ISAAC AND MAGGIE Once the teamsters had organized the procession of travelers, Isaac went to say goodbye to Maggie. He thought the day was looking lowery and pressed the beaver hat tighter on his head. “I don’t look forward to riding in the wet,” he told Maggie. “Will you make it home today?” she asked. “We’ll be lucky to make Taunton and sleep there. It’s fifty miles to Acushnet.” “Please have them be careful with the loom. It is very expensive.” “Of course,” Isaac assured her. “I’m a good weaver. My cloth is sold in the shops. You’ll be glad you married me,” Maggie insisted. Isaac looked at her blankly. “I can read and write, Isaac. Even some French. And I can play music and have learned a dance or two. I am used to cleanliness and cutlery and plates. I don’t want to be an old maid.” “Old maid? You’re only eighteen!” “I’m frightened, and I cannot gure out what you’re thinking.” Isaac did not know what to say. “Here, I’ve made you a present, Isaac. A whip string. I have been working on it for a week.” “Thank you. It’s well-made. When did you fashion it?” “Mostly by candlelight while you slept. I’ve been too excited to sleep.” “Why would you want to marry me?” he asked. “Because your image is drawn on my soul. It is a true union.” “Maggie, I am not a good or virtuous man. I am standing on a very slippery place, and the devil could fall upon me in a moment.” “I have faith in you, Isaac Jenney. You are justified by my faith, don’t you see?” “Your heart is talking and not your head,” Isaac said. “You will feel changed after we wed,” Maggie declared. “I will give you new birth.” “We’re strangers.” “We are pilgrims together.” “I have nothing to give you.” “Love is a gift, and you will give me that. You think too much, Isaac. Isn’t it enough to enjoy a few moments of happiness in a world we can’t control? Let yourself be happy. Accept what I can give you.” “I don’t feel in control of my life,” Isaac said. “I feel that way also. This is bigger than the two of us. I believe God is in control, Isaac. I am meant to marry you. That is the cause between us. God has made a covenant with me. I will be your wife and I will bear your children. I hear the voice within, and I will share that covenant with you.” “It’s Providence, then? Is that really true?” “God said it, and I say it to you, Isaac Jenney: Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for my love is strong as death. Many waters cannot quench my love, and neither can floods drown it.” He gazed at his beautiful young bride-to-be, her red hair escaping the confines of her bonnet. Talk of covenants flooded his mind. God had established an everlasting covenant with the biblical Isaac and his descendants. That Isaac of old had found his wife, Rebekah, as if by God’s design. He had brought her home from another village and they had children together. As Isaac turned his horse and waved good-bye to Maggie, he remembered one other thing about Rebekah: she had tricked the biblical Isaac and forever altered the fate of his family.
THE COREYS NOTICE! Benjamin Corey, your Constable and Neighbor, is a Tippler and a Wife-Beater! Have you seen him haunting the taverns? Did you think it was just Mister T’otherpot? There must be some reason you did not send him home in his Right Mind! Instead, he paws through every crevice of the house, searching for more of the poison already boiling in his blood. But I have poured it outside in the dirt. Have you not seen my wounds, Neighbors? Are not Good Christian men and women called to protect one another from harm? Can you see past my burns to the bruises Mister Corey inflicts on me almost daily? Our Son is beaten, also. You must look with care because he measures out his abuse carefully so that no one will notice. Is your Constable employed to beat and jail Criminals or his Family? In his fits of devotion to Bacchus he regularly flogs his wife and child and locks them in the Cold Gaol without nourishment or heat. Why do you continue to sell him the spirits that destroy his soul and home? Soon we will be without a roof or hearth because he spends our last dollars on rum. I am Hannah Corey. Let me introduce you, Fellow Citizens, to the real Benjamin Corey, the man you call Constable and Friend. Let me introduce you to a drunkard and a swine. Of this authenticity, you can be assured. I made his birthday cake from pig swill and he ate it happily, grunting with pleasure!
JAMES The sea began to rise, a huge upwelling like a wave rising out of nowhere, lifting the boats skyward. “You wish to see the face of God, then behold!” screamed Arlen above the rush of water. As if something from a dream, the great whale breached the surface, rising so high as to block the sun from James’s view, leaving him to watch in the shadow as everything but the flukes cleared the surface. The massive animal—eighty feet or more in length, weighing tons, bigger than a ship— hovered momentarily in the air and then fell like a deafening thunderclap, displacing a wave that overturned Arlen’s boat and nearly swamped James’s. One hundred twenty barrels at least! James thought. Arlen scrambled to save his floundering crew and right his boat while James ordered his men to bail and bail quickly. The whale was circling, emptying his enormous lungs in moist, hoarse breaths. Stopping not far away, the whale came to a halt, head up, and rotated, it’s oxeyes above the water observing the whaleboats. Most often, bulls would turn flukes when boats were encountered, but this one simply watched. “To the oars!” James commanded. “Lay backs to it! Pull!” “Stop!” cried Arlen. “She’s pitchpoling. Stay away!” James closed the distance quickly, cajoling his crew to smash every oar in their assault on the whale. Portugee stood in the bow with the harpoon, but just as he was about to launch it, the whale sank below the surface. “Stern hard! Stern hard!” James ordered, but before they could move the boat, the whale reappeared, rolling on its side with its jaw open, intent on the whaleboat. The pink mouth and great white teeth slowly engulfed the boat at the stern and then closed like a massive press, crushing the light boat to splinters and spilling the crew into the sea. Time moved in slow motion for James. He was caught with his legs astraddle the jaws, one leg free and the other between the teeth and the stern. Slowly he was lifted high out of the water and then felt his leg snap as the pressure crushed the boat. Below, part of the boat floated like debris, and to it Portugee hauled a crewman for safety. In the distance, he saw another man tossed into the air by the flukes like a helpless doll, flopping back down into the water just before the flukes crashed back down like a gunshot, throwing spray into the air. Butter teeth, the King of Terrors, he thought. The trap door to hell. Just as slowly as he had risen, James now felt himself descending, and the whale took him under, all sounds of the world above disappearing, replaced with only a deafening rush. After a few seconds, the great mandible opened and James’s head collided with the wreckage of the stern underwater as they swirled together. Confused and disoriented, he floated upward, bobbing to the surface and gulping air as he flailed his arms. He wondered how long he could stay afloat, and then remembered he was hopelessly alone on the bottomless sea.