Margaret Edwards stood at the prow of the ship, the sea breeze tugging her raven locks out of their tight coils despite the protection of her bonnet. She ignored the tickling strands as she strained to catch her first glimpse of the English shore. After weeks of traveling, they were finally nearing the end of their months-long journey.
Once they reached Bristol, she planned on taking her charge, Catherine Blakely, with her to London before taking on the hardest task of this journey. Bringing the girl to her father, a man the little girl had never met.
She loved little six-year-old Catherine dearly, but feared what she was bringing her to. Having been born and raised in New Orleans, England was a place Margaret had only heard stories about from her parents. Now she was traveling there on an odyssey whose outcome was unknown. Her parents and husband were dead and she was fast approaching England, a country she knew nothing about, with a child that was not her own.
Her attention was pulled away from the horizon by the child at her side.
“Il fait tellement froide,” Catherine said, her blond curls blowing free of her own bonnet in the cold, salty wind. (It's so cold)
“I know my dear,” Margaret replied, removing her own shawl to wrap around the child’s shoulders, the chilly wind causing her teeth to chatter and her green eyes to water without its warmth. “England is going to be much colder than in America, but we will get used to it.”
“Pour quelle raison?” the child asked innocently. (For what reason)
“I’ve told you my dear,” Margaret said softly, tucking the knitted wool tightly around the girl, “your mama asked me to bring you home to your father. She wants you to live here with him now.
“And since we are going to be living here, you and I should try very hard to speak only English,” she continued.
“But Maggie, Papa Philippe said I would never go to England,” the child pouted, her bottom lip trembling. “I don’t want to go to England and speak English, Papa Phillip said it was a vulgar language. I want to go back to New Orleans. It is so cold here!”
Margaret gathered the child under her arm, offering her own warmth to the little girl.
“I know Monsieur Barnier told you that you would never have to go to England, but he is not your real father,” Margaret explained again. “Your mama wanted you to be here and it was her choice. I promise you will get used to the cold. In time you won’t even notice the weather. Besides, we are going to stop in London to buy us both some warmer clothes. Won’t that be fun?”
“And look” she continued excitedly, pointing over the ship’s rail, “I can see land! We are almost there.”
Seeing the land get closer and closer, Catherine was quiet for some time.
“What is my real father like?” the girl asked innocently, looking up at Margaret.
Brushing a loose strand of hair out of her own face, before looking down at the child, Maggie suppressed a sigh. This was not the first, nor she was sure would not be the last time, Catherine had asked her this particular question.
“I do not know my dear, I have never met him,” Margaret replied honestly. “Your mama told me he was a soldier, and a gentleman. That he was kind and good. She told me that she wished you could have known him, and now you can.”
“Maggie, why did mama go to America with Papa Philippe if she cared for my father so?” she asked, the innocence of her six years showing.
“I honestly do not know,” Margaret replied, kneeling back down to the child’s level and pulling her wrappings tighter after noticing her little nose was turning a deeper pink. “I know nothing about your mama before she came to New Orleans with you and Monsieur Barnier, and she did not have time to explain everything to me before we had to leave. She only asked that I bring you to England and to your father. I think though, if we give him a chance, he will be the man that your mama hopes.”
Catherine turned back to the rails, looking out over the ocean and approaching rocks.
“I still want to go back to mama,” she said with a pout.
Margaret rested her chin on the child’s shoulder, and reaching her hand out in front she pointed to the approaching coastline.
“This is the start of a new adventure for both of us,” she said. “Once we reach your father’s home, we can begin to look for my family. I will need the help of the girl who has crossed the ocean, braved the storms at sea and traveled to a new land to help me.”
At the last word she brought her arm around Catherine to squeeze her into a hug.
“Are you that brave girl?” she asked, tickling the little girls’ sides. “Or have you been fooling me this entire trip?”
Catherine giggled and squirmed in her arms.
“I will be brave Maggie, but you have to stay with me,” she said, turning to face Margaret. “Please, promise you will stay with me.”
“I promise you little Cat, that I will stay with you as long as you need me,” Margaret said, kissing the little girl on the cheek. Inwardly she was hoping that this was a promise she could keep. There was still so much about this journey she didn’t know. Would Lord Blakely welcome his daughter? Would he allow her to stay with Catherine?
Holding the child close, she sent a silent prayer to God that everything would turn out well.