To view Tragedy Awaits: The Diary of Elizabeth Hope Kebble–Part 1 and Part 2 by E.J. Aire, click here.
A dreadful tuberculosis epidemic has swept through New England. We cower inside, careful not to go out, lest we catch the horrid sickness.
Your fearful friend,
It has been so long since I have written to you! The tuberculosis I mentioned in my last entry is long over. The new matron of the orphanage, Ms. Fryd, is a Danish joy. She is so happy that we have willingly gone to the orphanage. Lillian gets a bed, food, and an education! I am twenty-one years of age, and I am spinning wool and making cloth. Katherine and I live at the orphanage as helpers to Ms. Fryd, as we cannot find any other place to stay. Britain, the horrid place, has put taxes on so many things, so many that I cannot name all of them. I hold a special place in my heart for the imaginary gravestone of Mother, Father, and Anne. Assuming that Anne isn’t alive, of course. Twas eleven years ago that she sailed off. She would be in her fourth decade, so I do not think her to be alive. Lillian is eleven now, and Katherine twenty-seven. We bring her up under the thoughts of the surviving Kebbles. We are living happily. I do still remember why I named this diary Tragedy Awaits, though. Tragedy awaited, pounced, and passed. We are all together, and I remind Katherine and Lillian of Mother, Father and Anne, and we all pray to them. We are all together now, and life is good. La vie est belle, as Mademoiselle Bella would say. She is the little French girl, orphaned as well. Only she had her nun family cruelly torn from her. She has been orphaned twice, by first her family and then the nuns. She is a petit soleil, a little sun, shining her happiness down upon us flowers, us fleurs. I could not be happier.
❀Elizabeth Hope Kebble
Today a new arrival was brought to us at the orphanage. Imagine our surprise when it was none other than Mary Patrimonio, the late Mrs. Fisgon’s granddaughter! Rumor has it that she is just as bad as her heritage, i.e. a Brobdingnagian S-N-O-O-P! In the wee morning hours I nearly cried with laughter at the coincidence, I mean, what are the chances of a granddaughter of a ‘pillar’ of society landing in the orphanage. Pillar, my eye. Belle is playing with a doll by Bebe Soleil, an exquisite French marvel with eyelids that shut when the doll, named Marie Grace is laid down. When I was eight, the only doll I had was a mish mosh of fabric scraps with Mother’s fine embroidery. This doll, Marie Grace, has porcelain hands, feet, and head. There are details, and real hair. How she got it, I don’t know.
❀E. H. K.
I have found a job! I am to embroider pieces of fabric to be made into women’s accessories! I shall write down the design so I shan’t forget it: ☼⚜⚘⚜☼⚜⚘⚜☼ over and over again. I shall sit right after a woman weaving it, as I will do the first row, Jenny shall do the second, and Nancy shall do the third. Oh, such a boring pattern, but I will earn $3 per week! I will save until I can get my own home! ‘Tis a great joy, as Katherine is the one weaving the cloth! Lillian is the one to fold the cloth, so now we all have jobs. If we each save the $3 that we get each week, we will have $9 per week. It is not much, but if we live at the orphanage until we can buy a small shack, then we can save, then live on our own.
❀ The Ever Hopeful Kebble
We have been saving our money each week for the past two months, and we have $72 now! We will need $147 to buy the shack, so we are still at the orphanage. It is one of the new buildings, on the outskirts of town where it used to be wild stretches of untouched forests, back when I was twelve.The good thing is that we have reserved a shack, and it comes with furniture, so we needn’t worry about beds and such. It gives me great hope to think that we could live on our own, and we won’t have to conform to the orphanage ways. Not that they’re bad, just strict. Once we have our home, one of us may need to find another job, like catching fish in the river that runs along the back of the woods. I do wonder if Anne survived, and is wondering what we are doing. Perhaps…no, no, no, not that.
I have found a job carrying water around to workers on the new pier. They are working tirelessly, pounding nails in to wood all day long, from sunup to sundown. It pays well, as I must lower water on a pulley and haul the empty jug back up. With this job I earn twice as much as at the cloth factory, $6 per week. I have made calculations, and found that we will be able to buy our shack in two or three more weeks. I am ecstatic because we will be out of this orphanage very soon, very soon indeed. We came to the orphanage nearly two years ago, as we celebrated the two year anniversary of the reform of the orphanage with the arrival of Ms. Fryd.
Your ever faithful friend for 13 years,
I’m sorry that I haven’t written for a few weeks, but I have been busy buying the shack and food, as we now have quite enough money so that we shall never again be in such a desolate situation as we were for a few years. We have bid fond farewells to Ms. Frye and Bella, and we promised to come back to the orphanage to help Ms. Frye and her helpers run the orphanage. Now that Lillian is 13 years of age, she can help us. ‘Twas 13 years ago that Anne, Mother, and Father left us. I should like to say that we have managed well since then, as we are no longer in the orphanage, and we need not worry about food, or fresh water, as there is a beautifully clean, sparkling well barely a meter from the back door. Katherine will soon move out, because, had she grown up in a regular household, with parents and all of that, she would have found love and moved out a decade or more ago. Because Lillian has grown up around parentless children, she does not know who or even what parents are. I explained to her that parents are her comfort, her roof, her protection, her lifeline. I then told her, for the first time, of the tragic story of Mother and Father, and that of Anne. She then said, “So does that mean that I have no parents?” in a worried little tone so unlike herself. I must confess that I did not quite know what to say at that moment, except to confirm her thoughts. Oh, what a sorrowful mistake that was! Now she is going to the courthouse every day, for hours at a time, to try and look up birth and death records. Well, she won’t find any, because we did not tell the officials about Mother, Father, and Anne, because we did not want to go to the orphanage when it had that awful matron, and we hid during the outbreak of tuberculosis. I must go out and sneak down to confess of their deaths. November 15, Father, 16, Mother, and 17, Anne. I know not of Anne’s exact deathday, but we shall say that it was November 17th. Such three quick, rapid fire deaths, and in just two days, we were orphans, three days we were reduced from five to three.
I must go to the courthouse.
The record person took down each of the names, birth and death dates. I shall inscribe them below, so that I may remember. Also, she said that there might be a complimentary memorial for them, but I would have to submit a form. ‘Twould be easy, for I can write, read, and I know all of the dates.
~Jessica Elizabeth Abbotson Kebble, born on May 30th, 1719, died November 16th, 1763
~Edward James Kebble, born on October 9th, 1715, died November 15th, 1763
~Anne Sofia Kebble, born on March 15th, 1743, died November 17th, 1763
~Katherine Agnes Kebble, born on March 16th, 1748,
~Elizabeth Hope Kebble, born on March 17th, 1751,
~Lillian Joan Kebble, born March 19th, 1761,
There. Now I shall have a record and I can give it to the stonemason to create the headstone. I should think it to look something like this:
Or perhaps is will be individual stones. One thing’s ascertained:There will be a stone, yes, no bodies, but a stone nonetheless. If I should die, I would like to be buried with a single, perfect calla lily. Like so: , but pure white melding into pale green, with deepest green leaves, and perfect yellow in the center with a smattering of yellow at the heart of the lily. Enough of this depressing stuff.
I will go out to the docks now, and sit over the water, the chilly, black water with snow blowing about, for it is here in Concord, Massachusetts so of course it’s snowing.
~Elizabeth Hope Kebble, 25 years old
I have become quite the artist. For the better part of the hour I sketched a boat. ‘Twas a simple fishing boat, but quite hard to draw. I didn’t bother to do shadow, just simple linear drawings. Here is a copy of it:
A miniature, rough sketch, but it captures the idea quite well. Oh dear, Lillian is calling. Something about fire?
Well, that does it! Lillian was smoking cod over the open fire, when an ember spilled out onto the wooden floor. She managed to toss a bit of water on it, but the floor is scorched and crumbling a bit. I will have to cut out the plank and replace it. I need to go down to Sam’s Hardware and Feed Store to get a new plank and some nails. As I was walking down Main Street, I noticed how well the United states of America is faring, as a new country and everything. There are lots of shops, and the former, surviving soldiers, unlike Father, have become farmers, and there are barely any poor begging on the streets. Orphans like us are finding jobs and can live independently. ‘Tis quite a lot of progress. Then, I think of dear England, with it’s long and rich history, and the king, and the history of parliament, and I sigh.
Look at this poem I made for you. I know that you are merely a figment of my imagination, but, oh, to have one to pour one’s heart out to, such a feeling!
Cloud drifts in and out
in flying fantasy I
Think of all the good
It’s a haiku. Before moving to the United states of America, we learned in cotillion of popular little tea parties in Japan where they sit on bamboo mats under the flowers and wear lovely flowing dresses. I should like to do that, to not be confined to the frills of traditional clothing. It’s a shame that we wear such confining garments that the most fun one has is rolling a piece of wood with another piece of wood at a snail’s pace. I shall draw what I would like to wear.
Perhaps in a beautiful embroidered silk cloth with little birds and flowers on it. I don’t know.
I am at the second to last page of the book. Tomorrow, I shall write my last entry to you. I should feel so desolate without you, and I recently bought a new book of paper, 14 pages, like you. In that book I will be writing to Sun. In the thirteen years that I have been writing to you, I wrote of 5 deaths, a tuberculosis outbreak, the formation of a new country, rising out of poverty, and so much more! I don’t know why I decided to write, but ‘tis ascertained that I enjoy it. I am so sad, for Katherine moved out, and Lillian is going to school, so I have only you to talk to, and I cannot hear another being speak save for breakfast and supper. I have grown ever so much since I was twelve, and now I am 25 years old. I love to look back at my old writing and see my sorrow, for Katherine and I were barely old enough to run a household and take care of Lillian.
I have gotten to the end of this book of paper, and to the beginning of a new chapter (hopefully a happier chapter) with Sun. Goodbye dear Cloud, I shall miss writing to you of all of my sorrow, and you accepting it and all of the long evenings with you. It is in you I recorded 5 deaths, and several turning points in my life. I should hope that we can talk again, perhaps after Sun. Parting is such a sweet sorrow, bittersweet, like the taste of chocolate I once had when I was 9 years old. I cannot believe that I survived a tuberculosis epidemic, a triple bereavement. It’s almost midnight, yet I am up, my candle burning bright, pen scratching across paper, a million thoughts swirling about my head, like a million fish and I can only catch one at a time, and remember more to write down. I hear my little sister’s gentle breathing, and see the glowing embers in the stove. It’s winter, and cold, and cloudy, snowflakes gently blowing across the full moon. I must go to sleep now. I will miss you, long nights of sorrow, bitterness, but I will end on a good note. I could not be happier where I am now, so I will say my final goodbye.
Your friend, everything like that,
❀Elizabeth Hope Kebble❀