I’m happy to participate in another Sneak Peek Sunday, where writers share six paragraphs of their work. My snippet is from SCATTERED SEEDS, an as-yet-unsubmitted novel set in Colonial Pennsylvania at the outset of the French and Indian War.

In this scene, my characters are nearing the end of a hellish journey across the Atlantic. Mary has fallen ill, and Langley, the brig’s steward, is refusing to give her the new suit of clothes promised to all indentured servants.


Langley said, “Make no mistake, sir, we are all in your debt for your willingness to ready the brig for port. I myself left a young wife in Philadelphia, one whose warmth I am anxious to relish. However, this lassie is visibly unwell.” He paused as he grappled for words. “That in itself is not my concern. The heart of my difficulty . . . the matter that pains me . . . There’s just no other way to say it: I believe the clothes will be wasted on her. There you have it.”

“Upon my oath, sir,” Henry said, “she was recovering until the captain hove to. Once we are under sail again, her troubles will ease. She will be right as rain by the time the customs officers come aboard in Port James.”

Langley turned to address Edward. “You do your son a great disservice, sir, in allowing him hope. I have been to sea many times, and I have witnessed customs officials judging every type and degree of illness. Believe me when I tell you that they will mark her denied for debarkation and removal to the pesthouse on Province Island. She will not see a brick of Philadelphia.”

“Ye’re mistaken, sir. The smoothness of the river will ease her suffering,” Edward said. “Once she is done throwing up her guts and sipping water again, she will recover.”

Langley shook his head. “When we lose the sea, we lose its cooling breeze. An August haul up the Delaware River means the heat of a bread oven, mosquitos that will drive you mad, and thunderstorms that swamp a deck in minutes. I vow you have never seen rain like you will see in the coming days, Mister McAdams. The lassie will not bear it.”

Edward pounded his fist against an upper berth, rattling the housewares it held. “Devil take your eyes, Mister Langley, ye can see she has her wits. Have ye no mercy, man? Ye know yoursel’ that the shrewdest buyers crowd the wharves at Port James in hopes of scooping the cream off the milk before it reaches Philadelphia. Would ye present the lassie in rags and leave her no other way but to suffer the journey upriver to meet her death—or worse, purchase by a soul driver?”

Drop me a comment and let me know what you think. Then hop on over to Sneak Peek Sunday to check out the other snippets.


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