Tales of Mandy, Marriage
Part 2. Mandy
The men began to leave the yard and take the trail back towards the settlement. Rubin stood and looked at the young girl that had just stood up to his brother and five other men and told them that she would be his bride, not theirs. What had he gotten himself into and did he really care? As long as he was with Amanda McCarty did he care who or what he had to face. He smiled at her and sheepishly asked, “When do we do it?”
“Do what?” Mandy was totally caught unawares.
“I would think that he is talking of the wedding. I will go into the settlement tomorrow and post the bands with the parson and set the wedding up for the third Sunday from now. That should be enough time to get everything in order. And….”Aunt Kat was rattling on again. Mandy looked at the boy she had just promised to marry and wondered why in the world she had done such a rash thing. He would not be able to protect her from anything. She was a good two inches taller than him and as she looked at his slight build thought I probably outweigh him too.
“Rubin? How old are you?” Mandy this is a little too late to be thinking of that now.
“I’ll be 17, the day before our wedding.” His smile as he faced her now, fully aware of the fact that he had won the prize was spread across his face in a big boyish grin that looked down right silly. Mandy started laughing and knew that at least this would never be a dull marriage. Not when he had a smile like that.
The winter of ’37 seemed a thousand years away now. Mandy watched the sun light fall on the ground at her feet, dancing through the leaves above making a tapestry of ever changing designs. Her thoughts went back to the hot July Sunday that she and Rubin had stood before Parson Calloway and spoke their vows. Rubin had looked so handsome and some how taller than usual that day, she had worn a dress that Aunt Kat had surprised her with that morning. A beautiful cream Irish Linen, Aunt Kat had told her that the dress had come all the way from Dublin and had been a gift from her first husband. Mandy remembered feeling regal and very important in that beautiful dress.
Rubin had worked hard to get a crop of late corn and squash in even before they were wed. He had brought with him two mules, 3 cows and a horse. His brothers and all most the whole valley had come over the week before the wedding and spent two days building a barn and a cabin for the bridal couple. It was not uncommon in these parts to help with such undertakings, especially when it could be used as an excuse for a social. The women came and cooked and at night the fiddles played. On the wedding day Mandy and Aunt Kat had baked and made fruit tea for all who stayed for the ceremony. Mandy remembered how Aunt Kat had told her, always be a gracious hostess, it will help you along the way if people remember you that way. A thousand years ago that July day, thousand years ago. Did ever happen? It must have. Mandy held herself as she looked up at the trees rustling in the breeze. Rubin had been as innocent as she and they had grown and found love together that summer and fall. By winter he had hunted and filled the larder. They had plenty of deer jerky and he had traded a calf born that August for a young hog that he had slaughtered and so they had cured ham and salt back for the winter. Yes, it had been a good winter also, laughing and loving with her Rubin. She had not been disappointed with him at all. Spring came and he put the crops in and then his brothers had come by wanting him to go hunting with them. They had been gone three weeks, the longest she had been separated from Rubin since their wedding. Today just now they had returned and Aaron was standing in front of her telling her that Rubin would never return. Rubin had been trailing a big bear and when his brothers last saw him he was headed up a ridge. The next morning hey had found his gun and powder horn laying just inches from a cliff, there was blood, lots of blood. They had looked for days but never found his body. The bear must have killed him and then drug his body off to feed on. Mandy jerked her head up, “Feed on? Eat Rubin? NO! He has to be alright! He has to be alive!”
“No, Amanda! We looked. We looked every where. He was our little brother, do you think that I wanted to come home and tell Maw and you that he is dead? No, Amanda, he is gone!” His voice almost pleaded as he looked at the girl before him.
A thousand years ago. Did it really happen? Had she really married and lived this past year with Rubin? Yes. Mandy let her hand fall to her stomach and then she fainted, falling into the tapestry of dancing light on the ground.
“Mandy, Mandy, honey? Dear child wake up.” The soft pleading voice that led her back from darkness, Amanda recognized as belonging to Aunt Kat. Kathryn Riley washed the girl’s face with a wet cloth, as she turned on the men standing behind her. “You should have come by and gotten me before you came and blurted out your tidings to the child.” Then more to herself than the men, “Men have no idea of the shock such news brings to us womenfolk. None at all. Poor child, poor child.” She fused over the girl on the bed in front of her.
“I have to get up and go look for Rubin! I must find him! I have something to tell him!” Amanda struggled to rise from the bed, but Aunt Kat held her firm.
“Not yet! Lie here awhile longer.”
“No! I have to go. I have to go NOW! I have to get to him before it is too late!”
“The girl is crazy! I told her he was dead! Can’t she let it be?” Aaron looked at Amanda in disbelief.
“Get out of here and let me talk to her. After all I have buried two husbands and I think I know a little better how to tell her than you great oafs, blurting out to the child that her husband has been eaten by a wild animal. Honestly if I didn’t know any better I would think that you wanted her to die of the shock! Now get out of here!” Aunt Kat pushed the two men to the door of the small cabin and turned back to look at the girl whose face was ashen white as she stared at her.
“Aunt Kat?” This couldn’t be happening, not now! This should be the happiest time of their lives, her’s and Rubin’s. Where was he? She didn’t feel that he was dead. Was he? Were they telling her the truth? She began to feel that same sick feeling that had come over her in the yard. No! There would be no giving into it. Not now or ever! She would be strong. For Rubin! “Aunt Kat, do you think they are right? That he was killed by the bear and………….and……..”
“Perhaps killed, the other no. Likely fell over the cliff and washed down the river. Those lazy brothers of his just didn’t look good enough to find the body. We don’t need a body for a funeral though. I’ll take care of the arrangements. I think…”
God, she was rattling on again.
“NO! NO, funeral! As long as there is no body there is no death. I will never believe he is dead until I see his body! Deep inside I know he is not dead. I know that as surely as I know that his child is in me.”
“Child, why in the world didn’t you tell me sooner?” Aunt Kat looked at her tenderly and drew her into her arms.
“I wasn’t sure about it until last week. I felt the child move. I wanted to tell Rubin first.” Now hot tears streamed down her face. I can’t do this. I have to be strong. I have to carry on.
“Cry, child cry.” The soothing voice held her close and rocked her as the tears flowed.
Aaron Lawley stood in the doorway glaring at the girl before him.
What in sam hill does he want now? Mandy shaded her eyes against the sun as she looked up at Aaron. In the two weeks since he had returned without Rubin, he had been by a dozen times. He would ask if she needed help with anything and sooner or later get around to asking what her plans were. Now as she looked up she noticed that today his face had a harder set to it.
“Amanda, I’ve come to tell you that John is marrying Susan Ridgeway next month and they will be moving in here on their wedding day. That should...”
“No! This is mine and Rubin’s! John has no right! Where do you expect me to live? In the barn?” Mandy’s eyes flashed as she jumped up, sewing basket tumbling to the floor, to face Aaron.
“Rubin is dead. And as his brothers and kin, this land becomes ours. We will...”
“No, he is not dead! And if he was, the land goes to his next of kin, which is me and his child! I...” Tears began to trickle down her cheeks.
“As an Injun you can’t own land in Georgia!” He chuckled,”If you are with child, its Injun and even if it was Rubin’s it still couldn’t own land.” The evil grin that crossed his face made a shiver run down her spine. “You be outa here by the second week of June!” Aaron Lawley turned and strode away.
“Aunt Kat? Aunt Kat?” Mandy was almost screaming as she crossed the creek to the cabin of Mistress Riley. As she came into the yard Aunt Kat came around the corner of the cabin from her garden. Wiping her hands on her apron, she studied the girl who was running toward her. What on earth was wrong with the child?
“Mandy? What’s wrong, Dear?” she saw now the tears had already stained her face and there was a look of terror in the big brown eyes.
“Aunt Kat, they’re taking our land! They told me to be out in two weeks! They say that Rubin is dead and I’m... I’m injun and so is his child…they say that we ain’t kin and because we’s injun we can’t own any land...so we have to leave.” Sobs racked her whole body as she rushed to get it all out. It still didn’t make sense to her. Rubin was not dead! She was not injun! Neither was their child! She was Rubin’s wife and the child she carried was his!
“Now there, there simmer down. Who is they? His rascal brothers, I bet. Always have wanted that land of yours. Now, now. Calm down, this is not good for you or the baby. Come inside and I’ll make you some tea and we’ll see what we can do about this.” Aunt Kat wrapped a loving arm around the trembling girl and guided her into the cozy cabin. As Mandy sat at the table she remembered the months she had spent here before her marriage to Rubin. Since the death of her mother it had been the only place she had felt safe until her marriage.
“Aunt Kat, what am I going to do?” Kathryn Riley looked at the girl and for the first time in her life felt totally helpless.
“Move in here with me. That way you’ll be safe.”
“No! I won’t give up our land, not to those thieving brothers of his! It’s our land! My mother’s people have lived on and hunted that land for centuries!’ The fight was replacing the fear in Mandy’s voice now.
“And that my darling girl is the problem. Your mother’s people. They were Indian. That is what Aaron and John will use to get your land. When I was in town yesterday, I heard that the government was rounding up all the Indians. They are taking them to the territories west of the BigRiver. So I think you would be safest here with me again. Now don’t sass me, just until Rubin comes home.”
Oh woman, I love you dearly, but I know you are just patronizing me. I know you think Rubin is dead. I know you mean for me to come and live with you again for good. “No, I’ll go home. I’m more white than Indian, they won’t bother me. I know I can talk some sense into Aaron. Maybe I should go talk to Maw Lawley. Surely she’ll be able to stop them. Rubin is her son and this will be her first grandchild. Yes, I’ll go talk to her.”
“It would be a waste of your time to talk to Sarah Lawley. As long as her husband lived he told her how to think and what to do. And from what I hear Aaron treats her, the same. Most likely she will not be able to help you.” Kat seemed to speak with a note of disgust.
“I’ll still go by and see her on my way home.” Somehow the tea and the comfort of this room had given her the courage she had lost in Aaron’s presence.
“Alright, Mandy, I’ll be here when you need me.” She hugged the young girl on the porch. Deep in her heart and soul she hopped that it would workout, but there was a nagging thought peeking around from behind that hope. A thought that said there was change ahead for Amanda.
As she walked up to the big house with the dog trot down the middle, she remembered the shy little woman she had met at her wedding. That had been the only time she had seen her mother-in-law, Rubin did not go to his parent’s home unless summoned and he had never taken Mandy. Not even in January when his father had died. He had not gotten along well with his father or his brothers. The dogs barked as she neared the porch. A tall young girl came from a room off the dog trot followed by a small woman that seemed to cling to the shadows.