Just before noon, Thomas Tarball opened the garrison’s gates to Goodmen Woods and Green, who shouted outside. He braced himself for bad news; they were from Willard’s garrison. On foot, out of breath, they stumbled into the yard.
“We got away,” Sam Woods panted.
“They took us in the field behind Willard’s.” Will Green’s sleeve was slick with fresh blood, and he held his arm close.
Thomas Tarball barred the gate again. “Slowly. What happened?”
Sam Woods took up the story. “No reports of Indians in the woods for days. Sentinels tell us all’s clear. Four of us take carts out to gather hay, and a parcel of Indians ambush us.”
Will Green interrupted. “They split Ong’s head with a tomahawk. One tethered James Fiske and took him off.”
“And wounded you, seems like,” Tarball added.
Goodman Green continued as if he hadn’t heard, weaving on shaky legs. “They stripped Lewis naked, mangled his body. Cut him all up. Savages!” His voice rose with anguish. “Left him lying in the highway.”
Thomas Tarball grunted. “We know it. Savages.”
Sam Woods stared at his feet. “We don’t know what they’ll do with James.”
Suzanne knew from Dancing Light Indians had only two fates for captives; they adopted them into their tribes, or they tortured and killed them. If they were brave captives, the Indians would eat their flesh, believing they ate their courage. She feared that Goodman Fiske would be slated for the latter. He was old, a man who wouldn’t accept Indian ways, neither a candidate for adoption, nor afraid to speak out. “I fear for him,” she said. “Here, let me bind that wound.”
Thomas Tarball looked at her sharply. “You fear? You know what they’re up to? Indian lover!”
Suzanne’s stomach jolted at this assault. The Tarballs’ were unanimous and relentless slanderers. As she led the man to her quarter, she heard some commotion from the soldiers. They leaped up checking their guns, slinging ammunition belts on their shoulders.
“What is it?” Suzanne asked.
“Captain Nutting’s man saw two Indians on the hill behind his garrison. We’re backing them.” Thomas Tarball pulled the bar and let them out.
When Suzanne had bound the man’s wound—a shallow cut from a tomahawk—she followed some of her neighbors, who had climbed the stairs for a better look down the Bay Highway. Nutting’s garrison was just rods away from Parker’s, and they had a partial view of its palisades. Beyond the garrison, they could see a hill through trees showing only the faintest thickening plush of early spring. They crammed into a small space behind Elder Roberts where he knelt at the open window.
“What can you see?” his wife asked. Adelaide elbowed her way closer.
“I can’t see anything on the hill, just the soldiers on the road.”
At that point, all could hear the guns, then Elder Roberts saw the Indians crest the hill whooping and shrieking. Two Indians had become many pouring down the hill. “It’s an ambush!” Roberts cried. Several men, plainly those who’d volunteered to check out the sighted Indians, became visible just as the Indians discharged a volley of shot. He saw one fall, and the others retreat.
Then again, Elder Roberts yelled. “There’s another parcel. I can hear them. Closer, behind Nutting’s garrison.” He stood, his head weaving to see through the trees. “No! The palisades are down.”
“They’ve breached Nutting’s garrison?” “Are they in?” “Is it on fire?” Everyone talked at once, asking the Elder what he couldn’t possibly know. In the chaotic chilling moment, their hearts pounded with fear. More gun shots and the screams of women and children rose from the walled garrison as did the tendrils of smoke from the fired rifles. The smell of gunpowder drifted in the window, but not of fire.
Suzanne knew immediately the difference of this war cry from the loud singing she’d heard across the Nashua. The warriors were terrifying. They brought chills down her back and a gripping stomach.
Suzanne had never been one to stand by and watch; she knew she’d have wounded to tend. Then her thoughts reeled to her sister and three-year-old niece. Rebecca? Sarah? She ran down the stairs. The pounding on the gate proved she’d been right.
When Tarball opened the gate, the soldiers who’d gone to back up Nutting’s search party rushed in with the news. As Tarball barred the gate behind them, they spoke breathlessly. “We couldn’t get to Captain Nutting. Another bunch of Indians drove us back.”
“They stormed his garrison. Tore down the rear palisades. Drove us out.”
Suzanne nearly screamed it. “And the women? The children?” Ann Tarball and Adelaide Roberts came running to her side.
“They were alive.”
Ann’s face was livid. “You left them there?”
Adelaide’s eyes popped open when realization hit. “Without the men?”
One of the soldiers moved forward, motioning them to stay calm. “Someone covered them. The women escaped. They’re behind us.”
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