[Atlantic Ocean, 1714] The coast of Europe became smaller and smaller, and soon it was out of sight. Anton was feeling anxious and heavy-hearted. So far, he hardly had time to come to terms with what they had gone through – the last night at home in the bailiff’s house, the escape on the Rhine to Rotterdam, from there London, and finally the way on board of the ship that would bring them into the New World. On the outside he had stayed calm and composed, and had done everything in order not to endanger Andreas and the respectable bailiff. But now his grief and exhaustion overwhelmed him.
North America .. Anton had never thought about it. He knew that a lot of families who had been persecuted for their religion had already left their beloved homes and dared to start a new life in North America. What hardships all these people took upon themselves! Their passage would last six to eight weeks. On the ship, countless people were huddled together; they had only little fresh air and little fresh food. In their faces he saw exhaustion and melancholy, but also determination, and hope for a better life in the New World.
He was glad to have Andreas with him. The boy’s bright nature and eagerness for knowledge had soon appeared again. Often he was with a small group from Ireland: Bradock, an elderly gentleman, Cathy, a young girl, and her little brother Sean. Andreas had quickly made friends with Sean. At first, they had communicated in sign language, now he was eagerly learning English. He carved toys for the little boy, covertly throwing glances at his sister Cathy. Sean cheered with joy when Andreas made small animals, above all dragons, come out of an old piece of wood. Seeing them so happy made Anton smile too.
“Do you already have plans for your life in America?” Bradock asked one evening. “No,” Anton replied, “it all happened so fast. At home, I was a master builder in the Elector-Archbishop’s service, but I guess there are no Elector-Archbishops over there in the New World.” “A master-builder, that’s great!” Sean exclaimed happily, “Then you can extend our lady’s house!”
Now Bradock told their story. He had been bailiff on an estate in England that belonged to Lord Ambrose and Lady Meredith. Cathy and Sean were the children of a deceased Irish kitchen aid. Lord Ambrose practiced tolerance towards all religions, and Lady Meredith took good care of the children and even taught them to read and write. Soon, Lord Ambrose and Lady Meredith were a thorn in the eyes of religious zealots.
Then the War of the Spanish Succession broke out and also Lord Ambrose went to war. But first he made provisions for his wife. His brother-in-law, Lord Ruben, was living in the New World, in Pennsylvania, and should something happen to himself, Lady Meredith and her entourage could live financially secured with Lord Ruben. Year after year the war lasted, and they saw Lord Ambrose only rarely. Then bad news was brought: Lord Ambrose had fallen in battle.
Lady Meredith was inconsolable. She made arrangements to sail with Bradock, Cathy and Sean into the New World. But she had underrated the greed of some relatives who wanted to seize the whole inheritance. They hid a precious clock in her rooms, scheming to accuse her and her entourage of theft. The laws of those years were so hard that people spoke of the “Bloody Code”, death penalty was imposed already on minor offenses such as theft. Even if Lady Meredith, as a noblewoman, was punished less hard – all her assets would go to her relatives.
“We owe it to our Cathy that we came out of it,” Bradock said with a warm smile. “She immediately sensed that we could not trust these relatives, and was vigilant. She watched how the clock was secretly brought into Lady Meredith’ rooms. Sean continued: “Then Cathy got her violin and I got my flute, and we played so loud that the whole house ran together and complained. Meanwhile Bradock got the clock from Lady Meredith’s rooms and put it back to place.” “It was quite a pleasure to see their befuddled faces,” Bradock said, “but we all knew that we had to leave as fast as can be. With the help of loyal relatives we made it.” Cathy had been silent, but there was a happy glow on her face, and Andreas secretly took her hand.
A little later, they met Lady Meredith in person. “From what I hear Sean has already hired you to extend my house,” she said with a big smile, “I would like to confirm his request, but you should know that it is only a small country house in the midst of farm land at the Brandywine Creek in southeastern Pennsylvania.” “I would love to work for you,” Anton said, “And I thank you for the confidence you show in me.”
A silent prayer
After weeks on the Atlantic Ocean, the American coast came in sight. Soon their ship would moor. Anton’s heart was heavy, he had lost his home and his old life in the Rhineland, and he had no idea about what life in Colonial America would be like. And yet, he was deeply grateful. He could start a new live in America on his own force, together with their new friends. He thought of the bailiff who had helped them escape and spoke a silent prayer: “May he not get in trouble for helping us, and may I have an opportunity to return his decency and kindness.”
The picture is from the German Wikipedia, public domain section.