Terry L. White
Rebecca could not sleep. She stared out the small porthole beside her bunk and wondered about the strangely forbidding place that would soon be her new home.
The moon shone brightly on the waters of Bloody Cove. The town, betrayed by the twinkling of one small lantern, seemed distant and closed under the baleful glare of Sachem's Head, the promontory that guarded the harbor.
These strange names, falling from the sailor's lips as they grunted at capstan and line, sent shivers of apprehension down Rebecca's spine. She was glad the disembarking of the Endeavor's passengers had been delayed until morning. As uncomfortable as her berth was in this tiny cabin beneath the ship's deck, it had become a kind of home. She closed her eyes against the reflection of moonlight across the choppy water and tried to make sense of her short and eventful life.
At ten, Rebecca often had to think very carefully before she could understand the odd things grownups did and the reasons they did them.
When Rebecca's mother told her they were to sail to the colonies to start a new life, she had been uncertain of all that might entail. Certainly her own life had seen enough beginnings and endings in the past two years.
First of all, her father died and everything about her world had changed. Gone were the dancing lessons, the tutor, the new dresses of shiny silk and subtle velvet Rebecca had always taken for granted. Gone, as well, was the gracious and elegant home of her birth, exchanged a few months after her father's burial for a small apartment in a part of London so run-down and seedy her mother did not dare to let her walk about in the fresh air for fear the Rebecca would come to some dire, nameless harm.
Rebecca's first new home had been three small rooms; a kitchen with a smokey hearth, a parlor as cold as a tomb in the winter season in which they moved house, and the narrow, dark bedroom Rebecca shared with her mother.
Not that Rebecca had minded sharing a bed so very much. She had never liked sleeping alone in the nursery of their other, grander home. Still, her whole life had become so very different.
The flat Elizabeth had taken in her newfound poverty was somehow friendlier than the stylish townhouse where all too often Rebecca's childhood dreams had been plagued with scenes of red destruction, peopled the pale, ethereal faces of her family. Not that she hadn't dreamed in the flat surrounded by muffled voices and strange thuds and crashings of her neighbor's daily life, but the dreams had been mundane, colored by the shades of generations of hopeless striving of the previous occupants of their dank and chilly rooms.
Rebecca had once, before everything changed and in a waking dream, seen her pretty cousin Molly fall down a flight of stairs and lie, still and white, at the foot. There had been an awful look of shocked stillness on Molly's familiar face. Rebecca had run at once to tell her mother about her strange vision.
Elizabeth had pooh-poohed the idea -- and her daughter's oddly disturbing vision -- until a message edged in black told of the fatal fall of her own dear sister's youngest daughter.
Molly, a winsome child of peach and cream beauty, pride of the family, had tripped and fallen on the stair. Her neck was broken in the accident. Death had been instantaneous.
Elizabeth, dainty feet propped on a petit point hassock, had crumpled the evil missive and stared at her fey daughter with something like horror in her eyes.
"How did you know?" Elizabeth's voice had been irritable, heavy with grief. "How did you know Molly would die?"
"I dreamed it, Mama." Rebecca could only whisper.
Rebecca didn't like that sort of dream, especially when it concerned people she loved. But they still came, whether she wanted them or not, whether she was sleeping or not. Her vision of a cousin's untimely demise had not been the last she had seen in her young and strife-torn life.
Rebecca had been so disturbed by the odd distance in her mother's voice the day Cousin Molly died the dreams had stayed away for a while, perhaps held at bay by the terrible fear and guilt Rebecca carried over her cousin's accidental death. But in time they came back, as dream monsters always do.
She had, one dreadful morning between sleep and waking, seen her own dear father lying upon the pavement of a narrow, darkened street, his head in a black, viscus pool of blood, his pockets turned out white against the darkness of his fine woolen suit, his face ashen and still.
Rebecca did not recognize the squalid alley in which her father lay, but the staring of eyes of death were no stranger to this child.
She had been frightened to tears upon waking fully and had cried incessantly until Nanny had taken her to Elizabeth. It took much cuddling and petting before Rebecca relaxed and told her mother about this new dream that had frightened her so.
Elizabeth, unwilling to believe her daughter might have been given another prophetic dream, especially one foretelling such a dire end for the true love of her life, shivered and sent Rebecca up for her morning lessons.
Try to concentrate as she might, Rebecca had not been able to erase the aching image of her father's dead face. Her book brought no comfort or distraction. She was hardly surprised an hour later she heard her mother's scream of outraged shock.
A pair of constables, as alike as twins in dark uniforms hardly brightened by their official brass buckles and buttons, had come to tell Elizabeth of the robber who had accosted her husband as he made his early morning way to work through the poor section of town that lay near his foundry.
"The perpetrator had not contented himself with gold. Or perhaps Mister had put up a fight. In any case, very sorry, Mum, to bring you this shocking bit of news."
"How did you know?" Elizabeth sobbed, and looked at Rebecca with something like horror when the constables had retreated to their headquarters and official papers. "Only a monster could see such a horrible, horrible thing."
Rebecca, frightened by the harsh note of fear in her mother's voice, had hidden her head in her hands. There wasn't a doubt in her mind at that moment that her strange visions the cause of all the sorrow in her mother's life.
And then there had been the funeral, and the removal; after endless tedious discussions with lawyers and creditors, during which Elizabeth had listened in stony silence and accepted the fact her prosperity had quite dissolved with her husband's death while her guilt-ridden daughter had hidden in corners, willing her father back to life.
Rebecca's Papa was dead, she knew she was the cause. She had to be. The pictures in her mind always came when she was happy, and then everything went black and someone she loved was dead. Somehow, deep inside, Rebecca knew if she could no longer see the visions, the terrible events they depicted would end as well.
And so, with all the fire in her small body, Rebecca told the dreams to go away.
They did for a while, but sometimes they would return in the night and she would wrestle with images of death and blood until she could struggle toward wakefulness, sickened by premonitions she could neither control nor understand.
Tonight on the Endeavor Rebecca had no dreams or visions, but rather a vague dread for the new life that would come, whether she willed it or not. If anyone had asked, she could not have said why.
The cove in which the Endeavor lay anchored seemed peaceful enough, but why would a beautiful harbor such as the one she had glimpsed through the dwindling twilight be daubed with the name of blood?
"Bloody Cove," she whispered and cries of unspeakable pain and torture ran beneath her consciousness, linking Rebecca to an event she somehow understood had passed some years before.
Dancing figures, some in familiar European garb, others clad in feathers, furs, and beads, dipped and swayed in a macabre dance of scarlet death. The moon glittered on the waters of Bloody Cove and suddenly Rebecca knew without knowing this was a memory of the past and not a future event she saw.
She sighed in relief. If she had been cursed with a dream of her future, who knows what she would have done, for Rebecca had been uneasy about their journey to the colonies ever since she had been told she was to go.
Every time she thought about her new home in New England Rebecca felt a pang of fear invade her consciousness. Mystick Town, although her stepfather had spoken highly of the place, did not feel as if it were going to be a good place to live.
The wolves were what worried her most.
Mr. Stark, Mama's new husband, Rebecca's new father, had mentioned the wolves a hundred times as they prepared for their odyssey to the new world.
"The beasts are a plague. So bad," he said, passing his sadistic hearsay for wisdom with a nod of his oblong Saturnine head. "Folks dare not leave the safety of their homes without arms, and have taken to cutting enormous slabs of stone to guard new graves to protect the bodies of their dead..."
Rebecca did not have to work very hard to imagine wolves; great dog-like beasts with gleaming golden eyes and teeth like glistening ivory knives. They whined at the doors of her imagination, ready to devour her if she did not acknowledge their very real threat. Their tails thumped the ground as they drooled and waited...
Now the Endeavor lay outside Mystick Town the wolves seemed very near and dangerous. Rebecca shivered and huddled more deeply into her blanket which smelled of sickness and the bodily humors of a tedious and uneasy voyage. Her skin itched, from being weeks unwashed, from the small vermin that infested the thin straw mattress upon which she rested.
Her hair had been combed and plaited afresh daily, but it was greasy from being long unwashed, and her clothing was frayed and threadbare from continuous wear.
Rebecca was unused to being neglected in the past, which had grown dimmer and more distant with every passing moment. Until she'd met Master Stark, Elizabeth had always put her child's needs first.
Rebecca knew her mother had not understood she would not have her trunks close at hand throughout the voyage. Their luggage had been stored in a deep hold, forbidden to the Endeavor's passengers. In time Elizabeth had given up trying for permission to go below to find clean clothing for her family.The undershift Rebecca slept in was the one she'd worn the day they'd embarked upon this journey into the unknown.
Never in her life had she felt so unclean, or so alone.
Her mother breathed softly on the bunk below, her body anchored by the heavy limbs of her new husband, Graham Stark. Rebecca shrank from the thought of her stepfather's hard, unkind hands touching her gentle mother's skin. He touched Rebecca often as well, pinching and slapping her for every small transgression.
In a reaction as unconscious as it was primitive, Rebecca hated the thought of Mr. Stark's hands and lips claiming the breasts that were once hers alone She winced each time the man passed a proprietary hand across Elizabeth's bosom when he thought no one was looking.
Rebecca did not like Mr. Stark, but she thought he was well named. Mr. Stark had thin eyebrows and lips, and his ears hugged his long head to near invisibility. His voice rang often with the Puritan's "thee's" and "thou's," but Rebecca soon came to understand Master Stark did not mean these words in the humble and neighborly spirit of their fellow travelers.
They were, she knew, a means to his own somewhat nebulous ends.
Mr. Stark meant to become a wealthy man in the New World. In the privacy of their tiny cabin he made no bones about having no real religious reason for joining the colony.
Of course, Stark possessed a mask, the one that made his presence acceptable to his fellow pilgrims, but it fell away when he and Elizabeth were alone in their cabin, one dearly purchased luxury that separated the Stark family from the religious dissenters who made up most of the rest of the Endeavor's passengers who suffered a much less pleasant passage in the ship's damp, stinking hold.
Rebecca stirred, tossed on the creaking narrow bunk.
"Does the brat never sleep?" her stepfather hissed to Elizabeth Hunter Stark. He knew the chit lay awake nights, listening to them when they whispered under the covers.
Elizabeth stirred wearily and drew herself to the furthermost reaches of the narrow bunk which was all the bed she had known since embarking on this dreadful journey.
"Surely she sleeps," she murmured, wishing her husband did not rest so closely and warmly by her side. "Rebecca is a good child, if she is too aware for her years." Elizabeth excused her daughter mildly.
Stark's hand stole between her thighs, fumbled with the moistness at their joining. Elizabeth released a breath, half moan of resistance, half sigh of resignation, and allowed her husband his dubious pleasure in silence. Mating with Stark had not been what she'd imagined during their courtship when her prospective husband had offered her a release from her poverty and sudden chastity.
Elizabeth's first marriage had been for love and the sexual congress involved had been of a higher order, a release to spirit for both parties, not the sticky, pounding coupling of Mr. Stark's preference. She had not been prepared for the icy meetings of a loveless marriage, had not yet accustomed herself to the utter lack of feeling that accompanied her joinings with Stark.
Still, as she had so often told her daughter, Elizabeth had entered into the marriage willingly, hoping for distraction from the constant grief that nearly disabled her after her beloved Raymond died. She had wed, and now crossed the ocean together with a stranger to find a new life. Learning too late she did not love her new husband, Elizabeth also knew her promise of faith until death would not be a lie.
She was bound to her new husband by a thousand ties, the newest, more frightening and imposing than any that had come to this point in her life.
She was pregnant with Graham Stark's child.
Her courses had not come with the moon's passing, but Elizabeth had not forsaken her aversion to her husband's embrace now the threat of pregnancy far away from home and medical attention no longer loomed as formless danger. Her new child, conceived in apathy, would occupy Elizabeth's body and then her days.
There were times she thought her life would be better when it was born.
Elizabeth sighed remembering how, when Rebecca was conceived, Raymond had laughingly chided her for her lusty conjugal behavior... How surprised they had both been to learn pregnancy had released her from fear of her own sexuality. It had been a wonderful time, those months she had carried her daughter, wonderful even, after Rebecca was born, but life was Stark was different, harder, despite his endless promises. Elizabeth felt nothing but disgust and dread as he labored noisily over her swelling body.
Rebecca heard, but did not fully understand, these thoughts of loss and resentment above her mother's soft moans of resistance. Were these thoughts her fault as well? If her mother had been childless, would Elizabeth then have not had a better chance to make an amiable match with a man more suited to her sensibilities than the judgmental and forbidding Mr. Stark?
Rebecca did not know, but she wondered....
The moon slowly sank into the cove as the mists of morning enveloped the Endeavor in gray and clinging shrouds. The sounds of men's voices, of children whimpering to wakefulness, brought Rebecca to the happy awareness that soon she might soon quit her hard, verminous bed and be carried to the shores of Mystick Town itself.
She still did not think it would be a happy place to live.
"Hoy, there! Women and children in the first boat." Captain Tully's red face rivaled the sunrise as he paced the deck, supervising the unloading of his troublesome freight. Of course, the pilgrim's passage money made his outward journey worthwhile -- as would the return trip, on which the Endeavor would be laden with vast quantities of the finest virgin timber, a cargo that would line his pockets richly when he sold it at the Liverpool yards.
Rebecca made herself small and clung to her mother's skirts, avoiding a forest of limbs encased in threadbare and smelly breeches and skirts as their fellow travelers pushed forward to be in the first boats. They did not manage to secure a place in the first, or the fifth boat ashore. A full score of Captain Tully's human cargo found their land legs before the Stark women were able to claim places in the longboats that plied back and forth between the ship and the shore.
There seemed to be quite a commotion across the narrow band of water that separated them from the land. People from Mystick Town came running, shouting greetings, and in some cases, flinging themselves into the arms of loved ones with whom they had been separated by the endless Atlantic. Yelps of welcome carried across the water and a light breeze sprang up, carrying the scent of wood smoke, an aroma so much like land and home Rebecca felt tears of an unreasonable joy springing to her eyes.
At last she sat in the longboat, her hand shielding her eyes from the glare of the sun spangling the dancing water. Of the whole of her journey, this part seemed the nicest. The confinement of the tiny ship's cabin, the smells of bodies in the most intimate of functions, the lingering taste of salted meat and rock-hard ship's biscuit were washed from her palate and nostrils as the boat's keel scraped the pebbled shore and friendly hands reached to help her and her mother to the impossible stability of solid ground.
Rebecca swayed. Her legs were so used to the pitching of the Endeavor's deck she could hardly keep her balance on the hard-packed sands of Mystick Town's windswept beach. She turned to the west, following the scent of burning pine, and saw the town.
Mystick Town had assumed heroic proportions as Rebecca's imagination had furnished it with gracious houses. She had, as well, peopled the settlement with gentlefolk who were kind and loving to all who entered the place.
Her imagination had been flawed.
Where were the neat white clapboard cottages of her stepfather's dream? Rebecca saw crude shacks built of un-barked logs, their roofs thatched with sea grass or crude shakes. Cat- and-clay chimneys clung to the sides of these impossible dwellings, lazily wafting bouquets of charring meat and simmering puddings.
"I'm so hungry," famished, but Rebecca did not dare to trouble her mother with her body's demands. Elizabeth seemed pale and weak, hardly able to stand, although it did not seem her mother's debility stemmed from not yet having found her land legs.
Looking closely, Rebecca saw Elizabeth's customary colors, the body of light she, and indeed, all people seemed to carry with them, had taken on a subtle difference. The area around Elizabeth's midsection, normally a muted sunset of color, now glared an angry red and orange. Rebecca did not know what was the matter with her mother. The strange colors of Elizabeth's aura worried her for reasons she could not understand.
They stood on the chilly, windswept shore as the remainder of the Endeavor's female and child passengers were ferried to dry land.
A new wave of boats contained the men, Graham Stark standing boldly in the first, eagerly taking in the lay of his new homeland. Once ashore, his face glowed with excitement and anticipation as he strode to the spot where his wife and step-daughter waited.
"Someone will bring our trunks along presently," he said and began to walk briskly toward the settlement. "Come on." His voice was impatient, harsh with his haste. "The Underhills will be wondering why we have taken so long to greet them."
By some mysterious communication not understood by Rebecca, Mr. Stark had arranged for temporary accomodations with a family named Underhill who had agreed to provide the Starks with food and shelter until he could arrange to build or buy a dwelling of their own.
Rebecca could see their hosts in her mind's eye. The Underhills were plain people who would greet them with kind and polite phrases of welcome, but their colors were gray with fatigue and stress. The hunger in their eyes belied their soft words of greeting and welcome.
What kind of life awaited her in this harsh place? Why was everyone so sad and hopeless? Rebecca thought she could have looked ahead, but the thought of seeing the future in this hostile land was too much for her to bear.
"Woman!" Stark's voice was cold, his colors dark blue, hard brown. "Make the child move."
Rebecca did not like Mr. Stark to look at her.
Nor did she wish to attract his anger. She picked up the bundle of belongings she had released to the earth to ease her fingers of its cutting cord, and looked at her mother. Elizabeth seemed exhausted so she picked up her larger bundle as well. Rebecca could hardly walk under the burden, but her mother's smile gave her strength. The relief she saw on Elizabeth's face made Rebecca proud she was large and strong enough to carry some of the burdens that had worn Elizabeth Stark to this distressful state of near helplessness.
"We'll feel better, I expect, with a hot meal and a wash," she encouraged, suddenly feeling she was the mother and Elizabeth the child.
Elizabeth smiled down at her and said nothing at all.
They hurried after Mr. Stark and Thomas Underhill, a sturdy dark man above average height, who had come to fetch them to his house, each afraid in her own way of the life they were about to begin.
Elizabeth walked slowly behind her daughter, her body burdened by the new life she carried, although it was too soon for the unborn child to make its presence known by the largeness of her waist, and by an exhaustion brought about by a faulty diet and the monotonous sameness of their endless voyage. Luckily, their walk was not long.
"They've come, wife." Thomas Underhill had left the Starks to walk at their own pace and hurried ahead to tell his wife of the ship's arrival. He stomped into the kitchen dropping mud from his crude hand-pegged shoes on the hearthrug. "I'll wager our guests will be hungry. Have you enough food?"
Patience Underhill, her face flushed angry red from her proximity to the fireplace, gingerly pushed the crane back over the flames with her stirring spoon of hand-carved hickory. She laughed uncertainly. Hadn't she and Thomas planned and saved out to make this welcoming meal for their guests?
"I do, husband. But do you suppose the Starks will enjoy our homely fare? I am sure they were used to much better in London."
"Thee does not yet understand, wife. We are lucky to have enough to share. Like or not, what we have to offer is what they'll get."
Thomas Underhill, having taken a good look at the travel-battered passengers of the Endeavor was brought to the memory of their own arrival some years before.
No warm hearth fire and hot food had welcomed the Underhill's own frightening arrival. Instead, they had slept shivering under the autumn moon and scavenged the area for food to put by while constructing crude shelters to see them through a winter that had no specified shape or ending.
Many of the first settlers had not survived that first cold season. Thomas and Patience had, their relief in the spring sun blighted by the loss of their child, a little girl.
Long wed, long accustomed to reading one another's mood, neither spoke for a time. Thomas went to the doorway to see why his house guests lagged so in their arrival.
Patience moved to stand behind him and watched their visitors as they toiled up the last rise to their cabin. She thought the man, Stark, walked with an arrogance not often seen in Mystick Town, but then, the gentleman Stark was fresh from the streets of London.
With a cheering thought she smiled. "How good it will be to have news of home."
Thomas had walked like that when they first arrived on the shores of Mystick Town.
The woman, Mistress Stark, followed her husband slowly, her gait unsteady. She seemed the picture of fatigue and hopelessness.
Patience felt a pang of pity for her female guest. She would always remember how tired she'd been when she had first set foot in this new and untried world.
Then she noticed, following the seaworn adults, joy, a little girl, burdened heavily, trudging the uneven path with the sun shining on her auburn curls.
"Oh," Patience breathed. Her daughter Respect had had hair of the exact shade of Rebecca's. "They have a child."
Her hand flew to her mouth to hide the pain she could not conceal.
Tom Underhill grunted and turned to go inside the cabin and carefully hung his musket on the pegs over a mantle of native oak. His shirt, of coarse homespun linen, a fabric just beginning to be produced in the colony, had dropped sleeves and a drawstring around the neck. It was not entirely white, would not be, until Patience could once again put her wash out to dry and bleach in the sun. For now, and even on this eventful day when company would arrive, articles of damp clothing were hung from a slatted rack near the ceiling. A rope, attached to the far wall of the crowded room, served to raise and lower the contraption.Thomas smoothed his hair, which was shoulder length, and tied back with a bit of cord. "Thee is happy about a stranger's child?" he asked, knowing his wife far better than she suspected.
"I do miss Respect, husband. The little one has her hair." Patience's voice grew hard with grief. "Our guests are nearly at the door. Come stand by me, husband. We must greet our Master and Mistress Stark with good cheer so they know they are truly welcome in this new place."
Graham Stark received the Underhill's welcome with a stingy, ungracious smile. "Good of thee to take us in," he grimaced and stared with distaste at the meanness of the Underhill's home, which was one of the most spacious and graciously appointed in the entire town, having the luxuries of a split-log floor and one window with four small glass panes.
Without invitation, Stark dropped directly onto a stool fashioned from a slab of wood with three long pegs set in for legs. He looked up expectantly as if waiting for his hosts to honor him with further evidence of their hospitality.
Patience Underhill smiled uncertainly. "We are honored to have you in our house, Master Stark, Mistress."
Stark made no reply.
Elizabeth followed her husband into the room, but did not sit down at once as he had so impolitely done. She stood uncertainly near the hearth, warming her hands, chafing them against one another as if waiting for some sort of instruction. She was so very tired.
"Come, Mistress, sit," Patience urged, remembering how utterly weary she had been when she had arrived on the shores of the New World. "I have no tea, but the savages hereabouts drink mixtures of native plants that are both pleasing and palatable. A hot drink, and Thee will feel better in no time. This mixture is made of a flower called dandelion, with which you are no doubt familiar, and the berries of an odd bush called sumac, which fruit is very tart and strengthening. The brew is sour, but there is honey with which to sweeten it."
Her chatter of domesticities eased Elizabeth's tension. She soon sat beside her husband, sipping a wooden cup of Patience's strange, but comforting tea. She looked around for her daughter.Rebecca, having had no instructions as to what she should do next, lingered by the door.
"Beck?" Elizabeth sounded so exhausted. "Come make your greetings. I fear our hosts will find your manners lacking."
Rebecca, uncertain of where to put their belongings in the crowded Underhill kitchen, carried them with her to the table and looked at her mother.
Elizabeth nodded for her to put the bundles down.
Rebecca did as she was told and, clasping her hands behind her back, inclined her head as she had been taught. In a weak and wavering voice she told the Underhills that she was happy and thankful to share their home and hospitality.
Patience could not help thinking what a good and pretty child Rebecca was. She reached for the weary little girl and folded her into a warm, lengthy embrace.
"You forget yourself, Goodwife," Tom growled although he knew how desperately Patience missed and loved the daughter she had lost two years before. What good would it do for her to become attached to this little one? Stark would remove her removed from their home soon enough.
Patience released Rebecca reluctantly and stepped quickly to the hearth. Her face was blazing, but perhaps Tom would not notice. It was often red from the heat of her cookfire. But, oh, it had felt good to hold a little girl again. Tears of grief, or joy, she did not know which, spilled unbidden, and she batted at them fiercely, intent on not crying in front of her guests. A savage poke at a shouldering log spewed smoke into the room, masking the emotions she could neither deny or conceal.
"Thee must be famished," she said after a moment. Her voice trembled slightly. "We will soon take nourishment." With that, Patience wiped the tears from her eyes and began to scoop a soft, yellow mush onto wooden trenchers. When each person at their board had his own serving her husband offered thanks.
"Oh, most gracious and glorious God," Thomas prayed. "Bless this food we are about to eat and extend your blessings unto all our days..."
Tom Underhill's prayer went on for some time as he discussed the arrival of the Endeavor and the state of trade with his Deity. "Amen," he said at last, oblivious of the fact their food no longer steamed appetizingly.
"What is this dish?" Elizabeth asked pleasantly after shooting a warning glance at her Rebecca. The look on her daughter's face said she found the gruel sour and gritty.
"Maize porridge. Some call it corn," Tom Underhill shrugged. "It is a grain we have learned to grow from the savages here. Corn thrives in these soils and is most nourishing. We have grown little wheat and fewer oats this year and so such white flours are scarce. Perhaps the next crop will be better. In the meantime we must do with the native corn which is pounded into meal and made into this pudding for nearly every meal." Underhill eyed his own trencher with distaste, having long tired of the novelty of corn.
He turned his attention to Graham Stark. "Would you believe they manure their fields with dead fish?" Bred of farming stock, Thomas Underhill had found this fact most fascinating upon his arrival in Mystick Town.
Stark came to life, his eyes bright as he took in Tom's description of the agriculture of the area. "Of course, we fish a lot, and the fish called cod especially are abundant outside the cove. We dry a lot of them," he gestured overhead to a second rack that stank with hanks of blackened fillets. "Cod fishing, and our lumbering operations, constitute what passes for industry in Mystick Town.
"The Blakes, over by the cove, have a ropewalk and deal in ship's stores, but Blake married a Dutchwoman. He doesn't mix much except for business. No one has a lot of time for much beside farming and cutting wood," Underhill sighed. "Survival takes a lot of our time and energy."
He looked at Elizabeth Stark who grew pale at this bitter evaluation of the economy of the new world in which she was newly arrived. "Begging your pardon, Mistress. Life here is hard. You're fortunate you didn't to Mystick Town here a few years back with the first of us.
"A good many folks died of plain hunger, but that's about done with now. We make do, and while it ain't white bread and milk-fed veal, we get enough to eat. Go on, there's more if you want it." His eyes took in Elizabeth's plate, the half-eaten mess she had been pushing about, the gaunt, scarecrow bones of her face.
Rebecca forced herself to chew and swallow, to keep her eyes on her plate, to not bother the grown-ups. Mr. Underhill was kind, as was his wife. Their colors were flat and faded, but in no way threatening. She saw no reason to fear them and was glad their first night in the new world would be spent under the Underhill's hospitable, if crowded roof.
"Your trunks should be here soon," Tom Underhill spoke to Graham Stark. "I expect these females will want to be alone to do whatever they do about them. I seem to recall a lot of dither about washing and such when Patience and I first set foot ashore. When the men bring them up, I'll show Thee about, Master Stark."I believe you will agree we have made great progress in building our town, despite the Indian trouble a few years back..."
"Indian trouble?" Graham Stark's auric colors were rimmed with a sickly mustard hue. He had heard much of savages in the New World. Much of what he had heard had not been good.
"Pequots," Underhill shook his head. "Killed a bunch of settlers for no reason at all. We don't hold with that kind of thing normally, but they was so contentious, we had to kill them off. Wouldn't do to have dangerous animals like that around a place a man's going to make his home and raise his children. I'll never forget the day..., why the creek above the house ran red with their blood...."
Rebecca reeled as the impressions of battle she had received on board the Endeavor crowded upon her. The warlike images seemed stronger now she was in closer proximity to the scene of the carnage. She shuddered and drooped over her empty bowl.
"The little one's exhausted," Patience crooned, longed to take Rebecca in her arms, to soothe her as she once had her beloved Regret. "Thee's frightened her with your immoderate talk, Thomas."
"The child may as well learn early this world is hard and dangerous, wife." Underhill reached for his sober, untrimmed coat and motioned for Stark to do likewise.
"I have an idea the women would like to be alone," he said tactfully, gaining a look of gratitude from his wife. "I propose a walk through the settlement. Your new neighbors are eager to make your acquaintance."