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Part Seven: Returning the Favor
“…James, darling, please won’t you answer mother?”
James moaned and rolled onto his side, barely hearing the muffled words addressing him. His face drew up and his whole body shook as a holler exploded from his lips.
“Oh, darling, it’s going to be all right! The doctor’s coming. I’m sorry, you’ll feel much better soon, I promise.”
James bit down on his lips to keep from screaming again, but it didn’t fully keep his cries silent. A gentle hand rubbed his face, then wrapped him in a tight hug. James felt constricted and tried to push the person away.
“Here’s the doctor now. Just a bit longer, darling…”
Something lukewarm splashed into his mouth, nearly choking him, but after a few moments, the pain subsided and he’s breathing regulated to it’s normal tempo. He heard a snap, but felt nothing but the doctor wrapping something stiff around his leg. He dropped his head against the pillow and with a dull moan, he slipped into a medicated sleep.
“…Darling, can you hear me? Won’t you talk to me now?”
He slowly opened his eyes. It was his beloved mother, cradling his head in her arms. “Oh, you are alive! The doctor said you would die. You’re so sick and that wagon broke your leg, oh!” She kissed his dirty cheek and hugged him tightly. He could feel her tears as she pressed her face against his. Tears of anguish at what had almost happened and joy and relief at what had happened.
James could hardly believe what was happening himself. He was in his own home, in his own bed. His mother was hovering over him, providing long denied comforts for her beloved son. Among those were a warm, wet cloth passing over his face, cleaning away the dirt and grim, just as she had done when he was just a child. She pulled another blanket over his shivering frame and continued a running commentary on how the doctor had made an improper diagnosis. It wasn’t until she left him to get some nourishing chicken and veggie soup that he noticed the two soldiers sitting nearby.
“Andrew,” he whispered. “Gabriel.” He tried to sit up.
The two came to his side and told him to lie quietly, to save his strength. Gabe’s arm was in a sling and Andy had a blood- stained bandage wrapped about his head. “You had us in a tight spot, Jamie,” Andy remarked. “Took us ten whole minutes to scare off your redcoat captors. Are you all right?”
The young man shrugged. “Been better, been worse. Thank you—”
“No, James,” Gabe cut in, kneeling beside him and gripping arm with his good hand. “Thank you. That night you were caught, twenty-seven prisoners were able to escape because of your work. And your papers were dropped in the snow. You must have dropped them in the scuffle. One of the men were able to get them and bring them back to camp. We got the ammunition you detailed about. Thank you for risking it all. Thank you for not giving in to the tyrants. Thank you for your sacrifice.”
James looked at his two friends as his mother returned. She took his hand and squeezed it tightly. James was overwhelmed with gratitude to his friends and his Savior for his rescue. He turned his face away for a moment. His mother gently rubbed the moisture off his cheeks as the tears trickled down. “I’m too old for this,” he said with a laugh.
He faced his friends once more, only to find that they too were wiping their eyes. The three were like brothers and the fact that they were all safe, out of British hands was a relief. James didn’t know of their sleepless nights spent searching for ways to get on board the Hawk without the Redcoats’ knowledge; of the bribes they had used to gain information about him; or the times they had tried to negotiate his release. He didn’t know how close they had come to getting caught by the Brits trying to free him, or of the tortured thoughts they’d had about his being killed or otherwise dead. That is a story for another time.
The important thing now was that James was safe, on the road to recovery… and no longer condemned to die.
Mrs. Tanner helped James with his supper. By the time he had finished his food, he was exhausted. Mrs. Tanner stayed by his side until he fell asleep. She turned to Andy and Gabe. “How’s the other patient?”
Gabe shrugged. “If the towns people had their way, he’d be dead right this minute. As it is, he’s still not doing that well. Doctor Ames said the bullet went very deep. He still hasn’t woken up yet.”
Mrs. Tanner filled a bowl with warm water and picked up a cloth. “Will you boys sit with James? I’m going to see to the lad. What was his name again?”
“Cpl. Howard Percy, that’s what the other soldiers said anyway,” Gabe replied.
Mrs. Tanner nodded and left the room. James mumbled, stirring, “Percy… help Percy…”
Andy bent over him. “What?”
“He’s asleep again. I guess hearing us talk leaked into his sleep.”
The next morning, Mrs. Tanner took a seat next to James and opened her Bible. “Let’s read some of the Word together, shall we?”
James smiled. He had missed this.
When the reading was over, Mrs. Tanner insisted that if James felt up to it, he should tell her everything. And when Mrs. Tanner said everything, she meant everything. Slowly at first, James told her his story, beginning with his volunteering for the mission on impulse. Then the words tumbled out one after another, telling her everything that he could remember, omitting only the very worst parts.
Mrs. Tanner bent forward, listening to her son’s saga with rapt attention.
“I was coming very close to dying when a fellow named Percy… Percy! Didn’t you say something last night about Percy?”
“Well, yes, but—”
“It was a fellow named Percy that saved my life! He helped me when I was about to die in the hold of the ship! Mother, what were you saying about Percy?”
“Dear, I seriously doubt it’s the same fellow. Remember, you said you were in New York when this happened. We’re all the way down in Virginia.”
“But it could be! Our ship was boarded many times! And I didn’t get a good look at all of our guards. It could be him! Mother, is he here?”
“Calm yourself, darling! Yes, I have a redcoat here in my care, a young one named Howard Percy. He was shot, and the colonel had him brought here until further notice. But—”
“Please, mother, let me see him!”
“Mother, he… he prayed with me. He was the only man who prayed with me when I needed it the most.”
Mrs. Tanner looked at her son, and gently rubbed his shoulder, seeing the tears gather in his eyes and feeling the tears welling in her own. “I’ll see what we can arrange. For now, you need to rest yourself. I’ll do what I can for him and talk with the doctor when he comes.”
“Please, mama, don’t let him die! Please!”
“That’s not up to me, darling, that is up to our Heavenly Father. Why don’t we talk to Him about it?”
Later that evening, Cpl. Percy was carried into the same room as James, so they would only need to light one fire to keep the boys warm. James took one look at his face and knew at once that it was his prayer warrior.
Day after day, the Tanners carried for and prayed over Percy. When at last he awoke and had eaten some of Mrs. Tanner’s delicious soup, he turned to James. “Looks like we’re destined to bump into one another. Thank you for praying.”
James smiled at him. “Thank you for praying with me when I needed it most. You really helped me to rest in the Lord.”
Percy’s smile widened. “We might not be on the same side, but we serve the same God I see.”
James nodded. “Praise the Lord for a Savior who doesn’t care about the color of your coat.”
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Merry Christmas Eve!
Christian. American. Southern. Author.
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