"Anna I don't know but you stay close to me," she said in a low tone.
She was appalled when they were again herded into the same caged wagons. Maybe the were being taken to the magistrate now? She wanted to ask Meg but she was busy talking in low tones to some of the other women. Finally Meg turned to her and before she could ask her, she quickly asked. "Anna do you read and write the script?"
"Well yes, of course I do." she replied.
"Good, it seems that we are being taken to a ship and we will be told to sign a paper that frees us from prison," Meg said.
"Oh how wonderful, but why are they taking us to a ship to release us? I don't understand?"
"Anna it seems that the paper we get to sign will get us out of the prison but we will be in indentured servitude." Meg watched as the meaning of those word registered in Anna's mind.
"Oh no! This can not be." She cried out in despair.
"Anna this is our only chance. It is this or stay in prison. Which one do you want?"
She was trembling and on the very edge of hysteria. Meg reached over and took her hands in hers. "Anna please, it will take us out of London and it will be a chance for a new life but we need someone like you to read what is on the paper so that we are not worse off than we are now. None of us read the letters and will be forced to sign it or go back to prison.
Meg went on to explain that one of the guards at the prison had told one of the prostitutes that they were instructed to release both violent and nonviolent criminals to the colonies as indentured servants. They would be put on a ship and there they would take the long journey and would be in debt to the captain of the ship which he would be pass on to the person that purchased their entire indenture when he sold their papers.
Most of them were eager to have this chance of maybe a better life. Little did they know that when the ships weigh their anchor with the morning tide, the the real misery was just beginning. The ship was crowed and she could see that there were many family's small children which she learned that they had also signed on to be indentured, believing it would be better that what they were coming from. They all had heard story's of going to the new world, giving them an unknowing speck of hope.
It took nine weeks on the open sea before they saw land. Many died of fever, dysentery, heat and scurvy, all of which came from the salted meat and food. Also from the foul water. Anna and Meg's clothes hung like a sack on their body's but they survived except for periods of sea-sickness.
Finally they were told to make themselves presentable for the next day they would be put before the people that where going to be brought aboard to purchase their papers and at that time they would be permitted to have a say in the bargain after their debt was cleared with the Captain.
The Captain had noticed Anna did not seem to fit in with the usual type that came out of Newgate. Even with the filth on her clothes he could see that they were made of a better thread. He was also amazed when she first approched him and asked if she could help the others by reading their papers as they had asked of her. He gave his permission, knowing it would maybe enable him to unload his cargo faster so he could be on his way.
That night as she laid there cramped and cold, she still could not believe how her life had changed in just a short time. Being a wealthy young lady going to parties and riding her beautiful horses---now she was a pauper and a thief. She wasn't trained for any domestic work. Meg had advised her tp put on her paper that she could serve and do kitchen work and if they could be placed together she would teach her. She also pointed out that if one worked in the kitchen it was not likely that she would ever be with out food again. Meg had been a cook for many years before she was forced to go to the streets after her elderly employer died. Yes, Meg was wise in many ways and she owed her for her protection on this---other side of life.
John Blake had gotten to the docks early for he desperately needed to be one of the first to purchase as many labors as possible. He also needed a few domestic helpers, especially a cook and housekeeper. Mattie had died with the fever along with his father, mother and brother. He was alone now and although he was surrounded with tobacco and cotton fields as far as the eye could see and he could work along side any man without complaint---he could not fix a decent meal. Yes, he would pay what ever he had to for a good cook and housekeeper. This past year he had worked very hard to improve the living quarters for the field hands. He had decided to look for men that had brought along their family's, because in his mind they would be better workers and want to stay if treated properly.
Most land owners treated their help no better than they did some of their animals. Some even used the whip for punishment. His own father had been that kind of man and that among other reasons is why he left at a young age and went to sea. He hoped to now change all of that. He had fixed each little building with a new wood stove and he would give each a plot of ground in the rear for their own garden that they could maintain after their day was done. Each building had the essentials of beds and pots and pans. There was a water well centrally located for all to use.
His neighbors had ridiculed and laughed at him for his views on the way he treated his help. They said it made them look bad and the only way to control their field and domestic help was to use the---whip so they would know who was the boss and they would not try to run away. When he tried to point out that, that was the very reason their field workers were running off was that the old ways were wrong but that was the ways that they had been taught by their fathers and they refused to change. They were also turning more toward the slave trade from Africa because if they ran off they could not easily blend in as the indentured servants did.
MoJo and his wife Opal were the only African servants he had and when he first returned back to the farm he told them that they were no longer indentured and they could leave or stay, for they had endured enough. He wanted to make it clear to all indentured servants that worked on the Blakefield farm that when their time was completed that they would have free papers or they could stay and he would give them a small piece of land to live on.
MoJo and his wife stayed and lived in the little house by the barn. MoJo was very good with the animals and especially the horse's and his wife knew and raised many herbs that treated many illness's.
This morning he had decided to bring three wagons for they would need them for the supplies and the people that he hoped to acquire. He let himself day-dream for a moment of the real dream of some day adding to the Blakefield land a blood line of horse flesh that could maybe be used for racing. A sea gull screeched near by and brought his thoughts back.
John was glad when he spotted his old friend Captain James Mackley, he shouted to him and was quickly hailed to come aboard. They greeted each other warmly and he told James that he was there to obtain some of his human cargo. James told him he could take the first pick before he let the other perspective buyers on board.
John quickly picked five men with wives standing beside them with children which he liked for he was sure he would get his moneys worth if the man was so called---contented. He scanned their papers quickly and noticed that they were all convicted as thieves and the item that they stole was---food. He understood this which was more than the courts did. In all of his travels he had seen starving people in every port and his heart reached out to them, especially the children.
He then turned to the women and eyed them over carefully. He looked closely at the large woman and the young woman that seemed to be holding onto her sleeve like she was afraid that they would be separated.
"Has anyone here actually been employed as a cook?" he asked.
Two other women stepped forward as Meg and Anna did. He looked at each of their papers and frowned.
What made her speak out at that moment she did not know. "Sir Meg and I have worked in the domestic field, she as a cook and I as a housekeeper and I can also serve," Anna said with her chin held high and her free hand held behind her so as not to show how nervous she was about the lie.
John was taken aback by the way this young woman spoke. She was definitely not of common type and he could see that she had been schooled. He studied her closer and seen that she was tall and actually very pretty but in her circumstances at the moment it was hard to tell. Yet, there was something about her that made him---curious.
They came to an agreement that if he purchased both of their papers that they would serve six years---not the normal seven as most indentures did. Well, he was in desperate need for the both of them and he agreed. He also admired this Anna Martins courage.
As he dealt with James and the paper signing he noticed that this Anna Martin was helping some of the other people with reading their indentured papers to them so it was obvious that this woman was well educated. He wondered what else she could---do?
To be continued: