My Scottish Gaelic class is challenging and when I’m not struggling with verbs and learning vocabulary, I am on a third edit of my book.
Here is a picture of the final, wrap-around cover:
And a teaser – an excerpt from a chapter in The Last Pilgrim, when the Plymouth colony is hit by a well-documented and destructive hurricane. I wrote this from personal experience, knowledge, because my family hunkered down in the living room when Hurricane Hazel passed over Plymouth, including – if I remember the event correctly – the eye.
A great storm buffeted Plymouth in late August of that year. It began with a darkening of the sky with huge clouds rolling by at great speed, followed by steadily increasing winds. In anticipation of the storm, we drew buckets of water from the well to drink and brought our goats and the chickens inside along with their feed. We left the pigs and our new cow to fend for themselves. Soon the fierceness of the wind confined us within the house. We gathered by the hearth as the noise of the wind increased to where we couldn’t hear each other speak, and streams of air blew in through cracks and under the door.
How was Thomas? Where was he? I feared for his life with each buffet of wind that shook the house. We heard the ripping of splintering wood as the clapboards of our roof tore off. I wondered if the thatched roofs of some of our neighbors would survive at all.
Joseph cried out with the quakes of the house, and I tried to distract the children with stories from the Bible. We took turns praying for salvation. After some hours of terror, when the winds had calmed a little, Master Bradford ventured out, even as his wife implored him not to. He returned visibly shaken by what he had seen, telling us the water along the ocean shore was many meters higher than normal, and enormous waves pounded the sand. He had had to pick his way there, so many trees had fallen. This exited the boys and they pleaded to see for themselves, but Master Bradford settled them with a thunderous, “No!”
The winds then increased again, and until the storm passed, there was little to do but milk the goats and make sure the chickens were fed. Eventually, after a hasty meal of cornbread and dried meat, the children fell asleep, and eventually the rest of us did as well. During the night, we heard a crash when as part of our chimney fell into the fireplace, wind sweeping from the chimney hole into the house along with some rain. Master Bradford told us there was nothing we could do about it and to go back to sleep. Still, I slept fitfully, waking often with the noise of the wind and the fearful thought that Thomas may not have survived.
When we arose the next morning, we walked out into a new world. Now longer did a palisade surround the farm, and the chicken house and lean-to for the goats, along with most of the fencing, had disappeared. The cow and the pigs were gone. Mistress Bradford’s garden lay flattened, and in the distance we saw the naked roots of many overturned trees. Pine trees had broken off at various heights. The roof had sustained serious damage with the loss of clapboards, and of course most of the chimney was missing. Viewing this destruction made us even more grateful for our survival. Before breaking our fast, we knelt and gave thanks to God for keeping us all safe.
Mistress Bradford expressed some unease about cooking over the hearth with the chimney gone, but her husband reassured her it was possible. After the boys removed what had fallen into the hearth, she lit a fire, but it generated so much smoke in the house that we all fled outside, coughing violently. After that, she had the boys build a fire-bed in the yard. Thomas Constant brought out the iron tripod from which to hang a large kettle, along with the smaller kettle with legs and a flat fry pan to place on the coals. For the next few weeks, rain or shine, this is where Mistress Bradford cooked, until the chimney was rebuilt.
Thomas Cushman arrived right after we ate our first meal cooked outside. He was out of breath and anxious, but broke into a smile when he saw me unhurt. He wrapped me tight in his arms, right in front of Mistress Bradford, telling me, “Thank God. I prayed you were unharmed and came as soon as I could.”
“Tsk,” I head from my mistress. “Did you not pray for us too, Thomas?” She smiled broadly as she said this. “And you should be more reserved in your affections in public.”
“I’m glad to see you all are well,” Thomas quickly replied. “And I will.”
“Have some food. You must have set out early to be here so soon.”
“Thank you, Mistress Bradford. I’ve not eaten since yesterday morning.” Taking me aside, he brought me close to his chest and whispered, “I feared for you, Mary. I didn’t sleep for worrying.”
His words had my emotions soaring. “You was worried for you as well, Thomas. But thanks be to God, we both survived.” I reached up and touched his cheek in affection.
After Thomas had eaten, the governor announced he was going to the Plymouth settlement to see how it had fared. Thomas proposed to go with him and promised they would return before nightfall. The governor had dragged the boat far up the bank when the storm first began, and it and its sail had survived, so we all went to the river bank to watch as Thomas rowed the boat down the swollen river and raised the sail.
Nathaniel, young William, and Constant and Thomas Southworth then left in search of remains of the palisade, fencing, and chicken shed. When they returned with some of it, they told us the wood had been scattered over a half mile. Nathaniel looked for the cow while the Constants looked for pigs, and after some hours they returned, herding the spooked and dirty animals into the yard. I couldn’t imagine how and where they had survived. Mistress Bradford, Mercy, Elizabeth, and I spent the day cleaning the garden and yard of smaller branches and twigs to the tune of Elizabeth’s fretting over having no place to bake bread. The larger branches we encountered would need the strength of Master Bradford and Thomas to be cleared.
When the men came home that evening, they appeared very shaken. As we ate our evening meal, the governor told us, “The town has suffered terrible damage. A large number of houses have been destroyed and the roofs gone from others. The power of this storm left a long stretch where all the trees are down, like a wide open road.”
We realized again how good God had been to us. We could rebuild, and no lives were lost.
Looking to have the book out by March. Preorders will be up on Amazon soon.