Authors: Nathaniel Burns
A Historical Romance Set during the American Revolutionary War
Copyright © 2013 by Nathaniel Burns
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the address below.
Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."
- George Washington
ABIGAIL SAT PATIENTLY at her window, tending to the day's sewing. Backstitch at the moment. What a pitiful stitch. Forward then back, forward then back, no progression, nothing changing, but then somehow a line is drawn. Pitiful, indeed; circular and inefficient at best, yet somehow resulting in a finished line of which one could almost be proud. Never too proud, of course—that would not befit a lady.
The current climate was much the same as a backstitch, really. Some idea of forward motion, some direction, some half-conjectured finished state of things, but always looping back to the former point before making any headway. The rebels, as they were called by the British—patriots, of course, to the rest of the colonists, for whom the idea of freedom resonated as necessary—were barely recognizable as an actual army.
The troops needed a leader. Abigail knew, of course, that she couldn't be public about her musings. To anyone passing by her quaint home, glancing in her window, she was simply a well-mannered woman, tending to the day's chores, fixing her mother's dress, knitting her father's socks. But to God and herself, she was for all intents and purposes a rebel as much as any man ill-suited and poorly armed awaiting a leader.
Just one good man to lead the troops and I would join,
thought Abigail, rebelling without a word. But who really cared about rebelling? Was not every patriot a rebel, anyway? Hadn't everything proper been thoroughly done away with the second the Massachusetts militia dared to stand up to the British army? One shot. One shot and the entire whole of society as it was known was changed irrevocably. For better or for worse, nobody could yet know, but revolution was underway, and Abigail had better intentions than to sit and sew through it.
"Abigail!" The sharp voice cut through her thoughts.
Internally sighing but outwardly giving the charmed smile of a colonial woman, Abigail lifted her eyes from her sewing and addressed her mother, the source of the voice that had no doubt used her own name to warn her that more chores were coming.
"When you're done there, the laundry needs tending."
"Yes, Mother." She smiled sweetly at her mother, who returned the expression, neither of them any the more sincere for having offered it.
Tensions had risen in the household ever since Abigail's father, Joseph Warren, had gone off to fight for the patriot cause. Of course, there had really only been one battle at the time, when the shot that changed the entire course of life as she had previously known it was fired over at Lexington Green. It had only been eleven days since that fateful firing, and the day after it had occurred Mr. Warren had decided to join the patriot cause, but not with the whole militia—rather, with a few militiamen her father's friend Ethan had thrown together, and rather unceremoniously at that.
Of course, Abigail's mother had been less than enthused at this gesture. It wasn't so much that her husband was fighting for the patriot cause, no; it was that he wasn't
the patriots. He had decided to take off with Ethan Allen to join what Allen called The Green Mountain Boys.
Abigail personally felt that her father was much more patriotic by joining a group that actually
something instead of one that ran to the front lines only when called on to do so. Colonial militia was a façade, and everyone knew it. Half of them only came to roll call when they were asked to, and the other half eventually went back to their farm work as though the illusion of countryside life would save them from what was to come.
The Boys were planning something. Abigail was keen enough to piece it together, but her mother, Fable, had not yet done so. Fable was mortified that Joseph had joined this "foolish rebellion," meaning The Boys, instead of joining the "noble cause," meaning the patriots. As if the patriots were being any less rebellious.
Joseph and Abigail had always gotten along quite well, as Abigail shared her father's sense of adventure and meaning and he had always supported her less-than-demure attitude, at times displayed toward the British. "You, my dear, were a rebel before there was such a thing and before it was entirely proper to be one, even for a gent," he said to her with a wink. While her mother was out tending the gardens and horses, her father would engage in conversation with Abigail about the British. Even before it was acceptable to speak out against the Crown, he did, and even before it was altogether mused about in the town square, Abigail and her father were discussing revolution. Just ideas, of course, foolish ideas. But now who would call them foolish?
Abigail knotted the final stitch in the scarf she was hemming for her mother. The seemingly pointless circular masquerade of the backstitch had finally reached its end, and there was nothing further she could do to delay her duties in the washroom.
Smoothing her apron with her hands and doing the same to her cotton dress as she stood, she gracefully and predictably walked into the washroom to begin the laundry. A curious thing that laundry is so demeaned as a woman's chore but so altogether necessary for the carrying on of suitable and civilized life. Word had reached some of the neighbors that there were patriots on the battlefield, or whatever there was of one at the moment, who had opted not to wash their clothes, preferring, apparently, that the clothes mold to the patriots’ own flesh and rot before stooping to the level of a chore so feminine as washing clothing. A curious thing, indeed, that such an essential task be forfeited purely for fear of being seen as on the level of a woman, clearly a handicap at best.
Abigail let a rare smirk cross her face as she picked up the washboard and began to fill the wash bucket with water. As she washed her father's shirt, she secretly wished that she was out on the battlefield with him. What could he and Ethan be planning? Would he tell even her when he came home this evening? All she could get him to divulge this morning before he set off on his mystery trip was that he and The Boys were discussing a venture with one Mr. John Franks.
While doing her chores in the washroom, Abigail mused about the adventures her father was having and allowed her imagination to fabricate heroic deeds and victorious battles against the British. Her father could easily lead the patriots. After all, he was a doctor by trade, and that had to be good for something when placing oneself in eminent danger for a cause. Her father had spoken of nothing but revolution since the incident at Lexington Green, and Abigail took him seriously, which was a far greater act of charity than her own mother could muster.
Abigail very swiftly discovered how her mother felt about the idea of revolution—and particularly about her daughter speaking of it—the very first time she had dared utter a word about it. "Do you think there will be a revolution, mother?" she had asked with real curiosity before the Lexington event had even occurred.
Her mother, a reasonably formidable woman standing at five feet eight inches with severe features and a rather pointed face, had spun around so quickly her dress had barely enough time to settle before Abigail felt the blow across the left side of her face. "Don't you dare speak of that again in this house, do you understand me? And don't you speak of it anywhere else, either. Heavens, Abigail, are you trying to bring reproach upon us all or are you merely so simple that you don't understand your place? You are a woman, and your only concern is the household and children if by the grace of God you find a man who is willing to fend with you for the remainder of his days."
Since then, Abigail knew better than to discuss it further, and had she any reason to assume it was a good idea, her cheekbone, which throbbed incessantly for nearly a week, reminded her not to. Her father had been furious that she had been struck, and this gave her some ounce of pleasure. The irony was amusing, anyway. She had been struck for expressing ideas unbecoming of a woman, and her father's argument against her mother was that she herself had been anything but ladylike to strike a child with that amount of force.
This argument between her father and mother had taken place while she was preparing dinner and acting as though she were not present in the room, but because it gave her a beneficial position from which to hear her mother be thoroughly reprimanded by the head of the household, she did not bring it up. Of course, part of her wanted to protest her father's description of her as a child, but he was making her point, so she let it be.
The argument ended as abruptly as it had begun, and of course her father had the last word and her mother curtly apologized, barely veiling the contempt in her voice and altogether abandoning any attempt to conceal the sheer hatred in her eyes.
The sound of the door opening brought Abigail once more into the present, although this time she was much happier to be brought back. Her father was home! She swiftly finished the last of the laundry, ran to the door as quickly as was acceptable for a woman, and gave him a hug. At least that was still acceptable.
"Father!" she beamed at him.
"My princess," he smiled down at her. "How was your day?"
"Just fine, thank you. What did you and The Boys do?"
Her father glanced up and back at her so quickly it was barely noticeable, and his expression became stern, though she did not believe it to be sincere.
"That is not for you to know, young lady."
It was obvious that her mother must be standing behind her, and, indeed, shrill confirmation came in the form of her mother's voice, as she thinly veiled the disdain she had long held for her daughter. Joseph greeted his wife, and once she had turned around to fetch supper from the kitchen, he glanced down at her with a wink. Abigail would hear the whole story later, she knew, once her mother went to bed, which she did, blessedly, nearly two hours before the rest of the family.
After supper, her mother went quietly to bed, taking her candle with her, and when they both felt it was safe, her father began to tell her about the events of his day. Abigail looked up from her sewing, a nearly impossible task by candlelight, and excitedly but quietly rushed over to his desk when he gave her a subtle nod and a half-smile.
"So? What did you do today?" she asked excitedly.
"We talked," he said, his eyes glittering with humor, purposefully making her beg for information, adding to the suspense.
"About…?" she said plainly, as though she didn't know what he was doing.
"Well, since you persist so," he winked, "I'll tell you."
Instantly, Abigail was chin in palms, waiting for the story her father was about to tell, knowing before he had even begun that it would be a good story. It always was. And this time, with a revolution that had already begun to take root, it was bound to be even better than usual.
"Ethan and the rest want to go to Ticonderoga." He said it as though he were telling her they were going to the market.
"Ticonde—" Abigail's hand flew over her own mouth as she realized the volume at which she had spoken her words. In a more hushed tone she continued on. "Ticonderoga? That's…that's in New
"I know, it's quite a ways, but we're sure we can take it."
This time Abigail really was confused.
Her father laughed under his breath. "The fort, child, the fort!"
"Fort Ticonderoga? You mean to tell me that you and Ethan and Mr. Franks are all going to waltz into Fort Ticonderoga and take it?"
Joseph feigned an expression of careful consideration and then glanced at his daughter and said, quite casually, "I suppose so, yes."
The candles were flickering in the wooden room and her father's eyes looked even more excited and sparkling in the dancing candlelight. She ran her hand lightly across the wooden table where they sat, eventually dropping it slowly to the bench beside her, following her hand with her eyes along the way. Finally, she looked up at her father to see if his expression indicated that he was joking. He was not.
A smile broke out across Abigail's face. Patriot leader, indeed, though her mother had placed her head so firmly into the heavens and into her housework that she hadn't had the faculties left to understand. She reached over and embraced her father as they tried to be quiet in their celebration.
"Do you think there's a good chance at it?" she asked.
"Actually, yes. They won't be expecting it. With all the fuss in Lexington and Concord over the happenings there, New York isn't even on the map for most of the British. But Ticonderoga is essential. We have to take it."
"You will," she responded without hesitation, still beaming from ear to ear with excitement. "When is it happening?"
"Soon. We're drawing up the plans, and that's where I'll be for the next week or two. We have to ensure that not one mistake is made, or it could cost us everything. But Franks knows well how to plan for this sort of thing. It seems reasonable to assume that he is our best bet at taking Ticonderoga."
"Of course he is valuable for the task," concurred Abigail. She had met Benedict Franks just once before, and while privately she held a slight distrust of the man, for reasons she could not describe or place she felt him to be generally good and certainly qualified to lead her father, Ethan, and the rest of The Boys on a successful mission to Ticonderoga.
Silence fell between father and daughter for a moment, and she thought briefly of what her mother would think when she found out. Then, not wanting to spoil the happiness of the moment, she forced herself to think of other things. Her father was about to be a hero in no small sense, a true patriot fighting for the cause of freedom, regardless of what anyone else thought.
"This is revolution, Abby," her father said, suddenly a bit more solemn.
"I know," she whispered back quickly, still smiling. "It's good that we have revolution. It's good that we'll show England who we are."
"This is true," he responded quietly, with a half-smile reappearing, "but things are bound to take a turn for the worse before they result in anything good and noble. Revolution is not a glamorous thing, child, and it's not a storybook pre-written by fate. We're fighting against England. We're writing our own history, here. We're making up the rules. No law, no covenant, no decree, no set of instructions, no rules of engagement exist for the thing we are about to do. We can only pray that it goes as we hope it to. We must succeed. I would rather die fighting for a successful revolution against England than live to see the condition in which we would all exist if we failed."
Her smile had faded slowly upon hearing these solemn words from her father, but she knew he was right. This was not going to be easy. But it was the right thing to do, and her father had always upheld the cause of good before worrying about what would happen to him for doing so. She reached out and touched her father's hand, and his downcast eyes once more met hers. They exchanged a smile.
"All noble things require sacrifice, isn't that what you always told me?" Abigail swallowed hard so that the tears forming in her eyes would not show.
"Indeed, child," her father said with a nod and a smile, his attempts to hide his own emotion, if there were any, failing as his eyes ever so subtly glistened with a tear. "Indeed. Revolution is coming, but for now, it is a late hour and we both must get some sleep."
With that, they both left for their separate rooms. Abigail picked up her candle and felt her bare feet on the wooden ground. She crossed the small house to her bedroom, set her candle on the nightstand, and changed into her bedclothes. Quietly, she slipped under the cotton covers, entertaining thoughts of revolution as the dwindling candlelight flickered and soothed her to sleep.