Monday, June 2, 2014

A Year That Will Live in Infamy--1692 by Jannine Gallant

Okay, maybe not my personal favorite year, but certainly a remarkable one. I love history, have always been fascinated by how our predecessors lived. So despite scoffing about the unmarketability of a history major (they were right BTW), I majored in early American history. Then I took an in-depth course on the Puritans in New England. That much maligned group actually got along quite well, despite their views on predestination, a wrathful God, fire and brimstone, etc., etc....until 1692. In that fateful year a group of young girls, including Betty, the daughter of Reverend Samuel Paris of Salem Village, and her cousin, Abigail Williams, accused their slave, Tituba, of witchcraft. And so set in motion a witch hunt that swept through New England. During the course of the Salem Witch Trials, nineteen "witches" were hung and one was pressed to death. Four others were confirmed to have died in prison awaiting execution, with the possibility of thirteen additional unfortunates, though sources disagree over the exact number.

Years and years ago I decided I had to write a book set in this dramatic time period. An Uncertain Destiny was born, only to languish for years in a pile of typewritten pages beneath my desk before I resurrected and rewrote it, edited and shopped it then finally self-published my fictionalized account of the witches in Salem Town. Historic figures rub shoulders with my hero and heroine--and a few dangle at the end of a noose. But it's also a story of love and loyalty and sacrifice. The following is an excerpt from my heroine's trial, just to give you a taste of what those poor women (and men) were up against when someone accused them of witchcraft.

The door at the back of the room opened, and Simon Jones led Megan down the aisle. She wore a demure gray dress with a white collar and cuffs, and her hair was neatly coiled beneath a cap. On the previous occasion, her chin had tilted at a militant angle with defiance gleaming in her eyes. Today her shoulders slumped. She met his gaze with only a spark of emotion that quickly faded. Fear had stolen her spirit and broken her. He gripped the seat until his knuckles turned white. The woman he loved was lost behind a faƧade of defeat.
When the room quieted, the hearing began. Again Elsa was the first witness, though this time Penny was absent from the proceedings. His sister spoke calmly, coldly and with none of her usual zeal. His pleading might have had some effect, but the jurors listened with avid attention, just the same. Elsa’s stilted recital was enough to send whispers through the crowd as she returned to her seat.
“Next witness.”
At the judge’s command, a man dressed in homespun fabric walked up the center aisle, his gaze on the floor. He cracked his knuckles as he stood before the room, the sound echoing in the silence.
“State your name.”
“Thaddeus Norton.”
“How do you know the defendant?”
The man looked nervously around the room. “I know her not at all.”
“Then what evidence do you bring before the court?”
Norton cleared his throat. “I was driving into town one evening about a month ago when I saw her perched on a rooftop against the sky. It looked to me like she was about to take flight. You can bet I whipped my horses and hurried out of harm’s way.”
Behind him a woman whispered, “She probably got up there on a broomstick.”
“This happened at the old Hamilton place?” One judge turned to glare, his jowls wagging.
“Yes, Your Honor.”
“You may step down. Next witness.”
A thin, middle-aged woman reported seeing Megan in the woods gathering plants and bark.
“You use these for potions?” An older judge spoke up sharply, staring at Megan from beneath bushy gray brows.
Her voice was steady when she answered him. “I use them in healing.”
Pride warmed Nicholas. This was the woman he loved and admired, confident and forthright. She might be trembling inside, but she wouldn’t show any weakness before these vultures.
“Next witness.”
A man with an ill-fitting wig and greedy eyes complained his cow had gone dry. “I seen the witch walk by my home that morning. She should be made to pay for my cow. It ain’t no use to me anymore.”
“Step down, sir. Next.”
Megan shrank into her seat as a fat woman pointed a shaking finger at her. “She cast a spell on my boy, bewitching him.” Goody Hess’ gaze moved to a red-faced youth with pimples. “He’s staring at her even as I speak. Can’t take his eyes off her, I tell you.”
Hunter Caldwell approached the bench, his eyes cold as his gaze swept over Megan. “I can verify Goody Hess’ testimony. This woman is a sorceress. She seduced my daughter’s intended.” His chest swelled. “It’s common knowledge Nicholas Thayer promised to marry my Fern before that one came along and enticed him away with her evil charms.”
All eyes turned toward Nicholas, and the youngest judge cocked one finger in his direction. “Please approach, Mister Thayer.”
Back stiff, he rose slowly. It was inconceivable his broken engagement to Fern would be used against Megan. With an effort, he tamped down his anger and composed his features before facing the row of judges.
“Is it true you intended to marry Fern Caldwell?”
Nicholas’ jaw ached from clenching his teeth. “We had an understanding, but no banns were read.”
“You broke your promise to her because of this woman, Megan Pendrake?” The judge glanced toward Megan, his lips curving in a leer that set Nicholas’ nerves on edge.
“It was not wholly my decision. Fern and I both agreed a marriage between us would be a mistake.”
Caldwell snorted. “What could my daughter say when he made it clear his interest was held by that witch?”
“I believe we’ve heard enough. Resume your seats, gentlemen.”
Nicholas fought the urge to grab the man by the neck and clasped his hands tightly behind his back. “May I not testify on Miss Pendrake’s behalf?”
“I see no purpose served by such a statement. Your feelings toward the defendant are clear. Sit down, sir.”

Nicholas held Megan’s gaze as he walked past her. The despair was gone. Anger burned in its place, sending a dart of fear down his spine. He didn’t want to see her defeated, but the rebellion in her eyes worried him even more.

If you want to know what Megan does next, you'll have to read the book! It's available on Amazon. Have a great day, and may your neighbor's cow never go dry after you walk by it! LOL

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Margo Hoornstra said...

I can vouch for it! This is a great book, think Kathleen Woodiwiss. Love that cover! Best of luck with this, Jannine.

Jannine Gallant said...

Thanks, Margo. Your support, as always, is much appreciated!

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Sounds like a GREAT book!
Good luck & God's Blessings!

Jannine Gallant said...

Thanks for stopping by, Pam. I appreciate the good wishes.

Barbara Edwards said...

I love American history. This sounds great. I have to read it.

Tanya Hanson said...

This is one of my favorite years, too. look forward to reading this.

Jannine Gallant said...

Hi Barb and Tanya. It may not have been a "fun" time in history, but it was certainly interesting! Hope you enjoy the book.

Alison Henderson said...

This period fascinates me, too. When I was in high school the drama department produced The Crucible. I can't tell you how many Puritan costumes I sewed! But the story was gripping. I really look forward to reading An Uncertain Destiny as soon as I get a breather.

Jannine Gallant said...

Sounds fun, Alison, except for the sewing part! I know what you mean about needing a breather. Not enough hours in the day!

Alicia Dean said...

Loved the excerpt, very tantalizing. Sounds like a great book, and yes, an interesting but not so much fun year. I saw the movie, the Crucible, and surprisingly liked it a lot. Best of luck, Jannine!

Jannine Gallant said...

Thanks, Allie. I know historicals aren't generally your thing, but this one has a dark side you just might like! LOL

Diane Burton said...

When I first heard about this book, I was so fascinated I bought it. Can't wait to read it.

Jannine Gallant said...

Let's hope it lives up to the hype, Diane!

Leah St. James said...

I love this time period, too, Jannine. The book sounds terrific! Best of luck with it.

Jannine Gallant said...

Thanks, Leah!

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

The mass hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials has always fascinated me. I could never understand why these people couldn't think things through for themselves, but then they'd have been labeled as witches, too, I suppose. Great post and good luck with your book!!!

Jannine Gallant said...

Yep, Vonnie, my heroine does just that. Speaks her mind--and winds up in a heap of trouble as a result.