Molly and Andrew Part 17

Molly was stunned to see Andrew standing before her.  She’d long ago given him up. He was emancipated and scarred, little resembling the healthy man she’d last seen.  He dropped to the ground at her feet, wrapping his arms around her legs. “Molly, Molly, I thought I’d never see you again.”

Overwhelmed at his unexpected return after so long, she was bewildered and confused.  As he wept and buried his head in her skirts, she dropped to her knees and held him.  The little girls clung to their mother as she called to Jamie,  “Go get Pap and Gran!  Run! Run!”

Jamie whirled and ran, shrieking, “Pap!  Gran!  Ma wants you!  Hurry!”

Molly felt no connection to the poor wretch she was trying to comfort. Her crying girls added to the confusion by pulling at her.  Amid all this, she heard the weak cries of an infant coming from his pack.

“”Feed him, please.  He’s had nothing since yesterday morning.”  With this, Andrew struggled to work a pack off his back.  He lay it on the ground, tenderly unwrapping it to reveal a starving baby boy, bound in a malodorous blanket.  The child could have been no more than a few weeks old.  “Help please,” he beseeched her.  “He may yet die.”

“God in Heaven!  Poor baby!  Hurry girls.  We have to feed him!”  Forgetting Andrew, she scooped up the wailing baby and ran for the house, pulling Hannah by the hand. Aggie kept up the best she could.  She couldn’t see Will, Aggie, and Jamie reaching Andrew behind her.  With the baby in one arm, she heated milk in a pan over the fire.  As it warmed, she hastily washed the baby, wrapping it snugly in a towel.  Dipping a clean cloth in warm milk over and over, the baby sucked. Meanwhile, Will and Addie supported Andrew between them, seated him at the table, and got him food and drink.  Afterward, Will helped him bathe and get into James’ nightshirt then into bed in spare room.

In the meantime, Molly and Addie bathed and dressed the baby, settling it in the cradle.  Once it was full, warm, and dry, the baby gave them no trouble.

As the excitement settled and the children played at their feet, Molly, Will, and Addie tried to piece the story together.  Apparently, Andrew and a few others had been enslaved by the Powhatan tribe, since his capture.  They had been able to escape after a recent trader brought measles, decimating the village, leaving no one to pursue them.  They’d been traveling several days and he the baby were the only survivors.

Molly had no idea what to make of Andrew’s return with the baby.  She’d married Andrew in England and then, thinking him dead, married James in Jamestown.,  She had no idea where this left her, but today there was business to tend.  At Addie’s suggestion, she sent Will to pay to fine and bargain for the indenture of a sixteen-year-year old girl who was sitting in jail for the crime of having had a bastard child.  It had been stillborn yesterday, so she should still be able to nurse this baby.

She would just deal with what had to be done today and let tomorrow take care of itself.  For now, everyone under her roof was fed and safe.

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Andrew and Molly Part 13

Molly felt a change in the air when she went into the post with Aggie with trade goods.  A pretty woman attracted a lot of attention where men vastly outnumbered women.  From time to time, a ship arrived bearing women convicts involuntarily indentured.  As often as not, they were offered marriage.  Should they go to a house without a wife and not be offered marriage, their future was unsure.  Rape was an ever present concern for a bondswoman with punishment for pregnancy out of wedlock a surety.  Molly felt the men looking at her differently, now Andrew was gone.  One or two who’d been eyeing her tried to buy her bond from Wharton, though thankfully, so far he’d declined.  Molly knew with the spring work looming ahead, he’d have to engage help.  She kept as close to home as possible, hoping not to attract attention.

In her grief, she wasn’t thriving, going about her tasks by rote.  Aggie treated her much more warmly, initiating conversations and sharing tales of her girlhood, courtship and early marriage.  Without her to take her mind off her troubles, Molly had little else to think of except her fear and grief.

After a few weeks, Molly’s fears eased a bit when Master Wharton made no move to change their situation.  She worked hard, trying to make his home comfortable and Aggie made sure she knew just how he liked his favorite dishes and how he liked things done.  When her appetite returned, she thought it was because she took pride in her cooking.  When she started throwing up and her breasts got tender she feared it was something else.  Molly had confided to a friend at chapel, she was sleeping in the barn again to guard against the appearance of evil.  While Bartles and Aggie were glad she was protecting her reputation, they were fearful her confidence might attract unwelcome company.  Master Wharton insisted she keep the door barred and Jackie at her side when she was abed.  Between them, Wharton and Bartles resolved to keep her safe.  Sure enough, it wasn’t long before Jackie woke her lunging at the door and barking.  Master Wharton fired shots at a man fleeing in the woods.

Aggie noted Molly going about her labors with her collar button opened when she came over with some baking.  “Why is your collar button undone?  It’s a cool morning?  When I was in the family way, the first thing I noticed was a tight collar button.  How long since you had your courses?”

Molly stammered.  “I’m not sure.  I think it was a week or so before Andrew was lost.”

“I thought you had the look of breeding.  Have you been sick in the mornings?”  Aggie went on.  “Do you have cravings?  How long since you had your tea every day?”

Molly looked devastated.  “I never thought of it since the trouble, till I got sick in the mornings and my breasts felt tender, but Aggie, I can’t give this child up, no matter what.  It’s the last of Andrew.  What if he comes back?  I know I could punished for breeding, but there has to be a way.  Anyone can count back and know when this babe was conceived.  It would be too cruel to take it from me when I’ve nothing else.  What am I going to do?  Is there any way you and Bartles could buy my bond?  I’ll work for you as long as you ask me to if you’ll just help me save my baby!”

“Oh Molly, we have just a few coins after equipping our cabin.  It’s not possible for us to buy a bushel of corn, much less your contract.  Of course, you and the child could stay with us, but the master has already lost two bondsman.  It’s doubtful he could give you your freedom, even if you stayed with us.  We’ll have to talk to Bartles about all this.  It puts you in a terrible place.  A woman in the family way with no man is in terrible danger in this place.”

Andrew and Molly Part 10

I finally got Part 10 up after a long absence.

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2017/01/14/andrew-and-molly-part-6/

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/andrew-and-molly-part-7/

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/andrew-and-molly-part-8/

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2017/01/19/andrew-and-molly-part-9/

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.

 

Hard Time Marrying Part 18

Apology  Got my stories out of sequence.  To catch up, please go back and read 17 a just posted.  Then move on to 17 b before you read this.  img_1597Anna flung the door open thinking Joe was coming in with milk and eggs.  A tall, thin woman in homespun holding a basket laughed at her surprise.  “I’m Emma, Rufus’s wife.  I was so proud to hear Joe had a new wife I didn’t wait for no invite.  When Rufus said he was coming over to see if Joe I clumb right up in the wagon.  I brung you some eggs, butter, and molasses for a welcome.  It’s gonna be good to have a woman close by to neighbor with. You got any coffee left?”

Though Anya would have hoped to avoid company, she warmed to Emma’s warmth and pulled out a chair from the table for her.  “Set yourself down.  I think the coffee’s still hot.”  She poured them both a cup and put a couple of biscuits on a plate to go with the butter and molasses.

Emma spread butter on a biscuit, ate it thoughtfully, and smiled.  “You make a mighty fine biscuit.  You gonna be a good wife to Joe.  They ain’t nothin’ like good cookin’ to keep a man happy.  I’m glad of it.  I always been partial to Joe.  He’s been alone too long.”

Sally toddled up to Anya’s knee, demanding her attention.  Anya gave her a sip of milk from a cup while she gathered her thoughts, not wanting to betray herself.  “Biscuits do please a man.  I’m proud you like mine.”

“Your baby looks just like you with that white hair and blue eyes.  Maybe Joe will lucky and the one comin’ will look like him.

Hard Time Marrying Part 7

spring-beauty-splashHe checked on the woman and children several times always finding them asleep.  The children’s breathing was regular and less shallow.  The pink of their cheeks faded as the fever dropped.  Twice more he fed and diapered them and assisted the woman to the pot.  The next two days were much the same, more feeding, more dosing with Dr. Marvel, more changing, and always, more washing.  The little boy rallied first, trailing Joe.  From time to time, he called for Mama, but overall seemed contented.  Joe looked forward to the woman regaining her strength and assuming her responsibilities.  She was attentive to the baby girl who still lay abed with her.  Thankfully, the baby finally got hungry enough to accept the bottle after a few tries.  It made it easier to get the Dr. Marvel’s in her, anyway.  The woman could barely stay awake long enough to feed the baby but kept it at her side.  On the fourth day, the woman began to eat regular food, though she mashed it first.  One day, she coughed and spit a cracked molar into her palm, increasing Joe’s guilt about burying her alive, though he still didn’t remember hitting her with the shovel.  Joe had hopes when she’d learn some English soon, since he didn’t understand a word she said when she did speak to the baby or cry out in pain upon moving.  She had picked up on coffee, milk, baby, hurt, boy, pot, and a few other words, but there was no conversation yet.  She never called him “Joe.”

Though there was no real talking between, Joe sensed a change.  The woman was able to leave the bed for longer and longer periods, and kept the baby on her hip as she padded around the cabin. Her bruises were fading and she was able to hold the baby with her left arm and feed it with her right. She was turning out to be a beauty, but looked so young to be a mother.  It warmed him to see the tiny girl laugh at her mother, though the boy clearly preferred Joe.  Joe had expected him to show more interest in his mother once she was out of bed, but he didn’t.  Maybe boys just liked men. Joe rigged a rough rope bed in the corner near the fireplace for the boy, thinking he could make a trundle when the girl was older. He was starting to think of her as “Anna” instead of “the woman.”  Anna only referred to the girl as “Baby” and the boy as “Boy.”  One day, he brought her the first Spring Beauty and she called him “Joe.”  Joe was glad of her and the children, glad of the life opening up to him.

That night the coyotes woke him.

Hard Time Marrying Part 2

“These young’uns is got scarlet fever. You ain’t leaving ‘em for this town to deal with. Jist take ‘em on back where you come from.”  The sheriff steadfastly refused responsibility for the children.

“But they ain’t mine.  I don’t even know their names.”

“Ya married their ma ago ain’t cha?  Then they’s yourn!  I hate it for ‘ya, but I ain’t gonna letcha leave ‘em here to sicken the whole town.  We’ll getcha some provisions to help out, but that’s it.  Ya got to git out’a town with them sick young’uns.  Pull this wagon out to that mesquite tree ‘n  I’ll git ‘cha some supplies.

Morosely, Joe waited on the edge of the sorry town as a wagon pulled up.  Shouting at him to stay back, a gimpy old geezer rolled off a barrel of flour, putting a burlap bag of beans beside it, and piling a few cans of milk, a bolt of material, and a few paper wrapped parcels on top of it.  He went on his way, leaving Joe to wrestle them into the wagon the best he could, stowing them so they wouldn’t crush the burning children.

Joe felt as low as he’d ever had, pulling up to his rough cabin. He knew nothing about children or the sick.   Maybe these poor wretches wouldn’t suffer too long.