tagRomanceThe Fall of York Ch. 17-24

The Fall of York Ch. 17-24

bynicecthulhu©

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.


17

Candles were lit and spread throughout the dining room and Lawrence thought that in other circumstances he might have viewed this as a romantic dinner with his wife. The other four in the house were upstairs and eating quietly. It was almost easy to forget their intrusive presence and believe that Abigail and he were all alone. He took another spoonful of stew, letting the delicious juices run down his throat while he chewed the tubers and meat.

"Lawrence." He looked across at his wife, who had her head bowed to her bowl. "There's a shadow across the window behind you. The curtains are drawn, but they are slightly parted."

He froze and considered what to do. If he had been seen and he turned around, the man at the window would flee with the certain knowledge that Captain Lawrence Orr was at home. On the other hand, if it was an American soldier then their home was soon to be invaded by the man and his confederates. If the man were friendly and seeking refuge or a meeting with him, a sudden movement might scare him off needlessly.

"Can you describe the man at all, Abigail?"

She glanced up at him and her eyes darted slightly to her left. "No. But someone is there and that person is looking through the gap in the material. I cannot tell if it is a man or woman," she added. She smiled at him and laughed as if he had said something witty.

A woman, Lawrence wondered? He dismissed the possibility of the skulker being one of the fairer sex. "I'm going to get up, as if for more stew. Let me know what the man does."

He stood, reached for his bowl and...

"He's gone!" called out Abigail in excitement.

Lawrence ran for the front of the house and threw open the door. He was just in time to spy a figure running across the roadway. The light was dim, but he could still identify the man as a civilian from the clothing he wore. With a silent curse, Lawrence gave chase.

He raced across the road. A hail at the corner alerted Lawrence to the presence of an American patrol, and he gave up from the chase and hid himself in the darkness between two homes. He listened to the soldiers accost the spying man. There was an exchange, which quickly became friendly. The man mentioned having important news for their commanding officer and then the rest of the conversation was impossible to hear.

The brief snatch he had heard had allowed Lawrence to identify the speaker as one of his neighbours. A neighbour, he remembered, who had seldom expressed republican ideas. Captain Orr silently cursed his foolish neighbour as he made his way through the darkness to the next road.

He reached it in time to watch the spying neighbour walk into view, glance around nervously and then continue on his way. Lawrence sprinted across the road and dashed into the darkness between more buildings. He waited for the man at the next street, realizing his target would have to turn in his direction or else walk right down into the lake.

Wondering exactly what he was going to do, Lawrence listened to the sound of waves lapping against the shore. The American ships had moved directly into York Harbour, a little east of where he waited now.

At last the man walked into view. He seemed to be in no hurry and confident that he was close enough to his goal that he was no longer in danger.

Lawrence waited until the man was immediately before him and then stepped out of the darkness and into the moonlight. "Good evening, Mr. Henry."

His neighbour froze and turned to face him. "You should not have left your home, Captain Orr. All I have to do is call out and American soldiers will rush to this spot. I would suggest you flee York right now."

"I would like to know your intentions, Mr. Henry," Lawrence said calmly. Although his fists were opening and closing in anticipation of action, he felt as if there were some supernatural calmness around him and the other man.

"I am going to report the presence of a spy to our new governors, if you hadn't guessed. You really should have fled with the other British forces, Captain. Why did you stay?"

"I wanted to protect my wife."

The man tsked. "If you had fled, then she would most likely just have been expelled by the Americans when they learned that she was the wife of a British Captain. Now, you'll probably both be accused of spying and she'll likely hang beside you."

"So you're going to inform on us?"

"Of course! You're traitors! I'll be rewarded for my loyalty to the Americans. I might even be given some title or position such as mayor."

Lawrence could feel his muscles twitching in eagerness. "It is you who are a traitor. You are a British subject and aiding the enemy is treason."

"You're just not looking at this in the proper way, Captain. The Americans are going to take the whole continent and I'm going to be rewarded." The neighbour took a step away and glanced down the road, looking towards where he expected help to come from should he call out.

Lawrence charged and before Mr. Henry could cry out, he wrapped his hands around the man's throat and began squeezing. The two men fell to the ground, but Captain Orr desperately kept his grip on the man's neck. He knew that if he faltered his opponent would call out and he and Abigail, and likely anyone found in their home, would be doomed.

The neighbour batted at his head with his fists, but Lawrence held on. The man tried to pry his fingers loose, but Lawrence held on. Mr. Henry wrapped his own hands around Captain Orr's throat and began squeezing, but Lawrence knew that he was going to win that battle. He had started strangling his opponent first and he was slightly stronger than Mr. Henry.

His opponent's face was going red, but this fight was taking far too long for Lawrence's liking. He let go with his left hand and began reaching out, searching for a rock to pummel his opponent.

Mr. Henry concentrated on prying Lawrence's remaining hand from his throat. He was loosening the strangle hold when Captain Orr's fingers found a stone. He clutched the rock, raised it above him and struck down on his enemy's face as hard as he could.

There was a spray of blood. Lawrence lifted the rock and struck again and again. At last his opponent went limp. He struck three more times, partly in fury and partly with cold intent to finish what he had started.

After a few seconds, Lawrence pushed himself off of the corpse and sat in the dirt on the road. No-one seemed any the wiser to what he had just done. And he wondered: what had he just done? He had killed a neighbour to prevent a foreign invader from killing his beloved Abigail.

This war was so unlike any he had ever fought before. It was easy to kill when you were lining up and you saw the ranks of enemy uniforms across the field. This war had enemies as friends and friends as enemies. Your worst enemy might be dressed as any other civilian, and certainly looked and sounded no different than anyone on your side. He was growing to despise war, he realized.

A hand fell upon his shoulder, startling Lawrence.

"Captain Orr? We should get back to your home before a patrol spots us," said John.

Lawrence looked up at him and was astounded that the young man had made no mention of the body. "He was my neighbour and he was going to turn Abigail and myself over to the Americans. I had to kill him."

"Let's leave him here as a warning to others who might befriend the enemy, sir." John stood and his eyes shifted nervously.

"No." Lawrence couldn't stand the idea that the body of the man he had just slain would lay in the street, seen by all who happened by. "We have to hide the body."

John shrugged his shoulders. "I suppose we could tie him to some stones and drop him in the lake..."

"Excellent!" Lawrence rose to his feet, then bent over to lift Mr. Henry's corpse. John gave an impatient sigh and then he reached down to help.

The two men carried the body to the shore. They found some stones, which they used to weigh down the body's clothes, and then they carried the corpse out into the water. Keeping themselves hidden from view by wading alongside a dock, they stopped once the water was chest-high and released their burden.

John turned to leave. Lawrence stood in the cold water for a few seconds, silently giving prayer for his victim's soul.

18

"You did what you had to do!" Millie heard Abigail say to her husband. The maid had listened to the story Captain Orr had told immediately after returning home. She could find no fault in his behaviour. Mr. Henry had turned traitor and had to be silenced before he reached the Americans. She could not understand why the Captain seemed so upset; hadn't he killed men before?

Millie had retreated as the conversation between her Mistress and Master became more private. She had turned to the stairs and was halfway to the second floor before she realized that she was going to see the American prisoner. Pierre greeted her at the top of the stairs.

"How is everything, Millie?" he asked with concern.

"One of the neighbours saw Captain Orr and was going to the enemy to turn him in. The Captain was forced to kill the man and seems very upset about it."

"Ah," said Pierre, knowingly.

"What is it Pierre? Why would he be so upset about this one man when he has probably killed so many others?"

Pierre gave her a kindly look, as one might give to a child. "When you shoot at an American, you shoot at someone you don't know. Besides, there are many of your friends beside you shooting at the same group of Americans. Maybe your ball hits the enemy, maybe it's your friend's that kills him. But to kill someone you know?"

"That would be a hard thing," she finished, thinking fondly of poor Captain Orr.

"Oui. I think it might be best if we leave before the Americans come to this house..."

Millie stood straight and looked Pierre in the eye. "I'll not leave unless Mr. and Mrs. Orr order me to!"

"Now, that shows spirit!" said John, from the stairs behind her.

Millie froze and slowly turned to see the large, young man ascending toward her and the Frenchman.

"Perhaps you and Pierre had best show some spirit and go out and harass the enemy!" Millie said, surprising herself at her cheek.

John stared at his French friend. "Pierre, go downstairs and keep watch."

Pierre raised an eyebrow and glanced at Millie, then slowly walked down the stairs leaving Millie alone with John.

"Now, my girl," began John.

"I am not your girl!" interrupted Millie, haughtily.

"You will be. I've saved your precious Captain Orr. What price do you think he'd be willing to pay?"

Millie shivered. Was John intending to blackmail her master, she wondered? Would he go to the Americans and tell them that Captain Orr killed Mr. Henry? "What do you intend to do, John?"

The man smiled down at her. "Why I would do nothing to Captain Orr or his wife, Millie. But this family owes me." He put his finger under her chin and lifted her face. "You're going to pay their debt, Millie. Come to my room tonight, after everyone else is asleep. If you don't then I'll come looking for you." His smile widened. "Maybe you want me to come looking for you?"

Millie stepped back from him and glared at the rogue.

John merely winked at her and then headed back downstairs, with a bounce in his step.

19

Millie closed the door behind her and glared at the American, who was sitting up in his bed. "I suppose you were eavesdropping?" she accused.

"No, miss. But the two of you were talking rather loudly and the Captain has confined me to this bed. Actually, Mrs. Orr has confined me to this bed until she thinks me fit enough to be up and about."

The black-haired maid was bristling and eager to lash out, but quickly realized that this poor young man had done nothing to her. She tucked a few stray hairs back under her cap.

"I am sorry, Jacob," she said, shaking her head sadly. "I'm upset about something else."

"I understand, Millie."

There was a few seconds of silence as Millie wondered how much Jacob had heard and he wondered what he should say to this young woman that he barely knew.

"So, I assume that you're becoming bored?" she asked.

He gave her a wry smile. "I'd prefer to be active rather than confined to a bed, but what's a prisoner to do?"

"You know..." she hesitated to say it in case he took advantage of her idea, but Jacob seemed such an honourable man, "you know, if you called out then your own soldiers would likely rush in and free you?"

"The thought had occurred to me, Millie." He watched as she pouted a little. "But I have given the Captain my word, so I won't cry out. I am bored, though."

"I can only spend so much time with you before it seems improper."

"I know." Now she watched as he looked melancholy.

"Can I bring you a book to read? Mr. and Mrs. Orr have quite a few to choose from."

"I can't read, Millie. But maybe you could read to me?"

"I can't read either, Jacob. Not yet, at least. Mrs. Orr is planning to teach me how to read and write."

"Pretty and literate!"

Millie's cheeks went red. "I'd best leave now, sir."

Before she slipped out the door, Jacob called out to her. "I apologize, Millie. I spoke too freely and I didn't mean to upset you."

She hesitated, then nodded at him and left his room.

20

Later that evening, Millie noticed that Mrs. Orr spoke very quietly and tenderly to her husband. The maid felt as if she were intruding whenever she was in the same room with them. She also observed that Captain Orr kept a wary eye on the windows and it made Millie so nervous she almost cried out.

"Millie, please put out the lights and make sure the lock on the door is set. I'm taking Lawrence to bed," her mistress informed her.

Millie cringed at the thought that she would be alone downstairs in the dark. The threatening presence of John on the floor above made her skin crawl. She watched her employers go up the stairs together and heard them bid good night to the York militiamen, and then obediently began to put out the lights on the first floor.

Her ears picked up a creaking floorboard at the top of the stairs and she froze, nearly dropping the bronze candle snuffer. She listened in fear for further sounds of a large man descending the stairs, but heard nothing. Releasing her breath, she passed into the final room and doused the candles.

Then she heard a creak halfway down the stairs and she nearly dropped the snuffer again. John must be making his way down the stairs to find her, she thought. Her heart pounded and she looked about frantically in the darkness for some place to conceal herself.

Strangely, time seemed to slow down and she felt herself thinking very clearly. The thought occurred to her that she knew this house far better than John did, so it was very likely she could find a few places that he would never think to look. However, she didn't think she could get to them quietly. She reached down and slipped off her shoes.

"Millie!" John called out from the bottom of the stairs in a loud whisper.

She placed the snuffer down quietly on the table and tiptoed to the hallway that followed the wall opposite from the stairs. She reasoned that if John had been watching, then he knew that the rooms at the front of the house had been the last to go dark and he would be expecting to find her in one of them.

She listened as the sound of John's shoes indicated he was walking to the front of the house. Then she quickly walked along the hallway until she reached the kitchen. Glancing about she saw and heard no sign of her pursuer.

Millie crossed the kitchen and hesitated at the far wall. She felt her way to the dark doorway and listened for John.

There was the occasional sound of moving furniture up at the front of the house and then John swore. Millie held back a chuckle at the thought that John was likely colliding with a fair amount of furniture in the darkness.

Holding her breath, she slowly made her way through the sitting room, until she felt another doorway. The door, she knew, was closed and the hinges needed oiling. She placed her hand on the cold handle and felt her heart pounding in her chest. She knew that a squeaking door might bring John to her in a second or two.

Slowly pulling the door open, Millie stopped every time a small squeak issued forth. Eventually, she had the door open enough for her to slip through and she held her breath and listened for John.

Her heart beat raced as she realized she could not hear him! He could be anywhere, even waiting on the other side of this door with a big grin on his face and his hand ready to cover her mouth.

She wondered why she hadn't called out for help before this. She knew that Captain Orr would not let anything happen to her, but she also knew she had a responsibility to not let anything happen to him. The Captain was depressed over his killing of Mr. Henry and John was younger, bigger and stronger than her master. If there was a fight between them she had no doubts about who would have the worst of it.

Millie resolved that her only course of action was escape. If she could avoid John tonight then perhaps he would take her hint and balk at chasing after her again. She realized that she could not merely hide in her room as she had no lock on her door. The only place that John would not expect her to hide in would be the American's room.

Millie's eyes went wide as she heard a footstep in the kitchen. She took a big breath, squeezed through the door and walked quickly to the stairs. She kept to the wall as she ascended the stairs, avoiding the creaks in the steps that she was very familiar with. Once on the second floor, she ran her hand along the left wall until she came to the door to Jacob's room. She opened the door, slipped inside, closed the door behind her and then listened.

She heard John's heavy step at the bottom of the stairs and then nothing. Millie guessed that he must have decided to recheck the first floor before looking for her upstairs. She let her breath out in relief.

"Millie?" called out Jacob.

"Yes, Jacob, it's me. I'm sorry to wake you," she replied in a whisper.

"I didn't expect this, Millie. This seems so unlike you."

"What?" asked Millie, not following Jacob's meaning.

"It's just you seemed like such a proper girl-a lady. I never expected you to come to my room like this."

Millie opened her mouth in shock. Creaking boards on the stairs brought her out of the shock quite quickly. She rushed over to the bed and put her hand on Jacob's bare chest.

"Please! John means to have his way with me! I must hide!" she whispered desperately.

Millie felt Jacob's hands lift hers from his chest and close over them protectively. "Can you squeeze under the bed, Millie? Or perhaps you can conceal yourself in the wardrobe to my right?"

"Oh, thank you, Jacob!" Millie pulled her hand out of his and dashed to the wardrobe. She opened the doors, squeezed inside and concealed herself behind the clothes there. Her hands blindly reached out for the doors and then pulled them shut, just as she heard the door to the room open.

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