I am in tears on the coach.
I am chaste, but no one believes me. Mr. Joachim's son was importuning me. He says that he loves me, but I do not love him. He is cruel to the serving maid, he kicks the hounds and he ignored me at first. I did NOTHING to attract his attention. The serving maid is elderly, the last one was turned off in shame.
Yet Mr. Joachim's son started oogling me. I sit in the back of the room as is mete and I am modest and I keep my eyes down, but if my mistress leaves the room for even a moment, he comes over. At first it was just him talking at me. I kept my eyes low and answered as little as possible. He says, "Flirt." He says, "Come now, my pretty one." I am not even pretty! I am small and round and have the grey lock that marks me!
My hands start to ache, the joints. The joints near to the hand are swollen and red. I think that this will make me uglier and he will leave me alone, but he does not. He importunes more! "Kiss me," he says, "Just a little kiss." He is quick to move when he hears the floor outside the door creak and he is over by the fire when my mistress returns to the room. What can I do? To complain to the mistress of her son, no one would believe me.
My hands are so swollen in the morning for an hour that I cannot sew. I hold them in a bowl of snow, which eases the ache until my skin starts to burn from the cold. I am deeply apologetic. The master looks at my hands and shakes his head. "This work is not for you." he says. I am very hopeful that I will be sent home!
Mr. Joachim's son paws me! He touches my shoulder, my leg! I start away in horror and say "NO!" loudly. He grabs at me and I jump back, overturning the bench. He reaches for me and tears my dress, the bodice! My mistress returns to the room and we are frozen! "She bares herself to try to tempt me!" shouts the evil young man, and runs from the room. My mistress stares at my torn dress. I am crying. "It is not true. He is importuning me!"
"You will leave." says my mistress. They are sending me home in shame. She writes to my father. I have previously written about my hands and he has set up an appointment on Staten Island, with an expert in the rheumatism. Therefore my mistress and Mr. Joachim say that they will pay for my train from Staten Island to home, but nothing else. I hope that my father and mother will believe me and not my mistress. It is not true and I did NOTHING. I have the ticket from Staten Island home. I hope that the physician can help me. I do not want to be a burden and a shame to my parents. My feet and knees ache now in the morning too. It is so painful that I weep.
My mistress must know that her son lies. The young maid was his victim too and turned off without a character. She and a child may well starve, or be at the poorhouse if her parents will not take her back in. They may be too poor as well. It is shameful to be poor and the world is cruel. My mistress chooses to believe her son, but is wise enough to have an elderly maid.
My parents do not have money for a rich dower. Many people are poor in our area. Foolish people marry and have children that they cannot feed and then hope for the kindness of people like Mr. Joachim and his son! His son will NEVER be kind nor generous, that is clear! I must work to earn my keep. We were so hopeful of the position with the taylor and learning the business! I hoped to help my parents and my siblings, but that has failed. I am doubly ashamed. And Mr. Joachim refused to pay me. "You will waste it, as you are immoral. I will send half your agreed salary to your parents, that they may deal with your sin." The cold churchman came too and lectured me. "I did not do anything! He tore my dress!" "Be silent! You double your sin by lying, I will pray for your soul."
We have another hour before we arrive. I am frightened traveling alone. I wrap myself more tightly in the black cloak. I pull the grey lock forward from my bonnet so that it will appear that I am aged. My hands certainly add to that impression, as well as making me look as if I come from the work house.
to be continued...