Sunday, June 13, 2021



Short Bear watched the deer nibbling the low bush protruding from the snow. He wondered where the animal's herd was, no doubt bedded down in the deep forest, trying to stay out of the wind. It seemed odd for the animal to be out this late in the morning. Perhaps he, like Short Bear, no longer had a tribe.

Short Bear pondered that for a moment, then he loosed the arrow which brought down the deer. Short Bear trotted over to the beast, it was in the spirit world already, so there was no need to finish the kill. His arrow had flown true.

He dressed the animal and then hefted it over his shoulder. He would eat well tonight. He felt a deep sadness that he had no one to share this food with.

After his encounter with the Mohican in the late summer and the loss of the woman he knew as Ma-LEE, he had returned to his tribe. They wanted nothing to do with him. All they remembered was that when the village of the English was attacked, Short Bear took a single captive, the yellow-haired woman called Ma-LEE. He had slain no enemies and when the time had been right, he had abandoned his war party to slip away with the English woman.

He sighed, admitting to himself that the sachem had been correct, he had abandoned his people for the sake of the woman. The sachem had cast him out, "Go live with the English, you seem to like them enough. You cannot stay here."

So he had found a place in the mountains, game was plentiful enough and he found enough plant food to supplement his diet. Physically he was thriving, but emotionally, Short Bear felt dead inside. He had no people, he might as well be in the spirit world.

Captain Samuel Jenkins had taken up smoking a pipe. It was a small clay soldier's pipe which he had purchased from a sutler who had somehow made it to the fort without being molested by the Indians. The sutler had arrived in late October, just before the first snow. He had sought permission to winter at the fort, which Jenkins readily granted. The man, whose name was Oswald Patterson, had readily accepted the captain's paper assurances of payment from the New Hampshire treasury. The men had not been paid since they had left Rumford, but their credit was good.

Patterson had made a tidy profit, most of it on paper to be sure, but he knew men in the capital who would gladly purchase the promissory notes he'd received from the captain. In the spring he would return to Portsmouth.

As for the men in the company Jenkins commanded, they were starting to get bored with their existence. The winter had not been harsh so far, but they still stayed close to the fort. They had found beans, maize, and squash from two abandoned Abenaki villages, enough to supplement their diet of venison and fish from the river. But all there was to do was mount guard, drill, eat, and sleep. Some of the men had wanted to go out with the Guards lieutenant and his Indian scouts. But the lieutenant had turned them down, they didn't know enough to travel with the Indians.

Even now Lieutenant Will Jefferson was out with his Mohicans. Rather than return to New York over the mountains so late in the year, they too had decided to stay at the fort. Jenkins had half-expected trouble due to the presence of the single woman at the fort. But so far the men all treated Molly Henderson with respect. She cooked for the company and did laundry for the men. She more than pulled her own weight.

Sergeant Major Edward Jacobs climbed the ladder to the west-facing platform near the gate, Private Edward Rutland was on duty with another soldier named Jones.

"Rutland, Jones, how are you men holding up?"

"Just fine Sarn't Major." Rutland answered.

"It's all right I guess, kind of boring at times, but we've no natives to contend with at the moment, that's a blessing I guess." Jones answered.

The other two men both looked at him in astonishment. "I think that's the most I've heard you speak since you joined the regiment Billy." Rutland said.

"Warn't much to talk about 'til now Eddie." Jones grinned.

Sergeant Josiah Adams was in his bunk, he was alternating between periods of sweating and shivering, he was sure that he'd caught some sort of ague. He was miserable. He'd been excused duty by the Sergeant Major and had been on his back for three days now. He'd seen men in this state during his service in Europe, many of them died. He resolved to survive, though at times he nearly wished for death, he was in a lot of pain.

The one thought foremost in his mind though, was that he was glad they had no damned surgeon here. All those fools knew how to do was lop off arms and legs and bleed you with their damned leeches. He wondered if their efforts had ever saved anyone.

He didn't trust army medicine, such as it was.

Jefferson noted that his friend Standing Wolf showed no sign of the wound he had received that summer from an Abenaki arrow. He moved like a deer through the forest, swiftly and sure of foot. Jefferson was continually mocked by the Mohicans for his relative clumsiness.

"Blue Eyes, you move like a wounded bear through the forest. All that is missing is the bellowing and the roaring." Slow Fox chuckled as he said that.

"Ah, but he moves like a stalking panther compared to the other white soldiers." Standing Wolf laughed.

Jefferson knew enough Mohican to know the men were having a laugh at his expense, but he didn't mind. He was beginning to feel more at home with these men than he had felt in his own regiment. Now if he could only get Miss Henderson to notice him, but alas, she seemed to only have eyes for that oaf Rutland.

"Stand easy Rutland." Jenkins commanded. Private Edward Rutland had been summoned to the captain's rough quarters after coming off sentry duty.


"Yes Rutland, I've been pleased with your abilities since you joined the company. You're attentive to your duties and have a keen eye. I am advancing you to corporal. I assume that is all right with you?" Jenkins smiled as he said that. The sutler had also brought a letter from his father in London. It seems that Private Edward Rutland was the bastard son of John Manners, Marquess of Granby, son of the 3rd Duke of Rutland.

Rutland had taken that name rather than the name of his father or his mother, a servant at the Duke's estate. His father had provided him with a sound education and not much else. It was he who suggested that the boy join the army. Which he did as soon as he had arrived in the New World. He sought his fortune in North America, far from the halls of privilege and wealth. He would make his own way.

"Sir, I appreciate your confidence in me, I shall endeavor to serve faithfully."

"You are going to Louisbourg? Whatever for?" Étienne Gaudry looked at his two sons and their Indian companion, Little Wolf.

"War is coming," Alain explained, "we are going to join the Compagnies franches de la marine, there is a bounty to be paid to volunteers, or so we have heard."

"Surely Little Wolf cannot join?" Alain's father pointed at.

Little Wolf, who spoke very good French by now, replied, "Father of my brothers, scouts are needed by Nouvelle-France¹ to guide the Compagnies. I know the land well. I will go with Alain and Jacques."

"I thought you would travel west with me, there is money to be made from trapping. No one ever got rich as a soldier!" Gaudry père² protested to his sons once more.

"There is more to life than riches Papa," was all Alain could say.

Étienne sighed, it seemed that his sons' trip into the wilderness had given them a taste for adventure. The folly of youth, he thought.

They will learn.

Or die in the attempt.

¹ New France, the territory held by France in the New World.
² Another way of saying "Gaudry the elder"

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.


  1. Touching a number of bases Sarge, well done. Couple of very interesting links there on the town and...wait....marine....hide the crayons laddie!

    1. Time to do a little character development, I mean it's winter, everyone is staying inside...

      Oh wait, only in the novel, in real life it's summer!

  2. Very interesting, kicked out of the tribe for not dying like the rest of the party. How sucky can it be? And to question the saschem over the inconsistency of the ruling... Stupid politicians....

    And, well, bastardry. Not the stigma that it got in the Gilded and Victorian Ages (depending on what side of the Atlantic you are on. Can't stand Americans who say the period after the Civil Unpleasantness was the Victorian. No. No Vicky in charge here, it's the Gilded Age, ya bum, as this is AMERICA!!!!) (Yes, I have petty high-horses on which I ride to battle on. Many many horses....)

    Medical care back then... Yikes. Better to just crawl away and hope for the best. I hope whatever hit the Sergeant isn't a communicable disease that will sweep through the fort (and I hope I'm not giving your Muse any ideas...)

    Very interesting vignettes. Am very curious as to see how this plays out.

    And, again, 12:30... where is everyone?

    1. I blame nice weather for the dearth of commenting.

  3. Daughter and “that boy” are visiting us with their marvelous children. We’ve forgotten how much we do differently when they’re here. All of the adults seem to have a taste for rum, and we know where to get it. MaiTais and sipping, the beach and the sun, steamed shrimp and French fries, “can’t you see what you’ve done?”

  4. Beans, I am forced to confess my schedule is not nearly as well held together on the weekends as it is on the weekdays.

    Sarge, I also remember from reading books on the Sioux wars how desolate and sometimes hard it was to come by game in the Winter. This was a really nice centralizing of a number of different story lines (to be fair, the fault is not yours: I am old, and easily confused).

    One continues to wonder what would have happened had the French won in the New World.

    1. Well, more cities would celebrate Mardi Gras. Seriously, I believe the French would have given the Indians a better deal than the English, but you never know.

    2. The Royal French would have given the Indians a better deal. The Revolutionary French? Probably not so much. They were... not nice.

  5. The Gaudry boys be seeking adventure, but I think they're in for more of the horrors of war than they're bargaining for. I think their old man's feeling a bit the same as mine was, when I joined the Marine Corps, at the well seasoned age of 17.

    Jefferson might be better off thinking of finding an Indian wife. Molly seems a determined young lady, and no good is likely to come of trying to redirect her affections. I think "that oaf Rutland" is anything but, as well. Seems to have his wits about him, and be a capable young man. Rank counts for something, but there is that element of heredity in play as well. Not that Molly knows anything about it (and could likely care less), but a determined girl, with a gleam in her eye, is a force to be reckoned with.

    As to the soldiers getting bored, that's a bad thing in oh, so many ways. Best set them to work reinforcing the breastworks, widening the fields of fire around the fort, or digging foxholes and then filling them in. Boredom gives rise to the invention of new ways to get in or cause trouble. It can also be responsible for lack of attention to duty and details of conditions around them. Not a good state of preparedness for sentries on duty.

    Sure hope Adams just has a case of the 72 hour flue or sumpin'. Even today, I share his distrust of military medicine men. They still wear their feathered head dresses, and shake their rattles to convince folks (including themselves) that they know what they're doing.

    Character and plot development is going well, Sarge. Juggling lots of developing personalities and situations, as usual, I see. Plenty to ponder, and it keeps us guessing. I remember a critique I heard once long ago about writers who provide too much information, too little to ponder. The best writers give their readers much to ponder and speculate about. The mental exercise is part of the excitement of the tale. I also think it's funny as hell that as often as not, your muse doesn't even let you in on what's coming 'round the bend!

    1. My Muse will occasionally use a reader's idea, you folks have had some good ones in the past!

    2. (Don McCollor)...Better a mild winter and boredom. Troops wintering at a fort in the Powder River country spent their days amusing themselves by shoveling drifted snow away from the palisades so the Indians could not simply walk over them into the fort...

    3. (Don McCollor)...Not just the snow but the wind. One account of an ambitious army cavalry officer stationed in St Louis had sent yet another letter requesting (nay demanding) his regiment be sent east to be closer to the action (political, not military). Stanton asked his aside what was the closest place to Hell for an cavalry regiment. The reply was the Powder River country. "Order him and his regiment dispatched there immediately"...

    4. I'm very familiar with the wind out on the Plains, especially Wyoming.

    5. ND, an inch of snow is a blizzard, when there's any wind, because the roads will be impassable!

    6. Interestingly, I have a November engagement in the Powder river country this fall. Scheduled to be hunting Mule deer and Elk out there the first two weeks of November.

    7. Patrick #1 - Yup, it'll all blow to the one place that'll stop it. A road!

    8. Patrick #2 - I'd love to hear about it!

  6. Buy the muse another cocktail to keep her chatting with you.
    Pity the sickly sarge in his bunk.

    Not sure how they did it in the colonial frontier, but standard sleeping arrangement for soldiers in the U.S. Army, and presumably of most European armies of the era) was more like two men to a bed. Literally bunk mates. Not as in one man on each level, but TWO men sharing a single mattress on each level.

    Here is a link to an article on the U.S. Army's bunking arrangements:

    John Blackshoe

  7. I'm glad I'm not emotionally invested in the characters of Étienne's sons, as your foreshadowing makes me think they won't be long for the story. Little Wolf however...

    Sorry for the late comment. Catching up on nearly a week's worth of reading.

    1. Though my Muse is fickle, I can overrule her at any time. I'm hoping les frères Gaudry will be around for a long time.


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