|The Incident at Barren Hill
Author: griffonnage PM
The Yankee Doodle Society is called upon to assist General Lafayette in gathering information on the British army wintered in Philadelphia. A seemingly simple mission turns into a harrowing adventure for our heroes when Jeremy uncovers some unexpected newRated: Fiction T - English - Adventure - Chapters: 12 - Words: 18,017 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 10-30-05 - Status: Complete - id: 2640602
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
When Isak and Henry arrived back at the Inn, they went in the tavern and ordered lunch. This time Isak ordered as much as Henry. They were starving. As they ate their lunch, they listened in on the conversations of the British officers around them.
"Aye, I am elated to be getting out of this cow town. I am tired of these macaronis. The sooner the better," one officer said.
"But Lieutenant Smith, we will just be moving to a smaller cow town no doubt. At least we had lovely ladies to fawn over us and bring us cookies here," the officer's companion, a sergeant, said.
"Alas, I will miss the cookies Jack." The two men chuckled as they ate.
A tall blonde man sitting near the officers said, "That was a royal ruse last night wasn't it? They marched the whole damn British army all over Pennsylvania, only to turn around and march them back. I think those generals must have been drunk from their partying. I heard they lost men from the heat and exhaustion. Isn't that something. They didn't even have a battle. The men just dropped dead on the march!"
A short dark man sitting with him said, "They thought they were going to catch that Frenchman, Lafayette. Do you think he was actually there?"
A Major heard their conversation and said, "He was there alright."
The tall blonde man said, "Then where is he now?"
The Major didn't answer.
Other men in the tavern began laughing. The Major got red in the face and stood up. "I will not stand by and hear the British army denigrated by the likes of any of you. You will change your subject or most assuredly you will answer for it today."
The tavern immediately quieted down. The patrons returned to their drinks and lunch.
Lieutenant Smith turned to the major sitting by himself and said, "Where are we going by the way major?"
The major replied, "I have no idea. I just know we are leaving in early June. It can't be soon enough for me."
Isak and Henry were disappointed that they would not learn of the British army's destination in the tavern. After they finished their meal, they went up to their room. Isak looked out the window and saw teams of British on horseback patrolling the town. He said, "I have an idea Henry."
Henry looked at him expectedly.
"I will go to the British headquarters and offer my services as a blacksmith to the quartermaster. They may tell me where they are going."
"And why would they do that if they haven't even told their own officers?"
"I imagine they operate on a 'need-to-know' basis. A willing volunteer like me would have a need to know...and because I am black they will have no suspicions of me."
Henry smiled and shrugged. "It can do no harm I suppose."
Isak left, taking his wagon of blacksmith supplies to the British headquarters they had found on their first day in the city. Isak walked in the house occupied by the British command. It was obvious that the family that owned it had vacated. There was mud on the entry hall floor and up the stairs. Some of the stair balustrade was broken and still laying on the floor below. He walked in an adjacent parlor and found two British corporals working at desks. They did not notice him. Isak cleared his throat to get their attention.
One of the corporals looked up and said, "Are you lost?"
"Not if this is headquarters sir."
The man went back to his writing but said, "What do you want?"
"I would like to talk with your quartermaster. I am a blacksmith by trade and would like to offer my services to your army."
The corporal said, "Perhaps that can be arranged." He got up from his chair, strolled across the hall to the opposite parlor, and said, "General Grey this Negro wants to join up as a blacksmith. Can we use him?"
The general in question strolled out into the hall and looked over Isak as if he was sizing up a slave to purchase. He said, without coming any closer, "You know we are leaving Philadelphia don't you?"
Isak looked surprised, "No sir I had not heard."
"We will be traveling to New York through New Jersey," the general said. "It is a long march over rough terrain. Are you still interested?"
Isak said, "You mean New Amsterdam sir?"
The general said, "No. I mean New York. We have renamed that devil of a town. Where have you been boy?"
"In the south sir. I am sorry. I guess that might be a bit too far north for me. It's way too cold up there for a southern boy like me. Sorry to have troubled you." The general huffed and looked knowingly at the corporal. Isak walked out of the building and returned to Henry at the Inn.
In their room, Isak told Henry what he had discovered. They decided it was important enough to tell Jeremy and to retrieve any information Jeremy might have discovered.
Henry volunteered to go down the street and see if he could see Jeremy about the house. He had noticed a lot of activity at the Wyndam home. Henry left on foot towards the Wyndam home. When he got there, he noticed a servant loading a wagon. Henry said, "Good day to you good man. Can you tell me the whereabouts of Jeremy Larkin? He is a guest at this home."
The man looked at Henry and said, "He is on the terrace with Master Harry. It is in the rear of the house, through the side gate."
Henry thanked the man and proceeded around the side of the house and through the gate. He heard voices coming from the terrace, so he ducked behind some topiary to listen. He saw Harry rise and leave Jeremy to his breakfast. Henry made a noise, "Pssst..." Jeremy didn't hear. Henry stuck his head out from behind the bush. "Pssst…Jeremy."
Jeremy heard and saw Henry at the same moment. Jeremy got up and walked to his friend. "Henry what are you doing here? Someone will see you."
Henry said, "They all seem very busy to me. Isak has obtained the information that we have come for. The British are going to move to New York via New Jersey. Do you have any information for the general?"
"Yes, a lot of information I am afraid." Jeremy gave Henry all the information he had. Henry was shocked at the revelations regarding the American general Lee and the traitorous militia commander.
Unknown to Jeremy and Henry, Harry had returned and was standing just inside the terrace doors listening to their conversation. After he had heard enough, he went to get his pistol. Harry came back, angry and red in the face. He shouted "Jeremy Larkin!"
Jeremy swung around and looked at Harry. Henry darted back behind the bushes but didn't leave.
Jeremy said, "Harry what's the matter?"
"You know what the matter is. I see a traitor now where I thought a friend had stood."
Jeremy realized that Harry had overheard his conversation with Henry. He moved towards Harry until he was on the terrace.
Harry backed up into the house. Jeremy followed him. "Please let me explain Harry."
"You told Lafayette about the troop movement last night didn't you Jeremy? That's where you were all night was it not?"
"Yes Harry. He is a friend of mine."
"Is that all? He is just a friend you were helping? What about our friendship Jeremy? Does it count for nothing? Did it cross your mind at all when you were committing your traitorous act?"
"Harry, I understand how you must feel. I would not expect you to be any different than myself. I didn't know your involvement last night. We are so much alike that we take the same actions only for different sides. Please understand and forgive. I mean you know harm, or your family. I love you like a brother Harry. I always will."
Harry lifted the gun and pointed it at Jeremy. His face was red; there were tears in his eyes. "You are a liar. Your brother died for that damn precious rebel cause. I should have known that your sympathy would be for him and his cause."
Jeremy moved slowly towards his friend. "Robert has nothing to do with this Harry. He loved you as much as I. Don't let this war come between us. I know that you will regret killing me when the war is over. I forgive you for your involvement with the British. I understand why you did it Harry. Please put the gun down."
Harry swiped his sleeve across his eyes to remove the tears blurring his vision. "I don't want to kill you Jeremy. You're the best friend I ever had."
"You don't have to kill me. Please give me the gun."
Harry was getting red with rage again. "I have a duty. You should understand that. You are a spy with too much information and I invited you here to my home. I am responsible." Harry tightened his grip on the gun, holding it with both hands.
Jeremy could see the sudden change in his friend's eyes, the determination was back. Jeremy lunged at Harry, pushing his arms up. They struggled for a minute. Harry was taller and stronger, he pulled the gun down. The two men locked together, straining, suddenly the gun went off. Jeremy saw Harry's eyes change as he slumped to the floor. Harry had shot himself. Jeremy grabbed him, easing him down to the floor. "Harry!"
Harry looked up at his friend and said, "I'm sorry Jeremy. I would not have shot you. I could not. I just would not have been able to live with myself."
Jeremy's eyes teared as he felt Harry's last breath leave with a quiet sigh.
Henry walked in from the terrace. "Jeremy we've got to get out of here."
Jeremy heard but didn't move.
Then a deeper older voice came from the shadows in front of Jeremy. "Yes Jeremy, you must leave now."
Jeremy looked up to see Harry's father. "Sir, I'm so sorry. I was trying to stop him."
The older man sat down in the chair by his son's body. "I know son. Please. I know he shot himself. You didn't shoot him. Tell me…was he involved in this war in some way?"
"Yes sir. He was working as an agent for the British. Harry was very brave sir. He was just fighting for what he believed in."
Mr. Wyndam sighed in despair, slipping down in the chair, his arms falling listless on the chair arms. "I forbade him to get involved when this whole thing started. I knew that he probably would throw away his life… feeling it his morale duty to take sides. Jeremy I could turn you in to the British, but I won't. I could not bear for your father to lose his only remaining son to this bloody war. Please leave. I know nothing of your business here. Only that you and Harry were on opposite sides of this conflict. I do not want you to return to my home. You would only remind me of the memory of this day, and that would be too painful. Please go before anyone else enters and sees you here. I will tell the family you had to return home."
Jeremy laid Harry's body down. He wiped his eyes and rose up facing Henry and his escape. He turned to look at Mr. Wyndam, broken in the chair, and for a moment saw his own father; then he rushed out the door with Henry.
The sun was setting in the west when Jeremy, Isak and Henry stood with General Lafayette and Colonel Laurens on the road to Valley Forge looking over the men ready to march north. Jeremy had given the general all the information that the Yankee Doodle Society had gathered in Philadelphia. General Lafayette, standing next to Jeremy, said, "Jeremy, I have you and your friends to thank for saving my life once again. It seems to be your destiny to cross my path at the most opportune times. I am very sorry about your childhood friend. Henry told me what happened."
Jeremy smiled realizing that the general was once again blaming himself. "General, it's OK. I have new friends now and new memories." Jeremy reached out and embraced the general. "God be with you sir, and for crying out loud stay out of trouble. I can't be there for you everyday you know!"
The general smiled, as the others chuckled in the background. "I will remember that mon ami."
As they separated, Jeremy said, "There was one more bit of news sir I feel I should share with you."
The general looked interested.
"It is regarding General Charles Lee sir. I feel that he may not be totally on the American side."
General Lafayette said, "You think he is a traitor Jeremy?"
"I'm not sure. His behavior, while captured, has been less than expected of a man of his rank. Harry told me he had been delighted in the possibility of your capture. At the very least you should watch your back if he is traded to the Americans. To me, that is enough to have him removed from his command, but…."
General Lafayette said, "I see. His dislike for me is not in itself a traitorous act Jeremy. He has proven his worth to General Washington in the field. Perhaps it is just a minor case of jealousy. I am use to that Jeremy. I am also use to veterans of the last decade's war hating me, before they have even met me, because I am French. However, I will watch my back, as you say. Merci."
The general and the colonel mounted their horses. They turned and smartly saluted the Yankee Doodle Society; then they rode off to follow the men that were already marching towards Valley Forge.
Jeremy mounted his horse and watched the army move away.
Henry broke the silence. "What are you going to do about Harry? Your father will hear of his death and he knows that you were there."
Jeremy said, "I will tell my father that Harry committed suicide, which is the truth. He will send a letter of condolence to Harry's father and that will be the end of it. I believe Harry's father will not say anything to discredit or expose me. At least he doesn't know that I am Captain Yankee Doodle."
Isak turned the wagon and the three friends headed for Chester and home.The End