A fictional account of a young woman’s life during the war of 1812
Sunday, January 3, 1813
It is difficult to believe that we are now in a fresh new year and that Christmas time is past. I have so much to tell you.
Father and William were able to spend Christmas day at home with us. Elizabeth and I have been staying here since Elizabeth had her unfortunate miscarriage. I am happy to say that Elizabeth has recovered as swiftly as Mrs. Randall had predicted and only Mother and I know what was the cause of her brief illness.
We decided to enjoy the holy season just as much as we could, considering the privations upon us now that we are unable to trade with our enemy across the river. Of course it is difficult to think of dear Mrs. Trott, the dressmaker and Mr. Addler, the shoemaker as enemies, but that is what war does to friends. We haven’t had cane sugar for some time, or any of the spices, but even so, Mother has always been frugal and she managed to mix together a lovely Christmas pudding using maple syrup and honey as well as the fruits we dried out this summer. The pudding had scant raisins, but Mother used currants, cranberries and black berries. Few could boast of such a delicious meal. We ate wild turkey that Henry had managed to bag, some rabbit and some partridge. Believe me when I say that our board was groaning under the weight of many different dishes.
Christmas Day we gathered around the hearth with our neighbours and sang songs till our voices were hoarse. Robert Randall has a good tenor voice and he sang “I Was Born in a Stall”, and ” I Saw Three Ships” remarkably well. Elizabeth and Evvy sang my favourite, “The Cherry Tree Carol” and Mother sang the “Coventry Carol” in her dear contralto. I’m not much of a singer, but I tried “In the Bleak Winter” and Robert said I did it justice. He is always kind. Mother had gathered chestnuts which we roasted over the fire and we heated the cider for our guests. After the Randalls departed in their sledge, we could hear the horse bells until they reached the road. Father read the Christmas story from the Bible, we had a prayer and then we all went to bed.
The following morning we exhanged a few gifts. Mother had knitted us all warm mittens; mine are a soft grey. Henry had supplied Evvy with enough rabbit skins to make Mother a new muff to keep her hands warm. Father presented William and Elizabeth with a new chair for their cabin. Mother made them a lovely warm quilt from two old blankets we had. I finally finished the scarf I have been knitting for the last two years and presented it to Father. I gave Henry a book that my Grandfather Price had given me when I was his age. It is stories of the Knights of the Round Table. Father made him a wooden shield and sword. Evvy liked the embroidery silk Mother had been saving for her and is already planning what to make with it. William and Elizabeth gave Mother and Father a new china jug and bowl for their wash stand which means that we can finally replace the old chipped bowl they have now. Evvy and I gave them the embroidered samplers we’ve been working on for the past two years. Evvy’s is perfect – two lovely blue birds sitting on a branch. Mine is an alphabet with flowers for each letter and sadly, a mess on the back side which I covered with a lining. Evvy has promised to help me with my sewing and I will be showing her how to do long division. All in all, we passed a very pleasant day.
The week following Christmas was uneventful on the farm, although a fox got into mother’s geese again and we lost another. Perhaps there will be some small ones in the spring. Henry and I reinforced the barn door and piled stones and logs against the sides of the barn. Now that the ground is frozen the foxes won’t be so keen to venture out of their dens.
New Year’s Eve was what we all looked forward to, as we were invited to share a Scottish New Years with the Randall family. Father and William were once again able to come home. We left our house in swaddled in warm woolens and furs, with hot bricks at our feet, in the middle of the afternoon. Of course, we carried lanterns for our return trip in the dark. Mother had made six loaves of bread, a venison pie and a delicious rabbit stew. We arrived at the Randall’s rambling log home at dusk and were ushered in to warm ourselves at their huge hearth. Mrs. Randall and her sister, had prepared a wonderful meal and we were completely sated by the time they announced the arrival of their other guests, the Spencers who are planning to build a mill on the south side of the Nation River. William arrived with Corporal Houghton and his friend, Jon Thompson, who brought his fiddle. Soon the woods were ringing with laughter, music and the sound of dancing feet.
I got flustered meeting Corporal Houghton again. We hadn’t seen each other for a few weeks and Arthur’s gossip had had an effect on my attitude towards Charles. I was polite but distant. Charles seemed nervous and pre-occupied. When we finally stood across from one another in the last dance before supper, he whispered, “Please come with me, Miss Adeline.”
Charles clasped my hand in his and led me over to a wooden settee along one wall. Arthur was glaring at us from the other side of the room and I felt the heat rising up my throat to my cheeks. Charles sat down beside me as I fanned my face, but he made no move to take my other hand. Slowly he turned to face me and asked,” Miss Adeline, have I done anything to offend you?”
My heart sank. How could I explain? Charles had ever only been complimentary and a gentleman towards me. Perhaps I had mistaken his intent. Had I presumed too much? Should I tell him that I had listened to Arthur’s gossip? And yet, shouldn’t I give him a chance to explain?
“No, of course not. You have only ever been kind,” I said choking back tears, “but I have been informed that you may not be free to court me, if that is your intention. Do you truly have an attachment to a young woman back home in England.”
Now it was Charles who flushed. His eyes seemed to blaze right through me and suddenly, I was a bit afraid.
“Who was it that told you this lie?” he growled. “I will require satisfaction immediately!’ Charles leapt up. All I could think, was thank goodness our host had relieved all the men of their weapons at the door. Weapons and whiskey do not mix.
“No, please. I should know better than to listen to idle talk. ” I dropped my fan into my lap and took both of his hands in mine.
“You shall not take the blame upon yourself. I have been insulted and you have been misled. The culprit will answer for it!”
“Oh, please, Charles, it must have been a misunderstanding. People are staring. ”
The dancing had stopped and there was absolute quiet in the room.
Charles dropped my hands and straightened up. He looked full into my burning face and said,” Miss Adeline, I am not now, nor have I ever been, involved with any other woman. I am not affianced to anyone. I am completely free to court you if you agree.”
I heard a gasp, and knew without looking that it had come from my mother. William was on the point of crossing the room, when my father, stopped him with a hand and strode across the floor towards us himself. He was clearly shocked by Charles’ declaration.
“Corporal Houghton,” he said, ” I will speak to you outside.”
“Yes, Lieutenant. At once.”
“And you, daughter, will go and help our hostess with the supper.”
Oh, Janetta, you can believe that I hurried to obey. I was aswirl with emotions. Happiness and embarrassment for certain. Mrs. Randall handed me some plates and Evvy winked at me as we set out the midnight meal. Mother was tight-lipped, so I didn’t dare look at her. Thankfully the flute and fiddle music resumed in a lively tune and so did the dancing.
My heart was pounding in my chest and I kept glancing toward the door. Eventually, my father and Charles re-entered stomping the snow off their boots. Arthur was pacing and I didn’t like the way he kept staring at Charles. Robert took his arm and led him away, saying something about checking on the horses.
Charles approached me at the table. He cleared his throat and said,” Miss Adeline, I must apologize to you. I ought to have spoken to your father first. He has informed me that you will not be of age to court until you turn seventeen. I am very sorry to have been so impertinent. I am not to speak to you again about this matter until I have his permission.”
I took Charles’ hand and said quietly that my birthday was in April. “I hope you will come and wish me happy birthday then.”
Charles smiled, squeezed my hand and said,” Indeed I will, Miss Adeline. Then Charles turned to our host and hostess and apologized for creating a scene. They accepted his apology and then he collected his cloak and armaments and left.
And that, Janetta ,was that. Father said no more to me about it and mother seemed relieved. We all ate supper, William was the “first-footer” at midnight as he had gone out with Arthur and Robert to check on the horses. So, according Scottish custom, the Randalls would have good luck in the coming year, as William is both tall and dark-haired. We drank a toast to everyone’s health and also one to brave Sir Isaac Brock. Then we left for home in our sledge with many warm wishes following us. The dancing was still continuing as a few more neighbours had arrived as we left. The woods were silent and cold as we drove home over the rough snow, but the sky was full of stars. It seems to me that 1813 is full of promise.