Twelve years went by before Martha could truly feel that their farm was her home. Unlike for her children, the old farm in New Jersey had been her home for nearly two decades. She had made the house her own and had managed the household quite well without her husband during the war. Even as all of the hired help had left and the so-called patriots had threatened to raid and burn their house and barn to the ground, Martha had soldiered on. It had only been with great reluctance that she had agreed to flee. If her husband had not returned to convince her otherwise, she would have put up with the jeers and the attacks until she was an old woman. She dreaded what the townsfolk had done with her house and her garden once they had left. The thought of her home being destroyed haunted her still.
With much cajoling, she had agreed to flee their town with her husband and children. Her younger son having been beaten by a gang of patriots while returning with fish for supper only further served to prod her into leaving. She had grown up within four miles of their farmhouse – the farm where she had been born was only a short walk down the road – but her children would not be able to hold their heads up any longer if they stayed. What did it matter that their families, both hers and her husband’s, had been some of the founders of their town? What did it matter that her grandfather had signed the town charter? What did it matter that her children could count back five generations buried in the churchyard? Most importantly, what did it matter that their family was of a fine and upstanding character, and that each of her children had inherited such personal qualities? Rather than take in his turn a seat at the town council, her eldest son laid buried hundreds of miles to the north. He was alone in their family’s plot of a new churchyard, far from his family. To the inhabitants of Clifton, New Jersey, the Hunter and Carey families had nearly ceased to exist.
It had been a blessed miracle that her second daughter had been born. Little Annie had given Martha someone for whom there had never been another home. She had entered the world in the small cabin that they still lived in – a far cry from the eight-room farmhouse that they had left – and she was happiest in the woods and on the river. Annie listened to stories of New Jersey and of their family’s journey north as raptly as she listened to fairy tales and to the Bible, but these stories were nothing but tales. She could hardly imagine the farmhouses and stately towns that her brother and sister talked about. The most exciting events for her were visits to Fredericton to see her cousins. She had a special dress that she only wore on such grand occasions: she was proud of that dress, but her mother knew that it would have been considered downright shabby to her as a young girl.
Martha firmly believed that God had given her Annie to welcome her to her new life. She counted that the child had been conceived during their first winter north, while the family had been camped in the tent city that had served as the first new home for good loyal subjects. She had grown along with their homestead and had been born in the cabin before it had been completed. She continued to grow with the farm, and as Annie approached womanhood, the farm approached the day when it could truly be what Martha expected of it. Annie insisted that she was not going to leave the farm, but rather she would make her husband move in with her. As the youngest child, she felt it her duty to look after her parents and their home. Her brother and sister were married and busy with their own lands. The first Hunter homestead on the St. John River would belong to Annie.
It had not looked like much of a place for a farm when the family had first set foot on their new land. While her sons had started chopping wood and her husband and daughter had set to putting up their tents, Martha had stood on the riverbank in tears. She was not usually one to cry in front of her children. For years, she had kept her distress from them. She had been strong while their father was gone and during their journey. Even as they lived in squalor, she had kept a bright spirit. She had only let herself cry at night, and then only when she thought no one would hear. What good did it serve for her to let her husband know of her fear and sadness? He would only feel further in despair, and it would serve no good purpose at all for their children to know how terrible they both felt.
But she could not contain her tears as she beheld their new home. This was the place where she would live the rest of her days. This was the land that she would be forced to make into a farm. Her house would never be as grand as it had been; her garden would never grow as well as it had. They had no livestock and little supplies. She could hardly imagine them surviving to the next spring. Crumpling into the mud, she cried heavily, muffled only by the earth.
Jim had noticed her, however, and seeing her collapse, he abandoned Rebecca to run to his wife’s side. Holding her, he said nothing but words to calm her. He himself was frightened and would have done whatever he could have to go back to his old life from before the war.
“Our child…” Martha whimpered softly. “I can’t…I’m not…how can I give birth here?”
“We’ll get you a house built, my dear wife,” he reassured her, sounding less confident than he would have liked. In his stories, he always made them both sound much more sure of themselves. “Me and the boys will make sure you’re all right. No child of mine is going to be born in a tent if I can help it.”