View Full Version : Excerpt from one of my novels. It actually happened as told. Names are genuine.

Unca Walt
October 22nd, 2010, 01:55 AM
An Excerpt From The Cadet:Reprieve

January, 1641

Little Annetje was playing in the snow again. She was not only wearing her “soul warmer”, the woolen sweater that crossed double in the front and then was tied in the back, but also the leathern sleeves that attached above her elbows and hooked to her thumbs. Still, she always got cold quickly when she played in the snow, so it was definitely a short-term joy that had to be hurried. The lot between the Snedeker Tavern and the van Elslant house was covered in nearly three inches of soft, powdery coldness.

The bright sun made her squint as she looked down Pearl Street. Manuel The Giant was not yet in sight, and her nose and feet were already getting cold. Manuel did not speak very well, but Little Annetje loved the huge black slave. She knew that he had chores to do before he could come down the street to join her, but she wished he’d hurry. She sighed with a little girl’s impatience, and began flapping her arms, pretending she was a bird trying to keep warm.

Little Annetje wandered toward the back of the lot, looking up the tumbled slope of the Fort. It was really a lot of trouble to get up the slope when it was snow covered, but it was equally a lot of fun to slide down. She was debating the effort versus the gains when the brightness of the sunlight suddenly diminished.

There was a man-shaped shadow on the ground in front of her. Little Annetje smiled in joy, and turned around expecting to see her giant.

But the black man in front of her was the one that always just stared at her as he walked by.

“Hello. Do you know where Manuel The Giant is?” she asked.

The man leaned down and took Little Annetje by the arm, and led her over to the angle of the house that was not visible from the street. Little Annetje looked up at him and was about to ask again when the black slave suddenly picked her up and clamped his hand over her mouth.

His hand was cold and smelled funny. Little Annetje didn’t like it, and tried to squirm out of his grasp. But she couldn’t move very much at all.

Then she felt his other hand slide up between her legs.

Little Annetje struggled frantically, making mewling noises through her nose. She could not get away from his hand, and began to cry.

A load roar came from right beside her, and she was suddenly thrown to the snow-covered ground.

Little Annetje looked up through her tears to see Manuel The Giant holding the other slave by the throat with one of his huge hands. As she watched, the other hand of the huge man also gripped the man’s throat. Then, both hands twisted, and there was a loud crackling-popping noise. The body of her attacker began to vibrate.

Manuel The Giant dropped the body, where it lay on the ground shaking for several moments longer. Then he picked up the crying little girl and carried her around to the front of the house. The door thundered as he pounded on it.

Jan opened the door to see the huge slave standing in the street, the tears in his eyes matching those of his daughter. Little Annetje reached for her father’s arms, crying. He took her and held her to him as Manuel The Giant turned and walked away down Pearl Street.

The dead man at the side of the house was not found for almost a full day. Little Annetje had gone immediately into an exhausted and deep sleep without saying anything. Jan had assumed she had just fallen and been frightened, and her giant friend had brought her home. Much later, when Jan went out to get some more firewood from the box, he was staggered to see the body laying there with its neck bent at an impossible angle. Jan’s cry of surprise was noted by people on the street, and before long a large crowd had gathered to gawk and comment.

It did not take any great amount of detective work to find out who had done it. When Manuel The Giant was asked if he had killed the slave, he simply nodded in the affirmative.

Willem Kieft quickly pronounced that Manuel The Giant was to be hanged on the evening next day for the murder of the slave. It would be only the second hanging in the history of Nieuw Amsterdam.

The entire colony was abuzz with the news. Discussion of the murder and its locale caused a temporary boost in the number of customers in the taproom. Little Annetje soon heard what was going to happen the next day, and ran to her father in tears.

“Daddy! You’ve got to save Manuel The Giant!” she wailed.

“I’m sorry, Little Blossom, but he admitted to killing that slave. That is murder, and murder is punished by hanging.”

“But Daddy, he was just protecting me!” Little Annetje related the whole incident to her father, and Jan’s blood ran cold.

Jan went immediately to Willem Kieft’s house to explain what had happened. Kieft listened attentively, but when Jan was done, he shook his head. “It is too bad, Jan Snedeker, but I have already pronounced the sentence. It would look bad for me to call it back – after all, a murder is a murder.”

“He was protecting my daughter! It wasn’t murder.”

“He could have just pulled the man away and let the authorities handle the situation.” Kieft continued, shaking his head negatively. “He had no authority to kill the slave himself.”

Jan was enraged with frustration. “The man is a half-wit! He was only doing what he thought was right and necessary!”

“Still… unless there are other circumstances, I cannot rescind the order. He will have to hang tomorrow at sundown.”

Jan stormed out of Kieft’s house. His mind boiled. This was injustice of the worst stripe, he thought. He wracked his brain to find a way to convince not only Willem Kieft, but also everybody in the colony that Manuel The Giant should not be hanged. And he had to do it within the next day.

He went home to think.

Annetje looked at the tortured face of her husband and knew he had had no success with the Governor. “May God damn Willem Kieft’s soul to Hell,” she said with a completely uncharacteristic vehemence. “The man just likes to see death dealt everywhere.”

She was straightening the leatherworking equipment up in the back room as she spoke. Jan joined her. Sometimes, working with his hands helped him to think. He started helping her clean up.

“Maybe the rope will break,” she said hopelessly.

“Not likely. I’ve seen the hangman’s rope that is stored in the Place of Justice. It’s very strong and thick. So there is no chance of it breaking short of Divine Providence.”

And there it was.

Jan’s face lit up. “I’ve got an idea! I must go see Dominie Everardus Bogardus right away!” He ran out of the back room, through the taproom and into the street without even stopping for his coat.

Even with running, Jan was fairly chilled by the time he was pounding on the door of the Dominie. When it opened, to Jan’s inner delight he saw that the Dominie was well into his cups again.

“Come in, come in quickly. You’ll freeze us both.” A souse he might have been, but Bogardus and Jan had always gotten along well. A good deal of that was due to the mutual antipathy they shared for Willem Kieft. Everardus Bogardus hurried back over to the fire, and Jan followed right behind him. Bogardus hesitated a long few seconds, then sighed and said, “You look like you could use a tot of brandy.” He reached up to the top of the mantle, and brought down the warmed bottle and a small cup. He placed it on the table next to his own larger cup (filled to the brim) and poured a small amount into Jan’s.

“So what brings you to my abode without so much as a coat, my friend?”

Jan took a welcome sip of the fiery liquid. “Ahh. Thank you Everardus. Next time you stop at the tavern, have a tankard of good beer on me.”

“That I will do, you may rest assured,” Bogardus answered with a smile. “Now, as I said, why are you here… and panting like a bull from running in the meadow?”

“How would you like to force Willem Kieft to retract his death sentence on Manuel The Giant – especially since I just came from him where he denied that he would ever do such a thing?”

“Oh, that would be great sport!” Bogardus took a deep draught of his brandy. “He would never listen to anything I say, that is a certainty, but if I could do it I most definitely would. Especially,” he took another sip, “if he really was against doing such a thing. That would be grand.”

“Manuel The Giant was protecting Little Annetje from the slave he killed. Little Annetje told me what happened. The slave had taken my Little Blossom around the corner of my house out of sight of the road, and was…” Jan’s face clouded and his throat caught. “Anyway, Manuel The Giant loves her dearly. He came on the scene just in time. He picked up that piece of dog dirt and broke his neck for him.”

“You told this to Governor Kieft and he still did not rescind the hanging sentence?”

“You know very well, Everardus, that Kieft loves to see killing done. Especially in front of him.” Jan took his last sip, emptying the little cup. “He would never rescind the order unless he had to.”

“That’s true, Jan. Before that evil man would rescind a hanging he had pronounced, he would have to be faced with…”

“…Divine intervention,” Jan finished.

“There is something here which I have not caught on to yet, my friend. Out with it. You look like you have just received a letter from the Angel Gabriel.”

Jan smiled conspiratorially. “Suppose, Everardus, that some Dominie – Oh, I don’t know who – called upon Divine intervention to foil the hanging of Manuel The Giant when everyone is at the Place of Justice tomorrow evening.”

“Keep going, you scoundrel,” Bogardus took another gulp of brandy. “I smell something cooking in the Snedeker kitchen, I do.”

“Well,” Jan tapped the cup on the table, but the Dominie affected not to notice. “Suppose the rope broke? And when they brought out a new rope, that one broke also? Could any Dominie you know of make something of that?”

A wide grin broke out across Bogardus’ face.

“Oh, but couldn’t I, just?”

“Suppose then, some scoundrel you knew happened to have some leatherworking chemicals that are well-known – among those in the trade – to cause hemp to become quite brittle? Suppose also that that same scoundrel could have those ropes positively soaked with them before this night is out – do you think a certain Dominie could deal a good, sound blow to Willem Kieft while saving the life of an innocent man?”

Both men were grinning.

“As I see it, Jan Snedeker, we shall be doing the Lord’s work. Have another brandy!”

Just after supper when it was full dark, Jan took his glass bottle down Pearl Street, turned right, and ambled casually to the Place of Justice. No one was afoot in the snow-blanketed cold night, and this suited him just fine. He had lightly warmed the bottle by the fireplace during dinner, as he knew the mixture worked better when warm. A simple latch held the door closed to the storeroom, and Jan was inside in a flash.

Once inside, he opened the shutters on the candle lantern and looked around. Implements, pulleys, and… rope. Two big coils of it, thicker than his thumb. He had already planned how he would wet the ropes down, so he uncoiled them as much as possible on the storeroom floor in order to be able to work with the entire lengths of both ropes.

Jan knew the liquid he was putting on the ropes would slightly discolor them, therefore he wanted to make sure the color was uniform by painting the entire lengths of both of the ropes. Another consideration was if he only wet down a small section, that section may not have been the weight bearing section when the rope was used.

Better to do the lengths of both ropes evenly.

The candle was guttering before he was done. He realized that he probably did not really have to do as neat a job of coating the ropes as he had done, but his father’s teachings about extra care while working were hard to throw off. He grinned in the dark.

The crowd began to gather by the gallows in the Place of Justice fairly early in the afternoon. Dominie Everardus Bogardus took advantage of the extra time to preach a generalist sermon well sprinkled with anecdotes about forgiveness and mercy. When the time for the execution came closer and the crowd was nearly at its maximum, he was completely unable to avoid casting more and more pointed aspersions upon Governor Kieft for condemning an innocent man to death.

Kieft was just arriving about the time Dominie Everardus Bogardus was nearly finished, and with the masterful oratory for which he was justly famous, he called upon God and the Holy Spirit to intervene in the favor of the innocent – and to foil the naked bloodlust of the unholy.

“Pretty strong stuff,” Jan whispered in an aside to Bogardus as the Dominie stepped down off the gallows platform to join the crowd. Governor Willem Kieft was red in the face with rage at the obvious reference to him.

“Bring out the prisoner!” he called.

Manuel The Giant came shambling forward, flanked by two militiamen with spears. His hands were tied with multiple loops in front of him, and he was hobbled.

Jan was delighted to see the ropes tying the big man’s hands and feet were sections of the ropes he had treated the night before. He whispered this wonderful news to the Dominie. Everardus Bogardus’ eyes lit up as he saw further opportunity opening before him.

Manuel The Giant did not realize what was going on, except that he knew it was not good. He was docile as he was led up the five steps of the gallows scaffold, and did not complain when the noose was placed around his neck. The crowd was silent.

“I call upon you, Governor Willem Kieft, to free this innocent man!” The Dominie’s voice called out into the stillness. “Will you do so?”

“No!” came the terse reply. “This man killed a slave. He is to hang.”

“Then I call upon God Almighty to save this innocent man from your injustice!”

In answer, Willem Kieft gave the signal, and the trap door opened. Manuel The Giant dropped through, and wound up sitting with a dazed look on the ground as the rope snapped. He had found the fall amusing, and smiled happily.

“Bring another rope!” Willem Kieft’s voice cracked as he shouted.

Quickly, the second rope was brought forward and a new noose fashioned. The black giant was again led up the steps to the platform. As the noose was placed around his neck, everyone heard the stentorian tones of Dominie Everardus Bogardus.

“Governor Willem Kieft! I call upon you to cease defying Almighty God with your need to slake your bloodlust, and let this innocent man go!”

“Guards! Remove that man!” Kieft yelled. There was an uproar at this, and Willem Kieft looked around and said, “Never mind, let the old drunk prattle.”

“Again, I call upon God Almighty to save this innocent man from the injustice of Governor Kieft!”

With a wary eye, Kieft again gave the signal. This time, Manuel The Giant began laughing, and got up without prompting. He hobbled up the steps as fast as he could, ready to play again. The crowd roared with laughter.

The Dominie seized his moment to perfection.

“Manuel The Giant!” he shouted, “Receive the strength and power from God as did Samson when bound with ropes of perfidy! Burst your bonds asunder!”

The big black man looked at the Dominie in confusion.

Somebody yelled, “Go ahead and break the ropes, Manuel!”

Manuel The Giant grinned at this game, and easily parted the many coils of ropes around his wrists. They fell in several pieces at his feet. When he looked at his feet, he almost absently broke those ropes also.

The crowd went wild.

Even Willem Kieft was caught up in the fervor. His shouted pardon for Manuel The Giant was clearly heard by the whole crowd.

Dominie Everardus Bogardus went home and got gloriously drunk

The Backward OX
October 22nd, 2010, 02:43 AM
She was straightening the leatherworking equipment up in the back room as she spoke.

This is something I do constantly and without thinking, in a first draft, so I noticed this similar example. “Straightening up” is what the wife was doing. However, the way it’s written, the reader might at first infer that “up” refers to the location of the back room. This is clearly not so, and can lead to confusion while the reader sorts it out. Anything that forces a reader to stop and figure something out should, in my humble opinion, be avoided.

October 22nd, 2010, 04:39 AM
What a wonderful story! I thoroughly enjoyed it. :)

Unca Walt
October 22nd, 2010, 11:15 AM
This is something I do constantly and without thinking, in a first draft, so I noticed this similar example. “Straightening up” is what the wife was doing. However, the way it’s written, the reader might at first infer that “up” refers to the location of the back room. This is clearly not so, and can lead to confusion while the reader sorts it out. Anything that forces a reader to stop and figure something out should, in my humble opinion, be avoided.

Spot on. Great input. Where the heck were you when I needed ya? That IS a screwed up sentence, no error!