Passage to Freedom

Sept. 1, 2017 on | 5.0 out of 5 stars

By Scarlett Jensen

Format: Kindle Edition

Wayne Clark is a Montreal writer and author of the international award-winning literary fiction novel he & She. In addition to writing fiction he has worked as a journalist, copywriter and translator.

As a well- seasoned writer, he is successful in the structuring of a consistent and intelligent content which accompanies the realistic enviroment and historic detail of the time. His sensitivity creates different moods representative of his well-considered character descriptions, engaging the reader to feel the same.

The story starts in October 29, 1748, Bordeaux, France.

It was the highlight of Sarah’s week when her father, Gabriel Da Silva, signaled for her and her older brother Jacob to prepare themselves to accompany him while he conducted business on the quays of Bordeaux. Sarah, the youngest, was only 17 but she was already taller than her father, and almost as tall as her brother, two years her elder.

The story:

Illness suddenly deprives 17-year-old Sarah Da Silva and her older brother Jacob of a mother. Before Sarah has come to terms with that loss, her merchant father grows frail and increasingly desperate in the face of impending bankruptcy. On the rainy night their father scours the docks of Bordeaux, France, to make his final bid to save his family, his children are kidnapped and forced onto a ship bound for New York City where they’ll be separated and sold to the highest bidder as indentured labor.

Purchased by a grotesque merchant whose wealth, backed by a team of henchmen, allows him to dominate the chaotic East River docks, Sarah strikes back the only way she can. Vowing to never allow him to put his hands on her again, she presses a knife to his fat neck. She demands her freedom, a roof over her head and the means to start a business. Her leverage? Knowledge obtained on the voyage that would bring the big man to his knees forever. He yields to her demands but privately swears to become her worst nightmare.

Sarah has fear and hurt so well decribed:

“Sarah began to feel hurt. It wasn’t the same kind

of passing hurt she felt when her father didn’t laugh at one of her little jokes. At first, she felt this hurt had no source. It was just there, a kind of haunting presence.”

The captain of the ship Yorkton:

Sarah says:

“That foul man kidnapped us, Jacob, and threw us in a stinking hole, and every day since he has lied to us and used us to his ends. Yet there he is letting his chest swell at the thought of the goodness he has bestowed upon us. I know where I’d like to pass his torch…”

The businessman, Zachariah Croman set eyes on Sarah, he turned to the captain of the Yorkton, who had arrived with Sarah and Jacob in tow, claimed Sarah: On the three subsequent visits, Croman wore his linen waistcoat. He seldom said a word while he had his way with her against the same wall. The belly that pinned her grew to the size of a nightmare.

Sarah and Jacob were separated:

“At the moment, dear sister, I am better in servitude with a full stomach. My master says I am suited to this work, to engraving. He says I have the eye to become a master, too. Maybe then I’ll have my own business.” Jacob was not only alive, but alive inside and out. Sarah beamed. “Show me what it is you do, oh happy slave brother of mine.”

Sarah’s commerce had been growing rapidly since her return, when she assiduously did the rounds of medium-to-large merchants to acquaint them with her inventory and prices. She-merchants were becoming almost commonplace and Sarah was able to compensate for the disadvantage of being young and pretty, and therefore frivolous, by a confidence born of a lifetime of experience in business.

Since revealing her plan to Jacob and Noah to rid her life of Croman once and for all, and have her indentureship declared null and void, she had scarcely slept. That was three days ago. The three of them had sat in the rain on the wharf facing the tavern. The rain provided relief from the relentless heat of the past week. It also assured them of privacy.

Sarah’s plan in a letter to the authorities:

The letter states that Croman has commanded Captain Marcellus Flemming, of the brig Yorkton, to take by force if necessary, young persons of French nationality in the port of Bordeaux, France, of sound body sufficient to the performance of the tasks required of indentured servants in this city.

Furthermore, the two such persons, named Jacob and Sarah Da Silva, of Bordeaux, France were brought to the New World colony against their will in the year 1748. Desirous of acting according to the law, the girl should be released the from her indentureship. Her brother Jacob was sold to a local engraver, by the name of Henry Fitler, of Broad Street. This impropriety should be brought to his immediate intention.

Part Two of the plan was now complete. Armed with this letter, not only could Sarah pursue Jacob’s freedom, she could hold their crime over the heads of both Croman and the captain. By itself, it would not be regarded as a serious offense. Kidnapping of people to be indentured was not uncommon. But Sarah sensed it might turn out to be worth its weight in gold should Croman refuse to comply with the Part Three of her plan. The effort to write the longer letter left Croman moaning. Sarah was deaf to it. “Now we have arrived at the final item of business. Listen carefully. Do not interrupt, and know that my demands are beyond discussion.” Croman was breathing heavily. “You will acknowledge in writing that on at least six occasions you violated me in your very offices, threatening to throw me out of the lodgings you provided under my illegal indentureship if I spoke a word of the atrocities you have inflicted upon me. ”

“Secondly, you will immediately, that is before you go to Philadelphia, find proper lodgings for me. These will be private lodgings, which will remain at your expense forever. You will testify that this does not reflect generosity on your part but a God-fearing man’s desire to right the vile wrongs you have committed. ”

“Thirdly, you will rent warehouse space for me here on Great Queen Street or Water Street and stock it with cloth, wines and other merchandise for me to sell, the anticipated profits from them being enough to establish myself as a trader.”

The narrative is illuminated by sensitive descriptions of the passage towards abovementioned goals set by Sarah.

Wayne is a Montreal based writer, editor and translator.

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