Chesapeake Destiny is the story of Jane Elliott, who insists on marriage to her father's overseer - only to find he is a hard, abusive man. When her spouse is killed in an accident, Jane finds an unusual partnership with a wandering limner who shows her the true meaning of love while the Revolutionary War threatens the Eastern Shore economy.
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Write Words, Inc.
Chesapeake Destiny is the story of Jane Elliott, who lives on a plantation called Baron's Hope, the same farm Mary Charles was transported to in Volume One of the Chesapeake Heritage series. Jane is about to be married to Thomas Fitzjohn, son of her father's overseer.
Thomas removes Jane from her family home and takes her to the plantation he has built for his family, a house he names Regret. Here, he abuses Jane in many ways. Iin fear for her life and terrified of her brutal husband, Jane keeps her pregnant state secret until she collapses after a fall during a Christmas visit. When her child is born, her father, a physician, warns her not to fall pregnant again.
Thomas takes Jane home with her child and the abuse begins again as he continues to beat and misuse his wife. Jane smiles and hides her pain as she entertains her husband's guests, one of whom is an intinerant artist named Henry Delaney. The artist begins a portrait of Jane, a portrait that is never finished after Thomas dies in what appears to be a shooting accident.
The Revolutionary War sees the Eastern Shore as a breadbasket for the armies that struggle for freedom in the colonies. Jane runs the plantation called Regret and raises her children, which now include a son fathered by Thomas before her husband's death. Henry Delaney stops from time to time and paints her daughter's portrait. When a hurricane destroys a huge pecan tree in her yard, he has the wood sawn for lumber and builds a summerhouse for Jane and says he would like to stay, but that he has a wandering heart.
Jane has her portrait painted as a gift for her father. She and her sister plan a gala for their father's seventieth birthday and he dies soon after. Jane returns to Regret. She feels her life is over, and it is not until the war ends and Henry returns to her that she learns he has been a spy for the Yankee forces. Only then are Jane and Henry able to marry and live at the plantation they come to call No Regrets.
My name is Jane Elliot and I am to be married to my true love tomorrow.
Mother said she will be glad to see the end of me for I was always too active and adventurous for her taste. Papa wept when I told him I would have Thomas Fitzjohn and no other man of his acquaintances. Thomas was the grown-up idol of my girlhood, and I was sure he was the love of my life by the time I reached a marriageable age.
Tom’s father, Thomas Fitzjohn the elder, was my father’s overseer, a man Father had known and respected for years. Old Thomas kept the plantation going, for my father was a physician and always busy with those who needed his help rather than the state of his plantation.
There are those who would call me ‘Daddy’s girl,’ for his living children were the fruit of father’s old age. I was his firstborn and I think he favored me above all the others. I have an idea he did not like my match with Thomas Fitzjohn the junior at all. I was besotted by the kisses and the attention Tom gave me when no chaperone was near. What do young women know, after all?
Father said Tom was too old for me, and he was a dozen years my senior, but I had known him all my life and could see no other – no matter how many marriageable young men my mother placed in my path.
My sister Katie was always jealous of my place as eldest child so I suppose she was glad I declared I was set to marry and leave the house. My sister Katie hated me from the time she realized I was her sister and the greatest rival for our parent’s attention. I think such a competition is natural, but there were times I would have liked her friendship rather than the rivalry that truly existed between us.
My brothers, Ted and Lawrence, were not as interested in which child was more important to our parents. They had their own places in Father’s heart. Quite naturally, the boys received more of his attention as they went about the business of being males. In the end, I think Father raised them to be too independent, for one died young and the other left the farm in his youth and never did come home.
I might mention here that Father raised all of his offspring to be independent and to speak our minds. This openness was not considered to be a pretty trait for a gentle-raised young woman, but there it was. I suppose I was outspoken as they come, and sometimes I suffered for it.
Father called me to his study the night before I was to wed, saying he wanted one last private moment before he lost me to Thomas Fitzjohn. The room smelled of the medicines he compounded, of the lavender Mother folded between his linens, and decay from the skeletons of large and small animals that crowded every shelf and hung on wires from every beam in the high ceiling. The room was entirely out of place compared to the elegant grace of the rest of our home. Mother often complained about it. She said if she had her way, she would discard the whole collection. Father simply chuckled and let her rant.
A scientist from his earliest days, Father spent his life looking for ways to help others. He took his duty to his children seriously and did his best to see that we were raised to be serious about the choices we made for our lives. When we did choose a course of action, Father was there to cheer our victories or bind the wounds of defeat. I loved him more than any other soul I knew, and in my innocence – and total ignorance – I believed I was about to marry a man who would be exactly like him.
“Ah! Janie.” My father called from his desk when he saw me in the doorway of his study the night before the wedding. “There’s my pet. Are you ready for tomorrow? Are you happy?” He was a short, muscular man with sensitive hands and piercing blue eyes. Those eyes met mine, and it seemed as if he searched for the truth in the very depths of my soul. “Are you sure about what you are about to do?”
I knew my father loved me, for he always had time to discuss the events of my life, no matter how small. Father fostered my interest in science and healing, and never pushed me away when he was busy with his books. He looked at me with love, and I loved him right back. In that instant, I wondered if I was completely ready to leave the shelter of his love, but I had made my troth to Tomas Fitzjohn and so I pushed the thought away and put on my brightest smile for his sake.
“I’m ready, Father,” I said quickly, before he could see I had the smallest doubt, which I did not. I wanted everyone to be as happy as I was that evening. “And I am so happy.” With that, I ran and scrambled into his lap and wondered if it was to be for the last time.
A properly married woman would surely never sit upon her father’s lap after all! For all of that, I knew time was growing short. Tomorrow I would marry and I would go away from all I held dear to live in a strange new house with a husband who suddenly seemed a stranger. I, still a child in more ways than I could admit, believed the wedding would remove me from my childhood home and thrust me into a new world of adult wonders.
“Do you love him, Pet, really love him?” Father asked for the hundredth time. “There is still time to change your mind. Thomas is not of the gentry, for all of his learning. You may find you will regret this choice in the fullness of time . . .”
I knew Father was telling the truth for I was a little afraid of this great change in my life. I could just imagine the expression on my mother’s face if I should suddenly decide to leave Thomas at the altar. Mother would cause a commotion, to put it mildly. I was nearly as afraid of her anger as I was of the disappointment I would cause Tom if I changed my mind.
“I am a little nervous,” I admitted when Father pressed that last evening. “Not about the marriage . . .” I drew in a shuddering breath and turned his attention from my real fears. “I am afraid of the ship and the long passage.” I looked at my Father who knew I did not sail well. “Besides, I have never been away from home and all of you before.”
Thomas and I were to go on a Grand Tour for our honeymoon, you see. He had earned a good living in Annapolis these past several years, dealing in commodities and doing other legal work. I will tell you my future husband had cut a handsome figure when he came home to visit. I believe I fell in love with the idea of Thomas Fitzjohn, for the reality I found was far different from any of my girlish dreams.
My betrothed had booked passage on the Mary Regina, a ship sailing for London at the end of the week following our nuptials. I fairly trembled with delight at the thought, for I had never been away from the Eastern Shore for more than a few days in all of my life.
Of course, I had journeyed to Annapolis with my parents for celebrations and ceremonials with Mother’s people, who held dull concrete positions within the social whirl of the capital city. These stays were brief and full of activity. I hardly knew what city life might be like, only that women were dressed like dolls and confined to carriages, and drawing rooms. They seemed to be destined to be seen but not heard – like grown-up children – while their husbands drank and talked and did business in smoky rooms.
Annapolis, destined to be the state’s capital, sprawled along the harbor, and stank with the odors of tan yards, cattle pens, and human waste. The strange timbre of the sailor’s shouts drew me in, and I might have liked to explore their watery world; but Mother’s people wore glorious gowns of silken brocade and lush broadcloth and spent their time attending teas and dinner parties. I was expected to attend and observe as part of my training as a lady. Their talk seemed trivial. My my cousins could converse only about their newest gowns and the best hairdressers, but knew nothing of fine horseflesh or healing herbs.
For all their finery, my town cousins did not seem to bathe! Their beautiful gowns were soiled at the neck and underarms. Worse, I once saw a louse crawl out from under Aunt Tish’s towering wig while we sat in prayer in church. I had all I could do not to burst out in laughter, for it was my nature to always be ready for happiness and mirth. After that incident, about which I told no one, it did not seem to me that living in town was such a great thing – although many, including my mother, held it to be the ideal.
My fiancé, who had won some success as a lawyer in that city had an ambition to serve in some official capacity with the colonial government when he was established. He said we must first have the Grand Tour, and visit London, France and Italy to witness the wonders of architecture and art in those cities before returning to Somerset and his practice. He said once we started having children, I would not be able to travel with him, and that I must see these things before our family life began. I, of course, agreed with his every whim, for is that not the fate of women worldwide?
I hardly knew what to expect of this grand journey, but I did look forward to seeing the beautiful art displayed in the capitals of Europe. There was a fine painting of Mother over the mantle in our drawing room. So lifelike was the likeness, it almost seemed as if the image could breathe. I could hardly imagine finer images, but Thomas said we would see the art of master artists on the Continent.
It did not seem possible to me that human hands could create so much beauty. Some itinerant limner had painted an awkward grouping of Mother and the Elliott offspring, complete with a stilted-looking lamb. Larry held a buggy whip. Katie was the baby I held stiffly. Mother said the painting was not as good as her likeness because none of her offspring would stand still for more than a minute. Father just laughed. He paid the man generously for his trouble. The painting was awkward and ugly, but Father hung it in his study where he said it reminded him of his responsibilities.
In our private times together before the ceremony that made me his wife, Thomas always talked about the day he would become a legislator and effect regulations and special permissions and privileges for the plantation owners on the Eastern Shore. In retrospect, I see now he wanted power, pure and simple. Our conversations always revolved in his interests. Looking back, I can see why my father worried about my happiness. I could not see I only existed for Thomas as an attractive extension of his own personality.
Whenever we met as a family and Thomas held forth with his grandiose plans, Father laughed and said only fools wanted to be legislators. “Anyone who is fit for the job is too intelligent to run for office Pet,” he said. “This is just between you and me, but I think your husband-to-be would do well to look for steady work as an accountant or postmaster.”
I had all I could do to soothe Thomas’s feelings when he heard Father’s homespun philosophy. “I would harm him if he were not your sire,” my intended grated from between clenched teeth. “I will show him what sort of man I am!” I stroked his hand until his fingers relaxed and his knuckles were no longer white as bone.
I hoped I would not see the man I glimpsed behind his mask that day, for that moment in time showed me a Thomas Fitzjohn I did not know at all. If I had my wits about me right then, I should have turned and run away as far and as fast as I could go.
Still, this was the night before my wedding and my father did not wish to discuss the art in Paris or my husband’s lofty ambitions. Like a good father, he wanted to know I would be happy and cared for in the future.
“I would like to be sure you are provided for in the case, God forbid, something should happen to your spouse.” Father spoke carefully, hinting at the serious nature of our talk, yet keeping to the loving tone I had cherished throughout my childhood. “As you know, I am no longer a young man,” he continued gently. “So, I have made my will, and divided my properties so that each of you children will have a building lot if you need it. If you don’t want it, it will revert to my estate, but I have chosen a portion of the plantation for you and your husband that lies near both Baron’s Hope and the Somerset property where his own land lies.”
I nodded, tired to death of the economic facets attendant on a contract of marriage. Thomas had already built a home for me, a house he called Regret that lay a half day’s ride away near Salisbury. He had chosen everything in that house, and I suppose I should have been thrilled, but the idea of a cold new home with no memories of sorrow or laughter hardly stirred my senses. Pushing the thought of moving a half day’s journey away from the home I knew, I made an effort to pay attention to what my father had to say.
My father had talked about the disposition of his property many times. I know he was serious about seeing his children safe. Our family home, Baron’s Hope, had been in the family since the very first settlers came to the rich agricultural plains of the Eastern Shore. Father’s goal was to keep the property intact for future generations. He felt that his children should have the privilege of living on family ground should they so choose – even though Larry, my older brother would technically inherit the entire plot in his turn.
“You shall have one of these portions, with an annuity that will provide for you after I pass away.” Father sighed and ran a hand over lush gray locks. “I want you to be safe when I am gone, Pet. A little money of your own that your husband can’t touch won’t hurt.”
Try as I might, I could not foresee my father’s death for a long, long time yet. “If you wish, I will build a house for you on the lot. You will be to feel free to use it at any time.” My father’s face was a mask. I could not divine the thoughts behind his eyes. “You will always have a home.”
“You know Thomas has purchased several acres of land near Somerset. He has built us a grand home there,” I countered, as secure in my future as only the very young can be. Thomas is very ambitions. I believe we will be well off.” I was smug in my newfound maturity and freedom to choose. “I know my Thomas. He will leave no stone unturned to see to my well being.”
I can only imagine what my father felt as I constantly repeated the name of the man I would marry. Everyone could see my infatuation but me.
“Be that as it may,” Father sighed. I suddenly noticed how many wrinkles wreathed his beloved face. “I will see you are always provided for Pet. Trust that.” With that, he gave me a great hug. Then he sent me off to bed with a kiss just as he had for all the eighteen years since I was born.
“Janie . . .,” he said as I reached the door.
He was silent for a long moment, then shook his head slightly and blew me a second kiss. “Be happy,” he said at last. “Above all else, be happy.”
I woke early the next morning. I scrambled into a pair of my brother’s trousers and one of his old linen shirts to go out for a ride. The house was full of guests from every quarter, but I wanted this last tour of the farm in the cool morning air before the house began to buzz like a hive of angry bees. Every room was full of strangers, with young bachelors camped in tents on the lawn and unwed girls gathered like bouquets on the landings and sitting rooms. Mother held court in the drawing room from morning until night. I could hear the sound of her little bell as she summoned servants to refill her teapots and to bring more cakes.
All of this commotion had been going on for days I had grown tired of the meaningless chatter, the talk of dresses and beaux. I half wished Thomas would appear so that we could go for a gallop to clear our heads.
The air was smooth as silk that morning and I could smell the wild honeysuckle, along with the enticing odors that wafted from the kitchen house for the feast to come. Vanilla and cinnamon vied with the richer aromas of roasting hams and great cuts of beef. Chickens had been plucked near the henhouse, and hung, ready to be drawn and singed in a handy fire to remove the long hairs that grew beneath their feathers. I heard the angry honk of a goose. I knew the gander would be on the evening menu and smiled at the thought of the crispy skin and succulent dark meat. Roasted goose was my favorite meal. The very thought of the treat made my mouth water.
For a moment, I thought to grab a piece of bread for my breakfast, but turned away from the kitchen where the slave women would roll their eyes and make much of me. I was unwilling to break the spell of my last morning as a single girl confined to my room until the ceremony while the guests laughed in every corner of the house. Thomas waited miles away for the words that would make me his wife. So much was happening! I could not think for all the commotion. It might have been better if I had.
Firefly, my mare, whinnied softly at my approach. I loved all of Father’s horses, and I spent a great deal of time in the stables as a girl. He had given me a pony when I was four years old, followed by an old plow nag for my first real mount when I was nine. Firefly was my birthday gift when I attained the great age of sixteen and I loved her like an extension of my own body. I could have called a boy to saddle the roan, but instead I led her to a block, and mounted her bareback – an activity my mother forbade years before on the ground that only a common woman would do such an unladylike thing.
Soon we were flying down the lane in the direction of the bay. Once at the beach I dismounted and stood speechless as always as I gazed at the magnificence of a sunrise that colored the sky in shades of peach and crimson. How beautiful was this land. I cannot tell you how much I loved my home here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Some call it the land of pleasant living. I agree. It is the most beautiful place on earth.
On another day, I might have lingered for hours on the shore, kicking up shells with my bare feet or wading up soft crabs, but this day was special. It was my wedding day. I knew I would soon be missed so I gave the sunrise one last look, flung myself on the mare, and she raced for home with my hair flying out behind like a dark silken banner.
When I came back to the house, breakfast was being served on the terrace facing the bay. Mother looked up at my return. She scowled at my figure exposed in boy’s garb. “Jane!” she cried. “Please go upstairs and bathe your face and comb your hair. . .! And don’t come down again until the ceremony! What if Thomas saw you in this disgusting disheveled condition? I declare! He would be justified in putting you aside altogether!”
I thought of Thomas and smiled. We had often taken our mounts out for furious gallops along the shore with me dressed in boy’s clothing for years. Never once had he complained about my brothers’ breeches and shirts. At that time, I believed he truly loved me as a friend. I felt that no girl should ever turn away from such regard. That he was older than I was by a dozen years only cemented my fancy that my life would soon be perfect in every way.
“Oh Mother!” I shook my head at her fusty ways. “Thomas doesn’t care what I wear. He loves me just the way I am.” I looked to her friends for approval. The fashionable guests from Annapolis and Cambridge turned their gaze downward. Our family affairs were carefully made private in the midst of the gathered company.
“That is easy for you to say now,” My mother said. She rose to follow me to my room. There, she shook out the creamy ivory and peach brocade gown I was to wear for the marriage ceremony that very afternoon. “But husbands want wives who are sedate and who mind their manners, especially if they are older men and experienced. If Thomas is to be a man of power in the fullness of time, he will expect you to comport yourself properly.” Her voice was steel, forged in the languid drawing rooms of Annapolis.
I laughed as I ran across the room and flung open the windows to let out some of the sticky morning heat. Of all the things I did not want, I had no desire for my union with Thomas to be unlucky. “I shall be the luckiest woman in the world, Mother!” I laughed and spun around in a dance of joy. Mother frowned at my childish delight and turned briskly to go back to her guests.
I could have married Thomas in my shift with only my sister for witness, but according to Mother, I must have the celebration with dozens dozens of guests and relatives in attendance. I had no say in the matter – which powerlessness foreshadowed my future life.
My sister Katie was still in bed. We had shared this room since her birth seventeen years before. She was ever one to linger among the feather beds and pillows while the world turned around her. Convinced Mother was gone, she opened her eyes. She scowled at me from her cozy nest.
Mother often told us how mean I had been to the newcomer when my baby sister arrived. Apparently, I had not liked my small sister much when she was first arrived, but I had grown to love Katie in time – despite her only goal of being a wife to someone who would coddle and spoil her from morning until night. Katie often daydreamed aloud about married life, predicting what dishes, linens and coin she would have to enrich her make-believe future. Once she learned of my betrothal to Tom, she projected all such foolishness on my own future, calling the trappings of housekeeping ‘marital bliss.’
“Where have you been?” Katie scowled at me. She burrowed deeper into the snowy white pillows. “What did Mother want? Why do you always slam and clatter things about? You would think you would want to be more lady-like since you are to marry today. You are always saying you are going to be the wife of an important man. I should think you would want to act the part.”
“I shall do as I please,” I said. I flung a fallen pillow her way. “This is my day, and you are the one who must get up now, for you will serve me as my maid of honor and do everything I say.” I busied myself with my hair, trying it one way, then another, while my sister fumbled about the bureaus and closets looking for items of clothing that had been laid out for her since the day before.
Mother took that moment to arrive with sprigs of fragrant honeysuckle for my hair. She clucked at my sooty, tangled locks. She had despaired of the darkness of my hair and skin since I was a little child, for my sister was as fair as she was in her own youth. “I still say you should wear a wig for your special day,” she fussed with my dress, smoothing the skirt across the bed. “Your looks are quite stunning when you do.”
I chafed at the thought of a wig, dressed with grease and powdered to a snowy whiteness. It was high summer, hot enough to melt lard on the bedroom floor already. “I will not wear a wig, Mother! Do not even think of it! I shall be married as I am or not at all. I am sure Thomas will not mind if I am not powdered. He has been looking at me without powder in my hair ever since we were children together.”
In truth, Thomas Fitzjohn had ever been the hero of my youth. His father was overseer at Baron’s Hope when my father came into his inheritance at the death of his great-uncle Percy Kinnon and his boys from the smallpox. I had often watched my future husband as he rode about the plantation with his father, learning the ways of good husbandry. I daydreamed about the fine figure he cut mounted on his mettlesome white stallion.
How Thomas came to read for the law, I do not know, but he said he loved the profession. That that was good enough for me. All I know is that I was heartbroken when he went away to school, and I was over the moon when he returned to me.