Excerpt from City of Dreams by Beverly Swerling, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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City of Dreams

A Novel of Early Manhattan

By Beverly Swerling

City of Dreams
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2001,
    591 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2002,
    592 pages.

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His sister leaned toward him with the remedy that promised relief. Lucas eyed the small tube with longing. "You're sure you've more?"

"In our box in the hold. I swear it."

Lucas opened his mouth. Sally emptied the last few grains of the chamomile powder onto his tongue. It gave him some fifteen minutes of freedom from nausea.

Below decks, in the sturdy box that held all their belongings carefully wrapped in oilskin, she did indeed have more chamomile, but only in the form of seed. Waiting, like Lucas and Sally Turner, to be planted in Nieuw Amsterdam and thrive in the virgin earth of the island of Manhattan.


There was a wooden wharf of sorts, but two ships were already moored alongside it. The Princess dropped anchor some fifty yards away, and a raft carried them to shore. It wasn't big enough to take everyone in one trip. Lucas and Sally were dispatched on the third.

They clung together to keep from being pitched overboard, and listened in disbelief to one of the crewmen talk about the calm of the deep, still harbor. "Not too many places on this coast you can raft folks to land like this. But here the bay's flat as a lake when the tide's with you." Meanwhile it seemed to Lucas and Sally that they were sliding and rolling with each wave, unable to lift their heads and see what they'd come to after their eleven weeks in hell.

At last, land beneath their feet and they could barely stand on it. They'd experienced the same misery three years before, after the far shorter crossing between England and the Netherlands. "Give it a little time, Sal," her brother said. "We'll be fine."

Sally looked at what she could see of the place. A piece of crumbling earthworks that was a corner of Fort Amsterdam. A windmill that wasn't turning because there was no breath of air. A gibbet from which was suspended a corpse, covered in pitch and buzzing with flies. And the sun beating down on them. Relentless. "Lucas," she whispered. "Dear God, Lucas." Her brother put a hand on her arm.

"You there," a voice shouted. "Mijnheer Turner. When you get your legs under you, come over here."

"There's some shade over by that tree," Lucas murmured. "Wait there. I'll deal with this."

A couple of rough planks had been spread across two trestles made from saplings. The man seated behind this makeshift table was checking off names on a list. Lucas staggered toward him. The clerk didn't look up. "Turner?"

"Aye. Lucas Turner. And Sally Turner."

"English?"

His accent always gave him away. "Yes, but we're come under the auspices of..."

"Patroon Van Renselaar. I know. You're assigned to plot number twenty-nine. It's due north of here. Follow the Brede Wegh behind the fort to Wall Street. Take you some ten minutes to walk the length of the town, then you leave by the second gate in the wall. The path begins straightaway on the other side. You'll know your place when you get to it. There are three pine trees one right behind the other, all marked with whiting."

Lucas bent forward, trying to see the papers in front of the Dutchman. "Is that a map of our land?"

"It's a map of all the Van Renselaar land. Your piece is included."

Lucas stretched out his hand. The clerk snatched the papers away. At last, mildly surprised, he looked up. "Can you read, Englishman?"

"Yes. And I'd like to see your map. Only for a moment."

The man looked doubtful. "Why? What will it tell you?"

Lucas was conscious of his clothes hanging loose from his wasted frame, and his face almost covered by weeks of unkempt beard. "For one thing, a look at your map might give me some idea of the distance we must go before we reach those three pine trees."

"No need for that. I'll tell you. Half a day's walk once you're recovered from the journey." The clerk glanced toward Sally. "Could take a bit longer for a woman. Some of the hills are fairly steep."

Copyright © 2001 by MichaelA, Ltd.

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