Ted Bell's NICK OF TIME - Excerpt 5



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- Excerpt 4


- Excerpt 3


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Author James Patterson (Maximum Ride series) says:


"NICK OF TIME is a blast - the best of Robert Louis Stevenson, Horatio Hornblower and Harry Potter. The kid in me loved it, and so did the adult."

Author Steve Berry says:


"A brilliant adventure, hidden within a rolling saga, tucked inside an intriguing mystery.  That's NICK OF TIME.  Ted Bell proves that he's the master of swashbuckling for both young and old." 

SchoolLibraryJournal.com says:


“Wow! Some books sweep you away. Ted Bell's NICK OF TIME amazed me, dazzled me, and swept my imagination off to sea… The last line of the story gave me hope for many more sequels. Please, Mr. Bell, may I have some more?... Middle school students are going to be so hooked by this book… I've been craving an adventure story with a good mystery and this arrived in the nick of time to rescue me.”

School Library Journal says:


Nick is the pluckiest, most likable boy-hero since Robert Lewis Stevenson's David Balfour (Kidnapped ). With great battle scenes; lots of nautical jargon; and themes of courage, integrity, and honor, this book will appeal to restless boys who can never find books written just for them. Three huzzahs and a great big 21-gun salute to Bell for his first novel for kids. Hopefully, it won't be his last.”

Children’s Bookseller Judy Hobbs says:


“I just got back from vacation and NICK OF TIME  was on top of my pile.  I loved it!  It was truly a combination of all the great adventure books that I've read.  I know that it will be a great sell to boys, but there will be an awful lot of girls (like me!) who will not be able to put it down. Can't wait for a sequel.”

Grant, age 12 says:


“I had a hard time putting the book down, even when I had homework.  I read at breakfast, and tried to read at dinner, but my mom made me stop… The main character, Nick, came in the "nick of time," and he traveled through time - pretty cool!  Awesome book, can't wait for the sequel!”


Excerpt 5


*4 June 1939*


At Greybeard Light

“There is a war coming, Nick,” Angus said.  “A terrible war.  Your mother doesn’t believe it because her brother’s in government and the government believes there’ll be no war.  Most people feel that way and I understand Mother’s feelings.  But I think war is imminent, Nick.  THE Germans have fooled us all.  Mr. Churchill alone seems to understand our desperate situation.  He has no power, no authority at all, but he is single-handedly trying to sound the alarm throughout England before it’s too late.” 

“Not quite single-handed though, is he, Father?”  Nick asked, placing his hand on the logbook.

“No, I guess he’s not quite single-handed, Nick,” Angus said, with an appreciative nod to his son.  “But, since he’s not in government, he relies upon a group of private citizens like me for any little scrap of news about the German naval and air buildup.  We’re not all one-legged lighthouse keepers tracking the sea lanes, either.  There are scores of British businessmen traveling inside Germany who watch the rail lines.  I know a group of schoolteachers in Dorset who watch the coastal skies every night.  We’re a loose confederation of lookouts, Nicky.  We work in total secrecy and report our findings to Churchill at his home in Kent.”

“Why won’t the government listen to Mr. Churchill, Father?” Nick asked, his eyes wide as he imagined himself part of a vast network of spies.

“Oh, it’s politics, son, of the worst kind,” he said, leaning back in his chair and letting a thin stream of smoke escape his lips.  “Like most politicians, the prime minister is telling the people only what they want to hear.  You see, most people are like your mother.  They hate war, and rightfully so.  As you know, we lost an entire generation of boys not much older than yourself in the last war.  And that memory is very strong and very painful. Everyone is afraid of it happening again.  Everyone wants peace so desperately that the prime minister and his government are burying their heads in the sand, pretending that if they give Hitler what he wants, he’ll go away and leave us alone.”

“I want peace, too, Father,” Nick said softly.  “Don’t you?”

“Of course I do, Nick,” Angus said, “But peace at any price is the most dangerous course of action we could take.  England is weak, with little stomach for a fight.  But we will fight and sooner rather than later.  Right now, today, Germany’s Luftwaffe fighters and bombers outnumber our own ten to one.  They’ve got millions of men in uniform, all highly trained.  And they’re building the mightiest warships and submarines the world has ever seen.  Including some kind of ‘super U-boat’ that we’ve only hear rumours about.  Highly experimental.  I’ve promised Churchill I’d find out everything I could about her.”

“Why are U-boats so important?” Nick asked, making a mental note to tell his father about the bomber squadrons off Hawke Point.

“Food, Nick,” Angus said.  “England is a small island.  She can never raise enough food to feed herself.  In the first war, German submarines almost succeeded in cutting off our food supply by sinking all the convoys bound for England.  That’s why, after the Great War, the Germans were forbidden from building submarines by the Versailles peace treaty.  Hitler is ignoring that treaty, and my reports to Chartwell prove it.  We can’t let the U-boats gain control of the Channel or the North Atlantic again.  If they do, this time we will starve.  Understand all of this, Nick?”

“Y-yes, Father, I think I do.”  Nick replied.  He was thinking of his mother’s brother, his uncle Godfrey, and his children who lived in Cadogan Square in the very center of London.  He was thinking, too, of skies over the capital black with thundering bombers like those he’d seen off Hawke Point.  And the idea of all England and Europe ablaze.  Was it a blaze, he wondered, that could spread all the way to little Greybeard Island?  “But what can I do, Father?”

“I’ve only got two eyes, Nick, neither of them as strong as they used to be.”  Angus said.  “I could use a good pair of eyes alongside mine up at the top of the lighthouse every night.  Watching for submarine tracks in the moonlight.  And, when you’re out sailing on Petrel, you could keep an eye for anything that might be important.  Periscopes.  Any large convoys of German shipping.  Any unusual naval activity you might see.  Anything at all, son, just jot it down and I’ll include it in my weekly report to Charwell.”

“How do our reports get to Mr. Churchill, Father?” Nick asked, enjoying the chill he got imagining the great man reading one of Nick’s own reports.

“Ah.  I have a contact called ‘Captain Thor.’ Not his real name, probably, but a code.  A former naval man, I believe, and highly experienced at this sort of thing.  He’s rather the ringleader of our little group of ‘birdwatchers,’ as we call ourselves.  Thor crosses to Portsmouth each week on his sixty-foot motor launch.  Delivers the reports to a fisherman who waits just outside the harbour.  Gets them over there in fairly short order, he does, too.  Twin V-twelve Allisons below, aircraft engines.  She’s called Thor, in fact.  Perhaps you’ve seen her about?”

Thor!  How could I miss her?  She’s a real beauty.”  Nick said.  “And I’ve seen this Captain Thor, too, I guess, at her helm.”  Nick looked at his father in dead earnest.  “I’ll do anything I can to help the birdwatchers, Father.  You can count on me.” 

“I knew I could count on you, Nick.  One final thing.  This effort of Churchill’s is a matter of utmost confidentiality.  Even King George doesn’t know about it!  I must swear you to absolute secrecy.  What I’m doing is completely against the government’s wishes.  I’d lose my job if the ministry found out I was helping Churchill.  And another thing.  When war does break out, the fate of anyone who falls into enemy hands while spying is death.  Any you’re a spy now, son, just like me.  Remember that.”

“Yes, Father.  I swear it.”  Nick said, but he wasn’t really thinking about losing his home or dying before a Nazi firing squad.  He was trying to make himself believe that a mere twelve-year-old boy was in on a secret so great that ever the prime minister and the kind of England didn’t know about it! 

That night, as he drifted off to sleep, an amazing notion occurred to Nicholas McIver.  Maybe he was only twelve years old, a boy who’d probably never amount to any kind of real hero, but how many other boys did he know who could claim to be living, breathing spies for goodness sake!


 


Excerpt 4


*4 June 1939*


At Greybeard Light

Suddenly, Nick’s bedroom door swung inward with a bang, causing him to sit bolt upright in bed for the second time that morning.  There stood his almost seven year old sister, Kate.  She had one of her many raggedy dolls under her arm and Nick noticed that this one had the same big blue eyes and bouncy red curls on her head as his sister did.  He knew from the little half smile on her face that he was in some kind of trouble.  He’d had about six years of peace in his life, the ones before his sister had been born, and most of his waking hours were spent trying to keep just a half step ahead of her.

“Oh.  Hullo, Nicky,” she said, leaning against the doorway.  “Are you still sleeping?”

“Tell me something, Kate,” he said through a yawn.  “Seriously.  Have you ever, ever, known anyone to sleep sitting straight upright?  Think abut it.”

“Um, well, yes, actually,” she said.  “I have.”

“Oh, don’t be such a vexation,” Nick said, quoting Mother’s favorite word.  “Who on earth sleeps sitting straight upright?”

“Father, that’s who.  In church.  Every single Sunday morning!” Kate said, eyes blue as cornflowers crinkling in total victory.

“Oh,” Nick said.  “Right.”  Christmas!  Hardly awake for five minutes and already she’s gotten the better of him!  It was going to be a long day.  He shook his head to clear the cobwebs.  “Well, for your information I am not still sleeping.”

“That’s good because Father wants to know something,” Kate said, swinging her doll lazily by the hair.

“What’s that?” Nick asked, covering another yawn with the back of his hand.

“Well, he’d like to know if you plan to sleep all day or if you’re coming down to—”

“Oh.  Breakfast,” Nick said, and swung his legs over the side of the bed.  Somehow, having gone to sleep without any supper, he’d managed to forget all about breakfast.  “Right.  Coming down, I suppose.  I’m starving.”  Pushing his hair out of his eyes, he tried to recall where he’d thrown his trousers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*4 June 1939*


At Greybeard Light

“By the way, Nicky?” Kate asked, twirling the doll in a tight little arc.  “Do you believe in Nazis?”

“Why, I guess I do.”  Nick said, pulling his well-worn summer trousers on, two legs at a time.  “Much as anything.”

“Do you know what Nazis look like?”

“I suppose I’d know a Nazi sure enough if I saw one close up, Kate.”  Nick replied.  “Why do you ask?”

“Well, we’re supposed to keep a watch out for them, that’s all,” she said with great seriousness.  “We’re going to be birdwatchers, just like Papa.  All of us.  You, me, even Mummy.  That’s what Father wants to talk to you about.  He already talked to us about them.  Mummy doesn’t believe in Nazis, I don’t think.  And Father says Mummy should go snooping about in his secret drawers looking at his big birdwatcher’s book if she—oh, race you to the bottom of the stairs, Nicky!”  She’d seen the stormy look on her brother’s face and decided it was smart to beat a hasty retreat.

“Hold on,” Nick said.  The birdwatcher’s book?   “He, he thinks it was Mummy found the secret drawer and, what—hold on a tick will you!”  But his sister was already halfway back down the twisting stairway.  Nick charged out after her, pulling his shoes on as he ran.  “Kate!  Come back here!  Wait!  Don’t—“ But she had too much of a head start on him and was already at the kitchen table when Nick burst into the room.

And there on the kitchen table, just where he’d feared it might be, was the faded red leather logbook from the secret drawer upstairs.  On the table right between his parents, who sat staring at each other in stony silence above it.  And look at little Katie with the big smile on her face.

“It was me.”  Nick said simply.  They all turned to stare at him.

“What do you mean, Nick?” his father asked, a puzzled expression on his face.

“I opened the drawer.  I took out the book.  I didn’t mean to look inside it, Father, I just, I couldn’t help it.  I was looking for Mother’s spectacles and I pushed the little button and then the drawer just popped out.  I didn’t mean to look inside it, but—I’m sorry, Father, really I am.”

“Thank you, Nicholas,” his mother said smiling at him. “I’ve been trying to tell the old boy I wasn’t his culprit, but you know your father.”  She delicately patted a spot of jam from the corner of her mouth and added, “Well, the cat’s out of the bag at any rate, isn’t it?  At least we don’t all have to go on pretending to believe in this silly ‘birdwatching’ business!  Isn’t that right, dear husband?”

Nick’s father gave his mother on of his looks and said, “Well, I certainly knew somebody had been looking at it because the log had been put back in the drawer upside down and—well—“ He stopped himself and looked at his wife with an embarrassed smile.  “Sorry, old thing.  I should have known it was young Mr. Curiosity Shop here and not—”

“No harm done, my darling,” Emily interrupted.  She rose from the table and stood behind her husband, nuzzling his head with playful kisses.  “In fact, quite the opposite!”  Motioning to Katie, she added, “Come along, Katherine, and bring your berry basket.  I’m going to need your help if I’m going to get that strawberry pie in the over in time for supper.”

His sister slid by him, obviously a bit disappointed there hadn’t been more of a row and that Nicholas himself hadn’t gotten into more serious trouble.  Kate didn’t necessarily try to cause trouble herself, but she was always quite happy to see it come along.  Provided, of course, that her brother, and not she herself, was the focus of it.  Luckily for her, that was usually the case.  Nicky didn’t look for trouble, it seemed to look for him. 

“Sit up straight and eat your porridge, Nicholas,” his father said sternly.  “I want a word with you, young man.”  Nick saw his sister’s expression brighten instantly as she collected her basket.  She imagined he was really in for it now, and she was probably right.  She gave him a knowing smile as she rose from the table and was shocked to see the pink tip of her brother’s tongue dart from his mouth. 

“Mother!  Nicky stuck his tongue out at me and—”

“I did not!  I was only getting a bit of porridge that—”

“Nicholas, behave yourself!  Oh, Angus, by the way,” Emily called to his father, as she waited by the kitchen door for Kate to collect her basket.

“Yes, dear?”

“Don’t worry.  We’ll sound the alarm if we discover any Nazis hiding in the strawberry patch!  Won’t we, Katie?”  She laughed and sailed out the door, her big straw basket dangling gaily from her arm.  Nick could hear her laughter all the way down the garden path.

Nick’s father looked at him and for a second Nick feared for the worst, but then Kate flew out the door, basket on arm, singing about Nazis in the strawberry patch and Angus’s face broke into a broad grin.  But his father’s grin soon faded and he pushed the red logbook cross the table toward his son. 

“You’ve read what’s in here, I suppose,” Angus said.

“Yes, Father,” Nick admitted.  “Some of it.  Enough to know what it is.”

“As amusing as your dear mother seems to find all of this, I assure you that it is no laughing matter.”  Angus paused to relight his pipe and sat puffing it, regarding Nick thoughtfully.  “I may need your help, son,” he said finally.

“Anything, Father,” Nick replied, his eyes shining. “Anything at all!” A trill of excitement was flowing through him, unlike anything he’d ever experienced.  His life, he knew, was changing before his eyes.


Excerpt 3


* 3 June 1939 *


Off Greybeard Island

“Easy… easy… and… NOW!” cried Nick, heaving the tiller to starboard to swing his bow around.  If there was a tinge of fear remaining in his voice you couldn’t hear it for the wind or the spray or the sheer exhilaration of the moment as he steered the little boat down the broad steep face of the wave toward the deep trough below.  Petrel’s moment of truth had finally arrived.

“We need to come up, now, boy.”  Nick said, holding on to his tiller for dear life.  The Gravestone Rock loomed dangerously close to his left as Petrel plunged deeper into the trough.  “We. Need. To. Come.  UP!”  Nick held his breath.  He’d seen the ugly spine of the first reef from the top of his wave and knew that Petrel’s keel would clear it if only he had timed his descent into the trough perfectly.  He clenched his jaw, unaware how painfully tight it was.  Jip, too, was rigid, staring at the wall of water before them, sensing the moment.

Petrel’s bow suddenly lifted.  She was rising high on the majestic swell and Nick waited for the tearing sound of her keep on the deadly jagged rock.  It occurred to him in that moment that it would probably be one of the last sounds he would ever hear.

It didn’t come.

At the wave’s crest, Nick could see that he’d timed it perfectly.  The waves would now lift him over the two razor-sharp reefs that remained between Petrel and the safety of the sandy cove.  Jip scrambled forward once more to his station at the bow.  He barked loudly in triumph, daring the forces of nature to do battle once more with the mighty Petrel and he daring crew. 

“Hooray!” Nick cried in both relief and exultation.  “We did it, boy, we perfectly well did it, didn’t we?”

In the deep bottle-green safety of the cove, it was simply a matter of running Petrel toward shore until her keel beached on the soft sand.  That done, Nick quickly freed the main and jib halyards and all the wet canvas fell to the deck.  As the boat swung round and listed to her starboard side, a happy Nick and Jip leapt over the gunwale and waded ashore.  Nick made fast a line from Petrel’s bow to a large rock on the shore.  Then he and Jip ducked into the mouth of the nearest cave to escape the fury of the storm.

And they had been safe, perched on a deep ledge inside the cave, waiting for the storm to blow itself out before sailing home for supper.

This cave, it occurred to Nick as he and Jip climbed back into the boat, might make an excellent hiding place someday.  Either as a place to hide from bloodthirsty pirates, or a place to secret any treasure he and his crew might find during their future navigations.

“All right, boy,” Nick said, hauling down the halyard that raised his mainsail once more, “Time to fly away home!” Now that the storm had subsided, he was confident he could pick his way through the reefs with little trouble.  After all, he knew their locations by heart.

Yes, you could always rely upon young Nicholas McIver to get his crew home safely.  After all, was there a more reliable boy in all of England?




Excerpt 2


* 3 June 1939 *


Off Greybeard Island

“Jibe HO!” he shouted to his shaggy crew.  He pulled sharply back on his tiller instead of pushing against it.  The bow swung instantly off the wind.  “Mind yer heads,” Nick bellowed.  The stout wooden boom and violently snapping mainsail came roaring across the small open cockpit like the furies of hell.  “Down, boy!” Nick cried, and ducked under the heavy wooden boom at the last second, narrowly avoiding a blow to the head which would have sent him, unconscious, overboard.  The lines, the sails, the rigging, every plank of his boat was screaming at their breaking point.  She’d been built of stout timber, but he could feel Petrel straining desperately at her seams.  If a plank should spring open now, this close to a rocky lee shore, they were surely done for!

But she held.  Looking aloft, he saw his mast and rigging mostly intact.  By jibing the boat, he’d gained precious time to think.

Nick feverishly eyed his options, now rapidly dwindling to nil.  There had to be a way out of this!  Nicholas McIver was not a boy destined to die such a stupid, unseamanlike death.  Not if he could help it.  He had a healthy fear of dying, all right, but now, staring death square in the face, he was far more afraid of letting them all down.  His mother.  His father.  His little sister, Katie.  His best friend, Gunner.

Wasn’t that a fate even worse than death, he wondered?  For a boy to slip beneath the cold waves without even the chance to prove to those he loved that he was a brave boy, a boy destined to do great things in this world?  A boy who might one day be—a hero?

The already fresh wind had now built into something truly appalling.  Petrel was rapidly running out of sea room.  The sickly green-yellow sky cast its unhealthy flow over the frothing sea.  Nick heard an ominous roar building on his port side.  Just as he looked up, a wave like an onrushing locomotive crashed over the windward side of the little boat, staggering the tiny vessel, knocking her instantly and violently on her side.  Nick was buried under a torrent of cold seawater.  He clung desperately to the tiller to avoid being washed overboard.  He was thinking only of Jip, again standing watch up on the bow.  As the weight of her heavy lead keep quickly righted the boat once more, Nick, sputtering, strained forward, rubbing the stinging saltwater from his eyes.  His dog was still there.  Heaven only knew how the creature had managed it.  In fact, Jip was barking loudly, surely in anger t the wave that had almost done them in.

“All that lead we hung off her bottom is good for something, eh, Jipper?  Hang on, boy!” Nick cried.  “I’ll think of something!” But what, his mind answered, whatever could he do?  He knew that the next wave they took broadside would be their last.  He fought the tiller, determined to get the towering waves on Petrel’s stern.  It was his only chance.

Just at that moment Petrel was lifted high above a cavernous trough by the hand of another huge wave.  For a brief moment, Nick could see most of the northern tip of his island.  And he knew in that instant what he had to do.  There was no escaping to the windward of the Gravestone Rock.  Since Petrel could never make headway back into the teeth of the storm, he now had no choice.  He must fall off to the leeward side of the rock, sailing a dead run before the wind, directly into the waiting jaws of the Seven Devils.  Nothing else for it, he thought, more grimly determined than ever.

From the crest of the wave, Nick had seen a small flash of white on the rocky shore dead ahead.  It could only mean a sandy cove, one of many along this coast where he and Kate played on sunny days.

If he could somehow time the waves precisely, so that Petrel’s keel might just brush the Devil’s deadly tops, he just might have a chance at beaching the boat on the sandy shore of that little cove.  Yes, he just might.

Now that he had a plan, the boy’s spirits soared.  It wasn’t much of a plan, but it was the only chance he had.  If it failed, why, he—

“Shorten sail, lads!” Nick cried to his imaginary crew, clenching the damp and salty mainsheet in his teeth as he loosed the main halyard with his free hand.  In a blow like this, reducing sail area by reefing the main wouldn’t decrease his boat speed by much, but it might just be enough to control his timing of the waves over the reefs.  It was clear that Nick would need all the seamanship, and luck, he could muster to get captain and crew safely ashore.

Jip, as if recognizing the desperate seriousness of their situation, came aft to stand watch beside his master.  Nick was glad of his company.

“Steady now, steady,” cried Nick, bracing his knees against the thwart seat and winding the mainsheet round his fist to secure it.  The force of the wind on the shortened sail made Nick’s arm feel as if it might be pulled from its socket.  “Steady as she goes, lads!”  Wind and water were tossing the sloop about like a pond boat, throwing his timing off dangerously.  Entering the procession of towering rollers, Nick felt his sloop surge forward.  “Look alive, Jip, we’re in for a bit of a sleigh-ride!” he cried.  Jip growled and stood his ground.

The trick, and it was a good one, was keeping Petrel out of the sequence of huge waves rushing toward the treacherous shore.  To wait until the timing was precisely right.  “Right” meant that Petrel was lifted at the precise moment her keel was passing over each one of the jagged Devils.  It was going to take luck all right, bags of the stuff, luck and no small measure of skill.


 


Excerpt 1


* 3 June 1939 *


Off Greybeard Island

“Hard a’lee me boys!” shouted Nick NcIver over the wind, “or be smashed to smithereens in the jaws of Gravestone Rock!”

The dog Jip barked his loud agreement.

Nick, at the helm of his small sloop, Stormy Petrel, that afternoon, was almost at the end of his first day-long voyage around Greybeard Island.  He was hard on the wind, making a good seven knots as he tacked homeward.  Just now, he was approaching the treacherous reefs that guarded the entrance to Lighthouse Harbor. Jip, on the bow, was howling into the strong headwind, enjoying the pounding sprays of seawater every bit as much as his skipper.

But now Nick was watching the western sky and the rapidly rising seas uneasily.  Maybe he should have nipped inside the huge Gravestone Rock, in the lee of this wind.  Probably should have known better than to sail the long way home in weather like this.  Should have done this, should have done that, he silently cursed himself.  He did know better, in fact.  But he and Jip had been having such a splendid time, bounding through the waves, he’d simply ignored the storm warnings.  A little cold spot in the pit of his stomach was growing.  He hated that cold feeling.  He’d not even spoken its name.

But it was fear.

The glorious empty bowl of blue that had been the morning sky now featured stacks of boiling cumulus clouds, all gone to darkening greys and blacks.  Billowing towers of purple clouds loomed on the western horizon, swiftly turning the colors of an ugly bruise.  In the last hour, clouds of spume came scudding across his bow and through the rigging of Stormy Petrel.  Above the howl of the elements was the high keening whistle of wind in the sloop’s rigging.  Slat spray stung Nick’s eyes.  But he could still see the sky overhead, boiling and black.

Nick leaned hard into the Petrel’s tiller, putting the weight of his lean body against it, fighting to keep his bow to windward of Gravestone Rock.  He had both hands on the tiller, and they’d gone clammy and cold.  Looking up in awe at the giant rock now looming before him, he wiped first one hand, then the other, on his soaking trousers.  The Gravestone.  A terribly thought shuddered unpleasantly through Nick’s mind.  Would that famous stone tower today mark still another watery grave?  His own, and his beloved Jip’s?  He cursed himself for his stupidity and leaned into his tiller with all his might.  Hopeless.  The bow refused to answer the helm, to come up into the wind.

However could he keep his small sloop to the safe, windward side of the massive stone looming ever larger before him?  And to the leeward side lay the Seven Devils.  On a calm day, Nick might pick his way through these treacherous reefs.  But now, in a blow, they were deadly.

He was fresh out of options.

“And you call yourself a sailor, Nick McIver!” he cried aloud.  But not even his dog heard his bitter cry of frustration above the roar of wind and water.  He should have known better.  There was a terrible price to pay for carelessness at sea.  Especially when you were anywhere near the Gravestone.

It was a towering monument of glistening black granite that now rose before him.  Thrusting from the sea like some angry tombstone, it had claimed the lives of skippers and sailors a good deal saltier than Nick and Jip.  As Nick had known from earliest childhood, countless ships and men had gone to the bottom courtesy of the Gravestone Rock.  Or the seven deadly spines of rock spreading like tentacles in all directions from its base.  The Seven Devils, the reefs were called, and not for nothing, either.  Here was as fiendish a bit of coastline as ever there was.

This perilous coast had finally led to the building of Nick’s home.  Even now, the great Greybeard Light sent yellow stabs streaking overhead through the darkening sky.  This flashing tower atop the cliffs off his port bow held special meaning for Nick McIver.  It was both a warning to stay away and a summons to come home.

For Nick lived atop that lighthouse, he was a lighthouse keeper’s son.  And now it looked as if the famous rock below it might claim the boy, if the boy didn’t think of something, and quickly.  IF THE GRAVESTONE DOESN’T GET YOU, THE SEVEN DEVILS WILL! Read the legend carved into the mantel at the Greybeard Inn.  And the long-dead British tar who had carved it there knew well whereof he spoke.  At that moment, Nick wished he himself had carved those ancient words of warning into the pitching desk he now stood upon.

“We’re not going to make it, boy!” shouted an anguished Nick, “I can’t keep her pointed high enough!”  Indeed he could not steer, nor will, the bow of his small boat to windward of the ever larger Gravestone.  For every foot of forward motion Petrel gained, she was losing two feet to side-slipping.  Adrenaline poured into Nick’s veins as he realized the potential for total disaster in what he was about to do.

A whispered prayer to his long dead hero escaped his lips.

Nelson the Strong, Nelson the Brave, Nelson the Lord of the Sea.

Nick faced a terribly decision.  The most brutal maneuver any sailor could make in such a dreadful blow was a jibe.  Jibing meant turning the boat away from the wind, instead of into it, so that its brutal force passed directly behind the mainsail.  The huge mainsail and heavy boom would then come whipping across the cockpit with a violence that could easily rip the mast from the boat.  But what choice did the have?  The terrible decision was already made.

From the moment the 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson arrived at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1776, he was on the radical side. That caused John Adams to like him immediately. Then the Congress stuck Jefferson and Adams together on the five-man committee to write a formal statement justifying a break with Great Britain, and their mutual admiration society began.

Jefferson thought Adams should write the Declaration. But Adams protested, saying, “It can't come from me because I'm obnoxious and disliked." Adams reasoned that Jefferson was not obnoxious or disliked, therefore he should write it. Plus, he flattered Jefferson, by telling him he was a great writer. It was a master class in passing the buck.

So, over the next 17 days, Jefferson holed up in his room, applying his lawyer skills to the ideas of the Enlightenment. He borrowed freely from existing documents like the Virginia Declaration of Rights. He later wrote that “he was not striving for originality of principle or sentiment." Instead, he hoped his words served as “an expression of the American mind."

It's safe to say he achieved his goal.

The five-man committee changed about 25 percent of Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration before submitting it to Congress. Then, Congress altered about one-fifth of that draft. But most of the final Declaration's words are Jefferson's, including the most famous passage — the Preamble — which Congress left intact. The result is nothing less than America's mission statement, the words that ultimately bind the nation together. And words that we desperately need to rediscover because of our boiling partisan rage.

The Declaration is brilliant in structure and purpose. It was designed for multiple audiences: the King of Great Britain, the colonists, and the world. And it was designed for multiple purposes: rallying the troops, gaining foreign allies, and announcing the creation of a new country.

The Declaration is structured in five sections: the Introduction, Preamble, the Body composed of two parts, and the Conclusion. It's basically the most genius breakup letter ever written.

In the Introduction, step 1 is the notificationI think we need to break up. And to be fair, I feel I owe you an explanation...

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…

The Continental Congress felt they were entitled by “the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" to “dissolve the political bands," but they needed to prove the legitimacy of their cause. They were defying the world's most powerful nation and needed to motivate foreign allies to join the effort. So, they set their struggle within the entire “Course of human events." They're saying, this is no petty political spat — this is a major event in world history.

Step 2 is declaring what you believe in, your standardsHere's what I'm looking for in a healthy relationship...

This is the most famous part of the Declaration; the part school children recite — the Preamble:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That's as much as many Americans know of the Declaration. But the Preamble is the DNA of our nation, and it really needs to be taken as a whole:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The Preamble takes us through a logical progression: All men are created equal; God gives all humans certain inherent rights that cannot be denied; these include the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; to protect those rights, we have governments set up; but when a government fails to protect our inherent rights, people have the right to change or replace it.

Government is only there to protect the rights of mankind. They don't have any power unless we give it to them. That was an extraordinarily radical concept then and we're drifting away from it now.

The Preamble is the justification for revolution. But note how they don't mention Great Britain yet. And again, note how they frame it within a universal context. These are fundamental principles, not just squabbling between neighbors. These are the principles that make the Declaration just as relevant today. It's not just a dusty parchment that applied in 1776.

Step 3 is laying out your caseHere's why things didn't work out between us. It's not me, it's you...

This is Part 1 of the Body of the Declaration. It's the section where Jefferson gets to flex his lawyer muscles by listing 27 grievances against the British crown. This is the specific proof of their right to rebellion:

He has obstructed the administration of justice...

For imposing taxes on us without our consent...

For suspending our own legislatures...

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us...

Again, Congress presented these “causes which impel them to separation" in universal terms to appeal to an international audience. It's like they were saying, by joining our fight you'll be joining mankind's overall fight against tyranny.

Step 4 is demonstrating the actions you took I really tried to make this relationship work, and here's how...

This is Part 2 of the Body. It explains how the colonists attempted to plead their case directly to the British people, only to have the door slammed in their face:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury...

They too have been deaf to the voice of justice... We must, therefore... hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

This basically wrapped up America's argument for independence — we haven't been treated justly, we tried to talk to you about it, but since you refuse to listen and things are only getting worse, we're done here.

Step 5 is stating your intent — So, I think it's best if we go our separate ways. And my decision is final...

This is the powerful Conclusion. If people know any part of the Declaration besides the Preamble, this is it:

...that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved...

They left no room for doubt. The relationship was over, and America was going to reboot, on its own, with all the rights of an independent nation.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The message was clear — this was no pitchfork mob. These were serious men who had carefully thought through the issues before taking action. They were putting everything on the line for this cause.

The Declaration of Independence is a landmark in the history of democracy because it was the first formal statement of a people announcing their right to choose their own government. That seems so obvious to us now, but in 1776 it was radical and unprecedented.

In 1825, Jefferson wrote that the purpose of the Declaration was “not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of… but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm… to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take."

You're not going to do better than the Declaration of Independence. Sure, it worked as a means of breaking away from Great Britain, but its genius is that its principles of equality, inherent rights, and self-government work for all time — as long as we actually know and pursue those principles.

On June 7, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania State House, better known today as Independence Hall. Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies' independence. The “Lee Resolution" was short and sweet:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

Intense debate followed, and the Congress voted 7 to 5 (with New York abstaining) to postpone a vote on Lee's Resolution. They called a recess for three weeks. In the meantime, the delegates felt they needed to explain what they were doing in writing. So, before the recess, they appointed a five-man committee to come up with a formal statement justifying a break with Great Britain. They appointed two men from New England — Roger Sherman and John Adams; two from the middle colonies — Robert Livingston and Benjamin Franklin; and one Southerner — Thomas Jefferson. The responsibility for writing what would become the Declaration of Independence fell to Jefferson.

In the rotunda of the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., there are three original documents on permanent display: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. These are the three pillars of the United States, yet America barely seems to know them anymore. We need to get reacquainted — quickly.

In a letter to his friend John Adams in 1816, Jefferson wrote: “I like the dreams of the future, better than the history of the past."

America used to be a forward-looking nation of dreamers. We still are in spots, but the national attitude that we hear broadcast loudest across media is not looking toward the future with optimism and hope. In late 2017, a national poll found 59% of Americans think we are currently at the “lowest point in our nation's history that they can remember."

America spends far too much time looking to the past for blame and excuse. And let's be honest, even the Right is often more concerned with “owning the left" than helping point anyone toward the practical principles of the Declaration of Independence. America has clearly lost touch with who we are as a nation. We have a national identity crisis.

The Declaration of Independence is America's thesis statement, and without it America doesn't exist.

It is urgent that we get reacquainted with the Declaration of Independence because postmodernism would have us believe that we've evolved beyond the America of our founding documents, and thus they're irrelevant to the present and the future. But the Declaration of Independence is America's thesis statement, and without it America doesn't exist.

Today, much of the nation is so addicted to partisan indignation that "day-to-day" indignation isn't enough to feed the addiction. So, we're reaching into America's past to help us get our fix. In 2016, Democrats in the Louisiana state legislature tabled a bill that would have required fourth through sixth graders to recite the opening lines of the Declaration. They didn't table it because they thought it would be too difficult or too patriotic. They tabled it because the requirement would include the phrase “all men are created equal" and the progressives in the Louisiana legislature didn't want the children to have to recite a lie. Representative Barbara Norton said, “One thing that I do know is, all men are not created equal. When I think back in 1776, July the fourth, African Americans were slaves. And for you to bring a bill to request that our children will recite the Declaration, I think it's a little bit unfair to us. To ask our children to recite something that's not the truth. And for you to ask those children to repeat the Declaration stating that all men's are free. I think that's unfair."

Remarkable — an elected representative saying it wouldn't be fair for students to have to recite the Declaration because “all men are not created equal." Another Louisiana Democrat explained that the government born out of the Declaration “was used against races of people." I guess they missed that part in school where they might have learned that the same government later made slavery illegal and amended the Constitution to guarantee all men equal protection under the law. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were an admission of guilt by the nation regarding slavery, and an effort to right the wrongs.

Yet, the progressive logic goes something like this: many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, including Thomas Jefferson who wrote it, owned slaves; slavery is evil; therefore, the Declaration of Independence is not valid because it was created by evil slave owners.

It's a sad reality that the left has a very hard time appreciating the universal merits of the Declaration of Independence because they're so hung up on the long-dead issue of slavery. And just to be clear — because people love to take things out of context — of course slavery was horrible. Yes, it is a total stain on our history. But defending the Declaration of Independence is not an effort to excuse any aspect of slavery.

Okay then, people might say, how could the Founders approve the phrase “All men are created equal," when many of them owned slaves? How did they miss that?

They didn't miss it. In fact, Thomas Jefferson included an anti-slavery passage in his first draft of the Declaration. The paragraph blasted King George for condoning slavery and preventing the American Colonies from passing legislation to ban slavery:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights to life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere... Determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce.

We don't say “execrable" that much anymore. It means, utterly detestable, abominable, abhorrent — basically very bad.

Jefferson was upset when Georgia and North Carolina threw up the biggest resistance to that paragraph. Ultimately, those two states twisted Congress' arm to delete the paragraph.

Still, how could a man calling the slave trade “execrable" be a slaveowner himself? No doubt about it, Jefferson was a flawed human being. He even had slaves from his estate in Virginia attending him while he was in Philadelphia, in the very apartment where he was writing the Declaration.

Many of the Southern Founders deeply believed in the principles of the Declaration yet couldn't bring themselves to upend the basis of their livelihood. By 1806, Virginia law made it more difficult for slave owners to free their slaves, especially if the owner had significant debts as Jefferson did.

At the same time, the Founders were not idiots. They understood the ramifications of signing on to the principles described so eloquently in the Declaration. They understood that logically, slavery would eventually have to be abolished in America because it was unjust, and the words they were committing to paper said as much. Remember, John Adams was on the committee of five that worked on the Declaration and he later said that the Revolution would never be complete until the slaves were free.

Also, the same generation that signed the Declaration started the process of abolition by banning the importation of slaves in 1807. Jefferson was President at the time and he urged Congress to pass the law.

America has an obvious road map that, as a nation, we're not consulting often enough.

The Declaration took a major step toward crippling the institution of slavery. It made the argument for the first time about the fundamental rights of all humans which completely undermined slavery. Planting the seeds to end slavery is not nearly commendable enough for leftist critics, but you can't discount the fact that the seeds were planted. It's like they started an expiration clock for slavery by approving the Declaration. Everything that happened almost a century later to end slavery, and then a century after that with the Civil Rights movement, flowed from the principles voiced in the Declaration.

Ironically for a movement that calls itself progressive, it is obsessed with retrying and judging the past over and over. Progressives consider this a better use of time than actually putting past abuses in the rearview and striving not to be defined by ancestral failures.

It can be very constructive to look to the past, but not when it's used to flog each other in the present. Examining history is useful in providing a road map for the future. And America has an obvious road map that, as a nation, we're not consulting often enough. But it's right there, the original, under glass. The ink is fading, but the words won't die — as long as we continue to discuss them.

'Good Morning Texas' gives exclusive preview of Mercury One museum

Screen shot from Good Morning Texas

Mercury One is holding a special exhibition over the 4th of July weekend, using hundreds of artifacts, documents and augmented reality experiences to showcase the history of slavery — including slavery today — and a path forward. Good Morning Texas reporter Paige McCoy Smith went through the exhibit for an exclusive preview with Mercury One's chief operating officer Michael Little on Tuesday.

Watch the video below to see the full preview.

Click here to purchase tickets to the museum (running from July 4 - 7).

Over the weekend, journalist Andy Ngo and several other apparent right-leaning people were brutally beaten by masked-gangs of Antifa protesters in Portland, Oregon. Short for "antifascist," Antifa claims to be fighting for social justice and tolerance — by forcibly and violently silencing anyone with opposing opinions. Ngo, who was kicked, punched, and sprayed with an unknown substance, is currently still in the hospital with a "brain bleed" as a result of the savage attack. Watch the video to get the details from Glenn.