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By Barbara J. Baldwin
Monday, August 16, 2004
Rated "G" by the Author.
River's Edge is a short historical piece I wrote while visiting Boston. This beautiful city and the river flowing through it were truly inspiring!
It happened a very long time ago, when the mist still curled up the bank of the River and the silence echoed against the shore. Few houses had yet been built along the gentle curve of the water, for people appeared to like the safety offered by the closeness of town. There, houses were stacked tightly together, along streets almost too narrow to allow carriages to pass one another.
Laurie Elizabeth Victoria McCluer, however, lived high on a hill overlooking that magnificent Charles River. Her father was a wealthy tea merchant and without being pretentious, still liked to let his friends and acquaintances know that he had made a name for himself in the town of Boston. Their home was large and spacious, with a wide marble stairway, mahogany banister and a crystal chandelier that her father had imported from England.
Captain McCluer and his dear wife, Victoria, after whom Laurie was partially named, enjoyed entertaining, and visiting dignitaries could often be found gracing the flower gardens on the estate, or waltzing in the ballroom which covered the entire north wing of the house. Even when tensions arose and tempers grew short between residents of the colony of Boston and the soldiers sent from England to keep the peace, the McCluer family paid no heed.
Mrs. McCluer continued to entertain the wives of local merchants, as well as the few wives of British soldiers who had traveled with their husbands. Together, they would have tea among her roses, or settle into spacious chairs in the front parlor for an afternoon soiree. Oftentimes, Mrs. McCluer would request Laurie Elizabeth's presence, for she had a pure voice when raised in song, and of course, was Mrs. McCluer's pride and joy. Laurie did not mind entertaining her mother's friends, but she sincerely wished the British soldiers' wives were not in attendance. They tended to look down their noses, as though better than the McCluers, and Laurie had heard them whisper about the "ignorant colonials". Yet they were willing to accept the hospitality of her mother and father's home.
Laurie was all of eighteen years old, and considered herself a woman, even if her parents did not. She also had very definite ideas of what should be happening in Boston and the other colonies, and wasn't afraid to express herself. Of course, because of her gender, she had no voice in the politics of the day, so her opinions could only be spoken quietly in her father's study when they discussed the dissension. Even more secretly, her friends would gather down on the embankment where only the river overheard their feverishly whispered arguments for independence and their impassioned speeches of what they would do if they were in charge of the Commonwealth!
More and more Bostonians began to resent the presence of the British. Secrecy abounded, and oftentimes Laurie suspected that even the servants were divided between their loyalties, although her father paid them well enough to keep their silence. Her father made a very good living importing tea, along with other English items to the colonies, but he was in reality a colonist first, and his heart belonged to the Americas. In order to keep informed about the British troop movements and to provide protection for the activities of the Sons of Liberty, he kept up the pretense of being a Tory and stayed on good terms with Governor Hutchinson.
Laurie sincerely believed that her mother was the only member of the McCluer household who did not know where her husband's loyalties lie. This was no fault of her mother's, for she loved her husband fiercely. She just did not have a head for politics, and simply enjoyed people, regardless of nationality, religion, or family origins.
Now, you have the background, except for one missing character in the person of Laurie Elizabeth's betrothed. Mr. Logan Mallory, a most handsome young man who attended Harvard University, came from a very well known and respected family in Charleston, South Carolina. Laurie had first met Logan when he began assisting her father at the docks and in the investment house where he conducted his business. She fell quickly in love, as he did with her, and they were promised to be married in the spring.
Much has been written about this time period of our nation, and Boston was right in the thick of the conflict. While the general history is well known, rumors still fly and housemaids whisper behind their hands if you dare to mention Laurie Elizabeth and her betrothed -- handsome, Mr. Mallory. Their story is one of unrequited love, mystery and intrigue, where only the River really knows what became of them, and it silently glides past their point of parting without disclosing its secrets.
It was not a night like any other, for the summer rains had caused the river to swell against its banks and course wildly towards the Bay. Sailors were cautioned not to try to traverse her currents by small skiff, and any man foolhardy enough to think he could swim her width on a night such as this would only be asking to meet his Maker. Or the devil, as the case may be.
The small group who sat quietly beneath the huge Oak by the bank felt relatively safe. Thinking no British ship or soldiers would venture this far, they could contemplate their next escapade. They were not the Sons of Liberty. Being of younger years, and some of them female, they did not quite understand their place as the hands of destiny tugged their hearts and minds in different directions. It is said of this night, though, that their arguments for forcing the British soldiers to leave their beloved Boston were quite adamant, and that Logan Mallory's voice rose loud and clear above the rest.
"We must not allow them to tell us how to live our lives!" It is reported he proclaimed, a clinched fist against his heart. "I, for one, am most willing to give my life for the freedoms we have." And all among him cheered his courage and admired his spirit, raising their hands to his in a show of unity.
Laurie's eyes must have also glowed with a rebellious spirit as she gazed adoringly at her betrothed. She not only loved him for his bearing and his family name -- and because he was the most handsome young man in the colony -- but she admired him greatly for his nobility in the face of such grave danger. But, perhaps because of her gender, and her loving but protective father, she naively thought she would love Logan forever and that they would live happily ever after. Surely no harm would come to them, and most certainly the British would leave soon enough, allowing the people of Boston to resume their quiet lives.
As their friends departed, leaving the young couple alone in the night by the wide, churning waters, Laurie could not have known the danger that lurked just around the bend in the river. For as secretive as they thought their meetings were, someone had betrayed them.
Her friends later spoke sorrowfully of hearing Laurie scream, her frightened voice echoing eerily against the fog floating on the water. Several of them raced back to the Oak tree only to find young Logan knocked unconscious to the ground and Laurie no where in sight. As silently as it had come, the fog disappeared and the moon shone across the water. Yet nowhere in the moonlight could they see a body or a boat, or any semblance of conveyance which could have come and robbed them of one of their own.
Logan was beside himself, and raced along the bank yelling for his beloved Laurie. If not for friends restraining him, he might very well have flung himself into the raging waters in search of her. Surely his heart sank to the bottom of that muddy current, and his tears mixed with the misty spray. Inconsolable, he refused to come away from the slippery banks, and his friends stood vigil through the long, dark night as he continued to curse the river for taking her, yelling and sobbing her name in supplication. Finally, he drew into himself for failing to protect her from harm.
The cold, gray dawn crept up the river -- no sun shone this day; no white clouds reflected against the usual blue of the water. A silent rain, seeping its cold, wet fingers through their clothes, wrapped their hearts in sorrow. His friends could do no more, and one by one said their farewells to Logan who stood still as death by the spot where his Laurie had been taken. He could not acknowledge their solace, nor could he overcome the anger that had steadily overtaken his heart and mind. It soaked into his body as the rain had, shutting down his senses until that was all there was.
There was much speculation as to why Laurie was taken, and by who, and it is unfortunate that no one had the courage to investigate until the mystery was solved. Both the Bostonians and the British blamed the other, for the colonists would never admit that they had not been able to protect the river and one of their own. The British, still being outnumbered at this time, did not want to start a conflict they had no hope of winning. Whispered accounts, however accurate, blamed the British, stating kidnapping as a ploy to make Mr. McCluer comply with the specifications of the British government on his tea business. Others -- Tories, it is said -- say Laurie was taken by colonists who were angered because McCluer did business with the British, but those closest to the family knew this to be the most vile of rumors.
Of poor Logan Mallory, even less is known. He disappeared that morning, never to be heard of by the people of Boston again. But very strangely, mishaps occurred to any British officer, ship, dingy, or sailor who dared to pass near the bend in the River where his beloved Laurie had disappeared. Drownings happened with frightening regularity, and many a body washed ashore with a bullet hole in the chest.
Romantic young girls nearly swooned thinking that perhaps handsome Logan Mallory was avenging his lover's death. Idealistic young rebels toasted his daring in the taverns, and bravely boasted their courage as being as great as his.
Of course, you must realize that this is all hearsay, for none now were alive on that fateful day, and the story has been handed down by trusted household servant, parlor maid, or stable boy. But all agree Laurie Elizabeth Victoria McCluer's death, and Mr. Logan Mallory's disappearance are tragedies of the highest degree, and hearts weep for a love that could never be.
For those who believe, however, it is said that on some nights, when the moon is full and a low mist rolls in from the Bay, you can hear their voices down by the river; their laughter rising above the gentle flow of the current and the soft lapping of waves against the shore. And if you know where to find the old oak tree, you may even catch a glimpse of the two of them, hands raised in unison; voices echoing the cry for liberty.
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