tagRomanceThe Fall of York Ch. 40-48

The Fall of York Ch. 40-48

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.


40

Following dinner there was an insistent knocking on the door of the Orr home. Lawrence went to the door, quickly but with an air of calm, and then threw it open. Arrayed in the garb of his profession, Reverend John Strachan had his fist lifted for another assault upon the portal.

"Reverend! Please come in and make yourself comfortable." Lawrence was content with the world and ready for any problems this man of God could hurl his way.

Millie rushed forward from wherever she'd been and took the man's hat and cloak.

"Thank you, child," the minister said without a smile.

"Millie, ask Mrs. Orr if she is available to help entertain our guest, please."

Millie curtsied to the two men and left the parlour. Lawrence motioned Strachan to a seat.

"I think it would be best if we discussed something in private, Captain Orr. Your wife need not be involved," he said, taking the offered seat.

"My wife is involved in every aspect of my life, sir. And she shall only be a moment."

Abigail entered the room, followed by her maid. "Some refreshments, Reverend? We've only just finished dinner and you're welcome to a plate if you wish." Abigail took a seat opposite their guest and Lawrence sat on the couch beside her.

The Reverend turned to Millie. "You may leave us, young lady."

Millie shot a worried look to her employers, curtsied and then left the room.

"I will get right to the point, Captain," began Strachan, "have you taken leave of your senses?"

"Excuse me, sir?" Abigail was as taken aback as her husband.

"Your husband challenged a local man to a duel. Were you not aware of this?" Strachan asked incredulously.

Abigail sat up straight. "I was perfectly aware of this fact, sir. The duel was declined by the offending party. My husband then gave him a choice of admitting his guilt and making amends or suffering a magistrate's wrath for slandering an innocent woman."

The reverend steepled his fingers in front of his face. "Perhaps I have not been made fully aware of all the background in this dispute. Please enlighten me."

Abigail opened her mouth to say something, but Lawrence touched her arm.

"You do understand, Reverend, that my wife and I are dutiful Christians?" asked Lawrence.

"Yes, yes."

"Well, meaning no disrespect, sir, but what does this have to do with you?"

"I am here to ensure that York remains stable, peaceful and proudly British. When a British Captain of good repute demands a duel with a York militiaman, peace is likely to be at risk," explained the Reverend very carefully.

Lawrence rubbed his chin as he thought over the man's words. "Very well. John stayed with us briefly, while the Americans held our town. Since that time he has been uttering the most degrading falsehoods about our maid, Millie."

"The young woman who so politely took my coat and hat?"

"The same, sir. John has been saying publicly that she seduced him and they had relations. The truth is that, unknown to us at the time, John was pursuing her and she refused him. We believe he has uttered these falsehoods because of the refusal. I went to confront him regarding his absence from testifying at the hearing concerning Mr. Henry's death. When I found..."

"That was the same young man?" interrupted the minister.

"The very same. When I found him at a local tavern, he repeated his slander in front of witnesses."

"I see." The reverend relaxed in his chair. "And the girl is above reproach, of course?"

"Assuredly!" answered Abigail. "Despite her lack of family and money, she has a good reputation. I'm sure you understand how easy it might have been for someone of her background to have fallen further, Reverend."

"A good Christian girl struggling to make a life for herself when she suddenly finds employment with a family of good morals and good standing," mused the Reverend aloud. "She would certainly have no reason to want to risk your anger."

Lawrence sat forward. "I can fetch her here if you wish to talk to her yourself, Reverend."

"No, that will not be necessary. I take it on faith that she has been slandered. But why did you feel it necessary to challenge him? I could understand if he were another officer, but a mere militiaman? Why not simply bring charges against him?"

"Uhm, well sir...I thought him too much of a coward to agree to a duel. Also, the strength of what he'd said demanded a counterclaim of equal strength. Being willing to lay my life down for my maid has ensured that many will now believe her innocent."

"Even if it was a bold action I still think it a foolish risk, Captain. I had thought better of you," Strachan added thoughtfully.

"My husband will not be entirely happy with my bringing this up, but he was born to nobility. His father is Lord Orr. He is the youngest of three sons and will not inherit the title, but he is a man who acts according to his nature. We have kept this quiet from almost everyone."

The Reverend's eyes grew large. "Lord Orr? I don't recall the name, but then there are so many members of the nobility in Britain and abroad." His eyes betrayed the fact that his mind was awhirl in thought. After a minute of silence, that was strangely uncomfortable for Abigail and Lawrence, the Minister seemed to remember his surroundings again. "I will speak to the Chief Magistrate personally about the matter. When you go to press your suit talk to him and mention my name."

The Reverend stood and stretched. "I must be going, but I am very glad we've had this talk. It has been most informative, Captain Orr. In the future, I would suggest you seek me out to deal with similar issues." After a couple of seconds of thought he added, "Or a magistrate."

"Actually, sir, this would have been only the second duel I was to be part of. In the other instance I was a friend's second. I don't go around making a habit of challenging others."

"Very good. Very good. Now where's that girl with my coat and hat?" he asked in a loud voice.

Millie came rushing forward. "I'm sorry, sir. I didn't know you were leaving so soon."

"You mean you weren't listening to our conversation. Most servants do. Raise your eyes from the floor, girl." She did so and the reverend appraised her face. "She has innocent eyes and an honest face." Millie's expression showed she wasn't sure what to make of the observation.

"Feel free to come again, Reverend, and perhaps come for dinner on your next visit," said Abigail, as he threw on his cloak and carefully positioned his hat.

Strachan smiled warmly at Abigail. "I will try to enjoy one of your fine meals in the next couple of weeks, Mrs. Orr. Now, Captain, this conversation has cost me time in composing a sermon for tomorrow. Perhaps I'll speak about bearing false witness against one's neighbours. I'll see you in church tomorrow and bring your guest. It is high time he attended and showed himself to be a good Christian, even if he is a Yankee."

41

Aside from some whispers, there was no antipathy shown toward Jacob when he showed up at church, the next day. Many did not greet them, but Abigail pointed out to Lawrence that it was the usual group and it bothered her just a little, now. They both noticed Millie's greater than usual shyness and they thanked God that this would all be over in another couple of days.

The Reverend's sermon was met with thoughtful silence by the congregation. This Abigail found somewhat disappointing. However, as people left the church, Strachan made sure to hold a brief conversation with the Orr's and their maid. Many onlookers remarked on the congenial relationship the outspoken minister had with the couple and the young lady who had been mentioned so often in rumour. Abigail was heartened by the public show of support from this very prominent member of York society. Lawrence showed no reaction to the events of church, while Millie and Jacob seemed a little overwhelmed by the attention.

The four kept themselves busy the rest of the day, performing various household chores. Lawrence left for a few hours and spent some time with the militia officers, who now seemed to hold him in high esteem despite any differences in rank. In the evening, the men played at chess while Abigail began to teach Millie the basics of reading and writing.

42

The next morning Abigail had been in the garden doing some weeding following an early morning's drizzle when she suddenly rushed inside the house, bursting with news.

"Lawrence!" she called out eagerly. He came quickly to the parlour, followed immediately by both Millie and Jacob.

"What is it, dear?" Lawrence peered out the open door, wondering if perhaps John had come early to face his challenge.

"I was in the garden. Mrs. Whitehouse came up and said hello to me. She apologized for ignoring me the past week and asked me to forgive her. While she was talking to me, Mrs. Keeps came as well and offered the same apology!"

"Did they explain why they had been cold to you lately?" Lawrence showed an unusual interest in this event, but his wife understood perfectly. Millie and Jacob stood with mouths agape.

"Yes, they did." Abigail looked into Millie's face. "John has been spreading rumours and they heard them and believed the lies. They did not wish to damage their public image by associating with us, but now they know the truth. While they explained, Mrs. Croyden approached and gave me further news." She stood silently and stared at her eager audience, waiting for encouragement to speak further.

"I really don't think this is the time for teasing, my dear."

"Oh, very well! It seems John's bosom friend Pierre has disappeared. No-one has seen him since last Saturday night when the two were in a vicious argument in the tavern. John was again asserting his slander..."

"God damn!" Lawrence swore, shaking his head. Millie saw a look of pure hatred pass across Jacob's face.

"So, John was continuing on with his lies about Millie," Abigail continued, "when Pierre took offence. Pierre publicly defended Millie's reputation and denounced John as a liar and a coward. Pierre did not go home that night and no-one has seen him since. Rumours abound that John has done him harm to silence his once-friend. Many now suspect that between Lawrence's challenge of a duel, and Pierre's assertion, that John must have been bearing false witness and that Millie must be as innocent as a newborn babe."

Millie turned to Lawrence with tears in her eyes. "Thank you, sir. I'll thank Pierre, too, when I see him next. This meant more to me than I had thought."

"I doubt anyone will ever see Pierre again, I'm sorry to say." They all looked at Jacob. He shrugged his shoulders. "I can easily believe that John's the type of man to strike from the shadows and plunge a knife into a man's back."

"Surely no person could be so...so cutthroat!" declared Millie.

"Perhaps you are letting your fondness for Millie cloud your thinking, Jacob. I know there are evil men in the world, but I find it hard to believe I could have talked with one so easily," added Abigail. She glanced at Lawrence, but the look on his face changed her mind in an instant.

"I think it possible that John may have murdered Pierre. I've seen such things before, and a man who lies so easily about one thing may fear the truth so greatly that he commits further crimes, ladies." Lawrence rubbed his chin in thought. "We had best lock our door at night until this matter is settled. Perhaps Jacob and I will keep watch, as well."

Millie's face went white

"There was something else, Lawrence," added Abigail. "Mrs. Croyden asked me to tell you that Mr. Croyden will be visiting you later today with the intention of offering to be your second."

"I appreciate his courage and the Croydens have stood by us no matter what people have said, but he's in his late sixties! I'll have to refuse him somehow without wounding his pride. Besides, I certainly won't need a second for the duel: there will be no duel. John will either flee with his tail between his legs or else hope that the whole misdeed is quickly forgotten by everyone."

Lawrence grabbed his wife and lifted her into the air. "Thank God this is almost over and we can get back to our normal lives again!"

43

It was after lunch when Millie heard horses canter into the front yard. As she walked along the side of the house to greet the visitors, she heard boots clicking on the stones in front of the door. Coming around the corner, she froze when she saw the red uniforms and the weapons. She forced herself to breathe again and approached the three men.

She curtsied before them.

"Tell me young lady, does Captain Lawrence Orr reside here?" asked an older man who was dismounting while a younger man held his steed in place.

"Yes, sir."

"And is he on the premises now, or did the Americans drag him away?" he inquired with a note of disdain.

"I'll tell him that he has visitors, sir." Millie curtsied again and dashed back around the house.

Captain Orr and Jacob were chopping firewood in a wooded lot behind the house, when the younger man spied Millie running toward them. The two set their axes down and awaited her arrival.

"Sir! You have visitors! Three British officers!" she exclaimed between breaths.

"Jacob, can you continue cutting and stacking the wood?" The American nodded and then exchanged a look with Millie. He wondered if the officers were here to cause trouble for the Captain and or to collect him as a prisoner, and he suspected Millie was wondering the same thoughts.

"Millie?" The maid turned in response and then realized her master was waiting for her. "Come along with me, please."

As the two walked leisurely back to the front of the house, they heard the steady thud of the axe resume behind them.

"Millie, did the officers say this was an emergency?"

"No, sir."

"Then there was no need to dash about in an undignified way to collect me," he corrected her. "Your behaviour around guests speaks to the standing of the house and the family in it. If you run about like a beheaded chicken then you signal that the guests are far more important than your employers. If you are too relaxed, then the guests may think that both the servants and their hosts are haughty."

"Yes, sir."

"Now, when I dismiss you, please find Abigail and let her know there are guests. Until then, please stay near as these officers may want refreshments."

"Yes, sir."

Lawrence rounded the corner with Millie following close behind and spied three officers he did not recognize. There was a Major and two Lieutenants, all standing by their horses and sharing the appearance of impatient boredom.

"Sir? You wished to see me?" asked Lawrence, facing the Major and saluting.

The major sniffed, returned the salute and then looked Lawrence up and down. "Are you Captain Lawrence Orr?" he asked as if he didn't believe it possible.

"Yes, sir. I've been busy chopping wood this last hour. Will you come inside and sit while our servant brings you refreshments?"

The younger Lieutenants smiled at the possibility of relaxing on a soft chair and sampling the drinks and food this house had to offer. The Major examined the front of the Orr home and glanced with a frown at the vegetable garden which was just beginning to green.

"I suppose..." he agreed.

The men went in and the three visitors took seats in the parlour. Lawrence nodded at Millie and she left the room. The Lieutenants followed her with their eyes.

"It's a very...rustic home, Captain. I suppose you must be very happy here, having married one of the colonials and all." The Major then turned on Lawrence. "You have been truant, sir."

"Sir?"

Abigail came into the room, walking casually. "Oh, Lawrence. Millie told me we had guests. Can you introduce me to your fellow officers?"

"Our guests have not introduced themselves as yet, Abigail." Lawrence noted the sudden frown on the Major's face, but could not tell if it was because his discourtesy had been referred to or because he had called his wife by her first name in front of strangers.

"I do apologize for not following the niceties, Mrs. Orr," he emphasized her formal name. "Lieutenant Jones, perform the introductions."

Both Lieutenants stood up and held their hands out to Lawrence.

"Captain and Mrs. Orr, I am Lieutenant Jones. This is Lieutenant Lumley. And may I present Major Pike?" Hands were shaken, but Lawrence noted with irritation that the Major did not leave his seat to greet Abigail.

"Now on to business," said the Major gruffly. "Mrs. Orr, you will excuse us."

"Stay where you are, Abigail," said Lawrence calmly. She looked at her husband uncertainly but did not leave the couch that the two of them sat on.

"This is damn irregular!" proclaimed the Major. "We have military business to discuss and a woman has no right to eavesdrop!"

"Sir, you are my superior officer, but if you are rude to my wife one more time I will chase you from my home!" Abigail's eyes shone as she stared at Lawrence. "Now, my wife stays here. If we start to discuss matters that are of no concern to her then she will excuse herself-politely. Say what you have to say, sir, and then remove yourself from my home."

Millie came in with a tray full of cider, cheese and bread. The room went silent and she froze.

"Please offer around the refreshments, Millie. The conversation just became a little boisterous," explained Abigail with a smile. She reached for her husband's hand and gave it a squeeze.

After Lawrence, Abigail and the Lieutenants had taken a sampling from the platter, Millie set it down on a table and left the room. The younger men's eyes lingered upon her, again.

"So, as I said Captain: you have been truant. We have come to collect you. I brought an extra horse on the assumption that the Americans would have stolen your own."

"Major General Sheaffe said I was supposed to have reported to him already?" Lawrence asked with an edge in his voice.

"Well, he expected you to have made it to Kingston by now. I suppose he said something about your ability to sneak past the enemy or something..." The Major waved his hand in the air as if the exact details were of no importance.

"If I may, sir," said Lieutenant Lumley. "Major General Sheaffe's exact words were that he had hoped the Captain would have reported to him by this time and we were to go to York and return with him."

"Yes, yes," muttered the Major. "The details are not important."

"So, I'm not truant, then?" Lawrence looked from the Major to the two Lieutenants and received no immediate answer. "Well, Major General Sheaffe's orders were to report to him in Kingston when I was able to. My standing orders are to liaison between the British army and the York Militia. I have been busy since the Americans left."

"Yes, yes. Of course you were busy! We saw you were busy when we arrived, didn't we?" sneered the Major.

Lawrence bit down his anger. "Sir, I have been aiding the York Militia in repairing the town defences in case Major General Sheaffe returns or the Americans do. However, these duties do not take all of my time while I am here, so I am able to perform some chores at home, as well. Are you suggesting that I have been derelict in my duty?"

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