Book Title: ‘Tho I Be Mute
Author: Heather Miller
Publication Date: 13th July 2021
Publisher: Defiance Press and Publishing
Page Length: 340 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Home. Heritage. Legacy. Legend.
In 1818, Cherokee John Ridge seeks a young man’s education at the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut. While there, he is overcome with sickness yet finds solace and love with Sarah, the steward’s quiet daughter. Despite a two-year separation, family disapproval, defamatory editorials, and angry mobs, the couple marries in 1824.
Sarah reconciles her new family’s spirituality and her foundational Christianity. Although, Sarah’s nature defies her new family’s indifference to slavery. She befriends Honey, half-Cherokee and half-African, who becomes Sarah’s voice during John’s extended absences.
Once arriving on Cherokee land, John argues to hold the land of the Cherokees and that of his Creek neighbors from encroaching Georgian settlers. His success hinges upon his ability to temper his Cherokee pride with his knowledge of American law. Justice is not guaranteed.
Rich with allusions to Cherokee legends, ‘Tho I Be Mute speaks aloud; some voices are heard, some are ignored, some do not speak at all, compelling readers to listen to the story of a couple who heard the pleas of the Cherokee.
Universal Amazon Link: https://books2read.com/u/mV6p5r
Chapter 1: Daughter of the Sun, Clarinda Ridge, daughter of John and Sarah Ridge
Storm clouds stole the last daylight while I removed my coat. In the sudden darkness, my hand reached for the cold pewter candle holder, topped with beeswax stick and wick. Carrying it to the wood-burning stove near the window, I pulled a twig from a thin broom, its usefulness long forgotten, and removed a switch, touching it to an ember in the banked fire. Smoke billowed into the cabin from the stove’s door. The switch sparked. I torched the candlewick in its man-made rest and returned to the wood-burning stove, dragging the chair behind me—the tree’s extension of my hand. Opening the stove door and loading the iron beast with oak, wood smoked, ignited. This weather premeditated more of its kind: a harsh, blowing fall that doused and chilled the bones of those left outside under tonight’s storm’s revenge.
I removed my leather shoes and woolen socks, stretching out my legs near the fire. Digaleni stirred and stood, expecting the stove’s radiant heat. He stretched his hind legs, extending his hindquarters high as his ears weighed his head low. He slunk for a scratch behind his namesake—Digaleni, ears in English—and sank low in front of the stove. I propped my feet atop his shoulder blades, both of us content to remain for the upcoming hours of this full moon’s rebellious storm.
Anxious rain pelted the roof with innumerable drops. Water collected in an old iron pot from a small hole in the roof where the oak’s branches grew through weaker boards. Neither limb nor rain intruded, was only a welcomed, accustomed guest. Like two people sitting with their backs together, my home and oak tree held one another upright.
I grabbed a spool and my hoop from Momma’s sewing box beside my chair. Using my teeth to separate a strand, I licked the thread to make it straight and held the needle steady to weave the cotton thread through the eye. With the muslin-covered hoop angled in my lap, I stitched from practice and skill. With continued minute and deliberate gestures, a border formed with each stitch. Then, with keen eyes, I rethreaded the needle. This time, instead of thread, I used a strand of my hair, licking the end before threading the eye.
From here, I sewed with my eyes closed, each stitch guided by touch alone. The door rattled against the wind. Not hearing, I sewed one petal of the incomplete moonflower. I must complete this task tonight. Opening my eyes, I saw the shape of the full bloom, filling with my hair, sewn by my fingers. I continued to the next.
Digaleni stood with a slow-rumbled woof to the door while I sewed and prayed to the Great Spirit for an hour longer. The rain beat and blew. With one last elaborate pull and knot, the poisonous moonflower was complete but starkly different from the one between the pages. It contrasted in color from the bloom, as do I, with my blood from two nations.
From exhaustion, the rain ceased its tantrum. The moon looked peacefully again upon the Earth. While the Thunder Brother, the one that lost the game, growled and rumbled with resignation from the far side of the mountain. I moved to my bed and dreamt of bird spirits who lost their wings and transformed into great white snakes.
Daylight found my eyes in the eastern sky’s morning haze. It turned colder. Digaleni pawed beside the door as I rubbed my eyes against the day’s masked sun. I moved first to sit and then to stand and walked to lift the latch. Digaleni bounded down the steps and pawed at the grassy ground. I could not see what he sought. Then, his body contorted and limped away, darkened within my standing shadow. He fell on his side, curled, and did not move again. With hurried steps, I reached for him. The rattler struck, jaws spread wide, clamping onto my outstretched forearm. I gasped with escaping breath—soundless.
Poison seeped into my blood. My eyes clouded as I fell. My body spilled down the stairs. The snake slithered across my tousled strands into the grass. Having completed his quest, he rattled in triumph. Continuous ticks pulsed in time with my failing heart. Owl’s wings shuttered, and he flew northward.
About the Author
As an English educator, Heather Miller has spent twenty-three years teaching her students the author’s craft. Now, she is writing it herself, hearing voices from the past.
Miller’s foundation began in the theatre, through performance storytelling. She can tap dance, stage-slap someone, and sing every note from Les Misérables. Her favorite role is that of a fireman’s wife and mom to three: a trumpet player, a future civil engineer, and a future RN. There is only one English major in her house.
While researching, writing, and teaching, she is also working towards her M FA in Creative Writing. Heather’s corndog-shaped dachshund, Sadie, deserves an honorary degree.
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