American Revolution: The Patriot's Daughter
Part II – Allegiance
Several tedious days had passed since the arrival of the King's Royal Army. My sister frequently fell into hysterics and depression – fearing the worst. Mother tried to comfort her and sooth her fears but it was little help. This had affected her the most, and yet I do not see why. I understand that I am meant to be the strong, supporting and brave elder sister. But, she stays with Mother in our single bedchamber and refuses to leave, even for a short walk in our garden if the general allows us to. I continued to visit my lieutenant colonel in private meetings. I often ventured into the kitchen where I found him already waiting for me. I know I should not have disobeyed my father but James Althwarp is like no other man I have met. He is kind, civil and he likes to make me laugh. When I prepare rounds of tea for General Harlow and some of the higher ranking officers, he tells me jokes and stories of his home in England.
James has two sisters and a father in London. His mother had died a few months after birthing his youngest sister, Amelia. He was only fourteen when he lost his mother. I could not imagine losing my mother. She means the world to all of us in this household. I knew that if we were to ever lose her, we would also lose our father. He has always been madly in love with her – he once told us this. He and Mother knew one another since they were younger than my sister, Abigail. He told us; even then, he was determined to marry the beautiful Alice Whitworth of Boston, Massachusetts. And so he did.
Since our father told us the story, I was determined to have a marriage based on love rather than someone my mother and father arrange me with. I knew that once I came to this realisation, it was written plainly in front of me. I did have some romantic feelings developing for James Althwarp. Some would say this was juvenile of me since I was only a child – having lived only for seven and ten years. I would argue with them that Mother was just my age when she and Father married in Boston. Now Boston is under siege...the King's regiment under General Thomas Gage were driven back there. The men that remained here were the wounded from the battle over near Lexington and on the borders of Concord, our home. This beautiful land is now stained crimson with lives that should not have been lost.
But if it is for our freedom, then I suppose some lives must be for the sake of others. I understood that I was only a young woman and I should not have had opinions like these but I did. It was difficult not to, since we were in the midst of a war, a terrible one at that. I know Father would have gone if he could have but he had a family to shield. I sometimes wonder what would have occurred to the rest of us if Father would have gone. Would the British have been so genteel towards us? Would they have spared us? If things had been different, I would not have met my lieutenant colonel. Fate had its way with all of us, did it not? I sat on the window sill, thinking about this until Mother drew me out of my reverie. I closed my book and glanced her way.
"It seems you have been reading that same page for over an hour, dearest." Mother said. "Why don't you go downstairs and see about lunch?"
She smiled at me and I knew what she meant. I nodded and closed my book before placing it upon the window sill at my feet. I glanced at Father and he gave me a curt nod before I left. I looked over at my younger sister – she was sleeping next to Mama who had been lying up in bed.
"I shan't be long." I replied, before leaving our single bedchamber.
It felt good to walk after sitting so long in that same position. I made my way below and stopped whenever a soldier passed by me. I would give them a curtsy and they would give me a look and then go about their business, as if I had never been there.
"You there, young miss," a soldier shouted at me.
I turned around and saw a man perhaps ten years older than my father walking towards me. I stepped into the kitchen and he followed me in.
"How may I be of service, sir?" I asked, timidly.
I tried to avoid his gaze as I looked for something for my family. I found a half loaf of bread, some cheese, butter, salted ham and goat's milk.
"General Harlow requests tea in the study...you, eh, fine young thing, are you not?"
"Beg pardon, sir?" I said a little shocked at his demeanour.
The Redcoat advanced towards me in one swift stride and knocked the jug of goat's milk from my hands.
"You look young and pretty...perhaps would like to share a warm bed with me, eh?"
"Please, sir, let me pass. My family—,"
I released a struggled cry as he grabbed my shoulders and pushed me towards the table in the middle of the kitchen. I tried to punch him, fight against him but it was no use. I was a weak, frail woman compared to this beast. As I struggled against my captor, a gun cocked behind us. The soldier stopped immediately and turned around slowly, keeping his hand pressed on my back.
"Unhand her at once, soldier." The words seethed through James like poison from an Egyptian cobra. "The young lady is not to be harmed. You are fortunate I have chosen not to report this to the General."
The Redcoat let me go and stormed out of the kitchen. I stumbled and collapsed onto my knees, trembling and shocked. Once the Redcoat was gone, James wrapped his coat around me and gently helped me to my feet.
"He did not harm you?"
I shook my head, my body still trembling.
"H-he did not have the chance to. Thank you, lieutenant colonel,"
"What is it you came here for?"
"Luncheon for myself, Mother, Father and my sister,"
James nodded and helped me gather the things I'd already gotten. He cleaned up the broken vase and dried up the goat's milk. Once the floor cleaned, he escorted me back upstairs – so I would not have to make any unwanted contact with other soldiers.
"Good heavens, Catherine! My dear, are you well?" Mother exclaimed, as James opened the door.
"She is distressed, good madam; a soldier in lower ranks had confronted her—,"
"Damn you English—," Father began.
"Father! Please, he – he rescued me...had he not interfered the other soldier would have sullied me."
Mother and Father both glanced at James, astonished. Father however was still reluctant to trust him.
"I shall have that soldier reported immediately to my general. He will not trouble her again, you have my word."
"The word of an Englishman?" Father scoffed. "...cannot be trusted,"
Father was glaring at James.
Mother and I exclaimed, simultaneously.
"You owe him decent manners if anything at all. Our daughter would have been ruined if it had not been for — forgive me, but I do not know what I may call you?" Mother looked at James.
"Lieutenant Colonel James Althwarp, madam,"
"If it had not been for our lieutenant colonel—,"
"Very well!" Father said, indifferently.
His tone was still bitter as he continued speaking,
"I will allow these acquaintances to carry on...if I find you have done anything else, you will have a price upon your head." Father looked at me and then to James.
I could not help but smile that moment. James bowed to all of us and departed. Once he was gone, I embraced my father.
"Oh Father, you are the most wonderful father in all The Colonies. You truly are!" I exclaimed.
Father's gaze softened and he chuckled and returned the embrace.
. . .
James hastened his way to General Harlow, waiting to tell him this incident with one of his soldiers. He found the door to the study and knocked twice. A footman to General Harlow opened the door and stepped aside to allow James in. The man was writing on a thick piece of parchment with his feathered quill. His white powdered wig was removed from his head and so was his tri-corn hat. James stood there in silence, waiting for Harlow to acknowledge his presence. He did after several moments.
"Yes, what is it Lieutenant Colonel?" Harlow asked, bitterly. "I have not time for idle chatter."
"Of course not, General," he answered. "I wish to report that I discovered one of the family members under house arrest, Miss Catherine Abbott, and a fellow soldier in the kitchens around noon. If I had not interfered, the man would have taken complete advantage of her and sullied her."
"Why do you think it is important that I should worry over a small matter such as this? This is not our priority! We are at war with these people, Althwarp; get your head back on your shoulders, man! They have committed treason against His Majesty! Who gives a damn if a girl is raped? It's the spoils of war for a man to enjoy what he's imprisoned!"
James was repulsed at the words of his own countryman.
"Then I am afraid I cannot be under your command any longer, General."
"You are infatuated by a bloody woman...you do not see your blindness. Get out of my sight or I will have you removed. You are still under my command until I see fit. Good day to you sir," Harlow seethed. "Since you have been such an excellent envoy on behalf of your Catherine Abbott perhaps you may inform the Mrs. Abbott and her daughters they too are now on duty. They are to tend to the wounded as well as keep my men occupied and well-fed. As for Mr. Abbott, he is to come in and see me immediately."
"Yessir," James said, and left.
As James ascended the stairs, he allowed his thoughts to overcome him. How could General Harlow have been so revolting? As he drew nearer to the single bedchamber the Abbotts were given, he could hear their soft chatter. Sighing, James reluctantly knocked on the door three times. The door opened, revealing Mr. Abbott.
"Yes, what do you want?" he asked, sharply.
"Pardon my intrusion again, sir, General Harlow asked to see you in the study. As for Mrs. Abbott, Miss Catherine Abbott and Miss Abbott, he has requested that they continue to work the house and fields, providing food for the soldiers and help the wounded."
"Your general may—,"
"John, it would be wise to hold your tongue. Go to General Harlow. The girls and I will be alright." Mrs. Abbott said, coming to the door. "Go on, my love."
James watched as Mr. Abbott gave his wife a look before descending the stairs. The man was a Patriot at heart – James knew almost immediately but he could not say to General Harlow. He did not wish to disappoint his Catherine – Catherine meant something to him and he did not wish to ruin their friendship simply because her father was a Patriot. James stepped aside for Catherine, Mrs. Abbott and Miss Abbott and led them downstairs. Once below, each of them put an apron on and Mrs. Abbott went to fetch her medical supplies from the kitchen. Catherine and her sister waited for their mother to return.
"Catherine – Miss Abbott, I hope you know that I will stand by you, your sister and your mother – so you are not harmed in any way." James said, softly.
Catherine smiled at him – a gorgeous smile. Her deep brown eyes glowed as she smiled at him, something he liked about her features.
"Thank you, James, and please do just call me Catherine. We are acquaintances after all."
"I suppose you are right, Miss – er, Catherine."
"S-stay away from my sister..." the younger Miss Abbott shot James a fearful look.
Both Catherine and James glanced at Abigail. Catherine took hold of her sister and looked her straight in the eyes.
"Abigail, he is on our side – he is helping us!" Catherine hissed, shaking her sister slightly.
The fear remained in Abigail's stare as she looked at her sister in shock. It seemed as though the spark of the war had affected Abigail more than her sister.
"Your sister speaks the truth, Miss Abbott."
"Don't talk to me, snake!" Abigail shrieked, pulling away from her sister's grasp.
Mrs. Abbott had returned to the front hallway, after hearing her daughter shouting. She had a puzzled look about her as she placed the medicine basket on the sofa.
"My darling Abigail, whatever is the matter?"
"I don't want them here! They terrify me! I wish for this awful war to end!" Abigail sobbed. "The English are demons!"
"Hush, sweet Abigail...mustn't say such things," Mrs. Abbott soothed her youngest daughter.
Abigail broke into hysterical sobs and her body wracked with fear as she collapsed on the wooden floor. Mrs. Abbott tried to control her thrashing and panicking but it did not prevail. Abigail wept and screamed as Catherine and Mrs. Abbott held her down.
"Abby! Dearest, stop this!" Catherine exclaimed, brushing hair out of her sister's face.
"What is the meaning of this?!" a voice shouted from atop the stairs.
Angrily, General Harlow walked down the noisy stairs and saw the young girl in hysterics on the floor.
"Please, sir, forgive my daughter! The war has troubled her spirits, she is unwell." Mrs. Abbott said, rising.
"So she is! Lieutenant Colonel, bring this mewling beast outside at once."
"I will not harm either Miss Abbotts or their elders, General." James replied, sharply.
"Damn you, man, I shall have Lieutenant Briggs put an end to this then!"
General Harlow marched out of the house with Abigail as Mrs. Abbott began screaming herself. Mr. Abbott ran down the stairs as quickly as he could, grabbing hold of his wife.
"My baby! My darling Abigail!" Mrs. Abbott was in hysterical tears, struggling against her husband.
James thought of any way he could possibly stop this. He and Catherine went outside and followed General Harlow.
"I must intercede, General! You cannot harm a civilian!" James shouted, angrily. "This is madness!"
"Their rebellion against the King is madness! You are finished with this regiment, Mr. Althwarp. You are no longer Lieutenant Colonel because of your insolence and treason against the crown. Lieutenant Briggs, come forth!"
The dark-haired lieutenant obeyed and readied his gun.
"No! Abby! Abby please!" Catherine shouted.
James grabbed hold of her and held her back as she wept. Lieutenant Briggs pointed the rifle at Abigail, his hands trembling. He looked at James and Catherine – there was sympathy in his eyes, behind the stone facade. He returned his stare at Abigail as she was shoved onto her knees by their General. Abigail was sobbing and shaking her head, speaking incoherently as Lieutenant Briggs raised his rifle once more.
The shot sounded through the still, quiet afternoon, ringing in all of their ears. James held Catherine as she shrieked her sister's name. She buried her face into his chest, sobbing.
"Catherine, Catherine, look at me..." James said.
James glared at General Harlow and at his companion, Lieutenant Briggs.
"You have disgraced the law of His Majesty the King of England and The Colonies. You are an ignominy to this regiment."
"You murdered a civilian for no good reason—,"
"This is war!" General Harlow shouted. "I shall dispose of all these blasted Americans if I must to put the troubled mind of our King at ease! From this day henceforth, James Althwarp, you are exiled to live out your days in The Colonies. Lieutenant Briggs, we leave in a fortnight."
"Aye, sir," Lieutenant Briggs saluted General Harlow and watched as the calloused man left.
Once gone, he turned to Catherine and James.
"Miss Abbott, please forgive me...I did not—,"
"Enough, Thomas," James seethed.
"Allow me to—,"
"You have done enough, you bastard." Mr. Abbott clutched in his arms his youngest child, his hands stained with her blood.
Mrs. Abbott refused to get off the ground as she sobbed.
"F-Forgive me," Lieutenant Briggs said, shaking his head.
James could see his trembling hands as he removed a pistol from his waistcoat.
"No, Thomas!" James shouted.
The blast happened quicker than James could have expected. The corpse of Thomas Briggs collapsed on the grass with a thud. Blood rushed out of the head where the bullet had gone through from his mouth. Catherine stared in shock at the sight of another living soul now deceased.
"He did not wish to live with the burden of having murdered your sister." James said softly; as Catherine kneeled down to examine the head wound. "He had a good heart and was a friend since university at Cambridge."
"We should at least give them both a proper burial since we both have lost someone dear to our hearts."
"I will not be burying that bastard anywhere." Mr. Abbott growled.
His stare was vicious as he looked towards Catherine and James.
"Because of your foolishness your sister is dead!" Mr. Abbott shouted. "I knew I should never have allowed this –,"
"Father, you can see he is different than the rest of them! You know he is!" Catherine shouted.
"You will not raise your voice at me, wench!" Mr. Abbott snarled, glaring at Catherine.
. . .
I was certain Father was going to hit me for such disobedience and insolence. Much to my surprise, he did not. Instead, he lifted sweet Abigail into his arms and walked towards our garden, a long way away from here. That is where his mother and father were buried. My sweet, dearest sister was shot to death simply because she had a terrible fright of war and of the English. I knew it not had been James' fault – the fault was all mine, like Father told me. I could easily forgive James but I do not think it was in my heart to forgive his companion, Lieutenant Thomas Briggs. I did not even pity his death. I could not. The only reason why I reluctantly chose to pity his death – even for a moment – was for James. A part of me wanted to hate James as well but I simply could not bring myself to.
"James – I...I am sorry for Thomas." I replied, softly to him as we sat on the wicker chairs on the porch by the front door.
"He should not have murdered your sister." James said, taking hold of my hand. "I should have kept my distance from you. I should have avoided speaking to you but I found myself incapable of such actions. I found that I could not go a single night without you somehow entering my thoughts – since we met a week ago, that is."
"Could this truly be possible? That love happens so quickly like it did for Guinevere and Lancelot and Romeo and Juliet – or perhaps like The Sorrows of Young Werther?"
"You have read Young Werther?" James asked, rather surprised.
"Of course! I found it in the study where Mother's books are. It was a wonderful novel..."
"Perhaps then you have heard of Thomas Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry?"
"No, I am afraid I have not but it sounds fascinating. Have you read it?"
"Many times...I happen to have brought my only copy of it with me when I went to Cambridge. I could give it to you if you should like to read it?"
"Oh, that would be wonderful, thank you."
We smiled lightly at one another, my chest fluttered as he looked at me with genuine happiness. I stood, tripping slightly on the hem of my dress. James quickly caught me as I tripped.
"Sorry, these dresses are rather ridiculous." I muttered, straightening myself up.
I held in my breath as I realised how close we were when I stood straight.
"May I kiss you, Catherine?"
My only response was a slow nod...how could I not have said anything? But it was too late – his kiss was sweet and gentle and it made my head spin. Then I realised I had never kissed anyone before. And here he was...an Englishman – the supposed enemy kissing me, giving me my first kiss. It was wonderful and faultless. And I would not have wanted it any other way.