The battles in Lexington and Concord had reverberated throughout the colony along with the circular letter he had sent out. Militias from Salem to Lincoln had pulled together, convening atop the hill overlooking Charlestown. He was grateful for the show of support, although he found himself questioning just how well the spirit of the rebellion could keep the militiamen – or minute men, as they were becoming known – fighting.
It was no secret they were out of powder. That was known before they had even begun fighting the first British charge that powder was nigh nonexistent. Paul had helped them conserve by firing only when the British were in close proximity, and the militiamen had aimed below the soldiers’ waists to create a carnage on the field. It slowed down the second advance, but not enough, and they were still out of powder.
The doctor had watched with shock as the marine who served with General Gage was sent forward with the second wave. He had been unceremoniously shot down, trampled on – a leader who was fated to be just another casualty of war. Some of the most respected figures were lost on battlefields in every war, he knew, only to have their brave sacrifice lost to history.
It was better than Gage, the doctor had noted bitterly at the time, who just sat atop his dapple grey, staring imperiously at the destruction. Imperious, sanctimonious, brutal swine. A complete contrast to the intelligent woman he was married to.
Margaret Kemble Gage. The doctor had not thought about her all day, but there he was, between the first and second attacks, reminiscing on the embodiment of courage that Margaret was. He could envision her across the Charles, sitting in Hancock Manor and observing the city and hill ablaze while her husband remained unscathed. Loathe as he was to be melodramatic, he regretted that she would forever remain a trophy to Gage. A trophy to hang off his elbow at all times, when the truth was incredibly different.
Trophies did not have the courage to declare themselves not terribly cautious, nor did trophies deliver a message to a known radical that saved the lives of other countrymen. Trophies did not straddle two worlds, live balancing acts.
He loathed to leave her behind. He did not want to die without bidding her adieu, or without going farther in his career.
There was so much he felt he had not accomplished. He had wrote the Suffolk Resolves, true. He had been the one to call the militia together. But there was still so much ahead; he could sense that. Whatever was happening around him, the battle he was engaging in, could – would – be when the powder keg exploded. April had lit the fuse, and it was all about to come to a head. Either side would have a Pyrrhic victory, one barely worth bragging about, but hopefully there was a future beyond the damnable bunker he was standing upon.
There had been a time he never thought about the future, but futility made him weigh it heavily. Where was Massachusetts bound to go? Would the colonies come around to the cause? It would take a lynchpin event for that to happen.
When he had been married to Elizabeth, he had not viewed the future so heavily. The time spent with her was before everything escalated, before there had been true fire exchanged between the sides of the revolution. There had still been some semblance of normalcy in his life before she passed.
Just a year prior, he had not anticipated the future holding such conflict. Nothing is more foreign from our hearts that a spirit of rebellion, he had written at the time. Would to God they all, even our enemies, knew the warm attachment we have for Great Britain, notwithstanding we have been contending these ten years with them for our rights!
1774 had seen an unanticipated change in his views. The noose Gage had hung around Boston, the determination of those around him, the happiness he felt with bold Margaret. He could not pinpoint one single event that altered him, but he knew, deeply and irrevocably, he was a different man on that hill. A soldier, a statesman, and a doctor.
Paul’s voice brought the doctor to the present. The colonists were losing, and they were retreating, even as Gage and his generals ordered a third advancement. Disregarding his own judgment, the doctor leapt into the bloodbath, an obstinate refusal to acquiesce burning in him. He would not give in to the British, he would not stand idly by and let the losses grow insurmountable. As he made his way across the desolation, fighting redcoats, he saw an ominous figure in the distance.
The Book of Revelations was wrong. Death was the scarlet rider, and he rode a dappled horse, not a white one.
Knowingness swept over the doctor when he saw the odious figure dismount, narrowly missing the doctor. Staggering along the side of the hill, he could sense that he was about to pay penance for what he shared with Margaret. There were no regrets on that account.
Knowledge of one’s death could settle heavy on a man’s shoulders, he noted wryly. The doctor had always been told Heaven was beautiful, like the palace of Versailles, but when the doctor thought of beauty, he thought of Margaret Gage. In his mind, she appeared just as she did that day, when her horse threw a shoe and he rode up beside her. Loose golden waves, bright blue eyes, blissful. Radiance, pure, unadulterated radiance, ensconced in a woman wise beyond her years. A woman who deserved better than what life had given to her.
That was what the doctor saw, even as he felt the Reaper looking over his shoulder. The battlefield went deathly silent, or perhaps he just could not hear anything above the blood rushing through him - coursing through his veins for one final minute. Not too long ago, he had expressed a desire to die up to his knees in blood. It seemed God had heard him.
A pistol’s hammer clicked.
Joseph Warren rolled his eyes skyward, one last fleeting image of Margaret flashing before his eyes.
God, be done with it.