Byrd wisely chose a nature picture book with hand colored plates that her brother could get lost in on the voyage while they would be confined for the long months stranded between shores. The books of poetry were hard to choose from. She determined to bring her favorite novel even if it had to be hidden, wrapped in her change of clothes in the family trunk. The knowledgeable daughter wisely selected the books that had first enticed her father to think favorable of the New World. John Locke was a given and did not take up much room. The book of maps of the world included the newest one of America as well. The crate was becoming too heavy for her to lift. She looked around the room perusing the collection. Even in its scattered appearance, it was all well known to her. Her eye grazed over the imprinted titles and appraised their values trying to find one more nugget of gold.
Suddenly, she ran to the sitting room where the squat leather bound family Bible lay on the mantle. It could no more be left behind than leaving Jesus back on the English shore at the dock. God must go with them, or they would go in vain. But there was more to the Bible than Scripture. In its front piece there was a treasure very dear to her heart, the family history. Byrd opened the page where her father had inscribed her name, Golevbryd Meredith, May 20, 1723. Bryd could sit for hours tracing the generations as they came alive in her imagination. Occasionally, she spun stories to her little brother to help him go to sleep. The months ahead confined in the cramped quarters aboard ship, she could weave the silken threads of their genealogy into stories to entertain a lively, bored boy to help pass the time.
Her mother certainly was not strong enough to do more than care for the baby. Bryd thought them both too frail for the voyage and beginning again in a new land. It was good that her father had enough to pay for an indentured servant as well. They would need all the help they could get. The parish had practically pushed them out for her father's non-conformist views. They had to be out of their village home by the end of the month, just in time for departure. Her father had saved the money which was for the fines for not attending the Church of England services, but bought the tickets instead. She had overheard her parents voices in the night as he kept saying, "It will be worth it. Just think, freedom to worship as our conscience dictates."
"Freedom" sent shivers down her spine like when she had run through the woods with her cousins playing hide and go seek out of the sight of the old hags of the village who were always knitting their brows in disapproval when she ran. It had been exhilarating until a wolf howled. They all sprinted back to the village with hearts pounding. Would it be like that in America? Were there enemies there too, such as wild panthers, bears, and Indians?
"Golevbryd, would you come here please?" Bryd's mother was the only one who used her full name. The girl was quick to respond to do whatever chore or errand she needed. Her mother was much abed since the babe was born.
"Come here, dear one. I've been thinking that the family's jewel might be safer around your neck than mine or even packed away. No one would suspect that a slight girl would have it hidden under her plain shift. We wouldn't have to worry about someone going through our trunk in our cabin either. You are a responsible child, and I know you will take every care not to let it be seen or lost. Nursing the babe would expose the necklace, I'm afraid, or the babe might yank it off my neck. So, what do you think?"
For once Byrd was speechless and could only nod. Her mother lifted her braid where the strays of he brown sun streaked hair and unclasped the jewel from around her slender neck. Byrd felt its cool silver kiss on the skin of her neck as it slipped down. Her heart was beating so hard, she was sure her mother would see it bouncing off her chest.
"I guess it is all right, but we will need to leave your hair down to cover the chain. No more braids."
Byrd loosened her tresses and unwound the braid combing her hair with her fingers. As always it curled and waved freely once unbound. She did not care that it would soon snarl in knots. Golevbryd was now the guardian of the family treasure. Byrd would look like a wood, or rather, a water sprite, but the emerald as green as Ireland would shine only for her under the cover of her dress. Once in bed she would finger it under her night clothes to feel each tiny seed pearl and the filigree surrounding the gem.
"You do remember the story of the family emerald, don't you, Dove?"
Her mother liked to call her bird names. It didn't matter as her mother was about to begin her favorite tale of family lore. But the baby began fussing and Mother was busy seeing to his happiness instead. Bryd covered her ears so she couldn't hear the baby crying. He seemed to do that a lot no matter what her mother did.
One neighbor said, "He's just a bit windy. Boil some onions in water, then feed him the broth and just see if that don't cure him."
Another said, "Never bring him out if there's even the least wee bit of a wind. It will give him the tummy ache for sure."
"Best start him on watered down gruel. Obviously, your milk is too thin for the little tyke."
She knew their neighbors meant well, but they seemed to forget their mother had raised the other children and was a perfectly good mother.
That night as she lay down to sleep, she asked her mother, "Remember, you were going to tell the story of the family jewel."
"Ah, yes, the emerald, it is a sad tale. Once upon a time back in the days when William the Conqueror's son Henry I was waiting to be on the throne, his men had captured a beautiful, but very young, lass, Nest verch Gruffydd. (Her grandmother was Angharad verch Maredudd (Meredith or Maredydd) With no protector, Henry I took her and she bore him a son Henry FitzHenry. When he tired of her, the then king gave Nest to his friend Gerald FitzWalter of Windsor, former constable for Pembroke Castle who had just helped put down some rebels for the king. Nest had several children with Gerald.
However, the Welsh were angry that a Welshwoman was given to an Englishman, a Norman no less. Not only that, a bard was heard singing of her beauty. A cousin Owain ap Cadwgan decided to go visit his kinswoman. When his men entered their castle, Nest hid her husband, some say by helping him escape down a lavatory chute. Owain kidnapped Nest and her children and took her to a hunting lodge by the Eglwyseg Rocks north of the Vale of Llangollen.
This enraged the Normans as well as the rest of Owain's enemies. Nest told Owain, "If you would keep me, then send my children home to their father." She then had a son by her abductor. Finally, they were pursued so hotly that Nest was returned to her husband, and Owain and his father sought exile in Ireland.
Her brother Gruffydd returned from fighting in Ireland and gave Nest this beautiful emerald, a spoil of war. In the meanwhile, the Welsh were fighting the Welsh as well as the Normans. Owain had managed to be pardoned by the king and made Prince of Powys. As Owain came to fight Gruffydd, Gerald found Owain, and he avenged his wife by killing him. One of their brothers was so tired of all the fighting that he took ships to find the New World. Some say there is a colony of Welsh Indians in America who still speak the language from this Madog (or Maredydd).
All this was six hundred years or so ago. So the emerald is indeed special that it has endured. Now, because of the fight of Protestant against Catholic, Conformists and Non-Conformists, we must go to the New World to find peace to worship how we will. We will lose our home anyway, even if we do not flee the oppression here. Your father could even be put in jail. God will go with us. The emerald green is a reminder of everlasting life in His Son. Let it be a comfort to you."
Byrd fell asleep holding the gem in her hand. It would be good to have a new beginning in America where there would be freedom of religion and a new beginning, a place for Byrd to find her nest.
*This is a compilation of stories about those who fled to America for religious liberty, but there was an actual Golevbyrd Meredith who immigrated with her family. It also tells the true story of Nest with a hint of the Welsh Indians (read my book "Nest.") Nest not only bore an illegitimate grandson of William the Conqueror, but she was also probably the great-granddaughter of Lady Godiva and Leofric, Earl of Mercia. Her mother was Ealdgyth (or Edith, the Swan Neck) of Mercia and her father was Gruffydd ap Llywelyn a Prince of the Powys. Her mother had fought alongside her husband. While he was on a raid, she defended their territory, was caught and beheaded by the Normans. The Welsh long fought in her name. We are distantly related on both my mother and father's side.
(The pictures are not family related nor is there truly a family jewel.)
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:35-39