Category: Books » Twilight
Author: Lady Gwynedd
Language: English, Rating: Rated: M
Published: 06-07-11, Updated: 09-29-12
Chapters: 39, Words: 150,955
Chapter 1: Portsmouth
AN: I do not claim ownership of the Twilight Saga.
Thanks to my prereaders Miaokuancha, Roselover24, Melolable, Fantasy Mother, and my beta PrincessKris
Portsmouth, England 1770.
"Mistress, surely it can't be that dire a circumstance?" the young woman asked, a worried frown upon her face.
"Lord help us, girl, yes. It cannot be much worse." The older woman twisted her hands in despair as she cast a frightened look around her tidy seamstress' shop.
"Mayhaps the ladies who have outstanding bills…? Can they be made to pay?"
"Tchaa." The grey-haired lady threw the handkerchief she was clutching down on the cutting table and gloomily stared out of the window into Portsmouth's high street. "They be gentle folk. Their custom is good but their bills go unpaid as often as not. I would have to hire a dunsman to stand outside their doors to plead and I have not the money for it."
"I could do that for you, Mistress Cope."
"No you could not, young woman. 'Tisn't seemly and you'd be ignored – or worse."
Sighing, the older woman continued, "I shall have to turn myself over to the constable, have my shop boarded up and be thrown into debtors' jail until I find the means to pay my note."
"But madam, how can you pay your debts if you're locked away?"
"There's only two ways, my dear. I could solicit my friends to pay my debts or my creditors could send me to toil in the work house until I've paid in full."
Sighing, Mrs. Cope continued, "For the first, my friends don't have the money, and for the second, they pay so poorly in the work house, I'd like as not die there before I was even half done."
Putting her arms about her friend, mentor, and employer, the girl asked, "What can I do to help you, mistress?"
The young woman was fond of her employer who had taken her in as an apprentice after her parents died. She learned everything she needed to know about the tailoring trade from her and could now sew as fine a seam as any.
"There be nothing you can do, child. I know what my future will be and I am resigned to it. It's yours you need to be worrying about, my girl. What will you do when all is done here?"
"I…I…I don't know," there was a tremor of fear in the girl's voice. The world in good King George's England was a bad place for a poor, family-less woman. The young woman was lucky to have been taken in by Mrs. Cope after her parents perished from putrid fevers when she was a child. Her mother and Mrs. Cope had been bosom friends as girls and when the girl was born, Mrs. Cope was named as her godmother.
She'd been a kindly mistress, and an excellent teacher. The girl could create the most intricate of costumes for both ladies and gentlemen now. In fact, as her eyes were younger, she did most of the fine work on her own, leaving Mrs. Cope for the grander designs and the shepherding of capricious clientele. That clientele had been extremely changeable lately, what with troubles in the land, and the little shop's revenues were almost nonexistent. It was always the tradesmen who got the worst of any financial turmoil. Their upper crust customers could 'forget' about their debts but the common man, or woman in this case, couldn't 'forget' about their debts to their suppliers and Mrs. Cope's had run out of patience with her.
"You could do well as a dresser for a lady," Mrs. Cope suggested.
"I am not sure, Mistress. I have no reference from a great house for that," she responded.
"Listen my girl, I will write you as fine a character as there can be then you shall pack your bag so that when the constable comes, you will be able to walk out the side door. He will lay hands on whatever he should find here whether it be mine or yours. It would make no difference to him. And I want you to have this…" she reached into her bodice, pulled out a velvet bag and tucked it into the girl's hand. "It's old, that is. I've had it from a fine lady customer of mine from long ago. She told me to keep it as it is very rare for some reason but I could not sell it. The pawnsman would only give me a few pence for it. He claimed it was not worth the thread to restring it. Besides, it's not at all the style these days. It never has been as far as I have known."
The girl pulled the draw-string and poured a necklace into her hand. She could see a relatively small choker of pearls that had a gold 'B' threaded amidst them. Three tear drop pearls dangled down from the bottom of the letter. It was an odd looking thing. Who would wear something like that around their neck? So strange. She could see that it would have been hard for Mrs. Cope to make anything from it.
"Mayhaps you'd get some use out of the thing but it might save you in a pinch. You could take it apart and sell the beads piecemeal for a few pence or so. Sew it into your chemise and don't tell anyone of it lest they feel the need to pinch it and leave you with nothing."
"Are you sure it could not be a boon to you in this terrible time, Mistress?"
"No, child. It would never realize enough to pay my debts. I want you to have it. My life is near over any way. You need to get on with yours. Now, dash away and do as I have told you."
The girl did as Mrs. Cope suggested and set her packed valise next to the door in readiness. The Constable's knock came three days later. After a hurried and tearful goodbye, she slipped out of the side door and down the alley to face her unknown future.
"Cockles, Mussels, alive, alive oh," the fishmonger cried out in the busy market square. The sights, sounds and smells of market day were colorful. The girl would usually be entranced by the lively activity but today her worries overruled her curiosity.
She wove her way among the booths, trying to stem her tears and reckon what to do. She had no place to go and no family to help her. Her future was precarious to say the least. She had a few coins in addition the strange necklace Mrs. Cope had given her, so she believed she could find a crust and a bed this night but after that, she was at a loss.
She rounded the corner of a stall to almost stumble against a man who was balanced upon a box and calling out to the crowd, "…the New World awaits those who are intrepid enough to dare it. Imagine a land paved with gold and filled with bountiful harvests. Even the least among those doughty men and women who brave the journey hence soon find themselves at ease, under their own roofs and sitting at their own tables groaning with the finest food. Here be the means to find your own riches, be your own master. Come make your mark and embark in two days for Mary-land, the colony richest and kindest to the wayfarer."
Bella stopped and wondered if God had thrown this man in her way.
Was this an omen? Could her place be in the New World?
The man said that even the merest person could be their own master and perhaps that is what she could be. She could imagine setting up her own tailoring shop and sewing for other people just like her. There would be no worrying about the gentry not paying because there weren't gentry in the New World. All men were equals there and she was sure they all paid their way as well.
She stood in the shadows of a doorway and listened to the man's descriptions of Mary-land over and over again, trying to convince herself to simply talk to him.
The sun was lowering in the sky when the man stepped off his box and dusted his hands. His nonstop patter had caused a powerful thirst and he couldn't wait to get to the tavern to slake it. He was just about to head off when he heard a low voice say, "Pardon, sir. I would talk with you about the New World."
He turned to see a neatly turned out young woman, with large brown eyes, hair as dark as a raven's wing and skin as fair as fleece. Her clothes were finely made although of plain material. She looked as though she may do for a special commission he had been given.
"Aye, lass, and what would ye be wanting to know about that fair place?"
"What must one do after the mark is made on yon paper?"
The agent, for that's what he was, laughed. This one cut straight to the bare bones, she did.
"It depends. My commissioners are looking for folk skilled in all trades as well as a few laborers. Have you a trade?"
"Aye, that I do. I am a seamstress and a tailor. I was apprenticed to Mistress Cope until recently and am now seeking further employ."
"I have never heard of Mistress Cope. Have you a character?"
"I do, sir." The young woman reached into her reticule and pulled out a much folded letter.
"This is a testament to my character and needlework abilities made by my former employer and mistress."
The man looked it over quickly and shrugged. It could be false as well as it could be true but by the time anyone found out, he would be an ocean away and long gone. Her clothes looked the part of someone skilled with a needle. He decided it would be in his favor to take her.
"It just so happens, I have a lady who seeks a seamstress and dresser, one Mistress Cullen of Annapolis, Mary-land. It seems she has two daughters that she's launching into the world and she has proposed to pay the way for a talented needlewoman to assist in the clothing and dressing of those two chits until it is done. That would constitute a servitude of three years."
"Servitude?" She was shocked to hear her honest work to be described thusly.
"Aye, girl. 'Tis a common practice. Indentured Service of only three years duration at the end of which your new Mistress will provide a small largess so you can make your way on your own."
"And in the meantime she will provide my shelter and sustenance?"
"Aye. Ye shall be her chattel those three years. Tis only sensible for her to provide well for ye. The better she treat with ye, the better the work she'll get out of ye, eh lass?"
"How do you know she is a fair person?"
"Oh, there be only fair people in the New World, missy." He laughed at his own jest but the girl did not join him. She knew there were good people as well as bad the world over but what choice did she have? She had spent the past three days looking for work, anything respectable, and had come up with nothing. That left only unrespectable work and she shuddered to think of that as her only recourse.
"So, Mistress Cullen will pay my ship's passage?"
"Aye, that she will, missy. And you can rest until sailing with the other adventurous spirits making the journey in the ship's lodging on the quay. They have a repast at half past six, so if ye hurry, you won't miss it."
"I shall join them, then. Where is this lodging?"
"First, you must make your mark. Miss…?"
"Verra well, Miss Swan." He got out a sheaf of papers, an ink well and a quill and indicated where she should scrawl her mark.
"I can sign my name." She took great pride in the fact she could read and write. Mrs. Cope taught her that as well as how to ply a needle. She carefully looked over the document and then signed at the bottom.
"There's a girl. You won't regret this. Now, the lodging is just down the quay, No. 4." He pointed off in that direction and gathering his papers, turned in the opposite direction and left the girl to her own devices.
Taking a deep breath, she muttered, "Well, at least I know what lies ahead for me now."
She'd remember those words with wry disgust many times in the future.
Chapter 2: To Sea
Bella hefted her valise and turned to walk towards the ship's lodging, a little bemused by the sudden direction her life had taken. Her steps faltered a bit as she realized that, though she was well prepared to be a seamstress, she was ill prepared for a voyage. In fact, she knew very little about what was in her immediate future. The more she thought on it, the more she realized she needed some advice and she knew exactly of whom to ask.
Mrs. Cheney was an elderly customer of Mrs. Cope's whose main enjoyment in life was to gossip. When she'd schedule a fitting, Bella knew to clear the whole afternoon's appointments because once Mrs. Cheney started talking, there was no stopping her for hours. But though the talk about various people and their goings on could be tedious, Bella loved hearing her reminisce about the adventures she had with her now long dead sea Captain husband. Mrs. Cheney actually used to sail with that gentleman, a privilege only the wife of a captain enjoyed as all other wives and sweethearts had to be left in port. Bella was sure she could glean some useful information from the old lady and she had no qualms about imposing on her. Had she been any other customer, Bella would never have considered it but Mrs. Cheney was sweet-tempered and kind and not so 'high in the instep' as most of the members of her class.
Besides Bella cynically mused, she had something of value to offer – the details of Mrs. Cope's travails. She knew Mrs. Cheney would never resist hearing about those.
Bella strode up a street of neat houses close by the harbor. They were built of brick, and each had a fine wooden door with a shiny brass knocker. It was a well-to-do neighborhood, sheltering merchants and ship's officers alike. Coming to the house that was Mrs. Cheney's, Bella knew better than to beg entrance at the first floor door - that was only for the gentry- so she climbed down the side stairs to the nondescript door on the ground floor.
A rosy cheeked woman enveloped head to toe in a pinafore answered her knock. "Why Isabella Swan, what a surprise to see you here!"
"Oh, Nancy, I am that amazed to be here myself but it seems though I must beg a visit with your mistress. Do you think she would see me?"
"Oh aye, do ye even have to ask? This day, she has done nothing but talk about your Mistress Cope being hauled away to the poorhouse. She has been at sixes and sevens over it. I am sure you can soothe her curiosity." The apple cheeked woman laughed to think of her mistress' eagerness and opened the door wider and beckoned Bella into the basement kitchen.
"Come in and rest a bit. I was just preparing her tea. I am sure you will be invited to join her for the price of your news."
A few minutes later, Nancy ushered Bella up the stairs and down a small hall into a cozily turned out sitting room where a shawl-wrapped lady sat snoring by the fire.
"Mistress Cheney? Mistress Cheney, look who has joined ye for tea this day!" Nancy called and gently shook her lady's shoulder.
The old lady stirred and roused herself, "Er,… what?" She looked around and blinked, her wrinkled face peering nearsightedly from the depths of her lace cap reminding Bella of an owl blearily surveying its domain.
"Looky here, madam, 'tis Isabella Swan from the dressers? You remember her, don't ye?" Nancy set the tray down on the table beside her mistress as she spoke, cajoling Mrs. Cheney's memory. " 'Tis a shame about Mistress Cope isn't it, madam?"
"Oh." Mrs. Cheney sat up as she recollected the day's mischief, a sparkle in her eye betraying her eagerness to hear more. "Of course, Isabella dear, 'tis pleasant to see you, girl. But what's this sad news about your mistress? My neighbor rushed here in a bother this morning saying the shop was boarded and Mrs. Cope taken away. So tragic."
Nancy pulled a chair closer to the fire and silently bid Bella to sit near the elderly lady.
Bella gratefully smiled at the servant as she sat, "Aye, Mrs. Cheney, 'tis all too true. My mistress has been taken away."
"But why? Mrs. Cope had a tidy little business."
"She was that busy, Mrs. Cheney, except that of late her customers did not pay for their commissions. Seems now they never shall."
"Oh, dear. What's to do? What's to do?" Mrs. Cheney was truly concerned about her old friend, even though she was a tradeswoman, and began to wonder if she had left an unpaid balance with her shop.
"There be nothing to do now, madam. My mistress will have to stay in the poorhouse until her debts are paid or she has worked them off. She has hopes of neither, more's the pity." Bella sighed, tears threatening once again.
"Oh, dear." Mrs. Cheney shredded the remains of the biscuit she had been nibbling, her niggling guilt taking her appetite. "So there be no shop and no Mrs. Cope again?"
"Not in the foreseeable future, madam."
Mrs. Cheney looked worriedly at Bella and said, "What e'er shall you do, my girl?"
"It seems that fate has another destiny for me. I have signed my indenture this day to a lady in Mary-land. I sail in two days."
"Oh, dear." Mrs. Cheney said again as her concern deepened. "Mary-land? In the Americas?"
"Aye. There seems to be a woman needing the assistance of a dresser to launch her daughters into the world, so she's paying my passage in trade for three year's work."
"And have you ever been asea?"
"No, madam, and I thought I would ask your advice as to how I should prepare for my journey."
"Ah lass, if asked before you made your mark, I would have told you ne'er to consider such a plan but it is too late now."
"But why? It seems a good opportunity for me. It was either that, starve … or worse, Mrs. Cheney. I had no other choice."
"Ye've signed the papers already, have you?" the old lady asked once more.
"Aye, an hour ago."
"And they did not escort you to a 'lodging' for your meal and rest before the journey?"
"No, madam, but the agent told me where to go."
"That is most unusual. Usually, they do not let the poor indentured souls out of their sight until they've boarded the ship. I am sure there's a passel of folk looking for you this minute."
Bella's eyes widened. "Truly? But why?"
"Because indentured service is simply slavery with a time limit. Your procurers are fearful you'll run off once you've thought it all through. The fact is, you are now the property of the person paying your passage. You'd best get on your knees and pray to the merciful Lord that your mistress be kind. I've heard horrible tales."
Bella's heart pounded and she repeated what the agent had told her, "She couldn't expect to get good work out of me if she mistreated me, could she?"
"There's some that believe a thorough-going use of the lash encourages diligence. Best hope this lady doesn't ascribe to that." She paused a moment, then asked with a frown, "Be there men in that household?"
"The agent just spoke of a lady and her two daughters."
"Oh, la. I shall pray for you that there be women alone in that house. A comely lass like you would be at the mercy of a salacious master."
"You mean a master would threaten my virtue?" Bella was aghast. That was something she never dreamed.
"'Tis not always the case but 'tisn't unheard of, either. Men be men after all."
"Don't you think the agent would have mentioned a gentleman if there was one?"
"Mayhaps. Mayhaps not. He could think that you'd not wish to be at the mercy of a master and would find a mistress more palatable. He didn't outright lie but he mayn't have told the whole truth, either."
In a resigned voice, Bella said, "Well, I shan't worry o'er it now. I can do nothing on it at the moment. I need to know how to ready myself for the journey. I know 'tis dangerous for the unwary."
Mrs. Cheney sighed gustily. She felt prompted to do what she could for this child. After all, she had a terrible suspicion that she contributed to Mrs. Cope's downfall. She remembered now that she hadn't yet paid for a pelisse she'd ordered from the seamstress last winter. Turning to her lurking maid she said, "The Captain's sea chest is in the lumber room still, yes?"
"Aye, madam. Hasn't been touched in years."
"Then, let us repair hence. There be things within that Captain Cheney has no use for any longer but Isabella will."
The three ladies trooped to the top of the house and ventured into a dusty room filled with old furniture and luggage. Nancy cleared a path to a humpbacked chest that had 'Captain B. Cheney' stenciled in gold paint on the lid. She flipped the latches and lifted the top as Bella and Mrs. Cheney drew near. Nancy pulled a stool over for her mistress to sit upon and the old lady sank down on it gazing nostalgically at the chest's contents.
Mrs. Cheney reached in and pulled out a woolen jacket. She held it to her nose and inhaled. "Ah, it smells of the sea and my dear husband." A tender smile softened her face. "He was a good man and a fine captain. We had a good life together."
After a few moments reflection, the widow sighed and started rooting around in the chest. "Let's see. I know my man had one in here somewhere… ah, ha!" She pulled out what looked like a small roll of sailcloth and handed it to Bella. "Here. 'Tis just the thing."
Bella looked at her benefactor in puzzlement, "But what is it?"
" 'Tis a hammock. Ships be leaky things, you'll be surprised to discover. You don't want to be resting against the hull or on the deck, else ye'll be soaked through by morning, so ahoist in the air is the answer. There will be rings to hang your hammock from at night and you'll sleep like a baby being rocked at his ma'ams breast. And here, use this blanket as well. 'Tis woven out of fine Welsh wool and will keep you warm during the coldest nor'easter." She stacked the blanket on top of the hammock roll.
"Why thank you ma'am. I'd never have thought of it."
"No, you wouldn't have until you were wet and freezing. Now, here. Take these as well." She gave her a stack of napkin-like cloths. "These are oil cloth, well broken in. You wrap anything you wish to keep dry in them and put them in your chest. Oh… you need a good chest." She rose to her feet. "The Captain's is much too big. I have a smaller one in my chamber. Come with me."
She led the way down two flights of stairs to her bedroom and in a corner was a smallish chest resting on the floor. "This was the chest I'd take with me when I'd go to sea. It has been varnished inside and out and so will keep all within dry as a hen bone. 'Tis small enough that I could handle it myself, yet I could stow much inside."
Under Mrs. Cheney's directions, Nancy opened the chest and started emptying its contents.
"Now, child, put the hammock, blanket, and oil cloths within. And I've some other things you may find handy." She opened up a nearby wardrobe and reached into the very back, pulling out a long cloak. "This is the finest tightly woven Melton wool. It has kept me dry during the fiercest gale. Also, these boots may be a little large for you but they are water tight. Stuff rags in the toes for the fit but make sure to always keep your feet clean and dry. Many illnesses start in the feet and wet feet lend themselves to all sorts of bad humours."
Bella was overwhelmed. She came for advice, not goods. "Mrs. Cheney, this is too much, you are too generous. You can't give this to me. I could never repay you."
"Pish posh lass, I shall never use them again. 'Tis little enough I do for you. I owe your Mistress at least this much."
The old lady pulled some paper and an ink well out of her desk and started to write, "Nancy, trot down to the apothecary and get the items on this list. We now have to see to Isabella's health aboard ship.
"Isabella, you will stay here until it is time to board. It will take us at least that long to get all to the ready."
"Oh, Mrs. Cheney, 'tis too much," Bella protested again.
"Shhhh, lass. I want to help you. It brings back such vivid and happy memories for me."
They spent the rest of the evening preparing tonics and 'sea biscuits' – hard wafers that would keep for a long journey, even if one feared losing a tooth whilst eating them.
The night before she was to board, Bella lay abed in Mrs. Cheney's house, her heart beating painfully fast. She was as ready as she could ever be. The day before, a note had been sent to the agent, informing him of Bella's whereabouts and promising that she would report as promised the morning they departed. Within an hour of receiving the missive, the agent and ships doctor visited Mrs. Cheney's house to examine the state of Bella's health. If she had a communicable disease, she would not be allowed to embark. Fortunately, the doctor found nothing wrong and she was cleared for passage.
Mrs. Cheney had spent long hours teaching Bella the ways of the sea going life, including many things she'd not given a moment's thought before. Using the items Nancy brought back from the apothecary, the three women labored over preparing tinctures and tonics designed to keep Bella in good health.
One, she was to take every morning and night to ward off her monthly course. There was little privacy aboard and no facility for washing clothes, much less the rags she used to staunch her flow. It was better not to have to concern herself with it during the voyage.
Mrs. Cheney advised her to change her undergarments weekly but to wear the same sturdy frock throughout the journey. "You'll be ripe smellin' by the end of your voyage but then, so will everyone else. That's why there be bath houses right near the docks. Save a coin for that and you will be all to the good when you get to your mistress' house."
She taught her to use the small closely stoppered cask that could be strapped into the inside of her sea chest to store her allotment of water and to add the tot of rum she would be issued weekly to it to keep it fresh. In addition to that, she was to add a spoonful of bottled lemon juice, one of the sundries the apothecary had provided, to prevent her teeth from loosening during the voyage from the scurvy.
Any food she was given could be eked out with the hard sea biscuits they had prepared. They weren't too bad if they were soaked in water or coffee first and certainly better than starving. After being wrapped in oiled cloth, they'd keep for many months.
It shocked Bella to learn that sometimes half of the passengers on a trans-Atlantic journey died en route. It depended upon how long they were at sea, the health of the passengers at the start, how well provisioned the ship was and the profit margin the investors expected to make on the voyage. Keeping the passengers fed just enough to ward off starvation insured a greater return for the money men. The debate was how much was 'just enough.' So, she had yet another thing to pray for - that her ship be managed humanely.
Mrs. Cheney had sent for the shipping news and found that the good ship Patience was departing Portsmouth bound for Annapolis, Maryland after a short stop in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. The old lady was happy to note that she personally knew the third officer and she wrote a letter of introduction for Bella asking that he keep watch over her during the journey. Depending upon the weather, the voyage could last from a little over a month to as many as three months but the usual journey was around six weeks asea.
Bella rolled over onto her stomach, trying to get comfortable, her last night ashore, her last night in a bed for weeks, perhaps months. That evening, Mrs. Cheney insisted that she take a hot bath and scour her body with fine Castile soap. Among her various vials and ointments, there was a salve of camphor that Bella was instructed to daily anoint the nape of her neck and her temples to try to keep away the scourge of living closely with others – lice. In fact, Mrs. Cheney herself cut Bella's waist length hair to a bob just to her shoulders, which was a true grief to the girl.
"Now, 'tis not the time to be vain, my dear. You may have noticed that no sea captain's wife has long locks and vermin be the reason. Your hair will grow back eventually. Long hair attracts those nuisances like nothing else. But you may find you like the convenience of shorter hair."
Bella cried a bit that night for her hair and, if she'd let herself admit it, for her future. She recognized that she was frightened. There was so much she didn't know, so much she had to fear. She thanked God for inspiring her to go to Mrs. Cheney. She was overwhelmed with the old lady's help but it was help she now knew she had desperately needed.
The next day dawned bright and fair. Bella was up before dawn and was packed and ready to depart shortly after that.
"Mistress Cheney, thank you so much for your aide and advice. I'd like as not have died without your wisdom."
"'Tis the truth, true enough, and you still are in peril but perhaps not as much as you would have been. God speed, my lass." She handed Bella a franked paper and added, "Once you reach Annapolis, please send me word of your safe arrival. I want to know how you go on, my dear."
"Certainly, Mrs. Cheney, and thank you." Hugging the kind lady, she bid her adieu and then hugged Nancy as well.
"Thank you both. Your kindnesses will truly be my salvation." With that she signaled to the boy who was going to carry her chest down to the docks on his push cart and they both set off for the Patience, and Bella's destiny.
Mrs. Cheney watched the girl depart with a grim smile, "Well, we've done what we could for her, Nan. 'Twas the least we could do. Now, let us see what's to be done for her Mistress. Send for my carriage, my girl. We've a call to make."
Chapter 3: The Patience
As Bella drew near to where The Patience was docked, the crowd and busy-ness grew until her progress slowed to a halt. The seagulls' raucous cries almost drowned out the sailors on the dock as they shouted directions to their mates who were operating a gyre that swung nets full of cargo over the side and into the ship's hold.
This gave Bella a chance to take stock of the vessel that was to be her conveyance to the New World. From The Shipping Times she learned that The Patience was a brig and had made the crossing many times. Her home port was Philadelphia in the colony of Pennsylvania. She was a merchanter, shipping agricultural produce from the colonies and émigrés to them. On this trip, she would stop over at Annapolis on her way to her home port.
Bella was surprised at the ship's small size. She had no idea how more than two hundred and fifty passengers would fit within, much less the additional one hundred and twenty-four man crew. For sure, they'd be stacked like cordwood.
Finally, Bella and the cart boy reached the gangway that led to the main deck of the ship. There was an official looking gentleman standing on the dock at its foot with a list in his hand. Bella noticed that all who boarded the ship first spoke with him. It seemed likely that she would need to speak to him as well.
"Pardon me, sir, are passengers boarding The Patience now?"
"Aye, ma'am, that they are." He had a strange accent. She'd never heard the like before.
"Then, I would like to board, sir."
"Your name, ma'am?"
"Miss Isabella Swan."
He ran his finger down his list and stopped near the bottom, "Ah, yes. Here you are. Do you have stowage?"
"Just this chest, sir, and that I can carry myself if I am shown the way."
"That lad can carry it for you. He looks sturdy enough." The man nodded at the cart boy who was getting ready to heave Bella's chest onto the dock.
The boy looked frightened, "My master would have me bones if I'm not returned to him within the hour."
"Boy, no one wants to keep ye, just help the lady with her gear."
Grumbling, the boy shouldered the chest and started to follow Bella up the gangway but Bella stopped and turned to the gentleman. She had just remembered her letter of introduction and said, "I have a letter for The Patience's third officer, sir. Could you point him out to me?"
"But surely, I can miss. I am that gentleman."
Bella smiled and handed him Mrs. Cheney's letter. "I bid you greetings from Mrs. Benjamin Cheney, sir."
"Old Captain Cheney's wife? She was a kind soul. She nursed me through a bout of the grippe when I was just a lad gone to sea for the first time. How does she fare?" He took the letter from Bella and read it through quickly.
Smiling from ear to ear with his eyes twinkling at Bella, he said, "She says that you are her protégé and that I am to look to your welfare. That starts this moment." He turned to another crewman who was standing nearby, "'Vast, James! Look lively, man. Come here and run this list. I have other work to do."
A smirking, greasy looking sailor sauntered over and looked Bella up and down in a most forward manner. Bella's new protector scowled at him, "Mind your manners, cockerel."
James pulled his forelock and dipped his head, never once removing the leer from his face, "Morning, ma'am."
Bella nodded tersely at him and then turned to the Third Officer and said, "Please, sir, I've no wish to be a burthen to you."
Shaking his head, he bowed, "No protégé of Mrs. Cheney's would ever be a burden to me. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Emmett McCarty of Annapolis, Maryland at your service, miss."
Bella curtsied in response and smiled. "I am destined for Annapolis, Mary-land, sir. No wonder your tongue seems a little strange to me. Do all in the New World have such a cast to their words?"
"Like any place, ma'am, how you speak depends upon from whence you hail. You'll find that out soon enough. There be folk from all over on this ship, both passengers and crew."
"Tell me sir, do you know of a Mistress Cullen and her two daughters who live in Annapolis."
Mr. McCarty blinked and caught his breath then let out a hesitant, "Aye. I know the family."
"Do ye? 'Tis Mistress Cullen that has bought my service but I know naught about them except that the girls are coming of age and have need of a seamstress and a dresser."
"I suppose that would be about right. The last I saw of them, they were close to grown."
"Be they a kind family?"
Mr. McCarty laughed bitterly, "It depends on how you call kind. They can be kind enough but a household of women tends to be a flighty place, in my opinion. You'll never know when you might be caught in crossfire."
So there are no men in the household. That's to the good but Mr. McCarty's tone sounds ominous, Bella thought. "Do you think they'll be kind to a servant?"
"I think they'll be thoughtless but not cruel. I am sure they'll expect you to work your fingers to the bone but they seem fair enough. I am sure they'll hold to the contract they made with ye. Let's get aboard so I can show ye the ship."
Turning to the cart boy standing nearby, he said "We do not need your further service after all." He relieved him of Bella's chest and sent him off with a coin.
"Come follow me, Miss Swan, and I'll show you the best space to claim below deck."
He led her up the gangway and so, she took her first step onto the ship. She was impressed with how tidy the deck was and how well orchestrated was the work. There were two uniformed officers, dressed similarly to Mr. McCarty standing in the stern of the ship observing all that was happening. They nonchalantly watched as the third officer led Bella to an open hatch and down the steep stairway to the deck below.
"The women will be housed on this deck towards the stern, the men will be towards the bow on the deck below this one." He led her past crates, sacks and barrels stacked to the beams and knots of sailors merrily working to pile even more within. After maneuvering around the work parties they found themselves in an open area. "Here ye be. Women's quarters." As of yet, there were no other women onboard that Bella could tell.
Setting her chest down on the deck, Mr. McCarty said, "The sail lofts are softer than the deck, so I'd choose those to sleep upon."
"Oh, but Mrs. Cheney gave me a hammock for the purpose."
"Did she now? That's splendid. Then, over here's where you should doss down." He led her to the side where he had to bend over to walk. "You can only fit one hammock here so it will give you a stitch of privacy. Just tie your lines to that iron ring hanging here and the other to that post over there. We'll lash your chest below it so it won't slide around in a swell and you'll be right as rain."
"Thank you, sir. I am that grateful." Bella watched as he tied her chest tightly to the beam.
When finished, he arose and backed out to where he could stand upright. "Let me show you the heads and where to get your rations. And then I'll point out the places you shouldn't go."
Bella was thankful for his consideration, especially the little things she'd never know except from trial and error.
They walked toward the bow of the ship and Mr. McCarty pointed to a doorway, "There are the heads. That one has two seats, so you may prefer the one on the other side for privacy's sake." Bella peered into a tiny cabin with a seat set into the hull, she knew at a glance what the head was for and blushed.
"I have ne'er heard a necessary called that before."
Mr. McCarty laughed, "'Tis because they are at the head of the ship. The wind carries what flies from it away and the waves that wash o'er it cleanse it right enough, though sometimes in rough seas, the unsuspecting user may have his nether regions washed as well… though perhaps I shouldn't have said as much to a lady." He looked at her doubtfully, fearing he'd insulted her sensibilities.
Bella couldn't suppress her amused grin, "I am sure 'twould be a strange and cold baptism indeed, sir."
Mr. McCarty sighed in relief. He wasn't used to handling fine ladies and Bella was just about as fine a lady as he'd dealt with in a while. Her manner of speech, the way she was dressed, how she held herself spoke of someone who ranked above the typical gutter snipes they usually transported. He couldn't imagine her as a servant, especially for the Cullen harpies. He'd have to remember to consider his language in the future, having no wish to offend her.
He led her down amidships to a half door or as some called it, a dutch door, one that could be closed at the bottom but opened at the top. "This is where you'll receive your weekly provisions. They don't allot much but sometimes the captain allows an additional measure depending."
"Depending on what?"
Mr. McCarty snorted. "Mainly his mood and that can be affected by how smoothly the sailing goes, or how the men are behaving, or sometimes how his wife is treating him."
He stopped. Why was he telling this lass all of this? He was usually more circumspect. There was something about her that just made him babble away like a guinea hen.
"Is his wife on this journey?" Bella inquired.
"No, not this time. She's still in Philadelphia having just presented the captain with a twig to his family tree three weeks before we put to sea. I am sure he is itching to get back to her and the babe. He'll push this ship until it flies."
He ducked under a beam and then pointed beyond where Bella had stowed her belongings, "There is the officers' domain, ma'am. Off limits to all but those invited back there."
Bella nodded her understanding. Mr. McCarty pointed down another hatchway in the deck, "And that's where the men passengers and the crew will be staying. Best to stay away from that part as well."
He led her back up the stairs they came down originally. "Now, ma'am, the main deck is a busy place. You are welcomed to venture here but you must stay out of the way of the work. The officers will be found toward the stern of the ship, so you're best to stay towards the bow. We sail in two hours for Cowes where we will take on the remaining passengers and the next high tide will see us asea and our voyage will truly begin. I have one thing I wish to give of you before I go back to my labors. Please wait here for my return." With that Emmett rushed back down the hatchway to the deck below. A few minutes later he was back and he handed her a key. "I've loaned you a lock for your chest. As it stood, it would keep out the animal vermin but not the human kind. I've all ready attached it. Here's the key. Keep it safe. You can return it to me at the end of our voyage."
Bella took the key with much gratitude. She hadn't thought of thievery but she was sure that it happened even amongst the most civilized society.
"I don't know how to thank you, sir."
"'Tis simple, Miss Swan. Survive the journey in hale and hearty body and spirits so I can report to my old benefactress that I did my pleasurable duty by you. Come see me if you have need of anything. Now, I must away."
Bella waved as he trotted back down the gangway and decided that she would find a quiet place on the main deck to sit and watch the ship be readied for her voyage. She saw the place on the deck that no one seemed to traverse was the bow and so, as Mr. McCarty suggested, she went there and settled in against the gunwale and studied all that was transpiring around her. A few minutes later, she noticed a flock of people being shepherded down the street to The Patience by several men, one of whom she recognized as the agent she met at the market two days previously. These must be her fellow indentured servants making the voyage with her. There were about a dozen rough looking men and a handful of bedraggled women, nowhere near the hundreds that The Shipping Times advertised The Patience accommodating. They must be picking up the majority of passengers in Cowes.
Bella thought perhaps she could help the new women get settled below so she carefully wove her way among the bustle on deck and down the main hatchway to where they were being housed. She sat on her sea chest awaiting them and soon enough the sailor, Mr. James, who took over the list for Mr. McCarty when she boarded, was ushering five women down the crowded deck.
"Now, ladies, you'll find yourselves comfortable enough here. The ship's stores will open once we are asail. You will each be issued a blanket, your water and plate tins along with this week's rations of food and drink. If ye have any questions, just ask for Mr. James James and I shall be at your bidding."
He looked around, seemingly well pleased with himself and spied Bella sitting quietly. With a hungry gleam in his eye, he sauntered over as the other women started disposing themselves of their meager belongings.
"Aye there, Miss Swan, are ye settled then?" He stood directly in front of her, so that she had to crane her neck to look up at him.
"I am indeed, Mr. James."
He smirked as he looked down at her, "Just let me know if ye have a need. 'Twould be my delight to help such a bonny lass as yourself."
Bella scooted around so she could stand up away from Mr. James. Though his words were pleasant, something about him made her stomach twist. She was wary, so she only said, "I thank you, sir."
He took a step closer. "I could be your good friend, Miss Swan. The best of friends…" his voice trailed off suggestively.
Bella shuddered but said, "That's a kind offer, sir." But that was one offer she had no intention of claiming. This man gave her goose-flesh in a bad way. She planned to stay very clear of Mr. James in the future.
Suddenly a stentorian voice shouted, "JAMES, REPORT TO YOUR DUTY STATION."
A tall, thin man dressed in officer's clothes stood in the passageway glaring at Mr. James who hopped to attention. "Aye-aye, Sir!" And he dashed for the hatchway and was gone in seconds.
The Captain, for that was whom Bella assumed he was, stared at her then looked around at the other women who had paused in their chatter. In a softer but no less stern voice he said, "You will not interfere with my crew. Do you understand me?"
All the women nodded in ready agreement. None of them wanted to run afoul of this man, especially as he would have control over life and death during their voyage.
He cleared his throat and said, "We are now setting sail for Cowes and will be there by e'en-tide. We'll quickly take on our remaining passengers and afterwards the articles concerning the operation of this ship and your deportment will be explained to you."
He paused and looked grimly at the women gathered there on the deck. "I expect them to be followed to the letter. You will all stay below until we have set sail." With that he wheeled around and stomped up the hatchway to the main deck.
Bella and her companions stared at each other with huge eyes. After a few moments, one middle-aged woman broke their stunned silence by saying, "And, I dare say me ducks, that will be exactly that!"
They were finally at sea making the short journey from Portsmouth to Cowes. As they had been told, as soon as they got to sea the passengers were issued their rations and Bella was glad to have her cask for her water at the ready. She added the lemon juice as Mrs. Cheney told her, tucked the thin blanket into the chest and wrapped her bread up in one of the oiled cloths. She felt satisfied as she shut and locked its lid. Some of the women were similarly equipped but others had nothing. They were told to add their water to the communal barrel and trust that others wouldn't take more than their share.
There was a fine breeze and so they made good time according to Mr. McCarty. Bella went up on the main deck as soon as she was able. The bouncing of the vessel on the waves was already disagreeing with some of her fellow passengers and the sounds and smell of the resulting sick caused her own stomach to heave. The fresh air helped dissipate her queasiness quite readily.
It was thrilling to watch the men as they worked aloft, furling a sail here, unfurling it there, and pulling on ropes. They were so sure-footed high in the sky standing on the lines as they pulled in the sails. The officers stood below shouting orders as needed. Bella was intrigued. She could watch them work all the day long.
In good time, they neared the port of Cowes and Bella was sent below by Mr. McCarty, explaining that there wouldn't be time to fetch her out of the sea if a hurrying sailor should chance to knock her overboard. He said it with a smile but she could understand why it was necessary to go below. However, the smell that assaulted her nose the minute she got down the stairs was distressing. It seemed that many of her companions had discovered their stomachs weren't used to the motion of the ship.
Stepping around some moaning victims, she got to her small corner and opened her chest once again. She dug around inside until she found the spearmint concoction Mrs. Cheney said was just the thing for an unhappy stomach. She took a sip, then fetched out the small cloth sachet that had been infused with mint oil.
Closing and locking the lid of her chest she sat upon it and pressed the sachet to her nose praying that her growing queasiness would not result in seasickness. She was glad to find the mint calmed her stomach right down. She hoped this would pass quickly and that they'd get used to the rolling of the ocean soon enough. The rocking settled down as they entered the port of Cowes and once they got the lines tied, everyone felt much improved.
A sailor she'd never seen before came down the hatchway with a bucket and a mop and started cleaning up the sick. When he was done, he told the ladies to use the buckets set out against the walls of their enclosure during future episodes. They would be responsible for cleaning up in the future. Bella was grateful that someone cared enough to see to them this first time.
They were learning that the Captain was a man of his word and soon a stream of people started coming down the hatchway; the new passengers. Bella was surprised to hear their speech. It was of no language she had ever heard before and she began to wonder how they'd get along not being able to converse with the English crew. How would someone explain the articles to them? She smiled at them as they entered, one after the other until there was hardly anywhere to stand, much less to sit. Bella was glad the men were separated from them. She could not imagine living cheek by jowl with strange men. Being this close to strange women was difficult enough.
After a while, she heard the commotion that accompanied casting off and the ship started moving again. The Patience finally headed out for the open sea. Bella said a small prayer for their safety and swift passage. She sat there on her chest, feeling bubbles of worry stirring around the vicinity of her heart, so she tried to quell her fears by singing a song to herself. Though Mistress Cope said she had a sweet voice, she didn't sing aloud for fear of disturbing her companions but thinking about music calmed her.
The new passengers were given their rations and truly they seemed to be a bit more prepared for the journey than the rest had been. For one, they weren't as green about the gills as the Portsmouth people were. Perhaps they had had experience in voyaging before they got to Cowes.
In a while, Mr. McCarty came down the hatchway with a gentleman. He cleared his throat and said in a loud voice, "We have cleared Totland head and so Captain Laurent bids you all to come to the main deck. Do not congregate to only one side else you shall upset the applecart, as they say. You will be read the Articles of Passage of the good ship Patience." The man that was with him started babbling a guttural gibberish and Bella figured he was explaining to the foreigners what Mr. McCarty had said.
The passengers slowly wended their way up the stairs where they were directed by sailors to stand evenly around the deck facing the stern where the officers and what looked to be a man of the cloth stood silently watching the gathering crowd. It had continued to be a bright day and the winds pushed the brig along apace. Bella was glad that she had thought to wear Mrs. Cheney's cape on deck as the wind was brisk.
Suddenly a sailor blew a screel on his silver whistle and silence descended over the crowd. The Reverend stepped forth and said, "Let us bow our heads and open our hearts to the Holy Ghost." The gentleman who had translated below did the same now and so all present ducked their heads and some folded their hands in an attitude of prayer.
The Reverend, with the interpreter following after him, went on to pray, "Praise, honour, and glory be to the Lord of heaven and earth! Lord of peace, Lord of joy! Thy countenance maketh my heart glad. Lord of glory, Lord of mercy, Lord of strength, Lord of life, and of power over death, and Lord of lords, and King of kings! In the world there are lords many, but to us there is but one God the Father, of whom are all things; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things: to whom be all glory, who is worthy! Let thy benevolent spirit guide this vessel and her masters so that our voyage be without incident except those of thy will, oh Lord. Oh! that everyone would strive to put down in themselves, mastery and honour, that the Lord of heaven and earth might be exalted! Amen"
All repeated "Amen" after him and Bella found she was quite taken with the prayer. It was uplifting and calmed her spirits.
The Captain, for some reason, glared at the minister then turned to look at his passengers and spoke in the same harsh voice he had used earlier below. "I am Captain William Laurent of Philadelphia, the Supreme Lord and Master of this vessel." He glared once again at the unabashed minister, and then continued, "God helps those who help themselves first and I expect a smooth and fast sailing to our next port of call, Annapolis, Maryland. I require precise adherence to the Articles of Passage of this ship. They will be posted in both English and German so that no one may claim ignorance of them. Each violation will be dealt with immediately and firmly. Mr. McCarty, please read the Articles."
Mr. McCarty stepped forward with a scroll of paper that he unrolled and started to read in a booming voice, "The Articles of Passage for the good ship Patience, out of Philadelphia, in His Royal Highness' colony of Pennsylvania.
"Article One: All persons shall remember and honor the Sabbath Day. No work other than what keeps the ship afloat and flying towards port shall be performed and all upstanding persons shall attend prayer service held on the main deck in clement weather and below deck otherwise. Those not attending service will be denied their weekly allotment.
"Article Two: As cleanliness is next to Godliness, all passengers and crew shall keep their person and kip as tidy as is possible. All women shall cover their hair and all men shall wear shirts. Communal wash water will be available twice per week as is available. Those who do not meet standards, man, woman, or child, will be forcibly cleansed at the gratings.
"Article Three: All men and women shall not mix below decks, women will stay to their billet, men to theirs. Those who violate this rule will be confined to bilboes for the duration of the journey.
"Article Four: There will be no gambling or casting of lots of any kind aboard ship. Violators will be confined to bilboes in the hold for the duration of the journey.
"Article Five: The officers' quarters and mess are off limits unless under invitation. Violators will be confined to bilboes for the duration of the journey.
"Article Six: Thou shall not thieve from ships stores or thineselves. Violators will be disembarked.
"Article Seven: Passengers will remain below deck at the Captain's discretion. Violators will be chained in bilboes in the hold for such a time as the Captain chooses.
"Article Eight: Each person will husband his own rations, insuring they will last throughout the journey. Those who do not manage well will go hungry, thirsty or cold through his own doing."
"Article Nine: Any person found guilty of mutinous or treasonous actions and words will be disembarked.
Article Ten: As God is in heaven, so the Captain is on this ship and will judge all matters great and small, his word being the utmost and last. Those who choose to dispute this will be disembarked."
Mr. McCarty finished and stepped back. Captain Laurent turned to the passengers who were listening attentively and said, "The Articles are simple enough and they will be enforced diligently and without prejudice to all, crewmen and passengers alike."
He paused and swept a glaring eye over the multitude at his mercy for the next two months then said with finality, "You are dismissed."
There was a general murmur as most of the passengers filed below deck. Bella decided to stay above as long as she could. She was warm enough in her cloak and the air was much fresher here than below. She found a quiet place near the prow and settled down to think about all that had happened that momentous day. She chuckled to herself when she remembered the glare the Captain gave the Preacher after his prayer which she now realized was in direct contrast to the last Article read that day. She reckoned that was an ongoing dispute between preacher and captain.
Emmett McCarty discovered her as he was making his rounds, "Ah, Miss Swan, how have ye settled?"
"Well enough, Mr. McCarty. I do have a question to put to you."
He nodded, encouraging her to ask.
"What did it mean in the Articles where it said, the violator will be disembarked?"
Mr. McCarty said, "It means, dear Miss Swan, that the poor miserable fool that flouts those particular rules will be thrown overboard so he can swim to dry land. It's best just to follow the rules, don't you think?"
A gyre is a wooden crane used aboard sailing ships to move heavy loads from the dock to the ship's holds or from the holds to the docks. It is manned by several men who push a wheel around and around in a circle winding up and unwinding the ropes that are on a series of pullies.
The prayer was one I paraphrased from a Quaker website. It was attributed to the founder of Quakerism, George Fox, in the 1600s.
A Bilboe is a creature who inhabits Middle Earth and lives in a nice little hole in the ground. No? Wrong story? Actually in 18th century seafaring life, a bilboe was a leg shackle also called Irons because they were made out of - iron.
Chapter 4: Asea
Bella wished God would strike her dead exactly where she lay. That jade, The Patience, was working in concert with the equally impish ocean to make Bella feel as though the devil himself had reached down her insides, grabbed her toes, and pulled her wrong-side out. The tinctures Mrs. Cheney had sent helped a little at first but now they were useless. If only this terrible storm would ease up, she knew she would feel so much better.
As she swayed in her hammock, she could hear her fellow passengers moaning in similar distress, or at least the ones that had embarked with her in Portsmouth. The Germans seemed impervious to the tossing of the ship and they moved about the deck easily. Bella had been so overcome with sickness that she hadn't paid much attention to her companions. Trying desperately to hold on to the little bit of victuals she had been able to eat, her consciousness had been given over only to the state of her innards. Occasionally, she'd be able to drift off into a dizzying sleep only to be jolted awake by another onset of nausea.
After three days of feeling like death, she decided she needed fresh air to clear her head no matter how the ocean churned. She blearily wrapped herself in her heavy cloak and was making her way to the hatchway, stepping over the other prostrate women on the deck.
"Miss Swan, ye look fair green about the gills. Have ye been ill?"
She turned at the sound of the kind voice of Emmett McCarty to find him approaching from the direction of the officer's quarters.
"A mite, Mr. McCarty." She grimaced and then asked, "Prithee, when will this fearsome gale be over?"
He laughed. "Gale, Miss Swan? This be fine, fair weather. The captain's got every bit of canvas stretched and we're flying to Maryland as quick as can be. If it 'twas a gale, you'd know it well enough."
Bella couldn't imagine the decks heaving worse than they currently did and earnestly prayed at that moment that a gale never came their way; for surely she would die.
"Get ye up topside, Miss Swan. The fine air will do ye well." He caught her elbow as he led her towards the hatchway and helped her up the stairs only to find to her surprise sunny skies dotted with cottony clouds and full sails billowing in the wind. Thanking Mr. McCarty as he left for his duties, she made her way over to the side and clung to the railings. She looked out over the waves and could see for herself that they were but gentle swells. They seemed so steep when she was down below. The crew was cheerily going about their work as if all was well with the world and the sea.
She inhaled a lung-full of the fresh air and immediately felt much improved. Sinking down onto the deck in a sheltered corner, she turned her face up to the warm sun shining high above. For the first time in days she felt more herself, thank God.
She must have dozed off a bit for she was startled awake by a cranky voice, "Aye miss, ye can't roost here. This be where I do me work."
Her eyes popped open and she took in the form of a grizzled sailor carrying a roll of sail cloth on his shoulder and a bag at his hip.
"Oh, I do apologize, sir. I had no knowledge this part of the deck was reserved."
The man snorted, "Truth be told, every part of the deck is reserved for something or another. For many it is catch as catch can but by Captain's orders, this part is reserved for my tasks."
Bella arose but her curiosity got the best of her, "What are your duties, sir?"
"I be the sail-maker of the good ship Patience and the only one. Usually, I have an apprentice working with me but the last one took sick on the voyage to England and died. I have much to do and little time to do it." With no further notice of Bella, he proceeded to unroll the fabric he was carrying and sit cross-legged like a tailor on the deck. He reached into his pouch and pulled out a needle-case. The needles were oversized and Bella understood they'd have to be sturdy to ply the canvas sailcloth.
Standing a little off to the side, Bella continued to watch the sailmaker as he struggled to push the needle through the resisting material. She could tell at a glance that it was too dull for the job. Well, she could help him with that. Quickly, she went down to her sea chest and searched out the work box that contained her professional tools. She picked up the pin cushion and after locking her chest, returned to the sail maker.
"Let me assist you with that needle," she said as she extended her hand.
Surprised, the man stopped trying to force the needle through the resisting cloth and looked up at Bella but he didn't hand over his needle.
"Truly sir, by trade I am a seamstress and I can tell your needle is not sharp enough for its duty. I can mend it for thee, if ye wish." Bella continued to hold out her hand and the man reluctantly put the needle he was using in it.
Bella took the needle up and deftly plunged it into her pin cushion over and over again as quick as she could. It didn't take too long before the needle passed easily through the material. Smiling, Bella handed it back to the befuddled man. "Here ye be— as sharp as a sliver, now."
He gingerly took the needle, pushed it into the sailcloth and was shocked when it almost slipped right through before he could get a grip on it from the other side.
"Bedamme, it parts the cloth like it were butter. How did ye do it, miss?"
"This pin cushion is a secret of the trade, sir. 'Tis filled with sand grains as fine as nits. Packed tightly together in a sturdy cotton bolster, they act to sharpen needles and pins alike. Have you any more needing sharpening?"
"I do, miss, and thank ye." He handed over the needle case and Bella dutifully sharpened each needle she found in it.
"I shall have to get me one of them there cushions," the sail maker said, eyeing the item appreciatively.
"Visit with a seamstress or tailor in the next town ye alight in. They're to be sure to have one but whilst we sail together, mine is at your service."
"That's kind of ye, miss. By the by, my name is Charles Washington." He pulled his forelock as he spoke.
Bella extended her hand, "I am Miss Isabella Swan, Mr. Washington."
He took her hand in his and said, "I go by Charlie. I probably wouldn't recognize who Mr. Washington was unless me old da was around and since he's been in the good Northampton soil these ten years past, I'd be looking for his shade if ye were to use it."
Bella giggled, "'Tis only fair, if I call you Charlie, that you call me Isabella. We are equals in trade of a sort."
Charlie nodded and grinned, "That we are, Miss Isabella. Now I'd best be getting busy on this shroud. The poor gent who met his maker this morning has need of it."
Bella gasped, "Someone has passed?"
"Aye, poor soul. If ye ask me, he was sickly before he came aboard. He'll be the first of many, though. 'Tis a sorry lot we took aboard in Portsmouth."
"I came aboard in Portsmouth." Bella was worried he considered her a part of that sorry lot.
"Did ye, Miss Isabella? That surprises me. I didn't see ye board with the rest."
"I embarked earlier than they but I am a part of that group."
Charlie cast a worried look at Bella, "So ye've sold yerself as an indentured?"
Her voice was shaky when she responded, "I have, sir."
The gruff man nodded. "I'll pray yer master be a good one."
"I shall as well, Mr. Charlie."
Over the next week, Bella completely recovered from her seasickness and as a consequence, she spent most of the daylight hours on the main deck. If Charlie was there, she sat by him having developed a friendship with the sail maker. As he claimed, he had much to do. There were always sails to be mended. In order to make the trip as fast as possible, Captain Laurent had as many aloft as he could manage. That put much stress on the canvas, so Charlie was always looking for potential weaknesses. The man worked as long as the light was good enough to see by.
As Bella had seen, Charlie was also responsible for making the shrouds for passengers and crew alike who had died on the journey. So far, they all had stood solemnly by twice as the Reverend did his duty by the departed before consigning them to the sea. If the deceased had a hammock, its material was put to use for a shroud otherwise old sails were used for the purpose. They'd carry the enshrouded body to the side of the main deck where a plank was resting along the gunwale. After placing the body on the plank, a short service was read and then the board was tilted up until the body slid gracefully into the ocean and immediately swallowed up by the depths. Then, all would go back to their business as though nothing had happened. It struck Bella as cold but necessary, rather like the Captain's articles.
Indeed, she supposed that death was just another way of getting disembarked.
Though life aboard ship was becoming routine, there were difficulties. The rations they were issued were indeed thin as Mrs. Cheney foretold and many ran short by week's end. Bella tried her best to hold off on raiding her store of sea biscuits but she had a nibble at one when her hunger was too much. She felt guilty because there were so many without the resource she had and she was beginning to think she should share her wealth. But then, Mrs. Cheney did not go to all the trouble of giving her the extra provender just so that she could give it away. Bella didn't know what she should do.
She'd gotten to know some of the other women who were berthing with her and found there were a few who seemed decent enough. Not all were as friendly as others, though, and Bella kept the distance they seemed to desire. The German ladies kept entirely to themselves. Bella discovered they belonged to a strange religious sect, the followers of Jakob Ammann, or the Amish Mennonites. They were a peaceable and kindly folk but they didn't mix with the English at all. They hardly spoke a word of English anyway, so it wasn't surprising they were isolated. Bella learned from Mr. McCarty that they were joining settlements of like-minded people in the Pennsylvania colony.
Her fellow travelers from Portsmouth were more forthcoming. There were two girls close to her age, Jessica Stanley and Lauren Mallory, an older woman, Mrs. Newton with her daughter who was of about twelve years and her son, who was a few years younger than that. Mrs. Newton was a gregarious soul and Bella soon learned that her husband was with the men on the deck below. The Newtons had lost their livelihood due to the recent troubles and decided the best thing to do was exactly what Bella did — emigrate. They had signed the papers with the agent and were going to work on a tobacco plantation outside of Annapolis for seven years.
"But afterwards, we shall get our own land and some wherewithal to farm it. Can you imagine? We shall own our own farm. We would never have that in Hampshire," Mrs. Newton said. Her excitement was palpable.
"Do ye know the folk what hold your papers, madam?" Bella asked.
"No, that we don't but like all of us here, we are hopeful of good, fair masters. Just the same, 'tis too late to worry on it now."
Bella nodded. Mrs. Newton was right about that. They'd all cast their lots and now it was just a matter of learning their fate at the end of the voyage.
Mrs. Newton turned her head, well recognizing the owner of that gruff voice. "La, Mr. Newton. How do you fare?" Her voice had an anxious edge. The only place men and women could mingle was on the main deck and that was sometimes impossible as there weren't many places for a comfortable coze. Mr. Newton looked fierce as he approached his wife and grabbed her elbow to pull her aside, away from Bella. Concerned, Bella watched as the Newtons had an intense conversation. Mrs. Newton seemed to grow more and more agitated the longer her husband spoke to her. She was shaking her head at him and his voice rose.
"'T'aint nearly enough, madam. 'Tain't nearly enough. The next you get yours, you will give me my due or else I'll know why." With that he dropped her arm and stormed back down the hatchway.
Mrs. Newton looked fretful as she returned to Bella's side.
"What's wrong, madam?" Bella asked.
"Oh, he do say that his rations aren't enough to sate his appetite and he wants part of what they give me and the children."
"But we hardly have enough, either," Bella exclaimed.
"I know. I know. I don't know what I shall do. I won't short the children. In fact, I've been giving them part of mine. What we receive isn't enough to feed a bird."
"How can your husband be such a brute?"
"'Tis the way of the world, Isabella. We women are mastered by our fathers and after them our husbands. We can only pray they be just and kind."
"And is your husband a just and kind man?"
Mrs. Newton didn't answer. She simply sighed and looked away.
Bella put her hand on the worried woman's arm, "I'll help you as I can, Mrs. Newton. I promise you."
Bella thought and thought about how to get more provisions for Mrs. Newton without getting into the supplies Mrs. Cheney had given her. If only there was a way to get more rations. She could give the extra to Mrs. Newton. She couldn't bear to think of the kindly woman or her children falling ill through starvation.
Suddenly, she had an idea. The next time she saw Charlie at his post on the deck, she asked, "Do ye think ye could use an experienced helper, sir?"
Charlie looked up from underneath busy eyebrows and humphed. "Are ye offering?"
"Aye, that I am, sir."
"And what do ye expect in return?"
"More rations, Mr. Charlie."
"Going hungry are ye?"
"Not me, sir, but some little 'uns whom share me berth."
He nodded as he reached down and picked up some canvas. "Let me see how you work, first. Sew a seam there." He pointed to where Bella could see a raw edge needed hemming.
"Let me get my gear and I shall be back in a trice. Thank you, sir."
Charlie just grumped in return as Bella dashed down below to fetch her work box from out of her chest. Quickly returning, she put on her apron and loaded it with the implements of her trade to be readily at hand when she needed them.
Sitting on the deck, she picked up the cloth and studied the hem that Charlie had put in the other edge earlier.
"So ye use four ply threads and place them just a mite a part."
"Aye. More stitches give more strength. Some do skimp but that leads to disaster in my opinion, especially at how our Captain pushes this vessel. A torn sail can stop us dead in the water and that would make him madder than devil's fire, 'tis God's truth."
Bella nodded, took the needle Charlie proffered and prepared her thread. Putting her thimble on her finger, she started quickly sewing the neatest seam she could, and since she was a professional, that was a very neat seam indeed.
Charlie whistled when she finished, both from the neatness of the seam and how quickly she accomplished it, and humphed. "I shall see what the Captain says. I could use your help, 'tis true, but the Captain decides everything aboard."
Bella nodded her understanding and stood. "I hope to hear shortly, Mr. Charlie."
"I'll ask as soon as I am able. Ye have to time these things with Captain; catch him in the right humor. He's as changeable as the weather, that one."
Smiling, Bella nodded and went back down to her chest to put her things away. It was all she could do for now. As she started to return to the main deck, she saw Lauren creep into the berth with her clothing disheveled and cramming something into her mouth.
"Lauren, lass, are you well?" Bella could tell something was wrong.
Lauren gasped and quickly put her hands behind her back, looking guiltily behind her. Bella looked over the girl's shoulder and saw Mr. James coming from behind a partition as he adjusted his trousers. He caught Bella's eye and sneered. With a suggestive leer, he nodded and then disappeared up the stairs to the main deck.
Bella's stomach started to twist. "Lauren, what have ye been about?"
" 'Tis no worry of yorn, Isabella Swan. I be fine as frog hair." With one hand, she pulled her crooked kirtle down and smoothed the fabric over her stomach and hips. She kept the other hand behind her back, evidently not wanting Bella to see what she had in it.
Bella looked at her, realization dawning. Lauren had bartered herself to James in trade for more food. "Oh lass, be careful."
Lauren huffed and rolled her eyes. "I be careful enough," as she stomped away.
Sighing, Bella returned back to the main deck.
The next morning, Charlie caught her as she ascended the hatchway stairs.
"Captain will see you in his cabin, Miss."
Blinking, her heart started to thump madly, Bella followed Charlie back to the officer's quarters. Knocking on the door at the end of the passageway, Charlie called out, "Miss Swan to see ye, sir."
The Captain's deep voice answered, "Enter."
Taking a deep breath, Bella walked into the cabin.
"So, you are willing to serve your days with Mr. Washington as his apprentice sail-maker?"
"Not as an apprentice, sir. I am a seamstress by trade and have studied Mr. Washington as he labored and know I can do a fair job for the simple work that he has before him."
"Simple work, Miss Swan?"
"Aye. I can sew straight seams as tightly as ye may wish. I can measure cloth and leave little to waste. You won't lose by having me assist Mr. Washington and all I ask for is two extra rations be given me in exchange."
"Two extra rations? You value yourself highly, don't you?"
" 'Tis a fine offer I give you, sir and two extra loaves of bread a week is all that I ask. Seems more than a fair exchange."
"You know we are shorthanded."
"So I have been told."
"And Mr. Washington vouches for you."
Bella only smiled and nodded.
"Then, I will make an arrangement. You shall assist Mr. Washington at his duties during the daylight hours in trade for an extra loaf of bread a week."
"One loaf, sir?"
"You're lucky I am giving you that but I want you to have the strength to do your work. You can start today. Dismissed." And he went back to studying the papers he had been pouring over when she arrived.
Pleased that her plan was going so well, she stopped by her chest, put on her apron and got out her work box, then climbed up to the main deck to find Charlie. He had a stack of sails he wanted her to deal with awaiting her on the deck and so, she settled down to work.
Bella found that having something constructive to do during the day made the time at sea go by quickly and she slept soundly at night from the labor. The weather remained fair much to the Captain's delight and The Patience did seem to skip across the water like a child would a field of flowers.
"Miss Isabella, could you go down to the loft and fetch that spindle of thread from the hamper? We be about through with this one." Charlie held up an emptying spool.
"Of course. I shall return shortly." Bella ran down the hatchway stairs and through the passage to the sail loft where Charlie's stores were kept. It was a crowded, cramped place and she had to move some sacks to get where she wanted. She was reaching over a barrel to fetch the spindle of thread when she felt hands on her waist and a hard body pushed up against her bottom.
"There now, Missy, this is how I like it." Mr. James had followed her to the narrow, secluded loft and now she was trapped.
Bella screeched and tried to scramble away. "What be ye about, sir? Take your hands off of me!"
"Hush now, beauty. Being friends with me can bring you benefits. Besides the pleasure I can give you, I can give ye extra rations — food, water, spirits…" His grip tightened and pinned as she was against the lockers, she couldn't get away.
"Stop, Mr. James. Please. I shall scream down the timbers of this vessel, else!" Bella twisted around and struggled against him but it just seemed to incite him more. They were now face to face.
"No, Missy. No. I've watched you since you came aboard. Yer a plum just ripe for the picking, you are." He leaned towards her intending to kiss her, his foul breath almost causing Bella to cast up her accounts. She twisted her head to the side, scratching the side of his neck in desperation to get away.
He hissed and raised his hand to strike her just as she took a breath to shout for help when an angry voice came from behind her assailant, "You, James! About yer old games, are ye? We'll that won't happen on my watch!"
Practically growling, Emmett McCarty grabbed James by the scruff of his neck and pulled him away from Bella. He then threw him against the partition so hard that Bella heard a crack.
Mr. James cried out and grasped his shoulder, "Ye've done me damage! Me arm's come unhinged."
Emmett glared at James and said, "Ye'd best be glad it was only yer arm. If you lay hand on Miss Swan again, I'll see that you'll swim the rest of the way to Maryland." He took a threatening step closer to the injured man, "Are you quite clear on that?"
Mr. James cowered away from the powerfully built man, "Cl-clear – I am clear. I shall not touch the hussy again."
"She's a lady to you, vermin." Emmett put his hand on James' shoulder and the man cried out.
"Get ye to the surgeon to see to your arm, ye blighter, but don't forget my warning."
Emmett stood and watched Mr. James scramble up and limp towards sick bay, then turned to Bella and asked, "Did he hurt ye, lass?"
"Truly, not to speak of. He put his hands on me and tried to put his mouth on mine but that's all. I am so grateful you happened by. Thank you Mr. McCarty, thank you so much."
"'Twas nothing. James is a bad sort. I'd never forgive myself if something happened to you."
Bella smiled, "Something bad did not happen because of your stalwart rescue. Ye knew of Mr. James' bad ways?"
"I suspicioned in the past he was up to the devil with the women passengers. I never saw it firsthand but I had a feeling it was going on."
"Shall you report it to the Captain?"
"I would but that would entail bringing your name into it and I'd as like as not do that. The Captain is capricious and for some reason he puts up with James' tom-foolery more than he does others. The fact the blighter is a cousin of his wife may have something to do with it. I fear that he would just forbid you from helping old Charlie and I can see that arrangement benefits the old man as well as it does you. That being said, Miss Swan, if reporting it is something you wish me to do, I shall do it."
"No. I need the work, Mr. McCarty. I wasn't hurt and I am sure Mr. James has learned his lesson."
Emmett sighed and nodded his head, "Then get ye up on deck and don't come down here alone again. I'll tell Charlie to make sure you are always companioned in the future."
"My best thanks, Mr. McCarty." Bella curtsied and grabbing the spindle she hurried back to Charlie's side glad to have escaped Mr. James' clutches and thankful for friends like Mr. McCarty.
The Patience continued to make good time on the voyage. There were a few storms and though the ship tossed in the waves, Bella had her sea legs and it didn't affect her. On those days, she and Charlie had leave to work on the floor of the officer's mess. Occasionally, Bella was called upon to sew a shroud for some poor soul who had gone to meet their Maker but it wasn't as often Bella had first feared. Though stern, Captain Laurent wasn't cruel and he valued getting all his cargo to its destination as in as good a fiddle as he was able.
Mrs. Newton was grateful for Bella's extra rations and now that they were nearing port, Bella felt easier about sharing her ship biscuits with the other women in her berth as well. She found she now had to strain the water in her jug before drinking as it had become putrid over time. The lemon juice helped some as did the weekly tot of rum but it still took all her will power to drink even a sip. However, thirst proved an easy victor over her qualms. She found if she held her nose, it went down easier.
Bella had faithfully taken the potion that warded off her monthly and she was glad when it didn't come. Other ladies weren't so lucky and had to scramble to figure a way to deal with it. It was cleaning the rags so they could maintain their absorbency that was the problem. The water that was stowed in casks was too vital to use for cleansing.
They learned that during a rainfall, the crew would put wooden tuns out all over the deck to catch the drinkable rainwater but due to its value, none of it could be used for bathing or washing. Charlie showed her a trick, though. During and after a rain fall, the top layer of water in the sea is less salty than usual. If they used a rope to lower a bucket to skim the surface of the sea at those times, they could get water that was less harsh to use as bath and laundry water. It still wasn't drinkable.
No matter, before the end of the voyage, Bella's underclothes were stiff from salt and she couldn't imagine how she smelled. She felt thoroughly grimy and prickly. She would be glad of the bath house when she got to Annapolis. She had fresh clothes put by to change into after she scoured herself clean and picked all the nits from her hair. She blessed Mrs. Cheney for making her cut her hair. She couldn't imagine what she'd do if her hair was down to her waist as it once was. It made her convulse just to think about it. There was one thing she wanted and that wa to make a good impression on her new Mistresses when they first met.
Mr. James steered clear of her for the remainder of the voyage. The surgeon was able to reseat his shoulder and after a few days of light duty, he could return to his normal routine. But whenever he would happen to catch Bella's eye, he glared at her. Bella believed it was simply his peevish personality coming to fore and decided to ignore him. Besides, once off the vessel, she would never see him again.
One day, almost six weeks into their voyage, they were excited and delighted to hear the sailor at the top of the tallest mast shout, "Land, ho!" and point off to the west.
Many rushed to the sides of the ship peering into the horizon but of course they couldn't see anything, yet. They stood and watched the unchanging seascape, until finally thinking the lookout must have been mistaken most wandered away. Bella didn't give up, so excited was she to get her first glimpse of her new home. She had half a mind to shimmy up the mast lines to see for herself when a darker smudge appeared upon the horizon just where the sky met the sea. She knew it was the New World.
She had finally arrived.
Ahead lay her new life.
Chapter 5: Annapolis Towne
"I shall be that glad to reach dry land," Jessica exclaimed. "When do they say we shall dock?"
Bella was sorting through her belongings, making sure she had her fresh garments at the ready when she reached port. "I don't know for sure, Jess. We passed the port of Norfolk and are now sailing up this great long bay, The Chesapeake, I think 'tis called. Mr. McCarty says it be more than two hundred miles long."
"Tchaa. I never heard of such a great thing. How long will it take us to get to Annapolis?"
"Annapolis marks the halfway point up the bay. Mr. McCarty assures me that we should dock no later than Sunday evening. He says if we have a fair wind it should only take a day or two to travel from Norfolk."
"I suppose since we've been shut up on this vessel for nigh on three fortnights, one more night should not be too much a bother. But then, we meet our new masters. Heaven forefend that they be good folk. I am beginning to fret about it."
"Mayhap we'll be near each other, Jessie, and can visit now and again." Bella hoped this was the case. It would be nice to have a friend in Annapolis. The girls learned early on that they were both destined for the town, Bella with the Cullens and Jessica with the Brandon family. Jessica had worked in a grand house back in England and the Brandons were looking for a girl to be a handmaid to their daughter. Lauren and the Newtons were indentured to a plantation in the nearby countryside.
"Have you finished, Isabella? Let us go above and look at the land as we pass." On the whole, Jessica was as eager for her new life just as Bella was. Giggling, they clasped hands and scurried up to the main deck to feast their eyes on the rich green land rolling by. The bay was very wide and they could only see one side at the moment but that was rich with verdant pine and hard wood forests that came to the water's edge.
"Surveying your new domain, ladies?" Emmett McCarty came up behind them, his hands clasped behind his back seeming to enjoy the delight the girls were taking in his homeland.
"'Tis very vast and green but other than a few vessels, we haven't seen a soul yet. You say there be towns here?" Jessica asked.
Emmett's delighted laughter was warm. "There be towns but further up the rivers that feed the bay. The river we are passing now is called the Rappahannock. There are a couple of towns worth speaking of on it— Port Royal and Port Conway. In a while, we shall pass the Potomac upon which lies Alexandria."
His face softened, betraying his fond thoughts. "Alexandria is a fine town with pleasant people. I aim to visit it soon."
He was quiet for a moment and then went on, "But my favorite city will be where we'll be docking and that is my hometown of Annapolis. Though The Patience will be traveling on to Philadelphia, Annapolis is where you ladies will be alighting along with me. The Captain has given me leave to visit my family until he takes to sea again."
"That's good news, Mr. McCarty. I won't feel so alone now that I know I have some friendly faces nearby," Bella said. Truth to tell, she was relieved to know that the trusty Emmett was going to be near her for a while.
Jessica spied Lauren leaning over the rail further down, so she bobbed a curtsy to Emmett and Bella and said, "I shall see how Lauren's been feeling. She's been under the weather these past few days."
Bella nodded as Jessica left them. She looked back at Emmett who was staring off into the distance and she felt that now was the time to ask him the question that had been niggling at her these past weeks. They had developed a friendship over the journey and she believed she could ask his frank opinion by now.
"Mr. McCarty, mind I ask ye something?"
Cocking an eyebrow, he looked down at her and said, "Surely you can ask me anything, Miss Swan."
"Ye told me before that ye knew of my new mistress. Can you tell me anymore about her? The closer we get to Annapolis the bigger my unease that she may not be kind."
Emmett sighed and looked down at the railing in front of them before answering, "I've known the Cullens since I was in skirts. My mother and Mrs. Cullen were friends and so they've been a fixture in my life."
He leaned over to rest his forearms on the gunwale, stared off into space and continued, "I've never known Mrs. Cullen to be other than a lady and to act as ladies do. Her daughters were several years younger than me, so I hadn't many dealings with them. They have a neat home, styled as a row house. 'Tis three stories counting the kitchens and scullery on the ground floor, then on the next floor are the formal rooms, parlors, dining rooms and the like. On the top floor are sleeping chambers and above that are attics. The house is gracious and I think Mr. Cullen had it outfitted in a manner befitting his stature during his life. It had every convenience when I visited last year."
"Oh, so you have had recent dealings with the ladies?"
The normally cheerful man looked saddened for a bit, "Aye. Last summer, Mistress Cullen's niece and nephew from Alexandria came to Annapolis for a visit. There were soirees and card parties and al fresco dining and I was among the merry makers. 'Twas a jolly time and I became friends, more than friends to be truthful, with Mistress Cullen's niece, Miss Rosalie. I believe Miss Cullen felt a connection with me that went beyond simple pleasantries but when I went to her aunt to beg permission to court her, I was turned down cold. It seemed Mistress Cullen had ambitions for her niece that didn't include tying her future to a sailor's lot. I was put on my way with a flea in my ear and Miss Rosalie was sent packing back to Alexandria. I haven't seen nor heard from her since." He sighed heavily.
"Oh, Mr. McCarty, 'tis a sad tale you tell. Is your lady in Alexandria now?"
"As far as I know she is." He brightened and then added, "Mayhap I shall visit her there soon. But getting back to your original query, you can see my feelings toward your new mistress may be a mite prejudiced. Truly, she ran a tight ship in her home but I paid no mind as to how she treated her servants. She did pride herself on being a good Christian woman but that means little in my experience. I've known some folk who called themselves Christian to be meaner than a cranky hornet when they choose."
"Aye, 'tis true." Bella sighed. "I shall just have to present myself on my best footing tomorrow and pray she won't be unhappy with me."
Emmett stood and brushed his hands on the side of his thighs, "She would be foolish indeed if she didn't see your worth from the very start." He smiled warmly at her.
"Well my dear Miss Swan, this is all the lolling about that I may do this day. I'd best get to work before the Captain decides he must disembark me for shirking my duties. G'day."
Smiling, Emmett went back to his tasks and left Bella standing at the rail. She continued to watch the scenery rolling by and thought about everything Mr. McCarty had told her concerning her future mistress, which in truth wasn't very much except that she kept a tidy home and she had no qualms about breaking a good man's heart. Bella would just have to hope that Mistress Cullen wouldn't go about trying to break hers as well.
She reached under her cap to scratch her itchy scalp. Under any circumstance, there was one thing she was desperate to do no matter what. She prayed they had plenty of hot water at the bath house tomorrow.
The next day dawned bright and sunny. Bella found she had no need for the heavy cloak that had kept her warm throughout the voyage. She cleaned her face and hands as well as she was able but still felt as though she had been scraped out of a slop pot. She took a clothes brush to the dress she had worn since the day she boarded to try to get the worst of the stains off but did not make much headway on it. Oh well, she thought. I will only be wearing this from the ship to the bath house. I may burn it when this is over.
As she made her way down the passageway to go up to the deck, a shadowy figure reached out from a recess and grabbed her wrist.
"Oh! Mr. James, you startled me." Bella pulled away from the fierce man.
"I shall do more than startle ye, Miss. I haven't forgotten the injury I suffered because of thee. This be fair warning. One day, I shall have my due of ye, that I will." He dropped her wrist and stormed off, leaving a wary Bella in his wake. The man was crazed. She was arriving at her destination and he, as the ship's crew, was traveling on. They'd part ways and she would never see him again. She had worries enough so she put him out of her mind and climbed the hatchway stairs to take her post next to Charlie as he worked.
A few hours later, Bella was excitedly watching The Patience tack up the broad Severn River. All the crew was aloft and the Captain and his officers were shouting well rehearsed orders furling and unfurling sails as they sailed into Annapolis' harbor. She peered intently at the town as it grew closer and was quite impressed with what she saw.
She could hear church bells ringing calling worshipers to services. Neat houses and buildings were arranged along broad streets that radiated from two hills. Why, it looked as comfortable and homey as any town in England. Perhaps she wouldn't feel so strange in her new land. The more she saw of Annapolis the more excited she was and she couldn't help but to smile happily.
Suddenly a bell rang on the deck of the ship and when Bella turned around she saw the Parson calling out as he tolled his hand bell, "'Tis time for Sunday prayer. All attend. Sunday services are at hand!"
Work on deck slowed to a stop and Bella was surprised. Since they were so close to docking, she had believed they would forgo services this day but mayhap not.
However, the Captain had other ideas. "BELAY THAT! BACK TO WORK YE NAVVIES!" Captain Laurent shouted.
The Parson's back got poker straight and he glared at the Captain. " 'Tis Sunday, Captain. The Articles state…"
"Aye, when we be asea the Articles are in full force. We are now coming into port and have no time for services. I'll have the cargo off this ship in a trice to catch the outgoing tide for Philadelphia or I'll bedamned."
"Aye, you shall be damned by the Almighty for not giving Him due honor and glory on the Sabbath. I would not be doing my duty as a clergyman to let you lead all these persons to perdition by not keeping the day holy."
"Your duty to me as your Captain on this vessel trumps any claim you have elsewhere." The Captain looked around at his men who seemed to pause in their chores. "What be ye about ye dullards? ON WITH THY DUTIES."
The men hopped to and went back to their stations but the preacher wasn't done.
"The Good Book, Captain, does tell us to honor the Sabbath Day and keep it holy and that the Lord thy God is a jealous God and demands our primary allegiance and no MAN shall come before Him." The minister then narrowed his eyes at the Captain and lifted his voice, "Any man who places another man's desires before God's will be consigned to hell come judgment day."
They were close to the dock by now. The Captain turned to the Parson and said in a menacing voice, "Are you disputing my authority on this ship?"
"I am disputing your demanded precedence to God." The minister folded his arms over his chest and looked down his nose at the Captain as though he had finished the argument.
The Captain growled and then shouted, "SMYTHE! JONES! ALONG SIDE HERE!" Two burly seaman stopped their duties and sauntered over to where the Captain and the Parson were having their standoff.
"For challenging the authority of the Captain on this ship I consign him to the watery depths, DISEMBARK THIS MAN!"
Without a pause, the two seamen grasped the arms of the surprised clergyman, frog-marched him to the side of the vessel, and with a heave ho tossed him into the harbor.
Bella's mouth was agape as she watched the man sail through the air and into the water with a splash. His wig soon floated to the surface but at first there was no other sign of him. Suddenly, he spluttered up from the depths, flailing away as he got his breath and then spluttered, "THE LORD WILL CAST HIS JUDGMENT ON THEE, YE BAALAMITE!"
The Captain, who was watching from the deck, sneered and then turned his attention to his crew as they skillfully maneuvered the ship to the dock. Stunned, Bella watched the minister as he gracelessly dog paddled towards shore. Fortunately, they were close in and the man could swim.
She heard the Captain mutter to Charlie who was standing nearby to pack up the Parson's gear and put it ashore with the cargo. The Clergyman could find his own way to Philadelphia but come hell or high water, The Patience would leave for that fair city this day. The Captain was impatient to get back to his family.
A half hour later they had docked, the gangway had been rolled up to the side of the ship and the passengers were allowed to disembark but without the assistance of Messers Jones and Smythe. Bella was struggling with her chest as she gingerly stepped onto the dock and wove her way down to the harbor wall. The land felt curiously flat and still and she was surprised to discover it was difficult to walk in a straight line. She laughed when she realized she had acquired a rolling gait just like the crustiest sailor.
There was a man standing at the end of the dock with a stack of papers clutched in his hands. He eyed each passenger closely and spoke to them as they neared.
"I be the agent out of Philadelphia for those of ye who have struck papers as an indentured servant. Stand by me here so I can see to your dispositions."
Soon, there was a crowd of men and women gathered around the gentleman. He quickly counted the numbers then lifted his voice, "Listen ye for thy name and attend."
Consulting his papers, he grouped the folk according to the masters they were beholding to. Soon, each group was herded off in separate directions. Bella said goodbye to Jessica when Jess' name was called and the girls clung tearfully together. Now that the time had come, they were loath to part, each feeling more secure together.
Soon, all had been called except Bella. The Philadelphia agent looked at her and asked, "I've no paper here for you, girl. Do you know whom ye've been bonded to?"
"I do, sir. One Mistress Cullen of Annapolis."
"Ah. Then you must be the seamstress. I do not understand why I've no papers for you." He looked down in puzzlement at his sheaf. "Perhaps ye should just wend your way to her household on your own."
"I can do that, sir, if someone would but show me the way. But first, I would like to procure the use of a bath house."
"Bath house?" The agent looked at Bella as though she was mad.
"Yes, sir. I've been six weeks asea and I crave a hot bath more than anything."
"But 'tis a Sunday. None will be open for business today. No, ye must get ye to your mistress' house. You can do your washing there."
Bella sighed and looked down at her grubby appearance. What a terrible impression she was going to make on Mistress Cullen but she supposed there was nothing for it but to do as the agent suggested.
"Mind ye get there, girl. If ye seek to shirk yer duties, you shall be chastised most severely and time added on to yer indenture."
"I have no thoughts of trying to avoid my obligation to Mrs. Cullen, sir. Now, how do I find her house?"
Fortuitously at that moment, a friendly voice hailed her, "Miss Swan have you settled, yet?" Emmett McCarty walked down the dock with his seabag slung over his shoulder.
"Mr. McCarty, do you know the way to Mistress Cullen's?" Bella asked.
"Of course I do. 'Tis but a street or two over from my father's house."
"Can I trouble ye to show me the way? It seems this gentleman does not know."
The agent spoke up, "I be from Philadelphia, kind sir. I do not know this town, 'tis God's truth."
"'Twould be my sincere pleasure, Miss Swan. Let me help ye with your chest." The big man easily carried Bella's chest under his arm with his sea bag slung over his other shoulder and led her off the dock and across the market square which, because of the day of the week, was empty.
"Annapolis has the look of a fine town, Mr. McCarty."
"Ah, that it is. It's growing by leaps and bounds every day." He looked around as they walked up Main Street marking the changes that had been made since he was last at home. "Ye will find the people industrious and hardworking but they do like their diversions time and again. Let us cross here."
He led Bella across the road and they turned down a side street. He pointed to a handsome home along the way, "That's my father's house. We are but a street away from Mistress Cullen's." Turning down Charles Street, Emmett finally came to a halt in front of a redbrick row house very much as he had described to her on ship the day before.
"This be Mistress Cullen's, Miss Swan. Now, I don't think it will be such a good thought for me to be showing up on her doorstep as we didn't part on the best of circumstances, so if ye be willing, I shall leave ye here."
"Goodbye, Mr. McCarty and thank you. I don't know what I would have done without your assistance. Ye be a true gentleman, sir."
She curtsied as he bowed. "Don't worry, Miss Swan. I have a good feeling that all will be well with you." Smiling encouragingly at her, he tipped his hat and turned back to walk briskly back down the street.
Bella stood and watched until he turned the corner and was out of sight. Sighing, she faced her new mistress' home again and studied it. It was strange that though it was full morning, the shutters were still closed and there was no smoke coming from the chimneys. Shouldn't the cook be preparing the day's meals by now? Now that she was taking a closer look she thought the house didn't look well cared for and hadn't Mr. McCarty claimed that Mistress Cullen ran a tight ship? Something was out of place here.
"Oh well, Isabella, you shan't get forwarder by standing here gawping," Bella chastised herself and she climbed the three stairs to the door. She lifted the dull looking brass knocker, rapped smartly on the door, stepped back and waited.
She knocked again, and again there was no answer.
She climbed down the steps and looked up at the house once more. There was a window open on the third floor and she could see a curtain fluttering from it in the slight breeze. Someone must be home.
Climbing back up the stairs, she knocked again practically pounding on the door with all her might and finally she heard someone moving about inside. There was a faint crash and the sound of someone's startled but muffled response. Feeling that she was at last successful in rousing someone, Bella stepped back from the doorway and primly clasped her hands in front of her.
She was trying to decide if she should try to appear humble or haughty but when the door opened those thoughts were chased from her mind by pure astonishment. It wasn't a servant who answered the door, nor a girl just old enough to come out to society. It wasn't even a middle aged lady who could possibly be the mistress of the place. It was a man, a dandy of a man. He was tall and though his clothes looked as though he had slept in them, they were of the finest quality.
Bella couldn't help but note how his white stockings and black breeches set off his figure. His black waistcoat was undone and his stock hung loosely around his neck over his white shirt. She saw that his hair wasn't powdered as was the style of the times but was a riot of reddish-brown, almost bronze-looking curls. His face was god-like with a well defined jaw and chin and noble nose. But it was his eyes that made all cogent thought leave Bella's brain. They were a deep piercing green and quite the handsomest pair she had ever seen.
At the moment, however, those eyes were unkindly staring down at her and she noticed that they were rimmed with red. It seemed that the gentleman was dealing with the after effects of spending a night in the arms of Bacchus.
"Well girl, what do you want?"
Snapping out of her daze, Bella mustered enough of her wits to ask, "I be here to see Mistress Cullen, sir."
"That will be quite impossible. Mistress Cullen has been dead these past three weeks."
"Dead?" Bella was shocked. "But she was expecting me."
"I assure you, madam, she is not expecting you now."
"But I was to dress her daughters for their coming out."
"I would say then alas, you are too late. Those poor girls have all ready come out so far they are no longer of this world. My cousins followed my aunt through the gates of heaven."
"But Mistress Cullen paid my passage. I signed the papers." Bella was beginning to feel desperate. If she had no work here, where could she go?
A light dawned in those handsome eyes, "My aunt paid your passage?"
"If your aunt was Mistress Abigail Cullen, indeed she did, Sir."
The man sighed gustily and ran a distracted hand through his hair. "I have no use for a dresser. Be gone with you." Then he started to shut the door.
Fear gripped Bella's heart, "But sir, I've just come all the way from Portsmouth. I have no place to go. I signed the papers. I was assured there would be honest work to put my hand to once I got to Annapolis."
"Portsmouth in Virginia?" he asked.
"No, Sir. Portsmouth, England. I have papers."
"Let us be clear. My aunt paid your passage from England so you could help her bring Constance and Honoria out?"
"If those be her daughters, then yes. I am a seamstress by trade. I was to help dress them. Three years, our agreement was."
"Oh gadzooks, you are an indentured servant." The horror was evident in his eyes.
Just then another man appeared behind him. He was almost as handsome, tall with blonde curls in contrast to the first man's autumnal locks and just as elegantly clothed.
"What's all this noise about, Edward?"
"It seems Aunt Abigail undertook to secure the services of an indentured servant to bring my cousins out in style." There was a note of disdain in his voice. "I have no use for her."
"Indentured servant you say? Then you have inherited her just as you have inherited the house. She is chattel, like that showy carriage your aunt ordered and mayhap just as useless. But that is as never mind, you shall have to take her, Edward."
Just then, the front door opened at a neighboring house and an elderly man came out to call, "Is there a problem, sirrah?"
"Good morning, Mr. Banner. No, there is problem at all," Edward hastily replied.
He turned to Bella and said, "I suppose we should sort this out within. 'Tis best not to make this sorry business gossip fodder for the whole town."
"Yes, Sir," Bella responded.
She stooped down, picked up her chest and followed the gentlemen into the house. As she passed Edward who was holding the door for her, his nose wrinkled and he exclaimed, "Faugh! What is that fetid smell?"
AN: Back in the day, babies all wore the same kind of clothing regardless of sex; i.e. girls and boys wore dresses/skirts. I guess it made it easier to keep their bottoms clean. They also didn't cut their hair. And honestly, they didn't even call them by name a lot of times. A mother referred to her child as "Baby." Maybe this is a reflection of the high rate of infant mortality of the age. Or maybe, considering the names they gave their kids back in the day, it just didn't seem right to call your little peanut Horatio or Hortense.
"Spending the night in the arms of Bacchus…" Edward and Jasper were hung over. Bacchus was the Roman god of the grape harvest and all that came of it and I am not talking just about jams and jellies. Evidently, Aunt Cullen had an impressive wine cellar.