Watertown, June 1672
In June, he announced to Susanna that he was going to Boston to buy passage on a packet to England. “I plan to sail in August and return in April or May, weather willing.”
Susanna nearly dropped the spindle she was winding. She’d heard nothing of his wish to go back since that terrible winter years ago. She’d thought he’d forgotten. “I know you wanted to go before, but for years you’ve not said so. Can you tell me why? And six months? So long?”
“I’m fifty and have little time left for such a vigorous trip. And it is my conviction that God has called me to England before I die, though I confess I don’t know why. My dreams always take me back to Somerset.”
She set down her work and pointed to a nearby stool. “Please sit. You are making me nervous. William, you will abandon me for six months: this house, the farm, at harvest? You know that we must prepare for the winter. What are you thinking? I can’t manage on my own.”
The stool screeched across the floor as William drew it close to sit. “I’m not abandoning you. I will hire more help, and we have David in the fields. You do well to let him lead. What’s more, Will’s old enough; he’s already half running my weaving. He’s talented and has your head for business.”
“He’s but eighteen; he’s not reached his majority. And Benjamin! A child! What are you thinking? The children increase my work, even when they try to be helpful.”
“I was eighteen when I came to Watertown; he’s old enough.”
“They’re boys. The rest have their families; John has a newborn and Philip, a pregnant wife. I cannot bother them to come here to make repairs or rescue a sheep.”
“Don’t forget Jacob; he can weave when you need Will to help with the farm. Preserving the harvest is no problem with Joanna and Will pitching in. Joanna is nearly as capable as any man. She is a grand hunter, winter or summer.”
“Aye, Joanna is my rock, but not for long; she is twenty and already some say an ‘old maid.’ She should be meeting her future husband, not playing nanny for a brood of brothers and sisters, and not providing game for our table. We use her ill. You should be arranging an engagement for her. If she gets older, she will find no one who will take her.”
“May be, like Rebecca, she can find her mate on her own,” William was starting to get angry. “She’s too particular. I see in her no inclination to marry anyone at all.”
“Don’t let me start on that; she’s your daughter. Don’t tell me you haven’t encouraged her to hunt and overlook her boyish behavior. Admit it. You have Abigail, too. She’ll start her menses soon and needs a father’s guidance. You don’t want her to be boy crazy the way Rebecca was. You abandon us all! You have made me a common scold, and now must I sit in the stocks, too?”
“I understand my decision is a hardship for you, but I’ve thought it through carefully and spoken with Reverend Sherman about it many times. I wanted to take you and the family to England with me, but he pointed out it would only divide us. Our married children could not come. Then, you’ve never experienced such a trip, and I fear, at our age …” William stood and began to pace, gesturing widely. “So, I let go of the notion that I’d take you to England with me. I’ve postponed this trip for five years and cannot any longer. You must have faith that God has his reasons and that He will provide for us.”
“You never said a word about taking us to England. How could you keep this from me?” She shook her head and sank back on her chair, expectantly leaning forward, elbows on knees, hands folded as if in prayer. She couldn’t look at him.
“Reverend Sherman talked me out of it, and I saw no reason to upset you with an event that would never come to be.”
“Well, I’m gratified that you didn’t forget us.”
“Not ever,” William avowed. “You are my life.”
“I’ll accept your decision, as is my place, though I cannot without complaint. You must understand that I fear you may never return. It's a nightmare to think of the ocean swallowing you up like a misbegotten Jonah.”
“Possible; we are mortal all. I can offer you only this comfort—I will draw every breath in my body with the purpose God sends me. You are that purpose.” He dropped to the stool and took her hands in his.
She smiled, but her face fell as she took his hands. “I know that you love me, but I ask that you state your love in more practicable terms.” When he drew back—he thought she’d insist that he stay—she explained earnestly. “What will I do if you leave me suddenly? Aye, and with six children to care for? I am a woman and can own no property in my name! You have no will. Might you arrange it before you leave us?”
William was speechless. In his prime, death had never crossed his mind. “You imagine my death before I die.” He turned from her, frowning.
“I am but a practical woman; I can do no other way. You know me.”
William softened, allowing her to pull him towards her. “Aye. I’ll not fault you for your good head!”
“My place is not to guess what may come, but to know what I must do whatever comes. Please understand. You would put my mind at rest.”
“I’ll think about it. I’ll need witnesses to write a will.”
“Thank God,” Susanna whispered. “When will you go to Boston?”
“As I said, the end of July. I’ll take Will to return with the horses. I want to stop and visit with Philip and Deborah, too.”
“Will you tell the parish?” Susanna asked.
“I’ll have to; I’ll need a letter of recommendation if I am to continue my covenant while I am gone, and I’ll need your testimony if I am to win their blessings. Will you grant me your blessing?”
“Always, husband. I am resigned. I’ll see to outfitting you for the trip. You will need new clothes more to the English fashion. Oh, where is Rebecca when I need her? She would know.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish