(the third chapter of Shell Games)
England and its North American extremities also spoke much a similar language. One wrote to confess it was growing very tired of seeing only subjects’ backs; the other replied it was equally leery of losing the necessary leverage and independence an arm affords. Another volleyed folly eventually ensued.
This book begins with a description of a single, small musket ball, ready to fire itself all the way to Boston. That ball of questionable mettle was a 19-year-old Cornelius Connors who had a very brief adventure at the first boom! of the American Revolution.
If he were alive today, Abner Connors would say he’s not surprised A History No One Remembers begins this way. Cornelius, the elder brother, had somehow come first in most things. It did not matter that Abner Connors would be a valiant, red-haired target for the best-trained soldiers in the world to shoot at for three full years, from 1778-1781. He once saved the life of Henrietta Longshanks, the Governor of Connecticut’s mistress, when her bedroom had been put to the torch. Late in the war he even single-handedly defended a bridge outside of Poughkeepsie from a dozen crack dragoons, before spring flooding a week later washed the timbers away.
Comparatively, Cornelius Connors’ jaunt east won nothing more than his first and last glimpse of a calm, blue Atlantic Ocean– yet this was more celebrated and better remembered, simply for happening first. Abner Connors was overshadowed by his brother his entire life.
More on Abner Connors a bit later–this is not his story quite yet. Instead, the story that must be told next was what occurred on the evening of April 19th (being the night before Cornelius Connors marched his soft shell to Boston).
The hour was late, but Blandis, Massachusetts, a settlement deep in the gloomy, grey mists of the Berkshire Mountains, was alit with fervor. Across from a dark, overgrown village common the new meeting house was stuffed and hot with certainty. Every shout was a musket shot, each round of applause a charge of bayonets.
By the third speaker of the evening both King and Parliament had already been loudly fought and defeated. The voice of the people.
And then the fourth speaker arose, and all the meeting house fell supernaturally silent.
The Rev. Walpole Albright made his way up the creaking steps of the pulpit, wheezing a bit with each step. Finally at the summit, he looked out over the low valley of faithful. A rivulet ran down a full cheek.
As with all of Rev. Albright’s earthly decisions, in this dire moment he put his complete faith in God. The Lord would tell the good people of Blandis what to do. From the high wooden pulpit where he stood, elevated at least nine feet above his still listeners, he paused. Then he picked up his Bible and, in the same quick, sure motion, laid it on its wide leather spine. He closed his eyes tightly, letting his swollen, reddish fingers slowly, lightly brush along its many pages.
The book was suddenly flung open with the flourish of a holy metal trap. A meaty finger soared up above the Reverend’s damp, bewigged head, then brought crashing down upon paper, much like the high arc of falling artillery.
The Rev. Albright opened his eyes.
“Listen well the Word of the Lord, as He commandeth of us,” the minister called out to the eager assembled in a high, clear voice, even reaching a few townspeople milling about outside. “First Samuel, Chapter 2, Verse 33: ‘I will permit some of your family to remain at my alter, to wear out their eyes in consuming greed; but the rest of your family should die by the sword.’”
Rev. Albright sounded a bit apologetic by the end of the verse, fumbling the decree a bit on the word “death,” but still managed a hushed close,”So sayeth the Lord God,” with some measure of authority.
“So sayeth the Lord,” the congregation solemnly echoed in agreement, while actually being little sure of this. Rev. Albright then quickly descended from the pulpit and said nothing more the rest of the evening.
But the people of Blandis did not lose heart. The pews grew in silent conviction that God had very much meant to bless their insurrection against their divinely-sanctioned ruler. Surely, they felt, an over-plump finger had missed a much better, intended message. A message of comfort and strength that resided just above or below where the finger fell.
By the time the townspeople of Blandis finally exited the assembly into the cool April air they had already forgotten 1 Samuel, Chapter 2, Verse 33. This was allowed due to a firm belief it had not selected by God, but by the Rev. Albright’s love of custard.