Adeline’s Journal: Part 5

Adeline’s Journal: A fictional account of a young woman’s life during the War of 1812.

Copyright 2012 by Mollie Pearce McKibbon

Friday, Oct. 16, 1812

Oh Janetta,

We almost lost Henry today. It was a terrifying moment that seemed to last hours.  Henry has been so brave about it all and Mother won’t stop fussing over him.  But, I must tell you this might have happened even if we had not been at war.  It was one of the frightful possibilities of this wild country.  

Mother and Evvy were making bread at the time.  I was pulling turnips from the garden, getting them ready for winter storage.  We have very harsh winters here.  I heard Henry calling from the barn where he had gone to milk the cow.  I dropped my spade and went to see what was wrong.  Our barn is just a bit larger than our house and has only two windows, both open to the air, one large for tossing down hay bales and one small.  They don’t let in a lot of light, because of the tall trees behind the barn.  There are three stalls, one for our two horses and one for our cow.  We have a lot of farm implements hanging on the opposite wall or leaning up against it.  I could hear Henry, but I couldn’t see him at first.  

“Henry, has Molly trod on your foot ?” I asked.

“Get Father’s gun, Addie,” he replied .  I still couldn’t see him but I could hear something snarling and Molly lowing.

The horse stalls were empty, because Father had gone to help William cut his hay.  He usually kept his gun with him during the day, so I knew there was no use going to look for it. I picked up the pitchfork and walked cautiously towards  Molly’s  stall.  By then my eyes had adjusted to the dimness of the barn and I could see my little brother  at Molly’s  head, his hand gently stroking her muzzle.  There, behind her, crouched with its teeth bared and back bristled, was a  tawny cougar.

I have to tell you, Janetta, that I never once thought I was in danger. All I knew was that I must do something to protect Henry.  I gripped that pitchfork with both hands and lunged directly at the cat.  I fell short of killing it but the fork grazed its ribs and it turned on me furiously, at which point I lunged again, this time more successfully.  Hearing the commotion, Mother and Evvy rushed to the barn, in time to see Henry hit the wounded cat soundly on its head with a shovel.  

Mother screamed and grabbed Henry.  Evvy stood still staring at me in shock.  I began to shudder and couldn’t stop shaking.  Henry made sure the cougar was dead and retrieved the pitchfork.  

Permit me to state, dear Janetta, that I was never so frightened in all my life.  Father later said that it was a young cougar, probably half-starved, that had smelled the cow and entered the barn.  William thought perhaps it may have been in the early stages of hydrophobia, because cougars usually keep away from mankind.  To be on the safe-side, Father and William donned gloves, dragged the cougar away and burned it and the wooden pitchfork.

Later, Father spoke to Henry, Evvy and me very seriously, telling us that he had decided, because he and William might be called away in the militia, we must learn to shoot a musket to protect each other, but because it would upset her, Mother must never know.

I know I shall be dreaming about that cougar tonight.  I don’t like to hurt God’s creatures, but I am so thankful that there isn’t yet another grave in the orchard.

Thankfully, Adeline

Sunday, November 1, 1812

 

Dearest Janetta,

It is much colder now and the frost gets heavier every day.  A few snowflakes fell yesterday, but not enough to deter Evvy and me from our weekly visit to Elizabeth.  Elizabeth asked Mother if we could come to see her on Saturday mornings as she was very lonely without female company.  It is true of course, that Elizabeth does get lonely when William is working in their bush or spending time with the militia, but it is partly to hide from Mother, what William and Father are teaching us, all three of us.  It is no problem for Father to teach Henry.  It is expected that a son should know how to shoot.  I doubt that even Mrs. Randall and her sister, Miss Blaine, would approve of three young ladies learning to shoot a musket.  I expect even Charles would be shocked.

However, Father is determined that we become capable of protecting our home from intruders, animal or enemy.  William is just as concerned for Elizabeth.  In the past few weeks we have learned to load and shoot Father’s and William’s muskets.  Shooting is one thing; actually making the musket ball go where it is intended is quite something else.  Evvy, Elizabeth and I are improving somewhat, but it has taken some discipline to overcome the tendency to shut one’s eyes when pressing on the trigger.  Father says, if nothing else, the noise we make and the shock of seeing a woman with a musket, should scare anything off.

Corporal Charles Houghton, rode up from Fort Wellington, to bring us the latest news of the war.  It is very encouraging and yet so very sad.  Despite overwhelming odds, General Isaac Brock and his valiant troops met the American forces in the Battle of Queenston Heights and won the day on October 13.  Sadly, General Brock was also killed during the hard-fought battle.

Charles said that the flag hung at half-mast for a week at the fort.  General Proctor will now be in command of our forces.  

Charles has paid me a very kind compliment about my smile.  He said it lifted his spirits immensely and that he would be honoured if I would accept a poem he had written in my honour.  Of course I thanked him and blushed.

He pressed a very pretty scroll wrapped with a lovely blue satin ribbon into my hands.  He asked me not to read it until he had left and so I said I would not. When I did open the scroll, it was addressed to the “Heroine of My Heart” and was praising my killing of the cougar.  It made me blush to read such flowery praise.  I don’t think William or Father would have approved but no other person shall ever see it, not even Evvy.

Secretly, Adeline.  

Adeline’s Journal: Part 4 October 1812

A fictional account of a young woman’s life during the War of 1812.

Copyright 2012 by Mollie Pearce McKibbon

Sunday, October 11, 1812 Thistledown Farm

Dear Janetta, 

It has been a momentous week in the life of the Price family.  All week long we women folk have been sewing and cooking.  Father and William spent most of the first part of the week working on William’s property, fitting in the cabin windows and finishing off the roof so that it is water tight.  Mr. Osteen, the stone mason from Johnstown, is a good friend of Father’s and he built William’s hearth from rocks that William had cleared from his land.   William found some flat stones to use as a partial floor for Elizabeth’s cooking area.  The rest of the floor is made of wood planks, as our’s is at home.  Then Father and William constructed a table and benches.  Elizabeth’s father, Mr. Branch, drove up from his farm with a wonderful pine bedstead he had them as a wedding present along with a quilt made by Elizabeth’s two sisters, Susanna and Gwendolyn.  

Last Thursday, Mother, Evvy and I went to William’s cabin with the straw mattress we had made them and the set of down pillows made of the eider down Mother had saved.  Father helped us take everying there in the wagon.  William showed us all the new improvements and he was particularly proud of the andirons and cast iron kettle he had purchased for the hearth.

Mother, Evvy and I had took such pleasure in making everything comfortable and warm.  We hung up the curtains Elizabeth had made for the two small windows and put the linens she had sewn on their bed.  Our neighbours, the Randalls and their visitor, Miss Blaine, sent over two lovely rag rugs for the cabin floor.  Evvy brought out the secret project she worked on most of the summer – a sampler she had cross-stitched on a bleached sugar bag.  The sampler reads”God bless this house and all who dwell herein.”  She hung it up on a nail over their bed.  I had made two pillow cases and trimmed them with some left over material from our new dresses.  When Elizabeth saw the results of everyone’s labour she cried happy tears and hugged us.  I must say the cabin did look snug and pretty.

I do wish you could have attended the wedding, Janetta.  Probably by now you are engaged to some nice gentleman from Waddington or perhaps a soldier away at war with Napoleon.  England seems so far away and indeed it is, but our life back there hardly seems real to me anymore.  Life here is very difficult and yet, so rewarding.

Saturday dawned bright and clear; the sun shining down through red and gold leaves.  Elizabeth was handsomely clothed in a new blue cotton gown with a matching bonnet and coat trimmed in squirrel.  William looked so grown-up in his dark green militia uniform.  They were married by the Anglican reverend under the most beautiful scarlet maple near their cabin.  Afterwards we had a delicious supper and some very happy celebration to the music of a fiddler from Fort Wellington who played some lively reels.  Gwendolyn and Susanna sang “The Flowers of Edinburgh” , “The White Cockade”, and “The Gypsy Laddie”.  Some of William’s militia friends sang  “The Girl I Left Behind” and other army songs.  It was very entertaining.  Dancing on the forest floor is not like dancing in a town hall, but it can be done carefully so as not to trip on tree roots.  

Unfortunately, Charles was not able to attend, this being his watch at the fort, but I did dance with Robert Randall and Charle’s friend, John Thompson.  Arthur snubbed me.  He monopolized Elizabeth’s sister, Susanna and made a total boor of himself on the cider that Col. Jessup’s family had provided for the occasion.  Robert was disgusted with his brother and apologized to my father.  The Randall’s were exasperated and I overheard Mr. Randall have harsh words with his youngest son.  Finally, Robert had to take Arthur away from the festivities, much to everyone’s relief, and the rest of the party stayed until dusk.  At dusk, William carried his happy bride over their threshold and we all went home.

Today, we all got up early and after the animals were fed and other chores done, Father gathered us around the table for our usual Sabbath Bible study and prayers.  Then Mother led us in a hymn sing in her lovely contralto voice and we sang as many of the dear old hymns as we could remember.  Of course, it’s not like being in the church in Wendover, which I do miss a great deal, especially at Christmas.

Much love,

Adeline

Monday, Oct. 12, 1812

Dear Janetta,

Arthur Randall rode over on his new horse today and made a half-hearted apology to my father and mother.  I don’t think Father was very impressed, but Mother has a softer heart and invited him in for lunch.  Thankfully, Arthur politely declined the invitation and rode away without so much as a glance in my direction.

How can two brothers be so very different in nature?  They certainly look like brothers, both having dark brown eyes (Charles’ are hazel I’ve noticed) and sand-coloured hair and mustaches (Charles is blond), but otherwise they are totally different in character.  Robert is  a quiet, soft spoken lad with a pleasant smiling disposition while Arthur is given to moodiness and angry outbursts. Robert carefully considers his replies and is more likely to laugh than complain.  Arthur is a hard worker and helpful, but blurts out just what he thinks when he thinks when he thinks it with out due consideration to the feelings of others.  I simply cannot understand his petulance.

With exasperation,

Adeline