Nantes, 1872

Nantes, February 16, 1872

The wind yells inside the enormous sails of the last ship that has come in from the open seas. I blew out my candle early. It danced a frantic ronde in the chill that seeped through the cracks in the walls, and no reading was possible. I try to sleep but my feet are cold and they will not warm up. The shackles are spanking the masts, making them weep. The rain is coming.

They say that the Ivory Coast has reached the shore of Mogador and that they are safe, but how would they know?

I smell the cardamon he brought me from Burma, he left a few ambrosial pods in my Bible drawer next to Saint-Nicholas. I smell the clams that Joseph’s crew has hauled back from Guernsey—too many for any one of us. Too many now that Marcel has drowned and the wedding is off. Poor Jocelyne, marrying a dead man at 17!

I smell the warm breezes of Zion. He said there are palm trees there, and even in winter the bougainvillea cascades down dolomite walls like weeds on our cliffs.

February 21, 1872

The rain has stopped, but the wind still hoists barrels of saffron and bewildered calves. We’ve heard of cows going mad, chewing on their own legs, having to be restrained.

The last the Ivory Coast was heard of, they were loading up olives and roses in Granada. That was the day before yesterday. Mother says I must wait and pray.

I want to chew off my leg.

February 27, 1872

I am late.

A bastard from him would make me a whore. An orphan from him would make me a mother.

March 6, 1872

Rotten slats and thousands of rose blossoms were found off the coast of Freetown. Also, a dead grizzly bear. He said they’d be transporting a traveling circus.

I must go. Father will kill the bastard I carry.

March 12, 1872

Today, Jocelyne brought by the store a rich American couple who fancies a nanny for their three moppets. They wanted to know if I can count to 1000. I said I could. They wanted to know if I’ve mastered the subjunctive. I said I have. They didn’t ask if I was pregnant. They didn’t ask if I had killed a man. They didn’t ask if I was of age. The ship leaves Monday.

Mother cannot know.

March 15, 1872

The wind has brought snow, a foam storm, and rainbows. The captain of the New Haven says it’s too dangerous but the American man says he has important business. Railroads need him in Wichita. He gave the captain a gold watch and a gemstone encrusted compass. We leave in the morning.

My belly is taut. I feel seasick all the time.

I am going to America.


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