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The Sailor Man
On a February morning in the year 1609, a small, thin-faced man made his way over London Bridge. He wore a leather jacket and a blue wool stocking cap. His clothes were splashed with mud, and mud sucked at his shoes. He could hardly see for the cold rain in his face.
He had been looking for Fish Street, and here it was, at the end of London Bridge. Now he was looking for a house on Fish Street -- a great stone house not far from the bridge.
Here was one with tall chimneys and many windows. It must be the house, he thought. He went around to the back.
A plump, pretty maid opened the door.
"Would this be the Trippett house?" he asked.
She looked at his muddy clothes. "What do you want?"
"A word with Mistress Freebold, if she's about."
"Mistress Freebold? Oh, you mean Annie. You can't see her," said the maid. "She's sick abed."
"Could you just let her know there's someone here from America -- ?
"America?" The maid stared into his face. "Then you must be -- " She was gone. He heard her crying out, "Amanda, Amanda!"
Someone came running. Someone cried, "Father! " and a girl was there. She looked no more than ten or eleven -- a pale little thing with great, dark eyes.
She stopped. She said in bitter disappointment, "You're not my father."
"I shouldn't think so," said the man.
"Ellie said you were from America, and she thought -- I thought -- "
"So you're James Freebold's girl," he said.
"One of them. I'm Amanda." She asked quickly, "Do you know my father?"
"I do, and I saw him not many weeks ago. We were togetherin America, in the colony of Virginia. I'm a sailor, you see, and my ship was there -- "
"And you saw him." Her eyes were bright again. "Was he well? What did he say?"
"He was well enough, for all I could see. He'd built a house in Jamestown. That's the only town there. When my ship sailed, he asked if I'd stop for a word with his family in London. He thinks of you each day. He prays you will all be together before another year is out."
Tears came to her eyes. "When you see him, will you tell him -- ?"
"I'll not be seeing him again," the man broke in. "It's a long, hard voyage to Virginia. I'll not be going back."
"Oh," she said.
Someone was calling, "Amanda!"
"You're wanted," he said. "I'll take my leave."
"But you'll come again?"
He shook his head. "I've told my tale. Good-day to you."
He left her. He was gone, and she didn't know his name or where to find him again, and there were a hundred things she hadn't asked. She hadn't even said thank you.
She took a step after him, but Cook's voice called her back. "A-man-da!"
She closed the door. She went down the long, cold hall and into the kitchen.
Cook was at the table, beating eggs. Her face was red. Her cap was over one eye.
"Who gave you leave to stand in the door and talk all day?" she said. "Who was that man?"
Ellie the maid came out of the pantry. "Oh, Amanda, was it your father?"
The door to the back stairs opened. A small boy put his head out. "Was it Father?" he asked.
"Jemmy!" cried Amanda. "You know you're not to come in here. No, it wasn't Father."
His head disappeared, and the door closed.
Amanda told Cook and Ellie, "It was a sailor man back from Virginia. He saw my father there. He talked to him. Father is well-and he's built a houseand he thinks of us -- "
Cook gave a snort. "He does, does he? He thinks of you so much that he sails off and leaves you for three whole years."
"Oh, that's cruel!" said Ellie.
"Hold your tongue, miss," said Cook, "and Amanda, you get back to your work."
She went off into the pantry.
As soon as Cook was gone, Amanda opened the door to the back stairs. The small boy was sitting on the steps. A smaller girl sat beside him.
"It wasn't Father. It was a sailor man," Amanda said. "But he saw Father. just think of that. I'll tell you about it tonight."
"Will it be a story?" asked the boy.
"It will be like a story," said Amanda, and she shut the door.A Lion to Guard Us. Copyright © by Clyde Bulla. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.