EXCERPT: The Driver’s Wife

I’m toiling away on what I hope is the final draft of The Driver’s Wife, an historical novel that will be the fourth book in the Jack Mallory Chronicles but is also written to be a stand-alone novel. How this novel differs greatly from the first three in the series is point of view characters. While Jack Mallory is in this novel, he is not a point-of-view character. Instead this is told through the viewpoint of Ketch and a new character named Isabelle.

Below is the first scene. I hope you enjoy it.

CHAPTER I

Ketch had endured a great many things in his thirty-odd years and those sufferings he could bear again if he had to, but a woman’s tears he could never endure, for they reminded him too much of his mother’s grief.

            He suspected that the two slave women before him in the Charles Town street were mother and daughter, which made the tears on their cheeks even more poignant. The daughter—perhaps eighteen years of age—had caught his eye first, for her skin tone was lighter than that of the other Africans in the small group, including her mother to whom she stayed close, quietly talking, apparently attempting to soothe the woman. Ketch knew the power of his own gaze—over the years he had perfected to great effect a wide range from malevolence to unreadable vacuity—so he was not surprised, indeed perhaps he had willed it, when the mulatto girl looked his way, as if wanting to locate the source of the weighty attention. The moment their gazes met, she hastened to look away, but whether from alarm or simply from a practice of not directly meeting a white man’s gaze, Ketch could not be sure. Whatever the cause, she did not look his way again and stepped even closer to her mother, a hand upon the woman’s arm, the Carolina sun beating down upon her colorful headscarf.

            Although Ketch stood in the shade of an awning in front of Malachi Waterston’s brokerage, the harsh, humid heat sought him out. Beneath his rumpled shirt perspiration trickled down the furrow of his backbone to further dampen the waistband of his breeches. His brown hair hung limp and damp to his shoulders—loose because he lacked the two hands needed to pull its wild folds back to tie into a queue. His beard—purposefully cultivated to hide pockmarks—itched as much as the cursed stump of his right arm.

            The brokerage door opened, and the slaves’ overseer emerged with Waterston’s young apprentice. Neither paid Ketch any heed, instead stepping into the street to speak with Hiram Willis who was making a perfunctory examination of the dozen female slaves who were being turned over to him this day. Then the overseer unchained the older female slave from the others. The woman clutched her daughter’s hands as if to deny the inevitable but said nothing, all her words instead crowding her eyes. The girl did not grasp with the same strength, no doubt knowing that to resist would only lead to punishment and further sorrow, but she could not deny the continued flow of tears. The overseer growled a curse and went to strike the mother, but the girl gave her a helpful shove beyond his range. There was no wailing, no great display as the two were separated; it was as if once their physical bond had been broken, they both allowed themselves to succumb to the hopelessness of the situation. As the apprentice led the older woman away down the busy street, she continued to look over her shoulder, but the daughter looked only once then lowered her eyes to the ground, the last of the tears falling into the dust.

Willis’s order broke through Ketch’s reverie: “All right, Ketch; let’s get ‘em to the Nymph.”

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2 Responses to EXCERPT: The Driver’s Wife

  1. catwoods says:

    Susan,

    I continue to be carried away with your writing. You have such a beautiful style. Can’t wait to read more.

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