In celebration of the fourth book in the Culpepper Saga, “Culpepper’s Rebellion,” coming out October 31st, I’ll be
reviewing re-living moments from the first three books. Some are triumphant, some are heart wrenching. If you haven’t read any of the story yet, follow along for the next few Saturdays and witness occasional tense and often loving moments between John Culpepper and various members of his family. The following snippet is from the first book in the series, “I, John Culpepper,” which is the story of John’s youth and his turbulent relationship with his father. In this snippet, John’s young niece has died and the family is meeting at the church for the funeral. John’s father, Johannes, has just arrived.
John stood in the doorway of the church and watched his father climb down from his carriage. Sporadic blasts of cold wind whipped at Johannes’s thinning, gray hair and ruffled the hem of his cloak. He refused help from his footman and grunted with each movement. He was pale and wrinkled, his shoulders hunched by the weight of his sixty-five years. He leaned on his cane as he hobbled toward the church, favoring one leg over the other. When he reached the door, he looked up at John with tears in his bloodshot eyes. John stepped forward to take his father’s arm and escort him inside.
As they stepped through the stone archway into the church, Johannes grumbled, “Bloody flux.”
John nodded, not knowing if the comment required a reply. “Where’s Ann?” he asked instead.
“She’s visiting at her son’s house. I didn’t have time to go fetch her. I came straight here.”
John nodded again. He led his father to the front pew and helped him be seated. John stood in front of the pew and looked around at the family in attendance. For the first time in John’s life, he felt as if he needed to be the man in control of the family. This was an unusual sensation because his father or brother always filled the role of patriarch, but John accepted it for the time being. He returned to the door, just in time to see Thomas and Katherine enter.
Katherine was holding their eight-month-old baby Anna in her arms. John walked straight toward her, softly placed his hand on the infant’s head, and looked into Katherine’s eyes. “Katherine, I am so very sorry. Mary was such a beautiful little girl.”
Katherine looked down at Anna. Her lip quivered and tears rolled down her cheeks.
“And little Anna is just as beautiful.” John kissed the sleeping baby on the forehead.
“We had hoped for a son,” said Thomas quietly, “but we were happy to have Anna as a playmate for Mary. Sometimes plans and dreams just don’t work out.” Thomas’s voice cracked.
John understood that statement well. He looked into his brother’s face and realized he had never seen his brother so sad. If he could figure out a way to take this pain from him, he would. Katherine began to sob, and the men escorted her to the front pew.
After a long and dismal hour, the sermon finally ended and the family gathered outside in the graveyard, surrounded by stone monuments and chiseled epitaphs. Blustery snowflakes wafted through the air, twirling around bare branches of dormant oaks, as the family placed young Mary Culpepper in her tomb and solemnly left the grounds. John followed Thomas and Katherine home to Greenway Court. He left Johannes to fend for himself.
The first three books of the Culpepper Saga are available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.