Excerpt 1. (Chapter 19, page 168)
The Wells girl covered her eyes with both hands. Margaret, ignoring the buzzing of flies and the damp heat of the morning sun, worked to untangle the girl’s words in her mind.
“If the river doesn’t take me, then I shall have my baby alone and will have to live with Master Cole, and I shall never see my dear Tom again.” With that, she burst into tears.
“You do not look like you are about to have a baby. Why do you say your time is up?”
“Master Cole brought me here four years ago. He said after I had worked for him for four years, I wouldn’t owe him a tad more, and now he says I can’t leave, and so I might as well marry him. Lady Brent. I worked hard from early morning until after dark every day, and my time is up. Even the devil would say this isn’t right.” She sniffed and looked away.
Margaret set her jaw. “Heaven help us if other masters here in Maryland treat their servants in this manner.”
“There’s nothing I can do.” She bit her lip. “I thought maybe the next time you talked with Governor Calvert you might say something on my behalf, and I pray my request is not one of cheekiness.”
“Mary.” Margaret called sharply across to the soap making group. “Would you please come here?”
When Mary finished saying something, she trotted over to the garden. “Hello, Carrie. Are you not feeling well—your face seems flushed?”
“So, you are acquainted with Carrie Wells?” Margaret studied her sister, slipped the basket from Carrie, and moved it into Mary’s hands. “She brought these for us and herbs to scent your soap.”
“Sometimes on Sundays after church Carrie walks with me in the woods and shows me barks, roots, and herbs that heal.” She glanced at the basket. “Why, these are lovely.” She glanced at the young woman, then put her hand on Carrie’s arm. “Are you still having trouble with Jacob Cole?”
“Jacob Cole is about to have troubles with her. Has Giles returned from Kent for Assembly today? Will both our brothers be at the meeting?” Margaret’s frogs roiled inside her.
How dare these men take advantage of their servants?
“I saw him and Fulke along with some other men heading to Lewger’s home earlier.”
“Come, Carrie Wells. We shall also attend Assembly.”
“But—Margaret,” Mary grabbed her arm. “Certainly, women would not be allowed—”
Margaret shrugged Mary away, snatched Carrie Wells by her hand, and stomped off down the path.
“Sister,” Mary called after her, “you must take off that filthy apron. You’re covered in soil.”
Margaret jerked it untied and slung it. “There is a difference between God’s soil and men’s dirt. Carrie Wells and I are about to sort this very thing out with all those fine gentlemen of Assembly.”
Excerpt 3. (Chapter 21, pages 178-180)
“Maryland provokes my ill manners.” Fulke paced the kitchen floor as he talked. “We need women who are willing to marry. There are no wives to be had.”
“Take heart, brother,” Giles said, “maybe the next ship will bring some pretty ladies for us.”
Hesitant to speak, but then doing so, Margaret said, “Fulke, if it’s not beneath your standards, Mary and I would release any of our four maids from their servitude, any of which I am certain would agree to marry you.”
Fulke shook his head. “None are well born. These types of marriages only bring strife.”
Mary leaned over to him. “Sweet brother, our city has a couple of widows. Have you thought about courting them?”
“Like the Widow Hawley?” He glowered at her. “I would never choose her to be your sister-in-law—let alone live with that woman.”
His brother laughed and said, “Patience, Fulke. There’s still hope.”
“Giles, didn’t you listen to what our sisters said about the indentures becoming freemen? These young kids of four years ago are about to become freemen of age—looking for wives. They already outnumber their masters, who also want wives. I’m too old for all this waiting around. I need a loving wife who will bear me children.”
“Hold fast.” Giles said, “See what the next ship brings. Imagine some golden-haired beauty with a winsome smile strolling down the gangplank. Think of her pretty little shoes, stepping daintily onto our Maryland’s soil. When she looks around the gathered crowd to find a husband and sees your handsome face, she will swoon into your arms. A ship from England will arrive any day now.”
“Good.” Fulke strode to the door.
Then he swung around and pointed his finger at Margaret.
“Why Father thought I needed protect you, Margaret, I have no idea. It’s not you who need protection. Anyone you judge to be on the wrong side of right—they need protection. I shall leave on the next ship back to England.”