February 16, 2014

Madame Explores Philadelphia: An Excerpt from My Novel


Hug for Joanne





The following is an excerpt from the first draft of my novel –under-construction, Intertwined Love

A central character, Madame de Leval, arrived in Philadelphia after several weeks sailing across the Atlantic Ocean from France. She cannot speak English (don’t expect me to write this conversation in French, and I won’t expect you to read it in French) and came to the United States to gain relief from the French Revolution. The year is 1791.

She met a countryman she knew, Louis Des Isles, on the dock. He took on the responsibility of indoctrinating her to this country. In this excerpt from what might be the second chapter Louis is showing Madame and her daughter Philadelphia. They converse easily.

NOTE: A nice map of historic Philadelphia in  the late 18th century


Louis began explaining the easy street layout in the city.

“You won’t have any difficulty following anyone’s directions. William Penn’s simple street plan was adhered to by his successors,” Louis told Madame and Saraphine. “Its rectangular arrangement with perpendicular streets is easily understood, allowing people to know what to expect at every turn and corner. The streets having names of fruit and forest trees traverse east to west, beginning at the Delaware. They were named for the trees the original Americans found on this land.

“The numbered streets go north to south, intersecting with the named streets. It’s impossible for strangers to go astray in this town.

“Each block was calculated to contain one hundred houses, and is numbered accordingly. All the dwellings above High Street are marked north, while those on the other side of High Street are marked south.”

Louis offered this explanation to Madame as they strolled down Third Street, where Madame’s ordinary was located. Before he completed the explanation, he saw her looking down Dock Street, which puzzled her in light of Louis’s explanation.

“That’s the only street that’s out of grid,” Louis said. “It took its form and name from Dock Creek, which was once a spacious cove of the Delaware River. The Indians, who used it as a convenient inlet and outlet for their canoes, called it Coocaconoon.”

“Coocaconoon. CoocaCONOON, COOCACONOON!”

Louis and Madame laughed as Saraphine chanted the rhythmic word.

“What happened to the cove?” Madame questioned, noting the obvious lack of water.

“It is sad,” Louis began. “The original city planners expected it to become a permanent dock. Some of the most prosperous early citizens built their homes along its shores and slope, attracted by its grassy soil and clean water. The residents began to use the stream as a receptacle for their household sweepings and rubbish. Then, it wasn’t long before the trades considered the waterfront an advantage, and built their businesses there—a brewery, tanneries and lumber yards. They too discharged their refuse into the stream. All this made it difficult to keep the creek clean even though the property owners were urged to maintain it in orderly condition.

“Gradually the creek became stagnant and ill smelling, and was soon considered a breeding source for pestilential disease. After the American Revolution the city decided to abandon the creek, and replace it with the street. Many conservative citizens didn’t favor the action, but it was done regardless.”



The Rev. Manasseh Cutler Visits Peale’s Museum in Philadelphia



WP Daily Prompt: Groupthink 2/2/2014



  1. meandered?? I understand the word but wouldn’t “stroll” be a better word?

    Comment by merry101 — February 16, 2014 @ 10:05 pm | Reply

    • You may be right. I changed it. The problem with first drafts is not having the material in its best form, so positive critique is good. Thank you.

      Comment by carolyncholland — February 16, 2014 @ 10:22 pm | Reply

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