TEARS OF THE FOOT GUARDS
RONDO - STAVE LXIV
S T A V E
“He wiped them out!” Clinton clutched the Returns as if the paper itself was dead. “A quarter of his army! The Guards decimated . . . The 23rd . . . Webster . . . ” He let the report fall. “Where’s he now? How do I ever help him?”
London in Horror. “A victory,” The Annual Register proclaimed, “productive of all the consequences of Defeat.” “Lord Cornwallis has conquered his troops out of shoes, and provisions, and himself out of troops. Such victories leave little hope for British Success.” “Another such victory would be the ruin of the British Army.”
Lord Germaine prayed for the year to end. Cornwallis can hold out; he’s depleted, but he can hold out. Greene, after all, was beaten – decisively. Let Cornwallis keep his army intact until the New Year. The French, discouraged, will sail home.
In the dream, she ran through the dark, heels clicking off the pavers and a bundle in her arms. Something after her. A person? A shadow? And the bundle, an infant in rags, lifeless. She must discard it and no one must see. They’ll think the Worst. Throw it in the river. In a furnace. Just a dead thing . . . And the something saw her . . . What of it? She’s always seen and more Public than she knows; she mounts the stage and makes them love her . . . “You called me,” he’d said. And the thing too. “I called nothing!” And the playful boys held her down, spreading wide her legs . . . “What happened with the Devil in the alley?”
“My sin” – The baby kicked and her eyes opened – and the Notion of her life, the character she plays unwittingly. Of course she’s in Control; they see what she lets them see – the Grishams, the Patrons, the Charities. Molly Lungs – even that’s a misnomer; six months the brigade’s been gone, there is no one to remember. She’s Reborn – Mrs. MacEachran – the Good Wife, the Talent, Toast of the Town. A Woman of Means, made so by War.
Is it now Widow MacEachran? The fearful news of Guilford Courthouse. “It’s the way of it,” Mrs. Grisham said. “But the child will be a Comfort – a part of Mr. MacEachran.”
The baby kicked again, her body not her own, this being taking over. And with it, a change in heart? So she hoped. But yet not a comfort like the hymns say, and nothing forgotten.
A big kick. Her stomach moved. Not a girl, she prayed. Don’t put that on it. Don’t make her like her sire –
“Deorsa.” Her heart at the top of her chest. The brat causing Humours. Is Deorsa alive? Does she feel him? No privates’ names on the returns, officers only. She’d seen Howard’s. Poor man. She owed him. But she could support herself now. She’s family to the Grishams. But Deorsa – tears in her eyes. And Elliot –