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Master Wharton bought the indenture of Benjamin White, a recently arrived bondsman, in anticipation of Bartles and Aggie’s completed contract. As soon as their cabin was complete, the older couple moved over, though they’d continue to work another month for Master Wharton. The young couple moved into the house, looking forward to the comfort of the fireplace the next winter. They took their precious bed-linens but left their furniture in the barn-room. Aggie passed her old bedding on to Benjamin since she and Molly had made all new for Aggie’s new home. Molly had proudly presented Aggie with toweling of her own making, the first gift she’d ever been able to give anyone. Aggie and Bartles would go to their new home on twenty-five acres with a cow, horse, plow, bed-linens, seed for their first crop, and a suit of clothes each, their entitlement for completing their indenture.
Bartles, Benjamin, and Andrew planned to work on Bartles’s barn roof as long as the light lasted one August evening. Aggie and Molly served Master Wharton’s dinner and did needlework as they waited for their men. As the light faded they strolled over to the unfinished barn to see what progress they’d made.
“You must be looking forward to be working for yourself,” Molly said companiably. “I’ll miss working by your side, but am glad to see you ready to move to your own place.”
“The four years have been long , it’s true. But if we’d stayed in England, we’d never have come to all this. I never thought to have my own house and land. In three years, you will move to your own place.”
“That will be a fine day.” Molly agreed.
The men were nowhere in sight when they entered the clearing, not answering when the women called out. Rounding the house, they found Bartles unconscious with his bloody body lying amid scattered tools. His bare skull showed through clotted blood where a wide strip bare of scalp. There was no sign of the other two men.
Aggie perceived instantly that the men had been attacked by the Native Americans indigenous to the area. The colonists had a long history of difficulties with the neighbors they considered savages. In 1622, three-hundred-forty colonists were massacred, nearly ending the settlement. Colonists had long felt God intended the land for them, a concept the natives had difficulty embracing. As a result of many lies and betrayals, hostilities often erupted to rupture the friable peace.
The three bondsmen had fallen victim, two missing and one clinging to life.