STASI'S RETURN

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.

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Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama

PROLOGUE

Paris - February 1779

When Lafayette arrived back in France he went at once to the palace at Versailles to see the king. He was sent into exile for eight days in the home of his father in law, having displeased the King by going to America.

After his exile Lafayette paid many visits, the first being to Anastasie Du Bois, his cousin.

Stasi had married Michel Du Bois on her return to France ten months earlier.

'Gilbert!' Stasi greeted him with open arms, 'It is good to see you!'

'Marriage must suit you, ma cherie, you look well.'

Stasi smiled coyly, 'Michel and I are very happy, cousin. And I have you to thank for that!'

'Did your parents return from England for your wedding?'

'Oui, Gilbert, Maman and I had a tete a tete. She explained why I was left at Chauvaniac with Grandmere.'

He became sombre. 'Adrienne told me that you were upset, but she did not know the reason.'

'Wait here, I will find Michel, then I will tell you some of the story.' She turned and exited the room, returning minutes later with her husband.

'Gilbert, welcome home, mon ami.' The two men shook hands and embraced with the ease of close friendship.

'I will let you two talk later. I have ordered repas de l'apres-midi, Gilbert. I will tell you while we wait.'

She led the way to the salle a dejeneur and motioned the men to seats.

'I believe Maman was trying to shock me, Gilbert. She told me I was not Papa's child.'

Lafayette looked stunned.

'I asked Papa and he told me who my real father was. Papa accepted me as his own because he could sire children.'

'Did he tell who your father was?'

A maid appeared carrying a large tray. She placed this on the table in front of Stasi and poured the coffee.

Stasi dismissed the maid and continued with her story.

'Oui, Gilbert, I am still a member de la Fayette. I cannot divulge my origins yet. When Maman wished to travel and live in England, she did not want me with her. Papa said it broke his heart to leave me with Grandmere when I was two, but if he wanted Maman to stay with him he had no choice.'

'So we are still related?'

Stasi nodded, 'Michel knows the full story. We have agreed to tell you after the war in America is over.'

'Even if you had not been related I would still love you as a sister, Stasi, you know that.'

Stasi and her husband exchanged glances at this statement.

'I never doubted that, Gilbert,' she whispered, then changed the subject, 'I missed you at my wedding. Maman did not attend, but Papa gave me away.'

'I have a late la noce présente for you and Michel,' He smiled as he released her.

Michel came to stand beside his wife as she exclaimed, 'A wedding present??'

Lafayette nodded, 'I have arranged passage for you both to America when I return.'

Stasi squealed in excitement then turned to Michel, 'Mon cher, you will like America. I will introduce to some of the friends I have made in Chester.'

Michel smiled affectionately at her then turned to Lafayette, 'Merci, mon ami. We will be honoured to travel with you.'

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CHAPTER 1

Boston - April 1780

Having disembarked from the King's frigate, 'Hermione', at Boston dock, Lafayette turned to Stasi and Michel.

'A carriage awaits to start you on your journey to Philadelphia. Your accommodation is arranged.'

'Are you not coming with us, Gilbert?'

'Non, ma cherie, I will join you within the fortnight. I have to see General Washington first,' he answered her query, then hugged Stasi and embraced Michel, 'The British are no longer in Philadelphia, but I will be there to meet the Yankee Doodle Society mid-May. You will have an escort.'

'Of course she will!' came a voice from behind Stasi.

She swung round to face the speaker.

'Jeremy!' she squealed in delight.

'What are you three doing here?' Lafayette addressed the Yankee Doodle Society.

'We received the news that you were returning, sir. We couldn't let our favourite General arrive without being here to welcome him back. Stasi is a surprise, though.' Jeremy answered, 'We would be pleased to escort her to Philadelphia.'

'Mes amis, let me introduce you to Michel du Bois, Stasi's husband.' Lafayette intervened.

Introductions over, preparations were made to begin the journey to Philadelphia.

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'We will stay in Providence tonight,' Jeremy spoke to Michel and Stasi on the road. 'With no British in the area it makes travel easier.'

'Did Gilbert give you our itinerary?' Stasi asked.

'He did. Providence tonight, Plainfield tomorrow night then Hartford, Putnam and Trenton before arriving Philadelphia on Friday.'

'What were you three doing in Boston? It's too far from Chester for you to come just to welcome Gilbert back!'

Jeremy grinned, 'You know us too well. We had some information for General Wayne.'

'So! Why did you not tell Gilbert?'

'Stasi, we arrived four days ago. Until then we didn't know Lafayette was returning. When we heard, we decided to welcome him back.'

Stasi laughed and shook her head. 'Will you not be missed at home?'

'My father is used to my absences. He still doesn't know why.'

'You still have not told him of the Yankee Doodle Society?'

'Not yet!'

'Surely, there is no need to keep the secrecy now the British are no longer in Pennsylvania!'

'If we are to continue our work for Lafayette we must remain secret. You know that, Stasi.'

'But your father should know!'

Jeremy shook his head.

Michel, listening to this exchange in silence, asked, 'Jeremy, surely, your father would keep your secret?'

'I cannot risk it, Michel. I know Lafayette has told you of our missions. We must retain the secrecy. If my father should inadvertently mention something, word could get to the British. There is still a price on my head. Any redcoat would welcome the glory of capturing Captain Yankee Doodle.'

'But you must still be thought as shiftless and lazy by your family and friends.'

''Tis a burden I shoulder, Michel. After the war my family will be told, and only then.'

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On arrival in Providence they booked into an inn then partook of a meal before Stasi decided to retire leaving the men to talk over a tankard or two.

This set the pattern for most of the journey until the group arrived in Trenton where Jeremy decided to take a stroll before retiring for the night to acquaint himself with familiar places in the town.

He was not the only one. A familiar young lad walked ahead of him and he grinned to himself as he caught up with Stasi.

'So this is what you do when you retire each night?' Jeremy chuckled softly as he put a hand on her shoulder, causing her to jump in fright.

Spinning around, gun at the ready, Stasi breathed a sigh of relief. 'Jeremy! You scared me! You are lucky I did not shoot first.'

'I'm sorry, Stasi, I didn't mean to scare you. Have you been doing this each night?'

She grinned, 'I will let you make your own decision on that, mon ami. Michel does not know.'

Jeremy couldn't hold back a laugh, 'He will tonight! He has just retired.'

'Mon Dieu!! I must go!' Stasi bolted for the back stairs of the inn, Jeremy's laughter following her.

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Stasi entered the room to find Michel in bed. He eyed her mode of dress and grinned.

'You could not resist, could you, amour? I knew you would not be able to stand the boredom too long, Stasi.'

'Michel, I am sorry I did not tell you.'

'Stasi, ma cherie, I know you. The inactivity during the journey bores you, n'est ce pas?'

She couldn't hide a smile. 'I thought you would not approve.'

'I know you can look after yourself and I notice you carry your gun. I would not like to be the one who took you on.'

'Then I may continue?'

'Only if you tell Jeremy or me first. Then I will have no objections.'

Stasi's eyes twinkled, 'Michel, mon amour, je t'aime!' she cried as she launched herself to hug him.

'Sleep, ma cherie, we still have quite a journey tomorrow.'

With that she cuddled up to him and let sleep take her.

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An early start was made the following morning. Four hours later the group arrived in Philadelphia. The inn they booked into was in the centre of the city. Jeremy approached Stasi and hugged her.

'We must take our leave, Stasi,' he said, 'We have been away from Chester too long.'

Stasi nodded, 'I understand, Jeremy, but you will be back?'

'We have to meet Lafayette here in Philadelphia in a week. He has a mission for us.'

'If Michel allows, may I join you?' Her eyes twinkled with laughter.

'If Michel allows what?' came her husband's voice from behind them.

Stasi spun round. 'Jeremy has to go home. Gilbert is meeting them here in a week and he has a mission for the Society. I asked if I could join them.'

Michel threw up his hands in defeat as he laughed. 'Allors! Would I be able to stop you?'

'Michel!' she pouted prettily, 'Am I that obvious?'

He shook his head. 'Non, ma cherie, but you have always been determined to have your own way!'

Jeremy chuckled, 'Depends on what exactly the mission is. I'll see you in a week. Now I must go!'

He shook Michel's hand and hugged Stasi again before turning to join Henry and Isak who were waiting with the horses.

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The following day Stasi decided to ride to Chester to visit Elizabeth. Michel agreed to accompany her on the hour's ride.

They arrived at the Coates' farm mid morning when Elizabeth had finished her chores and was free to talk.

Stasi introduced her husband and Elizabeth welcomed him.

'I didn't know you were coming back, Stasi,' Elizabeth was puzzled.

'Gilbert gave this journey to Michel and me as a late wedding present. We have enjoyed every minute so far.'

Elizabeth glanced out of the window. 'Here comes Uncle John. He still thinks you are Rachel.'

Michel, who had been told of Stasi's adventures on her previous visit, laughed, 'Will we enlighten him?'

Elizabeth shook her head. 'No, let him keep thinking that Stasi is an English woman. It won't hurt him,' she grinned.

'Is he still as grumpy as usual?' Stasi enquired.

'He hasn't changed. He still thinks the British should be here instead of running like rabbits!'

They were all laughing as John Coates entered the room and grumpily asked, 'What's all the noise in here, Elizabeth?'

'Uncle, you remember Rachel? She has brought her husband to meet me. Michel, meet my uncle, John Coates.'

'A Frenchie? I hope you're not one of that young upstart Lafayette's rabble.'

'Mr. Coates, Michel is a count in the French court, but not of Lafayette's men.' Stasi explained.

John harrumphed and turned to Elizabeth, 'When are you going to start my lunch, girl? I'm hungry.'

Elizabeth exchanged a glance with Stasi, winked, and answered, 'I have invited Rachel and Michel to partake with us, Uncle. The meal will be ready shortly.'

Over a meal of soup and vegetables John Coates was unusually silent.

'Mr. Coates, may I ask if Elizabeth can join us for a day or two in Philadelphia while we are staying there?' Stasi asked.

He looked up, surprised.

'She will be well looked after, sir. No harm will come to her.'

'Uncle John, please may I? I have not been to Philadelphia for quite a while.' Elizabeth beseeched.

'I suppose it could be arranged. The widow Hawkins will cook for me until you return.'

'I will call on her this afternoon, Uncle John. When may I go?'

'You can travel tomorrow, girl.'

'Thank you, Mr. Coates,' Michel said, 'My wife tends to get bored with my company and Elizabeth will be company for her.'

John Coates nodded grudgingly.

Michel and Stasi took their leave of Elizabeth a few hours later to return to Philadelphia, arriving before sundown.

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Elizabeth arrived at the inn around noon the following day. Stasi greeted her and showed her to the room they had obtained for her. 'Elizabeth, Gilbert will be here in a few days,' Stasi explained, 'We will deliver you back to your unsuspecting Uncle then.' Elizabeth grinned, 'It will be good to see the General again. We've missed him around here.'

'He has a mission for the Society and I may need you to help me cover for Jeremy.'

'How?'

Stasi laughed, 'We'll think of something. I still don't know if I am going on this mission yet.''

'You will!'

'Why do you say that?'

'You can twist the General around your little finger, Stasi. You will accompany Jeremy, Isak and Henry and so will I if I am needed.'

Stasi let a giggle slip past her lips, and turned towards the door.

'Come, I have something for you, Elizabeth.'

They entered the room Stasi and Michel occupied and Stasi reached into a closet to pull out an ornate dress – creamy white satin, pearls embroidered into the bodice and pale pink embroidery on the hem and sleeves.

'For you!' She handed it to Elizabeth.

'Stasi, it's beautiful!' the younger girl breathed in awe.

'I had it made especially for you. You can put it away for your eventual wedding or wear it to a ball if the occasion arises.'

'This will make me feel like a princess. I have never had anything so beautiful.'

'Put it in your glory box when you go back to the farm. Keep it for a special occasion.'

Elizabeth nodded.

The two young women strolled on Michel's arm around the town after partaking of luncheon, returning to the inn only after becoming tired.

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CHAPTER 2

Lafayette arrived in Philadelphia three days later. He arranged to meet the Yankee Doodle Society in Chester the following day. Stasi, Michel and Elizabeth travelled with him.

They met at Isak's smithy.

'I want you to go to Virginia. The British are gathering forces around Yorktown. Jeremy, take Stasi with you and use her talents to your advantage.'

'You are not coming, sir?' Jeremy queried.

'Alas, no, I have been asked to stay with General Washington to act as interpreter and liaison officer for meetings with Comte de Rochambeau and his officers when they arrive next month from France. Michel will be able to assist me.'

'Gilbert, no action?' Stasi grinned, 'You will be bored to tears!'

Lafayette smiled at her and sighed, 'I know, ma cherie, but orders are orders. I must do what I can to help end this war quickly.'

'Have you any specific orders for us, General?'

'No, Captain, I will leave any decisions up to you. I know you are quite capable of reading a situation. Just keep Stasi safe.'

'I'll guard her with my life, sir, you can count on that.'

'With a little help from Henry and me,' Isak added.

'I want you to report back to me within the month. That should give you plenty of time to gather anything of significance.'

'We'll do our best, sir,' Jeremy spoke for the four of them.

'Stasi and Michel had better return Elizabeth to her uncle. It is good to see you again, young lady. I may be needing your help in the near future.' He kissed her hand and bowed to her.

Stasi and Michel returned to the smithy an hour later.

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Lafayette travelled back to Philadelphia with Michel and Stasi.

They supped at the inn before retiring for the night.

The next morning he took his leave of Stasi to return to Newport, Rhode Island to await the French arrival. Michel was to go with him.

'Go to Chester and stay at the inn, Stasi,' he ordered, 'Jeremy will want you close for a speedy departure.'

'God speed, Gilbert,' Stasi answered, giving Michel a last kiss before he mounted to accompany Lafayette, 'And you, mon amour, je t'aime. I will hopefully see you both soon.'

She watched them ride away then walked back into the inn to pack.

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On arrival in Chester she booked into the inn again as Rachel Martin, then went in search of Jeremy, finding him at home with his father.

'Father, may I introduce Rachel Martin. Rachel, my father, the Mayor of Chester, Samuel Larkin.'

Stasi acknowledged the introduction then stated, 'Jeremy, I think your father should know the truth about me.'

'Are you sure, Stasi?'

She nodded.

'What do you mean, Miss Martin?' Mayor Larkin asked.

'Mr. Larkin, I booked into the inn as Rachel Martin as I did when I was here a year ago. At that time I did not dare use my real name of Anastasie Motier.'

'Motier? You are related to Lafayette?' the Mayor queried.

'I am his cousin.'

'I see what you mean by not using your real name, Miss Motier, but why an English name?'

'My mother is English and my father is French, so I speak both languages fluently. I have worked for Gilbert gathering information from the British because they tend to tell a fellow Englishman more than they would anyone else.'

'Gilbert?'

"You know him as Lafayette.'

'A spy? A beautiful one, if I may say so.'

'Thank you, Mayor Larkin. I can count on your discretion?'

'Young Lafayette has always been kind and courteous to me the few times we've met. As Mayor, let me welcome you to Chester, Rachel Martin.'

Stasi nodded. 'Again, thank you.'

'Why are you in Chester this time?'

'I am on my way to Annapolis, then Yorktown. That is why I wanted Jeremy. I need an escort.'

Samuel looked amazed. 'My lazy son? You want him to escort you?' he gasped in surprise.

'Gilbert thought he might want to help me. He thought a lot of Robert and suggested that Jeremy may not have had anything else to do.'

The Mayor chuckled, 'He read him right.'

'Father!' Jeremy protested, seeing Stasi was giving him a perfect excuse to be away from Chester for a while without arousing curiosity, 'I would like to go.'

'Anything to get out of work, you young scoundrel!' Samuel laughed, 'All right, you may go with Rachel, but stay out of trouble.'

Jeremy dipped his head, 'Thank you, sir, I will endeavour to stay out of trouble,' he grinned as he winked at Stasi.

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Jeremy walked Stasi back to the inn.

'We leave in the morning. Henry and Isak will meet us out of town. Can you be ready?'

'Captain, I will be ready. Will we need a wagon?'

'It may be an idea to take one. We can bed down in it if necessary. There will probably be a few British patrols to evade.'

'I will have a wagon waiting here in the morning. I want to avoid the towns when possible.'

Jeremy nodded then grinned at her, "You really convinced my father that I have nothing better to do!'

'I thought you might appreciate an explanation for your prolonged absence.'

'Thank you, Stasi, I'll repay the favour later.'

They parted with a friendly hug, agreeing to meet before dawn.

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CHAPTER 3

They set off in the pre-dawn light, meeting Isak and Henry in the woods out of Chester. Making good time, reaching Head of Elk that night, they made camp outside the settlement in a clearing. This set the pattern until they arrived in Annapolis on the fifth day of their journey, where they booked into an inn for the night, Stasi in her guise Rachel.

Leaving Annapolis the following morning they made their way to Alexandria, Woodbridge, Fredericksburg, Richmond, Williamsburg then Yorktown.

The group separated before entering Yorktown, Isak and Henry entering the town ahead of Jeremy and Stasi, Jeremy explaining that if the need arose, they could fool the British into thinking that they were not acquainted. Stasi booked into the inn again as Rachel.

Stasi dressed as the young lad during most of the days only becoming the beautiful young woman on the second day to call on British Headquarters to introduce herself as Rachel. She was invited to a ball by some of the British officers.

They insisted she attend, a young English woman was a rarity in these parts.

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Stasi informed Jeremy of the upcoming ball, two days hence.

'I have a ball gown in my luggage. Do you have suitable attire?'

'I do, but they invited you, Stasi, not me.'

'My escort is invited also. You are my escort, Jeremy,' she stated, then grinned, 'Just think of the gossip we will hear from them. I am quite looking forward to it.'

'I hope none of the officers have served in Chester. We wouldn't want them recognizing me.'

'Did they not think you were a lazy scoundrel, to use your father's words?'

'I suppose I could risk it. Isak and Henry will have to keep watch for us.'

'I will be armed. I am not going into a British party without some means of protecting myself.'

'Do you think we'll get any information?'

'Quite a lot, I imagine. The British have loose tongues at these functions,' Stasi grinned, 'I am going to have some fun.'

Jeremy chuckled, 'Don't tell me! That way I cannot be accused of abetting you.'

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They joined Isak and Henry to inform them of the proposed plan and threw it open to suggestions.

'Maybe I can get a job as a waiter,' Isak said, 'I'll go to British Headquarters tomorrow and make myself available.'

'Good idea!' Jeremy concurred, 'Henry, any ideas?'

'I could create a little diversion if anything goes wrong.'

'Little?' Isak laughed, 'You don't know the meaning of the word!'

Henry looked wounded, 'Just a small explosion?' he asked, holding his thumb and forefinger an inch apart.

Jeremy shook his head. 'No explosives.'

'Why don't we just spike the punch?' Stasi chortled, 'Henry, do you have anything I could do that with?'

'I have a little something, but if you use too much it could be dangerous.'

'Give it to me tomorrow,' Stasi grinned, thinking of the fun she could have eliciting information out of a few drunken British officers.

'Stasi,' Jeremy admonished, 'You must be careful. If the British find out you are related to Lafayette, they will hang you.'

'I am an Englishwoman!' she stated in faultless English, 'Why should they suspect anything else?'

Jeremy shook his head as if to clear it as she continued, 'You will be there to protect me, Captain. I have nothing to worry about,' she said confidently.

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'Jeremy, did you know the Arnolds are here in Yorktown? And associating with the British?' Stasi queried the following afternoon.

'The Arnolds? You mean Benedict Arnold and his wife, Peggy?'

'Of course that's who I mean! They are staying with the British commandant and seem to be quite close with him. They will be at the ball tomorrow night.'

'I can't go to the ball then, Stasi, Benedict Arnold knows me.'

'But does he know you as Yankee Doodle?'

Jeremy thought for a minute before answering. 'No-oo,' he drawled, 'I don't think so. I met him in my capacity as the Mayor's son.'

'Then we have to take a chance, n'cest pa?'

'Arnold was court-martialled in January and has been consorting with the British from time to time, but he is a loyal American officer as far as I know. All right, I'll go with you, but we will have to be careful.'

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CHAPTER 4

Entering the ballroom the following night on Jeremy's arm, Stasi could have been walking into the Palace at Versailles so elaborate was her dress. Golden as the sun, trimmed with pearls and crystals, the deep neckline accentuating her cleavage. Jeremy in full formal dress looked just as resplendent, although the neckline kept annoying him and, as usual, he wanted to loosen it so he could breath properly.

Stasi glanced at him as they made their way across the ballroom to greet the British officers.

'Don't even think about it!' she muttered in his ear, 'Put up with it for a while.'

'At least you can breathe,' he whispered, giving his shirt another pull at the neck.

'I wouldn't say that! These stays are squeezing the life out of me. I will be changing back to Stasi as soon as I can politely get out of here.' She was also very much aware of her gun secreted in her petticoats.

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'Miss Martin, I'm pleased you could attend,' Colonel John Rickard greeted her.

Stasi curtsied and looked up at the soldier, a good six foot tall, 'Colonel, my escort, Jeremy Larkin.'

Jeremy extended his hand and the officer shook it.

'Come, I will introduce you to a few of the officers and friends.' The officer led the way over the remaining stretch of the ballroom.

'Benny, come and meet Miss Martin and her escort,' Rickard invited the man in civilian clothes beside whom he had been standing with a beautiful young woman Stasi assumed to be the wife of one of them.

He walked with a limp towards them. Jeremy, who had recognized the stranger, gasped.

'Benedict Arnold, Miss Martin, glad to make your acquaintance.' He gallantly kissed her hand.

'Mr. Arnold, this is my escort, Jeremy Larkin.'

'But we have met before, 'Arnold said in surprise, 'In Chester, wasn't it? Aren't you the Mayor's son?'

'Yes, sir, I am,' Jeremy answered, praying that this Continental officer had not heard his name in connection with the Yankee Doodle Society.

Arnold shook Jeremy's hand and continued, 'Are you still a lazy good for nothing?'

Jeremy laughed, 'My father would agree with you, sir.'

'What brings you to Yorktown, young sir?'

'Miss Martin asked me to escort her. She is traveling alone and needed to go to Annapolis to meet some friends, but they have left there for Charlestown. We decided to break from travelling for a few days to replenish our strength and supplies.'

'I wish you well on your journey. Meanwhile relax and have a good time tonight.'

More introductions followed, but Stasi only remembered a few names.

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When the dancing began she was not short of partners, eliciting information from the unwary soldiers.

Stasi was dancing with an officer she knew only as Paul when Benedict Arnold cut in. 'May I?'

The young officer immediately backed away.

'I may not be as good a dancer as your previous partner, Miss Martin, but I'm a more interesting one.'

'I don't know what you mean, sir.'

'I am an officer in Washington's army.' Stasi knew this but said nothing and let him continue. 'I am leaving to return to the Hudson tomorrow to join Washington and that young French upstart, Lafayette.'

Stasi bit back the retort that sprung to her lips in defense of her cousin and asked instead, 'What is your purpose here, Mr. Arnold?'

'I have been here two weeks and must return to petition Washington and Congress to take charge of West Point. It will be a major coup for me.'

'You should be proud to achieve such an honour, sir. If only the British could do that, they would win this war and we would all be able to sleep safely in our beds.' She covered her mouth with her hand after she said the words, realizing that she was talking to an officer of the American army, 'I am sorry, sir, that was uncalled for. I should not have said it, but I am a loyal British subject.'

'Why not? It's true.'

'Mr. Arnold!' she gasped, her eyes wide, 'You speak like a British officer.'

'I'm considering changing sides.'

'We need an officer of your calibre, sir. What does your wife think of this, Mr. Arnold? Surely she does not share your views.'

'My wife is a British agent. She would rather see me in a red uniform than a blue one.'

Stasi grasped this information with a straight face, "It has been nice dancing and talking with you, Mr. Arnold, but I should circulate some more. There are some officers waiting to dance with me, as well as my escort.'

'It has been a pleasure, Miss Martin. You must meet my wife when you take a break.'

Stasi accepted the invitation as she swung away from him and was claimed by another soldier.

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Stasi saw Isak serving drinks to the officers and hoped he had added Henry's concoction to the punch. She caught his eye and he nodded. Jeremy watched this exchange before leading Mrs. Arnold back to her husband.

Colonel Rickard claimed Stasi for the next dance.

'You dance well, Colonel,' she complimented.

'A product of a misspent youth, Miss Martin. I was brought up in London Society.'

'Then what are you doing here in Yorktown?'

'When I received my commission I wanted to be active. Cornwallis brought me with him when he sailed for America to quell this dissent. My command is an advance column. More are to come.'

'Yorktown being a port town?'

'Yes, and Gloucester on the other side. If we can gather enough troops here we will have control of the ports and the river and the Rebels will not stand a chance against us.'

'A pity I will not be here to see that happen. I must return to England soon.'

'Such a loss to the Colonies, Miss Martin. We don't see many beautiful young Englishwomen here.'

'Why, thank you, kind sir,' she smiled, 'I must go and meet Mrs. Arnold before I retire for the night. I leave for Charlestown tomorrow.'

'Be my guest!' As Rickard led her from the dance floor she noticed a few officers and civilians looking the worse for wear, the spiked punch starting to take effect.

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'Mrs. Arnold, how nice to meet you at last!' Stasi beamed at the beautiful woman standing before her, 'Your husband and the Colonel have been singing your praises all night. I must admit I feel insignificant.'

Peggy Arnold smiled at the younger woman's enthusiasm. 'Miss Martin, Rachel, don't feel so. You look charming. Where did you get the gown?'

The men groaned at this question and moved away. They didn't want to be bored by talk of the latest fashions.

'A friend in Paris sent it to me. Isn't it magnificent?' Stasi twirled to give the other woman a full view of the gown.

'It suits your dark hair and English rose complexion. I would love to have some more dresses from England, but, alas, I have too many in my closet now,' Peggy laughed, 'My husband cannot see the need for more clothes.'

Stasi giggled, 'I am afraid I must cut this meeting short, Mrs. Arnold. I leave for Charlestown tomorrow and must retire shortly.'

'Call me Peggy, Rachel. I hope we can meet again sometime.'

'Thank you, Peggy, now I must find my escort.'

'Is that the handsome young man dancing with the Colonel's wife?'

'Ah, yes, I must go and rescue him,' Stasi grinned, 'He looks bored to death.'

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She was claimed by another officer and pulled onto the dance floor, protesting she was tired, but to no avail.

Jeremy caught her eye and she nodded discretely.

He cut in and claimed Stasi as his partner for the next dance.

'I need to talk to you, Jeremy, but not here. Have you heard anything?' she whispered.

'Plenty, but I don't know which is rumour and which is truth."

'Did Mrs. Arnold say anything?'

'Not much. I hope her husband was more gregarious?'

'It was ……let's say….interesting, to say the least,' she smiled.

'I've had enough of this. Let's make our excuses and get the hell out of here.'

Fifteen minutes later they were walking back to the inn, having made their excuses to the Colonel, using their journey as an excuse for an early night. Not that it was early, it being almost eleven o'clock by the time they arrived at the inn.

Isak and Henry joined them as the entered the inn.

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CHAPTER 5

'I hope everyone had a more productive evening than I did,' Jeremy chuckled, 'The only decent thing that happened to me was a dance with Peggy Arnold.'

They were congregated in Jeremy's room after Stasi had shed the dreaded stays for her shirt and breeches and Jeremy had loosened his shirt, much more relaxed now than he had been.

'I heard Arnold talking to a British officer about taking over West Point,' Isak said.

'He more or less told me the same thing, Jeremy,' Stasi added, 'He is leaving tomorrow to return to Washington on the Hudson and is going to petition for the command of West Point.'

'He resigned his commission a few months ago after the court-martial. I wonder what his purpose is.'

'I don't know if he said it to shock me, but he told me he is thinking of changing sides. He also said his wife would rather him in a red uniform than a blue one.'

'There has to be an explanation why he is consorting with the British,' Jeremy mused.

'If he gained control of West Point, could he not harm us by returning it to the British?' Stasi suggested.

'He wouldn't dare!!!!' Henry interjected, 'He is not that brazen.'

'Still, he bears watching. Washington and Lafayette can sort through all this information and work it out for themselves.'

'We got more information by going to that ball than we have accumulated in three days,' Isak stated 'But we can't tell which is rumour and which is truth.'

Stasi nodded, 'I asked Arnold straight out the purpose of his visit and he changed the subject to West Point. That makes me think that he has sold out to the British.'

'He needs money,' Henry spoke up, 'His business is failing and he has huge debts.'

'Could the British be paying him to get West Point for them?' Jeremy speculated. 'We can't do anything except report back to Lafayette with this information. Arnold is a friend of his and he may not believe us.'

Isak and Henry both nodded while Stasi looked perplexed.

'Then why did he call Gilbert a 'young French upstart', to use his words? If they were friends, he wouldn't call him that!'

She was indignant that her cousin had been maligned.

'It took all my willpower not to correct him. I had to dance with him and listen to him, how would you say, 'bad mouth' my cousin.'

'Calm down, Stasi,' Jeremy ordered, 'It seems Arnold has been already working with the British.'

'Can I make a suggestion?' Isak asked.

All eyes turned to the big Negro as he said, 'Let's sleep on it. We will have to leave tomorrow, as Stasi told Arnold and the Colonel. I just hope we don't run into Arnold on his way back to the Hudson if he leaves tomorrow as stated.'

'Maybe if we left now we could avoid that possibility,' Henry suggested.

'And if someone checks takes it into their head to check the time we left?' Jeremy reasoned, 'No, get a decent sleep and we'll travel as we planned tomorrow.'

They parted to go to their respective rooms.

--------------------------------

CHAPTER 6

After a good night's sleep they group decided they would travel faster on horseback. Stasi arranged for the innkeeper to store her luggage until a later date, paying him handsomely. She packed only two dresses in case of emergency and then changed into breeches and shirt to accompany the three men. Gun tucked into her waistband as usual, she joined Jeremy to go down the back stairs to the waiting horses.

Travelling light they made good time and made Richmond for the first night. A lone British patrol had been seen during the day, making them think the British were not too worried about Continental spies travelling so far south.

--------------------------------

Arriving back in Chester in only nine days, weary and grubby, the group made their way to the smithy under cover of darkness. They had ridden hard over the last few days, barely stopping to sleep, only snatching an hour or two when they were too tired to ride.

Once the horses were settled they sat in the smithy planning their next move.

'A bath and a sleep are all I need at the moment,' Stasi sighed wearily.

The rest concurred and they split up, Jeremy walking Stasi to the inn.

'Why not come back to my home,' Jeremy invited, 'The inn will be closed and it would save you having to find the owner.'

Stasi thought for a minute then accepted the invitation. 'On one condition – your father has to be asked first!'

'He'll should not be abed yet. Come on, I'm tired.'

'You're tired?' she grinned, 'You're the one who kept us moving!'

'Sorry, Stasi, but I think you agree with me that the sooner we got back to Chester, the safer we would feel.'

'I could not see why all those British patrols we saw near Baltimore were necessary, unless they are hiding something between Head of Elk and Annapolis.'

'I don't think so, but it might be worth investigating.'

--------------------------------

By this time they had reached the Mayor's house. Jeremy opened the door for Stasi to precede him into the room. Mayor Larkin was sitting in a rocking chair reading a book. He looked up as the pair entered.

'Welcome home, Jeremy,' he greeted his son.

"Father, I have invited Stasi to stay the night. Is that agreeable with you?'

Samuel looked at one to the other, taking in Stasi's mode of dress, then smiled, 'Of course, Rachel must stay the night.'

Stasi, realizing what she must look like, returned the smile as she loosed her hair from her cap and let if fall down her back. 'Sir. I apologise for my mode of dress, but it is easier to ride astride in breeches.'

'But unheard of for a young lady,' came a chuckle from Samuel Larkin, 'You are still welcome here.'

'Thank you, Mayor Larkin, I appreciate the gesture. Jeremy has been an admirable escort. I'm sorry to have had him away so long.'

'It was of little consequence, Miss Martin, now I suggest you both get some hot water for the tub and use it.

Jeremy, show Rachel to the guest room.'

'Yes, Father,' Jeremy answered like a dutiful son, all the while thinking his father would have an apoplexy if he knew exactly what his son had been doing over the last three weeks.

Bathed and refreshed, dressed once again in a gown, Stasi joined Jeremy and his father for a light supper before retiring for the night.

--------------------------------

CHAPTER 7

'I'm going to ride to Head of Elk and trace the British movements,' Jeremy informed the group when they met in the Coates' barn the following afternoon. He had apprised them of Stasi's suspicions concerning the British.

'Not without me!' Isak stated.

'Or me!' Henry added, 'Jeremy, if the British are hiding something the three of us will have more chance of finding it than just one,' he reasoned.

'You mean four, don't you, Henry?' Stasi corrected.

'No, Stasi, he means three!' Jeremy reiterated, 'If anything happens to us you are to go to Lafayette with the information you have.'

'But, Jeremy……'

'Young lady, you are the only one who can do it! If one of us happened to get caught, Lafayette would not receive the information we have gathered. We need you here. If we haven't returned in a week, you go to the General! Is that clear?'

'Yes, Captain!' Stasi saluted smartly.

'Stasi, you are much too valuable to the General and us. I don't wish to have to answer to the General, or Michel for that matter, if anything happened to you.'

Stasi hung her head, 'I will do as you say, Jeremy, but I do not have to like it!'

'No, you don't! Please, can you see my point?'

She nodded and sighed, 'The problem is that I can!' then she grinned, 'Maybe I can go to Philadelphia.'

'No, Stasi, stay in Chester. When we come back we will need to leave almost immediately for a meeting with Lafayette.'

'When will you leave?' she asked.

'We will leave tonight. 'Tis a long ride and if we travel by night we will avoid the patrols. It should only take us two or three days to make Annapolis if we don't find anything nearer. Then we'll make our way home.'

'I will give you seven days, one week, then we must report to Gilbert.'

Jeremy leaned over and hugged her, 'I know you dislike being inactive. In that respect, you are very like the General.'

'I will leave you now and go back to Chester.'

'Elizabeth will be in town tomorrow. Why don't the two of you meet?'

'I may do that, Jeremy. Please, be careful.'

'We'll take every caution, Stasi. We intend to arrive back in one piece,' Isak grinned at her, his teeth a slash of white in his dark face.

'What do I tell your father if he asks, Jeremy?'

'The truth! You haven't seen me since this afternoon.'

Stasi shrugged and made her way back to the inn in Chester.

--------------------------------

Jeremy, Isak and Henry arrived in Baltimore after only a day and a half of hard riding. The British patrols seemed more frequent as they neared the town.

'We'll scout around the outskirts,' Jeremy turned to face Henry and Isak as they stabled their horses. 'There is definitely something going on. It will be easier on foot. Report back here in an hour.'

The three separated, each choosing a different direction. An hour later they met back at the stables.

Henry seemed excited.

'Henry, what is the matter with you?' Jeremy asked, 'You can't stand still for a minute.'

'The British have a small camp to the west - about a mile from town. There are twenty cannon and plenty of ammunition.'

'Very convenient – all in one place!' Isak grinned.

'And just waiting for us to get rid of it!' chuckled Jeremy, 'Henry, do you think you can get some explosives?'

'The apothecary here is a family friend. I don't know about his loyalties, though.'

'We'll have to risk it. How many men out there?'

'I could only count fifteen. There may have been more.'

'We'll count on twenty. Go and see your friend and ascertain his loyalties. Get the gunpowder if you can. Isak and I will take a look for ourselves and work out a plan.'

Henry turned and walked towards the centre of the town while Jeremy and Isak headed west.

--------------------------------

Crouched in the bushes watching the British unsuspectingly go about their business, Jeremy and Isak exchanged glances.

'Not many men to guard such a precious commodity,' Jeremy stated.

'Not expecting Yankee Doodle to range so far south? They are in for one big shock,' Isak laughed quietly, 'Let's hope Henry can get those explosives.'

A wagon pulled into the camp.

'Trouble?' Isak commented.

'Could be! Look who just arrived!'

'That's Colonel North!' Isak exclaimed, 'Who is that with him?'

'Seems Arnold didn't go straight back to the Hudson. We'll have to be extra careful with him around.'

The pair turned at the sound of a wagon. They were far enough away from the camp for the noise not to be heard there. Henry and a companion, aged about forty, jumped down as Isak and Jeremy greeted them.

'Jeremy, Isak, this is George Dawes, the apothecary from Baltimore. He asked to help us and I agreed.'

They shook hand with the newcomer.

'Welcome, George,' Jeremy said, 'Do you know anything about explosives?'

'Quite a lot, Jeremy, I've had a few uses for them in my time. I look forward to helping you.'

'We will wait for night fall then you and Henry can go to work. There's a clearing over there. We'd best take the wagon and ourselves there where the British can't see us.'

Once in the clearing they discussed a plan.

'Henry, you and George will lay your explosives where you see fit. We want both the guns and the ammunition. I know 'tis a big job, but we're counting on you to get it right. Isak and I will follow you with the fuses.'

'That's all to the good,' Henry said 'But what happens if we're seen?'

'Try not to be!' came the order, 'Although we do have one problem.'

Henry looked askance at his leader, 'And what might that be?'

Jeremy was serious, 'Benedict Arnold and Colonel North arrived twenty minutes ago. Obviously Arnold has been sidetracked by his dealings with the British.'

'If Arnold is here then his wife must be in the town,' Henry reasoned, 'all the more reason for us to do this and head for home.'

'Isak, you go get the horses and bring them back here,' Jeremy ordered, 'We will leave as soon as the charges go off. We should make Head of Elk before tomorrow night.'

--------------------------------

CHAPTER 8

During the week Stasi and Elizabeth gave up worrying about the three young men and enjoyed themselves. Needlework was not a strong point with both of them but they made a credible attempt at sewing two new dresses for Elizabeth. Sometimes Elizabeth came into town, others Stasi rode out to the farm. The time passed so quickly that they were surprised when Jeremy interrupted their last minute alterations only five days later.

'Jeremy,' Elizabeth threw herself into his arms.

'What did you find?' Stasi was more interested in the result of the mission.

'We will talk on the way to Tappan, Stasi. When can you be ready?'

'An hour? You must escort Elizabeth home while I prepare to travel.'

Jeremy nodded as Stasi wrapped and tied the two dresses into a parcel for Elizabeth. She then hugged her friend, promising to return soon.

Jeremy offered Elizabeth his arm. 'Shall we, my lady?' he smiled.

They left Stasi to pack and started for the Coates' farm.

--------------------------------

Stasi was prepared to ride when Jeremy returned.

'I want to reach Trenton tonight,' Jeremy told his companions,' The sooner we get this information to Lafayette, the sooner he and Washington can do something about it.'

They left Chester riding hard, only easing the horses when night fell.

--------------------------------

Reaching Trenton, they found a clearing north of the town to bed down for the night.

'Now tell me what happened?' Stasi demanded of Jeremy when they were sitting around the campfire.

He chuckled, 'You were right, Stasi. The British had twenty cannon and a store of ammunition just west of Baltimore. They didn't know what hit them. Henry and his friend set explosives and we heard them go off as we galloped toward home. I left a calling card.'

'What was that?'

'A feather I managed to leave on the Colonel's table when he was out of the tent.'

He regaled her with the full story and she laughed trying to picture Colonel North and Benedict Arnold's faces when they realized Captain Yankee Doodle had been visiting the camp.

They broke camp before dawn.

--------------------------------

Eight hours later, having ridden hard, horses lathered from the gallop, they slowed as they rode into the hamlet of Tappan.

'Lafayette will most likely be with General Washington.' Jeremy said as they approached the inn, 'I'll

find out.'

The others dismounted and walked the horses to the stables behind the inn while Jeremy made his enquiries.

He rejoined them then led the way to Washington's residence where he knocked on the door with a loud rap.

A servant opened the door and enquired about their business with General Washington.

'Billy,' Jeremy greeted the black man, 'Is General Lafayette here?'

Billy remembered Jeremy from Valley Forge. 'Master Jeremy, welcome. Yes, he's here. Come in and I'll find him for you and your friends.'

He led the way to a parlour and bade them wait until he returned with the General.

--------------------------------

It was not Lafayette who came to greet them though. General George Washington strode into the room.

'Jeremy, Isak, Henry, welcome. What brings you so far from home?'

'We have some information for General Lafayette, sir, is he here?'

'He is. This must be Anastasie,' Washington turned his attention to the grubby lad, saddlebag slung over the shoulder, who accompanied the trio, 'Gilbert has told me about you, young lady. Your husband is a likeable young lad. Come with me, all of you.'

The great man led the way to another room, currently being used as an office. Lafayette and Martha Washington were seated at a table chatting, but ceased when the group entered.

Lafayette stood and held out his arms to his cousin.

'Stasi, ma cherie, welcome to Tappan!' He hugged her before turning his attention to the others, 'Captain, I see you all have been riding hard. Come, be seated.'

They sat in the chairs provided, answering Lafayette's questions about their journey after being introduced to Martha.

The General's wife eyed the four young rebels.

'I think you would welcome a bath and something to eat before telling my husband and Gilbert your information. Hannah will help you, Anastasie. Billy can fetch water for the boys then I will arrange some food for you all.'

'Thank you, Mrs. Washington, it is much appreciated,' Stasi removed her cap to let her hair fall down her back.

'Call me Martha, all of you.'

'And I answer to Stasi,' Stasi grinned back at the older woman.

'We can't have you greeting your husband like this, Stasi. Come along. Gilbert, you can go and bring Michel here.'

Washington and Lafayette looked at each other knowingly as Martha took charge.

--------------------------------

Half an hour later bathed and in fresh clothing, the group again sat at the table, this time to partake of the meal provided. Stasi was dressed in a gown she had packed into her saddlebags, while the boys looked respectable in borrowed clothes while their own were being laundered.

Once they were sated, Martha turned to Lafayette as he returned from his errand and asked, 'Did you find him?'

'Oui, madame, he is waiting in the parlour.'

'Don't just stand there, Gilbert, take Stasi to her husband. Your information can wait another ten minutes.'

--------------------------------

'Is Martha always like that?' Stasi asked as her cousin led her to the parlour.

'She has no children of her own, as you know, so any young people get treated as her children. You should see her with our young soldiers. She cannot help herself – she has to mother them!' Lafayette laughed in reply.

'Michel is waiting for you, ma petite,' he said as he opened a door, 'Go to him then come and see me later.'

'Gilbert, I must talk to you. I did not tell Jeremy everything I heard.'

'I will listen to the Yankee Doodle Society first, then you can join us.'

'Merci, Gilbert.' She gave him a quick hug then entered the room to fling herself into her husband's arms to be greeted with a long kiss.

--------------------------------

Walking hand in hand, Michel and Stasi entered the office. Jeremy was giving his report as they closed the door behind them. Lafayette glanced up and motioned them to seats.

Stasi remained silent until Jeremy had finished. Lafayette then turned to her.

'What do you have to add to that, Stasi?'

'Peggy Arnold is a British spy. Her husband is thinking of changing sides. The British have an advance column in Yorktown. They are planning to fortify the harbour – Gloucester on one side, Yorktown on the other. If they can get control of the river mouth, they will have a stranglehold on the port, thus stopping any attempts by the French fleet to land.'

'What about the west of town?'

'One officer boasted that their reinforcements would be circling the town to protect it. He told me they have hundreds of cannon on the way.' At that statement she grinned, 'Minus the twenty the Yankee Doodle Society rendered useless two nights ago!'

Lafayette spun around to face Jeremy, 'Captain, you did not tell me that!'

'Sorry, sir,' Jeremy apologized, 'We left Stasi in Chester and made a reconnaissance mission back to Baltimore.'

He regaled the General with the details of the raid.

'You have all been busy, but to think of Benedict Arnold as a traitor is impossible.'

'He will bear watching, Gilbert,' Stasi said, 'I know he is a friend of yours, but when he was talking to me, he sounded more like your enemy. I will not say what he called you, but it took all my constraint not to slap him and defend you.'

Lafayette smiled, picturing Stasi doing just that. 'How did you control yourself, ma petite?'

'That I do not know!' came the swift retort.

--------------------------------

Washington had listened to the reports with interest. Now he spoke, 'If Benedict Arnold is planning to hand West Point over to the British, we would need to be very vigilant in the next few months.'

'He said he was coming here to see you and to petition you and Congress for the control of West Point,' Stasi reiterated, 'He refused to tell me why he was in Yorktown and I was surprised at that.'

'Why was that?' Washington wanted to know.

'He gloated about West Point; he gloated about his wife being a British agent, but he did not answer me when I asked his business in Yorktown. He changed the subject. That makes me think he was actually working for the British himself.'

'You're a good observer, Stasi. Many people would have missed that.'

'I do my best, sir,' she answered with modesty.

Washington turned his attention to his adopted son, 'Gilbert, take these young people to the inn and arrange rooms for them!'

Lafayette stood and answered, 'It will be done, mon General.' Then he led the group from the room.

--------------------------------

CHAPTER 9

Once settled in the rooms provided - Stasi with Michel - Jeremy, Isak and Henry wandered around, familiarizing themselves with the town of Tappan. It was a hamlet on the Hudson settled in the early 1600s The Dutch reform church, the inn, courthouse and a few houses made up the town.

Stasi was content to stay with her husband and cousin being grateful for the rest before repairing to the Washington residence for supper.

--------------------------------

'Stasi, are you sure Benedict Arnold is working for the British?' Lafayette queried her.

'Gilbert, I have told you all I know. Everything points to him helping the British. I know you do not want to believe it, but you must be vigilant. He spoke as if he hated you and General Washington.'

'He is a friend,' Lafayette stated, 'but if he has given the British any information, you and Jeremy could be in danger.'

'Why, Gilbert?'

'He knows who you are! We have had some talks and he saw Jeremy at Valley Forge.'

'With friends like him, you don't need enemies,' Stasi sighed, knowing he would never believe his good friend would turn traitor, 'Why did Arnold not expose us in Yorktown?'

'He must have a plan, unless he is still loyal to us.'

'You and General Washington can judge for yourselves when Arnold returns.'

She knew she was fighting a losing battle – nothing would convince him – so she decided to drop the subject.

--------------------------------

Lafayette returned to Washington while Michel and Stasi remained at the inn.

'Have you missed me, ma cherie?' Michel took her in his arms.

She grinned wickedly, 'I have been having too much fun!'

The gaze that met his belied the words and he kissed her thoroughly.

'Of course I have, mon amour,' she whispered against his lips as she snuggled up to him, 'Have you been busy with Gilbert?'

'Organising these meetings with Rochambeau is taking some time. He does not arrive for almost four weeks, then we have to find a time convenient to both him and Washington.'

'When will that be?'

'There will be some meetings, if we are able to arrange them, soon after the fleet arrives. The main meetings will take place at Hartford in September.'

'And if they cannot meet before, then two months planning will be wasted. Surely Gilbert and Washington will be able to talk to Rochambeau before September.'

'We have to play a – how do they say – waiting game - until the fleet arrives next month, cherie. Until then we can do nothing.' Michel's adoring gaze rested on his wife as she frowned at his last statement. 'Do not worry yourself about it, Stasi. Are you going to tell Gilbert the truth about your birth?'

'That's right!' she laughed, 'Change the subject!'

'I think it is time he knew.'

'The opportunity has not arisen, Michel. I know I must tell him, but will he treat me any different once he knows?'

'Gilbert loves you as the sister he never had. He will not be too upset. He may even welcome the truth.'

Stasi sighed, 'I am scared, mon amour.'

'Scared? Of Gilbert?' Michel was incredulous.

'Not of Gilbert, but of his reaction!' She stood to face her husband, 'He may well disown me!'

'Gilbert? Never!' he was adamant, 'He will be surprised, but pleasantly so.'

'You seem so sure!'

'Of course I am sure! I only hope you appreciate his reaction.'

Stasi thought for a moment before speaking. 'I will tell him tonight!' she smiled, 'Then he will know before I return to Chester tomorrow.'

'If he allows you to do that!'

'Surely he will not want to keep me here?'

'We will have to wait and see how he takes the news.'

She nodded, drawing herself proudly up to her full height of five feet six inches. 'Let us depart for supper.'

Michel held out his arm and she linked her own arm through it as they walked from the inn.

--------------------------------

Jeremy, Isak and Henry joined Michel and Stasi on the way to the Washington residence. Billy again answered their knock and led them to the dining room where George and Martha waited with Lafayette.

'Welcome, my friends,' Washington greeted them, 'come in and join us. Supper won't be long.'

'I hope you two had a rest when I left you,' Lafayette eyed Stasi and Michel.

Stasi giggled, 'All we did was talk! I cannot see …' she hesitated when Michel dug her in the ribs, knowing exactly what she was going to say, 'how you can stand being so inactive, Gilbert,' she finished.

'There are things which must be done, ma petite,' Lafayette answered, 'We are not getting the time to be bored.'

She laughed at that answer, 'Gilbert, I know you too well! You are chafing for some action! I can see it in your demeanour.'

He chuckled and turned to his superior, 'You see, mon General, what I have to bear? If it is not Adrienne, it is Stasi!'

Washington laughed, 'Someone has to look after you, Gilbert.'

Lafayette could not believe it. 'I am outnumbered!' he exclaimed to no one in particular, throwing his hands in the air.

Laughter echoed around the room as Billy started to serve supper.

--------------------------------

'Gilbert,' Stasi started tentatively, after the meal was finished and had been cleared away, 'I have something to tell you.'

Lafayette turned to face her, 'What is wrong, Stasi? You are so hesitant.'

Michel protectively put his arm around her shoulders, 'I think we all should stay seated. Stasi wants everyone to hear this. Go ahead, ma cherie.'

'Gilbert, I know I agreed with Michel to tell you the full story of my birth after the war, but we discussed it this afternoon and decided the time was right.'

'I am curious to hear the truth, ma petite.'

'I wanted to tell you earlier, but I was scared of your reaction. Michel has reassured me you will not disown me.'

'I would never do that, ma cherie, our relationship is too strong.'

'I know that now, but …… Gilbert, my father was your father,' she blurted.

'You are my sister?' A look of amazement came over his face.

'Let me finish, Gilbert, I will be as brief as I can,' Stasi held up her hand to quell the questions she knew he would want to ask. 'I did not believe Maman when she told me. Of course I could not ask Grandmere – unless I could resurrect her, so I asked Papa. He confirmed that Maman had l'affaire du coeur. Because your father was dead by the time I was born, Papa took me as his own because he could not sire children. When Maman wished to travel and live in England, she did not want me with her. Papa said it broke his heart to leave me with Grandmere when I was two, but if he wanted Maman to stay with him he had no choice but to tell Grandmere the truth.'

'Grandmere did not believe a word of it until she saw me. Papa said you and I looked like twins. Grandmere agreed to raise me with you, but refused to allow me to use the Fayette name. She educated me with you and Marie. I did not take kindly to the discipline she meted out and soon rebelled. You know the rest – we were like brother and sister. Marie refused to join our games and I ran wild with you until grandpere took you to Paris to join the army. Ironically I was born only a week before your sister who died. You know when Maman came home she did not care what I did or where I was as long as I was away from her. Your mother refused to acknowledge me.'

'Mon Dieu! I did not suspect such a thing,' Lafayette was shocked, 'you are my sister! That could explain why we are so close.'

'Oui, Gilbert, I have always wished that you were my brother. Now it is true.'

Lafayette was thoughtful. He stood to approach her. Stasi also stood and held out her arms to him. They embraced as the others in the rooms looked on in silence.

--------------------------------

Washington was the first to comment, 'Gilbert, this is one very brave young lady. To tell you that took a lot of courage.'

Lafayette nodded, 'Mon General, now that I know Stasi is my sister, I may well curtail her activities. If the British hear of this they will hang her or use her to get me.'

'There is that possibility, Gilbert, but she must not be here when Arnold arrives. Let Stasi carry on as usual, eliciting information from the British. She speaks with a true English accent.'

Stasi exchanged glances with Lafayette and Michel as she drawled in her best Cockney brogue, 'Oi, guv, 'avin' a Ma that were English 'elps a bit.'

Washington's eyebrows shot up. He looked at Lafayette then back at Stasi in astonishment.

'She is one of your best kept secrets, Gilbert. You can't keep Stasi from gathering information for us, but you can choose where you send her. If any of us feel there is a danger of her being discovered, she does not go on that mission. I think she will be quite safe in Chester for now, although there are still British spies behind our lines.'

'Jeremy, if you wish Stasi to accompany you back to Chester tomorrow, then I must have your promise that she will be safe,' Lafayette insisted.

'Sir,' Jeremy answered, 'My father calls her Rachel, but knows her true identity as your cousin. He will ensure her safety with me.'

'I know you three will endeavour to keep her safe, but if you feel something is wrong, send her to me.'

'Gilbert!' Stasi cut in, 'I am capable of looking after myself! But I will be careful, I promise.'

Lafayette chuckled, 'Mere de Dieu! What have I done to deserve this?' he muttered to himself.

She hugged him before returning to her husband's side, 'You have gained a sister!!!'

'And more worry!' Lafayette announced.

General laughter floated through the house as Stasi and Michel departed for the inn.

--------------------------------

CHAPTER 10

Stasi and the Yankee Doodle Society were farewelled the following morning, taking their leave of Washington, Lafayette and Michel as they rode out of Tappan to return to Chester.

They rode to Plainfield and camped the night in a clearing, reaching Trenton on the second day.

While traveling from Trenton to Philadelphia they came across a carriage stopped on the verge. One wheel was lying on the ground beside the carriage.

Jeremy turned to Isaac, 'See if you can help them fix that wheel.'

'Depends on whose carriage it is!' Isak retorted as he dismounted.

'Someone influential, by the clothes they're wearing,' Henry murmured and immediately glanced at Jeremy, sharing the same thought, 'It couldn't be!'

'Jeremy, he knows who we are! Gilbert told me,' Stasi whispered frantically.

--------------------------------

Jeremy reacted fast. 'Stasi, stay behind Henry! If it is Arnold, he knows us.'

Stasi wheeled her horse to obey the order.

Benedict Arnold appeared from behind the carriage.

'Well, Mr. Larkin, I thought you were escorting Miss Martin to Charlestown. Why is it you are coming from the opposite direction?'

'Sir, we travelled to Trenton yesterday after arriving back in Chester.'

'Unless you travelled very fast, you would be still on your way home from Charlestown, young Larkin. Now tell me the truth!' Arnold demanded.

'That is the truth, sir. We arrived back in Chester two days ago,' Jeremy stated.

'And where is Miss Martin? Did she not return with you?'

'She did not, sir. She stayed with her friends in Charlestown.'

'Pity! I was looking forward to meeting Lafayette's cousin again.'

Stasi gasped audibly as she sat astride her horse. Jeremy turned to her and muttered, 'Be prepared to ride!'

To Arnold he feigned surprise. 'Rachel is Lafayette's cousin?'

'Now don't tell me you didn't know that! Where is she? Have you delivered her to that French upstart yet?

'Sir, I don't know what you mean! I didn't know Rachel was anything but an Englishwoman in need of an escort as her husband had to return to Newport on business and she had to go to Annapolis.'

Arnold sneered, 'Don't proclaim innocence with me!'

'Stasi, ride!' Jeremy barked, putting actions to his words as Arnold lunged at Stasi's horse, snagging the bridle in a powerful grip.

--------------------------------

Too late Stasi tried to swivel her horse around to follow Jeremy, her cap dislodging, revealing her dark hair. Arnold held her bridle firm and she was helpless to escape. The horse reared, Arnold maintaining his death grip on the bridle.

Stasi reached for her gun, but Arnold knocked it to the ground as she withdrew it from her waistband.

Henry rode at Arnold, but he sidestepped, reading the intention in the action. Isak, being on the ground, lunged at Arnold, but was stopped by the brawny carriage driver. Isak spun round and traded blows with the servant, but was fighting a losing battle.

Henry whirled his horse and galloped off to catch Jeremy, Isak in hot pursuit after dodging yet another blow and mounting his horse.

--------------------------------

They found Jeremy only a few hundred yards away in the trees.

'We'll have to follow him,' Jeremy spoke wryly.

'If we can find out where he's taking her, we can effect a rescue,' Isak said, 'I hope he doesn't harm her.'

'He won't! Stasi is his trump card against Lafayette. How did he find out who she was?' Henry mused.

'We know there are still British agents behind the lines,' Jeremy sighed, 'But where did we slip up?'

'Are we going to tell Lafayette?' Henry queried.

'Not yet!' Jeremy answered, 'until we find where he's taking her.'

They watched as the wagon was repaired and Stasi bundled into it with Benedict Arnold and his wife.

The carriage started on its way back towards Philadelphia.

They followed at a safe distance.

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Stasi huddled in a corner of the carriage, eying Benedict Arnold warily.

'Miss Motier, you are going to tell me who Yankee Doodle is, aren't you?'

'I do not know.'

'Yes, you do! Haven't you been in his company for the last month?'

'No, sir, I have not. I have been traveling with Jeremy Larkin as my escort.'

'So you have been with Yankee Doodle! I should have exposed him in Yorktown. You see, Gilbert,' he sneered the name, 'has told me some very interesting things over the last few months. I recognized Captain Larkin from his visits to Lafayette at Valley Forge.'

'I do not know who Yankee Doodle is!!!' Stasi reiterated.

'Come. Anastasie,' Peggy Arnold spoke softly, 'If you name him, we will trade you for him.'

'I do not know!' Stasi again repeated.

'We have friends in Philadelphia who will be happy to see you. You will be staying with them until I decide what to do with you,' Peggy informed her.

'Gilbert, will come for me!' Stasi remarked confidently.

'All the better to trap him!' Arnold gloated.

They remained silent for the rest of the journey.

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The Yankee Doodle Society trailed Arnold's coach into Philadelphia. They dismounted when the carriage stopped at a residence near Independence Hall and watched from hiding as Stasi was pulled from the carriage and led into the building.

'That's where Arnold used to live,' Henry said, 'There are two cells at the rear of the building where he once held four British prisoners.'

'Isak, stay here and watch if anyone comes out,' Jeremy ordered, 'Henry, show me the cells.'

--------------------------------

Henry led the way through an alley, emerging behind the building, but still with cover. They watched as Arnold dragged a reluctant Stasi.

'Now we know where he has her, we can free her easily enough,' Henry stated, 'If we can get past those four guards.'

'We will have to wait until Arnold leaves. If he plans on requesting the command of West Point, he must do it soon or another officer will be offered the command,' Jeremy reasoned as they walked back down the alley.

'That could be days!' Henry exclaimed, 'Days we don't have!'

'I have a feeling Arnold is planning to leave as soon as he can. Stasi will be left with his friends here until he gets West Point, then he'll tell Lafayette he has her. He wants West Point before he reveals himself.'

--------------------------------

They rejoined Isak who informed them that Arnold had already left the building with his wife.

'The coach drove away as fast as it could go. I heard him tell the driver to hurry,' Isak reported.

Henry and Jeremy apprised Isak of the situation with Stasi.

'We had best get home to Chester and prepare to free Stasi.'

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CHAPTER 11

Stasi paced the cell she had been deposited in. She could see the afternoon sun through the barred window in the back wall. The door was heavy iron with another barred window about shoulder high. Through this window she could see the kitchen area of the house. A covered walkway led to the main house. She searched around the small room – six feet square of nothing – and wondered if the boys knew where she was. Her guess was they did and that they wouldn't leave her in here too long.

Time passed slowly as she watched the sun dip below the buildings and dusk fell gently. She sat in a corner and hugged herself to keep warm, having been provided no blanket or a pallet to sleep on.

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Food was the last thing on her mind when the door opened and a serving of bread and cheese was thrust into the room. She ate a little then curled up in a corner to try to sleep only to be disturbed by the door opening again.

'Miss Anastasie Motier! I never thought I'd see the one weapon I could use solely against Lafayette,' came a very British voice from the darkness.

Stasi reverted to her native language, unaware that she had. 'Who are you? Tu t'appelles comment?' she asked.

'I am Major North. Your cousin has been a thorn in our side one too many times. I have sent word that I have you. He should be here within two days.'

Stasi glared at him, 'Je ne sais pas how Gilbert can be here in two days.'

'He will come riding to your rescue and right into the trap I've set for him.'

'I do not believe you! You would need a full squad of soldiers to take Gilbert. He will not be alone.'

Major North leered at her, 'What do you think I've got hidden in the house? I have twenty men, all armed and ready for action.'

'Sacré nom d'un chien !' Stasi gasped as the reality struck home. She only hoped her beloved brother would ride into Chester first to meet with Jeremy.

The Redcoat slammed the door and stalked back into the house, leaving her to ponder her current situation.

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For two days and nights Stasi paced her prison only ceasing when food and water were delivered to her.

She knew Jeremy, Henry and Isak would be planning to release her, but the method remained a mystery to her.

She was dozing on the third day when a familiar voice came floating to her.

'Stasi, ma petite,' Lafayette called softly, 'N'ayez pas peur !'

She rushed to the back wall, the window being too high for her to see.

'Gilbert! What are you doing here?' she whispered.

'We are going to break you out of here tonight.'

'Major North has twenty soldiers in the house! It is too dangerous for you to be here in daylight.'

'I am going now, ma soeur, but I will return tonight.'

'Gilbert, be careful,' she murmured, 'Sachez que j'apprécie votre aide.'

How he had remained undetected amazed her.

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As dusk fell once again on her prison Stasi devoured the small amount of food given to her then retreated to a corner. The summer evenings were warm, but she shivered, a vision of what could happen if the release attempt went wrong.

How long she slept she didn't know. Something woke her – a sound maybe? She stood and stretched to relieve some of her stiffness. She peered into the darkness through the door window but could only make out the outline of the two guards sitting near a fire. Major North was taking no chances – four guards - all for her!

Then the sound that had woken her came again. She turned to the back window.

'Stasi,' came a whisper, 'wake up!'

'Jeremy, what are you doing here?' she whispered back.

'Getting you out! Henry has set a small, I hope, explosive against the wall. Stay near the door!'

'What about the guards?'

'Isak is going to take care of them. Get back and stay there until I come in and get you!'

A commotion from the direction of the fire indicated Isak had taken care of the guards. Hopefully the noise hadn't woken the occupants of the house.

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A faint 'whoomph' sounded and Henry was heard to comment, 'Good gracious! It brought half the wall down!'

Jeremy appeared in the opening the explosion had created, his face a study. 'Henry, don't you know what a small explosion is?' he chuckled then turned his attention to Stasi, 'Come, my lady, your carriage awaits!' he grinned.

She took his hand and he led her over the rubble to the waiting horses.

'Ride like the wind, Stasi! We will catch up with you,' he ordered as shouts came from the house, 'Henry, activate the other gunpowder!' he called over his shoulder as he helped her mount, 'Lafayette is waiting for you out of town, Stasi! GO!!!'

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As she galloped through the streets of Philadelphia she heard a loud explosion and shots being fired and prayed the group would escape unharmed. She left the town behind only to be waylaid by another rider. He rode alongside her and pulled her from the saddle.

'Stasi, It's me, Daniel!' Sergeant Boggs yelled as she fought to free herself as she was pulled from her horse.

Her struggles ceased as she allowed him to carry her into the woods where Lafayette waited. He hugged her tightly.

'Are you all right, ma petite?'

'I am in need of a decent feed and a bath, Gilbert. They did not harm me.' she sighed in relief.

'We must ride! Jeremy and the others will meet us in Chester if they don't catch up with us.'

They mounted and galloped away.

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They were almost in Chester when the thunder of horses being ridden hard behind them was heard.

They slowed slightly when she heard Jeremy call, 'Stasi!' to let the trio catch up with them.

'To the smithy!' Jeremy ordered, 'Major North is on our tail.'

They rode in silence only slowing as they came to the town outskirts.

The smithy loomed in the darkness. They dismounted and settled the horses before gathering inside.

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'Jeremy, you are bleeding!' Lafayette exclaimed as Isak lit a lamp.

''Tis only a flesh wound, sir. We inflicted more damage on the redcoats.'

'Let me look at it!' Stasi demanded, 'You must have it cleaned. Henry have you got any powders with you?'

Without saying a word Henry reached into one of his many pockets and handed Stasi a small vial. Isak produced some water and Stasi set to work cleaning the wound on the left shoulder.

'You, my friend,' Lafayette stated, 'are going to be sore for a while.'

Jeremy grimaced, 'It will mend. We were lucky to get away tonight.'

'Thanks to Stasi warning us earlier that Major North had twenty men with him, we knew what to expect.'

'You had better lay low for a while, Jeremy. Major North knows you are Yankee Doodle. You cannot stay in Chester.'

Jeremy nodded as Stasi wrapped the wound and pulled his shirt over the makeshift bandage, 'But I would prefer to stay here.'

'That is your choice, mon ami. You know you can call on me anytime.'

'Yes, sir. Now you had best go and take Stasi with you.'

'I agree with you, my friend,' Lafayette said, then turned to Stasi and Sergeant Boggs, 'Let us go!'

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They departed Chester in the early hours of the morning to begin the long ride back to Tappan.

THE END