Friday, July 3, 2015

NIGHTINGALE ~ Friday Freebit


 
 
To Klara's delight, her musician sweetheart is also a cat lover.
 
 
 
 
“My grandfather is a keeper of cats,” Akos spoke into the silence. “Ever since I was small, I’ve always had one of my own. Actually,” he said with a smile, “as you perhaps know, a better description of the situation might be that I belong to the cat.”

Klara smiled. His interest in Satz was not feigned.

“And what is your cat like?”

“In my case, I am owned by a queen cat, a lady of many colors. Her name is Zuzanna. She is a good mother and a fine mouser.”

“What happens to all the kittens?” Klara knew that was another thing Max hated about cats, their fertility.

“Zuzanna is populating the Prince’s palace thoroughly, but her kittens are beautiful and find homes.”

“Fortunate for them,” said Klara. She knew that surplus kittens were generally given to servants to drown. She’d be hard pressed to give such an order herself.

“Cats are discriminating about whose life they enter. If a cat trusts you, it is a great compliment.”




 
 
 
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~Juliet Waldron ~
 
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Friday, June 26, 2015

ROAN ROSE ~ Friday Freebit

A peasant girl's life will change forever.








"I observed your apprentice."
 
The Countess looked better. As her lady-in- waiting had suggested, she had called for mother early the next day. She did not, however, speak of herself, but seemed inclined to other matters.

"She is my daughter, your ladyship."

"She is young."

"It is never too early to study the craft, Milady."

The Countess nodded. Her great gray eyes turned thoughtfully upon me.

"You wish her to follow you."

"I do hope and pray she will, Milady of Warwick, God willing."

"Her touch hath healing. How does she in your garden?"

"Well, Milady. She is my eldest, obedient and clever."

"Come here, child."

I did as I was told. Sunlight fell precipitously through a window, a sudden break in the eternal galloping clouds of spring. I was walking, although I did not know it, into another world.

The Countess stretched out a long-fingered white hand. I had never seen so many glistening jewels. They danced before my eyes like blue and red stars.

"Give the Countess your hand, child!" From behind, the lady-in-waiting delivered a jab between my shoulder blades. Thus prompted, my small freckled fingers met the elegant hand of the lady.

"Such beautiful eyes!" Hers met mine and I knew that her spirit was exactly as hard and as brilliant as those jewels upon her fingers.

"What is your name, child?"

"Rosalba."

"Rosalba—White Rose."
 
The name made her smile and once more I was astonished. Unlike most breeding women of our village, she had all her teeth....
 
 

~ Juliet Waldron
 
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Friday, June 19, 2015

THE MASTER PASSION, BOOK TWO

  Betsy travels home with a sick child, leaving her husband alone and at work for the government in Philadelphia.




 
 
 
 



It had been warm for the past few days, an unpleasant echo of the city from which she’d fled, but today those welcome cloud castles were once more on the prowl. Under the shade of an ancient apple tree red cows ruminated, flopping their tails against the flies. Betsy moved quickly, but as she passed beneath the original decrepit denizens of the orchard, with their thick trunks, a childhood memory gave her pause.

Looking up, she found that she’d come beneath the same tree she’d climbed into all those long years ago. It was scarred and had lost limbs, but it still stood, much as she remembered. She thought of the terror she’d felt imagining more Indians lurking in the woods behind the potato patch, scalping knives sharp.

Gone forever!
 
No more would brown half-brothers arrive from the forest to collect manhood presents. At Albany there were hardly any Indians anymore, the great tribes shriveled to almost nothing by war, white man's incursion and disease. Their cruelty and their kindness, their knowledge, their mystery—all vanishing from the land along with their totem brothers—the moose and the beaver, the bear and the wolf.

A gust of wind caught her attention. Aroused by the sight of black clouds west, Betsy lifted her arms to the sky. Her sleeves fell back and there was her own brown skin, green veins, the pulse and whisper of the new life she carried in her belly.

Had that love of place, the compulsion that always drove her home, come from an unknown ancestress, a woodland woman whose child some Dutch ancestor had brought home?
 
Or is just that I was born and bred here, and the food which fed me in childhood came from this earth, drunk through the roots of Papa's fields and fruit trees? This land, here by this river--it's is part of my flesh, too.
 
 
~Juliet Waldron
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Friday, June 12, 2015

THE MASTER PASSION, PART 2~~ANGELICA VISITS


 
 
 
 

Betsy thought Alexander had been busy before, but since the new government of the United States had formed, it seemed as if weeks passed with little more than a peck on the cheek, or a body which crawled into their bed in the middle of the night and fell into an exhausted sleep.

Happily, Angelica arrived from England for a visit. Her arrival was like a whirlwind. She gathered Betsy beneath her wing and they sailed away from the preoccupied husband up the river to their father’s house. Mrs. Church’s children were stowed at schools in England, but Betsy’s brood came with their mother.

Their parents were delighted to see them and soon it was as if they were girls again. Betsy was relieved of child care. There were servants, doting grandparents, and two aunts young enough to be playmates for the little Hamiltons.

Angelica and Betsy slept together, as they’d done as children. Lying in late at night or early in the morning, they whispered to each other, confidences about husbands. Angelica hinted that in the fast society in which she’d been moving in France and England, she and John had both had lovers. Those tales of amorous hide-and-seek, of midnight entrances and hairbreadth escapes were incredibly wicked, but exciting, too.

Angelica spoke of a world Betsy could hardly imagine, tales of gambling parties with Dukes and Princes where fortunes were won and lost, of operas and night-long balls, of champagne theater parties and trips to the races. Her long-fingered hands, gesturing extravagantly, glittered with jewels. Her conversation was liberally larded with French.

Angelica had got what she’d always wanted, an escape from the dull Dutch Hudson, from the life of a “Provincial.” She had seen the French Court, had been presented to the Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette, at a formal levee. She and John had visited the famous Mr. Jefferson, now ambassador there, had dined and hunted with the Marquis de Lafayette and his wife.

In England, she’d dined and danced in company which often included “Prinny,” the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Devonshire, and the highest society. Nevertheless, her old restlessness seemed undiminished. Somewhat to Betsy’s surprise, Angelica often spoke dismissively of her handsome husband and displayed a dissatisfaction which Betsy found hard to understand.

One morning while Angelica slept in, Mrs. Schuyler remarked to Betsy, “Our Angelica hasn’t changed a bit.”

“Yes, and why is that, Mama? She has everything she has always wanted—and more.”
“Unlike us, my dear, she was born restless. She will never change.”
 
 
 
 
Angelica Schuyler Church, infant and maid, painted by Joshua Reynolds
 
THE MASTER PASSION, PART 2,
~Coming soon~
 
 
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Friday, June 5, 2015

THE MASTER PASSION ~ Betsy Schuyler



 
 
Chapter Two ~ The Pastures, Albany, NY
 
The girls had strayed too deep into the old pasture to run back to the red brick pile of their house, so they hid. Angelica grabbed little Peggy and together they crouched inside a big hole within the trunk of one of the squat, ancient fruit trees, one that Papa said had been brought as rootstock by the very first Dutch settlers.
 When they’d first spied the Indians, Betsy had been climbing to pick apples. It was too late to climb down, so she tucked long skirts over her knees and made herself into a small bundle, hugging the trunk and praying the leaves would cover her. As the party passed directly beneath her, she froze and tried not to think of the old war stories the servants told, about how Indians had killed her Uncle ’Bram—shot dead right on his Saratoga doorstep.
 These intruders were wearing buckskin trousers, homespun shirts and hats with foxtails and feathers. The European touches were a good sign, for this was the way Indians dressed when making a formal visit to Albany.
 There was a woman, too, walking very erect. Beside her marched a boy. He must have recently joined the men’s lodge, for his head was newly plucked, pale as a butchered hog on either side of the bristling strip of hair. He looked straight up, met her eyes, and then, without a word, continued on with his elders.
 Betsy knew these Indians were Mohawks, a tribe with whom her father was on good terms. Nevertheless, trained, as all frontier children were, to hide from strangers, she didn’t twitch.
 Today’s Indians must have had a claim on Papa, for they went directly to the wing of the imposing brick house which contained his study. A few minutes later, in the distance, they saw their father come out to greet them.
 Sometimes, if Chiefs arrived in rain or snow, they would be invited in to sit cross-legged in the downstairs great room with Papa. Here they dipped their dinner out of three-legged pots carried in from the kitchen. Betsy and her sisters, would slip out of their room, down the staircase, and try to get a peek through the door which led into the study wing. Here, if they were lucky, they’d see warriors sitting-crossed legged on the carpet, solemnly gazing around at the French panoramic wallpaper and up to the crystal chandelier.
 Relieved that these were only visitors, Betsy climbed down to join her sisters. They collected their dolls and walked slowly back to the house, Betsy holding Margaret’s sticky little hand. They met slaves already carrying out carpets and furs.
“Let’s sit here.” Angelica, the oldest, and always the leader, took a seat on one of the long benches along the study wing. “We can watch.”
Peggy, however, was done with outside. She wanted to go in, and began to complain. They were close to the kitchen now, and the smell coming from there made her think of the treats she could wheedle from the women there.
“I want a koekje!”
Peggy strained at Betsy’s hand and, after a little pulling, Betsy gave up and simply let her go. One of the house slaves at work there would certainly take charge of her little sister. Peggy went charging away, as fast as her short legs would carry her, toward the kitchen door.
While they watched, a pavilion arose beneath the biggest maple, and a fire was made beside that. Tables and carpets came out, and an entire joint of beef was carried from the kitchen.
 Then, a commotion began. Mama was at the center of it, although this was a surprise. Their Mama rarely lost her temper. She came out of the kitchen door, hauling Ruby, one of the slave girls, by the arm. She had a hazel switch in hand.
 “Ruby, if I set you to watch my girls, you are not to let them out of your sight!” Mama switched Ruby’s legs, and poor Ruby hopped up and down in her short skirts, shrieking.
 “Why is Mama so cross?” Angelica asked, as Mrs. Ross, their plump Scots governess, herded them away into the house and upstairs.
Something was very wrong. Mama never lost her temper!
 
* * *
 
 
Read more about Alexander Hamilton and Betsy Schuyler, their very different childhoods, their Revolutionary War courtship and their sometimes stormy marriage.
 
 
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Thursday, May 28, 2015

THE MASTER PASSION ~~ Excerpt for BEA week


THE MASTER PASSION ~ Chapter One, West Indies Boyhood
This Founding Father was not born to the purple, like the others.

 


Sharing a sick feeling, Alex and Jamie Hamilton stood on barefoot tiptoe and peeked through flimsy wooden louvers, all that separated the rooms of their small West Indian house. Both boys were red-heads, but there the resemblance ended. Eleven year old James was well-grown and strong. Alexander, seven in January, was delicate, fast-moving and nervous, like a freckled bird.

“An idiot would have known not to trust him.” The beautiful dark eyes of their mother flashed. Rachel faced her husband, a slight man of aristocratic feature, who wore a white linen suit. Like him, it had seen better days. His wife’s tone was challenging, her arms akimbo. Her stays, containing a generous bosom, rose and fell.

 “I—I—took him for a gentleman.” Father sputtered, attempting to fall back upon a long ago mislaid dignity. “He gave me his word.”

“His word!? Which means bloody nothing! How many times did I tell you what was going to happen? How many times?”

“Shut your mouth, woman!”

A sharp crack sounded as he slapped her. Rachel, hair spilling from beneath her cap, staggered backwards. From the kitchen came the fearful keening of Esther, their mother’s oldest slave.

“There’s naught canna be dune noo!" James Hamilton, his long face flushed, roared the words. Scots surfaced whenever he was angry.

“Yes, nothing to be done. As usual.” A livid mark glowed upon Rachel’s face, but she, with absolute disregard for consequences, righted herself and finished what she had to say.

“This time Lytton’s going to let you go. And if you can’t even manage to hold a job with my kinfolk, where will you get another? What are we supposed to live on? Air?”

In spite of the fact that it was winter on the island, the best weather of the entire year, Alexander shuddered. Distilled fear slid along his spine.

How many times in his short life had he watched this scene replayed? Listened to Mama shout Papa’s failures, watched as his father, humiliated and enraged, used his fists to silence her?

A business deal gone bad! Money lost….

Will we move again?

Every change of residence, from Alexander’s birthplace on cloudy Nevis, to St. Kitts, and from there to St. Croix, had carried them to smaller houses and meaner streets. The carriage, the two bay horses and the slaves who tended them, were only a memory.

Mama was shrieking now, about loans and due dates, things which she declared “any fool” could understand. Frozen, knowing what would surely come, Alexander watched as his father, crossing the room in two quick strides, caught his mother by the shoulders.

With the strength of rage, he threw her like a rag doll. She struck the wall so violently the flimsy house shook. Small emerald lizards stalking the mosquitoes drawn by candlelight, vanished into shadow.

Silenced at last, Rachel crumpled to the floor, sobbing. Her once gay calico dress, muted by many, many launderings, lapped her. The under shift, always scrubbed to a sea-foam white, drifted from beneath.

James Hamilton, breathing hard, blind with rage, tore open the door and strode past his cowering, terrified sons. For the last time, Alexander saw his beloved father’s face, a sweating mask of fear.

 

* * *

 

“Come on, boys. Out of there.”

A candle shone in the balmy West Indies night. The voice wasn’t unkind, just drunk and hurried. From outside came the bell-chorus of an untold host of peepers.

Alex and Jamie, in shirts too ragged to wear during the day, had been asleep in the only bed. There was a mattress filled with palm fronds in the next room upon the floor, but this time of year scorpions came in. When Mama hadn’t returned, they’d decided to sleep in the greater safety of her bed.

Jamie groaned, sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. The Captain of the Guards, Mr. Egan, leaned over. He breathed rum and seemed unsteady. Behind him, supporting herself on the door frame, was Mama. She was, Alexander noted with a thrill of disgust, bare-shouldered, her cap removed, her shining dark hair loosened.

“Out, boys,” she echoed. “Esther said she’d beat your mattress and lay it out after supper. What are you doing in here?”

Neither boy replied. She didn’t want an answer. What she wanted was for them to leave. Tomorrow she’d give them a scolding, but not tonight. At the moment there were other, more important things on her mind.

“Here, young fellow.” Egan, muscles rippling beneath his shirt, handed Jamie the candle. Obediently, Jamie took it. Their rooms were, after all, rented space in the front of his house.

“Use this to look if you’re worried something’s in your bed. Your Ma and I won’t be needing it.”

He threw a grin at Rachel, who was restlessly tossing a dark curl over a pale shoulder. Mrs. Lavien or Mrs. Hamilton—whichever name she used now that she was living alone with her sons on St. Croix—was almost thirty, but she still turned heads whenever she passed along Christiansted’s bustling main street. Anticipation caused the captain to deliver a slap on the rear to speed the smaller boy along.

“Don’t you touch me!” Alex spun and glared, his thin face white under coppery curls.

Jamie grabbed a handful of his brother’s shirt. “Oh, come on, Alex!” He dragged his slight brother through the door. “The captain didn’t mean anything.”

Alexander was wide awake now, his eyes blazing blue fire. The distant echo of surf, the sighing palms, the intoxicating fragrance of Lady of the Night that climbed in profusion over the house, held no power to still his pounding heart.

Grinning, Egan stepped back, threw an arm that was infuriatingly proprietary around his mother.

“Yes. Don’t start,” Rachel cautioned. “Just mind your own business and go back to sleep.” Her dark eyes turned toward Egan. One hand moved easily across his chest, taking in the feel of hard flesh beneath. Alexander wanted to kill them both.

“If you and Jamie slept where you were supposed to, this wouldn’t happen.”

“Come on, woman.” Egan terminated the conversation, pulling her playfully through the door into the darkness.

“The little brats.” Their mother was heard to sigh when the door closed. “I swear they do it on purpose.”

In the next room, the boys busied themselves in a thorough inspection of their mattress. Satisfied at last about the absence of scorpions, they extinguished the candle and lay down together. From over the transom came whispered laughter and the sound of the captain’s boots dropping to the floor.

In the soft darkness, beside his now stolidly motionless brother, Alexander crammed fingers tightly into his ears. Tears pooled against his cheek.

“Oh, Papa,” he whispered into the night. “Papa, please come back...”

 ~~Juliet Waldron
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Friday, May 22, 2015

WHITE MAGIC ~ excerpt


And to follow RED MAGIC and BLACK MAGIC is WHITE MAGIC, which is still in progress.

The MAGIC COLOURS series will highlight a different sort of "magic" in each story. In WHITE MAGIC, we'll hear from young teen Charlize von Hagen, who is taken from Austria to England when her mother, Mina, who is Goran's twin, marries an English gentleman.
 
Red Magic
 
 
 
 
 
"My name is Charlize von Hagen. I live in England now. Sometimes I miss Austria where I went between two big houses. The first house was really Grandma’s, down in the green valley of the River Inn. The other, my favorite, was on the high mountain manor of Heldenberg.

 

We left because my mother got married. Lord Thomas is a nice man, an English gentleman, and because Mama wasn’t married before he came along, she was happier afterward because she was almost respectable again. You see, all her friends had turned against her when she had a baby - me - before she had a ring.

 

I was happy too, when she married Lord Thomas. At first, mostly because she was happy with him and then because I learned he understood me. He still does, although he sometimes also says I’m ‘wayward’ and that most people would have me beaten with a strap every day in hope it would make me act like a lady and not a “like a two-legged mastiff puppy.” He doesn’t spank anymore, although he did sometimes when I was younger. He hit especially hard the time I was playing with Mama’s spaniels and we ran into the maid so that she dropped and broke a very fine tea set. Mama says he doesn’t beat me because I act better now and because I am older and because he is a kind person. Besides, he thinks I can’t help myself because I am a little bit mad.

 

Truly!

 

This is not rude of him. I am a little mad, because I see things and hear things that other people do not. I get scared sometimes about what I see and what I hear, those things that others can’t.  What’s scariest of all is when I try to escape from all of that and then realize I can’t, because the things I’m most scared of are “in my head” and part of me. That’s what Thomas, who is a doctor, understood about me. He said that it sometimes happened to him, too, after he’d spent years and years in the dreadful wars and 'seen too many terrible things'. 
 

He and my Mama, too, appreciate what I feel, but I don’t make them happy when I panic. My fear scares them as much as it scares me.

 

English people just say it’s all “Germany” where we are from, but that’s only the language. We are not Germans, anyway, my mother says, but Austrians, and so that makes us more refined. We  have an Emperor. All the Germans have is a lot of little bitty countries like Saxony,  Westfalia, Bavaria, Brandenburg, Hesse, Wurttemberg, Schleswig-Holstein, and also some cities that are ruled by archbishops. The land of the German-speakers is a patchwork.

 

My mother is very beautiful, a twin, and born into an old and noble Austrian family.... 
My baby nurse, Trudchen, remained at Heldenberg with my Aunt Birgit, who is like a sister to me because we were only born a week apart.  At first I really missed her terribly and cried whenever I thought about her. My Mama had taken care of both of us after my grandmother was killed in the great avalanche, the one which came during the year with no summer. Uncle Goran, Mama’s twin, still lives on the mountain. He stays there all the time now, although he too was once a handsome, brave soldier, in the wars with Napoleon for years and years, just like Lord Thomas.

 

But Uncle Goran has changed.
 
 
Black Magic
 


 

It’s not his fault, but now he’s Krampus sometimes and a stag sometimes. Mama says he can be any kind of animal he wants, or bits and pieces of several, all stuck together. Thomas says that’s what the ancient Greeks called a chimera. But Uncle Goran’s other selves are a black secret.

 

 

I’m really not supposed to talk about any of it. Sometimes, though, if I want to sound crazy to someone I don’t like, I talk about it anyway...



~~ Juliet Waldron
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