The story this far:
Adeline and her family live north of Johnstown on farm land her father inherited from his older brother. William, Adeline, Evaline and Henry are the children of Edmond and Charlotte Price. William is married to Elizabeth and has a piece of his father’s acreage which he has built on. William and his father are in the militia and must report to Fort Wellington in Prescott. The women and younger children have to learn to manage the farm themselves. John Price taught his daughters to load and shoot a musket after Adeline saved her younger brother from a cougar. Adeline is being courted by a Corporal Charles Houghton, and two neigbour’s sons, Robert and Arthur. Henry and Adeline have been watching out for their brother’s farm, when one day her brother returns home with the news that he has seen smoke coming from the chimney of the cabin on William’s property. Henry and Adeline agree to investigate.
Sunday, April 4, 1813
It is the Sabbath day and I have just finished a bowl of Mother’s delicious potato soup with one of Elizabeth’s wonderful sourdough biscuits. The house is quiet now as Father is napping and Mother is writing letters. Henry, Evvy and Elizabeth are visiting the Randals.
I am sitting under the eaves, at the desk that Father made for Evvy and I, in the half of the loft that she and I share. Mother has me bundled up like a caterpillar in a warm quilt and she also tucked a hot brick under my feet. It is so hot, I almost burnt my toes until I pushed it under my chair. Honestly, you would think I was recovering from the plague instead of near pneumonia, I have been so coddled since returning from the other side of the river. I still have nightmares and wake up poor Evvy with my muttering and moaning.
I must tell you my Ogdensburgh adventure. Henry and I went to check on William’s and Elizabeth’s cabin where Henry had seen smoke. Mother insisted that we go warmly dressed, so I put on Father’s warmest trousers over my petticoat and his barn coat with the squirrel collar and hood as well as a woolen cap. This was all covered with a long woolen scarf and I did not resemble myself so much as a lumberman from the backwoods. I could hardly move for the layers. We rode Rosey and Blinky, our old plow horses, up to the road to Prescott and turned north towards the piece of land that Father gave William (thirty good acres – five that William has already cleared).
As we reached the bottom of William’s land, we turned off the road toward the cabin. Before approaching the cabin, we agreed to part and meet back at the road after checking on the property. First, I would skirt the cabin and see if anything had been disturbed. If there were any suggestion of intruders we would go and fetch Mr. Randal.
I felt a bit nervous about approaching the cabin, but could see no smoke from the chimney, so I walked cautiously around the perimeter and peered into the barn. For a moment it seemed that my heart stopped beating. There in the stalls, that should have been empty, were three strange horses, – a bay, a roan and a grey. I recognized the roan and the bay. They were the O’Meara’s horses. I didn’t know the grey mare.
I ducked down behind the woodpile and tried to think why the O’Meara’s would have broken into William’s cabin. Were they in the very act of thievery? What should I do? Had they gone out hunting in the bush? What if they met up with Henry? My heart was pounding and my head was aching with indecision. Who was the third person? I was thankful that it wasn’t Robert or Arthur. I knew all their horses. What scheme were the O’Meara’s up to?
As I knelt behind the wood, torn between running to the woods to warn Henry or confronting the O’Mearas, a stranger stepped out of the cabin, talking to someone over his shoulder.
“Ah’ll get saddled. You bring the maps we made and we’ll make tracks for the river crossing.”
“Shouldn’t we wait ’til dusk? Less chances of being seen then.” Darnell O’Meara came out of the cabin, his flintlock in one hand and a leather saddle bag in the other.
“Nah, Ah want to make tracks. We’ll keep to the bush as soon as we can.”
My head was spinning with shock. If the O’Mearas were just smuggling to hide their true activities what were they really doing? Then it came over me suddenly, with horror. The O’Meara’s were spies. It was obvious the other person was an American. Now I was truly in a bad dilemma. What should I do?
“Hey, there’s someone behind the woodpile,” shouted Darnell.
I ran for the trees, but in all my layers was no match for the fleet-footed American who tacked me around the legs and brought me crashing to the ground.
“Who the hell are you, boy?” he shouted as he snatched the hood and hat off my head.
“I know who it is,” said Darnell. “T’is no boy, but Price’s sister, Adeline, a real spitfire!”
“A troublemaker, huh? Well, we ‘ll see how much trouble she gives us bound and gagged,”said the American.
And that is how I found myself bound and gagged seated in front of the American, up on the big grey. My face was stinging from the snow, my hair was wet and there was snow down the back of my neck. At least they had used my own scarf to gag me, but my hands were tied with a leather harness William had left hanging in his barn. I was helpless and furious, but very glad that Henry had not been at the place we’d agreed to meet. Blinky had obviously wandered off, probably back to our barn.
It was a very long uncomfortable ride to the river. I ignored the O’Meara brothers, They were beneath content.
Eventually, we left the road and travelled into the dense woods on a path that the O’Meara brothers had surely taken before. When we arrived at the bank of the St. Lawrence River, it was late afternoon, nearly dusk. We were several miles west of Fort Wellington. the river was almost completely frozen. There was a small, partially obscured shed and two canoes on the shore. the three men tethered the horses and shoved me into the shed. There was barely room to sit. I perched on an over-turned barrel and mulled over my situation. I was not about to show how truly frightened I was. The door of the shed suddenly opened, almost pushing me from my perch. A hand grabbed my bonds and I was dragged from the shed and set back up on the grey mare.
It was now dark, but a full moon lit up the icy surface of the river. The lights of Ogdensburgh were little sparks flickering on the other side of the river. Muttering softly to the horses, the men proceeded across the ice on foot, carefully one after another. Sometimes the ice seemed to crack where the surface had warmed at bit and melted in the sun, refreezing when the temperature dropped. I was nervous on the grey as I was terrified the ice would crack open beneath his hooves and I would be drowned. No one would ever know what had happened to me. Then I shook myself free of such imaginations and concentrated on keeping warm. There was a wind blowing a sharp icy spray of snow that stung my cheeks. My feet were numb in my leather boots.
Our progress was slow, but steady and silent, except for the occasional curse when the ice made a particularly loud cracking noise. It seemed we were all jumpy. A few feet from shore, the ice was thinning and it gave way under the weight of the grey. I didn’t even have time to scream and my gag prevented it anyhow. Down we plunged into the numbing St. Lawrence. I don’t know how, but I managed to hold onto the grey’s pommel and reins and somehow the horse was able to swim to shore. There she struggle up the bank and I was plucked off her back shivering and dripping. I was prodded up the embankment. My clothes were sodden and felt like they were freezing to my body. My boots iced up more and more with each step. Finally, we reached a small log home, where the door was opened quickly and I was pushed right in.
Bourke seemed to be in command, as he told the O’Meara’s to look after the horses, especially the shuddering grey.
“Hey,who’s this here lad?” asked a harsh voiced man with a foul smelling pipe in his teeth. “Ya never told me about no lad.”
“It’s the O’Meara’s sister. There’s been a change in plan, Harry. She overheard us talkin’ so her she is.”
“If she’s their sister, why is she all trussed up?” asked Harry suspiciously.
“She don’t agree with their politic, is why. She’s a bloody royalist,” said the American. “She’ll need warmin’ up after her swim in the river.”
“Oh my heavens, Harry, don’t keep her standing and shivering there. Come here, girl. I’ll take care of you.”
Harry with the pipe had a wife who clucked sympathetically and bustled me off behind a thick cloth curtain to change out of my wet clothes. She gave me a drink of sweet brandy to drink. I gagged on the fire of it as it burned down my throat. She untied my hands and helped me out of my father’s wet coat, his trousers and my icy petticoat. I wanted to tell her the true nature of my abduction, but my teeth were chattering. She rubbed me down with a rough towel and brought me one of her own woolen robes to slip into. Then she sat me down in front of the warm hearth with a bowl of hot stew.
The American, Bourke, I heard his name mentioned, didn’t stay long enough to eat.
“I’m going ahead to Ogdensburgh ta meet with the Major. The O’Meara’s will stay with the horses in the stable. They will be takin’ their sister ta the Major tomorrow. Just keep her hands tied and bed her on the cot near the hearth. Then she won’t make no trouble.”
Harry’s wife put some food in a satchel for Bourke and he left. After I had eaten my fill, Mrs. Harry apologized and re-tied my hands, tucking me into bed on the hearthside cot. She muttered to her husband about how she didn’t approve of my treatment, but go no satisfactory agreement from him. I did not sleep well.
The candle is guttering down and dusk has come. I will finish this another day soon.