mark

hastily. He struggled, and bravely attempted to call out to the others,

but his life ebbed quickly and rather quietly, after all.

With the renewed confidence of having seen his man behind Fitz,

the first officer waved the other ahead, the two of them maintaining a

separation of a few hundred yards. Still thinking he outnumbered Fitz

four men to one, he and his man charged ahead fearlessly.

The saplings let loose with a rush of air, making a whistling

sound as they carried the third officer aloft, his foot mangled by the

loop that captured him and pulled him into the air.

The morning came alive with the urgent sounds of alarms. Bells

sounded by the released saplings brought Fitz to view, armed with his

long rifle, searching the forest frantically. He took aim, even as he

ran.

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A single shot rang out, echoing down the valley, booming off the

rocks with an ear-splitting rumble. The first officer dropped with only

a short, quiet groan, shot cleanly through the heart.

Fitz quickly ran down the mountain, stopping beside the British

officer dangling upside down from the rawhide rope. He recognized him

immediately as one of the four men he had seen in Turk's Head that

morning.

The officer was unconcious, and badly damaged, having been caught

between two of the saplings as they sprung to their upright position.

Fitz left him hanging there, and ran back to the other man he had

just shot. He was dead. Slowly, carefully, keeping his rifle at the

ready, he worked his way down the mountainside toward the road.

Seeing no other evidence of an attack, he moved slowly and kept

his long rifle at the ready just in case. Near the road, he saw the

horses, and Regina.

He quickly untied her. "What is going on?" He asked. "There are

four of them, Fitz!" She answered, as soon as he removed the sheepskin

from her mouth. "There are four of them! They split up. Two climbed

up over the ridge, to attack you from above. Two others approached you

from the gulley."

"Stay here." He said, helping her to her feet. "I will," She

said, taking a rifle from one of the saddles. "But I will keep this

handy, just in case."

Fitz departed into the forest-covered mountainside, following the

path of the first two British. Covering the territory quickly,

effortlessly, he climbed the ridge that had left both men panting.

He found the remains of the first officer in the rock slabs. He

moved on, quickly, after assuring himself that he was dead. Then he

found the other, who had blindly walked into the death trap Fitz

replicated from those at Marcus Hook.

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He cringed at the sight of the remains. Death is death, he

reminded himself. And war is death. He took several deep breaths,

wondering why all of this was necessary.

Having accounted for all four, he walked down the other side of

the mountain to Castle Rock, scanning the forest nervously for signs of

others, not previously accounted for. He went to the side of the

officer who was still dangling upside down. As he had suspected, he,

too, now was dead. He cut him down, examining the wound on his head in

the process. The blow from the trees had fractured his skull.

He walked down to the road where Regina sat waiting. "They are

all dead." He announced. "All?" Regina asked, putting down the rifle.

"All." He said, taking her by the arm. "Skull taught me some things

about protecting myself here, at Castle Rock. His lessons were well

learned. Too bad for these British."

"This war has been unmerciful." She said. "It has ruined so many

people's lives." "I am glad that it did not cost your life, in this

instance, or any other." He said, looking down at her. Regina smiled.

"I was sure they would have you, Fitz. They watched you on this

mountain from this very spot, observing your movements, while you were

unaware of their presence. How did you survive their attack?"

"Blind luck, I fear." He said. "Blind luck." He repeated,

shaking his head at the close call. "I must stay completely out of

sight. Too many have seen me. And now, there is another, besides

Nemacolin, who knows where I live." He said, turning to Regina. Their

eyes met in a long, wistful glance. Neither asked the question.

Neither had to. At that moment, both of them understood without a word

being spoken that Regina would come to live there, at Castle Rock, with

him. They would live together, maintaining their isolation from the

rest of the world. A tear formed in the corners of her eyes. Regina

smiled, and stood on her toes to kiss him on the cheek.

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"Come." He said. "We must tend to the remains of our unlucky

visitors. We will run their horses off, and cover their tracks. The

horses will return to the stable in the village. No one shall know what

happened to these four, unfortunate horsemen.

207
CHAPTER VII

Cold winds whipped through the valley below Castle Rock, blowing

snow into deep drifts that completely covered Turk's Head Highway. Snow

crystals stole into the cave on the bitter air currents that infiltrated

even the heavy bearskins covering the entrance.

The fire was nearly burned out, the coals skinned over with a

white, dusty film. There were barely enough hot embers left to rekindle

a fire.

Fitz stirred in the pink-tinted morning daylight. Regina snuggled

close to him. They shared a heavy bearskin rug for warmth. He stood

up, and gathered an armload of dry firewood from the deep cave behind

them.

He carefully placed the wood into the campfire, balancing smaller

pieces against larger. Soon, the kindling wood blazed with an even

flame, catching the logs, and glowing red embers drifted toward the

ceiling again.

As soon as Regina mentioned to Fitz that the British officers had

seen smoke from his fire, Fitz set about to clean the filtering

chambers, that Nemacolin designed for him.

When it was working properly, each successive chamber they built

into his fireplace held the gasses there until they ignited on

themselves, burning up more and more of the airborne solids, until what

eventually escaped to the atmosphere was almost invisible.

Fitz scraped and cleaned the buildup of soot and sap from the

stone surfaces of the chimney. Satisfied that he had solved the

problem, he moved on to the next winter project.

They had not seen another living soul since the early days of

October. It was now late February, and the blizzard raging outside was

208
unexpected. After a few teasing days of spring, winter had reared its

ugly head for another quick round of storms.

When Regina made the choice to stay at Castle Rock, she was driven

by Fitz' need for continued anonymity. Without it, she knew, he could

not survive. She knew that she had to help him by doing whatever she

could to maintain it.

"It saddens me, a great deal, to think that having been seen with

me has doomed you to the same life of loneliness that I have suffered

all these years." He said to her, when they discussed it, after she had

been there a few days.

Regina nodded, sadly. "It saddens me that you have had to live

your whole life this way for no good reason." She said,

sympathetically. "I am not saddened at all by this turn of events."

She smiled, and waved her hand around the surroundings. "This is quite

pleasant. We really have everything we need, right here."

"Aye." He agreed, taking a drink of cool, mountain spring water

from the earthenware crock he kept beside the spring. "Nemacolin set me

up well. Nemacolin, and the teachings of Robert prepared me well for

this assignment in life."

"Tell me about Robert." She asked, taking advantage of an

opportunity to learn more about Fitz than she ever hoped otherwise to

have known.

She loved to watch his expressive face as he talked of the people

who had meant something in his life. What a shame, she thought, that a

man with such innate abilities was forced to become a hermit, expecially

at such an early age.

Fitz learned much from having Regina to talk with. Her own

passage to Pennsylvania Colony had been not much better than his, he

found out. She was not alone. Her parents made the crossing with her.

They were on their way to the colony to open a frontier tavern.

The work force, besides her parents, was to consist of Regina, her three

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sisters and one brother. She was the eldest of the children, and the

only one to survive the cruel crossing.

Smallpox came aboard with the passengers, and the young children

and the elderly were the first to get it. One by one, her siblings took

sick and died. She and her parents nursed each one as best they could.

Regina came down with it as well, but, somehow, did not get it as badly,

and she survived with little ill effect.

Landing in Philadelphia, her parents took her with them to Turk's

Head, where they had intended to open their Inn. The funds they had

saved for the purpose proved to be insufficient, and they, instead took

a small cabin near the Turk's Head Inn, where her father opened a

blacksmith shop, but it proved to be an unsuccessful venture quickly,

and it used up the last of their funds.

Regina and her mother found work at the Inn, and her father ran

the livery stable. He became sick within the first two years they were

there. She and her mother took turns taking care of him over the next

few years until he died, then her mother became sick as well. Regina

took care of her mother until she died.

She had lived alone in the cottage since their deaths. Since she

did not own it, and had no family affairs that she had to attend to, she

and Fitz decided that it would be best for her to simply disappear,

telling no one that she had survived the abduction by the British.

Since others at the Inn had seen her taken away in captivity, it

would be believable that she had been killed by them.

Despite her joy at being with Fitz, she often missed her friends

at the Inn and in the village. Fitz observed her sometimes sad

countenance, which always brightened whenever she knew he was watching

her.

One night, during the January thaw, when the temperature became

quite moderate, he took her to Promontory Rock to observe the sunset.

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They walked along the slippery, clay trail through the forest. Parts of

it were as slippery as walking through a bucket of lard.

She stumbled, as they climbed to the rock. He caught her, and

held her tightly. Their eyes met in the fading light of day. "Fitz,

I....." She started to say, but stopped in mid-sentence. "What is it,

love?" He asked her, holding her securely in the crook of his arm.

Regina smiled, embarrassed, suddenly. Her face flushed. "Oh,

nothing." She said, changing the subject with a wave of her arm. "Oh,

the sunset is beautiful!" She said. He walked the rest of the way to

the rock with his arm around her.

They sat down on the rock. Regina sat in front of him, between

his legs. She leaned back against his chest. "I have always wanted to

be able to share this sight with someone, the way Nemacolin first shared

it with me." Fitz said, after a long silence.

"I am pleased to be able to share it with you." He said, holding

her close, shielding her from the chill air with his body. The sun

seemed suspended, just below the horizon. It flushed vibrant reds and

pinks against a rapidly darkening blue sky.

There was some snow and ice on the tree branches that had been

melting in the warm sun. The melting process was slowing as the

temperature dropped. The ice and water crystals shimmered, reflecting

the golden brilliance of the sun, and contrasting it against the dark,

shapeless hills.

Regina turned toward Fitz. "It is beautiful." She said. He

smiled, and responded by kissing her, full on the lips. She melted into

his arms.

She ran her fingers through his hair, and caressed his neck

softly. He held her, looking deeply into her eyes, content not to say a

word. He was used to one way communication.

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They returned after sunset, scaling the difficult rocks to the

cave entrance. "I will have to find a way to make this entrance easier

for you." Fitz said, holding back the bearskin rugs for her to enter.

Regina smiled. "It will not be necessary." She said, slipping

into his arms. "I will have to learn to climb better, that is all." He

laughed. They fell together onto the soft bearskin blankets, and

watched the embers drift over the campfire.

"I am falling in love with you, Regina." Fitz said, as they lay

together. She was silent for a moment, a thoughtful look upon her face.

"I have been in love with you for many years." She assured him,

finally. "Really?" He asked. "Really." She said again.

"But you were not free." She said. "No." He agreed. "There was

Katie. Poor Katie." He said, sadly. "Aye." Regina agreed. "Even

though she was betrothed to another, her heart belonged to you." She

paused. "Hers was not a happy lot, I am afraid. Still, she had her

time with you." She paused again, reflectively. Her face brightened.

"And then there is little Edward."

Fitz grimmaced. "I fear I shall never again see that child." He

lamented. She held his hand tightly in hers. "You may." She said,

softly. "One never knows." She looked at him. "Would you ever have

predicted we would end up here, like this?" He shook his head. "No,

definitely not." Regina smiled. "Unexpected things happen. He may

come into your life again sometime."

************

The coach rolled to a stop in front of the Sign of the Bear Inn on

Front Street in Chester, Pennsylvania. The wooden sign on the building

had a picture of a bear on it. Many people who could not read

recognized it by the image, in the custom of the day, and it became

known that way, even though it was actually called the Taylor Inn. The

door of the coach opened and out stepped Pierre Elfreth. He ducked in

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the front door, away from the prying eyes of the curious crowd of

onlookers.

It was 1782, and the war was over. Slowly, the people of the

colonies began to pick up the pieces and to rebuild their shattered

lives. Pierre Elfreth was in the thick of things in the rebuilding

effort. As young Daniel Derry had predicted to Regina, the Dufresne

Company was building a powder mill downstream only a few miles from

Chester.

In order to reach his targeted markets, Elfreth intended to ship

along the shore in New Jersey, where the cutting of a new road was

already underway. This road would provide him access to the settlements

along the eastern banks of the Delaware, and east of Trenton to New

Amsterdam.

Land and mineral rights were being acquired, rights of way

established, and Irish immigrants were being imported, and organized

into crews to do the construction work.

On the Pennsylvania side of the river, Chester was experiencing

good times, economically, as the mid-point on the trail between

Philadelphia and Wilmington. A paper mill was already constructed in

Chester.

Elfreth was meeting with representatives from the two states and

from the fledgling paper company, and he was meeting,as well, with

Daniel Derry, who had written him a letter regarding his potential need

for ferry service from the river bank at Chester.

At the age of fourteen, with the moral support of his friend,

Black Will, Daniel hoped to attract the financial support of Pierre

Elfreth in providing ferry service between Chester and Penns Grove.

Elfreth entered the lobby of the Inn, outside the meeting room

where the representatives from the two states were already seated.

Representatives from the mill were just sitting down.

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As promised in a letter to Daniel Derry, Elfreth met with him on

the steps of the side entrance to the Inn, away from the busy lobby.

It was a warm day. Spring was teasing yellowish shades of green

from the winter-dormant, brown vegetation. The sun beamed warmth onto

the shoreline of the Delaware.

Busy men worked freight onto ships moored in the slips awaiting

overseas shipments. Cranes groaned under the weight, as men winched

rolls of fabric, paper, and bags of grain into cargo holds. Rats

scurried aboard to wallow in the grain, deftly avoiding rat guards on

the hawsers that kept the vessels close to the piers.

"Mr. Elfreth, Sir. I am Daniel Derry." Daniel said, extending

his hand. Elfreth looked down, and smiled. For a moment amused that

the Mr. Derry who asked him for this meeting was hardly more than a boy.

"This is my advisor, Sir. His name is Will." Elfreth looked at

the somewhat ragged black man who extended his hand proudly. He looked

into Will's eyes. They were a very unusual color. They were light blue

and grey and seemed to reflect the sun's radiance.

Pierre Elfreth prided himself on being a good judge of people, as

a man able to pick the best from a crowd. Will's face, he noted, was

lined with creases, and his hair was curly and grey, trimmed neatly.

His chin had a polite proudness about it, and his mouth was firmly set.

His face reflected wisdom and trustworthiness, Elfreth was convinced.

Pierre Elfreth smiled, and shook Will's hand in a vigorous

greeting. Other white men walking past them looked down their noses at

him for even touching a negro. Pierre Elfreth knew, instinctively, that

this was a man he could trust, that he was a man to count on.

Daniel Derry reflected the same spark of honesty and integrity.

Elfreth shook his hand with equal zeal. Without hearing the terms of

their deal, he knew he would accept it. He knew that these gentlemen

would deliver exactly what they said they would, and when they said they

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would do it. He looked wistfully toward the meeting room inside, and

wished he would find half as good a bargain there.

"Please, sir. As I said in my letter to you, I wish to provide

ferry service from one shore to the other, giving you access to markets

through both Chester and Penns Grove for your powder.

If you are willing to advance me the money to build my ferry, and

to allow us access to property you own on both shores, Will and I will

build the loading ramps with timbers from his island. Further, we will

agree to operate the ferry at your convenience. You will have the most

reliable operators in the two colonies at your disposal, Sir."

Elfreth smiled. "How much will you need?" He asked, taking his

wallet from his pocket. "We need one hundred dollars, Sir." Daniel

said, confidently. "Very well." Elfreth said, levelling a studied

glance in Daniel's direction. "I assume that you have already estimated

exact costs for your venture?"

Daniel nodded. "Yessir. We have an itemized sketch drawn up for

you." Will handed him a piece of folded parchment. Elfreth unfolded

it, and looked it over, nodding proudly to himself that it was every bit

as impressive as he had expected it would be.

"When will I expect to be repaid?" Elfreth asked. "We will carry

your freight across the river at the rate of fifty pence per hundred

weight, Sir. We would like to pay you back over two years, with

interest, of course." Elfreth nodded. "That sounds reasonable. I

assume you have no problem signing a note for the money?"

"Oh, no sir!" Daniel said, reaching out his hand again. Elfreth

looked at him. He took his hand and shook it, vigorously, smiling as he

did. He shook Will's hand again, as well. "Very well, proceed. I will

have the paperwork drawn up and delivered to you here."

He stepped through the front door, turning back to them before

disappearing. "Oh, one thing, Master Derry." He asked, putting his

wallet back into his pocket as he spoke. "Yes Sir?" Daniel asked.

215
"I assume you have a name picked out already for your new

company?" Daniel stood open-mouthed, a rare instance of him not knowing

what to say. His awkward silence lasted only a second or two.

"Uh, Yes Sir. We plan to call it the, uh, the Chester Ferry,

Sir." Elfreth smiled, and entered the Inn, repeating the name to

himself as he did. "Chester Ferry. I like it."

**********

Immediately following the Revolution, Skull recognized that the

British Fleet would intensify its efforts to capture him and put an end

to his murderous pirate lifestyle.

They had already chased down, captured and hanged Blackbeard on

the island of Ocracoke off North Carolina. Captain Kidd was next. He

was returned to Britain to be hanged, amid much fanfare and publicity.

Skull and Angelina moved their operations permanently to their

island of Hispanola, vacating Marcus Hook. There, they managed their

farm themselves, where they raised sugar cane and cattle, trading mostly

with the French.

France had decreed the absolute equality of whites and Mulattos,

trying to still the unrest which continued to plague the island. The

move was resisted by many white plantation owners, who could not accept

mulattos as their equals. Skull was not among these white resistors.

Having declared the equality of mulattos with whites divided the island

even more decisively than before, and blacks and mulattos launched

hundreds of sporadic, unorganized riots again. The island of Hispanloa

was close to revolution.

France sent a force of 6000 to the island to attempt to restore

the peace in Dominica, the southern portion of the island. The British

took advantage of an opportunity to fan the flames, and made an attempt

to capture more territory for themselves. They sent troops from Jamaica

216
to Haiti in the north of the island. These troops were intended to make

trade possible with Britain.

At the same time, Spain sent troops into the north, asking Skull

to support and lead them. For a while he did, after they made him a

promise of rank status in their army. Then, when the French declared

freedom for all negroes on the island, Skull changed his mind. Since

the Spanish avowed the continuation of negroes in slavery, he shifted

his support to the French.

He managed to regain all the territory taken by the Spanish for

the French, and in return, was named a colonel in the French Army.

Sensing that his involvement with the French in settling this ticklish

problem might some day make him a legitimate citizen, and no longer a

renegade, he proceeded to rout the British, sending them back to Jamaica

empty-handed.

In the process, the British lost 25,000 men, the majority to

fevers, rather than battle. Skull maintained his reputation for

viciousness in battle and those who faced him once did not wish to do so

again.

Napolean sent an emissary from France to meet with Skull, agreeing

in his message, to name him Supreme Commander of Haiti. By this move,

Napolean hoped to restore a world empire to France. His plan was to use

Hispanola as his base for controlling the world's sugar producing

market.

At the same time, Napolean secretly negotiated to obtain the

Louisiana Territory in North America from the Spanish. His true

intention was to produce sugar there, as well, using Colonial slave

labor.

During that period, he counted on Skull, who commanded the

strongest and largest force on the island, to manage sugar production in

Hispanola for him.

217
Skull's first official act as Commander, was to free all the

slaves still held on the island. He tried to manage sugar production

using freed slaves, whom he paid a salary, but the British and the

Colonials were able to produce sugar for less on Jamaica, since they

used slave labor.

Unfortunately for Skull, he was a much better pirate than he was a

business manager. The slaves did not know how to handle being paid for

their work, and productivity fell off dramatically.

Soon, Napolean moved on his real plan to take possession of

Hispanola. After Skull had managed to calm the riots, Napolean sent his

youthful, inexperienced brother in law, General LaFrance, for a meeting

with Skull at Port-au-Prince.

"General LaFrance to see you, Sir." An aide said to Skull, who

stood in the brick room at the top of the fort overlooking the steamy

harbor.

Bending over to look out one of the brick-arched, iron-grated

windows, Skull carefully surveyed the harbor. His own vessels were

moored around the outskirts of the bay, and a single French barkentine

sat tied to the end of the pier.

The harbor was surrounded on all sides by steep, densely-vegetated

slopes. White, cotton-like clouds ringed the peaks, upon which workers

were busily cutting and harvesting the bamboo-like sugar plants.

The freight docks were busy as well. Wagons were loaded with

cane, tied into neat, orderly bundles, stacked to a height three times

that of the sway-backed donkeys pulling them. They made their way to

the sides of the three top-sail schooners tied to the pier. The tri-

colored flags of the empire flew from the mainmasts.

Dozens of black workers hoisted the block and fall cranes into

place to lift the heavy loads, dropping them safely into the cargo holds

aboard the vessels.

218
Skull bowed as LaFrance entered the room. LaFrance had to bend

almost to his knees to pass through the four foot high passage. On

either side of the passage stood two burly, ebony-skinned guards, gaily

dressed in red knee-length coats, with green and yellow furled collars.

They each held in their hands, wickedly sharp, two-handed

execution swords. Their eyes were fixed upon the Commander-in-Chief,

Skull, as he watched LaFrance enter.

The low passageways were common as entrances in Hispanola. Rulers

there made sure they had a good opportunity to examine visitors, to be

certain they were unarmed, and meant no violence. Skull could have them

beheaded with but a nod to the guards inside.

"Good day to you, Sir." LaFrance said, his voice shaky at the

unnerving sight of the blades over his head. "Good day." Skull

answered. The short Frenchman breathed a sigh of relief when the blades

did not fall. Then he looked up at Skull for the first time. His mouth

fell open.

Skull stared down at him. His bald pate glistened in the sunlight

that came into the room in streaks through the barred windows. Skull

stood, arms crossed over his chest. The cutlass was belted tightly

around his waist, and reached the floor. LaFrance gulped at the sight

of dried blood on it.

LaFrance took a deep breath and hitched himself up to his tallest.

The top of his head reached just above Skull's waist. The skin on

LaFrance's face was fair, soft-looking, and pasty. His hair was tan-

brown, cut short, and unruly. His physique was stooped, and pudgy,

despite his young age. His legs were bowed, and strained outwardly from

carrying his weight.

"I am the bearer of a message from Emporer Bonaparte." LaFrance

said, his eyes measuring the size of Skull, who could not stand up

straight in the cramped and tiny room.

219
The entire room was built of brick, as was the rest of the fort.

The bricks held the humidity in their porous structure, along with the

smell of mildew. The dank atmosphere was clouded with the stench of

perspiration from the prisoners held in the chambers in the center of

the fort, adjacent to the meeting room.

The only contact prisoners had with the outside, and the only

daylight they ever saw, came through the small trap doors the guards

opened in the ceiling above them. Food and water was dropped in, and

new prisoners were thrown into the dungeon that way.

There were wooden doors off to the sides of the chambers that were

used only to remove prisoners who died during captivity. These doors

were built at the same height as wagon beds to facilitate in hauling the

corpses off for burial. Bodies did not have to be lifted, but could,

instead, be dragged out.

Fever took its toll among the prisoners whose flesh rotted in the

mildewed chambers. Rats and cockroaches roamed every square inch of the

chambers, looking for morsels that suited their tastes. Guards answered

to no one.

Skull took the paper offered him by LaFrance, opened it, and read

the first paragraph. He burst into laughter. "You jest!" He swore,

unsheathing his cutlass.

LaFrance stepped back, hitting the brick wall with a thud. The

guards stood around him, menacingly, fingers clenched tightly around the

handles of their swords, turning their knuckles white.

They inched toward him nervously. Unknown to LaFrance, the guards

were positioning themselves for a clean sword stroke at him. They did

not know that Skull had a standing cash offer to the guard who could

split a man in two with a single stroke of his sword upon Skull's

command.

Skull stilled the guards with a nod of his head. He moved closer

to LaFrance, looking down at him. LaFrance squirmed. Skull's eyes

220
appeared about to burst out of their sockets, beneath the quivering,

bushy eyebrows, as he studied the Frenchman.

He stood over LaFrance, with his face pushed so closely, that his

long, walrus mustaches dangled in LaFrance's face. The cutlass moved

about, unsheathed, and held in Skull's huge hand, waving first one razor

sharp edge, then the other, in LaFrance's direction. LaFrance expected

fire to spew from Skull's ears any second.

At long last, Skull spoke again. This time, he bellowed the

words. They echoed off the brick interior of the fort, chasing

themselves down into the prison chambers, where the prisoners groaned

and moaned. The guard dogs barked, and whined, and spun, nervously.

"You dare bring this piece of paper to me from Napolean? That

pip-squeak! I would squash him like a cockroach under the heel of my

shoe!!" Skull boomed, bringing his huge foot down on the bricks with a

grinding thud.

"How dare he send a runt like you to try to take Port-au-Prince

from Commander Skull?!" Suddenly Skull stood upright. His hand found

its way to his chin, and stayed there, rubbing thoughtfully.

"And how, may I ask, would that shrunken runt propose to move me

out?" He asked, spitting the words into LaFrance's face in a furious

challenge. "With that single barkentine, you expect to take anything in

Hispanola?"

LaFrance puffed at the question, becoming oddly confident.

Slowly, he inched his way toward the window, all the time staring at the

slashingly sharp steel aimed toward his neck. Skull let him wander a

few feet.

LaFrance pointed to the open water beyond the harbor, gaining

strength and courage with what he saw there.

Where the waters had been clear of any ships of any size before

Skull allowed LaFrance to enter, they now teemed with warships. Skull's

eyes bulged all the more. He coughed. He wheezed. He fumed. He said

221
nothing, but instead bellowed. He spun around in a rage, sounding like

a cross between a mating bull and an earthquake.

LaFrance backed away, pressing his pudgy little body tight against

the wall. The guards stared at him with unseeing eyes. They studied

his movements, calculating the angles, adjusting their uplifted swords

to the slightest motion he made.

He found their attention to him more than a little eery. He held

himself as rigid and still as possible. Sweat poured from his brow and

made it difficult to see. The guards' swords were held upright, poised

and cocked for attack.

"Seventy, eighty, ninety!!" Skull finally said, counting the

numbers of warships he could see from his vantage point. Even Skull,

who knew no limits to challenge, knew that his men had no chance against

such vastly superior numbers.

"Son of a whore!!" He bellowed. In the days before Angelina,

when Skull was more reckless, he would have slaughtered LaFrance, and

delivered a bag of pieces of his body to his men to take back to

Napolean, and not worry about the consequences.

Skull lifted his cutlass to shoulder height and walked slowly

across the room toward LaFrance. His eyes bored steadily into

LaFrance's. Even the guards ducked. The cutlass lowered, and whistled

toward LaFrance. It missed him by a whisker and crashed into the

mahogany meeting table, slicing it in two with a crash.

LaFrance stood against the wall, soaked with perspiration. He

held his eyes shut tightly. He cowered in the face of the enraged

giant. Three, four more strokes with the great cutlass and the table

was kindling.

The guards, meanwhile, kept their swords cocked at the ready,

following LaFrance's every move, waiting, begging for the command from

their leader.

222
It never came. At last, Skull permitted LaFrance to leave. He

walked back to his ship with quivering knees. His legs barely carried

him, and he tottered awkwardly across the gravel path.

The barkentine set sail for the other ships offshore. The fleet

proceeded to launch a series of attacks around the island. Landing his

58,000 men in Santo Domingo, he easily took that city.

Retreating to his plantation, with Angelina, Skull was furious at

being double-crossed by Napolean, and by the ease with which Santo

Domingo was surrendered. Suspecting that the Dominicans must have had a

part in Napolean's scheme, Skull ordered the slaughter of the entire

Dominican battalion he commanded.

The French had hoped that Skull would agree to help Napolean

negotiate with the blacks and mulattos. When he read the message

Napolean sent with LaFrance, that Napolean intended the re-enslavement

of the blacks, Skull refused, despite Napolean's personal offers to

Skull of additional honors and decorations.

He and Angelina preferred to become outlaws again, barricading

themselves with their faithful followers on their own plantation. They

participated in periodic, very damaging raids against the French

soldiers who soon were weakened by fevers, and the jungle heat.

*************

The Bull Tavern was located in the heart of Valley Forge where

General Washington encamped his troops during the horrible winter of

1777 and 1778.

Many times, it was the scene of meetings and war councils during

the hostilities. It survived the war without any major damage, unlike

many other buildings in Philadelphia.

The long, low, building with stone walls covered in stucco and

whitewash, stood a neat and tidy contrast to the rolling green, grassy

223
slopes near what became known, after the war, as the King of Prussia

Road.

Inside, the building's stone walls were natural grey. Masons

constructing them built a spider web pattern of the irregular stones,

which were outlined by the dark mortar holding them solidly in place.

The mantle over the huge fireplace at the end of the main dining

room was hand-hewn of native red oak. To the right side of the walk-in

fireplace was a warming oven with a black, cast iron cover, fashioned

nearby at Isaac Pott's Forge. To the left was a large baking oven,

similarly covered.

The floor was finished with wide pine boards, some as wide as

twenty inches. There was a dark, mahogany mop board nailed around the

edge of the room, and the trim around the doors and windows was of the

same material and stained to match.

The walls were decorated every few feet with brass oil lamps to

provide light in the evening, and a large candelabra dangled from the

ceiling in the center of the room.

The building was not lavish, nor appointed with fancy

woodworkings. It was rustic, substantial and solid, and in keeping with

other taverns and Inns in the rural frontier.

In a corner sat Nemacolin, his painted buckskin jacket reflecting

the soft, flickering light of the evening candles. Two Susquehannock

braves sat with him.

Since the war, Nemacolin's tribe, which once numbered thousands,

had been reduced to a few dozen. They were all older, and it was now

obvious that the tribe would soon cease to exist, except in memory.

Nemacolin, as sachem, spent so much of his time in recent years,

dealing with the white man, working out arrangements for his people,

that he had become almost totally acclimated to the white man's ways.

He knew the language, the customs, and was even learning to like the

food.

224
He had called this meeting with Jonas Webster to discuss the

payment promised to his people by General Washington for their help in

fighting the British.

Jonas Webster was now General Jonas Webster, after his exceptional

service during the war. He was highly respected among those in power in

the new American government.

Nemacolin knew this, and knew, as well, that Jonas was being

seriously considered as the next governor of the Pennsylvania colony.

This was good, in Nemacolin's eyes. He knew Jonas to be honorable, much

like Brother Onas, as the Indians called William Penn.

Penn was honorable in his dealings with all of Pennsylvania's

tribes. Nemacolin's father liked and trusted the man. He, and all

Indians of Pennsylvania, however, did not like nor trust Penn's

relatives, who later governed. Nor did they like or trust Miles

Braddock, who fled to England with his children before the end of the

war.

Nemacolin hoped the rumors that would make Jonas governor were

true. He looked forward to working out the problems between his tribe

and the colony with one as trustworthy as Jonas Webster.

Jonas and his assistant entered the Inn, and were greeted in the

anteroom by the proprietor. Jonas crossed the room and greeted

Nemacolin with a smile. He extended his hand.

Nemacolin, was now fifty years old, and the same age as Fitz. His

bearing was still as ramrod straight as ever. He carried his weight as

well as he did when he was twenty. His step was still quick, and light.

The only visible surrender to creeping age in Nemacolin was the

grey flecks in the hair on his temples, and the small lines near his

eyes. They were more like creases, and lent a wizened look to his

appearance.

The flesh of his face was firm, and did not droop at all. His

chin was still tight, firm, proud, as if chisled from granite.

225
His black eyes still reflected no light, and his gaze was steady

and very dark, although not in a mean sense. His look was intensely

proud, but saddened by the realization that the Susquehannocks, an

exalted tribe of the Iroquois Nation, was likely to become extinct.

"I come to you, Jonas Webster, to ask payment of the amount

promised your brethren, the Susquehannocks, by Captain Stoddard, and by

your General Washington, for our services to the American Cause, which

we gave willingly."

Jonas sat across the table from Nemacolin. If it were up to

Jonas, they would have been paid the money long ago. Still, he had a

duty to uphold the government of the new nation, which had more debts

than it could pay.

"Your message will be carried to General Washington." Jonas

answered. "It is unfortunate, but at this time, there are more debts to

pay than there are funds to pay them. The cost of war is high."

Nemacolin nodded. "The cost of war was high for us, as well, my

brother. Twelve of our warriors fell. Our numbers decrease steadily.

Sickness has taken its toll in our tribe. Our once proud warriors have

fallen ill. There are but a few dozen of our numbers left, and no young

to carry on. When those of us left have moved on, there will be no more

Susquehannocks. Our sacrifice has been great, and we need the promised

funds to provide for our people."

Jonas could not argue. Unfortunately, he was not able to offer

payment, either. The best he could do was to bring the item before the

council at the next meeting.

"I will do the best for you that I can." Jonas said. Nemacolin

nodded. He knew, as well as Jonas, what he could do, and what he could

not do. He was willing to trust that Jonas would see it through.

"Ah, good. Food has arrived." Jonas said, as the maids appeared

at the door, bringing dishes of corn, peas, beans, and planks of baked

sturgeon. There were bowls of yams and fresh fruit. They feasted.

226
After dinner, Nemacolin's and Jonas' men drank "lum," what the Indians

called rum, and watched the fire.

Nemacolin and Jonas went outside for a walk in the evening

shadows. Tall pine trees swayed gently in the breeze and made a soft

whistling sound in the night. Jonas liked that sound, and knew that

most Indians considered it the voice of nature. They held their hands

against the trunk, and listened, believing that it told them which way

to turn when they were lost.

"Have you seen or heard anything of Fitz?" Jonas asked,

struggling to keep pace with Nemacolin, who, in his mind, was walking

slowly so Jonas could keep up.

"No." Nemacolin said. "It has been a long time." "I have seen

nothing of him, either." Jonas said. They both maintained a silence

for several seconds, measuring whether it was safe to say more about

Fitz, whose life depended on his ability to stay hidden.

Jonas sighed, then said more, trusting Nemacolin to protect Fitz'

interest. "There was an incident at Turk's Head, at the Inn, in the

closing days of the war. A barmaid named Regina disappeared there one

day. She was taken at gunpoint by four British officers, who demanded

that she take them to Fitz's hiding place."

Nemacolin said nothing, but listened in silence. "No one has seen

her since. Nor has anyone seen anything of Fitz, and the officers

disappeared as well. Their horses returned to the stable at Turk's Head

the next day, but they were riderless. They all disappeared without a

trace."

"I, myself, know nothing of Fitz' hideaway. He has never revealed

it, nor much about himself to me. It was through the barmaid at Turk's

Head that I was able to reach him. Now she, too is missing." Jonas

frowned. "No one else I know knows where he lives, either. I have news

for him, good news, and I do not know how to get it to him."

227
Nemacolin grunted. "I know where Fitz lives." He said, looking

skyward toward the rising moon. The black night sky contrasted the

silvery brightness of the moon and the first stars.

He looked at Jonas. "You have good news for Fitz?" He asked.

Jonas nodded. "Yes. There is now a chance that he might be cleared of

the murder charges that sent him into the wilderness all those years

ago. And the bounty hunter, Cyrus, who has persisted in chasing him is

no longer a threat."

Nemacolin looked at him quizzically. Jonas continued. "He was

taken by Skull, the pirate. I am told that Skull promised he would be

sold into slavery........on an island in the Carribean." Jonas paused,

reflecting.

"Fitz has helped a lot of people. Skull made our success possible

in the war. Without him, I doubt we could have won. Without Fitz,

Skull never would have helped us. It is time to repay him, if we can."

Nemacolin nodded.

"Will you take me to his hideout?" Jonas asked Nemacolin.

Nemacolin stared at the moon and the stars. He put his hands on the

biggest pine in the grove and put his head back, staring straight up to

the branches one hundred feet or more above.

The wind whistled eerily through the branches, making the sound of

voices, and gentle laughter. Nemacolin's silence was painful for Jonas,

who had nothing to do, but to wait. "Yes. I will." Nemacolin said at

last. "In the morning. You, and me. Alone."

The dawn came early. Having stayed up too late talking with

Nemacolin, Jonas was tired. He struggled into his clothes, pushing

himself to move into the fading darkness. He greeted Nemacolin in front

of the fireplace at the end of the great hall. They warmed their hands

quickly, eating some corn bread and berries. Then they set off, walking

toward the rising sun.

228
In a short time, they had left all traces of civilization behind.

Although more and more people were moving into the area all the time,

settlements were still on the edge. The settlements were growing, but

always facing the relentless pressures of the wilderness, as it

continually re-seeded, replenished itself, ready to grow over a cleared

slash in the land as quickly as the white man had made it.

Nemacolin moved easily, making no audible sound as he walked.

Jonas, who was in good condition, and at least ten years younger, panted

as he thrashed noisily through the underbrush, chasing wildlife, who

scurried from the noise, as he walked.

When they had to cross a stream, invariably, Nemacolin would find

a way to bound over rocks, never setting foot in the water. Jonas fell

completely in, several times.

At one point, in the heat of the early fall, Nemacolin turned back

and joined him. They frolicked in the clear water near the falls,

enjoying its recuperative powers before returning to the grueling trail.

By nightfall, they had passed the halfway point in their journey.

They made camp at the side of a river. Pine boughs piled on the earthen

bank made comfortable, if scratchy beds.

Nemacolin caught trout from the deep pools of the river and they

cooked them over the open fire. At night, the sounds of nocturnal

animals serenaded them under the bright, luminous moon.

They pushed on again at dawn. Nemacolin picked up the pace

slightly, while Jonas labored to stay within talking distance.

At long last, they neared Castle Rock. Nemacolin approached it

the way he always had, stepping into the gorge to the north side of

Turk's Head Highway.

He stopped, holding Jonas back with his hands in the center of the

gulley. He looked down at the ground among the rocks, and motioned for

Jonas to climb around the pit that had been carefully covered with a

thatched grass roof.

229
"Whewh!" Jonas said. "I surely am glad to be with you." He

said. "I would have walked right into that pit if I had been here by

myself." Nemacolin smiled. Jonas did not have to tell him that.

Soon, they began the heavy climb by the rocks. The water cascaded

down, splaying off in several different directions, then joining again

in a common stream below.

Nemacolin went first. His sharp eyes were busily darting about,

trying to locate potential danger, or signs of life. There appeared to

be neither.

He climbed to the top of the cliff, and reached into the familiar

cavern, feeling the bearskin door. He pulled it open and stepped in.

The cavern was empty, abandoned. Inside, the earthen floor was

cold. He put his hand into the fireplace and found that the ashes were

cold and had long since rotted.

The food chambers were empty, and there was no sign of life

anywhere. Jonas joined him in looking about for any evidence of human

existence, but there was none.

Small animals, squirrels, racoons, fishers perhaps, had long since

over-run the camp, and stripped away any edible tidbit. The blankets

lay on the cold, damp floor, and a few utensils lay untouched near the

spring.

Nemacolin sat down by the wall, lowering his large frame slowly

against the stone. He exhaled deeply, turning to Jonas. Then he

shrugged. "He is gone." He said. Jonas nodded, crushed to think that

he might have been able to offer Fitz the freedom he had not known for

so many years.

Cold winds whipped into the opening of the cavern. Nemacolin

stood up and gathered some firewood from the dry section of the cave and

piled them painstakingly. "We had better stay here for the night." He

said to Jonas. He said the words sadly, with a heavy heart.

230
They said little, eating the dried meat they brought with them,

and the few pieces of rabbit they had shot the day before.

Nemacolin sang a mournful song late into the night, and danced

around the fire, paying tribute to his departed friend. Jonas sat

silently, and watched.

In the morning, they climbed down the rocks into the gorge that

led to the highway. Nemacolin led the way. He stopped, sniffing the

air. He turned to Jonas who sniffed the cool air being warmed by the

climbing sun. He shrugged, sensing nothing.

"Fire." Nemacolin said, judging the direction of the wind.

"Campfire." He said. Jonas looked up the steep slopes of the mountain.

"Where?" He asked.

"There." Nemacolin said, extending his arm. He pointed to

another outcropping of ledge rock not far from where they stood.

Jonas strained his eyes trying to see. Then he saw a faint swirl

of grey smoke near one of the rocks. It dissipated, then was followed

by another. Jonas nodded.

Nemacolin led the climb up the steep slope. Huge, rounded slabs

of flat granite lay overlapping one another where glaciers deposited

them during the Pleistocene Era many thousands of years earlier.

Clear, mountain spring water trickled down between them removing

microscopic bits of rock. These bits, over time, add up, and caverns

appear in the granite deposits, hollowed slowly by flowing water, some

small, some as large as the one Fitz was able to live in.

Climbing across the last slab, Nemacolin had to help Jonas over

the edge. They stood atop a flat boulder while Nemacolin searched the

treeline for more traces of smoke. He frowned, seeing none.

Jonas stepped backward, concentrating on the tree line, high

above, looking for smoke. His foot dislodged a rock. He fell toward

the precipice, but managed to grab a hanging branch in a nearby pine,

saving himself before going over the side.

231
Nemacolin pulled him back onto the boulder, then knelt down to

examine the rock he stepped on. He turned it over carefully. As he

suspected, the bottom side of the rock had been chiseled to a "vee," and

purposely placed there as a booby trap for unwelcome visitors.

Jonas breathed deeply, thankful he had not plunged onto the jagged

rocks below. Nemacolin explained the old Indian trick to him.

Suddenly, while their attention was elsewhere, the bushes parted

at the other side of the boulder. They turned, quickly, and faced the

muzzle of a long rifle, that glinted in the fresh sunlight.

In an instant, Fitz recognized them and dropped the rifle. His

face brightened and he stood smiling at the very welcome, unwelcome

visitors.

Nemacolin and Fitz embraced in a bear hug. They exchanged no

words for a moment, only smiles, and happy grunts. Then Jonas embraced

Fitz as well.

"We thought you were dead." Jonas said, finally. Nemacolin

nodded. "I assure you," Fitz teased, "I am not."

"We went to the cave, and found it deserted." Nemacolin said. "Aye."

Fitz said. "Now you must come to visit my new cave." He added, proudly.

He led them up the slope, keeping to the right side of a steep,

wet gorge. Cascading water sprayed everything below, and kept the rock

surfaces wet and slippery.

About two thirds of the way up the slope, well hidden by the falls

and tied to the trunk of a tree, there was a rope ladder. Fitz climbed

it first, followed by Nemacolin, and then Jonas.

He pulled the hanging bearskin rugs to the side, and they entered

the cave. The first chamber was an anteroom. It absorbed the cold air

of winter and the spray from the waterfall. The next chamber was a

large room with dark, shiny walls of crystalline rock.

The ceiling had a natural cleft near the center of the room.

There was a campfire in the center of the floor. In one corner was an

232
opening leading to another chamber. Regina stepped out from it, holding

two pistols.

She put the pistols down upon seeing who was there. "Nemacolin

and Jonas have found us." Fitz said to Regina, calmly. She stood

silent for a moment, unsure what this successful invasion of their

domain might mean. They had talked many times of their need to maintain

their home in secrecy, and so had not sought to contact either Jonas or

Nemacolin.

Jonas spoke next. "Nemacolin agreed to bring me here." He said,

beginning an awkward explanation. "Fitz, I believe we can make you a

free man."

Regina moved beside Fitz and put her arm around his waist. He

stood, stunned, for a while, then they exchanged a quick glance and a

smile. Fitz waited to hear more.

"You could get a fair trial now." Jonas continued. "I could help

you to fight the charges. Enough people would listen to me now."

Regina hugged Fitz harder. Nemacolin moved beside them. "I think

it is true, Fitz." He agreed. "Jonas may be able to win your freedom."

"Your help in the cause of the Revolution will serve you in good

stead." Jonas said. "There are many, including myself, who will

testify on your behalf, and who will say that your help was invaluable

to the cause."

Fitz took the words in, measuring their meaning to him and to

Regina. They moved to the new cave after the first winter she stayed

with him, partly to have a place with easier access for her.

Fitz made the discovery of the new cave one day on a hunting trip.

Hidden by the falls, he had missed it all the time he had lived at

Castle Rock.

He was able to make the entrance much easier for her to enter and

the rope ladder could be withdrawn if anyone came near. Besides the

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four British soldiers, Nemacolin, and now Jonas, no one else had ever

ventured near.

There was even a rear exit to this cave if they needed it in an

emergency. All around, it was a safer place for them to live.

Regina and Fitz had drawn extremely close over the months they

shared the cave. Although the days were long, and often uneventful,

they shared equally in the tasks, difficult or easy.

She had become an excellent shot with both the long rifle and the

pistols. They had no difficulty in bringing back enough game whenever

they hunted, and Regina was just as willing to dress the game as to

shoot it.

Together, they kept fresh meat cold in underground storage

chambers, and smoked other meat in the smokehouse they built in a

smaller cave nearby.

They were able to make soap, keep vegetables nearly through the

winter months, and had running water at their doorstep. Furs were

plentiful, and Regina grew flax, which she wove into cloth when they

needed it.

There was almost nothing they needed that they didn't have at

Castle Rock, except freedom. Since the war had stopped, there were less

people in the wilderness. There were no more patrols to happen upon

them, and the only people they saw at all stayed pretty much to the

highway, concentrating on the still difficult travel between

Philadelphia and Turk's Head.

Fitz no longer traveled around the way he had for years, either.

No longer called upon to aid in the Revolution, and not enjoying robbing

from anyone as much as he did the stodgy British and their allies, he

and Regina stayed close to the cave. They had everything at hand that

they needed for survival.

***********

234
Jonas Webster stood on the steps of Independence Hall. The fine,

brick building was two stories high, with a bell tower above it.

Seventeen high windows with white granite lintels on the main building

reflected the bright morning sunshine.

Two steps behind Jonas stood his wife, Molly. Jonas placed his

hand on the bible and repeated the vows read to him by a justice of the

court.

The bell in the tower of the Statehouse sounded, sending joyful

peals out among the people. It was the same bell that was ordered on

November 1st, 1751 by Isaac Norris, Thomas Leech and Edward Warren, the

superintendents of the old Statehouse in Philadelphia at that time. It

arrived on the ship "Matilda," in August of 1752, and was cracked by a

stroke of the clapper, after it was mounted and tried for sound. The

bell was recast twice by Pass and Stow, and was finally remounted June

7, 1753. It became world famous on the 8th of July, 1776 when it was

rung over the cheers of patriots in the statehouse yard after the first

reading of the Declaration of Independence. That day, the great bell

rang all day, and almost all night, calling the men of America to their

duty. It rang for independence. It was fitting, this day, that the

bell should ring in honor of the new governor of Pennsylvania, Jonas

Webster, himself a patriot, and a true champion of freedom.

Jonas turned to Molly and hugged her, then he lifted his hat in

celebration. Their children cheered from the rear of the porch.

**********

Fitz emerged from the wild forest, with Regina at his side, as

dawn broke. They walked along the West Chester Road, which led to West

Chester, the new name for the village at Turk's Head.

235
Chester grew steadily in the years following the war. It quickly

became a commerce center, capitalizing on the trade developing from

traffic on the new ferry. Powder from the Dufresne Company, was carried

to northerly points along the western shore of the Delaware. And paper

produced at the new mill was shipped across the Delaware into New

Jersey.

Soon, taverns and Inns were springing up between Chester and

Turk's Head, to handle the wagon crews delivering freight inland, and

south to Maryland and Delaware. The owners of these taverns came up

with the idea of calling Turk's Head West Chester, to capitalize on the

association of bustling Chester with the village.

West Chester became the county seat of Chester County. The county

courthouse sat within the village green, surrounded by tall oaks, high

upon a grassy bank. It was built entirely of light green Serpentine

stone, quarried from the new quarry at Promontory Rock.

The courthouse faced High Street, which was the road leading to

Chester. They climbed the stone steps of the courthouse, arriving there

at 8 AM, when the first cases on the docket were to be heard.

The new sheriff met him there with two deputies. "Good morning."

The sheriff said, taking Fitz into custody for trial. Fitz gave up his

weapons without a fight, reluctantly, on the advice of Governor Webster.

Regina entered the courtroom and took a seat on a bench at the rear of

the building.

The new courthouse was finely appointed, with polished red oak

floors, and magnificent raised panel oaken paneling, polished to a rich

lustre with dark oil. Crisp white woodwork accentuated the paneling and

stood in soft contrast to the lighter colored floor.

The windows were floor to ceiling at both sides and one end of the

courtroom, and were paned with glass from America's first glass plant

located in upstate New York. The glass panes were shipped from the

plant first by wagon to the Hudson River, then by barge to New York,

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then by wagon to Penns Grove, where they crossed the Delaware on Daniel

Derry's Chester Ferry, and then by wagon, again, to West Chester.

At the windowless end of the courtroom was a tall bench where the

judge sat, and three hard benches for the jurors.

Governor Webster himself made the dedication speech for the new

courthouse. In that speech he had marveled at the way the new country

was growing, and how trade routes based on new commerce, were bringing

new roads to the territory.

At last, Fitz was led into the courtroom. Regina recoiled at the

sight of him in chains. She took several deep breaths and reminded

herself that the governor of the state, Jonas Webster had assured Fitz

that he would be freed after standing trial.

Fitz was seated in a small cage below the judge’s bench. The

judge sat upon the bench, wearing a maroon colored robe, starched stiff,

with a powdered, white wig, and a face that showed no emotion.

The jury listened intently through the whole proceeding. Fitz was

not called upon to speak, except to give his name and to enter his plea

of not guilty. Only the prosecutor spoke against him.

His lawyer, arranged to represent him by Jonas, was named Michael

McShane. He was tall, and lean, with broad shoulders. When they talked

briefly before the trial, Fitz studied the man silently. His gaze was

direct, and measuring.

Michael made a notation on the paper he held in his lap. Fitz sat

on a chair next to him. "You are in good hands, Captain Fitz." He

assured him. "With Jonas Webster on your side, you have a powerful

ally." Fitz watched Michael McShane as he spoke.

"I have heard of your exploits through the Governor." He made

another notation on the paper. "Your efforts were invaluable to us in

winning the war. It is time we repaid you for those efforts." He

smiled at Fitz. "I, too, was indentured to make the journey here from

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Ireland. I spent eight years paying for my passage." Fitz said

nothing, but nodded knowingly.

"I was indentured to a lawyer in Philadelphia. He treated me

poorly. I was worked to near death at times, and fed not as well as his

animals. Still, it was no worse than my fate back in Ireland. I

determined to endure, to win my freedom. I endured."

Fitz nodded. McShane continued. "I remember the incident which

brought the charges against you. It was told to me by way of a

warning." He paused. "Doctor Witt was well-known. There were many who

could not understand him, who were not content for him to be different.

And there are those among us, mostly young men, who have not lived

enough to understand tolerance. They vandalize to destroy what they do

not understand, and fear. The Kelpians were different, and their

strange beliefs invoked fear among many ignorant people."

Michael folded the papers he was carrying and turned to Fitz,

offering his hand. "Are you ready?" He asked. "As ready as I will

ever be." Fitz answered.

After all the evidence had been heard, the judge, who still showed

not a hint of emotion, looked at Michael McShane. "You may now make

your closing arguments to the jury." He stood, picking up a piece of

parchment from the wooden table where he sat, a few paces away from

Fitz.

Fitz could not help mentally plotting his escape. Feeling trapped

in the tiny cage, and chained, hand and foot, he was ill-prepared for

the prospect of standing trial and possibly having to go to jail.

Regina bit her lip.

"Your honor," Michael McShane said, standing before the judge.

"If it please the court, I would like to offer the following in

testimony of the character of Captain Fitz." "Proceed." The judge

said, dryly.

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"I read to you, now, from a letter written by our governor, The

Honorable Jonas Webster," he announced to the judge and jury, holding

the paper aloft to display the governor's seal for all to see.

To the people of the court of Chester County, Pennsylvania, I

plead to you today, on behalf of Captain Fitz, the infamous

Captain Fitz, notorious and legendary highwayman, without whom

this new nation might not exist today. Although he has lived his

life without the freedom we sought to guarantee ourselves by the

shedding of our blood, although he, himself, has never been free

on this soil, although he had nothing to gain, and everything to

loose, he joined willingly in our cause. He steadfastly performed

all tasks asked of him by the Colonial Army, and, without his

willingness, at great risk of life and limb to himself, to

negotiate with the pirate Skull, our navy would have continued to

suffer overwhelming defeat at the hands of the British. I ask you

today, in the name of freedom, and liberty, and in the name of our

fallen compatriots, to find Captain Fitz innocent of the charges

brought before you. I ask you today to add his name to the

honorable list of patriots who shall enjoy freedom, and who shall

participate in the good future of this fine nation, God willing.

Governor Jonas Webster

The jury exchanged glances and quiet whispers. Fitz sat in the

tiny cage on the wooden bench. He waited, stretching against his

chains, while the rest of the talking continued. Finally, the judge

turned to the jury and spoke.

"Have you reached a verdict?" He asked. "We have, your honor."

The foreman answered. "What say you?" The judge asked. "We find the

defendant not guilty of the charges of murder and vandalism, not guilty

of the charges of highway robbery."

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There was an audible sigh of relief in the room. The judge moved

on to the next case without any show of emotion. Regina gulped. Fitz

jumped to his feet and held his hands out to the sheriff, who unlocked

his bindings.

Michael McShane extended his hand to Fitz. "Congratulations." He

said. "Thank you." Fitz answered. Regina flew into his arms. They

embraced happily, then left the courtroom.

Fitz stepped outside the building with tears of joy streaming down

both cheeks. He took Regina into his arms and the two of them danced

merry circles around the green.

He was aware that people were watching, but, for once, did not

care. He took Regina by the hand and led her about, pointing to all the

things he had not been able take the time to really see in the village

for decades.

They spent the rest of the day, and well into the evening,

studying birds, trees, stones, bricks, granite, dogs, children, horses,

carriages, cats, women, men, the sun, the sky, the moon, and all the

other things free people take for granted in this world.

The next day, Fitz decided to share his secret with Regina.

Climbing into the old cave, He opened the cache in the wall, and removed

the fortune in gold, silver and jewels that Fitz had stashed there over

the past years.

Regina's eyes opened wide at the sight. She had never seen such

an amount of wealth. They sat before the light of oil lamps until well

into the night counting it.

"I kept this for the young'un, Edward." Fitz said, sadly. "If

Katie had lived, I think I would have been able to do for him. Now, I

doubt I will ever lay eyes on the lad again."

Regina said nothing, her face lined with concern, and sympathy.

"Now, perhaps it is best I use this to buy something for a person who

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means everything to me." He put an arm around Regina's shoulders and

drew her near.

"How would you like a tavern of your own?" He asked her with an

impish smile. The thought of it took her completely by surprise. "Ohh,

Fitz. I would love it." She gushed. He held her close and they

watched the fire burn itself out.

She thought about the tavern that her parents had wanted to own.

Perhaps, she thought, this would be a way to fulfill their dreams. She

could only hope that somehow, someway, her parents might be able to look

down and see her now and might see the tavern they always wanted become

a reality. Tears filled her eyes at the thought. She squeezed Fitz'

hand tightly. They drifted off to sleep in each other's arms.

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CHAPTER VIII

Down in the valley, in a dark, thickly wooded stand of tall pines

and cedars, on the banks of a clear, bubbling river, sat a white stone

tavern.

The black slate roof was sharply peaked, and black shutters on the

windows gave the building balance against the dappled green backdrop of

the dense forest.

Beside the building was a small livery stable, with six wooden

paneled doors that opened onto the circular gravel wagonyard between the

tavern and the banks of the river.

A stable boy carried water and grain for the horses, and another

polished the brass buttons on the leather harness of the six heavy

horses. They pulled the canvas-covered Conestoga wagon that stood,

packed full with merchandise, ready to begin its westerly journey over

mountains on the great National Road they called the Pike.

The sign over the door had a picture of a Black Eagle, which

became the name of the Inn. The Black Eagle Inn was a welcome stop on

the difficult trail leading out of Pennsylvania to the southwest toward

the starting point of the Pike in Cumberland, Maryland.

Inside the tavern, Regina was the official greeter and hostess.

She met visitors by the door, standing beneath a pair of fine brass oil

lamps decorating the walls in the corner of the room, where the stairs

spiraled to the second floor.

She wore a long, floor length dress, and her hair, now speckled

with grey, was pulled back into a tight bun. She directed the maids

around the tavern, who carried trays filled with fresh vegetables,

fruit, baked fish, and broiled meat. The aroma of fresh bread filled

the dining area, and sweet desserts bubbled in caldrons on the great

iron stove in the kitchen.

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In the south meadow below the tavern, there was a great herd of

cattle and a flock of sheep, tended by several raw-boned drovers, all a

part of the caravan heating west to Kentucky.

Regina walked to the rear of the tavern and found Fitz there.

"Perhaps you had better check with the drovers to see if they will be

along any time soon for supper." She said, as he emerged from the

storeroom at the end of the long, mahogany bar.

"I will." Fitz said, eyeing the large group of teamsters and

drovers who had just entered. "It appears we will be busy tonight. Do

we have enough food on hand?" Regina took more napkins from the storage

room before he closed the door. "Yes, but more are supposed to be

coming. The sooner we can get the drovers that are already here fed,

the better we will be able to manage to make sure everyone gets fed."

"I will see if I can hurry the drovers along before the next group

arrives." He said. He kissed her on the cheek and went out the back

door.

It had been almost a year since Regina purchased the tavern and

opened it back up for business.

The building had been on the site for many years, but was damaged

and then abandoned during the Revolution. When Regina purchased it, she

and Fitz moved out of Castle Rock, but not immediately, even after Fitz

won his freedom. He needed time to slowly get used to the concept which

had been foreign to him almost all of his adult life.

They had a small cabin that they built into a cut in the

mountainside a short distance north of the Black Eagle Inn. It was here

that they took up residence. Living there, in rustic surroundings that

were not significantly different from those at Castle Rock suited Fitz,

and allowed him not to have to give in completely to civilization.

The Black Eagle Inn was located well into the frontier wilderness

west of Philadelphia. It was almost a day's travel west of West Chester

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village, and the surroundings afforded Fitz plenty of opportunity to get

into the woods for hunting, fishing, or just walking.

Regina was comfortable in the balance. She was at home in the

civilized world of the tavern, yet was equally at home in the crude camp

where Fitz preferred living, and she understood his need to live that

way. She managed the tavern, and spent much of her time there. Fitz

helped with the heavy work.

Fitz approached the drovers in the meadow, where they planned to

keep the cattle and sheep for the night. The sounds of hundreds of

cattle baying, and horses chewing corn blended with the bubbling sounds

of water from the river and created a melodius din in the valley.

"We were wondering when we might expect you in the tavern to be

seated for supper." He politely asked the lead drover, a short, wide

man with talon-like hands, and thick arms. His black hat was pulled

down over his eyes, and it bore a band of turkey feathers as decoration.

He leveled a challenging glance at Fitz, chewing on a long strand

of grass as he did. "As soon as we get the cattle fed and settled." He

answered. His answer was short, and lacked patience. His eyes measured

Fitz while he waited for a response.

"We just want to be sure there will be enough to feed you." Fitz

said, trying to be polite. You will have enough." The drover answered,

flatly. "And if not, you will get more for my men." He spit the words

at Fitz with derision.

Fitz said nothing, trying to avoid a fight with the man,

recognizing he was a paying customer for Regina. He turned to walk back

to the Inn. "What are you, some kind of Injun?" The drover asked,

disdainfully spitting the grass he was chewing onto the ground.

Fitz stopped, hesitated for a second, then walked on. "I asked

you a question. Are you some kind of Injun, wearin' them moccasins and

all?" Others of the drovers laughed, and gathered around, expecting a

fight. Fitz said nothing, and walked on.

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"Gutless Injun." The drover spat on Fitz as he walked away. Fitz

turned and walked back to the drover. Even though he was twenty years

older than the fresh-mouthed drover, he was still hard from his years in

the wilderness, and he was a foot taller and half again as broad.

"You have fifteen minutes to be inside for supper." Fitz said,

looking the drover in the eye. Though he wore no guns while near the

tavern, in deference to Regina, he still kept the long dagger in its

holster by his side and he still wore the painted buckskin suits

Nemacolin introduced him to. He had become accustomed to moccasins. He

could not bear to wear any other shoes.

The drover, looking for a fight to end his day, threw a handful of

dust into Fitz' face, and punched him, drawing his gun in the process.

The other drovers cheered and gathered around the two men.

Life on the frontier was rough. There was little to do but work

for these drovers, and the pressures of work were tremendous. Keeping

control of the herd was demanding, and one slip-up could create a huge

stampede at any time. The only time they could relax from the tension

was when the cattle were settled in for the night.

The drover punched at Fitz a second time and missed again. He

started to lift the pistol to take aim, but Fitz grasped his gun hand,

and twisted it. The drover fell to his knees, as Fitz twisted his wrist

in an iron grip, and pressed his thumb into a pressure point of nerve

endings at the base of his thumb.

He unsheathed the razor-edged knife and held it under the drover's

chin. The man cowered, and shook, as Fitz spoke through gritted teeth.

"There will be no trouble here at Black Eagle Inn." Fitz lectured.

"The choice is yours, come to supper, or I'll open your gullet right

here. Either way, there will be no trouble. We can mop up your remains

in a few seconds."

The drover relented, and pulled himself back to his feet slowly

after Fitz released him, clearly unwilling to pursue more violence that

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might bring him back to the point of Fitz' knife. Other drovers,

disappointed in the lack of action, belly-ached, on the way to the Inn.

"You heard the man." The drover barked, putting his hat back on

his head. "Supper is ready." He walked toward his horse, rubbing his

wrist. Fitz led the others to the Inn where they had supper and retired

for the night. The drover who challenged him came in a few minutes

later, and ate with his crew. He behaved in a gentlemanly manner for

the rest of the night.

The promise of new commerce in the wilderness territory brought

many men to the Black Eagle Inn, which was the last semi-civilized

outpost of civilization on the road west over the Allegheny Mountains.

The needs of the new settlers were for building materials,

foodstuffs, hardwares and blasting powder. The last item eventually

brought Pierre Elfreth to the Inn, on his way to Cumberland and

eventually Kentucky.

A large, dust-covered black coach with gilded doors rolled into

the wagonyard early one evening. The coachman, who sat high above the

ground in a box reined in the unruly team, and stepped down from his

perch once he was sure they were calm, and under the control of stable

hands.

Only a few weeks before, another driver had been thrown from his

box by the same team, and the coach rolled into the forest.

Fortunately, no one was killed in the incident, but it did make all the

drivers leery of this particular team nonetheless.

The coachman opened the door, and extended his hand to Lady and

Pierre Elfreth, who embarked and walked into the tavern. Regina greeted

them there. She seated them at the large table in the front of the Inn,

overlooking the river. It was dark outside and warm. The air was heavy

and felt potentially stormy. Birds and tree frogs competed with each

other, singing their shrill songs into the night.

"Enjoy your evening meal." Regina said to them, as she left the

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table to go back to the kitchen. "Thank you. You have a most lovely

setting for a tavern." Lady Elfreth said.

Pierre Elfreth sat back to enjoy the roast venison that was on the

menu that night. He was startled to see Fitz walk through the back of

the tavern, on his way to the Kitchen.

He excused himself from his wife's side, and walked to the door

outside the kitchen as Regina emerged. "Excuse me," Elfreth said,

"That man," He pointed toward the door, "The man who just walked

through this room, do you perhaps know his name?"

Regina looked in the direction he pointed. She smiled, nervously,

harkening back in her mind to the days when Fitz was a runaway. "Do you

know him?" She asked of Elfreth. "I believe I do." Elfreth said.

"His name is Fitz." Regina said, still watching Elfreth for a reaction.

Regina knew who Elfreth was. Everyone did on the frontier. He

was a familiar traveler, and if people had not seen him, they at least

knew of him because he was involved in so many ventures, and because his

Dufresne Company was becoming one of the largest, and best known

employers in America.

"I thought as much." Elfreth said. Regina looked at him

quizzically. "I met him once......twice to be exact. Once we shared a

coach on the road to Philadelphia, and the second, we discussed a

military matter during the war."

Regina smiled, wondering when Fitz ever shared a coach with anyone

on the way to Philadelphia. "I will get him." Regina said, excusing

herself to the kitchen. Fitz came back to the room, entering warily, a

throwback to his days on the run. Elfreth saw him and stood up

immediately.

"Captain Fitz, my good man." Elfreth said, reaching for Fitz'

hand. "You remember me, Pierre Elfreth. We met at Marcus Hook." Fitz

nodded his recognition. "Come. Sit with us for a moment." Fitz stood

next to their table while Elfreth introduced him to his wife. "This is

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Captain Fitz, my dear, an aquaintance from the war.

We once shared a coach." He looked at Fitz and winked. Fitz

smiled. She nodded, smiled, then sat, silent as a stone, studying Fitz

intently from across the table.

"I am pleased to see you managed to survive the hostilities."

Elfreth said, pouring a glass of wine, which he handed to Fitz. "No

thank you." Fitz said, instead taking up a glass of water.

Elfreth moved the wine glass to the side without a word. "We made

a good deal, you know," Elfreth went on. "That is.......My company

trading only with the Colonials." Fitz nodded. "It was good for us, as

well. It appears to have been good for the new America."

"I am pleased it worked out for all." Fitz said. "Skull has now

gone south to his island, permanently." Elfreth announced. "Perhaps

life will be better for him there." Elfreth offered Fitz a small

bisquit from a plate. Fitz declined, then Elfreth took one and buttered

it. He spooned some of Regina's strawberry preserves onto it and took a

bite. "Ummh. Delicious." He said. "Phoebe,

you must try some of this." He said, buttering one for his wife.

"I am pleased as well, to note what appears to be your newly found

freedom." He looked Fitz up and down. "It looks good on you." Fitz

smiled. "It feels good, as well. It has been a long time." Elfreth

held his wine glass aloft. "A toast. To your freedom, and to the

Patriots who fought for the cause." Phoebe Elfreth raised her glass,

Fitz raised his water glass. She tapped his glass lightly with hers,

then her husband's.

Her blue eyes sparkled as she looked up at Fitz, who stood nearly

a head taller than her husband. She wore a grey floor length dress,

with a white lace top. It had a black belt around her tiny waist. Her

hair was sandy brown, and pulled back tightly and notted. She wore a

colorful fan over the knot.

She was tall, lithe, and lean, and appeared to be several years

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younger than her husband. She looked at Fitz in a very fetching way

during the toast, then dropped her eyes quickly, when he returned her

glance.

Elfreth put a hand on Fitz' shoulder. "Are you enjoying the

tavern business?" He asked. "The Inn belongs to Regina." Fitz

explained, somewhat defensively. "I only help with the heavy work.

"She has all the brain power, and I provide some of the brawn."

Elfreth laughed. "I cannot imagine that to be true." He said.

"Certainly the brainpower is a shared phenomenon." Then he smiled.

"These are exciting times on the frontier. There is a new world opening

up out there. This new world is filled with opportunities for people

with an entrepreneurial bent.

"It appears that you, and Regina, are doing very well here at the

Inn. I hear nothing but good things about The Black Eagle Inn. It is

the avowed favorite of all our teamsters and drovers on the Pike."

Elfreth looked carefully at Fitz. He studied the way he moved,

and his clothing. Fitz, as always, was dressed in buckskin and wearing

moccasins. Elfreth was a canny judge of people, and that contributed

greatly to his financial successes. He had the unique ability to

observe people and see in them not where they were, but where they might

be.

"Tell me, Captain Fitz," Elfreth asked, as he took another

bisquit. "These really are quite excellent. My compliments to the

cook." He said, changing the subject, for a moment. "Are you happy

living this close to the settlements, or do you miss the wilderness?"

Fitz looked at him, studying his face. The candle light was

kinder than daylight, and it gave Elfreth's skin a less pasty pall. His

deep-set eyes reflected warmth, humor, honor and intelligence. Fitz

liked Pierre Elfreth. He liked about him the way he sought out each new

encounter. He feared no man, not because he was imposing physically.

Instead, he used humor and warmth to win people over. He had been as

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much at ease with Skull, who most men would avoid at all costs, as he

was in the dining room of the Black Eagle Inn.

He seemed genuinely interested in the people he met. He was

little concerned with their tales of who they were or where they had

been. He seemed genuinely amused by everyone he met. Fitz, who had

spent so much of his life in seclusion admired that quality in Elfreth.

Fitz never gave a real answer to Elfreth's question, but Elfreth

continued on as if he had. "The frontier has moved west, Captain Fitz."

He watched Fitz' face for a reaction. Fitz answered, "I am aware. This

very tavern is now the edge of the frontier."

"But the real frontier lies still further to the west, and to the

north." Elfreth said. "Let me come to the point, Captain." Elfreth

said, adjusting the silverware beside his plate.

"My company is moving into the wilderness area of Pennsylvania.

My intent is to set up a logging operation. These logs will be shipped,

by road, to Chester, where they will be manufactured into boxes."

Elfreth paused, sizing Fitz up by the dim light of the candles in the

room.

"It is a very difficult life on the frontier, as you know. There

is potential trouble everywhere." Fitz listened, intently, without any

response. "There are few white men able to travel the wilderness, and

able to deal with the Indians still left there. Although most of the

Indians have moved west beyond Three Rivers, there are still scattered

groups of them, marauders, mostly. I can always use a good man able to

handle the wilderness and the Indians in it."

Elfreth watched for a reaction from Fitz. Seeing none, he

continued. "Captain, if you found that you missed some of the wildness

of the frontier, and were willing to come to work for me at Dufresne

Company, I would make it very worth your while."

Fitz stared ahead, watching Elfreth as he talked. Mentally, he

was considering the offer, but he showed no outward appearance of it.

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"What say, you, Captain Fitz?" Elfreth asked, after a while.

Taking a small sip from his wine goblet, as he studied Fitz' face. "I

will consider your offer, sir." Fitz answered. "Good." Elfreth said.

"If you decide to do any part of it, we would be glad to talk with you.

Perhaps you would be interested in signing on for just one summer

season. We will be moving ahead with these plans in the spring. If you

wish, you could sign on when the spring thaw comes, and be back here

before the snow flies the next winter."

Fitz nodded. "I will consider it." He said again. Fitz stood

up. Elfreth stood up with him. Fitz bowed politely to Mrs. Elfreth.

She bowed her head in return, smiling brightly. Elfreth and Fitz shook

hands, and he left to return to the kitchen.

Elfreth and his wife dined by the dim candlelight in the room, and

retired well before midnight.

****

The river churned in the bright, warm sunlight. Chunks of dirty

white ice drifted among the roiling waters that moved downstream at

breakneck speed.

Lumps of clay broke loose from the banks and muddied the normally

crystal clear water, creating brown eddies and whirlpools near tree

roots, and logjams. Foam twisted, and disappeared in random whirlpools.

In the high country west of the Inn, the spring melt had already

begun. The ice had moved out of the lakes, first turning black, then

sinking near the shore in the heat of the rising sun.

Small animals were now denied the opportunity to cross the lakes

on the frozen surface, and had to confine their food-gathering

activities for the summer on one side or the other.

On the black green hills around the Inn, there was still plenty of

snow in the woods, but the roads and trails were now clear, if muddy,

and nearly impassable.

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Fitz' contract had arrived with the last teamsters to stay at The

Black Eagle Inn. Elfreth had stayed at the Inn twice more during the

winter and had given more details about the job he wanted Fitz to

accomplish.

He would be heading to Lackawanna, and a settlement there called

Covington. Elfreth laid maps out on a table, and explained to Fitz.

"Once you reach Covington, walk to 'Drinkers Beech.' It is an area of

wild, unsettled land at the headwaters of the Lehigh and Frye's Creek.

The 25,000 acres of unsettled land there belongs to the state.

These are the boundaries." He explained, using his finger to outline

the territory. "In 1791, the state hired a man named John Frye to cut a

road into the unknown territory. He never finished it. It passes Lake

Henry, here, then ends near a branch of the Lehigh called Bell Meadow

Brook.

In thirty years, nothing has been done to the 'Drinker Road', and

it has grown wild and narrow. Today, it is good only as a path for the

panther. We want to reopen the project and finish the road. If you go

there and establish an outpost, we will send a work crew to provide

labor, and a foreman."

Fitz made mental notes of all that Elfreth told him. He was

anxiously looking forward to the trip back to the wilderness. Although

he was very much in love with Regina, and she him, he also missed some

things about his life in the wilderness. Elfreth had guessed that

correctly.

At first, Regina resisted. "Fitz," She protested. "I fear for

your safety. After many years of being away from you because that was

the way it had to be, I fear that you will go back into the wilderness

again, and I will never see you again." Fitz rubbed her cheek gently

with the back of his hand.

"Regina, if this were other than one season, and if it were for

any other than Pierre Elfreth, I should not seriously consider it. But

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I do miss my friends among the wildlife. This should give me an

opportunity to spend time hunting and fishing as well. You now have a

good, stable crew at the Inn. It is sizable enough to handle the work

here. You can do without me for a few months. Things will run smoothly

without me. Perhaps more smoothly than with me." He quipped. She

smiled, and hugged him, warmly.

She resisted a strong urge to argue. She knew, deep down, that

there was a part of Fitz she could never reach, and that he was going on

this mission whether she wished him to or not. As close as they were,

there was a wildness within him that allowed her only so close. It kept

her, and everyone, at a distance.

Although she was adept at life in the woods through his teachings,

there was much that came to him instinctively that could never be

taught, or even understood by anyone but an Indian. She hugged him

gently. "Yes, of course," She said, "Go. Go with God, and be safe. I

will await your return here at the Inn."

She spent many a night worrying about his upcoming venture into

the wilds. Why, she asked, in her prayers, did her man have to be like

so many other men, men who chose lives as seafarers, warriors, or

explorers, who risked all for their goals of riches, power, or in Fitz'

case, solitude, and an alliance with nature. She never received a clear

answer.

At sunrise, Fitz was prepared for his journey. He stood beneath

the giant chestnut tree a few miles north of the Inn. He put his hands

upon the tree, and listened to the murmer in the branches.

He prayed, thanking God for his newly found freedom, and for

Regina. Then he thought of his friend, Nemacolin. He wondered if his

thoughts might reach Nemacolin through the trees.

He began his walk, heading in a north by northwesterly line. He

soon left the narrow path that was the old Durham Road, and started

across country, walking as the crow flies.

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He carried a small hatchet, his long rifle, pistols, some pieces

of dried jerky, and his knife. His feet were protected by loose-fitting

moccasins, and his painted buckskin jacket provided protection from the

cold. On his shoulders, he carried a small bedroll made of bearskin.

Small game was plentiful on the hike, and he shot two rabbits for

his supper. He made camp just before twilight, picking a level spot on

the north side of a tree-shaded mountain, that was protected on three

sides by rock cliffs. As he prepared his meal by the campfire, a shot

rang out from nowhere, kicking up a spray of dust at his feet.

He dove for cover behind a maple tree. Another shot sounded as he

reached for his long rifle. It missed his hand by inches. Still, he

could see no movement, no people, anywhere he looked.

Again, a shot slammed into the tree only inches from his face.

Ducking down behind the tree, he did see a puff of smoke that came from

the bushes at the top of the ridge. He somersaulted across the

clearing, and took up his long rifle. Then he ran toward a large rock.

As soon as he stopped, another shot whistled overhead. He saw a

piece of fur moving through the brush. It was a bearskin cap. He took

aim and fired. The shot found its mark, and a man tumbled toward the

ground.

Fitz ran up the hill, keeping a charge at the ready. As he neared

the area where he felled the rifleman, he saw blood in the bushes.

Seeing no one, he bent down to see if the blood was fresh.

From the underbrush, he heard a wild scream, an animal-like roar.

Fitz turned in time to see a huge man dressed completely in animal

skins, swinging the butt of a rifle at his head.

Fitz parried the blow from the wounded man, and knocked him down

with a forearm to the chest. Breathless, the white man held his charge,

giving in reluctantly to the pain of the wound in his chest.

"Wh-why, you are no Injun!!" He said, unable to regain his feet.

He pulled himself up against a tree, then groaned, and slid noisily to

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the ground. "I thought you were an Injun!" He said, raving angrily,

before he lost consciousness.

Something about this stranger's dismay over Fitz turning out not

to be an Indian piqued Fitz's curiosity. He determined to try to save

him. He picked him up and carried him back to his campsite. There, he

set about to remove the bullet from the tall, ruggedly-built white man.

The man was at least as large as Fitz. He had a swarthy complexion and

a large, ugly, red scar across his cheek. His hair was jet black, and

curly. His eyes were dark. They opened periodically, during fits of

semi-consciousness and looked about desperately before closing again,

unable to focus.

His clothes were completely fashioned from animal furs. He wore

knee-length moccasins, bearskin breeches, and a hunting jacket of

bearskin. His hat was made from skunk furs, and had a white and black

tail.

Fitz kept him warm against the cold night air. He knew he would

have to find a more substantial shelter for him if he was to live. The

wound was within inches of being fatal, but it luckily missed all his

internal organs. Fitz managed to remove the ball. He knew that if he

could keep him from freezing to death, and could control infection, the

man would live.

In the morning, the still delirious victim slept fitfully. Fitz

set about to build a small lean-to at the site, so that he could better

keep him warm.

The nights were still cold, though the days were warming quickly

with the coming of spring. Fitz spent hours tending to the wound while

waiting for the man to regain consciousness. He was reminded of the

time when he was the recipient of Nemacolin's kindness.

This man had fired on him, in ambush, from a distance, without

knowing who he was or anything about him. Still, something about his

anger made Fitz curious about what had driven him to attack.

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He was crazy with anger, but did not seem crazy. On the second

day, the man opened his eyes. Startled, he attempted to pull away from

Fitz, who knelt at his side. His pain stopped him. He slipped back to

the bed of grass, breathing hard, but shallowly.

"Who are you?" He asked Fitz. Then, before he could answer, he

turned away and said, "I thought you was an Injun!" He said the words

as if they were an apology.

"I am no Indian," Fitz said. He looked at the man lying in the

bed of grass before him. "Though my heart is Indian." He added. The

man flew into a rage. "I knew it! I knew you was a Godamned Redskin!"

The man boomed in a foghorn voice. He stirred, trying to get to

his feet, but again, his pain stopped him. "Who are you?" Fitz finally

asked, after his patient had calmed down. "They call me the Black

Eagle." The man explained, in a loud, agitated voice. "And I'll kill

every Injun in this valley, including you, as soon as I get my gun."

Fitz moved the rifles and pistols away from the bed in the

campsite. Then he turned back to the now helpless frontiersman. "You

were of a mind to put a bullet into me, just because you thought I was

an Indian?"

The Black Eagle said nothing, but only glared at Fitz. "Why did

you want to kill me?" He asked again. The Black Eagle growled,

sounding like a bear. "Because you looked like a damned Injun!

That's enough for me! Only damned good Injun is a dead Injun!"

Fitz shook his head, and muttered his disbelief. "If you had shot me,

dead, you would have killed a white man. I am as white as you." He

held his arm out and pulled on the skin. "See?"

"No damned matter!" The Black Eagle said, "You look like an

Injun, and you said your heart was Injun, that's close enough for me!"

"Does it matter that I saved your life, even though you tried to

ambush me?" Fitz said, mixing liquid in a cup that he heated over the

fire.

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The Black Eagle said nothing, but growled like a bear as he rolled

around, trying to find a comfortable position. He turned away from Fitz

and curled his legs up to his chest.

"Here, drink some of this." Fitz said, holding out the small cup.

The Black Eagle pushed it away. "What's that, some kind of Injun

magic?" He growled. Fitz smiled. "Maybe. But it might make you

better. It might even allow you to live."

The Black Eagle squirmed about uncomfortably. "It might even ease

your pain, some." Fitz offered. Growling, the Black Eagle rolled

toward Fitz and took some of the liquid. He spit it out, complaining

loudly. "That tastes like hog swill!" He bellowed.

Fitz took his chin in his hand and bent his head back, pouring the

warm liquid into his open mouth. The Black Eagle swallowed it,

protesting loudly, but swallowing, nonetheless.

Later, Fitz started a fire in the stone fireplace he built in the

lean to, which was now quite comfortable. The southwestern exposure was

covered by a thick mat of intertwined branches and pine boughs. It

provided both a wind break and a roof over head.

Fitz had closed the sides in partly as well with pine boughs. The

large area in the center of the structure provided room for a sizeable

campfire for both heat and cooking.

Fitz put some pieces of venison onto sharpened sticks and shoved

them into the fire. He turned, realizing the Black Eagle had awakened

again, and was staring at his back while he worked.

"Why did you not kill me when you had the chance?" The Black

Eagle asked. "I tried to." Fitz said, calmly. "But I missed."

The Black Eagle growled. "I mean, why did you bring me here? I

tried to kill you. Would have, too, if the wind had not spoiled my

shot."

Fitz looked at this man. Somehow, it was like looking into a

mirror. The truth was, he had no idea why he decided to try to save

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this wretch who had tried to shoot him in the back. Still, seeing him

there, wounded, angry, and helpless, stirred something within him.

Although he had no compunction about killing for self preservation, for

some reason, he found himself unable to do no less for this man than

Nemacolin had done for him so many years earlier. And he had no clear

idea why.

"Did it not matter to you, that you did not know me, nor know

anything about me?" Fitz asked, trying hard to understand. "Injuns

took everything from me!" The Black Eagle blurted out, suddenly. "They

killed my wife and two children! And for no reason!" He spit the words

out angrily.

"I am sorry." Fitz said, quietly, recognizing that his patient

needed not to listen, but to talk. "I went out one morning in my canoe

to fish the waters of the Juniata. It was a beautiful day when I left,

and I paddled over sun-kissed waters. My sons were playing in the

forest depths near my cabin, and climbed on the mountains to wave

goodbye. My wife loved our home, set in that beautiful valley. We had

a large spring in the rocks only a few feet from our door.

When I returned after sundown, I found the cabin a charred ruin.

My wife and children lay, scalped and murdered, cold in the moonlight

near our beloved spring." His voice trailed off, almost to a whisper.

"They were all I had...."

Then he raised his fist, and his voice. "It was then I vowed my

vengeance! I will kill every Injun I see until I have killed every last

one of them critters, and I've killed a plenty already!" The Black Eagle

clenched both fists and snarled, barking his threats into the night air.

Fitz said nothing, but sat, stirring the venison in the coals.

After a long silence, he pulled a stick from the fire and handed it to

the Black Eagle. He took it, after exchanging a glance with Fitz, then

attacked it hungrily.

Fitz watched him eat. He inhaled large chunks of the meat and

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chewed it roughly. He washed it all down with long drafts of cool,

spring water from the earthenware cup Fitz handed him.

"You bear these scars from some of your battles with Indians, eh?"

Fitz asked, a reference to the long scar on his cheek and the ten other

stab wounds he found on his body when he took the bullet out.

"Aye." The Black Eagle said, licking the grease from his fingers

loudly. "On the Tuscarora trail, one day, I saw a painted warrior

coming down the trail. He wore a tall, red feather in his hair, and his

body was covered with jewels that I knew he had stolen from some white

trader.

Soon as I had him in the sights of my long rifle, I squeezed off a

shot, and he leaped up into the air and fell dead. What I did not know

was that he was not alone. Three others jumped out at me. I shot

another, and crushed the skull of another with the but of my rifle. The

last one came out of nowhere. He grabbed me from behind and stabbed me

with his hunting knife.

I dropped my rifle, but managed to pull my knife out, and stabbed

him back. We fought each other for a long time. We stabbed each other

time after time, until we were so tired from loss of blood, that all we

could do was lay in the blood and glare at each other. Then, after a

while, he crept away and disappeared. I never saw him again.

I scalped the others and hung their scalps in the bushes on the

trail as a warning to other Injuns, and walked back to the settlement."

He paused, watching the flames rise above the campfire. "The Black

Eagle will get his vengeance." He said, raising his fist to Fitz.

Fitz chewed his venison quietly as The Black Eagle talked. The

next morning, The Black Eagle struggled to his feet with the dawn, and

got up alongside Fitz.

"You seem to be feeling better." Fitz commented, as the hunter

walked outside to the latrine. The Black Eagle nodded. "I am. Today,

I must be gone. I must move. I have much to accomplish."

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Fitz said nothing, but boiled some water by the fire for the

coffee-like drink he made from cat'o'nine tails. "Should I fear another

ambush and a bullet in the back from The Black Eagle?"

Fitz asked, handing a cup of the liquid to his patient. The Black

Eagle stood up straight and looked Fitz directly in the eye. He winced

slightly from the still-fresh pain of the bullet.

"You shall be safe from the bullets of this hunter." He said,

bellowing the words as if he didn't really want to say them, but because

he felt he had to. Then he turned to Fitz. "You saved my life." He

extended his hand. "I owe you."

Fitz shook his hand. "Why did you save me?" The Black Eagle

asked again. "I am not sure." Fitz said. "Surely, I owe no apology

for killing one who would shoot me in the back from afar."

The Black Eagle nodded his agreement. "Perhaps it was because a

similar kindness was extended to me once." Fitz said. "Perhaps because

I, too, had once been shot. I was a fugitive when only a boy, and a

bounty hunter put a ball through my lung. And my life was saved by an

Indian brave."

The Black Eagle's face started to turn red, flushing anew with

rage. "Yes, I was saved by an Indian brave, who owed me nothing." Fitz

said, stilling him with a hand on his shoulder. "He would have been

justified in taking my scalp instead of nursing me. The wrongs done him

and his people by the white man would have justified that.

But, for some reason, he decided I should live, and he nursed me

back to health. I was a fugitive then, and had no place to go. I was

not a free man. To remain alive, I had to live in the wilderness,

alone, in isolation from the white man and his laws.

In all those years, he was my only ally. He is my brother. It

was his teachings that kept you alive, for without the knowledge he

passed to me, my bullet might surely have been fatal."

The Black Eagle swallowed his coffee, along with his rage. He

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growled. "Your brother would be the one good Injun out there." He

finally admitted. "There is at least one." Fitz said, extending his

hand again.

They parted company that day, The Black Eagle moving due west from

the campsite. Fitz never saw him again, though he thought of him many

times. He continued on, turning to the northeast, hiking toward

Covington.

He arrived in the valley at the beginning of the old "Drinker

Road" well before any of the others from Dufresne Company. Here, he

felt at home and cleansed his soul in the outdoors. He fished for large

trout that leaped the cascades feeding in the Lehigh River. He felt the

cold, yet welcome solitude of the great beech forest, where sunlight

rarely reached the ground.

He called the owls from their shadowy retreats in the deep woods.

He could imitate the calls of every game bird he had ever encountered in

the wilderness. Wild turkeys would answer his call, and then fall prey

to his unerring long rifle.

He built a lean-to, but preferred to sleep most nights back in the

forest, in the open, on a pile of fragrant hemlock boughs.

Old French Charley arrived a week or so later, leading a work crew

up from Chester. The crew was to finish the road out of the wilderness

territory before the next winter.

Charley and the men arrived in their birch bark canoes late one

day. There were twenty men in all. They carried with them the tools of

their trade, axes, pickaxes, shovels, long wrecking bars, saws, and

wheels to be used for building wheelbarrows. They had left their oxen

and packs on the opposite shore.

The walk from Chester over wild, uncut forest had been extremely

difficult and much more time consuming than anyone had realized. "I

apologize for being late." Charley said to Fitz when they first met.

"It was a much more difficult walk than we expected." He

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explained. "Besides, some of the men don't move very fast. I can only

hope they dig better than they walk." He laughed, but he had serious

doubts about some.

Charley had served as a runner for General Wayne in the Indian War

in the Northwest, and he was used to being able to make his way about

quickly in the wilderness.

The men were mostly from Ireland, and were hired because they were

the best laborers available when Dufresne Company found them. As

Charley found out, good laborers were not necessarily good hikers

through wilderness.

"I have begun to clear us a campsite." Fitz said, showing Charley

what he had started. "That should be our first order of business."

Charley agreed.

Charley directed his men to retrieve the pack animals from the far

shore, and to make camp for the night. In the morning they would finish

the work of clearing a camp site and start building cabins to get

started on the road work as soon as possible.

Fitz watched Charley carefully as he marked out the direction of

the roadway, using his compass and a sight glass. They tied colorful

ribbons to the branches to mark their way into the dense forest.

Beech trees, some 48 inches and more in circumference would have

to be cut to make the path through the virgin forest. Two man crews

with axes would drop the huge trees while another crew would remove the

limbs.

Still another crew dug six foot deep pits near the campsite, which

were then used to saw logs into boards, one man standing in the pit and

the other on the ground. They used these boards to build their cabins.

Smaller trees were cut deeper in the woods, and dragged to the

road by the oxen. They were cut to the same length as the width of the

road, and were laid end to end over muddy spots, to provide a corduroy

surface on the roadway.

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On Sundays, when they rested, Fitz and Charley liked to roam the

woods to hunt and fish. They shared a love for Indian life. "I was

born in French Canada." Charley told Fitz. "When I was a little boy,

my love for hunting and trapping led me to the Indian wigwam more than

it did to my own home.

I was adopted into the tribe of the Mes-sa-saw-gu-es Indians. I

trapped with my Indian brother. In time, I, Charles Baptiste became a

better trapper than my Indian brother. I soon had many rich furs to

sell and made a lot of money. I owned a fine new rifle, and a horse and

saddle. We spent much time hunting in the Wabash country for wild

turkeys," He said, explaining how he had acquired his expert hunting

abilities.

Fitz shared part of his life with Charley one night before the

campfire. "I spent twenty years living in a cave. I had been

indentured to a kindly old doctor in Germantown. One night, someone

murdered him, and his slave. I was blamed for that, and for killing

some of the murderers, and a ransome was placed on my head. I ran into

the wilderness country, and my Indian brother saved my life. He taught

me to hunt and how to survive in a cave in the wilderness."

"It must have been lonely for you, living in the cave." Charley

said. "It was." Fitz agreed. "But I was one with the wilderness, and

my Indian brother visited, and hunted with me."

"I spent years sailing the lakes in French Canada." Charley said,

as they tracked a deer to the top of a rocky ridge. "That was a lonely

life, too, especially for one who loves the forest. We carried furs

back to Quebec, and then they went on to France."

Fitz fired one shot, and the deer fell, shot through the heart.

Charley shouldered his rifle and shot another that bolted into the rocky

crevasse. It ran a few hundred yards and dropped as well.

They carried the deer back to the camp and dressed them out to the

cheers of the laborers. They looked forward to having good food for the

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next week.

Fitz and Charley were both practiced at gathering wild plants and

berries to help feed the crews. Although two laborers were sent into

the settlement regularly to bring back supplies, the addition of wild

game and vegetables was important to keeping the crews healthy and

working to the best of their abilities.

The road construction went ahead as planned, with few problems.

One morning, just after dawn, the men had organized themselves into

smaller crews, and began to work.

A loud warhoop sounded from the dark forest. It was followed by

another, then another, and another. Fitz took up his rifle and waited,

watching the darkness for movement. Charley stood at the rear of the

party with his long rifle. The men held their axes and waited.

The forest fell eerily silent. Fitz and Charley knew to expect an

attack at any second. They called to the men to duck. Another warhoop

sounded, and an arrow flew, whistling near the men. It struck a tree.

Others followed, landing with rapid fire thuds.

Charley fired his long rifle first. An Indian leaped out of his

hiding place, and fell to the ground. Fitz fired, and another fell.

The Indians quickly gave up the attack, and disappeared as noiselessly

as they had come, dragging their wounded off with them.

"That marauding band of Conestogas we heard about." Charley said,

as they regrouped with the workers, and assessed the damage. Fitz

agreed. "I could not tell how many there were, but I do not think too

many, or they would not have run off so easily."

"They will go back to the settlement, where they can attack the

farmers who cannot fight back so well." Charley said, laughing. "I

will see what they may have left behind." He walked into the forest.

Fitz tended to the wounded laborer. "This will hurt." He said,

as he pulled the arrow from his arm. The Irish laborer grimmaced, and

braced himself against a tree.

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By the end of the summer, they neared completion of the road back

to town. Fitz and Charley had worked well together. They had no other

Indian attacks, although the marauders did burn two farms in the valley

were they were working. The laborers plodded ahead, slowly cutting and

hauling timbers. The new road took shape.

At the end of September, Fitz left to go back to The Black Eagle

Inn. He left Charley and the men to finish the last remaining tasks on

the road, and then Charley stayed on to open the logging operation.

Soon, his men would begin felling timbers to be shipped over the new

road to the plant in Chester.

Fitz neared the settlement at the south end of the Wyoming Valley

on his way to the Black Eagle Inn. Hiking through the steep gorge

through which the narrow trail wended its way, he stopped to watch the

hawks as they circled Hawk Mountain.

Silently, effortly, they glided down the sloping sides of the

mountain, rising suddenly, flapping their wings only a time or two, then

climbing on the air currents.

He shifted his rifle to a more comfortable position on his

shoulder, and walked on. A figure he hadn’t seen moved among the rocks

at the top of the slope. Grey fur reflected in the bright sunlight.

The Black Eagle looked down at Fitz and waved an unseen salute in his

direction, then turned and strode silently back into the forest.

Fitz walked steadily along the trail beside the river. He saw

smoke curling into the sky above the cabin near the Black Eagle Inn,

telling him that Regina was there. It was late in the day.

He opened the door slowly, shouting a greeting as he did. Regina

bounded across the floor and jumped into his arms. "Oh, Fitz. Thank God

you are safe." She said. He kissed her warmly on the lips. "I have

missed you unbearably." He said.

*****

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The governor's coach rolled noisily into the wagonyard at The

Black Eagle Inn. The highly polished wagon was dulled by days of heavy

dust from the road. The driver was almost totally encased in dusty mud

from head to foot.

It had been very dry during the whole month of June and well into

July. Without rain, the normally full river was but a trickle in a dry

ditch. Every evening, the breezes would stir, the sky would turn black,

and there would be lightning and thunder, but only a very brief storm,

that teased the farmers, and that only succeeded in turning the road

into an impassable mire of dusty mud.

Governor and Lady Jonas Webster stepped from the coach, and

followed the flagstone path toward the main entrance. Regina took the

door from the doorman, and bowed to the governor and his wife.

She then led them to their chambers at the front of the Inn.

Assistants carried their luggage behind them. "And how is Captain

Fitz?" Jonas asked. "He is well, your honor."

Regina answered. "He will be here soon. He is in the meadow

helping the drovers to ready their cattle for the night."

"Good. Good." Jonas Webster said, removing his dust-covered

jacket. "Please, allow me to have this cleaned for you." Regina said,

taking the jacket from him.

"Please, won't you and Captain Fitz join us for dinner, after he

arrives?" Jonas said to Regina who walked toward the door carrying the

jacket. "We would love that." She said, taking the jacket and the

governor's boots, which he had just removed. She placed them in the

hallway outside the door to be polished by the servants.

******

Angelina pulled the shawl tightly across her shoulders and stepped

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down from the tall porch on the front of the frame building. The

clapboards were painted pink, and the curtains inside were lavender.

Hurricane shutters were tightly mounted around each window, and were

painted a shiny black. The main house was huge, and was protected by a

ten foot high brick wall with jagged broken glass embedded in the top.

The wall ran completely around the property.

Dusty, yellow, gravel roads led off into the distance, shaded from

the merciless Equatorial sun. They stretched from the main gate, in

several directions, climbing the steep, green hills, covered with thick,

jungle vegetation. Green tendrils dangled from the trees that covered

the roads, tumbling and tangling to the earth.

Oxen pulled wagons hypnotically down from the sugar fields and

made their way slowly toward the coast. In the harbor, the water was

blue-green, and bubbled, kissed by the sun. White, frothy waves rolled

toward the shore, and dissipated gradually along the clean, white, sandy

beaches. Each was quickly followed by the next.

A sail broke the horizon, as island children dove from it to the

depths of the Carribean in search of pearls, and treasure from sunken

shipwrecks. The hot wind blew insistantly, rarely letting up. Any

trees on the island unlucky enough to stand alone, with no protection,

were blown over, until they nearly touched the ground, and were frozen

in that position forever.

Angelina's black dress was befitting the occasion of Skull's

burial. The huge pirate died peacefully the previous evening, shortly

after supper.

He collapsed on the lush, green, garden path while strolling with

Angelina. Within minutes he was dead. It took twelve sturdy men as

pallbearers to carry his remains to his grave. He was laid to rest in a

shaded clearing next to the orchard and looking out over his beloved

ocean.

Pedro Santana was a tall, thin man with a swarthy complexion. He

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was scrupulously groomed, no matter the hour, in spite of the oppressive

heat of summer in the jungle. He was the manager of the plantation that

Skull had hired the previous year. Skull's ways of piracy had long

since given way to legitimate business interests, that were protected by

the huge fortune he had amassed.

Santana made all the decisions regarding the workings of the

estate. Angelina had no reason not to trust him to continue now that

Skull was gone. His performance as manager had been above reproach. He

approached her on the porch, putting his arm gently across her

shoulders.

"I am very sorry, Miss Angelina." He said, offering his

condolences again. Santana was a genteel Dominican, who ran the

plantation flawlessly. He directed a crew of gardeners who kept the

grounds meticulously.

He was a tough taskmaster, who demanded good work from all those

in the employ of Skull and Angelina. Those who did not perform well

could expect to be dealt with harshly. Floggings were commonplace among

the workers, who also were well-fed, and cared for, provided they

performed as expected.

"Thank you, Pedro." Angelina said. "I am thankful to have you to

watch over things for me." Pedro bowed, kissed her hand, and walked to

the rear of the main house, barking orders to workers there.

In a small pen at the rear of the barn, a very small figure

labored, shoveling manure from under the pigs. He wore a black, hooded

coat to protect himself from the burning intensity of the equatorial

sun, which, unhappily for him, seemed naturally attracted to his oily,

grey skin.

He shoveled manure into a bucket, sweating profusely, then waded

through the mud to the other side of the pen where he dumped it into a

wagon. He looked toward the porch of the main house, squinting his

beady eyes against the sun.

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Cyrus cackled softly as he worked this day. With the news of

Skull's death, after waiting all these many years for his revenge, he

was finally about to carry out his plan.

That evening, well after sundown, he stole into the main house,

being careful to avoid being seen by the many houseservants coming and

going, carrying the next day's provisions, or cleaning equipment, or

watering or tending to the plants.

The house was filled with dozens of varieties of orchids, which

Angelina loved to raise. They bloomed almost continuously, flooding the

humid building with brilliant color.

He slipped into the library, hiding behind the curtains for a few

minutes when two maids walked by. Quickly, he took down a picture from

the wall, and removed a bundle of bills, which he stuffed into his shirt

pocket.

He pulled the black hood over his face, tying it tightly, and

stepped out of the building, stopping in the bushes in front of the

barn.

These bushes were his long-time hiding place. As a model slave,

who caused no trouble, and who did as he was told, Cyrus had been

allowed by his keepers to wander the rest of the barnyard for an hour in

the evening, after supper.

Guards with dogs on leashes patrolled, and kept the workers in

their places, well away from the main house. However, from here he was

able to watch the main house. He spent many nights watching Skull hide

money and jewels, memorizing the route of the guard dogs, and plotting

his ultimate revenge.

After the guards and dogs had passed, he ran across the open

courtyard, giggling out loud, unable to contain his glee. Two housemaids

wearing clean and brightly colored clothes walked by his hiding place

seconds after he made his dash. "What is that horrible smell?" One asked

the other in Spanish. "I don't know. It smells like pig manure, but

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worse." They checked the bottoms of their shoes, then continued on

toward the servant's quarters at the rear of the house.

Cyrus took the money from his shirt, and counted it lying on his

bed next to the pig pen. Into the night, he played with it, throwing the

bills into the air, then gleefully picking them up again from the floor,

kissing them, fondling them, wallowing in them.

Later, he performed one of the most distasteful tasks he knew,

dragging a large oaken bucket to his open air quarters. He filled it

with water he hauled from the well in buckets. He dropped a block of

lye soap into the water, and, holding his nose, climbed in after it.

He bathed himself, and his clothes, knowing that the smell of his

pig pen could disclose his hiding place and put an early end to his

long-awaited journey.

In the early hours of the morning, he left his pig pen for the

last time. He followed the dry, dusty road to the harbor, ducking into

the dense jungle undergrowth whenever a group of partying Dominicans

would pass.

In the harbor, he crawled aboard the Schooner, ATTICUS, which had

arrived the day before from Georgia. He overheard the captain, Lemuel

Libby, talking with Pedro Santana, and knew it would be sailing at dawn

for its return to Georgia. He had fantasized for many years about the

ship that would carry him north to his ultimate revenge.

He climbed the thick hawsers, dangling upside down over the putrid

water at the landing, pushing two rats who were stymied by the rat

guards into the sea. Then he dragged himself over the rat guard, and

climbed aboard the vessel, managing to avoid detection in the process.

He secreted himself, with his cache of food, water, and cash,

under a life boat on the forecastle. He made fast and awaited the

beginning of his long journey. The weather was fair and clear on the

first day out of the harbor.

By the evening of the third day, the schooner ran into the first

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of several gales, the first that Cyrus had ever encountered at sea.

During one long period, she ran two days with reefed sails before the

high winds, and the heavy seas pounded the vessel as it rolled and

pitched about like a cork.

The deck cargo shifted time and again, forcing the poor,

bedraggled, and drenched sailors out to try to make the cargo fast

again. Heavy waves broke over the vessel and ruined barrels of bread

rations for the crew.

Meanwhile, Cyrus had his first taste of seasickness. Several

times, as he lay wretching beneath the lifeboat, the sailors were within

inches of discovering him. At that point, he was so miserable he would

not have cared.

When the weather finally calmed, the schooner landed at Savannah,

Georgia, later than expected, with some of its freight lost or

jettisoned to avoid the damaging heavy seas.

At nightfall, Cyrus dragged his still seasick and emaciated self

out from under the life boat and shimmied down the hawser. He lost his

grip, trying to squirm over the rat guard, and tumbled, head first into

the putrid depths of the harbor, landing precisely where all the

visiting vessels dumped their sewage.

Shivering, and cursing under his breath, he climbed the ladder

that was tied to the slippery, black pilings, and dragged himself onto

the deck of the pier.

Hiding among some large barrels next to a building, he waited for

a group of drunken sailors to return to the ATTICUS from a run to the

tavern at the head of the wharf. Then he patted the money in his shirt

for good luck, and set off to locate the trail to Pennsylvania.

Although the SUSAN, a vessel from Kennebunkport in the

Massachusetts Colony was tied alongside the ATTICUS, and was sailing in

the morning for Philadelphia, Cyrus determined to hire a coach, if he

could, or if not, to walk the eight or nine hundred miles to

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Pennsylvania. One bout with seasickness was enough for him.

******

The jaunting car came to a stop in the gravel area south of the

common in West Chester. Cyrus, wearing a new beaver coat and racoon hat

with a long tail, swung his legs from the seat, stepped onto the stairs

and climbed to the ground.

He gave instructions to his driver and walked up the wide, stone

steps of the courthouse. It was a warm, fall day, and Cyrus perspired

heavily under the shiny black coat.

Stopping at the polished, mahogany counter in front of the

sheriff's office, he asked a question of the clerk there. The clerk

left and returned quickly with an envelope. He nodded his head, and

explained something to Cyrus.

Cyrus stood, open-mouthed for a few seconds, then asked to see the

envelope. The clerk handed it to him. "Freeeeeeeee?" Cyrus said, his

agitated state raising his voice to a high-pitched whine. "He is

freeeeeeee?" He repeated the words to the clerk. The clerk nodded

affirmatively.

Cyrus threw the envelope down on the hard counter, turned on his

heel and left, slamming the large wooden door behind him. He marched

across the common sputtering to himself.

"Free?! Freeeeeeeeeeeeeee?!" He fumed. Then his face became

suddenly pensive as he neared his jousting car. "We shall see how

free!" He said to his driver, who had no idea what he was talking

about. "Drive on!" He shouted to the driver, who shrugged, and cracked

his whip over the horse. It quickly started, bouncing the car across

the cobblestone pavers.

They headed south, with Cyrus still babbling to himself as they

rode. "A bullet could put an end to his ill-gotten prize." He mumbled.

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Then he raised his finger toward the heavens, congratulating himself on

having such a good idea. He giggled. His head tilted back and he

cackled like a rooster.

******

Fitz stood at the south end of the meadow, talking with two

leather-jacketed drovers. He pointed toward the river, then back toward

the livery stable. It was late in the day, and the drovers had just

arrived with horses they picked up in trade at Rose Point, which was

beyond the Alleghenies near the western border of Pennsylvania.

Fitz walked back to the Inn, crossing the dusty cattle lot. As he

walked, he surveyed the Tavern, now enlarged by yet another wing, and

another barn at the livery stable.

He smiled, thinking how much he loved Regina, and how proud he was

for her to have realized her dream. He knew how much it meant to her to

succeed in the venture that was first conceived by her parents.

He climbed the stairs and entered the Inn. Guests were already

seated in the dining room. Regina came to him as soon as he entered the

lobby. "Fitz." She said, as she neared his side. Behind her by a few

paces, was a young gentleman, dressed in a fine, Scottish, wool suit.

He was tall, and stood very erect. His hair was brown, and thick and

curly. His soft brown eyes had a sparkle in them, and his broad, thick

shoulders, seemed about to burst from the clothing he wore.

"This is a young gentleman I think you should meet." She said,

quietly. She looked at Fitz for a long moment, watching his face as he

looked at the young man for the first time. Fitz' reaction was

nonchalant. "This is Mister Edward Braddock." She said, finally,

enunciating the words carefully. Fitz did a double take. His eyes

opened for an instant, then he lowered his penetrating gaze and cleared

his throat, nervously. He extended his hand.

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"I am pleased to make your acquaintance, sir." The young man

said, pronouncing the words with a rather severe British accent. "And

I, yours." Fitz said, with a smile.

"Mister Braddock is here on his way to the new Dufresne Company

plant in Delaware." Regina said. "He is to go to work there. He will

be working for Pierre Elfreth."

Fitz smiled, wiping away a tear from the corner of his right eye.

"Oh, excuse me. It's a bit dusty outside." He said. He could not help

staring at the young man, his and Katie's son. How much he saw of

himself at that age. He stiffened, realizing he was staring

uncomfortably. With every fiber of his existence, he wanted to take the

young man into his arms and hug him.

"A, a wonderful man he is." Fitz said, proudly. "We have known

him for years." The younger man smiled. "I have been most favorably

impressed by all that I have seen of the gentleman."

"Come, please. May we show you to your table?" Regina asked,

waving with her hand toward the dining room. "No, thank you." He

replied. "I believe I shall retire to my room for a bit. I will return

later, if that will not trouble you."

"Not at all." Regina said. "I will call for someone to help you

with your bags." Edward Braddock smiled, and bowed his head. He left

the room.

Fitz watched him walk toward the stairway. He ducked his head to

get through the doorway. Fitz turned and looked at Regina, who smiled.

"He is a fine looking lad." She said, laughing. "He reminds me of

someone I once knew."

*****

The band played gaily from the gazebo at the northern end of the

grassy common. Several cows and sheep grazed unconcerned among the

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people gathered around the courthouse. Men wore white suits against the

noonday heat, and the women twirled colorful parasols.

Children and dogs played and rollicked in the thick grass. On the

steps of the courthouse, ten greyhaired men stood, closely grouped

together, looking out over the expanse of the common. One of the men

was Nemacolin. Next to him stood Captain Fitz. A second Indian, and a

black-skinned man stood among the other eight.

Most of the men wore some part of a Colonial Army uniform, with

the exception of Fitz and Nemacolin, who both wore painted buckskin.

The men stood proudly, and came to abrupt attention as Governor Jonas

Webster stepped from the courthouse. The band stopped, as he began to

speak.

Fellow citizens, and residents of this great state of

Pennsylvania, we gather here, this Independence Day, to pay homage

to those brave men among us who so bravely served the cause of

this new nation in the War of Revolution. Our forefathers of the

Revolution cared little for the previous condition of their

comrades as long as they were fighting for the same independence.

Shoulder to shoulder stood the white man, the negro, and the

Indian on many of the battlefields of the war and no American

should hesitate for a moment from giving all credit for their

services. Many of these men may have been poor, perhaps rough,

homespun men, but the results of their lives show that it is true

that out of the roughest workshops of the world came the finest

fabrics. The resolutions of their meetings prove that they were a

type of manhood that our people will always delight to honor.

Their hearts were right, what care we for their appearance? We

judge them by the fruit of their lives.

In the sun-washed brilliance of the day, unnoticed by all who

stood riveted by the words of the governor, Cyrus slipped from the rear

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of the blacksmith's shop at the edge of the common.

Wearing an oversized long, black cape that covered him totally,

and a black hat with a drooping brim pulled down over his ears, he

inched his way toward the steps of the courthouse, protected by two men

who stood close, blocking him from the crowd.

Fitz stood gazing out over the crowd, and glanced up, suddenly

recognizing Cyrus, by then only a few paces away, his unseen arm

outstretched under the cape, and his pistol pointed directly at Fitz'

heart.

Fitz ducked, but too late. A puff of smoke billowed from the

cape, and a loud crack startled the celebration into stunned silence,

before a collective gasp arose from the spectators.

Nemacolin was the first to move. In one smooth motion, he removed

his hunting knife from its sheath, and threw it at Cyrus, who suddenly

stood alone, as people ducked to the ground to get away from the

shooting.

The blade of the knife entered his chest with a heavy thud. Cyrus

dropped the gun, groaned, spun around in two tiny circles, then fell,

face first to the earth, landing in a cloud of dust, where he remained,

forever still. Two black dogs appeared from the crowd, growling and

barking, and pulled at his clothing as he lay, motionless.

Fitz slumped to the stairs slowly, his jacket stained with blood.

Nemacolin and the others quickly came to his aid. Regina and Molly

Webster pushed their way through the crowd and knelt close to him.

Cyrus' accomplices made a dash for freedom, pursued relentlessly by

younger men in the crowd. Neither made it to the cover of the dark

forest. Both were quickly returned to the jail behind the courthouse.

Regina knelt beside Fitz, kissing him warmly and tearfully on his

forehead. A doctor in the crowd kelt beside her. He opened Fitz'

jacket to get a better look at the wound.

Two men arrived carrying a stretcher. They lowered it and lifted

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Fitz onto it. "Take him to my office." The doctor said, recruiting

able-bodied men from the crowd.

"I will be all right." Fitz whispered to Regina in a raspy, weak

voice. She squeezed his hand tightly. The stretcher bearers lifted him

into the back of a wagon. Fitz winced as they moved him.

Regina ran beside the wagon, continuing to hold his hand. His

grey hair was being tousled by the wind, and his brown eyes met hers for

an instant. His breathing was hesitant and steady but pain showed on

his face with every breath.

The doctor removed his jacket as he climbed the stairs to the

front door, and held it open for the stretcher. The door blew closed

behind him.

On the village green, the crowd stood silent for several minutes,

before beginning to disperse. Jonas Webster stood gazing across the

common from the courthouse steps, remembering Fitz on the day of his

trial, being led in chains inside the building. Slowly he turned, and

with Nemacolin at his side, followed the doctor inside.

The End

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