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Erin Ruby Mann

United Kingdom

My dear general

April 18, 2016

The Marquis de Lafayette was nineteen when he first arrived in America, cold and more than a little restless after spending just short of two months at sea.

Now, finally safe and above ground, the sun had already fallen in Philadelphia, bringing with it the threat of storms and the sudden onslaught of wind and rain.

That same chill air nipped viciously at the young Marquis' cheeks, turning them pink in colour and his lips blue as he rode on through the dark night.

All around him, flashes of green and brown came and went as he sped his horse faster, darting through the grounds of trees and woodland, leaves crunching beneath.

He had not been ready to bid farewell to his dear Adrienne and their two daughters but alas, there were things which needed to be done, those of which could not be accomplished without French aid.

Though Lafayette had technically left against his king’s orders.

Semantics, thought the Marquis dryly, lips curling up as a small scattering of lights appeared in the distance. He brought his horse to a stop, gently tugging on the reins and pausing as he curiously surveyed the faraway base, eyes alight.
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Meanwhile, only two miles away, George Washington received word of the Marquis’ arrival.

He stared at the lower general incredulously, “What?” He asked, the letter in his hand shaking in disbelief.

 “He promised to fight for free, and I have gathered from my brief conversation with him that his ideals are in fact, sincere.” General Howe explained, watching as Washington frowned thoughtfully, lips pursed and brows furrowed.

“Where is he then?” He asked after a moment of tense silence, glancing around the room warily.

“I don-“ The other man started but cut himself off at the sound of a nearby door banging shut.

Washington followed the noise, eyes focusing on where a young man had just entered the hall, too far away for him to notice any distinguishing features of his countenance but not far away enough for the general to not notice how young he was.

Said General watched carefully, if a bit baffled as the boy- he couldn’t be a man could he? – bowed elegantly to  a passing servant boy before speaking, gesturing with his hands.

The whole table had stopped to watch now- silent with a shared interest as the servant approached with the older boy in tow.

The latter stopped at the table and bowed low, hands held infront of himself.

“General Washington?” He asked, heavy accent soft. At Washington’s nod, he brightened, eyes sparkling with a newfound energy as he, perhaps to the surprise of the entire room, placed both of his delicate hands on General George Washington’s cheeks and kissed either one quickly before pulling back with a smile.

The Marquis was not as young as he had initially perceived but still didn’t look to be much older than eighteen. He was lithe and slender, with facial features too dainty and well, pretty to be seen as normal on a man. Despite that,there was a sort of wild intelligence to the Marquis' eyes which made the general uncharacteristically pitying to those who underestimated the young Frenchman.

“The Marquis de Lafayette.” Washington said instead, pulling out the empty chair besides him which the Marquis sat down in gracefully, movements exuding the kind of grace which came naturally to those who could hone it as directed.

“Just Lafayette is fine, or Marquis." He said and his eyes flickered around the room cautiously before landing on Washington once more.

It was no surprise that the whole table of higher ranking generals warmed up to Lafayette immediately, asking questions and enraptured by his mere presence. Though young, the Marquis proved to be extremely well read which had presumably been influenced by his noble upbringing.

As time passed, and with it stories and jokes and glasses of wine shared by the men- excluding Lafayette who had stuck to water- General Washington found himself curious of the young man, having listened to him for the previous hours of the night, he found himself wondering idly of what the Marquis would do next.

“Oui, monsieur Washington?” Lafayette asked, eyebrows raised as the older man of 25 summers placed a hand on his forearm.

“Perhaps you’d like a walk around the city defence’s tonight? I’d like to get to know you better if you please.” Washington answered and Lafayette smiled.

“Oui, I’d be honoured, monsieur. I’ve heard a lot about you back in France and would like to know you better myself.” Lafayette agreed easily, being young and easily flattered, he could not deny his awe of the General and to be given such attention out of hours by a man he respected so, only a fool would not accept.

They exchanged brief smiles before bidding their goodbyes to the other men, and, with their cloaks held tight, Washington led the younger male down the streets

As Washington pointed out the various stations of his men, Lafayette listened intently, rapt with unwavering attention. And with that, they spoke to one another as if they had known each other their whole lives, sharing the kind of bond which came as harmonious as any ever would.

They were strong and completely unbreakable, relentless in the other's strengths and supportive in others. Lafayette was the centre of the continental army, warm and welcome amongst the common drab of the early months of his service, albeit youthful in his ways, his positivity was an asset no one could quite attest to. It was Washington, however, who would in time seal that inviolable bond which correlated between a parent and their child. Where Lafayette was young and somewhat inexperienced, the General was wise in his 45 years, guiding and correcting the Marquis' unaccustomed ways.

"Treat him as if he is my son, for I love him the same." Washington would say only months after their first acquaintance.

And what a son he would be.

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