"Constance is an engaging, high-spirited heroine . . . A fine historical novel written with verve and fresh imagination."—Horn Book
Runner-up for the National Book Award for Children's Literature in 1969, Constance is a classic of historical young adult fiction, recounting the daily life, hardships, romances, and marriage of a young girl during the early years of the Pilgrim settlement at Plymouth.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 14 Years|
Read an Excerpt
Very well then! I have seen that cold, gray, hard, bleak, unfriendly shore line that everyone is in such a twitch of excitement about. Father hung over the wooden rail gazing at it, his eyes snapping with excitement.
"Come and see, Constance," he roared. "'Tis America! Come and see it!"
He pushed aside to make room for me, and as I moved close to the railing it seemed a marvel that with so many people le leaning there the dreadful little ship did not capsize. With a wide gesture he indicated the line of pale gray sand and scrubby little gray-green trees-all looking like gray ghosts under the gray sky.
"Pish!" I said.
Father glared down at me. "What did you expect, girl? Tropical palms? A city of golden domes and palaces? Use your head, ninny! This is a wilderness! An empty land! We can make of it what we will!"
"Then let us make London of it," I said.
Father looked as though he would like to box my ears, a thing he has not done since Mother died-how long ago? Seven years? It seems like forever, and yet there are times when deep in my memory I can hear her voice singing little rhyming songs to me, or feel her hands tying my bonnet strings beneath my chin. Giles says he hardly remembers her at all, but he was only six. I was eight, and it makes a difference.
"Blast London!" Father exploded. "A tight, cramped, crowded city, filled with underhandedness, bigotry, and the stench of filthy sewage!"
"It could smell no worse than this ship," I said, "and I liked it. London is home!"
"London was home. No longer. And good riddance, say I! An honest man cannot make apenny in London, only thieves prosper!"
"And how do you propose to make a penny here?" I asked. "And what will you do with a penny if you make one? I see no great array of shops awaiting us."
Father opened his mouth, partially hidden now by the blond beard he has grown since there has been little water to waste in shaving-nor for washing, either, and how we all stink! and I thought he was about to bellow at me again. I would not have blamed him really, for I know how vexing I can be, and yet I could not hold back the sharp words lest I weep with misery. Because Father and I are much alike, he seems sometimes to know these things, so that now, instead of shouting with impatience, he put one arm roughly across my shoulders and pulled me hard against him.
"I know 'tis all strange, Con," he said, "and mayhap a little frightening. But there is a life here for anyone strong enough to make it. There is land for the taking now, land that will make us rich one day. There is freedom, there is space!"
"There must be places in England where there is space, too."
"Mayhap. But this is adventure, girl! Women don't understand that a man needs adventure in his life. To live out one's short span and never dare anything . . . I am not like that." He looked down at me and added, "And nor, I think, are you, Con."
"I was content."
"Content! A cabbage is content! Is that what you want to be? A cabbage?"
"I want to be at home in our house in London;' I said stubbornly. "I have no wish to be starved to death in this bare place, and eaten by wild animals, and killed by savages-"
"'Tis unlikely that you will die more than once, and therefore you will escape at least two of those fates. And let me remind you that if the savages can live here, so can we."
"Perhaps you can. Not 1. 1 hate America and I shall always hate it! And at the first opportunity I shall go back to England!" I slipped out from under Father's arm and moved away from him, just as I heard Will Bradford's voice.
"Stephen! Stephen Hopkins! May we speak with you?"
With a glowering look at me Father joined Will and Captain Standish where they stood staring with shining eyes at that ugly hateful coast, and I saw his face light up with the excitement that has filled him all through this hideous voyage. Feeling that I must get away or burst into ridiculous childish tears, I scrambled down the ladder, putting yet another rent in the hem of my gown with my clumsy heel, which only made me smolder the more. Now here I sit, wrapped in my cloak and still shivering, an odd great lump in my gullet, and my eyes stinging with tears!
At least I am alone, for everyone else is gathered on deck. Being alone is a great privilege now. There is rarely a corner of the ship unoccupied, whether it be day or -night, and there are times when I feel that I must be by myself for a bit or else become a fit case for Bedlam. I think that perhaps Elizabeth knew that when she gave me this journal and my own quill.
Elizabeth can be very surprising. Although she seems as great-eyed and quiet and slow as a cow, she often understands things that Father does not. For example, she has never urged me to call her Mother, though I know that Father wishes I would. I call her Ma'am generally, but I always think of her as Elizabeth. Giles calls her Mother, and of course 'Maris does, but she is 'Maris' mother. And now she is Oceanus' mother, too. What a tiny thing he is! And pale, as Damaris is pale. They look like little goblins, with their huge brown eyes like Elizabeth's.I wish my eyes were brown; people with brown eyes have always looked more intelligent to me. But instead mine are such a deep blue they are nigh black...