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.
Genre: Action/Adventure/DramaA Young Rebel Yuletide
'How will the General celebrate the Nativity?'
Jeremy Larkin glanced at the girl on his arm and smiled in answer to her question.
'Bess, this Yuletide is going to be hard on everyone. Lafayette especially. He is away from his wife and daughter and he will miss them. He has told me of some of the traditions they have in France.'
'Are they much different from ours?'
'The cycle of festivities starts Christmas Day and ends with Epiphany. They have plays and dramas – called living crèches – and they have great feasts and merriment. They sing carols and hymns as we do. In France 'tis a time to be joyful and celebrate family.'
'Maybe one day we will have that kind of Yuletide here in America.'
'I don't know, Elizabeth. Maybe one day.'
They walked arm in arm towards the church to attend the service which signaled the beginning of Epiphany, commonly known as 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'. It was December 25th, 1777.
Seated in church beside his father, Jeremy surreptitiously pulled at his neckline. He hated formal dress, preferring an open necked shirt. Mayor Samuel Larkin glanced at his son and raised an eyebrow, resisting the urge to chuckle. Jeremy caught his father's glance and sat rigidly for the remainder of the service.
After the service Jeremy rushed from the church followed by his father who couldn't hold back his chuckle any longer. He was loosening his collar as Elizabeth and her uncle, John Coates, joined them.
While Mayor Larkin and John Coates discussed the coming activities, the young couple strolled toward the Mayor's house where they would all partake of a sumptuous meal. Let the men travel in the buggy. It would be only a short walk and Isak and Henry would join them on the way.
Passing some decorated buildings, they appreciated the wreaths of laurel, the garlands and the holly in the windows with its red berries a stark contrast to the greenery. They gave the town a festive atmosphere and were a splash of colour against the whiteness of winter snow. Here and there the wreaths were coloured with garlic, red peppers, sometimes some fresh cotton with wheat stalks and tobacco leaves and berries. The bare trees looked stark, but the decorations relieved the starkness.
Jeremy was looking forward to the festive meal which was to follow. His father had invited Henry, Isak, Elizabeth and her uncle to join them. He knew the meal would include such things as beef, goose, ham, turkey, fish, oysters, mincemeat pies, and brandied peaches. Wines, brandy, rum punches, and other alcoholic beverages would be plentiful around the table. The only dampener on the whole season was that his brother Robert would not be with them, having been mortally wounded a few days after the Battle of Brandywine three months hence.
Amid laughter and good wishes, the group around the dining table told tales of past Christmas Days. Jeremy could recall when his mother was still alive and her mouth-watering cooking.
Isak told of slaves singing spirituals and hymns around a cooking fire. Henry amused them with tales from Harvard. John Coates was silent during these stories.
'Uncle, have you not a tale to tell?' Elizabeth probed tentatively.
He actually smiled at her.
'I do recall one Yuletide with your parents, Elizabeth, when you were young. Your mother had decorated the house with garlands and holly and provided a meal fit for a king. That was in better days, of course.'
Elizabeth glanced at Jeremy, 'Did your mother always cook for the season?'
'As I remember, she refused to let the servants make the mincemeat pies and always made the brandied peaches.'
They sat around the table for almost two hours, the drinks relaxing them, then Elizabeth suggested they sing carols and hymns. They moved to the parlour where she led them in singing 'Joy to the World'. Other songs were suggested and, amid much merriment, the afternoon passed swiftly.
All too soon it was time for the visitors to depart, but not before Jeremy had caught Elizabeth under the mistletoe. He maneuvered her into the hall and took her in his arms.
'Jeremy Larkin, behave yourself!' she admonished.
'I have to observe this tradition, Elizabeth,' he grinned then proceeded to kiss her thoroughly.
'Elizabeth! You brazen hussy!' John Coates came upon them and, grabbing Elizabeth roughly by the arm, dragged her back into the parlour.
The Mayor frowned at his son.
'You couldn't resist, could you?'
'But, Father, what is mistletoe for?'
Samuel walked away, shaking his head in disbelief that a son of his would do such a thing.
When the guests departed they would visit other friends on their way home. Mayor Larkin and Jeremy saw them to the door and waved them on their way.
Samuel turned to his son, 'You will be attending the festivities tomorrow with me, Jeremy. We go to early service then visit friends until it is time to retire to the tavern for the meal I have arranged for the staff.'
'But, Father, I was going to spend the day with Isak and Henry. As you know they have no family to celebrate with.'
Little did his father know the trio were planning to visit their favourite general in his winter quarters at Valley Forge, a short ride from Chester.
'You will have ample time to visit your friends after tomorrow. I require your presence at the tavern.'
Jeremy bowed his head, 'Yes, sir,' he mumbled.
'I still have some last minute details to take care of. Come with me now.'
Reluctantly Jeremy followed his father to the tavern, revelling in the warmth of the interior after the cold outside. The scent of lavender assailed his nostrils as he entered the building. The innkeeper and his staff had been busy decorating the bar and surrounds with garlands of mistletoe and holly while sprigs of holly were to be seen in every window.
By the time Samuel had finalized details, it was time for him and Jeremy to once again attend church, before returning home for supper and an early night.
As Jeremy lay awake, he had time to reflect on Christmases past when Robert had been alive. The brothers had only last year attended various festivities and taken part in many a night of dancing with some comely wenches. Alas, this could be no more, though Jeremy would still attend some gatherings with his father, this years promised to be more restrained than the last.
The next morning, after again attending the service, they made their way to the tavern. The staff were revelling in the bar, enjoying one of their rare days free of work. The Mayor called for silence then addressed his servants.
'Many of you have worked for the Larkin family for years and so know what to expect today. Those of you who have joined us in the last year will learn that you are rewarded well for your work. Let the feasting begin!'
He and Jeremy sat with the innkeeper and his wife to partake of the meal laid before them.
With the remains of the meal cleared away, Jeremy glanced around the room to watch the servants dance and sing. In a corner sat half a dozen men. With them a man in a nondescript greatcoat with his hat pulled over his eyes. Jeremy did not recognise any as one of the servants and queried his father.
'Who are those men, Father? One seems familiar, but the rest are not servants.'
'Ah, Jeremy, I took pity on a man away from his family,' the Mayor rose, 'Come and meet our guests.'
Jeremy followed his father across the room apprehensively. As he got closer to the table the men occupied the man in the coat looked up, catching his eye and Jeremy had to suppress a gasp. He knew the American officer!
'Gentlemen, welcome!' the Mayor shook hands with their leader, 'This is my son, Jeremy!'
He pulled Jeremy forward and introduced him.
'Jeremy, meet General Lafayette and some of his men,' he said in an undertone, not wanting his staff to hear.
'Sir,' Jeremy kept his voice bland, 'Welcome to Chester.'
Lafayette stood to shake hands with him and spoke with the accent that Jeremy knew well.
'Jeremy, would you care to join us?'
He indicated a spare chair.
Jeremy glanced at his father.
'If you wish it, Jeremy. Robert served under the General. You may be able to learn something about that.'
Jeremy sighed. His father may have been neutral in this war, but Robert's commanding officer had him thinking of the Cause. Jeremy nodded and took the proffered seat as his father moved off.
Over a tankard of ale Jeremy eyed the General. Under cover of the noisy revelers he spoke to the General.
'We were coming to see you today, sir, but my father had other ideas for me. He ordered me to stay in Chester.'
'As you can see, Jeremy, we are here. I came to the tavern last week to meet someone and your father recognised me.'
'He had only seen you once before – at Robert's funeral – and he was impressed by you then.'
'Your father invited me because he was aware my family is so far away. He knows what it is like to miss family.'
Jeremy knew the General was referring to Robert.
Lafayette continued, 'I have an assignment for you, Captain. Come to Valley Forge tomorrow and I will give you all details.'
'But, Sir, it is Yuletide!'
'That may be so, but war does not cease for a holiday.'
Jeremy grinned, 'Henry and Isak will welcome the chance to be active.'
'And you?' prompted Lafayette.
'I also have been feeling jaded lately,' Jeremy admitted.
'We have stayed too long. We have to get back to camp.'
Lafayette signaled to his men and stood. He turned to Jeremy and smiled.
'Thank your father for the festivities, Jeremy. He will understand my reluctance to stay.'
'I will, sir, and Merry Christmas to you,' Jeremy said, using the phrase that was becoming popular throughout the states which celebrated Christmas.
'Joyeux Noel et Bonne Annee, Jeremy, to you and your friends.'
With that the young General led his party from the tavern.
Jeremy remained where he stood. The General was the last person he had expected to see in Chester this day. He was pondering the nature of the forthcoming assignment for the Yankee Doodle Society when his father came to stand beside him.
'Our guests have gone?'
'Yes, Father, they had to get back to Valley Forge. The General asked me to thank you for your hospitality.'
'He is a likeable young lad. In different circumstances you two may have been good friends.'
Jeremy hid a smile as he answered, thinking of the friendship that already existed between him and Lafayette.
'Mayhap, Father, but he would not be here in our country if circumstances were different.'
'That is a valid point,' Samuel eyed his son and chuckled, 'You have done your duty today. Go and visit with Isak and Henry.'
Jeremy didn't hesitate – he bolted from the tavern.
The trio arrived at Valley Forge to see Lafayette early the following day. They found him at his headquarters surrounded by his aides.
'Jeremy, Isak and Henry! Welcome!' the General greeted them, waving all his aides out except Sergeant Boggs.
'You have an assignment for us, sir?'
Lafayette smiled, 'If you could call it that! I want you three to join the revelry in Philadelphia. The British are well known for their holiday celebrations. There will be a few loose tongues at this time and information will flow freely.'
Jeremy glanced at his companions, noting the interest on their faces.
'May I join a few servants when they dance in the streets, sir?' Isak queried.
'By all means, Isak,' the General replied, 'You will probably acquire more information to report than Jeremy.'
'When do we go?'
'There is dancing tonight at General Howe's home. I have procured invitations for you all.'
Jeremy groaned at the thought of formal dress and Lafayette chuckled.
'I know, Captain, but it can't be helped.'
Jeremy nodded, 'May I take Elizabeth?'
'If she can leave the farm, do so! It would be more authentic for you to escort a young lady to the ball.'
'I'll talk to her. She may be able to sneak out.'
'Jeremy, how you obtain the information is no concern of mine! I may even join you one evening.'
'You think you are going to have all the fun while the General sits here bored to tears?'
The trio laughed as Lafayette continued, 'I will send word to you when I plan to join you. Now go and prepare for tonight.'
He handed Jeremy several slips of paper. Jeremy read the invitations and spoke, 'Being the Mayor of Chester's son, I should also be able to get into other places."
'Best of luck, mes amis, I will see you soon.'
They left Valley Forge to return to Chester.
Bedecked with Christmas garlands and rare December snow, General Howe's house invited Colonial visitors within its doors to enjoy a traditional holiday menu and revelry. The house glittered with extra lanterns scattered around the ballroom and garden. The guests were dancing minuets and country dances. There were a few ladies dressed and powdered, some of them very handsome - with as much vanity as is necessary - all of them fond of dancing. They were not performing them with the greatest elegance. Between the country dances they danced everlasting jigs.
What more could Jeremy
want? A tankard in his hand, Elizabeth by his side and a night of
A couple got up, and began to dance a jig (to some Negro tune) others came and cut them out - these dances always lasted as long as the fiddler could play. They are social dances, but look more like a Bacchanalian dance than one in polite company. Old women, young wives, widows, maids, and girls came promiscuously to the assembly which generally would continue till morning. A cold supper followed, with punch, wine, coffee, and chocolate. The men were chiefly drinking Scotch and Irish whiskey.
Jeremy and Elizabeth joined in the fun of the jigs then some more country dancing. Even Henry was seen dancing with a matron, although his eyes implored Jeremy to get him out of there. Isak was nowhere to be seen, having gone to join the servants who had free time and were celebrating elsewhere..
Jeremy and his friends went home about two o'clock, slightly the worse for wear, but part of the company stayed, dancing and drinking till dawn.
Jeremy awoke at home in Chester wondering what all the noise in the hall outside his room was about. He tried to sit up in bed, but was forced to lay back down when the pounding in his head threatened to overwhelm him. Holding his head he groaned. He had a hangover! Never had ale affected him so bad, but then he remembered he had several goblets of mulled wine before drinking the ale. He glanced at the window only to see the sun high in the sky. Blinking at the glare he closed his eyes tight and tried to block out the world. That didn't work either! He tried to ignore the pounding of his head but only succeeded in making it seemingly worse.
The noise in the hall seemed louder. Jeremy realized what it was – Isak banging on his bedroom door.
'Jeremy, get up, you lay-abed. Unlock the door. Half the day is gone.'
'Leave me alone!' was the muttered reply.
Isak's laughter floated through the door, a rich, vibrant sound.
'I do believe Jeremy imbibed a little too much last night, Henry. Do you have any potions to aid his recovery?'
Jeremy could see in his mind's eye Henry digging through his pockets.
'This should do!' Henry triumphantly held up a vial for Isak to see.
'Unlock the door, Jeremy!'
A new voice came to him - that of Elizabeth.
'Jeremy Larkin, if you don't unlock this door, I'll tell Isak to break it down.'
'Who's yelling? Not me!' Isak retorted.
Jeremy groaned aloud again as he attempted to stand. How he staggered to the door, he didn't know, but apparently he unlocked it and reeled back to the bed as Isak and Henry entered the room seconds later.
Henry leaned over him and shook his head.
'A bad case of overindulgence!' he muttered, 'Take this, Jeremy. It should cure you quickly.'
Jeremy had no choice but to swallow the potion Henry put to his lips.
'Arrrgh! What was that?!?!' Jeremy managed to choke out the words.
'A potion to help you,' Henry stated.
'If it doesn't kill me first!'
'Elizabeth!' Henry called the girl into the room, 'Can you find a damp cloth and sponge his forehead?'
She nodded and left the room to return minutes later with the required cloth.
'Stay with him and keep him in bed,' Henry ordered as he and Isak departed.
Sometime later Henry and Isak appeared. Elizabeth glanced at them as they entered the room.
'How do you feel?' Isak asked Jeremy.
'Slightly more human,' Jeremy grunted.
'Out of that bed!' Henry ordered, 'The General has sent word that he is going to join us in Philadelphia tonight.'
'Not another ball?'
'No, just a small get together with a few friends.'
Jeremy looked at Elizabeth.
'You had best go back to your uncle. We'll let you get your sleep tonight.'
Elizabeth nodded and left with the admonition, 'You better not get drunk tonight!'
'Come on, get dressed!'
Isak pulled Jeremy to his feet. He was still unsteady, but the headache had abated sometime during the day.
'Henry, what was in that vile potion you gave me?'
'It consists mainly of lithium and opium,' Henry explained.
'I can still taste it in my mouth, even after the food Elizabeth made me eat.'
Henry and Isak dragged a reluctant Jeremy between them down the stairs and out into the street. They threw him onto his horse and led him out of town towards Valley Forge. With Jeremy slumped in the saddle, Isak was trying hard not to laugh at the sight he made. Henry grinned at the big Negro and shook his head imperceptibly. Isak nodded then spoke to Jeremy.
'Jeremy, will you take the reins? You don't want Lafayette to see you in this state, do you?'
Jeremy sat bolt upright!
'You two go ahead,' he urged.
'And let you return to Chester?' Isak chuckled, 'No way! Wake up!'
'I'm not asleep!'
'Could've fooled me!' came the swift retort.
'Isak!' Henry warned, 'Leave him be!'
'Henry, look at him! He is not fit to even ride properly!'
Henry had to suppress a chuckle at the look on Jeremy's face as that comment sank in.
'I can ride with the best of them!' Jeremy growled.
'At the moment you couldn't control a rocking horse!' Henry goaded.
Their strategy worked! Jeremy grabbed his reins and took off at a gallop with Isak and Henry in hot pursuit.
By the time they dismounted in front of Lafayette's headquarters, Jeremy was looking more like his normal self. Isak and Henry exchanged satisfied glances as they all entered the building.
The General greeted them with a smile.
'I must say that you are looking a lot fitter than when I saw you earlier, Captain.'
'You came to Chester, sir?'
'I was there. You were ayant la gueule de bois.'
'I what!?!?' Jeremy was puzzled.
'How do you say – hungover!' Lafayette chuckled.
This was too much for Henry and Isak and they started laughing.
Jeremy glared at them. The effect was lost as he grinned.
'You two will pay later!' he threatened.
Lafayette put his hand up to quell their mirth.
'Captain, I will be joining you tonight in Philadelphia. There is a small group of friends we are to meet at a tavern.'
'But, sir, is it not dangerous for you to be in Philadelphia?'
'I will take my chances, Jeremy. I will meet you at the tavern at eight.'
Agreeing to the arrangements the Yankee Doodle Society left Valley Forge a short time later.
When they arrived at the tavern a few hours later the trio were welcomed with a noisy reception from the ten or so men gathered around two tables, Lafayette amid them.
'Jeremy,' he called above the din, 'Come and join us. We are toasting the Cause.'
'Don't toast too loud,' Jeremy warned, 'There are British patrols in the streets tonight. We just ran into one.'
Lafayette nodded soberly, 'I know! We have a man in the alley and one in the street.'
He signaled for a round of drinks for the trio. Jeremy baulked.
'Not for me!'
The General let out a guffaw of laughter.
'Jeremy, surely, one drink! That is an order!'
He tempered the order with a smile.
'Yes, sir,' Jeremy complied, knowing the General would not let him forget his uncharacteristic digression of the night before anytime soon.
The gathering was quite rowdy when one of the lookouts burst through the door.
'British patrol heading this way!' he warned, 'And looking as if they mean to come in.'
Lafayette stood and the room silenced at once. He quietly addressed those present.
'It would be best if I leave you now, mes amis. Please forgive my hasty departure.'
His supporters nodded in understanding and gathered together to cover his movement towards the back door.
He nodded to Jeremy, Henry and Isak and bade them to follow him.
As they made the back door a commotion from the bar told them the British had entered the building.
'I hope they don't get arrested.'
Lafayette grinned as they mounted the waiting horses.
'They will invite the soldiers to have a holiday drink with them and toast the King!' he chuckled, 'Let us go, mes amis.'
They rode quietly out of Philadelphia then broke into a gallop once it was safe to do so. With plenty of distance between them and the city, the General called a halt.
'You three go back to Chester. I will ride to Valley Forge.'
'But, sir,' Jeremy protested, 'you will be alone!'
'Oui, Jeremy, I will ride alone.'
'Henry and Isak can go to Chester. I will escort you to Valley Forge.'
'There is no need, Jeremy. It is of a short distance. I will be quite safe.'
He turned his horse and rode off.
Jeremy, looked helplessly at his companions and shrugged.
'He's stubborn as a mule! You go ahead. I'll see you in the morning.'
Henry and Isak nodded in unison and slowly rode off into the night.
Jeremy caught up with the General.
'Jeremy, I have said there is no need.'
'General, like it or not, I am riding with you!'
Lafayette sighed, 'Then I will accept your offer of an escort, Captain.'
Jeremy grinned, 'What would Daniel think if you didn't return tonight?' referring to Sergeant Boggs, 'How did you get out without him, anyway?'
'I sent him to Darby to meet with an agent!' the young Frenchman replied blandly.
'He is not going to be happy with you!'
'He mollycoddles me too much.'
'It is good for me to get out from under his wing occasionally.'
Jeremy laughed then – a rich, clear sound.
They arrived at their destination unaccosted. Jeremy watched as the sentry who had challenged them escorted Lafayette toward his headquarters then turned his horse for home. He arrived in Chester after an uneventful ride and wearily dragged himself up the stair to his bedroom. After the night before he was still tired and wanted to do nothing better than sleep. He changed into his nightshirt and crawled between the sheets. He was asleep within minutes.
Three days later Jeremy was walking towards the smithy when a mounted, heavily armed British patrol emerged from the edge of town. He hesitated to watch their progress into the town, but before they blocked his path, he continued on his way.
'Wonder what that's all about?' Isak asked as his friend entered the smithy.
They watched as the commanding officer dismounted in front of the Mayor's house. Those about in the square gathered round as the Major called for attention.
'Citizens of Chester, my name is Major North! I am here to establish another garrison here in this town and you will be obligated to provide lodgings for my men and observe an earlier curfew each night.'
The crowd immediately broke into a rash of protests as Mayor Larkin entered the street behind the soldiers.
'Silence!' he roared above the hubbub.
Jeremy glanced at Isak and nodded.
'I'll warn Lafayette!' he said and ran to the stables to get his horse.
Jeremy slipped the horse's bridle over its head and mounted without stopping to saddle the animal. He rode as fast as he could to Valley Forge and arrived to find the General in conference with Washington.
'Sir,' Jeremy greeted Washington, 'Forgive the interruption, but I have some important information for General Lafayette.'
Washington stood and held out his hand and smiled benignly at him, 'Captain Larkin, I believe?'
'Yes, your Excellency, I am he,' Jeremy answered as he shook the proffered hand.
'Tell us your news, Captain.'
Jeremy related what he knew and the gathering nodded.
'It had to come!' Lafayette spoke up, 'It will make your task more difficult, Jeremy.'
'No more than usual, sir. The only difference will be the earlier curfew they are going to impose on the citizens of Chester.'
Washington addressed Jeremy, 'It would be best if you returned to Chester immediately. We don't want the British asking questions about your whereabouts.'
Jeremy left the building and rode for home.
Arriving home just before curfew Jeremy prepared to face his father's wrath. He was surprised to find his father in conversation with Major North.
'Jeremy, the Major is staying here for a few days,' His parent informed him.
The implications of that hit Jeremy like one of Henry's explosions. He hid his shock and held out his hand.
'Welcome to Chester, Major.'
As he shook hands with the British officer, Jeremy was thinking fast! He already had an idea how to drive the second garrison from Chester. It would take some careful planning, but it could work!
'And why are you not fighting for us, lad?'
'Jeremy is a lazy scoundrel. He thinks of nothing but chasing comely wenches and having a high time of it!' his father spoke before he could utter a word.
'Father!' he protested.
'It is true, is it not? How many times have you borne my wrath?'
Jeremy lowered his head, 'Yes, Father.'
Now go and clean up for supper!'
Jeremy left the room without another word. He didn't hear the conversation between his father and the officer. Maybe it was just as well!
'He's not a bad boy,' Samuel told North, 'His brother's death hit him hard. He'll settle down when he's ready.'
'A dose of discipline in the army would straighten him out.'
'I have thought of that, but he was such a sensitive child, I tend to be indulgent with him these days.'
'Mayor Larkin, What your son does is no concern of mine! Unless he has something to do with that damn Yankee Doodle!'
'Jeremy?' Samuel laughed at the thought.
'See what you can do to make him join the army,' North suggested, then turned, finishing the conversation.
He strode to the door and exited the building before Jeremy returned downstairs to partake of supper with his father.
'I am going to Philadelphia to see the New Year in with Isak and Henry,' Jeremy told his father over supper.
'Major North has imposed an earlier curfew here in Chester, Jeremy. It would be prudent if you stayed away tonight and returned tomorrow. He would not hesitate to arrest you for breaking curfew. We are not even allowed to celebrate the New Year.'
Jeremy nodded agreement.
'Isak and Henry are of the same opinion. We will stay at an inn and return tomorrow.'
Little did his father know the 'inn' would be Lafayette's headquarters at Valley Forge. The General had ordered them to join him to celebrate the New Year as they did in France. There would be dancing and laughter and camaraderie. He actually didn't look forward to another night of revelry, but an order was an order. He left the supper table to leave before curfew took effect for the night.
They arrived at Valley Forge not long after dusk. Lafayette welcomed them and bade them enter. The revelry would begin about nine that night and flow into the New Year.
At precisely nine Lafayette led his guests outside. Snow was falling gently but no enough to put a dampener on the festivities about to begin.
He drew his gun and fired, then shouted, 'Let the festivities begin!'
Men came from nowhere, carrying a few trestle tables which they set in a circle. Inside the circle were several soldiers with instruments. They began to play popular songs and soon everyone was singing along as ale and wine flowed freely.
By the time Jeremy and Lafayette retired, there were a few drunk soldiers. They had broken up a few minor scuffles, but as Lafayette said, 'Let them have their fun. There will not be much food after this unless we can get supplies through.'
Henry and Isak were last seen enjoying the frivolities with the men and Jeremy left them to it, knowing they would leave when they felt they should.
The sun was well up on New Year's Day 1778 when Jeremy surfaced from his bed. Lafayette greeted him jovially.
'What are your plans for today, mon ami?'
Jeremy knew New Year's Day was to be a day of carnival in Philadelphia. A street parade would precede the festivities at the General's mansion in the evening. It would be a gay and carefree spectacle. A group of amateur thespians, whose number included Tarleton, André and Cathcart, were to stage a play in the renovated Southwark Theater. There was a subscription ball, parties of various sorts, musical concerts, a racing meet and cockfight. High-stakes card games were planned, also.
'I may go to Philadelphia and join in the fun.'
Lafayette scowled, 'I would suggest you go home, Jeremy. I have nothing more for you to do until the twelfth night ball. You will need all your wits about you then.'
'Is that an order, sir?'
'No, Captain, but I would prefer it. Spend some time with family and friends. I have kept you away from them.'
Jeremy thought for a few seconds before making a decision.
'I will do as you ask, sir.'
Once back in Chester the trio split up to go to their respective homes arranging to meet the following day.
Jeremy sought out his father, finding him in the tavern storeroom, tallying stock with the publican.
'Jeremy, you can help Mr. Cornwall here while I go and do others jobs,' Samuel greeted him, "Were the celebrations to your liking?'
'We enjoyed ourselves, father, but it is good to come home and relax.'
'Relax? I've got work for you!'
Jeremy groaned, remembering why he didn't want to take the General's advice to come home.
Jeremy ducked out of work the following morning. He met Henry and Isak in the smithy and Elizabeth joined them a short time later, having been able to evade her uncle while he was in town.
'General Lafayette wants us to attend the Twelfth Night ball in Philadelphia in three days time. I suggest you somehow arrange with your uncle to stay in town, Elizabeth.'
Elizabeth nodded as she answered, 'That shouldn't be a problem. Uncle John is going out himself.'
They continued planning until a customer arrived to see Isak, then parted to go their separate ways.
On the afternoon of the twelfth night the young patriots gathered at Jeremy's house. They discussed an escape plan from Philadelphia if needed.
'Henry and Isak will travel separately,' Jeremy outlined their orders, 'It is not a mission as such, but an order to enjoy ourselves.'
'Not a mission?' Isak queried.
'The General thinks we've been working too hard!' Jeremy laughed, 'We are to have fun and if we choose to gather information, we can.'
Elizabeth smiled at Jeremy, 'The General was very concerned when you had that hangover. It is so unlike you.'
'So I strayed for one night!' the perpetrator grinned, 'I don't intend to do that again anytime soon.'
Amid chuckles from Isak and Henry they left the house, adjourning to the smithy where Isak had horses and a carriage waiting to convey them to the city.
Jeremy assisted Elizabeth into the small carriage then took the reins. Isak and Henry had already departed and would meet them at an inn in Philadelphia.
'Enjoy the ride, my lady, we will be in grand company tonight,' Jeremy laughed as he started the horses towards their destination.
The ball was in full swing when Jeremy handed Elizabeth down from the carriage and led her to the door of the mansion.
Jeremy was enjoying a dance late in the evening when Elizabeth looked over his shoulder and saw a familiar face.
'Jeremy, trouble!' she warned softly.
'What do you mean?'
'Someone who knows you as Yankee Doodle.'
Jeremy stopped dancing and turned around only to be confronted by a British officer he had outwitted just after Brandywine.
The officer stopped short of him and glared at him.
'What do you think you are doing here?' he demanded, his voice low, but thick with the effects of too much alcohol.
'What do you mean, Major?' Jeremy played innocent.
'I know who you are!'
'Do I know you, sir? Jeremy countered.
'I am Major Wentworth. You haven't forgotten already, have you?'
'Major, I don't know you! We have never met.'
By this time a small crowd had gathered round. They waited with bated breath to see what would happen next. Henry appeared and pulled Elizabeth back from Jeremy.
'Let me refresh your memory, Captain! Brandywine and the rebel retreat?'
'Captain? What are you talking about, Major?'
Hoping he could buy some time before the officer revealed his identity, Jeremy hedged.
'I am Jeremy Larkin from Chester. Who is this Captain you talk about?'
'You are Yankee Doodle!'
'That's news to me! I know nothing about Yankee Doodle.'
The Major lurched at the younger man and threw a punch, connecting with his shoulder. Jeremy sidestepped the following attack and retaliated with a left that laid the Redcoat out.
'What's going on here?' came a booming voice.
Jeremy looked straight into the eyes of Major Banastre Tarleton, who knew him.
'Young Larkin! What happened?'
'Major …Wentworth, is it?' Jeremy indicated the now upright officer.
'He came after me and said he knew me. I have never met him before. He accused me of being Yankee Doodle.'
Tarleton laughed out loud, 'You? Yankee Doodle?' he chortled. 'You must be drunker than I thought!' this to Wentworth.
'Begging your pardon, Major, this is the man who pulled me off my horse after Brandywine.' Wentworth was adamant.
'Wentworth, after Brandywine this scoundrel was with some wench. His father despairs of him!'
'How do you know? You weren't there!' came the snarling rejoinder.
'I was living in Mayor Larkin's home at the time, Major. Young Larkin here lost his brother three days after Brandywine. He could not be Yankee Doodle. I tried to prove otherwise, but he could not be in two places at once.'
Jeremy threw a hasty glance at Elizabeth and Henry, indicating that they find Isak and leave.
Tarleton turned to the crowd and spoke again, 'Leave these two to me!' he ordered, 'Continue with the revelry.'
The crowd dispersed at once.
'Wentworth, I am ordering you to return to barracks and sleep it off!' Tarleton signaled to two redcoats standing nearby, 'Take him to his bed.'
Wentworth was led away cursing and muttering about Yankee Doodle.
Tarleton turned to Jeremy, 'And you, young Larkin, get out of my sight before I decide you are Yankee Doodle and schedule a hanging!'
'Thank you, Major,' Jeremy said quietly, shook hands and bolted for the garden where he knew he would find the others.
'It looks like our night is over! Will you tell Lafayette about this incident?' Isak asked when Jeremy joined them.
''Tis not necessary. 'Tis only an isolated incident.'
'An isolated incident you don't need! The trees have ears, so no more until we are out of this garden,' Henry reminded them.
They left via the gate at the rear of the garden and walked around to the carriage where Jeremy handed Elizabeth up and started the drive back to Chester.
Henry and Isak joined them just out of the city.
Almost two miles out of Philadelphia a lone rider intercepted them the roadside trees, spooking the carriage horses. The horses took it into their heads to bolt. Isak and Henry watched helplessly Jeremy tried to bring the pair under control.
The mystery rider stopped in front of them, finding it hard to stay astride his horse. They recognised Major Wentworth. He dismounted and stood before them, drew his pistol and swayed slightly.
'He's drunk!' Isak muttered in an aside to Henry who nodded in agreement.
'You!' he yelled, recognizing Isak, 'You're part of that damn secret society!'
Isak looked askance at him as he spoke, 'I shore dunno what you talkin' about, suh.'
'You were there!'
'Ah was where?'
'At the tunnel.'
'Tunnel? Tunnel? What yo talkin' 'bout? What tunnel?'
Wentworth turned his attention to Henry, 'I don't know who you are, but you must be one of them, too.'
Henry played dumb, 'Sir, who are you? What do you want with us?'
'I want Yankee Doodle! Where is he?'
Having brought the horses under control, Jeremy ensured Elizabeth was safe and warm and stealthily made his way back to his companions. He listened to the conversation, having a low chuckle at Isak's act. When he thought it prudent he made his presence known. He drew his pistol and made his way onto the road.
'Right behind you, Major!' he stated, 'I'm afraid I must take you prisoner.'
Wentworth spluttered as he spun around almost losing his balance.
'You! I was right!'
He eyed the drawn pistol then glanced at Henry and Isak who were holding pistols. His own weapon dropped from nerveless fingers as he realized he was outnumbered.
'We'll tie him to his horse and take him to our friends,' said Jeremy, 'I don't want to kill him unless absolutely necessary.'
'But, Jeremy, he knows who you are!'
'He thinks he does,' Jeremy winked at Henry.
'Isn't a bit late to visit our friends?'
'Henry, 'tis twelfth night! They will not be abed yet. Let's go!'
They tied the Major to his horse and led him back to the waiting carriage.
Arriving at Valley Forge about midnight the group rode straight for Lafayette's headquarters. The General was surprised to seem them, but when they explained their task, he had a good laugh at the way the British Major had been captured.
'I will arrange transport to the nearest prison tomorrow. You should continue your journey to Chester.'
Jeremy glanced at a tired Elizabeth and nodded.
'I did not expect so much activity over the holiday season,' Jeremy chuckled.
'As I told in your father's tavern - but war does not cease for a holiday, Captain.'
Jeremy sighed as they prepared to leave, 'The British have no holiday cheer! But we have had some fun and good times!'
'Including your gueule de bois?' Lafayette chuckled.
'Including the hangover!'
The group continued their journey home, hoping to evade the British patrols in Chester enforcing the curfew.