This story was sent to me by Lindsey, a teen from the Tacoma, Washington area. She writes, in part, "I found a small, worn, leather-bound book in a dusty old trunk in my Grandmother's basement. I almost overlooked it, because it was so small. It was wrapped in a delicate blue silk scarf, and held together by an ornamental pin. It was the pin that caught my eye. It was an intricately crafted, though now tarnished, silver brooch with an amethyst in it's center. Immediately, I seized the small blue bundle. I marveled at how the thin shaft of sunlight coming in the basement window struck the stone, flooding the room with a pale lavender hue. I opened the bundle with trembling hands. As I turned the pages of the book, I wondered about who wrote this diary. The question burned in my mind. I had to know about this person who wrote so many years ago. Was she a long forgotten great-great grandmother? Or some other relative? I had to know. Then and there, I began my study of the diary."
Lindsey continues, "It's written in a spidery, old fashioned hand, and somewhat faded. It's very hard to read, and the pages are very old. I'm almost afraid to touch it, for fear the pages will crumble under my fingers. But I must know who it is that wrote to me from across the years. I'm busy transcribing it from French into English. I haven't been studying French too long, so it is difficult. But I am enclosing some of the entries I could figure out. I'll send you more, as I decipher them."
Lindsey says she'd like to hear from you, the readers. Leave her a message in The Horsethief's Journal's guestbook, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Diary: Year of 1789
New Year's Day, 1789
This diary belongs to Renee Lenfent. I will have been married to Louis for six years come this April. Our daughter, Claudia, will be five in February. She has golden blonde hair just past her waist and greenish-blue eyes. Louis has sea green eyes, soft, midnight black hair, and will be twenty-five this June. I have long ash blonde hair down to the center of my back, grayish-blue eyes, and will be twenty-three this May.
Right now, we're living on my father's cotton plantation, called Freniere, a mile or so west from the town of New Orleans. My father and his bankers take care of the financial affairs. Louis and Paul, the overseer, keep the slaves in line. I estimate that there are 20 to 25 house slaves, and over 200 field slaves.
I was born in France, where my mother, sister, and brother still live. Louis was born here, in New Orleans. I moved to the plantation when I was five or six, to live with my father for a while, and to keep him company while my mother was in Paris. I met Louis when I was sixteen. It was love at first sight. We married a year later, and then I had Claudia.
The diaries I buy in town are not very big, and poorly made. They are leather bound, and not at all like the elegant brocade books Mother uses in Paris. But I like their quaintness and like to scribble in them. I will be writing this diary as the mood strikes me, so I will be skipping days, and only writing when something exciting or very unusual happens.
January 18, 1789
I have a feeling this is going to be a fabulous year. Today was beautiful, which is rare in this city for the middle of winter. There wasn't a cloud in the sky all day, but around sunset, some dreary looking clouds drifted in, and soon it started to sprinkle. The sun was still shining, though, so there was an enchanting sunset and a nice winter rainbow. The thing that makes it so nice is that this month of the year (and October) get the least amount of rain. This month it's not too cold, just chilly, and usually overcast. I positively love the coolness of January. It reminds me of an early spring day in Paris.
February 3, 1789
I went to town today to purchase Claudia's specially ordered birthday dress. It's lavender silk, with darling white lace gloves, and a delightful lace and lavender hat to match. Oh! She'll look like a little angel in it! After all, her favorite color is lavender and she looks so sweet. I love the way the iridescence swirls about her like an early morning mist.
In the spring she loves to go out behind the house, where there's a little bit of a swamp, and look at all of the different plants and flowers that are all the colors of the rainbow. She can already identify a number of the plants she finds there. When she comes in, she often has a bouquet of flowers for me. When she gives them to me, she names off what they are. She'll say, "This is an orchid, this an azalea, this is an iris, jasmine is here, that's a white trout-lily, there's the false foxglove, and last there's the camellia." She'll point her little finger to each as she names them off, and I'm always so proud of her.
I'll be going to town the morning of the eleventh to pick up a grand bouquet of Tartar Lilies for her. These lilies are purple with a pink and lavender center. Most unusual. And beautiful.
Mother is also sending a gift from Paris for her. In her last letter, she didn't tell me exactly what it is -- only that it is some sort of jewelry. I expect the package to arrive soon on the packet boat from Le Havre. When the gift arrives, I shall save it for Claudia's birthday party.
February 11, 1789
Today is Claudia's birthday. She is five years old. My beautiful little girl is growing up so quickly! The dress I bought last week in town looks splendid on her. In addition to her dress, I decided to buy her a bouquet of pink Tiger Lilies, mixed with the Tartar Lilies that I had originally desired to purchase. Louis brought her into town this morning so she could choose what she wanted for her birthday.
When they returned home, Claudia was holding tightly to a porcelain doll that looked exactly like her. It had golden blonde hair, flawlessly done crystalline blue eyes, soft pink lips, milky-white skin with rosy cheeks, a pale lavender dress, and in her hands she held a basket full of flowers. Even for a little girl, my Claudia has exquisite taste, to select such an appropriate and beautiful present for herself.
Oh, and of course, Mother's gift -- a gold ring with an amethyst stone in the middle and a small diamond on either side. It fits Claudia's little ring finger perfectly, and she looks so elegant wearing it with her new dress. (I'm absolutely certain Mother chose amethyst because it is Claudia's birthstone.)
We finished Claudia's birthday festivities with a lovely dinner and Chinese fireworks. Though the breeze was sharp, and rain threatened, everyone on the plantation came out to watch the colorful and amazing explosives. Such elaborate designs! Claudia squealed with joy. We all enjoyed her wonderful, if somewhat unique, birthday celebration. She was absolutely radiant tonight!
When we trooped back into the house after the last burst died away, Louis presented me with my own gift. "But it is our dear Claudia's birthday," I protested.
With a deep bow and a flourish, he gave me one delicate white rose, with a gold ring around it's stem. He said, "For my beautiful little daughter's beautiful mother." Oh, Louis! He is so adorable!
March 4, 1789
Louis had some trouble with one of the slaves today. The man refused to go into the field. He was apparently so mad about something, he practically started a riot! I don't know what could have upset him so. We couldn't understand him. He's from Santo Domingo, and does not speak our language. Few of the slaves speak any French. They are so uncivilized! Yet at night, we hear them singing, or maybe it's chanting, none of us really knows. They have such beautiful voices! But we do not communicate.
Not even Paul, the overseer, is brave enough to go out to the slave cabins alone after dark. Paul took care of that man, and Louis unfortunately helped him. First, they beat him, and then when he still refused to work, they threw him into the cabin and are not giving him any food until he returns to his work. Might he starve to death? That is barbaric! The slaves might be uncivilized, but they must not be treated this way. I can't stand it! I must speak to Louis about this.
We've just begun to plant the cotton because the weather has started to get very warm, which is most unusual. We need all our slaves to work now, and it is upsetting to the smooth operation of the plantation to have one so stubborn. Could this lead to a revolt among the slaves?
© 1998 by Cayuse Press