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Authors: Kathleen Kent

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The Heretic's Daughter (37 page)

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Soon after, I walked some distance through our wakening fields and sat on the ragged stone fence that marked its far edges. I opened the red book and read my mother’s words and the words my father had given her, and all of my questioning and wondering and the gossiping of others were resolved into time and place and purpose. I laid the book aside, for suddenly the weight of it could not be supported by my hands, and I looked around me, amazed that the world had not changed beneath my feet. The sun had shifted across the sky as I read, turning morning to afternoon, but the trees were still in the trembling green of spring, the air was misted and freshening, the shoots of wheat still up-lifting through the fields. How could it be that all around me had remained the same when behind my eyes I still carried the images of the life of the two I had called Mother and Father? I understood then why my mother had demanded of me to wait before opening the book, to wait until I had been tested and hardened by the passing of ages.

I had in my fifty-odd years experienced cruelty and death, losses of the heart, despair, and redemption from that despair. But these things had little prepared me for the thundering shift of ideas, inscribed with ink faded to the rusted color of blood, which said that a land and its people could be governed without the smothering, grasping hand of a monarch. But that men being what they are will supplant that monarch with another so-called protector of the people, who will suppress and fight and betray his way back into tyranny. I looked through the branches of trees and saw great armies advancing upon each other, son against father, brother against his like, and heard through the cawing of crows the crying of children and women and old men as they were cut down and trammeled underfoot. I saw through the swaying of diaphanous shadows agents of the church plotting savagely against their fellow men at altar, and laymen and women preaching in fiery tongues to growing multitudes in the running, ruinous streets of London. Words like “treason” and “trickery” forced their way in whispered explosions from my mouth like metal bores being fired from a flintlock.

And finally, with the shifting light fingering its way up the garden stones, I witnessed the progression of a king from prison to scaffold to beheading. And beside this king stood a man, masked and hooded, who first with a kind hand gently pulled aside the straying locks of hair at the bent and ready neck that would mar the true progress of the blade, and then with a steady, practiced grip, arc the long shaft of the axe up and back and finally down, bringing the sharp, reflecting mirror of history through the air, cleaving at once and forever, past from future, darkness from illumination, servitude from liberty.

Long into dark I sat on the wall, Mother and Father alive to me then, and felt the blood of them both thrumming through my veins. In full darkness I returned the diary to Father’s great chest and, in the years to follow, layered it over with the stuff of the living. Quilts packed away in summer’s heat, linen outgrown by children, coarse cloth used for sacking and for shrouds. And always it was there, like a step-stone in a swift-moving river.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

First and foremost, I want to thank my wonderful agent, Julie Barer, who took an unknown writer out of the slush pile and, with her own special magic, helped turn her into a published author. Next, I’d like to thank my editor, Reagan Arthur, who, with patience and gentle direction, worked with me to shape a rough manuscript into a finished novel. My heartfelt thanks also go to the following people at Little, Brown and Company: Michael Pietsch, Sophie Cotrell, Sabrina Ravipinto, Heather Fain, Heather Rizzo, Mario Pulice, and Oliver Haslegrave, for their energy, enthusiasm, and commitment; and to Pamela Marshall, who worked so hard to give the manuscript its final polish.

Where would I be without the encouragement of my beloved family, who were also my first readers: Audrey, John, and Kevin Hickman; Kim, Katie, and Kelly Morrison; Rhoda, Seymour, and Janice Orlowsky; and Ilene, Kevin, and Alyssa Muething. Love to my girls, Patty, Bette, Elaine, and Rose; and, of course, to my “first” first reader, Mitchell. My love and gratitude to all of the “Friends of the Book,” too numerous to list on this little page (but you know who you are). A big thank-you to Juliet Mofford, of the Andover Historical Society, for pointing me to the historical Carrier sites in Andover, Massachusetts, and to Violet Schwarzmann, for personally taking me to the Carrier family homestead in Marlborough, Connecticut. I’d also like to thank my mentor, Abigail Brenner, for her generosity and sage advice. And finally, thank you, Cary, for always listening.

To the descendants of Thomas and Martha Carrier, may you live long and prosper.

K
ATHLEEN
K
ENT
lives in Dallas with her husband and son.
The Heretic’s Daughter
is her first novel.

BOOK: The Heretic's Daughter
3.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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