Groton, March 1673
Once the threat to the stricken Elizabeth Knott had passed, Reverend Willard again allowed his wife to renew her friendship with Suzanne. By spring, he even allowed Abigail to assist in delivering the child of Suzanne’s sister-in-law, Sarah Cooper. In March, the winter ice melt released the swelling river tides and scents of fertile earth when Sarah went into labor. The two women delivered Sarah’s first daughter, a round and red-faced, full-term cherub who cried lustily and latched properly on her mother’s breast. After she and Abigail had cleaned up, they left the new mother nursing her newborn to prepare a small meal in the great room.
Suzanne felt a gratitude that lifted her hopes for both Sarah and her baby. She had suffered as much as Sarah on her last delivery of the infant born too soon. Abigail too, rejoiced. “She will thrive, this one.” Abigail rummaged through the carpet bag she’d brought with her. “I brought some bread and cheese. Do you think Sarah has some ale?”
“I agree. She’s a lusty cry, a sure sign she’s strong. She’ll survive.” Suzanne combed the hearthside for the fermenting crock that graced everyone’s abode. “Here it is.” She found clean mugs on a shelf. The ladle for the brew hung beside the crock, and she lifted the wooden cover and dipped enough ale to fill two mugs. The two women relaxed on the fireside table benches after the long labor.
“Has Dancing Light come back?” Abigail sliced the cheese and pulled a hunk of bread from the loaf. While Samuel Willard had forbidden her to visit Suzanne when he’d thought that the powwow had something to do with their servant’s affliction, he’d relented after Elizabeth had recovered. If the powwow had bewitched her, his Godly presence and his subject’s penitence had dispelled the demon. Abigail was always curious about the Nashuas, even as she squinted at Suzanne’s ready adoption of moccasins, wampum, medicine bags, and cradle boards. “We’ve heard the drums.”
“Yes. We too, but she hasn’t visited yet. She will, of course. We gather skunk cabbage this month.” She passed a mug to Abigail. “Do you have news from your father of Watertown?”
“Nothing particular. Samuel says there are rumors that the Indians in Plymouth are arming themselves against the English. The Boston magistrates are mediating conflicts now.” Abigail chewed thoughtfully.
“Joseph has heard that too. Have you heard news from the Major?” Major Samuel Willard, who had moved to Groton the year before, was the Reverend Willard’s father.
“He hasn’t talked about an uprising. But I believe Boston is firming up the militia. The general court has promoted our James Parker to Captain. He’ll command a company here. Mary Parker is a little too proud of her husband’s appointment to my way of thinking.”
Suzanne sliced the cheese. “Pride is a failing. Yes, I heard it too. Joseph is drilling with the men on the commons. He says that William Larkin and Nathaniel Lawrence are to be Captain Parker’s ensigns.”
“It’s sounding serious.” Abigail sipped the ale. “The Major has insisted that we build a garrison wing and add palisades around our house. He’s sent for soldiers.
“Joseph is drilling again, too. He says the plan is to have four garrisons. Nutting and Parker, your closest neighbors will be palisaded, too. And Sawtell down the road.
“Oh, Suzanne, I’ll be living in a garrison. I married a learned man, a minister, not a soldier. This is all the fault of the Major. What will become of us?”
“But you’ll be safe if there’s trouble. Your husband’s father is in command of the whole Middlesex militia. That should be comforting.”
“The Major brings small comfort. Our neighbors have never been hostile; even he admits that, but now we must consider it?” Abigail rose to clear the table. “I worry more about the likes of Tarball. You’ve heard that he was caught selling spirits to the Indians.”
“I have but found it so hard to believe. I’ve heard him rail against the “savages” and their drinking. He’s one of those who see no good in our neighbors across the river. Who would ever suspect that he was complicit all along?”
“He denied it, and no one believed Sachem Tahanto when he complained. Tarball being a selectman and all. Tarball said Tahanto was lying.”
“Tarball being a hypocrite, you mean.”
Abigail laughed, stacking the bowls. “No shortage of those in our poor town. What do you make of it? He accuses you of siding with Satan because you work with Dancing Light. But he sells spirits to the natives, breaking our laws at the same time he is corrupting them. Is that hatred?”
“I think he sees only the profit. He’s not thinking of souls, not theirs, not his own.” Suzanne prepared pallets for sleeping.
“He might have gotten away with it, but Goodman Daniels marked a bottle to test the chief’s accusation. Even after he was caught, Tarball still denied it, all the way to court. I want you to be careful of Ann and Thomas Tarball, Suzanne. There’s no telling what they may do.”
After looking in on the mother and baby, now both asleep, the two women settled for the night, lying on pallets, listening to the pop and crackle of dying embers, which lulled them to sleep.
That Sunday, Reverend Willard announced to the parish the council’s plan to build four barricaded garrisons. The council would assign each resident family to one of them should they be under Indian attack. “We must be prepared for that event if history gives us any lesson.”
Joseph Morse had trained for combat in Watertown like all males over sixteen in the Massachusetts colony, where the military alliance in Boston required servicemen to own a regulation combat-ready matchlock musket. In Groton, he continued to drill with the town’s men under the newly commissioned Captain Parker; he was ready if conscription began. Cleaning his guns for these drills, he’d set six-year-old Joseph to work. One by one, he removed two guns from their pegs above the hearth: both with rifled barrels. He’d explained to her that the smooth-bore barrel muskets that Boston regulated speeded up reloading in battle, but he thought the accuracy and greater range of rifled barrels was more important than efficiency, especially when he hunted. He’d promised to show her how to fire the matchlock rifle, but the newly invented flintlock rifle was his alone. It served better in battle because he could load it on the run, though it could misfire when it rained. He wanted her to be able to defend herself in any emergency. Suzanne had put off the lesson in more-populated Watertown, but living in Groton and traveling through wilderness to serve the women made defense a necessity.
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