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Friday, May 6, 2016


NEST
 
Chapter Seven

 
 
Upon awakening, Ruthe insisted on dressing Nest in one of her sister's outgrown dresses and fixing hair.  She gently worked its knots out, then brushed her curls until they shone.  It fell down softly over her shoulders.
 
"Do you know that you are beautiful, Nest?"
 
"I know my mother was."
 
"No one would guess that you were an Indian now."
 
"But I am an Indian, a Mandan, a Welsh Indian."
 
"Are the Welsh Indians really Indians or Welshmen?"
 
Nest paused.  She had not really thought about it.  "I guess my people were only Welsh, but after the years went by, they became as the tribes around them in many ways.  Some married the Mandan while others, only themselves.  At least they did not forget their ancient ones.  We were never completely Indian though."
 
"I know my family will be surprised to see you.  Would you like to look at yourself in a mirror?
 
Nest looked shyly at first, then was taken aback.  She could hardly recognize herself.  She looked almost as if she belonged in Ruthe's family more than with the Cherokee.  The sun had browned her skin more than her friend's paler complexion she kept hidden under a bonnet.  Nest's blue eyes were shining against the indigo dress she was wearing.  She whispered, "Is that me?"
 
Ruthe laughed.  "I hardly believe it myself.   Where is my Cherokee friend?"
 
At supper everyone stared, but the good food happily distracted the away for their guest.  The family meal relaxed with conversation swirling like a hum of bees.  Only Nest was wary of being stung by the father and refused to look at him.  She did not want to answer any more of his questions.  She felt his eyes upon her a few times, but he never spoke to her again.  Joseph wa staring at her whenever she looked his way.  Nest felt herself blushing.  She wondered to herself, "Does he find me beautiful?"
 
Nest became part of the household, learning to cook a few new foods, and even trying her hand at the spinning wheel.  Bonny Kate's steady hands at the loom fascinated her, and she could watch by the hour listening to her stories.  The woman said that the first task she had upon marrying her husband, was to make the clothes which her huband and his three sons wore to the Battle of King's Mountain.  Then she said, "Had his ten children been sons and large enough to have served in that expedition, I could have fitted them out."
 
The woman had wisdom that made Nest miss her mother.  Kate would say things like, "Trust in God, `with a pure heart, is to be rich enough...if you are lazy, your blood will stagnate in your veins and your trust will die."  As she described attacks, she told how she would refuse to go to the fort, even against her husband's wishes.  She said, "The wife of John Sevier knows no fear.  I neither skulk from duty nor from danger.  I put my trust in that Power who rules the armies of Heaven and among men on earth."
 
Bonny Kate continued, "One time when Tories came demanding to know where my husband was so they could hang him, I refused to tell them even when they put a gun to my head.  I jes' said, Shoot! Shoot!  I am not afraid to die.  But remember, while there is a Sevier on the earth, my blood will not be unavenged!'  The leader said, 'Such a woman is too brave to die,' and left.  Once the Tories came to steal from my smokehouse, so I took up the rifle saying, 'The first one who takes down a piece of meat is a dead man.'  So they left well enough alone."  She told Nest that they were more in danger of the Tories than attacks by Indians.
 
"What are the Tories?"
 
"They are loyalist to the King of England, but mostly down here it's bad men running from the law."
 
"Then Cherokee were loyalists while the English Indian agent lived with them.  War Woman told me.  Finally, the tribe wanted to stay neutral, that is except the Chicamaugas," Nest said.
 
"We can only hope and pray for the day when their murdering, scalping days are over,"  Bonny Kate said.  "There's hardly a family here that hasn't lost someone to their cruel attacks.  Since the treaty of Holston, over two hundred have died at their hands, a few at a tine, settlement her or a fort there or along the trail.  My husband's brother Valentine lost some of his kids and grandkids right there in his home.  His wife's sister, Agnes and her husband Owen Adkins and several children were massacred as well.  Their little Jesse, only two years old, was scalped, but he lived"
 
Nest wanted to ask how many Indians had died in retaliation or innocent squaws and children had suffered from the cold or hunger when their towns had been burned with all their crops.  She only sighed.
 
Tending the garden was Nest's refuge.  When she did straighten up her tired back, she could watch Joseph guarding the field.  In her village she took great joy in the preparing the ground, planting the seeds, and watching the tender plants flourish.  Here the corn, squash, pumpkin, sweet potato,beans, sunflower plants were growing ell.  The fields were tended by slaves as Joseph stood on guard in case of Indian attack.  These were large fields of cotton and flax crops.
 
Bonny Kate taught the young girl sayings like, "Corn is not ready to grind into meal until it I as dry as an old maid's kiss," or, "If the smoke from the chimney doesn't rise straight up, it's going to rain."  She also liked to say, "Pray for a good harvest, but keep hoeing."
 
Nest entertained the young ones with stories or taught them Cherokee or Mandan names for things.  Nest's English improved as well.  At night in their room, Ruthe read to her out of the thick holy book and explained it to her.  Then Ruthe in turn would beg her friend to sing the Welsh songs of old.
 
Nest especially liked rocking Bonny Kate's youngest, baby Robert.  She sang the song her mother sang to her and to her brother, "Hen Sibet"...
 
"Sweet smiling peace shall crown our dwelling,
And babes, sweet-smiling babes, our bed.
How should I love the pretty creatures,
While round my knees they fondly cling..."
 
The busy mother was relieved to have help calming the fretting babe.  The infant was soothed by the lullaby sung by Nest.  The girl was lost in remembering as she sang, memories of when she helped rock her little brother to sleep for her mother.  Her heart ached for the days past.  Nest had always loved the Welsh lullabies best.  She could almost remember the sound of her mother's voice as she had sung to her brother.
 
Sunday was a different day.  Saturday night the family had taken turns having baths which, in such a large family, took a long time.  The men and boys went out to do chores in the barn while the girls bathed.  Then they went upstairs while the men took their turn.  Breakfast was more hurried as they spent more time getting dressed in their Sunday-go-to-meeting best.  Ruth explained to Nest that it was the place where a man explained  the holy book to them.  She wondered at how it was the same holy book that her people had kept sacred.  Nest was anxious in anticipation, but also worried about going among so many white people.  She never liked the stares she attracted whether among the Cherokees or the whites.
 
Sitting with the family on a pew, Nest soaked up the words of the preacher.  From the stories taught her as a little child from her people, and what Ruthe had explained to her this past week, much of it made sense.  It was the same Creator God.  His Son came to earth.  Her tribe had celebrated Noah and the great deluge.  The story of the cross was something she had not heard before.  She would have to ask Ruthe to explain it to her.  It made her wish she knew how to read like Ruthe did so that she could read the holy book for herself.  There would be no church once she went back to the tribe.  The music was a wonderful surprise.  Nest did not know the words, but was able to hum along in harmony.
 
Nest met Ruthe's Mr. Sparks after church.  He was almost as old as the trapper, much older than Joseph Sevier.  Yet, he smoothed over the age difference with amicability.  Ruthe's father seemed to really like him.  Ruthe went home with a bouquet of wild flowers the man had picked for her.  Nest did not know what to think.
 
That afternoon, Nest asked Bonny Kate some questions.  Do you remember when the Methodists came her preaching outside?  It was before we came here, but Beloved Woman has told me the Cherokee came to listen to."
 
"Yes, it as wonderful.  It was 1788, and it was quite a gathering of preachers and people who came for a protracted meeting.  They had to travel in considerable companies together because of the threat of Indian attack.  People came from afar to hear them preach and camped out in the courtyard of the fort.  Hearts were stirred.  Even Asbury himself finally rode in.  The honorable gent had no fear.  It was before we had church here, and people were starved for hearing the Scriptures taught.  General Russell and his wife were among the many converts.  He is a good man.  I wish my own John would have followed his lead."
 
"Do you think they will come back?"
 
"I hope so."
 
"Nancy has said that a brave Moravian young man came one winter even before that.  He asked permission to come set up a mission here, not to mettle with war or trade or to take land from the Cherokee, but to teach about the Creator.  Old Corn Tassel said he would have to wait for the other chiefs to come back from their hunt to "Hear the Mind."  Maybe they will come back sometime, and the Cherokee can have the Scriptures taught to them as well," Nest said wistfully.
 
"Even before that," Bonny Kate remembered, "an old Presbyterian came to the Cherokee and wore them and himself out preaching.  It is said that they told him that 'they knew well, that, if they were good they would go up; if bad, down.  That he could tell them no more, that he had long plagued them with what they no ways understood, and that they desired him to depart from their country."
 
"Nancy's mother Lucy from England taught her Scripture.  It is amazing how the holy book has come to this land with our people from Wales, from England with Nancy's people, and no the Moravians, the Methodists, and the Presbyterians," Nest mused.
 
"Does Nancy speak English?  She always wants Ruthe to come translate."
 
"The Cherokee know much, but don't like to speak it.  They trust Ruthe to say the right words for them.  In the past, many have not done so.  To the Cherokee, it is surprising that you or other wise women do not come to council to make treaties like War Woman does."
 
"Ha!  Our men think that the woman's place is cooking in front of the fireplace, not in council meetings."
 
All this was running through Nest's mind.  Her mother was like Nancy, a very wise woman and so was Bonny Kate.  All three believed the Creator.  Maybe that was what made them different from others.  It was the kind of different that Nest wanted to be.
 
Bonny Kate usually sang when she was at the loom or the spinning wheel.  "The Methodists were such singers when they came through.  Music makes the work load lighter."  Then she began singing...
 
"All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice,
Him serve with fear;
His praise forth tell.
Come ye before Him and rejoice.
 
The Lord, ye know, is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make.
We are His flock; He doth us feed.
And for His sheep, He doth us take.
 
O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto
Praise, laud, and bless His name always,
For it is seemly so to do.
 
For why?  The Lord our God is good;
His mercy is forever sure.
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall fro age to age endure.
 
To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
The God who heav'n and earth adore.
From earth and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore.
 
The two weeks passed quickly.  Nest would have wished to stay except she as missing her brother so much her heart hurt.  The morning they were to leave, Nest put back on her doeskin dress.  It was so much heavier than the lightly woven cotton dresses Bonny Kate had sewn.  Ruthe coughed.  Nest turned to find her friend still in bed looking poorly.
 
"I'm not feeling so well, Nest.  I don't think Mother will let me go back with you to your village.  I'm so sorry." 
 
Nest squeezed her hand.  "You have done so much bringing me here to your family.  Your kindness to me will never be forgotten.  But I must go home to my brother.  You need to stay here with your mother's care.  I can go back with your brother and father.  Good bye, conawlla," (friendship in Cherokee.)
 
"I feel like we are sisters now Nest.  I will miss you terribly."
 
"I will miss you too, and your mother's apple butter."  The girls laughed.  "Go back to sleep, Ruthe.  I will send your mother up to check on you.  Nest took her bundle downstairs.
 
After an early breakfast, Nest followed Joseph.  He took her bundle and strapped it to his mount.  The black horse tossed his head as if she was excited to go out of the corral.
 
"Which one will I ride?"  she asked Joseph.
 
"Father wants you to ride with me.  He wants to leave the other horses here for my brothers to use to work on the place."
 
Joseph mounted, then pulled her up behind him as if she was a feather.  Nest sat with her back straight at first, but as they galloped away, she clung to Joseph's waist and hugged the horse with her knees.  Finally, the horses were slowed to a trot, then a walk.
 
Joseph explained, "We have to get the lunges out of the horses first to settle them down for the trail.  Are you okay?"
 
"Yes,"  Nest tried to loosen her grip, but found his gloved hand over hers.
 
"Better hold on in case the horse surprises us.  I don't want to lose you along the trail."
 
Nest had never been that close to Joseph, or any man.  The miles were long, and she finally relaxed with the motion of the horse.  They talked little.  Joseph pointed out a fawn once, a buffalo wallow another time, and she, an eagle.  Sometimes the men talked, but she only listened.  It had to do with treaties and lands.
 
Finally Nest asked, "Have you seen any buffalo?"
 
"Nope.  Not for a few years now.  They stay west of the states.  There's only been a couple of sightings in Tennessee in the last couple of years.  It's sad because there used o be so many.  Too many long rifles, Iguess.  There aren't as many whit tail deer either.  We have to run more cattle and hogs for meat."
 
"I've seen the Sioux run whole herds over cliffs to get a few." Nest said.  "Then she told him of seeing a huge herd when they were high in one of the ancients forts on their way to Cherokee.
 
Joseph did tell her a story as they passed a hollow tree that had been struck by lightning.  "There was this giant of a fellow who emigrated her in the early days.  He lived by himself and spent the winter holed up in a huge hollow tree.  One time he did come across another's cabin.  No one was home. That fellow when he came back to his cabin saw the huge footprints left in the snow outside his door and was so scared, he took off for the fort to pass the rest of the winter."
 
Nest laughed.  "I don't think a large man would fit in that hollow tree, but I could curl up in there like a squirrel and be snug."
 
After a full day of riding, night fell.  Nest was weary.  After stopping for a quick dinner, Joseph suggested she ride in front so he could hold her if she fell asleep.  She was glad he offered.  A few more miles and her head nestled into his shoulder as she leaned against his chest.  She slept. 
 
The next thing she knew, he was lifting her down and was carrying her into her teepee.  Nest snuggled nest to her sleeping brother.  Everything smelled and felt like home, not as soft as the Sevier' , but it felt of the comfort of the familiar.  The trapper grunted and rolled over.  Nest now lay awake taking it all in., remembering the strong arms of Joseph who held her as she rode with him.  Finally, the even breathing of her brother lured her back to sleep.
 
The next morning her brother woke her with his joy at finding his sister back home.  They tussled and laughed together.  She tried to answer his questions about the white man's house.
 
"I even wore dresses like the Sevier girls."  Nest tried to describe the food, especially the dodger and the apple butter.  "You would fit right in with all her brothers and sisters."
 
He sat quietly listening and thinking.  Finally he surprised her by saying, "I am white too.  My father is white.  My mother is a Welsh woman.  Am I a white boy or an Indian?"
 
"Have you asked your father/"
 
He only laughed.
 
"Yes, little brother, you would fit right in, except you would not have as much freedom there.  Even the young ones must work.  When they are not working, they are learning their letters or figuring sums.  I think you are happier her in the village and doing the trap lines with your father.  I wish you could get schooling someday, then you could move easily between Indian and the white man's world."
 
"Yes, you speak what is true.  But sometimes I wonder what it is like.  Will the white men hate me as they did our mother or the Cherokee?"
 
"Your father is not hated.  He is white.  You will be like him, probably, living with the Indians and following the trap lines.  You keep working on your English and you can be a translator someday and help the tribe like Ruthe does."
 
The trapper poked his head in.  "Nice to have you home, Nest.  Nancy asked to see you after you have your porridge this morning.  I have to go after my pelts today.  The boy will stay with is sister he ha been missing so badly."
 
The girl wondered what the Beloved Woman wanted of her, so she hurried to eat.  She found that the trapper had made the porridge this morning letting her sleep.  Never in her memory had he done that before, not even in the days after her mother was killed.  It had always been her job.  That's what the Indian woman did."
 
Nest hurried to Nancy's lodge.  Her second mother embraced her then motioned to her to sit down.  Gov. Sevier is here to meet with the council.  As you know, his daughter Ruthe is unwell and won't be here to help translate.  My English sometime sis not strong enough, and we will have some Creek with us too.  He has said you would do well translating for us.  He seems to admire you much.  It is an honor to be asked into the council meeting.  Will you accept?" 
 
Nest did not desire to be used by John Sevier, but she would do what Nancy asked of her.  "Yes, I am honored."
 
Nest was sore from her long ride of the day before, and now was forced to sit on the ground listening intently and then searching to find the right words to pass on.  Gov. Sevier's loss of hearing required Nest to speak loudly as she translate.  She was so relieved when she was allowed to slip out while they passed the pipe together.
 
"Thanks, Beth.  You did a good job.  I'll tell Ruth," Gov. Sevier winked as she left.  He had never figured out that her name wasn't "Beth."  She was not going to be the one to tell him.
 
Nest was stirring up the fire to begin supper when Joseph came up so quietly that he startled her. 
 
"I came to say goodbye.  Father and I are heading out."
 
"You can't be riding home tonight!"
 
"No, we will be going to a nearby fort and return home in a few days."
 
"Tell Ruthe that I hope she feels better, and thank your mother again for my visit."
 
"I hope you can come again.  We all were happy you came."
 
It was then that Ruth realized the man was holding wildflowers in his hand.  She felt heat in her cheeks.
 
"I picked these by the river and thought you might enjoy them."
 
Nest took them shyly.  "Thank you.  No one ever gave me flowers before."  She smelled the mix of wild roses and clover.
 
"I'm surprised no young brave has tried.  The trapper must beat them off.  You are very beautiful, Nest."
 
Nest fought an urge to run away.  She only shook her head as if to shake off the headiness of his words.  She liked Joseph.  But her thoughts would not go beyond that except in her bed at night when she still remembered his strong arms holding her.
 
Joseph tipped his hat, "Goodbye, Nest.  Tell the trapper to keep the braves away.  I'll be back."
 
Nest stared wide-eyed after the man.  She was nearly fifteen.  He was nearly twice her age.  Ruth said he'd been married once, but his wife had left with their two children.  Perhaps he was just being king to his sister's friend, or maybe he was lonely.
 
That night Nest thoughts did not leave a stone unturned.  She thought of Princess Nest who had been taken and had children by three men, no choice of her own.  She thought of the Buffalo Dance Ceremony of the Mandan her mother had told her about.  It was thought to bring them good favor for their hunt, but her mother had refused to participate much to the tribe's displeasure.  Her mother had told her part of the ceremony was that the braves had to offer their wives wrapped only in buffalo robes to the elders to insure a profitable hunt.  She did not want to take part and she and Nest's father had endured much hostility in the tribe.  It was a good thing that her father was the best hunter with the greatest success in spite of it.  Some blamed the small her mother for the small pox that had taken his life on her refusal to take part in the ceremony. 
 
She had held her head high when she was stolen by the Sioux, then bought by the trapper.  Nest knew her mother had loved her father, yet she seemed happy with her Scottish husband as well, especially when Nest's little brother was born.
 
Nest wondered more about men.  Nancy's first husband died in war.  Her second husband had a white family he lived with part of the time and left her for them.  Nancy had taken her daughter Betsy to visit his other family often.  Another squaw in the village divorced her husband by putting his things outside her lodge.  Gov. Sevier had one wife who died, and another, Bonny Kate, who fell into his arms and soon took her place.
 
There was even Winnie who lived there, a half-breed who confided to Nest that John Sevier was her father as well.  The girl's mother had dropped her off when she could no longer care for her.  No one wanted to talk about it.  Ruthe only shrugged when Nest had asked who she was.  She didn't know if Winnie had made it all up of if it was the truth. 
 
Nest wondered about Joseph whose wife had left him. Now he was alone, and his eyes followed her whenever they were together.  His arms had kept her safe on the journey, arms that she thought of more than her mother's which had comforted her in her dreams.
 
Someday the trapper would arrange a marriage for her.  Was there a brave she looked up to?  Many had bragged of their prowess to her or looked to make sure she was watching in their games.
None had gained more than a passing glance.  Then there was John Walker.  His father was a Scottish trader like her trapper, but his mother was a Kingfisher.  Even as a youth, the son had led a raid and tricked a couple of whites into trust by his looks and English greeting before killing them.  He was honored in the tribe in spite of Nancy's efforts at keeping peace.
 
Her thoughts returned to Joseph.  Nest longed for a home like Ruthe's.  Could she even dream of such a thing?  Beloved Woman now trusted the Seviers, had put the past behind her.  Could she trust the son of the man who might have fired the shot that killed her mother? Nest's sleep was troubled that night even with the faint fragrance of the flowers lying beside her head.
 
 
 

 
 

 

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