3 September, 1793
It is Saturday and Mother has just finished my new frock, fashioned of the most lovely yellow fabric with tiny star-like flowers. It is with delight that I imagine the fragrance of such delicate blooms. It is bright and cheerful and Mother is certain it will not go unnoticed at the vicarage on Sunday. My bonnet is most dingy but with much washing my gloves have returned to an acceptable shade of white. I must thank Aunt Clarice with a proper note tomorrow concerning her gift of the fabric. Mother and Father have very little to share with me and I am most ashamed that at my advanced age I have not secured a husband who could care for me thus relieving the burden I impose upon my dear Parents. My wages as maidservant to Dame Dunsford are barely adequate to secure proper clothes to win a worthy husband. And without a proper dowry most of the isle’s eligible men have looked past me in my lowly station. Many others have moved to the mainland in search of fortune and fame and helpmates. I fear I may never leave the Isle of Wight nor find the love I so desperately desire.
4 September, 1793
Dame Dunsford does not require my services this morning and so she excused me that I may attend church services at the vicarage in Brading. Talk has spread across the isle all week of a special guest speaker there who has been for some time detained in Portsmouth awaiting passage to New South Wales. I believe his name to be Marsden.
Mother speaks with certainty about the large audience expected. My new frock should capture great attention among the local bachelors. And, there is talk of Mr. Marsden being accompanied by several ministers from the mainland. I expect to sit with Jane Popham. Though she is my junior by six years, she has yet to find a match either. We are goodly spinsters together with my younger sister Sarah who refuses to attend services. I know not where she thinks a match will appear. The girl has no sense whatsoever. Mother says we both must avail ourselves of those occasions where eligible men frequent and rightly so.
6 September, 1793
I am breathless. From all counts, I cannot seem to shake off the message delivered so eloquently at the vicarage two days since. Mother believes I have been enchanted by the visage of Mr. Marsden in my head-long pursuit to attain a pleasing match. Such foolishness, the man is happily married. However, as I meditate on his words, I find I am struck with an overwhelming sense that no truth was better spoken than from the lips of Mr. Marsden. He knows the Holy Scriptures and somehow I find myself longing to know them as well. Tomorrow I must find Father’s family Bible.
20 November, 1793
Has it been just two months since Mr. Marsden’s sermon of conviction? Conviction? Convict? Dost that word indeed describe my lowly life and the chains that bind my life? If I close my eyes I see my Lord at work upon that convict ship with Mr. Marsden beside Him, guiding him, setting other souls free from bondage such as mine. The words “be clothed with humility for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble”(I Pet. 5:5 KJV) continue to echo through my mind, resounding all the way to my heart. So powerful a tongue hast thou O Lord. I marvel at Thy divine work within a simple dairyman’s daughter.
As I meditate on my pursuit of a husband and the pride I have so long perfected, I most assuredly realize I am not following in the ways of Jesus, this most gracious Saviour of my soul. Truly I see He has come to clothe me in humility, shedding the filthy rags of my sinful nature. Oh how I have behaved; such an ungrateful girl.
Mother calls from the hearth room. I must attend her. It is my duty to serve.
3 March, 1801
The winter winds are a challenge as my earthly body struggles for breath. Tho this illness has nearly consumed my shell, my heart still sings for my dear Lord. I long for heaven’s whispers and the angel’s song. It will not be long before I find myself in a most pleasant place indeed—the arms of my Saviour.
Note: This story is a fictionalized account of the real-life Elizabeth Wallbridge (b.1770; d. May 30, 1801), the dairyman’s daughter, whose conversion story was recounted in The Annals of the Poor by Reverend Legh Richmond. Elizabeth Wallbridge, who was born, lived, and died in the Parish of Arreton, Isle of Wight, England, was instrumental in leading both her parents and other family members into the saving knowledge of Christ upon hearing a sermon by Samuel Marsden, a young missionary, who was on his way to New South Wales.
Her story was published widely in the 1800s in tract form through Great Britain and abroad. In 1828, 14 years after its first publication, its circulation exceeded four million copies in 19 languages, and the number of conversions from its perusal estimated in the thousands. Its popularity increased for several decades and it is estimated that more than ten million copies have been distributed in many languages.
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