Historical Fiction

The Family Bible

By

This book will launch on Feb 19, 2021. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒
Synopsis

Edinburgh, Scotland – 1766 One particular bible is printed in the Kincaid and Bell print shop and makes its way to its first family in Ayr, Scotland. For over 250 years, this small Family Bible would weave its way throughout the United States of America beginning in Charleston, South Carolina, in the late 1790’s, ending up in Tennessee in 2001, where it remains today. Its recorded journey introduces a multitude of characters. Some with an adventurous and exciting story to tell and some not so exciting. The characters are real and their stories are real. This Family Bible has stretched the fabric of time from the horse drawn wagons in Scotland, through the American Civil War, and into the Cold War with the testing of nuclear weapons.

Forward

It had been over a year since mom passed away. I was finally ready to start organizing her things. Her clothes were still in the closet, and the same sheets are on her bed. Her favorite coffee cup was still in the Keurig, waiting for another brew. While looking through the piles of documents on her desk, I reflected on the amazing life she had lived. A single mom with two children throughout the late ’50s, putting herself through college, and later working for NASA on the Apollo Program as well as the DOE on the Nuclear Weapons Testing Program. She would go on to speak before the United States Congress and write a book concerning her time at the Nevada Test Site. To say that she was an overachiever would be an understatement. While looking through the documents, I came across some handwritten notes concerning a Bible that had been in the family for over 250 years. I remember the day mom received the Bible, and we always wondered about the bullet hole. We figured that Grandpa Love acquired it when he was preaching throughout the Ozarks in the late 1800’s. Most of us consider Grandpa Love as just another fascinating individual residing in our family tree. For the next 50 years, mom had attempted to track the Bible back to its original owners, but real life had a way of complicating the process. It wasn’t that long ago when she had made several trips to Arkansas searching for clues. Looking through old family notes, some dating back over 100 years, I took the files to the kitchen table for a more thorough examination. While making a cup of coffee, I removed the Bible from the safe and placed it on the table next to me, and it was there, I decided to continue mom’s work. Two years later, and after thousands of hours of research, I was able to identify seven generations who carried the Bible. I discovered who had it when they had it and where they were, beginning in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1766 to Tennessee, U.S.A., where it remains today. The following novel is based on that research.


The Beginning

Chapter 1

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND – OCTOBER 1766:

The thick morning fog was beginning to lift, clearing the view at the Kincaid & Bell Printworks, nestled amongst the rolling hills and highlands of Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh. Scott Jemison the wagoner shifts to pick up the last crate into the back of his wagon, loading it with as much care as he possibly can. The cargo was precious, and with a long, arduous trip ahead, it was necessary to ensure that each crate was carefully packed. Scott Jemison, a rather large man, carefully pressed the last box in place as a gentle breeze blew through his long fiery red hair, taking with it more of the morning fog and allowing the sunlight to shimmer down on him. He wipes the back of his thick hand across his broad forehead, brushing away the sweat from the early morning task. Now comes his least favorite part of the job – the long travel, the loading and offloading of crates he handles with ease, but this next part… Dealing with John Bell – he always likes to stick his nose into Scott’s business, looking for any minute imperfections. Scrutiny was too mild a term for John Bell’s involvement. And his politics left something to be desired.

Quietly, Scott looks up and says a prayer as he enters the building through the rear door, “Lord help me to get out of here before I snap his scrawny neck.” Walking through the back room, a unique scent fills the air that can only be found in a printing shop. Scott has always been fascinated by the process, as each typesetter meticulously positions the paper, applying the right amount of ink and the right amount of pressure to produce a legible document. It almost made dealing with John Bell easier to stomach. Almost. Entering the next room, the scent changes where all the books are bound. Scott steps through the last door into the main room where all the books are displayed. To his left is John Bell sitting at his large pedestal desk. There John Bell completes the last shipping manifest. A former apprentice of Alexander Kincaid, he had become a partner in 1758 and oversaw the daily operations of His Majesty’s Printer. His duties include keeping a detailed record of all purchases, when and where the delivery was made, and who received it. The wagoner must make sure each manifest is signed when the books are delivered, and the manifest must be returned to John before they are paid. John Bell enjoyed sitting at his desk looking out the main display window of the book shop where he watched the people as they passed by. Across High Street he had a clear view of St. Giles Cathedral where he found himself every Sunday.

He worked dutifully. Scott could never deny that simple fact. John leans into his work, writing with a heavy, precise hand as he looks through the ledger, comparing all the many details of his shipments. Having completed the final manifest, John finally looks up at Scott and says, plainly, “Kind sir, have you thirty crates on your wagon?” Preparing himself for the ritual that he must endure before each trip he makes for John Bell, Scott Jemison takes a breath and replies, confidently, “I do.” Raising his eyebrows, John’s mouth curves into a thin smile, and hands Scott the last manifest, his manifest. John burbles as he closes his ledger, “Good, good, good,” then John delivers his coup de grace, “and you are aware of the destination of each crate?”

Looking down at the last manifest, Scott begins, almost automatically, his recitation of the list of locations and drop-offs, “I am aware that I am to drop off nine crates to Minister Watson at the Kirk of Calder in Mid Calder village. I will then proceed to Glasgow Harbor, where I will locate the berth in the ship Snow Jenny, to which I will then locate the merchant Mr. Alex Bell, your brother, and deliver to him twenty crates.” Scott continued, “I will then proceed to St. Quivox Parish church at the Auchincruive Estate. There I will deliver the last crate to Mr. Richard Oswald.” “Good, good, good…” the smile John wore fades slightly, and he steeples his fingers as he begins, “do you have any questio-!”

“I have no questions, sir,” Scott interrupts without a hint of scorn in his tone as he turns to leave. Scott wants nothing more than to put this experience behind him and get to the journey – but he stops when John clears his throat. Clearly not about to let him leave without the last word. “Oh, one more thing, please send my regards to my brother,” John adds, and Scott nods without turning back, acknowledging the request as best he can manage without opening himself up to more conversation – or a political debate. Scott steps into the back alleyway and takes a deep breath of fresh air. Taking one last walk around the wagon and team of horses making a final inspection, Scott climbs up onto the seat. He lets loose one more shuddering breath when he looks around and releases the brake. With a quick shake of the reins and a click of his tongue, the horses lunge forward into a comfortable, consistent trot.

The sound of the horse hoofs and wagon wheels on the cobblestone road is music to his ears – one final notch in his escape from the insufferable John Bell. The heat from the early morning sun feels good on his skin, and the brisk breeze from the North Sea carries a hypnotic aroma throughout the Scottish countryside, made stronger by the rolling highlands. Scott enjoys the time spent on the winding dirt roads and the beautiful scenery that each countryside possesses – here in Edinburgh, there were the rolling hills and melodic highlands, the distant sound of the North Sea that he leaves behind. The long journeys give Scott time to contemplate on things most people would rather not talk about, as well as the things he would rather not talk about with most people. It’s a perfect day for a daydreamer.

Moving slowly through the countryside, Scott’s mind always ponders on many different things as he gazes out over the vast mountains and valleys, imagining all the battles his distant ancestors had fought. He often wonders what life would be like if events long since passed had gone differently. He thinks about his uncle Thomas and how he had moved his family from Ireland to America. How his cousin Mary was born on the ship during their journey and how they were all captured by the Indians. He still shudders at the thought of their experiences – a harrowing story that had often given him nightmares. Scott had always heard the British considered the American Indians as barbarians and found it interesting that his own ancestors were also considered barbarians in the eyes of the British. The British courts had sent many of his family members to the West Indies, Australia, and other countries as slaves, for nothing more than defending their land. But wasn’t that proper in the times of war? To fight for one’s country and family and life? Because of this, and all that had happened in years since then, Scott kept his disdain for the British hidden deep within himself, avoiding all conversations with anyone from England or those who considered themselves friends of the British Crown. Like John Bell.

Approaching the Kirk of Calder, Scott is met by Minister Watson, who had been the minister for the past several years. Minister Watson is a plump and pleasant man, with the appearance of someone who had never performed any physical labor in the entirety of his life, nor had he ever missed a meal. Minister Watson smiles wide and friendly, and waves as Scott slowly approaches. “Scott, my boy, it is good to see you again! It’s been more than a year, has it not?” Bringing his wagon to a stop, Scott agrees with a curt nod, “It has been some time.” Setting the brake, he jumps down with the manifest and shakes Minister Watson’s hand with his free one. Handing Minister Watson the manifest, Scott continues, “I have nine crates of books for you, sir.” Looking in the back of the wagon, Minister Watson then turns to a group of young men standing nearby, clearly waiting for their orders. “Okay, boys. We have nine crates. Make sure you take only the ones with our mark on it. You know where they go.”

Turning back to Scott, Minister Watson says, “I’ll sign the manifest in my home. I don’t have my ink and quill with me at this time.” Pointing to the stables across the road, “I’m sure you remember where the stable is. You’ll find two empty stalls with fresh water and hay.” Looking toward the stable, Scott said, “Thank you, sir, I do appreciate it.” And Scott most certainly meant it. After a long trek already, with still many more stops to go in the coming days, a place to lay his head and stable his horses was a welcomed respite. Minister Watson then turns around and, pointing towards the back of the church, says, “After tending to your horses, take the path leading to my home. I’m sure you also remember where that is. Vertie is waiting with a good hot meal.”

“Yes, sir, I remember the path,” Scott replies, trying his best to keep the conversation brief. It might be better for everybody if they did – Scott Jemison specifically. After the last crate was unloaded, Scott led his horses across the dirt road to the stable. There he unbridled each horse and led them into an open stall. Placing some hay in the trough, Scott checks the water and brushes each horse down carefully, making sure they’re prepared for the trip tomorrow – for it was to be another long day. Satisfied with his horses' condition, he makes a detailed inspection of the wagon, checking the wheels, and making sure everything is good to go. While this cargo could survive a delay, Scott didn’t want to risk it, or a confrontation with John Bell. Closing the doors, Scott lumbers over to the nearby trough and washes his hands. He shakes his hands dry, turns and follows the path around the church to the home of Minister Watson and his kind wife, Vertie.

As Scott approaches the home, the door opens wide, his presence expected and accounted for as it was every trip out here to Kirk of Calder. Minister Watson’s smile is on full display as he calls out, “Come on in here, young man! Vertie is waiting, and the food is hot. Here’s your manifest.” Kicking the dust off his feet, Scott steps into the house, “Thank you, sir.” Scott accepts the manifest and looks around as Minister Watson waddles back towards his table. It’s a small home, nothing too fancy, but the hearth was lit to warm the house, and the aroma of Vertie’s cooking filled the air, the heat of the fireplace where it sat cooking mixing to craft an inviting scent.

Sitting down at the table, Minister Watson pats the table and says, “Have a seat. Our meal is ready, and I’m starving, but first, we must thank the Lord for our food.” From the kitchen, minister Watson’s wife Vertie said, “Nice to see you again, Scott.” “Thank you for having me,” Scott replies, walking to the indicated seat at the table. He sat down heavily, his legs straining from the strenuous journey. “Let’s thank the Lord for our food.” Minister Watson said, bowing his head and holding his hand out as he did. Scott managed his expression carefully throughout Minister Watson’s prayer. Even though it was short, it was another reminder of where Scotland stood – under British rule.

Upon finishing the prayer, Vertie walks over to the fireplace. There, she scoops out a portion of soup from a large cauldron and, with her apron, picks up a loaf of hot, freshly baked bread. Her thick, curly hair was pulled back from her face, and she smiled as she placed the loaf on the table. “You look well. How have you been?” Minister Watson said, watching his wife while she worked.

“I have been fine, thank you, sir,” Scott replied, smiling his thanks as Vertie prepared their meal. He looks carefully at Minister Watson and says, “I have enough work to provide for my family, and for that, I am very thankful. How have you been?”

“Vertie and I have been well, thank the Lord,” Minister Watson replied with a wide, toothy smile. He gestures wide. “We have a wonderful congregation, a warm home, and plenty to eat. What more could a man ask for?” Vertie returns and sits the bowl of soup in front of Scott along with the loaf of bread, smiling at him warmly, friendly.

“Thank you, ma'am,” Scott says as he looks up at Vertie, who steps back to retrieve more food for the table. “You’re welcome,” Vertie replies and steps into the kitchen. Scott’s stomach rumbles, eliciting a joyful laugh from Minister Watson, who gestures for Scott to begin. Scott obliges and tears a piece of bread off. He dips it into his soup and takes a bite, “This soup is wonderful, Mrs. Watson.”

With a smile, she says, “I’m glad you like it,” and steps out from the kitchen with another bowl of soup and a loaf of bread. She places it before her husband, kisses him on the cheek, and returns to the kitchen. Minister Watson thanks his wife and says, “Vertie makes the best soup. Our congregation provides us with most of the meat and vegetables. However, we have a small garden where we grow a few vegetables and spices. There are many people today who cannot provide for themselves, so I thank the Lord daily for the blessings he has placed upon Vertie and I.” Dipping his own bread into his soup, Minister Watson continues, “Shortly after your last visit, I had recalled an article that I read several years ago concerning a family of Jemisons that were killed by the French and Indians in America. Are these Jemisons related to you?”

Taking another bite of bread soaked in his soup, Scott confirms with a nod and says, “It’s interesting you should mention it. I was just thinking about them on the way here. It was my aunt and uncle, and some of my cousins from Carrickmacross, north of Dublin. It happened eleven years ago in 1755, if I remember correctly. With all the fighting in Ireland, they felt it could not be any worse in America, so they moved, hoping for a better life.” His hand stills and his expression hardens the least little bit. His voice is heavy as he finishes with, “Looks like they were wrong.”

Minister Watson shakes his head, the somber despair clear in the tightness of his face, “Always such tragic news regardless of how long ago it happened.” Minister Watson looks up with some hope, and hedges, “Still, I recall that there were some children who escaped the attack?”

Scott nods again, “The two older boys, Thomas and John, were working on the opposite end of the settlement when the attack happened. Shots were fired, and by the time they reached their home, they were all gone. They had taken my Uncle Thomas and Aunt Jane, along with my cousins Robert, Matthew, Mary, and Betsy.” Scott’s hand lowered, his bread hovering over his bowl of soup – Vertie’s absence is notable, even in the back of Scott’s mind. “There was also a neighbor and her young son that was taken as well. All were killed two days' journey from the settlement except for my cousin Mary and the young boy of the neighbor whose name is unknown to me.”

Minister Watson replied carefully, “Probably sold into slavery by the Indians? I understand they are quite the barbarians.”

“I’ve heard nothing of their condition,” Scott replied honestly. “I do know that their son, John, was appointed a Justice for Bucks County in the state of Pennsylvania some years ago. They still communicate with my father and mother in Ireland.”

“How are your father and mother doing?” Minister Watson asked, leading the conversation in another direction. “I believe their names are John and Ann?”

“You have a good memory, sir,” Scott replied, setting aside the dark, dour story of his cousins. “My father and mother are doing well, thank you.” Dipping his bread into his soup, Minister Watson asked the question that Scott had been dreading, “What made you want to leave Ireland?”

“Farming was not very appealing to me,” Scott replied, choosing his words carefully. “I have an uncle who raises horses in Lanark along the River Clyde, so I wanted to see what kind of horseman I would make. As it turned out, I make a much better wagoner than I do a horseman. My uncle was kind enough to provide me with a good team of horses and a wagon to earn a living with and told me to pay him back when I could, though he never told me how much I owed him.” Scott could not help his laugh as he adds, “I think he was just happy to get me off the back of his horses.”

“You make a fine wagoner Scott,” Minister Watson said, dipping his bread into the soup. He took a bite, letting Scott reply. “Thank you, sir. I do feel guilty for leaving my father and mother,” Scott says, his gaze lowering to the nearly full bowl of soup. “I’m hoping they will leave Ireland as things are not getting any better.” “As far as your father and mother are concerned, we will pray that the Lord will protect them and bring peace to Ireland,” Minister Watson said, bread nearly gone. “How is your wife and son these days?”

No sooner than Minister Watson had finished his sentence, Vertie interrupts as she walks out of the kitchen, “Please James, Scott has not had time to enjoy his meal while answering all of your inquiries.” Minister Watson nods and says, “My apologies. I do enjoy a good conversation along with a good hot meal.” As she walks away, Scott leans over and whispers, smiling as if they were participating in an intrigue, “My wife and son are doing well, thank you.”

They continue idly chatting with Vertie, steering clear of darker subjects, until after the meal, Minister Watson says, “Can I offer you a pipe of tobacco?” “No, thank you, sir,” Scott said as he leans back from his empty bowl of soup. “I need to retire for the evening. I have another long day tomorrow and will be leaving before daybreak.”

Lighting his pipe Minister Watson said, “Very well, it was nice chatting with you.” “It was nice visiting with you again, sir. Thank you for everything,” Scott said. He thanked Vertie and was indeed grateful for his meal and a place to sleep for the evening. However, Minister Watson was English and a friend of the Crown. Much like his boss John Bell, if the conversation were to continue, they would most likely end up discussing politics or religion or both. Two topics that Scott did his best to avoid when talking with those he knew and worked with. Tempers would flare, and Scott knew all too well that those were subjects to be avoided among friends. There was no doubt that neither would agree and for that reason, Scott had always decided that the less he said, the better.

The next morning before daybreak, Scott quietly made his way to the stable. Looking into the night sky, he could tell that the sun would start to show within the hour. Entering the stable, he places the provisions that Vertie had prepared for him on the seat. Anxious to get going, he quickly bridled each horse and secured them to the wagon, ever mindful of his cargo in the back of his wagon. It would be at least ten hours before he reached his next stop at the Sarry Heid Tavern. Port Glasgow was another six hours away, and if all went well, he could make it to Dalry before the sun had set that night. The beautiful moonlit scenery provided just enough light to cast a shadow and help him avoid the deep ruts that cut into the road the further away from Edinburgh he got.

Arriving at the Sarry Heid Tavern, a hewn stone building in Glasgow, Scott quickly boards his horses in one of the many stalls provided for customers where the printing shop kept an open account for their employees. After a meal that pales in comparison to Vertie’s home-cooked soup and bread, he retires for the evening in a room above the tavern. His dreams turned to nightmares, as visions of his cousin Mary, beset upon in the new world, filled him from his conversation with Minister Watson. A glimmer of hope that Mary survived was all that kept him from waking up in a cold sweat.

The next morning Scott could see his breath in the bitterly cold air as he pulled out of the stable and onto the cobblestone road to resume his trek. Once across the winding River Clyde, he notices the slight glow on the horizon as the sun begins to show itself. He puts his gloves on, turns his collar up and gives the reins a shake.

There was plenty of distance to cover, and the chill in the air was a constant incentive to push onward quickly. It would be another six hours before he was to reach New Port Glasgow. He could only hope to make it to Dalry by the end of the day. He nudges the horses with another shake of the reins, knowing even the slightest distraction could lengthen his trip. Late in the morning, Scott reached New Port Glasgow, eighteen miles north of the Sarry Heid. Noticing the Snow Jenny, anchored in the second berth, moving gently in the early morning waves, Scott pulls alongside the ship and signals one of the crewmen, mindful of the stench of fish from an early morning haul, “I need to speak to Mr. Alex Bell.” The crewman nods and waves as he walks below deck, leaving Scott to wait near the dock's beginning. He looks around at the other ships anchored around the dock, bobbing gently while all abuzz with activity as the seagulls search for their morning meals.

Soon a middle-aged man appears on the ship's deck, searching until he spies Scott, and a smile breaks out across his face. Making his way down the gangplank, he takes a good look at Scott and shouts, “Scott Jemison! I have not seen you in months! How have you been?”

Standing next to his wagon, Scott waves and says, “I’ve been doing fine, thank you, sir.” Approaching the wagon, “Let me guess, my brother has sent me another shipment of books?” After shaking hands, Scott gives Alex the shipping manifest and says, “I have twenty crates of books for you, sir.” Looking at the shipping manifest, “Twenty crates of books? It is amazing to me how many people actually enjoy reading. I’m willing to wager that most of these books will spend their entire lives sitting on one shelf or another.” Looking up at Scott, he continues, “How is my brother these days?”

“Your brother is fine and sends his regards,” Scott replies, while Alex looks back down at the manifest and walks over to the back of the wagon, with Scott trailing him. Counting the crates in the back of the wagon, Alex continues, his brows rising, “Looks like you have one more stop?”

“The last crate goes to the St. Quivox church at the Auchincruive Estate,” Scott replied, having carefully memorized the manifest time and again. “You have been delivering books for my brother a number of years now,” Alex commented, turning to look at Scott with a mischievous grin. “How is it that you have not yet strangled him?”

Smiling, too, Scott replies, “I’m thankful to have the work and thought it would not be wise to strangle the person that controls the hand that feeds me.” Alex nods, “A wise decision, my friend. You have much more patience than I do.” Turning towards the ship, he calls for the assistance of the crewmen. Within a few minutes, several men were on their way down the gangplank. Pulling his ink and quill out of his pocket, Alex quickly signs the manifest and, handing it back, says, “Thank you, Scott. I may see you in a few months, or I may not. The pirates have been working diligently to keep us from completing our voyages. Fortunately for us, none of them enjoy reading, so it seems that they are never interested in our books.” Placing the manifest in his shirt, Scott nods and says, “Thank you, sir, and good luck with your voyage.”

In less than an hour, Scott’s on his way to the small village of Dalry, another five hours, and twenty miles, away from New Port Glasgow. There he would spend the night in the stable belonging to friends John and Margaret Thomson, friends from Ireland who left at the same time Scott did. It’s not often that Scott ventures down that way. Most of his trips are to Port Glasgow Harbor and then back to Edinburgh until the next trip. In the few times that he has made deliveries to Ayr passing St. Quivox, he has never once stopped there, marking an interesting change to his routine treks. Scott considers a change of pace now and then to be a good thing, which could keep life interesting and give him even more time to think. Knowing there are no taverns in St. Quivox, he considers the possibility that he may have to spend the night in his wagon. Perhaps there will be a stable nearby where he can stay the night?

Either way, Scott was looking forward to getting home to see his wife and son. Being away for four or five days at a time has a tendency to take its toll on a person. It seems that every time he gets back home, he notices his son has become a bit taller and a bit older. Scott is looking forward to the day when they can wrestle around in the grass. Once he gets back home, he’ll spend a few days with his family, do some maintenance on his wagon and make a payment to his uncle before heading back to Edinburgh to do it all over again.

Making his way to St. Quivox, his mind once again ponders on many different things. “Will my parents also move to America? Things in Ireland have been very unstable, and they were considering it not that long ago. Lord knows they need to do something. How long could I continue to provide for my family transporting goods from one place to another? What happens if one of the horses goes down or the wagon needs repairs?” Scott often considers the life he had chosen. Had he chosen it, or was it his destiny? What else could he do to provide for his family? Would he also move his family to America one day in the future? There were so many questions that only time could answer.

Before he knew it, St. Quivox was in sight, and once again, there was plenty of daylight left for Scott to find a place to rest for the night. St. Quivox was a stone building with a side-facing stairway that led up to the front door. The sunlight didn’t seem to gleam off the windows, and Scott quickly found that it was due to a thick layer of dust as laborers worked out around the building. Stopping in front of the church, Scott looks around before turning his attention to one of the laborers, “Sir, could you direct me to Mr. Oswald?” The laborer points to the door, “Mr. Oswald is inside.”

“Thank you,” Scott replied. Stepping through the door, he noticed more laborers cleaning and refinishing some of the beautiful woodwork that filled the inside of the church. He looked around, seeing how the building was being restored with a look of awe in his eye. As he looked around, enjoying the scent of freshly sanded wood, an older gentleman approached and asked, “Sir, may I help you?”

“I’m looking for a Mr. Oswald,” Scott replied, tearing his attention away from the newly restored woodwork. The gentleman replied, his fashionable brown hair covered in dust from wood that was being sanded and refinished, “I am Richard Oswald. How may I help you?”

Looking at Richard, Scott hands him the manifest, “I’m Scott Jemison, and I have a crate of Bibles for you, sir, from the Kincaid and Bell print shop in Edinburgh.” Richard smiles as he reads the manifest. Looking towards the wagon through the still-open doorway, Richard says, “This is good news. The congregation will be very pleased.” As they approach the wagon, he continues, “Last year I provided the church with communion cups. This year it will be these new Bibles. I want them to have everything they need to conduct a proper service.”

Looking up at Scott, Richard said, “Will you carry the crate into the church for me, please? There I will sign the manifest.” Scott takes the crate and follows him back into the church, where he signed the manifest. Handing it back, Richard asked, “Do you have accommodations for the evening?”

Scott answered plainly, “I do not, sir.” Richard says, nodding, “Fine then. I will invite you to be my guest for the evening. There’s a stable where you can keep your horses and wagon.” Pointing in the direction of his home, Richard explained, “Follow the road you're on and once you pass the cemetery, continue around the bend, and you will see a narrow road leading to the left. After crossing through the tree line, the road will turn right, running parallel to the main road. You will then see the stables to the left as you approach my home. My farmhand will help you tend to your horses, and I should be there within the hour. Welcome to Auchincruive.”

“I am very grateful, sir. Thank you,” Scott said, shaking his hand. As he made his way down the narrow dirt road, he thought, ‘So this is the famous Auchincruive.’ The road was lined with large trees and bushes that blocked much of his view on both sides. As he rounded the bend, he turned onto the narrow road branching off to the left. Once clearing the tree line, Scott is amazed at the beautiful scenery that appeared before him. Green pastures and rolling hills stretched as far as the eye could see. Turning to the right, he could see the stable lay straight ahead next to a beautiful home, large and stately and a little bit foreboding. He noticed that it was a very nice stable indeed.

As he approached, a farmhand came running up, “Sir, may I help you?” Scott, admiring the beautiful scenery, answered, “Mr. Oswald said that I could board my horses in his stable tonight.” “Very well, sir. I will show you to the stable,” Taking the bridle, the farmhand leads the horses into the stable. He helps Scott unbridle each horse and walks them into a stall. There he puts hay into the trough and makes sure there’s plenty of water. He then helped his horses, brushing them down while Scott cleaned the hoofs and inspected their legs. Admiring the horses, the farmhand commented, “These are fine animals you have here, sir.”

“They’ve worked hard these past three days and are in need of a good rest,” Scott said by way of answer. “One more day, and they shall rest for a while yet.” Once Scott was satisfied that the horses were ready for the next day, he took a closer look at his wagon, ever wary of things out of place that might delay his journey. Each wheel would have to be greased when he returned home before he made another trip. After his inspection, Scott walks around the stable, once again admiring the beautiful landscape that spread out around the manor. He then walks back to his wagon and leans against the bed, admiring Richard’s home. It was a beautiful home indeed.

A few moments had passed when he noticed Richard pulling through the tree line sitting on a plush two-wheel buggy, pulled by an enormous shire that moved with precision and grace. It was a majestic animal with shiny black hair, and Scott was impressed with its size and smooth gait. He couldn’t help but compliment Richard, “That is a beautiful shire you have, sir.”

Stepping down from the carriage, Richard replies warmly, “Thank you, Scott. You have a fine team of horses as well.” No sooner than he said that the farmhand came running over and took hold of the bridle, walking the horse and carriage into the stable. Richard turned, dusting off his hands absently, and said, “You must be hungry. Let us get you settled in,”

Scott fell into step with Richard, as the man asks, “Where do you call home?” “I am originally from Dublin but have been living in Lanark for the past five years,” Scott replied, watching the shire trot away with the farmhand one last time.

“Lanark!” Richard exclaimed, his voice full of enthusiasm and wonder. Coming to a stop, he looked up at Scott and said, “The same Lanark that Sir William Wallace attacked, killing the sheriff, and then burning their encampment to the ground?”

Taken aback by the man’s keen interest, Scott cautiously answered, “Yes, I believe that is the same Lanark, sir.” Richard’s enthusiasm had caught Scott off-guard, and he was not sure what to make of it. He was always careful about what he discussed with his friends and those he worked with. A stranger…

“That is astonishing, Scott,” Richard said, nodding. He gestured out at the stately home, “Do you know that this estate was once owned by the family of Sir William Wallace himself?” Richard continued towards the house with enthusiasm, as Scott lingered in shock a moment longer. Scott thinks to himself, ‘Uncle Robert has told me many tales of William Wallace. Many in Lanark are still loyal to Scotland's clans and hate the British for what they have done but keep it to themselves. How ironic it is that I had named my own son after William Wallace.’

He thought carefully before he replied, suspecting Richard to be a friend of the Crown, “I have heard of Sir William Wallace but really don’t know that much about him, sir.” Richard stopped walking again, finding Scott some feet behind him. Richard looked up at Scott in disbelief and said, “Come now. Am I to believe that you have not studied about one of Scotland’s most famous legends?”

Scott shrugs, “Actually, sir, I am from Ireland. I spent my younger years working on our family farm. We never had time to study such things.” “Irish, Scottish, is there really any difference?” Richard asked with a wave of his hand. “I understand that it was long ago, and many things have changed, but regardless of how long ago it was, I have to say that I do so admire Sir William Wallace. That is why I purchased this estate! I’m Scottish by birth and true to my heritage.” Leaning into Scott, Richard lowers his voice and says, “You know there are times when I feel that I may have been fighting the British right alongside Sir William Wallace, in a past life.” Cautiously, Richard continues, “Don’t tell anyone I said that. My father is a minister. What is your opinion, Scott? Do you think that a person can have more than one life?” It seemed that Richard was longing for someone to converse with on topics that Scott had long since avoided as taboo. When they reached the house, the door opened, and a butler was waiting for them as if standing at attention. Richard strode by and said, “We have a guest this evening, James. Can you please have a room ready for Mr. Jemison, and I think that we will dine in the library.”

“Yes, sir. Right away, sir,” James replied, and as soon as the butler closed the door, he was off towards the kitchen at a carefully moderated pace that couldn’t quite be considered a run but was definitely not a casual stride. “Let us retire to the library. I want to show you something,” Richard said, and Scott looked away from James to see that Richard, too, was on the move.

Scott picked up his own pace to keep up. Walking at a brisk pace into the library, Richard points to a table and says, “Have a seat.” Scott was astonished at the size of the library. The room was filled with books along all of the walls that reached all the way to the ceiling. There were so many books that a ladder was needed to get to the upper shelves high above Scott’s head. He was still cautious about what he should say, knowing that Richard was a friend of the Crown. So, instead, Scott said neutrally, “You have a very nice library, sir.”

“Thank you. I do like my books and wish I had more time to read,” Richard took two books from a shelf and, sitting them on the table, said, “Tonight you will not only receive a good hot meal, but you will also receive a history lesson concerning one of Scotland’s most amazing legends.” Picking a bottle from his wine collection, Richard takes two glasses and places them on the table. As he opens the bottle, he begins his story…

“Sir William Wallace was born almost five hundred years ago in 1272, and yet his legacy still remains with us to this day,” Richard began, smiling as if they were participating in some kind of conspiratorial interlude. “He was a large and very strong man with fiery red hair. Much like you, Scott, and that is what I thought of when I first saw you! You remind me of Sir William Wallace and what he may have looked like! I would be surprised if you and he were not distant cousins.”

Pouring some wine into glasses, Richard continued, “It was around 1290 that Sir William met and fell in love with Marion Bradfute, the beautiful daughter of Hugh Bradfute of Lamington. Some say they were married, and some say that they were not. Either way, Sir William desired to keep their relationship a secret as not to place Marion in any danger. You see, shortly before they met, Sir William had killed the son of the English governor of the castle of Dundee. It is said that Selby, the son of the governor, had challenged Sir William and was killed with one blow of his sword. Other accounts say that he was stabbed to death by Sir William but who’s to know what really happened? Unless you were there, one could only speculate.”

Richard handed Scott one of the glasses, then turned his attention to opening one of the books. He turns to a page that had been previously marked, “According to this story, it seems that Selby and some of his associates approached Sir William outside the castle of Dundee, mocking his apparel and demanding that he hand over his knife. I find this account to be the most colorful, so this is the one I choose to believe. It was recorded by Henry the Minstrel, also known as Blind Harry, in the year 1477 and reads as follows,” “‘And with disdain, said, “Scot, I pray thee stay, what devil clad thee in a suit so gay? A horse’s mantle was thy king to wear, and a Scots whittle at thy belt to bear. Rough rullion shoes, or any common trash, did serve such whore’s sons through the dubs to plash. Give me that knife under thy girdle hings. Nay, pardon me, sir, I know better things. Therefore forbear, I earnestly entreat, it both defends me and cuts my meat. Selby assaults him and would take it by force, and so the plea went on from bad to worse. Fast by the collar Wallace did him take, made the young squire tremble there and shake. His dagger, with the other hand, drew out. In spite of all his men so throng about and boldly without fear of dread, upon the spot he stick’d young Selby dead.’”

Richard looked up from the book, enthusiasm clear in his eyes and said, “Whether he was killed by Sir William’s sword or by his knife matters not. The fact is that he was killed by Sir William, who then fled into hiding knowing that the governor would have him arrested, tortured, and eventually killed. The British soldiers tried desperately to find him and arrested, tortured, and killed anyone that was considered to be a friend of Sir William.” He said while shaking his head.

“There was a British encampment set up at Lanark, your hometown. William de Heselrig was the high sheriff of Lanark and a very cunning man. He sent spies to rout out all the friends of Sir William. When he found out that Sir William was having a love affair with Marion, he had her killed in a public execution! He made it known that he was responsible for her death in hopes of forcing Sir William out into the open, however, that would be his last mistake. Sir William, with about forty of his companions, attacked the encampment and killed Sheriff Heselrig in the most brutal fashion. They burned the entire encampment to the ground and killed all of the soldiers as well. Not one escaped.” Dinner was served when James sat a whole cooked chicken in front of Scott and another one in front of Richard with two loaves of bread. Richard thanked James, who nodded and strode out of the library.

Richard continued, “Sir William’s revolt against the British was encouraging news to the Scottish people and many clans banded together in support of forcing the British out of Scotland. On September 11th, 1297, Sir William again defeated the British army at Stirling Castle. Sir William and his army of commoners were greatly outnumbered; however, there was the River Forth that separated them with only a narrow bridge to cross. He waited patiently until a portion of the British Army had passed over the narrow bridge and attacked them, killing all that had crossed. The British were led by John de Warrenne, the Earl of Surrey, and the English Treasurer of Scotland Hugh Cressingham, neither of whom were competent in the matters of war and exceedingly arrogant in their abilities.

However, in 1298, Sir William lost at the Battle of Falkirk. I personally believe that the only reason he lost at Falkirk was because he was betrayed by some of the Scottish Noblemen who refused to fight against the British.” The scent of the chicken rose up from the plates, but Scott left his meal as untouched as Richard had left his. His own attention had been fully captivated by the man’s story. Richard went on, his tone compelling Scott to hang onto his every word. “It is recorded that the Noblemen appeared on the battlefield to make Sir William think that they were there to fight with him when instead they turned and being the cowards that they were, rode away as soon as the battle began. Not long after the loss at Falkirk in 1299, Sir William went to France to gain their support for Scotland. After three years, Sir William returned to Scotland, and there he was once again betrayed by his friend, another Scottish baron John de Menteith, and captured outside of Glasgow. With friends like that, who needs enemies, right, Scott?”

Richard opened the other book and continued, “Sir William was arrested and taken to Westminster Hall, where he was tried for treason. His response to the charges of treason was recorded as follows, “I cannot be a traitor. He is not my sovereign; he never received my homage.” He closes the book, “Sir William was correct. He should have never been tried for treason. I will not go into the details of his torture during our meal. I will say that Sir William Wallace was murdered in a most barbaric fashion.” Richard appeared to be disgusted concerning the treatment of Sir William Wallace, a sentiment that Scott shared, too, but hid beneath a carefully schooled expression.

Even so, Scott had heard these stories before but never with such passion as this. Richard sits and begins to eat. Taking some chicken and placing it in a piece of bread, he looked at Scott and continued, “Be not mistaken. I am Scottish through and through; however, I do understand the meaning of conquest. It happens time and time again throughout history. One civilization will rise, and another will fall. The ones that survive will be the ones that know how to adapt to the changes. No one ever said that life was fair, and sometimes a just and moral civilization will rise while an evil one falls. Other times an evil civilization will rise, while a just and moral one will fall. It can be a very complicated subject if one chooses for it to be.”

Scott began to eat his own chicken and bread, but it was an afterthought as Richard picked up his narrative once again, “My point is that we live in an ever-changing world and if we are to thrive in that ever-changing world, we must learn to change with it. My father would strongly disagree with this philosophy, for he believes that we should live in this world but not be a part of this world. I find that to be very contradictory. Does one not have to earn a living in order to pay for their food and shelter? What kind of food would one want to eat? What kind of shelter would one want to inhabit? It is thoughts like these that would have never allowed me to succeed in the ministry. For I do enjoy good food, and I do enjoy a nice dwelling, so here I am, doing what I can to provide. I earn much, and I give freely. For we are here but a short time, and tomorrow holds no guarantee. Most importantly is the fact that we will take nothing with us to the afterlife.”

To his immense surprise, Scott agreed and felt that he could talk to Richard about anything and not be frowned upon or labeled insane or even worse: an enemy of the crown. “Have you been to Lanark, sir?” Scott asked, opening the door to more meaningful conversation. “I have not,” Richard replied, taking another bite of bread and chicken. He chewed it quickly and swallowed before clarifying, “My work keeps me traveling most of the time.” Looking at the vast number of books, Scott asked, “Have you read all of these books?” “Not all of them,” Richard replied soberly. “One day, perhaps.”

The evening continued with discussions concerning the history of Scotland, business opportunities in America, as well as un-explainable things most people would rather not talk about. Scott opened up and spoke freely, enjoying their discussions throughout the night. Richard was the first person that he truly felt comfortable talking with. They talked until the early hours of the morning, and with less than one hour of sleep, he needed to get moving if he was going to make it home by sundown.

As he was preparing to leave, Richard gave him a box and said, “I had my cook prepare some provisions for your trip. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversations and hope that I will see you again one day.” Shaking hands, Scott said, truthfully, “I too enjoyed our conversations. It is not often that I meet someone who is willing to converse on esoteric subjects. Most of the time, I have those conversations with myself.”

Richard laughs and says, “Me too. Take care, my friend.” Scott gives Richard a firm, friendly pat on the back and says, “You too, my friend. Until next time.”

Climbing onto the wagon, he releases the brake and with a quick shake of the reins and a click of his tongue, signals the horses. As he rode away towards Lanark, he could not help but rethink his position concerning the English and those who were friends of the Crown. Here was a friend of the British Crown that he could openly talk with, regardless of the subject. As he traveled down the narrow road, he came to realize that he no longer had any disdain for the English people or any culture as a whole, and from here on out, he would consider each individual based on their own actions. It was a good day to contemplate things that most people would rather not talk about – a perfect day for a daydreamer.

Richard Oswald watched Scott Jemison for a moment longer and couldn’t help but think that he had been visited by a distant relative of Sir William Wallace. The farmhand had his horse and buggy ready to go, and Richard turned his attention to his work at the church. He climbed onto the padded seat and, with a quick shake of the reins, was off towards the church as the giant Shire trotted along effortlessly.

Upon reaching the church, he parked his buggy in the usual location to the east of the cemetery under a small oak tree. The laborers were already at work when he arrived. Inspecting their work, he is pleased with the progress and anticipates its completion of phase one by the end of the day. Reverend McQuhae should be returning from his trip to Edinburgh, and Richard could not wait to show him the new Bibles. He had not mentioned it to anyone as he wanted it to be a surprise for the congregation.

Reverend McQuhae was a typical Scottish man with a witty personality. Tall and lanky with shiny black hair and deep blue eyes, his cheerful disposition would always bring a smile to those around him. As a learned man who had found incredible interest in the holy teachings, he found joy in spreading the word of God amongst his congregants, and all those who would listen. Richard Oswald could see that Reverend McQuhae was an able man of business, and considered the restoration of the St. Quivox church to be a good investment with Reverend McQuhae overseeing the project.

That afternoon upon seeing the new Bibles, Reverend McQuhae thanked Richard repeatedly. He clasped Richard’s hands, “Sunday will be a special day for the congregation, Mr. Oswald.” Richard smiles and says, “Every Sunday is a special day, Reverend.” He had been using the Reverend’s desk during the renovation and begins to clean it off as he continues, “It is my pleasure to help you and the congregation in any way I can.”

The Reverend continues to thank Richard, “The church has come a long way since you purchased the estate, sir. Many of us believe that you were sent from heaven, and we are very thankful for all that you have done for our small congregation.”

Laughing, Richard shakes his head and replies, “I have not been sent from heaven, Reverend, but thank you anyway. The repairs should be completed today, and tomorrow will be spent cleaning up. The laborers will continue their work Monday as there is still much to be done. I’m turning this project over to you and will be preparing for my trip to London. I plan on leaving early Saturday morning, and James, my caretaker, has been instructed to assist you in anything you may need.”

“Again, sir, I do not know how to thank you. We deeply appreciate all that you have done,” Reverend McQuhae said as he looked at the crate of bibles again, clearly thinking about the hope and joy that would bloom in the congregation at the sight of them. Having cleared the desk of all his paperwork, Richard reaches into the box and removes one of the new Bibles, and says, “You’re welcome, Reverend. I’ll take one of these for my library and will be at my home until Saturday, should you need anything.”

Shaking the Reverend's hand, he turns and makes his way back to the small oak tree. The following Sunday morning, Reverend McQuhae is at the church early to prepare for his sermon. He sits the crate of Bibles in front of his podium to show the generous gift that Richard had donated to the congregation. A gift that, Reverend McQuhae suspected, would continue to keep on giving for years and generations to come. There were fifty-nine Bibles left in the crate, and these particular Bibles were to be given to everyone that was baptized with the hope that it would be the first book a child was to receive. Reverend McQuhae placed his hand on the crate reverently and wondered how long it would take to baptize fifty-nine children and hoped that this might be a sign that more people would be joining the congregation.

About the author

Born in Pensacola, Florida, Stephen spent his wonder years growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada. The past several years of his working career he held a mechanical engineering position with Army Special Forces. Once retired, Stephen began a new chapter in his book of life writing about a family bible... view profile

Published on December 20, 2020

90000 words

Genre: Historical Fiction