Chapter 6 Supper and Discussion
Supper at the Heaton’s Summer 1638
I arrived at Nathaniel and Elizabeth Heaton’s home at 6 PM. I brought a small bag of clothing in case I stayed the night.
I knocked at the door, and I was greeted by the whole family. Mr. and Mrs. Heaton, their little children, Jabez, Leah, Mary and Eleanor, and my beloved, Mary. Mary looked like she worked hard today in her servant’s uniform. She approached me and said, “Hi Love, I am sorry I am not dressed up, but Mrs. Heaton wanted me to slave over the fire for you. I cooked the whole meal. I hope you like it, she said biting her lip. I thought it was adorable. I whispered in her ear, “I do not care what you look like. I am glad you spent the time to cook me your meal. I am sure it is prepared with lots of love. Right?” She nodded. I said, “I love you no matter what you wear.” She whispered, “I love you too. Come on, let us go sit at the table.
They all greeted and made me feel welcome. We all sat around the table, bowed their heads, and blessed the meal. We thanked God for his mighty provision, his grace, and asked him to bless the hands that prepared the food.
We all started to eat. It was a meal of fish stew with a side of mashed pumpkin, homemade bread, butter, ale, and a dessert of blueberry cakes. It was delicious. I complemented Mary, “This was so delicious. Mary, you can cook for me any time. I loved it. Thank you!” Everyone at the table agreed. Mary looked at the table with a humble look and said, “Thank you everyone! When the children were finished, they were sent to bed because the discussion at the table would not be appropriate for them to hear.
Nathaniel remembered John from their ship voyage. He recalled that he was a reflective man. He had big dreams. He wanted to settle and have children. He was a God-fearing man even though he was not Puritan, he was Christian.
Nathaniel told John about being a shop keeper, and his role as one of the elders in the church. He was able to attend private discussions with senior members every Sunday.
Nathaniel asked John, “What are your intentions towards Nurse, Mary?”
John answered, “I would like to court her and marry very soon because we have been seeing each other once a week, and we love each other.”
Nathaniel said that there should be no problem with getting approval for marriage because their stations are similar and that John is able to provide for her. They can marry for love because neither of them is upper class. (Most marriages in the upper class are arranged by the father of the bride. Most of the time there is a benefit for the father such as money to keep his daughter’s standard of living. They do not marry for love, but they will not force their daughter to marry a choice she does not like. The young man usually had wealth, business, or property to make him marriage material for the upper crust.)
Nathaniel also mentioned that the church thought of a marriage as a business contract, and it was a civil affair verses a sacrament.
There were steps in which to follow to get married.
1. They were to get married within a month.
2. They would have to post banns three times and attend three town assemblies after posting each of the banns. The bride would put her favorite wedding Bible verses on the first announcing their betrothal. The people would meet the couple at each meeting and would ask questions to make sure they were compatible and suited for one another. They would get approval at each meeting. Once they get all three approvals, they will have a wedding soon after.
3. They will court during this month.
Nathaniel gave him required activities:
1. You and Mary must attend every church service and activity together.
2. You both must read the Bible and pray together every day.
3. You both need to eat meals together.
4. This requires a lot for self-discipline.” He said with a tight smile, “You will sleep in the guest bed for three weeks, then on the week before your wedding, you will move to her bed. There will be a board separating you. You cannot touch her, but you may talk to each other and kiss good night. While some households allow intimate relations during bundling, we do not allow it because it against religious beliefs.”
John gave a sigh of relief and wiped the sweat off his brow when he heard this information. He responded clearly to Nathaniel, his wife and Mary, ” I totally respect this. I want my future wife to remain pure until our wedding night. Intimate relations should be done in the marriage bed. It is a sin to fornicate before marriage. Family is important and it is our duty to have children. When God blesses us with children, it will be because of our love making in marriage. As far as bundling, Mary and I will participate with the board in place, fully dressed in night dress, and self-restraint. I am sure she does not want her virtue compromised and get with child before marriage. I know I do not. As far as all the other requirements, I agree to it all.”
Nathaniel says, “Great! Since it is late, you should stay the night in the guest room, and tomorrow you can move in. I would rather keep you here at night since there is a high threat from the Natives in the area.”
John responded, “Thank you, I will do that. Also, I need assistance in finding a location for my tailoring shop. I have a lot of supplies, tools, and materials to move. I would also like to offer my services to your family in lieu of board. I would also pay the rest of Mary’s debt, so she can be free to live with me when I get my dwelling built. William gifted me a dwelling and money for my shop when I was freed.
Nathan responds with excitement, ” Great I could use some new breeches and undergarments.”
Elizabeth said, ” I am thankful for Mary’s help with the delivery and care of my children. She has been a great help. We will free her on the day of your wedding. We hope that she can come and help once in a while because we are planning to have more children since we have been trying to have one for a while now.”
John says, ” That’s fine, Mary do you agree to everything that has been discussed?”
“Yes, I do. I agree that the bundling idea is a little startling, but I trust you will stick to your words. “As she sent John a glance. “Elizabeth, I can continue to help you but if I am increasing, then it will be hard. I plan on starting a family right away after the wedding. I will help until then.”
John mentioned that he was tired, so they all said, “Goodnight!” Mary was asked to take John to his room. She told him that she was shocked about all these steps, but he told her to not worry. He would help her with everything. They would discuss the dress tomorrow after he moves in. They were so happy. They looked at each other and had a passionate kiss that caused Mary to run flustered to her room.
There was a lot of information in this chapter. I read many articles on the courting and marriage practices of the Puritans. The bundling concept was shocking. Over half of the betrothed girls in this time period in New England were pregnant before their wedding. I would not allow these characters do that because it is a sin. John would be highly influenced by the Hutchinson’s and his taught values that he would not jeopardize Mary’s reputation and sin.
The next chapter will be courtship/ betrothal.
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