Shadowbrook: A Novel of Love, War, and the Birth of America

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9780743228121: Shadowbrook: A Novel of Love, War, and the Birth of America
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A novelization of the seven-year conflict between French and English forces that took place just prior to the American Revolution is set in an Ohio Country glen and finds a gentleman-turned-scout, a half-Native American woodsman, and a chaste young woman experiencing profound life changes. 40,000 first printing.

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About the Author:

Beverly Swerling is a writer, consultant, and amateur historian. She lives in New York City with her husband.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

Wednesday, May 27, 1754
Québec, New France

Miserere mei, Deus...Have mercy on me, Lord, according to the greatness of Your mercy.

The five women had no mercy on themselves.

They beat their backs with knotted cords. Each wore a black veil, pulled forward so it shadowed her face, and a thin gray robe called a night habit.

The blows rose and fell, hitting first one shoulder then the other, and every third stroke, the most sensitive skin on the back of the neck. Occasionally a small gasp escaped one of the women, barely audible above the singsong Latin chant. De profundis clamavi ad te, Dominum...Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord. Domine, exaudi vocem meam. Lord, hear my voice.

The narrow rectangular space was lit by twelve tall white candles. The whitewashed stone walls reflected the elongated shadows of the women, who knelt one behind the other on the bare stone floor. Occasionally, when the woman in front of her managed to find a new burst of strength, a spurt of blood would spatter the one behind.

The knotted cords were carefully crafted, fashioned to a centuries-old design. The length must be from shoulder to thumb of the woman who would use it, the rope sturdy and two fingers thick. The seven knots were spaced evenly from end to end. It was called the discipline and was given to each nun on the day she made her vows as a follower of St. Francis, a Poor Clare of the Strict Observance of St. Colette.

Quoniam non est in morte qui memor sit tui...It is not in death that You are remembered, Lord. In inferno autem quis confitebitur tibi...In the eternal fire who will recall You?

An iron grille in the front of the cloister chapel enclosed the holy of holies, the small ornate tabernacle containing the wafers that had been consecrated in Holy Mass and were now the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The grille was covered by heavy curtains so those on the other side in the visitors' chapel could not see the strictly enclosed daughters of St. Clare.

In the middle of that Wednesday night only one person was present in the public section of the chapel, a man who knelt upright with his arms outstretched in the position of his crucified Lord. He could hear the soft, sighing sounds of the knotted ropes punishing soft female flesh. His shoulders twitched occasionally in response.

Antoine Pierre de Rubin Montaigne of the Friars Minor was also a follower of St. Francis, a priest of what the Church called the Seraphic Order, men who had originally vowed to own nothing and beg for their daily bread. The rule had been modified over the five centuries since Blessed Francis preached the glories of Lady Poverty, but its priests retained the humble title "Father." Rubin Montaigne was Père Antoine to all, most especially the women on the other side of the altar screen.

In the nuns' chapel the pace of the scourging had become more urgent by the time of the great cry of the Miserere: Have pity on me, Lord, for I perish. The cords flicked through the air too quickly to be seen, white blurs in the candlelit gloom.

Père Antoine, Delegate of the Franciscan Minister General in Rome, the ultimate authority for members of the order in New France, had decreed that in addition to the traditional scourging that took place every Friday before dawn, the Poor Clares of Québec would take the discipline every Monday and Wednesday after the midnight office of Matins. They would offer this special penance until the territory the British called the Ohio Country, but which had long been claimed in the name of Louis XV, was made secure, truly part of New France. When Holy Mother Church moved south to convert the native tribes, these nuns and their scars would be the jewels in her crown.

Turn Your face from my sins and all my iniquities shall be forgotten...

None wielded the discipline with greater vigor than Mère Marie Rose, Abbess. The shoulders of her night habit were stiff with the caked blood of past scourgings. When they buried her the garment would serve as her shroud, and she had already issued instructions that it should not be laundered. She would go to her grave with the evidence of her fervor.

Iniquitatem meum ergo cognosco...My sins are known to You.

For my sins, for the sins of my daughters, for the glory of God. The words filled the abbess's mind, blended with the pain, the chant uniting the two, pulsing in her blood. Miserere...Have mercy, Lord. On the king. On this New France. On our brave soldiers.

The shoulder muscles of Père Antoine were on fire. His arms felt like lead weights, but he did not allow them to drop. The pain was a kind of ecstasy and he exulted in it. For the Church. For the Order. For the conquest of the land below the pays d'en haut and the defeat of the heretic English.

Copyright © 2004 by MichaelA, Ltd.

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