Disclaimer: The Yankee Doodle Society, Captain Yankee Doodle, and all recognizable fictional characters from the TV series "The Young Rebels" do not belong to me. The characters are borrowed for the purpose of entertaining fans of the show with no intention of copyrighting, publishing, or monetary gain. However, the story itself belongs to me and should not be copied, printed or posted elsewhere without the author's permission. This story is fiction. Any apparent relationship to real people (other than historical figures) is unintended and purely coincidental.
Paris – late April 1777
Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, made another effort to convince his seventeen year old cousin, Anastasie, that she could not possibly go to the colonies of America with him, as it would be too dangerous for her amongst the fighting.
'I have asked to fight for America, ma cherie,' the young soldier attempted to explain for the fourth time, 'Be patient! I may send for you.'
'Huh!' snorted the girl, 'Some chance of that happening, I do not think! Gilbert, I can ride, shoot and fence as good as, if not better, than you!'
'Do not argue with me, Stasi,' Lafayette said firmly, 'You are not coming! That is final! Is that understood?'
'Non! It is not!'
'Stasi, will you listen to me?'
'No, I will not! Gilbert, we have grown up together! I have not been separated from you before. If anything should happen to you, I could not bear it. I am not prepared to let you leave me here alone.'
She referred to Chauvaniac, their home outside of Paris. Now that their grandmother had passed away only Anastasie and Gilbert lived there. Her parents had moved to London years ago.
With Gilbert now married to Adrienne, his cousin saw little enough of him now without having him on the other side of the world.
'You do not have to stay here, Stasi. You could help Adrienne with Henriette and the new baby when it arrives,' he referred to his family.
'As much as I love Adrienne, I will be a maid to no one! I want to go with you.'
'No, Stasi, you are not coming!' Lafayette flared, 'And that is final!!'
He stalked from the room, his head held proudly as he contemplated the argument he had just walked out of. He had never spoken to his cousin in anger before and did not want to upset her further.
Three days later he sailed for America.
Near Chester - mid November 1777
General Lafayette was seated at a table in his tent when Sergeant Boggs requested permission to enter.
'You may enter, Sergeant.'
The Sergeant led a young lad of about sixteen into the tent.
Lafayette glanced up and a look of surprise came to his face.
'This lad says he knows you, sir. He tried to sneak past the pickets.'
The young General couldn't suppress a grin, 'Yes, I do know him. Leave him with me, Sergeant.'
As the sergeant left the tent Lafayette turned to his visitor.
'Stasi, what are you doing here in America?'
'I have a letter from Adrienne. Gilbert, you must read it!'
'I thought you were safely at home in France. How long have you been on American soil?'
'I have been here three days. I arrived in Philadelphia a yesterday. I have been masquerading as a lad. When I heard your camp was near Chester I had to come and deliver this.'
She handed him a letter bearing the seal of the House of Lafayette.
'What am I going to do with you?' He asked, taking the letter she offered.
'Gilbert, do not send me home!'
'Why should I not? And take off that ridiculous cap.'
Stasi removed the cap revealing her glorious crown of waist length dark hair before she answered, 'Maman and Papa have arranged that I should marry Pierre Etienne. I ran away and came to you, Gilbert.'
'Pierre? Why, he is old enough to be your grandfather! What are they thinking?'
'They think I need to settle down. I am only seventeen, Gilbert, I do not want to marry.'
At that Lafayette laughed. 'It may be best for you. You certainly do not behave as a young lady of the court should! Can you still outshoot me?'
He stood and held out his arms to his cousin who rushed into his embrace.
She looked up at him and smiled, 'Of course I can! That is why I came here! I want to help you.'
'How?' he asked as he put her from him.
'I could join your army.'
'The army does not accept females, ma cherie. And I would not let you put yourself in so much danger.'
'General Lafayette, sir, would it be permissible for me to be an agent for you? I can fence, shoot and ride, as good as, if not better than you.' Anastasie stated in a faultless British accent.
Lafayette looked astonished and she laughed.
'Do not look so shocked, Gilbert. After all, my mother is English, is she not?' she grinned then changed her accent, 'I can also do a decent Cockney accent, guv. 'Ow 'bout it, then?'
General Lafayette shook his head as if to clear it and raised a quizzical eyebrow.
'You always were a good mimic, Stasi. I may be able to use you occasionally, but we have to find you accommodation.'
'I am staying at the inn in Chester as Miss Rachel Martin from London. I changed and crept out the back door to come here.'
'I will find a boarding house for young ladies. What about a chaperone?'
'I am an independent young lady of means. I do not want a chaperone.'
'Trust you to flaunt all that is conventional! How long do you think it will be before your mother and father find where you are?'
'They will not, if I can help it! I am Rachel Martin, not Anastasie Motier! America is a big place. It will take them years to find me.'
'Stasi, they will write to me and you know I cannot lie to them.'
'That will take months, Gilbert, and all you have to say is that you have seen me and I am safe.'
Lafayette chuckled, 'You have an answer for everything, as always.'
'So you will help me?' Her green eyes beseeched him.
'You will have to return home some time.'
'Not yet, Gilbert, not yet.'
'Have a look around the camp while I read Adrienne's letter.'
'I will not be far away, Gilbert.' She nodded somberly, knowing the contents of the letter.
As Anastasie left his tent in the company of a soldier, Lafayette broke the seal to read the missive from his wife. What he read shocked him to the core. His little Henriette had passed away a month ago at the age of one year and ten months.
He buried his face in his hands and wept for the daughter he would never see again. His new daughter, Anastasie, named after his cousin, was now four months old.
Stasi returned to the tent to find Lafayette with his head resting in his hands, a look of despair on his handsome face.
'I could not tell you, Gilbert,' she whispered, 'I was there with Adrienne when Henriette left us. I am sorry.'
He looked up at her and saw the unshed tears in her eyes.
'Thank you, Stasi, I am glad she had you with her.'
He stood slowly and took her in his arms, both feeling the loss of a loved one.
'I could not stay, Gilbert. Watching little Henriette slowly die was too much for me. I left France the following day.'
'She is staying with her parents. She understood I had to get away.' He nodded in understanding.
Five days later Jeremy Larkin was in the smithy with Isak Poole when a young lad approached them. They exchanged glances as he entered the smithy.
'Who are you?'
'My name is Stasi Motier. General Lafayette would like to see you.'
'You are related to the General?'
'Yes, sir, Captain,' came the very British accent, then a laugh when Jeremy and Isak looked confused. 'I know who you are, sir. The General will explain when he talks to you. Oh, and another thing,' she added softly as an after thought, 'Gilbert has received some bad news from home. His firstborn died a month ago.'
Jeremy nodded somberly, 'He has told us about his family. He was proud of his baby daughter. Did Adrienne deliver her second child safely?'
'Oui, another daughter, now four months old.'
'I suppose that's some consolation to him.'
'He did not think so at the time of reading the letter I delivered.'
'Don't worry, Stasi, we'll treat him with kid gloves.'
'Thank you, Jeremy, I knew you would understand.'
Within the hour the trio stood in Lafayette's tent facing the General.
'Begging your pardon, General, but exactly who is this boy?' Jeremy asked, puzzled at the closeness of the two French people.
'Ah, Jeremy, I see you have met my cousin,' the General grinned at him, 'I will tell you all about Stasi in good time.'
'Ran away from home to join me. Stasi can be very persuasive.'
'Did you tell him who I am, General?' Jeremy was confused.
'Of course not, Jeremy, your identity is always kept secret. You know that.'
'Then how does he know? He called me Captain when we met.'
At this Stasi answered, 'Unbeknown to you, my friend, I have been in Chester almost a week. I made it my business to learn why you, Isak and Henry were always together in the smithy. I found it interesting, to say the least.'
Lafayette turned to Jeremy and Isak. 'Gentlemen, meet Stasi Motier, my cousin. Stasi can shoot, fence and ride better than me and is a good mimic as you have probably heard.'
Stasi held out her hand and both men shook it, smiling at the lad who stood before them.
'Stasi's mother is English which can explain the proper English accent.'
Lafayette began to explain, only to be interrupted by Stasi who said in broad Cockney, 'Turn it up, guv, I ain't all that posh!'
Jeremy laughed, 'Could I use Stasi a few times? He would be handy to have around the British.'
Lafayette and Stasi exchanged glances before the General answered Jeremy. 'Let me discuss this with Stasi. I have no doubt what the answer will be, but I must talk to Stasi first.'
'Gilbert, anyone would think you were twenty years older than me instead of two. I can make my own decisions.'
'Not this one. I must talk to you first, cousin.'
He sent her a telling glance and she complied by agreeing to talk to him in private. He then turned to Jeremy, 'Take a walk around the camp and renew acquaintances. I will send word for your return.'
Jeremy nodded and he and Isak left the tent. Lafayette turned to his cousin and smiled.
'I know you want to help, but what are we going to do if Jeremy learns that you are a girl, ma cherie?'
'Surely Jeremy will not mind, Gilbert. He has Elizabeth Coates working with the Society. I will reveal myself in good time.'
'You learned a lot in the last week, did you not? If you found the Society that easily someone else could.'
'No, sir, I just have the advantage of being small and able to hide in places that a man could not. Their secret is quite safe, Gilbert. I think I have proved my worth.'
Lafayette threw his hands in the air and groaned, 'What am I going to do with you?'
'Nothing,' came the cheeky reply, 'except let me work with the Yankee Doodle Society once or twice.'
Sergeant Boggs found Jeremy and Isak talking to the doctor. 'The General wishes you to return to his tent, Jeremy.'
'Thanks, Daniel, are you coming with us?'
'Aye, I have been ordered there, too.'
The trio entered the tent when the General bade them enter.
'Gentlemen, Stasi has agreed to work with you occasionally until sent back to France.'
Stasi looked aghast, 'Gilbert, you promised! I will not go home.'
'We will see, cousin, we will see,' was all the General would say. He turned to Jeremy, 'Return to Chester, mon ami. Stasi will see you soon.'
With 'I look forward to that, sir.' and a salute Jeremy and Isak left Stasi with the General and Sergeant Boggs.
'Can you get information from the British, cherie?'
'Gilbert, trust me! I will illicit any information I can from the British – troops and commanders alike.'
Lafayette laughed. 'I will not ask how, Stasi. I do not want to know.'
'I am not giving away my secrets,' came the quick rejoinder.
'Sergeant Boggs will escort you back to Chester, Stasi,' the General said with a glance at the Sergeant. He had apprised the Sergeant of his cousin's identity earlier in the week. Boggs nodded.
'No, Gilbert, I will ride alone. Would it not look strange for a lad to have an escort?'
'Daniel, I want you to ride with her to the outskirts of Chester. Take no notice of what she says.'
Boggs smiled as he saluted and strode from the tent to ready the horses.
Half an hour later Stasi left her cousin to return to the boarding house where she was staying. She slipped up the back stairs breathing a sigh of relief that she hadn't been sighted by any of the other residents as she entered her room. She quickly changed her attire and decided to take a stroll around Chester before supper.
Entering the street from the front of the house Stasi turned left into the town centre intending to walk past British headquarters. She reached the cross street and made for the town hall where there were a few soldiers lounging on the steps. She casually ambled up to them.
'Good afternoon, Corporal. How goes it?'
'Afternoon, Miss. It sure is nice to hear a British accent from such an English rose.'
'Why, thank you, Corporal, I am from London.'
'What is it like in the old city? I haven't been home for two years.'
Stasi, having visited London many times before departing for America, knew the city well. She regaled the soldier with stories of London.
'Thank you, young lady, you have made me a happy man.'
'Corporal, 'Tis nice to have met you, but I must continue my walk.'
'Call me Phillip, Miss, and you are …..?'
'My name is Rachel, sir. It was nice meeting you.'
'I hope we meet again before we move our cannon.'
Stasi's ears pricked. 'And when would that be, Corporal?' she enquired innocently.
'Three days hence we are to take our cannon to Philadelphia to set up a trap for those rebel rogues. Colonel Martin is adamant we will win this battle.'
At the mention of her uncle's name Stasi queried. 'Charles Martin?'
'Yes, ma'am, he is the new commandant of the garrison.'
She made a mental note to visit her mother's brother the next day.
She smiled at the Corporal. 'I hope I see you before then, Phillip. I really must go. Goodbye.'
She almost ran for the boarding house, cannoning into a young man who saved her from falling by catching her shoulder in a firm grip.
'Excuse me, sir, I was not watching where I was going.' She looked up into the eyes of Jeremy.
'No harm done, Miss. Are you new in town? I haven't seen you around.' Jeremy wondered where he had seen this girl before.
'Oh, yes, you have' Stasi was thinking, but said aloud, 'Yes, sir, I am Rachel Martin from London.' She knew if she could fool Jeremy, she would be able to fool the British.
'Well, Rachel, I'm Jeremy Larkin, the Mayor's son. Welcome to Chester.'
'Why, thank you, Jeremy Larkin. I really must go. I am late for supper.' She picked up her skirts and ran, leaving a thoughtful Jeremy standing in the street staring after her.
Next morning Stasi made a point of visiting British Headquarters. She was stopped at the entrance to the building by a guard.
'What is your business here, Miss?'
'I wish to visit my uncle, Colonel Martin, Private. He does not know I am in Chester and I have not seen him for quite a while.'
'Wait here, Miss, I'll see if he is free. What is your name?'
'Just tell him Anastasie wishes to see him. He will see me.'
As the soldier disappeared into the building Stasi had a good look around the front of the building, noting windows, doors and any other means of entry (or escape) in case of emergency.
Stasi turned at the voice of her uncle. He greeted her with open arms.
'Uncle Charles, 'tis good to see you.' Stasi hugged him.
'I thought you were in France. What are you doing here?'
'To tell you the truth, Uncle Charles, I ran away from an arranged marriage.'
Charles Martin laughed. 'Still the little hoyden I remember! What do your parents think of this escapade?'
'I did not tell them!' came the flippant reply, 'I came to see Gilbert and found out you were here.'
'Ah, yes, young Lafayette! He's been a thorn in our sides since he arrived in America. Come inside where we can talk, Anastasie.'
Once in his office the Colonel produced some wine. He handed a goblet to his niece before seating himself opposite her at his desk. She had grown into a beautiful young woman, it being five years since he had seen her.
'Where are you staying?'
Stasi explained her circumstances, knowing what would happen.
'You must come and stay with me, Anastasie, your mother would wish it.'
'But, Uncle, I ……'
'I'll have no arguments, my girl. It is not right that you should have to stay in some shabby boarding house when I have rooms available in my house.'
'But, Uncle Charles, I ….'
'Go and pack your things, Anastasie, I will have someone collect them, and you, within the hour.' He commanded.
Stasi meekly lowered her gaze, 'Oui, Uncle, I will be ready,' she said, all the while thinking of the opportunity that had been handed to her.
Later in the day, after settling into the palatial room her uncle had provided, and after finishing the evening meal, Stasi stood up, 'May I take a stroll before curfew?'
'As long as you are back here before curfew! I don't want you being escorted home by some of my over zealous soldiers.'
Stasi laughed, 'Do you think I would come meekly?'
He rolled his eyes, 'Go, you little minx.'
Stasi once again stepped out into the streets of Chester. Out of sight of the house she slipped into a deserted alley and stripped her dress off to reveal the young lad Jeremy knew. She thrust her hair into the disreputable cap, hid her dress for retrieval later, and ambled off toward the smithy, finding Isak alone.
'I must talk to Jeremy, Isak. It is very important."
Isak asked no questions. 'Stay here!' he said as he headed for the door only to return minutes later with Jeremy and a chubby man Stasi had yet to meet, but knew to be Henry Abbington.
'Stasi, what is so important?'
'Jeremy, the British are planning an attack on Philadelphia. They are moving their cannon in two days.'
'You have been busy, haven't you?'
'It helps with an uncle being Colonel of the regiment.'
'Colonel Martin is your uncle?' Henry looked at her disbelievingly.
'He is my mother's brother,' Stasi stated. She appeared thoughtful for a moment then said with a twinkle in her eye, 'I can get into places you never could because of this.' She removed her cap with a flourish.
'Rachel Martin!' Jeremy exclaimed, 'but how is it that you are Lafayette's cousin?'
'My mother married his great uncle. I was born Anastasie Motier. Gilbert has always called me Stasi. Imagine if I had booked into the inn as Anastasie Motier.'
'I see your point, Stasi, but why the deception? Why masquerade as a lad?'
'I have been doing that since I was a child, especially when Gilbert and I were growing up together and roaming the woods around Chauvaniac, our home in France.'
'Well, Stasi, you get me more information and I'll take it to Lafayette.'
'I will have it for you tomorrow. One condition – I go to Gilbert's camp with you!'
'No, I won't allow it!' Jeremy stated.
'Nor would Gilbert, but he knows better than to argue with me.' She grinned in reply. 'Did he not tell you that I can ride, fence and shoot better than he?'
Jeremy nodded. 'Have you any weapons?'
'I have a sword and gun in my luggage.'
'I will meet you at the Coates' barn at dusk tomorrow. What will you tell your Uncle?'
'Leave Uncle Charles to me. I will be here with the information you need.' Stasi thought for a moment then asked, 'Do you think Elizabeth will help me?' She outlined a scenario to Jeremy and he agreed to see Elizabeth that afternoon if possible.
'You had best go home before curfew, Stasi. Your uncle won't like you out too late.'
With that she wound her hair under her cap and ran from the smithy into the falling darkness.
Jeremy didn't see a glimpse of Stasi the following day. She sent a note to Elizabeth and the reply was favourable.
She then made sure she stayed close to her uncle and his staff in the house, listening to the servants' gossip and joining her uncle for the midday meal.
'Uncle, are you going to Philadelphia?' she queried over the meal.
'No, Anastasie, I will be staying here. I have a regiment to control.'
'May I go and stay with a friend for a few days? Elizabeth Coates has asked me to visit her uncle's farm.'
'Why, certainly, my dear. John Coates is a well known Tory and will not let any ill luck befall you.'
'I will pack a bag and leave this afternoon. Will that suit you?'
Charles Martin smiled at his niece. 'You would only argue the point if I said no anyway!' he chuckled.
Stasi laughed, all the while thinking about the deception she was about to enact. 'I will come and say goodbye when I am leaving,' she said.
'I may be busy, Anastasie, so I'll say goodbye now. There will be a carriage waiting for you at the door in an hour.'
'Merci, Uncle Charles.' She dropped a small curtsey then ran from the room leaving her uncle shaking his head at her demeanour.
Almost an hour later Stasi was handed into the carriage. She was thinking of the luggage she had packed – two dresses and two pairs of breeches and two shirts, her sword and gun tucked snugly under the clothing she wore.
On arrival at the Coates' farm Elizabeth greeted her with enthusiasm.
'Rachel, how good of you to come.'
'As soon as I heard you were here I had to see you, Elizabeth,' Stasi, hugged the other girl as Elizabeth's uncle looked on.
'Uncle, this is Rachel Martin from London. Her mother and mine were good friends. I told you she was coming to stay with me for a few days.'
'As long as the two of you stay away from me, I don't care,' John Coates grunted.
Elizabeth turned back to Stasi, 'Come, I'll show you to your room.'
Stasi dismissed her uncle's carriage and the two girls linked arms and strolled into the house.
Once alone Elizabeth giggled, 'Jeremy explained everything. How did you think of the name Rachel, Anastasie?'
'It is my mother's second name and Martin was her maiden name. As I said to Jeremy, can you imagine if I had booked into the inn as Anastasie Motier?'
'Someone would have connected you to Lafayette. Jeremy told me how you fooled him with your disguise. He will meet you in the barn at dusk.'
'I hope your uncle is a heavy sleeper.'
'Uncle John goes to bed at dusk and rises at dawn. He will not find it strange if you are still abed at noon.'
'I will be long gone by then. How will you explain my disappearance?'
'That's easy. You are tired from your journey from London and need a day or so to recuperate. I will take food to your room as if you are there.'
'Hopefully we will only be gone two days.'
'If Jeremy takes you!'
'I am going, Elizabeth, I have missed being active since Gilbert came over here. I have been expected to act like a lady of the court.'
The girls continued to chat until Elizabeth had to prepare the evening meal. Stasi offered to help but was told to stay in her room if they were to convince Elizabeth's uncle she was tired.
Elizabeth brought Stasi a meal then informed her that John Coates had retired.
'Jeremy will be here any minute.'
Stasi changed into the young lad she would be for the next two days, buckled on her sword and pushed her gun into the waistband of her breeches. She packed her saddlebag with a dress in case of emergency and extra ammunition. She slung the bag over her shoulder as Elizabeth led her down the stairs and out to the barn.
Jeremy was waiting when they opened the barn door. He greeted Elizabeth with a swift kiss then turned to Stasi.
'I am! Are we going to camp?'
'Aye, I have a horse tethered behind the barn for you. Let's get moving. Henry and Isak will be waiting on the edge of town for us.'
With that they ran to the horses and mounted.
'God speed', Elizabeth wished them
The four young riders arrived at Lafayette's camp and were shown to his tent by an aide.
Lafayette greeted them jovially.
'What brings you here, Captain?' he asked Jeremy.
'Sir, your cousin has some information for us and insisted on delivering it herself.'
'So Stasi revealed herself to you?' the General chuckled.
Jeremy grinned. 'She surprised me yesterday. Did you know she is staying with Colonel Martin?'
'Charles? I heard he was in Chester. Stasi, what have you learned from him?'
"The British are moving more cannon to Philadelphia tomorrow. They are going to attack before dawn the next day.'
'Do you have times?'
Stasi nodded, 'Ten o'clock will see them leave Chester. If we can ambush them along the way……' She left the rest unsaid.
Lafayette nodded. "Are they going by the main road?'
'I have not heard anything to the contrary, Gilbert. The only other route is through the mountains and I do not think they would be stupid enough to use that.'
'How many men?'
'Nine. Two on each cannon, a Lieutenant, a Sergeant and a wagon driver.'
'We will move out tonight and find the best place to ambush them. Stasi, you return to Chester and keep us informed.'
Stasi stared at her cousin aghast. 'Non, Gilbert, non!' she cried then launched into a barrage of her native French.
Lafayette held up his hands in surrender. 'Stasi, stop it! You can come, but stay in the background."
She threw him a look that would have cowered a lesser man, knowing that once in the thick of the fray, Gilbert would allow her to fight alongside him.
Lafayette ordered Sergeant Boggs to find ten good men and be prepared to leave within the hour. He then turned to Jeremy, 'Get me some civilian clothes, please, Captain.' Jeremy grinned as he complied with the order.
At a bend in the road about five miles from Chester Lafayette ordered a halt.
'This looks promising. Jeremy, have you any thoughts about our plan of attack?'
'I know you told Stasi to stay in the background, sir, but one plan was to use Rachel and her escort,' Jeremy looked at Isak and Stasi, then outlined his plan.
'It could work, as long as our timing is right,' Lafayette stated, 'we have plenty of time to set it up.' He pulled out his pocket watch and glanced at the time. 'It is now one o'clock. Can you four set this up in time?'
'Henry? Isak? Stasi?' Jeremy queried, receiving nods of agreement from the other three.
'We will need a wagon, and some explosives,' Jeremy said then turned to Henry, 'Do you still have some powder in the hills near here?'
'I have. And there's an old wagon there with it. I'll need some help, though.'
'You will get it!' Lafayette nodded, 'Sergeant, take two men with Henry and do as he says.'
Daniel Boggs saluted, 'Aye, General. We'll be as quick as we can.'
Henry led the way through the trees and disappeared from view.
Lafayette turned to Stasi, 'I know you can do this, but be careful. We will be waiting in the trees waiting for your signal.'
'Gilbert, I am a big girl now. I can take care of myself. I have my gun and sword and will use them if necessary. Now go and get some sleep while we work.'
Henry and the soldiers returned less than an hour later.
The four young rebels worked setting up the trap they had devised then Stasi walked along the road to where she would accost the British.
'Jeremy, I will be here?' she called.
'Aye, Stasi, but you should be getting some sleep.' Jeremy admonished, 'You have worked alongside us for hours and must be tired.'
She chose a tree to sleep against then sat down. Jeremy joined her. 'Are you sure you want to do this?'
'Jeremy, I do not have any second thoughts about this. We will get those cannon.'
Jeremy grinned in the darkness. This was one determined female!! He seated himself beside her and gestured for her to use his shoulder as a pillow. Within minutes they were both asleep only to wake as daylight broke.
Lafayette was striding toward them as they stood. 'Come and get some breakfast,' he invited, 'Henry is putting the finishing touches to his little surprise.'
'Little surprise?' Jeremy chuckled, 'Henry doesn't know the meaning of the word 'little'.'
Nothing more was said until they joined the others for a coffee and something to eat.
Lafayette glanced at his pocket watch as every trace of the camp was cleared away.
'Henry, are you finished?'
'Yes, General, all my explosives are set.'
'Jeremy, are you and Isak ready?
'Aye, sir, all prepared.'
'Stasi, you need to change. We need Rachel, not this hoyden.'
'Gilbert, I will be ready.' She dug into her saddlebag and pulled out the dress she had packed. She dived behind a stand of trees and emerged moments later as Rachel, looking every inch the lady.
'How did you manage that so fast?' Jeremy asked.
'I have been changing from Stasi to Rachel for so long now I can do it in minutes. I leave my boots on under the dress for better footage and to keep my gun in the right one.'
Lafayette grinned at his cousin, 'Remember when we used to play at Chauvaniac and you had to change before we arrived home.'
'Grandmere and Maman never found out about that!' Stasi laughed, 'they always wondered how I managed to keep my dresses so clean.'
'Time to get into position. Stasi, you are sure of this?
'Oui, Gilbert. I want you to get those cannon.'
Lafayette nodded and signaled to the men to take their places.
'No shots to be fired unless absolutely necessary,' he ordered.
For some time the group waited out of sight for the time to pass. At almost eleven o'clock they heard the rumble of horses and wagons.
Stasi took a deep breath and slipped out to the wagon Henry had positioned in the middle of the road. Isak climbed under the wagon as if working on it.
As the British soldiers rounded the bend Stasi looked up and swiftly counted nine soldiers, three cannon and one wagon. She ran to the leading rider.
'Sir, you must help me. I have to get to Philadelphia and my wagon has broken an axle. Some ruffians tried to run us off the road. My escort is trying to fix it, but we do not have the materials to mend it.'
The Lieutenant stopped his horse and dismounted to survey the young lady standing before him.
'And who might you be, young miss?'
'Sir, I am Rachel Martin. I am staying in Chester and my Uncle needs some supplies from Philadelphia.'
'We can't help you. That wagon will have to be moved.'
'Sir, will you not help a damsel in distress?' Stasi smiled.
'I'm sorry, ma'am, but you will have to move that wagon to let us through.'
Stasi crossed her arms across her chest and stood her ground. 'I am not moving unless I have some help to repair my wagon!'
'Determined little wench, aren't you?' The redcoat approached her and lifted her off her feet.
Stasi was immediately on the defensive. 'Put me down, you bully.'
'You have delayed us enough, young lady, now you are going to be moved out of the way.'
Stasi aimed a hefty kick to his groin region and connected. The Lieutenant dropped her and doubled over in pain as a voice from the column shouted, 'Daly, that's what you get from trying to reason with Colonel Martin's niece!!' A hearty gust of laughter followed from the soldiers.
Stasi glanced at the speaker and recognized one of her uncle's staff. She feigned a stumble as she surreptitiously reached into her boot and withdrew her gun. With a swift aim she shot the aide.
Then all hell broke loose as a blast exploded in the middle of the column and Isak fired from beneath the wagon, downing the Lieutenant. The British scrambled from their horses and tried to run for cover. Two men went down and Lafayette's soldiers injured two more as they got to their feet. The remaining three redcoats threw down their guns and surrendered with their hands up.
'Tie them up and put them in the wagon,' the General ordered, 'then load the dead and wounded onto the other wagon and let us go. Leave no trace if possible.'
Henry, Isak and Stasi found some loose branches and swept away the evidence of Henry's handiwork. As the cannon were driven off the road their tracks were obliterated.
With Isak driving one wagon and Henry the other, Lafayette's men led the horses with the three cannon and made their way back to camp.
Back at camp the Yankee Doodle Society filed into Lafayette's tent.
'Stasi, why did you shoot that redcoat?'
'He knew who I was. I did not want him telling Uncle Charles if he happened to escape. It was unplanned, but I was not going to take the chance.'
Lafayette shook his head in amazement. 'It was nicely timed. Merci, ma cherie.'
He turned to Jeremy, 'It is almost dusk. Take her back to the Coates farm before she is missed. And thank Elizabeth for her part in this.'
'Aye, sir, I will.'
'Oh, and Jeremy,' Lafayette added, 'Stasi will be sent home at the end of the week.'
Stasi stared in horror at him. 'Gilbert, you promised. I will not go home. I will not.' she cried.
'I cannot have you in danger, Stasi. My heart was in my mouth when that redcoat picked you up.'
'He did not scare me. I know how to defend myself.'
'Stasi, he could have hurt you if he wanted to.'
'With you all out there?'
'We would not have had time to stop him. We would have had to deal with the others first.'
'Gilbert, I am not going home. That is final!!!' Stasi averred, arms akimbo, facing the young General as if he were a challenge.
'Go back to the Coates farm, Stasi, we will talk later.' Lafayette's tone brooked no argument.
It was an unusually subdued Stasi who rode back to Chester with the Yankee Doodle Society. Any comment from the others elicited only a nod or shake of the head.
Finally Jeremy could stand no more. 'Stasi, you are a young lady, not a sulky two year old. How long are you going to keep this up?'
'I am sorry, Jeremy, it is not your fault. It is Gilbert I am furious with. I should not be taking it out on you.'
Jeremy rode up beside her and took her hand to squeeze it comfortingly. 'Is it that bad?'
'I ran away from an arranged marriage to a man old enough to be my grandfather.'
'And Lafayette thinks you should marry him?'
'I do not know what Gilbert thinks any more. At first he agreed with me. Now…..' she shrugged.
'I want you to gather more information for me. Lafayette told me the British seem to be massing a small force near Gloucester.'
On returning to the Coates' farm Stasi met Elizabeth in the barn. Darkness had fallen quickly and John Coates was abed.
'Uncle John has not even asked about you, Stasi.'
'Then my deception went unnoticed?'
Elizabeth nodded as she turned to Jeremy. 'Was the mission successful?'
'Thanks to Stasi. She shot one of the redcoats as Henry was trying to set off his explosives. That diversion gave him time to fix the problem.'
'Stasi can tell me all about it when we return to the house. You should get home before curfew, Jeremy.'
'I intend to go now. I'll see you tomorrow?'
'Stasi and I will come to town in the afternoon.'
'Goodnight, my ladies,' Jeremy grinned as he bowed and then mounted his horse and rode away, leading the spare horse Stasi had ridden.
When Stasi returned to her Uncle's house two days later he was furious when she met him in the parlour.
She queried him. 'Uncles Charles, why the black mood?'
'Nothing to worry you, my child.'
She stood in front of him and crossed her arms boldly. 'If you keep up this mood, I will leave. I will not have you treat me like a child!'
Charles Martin seemed taken aback with this ultimatum from his niece. 'Would you go home?'
'No, I would stay here with Gilbert.'
'For all his faults young Lafayette wouldn't let you stay at his camp. You would be too much of a distraction to his men.'
'So! Are you going to tell me what this is all about?'
'Sit down, Anastasie,' he sighed, 'and I'll tell you.'
She sat facing him as he started.
'Those three cannon I sent to Philadelphia have disappeared without a trace!'
'But how could that happen, Uncle?' she asked feigning innocence.
'That's what I can't find out. They left here, but didn't get to Philadelphia. I suspect Lafayette had something to do with it!'
'Do you want me to ask Gilbert if he knows anything about them?'
'Do you know where he is?' His eyes lit up hopefully.
'I do, but I will not tell you.'
'Anastasie Motier, you have an obligation to help us end this war!'
'I have family on both sides. I do not want to take sides.'
'No,' he snarled, 'You wouldn't! Maybe if we can find young Lafayette and hang him, we can make a difference.'
Stasi stared at him in horror. 'Uncle,' she gasped, 'You do not mean that! Gilbert is only fighting for what he believes in, as you are.'
'I mean every word of it, my dear, even if it means using you to get him.'
She stood, hands on her hips in defiance. 'I refuse to be intimidated by your threat. Goodbye, Uncle, I will move out of your house immediately.'
She ran from the room before he could reply.
Twenty minutes later Stasi was in the smithy dressed as the young lad, facing Jeremy.
'You did what?' Jeremy exclaimed.
'I told him I would not help him to get to Gilbert. He threatened to use me as bait. I will not be treated that way!'
'Where are you going to stay?'
'As far away from Uncle Charles as possible! But I do not want to leave Chester.'
'There's an abandoned farmhouse about two miles south of town,' Isak suggested, 'You could stay there. The British never go near the place.'
'Why?' Stasi was intrigued.
'They say it's haunted.'
'It will be if they do come near,' she grinned, 'I will set some traps for them.'
'We'll take you there after sundown. Meanwhile, stay out of your uncle's sight.'
'I must go back and retrieve something.'
'No, Stasi, 'tis too risky!' Jeremy warned.
'How am I going to get the things I need?'
'Elizabeth will help you.'
'I do not want to involve Elizabeth in this family argument. I want one last word with Uncle Charles then
Anastasie will disappear – voila Stasi!' She held her arms wide as she presented herself.
'Will the Colonel recognize you as Stasi?'
'I do not think so. He has never seen me in this guise. Until I arrived only Gilbert knew about my double identity. This way I can still be in town and get the information you require.'
Jeremy was worried as Stasi left the building after changing back to her feminine clothing.
Stasi entered the front door of her uncle's house. Failing to find him anywhere she asked the servants of his whereabouts only to be informed that he was at the British barracks.
She left the house and headed for the barracks, arriving in time to hear Charles Martin instructing his troops.
'My niece must not be allowed out of your sight! She could lead us to Lafayette's camp.' Her ears pricked at the mention of her name and she listened attentively. 'Cornwallis is camped north of Gloucester and wishes me to send him some troops. The pickets are in Gloucester and have secured the town.'
'How many troops, sir?'
'Twenty from here will join Cornwallis in two days. That will swell his force to about three hundred and fifty. One of my men has already left on a reconnaissance mission to try and find Lafayette. If he succeeds we will hang that damn French thorn in the side within a very short time.'
At the mention of her cousin Stasi bolted before she was discovered.
'Uncle Charles has sent one of his men on a reconnaissance mission to assess Gilbert's forces.' Stasi informed Jeremy in the smithy ten minutes later. 'They will have three hundred and fifty men just outside Gloucester. Cornwallis is camped north of the town.'
'Stasi, how do you do it?' Jeremy was amazed at the swiftness at which she had gathered the information.
'As I said once before, it does help to have an uncle in charge of the British garrison.' Stasi laughed, 'He does not know how helpful he has been.'
She then told him what she had overheard from her uncle.
'We'll take your information to Lafayette tonight after we take you to the farmhouse. With those instructions to his troops, you had better lie low. We don't want him discovering where the General is, do we?'
'He will not find where Gilbert is from me, even if I have to take other measures to stop them.'
'I won't even ask! I dread to think what you have in mind for them!' Jeremy chuckled.
Gloucester was a battle of little consequence to anyone but Lafayette. His army arrived late on the Gloucester road. Scouting ahead Jeremy and Isak found a strong post of three hundred and fifty British with field pieces.
Riding beside her cousin Stasi looked back at Henry. 'Did you bring some explosives?'
'Just some small charges. Why do you ask?'
'Let me have some when we engage the British.'
'Stasi,' Lafayette admonished, 'You have strict orders to retire to the rear as soon as we engage.'
'Gilbert, you worry too much! I will obey orders. Henry, I will still need some charges.'
Henry nodded as Lafayette scowled.
They came upon the British and immediately attacked from the front and a group of rebels led by Jeremy sent by the General attacked from the right.
Stasi retired to the rear with Henry and they set about dividing the charges between them.
'You take the right with Jeremy and I will join Gilbert,' she instructed, 'Between us we should be able to bring down a few.'
'But the General said that you ….'
'Henry, I retired to the rear as soon as the battle began,' she grinned disarmingly at him, making him shake his head in disbelief.
Henry grinned and rode to help Jeremy.
Stasi rode up to Lafayette and unsheathed her sword. As she threw the first missile she dismounted and engaged a soldier in a sword fight, running him through without any qualms.
'Stasi, do you ever obey orders?' Lafayette shouted at her as she drew her pistol and fired, bringing down another redcoat.
'Behind you, Gilbert!' she warned as she fired again.
Lafayette whirled to face the British officer. He brought the officer down with a fist to the jaw. As he turned to stand beside his cousin she was thrown off her feet after being struck by a stray bullet to the shoulder.
'Stasi!!' he bellowed, bending over her.
'Keep fighting,' she gritted in pain, 'I am not dead yet.' Then she passed out.
Lafayette lifted her and ran for the shelter of the trees where Henry was treating the few wounded. Henry looked up in surprise. He had never seen Lafayette turn his back on the enemy, but when he saw the burden the General carried he understood.
Laying Stasi down gently Lafayette turned a worried face to Henry. 'Take good care of her, mon ami!'
Henry watched as his General rejoined the fray. He seemed to be everywhere, using sword, gun and fists to defeat his opponents.
Jeremy and Isak joined Henry to watch the end of the skirmish.
'Why did the General leave the battle?' Jeremy asked. 'I saw him running over here then return to fight like the devil himself was after him.'
Henry indicated where Stasi lay on the grass, her shoulder now bandaged roughly.
'That explains everything! Is she all right?' Jeremy gasped.
'She took a shot in the shoulder. Apart from a scar she should live to fight another day,' Henry chuckled, 'She disobeyed orders, but saved the General's life.'
'How?' Isak asked.
'I was watching from here as a British officer was about to attack the General from behind. Stasi warned him. He turned and knocked the redcoat out.'
Lafayette's forces pushed the British more than half a mile from the place where their main body camped and made them run. British reinforcements arrived twice but far from recovering their ground, they always went back.
Lafayette's forces killed one man, took fourteen prisoners, and only six of his force were wounded including Stasi.
When Stasi arrived at the camp three days later, Lafayette greeted her with a hug.
'How is the arm?' he inquired, indicating the sling.
'Not quite as painful as it was. Henry is a marvel with those potions and powders. At least I can ride now.'
'Thank you for the information you gathered, Stasi,' he stated, 'We would not have been as successful without it.'
'Gilbert, I will help you any way I can.'
'You must return home, cherie. If Charles found that you were my informant, he would hang you. Some of his men will return to Chester and tell him that a girl was fighting with me. They all saw that when your cap dislodged.'
'Uncle Charles is no problem to me, Gilbert. I do not want to return home to marry Pierre.'
'I have written to your parents, Stasi. You will not have to marry Pierre. I have suggested a friend of mine – Michel du Bois,' he said with a twinkle in his eye.
'Michel?' Stasi's eyes shone, 'Gilbert, thank you!'
'I know you love him as I love Adrienne, Stasi. I have seen you with him at court.'
'I did not know you had noticed. Will Michel agree?'
Lafayette smiled indulgently as he nodded. 'I have spoken to Michel on this very subject a few times.'
She stared at her cousin open mouthed. 'You have been arranging my marriage? Is that why you agreed with me that Pierre was too old for me?'
'I will arrange safe passage for you aboard La Victoire,' Lafayette instructed, naming the ship he had bought to transport himself from France, 'Michel will meet you at Bordeaux and take you home to Chauvaniac. You will travel to La Grange a week after that to stay with Adrienne until your wedding. I wrote to Michel and Adrienne two days after you arrived.'
'Gilbert, will you come home for my wedding?'
'I cannot leave here yet, ma petite. I will see you when I can come home. It may not be for another year.'
'Gilbert!!!' Stasi protested.
'Stasi,' he commanded, 'Go home and marry Michel. Be happy. You will leave tomorrow morning for Georgetown.'
Stasi knew there was no arguing with her beloved cousin when he set his mind to it. She meekly agreed. As she prepared to return to Chester to break the news Jeremy, Isak, Henry and Elizabeth, Lafayette turned her to face him.
"I owe you my life, Stasi,' he said quietly, 'Thank you! I am grateful.'
She nodded, tears in her eyes. 'Who is going to watch your back when I am home, Gilbert?'
'The Yankee Doodle Society has been doing that for a few months, cherie. Take care!'
She left on the first part of her long journey home the following day.