A fictional account of a young woman’s life during the War of 1812
© 2012 Mollie Pearce McKibbon
The story so far:
Adeline is the young mother of twin boys born after the murder of her husband, Sgt. Charles Houghton, a member of the English infantry, stationed at Fort Wellington in Prescott (Upper Canada). Before she was married she was abducted by American spies and taken across the St. Lawrence to Ogdensburg. In order to escape she wounded one of her captors, Jake Bourke. Bourke has sworn to get his revenge and in doing so murdered her husband, and burned her home. He was captured and sent to Brockville to face trial but, escaped with the help of two of his confreres.
Sunday, May 21, 1815
I have not had two minutes together to write a line, until today. Both my babies were sick with croup after my last entry and as soon as they recovered we were busy preparing the garden. Planting will begin as soon as the evenings are warmer. We have a much shorter growing season here in Upper Canada than we had in England. Evvy and I spent a number of days hoeing, digging and pulling up weeds. It will be wonderful to have fresh vegetables again.
Charlie and Andrew are growing stronger, getting sturdier and more curious. I have to watch them every minute. Andrew is especially mischievous and manages to get himself into more scrapes now that he is walking. Charlie is still creeping mostly, but he is trying to copy his brother in every way, so it won’t be long before he is tottering around after Andrew.
Robert hasn’t visited us since that awful day he came to tell me about Bourke. He has stopped by to see father and Henry once or twice, but whenever I approach he makes an excuse to leave. I must admit it wounds me and the children miss his visits. Mother and Father have not mentioned this to me, but Evvy has. Evvy says that Robert, Henry and William have taken turns scouting the woods each night for fear of Bourke.
Truly Janetta, I have nightmares about Bourke. One night, I dreamt Bourke had snatched my babies from their cradles and I woke up screaming. Mother and Evvy came running over from the main house with Father, armed with the flintlock pistol he’d confiscated in Ogdensburg. The babies were frightened too. I felt so foolish for letting my fears get the best of me but my babies are my dearest treasures. I am wrestling with the idea of sending them to England where they will be safer. Persephone Houghton Norris wrote to us in April to say that she would be arriving in Prescott in early June if the tides are in her favour. I must make a decision before then.
Sunday, June 18, 1815
Persephone arrived in Prescott three days ago. Her brother, Everett reported that she found the travel by durham boat extremely tiring and “primitive”, but “she is a game girl” (his words) and is bearing up well. She has not as yet visited us but is purchasing “suitable bush clothing” in Ogdensburg. Evvy says that she must be planning on heavy linen from head to foot. If so she will find it serviceable but much too warm. Evidently, she is traveling with a maid and a children’s nanny. I am trying to wean the boys to a cup for the journey, but they only turned one year old yesterday and have no interest in tin cups. Or, perhaps, I simply am not insisting as the days of departure draw closer. Oh how can I give up my sweet loves? They are so affectionate and loving. They are my only tie to Charles. I cannot bear the thought of losing them and yet…what if Bourke were to harm them?
Nothing has been heard or seen of Bourke, or the O’Meara brothers since they killed his guards and released him from the shackles. William thinks they are laying low over the American side of the St. Lawrence until most of the soldiers have left the Fort. I haven’t any confidence that Bourke has given up his planned revenge and I don’t sleep well.
Robert’s brother, Arthur, has returned from America much to the relief of the Randall family. He was reportedly recovering across the river from wounds he sustained in New Orleans. Janetta, I am glad he has returned and now he will be able to look after his son, Adam. Adam is just a few weeks younger than Charlie and Andrew, but seeing them play together, you would think they were all brothers.
Sunday, June 25, 2015
Lady Persephone Norris came calling on Friday with her brother, Captain Houghton. He, most certainly, had an ulterior motive, that of visiting Miss Eveline Price with the sweet temperament and the mishievous dimples. Lady Persephone is not what I’d expected. She is quite practical and gracious. She brought them warm knitted leggings and jackets which will fit them well in the fall. Perhaps she intended them to keep them warm on the voyage to England, but I just cannot bear that thought at the moment. She remarked that in England all children wear frocks until boys are old enough to be put into short trousers, but she felt pioneering required more serviceable clothes. “Serviceable” is the word of which she is most fond. Persephone seems anxious to begin our acquaintanceship on friendly terms and she confided in me she felt oddly conflicted about the mission with which she has been entrusted.
“I think children should be with their parents,” she told me. “That is why I have employed an excellent tutor who boards with us. I want my two girls to know proper deportment, how to carry on an intelligent conversation and how to keep their own account books. Half the problems in society today are caused by foolish unnecessary expenditures for fripperies. Don’t you agree, my dear Adeline?”
Before I had a chance to answer, Persephone had changed the topic of conversation to how brave I am to bear up under the grief of losing the comfort of a loving companion and helpmate. She proceeded to tell me some of her fondest memories of Charles as a little boy, how he loved apples, climbing trees, reading poetry and playing with his constant companion, his dog , Plato. She reminisced about Charles’ desire to see the colonies and how he joined the infantry when he was just 16, barely out of short trousers in her opinion. Although she was three years his elder, she and Charles were evidently close confidants until she got married.
When I offered to go and get the boys up from their nap, she kindly declined the offer saying that she would return later in the week Lady Persephone wears a silver locket with the golden curls of her children in it. She told me her girls, Isolde and Camille, are four and five years of age.
“It pains me to be away from them for any time,” she sighed, “so I can imagine how hard this decision will be for you. All I can tell you is that Issy and Cammy are looking forward to having a brother or brothers to share their nursery. My husband is longing for a son to educate and introduce into society.We will honour whatever your decision will be, but be assured my father will provide an excellent education for his grandsons.”
My distress must have been apparent for Lady Persephone squeezed my hands before she left for Prescott in the wagon with her brother.
Mother gave me a hug and said “Goodness, Lady Norris is a veritable whirlwind talker! She wears no frills and furbelows, I’ll give her that and she speaks quite plainly. I hope she didn’t upset you, Addie.”
My eyes were swimming with tears. I just shook my head and cleared the tea things off the table. My head and heart were whirling. They still are. Whatever will I do, Janetta?