The Fall of York Ch. 49-57bynicecthulhu©
"Millie. You haven't asked to visit the Croydens."
"Well, why not?"
"They would never invite me." Millie looked confused.
"Yes, but you might pay your respects so that you could see someone else there."
"You mean Jacob."
"Yes, girl." Abigail fumed and wondered why Millie was being so obtuse.
"I have no reason to contact Jacob."
Abigail closed her eyes and counted to ten.
"Have I done something wrong, ma'am?"
"No. Well, yes...perhaps. Are you not fond of Jacob?"
Millie blushed and looked away. "Yes. I am forced to admit that I am very fond of him."
"Then why do you not wish to see him?"
Millie turned back to Abigail. "Oh, because we are not matched."
"Well, ma'am, I am just a maid with no family and Jacob comes from a large family and will own property one day. I could never hope to..."
"Wherever did you get that silly idea?" asked Abigail.
Millie's eyes opened wide. "Why...at the church social, ma'am. Some of the girls I was talking with explained it all to me. He'll marry a farmer or craftsman's daughter. I'll likely marry another servant."
Abigail put a hand over her eyes. "These girls that were telling you this, were they the daughters of farmers and craftsmen?"
"And did they make comments about how handsome Jacob is or how brave Jacob had been in duelling with John?"
"Why yes..." Millie's brow furrowed as she followed her employer's reasoning.
Abigail took Millie's hand in her own and stared into the young woman's eyes. "You have never really had a friend before, have you?" Millie shook her head. "They were removing you as a rival, my dear. They each want this dashing, exotic and heroic Yankee soldier for themselves. They know the war won't go on forever..."
"They lied to me?"
"Well, not exactly lied to you. Normally, a farmer would be looking for a wife among those with a similar background so she could help with the farm work. But, surely you've seen that Jacob has a special attachment to you?"
Millie nodded. "I had begun to think I was mistaken."
Abigail brushed a wayward strand of hair back under Millie's cap. "You really have had a rough life, haven't you? Even when things seem to be going well, you expect that something bad will happen. I know you're a woman, but sometimes you almost seem like a child, Millie."
The two sat silently for a minute or two.
"So, what should I do, ma'am?"
"Speak plainly to me, for one thing. Also, be yourself. Jacob developed an affection for you. Mrs. Croyden and I will arrange events to allow the two of you conversation time."
Lawrence was standing in the hot July sun, taking a brief break from paperwork and watching several soldiers slowly put up a tent.
"Orr! Get in here!" bellowed the Major General, from inside the building.
Lawrence wiped his brow and went back inside. The stone building was like a sweat lodge; Major General De Rottenburg had ordered all the windows closed upon his arrival on a hot yet rainy day and had never rescinded the command. Captain Orr stood at attention just outside his commander's office and waited to be noticed.
The Major General did not look up from his desk. "I've told you before that as my aide you may come and go from my office as you please and that you are not required to salute me, Captain."
"Sorry, sir. I'm still not used to this new position." Lawrence relaxed and stepped into the room.
"Help yourself to a drink of brandy and have a seat," De Rottenburg not-quite commanded him.
After a few seconds, Lawrence sat in front of the desk and set his drink on the floor beside his chair.
"I want you to go over those reports," said the Major General, pointing at a pile of papers. "I'll need you to estimate enemy forces and positions before we head to York. Trouble is brewing and I don't think the Americans are going to keep the peace for much longer."
Lawrence grabbed the papers from the desk and waited. His commander was in his forties, at least ten years older than he was, and he had subtle ways that Brock and Sheaffe had lacked.
The commander of all of Upper Canada's forces set down his quill and sat back. He rubbed his eyes. "I swear, Lawrence, that this paperwork seems to get worse every year. There once was a time when a Major General jumped on a horse and simply led his men to battle, but it seems like I have a thousand forms to fill out for every enemy soldier spotted by our scouts!"
Lawrence remained silent.
De Rottenburg stared at his subordinate, took a drink from his own glass and then stared at Lawrence for a few more seconds. "So Brock promoted you and Sheaffe didn't know what to do with you."
"My aide arrives tomorrow from Montreal, Captain."
"I see, sir."
"So I'm not sure what to do with you. I could promote you to Major and put you in the field, I suppose. We have a surplus of Captains right now. Or I could send you to Montreal."
Lawrence's face betrayed his emotions.
"Yes, I thought you'd be unhappy with that option. You have a new wife, and a young and pretty one at that, from what I've heard."
"Sir," Lawrence put a little warning into the word.
"I meant no offence, Captain. I see no harm in a soldier having an interest in women. From what I've read and heard, Brock himself had quite an interest in women. And he was quite a soldier." The Major General opened a drawer and pulled out a letter. "I don't suppose you know who sent this to Prevost, do you?"
"Sir? Perhaps if I read it I might be able to tell you..."
"No, no. I don't mean that. I mean did you know that a Reverend John Strachan has been sending letters to Sir George Prevost. I don't like it when some meddling minister from a barbaric colony sends communiquŽs to the Governor of the Canadas suggesting certain actions be taken. This Strachan was instrumental in having my predecessor removed from this post."
"I wasn't aware of that, sir."
De Rottenburg raised a suspicious eyebrow at Lawrence's comment. "Well, Strachan has suggested that you were of great use after the Americans left York. 'Single-handedly organized the rebuilding of the fort' and 'bolstered the morale of the community and reminded all loyal subjects of the King's continuing interest' and it goes on. He also stirred Prevost's romantic side with his description of your 'young wife, waiting at home for her husband to return from his duties'."
Lawrence was beginning to feel even warmer. "Sir? I did what I had to, sir. I, uhm, I kept busy, but there were many citizens in York eager to put spades in the earth once the Yankees sailed away."
"Well it seems as if the people of York need your help. Strachan has strongly suggested that there's a position for you, whether as a magistrate or a member of the legislature I don't know. But very interesting and powerful people have co-signed his letter and Prevost believes that you might better serve the King by leaving military service."
"Retirement, sir? But I'm a young man..."
"You're to be brevetted to Major upon retirement. Prevost is sending along a colourful explanation of what he expects from you once you begin your civilian life. Apparently, Brock had some problems with some of the leading citizens of York and you're going there to make sure that type of thing doesn't happen again."
"I...on one hand, sir, I'm shocked and hurt that my career is finished so early. On the other hand, I will admit that I would like to see my wife more than I currently do. And York was beginning to feel like home."
"Very good, Captain-I'm sorry, Major. I trust that I'll have your support if I try to pass some vital piece of legislation?"
"Of course, sir."
"You do know that you've managed to attract the notice of powerful people, including Governor Prevost? I suspect you will be a man of some stature in Upper Canada, once the Americans give up on this damned and foolish war."
Lawrence took a deep breath. "I will always honour my rank and the trust that others have put in me, sir."
The Major General stood and offered his hand. Lawrence hesitated a couple of seconds and then rose and shook hands.
Lawrence rode calmly into York several days later. A few faces turned his way and then looked behind him for further signs of the rest of the British army, but the streets were fairly deserted due to the hot afternoon sun. He hadn't realized that Upper Canada could become so hot. The air seemed to sit heavy everywhere and his body was bathed in sweat.
He briefly stopped at a trough and allowed the horse to drink its fill. Then he urged it further down the road, to his home.
Millie saw him first, her mouth dropping open in complete surprise. She sprang from her gardening and ran into the house. He marvelled that she had so much vitality in the heat and humidity.
A few seconds later, Abigail emerged from the house with her blonde hair hanging down her face and neck.
"Is everything all right?" she asked him.
"Everything is fine, my love. I've been retired and brevetted to Major. It seems Sir George Prevost and some others have different plans for my future. I'll tell you all about it once I'm inside and wearing cooler clothes. Are you well?" He dismounted and handed the reigns to a bewildered Millie, who had chastely kept her cap on while doing garden work.
Abigail gave him an odd smile. "Perfect, husband, and overjoyed to see you honourably home and safe. I..." She took a step toward him and then glanced across the road.
Lawrence followed her eyes and saw some people on a wagon. He looked back at Abigail and saw her nervously fingering her uncovered hair.
"Get inside, wife, before someone mistakes you for a woman who misses her husband!"
She gave him a happy smile and walked back into their home.
"Millie, give my steed some grass, water and a couple of apples or carrots. There'll be some soldiers along in the next day or so to collect him." Millie curtsied, and then urged the horse around to the shade beneath a tree, on the west side of the house.
Lawrence watched her go and then went into the house, unbuttoning his shirt as he went. Abigail was nowhere to be seen. He went up the stairs and as he did so, he heard his wife in their room opening drawers and moving about.
Entering their bedroom, he spied Abigail sitting on their bed, waiting for him. He gave her a smile and then slowly began to peel off his clothing. She had thoughtfully laid out clean, dry clothes for him.
As he undressed, he told her of the conversation between himself and the new Major General. She showed no emotion throughout his tale.
"Well, Abigail? What do you think of this turn of events?"
"I think I'd like to hear your impressions of it first," she said, strangely overcautious.
"I'd say it's a change for the better. I'll be home with you more often. I'll still be serving the King, but in a way that is less likely to worry you. I had begun to lose my taste for battle recently."
Abigail leapt to her feet. "Then we are in complete agreement, husband. And we now have an inkling as to the good Reverend's intentions for you. I doubt you'd be given a seat in the legislature, and without any experience as a barrister I don't see how a position as magistrate would be possible. Perhaps someone intends you to become an officer in the militia?"
He stood still, sweat pouring off of his bare neck and shoulders. "Perhaps you are correct, my love. We'll see what is to come without the help of any amateur prophets."
Abigail brushed a moist strand of blonde hair from her cheek. "Lawrence, stay bare a little longer. I'll be right back with some cool water."
She left the room and he heard her descend the stairs and then call for Millie. There was a brief exchange and then silence. He continued to disrobe until he stood naked in their bedroom. There was a slight breeze from the open window, but it only cooled him a little. Lawrence wondered how the Indians kept cool in this weather, aside from running around practically naked. Then he recollected the day Abigail's younger sister took him to the swimming hole and he chuckled.
He heard his wife ascending the stairs. A few seconds later, she entered their bedroom carrying a bucket full of water. He arched an eyebrow at her and was about to say something to her, but then she glanced at the wood floor, shook her head and left the room. She returned a few moments later with some bedding and a couple of towels.
Abigail set the bedding on the floor and then instructed her husband to stand in the middle of it. Lawrence did so and watched as his wife drew a sponge from the water, squeezed much of the water out and then came toward him.
"A chill can make you ill, but so can too much heat." She applied the sponge across his upper chest and shoulders, squeezing it against his flesh and the cool water ran down him in rivulets.
Lawrence sighed in relief. Abigail, her face serious, then wet the sponge again and applied it to his back.
"That feels wonderful, Abigail. You sent Millie to the Wilson's well?"
Abigail began to work on his arms. "It is closest and they offered to let us use it whenever we desired."
She plunged the sponge into the bucket and then lifted it and squeezed the excess water from it again. A small amount of water fountained on to her throat and chest. "That does feel refreshing, doesn't it?"
"Yes. I'll wash you down once you're finished with me," Lawrence said.
She glanced at his face and then rubbed the sponge across his abdomen. "We'll not have the time," she stated as she rinsed the sponge.
"Millie will likely be tending that horse for hours. You know what they say about young women and horses." She pressed the sponge into his groin. Her hands lingered there.
"What exactly do they say, husband?"
Lawrence's face reddened. He recalled that what he was talking about was a cavalry saying and not meant for the ears of the fairer sex. "Uhm, never mind. The water is very cool."
"But not too cool." She dropped the sponge and ran the tip of her finger along his hardening member.
"Remove your clothing, Abigail."
She put a hand to her mouth, as if in shock. "Sir! I am nearly a lady!"
"You are the finest lady I have ever known, but I know your mind travels the same roads as does mine. Now take off your clothing so I can cool your flesh down."
"Before you heat me back up?" She gave him a little smile, but undid her blouse.
Lawrence picked up the sponge from the floor and went over to the bucket. He doused it thoroughly, then squeezed the excess water out. Crouched over the bucket full of cool well water, he hesitated. Then he plunged the sponge back into the bucket. He glanced over at his wife and watched as she kicked her dress away and began to remove her shoes. She had her back to him and the curve of her bottom and the smoothness of her skin made him lick his lips in anticipation.
At last she turned around to face him. He lifted the sopping sponge from the bucket and stood in a menacing pose.
Abigail put her hands out. "Now husband! That's not the gentle rinsing I gave you."
He merely lunged forward and grabbed her arm. She closed her mouth and watched his eyes. Lawrence placed the sponge on her chest, just below her throat, and squeezed it against her skin.
Abigail shivered from the coolness and quantity of the water. Lawrence chuckled as water ran down over her breasts, her stomach and along her legs. He tossed the sponge into the bucket and then pulled his wife to him.
"Was it a little too cold, Abigail?"
"So I must warm you up, now?"
"You must do your duty, husband." She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and leaned against him.
"The best duty I've ever had..." she rose to her tiptoes and kissed him on the lips. His own arms went around her lower back and he lifted and pulled her tightly against him. They both began to hum contentedly, as the kiss continued.
"Sir! Ma'am!" called Millie from the bottom of the stairs.
Their shoulders drooped, their lips drew apart and they tilted their heads down so that they were forehead to forehead.
"Sir? Ma'am?" Millie's voice sounded as if it now came from the stairway.
"Damn!" swore Abigail. She pushed Lawrence away and ran across the bedroom to slam shut the door.
"Uhm, I'm sorry to intrude ma'am, but you have a guest. Reverend Strachan came to the house and I let him in to the parlour."
Abigail turned to her husband and mouthed the words 'she saw me'. Lawrence shrugged in response.
Abigail opened the door slightly. "Millie, provide the good Reverend with some refreshment. Mr. Orr and I will be down shortly. We are just a little indisposed."
There was a full second of hesitation. "Yes, ma'am."
The two listened as Millie descended a few stairs.
Lawrence walked over to his wife and put his arms around her. She leaned back against him. "Don't worry. Millie keeps her mouth shut when it matters. If anything, you've just let her virgin mind know that husbands and wives do engage in copulation for fun."
Abigail chuckled. "We'd been so careful since she came into our house..."
"We'd better dress quickly. That clergyman is very astute and neither of us desires to hear a sermon this Sunday on the sins of fornication while he stares us down."
It was a matter of a few minutes before Abigail and Lawrence were able to greet their unexpected guest. They found him having a quiet but serious conversation with Millie. The two finished their discussion and rose and turned to Mr. and Mrs. Orr.
"Good afternoon to both of you. Your maid and I were talking about good and evil." Strachan forced a smile.
"Ah," said Lawrence, not understanding. "And to what do we owe the pleasure of your company, Reverend? It's too early for dinner."
The minister flashed a genuine smile and then buried it away. "Word of your return has spread through York, sir. You are something of a celebrity."
The husband and wife looked at each other in surprise.
The Reverend continued, "The real reason for my visit is to give you forewarning to prepare for a dinner and ball being held by the Powell family. You are going to be invited, but it is only four days from now and I thought you'd appreciate some advance warning."
"Chief Justice Powell's family?" asked Abigail, not quite sure she had heard correctly.
"That's correct, Mrs. Orr. A very well-placed family, I might point out."
"We are going to be invited?" asked Lawrence, incredulously.
"Yes. The invitation hasn't been made, as yet. But you will be invited, count on it. I'll see you there." Strachan rose and Millie hurriedly recovered his hat and handed it to him. "And you, my child, remember what I have told you. A man can be your enemy and not be evil. And an evil man cannot truly love anyone but himself."
Millie nodded her head and then gave the Orrs an embarrassed look.
Strachan swept out of their home before they could ask any further questions, leaving both Abigail and Lawrence too surprised to even think of questioning their maid.
Millie stopped doing her chores and stood and waited, after Mr. and Mrs. Orr entered the kitchen. Mr. Orr glanced at his wife and Millie saw her give a small nod in response. He turned back to the maid.
"So, Millie. The horse I rode home on needs some exercise and proper care. I'm not a cavalry man. Would you be so kind as to go to the Croyden's home and inquire if Jacob has any experience with horses?"
Millie's eyes opened wide. Mrs. Orr studied the younger woman's face carefully.
"Yes, sir." The maid curtsied and removed her apron. The Orrs watched as she left the room, but they did not follow her to the front door.
The raven haired servant strongly suspected that this was an attempt by Mrs. Orr to give her a chance to talk with Jacob. Whether or not her surmise was correct, she was going to take advantage of the situation. Half-way to the Croyden's house, she cursed herself for forgetting to replace her servant's cap with her fancy, new bonnet.