Today is release day for Captain Stanwick’s Bride: A Tragic Characters in Classic Lit Series Novel. It is loosely based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Courtship of Myles Standish.” However in this project, we bring the “tragic characters” into the late Georgian through early Victorian era.
Foundation Behind The Tragic Characters in Classic Lit Series
Nearly a dozen authors are involved in this series where the reader will encounter some of their “favorite,” or should I say, “least favorite” characters found in classic literature. The parameters of the project were quite simple. (1) The story must be, at least, 40,000 words. (2) Instead of the original setting for the tale, all the stories in this series take place between the late Georgian period and early Victorian, meaning late 1700s into about 1840. (3) Each novel is based on a different tragic character from a public domain novel, story, or poem.
The idea is to provide the tragic character a “happily ever after.” It does not matter if he/she was the protagonist or the antagonist in the original tale, in these new renderings he/she will be the hero/heroine.
In the series, one could meet fallen heroes who have succumbed to vice, greed, etc. He/She could originally have been detested for what values he accepted, but, in these new tales, he redeems himself: His fate changes. He will find the fortitude to change his stars, learn to accept what cannot be changed, and move beyond the impossible to discover “Love After All.”
Characters Found in “Captain Stanwick’s Bride: Love After All”
This story is inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Courtship of Miles Standish.” Truth first, the “hero” and “heroine” of Longfellow’s narrative poem are John Alden and Priscilla Mullins of the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock fame. The Aldens are my tenth great-grandparents through their daughter Rebecca. However, I am well aware that Longfellow’s (who is also related to the Aldens through their daughter Elizabeth) tale is not necessarily based in history. There is no proof that Captain Standish wished to court Priscilla Mullins and sent Alden as his spokesman, with Priscilla supposedly telling Alden, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John.”
Captain Whittaker Myles Stanwick
Myles Standish has many fine qualities that I attempted to display in my tale, with the exception of Standish’s renowned quick temper. I have moved my story from 1620 America to the War of 1812 as its backdrop. My Captain Whittaker Myles Stanwick (notice the purposeful change in the spelling) is on the Canadian front when the story begins, fighting alongside the Indian Confederation at the Battle of the Thames. The real Myles Standish was a fierce opponent, who stood against the Native Americans encountered by the Plymouth settlers, but he was respected by them, as well. I wanted to show my Captain Stanwick as a leader of men, one displaying reason and fortitude and being deeply devoted to his duties.
Ruth Standish was Captain Standish’s first wife. Unfortunately, we know little of the woman, including anything of her family, for she died during that first winter for the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts. For my purposes, Ruth Stanwick dies at home in Lancashire, England, while my hero is away at war.
Standish’s second wife, Barbara, arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts, on the second ship to land there, the Anne. We also know little about the second Mrs. Standish, not even her maiden name.
For this story, instead of “Barbara,” I chose the name “Beatrice.” Beatrice is based on some of my family. My sixth great-grandmother was actually a Powhatan Indian Princess named “Elizabeth.” In the story, my great-grandmother serves as the basis for Beatrice’s mother, Elizabeth, who, in real life, married a Scot, named Charles Spurlock, and faced much criticism and repudiation until they moved to the backwoods of what was then Virginia and helped found a settlement called “Spurlock Creek.” Even then, “Princess” Elizabeth did not acclimate well, but it is said her daughter proved to be a leader in the community. Also note, in real life, Charles Spurlock from my family tree was not a surgeon, but his grandson was. You will see how those facts play out in the story.
Jonas Alderson and Portia Miller
I did not totally abandon Longfellow’s poem for inspiration. These two are my John Alden and Priscilla Mullins characters. Stanwick has a friendship with Alderson, who is a cooper, a man who makes casks, buckets, barrels, etc., in which to store food stuffs, whale oil, fresh water, and the like, as was the real John Alden.
History shows that Standish and Alden founded the settlement of Duxbury, Massachusetts. They each served in several positions to both the original colony and that particular town.
Myles Standish’s origins are not clear. In his last will and testament, he did claim to be part of the Standish family of Duxbury Hall in Lancashire, England. I did not go so far as to claim the same in my tale, but I do present my Captain Stanwick with a sizable farm in the shire.
FICTION VERSUS NONFICTION
Before anyone chooses to send me a nasty email about how I bent history for my own device, I will remind the reader that this book is FICTION. I did my research, and, I admit, I did NOT find information that said British prisoners were held in tents outside of Fort McHenry, but then again, I found nothing that said they were not. I took artistic liberty, for the setting of Fort McHenry allowed me to place my main characters in a position of uncertainty with the backdrop of one of the last great battles of the War of 1812 raging around them.
Captain Stanwick’s Bride: Tragic Characters in Classic Lit Series Novel
[Arriving February 19, 2021]
“Happiness consists more in conveniences of pleasure that occur everyday than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.” – Benjamin Franklin
Captain Whittaker Stanwick has a successful military career and a respectable home farm in Lancashire. What he does not have in his life is felicity. Therefore, when the opportunity arrives, following his wife’s death, Stanwick sets out to know a bit of happiness, at last—finally to claim a woman who stirs his soul. Yet, he foolishly commits himself to one woman only weeks before he has found a woman, though shunned by her people and his, who touches his heart. Will he deny the strictures placed upon him by society in order learn the secret of happiness is freedom: Freedom to love and freedom to know courage?
Loosely based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Courtship of Miles Standish” and set against the final battles of the War of 1812, this tale shows the length a man will go to in order to claim a remarkable woman as his.
Enjoy Whit and Beatrice’s first meeting during Chapter Two:
15 November 1813
Fort McHenry, Maryland
It had taken his party eighteen days of hard travel to reach Fort McHenry. Whit pitied those who would follow, for the nights, and even some of the days, in the mountains had been bitterly cold, but, thankfully, snow free. He and his men and numerous officers from other units had huddled together, sharing blankets and body heat, even though cleanliness had long since left their persons. They had worn the same clothes for nearly seven weeks, and body odor would make them easy prey for predators in the wild.
“Line up,” an American soldier ordered as Whit and his men stepped gingerly down from the wagons. “Most seriously injured at the front. Sort yerselves out.” The soldier waited while Whit and the other officers arranged some fifty plus British soldiers in some sort of order. At length, the American shouted, “Listen. I shan’t repeat meself. You’ll stand before the clerk presentin’ him yern name, rank, next of kin, and the location of yer home. Then you’ll be seen by the camp doctor—some of you may be sent for treatment. You’ll be given new clothes to wear, meaning shirts, socks, and the like, and then assigned to quarters, meaning the tents you see before you. Some of you will be released immediately in an exchange for arn soldiers. Others will be here until . . . well until yer not.”
* * *
“Your name?” an American sergeant asked.
“Whittaker Stanwick,” he replied.
It had taken more than an hour for him to reach this critical point in the line. They had been brought into the fort itself, three at a time, to be treated by the physician. Like everything else dealing with the military during a war, organization was patchwork at best. Decisions were fluid. He watched as the sergeant scribbled his name into a log book.
“Rank?” The American did not look up from his task.
“Place of birth?”
Whit sighed heavily. He had to remember to break the habit as quickly as possible, for he feared it betrayed his thinking to perfect strangers. He said quickly, “Nothing that a good meal and a bath would not cure. Perhaps some liniment for my knee.”
The sergeant finally looked up long enough to frown his displeasure with Whit’s response. “Speak to Doctor Spurlock for the liniment. Go to the end of the L-shaped hall and wait until they come for you. You’ll see the doc, and he’ll send you on to yer quarters afterwards.” He gestured to the passage behind him.
Whit nodded his understanding and ambled down the long hall, lined with a row of doors on both sides. He had just taken up a stance against the wall where he studied the posted notices when a sound at the other end of the “L” drew his notice. A woman struggled with a soldier. A woman? When was the last time he looked upon a woman not part of the camp whores who followed the army wherever they went. Abandoning his position, despite his ailing knee, Whit took off at a hastened pace to reach the lady. “Halt! None of that!” he declared in his best “captain’s” voice.
The man stiffened, for the passing of perhaps three heartbeats, which was long enough for Whit to step between the American and the woman, shoving her behind him to protect her.
The American attempted to reach around him, but Whit easily blocked the man’s hand. “Ladies are not to be mauled,” he hissed.
“She ain’t being no lady, so tell the Injun to keep her filthy hands off me,” the man protested. “I don’t need none of her potions and elixirs.”
“It is only a bottle of liniment,” the lady responded, anger underlining her tone.
Whittaker eyed the American soldier with disdain and received a like form of contempt in return.
The man pointed an accusing finger at the woman. “Just stay away from me. I know what your type do to the likes of honest men.” The American stalked away, mumbling a series of complaints along the way.
It was then that Whit turned to look upon the woman. Eyes the color of storm clouds met his. A wealth of hair, as dark as coal soot marked with strands of red, wrapped in a tight braid at the nape of her neck, framed an oval-shaped face that displayed both relief and frustration at the same time.
“I beg your pardon, ma’am. I did not mean to handle you so roughly.” Whit thought to offer her a bow, but he knew the Americans did not customarily bow and curtsey, as did those in Great Britain. “I am Captain Stanwick.”
“Miss Spurlock,” she murmured.
“As in Doctor Spurlock?” he questioned. Surely the Americans had not employed a female to treat the prisoners.
“My father,” she responded softly.
Ah, he thought. That makes more sense. Whit tilted his head to the side to study her. “Pardon my forwardness, miss,” he said. “Your accent is laced with bits of the Brit.”
She smiled up at him, doing something to his heart, but he could not name the emotion. “Most Americans maintain the language they learned at their mother’s knees. That is accept those from France, Germany, and various other countries on the Continent.”
Whit frowned. “Yet, you are not part of the majority, miss. Am I correct?”
“In truth, sir, I speak my mother’s language quite fluently.” She sounded as if she were teasing him, and Whit did not know exactly what to think of the young woman. Her eyebrow rose in challenge. “Even though ‘most’ Americans do not understand my mother’s language.”
A new reality arrived. He surmised, “Ah, the private’s reference to ‘Injun.’”
She stiffened as if expecting his disdain, but the woman did not look away from his countenance, indicating her strength of character. Whit found he admired her determination. “Yes, my mother was the equivalent of your British term ‘princess’ of the Powhatan tribe, just as was her mother.” She did not say, just as I am, but the woman’s meaning was implied. “From my last name, you might determine my father is a Scot,” she observed in what appeared to be mild amusement.
“Or someone from Germany,” he countered. Whit discovered his lips twitched in hopes of a smile, which he denied. “I must confess, other than Tecumseh and his braves, and Roundhead and his warriors, I have encountered few Indians upon the American continent. Certainly, none of the Powhatan tribe.” He knew he blushed in awkwardness. “I fear it is very telling of my character that I never bothered to learn more than a few words of Tecumseh’s language.”
Before either of them could say more, a red-headed man in the coat of a gentleman stepped into the hall. “Stanwick.”
“Here,” Whit and Miss Spurlock said together.
Whit presented a nod of farewell to the lady and turned to where the man waited.
“Come in,” the man looked down again to the paper he held in his hand. “Captain Stanwick.”
Whit stepped around the man to enter the small office. Meanwhile, the doctor looked to his daughter. “Are you well, my dear?”
“Perfectly, sir,” Miss Spurlock answered. “Captain Stanwick simply admitted he knew nothing of the Powhatan language.”
“Rightly so,” the doctor announced. “Did you explain to the good captain the Algonquian language of tidewater Virginia has been considered extinct for five and twenty years?”
“Our conversation was interrupted, sir.” Whit could hear the childlike perversity in her tone, and he smiled, despite the inappropriateness of the act.
“No mischief, Beatrice,” the doctor warned as he turned to enter the office, pointedly closing the door behind him and offering a slight bow. “I must apologize, Captain, if my daughter attempted to bam you.”
Whit returned the man’s bow. “Nothing of the sort, Spurlock. I simply stepped in when another refused Miss Spurlock’s offer of liniment.”
“Bloody idiots!” Spurlock growled in frustration. “They distrust me because I am a British subject, who was ‘foolish,’ their word, not mine, enough to marry the most beautiful woman I had ever encountered. They distrust my daughter because they fear all Indian tribes. Think them ‘savages.’”
Whit sat in the chair the man indicated. “Then you have always lived in America? Odd as it may sound, although I know those who founded this country were, customarily British citizens or the descendants of British citizens, when ordered to Canada for the war, I never considered I could be fighting my own. I fought the French on the Continent with Wellington. I suppose I assumed everyone to be of the like of the Frenchies. It is not as if I encountered many French descendants in America, despite your daughter mentioning something to that effect. However, until this journey, I have not been a part of the British forces that occupied strongholds in the ‘States’ proper” He did not know why such an admission was disconcerting, but he found a distinct tightening of his chest as he said the words.
Spurlock commented as he sat, “I suppose you ignored those in French Canada.”
Whit chuckled at his own expense. “Yes, I did not consider the French who aided the Indians across the border as enemies of the British.”
“It sounds as if you have spent more than a few years in the army,” Spurlock observed.
Whit shrugged, embarrassment creeping up the back of his neck. “I should likely have found other employment by now; yet, you know men do not enjoy change. A woman embraces it, but we prefer constancy.”
“My late wife would have disagreed with you,” Spurlock countered. “It was my Elizabeth who did not want our family to live in Great Britain. I should never have taken her and Beatrice there. I foolishly missed my home in the lowlands when I should have realized Elizabeth was all the ‘home’ I required.”
Whit felt continuing this conversation would be too personal. Therefore, he asked, “How did you come to serve at Fort McHenry?”
“I returned to America when Beatrice was but ten. We thought to settle again in New York, but Elizabeth was ill and wanted to spend her final days with her family close at hand; therefore, we came to Virginia. When she passed, we moved, and I opened my office in Richmond. However, with the hostilities, I lost patients who feared to have a British-trained surgeon tending them.” Spurlock scowled in apparent frustration. “I have been assigned to ‘duties’ here by the American government. I serve Fort McHenry and Fort Babcock, an earthen gun battery about two miles removed to the west. It was only recently constructed. The Americans do not exactly trust me, but they require my skills, for physicians and surgeons with experience are in short supply.”
“Your tale is unexpected,” Whit remarked.
“In many ways, I fared better than most of my acquaintances in New York, so it is probably best that my wife and I did not return there. The American Marshal for the District of New York initially required several hundred British citizens to register as such. Later, British heads of households who lived in New York and had applied to be naturalized American citizens, also were required to report to the marshal, a man called Peter Curtenius. The number quickly rose to fifteen hundred.
“As the war progressed, those citizens in the larger towns and cities were removed to the rural areas of the state. They were simply made to quit their homes and their livelihoods for no reason except the matter of their birth. The Army has provided me and my daughter a small cottage along the main road from Baltimore, but, as you can imagine, I spend a great deal of my time in this small office and the surgical tents set up outside the actual fort. I treat both the American wounded and the captured British soldiers.”
“I had no idea,” Whittaker admitted.
Spurlock shrugged his response. “I am grieved to have spoken so bluntly to a stranger. Such is truly not my nature, nor is it a concern of yours. I simply become so annoyed by all these questions of loyalty. I am a surgeon. Dear God, I have sworn to do my best by my patients! I would treat any man who came before me, foe or enemy, with as much care as I would treat my own daughter, if she required it.” He paused briefly to compose himself. “Thank you for tolerating my rant; however, you did not deserve to know my dudgeon.”
“I am not offended, Spurlock,” Whit said in honest tones. “I would prefer to know what to expect. This is all very new to each of us.”
The surgeon nodded his acceptance. “Tell me of your ailments, Stanwick.”
“My knee pains me when I stand too long, and, if I was to speak the truth, my feet are in poor shape,” Whit explained.
Spurlock chuckled, “Most men I see would be happy to own the boots I noted on your feet. They do not realize how uncomfortable Hessians can be. Terrible when they become wet.” He made notations on the paper before him. “Allow me to examine your knee for any major injury, and then we will go from there.”
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