Chapter one excerpt – Sundering of Empire

Tuesday October 20

Bartholomew Morgan, born of solid Puritan stock in Salem, MA., finished sweeping the nightly deposit of dust and dirt from the steps leading to his General Store.  As he turned to go into the store, he heard Micah Townsend calling out to him, ‘Mr. Morgan, a word if I may?’  ‘Why, certainly, Micah.  What can I do for you?’ replied Morgan.  ‘It’s what you can do to help our community resist the ways of the devil,’ said Micah with a feral smirk, ‘with your impeccable Puritan heritage, going back to Edmund Morgan, may he be at rest in the bosom of Christ, you should be outraged at the blatant sins of Liam Mallory and his Jezebel?  Have you given any thought to what Reverend Shields said about doing business with the evil doers?’  ‘I have, Micah, I have,’ answered Morgan, his hand stroking his chin in thought, ‘it will be a hard thing, but God’s will be done.  May this be the way to their salvation?’  ‘Ah, good day to you, then,’ said Micah, ‘I will leave you to your daily commerce.’

Micah strode over to the church where he knew Reverend James Shields would be watching and waiting; ‘watching over everything that goes on in this village and waiting for my report,’ thought Micah, ‘well I mustn’t keep my new master waiting too long.’

Reverend James Shields opened the door to the chapel and bade Micah to enter.  He led him to his office, a small room behind the chapel.  Offering Micah the only chair, he went and stood by the small window that gave Shields a fine view of the village center.  ‘So, how did your talk go with our good brother, Mr. Morgan?’ asked Shields.  Micah cleared his throat and replied, ‘Just as you thought.  He sees this as the Will of God and he will abide with that.  However, I’m not sure the others will be so easy to convince.’  Shields, his gaze set firmly at the sight of Rebecca, now six months pregnant, making her way to Morgan’s General Store, turned suddenly to Micah and replied in a stern voice, ‘You let me worry about the others.  You just do as you’re told.  Keep up your subtle sowing of discord.  The Lord God will reward you for your devotion, my son, and so might I.  Yes, so might I.’

Bartholomew Morgan saw The Will of God being made manifest as he watched Rebecca enter the store.  ‘Good morning, Mr. Morgan,’ said Rebecca as she let her hood down, ‘I find myself in need of a few yards of linen.  Those boys seem to grow overnight.’  ‘I am sorry, Miss Rebecca, truly I am,’ stammered Morgan, ‘but I am duly bound to God’s sacred word and must refuse you service of any kind.  So, if you will please leave and may you come to see the grace God has for you.’  The immediate shock Rebecca felt was fleeting and she was able to compose herself before answering, ‘I see.  So it is the will of your God that you cannot sell me a few yards of linen.  Seems a trifling matter for God to be so involved, but as you said, you are duly bound to James Shields, so I will leave until such time as common sense returns.’

Rebecca made it to Henry and Liza’s cabin and collapsed on the bench outside the front door.  A sudden pain shot through her swollen abdomen and her gasp brought Liza to the door.  Before Liza could even ask, Rebecca, unable to hold back the tears any longer, sobbed to Liza what had just happened.  She continued after a moment to regain her composure, ‘and that’s not all of it.  Seems I’m the cause for many a gossip and wary glances.  The looks of pity and even hate; it just doesn’t seem real.  What have I done to merit such feelings?’  She held her stomach as another wave of pain struck.  ‘Rebecca, dear, we need to get you home and to bed.’ said Liza.  She then turned back into the cabin, ‘Thomas, go and find your Uncle Liam.  I think I heard your father say something about clearing some land south of town.  Tell him to get home quick, I think Rebecca is in labor and it’s way too early for that.’

Liza put her arm around Rebecca’s shoulder and noticed Susan Townsend walking toward Jameson’s bakery, ‘Can you walk to your cabin?’ she asked.  ‘Yes, the pain has gone.  I am worried though, the baby can’t be born yet.’ Rebecca replied.  ‘Now don’t you be fretting, let’s get you home and comfortable,’ Liza said as she waved her free arm to get Susan’s attention.

Susan, being the wife of Micah Townsend, found that she was lately being torn in two between her husband’s ambition and what she felt deep down about the manner in which her husband and the Reverend Shields were ridiculing Liam and Rebecca.  She knew Rebecca to be one of the sweetest people she had ever met and though Susan felt that Liam was somewhat gruff in his manner, he was no more so than any other man, especially one who had lived his whole life on the frontier.  Micah would not be gainsaid, however, having coming under the spell of Reverend Shields, a man who Micah was drawn to because he was ruthless in pursuit of his goals and in the manner he controlled people, just like General Jeffrey Amherst, his former commander in Quebec.  One night, after Micah came home drunk, Susan heard him speaking to himself as he fumbled around getting undressed for bed, ‘Old Reverend Shields’ gonna take care of me once we get rid of the Mallory’s.  He says for me to keep sowing that discord among the villagers, spreading the goodness of Reverend Shields and King George and when we get control of the village, I’ll be his right hand man.’  Yes, Micah has changed a lot since he entered the army but I have not, thought Susan to herself as she headed over to see what Liza wanted.

Thomas sped through the southern gate and headed for the field being cleared; about half of a mile from the gate.  He thought he should have ridden his horse from the stable but knew he could run the distance in the same amount of time it took to saddle his mare.  He found his uncle with Wahta and Mulhern working to secure a chain around a tree stump and then attaching the other end to a pair of harnessed work horses.  ‘Uncle Liam,’ Thomas called out after catching his breath, ‘My ma says to get home quick.  Aunt Becky is in labor.’  Without a word being spoken, Mulhern unhitched one of the Shire horses and Liam clambered aboard and whipped the animal into an immediate trot.  He approached the cabin, his mind in turmoil.  As he dismounted he heard Rebecca scream causing the horse to shy away and gallop off toward the stable.  Bursting through the door, he saw Rebecca being tended to by Liza, Susan and Margaret Jameson.  She saw Liam and tried to usher up a smile but another spasm tore through her stomach and she yelled out once again.  Liza walked over to Liam, took his hand and led him back outside.  ‘She’s in a bad way brother.  If the baby is born it will be needing a lot of care but we’ll do the best we can.  For now, bring us another pail of water and then please stay outside.  I see Wahta and the sergeant coming along, they will keep you company.’