American Revolution: The Patriot's Daughter
1775 ~ Concord, Massachusetts
Part I – Desire
My father had forbidden us to speak to any of the British soldiers. They had occupied our farm and our house; filling the dining room, sitting room, spare guest rooms below and any other place they could find. We had been asked to remain upstairs in a single bedchamber as prisoners. Could you believe it? I had been asked to be a hostage in my own home. Father would have been shot to death if he had said we were Patriots. Thank God we were spared. The British General was a cold, callous man and treated everyone around him ill, including me and my mother when we came with rounds of tea. His stature was robust and had an oversized belly like a woman who was with child. What was left of his grayish brown hair was hidden beneath a curled white wig and a curved hat. His waistcoat could hardly fit around his bloated stomach. Even the brass buttons on his red uniform looked as though they would burst off his coat. He would often give me looks that made my blood curdle. I could not stand to see the sight of him any longer.
After I finished pouring the officers their tea, I abandoned the library; closing the door behind me. In the other rooms, I could hear the footmen and other soldiers laughing and shouting at one another. I sighed and returned the tea kettle and tray back to the kitchen. I prepared a small lunch for myself, my father, mother and sister. I folded the lunch into a white linen cloth and tucked it away under my arm before leaving our kitchen. A young officer stepped in and I froze in place. I was a deer in front of a hunter with a rifle. My eyes widened and I nearly dropped the wrapped linen. I stared at the officer in shock and gave him a clumsy curtsy. I wished I would have said something but my words were stuck in my throat. The young officer blocking my escape looked just as taken aback as I was.
"Forgive me, I—," I began, "I only meant to—,"
The young officer stepped aside and bowed his head a little towards me. I hurriedly left the kitchen and nearly yelped as the officer touched my arm.
"Wait," he said his face expressionless, "what is your name?"
"Abbott sir, Catherine Abbott," I answered.
"Lieutenant Colonel James Althwarp," the officer answered.
I curtsied again and he bowed after releasing my arm.
"You may go, Miss Abbott, my apologies for startling you."
"Thank you, Lieutenant Colonel,"
He smiled lightly at me and I ran back up the stairs to the rest of my family. The young officer who I had just met appeared different than all the rest of the officers. Though he had startled me initially, I now have hardly any reason to fear that he should report me to his higher authority. Oddly, after becoming acquainted with James Althwarp, I wanted to see him again. I knew Father would never allow it, but my mother would likely be more lenient. I came to our bedchamber and set out our lunch. My sister's hands were trembling as she took her cut of cheese and a piece of bread and salted pork.
"I hope you did not run into too much trouble, dear Catherine." Father said.
"No, the officers kept busy and I was out of their way as much as possible."
"That is good to hear. Has the General announced when they would take their leave?"
"No, they would not discuss matters of war when I gave them their tea. They changed conversations as soon as I entered the study."
"Well they are clever old bats then, are they not?"
"John," Mother scolded, sending my father a look.
"You want those Redcoats out of our house as much as I do, Alice." Father argued, "And once they have gone, we can have our peace of mind back. I should have gone to the meeting with the others. The Patriots were planning another attack on the British."
"No, John! It is too precarious. It is enough that the General and his men think we are Loyalists. If they realize you have spoken lies, it will ruin our family." Mother exclaimed, in the softest whisper she could manage. "Think of your daughters! What could they do without a father! What could I do without a husband? I would be nothing but a poor old widow!"
"Hush, Alice, do not be afraid. I am not leaving this house yet. Not while we are hostages in our own home." Father said, taking hold of Mother.
She wiped away her tears as Father kissed her forehead and enveloped her into his embrace. I sighed and looked out the window of our bed chamber. There were redcoats everywhere and horses. There were some men carrying in wounded and some that were being tended to. My thoughts were distracted as loud footsteps ascended the stairs. Every one of us stiffened and my sister nearly panicked until Mother wrapped her arms around her. A footman stepped in with a curt bow and looked towards me.
"Miss Abbott, Lieutenant Colonel James Althwarp has requested an audience with you."
"What business does an officer have with my daughter?" Father asked.
"He says he wishes to discuss certain business matters with the Miss Abbott."
"Where can I find him?"
"In the kitchen, Miss Abbott,"
I glanced over at Father and he was furious. I had never seen him look so infuriated since the Redcoats invaded our home.
"Say nothing to him, Catherine." Father insisted.
I nodded. Why Lieutenant Colonel James Althwarp wanted to see me, I had no thought. I could not even imagine why he asked to see me. The footman led me down the stairs, the corridors and finally to our kitchens. James stood leaning against the mantelpiece of the hearth when we entered. The footman bowed before leaving. I curtsied, even when James refused to look at me.
"You wished to see me, Lieutenant Colonel?"
James looked up and looked almost flustered when he saw me. I could have sworn I saw his cheeks turn a light shade of pink as he cleared his throat and straightened himself up. It was rather unnerving and unsettling…as he watched me. I had thought of nothing to say to James. What was there to say?
"I — er, hope this was not an inconvenience, Miss Abbott." James began. "I wished to see you again."
"What?" I asked, dubiously. "Forgive me, but why would you wish to see me?"
"I find it quite astonishing and just as puzzling as you, Miss Abbott. God, I am doing this all wrong…"
I had never seen a British officer so flustered or discomfited as James Althwarp was now. I found it rather amusing, though I dared not laugh.
"I suppose it would be decent to be acquaintances, Lieutenant?" I inquired.
"Yes, of course if it suits you." said James, "Would Mr. Abbott mind it if this—,"
"I would not know, Lieutenant Colonel. I advise you to ask my father for his approval. I would deem that wise."
"Then it shall be done, Miss Abbott." Lieutenant Colonel Althwarp answered. "I will speak to your father immediately. Would you join me?"
"I really do not have a choice, do I? My family and I have only been permitted one room in the house."
"I shall have a word with our General to treat you and your family benignly. I apologise on behalf of General Robert Harlow."
James walked towards me and offered me his arm. I hesitantly accepted. He led me out of the kitchen and brought me back upstairs. I dropped my arm from his and walked into the bedchamber. My mother rose from her chair and kissed my cheeks. Father glared at my lieutenant as he bowed.
"Forgive me, Mr. Abbott sir, I do not mean to infringe upon you anymore than we already have. I came here to ask your consent that Miss Abbott and I may be acquaintances." James exclaimed, in one breath.
My mother and my sister looked at him in shock. Father, however, was outraged at the notion. He kept a fixed stare at my lieutenant and folded his arms across his chest.
"What makes you believe I would ever consent to such a request?"
"I am sorry to have disturbed you, Mr. Abbott. It will not happen again." James said, with another quick bow.
He closed the door behind him before receding back downstairs.
"John, his manner was quite civil and I do believe you treated him quite poorly." Mother exclaimed.
Father completely ignored her as he looked at me, his expression fierce.
"I do not want you near that Englishman. You are not to speak to him or to any of them. Do I make myself clear?"
. . .
There was something peculiar about that Mr. Abbott, James had noticed. He had told the officers that he had been a Loyalist. Any Loyalist would have gladly welcomed the British troops into their homes. James sat on their front veranda, replaying what had just happened in his thoughts. He remembered a week ago as they arrived to this farm Mrs. Abbott had to convince her husband to let them stay. James had overheard her reminding him that they are Loyalists now. What if Catherine's father was truly a Patriot? He wondered why he had not reported Mr. Abbott to his General. James knew that he should not, particularly due to the fact that he wished to befriend Mr. Abbott's daughter Catherine. This time he would let that slide. James knew they were playing Loyalists. He would spare them this once. For Catherine, he thought. I am only doing this for Catherine.
James knew he had to prove his worth to receive approval from Mr. Abbott. He wondered how that would be possible. He thought for a moment, why was he willing to risk his title and position for just one Patriot's daughter? There were so many other wealthier families back at home in London with many daughters who would gladly marry an officer with a good reputation and rank. His interest in Catherine Abbott was, indeed, a mystery. He could not deny that. His thoughts were distracted as a hand landed heavily on his back by one of his fellow lieutenants.
"What is it that has you all engrossed in your thoughts?" his comrade inquired, resting his elbows on the rail of the wooden fence wrapped around the veranda.
"Not now, Lieutenant Briggs," James groaned, as his friend laughed.
"Is it a certain young lady I saw you walking with earlier this morning? You know you cannot have her. She is, as far as I am concerned, a Patriot. Did you not see the way her father behaved when we arrived on their doorstep?"
"Well, yes…but she has been quite civil, has she not?"
"The Miss does go about her rounds with tea for us. Just do not let General Harlow catch you frolicking with the girl."
"I have no intentions of frolicking with Miss Abbott; I only have means to be acquainted with her." James argued.
Lieutenant Briggs snorted and rolled his eyes.
"Oh, it is Miss Abbott now?" Lieutenant Briggs inquired, humourously. "Soon you will be calling her by her Christian name! And what would her name be?"
James clenched his jaw and scowled at Lieutenant Briggs.
"Catherine, and why must you be so persistent about this?"
"I like to know what is going on with the men. It keeps me entertained."
"Then you are no better than our society ladies back home in London who adore nothing but idle gossip. They would love your company."
"Oh," Lieutenant Briggs sang, "well then, you must make me acquainted with these society ladies! I should like to meet them very much indeed."
"I do not mean to sound disdainful but I would like to be in peace with my own thoughts."
"Of course, James, and then you can spend the rest of the evening painfully thinking of your newly discovered love for Miss Catherine Abbott." Lieutenant Briggs jested, before hopping down the steps and walking to one of the military tents set up just outside the house.
James had a faint smile playing at the corners of his mouth as Lieutenant Briggs sauntered off, whistling a merry little tune.
"Lieutenant Colonel Althwarp, why are you not at your post?" the familiar commanding voice of General Harlow startled James from his reverie.
James stood up right and kept his head held high as General Harlow passed by him.
"My apologies, it will not happen again, General."
"Return to your post, Lieutenant Colonel."
James bowed to his superior and turned to leave.
"And if I hear any sullying from you and that Miss Abbott, I shall send you back to England and have your positions stripped from you."
"Yes, sir," James nodded curtly.
"You are forbidden to cavort with these Americans." General Harlow seethed. "You are dismissed."
. . .
I could not sleep that night. My heart pounded in my chest as drums would on a battlefield. My lieutenant's offer had been refused. It was a war inside me – a part of me wanted to be with him but the other forbade it; much like my austere, proud, Patriot father. Of course I wanted to please my mother and father and do what was right. But something inside me told me that I was intended to have James Althwarp in my life. God knows why but it happened. He was here, from England, stationed in my house and was thrown into my life. It was either by his doing that he was in our kitchen this morning or by his General's. I sighed and quietly picked myself up the floor and wrapped a shawl around my shoulders. My wool slippers warmed my feet as I slipped them on. I made my escape downstairs, creeping quietly so I would not wake a soul in the house. Perhaps James was awake as I was and I could see him tonight. In the darkness, I found my way into the kitchen and waited.
"Catherine! What are you doing awake at this hour? You realize what could happen if General Harlow discovered you in here?" James hissed, grabbing my arm.
My cry of shock was muffled as he covered my mouth with his gloved hand. My eyes widened as my back pressed against him, his breath hot against my hair and my neck. My breathing soon slowed and his grip on me loosened. I turned and faced him. He placed his hands gently on my arms and sighed.
"Catherine, you know as well as I this is unsafe."
"Then why are you here?" I countered. "Did you know I would be here?"
"I presumed you were more headstrong than you and your father believed." James answered, a half smile playing at the corners of his mouth as he looked at me. "I have won my own wager."
"Congratulations are in order then," I said, softly.
I closed my eyes as he pressed his hand on my cheek. His face was close to mine but our lips did not touch.
"I want you to have you, Catherine Abbott. Tell me I have a chance," he whispered.
My mind and my heart raced wildly. Was this truly happening? Was I falling for a man who was supposed to be our Enemy? No…this was just a man, young man, like so many others far from their homeland fighting for a cause not of their own – forced in the King's Royal Army, doing His Majesties' bidding. Perhaps James did not even have the desire to come and engage in war. If I chose James, I would be shunned by my father, a disgrace to my family. All was not fair in love and war. It truly was not.
"Please forgive me, Lieutenant Colonel, I have lingered here far too long. Ask for me in the morn." I said my voice barely above a whisper.
James released me and I returned back upstairs, praying my father would not hear my heavy heartbeat and my ragged breathing. It was too much – I realized James had seen me in my nightgown. My cheeks grew hot, as it had been a sheer nightgown. Mama told me once that only the man who was my husband should see me in such a way. I continued to blush as I wrapped another blanket around me. James invaded my mind and my dreams as I slept that night. I was too deeply involved to be rescued from his grasp now. And I did not wish to be liberated…ever.