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Twelve-year-old John Smythe lay flat on the floor of the dark hallway. His right ear was pressed against the crack under the door to the parlor. He strained to make out what his parents' low voices were saying. Just then, John heard footsteps running down the hall, and before he could move, hard wooden shoes ran into his side. "Oomph!" John quickly covered his mouth to muffle the groan he couldn't hold back. Rubbing his bruised body, he shifted position and looked up at his ten-year-old sister, Sarah.
"Shh," he hissed. Sarah clasped her hands against the long, white apron that covered her dark work dress and demanded, "John Smythe, what are you doing? If Father and Mother catch you, they'll-" "They won't if you keep your voice down," he warned in a whisper. "I want to know what they're saying." "You're spying!" Sarah accused. "Aren't you ever going to grow up? You're twelve years old-almost a man-not a three-year-old child to be listening at doors!" "Can't you be quiet?" John hissed. He reached up a strong, wiry arm and pulled her down next to him. "You need to hear this, Sarah. It concerns us." Excitement filled his voice.
"I don't care," she whispered back. "It's wrong to listen in on others." Sarah started to scramble up, but her father's raised voice pinned her to the floor beside John. "I see no help for it, Abigail. If we are to remain strong and true, we cannot stay longer in Holland."
"But William," Mother protested. "Is there no other way?"
Father spoke again. "Holland offered us a place of refuge and peace when we needed it. But now it is time to move on. Holland can never be our real home." He sounded sad. "Was it not enough that we fled England before John and Sarah were born?" Mother cried. John and Sarah looked at each other with concern. They rarely heard their parents disagree with each other like this. "We've been here twelve years, William. Now you wish to uproot us again." "We must find a country where we can worship freely, a place where our church will be safe from bad influences," Father replied. A long silence followed. John edged closer to the door, not wanting to miss a single word. Move? When? Where? Surely they would not return to England, where they had been persecuted for worshiping God in their own way. News from across the water said things were no better in England now than when the first of their people had fled to Holland. "I wonder if there is such a place this side of heaven." Mother sounded like she wanted to cry. "Where do you and the other men have in mind for us to go?" John felt Sarah grab his arm. They both held their breath, waiting for Father's answer. Father's deep voice rolled out like thunder. "The New World. America." "America!" John forgot all about the need for silence and let out a whoop of delight. He rose to his knees and grabbed Sarah's hand. "Did you hear that?" "Shh!" Sarah ordered, but it was too late. Quick footsteps sounded from the parlor, and the door was flung open wide. Off balance, John clutched harder at his sister's hand, but he couldn't save himself from falling. He sprawled inside the parlor, dragging Sarah with him and landing on one elbow. "Ow!" He released his sister, blinked in the more brightly lit room, and rubbed his elbow.
Mother gasped in dismay. "What is the meaning of this?" Father's stern voice brought John to his feet. Glancing at his sister, John could see Sarah's face was red with shame and that she was blinking hard to keep back the tears that filled her green eyes. "It's not her fault," John confessed. His straight, cropped, brown hair shone in the candlelight. The big brown eyes that sometimes looked innocent and at other times sparkled with mischief looked enormous. "Sarah came in and stumbled over me. I told her to stay." He swallowed hard, stopped rubbing his sore elbow, and mumbled, "You always say Sarah is her brother's keeper. She tried to make me stop spying, but I wanted to hear." John's heart warmed a little as he caught Sarah's grateful look, but Father's answer took away the good feeling. "I don't find in the Bible that being a brother's keeper means joining in his mischief if he doesn't stop when warned." Sarah stumbled to her feet and stood behind John. Together they awaited judgment. While Father and Mother loved their children, they also expected John and Sarah to obey. "I'm disappointed in you both," Mother told them. Sarah dug her toe into the woven rug and avoided looking at her mother's eyes that were so much like her own. "So am I." Father sounded disapproving. "Sit down, please." He waited until they sat, facing each other. "I am particularly disappointed in you because of what lies ahead." He sighed and a shadow crossed his face. "In a short time, many of our people will be leaving Holland." "For America," John eagerly said. Father looked at him sternly. John bit his lip and looked miserable. "Most of the other families will be leaving all but their oldest children in Holland, but if your mother and I decide to go, we will want to keep our family together." "You mean we would leave Holland forever?" Sarah twisted her hands beneath her apron and stared at her parents. "But what about all our friends? I've never lived anywhere but here in Leiden, and I don't want to leave Gretchen behind." Father closed his eyes for a moment. "Leaving friends is never easy. When your mother and I left England and moved to Holland, we, too, had to leave the village we had grown up in. You've heard us tell you the story many times. But maybe telling you more of the details will help you understand why we may have to leave Leiden now." "You lived in Scrooby, didn't you, Father?" John asked eagerly. "Yes," Father replied, looking out the darkened window as if he could see his childhood home. "It was a poor English village on the Great North Road between London and Edinburgh, Scotland. The road had a big name, but it was actually a narrow dirt lane used by rich people who came to hunt red deer in Sherwood Forest." "We lived in a simple cottage," Mother continued, "but nearby was a great manor house, surrounded by a moat. The house was so large it contained everything anyone needed, including a bakery and even a chapel. But only the people from the manor house and their guests could hunt the deer. Those of us in the village lived on porridge and bread. As a special treat, sometimes we'd get a bit of fish or meat." "That doesn't seem fair," John interrupted. "God made the deer, didn't He? So why couldn't everyone hunt them?" "The deer were claimed by the king, and it was against the law for poor people who needed food to hunt them," explained his father. "Anyone caught hunting or eating the king's deer was punished-some were even hanged." "How awful!" Sarah's green eyes flashed, and she tossed her head so hard that her long brown braids bounced against her back. "But that wasn't the worst problem we faced," her mother added. "Because we wouldn't worship God the way King James wanted us to, we couldn't go to church. We had to meet in barns like criminals." "Why did King James tell you how to worship God?" Sarah wanted to know. "He said that 'kings are God's lieutenants and sit on God's throne,'" Father explained. "Everyone else had to do just what he said. We couldn't even ask questions! The king was afraid. If common people like us were allowed to choose their own church leaders and worship the way they believed God wanted them to, King James worried that they'd want to do the same thing in government. Then he wouldn't be so powerful. "Our leaders became concerned about how we would survive. Elder Brewster, Edward Winslow, and William Bradford met secretly in a barn to discuss possible solutions." "Didn't William Bradford become part of our group when he was only seventeen?" John asked. "Yes, he did," Father answered. "That action angered the aunts and uncles who had brought him up-William's parents died when he was about nine. William's uncles ordered him, 'Give up this path to destruction. If you join that treasonous, despised group, the king's tax collectors will surely seize your land. You will be penniless, scorned, and driven out of the country.' "William proudly said, 'I accept the king as ruler of the country. I pay my taxes but kneel to no man. I also choose my own way to worship God.'" John's face glowed with pride as he thought of what courage it had taken for seventeen-year-old William Bradford to take such a stand. "So what happened at the meeting?" Sarah asked. "The meeting in the barn started with prayer," Father answered. "Then Elder Brewster's voice rang out: 'Our people must suffer at the hands of the king's men no more! We have been taxed unmercifully. How can we go on living in a country where desperate persons are hanged for stealing a loaf of bread to keep their little ones from starving? We here this day are in danger of being thrown into jail for the rest of our lives. Or hanged on the gallows for daring to worship God in our own way! Thousands of the poor can find no work. They-' "A horse neighed, and Elder Brewster stopped talking," Father said. "Heavy footsteps thudded on the hard ground outside the barn. William Bradford held up a warning hand. The wooden door slowly creaked open."
Excerpted from Sisters in Time Sarah's New World by Colleen L. Reece Copyright © 2004 by Barbour Publishing, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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|3.||A Startling Announcement||25|
|4.||Only the Brave||35|
|5.||The Speedwell Doesn't!||47|
|6.||"I'll Feed You to the Fishes!"||57|
|8.||Pilgrims, Strangers, and Sailors||75|
|9.||Storm at Sea||83|
|10.||Where Did Everyone Go?||91|
|11.||What Happened to All the Food?||97|
|12.||Mischief on the Mayflower||105|
|13.||A Sad Day at Sea||113|