Authors: Patti Wigington
In the center, toward the bottom, was her own name, then her parents right above.
Peyton Clark and Deborah Cameron, Died April12, 1977,
it read. Above Peyton were Granny Emily and her husband, Charlie Clark. Then Granny’s father, Isaac Duncan, Jr., and his father the physician, the builder of the house. Cameron traced the lines back further and further, names and dates getting smaller and smaller, until she got to an entry that caught her eye.
Angus Duncan, b. 1746, son of Hugh Duncan
. Next to Angus was Mollie, born four years later, and then an entry for
Sarah Duncan b. 1755, married Ian MacFarlane, d. 1774.
Sarah and Ian had a son, Jamie, born and died 1773, and Hamish, born a year later, the year Sarah had died.
Cameron thought about Troy’s story. The genealogy sheet was wrong, she realized. Sarah MacFarlane hadn’t died in 1774, she had stayed alive after being captured by Indians for nearly a year before she escaped from them. This was amazing, Cam thought. She wondered if Mollie’s journal had anything in it about the Faeries’ Gate. She climbed into Emily’s great four-poster bed and fluffed the pillows. She had a lot of reading to do.
Hamish MacFarlane was turning quite red. His chubby fists were clenched tightly and he was screaming like a banshee. The toddler sat in a pile of fallen leaves and howled some more.
“Are ye going to let him keep on like that?” his Auntie Mollie asked his father, who was morosely chopping wood. Ian sighed. Mollie was a bit of a harpy lately.
“I dinna think I can shut him up. He’s very angry, isn’t he?”
“Aye, that he is,” she agreed. “And why d’ye think he’s so angry, hm?”
Ian scratched his head. “I dinna know. Maybe he wants something?”
Mollie threw up her hands in exasperation. “Of course he wants something, Ian, ye great fool! Are ye going to figure out what it might be?”
Ian set down the axe. He was tired and in no mood to play guessing games with Mollie. She was being quite foul to him these days. “Nae, Mollie. Suppose ye tell me what’s ailing him, then?”
“He’s wearin’ a wet clout, ye fool, and his arse is getting cold, and I expect he doesna’ like it much,” she yelled.
Ian shrugged. “All right, then, Mollie. If he’s wet, then ye should change him, should ye not?”
Mollie folded her arms across her chest. “Nae, Ian, I should not. Do ye know why?”
Ian got the feeling he was expected to answer a certain way, but wasn’t quite sure where the trap was. His brother Robbie once warned him about this. Rob had said that sometimes women asked you a question when they already knew the answer.
“Why, Mollie?” he asked warily. “It
the woman’s job to mind the bairns.”
She leaped at him then, screaming, “But he’s your son, Ian, nae mine! I take care o’ him and you all day long, like a bloody serving wench, and ye can’t even be bothered to see if your own son has a dirty clout on! What will ye do if I ever leave here, Ian? Who will take care of the two o’ ye then?”
Ian was startled by this outburst. Why on earth was Mollie so upset? And what did she mean, leave? “Are ye plannin’ on going somewhere, then, Mollie?”
She threw a clump of wet leaves and sticks at him, scooped up the squalling boy, and stomped off towards the house, grumbling under her breath.
October 28, 1775 –
I feel I can take this no more. Ian ignores his own son and leaves him in my care constantly. I know the poor man is saddened by the loss of our Beloved Sarah, as am I. Yet it has been a year and he is so forlorn. I fear wee Hamish is a reminder to him of Sarah, and he refuses to pay mind to the boy. Ian needs something to divert him, and I have suggested he consider joining the Bedford Militia, if only to get him out from under my feet.
A Second Continental Congress has been formed in Philadelphia, and our own Mr. Jefferson has advised the local Militias that a Continental Army is being assembled. General Washington of Fairfax County shall be in command, following his brave service in the Wars on the Frontier. Angus has left us to join the delegates in Philadelphia and assures us that he will send word as soon as he is able.
Perhaps when Robert returns to spend the winter with us I shall ask him to speak with his brother.
Robert is an interesting man. I find it so strange that he and Ian can be brothers and yet be so unlike one another. Ian is passive and mild, and perfectly content to sit and watch others do things. Rob, on the other hand, attracts attention merely by his charismatic presence. Where Ian is stocky and fair, Robert is tall and dark, with a tangle of coal-black hair that he wears in a Ponytail, as men of the sea are wont to do. He is moody, though, and sometimes brings to mind a great silent storm brewing off in the distance. Rob and Ian spent two months last year searching for Sarah, even going as far west as Point Pleasant, near the Ohio River. Sadly, they encountered no one who had seen her, and thus concluded that she had been kidnapped by a Renegade Band of Indians. Rob was very irritated with Ian when they returned to the ridge, and I am sorry to say they went for several days without speaking any more than a “pass the salt, if you please.” When I asked what was wrong, Ian simply replied, “I was ready to come home, and he wasn’t.”
In truth, I am fascinated by Robert, and I am pleased that we formed a sort of friendship during his visit. Ian tells me Rob was married once, to a childhood sweetheart named Meg. Meg was wild and impetuous, with eyes like sapphires, and one day just a few months after they married, while Rob was working at the shipyards, she left their small house near the River Clyde and did not return. By the time Rob realized she was missing, his beloved wife had been gone for several hours. A search ensued, but Meg was never seen again. There were horrible rumors and speculation, that she was dead, that soldiers had kidnapped her, even that Rob himself had killed her and hidden her Body away! Finally, after several months, a young lady who was a friend of Meg’s blurted out that she had run off with a wool merchant from Inverness, and that the merchant had killed her in a fit of rage only a few weeks later, upon finding her in a Compromising Position with one of his customers.
Ian tells me that for a long time, poor Rob held onto the hope that his Meg would return some day. After learning of her death, he went back to the yards where he and Ian had worked since their boyhoods loading the Great Tall Ships. He spoke to some friends on the wharf, including a Captain Ramsay, and was promptly given a position on Ramsay’s ship. He sailed out of Glasgow that very day, and never returned to the little house on the Clyde.
Rob is a most tragic and romantic figure. He has been a Sailor now for fifteen years, and when he spent last winter with us, he indicated privately to me that he might wish to settle on the land permanently. He certainly has money; being a Captain’s Mate has been most profitable for him. But he told me the business was becoming risky, with the current trouble between the Colonies and the Crown. He even mentioned running a Royal Blockade or two. I shiver with excitement at his tales of Adventure on the High Seas! In addition, he told me that with privateering about to be authorized by Congress, the waters are getting a bit crowded. I am not so certain that a man who has seen so much of the world and been on a ship that long would make a very good farmer, but maybe he simply needs a good woman to make him stay put. Perhaps the oldest of Tom Kerr’s daughters would be suitable, although it seems that a man of thirty-six years would not have much to say to a girl of seventeen, especially not one as meek and horsy-faced as Betsy Kerr – may God forgive me for being so uncharitable. I shall give the match some thought anyway. Rob needs a woman.
November 16, 1775 -
Sally’s daughter Morag came to see me today. She somehow managed to burn herself while cooking, and has the most awful red welts and blisters upon her hands. I blended a mixture of equal parts cornmeal and slippery elm bark, and added some water, thus making a heavy paste. I applied it to poor Morag’s hands, and she claimed as she left that they felt better already. I told her that to be sure the burns did not scar, she should take a stone from her yard and toss it into the hearth. Later, she must remove it with tongs, and while the stone is still hot, toss it into the cool stream that runs beside her father’s house. The stone will take the burn with it, and Morag’s skin should heal well.
Robert MacFarlane attempted, without much luck, to steady his horse. He had spent little time on one in his life, and this particular horse seemed quite aware of the fact. It reared for a second time, trying to turn and go back down the mountainside, rather than continue up. It had taken him four weeks to ride this far from Richmond, rather than the two it took last year when Ian and Angus met him at the wharf. They hadn’t come this year, though, not after the last time when Sarah was taken by Indians. He didn’t mind the slow pace, though. It gave him time to enjoy the colorful beauty of the mountains. Once the horse was under control, Rob inhaled deeply, taking in the sweet morning air, so different than the salty spray he was accustomed to breathing. By mid-day he should be at Ian’s place up on the ridge.
Ian had left Glasgow with their parents and the other families. Rob and Ian’s mother died on the ship, giving birth to yet another stillborn child. Rob was at sea at the time, on a spice cutter in the Orient, and it had been nearly a year before he learned of his mother’s death.
What would Ian say when Rob told him of the old Shawnee he encountered on the wharf in Richmond? The old man was shackled; the officers guiding him said that he and his son were charged with the kidnapping a white woman; they had sold her into slavery to the Iroquois. They were taking the old Shawnee to be hanged in the public square. His son had already met his fate, tarred and feathered by the locals before even reaching the fort.
“D’ye speak any English?” Rob had asked, walking beside the condemned man, who nodded. “My brother’s wife was taken a year ago from a settlement on a ridge in northern Bedford County. Her name was -- is Sarah. D’ye know her?”
The old man looked at him, a twinkle in his eye. “She was with us for a long time. But now she is gone, that one.”
Rob was horrified. “Dead?”
The Shawnee shook his head. “Not dead. Just gone. Two moons ago she tricked my son. He did not watch her well enough. She went into the caves, and did not come out.”
Rob pressed on. The town square was close, and he knew he wouldn’t have much time before the old man was dragged up to the scaffolding. He could hear the shouts of the crowd.
“Where? Where did she go into the caves?”
The old man smiled. “I will tell you where, but it does not matter. She has gone through the
, the Spirit Door. The settlers call it the Faeries’ Gate. No person has ever returned from the Spirit Door. She is gone,” he repeated, holding his head up proudly as he walked into the morning sun.
Rob grabbed the old man’s arm, much to the consternation of the soldiers. “Tell me where,” he hissed in a soft voice. The procession was stopped now, at the foot of the gallows. Rob stepped between the scaffolding and the old Shawnee.
“Please,” he murmured.
“I am called Grey Fox,” the old man said proudly. “My sons and I stole the woman you seek. She was brave and killed my oldest son when we took her. Then she tricked my younger son. We were on the mountain of the Tears. There is a cave there. She ran through the Spirit Door, and now she is gone. You will not see her again, I think.”
He climbed the steps, ignoring the catcalls of the crowd. “My name is Grey Fox. If you see any of my people, tell them that I died well.”
He moved to the noose, then, and the soldiers placed it around his neck. The old man refused the blindfold they offered him. Rob had not wanted to watch; he had seen men hang before. Grey Fox had been right.
He had indeed died well.
Now Rob was faced with the task of telling his brother that Sarah may have actually been alive all this time, or at least had been until early September. Who knew how Ian would feel about that? Would he even want her back? There were plenty of horror stories about women taken by the natives, who had escaped their captors only to be rejected by their families upon returning home. Twenty years ago, the entire settlement of Draper’s Meadow had been nearly wiped out by a Shawnee raid. When one of the Draper girls found a way home by following the New River, her friends and family had ostracized her. Her own husband had wanted nothing to do with her. Rob knew that a month before Sarah was taken, there had been a decisive battle between the Shawnee and Governor Dunmore’s troops at Point Pleasant. This was intended to end the troubles with the natives, but apparently no one had bothered to tell Grey Fox and his sons about it.
Well, the best he could do was to pass the information along to Ian, and let his brother decide for himself what to do. After all, this time it was Ian’s wife who had disappeared.
Cameron awoke with a start. It was still dark. She had fallen asleep reading Mollie Duncan’s journal. Cam was fascinated by the details of the narrative. She had thought most women in the 1700’s were illiterate, especially women who settled out in the wild frontier of Virginia. But Mollie and Sarah’s father educated his daughters well enough, teaching them to read and write. He had been gravely wounded at Culloden Moor at the age of fifteen, in fact, nearly killed. When he later married, he swore to teach his children so that if he were ever to die in battle, they would have more than just his name as an inheritance. After the death of his wife, he and Tom Kerr and a group other families emigrated from Scotland to the Colonies. Cam decided Hugh Duncan must have been quite a man. She couldn’t wait to tell Troy about the journal.