Friday, August 13, 2010

War is Not a Game of Chess

Two years ago, my school had me write a novella on the civl war. Now I am going to reedit it and post it chapter by chapter. It's funny, how when you look at your work after several years the first thing you think is 'Red pen, someone get me a red pen! How did I not put a period there, Holy Moly, I just repeated that sentence!' And then,'boy, do I have a lot of work to do.' Of course I didn't have a lot of time to edit it the first time I wrote it, seeing as the deadlines were a bit shorter than I would have liked. But no more, I am doing this on my own free time now! Yay!

Chapter One
The songbirds chirped, as the sun rose in the pink morning sky casting a silhouette against the Douglas mansion. Smells of eggs and blackberry pancakes wafted up from the kitchen; occasional livestock brayed. Flowers in the courtyard bloomed, as the summer light kissed their glossy petals. Nothing, it seemed could disturb this, the most peaceful hour of the day, thought Molly, as she lay in her bed allowing her senses to wonder. Then with a jolt she remembered, and sat upright in her four poster and said in a hushed tone, “Sam is coming home today.” Sam was her brother, her closest brother, in age and in relationship.
When Molly was four and Sam was five, their mother, Barbara Douglas, died of scarlet fever. Three years later their father remarried Maggie Johnson, with whom he had the rest of the six Douglas children. During those years Molly and Sam had become quite close. Their nurse at the time, Tessa, said they were as alike as two peas in a pod. Molly had always liked Tessa, she was much friendlier than some of her father’s other slaves. They all treated her with respect, but some had a wariness that unnerved her.
When the pink tinges of dawn started to fade, Molly decided it was time to get up. She washed her face in a basin, pouring the water from a white pitcher painted with purple pansies. Then she woke Monica, her personal servant (though she was really just one of Mr. Douglas’s slaves). She told Monica to help her dress into a periwinkle blue dress made out of cotton from one of her cousin’s farms.
As soon as the last lace was tied, Molly was surprised to hear the sound of hooves and wheels on gravel. She ran to her window and saw a carriage pulling up the drive. Without wasting another second, Molly hurriedly made her way through her bedroom door, down the hallway and two flights of stairs, Monica bustling behind her.
Dress swishing, Molly finally reached the foyer and swung open the oak double doors, not expecting to find that the rest of her family already outside and waiting. “What is happening? Sam is not supposed to arrive until noon.”
“Samuel managed to catch a train that came in at six a.m. and apparently he saw the Atkinsons, and they sent one of their slaves to inform me that I should send someone to pick him up,” replied Molly’s father in his usual gruff and formal tone.
“Alright,” said Molly, “but still, why did you not wake me, Papa?”
“You are still recovering from that horrible summer cold. We thought it would be best for you to sleep in, Dear,” answered her stepmother, in her all too sweet voice which had annoyed Molly for years.
“I feel much better now though, Ma’am.”
“That is good, I am glad that you are feeling better,” said her stepmother wistfully, staring into space, indifferent to her stepson’s homecoming.

Horses hooves clomped, while Sam looked out the window of his father’s carriage. he rolled his cane back and forth with the palms of his hands in anticipation of seeing his family, Molly especially.
For the past few months he had been studying at Harvard. Personally, Sam was not at all interested in going to college first thing after being finished with his tutor, but when he had mentioned living abroad and then coming back for his education to his father, he had been scolded and his father had told him “you are not going anywhere. You will run my plantation some day and you are going to get an education before you do!” Sam did agree that education was important, but like so many things between his father and him, he only agreed with half of it. Maybe he was supposed to do more with his life then run a tobacco plantation. Sure, he would make a large amount of money, but perhaps money was not the only thing that was important in life.
There was something that he did not agree with his father about at all though, something he had learned about when he had been in Cambridge, Massachusetts: slavery. Growing up on a plantation, he had always been around slavery, but then he had always been naïve, and he had figured it was natural to have slaves. He had never thought much of it. When he was in Cambridge though, he had stumbled across a group of people called abolitionists, who were against slavery. He was intrigued by the concept, so Sam stayed for a couple of meetings and realized his father, who had many slaves, was a person who, in Sam’s opinion, was someone he would never want to be like or take after. Slavery was now another reason he didn’t want to run his father’s plantation. Sam was not in denial that the cheap labor was the reason that the plantation was still going, and he knew that his father knew it too. Sam would never look at that man the same way again.
I need to tell Molly about this. She should know, she shouldn’t have to be naïve like I was! Thought Sam.
Sam’s carriage pulled onto the drive that led to the mansion where he had lived throughout his childhood, and several other formidably sized neighboring farms. None of them as large as his family’s plantation though. Despite all the thoughts whirling relentlessly around his head, Sam could not help but admire the beautiful summer morning that South Carolina always seemed to produce. He loved the way the rays of sun hit the willows that his grandfather had planted by Williams Creek as a boy. Beams of light hit his carriage as two large, chestnut horses pulled it past.
Sam knew he was drawing close to the end of the drive and nearing his home when the dirt road was replaced with gravel, and he passed through the gates with the sign that had the words Douglas Tobacco Plantation engraved on it. Then the carriage pulled around the circular island with a statue of a bald eagle perched on a stump. There the carriage stopped and Sam could see the front view of his house and on the entrance steps stood every member of his family: his father, stepmother, stepsiblings, his father’s mother, and Molly. I am finally home!

“Samuel!” said Mr. Douglas, greeting his son with enthusiasm.
“Father!’ replied Sam, aided by his cane walked to take the extended hand offered by his father.
Sam required the use of a cane because when he was eight, he had gone into the orchard and climbed the largest, oldest cherry tree there to steal some of the ripened fruit. After awhile he started his way down when a bird flew out of what seemed like nowhere and startled Sam so much that he fell out of the tree and plummeted to the earth a good eighteen feet down. The result was a shattered leg and a sprained wrist. All things considered, he was extremely lucky, the leg did not even need to be amputated, but he would need a cane to walk for the rest of his life.
When Sam had finished greeting everybody they all went inside to have a breakfast of eggs and blackberry pancakes.
“Will you pass the butter please Molly? I’m starved,” asked Sam.
“Yes, of course,” giggled Molly, watching her brother pile pancakes onto his plate.
“How long will you stay with us? Are you out for the summer?” Asked Sam’s stepmother, Maggie.
“Yes, I am staying here the rest of the summer. My goodness, do I have stories to tell you all,” was Sam’s reply.
“Over dinner perhaps?” suggested Maggie.
“That sounds good to me,” said Sam.
“I love it when everybody is home,” said John, Sam’s ten-year-old stepbrother.
“Me too,” added Molly, “me too.”

The summer flew by, but it didn’t really feel like summer to Sam, everyday his father had him woken early and went around preparing and teaching Sam how to run the plantation. with the days being so busy, Sam did not have time to see Molly or tell her about his time with the abolitionists, so when he finally got a break on the last week before he was scheduled to head depart for Harvard.
“Can I talk to you Molly?” he asked.
“Of course Sam,” she replied, “just let me tie this off.”
Sam waited patiently as she tied the thread of some needlework she had been doing so it would not come out. Then he led her over to the pond that was on the eastern side of their property.
“Sam, what is all this about?” inquired Molly.
“Well I have not seen you very much this summer and while I was in Cambridge... I learned some things that I thought I should tell you, things that you would not hear about around here,” said Sam, peaking Molly’s interest.
“Alright, I’m listening.”
Sam proceeded to tell Molly about everything that the abolitionists had talked about, and how he had gone to their meetings, and - in a way - had become one of them.
Even though she was a girl and many of the people Sam knew had always told him that girls brains’ were smaller then boys so they could not understand as much, Molly was one of the smartest people Sam knew. And that was after attended Harvard University.
When he finished telling her everything, it was super time was drawing close and the sun was low in the sky. Sam looked at his sister, who was deep in though. At long last she said. “I had never thought about it like that before, slavery, I mean. It does make sense though, but if it is as bad as I am inclined to believe it is, why would Father allow it.”
“I have been trying to figure that out myself,” said Sam, he paused for a moment and then, turning his mind from his father, added, “when I go back to Cambridge, I will find out more. I was only there for a few meetings, so I wouldn’t mention anything about this to Father. You know how he gets when people criticize him.”
Molly nodded. “I just never thought anything Father would ever do was bad.”
“Well, Father is a stubborn man, and he grew up around slavery, so I guess it is just what he’s used to.”
“I suppose, but so were we,” Molly pointed out.
“That is true...” Sam trailed off, then sighed, “I guess we should head on up to the homestead, it’ll be super soon.”
Molly agreeing, they started trudging up the hill that led back to their house. As they neared, they lifted their noses to the wind like two of their father’s bloodhounds, and picked up the aromas of roasted meat and potatoes coming to greet them.

1 comment:

  1. It's very exciting to be privy to the early works of someone I know is going to be a famous writer! Well done, Larissa!!


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