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Winds of Destiny

Winds of Destiny by Jayne Bullock
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Catherine Grafton has returned to the home of her youth, once a beautiful manor house and farm in northern England. As she gazes on the disintegrating structures, she recalls the last time she saw her home – one filled with wealth, a life of ease and a loving but strict family…

In the bright fall sunshine of 1641, just before her eighteenth birthday, Catherine saddled her horse Maudie for one last adventurous fling before becoming “the proper, responsible young woman” required by her father. Mystery, danger, intrigue and love all await Catherine at the end of her ride. Her destiny is sealed from the moment she rides out of the Grafton stables and arrives at the cottage of a Puritan family in the deep woods. A fateful accident from a dangerous thunderstorm in an unfamiliar forest, amnesia, death of a soldier, the family’s involvement with Puritan exiles and a trip across northern England bring Catherine closer and closer to her destiny. During the journey, she comes face-to-face with the political and religious tidewaters of the reformation and her loyalty is increased as her newly-found friends help Puritan exiles. She is challenged to meet her destiny and begins to discover what is important to her – family, faith and love.
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Title: Winds of Destiny
Author: Jayne Bullock

I should never have returned. It had been a strenuous journey to say the least, but one that had to be taken. Sometimes, you have to put life in perspective and that means looking back at where you began. Now, in the year 1675, each twist and turn in the road brought me ever closer to a life I had long ago put behind me. My anxiety increased as the spinning wheels of the horse-drawn coach continued to roll on toward my destination, the home of my youth. As I approached the familiar countryside, the old feelings of insecurity, fear and love that childhood brings filled my very soul and revived those long forgotten emotions.

Not expecting a great deal of change in the village close to my home, I was surprised to see how time had left its tale. Weathered wood, sagging roofs, unkempt yards and even dilapidated buildings gave evidence much of the population had moved on. It was eerily ghostly. No one was about as we drove through and I felt sad to see these deathly remnants of a once thriving community filled with love and laughter.

I wondered if we would be lucky enough to find the inn open that was always a welcoming spot at the far end of the village. I had asked the coach driver to stop and was pleased to find the old familiar structure had withstood the elements of time and nature. After our long journey, both of us were looking forward to a short rest and the opportunity for lunch, drink and conversation. The old tavern sign waved in the breeze and was a welcome sight to us weary travelers. I breathed a sigh of relief as I heard the driver holler “Whoa!” to the horses.

“I thin’ we be in luck,” he said to me as he opened the carriage door.

He checked the horses, gave them a pat and then we went inside. The interior was much as I remembered it from my youth when Father and I would stop in for a bite to eat. I could almost hear the stories being told and the mugs clinking as patrons toasted their latest good fortune or bemoaned their woes. The innkeeper proved to be a friendly sort who was more than willing to tell stories about the locals and the community I had left behind in my youth.

“Welcome, welcome,” he said. “Good t’see some travelers. I be Brownie and I hope ya’ be hungry.”

We told him we were and hoped he had something good and hot to eat.

“Where ya’ from?” he asked, as he set about getting a warm cup of tea for me and a pint of ale for the driver.

“America,” I replied. “Came in at Liverpool, found my driver and a few days ago, we started up here from Manchester. Are there any rooms available?” Somehow I thought my visit might be extended and we would need a place to stay for the evening.

He laughed and said there “didna’ seem to be such a big crowd these days.” I then asked him about the village and what had happened to the shops and homes throughout the years.

“We are a dyin’ village,” the innkeeper said sadly. “The beckonin’ call f’r riches and adventures ‘as claimed many a young heart, with our youth off t’seek fortunes in other parts o’ the world. Many people moved on, seekin’ work in the larger cities and towns. And o’ course the many wars called young men t’fight f’r their beliefs.”

He set a couple bowls filled with steaming stew in front of us and a plate of bread. It didn’t take us long to devour the delicious meal.

“The religious struggles here were too much for young and old alike,” the innkeeper went on to say. “Oh, ya’ll find a few o’ the old’r folk still ‘round who stayed on t’eke out a livin’ best they could wi’ wha’ nature provided. But it gets harder all the time. Good thin’ my inn and tavern be on a well-traveled road.”

After enjoying both the meal and the company, the driver and I were ready to continue our journey. We tentatively reserved a couple of rooms and thanked the innkeeper for the information and the food. Once back in the carriage, we headed on toward our destination.

I had previously given the driver directions, and a short distance outside the village he turned onto the old road leading to our journey’s end. I bounced with the movement of the coach on the rough dirt pathway, now filled with deep ruts and grassy tufts. My mind began to take me back in time to those long ago days. Not yet, I told myself. Don’t look back – not yet.

I caught muted glimpses of my family’s estate through spacious openings in a mass of scraggly trees and bushes. My father had always kept a beautifully, well-maintained woods. Now it was an overgrown timber – branches, limbs and whole trees cluttered the ground. Many of the trees, once fully clothed in shades of green, had deteriorated with age. The wooded area was dense, dark and foreboding.

Then, as if the house knew I was returning, it appeared in a shroud of gray clouds. Through a clearing in the trees I caught the full, breathtaking view of the tall, ancient brick and stucco house. As the carriage turned down the long lane, now little more than a path of over-grown grasses and weeds, I could see that time and Mother Nature had taken its toll on the property. Many of the buildings on the estate were in rubble and the horse barn was missing its roof – the slate tile lay all around the weathered building in broken shards. The driver opened the door for me and I stepped out in front of the house. Before me stood the sad remains of my parents, Thomas and Agnes Grafton. And I, Catherine Grafton, their only surviving child, had returned to the home of my youth.

It was a sad homecoming, but I had expected that. The whole house emitted an air of sadness and gloom. I gazed on a home once widely acclaimed for its elaborate décor and stately façade, now faded in color to a dull gray. Shutters hung askew, chipped and broken tile cluttered the ground, and chimneys lay in scattered piles near the house. The well-groomed gardens, once mother’s pride and joy, were overgrown with weeds and other debris. The years had not only taken a toll on the estate but the family who had once lived there. I was almost 18 when my eager adventure took me from them. Since, I had received only a few letters in my later years about how my family had fared and what had happened to our estate. My eyes welled with tears at those lost years. Now I gave myself leave to remember those long ago days when Grafton Manor was filled with our daily lives, our moments of happiness and times of sadness…

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