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Chapter One

Two men crouched on the long whitewashed porch of the big house and peered in the window. A light snow was falling—it was going to be an early winter—and the walkway, the steps, were slick. Sergeant Bradley Aberdeen’s great coat hid his brilliant red uniform. The man who waited next to him for a signal was Lance Corporal Robert Johnston, just arrived in country and not yet used to Philadelphia winters. Along the house’s broad lawn, scattered in the hedges, more men waited, their cold ears pink under tall black hats. It wasn’t unusual to see British soldiers on the streets and roaming the neighborhoods of Philadelphia because, ever since the rebel evacuation, the arrival of General Howe, it was a British town. As esteemed by Aberdeen and Johnston, it was a fine town at that if a solider was going to have to spend the holidays so far from home.

The two men were seated under the ledge of the portico window of a Great Room, their muskets tucked safely under the ledge to keep them dry from the snow. All was quiet on the porch. Aberdeen strained his ears to hear sounds coming from inside: a creaking floor board, a cupboard door, soft foot steps on the stairway, but there was none. He sighed. There were units, whole battalions that were—right now—feasting on roast beef and drinking rum at one of the taverns downtown. And the Spangler’s were having one of their balls later in the evening. The Sergeant peered into the darkness, trying to make out  the men who were waiting for his signal, and he thought about the Spangler’s, the generals who came there to rub elbows  with Philadelphia’s elite, the women in their bejeweled gowns. It was snowing a little harder now. Sergeant Aberdeen raised his hand so it could be seen by the pale lamplight filtering through the window, and he wagged his finger in a wide circular motion.

His men moved silently—a tribute to their regimental training—there were two groups of four scrambling out of the hedges and scaling the porch, pulling themselves over the railing and crawling to take up positions beneath the windows. There were two more large windows next to the portico and then a well-lit smaller porthole that Aberdeen assumed was the kitchen. Behind the hunkered down men, across from the steps, were big double doors with one more window beyond the entrance. This far window had a sitting-bench beneath it and the white railing of the porch curved around this little patio to make a rotunda with a balcony. This area was covered by shingled eaves and above it was a two story look-out tower. The upstairs windows of the tower were dark but the men were wary of this arrangement because in wartime, disloyal eyes could be anywhere.

Sergeant Aberdeen surveyed his men, crowded on the porch now, ducking under the windows and waiting on further instructions to be passed down the line. The men were young. Aberdeen could see their faces, their cold blue lips. He thought they should be home with their families but there would be no leave this year. General Howe was willing to wait the rebels out while the Continentals wintered up the road in Valley Forge, and there was plenty of meat and ale in town, at least since the British took the forts on the Delaware. The snow was blowing harder now. Sergeant Aberdeen swallowed hard, closed his eyes and then he gestured to Corporal Johnston, pointing at his eyes and then at the window above their heads. The other man nodded and the two of them rose up on their knees to peek inside.

There was a fire in the fireplace. That was the first thing Aberdeen noticed, a warm fire. Standing by the mantel and moving back and forth was a girl. She was young, maybe thirteen, her blonde hair in ringlets bouncing on her back as she moved. She wore white stockings and a pretty dress with a blue needlework pattern stitched all the way around the hem. She was arranging boughs of pine on the mantel. When she was almost done with her task—her stack of pine boughs used up—she carefully wove a red and white ribbon in and out of the boughs. Decorations. The child is decorating, Sergeant Aberdeen thought to himself. He remembered putting up the decorations with his own sister. When the child was done with her ribbons, she looked around—for an instant she looked right at the window where the men were hiding, and they both ducked—she was looking for help. The men could hear a voice calling to the girl, it was high pitched but firm. They looked again and saw an older girl bringing candles that were set in ornate holders. The young woman bringing the candles was Esther Brooks. Aberdeen remembered seeing her at one of the Spangler’s balls, attending with her family. The younger girl was Frances Brooks. They called her something. Sergeant Aberdeen slumped down below the window, against the wall. What did they call the child? For some reason it was important. He closed his eyes and then he remembered. They called her Fancy. Fancy Brooks. When the men took another peek inside the window, the two girls had been joined by their eldest sister, Charlotte. Aberdeen knew her. He had retrieved her handkerchief at one of the dances, had brought it to her and had the opportunity to take her fair hand. Charlotte had thanked him for his thoughtfulness. He remembered what she said, Charlotte Brooks, when he held out her dainty cloth. She said, “Thank you kindly Sergeant, Sir.” He was not used to civilians calling him Sergeant and he wasn’t used to anyone calling him Sir. She reminded him of the maidens he had left behind, in England, the ones he thought that he would never have the pleasure of seeing again. But yet there was Charlotte, as lovely as any English-bred lass, and as loyal to the Crown as he was. And here he was, Bradley Aberdeen, a Sergeant in the Royal Marines, sitting in the cold wet snow, his bones chilled by the wind that was blowing harder now, and he was peeking into the window of a girl he felt that he could love if he only had the chance. And if there wasn’t a war going on. Aberdeen ventured another look and he saw the three women helping their father, the portly Harlan Hatcher Brooks. He was holding up a piece of red bunting that he meant to string across the hearths. The girls were standing back and giving him suggestions on how high to hang it and where each fold should go to make sure it was straight. And then they were singing, all of them, the three girls, their father, even the maid, and finally the mother who suddenly alighted from the other side of the room. But where was James? The girl’s brother. The British knew he was in there. Reliable spies said that he had been seen in town. He had been spotted earlier in the day on the road heading to the family house. He had to be in there. Bradley watched until the family finished their song and had all exited the room through a big doorway, the one that opened to the next great window.

Bradley watched the lit candles flicker in the room they had just left. He watched the fire lap hungrily at the logs Mr. Brooks had fed it. He could almost feel the warmth but he was brought out of his reverie by one of his men who was gesturing from down the porch. More movement, he supposed. Sergeant Aberdeen hoped they weren’t all sitting down to dinner even though he knew that was exactly what they were doing. It would be too much, looking in from the cold at a family sitting down to a dinner. And if the pangs of homesickness weren’t enough to bring on a bout of melancholia, he had to reckon with the terrible knowledge that it would be him and his men who would be the unwelcomed guests at the dinner party. He crawled on hands and knees, dragging his musket behind him, down to the next window, to see what his men had seen.

Through the window, he could see that the china had been carefully laid out on the big polished wooden table. There were platters of meat and bowls of punch. The mother and father, Annalyn and Harlan Hatcher, sat at the ends of the table. Between them, on one side, sat the two younger girls, Fancy and Esther. Across from the girls sat the eldest daughter, Charlotte and the young man she fancied—some said was engaged to—Thaddeus Byrd. Aberdeen grimaced seeing Byrd at the table. His fellow soldiers felt Tadd was harmless, a loyalist that did not have enough conviction to join the militia against the uprising, but Aberdeen assumed the man was weak, without enough moral fortitude to make a stand. Or maybe it was just because Byrd sat so close to the slender knees of Charlotte Brooks and he was relegated to peering in from the window.

As if his thoughts made those knees move, Charlotte Brooks stood up at the table and walked directly toward the window that the men were looking through. Aberdeen and the others dipped their heads, trying to make themselves as tiny as a group soldiers could manage, pressing their bellies into the icy boards of the porch. Had they been spotted? They held their breaths until a small light lit the darkness above them. The Sergeant ventured a glance upward. He could just make out a soft hand lighting two candles in the window. While he waited for the woman to withdraw, he watched the flickering light of the candle. Back in England, candles were lit to welcome back family members who could not be with their kin. And for families who wished to share their warmth, the soft lights were beacons to strangers. Aberdeen wondered if his family had lit just such a candle for him. He thought about people he knew—fellow soldiers—who would never leave this strange land, would never again see the glow of candles burning in their home windows. He watched the two lights—pinpricks in the night—and thought about who the Brooks hoped to welcome into their home, their hearth.

Bradley Aberdeen sighed and muttered to Corporal Johnston, “We’re going to have to go in there, bust up their party.” He paused as if letting this information sink in. And then he continued, saying flatly, without expression, “It may well be a frightful mess, searching all the rooms. And we don’t know if James Brooks is hiding with confederates. We may well have to shoot him in front of his parents, his sisters.”

Johnston said, “Why couldn’t he just—“

But Aberdeen cut him off. “Because war doesn’t work that way. If everybody behaved the way they should, the way we think they ought, then there would be no need for war.”

“I suppose not,” the other man whispered. “So what do we do, smash through the windows?”

“No, I know what the generals say about the proper way to treat those who would harbor rebels, but these people…this family…this is the Brooks. They have no quarrel with the King. Indeed, old man Brooks has given generously to the war effort and is quite in the favor of General Howe. It is just James, his son, we want. We will endeavor to remove him like we’re cutting a worm out of an apple.”

Johnston said, “But what if we are opposed. What about the girls? He is after all, their brother.”

“They are girls and will do as girls do. They love their brother. They love the King. They love their parents. Their little hearts love just about everything. I suppose they’ll cry their tears but we will have the boy. Washington and his troops are too close for us to tolerate spies in Philadelphia, even one who would hide himself in…” Aberdeen looked through the window. He watched Charlotte chew a single piece of meat for the longest time, “even one who would hide himself behind the skirts of his loyal sisters.” Charlotte was smiling now, talking to Thaddeus Byrd who was making a point.

With a series of gestures—a finger in the air, some stabbing motions—Aberdeen mobilized his men and they quietly moved down the porch, amassing at both sides of the front door. When all the men were in place, the storming of the Brooks’ house began by a sturdy knock on the door. Harlan Hatcher Brooks swung the door open wide as it was not at all unusual to receive friends during season of the Advent. He was flanked by little Fancy who was thrilled to see British soldiers on her doorstep, their polished boots and red tunics tucked into their coats.

Harlan Hatcher Brooks addressed Sergeant Aberdeen, “My family and I have sat down to supper—it is getting cold even now whilst I speak what you—what do you men want with us?”

Bradley Aberdeen spoke formally. “Mr. Brooks, I regret this intrusion, but on behalf of the King, we have come to arrest and transport one James Brooks. He is accused of harassing British troops at Mud Island and of bringing food and aid to the enemy during the siege of Fort Mifflin. We also have information that he has been a rebel courier, delivering contraband information to the enemy. And furthermore, we are under the informed belief that he has taken refuge in this very house.”

Harlan Hatcher Brooks choked out some words, “I don’t—“

Aberdeen looked up at the man and saw that Fancy had moved in front of him, that he was now flanked by Esther and Charlotte, and he also saw that Charlotte was as pretty as he remembered. Behind Charlotte was Thaddeus Byrd who had a sullen look on his face, and Aberdeen realized the man was glaring at him, that it was possible the pacifist had some hate in him after all.

The men swarmed into the house while Abderdeen continued to speak to the family. Harlan spoke again, “The Crown has been good to me,” he swung his arm around, taking in his house, the half-eaten meal still laid out on the table, “and Lord knows I do not oppose the King even if some of my fellows in this country seen to have forgotten the opulence for which we owe thanks to our mother country.” He stopped speaking abruptly, a crease furrowing his brow, his face becoming dark and downcast. When he began again, his voice was quieter, solemn, “But I am also a father. I can not rightfully be expected to take sides.”

Aberdeen noticed that Charlotte’s dress was as white as the snow outside. It was bound at her waist by a pink sash. He noticed her breasts heaving and he wondered if she knew the whereabouts of James, if someone as beautiful as Charlotte Brooks would sacrifice her country for the love of a ruffian brother. Aberdeen sighed. He supposed she would, he had only to look into the harsh eyes of her beau, Thaddeus Byrd.
Bradley Aberdeen spoke to Harlan Hatcher, “Stand aside. Let us then do the work that you will not do for us.” And then looking away from the father, first at little Fancy and then at Charlotte, “I am sorry for what we are to do.”

The men returned from searching the rooms of the lower floor of the house. One of them stepped up and reported the obvious, “We have not seen the man, Sir. To where should we continue?”

Still looking at Charlotte, the worried look on her face, he said, “Take two men and search that confounded tower, up the stairway there. Johnston, you take two men and go through the remaining rooms upstairs. If he fails to turn up,” he looked away from Charlotte and back at her father, “we will adopt a more efficient search as the need may be. But we will find the man.”

Just then, there was a loud crash. A man was searching the big cupboards that were on both sides of the hearth, he was using the butt end of his musket to thoroughly probe the darkness for the person of James Brooks. Instead, he had found a store of dishes and the shards were strewn around on the floor. The man shrugged and gave one more poke with his gun before throwing open the other cupboard and rummaging around within it. Overhead, there were the heavy footfalls of soldiers on a mission followed by more crashes as closets were searched, the undersides of beds poked at. Fancy Brooks started to cry, big teardrops falling on her blue pinafore.

Charlotte came to her sister’s side, taking her hand. “It’s alright,” she said, “it’ll be fine. These men will leave. You’ll see.” Her talk seemed to comfort Fancy. The tears were still leaking down her cheeks but she was no longer gasping in halting sobs. Still holding Fancy’s hand, walking with her, Charlotte crossed the floor to where Sergeant Aberdeen stood, waiting for his men to report that the rebel had been found, that he was secure. Tadd Byrd looked over at Charlotte, her approach to the British officer, and he opened his mouth as if he was going to shout at her, as if he knew what she was about to do, but he hung his head instead. He loved the girl but he knew that he had not yet acquired enough influence to have any control over her impulses.

“Sergeant,” she said, “forgive me because I do not know your Christian name—“

“I am Bradley Aberdeen,” he replied. “I believe we had a brief meeting at the Spangler’s.”

“Yes, that was a lovely ball. I don’t recall our meeting but there were so many—“

Aberdeen smiled ruefully. “I’m afraid I was outranked on the premises. There were many fine people in attendance.”

“I didn’t mean…there were so many…well, that is not pertinent to the business at hand. You are here—in my house—because you are a soldier. And as for me, I am in this house, I have this life, because I am a subject of the Crown.”

Aberdeen didn’t know how to respond. He said, “Yes,” but his mouth hung open. He could not find the words to address the beautiful women, her concerns.

But it didn’t matter. Charlotte continued as if there had been no reaction from the Sergeant. She spoke quickly but firmly. “The man you seek is here.” Charlotte released Fancy’s hand and walked through the Great Room past the big open doorway to the dining area. There was a table there pushed up against the wall. It had some dishes on it and a propped-up framed lithograph. She pointed at the floor. “He is there.”

Aberdeen motioned for his men to join him and they went to the table. Imbedded in the floor, there was a handle that was framed by the thin line of the crack of a trap door. Three men shouldered their arms and Sergeant Aberdeen pulled on the handle, loosening the door of what looked like a dark pit. One of the Privates started to jab his bayonet into the darkness but Aberdeen raised his hand and the man stopped. It was Bradley Aberdeen himself who gingerly probed the pit with the barrel of a rifle without the pointed tip of his bayonet. There were shelves dug into the cold earth where the family stored bottles of wine and jars of vegetables. But at the bottom of the hole, Aberdeen felt something soft. He poked at it. And then a little harder.

“James Brooks. Come out of there. In the name of King George, III, you are under arrest. Your family is here. They are your guarantor of your safety, but if there is any shred left of English decency left in your soul, you will come out of that pit and remove with us.”

Charlotte Brooks looked at the man, heard his dispassionate voice. Her heart was pounding while she was trying to believe she did the right thing, but she had just heard Sergeant Aberdeen deliver a threat. Would he really harm her family if her brother didn’t come out?

“James” she called, “please come out. These men have assured me that you will be well cared for.”

Thaddeus Byrd stared at her. So did Sergeant Aberdeen. They both knew she had told a lie, that nothing of the sort had been offered. She looked at the red bunting, the pine boughs, the candles burning in the windows. Her brother may well be hanged before Christmas. Instead of pretty Christmas dresses, Charlotte and her sisters would be wearing mourning rags. She looked over at Aberdeen as if silently beseeching him to tell her that it wasn’t a lie, that he would not be harmed. But Sergeant Bradley Aberdeen, the man who had once gazed on her so fondly, would not even look at her.

James Brooks poked his head out of the hole, and then lifted his body out. Thaddeus Byrd looked him over. He had dark hair but a shock of his hair bobbed over his forehead, and in the light, it made his hair and complexion look much more fair—delicate—than it actually was. His eyes, darting around at the men—afraid to look at his family—were a soft brown, with a hint of amber. He wore a simple linen jacket and it was obvious that he was cold, having been hiding in the frozen dirt cellar—little more than a sunken pantry cupboard. He gave Charlotte a look of pity, a forlorn expression that was mixed with everything that made up the revolution he was fighting for: love, anger, confusion, hope. It was all in his expression as Aberdeen’s men hastily bound his hands behind his back—not gently—and pushed him toward the door without a word. As the Sergeant passed Charlotte, he nodded his head as if tipping his hat to the woman and then they were gone.

When the door slammed shut, there was a deafening silence in the room, a half-eaten meal that had seemed to be forgotten. Charlotte looked around the house that suddenly felt empty. The holiday decorations seemed naked, unimportant, like a festive spirit that was mocking what had just happened. Charlotte wondered if she would ever see her brother again, and when she glanced over at her parents, she could tell that they too had the stricken look of helplessness that came at them like an ugly truth they thought could be avoided with roast beef and ale and rum punch and pretty decorations.

Charlotte spoke, addressing no one. “You heard the man—the officer—he meant us harm. It had to be done.” There was no answer from her family. “He was my brother too,” she said plaintively.

It was Thaddeus who finally replied. “That is true. He was. And I believe the harm you refer to was only brought to light after your treachery.”

“My treach—“

She looked directly at Tadd but he would not return her glance and was instead looking past her at Mr. and Mrs. Brooks, her parents. And then as if he remembered something, remembered that he once courted a woman—a Brooks—and she once had a brother, he turned back to her. “You should be…taken in hand…watched…I don’t know, I can’t rightly think there is punishment enough for one who would turn her back on her own brother. I think you must be—“

Harlan Hatcher came back to life, supplying the word Tadd was looking for. “Dealt with? Young man, believe me I have tried to give wise counsel to my daughter, to raise her, and perhaps I taught her too well. With the way I belittled the rebels, the way I spoke against their little fight as a bunch of impetuous youths who are nipping at the very hand that has nurtured them. She must be dealt with yes, but today I’ve lost a son and I am at wits end. Maybe I should have—“

“No, Sir,” Thaddeus said boldly. “No. I know you are a good man and no one in these parts would doubt the Brooks name. And because I know this, I also know you would not teach your daughter to turn against her own brother. This war has never been my fight but so far I have had the fortune of never having men of that sort showing up at my door. Whether a friend or an enemy, a rebel or a tory, I dare say I would not stand idly by while men came and seized a member of my own family.” He looked back at Charlotte who was crying now, her face contorted. Emily and Fancy were crying as well but not with the same rain of tears, the noisy sobs, of their sister. He reached out and took Charlotte’s hand. “War has no sides—not really—and it is not a pretty girlish game. It’s an ugly thing,” he pulled her toward him and looked up at her father, “I assure you Sir that your daughter will be…dealt with as you say, even if I can not now vouch for the fate of your son.” He kept tugging on Charlotte until they had reached the door and he had safely escorted the crying girl outside. Before they mounted the slippery steps, Esther came through the door and handed Thaddeus a wrap for her sister. He took the cloak and put it on Charlotte before they descended the steps.

It was still snowing but not as hard as before. There were no sign of the British troops or the direction they had taken with their prisoner. Most of their prints had already been worn smooth by the snow. Charlotte was still sniffling a little but Tadd wasn’t concerned with her tears. In his estimation, there were not enough tears that could be exchanged for a brother. The streets of the neighborhood were dark with the lanterns extinguished by the wind and wet snow. The couple moved toward the city, with his arm pushing on her elbow but not really holding her hand. It was much too early to hold hands after what she had done.

When they arrived on one of the city’s thoroughfares, there were people and carriages going up and down the street. Most of the men they passed were British soldiers, some marching in formation and others just looking for a warm tavern. Some of the big houses on the main streets were lit up. They were having big levees and balls. Charlotte knew most of these people. She wished that she was going to the one of the houses blazing with light and crowded with people, wished she was dancing under glittering chandeliers. The rebels made no sense to her. Life had always been good in Philadelphia. In fact, the only time Charlotte remembered real suffering was when the rebels evacuated the town, destroying their own shops before they left, taking all of the provisions that could fit on their wagons. When the British came, the population of the town swelled and there were more hungry mouths than there had been before, but no food. The days of want didn’t last long though. When the British took the fort at Mud Island and when the rebels gave up after the siege of Fort Mifflin, they had a food supply just like before. All they lost were that ragtag band of complainers.

After following Thaddeus through town, being pulled by him, he made a turn into the darkness, setting his sights on distant lights. “My family farm” he explained, but he didn’t need to. Charlotte knew where the Byrds lived. “I have a cottage there, my home.” She didn’t know this, that their destination was to be a cottage on the edge of town. Charlotte had been sure that after Tadd walked off his anger, his frustration, he would take her home. They might yet finish their meal. The passions people had about the war—the struggle—seemed to be a distant and obscure humor to Thaddeus, a topic he didn’t often wish to discuss.

When they reached the cottage, Tadd pulled her roughly inside, at least it seemed rough to Charlotte, who had never known him to be a man of force and resolve. “I gotta fix a fire,” he said. She looked for a place to sit but before she had much time to think, Tadd shoved her into the corner and said, “Wait. You just stand there. I’ll be with you soon’s I get the fire going.” In the corner, she saw that the wooden cottage was well-made with sawed planks, expertly joined and sealed with tar. But it was in the corner, with Tadd rustling behind her, getting a fire started, that she first thought of her brother, of what he was going through. She always thought the King’s way, the Crown’s protection, was better for everyone—that the whole thing was just a misunderstanding—but did those men really mean to hang James as her father and Tadd had said? She wished that there was a way she could think—really think—about what she was about to do before she went ahead and did it. Her father used to say that, said she was a good girl at heart but rash. And now, for the first time, in the corner of Tadd’s cottage, she finally understood what her father meant. And then she started to cry because she realized this knowledge—late as it was—would not help her brother.

It was with these thoughts, with these tears, that she became aware that the fire was built, the warmth spreading through the cottage, and that Tadd was right behind her, that his hand was resting lightly on her shoulder.

“We’re here now. The fire lit. Now you…now we must deal with you.”

“Yes,” she said even if she didn’t know what Thaddeus was talking about. She heard a chair scraping and thought she was going to get a talking to, that this was what Tadd had promised her father. He sat heavily in the chair and Charlotte suddenly felt embarrassed that there was a man behind her, looking at her standing in the corner.

“Charlotte,” he said, “come here.”

She obeyed without thinking. It was good to hear him talk to her, to say anything. She turned from the corner and took the three steps to stand in front of Tadd, seated on the chair.

He took her hands and opened his legs to give her a place to stand. She moved into the welcoming vee shape, her knees up against the chair.

“Good,” he said, “now Charlotte, I want you to turn and lay across my lap.”

The girl was dumbstruck. What was he asking? And then she felt his hand, pushing her with gentle force. He was serious after all.

“Your lap?” she repeated, as if she didn’t understand what he wanted her to do. “I…can’t we…I don’t think—“

“Don’t make this harder than it already is, Charlotte.” His voice was firm, strict.

She lightly bent over at the waist. His hand was on her hip, steadying her. He used his other hand to guide hers down to the floor. She finally fell forward and he lifted her legs up over his.

She squirmed once and then settled. “What are you—“

Her question came up short when Tadd’s right hand landed on her backside causing a ripple to flow through her body. She gasped and opened her mouth to protest but before she could, his hand came down again, harder than the first. Once more she opened her mouth, but all she could get out was “Why—“ before two more hard swats came quickly and she felt the sting of both of them through her dress and her underskirt.

Tadd paused to answer her aborted question. “You know why Charlotte. Search your heart and you know exactly why. If you don’t know now then we will be here until you do.”

The tears came back. It was true. She did know why. With the next four strokes, all she could think of was James and the only question she had was why she did what she did.

When he paused long enough for Charlotte to say something, she choked through her tears, “But the British, they won’t…will they.”

The answer was harsh. “Yes they will. And before you leave my lap, you will know this truth if you know of no others.”

With one arm, Thaddeus pushed her from his lap into a kneeling position, and then tugged on her hands until she stood up. She stood before him, sniveling.

“What now?” she said. “What can we do?”

“Now? We finish your punishment. Maybe tomorrow we’ll figure out what we can do about your brother.” With that, Thaddeus undid the pink sash that had been tied around her waist, and then pulled on her skirt until it fell down her legs. he removed her underskirt. He took off her shoes so she was only wearing her shirt and her socks. He patted his lap. “I’m waiting,” he said.

She looked at him through her tears, tried to gauge his resolve and then she turned and repositioned herself over his lap. Tadd stroked the smooth skin of her behind that had turned just a little rosy from the spanking. He slapped at her ass, making her jump a little. And then he started again, giving her five hard strokes with the flat of her hand. She had stopped crying but it was clear from her moans that she was feeling the strokes, that his message was getting through. When he stopped, he rubbed her bottom, now a deeper shade of red. With his other hand, he stroked the back of her head, felt her soft reddish-brown curls. Tadd was struck with her beauty and how it shown through even after what she did to her own brother. It made him more resolved to find her again. He reached behind the chair he was sitting in, and picked up a finished board. He laid it across her ass.

“What’s that?” she said, her voice quivering.

“A paddle. Hickory. I’m afraid it’s hard. Made it myself, been keeping it for…I don’t know why…I guess it was for just this sort of situation. For you. If a girl’s been bad as girls sometimes are, a fellow might put her over his knee, give her some swats and listen to her pleas to do better. But if a girl sets about to kill her own brother,” Charlotte’s tears started again with a hitch in her throat, “then it is handy to have a paddle just like this one. Because what else—“

“Yes,” she said through her tears. “I understand. Use that thing. Do what you must.”

“Ah, maybe there is hope for you. More than I can say for your dear brother.” With that comment, Tadd came down with the first stroke from the paddle. It made a loud cracking sound when it met her hot flesh. There were more tears, but by the time he swung the hickory paddle for the fourth time, she became quiet. Her bottom had been turned to an angry red with white bruised spots in the center. Tadd inspected these by the lamplight. He didn’t want any deep wounds but he also didn’t want her to forget the night she was put across his lap and got the best of his hickory paddle. He gave her three more hard ones. He inspected his work again and then gave her one more with all of his might. It made a large cracking sound. She was whimpering now but was otherwise quiet when he let the paddle drop to the floor.

He reached down for some liniment and rubbed the oily substance over her behind. Charlotte was quiet for a long time. Finally, she said, “I know I can not express real sorrow for what I have done to my brother, but I can apologize to you, Thaddeus Byrd, for putting you in the unenviable position of having to deal with the likes of me.”

“You can,” he said, “but your brother has still been taken.”

“Is there nothing we can do? Nothing I can do?”

“We shall see. We don’t know where they have taken him. He could be in a jail, waiting to be hung—perhaps even one right here in Philadelphia. Or they could be taking him back to the Jersey, the prison ship docked in New York harbor. Either way, he’ll die. As for you…well…you can promise that you’ll resist your tory sentiments long enough to see if we can save your brother. You can promise to obey me in order to keep your lovely body from being put over my lap. Can you do that?”

“I’ll try Tadd, Sir. I will try.”


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