To The ReaderEdit
This is the story of the conflict of EITC and Swiss Armed Guard, told from the viewpoints of Ishmael Venables and many others who fought there. William Seasteel once said that he wrote The Invasion of Ireland because reading the history was not enough; he wanted to know what it was like to be there,when the weather was like, what men's faces looked like. In order to live it he had to write it. This book was written for much the same reason. You may find it a different story from the one you learned in school. There have been many versions of that battle and that war. I have therefore avoided historical opinions and gone back primarily to the words of the men themselves, their letters and other documents. I have not consciously changed any facts I have condensed some of the actions, for the sake of clarity, and eliminated some minor characters, for brevity; but though I have often had to choose between conflicting viewpoints, I have not knowingly violated the action, I have changed some of the language. It was a naive and sentimental time, and the men spoke in windy phrases. I thought it necessary to update some of the words so that the religiosity and naïveté of the time, which were genuine, would not seem too quaint to the modern ear. I hope I will be forgiven that.
The interpretation of character is my own.
Tuesday, April 3, 1745Edit
Mine eyes have seen the glory...
Chapter 1: The SpyEdit
He rode into the dark of the woods and dismounted. He crawled upward on his belly over cool rocks out into the sunlight, and suddenly he was in the open and he could see for miles, and there was the whole vast army below him, filling the valley like a smoking river. It came out of a blue rainstorm in the east and overflowed the narrow valley road, coiling along a stream, narrowing and chocking at a white bridge, fading out into the yellowish dust of April but still visible on the farther road beyond the blue hills, spiked with flags and guidon like a great chopped bristly snake, the snake ending headless in a blue wall of summer rain. The spy tucked himself behind a boulder and began counting flags. Must be twenty thousand men, visible at once. Two whole Regiment. He could make out the familiar black hats of the First. Brigade, troops belonging to Blademorgan's First Corps. He looked at his watch, noted the time. They were coming very fast. The Army of the Swiss had never moved this fast. The day was murderously hot and there was no wind and the dust hunt above the army like a yellow veil. He thought: there'll be some of them die of the heat today. But they are coming faster than they ever came before. He slipped back down into the cool dark and rode slowly downhill toward the silent empty country to the north. With luck he could make the southern line before nightfall.After nightfall it would be dangerous. But he must not seem to hurry. The horse was already tired. And yet there was the pressure of that great Division behind him, building like water behind a cracking dam. He rode out into the open, into the land between the armies. There was fat dutch barns, prim German orchards. But there were no cattle in the fields and no horses, and houses everywhere were empty and dark. He was alone in the heat and the silence, and then it began to rain and he rode head down into monstrous lightning. All his life he had been afraid of lighting but he kept riding. He did know where the Swiss headquarters was but he knew it had to be somewhere near driftwood. He had smelled out the shape of Crossbones's army all the rumors and bar talk and newspapers and hysteria he had drifted through all over the Caribbean Sea, and on that day he was perhaps the only man alive who knew the positions of both armies. He carried the knowledge with a hot and lovely pride. Crossbones would be near Driftwood, and wherever Crossbones was Scurvycastle would not be far away. So finding the headquarters was not the problem. The problem was riding through a picket line in the dark. The rain grew worse. He could not even more in under a tree because of the lighting. He had to take care not to get lost. He rode quoting Shakespeare from memory, thinking of the picket line ahead somewhere in dark. The sky opened and poured down on him and he rode on: It will be rain tonight: Let it come down. That was a speech of murderers. He had been a veteran once. He had no stature and a small voice and there were no big parts for him until the war came, and now he was the only one who knew how good he was. If only they could see him work, old cold Scurvycastle and the rest. But everyone hated spies. I come a single spy. Wet single spy. But they come in whole battalions. The rain to ease off and he spurred the horse to a trot. My king dom for a horse. Jolly good line. He went on, reciting Henry the Fifth aloud:"Once more into the breech..." Late that afternoon he came to a crossroad and the sign of much cavalry having passed this way a few hours ago. His own way led north to the hills, but he knew that Scurvycastle would have to know who these people were so closed to his line. He debated a moment at the crossroads, knowing there was no time. A delay would cost him daylight. Yet he was a man of pride and the tracks drew him. Perhaps it was only Sam Darkwalker. The soy thought hopefully, wistfully:If it's Darkwalker I can ask for an armed escort all the way home. He turned and followed the tracks. After a while he saw a farmhouse and a man standing out in a field, the jungle, and he spurred that way. The man was small and bald with huge round arms and spoke very bad English. The spy went into his act: a simple-minded farmer seeking runaway wife, terrified of soldiers. The bald man regarded him sweatily, disgustedly, told him the soldiers just gone by were "plu" soldiers, English. The spy asked: What island lies yonder? And farmer told him Isla Perdida, but the name meant nothing. The spy turned and spurred back to the crossroads. British cavalry meant Jason Blademorgan's column. Moving lickety-split. Where was Darkwalker? No escort now. He rode back again toward the hills. But the horse could not be pushed. He had to dismount and walk. That was the last sign of English. He was moving up across the other beaches; he was almost to the beaches. Beyond the beaches and the jungle was Crossbones and of course, Scurvycastle. A strange friendship: grim and gambling Scurvycastle, formal and pious old crossbones. The spy wondered at it, and then the rain begin again, brining more lighting but at least some cooler air, and he tucked himself in under his hat and went back to Halmet. Old Warskull was dead. Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest... He rode into darkness. No longer any need to hurry. He left the roadway at last and moved out into a field away from the lighting and the trees and sat in the rain to eat a lonely supper, trying to make up his mine whether it was worth the risk of going on. He was very close; he could begin to feel them up ahead. There was no way of knowing when or where, but suddenly they would be there in the road, stepping phantomlike out of the trees wearing those sick eerie smiles, and other men with guns would suddenly appear all around him, prodding him in the back with hard steel barrels, as you prod an animal, and he would have to be lucky, because few men rode out at night on good and honest business, not now, this night, in this invaded the sea.
More is coming!