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Rebekah's Winter by P.S. Cassidy is a completed story. It is ten chapters in length and is currently available in its entirety in the Members' Area of Bethany's Woodshed. It is available both as an "HTML" file for online reading, as well as in a downloadable PDF format. It is also available as a file that can be transferred to your Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, or Apple I Pad, as well as other brand eBook readers. Each completed book that you obtain as a member of Bethany's Woodshed is yours to keep, even if you are no longer a member.

Rebekah's Winter completed on Bethany's Woodshed in April, 2012, and will remain on Bethany's Woodshed until October 2012.

 

Chapter One


Two riders came fast, their horses slogging through the fresh muck left behind from a late autumn rain.  It was a cold morning. The men back at camp called it another portent of a long winter. The horses snorted great plumes as their low-slung riders urged them on. In his brown breeches, black riding boots and brown oilcloth cape, Captain Wallace Adair, detached from the 2nd Continental Light Dragoon Regiment, was one with his steed. He learned the hunched-over technique of crouching on Thor’s back on the racing loops in New Haven. But times had changed. Wallace had marched off with the militia and now he didn’t know if he’d ever see New Haven again, the carefree time on the green, the ships at port, the young ladies newly arrived on the continent.

The soldiers had told him to use his racing style, to crouch low and ride fast, so he wouldn’t be an easy target. It’s not that the Brits would be out in the countryside, waiting in ambush—that’s not the way they fought—but catching spies was important to them. General Howe knew his men—veterans from the Anglo-French wars—couldn’t be beaten on the open field. They only had to worry about being surprised by Washington or by the rustics’ use of savage tactics. The Redcoats were vigilant about that so Captain Adair road hard and fast. He didn’t feel like being hung today.

The two men passed a couple farmers along the way. They eyed them suspiciously but kept their heads down. The other rider, Corporal Alexander Bailey, was a younger man. His fresh smooth face belied the intensity of his passion, his eagerness to serve. In spite of its laborious gait, Bailey’s horse, a sleek black Narrangansett Pacer nearly matched Adair’s Thoroughbred pace for pace. Bailey’s horsemanship—personally vouched for by General Washington himself—was why Adair had selected him for the mission. Bailey gestured at the large white farmhouse that was looming ahead of them. The two men kept their heads down, their mounts riding fast.

Something was amiss at the old Boyce house. Wallace felt the rhythmic clomping of hooves break the cadence of their ride, slowing up with his partner. But something wasn’t right. There were too many horses tied to the porch railing and the shutters were closed up tight. Wallace made a twirling motion with his arm, the keep going signal, the sign that the two of them mustn’t stop at this place. Abreast of the ornamental gate, under the Boyce monogram, Wallace pointed at deep ruts in the road. The other man nodded and the two of them hunkered down on their horses and rode on.

Less than a mile up the road, with more farm houses—the outskirts of Philadelphia—coming into view, Wallace nosed his horse off the path and pushed through a field of barley in the direction of a nearby stand of trees. Pulling out of the field, in the shade, Corporal Bailey began to unfasten the musket he had concealed under his cloak.

“Put that away,” Adair ordered. “You and I can’t whip the King by ourselves.”

“But did you see that?” Bailey sputtered, his dull eyes fluttering, “them tracks? Did you see them? They’ve been there.”

“Still are,” Wallace said, looking down at the corporal and glancing back at the Boyce house.

Wallace Adair sat up straight for the first time since the two of them had left the encampment-. He was a tall man with powerful arms and legs. There was a hint of red in his pale blonde hair that set off crystal blue eyes that shone hard and steady when he was excited, either angry or sad. Adair had first set foot in the New World twenty years before, when he was still a boy. Growing from teenager to adulthood, he had come to love his home, and while his parents liked to talk about their Scottish heritage, Wallace saw himself as a man from Connecticut, a place beset with endless possibilities, a place as wild and open as his growing ambitions, and a place worth fighting for.

When Wallace volunteered for missions into the countryside, it was not that he wanted to do it, that he needed the danger, the adventure—and he certainly had no love for the hangman’s rope that awaited enemy troops caught sneaking around out of uniform—but he wanted to win, to succeed, he didn’t know any other way to live his life, to fight this war. His friend and cohort, Corporal Bailey, was more often spoiling for a fight, eager to hunt down King George’s troops, but he was sensible enough to work with a sure-footed leader like Wallace Adair.

The two men carefully walked their horses back to the edge of the trees so they could get a view of the Boyce’s house. They knew Johnson Boyce, a widower and wealthy landowner, that he was a good man, a true patriot but age and a bad leg—a plowing accident—prevented him from joining Washington’s army. His son, Jeremiah, a lad of fifteen, had no such excuse and was eager to run off and join the cause. But his old man would have none of it. “I need him on the farm,” he had said. “If my boy’s killed, I’ll starve, the fields will go fallow. And who’d watch over my Rebekah, sweet thing’s already twenty and if this war keeps up, she’ll be an old maid. I’m afraid I’m gonna have to sit this one out, Mr. Washington, sir.” The General was grateful nonetheless to have such loyal patriots in a land virtually surrounded by tories.

The Boyce farm became an outpost for the Continental Army. Johnson watched the roads from his porch and Jeremiah did his part by keeping his ears open when he was in town. Rebekah, too, had a part to play. She was well known in Philadelphia society, mingling with the tories and Redcoats, even attending some of the officer’s parties. She was careful to never be seen with the strident colonists lest her true feelings be made known. Jeremiah often told his sister that the King’s men were bloodthirsty, that they would have no problem stretching a young girl’s neck if they thought she was spying for the enemy. Rebekah wasn’t so sure about her brother’s opinion, in fact, was pretty sure that her beauty, her youth, her well-known celebrated charm would get her out of most anything. It had so far.

Adair dipped his head, fixed his stare on the house like a hawk. It was a big place, biggest in the valley, might be the biggest clear up to Philadelphia. The Boyce’s managed to keep the house up well, even in the middle of a war. Adair noticed that. The wrap-around porches—on both floors—were gleaming white, the green shutters in perfect repair. Adair closed his eyes. He imagined ladies sitting on the porches, suitors attending them, everybody supping tea, the war over, the redcoats gone home. He blinked his eyes and refocused on the large farmhouse, the late Continental outpost. How many of them were in there? Were others on the way? What did they do with the Boyce’s? He thought about the loyalists in Manhattan, how they suffered, and the price his own family had paid for his dedication to a cause they barely understood. As he gestured to Bailey, he thought he saw a face in an upstairs window, a lovely woman. He kneed Thor and Adair galloped back to the encampment with Bailey.

In the three days since the men had marched into the valley, all they had done was built huts against the coming winter. The men were already tired from a long campaign after a two-day onslaught of a cold rain, they were already feeling the effects of winter. The generals felt they might have the makings of an army, but for now, they were neither equipped nor experienced enough to be sending out expeditionary raiding parties. The consensus was they should regroup, bide their time.

Corporal Bailey, in his impulsive manner, told the officers, “But we’ll surely starve if we allow the Brits to close off the roads like that. Even if Congress gives in and sends us supplies, we’ll never get them. The war will end right here.”

General Gates stammered, “We’ll have no outburst like that corporal. Under usual military protocol, a raid might be warranted, but—“ he gestured to the men struggling to drag logs together for a cabin, “there’s no real army here, this is not the usual protocol.”

A low voice came from behind Gates. It was from a man who was standing in the door of the stone headquarters. Washington said,“The soldier’s right. The only way we’ll survive the winter is to intercept the Brit’s food supplies. And as for protocol, sir, must I remind you that Philadelphia is occupied territory, just twenty miles away. We need the Boyce house if only because I’m blind down here. I must know when the British march out of our capital, leave Philadelphia for New York. Because when they do, I intend to be in pursuit.”

It was set. Orders were given. Washington gave Adair six officers and forty men and they set out for the Boyce’s house. Wallace gave little thought to what they’d find when they got there, had no chivalric notions like his younger friend, Corporal Bailey, that they would rescue the Boyce’s. But he remembered the face he was now sure he had seen in the window. It was probably the wife of a British officer, he thought with a shudder, this business is going to get messy before it’s over.

Almost a year to the day from when he crossed the Delaware with the army, Captain Adair peered out of the woods at the Boyce’s. His boots were dry this time with just a light snow falling, but for some reason, the unknown that awaited them behind the white walls of the large house gave him more fear than marching in the dead of night to face the Hessians, supposedly the best soldiers on earth. With a wave of his hand, they charged out of the woods, streaming onto the porch from the front and back. As soon as they barged through the doors, Wallace knew this was going to be much easier than the icy waters of the Delaware. Before a “Who goes there” rang out, before muskets could be loaded, orders given, it was over. The place was full of British officers. There was no rank-and-file to give orders to, no way to form an orderly skirmish line as was their custom. Without a shot, fourteen officers were rounded up from the rooms of the mansion along with twelve women. The prisoners were collected in the great room, the soldiers separated from their women along opposite walls.

Plates of roast sheep were still on the table next to platters of potatoes and corn. The women still held glasses of tea. Bottles of red wine were decanted on the table. It was an interrupted party. The officers looked resplendent in their red uniforms, rows of brass buttons and polished boots, the women too, greeted the invaders in dress gowns. It was like there wasn’t a war going on, like the little problem with the colonials was far away from polite society. The girls stood hands on hips, restlessly shifting their weight, and eyeing the intruders with a sense of revulsion, their scornful eyes raking the Continentals as interlopers spoiling a fine afternoon, they’re opulent party.

One of the woman finally stepped forward as the nearest Continental raised his musket and threatened her, “Major, can’t ya just give these people something, shoo them away?”

“Major is it?” Wallace said to the man she had addressed. “What have you done with the Boyce’s? My men here, they may not be quite gentlemen to you, but I think they’re mighty fine soldiers and they’d just love to use the weapons that they’ve drilled so long on. So tell me, where are the Boyce’s?”

“Safe,” the Major said, reaching for his headpiece, not feeling like he was quite ready to rejoin the fray out of uniform. “They’re safe, I assure you, housed quite comfortably in one of your Philadelphia jails.”

“All of them? Unharmed?”

Just then a woman at the end of the line in a red dress with a white sash stepped forward. “Not all of them. I’m Rebekah Boyce. These men have taken my family, forced me to serve them.”

Her closest neighbor in the line, an older woman with black hair and a glittering gown yelled, “Shut-up you. Ya just trying to get with them who’s winning, hussy. She’s lying.”

Wallace looked down the line of women, settling on Margaret, the accuser, and then looking back and forth, from one face to the next, studying them. “Well? Is she telling the truth? Who are you?”

The woman in the red dress shrieked a blood curdling scream that caused the men to approach her with guns at the ready. Wallace raised his hand and they stopped short. “You don’t believe me,” she yelled, stomping her foot. “Do I, do I, do I…look like one of them.”

Wallace thought about her question carefully. “Yes, forgive me Ma’am but you look exactly like the others.”

The other women looked at her, the British officers too. The Major had a slight smile as he turned to face the woman, “Claribelle,” he said, “it is a fine ruse—I’m sure it’ll be the talk of London—but I think these chaps got us.”

The other women smirked¸ their heads bobbing slightly, fashionable tresses shaking in unison.

Captain Adair said, “Things aren’t always what they seem in war—“

Alexander Bailey cut him off, “We could hang’m all. It’s us or them and it ani’t gonna be me. We’re gonna be victorious but if these people wanna play games—“

“But Mr. Bailey,” Wallace said, “do you forget why we have taken up arms, why we are fighting this tyranny.” His voice trailed off as if hearing the far off call to join a revolution. Snapping out of his reverie he wheeled quickly on the girl, his eyes flashing. “Clarabelle,” he yelled.

The captain wanted a reaction, something that might tell him the identify of the mystery captive, but what he got was something else entirely. In a smooth instinctive arc, the woman swung her arm, striking Wallace across the cheek with the palm of her hand.

Stroking the side of his face, Wallace said softly, “Whoever you are, you’re a hellcat. I can say that much.”

The British officers had been disarmed and were being herded onto the porch, under guard. Upstairs and throughout the house, the soldiers were searching for provisions, making a pile by the door. The officers’ well-made shiny boots got special attention, but Captain Adair said the men were off-limits for plunder. “We won’t treat these men like they do our boys dying on the Jersey,” he said. “We’ll treat them like soldiers”

“What about them?” Bailey said, motioned toward the line-up of women who were sagging against the wall, looking more nervous as the realization set in that they too were prisoners, that it was not just their husbands, their lovers, their employers, who were in peril, that the war between the colonial rustics and their gentlemen-soldiers had finally come to them. Four of the women were matronly, older bejeweled woman with elegant layers of thick clothes. Wallace deduced that these belonged to the senior officers. Several were exceedingly pretty and lavishly dressed. The captain barely wanted to think of their origin, perhaps concubines who had made the crossing from England, or more likely, he thought bitterly, they were opportunistic colonists who had become vaunted loyalists by virtue of a steady supply of roast meat, of silks, of French perfume and gala parties with lots of wine. Wallace grimaced when he looked at them. And then there was the girl in the red dress, the one who the others called Clarabelle yet called herself Rebekah Boyce. Who was she?

“Do we have a supply of rope for these ladies?” Wallace casually asked his subordinate. Before he got a reply, a series of orders tumbled out of his mouth. “Send for a wagon. Send to know how the General wants to dispense with the prisoners? To where should the officers be dispatched? And what does he want with their women?” He paused, thinking. “And where’s that rope?”

Turning to his impatient captives, Wallace said, “Turn around ladies so we may properly secure you.” All of the women but one complied, shuffling around slowly, turning their backs to the men. The woman at the end of the line stood firm, her legs spread, staring at Wallace with icy gray eyes, challenging him.

She sputtered, “You can’t…I won’t You foolish man, I won’t—“

Wallace cut her off. “I know you won’t,” he said, “The sting on my cheek tells me that, but you will.” He lowered his voice, speaking softly to those wide eyes, “I can see all of these lovely behinds, but the one I really need to see is yours.” By the authority of the Continental Army, you are my prisoner and you will properly surrender or face the consequences of a belligerent enemy.”

The woman’s face softened at Wallace’s firm talk. She was lovely and Wallace Adair was not without compassion. Her long yellow tresses were well tended, ringlets falling over her shoulder, bouncing when she spoke. She was a slender girl, but healthy, had been well fed. Wallace looked into her pleading eyes and slowly let his gaze drift down her body, pausing to survey the bosom under her bodice before letting his eyes slip down her silks and continue sliding the length of her legs to the ruffle of petticoats that hung just above her ankles, her feet shod in black shoes and white stockings. She looked pitiful now, her lip quivering. “It won’t work,” Wallace said firmly, jerking his head back up to eye level. “Your I’m-just-an-innocent look won’t work today. Now turn around with the others so I may secure your hands.”

“It’s been so hard,” she protested. “The war, you people and those men…my father taken. So hard. Don’t you understand?”

“I do understand,” Wallace said. “I understand that war is hard, especially hard on girls. And I understand that you need to learn to do what you’re told, that you’re sweet face can not always win the day. And I understand there is indeed a war going on. So turn around.”

The woman straightened, pulling her legs together, her face hardening. She raised her hand again, but this time Wallace caught it in mid flight, squeezed her wrist hard and pulled her around so his free hand could reach her other arm. She continued to struggle against his handling, but within moments he had looped the rope around her wrists and she was firmly tied.

Bailey was directing the other women to cross the room and line up by the other supplies they had confiscated. The lady in the red dress stood her ground, even now, even bound. She stamped one foot and then the other one.  “You’ll have to carry me, you will,” she yelled at the Captain.

Wallace said, “You’ll walk little lady and rejoin your friends if you know what’s good for you,” he tugged at her shoulder. The girl instinctively, defiantly pulled back. The Captain let go of his grip with a gruff, “Suit yourself.” With his release, she lost her balance, stumbled, tried to swing her arms to right herself but her hands only chaffed against the rope. With a gasp, she toppled over, falling in a heap at Wallace Adair’s feet. He looked at the top of her head, the ringlets now shaking as the girl began to sob. The disheveled pile didn’t even try to get up, her hands secure, body bent at the waist, pitched forward, her face in the dirt.

Wallace reached for a chair, she could hear it scraping across the floor. The girl said, “You’ll have to help me sir, I don’t think I can sit any better than I can stand.”

He laughed. “This chair’s not for you. Listen little girl, my patience has been tried. I don’t care if you sit or stand or lie in the dirt, but I do care that you mind me or we’ll both have a rough time of it.” Wallace reached over and grabbed the rope that was holding his captive. “What was your name again girl? What’d you call yourself?”

“Rebekah,” she screamed. “I told you and I’d tell you a hundred times I’m Rebekah Boyce.”

“Oh yeah, that’s what you said. We came in here and found you dressed in your finery, enjoying a party the likes of which I don’t think my poor starving men have ever seen. Isn’t that right? Clarabelle, is it?”

The girl raised her head slowly, like she was going to answer the Captain, but suddenly pitched forward trying to bite the man’s leg, snarling like a mad dog. Wallace pulled on the rope, yanking her arms up, making her wince. He kept pulling on the line like he was dragging a sack of flour, her whole body sliding to where he sat.

The girl had stopped struggling, stopped her wild animal act, but she was inconsolable, sobs punctuated by angry invectives. She was trying so hard to tap into pity the Captain didn’t seem to have, that she didn’t react when he looped his arm around her belly and pulled her straight up and over his lap. “I’m sorry Clarabelle, but you’ll need to learn proper behavior. I’m sure your friends over there will understand.

The girl felt a chill on her backside as she felt her dress being lifted, the folds of petticoats being peeled back. Her body went limp, legs stiffening, stretched out as if in disbelief, her bound hands pulled up to position themselves as best they could against what her body knew was coming next, even if she was reluctant to believe it. “No,” she said, “You can’t. You won’t—“

Captain Adair cut her off, his hand coming down hard and crisp, everyone in the room now quiet, watching. She didn’t make a sound, not at first, her mind still in disbelief. Claribelle or Rebekah or whoever she claimed to be was learning that Wallace Adair had a limit and that she had found it, and that in the times that try men’s souls, discipline is still important enough that a single girl will not slow up history, defeat a cause. He brought his hand down again, and then settled into a rhythmic pattern with the beat growing louder. Between the second and third smacks, the girl caught up to what was happening, and the tears came, the crying. The girl’s ass was becoming as red as her dress, her cries settling down to whimpers. The girl who had stood so proud, so defiant to a soldier, now just wanted to make it stop, wanted to know what she would have to do to obey this man. “Please—“ she said.

As if it was the first time Wallace had noticed the girl, the woman who was splayed over his lap having her backside tanned to a beet red, he paused in his strokes, eyeing her curiously, “Is it please now? Is that please I’ll be a good girl? Please I’ll do what I’m told? Please I’ll follow orders? Where was your please before?” he said, delivering another sharp blow.

The girl on his lap was quiet now, squirming uncomfortably, her backside stinging, feeling hot in contrast to her cold bare legs. She became conscious of the woman behind her, could hear them whispering, their skirts rustling. She could hear the other officer, Bailey, shifting his weight, his boots squeaking. She waited. Maybe it was over. Maybe the man had forgiven her. Her sweetest pleading didn’t work, she thought, staring at the floor boards, blinking her eyes. Neither did pouting. She squirmed a little, getting impatient, wanting him to know she was still down here—quiet now—and that she can be good.

The girl felt the captain’s hand in the small of her back, holding her firm. “Corporal,” he said, “could you retrieve my riding-crop from my saddle.” Her heart sank. He won’t, he can’t. But he will. She knew that now. The crop was meant for her and there was nothing she could do about it. The tears came again. Being quiet and still didn’t work either. She sobbed long and loudly, letting the tears stream down her cheek.

She felt the soldier’s crop resting across her warm cheeks. “Whoever you are, Miss, maybe you’re learning something today,” he said loud enough for everyone to hear.

“I am,” she cried, and it was true. No one had ever treated her this way and yet the sobbing girl felt a warm feeling come over her. The war had been so hard, so confusing for a girl, so easy to for a girl to get lost in. She wanted to tell the man this, tell him that she was learning something, was almost thankful for the treatment she was getting. But before she could open her mouth, stop the tears, she felt a sting like she had never felt before. The crop had left a welt across her already hot flesh. And with the tears starting up again, the words stuck in her throat, another blow came and then three more in succession, a rhythmic thrashing. It felt like she was being striped from top to the bottom. She heard the women in the room squeal and gasp at the spectacle.

When the strokes stopped she felt numb. There was still the pain, Adair had been too thorough for there not to be, but with her tears, she felt a certain peace that she hadn’t felt for she couldn’t remember how long.

The man rubbed the marks he had just made, soothingly, perhaps admiring his work, and the girl involuntarily moaned to feel his gentle touch so soon after he had effectively applied his riding-crop. He pulled her petticoats down and smoothed the skirt over them, and then said, “Just four with the crop, this time. We’ll see if it helps. Now stand up little girl and join your friends over there.”

The girl started to say, “They’re not—“ but didn’t finish. Instead, she stood up stiffly, the Captain holding onto her bound hands to help her steady herself, so she wouldn’t fall. Was it only four strokes? It felt like a hundred. What did he mean by ‘this time?’ Questions were streaming through her mind, but she held her tongue and allowed the captain to lead her across the room to join the other women waiting to march off as prisoners.

On the porch of the house, the soldiers sat together, having been stripped of their red coats, their head pieces. Wallace wouldn’t let his men take their shoes. “They’ll have to march,” he told them. A wagon was brought in through the gate. The girl was relieved to see it. She was sure the wagon was for her and the other women, but the soldiers loaded it up with plundered supplies and it left behind a couple of British draft horses.

Wallace directed the captured soldiers to line up and for the women to fall in behind them. The girl in the red dress was last in line, still moving a little stiffly, feeling the movement of her quilted petticoat with every step. But she still felt the warmth and at that moment, before they marched out, she felt that she needed to share something with Captain Adair, that there was something she really wanted him to know. “Sir,” she said to the man, who was busy setting everyone in motion, “you’ve made me pay for my indiscretions and I have no ill will, indeed I know my behavior was deplorable, well deserving of my treatment. But there’s something I would like you to know. I’ve already had your worse so I may as well tell you again, my name is Rebekah Boyce.”

“I know,” Wallace said simply. “I knew it the moment my hand first met your backside. Would you have submitted to such punishment in front of all of your friends if you weren’t telling the truth? It knew that the impetuous hellcat in the red dress was indeed Rebekah Boyce, but we have a long road before us and there’ll be lessons yet to learn.”

Rebekah flushed. He knew it all the time and yet she was still disciplined. With her cheeks burning, her head hot, she wanted to bring her hand up to slap the man again but she only chafed against her bindings. She wanted then to run away, run fast, but this time she was stayed by her red hot ass. “Thank you, kind sir, for what you have taught me on this day.”

Wallace smiled a broad grin. “Something else…when we seized the house, the Major asked one of my men if he would take special care of his warhorse, a fine animal I heard one of his men refer to as Clarabelle. I thought this was either a great coincidence or someone was having a bit of fun at your expense. Either way, I was going to have to teach you that there is a war going on and we can’t be too careful. I hope you have learned.”

“I have,” she said, “I have.” Captain Adair pointed at the column, starting to move. She joined the rank and walked with others the down the road toward the encampment called Valley Forge.