Anxious to find a way out of his predicament, he found Wally was waiting for him with screened help. Wally informed him he was on the outskirts of the port of Charlestown, the first capital of colonial Massachusetts. Just beyond was the Charles River, while eastward lay the small town of Lexington, with Concord beyond that a few miles. A bridge spanned the river, then Boston and its peninsulas, big bays and many islets. That was all information, but what he needed was real help!
What should he do? Boston looked too far on Wally's map. Charlestown was his best hope, he decided. He started walking, toward the houses he might be Charlestown in the distance. His feet ceased to pain him from the cold, and just then he heard someone coming behind, and saw a strangely dressed man on horseback.
Ero turned around and stopped, as the man seemed to be calling to him, waving a strange black tricorn headgear.
Ero, feeling chilled to the bone and paying little attention to the man's words, let the friendly stranger put the cape around him, then the man insisted on hoisting him up on the horse. Climbing up by the stirrups, he sat behind Ero. Taking the reins, he got his horse to moving toward the village whose chimneys were all sending smoke into the low clouds. It was then that Ero noticed the man had a pig tail tied with a ribbon!
The colonist gave a yell. "Josh!" Then he shouted even louder. "Come fetch my horse, boy!" A stableboy kicked and pushed open the snow-blocked side door of a barn, then stopped, staring at Ero's bare feet and cape with his mouth open. They dismounted, and the horse was led away, while the stableboy kept looking back at them, even stopping to stare from the barn door.
The talkative colonist and patriot escorted Ero to the back porch, and then up the steps. The door opened as they were doing this, and a young woman peered out the strange guest her father was bringing home. She took a look, her eyes widened, then she vanished.
Ero gasped as the warm water touched his blue toes. Feeling came back, very painful at first.
Ero's host gave him a drink from a stoneware jug to warm him from the inside out, but it burned like fire down his throat, and he started coughing violently.
The farmer looked up as his daughter came into the kitchen, holding a glassed candle. She took a good look at Ero.
"Oh, Daddy, not that awful old brandy of Granpa's! It's soured and it'd kill a horse! You know it tastes just like liniment. Look, he's nigh choking to death!"
"Daughter, hush, it's the very medicine he'll need to revive!" the father said. "I'll tend to him. Besides, he isn't decently attired as yet for a young lady to be properly introduced to. I'll have to get something of mine for him to wear first."
"But Daddy, you're not his size and frame, your clothes will never fit him. You're too short in the leg, and your chest size is all wrong too. It'll never do to make him wear your cast-offs! He must have a new suit of clothes. He's a strapping, big fellow. Mighty handsome too, if I say so myself! You need to call at the tailor in Boston town, and have new clothes made for Sunday service and going about in society! That means don't be so tight-fisted, Daddy! Remember, you don't want to shame your only daughter!"
"No more sass from you, young lady! You needn't remind me of my duties as your father! He may not be staying until the Sabbath, for all you know. And you don't know the meaning of money, you silly thing! So be off to bed! It's late for you to be up, little darlin'. Cook's even gone to bed. I'll find something for him to wear and some soup for him too in the pantry crock. Maybe it's still warm."
Another woman, older but a leading Daughter of Liberty in Charlestown circles, came in quietly with a glassed candle in hand, and stared at Ero.
She paused to catch her breath, as she realized her unwanted guest was not a savage Indian, but a near naked white man, and a very good looking young man at that.
"That's what I'm trying to find out, Wife! What happened to him! He hasn't been in good enough condition to talk much yet about it. And you womenfolk are just getting in the way. Let me speak to him alone, and I will inform you later."
"One moment alone, Wife! It's time for me to speak man to man with this poor chap. He seems decent enough and in his right mind. I think I can get sense out of him. Just give me a few minutes alone with him, that's all I ask!"
The woman left, her skirts swirling after her, but she left the door open a crack and did not go out of earshot.
The colonist turned to Ero. "Now, son, maybe you can tell me, why were you out on the public road in the cold and snow in this, er, condition? Somebody rob you of your clothes and horse? It's happened before to travellers, so I would't be surprised. Some even got their scalps lifted! Well, I'm a Christian man, and I couldn't leave even a stranger like that. You'd have perished in no time, and the wolves would leave only a pile of bones by next morning. Well, can you tell me now? Or don't you know the King's English?"
The Yankee accent made it hard for Ero to understand him, but Ero understood him and his "King's English" well enough.
His coughing fit over, and beginning to feel warm and drowsy, he smiled at his host who had saved him from freezing out on the road. Was that his voice? It didn't sound like his. "I'm a Greek sailor, sir-r-r-r-r," he heard himself say in a slow, slurred drawl. "We're in port for supplies-s-s-s-s. I went w-w-w-wwalking into the woods...and ended up here, sir-r-r-r. Thank you for taking me in like this. It's very cold out there. It was warm enough where I came from, but not h-e-e-e-e-e-er-r-re! I'm not used to all this sno-o-o-o-o-o-w!"
The colonist laughed, putting the cork back in his bottle of spirits. "You might as well get used to it! It's not going anywhere soon, son!
He shook his head.
We prayed right hard for a son as goodly as you be, but never got him, t'wasn't God's will. Now our daughter's marriageable, and she doesn't like any of the local boys--always complaining of their 'ill bred' looks and 'common' manners and 'rustic' deportment. Women! Where do they get such fine airs? I'm a dirt farmer! And she's a farmer's daughter! Yes, I've done well in the milling business on the side, can't deny it, but farming is in my blood. Deep in! I'm the 7th generation of plain dirt farmers by our name that landed at old Plymouth. And--"
Ero's eyelids were drooping heavy as milling stones by now and his head bent over. The heat of the big fireplace was so warm on him he couldn't keep awake.
His host chuckled, then took Ero by the arm. "I'd get you a blanket and pillow, and you could bed down here, 'cept Dilsey rises early and she'd probably run you out with a hot water kettle and a skuttle of coals thrown at your head if I couldn't catch her first! I got a spare room for you, young man. I'll use the bed-warmer, 'caus'n there's no fire lit in the fireplace to warm it up for you. You'll bed down there, and in the morning we'll find some decent clothes for you. You sailors from the south islands may dress as little as you please, but not in this village! You'd be arrested by the constable on sight! But don't worry, we'll do the best we can by you. So, off to bed before I have to carry you! Keep your blanket round you, son, till we get you something to wear."
He helped Ero up, and with a candle in one hand and the bed-warmer in the other led him up some long winding stairs to a long hallway. He opened a door for Ero, and went in room, warmed the bed, left it at the foot for Ero to put his feet on, then left him after showing him the white owl beneath the bed, as no one wanted to wade through the snow to the outhouse at night.
The door closed, and Ero was already sunk deep in the incredibly soft and plush feather bed, fast asleep.
But after a while he heard voices, that of a man and woman.
"Wife, can't you let an honest man sleep in peace?"
The other voice was muffled.
But the man's was clear enough. "Well, what about Mother Whitledge? Can't she wait until morning light? What bee got to buzzin' in her bonnet now?"
Again, the muffled voice.
"All right, all right, I'll go see how she is! Maybe she thinks its the Lord's day, and is all dressed to go to church meeting lik'n she did before a dozen times--"
Ero heard a man's heavy feet hit the bare plank floorboards, which creaked as someone made his way across to a door, which also made a noise as the man's toe struck it and he cried out in sudden pained surprise.
More footfalls, travelling away, then silence.
After a time the footfalls returned to the room nearest Ero's bedstead.
"She's tupper, breathin' easy like, Wife! Nothing you durst worry self about! It's just another little spell of something, and 'twill pass.
A man's voice: "All right, if you'll give me peace about it, I'll go in town on the morrow and get her that medicine from Dr. Thorpe, sharp! Right after breakfast, but we may just take a walk through the barn first, so I can inspect the work on those new stalls."
The muffled voice again.
"Revere? You don't know the man, Wife, to be talking like that! Just because you're President of the Daughters of Liberty in Charlestown, I expect you think you could take command against the King's regulars! Well, he's no Royalist and double-dealer, he's good at his word, that silver service you want will be done in good order and be the finest in Charlestown! He's busy, that's all, with certain affairs. Lucy will have that fancy tea service come spring for her coming out party just like a town lady! Revere promised it! She'll git it!"
"Yes, yes, I'll forget about the barn and go directly to his shop, just to please you. Now can a working man get his proper rest?" Whether the voices said anything more, Ero did not know. He sank into the soft goose feathers and was lost to the world until the farmer's rooster began crowing in the nearby barn.
She turned and took a few steps and then called. "Dilsey's mighty pleased, she is! Our young man looks fit as a fiddle, you'll see!"
Amazed at this strange, little but imposing female, Ero followed her on down to the kitchen.
John Culpepper rose from the table. "Come et your breakfast, son! And mind Dilsey now, she's queen in this kitchen! Not even the Good Wife dare meddle with her vittles!"
Ero found the food wonderfully tasty, and abundant. He was enjoying a second helping of sausage, fried potatoes, and buckwheat pancakes with homemade maple syrup when the young woman, Lucy, literally erupted.
"Father, what has he got on? Are you gone daft? What have you done to him?"
Her mother joined in, "Yes, John, have you gone clean out of your mind? Why, those are a dead man's clothes! The shame of it, just to save a penny you needn't save! We're well enough off that we can clothe the naked without digging in the missionary barrel for what he needs. Is that anyway to treat a young man in need?"
Then Dilsey put her considerable oar in, and Ero forgot all about his great breakfast.
It wss soon over, however. Dilsey won handily. Charlestown was not good enough in her opinion. The tailors there were all second-rate, fit only to clothe carters and stableboys and tavern help, in her opinion! Boston, America's greatest city, it had to be! Dilsey was taking him in by cutter, and she would select the materials herself for his new suit of clothes, and then they would be good for Sunday meeting and for whatever Lucy had planned, if he should be staying on a while more with them.
A tour of the mill and local society of little Charlestown port was out of the question until their return, when there might be more time for it. While the good weather held and the snow on the road wasn't deep, they needed to get to Boston, and a cutter was the only way Dilsey would go, as it wouldn't get stuck in snow or lose a wheel in a rut. The cutter held four people, not including the driver--three, if Dilsey were aboard, with the other two passengers sat where they could balance the sleigh.
Since it wasn't considered proper for Lucy to go abroad in public with an unattached young man, despite all her protests to her parents and Dilsey, who was a staunch spinster of impeccable reputation, remained the proper one to escort their guest through all the hoops of the big city. With Dilsey in charge, Mrs. Culpepper declined going, even as balance or ballust. She cited her gouty legs and a touch of ague, which last condition was aggravated by cold, damp air blowing off the half-frozen river and Boston's bay swamps.
Mr. Culpepper tied on the cutter's back rack a sack of milled rye for a bakery that had it on order. Josh loaded the cutter (which wasn't a proper cutter, since it had a part of the side removed for Dilsey's convenience in entering) with thick, woolen blankets to sit on and wrap around themselves. To supplement that, a thick horsehair hide quilted on the underside served to cover their legs. The horse all harnessed and ready, it was time to depart.
Off they went, with Dilsey sitting with her back to the frigid breeze and facing Ero. A warming pan was set between them for their feet, which helped considerably to keep at least their lower limbs warm. As for Josh, strangely he never complained about the cold sitting up front. Not once! Sufficient at least for him, he wore his usual coat and gloves and looped his long woolen scarf around his face until only only his rather sleepy eyes showed.
"After we finish there," she said to Ero, "we proceed to Elisha Cranwood the gentleman's tailor. 'Tis a pity he's not proper Irish, but he's quick and honest enough and has done work for me before. We'll have that new suit of yours before we leave town!--that will spare us a trip! Cranwood knows I won't waste a second trip just to pick up the suit, so he sets aside the other orders and gets mine done in record time!
It so happened Revere was in sight and just about to enter his house and shop as they drove by. The French Huguenot Revere, known to quite a wide circle of Boston people, was as everyone knew, a highly proficient, honest, engaged businessman of many public affairs, some of them highly patriotic and secret, juggled among his duties and work as a Boston-grade silversmith and a family man.
Dilsey wasn't intending to keep him long from his work, but she couldn't resist finding out a tidbit or two concerning the tea service's progress. Lucy would be so overjoyed to hear how it was coming, since she couldn't count on her father getting the news, as he was so taken with the mill and the local patriot meetings centered on Charlestown.
She climbed out. She climbed out. And she climbed out, the carriage nearly tipping over, Revere helping her at all points like a gentleman would, and then he escorted her to the parlor of the house, had her sit on his best and strongest chair, and went for the latest manufactured item of Lucy's tea service. As he held it up, Dilsey's eyes shown, for she could see it was done by a master, and he had taken special care with this piece too, giving it extra ornamentation.
She complimented Revere extravagantly on his fine work, as she rose to go. "It'll do, silversmith! You will earn your wages yet, I see. Cheap trade gets cheap results--but not so with you, Revere boy! That piece will set pretty with Lucy's best cutlery and dishes. She needn't be ashamed before the best Charlestown society, I wager! I'll go tell her at once!"
Revere smiled and almost overgraciously swept his hat around with a flourish and bowing in a grand manner worthy of the courtiers of Louis the Fourteenth in Versailles--smiled again, and then escorted Dilsey the Cook to the door and out to her carriage where Ero waited in the freezing cold carriage obedient to Dilsey's commands.
But Revere had only helped Dilsey up to her seat (which took some considerable amount of time and assistance, the carriage nearly capsizing again, when he paused, extending his hand to Ero. Ero, prodded by Dilsey, extended his own and they shook hands. "And who might this young man be, Miss Dilsey?"
"Oh, you might well ask me that! I didn't wish to be detained here all day with proper introductions, but I see you must be indulged! Well, he is a young fellow that happened to be on the road, and in need of a ride, and some other things, and... we took him in as Christians would, you see. He might be employed at the mill, if he plans to delay amongst us, and in the meantime he is attending me in town and on my errands. Is that to your liking, Revere?"
"Yes, yes! I just wished to know whom I might be of a mind to call, in the event of certain exigencies that could transpire shortly. You know how the Regulars are here in town, and about to do us real mischief. Well, if he is a son of liberty, and loves our country, can I count on him to assist us if I find a place for him and an errand?"
Dilsey turned from Revere and eyed Ero doubtfully. "He could speak for himself, if he knew the language well enough."
She turned back to Revere. "I rather doubt he will do for your needs, Revere, whatever they may be. He needs considerable training at my hands first. You see, he only just arrived in this country, and hasn't evena good graps of the language. Give him a little time. Perhaps then he'll prove useful to you."
"Oh, I see, but can he ride horse? That is all he will need to do for me. And can he shout some few words I will give him as he rides along from house to house on the road?"
Dilsey had no time for this. "We must be going. Yes, I suppose he could do that. Well, could you?" she asked Ero.
"Well, we're off, Revere! See you when the tea service is complete. I'll be back for it myself!"
They departed, and Ero was left to wonder what Revere had in mind.
The Revolution had begun!
Two lanterns shone in the belfry the coming night, and that signalled patriots on the other side of the Charles River from Boston that the Regulars were marching toward the bridge!
The watchers set off with the alarm!
A rider, Paul Revere himself, reached the Culpepper residence, and shouted toward the second story bedroom windows the alarm. Mr. Culpepper sprang out of bed, and his wife followed as quickly as her voluminous bed garments allowed.
"What is it, husband?" she cried out.
"The Regulars are coming!"
He shot up the window, and called out to Revere on the road.
"I'll ride and alert the others on the other roads!"
"Good work!" Revere shouted, then sped off toward Concord.
But he didn't go far. In his haste in the dark, he tumbled on the stairs and broke his leg.
The whole household tumbled out of bed too at the noise of his falling, then his groaning.
His wife shrieked, and Dilsey came just in time to prevent her from fainting and also falling headfirst down the stairs. "I'll see to him!" Dilsey said, pushing Mrs. Culpepper back away from the stairs. "You stay here, Madam! I'll see what's to be done."
She soon had Mr. Culpepper in a chair, with his leg propped up, and a doctor called.
But what was to be done about the alerting of the settlers?
Mr. Culpepper wanted his leg bound with with a splint and bandages, so he could be put on his horse and still ride to do his duty by his country, but Mrs. Culpepper put her foot down, and Dilsey too was doubtful he should go out like that. What if he took a spill, he might break the other leg too! No, he wasn't going out, and he was going, it would be over her dead body, she said.
What then? Then Dilsey's keen Irish eye fell on Ero, who was standing there, his new clothes hastily pulled on.
"You, young man! You're just the one. You take Mr. Culpepper's place tonight! Ride for all your worth on the side roads that lead off from the main road in front of us. Do it at once. You, Lucy, see him off, as I am busy with your father! But don't catch yourself a cold, take a shawl when you go out with him to the road, aell nd don't stand there talking too long, as he has business to do, as bloody old Cromwell and his army is coming from Boston and he must tell everybody he can!"
That ordered, Lucy was happy to do all she could, except that she feared for his life. "Please take care! I am such a flutter over you going like this, I hardly know you, and wouldn't want to lose you..."
Tears began to glisten in her eyes, but Ero knew he must do his duty for his host, it was the least he could do for all his kindness shown him.
But then Wally, Cray-smart as he was, couldn't anticipate everything his cybernaut might choose to do. A shadow came from behind and slipped in front of him--it was an Indian! Ero didn't know what to think. Why had he taken a leading position, as if he was showing him the road ahead? To Ero, it looked like no road at all, but the Indian knew the way despite all the snow covering it, obscuring the cleared ground. As long as he follow the Indian exactly, he stayed on the road, he soon found out. But the Indian wasn't waiting for him, and kept going with or without him, so Ero determined to keep up rather than be left without any knowledge of how to find his way through the wilderness.
Before he could lead the horse into the barn, however, Lucy saw what was happening, as she had been looking out anxiously for hours for Ero's return. She ran out into the snowy yard, oblivious of how she was ruining her slippers. Just as she reached them, a shadow of a man drew up on his horse--Ocean Chief--quietly watching them.
As Lucy turned away from Josh, she saw Dilsey, and then ran to her and fell into her arms.
Lucy said nothing, but her body shook with soundless convulsions, her grief was so great.
"Now lassie, lassie! Don't you grieve when you don't know nary a thing about what's hap'n to him! He'll be just fine. Just wait a bit more, and he'll come by on the road yonder safe and sound. You'll see."
Lucy raised her tear-stained faced to Dilsey, shaking her head.
Just then Ocean Chief came silently up and paused. Both Dilsey and Lucy saw him and stiffened, for Indians meant only one or two things to them--savages on the warpath or a stray looking for a hand-out of food--then Lucy cried out for the first time as if she hoped against hope he had come with yet another purpose: "Where is he? What did you do to him? You must bring him back!"
When she said it, she must have believed it, for she rushed at the Tuscaroara with his little clenched fists, but of course he hardly felt her feeble blows on his leg and turned his horse, so she could not reach him.
Dilsey moved to catch Lucy before she made more of a fool of her young self,
admonishing her, "Now child, that is no way to treat a visitor, even if he is a Savage! He may not even know the young man."
Holding Lucy, who sank back into Dilsey's arms, Dilsey turned to Ocean Chief.
"Now why have you come here, Savage? Is there news you bear? Now don't you make my young mistress cry! Speak up!"
Ocean Chief nodded.
"Is it pertain'in to the young man we speak of?" Ocean Chief still did not speak, but he moved his thumb upwards, and this puzzled Dilsey. What he had seen, how else could he describe it?
Ocean Chief nodded, but he still jerked his thumb upwards.
"He's gone up? Gone up? Cromwell be damned! Whatever do you mean? Gone up?"
Ocean Chief looked at her, waiting.
Lucy and Dilsey looked at each other, each beginning to comprehend what this gesture of the silent Indian might mean.
"Might'n you mean, Savage, the lad's passed on, he's lamentably expired out there somewhere, kilt by the Roundheads no doubt?"
Ocean Chief shook his head.
Totally mystified and flummoxed, Dilsey still tried again to make Irish sense of what the Indian was trying to communicate in his own way.
"Well, then, if he"s gone up, as you say, and he isn't dead, then he must be flying somewhere, like an angel perhaps!"
"Here that, child? He's not dead, he's flying up, like to heaven. Why, maybe the Good Book has the answer to this! We entertains an angel unawares. He's done his good deed here, helpin' Mr. Culpepper in is need to spread the alarm to the whole country round about, and now he's gone back up--flown up!"
Lucy stared at Dilsey aghast, but Dilsey's eyes were shining with absolute assurance she was right about this, and everybody knew Dilsey was always right when once she made up her single-spring, steel trap Irish mind about anything. This mystery too was solved! Beyond question! Lucy too saw the point, and couldn't deny it. Ero had flown away, for who could keep an angel? It couldn't be done. Everybody knew that about angels--they weren't for keeping!
Lucy pulled away from Dilsey's warm arms and started toward the house.
She went several steps, then turned back to Ocean Chief as if to thank him, but he was gone! Vanished as swiftly and silently as he had come!
But no matter, the matter was over, resolved in a way that everyone could see was fated to be. Dilsey saw Lucy's face had a different look too, there was something else in it besides grief at losing Ero, she saw...she really saw in her mind's eyes... Ero flying upwards on beautiful, golden angel wings!
Her angel was gone, perhaps forever, but for Lucy the memory would last a lifetime of spinsterhood. Every day at 3:15 she would put on her best dress, tidy her hair, and put on her earrings and a diamond brooch (her mother's wedding gift to her, for a wedding that would never take place). Looking her best, she would go to a certain window overlooking the road, draw the curtain and and watch for Ero returning on his horse to her. She never stopped hoping he would appear until the day she died at the age of 87, her hand dragging down the curtain with her as she gave a little cry and fell.
And Ero, indeed went up almost angelically, so to speak, returning to Never-Never-Land! It was a far cry from heaven, of course, but the best that the City of Destiny and the Cyberworld of Kastorr and Wally could do. And his fine suit that Dilsey took such trouble as to procure for him? It didn't last the transit, unfortunately, for he arrived back in Never-Never-Land exactly as he had left it--clad only in his basic skivvies.