Adeline’s Journal Part 6 – a fictional account of a young woman during the War of 1812
Saturday, December 5, 1812
Winter has made its appearance. Yesterday we awoke to a rime of frost on the inside wall of our bedroom and a fine dusting of white on the ground outside. Although everything looked like an enchanted land, you can be certain that Evvy and I did not spend long admiring it. We dressed quickly to do our chores. We have heavy woolen stockings and warm woolen cloaks to put on over our day dresses and pinafores. Mother also knitted us some cosy woolen mitts and hats, God bless her. I knit too, of course, but I must admit, I’m not as adept at the skill as is Evvy. She seems to have inherited all of Mother’s homemaking ways. I’m more bookish, Father says, but I am starved for the books to show it. I am good at figures though, and Father says I would make an excellent shopkeeper.
When I went out to the chicken coup the hens were all squatting on their nests with their heads tucked under their wings because of the cold. It was hard to push them off their nests to get the eggs. Henry was watering and feeding the horses and Evvy carried wood into the house for the hearth. We’ve had to double-up on chores since William and Elizabeth were married. Father has a miserable case of rheumatism, but keeps going in spit of it. Mother warms his stockings and shirt near the fire so that it is warm when he puts it on and that seems to help and so does the willow tea.
It was good to come back into the house and warm our toes by the fire. Henry said that there was ise in the water trough and no doubt, there was ice on the pond as well, but it won’t be thick enough to be walked on for some time yet.
Mother gave us breakfast, delicious biscuits, porridge and hot tea. Then she urged us to leave for our visit to Elizabeth so that we would be back before the late afternoon. Father said we needn’t rush as he would drive us there in the wagon and bring us back. We have a sleigh but there is not enough snow yet for it.
Elisabeth and William were glad to see us and brought us all inside for tea and some delicious bread with raspberry jam. William told us that Robert and Arthur Randal had come to visit the day before and brought news that plans for the building of the blockhouse and stockade were complete. More soldiers will be arriving in Prescott soon and building will begin on the fortifications in earnest in the new year. In the meantime, the soldiers, including Charles Houghton, are housed fairly comfortably in one of the two stone buildings in Prescott, but things would become a bit more uncomfortable with more men to accommodate.
William had set up some wooden boards as targets for us to practice our shooting. My aim has improved and this time I actually hit two of the boards and nicked the top corner of the third. Father was very pleased and said I had the makings of a true huntress Diana. Of course, he was teasing me, but he also said that it would be the last lesson as we need to save gunpowder for actual warfare. Elizabeth’s face drained of colour when he said it and I thought she was going to collapse, but William dashed over to her and steadied her as she walked back to the cabin.
One inside, we all had another round of tea and Elizabeth apologized for being so silly.
“I just dread when William must go away,” she said in a quavering voice. “Do you think, Father Price, that I could come and stay with Mother Price, Henry and the girls now and then?”
“Of course, you may, my dear Elizabeth, but I have also been taking to William and I have suggested that perhaps Adeline might stay with you from time to time so that you wouldn’t be so lonely here. What do you think of that?”
I was delighted by the idea although I wondered what Mother would say. Elizabeth was just as pleased as I at the suggestion and we shared an affectionate hug. It was snowing again as Father drove us home.
Thursday, December 17, 1812
Father and William have been away for a fortnight, as a larger contingent of American soldiers has moved into the town of Ogdensburg and their boats have been going up and down the St. Lawrence. It won’t be long now before the river will become impassible because of ice. The open water between the two banks is narrowing already in the cold. Snow is piling up around William and Elizabeth’s cabin, although Elizabeth and I have kept the path to the woodpile, privy and barn clear by shoveling each day. I have been staying with Elizabeth a week Monday past. Between the two of us there has grown a very close comradeship and we are more like real sisters now than friends. I had confided in her about my admiration for Charles Houghton and she told me that she suspects she may be with child. I urged her to tell Mother but she said that because it is her first experience she might very well be mistaken. Elizabeth is very shy. Even so, I have taken on the heavier chores. I felt she should talk to Mrs. Randal who attends all the births hereabouts.
Today, Arthur appeared at the barn. He startled me by coming in quietly while I was putting clean straw in the cow’s stall and then taking the pitch fork out of my hands.
“This isn’t a chore for a woman,” he said.
“I’m not a lady of the manor,” I retorted, “I’ve been doing this since I could hold the pitchfork!”
“Well, you shouldn’t have had to,” he replied as he easily finished the job and pushed Gertrude back into her stall.
“Someone has to do the chores the men aren’t here to do.”
“Robert and I are here today to check in on you and Missus Price, so we can take over for the moment. Your brother asked us to keep an eye on you.”
“That was thoughtful of him, but not really necessary.” I spluttered as I picked up the bucket to get water from the barrel for Gertrude’s trough.”
Arthur grabbed my wrist and muttered, “What is wrong with you, Adeline? You act as if I was poison lately!”
“I just don’t like to be man-handled, Arthur,” I said pushing him away, trying to put the cow between us.
“It’s Houghton. I know you are sweet on him!” Arthur said accusingly. “But he’s a liar, you know. He has a girl back in England.”
I could feel my face heating up so I turned my back on Arthur and walked away.
“Just ask Robert.” Arthur called after me. “Robert saw her picture in his camp chest.”
I kept walking toward the cabin. My head was pounding and I wanted nothing more to do with Arthur Randal. Robert was chopping wood behind the cabin. I could hear him but but couldn’t see him, so fortunately I needn’t speak to him. I pushed open the cabin door and almost stumbled over Elizabeth who was stretched out on the floor.
“Elizabeth, what is wrong?” I cried, lifting her head.
“I think that I fainted,” she said weakly. “I just came back from the privy and my knees just…”
At that moment Robert was trying to push the door open, a load of kindling in his arms.
“Robert, Elizabeth fainted. Can you help me get her into her bed?” I moved away from the door so that he could open it more easily and I heard him drop the wood outside.
He stepped inside and we two helped Elizabeth over the bed, but as we began to help her into it, I noticed blood on her skirt.
“Robert, I think we might need your mother,” I said and he nodded.
“I will send Arthur to get her right away,” he said and stepped outside to find his brother.
Elizabeth clutched my hand and protested, “Oh no, Adeline, please tell Mr. Randal not to bother. I’m sure I am not ill, just a bit tired. Please, they mustn’t bother her.”
“It’s no bother at all,” Robert reassured her as he re-entered the cabin, this time with the wood. He stoked the fire in the hearth. ” Mother is just pining for someone other than Cousin Constance Blaine and Father to talk to . She will happily oblige, I promise you.”
And come she did, ushering her two sons out to the barn while she assessed the situation. She shook off her Irish cloak and bonnet and then sat down beside the bed to talk quietly to Elizabeth while I busied myself at the hearth.
After a few moments she came over to me and bade me make tea for us.
” Just add this to Elizabeth’s cup,” she said handing me a small packet. ” It’s to help Elizabeth sleep after we get her into warm night clothes and have a little chat.”
Regina Randal is a round little sprite of a woman who’s head barely comes to my shoulder, but she has a businesslike presence that is pleasant, but firm so that one always does whatever she asks without question. I prepared the tea, we helped Elizabeth into her nightclothes and then we sat down beside the bed.
Mrs. Randal took Elizabeth’s hand in hers gently. She smoothed her hair back and smiled.
“Thee has no temperature, so that’s a good thing. My dear, thee has had a sad loss that is common to young women just married, but thee and William will have many more bairns in the coming years. Thy wee child was not far along so thee will recover quickly. Just rest now and I’ll be in to check on thee tomorrow. “
She patted Elizabeth’s hand as two large tears slid down my sister-in-law’s cheeks. I squeezed her other hand. How sad for Elizabeth! She begged us both not to tell my brother. I didn’t think it was right but then it wasn’t my secret to tell so I promised.
After Mrs. Randal and her sons left, I prepared a meal for Elizabeth and myself. Elizabeth gulped down some broth, but had no appetite for anything else. She was soon asleep and I wondered what would have happened had I not been there with her and the Randals hadn’t been there to help.