America's first populist rebellion sweeps a young apprentice from England into a maelstrom in seventeenth-century Virginia. John Cleburne is an apprentice for a furniture craftsman in Bristol, England who seeks a better life in Virginia. A long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean ends in a shipwreck on the North Carolina coast and a difficult overland journey to Jamestown. Here the apprentices soon become indentured servants and begin the backbreaking work of tobacco farming in a formidable frontier surrounded by native tribes, both friendly and unfriendly. They right away become acquainted with the Royal Governor's corrupt administration and the brewing revolt among the colonists resentful of the favoritism and dishonesty threatening the colony's existence.
Excerpt from Chapter V, Rebellion:
"This water makes me bloody sick," Garvin finally said, stepping into the mud while reaching down into the water with his bucket. "That water on the farm treats me system better. This bloody, dirty river water gives me the flix! Another hex on it by those savages, I would wager." Garvin was a young man of sixteen and much shorter than John. His pocked face was highlighted by bushy, blonde eyebrows while his thin, sandy hair fell haphazardly across his forehead.
John moved farther up the bank to get away from the muddy water stirred about by Garvin. A thin coating of ice, easily broken, skirted each side of the river. John reached down, broke off a piece and popped it in his mouth. "Nonsense! Indians have no such powers."
"What?" Garvin asked as he and John stopped for a moment at the wagon. "You do not believe in curses or hexes?"
"Of course not!" John laughed. "And for the life of me, I cannot understand how good Christian men and women can believe in such things."
"Well, my dear mother was the finest Christian woman in Virginia! She taught me the rules of the real world."
"And what rules are you speaking of, might I ask?"
Garvin put down his bucket, moved closer to John and said in a whispering voice, "There are some people born with special powers. We English call them witches, but the natives welcome these kinds in their tribes. The fellow with the greatest unearthly powers becomes very important to the chief and the whole tribe. He doctors the sick, acts as the go-between with their gods, and curses those that make themselves enemies of the tribe."
John was silent for a moment while warily eying the young man. "Pick up your bucket!" he ordered. "We're almost finished."
"Suspicious still, Mr. Cleburne? What do you think caused this drought?"
"I supposed it was lack of rain."
"I know that! I was just saying that the Indian problems of the past few months are connected with the dry weather. Their men with the special powers have cursed us all! They are warring against us on the one hand and trying to starve us all with a cursed growing season!"
"You're daft!" John insisted as the two lifted their last buckets onto the wagon. "No old savage can stop the rain or hex us with some Indian sorcery."
"Believe what you may, but I know drinking this river water gives my bowels a misery!"
"Climb aboard," John ordered while scowling at Garvin. "This kind of talk gives my bowels a misery. You would probably go a hunting for dragons in the swamp if someone told you such animals existed."
The two boarded the wagon and John snapped the reins several times forcing the horses to pull the heavy load up the bank, spilling some of the precious water. Just as they topped the incline facing toward Dragon Bridge, several horsemen could be seen through the trees approaching from the south. All were carrying guns and looked to be a part of a small militia on a training mission. John halted the wagon for a moment while he and Garvin watched the men continue to emerge from the trees and pass across the bridge.
"Must be a hundred of them!"
"Quiet!" John insisted. "I'm not sure as to whether our presence best be known." Hardly had the words passed through his lips when two of the horsemen broke away from the rest and spurred their horses to gallop toward their two onlookers.
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