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.
(The term "cowboy" was used during the American Revolution to describe American fighters who opposed the movement for independence. Claudius Smith, an outlaw identified with the Loyalist cause, was referred to as the "Cow-boy of the Ramapos" due to his penchant for stealing oxen, cattle and horses from colonists and giving them to the British. In the same period, a number of guerilla bands operated in Westchester County, NY which marked the dividing line between the British and American forces. These groups were made up of local farmhands who would ambush convoys and carry out raids on both sides. There were two separate groups: the "skinners" fought for the pro-independence side; the "cowboys" supported the British.)
To Corral A Cowboy
Jeremy knew he had to take evasive action. He rode for the cover of the trees, putting a small distance between him and his pursuers. He caught a low branch and swung from his horse, letting it gallop away. Little did he know the leading rider had seen what he did and indicated for his companions to dismount under the tree.
The ringleader looked up but could not see his prey.
'You may as well come down, Captain,' he called.
Jeremy drew in a hissing breath. How was he going to extract himself from this one? He knew that voice – one Billy Wren from Chester!
'Captain Larkin!' Billy ordered, 'Get down here!'
Jeremy was thinking hard and fast! If he admitted to the rank, all the Society's hard work would be for nothing. He had to talk his way out of this dilemma!
Finally he spoke, 'I think someone has confused me with my brother. Captain Larkin was my brother, Robert!'
'Why – you are Captain Yankee Doodle, of course!' came Billy's reply.
'Me? I am a mere citizen of Chester.'
'Climb down, Jeremy, we are friends,' came another voice, this time it belonged to Simon van Bueren, a Dutch immigrant's son.
'Friends?' Jeremy muttered to himself, 'I think not!'
'Then why were you riding from Washington's camp?' came Billy's voice again.
'Washington's camp? Is that not at Valley Forge? We were on our way home after visiting with friends at Warren's Tavern when we found Dilworth destroyed. Someone was watching us so we rode out of there. When we knew we were being followed we split up and rode for home.' What he didn't say was that the friends he met included Lafayette. He shifted on his perch which was becoming quite uncomfortable.
'Are you telling the truth?'
Before answering Jeremy thought back to the events that led to this predicament.
'Why?' Henry asked for the third time, surveying the chaos left of their surroundings, 'Why?'
The young rebels had taken their leave of Lafayette less than half an hour before. They had ridden south toward Chester, taking their time, only to stumble upon this tiny hamlet of Dilworth, almost completely destroyed, its few buildings razed by fire, having been ransacked and pillaged beforehand. This was too close to home not to be of concern. Only about seven miles separated Chester and Dilworth! And only a few hours had passed since their outward journey.
'Why would the British do this?' Henry asked, concerned, 'Where are the townspeople?'
'I don't think it could have been the British. This is too thorough!' Jeremy stated, 'We have seen the result of raids by His Majesty's regiments and they always leave a few buildings for their own use. This bespeaks of the Cowboys, but I didn't think they roamed this far south.'
'Are we going to report this?' Isak queried softly.
Jeremy raised his eyebrows, knowing the big black man had seen a movement behind some ruins the same time as he. How many men – who knew?
'We will retrace our route,' Jeremy said aloud as they walked their horses from the hamlet. In an undertone, he added, 'Don't look back! We are being watched. We will separate and meet at the camp.'
They mounted and rode sedately in silence for a while until Jeremy signalled the others to veer off tangent and take another route to Lafayette's camp.
'Warn the sentries quietly as they let you pass! If any of us can get to Lafayette without a tail, he'll rally a small force to deal with these traitors.'
With that he spurred his horse and rode off, hitting the forest at a gallop, not looking back and only guessing how many followed each of them.
Hoofbeats closing in on Isak alerted him to the threat of capture. He spurred his already tired mount and managed to put some distance between him and his pursuers. He was never more glad to see the camp boundary a short distance ahead of him. The sentries, sensing the urgency of his flight, waved him through and took a stance against the three riders who emerged from the trees, firing at will. The surprised riders swung east and disappeared back into the cover of the forest.
Isak eased his mount only slightly, not stopping until he reached the general's headquarters. There he dismounted quickly and greeted Lafayette, who was accompanied by Henry.
Isak eyed his friend up and down and grinned. 'You made it back fast!'
'Franklin enjoyed the run,' was the apothecary's bland reply.
'Jeremy has not returned yet,' Lafayette stated, 'Should we ride to assist him?'
'I think we should,' Henry replied, 'He should have been here by now.'
Lafayette turned to an aide and ordered, 'Send Sergeant Boggs to me!'
The aide scurried to do his general's bidding and within minutes a group of six, including Henry and Isak, were riding from the camp.
Jeremy's reflections returned to the present and his predicament.
He could hear faint hoof beats in the distance as he answered, 'I am always truthful. I am only an innocent bystander. I have done nothing wrong.' He silently prayed the group would believe him as the sound of horses came closer.
Before he received a reply there was a commotion at the base of the tree. 'Look! The British!' His pursuers quickly mounted and rode off as a regiment of His Majesty's Dragoons appeared.
Jeremy stayed on his perch as the British soldiers gave chase to the group. When he thought all was clear he shinnied down the trunk of the tree and retrieved his horse from a glade only metres away.
It was here Lafayette and his companions found him seconds later.
Jeremy had his foot in the stirrup preparatory for mounting when a sound alerted him to company. He was at a disadvantage with only one foot on the ground. He froze. He cautiously turned his head only to spy the young General, in civilian garb, coming toward him, and released his foot and turned.
'We did not want to intervene, mon ami,' Lafayette stated, 'unless it was absolutely necessary.'
'You could have helped me out of an awkward situation, sir.'
'Jeremy, you were extricating yourself quite well until the British inadvertently saved you.' The General gave him an impish grin before breaking into laughter.
'It was not funny!' Jeremy protested.
'Look at it this way – you were up a tree with no escape route and could only try to talk your way out of it!'
Jeremy grinned, 'I suppose it would seem that way to an onlooker, and …' He didn't finish the sentence as Henry and Isak entered the clearing, both smirking. 'Don't say a word!' he warned them.
'We will escort you home to Chester,' Lafayette said, signalling Boggs and the lieutenant who rode with them. He ordered the other soldier back to camp.
Jeremy mounted. 'There is no need to put yourself in danger, General. We will be quite safe.'
'Nevertheless we will.' The General was adamant.
They rode toward Chester a short time later.
Safe passage was provided to them to Chester and Lafayette and his companions joined the young patriots in a room at the rear of Isak's smithy - out of the view of prying eyes.
'Jeremy, who do you think is behind the destruction of Dilworth?'
'Sir, at first I thought it may be the cowboys, but I have since seen proof that a group from this town is responsible. They may be trying to emulate the exploits of the cowboys of the north.'
'How do you know they reside in Chester?'
'The leader seems to be Billy Wren. Simon van Beuren was with them also. I recognised their voices when they called to me. Billy called me 'Captain'.'
At this statement Lafayette flinched. 'Was he guessing?'
'He seemed certain, sir.'
'Do you think he believed you?'
Jeremy shrugged. 'Who knows? I don't mix with them. They are rough pieces of work.'
'We have to find out who is commanding that group,' Lafayette was frowning as he spoke, 'They obviously do not work alone.'
'Why do you say that, sir,' Henry queried.
Lafayette turned to the apothecary. 'Dilworth was too thorough! Even with the estimated ten of them it would have taken hours to cause the damage. You rode through on your way to camp and noticed nothing amiss.'
'How are we going to get that information?'
'Isak, you know them better than the others, do you not?'
Isak nodded, 'They bring their horses to me for shoes.'
'Then somehow you must gain their confidence.'
Jeremy raised an eyebrow, 'Is that an order, sir?'
'I would it not to be, Captain, but I will make it so if necessary.'
Daniel Boggs raised a hand for silence. 'There's someone in the smithy.'
'Stay here!' Isak spun to the door and disappeared through it.
He returned tense minutes later and faced Sergeant Boggs. 'Your horse is shod, Master Daniel, thank you for your patronage.'
Lafayette and Boggs immediately took his cue with Boggs saying, 'Thank you, blacksmith. You have worked swiftly.'
Isak led the three soldiers into the main room where the horses stood. Two men were in attendance and Isak addressed them. 'As soon as Master Boggs and his companions depart, I will start work on your horse, Master Wren.'
Boggs led the trio from the smithy and mounted preparatory to riding out of town. Isak watched them surreptitiously as he examined the horse in need of shoeing, breathing a silent sigh of relief as they rode out of sight. Jeremy and Henry knew to remain silent and invisible.
For two days the trio kept their ear to the ground, seeking any fragment of information about the insurgent group. They stayed close to town, avoiding the risk of being followed to Lafayette's camp.
By the third day Jeremy was swiftly reaching boredom status. He called a meeting of the Society in John Coates' barn where Elizabeth joined them.
'What have you to report?' Jeremy queried of Isak.
'Nothing, Jeremy. I have not seen Billy since I shoed his horse. He's staying out of sight.'
'He has not left town. I don't know if Simon has left the farm. Maybe they are playing with us, wanting to prove that I am Captain Larkin,' Jeremy surmised.
Henry had been thoughtful during this exchange. Now he spoke, 'Could it be they have another agenda?'
Both Jeremy and Isak turned to him. 'Another agenda?' they chorused together.
'What would happen if they got to Lafayette? They could easily pose as friends of ours and lure him from the camp with some credible story. Would they hand him over to the British or have another plan for him?'
'You do have a point, Henry,' Jeremy agreed, 'but how are we going to discover if that is so?'
Henry raised his eyebrows. 'Not us! Elizabeth!' he said, eying the young lady in question, 'Billy's mother invites her to visit frequently.'
That young lady just smiled, 'Quite so, Henry. I am due to visit with her this week. I could have a look around and enquire about Billy without making it seem too suspicious.'
'Are you sure, Bess?' Jeremy queried.
'Of course, Jeremy!' she exclaimed, 'I am part of the 'Yankee Doodle Society', am I not, Captain Larkin?'
Jeremy grinned at being put in his place. 'Get whatever information you can.'
Elizabeth performed a mock salute. 'Aye, sir, Captain!'
'Time to go home. We will meet again when Elizabeth has any information, unless something untoward happens before then,' Jeremy stated.
They furtively left the barn and made for home.
Henry answered a knock at his shop door sometime later. It was after dusk and the street lamps had been lit. He eyed the shadowy figure apprehensively.
'Can I help you?' he asked.
'Master Abington, you must help me!' John Coates voice came to him, 'Elizabeth is ailing and I can find no physician.'
To Henry, Coates seemed jittery – glancing around as if expecting someone or something to appear behind him.
'Mister Coates, What is ailing Elizabeth?'
'I don't know! She was fine at suppertime then she told me she felt unwell. Before she could mount the stairs she seemed to have a fit of the vapours and fell to the floor. I came straight to town.'
'Let me fetch my bag,' Henry turned and walked into the shop, reached behind the counter, then followed John Coates to his buggy.
They arrived at the farm shortly thereafter. John Coates led the way through the door. As Henry entered behind Coates he felt something solid strike the back of his head and he knew no more.
'Master Poole! Master Poole, are you within?'
It was past midnight. Isak was enjoying a late supper when this summons came to him. He knew Mayor Larkin would not summon him frivolously. The smith left the room to greet the Mayor.
'Mayor Larkin, what brings you here?'
'Isak, Jeremy has vanished. He was home for an hour before he went abed. I wanted to ask him if he would go to Philadelphia for me tomorrow and his bed is empty.'
'Mayor Larkin, you know Jeremy! He could have been restless and taken a stroll.'
'After curfew? I do not think so.'
'I'll come with you. Maybe we can find him somewhere.'
They left the smithy and proceeded to search the town. After an hour they headed back to the Larkin residence.
As they entered a shadow detached itself from the darkness and ordered, 'Isak Poole, I have a gun. Do not try to escape.'
Samuel Larkin looked distressed. He bowed his head as he said, 'I am sorry, Isak. They threatened to kill my son.'
Isak spun around to face his adversary. 'Billy Wren! What do you want with me?'
'Start walking!' Wren growled, 'you can join your friends!' He threw over his shoulder as he led Isak off,
'Your son is safe, Mayor Larkin – for now!'
Isak wisely obeyed the order and was led to an old warehouse in the harbour district, where he was bound and gagged and pushed against some old bales before being tied to a post. He heard the door slam as he tried to adjust his eyes to the gloomy interior of the building.
Jeremy woke with an unusual feeling of foreboding. It was just after seven in the morning. He sat up in bed and glanced around – everything seemed to be normal. What was this feeling of dread? What had happened overnight that should affect him like this? He quickly dressed and walked downstairs to find his father. Samuel looked up as his son entered the parlour. Jeremy instantly knew something was wrong. Samuel looked as if he hadn't slept at all.
'Jeremy, I am sorry,' the Mayor spoke just above a whisper.
'Sorry, Father? What is wrong?' Jeremy was puzzled, but his sense of foreboding grew.
"Isak? What has happened?'
'They threatened to kill you, son, they threatened to kill you!'
'Father, who threatened to kill me? And what has this got to do with Isak?'
'Billy Wren came to the door last night after you had retired. He said he would kill you if I did not bring Isak Poole to him. He led Isak away at gunpoint.' Samuel told his son the whole sorry tale.
Jeremy was trying to digest what his father had just told him. 'Do you know where they took him?'
'Nay, my boy, but they were going east last I saw them.'
'Towards the harbour?'
I don't know, Jeremy, I just do not know!' Samuel sighed.
Jeremy turned toward the hall as he spoke, 'I must tell Henry, Father. We will return soon.'
Jeremy approached Henry's shop carefully, having the feeling he was being watched. A surreptitious glance around revealed nothing, so he thought he was imagining things. He found the front door unlocked and wide open, unusual for Henry at this time of morning. After ascertaining his friend was nowhere about, he started to worry. Henry would never leave the door unlocked if he were away from the building.
He returned to his home with a frown marring his forehead. Samuel was still within when Jeremy entered the parlour.
'Where is Henry?' he asked his son.
'Presumed missing, Father.' Jeremy's reply was curt.
'His shop is unlocked, but there is no sign of him. I am going to look for him and Isak.'
'Jeremy, be careful!' he heard his father call after him as he left the house.
Henry regained consciousness only to be assailed by the fetid smell of something damp, very damp. He was bound hand and foot so movement was limited. He clumsily rolled over to survey his surroundings. He found he was surrounded by sacks of some description and most seemed to be wet. Maybe he was somewhere near the harbour? He could discern that it was daylight by the scanty shaft of light penetrating the gloom. A sound alerted him that he was not alone.
'Who's there?' he nervously queried, 'Show yourself!'
'Henry? Henry, is that you?' came a familiar voice.
'Isak! What are you doing here? Come over here!'
'I cannot move,' Isak called back, 'I'm tied to a beam.' '
'Neither can I! I am tied hand and foot.'
'Can you roll?'
'I could try,' Henry sounded dubious.
'Come on, Henry, with a body the shape of yours, it should help you roll easily.'
'Isak, if you say one more thing about my build, …'
'Shhhh, someone is coming!'
Footsteps came closer as someone entered the building, then faded as they retreated.
Jeremy spent the best part of the morning searching the harbour area, having the uneasy feeling that his every move was watched. If Isak and Henry were being held in the vicinity he would find them. He entered a few of the deserted buildings, finding nothing more interesting than a few rats. Some of the unused warehouses were rife with the stench of dampness from bales of God knew what and rats. Others assailed his senses with the leftover smell of rotting fish. He thought that if Henry and Isak were being held captive in this district of Chester the smell alone would be enough to make them accomplish a hasty escape if it was at all possible! Little did he know he was just two yards from them at one stage! It was only as the noonday sun shone overhead that he admitted defeat and decided to ride to Lafayette's camp to inform the General of the quandary he found himself in.
He was walking towards his home when he saw Elizabeth in the company of her uncle. She met his eye and acknowledged him. He could sense something was wrong and indicated for her to meet him at the smithy. She nodded acquiescence and as soon as her uncle entered the Town Hall she fled to the smithy.
'Jeremy, I must tell you,' Elizabeth began urgently.
'What is wrong, Elizabeth?'
'I couldn't leave the farm last night to warn you.'
'Why? What happened?'
'Uncle John gave Henry the completely false idea that I was unwell to lure him to the farm. Billy Wren and two others took Henry.'
'That confirms what I have been thinking. Isak is missing, as well. Wren threatened my father and he lured Isak into their clutches. I am going to Lafayette now.'
'Do you know where they are?'
'I have an idea, but I will need help to free them. I have been searching the waterfront.'
She reached for and took his hand. 'Be careful, Jeremy, they are dangerous.'
'I know, Elizabeth. I've had the feeling all morning of being watched.'
'Billy came from the direction of the dock as Uncle John and I arrived in town this morning.'
'Bess, I must go!' He gave her a swift kiss, 'We will have Henry and Isak back before nightfall.'
'Ride safely, Jeremy.'
Jeremy mounted the horse he had readied and rode from the smithy as Elizabeth watched on.
Henry rolled over then did so again. He could now see Isak tied to a post only a few feet from him. Making hard work of it, Henry reached the point where he had to lever himself upright.
'Turn your back and stand behind me,' Isak instructed.
'How am I supposed to do that?' Henry queried.
'You will find a way!' Isak goaded, 'With that fat body you should be able to get the momentum to stand. That is, unless you keep falling over!'
'Isak, I have warned you! Stop referring to my build or I ..'
'What will you do, Henry? It worked to get you moving before.'
Henry realised Isak was grinning and chuckled in reply, 'Thanks, I need that motivation!'
He levered himself upright and felt for Isak's hands behind him. They worked on loosening each others bonds and Henry's fell to the floor as a noise reached their ears from outside the building. They quickly untied the other ropes and headed for cover.
The feeling of being watched was still strong as he rode east from the town as though heading for Springfield. Hoping Billy and his cohorts could not or would not follow he urged his horse into a gallop. Reaching Marcus Hook he veered west toward Lafayette's camp. He relaxed and sighed with relief that he had not been followed.
How wrong he was!
He was close to the camp when a rider intercepted him and fell in beside him.
'Going somewhere, Master Larkin?'
Jeremy glanced at the owner of the voice – not Billy or Simon, but Rowan Masters, another Chester lad.
'Am I not allowed to ride out of Chester?' Jeremy countered.
'That depends on where you are going?'
'My horse needed the exercise. I was thinking of returning home awhile.'
'I cannot allow that, Master Larkin. You are to come with me!' Masters brandished a cocked flintlock.
Jeremy eyed the gun dubiously as he asked, 'Are you alone?'
He knew Masters was too stupid to have thought of this by himself.
'I do not have to answer that.'
'In other words,' thought Jeremy, 'Billy has told you not to say anything and is nearby!'
He had a covert look around but could not see any other sign of human company, so as they slowly rode in the direction Masters indicated, Jeremy inched his horse closer to his captor. Masters was caught unawares as the two horses touched, his horse shying and throwing him off balance. Jeremy spurred his horse into a gallop and rode for the cover of the trees, ducking as a bullet whizzed over his head. He was hoping to lose any pursuers. He only slowed at Lafayette's camp boundary when a sentry challenged him.
'Walters, let me through! I have been accosted en route. Watch for any other riders, but do not let them follow me,' he instructed the sentry.
'Aye, Captain, I will call Jones to aid me.'
Satisfied, Jeremy rode for the General's headquarters.
General Lafayette sensed something was amiss the moment Jeremy entered his tent.
Jeremy explained the situation and they settled down to formulate a plan of action.
'We do not know where they are being held, Jeremy,' Lafayette stated, 'Are you sure they are on or near the waterfront?'
'Sir, I can't be sure, but my instincts tell me that it is so.'
'We have to start the search in that area then. We will meet you in Chester, Jeremy. If four men come with me we will have more chances of finding Henry and Isak,' the General added, 'I will arrange that while you return home.'
'I'll ride north and return to Chester as if I have been to Philadelphia.'
'Meet us at the rear of your residence in two hours.'
'Aye, Sir. I will be waiting. Luckily my father will have left by then to go to the town council.'
Jeremy stood and Sergeant Boggs escorted him from the building.
'I wish the General wasn't going, Jeremy,' Boggs confided.
'Daniel, you know how stubborn he is! We can't stop him!'
'Nay, but I'll find a way to keep him in the background!'
Jeremy nodded as he mounted then rode away from the camp.
'Follow me!' Jeremy ordered after Lafayette and his team had greeted him at the rear of his home. He led the way to the dock area informing the General of his knowledge of Billy Wren being involved in the abduction of Henry and Isak.
Once they reached their target area Lafayette formed two groups of three and they treated the area as a grid to be searched, each passing the other group as they finished searching each of the dilapidated buildings.
'We are being watched!'
At Lafayette's statement Jeremy grinned, 'So tis not just my imagination?'
They had discounted two buildings and were heading for another when a movement caught Lafayette's eye.
'Down!' the General didn't waste words.
Jeremy dived for cover as a knife whizzed over his head. Lafayette saw the incident and prepared to take evasive action as well. He shot into the nearest doorway and flattened against the wall.
Jeremy crawled over to Lafayette. 'Any ideas?' he asked laconically.
'We have to distract them somehow. Where is Daniel?'
'He should be to our left. Trott is to our right with Walters and Thomas.'
'Keep your head down and follow me!'
Running crouched with guns drawn, they made their way through debris and sought Boggs.
'General,' came a whisper behind them.
Lafayette looked around, spied Boggs behind some barrels, and threw himself into the cover, closely followed by Jeremy.
'What do we do now?' the Sergeant asked softly.
'Distract them – but how?'
'Sir, if I may forward a suggestion?'
'Go ahead, Jeremy.'
'I will lead them away from here while you and Boggs continue the search.'
'If anyone is to decoy them it will be my team,' came the General's swift retort, 'That way you can take Henry and Isak home as soon as you locate them.'
'But, Sir, I ….'
Lafayette shook his head adamantly, 'Jeremy, find our friends! There is only one building we have not inspected. That seems to be the one they are trying to stop us entering. We will keep the traitors busy. I will join you at the tavern later. Get ready!'
Jeremy circled around the building. Finding no guard he entered the gloom, his eyes adjusting slowly. A noise to his right alerted him to danger and he hit the floor as a form launched itself at him.
He grabbed the burly ruffian's leg as he came near and jerked. The big man fell to the floor with a loud thump. Jeremy stood in readiness for the attack he knew would come, but to his surprise another form came from the opposite direction and tackled his attacker as he tried to stand.
'Isak!' Jeremy cried, elated.
'Help me with him, Jeremy,' Isak requested, 'I have the rope I was bound with.'
Together they managed to subdue the man and tie him hand and foot.
'Where is Henry?' Jeremy asked after they finished the task.
'Right here,' came that individual's voice as Henry stepped out of the gloom.
'What are we going to do with him?' Isak indicated their captive.
'Leave him here for Lafayette to collect later. Come, we must get out of here.'
The trio blinked as they collided with the brightness of daylight. Within minutes they were walking towards Jeremy's home.
When the three friends entered the tavern that evening Lafayette and Boggs were already seated in a corner. Though they were in civilian clothing with their hats pulled low, Jeremy immediately recognised them and made his way to their table.
'Welcome, Master Larkin,' Boggs greeted the young rebel, 'Your father runs a pleasant place here. Would you and your friends care to join us?'
'It would be our pleasure, sir,' Jeremy answered politely.
'My name is Daniel and this is Gilbert.'
'Jeremy, Henry and Isak.'
'Welcome to Chester, Daniel, I hope you enjoy your stay,' Jeremy was trying hard to keep a straight face as Lafayette winked at him conspiratorially. He turned to Henry and grinned, 'Drinks all round, Henry.'
The apothecary made his way to the bar and returned a short time later with a tankard for each of them.
'Now, gentlemen, tell us of your travels,' as he said this Jeremy leaned forward on his crossed arms.
'We travelled from Chester this afternoon and met a few other travellers,' Lafayette grinned, 'They accompanied us to our destination and decided to avail themselves of the hospitality offered.'
'All of them?'
'Non, one made his way back here.'
'Which one?' Jeremy had to know.
Boggs spoke softly, 'Billy escaped our trap. He was headed for Chester last we saw. The others are under guard at the camp.'
'There is another one in the warehouse where Isak and Henry were found. Trussed up neatly for you. Pick him up on the way.'
'We will do that, Jeremy,' Lafayette stated, 'that only leaves two to find – Billy and Simon. Simon was not with the others today.'
'That is odd! Those two are usually inseparable.'
'We will have to flush them out somehow.'
'Leave that to us, Sir, we will bring them to you as soon as we can.'
'Jeremy, they are dangerous! You will have to be careful.'
'I know Billy. He has his weaknesses.'
Lafayette tried unconvincingly to keep a stern countenance as he issued an order, 'Captain, you will report to me in two days and if you have not succeeded in this endeavour I will join you with more men.'
Jeremy had to smile, 'Aye sir!' he responded.
'We must return to camp. Will you do us the honour of escorting us to the waterfront?'
'Follow us, gentlemen.'
The trio assured themselves that the prisoner was thrown and tied across a horse before Jeremy and his friends took their leave of Lafayette and returned to their homes for the night.
Meeting in the Coates' barn the next day the Society, along with Elizabeth, thrashed out plans to flush Billy Wren out of hiding.
'We know he is some where in the vicinity of Chester,' Jeremy stated, 'Our problem is to get him to come to us!'
'Someone could tell him 'Yankee Doodle' wishes to meet with him,' Isak suggested.
'Tis too obvious!' Henry interjected, 'They would sense a trap.'
'Maybe not!' Jeremy agreed with Isak, 'I think the more obvious the better. Billy and Simon will come prepared for a trap and there will be none.'
'No trap?' Henry was curious.
"We, or should I say I, will meet them and obviously be alone. Let them think they have the upper hand and they will drop their guard. That is when you two come in. You will follow and together we should be able to capture them and take them to Lafayette.'
'How do we get a message to them?'
'Elizabeth can deliver it to Billy's parents' farm. Goodwife Wren trusts her.'
'I can do that this noon, Jeremy. I had planned to visit the outlying farms today.'
'I will give you the communication before you leave town. Meet me at the smithy in an hour.'
'Elizabeth! Have you not completed those chores? I want my breakfast!' came a bellow from the house.
'I must go. Uncle John will come here otherwise.'
'We must return to town, Bess,' Jeremy gave her a quick hug, 'An hour!'
She nodded as she left the barn and led her uncle into the house, giving the trio time to leave without detection.
Elizabeth returned from her visits to the farmer's wives and sought Jeremy in Chester. She found him at home.
'Good evening to you, Mistress Coates,' Jeremy's sparkled with mischief as he addressed her. You can speak freely. Father is still at his business,' he then informed her.
'Billy was at the farm. I handed him the message, but he left before reading it. I think he is camped in the caves above the farm.'
'We will hear from him soon enough. Thank you, Mistress Coates.'
'Jeremy Larkin!' she admonished.
'Bess,' he grinned disarmingly at her before pulling her to him for a kiss.
She smiled at him and took her leave to return to her uncle's farm.
Jeremy was strolling along the street the following morning on the way to Henry's shop when Elizabeth drove the buggy into sight.
She spied her target and pulled up beside him and climbed down.
"Jeremy! Billy wants to meet in an hour at the crossroads near his farm!' she stated softly, for his ears only.
Jeremy frowned, 'That does not give us much time to get into position. And 'tis clear for a half mile at that junction. Henry and Isak will have to be careful.'
'You will have to be careful!' Elizabeth admonished, 'They could kill you before Henry and Isak could help.'
'Thank you, Bess!' he answered wryly, 'I'll inform the others now then ride out.'
'Promise me you will be careful?'
'Bess, I can't promise the outcome of this meeting.'
He squeezed her hand and took his leave.
Jeremy rode east out of Chester alone. Anyone watching him could attest that Isak and Henry were both out of town at the time – Isak in Marcus Hook and Henry in Philadelphia, both having left as soon as their leader had apprised them of the situation. What a watcher would not have seen was Isak and Henry meeting out of town to the north at the same time that Jeremy left town.
Jeremy rode swiftly to the meeting point, arriving with minutes to spare, but Billy and Simon were waiting for him. He was ordered to dismount and Simon led the horse a few feet away. At a disadvantage Jeremy could only let himself be thrown on his horse and led away when Billy produced a pistol. He made a token resistance, hoping Isak and Henry were in position. They didn't bother to tie him, thinking the two of them could easily pacify him if he caused trouble. To their surprise Jeremy had surrendered peacefully and complied with their wishes. They rode west toward the mountains.
In the tree line to the northwest a mile away Isak handed the spyglass to Henry.
'It looks as if they are coming our way. Will we take them or follow them?' Isak spoke as Henry gave him back the spyglass.
'We'll just obey Jeremy's orders and follow them. If we perceive an opportunity, we shall arrive uninvited at their little party with one of our own.' Henry answered, feeling reassured by the small pouches he had secreted in his pocket.
'If we have to use your ammunition it will be a surprise to them!' Isak chuckled, mounting his horse.
They remained hidden in the trees until Billy, Simon and their captive rode past, only moving when they were certain they would escape detection. They cautiously followed at a distance, unable to keep their quarry in sight, but noting a snapped twig here and there.
'The caves!' Isak exclaimed, 'Is there a way we can get there before them? You keep gunpowder barrels in one of them, do you not?'
'There is one track leading off not far from here. If we cut through the forest we will have a good five minutes on them,' Henry replied.
'Let's do it!'
Henry led the way to the path hoping it was not the way Billy had taken. They inspected the area for hoof prints and, finding them going in the other direction, they put their plan into action.
Within minutes they were secreted in one of the many caves in the system with a vantage point over the valley.
'There they are!' Henry pointed at a flash of bay that was one of the horses, 'As usual Billy was predictable.'
'We have to work fast! They will be here within minutes.'
Henry handed Isak a few pouches and kept some for himself. They laid a short path to the caves then opened a few more pouches to lay a trail of powder that would be lit as soon as the riders came in sight. They retired to cover to watch through the spyglass.
Jeremy rode quietly between Billy and Simon. He wasn't about to argue with a gun. Besides he had the advantage of knowing help nearby! He looked around expectantly as they neared the caves area. With Henry he knew to expect the unexpected! When the first detonation sounded he swivelled his horse and rode for the trees. A ball from Billy's flintlock caught him unawares in the right thigh and he fell head first to the ground. There he lay unconscious and bleeding.
Billy and Simon heard more 'shots' and dismounted then bolted for cover. Isak opened fire with his rifle winging Simon in the arm while Henry threw a few more of his weapons toward Billy. One of these small explosions knocked Billy off his feet. Isak lunged at him and threw a punch that knocked Billy down.
'Where's Jeremy?' Henry glanced at Isak, who shrugged as he bound their captives.
'I saw him wheel his horse, then all hell broke loose. You find him while I finish tying these turkeys for Thanksgiving. I will throw them into one of the caves.'
Henry ran for the trees only to find his friend injured from a gunshot. He examined Jeremy then called for assistance from Isak. Isak took one look at the situation and lifted Jeremy.
'We have to get help!' Henry stated, 'I have not the equipment to deal with this injury.'
'Leave those two for our friends to find and we'll take him to a physician. Joseph is closer than Chester.' Isak walked to the horses carrying Jeremy, putting him on the ground while he mounted.
'Put Jeremy up with me, Henry,' he held out his arms to pull the limp form of their injured leader onto his horse before waiting for Henry to mount. They rode the few miles to the camp in silence.
Joseph Currie was walking from the medical tent when Isak and Henry rode into the camp. He ran to where they dismounted in front of Lafayette's tent and surveyed the situation.
'Take him to the medical tent, Isak.'
Henry took the reins to lead the horse and followed Joseph. 'I'll help you, sir. Isak can tell the General what has happened.'
'And what has happened?' came Lafayette's voice from behind Isak. He had heard Joseph's voice and came out to investigate. 'Who is injured?'
'Jeremy has been shot, sir. We brought him to Joseph for medical attention.'
'Come into my tent and tell me how this came about, Isak.'
Isak followed the young Frenchman into the tent and took the seat indicated.
'First, you should send some men to find Billy and Simon. Henry and I left them trussed in one of the caves, sir.'
'Gimat! Get Sergeant Boggs!'
The aide did as ordered and Boggs entered the tent minutes later. Isak explained what had happened and Boggs left with a few men to retrieve the prisoners.
'Is Jeremy badly injured?' Lafayette asked.
'Nay, sir. Joseph will be able to remove the ball from his leg, but Jeremy will be limping for a few days,' Isak then chuckled, 'I wonder what excuse he will use when his father asks why he is limping!'
'Knowing Jeremy, it will be something quite outrageous!' laughed Lafayette, 'Come! We shall visit the medical tent to see Jeremy.'
'Leave him sleep!' Joseph ordered as his superior officer entered the medical tent.
Lafayette nodded then asked, 'Did you remove the ball?'
'That was the easy part. I sutured the wound and hopefully stemmed the bleeding. Only rest will tell now.'
'Will he be able to ride tomorrow?'
'Sir, if the Captain rides tomorrow I will not be responsible for his wellbeing.'
'Joseph, do your best to have him riding as quickly as possible.'
'But, sir, I will not allow him on a horse within the week.'
Lafayette turned to Isak, 'You and Henry will have to return to Chester without Jeremy. Tell his father he is safe.'
'Mayor Larkin will be relieved that Billy has not abducted his son,' Isak nodded and glanced at Henry, 'Henry and I will leave when Boggs returns with Billy and Simon.'
'We will attempt to ascertain if they were working alone or were mere pawns in the British scheme of things.'
'What will you do with them?' Henry joined them.
'We will send them to Valley Forge where Washington will decide their fate.'
'Billy's mother has been driven out of her wits by his behaviour.'
'Then she should not be surprised if told he is a prisoner, Henry.'
'Nay, sir, but she will be on the farm alone. Simon's mother passed away recently and his brother is running the farm while his father is away. Simon is never there to work.'
'I will talk to General Washington. He may be lenient with them,' Lafayette stated exiting the tent.
Isak and Henry both nodded as they turned to leave the tent in Lafayette's wake.
Jeremy woke slowly, looking around at his unfamiliar surroundings. He could see he was in a tent, but where?
The last thing he could remember was riding away from Billy and hearing gunfire. What had happened after that? How did he get here? Were they friend or foe? A familiar voice answered his last question.
'So you decided to rejoin the world, Captain Larkin.'
'Joseph, how do I come to be here?'
'Isak and Henry brought you to me three days hence with a ball in your leg. They have since returned to Chester.'
'Three days!' Jeremy exclaimed, 'Three days?'
'The General will explain everything. I am to inform him of your wakening immediately. Do not attempt to rise. I will return presently.'
'But, Joseph …,' Jeremy realised he was talking to thin air as the physician had left the tent.
Joseph returned true to his word minutes later closely followed by the young General. Lafayette eyed Jeremy closely as he entered the tent.
'Jeremy, it is good to see you have woken.'
'Sir, how did I get here? What happened? Where are Henry and Isak?'
'All in good time, Jeremy,' Lafayette smiled indulgently at his captain, 'You were brought here by Henry and Isak. Henry helped Joseph stem your blood loss then Joseph dug out the ball in your leg.'
'I cannot remember much.'
'Billy fired at you and had a lucky hit. You fell from your horse and were – how do you say – lifeless when Henry found you. Isak put you on his horse and you know the rest.'
'Billy and Simon?'
'They are in our custody. I have questioned them. We have yet to determine what we will do with them.'
'Were they working alone?'
'They say they were not, but we cannot establish their principal.'
'One last question,' Jeremy grinned, 'Joseph, may I get out of this bed?'
Joseph put on his sternest face and answered, 'Nay, Captain! You must rest that leg.'
'Sir?' Jeremy looked askance at Lafayette.
'It is not for me to say, mon ami, you must follow Doctor's orders.'
'How long?' this was thrown in Joseph's direction.
'Maybe in a day or two and only for a short time.'
Jeremy grimaced, 'I cannot stay here that long!'
'Your father will think the usual, Jeremy,' Lafayette laughed, 'someday his surmises may be true.'
'Not in my lifetime!' Jeremy muttered vehemently.
Joseph and the General were both chuckling at that comment when a commotion outside the tent caught their attention.
Lafayette exited the tent. He smiled at the sight that met his eyes. Elizabeth was standing at her full height facing one of his soldiers. He listened with interest as she spoke.
'Do you wish me to call General Lafayette, private?'
The young soldier seemed taken aback as he replied, 'Mistress, I cannot allow you into the tent.'
'Right!' Elizabeth muttered savagely, 'If you will not let me see Captain Larkin I am going to Lafayette!'
'But, Mistress,' the soldier began, only to be interrupted by the aforesaid General.
'There is no need to go to my quarters, Mistress Coates, you are welcome! Come and see Jeremy for yourself.'
'General!' Elizabeth exclaimed with a surprised smile as he claimed her hand and kissed it.
Lafayette's eyes were twinkling at her when he opened the flap for her to enter.
Elizabeth rushed to Jeremy's bedside, kneeling to take his hand in hers.
'Jeremy, I have been so worried,' she cried, 'When Isak and Henry told me what happened, I wanted to come immediately, but they would not allow it.'
'There was nothing you could do, Bess,' he said softly, then added with a cheeky grin, 'although I would have appreciated some tender loving nursing!'
'Jeremy Larkin! Behave yourself!'
Jeremy glanced at Lafayette standing in the background with Joseph but the General only shrugged as he tried unsuccessfully not to chuckle.
'May we come in?' came Isak's voice from outside.
'By all means!' Joseph laughed, 'I'll not get any peace until you do.'
Henry trailed Isak and they came to stand either side of Jeremy.
'He looks as if doesn't need any of my potions,' Henry spoke first, 'But looks can be deceiving!'
'Henry!' Jeremy stared at his friend, then chuckled when he saw the laughter in the apothecary's eyes.
Isak looked at Joseph, 'Can we take him home?'
'He is not to ride a horse!' Joseph stated.
'We have a wagon, Joseph, would that be permissible?'
'Certainly! But he must be careful not to aggravate the injury.'
'I am here! Although I may as well be invisible!'Jeremy muttered and all eyes turned to him.
'Jeremy, mon ami,' Lafayette chuckled, 'Do you want to go home like this?'
'Get me out of here! I am getting more bored by the minute!'
Amid the laughter that greeted this comment Jeremy smiled at Elizabeth and said softly, 'I'll have a pretty nurse to see me through.'
'This nurse is very strict!' she stated with a frown, 'So you have to obey orders.'
Jeremy grimaced as he tried to raise himself into a sitting position, his right leg telling him in no uncertain terms that this was not an option. Elizabeth pushed his chest to make him lie down.
'Jeremy, you will hurt yourself!' she admonished.
'I must start to move or I will stiffen up.'
'All in good time, Jeremy,' Joseph said, 'It will be a while before you have the full use of your leg. Do not be impatient!'
'Joseph, if only to save Jeremy from boredom, I suggest you allow him to travel with his friends. They will ensure he does not exert himself and aggravate the injury.' Lafayette was chuckling as he made this statement.
'Aye, Sir, but I do so reluctantly.'
'Isak, will you carry Jeremy to the wagon?' Lafayette queried.
'Aye, Sir, we have rugs to keep him comfortable on the journey in the tray.'
'Excellent! Henry, will you fetch the wagon?'
Within minutes Jeremy was installed in the wagon tray with Elizabeth sitting beside him. Lafayette and Joseph issued last minute instructions before allowing the group to leave the camp. They slowly made their way toward Chester.
With Jeremy safely ensconced in his own bed with Elizabeth in attendance, Isak and Henry left to attend to their businesses.
'Your father will be returning shortly, Jeremy,' Elizabeth stated, 'What are you going to tell him?'
'I was accosted by ruffians on the Springfield road and one of them shot me and stole my horse.'
'That sounds feasible. I'll inform Isak and Henry before I return to the farm.'
The sound of a door opening and closing downstairs heralded the arrival of Jeremy's parent. Jeremy and Elizabeth exchanged wary glances.
'Are you going to tell him now?'
'Aye, Bess. Could you ask him to attend my room?'
Elizabeth left the room only to return scant seconds later with Samuel in tow.
'Jeremy, what has happened?' Samuel was taken aback to see his son abed.
Jeremy repeated the arranged tale and his father seemed to believe him. Samuel looked askance at Elizabeth.
'How is it that you are here, Mistress Coates?'
'Henry and Isak fetched Jeremy home. They received a message regarding his whereabouts. They asked me to ensure he does not attempt to get out of bed for a few days. Henry will attend to the wound each day until it is healed.'
'Thank you all for looking after my son,' Samuel said sincerely before turning to Jeremy and saying, 'You will remain abed until Henry tells you it is safe to rise!'
Jeremy looked at his parent and shrugged as he winked at Elizabeth.
A week passed without incident. Jeremy was now out of bed, though limping heavily. Isak and Henry had ridden to see Lafayette and he was now awaiting their return. He had made his way slowly downstairs and was sitting in the parlour reading one of his favourite books when he heard footsteps approaching. He rose and prepared to answer the door.
But when the knock came at the front door, it was not Henry or Isak, but Billy Wren!
'What the ….?'
Jeremy was forced backwards as Billy shouldered his way into the house.
'Billy! You are not supposed to be here!'
'So 'Yankee Doodle' didn't die as I thought!' Billy snarled.
'How many times do I have to tell you that I am not 'Yankee Doodle'?' Jeremy protested, 'You have the idea in your mind and will not let it go!'
'For once, Jeremy, tell the truth! I know you are a captain with Lafayette! I heard a lot in camp from my guards.'
'Mostly conjecture, I warrant!' Jeremy muttered.
'Nay, Jeremy, many of them know you as Captain Larkin – Captain Jeremy Larkin!'
'I will call your bluff, Billy. You have to have irrefutable proof!'
'Does this give me that proof?'
Billy flourished a document then handed it to Jeremy who read it swiftly. Jeremy recognised Lafayette's handwriting immediately.
'Where did you get this?'
'It was given to me by one of Lafayette's men.'
'Not voluntarily, I'll wager!'
'I did use a little persuasion. He was not ready to argue with a cocked pistol such as this,' Billy aimed at the heart.
'Billy, listen to me! If you do this you will hang for murder.'
'I will not die in vain, will I? I will have rid the country of the scourge of 'Yankee Doodle'.'
Even with his injured leg Jeremy could move fast. Billy stood between him and the door, thus cutting off that means of escape. He dived behind an armchair. Billy was so surprised at the move he didn't have time to fire.
Then Jeremy spoke again, 'Billy, give it up! You'll not get away with this! What would your mother think?'
'She would be proud of me for killing a British traitor.'
'Don't talk nonsense! Your mother is a patriot! You will bring the family name into disgrace.'
While talking Jeremy was gauging the distance between him and the firearms his father kept in the dresser. To open a door, grab a pistol, load it and fire would take too long, but if he could distract Billy long enough to … nay, the stairs were closer! He would have to try that escape.
Isak and Henry were walking toward the Larkin residence when Isak touched Henry on the shoulder and stopped him in his tracks.
'What is wrong?' the apothecary was curious, 'We must report to Jeremy and tell him of Billy's escape.'
'That is precisely what we are going to do!' Isak replied, 'But I think Jeremy may already know. First we investigate why the door is wide open. I have a feeling something is amiss and Billy is the cause of it!'
He pointed at the Larkin residence and Henry immediately comprehended.
'Do we sneak up or barge right in?'
'We do not rush in on what could be a sensitive situation. I may be worrying for nothing.'
'But the door is always closed.'
'So we treat it as suspicious.'
They cautiously made their way to the window to the left of the door, crouching. Isak put a finger to his lips for silence as they heard a voice saying, ' …for killing a British traitor.' They heard Jeremy's retort.
'Billy!' Henry whispered, 'What do we do now?'
'Isak grinned, 'Watch!' He stood and walked to the door where he rapped heavily while calling, 'Jeremy, are you there?'
Jeremy took the opportunity to flee up the stairs awkwardly as Billy turned to face Isak who first entered the house and then dived for Billy's legs and took him down. Billy tried to gain his footing but came up against Henry who pushed him down again then sat on him.
'Now, you little worm,' Isak grated, as he advanced on Billy, 'you are going to get what you deserve!'
'Isak!' Jeremy ordered, coming slowly down the stairs, 'Leave him be! Tie him and throw him in the cellar.'
'Jeremy, I ..'
'I will talk to you later, Isak. Just get him out of my sight!'
Isak and Henry frogmarched Billy toward the back of the house. They returned to report that he was trussed and secure in the cellar.
Jeremy grinned as they faced him, ' I think we put the fear of the devil in him, eh?'
Isak chuckled in reply, 'I think I scared him into submission.'
'You also scared me!' Jeremy said, 'I thought you were really going to do something dreadful to Billy. That is why I ordered you to back off.'
Isak just shrugged and did not comment.
'We have to let General Lafayette know what has happened,' Jeremy stated, 'By the way,' He added as an afterthought, 'Do you have anything to report?'.
'Henry and I have nothing to report, Jeremy. The only thing we were supposed to tell you was that Billy had escaped and you discovered that for yourself.'
'I'll ride to camp to inform the General of Billy's capture,' Jeremy said, 'You two should attend your businesses.'
'Are you sure you are fit enough to ride?' this from Henry.
'I have to do so sooner or later,' Jeremy retorted.
'Why not tie him over a horse and let him have an uncomfortable ride back to the camp?' Henry suggested with a smirk.
'Now that is an idea!' Isak exclaimed.
Jeremy appeared deep in thought for a moment then nodded, 'It will soon be dark. Can you bring the horses to the rear door?'
Isak left the house to do Jeremy's bidding while Henry stood before his friend with a frown on his face.
'What is it, Henry?' Jeremy grimaced, knowing the lecture which was to come.
'Jeremy, your leg will not heal completely if you insist on riding too soon. Surely another few days would not be too tiresome?'
'Henry, I must take Billy back to the camp! Lafayette would most likely come into town if I didn't and we know that is too risky.'
'Isak and I could take him,' Henry looked hopeful.
'Nay, Henry, you both have businesses to attend. You have been neglecting them too much of late.'
'Surely that is our call, Jeremy.'
'I would not want you to be linked with 'Yankee Doodle', you know that!' Jeremy spoke softly, 'And, besides, I have been idle for too long! I need the exercise!' he added with a laugh.
'If you say so!' Henry capitulated, 'But be careful! If you feel the need to stay overnight, do that!'
'Then my father would wonder where I was. I will return tonight.'
'So! What has changed?' Henry had to chuckle, 'Your father is always wondering where you are!'
Isak came in the back door and greeted them with, 'Billy is tied to the packhorse. Jeremy, you should ride out as soon as you can.'
Jeremy agreed and, as dusk was falling, he left the town for what was usually a half hour's brisk ride.
Lafayette greeted a weary Jeremy when he rode into camp with the packhorse. The ride had taken longer and had been more tiring than Jeremy had anticipated. His leg was throbbing and his muscles, unused for nearly two weeks, were aching when the General aided him to dismount. He limped into the tent as an aide took the reins of the packhorse and led it away to take care of Billy.
'Should you be riding?'
Jeremy groaned, 'Not you too! Sir, I had Henry lecture me before I left Chester!'
Lafayette's brows rose as he spoke again with a grin, 'Then you do not need me to lecture you again, Captain! But I will insist you visit Joseph before you leave tonight. Now! Tell me how it is you have Billy when he only escaped this afternoon.'
'He headed straight to my house!' Jeremy began, then told the General of the proceedings of the afternoon.
'You can be extremely thankful that Isak and Henry arrived when they did.'
'I know! I thought Billy was going to shoot an unarmed man then tell some tale of how I ambushed him.'
'He will be taken to Washington in the morning. That document he had was stolen from this tent two days ago. I do not know how it came to be in his hands.'
'He told me he persuaded the guard to give it to him.'
'Did he mention a name?'
'Boggs will flush out that guard, although I would not argue with a loaded pistol either. We still have to find who was giving Billy orders.'
'Maybe General Washington will be able to elicit that information out of Simon before we deliver Billy to him.'
'We?' Lafayette's eyebrows rose quizzically, "Jeremy, you are not fit for a ride to Valley Forge.'
"Sir, if I may ask permission, I should like to be present if their principal is revealed.'
'And so you shall! I will arrange transport for you to Valley Forge if necessary as long as it is not riding a horse. Now, go and see Joseph, Captain!'
Jeremy sketched a weary salute and did as ordered though he guessed what the doctor would say to him.
Joseph greeted Jeremy and ran an appraising eye over him.
'And just what have you been doing, my lad?' he asked sternly.
Jeremy was wordless defining his guilt. Joseph knew him too well.
'I'll warrant you did not walk here. What are you doing riding?'
'Joseph, have a heart!' Jeremy protested, 'I now know I should not have attempted the ride, but I still have to get home.'
Joseph chuckled, 'Aching all over, are you?'
Jeremy could only nod in acquiescence.
'Well, you seem a mite subdued, Jeremy. Maybe now you will follow doctor's orders!'
"As soon as I arrive in Chester I am going to bed and staying there.'
'Light exercise for that leg for the next week!'
'Aye, Joseph,' Jeremy sighed wearily.
Joseph held out his hand and Jeremy took it.
'Go home now!' Joseph ordered.
'I will see General Lafayette then leave the camp,' Jeremy promised.
After farewelling Lafayette Jeremy mounted his horse and left the camp. It was a slightly faster ride this time, taking him less than an hour. He arrived back in Chester before the bewitching hour, tired and aching.
Isak and Henry found Jeremy abed the next morning. It was close to the noontide when they arrived at the Larkin residence.
Jeremy related his journey of the night before, adding his intention of following doctor's orders after his visit with Joseph.
Henry raised his eyebrows and eyed Jeremy. 'That I will not believe!' he said, not believing a word of it.
'Truly, Henry!' Jeremy said earnestly, 'I was sore and tired by the time I arrived at camp. Halfway through the journey I even contemplated turning back.'
This time it was Isak's brows that rose. He turned to Henry, his tone was surprised. 'He must have been really aching to promise Joseph he would follow orders.'
'Lafayette will call us if Billy reveals who is behind all this,' Jeremy told his friends, 'He will arrange transport for me if I still cannot ride.'
Henry and Isak exchanged glances of mirth.
'What have you two got planned now?'
'We thought you might like to ride in a wheelchair,' Henry laughed, 'It would allow you some freedom from the house.'
'And I bet you have one downstairs!' Jeremy chuckled.
'If you can get yourself downstairs, we will push you around town.'
'Ohh, the humiliation!' Jeremy hung his head in his hands and groaned.
'Come, you either lie here in your bed or you can be about.'
'I'll do it!'Jeremy levered himself gingerly out of his bed. He slowly made his way down the stairs, much to the amusement of Henry and Isak. He spied the wheelchair sitting in the middle of the parlour and sat down with relief.
'If you two say as much as one word, I'll …'
'We understand, Jeremy,' Isak chuckled as he pushed the chair out the door.
As they strolled around the town Jeremy was greeted with catcalls and cheers alike. He found himself enjoying his new found notoriety and basking in the sympathy of his friends, all the while taking note of any activity or sentence out the ordinary.
Word arrived from Lafayette within the week. Jeremy sought Isak in the smithy, finding Henry there with him. By this time Jeremy was moving more freely and found he could ride for short times. Henry was watching Jeremy closely as they made the journey to Lafayette's camp, pleased that his friend seemed unaffected by the activity.
Lafayette met them at his tent.
'Welcome, gentlemen. Come inside and we will discuss your business.'
Once inside the tent Lafayette sat facing the trio. His handsome face was marred by a frown and he was solemn as he spoke.
'We now know who employed Billy Wren.'
'Sir, is it someone we know?' Jeremy queried.
'Oui! You know this person very well, Jeremy!'
Jeremy glanced at his companions then asked, 'Why did they enlist Billy's aid?'
'Jeremy, we have spoken to the man and we will not charge him.'
'Who is he, Sir?' Jeremy's curiosity was well and truly fascinated.
'Would you like to meet him before I send him home?'
'Aye, Sir!' three voices answered in unison.
Lafayette stood and motioned for them to follow him.
He led the way to the medical tent where Joseph was talking to a very familiar figure.
'Father,' Jeremy gaped at Samuel, 'What are you doing here?'
'I am sorry, Jeremy, I would never wish you any harm. I was only trying to protect you.'
Jeremy glanced back at Lafayette who nodded. Jeremy immediately comprehended.
'Father, you were the one Billy was working for?' he gasped in horror.
'Jeremy, let your father explain,' Lafayette said gently.
'I thought if Billy could find 'Yankee Doodle' it would bring an end to rumours that you were he,' Samuel began, then continued, 'What I did not know was that Billy held a grudge against you and wanted to get even so he decided to prove you were 'Yankee Doodle'.'
'What you are saying is ….?'
'I know you cannot be the rebel leader, but Billy set out to prove otherwise. He knew if he could prove anything against you he could get rid of you and the British would pay him handsomely.'
'But, Father, what about ….?' Jeremy did not get to finish the sentence before his father continued.
'When two of the General's men met me in Chester and asked me to accompany them to see him, I was unaware that Billy had caused trouble.'
'He is always causing trouble!' Henry's tone was tinged with disdain.
'Jeremy, Isak's kidnapping was nothing to do with my plans. Billy told me he would kill you if I did not bring Isak to him. I did not connect that with the fact that he thought you were 'Yankee Doodle',' Samuel glanced at Isak who was listening intently to his explanations, 'Isak, I am apologise profusely to you for my part in that!'
Isak nodded and went to speak but Lafayette cut in at this point, 'Jeremy, I have told your father that you discovered our camp by accident a few months ago and I welcomed you so you could talk about Robert anytime you wished. I have also told him you are not involved with 'Yankee Doodle'.' Lafayette winked surreptitiously, unseen by anyone else, then added, 'Mister Larkin, you are free to go at any time, but I suggest you ride home with your son.'
Samuel stood and shook the General's hand. 'Thank you, sir. I am sorry to have caused so much trouble to you,' he said slightly sheepishly.
'You did not cause the trouble, sir, Billy did that! He will be dealt with accordingly.'
'What will General Washington do with him?'
'He will be sent to a prison in Allentown for a while. He may have already learned his lesson.'
'That I doubt! He has always been a problem for his mother since her husband joined the army. His father would have an apoplexy if he knew what Billy had done.'
Lafayette smiled, 'Mister Larkin, go home with your son and his friends. If I happen in Chester I will visit you to talk about Robert.'
'General, thank you again for being so understanding,' Samuel followed Isak and Henry from the tent while Lafayette signalled to Jeremy to linger.
"Jeremy, is it not about time you told your father about your activities?' Lafayette spoke in a low voice.
'Sir, you and I both know the risk if too many people know my identity. Thank you for covering for me.'
'I only told the truth – you are not involved with 'Yankee Doodle'! You are he!' the young General grinned at his friend, 'Mon ami, I think it is time you went home with your father. I will send word when I need you.'
'Aye, Sir,' Jeremy smiled in reply, 'and you will hear from us if anything untoward happens.'
'Look after your father, Jeremy. Help him in his grief. He still is not over Robert's death.'
'I know, Sir. Goodbye for now.'
Lafayette watched Jeremy walk from the medical tent before turning to Joseph, 'Jeremy seems to be healing well.'
'He is that, but he still must make allowances for his leg until it is fully healed. And we both know he will not do that.'
'Inactivity bores him. He is a born leader that one, if only he would realise his own potential.'
'General, with you as his teacher, he will learn quickly.'
'I think that, also, Joseph. He will be a great leader one day!'
Jeremy, blissfully unaware that he was the subject under discussion, rode home beside his father. He looked forward to a rest after the ride as his leg was starting to throb. Isak and Henry were forward of them and he took the opportunity to study his father as Samuel rode beside. He saw the lines that had appeared since Robert had been killed and thought of how much his father seemed to have aged since that day. They rode home in silence, each to their own thoughts. Isak and Henry knew Jeremy would brief them back in Chester. Jeremy vowed not to cause his father more grief than necessary, but knew there would be times he would have to lie to cover his activities.
Maybe one day …..
Dusk was falling as they rode into Chester. They stabled the horses and Samuel Larkin looked at his son, 'You bring Isak and Henry for supper. And, Jeremy, I am sorry.'
'Father, I know. We will be home soon.'
Once his father had left them Jeremy quickly apprised the others of his conversation with Lafayette.
'But what about Dilworth?' Henry queried.
'Apparently that was Billy's idea. He wanted to emulate the cowboys of the north he had heard so much about. In his mind he was sure the British would praise him for his work, but when he visited the commandant to tell him what he intended doing, he was ridiculed. He went ahead and razed Dilworth anyway. Luckily there were only a few inhabitants at home and they fled to safety. Then he decided to prove himself by capturing me. The British would listen to him then. My father's hiring him was a bonus. The grudge he has against me is many years old. I only hope he gets over it.'
'Supper should be ready for us, Jeremy,' Henry grinned, 'I do not know about you, but I am starving!'
Isak and Jeremy broke into laughter as they left for the Larkin residence.