Sunday, May 8, 2016

Chapter Thirteen

John Walker did not want to wait to stand before the council.  As soon as Nest felt stronger, she agreed.  The trapper had written her claim for divorce for her.  One night he had carefully poured a little gun powder into a bowl and added a few drops of water.  With this ink, he took a quill and wrote it out, then read it to her.  He sent it with the next brave riding near a white man's settlement.  It would eventually make it to the Seviers.  The cold fist in her heart was something Nest would have to pray about.  The trapper just said, "He's a poor dog, not worth whistling for."
In the Cherokee ceremony, the woman brought corn like the first woman called Selu.  It represented fertility.  The man brought meat like the first man called Kanati, representing his ability to provide.  Nest looked beautiful as she stood tall with her head lifted beside her man.
The trappers lodge was crowded with the new family inside, but in the Cherokee tradition, the man moved into his wife's family's house.  Nest hung an elk hide to create some privacy.  The trapper seemed happy to have them there, and her brother was more than happy.  He got John Walker for a brother-in-law and still and his horse from Joseph Sevier too.  He had missed his sister terribly, but Nest saw a complete change in him as he was becoming a youth, no longer a boy.  She knew her place, to give him more respect.  Her brother loved to play with the baby, but when he stepped outside, he carried himself as a brave.
That winter was not as cold as last year's which many remembered as the coldest one.  Nancy welcomed her when Nest came with her baby in the cradle board she had finally fashioned.  The young mother liked to help Nancy with the spinning and weaving.  The Beloved Woman's hands were getting older and she found it more difficult in the chill.  Nancy's house was spacious with many rooms.  With the confines of the weather and the smallness of Nest's lodge, the young mother felt the need to get out.  Nancy admired her work.
The happiest times were when her husband would follow her into his grandmother's asi and join them.  He kept the fire blazing.  Many of the Cherokee moved into their smaller round lodges to keep warm for the winter, but Nancy stayed in her home.  It was a gathering place and large enough for the many orphans she cared for.
Nest asked, "Beloved Woman, did you ever celebrated Christmas with your Mr. Ward?
Nancy looked up puzzled.  "What is this Christmas?"
Nest told her all that Ruthe had taught her and of the Seviers celebrated.  John Walker was listening silently.
Nancy sat in deep thought before saying, "I seem to remember my husband once brought our daughter a toy he whittled and said something like that, "Merry Christmas."  And then he sang one of his songs of Scotland.  I did not know what he was talking about.  When is this day?
The trapper seems to think it is in four days.
A few days later, Nest woke to a loud, ferocious squealing outside that suddenly stopped.  She looked out to find her John smiling with a tommy-hawked pig.  The trapper helped him prepare the
meat, and the men took turns rotating it on a spit all day while they sat wrapped in buffalo robes.  Nest took her turn when Mary Margaret slept.  The smell of roasting pig filled their lodge, and it seemed the whole village.  The dog sat eagerly by the fire watching every movement the turning meat made.  Other dogs of the village hung back pacing.  Nest chose some fat sweet potatoes to cover in the ashes to cook.  She also made corn pone, as usual.  John Walker went and invited his grandmother Nancy and the orphans under her care to come feast with them.  There had not been fresh meat for days. 
As they sat down in their lodge to share the meal, her John looked slyly at the trapper and said, "Merry Christmas, Nest."  He then took out a small packet and handed it to her.  The surprise had practically taken her breath away.  She very carefully unwrapped the present to find maple sugar inside.
"How did you get this?"
"I made a trade."
Nest looked lovingly at her husband with tears in her eyes.  He had listened as she told the Beloved Woman of the story of Christmas, and now had given it back to her in the form of a gift.
"Utajah, God, is over all His children," Nancy said.  The Nancy whispered to one of the orphans who slipped  out and came back quickly handing Nest another package.  It was some of the Beloved Woman's butter she had saved in the cold.  Nest laughed as a delighted child.  They melted the maple sugar and butter together so they could all enjoy the treat with their sweet potatoes and corn pone.  Nest's little brother's face was lost in wonderment of this new treat.  Nest described the apple butter she promised to make the next season when apples were ripe for picking.
The Beloved Woman spoke after eating her fill saying, "The woman I saved from burning at the stake, Mrs. Bean, I brought home with me.  I said, "It revolts my soul that Cherokee warriors would stoop so low as to torture a squaw.  No woman shall be tortured or burned at the stake while I am "Ghi-ga-u."  When her wounds were healed, I asked that she teach me to make the butter and cheese from the beeves and to spin and weave.  Because of this forgiveness of one condemned to die, it has brought the first of these gifts of the white men to the Cherokee.  After she did this for us, I allowed her to return to her home unharmed."  They all noisily thanked her for the contribution to their meal and to their people.
When everyone could eat no more, her John said, "Nest will tell us the story from the book.  But first I will give a present to her brother, something Nest gave to me to keep until this day."  With that, John unwrapped the dagger with the silver hilt and ceremoniously handed it to the young brave.  His eyes were like the large eyes of a fawn, but he kept his dignity of young manhood.  
"Where did you get this, sister?  I have never seen anything like this.  Is it from the Seviers?"
The trapper had come in closer to examine it.  "This is certainly old.  Is it Welsh?  Where did you come across this, Nest?"
Her John looked smug in the surprise he created.  "She found it at the fort below the falls."
"When we camped there on our move here, Nest?" Her brother was incredulous.
"You've hidden this away until now?  You are a surprising young woman," the trapper laughed.
Nest hung her head.  "I was afraid you would trade it, father, so I kept it hidden.  That was before I learned to trust."
"She almost stabbed me one night on the river when I came up behind her startling her," John said.  "That's when I first saw it."
"This would not have been such a happy gathering tonight if that had happened."  Nancy took her turn in examining the dagger.  "Your sister loves you and trusts you will treasure this gift from the ancients," she said as she handed it back to the young man's eager hands.
"Now it's Nest turn to tell the story of old," John directed.
Nest was thrilled to be sharing what she had learned, not only with her brother, but with her husband and all in her lodge.  Her father wiped his eyes again as the story stirred his memory of his home so long ago and far away.  All remained quietly thinking when she finished, until her brother said, "Now sing for us, Nest."  She remembered one song her mother had sung as a lullaby, yet now she realized was a song of Christmas...
"O that birth forever blessed,
When the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Saviour of our race;
And the Babe, the world's Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face,
Evermore and evermore."
The faces of the orphans under Beloved Woman's care were enraptured by the story new to their ears and by the song sung in a tongue never before heard by them as first she sang it in Welsh, then in English.
Then, much to their surprise, the trapper sang a song of Christmas in his Scottish brogue...
"I come fra hev'n her to tell
The best nowells that e'er befell.
To you thir tythings trew I bring
And I will of them say and sing.
To you this day is born ane child
Of Mary meik and Virgin mild.
That blissit bairn bening and kind
Sall you rejoice baith hart and mind.
Lat us rejoyis and be blyth
And with the Hydris go full swyth
And see what God of his grace hes done
Throu Christ to bring us to his throne
My saull and life, stand up and see
What lyis in ane cribbe of tree.
Wht Babe is that, sa gude and fiar?
It is Christ, God's Son and Air.
The silk and sandell thee toeis
Ar ha and sempill sweilling clais,
Whar thou greit glorious God and King
As thou in hev'n war in thy ring.
And war the world ten times sa wide,
Cled over with gold and stanes of pride.
Unworthie yitit were to thee
Under thy feet ane stule to be.
O my deishart, yung Jesus sweit
Prepare thy creddil in my spreit
And I sall rock thee in my hart
And never mair fra thee depart.
Bot I sall praise thee evermoir
With sangis sweit unto thy gloir
The kneis of my hart shall I bow,
And sing that rycht Balulaow.
Now Mary Margaret slept with her pursed lips drinking in her dreams.  Nest's eyes were brimming.  "I never heard you sing before, da.  That was beautiful."
The trapper wiped his eyes then blew his nose on a rag.  "I didna know I could remember the song of my childhood.  It does put me in mind of Christmas and the wee bairn."
Nancy ushered her sleepy ones quietly out with a sweet smile of heaven on her face.


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