A Dangerous Dalliance


At Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, the new year 1778 began with a merciless storm.

Wind swept up the valleys and howled in anger across the plateau. The heavy snow and sleet formed fists that pummeled the unprotected oxen, cattle and horses. After nightfall, came the brutal ice. It caved-in poorly built roofs and sheared off pine limbs, which crashed to the ground puncturing the solemn silence and banishing sleep.

In the camp, the weary soldiers huddled within their drafty hastily constructed log huts. The generals of the Continental Army sat in furnished parlors or slept in the feather beds of borrowed stone-faced homes. They heard the blustering wind shaking the roofs above their heads, but they did not feel its stinging bite upon their skins as did their men.

George Washington, the man who had led the American army to this barren winter landscape, was writing letters in his borrowed bedchamber late at night. The window he sat beside framed a grotesque view of the frozen Schuylkill River through the bared icy branches of the thick wood that lined its banks. When the sly moon breached the black clouds, its snaking path glowed like an opening to a blue netherworld. With one flickering candle for light, he scribbled some wet inky lines to his wife, Martha. He mentioned the view from the window, and the rugged but beautiful snow-blanketed landscape. He did not mention the lack of food, the lack of medicine, or the deficiency of hope. He could not bring himself to inflict the dark despair upon her that doused his confidence that evening. The howling storm was a beast determined to feast upon his helpless soldiers.

The lonely commander thought the camp slumbered--at least he felt isolated in his wakefulness--but he was not alone. Another walked this stormiest of nights, unseen or ignored, seeking restitution for a perceived heinous crime. A biblical quest of blood-for-blood swept this sinister stalker ever closer to his ambition. Eyes burning with hate peered up from the snow-speckled dark at the candlelit silhouette of Washington and a hoarse voice murmured, "Soon."