by Paul Clayton
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One of the most haunting mysteries in American history — The Lost Colony of Roanoke — comes roaring back to life in White Seed, with a compelling cast of characters, among them:
Maggie Hagger, indentured Irish serving girl, a victim of rape and intimidation,
Manteo, Croatoan interpreter for the English, inhabitant of two worlds, belonging to neither,
John White, ineffective Governor, painter, dreamer, father and grandfather,
Captain Stafford, brave and disciplined, but cruel soldier, and
Powhatan, shrewd Tidewater warlord who wages a stealthy war against the colonists.
From Publishers Weekly: This above-average historical hews closely to the record of Sir Walter Raleigh’s second doomed attempt to plant the British flag in Virginia, but embroiders the who, what, when with enough… embellishment to create a riveting story. The focus is 17-year-old “wench” Maggie Hagger, whose passage on Raleigh’s ship was paid by colony Governor Sir John White so she can serve his pregnant daughter. The ship’s stormy passage to the New World — during which widower White falls for Maggie, who is meanwhile evading unwanted advances from a scalawag — establishes the many well-wrought characters, some noble (particularly real-life Native Manteo), others evil. The depiction of the colony’s physical and moral disintegration between 1587 and 1590 — as drunken, cannibalistic soldiers mutiny and brutalize the settlers they were meant to protect, and as colonists confront disease, starvation and madness — evokes a harrowing sense of human fallibility. Readers with more than a nodding familiarity with American colonial history will experience a … déjà vu, but others less hip to what happened in late-16th century times will find this saga, which starts slowly but soon reaches page-turner velocity, to be both a dandy diversion and an entertaining education.
Spring, 1587, Plymouth England…
Maggie knew that this old man would do to her what the other had – if he could get her alone. She stood on the deck of Sir Walter Raleigh’s ship, the Lion, the afternoon sun burning through her simple gown of green linen, as she waited for her turn to be interviewed for a place in Raleigh’s New World Virginia Paradise. She had not eaten all day and the stench of garbage and pitch pine from the harbor threatened to make her retch. The old man, a sailor with a gray goat’s beard sprouting from his chin, sat at a table ten feet away, writing in a black leather-bound ledger open before him.
Maggie Hagger, seventeen years of age, had long, red hair and a fair, pretty face flecked with freckles. The ship, although tightly tethered to the quay, moved slightly on a swell. Maggie took her eyes off the man to look up at the looping white of the furled sails as they moved slightly across the blue vault of the sky. Like a graceful swan, this ship would take her far away to safety upon its downy back — if she got a contract of indenture! And get one she must… or hang!
“Next!” the old sailor said finally.
As Maggie approached, she looked to her left at twenty-five or so common people dressed in plain brown woolens and homespun, whose terms of indenture had already been purchased. They waited in the stark sunlight with their belongings in shabby bundles about their feet. On the other side in the shade cast by stacks of wooden pens containing sheep and hens, about a dozen of the better sort, dressed in fine clothes and wearing hats of bright colors, talked softly. They were all watching Maggie expectantly.
He had an ugly voice like the bark of a dog, recalling to Maggie the bray of the man who had pursued her and Thomas halfway across England. She remembered their escape from the London warehouse in the blackness of night. They had crept along the slippery stones of the exposed banks of the Thames as a horrid, faceless man shouted after them, “Redheaded whore! Wherever you go I will find you. Hear me! I will find you and