April 3rd, the year of our Lord 1775
I begin this chronicle under the happiest of auspices- April 3rd is Henry's birthday, I am happy as waiting-maid to the misses Redford, and the early sunlight shows bright and clear upon this page. I am sensible of the fact that to be literate is a great privilege to one of my station. Henry taunts me about the fact that I am a learned young woman. Most girls my age are only taught housewifery, and skills useful for finding a good position in a wealthy family. But Henry and I are different. There was a time when many a head would turn at the name "Lydia Cobb", and Henry possessed good chances of attending the great college of William and Mary. But those days are gone, and have all but faded from memory. Was it only five years ago when Papa was a wealthy merchant? What happy times those were! Papa insisted that I, his only daughter, be taught to read and write, and that Henry learn to speak French like a native, and read Latin as well as any Roman of old spoke it. How merry we all were in those days before the trouble began! The evenings were the most pleasant times. Henry and Papa would play chess on the walnut table in the corner while I read the Bible, or one of Papa's books aloud to Mama. In those times I never dreamed of what I was to become. The trouble I speak of began the August I was thirteen. One of Papas ships was taken by pirates. The crew of another mutinied. Two more sank in dreadful storms crossing the Atlantic. The business was ruined, and Papa grew thin and pale. It seemed that our Lord no longer chose to smile upon us. But Papa's faith remained strong. Often he would bid me to sit on a footstool close beside him and read of Job's trials. I can see yet the firelight dancing upon his thin face, making the hollows in his cheeks appear hollower still, and then the old happy smile light his wan countenance as I read Job's words: "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; Blessed be the Name of the Lord."
A week later Mama fell ill, and the accounts at the apothecary grew larger and larger. I waited upon Mama to save the expense of a hired woman, and I grew to love my mother with a deeper affection than I had ever felt for anyone before! But despite all our careful attention and the bitter draughts the doctor gave her to drink, Mama slipped away by Michaelmas to be with the Lord in Heaven. After our grief mellowed, Papa gathered his courage and went to sea as a sailor upon one of the remaining ships he had formerly owned. My good, tender, noble Papa!
One hot day the following summer, Henry came to me. I knew something was amiss by the gentle, halting manner in which he approached me, and placed a trembling hand upon my shoulder. "Lydia, my lass," he said, and looked so like our dear Papa that I was almost frightened of him, "The ship was in the West Indies...Papa caught the yellow fever and....he joined Mama in Heaven-God bless us now!"
Poor Henry had begun bravely, but the last words choked him, and he hugged me tightly with the tears streaming down his cheeks. Those were melancholy days following. Henry found employment as a clerk, and I, only a small girl of fourteen, learnt the art of servitude as well as I possibly could with no mother to teach me. What a blessing it was when good Master Redford, fancying the daughter of his former colleague, employed me as a waiting-maid and companion for his two daughters! I soon learnt to perform all the small and pretty duties the Redford ladies required, and became quite a proficient little hairdresser and milliner. I little understood the great honor conferred therein, as I do now! What I then considered as a matter of course, I now understand to be a blessing from the Almighty. That a prominent businessman in Williamsburg would choose me as a companion for his daughters was a strange happening indeed!
As I read over the words my pen has etched upon these pages thus far, they strike me as being only sorrowful accounts of an orphaned young lady. But I am not melancholy. These events did happen, and the days were dark, but, to quote one of Papa's favorite sayings:
"After the night the mists shall clear,
After the storm, the sun appear;
Spring returns each blessed year,
And the Lord is faithful here."
I am at peace. Henry is a most affectionate brother, and treats me like a fine lady. Master Redford and his daughters are cordial to me. I want for nothing except, perhaps, a bit more amusement, but that I hope, this journal shall give me. Who can tell what events may take place between these two handsome covers? I have saved long to buy such a book at the Stationer's, and I trust there shall be some profit in practicing my writing herein. I do not expect that I shall have many diverting experiences to record, and yet, who can tell? Inside, I am still "Mistress Lydia Cobb", daughter of a wealthy merchant; a genteel young lady every bit as worthy as Georgianna Redford. And, while adventures may not happen to waiting-maids, perhaps they shall not pass by a gentlewoman!"
What do you think? Hope you like it! :) -Rachel