A Different Kind of Courage: Prologue

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I mourn over my bleeding country… I weep at her distress, and with them deeply resent the many injuries she has received from the hands of cruel and unreasonable men. ~ Dr. Joseph Warren

March 5, 1770

Darkness cloaked Boston as surely as fear gripped my heart. My lungs burned as the cold, salty air filled them, but I could not stop. I did not know how much time I had, but I knew it was limited. I ignored the clanging of bells. As an able-bodied man, I should have rushed to see what was wrong, but tonight was not like most nights. Tonight, my only thought was to get to Doctor Warren’s house, quickly.
I was out of breath when I finally reached the doctor’s house on Hanover Street. I pounded at the door, letting my fear release itself on the rough wood. “Dr. Warren!” I pounded. “Joseph!” I called for the man who was our family physician as well as my friend. I continued to pound until the door swung inward, nearly sending me toppling.
“William, what is it?” Joseph Warren took a step forward, his concern evident in his tone.
“It is my mother and my sister-in-law. I think…” I swallowed my fears. I did not dare speak the words. Mother was the only one who understood me. Father wanted me to be just like him, but Mother had loved me for who I was. The thought of losing her was too devastating to say aloud.
“I am coming.” Joseph’s words were as comforting as his calm presence. He disappeared and came back with his coat and bag. Closing the door, he started down the street, not slowing his pace as he wiggled into his coat. He would need many layers to ward off the chill in the night air.
“Mother cannot stop coughing,” I choked, wishing the bells would stop clanging. They seemed like the echo to the fear in my own heart. The look on my mother’s face as she struggled to breathe had terrified me. My brother’s wife, Tabitha, did not look much better.
Joseph placed his hand on my arm as we hurried down the street, his warmth seeping through my sleeve. “It will be all right.”
I concentrated on picking up my pace, and did not bother to reply. I knew that Joseph meant well, but he had not seen my mother. He had not seen her pale face and blue lips. He had not heard the constant hacking in our home as my mother and Tabitha fought against this illness.
Musket fire grabbed our attention. Screams and terrified shouting greeted our ears while the bells continued to clang.
“What is happening?” I asked.
Joseph shook his head. “I do not know. Nothing good, to be sure. Come, we must make haste to your mother.” His feet continued toward my home, but his eyes searched the direction of the musket fire. The moment we reached my door, he turned his full attention toward the house.
I knew something was horribly wrong the moment we entered. I could tell that the atmosphere of the house had changed since I had left to fetch Joseph. I heard someone crying. Was it by father or brother? I could not tell.
“Mother?” I breathed.
Without waiting for an invitation Joseph bounded up the stairs to the living quarters. He visited often and knew the way.
My father met me at the top of the stairs. “Tabitha is dead.” His voice was gruff.
My heart stopped. “Mother?”
My father shook his head gravely. “She is not well. I think she will join Tabitha soon.”
I pushed past him and entered my mother’s room. Warren bent over her, his face grave. Mother looked even worse than when I had left her to get Joseph. She lay under the sheets; each breath an agonizing struggle.
“Mama! Mama!” My niece cried from in the hallway.
I looked from my mother to the door.
“Go see to your niece.” This was a gentle command from Joseph.
I reluctantly did as he asked. I went into the hallway and found my niece beating her tiny fists on the door to her mother’s room. “Mama! Mama!”
“Katherine?” I spoke my niece’s name softly.
“Uncle William?” She looked up at me with wide eyes, and then she threw herself at me.
I knelt down and pulled the girl, only four years old, into my arms. “It will be all right, Katherine.”
“Mama’s gone,” she sobbed.
I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to hold back my own grief. “I know, Sweetheart. I know.”

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