The first was of a woman with four children, a toddler sitting in her lap and three young girls standing around her. As typical of the period when the pictures were taken, the woman and girls looked stiff and unsmiling in their layers of clothing, with their hair pulled back on top and falling in ringlet curls around their faces. The baby, too young to take anything seriously, wore a slobbery grin.
The other photo was of a Confederate soldier. His eyes stared into the camera with steely resolve, his lips pressed firmly together beneath a thick mustache. Natalie turned it over, hoping to find a romantic message scrawled on the back of it, but it was blank.
Beneath these were a matching silver brush and hand mirror, and a delicate gold watch, with a pin on the back so that it could be fastened to a woman’s dress and worn as a brooch. There was another piece of jewelry, which at first confused Natalie with its odd appearance. Upon closer inspection, she identified it as a thin braid of hair wound into a spiral, then sealed within glass or resin and placed into a ring setting.
Fascinated, Natalie replaced the items and closed the box, eager to see what else there was to discover. Next, she retrieved a thick, oversized Bible with an embossed leather cover and within, a genealogy written in looped and slanted penmanship. She also found a prayer book and a novel titled Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Beneath these was a lovely old wedding gown and a folded piece of lace, yellowed with time. Carefully wrapped within it was a framed picture of a bride and groom: her great-great-grandparents, Silas and Charity Winslow.
She returned the photo to its nest within the lace and dug around to see if anything else hid beneath the folds of the wedding gown. Her fingers closed around another book, and she pulled it out to reveal a thin, leather-bound diary. Curiously, she opened the first page and began to read.
March 3, 1860
Mama says there’s only two people one can be honest with: one’s self and God. She gave me this diary and said that it was the appropriate place for me to record my truest thoughts and feelings, although I don’t see what good that does. It cannot argue on my behalf nor change my circumstances. She says it will make me feel less lonely, that it will be a friend who always listens without judgement.
She knows that I do not wish to be married so soon. Mama insists that Father has his reasons, and I must trust them, but I feel...
Natalie’s attention was pulled away from the diary by the sound of Rosie’s barking below the window, announcing Tony’s arrival. With a sigh, she closed the diary, tucking it under her arm to carry downstairs and read when she had a chance. She was curious why her great-great-grandmother hadn’t wanted to marry Silas, and why Charity's father had forced her.