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February 1776: Skins Report

General Summary

From the Letters of Bacchus Fellhart
28 February, 1776 – Wednesday
  Ah, it was a fine and brisk morning in Flemington, NJ. I had just come up riding in the very comfortable hay wagon of one Aloisious Marks. Jolly fellow. Had jokes for days, it seemed. All of them bad, but quite companionable, especially after the dour and, dare I say, maudlin conversations with John R. back in Annapolis. I swear he thought that damned Tory loyalists were going to break down the door to get to me after what happened down in Norfolk. Let ‘em try, I told him. Let ‘em try and I’ll knock their heads with my stick like I knocked the heads of their masters in the bloody and burning streets of Norfolk!   Damnable man just muttered and sulked. Wouldn’t even give me a nip. So nice change of pace to meet up with H. Jones at Flemington’s only pub. Scrappy place, that. Methinks they need some more sod on the roof or something – chilly even after my open-air cart ride up from Annapolis.   Turns out Jones wasn’t even there! Typical of the man. Think I saw him in the distance once. But he’d summoned some few others of us: that father-son carnival act, Cedric Cromwell and Bahlsen Butterkeps; a lively little joker going by the almost-certain-to-be-a-nom-de-guerre of Banzi; and perhaps the tallest, thinnest scarecrow of a … woman … that I have ever seen in my life. Grumble, is what she goes by. Again, almost certainly an alias.   I, of course, need no alias. I am, quite proudly, Bacchus Fellhart, by Zeus!   But, back to my tale. There was a note from Jones. Some tall, red-headed lass named Miriam was supposed to be taking a message from Trenton to Boston to, presumably, aid Washington in the siege there. Went missing a day or two back, no one having heard from her since. Jones’ task for our motley group, is (with only 2 silver coins for expenses!) to have us make our way to Trenton, find the girl, find the message, and get both of them to Boston.   Bloody damned hells … on 2 silver coins!   Fortunately, I was able to scam Cromwell out of 3 pennies to pay a Quaker named Livingston to take Banzi and I in his cart to Trenton – the others had horses, though to see Grumble ride a horse is to laugh yourself almost sick, what with her feet dragging on the ground the whole way and catching up sticks and pinecones and such!   Livingston dropped us off at the Fish and Fin Inn on the outskirts of Trenton, a town of a couple of hundred souls, at best. Grim place, in the glooming twilight, if I might be so bold as to wax romantic. But the Fish and Fin was not grim. Ho ho! Not at all. Brimming with life, it was and I felt my own face crinkle up with the smiling at the mass of sweating, drinking, carousing humanity. By Zeus! this is the sort of place I fight in this rebellion for!   At the Fish, it’s true, I might have had a bit too much to drink. Nearly got into a fight with a tall, red-headed woman’s husband, who completely misconstrued my intentions toward his lovely and very shapely goodwife. But we straightened it all out and he bought some rounds for me, which was more than I could get Cedric to do. All this, of course, while Cedric and Grumble were canvassing for information about Miriam, and while Banzi was off dancing or some such on a table. Funny type, that one, in all the ways of the word. Bahlsen was hanging around me, presumable hoping that some of my panache would rub off on him. The lad could do worse than emulate Bacchus Fellhart, I’ll tell you that!   We didn’t find out much there, though. Only that Miriam had been there and then headed off northeast, presumably on her mission to Boston, though of course, I mentioned none of that to my own new-found farmer friends … or I’m almost certain I did not. As I said, I might have been a few cups into my cups.   In any case, further inquiries were not in the cards for our evening, as the door of the Fish burst open at that point and a rather dazzled local comes in shouting on about needing help to find his young, doweried, quite-lovely-and-marriagable daughters.   Of course I immediately leapt to my feet – certainly not giving long pause to ascertain if anyone else was going to step forward first – and volunteered my aid. And my magnanamousness spurred the rest of the pub to quickly assemble a search party.   Whereupon I learned that the fellow, name of Calvin, had misled us from the beginning! His daughters weren’t daughters, but sons! Ah well, no backing out of a promise made, not even to a miscreant lier such as Calvin.   My companions and I found ourselves in this very Calvin’s portion of the search party and you can be sure that I was quick of tongue with him and was only somewhat mollified when his guilt impelled him to share his nip of rum with me. Be that as it may, with the light of a lantern I had procured from the pub (along with a comfortable but beer stained cloak), we were able to follow the prints of the missing lads from where Calvin’s wagon had broken down and out to an, alas! Bloody and Torn coat at the edge of a perilous-looking wood – quite typically the dark-and-deep sort. As Calvin had already mentioned the sound of wolves, I peered into the dark, looking for dangers, though the wounds I took in Norfolk have limited my once-notable abilities in that area quite considerably.   It was not, however, wolves that I saw moving through the copse, but rather the light of another lantern, which turned out to be held aloft by the hand of that Quaker, Livingston, whom we had ridden into town with only hours before! He had, it seemed, been out looking for his dog, Beezle or Beaver or some such thing. Big old Wolfhound that didn’t seem to like the cut of my jib, if you know what I mean. Could have been the smell of ale on me, I’ll allow.   Livingston hadn’t seen anything of the lads, but agreed to help us search, since Banjo or whatever could sniff out “a pheasant at a duck’s yard” whatever that means. You can be sure that I swaddled my own Duck, Hotspur, closer inside my copious vest.   Beelzebub led us through the woods to a crumbling old farmhouse. There was a light on upstairs, but after I rapped on the door with my stick, no motion inside the house was forthcoming. I opened the door after Banzi and Cedric had taken a walkabout around the place. Grumble, I’ll mention, just stood, staring gape-mouthed at the light in the upper-story window. Something not right with that Appalachian, I’ll tell you.   The door opened into a dark sitting room with a cold fire in the fireplace. As Calvin was still quite shaken, I offered to start the fire and moved to do so, but Livingston quickly got Calvin situated in a chair and took over the duties from me. So it was that we began our exploration of this eeriely quiet and seemingly, despite the light, uninhabited place.   You might wonder at this point, dear reader, why I was so quick to make so bold with another soul’s property. Well, you would be right to do so. But I have had some experience in these matters, and I have seen things that would make lesser men quail. Not just death and horror on the battlefield … but darker, older, horrors. And this night, I don’t fear to admit, had my hackles raised. There was something abroad that wanted to do good, sane persons harm. I could feel it in my old, aching bones – in the scar that burned across my face from scalp line to opposite chin; in the hollow where my right eye used to be. Aye, and because of that, I was more than happy to press the bounds of neighborly hospitality and enter that house uninvited.   Especially as the Wolfhound’s nose had led us straight to the door and young lives were at stake.   Most of us made our way then to the upper floor, while Calvin, Livingston, and Bahlsen stayed below, the latter to explore the kitchen … likely looking for loose silverware or a sandwich. Boy seems to have a fondness for forks, and could certainly use a few hearty meals.   Upstairs, we found a bedroom that hadn’t seen use for some time, judging from the layer of dust on the neatly-made bed. I was about to investigate a desk, upon which was set a lit lamp, but a shout from Grumble at the other end of the building raised the alarm and I hurried to lend my aid in whatever was afoot there.   What we discovered was a scene of horror! Friends, be wary of reading these next passages, for they contain evidence of the depths of depravity to which humans are capable.   There, in a powder room in which was a bathtub, what I believe the French call an en suite, was … oh, Friends, how can I describe this without risking your own sanity, as I and my companions have risked ours?   Hanging above the bathing tub was the skin of a some poor soul, some person! Some human being! Stripped from the meat and organs as if it were a suit that could be put on and taken off. And there were more in the tub itself!   Banzi, and I cannot blame them in the slightest, immediately turned and retched into the corner.   Perhaps thankfully, a ruckus from downstairs distracted us from inquiring into this atrocity further, though, I shall admit, I was struck paralyzed for a moment by the sight of this thing swaying in the guttering light, casting its shadow upon the window – what must have been the shadow we had seen moving in the upper floor of the farmhouse when we had approached from afar.   So it was that when I turned to inquire of Grumble what she made of all this, the Appalachian was gone, already having joined the others to see what was happening downstairs.   Halfway down the stairs myself (I am quicker and more spry than my bulk – fairly earned for my deeds, I shall say – would imply) I assayed the situation and that situation was chaotic! My companions were engaged in mortal combat with none other than the Quaker, Livingston! and his doggie, too! It appeared, from what I could make out, that Livingston had attacked Calvin and then attacked Bahlsen when confronted about the affront, though I will admit that part is hazy and comes to you from a brief conversation after the fact. Again, I was not uninebriated still at this time, though what we had found above had sobered me some.   Let it not be said, though, that Bacchus Fellhart shirks battle, though! Indeed, no, I leapt over the balustrade and charged the traitorous ruffian shedding the walking stick from the saber that it conceals inside.   What followed is a blur of attack and counterattack, of the shouts of my friends, the growls of both Livingston and his Wolfhound, of the roar of Cedric’s guns, the whizzz of stones from Banzi’s slingshot, and the grunts as Grumble and Livingston wrestled one another for consciousness.   But what was not a blur was there, at the end, as Grumble reversed a hold she had on the farmer, holding him for a moment in place, and then Bahlsen was there. Young Bahlsen, hardly more than a lad, plunging a pocket knife into Livingston’s gut over and over again and then staggering back, staring at the blood on the blade with a look of … well, a look I do not wish to interpret … upon his face.   And Livingston fell.   His own Wolfhound, no more loyal than Livingston himself, fled through the back of the house and out into the night, while the rest of us just stood there, staring at one another and wondering what it was that had just transpired.   And then there came a pounding at the door.     Bacchus Fellhart, esq.
Trenton, New Jersey
28 February, 1776
Flames of Freedom
Report Date
21 Feb 2021

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