The Fall of York Ch. 49-57bynicecthulhu©
Thank you to searchingforperfection and catbrown for their hard work in editing and all of their suggestions. I appreciate all votes 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.
The watching crowd was aghast. Many of them stared at John with open hostility. Some stared at Abigail and Millie as the former held the younger woman in a tight grip, keeping her from running to Jacob. Others stared sadly at the dead or dying duellist, as he lay on the muddy roadway.
No-one noticed the odd look on Reverend Strachan's face as he watched Millie struggle to free herself from Mrs. Orr.
"That was murder!" Everyone except the two struggling women turned their heads to see Mr. Croyden point an accusing finger at John.
"Nonsense!" responded the young man, waving his pistol for everyone to see. "It misfired! It was just an accident...or God's will!" he added with a smile. "I've been proven innocent!"
Strachan turned back to the struggling women and watched as Millie, tears on her cheeks, suddenly swung around and faced Mrs. Orr with a look of bewilderment.
"What?" she asked the older woman, in a voice that only Strachan was close enough to hear.
"He's not dead. The shot hit him in the wrong place. Give him a few more seconds, Millie," whispered Abigail.
The Reverend's eyes grew big and he stared intently at Jacob's body. The young man's left hand clenched. Strachan quickly concealed the smile that came to his face.
"John!" he shouted, drawing everyone's attention. "John, do you accept that the outcome of this duel is God's will?"
"Of course I do! Look, my opponent lies there dead by the hand of God and I am fit and unpunished." He held up his arms in victory. "Everything I said about Millie was the truth and those who said I lied were themselves uttering falsehoods!"
Some in the crowd were nodding their heads in agreement. Strachan marked each one of them as fools.
"Then, behold!" Strachan shouted in triumph. "For it appears that God's work is not yet done!" The Reverend turned to stare at Jacob, who was slowly pushing himself to a sitting position.
People in the crowd shouted their amazement to see this miracle before them. Mr. Croyden slowly walked over to Jacob and offered his hand to help him up. The crowd could see a blood stain on the American's shirt, high on his chest and near his left shoulder.
Jacob looked about, uncomfortable with the intensity of the attention upon him. Mr. Croyden stared at the young man, astonished to see such a quick recovery in someone he thought to be dead. Strachan came over to the pair.
"Are you fit to continue, young man?" he asked.
Jacob looked about the assembly. Many in the crowd were eager for him to finish the duel, and they nodded their heads. He looked to his opponent and saw John was white as a ghost. He sought out Millie and saw her standing with her mistress, who kept a tight grip on her arm. Millie was crying and smiling, something Jacob had never seen before. Meeting his eyes, she shook her head vigorously.
Jacob looked down at the pistol in his right hand. It appeared to still hold its charge and ball. His shoulder pained him greatly, but the physical pain was meaningless compared to the damage to Millie's reputation that John had done. He knew it could mean Millie's ire, but he had to go through with the duel or John would think himself the victor and continue his slander.
"I am," he said in a clear voice.
"This cannot be!" shouted John. "What witchcraft is this? How can he still live? I aimed for his heart!" Then he realized what he had admitted and clamped his mouth shut. He felt the angry glares that were cast upon him.
"Mr. Croyden, please reload his pistol," stated Jacob.
"No. I am arbiter and I have decided that John fired his shot. Now it is your turn, son." He patted Jacob's right shoulder. Then he looked to the crowd. "Do any object?"
"I do!" cried out Millie. "I don't want someone to die over this! And Jacob needs doctoring! Mrs. Orr?" she asked, turning to her mistress with desperate eyes.
Strachan raised his arms for silence as muttering began amongst the crowd. Once all whispering had ended, he lowered his arms and then adjusted his minister's robes.
"My child," he began in as kind a voice as he could muster, "this is a matter between men. And while the loss of any life is regrettable, two men have agreed to meet with pistols and none may deny them."
Millie tried to argue, but Abigail quickly hushed her.
"So everyone's going to let him murder me?" cried out John. All eyes were back on him.
John threw down his unloaded pistol in disgust. "I'm sorry that the pistol misfired, American. I'm unarmed now so you cannot shoot me, can you?"
Jacob raised his pistol to his shoulder. "Admit your crimes against Millie and I will not fire my pistol, John."
John licked his lips and wondered if it were possible that he would get out of this relatively unscathed
Then a voice from the crowd called out, "And what of Pierre?"
John's heart left him. His eyes grew big and sweat beaded upon his face. He knew that admitting to his slander against Millie would not free him from potential punishment from the other accusation.
"The American offered to let me reload my pistol. He knew that it was a simple misfire." John looked about for any supporters and found none.
"I have decided..." began Mr. Croyden, angrily.
"Let him reload the pistol," called out Jacob, massaging his left shoulder. The crowd stared at him in wonder. "Do it!" commanded Jacob. A smirk came to his face at the thought that he, a simple American soldier, was commanding all of these Canadians.
Croyden grudgingly went over to John with the box for the pistols.
"I'll do it myself," snarled John. "I don't trust someone who's clearly against me."
After a few minutes, John stood alone with the pistol on his shoulder and Mr. Croyden was asking each man if he were ready. Both agreed that they were.
"Very well. Aim!" Both men pointed their pistol at their opponent. Jacob wondered if he had been foolish in giving John another chance to murder him.
"F-" began Mr. Croyden.
There was a loud crack from John's pistol and a puff of black smoke shot out. Jacob pulled the trigger on his own pistol, hoping that if he were hit by John's second attempt at killing him then he might somehow slay the villain with a lucky shot.
White smoke concealed Jacob's hand and hid John from his view. He took a deep breath and realized he had not felt the impact of any ball.
The smoke cleared and he saw John, opposite him, with his hand on his throat. The large man fell to his knees and the pistol fell from his limp fingers and splashed into the mud. John pointed an accusing finger at him and then fell face first onto the roadway. Blood quickly filled a shallow depression in the mud by his head.
"...and that's when I rode up?" Lawrence rubbed his chin in thought. "It's an astounding sequence of events." He walked over to where Abigail was seated and put a hand on her shoulder. She tipped her head and rubbed it against his arm.
"If I may intrude," suggested Reverend Strachan, "I would like to know, Mrs. Orr, why you were so positive that Jacob had not been killed." He leaned forward eagerly, as did Mr. Croyden and Millie.
Abigail sat up straight in her chair and glanced at Jacob. "Well...I did spend years assisting my father whenever a patient came home and I am an avaricious reader. I've been through all of his medical books at least three times. I saw where the ball went in and realized that, barring a strange deflection against a bone, the ball was going to miss all the vital organs and arteries."
Millie clapped her hands gleefully and Abigail frowned at her.
"She nursed me back to health after I was sorely wounded at Queenston Heights, Reverend," added Lawrence.
"You were with Isaac Brock?"
"I saw him die, shot by an American skulking in the trees," stated Lawrence, and then he gave Jacob an apologetic look.
"I see," replied Strachan. "I also see that, however unlikely, your wife was able to make an accurate diagnosis of Jacob's condition."
Lawrence and Abigail shared a look and then she reached up to her shoulder and closed her hand over his.
"Ahem." Everyone turned to Mr. Croyden, who had been silent and thoughtful for the entire visit. "I think it quite reasonable that Mrs. Orr could learn medicine and make an instantaneous diagnosis on this brave young man."
"A woman doctor?" scoffed the Minister and everyone except for Mr. Croyden chuckled at the idea. "You might as well tell me that one day men will go to the Moon!"
At that, Mr. Croyden rose from his chair, chuckling. "Reverend, you are a learned man. However, I am quite a bit older than you and I would like to point out that things change, often in surprising ways. If you had told me forty years ago that a few upstart colonials would rise up against the British Empire and forge a new nation, then I probably would have laughed at you. If you had told me that two generations later that same new nation would engage in an aggressive war against the mightiest Empire ever seen, then too, I would have laughed at you."
Mr. Croyden took his leave and then Reverend Strachan rose to his feet. "It has been a very eventful day, Captain Orr. Might I suggest that young Jacob be moved to another residence as soon as possible?"
Lawrence looked at his guest in confusion until his eyes followed the Minister's nod, bringing both Millie and Jacob into his gaze. The American soldier and Upper Canadian maid could not take their eyes off of each other.
"Ah, your point is well taken and I shall work on that immediately after dinner. Thank you for your help in everything, sir."
Strachan hesitated at the door. "Captain, I must be blunt. Do you intend to be a life-long military man?"
"When you do leave the King's service, please come to me and I will find something to keep you busy." The Reverend waved his hat at everyone and left.
Lawrence watched him walk to the road. The scene looked so different now than when he had rode up in such haste. The crowd was gone and John's corpse had been taken away by his family. A cool spring rain was falling and John's blood had already been washed away.
"I've bandaged him, but I wasn't able to remove the ball. He's young and healthy, although his back still troubles him a little and will continue to do so for a few months. He likes to keep busy and will do any task that you set him," finished Abigail.
Mr. Croyden grabbed Jacob's hand and shook it. "We're happy to have you staying with us, son. And the same rules that applied here apply at our home. If you decide to leave, just say goodbye. You are no prisoner, Jacob."
"Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Croyden, but do I really have to go?" he asked his former captor.
Lawrence hesitated and glanced at Millie. She looked sad, but had not shed a tear over the fact that the American was leaving their home. "Yes, you really have to go. You know that our houses are separated by less than one hundred yards. You're welcome to come and visit whenever you wish." Millie and Jacob both perked up at that statement.
Jacob held out his hand and Lawrence took it. "I do wish to thank both you and your wife. You've been very courteous and I'd like to say I really wish our two nations were not at war with each other." He turned to Millie. "I hope to see you soon, miss."
The dark-haired maid blushed and kept silent, unsure of what to say to a man who had fought for her but had not proclaimed his desire to woo her. She wondered whether he did actually have feelings for her or was he just an honourable man defending a woman's reputation?
The Croydens escorted him out of the Orr home and Abigail put Millie hard to work right away.
"Don't you think she needs some time alone to think things through?" Lawrence asked his wife once the maid left the room.
"She knows what is on her mind, husband. She looks at Jacob like there's nothing in her thoughts but him. Hard work and plenty of it will keep her mind from dwelling on him too much. Give me a day or two and then I'll ease up on her. Why, I even think there might be a social gathering at the church this Saturday," she added innocently, although Lawrence recognized the truth immediately.
"And you might happen to take Millie?"
"I might. And, coincidentally, Mrs. Croyden mentioned she might just bring along Jacob to help out at the church that day..."
"You only have three days to plan before Saturday, my dear," said Lawrence, putting his arms around Abigail. "So, you and Mrs. Croyden are going to cooperate to ensure the courtship proceeds smoothly?"
His wife just chuckled.
"I'll have to leave before that."
Abigail's chuckle was silenced.
Lawrence found himself smiling several times over the next couple of days, as he watched his wife give Millie many make-work chores. Millie caught on quickly, but did not complain or even frown about being told to repeat chores. On the third day, Lawrence handed over some money to his wife and she went off to purchase a new bonnet. Millie was very surprised when Abigail gave her the frilly and feminine hair covering. She was even more surprised when Abigail announced that Millie was invited to the church social, not to help set up and serve, but as her guest.
Lawrence left after lunch, after much fretting and shows of affection from Abigail. Once again, his heart felt heavy as he mounted his horse and rode off to war. The excitement of battle no longer compared to the charms of his beloved wife.
Saturday came at last and the two women prepared themselves to depart and then, much to Millie's surprise, simply sat and waited. Millie was loathe to question her mistress about this mystery and she spent her idle time patiently wondering whether any of the other women would deign to talk to her. Servants were never invited to these social events.
After an interminable duration there was a knock on their door and Abigail and Millie jumped to their feet. Abigail smirked at Millie and then winked. Wondering what was going on, Millie opened the door and was shocked to see Jacob standing before her in his freshly repaired uniform. He looked ill at ease until he realized Millie was standing before him.
"Uhm..." was all he could say.
"Jacob! What in the world are you doing here?" asked the maid in astonishment.
"Millie, is that how we greet a guest?" chided Abigail. She nodded at Mr and Mrs. Croyden, who she could see standing behind Jacob.
"Sorry, ma'am. Yes, sir? What can I do for you?" Millie began again.
"I was asked to inquire if anyone at the Orr home..." his eyes took in Millie's new bonnet and how it didn't quite contain all of her long dark hair. He took a deep breath. "Mr. and Mrs. Croyden asked me to inquire if anyone in the Orr home was planning on going to the church social."
"Why yes, young sir," said Abigail from behind Millie. "Young Miss Gray and I were just about to leave for the church. May we walk with you?"
"Yes, of course, Mrs. Orr," called out Mrs. Croyden as her husband shook his head and rolled his eyes, "we shall be glad for the company."
Abigail introduced Millie to the Croydens as if they had never met before and then Mr. Croyden introduced Jacob to Abigail and Millie. Jacob bowed to each of the women with a serious look on his face. Millie was perplexed by the whole affair.
"Why don't you young folks walk together ahead of us, while the Croydens and I chat?" offered Abigail.
Jacob offered his arm to Millie and the two walked slowly to the church. Mrs. Croyden walked between her husband and Abigail.
"They're not simpletons. You two know that they're both clever enough to deduce the cause of what is happening?" asked Mr. Croyden.
"Hush," replied his wife. "They're not quite far enough ahead yet that voices wouldn't carry from one group to another," she whispered.
"Besides, they are young and naive and it's a fine spring day," whispered Abigail. "How has Jacob been?"
"Fine. Fine. He's a great help with the heavier chores and my old arms have appreciated the rest. He's never idle. You said he's from a farming family?" asked Mr. Croyden.
"Well, he's not as lazy as many of the men his age that I've encountered. I swear I don't know what will become of this world. Many of the young people today just don't want to put in a decent day's work and want everything handed to them on a silver plate." Mr. Croyden removed his hat and ran his fingers through his sparse white hair.
"John the smith's son seemed to be an example of that," noted Mrs. Croyden. "He rarely seemed to be working at his father's smithy."
As they walked, they talked of Captain Orr, how the war was progressing and the animated and energetic Reverend Strachan. They greeted neighbours and briefly said hello, but they always kept an eye on Millie and Jacob to ensure they did not wander too far from their chaperones.
The church social did not progress as Abigail and Mrs. Croyden had hoped. They both were discouraged to note that Millie and Jacob separated shortly after stepping on to the church lawn. The Reverend took Jacob away to help with various tasks, while a gaggle of young women surrounded Millie and pestered her with dozens of questions.
Abigail felt the need to intervene and get the two young people together again, but Mrs. Croyden cautioned her against any direct action. She suggested allowing Millie to bask in her sudden popularity. There would be other opportunities to bring the two together.
By the time the afternoon function had ended, both Millie and Jacob had been depleted of their youthful energy. Abigail bid farewell to the Croydens and left for home with Millie beside her. The younger woman talked excitedly about the social event and the new friends she had made. While nodding and smiling, Abigail wondered if the attachment between Millie and Jacob was less strong than she had thought, because the American was not mentioned once.
Over the next few weeks, Abigail grew more and more concerned over Millie's seeming indifference to Jacob. She did not ask to visit the Croydens, nor did she mention taking a day off for her own purposes. Not once did Jacob call on their home.
One morning, Abigail entered the parlour and spied Millie staring out the east-facing window with a wistful look on her face.
"Millie?" The maid was startled and dropped the cloth that she was supposed to be cleaning with. Abigail recalled that the Croydens' house was visible through that particular window.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. I was just daydreaming and I won't let it happen again." Millie began to busy herself with cleaning tables and shelves.
Abigail frowned and then sat on the couch. "Millie, stop what you're doing and come here. We need to have a talk."
The maid set down the cloth, walked over to her mistress and then sat on the same couch. "Yes, ma'am."
Abigail pondered what right she had to intrude into this girl's private affairs. She and Lawrence had taken her into their home as their maid, but were readying her for a better life than otherwise would have been possible for her. She was more than a servant, but less than a ward. While Millie stared at her with uncertainty, Abigail resolved to meddle and see if she could somehow put right what had gone wrong between her maid and the American.