Andrew and Molly Finale

Molly went about her business as usual.  With four children under five, the house and homestead to run, she had all she could handle.  Even with Malcolm and Martha Wilson’s help and Rosemarie to nurse the baby, every moment held its demands.  The farm was now in excess of five hundred acres.  Will managed it for her, as well as continuing his blacksmithing.  They’d planned to negotiate for three more bondsmen and increase the timber harvesting the next spring.  Molly had hopes she Andrew could work their situation out, but he’d not approached her, though she did see him helping Will about his blacksmith shop.

The older couple strolled over after supper that evening. Will spoke to Molly.  “Molly, you and Andrew have matters you need to discuss.  God joined you together and you were separated through no fault on either part.  Your circumstances are tangled.  Neither of you benefits from antagonism.  Andrew wants to meet to discuss your situation.  Are you willing?  He’d like to come over if you are ready.”

“We do need to talk.  We vowed to love each other once.  This is a test of that promise.  It would be best for everyone if we find common ground.”

In minutes Will was back with Andrew.  “Can I see the baby?” Rosemarie reluctantly surrendered the baby but stayed at his side.  “He looks recovered.  His cheeks are round again.  I am grateful.”  Rosemarie beamed when he handed the baby back.     “I was wrong to reproach you for marrying.  Will has explained your danger.  I had no right.  The child is my son.  The Indians held another captive, the wife of a trader.  She was killed when we were escaping.  I want you back.  Will you think about it?

Molly thought long before she answered.  “We are not the same people who loved each other then, but we have needs and there are children who need us both.  I have been leaning on Will and Aggie too long.  You need to know, James left half the farm to me, the rest to the children, so it will never be yours.  I have the final say in its use, but land we get from this day forward we share.  Can you agree to that?”

“All I have thought of was getting back to you.  I was a bondsman, then a slave.  The life you offer is more than I ever hoped for.  We are still young enough to have a long life together.  I am willing.”  he answered.

“Will, can you fetch the reverend?  We need marrying.”

They were  married more than thirty years and had five more children.  Like all couples, they wrangled many times, but together increased their holdings.  It was a good life.

 

 

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Andrew and Molly Part 18

Andrew slept most of the next forty-eight hours, only waking long enough to tend his needs and ask after the baby.  With Rosemarie in attendance, the baby had little need of anyone else.  Ecstatic at her reprieve, she’d barely relinquish her hold on the baby, sleeping on a pallet by its cradle.  The little girls were delighted at the acquisition of the baby, vying for the chance to kiss its pink cheeks and rub its blond fuzzy head.  Even Jamie wasn’t too proud to hold it, being thoroughly tired of girls. They insisted it was their brother, though Molly kept reminding them they didn’t know whose baby it was.  “That man gave us this baby.” Addie insisted.  “When Pap gave  us a puppy we got to keep it.  We didn’t have a baby.”

“No Aggie.  That’s not the way it works with babies.  This baby may have a mother who’s looking for it, right now.” Molly explained.

“That’s not fair.  She can just get another one.  We need this one.” Addie insisted.

The baby quickly plumped up with regular feedings.  The childrens’ hand-me-downs were put to good use.  Rosemarie fairly doted on it, lavishing on it all the love she meant for her lost baby.

Late on the afternoon of the second day, Andrew woke and wandered through looking for Molly, encountering Rosemarie nursing the baby.  He asked after Molly.

“Mistress Wharton stepped across to see Mistress Bartles.”

“No, I am looking for my wife Molly, not Mistress Wharton.” He explained.

“The only Molly I’ve met is Mistress Molly Wharton. I just came after the baby got here.”  she answered.

He found Molly watching the children at play in the backyard.  “Whose children are those?”  he asked.

“They are mine.  After you were gone, we all thought you were dead.  I found I was to have your child.  To save me from trouble, James Wharton married me.  You know what can happen to a bondswoman found with child.  Jamie is your child, though James Wharton gave him his name.”  she paused.

“You married Wharton! How could you marry Wharton?  Why didn’t you wait?  You didn’t even give me the chance to get back!  How could you marry so soon?” he demanded of her.

Will and Aggie walked up, having seen them in conversation.  It was clear Andrew was overwrought. Will addressed Andrew.  “Hold your peace, man.  Wharton saved her by the marrying.  She could have been punished or sold to another.  She was fortunate he offered.  She’d have been foolish to refuse.  Your capture left her in a grave situation.”

Molly spoke.  “I’ll thank you to compose yourself.  Will, can you put him up?  Come children!”  With that, she left them, stalking to the house.

 

Andrew and Molly Part 16

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!”

 

Andrew and Molly Part 14

Aggie and Molly sat down with Bartles at the day’s end telling her troubling situation.

“Molly, if I had money, I’d gladly buy your bond.  We hardly have two pennies to rub together.  I’ll talk to Master Wharton for you.  He’s a fair man.  Losing two bondsmen has left him in a dire situation as well.  I will speak to him now.”  With that, he left the women, and strode to Master Barton’s house on his mission.  In an hour or so he was back.  “Molly, Master Wharton wants to speak with you.  Aggie, come with us as witness.”

Molly felt panicked, not prepared to deal with her fate so soon.  She had no idea what awaited her as she walked in his back door.  Master Wharton greeted them.

“Come in the front room.  This is no talk for the kitchen.”  Though she’d cleaned it every day since her arrival, Molly felt she was seeing the room for the first time with its golden pine walls, large fireplace, table and chairs, and bench.  A large quilt covered-bed filled one corner.   She’d swept and scrubbed the pine floor with lye-water till it was white-bleached.  Even though it had never been her home, it had become familiar and dear, especially since she and Andrew had so recently occupied the small bedroom off the kitchen.  It was certainly the most comfortable dwelling she’d ever lived in.

“Let’s get straight to our business.”  Molly felt a sense of doom at his terse demeanor. Battles has explained your situation.  You know mine. We have to assume Andrew is dead.  I have to engage another bondsman or a couple.  My cash stores are depleted.  A woman in your position is in peril.  I have two offers to buy your bond, both single men.  There is the possibility, but no promise you might be offered marriage, though of course, neither man is aware of your condition.  I cannot guess how that might change their offers.

I have grown fond of both you and Andrew over the past months.  I loathe the idea of your falling into peril.  Though I am an fifty-seven years old and you but a girl, I offer you marriage.  I realize you cannot expect the comfort a young man could give you, but offer I marriage if you desire it.  I would welcome your child as my own.  I had never thought to know the joy of a wife and children again after losing my family.  You can take some time to think before giving me your decision.

Molly had come in expecting to learn she’d be cast out, not offered marriage.  Even though she’d had little time to grieve Andrew’s loss, she knew she needed Master Wharton’s protection.  This was a time for reason, not emotion.  The welfare of her child was her main consideration.

“I’d be honored to be your wife.” She answered.

Wharton nodded.  “I’ll ask the minister to announce the banns.  Battles, can Molly reside with you till our marriage? I want no gossip.”

“Certainly, Master Wharton.  We’d be honored.”  He and Aggie were beaming.

“And call me James.  You are a free man now.” He directed.

“Yes indeed, James.  My name is Will. “The men shook hands heartily and James embraced Aggie.  He turned to Molly.  “I won’t kiss you till after we wed.  James, make sure there is no gossip on my wife’s good name.”  With that, he took both Molly’s hands in his.  “I will keep out of the house while you are about your duties until we marry.”

Andrew and Molly Part 12

vincent_van_gogh_-_mourning_woman

Vincent Van Gogh’s Mourning Woman

Molly shrieked Andrew’s name, hoping he’d come out of hiding, till Aggie coolly took control, quickly aware of the danger to them all.  “Quiet yourself, woman!  Go for Master Wharton.  You may bring them down on us!  We must tend the one at hand and let the men seek the others.”

Terrified, Molly raced for the cabin rousing Master Wharton to the calamity.  He was dealing with a neighbor who raced for reinforcements among the other settlers.  It had only been a brief twenty years since the Jamestown Massacre and there had been trouble several times recently.  Master Wharton and a party of twenty or followed a trail into the woods.   From broken branches, it was clear someone was being dragged.  Other women joined Aggie and Molly, helping get Bartles into the cabin.

Though he’d lost blood and was in shock from scalping and  other grave injuries, he was able to confirm they’d been attacked by Indians.  With that, he slipped into unconsciousness, unable to give any word of the other men.  Aggie  covered his head wound with a poultice bandage and treated him the best she could with herbal remedies.  He lingered between life and death for days.  When he finally roused, he remembered nothing about the incident.

The men were gone through the night while the two wives tended Bartles.  Fearing attack, the other women returned to the enclosure of the settlement, promising to return the next day with supplies and medicine.  Toward morning, the party returned with Benjamin White, barely alive, suffering from broken ribs and broken legs and arms.  The Indians had no doubt intended him for slavery, but apparently when he couldn’t keep up, they’d broken his legs, kicked in his ribs and left him for dead.  He’d also been scalped and could tell them nothing. The women and the injured returned to the safety of the settlement while the injured men fought for their lives.  Amazingly, Bartles, the older, recovered while the younger man who’d languished in the woods for hours perished from a suppurating head wound and fever.

Naturally, the colonists were terrified of a return to hostilities and remained cloistered together for days.  Molly was wild with grief at Andrew’s abduction, but held a little hope he’d survived and might somehow escape to return to her, though the hope dwindled day by day.  She’d heard enough tales to be aware he might have already been slaughtered or was enslaved at the very least.  If he didn’t manage to get away soon, he’d not likely survive long.

After the initial terror, life had to go on.  Crops had to be worked, animals tended, and work donei.  The settlement could not support the influx of outsiders for long, so they returned to their homes and lives.  Molly stayed with Aggie and Bartles in their tiny cabin to help tend Bartles during the night for a time, returning to her duties during the day.  She repaired to the barn room left vacant by Benjamin’s death as soon as Aggie could spare her, not wanting to share a cabin with Master Wharton.  A bondswoman could easily to fall into trouble that would continue her servitude.

Molly moved through her days woodenly, lost in her grief.  At first, she tried to imagine scenarios where Andrew escaped and would be returning to her.  In her dreams, he held her in his arms as they counted off the days till they’d be free with their own land, just as he’d always done.  They’d have a fine farm, extend their acreage, engage servants of their own, and have many strong sons and sweet daughters to share their lives.  They’d looked forward to growing old surrounded by loving family.  She was always devastated to awake to the reality of continuing a life of servitude alone.   Through gossip, she even learned that Master Wharton could compel her to complete Andrew’s contract when she finished her own.  The possibility of six more years faced her.  In her fear, she avoided any conversation about her future situation with Master Wharton.  She prayed he’d continue to treat her kindly, but understood he’d have to acquire a new bondsman or couple.  He’d lost two workers.  Where would that leave her?  The barn room would be needed if he only engaged a man.  Should he engage a couple and a single man, he might sell the remainder of her time to another.  God only knew what a new master might demand.  There weren’t many single women in the colony.  A woman was in danger of being abused then punished should she fall pregnant.  The best she could hope was that a fair man would buy her time and offer her marriage.  The thought of her future was terrifying.

 

 

 

 

Andrew and Molly Part 9

img_1779WhilesWharton had other matters to attend, Andrew and Bartles worked for hours that afternoon sawing trees with a cross-cut saw, chopping off branches with an ax, then piling the brush for later burning.  Andrew’s back ached and the muscles of his arms screamed.  At the end of the day, they were rewarded with a half-dozen stumps, a huge pile of brush, and a stack of logs.  The timber would be transported to a nearby sawmill for processing into lumber.  Wharton told Andrew he could take what he needed to fashion a room in the barn.  The remainder would be used on the place or sold in the colonies or shipped back to England.  Timber was one of the most important crops shipped back to England since her forests had been stripped.  Ship-building, an important trade, was always hungry for lumber. During a brief break, Bartles told him they usually worked the crops in the early morning, then split the afternoon between lumbering and blacksmithing as the need and weather permitted.  Blacksmithing was illegal in the colonies, but since their product was not great enough to impact the demand from England, they’d not had a problem yet.

Aggie sent Molly out with a pewter pitcher of beer and the men paused for a short break.  Battles spoke to the two of them.  When she turned to leave them, Bartles bade her stay. ” I came here as a bondsman almost four years ago.  I’d done blacksmithing on an estate in England.  Like you, my master died and I had to move on.  We’d have starved if we hadn’t bonded. It was a devilish passage we made, more than twelve weeks.  That’s when we met Master Wharton, but he warn’t no master then.  He was a sailor what broke his leg two days out and couldn’t work.  We took care of him or he’d have never lived.  When we got here, ship’s captain bound him over for lost work owed.  We was all bound to Mistress Ipswich when we landed, the woman that owned this farm. She was a hard, God-fearing woman, the meanest Christian I ever knew.  She took a fancy to Master Wharton not long after.  Once she was set on marrying him, he had no choice.  She meant to have him, one way or another.  He give up and married her after awhile, even though he didn’t have no fondness for her.  It was a hard bargain with never a minutes’ peace.  After a year or so, she fell out with a fit and died three days later.  He was Master after that.  When he found out I could smith, he got me a forge and helped me get a start.  I get to keep half I make.  He don’t have to let me keep nothing.  My time will be up in a few months and I’d be proud to teach you.  I’m telling you this so you’ll know you’ve got a chance.  Didn’t me nor Wharton have nothing when he got here.  Now he’s got a fine farm and soon, me and Aggie will be worked our time out an able to make a living.  Do right by Wharton and he’ll do right by you.  He don’t need to know we talked.  Lots of bondsman die before they finish their time, but you got a good place.”

Molly and Andrew were greatly heartened by Bartle’s story.  “I thank you for telling us, Bartles.”  Andrew told him.  “We are grateful.”  Molly flashed him a smile as she turned back to the house with the pitcher.

“I’d best get back in the house before Aggie skins me.”

“That she will,” chuckled Bartles.  “She don’t tolerate no slacking in herself nor nobody else, but she’s a good woman.”

Andrew and Molly Part 8

Published out of order

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.

 

 

 

Andrew and Molly Part 7

img_1779Master Reeve’s bondsman gestured for Andrew and Molly to follow while he bundled their order. He wrapped cord around the linsey-woolsey so it could be packed more easily.  The rest of the items went into a neat paper-wrapped bundle of a weight Molly could manage, talking to the all the while.  “I am Jeffers and bound for six more years.    Wharton seems a hard but fair man.  I hope to see you in town sometimes, or on Sunday when our time is our own.  I wish you Godspeed.”  With that, he hoisted and settled the heavy bundle of yard goods on Andrew’s back and loaded Molly’s arms with her parcels.

The two labored under their burdens as they made their way along the rutted track.  The morning sun was already hot, the air muggy.  Andrew hadn’t gone far before the weight of the pack ate into his shoulders.  He rested his weary back by leaning against a tree a time or two, knowing he’d never get the pack back on if he took it off.  Molly shifted her bundles frequently as she fatigued.  After a half a mile, they rounded a curve to see the Wharton farm in a stump-filled clearing.  A hearty stand of tobacco took up most of the cleared ground, a patch of corn and a kitchen garden the rest.  Clearly, tobacco was the major crop.  Early on, the colony had nearly perished when farmers opted to plant all their ground in tobacco, the lucrative option, rather than food crops. A law was passed requiring each farm to provide a portion of corn to the community storehouse, enabling them to feed themselves, rather than rely on England to import food.

The cabin was strictly utilitarian, a modest one-story dwelling of rough timber, a well in the dooryard.  The garden plots crowded up to the house, no cleared ground wasted.  A rough outbuilding stood to the rear of the house.  The stumps attested to farmland wrenched from the forest.  Andrew got a glimpse of his future beholding the forest eager to reclaim the cleared ground.  Master Wharton would be granted an additional fifty acres each for paying the transport his servant’s passage to the colony, a good deal indeed.  The colony was desperate for cheap labor to work the farms, relying on the indentured and enslaved.  Sadly, only about forty percent of the indentured lived to work out the terms of their service.

Master Wharton was waiting as they walked up.  A gray-haired woman and an emaciated man in his fifties stood with him.  “This is my bondsman, Bartle and his wife Aggie.  They are about to work out their time.  He will be teaching you smithing and your woman will work under Aggie.”  If he knew their names, he didn’t bother using them.  “They will show you to your quarters and get you started after supping.”

Andrew and Molly Part 6

img_1746“Come with me.”  Master Wharton led them across a dusty street to a store fronted by a long verandah.  “Caleb Reeves, I am back to do my trading.  I left off two smoked hams, a side of bacon, a bushel of yams, five pounds of nails, and that bale of tobacco over there with your man on my way in this morning. I am ready to settle up and I’ll take one hundred pounds of flour, two pounds tea, a pound of salt, a pack of needles, six spools of blue thread, and twelve yards on of blue Linsey-Woolley.  My goods ought to cover it, by my reckoning.”

“Master Wharton, that won’t cover all you ordered.  I’ll take all the nails you can bring me.  Your hams and tobacco are good.  I don’t get that much call for bacon or yams, but I’ll take them as a favor to you, anyway.  The way I figure it, I’ll need seven pounds of nails to settle your order.”  Caleb Reeves studied Master Wharton expectantly.

Wharton stared him down.  “Have you found another source for nails, then? I can get my price elsewhere if you don’t want to do business.  There will probably be a ship in from England this summer with all the nails you need.  You can pay the English price instead of mine.”  Reeves winced.  The law forbade manufacture of iron products in the colonies, so with the tariff, the English price was far too dear.  It was good to have a source who was willing to take the risk.

“No need for that.  You are beggaring me, but I’ll take your trade.  Pearson, measure up his twelve yards of the blue.  No, make it fourteen.  I’ll not be known as a miser. ”  Pearson carefully measured fourteen yards of the blue reserved for indentured servants, the same blue of his rough garments.

Master Wharton addressed Molly.  “Woman, do you knit?  If you are to have stockings, you’ll make them”

She addressed him.  “I knit well, sir.  I can make all the stockings the house needs.”

“That’s good.  Reeves, give her enough black yarn for two pair for me and two pair of blue for them.  That should outfit them as required.”

“Thank you, Sir.”  Andrew told him.

“You needn’t thank me.  It’s my duty and your due, no more and no less.”  Turning to Reeves he instructed him without introducing the two men,  “This is my new bondsman.  If I send him with an order, fill it, but keep careful count.  I’ll not be swindled by any man.”

“”I always take care in my accounts.”  Reeves appeared offended.

Master Wharton addressed Andrew.  “Load the flour behind my saddle.  You will carry the rest.  My farm is a half mile on the right.  I’ll go ahead.  You won’t be trying to escape.  There’s nowhere to go.  If you run, the Indians will get you if the swamps don’t ”  With this, he urged his horse home, leaving the two to make their way with his parcels.