Tracts of bright. blue sky were beginning to penetrate through the billowing, gray clouds. Charles had learned all the roads of Framingham on rides out with his father. The Worcester Road, the Boston Post Road, the Old Connecticut Path and all the trails in-between. He knew just how to get to Trowbridge Tavern and for the very first time, he and horse would go it alone.
The young man placed his boot into the stirrup, gripped the reigns and pommel of the worn leather saddle and with athletic precision, heaved his thin, strapping body astride the great horse.“C’mon Bucks,” he sounded as he spurred the great quarter-horse and galloped for the opening in the stone wall by the old Elm.
The woods and pastures surrounding the Sudbury River were rich and full of wildlife and along the road, everything seemed to come alive. The sun stretched open the breaks in the retreating storm and sent rays of warm citrine light to the Earth below. Nuthatches, Sparrows and flittering Chickadees darted from tree branches to the wet grass feasting on flooded insects. The tall meadow grasses released wisps of steam into the low air and Charles caught site of two meadow hares escaping into the woods across the road ahead.
The creases of the commander’s furrowed brow lines were carved. His face was made of grit and leather and his eyes were void of any color but empty, compassionless hate. They were intently fixed upon the young boy. “PRESENT YOUR ARMS,” he commanded while raising his saber high into the air in front of him. In a blink, the young boy saw the lines of the soldiers transform. All in unison. A great machine removed their flint-locks from their backs and snapped them into line ready to move. Charles was cloaked in an invading terror and remained motionless.
A sandy drum beat and the ground shook as the soldiers stepped off and marched toward Charles’ desperate position. Each step landing as one.The soldiers faces became clearer as they closed distance. The brass on their uniforms shattered the bright sunlight, their faces muddied and dripping with sweat. A solid red line blinding and overpowering as Charles remained helpless. “HALT! MAKE READY!”
Charles tried again to run. The troops before him prepared their muskets, all eyes never deviating from their intended prey. The first line moving to a knee and the second shifting one step to the left. Though his mind passed thoughts, Charles strained to understand why his body would not submit to his will. Why could he not move from this place? His heart pounded as the inevitability of this strange affair was to take his life. He didn’t understand. What had he done? Why was this band of soldiers determined to execute their commander’s order on a boy so non-threatening? Alone, Charles faced his aggressors and sobbed uncontrollably. A life so young.
“TAKE AIM!” The muskets ratcheted up in perfect unison. Each soldier intent on the task at hand while staring down the long musket barrels.
Charles longed for the strong comfort of his father or the unconditional love of his mother and siblings. Charles silently screamed for help still trying to convert his thoughts to action. He looked about in desperation. Perhaps they would come. Perhaps in this last moment, his family would arrive to protest and rescue him from this unimaginable fate. But there was no sign. No person or object to which he would be able to avoid this end.
In a weeping acceptance, he turned to his executioners. He could see the soldiers faces clearly now. Their trained eyes focused on him. Their glares already piercing his body. The wait of the command seemed an eternity. He passed each soldier’s expressionless face until he came upon one so familiar in a small gap between two of them. With his arm raised high, ready to bring his sabre down in one final command that would end the boy’s short existence, Charles recognized him.
The thunder of the muskets erupted into huge clouds of white smoke.