3) Search for Verity
Verity kept her arm around Alice, it was easier for her since I was a short house compared to her and Alice. Verity had suggested we go look into my new home. It was a small home, even for a home in this wee town, and from the outside, I could see it looked cold and empty of life. The door had been unlocked, the key possibly was left inside, and taking a breath I opened the door while Verity and Alice peeped in over my shoulders. The inside of the home was dimly lit due to the shutters being closed, not one little candle was lit and it was slightly dusty. There was a fireplace on the wall furthest away from me. It was facing the door that had a couple of fine wooden chairs placed nearby and a dining table was on the right side of the room. The left side of the room had a door going into what was probably the small bedroom. There was one thing about this house, the walls of it were sound and the woodwork not surprisingly round the fireplace and on the doors were beautiful.
“So d’company gets to keep an extra one hundred acres o’land. And y’get this little shack,” Verity said with her hands on her hips scanning my new dirty home in disgust.
“It just needs a sweep and dust Verity and it’ll be grand,” I replied placing my things on the table then went over to the window to open the shutters. The Virginia sun in the heavens above shone in lighting up the room.
“And a bit of light,” Alice smiled stepping in to look around. I opened the door into the bedroom seeing another window, a set of dark wooden draws with a candle onto of it next to a bed big enough for two. The sheets were in a mess and look like they needed a wash.
“No one must’ve set foot in ’ere since he died,” I said coming back into the main room. “I best start making it look like it’s alive then ’ey?” I said then from me bag took out an old piece of cloth to start dusting. Verity took the broom that was propped up in the corner near the table. Alice looked back out the door just in time to see Pepper come running while he called her name.
“C’mon! We are going to our land!” Pepper encouraged happily. Alice looked back at us putting a smile that looked sad.
“We’ll be here for ya,” Verity said and I nodded at Alice before she left with Pepper. Verity and I got on with the cleaning, and after a couple of hours, we managed to make the place look neat, tidy and respectable.
“Now that is lookin’ a lot brighter!” I grinned with my hands on me wide hips proudly.
“Now it looks like a home,” Verity added as she swept the last bit of dirt out onto the street. I then started to layout my sewing stuff. I put my main kit that I took with me always, a cloth one that wrapped together into a small pouch holding scissors, a needle, a thimble and some thread. I had a larger box one with much more choice and it even had some fabrics and wool.
“A seamstress’s home,” I added making Verity chuckle at all my things. “I think I need t’give them bed sheets a clean,” I added walking into the bedroom. I tugged the blanket then the sheets off followed by two pillows but was stopped by something flying onto the floor. “Ey up,” I muttered under me breath frowning at the letter that flew off the bed. “Verity!” I called picking it up off the ground.
“What?” She asked stopping next to me. I showed the letter to her that wasn’t addressed to anyone on the front, but on the back were the letters ‘A.M’ which must’ve been Alexander Miller. I frowned at Verity wondering what was in this wee envelope.
“Well c’mon lass,” Verity encouraged patting my shoulder and I opened up the envelope, seeing that it had some money in it! Not an awful lot but about half a year’s wage! It must be money he was saving after he paid for my transport here. Christ, he must have been well paid and talented. I would bet this money that he would’ve been the best husband any woman in England could have prayed for.
“Blimey,” I whispered almost unable to speak a word.
“Y’ought t’hide Clara,” Verity said pressing the letter into my chest to make sure I did just that.
“I will do, don’t you tell a soul in this town Verity!” I stressed and she nodded then promised she would. I thanked her then looked down at the letter again, tears filling my eyes because of the fact this future that looked so promising was taken from me like Alexander was. I wouldn’t give up though and would find a man to be a good husband to me. I would have many little ones with him and be a good mother like my mam was to me, even if I had to search all of Virginia.
“C’mon now Clara you’ll get tears on it.” Verity tutted wiping my eyes. I sighed then rubbed me eyes and took a deep breath.
“Aye, now then I best get on these sheets won’t wash themselves,” I replied then set about cleaning the bedsheets. I sat near the door on a chair with a bucket scrubbing and ringing out the sheets with a washboard in the sun singing away to myself. Verity wandered off quite suddenly somewhere I had not an idea, possibly avoiding the man she was to marry. I looked up a few times out of the door seeing men working on houses in the town making me wonder if any of them worked with the skilled Alexander Miller. Hopefully, they did not look over at this home and think I should not be living in it. The sheets looked less dusty and grimy. I hadn’t got a thing to make them smell fresher, but since I was the granddaughter of a fisherman it didn’t bother me. I did have to make a line out of some a thicker thread I had that wouldn’t stay up at first, but I made it after begging God to give me the strength to make it.
“Clara?” I heard Lady Yeardley call to me while I stood spreading the last pillowcase out. She caught me by surprise and I instantly turned to face her smoothing my skirt out.
“Hello Lady Yeardley,” I smiled to her then curtsied making her smile.
“I see you have become making this house a home,” she began looking around the main room of my home.
“Yes, please come in!” I gushed pulling up a chair for her.
“Thank you, Clara,” She said gratefully perching on the seat.
“Y’didn’t need t’come m’lady. Are you not still weary from the journey?” I asked getting another chair to sit on.
“I take things steadily, and the Lord gives me strength. I wished to come and comfort you, dear Clara, you must still be grieving your betrothed.” She said as I sat as gracefully as I could.
“Oh yes, going off the-” I nearly mentioned the money. “Fine woodwork in this home, Alexander was a skilled man,” I said looked over at the fireplace that she did also.
“Yes, he worked on my husband’s home you know. He spoke of marrying and fathering children with such joy, he was truly a good Christian man,” she added lacing her hands together on her lap then she looked at me. “And you as his betrothed should strive to honour his last wish and be a good Christian woman,” She encouraged taking my hand that I welcomed and nodded.
“I will in time Lady Yeardley,” I replied then heard a twang followed by the sound of wet clothes hitting the ground. I cringed knowing the line had fallen once again. “I am so sorry m’lady excuse me,” I gushed then got up to save my washing.
“Do not be so harsh on yourself Clara. You will make a good wife and mother with practice. God will help you along the way.” Lady Yeardley told me with a reassuring smile.
“Thank you m’lady,” I said then she excused herself leaving my home. Eventually, the bedsheets dried when the night came and I put them back on the bed before finally locking me door to go to bed. The next day I had to get some fresh food from the wharf where those goods were sold. I put on my white blouse, dark teal corset then my blue underskirt and overskirt that both were patterned along with my cream shoes. I picked up me bag holding some money and of course sewing kit then left my home. When I went out I expected to see Verity somewhere avoiding Meredith, but my Irish friend was nowhere to be seen. I did see Pepper and Alice walk into the town, but not Silas or that brute Henry.
“Hello Clara, how are you?” She asked me as we stopped meeting near the blacksmith’s while Pepper spoke to other men of the town.
“Well-rested thank you, Alice. I have not seen Verity this morning,” I added glancing around for her head of flaming red hair. Alice hummed with a frown on her bonny face while she looked also. I noticed that she had a brown and red long shawl on she had close to her to cover her arms. But sadly I noticed the bruises on her wrists from that bloomin’ beast Henry. The poor lass, I do hope Verity wouldn’t have to go through the same...not that she’d let Meredith do it. She would knee his balls above his throat and then some.
“What are the Sharrows to name the plantation?” The blacksmith of the down asked Alice from his workshop.
“Err, the Sharrow Hundred,” Alice replied after hesitating to speak stepping over to the fifth covered man while he scratched his beard.
“I’m...James Read.” He introduced shyly making me raise an eyebrow while Alice said hello.
“Oh!” James suddenly said glancing down before he picked up a metal bucket. “We make err, buckets out of military helmets.” He said holding it out to Alice. “Will you accept it? Get you started on your farm.” He added and Alice accepted it with a smile. James, however, had seen the bruising on Alice’s wrist and frowned.
“What’s that bruise on your hand? How’d you come by that?” James asked her and Alice stuttered a little unable to come up with an answer.
“What a kind gift, eh Alice?” I spoke walking to Alice’s side looking at the bucket with a smile. I then took the bucket so Alice could move her hand away and nodded agreeing with me while smiling. “This’ll be grand for you since the journey was perilous,” I added then she took the bucket again and cleared her throat.
“If you’ll excuse us Mister Read,” Alice said then we turned to walk away.
“Where are the brothers?” James asked Alice.
“They’ve gone upriver. Trade for corn with the Indians,” Alice replied.
“Where’s the sense in that?” the blacksmith frowned. Alice hummed once like she found it funny but was also dismissing it before she turned to go back to Pepper.
“He did have a bit of a point, Alice,” I spoke in a hushed voice to her as James went back to his work.
“I cannot marry him,” She suddenly said shaking her head. I didn’t need her to say anything else and just nodded rubbing her shoulder. Shortly after meeting Jamestown’s watchful blacksmith we went to the Tavern seeing Verity was there cleaning up while her drunk husband-to-be Meredith sat with his head of messy hair on a table and a mug of ale in his hand. Alice spoke more of her not refusing to marry Henry. She still sounded terrified of him but also determined. We both helped her put the tables and chairs that had been left upturned or spewed about the room.
“Verity?” Meredith grunted holding up his mug with a weary arm that swayed around. Verity huffed and rested her hands on her hips.
“Get it yourself ya no good drunk,” Verity scoffed picking up a few mugs. He then started shouting at her that it is what a good wife should do for him and that it is all he asks. Alice and I stood by looking at him while he shouted, Verity just went into the back with the mugs she collected. “Mistress Jones, Mistress Kett, would you get your husband to be an ale if he asked?” He then asked us trying desperately to hold his mug up towards us.
“Our husbands aren’t here, and they probably wouldn’t be drinkin’ in the day Master Rutter,” I stated then from the door came Pepper.
“We should be going Alice, there is work to do,” Pepper said politely, more like he was suggesting it bless his kind soul.
“Yes, we must do some more for when they get back,” She nodded agreeing with the younger Sharrow boy and picked up her new bucket. “Goodbye,” Alice smiled at me and Verity then she left. Verity eventually gave Meredith an ale to stop him from crying and moaning like a babe. She was truly miserable and looked like she wanted to storm out of this town. God forbid she would do that, she had nowhere to go. I had to leave however after Verity asked me to med her apron in return for a plate of food because it had turned dark and men had begun to enter the Tavern wanting ale. I returned to my home to rest with only the moonlight to keep me company. The next day I woke up a wee bit later in the morning and was woken up by the sounds of Jamestown going about its business. I dressed quickly then ate an apple and drank some water I retrieved from the well. I was about to begin repairing me knitted shawl I had brought with me, but some frantic knocks on my home’s front door stopped me.
“CLARA!” I heard Alice shout making me leap up and heave open my door.
“Heavens Alice whatever’s the matter?!” I asked worried something else had happened to her as she came into my home.
“Verity has left Jamestown! In men’s clothing!” She exclaimed making me cover my gaping mouth in shock.
“Oh my god! She’s mad! We have to bring ’er back now!” I stressed to her making her nod.
“We must go swiftly!” She pressed which made me hold onto her shoulder to stop her.
“Hang on lass, we need t’walk out this house and this town like everything is right in the world. If we don’t people will be suspicious,” I told her then got me another shawl made of material instead of wool and me bag. “Now if anybody asks, we are going for a walk on the Sharrow’s land,” I told her linking arms with her, then we left the house and began to walk calmly through the streets. Alice looked nervous but I told her to smile at people and relax. I smiled at our neighbours we passed and nodded my head to Secretary Farlow when we saw him close to the gate. I felt Alice squeeze my arm a little more out of fear and rubbed her hand to comfort her. When we got out of the town gates we let out sighs of relief then began to walk towards to direction Pepper told Alice the nearest town was. That would be where Verity was going so that is where we would go to follow her. We still had the sunlight on our side and we would stay on the river path. Time had started to pass, we went through long grass along the river looking for her head of flaming red hair with no luck. The path went to a forest that had bushes that were like the rest of this land, wild.
“Verity!” Alice called out to the thick trees and bushes we walked through. The sun had started to set but we could not stand around looking at this stunning land God created, we were busy looking for our friend.
“Verity where are ya lass?!” I called out cupping my mouth with me hand that didn’t hold my bag strap.
“Verity Bridges!” Alice shouted sighing while she thrashed through the forest.
“Blimey, what on God’s Earth made her go out alone. Has she gone mad?” I began squinting as I looked through the thick mass of green for her. “What if she falls down a ditch?! What if she gets attacked by a wild animal?!” I questioned worrying for Verity.
“We will find her Clara, even if we have to search all Virginia for her,” She told me as I spun around to see Verity was behind us.
“And if she wanders into one of the Indian villages?! How will they react to an English woman?! What will they do to her?!” I asked thinking very terrifying things that could happen to Verity. It would truly break her and she would beg God to let her marry a drunk.
“She won’t Clara, it will be okay,” She told me reassuring me with a hug. I rid my mind of those thoughts and pulled myself together so we could keep searching for her. We kept walking through the forest to a part that had thin trees that rustled at the slightest touch and land was muddier underfoot.
“Verity!” I called again.
“Verity Bridges where are you?!” Clara called out. “Verity you have to come back!” She added and I swear I heard someone running then a cry.
“Alice! Clara!” We heard Verity’s voice call to us and ran towards her. “Alice! Clara!” She called again. We followed her voice again and found her stuck in some sticky wet mud.
“Get me out of here!” She begged while reaching her hands out to us.
“We’re ’ere now!” I told her wading towards the edge of the muddy ditch she was in trying to reach her hands but I was too far away. “Ah damn it,” I cursed staggering back feeling Alice steady me from behind.
“Grab this!” Alice said to Verity as we held out a broken tree branch she gripped with both hands.
“Aren’t y’glad you got friends brave enough t’seek you out Verity Bridges?!” I grunted as Alice and I began pulling her back to the land with all our might.
“There isn’t one thing about this whole DAMN place that I don’t HATE!” Verity shouted as she struggled like a child being forced to go to church by its mother to land.
“You have to come back, Verity.” Alice huffed with exhaustion while Verity sat sulking letting out a heavy breath and I threw the stick away.
“A shit-pants halfwit, I would have settled for,” She began angrily. “A one-legged, one-eyed dog of a man, I would have found somethin’ t’like about him, why did I have to be bought by a drunk?!” Verity cried. Alice sighed pushing her hair out of her eyes and I put my hands on my hips listening to her knowing she needed to speak these things. “A drinker is a different man every day of the week. And not one o’them is worth a spit o’love!” She spat wiping her face on her sleeve. Alice let out a sigh before she picked up her shawl she dropped while we dragged Verity out of the mud.
“Let’s get you back so you can wash up,” Alice said turning back to Verity.
“No, I’m not going back,” Verity protested stumbling to her feet.
“Well, where do you think you’re going?” I asked her with my hands still on me hips.
“There were women on the ship. Err, Ann-Marie, Geraldine, they were going to another settlement, what was it called?” Verity said panting and dusting herself down.
“Berkeley Town, what will you do there?” Alice asked.
“I shall marry the first man I set my eyes on. There’ll be plenty who want a wife,” Verity stated storming past us.
“The Taverner has paid your passage, they’ll know that Verity,” I pressed holding Verity’s shoulder to make her stop and turn back to us.
“Well I will take my chances, I’m not goin’ back! Why should I?!” Verity spat.
“Because we need you!” Alice suddenly admitted throwing her shawl down. “Do you think I don’t want to run after what was done to me?! Do you think Clara doesn’t want to run knowing there is no husband here for her and that the same thing could happen to her, and what if it’s the same all across Virginia Verity?! What if these men have been on their own for so long they’re not men any more?! The time will come when we have to stand and refuse and I know that for me that time is now!” Alice’s emotional words had made her voice crack. It made tears form in my eyes because it was true. “But I need you and Clara by my side if I’m to do it! And I want to be a strength and comfort to you both!” She added then picked up her shawl again abruptly from the long grass. Verity was silent as tears formed in her blue eyes, just as a couple left me own brown ones I swiftly wiped away with a sniff.
“Damn ya, Alice Kett you’ve made me weep,” Verity cursed holding her head down ashamed. Alice stared at her in disbelief. “And I-I, I hate weepin’, weepin’ is for babies.” She added making me let out a huff of laughter at this situation we were in. Alice laughed also and then Verity too. Alice then put an arm around Verity and I linked arms with Alice on her other side. “Damn ya, Alice Kett!” Verity repeated laughing through her tears.
“I say God bless ya lass.” I chuckled as we began walking through the wilderness back to Jamestown. It was a struggle to get through the woods the way we came, giggling and messing about slowed us down but made the journey merrier.
“You slow down!” Verity laughed trailing behind Alice who was leading the way. I was in the middle of them chuckling while I gripped my bag strap on me shoulder. Alice laughed and stopped to turn around to face us and let us catch up, but from behind we heard a few barks and howls that made us all fill with fear. Wolves! We set off running through the bushes and trees hearing the deep growls and thundering paws of the wolves chasing us. Verity’s feet failed her though and she tripped when we got to a small clearing. Alice grabbed the nearest tree branch she could and I held me bag strap so my bag was more like a felt axe or hammer.
“AWAY!” I shouted swinging me bag at the wolves.
“BACK!” Alice shouted gripping the branch as the wolves circled us snarling and barking at us. One of them felt brave and the beast jumped at Verity knocking her to the ground but before the three of us could react a musket was fired scaring the wolf off Verity. We all looked to where it came from to see James Read holding a musket. God had sent us a hero!
“Don’t...run,” He began holding a hand up to us while the wolves retreated. “Walk backwards till you reach me,” He beckoned us with his hand as Verity stood up again. “Don’t turn away,” he added as we slowly backed away nearly passing him. “Move down towards the river, you’ll find a boat. Get into it.” He told us and we did not argue and set off running towards it as soon as we could with him following after us. The journey back to Jamestown was not too long, and not much was said by James Read thankfully other than we were lucky we were not killed and that we were foolish. The sun had begun to set on Virginia as we got to the gate. The tavern was open and the town centre had many people there all staring at Verity. She was still wearing men’s clothing but she paid no attention to them and was glaring at Meredith with determination in her eyes and soul.
“I’m not marrying a man who would gamble me away on the roll of a dice!” Verity declared taking Meredith head on ready to make her stand.
“Woman, when I drink beyond me senses, there ain’t no logic left in me,” Meredith began stumbling down the few steps that lead to the Tavern door. “Except one corner of the mind where cunning abides. But that little devil of thinking, it never deserts me. It’s like a heavenly angel taking care of me,” He went on gesturing to his head with a finger as he stepped towards Verity. “And that’s why I gamble,” He was within a few paces of Verity now who was frowning at his odd words. “Do you suppose I’m some kind of fool? I paid for your passage,” He stopped just in front of her, his lips pursed into a slight smile. “I like the look o’you. Do you think I’m going to let some old, lechering sailor get his hands on you? If I thought I was going to lose that bet, I would never have made it.” Verity frowned more at his baffling words.
“Dice is a game of chance,” She stated making him nod.
“Oh yeah, it is. If you play it honestly,” He replied, meaning he was not a regular drunk and gambler. “Since I’m too afraid of chance, I think it’s only fair...that I cheat,” He added with a chuckle. Well stone the crows, Meredith Rutter was a man with a mind that worked in strange ways. Verity I had a feeling would not be happy by his actions though.
“You let me believe, I was to marry a man, who would sell me?” She spoke slowly and stepped even close to him so they could touch. Meredith muttered shrugging slightly as if it were nothing but as I felt before Verity was furious and she slapped him right across the face. There were gasps and laughter from the people watching but I was grinning with glee that the feisty and bold lass from Ireland had returned as she stormed back to the tavern.
“I think I got meself a good wife!” Meredith declared happily swaying back to the tavern. Alice and I smiled at each other before she began to walk to the tavern to help Verity out of the men’s clothing. I was about to follow her but wanted to do something I felt was right.
“James,” I began making the blacksmith turn his head to me while he rested on his musket. “Thank you for savin’ us, you are a hero and God bless ya,” I smiled to him and placed a hand on his shoulder I kept there for a few moments. He glanced at it, looking uncomfortable and a bit disinterested before he nodded to me. I then left him going towards the tavern meself.