This was one of my favorite lessons. I was asked to write a historical fiction story based on the Mayflower and Plymouth Colony. The lesson provided a comprehensive outline and ideas for the main plot conflict, but for the most part I was left to my own research and imagination. I have read many historical fiction stories set in this time period, so this lesson was a real treat. The technique of personification and adverbial clauses were addressed and reviewed.
IEW Advanced US History
17 April 2017
Brighter Days Ahead
Seventeen year old Esther Allerton leaned over the pale body of her mother, scanning anxiously for any sign of improvement. The constantly rocking ship and the congested quarters had managed to make the conditions aboard the Mayflower nearly intolerable. People lay sick and dying all around the hold of the ship. Almost every family had a member who was ill. Esther glanced at her fourteen year old brother, Joseph, and her nine year old sister, Hannah.
“The sooner we are rid of this foul ship, the better.” Esther declared.
Joseph gazed at their sleeping mother, Ruth, “Is she doing any better?”
Esther shook her head despondently, “I fear not. Her fever has been raging for three days now. Nothing I do seems to help her.”
Joseph stood and strode to her side, “I wish I could join father on land to assist with the building of the first houses.”
Esther shook her head, “You heard father. It is far too dangerous. Besides, it wouldn’t do for you to catch your first glimpse of our new home before I do.”
Hannah crept up to her siblings and whispered hopefully, “Maybe moving mother to land will help her?”
“Perhaps,” Esther muttered, “Nothing could possibly be worse than this ship.”
The siblings were interrupted by a loud clomping on the steps descending into the ships hold. A group of ten weary men plodded down. One of them, Isaac Allerton, headed straight for Esther.
“Father!” Esther exclaimed, jumping up to embrace him.
Father wrapped Esther in warm hug. He peered down at his wife. “Any better today?”
Esther shook her head sadly, “I can’t bring her fever down.”
Father sighed, “I fear that she cannot bear this illness and the conditions on this boat any longer. The men and I finished the first home on land today. I will be moving all of you and mother into it tomorrow.”
“Hurray!” Esther, Joseph, and Hannah chorused.
Father gave a tired smile, “I’m sure you all will be overjoyed to be rid of this stuffy ship.” He glance down again at his wife, “And maybe the fresh air will help your mother.”
The next day dawned, dusky and dim. Fog rolled over the bay like a blanket. Esther hurried around gathering her family’s few belongings while ensuring her siblings were prepared for the short trip ahead. Isaac Allerton tenderly gathered his wife in his arms and quickly instructed his children to follow him down to the landing boat which they would take to shore.
As soon as they were settled, Esther peered out to land. She smiled slightly and fingered the delicate necklace her grandmother had given her right before she boarded the Mayflower. Finally, they were taking a step towards their original goal, building their lives in a new land!
Soon the boat bumped into the shore and the weary travelers disembarked. Isaac rushed his wife to one of the crudely constructed lodges, leaving Esther, Joseph, and Hannah to deal with the meager luggage the family brought. Along with ten other people from the landing boat, they stumbled into the hastily built log cabin. Isaac tenderly laid his wife on a blanket on the ground.
Isaac cast a weary smile at Esther, Joseph, and Hannah. “Why don’t you all walk around a bit? I can take care of mother for a little while. Do not wander out of sight of the guards. There are Indians in these parts, and we are quite concerned about them attacking us.”
Esther, Joseph, and Hannah ran outside. They soon found themselves standing in a broad meadow. However, the dead grass lay on the ground and the tall trees stood bare and ominous, reaching their scraggly arms high to the sky. The wind created an ominous rustling as it whipped through the barren trees.
“I’m sure this place is quite beautiful in the spring.” Esther mused.
“I’m sure it is,” Joseph responded, kicking a rock, “I wonder if mother will live till then.”
Esther bit her lip, “We must be strong and not give up hope, Joseph.”
Esther was interrupted when Jonathan Mullins trotted up to the group, “Esther! I haven’t seen you in weeks!”
Esther smiled up at Jonathan. As usual, his curly brown hair ran every which way, but his blue eyes still held their steady, organized charm. Jonathan had asked Isaac permission to wed Esther at the nearest opportunity, and Isaac had given his whole hearted approval. Now, they only had to wait for an appropriate time.
Esther laughed, “I spoke briefly with you a few days ago! You have been so busy on the building projects that we have not had much time to talk.”
Jonathan smiled and brushed a strand of hair out of Esther’s face, “Soon we will have much more time to talk.”
“Once we make it through this winter.” Esther added.
Jonathan sighed, “Yes”.
The next few days passed by slowly. Due to the extreme shortage of able bodied men, Joseph was finally permitted to join Jonathan and Isaac to assist with building more homes. Esther spent her days tending her mother and attempting to keep the energetic Hannah out of trouble. Mother gradually grew sicker and sicker. The large cabin was full of ailing people. Every day at least one person passed away, often times many more. One day, Esther reached up to finger her precious necklace. She reached to the place where it would normally lay, but found nothing. She quickly scanned the ground around her.
“I must have lost it on one of my walks around the clearing.” Esther groaned, “But I can’t leave mother to go search for it now.”
Just then, Esther heard a shrill, mighty scream from outside. She commanded Hannah to stay with mother and quickly ran outside. She found Jonathan and Joseph and a few other men standing by one of the new homes that was being constructed. They were desperately lifting a log, and as Esther neared them, she realized that they were lifting a log off the body of her father!
“What happened?” Esther gasped.
Joseph whispered shakily, “Father was on top of the wall pulling one of the logs up. Suddenly, he simply passed out and as he fell the log fell on top of him.”
As soon as the log was lifted off, Jonathan knelt by the body.
“Is he alive?” Esther half wailed.
Jonathan and a few of the men knelt down and felt Isaac’s body. Slowly they all stood up.
“Esther, Joseph,” Jonathan slowly began, “Your father is no longer alive.”
Esther suppressed a scream. Joseph gave a wide eyed look of horror.
“I’m so sorry,” Jonathan whispered.
Esther did not have time to put any further thought into the matter. Suddenly Hannah raced up to her and tugged on her skirt, “Esther! Esther! Mother is not breathing!”
Esther picked up her skirt and rushed into the long house. Kneeling beside her mother, she could immediately see that life had departed. The pain gone, her mother appeared more peaceful and serene than she had in weeks.
Esther began to sob inexorably. Joseph slipped in and knelt down beside her.
“No! Not mother too!”
Esther nodded shakily.
Jonathan strode in and quickly surveyed the situation. He slowly put an arm around Esther.
“Your father was already sickened with the fever; he just didn’t want to admit it since your mother was so ill.”
With that, Jonathan wrapped Ruth’s body in a blanket and carried it out of the house. Esther, Jonathan, and Hannah numbly followed behind him.
“We must bury your mother and father now while we still have a break in the snowfall.”
Numbly, the three siblings followed Jonathan and several other men carrying Isaac’s body to the field that Esther had first walked in when they arrived. The men dug two graves right next to each other. They slowly laid the two bodies in the ground, and Elder Brewster led a short funeral service. With that, the two bodies were quickly covered.
Jonathan and the siblings stood by the graves for a few, still minutes. Finally Jonathan found the courage to speak.
“I, too, am an orphan. My parents died when I was thirteen years old. The grief is horrible, but eventually you learn to continue on with your life.”
Esther choked out through her sobs, “How can we learn to live again after the death of our dear parents! We are orphans in a strange, despicable land.”
Jonathan wrapped her in a warm hug. “Everything will work out, I promise. Those who persevere through life’s storms eventually find calmer seas.”
A little over three months later, the days began to grow longer and warmer. The harsh snow subsided, and Jonathan and Esther had a short ceremony to be married. The grief from the deaths of father and mother still weighed heavily on the siblings’ hearts, but with the changing of season dawned fresh glimmers of hope. Jonathan and Joseph worked ambitiously to build a new little home where they could all live together as one happy family. Esther and Hannah, both toughening to the rough work of the new world, labored daily tending the gardens and crops. Finally, they reaped the benefits of their labor when the little home was ready to move into and green shoots began to appear in the fields.
“Mother and Father would have been very proud of this home.” Esther sighed with a tinge of sadness in her voice.
Jonathan wrapped his wife in a hug, “They certainly would have. They also would have been proud of how well you, Joseph, and Hannah have coped over the last few months. You all have truly grown years older since we first arrived.”
Jonathan reached down deep into his pocket and pulled a sparkling object out. He handed it to Esther.
“Would you happen to recognize this? I found it the other day when I was preparing the nearby meadow to grow corn.”
Esther gasped in amazement, “It’s the necklace my grandmother gave to me! I thought it was gone forever!”
Jonathan smiled, “I’m glad that I recover it for you.”
Esther slipped the treasure into her pocket, later to be placed in a safe spot in their new home.
Esther gathered Joseph and Hannah into a hug, “We have learned to be persistent and weather the storms.”
Joseph smiled, “Mother and Father would be overjoyed to know that we are all still together as a family.”
Hannah grabbed Jonathan’s leg, “I miss Mother and Father so very much, but you and Esther take excellent care of us.”
Jonathan laughed and pulled Hannah into his arms, “I will never take the place of your father, but I do love you and your family dearly.”
Esther smiled, “This adventure in this new world has by no means been easy, but I firmly believe that brighter days are ahead.”