For King or for Country

August 16, 2008
By Julia Tarnovsky, Long Grove, IL

The endless rolling and bumping of wooden wagon wheels upon the never- ending ground finally ceased as the horses rested from their long journey. A small group of drowsy soldiers awoke, weary from their own journey across the battlefields of War and Death. There was, of course, no crowd to greet the returning veterans in the dead of night, and they where left to find their own way home in the dark streets and looming shadows of Providence.
Each man seemed just as unkempt, or even more so, than the last, but also just as relieved to be back home. Little did they know that the cool breeze upon their cheeks was really the winds of change bringing news of all they had missed during the Seven Years' War.
Light-footed and tired steps made their way down the stairs led by the dim and steady glow of a flame. It finally reached the door and the small light seemed warm and welcoming as the door opened.
"Yes," asked a tired and somewhat irritated voice. "James?" The door opened a bit wider revealing the face of a woman, wearied by years if hardship, but still holding a timeless beauty that would never fade.
"Sorry to bother you at such an hour, ma'am, but would you be so kind as to give an exhausted soldier a place to stay for the night?" The voice was lighthearted and kind, and the man named James grinned, waiting for the reply.
The door burst open and the woman inside embraced James, remembering the countless lonely nights and tears she shed. "Welcome home," she whispered. And that was all she said, and that was all that was needed. Neither one spoke for a while as they stood and remembered every detail of the long awaited treasured moment.
"It's been a long time, Rebecca," said James, as she pulled him inside and closed the door behind him.

Winter approached with an ever-growing coldness, but even that could not kill the hatred that burned within the souls of some against the ones they had fought alongside for so long. The American veterans of the Seven Years' War where perhaps the most radical of the patriots in the time before and during the legendary Revolutionary War. Or, at least, such was the case in Providence, Rhode Island.
The feeling of betrayal was strong, and a soldier's trust lost is a truest that is never fully regained.
But as we all very well know, there is always an exception, even to an overwhelming majority. So was the case with James Mackney. Not as extreme as many of his colleagues where, James was the butt of many good- natured jokes, for all naturally (but not without reason) assumed that he would, without doubt or regret, give the ultimate sacrifice for the newly formed country. He simply did not harbor the same loathing for the so- called enemy, nor did he try to. James remembered and did not regret his service in the Royal Navy, and had seen too much of the hatred people had to ever come close to anything like that himself. And that is what almost broke the faith of even the closest friends.

It was a bleak and emotionless winter that year, and dusk was settling quickly on a bitter December day. Despite all this, James was out between the bare dressed in a heavy coat and boots, rifle at hand. Even though somewhat out of practice, James made a deal about making good use of himself, retired or not.
Aiming carefully at a snowshoe rabbit a few feet away, a flicker of red made James sweep his gaze to the far right. There was nothing. Not a soul stirred. And then again, longer this time, the red flicker came again before it fell to the icy ground. The third time it stayed, moving steadily forward. Not moving an inch, James watched in a crouching position, rifle pointing downwards at an angle.
With careful solicitude, James stood took some steps forward toward the figure. As he approached he saw that the figure was clad in a British red jacket and white pants ending in heavy black boots whose crunching steps became audible as he neared. The steps abruptly halted at the sound of James's, and the recoat looked up to meet a steady gaze. He had a lean physique, wide hands, and stone gray eyes as cold and bitter as the ever- darkening winter night.
Months of the radical, patriotic talk had found their way into James's subconsciousness and where triggered by the sight of the ragged soldier, but the thought faded quickly at the memory of the man he had fought beside during the Seven Years' War. He was just like the man in front of him, except James was not at his side. James had never wondered how pitiful a worn and cold defenseless soldier looked to someone who held the key to life or death, for things seemed a bit different from the other side. Even with his rifle, the Brit could not do anything - he would have a musket ball between the eyes before he could even reach for it.
And now, remembering those days long ago when he fought for the kin gin a British red coat, James lowered his rifle and said to the Brit "You seem tired there, soldier. Anything I can do to help?"
The redcoat, who had been keeping a careful eye on the rifle, slowly looked up to meet James's gaze. "A place to sleep would help," he said with a trace of harshness in his voice.

He knew he shouldn't have. It would cost him everything if anyone ever found out. And it would be the wrath of God if Rebecca did. But still, James Mackney led the British soldier to the now completely dark house in which he lived. His name was Adolph, the soldier. Adolph Hawsworth. Not forceful or unappeasable as many tend to describe him, but generally mild and (mostly) even-tempered.
He looked hungrily toward the kitchen when they entered, but said nothing and only licked his lips. The British - even when starving, they had to keep their impeccable manners.
"You look like you could use a meal," James commented in a quiet voice so as not to wake anyone.
"I could," answered Adolph with a flawless Britannic accent, and fallowed as James entered the kitchen.
The meal wasn't perfect, but served its purpose well and quickly disappeared as James watched.
"There's a spot near the hearth. Not the most comfterable, though," said James.
"It'll do. I've had worse," said Adolph as he stood and made his way to the next room.
"You're going to have a lot worse if you're caught," answered James.
"What do you mean," asked Adolph, turning sharply.
"There's nothin' good waitin' for a redcoat in a town full of Yanks."
"You're a - "
"You're a good man, Hawsworth. Good luck." And with that, James left, leaving Adolph to stare after him with awestricken eyes.

Morning came softly, painting the American countryside with gentle colors, from the hills and woodlands to the tracks in the snow leading from a silent house in Providence, Rhode Island. No one had seen the man in the bright red jacket leave that house, for he woke early with the Sun and made his way to a destination known only to him and a destiny not known to anyone.
Hours later, when the city was just barley awake, the very faint sound of a bugle call crept across the air, so distant and faint, that it was only heard by few and not heeded until the steady cadence of marching feet followed.

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