The Jeremiah Daisy
Third Installment (jump to part 1 • part 2 • part 4)
by “Nathan Drinker”
Originally published in Tangents 1.8
May 1966 • Pages 16–18
Readers of Tangents will discover in this month’s Jeremiah Daisy CHAIN LETTER dated during the Revolutionary War the same patriotic devotion to military duty by members of the homophile society of that era as is shown by thousands of like individuals of our present generation.
The Nathan Drinker Letter
26 December 1776
For past endless weeks our dogged General Washington has been playing Bo-Peep with Cornwallis’ redcoats. But now freezing rain & snow have forced us into camp across the Delaware from this Hessian stronghold. We have lost most of our picks & shovels. My breeches are in such poverty they reveal more than they hide. I spend half my time bringing in faggots to warm my bottom. Until last night it had been months since I had a taste of rum to massage my belly. Which leads me to this quill and paper:
Yesterday, upon learning of the plan to surprise Colonel Rail & his Hessian playmates at their Christmas night beer fest, I volunteered to join the scouts assigned to go ahead. Without revealing the hows & whys of our present group of correspondents, I explained that I knew of the town’s chief physician, a Dr. Crossgrove, who could be of assistance to us. Thus, I was ordered to cross the river, contact the man & remain in Trenton Christmas night to observe the celebrants & give warning should they learn of our impending attack. The fates of war are tricky. Little did I know the fancy spying in store for me.
I arrived sometime after dark in a blinding snowstorm. Dr. Crossgrove greeted me at his home. He was somewhat astonished when I identified myself. He plied me with questions concerning the lot of such as us in a man’s army. He filled me with rum & victuals while we talked & laughed & cried. It was near midnight before we got down to the business at hand.
“My dear Nathan,” he warned. “You cannot go near the Trenton Tavern in those rags. A blind man could spot you.”
“But I must get inside,” I said. “How else can I uncover a possible leak in our security in time?”
“My clothes are much oversize for you,” he said, pursing his lips in thought. “There must be a way.”
I downed another spot of hot rum grog.
“There would be no problem if only I were a wench,” I giggled.
“That’s it,” he cried, raising his glass for a toast. “Here’s to Miss Natalia Drinker, twice as handsome as the innkeeper’s daughter.” He took a sip of rum. “Wash your face, you silly boy. Comb your hair. It’s plenty long for a girl’s. I’ll raid my Kitty’s wardrobe.”
“Kitty who?” I asked, as if I were drunk & jealous.
“Kitty, my maidservant,” he replied shrugging his shoulders. “She’s already at the tavern serving beer to those damned hirelings.”
“O-o-o-oh!” I squealed, waving my arms & prancing around the table. “All those baby-faced Dutchmen, & I can’t speak a word of German!”
“Follow me,” the doctor commanded, heading for the kitchen.
The walk through the kitchen to the maid’s room sobered me slightly and I began to shake.
“Steady, boy,” he cautioned. “There’s much at stake tonight. You are a little rebel, aren’t you?”
“More ways than one,” I whispered with a flourish. I teetered toward him, caught his face between my hands & smacked him a kiss on the mouth.
“Here,” he said, pouring water from a pitcher into the washbasin. “Take off those tatters & clean your- self while I steal from Kitty. If only she were here. She could make you the belle of the ball.”
Later, on the way to the tavern, my dress billowed in the wind. I poked at my bonnet & adjusted my bosoms. One leg of my drawers kept sliding down. I practiced my walk and raised my voice to what I imagined to be a passable pitch.
“Don’t overdo it,” cautioned the doctor. “Some of our local girls speak bass.”
After much prodding by the good man I curtsied, bid him adieu & slid through the back door into the tavern. The noise was deafening. The rich odor of a huge pig sizzling on the spit in the fireplace mingled with the strong malty tang of spilled beer. Young girls & old women hurried back and forth with mugs of foaming brew or empties to be filled again.
I stood for a moment transfixed in terror. A fat waiter closing the front of his breeches came in through the door and pushed me out of his way. In panic I rushed to the counter, caught up two full glasses & shoved my way into the mob of happy, shouting soldiers. A blond youth twice my size bellowing his lungs out in a German folksong grabbed me around the waist & pulled me onto his lap.
I banged the beer onto the table attempting to release myself. Just then the band struck up a loud um-pa-pa & my partner threw me to my feet & started dancing.
We swung around. He grinned & made a face like kissing. Other couples crowded in. We twirled & swirled & I knew I was mad.
“Hans,” he kept shouting in his thick foreign voice, pointing to himself. “Hans Bergmyer. Hans Bergmyer.”
I kept nodding. Such a pretty name for such a damned fool. I tried to figure what would happen next.
Each time the music stopped, Hans would clasp my hand, pull me to the nearest table & gulp down another throat full of some stranger’s beer. On & on we danced, closer & closer he held me. He was so muscular and strong, & I was so intoxicated. For the first time in long dreary months I was happy. All at once I felt my manhood rising. 1 tried to pull away. Crazily I thought of the long pendulum at home on my grandfathers clock & began laughing in my own male voice.
The look of dismay that came over my mercenary’s face made me laugh all the harder. His hand flew to my face as if to strike me. He rubbed my check & down under my chin. He stared at me. Then suddenly he muttered something in his guttural German, put his hand to my middle & let out a “Whoopee!” Out of the melee & through the front door he carried me to his cabin.
In case, dear companions, you are alarmed at my neglect of duty, luckily for me last night there was no leak in our Continental security. Our attack did not begin until sometime after daybreak. Colonel Rail & several poor Hessians, but not my Hans, were mortally wounded. We took near a thousand prisoners. I am now back at Dr. Crossgrove’s preparing this letter for him to post & am near ready to row myself back across the Delaware.
Happy New Year,
©1966, 2016 by The Tangent Group.
All right reserved.