Merry Christmas and welcome to Day 3 of Stories by Firefly's 12 Days of Christmas party! Today I am sharing Part two of my Revolutionary War Christmas Story, Expected End! If you haven't read part 1 (link coming soon!) please go do that first!
Part 2: Too Old to Cry
The wind howled through the cracks in the structure, whipping against James in stinging lashes. He grimaced and tried again to shield himself from the elements. From head to toe, his body ached and nothing he could do relieved the pain. In fact, the slightest move made it worse.
Something icy ran down his cheek. He shook his head fiercely. He was too old for that; he would not cry. Sixteen was far too old for childish pity parties, surely! After all, it was his own fault that had him in this situation. If only he hadn’t been seen; if only he’d been able to run faster; if only he hadn’t come out until he had full recovered from illness! Why had he been so persistent in going? Why?!
Try as he might, he couldn’t hold back the salty tears coursing down his face. His side and leg pained him greatly and blood continued to seep through his clothes and pool on the snow beneath him. He shuddered at the mental picture his thoughts presented to him. All that blood… He felt as though a hot knife had been thrust into his side and that the perpetrator was twisting in back and forth. He sniffed, trying to pull himself together. He had to think of something other than his pain and numbness in his hands and feet.
Unbidden, he thought of his mother back home. She would miss him if something happened to him. And something certainly would happen. If he somehow survived the night, he would be tried for a spy, and even if he wasn’t convicted, he would be shut up in the hold of some ship to await his death. He was condemned to die.
James bit down on the gag, a groan escaping him more so at the thought of his mother than from the pain racking his weakening frame. Another tear wormed its way down his face. She was a pretty lady, slender and short with brown curls and sparkling green eyes. James looked nothing like her, except for his slender build, which had been a curse to him his entire life. He was sandy haired and brown eyed, with a sharp nose and firm set chin that made him look defiant. Her nose was small and button-like and her chin was soft and gently. She was everything soft and pretty… and he was everything clumsy and plain.
His thoughts wondered to his father. Mr. Tanner had died before James was born. A carriage accident, he’d been told. Mrs. Tanner had been in the accident too and James had been born later that night. People said he wouldn’t make it; he was so small. But God had spared him for some reason and Mrs. Tanner said he was her little miracle. James was named for his father, James Hamilton Tanner the Second. “Sounds like an educated gentleman… a Free, educated gentleman. And that is what you shall be one day Jamie,” his mother had told him more than a dozen times growing up. “A free man!”
Mother again…and death too! Two things he didn’t want to think about. News of her only son’s capture and death would crush her. He could see her now, sitting in front of the fireplace, a few cedar chips thrown in for scent the way she liked it. Her itchy, but warm, gray shawl would be draped about her shoulders and her old, worn Bible would be in her lap. Her hands would cover her face, weeping and mourning his youth. Mourning the daughter-in-law she would never get to have, and the grandchildren; the son she loved who would never return home, never be free. Her tears wouldn’t be of self-pity… but anguish of heart and love for her baby boy and the future he would never live.
She had often shared her dreams for his future with him. She wanted him to go to a university one day, when they had saved enough. He was a bright boy, she had always said. He could be anything once they were shed of English rule. Then, he would marry, and they would both come and live with her so she could help with their brood of little ones. He would be successful in whatever he chose to do because he was smart and kind and smart and kind people are always successful.
So much for that, he thought. Mother, I’ve let you down.
He would never see her again. Never embrace her again… never hear her voice again, on this earth at least. It was more than he could bear. The tears came afresh, nearly strangling him. He tried to force them away, but he might as well have tried to free himself from the British stockade. If there was one person on this earth that could make him do anything they pleased, it was his dear mother. It was she who had urged him to keep up school when he fell into the lowest place in class. It was she that taught him the importance of learning to mend his own clothes, something he’d done quite often since joining the army. And it was she who had brought him to the Savior and instructed him in how to ask for His pardon. If only the redcoats were that forgiving.
But he could expect no mercy at the hands of his captors. These were the men who had captured his best friend Clint three months before. He shuddered as he thought of the report an escapee had brought them. Clint had been severely beaten and paraded through town to show just how mighty the British army was. He was spat on and condemned as a spy, something he was not. Then, they had taken him to a tree in the town square and hanged him until he was nearly dead.
Stop! He shouted in his mind. He would not allow himself to think of his friend’s end. It was too horrible for human comprehension. And knowing that something similar awaited him… his stomach lurched at the thought.
God, why? He prayed. Why couldn’t I escape? Why did I have to be caught too? Especially since I was trying to do something that would save lives! God, I need to get that information back to camp. People will die… Father, I don’t understand! It’s not that I’m afraid of dying… it’s just, I don’t want mother to hurt and I don’t want more of my people to die! Please, God, let someone figure out what the British are planning!
James viciously wiped his eyes against his shoulders. He shivered as a nor’easter blew in, leaving him chilled to the bone. He was still bleeding, but he could feel his blood freezing to his patched hunting shirt. This country boy certainly wasn’t used to the Yankee winters. He wondered what the fellows were up to. Many of them had thought him foolish to go off and join the Continentals when the Militia was right in their midst. But he knew the cause was the same: Freedom. And he felt he was needed in the main army.
In the big army, he could make a big difference, something he had always longed to do. He was never able to make a difference back home, pretending to be a soldier with the militia. They were all right, just not what he wanted. He wanted to see action, to see real men in battle. To meet the men behind the revolution. Men like George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette. Men who believed in God and what He could accomplish through them. Men like his colony’s Patrick Henry. And he wanted to be one of those men.
Now, he wished he had listened to his friends. They could have kept him from ridiculous heroics that he couldn’t carry out. They would have told him his heart was in the right place, but his health wasn’t. Why was he always trying to do more than he was capable of? Impulsive, that’s what his first sergeant would say. He was always doing this to himself, even when he was a boy at home. When would he ever learn? Well, obviously he never would now. This impulse would lead to his death.
What would his mother do once he was dead? How would she take care of herself? What if the British reached their hometown? Oh, he should have stayed home! There was no one to protect her now. Some son he had turned out to be. And all her dreams of freedom for him and herself… they would be void to her without her son to share it with her. She had said as much the day he left for war.
“Jamie, don’t you do anything foolish,” she had said, tightening the kerchief about his neck, as if doing so would keep him warm and prevent him from harm. “I want freedom for our country, out from under British rule, but I don’t want to enjoy it alone. You come back to me, you hear me boy?”
“Yes, mother, I promise I’ll come home to you.”
“And you’ll always read your verses in the morning and the evening.” It wasn’t a question; it was a statement. James had smiled as she tucked his Bible into his knapsack.
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll never stop reading my Bible. It’s too precious to neglect.”
But even in this, he had failed his mother. Tonight, his Bible was safe, tucked away in his knapsack in camp… away from him. For the first time since the war began, he would miss his Bible reading.
Be still and know that I am God.
James nearly jumped as the words came into this mind as clearly as if they had been spoken. I know You are God, he thought. My circumstances don’t change my faith.
Well, I’m not doing too good a job at that, he admitted. My mind has been anything but still.
Be still and know I am God.
James took a deep breath and exhaled deeply through his nose. All right, God. With Your help, I’ll be still. I’ll try to stop borrowing trouble and rest in the knowledge that You are in control. Please, help me to rest in you.
I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
James blinked as the words repeated in his mind. Peace washed over him as the promise continued to comfort him. I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
Thank You, Lord. That’s exactly what I need, right now, he prayed. And thank You for a mother who taught me to value Your Words and put them to memory. Thank You.
What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
I certainly am afraid, Lord. Please, take my fears and turn it into trust in Your Almighty hand, Father.
James was growing drowsy. The wind continued to whip at his face, but he suddenly didn’t notice anymore. He felt strangely warm… and so tired…
What do you think will happen next? What is a scripture God has brought to mind in time of trouble? What is something important your parents have taught you?
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Christian. American. Southern. Author.
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