For a time Alice remembered the good and forgot the bad, but after a while she remembered the bad and then had to forget everything to get rid of it; when it came back it came back in bits like the pieces in a month-old stew - all the same gray color and smelling like sick, not one thing whole in the entire kettle.
First was the ship. Alice had lived her first seven years of life in London before she got aboard the ship, and if she hadn't got aboard she imagined she might have remembered better those early years of her life, but the ship and what came after it took away all but a few brown heaps of London ash and dirt. She remembered helping her mother to hang the wash on the fence; she remembered learning to pump the foot wheel to twist fine linen fibers into thread; she remembered constantly sweeping lint and bark and wood chips from under her father's boot-heels as he sat and smoked and talked about the ship.
It seemed to Alice that her father talked about the ship a long time before they ever got on it. Alice's two older brothers joined in with excited jabber about great stiff sails, sturdy beams, and wide, salted oceans, but Alice watched her mother's face and stayed quiet. Her mother's face had clouded at the word ship and stayed so through all her father's and brothers' happy clamor; Alice saw the face, but didn't understand it. As her father described it, leaving two rooms full of smoke and damp for a fine house new-made by his own hand in a place called Philadelphia seemed to promise a life as big as the word. But after a time Alice stopped looking at her mother when her father and brothers began their talk of the ship, and when the cart finally came to collect them she was hanging on the windowsill in the same eagerness as her brothers.
Alice's mother held her tight on her lap through the whole cart ride; when they drew up onto the wharf and saw the ship looming in front of them Alice's mother said, "Don't be afraid, Alice," but Alice wasn't. She squirmed out of her mother's quivering fingers and chased after her brothers up the gangway. The deck of the ship seemed nothing but a large, fenced yard covered with boards, except that it groaned and creaked and swayed back and forth like the pendulum on a clock she had once seen at the magistrate's.
A man wearing both hat and kerchief on his head led them down a narrow, laddered passage into what he called the "'tween decks;" there Alice entertained herself looking at strange faces and listening to strange tongues as her mother hung a curtain around a row of bunks no wider than a set of dough trays. Alice had only just sorted the people around her into families when the tramp of feet overhead grew louder and the creaking and groaning of the ship grew stronger. The deck below her feet began to slant, a little and then a little more, and a collection of cries sprung up around them: "We're away! We sail!"
Bound - The Story Behind the Story
Bound - Reading Guide