Allen looked back over his shoulder several times. Light from the rising moon occasionally broke through the thick veil of scudding clouds, revealing the men as they advanced. He could only hope that the pickets were indeed drunk or foolish enough to have campfires. Gazing into a fire for even a few seconds would blind a man's night vision for several minutes afterwards.
The blacksmith muttered to himself, repeating the Lord's Prayer over and over again.
"Be quiet there," Andre finally groaned, "or you won't need to pray, you will be able to explain it to God personally."
Emerging out of the woodlot Allen could see a glow on the horizon, easily recognized by any soldier. . .campfires of an opposing line.
"Where are their pickets?" it was General Grey, coming up to join them.
"The what?" the blacksmith gasped.
"Their scouts, the guards!" Allen hissed.
"Over there I think, I saw them posted on the road."
He waved vaguely to their right.
"Just keep moving, but by God, if this is a trap, you will be the first to die," Grey snapped and turned back. "Skirmishers and dragoons forward, deploy fifty yards ahead," Grey whispered, pointing towards the glowing fires and second later a swarm of light infantry sprinted forward in advance of the main column.
They were now halfway across the open field. The clouds parted again, illuminating a low rise ahead. It was the perfect location for forward pickets to be in position.
No response. He caught glimpses of the dozen or so mounted dragoons, crouched low in their saddles, cresting the rise.
And then the darkness was cut by the flash of a musket, a snap of light followed a second later by two more the crack of rifle fire echoing across the field.
"In on them, my lads!" Grey roared. "In and after them!"
"If this is a trap. . ." Andre cried, looking over at the blacksmith who stood stock still, terrified.
The column behind them broke into a run. Looking back, Allen could see the flash of leveled bayonets and a wall of men coming toward them. It was no time to be standing in front of them in the dark!
"Come on," Allen cried. He dared to lay a hand on a superior officer, and pushed him forward.
Andre hesitated for only an instant, his sword was poised as if to stab the blacksmith, but then turned to join the charge.
"You, for God's sake, lie down!" Allen cried, shoving the blacksmith forward. "Just lie down and claim later. . ." He didn't have time to explain further or to offer advice for this poor soul, who if found out, would likely find himself at the end of a rope if the rebels won, and at the end of a rope as well if he had played false to the Crown.