The year of our lord Sixteen Hundred and thirty five
My dearest Amalia,
I have had this journal bound for you in the hopes that it will serve you well as a compellation of your daily thought and deeds in the Lord as you go forth into your brightest of futures.
Love to you, your most adoring Father.
This is what the note read which accompanied you, exquisite creature of paper and leather when you were delivered to my Oxford apartments. I with all honesty cannot say which I am overcome by more; love or anger. You are a most beautiful book and I will surely write in thee often, and I have longed for you for years and Father knew of this; but ... I knowth that he does not wish me to grow up as he has written. Still I guess human fathers are never prepared for their children to fly from the nest. They love us too much for that. Still sometimes I wonder if most times Father forgets that we are even alive.
I guess this is where I should giveth you, my creature of paper and leather, the histories of life so that you might know me better.
I have both the pleasure and the horror of being born to a right noble Dutch gentleman and his faintly English wife. My Father is a shipping Captain for the honorable Dutch East India Company. His life at sea had brought us great wealth, privilege, and responsibility. Our family had lived on three of the world's continents, and now we are looking toward to the west, past the blue sea to the New World.
As England and My beloved Netherlands parcel up this new world in their race to be the first to conquer it, my father has decided to move my mother and sell the home we built in Angola. I shall miss the house and grounds, and all the wonders of Africa. It has for most of my life, been my second home. I am apprehensive about this grand new land that every man, woman, and child in England is raving about. To hear tale of it, the new world is a land out of Fairy or perhaps if I dare write this ... the Land of Eden itself!
But as I am about to receive my governess skills certificate I am in no hurry to join the march to the new colonies. I feel freer than I have my whole entire life ... with the exception of those fleeting moments of hottest summer in Angola when I would visit my Mother and Brother and my dear friend Sellah; one of fathers slaves. She and her family serve my parents personally and Father always treated them better than most. He never beat them and let them keep their names and customs. When he was attacked by other men for this, he would simply say that he was abiding by the treatment of slaves illuminated to us by the Good Book. My father is a God fearing soul, so much at times that he can see nothing else but God. And this frightens me ever so.
But I do love him and I also love God... and know that our Father in heaven has a plan for each and every one of us ... but how does a soul discover what is God's plan and what is planned for you be society? I sometimes look around at the world we are making and wonder that. It appears at times as if the two are plainly different. I shudder now to think that perhaps what I just penned is blasphemy. I do not mean it this way; I mean merely to state the thoughts of my mind. I guess I am perhaps a bit of an evil child. I have always questioned the world around me. And I refuse to see Satan's influence in my curiosity. I knowth that if I were poor that I would not have the choice of voicing my thoughts. I pray in thanksgiving to God every night that he has chosen to give me to mother and father to raise. I am grateful for the wealth and privilege he has provided to me through Father and I attempt everyday to stay an unspoiled and grateful child, unlike my dear friend Joanna.
Her behavior bothers me. She wears her wealth for everyone to see and has no modesty. Mother says she is a dear child, but being a Protestant gives her no true guide from God. Father says they lack the discipline God needs from his children. Joanna's Brother Anselm says that they are pious in their own way. But he is always trying to prove his faith to Father. Anselm has wanted permission to court me for over a year. Father continues to tell Ani that he has yet to show what kind of life he would me give me. But as he and my darling Brother are about to graduate from the academy of military tactics here in Oxford, I fear that Father will back down soon. And with graduation comes an appointment. If Ani is set up by his father with a home and a position, my Father will be obligated by his friendship with Admiral Hawkyns to consider that idea of marriage.
I can do nothing but try to convince Ani that I need more time to fulfill God's plan for me ... But I'm quite and most resonantly sure he will see God's plan for me differently. This has been my experience; hence my blasphemous thought written above.
Sleep is overtaking me. It is far later than one would think and my bedroom candle is glowing low. I must save some wax for dressing in the morning. Thank you my most glorious creature of paper and leather for absorbing my ranting. Thanks be to Father for giving you to me and thanks be to God the Father for giving me my intellect, my soul and my heart! Fare thee well until my pen graces your pages once more.
25th day of April
My examinations are over and we have begun to celebrate and plan for moving forward. I will miss this grand school and nearly all my classmates, but I will mostly miss the beautiful land God has lain out around the grounds of the university. I can only hope that the stories we hear told of the new world's beauty are true. I am bound by Fathers "request" to join my mother, Sellah, and her parents in the new world. He wishes me and my Brother to help them get the new plantation house ready.
My most darling and faithful daughter,
It is almost the Lord's Day. Snow lies thick on the ground. I miss you and Nicoleas most dreadfully. The house is warm and cozy but the atmosphere is most bleak without your smiling faces. Your Father is home for the season, but fears the next years sailings will keep him too busy to even step once upon God's land. He wishes, nay requests that you and Nicolaes return to the family fold as soon as your classes have ended. The population here is rising and we feel that you will have much opportunity yet be close to home. I must admit to you, that I care not for your opportunity at this time, I long only to hold my daughter in my arms. Please do not anger at this, I am but a humble mother who misses her child and longs for her company in this wild place.
Which reminds me; Sellah bides you a healthful hullo and hopes you can come as soon as possible. She misses you and I am quite sure that she has much to tell you about her new position as my dresser. I can not some days believe how old the three of you have become. My memory waxes back to days past quite frequently. I remember the hot days of African Summer and the three children clad only in white cotton, running around the pasture chasing creepy crawlies and each other. Not a bead of sweat produced, but making this old woman perspire merely by watching your childhood mirth.
It is getting quite chilly sitting here at your father's desk, I must return to his arms by the fire. I promise another letter presently, perhaps I will let Sellah write it... she is becoming rather proficient and her handwriting has much improved since last you tutored her.
With all the love of my heart and the wishes of my soul,
As much as I will miss England, I miss my mother more and my curiosity is high as to whether the stories about the colony I hear are truthful. I do long to see these new savages, people talk about. And the wide rivers and the tall growths of trees as far as the eye can see that Joanna's Father described to us at Christmas. The new world seems so full of God's wonderful creation, that I wonder why his presence was absent until our people arrived?
I look forward to tomorrow night when Father Hawkyns plans to hold a party to present Ani and Nico to society as the newly graduated Navy officers they are. I am sure he will have more exciting tales from the new colonies to entertain us with. I regret that leaving England will mean I will not see Father Hawkyns as frequently. His presence has been soothing and helped lessen the pain of my own Father being absent. My heart will miss him sorely.
I received the invitation just today...
To Her most honorable Miss Amalia Katherine DeWilde
You are cordially inviting to a gala in honor of the most honorable Lieutenants Nicolaes Michel DeWilde and Anselm William Hawkyns upon receiving their commissions in his majesty's Navy.
Formal dress is requested Refreshments will be provided
Dinner and dancing will commence promptly at seven in the evening
Twenty sixth day of April
In this year of our Lord, sixteen hundred and thirty five
I am proud of the boys... I guess they are men now. My mother is right; we have grown up sooner than expected. It is a bit scary to think that my little brother will be out fighting the hostile natives of the new world or perhaps even the French someday soon. And I will be... what will I be? Will I get to take a position caring for some higher nobles' children; perhaps even the king himself? Or will I have to be content to be a provincial Navy wife, eking out an lonely existence in a fort somewhere on the fringes of the Empire?
As I stand on the brink of fate, I shudder again at the bleakness of my adult life. It is fraught with responsibilities. I wish I could be like Joanna, free to do what I want while people wait on me hand and foot. Why can't I be content to be thoughtless and think only of leisure? Bah! I could not ever be that way. God had not designed me for the laziness of a noble's life. I have to do something, do anything that makes my very existence a tribute to God.
Joanna will enjoy the gala though and will pretend to like it as well as not to distress my beloved friend. I do not normally like to go to parties, they mostly bore me. Nothing of consequence ever happens.
The chilling night air whipped though the open carriage windows as the horseman drove Amalia from her Dormitory down through the town and southward toward the Hawkyns Estate. She leaned out the window and gazed up at the stars. They were bright in the crisp darkness. She wanted nothing more than to fly to them. She was dressed highly for the occasion, too highly in her opinion. But her Dormitory's housemother had insisted she put her best foot forward.
"Who knows what men you might meet there, perhaps an even richer future husband." she had told her as she pulled Amalia's lacings tight.
But Amalia didn't want a richer future husband or even a poor one for that matter. She wanted to live an unfettered life, no man to tell her what was God's will for her. She wanted to care for children without the risk of childbirth and raise them into fine young people who treated everyone with love and as equals. She wanted to make a difference in the world, not maintain the status quo.
She twitched and stretched trying to find a comfortable position to settle on. But the boning of her waistcoat dug into her ribs, and left sore patches of skin that were being irritated by the imperfections in the fabric of her shift. Why God, did you make women's' clothes so uncomfortable? She prayed. Never mind, surely this is another of Man's inventions.
She was wearing a common English style which she knew her father would not approve of. It was cut lower than her everyday gowns and it pushed her breasts up and forward more. She had felt uncomfortable with the neckline and had tucked a lace collar in around it. It gave her more of a French look, but at least it was modest. The wind now threatened to tug the lace from around her shoulders. She held it in place with her be gloved hands and fidgeted again in her seat.
This time the footman on the back of the carriage yelled over the din of wheels against rock.
"Are thee well, Miss?"
"Yes I am fine, thank ye." She responded and sat back down to sulk over her bruises; for she would surely have several before the night was over.
"Fine then, Miss. We shall be at the manor soon; We should see the lights just around yon corner." He informed her.
And he had been right. As they came around the corner she could see the bonfire that had been lit and every window in the stone two story manor house was blazing with light. Many of the guests had already arrived and where milling about in the garden, despite the evening's chill.
The carriage pulled up between the tall gothic pillars that determined the spot where road ended and private drive began. Ever since she was a child, the pillars had defined the line between reality and her own personal fairy land. The drive was lined with paper lanterns brought from the east with candles set in them to light the way to the main house. Several lanterns also hung from the trees, collecting an assortment of flying insects around them; thereby keeping a majority of them away from guests. It was an even more splendid sight then it had been at Christmas. And then the entire property had been draped with garland and frosted with snow.
It occurred to her that she would actually miss the place when she left for the Colonies. The carriage drew near to the house and drew the eyes of the other guests.
Joanna was standing just outside the main door, greeting the guests as they formally entered the house. She saw the oxford carriage pull up and Amalia peek out. She rudely excused herself, leaving her Father to continue on without her. He gave her a disappointed look, but she paid it no mind. Her only thought was to greet her friend.
"Malia!" Joanna cried above the casual talk of the guests.
Amalia was cheered by the sight of her friend and they greeted each other warmly with hugs.
"Everything is all set up and splendid. Father spared no expense. You must have to come inside and see it all." Joanna squealed. She took Amalia by the arm and escorted her to the entry doors. People where standing in the way, awaiting their turn to greet Lord Hawkyns but Joanna pushed and tugged her way through them; dragging Amalia behind her.
This caused Amalia to step on a couple of toes as she was dragged forward. She apologized as best she could, trying to keep her feet underneath her as Joanna pulled her along. She finally stopped in from of her Father.
"Father, Malia is finally here." She announced.
"And she should have waited her turn behind those that arrived first." He growled, looking embarrassed.
"Yes I could have sir."Amalia said with a polite cutesy. Then they exchanged a knowing glance. They had been dealing with Joanna for her entire life. They knew there was no changing her.
His visage cheered and he hugged Amalia to his broad chest. She was his good, demure daughter, even if not legally. He loved her as much as if she were his own.
"Go in and make yourself at home little one. Your Brother is in the study. I am sure he has missed you as we all have." Lord Hawkyns released her; she curtsied quickly to the man behind her in the line as Joanna began pulling her again.
Nico was indeed in the study, as was Ani. When the girls arrived the men were examining a newly purchased firearm. They looked up from their exciting new toy with surprise as they entered. Both men's eye lit up at the sight of her arrival.
"Malia!" Her Brother exclaimed." Finally drug yourself out of that dowager's school of yours!" She rushed to him and he hugged her.
"You are still as ornery as ever, brother." She slapped his back playfully.
"You know it!" he grinned from ear to ear. He was her twin, but born first. His hair had the same uncontrollable curl to it and pulled back at the base of his neck and tied back with a pristine black ribbon tied in a bow for the occasion.
He released her.
She was then forced to greet Anselm, Joanna's brother. He was dark haired and wild eyed, what the girls at school had called a ‘roguish' look. He was talked about often by the girls, as rich and handsome as he was. Amalia just didn't see it. To her, he was a brother.
She hugged him gingerly, keeping most of her body from touching his.
"Welcome home, Amalia." He said in a serious voice. He had used her full name indicating he was going to try to discuss the idea of marriage again.
"Ani." Was her only reply.
A thickness hung on the air. It made Nico uncomfortable and he made a break for the door.
"Where are you off to? "Joanna asked, oblivious to the tension.
"My stomach is protesting having to wait for dinner. I'm going to go attack the hors devours table." He answered.
"You don't have to do that ... I can go get your something." Joanna rushed to the doorway. "What are you hungry for? " Her eyes lit up with the chance to show how devoted a wife should be for him. She rushed past him into the hall.
Nicolaes followed her, without an excuse. He didn't care. Guests were beginning to fill the ballroom. He leaned back down the hall. Amalia and Anselm were still frozen where he had left them.
"Come on Ani, people are arriving." He said it only once and returned to the entrance hall.
When the sound of Nico's footfalls had faded, Anselm pulled Amalia hard against him.
"Ani, please... "She pleaded.
"No, I need to say this again. I positively adore you." She opened her mouth to speak but he cut her off. "No, hold your tongue. " She closed her mouth. "You have been my world since we were children. And what better match could you hope for? The bloody Prince? I would be a good husband. All this will be mine someday. You will never need or want for anything, you know that." He looked into her eyes.
She put her hands on the side of his face. Their noses were but inches from each other.
She cared for him and felt sorry that she had to continue to reject him. She looked into his eyes. She searched her mind for a way to let him down easy. She knew he was clinging to the past as she was and his transition into adulthood was scaring him into thinking that having her with him would make things easier.
"Ani. You know that I adore you are well." He smiled. "And yes, since childhood it has always been a foregone conclusion that one day we would be married. It is what our fathers want after all." His smile beamed. She smiled back, but her pause was her down fall. She didn't complete her thought in time.
He broke from her embrace with a kick in the air and a whoop of excitement. He ran from the room.
"But Ani, wait!" she yelled at his back. But it was too late. He was down the hall and disappearing into the throng of guests.
What have I done? She regained her composure and entered the party. She would just have to get him alone after the guests had gone and explain.
Dinner progressed civilly. Everyone was in a festive mood and Ani didn't bring up her answer once. He was too busy enjoy the round after round of toasts people were honoring him and Nico with. Everyone ate slowly and with impeccable manners. It was a rather picturesque scene.
After the last plates had been cleared by the servants, Lord Hawkyns stood and invited everyone to retire to the ballroom where a festive band was waiting for their dancing enjoyment.
Joanna snatched up Nico's hand before any other woman could. He smiled slightly and obligingly took her by the arm into the Dance. As Anselm rounded the table, to obviously take the hand of his fiancÚ, his father pulled her chair out for her and asked.
"Malia, may I escort you to the dance?"
It was just a fatherly gesture, but it made Anselm's blood boil. Father is a widower after all and she is looking beautiful tonight. He shook his head to clear the thought. One of the many society daughters waved her handkerchief to gain his attention. He only ignored her and followed his father and fiancÚ into the Dance.
The band was lively and Amalia felt guilty for feeling the pull of their rhythms and melodies, while at the same time she felt guilty for not dancing. Her Father would have forbidden it. She turned down suitor after suitor as the dance progressed, some she admitted to that her religion forbid her to dance, others she simply let dissolve back into the crowd. She loved to dance and did so in the privacy of her own bed chamber to soundless music that played only for her. She longed to be gracefully floating across the floor. The hem of her dress silently whispering as it slide against the flagstones that paved the floor.
Her stays had hurt her during dinner and every time she tried to take a seat on one of the upholstered chairs that lined the walls her stays would pinch already raw skin. She wondered if she was bleeding or if the warm drops she felt trace her backbone were simply drops of perspiration from the intense warmth of the room. She was watching the scene evolve around her. Anselm was graciously leaving her alone in loo of drinking copious amounts of Ale with the other men. Nico was trying to join in but Joanna was attempting to monopolize his every moment, doting on him with small bits of food and sweet fruit drinks from the refreshment table. Lord Hawkyns was taking turns dancing with every guest's wife and daughter.
She giggled at him. Perhaps he would marry again and someone of her age surely. That is what men do... they can't live for long without a woman's care. That must have been why God made Eve for Adam. The world would have completely fallen apart without her. She thought. She giggled again and this time it hurt her ribs.
Her stays continued to seer pain into her very marrow, yet she never made a face or gave any indication that she was ill. People would fuss over her. Anselm would fuss over her. And she didn't want to deflect the night away from the men. Who were now in a bout of rousing Navy songs their arms linked with other academy friends. Anselm had grown increasingly red faced and much too jovial. Another dance was starting and one of the officers approached her in enquire about a dance. She turned him down as she had all the others, but he had seen a glimpse of her pain.
"Are you alright my dear?" He asked.
"It is just quite hot in here, sir..." She began to feel faint and leaned back against the wall. The officer lent her a stable hand.
"Miss, I fear you may be ill." He stated looking around for some who could take charge of her.
She then fell downward toward the floor, the boning of her front stays snapping as she hit the stone paving.
Anselm noticed something was amiss then and began to drunkenly make his way across the Hall. The officer was calling out for help, but Anselm was angry and could hear nothing but the beating of his own heart. Time slowed to a snail's pace for him as he fought to make it to her side. And when he approached he saw nothing of her up the rips in the front of her waistcoat and the officers hands on her hips. He flew into a drunken rage.
"Get your hands off of my betrothed!" He yelled at the man as he spun him around and punched him straight in the face.
The band had stopped playing and the entire party was staring in disbelief at the trio. Some began to mumble about the blow that had been thrown while others were shocked by the announcement of the engagement. His Father emerged from the group of revelers to pull him off the officer, whom after three more punches in the face was as unconscious as Amalia. She was beginning to come back when Hawkyns bade his son explain. Joanna arrived to hold Amalia's head off the ground and cover her ripped waistcoat with a shawl.
"Explain yourself, boy!" Hawkyns yelled at his son.
"I.. I... thought he was hurting her... I just wanted to save her... ", He looked around the room at the sea of shocked faces that surrounded him. "Wha... what should I have done, let something happen to my future wife?"
"Future wife?" Nico asked. "She agreed to wed you? Since when?"
"Just tonight, previous to the Dinner."
"Why are we just now privy to this joyous change?" Hawkyns asked.
"We wanted to wait until tonight was over. We didn't want to overshadow this event." He answered.
Nico was still skeptical did not speak his thoughts.
"Joyous news such as this would only have made this night's celebration ever more the sweeter." Joanna exclaimed. "Finally she came to her senses." She looked down at Amalia's face.
Amalia was coming to.
"Malia, child... are thee well?" Hawkyns asked.
"ye... yes, I believe so, sir." She tried to sit up. The pain in her chest was rekindled and she coughed and lay back down.
"Is it true that you consented to be Anslem's wife?" a voice from the crowd asked.
"Yes.. I... " She began, but like Anselm before them; no one would listen to her beyond the logical conclusion.
The Hall was loud with joy once more and two men were picking the still unconscious officer off the floor and dragging him outside into the chilly air.
The cook and a parcel of maids were summoned to help Amalia up to the guest room she always used where some spar clothing was neatly folded and ready for use. After a slow disrobing and painful redressing in a simpler wool waistcoat without stays Amalia returned to the lower floor of the manor hand in hand with Joanna, who delivered her to Anselm. Amalia wanted to protest, but she knew the scandal it would cause, so she kept her silence.
The crowd let out a congratulatory cheer at seeing the couple hand in hand.
So much for the uneventful, waste of precious time society Galas could be... was all she thought
Something of consequence had finally happened.