Nest noticed after that special night, that her John seemed to be wrestling with a private struggle. One afternoon when it was only the two of them and the baby in the lodge, she quietly spoke as she rubbed his moccasins with turkey fat.
"John, you know that if I don't work the elk skin in your moccasins with this, they will get hard and give you scald foot. Sometimes thoughts are like that. We must work them out to stay soft so they do not bring pain on our journey." She never stopped rubbing his moccasins or looked up. "May I hear your mind?"
John paced like a bear in a pen, then growled, "This baby, this son of God. He is the white's, born in England, and not for the Cherokees.
Nest glanced up surprised. "He is the Creator's Son for all the world. He was not born in England, but on another land far away and long ago. His skin may have been the color of the Cherokee. He was not a white baby. Just like the Cherokee, you don't have to be of the same blood to be in His tribe.
John stopped his pacing. "How do I know that what was written is not lying black marks like the white man's treaties? They are just talking leaves that dry up and blow away.
"My people have had the story for hundreds of years and knew it was sent from God to them. It is the same story that the trapper has known since childhood, and Nancy was taught as a young girl."
"A warrior would never have let his son die without revenge. How can this God be for the Cherokee?"
"God's revenge is against the enemy in our heart that fights against God. We must allow Him to kill it."
John thought hard then finally relaxed shaking his head with a slight smile. "You are the keeper of the ancient's story. I will think on what you say, my beloved woman." Then he looked somber. "I remember the two men I took revenge on and killed. Their faces are often before me. They thought I came as a friend, but I killed them. It has always been the way of a Cherokee brave. We have known nothing but war, whether against Creek or the white man. We have been fighting intruders since your people came hundreds of years ago and exalt in even that victory. It was after that killing when I left Dragging Canoe's Chickamauga and came back to Chota."
"War brings the worst evil out to dance on the bloody ground like Doublehead who killed even the little ones the other braves tried to save. It is like Sevier and his men who yelled, 'Kill the nits, kill the lice' before they butchered women and children, killing my mother. Sometimes we must fight, but sometimes it is time to make peace. I hope my brother will not have to go to battle. War Woman is for peace now, but she says the Cherokees should not sell any more land to the whites. She also sees a time when all our land will be taken away as the Cherokee are less and less and the whites are more and more. Even Sevier's last raids have spared the women and children. Such men have to make peace with God before they can make peace with themselves. You too will have to make peace with yourself and God, John Walker."
"I am glad you have seen what is heavy on my shoulders. I cannot lay down all my hate yet, but I know now there is a path that leads out of my darkness."
"I will pray that the Creator will show Himself to you. Just as you took me as your wife, even with two children by another man, so He will love you and take you even with your past wrongs because He loves you."
The baby within her moved. It was as sudden and quick like a fish that is seen then hidden in the shade of the deep making one wonder if it had really been there. Nest smiled, thankful for her husband who would stand beside her like the trapper who had loved her mother. When her John left, she prayed for him.
Nest worked with her hands in her lodge as well as at the Beloved Woman's. Since she helped make the butter and cheese, Nancy allowed her to bring some home to her family. She felt rich not to have to eat dry bread. Now that Nest had such plenty to eat, even in winter, she was no longer sick. She spent her evenings by the fire making moccasins for all her men. John and the trapper kept her with enough hides to be able to make everything they needed. Her fingers were calloused. Nest was constantly rubbing the animal brains on the leather after scraping them, then smoking them by the fire to make the hides the softest possible. Her mother had taught her well.
Chota, the city of refuge, had once been the center of all the Cherokee towns. Attakullakulla,
Oconostota, and Corn Tassel, the great chiefs, had been born here. Each year there were fewer lodges of their people. Now only a handful were left. It had been agreed to move the seat of the Cherokee Nation to Ustanali after the murder of Old Tassel.
As Nest worked in Nancy's home, the Beloved Woman told her more stories of the Cherokee.
"During the American War of Independence, Dragging Canoe and old Abraham led attacks against Fort Watauga."
"Is that when Bonny Kate was almost captured or killed outside the fort?"
"Yes, But then Col. Christian was sent to put down the uprising. We were all punished. That time John Sevier asked that we be spared since I had given warning. Yet after more raids by Dragging Canoe a few years later, our village was burned along with the others even though our chiefs had signed a truce. John Sevier did not spare us this time. I was arrested even though I had given them warning again."
"You? Beloved Woman? How could they?" Nest was horrified.
"John Sevier let me go. It was a very sad time, especially for the old ones. I took Oconostota to live with my daughter at her husband's trading pose because our food had been burned and the cold was severe. Later the old chief was buried in a Christian burial by Betsy's husband Martin. The old chief wanted to be buried with his spectacles on."
"What! He had spectacles?" Nest could hardly believe what she was hearing. Few on the frontier had such tings, no less, an Indian.
"Yes. He had gone on a second trip to London to meet King George II in 1762. He brought them home with him. He said it made him sad though being in England making him think of his Lucy who had died. It had been thirty years since his first trip. I'm sure they wanted to be sure of the Cherokees support against the colonists is why he was invited. The people were not as kind on this journey though, especially as he gave the King a bear hug. Not even the Mermaid Tavern where he stayed in style kept him from being homesick."
Nest laughed. "I can't imagine the things he and the other old chiefs saw and the changes they have gone through in their lifetimes. And you, Nancy, have seen much."
"I have seen more killings than I have wished to see. I see the orphans here in my home who have the pain in their eyes like you did, little Nest, when you came her to Chota."
"Thank you, Beloved Woman, for helping to heal my heart. They are blest to have you."
"We were not able to rebuild our village until four years after it was burned. It has never been the same. Attakullakulla, the Little Carpenter, works hard fitting the treaties together between the white man's wishes and the survival of our tribe. In those terrible tines after Oconostota's death, Old Tassle became the chief but was murdered even as we met to make a truce. It was a white man's revenge killing. They sent James Robertson to apologize saying they would punish the murderer, but they never do. Still, I said that the white men are our brothers. The same house shelters us and the same sky covers us all."
Nest thought of this Little Carpenter, small of stature but big in the esteem of whites and Indians. He had managed to keep the young braves like her John from the war path instead of following after the warring Chicamauga. It was hard to believe that Dragging Canoe had been Little Carpenter's son.
"In a few years after we rebuilt, before you came, the Duke of Orleans from France visited. Our young men gathered six hundred strong for ball play. It is good for them to compete in games rather than battle. It gives them pride in their strength and manhood apart from blood." She chuckled, "No one is equal to Raven, not even your John."
"John says one of our clan is working on black marks for the Cherokee so they can read like the whites, only in their own language.
"He is just starting, but it will take years before it can be used. It will be a gift to our nation."
"Do you think there will be schools for the Cherokee someday? I had hoped for my brother to learn to read. Now I will hope for my children." Nest felt her belly where the new babe was growing.
"The Moravians plan to start a mission at Vann's near Etowa. Also, Rev. Blackburn the Presbyterian preacher hopes to begin a school for the Cherokee in Maryville."
Nest looked over at Nancy. She looked older and under a heavy load. The Beloved Woman had been admired by whites, British, and Cherokee alike. She was still beautiful, tall, proud, helping to rule her tribe like a queen. Nest had come to womanhood under her nurturing. Nancy's spacious home, luxurious by the villages' standards, was open to orphans who found her compassion. Today Nancy's countenance was fallen.
"Nancy, you seem troubled. Is there something I can do to lighten your load?"
"I had the dream again last night. I see our people walking barefoot through the cold and snow, men, women, children, and the elderly. They are crying and many are dying. I hear the death song. I keep having this troubling dream. I am afraid it will come true. That is why I tell them to sell no more land to the whites. The white man's greed will destroy our people."
Nest did not know what to say. The Beloved Woman was known to have prophetic dreams. All she could say was, "What you have done to bring peace will surely keep our people safe on our lands. Our people have learned the framing ways. We have many friends among the whites and so many have married into the white families, like I did." Yet, in her heart, Nest remembered how she had been deceived by her first husband. There was no trusting the whites.