A New World, A New Life // by Audrey W. (April 2019)

Fiction

Five years seemed long. Yes, five years sounded like forever to a girl of age sixteen, and Bonnie Wilson was no exception. She was to work for a family of strangers as an indentured servant in the New World for five years, with no one she knew in sight. But, her father said that was the only way, and she knew she must. She loved him more than anything, and she never questioned a word he said. He would go to the new world as a farmhand to his wealthy cousin, until it would pay for his passage. Then, he would be a minister. But, his farmhand days would be even longer than hers as a servant, and it would be a long time before they would reunite. But, he said it must be so, and she was willing. After her father’s church in England had split and eventually crumbled, the only hopeful option was the chance of a new life in the New World.

The journey would be a long, seven-week ordeal, with hardly enough food, water, or space to arrive half-decent. Bonnie wasn’t about to turn back, however. She was filled with hope of what this would mean for her and her father and what this would mean for the ministry. Her parents had taught her as devout Protestants all through her childhood, and as a young child, she accepted it as her own and owned the covenant. After her mother went to be with the Lord, her father continued to teach and encourage her, even through the split of their church and decision to move. Now there was hope of ministering to the other settlers and spreading Protestantism further. So, as she submitted to the endless unknown of the Atlantic and the less-than-decent amount of food, she remained content and thankful, to the bewilderment of the other passengers.

Despite her calm, contented spirit, she was absolutely overjoyed on the morning of her arrival. She was finally here, the place that she had heard and dreamt of as a child. The place that she had nervously reconsidered during the moving decision. The place that she would work off her indenture, find a husband, and start a family. The place that was now home.

Mixed with the excitement, however, was her rekindled anxiety at the realization of what was to come. Soon she would meet the Campbells, and she would become their housemaid, and she would serve her five-year indenture under them, no matter the circumstances. It was no longer an imagined fairy tale of the distant future, but the awaited reality of the next day of her life. She could be pleasantly surprised or terribly appalled, but either way, she must fulfill her promise with contentment and trustworthiness.

Wiping away the tears of inexpressible, swirled emotions that only a female could authenticate, she gathered her belongings, which consisted only of her Sunday dress, the blanket her mother had made for her as a young child, and a copy of the Psalms. With a bold but meek face she departed from the ship in the small boat that would bring her ashore. She watched the busy port where she and the Campbells were to find each other and where she would start her next adventure.

Through the chaotic bustle of workers, men, and women, she was quickly able to recognize the Campbells. A large family with many children, each with enough energy to drive a ship back to England, was clustered near the shore. As she alighted and began to walk towards them, she tried to count them and eventually decided on seven. As she approached them, she heard the children’s excited chatter over whether or not she might be the girl they were waiting for. She soon saw the interested glances of who she assumed to be Mr. and Mrs. Campbell which soon turned to waves from both of them as she moved closer. Before she knew it, their relieved and cheerful faces were close enough to speak to, and before she could call out to them, she heard Mrs. Campbell address her inquiringly.

She could barely stand her own anticipation. She crammed the churning, flying, wondering feeling inside deeper and fell into a low curtsy. One of the little boys toddled towards her as she rose and tugged on her skirt until she turned to see his toothless smile. She then looked back up and courteously acknowledged his parents.

Before she could even think clearly, she was introduced to each one of the members of the family with sincere enthusiasm. Oh how she loved Master and Mistress Campbell (as she must now call them) and all of their dear children! The children had such animated yet agreeable personalities, and Master and Mistress Campbell were so gracious and kind. They warmly guided her home, asking her questions concerning her father and her trip all the way.

Upon arriving at their house, they allowed her to freshen up and led her to her quarters. She was given the barn loft, but they had taken great care in making a comfortable bed of hay and blankets and pillows, and Master Campbell had built a shelf for her belongings. If Bonnie wasn’t surprised enough by this, Mistress Campbell apologized that it wasn’t a room in the house! Bonnie couldn’t have liked her more. She was to eat with them that evening, and then she would learn her new duties as the housemaid. Dinner with them was almost too lovely for Bonnie, who expected not even to be allowed to eat with them. All throughout the meal, she continually thanked God for the immense blessing of her new family.

After dinner, she was to learn what she must do every day. She would cook the meals, mend and wash the clothes, run errands in town, and care for the children in whatever way necessary. She accepted these with more joy than was normal for her as she realized the joy it would be to serve such wonderful people. As she drifted to sleep that night, considering all that had happened to her that day, and all that would happen to come, she thanked God for a family so kind and prayed that she would be able to show as much love and kindness to them as they did her.

Bonnie adapted very quickly to her new way of life with the Campbells and learned more about them every day. She found that Master and Mistress Campbell would be firm, but gracious, and careful but trusting with her, just as they ought. Her trustworthiness and faithfulness grew with her experience as they soon trusted her with anything. The children grew to love her deeply and began to refer to her as Sister Bonnie, as she grew to be more like a sister than a maid to them. As the years of her service went by, she looked sadly on the thought of her having to leave them. Eventually, however, that was fixed in time as the Campbells’ eldest son came home from college in England. He found Bonnie perfect in character and in beauty, and she thought him a wonderful man of strength and compassion. So, with the end of her indenture and his parents’ blessing, they were married. Thus, Bonnie began a new adventure of life in a most unexpected way.