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Barton led them to their lodgings, a corner of the barn. “Master Wharton says you’ll sleep here. After our day’s over, I’ll help you get set up. We’ll be felling trees if you want logs to fashion a room. You can chink the cracks with mud and hay to make it tighter. Fresh hay makes a fine bed. My woman will bring you some ticking for bedding. When it gets bitter this winter, you can layer hay over yourselves and sleep warm. When Aggie and me move on, you’ll move in the house. You won’t be bothered. Jackie here won’t allow anyone on the place. He skins under the door here to sleep in the barn.” He scratched the ears of a large mongrel. Andrew wasn’t altogether comfortable sharing space with the intimidating canine and hoped he wouldn’t object to company. He turned to Molly. “Go in to Aggie. She’ll see to you.”
Molly found Aggie at the hearth scooping beans into a crockery bowl. “Get the potatoes out of the ashes,” she barked. Molly didn’t see anything but several fist-sized rocks in the ashes. Anxious not to get not to incur her wrath, Molly took a poker and rolled the dark lumps out of the ashes.
“Don’t stand there like a dunce! Crack’em and get the taties on the table. Here, I’ll not show you but once.” With that, she whacked a lump with the poker, freeing a steaming yam from its clay coat. Molly scurried to crack the other shells, releasing the fragrant yams. She put the crock full on the table alongside the pots of honey and butter. Aggie banged a stack of plates on the table and passed her a pot of stewed squash and pone of cornbread. Molly couldn’t keep her eyes off the pot of beans with bacon floating on top. She’d never seen this much food at one time in her life. “You’ll eat well here. Master knows the value of feeding his bondsmen. He eats with us when there’s no company, but don’t like gabbing at the table. Keep quiet if he don’t speak.”
Barton and Andrew trooped in behind Master Wharton, only taking their places after he was seated at the head of the table. He dropped his head. “Father, bless this food to our strength and give us grace to do thy bidding.” With this, he raised his head and fell to, breaking off a piece of the cornbread, buttering and covering it in honey. Aggie heaped his plate with beans, squash, and yams before passing dishes to her husband. She was waiting to fill his mug with beer when his first mug was finished. She and Molly hurried to replenish as his plates and mugs as the men ate. Finishing off his meal with a final serving of buttered and honeyed cornpone, he pushed back in his chair, patted his full belly, and burped his thanks. ” Father, we thank thee for thy bounty.”
Abruptly, he rose from the table. “Take your ease for a bit.” He seated himself in a rocker in the front room and was soon snoring. Bartles disappeared into his room as well. Andrew remained at the table with his wife and Aggie as they ate. It was so satisfying to have all they wanted.