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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Andrew and Molly Part 3

img_1740“What have we gotten into?”  moaned Andrew after three days locked in the hold.  “Why did we Ever do this?  I’ve got to figure a way out.”

“No!  We wouldn’t be here if we had any other choice.  We were starving and near to death.  Things will have to be better in the colony.  We’ll be on a farm again and free with land in four years.  It’s the only way.”  Molly’s optimism was wearing thin, but she held out hope.  “Listen!  We’re moving!”  Sure enough, the chains creaked as the anchor was lifted and they were obviously leaving the harbor.    An hour or so later, after they were too far to swim for shore, the doors to the hold were thrown open.  The incarcerated rushed for the door and stood on deck for a last, long look at England.  Many wailed as land slipped out of sight, knowing they’d never see home again nor maybe even the new country.

Time on deck made the long journey more bearable, except for the miserable days of rain and storms. though it didn’t improve the quality or quantity of the rations.  Fighting and attacks were common in the hold, though few had anything but weavilly biscuits to steal.  Coughing and moaning broke their guarded sleep.  Andrew never left Molly for a moment, knowing she’d be assaulted.  Almost every morning, a cold body or two was pulled from the hold.  The stench became more horrendous as the weeks passed.  Neither suffered from sea-sickness till mid crossing when a storm raged.  Both wretched miserably, not even attempting to make it to the bucket.  Many of the emancipated passed and were slid into the raging sea.  Andrew would have gladly sought death had it not been for Molly.

Finally, the weather cleared and they were able to go above board again, feeling hope for survival.  After seven weeks, a shout rang out. The Jamestown Colony was sighted!

Maybe they’d live after all!

Links to Parts 1 and 2

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2017/01/04/andrew-and-molly-part-1/

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/andrew-and-molly-part-2/

 

 

Andrew and Molly Part 2

img_1702 img_1704After filling their starving bellies with greasy stew and quarts of ale, Andrew and Molly  signed away their next four years, too sated to consider the uncertainty of the life facing them.  In fact, they were signing away the certainty of poverty, degradation, and possible imprisonment had they remained.  In that time, people could not expect to rise above their station.  Having lost the position as farm servants to which they were born, it was unlikely they’d ever find anything more than seasonal farm employment, working mostly at planting or harvest when the workload was heavy.  Starvation would likely have been their eventual lot.  Should they stay in the city, it’s unlikely they’d find work.  Many in their situation drifted into prostitution and crime.  It is likely Molly would have dried of disease, drink, or victimization on the streets and Andrew would have ended up on the gallows or bound over as an involuntary indentured servant.   Their best chance for a better life lay with the choice they’d made.

Once they’d signed, the agent wasted no time escorting  them on board the Elizabeth Ann.  She looked imposing from without, but her charm faded as Mr. Peabody led them deep into the bowels of the ship.  Their quarters in the lowest level were dark, wet, and malodorous.  There was no provision for privacy.  They’d be relieving themselves in the communal slop jar, which would ostensibly be dumped periodically, unless it tipped over first.  Hammocks served for sleeping.  There were no other furnishings.  Restricted below deck until after sailing to avoid defection, they got a measure of beer and weevilly biscuits three times a day.  The smell was horrendous.  After their first exhausted sleep, they awoke to find themselves a part of a growing crowd of voluntary and involuntary holdmates ranging from bonded servants like themselves to young children scooped up off the street all the way prostitutes and hardened criminals who’d barely escaped the gallows.  The strong preyed on the weak.  Their miserable sleep was interrupted by lighting, moaning, and the occasional fight.  Periodically, the door above opened and another unfortunate joined their miserable lot.

In truth, indentured servants were enslaved for the period of their indenture, usually four to seven years, children till the age of twenty-one.  Their bondage could be sold without their consent.  Marriage required the master’s consent.  Should women become pregnant, their period of servitude could be extended due to decreased productivity during the pregnancy.  Children of unwed mothers were born free, but subject to being placed in the care of the church.  Unlike slaves, the indentured could appeal to the courts to contest mistreatment and did receive twenty-five to fifty acres of land, some tools, seed, and clothing upon completing their service.  Like slaves, they were most often ill-treated.  Having come to the colony in this way was no impediment to their future.  Many bonded servants prospered and got a good start to a free life.  It definitely could be a road to a better life.

Andrew and Molly Part 1

img_1700Andrew Wharton was born to be a farm servant like his father and grandfather before him, the line extending back much further than anyone bothered to remember.  His work was not a choice; he was born to work Hampton Grange and expected to die there.  The only surprise was when pretty Molly Peace chose him.  Ecstatic in his luck, he couldn’t believe the rollicking dairy maid favored him above all the hopeful lads pursuing her when he’d done no more than sneak shy peeks at her in Chapel.  The confusion of love and glorious sensuality overwhelmed the young man who’d never contemplated the possibility that life could hold pleasure. Molly saw joy in everything, the sweet breath of the cows she milked, the warmth of the sun on her face, and the sweet sent of the hay she bundled, not seeming to notice the manure in the cow’s tail, the slogging rains, or the sneezing brought on by the hay.

Their life at Hampton Grange offered the couple little beyond a small hovel, milk and cheese from the dairy, a daily ration of bread and beer, the privilege of wood gathering, and scant wages. Once a year, they were due a measure of wool for their own use. Compared to the conditions many experienced, it was adequate under Old Squire John’s management. Left to his gambling heir, it was soon lost to bankruptcy, leaving them adrift.

Andrew and his new wife Molly found themselves standing in the freezing rain wearing all they owned before a pub in Liverpool. After three days’ starving, they were easily persuaded to join an agent for The Virginia Club for food and drink. With no prospects, they were Signed papers of indenture pledging the next four years of their lives in exchange for passage to the Jamestown colony in Virginia. For their volunteer bondage they would receive lodging, food, and clothing, the quality to be determined by their master. They were fortunate in being bound four years. Most were bound seven years. including involuntary prisoners or abductees. At the end of their service, they were entitled to tools, money, and land. Like so many other indentured servants, they could expect years of unrelenting labor and uncertain treatment. In truth, the next few years wouldn’t be greatly different to the life they were accustomed to if they were fortunate enough to be bound to a good master. At least they’d have a start at the end of their time.