The Immigrant: One from My Four Legged Stool

The Immigrant: One from My Four Legged Stool

by Alfred Woollacott III

ISBN: 9780990442318

Publisher Myfourleggedstool Publishers

Published in Literature & Fiction/Historical, Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description

An intoxicating journey of John Law, a young Scotsman captured by Cromwell's forces in 1650 at "The Battle of Dunbar". John survives a 'death march' to Durham, England and a harrowing, life transforming Atlantic crossing. Now an immigrant in a new world, John faces obstacles often beyond his control - Puritan Theocracy, English bigotry and native American dangers. Throughout his ordeals, John wonders if God ever hears him. One day God does.

Sample Chapter

Doon Hill, Dunbar, Scotland

1 September 1650

Me needs to get back to me mum, thought John Law.

“Aye Law, stop dreaming and get moving,” called out a comrade.

A fourteen-year old John Law surveyed the hoof prints in the soggy ground and resumed his ascent of Doon Hill, the easternmost summit of Scotland’s Lammermuir Hills. He avoided the clumps and divots kicked up by the cavalry and reached a plateau. There, he stood among other pike men while holding his pike erect. He looked down the slope and followed the Brox Burn as it slashed through the wooded glen and emptied into the Firth of Forth. On a sliver of flat land between the Doon Hill and the Firth was a salt laden golf course,[1] which was now occupied by Cromwell’s English Parliamentarian army. Behind the army, the Firth flowed into the seemingly endless North Sea. The masts of the English ships, which bobbed in a stiff breeze, were as tight as a comb’s teeth. John was initially frightened at the sight until he realized he was out of range of their cannons. As he thought further, he realized the English forces were a mile and a half away and had their backs to the sea. He was out of range of their cannons, too, and Cromwell’s options for movement were severely limited, which his young mind sensed was an advantage for the Scots.

He shifted his eyes further east and followed the Coxsburnpath, the main road south out of Dunbar to Berwick, England. The Scottish Royal troops were amassed on high ground, close to the road. East of the Coxsburnpath was a beach with Scottish forces on it and beyond them, the North Sea. An English retreat south seemed effectively blocked. In front of the road and nearer to John stood a few clusters of corn stalks on barren fields. John had heard the Scots had stripped the countryside bare ahead of the advancing English to limit their food supply. Now, he saw the effect of their destruction.

John rubbed his pale blues to ease the sting caused by salty mist being constantly driven into them. A gust fluttered his salt laden cheek fuzz, and he brushed at the tingle it created. Annoyed, he turned out of the wind, and his red locks flew from his neck and fluttered until the gust subsided. He surveyed his more immediate surroundings as the cold wind drove into his back. He was among Scottish cavalrymen, pike men, musketeers, and a few dozen short-range cannons, which covered the hillside. He was heartened by the display of force. Scottish officers, a few garbed in black, many in scarlet with white-laced collars and cuffs trimmed with gold or silver laces, bounced in unison with their horses’ prance. Some wore blue woolen brimmed hats, and others donned steel helmets imported from the Continent. Their shoulder length hair flowed in the breeze. The officers were a spectacle of wealth that impressed John and increased his confidence.

The Scottish Royal forces, under the command of General Leslie, were loyal to King Charles II ever since The Covenanters[2] had proclaimed him King of Great Britain a few months earlier. The newly proclaimed King’s father, Charles I, had been executed by Lord Cromwell eighteen months earlier, in January 1649, at Whitehall, London. Cromwell, commander of the English Parliamentarian forces, became infuriated by the Covenanters action and invaded Scotland from Berwick in late July. Over the ensuing weeks and knowing the Scottish troops were not battle-hardened, General Leslie avoided a direct confrontation with Cromwell, a man he knew quite well. Five years earlier, they had fought together. Then, Leslie led a cavalry charge for a wounded Cromwell at the Battle of Marston Moor in West York, which ensured an English victory. As September approached, the English forces, demoralized by their failed attempt to seize Edinburgh and weakened from pursuing the evasive Scottish forces, drew back to their supply depot at Dunbar, Scotland. However, Leslie, sensing their retreat, reached Dunbar ahead of Cromwell and held the high ground on Doon Hill.

John turned back toward the North Sea to face an endless gale. He tried to braid his hair, but it was useless. As he endured a lashing from snapping tresses, his mood soured. Me have failed me father so. He continued to dwell on his failure until the sun broke through the clouds and reflected off his pike. As the clouds pulled back, the endless wave of pikes, held erect by numb hands, created a rolling wave of brilliance that lit up Doon Hill. John’s mood brightened. He hoped the shock of radiance would blind the enemy below and terrify them into surrendering. But the clouds rolled back quickly, and a squall ensued. John wrapped his arms while struggling to hold his pike. He quivered until the rumble from a large blue flag with a white cross distracted him. ‘COVENANT for Religion Croune and Countrie’ rippled in the breeze, important words to the Covenanters, but still meaningless to John.

“Here laddies, eat hearty,” said the syrupy voice belonging to Angus MacTavish, the sergeant in charge of food provisions.

John eased his shoulders back and laid his pike on the ground. The meager warmth, which huddling had created, vanished, and he shivered again. After several stiff-legged steps, his leg muscles regained life. He reached the swarm around MacTavish and jostled with others to ensure he would get fed this day since there had never been enough food. Most believed MacTavish and his minions ate more than their fair share, and MacTavish sold additional rations before ever serving the troops.

A cold blob of gruel was slung into John’s cup as he was handed a slab of bread. MacTavish sat, smiling with his hands resting on his belly. He had a basket full of bread at his side, which John sensed he would sell later. May God strike that bastard dead, thought John as he exited the ill-formed queue.

“Sit among us, laddie,” said a beckoning Malcolm Dinsmour. John was surprised as Malcolm was a highlander, who kept minimal contact with the recently recruited lowlanders. He and his cronies were the few veterans in the Scottish Royal Forces who had survived the Scottish defeat at the Battle of Preston two years earlier. They seldom mingled with inexperienced youth, especially one as young looking as John Law. His wispy facial hair seemed out of place on his childlike face. Although he was as tall as most men, due to a recent growth spurt, he lacked muscle tone and appeared more gangly than hearty. His voice often cracked when he spoke, immediately telling those who heard him that he was not quite yet a man. John had yet to experience a battle, and whenever scuttlebutt about a possible confrontation arose, he became nervous. He found hovering around Malcolm and eavesdropping on his conversations inspiring. His stories of smiting the English always calmed his fears. As he approached, he hoped Malcolm would accept him into his group.

Malcolm sat upon a grassy mound, elevated above the others, appearing like a king on his throne. John sat next to him. “The English be weary. We fight today, eh Andrew?” said Malcolm.

Andrew lowered his cup. “It be the Sabbath. The Covenanters will nae allow General Leslie to attack.”

“Be fittin’ to slaughter the English on the Lord’s Day,” said Malcolm.

“Cromwell’s baking ovens be cold,” said Andrew. “The English be starving. So why fight?”

“To slay the bastards who invade me Scotland.”

Andrew flashed a dismissive hand, and Malcolm leaned from his throne and glared. “Andrew Wright, be you Scottish, or be you a coward?”

Andrew gulped and said, “Scottish.”

“Aye, we Scots be brave lads,” said Malcolm as he nodded to John. He turned back to his cronies. “We will push the English into the sea and let them swim to their precious England.” Malcolm eased back and slapped his knee. “Then me can get back to me wenches.”

“Me could use a lass,” said one who swirled his index finger inside his cup. He jammed his gruel-laden finger down his throat, wrapped his lips and eased his finger out. His lips popped, and he said, “Me could make any lass me wench, or die trying.”

Others, now stirred with carnal thoughts, chimed in. The laughter grew with each comment. John appreciated the banter, and seated near the throne and sensing acceptance, he chimed in. “Me needs to get back to me mum.”

“Your mum?” asked Andrew.

“Me father passed, and me needs to care for her.”

“Don’t fret laddie. A clansman probably be taking good care of her, right now,” said one while looking at his smirking companions.

“Enough,” said Malcolm.

“Maybe many be taking care of her,” said a lascivious looking brute. He raised his kilt and moved his pelvis in and out. One convulsed with laughter and held his shaking belly. Another wiped tears away, but his laughter returned when the brute’s dangling penis and scrotum swung in unison with his thrusts. John toyed with his gruel, wishing he could shrink away. He didn’t belong.

The sound of a sword being unsheathed pierced the uproar and jolted John back to reality. Malcolm arose and swayed his basket-hilt sword back and forth. His well-defined forearm muscles rippled as his arm rolled. He positioned for an upward swing, an avenger powerful enough to lop off the thickest of limbs. He inched forward while glaring over the tip of his outstretched sword. He diverted the tip to make eye contact with each, and when he did, each head lowered. After every man had bowed, Malcolm sheathed his sword. He moved back to John and tugged his cheek’s fuzz. “He still be a wee lad.”

John was now the focus of the group, and he wondered if he had been accepted by Malcolm’s cronies or only created envy among them. His cheeks reddened, and he prayed his fuzz obscured his embarrassment. But a clamor around MacTavish ensued, distracting the group, and they turned their attention to it.

The food, which MacTavish’s minions had been distributing, was completely dispersed. Those still unfed jostled and barked at one another. MacTavish arose and tossed chunks of bread to disperse some of the unruly. He backed closer to his minions and waved several loaves of bread. “How much do me get for the last of it?”

John ceased nibbling and inched closer to Malcolm’s throne to watch. A few men pitched coins toward MacTavish and moved to await their purchase. As MacTavish neared, he bent, with his eyes focused ahead, picked up the coins and tossed loaves to the buyers. Those still without food twitched in anticipation of possibly getting what little remained in MacTavish’s hands.

Malcolm put his hand on his sword’s hilt and leaned to John. “Eat quickly, laddie.” Malcolm’s comrades shuffled closer to him.

Those still waiting for food had their jackal eyes on MacTavish. He hurled the remaining bread into the pack, and they descended upon it like wolves devouring a picked over carcass. A rabid looking wretch stepped toward John as he gobbled his last few bites. Malcolm inched his sword from its sheath, and the wretch’s eyes darted to a lone, still-nibbling pikeman. MacTavish scurried away with his lackeys as a rearguard, counting coins and slipping them into his pouch.

John heard a thud and turned toward it to see a pikeman collapsing from a blow delivered by the wretch’s club. The wretch scampered away, tearing into a half-eaten slab of bread. John could have been that unsuspecting and now collapsed pikeman if not for Malcolm. He glanced up at Malcolm who still had a grip on his sword.

Once Malcolm sensed his comrades were safe, he settled back on his throne. “Me wonder what MacTavish will do with his coins?” he asked.

Andrew stared at the ground and responded. “His coins will pay for a safe passage should Cromwell prevail.”

“Cromwell prevail?” asked Malcolm. He leaned to John. “What say you, laddie?”

John shook his head, and Malcolm patted it.

Malcolm turned back to Andrew and sat fully erect. “We will slay Cromwell first. Then me will slay MacTavish and use his coins for me wenches.” Everyone laughed, except for Andrew who still stared at the ground, seemingly in thought.

As twilight ebbed, John arose to pace, his routine these past weeks before utter darkness ensued. Another day had passed without him being able to honor his vow to his father. How many more nights would he have to endure? In day light, his sense of his father’s disappointment was not ever-present. But as sunset encroached, John’s failure dominated his thoughts, and his melancholy grew more vivid. Pacing, like most actions, kept the images faint. But he couldn’t pace all night. Eventually he would need to lie under a black void, an ideal backdrop for his demons to taunt him, and relive his failure. Perhaps this night would be less bleak as Malcolm had a solution. If the Scottish Royal forces could push the English into the sea, John could return home to his mother and honor his vow.

[1] The course was built in 1616, and in 1640, a Presbyterian minister was disgraced when he was caught committing the unpardonable sin of playing golf

[2] The Covenanters were a Scottish Presbyterian movement that played an important role leading up to the battle. They were determined to dictate the future course for both England and Scotland, and Charles II signed a covenant with them on June 30, 1650 upon arriving in Scotland.


Excerpted from "The Immigrant: One from My Four Legged Stool" by Alfred Woollacott III. Copyright © 2014 by Alfred Woollacott III. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Alfred Woollacott III

Alfred Woollacott III

Alfred Woollacott, III retired from KPMG in 2002 after a career spanning 34 years, choosing to reside full time at his summer residence on Martha's Vineyard. Being "45 minutes from America" and with a 50 - 60 hour per week void to fill, he began dabbling into his family history. His dabbling grew into an obsession and he published several genealogical summaries of his ancestors. But certain ones absorbed him such that he could not leave them. So he researched their lives and times further while evolving his writing skills from "just the facts ma'am" to a fascinating narrative style. Thus with imagination, anchored in fact and tempered with plausibility, a remote ancestor can achieve a robust life as envisioned by a writer with a few drops of his ancestor’s blood in his veins. More than a historical novel, “The Immigrant” has many meaningful layers to savor and several historical puzzles to uncover.

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