On a morning in April, 1687, the brigantine Dolphin sailed into Saybrook harbor. Kit Tyler was standing on the deck, looking at the land for the first time in five weeks.
“There’s Connecticut Colony,” someone spoke in her ear. She looked up, surprised. The whole long voyage the captain’s son didn’t say a word to her. But she had often noticed him, his thin figure, tanned skin and sunburned hair. His name was Nathaniel Eaton or just Nat. “How do you like it?” he asked.
“Is that Wethersfield?” she asked Nat. America looked disappointing to Kit. The thin shoreline, gray harbor, ugly wooden houses – they were such a contrast to Barbados which was her home.
“No, this is the port of Saybrook, our home.”
She could see nothing interesting and was happy because this was not her destination.
“Have you ever been on a ship before?” Nat asked.
“I’ve sailed on little row boats in the islands all my life.”
He smiled, “That’s where you learned to keep your balance.” So he had noticed!
“Weren’t you scared of the wind and the waves?” Nat asked.
“I was! But now I think that it was the most exciting thing I’ve ever known.”
There was a sudden activity on the deck. “What is happening?” Kit asked. “Are we stopping here?”
“Some passengers will get off,” Nat explained. “We’re going to anchor here and take a boat to the shore. That means I have to go.” He went away, lightly and confidently.
Then Kit saw the captain’s wife Mistress Eaton among the passengers leaving the ship. They were the only two women aboard the Dolphin, and the older woman was friendly and kind. Now, seeing Kit, she walked up to her. “I am leaving the ship, Katherine. But don’t look so sad. This is not far to Wethersfield, and we’ll meet again.”
Kit looked at the shore again. Suddenly she had an idea. “Can I ride in the boat to the shore with you?” she asked. “There is America and I can’t wait to see it!”
“You are such a child, Kit,” smiled Mrs. Eaton. “Sometimes it’s hard to believe that you are sixteen.” She asked her husband about it. The captain looked at the girl’s shining eyes and then agreed.
On the shore Nat helped his mother to get out of the boat first and then gave a hand to Kit. When she set foot on America, she smelled the salty air and looked around. Three poorly-dressed women stood nearby. Kit smiled and wanted to talk to them, but then she stopped herself. There was something in the women’s stare: they looked critically at Kit’s tangled brown curls and sunburned face. She had no gloves, no cover for her head. Embarrassment was a new feeling for Kit. No one on Barbados had ever stared like that at Sir Francis Tyler’s granddaughter.
“Katherine, dear,” said Mrs. Eaton at that moment, “Are you sure your aunt will be waiting for you at Wethersfield? There’s Goodwife Cruff going aboard. I’ll tell her to keep you company.”
Then she walked away, and Nat followed her along the narrow dirty road. Kit stood alone, waiting. She already regretted this trip to the shore. There was no welcome for her at this Saybrook.* * *
At last the captain called everyone back to the boat. There were four new passengers: a tall young man with long fair hair, then a sullen older man, his wife and their little girl with a wooden toy. They were halfway back to the ship when the child started crying. Her mother smacked her, but the child only started crying harder. “Ma! The dolly’s gone!” she cried. “The doll Grandpa made for me!”
Kit could see the little wooden doll drifting in the water right behind the boat.
“Shame on you!” the woman said angrily to the girl. “He worked so hard to make you a toy, and now you throw it away!”
“I was showing her the ship! Please get her back, Ma! Please!”
The toy was drifting farther and farther away …