The Fall of York Ch. 25-39bynicecthulhu©
Thank you to searchingforperfection and catbrown for their hard work in editing and all of their suggestions. I appreciate all votes, feedback and comments, and I do read all the comments.
This story is a sequel to The Doctor's Daughter. Both are set during the War of 1812. Since the death of Major General Brock in the fall of 1812, neither side has scored a decisive victory. There have been minor accomplishments for both the Americans and the British, but the War Hawks in Washington are eager for more promising actions that will validate Jefferson's boasts that the conquest of Canada is "a mere matter of marching". In the spring of 1813 Major General Henry Dearborn is ordered to lead his forces in an attack on Kingston, Ontario. He considers those orders and then attacks the town of York (later known as Toronto), instead.
"She's a brave woman," Jacob whispered to Millie, "but she won't turn them away."
The maid turned a frightened face to Jacob.
"Can you help me up and then outside?" he asked, glancing at Captain Orr to be sure the man had not heard him.
Millie was clearly unsure what to do.
"Help me face the soldiers, Millie. I'll protect everyone in this house. I promise."
She reached down and helped the American to stand. Captain Orr glanced at the two of them and frowned.
"Sit back down," he ordered, quietly.
"No, sir. I'm going to protect your wife and Millie and I won't break my promise to you, sir."
Millie helped him stagger to the door and then opened it, allowing the American soldiers to see Jacob in the doorway. The group stepped away from Mrs. Orr.
"What are you doing here?" Jacob called out to his countrymen.
"It's a trick!" accused one of the Americans.
"No, it ain't! That's Jacob Wright! I thought the Indians got him," said another.
"I asked you what you're doing here!" Jacob repeated. The soldiers were silent. "Zeke! Answer my question."
"Sure thing, Jacob. We watched some of the other soldiers coming back from town with loot and Paul and Joseph said we could do the same. So we left the barracks and went looking for some place that would have lots of valuable treasure. Are these ladies friends of yours, Jacob?"
"That they are, Zeke. This woman's husband is a British Captain. He found me drowning in a river and saved my life. Then he brought me here so Mrs. Orr and her maid, Millie, could look after me while I recovered." Jacob grimaced from sudden pain.
"You shouldn't be standing! Get him back in the house Millie, before he gets worse," demanded Abigail.
"Let me say my piece, ma'am. Boys, if you intend any harm to either of these two ladies then you'll have to face me."
"One of us could push you over and two ladies won't offer much resistance. Is there anything valuable in there?" Paul asked, pointing to the open door.
Zeke reached out and grabbed Paul's arm again. "I'm not injured, Paul. If Jacob says they're not to be harmed then we're leaving."
Paul and Zeke stared at each other angrily. Then Paul looked around his group and realized that the others had lost heart in looking for loot.
"All right, Zeke, we're leaving." The soldiers shuffled away, leaving Zeke standing alone at the Orr's home.
"Sorry for the trouble, ma'am and miss. It was just high spirits," said Zeke.
"I really should go back inside and rest, Zeke. Can you let one of the officers know I'm alive, so they don't send a letter to my Ma?"
"Sure. I'll make sure we don't leave you behind when we go, Jacob."
"You're leaving?" asked Abigail.
"That's right, ma'am. The officers have been talking about returning across the lake. Jacob, Are you going to be all right in the meantime?" Zeke asked, looking at Millie carefully.
Jacob saw where his friend's eyes travelled. "I'm in good hands, Zeke. I'll see you later."
Zeke waved a goodbye and then turned and walked away.
Once the three re-entered the house Lawrence took Abigail by the hand and, after an embarrassed glance at Millie and Jacob, he drew her to the rear of their home. The American and maid saw no sign of fear upon Mrs. Orr's face.
"Will he whip her for disobedience?" asked Jacob in a whisper, as Millie eased him back into the chair.
"He's never done so before. It doesn't seem their way," she remarked. "Is that what husbands do in the United States of America?"
"Some do. I think most don't. No man in my family has ever raised his hand to his wife," he said proudly.
"So the women are in charge?" she asked, before she could stop herself.
Jacob took no offence and seemed to give the question serious consideration. "I'm not really sure, Millie. My Pa makes the decisions, but he always chooses what my Ma agrees with somehow. And nobody tells Gran what to do."
Millie strolled to the window slowly and brushed the curtain aside to look out. She could see a couple of neighbours in front of their houses chatting at the astounding sight they had just witnessed. An American soldier staying in the Orr's house! Gossip would fly, she knew.
"I suppose I should apologize for my countrymen, Millie."
She turned and faced him. "I do wonder about a country whose soldiers invade their neighbour's land and then loot the houses of innocent people. You don't seem like the type of man to do such a thing," she added, not wanting to offend him.
"We were told that we would be freeing you from the oppression of the British. We came here to free you," he repeated.
"To free women?"
"No, the people of Canada. The British think they can do anything. They stop our ships and steal our crews. We're going to bring you liberty!"
"Liberty? What does that mean? From what you've told me, your life at home is pretty much like anyone else's here in Upper Canada. Is it liberty that gives you the right to invade people's homes and steal their possessions merely because you have more guns?"
"That's different. After the massacre at Raisin River, it's only natural that some of my countrymen would seek to punish the enemy."
"So, I'm the enemy, am I?"
Jacob was flustered and struggled to find something friendly to say to Millie.
"Never mind, sir. I know you don't see me as the enemy and I was being petulant. What's this massacre you mentioned?"
"You don't know about it? I...I would have thought you'd heard..." he stopped himself from saying anything further, remembering that this girl was innocent to the atrocities of war. "Perhaps you'd best ask Captain Orr about it," he suggested.
"Maybe I shall," she replied haughtily. Millie was embarrassed that she was ignorant of something that Jacob thought of as common knowledge. She knew she was unsophisticated, but for some reason it bothered her that this American might think she was simple.
"I have chores to do, sir. Do you require any refreshment before I leave you?"
Jacob was a little taken aback by this sudden formality from her. "No...no thanks. I'll be fine, miss."
Millie walked to the hall and then stopped. Without turning she said, "Thank you for defending us from the soldiers, sir."
Abigail listened silently while her husband chastised her for confronting the American soldiers. She kept her face unemotional and her eyes downcast while she heard the words, but listened to the underlying context. Lawrence seemed to be running out of arguments as to why she should have remained inside and let him face the Americans. After several minutes, his voice lowered and finally he was silent.
"So, you were concerned for me?" she asked, knowing very well that he was.
"Of course! How could you ask such a question? Haven't you been listening to me Abigail?" Lawrence slammed his open hand down on the counter top.
She glanced at his hand and then looked up into his eyes. "Do you regret marrying me?"
He was aghast at the thought and bewildered by the turn in conversation.
"You must let me act as my nature dictates or I will whither, husband. I seek to safeguard you just as you wish to safeguard me. If you wished to have a wife who hid in her bedroom when danger appeared then you have not chosen wisely." Her voice was calm.
Lawrence let out a great sigh. "So, you feel that I have not had faith in you?"
"Yes. I was not about to throw my life away, Lawrence. If I could dissuade the Americans from entering then we were all saved. If they were determined to enter our home I would not have stood in their way. If we were both destined to die then we would both die."
"War is the province of men, not women." He quickly raised his hands to implore for silence. "But I have grown tired of it of late. The excitement of battle was my life before I met you, Abigail. Now, when I am away I eagerly await the next time I might see you. I was afraid that one of them might raise his rifle at you before I could shoot him down."
"I understand. I love you, too. Are you still angry with me?"
"No, I'm not angry any longer. Perhaps I was only angry at myself to begin with, for allowing you to be in such a dangerous situation."
Abigail gave a small smile. "I did go out to face them to make sure they would not kill you, Lawrence. If they had entered and started shooting at you then I would have fought them with any weapon I could find."
"I think your wit and tongue would have been sufficient, Abigail."
"You still sound angry. Would you feel better if you paddled my bottom, as if I were some naughty child?"
Lawrence grinned, grabbed her arms and pulled her close. They smiled at each other and then their faces inched closer and they kissed. At first it was a tender meeting of their lips, but it quickly became firm and passionate and their arms went around each other.
A couple of minutes later their mouths parted and Lawrence pulled off Abigail's cap and ran a hand through her blonde hair.
"We don't have time for that, husband," she chided, "as much as I wish it were otherwise."
He released her and she put the cap back on and then tucked the wayward strands beneath it. They smiled warmly at each other and then parted as they heard Millie's approach.
"It's good to see you act like your old self, husband."
He chuckled. "A bit of time alone with you works wonders, wife." He leaned forward and whispered into her ear, "We can discuss your paddling tonight, in our room."
Abigail giggled, knowing full well that with both Millie and Jacob in their home there was likely to be no intercourse of the kind that she and Lawrence most craved. She decided then and there that once the Americans left she would have to devise ways to get she and her husband alone. Fairly frequently, she added silently with a nod.
Now what is he doing here, wondered Abigail as she saw Reverend Strachan approach their home from the road.
"Millie, set another plate at the table. Oh, and ask Captain Orr to help you bring Jacob down to dinner." The maid immediately hurried off to the kitchen.
The clergyman stood in the yard briefly, examining the Orr's home with his keen eye. Abigail knew of him, but had rarely talked to him. She went to church every Sunday, as she was obliged to, but beyond that she had no contact with this slim and energetic gentleman.
She opened the door just as he raised his cane to knock, surprising him.
"Why Reverend, what a pleasant surprise," she said sweetly. "Won't you come in, please? We are just sitting down to dinner and you're welcome to join us."
She was rewarded with a hungry gleam in his eye. Abigail prided herself on not harbouring too many sins, but she was proud of her cooking and the reputation that followed her wherever she went.
"I would be most grateful, Mrs. Orr. I understand that you have a guest. I hope I won't be intruding?"
She took his coat and hung it on a peg by the door. "It's no imposition, reverend. We'll each just have a smaller portion. But that's not uncommon in these times, is it?"
Strachan followed her through the house and then was shown his chair. He politely waited for Abigail to sit, but she smiled and awaited the arrival of the others. Soon enough, they came down the stairs, Lawrence supporting Jacob's weight with Millie following watchfully behind.
Abigail snuck a look at the Minister's surprised face. He turned to her, hoping for an explanation, but she kept her tongue until Jacob was seated at the table.
"Husband. We have a guest tonight," and she nodded to Strachan.
"Welcome to our humble home, sir. I trust you have heard of my wife's cooking ability?"
"I...why, yes. Indeed, that was part of my reason for this visit." The visitor smiled in a way that was clearly meant to be charming, but which fell short of the mark.
Abigail nodded to Millie and the two women sat down. Lawrence motioned for the Reverend to take his seat and then made himself comfortable.
"Would you care to say grace, Reverend?" asked Lawrence. He knew his wife well enough to know that she was carefully concealing her glee at this unexpected visit. Having Reverend Strachan show up unannounced at their door for a meal would be a feather in Abigail's cap. The neighbourhood wives would be desperate to know the details of the dinner and Lawrence knew his wife would share those intimacies sparingly, driving their most curious neighbours to distraction.
By the time Lawrence finished thinking about his wife's sudden good fortune, the Reverend had finished saying the prayer. Everyone was looking at the master of the house and waiting.
"Well, we shan't stand on ceremony tonight. Our maid is eating with us Reverend, if you don't mind. I'll make introductions while we're filling our plates," explained Lawrence. He then proceeded to introduce everyone around the table.
After a few bites, Strachan sat back. "Madam, this is simply a wonderful supper," he said with a strong Scottish accent. "I hope that I will be invited back when times are better and you have all the ingredients that you could wish for."
"Thank you, Reverend." Abigail glowed from the compliment. "Millie provided much help in preparing this meal. You said that my cooking was only part of the reason for your visit?"
"Ach! I'd forgotten!" He set down his fork and steepled his fingers in front of his face. "I heard tales that you had an American soldier staying with you and that you had been accosted by several of his countrymen. I came by to check up on you, madam. I am overjoyed to see that you and your maid are not only safe, but that your husband is here to offer protection as well."
"And a little surprised, I assume," added Lawrence.
"Aye. Well, more than a little surprised. The Americans have been rounding up any militiamen they can find and stowing them away with their other prisoners. I've had a terrible time convincing the American commander to grant our men parole. I would expect that the capture of a British Captain would be at the top of the Yankees' list."
"I thought that the militia commanders would negotiate parole," commented Lawrence.
"Normally they would Captain, but they were imprisoned by our conquerors. It was very dishonourable. The militia Colonel had already surrendered his sword and then the American commander showed up, breathing fire and spitting venom, and he ignored the surrender. It was left to me to negotiate." The Reverend allowed himself a brief smile.
"Do you have any information that would be of use, Jacob?" asked Lawrence, casually.
"I will not betray my commanding officers or fellow soldiers, Captain Orr," came the immediate reply.
"An honourable answer, wouldn't you agree Reverend?" Abigail couldn't keep from grinning at her husband's display of subtle disagreement with their guest.
The Minister either ignored it or missed it. "If only our own forces showed such honour on a consistent basis."
"Sir!" demanded Lawrence.
"I apologize, Captain. Obviously, you have remained behind to protect your wife from the depredations of the invaders. Major General Sheaffe, however, fled to Kingston. He abandoned York in her time of need, leaving us in the hands of God."
"He kept the army from being captured by a superior force, Reverend. Such a setback would have likely cost us Upper Canada."
"Isaac Brock would not have fled, Captain."
Lawrence frowned in response.
"My husband served under Major General Brock, sir," explained Abigail. "He was there at Queenston Heights and was wounded not far from where Brock fell. He owes his promotion to the rank of captain to Major General Brock."
"I see." Strachan chewed his mouthful thoughtfully. "Sheaffe is not the man to lead us to victory over the Americans. I am composing a letter to rectify that situation, although I have nothing but respect and admiration for you, Captain. I take it that you are not permanently assigned to stay in York."
"That is correct, sir. I must leave for Kingston, as per the Major General's orders. He instructed me to get to there as best I could. I shall do my duty."
Reverend Strachan had a thoughtful look on his face as he looked from Lawrence to Abigail. "I'm sure you would rather be close to home if your duty allowed for it, wouldn't you Captain?"
Lawrence had no simple answer that he could give to that question. Dinner progressed and afterwards the men retired to the den, while the women cleaned up. It was late in the evening when the Reverend left, and Lawrence had the feeling that the clergyman had some plans formulated in his clever mind.
The women kept themselves busy the next day, performing chores inside and outside the home. Lawrence and Jacob were forced to keep indoors, and the idleness irritated both men. During the morning, the Captain taught his prisoner how to play chess. In the afternoon, they discussed soldiering in very general terms. Jacob was fascinated by the older man's stories of his exploits in Europe.
During meals, all four ate together. Millie shyly kept her eyes focussed on her food and would not speak except to offer single word answers. The Orrs discussed the fact that the summers were not so hot as Abigail remembered from her youth, and when she might plant a small vegetable and herb garden. Jacob was struck by how American this home seemed to be.
In the evening, Lawrence tried to talk Abigail into teaching Jacob and Millie whist. There was a bit of playful banter between the couple until Abigail confessed to the maid and the American that she loathed the game, as her husband knew very well.
The teasing ended suddenly when some shouts were heard outside, within a few hundred yards. Abigail and Lawrence went to a window and searched for the source of the disturbance while Millie stood behind Jacob.
"Looting!" snarled Lawrence.
"Hopefully no-one is hurt," added Abigail.
She reached over and grabbed her husband's arm. "You are staying in tonight, husband."
"But I might be able to help!"
"All you'll do is get captured or killed. Either way you may be taken you away from me forever. If people wish to risk their lives over their belongings, then let them."
Lawrence reluctantly left the window, followed by a wistful Abigail.
"Pardon me, ma'am, but weren't you going to risk your life to keep my countrymen from looting your home?" asked Jacob.
Abigail glanced at Lawrence and saw his smile. "You can wipe that smirk off your face, husband!" She turned to Jacob and Millie. "I was prepared to step aside and let the Americans take whatever they wished, if they appeared ready to harm me. Two of them had the looks of boys caught up in something they wished they could get out of without losing face. However, I was not prepared to step aside and let them harm my husband."
Jacob looked at his hosts and sensed that he and Millie were somehow intruding. "Millie, can you help me to my room, please?" he asked.
"Oh, I'll help you, Jacob," said Lawrence.
"Thanks, sir, but I'm feeling better and Millie can easily support me." He watched as Abigail placed her hand on Lawrence's arm.