In 17th century Massachusetts, Martha Allen falls in love with a servant who turns out to have been the man who chopped off the head of King Charles I during the English Civil War. Martha Allen is a young woman with a stubborn air of independence who has not yet married. She is sent to work for her cousin, Patience Taylor, who is pregnant with her third child and having a terrible time of it with illness and nausea. Patience's husband, Daniel, is often away from home on business, delivering goods from his farm and purchasing new items for the home, such as cloth for sewing. The story is set in both colonial Massachusetts and London around 1673.
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Martha's cousin Patience begins to treat Martha very harshly, ordering her around as though she were just another servant. Once Martha speaks her mind about this mistreatment, though, Patience becomes a bit kinder to her. The Taylor household employs two other workers: Thomas Carrier and his fellow worker, John. Thomas is a very tall man who is somewhat quiet in nature, though he is also stubborn and independent. Both he and Martha speak their minds when they need to do so. Martha is angry with Thomas at first because he seems reluctant to even speak with her.
One evening, Martha tells the family that she thinks she hears wolves in the barn with the chickens at night, though she's not really sure of this. Patience then orders Thomas and John to sleep in the barn, in the freezing cold, to see if they can catch the wolves. Martha is secretly happy that Thomas must sleep out in the cold because she is angry with his attitude. It turns out, though, that there really are wolves and Martha ends up getting mildly attacked by one.
Meanwhile, in London, England, King Charles II is assembling his lords to get together a band of murderers to go to the colonies, find Thomas and kill him to avenge Charles' father's death. Charles I was beheaded at the end of the English civil war and Thomas was the one who took the ax to him. Thomas was a follower of Cromwell and left his association with the Royals. He was then sent off to Massachusetts to hide away.
Thomas and Martha begin to speak to one another about things other than their work. Martha lets on to Thomas that there is sadness in her life. Thomas intuits that something bad had happened to her before she even tells him this.
Martha goes to see a blind tinsmith in the village nearby in order to buy a lantern. The tinsmith tells her that Thomas Carrier's real name is Thomas Morgan and that he is being hunted down for swinging the ax on King Charles. In the meantime, three London assassins are enroute to America via a ship. They have kidnapped a teenaged boy, Georgie, to help them with their duty because four men were supposed to be doing the job. A boy who works on the ship feels badly for the kidnapped one, so he manages to throw one of the assassins overboard and tells the others that the kidnapped boy went overboard also. He hides the boy until they arrive in the colonies.
Once the two remaining assassins arrive, they are soon kidnapped by Indians. The Indians burn one of them alive. The other, named Brudloe, frees himself and sets off to find Thomas. Martha and Thomas are in love with each other by this time, and Thomas tells Martha everything about his life in England and what he has done. They decide to marry eventually.
Brudloe the assassin gets Georgie to help him, without realizing at first who the boy is. The two of them wait in a small home near the Taylor's home. Brudloe is waiting for his opportunity to kill Thomas as Georgie spies for him. But Georgie is secretly working for some of the townspeople who are on Thomas's side, people who hide and protect those who have gone against the King. Just as Brudloe realizes who Georgie is and is about to murder him, Thomas enters the house and kills Brudloe.
Thomas is now free. He cuts off Brudloe's head and has it shipped back to the King in England, making the King think it is Thomas's head, but those in the know in London realize who the head truly belongs to.
Thomas and Martha marry and have children. At the end of the story, Martha's diary entry to her daughter, Sarah, is shown. She and Sarah have never gotten along because they were both too much alike, but Martha lets Sarah know how much she is loved and always will be.
Best part of story, including ending:
I enjoyed the history about Charles Stuart, the King, and the romance between Thomas and Martha.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Martha begins to keep a diary of all that has happened to her and she hides it in her pillow.
Opinion about the main character:
I like Martha's willingness to just be herself and not succumb to anyone's desires for her to conform.