What are Ozlandish Writings?

From July 2010 to December 2014 we ran OZLAND PICTURE STORIES as described below. Sadly though the number of writers reduced over the years and we decided to call it a day. We leave these as a record of the good times we had.

Are "You" ready to challenge your writing skills? Then participate in our OZLAND Picture Stories writing series at The Ozland Art Gallery.

Each month a new picture will be picked, from our OZLAND Artist of the Month collection, with different themes. Your goal is to write a 500-1000 word... poem... essay... or story about the picture picked. This is a chance for you to challenge your writing skills each month. Story can be written in ANY genre... sci fi... romance... ghost... fantasy... fiction... non-fiction... biography... mystery... historical... whatever your writing genre... feel free to experiment. Send your writing inworld to Sven Pertelson as a notecard to have it included on the web site. We meet at the The Ozland Art Gallery each Wednesday at Noon and 6pm SLT to read the latest submissions on voice. More Information

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Moonrise over Virginia - by Sven Pertelson

Frances looked up from her writing as the moon rose over the Virginia forests. The twenty one years she had been living in the colony since arriving on the 'London Merchant' in 1620 had been eventful. There had been many good times but also many bad times.

Just what had she been thinking of when she left her home and family back in England to cross the seas to America? A single woman travelling to an uncertain future in a land where savages roamed and early settlers had starved and whole settlements vanished. As a spinster of twenty there were few prospects for her in England and certainly no adventures. She could have become a servant but that would have been her entire life. In the colony after three years in indentured service she would be free, with a grant of land at a nominal rent and a chance of finding a husband.

Frances recalled her first sighting of the colony, the moon had been rising over the hills then too. The voyage had been a trial. After they left the Thames she, and most of the other passengers, had been very seasick. The smells of ill people, the animals and the tar of the ship had not helped. Whenever she could she spent her time above deck. That however had its own disdvantages. Away from other passengers the sailors made lewd remarks and one had even grabbed her and tried to kiss her. He had looked very surprised when she stamped on his instep and slapped him. The word must have got around the other sailors as after that she had not had much trouble.

When the sea was rough she and the other colonists had stayed below decks, even with the smells it was better than being soaked and frozen. Most of her time though was taken up with her duties as maid servant to the daughter of William Tracy, who was the head of this party of colonists.

When they landed at Jamestown it was not as she expected. Rather than grand houses there were well fortified stockades and rude huts to live in. Things improved though and within a few months Miss Tracy became engaged and then married Nathaniel Powell one of the biggest land owners of the colony. As a member of Council and a past governor of the Colony Captain Powell had a good sized house and after the marriage Mrs Powell took Frances with her as her personal servant. Those were happy days at Powell's Brooke. Frances smiled as she thought about her first meeting there with John, who would be her husband. John Blore was a landowner too, having arrived in 1610 he had worked out his three years and then been given 100 acres rent free. Frances had been hanging out washing when John happened to visit the Captain. When thier eyes met they had both smiled and that had been the start. After that whenever John visited they would sit together after dinner and listen to the Captain telling his tales of the early days in the Colony of John Smith and Pocohontas.

It was John that had found her cowering in the root cellar after the native attack on Powell's Brooke in 1622. Only she and one other servant had survived the massacre. The Captain, his wife and ten other members of the family and household had been slaughtered.

Despite raised eyebrows in the rest of the colony John had purchased the remaining year of her indenture from her mistress's father and she had worked out that year as John's housekeeper in his house in Elizabeth City or Indian Thicket as the locals called it. Those were dark days for the colony. More native raids took place and many lost thier lives but John and the other servants fought off the attack on their home while Frances loaded muskets with powder and ball for them.

The birth of their first son, young John, barely 8 months after their marriage had raised eyebrows again. Frances held her head high though, she had gone to their wedding bed a maiden and evil wagging tongues could go hang. Young John was a weakly child, and despite she and her husband taking the greatest care of him a fever carried him away before he was two years old while Frances was still carrying their second child William. Life was hard in the colony and she could see that her husband was getting old before his time. He was only in his late thirties but looked older. So many of the colonists suffered from fevers and sweats from working near the marshes and swamps that early deaths were common. Even so the ague that took her beloved husband John from her after only four years of marriage came as a shock. How was she to manage a plantation on her own with a small child?

Frances and her servants worked the plantation for the next year alone. More settlers were arriving at the colony and taking up parcels of land around hers. The latest to arrive was a mariner, Roger Saunders, he was single and leased 50 acres next to hers. As was common they helped each other with clearing land, planting and harvesting. He was a good man, much the same age as her late husband. Though they did not fall in love at once it soon became obvious that they were well suited. When Roger proposed that they wed it came as no surprise to her. He was a practical man too and working their holdings as one plantation was sensible. With time came children, three more sons, John, Robert and James. They worked hard and increased their holdings, 300 acres in all. With more servants and workers it gave Frances more time to be a mother though Roger worked as hard as ever but also took on the role of Justice and Burgess for their area. When a summer fever came and took both her son John and her husband she was once again in charge but of a much enlarged plantation.

Frances's neighbours were helpful, especially attentive was William Burdett who had large lands next to hers. She was not entirely sure of his motives though. She had heard that he was living beyond his means and had even been heard to say that he needed to find a wealthy widow to wed. His proposal of marriage came after a few months. A woman alone in the colonies was vulnerable and Frances did want a father for her boys. What should she do?  She had even heard that people were laying wagers on if she would marry him. Before she accepted his proposal she drafted an agreement, the lands she currently owned in her own name were to be deeded to her and those in Roger's name to his sons as soon as she and Burdett were married. Her new husband could manage the land and crops but her children's inheritance would be secure.

As she expected their married life had not been passionate but she was content. She had been loved well by two husbands, if this one was cooler towards her that was not much of a price for security. Another hot and humid summer in Virginia brought fevers again, this time her second son William and third son John were taken. Frances felt that this land was exacting too high a price from her. Would she last another summer? It was time to put her affairs in order. At the age of 41 she felt like an old woman.

Pen in hand Frances looked again at the moon. Her will was almost finished. Her brothers and sisters in England could have the land she had tried to keep for her son William if they wanted to risk their lives to farm it. As for her she would be content to lie in this foreign soil next to her departed husbands and children. Some day this land would be tamed and she was glad she had been here at the start.

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