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By Dana Cameron

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Harry nodded. ” He paused thoughtfully, then suddenly changed the subject. “In terms of conservation, most of the volumes here are in good shape, but we’ll let you know if you need to wear gloves, to keep the damage from body oils and cosmetics down to a minimum. Actually, if you could refrain from using hand creams or perfumes, that would be a big help. ” He glanced over at me, and I thought I recognized tentative approval. ” I was relieved that Harry saw that I was a member of this club. “It’s nice not to have to explain why we can’t let you go romping through the stacks.

Margaret Chase’s family was rich, but not aristocratic—I had learned from her husband Matthew’s documents that her father was a merchant. And it wasn’t yet fashionable in Europe for even wellborn women to be so educated. And the tone of the epigram was so strongly religious, that told me a lot about her as well. This was going to be a trip. I could tell it would be an adventure to learn about this woman’s life. I closed my eyes and said a little prayer to Saint Helena, the patron saint of archaeologists, before I looked at the first entry: May 29/This morning took into service Nora, a little blacke Wenche… That slowed me down a second.

I read the superscript at the top of the page, the once-black ink faded to blurred brown, but still legible: Margaret Amalie Chase Chandler, her IIId Booke, Begun this Year of Grace 1723 Stone Harbour, Massachusetts Since it is possible that thou mayst depart from Life this very Moment, regulate every Act and Thought accordingly. A flood of ideas cascaded through my head even before I finished reading that heading. Her middle name suggested the possibility that Margaret might be part French; the date, I remembered, correlated with the first year of her husband’s tenure as justice in the courts in Stone Harbor and Boston; and she herself must have been in her early twenties at the time.

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