Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Review
"The Trees"
by Conrad Richter
 
 
Conrad Richter’s “The Trees” is the first of a series of three novels called “The Awakening Land.”  The third novel, “The Town,” won the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  Based on the quality I perceived in “The Trees,” I intend to read the entire series.
 
One reason I liked this novel so much is that Richter’s characters are so rich and diverse. This is especially true of the Luckett family members, the story’s central characters. 
 
Worth Luckett is ill-suited for settlement life.  He is a “woodsy,” an expert in the ways of hunting, a man who has “itchy feet.”  His driving passion is to hunt and explore places he has never seen.  Soon after the Revolutionary War, when game becomes scarce in frontier Pennsylvania, he moves his family into the nearly impenetrable woods of Ohio where he builds a cabin in a forest so dense that sunlight barely penetrates.  “It was a sea of solid treetops broken only by some gash where deep beneath the foliage an unknown stream made its way,” the author narrates.  Not entirely selfish, Worth demonstrates several times during the story his love for his wife and children.   
 
His wife Jary is a practical-minded, instinctively wise woman who values the presence of neighbors but is loyal to the wishes of her man.  She dislikes the absence of sunlight in the forest where Worth builds their cabin, but she accepts her lot.  “She had had her say and what good did it do her?  The time to have set herself against this place was away back in the old state when Worth claimed the squirrels were leaving the country.  Now she and her young ones were here and here likely they would stay.”  In poor health, Jary dies early in the novel.
 
The eldest of the five children is Sayward Luckett, the novel’s main character.  At the beginning of the novel she is seventeen, intuitive in judgment, strong both physically and emotionally, sensitive to the needs of others, entirely dependable but subservient to no one.  After Jary’s death Worth turns to Sayward to resolve difficult family-matters.  Sayward becomes her siblings’ mother.
 
The next oldest child is Genny, sweet in disposition, physically attractive, a gentle, naive soul whose presence enriches the lives of her family members and of neighbors the family eventually meets.  She is a vulnerable character about whom we feel protective.  The author places her in a situation that causes us much concern.
 
The third oldest child is Achsa, quite the opposite of Genny.  Achsa is physically powerful and cynical.  She frequently taunts her siblings -- especially Genny.  She has a mean streak.  We discover that she is quite devious.
 
The second youngest child is Wyitt, the only boy.  Wyitt is a reincarnation of his father.  He is a proud, bull-headed boy determined to become as skilled a hunter as his father.  Like his father, he is not entirely self-absorbed.  In several important instances he demonstrates his love for his sisters.
 
The youngest child is Sulie, the apple of Worth’s eye.  She is spirited, inquisitive, honest in her actions, not hesitant in expressing her feelings and beliefs.  “One time she could look at you with such a helpless mouth, and then when you least expected it, she was spunky as a young coon and said grand things that no one dared think of.”  Like Genny, she is a “beloved character,” somebody we especially want protected.  The author places her also in a situation that causes us substantial concern.
 
Several other characters are well crafted.  Two are particularly important.  There is Louie Scurrah, a villain of sorts, a former companion of the historical person Simon Girty.  Scurrah and Girty had lived with Indians and participated in the torture of American soldiers prior to the Revolutionary War.  Louie is a charmer whom only Sayward and Sulie continue to distrust.   The other important character is Portius Wheeler, the “Solitary,” an eloquent Bay State lawyer who had chosen to live “out in the bush by his lonesome.  Most times you couldn’t get any more talk out of him than a deaf and dumb mute.”
 
I appreciated just as much the novel’s feel of authenticity. 
 
First of all, the story is historically informative.  I read how a forest cabin was built, what animals were hunted, what material goods forest women valued, what food was cooked, what tools a “woodsy” needed, what goods the local trading post desired and traded, what clothes were worn, and in a cabin housing seven people what comprised beds. 
 
Visual detail also provides authenticity.
 
She [Sayward] could see him [Wyitt] in her mind, yonder through the ups and downs of life, skinning deer and trap-drowned mink and otter, giving a rap over the head to foxes that hid in bushes ashamed to be caught and to coons that sat up as big as you please on a log as if they didn’t have a trap and clog hanging to one paw.  Snared panthers would shed real tears when he pulled out his hunting knife, and beaver would swim out of their smashed houses and find he had left no ice for them to come up and breathe under. …
 
That shock of sandy hair would be farther down over his shoulders then and his young face that had hardly fuzz on it as yet would be covered thick with a sandy beard.  His buckskins would be bloody where he wiped his hands, and his hair would be full of nits.  Not often would he wash, least of all his itchy feet. 
 
Adding to the feeling of authenticity is the author’s style of narration.  Here is an example -- Genny’s observation of preparations for a Fourth of July celebration.
 
She had almost forgotten how it felt to get among a passel of folks on pleasure bent.  The young ones were making high jack all over the place, wrestling and fighting, racing and wading, swinging on creepers, every last one yelling at the other and none listening.  Some of the men were pulling a flag up on a high hickory limb.  Others were laying meat over a pit of white oak coals to roast.  This was one time, they said, when the he’s would show the she’s how to cook.  The women didn’t mind.  They were glad to get out of it for once and go off to themselves yonder on some logs with nothing to do but lay their littlest ones on patches of moss and swap news among themselves.
 
We witness authenticity also in the way characters speak.
 
Genny is concerned that her sister Sayward, whom she admires, might want to marry Jake Tench, a settlement man rumored to have fathered several Indian children.  He and a boy who has a romantic interested in Genny come calling.  After the two males leave, Genny demonstrates silently her displeasure.
 
“What’s a ailin’ you?” Sayward broke out at last.
Genny turned her back
“You needn’t talk to me after what you done.”
“Now I done something and don’t know what it was,” Sayward complained.
“You know good enough,” Genny told her.  “Jake Tench!
She could feel Sayward shake with quiet laughter.
“Don’t you fret about Jake.  He mought make free with a Shawanee wench but he kain’t with me.”
“He mought marry you,” Genny said.
Sayward’s voice hardened.
“Not him,” she told her shortly.  “Nor any other man where spits in my fire when I got bread a bakin’.”
 
Lastly, I value this novel for its portrayal of the universality of life.  Good and bad people and a lot of people in between populate “The Trees,” as they have done so and do in real life.  Conrad Richter’s characters mattered to me.  Passages, like this one, stirred my emotions.
 
When they let her back to the bed, Jary was light as a pack of dried and brittle fox skins.  Through the folds of homespun Sayward thought she could feel a coldness like stone.  ….
 
He [Worth] turned and went to the open door and looked out at the black forest where gray daylight was just beginning to come.  No use turning your back on this, Sayward wanted to tell him.  Whether you looked or no, death would come and life would go.  Up in the loft all signs of the young ones had vanished.  Sayward reckoned they were lying face down on their beds.
 
Sayward reflects at the end of the novel: “Let the good come … for the bad would come of its own self.    That’s how life was, death and birth, grub and harvest, rain and clearing, winter and summer.  You had to take one with the other, for that’s the way it ran.”  The particulars of this theme and the excellence of the writing make “The Trees” a quality novel.

 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Frederick Douglass -- Brutalizing Slaves
 
Aunt Hester went out one night and happened to be absent when my master desired her presence.  He had warned her that she must never let him catch her in company with a young man who was paying attention to her.  The young man’s name was Ned Roberts, generally called Lloyd’s Ned.  She was a woman of noble form and of graceful proportions, having few equals in personal appearance among the colored or white women of our neighborhood.
 
Aunt Hester had not only disobeyed his orders in going out but had been found in company with Lloyd’s Ned.  I learned this from what he [Anthony] said while whipping her.  Before he commenced whipping Aunt Hester, he took her into the kitchen and stripped her from neck to waist.  After crossing her hands he tied them with a strong rope and led her to a stool under a large hook in the joist put in for the purpose.  He made her get upon the stool and tied her hands to the hook.  Her arms were stretched up at their full length so that she stood upon the ends of her toes.  He then said to her, “Now you …, I’ll learn you how to disobey my orders!”  After rolling up his sleeves he commenced to lay on the heavy cowskin, and soon the warm, red blood came dripping to the floor.  I was so terrified and horror-stricken that I hid myself in a closet.  It was all new to me.  I had always lived with my grandmother on the outskirts of the plantation where she was put to raise the children of the younger women” (Bontemps 33-34). 
 
Aaron Anthony, Frederick’s master, was fifty-seven and a widower for eight years when Frederick moved into the plantation manager’s house to live.  Anthony himself owned two or three farms and about thirty slaves.  He left the management of his own property to an overseer named Plummer, “a miserable drunkard, a profane swearer and a savage monster” (Bontemps 32).  As a young man Anthony had gotten a job on Colonel Lloyd’s sloop, which transported the former governor’s bounty of produce and products to nearby Baltimore, and Anthony earned the title, “Captain.”  Eventually he became the “overseer of overseers,” the manager of Colonel Lloyd’s vast land holdings and some 1,000 slaves.
 
Frederick’s exposure to the violent treatment of slaves by their masters and overseers occurred at an impressionable age.  The beatings that he witnessed and the stories of other beatings told to him during his two year residence at Wye House he remembered with clarity and used years later to enthrall and repel those in the Northern states who came to hear him speak for the abolition of slavery.
 
The first overseer to whom Frederick was directly responsible was a man named Severe.
 
Mr. Severe was rightly named: he was a cruel man.  I have seen him whip a woman, causing the blood to run half an hour at the time; and this, too, in the midst of crying children, pleading for their mother’s release.  Added to his cruelty, he was a profane swearer.  It was enough to chill the blood and stiffen the hair of an ordinary man to hear him talk. … From the rising till the going down of the sun, he was cursing, raving, cutting, and slashing among the slaves of the field, in the most frightful manner.  His career was short.  He died very soon after I went to Colonel Lloyd’s … His death was regarded by the slaves as the result of a merciful providence.
 
Mr. Severe’s place was filled by a Mr. Hopkins.  He was a very different man.  He was less cruel, less profane, and made less noise … He whipped, but seemed to take no pleasure in it.  He was called by the slaves a good overseer.
 
 
Mr. Hopkins remained but a short time in the office of overseer.  Why his career was so short, I do not know, but suppose he lacked the necessary severity to suit Colonel Lloyd.  Mr. Hopkins was succeeded by Mr. Austin Gore … Mr. Gore had served Colonel Lloyd, in the capacity of overseer, upon one of the out-farms, and had shown himself worthy of the high station of overseer upon the home of Great House Farm.
 
… There was no answering back to him; no explanation was allowed a slave, showing himself to have been wrongfully accused.  … No matter how innocent a slave might be—it availed him nothing, when accused by Mr. Gore of any misdemeanor.  To be accused was to be convicted, and to be convicted was to be punished … He was, of all the overseers, the most dreaded by the slaves” (Douglass 29-30).
 
 
… Mr. Gore once undertook to whip one of Colonel Lloyd’s slaves, by the name of Demby.  He had given Demby but few stripes, when, to get rid of the scouring, he ran and plunged himself in a creek, and stood there at the depth of his shoulders, refusing to come out.  Mr. Gore told him that he would give him three calls, and that, if he did not come out at the third call, he would shoot him.  Demby made no response, but stood his ground.  The second and third calls were given with the same result.  Mr. Gore then, without consultation or deliberation with any one, … raised his musket to his face, taking deadly aim at his standing victim, and in an instant poor Demby was no more.  His mangled body sank out of sight, and blood and brains marked the water where he had stood.
 
… He was asked by Colonel Lloyd and my old master, why he resorted to this extraordinary expedient.  His replay was … that Demby had become unmanageable.  He was setting a dangerous example to the other slaves … He argued that if one slave refused to be corrected, and escaped with his life, the other slaves would soon copy the example … Mr. Gore’s defence was satisfactory.  He was continued in his station as overseer upon the home plantation” (Douglass 38-40).
 
Killing a slave was not considered a crime.  However, it was a practice that was not looked upon favorably.  A slave killed was property forever lost.  Better to sell an unmanageable slave to the labor-killing plantations of Georgia.  Nonetheless, when it did occur, the murderer knew he would not be convicted in a court of law.  To illustrate this fact, Frederick wrote about the murder of a cousin of his wife.
 
The wife of Mr. Giles Hicks, living but a short distance from where I used to live [years later in Baltimore], murdered my wife’s cousin, a young girl between fifteen and sixteen years of age. … The offence for which this girl was thus murdered was this:-She had been set that night to mind Mrs. Hick’s baby, and during the night she fell asleep, and the baby cried.  She, having lost her rest for several nights previous, did not hear the crying.  They were both in the room with Mrs. Hicks.  Mrs. Hicks, finding the girl slow to move, jumped from her bed, seized an oak stick of wood by the fireplace, and with it broke the girl’s nose and breastbone, and thus ended her life” (Douglass 41).
 
 
Works cited:
 
Bontemps, Arna.  Free at Last: The Life of Frederick Douglass.  New York, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1971.  Print. 
 
Douglass, Frederick.  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.  New York, Penguin Books USA inc., 1968.  Print.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Frederick Douglass -- "Grandmanny's Gone"
 
Pictures:
 
 
Quotations:
 
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
 
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
 
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
 
"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
 
“The white man's happiness cannot be purchased by the black man's misery.”
 
“To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”
 
“I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”
 
Introductory Comment:
 
I became especially interested in Frederick Douglass after I read his fascinating autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.  Years ago, after retiring, I wrote a manuscript about him that I hoped eighth grade students at the school where I had taught would be assigned at least in part to read.  Beginning with this post, I will be sharing with you much of what I wrote.
 
***
 
On a summer day in August 1824, when Frederick was six, he and his grandmother left the cabin, walked up to the cross roads, and turned southwest.  The walk was long, much longer he soon learned than the one in the other direction, to Hillsboro, probably the only town he had been to.  For much of the trip his powerful grandmother must have had to carry the tall, heavy child.   … there was no horse the resourceful Betsy could commandeer for the day.  Turning at one crossroads town, they walked between great fields, blackened in heat, to reach another, and soaked in perspiration kept resolutely on through the Lloyds’ “Long Woods.”  Finally, having walked twelve miles, they came to Wye House.  A generous lawn’s-width short of the long, straight drive leading under great trees to the main house was a parallel road that led to the slave quarters.  They took it; through the trees between the narrow roads, Frederick could catch sight of the great house.  As the two of them came past, they reached their master’s small, neat cottage and the quarters where their relatives lived.  Looking off the other way across Long Green they saw the broad stretch of the Wye River.
 
Suddenly, the long, hot trek was over.  Curious children came out to look over the newcomer, and followed him and their grandmother into the kitchen, where the two got desperately needed drinks of water.  Cautiously, Frederick agreed to go back into the yard with them, but he did not join in as they ran “laughing and yelling around me.” Their exuberance would have been more intimidating if he had not known that his grandmother was back in the house.  But soon she was not.  Taking what she saw as the least tormenting way to accomplish the parting she was resigned to, Betsy quietly left to walk the long miles back to Tuckahoe.  When one of the children, with “roughish glee” shrieked at him, “Fed, Fed! Grandmammy gone!” he fled back to the kitchen to find her.
 
But she was gone.  He rushed out to the road; she was not in sight, and he could not run down its emptiness alone.  He threw himself on the ground, and crying, pummeled the dry dust.  When his older brother, Perry, tried to console him with a peach, he threw it away.  He was carried in to bed and cried himself to sleep.  And he never fully trusted anyone again (McFeely 10).
 
Maps:
 
Frederick Bailey was born near the banks of the Tuckahoe, a quiet creek that cut through fields and woods of Maryland’s Eastern Shore eventually to reach the Choptank River, which, in turn, emptied itself into Chesapeake Bay.  He lived the first seven years of his life in and about a solitary cabin in a wood on one of two adjacent farms owned by Aaron Anthony, his slave master.  The cabin belonged to Isaac and Betsy Bailey, his grandparents.
 
Isaac, about whom Frederick would write very little, was a free black man.  He worked as a sawyer, a tree and lot cutter.  It was Betsy Bailey who was the dominant parental influence of Frederick’s early life.
 
She was a tall, strong, copper-dark, intelligent woman who had been given, or assigned, the task of raising for the first seven years of their lives the offspring of her daughters, who labored in the fields nearby or distant for their master or for other white men who had rented their services.  Betsy had belonged to Ann Catherine Skinner but had become Aaron Anthony’s property upon her mistress’s marriage to him.  Because she was a slave, his slave, her children became his slaves as well.  Frederick’s mother, Harriet, was Betsey’s second daughter.
 
Frederick remembered nothing of his mother until he had begun living at the Wye House, when his life with his grandmother was severed.  Frederick’s father?  About the cabin in the woods and more emphatically during his two years at the Wye House he heard the rumors that his father was a white man; his skin color attested to it.  Perhaps his father was his master!  That his father was a white man Frederick, the adult, was certain; who he was – Aaron Anthony, or someone else who had encountered his mother during her brief adult life – he was never certain.
 
Perhaps because of the task assigned to her, Betsy Bailey, Frederick’s grandmother, was allowed to live apart from Anthony’s other slaves and to abide by her own rules.  As a consequence, Frederick knew little of the bondage and brutality of slavery while he lived with her and his young cousins.  He could watch and chase the rabbits and deer that ventured into the fields from the woods.  He could sit beside the turtles that sunned themselves on logs in the Tuckahoe.  He could sink his toes in the clay bottoms of shallow pools and watch skater bugs glide over them if he wished.  Birds, in great number, dominated the morning with their noise.  At migrating time great flocks of ducks settled on the marsh water below a mill dam.  Frederick recalled splashing into the creek without having to take off his clothes; he wore only a shirt.  He recalled mimicking farm animals and being fed “corn-meal mush” with an oyster shell for a spoon.  As an adult he assessed the material poverty of his early existence; as a youngster he was oblivious of it.
 
They subsisted independently.  Isaac’s woodcutting, and more importantly, Betsy’s expert fishing and farming permitted their existence together.  Betsey’s nets were in “great demand” in Hillsboro and Denton, nearby towns.  Frederick remembered her “in the water half the day” gathering an abundance of shad and herring.  In the spring she planted her own sweet potatoes and then helped with the planting of her neighbors’ crop.  At harvest time, she pierced the ground so deftly with her fork that none of her crop was ever punctured or lost.  Always she put aside good seed potatoes for the next season’s planting.
 
The untroubled life that Frederick and his cousins enjoyed at the cabin had been purchased, of course, at a great cost.  Before each was old enough to be taught the skills of fishing and farming to help her with her labors, Betsy was required to accompany each the twelve miles to the Wye House, where Aaron Anthony lived, where he managed the vast estate of Edward Lloyd, a former governor of the state and United States senator.  Here each child would begin abruptly his or her own harsh life of slavery, bereft without warning of the comfort of the only parenting he or she had known.
 
 
Work cited:
 
McFeely, William S.  Frederick Douglass.  New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.  Print.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Writing "Alsoomse and Wanchese" -- English Intentions
 
This novel is almost entirely an imaginary account of the lives of certain Algonquian natives (some of whom existed) at and near Roanoke Island from the fall of 1583 to August 1584.  I will end it with two natives being taken to England by an English exploratory party to be taught English and to be returned the following year.  To prepare the reader for the party’s sudden appearance, I have included several scenes that indicate English intentions of establishing an Atlantic coastline settlement.  Here are some excerpts of these scenes.
 
Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s Failure to Establish a Settlement South of Newfoundland
 
Humphrey Gilbert and his crew sensed how close to Sable Island’s rocks the Squirrel, riding the crests of turbulent waves, had come. If he dared to put out to sea, how many days or weeks would it be before he would be able to return? On this island roamed wild pigs and cattle, set ashore decades ago by Portuguese explorers. He had to replenish his food supply! The alternative was to return to the Queen disgraced! The Newfoundland fishermen had warned him about Sable Island, about how in bad weather too many ships had been destroyed on its rocks. “Approach it in the best of conditions. And lead with your smallest ship.” Well, in both instances he had done the opposite.
And he had also spurned the advice of the Delight’s master, Richard Clarke.
“If you must, utilize a south-west-south course.”
Clarke had contradicted his west-north-west direction. “That will take you to disaster, Admiral. The wind is at south and night is at hand. Unknown sands lay a great way off the land.” He had had to threaten to bring down Elizabeth’s wrath to force the master to comply. 
Slanting rain pelted him. He turned his face away from its force. Minutes passed. Sailors were staring at him, turning their faces when he attempted to make eye contact. He would wait a bit longer!
If the fog lifted, he could then be certain. If not, … The waiting was interminable! He stared, at drifting, amorphous shapes.
A ferocious blast of wind caused him to slip and then fall on the rain-drenched deck. He careened down the deck’s slope, his right leg striking stanchions. Adjusting to the roll of the ship, gripping a foremast spar, painfully, he stood. The boards beneath his feet trembled. Fear constricted his throat.
“Admiral! Here!”
Gilbert hesitated, then followed the beckoning sailor to a cluster of four seamen just aft of broadside. There! The fog had opened. Gilbert's lead ship, the Delight, his largest, was coming apart on dark rocks. And in the water . . . the ship's crew: heads, flailing arms. Miraculously, a boat in the water, just beyond, in one eye-blink, capsized. Churning bodies, disappearing. Gone!
 
Walter Raleigh Seeks to Obtain Humphrey Gilbert’s Patent to Colonize
 
Thinking about Hatton, Raleigh laughed. Hatton played the courtly game of unrequited lover -- which Elizabeth loved so much -- but he, Raleigh, was much better at it. Two months ago using his diamond ring he had carved on a lattice window in the Queen’s Presence Room the message: “Fain would I climb, yet I fear to fall.” Taking his ring from him the next day, she had inscribed: “If thy heart fails thee, climb not at all.”
To Elizabeth, he was “Water.” He was her Shepherd of the Ocean. She “died of thirst” whenever he left her presence. In his poems he called her Cynthia, goddess of the moon and symbol of chastity. He had penned the past two days two stanzas that, if he were quick about it, he might complete before her inevitable summons. He walked to his desk, bent over its surface, and read them.
 
Those eyes which set my fancy on a fire,
Those crisped hairs which hold my heart in chains,
Those dainty hands which conquered my desire,
That wit which on my thought does hold the reins!
 
Those eyes for clearness do the stars surpass,
Those hairs obscure the brightness of the sun,
Those hands more bright than every ivory was,
That wit even to the skies hath glory won.
 
 He thought that one more stanza might suffice. He would sit at his desk this very afternoon to write it if he were not summoned. If not this day, then he would tomorrow. She would read it; he would gain greater favor;he would press more aggressively his request to acquire Gilbert’s patent.
He had not been summoned. Riding the newly paved road to the palace the following morning, Raleigh thought about his goal. He had competition. Because of what Humphrey had experienced, he believed he knew his competitor’s identity.
            Francis Walsingham, the Queen’s primary secretary.  Humphrey had communicated his frustration during the final days before he had left England for Newfoundland.
Gilbert had learned that Walsingham, his stepson Christopher Carleill, and Sir George Peckham had interviewed the English seaman David Ingram about his purported journey by foot past the Chesapeake Bay all the way to Cape Breton. “Why their particular interest, Walter? Why their interest?” Humphrey had asked him sarcastically.
Captain Edward Hayes and the Golden Hind had returned to England September 22. The news: Raleigh’s half brother and good friend and his ship the Squirrel and crew had been swallowed in a violent storm.
Raleigh had quickly set in motion plans to outfit his own expedition. He had gathered together already at Durham House diverse people to ensure that his expedition would be thoughtfully organized and well equipped. Sometime in April of 1584 he expected to send two or more ships to North America, perhaps somewhat south of Gilbert’s intended settlement, to locate a practical place to found a settlement and base for privateers to attack King Philip’s treasure ships. He believed he could convince Elizabeth to award him Humphrey’s patent. But he had to be watchful! Walsingham, and Carleill, would not be standing still.
 
Introduction of Thomas Harriot, an Important Member of the 1584 English Voyage
 
It was raining. Walter Raleigh heard the steady drumming on the roof and the course of water in the rain gutter above Haritt’s room on the second floor of the Durham House. His employee was instructing another class of sea captains in the use of navigational instruments and his tables of corrections of mathematical findings that the instruments provided.
Dressed in black – Raleigh had never seen him wear clothing of any other color – Harriot, but 23 years old, was holding before his four students a quadrant. “Latitude, gentleman.” The young man held the quarter circle-shaped instrument eye-level tilted upward. “Any sea venture you attempt requires that you must know frequently your latitude.  This instrument, as two of you well know, is one of the simplest ways of determining that.” He lowered the quadrant, smiled, extended his left hand as if to convey an apology. “Captains Harris and Sturges, you could demonstrate the employment of this instrument as easily as I. To our distinguished gentlemen also attending, my demonstration, I believe, is essential to their basic understanding.”
Appreciating his employee’s mathematical aptitude, attention to detail, and insatiable curiosity, Raleigh had encouraged Harriot to attack the sea captain’s seemingly insurmountable difficulty of determining by celestial observation his location where there was no land to guide him. He had sent Harriot to the London and Plymouth docks to interview grizzled seamen, preferably captains, over pints of ale in bawdy taverns, to learn everything he could about sailing ships, life at sea, and the ways captains navigated. Among various titles of inquiry an astronomer, Harriot had researched what the ancients, and later the Arabs, had discovered about the constellations and the measurement of time. He had read as well two modern publications about this vital subject: John Dee’s translation into English in 1570 of Martin Cortes’s Arte de navigation and, printed in 1574, William Bourne’s A Regiment for the Sea, a corrected and expanded version of Cortes’s work.  In short, Raleigh believed that Harriot knew more about the reading of the sun and stars, the instruments used, and the imperfections of those readings and how they could be partially corrected than any English seaman alive.
 
Queen Elizabeth and Walsingham Talk about Colonization
 
The food-tasting for poison was essential. Guarded in her residence day and night, never left alone, she was less likely to be assassinated directly. Poisoning – indirect assassination --was subtle, more achievable.
There had been ample reason for concern. For her entire reign she had had to confront the ramifications of her renunciation of Catholicism. Only by threatening to marry the heir to the French throne had she been able to forestall Philip of Spain from authorizing military action to depose her. This tactic had not stopped Catholics in England and Europe from scheming to remove her and reestablish Catholic rule in the person of Mary Stuart, Elizabeth’s cousin, former queen consort of France, former Queen of Scotland, forced to abdicate her Scottish throne by Protestant lord.,Tthe past fifteen years per Elizabeth’s orders, Mary had been  confined at Sheffield Castle closely watched by Sir Francis Walsingham’s numerous spies.
The interview had concluded. Yet he tarried.
“God’s love, rise!” It occurred to her that he had more to say.  “Yes?”
He rose, with reluctance towered over her.
“A matter of collateral urgency.” His dark eyes connected.
“How so?”
“The expedition to the New World. We must found a colony north of Florida but south of where Gilbert had planned to colonize so as to seize in the Caribbean and south of the Azores Spanish gold, and, simultaneously, discover comparable riches!”
“We have spoken about thi!. You know the treasury lacks the funds to finance this venture! You must show me a plan that involves private investment! I wait to see such a plan!”
“I am close to showing you a plan.”
“You do know that you have competition.”
She saw in his eyes a flash of temper, despite his skill of suppressing emotion.
“You speak for my issuance of a patent, similar to that I gave Gilbert. Authorization to sell vast acreage to wealthy investors.”
“How else am I to raise sufficient capital?”
“Agreed. And who is to hold this patent, and grandly profit from it? Your step- son, Christopher Carleill?”
“He would be the captain.”
“But who would hold the patent? You?”
His eyes did not deviate. “Who but I have the connections to make such a risky, complicated venture successful?”
“Again, agreed. I will look at your plan.”
Walsingham having left, she was not of the mood to translate or nap. Her ire was up. Walsingham wanted his due. He expected it! Early during her reign, advisors had thought they could intimidate her, because she was a woman. There were times when Walsingham tried. She had allowed no man to control her nor had she any advisor to become too powerful.
 
Queen Elizabeth and Walsingham II
 
Grunting, Walsingham shifted his weight onto his left knee. He sought silently permission to rise.
Instead, “Speak.”
“The plot involves the Pope, the Guise family, and the Jesuits. It is part of King Philip’s planned enterprise. Mary Stuart and Ambassador Mendoza are fully informed. We are to be invaded at four locations.”
“Where?’
Scotland, Ireland, Sussex, and Norfolk. All coordinated by Catholic activists foreign and national.”
“Your recommendation?”
“The executioner’s blade.”
“Always.”  She frowned. “Throckmorton, yes. I agree. They will know that we will not countenance them!”
“The Scottish whore?” Walsingham’s dark brow furrowed all the more.
“You question God’s divine right to anoint kings?”
They responded rapidly.
“She commits treason!”
“The punishment will be continued isolation, confinement.”
“The Council will demand execution! As will Parliament!”
“I will not call Parliament into session! The Council advises, does not overrule my decisions! Have you again forgotten yourself?”
His anger reached dangerously across the intervening space.
No, this would not answer. It remained for her to defuse the friction. “You, Sir Francis, serve me best, I believe, of any man of this realm. Keep your spies active. You and they keep your sovereign and her people safe! Know that I value your opinions highly, but know that I do not submit to them! Continue, therefore, to presume to declare them, even if you must smolder privately because of their rejection. Know as well that you shall be rewarded personally for your zealous service. I am not an ungenerous queen.”
 
Raleigh’s Preparations
 
Raleigh looked directly at Arthur Barlowe, who was staring at him from across the table. “You, Arthur. I know you well from our recent Ireland days. Your seamanship in the Mediterranean precedes you. You have been involved in this planning from the beginning. I trust your judgment. I want you in command. You are not so old at 34 – Is that correct? – that you cannot withstand the rigors of an Atlantic crossing? What say you?!”
“I would be honored,” Barlowe responded.
“And I would like to bestow upon my adventurous relative, at the tender age of 19 -- here among us -- the opportunity to distinguish himself similarly!” Harriot and those closest to him looked at Philip Amadas, vain, in Harriot’s opinion given to impulsive behavior. Amadas had ingratiated himself by releasing to Raleigh his estate in the manors of Trethake, Penkelewe, and had taken permanent lodging at Durham House. Barlowe and Amadas had also been Harriot’s students. They were to sail to the New World!  Would he?
“The esteemed Doctor Dee three years ago declared that the problems of navigation are best solved by a mathematician. We have an excellent mathematician seated at this table.” Harriot felt his faceflush. “Depend on it, the expert of the astrolabe, quadrant, and back-staff some of you here can attest!” Raleigh extended his right arm in Harriot’s direction. “Thomas, I want you on board to test your calculations, to locate as precisely as you are able the exact location of our future fortified harbor. Additionally, being the observant servant that you are, I want to hear afterward your observations of the land and its savages.”
“We would also have an artist. A few paintings together with a persuasive report need to find the hands of doubtful investors. Why not the artist that Frobisher had with him on one of his voyages, the cove that painted the Baffin Island native woman and her baby. Does anybody here know him? Is he available?
“John White.” Henry Greene half raised his right hand. “I heard talk about him at Cambridge. I conjecture he might be a member of the Painter-Stainer’s Company. I should question the French painter LeMoyne.”
“A pilot! No, I do not have a pilot! Who knows those waters that we would have available? One man! Secretary Walsingham’s man!
“Fernandez,” Arthur Barlowe said.
“The pirate,” Grenville said.
“Just so! The imprisoned but never convicted pirate!” Raleigh concluded.
“He now calls himself Ferdinando,” Grenville offered, looking thoughtfully at his hands.
“Gentlemen, he will be Christopher Carleill’s pilot! If Walsingham has his way!” He studied fiercely each of the faces opposite him. “I take comfort that I witness discernment! I admit that Carleill is a formidable rival. Exemplary in his military conduct. A hero to William of Orange. Secretary Walsingham will use him to impress Elizabeth our Queen and gain entrance to pursue his ends. I will see that does not happen! We proceed with these assumptions: that we, not Carleill, will search the waters of Bahia de Santa Maria, that because Queen Elizabeth has chosen us, Walsingham will insist that we take Simon Fernandez/Ferdinando, and that Fernandez will be Walsingham’s spy.”


Tuesday, March 29, 2016


There were three fight scenes in the saloon in the novel Shane and two in the film.  In the novel Shane goes into the saloon and mercantile store to buy work pants shortly after he is hired to work for Joe Starrett.  While there, he buys a bottle of soda-pop for Starrett’s young son.  He is challenged by one of the cattle boss’s hands, “a young fellow everyone called Chris … known for a gay manner and reckless courage.”  The cattle boss’s men had run out of the valley Starrett’s previous hired hand.  Chris decides to do the same to Shane.  Most of the dialogue I use in Scene Five between Shane and Kurt Jergens is from the exchange in the novel between Shane and Chris. 

“Hello, farmer,” he said.  He said it as if he did not like farmers.

Shane regarded him with grave attention.  “Speaking to me?” he asked mildly and finished his drink.

“Hell, there ain’t nobody else standing there.  Here, have a drink of this.”  Chris shoved his bottle along the bar.   Shane poured himself a generous slug and raised it to his lips.

“Did you hear that?  This farmer drinks whiskey!  I didn’t think these plow-pushing dirt-grubbers drank anything stronger than soda pop!”

“What’s been happening in here?  It smells.  That ain’t no clean cattleman smell.  That’s plain dirty barnyard.”  He stared at Shane.  “You, farmer.  What are you and Starrett raising out there?  Pigs?”

In the novel Shane does not accept Chris’s challenge.  Chris believes it is because Shane is a coward.  The owner of the saloon disagrees, says to his bar tender, “He wasn’t afraid of Chris.  He was afraid of himself.”  One of the homesteaders, a witness of the incident, at a meeting of homesteaders at Starrett’s place, talks about Shane’s “cowardice.”  Shane overhears, rides into town, and knocks the tar out of Chris.  Several days later, the homesteaders and their families and Shane go into town to buy supplies.  Shane goes into the saloon.  Several of the cattle boss’s men jump him.  Starrett hears of it and joins Shane in a fierce brawl.

The film replicates the novel’s first saloon scene, skips the second scene, and portrays the third.  Burdened with so many invented characters filling script space, I skipped the third scene and compressed the first two scenes into one.  Kurt Jergens seemed the logical choice to be Shane’s comic foil.
 
Shhotout at Garsen's Saloon -- Part One
Scene Five

 

Cast of Characters

            Joe Garrett, leader of the homesteaders
            Marian Garrett, Joe’s wife
            Grandma Garrett, Joe’s mother
            Johnny Garrett, dim-witted 16 year old son
            Bonnie Garrett, 12 year old daughter

            Cannonball Stone, fiery-tempered homesteader
            Opal Stone, 16 year old daughter
            Rocky Stone, 14 year old son
            Svede Svenson, Swedish homesteader

            Ebenezer Erp, town preacher
            Alley Erp, Ebenezer’s wife
            Hannah Erp, bad-breathed 16 year old daughter

            Big Bill Wretcher, cattle boss of the valley
            Rachael Wretcher, flirtatious 16 year old daughter
            Kurt Jergens, Big Bill’s German, bully-boy foreman

            George Garsen, owner of Garsen’s Saloon
            Tina Tintinnabulation, saloon girl
            Digger Phelps, undertaker and barber
            Widow Winslow, man-hunting, 35 year old widow
 
            Shane, gunfighter trying to escape his past

 
Time: 1880s
Place: Shoshone Hole, Wyoming

 
Scene Five

(Garsen’s Saloon.  A week later.  Garsen is behind the bar wiping glasses.  Digger Phelps is seated at a table, a bottle and a shot glass in front of him)

Garsen: Hey, Digger.  Business been slow lately?  I don’t recall anybody kickin’ the bucket this last month.

Digger: Summers are always slow.  Got to wait for the first fall chill.  (takes a drink)  Hot weather brings ‘em into the barbershop, though.  And I pull a few teeth.

Garsen: Reckon with more homesteaders comin’ into the valley, we’ll all be getting more business.

Digger: You get yours right away.  I have t’wait.

Garsen: Not too long from what I hear.  Big Bill Wretcher’s ‘bout ready to make his play!  His foreman was doin’ a lot of talking in here this week.

Digger (with interest): That so?  I could use a few stiffs right about now!

Garsen: Course, I’d rather see the homesteaders stay.  I’ve made a lot of money from the supplies Garrett and the others have bought this past year.

Digger: Big Bill won’t stand for it.  And Joe Garrett won’t back off.  There’ll be gun play.  (smiling)  And I’ll get my stiffs.

(Tina Tintinnabulation enters left)

Digger: Tina, honey!  Come sit here on my lap!

Tina (with flirtatious good humor): Two seconds on duty and already an hombre wants me on hees lap!  Carrumba!

Digger: Come here, my little chili bean!  I’ll buy you a drink.

Tina (after laughing): I bring you the drink but I no’ you little chili bean.  You naughty boy!

Digger: Okay, then you’re my hot tamale!

Tina (playing along): You stay away from me.  I no want undertaker fingers around waist.  Got that?

Digger: Si.  Comprendez.  Garsen.  Where’d you find this bundle of dynamite?

Garsen: Believe it or not, in a convent.

Tina: Where those two sodbusters always come in here?  They really like Tina.  I dance with tambourine!  Crazy one with long name give me Dixie dollars!

Digger (laughing): Confederate money ain’t worth a penny.

Tina: I know that!  But I like heem and Svede.  They fun hombres!

(Cannonball Stone and Svede Svenson enter right)

Tina: Carrumba!  Speak of Diablo!  Chihuahua!

Cannonball: Que es el burro to you, too, senorita!

Svede: Yumpin’ Yimminy!  My Svedish meatball!

Tina (to Digger): What I tell you!  Fun hombres!  (She dances over to them and tickles Cannonball under the chin)  Kootchie!  Kootchie!  Kootchie!

Svede: Why you tickle him?  What is wrong with me?

Tina: He got long name.  You don’t.

Cannonball: Patrick Henry Robert E. Lee Beauregard Jackson Cannonball Stone says, “Drinks are on the house!”

Digger (mildly sarcastic): Mighty generous of you, Stone.  The place is packed.  What you goona use?  Dickie dollars?

Cannonball (suddenly angry): You!  Undertaker!  You speak of the South with respect, you hear?!

Digger: Just wanted to make sure your folding money’s got Abe Lincoln on it.  (Scornfully)  Instead of Jefferson Davis!

(Cannonball leaps out of his chair and shoves the table Digger is seated at on top of him.  As Digger lies on the floor, Cannonball stands over him ready to draw his gun from its holster)

Cannonball: You Yankee tinhorn!  Draw!

Svede: Yumpin’ Yimminy!  Patrick Henry!  You don’t shoot a man for being rude.

Cannonball: Stay out of this, Svede!  (to Digger)  You lowdown, no good carpetbagger, draw!

Digger: Since I don’t have a gun, that’d be difficult.  Besides, my interest in corpses is plantin’ them, not bein’ one.  (with anger)  But I’ll wager this!  I’ll be plantin’ you within the month!

Cannonball: Yella streak right down his back!  ‘Bama plowboy always could lick three Yankees, ‘cause two is always runnin’!  (He laughs and struts up to the bar)

(Digger gets up, picks up his table and chair, and sits down sullenly)

Tina (to Cannonball, scolding him): You naughty boy!  You no do that!  Mr. Digger.  He my friend, too!  Bad hombre come here.  He plug you in tummy!  You bleed all over floor!

Cannonball (with bravado): I ain’t afraid a no man!

Garsen: Tina’s right.  Seems to me you’re lookin’ for trouble.

Cannonball: What d’ ya mean?!  I’m a friendly fella!  Ain’t that right, Svede?

Svede: Yah.

Cannonball: But no man alive talks against Jeff Davis without payin’ for it!

Garsen: Here!  Here now!  The drinks are on me.  You and your friend sit in the corner, and cool off.  Take this bottle, and these glasses.  (gives the bottle and glasses)  And, Tina.

Tina: Si, senor.

Garsen: Give Digger another bottle.  (He hands her a bottle)

(Cannonball and Swede go to the corner table.  Tina gives Digger his bottle)

Garsen: Paid too much for this furniture to have it busted up!

(Kurt Jergens and Big Bill Wretcher enter right)

Big Bill: Set ‘em up, Garsen.  The usual.

Garsen: Sure, Big Bill.  (pause)  Hear you just got back from the reservation up by Cheyenne.

Big Bill: That’s right.  Signed a beef contract with the government.  What’d I tell you about servin’ homesteaders in here?!

Garsen: Well, gee, Bill.  Times are tough.  I gotta make a livin’.

Big Bill (unpleasantly): You been doin’ right well, I hear.

Jergens: Barbed vire!  Hundreds of veet of barbed vire!  Yah!

Big Bill (angrily): Seems everybody’s done real good ‘round here, but Big Bill!  What do you think I should do about that, Garsen?

Garsen: I don’t want any trouble, Bill.

Jergens (looking about the room): Old building here.  Burn vast!  Yah!  Tindervox!

Garsen: I can’t order those men out of here!  They’ve got a right!

Big Bill: You don’t have to.  (to Jergens)  Take care of this.

(Jergens walks over to the corner table, smiling)

Tina: Mester Big Bill.  You leave them alone!

Big Bill: Don’t worry your pretty little head about sodbusters, senorita.  When I’ve finished my business with Joe Garrett and his riff raff, you’re goin’ to be my wife!

Tina: Carrumba!  (She exits hastily left)

Jergens: Sodvusters.  You vill stand up!  (Cannonball and Svede stand)  You vill leave, immediately!

Cannonball: Hey, you can’t order me around!

Jergens: You vish to protest?!

Cannonball: You’re darned right I do!

(Jergens flattens Cannonball against the wall with a straight right)

Svede: Yumpin’ Yimminy!

Jergens: How about you?

Svede: I tink I better go now.

Jergens (indicating the unconscious Cannonball): You vill take him vit you!  Dat is an order!

Svede: Yah!  Yah!  Yust as soon as I wake him up.

Jergens: You vill do it now!  Schnell!  Schnell!  (He whips his riding crop against his boot)

(Svede grabs a hold of Cannonball’s arms and hastily drags him out the right exit.  Jergens returns to the bar)

Big Bill: When Garrett gets wind of this, he’ll be down here quick.  We’ll be ready for him!  (He motions toward the corner table.  Jergens takes a bottle that Garsen relinquishes without protest and sits at the table)

(Shane enters left, a pair of farmer’s pants over his left arm.  He sees Garsen and walks with measured strides over to the bar)

Garsen: What can I do for you, stranger?

Shane: Nobody was in your store.  I want to buy these work pants.

Garsen: Two dollars.  (pause)  You homesteading along the river?

Shane: Working for Joe Garrett.  (Big Bill and Jergens look up with interest)

Garsen: Then I’ll put this on his tab.

(Shane tosses a coin on the bar)

Shane: A shot of sarsaparilla.

Garsen: Coming right up.  (Garsen fills a shot glass with sarsaparilla)

(Shane takes the glass, takes a sip, puts the glass down, and, elbows on the table, glances at the two men at the corner table.  Kurt Jergens gets up from the table and saunters over to the bar)

Jergens (to Garsen): You vill give us vone more bottle!  (Garsen finds another bottle and places it on the bar.  Meanwhile, Jergens looks Shane over deliberately.  Then, disdainfully)  Hello, farmer.

Shane (after finishing his drink, mildly): Speaking to me?

Jergens: You are standing here, yah?  (pause)  Haf a man’s drink!

(Jergens pours Shane a glass of whiskey and places it in front of Shane.  Shane reaches for the glass, his hand trembles, and he pulls it back)

Jergens (sarcastically, to Digger): Dis farmer doesn’t drink vhiskey!  Just … sodie pop!

(Shane looks away, anger in his eyes)

Jergens (after a pause, sniffing the air): Garsen.  Vhat is happening here?  It schmells.  Not clean cattleman schmell.  Dirty barnyard schmell.  (He stares at Shane for five seconds)  You.  Farmer.  Vhat you and Garrett raising?  Pigs?

Shane (after a relaxed pause, to Garsen): I’ll have a clean glass.  (Garsen gives him one.  Shane pours sarsaparilla into it.  To Jergens) Sodie pop.  Drink up.  The bubbles will take your smell out of your nose.

(Jergen’ss eyes bug out.  He raises his right fist.  Shane slaps him three times very rapidly.  Jergens shakes his head, stunned)

Shane (calmly): You forgot your drink.

(Jergens stares at the glass a moment, then throws a round-house right.  Shane steps inside the blow and delivers a blow low into Jergens’s stomach.  Jergens gasps; his head comes down.  Shane grabs Jergens’s hair with his left hand and, with his right knee, connects with Jergens’s chin.  Jergens flips over backwards and lies totally still.  Shane looks at him for five seconds and then walks carefully over to Big Bill)

Shane (after a pause, softly): Perhaps you have something to say about soda pop, or pigs.

(Big Bill remains totally motionless, too afraid to move.  After a ten second pause, Shane walks slowly to the right exit, stops, and turns)

Shane: All things change, Wretcher.  Give a little.

 (Big Bill remains rigidly silent)

 (Shane, after a reasonable pause, strides out the right exit)

Big Bill (after a five second pause): Who was that man?!

Digger: He calls himself … Shane.  But I thought he was a souse!

Big Bill (after a five second pause): Garsen!

Garsen: Yes sir.

Big Bill: Send off a telegram to Cheyenne.  (pause, then slowly, with emphasis) Send it to … Stark Verisimilitude!  (An ominous chord of music is heard)

Digger (with shocked alarm): The vicious gun fighter?!

Big Bill: Look to your coffins, undertaker.  And your embalming fluid!  (He gets up and walks to Digger’s table)  Garrett and Shane are dead men!  (He turns, walks grimly to the bar, snaps his fingers at Garsen)  Garsen, that telegram!  (He and Garsen exit left)