WARNING: here be spoilers…
Well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you. Originally, the secret of Nathan’s spying for the Patriots was revealed earlier, right after Hamilton led him away after his arrest, and I included his meeting with Washington.
Hamilton led him to a large marquee tent, where General Washington and some of his aides were dressing for…parade, Nathan thought it was called. The commander-in-chief looked up when Hamilton lowered the tent-flap. His frown deepened. “Mr. Mendelson? Back again so soon?”
Hamilton came closer. “Unfortunately, on his way out of camp after making his report to your Excellency, Mr. Mendelson was recognized by an acquaintance from New York, who knew him as a former Loyalist and arrested him at once as a spy.”
Washington snorted. “Well, at least our men are alert and devoted to their duty.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Nathan said. “But if you’ll simply escort me beyond the lines, I can return to Yorktown and continue my mission without interruption.”
“After being paraded through the camp at reveille? That would not be wise,” Washington said. “The first deserter who goes over to them will point you out, and your career will be at an end.”
It wasn’t untrue. His ostensible reason for being at Yorktown was to attempt to increase the besieged British army’s stores by purchasing provisions in the countryside. There could be few innocent reasons for him to be seen in the American camp, even as a Loyalist. “It’s no different than the risk I’ve been running all along,” he argued. “If I’m identified, I’ll say I was spying for them.”
Hamilton shook his head. “And had withheld the information gathered until you were discovered? To what end? No, we shall have to stage any escape quite carefully, and be prepared to send you off with information you might plausibly think valuable, that can be betrayed to them at once without harming our situation.”
“That’s a waste of time,” Nathan said. “The siege—”
“The siege will continue for weeks yet,” Washington said. “I am afraid you must be confined for the present. I hope you will bear tedium as courageously as you have borne risk.”
“I never was very good at sitting in one place for long,” Nathan admitted. “My Hebrew teacher used to say I was on springs, like those toys with the goyishe first name…James-in-a-box?” He trailed off. No one in the room was smiling. “I’m sorry to cause difficulties, sir.”
Washington seemed to make a conscious effort to unbend. “Things happen, Mr. Mendelson. We hardly expect to recruit men into our intelligence service with no friends or connections. We shall do our best to keep this mishap from inconveniencing you more than necessary.”
“I did consider Mr. Jacobs a friend before the war,” he ventured. “If he might be permitted to visit me?”
The officers exchanged glances. “It shall be considered, and permitted if deemed safe and compatible with Mr. Jacobs’s other duties,” Hamilton said diplomatically. So that was probably a no. The colonel opened the tent flap. “Privates, accompany me in escorting the prisoner to the guardhouse.”
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