Below are two openings for the Prologue to this trilogy (a WIP). I’m undecided which one is better. The premise of the book is that we are each responsible for the consequences of our actions, and those consequences can be felt for generations later. Tell me which you think is better.
The Peace River Chronicles
2Sa 13:4 And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king’s son, lean from day to day? wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister. 2Sa 13:14 Howbeit he would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her.
The year was 1825 in Ayrshire County, Scotland. My name is Morna Mackenzie and I here write the tale to my beloved son, Keith Innes Mackenzie that he may know his heritage upon my death, though a terrible tale it is. I’ve kept a journal these many years, since we’ve come to America. You’ll find it in my bedside drawer if you choose to read it.
My father, Earnan Lartharn Mackenzie, was neither a good husband to my mother, God rest her soul, nor a good father, at least not to me. He raped me a fortnight before I boarded a packet bound for America. I was with child, you my sweet Mac. Before I left, he’d been killed in a fight over a silly loaf of bread and I had no means to take care of my younger brother and sister. The shame of being an unwed mother, (and who’d believe it was of my own father), had forced me to become a beggar and a thief.
I secured the means for passage aboard a cargo ship bound for America. I’ve raised you here and only told what had to be told. My sweet Mac, you know how I raised you. I was introduced to the Lord Jesus Christ by my godly landlady here in Philadelphia. Mrs. Wheeler taught me to sew and knit and she never criticized or condemned me. She helped me birth you, my wee one, and cared for you when I had to go out and sell what I had made.
I’ve tried to instruct you in the ways of the Lord; though I’ve seen signs that perhaps I didn’t do such a good job. I’ve been praying for you and the grandchildren your in-laws won’t let me see. I’ve missed getting to know them. I bear you no ill, though. You’ve had to make your fortune to provide for your family. I suppose it was always God’s plan that I die alone, but at least here, you’ll know you were always loved. It’s all a mother can do.
So, Mac, this is written for you so you can learn from the mistakes of your forbears and forgive them. Jesus said on the cross to forgive others because they don’t understand the consequences of what they do. They don’t understand God’s plan and some don’t even want to know. My dear, sweet young man, I’m goin’ home to be with my Lord soon and felt you should know how you came to be. The Bible says sin is passed down from the fathers to the third and fourth generation. Take heed then, that your own seed knows the Lord and chooses to do the right. I’ve tried to raise you the best I knew how and now you’ve bairns of your own. I wish I’d live to see them grown but it’s not to be. I’ve sinned in my life, but I’ve repented and the Lord’s forgiven me. For your mother’s sake, I plead with you to do the same and raise your bairns aright. I love you, son.
I’ve packed my meager belongings, sold whatever I could, much of it being Da’s things, now he’s gone. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do but I can’t tell Mum or my sisters what Da has done. It’d bring terrible shame on the family and what good would it do for them to know? I’ll sail to America and have the bairn alone. Perhaps the good Lord will have pity on me and the babe and keep us safe. I figure it’ll be time to deliver just a few months after we arrive. I pray the good Lord will give us good sailing weather and kind folks to show us the way once we get there.
or should I just start with Chapter 1?
The mourners were in black, and they were many. Morna Mackenzie had become a much sought after seamstress in Philadelphia, especially among the aristocratic society.
For the first time Mac had insisted the children be allowed to come with him. Mac Junior, Duncan and Scott were eight, five, and three respectively. They had never met their grandmother and there were no tears on any of their faces. Scott was getting a little fidgety while the two older boys behaved as perfect little gentlemen, as they had been taught.
Regret colored Mac’s face an angry red, his jaw locked with the effort of holding his feelings in check. The Baptist clergyman was saying something but none of the words found entry into Morna’s only son’s head.
The landlady he remembered from his childhood, Mrs. Wheeler, stood by his side, a gentle hand lofted on his shoulder. Her tears were genuine. Here was someone who had genuinely loved his mother. Had he? Had he ever really appreciated her? She had worked so hard all of his life. She had set a good example of what a wife and mother should be. He knew because she had read to him from the Bible and her life, for the most part, exemplified the words printed there.
Would Mac be able to teach his children what goodness, what godliness really was? How could he when he had allowed others to steal his children from the very goodness they deserved? How could he teach them what it meant to love when he had smothered it in himself? Would his own children ever learn of his own secrets? He was glad his mother didn’t know.
Mac opened the locket he clutched in his hand and showed its contents to his sons. There was a picture of his mother on one side, a picture of the two of them on the other. He wanted to tell his sons about her, ached to do so. But the words wouldn’t come. He showed the locket to Mrs. Wheeler, now nearly bent with age, yet her eyes still alight with something he could not fathom. Tears streamed down her pale cheeks as she patted his hand. “I have something for you,” she whispered. She handed him an envelope with a single sheet of paper. He took the letter out, and then decided to put it away to be read at a later time.
He turned to Lillith, his wife, who was absently brushing specks of something off of Scott’s jacket. It was her signal that they had been here long enough. She leaned toward him and whispered, “It’s time to go, Mac. The children are restless and Mother has the meal waiting. You know how she hates to wait.” She smiled her best beguiling smile.
Mac huffed as he drew himself to his full height. He firmly released her fingers from his arm, looked at her, and jutted his chin toward the minister. “We aren’t finished yet.” He spoke almost under his breath so as not to be rude.
At last the minister stopped speaking and beckoned Mac and his family forward. Only he and Mrs. Wheeler approached the casket. He stroked the casket once with a gloved hand and laid a bouquet of yellow roses with baby’s breath on top. He turned to Mrs. Wheeler. “Thank you for all you did for us when I was growing up,” he said. “I’ve never properly thanked you…”
“I never asked for any thanks and don’t want any. Your mother deserved so much more than what life dealt her, but God put her in my charge so I could show her His love. It was my privilege to help you both. I mean no harm, but I must tell you it grieved your mother so to be deprived of you and your children. She never stopped loving you, though, and she prayed for you and your little ones every day.
“I do hope you’ll be able to come and visit this old woman from time to time. I would love to share a cup of tea with you and reminisce over old times.”
“I’ll do my best but I can’t promise anything.” He patted her hand again and they turned to walk away, her hand laid lightly on his arm.