31 May 1775
The city of Boston had always been a constant hub of activity. The coming and going of ships brought thousands of people to the so-called "new world" daily. They also brought in goods from far away places, new clothes that had been woven from the raw fabric that left the colonies through Boston's bustling docks. This constant coming and going of people and materials had allowed Boston to grow and expand, and the towns around it to thrive and grow on their own.
Goods and merchants were not all that came to Boston's shores. Settlers, indentured servants, tradesmen, farmers, and their families also came to the colonies by transport to Boston. The new world was reported to be a place of plenty, where anyone, from any walk of life could get a fresh start. It was said that a family looking for a new start to their lives would be greeted with warmth and that men were viewed as equals, that the land was plentiful and the harvest bountiful, but with all things, stories did not tell the reality of leaving home and moving to an entirely new place looking for a new beginning.
Those who came through Boston found purchasing land difficult if they did not already have a surplus of funds. Those who were able to purchase cheap land would find that the land grants were often in the most uninhabitable places throughout surrounding colonies. They would soon find that the climate was much different than they were used to and the planting and other agricultural techniques that they had used in the old country, would not work in the colonies. They would have to adapt new ones. They would find the trees tall, and hard, and that land was sometimes contested with local tribes of indigenous people. If the settlers could survive their first few years in the colonies, then they could have a very prosperous life, and perhaps rise in the ranks of society, something that was almost unattainable in Europe. Those that didn't survive, were often forgotten about, and new families settled on their land to try their luck.
The settlers coming from Scotland and Ireland, and other countries who's religion was not Anglican, or Puritan, would also find Boston to be less welcoming than the tales had made them believe. Irish Catholics, in particular, were required to register upon arriving. If they failed to and were found, they were often run out of town, under threat of whipping, or a period in the stockade should they ever return. Some did return, and they met their fates at the end of the whip, or spent days being mocked, violated and abused in the wooden stockades in the middle of town. Still, some made the risk to return if they had family in the city, or friends who would not turn them in.
Such was the case with Aoife Doyle. The thin, red-haired woman of nineteen, had been run out of town twice but returned to her friends, the Coles, each time. Each time she was caught the punishment had been worse. She bore scars on her back from where she had been whipped the last time she had been caught. That had been a year ago, and since then Aoife had taken the alias of Katherine Walsh, a protestant woman from Belfast. She never attended Catholic Mass, but practiced her religion in her small room next to the basement of the Cole's establishment, "The Wrong Lady Inn."
Aoife was a lovely young woman with thin features. Her green eyes were bright against her pale, freckled face. Her fire-red hair was often hidden beneath a linen cap, but when let free, it hung nearly to her waist in tight waves. Her nose was slightly bigger than one would have expected, but not in an unpleasant way, rather it looked like it was merely swollen. The truth was it had been broken when she was put in the stocks after being caught as an unregistered Catholic the first time.
Aoife was a slender young woman; standing at nearly five foot four inches she seemed average for a woman of her day. She was considered attractive, even though she wore clothes that were obviously not made for her. Her day gown was slightly longer than was customary of the time, and had a few places that were worn thin or threadbare. It was plain brown linen with a subtle floral pattern over the outer shell and a dark green petticoat that hung to her ankles. The top part did not hug her body as tightly as a gown that had been made for her should have, but the stiff set of stays she wore underneath it helped fill it out and kept her posture rigid. The soft swells of her breasts rose above the neckline of it, but the white and blue striped neckerchief that she wore around her neck and stuffed into the neckline of the gown hid her assets and gave her the look of a respectable woman.
Most people would look at Aoife and assume she was little more than an indentured servant working in the home of a middling family, but that was only how she wanted people to view her. Aoife was not beholden to anyone. She was her own woman, the fact that she worked as a maid at "The Wrong Woman," and doubled as a prostitute was her own choice. Aoife did not consider herself a loose woman, nor was she proud of her double life as a lady of the night, but she knew that with the city bursting at the seams with British soldiers, sleeping with some of them was the best way to obtain information that would be useful to the rebel cause.
"Make way!" The booming voice of a man walking down the cobblestone streets of Boston's south end pulled Aoife out of her thoughts. Like many on the street she looked up to behold a sergeant and a squad of men who's uniforms designated them as members of His Majesty's 47th Regiment of Foot.
Aoife stopped on the sidewalk and looked at the small group of soldiers that marched by. There couldn't have been more than ten of them, plus the sergeant, but they were very imposing none the less. Small formations of soldiers, like this one, were not an uncommon site within Boston. The people of the city had long grown accustomed to the presence of His Majesty's troops since Lord North, and Parliament reissued the Quartering Act in 1774, however that had not made them happy about it. It was these acts, along with several others enacted around the same time that had lead to the skirmishes in Lexington, Concord, and the surrounding towns.
Leftenant General Thomas Gage, military governor of Massachusetts since 1774, had nearly four thousand soldiers stationed in Boston, and recently another five thousand had arrived with Generals Sir William Howe, Sir Henry Clinton, and John Burgoyne, just a few days earlier. Many of the junior officers had been given billeting in the "Wrong Lady," so Aoife was more than used to dealing with them, despite her deep dislike of the redcoats.
Once the patrol had passed, pedestrian travel returned to normal. Aoife walked briskly down the streets, her leather soled shoes tapping the cobblestones beneath her feet. She held a wicker basket in her hand full of various vegetables she'd purchased in the market. She had a lightweight cloak wrapped around her thin frame to keep out the cool wind coming off of the harbor. Despite it being nearly June, there was still a bite in the air from the wind coming off of the ocean waters.
A turn off of Frog Lane, and Aoife found herself crossing Orange Street, and once across the large juncture, she found herself on Essex Street. The salt from the dried salt flats that would only fill during high tide caused her to wrinkle her nose. No matter how many long she had lived there Aoife couldn't get used to the smell at low tide. Thankfully she didn't have to endure it long as she turned into the tall wooden building on the corner of Essex Street and Bansford Lane. She walked along the side of the Elizabethan style building until she found the side door that would lead her straight into the kitchen.
As was usual in the mid-afternoon, the kitchen was bursting with activity as the cook prepared the evening meal. He was a larger man, and was almost always appeared greasy and covered in sweat, no matter the outside temperature. He was one of the best cooks in the city, some had commented, but his disposition did not reflect that. He was usually a quick tempered, foul-mouthed man who treated all those below him like ants who could be crushed beneath his heavy shoe at any moment.
"'bout time you got those bloody things back from the market." The cook shouted, "Put the basket on the table and get yourself upstairs, Miss Cole wants to see you." The man wiped his mouth on his sleeve and followed the Irish woman with his eyes, shaking his head at what he saw as a weak child who was prone to daydreaming.
The cook's perception of her was exactly what Aoife wanted people to think of her. No one would feel suspicious or think twice about telling a weak, indentured servant girl, anything. They often thought that she had no friends and no one to tell anything to, and thus there was no danger. Aoife, however, educated, and far cleverer than most gave her credit for. Despite the fact that war was only a few months old, Aoife had learned her craft of intelligence gathering quickly, and had adapted many old habits to divert attention to herself, to now serve her purpose.
Aoife knocked on the closed door on the third floor of "The Wrong Lady." There were three small rooms on this floor, one belonging to the proprietress of the Inn, Mrs. Harriet Cole, the second was where Aoife entertained gentlemen privately, and the third, and most glamorous, belonging to Aoife's closest friend, Miss Prudence Cole.
"Come in." A pleasant voice came from the opposite side.
Aoife walked in and closed the door. She saw Prudence sitting at her small vanity brushing her hair, having just changed into a lovely blue day gown with a creamy white petticoat. Prudence wore a pearl necklace around her porcelain white neck, and a light touch of red color to make her soft pouts pop in the low light of the inn's dining room. Her stays had pressed her breasts up and they swelled from under the neckline with each breath she took.
Prudence turned and smiled, "Oh good Aoife, you're back! I was beginning to worry, you were due back nearly half of an hour ago."
"I know. I paused to watch the soldiers drilling on the Commons, and then there was another group of them moving up from the south end of town." Aoife replied, "Forty-Seventh Foot by the look of them."
"Yes, it seems hard to go anywhere in the city without nearly tripping over soldiers in one place or another." Prudence said with a laugh as she stood from the wooden chair. She walked over to the small table beside her bed and opened one of the drawers. She pulled out the bible that lay within and opened it to Revelation, Chapter 12. There she retrieved a folded piece of paper sealed with red wax and a simple "X" stamped in it, "This needs to find its way into the hands of the Silversmith's wife. You'll likely find her..."
"At the Green Dragon." Aoife replied, "I know." She smiled at her friend.
"Be careful." Prudence said, "I fear with the influx of regulars in the city it will become more difficult for you to move around unnoticed."
Aoife smiled at her friend, "You needn't worry, Prue. Who's going to pay attention to a shy indentured servant." She offered her friend a reassuring hug.
Prudence smiled, "We should get going. You've got quite a journey across town, and I'm sure Captain Crowe will be here shortly."
"Be careful with him." Aoife said cautiously, "There's no good in that man. I think too many years at sea has made him a bit insensitive to the needs of a woman."
Prudence offered a coy smile, "Perhaps emotionally, but physically he's quite up to the task."
Aoife swallowed the laugh that threatened to find its way past her lips. She didn't need any more explaining than that to understand what Prudence was referring to. She'd had her own share of lovers who were quite skilled in the arts of carnal pleasure and had enjoyed them all, but she also knew how rough men could be with women who they saw as nothing more than objects to be used and then discarded. Captain Crowe had left Prudence with certain bruises and marks on her pale body before, and Aoife always worried that the abuse would turn from simple rough pleasure, to something far more sinister.
Prudence smiled, "Honestly, I'll be fine." She took a step forward, "Now go on, we both have duties to perform tonight."
Pushing her own misgivings aside, Aoife turned and opened the door, letting Prudence exit the room before she did. The two young women walked down the stairs, each sure and confident of their mission that night, though Aoife couldn't help but feel as though her trek across Boston would be less perilous than Prudence's rendezvous with the marine Captain. She just had to remember that this was war, and that even though neither of them could serve as soldiers, there was no less risk in how they were serving the cause of liberty. The men risked their lives in every skirmish and battle they fought, why should their danger be any less? They would do their part, even if that meant spending the night pleasuring a rough British officer to get the information they sought. After all, that was one way that women could fight.