Part I, Strathnaver, Scotland
Chapter 1. The ruins of Strathnaver Castle, the ancient Mackay stronghold.
Martha Mackay and her younger brother, Donald, spent the long summer days of their childhood climbing the steep hills above the river Naver. Their knees, high in bulrushes, stood upon the cliffs, observing the nets of fishermen being cast into the turquoise salmon waters while the ruins of the ancient stone castle and fortress, built upon the top of Norse ruins, sat looming over the cliff as a protectorate of Loch Naver.
In the pretend world of children, they envisioned themselves as lords and ladies of the castle, even extending back to the time of the first Lord Reay. The ancient rock walls, still a reminder of the brave Mackays who fought at Stirling bridge and Bannockburn and the clan chief who was killed by the Sutherlands at Dingwall Castle, wove a tale of the first Donald Mackay who had raised some 2,000 men to help the King of Sweden fight for the protestant cause in a war which lasted almost 30 years. The king of the Sutherlands, with his beaten army, escaped into France. Because of bravery, the clan was known as the invincible highlanders. The sad part of it is that the great owner of Strathnaver castle, Lord Reay, died in Denmark and years passed before his poor body was returned to his castle for burial. But Martha and Donald found where he lay, under a cairn near the edge of a cliff.
For generations, the legend of the magical powers of the first Lord Reay was told and to this day it remains in the hearts of the clan Mackay. Times were changing. There came a time when the landlors clearedthe land of its ancient tenant houses and fisherman shacks. Yet, this clearing did not wipe away the memories which Martha and Donald shared, for the vision of the old castle were forever embedded in their dreams where they would reside forever. Never mind that they were not lineal descendants of Lord Reay and that the peerage belonged to another Lord Reay whose castle was in the village of Tongue. And that peerage
would not be extinct until the 12th Lord. And that, because of the blood shed at Stirling bridge and Bannockburn.
Upon learning of the clearing, James Edward Oglethorpe injected himself into the story. Oglethorpe, of Scottish descent himself, knew the legend of the invincible Mackays, and donned his plaid kirk and feather cap to visit the highlands to explain a plan which would bring life into the blood of the highlands. It was to settle highland regiments in the Georgia colony as a buttress against the Spanish. Except for the old people, there were no unwilling Mackays to take upon themselves the adventure.
On the day of departure, Martha and Donald said farewell to their parents and climbed the cliff for the last time. They stood watching a vessel filled with highlanders from the south enter the north loch and sail flawlessly through the strath. The embarkation would provide tearful memories of their heritage.
"It is difficult to leave our home in this valley and the beautiful turquoise waters of the Naver," Martha said wistfully.
"Aye, Mackey country, as it shall ever be. Nothing can change that, save the clan Southerland, whilst they clear out the valley and tear down our shrines!"
"But I shall ne'er forget,"
Martha swore, "and will always remember our home in the Strathnaver and the castle! "
Chapter 2. Savannah. 1737. Voyages of Oglethorpe
The idea of a religious colony without slavery but geared towards the manufacture of silk, played a prominent role in the colonization of Georgia. The thrust of the whole endeavor was for 22 English entrepreneurs to produce a profitable silk industry. However, Oglethorpe also had a dream. His interest included a social experiment which would take poor vagrants off the streets of London and provide opportunity to become productive citizens in the new colony. He also had the uncomfortable memory of a famous architect who had been put in prison for failure to pay his debts. The visit of James Edward Oglethorpe to the friend discovered the jailer's cruel treatment of requiring the architect to share a cell with a victim of leprosy. His friend's death nagged Oglethorpe's conscience.
He initiated a campaign for social reform by advertising in various London newspapers which caught the attention of the Earl of Egmont, one of the 22 entrepreneurs. When the two investors met, Oglethorpe offered his services as colonizer and began scooping up the unfortunate persecuted families of Europe. His vision was to transport poor tradesmen and citizens from the streets of London to the colony where they could improve their circumstances.
Thus, during the period of Europe's religious reformation when so many persons were displaced, the English courts sentenced debtors into service as indentured servants. Also, if one could not pay their own passage, they could indenture themselves for seven years and afterwards receive 50 acres of land in one of His Majesty's colonies. These charitable colonists were then sold into service. At the end of the dream (the term of indenture), the recipients would be respected citizens who owned fee simple land.
Such was the case of Abigail Row, a young malnourished girl of thirteen siblings who indentured herself in order to save a father from going to prison. Little did she realize the misfortunes of being unattended upon the high seas and that the first phase of her adventure would include two unsavory characters who forced themselves upon her. Frail and skinny, throughout the voyage the girl was frequently sexually assaulted. The discovery of this activity marked her as a whore and the captain demanded punishment upon landing.
The Savannah wharf bustled with the activity at the sight of the incoming supply ship. Chauncey Bean stood observing the bow as it swept past a sandbar, drew water and dropped low into the wash. Meanwhile, the scuttling crew introduced some long skinny poles to push away from the sandbar. It was a daunting experience as the sailors worked to free the hull. This was not the first time that one of Oglethorpe's vessels had been stuck in a sand bar. After several hours passed, the tide flushed the ship to shore and it tied up on a piece of a wharf under construction.
The faces of the straggly immigrants, having already endured more than three months of suffering onboard, projected a sense of desperation. A strong February wind whipped the woollen coats of the gentleman as they emerged on deck, followed by women and children who suffered the smells of vomit on their clothing.
Only a year earlier, Chauncey and his brother had worn those same haggard expressions and dirty clothes. Their circumstances went unimproved as they shared a communal shelter covered by a roof of thatched palms. It had been a long year of back-breaking labor alongside of sawyers ordered by Oglethorpe to construct proper wooden houses. The brothers paid their own passage, but barely. Colonel Oglethorpe would have granted them 500 acres of good soil in the colony had they also transported a servant. But now was a time of observing the curious spectacle of Colonel Oglethorpe's more recent batch of embarking colonists.
Chapter 3. A Haven for Protestant Religious Groups
Meanwhile, John Wesley, the new minister, wearing a plain black wastecoat patched his way through the crowd. Wesley was another product of the social experiment of Oglethorpe having visited the mother of seven sons in England and persuaded her to send two of her seven into the missionary field. The idea excited both John and Charles Wesley. On the voyage over, they saw themselves as true missionaries and dreamed of christianizing the Indians.
But just as the Bean brothers found dissappointment and hardships in the new colony, John Wesley was haunted with the agonizing realization of natives refusing the baptism. For John Wesley, deposited in Savannah while his brother was sent to St. Simon's Island, found that the town element was lazy and strongly adverse to religious training. Also, the new theology of Methodism was ill received in the colony, and he quickly became personally unpopular. His predecessor had not survived the harsh environment and criticism of the colonists either. Wesley observed a group of malcontents frequenting Tondee's Tavern and committing nefarious acts against their neighbors. Perhaps worse was the stubborn unwillingness to work. Oglethorpe's experiment did not seem to be working!
Although the reverend was in the prime of his youth, well-mannered, polite and neatly groomed, he was himself a reflection of pitiful circumstances. He had no prospects for a church or stipend and although he regularly corresponded with the trustees begging for a church building, was largely ignored. It was plain to see that his circumstances allowed no room for a wife. However, trouble was brewing in the form of the pretty niece of the local magistrate, Thomas Causton. Wesley taught her the catechism and the infatuated girl frequently accompanied him to Yamacraw bluff where he attempted to preach to the Indians. For these attentions, despite his poverty, she soon came to expect a proposal of marriage.
And worse, as he stood observing the disembarkation, feeling the innocuous sensitivities of his mother's 7th son and the ineptness of his mission thus far, his facial expression and demeanor was one of trembling fear. For his was the thankless chore of discipling an indentured girl who'd slept in the galley of the ship betwixt two men. He hesitated to go onboard, until a sailor allowed him up the ladder to be greeted by the foul temper of the captain. While thus standing, the girl, of a very young age, was abruptly delivered, but not without a screaming fit. She was a beautiful child with mediterranean blue eyes and rosy cheeks, to be pitied for sure.
"Take this wench and punish her according to the law!"
The captain ordered. His large obnoxious fingers grabbed her stringy hair and jerking her head backwards, eyeballed her face. "Aye, damnation to this whore who came onboard, a beautiful child from the withering rookery class of humanity!"
Wesley beheld her skinny arms and legs, and said innocently. "Why captain, she is far too frail to have committed the sin of debauchery!"
The captain lodged himself between the minister and the girl, and laughed heartily. "Tis plain to see that ye hath no gumption under the skin,"
he said gritting his stained teeth, "be not ye deceived by her comeliness for many a beautiful woman hath gone astray. Aye, tis none of me affair, but before ye deliver her to the trustee's garden, tis your responsibility to apply the lash. And do it energetically, sir. Did ye bring a leather strap?"
Wesley nodded and groaned as he took the girl's hand and dragged her unwillingly from the ship and up the bluff to Bull Street where he'd left a horse hitched to an old wagon. She stumbled behind him and the crowd followed. He dreaded the flogging. Yet, twas his duty, so so he tied her hands to the wagon.
"Now Mistress Rowe, I am constrained by the Lord to punish you for your sins."
"You do not have to to do it," she argued. "Where ehre we 'cept in some God-forsaken-wilderness to fend for our lives!"
"If I do not apply the lash, you shall surely burn in hell,"
he said, uncoiling a leather strap.
She cried when she saw it. "Oh no, please spare me, sir, I beg thee!"
He murmured the words of a familiar serman of rebuking the sinner and reached forward to tear off her dress. "The penalty is a proper lashing for a maiden such as yourself, however, owing to your size, I shall only administer ten stripes. Now just close your eyes and pray for foregiveness. It will soon be over."
"Tis my duty, and ye will be altogether glad for His mercy."
"Please do not shame me! "
He paused and stared curiously at her flawless white skin. He despised the idea of drawing blood.
"Whilst I am reluctant to draw blood to your skin and it is also true that I owe a certain compassion to my parishioners, I should also spare them the displeasure of witnessing your nakedness,", he said thoughtfully. "Those persons who wish, may step aside," he said to the crowd. Then, stepping backward to gain momentum in the thrust, popped the whip in his hand and while inhaling a certain lack of enthusiasm, thrust it fiercely across her back. The lashes cut ten deep lashes into her skin. Then, he lifted her awkwardly and placed her frail, bleeding body inside the wagon and slowly steered the old nag down Bull Street, citing bible verses as they went. Those who disagreed, cursed and threw rotten tomatoes. It was a sign of the times, he thought, that the flock was reluctant to hear the gospel.
Chauncey and Charles followed the noise through the streets until it finally came to pause in front of the filature. The wagon was met by Hans Vanderplank, a muscled German from the Swiss Alps who had purchased a number of indentures. The reverend spoke some words to her master.
Chauncey and Charles edged closer. Hans Vanderplank seemed deeply disturbed, a man desperately fighting an urge to shove his fists into the jaw of the minister. Yet his mannerism conveyed his message with in his angry eyes as he stared at the the minister's sweaty face and wimpering brows and said in broken-English: "Never show your face here again, nor preach me your gospel !"
Wesley considered his comments. If Vanderplank wished to hear the gospel, he could attend service with the devout German minister who had imported his congregation from the bowels of displaced Europeans religious sects to the remote wilderness of Ebenezer. But Vanderplank was too angry to receive his advice and lifted the Abby rag doll into his arms and carried herself inside the filature.
Afterwards, as the minister slithered away and the crowd shouted slanderous remarks, he murmured under his breath: "I did it because it twas my duty."
"I am going to linger, to see what happens next,"
Charles warned. "This is not the end of the situation. There are some surly characters waiting to find the girl alone. Should you interfere, your reputation shalt surely be ruined, or leastwise you shall suffer the rebuke of the minister. "
Chauncey shrugged his shoulders. "Well,no one heeds the admonitions of the minister, but I shall take care."
"Do not dare get betwixt Vanderplank and the girl,"
Charles warned. "You are a small man compared to the German!"
Chauncey stood in front of the windows of the filature for a long while observing the italian weavers, as they went to and fro, cleaning and dressing the wounds of the girl. He was not alone for several scurrilous members of the Scots Club also lingered.
Chapter 3. Abigail Rowe.
Chauncey spent a restless night thinking of the girl marked as a whore. He wrestled with the idea of finding her alone and speaking with her. He wanted to learn more about her, and why she chose the dark occupation. No, that wasn't it, he corrected his thoughts. The girl was lovelier than any he had seen in Savannah, and he yearned for romance.
So, the next afternoon, he hid in the woods. She would be among the other indentured women working with threads, learning to weave cloth. The whole of the trustees investment was to produce a fine silk equal to that of China. Some of the most experienced silk winders had been imported from Italy near the Swiss border. A supervisor, Mrs. Camuse, was guaranteed her position in the colony before immigrating. As the silk was spun off and shipped to London, Mrs. Camuse grew in prominence. Thus she observed the italian weavers and servants with a keen eye. Charles was correct in his observation of Hans Vanderplank. He spoke the German dialects with Mrs. Camuse, but was quick to misunderstand any other language. Therefore, should Mrs. Camuse observe any disobedience from Abigail Rowe, her word was law. After about an hour, Mrs. Camuse left the filature, followed by the girl carrying a large wicker basket of soiled clothes. They walked through the woods to the creek where Abby was instructed in the art of washing clothes in the creek. After awhile, she left her alone. Abby removed her shoes nd positioned herself on a rock to dipp clothes in the creek, scrubbing and pounding as she proceeded to wash. She wore the plain and ordinary dress of the indentured servant, a white apron, and her long stringy hair was tucked under a mob cap. While she pounded the clothes, her gown and two petticoats were dress was soaked. Although she was petite with small bones, it was obvious that she was no stranger to the hard labor of the lower class. Chauncey remained hidden in the woods but eventually he moved closer to get a better look at her face.
"Is someone there?"
She asked, jumping to her feet.
He was thoroughly embarrassed and attempted to hide his identity. "Tis only John Wylly," he said, inventing a name.
The sight of his curly hair black as coal ore caused her pause. "Did you follow me?"
"No, ma'am, I was thirsty for a sip of water," he said as he knelt beside the creek and cupping his hands, scooped up a drink. "Would it please you if I sat awhile?"
"Who are you, master Wylly?"
"Like yourself, I am only amongst those servants waiting to be transported to Ebenezer," he lied.
"I suppose that you were one who stared at me during the flogging?"
"Yes ma'am, but I could not help myself," he admitted.
"Where ehre ye from?", she asked returning to her scrubbing.
After while, she packed the basket with clean clothes and prepared to depart.
"May I carry your basket a-ways? I mean, to the top of the hill, for I dare not go further."
She clutched the basket under her arms, and staring harshly into his eyes, said, "I can carry me own basket!"
"I did not intend to insult you, eh .... what is your name, please?"
"Yes, Miss Abby, I would be pleased to tote your basket up that hill!"
She giggled as he took the basket.
That was the beginning of a clandenstine summer romance, inadvisable and risky for a young adventurer such as Chancey Bean. Her reputation being the treat of ruination. Yet, Charles was the only person who suspected.
As time passed and the climate was intolerably humid, keeping the secret was more difficult. No one had forgotten the beautiful maiden who'd suffered the lash. Gossip flourished and speculation abounded. Ultimately, his very presence in the neighborhood of the filature aroused suspicion, and he feared that the dark penetrating eyes of the italian women would find him out. Ultimately, he travelled long distances through the woods and doubled back to the water hole. But he knew that he needed to end the affair well before harvest time. There was good reason because, as Charles reminded him, he needed to court the widow Thornton when her brother visited his sister in Savannah. Donald Mackay had the duty of selecting another husband to replace the deceased Henry Thornton. As the summer days dwindled and Chauncey procrastinated saying good-bye to the beautiful Abby, the beaus were already accumulating on the porch of the widow for an audience. It was an opportunity for a young man such as himself to acquire the land grant which her husband had earned. Thus he was soon torn between his passion and the realization that he must marry the widow Thornton. Also, another truth haunted him. It was the disagreeable appearance of the red-headed Scottish widow.
"I visited Bull Street yesterday and had a glimpse of the widow whilst she sat on her front porch," he told Charles. " I must say that I am ill prepared to court so plain a woman, all freckled and platted red hair!"
"We already agreed that one of us would marry to acquire land in the colony."
"The idea is detestable," Chauncey complained.
"We agreed that you should be the one to court the widow. Surely, you with your fine looks and curly hair can be persuasive to women. "
As he spoke, Charles realized the nature of the resistance. "I hope that it is nought because you went after the whore."
The lips of Chauncey turned inward and an implacable gulf of guilt enveloped his face. "A beautiful woman, even one stained with ill repute, is more desirable than submitting to the fiesty temperament of a Scottish maid!"
Chapter 4. The widow Thornton.
The recent demise of Henry Thornton, a Londoner who'd brought a small inheritance into the colony, was flushing out a slew of suitors clammoring at the door of Martha Thornton. The payment of the passage for himself, his wife, and two servants had gotten for him a land grant of 500 acres of land on Augustine Creek across from the plantation of baron Bathhurst. The beleagered baron had been on the same ship and had made the impressive purchase of a slew of white indentured servants. The Bathurst adventure was soon a tale of woe as his servants fainted in the fields and contracted fevers. Nevertheless, Thornton was happy to be a neighbor to a gentleman of prominence. He built one of the wooden houses on Bull Street and acquired two milch cows, some chickens and hogs, and horses. Also, Hans Vanderplank delivered 500 mulberry seedlings to the farm on Augustine Creek. Already there was a healthy stand of immature trees and the promise from Mr. Vanderplank to purchase the first leaf harvest. Henry Thornton had faithfully followed the guidelines of the trustees with his land and mulberry trees.
While still on the voyage, Donald Mackay approached Henry Thornton upon the idea of marrying his sister. Although Martha was no beauty, she possessed the common sense of the Mackeys and worked hard. And there was that dream of the old Scottish castle lingering in her dreams, pushing her along, providing hope of the future. Thornton, a middle-aged yeoman who paid the passage of several servants, had the promise of a land grant. His primary intention was to fulfill the dream of James Oglethorpe. Mackay convinced that he needed a wife, agreed.
As promised, Oglethorpe settled the Scots upon the site of an old English fort halfway between Savannah and Fort Frederica. After the ceremny, Donald Mackay left his sister in Savannah and went to Darien. Soon after the couple were married by Rev. Wesley, Henry Thornton took his new wife to visit Sir Bathurst on Augustine Creek. It was rumored that certain of the baron's servants had run off and they witnessed for themselves the last days of his fortune. Nevertheless, a lovely afternoon was spent picnicing and observing the children of Sir Bathurst swimming in the creek. The baron was explaining the recent loss of his good wife and his determination to locate a rich widow. Upon returning to Savannah, Henry was sweating profusely and took to bed. The fever drew him down in only a few days and he was dead.
John Wylly said farewell to Abby and resuming his true identity commenced spending impatient afternoons waiting on the widow's front porch. There were still people sleeping in huts on Bull Street who awakened to the clamoring of suitors. The lot itself had a natural abundance of wild azaleas and magnolia trees. Thornton had created a winding footpath to the carriage house and a covered porch to the kitchen. The house was constructed of the wide oaks boards and had two parlors, one with a brick fireplace, a diningroom, one bedroom and a side-room for guests situated off the front porch. Donald Mackay arrived in Savannah at the end of the summer, determined to weed out the suitors.
Donald was himself a rugged soldier in General Oglethorpe's highland regiment. He had the ruddy red hair and the pudgy nose of the Mackays, hailing from a background of thrifty, hard-working fishermen. When Oglethorple visited the highlands and persuaded the clan to establish a fort between Savannah and Florida as a bulwark against the Spanish, he wasted no time in signing up for the adventure. He found his sister embarrassed at the public attention of her. Also, rumors spread of Sir Bathurst's desperate needs.
"Did the baron ever find his rich widow?" she suddenly asked Donald.
"The baron acted in haste and his decision was based upon rumors for the widow brought him the burden of her own debts and now he is dependant upon the charity of others. Take heed, sister. This is why you must be very circumspect in your selection."
"But if the gentleman hath nothing to bring to the marriage of his own yet purports to work hard in fulfilling Henry's plans, is that not satisfying?"
She stopped speaking. Her thoughts were on the only handsome yeoman in the lot, the curly-haired Chauncey Bean. His was a quiet charm and engaging smile.
"Bring this yeoman to me for questioning."
The next afternoon, Chauncey Bean and Martha Thornton were properly seated in the two queen Anne chairs which Henry had imported from London.
Donald commenced asking Chauncey some rather embarrassing questions.
"What assets do you possess to bring to this marriage?" he asked bluntly. "Did you transport any servants or did Oglethorpe give ye a land grant?"
"No sir, but I hath observed that the indentures are ill disposed to work outdoors in this climate. I would nought take pleasure in nuturing more servants on the place, and especially doctoring them through their fevers. For this reason, my brother and myself are willing to perform the necessary labor ourselves to increase the industry of the farm of Mr. Thornton."
"You would perform your own labor?" Donald asked, scratching his ears.
"My brother and myself came to this colony for opportunity, but not having qualified for one of the land grants, are willing."
Martha steered the discussion to that of her late husband. Mr. Thornton, she reminded Donald, purchased a goodly number of contracts, but after the servants ran away, it was not possible to recover that loss. She, for one, would welcome the two brothers to work the farm instead.
But Chauncey, realizing that Donald was not convinced, decided to approach Martha emotionally. After a summer romance, he figured he knew how to endear himself to women. "I am certain that your husband was a kind and considerate person. However, if it is not too bold to ask, I would wish to know if yours was a marriage of convenience or love?"
Although the question was bold, arranged marriages frequently lacked love, something which Martha had noticed missing from that relatinship. Although Mr. Thornton was polite, she asked herself did Henry love me? Chauncey's probe of her sensitivities caused her to tremble as she realized the answer. Her face was flushed and her lashes, wet with tears, blinked perfusely.
"Sir, you are too bold!" Donald shouted.
Chauncey studied Martha's flushed face, her red freckles, fair skin and ruddy platted hair. "Indeed, madam," he said gently, "is the question improper?"
"I cannot say," she answered tearfully, while hiding a thin stream of tears wetting her cheeks.
"I wish to mention it. May it?"
"No. No!" Donald protested.
"Is there 'ere a better time to discuss it than now, before a lifetime of duty?" Chauncey continued.
"Mr. Thornton ne'er mentioned love," she whispered.
He took her hand gently, squeezed it, then kissed the palm. His warm lips lingered. "Oh my dear," he said intimately, "there is one thing upon which you can rely and that is, I choose love!"
"How dare you, sir!" Donald shouted.
She brought her hand protectively to her lips and tasting the kiss, whispered: "I should like that!"
" Nay, Donald shouted. "This man hath never had a copper to his name and presumes to love you?"
"But Donald, this time I am overcome with the idea of love and wish it for meself!"
Donald was furious that Martha had been tricked by a shrewd Chauncey Bean with his black curly hair and good looks. And after having won the kiss, his head was filled with the confidence of a man who had achieved a major battle. Yet he felt pressed on, concentrating his attention upon providing himself with good reason to marry the widow by ridding into the country for a personal assessment of the Thornton farm. The place had a small barn, some fencing, and a healthy growth of mulberry trees which would produce an income in the near future. He tied up the horse and entered a barn of several milch cows and some chickens. The fencing contained a neglected roan mare who whinied at his approach. He was irritated by the sudden appearance of the scrubby overseer. "Why is the corn unharvested?"
"There be two indentures, but they ain't no good," the overseer answered.
"Are you gonna allow it to dry on the stalk?"
The overseer scratched his head. "The livestock can eat it."
Chauncey was disgusted and resolved to take the whip to the servants after the wedding. Saying nothing further, he sketched the layout of the land on a little pad inside his frock coat, adding notes of some necessary improvements. Henry Thornton had a barn and some chickens, but after his demise, his cornfield went unharvested. The lesson given to Donald about unreliable indentured servants was true. The widow's affairs needed a firm hand, that was for sure. He hurried back to town and found Charles drinking a glass of ale at Tondee's Tavern. He was pleased that Chauncey had gone out to the farm to access the situation.
"Did you tell the widow that your brother is willing to help on the farm?"
"Well, what did the brother say?"
"Donald Mackay is an honorable highlander possessed with the orals of the old World, and unconvinced."
Charles narrowed his eyes and whispered in a gutteral voice. "You must disregard your feelings for Abigail Rowe."
"You need not worry about her, for I crave the land more than the girl. Also, arranged to meet with Mr. Mackey. See, he cometh through the door!"
Still leery of Martha's selection, Donald Mackay entered the tavern. He filled a tankard with ale before taking the chair at the table of the Bean brothers. At first he said nothing, but sized up Charles Bean."
"You ehre a small body of a man, Mr. Charles Bean, and your hands be too small for liftiing."
"Ah, but we are strong, me and my brother, when we put my back to it," Charles echoed confidently, "and hath an eye for profit!"
Donald laughed. "Aye, there be no argument from me as to what brought us to this country."
"Well sir, what is the decision?" Charles asked.
"Aye, what tis me decision!"
His voice bellowed as Charles watched him gulp down the ale and spill some of it on a rather dowdy shirt. "What tis a good plaid without ale!" he declared.
"What do you say, Master Mackey?" Chauncey pressed.
"The only reason that I am considering your proposal is because me sister wants love in the marriage and if I remember correctly, that is exactly what your brother promised. She possesses a stubborn nature, however, the inheritance does entitle her to bargaining power."
"I see your point, Mr. Mackay. My brother will build upon the equity, not waste it."
"She insists upon love (and a family of children as well) and is quite adamant on the subject!"
"Thornton's servants allowed a field of corn to dry up and it is time to get potato buds in the ground, and collards," Chauncey said irritated. "Then the livestock need a pen, and a loft for the barn. There would be no time to become acquainted with your sister until winter."
"I agree. The farm must be your first consideration." Donald was satisfied.
Several days later, Donald Mackay posted the bans with Rev. Wesley.
Chapter 6. The Wedding.
Two weeks later Rev. Wesley removed the bans he'd tacked on the door of the court house. The notice had drawn complaints from the magistrates who resented sharing the building as a church for the minister. The wedding was one of few that he would perform while in the colony and the ceremony would occur in the home of the widow Thornton. Earlier, he'd brushed the lint off his suit and fastened a clean white collar around his neck. The minister had few toiletry items, a plain ivory comb and toothbrush. As he prepared to retire to Bull Street, he could not help but wish that the ceremony betwixt a well-to-do-widow and Chauncey Bean would produce some coppers for his pocket.
The plankboard house of Mr. Thornton, despite its unpainted boards and oil paper windows, nestled in the thick shade of native magnolias, with its slanted roof and narrow brick chimney possessed the pre-eminence of early neighborhood royalty. Donald greeted him in front of the shed room on the porch. The door was slightly open and Wesley observed an oak bed strung with ropes and laid with a tick mattress stuffed in dried leaves. Wesley, who slept inside one of the small huts roofed in palm leaves, was very much in favor of shed rooms, and said so.
"That be the brother's room," Donald explained. "As for me, after the ceremony I shall return to the rangers in the low country. The Spanish Indians ehre raiding and taking scalps."
"Spanish-Indians?" Wesley asked. "Weren't they christianized by the catholic priests?"
"Aye, but we call those who reside below the St. John's River, Creeks."
"My brother Charles Wesley was sent further south to minister to the natives. He is in Fort Frederica."
"Then I pity him, sir, so near to the conquistadors."
Donald realized that the daylight was wasting and walked into the house in time to observe Chauncey as he shoved a trunk under the bed.
"Is that Henry Thornton's trunk?" Donald asked.
"Yes sir, that is where I found this nice suit of clothes," Chauncey answered.
Donald ran his fingers across the frock-coat. "Feels like imported cloth," he said. "Henry could afford better than most!"
"Nevertheless, tis better than my own clothes."
"What else be in the trunk?"
"A cocked hat, woollen vest, second pair of trousers and a peruke."
Chapter 7. The Henry Thornton Identity
"Good lad, then let us get on with the marriage! Tis a wee bit chilly for October, eh reverend?"
Rev. Wesley stood in front of a low smoldering fire in the hearth and observed the groom's suit of clothes. Except for a handsome face and black curly hair, Chauncey would pass for Henry Thornton any day. Earlier Wesley had dismissed the idea of counselling with the young couple before nuptials, especially after Sgt. Mackey pressed for a swift wedding so that he could begin his journey back to the fort.
The widow entered the room wearing homespun and a tartain across her shoulders, green with blue stripes. Her red platted hair was tightly drawn behind her ears and her ears were decorated with the faded blooms of purple wisteria. Though plain she was, her neck was adorned with a gold locket which Henry Thornton had given as a gift on their wedding day. Donald remembered performing that ceremony as well. Inside was a cameo of her late husband.
During the wedding ceremony, the ring given to her by Henry Thornton was removed and restored to her finger in one easy gesture. Donald grimaced, thinking that his sister's new husband was as poor as a church mouse.
Minnie, the single servant, had laid out a feast of salted trout, catfish and a large platter of cornbread in the kitchen. Sugar cakes were brought hot from the oven and a jar of Martha's own blackberry jam put to the table. Afterwards, whiles the minister stood delaying his departure, Donald Mackay gave him some coppers. Then, winking at Charles, also gave him a copper.
"Something for the tavern tonight. aye, brother?"
Charles understood. He would engage a room or get drunk and sleep it off on the bench of one of the wooden tables.
Martha insisted upon a wagon ride around the square so that her neighbors could admire her handsome husband. The wagon ride and new suit of clothes gendered Chauncey a sense of satisfaction and well-being. However, the reaction of the neighbors was rather unsettling, as the handsome husband went unnoticed and they tipped their hats to "Mr. Thornton".
Later that evening, Charles made it plain to his friends at the tavern that his brother had married a rich widow. He returned home at daylight and slept in the shed room until noon. After a meal of bacon and spoon bread, the brothers went to the farm.
"She refused to loosen those hard, lumpy braids," Chauncey complained.
Charles laughed. "Do ye have the deed to the land?"
"Yes, she gave it to me last evening. But first, I wish you to consult with Mr. Vanderplank as to when we may expect to harvest the first leaf crop from the mulberry trees."
"So I am the one who shall deal with the German?"
"I think that it is wise."
Not wishing to be recognized by Abby, he adopted the habit of stuffing his black curls under Thornton's black hat and pulling it tight over the ears. But the neighborhood confusion of his identity went uncorrected . The blame should go to Martha, who frequently mentioned Henry Thornton in casual conversation when referencing the farm situated across the creek from the baronete.
The year which followed was a maze of struggled endeavors to grow produce which would provide for their needs as well as earn a profit in the marketplace. But Chauncey lost his overseer after criticising his failure to plow a field for the collards. And the indentures were not suited to the climate. Nevertheless, the Bean brothers kept their agreement with Donald.
But only a short period of time passed before Martha realized that work consumed the daylight hours and that when her husband returned home from the farm, he was weary and irritable. Her hope of being loved was not forthcoming. So it was natural for her to speak well of the deceased husband, without regard to Chauncey's feelings. Too, she adopted a stubborn resistance to combing out her hair which resulted in a "stand-off" betwixt the couple. She would not remove the platts until Chauncey expressed his love for her.
Hans Vanderplank stood heads above everyone else, a resilient self-made man in his forties. The struggles and hardships which he had weathered were reflected in the eyes and skin. The thick wrinkles in his forehead and prominent age spots seemed to be but a part of his natural presona. But he'd grown to adulthood in the Swiss mountains near the Italian border, so he spoke both the German and Italian tongues. Since his sojourn the colony, however, his dialect consisted of disconnected words from both languages, laced with certain English expressions. The rugged mountain man had never married, no opportunity having been afforded him in far reaches of the purple mountains. Yet he had become proficient in agriculture as well as the culture of the silk worm. This obscure occupation qualified him to supervise the Italian weavers and to be master of the trustee's garden. So he came to the colony with a stipend of 10 pounds per year and the promise of improved circumstances should the manufacture of silk compare favorably with the fine threads of the orient. Feeling that his future was hopeful in this regard, the German took on the adventure. Actually, because of his plain ways, Hans was the ideal horticulturist to assist the settlers and only three years in the colony was respected as an innovative horticulturist.
Charles Bean was quite impressed with the operatin, the filature and its clay worm ovens, cocoon workers, and the large wooden looms which spun the silk . Silk manufactures was a bustling enterprise. He carefully observed his workers, but took an especial interest of the young Abby as she took her turn at the looms under the instructive and critical eye of Mrs. Camuse. But Mrs. Camuse was dissatisfied with her work. It appears that the girl was somewhat fragile because the mannerisms of the heavy-set aproned woman, although well-intentioned and brittle, took its toll upon the girl. A rigorous study caused tears to flow from the girl's eyes. Mrs. Camuse, not understanding the tears and determined to press her point, fetched Vanderplank to resolve the issue. As Abby sat at the loom weeping into her face, she dare not look up. Mrs. Camuse argued that the batch was too flawed to export. But Vanderplank noticed something else. The girl, seated slumped over, was three or four months' pregnant. "Mun dieu!"
He swore, a phrase which caused Mrs. Camuse to snatch the basket from Abby and dumped its contents onto the floor.
"No good enough!"< she said angrily. Abby cried harder. Vanderplank shamed Mrs. Cumuse by kneeling to the floor and restoring the cloth samples to its basket. Then, instructing Mrs. Camuse to deliver the girl to his house after dark, walked away with the basket in his arms. The raucas caused the italians to treat Abby with more suspicion. No one would ever learn the reason that she was indentured was to keep her father out of Fleet prison. But worse, their opinion was that the young inexperienced girl working under the thumb of Mrs. Camuse would never rise to the level of a weaver.
Daylight was short during the winter months and Vanderplank rushed to complete his tasks and sweat profusely as he arranged some mulberry seedlings inside his wagon for a delivery the following day.
During the afternoon a cold wind delivered the smells of a fresh catch of fish and it drifted throughout the complex. But it was dark before a supper of fish and spoon bread was served to the workers. Abby ate quietly to herself, while the italians spoke their various dialects. Afterwards, Mrs. Camuse personally delivered her to the two-story flat of her master adjoining the filature, a structure of meager comforts except for a great stone hearth lit with a fire and two small candles on the table.
She entered the house fearing that Vanderplank would apply the lash for her poorly woven fabric. Her trembling impressed him think that she was chilled from the night air, and urged her to sit in a chair near the hearth. Then he took one of her samples from the basket and ran his finger over a heavy puncture of thread.
"I did not intend to knot the fabric," she said tearfully.
In the firelight he not only saw a lovely girl, but the makings of a mother. He said nothing for a long while, still considering his prospects for the girl, before finally speaking in his broken accent. "Ihre ausbildungsvertrag ist jahre seven. Arbeit mit with das kinder?"
He reached over and touched her stomach.
"This baby is mine!" she screamed. I shall nought give him up!"
After having heard her protests, he seated himself in a pine ladder-back chair too short for his long sprawling legs. The weight of his body seemed to slump forward from the weight of the days' chores. He was a man who was truly weary from the labor of many years. The firelight enlarged his porous skin and wrinkles as his intent eyes bore down upon her. She dared to stare at a dribble of sweat as it bubbled on his forehead. The idea entered his head of giving her his name, yet considering that he was a good twenty years young, the thought made him nervous. He wished to tell her the story of his past, but needed an interpreter. For this cause he had invited the minister to explain it to her.
"I am truly sorry about the silk,"she said.
There was a knock on the door.
Wesley, donning polished shoes and buckles, stepped inside and removing his hat, bowed politely. "Good evening, sir."
His proposal had already been practiced between himself and Hans Vanderplank. "Miss Rowe,"
he said, "God knows what happened to you onboard the supply ship and that as a consequence, you are expecting a child. However, as time passes, your condition will also be public knowledge. Needless to say that the sin projects dire consequences, both in Heaven and on Earth."
Vanderplank cautioned him with a disapproving eye.
"However, you are not alone with your problems. Mr. Vanderplank wishes he to speak to you about his past. Tis a rather long tale, however, he wishes you to understand the intimate details of his life."
While Wesley explained the story of life in the mountains, the expression in Vanderplank's eyes projected the compelling adventure of the celebrated horticulturist, yet a sadness drawn from a stand of long protracted years of isolation. And the tale sparked sympathy in the heart of a young beauty whose childhood was replete with too many siblings and poverty.
"Why doth he provide so intimate of details?" she asked.
"The reason is that Mr. Vanderplank also hath personal needs, a woman to cook for him, wash his clothes, and keep the house. But more particularly, someone who is willing to give him a family."
"Did I hear correctly?" she asked Wesley.
"Perhaps I can inject a few of my own thoughts, particularly after having known Mr. Vanderplank for the past three years. He always speaks the truth and expects the same from others. Also, he hath the pecular knack of identifying a liar. Although he may on the surface appear crusty and unyielding, this honorable and healthy man is willing to give you his name and afford you his protection and to defend you against felacious gossip. Further, he will raise your child as his own. It matters not to him that he is not the biological father, nor does he believe that the mother and child of an adulterous relationship should suffer scorn. Although he is not publicly religious, he hath a forgiving nature. And should my remarks be insufficient, I promise you, madam, that in time you shall learn to love so gracious and generous a person!"
Abby's thoughts dwelt on the shadows of the past, a fading image of the handsome John Wylly and the troubling certainty that he was the father. His disappearance during the humid days of August were supposingly to be taken to Ebenezer by a new master. Too, she worried about her own freedom after seven years. For a moment, Abby considered the whereabouts of John Wylly, then forgot him.
"What will happen to me should I not marry Mr. Vanderplank," she asked.
"The public hath already scorned and branded you. Also, Mrs. Camuse will find reasons to apply the lash. You will be an outcast, and the child will be kicked about. Ultimately, no person will hire him and he shall come to no good!"
His words stung and tears flowed down her face. "Mr. Vanderplank would take me as a wife? Yet, people will always remember what I did," she said unhappily.
"No. People do forget," Wesley declared. "And after the ceremony and you are seen in church holding to the arm of Mr. Vanderplank, they will doubt their own memory of it."
Vanderplank grew impatient. The girl still had tears in her eyes and it appeared that attempt of the minister to convince her had failed. Stepping between them, he placed his right arm on her shoulder, gently kissed her cheek, and said quietly: "Bitte. What ist der answer?"
She held her head low and nodded.
" Wise choice, for Herr Vanderplank is a fair man," Wesley said.
Wesley did not publish any bans, but performed the ceremony with but one witness present, Mrs. Camuse. On the day of the wedding, Abigail Rowe went willingly into the arms of Hans Vanderplank. To avoid the harsh criticism of Mrs. Camuse and her influence upon the others, Vanderplank insisted that she attend and witness. After this was accomplished and Mrs. Camuse had publicly condoned the union, no one would doubt her word.
In time, Abby would truly love Hans Vanderplank. The child was born the following April and was named Willie Vanderplank. The wedding went unnoted by society, except when the news reached the ears of Chauncey, he went depressed for a time.
A wet season prevailed during the Spring of 1737 causing mold and dysentery, followed by a drought. Despite the loss of Thornton's grumpy overseer and the useless indentured servants who allowed corn to wilt on the vine, Chauncey and Charles managed to fence off a tract of land to hold a several beef cattle. Meanwhile, their illustrious neighbor across the creek, Sir Francis Bathurst, suffered miserably. His loss of servants and lack of farm skills devastated the ability of the family to grow a simple kitchen garden. Bathurst's nearest neighbor on the North side of the creek was Ockstead plantation, the home of the magistrate, Thomas Causton and his niece, Sophie. Oglethorpe had appointed Causton as the chief magaistrate on his voyage across the seas and also granted him the traditional 500 acres of land. But Causton's wife soon died, leaving him no one but the niece. The rigorous hardships of planting in that climate caused the yeomen great consternation. Although Hans Vanderplank had sent his servants to plant the allotment of 500 mulberry plants, Ockstead would fail short of its expectations. Causton tried to be a god neighbor to Sir Bathurst, but his own problems caused him to forget the old baron.
The story of the long succession of Bathurst baronets who'd mismanaged a vast english estate met its dramatic climax when Sir Francis found himself penniless and had but one choice, a sea voyage. Had he embarked years before there was public knowledge of insurmountable indebtedness breeching the doors of prison, the peerage would have deemed him an "adventurer". As it was, he had little time to sell some personal valuables and remove his family to Savannah.
The adventure into the colony offered land and a supply of indentured servants. But the old baron knew nothing of farming and depended too well upon servants whose dispositions were not suited to the sweltering temperatures of the low country. As they became ill with dysentery and ominous fevers, he lost them to the grave, while others ran away.
The wet season intensified the drama with debilitating coughs and influenza, and finally the death of the baronness. Upon hearing the unhappy news, Charles and Chauncey crossed over the creek and dug a grave. They spent the afternoon in a drizzling rain digging a small bean patch which later washed away while the distraught baron lay ill himself with fever. But the occasion also took its toll with the weary Bean brothers. Frustrated, wet and dirty and in a fit of temper themselves, they returned to town.
Chauncey was scorned by Martha for his failure to provide proper charity to Sir Bathhurst, and he went slamming out of the house. It was still raining and pulling his hat over his ears, crossed the square to Tondees tavern.
Chapter 10. Tondees Tavern.
The quick steps of a scotsman with a clay pipe in his mouth and musing smile caused Chauncey to glance his way. It was one of the discontents who rebuked James Oglethorpe.
"What do ye want?" Chauncey snapped.
"You remember me, Jonathan Frey?"
"Well sir, a wee reminder," he taunted sarcastically, "I am quite visible in this town with me opinions. Everyone knows Jonathan Frey."
"I recognize you as being one of the lazy bloats who sides with the Scots Club and signs petitions against Oglethorpe!"
"And I know ye, sir, as deceitful, for I saw ye chasing the whore down into the woods."
Chauncey scratched his head. The whole thing seemed unreal. He had taken the path through thickets and briars, back-tracking at times, ever so careful not to be seen. "What of it?" he said, agitated.
"Nothing of it, Mr. Bean except that you think yourself better than me when the only difference is you got to her first!"
Chancey's heart sank. His feelings were mixed with guilt and shame as well as the need to see Abby again. "Sir! I am a respectably married man. Leave me be!"
"Of course ye be. And Hans Vanderplank did well for himself, to wed such a beauty."
Chauncey ordered a tankard of ale and sat at a table. "Then why do you address me?"
Frey seated himself. "Well, there is the question of the identity of the baby. Leasewise, no one can blame me, that is for sure."
Chauncey glared at him. "Hans Vanderplank is the father!"
"Tis true that most folks would draw that conclusion, were it nought a fact that the boy hath curly hair as black as mined coal. Soon he will be playing in the street with the other children and you will have to cross the square to avoid people comparing the two of ye."
"Please, no more gruesome opinions. Chauncey groaned. "Already there is a funeral tomorrow for the baronness Bathurst."
Frey raised one of his thick eye brows and winked. "The Vanderplanks shre friendly with Sir Francis, ain't they? Mrs. Vanderplank will be at the funeral with her baby. If I were you, Mr. Bean, I would tuck those curls under me hat and pull it tight over me ears. And stay clear of Hans Vanderplank."
"What do you want out of this?"
"You mean, do I intend to keep a secret?"
"Well, as ye said, I am nought one of the yeomen of James Oglethorpe and resist the magistrate because I know that Mr. Causton is waiting for the return of Mr. Oglethorpe from the south so that he can issue the order to arrest me. But me plans ehre to escape from this colony. When the time comes, I should need ye help."
"I hath only a handful of coppers,"
Chauncey said, emptying his purse on the table.
"But ye hath come up in the world since ye married the widow Thornton."
"I will help you as best I can, but first, you must swear an oath to keep the secret."
"Agreed. I am inclined to play cards with me friends," he said, motioning to some scurly-looking scotsmen across the room.
The next day, Chauncey, very much aware that the Vanderplanks would attend the funeral of Lady Bathurst, dressed properly in the Sunday clothes of Henry Thornton and tucked his curly hair under the hat. From this time forward, he would prefer this appearance so long as he was in Savannah. Afterwards, he went to the root cellar and packed a basket of potatoes, dried beans and fresh hens eggs, but Martha was not satisfied until she added two loaves of baked bread to add to the spread which other neighbors would bring to the occasion. He stepped outside on the porch. The skies were streaked in gray clouds with the promise of an extended wet season. But it was yet spring, so there was still hope for a crop. But later on, as the old wagon churned down Bull Street and into the dirt road which led to Augustine Creek, a funnel of rain poured down from a leaden-colored sky while a sweeping wind blew across the countryside filling pot holes in the road and washing away the little plants they'd dug into Sir Francis' garden the day before. Rev. Wesley seemed to appear out of no where as they took the turn to the deteriorating Bathurst house, a structure thrown up by the sawyers with little or no instruction. Wesley was walking alone in the rain carrying a bible.
"Climb aboard," Chauncey invited.
"Never mind, the sun is coming out. Leastwise, the day will not waste itself."
"What does that mean?"
"The reverend does not fair well in these parts. No one understands the new doctrine and he feels that his efforts are wasted."
The trees and bushes were still wet from a heavy morning rain when the wagon reached the barn. Also, as neglect would have it, the hen house had been broken into by wolves and there was blood and hen feathers scattered about the yard.
Vanderplank approached with a bale of old wire. Chancey instructed Martha to accompany the other women inside the house. Then, he and Charles helped Hans Vanderplank secure the fence to the barnyard. As they hammered, the distraught Sir Francis Bathurst stared bleakly through the oil-papered window. He had good cause to be depressed. From the four or five thoroughbred horses which were shipped from England, only one survived. Too, Lady Bathurst lost her kitchen maid and butler. Sir Francis knew nothing of the care of domestic animals, nor the business of running a farm. So it was that his land grant was an eyesore. When Rev. Wesley gave the signal, everyone moved to the grave site. Chauncey, with his hat pulled tight over the ears, took his place beside Martha. His eyes were downcast throughout the serman with stolen glimpses at the tiny infant with black curly hair and after the serman, Martha noticed the expression in the eyes of her husband as they followed Abby into the house to nurse the baby. Thomas Causton, publicly agitated with the infatuation of Sophie for John Wesley, jerked the hand of his niece to prevent her from standing too near the reverend. Sophie had allowed him to teach her the catechism and frequented Yamacraw Bluff to observe his instructioons to the Creeks.
Wesley poetically described a more serenely beautiful place than the earth upon which they stood. There was a golden gate where persons were queued waiting to get inside. Yet, Sir Francis was unable to envision that heavenly abode beyond the gate nor could he imagine a long tiresome line. Instead, he stood sadly over the grave, given to streaks of uncontrollable tears. The aging baron was encrusted with debt. His eldest daughter had married a sailor, and two years earlier, the younger daughter was drowned in Augustine Creek. Wesley, feeling the sensations of the helpless Baron Bathurst, chose not to continue his serman and during the closing prayer felt compelled to beg God to open the doors of Heaven to Lady Bathurst. Then he wept.
"This is his first funeral," Sophie said to her impatient uncle.
Afterwards, while the grave was being sewn with dirt, a sympathetic Martha hugged the slumping shoulders of the baron and whispered kind sayings in his ears.
"The grave is covered," Charles told the baron while clutching his elbow to assist him inside the house. Bathurst did not listen to the conversation of the ladies as they prepared to serve tea on an antique silver tray and marvelled at the little china cups inlaid with gold leaf fleur de lis. The display was memories of a glorious past of the Bathurst peerage. Lady Bathurst had attempted to preserve the assets of the duchy by taking special care in her packing, but eventually most all of the fine china plates were broken.
During service the face of his lordship was ashen white and his eyes were swollen red with tearsl it was the expression of a beaten man. He begged his guests to depart so that he might lay in his bed. It was a tragic moment as tears rolled down his checks and his loud compelling sobs broke out once again. harles and Chauncey escorted him gently away to his bed chamber and the guests dispersed.
The Beans helped the baron onto his bed and removed a fine pair of leather shoes with silver buckles, inappropriate for his circumstances. As he crumbled onto the mattress, he cried: "What shall I do? Oh, please tell me what to do!"
"I heard there is a rich widow in Savannah,"
Charles said thoughtfully. "Perhaps tis too much to consider at this moment, but perhaps."
The baron stopped crying. Charles had opined the only option left to him. "Yes, yes," he said, "perhaps. perhaps."
Chapter 11. The Prosecution of John Wesley
Sophie insisted that her uncle offer Wesley a ride back to town inside his fine carriage. The disgrunted magistrate refused owing to his own personal problems. In his capacity as chief magistrate, Causton accepted bribes and confiscated items of value from the estates of dead persons before they were dispersed among the heirs. There were multiple complainers bringing their suits before the court. The nefarious actions of Thomas Causton were about to catch up with him. Meanwhile, he held fast to his disdain for the minister. Nevertheless, Sophie persuaded him to provide the minister with a room inside one of the wooden row houses. It was a small shed room with a low ceiling and wooden floor. The only furnishings consisted of a bed with a straw mattress, table, pitcher and bowl and a tin slop-jar. Wesley took a short cut through a wooded area back to town and when he arrived, was exhausted. The first thing which he did was to remove his clothes and prepare himself to sleep. As he fell off to sleep, he was chilled by a a heavy rain pouring against a leaking oil cloth window. Later in the dark of night, he awoke with a fever and a jag of coughing.
Struck down with influenza, he failed to keep his appointment with Sophie to prostelyze to the Creeks. The influenza was well entrenched before Sophie got word of it and rushed to nurse him. Her dedication was moving, as she bathed him, fed him broth and sat dedicated beside his bed. When he was no longer well enough to fend off her little kisses on the cheek or to turn her away, he found himself in a dilemma which he was helpless to resolve. She hinted for a proposal of marriage! Wesley suspected earlier that she wanted a proposal and had taken precautions to avoid intimacy. He felt trapped by his illness, but the moment was at hand. So he spoke from his bed while coughing and wheezing.
"Miss Sophie, I do not wish to be unkind, however, my attention towards you was for the sole purpose of teaching you the catechism. Surely, you can see (and your uncle is aware) that I am nothing save a poor minister who came here upon the charity of the trustees. And that charity is difficult to acquire. As you might observe, I hath nothing to offer you. I own but one suit of clothes, torn in places, and a second-hand pair of shoes!"
The rejection was devastating. As Sophie left, it was already known in the street that she had nursed him the better part of two nights. Without a marriage proposal, her reputation was severely tarnished. She complained bitterly to her uncle but he could not console the girl. It was heart-rendering to observe the tears and tantrums which she produced for the evaluation of her uncle. As time passed and she was ignored by her friends, Sophie, unable to force the proposal, fell into a temper of depression. The only possible solution was to visit relatives in Charleston, so the heart-broken girl left Ockstead plantation.
The departure caused suppositin that they had seen the last of the miserable tear-stained girl. But revenge stirred the heart of Sophie, and after only two short weeks she did return, and on the arm of a husband! Sophie's desperation had spun a whirl-wind proposal and marriage from a "no account" distant relative by the name of John Williamson. The lazy Williamson married Sophie for the support of Ockstead plantation, but when he saw the pitiful structure deep in the woods, was disappointed.
Rev. Wesley served the sacrament on the first Sunday of each month and parishioners were required to give notice should they wish to receive it. But Sophie had a husband to parade before the young minister. She selected his favorite color, a fashionable blue gown with pink ruffles on the hem and a matching parasol. Her entrance was part of her dreams the night before as she imagined the finite details of the drama.
The entrance of the couple inside the court house building was sufficiently dramatic to turn the heads of several parishioners, but Wesley kept his eyes cast downward as he set the sacrament table and the parishioners filed before him. Unfortunately for Sophie, when it was her turn to take the sacrament, Wesley passed her over. The shame which she suffered was as painful as the rejection. Williamson was quite unconcerned about the incident, and went his way. But the humiliated Sophie parried a number of tantrums designed to convince her uncle to punish the minister in his official capacity And her revengeful heart caused her to awaken the outrage in her husband. That evening, Williamson and her uncle drafted a complaint of some 22 charges against Rev. John Wesley.
The trial was a fiasco and the charges laughable. Causton wearing his chief magistrate robes was perched arrogantly on the bench and ordered various testimonies concerning the conduct of Rev. John Wesley. The highly opinionated Causton frequently interrupted Wesley as he attempted to defend himself. The main charge was that he denied Mrs. Sophie Williamson the sacrament. Wesley testified that Mrs. Williamson had failed to observe church protocol by posting her intent the day before. Despite the flamboyant testimony of John Williamson, Wesley could not be moved from his attitude of the serious nature of breaking church rules and delivered a stern lecture on the subject. As the day came to a close, Thomas Causton ruled an adjournment until the following day. Sophie pressed her husband to demand that Rev. Wesley pay a bond to the court or else be jailed until the case reconvened. She knew full well that the reverend had no money and imagining the young man inside of a putrid cell pleased her. Williamson loved a good scandal, but thought the game a bit unfair, so presented a half-hearted request for bond. The result was that the matter was merely postponed.
When the disheveled and distrought John Wesley exited the court house, some of the Scottish malconents were assembled outside, mostly to catch a glimpse of Sophie. His white collar was dingy and shoes unpolished and his personage was that of a being tormented by devils. His lips were murmuring pleas to God as he quickly ascended the front steps and hurried back to his room. They lingered as Mr. Williamson caught a heated condemnation from his wife and when Sophie finally came onto the street the flowered skirt of her pink gown was pleated with wrinkles and her white gloves soiled. Her eyes fixed such an angry glare upon her husband that he fell back to speak to her uncle.
"It is not all that necessary to retain the poor minister in jail this evening, "
Causton said. "That act might arouse the sympathy of Colonel Oglethorpe. After all, twas he who brought the brothers into the colony!"
Williamson bowed his head and rubbing his nose, quietly asked: "How will you punish him?"
The Scotch Club gawkers listened intently as Causton mumbled something.
Wesley was confident that he would lose his case to the two scoundrels who cobbled the charges would cause him to suffer great humiliation. This situation, combined with the bitter resentment in the heart of Sophie, was destined to fester like a sore wound.
By the time that Wesley arrrived back to his room, he had composed a letter in his thoughts to his his brother in Fort Frederica. The letter was written, then put into the trustworthy hands of Mr. Mason who was also kind enough to engage a packet boat which would take John Wesley to Charleston, and from there he would find passage back to England.
He packed his several toiletries and hurried down the bluff to the wharf. The sun was setting over the Savannah River as a favorable wind whipped the tide waters away from shore and he jumped aboard the packet boat. He thought of his brother along in Frederica, not realizing that Charles Wesley would also be driven back to England.
The following afternoon when Thomas Causton learned that Rev. Wesley was not in court, he had all vessels searched. But it was too late. Wesley was gone! Sophie's vindictive nature went unsatisfied and Causton was severely criticised by Williamson for failing to issue the bond.
Chapter 12. Martha.
Martha was seated obliquely on a thin custion in a strait chair with. Resting on her lap was a bolt of linen fabric. She had cut open the seams of an old dress for a pattern and was stitching a new one for herself. Her fingers worked quickly to create a metriculous row of uniform stitches. The dress was to be worn to a dinner party given at Ockstead in the home of the magistrate. Chauncey had specified that he wished her to look particularly nice for the occasion. She would pin a large magnolia blossom into the coiffure of her platted hair. Her milky white complexion glimmered from a thorough washing and her cheeks had a flush to them. She was in a pleasant mood, humming quietly to herself. Chancey entered the house in a sour mood with unpleasant news.
"Mrs. Williamson is not entertaining this evening,"
he said bluntly.
She dropped her sewing. Sophie was buckling under the scandal. "The poor girl."
"Because she was rejected by Rev. John Wesley!"
"Why would she want a man destined to live the reglious life of depravation and suffering? Could she not see his future prospects as a preacher?"
"He could have found the courage to propose marriage and save her good name."
"And then what? That girl is nothing but trouble. Yes, owing to what happened, had he pretended, he would have suffered miserably."
"You do not think that he would have learned to love her?"
"Love is not always forthcoming, Martha," he said, not realizing that Martha had baited him into exposing his own heart. Furious, she threw her sewing aside. "Martha, I did not mean that you and I would never find love. You are aware of our struggles thus far and the sacrifices cast on us by the unfortunate demise of Lady Bathurst."
"You should experience no troubles concerning the farm. Mr. Thornton's acreage was always managed by an efficient overseer and adequate workers!"
"I found the overseer to be lazy and irresponsible and the servants not worthy of hire."
"That was nought the way Mr. Thornton left it!"
"Then why do you not go and fetch Mr. Thornton to manage the farm and resume his duties as your husband!"
She gasped. Chauncey stood in the middle of the room glaring at her. When she did not answer, he continued in a loud voice. "Well, madam, do you wish to continue this silly rebuke, because if you do, I shall assist you in digging Henry Thornton out of his grave!"
She retrieved her sewing and tucked it away inside of a sewing box. "Then why do wear Henry's clothes?"
"Because I refuse to use your inheritance for anything save making the land productive and acquiring more."
During the summer months, a season of scurrilous gossip enveloped the village, with Mrs. Sophie Williamson highlighting the center. The story of Wesley's rejection, her sudden marriage and the persecution of the minister did not serve her well. Also, the lazy John Williamson drew scorn for allowing himself to become the support of Thomas Causton. The couple, having few friends, withdrew to Ockstead to moan their differences. Sophie confined her friendships to only those persons who hated John Wesley, but soon the minister was forgotten, and then there were no friends.
Meanwhile, the Vanderplanks prepared for Oglethorpe's inspection of the silk. Mrs. Camuse proudly presented all of the cloth spun that season and readied it for shipment. Oglethorpe spent that summer abroad in the company of Creek Indians. He left Savannah with the creek Indian, Mary Musgrove and Chief Tomichichi, to show off a bolt of silk material spun off by the italians, said to equal the quality of Chinese silk. The company were introduced to the the trustees and they were entertained in the palace by King George II. News reached Savannah that Mary Musgrove and Tomochichi were well-received and respected.
Meanwhile, back at home, a blistering heat-wave dominated the month of August and dried up the creeks. The squash garden which Charles kept for Sir Bathurst crumbled into flacky balls before blooming and the twisted yellow corn stalks shriveled alongside. Chauncey and Charles hurried to gather several buckets of cucumbers for Martha to pickle. Sir Bathurst would suffer another drought and of dire necessity begin the hasty courtship of a widow presumed to be wealthy.
But Lord Bathurst could smell something bad coming. It was in the headwinds which swept across the Savannah river and cobbled in the gray clouds which hung low over the town. A wet season, drought, and death. Always death. His daughter was gone and his wife. Now the notion of bringing another woman to his shack in the woods produced a nauseating puking sickness inside of his belly. Especially when he learned that she was packaged in her own set of complaints and debts. One afternoon Charles found him sitting alone on the floor of the porch with his head cuppled in his hands.
"Are you ill, sir?"
The baron attempted to smile as he wiped the tears from his cheeks, but his eyes revealed an interminable history of sadness and failure. The news of the circumstances of his spouse and his bungled decision remarry to save himself had already spread throughout the colony. "At this moment, an illness would be much preferred to the melancholy of depression, my friend!"
His shoulders fell into a slump and as he sobbed, pointed to the sky. "Look yonder to observe more trouble hidden inside a mountain of black clouds?"
"There is bad news, sir. The Spanish are preparing war against the colony. Mr. Oglethorpe is asking for all able-bodied men to enlist and meet him at Fort Frederica."
"By all the Heavens, the end hath come. Tis doomsday!"
"Not as long as there is strength in my body to fight, the end is not yet!"
"The Spanish Armada. A powerful fleet of 24-gunners sailing the seas hunting for treasure, conquering, and sucking in the river Mantanzas."
"That is a strange observation."
"So you actually believe that so powerful a Nation as Spain will surrender its stronghold in Florida to a handful of british colonists?"
"You do not believe that we can whip the conquistadors?"
"No, but all that matters is what General Oglethorpe believes."
Later that evening, the brothers informed Martha of their plans to join General Oglethorpe's regiment. Martha had also noticed the eerie black clouds and howling gusts of winds blowing across the square. She took pause as Chauncey and Charles tied up their horses and dumped the sand from their boots. A bolt of lightning stuck a tree in the neighborhood and as it cracked down the middle and came crashing to the ground, they ran inside the house.
"What has happened?"
She asked. "Is it Lord Bathurst?"
"No, Lord Bathurst is sad, that is all,"
Charles answered adroitly.
"Then what is it?"
"War with Spain. A military detachment is assembling to guard the wharf and harbor. General Oglethorpe hath called all able-bodied men to Fort Frederica!"
"No, you cannot go,"
she said angrily. "You cannot leave me alone in this house!"
"Here is a letter from your brother,"
Chauncey said annoyed with her. "Donald should arrive soon. He will explain it to you."
Chapter 13. Abby.
The evening after the funeral of Mrs. Bathurst the Vanderplanks returned to Abercorn Street. A a cool white moon hung precipitiously behind a stand of live-oak trees casting a huge shadow over the filature and the little house which they shared. A breath of cold January air swept up from the river across the bluff and onto a deserted street. No lamps were lit and that peculiar setting, combined with the gusting wind and cold temperatures, projected a sense of eeriness. Hans worked quickly to loosen the harness from the wagon and stable the horse inside the barn. As he did so, Abby waited anxiously for one of the italians to light a lamp inside the house before taking the baby side. Although Hans had urged her not to take her baby to the funeral, she could not bear the separation. Hans saw Abby as an attentative, caring mother who did not wish the full-term pregnancy to expose the illegitimacy. He entered the room and closed the door. His first chore was to stoke the firey embers in the fireplace. Then he heated a bed-warmer pan over the flames. After he had passed the pan over the sheets, he hugged Abby and lifted her onto the bed while cuddling her to his chest. She felt the strength of his arms and the vigor of his body as put her gently between the sheets. "My love,", he whispered in the German language, as he kissed her lips. His kind disposition reminded her of her father, except that Hans possessed the strength of an ox. Before the winter passed into spring, the couple would adjust to the discomforts and confinement of having a baby and discover the joyful personality of Willie himself. Ultimately, he would declare "Willie is my son."
But, for now, he was falling deeply in love with his wife.
As for Abby, she had not forgotten her shameful whipping, nor the ride down Bull Street while onlookers cursed and spit on her. Only Hans Vanderplank had protected her from further scorn and whisked her away just as the preacher prepared to deliver a serman of hell and brimstone.
Some weeks afterward, as Vanderplank slung a pick into the hard-baked soil of his vegetable garden, she heard a knock on the door and drew back the oil paper window to observe a short squatty man wearing a shirt without a vestiture and baggy trousters. She recognized him as one of the malcontents. Jonathan Frye seemed nervous as he peeped around to the rear of the house and then his body slinked into the shadow of the front door.
"Mistress Vanderplank", he whispered as he passed a note under the door. "A letter for you."
She bent over for the letter, breaking open the seal. Her thick lashes blinked while she read the message.
"Be there a reply?"
Frye asked, while his head made fast rotation about the yard and as she whispered 'No", ran into the woods.
Her heart pounded fearfully and her chest heaved laborously her eyes also peered about the yard for any possible onlookers. Then, she closed the door and bolted it then carefully unfolded the letter from its broken seal and observed a fancy-handwriting with loops and dotted eyes and the signature of "John Wylly,"
read it again. The content was phrased into one assumptive sentence, but it caused her head to ache and ears to ring. "I must see you tomorrow at the creek."
The words were too plainly obvious. She began to cry. A whole year had passed in her painfully youthful life span. And her world had turned upside down since her arrival in the colony. The ordinary two-room Vanderplank house provided a warm fire and comfortable bed. Little Willie who was napping on a thick cotton quilt pallet on the floor wiggled himself awake. Before he was assured of his surroundings, his eyes found hers and his tiny lips smiled. He did not in the least wise resemble his father, except for the curly black hair which grew longer every day. She lifted him into her arms and changed the diaper. A pot of stewed squirrel with no potatoes or vegetables was roasting over the pit in the fireplace and its fragrance permeated the room. But she peeled several radishes for a condiment.
It was dark when Vanderplank left the garden and came inside the house. There was a hard cake of dried soil layered in the strands of his graying hair and over his shoes. He had not the usual bucket of water from the well. The drought had taken its toll. Sweat poured down his forehead and his soiled work clothes reeked with the odor of a foul-smelling body sweat. He would wear the same clothes for months. Hans Vanderplank suffered to the extent of the other colonists. One of the italians had dropped dead that morning from heat exhaustion and Mrs. Camuse threatened to quit the colony for lack of payment from the trustees.
Hans did not share his troubles with Abby. The muscles he'd developed during his hardship days in the old world drew him into silence, because after his callous upbringing, he welcomed another opportunity in the colony. He was a man of the forest. There was strength enough in his body to use a saw and sling an axe and he figured that he could dig the hard ground of the garden soil until he found the black pliable dirt. The mulberry seedlings were among those plants which could not be watered. And come Spring, Chauncey Bean and the other colonists would not have an extra 500 mulberry seedlings to plant, as he'd promised, nor would Bean have his leaf crop this year. It would be a disturbing set-back for the whole silk-worm operation. And there was one thing which he knew, even if Abby did not, and that is that he saw a little pouch in her stomach. She was expecting another baby.
Willie held out his arms to be picked up, but Hans removed his dirty clothes. Still, the baby insisted.
he said shaking his head.
Willie was determined to have his way, and suddenly said his first greeting. "Pa pa!"
Hans was so delighted that he lifted the boy above his head, chuckling as he did so. There was no question but what the magic formula had been invented! "My son!"
He shouted with tears in his eyes.
Abby stood to her feet and joined hands with her husband while he kissed them again and again. "The boy needs his own bedroom,"
he said cheerfully, "and I shall build it for him."
"But what about the drought?"
"There will always be droughts, but today my family needs another bedroom,"
he said cheerfully.
Abby forgot about John Wylly's message in the happiness of that particular evening. The stew was wanting its vegetables and the clothes needed washing. But the loving protection of Hans Vanderplank was far more precious.
Chapter 14. Frye Runs Away.
Jonathan Frye delivered his untimely message and quickly made his escape from Savannah before Vanderplank could discover his deed or the supply ship returning Oglethorpe and his party of Creeks weighed anchor in the Savannah River. He had no time to notify Chauncey of the delivery. But Chauncey, without a written response from Abby, was assured that the message had been delivered and sneaked away the next morning to the creek and wait for Abby. Still, he hid himself in the woods and waited. The chilling wind was at his back as he stood watching a mist rising over the creek providing cover throughout the surrounding woods. As the atmosphere settled, he noticed that the washing creek was almost dry. He was relieved, thinking that the italian women would forego their washing. He commenced rebuking himself for taking chances, but considering the argumentative nature of Martha, pitied himself, thinking that he deserved to see the beautiful Abigail once again. What would he say to her? Sweat dribbled from his arm pits arms as he struggled to think of the appropriate message. Whatever it was, his first inclination was to kiss her. What could come of such a risk?
When she did not come, he bit his lips until they bled. he decided to return again the following day, just in the event of some mixup or confusion from Frye. However, as the weeks passed, he reconciled himself to the truth. He was stuck with Martha. So, finally, after all those months of arguments, he slipped into her bed and relieved himself. She complained of his lack of tenderness, but he did not care.
Oglethorpe who was in Charleston arranging with Governor Johnson to blockade the Mantanzas River in Florida while he bombarded St. Augustine. His plans were to lay seige on the fort and force a surrender.
Donald Mackay and two other men were sent from Darien with instructions to enlist citizen-troops for the battle. However, the spoken words of the message were ill-chosen and sent panic in the hearts of ordinary citizens who packed their wagons and refuged to Charleston. The words read: "Should Fort Frederica fall to Spain, Savannah is next."
Despite the troubles of colonization, there were still a few good men remaining who desired to fight for their homes. The clanking sound of an ailing bell was heard throughout the village. When Donald came to Martha's house, she complained bitterly about her neglectful husband.
"What can I do with no husband to protect me?"
Donald searched the house. "I know Henry had a weapon. Where did ye store it?"
"Chauncey assumed possession of Henry's trunk."
Donald's vest was loaded with daggers and blades and one musket. He removed it and gave it to her. "Do ye know how to shoot?"
"Some on," he said, grabbing her hand and ushering her outdoors. He showed her how to load, pack and aim. After attempts, he said: "Should the Spanish attack, ye know what to do!"
"Where is Chauncey?"
"Chauncey and Charles took the creek road. Aye, to persuade Mr. Causton and Mr. Williamson to ride with them to Frederica."
"But what about my being left alone in the house of Mr. Thornton?"
"Tsk. tsk. It is time that ye gave Chauncey some credit. Tis his responsibility now."
"But how will Chauncey ere deliver on his promise when he is off to war?"
"No man can promise his feelings before he himself knows them. Aye, I tried to explain it to you but you insisted upon marrying him. Aye, what doth that matter now ere we all die in the hands of the Spanish!"
Chapter 15. Recruits.
Chauncey and Charles whipped their horses into a white foamy lather on the road to Martha's farm. The news of war had precluded them, and the new crew of laborers were among those who ran away to Charleston.
"Nary a soul. Not even the overseer. We shall ne'er find them,"
Charles was distracted as his eyes squinted in the illumination of the last rays of sunlight lighting the creek, trying to make out the deserted Bathurst house. When he did, noticed some loose plank boards dangling from the roof. An early fall breeze swooping underneath the planks caused an eerie cracking sound through the wood.
"There is something wrong at the Bathurst house,"
Only a short month earlier, Sir Bathurst married the widow purported to be wealthy. But he was misinformed as she had more debt with which to burden the already stressed Lord Bathurst. They crossed the creek and found him dead inside an empty house.
"Where is Mrs. Bathurst?"
Chauncey said, his loud voice penetrating an eerie silence before drifting off into a maze of trees and darkness.
"Looks like she absconded with Lord Bathurst's china teacups."
"I do not know when he died, but according to the stench, several days."
Although darkness had fallen, they took the shovels and buried him beside his first wife.
"We ere soldiers of war. Howbeit tis something we had to do first,"
Charles said sadly. "His children will probably ne'er learn of it, nor his neighbors."
"The old milch cow is still in the barn,"
Chauncey said, finding a rope to tie around the neck. "I shall take it back to the widow."
"Why do ye still call Martha the widow when she is your wedded wife?"
"I cannot help but do so, as she speaks so frequently of Mr. Thornton."
It was late in the evening when they finished their search of recruits and returned to Bull Street. Chauncey tied the milch cow in the barn, then, saying nothing to Martha, carefully folded and packed the good suit of Henry Thornton in the chest, along with a pair of buckle shoes and a peruke, but he removed a shotgun and dagger. The next morning he arose and he dressed in the old ragged suit of clothes which he'd worn from England. To his surprise, Donald awaited him in the kitchen.
"This is the best I can do for soldiering,"
he excused himself before Donald took a long hard look at his appearance. "Martha is not yet awake, and she complained all evening concerning our going off to war. And Donald, there is more bad news. We buried Lord Bathurst yesterday without a person in sight. The only thing surviving animal on the place was an emaciated milch which I tied in the barn."
"What is the condition of Martha's farm?"
"The laborers have flown the coup and there is no winter crop. And I do not know how she can manage."
"Aye, hard times ere ahead of us. The general's orders ere to dispatch one hundred men, and although many were asked, few answered the call. Did ye enlist anyone from Augustine Creek?"
"Nay, the magistrate was nought at home and Mr. Williamson, with Sophie refusing to allow him to enlist, ordered us off the place. But never mind, for Charles and I can refit ourselves, here are two pistols and dagger,"
Chauncey said, proudly displaying the weapons on the table.
The servant Minnie entered the room and commenced cooking a batch of eggs and biscuits. She was eventually followed by Martha, who overheard the loudly enthusiatic male voices as they espoused their plans. Her platted hair was still tied with bows and the expression on her face was one of displeasure. Chauncey could have predicted her first remark. "Aye, tis true that am alone to fend for meself."
"And fend ye well, my dear,"
Chauncey answered sarcastically. He could have spit other remarks, however in respect for her brother refrained from doing so. However, Donald, being the devoted soldier that he was, seethed with disgust at her attempt to demean and weaken his volunteers.
"Sister," he said in gruffly, "there be no man sufficient to hold us, and ye voice be but the faint whimper of a woman!"
Then, standing to his feet, Donald Mackey strapped a scabbard around his waist, inserted his sword, and summoned Charles and Chauncey to follow. They grabbed the pistols and dagger lying on the table. The departure was sudden as the men hurried into the yard and summoned their steeds.
Chauncey felt a pang of guilt for leaving his wife alone and without resources, however his English childhood had impressed the lesson that families without land, were poor. Thus, he was more afraid of being conquered and his lands being seized.
Chapter 16. Going off to War.
As they choked up dust on the road, the cause gained momentum and by the time that they were mid-way to Darien, Donald had enlisted enough men into service to form a company. Like the England they left behind, this adventure also targeted uncertainty. Initially, it was one of comradry, hunting, fishing, target practice and conversations of war. All along the trail, Donald regaled the brothers with tales of the first Lord Reay to be knighted by King James VI. But although that was a war which robbed the scottish pretender (to the throne) of his resources and changed history, it also left the clans imbued in civil war. And when the cause was lost, the exiled Reay succumbed in Denmark.
"There he lies, I said to me sister Martha, as we stumbled upon the grave for the first time. We had just climbed a steep hill which took our breath and passed over a clump of walled terraces. And there it all lay before us, the ruins of the great castle enveloped by walls measured by the foot as a thickness of 8 feet. The stone walls guard all of the terraces surrounding the castle. We found the neglected grave of Lord Reay hidden in a patch of weeds entwined with spring flowers near the cliff. The words Manu forti were inscribed on the tomb, meaning with a strong hand. That be all that is left of the old way. Because me own poor disinherited father was far descended from Lord Reay by way of second or third cousins, I took it as a personal omen to find me own battles. Someday I shall build another Mackay castle and call it Strathnaver."
Donald went on to explain his early training in the techniques of guerrilla warfare, which was an entrenched way of life for the highlanders. How clever that General Oglethorpe enlisted his countrymen into service to fight the Spanish on the American continent, Donald bragged. "So here we be, called to protect and defend the new colony."
Several weeks passed before reaching the fort at Darien. Chauncey and Charles were dissappointed. It seems that, particulary after Donald's grand, regaling stories of building an imposing fort overlooking the Altamaha River upon the verital foundations of one deserted by English soldiers, how could a few pieces of cannon defend against the powerful armada? The site, at the stragetic point where the river met the open sea, Donald explained, would afford the commandant the distinct advantage of firing first. However, only four cannon rested upon a wooden bulwark overhanging the marsh and the munitions bunker was but one small enclosed room. Likewise, the barracks seemed deserted. Less than ten men and a slew of mosquitoes were left to guard the fort while the company was being transported to Frederica.
"How many companies are at Frederica?"
"Three or four battalions,"
Donald answered. "
"We are out-numbered,"
Donald answered, thinking further that the armada itself would consist of a fleet of 3,000 to 4,000 troops.
"Oh, I know that ye are disappointed. Tis true that troubled waters lie ahead! "
"What is the general's plan?"
"To take the battle into the St. John's River and lay seige against the fort in St. Augustine."
Charles signed deeply.
"Doth it matter, Charles?"
Chauncey challenged. "We cast our lot for the new colony and now that our feet stand upon this soil, do we not possess the power to change our circumstances?"
"Nay, and I so despise entering a fight which cannot be won!"
"Yet we push ahead,"
Donald interrupted. "We are come to this place. Is this place any worse than the highlands? Howbeit the cause or circumstances of our presence, this winter will soon transform into spring. Then we shall assemble with our weapons to fight against a terrible foe. And who is to say that we are unable to face one more unpleasant reality, "
Donald declared. Then he spoke parenthetically of the open plains of the English and the Scottish hills where ancient battles were fought and fates decided. "Whatever is to come, shall decide."
And such were the conversations while they awaited the arrival of the sloop which ultimately transported them south along the Altamaha and into the Frederica river. A more formible fort was situated on the northern end of St. Simon's Island, with a military road connecting to the southern tip of Gascognie's bluff. A wooden palisade fence encircled the fort and a moat full of alligators, but from the river, was a splendid view of a several concrete buildings overlooking a bullwark of cannons. And behind those walls, were the barracks and a thriving town of about 500 houses. The sloop which transported Donald tied up to a wharf buried deep in the marsh. The energy of anticipation and uncertain excitement was felt throughout the district by soldiers and citizenry alike as they flurried about in the work of their daily existence. There was inadequate space for Donald's new company of volunteers. The first night they slept in a hut inside the designated area of the barracks and the next day, visited the trade shops, which were built in the same pattern as those in the old country.
Donald, the typical well-freckled Scottish solder with a puggy nose and wiry frame, felt a sense of belonging in the familiar environment. Although younger than his sister, he tackled responsibility the same way that he brought down a wild boar.
Chapter 17. Seige of St. Augustine.
During summer, when General Oglethorpe took his regiments down the St. Johns River into Florida, temperatures rose to almost 100 degrees. It was to be a long, hot summer with an intolerable humidity and impure drinking water causing his men to suffer from dysentery and fevers.
Several sloops carrying the regiments anchored at the mouth of the river preparing for a cumbersome march of ropes dragging heavy cannons and other munitions through perilous swamp waters. General Oglethorpe was in good spirits. He had in his possession the letter from Governor Johnson of South Carolina promising a blockade of the Mantanzas River and expected to see those vessels as they entered the Florida peninsula. Thus, when they approached Amelia Island, he deposited a small force with one cannon to assist in maintaining the blockade.
The plan was to bombard the castle and starve the conquistadors into surrender. A fresh growth of grasses throughout the swamps deposited a heavy crop of snakes, gnats and mosquitoes. St. Augustine was a robust town of Spanish occupation, supposed christianized Indian tribes and a mixture of french and british merchants and a sizeable population. The dynamics of dutch, french and african trade ships affected world economy and the ships in the harbor was a clear violation of a trade agreement between Spain and England which prevented the encroachment upon certain territories. However, both countries were known to ignore that treaty. When an Englishman by the name of Jenkins traded where he was not welcome, Spain cropped off his ear as an example of the violation and returned him the England. For this atrocity, England declared war upon Spain. Thus, it was called "the war of Jenkin's Ear". With Spain occupying territories so close to England's American colonies, Oglethorpe was promoted to General and ordered to fight a land war on the American continent. It was a daunting decision to send the ill-equipped colonists into Florida.
A stone fort guarded the harboring Montanzas River into the Atlantic ocean. Unknown to Oglethorpe, the fort was refitted during the late 16th century and inpenetrable. Also, its advantage was that its cannons could easily fire upon any approaching vessels. And its powerful navy commanded the famous armada, a fleet of 24-gunners.
The weary regiments of General Oglethorpe from treking through swampy terrain had dragged its heavy cannon to a stragetic location within firing range of the fort. The encampment was ill-situated and near contaminated creeks and throughout the spring and summer, soldiers suffered from high humidity and reoccurring fevers. All along the journey, Oglethorpe had expected his scouts to bring the news of the fleet of Governor Johnson of South Carolina was fraught with disappointment as they lay out the camp. The bombardment was ordered. Day after day a spray of cannon was thrust against the concrete walls of the fort with scarce evidence of a dent. As weeks passed and the blockade was not in sight, Oglethorpe's soldiers were brought down with dysentary and fevers. After awhile, Oglethorpe was ill. Sgt. Mackay accessed the situation and reported that most of his company was ill, including Chauncey and Charles Bean. Oglethorpe lay in his tent, too ill to lead.
And day after day as the blast of cannon balls fell short of the cement castle walls, the highlanders despaired. What the general did not know was that during the latter part of the 16th century the fort had been re-enforced with cement walls and the cannon balls deposited but a few dents in the outside surface. Also, while the regiment struggled to force a surrender, it was an impossible task without the blockade. Later on, Oglethorpe would learn that the South Carolina fleet was stuck on a sandbar. The retreat included carrying a number of soldiers, including Oglethorpe, on a guerney back into Georgia.
Even so, he knew that Capt. Mendenez would ultimately seek revenge. For two years the eyes of the regiments watched for the arrival of the armada. Occasionally one or two vessels with sister ships were spotted off the reefs. But they all knew that sooner or later the Spanish would retaliate for its inconvenience.
Meanwhile, Fort Frederica was re-enforced with a wooden palisades fence, an inferior defense wall compared to the spanish fort, however.
Chapter 18. Revenge. Battle of Bloody Marsh
It was a swelty July evening when Donald and Chauncey stood guard. The moon was high and the sound of eerie howling animals echoed throughout the camp. Chauncey paused to speculate that it might be a spanish ship, but Donald explained "tis only a wee bit of a wild boar tracking alone."
"My guts tell me that the Spanish are out there, somewhere in the dark,"
"The fleet will come in its own sweet time."
Oglethorpe ordered the cannon unloaded and positioned on the ramparts but harder work lay ahead. The next morning a work detail commenced digging a moat around the fort and post holes for a stockade fence. Oglethorpe had a full year to fortify and refit the island before two spanish vessels made a ceremonious circle of the island and anchored off of Gascognie's bluff. Donald, assigned to guide southern tip of the island, witnessed the maneuver with tactical interest.
"They will climb the bluff,"
he predicted, "and make camp in those woods. Then they will find our military road. The conquistadors, in their fancy uniforms, hath their silver helmets and chain mail to protect them from arrows, and will make a spectacle of marching towards the fort expecting to confront us in the open marsh field nearest our stronghold."
Finally, after almost two years, the Spanish ships were sited landing near Gascognie Bluff on the southern tip of St. Simons Island. For several days the armada cut sail along the Atlantic shores until there was a count of 36 ships anchored in the Frederica River. When Oglethorpe saw this force, he ordered his troops to withdraw from the southern garrison, spike the guns and slight the fort.
Donald hustled his company back to the fort, but not before employing two platoons to stay behind and spy upon the spanish.
The intelligence reported two camps, one on the bluff and the other northerly towards the open marsh land of which Donald spoke. Judging from the size of the encampments, there was an estimate of 3,000 conquistadors, including those still aboard the armada.
There existed a stark comparison in the two armies. The American troops were a blend of highlanders adept in guerrilla warfare and scraggly misfits from the british isles solely dependant upon Oglethorpe for military prowness. But the founder was not only a leader of civil and military affairs, he was also a power figure of inner strength and determination, and the guts of the men.
When the statistics were told him, he clamly directed all of the companies to assemble at the garrison. And while the soldiers prepared defenses, villagers awoke from their various sleeping lodges to observe the activity.
The spanish commander Don Manuel de Montiano led his ground assault troops, roughly 1900 to 2000 conquistadors, ashore.
When the Spanish began to reconnoiter beyond the perimeter of the spiked fort they discovered a a narrowly cut winding farm road between the bluff and the fort. Thus, on July 18th, Captain Sebastian Sanchez took 115 soldiers within a mile and an half of Frederica. When they reached Bully Hole Creek, they skirmished with the company of Capt. Noble Jones. Capt. Jones managed to route the invaders, killing or capturing nearly a third of their soldiers and pursued until they discovered a larger force was advancing on Frederica, before falling back to defend the fort.
Meanwhile, a British advance party, in pursuit of the retreating Spanish force, engaged in another skirmish before falling back in the face of advancing Spanish reinforcements. When they reached a bend in the road, Lieutenants Southerland and Macoy ordered the column to take cover in the dense forest. Sgt. Donald Mackey pushed his company deep into the belly of the marsh. As he'd predicted, the conquistadors moved their regiments along the Military Road towards the fort expecting the typrical european confrontation in an open field. But the highlanders were not going to fight in the open.
The following day would tell the tale. It was a clear July morn when the sun arose over the horizon and scattered its first breath of light over the marsh hens. A flock of white egrits on the south beach took wing in the sky and commenced circling the vast marshy terrain where the battle would occur. The tidal waves of the ocean stirred in the thick grass and bubbling to the surface uncovered a covy of ducks and marsh hens. The dirt road was adjoined by woody trails of live-oak trees with fingered branches overhung by grayish moss and sheltering the scattered Scottish regiment awaiting the order to attack. Sgt. Donald Mackay, wearing the full plaid kirk of the highland warrior, a quiver of arrows strapped across his back and scabbard hanging loosely from his waist, had his recruits, including Chancey and Charles, cloaked around him, each with a sharp blade in the sheath and musket in hand. These weapons brought from the wars with the English. They were mired a foot deep in the flow of the murky tide waters as they passed through the thick of the swamp. From a distance, Donald's keen ears heard clanking noises of the silver armor of the conquistadors as they tromped along the narrow trenches and impasses of the road.
It was one of the hottest days of the season and swarms of mosquitoes buzzed in bleary clouds over the swamp. While the highlanders hid in the wood, nothing appeared to be amiss. This, combined with the arm pits of the spanish soldiers sweating profusely under their heavy armor, caused this band of conquistadors to break rank and prepare to make camp. They took out their kettles to cook and to rest.
"Look! They break rank!" Donald exclaimed.
The opportunity was at hand.
Suddenly, the British staged a surprise attack and catching them unawares, killed many spaniards. The highlanders ran through the camp firing the long bow and gutting with the dagger. As they drew near the road, Chauncey and Charles, running breathlessly over wooden stumps, loaded and fired their muskets. Charles and Chauncey, stumbled into a ravine. Climbing out with a few bruises, Chauncey's eyes squinted from a panoramic view of a yellow sun blazing gloriously over the wet marsh and for a moment it seemed as though the clouds had been wisked away by so grand a display. Then, a hazy mist drifted across the marsh and the smell of blood permeated his nostrils. His ankle inconvenienced with minor pain was nothing ompared to the stabbing pain of a steel blade as it entered his back. As the marsh was showered with arrows and swords splattered blood , he fainted. Later he felt his body being dragged over a field of corpses. That evening, after almost three weeks of Spanish presence on the island, both sides removed their wounded from the field of blood. It was the bloodiest battle which anyone had ever remembered.
When Chauncey awoke, he was being carried on a litter over Bully Hole Creek. Sgt. Mackey led a small platoon of limping soldiers towards the fort. "The Spanish are in retreat!"
Donald glanced towards Oglethorpe. The Spanish had retreated, but could they hold the fort? "Where is the surgeon?", he called out.
"Move soldiers! Get him to the barracks."
"Is that my brother? Is he dead?"
"Ask me first how we faired in battle?"
Donald pronounced loudly. His words brought a series of cheers from the Scots. Then he paused and answered in a low voice. "Chauncey took a deep cut betwixt the shoulders and lost a lot of blood, but we managed to stop the bleeding.
Chauncey nursed the memory of the biting pain of the surgeon's knife as he cleaned and sutured the wound while Donald and Charles looked on.
"Sgt. Mackay, you hath orders to report to the general."
When Chauncey fainted again, Donald hurried to find the general.
"Sgt. Mackay, I want you go out tonight with a scout. Rehearse him as to our numbers, then send him forth into the enemy camp to be captured. "
"What is the count, sir?"
"Over 5,000 cavalry and foot soldiers, plus ample munitions."
It was a psychological ploy to assist the Spanish in their retreat. When the scout was captured and his message taken to the ears of Sanchez, the captain did not believe it. Yet, they had been met with shock and awe as the Scots leapt out from the trees and rushed them into the marsh for a blood bath. He toyed with the idea that should the intelligence be true that the defeat of the armada would not justify further risk . The night passed without a sound as Mackay and his platoon, minus the captured scout, waded knee-deep into the marsh towards Bully Hole Creek. A path of moonlight streamed across several freshly dug graves near the creek. Donald's heart sunk as he recalled which of his men went down in battle. He made his way to the entrance of the fort and searched for the general. The figure of Oglethorpe was highlighted by the rays of the moon as he stooped over the ramparts. His shoulders were slumped over and there was a sadness in his eyes.
"General?" Mackay whispered. "Have you lost something in the water?"
"No," Oglethorpe answered, "I was contemplating the survival of this fledgling colony, whilst praying to the good Lord for help. What happened to the scout?"
"We allowed his capture as you ordered, and I am confident that he gave the proper intelligence. But we shall know for certain tomorrow or the next day, when he makes his escape from the enemy."
For several days the regiment waited for an answer before Oglethorpe sent out another round of spies. Eventually the news reached the fort that the powerful Spanish armada had retreated. Later news that the armada had abandoned St. Augustine and were sailing to Cuba would re-enforce the win. The regiments cheered. They had won the impossible battle!
Oglethorpe retired to his tent where he wrote his letter to the Earl of Egmont. As he sat writing in the dim light of a candle he described the battle. A true hero he was, given the order to fight a grievous land war against the powerful european army of the Spanish and loosen it from its Florida territory. The british colonies on the American continent were safe to produce an economy which would expand trade throughout Europe and the carribbean while the twenty-two entrepreneurs struggled to recover their losses for a silk industry which would not take. But the founder would sleep six more years in his tent before the regiment was recalled to England. And then, after fifteen years of colonizing and so much time had passed so that his success was forgotten, when Oglethorpe returned to England, he was not hailed as a hero.
While Charles and Chauncey rested in the barracks, along with the other wounded soldiers, the town prepared its celebration feast. A goodly supply of English beer from Major Horton's brewry was delivered from Jekyll Island to Frederica and as the evening wore on, several kegs of the illegal rum from Charleston. Oglethorpe ignored the violation and allowed his troops to fire weapons and carouse all night. The townsfolks spread tables of food and the brick ovens burned hot throughout the celebrtion with baked english muffins and pies. There was fiddle-playing and dancing in the streets and Donald, although he consumed too much beer, entertained by singing the melodies of scottish ballards. While tears wet his eyes, his emotional voice projected told of the worst of times and the daylight of hope. "In the days of yester year the lads went down, all, in defeat. But today. Ah yes, lads, today we held the stronghold," he sang new words over an old melody. "Manu forti. Manu forti!"
The tender words, sung in the evening with the rising moon, aroused the attention of all the camp and a spirit of triumphful joy energized the scottish and british soldier alike. But the joy of the win would forever remind Donald that he bore the heart-felt strength of the Mackay clan.
Long before the wounds healed and they were well again, the summer months of 1742 passed into winter. Meanwhile, the repairing of the stockade fence and the trenches commenced. A plan to return the regiment to England was in the works as well as a discussion as to who should remain in the colony. One vessel was sent to Savannah to relay news of the victory and to repair the harbor, but there was only room for a small platoon. Charles and Chauncey would have to wait until the affairs of the army were implemented. After the loss of about fifty soldiers in the battle of bloody marsh as it would forever be known, they slept in a bed in the barracks, so they settled down to performing the business of ordinary volunteers awaiting release and transport.
Chapter 20. Martha Alone.
Martha was alone in the Thornton house for two years before word came of the successful battle of bloody marsh. Times were tough. The farm, having no laborers, was severely neglected, and Sir Bathurst's milch cow which Chauncey had delivered to Bull Street, died. Her only income was selling eggs from the chicken yard. The root cellar was near empty of its supply of dried vegetables from droughted crops. And now it was time to face the truth and make a proper assessment.
She filled a small basket of eggs to sell. That day, as she walked towards the marketplace, her distress revealed itself in the attitude of a shrinking, needy woman. As she walked along the footpath, travelers led their horses to the trough in Johnson's square. But her thoughts were on another time, when the son of a clothier rescued her from poverty. Henry Thornton, down on his luck, emigrated to the colony with two indentured servants, and qualified for a land grant of 500 acres of land. Older and recently widowed, he had a paltry inheritance from a portion f his fathr's estate, with more expected from the sale of the clothier firm. But Henry was dull and boring.
She first visited Jack Mason, the executor of the estate of Henry Thornton. The funds which came to her from the piddling account of the Thornton estate in England were collecting dust in the hands of Jack Mason hands as he waited out the war. A recent sale of the clothier firm put a hefty sum into his management sufficient to acquire good Carolina fertile land, which would produce abundant crops of rice and cotton. The Thornton account would take him a long ways in constructing a rich trade business from Europe to the Caribbean. And he knew that Chauncey would heed his advice, thus, he was not about to release to the widow.
Mason was affable and friendly, but refused to give her the estate without proof that Chauncey Bean was dead. "I am also your factoring agent, madam, and you can trust me to produce an agreeable profit."
"Look around you, madam. The soil is burnt with drought and the war hath taken its toll upon the economy. I would say, next year, when there is a harvest."
Afterwards, she stood conspiciously in the street amongst the other merchants, and while the little basket of eggs went ignored, she noticed little Willie Vanderplank as he tugged on his mother's skirts. The trustees farm had produced spindly vegetables during the draught. She selected some sweet potatoes for a pie.
Abby had lost a daughter, and now she was conspiciously expecting another child.
Throughout the war with Spain, Hans Vanderplank adjusted to the troubling times. The trustees ceased the production and and exporting of silk and the danger of encounting spanish war ships prevented the british from send supply ships into the colony. The colonists lost their interest in planting mulberry trees for the silk worm and found their own economy raising cattle and other livestock. And the italian weavers, convinced that the silk industry was dead, waited for transportation back to their own country. During 1742 and 1743 most of the indentured servants, finding themselves in the worst of times, deserted the colony.
That particular afternoon, Abigail suddenly swooned, but was swept up into the arms of her husband. Little Willie wandered away. Hans called after him. No answer until he began to cry. Martha's instincts took charge as she rushed to rescue Willie and follow the couple back to Abercorn Street. While Vanderplank went for the mid-wife, the child was tearful and unsettled. She put him on her lap and while rocking him, ran her fingers through his curly hair. Frye was correct; the child had grown a full head of thick black curls, and was the spitting image of Chauncey! He wiggled free of her arms and ran to his mother's bed. Abigail was in the painful process of childbirth. As soon as he saw his mother's suffering, big tears flowed down his cheeks and he struggled to climb upon the bed. Martha found herself lifting the boy onto the bed. He desperately hugged her neck. "Aunt Martha," he cried, "Aunt Martha!"
Martha was overwhelmed by the outward expression of love.
When the midwife arrived, Martha took Willie into the other room.
"Do not fret, Abby,"Martha said wearily, "I will care for the boy."
Towards morning, as she sat sleeping in a chair, Martha felt the large calloused hands of Hans Vanderplank patting her on the shoulder. He had tucked Willie in his bed. "My wife is still in labor."
"I shall stay so long as I can be useful," Martha said sincerely.
"Please use the accommodations in the shed room for your needs," he said, pointing to a small room in the old part of the house.
During the wee hours of the morning, a second son was born. His features resembled those of his father and the deep soulful brown eyes and square jaw confirmed the lineage. He would be tall, and muscular. Abby seemed pleased.
"What is his name?" Martha asked.
"Hans, after his Swiss grandfather, but we shall call him Hannie."
A chatter was heard. It was Willie, waking from his sleep.
He called. "Aunt Martha, where are you?"
The voice was melodic and appealing.
"My son wants you,"
Abby said sweetly.
Martha went outside to the kitchen to cook breakfast as Vanderplank came bounding inside with a freshly plucked chicken. "For dinner," he said smiling. "There is news on the street that the war with Spain is won! "
"It cannot be. We cannot have won!" Martha declared with some degree of skepticism.
"Tis a good day for Savannah, and the birth of meine kinder heralds a season of plenty!"
Martha paused. There were no letters from Chancey. Did that mean that her husband would be coming home, or was he dead?
"You are aunt Martha. In awhile, I shall go and milk your cows."
"God keep you," Martha whispered.
"These are good members," he answered, squeezing her fingers. "I will look after you. You are a member of our family now."
Later that same evening when Martha retired to the shed room, she wept. All that had ever mattered to her was a good husband and raising a family. Did it matter that she had not borne any children? Or, that Chauncey had fathered the child of Abigail? Little Willie declared his natural love by declaring her as his aunt. Her emotions pulled at her from every angle, but the little boy had won her heart!
Chapter 21. 1748. Farewell to General Oglethorpe
At the end of the war Chauncey and Charles were unsuccessful in acquiring a transport to Savannah. Finally, when vessels were again sent to Frederica and General Oglethorpe was recalled to England, it was 1748. A convoy of three ships were enroute from Gravesend to dispatch the Oglethorpe and his regiments back to England. Simultaneously, Oglethorpe gave the order to transport all volunteers to Savannah. Chauncey and Charles were almost six years in the field and neither of them had attempted to correspond with anyone in Savannah. For one, the volunteers were detailed to rebuild the southern outpost, then sent to the mainland to put down an Indian rebellion on the plantation of Capt. Carr. The Hermitage was constructed on a flat plain near the Savannah River, and he frequently left his wife and children alone to the dangers of the Indians while he patrolled the river with the regiment. Carr, a daresome man and one of the favorite officers of General Oglethorpe,was the first to venture to make a home on the mainland. Donald, Chauncey and Charles preferred to patrol with Capt. Carr, especially during summer when the vessel afforded the effects of cooling winds. On one of such patrols, Carr observed something amiss at the Hermitage. Dropping anchor, they ran towards a burning house. The indians were gone and his wife and children were found hiding inside a corn crib. Four years into the future (when the trustees gave the colony to King George) Capt. Carr would make another venture by acquiring large tracts of land in the remote coastal area and build the port city of Sunbury.
The Frederica townsfolks gave a farewell party as a final salute to the person that they called "father". General Oglethorpe had his orders. He was recalled to England.
As the day began, the streets were rapidly filled with tables of fish, spoon bread and all manner of sweet cakes. Mouth organs, wind instruments, flutes and the harpischords produced melodies for dancing and sentiment. The day wore on and as the troops prepared to embark for Gravesend, Major Horton went to his brewery and loaded the last casks of ale and beer produced on Jekyll Island. It was also Horton's good-bye. As the kegs of the wholesome beer were delivered to the fort, he was met with a salute of cheers.
The end of the festive celebration was performed in the traditional style of a military salute, with Oglethorpe inspecting the troops and the firing of 12 guns. Afterwards, Oglethorpe saluted the crowd and boarded a vessel during the rhythm of the last tide.
Afterwards, as people went about cleaning up the tables and debris, a great sadness prevailed throughout the colony.
The next tide would transport Donald Mackay and the highlanders to Darien. Early the next morning, Chauncey and Charles had a last meeting with Donald. His broad sword hung loosely in the scabbard and below the knees of the Mackay plaid kirk. The words of Scottish songs were still being sung and the music of wind-instruments drifted across the marsh as a final good-bye to old soldiers. "Ehre we win this last battle before moving on to glory."
"The words beat inside the heart of every Inverness lad who had fought the English, now to play again,"
Donald reminisced. "I hath spent me life fighting for one cause or the other."
"And now there is a grand pride in the memory of all those who fought the glorious battle of the bloody marsh, to be passed down to grandchildren," Charles said.
"That is why I must go with the highlanders, and make a life for meself in the waters of the Altamaha. Aye, I am weary of fighting Indians and Spaniards on this island of mosquitoes and fevers."
"Will you 'ere come to us in Savannah?"
The sober eyes of Donald stared ahead and as he pat Chauncey on the back, said seriously:
"I am content that you ehre me sister's husband. Aye, you hath the heart of a fearless fighter, Chauncey Bean, aye, a skilled marksman and fast learner. Although at first, I did not think so, I am satisfied that ye be a good man and the proper husband for me sister. Go home, sir, and deliver a slew of children into the world!"
He took a final swig of Mr. Horton's beer, then burped loudly. His brows drooped downward and the round of his eyes seemed to rest upon his cheeks. As the day wore on, Donald imbibed enough ale to be sufficiently drunk, so that when the tide rushed out and they heard the call, Chauncey and Charles supported Donald's arms on each side, carried him to the munitions building, thence to the wharf. Donald, suffering a moment of regret, uttered in a weepy voice: "I feel as though I am deserting me friends. If ye say "go aboard", then I shall go "
"Go aboard, Sgt. Mackay!"
"Fare thee well!" Donald shouted as the tide washed the ship out to sea.
Several days later, the Bean brothers sailed away from the little island. The sails bore hard against a change of wind. The sudden change lodged an eery feeling in the pit of the stomachs of the departing volunteers and they stared anxiously at the isolated village disappearing in the vision of heaving waves.
The political changes in the colony bore a grim future for Frederica without the soldiers to spend their coppers.
Chapter 22. The Return to Savannah.
There were twenty-three volunteers who returned to Savannah, each securing in his own way, the life he had bargained for. As almost six years had passed since the battle in the bloody marsh, it was a surprising event when one of the convoy of three ships bound for Gravesend dropped anchor and deposited its passengers in the recovering town. As they disembarked, an unfavorable thread of gossip spread. "They are the rag tail lot of Oglethorpe's regiments."
Chauncey and Charles were among the worst of the shagged-haired and bearded lot clothed in rags and wearing beaver caps. They had already decided that it was to their advantage to first visit Jack Mason and found the familiar one-room business being operated in one of the cotton warehouses along the river. The building housed local crops ready for shipment along the eastern-seaboard or to Gravesend. Jack Mason's points of contact were anywhere that he could ship goods in exchange for a commission. That particular afternoon, a vessel from Barbadoes was unloading its cargo of sugar cane in exchange for large gunny sacks of rice being counted by Jack Mason. Judging from the smell of rotting corn and other unshipped crops, was obvious that Mason had also had his troubles.
He greeted them with a resounding shout. "If ye want work, return at the end of the week!"
"Greetings, sir. Tis Chauncey and Charles Bean,"
Chauncey stated firmly.
Jack Mason stopped his counting and observed their bearded faces and straggly clothes. "Well, God bless, you ehre nought dead after all!"
It was something for those loading the ships to laugh about after the tatters of war, and the room roared with spontaneous laughter.
"What is in those bags?"
Charles asked curiously.
"Rice. The rice crop for this year from the Great Ogeechee on the Carolina side."
"How is there money in that, when slaves are forbidden?" Charles asked."
"Not so in Carolina!"
"What about the widow's affairs?"
"You hath done well there, for the old man's clothier business was finally sold and I turned nought a penny over to the widow. I told her that you were not officially dead until seven years passed. Thanks be to God that ye returned before ye officially died!"
The laborers laughed again.
"When you did not return, your wife was convinced that you were dead. She assumed the use of her old name, Mrs. Thornton."
Chauncey's face turned crimson. "But before you swear, I would inform you that you hath sufficient money to purchase rich farm land in Carolina. Lucrative crops are being planted all along the coast. "
"What crop?" Chauncey asked.
"Rice, my good man! In the Carolinas, rice is gold !"
"What about my wife? Where is she?"
When Mrs. Vanderplank gave birth to her second son, Martha became the aunt and spends most of her time at the Vanderplank house on Abercorn Street. Tis an agreeable situation, Martha helping raise the little boys whilst Hans plows her farm and sells her piddling eggs."
"Why yes. Mrs. Vanderplank gave birth to several children, but only the two sons lived. She was quite ill for a long while, and Martha acts as an aunt to the children. I think that she is quite happy in those circumstances."
He continued. "I found several tracts of bottom land suitable for rice paddies near Charleston. Do you wish to see them?"
Chauncey nodded. They retired into a small room and Jack Mason unfolded two large plats and a map. "This is Charleston,"
he said pointing with his forefinger, "and along the Ashley river is rich bottom land. Two tracts, I believe, of 1,000 acres navigable by the river. Also, there is a vibrant slave market in Charleston where you can get your workers. Are ye interested? "
"Yes, but I need to see my wife."
"Owing to the fact that she is stubborn and needs convincing, do not go without a shave and a proper suit of clothes," Mason warned. "I think that the account of your wife can well afford that indulgence!" he said laughing.
"In that event, where shall we sleep tonight?" Charles asked.
"You may sleep on the warehouse floor this evening, and in the morning, visit my tailor."
Chapter. 23. Argument.
Chauncey was anxious to discuss with Martha the new plans of purchasing land near Charleston. As Mr. Mason suggested, he should expect resistance from a woman who had a comfortable life. Therefore, the brothers were dressed as well-to-do gentlemen, wearing the new-style linen coats and silver buckles on their shoes. When she opened the door and saw them standing on the porch, her face turned white and she appeared to faint. He caught her in his arms and took her inside the house and laid her upon her bed.
"Martha," Chauncey said smiling, "Tis Chauncey, your husband."
"Is it really you, Chauncey?"
he said touching her hand to his black curly hair. "Feel me. I am here."
"But I waited so long and you did not come. Everyone came home, save you."
"I know. I know, my dear wife. It was very difficult to get a letter to Savannah, or passage."
"But it is 1749! Where where you so long ?"
"The volunteers had the task of rebuilding Frederica and the outlying forts. Although the Spanish were gone, we had to protect the settlements against marauding Indians. Further, there was no ship for us until after Oglethorpe and his English regiments were recalled to England."
"But you could have written, Chauncey, so that I would know. "
"I was in the bush, woman!"
"What of my brother?"
"Donald felt duty-bound to go and live amongst the highlanders in Darien. No word from him, either?"
"No," she answered shaking her head. "There was no one to help me, save Mr. Vanderplank."
"For that I am truly sorry, but I am here now," he said quietly, while bendingover to kiss her. But she pushed him away.
"If it weren't for Willie Vanderplank, the spitting image of you!"
"What is this insult?"
"Did you suppose that I did not know that Willie was your son? A child which you birthed with Abigail? I knew that from the day of Lady Bathurst's funeral. It was so obvious, a cute little baby with black curls sitting in her lap!"
Chauncey frowned as he remembered the warnings of Jonathan Frye. "So, my past is nought forgotten."
"Nay, and it never shall be! "
"It was nought sufficient for me to risk me life to save the colony, only to be confronted with the sins of me past? I suppose that you spread the news to our neighbors?"
"You need not be troubled. I did not shame meself by telling your secrets. And, despite you, I dearly love little Willie and would do or say nothing to harm him. Although he is the image of you, he possesses a sweet unbridled nature. And it was little Willie who sought me out the night that his brother was born, putting his little arms around my neck, hugging me, telling me that he loved me. "
"So that small expression of love was all that was required to cause you to run over to the Vanderplanks?"
"Regretfully, I could nought get love from me own husband!" she screamed.
"Tis also my sorrow, Martha."
"And so denied thusly, then I am content to share the love of little Willie and Hans, who need me," she continued the argument.
"You adopted the Vanderplanks for your family nest. But why do you continue to use the name of Henry Thornton?"
"When it is so obvious that Willie is your son, is it any wonder that I did it to protect meself from scandal."
Chauncey frowned. "I understand. Henry is still in your life."
"You ehre so jealous of Henry!"
"How else should I be? The dead lies betwixt us!"
Chauncey was expected to convince Martha of removing to Charleston but as the argument got louder, Charles, waited nervously on the front porch. His bed that evening would be inside the old shed room off the porch.
"Twas Henry who gave me a home and farm!"
"Martha," he said gently, "there are thousand acres of rich bottom land for sale on the Ashley River near Charleston. We could grow rice. The saying is that rice is gold."
"You could purchase more land nearby, perhaps the old Bathurst acreage."
The suggestion recalled the time that he and Charles dug a grave for the old lord and buried him without a funeral. "Sir Bathurst spent his whole effort attempting to farm land without the proper laborers and in the end, failed. Is that what you wish me to do? Continue his struggles?"
"Surely we can acquire laborers now that the war is ended?"
"No, Martha, slaves ehre nought permitted in this colony. Can you nought realize that this is the reason that people give up and run away? What good are the 500 acres, if there is no plowing nor harvesting? Mr. Mason says that in Carolina the planters are becoming rich by planting rice. "
"What about my nephews?"
"They hath their parents."
"But they need their aunt also," she insisted.
"We could start again, Martha, and raise our own children."
The words touched her heart. She felt the urge to cry and the misery in her face and eyes wrote its own tale. "I hath passed me time," she said bitterly. Chauncey was surprised. How could this be? She was still a young woman. "Whilst you were gone, I was beset with fevers."
"Despite our differences, I always believed that we would have children together. Surely, I am to blame. My sins ehre all encompassing. Please forgive me,"
he said softly. "But we can yet make a life betwixt ourselves and bring Donald up from his outpost in Darien as well. There is so much land to be had in Carolina! Tis an opportunity to be planters and overcome the meager existance of mere yeomen."
When she did not answer, he emitted a groaning whisper: "Even Henry would approve, were he alive. What else is there for me to say?"
Chauncey went to awaken Charles, but he was already awake. Chauncey seemed deeply troubled.
"We argued most of the evening," he confessed, "and since I hath done her a great injustice by fathering Willie Vanderplank, she refuses to forgive me and go with us to Charleston."
Charles rolled out of bed and rubbed his eyes. "But she is your wife. Her responsibility is to you!"
"This woman is nought beholden to me as her husband. Tis true that we made the bargain and I married her. However, in every respect, she is the widow of Henry Thornton."
Charles sighed. Having overheard a goodly portion of the argument, he was thoroughly disgusted.
"Did you tell her that you love her? That is what she wants."
"No. How can I say what is nought so?"
"I suppose that this is also my fault. What is next? What shall we do now?"
"I share the enthusiam of Mr. Mason to sail to Charleston in the morning."
"I am ready. My carpet bag is packed!"
Continued in Part II