Excerpt of Great Mischief





The celebration had long been winding down. Meneer Van Klost, in an unusually tipsy state, was leaving just as I arrived, in the company of Mr. Traube, a Swiss-born man who now provided us and many other residents with most of our dairy needs. “Ah Sergeant Dordrecht,” he effused, “you missed a fine ceremony. A huge crowd, people from all over. But no rowdiness at all. Matters proceeded without the least disturbance. Wonderful to see the majesty of the law in action!”

        “I feel the town has surely turned a corner!” Mr. Traube—as well-oiled as Van Klost—exulted. “It’s a great relief.” They left, arms about each other’s shoulders. Pa was still talking to Voskuil and Loytinck and Mr. Scoffield; Bertie was gabbing with Oosterhout; Harmanus was not around—still working, I presumed. The women were fixing supper, and the smell of it gave me strength to stow all the purchases away. When I returned Pa and Grootmoeder were staring into the empty fireplace, and Bertie was the only one left.

        He brightened to see me fetching myself an ale. “What ho, cousin! The biggest event to occur in New Utrecht in many a moon, and you saw fit to skip it for just another shopping trip?”

        Uhh, yes.” I took a deep draft of the ale and recollected my resolve to tell absolutely no one in New Utrecht how tumultuous my day had been. Until Nicholls and Jack were safely away, the fewer who knew of their presence, the better.

        “Big excitement!” he said without much enthusiasm.

        “Aye, well.… It sounds a tad pompous, I suppose, Bertie, but I really did see enough death and misery last summer to last me a lifetime.”

        “Uh huh,” he grunted.

        I hope he accepted that in the spirit I intended. “What, uh, happened?”

        “Oh … about what you’d expect. The detail got back with him just before noon. We rang the church bell and everyone came in from the fields. They stood him up in the cart and put the noose on him. Uncle Rykert read the governor’s writ, my sainted father-in-law assured us this was the inevitable end result of all ungodly misbehavior, and the dominie offered an interminable prayer.”


        “He just stood there like a rock, Thomas. Didn’t wail, didn’t protest, didn’t curse. I’m not sure he knew what was happening.” I looked sharply at him. “Well … I suppose he did, but he was very, uh … brave.”

        “Say anything?”

        “Over and over: ‘Praise God!’ That was it. Van Voort got all excited and begged him to repent his sins at the last, but all he could be induced to say was, ‘Praise God.’”

        “The last words, eh?”

        “Aye. Finally, your Pa’d had enough, and signaled Oosterhout to pull the horse away, and … two minutes later … it was all over. And we all went back to work.”

        Roosje was suddenly at Bertie’s shoulder. “Master Bertie, Miss Jenneken says you’re to come along home right away,” she announced in a stentorian voice, looking at a corner of the ceiling.

        “Ah, thank you, tell her I’ll—” Roosje had spun on her heel and walked out. Bertie turned back to me, made a face, and rose. “I reckon I’ll see you tomorrow, lad!”

* * *

Unusual commotion downstairs roused me earlier than expected in the morning, and I trudged sleepily down to find out what was going on. Pa was sitting down to breakfast with his grandchildren—a rare occurrence—and answering Mother’s questions. Meneer Halsema had been about on the highway before dawn and had discovered that Zwarte Jan’s corpse had disappeared. He’d run to Van Klost, who’d gathered Bertie, Pa, and Harmanus for an investigation into the slave quarter that had proved fruitless. No one had seen or heard anything. “They’re lying of course,” Pa asserted. “They all know who cut him down and where they’ve buried him.” Van Klost wanted to declare martial law, but Harmanus had argued him out of it, insisting that the farm work was behind schedule enough as it was. “For once, I was nearly ready to side with Van Klost!” Pa declared, thumping his fist on the table. Berendina looked at him in mock amazement. “But I couldn’t go that far!” he added, with the shadow of a mischievous grin on his face—one I remembered from long back.

        That afternoon I volunteered to do a water-fetch, to spare my sister a second pass—which had only become necessary because my sailors were drinking it up—and I stopped by the crossroads. Nobody had thought to retrieve the bit of rope still tied to the tree branch. It swung about in the breeze, useless. Depending on one’s point of view, it symbolized the determination of law and order forces to see the penalties of crime paid in full—or the determination of Zwarte Jan’s friends to see him decently buried in defiance of a heartless edict. Either way, it was a sore point, not to mention an eyesore. After fuddling myself with irritation that others hadn’t removed it, the obvious solution occurred to me, and I climbed up the tree, out on the limb, and undid the rope.

* * *

With their hopes sinking, the burghers and their families began to realize that all had not instantly returned to normal after Zwarte Jan’s execution. The other Selectmen had grumbled that Pa and Van Klost had no right unilaterally to acquiesce in the slaves’ abstraction of Jan’s corpse—a matter of obvious and illegal defiance—but, having no practical alternative, they let it drop. Householders who might also have objected became shy of escalating the conflict when word got around that the girl Bette, who’d been in and out of delirium since Bates’ attack, had fallen into a coma.

        Unobtrusively, I visited the stable and passed purloined food to Jack and Nicholls, managing to get in and out in less than two minutes. Still fatigued from the previous evening—while trying to pretend I felt perfectly normal—I stayed up long past the moment I desired.

        And I suffered another bad dream, but this one left me feeling dizzy and nauseated, rather than terrified. I can’t recall the specifics, but I woke disoriented in the dark, unsure of everything. Unhappy moments from the last many days wafted in and out of my awareness, from my horrific abduction to my perplexing cousin Charles to Herr Fischl’s impatience with my clumsy fingering. Then one incongruous thought abruptly shook me fully awake: How was it that when we found Bates’ body, it was already stiff?

        He shouldn’t have been stiff. It was too soon for him to be stiff, for rigor to have set in. We’d found Jan within minutes of finding the corpse, and it had seemed unquestionable not only that he’d killed Bates, but that he’d just then killed him, only minutes before I’d come out and wakened Pa. Jan had clearly been still in the grip of an immense passion, and I’d instantly concluded that the righteous fury he’d visited upon the man in the stocks had stayed with him as he waited for Pa or me to make the discovery of his lethal handiwork.

        Jan was no thespian able to dissemble a frenzy of emotion on command. How was it that the processes that freeze a corpse’s bones in one position had already taken hold? From my forced observations last summer, I knew it took a couple hours, at least. And—I slapped my palm against my forehead to think of it—I’d said to Pa at the time that Bates was already cold. I’d even said that!

        But if Jan had attacked Bates much earlier, the moon would still have been up, lighting the common for all to see. Could Jan have been so resigned to his own discovery and the obvious consequence from the very moment he’d decided to act? By the time we’d chased and collared him, he was ready to shout triumphant defiance to the whole town, but had that been his plan hours before? There was no question in my mind that Jan had cut Bates’ throat and that he was resigned to face the law’s wrath, but … how could he have done it at the time I’d assumed he’d done it?

* * *

I couldn’t shake the question. Through breakfast and the interminable regular weekly militia exercise, it kept coming back to me that, even though I’d been present in the midst of it, the story of Bates’ murder just didn’t make sense as I had imagined it. If Jan had killed him in the middle of the night, how had he managed such a fit, hours later? And why had he stayed at all, when he obviously had some opportunity to preserve himself by creating a mystery?

        None of it made sense, so I inexorably went back to the beginning and thought it all through again.

        “Could we possibly have your full attention, Sergeant Dordrecht?”

        “Yes sir!” Ugh, I must really be slipping. Not like Van Klost to berate me—at least not since I got back from the North.

        When practice was finally over I spent another hour dithering, and then decided I had to satisfy myself as far as I could to keep from going mad. But how? With whom? The others who’d seen Bates? Pa, I was sure, would instantly assure me I was crazy and walk away. Van Klost was on a high horse at the moment. My brother would be furious that I’d dare to interrupt his real work with a query so frivolous. Bertie would be frivolous.

        Then I thought of the logical person, the only one with a professional interest in the remains of Justus Bates: the gravedigger. The town’s gravedigger, however, is the slave Hans—who happens to be Zwarte Jan’s eldest son, and uncle to the assaulted girl. Hans belongs to Loytinck and spends most of his time in the fields, but when someone dies, Loytinck pays down some of his tithe by seconding Hans to Dominie Van Voort’s command. He is a big, stolid, strong man of middle years, not as genial as his sire was but never surly either. I’ve known him my entire life—but our paths tend not to cross and I doubt we’ve exchanged ten words a year in all that time. Where would I even find him? The sun was approaching its zenith, so Loytinck’s hands would soon be breaking for dinner. I set off to the Loytinck property, hoping to be directed to him before he returned to the quarter—where I imagined the presence of any Dutchman would be unwelcome at the moment. Happily I encountered Mr. Stanley; though mystified by my request, he duly directed me to the south field.

        Hans was plowing. The plow was triced to an ox, and Hans was directing it into straight, even furrows. One of the younger slaves was following, planting corn at careful intervals. On the far side of the field, Hans’ brother Balt was directing another team. I hadn’t recalled Hans as surly … but he seemed peevishly resistant to the obvious fact that I wished to speak with him. Finally he could evade me no longer and reined back the ox. “Master Thomas?” he said evenly. Before I could state my business, however, he quickly and somewhat angrily added, “I told Schout everything! I don’t know who cut Jan down. I don’t know what they done with body. I sleep through all that night.”

        He was lying, I knew—necessary lies that neither of us could help. I cast my eyes downward, unable to bear watching it. “Hans—”

        “You ask my woman. She tell you!” I nodded to the following seeder, who somehow recognized my desire for privacy and walked over to join the other pair, who’d halted and were staring at us. Not much privacy in an open field at high noon!

        “Hans, I wanted to ask you about Justus Bates, not your.… Not Jan.”

        It took him half a minute to get possession of himself. “What about?”

        “When you got him, was he—”

        “Evil man! Dominie don’t want him in graveyard with decent.”

        “Ah. When you first saw him, Hans.… When was that?”

        “That Bates? I hear him beat Mister Eben too.”

        “When were you asked to dig a grave for him, Hans?”

        “Oh. Right away. Vrijdag find me in quarter before work. I go to common. Dominie tell me bury body in shed. I get horse and cart and take to potter’s.”

        “Was anyone assisting you?”

        Hans looked at me uncomprehendingly for two seconds, then shook his head. “I manage. If heavy man, or person go in casket, I get Balt help. Not this. This I put under my own self.” I pondered my next query. “I done and back here on field mid-morning.”

        “Uh huh. How long would you say he’d been dead, Hans?”

        He stared for a second, clearly registering that our interview was the result of some unease on my part—and clearly wondering what that was. “Him stiff. Him dead five, six hours. Him never straighten.”

        Aha. I tried to think of an easy way to ask my next question. Couldn’t. “That night, Hans. When did you last see Zwarte Jan?”

        Hans looked away and gulped. “Sun go down. I say good night. He go in with Anne.”

        “Did you hear any commotion overnight?”

        Now he was truly mystified. “I hear Anne talk quiet outside to friend, long time, middle night.” He thought more. “That all.”

        What else had I meant to ask? Oh. How could I forget? “Did you look at the corpse’s neck, Hans? Could you tell—”

        “Him cut twice.”

        “I beg your pardon?”

        “Twice. Low cut”—he gestured just above his collarbone—“deep, smooth. Much, much blood. Blood all over neck, shirt, breeches.”

        Yes. I remember having difficulty looking at the horrible gashes. “Another cut?”

        “Up here.” Just under the chin. “Rough, jagged. But no blood.”

        “No blood?”

        He closed his eyes briefly. “Very little blood. Almost no blood.”

        “Was it as deep a cut?”

        He pondered. “I don’t think, Master Thomas. But … I don’t worry about. I want him under, that all I want.”

        I was as stumped as he. Unable to think of anything more, I sheepishly thanked him and left. I could sense his eyes following me as I regained the road and finally put some trees between us.

* * *

The controversy—whether it was still necessary for me alone to service Mr. Scoffield’s room now that the disreputable Mr. and Mrs. Bates had departed life and New Utrecht, respectively—had been raised to my mother once, and decided with a resounding affirmative. When she gets a notion going, very little will change her. So when I got home, she reminded me there was no time like mid-day to locate untoward dust and debris, and therefore my chaotic thoughts were necessarily postponed pending completion of this tiresome chore. First I stripped the bed and reversed the mattress, then reset it with clean sheets. Finally, I commenced dusting the window sill and the two items of furniture.…

        There was a handsome folded knife on the bureau. It had been there all along, but … curiosity got to me. No one was about—Scoffield himself had said he was going all the way to Bushwick today—so I pushed the door almost closed. I took the knife to the window and opened it out in direct sunlight. The handle was carved oak with etched filigree decorations. Its polished steel blade gleaming, it looked as if it had never once been used. I looked very carefully and found, with vague relief, that the item looked perfectly ready to set back on a respectable merchant’s shelf.

        Mother begged one more favor as I reported the room readied. Would I bring in a bushel of apples from the stable? Of course. The bushels were stacked high. I looked about, hissed quietly, and pitched four up to Nicholls. But as I again hefted the bushel, I spied, stuck in a rafter over the tool bench, Zwarte Jan’s knife. I’d wondered what Pa had done with it. I’d given it to him on Sunday, suggesting he should take it to Brooklyn as evidence, and that was the last I’d known of it. He’d probably “forgotten.” I pried it out and examined it in the sunlight. It was in worse shape than I recalled, the blade nicked and badly scratched. There was a dark streak along the edge that was probably blood. But there was not a lot of blood. Grime perhaps—Jan wouldn’t have had access to anything better than sand with which to clean it—but no great accumulation of dried gore. I stuck it back in the rafter, and carried the apples to the kitchen.

        My chores complete, I took my reading outside, as normal, but was again unable to concentrate. No matter which way I turned the problem, I made no headway. Twice I tried to put it out of my mind and absorb some wisdom, but I couldn’t. Perhaps, I decided with a sigh, if I could unburden these doubts, they’d at least let me alone. A vision of the stony reception I might receive from Meneer Van Klost brought me up short. Speculations on the details of Bates’ last moments would be unwelcome to anybody in New Utrecht. The town had just hanged a man and was hoping that the rebellious spirit of the last weeks had died with him. Not a soul would care for the intellectual exercise that was distracting me. What I needed was someone like Mr. Glasby, who would be a patient, intelligent listener to this conundrum. So would Miss Chapman, for that matter. Or my friend Marinus Willett, whom I’d seen only once since his recovery. But they were all far away, and….

        The dominie, of course! He was no stranger to controversy, and was adept at managing it. And it was the perfect time to consult him, too, as he made a practice of being available to his communicants on Saturday afternoons. I fretted for twenty minutes more whether I really needed to impose on him before finally resolving that there was no alternative.

        Just as I was passing in front of the kerk toward the dominie’s residence, however, I spotted my youngest nephew running flat out toward our house with an unsheathed knife in his grubby little paw. “Petrus! Stop!” He lurched to a halt as I yelled, and my heart skipped a beat. “Boy, you must never run like that with a knife in your hand! If you trip, you could—”

        “Isn’t this our knife, Uncle Thomas? I found it!” I squatted beside him and looked at it dumbly. “It’s the one that went missing, isn’t it? Hendrik said I should wash it off and give it to Grandmother. I have to get back to the game—”

        “No, wait, wait! Let me see.” Distractedly, Petrus handed me his find, nearly stabbing me in the process. “The one that we couldn’t locate after supper last week?” I’d forgotten all about it … because I’d been delegated to take Jan to Brooklyn. “I’ll take care of this, Petrus, but … show me where you found it.”

        “I have to get back to the game!”

        “Well this won’t take a minute. Now come on.”

        Petrus looked as guilty as a four-year-old can manage. “It was in the well, Uncle Thomas.”

        “The well! Hasn’t your father told you never to go down into that well?” Of course he had. “Show me.”

        The well in the common next to the kerk is dry most of the time. Every now and then, usually in the early spring, there’s enough brackish water to use for cleaning, so the town has never filled it in.

        Hendrik and Willem joined us as we approached it. “Hendrik threw the ball so hard it bounced off my hand and went into the well,” Willem protested even before being asked.

        “You found the knife on the ground at the bottom, along with the ball?” I asked Petrus.

        “Yes sir.”

        “Right out on top? No leaves or anything over it?” He shook his head—and I shook mine. “You be careful with this well, lads. It’s very dangerous!”

        In chorus: “Oh, we were careful, Uncle Thomas!”

        “It’s not like the new well, there’s no ratchet on this one. If the handle got out of control, he’d fall straight to the bottom.”

        “Oh we know that!” They dashed off, grinning, as I sighed. Anger would do no good. I’d been just as glib myself when Meneer Nijenhuis had reproved me for lowering Aalbert down the well a dozen years ago. After all, Brevoort had lowered me when I’d been youngest and smallest.

        I took a good look at the knife. A thin, sharp blade like its mates in our dining room, but it was filthy. Sticky! Could it be dirt of some kind?

        No. Blood.

* * *


        “Good afternoon, Dominie.”

        Van Voort’s smooth, untroubled face looked up at me in his doorway, surprised but smiling. “Well come in, come in.” He led me back to his study, a large, airy room familiar to me from years of my schooling. Reuben, the elderly valet who is actually owned by the kerk rather than the dominie personally, was busy in the adjacent pantry, cleaning tableware for the morrow’s consistory meeting. “Sit you down, lad. Is something wrong? What can I do for you?”

        I prevaricated with small talk for a moment, hoping Reuben would leave, or the dominie would dismiss him, but he hauled out a new stack of bowls and proceeded to examine and clean them one by one. Finally I admitted that I had a problem that was greatly troubling me.…

        “Ah. I imagined as much. Your attendance has been irregular, young Thomas!”

        “Yes sir.”

        “But we shall let that pass for the moment.” He sat back and waited for me to explain myself. I felt inhibited because Reuben was still within hearing distance, twenty feet away. I kept expecting Van Voort to send him out of the room. Finally, I nodded directly in the slave’s direction, as an unmistakable hint. “Ah, you needn’t worry. Reuben is extraordinarily discreet; I’ve observed that on many occasions. He is quite reliable. Now, is it your father?”

        My father? Oh. “Oh, no sir.”

        “Aha. You are finding yourself in conflict with your elder brother, perhaps?”

        “No sir, I—”

        “Oh dear. I hope we’re not contemplating a situation such as your cousin faced a year ago?”

        What? Oh. Bertie—finding he’d got Jenneken with child. I felt myself flushing. “No no, sir, I—” I nearly laughed.

        “What then, lad? What could be so terrible?”

        Once more, I attempted indirectly to plead for privacy. Dominie Van Voort shrugged impatiently, and I gave up. “I’ve been thinking a lot, sir, about the town’s problems, and I want—”

        “The town’s problems?”

        “Yes sir. What happened a week ago, sir, it troubles me, and—”

        “Well, I’m pleased that you trouble yourself with the town’s problems at all, Thomas. We had worried that you were planning to dissociate yourself completely from the town of your forebears.” I was speechless. “I’ve been most distressed that your brother Brevoort did not even see fit to attend your niece’s christening!”

        Should I tell him Brevoort’s children are being raised as Baptists?

        “That was really quite irresponsible. I am very disap—”

        “Dominie, what’s worrying me is that I can’t make sense out of how Zwarte Jan did in Justus Bates. There are too many discrepancies in the narrative.”

        The dominie stared at me, open-mouthed. The clatter of which I’d been dimly aware, of tableware and cutlery, suddenly went quiet as well. “Such as?”

        “Well, when we captured Jan, he was suffused with enthusiasm, sir, as if he’d just walked out of a revival tent.” Van Voort shook his head in synodal horror. “So we assumed he’d attacked Bates scant minutes before my father and I found him, Jan being a most simple slave, and—”

        “I must say, your father was most remiss in allowing this to come to pass, really.”

        “Indeed, sir, I fear so. But the point is, we ignored—or at least forgot—the evidence of our own senses, which was—”


        “That the body of Justus Bates was already cold, sir. In fact, the rigor had already set in when we removed it from the stocks.”

        The dominie sat still in thought for a moment. “I see, and the implication of—” He broke off for a second. “Reuben, leave us, please! You can finish that in an hour.” He waited until we heard a door close. “But Jan did confess, Thomas? He avowed he’d cut the wretch’s throat, did he not?”

        “Aye sir, most convincingly. But he would have had to have done it hours before. Not just before dawn, but in the middle of the night.”

        Um hmm.”

        “And if he did do that, his mere presence near the green becomes hard to explain.”

        “Ah. Perhaps he returned to view his abominable handiwork in the light?”

        “Or perhaps, sir … perhaps he had an accomplice.”

        Dominie Van Voort shuddered. “That’s a most alarming thought, Thomas. But is there really anything to suggest that?”

        I explained about the two cuts on the neck, and the second knife that had just come into my possession as I had approached the kerk. “You see why I find it all confusing, sir?”

        He sighed. “Ah yes, well of course. But we must all live with a certain amount of disorder in our lives. It is not given to us to know God’s mind, Thomas.”

        “Of course not, sir, but—”

        “And you know.… This is a very dangerous line of inquiry, Thomas. The citizens of the town, the whole county—I’ve even heard men assert the entire province is concerned—are most nervous, unsteady, mercurial in the instance of violence by the bondsmen. It is a subject properly to be considered only by the most mature and settled minds, and that in absolute privacy.”

        “Well, yes sir, I do realize this. That’s why I came to you, sir!”

        He smiled briefly. “Ah, well, you flatter even me, lad. But this is a proper subject for authority, not idle surmise, and I shall remand it to the Selectmen of the town to judge.”

        The Selectmen include Meneer Van Klost and my sorry father. “But sir—”

        He raised his hand to halt my objections. “All will be handled in due time, my friend. You must remember that the slightest indiscretion in a matter of such delicacy can have catastrophic consequences.” Feeling queasy, I nodded. “And I think you should cease torturing yourself, Thomas.” He smiled knowingly. “You really need to bring your own affairs to maturation, young man!”

        This I interpreted as more than another hint that I ought to find work. “So say everyone,” I grumbled, trying to correct my insolence as the syllables passed my lips. But it really was infuriating to hear the county’s most eligible bachelor—twice my age—drop suggestions that a nineteen-year-old was overdue for wedlock! Especially when—

        “And you must guard against the sin of pride, Thomas, against intellectual arrogance. I fear you are sometimes importunate with your betters.”

        It took considerable willpower to conclude the interview a few minutes later without exploding in irritation. I’d thought the man my friend, but at the moment I was finding him completely insufferable.

* * *

“The missing knife’s been found, Mother.” I set down the buckets of water she’d commanded me to fetch the instant I’d returned from the kerk.

        “Oh thank heaven, we really need it. Where on earth was it?”

        “Petrus found it at the bottom of the old well.”

        “The bottom of the.… What was it doing there?” I pulled it from my vest and showed it to her. “Ugh! Let me clean that up right away.”

        “Wait, wait. Do you see what I see?”

        She halted, brought it closer to her eyes, and turned it over in the light of the kitchen window. “Is that … blood?”

        “You tell me.”

        She shrugged. “It’s all over the handle, not just the blade. The bottom of the well?”

        “Aye. The boys lost a ball.”

        Her scowl deepened. “You reprimanded them, I trust?”

        “Oh yes.”

        She grunted, dropped the knife into a wash bucket, and promptly began cleaning it with a rag. “The well! I’ll never understand how things end up where they do! Would you bring me a peck of turnips from the cellar, please?”

        Was life in New Utrecht finally returning to normal? Hints that it might be made me all the more hesitant to voice my doubts to anyone else. We had a goodly amount of custom that night, and Mother even asked me to play my guitar, and that in turn profited us by a few more sales.

        At kerk the next morning the dominie expounded on a theological subject that had nothing whatever to do with the problems of life in Kings County, New York. Again, back to normal. If he later detained the Selectmen after the Consistory meeting to debate the issues I’d raised, Pa gave me no indication of it.

        But when I joined the family at supper, Mr. Scoffield—just returned from Gravesend—looked up sharply, and said, “Well, you’ve put your foot in it, my boy!” Everyone looked at each of us, curious at this outburst.

        “I beg your pardon, sir?”

        “All of Gravesend is agog with your contention that the old slave had an accomplice when he did Bates in!”

        The clamor of my family was matched only by my own inability to breathe. “That was only a surmise, sir, the merest hypothesis,” I finally gasped out. “And it was voiced in strictest confidence. How—”

        “Really? Oh, then I do apologize. But I’m afraid it’s all over Gravesend, and.…”

        And all over Kings County.

        “My host there queried me this afternoon about a rumor among his servants, and I had to tell him I knew nothing of it.”

        As I frantically considered how this might’ve happened, my brother angrily slammed his fist on the table, and groaned, “Oh not again!”

        “Damn it, Thomas,” my father shouted. “When will you learn to keep your fool trap shut?”

        Unable to reply, I.… Oh yes. Reuben, the kerk’s bondsman, actually lives with his family in the Gravesend slave quarter. He has a special pass he carries with him at all times. So much for his reliable discretion!

        Mother suddenly looked up with a startled thought—that she unfortunately blurted out. “Does this have anything to do.… Is that why you wanted me to examine that knife yesterday, Thomas?”

        “What knife?” Harmanus demanded.

        “The knife I found in the well?” Petrus squawked, delighted.

        Mother sensed she was on dangerous ground. “Oh never mind.”

        Pa’s curiosity was aroused. “What, Chastity?”

        “Our table knife. We had one go missing a week ago, and Petrus found it yesterday in the old well.”


        “It was covered with blood.”

        The entire room was quiet. “So?”

        “Well, that’s just thirty yards from the stocks, isn’t it.”




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