Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Upon Opening Goody Prymm's Past: The Journey Begins

Goody Prymm had gone to the village to tend to some tasks, she said, and would be gone most of the day.  Remember was to stay behind and take care of fixing the evening's meal and completing a few other chores needing done.  Having already prepared the pottage which was now bubbling cheerfully in the kettle, and having folded their clothes, which had been washed yesterday using their lye soap and dried in the fresh spring air, Remember was now free of duties for a while.   It was a rare day indeed that Remember had the house to herself...in fact, it was the only day she recalled having ever been left alone and in charge.  She loved Goody Prymm so, but it felt somewhat freeing to be here...independent...and feeling that, she wandered into the lean-to and marveled at all the medicinal preparations which by now had grown quite low, but she knew that the gardens were beginning to burgeon, and soon the supplies would be refurbished, only this time, Remember would be her helpmeet.

Walking back into the main hall, her dark eyes lit, as they had so many times afore, on the great oak carved desk box situated on top of Goody Prymm's ancient cupboard.  Her curiosity as great as her dear Smoke's, she fetched a chair and gingerly took the box down, its being quite heavy.  It was dark oak and grandly carved on all sides with stars and crescents and wheels and the like, and hinged with H-shaped hinges, the corners dovetailed.  Remember knew this was one of Goody Prymm's treasures brought from the old country, which only added to its mystique.  There was a small key already in the lock, inviting to be turned and, casting her eyes around at no one, Remember accommodated, Smoke mewing encouragingly, and gently opened the lid.  A wonderful musty smell arose from its wooden interior.  Inside was a quill pen, no doubt fashioned from the molted flight feather of a turkey.  And there was blank paper...very old...most likely from England and transported here, as there were no paper mills in Ipswich.  A small pewter inkwell held the residue of homemade ink from long ago, and Remember recalled Goody Prymm's speaking of having made oak gall ink and writing on linen she had woven for pages, the same linen Remember had chosen for a sampler. Why had Goody Prymm not used this paper, she wondered...

And then, underneath the blank and somewhat brittle pages, Remember found yet other pages, neatly bound in hemp twine...pages on which Goody Prymm had indeed written, the ink having darkened over time.  Did she dare undo the twine?  She felt as though she were invading a secret space in Goody Prymm's mind.  But youth being impulsive, that thought was soon cast aside, the temptation too keen, and her curiosity too dear to refuse.  Her slim fingers lightly pulled the loose end and opened to Goody Prymm's thoughts.

The first page read thusly:

                                                                                               May 1627

It has been two months since we set sail from Weymouth on the Spirit.  Samuel had prepared us well for our journey to the New Land, which he says will take us months to reach.  But did he know what it would be like?  I wonder.  His ambition, while admirable, frightens me sometimes, as I think it overtakes him.  There is constant sickness in the hold, both from the unhealthy conditions as well as the ship's pitching and rolling, the recent storm having torn the sails of our small merchant ship.  Winds on the ocean, I've discovered, can be both friend and foe.  If too strong, they can wreck our vessel, shattering masts and opening seams in the hull.  If not strong enough, they can leave us to rations and possible starvation.  And what of pirates and privateers?  We have no cabins but resort to our piled up baggage having become our only living space.  My single comfort is in knowing that I have my two wheels, Samuel having paid well for that luxury, my refusing to come otherwise.  My spinning wheels are my most important link to my family...my mother and grandmother.  I miss them so...and oh! how I mourn my Tansy's tragic end!  Would that we could return to the carefree days when we two ran through the woods of Lancashire, free as crows on the wing!  To think such darkly sweet thoughts serves no good, though, and so I turn away from them and concentrate on now and the future.  Our fellow passengers have brought stones for peaches, plums, cherries...kernells of pear, apple and quince...seeds of woad, hemp, flax and madder...roots of potatoes...wheat, rye, oats, beans, and peas to plant.  In my desk box here I too have stored my own seeds and roots for our new world, our new life.  Seeds are hope, after all.

My lids grow heavy as does my heart...perhaps our ship's name is a good omen, for we all need the proper spirit to make this journey...

                                                                                                              Imagination Atwell Prymm
                                                                                                                  Age 18
Remember allowed Goody Prymm's words to sink deep into her heart, and she wondered how she ever could have thought that being left here alone today was independence...

***With a nod to Robert C. Ritchie's "Perils of the Ocean in the Early Modern Era," from History Now:  The Journal of the Gilder Lehrman Institute; and Anne Stevens' research, from packrat-pro.com.

© 2017 Nancy Duncan

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