When the much-feared Huron war-chief, Hawhendagerha made off with the two lovely daughters of Colonel Flower, 44th Foot (as described here), he reluctantly traded the elder daughter, Fanny, to his French ally, Capitaine Vindail of the Compagnies Franches de la Marine. Fanny’s rescue by the doughty highlanders of the 42nd Foot and the capture of the villain Hawhendagerha by Lieutenant Kennedy of the 44th Foot have been described elsewhere. But the Huron kept hold of Euphemia Flower (Phemie to her more intimate acquaintances) and plan to wed her to their leader, Aghstaghregck, known to the French and British as Le Grand Franc.
Supplanted in Fanny’s affections by the rather dour, but also rather compellingly competent Captain Murray of the 42nd (Highland) Foot, the dashing Quintin Kennedy hopes that it might be he who will save her younger sister from the unspeakable Aghstaghregck.
Will Quintin succeed? Or will, perhaps, Murray’s right-hand man, that rugged veteran of Flanders, Lieutenant Mill, free Phemie? Read on . . .
Catchawatchecka, brother of the mighty war-chief Hawhendagerha, is making haste to bring Aghstaghregck his bride. But the chance to indulge in a little arson, rape, robbery and murder, perhaps with some drunkenness, mutilation and torture thrown in if things go especially well, is hard for any red-blooded warrior to resist. And so rather than sensibly skirt the hamlet of Knockemstiff (look it’s a real Ohio place name, okay? I can’t be held responsible for colonial peculiarities of toponomy), he’s decided to give his lads the opportunity for some self-indulgent fun.
Unbeknownst to Catchawatchecka and his soon-to-be-merry men, the intrepid Quintin Kennedy, Lieutenant in the 44th Foot, has been trailing his band and, realising that they must pass Knockemstiff, has alerted Captain Murray and his 42nd Highlanders who aim to spoil Catchawatchecka’s party and free Phemie Flower into the bargain.
The Huron split into two groups. One under Adyughkannorwn moves into the wooded hill overlooking Knockemstiff. The other under Catchawatchecka, with Phemie in tow, heads for the largest building. Meanwhile the British burst onto the scene. Kennedy and his boys of the 44th are near dying of thirst, having been many hours on the trail, and so are more sluggardly than light bobs are wont. Murray shakes half his men into line and advances on the enemy, taking some stiff fire from the braves in the woods, who fall back deep into the cover of the trees after their initial salvo.
Lieutenant Mill brings up the rest of the highlanders in close column, but too slowly for the brisk Murray’s liking.
Irritated by the slowness of his subordinates and infuriated by the sniping from the woods, Murray brings his men into action with a devastating volley that kills five of Tahaddy’s six men and leaves Tahaddy himself wounded.
The two surviving Huron scuttle for shelter behind the loft cabin.
Lieutenant Mill realises that Catchawatchecka is slipping away through the woods, taking with him the fair Phemie. Seeing Kennedy’s men advancing to his right inspires Mill to get a move on and the highlanders begin to outstrip the dehydrated light infantrymen.
However Kennedy’s men are checked by fire from a group of Huron under the Canadian Lieutenant Babel. One redcoat falls. Babel’s dander is up and he leads his warriors forwards in a rush, hurling their tomahawks at Kennedy’s stout lads who stand firm.
The Huron get the worst of it and fall back to the woods. But Kennedy and Babel fight it out man to man. Kennedy has been enraged by the suggestive way Babel has stroked his moustache at him and offers to show Frenchman ‘the braid side of ma’ hand’. Babel gets the better of the initial exchanges until Kennedy throws caution to the wind and with a flurry of blows brings Babel crashing to the ground, whereupon the bloody Scot tomahawks him to cheers from his men.
The cheers are short-lived, however, as the warriors who had accompanied Hector fire some shots that send another of the 44th sprawling to bleed his life away on the ground and the rest scuttling backwards.
Meanwhile Murray’s line are still taking casualties from the Huron in the woods, and Catchawatchecka, now deep in the woods, is still trying to slip away from the action with Phemie.
Only Davey Mill can save Phemie now . . .
Catchawatchecka and his braves make a run for it, carrying Phemie like a sack of potatoes (or a sack o’ tatties, as Mill put it later in his report). Mill, as stated before, is a tough veteran of many a Flanders field and no stranger to making hard decisions. With nary a moment’s hesitation, he wheels his line and orders a volley. Seeing the muskets raised, Phemie faints.
Two braves fall and Catchawatchecka is hurt. Mill orders his men to fire at will and they blaze away, dropping three more braves and sending Catchawatchecka and his sole remaining companion swimming for their very lives across the river.
Mill orders his men to cease firing, and ever careful, to reload. Such has been their rate of fire though, most of the barrels are fouled.
Meanwhile, Murray has been trading shots with the skirmishing Huron. His careful volleys have inflicted some losses but a group has worked round his flank and Kennedy’s light bobs are still regathering themselves after their melee. Murray’s line is beginning to look a bit thin. Both Murray and the chaplain are hit! The line recoils and both sides’ morale is now very fragile.
Catchawatchecka, realising his reputation will be forever tarnished if he fails to bring Phemie to Le Grand Franc, swims back across the river to where she lies in a swound. Mill’s men are advancing implacably a mere stone’s throw away.
Mill’s men dash forwards. Catchawatchecka, one man alone against more than two dozen, stands tall and proudly issues a challenge to single combat. The practical Mill merely spits in contempt and the ensuing combat is very short and one-sided as brawny highlanders quickly subdue the Huron chief. Mill prods Phemie awake with the toe of his shoe and is rewarded with fluttering eyelashes and feminine gasps. The remaining Huron vanish into the woods.
A British victory! But a damned near run thing. Murray’s line was on the verge of collapse and Catchawatchecka very nearly escaped with Phemie. The pragmatic (ruthless?) Mill saved the day, although the tale of Kennedy’s fight with Babel is on everyone’s lips. Everyone’s except Phemie’s, that is. She has eyes only for the unromantic but phlegmatically formidable Davey Mill and talks of no-one else.