Opening exerpt from Francis: A North American Adventure.
Supper had been served and eaten, as had dessert and now most gathered around the large table in our dining room had paired up in conversations while a few finished their last morsels of my motherís wonderful cooking. As usual Father had returned to the platter for one last slice of roast to, as he put it, "Settle the desert." My cousin and I were telling each other about our hopes and dreams for the future as young men are often fond of doing. There were two or three other conversations going on around the table so I never, for a moment, thought that anyone else would take any notice when I confided in my cousin.
"Iím tired of this place," I told him. "I want new adventures and new challenges. Iím going to the Americas!"
The room suddenly grew completely silent. Every eye in the room turned on me. Every ear appeared to have picked up on what I thought had been a private statement. My mother gasped and covered her mouth with a handkerchief.
My father nearly fell from his chair at the head of the table. He looked at me with the look of a man who has just had his heart pierced by a foil and is just beginning to feel his life draining from him. He nearly choked on the bite of meat in his mouth as he glanced around the table at the eyes that were now all trained on him, waiting for his response.
"And how," he snorted, "do you plan on financing this venture of yours, Francis Hollands? I can tell for a surety that it wonít be with my hard earned savings. Iíve worked too hard all my life to see you squander it on your flights of fancy. America indeed. Why itís nothing but a land of . . . of . . . of savages and rebels. Come to think of it you might fit in just fine."
That one statement nearly perfectly summed up my fathers opinion of me. I could do no right in his eyes, no matter how hard I tried. He thought me a worthless lay-about but, he was wrong. I was going to show him that I was a man and that I could take care of my own life.
"Father. There is much more to the Americas than you realize. There are fortunes to be made there and great adventures to be had. Why some of the greatest minds of our time reside there. Poets and playwrights, scientists too. Itís where the future is Father, and itís my future. I have a little saved up. Enough at least to buy my passage and give me a start in America. Anyway, they say, "" the streets are paved with gold."" Iím sure I can make a good life there."
"America . . . Hah! Your future is right here in Cowden, Boy! Weíre millers. Itís in your blood! The best thing you can do is forget all about America and set about learning the family business. The Hollandsí have been millers in Kent for generations. Maybe youíll not get rich being a miller, but you can live comfortably enough. Take yourself a nice wife and raise a gaggle of brats to give you grandchildren about yer feet in yer old age. Iíll hear no more of your Americas talk! Itís decided!
"No, Father," I insisted, "Itís not decided at all . . . At least not the way you think. Iíve already made arrangements to leave from Grinstead on the twenty-first. Iíll be going to London, then from there to Liverpool where I will take passage to New York. I may only know about milling, but there are crops to mill in the Americas too. If I have to settle for being a miller so be it, but Iíll do it there."
My father was silent for a minute or so. He simply stared into my eyes as his face turned several shades of red. He wasnít used to being defied, and particularly not in his own home. He was a respected man in the community and people, normally at least, pretended that they were going to do as he said, and now his young upstart son was blatantly defying him in front of God and his whole family.
He slowly regained his composure and stood from the table. He faced me and raised his calloused, right hand slowly in front of him with his index finger extended toward me. His face fairly glowed with the rage he was feeling.
"All right then Lad. Have it your way." He hissed, "Go. I wish you luck and a safe journey but I doubt youíll have either. I said it before, and Iíll say it again. America is nothing but a land of savages. Youíll either meet your doom there or youíll be back here with your hat in your hand begging for my forgiveness. Have your silly adventures and when you come to your senses, if you live through it, thereíll still be a place here for you . . . but hear this Boy. You will not take a penny of my money with you. You do not have my blessing on this foolish venture of yours for I know it is destined to fail. You are my son, however, and I shall not disregard you. Your Family will be waiting for you, right here, when youíve had your belly full of the Americas."
That was pretty much the end of all discussion. When Father made such a statement, it was time to cut your losses and retreat. Thatís just what I did.