Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"Mother, Protect Us!"
Pages 310-312
     Mother Batherick was digging dandelions in her yard when she heard the report of musketry. Something to do with the redcoat soldiers that had passed close by her house, she supposed. Stragglers, probably, the Old Men playing soldier. She resumed her digging but stopped when she heard running feet.
     Some thirty rods from where she knelt six or seven British soldiers hurried past. Reaching the shoreline of the Pond, they stopped. For perhaps thirty seconds they scanned the water’s shoreline. With quick head turns they looked backward and about. One of them raised his musket, hurled it into the water. A second soldier flung his farther out. Mother Batherick watched two others yield their weapons. The remaining two, turned upon by the defenseless majority, dropped theirs close beyond the water’s edge.
     Nobody had pursued them.
     One of the soldiers pointed at her.
     They hurried to her. With some difficulty, she stood.
     “Mother, protect us!” the same soldier pleaded.
     Amazed, she stared at them.
     “We naught be intendin’ you harm.”
     “If’n we be needin’ to, we be surrenderin’ t’you!”
     “We be defenseless!”
     “As am I.” She laughed.
     They were young. Almost boys. They had a healthy redness in their cheeks.
     “They fired at the supply train! They’ll be after us! We naught be wantin’ this!”
     “Then surrender to someone who isn't so old she has to grunt to kneel in her garden,” she quipped.
     “Who? Who else?”
     “The street's empty. They be just you!”
     “They be comin’ t’kill us!”
     “I don't like it here,” said another, fingering his coat.
     “By yer leave, mother. Protect us!”
     Looking at them, Mother Batherick shook her head. When they took this to mean refusal, they repeated their entreaties. No, she had only meant she was dismayed, she answered, nay, surprised, yet again, at life’s absurdities.
     Hobbling, she brought them to the home of the old militia captain, Ephraim Frost. Standing in the doorway, she bade them farewell, her final words, delivered in good humor. “Tell your King George that an old woman with a garden tool took six of his grenadiers prisoners.”