William H. Butler

Nicholas Bredimus

Nicholas Bredimus, Man of the World

Nicholas Bredimus, Man of the World was written in 1829 by William H Butler. The story details the life of a Loyalist American and his wife. Both characters are descended from the English aristocracy and are meant to portray the faults of that class of people from the perspective of more egalitarian Americans. The key events in the narrative are the siege (leaguer) of Boston by the British redcoats and the subsequent Battle of Bunker Hill.

The novel opens in April 1775, as a British ship enters the port of Boston and unloads at Dorchester Heights. One of the passengers is Nicholas Bredimus, a 25 year old American-born British officer. From conversation, it is obvious Nicholas knows little of Boston, despite being born there. Instead, he is steeped in British customs and sympathies. He speaks with an 80 year old passenger who sympathizes with the rebellion. The old man claims he is returning home to be buried in his homeland. Despite tension over politics, the two make a friendship as they paddle to shore.

When Nicholas reaches Boston, he hears the cries of a man and the lash of a whip. A crowd is gathered to taunt the one being tormented, while his punisher is a British grenadier. Nicholas realizes the man being whipped is a half-wit named Cad Harroway. Nicholas stays the hand of the British soldier, who is indignant, until he realizes Nicholas Bredimus is a captain in the British army. Cad is freed and becomes Captain Bredimus's guide through the city. The young officer wants to find the home of Mrs. Catherine Diggins, his seventy year old, well-off great-aunt. Before finding this place, Cad Harroway stops by the home of his mother, Lucy Harroway, who lives in squalor. To his surprise, Lucy hints she knows Nicholas's mother and father and was present at Nicholas's birth. Along the way, the octogenarian from the ship meets up with Nicholas and Cad and accompanies them to Mrs. Diggins's home.

Once there, Nicholas meets his cousin twice removed, Sarah Clayton, who is granddaughter to Mrs. Diggins. He also meets Martha Thornwaite, great-niece to Mrs. Diggins. Martha is an outspoken patriot, who refuses to drink tea as an act against the British government. Mrs. Diggins and Sarah Clayton savor their tea, indicating they are Royalists. When Nicholas notes his meeting with Cad and Lucy Harroway, this causes Mrs. Diggins some degree of discomfort.

When Nicholas takes a walk around Boston to see the city, he sees Cad and the old man, now identified as Joshua. The two take every opportunity to discuss the patriots' side of the cause. When Nicholas sees Captain Rupert Smythe, a friend of his from Oxford University, the two disappear. They speak of happier times, while discussing the growing rebellion in the city. Later, Nicholas dismisses himself from Mrs. Diggins's parlor, only to find Joshua in his room reading a letter Nicholas was composing. When Nicholas gets angry, Joshua suggests the two have a close connection. Joshua takes the young officer (who covers his military attire) to a patriot meeting, which Nicholas is surprised to learn is conducted in a calm, reasoned manner.

Juxtaposed against this is Nicholas's discussion with his military friends, Captain Smythe and Ambrose, a bit later. Smythe is a bon vivant, while Ambrose simply enjoys fighting and the military lifestyle, regardless of politics. When the two announce they will command troops in a British march 20 miles away to Lexington and Concorde, Captain Bredimus arranges to accompany them as an observer. He wants to see the local political scene for himself.

Before going, Captain Bredimus pays a visit to Joshua and Cad. Joshua is in bed ill, while Cad claims he is about to go out on a fishing boat. When Nicholas sees the two later on involved in the action at Concorde, he is angered by their lies. Their appearance is fortuitous, because they later save his life at the height of the battle. When he returns to Boston, he finds that his landlord, Argus Bruce, has been arrested for treason.

Visiting the warehouse where the Harroway family and Joshua live, Nicholas overhears Mrs. Diggins give silverware to Lucy Harroway, to help her meet expenses. Nicholas infers the two are implicit in some past crime, and this is not the first time Mrs. Diggins has given Lucy financial help. Joshua appears and the old man blames Mrs. Diggins for driving Sir Nicholas Bredimus, father to the Captain, mad. When Nicholas later asks Joshua to elaborate, he refuses, saying the time is not yet right for Nicholas to know the truth.

Soon after, the rebels occupy Breed's Hill, better known in history as Bunker Hill. General Clinton and General Burgoyne head the British army charged with dislodging the rebels. Captain Bredimus is kept in reserve as a liaison to the rebels, though Nicholas wants to participate in the battle. After two charges fail, Nicholas takes part in the third charge. Despite the charge's success, Nicholas is severely wounded. He wakes up seven months later, being nursed by Sarah Clayton.

Nicholas had sent a love letter to Sarah on the eve of the Battle of Bunker Hill. She tells him she requites the love. Nicholas learns that Governor Gage has been replaced by General Howe as commander-in-chief. He also learns rebels have flocked to the city by the thousands, putting Boston under siege. With their position untenable, the British have decided to quit the city. Captain Bredimus is concerned about Sarah, so he proposes marriage in an attempt to protect her. She accepts, but wants to be married in a church. Mrs. Diggins, much to their surprise, agrees they should marry immediately.

The wedding takes place in a cold, dark church with only a few attendees. Three times, when the rector asks if someone objects to the marriage, a large shadow crosses the wall, filling all present with a sense of foreboding. Meanwhile, Mrs. Diggins learns she will die this night, due to her continuing illness. Nicholas and Sarah are greeted by Mrs. Diggins back at her moment. When Sarah goes upstairs, Mrs. Diggins and Nicholas begin to discuss her dark secrets, when an eerie voice interrupts the conversation. It is Joshua, who comes to demand Mrs. Diggins admit to what she's done. She dies before this happens, though Nicholas pleads with her to inform him. Nicholas disappears into the night. This causes Sarah to scream and faint when she discovers he's gone. Martha calls for the help of Captain Smythe, her suitor.

Captain Smythe goes to Cad's home, because Cad once claimed to have shot Ambrose (who died at Concorde). When he finds Cad, the boy is stricken with smallpox and beset by a Loyalist mob, who want to lynch him for treason. Smythe holds a trial to see if Cad killed Ambrose and Cad confesses. Sarah appears and swears punishment on those who harm Cad, as the wife of an officer. The mob breaks up. Cad tells Sarah and Smythe that Captain Bredimus went into rebel country with Joshua. Sarah and her attendants decide to follow them, while Smythe decides to remain with Cad and his mother. He cooks them a meal as they guard rebel provisions for Argus Bruce. Moved by their hunger, he cooks them a meal from his own provisions, using his wooden leg for firewood.

When Sarah nears the rebel camp (led by General Washington), she is immediately detained. There, she learns that Nicholas has been captured, along with his valet, Samuel. Joshua appears to secret the three out of the camp and help them return to Boston. On the way, they visit the grave of Nicholas's mother. When they return to Boston, they find Cad dying. A distraught Lucy reveals the family secrets.

Many years ago, the elder Nicholas Bredimus, a baronet, fell in love with the beautiful ward of Mrs. Diggins. Mrs. Diggins wanted Nicholas to marry her daughter instead, thus keeping the inheritance in the family. Mrs. Diggins's daughter in her turn fell in love with a Colonel Clayton, whom Mrs. Diggins considered beneath her. When Sir Nicholas Bredimus went away for two years, his wife bore him a son, Nicholas, and died soon after. Mrs. Diggins tried again to have the elder Nicholas marry her daughter (or herself). When this failed, she lied to him and mentioned his ex-wife had been unfaithful to him and bore a second child, Cad. Under pressure, Lucy Harroway swore this to be the truth. In truth, Lucy was Sir Nicholas's mistress, making Cad his illegitimate son.

Burdened by these lies, Sir Nicholas went temporarily insane. Mrs. Diggins took the opportunity to have him confined in an asylum for 20 years. Joshua demands Lucy swear over a Bible this is the truth. Captain Bredimus intervenes, but Sarah shocks him into inaction when she calls for him not to strike his own father. Suddenly, a stocky stranger who has appeared to be chasing Joshua appears, claiming he's a keeper from the madhouse where Sir Nicholas was confined so many years. He's been searching for the escapee. Sir Nicholas, enraged, attacks the man with maniacal strength. Captain Bredimus realizes Joshua isn't an 80 year old man, but more likely in his fifties.

Sir Nicholas/Joshua overpowers the stocky man, but the man pulls out a knife and stabs the old man in the chest three times. Sir Nicholas dies and is buried in a double ceremony with his bastard son, Cad. Captain Nicholas Bredimus leaves a large sum of money for Lucy Harroway, but she dies in a deserted chapel and is not discovered for several days, due to upheaval in the city. Captain Bredimus, Sarah, and Captain Smythe leave for England on a ship. Captain Smythe proposes to Martha again, but she refuses. The next week, she marries a rebel officer. Captain Nicholas Bredimus moves to England, where he and his wife settle on the Bredimus family estate. He is now a baronet, but he will go on to become a peer of England, then even later an earl.

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