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  Sweet Savage Charity (excerpt)

Plymouth Colony - 1621

She didn't want to be here in this savage land. She wanted to be home in her warm, cozy
room in London. But when Roger said they were going to follow the Puritans to the New World
so they could practice their faith free from persecution, she had no choice but to pack up their
things and follow him. Just as she'd had no choice when he converted to this strict religion that
kept her in somber clothes and wouldn't let her laugh or smile or sing.


Now Roger was dead along with so many others; buried in this unforgiving land so far from
home. Now she was called before the Governor's council to hear her fate. Her future was to be
decided by these seven stern men whom she was sure had never smiled or loved in their lives.
“Charity Williams,” Governor Bradford intoned. “Stand forth and hear the will of the
Council.”


Charity moved slowly and with dignity to stand in front of the Council. Whatever they
decided, she would keep her pride and accept with as good grace as she could muster. But, oh,
how shamed she felt. Her beloved Roger had only been buried this morning and by tomorrow,
she would be wed to another.


Bradford looked at her with approval. She was strong, this one. The kind of woman needed
if they were to survive in this country. And as the Governor of the colony, it was up to him to see
that she received immediate protection. This was a hard land and he had to make hard decisions.
“Goody Williams,” he said not unkindly, “the Council and indeed the whole colony wishes
to extend our deepest sympathies on the loss of your husband. He was a good man and a good
Puritan and will be missed.”


“But we would be disrespectful to his memory and remiss in our duty towards you if we did
not take immediate action to provide you with a husband to care for you.”

Get on with it, she fumed silently. With whom will I be sharing my bed?


“We did not come to this decision lightly. Much thought was given to your future welfare
and so we chose Josiah Pettibone to be your husband. We hope you are pleased.”


I'm damned well not pleased! she screamed to herself. Why do I have to marry the only
lecherous scab in this entire continent? And then she knew why. He was a member of the
council and had added a goodly amount of supplies in addition to that furnished by the Merchant
Adventurers.


His wife had died just a few days before sailing and there hadn't been time to find a new
one. At least not one that would take on his four brats and undertake a perilous journey to an
unknown future.


Her heart sank even further when she thought about the oldest boy. Samuel. Fifteen and
already an eye for the women. Not that there were many women left. He'd cast greedy eyes at her
more than once. If throwing her into that den of lechery was protection, she'd be better off with
Daniel and his lions.


But like a good little Puritan wife, she cast down her eyes, curtsied to the Council and
thanked them politely.


“The marriage ceremony will take place on Saturday but between now and then, you will
move in with Henry Billings and his family. It won't do for you to be alone.


Charity thanked them again and took her seat on the bench along the wall of the common
house. Five days of relative freedom. Five days to build a raft and paddle all the way back to
England, she thought bitterly.

 

 
 
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