TEARS OF THE FOOT GUARDS
SCHERZO - STAVE LVII
S T A V E
Matthew Grisham, the mysterious Matthew Grisham, home for once, threw wide the backdoor with a loaded fowler, behind him Binah screaming – Mrs. G., on her laudanum in bed a snoring.
“Where?” he shouted. Binah, incomprehensible, pointed at the open gate.
Out of the dark, Obedience, pale like a phantom. On one side, her torn skirt down past her hip. The stomacher torn away, and out of her chemise, an ill-treated tit. Had it been bit? Her lips – surely them bit as they were bleeding.
“Mrs. MacEachran!” he wailed, and cocking the fowler, rushed down the alley.
She crossed the yard, eyes all mystified, but catching sight of Binah, she cleared.
“Sweet Jesus,” Binah’s shudder.
“It’s all right,” Obedience said, her voice estranged.
“Sweet Jesus.” Tears washing Binah’s face.
“It’s all right.” Obedience could not feel herself weeping.
“You’re dead! You’re dead!”
“I’m not.” How odd she said it, Binah touching her cheeks. “He’s gone.” And took Binah’s hand. “Listen to me, when Grisham comes back, say nothing.” Binah cringed. “Listen to me, listen to me.” Obedience tugged her. “Say nothing.”
“But the man – ”
“There is no man. He’s gone.” She looked back at the gate, hearing Grisham up the alley.
“This is the last I ask of you. Follow my lead and agree with everything. Do this and it’ll be over – No more from me. I promise.”
Grisham marched into the yard, closing the gate with a snap. “Nothing there. Mrs. MacEachran – your face. What in God’s name?”
Obedience, hands clinched, tried to speak. She buckled but Grisham caught her.
“He followed me,” she said, feeling Elliot’s breath on her neck.
Grisham pulled her to a garden bench. “Who followed you?”
“A soldier,” she said, scrambling for her wits.
“You know him?”
“I do not.”
Then Binah reeled, her belly swelling.
“Binah – help Binah.”
“He hurt you.”
“No . . . no, I got away. He hurt Binah. She came to my aid.”
Binah dropped to a knee and touched her stomach. “He kicked me.”
Mrs. G. suddenly trundled out. “What is it? What is it?”
“Obedience has been accosted and Binah injured,” Grisham said.
“They fought the brute off. Give them brandy while I fetch the doctor and the Watch.”
A crowded parlour an hour later: the Grishams, Binah, Obedience, the doctor and a captain of hussars. They questioned delicately. She told the truth, mostly: “No – she did not get a good view of the man and from what she saw, she did not know him. He must’ve followed her from General Howard’s, picked up after her somewhere ‘long the way.” “You walked alone?” “It is not far. I’ve walked it many times.” “Was he short? Was he tall?” “Taller than me, sir.” “And the Negro woman – what did she see?” “I couldn’t say – not much I think, but she was on him like a she-wolf. She must’ve weakened him because I got away. I owe her my life. Isn’t that the way of it, Binah?” “As Mrs. MacEachran said.” “Would you recognize the man if you saw him?” “It was dark as Mrs. MacEachran said.” “And how far . . . did he go, Mrs. MacEachran?" “I pushed him off and kicked him and ran away.” “But your injuries, Mrs. MacEachran – your chin, your hands, your bloody knees?” “I fell when I was running.” “You said he was a soldier?” “By his red coat.” “What regiment? You’re an army woman, surely you know the Facings.” “It was dark.” “Binah – are you sure you didn’t see him clearly? You must’ve seen something. Had he any marks?” “He looked . . . he looked like the devil.”