On the Farm
During the early spring of 1671, with pride, Antoine surveyed his land. Across the meadow, a doe and two fawns grazed near a stand of birch. This man could not believe his good fortune. Since his arrival in this country, the man enjoyed his new life. For a time, he worked as domestic help and signed a contract to work with Claude Houssard for a year to pay for his passage from France. His kind employer was good to his workers. While working for this man, he met his friend, Jean Cote, and the two men stayed and worked for their boss for two more years. In return, he gave his men a parting gift, land of their own to farm.
The two men worked the land and built a home for Jean and his wife, Therese. Antoine stayed in the small shack the two hastily built before finishing the cabin for the married couple. His friend met Therese after she came to New France as one of the women sent by their king. During their courtship, his friend was taken by the charming lady, and within four months, the two married. The time could not come soon enough for his friend, but their home had to be built.
In time, Antoine also turned his thoughts to settling down and starting a family. One day, he approached Jean and told him about his plans.
“Ah ha! Do you already have someone in mind?”
“No, but I learned my lesson from you. I want my home to be finished before I ask a woman to marry me. But my friend, you have always been a little backward in your approach to life. Poor Therese, probably thought you had changed your mind by the time we finally finished your home.”
With help from his friend and partner, the determined groom-to-be constructed a one-bedroom home with a massive loft for future children. The large living area included a massive fireplace for heating and cooking with plenty of living space since long periods of cold kept families inside.
After four long months, the men completed the home, Jean could not resist teasing his friend. “Such a fine house, mon amie. My only fear is after all this work, no woman in her right mind will marry you.”
“Well, I will take my chances. After all, miracles do exist; you found l’amour with Therese.”
The two men laughed and enjoyed their time together. They were as close as brothers since their days working as servants for Claude Houssard.
Since the day, Jeanne met with Father Joseph, the mother and daughter did not speak again about the possibility of Jeanne remaining in her homeland. While the two did not like the choice presented, they knew Jeanne’s options were limited.
After the loss of her husband, Jaqueline managed to support her child through her gifts as a skilled seamstress, and she passed this ability to her daughter. Fondly, she remembered the tablecloth they made when Jeanne was a young girl. At the start of the project, her daughter’s stitches and embroidery were a little crooked and uneven, but by the time her girl had finished, Jacqueline knew her daughter would be an outstanding seamstress. The mother loved the tablecloth her daughter created and kept it on the kitchen table.
Since King Louis XIV had raised taxes for his many projects, his subjects held onto their money, and business slowed for Jaqueline. For a time, the mother silently worried about their future until Father Joseph approached her and discussed the option of New France. While the mother grieved at the thought of losing her only child, she wanted her daughter to have a better life than she could provide.
Her daughter’s departure was swiftly approaching. The king’s agent booked her passage on Le Prince Maurice, and Jeanne would set sail on 25 May 1671. Trying to keep herself busy, so she would not fall apart, the mother made clothes for her daughter. Each morning, Jacqueline gathered her materials and begin to sew. When she finished her projects, she completed three everyday outfits and a dress that Jeanne could wear to mass and formal occasions. Without her daughter’s knowledge, the mother also took her wedding dress and refitted it for her daughter. Although she could not attend this special day, she wanted Jeanne’s wedding to be perfect.
A few days before, Jeanne was to set sail for the colonies, a messenger from the king delivered her generous trousseau in a sturdy wooden trunk. The two women excitedly went through the items to make sure Jeanne would have the necessary items to start her home once she married. Her mother added a few more household goods, some material and thread, and extra needles. Without her daughter’s knowledge, Jacqueline had slipped in a few family treasures, the tablecloth the two had made together when Jeanne was just a girl. The mother also gave her daughter a silver candlestick that her parents had given her on the day she married Jeanne’s father, Noel.
The night before the dreaded departure to head to the coast of Normandy, her mother, Jacqueline gazed at her daughter’s face, committing every lovely detail to memory. Jeanne promised that she would have an Ursuline nun write father Joseph a letter once she arrived in New France. Her mother fussed over her daughter one last time. “Do not settle my love. Remember, you can pick and choose the man you marry. What a treat? The world is changing when women can decide. It should have been that way all along. Now, pick a nice man. Kindness is a better trait than simply good looks. Make sure the man is humble. Arrogant men are often cruel. And you can always change your mind if the first suitor does not feel right,” the mother told her only child.
“Maman, once I settle, move to New France. I will find a husband that will want his children to have their grandmother near them. You could help me with my home and with my children. Please come live with me.” the daughter anxiously suggested as she twirled her hair between her fingers, waiting for her mother’s reply.
Taking her daughter’s hand to stop her child’s worried routine, the mother responded, “No, ma fille. My home is here. I’m too old, and I’m not brave like you. I’m afraid I would not survive the wilderness and the cold. You must take the king’s offer. You will even have a dowry. Something I could never give you. But I do have a wedding gift for you, my love.”
Jaqueline pulled a box from under her bed. Instinctively, Jeanne knew it was the kind of carton she would use when she made dresses for the fashionable women of Orleans. Her mother said it added to the flair, and the women enjoyed their package.
“Sshh. Close your eyes. Do not ruin my surprise.”
Carefully, Jaqueline pulled the wedding dress from the carton and spread it across the table. “Now, open your eyes.”
Jeanne gasped, placed her hand to her mouth, and shook her head. Instantly she recognized her mother’s dress. “Oh, Maman! It’s lovely.”
“Well, try it on. It has to be perfect.”
Her daughter slipped from her dress, so her mother could help her with the gown. The soft pink material flowed around her. Delicate embroidery filled the bodice and the cuffs of her sleeves, and it flared at the waist; the exited girl could not resist twirling.
Tears filled Jaqueline’s eyes. “You will be a beautiful bride, my love.”
Jeanne ran and hugged her mother. Before slipping the dress back into the box, Jeanne admired her mother’s handiwork. Smiling, Jaqueline admired her best achievement, the daughter that would sail to the colonies with a piece of her mother’s heart.