The White Ghost
For the convenience of all concerned who may happen to read this short novel, all dialog has been translated into modern English. So many dialects and languages were current at the time, that no other course seemed practical.
The conversation in the tavern was all about the strange man lying unconscious in a bed on the second floor. The most common question was, "Who is he?"
"I heard that he was found on the turnpike just west of town."
"Yes, that is true. He was naked and unconscious. He did not appear to be injured otherwise, so nobody knows what to make of him."
"Parson Jacobs wanted him cast out as not being a true Puritan, since he was naked."
"Parson Jacobs is a fathead! Any White man who had just escaped from the natives would most likely be naked, and he could be unconscious for any one of many reasons."
"Yes, that accursed King Phillip and his war have made life even more uncertain for us God fearing people in this year of our Lord, 1675. If the natives would only all retire to the "Praying Towns" like they should, all of this unpleasantness would go away!"
"Oh, but it is difficult to convince the heathens how much better off they would be if they learned to be good Puritans and Englishmen like us folk."
"That heathen King Phillip forbade all Christian missionaries from entering his territory, and that has made it hard to win converts. No man can convert another man to the truth if he cannot talk to him."
"That is true, but we do have allies among the heathen. The Mohegans are fighting on our side."
"Well, yes, I will concede that, but it is only because they are traditional enemies of the Pequots and the Narragansetts."
"Oh, come now, Master James. You have been my friend for years, and I know that you are in no way such a foolish man as to look a gift horse in the mouth!" That brought a general laugh, even joined by James, himself.
Upstairs, the stranger was making a slow return to consciousness. He finally was able to open his eyes, despite a monster of a headache. When he looked around, he first thought that he was on the set of a movie production, all of the furnishings and the construction of the room, itself, were so crude and so obviously hand made.
"Where the hell am I?" He asked himself, but he said it out loud in a voice louder than he really intended. That prompted a quick knock on the door and the entrance of a woman who looked like she could be at least a hundred years old, if she were a day! Furthermore, she was dressed in a very disreputable version of an ancient dress that he had not seen since his days in grammar school where the kids were taught about the first Thanksgiving.
"Are you decent?" was the first word he heard from the woman as she backed into the room. That was when he realized that he was naked under the crude woolen blanket.
"Yes, I think so. Please come in and tell me what is going on."
The woman came in and said, "You, Sir, were found on the highroad just this side of the turnpike. You were naked and unconscious. Some kindly passersby found you and brought you to Master John's tavern. He sent you to bed up here until you regained your senses, and I was assigned to look after you. My name is Mistress Esther, and what, pray tell, is your name?"
"I am Joseph Bell. I was walking down the street in Franklin as the last thing I remember. Something hit me a sharp blow on the back of my head, and the next thing I knew was waking up here. I have a terrible headache. Do you have something that I could take to relieve the pain? If so, I would greatly appreciate it."
"Certainly, Master Joseph. I'll be right back." With that, the old woman left the room, and Joe was left alone for a few minutes. When she returned, she had a small mug which she handed tho Joe. "Now, drink all of this, Master Joseph. It's willow bark tea, and it should help that headache."
"Thank you, Mistress Esther. Right now, I need all of the help that I can get. Can you tell me where I am? I mean, what town I am in?"
"This is not a town, Master Joseph. It is a stop along the turnpike between Springfield and Boston. Locally, it is called John's Crossroads. We are in the unincorporated area of the Massachusetts Bay Colony."
"Oh my God! Colony? What year is this?"
"It is the year of our Lord, 1675. And please watch your language or you will be spending time in the pillory! Parson Jacobs holds no truck with blasphemers!"
"Oh, I beg your pardon, Mistress Esther. I am very confused, probably as a result of that blow to my head. I will be very careful of my language in the future. Thank you for the caution."
"Your apology is accepted, Master Joseph. Do you think that you were attacked by the heathen natives? This war started by King Phillip has them stirred up against us. They seem to want us all to go back to England, but we can't do that!"
"There's more to this war than just having the Whites leave, but that is too complicated for me to talk about in my current state. I know that I cannot yet pay for it, but would it be possible for me to have something to eat? Suddenly, I am ravenously hungry."
"Master John is a generous man, Master Joseph. I am sure that he will be willing to feed you for now. I'll go see what I can find. It's almost time for supper, so something should be available shortly." Esther left, and Joe contemplated what he had learned so far. He was very quick witted, and he was an avid reader of science fiction. He was especially partial to time travel stories, so he was not so easily flummoxed by the notion of having traveled in time about 340 years.
He couldn't help laughing at the thought of what was going to happen when he failed to show up on base in three days. He was in the Army, stationed at Ft. Benning, where he taught close quarter combat. He was inordinately expert in knife fighting and all manner of martial arts. He also taught "stick fighting," a skill he was particular good at. As a corollary of all of this, he was particularly adept at sneaking through the bushes without being detected. His friends and co-instructors called him the "White Ghost."
Joe was originally from New England and had been visiting relatives in Franklin, MA, at the time of his "accident." He knew that they would be upset when he did not show up for supper, but there was nothing that he could do about that now.
Joe dozed while he waited for his supper to show up. About 20 minutes later, Mistress Esther showed up with some clothes for him to wear. "Here is the best I could do to find you some clothes, Master Joseph. You are so big and tall that fitting you properly is almost impossible. This is the largest outfit that we could find in the bin of abandoned clothes. I'm going now to fetch your supper. I'd appreciate it if you would try the clothes on while I'm gone."
The pants were barely big enough to get around Joe's waist, and they were about six inches too short. The shirt fit alright, he supposed, if he was careful about how quickly he moved. It was very tight across the shoulders, but would do in the present emergency. For shoes, he had been given some moccasins which fit better than he expected. His height of an even six feet and weight of 187 pounds were off-scale for the normal man of this day. Oh, well, he would have some custom clothes made as soon as he had a little money.
Joe was sitting on the side of his bed when Mistress Esther came back. She was carrying a tray of stew and a mug of the local beer. She set it in his lap before leaving. Joe found that the stew was surprisingly good, except for the fact that it was less salty than he was used to. Salt was tough to come by in this day and age, so he would just have to get used to the change in flavors. The beer was remarkably good, but very low on alcohol content. There probably was just enough alcohol to kill the germs, though the locals didn't know that was what they were doing.
Joe was still somewhat groggy, so he lay back on his bed and was asleep in only a few minutes. Mistress Esther picked up the tray and left him to sleep. Luckily, there was enough moon light coming through the window for Joe to find the chamber pot when he needed it a little after midnight. He looked out the window, more our of curiosity than anything else, since he had seen nothing of the outside since his arrival in John's Crossroads.
Oh, shit! Joe's eyes had not needed any time to adjust to the low light level, so he had no trouble seeing the men sneaking through the courtyard headed toward the tavern. He probably would not have paid any attention if he had not noticed that they were carrying knives, clubs, and tomahawks. There were six men, and their actions indicated that they were up to no good.
Without giving the matter proper thought as to what he should do about calling for help, Joe jerked on his meager clothes and slipped out the window onto a shed roof just under it. One of the slinking men was just below him when he came to the edge of the shed roof. It was easy to jump from the roof and catch the man on the shoulders with his knees as he fell. The sudden shock of the impact broke both of the man's shoulders, so he was in no condition to fight. He had been holding a tomahawk in one hand and a knife in the other, so Joe had immediate access to weapons. Joe snatched up the tomahawk and hit the Indian in the temple with the spike part of the ax head. This was enough to put the Indian out of action permanently, and Joe had measured his blow so that he did not drive the spike in far enough to become wedged in the skull. This had all happened so fast that the Indian only had time for one low volume grunt before he was dead.
Joe looked around for his next target. He saw two possibilities. One of them was approaching a shed of some sort, but the other was about to try to break in the front door of the tavern. Obviously, that was the more important of the two. Joe stayed close to the building as he ran silently toward the next victim. Something attracted the man's attention as Joe got close, so the element of surprise was gone. Joe made up for that with speed. The knife he had taken from the first Indian was a White weapon. It had a blade about eight inches long and was sharpened on two edges, much like a short dirk. This was an ideal stabbing weapon and would be best used as such.
Joe parried the slashing motion made at his belly by his opponent by using the handle of the tomahawk. The enemy blade struck the handle of the tomahawk and was deflected harmlessly to one side. Never slowing down, Joe stabbed the man in the abdomen just below his rib cage. The knife was aimed up on the follow through, and the point easily pierced the man's heart. Two down, four to go! Where was the next one?
There he was! Another Indian must have seen the dispatch of the second man and was rushing toward Joe to do the job his companion had been unable to do. He had his tomahawk raised to come down on Joe's head with the spike, but he didn't have that opportunity. When the man got close enough, Joe swerved to one side and hit the man in the throat with the blade of the tomahawk. The blade was only two inches wide, so there was no chance of cutting the man's head off, but it was certainly enough to sever his windpipe.
The man's followthrough did catch Joe on the arm and cause a long scratch, but there was not enough to the injury to be of immediate concern. This man was now sufficiently distracted that Joe was able to stab him in the heart and end his misery.
A quick look around didn't show any more of the Indians, but there was a noise back at that outlying shed, so Joe decided to take a look. Yes, the Indian had finally succeeded in breaking in, but it was so dark inside that he was not doing any more than stumbling from one accident to another. In disgust, he came out just in time to run into Joe's swipe at his head with the spiked side of the tomahawk. That ended that. There were now only two Indians left, but Joe had no idea where they were, or if they were even still around.
A moment later, he found out. The fifth Indian had seen the latest encounter and wanted revenge. Joe moved just in time to keep from being stabbed in the right kidney by the Indian who was just behind him. He was deeply scratched by the knife blade, and it did make quite a mess of his shirt, especially when the blood came pouring out. Joe knew that this was potentially a disabling wound because some of the muscle had been cut, though he could not tell how much.
Joe continued to swing around in the direction he had been turning and slammed the tomahawk spike into the Indian's gut. This was a killing wound, since the spike had penetrated the Indian's bowels, but it was not going to put the man out of action for an extended time. Therefore, Joe had to continue his fight as if the man was not that seriously injured. He jerked the tomahawk back from the enemy's gut and swung at the man's face. He had no alternative—the man had to dodge. This put him enough off balance to give Joe a chance to stab the Indian in the gut with the blade angled up to try to reach the heart.
Joe missed the heart, but he did puncture a lung, which further slowed his opponent down. Joe decided that enough was enough, so he stabbed the Indian in the left eye with his knife. The knife entered the man's brain, and that ended the discussion. However, it was not before Joe received another cut, this time on his right wrist, but it was not bad enough to force him to drop the tomahawk.
Now there was only one Indian left of those Joe had seen. Of course, he could not be sure that there were not more of them in the raiding party, but it did not seem likely. Joe set out in search of the last Indian before his wound in his back slowed him down too much. Joe made a complete pass around the tavern, but could not find any sign of any more invaders. Mentally shrugging his shoulders, Joe assumed that the man had run away.
Joe was now starting to feel some real pain from the wound in his back, so he figured that he needed it looked after pretty soon if he was not going to be confined to a bed for a while. He went to the front door and pounded on it with the butt end of the knife. It took three or four minutes for a man to come to the door with a lantern in one hand and a club in the other. "What do you want at this ungodly hour of the night?"
"I'm the man you so graciously took in today when I could not look after myself. Anyway, I happened to see six Indians skulking around when I got up a few minutes ago to take a piss. I killed five of them, but I don't know what happened to the sixth one. I suppose he ran off, but I can't be sure. In the process, I picked up a few cuts, and I need somebody to help me look after them."
"Praise the Lord! You've done me a wonderful service. Come in and I'll see what I can do for your wounds ... Sit over there and I'll light a few candles. Martha, please come help. I need a woman's touch for this job."
A couple of minutes later, a woman came in dressed in a robe and carrying another candle. She looked at the blood around and about on Joe's body and gasped. "You poor man! Let me see what I can do to help you."
"Thank you, ma'am. I think that the worst place is on my back. I need you to use a needle and thread to sew up a long, but not very deep cut. If you would be so kind, I would appreciate it if you would examine the wound to make sure there is no trash in it before you sew it up. A gentle wash with some whiskey or rum would be appreciated, too, before you sew."