The leaves turned scarlet and golden, but did not yet fall from the trees when the baby came. Bonny Kate made it in time, but not before Nest had fearful agony all alone. Once she was delivered of her child, that was all forgotten. The babe was so very tiny, but perfect. She had downy soft hair that curled slightly. Her eyes were bluish gray, but it was too soon to tell what their color would be. Nest was enthralled. Joseph seemed to be happy.
"What did you decide to name her?" Bonny Kate asked.
"Mary Margaret," Joseph said. "Nest wanted me to pick her name."
"That's a pretty name a girl can be proud of."
Kate and her nursing child stayed most of the day though she had been up all night. Ruthe rode over midday.
"I couldn't wait! Pa told me Joseph came for Ma last night. Is the baby her yet?"
Ruthe held the baby with shining eyes. "I was going to wait to tell you, but I'll be having her little cousin soon."
Bonny Kate hugged her daughter and went back to chores. In the older woman's world, babies were a natural part of life. Nest clasped her friend's hand. "I'm so happy for you."
"I'm not feeling so well, but my husband is considerate. It's a good thing we have slaves. I envy you that you did not have this sickness when you were pregnant."
"I was tired and weary a lot." Nest looked down at her wee daughter, "but she is worth it."
The others rode home together at dusk, but Joseph stayed by her side. He only went out to feed the animals.
"You are pretty handy around the stove," Nest teased.
"Remember, I was an old bachelor for a while before I married you. I didn't always eat my mother's cooking."
"We don't live that far from your parents. I 'm sure you mostly ate from their kitchen. Bonny Kate told me," she laughed.
It warmed her heart seeing her husband hold their precious bundle. She didn't even mind when he said, "I've never had a girl before."
Never wasn't in bed too long, but was up and doing the normal chores before the week was over. The work was never done though with so much more washing to do. The baby slept much and ate most of the time she was awake. Nest used a basket for a cradle when outside and placed little Mary Margaret near her while she harvested the garden. Sitting and nursing her daughter before the fire gave her the rest she needed. Joseph had one of his father's slaves make a rocker for her.
At dinner a few weeks later, Nest put into words what had been in her mind for months. "I would like to take our baby to show my family before the snow flies."
"No." Joseph looked up. "I mean, the snow could fall at any time. It wouldn't be safe."
"Your father is going in a few days to a council meeting. I could ride with him. He would make sure we were safe."
Joseph sighed like an old man. "I will speak with my father about it and let you know."
Nest was excited as she mounted her horse alongside her father-in-law. Joseph insisted he need to stay and take care of the animals. He kissed the baby and would not meet her eyes. He just went back to work with nary a word to her. Did he think she would not come back? She could not wait to show her brother, her father, and Nancy their baby. Perhaps her brother would come back with them. Joseph had said he could fix a bed up in the rafters if he came for a visit. He even has his own horse, the wedding gift from her husband, to ride back with them. She was sure nay boy would look forward to such a trip.
The baby was well bundled and strapped to her since she had no cradleboard to hang from the side of the horse. Whenever there was a whimper, Nest only needed to feed her There was no chance she was cold. The only scare was when Nest's horse spooked at a falling branch and suddenly side-stepped making her slip a little from her seat. She clung on with her knees and grabbed hold of the mane. The wind was picking up making the horses a little nervous.
John Sevier rode over, "Are you okay? I thought the horse was going to throw you."
"I would hang on to its mane with my teeth if I had to. Mary Margaret didn't let out a cry. She's fine."
Nest appreciated her father-in-law's concern. Nothing could dampen the thought of seeing her little brother again, the trapper, and Beloved Woman. She had put on her deer hide dress, leggings, and moccasins for the trip while making adjustments so she could feed her little one.
They rode in at dusk. Her little brother spied them first and came running. He had grown almost as tall as she was. "Be careful, little brother as he grabbed the fringe on her dress. I brought someone for you to meet." With that, she unwrapped enough to show a little round face."
"Nest! Can I hold her? She wants her uncle." He reached up with eager hands.
Nest climbed down and said, "Take the horses first, and then I will let you hold her. As her brother staked the animals out to graze, the trapper came up and embraced her and nodded to John Sevier.
"Our little Nest has come home. Welcome, John.
Nest carefully handed her brother the infant. The baby smiled. Her brother was in love, but nervously handed her to the trapper. The proud little mother was surprised to see tears in his eyes. He said, "Your mother would have loved to have seen her. She would be very proud of you, Nest."
The governor turned his face away. Nest wiped tears, grateful for the tender words spoken by her father. He had taken good care of them beginning when he bought her mother and not leaving her behind with the Sioux. Her life would have been so different. She could not have imagined it if he had only taken her mother and not bought her as well. Her mind would not even go there. He was a good father to her brother as well. It was such a comfort to be home.
A squaw wrapped in a blanket was coming bent to the wind. It was Nancy, her Beloved Woman. The trapper passed the bundle into her waiting arms.
"Oh, Nest, isn't she pretty! It looks like you are a good little mother just like you were to your brother."
"He is no little brother any more. I will have to call him my younger brother now. He will soon be taller than me."
Nancy continued, "Thank you for coming and bringing our Nest, Treaty-Man. Nest I will come visit you in the morning. The council is waiting." She reluctantly handed the baby back to her mother.
It was then that Nest noticed the teepee was gone and a Cherokee house was there instead. She asked the trapper, "So does this mean you are a permanent settler now? No more packing up the teepee and moving on?"
"Let's get this baby out of the cold." The entered the round mud and stick house. Yes, I guess you can say we've settled in. This village is a safe place for your brother. John Walker has taken him under his care which eases my mind when I have to leave him."
"So he still teaches my brother the ways of the Cherokee?"
"Yes. He is a good man."
"Has he taken a squaw?" Nest looked down at the ground acting as if it was a casual question.
"No, I don't think he has gotten over you? Did you know he asked for your hand?"
"Nancy told me."
He cleared his throat. "Does Joseph treat you well?"
"Yes, he is a kind man. He will be a good father. His mother has been good to me."
"Do people treat you as an Indian or as a white woman?"
"I wear dresses like they do, so most don't question me openly as Joseph's wife. The Seviers are a very respected family. Joseph and I live in a small one room cabin a mile from his folks. It is very snug, not much bigger than this. I have chickens. I am happy, especially now that Mary Margaret has been born. Only..."
"I am afraid Joseph will leave us and go back to his wife someday." Nest hung her head after her softly confessing her fear.
"Has he told you this? Does he keep two families? You can bring your little one back her to our village with us if you ever need to." The trapper was angry. "I would never have consented if I thought this was to be so."
"No, it is just a fear in my heart. He is good to me. I think he loves me."
"It has been a year. Don't you know if he loves you?" Her little brother had brought John Walker into their home. The fire was in his eyes until he looked down and saw the baby. Then they melted. "So you are a mother now, Little Owl. I know you are a good one because I saw how you loved your brother."
"Thank you," she said with heat on her cheeks.
"Your brother told me he has had a surprise to show me, and then I saw your horses and almost went back. I'm glad I came to se your little one. Goodbye, Nest. I hope you find your love."
He was gone.
"He still has love for you, Nest," her little brother said quietly.
"I have love for this child. I am married to her father. He is a good man. This is how things are."
"Sing for me, Nest. I miss your singing," he begged.
Nest settle down to nurse her baby. This is a song your mother sang to you...
"Huna blentyn yn fy mynwes,
Clyd a chynnes ydyw hon;
Breichiau mamsy'n dyn am dnat,
Cariad mam sy dan fy mron;
Ni cha dim amharu'th gyntun,
Ni wana undyn a thi gam;
Huna'n dawel, anwyl blentyn,
Huna'n fwyn ar frond y fam,
Huna'n dawel, heno, huna,
Huna'n fwyn, y tlwes ei lun;
Pam yr wyt yn awry n gwenu,
Gwenu'n dirion yn dy hun?
Ai angylion fry sy'n gwenu,
Arnati ti yn genu'n llon,
Tithau'n gwenu'n old an huno,
Huno'n dawel ar fy mron?"
"Sleep my baby, at my breast,
'Tis a mother's arms round you.
Make yourself a snug, warm nest.
Feel my love forever new.
Harm will not meet you in sleep,
Hurt will always pass you by.
Child beloved, always you'll keep,
In sleep gentle, mother's breast nigh.
Sleep in peace tonight, sleep,
O sleep gently, what a sight
A smile I see in slumber deep,
What visions make your face bright?
Are the angels above smiling,
At you in peaceful rest?
Are you beaming back while in
Peaceful slumber on mother's breast?"
"What are angels, Nest?"
"They are shining messengers for God the Creator, little brother. They have wings. The holy book has told us. Ruth and Joseph have read me much that is in the book. I also was able to go to church many times to hear a man explain what is written there. There is so much to tell you. The angels came and sang when God's Son was given as a little baby to his mother Mary. That is one reason I love the name my husband chose for the baby, Mary. They celebrate His birth on a day in winter called Christmas. People give gifts in His honor and have a feast. You would like this. Maybe you could come to my home with me this winter and see what Christmas is like. Have you celebrated Christmas, Father?"
"Yes, it was a very long time ago in Scotland when I was a lad. We would go to church at midnight with candles and sing carols."
"I would like to see your Christmas, but I will not leave the village. I will stay here with my father and John. I do not wish to live in a white man's house."
"Your father is a white man," the trapper said with a smile.
"But you have chosen to be a part of the Cherokee village. This is where I belong. I love you, my sister, but you have left us. I will not follow."
Nest's heart broke a little at his words. Her plans for her brother were not to be. This was his home. Her home was not his. When she married, it was with the hope of having him come live with her. She knew now that the cabin would be too small for her brother and her husband. He was becoming a young man, a brave. She was thankful for the men who taught him what she could not, the trapper and John Walker." She sighed.
"I understand. You are becoming a man. You have good men to guide you. It is good."
That night when all was quiet, Nest wondered if there was one waiting at the river for a little owl to appear. She kissed he baby and sang to her softly so as not to wake the sleepers.
Early the next day, Nancy came to sit with her. "I am glad you came before the weather turns colder. A storm is coming. I can feel it in my old bones. You will have to get to your home if you leave early. How is it with you, Nest? Are you happy in the white man's world?"
Joseph reads to me from the holy book, Beloved Woman. Sometimes we go to church to hear it explained. In this way, I feel I am where I am supposed to be, learning from the book.. You said that was why your mother came to our country, to teach the Scriptures. Maybe I will be able to teach it too, at least to my little ones, and someday to my brother. I have thought about what you said about God's Son dying on the stake called a cross. I understand how much He loves me. So I belong to His tribe, no matter where I live."
Nancy smile. "You have become vey wise, my child. Your mother would be so proud. How is it with Joseph?"
"He is good to us. His mother has helped me learn how to do the things a wife should do. I have a nice garden and chickens. She was there when the baby was born."
"You still have some sadness in your face. Is it so hard to be far from your family?"
"Yes, I see now that this is the place my brother needs to be. I am thankful for the trapper and John Walker."
"Waits for what?"
"He does not trust Joseph."
"My husband is kind. He is a good man." Nest hung her head and almost whispered, but I know he did go see his wife and their sons. I hope now that I have given him a child, it is enough."
"We will see."
Fear gripped Nest's heart. She knew Nancy's man had left her, but that was no reason to assume Joseph would do the same. So why was she so afraid? It made her sick to her stomach.
Gov. Sevier knocked and walked in. "I'll be leaving soon."
"I will be ready."
"The weather is changing. Why don't you stay longer? You just got here." Then he said, "It is a hard ride with such a little one. Why don't you wait until I make another trip."
"If I don't go now, the weather may not permit me to go back until Spring. I told Joseph I would return with you. He is expecting me."
"I understood he thought you were staying longer. Oh well, I'm leaving as soon as I feed the horses."
"I'll be ready."
When he left, Nancy said, "I think the man tries to control his son's wife as he does the Cherokee people. I am proud of you little Nest for speaking up to him. I think he planned to leave you here for the winter. Good bye, little one. I will pray for you."
Nest was saddled and ready. John Sevier would not wait for anyone and would gladly have left without her, she was sure of it. I was much colder now than when they rode here. Nancy was right. A storm was coming. They rode into the wind that sometimes spit sleet. Nest had taken the buffalo robe the trapper offered. It helped to keep them warm. The baby slept much with the motion of the horse. The man rode ahead. They did not speak. It made her teeth ache with the cold if she opened her mouth.
It was a very long day that was beginning to tuck into the night when they arrived at the Sevier home. She was surprised when she rode her horse to the barn to see Joseph's horse there as well as a team she did not know. A strange wagon was in the yard.
"Go ahead and take the baby on in, while I take care of the horses."
Nest slipped into the house. The family was seated around the table. There was a woman sitting beside Joseph. He had his hand on her hand and was holding a little boy. Nest felt faint and let out a small cry. They all turned to see her there. Joseph stood up suddenly knocking over a chair and set the toddler down.
"Nest! I didn't know you were coming home so soon. Father said you had planned to stay in the village for awhile."
Nest saw pure hate from the woman's eyes. It had to be Charity, none other. Nest felt like a caged animal. She wanted to be free.
Bonny Kat took her by the shoulders and turned her toward the stairs. "Go sleep in Ruthe's old bed. We'll sort this out in the morning."
Her grief was too deep for tears. Her heart was broken and all the bleeding was inside. Only little Mary Margaret cried. Exhausted in every way, mother and child escaped into sleep.
Nest's eyes flew open panicked. The nightmare was one she could not wake up from. It would be hours before the sky would flush with light, but a full moon spilled its shining when the dark clouds swept past. Nest saddled up and rode toward her cabin. The wagon was there. She was there. It was dark when she entered where she knew Joseph and his first wife lay. She quickly gathered her mother's dress and all the baby's things in the faint light of the embers. His dogs thumped their tails. Nest looked at the pegs where her two dresses hung. She did not want them, but she kept the shawl to wrap over her head and around the baby to wear under the buffalo robe. She paused as her eyes laid on the holy book. Her husband had broken the words. She wished she had learned to read it, but she had not. Nest left if knowing its words were hidden in her heart. Nest slipped the ring off her finger and laid it on the holy book.
Even in the dark, the woman's eyes followed Nest with hatred. The baby was beginning to fuss. Her boys stirred on their pallet on the ground where they curled up with the hounds. Joseph appeared half crazed looking from one to the other of his wives in the dim moonlight.
"You were there on the raid with your father when my mother was shot, weren't you?" Nest could see it in his face. It was a question she had longed to ask for months. Before that she had been too afraid to even think of it. Now she was brave. Goodbye, Joseph."
Nest left the white world in a swirling snow. She gave the horse his horse his head and lay low protectively over her child. When the wind would die down, she could see they were still on the path. Without the buffalo robe, they would have froze to death. At least she knew her warmth above and the horse below was protecting little Mary Margaret, for now.
Finally, Nest saw a hollow tree. It has the one that burned out with a lightning strike. Nest remembered it as a marker on the trail and the tale that Joseph had told about the frontiersman who wintered in a tree. Tying the horse to a branch of a tree. Nest climbed in with the baby and covered them with the buffalo robe to wait out the worst of the storm. She shook with the cold, but was grateful the baby still had warmth and nursed constantly.
Nest remembered another song. She had not like it so had not learned the whole of it., but now it came back uninvited. With chattering teeth she sang to soothe the baby.
"Wyt eiddo im drwy gywir amod
Ai gormod cadw'th air I mi?
Ni cheisiaf fyth mo'th law, Myfanwy,
Heb gael dy gallon gyda hi.
You truly once to me were promised,
Is it too much to keep your part?
I wish no more your hand, My fnwy,
If I no longer have your heart."
She slept in fits, cold and cramped. A light broke across her face. She wondered that it was morning so soon. Yet, it was only a full moon in a clear sky. The storm was over. The snow looked like a blanket pulled up to the chin of the trees. The horse stomped impatiently. It was ight enough for Nest to continue her journey. She was stiff, but wrapped up the babe as best she could. Once mounted, she buried her cold hands in the horse's mane.
The horse was just as eager as she to finish their journey. It seemed to have no trouble following the snow covered trail. Finally, the sun woke up a glistening world: its warmth penetrating even the winter chill. The wind had died. Nest had hope of making it now.
The baby was crying. Nest worried that her milk was drying up with the strain. She suckled the babe it seemed the whole time and tried to relax her racing heart. She lifted her face to the sky and felt the warmth as if her mother kissed her on the forehead. Nest found the peace she had been kissing in her whole time in the white world. John Walker was right. Joseph was not to be trusted. He pierced her heart with grief, but God saw. He did not let them die in the snow. Now she was going home. She would be there before night caught her again.
Nest slid off the horse in front of Nancy's home. The village was quiet, each family gathered in front of their own fires. Nest could barely stand on her frozen legs and called to Nancy. Beloved Woman helped her in and began rubbing her hands, feet and face with snow. Nest hardened herself to the pain. Then she rubbed feeling back into Nest's arms and legs. She checked the little one and let her continue to nuzzle her exhausted mother. Beloved Woman did not ask any questions.
John Walker stormed in. "What has he done? Did he send you away in the snow?" Nancy tried to shoo him away and shush hi, but he would not go. "How did you come through the storm? If you had died, I would have killed him I would have found revenge with the dagger."
The baby began crying. Beloved Woman tenderly picked her up and took her close to the fire. The brave took off his shirt and pulled the shivering young woman to his chest to warm her wrapping the buffalo robe around them both. The chills finally subsided and Nest rested in his arms and slept.
When she woke, she was still in his arms. The trapper and her brother were watching for her to open her eyes, but she looked up only into John's eyes. "You were right." He pierced my heart, but I have lived through the storm. We have come home."
The next day, Nest went to her own lodge. The trapper stayed, not letting her do any of the woman's work.
"Your brother and I have been doing them without you. We are thankful you are safely home, but there will be plenty of time for you to step back into your old ways." He handed her a bowl of porridge.
Nest didn't think she would ever take the warmth of it for granted again. Mary Margaret was lying asleep on the buffalo robe, but Nest's stomach was not at peace. After eating a small portion, she had to leave the house retching. She came in thankful she could rest and lay beside her baby.
Every time she ate that day, the food would not stay down. The trapper went for Nancy. The wise woman came in and Nest was glad the Beloved Woman was there, but did not feel like sitting up. She answered her questions.
"Were any of the white household sick?"
"What did you eat when you were on the road home?"
Nancy pulled back the robe and felt her belly. Finally the Beloved Woman looked her in the eye and said flatly, "The baby will come when the corn is in full blossom."
"Your exhaustion and no nourishment has thrown your body into sickness. You are nursing a baby and growing another without feeding yourself. No wonder you are sick. Res and eat a little at a time until you are able to keeps something down, even if it is one bite. You will not be sick forever, even if you feel like it is."
Nest was shocked. She carried another life, another tie to Joseph. She felt as if she was still holding a rope that he had let go of. She was falling, falling. Though she lay motionless on the buffalo robe beside her child, she was dizzy.
John Walker entered into the silence. He looked from face to shocked face. "Something has happened," he said with the fire in his eyes, alert to fight an unseen foe.
"Nest would not look at him, turning her face to the wall."
Beloved Woman sighed and said, "She is with child again."
He looked at the trapper, her brother, and Nancy, then down on the bundled misery. He left to the cold of the day outside.
Nancy did not follow him right away, but then found him at the river's edge
She waited in the quiet beside him until finally saying, "The river keeps going. It doe not go back the way it comes. We can paddle with it and go forward or fight the current."
Walker stood tense, fists clinched. He eventually let out a heavy breath. "What does it matter if I would accept one child of his or two? They are Nest's children. That is good enough for me."
"You are a good man, John." Beloved Woman walked back to her own home. Sometimes it was good to leave the burdens with the young.
John went back into Nest's lodge and sat, waiting for her to look at him. The trapper signaled to his son, and they left them alone. Nest tried to ignore him, pretended to be asleep, but the baby needed attention. The young man sat patiently unmoving.
Finally speaking without looking at him, she said. "It's been a year, and now I am home with two babies. You were right about the whites, John. I am sorry I did not believe you." The tears fell unchecked down her cheeks. I looked for a safe place. It was not there."
"I told you I would be patient. You are broken now. The healing of a break will make you stronger than before. Your wound will heal, Nest, and you will be a strong woman, a Beloved Woman just like Nancy. The babies belong to you. That is enough for me."
Nest finally turned and looked into his eyes and only say the fie of love. It kindled the embers in her heart.
Mary Margaret stirred and let out a little cry. He lifted her up and kissed her holding her tenderly studying her face. "She has your eyes, Nest. She will be a beautiful Welsh Indian like her mother." The baby smiled.