Archive for October, 2013

A Novel in the Making

Instead of adding a second excerpt of “Beyond the Law” at this time I decided to post the first excerpt of a novel I’m in the process of writing.

Many people who read my novel “Secrets of Hawking Manor” implored me to write a sequel to the story of the Carstairs family.  I was not inclined to do so for some time, but individuals kept asking.  So several months ago I began that work. The first chapters I wrote in a relatively short time, about four months.  Subsequent chapters have been slower in developing.  I’m about half way to completing the sequel and plan to have it done in the late months of winter.  Here are the first two pages of “Storms over Hawking Manor”.

Storms over Hawking Manor

The Trial

The momentary silence in the courtroom hung like a swollen cloud over the men seated opposite the prisoner’s box.  A battle raged within Henry Carstairs’ heart.  He sat near the front of the room next to his brother, Benjamin, and Simon Lawson, Christopher’s father.  Henry stared across at the man, his former friend, seated in the prisoner’s box.  This man had poached for months in the woods of Eagleridge, part of Hawking Manor’s estate, and he had shot Christopher, Eagleridge’s manager’s son.  The youth had been Benjamin and Henry’s dear friend.  He had come upon this poacher suddenly.  Henry, along with Christopher and Simon his father, had set out on a cold, wet day a year earlier to catch the unknown man who had come regularly into the Eagleridge woods to poach.  It was Christopher who had sighted the poacher first.  He had wounded the man who was in the act of gutting a deer.  The thief refused to heed the youth’s warning.  Not knowing the poacher was Eugene, a former Dragoon, an expert with various weapons; Christopher did not realize how dangerous this thief was.  Although the poacher had bled profusely from Christopher’s bullet, he had shot and mortally wounded Christopher in return, before Henry and Simon had been able to come to assist the youth.

Now, seated in the courtroom all the grief that day, now months past, had brought into his life crowded back into Henry’s heart.  As he had done many times he wondered again, if he had not planned the capture of the thief carefully enough back then and was in part to blame for Christopher’s demise.  He recalled again the hours he had sat with Simon and Christopher and mapped out strategies to catch the poacher.  “What could I have done differently?” he silently lamented again.

Although Henry and Benjamin had expected the judge to pronounce Eugene Fairham guilty as charged, hearing the judge’s words, “An eye for an eye, a life for a life, Eugene Fairham this day of our Lord, the fifth day of November 1854 I condemn you three days hence to hang by the neck until you are dead,” chilled both young men to the core.  Henry glanced at his former friend.  He saw none of the man’s former spirited energy, his distain for problems other men deemed insurmountable, his unbridled, sometimes callous humor, nor his unveiled love for life.  Now he sat in the prisoner’s box and appeared to be a man drained of self and bare of the will to live.  He sat motionless with his eyes cast to the floor.  For a moment Henry wondered if Eugene was cunning enough in that fashion to try to gain the court’s mercy. “He’s play acted persuasively many times,” Henry murmured silently, but he soon banished the thought.

Finally, a few muffled coughs in the back of the room and the suppressed sobs of a woman seated behind the prisoner’s box broke the silence.  It was then that Simon turned to Henry and Benjamin and whispered, “It will not bring my son back, men.  Your former friend, Henry, also is the son of a mother.  I ask you to plead for your former comrade in arms.”

Simon’s words touched Henry.  He and Benjamin had testified against Eugene during the trial, but after hearing the sentence pronounced, he wanted to shout out, “No, Your Honor, not that!”  But the remembrance of holding the mortally wounded Christopher in his arms and hearing his last words to him again, ‘I saw his face,’ as the youth had dreamed the night before losing his life had sealed Henry’s mouth.  Now pity for his former friend welled up deep inside of him.

Henry saw Eugene turn to glance at the sobbing woman seated behind him.  He stared at her for a long moment.  Then in the stillness of the room the people heard him whisper painfully, “Mother.”

When Henry saw him turn again to face the judge.  He saw the pitiful face of a defeated man, a man without hope, a man Henry had once known to be full of life and energy, a man who had been willing to lay down his life in the service of Her Majesty and his country.

Slowly Henry rose from his seat, “Your Honor,” he stammered.  “On behalf of the father of the youth who lost his young life by the hand Eugene Fairham, the condemned man, I plead for mercy for him.  My former friend and comrade in arms in our monarch’s service once served this nation with valor and distinction.  The horsemen had none more fearless than he was.”  Henry’s eyes fixed on the judge were filled with sadness.  He repeated once more almost in a whisper, “I plead for mercy for him.”

The judge, who was a friend of Samuel Carstairs, Benjamin and Henry’s father, and who was also a distant relative of Rebecca’s mother, Lady Lydia, stared at Henry for a long moment.  He muttered words Henry could not understand.  Turning quickly and casting a stern glance at Eugene the judge accidently dislodged his wig.  Righting it he turned his eyes to Benjamin.  His Lordship held Benjamin in high esteem.  He had met him at the christening of Henry’s son at Hawking Manor.  At that meeting with Benjamin he had learned of the young Carstair’s years in North America, and how he had come to be on that faraway continent.  The story had intrigued him at once.  He, therefore, had sought Benjamin out during the christening festivities to learn all he could about the New World.  Now he commanded, “Stand, Benjamin Carstairs.”  Benjamin stood up quickly.  With his blue eyes, blonde hair, tall and trim youthful figure he looked handsome and strong.  “How say you?” his lordship demanded.

“Thank you for hearing my brother, Your Honor,” Benjamin began.  “The father of my friend, forever young, wishes that the blood of the one who took his son’s life will not be laid at the feet of his departed son.  Like my brother, I too plead for mercy for Eugene Fairham.”

“What would you have the sentence to be then,” the judge called out leaning forward toward Benjamin from the bench above.

“Banish him, Your Honor,” Benjamin replied respectfully.

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We’ve had days and days of day long fog now.  It’s almost to the point of getting people down.  So to cheer us all up and to hopefully dispel that grey mist here is a bit of humor.

A grade three teacher teaching about the circulation system tried to make it relevant to her young charges with an example.  “Students,” she said, “when I stand on my head for a while blood rushes to my head.  How can you tell that it does?”

Mary put up her hand and when called on said, “You’re face turns all read.”

“Good answer, Mary.  That’s exactly what happens because of the extra blood.  But tell me how is it that when I stand up straight for a while my feet don’t turn all red?”

Without missing a beat Joey called out, “That’s cause your feet aren’t empty!”


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Fall has moved into our part of the world for its three months visit.  Like every season it brings with it its own beauty. The crispness I feel in the air  in the morning, the yellow, red and brown garments I note that many trees have changed into, the voices of migrating birds I hear and the evidence I see of Halloween  in stores all shout, “It’s autumn.  But the picture that for some reason lingers in my mind’s view is one of the past when fall came to the Prairie.

digital set one 122 (1)

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