Hannah Allbright rode Lancaster, her husband’s favorite mount, down the charred and blackened streets of Pleasant Harbor Township, the stink of smoke and soot still lingered thick in the muggy summer air. Though it was her third visit into town since the burning she still wept at the site of her beloved village smoldering in ruin as she made her way to the mercantile, the lone building left standing after the Redcoats’ unprovoked attack. If only the men had been here, she thought, bouncing sidesaddle as Lancaster kicked up filthy clouds of ash with each sturdy trot. The women of Pleasant Harbor had stood no chance against the British troops who marched upon their quiet village less than a week before and they could do little except watch and weep as the town that had taken nearly twenty-five years to build was reduced to cinders in a matter of hours. Hannah dabbed at her tears with a lace kerchief as Lancaster whinnied, gruffly blowing tarry soot from his stinging nares. It was early July, 1779.
Three years had passed since the people declared their independence from mother England but still, the revolution raged on. Lord Cornwallis and his British forces held most of the south despite meeting profound resistance from mercenaries, while in the north, General Washington and his troops were sustaining heavy casualties in their efforts to maintain control of West Point. In April, Colonel William Douglas of the New Haven Regiment, on his march to assist Washington, had recruited into his militia every able-bodied man and boy up and down the Connecticut coastline leaving Pleasant Harbor a village occupied almost exclusively by women, apart of course from the smallest of boys and the oldest and frailest of men.
Hannah persisted on towards the mercantile, passing the blackened remains of the grange, the silversmith shop, the tannery and finally, the First Church of Pleasant Harbor. It had been such a beautiful house of worship: heavenly white with a tall majestic steeple, four melodic bells housed within. Imported from France, the bells were gleaming domes of brass that would ring out joyously on special occasions as they had on that marvelous spring day in 1768 when Henry Allbright, a man at 29 and lawyer by trade, had taken 15 year old Hannah Griswold as his bride. Hannah could only imagine where her beloved husband was now: fighting courageously somewhere, dead in some makeshift grave, wounded perhaps. She tried not to think about it.
This time of year the church would be teaming with beauty and life: daisies and marigolds blooming vibrantly in her boarders, robins and starlings rearing their young in the secret alcoves of her spacious belfry; but today, the First Church was nothing more than a lifeless and smoky corpse. Among the debris Hannah spied the once proud church bells, blistered and warped from the intense heat, dormant and dull in the afternoon sun, never to ring again. Reverend Dandridge, Pastor of the First Church and far too on in years to join the militia, foraged through the rubble salvaging whatever he could of his decimated parish. Preoccupied by his labor — and perhaps some rather un-pious thoughts concerning those scoundrel Redcoats — he did not acknowledge Hannah as she and Lancaster trotted passed.
Upon reaching the mercantile, Lancaster’s metrical clomps came to a halt. Hannah dismounted and hitched him to the lone post outside. The powerful yellow steed neighed almost disappointingly at the barren trough before him, filled only with a grimy dusting of ash and a few buzzing flies rather than the fresh water he had grown accustom to.
The mercantile, undamaged by flame and seemingly out of place alongside the black ghosts neighboring it, sat at the far end of Main Street, overlooking the Harbor from which the Redcoats had attacked. General Tyrus, the man accountable for the burning, was a fierce warrior but he did possess some semblance of a heart. “Leave the mercantile!” he had ordered in his broad but delicate accent as he led his troops, loyalists and British regulars alike, from the harbor and up the cobblestones of Main Street, torches in hand, igniting all they surveyed. Tyrus burned Pleasant Harbor on orders of the King himself before steering his men north towards his true prize: the city of Danbury. Besides a smoldering pile of cinder, the General left in his wake a dozen or so sentries to maintain order and a fluttering Union Jack pitched amid the pyre that was once Pleasant Harbors Town Hall.
Mary Addams oversaw the mercantile, as she had each day since her husband had left for war, with her youngest son Owen at her side. Her two older boys fought along side their father. She welcomed the sight of Hannah Allbright as with her visits Mary always found much needed console as well as the latest news from the outskirts of town.
“Did you see any sentries on your trip, dear?” Mary asked as Hannah entered the quaint wooden building bringing with her a small cloud of ash that clung to the ruffles of her gingham şişli escort dress.
“Not one, thank the Lord,” Hannah replied, meeting Mary at the counter with an affable embrace.
“I wish I could speak the same,” Mary remarked. “Two passed through today. Helped themselves to three fat rabbits they did, as well as a keg of cider. I swear that is why they left the merc standing: so they can pillage me blind.” Mary brushed a wrinkle from her apron and leaned in closer to Hannah. “So what brings you out of the woods today, dear Hannah?”
“Lamp oil,” Hannah answered. “Have you any?”
Mary shook her head with a grimace. “Not a drop, love. With the Post Road closed, getting supplies from New Haven is near impossible.” Mary noticed Hannah disappointment. “But, I could always spare a pint of my personal supply for you dear.”
Hannah’s face brightened. “Mary Addams, I am truly blessed to have a friend like you.”
“Anything for a friend.” Mary fetched the oil from a small cupboard in the rear of the store and added, “I also have some fresh candles that your neighbor sold me yesterday.” Mary looked over her shoulder to see what type of reaction the mention of Hannah’s neighbor would elicit.
“My neighbor?” Hannah responded innocently.
“You know,” Mary replied lowering her voice, “That Quincy woman.”
Lizbeth Quincy, or ‘that Quincy woman’ as she had become known around town, had inherited land west of the Allbright’s four winters past. Odd to say the least, Lizbeth was quite the conversation piece among the locals, especially the catty gossip types like Mary Addams. Twenty-Five years of age, Lizbeth had never married and lived alone in the woods with no man to fend for her. A descendent of the Boston Quincy’s, she led an arcane life, rarely journeying into town, only making the five mile jaunt once every few months or so to stock up on provisions and sell her candles, tobacco and quilts to the local merchants. A visit to the mercantile by Lizbeth Quincy always ruffled Mary Addam’s feathers.
“Lizbeth,” Hannah amended, detesting the term ‘that Quincy woman’ and always correcting those who used it, “gave me some lovely candles just the other day. But thank you for offering.”
Mary knew of Hannah’s friendship with Lizbeth and always fished to wet her curiosity whenever the topic of her peculiar neighbor arose. “She is unusual, is she not?” Mary pried but Hannah refused to bite. “I mean with her hair cropped so short and all,” Mary persisted.
“The Lord loves each and every one of us Mary Addams,” Hannah countered. “Even those whom choose to walk the un-tread path.”
“But are the rumors true, Hannah?” Mary Addams posed, returning to the counter. “Does she really fire a weapon and hunt her own game? Is it true she smokes tobacco from a pipe? Does she…” Mary lowered her voice to a whispered hush, “really wear trousers and boots and dress like a man when not in public?”
The rumors were true but Hannah knew better than to placate Mary Addams’ idle chatter. “Gossip is nothing more than fire off a forked tongue, Mrs. Addams.” She left two coins on the counter and took the pint of oil Mary had placed for her.
Mary Addams felt a sudden shame realizing she had gone to far. “Forgive me, Hannah Allbright,” Mary implored. “With all the wretchedness about I have sought amusement in tittle-tattle. I should be ashamed.”
“It is your good deeds that will earn your place in heaven, Mary Addams,” Hannah said, indicating the pint of whale oil and grasping Mary’s hand.
“Bless you, Hannah Allbright,” Mary declared. “Bless you, indeed.”
Hannah stood for a moment and gazed at the harbor through the dirty windows of the mercantile.
“Is there anything else you require Hannah?” Mary asked. “Surely you did not make the long trip out of the woods for just a pint of oil.”
“That and a bit of company,” Hannah replied, turning her attention back to Mary and giving her hand one more squeeze. “I do get awfully forlorn without my Henry.”
“We are always here for you dear,” Mary Addams assured taking a fresh apple from a basket and handing it to her. “For Lancaster,” Mary smiled. Hannah thanked her and turned for the door. On her way out Mary Addams added, “And if it is company you desire Hannah Allbright, you always have Lizbeth Quincy.”
Hannah smiled politely and exited the store. She unhitched Lancaster and fed him the ripe apple, which he gobbled in one bite. Without mounting, she walked the powerful steed from the mercantile and to the commons overlooking the harbor. Once green and lush, the commons now lay barren and caked with filthy gray ash. Standing amid the dust that was once her town, Hannah looked upon the one beautiful thing left: the harbor. The waterfront was tranquil and a northerly breeze filled her nose with fresh salt kissed air. With her back to village it was almost possible to forget the war and misery, if only for a moment. Hannah watched as Mary Addams youngest boy ran mecidiyeköy escort towards the water with a net and stick in hand.
“Where are you off to, young Master Owen?” she called out as the boy skittered past.
“Off to do some fishin’, Ma’am.”
Hannah smiled at his innocence and watched him wade through the gentle waves with his trousers rolled up beyond his knees. The sun, an hour from setting, sparkled off the water and through the riggings of the few fishing vessels left anchored in the harbor. Noisy seagulls squabbled in the skies above while somewhere, unseen among the waves, a harbor seal barked for her young. For a brief moment all seemed right with the world until the winds shifted and once again Hannah’s senses were filled by the dank odor of smoke and soot. She enjoyed one last look at her beautiful harbor before mounting Lancaster and beginning the long journey home.
Dusk fell as Hannah Allbright made her way up the vacant and lonely streets of Pleasant Harbor Township. Even Reverend Dandridge had abandoned his labors and the village seemed eerily quite apart from the rhythmic clip-clop of Lancaster’s iron shoes against the dirty cobblestone. The shadows of evening crept steadily upon her as Hannah neared the outskirts and she prayed that she would not meet a sentry on her ride home. The cobbled streets yielded to wooded paths as she grew closer to home but still, Hannah found herself feeling all the more alone. The one notion that brought her comfort as she reached the clearing where her small cottage lay was something that Mary Addams had said to her as she left the mercantile: “You always have Lizbeth Quincy.”
Bathed in the sultry glow of lamp oil, Hannah Allbright stood before her full-length mirror, naked, brushing elegant auburn locks from the customary bun which she held them, her mind burdened by thoughts of her dear Henry. With each stroke Hannah’s arm would graze her violet nipples ever so slightly making them taught and ripe. Her downy breasts were pillowy yet firm and the sensation of her warm flesh against them stirred something deep inside and helped to quell her troubling thoughts. Hannah laid down her brush and cupped her full breasts tenderly, studying her reflection in the silvery mirror, a voyeur unto herself. Hannah had always taken pleasure in admiring her own nude form. She found her womanly features both pleasing and exciting: the supple curves of her hourglass figure, the soft velvety patch of ginger hair between her milky thighs and, of course, her ample and responsive breasts. Oh how Henry loved to grasp and suckle them when they made love.
Cuddling her bosom made her damp with excitement and she gave her hardened nipples one last pinch before guiding her hands over her smooth abdomen and down to her moistening nethers. Her soft mound was humid and sticky and Hannah admired her reflection with mounting lust as she watched her fingers disappear within the auburn thatch. Her eyes closed tight and a small sigh escaped her lips as her middle finger found the excitable nub that guarded the entrance to her heavenly canal.
In the hearth, a fire Hannah had built to cook her dinner died slowly in a series of hisses and pops but in her bedroom, a new fire began to seethe. Again, she thought of her beloved as her fingers traced through her soft folds, gently parting them and effortlessly sliding in. She opened her eyes to again gaze upon her mirror image. Her body gyrated rhythmically against the fingers buried deep within her sodden loins and her nipples stood firm and excited at attention. She so longed to be touched by another and to in return lay her hands upon somebody else.
Her body collapsed onto her large feather bed as her mind fell away into fantasy. Hannah closed her eyes to the real world and drifted away into one of her own making, surprising herself by the visions she conjured. For it was not Henry whom she saw in this sensual flight but rather someone more like herself: someone with soft features and smooth hairless skin. Someone who did not lay with her as a man would but one whom made love to her with kisses and touch.
Outside her window a crying barn owl went unnoticed as, without thought, Hannah brought two moist fingers to her breathless mouth and began licking her own salty wetness from them, a secret pleasure she had discovered long ago as a young girl. But in her mind it was not her own nectar she sampled; no, this honey belonged to someone else. Hannah savored the tangy dew of her fantasy lover as surging waves of bliss began coursing her quaking body. Her small frame bucked and rocked as noisy moans escaped her trembling lips. The sensation arose from deep within, from where her fingers penetrated and her thumb caressed, and spread throughout her entire being in powerful, undulating waves until even her skin tingled. The commotion frightened the lonely barn owl and she fluttered away into the starlit night.
For some time, Hannah istanbul escort lay in her bed, catching her breath, gathering her flushed and shuddering body back to a resting calm. But before opening her eyes and leaving her fantasy world completely she, for the briefest of moments, saw the face of her phantom lover. Hannah Allbright was slightly shocked to recognize the face of Lizbeth Quincy.
Lizbeth Quincy had indeed shocked young Hannah Allbright when the two women first met in the winter of 1775. Hannah had learned that Jeremiah Quincy, dead of consumption, had willed his land to relatives from the north and she eagerly made the trip through the snowy woods to greet her new neighbors upon seeing smoke once again billow from the farmhouse’s long dormant chimney. Hannah saw what she believed to be a young man peek from behind the curtains as she lifted the heavy brass knockers of the oaken door. “Can I help you?” the voice came from within. The voice was low but distinctly feminine.
“My name is Hannah Allbright,” she announced, shivering in the wintry chill. “I live over yonder and have come bearing gifts for the new lord of the manor.”
The heavy oak door swung opened and a young woman stood in the foyer. Her brown hair was cropped unusually short and her face, though pretty, was rather boyish. She stood much taller than Hannah and her posture was quite sturdy, much like that of a gentleman. But what surprised Hannah the most about this young woman was that she was wearing trousers.
“My name is Lizbeth Quincy,” the woman said politely. “Please, do come in from the cold.”
Hannah hesitated for an instant but not wanting to appear rude, entered the foyer and was led to the sitting room by her curious host. A comforting fire blazed in the hearth and Hannah welcomed its warmth. An open book lay beside the master’s chair and nearby, a clay pipe smoldered with an aromatic tobacco.
“Is your husband about?” Hannah asked, observing the distinctly masculine items.
“I have no husband,” Lizbeth replied offering Hannah a chair.
“Oh, I see.” Hannah remained standing. “Well then, your father perhaps?”
“No, it is just myself,” Lizbeth smiled. “May I tender you some coffee?”
“Oh, no thank you,” Hannah answered, fidgeting uncomfortably now. “I should not stay.”
“I see,” Lizbeth said and after a moment of silence added, “You spoke of bearing gifts?”
“Oh yes,” Hannah replied, remembering the basket of baked goods she had brought. “Of course,” she stammered, handing the basket to her host.
Lizbeth accepted the gift and placed it by the master’s chair. “Your too kind, I do wish you would stay,” she insisted. “It is terribly cold out and it is such a long walk through the woods.”
Hannah looked out the frosted window then back to her new neighbor. She removed her heavy overcoat and took her seat, smiling awkwardly. Hannah Allbright, who believed in the scriptures of “judge not” and “love one another” decided to stay.
“Does this mean you will reconsider the coffee?” Lizbeth asked, lifting the clay pipe and taking a slow drag.
Hannah, who had never witnessed a lady smoking in her life, watched as Lizbeth exhaled a blue billow that danced in the air before dissipating delicately. “Yes, please,” she finally responded, “I would love some coffee.”
“Very well,” Lizbeth smiled. “Please, make yourself at home.” She placed her pipe back on the table and disappeared into the pantry.
Hannah studied the small clay pipe, watching small eddies of smoke lift off the bowl and into the air. Her nose tingled at its richly pungent whiff. How many times had she longed to sample a puff off her husbands pipe but dared not ask. Scandalous, he would have remarked. Her hand reached for the pipe before she even realized what she was doing. The bowl felt warm in her hand and she sniffed at it cautiously before resting the bit on her lower lip. Hannah could taste the dampness left behind by Lizbeth’s mouth as she inhaled the fragrant smoke. She held it in her lungs and felt a sudden dizzying rush fill her brain.
“Do you like it?” The voice startled her and she coughed up a smoky cloud as she fumbled to replace the pipe to its place on the table. Lizbeth stood before her with a tray of coffee.
“I’m so sorry,” Hannah stuttered, embarrassed more at her lack of manners than her breach of social mores.
Lizbeth smiled as she place the pewter platter before her guest. “It is quite all right, Hannah,” she said with the slightest hint of laughter in her voice. “I told you to make yourself at home.”
The women sat and drank their coffee in near silence before Lizbeth finally spoke. “I make it myself.”
“The coffee?” Hannah replied uneasily, still feeling ashamed.
“No dear,” Lizbeth laughed again, “the tobacco. I grow it myself and mix the dried leaves with cloves and other herbs.” She stirred her coffee and took a taste. “Once the weather turns I hope to plant a new garden and grow enough to sell to the local merchants.”
“So you are a farmer?” Hannah asked.
“Not really,” Lizbeth answered, “I’m more of a crafts person. I also make candles and quilts. I hope to sell those as well. How is your coffee, dear?”