Twelve-year-old Jane Hanson scanned the horizon for a fringe of land. They had been traveling on the Swift One for five months now. It wouldn’t be long now until they would land in Charles Town’s harbour. Father would be waiting for them and they would move into the beautiful mansion Father had built. Jane knew that the year was 1882 and it was early summer, which meant that it was June, but she had lost track of the dates.
“Are you watching for land?” asked a voice at her elbow. Jane turned and saw Luke, her little brother, standing at her elbow.
“Yes,” she answered. “I don’t see it, though.” She squinted, but still didn’t see anything but miles of water. About two days ago, a sailor had warned them that land would soon be seen. He also said that he or another sailor would tell them if land was spotted.
“I don’t either,” he agreed.
“How’s Mother?” she asked. Mother had been seasick ever since they left London, England. Jane and Luke had included her in their prayers, both at bedtime and when they ate their daily meals. One reason why they had to move was because Father had gotten a job in Charles Town. Another reason was because Jack and Elizabeth, the twins, had kept getting the flu.
“Mother’s doing fine,” he answered. “She needs your help.”
Jane sighed. She hardly had any free time to play with her friend, Catherine. Catherine had a room next to where they were living on the ship. Slowly, she scuffled to their room.
Mother was laying in her bed, her face as white as the white sheets on her bed. Even though it was dim, Jane could make out the figures of Jack and Elizabeth playing on the floor with their toys.
“Are you all right?” she asked, her voice full of concern.
“I-I guess I’m all right.” Mother said weakly.
“Did you need anything?” she asked.
“Just take care of Jack and Elizabeth.” Mother said.
Jane picked up the babies and their toys, and with them under her arm, she carried them to where Catherine was living. She knocked, and when Catherine answered, she asked to play.
“All right,” said Catherine.
But just as she said it, there was a cry from the crow’s nest!
Everyone rushed to the deck. Sure enough, Jane could see along the horizon a long strip of land. Quickly, she breathed a prayer of thanksgiving that her family along with everyone else could make it there safely.
Jane grabbed the twins and carried them downstairs to where her mother still lay in bed.
“Mother?” she asked.
“Yes, dear?” she asked.
“Land was spotted. Now we needn’t have to live on this horrid ship again!”
“Oh, good!” sighed Mother.
“I’ll pack all the things we brought,” Jane offered.
“That would be very nice,” said Mother.
As Jane packed all the things they had brought, she wondered what Charles Town would be like. What if Jack and Elizabeth would get sick again? Then she would have to go on that horrid ship again and they would have to move away from more of her friends. Surely she didn’t want that to happen again! Wasn’t moving away once enough?
Jane pulled the big black bag out from under the bunk. She started folding dresses, petticoats, stockings, shirts, and breeches and placing them neatly in the sack. However, she couldn’t fit the shoes inside!
“Mother?” she asked.
“I can’t fit all our things in this bag!”
“Look under the bunk, dear. There are more.”
Jane tucked up the folds of her old, cotton house dress, as not to get it dirty. Then, she looked under the bunk. Sure enough, there were about four more. She dragged them out and started filling them. One was just big enough to fit their shoes inside. Another was used for her sampler as well as Mother’s and the books and toys. The third was used for their special ornaments and decorations.
Just as she turned around to tell Mother that she was finished, there was a knock on the door!
Jane opened the door. “Yes?” she asked.
“A sailor told me that we are going to set anchor in about 20 minutes!” said Catherine excitedly.
“Oh! That’s a relief!” cried Jane.
“What’s a relief?” asked a voice behind her.
Jane whirled around and there, right behind her stood Luke. “What’s a relief?” he repeated.
“We’re going to set anchor in about 20 minutes!” cried Jane.
“I can hardly wait! I’ll go tell Mother!”
“I’d better go help Mother with the twins,” Jane said apologetically, “but I’ll see you in Charles Town.”
“Oh, yes,” answered Catherine. “Good day.”
“Good day to you, too,” Jane replied.
Jane went into their room, where Luke was talking a mile a minute to Mother. Even though Luke was shy and barely talked to strangers, he made up for it by talking a ton at home! Jane walked over to Mother and started cleansing her face with cold water with the rag in the bowl of cold water on the table next to her. A little color came back into her cheeks.
“Thank you, dear.” She murmured, “That feels much better.
Jane smiled, relieved. “That’s good,” she said. Then she added, “Luke, can you take care of the twins for me, please? I need to help Mother.”
Luke instantly agreed, and went off to play with the twins in the other room. Jane had strung a curtain through their large cabin so they would have privacy in their room. Then she turned to Mother and asked, “Would you like it if I read the Bible to you?”
“Of course.” She answered.
Opening the small Bible, Jane started to read,
“Make a joyful noise unto
The Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness:
Come before his presence with singing
Know ye that the Lord he is God:
It is he that made us,
And not we ourselves;
We are his people,
And the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,
And into his courts with praise:
Be thankful unto him,
And bless his name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting;
And his truth endureth to all generations.”
When she had finished, she looked at Mother. Mother smiled. Jane smiled back. “Did Luke tell you we’re going to set anchor in about five minutes?” Jane quietly asked Mother.
“He was talking so fast I could barely understand what he said!” answered Mother.
“Do you feel any better?” Jane changed the subject.
“I am feeling much better!” declared Mother.
“Good. Do you feel strong enough to get out of bed and walk?”
“Yes.” Mother answered.
“Try walking around the room.”
Mother started to hobble around the room. She turned and smiled awkwardly at Jane. Jane smiled back.
Suddenly there was another knock on the door.
Jane answered it. This time it was a sailor. Jane opened the door wider. “Yes?” she inquired, “Do come in.”
Ignoring Jane’s offer, the sailor said gruffly, “I came to tell you we have set anchor in Charles Town’s harbor. It is time to leave the ship.”
“Thank you.” Jane said, politely.
The sailor turned, and without a word, left the cabin. Jane closed the door and told Mother what he had said. Mother was now able to get out of bed and walk around the cabin freely as she liked without any help.
Soon everyone was on the deck, watching as the ship was pulled onto the land and the board lay so they could walk off onto land. Crowds were milling around. As Jane walked off of the ship, she scanned the crowds for Father. He was nowhere in sight. The only person that was making her way toward them was an older woman with silvery hair pulled tightly into a bun.
“Hello,” she said crisply. “My name is Miss Floss. I have been sent by Mr. Hanson to fetch you. I am the housekeeper and hope you like it here in Charles Town. Come, there is a carriage waiting. We wouldn’t want it to sit, waiting!
As they got into the carriage, Luke whispered to Jane, “She’s so chubby it looks like she stuffed red hot apples up her cheeks!”
Jane giggled. Even though Luke was usually quiet, he could be very funny. He was always cheering people up with his funny ways.
Jane turned and looked out the window. She watched the houses and shops whiz by. Some houses were beautiful and large. Others were sort of small and ugly. There were many taverns and shops, also. Children played in the streets, but at the sight of the carriage, they scampered off to watch it pass.
“There must be a lot of rich people living here,” Jane thought. “But, of course, there are also poor people living here.”
It was very hot in Charles Town, as Miss Floss had said, and Jane held her parasol to block the sun out of her face.
Luke poked her. “Which house do you think is ours?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Jane whispered back.
She turned back to the window and watched the houses whiz by. Again she wondered which house would be theirs.
Finally the carriage stopped and Father’s chauffeur held out his hand to help them down. With Jane carrying Elizabeth and Luke carrying Jack at their heels, he escorted Mother to the house. As they walked up the front walk, Jane studied their mansion. Yes, she decided, it was a beautiful house. It was a tall, large, brick mansion with a shingled roof and big bay windows looking out onto the cobblestone street. Miss Floss said there was even a courtyard, with shrubs growing around the walls. There were two stone benches at each end. One bench had a large lilac tree growing behind it, and Jane soon found out that that would be her favorite place to go when she wanted privacy. In the very center was a large fountain. There were rose bushes growing around it.
After the tour of the house was over, and Jane was able to have privacy in her room, she tried to decide on what to wear instead of the old, ugly cotton house dress she was wearing now. She’d had to wear it; else if she wore her silk dresses, she would soil them. She did not want that to happen, because Mother would probably get so angry, blue smoke would come out of her ears! Quickly, she started to unpack her things that she had brought to Charles Town. It took about 30 minutes, but finally she was finished. Then, she got up walked to her closet, and tried to decide what to wear. She finally decided on wearing the robin’s egg blue silk dress. Quickly, she changed into the dress, white stockings, and the matching blue slippers. Then, she hurried downstairs to meet her father.
Father was a handsome man with a red wig and firm set jaw. After everyone had come down, there was a big welcome and hugging and kissing. Then the family talked until Miss Floss came in and announced that dinner was ready to be served.
As soon as everyone was seated and the food was served, and Father cleared his throat, he started to pray. He thanked God for the safe trip that Luke, Jane, Jack, Elizabeth, and Mother could have a safe trip across the ocean to Charles Town. He also asked a blessing on the food that had been prepared for them, that it could nourish their bodies.
After he said “Amen,” everyone started to eat. After eating the stale and worm filled food on the ship, the food tasted so good! There was a stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes (with gravy, of course), corn, cold glasses of milk and for dessert, a large cake. It was all so delicious and Jane stuffed herself. Then there was the Bible reading, and then prayer.
After dinner, all went into the parlor. Everyone went into the parlor, and sat down to enjoy a warm evening. Jane and Luke sat on a large, overstuffed sofa, and Mother and Father each sat in a velvet settee. There was a fire in the fireplace, and it cast shadows dancing across the room and bouncing off the walls. Its light gleamed on Mother’s hair, and made her cheeks turn a bright pink. She was wearing a red silk dress, the color of a red apple, and matching slippers. A pearl choker was nestled at her throat. Father was wearing a green waistcoat and matching green breeches. He wore black shoes with polished brass buckles. Luke and Jack wore pretty much the same thing, except Luke’s was blue with a gold braid running down the middle, and Jack were wearing a red one. Elizabeth was wearing a pink silk dress with little lace frills and matching slippers.
Jane sighed and turned back to her sampler. It was supposed to have her name in the center with a spray of flowers framing it, but so far, she hadn’t really gotten very far yet. Instead of the needle going into the fabric like it was supposed to, it seemed to always find its way into her finger.
She glanced at Luke. He was studying his McGuffy’s Reader, even though he was seven, was determined to get ahead of his class. His eyes had begun to droop, and he looked tired. It was then that Jane realized that she was also tired. She glanced over at the twins, who were sleeping on Father’s lap.
Finally, Mother said, “Bedtime! It has been a big day and we should all get some rest. Now, march!”
Jane and Luke hobbled sleepily upstairs, changed into their nightclothes, and hurried into their beds. Then they pulled the covers up to their chins.
As Jane drifted off to sleep, she listened to the twins’ heavy breathing. It sounded strange, nothing like the soft breathing that had lulled Jane to sleep on the ship. But lately, their breathing had begun to sound strange and raspy on their last few nights on the ship. But now, Jane was so tired that she didn’t even think about it. She felt herself drifting off to sleep.
The next morning, Jane was awakened by a shrill scream and then uncontrollable sobbing.
Quickly, Jane padded to the twins’ room and peeked into their cradles. What she saw was enough to make her scream and cry, also. The twins had gotten the disease that could easily spread throughout the town. It could cause quarantine. Quarantine was when everyone had to stay in his own house for 40 days until the disease was over.
The twins were both as pale as ghosts, and red spots covered their bodies. From the looks of it, it looked like they’d gotten small pocks. Their breathing was even raspier than it had been on the night before.
Quickly, she fled to her room, where she threw herself onto her bed and wept until Mother came into her room. For a while, she just stroked her hair and let her cry, but after about five minutes, told her to wash her face in cold water, and to hurry up and get dressed. Then she walked out of the room to check on the twins and to bathe their faces in cold water so they wouldn’t feel so hot.
Finally, Jane got up, washed her face in cold water, and got dressed. This time she didn’t wear as fancy a dress as she had yesterday night to dinner. This time, she just chose a simple green silk with fewer frills. The only lace was around the sleeves. Then she went downstairs to eat breakfast.
After breakfast, Jane went to the courtyard to sort out her thoughts. Right now, they were all in a jumble. She sat in her favorite place under the lilac tree. She sat there for awhile and watched the fountain spurt out water and go into the little pool around it.
Finally, she stood up and went inside to her room.
Just as she reached her room, she nearly ran into Miss Floss, who had been making beds and bringing yesterday’s laundry downstairs to wash.
“Why, Miss Hanson!” she exclaimed shrilly. “I do believe you must be more careful!”
“I-I’m sorry, she stammered. “I-I’ve got so many things on my mind that…
“It’s the twins, isn’t it?” cut in Miss Floss, “Well all we can do is hope and pray.”
Jane nodded and hurried to the courtyard. There, she tried to work on her sampler but found that she couldn’t concentrate. She hurried back inside to talk to her father.
She almost ran back to the house but slowed her step as she came inside. Jane was looking at the floor but just as she looked up, she was startled to see Miss Floss, broom in hand, with her ear to the door!
When she saw Jane, she cried shrilly, “Why Miss Hanson! Young ladies do not run in the house!”
Jane was about to protest that she wasn’t, but Miss Floss cried, “And don’t sass me either! That is not what proper young ladies do!” With that, she went back to furiously sweeping the foyer.
Jane knocked on the door and when Father said to enter she walked inside. Father had been talking with Charles Town’s doctor and both looked up when Jane entered. All of a sudden Jane felt shy. She started to stammer as she always did when scared or sad.
“F-father,” she asked. “W-will the t-twins b-be all right?”
Father glanced at the doctor. He nodded. Jane thought that meant that the twins would be fine.
“Thank you,” she murmured, and almost skipped out the door.
About a week later, the twins were better. They had only a little bit of a fever, but soon they would be much better. The doctor still came to check on them, but about four days later, they were perfectly fine. Jane, Luke, Father, and Mother were all happy. The twins had not died! Nobody else had gotten the sickness! Jane breathed a prayer of thanksgiving to God. There wouldn’t be quarantine!