©2012 Mollie Pearce McKibbon
Thursday, August 31, 1815,
I woke up in the small hours of the morning yesterday. There was a flickering glow on the horizon I at first took for early sunrise,but then, with a growing sense of alarm, I sprang from the bed and went to the window. An orange-red stain spread across the horizon and I realized with horror, that our cornfield to the south was ablaze.
“Fire, fire in the cornfield!” I shouted to Father and Henry.
I grabbed my shawl and felt my way down the staircase. Father came dashing out of the lower bedroom buttoning his trousers and calling for Henry and William who had stayed overnight. Elizabeth and Evvy soon joined us. I stayed with Vicky and Charlie who were sleeping soundly through all the commotion, while everyone else grabbed hastily made torches and ran towards the growing glow.
Everyone knew what to do and soon neighbours were joining the firefighting throng. I knew their efforts would be towards making another fire to fight the one already raging and I prayed that everyone would stay safe. Although the corn had already been harvested, the stocks were dried and perfect fuel for the fierce dragon breath of the raging flames. I stood by the window watching the growing inferno through the trees.
Gradually, I became aware of a foreboding of another danger, one much closer than the fire.
“Purty, ain’t it?” said a raspy voice behind me.
My worst fears were realized. Bourke was not an imagined terror. He was real and he was probably the cause of the massive curtain of smoke hanging over the cornfield and advancing into the next crop.
“Yer lookin’ a bit peak’d,” Bourke sneered. “Scared I ‘spect. Yer should be. Time for me to get my own back.”
I slowly backed towards the door, thinking only of the two sleeping tots upstairs, but as I reached the open door, I heard Vicky’s voice at the top of the stairs.
“Mama, Mama where are you?” Vicky’s sweet little head with it’s tousled curls appeared. She was wearing an anxious expression.
“Auntie Addy, where’s Mama?” she called out.
“She’s just gone out with your Papa for a short time. Go back to bed, Vicky!” I replied.
“Well now, ain’t this just purfect!” said Bourke with a mirthless chuckle. “I hadn’t counted on more than one captive, but …”
“Vicky can do you no harm,” I pleaded.
“She will go back to bed and sleep.”
What I said was truthful, but the advancing fire worried me. I was responsible for the children’s safety. The air was becoming acrid and some ashes drifted over the barn. In the distance I could hear the shouts of the fire fighters and above them the sound of roaring and crackling flames. If I cried out for help no one would hear me above the sound of the fire.
Bourke seemed to read my mind. “ Oh I reckon they’ll be busy for sometime and by the by when they git back, yer’ll be long gone.”
Bourke sat on one of the settles in front of the cold fireplace. I placed myself at the foot of the stairs to the upper floor, between Bourke and the children.
“This here is what I’d call a derlema,” he said as he sat with his musket pointed at my stomach. He looked bedraggled, dirty and disheveled. He was still wearing the American army garb, but it was worn and it was obviously not in army condition. He had a makeshift metal brace around the leg I had wounded and when he saw me staring at it he laughed.
“Yeah, that’s yer doin’.” he muttered. “Nice bit of handiwork, it is! Now I get ter hobble round and beg fer a livin’, huh? Not Jake Bourke. I ain’t beggin’ from no man. I take what I want and I fancy havin’ a slave.”
He suddenly sprang from the settle, dropped his musket and grabbed my arm. I screamed and the two children began crying. Startled by the children, Bourke dropped my arm and started up the stairs, but I shoved him backwards with all my might and he fell. It wasn’t enough to injure him, but it gave me enough time to rush past him out the door. I ran as fast as I could in the direction of the barn where Father kept his musket thinking Jake would run after me, but when I reached the barn, I realized he hadn’t followed me. Instead he had gone up the stairs and captured Vicky and Charlie.
The smoke in the air was making it hard to breathe. Vicky and Charlie were both crying and coughing and wriggling in Bourke’s arms. All I could think was to save the children, I had to shoot that musket but I knew loading it was impossible.
“Put the children down,” I begged Bourke. “If you let the children go, I will go with you wherever you want.”
“I don’t believe yer,” Bourke snarled. “Yer a lyin’ bitch just itch’n ter kill me.” He held the children tighter and they screamed.
It was at that moment, I heard another muffled voice from the barn.
“Adeline, go get the children. I won’t let Bourke hurt you.”
I gave no reply, but dropped the musket and walked resolutely towards Bourke. I was under no delusion he would not harm Vicky and Charlie. Somehow, I had to distract him so that Robert could do whatever he had to do to rid us of the monster Bourke had become.
“Bourke,” I said with trembling voice, “You win. I will go with you and be your slave. Just let me calm the little ones.”
Bourke stepped back towards the house, holding them even more tightly, until I was in fear of him choking Charlie and breaking Vicky’s wrist.
“No, first yer got to get the horses. They’re hobbled behind the house. Yer bring ‘em to me and I’ll give yer the tots.”
I went to do as I was told. My heart was hammering in my chest and I was praying to God to help Robert find a way to protect us. I found the two horses, unfettered their hooves and led them back to Bourke. He finally loosened his grip on Charlie, who by this time was inconsolable and pushed Vickie towards me.
I knelt on the ground and hugged Vicky, telling her that Elizabeth would soon return.
“You have to be a big girl, Vicky, and go upstairs. Take Charlie into bed with you and wait there until you see your mama or papa.”
I kissed her cheek and then I took Charlie from Bourke, soothed him as best I could and led both children up the stairs, with Bourke following close behind. I grabbed my reticule and put on my shoes. He directed me to leave everything else and go mount the horse. I went back down the stairs, hearing the children sobbing behind in the bed.
Outside, the smoke was beginning to clear a bit. The fire was losing its fervour and the family and neighbours would soon be returning hot, sooty and exhausted. I mounted the horse Bourke brought to me and as I did I heard Bourke gasp, saw him drop the reins and slide to the ground at the feet of his horse, an arrow protruding from his back.
White Wolf and Robert emerged from opposite sides of the barn, White Wolf to turn the body of my persecutor over and Robert to rush to my horse who was rearing.
Robert calmed the horse and helped me dismount. I must admit I clung to him in unashamed relief and gratitude. He picked me up as if I were no weight at all and carried me in to the settle where I held on to him even tighter while I cried.
“Oh Adeline, I do love you so,” he whispered. “I would never let anyone or anything hurt you or Charlie, don’t you know that?”
I couldn’t speak. I just clung to him and shivered. At that very moment, Elizabeth and Evvy rushed into the house, alarm all over their soot streaked faces. Robert explained what had happened and they both ran up the stairs to look after the children.
Father, Henry and William were not far behind and Robert patiently explained what had happened all over again.
“White Wolf has been trailing Bourke for a few days. The O’Meara’s didn’t want to be helpful, but White Wolf can be persuasive. It was Bourke who set the corn ablaze. Is it all extinguished now?”
Father nodded and shook Robert’s hand . He embraced me and went outside to help White Wolf put Bourke’s body into the Randall cart. Dead or not, he would be taken back to Prescott for disposal. Henry and William embraced me also and followed Father outside.
Robert knelt at my feet and said, “Dear Adeline, please give me the honour of…”
I didn’t let him finish. I hugged him tightly to me and said, “ yes, yes, yes.”
And that, Dear Janetta, is all I can tell you. I will be Mrs. Robert Randall next month when the circuit rider comes back this way. Charlie will have a new father and Andrew too. God be praised.
An excerpt from Evvy’s journal:
Saturday, September 16, 1815
Adeline and Robert Randall were married today here at the farm. They will be living here until Robert, Henry and William finish building a cabin on the land that Robert’s father gave him. One day, Blueberry Creek Farm will belong to Charlie. In the meantime, Charlie is growing fast and he loves chasing Pirate around. Pirate doesn’t move as quickly as he once did. The villain, Jacob Bourke, hit him with a log to put him out of the way when he set the fire. Now Pirate walks with a limp, but he is just as playful as a pup.
Lady Persephone Norris, Charles Houghton’s sister, wrote a letter to tell us that they had arrived safely in England and that Matthew and Charlie (Adam) have been made very welcome by her two daughters. Her husband is “delighted” to have two sons now and the boys are growing fast. She did remark that “Charlie” must resemble the Price side of the family, but it is easily seen that they are brothers as they get along so famously. She thanked Addy for being so generous and reassured her she has made an unselfish and courageous decision. The Brigadier General Ambrose Houghton has not met the boys as yet, but plans to visit for a fortnight at Christmas. He has already enrolled their names in the best schools and has ambitious plans for them. Adeline cried when she read the letter, but Charlie came over and cuddled up to her and she couldn’t help but smile.
I am not waiting for Captain Everett Houghton to return. He was charming, but not suited for the life I prefer. Hector has asked for my hand and I have accepted. Next summer I will be Mrs. Hector Hamilton and we will be living in Johnstown, in Hector’s family home. Elizabeth, William and Vicky will move into the house with Father and Henry. When Henry turns eighteen he will be living at William’s acreage. Everything is changing, but Father is getting frailer and his war injuries are causing him no little grief. He needs Williams help and one day William will inherit Thistledown Farm.
Trade across the border is back to normal and we are glad to have more of the goods that we enjoyed before the war. Mother would be so happy to know Adeline has remarried. She is the bravest and best sister a girl could wish. Today, when she and Robert stood before the circuit rider, and exchanged their vows, I knew she was thinking of her little one far away in England, but she smiled up at Robert with love and pride.
We are richly blessed.
****** The End******