James Andrew Wharton made his appearance seven months later, a hearty little fellow. His parents and Will and Aggie Bartles purely doted on him. Molly was amused that she’d ever thought James or Aggie stern, especially as they coddled and spoke nonsense to Jamie. Molly and Aggie enjoyed their new status as free citizens and were active in church.
James Wharton lost some of his austere persona with the happiness of his marriage. Molly’s relationship with him blossomed as she had leisure to spoil him, a luxury she and Andrew had never enjoyed. She was surprised to find him a skilled and generous lover with none of the urgency she’d experienced with Andrew. Before Jamie was a year old, she was pregnant again. James was ecstatic to see his family increasing. He engaged a young bondswoman woman to help Molly as soon as he could. James had expanded his acreage and engaged another man soon after they married.
Molly gave birth to a girl she named for Addie then little Hannah the next year. She teased James that he’d tricked saying he wouldn’t be a virile husband then landed her two babies in a year. He added rooms as the family grew, including one for Josie, the bondswoman. The children called Addie and Will grandparents. The family truly thrived.
The four years Molly shared with James were precious, all the more because she knew she wouldn’t have him with her forever. One evening after supper, he took her hand. “Mollygirl, I am old. When I work hard, it pains my chest. I want you to know, you are the best part of my life. I have my affairs in order. I will engage another man to ease my labor, but I won’t be with you much longer.”
Molly wept softly in his arms. “I will always love you, dearest.”
He began spending his days around the house with Molly as the bondsman worked the farm. Two months later, Molly went to wake him for breakfast and found he’d left left. She’d lost two husbands before she was twenty-five.
She grieved James as Will Bartles helped her learn to run the farm along with the two bondsman, though not a day passed that she didn’t think of his strength and kindness. One morning as she hung clothes on the line, a man in buckskins came running from the woods. She was gathering her little ones to run when she heard a familiar voice calling, “Molly! Molly!”