Dawn on a Distant Shore

Page 1

Prologue

To the Earl of Carryck

Carryckcastle

Annandale

Scotland

My Lord,

Allow me to report success: at long last I have located the man I believe to be your cousin. He is known as Dan'l Bonner, called Hawkeye by his associates, Indian and White. Even if there were not plentiful documentary evidence that he is your uncle Jamie Scott's son by Margaret Montgomerie, the sight of him alone would convince anyone that he is indeed a Scott of Carryck.

Bonner resides on the northernmost frontier of the State of New-York, where he was raised--as you always believed--by ationatives. I trust you will be pleased to learn that he took as guidwife a Scotswoman (now deceased), whose father was, by fortunate circumstance, a Munro cadet of Foulis. She bore a son, called Nathaniel, now some thirty-six years of age, in robust health andwitha new guidwife in hopeful expectation. Both father and son have made their living as hunters and trappers in the wilderness that the Natives call the endless forests, between this place and the Mohawk Valley. That is where I found Nathaniel, who then directed me here to Montréal. He is a likely young man, and I believe you will be well pleased with him.

Before I can carry out the task entrusted to me and convey Bonner and his son home to Carryck, Dan'l must first be disengaged from the military garrison where he is currently being held for questioning, in the matter of a large shipment of the King's gold, missing for some forty years.

You see that the family resemblance is more than simple physiognomy.

I have had word from Pickering, who has docked the Isis at Halifax, but first getting to Bonner is a very complicated undertaking, and one which may require some drastic steps. The whole venture is made even more complex by the interference of the Lieutenant Governor, Lord Bainbridge. My Lord will remember Pink George from the unfortunate incident with the pig, I trust. He, at any rate, has not forgot it.

Yours at command, My Lord

Angus Moncrieff

Montréal, this third day of January,

1794

To Mr. Nathaniel Bonner

Paradise, on the West Branch of the Sacandaga

State of New-York

Sir--

With the prodigious help of Rab MacLachlan and your excellent directions, I have found your father. Unfortunately, the Lieutenant Governor had found him first and he paces a cell in the garrison gaol while being questioned on a matter referred to only as the "Tory gold," details of which MacLachlan scruples to share with me. While I have seen your father for only a moment I can report that he seems to be in good health. A message in two parts:

First, a young man called Otter, of the Mohawk (or Kahnyen'kehâka as I understand they call themselves), was arrested with him, but is unharmed. Second, your father believes that a "visit to the pomkin patch" is the only way to resolve his current difficulties.

If, as I suspect, this means that you will be coming to Montréal, I beg you to call on me in my rooms in the rue St. Gabriel. You will find me to be an experienced and willing assistant in the garden. I ask only for your father's ear for an hour to present my lordship's case.

I believe your lady's time must be close at hand. Please allow me to send my very best wishes for her safe delivery, and for the continuing health of your entire family.

Your Willing Servant

Angus Moncrieff

Secretary and Factor to the Earl of Carryck

Montréal, this third day of January,  1794

PART I

North to Canada

1 February, 1794

On the edge of the New-York wilderness

In the middle of a blizzard in the second half of the hardest, snowiest winter anyone in Paradise could remember, Elizabeth Middleton Bonner, sweat soaked, naked, and adrift in burning pain, wondered if she might just die of the heat.

Once again she grabbed the leather straps tied to the bed frame to haul herself forward, and bore down with all her considerable strength.

"Come, little one," sang the girl who crouched, waiting, at the foot of the bed. Her ten-year-old face was alight with excitement and fierce concentration, her bloodied hands outstretched, beckoning.

From a basket before the warmth of the hearth came the high, keen wail of Elizabeth's firstborn: a daughter, just twenty minutes old.

"Come, child," crooned Hannah. "We are waiting for you."

We are all waiting for you.

In the grip of a contraction that threatened to set her on fire, Elizabeth bore down again and was rewarded with the blessed sight of a crowning head. With shaking fingers she touched the slick, wet curls and her own flesh, stretched drumtight: her body on the brink of splitting itself in two.

One last time, one last time, one last time. She strained, feeling the child flex and turn, feeling its will, as strong as her own. Elizabeth blinked the sweat from her eyes and looked up to find Hannah's gaze fixed on her.

"Let him come," the girl said in Kahnyen'kehâka. "It is his time."

Elizabeth pushed. In a rush of fluid her son, blue-white and already howling, slid out into her stepdaughter's waiting hands. With a groan of relief and thanksgiving, Elizabeth collapsed backward.

For one sweet moment, the wailing of the newborns was louder than the scream of the blizzard rampaging through the endless forests. Their father was out there, trying to make his way home to them. With her arms crossed over the warm, squirming bundles Hannah laid against her skin, Elizabeth muttered a prayer for Nathaniel Bonner's safe delivery from the storm.

As Elizabeth labored, the small handful of farmers and trappers with the good sense to be stranded by the blizzard in Paradise's only tavern sat huddled over cards and ale, waiting out the weather. While the winds worked the rafters like starving wolves at a carcass, they told stories in easy, slurred voices, but they watched their cards and tankards and the long, straight back of the man who stood, motionless, at the window.

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