I finally got Part 10 up after a long absence.
Aggie lived up to Molly’s first impression, a terse and demanding taskmaster. She worked Molly hard, setting her to bread-making, sausage making, ironing, washing and ironing. Then came the spinning and weaving. No wonder Master Wharton hadn’t been concerned, knowing he had an expert in house. From the wool not needed by the house, Aggie told the master sold her blankets and yarn for good prices, earnings they shared. When Molly looked discouraged at her tasks, Aggie was quick to remind her “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” It seemed Aggie begrudged her even a breath of fresh air at the back door. Aggie was kind enough to give her a blanket and some mattress ticking for their lodgings in the barn, for which Molly was very grateful. Nights buried up only in the hay would have been very uncomfortable. Covers over and under hay proved a great boon. Aggie also gave her some of her fine homespun for drawers and petticoats. Molly was trying hard to like her, but found it hard going when Aggie abraided her for clumsiness or ignorance at her new tasks. Molly found little in the dour woman to recommend her beyond her gifts. Despite her taciturn nature, Aggie began to share a few bits of their life before coming to Jamestown. Learning they’d lost three children to a fever in one week made Molly more understanding of her distance and left her feel more warmly toward Aggie, though she never broached a personal remark, expecting a rebuff. Master Wharton never interfered in the running of the house, only advising if there would be a guest for dinner or an order for weaving.
With good food, both Molly and Andrew filled out. With the hard work of timbering and farming, Andrew’s muscles bulged. He enjoyed the days working with the voluable Bartles. Master Wharton sometimes joined them at their tasks, swinging an ax or harvesting tobacco. In the late afternoons, they spent a couple of hours at the forge. After a few tries, Andrew was turning out the precious nails and learning to shoe horses. Should they finish early enough, Bartles helped Andrew a bit with the room he was constructing in the barn. Andrew used some of the first lumber to build a rope-bed for himself and Molly. The straw-stuffed ticking and blanket finished off a fine bed, soon to be joined by a table, chairs, and chest. They often took their suppers and Sunday meals in their snug room. Aggie helped Molly weave a second blanket before the cold winds of winter moved in, which Molly appreciated despite her resentment.
Andrew and Molly had their Sundays to themselves attending church and socializing with others of their class, soon learning they were in a good situation. Many indentured servants were poorly fed and abused, not living long enough to work out heir time. Should an unmarried bondswoman fall pregnant, she could be punished with up to thirty lashes or levied a fine of the equivalent of thirty-seven dollars, as well as have up to two hundred forty days service could be added to her time for lost work and the master could petition to have her child placed out for care. Quite often, women were raped then punished should they become pregnant. Should an English bondswoman give birth to a mulatto child, the punishment could be greater.
Andrew and Molly practiced withdrawal during sex, fearing pregnancy, despite the Biblical injunction against it. Their time already looked far too long for them to chance increasing it by having a child. Despite these precautions, a few months in, Molly’s courses were several days late. She kept her worry to herself, not wanting to trouble Andrew unnecessarily. One Saturday, her anxiety came to a head when she and Aggie went to the post to deliver some weaving and saw a young girl publicly flogged for the crime of pregnancy out of wedlock. Molly wept at the cruelty. When she could not be consoled, Aggie guessed the reason for her distress. “Are you breeding?” Molly dropped her eyes, not answering. “I’ll make you a tea that will fix you right up. You’ll drink a cup a day and these things won’t trouble you. Our lives are not our own.”
Gratefully, Molly drank her tea and bled the next day. Every day thereafter, she had a cup of Aggie’s tea and had no more scares. She felt closer to Aggie after that, knowing she was softer than her crusty exterior belied.
Andrew and Bartles spent their mornings laboring over the money crop, tobacco. When John Rolfe had introduced tobacco to England, colonists had gone wild over tobacco, devoting all their efforts and land to its cultivation. They’d nearly starved after refusing to plant food crops needed to make the colony self-sufficient, till a law was enacting requiring them to plant food crops to be added to public larder. In addition to tobacco, they grew corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, yams, and several other vegetables. They raised, cows, pigs, goats, and sheep as well as availing themselves of game and fish to enrich their diet. In the afternoons, they cleared timber, always leaving some time for blacksmithing. Soon Andrew was turning out the priceless nails, latches, hinges, and horseshoes colonists were desperate for. Bartles confided his own share from the sales would soon be sufficient to set himself a forge and smith when he worked his time out. Andrew should have skill enough by the time he left to take over. They always saved a little time back to work on the room Andrew was framing up in the barn for himself and Molly, even knocking together a table, benches and rope bed. They took their meals alone in their home on Sundays.
Though Jamestown was not established on the principles of religious freedom, it was assumed colonists would attend Anglican services, the established English religion. Andrew and Molly eagerly attended, using the opportunity to mingle with other indentured servants, learning they were fortunate in their master. Starting out as a bondsman was no impediment to moving up socially once a servant worked out their time, but they wouldn’t have expected to socialize in the homes of colonists. Unfortunately, disease was rampant and conditions so harsh, that almost half died before working out their time.
Unlike slaves who had also been transported to Jamestown, indentured servants did have rights and could appeal to the legal system, though it was most often relatives who appealed successfully on their behalf. They had no say in who indentured them, could be beaten, and earned no wages nor could they marry without the master’s consent.
Though they weren’t free, they had a good master and the last year of Bartles and Aggie’s service passed quickly. The two would be soon moving to twenty-five acres where Bartles and Andrew had built a cabin with an outbuilding that would serve as a blacksmith shop and barn. The barn and smithy were much more commodious than the cabin, since they were necessary for their livelihood. The twelve by twelve foot cabin could be expanded at any time. For the present, it was tight and sufficient to their simple needs with its fireplace stretching half-way across one end, its rope bed, a table with benches, and a chest for linens. A couple of shelves held a few crocks and pots. It would be easy enough to add rooms with the rich store of available timber.