Excerpt of City of Dreams by Beverly Swerling
(Page 1 of 16)
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BOOK I: THE LITTLE MUSQUASH PATH
June 1661-October 1664
BOOK II: THE SEEING FAR PATH
December 1711-June 1714
BOOK III: THE HIGH HILLS PATH
August 1731-February 1737
BOOK IV: THE SHIVERING CLIFFS PATH
August 1737-November 1737
BOOK V: THE CLAWS TEAR OUT EYES PATH
September 1759-July 1760
BOOK VI: THE PATH OF FLAMES
July 1765-December 1765
BOOK VII: WAR PATH
August 1776-March 1784
EPILOGUE: THE PATH OF DREAMS
Eleven weeks in a ship thirty-seven feet long by eleven wide, carrying a crew of nine as well as twenty passengers. Lurching and lunging and tossing on the Atlantic swells, the sails creaking night and day, spread above them like some evil bird of prey. Hovering, waiting for death.
The dung buckets on the open deck were screened only by a scanty calico curtain that blew aside more often than it stayed in place. For Sally Turner the dung buckets were the worst.
She was twenty-three years old -- small, with dark hair, bright brown eyes, and a narrow, pinched face -- from a Rotterdam slum by way of a rodent-infested corner of a Kentish barn. The crossing had turned her insides to water. She went seven or eight times a day to the dung buckets. The flimsy cloth almost always blew aside and she saw the grizzled, hungry-eyed crewmen watching, waiting for her to lift her skirts. As if all the battles between Kent and now had been for nothing.
Her brother suffered more from the seasickness. Lucas Turner was a big man, like his sister only in his dark coloring, and in the intelligence that showed behind his eyes. Until now most would have called him handsome; the journey had reduced him to a shell. From the start Lucas hung day and night over the side of the wooden ship, vomiting his guts into the sea.
The voyage was beyond imagination, beyond bearing. Except that there was no choice but to bear it. One small consolation: the April day when the Princess left Rotterdam was exceptionally warm. A premature summer rushed toward them as they sailed west. Most of the food spoiled before the end of the first three weeks. Constant illness prevented hunger.
A crossing longer and more miserable and more dangerous than anything they had talked about or prepared for, and when they got there -- what? By all reports bitter cold in winter and fierce heat in summer. "And savages," Sally Turner said the first morning of June, when they were nine weeks into the voyage, and she and her brother were hanging on to the rail in the ship's bow. The swells were stronger in that position, but Lucas was convinced he could be no worse. And there was a bit of privacy. "There are red men in America, Lucas. With painted faces and feathers and hatchets. In God's name, what have we done?"
Lucas didn't answer. They had decided the risk was worth the taking while they were still in Holland. Besides, he had to lean over the rail and puke yet again. There was nothing in his stomach to come up, even the bile was gone, but the dry heaves would not leave him.
For as long as Sally could remember, it was Lucas who made such security as there was in her world. She felt every shudder of his agony-racked frame as if it were her own. She slid down, using the wooden ship's planked bulkhead to keep her steady, and pawed through her basket. Eventually she drew herself up and pulled the tiny cork of a small pewter vial. "Chamomile powder, Lucas. Let me shake some onto your tongue."
"No, that's all you've left. I won't take it."
"I've more. With our things down below."
"You're lying, Sal. I can always -- " He had to stop to heave again.
Copyright © 2001 by MichaelA, Ltd.