I was almost ten years old when my father died. Because it was unseasonably warm that autumn, we buried him two weeks before family, friends, and neighbors gathered for the funeral. Everyone brought food and drink, and Aunt Jean and some women from church lent enough dishes to accommodate all the guests. I remember running my finger along the edge of someone’s gleaming china platter. I never saw a gold-rimmed plate before.
With no interest in joining the women clustered around my mother, I crossed the room to listen to a group of men discussing rumors of a peace treaty between the British and the Iroquois and Ohio tribes. The treaty would prohibit white settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains, and I found this news disappointing. My father often spoke of the Ohio country west of the mountains, encouraging the fancy that one day my brothers would venture there. Though I never told him so, I intended to go west one day too.
Uncle William and Uncle James, my father’s brothers, conferred away from the other guests, unaware that my oldest brother, Joseph, who stood nearby and out of their sight, was eavesdropping. I tiptoed to join him, and together we strained to hear the murmured conversation.
Uncle William harrumphed. “Every item in George’s household, taken and sold, wouldn’t come close to satisfying what he owes. If Dunlap calls in the note, it will ruin us all. It’ll leave Hannah and the children destitute, and one of us will have to take them in.”
“We must encourage Hannah to find another husband,” Uncle James replied.
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