“Are you comfortable?” Virginia asked Mary as Elias checked his horse’s yoke.
“We’ll keep her warm,” Constance, the more outgoing Popham twin, assured her as she sat down close to her mother and baby brother, who were stretched out against hay and blankets in the wagon. Her shy twin Prudie curled close to her mother on the other side, tucking her head into Mary’s shoulder.
“Good girl, Constance. She’ll need your help. Now you’re the eldest sister.”
“That’s right! I came first!”
Virginia laughed. “And I would know, I caught you. Fare you well, Mary. And send word if you need anything.”
“Bless you, Virginia, we’re so thankful for you and your mother.” Mary held her hand and squeezed it with a warm smile. Virginia nodded and squeezed back. Elias circled back to check on her, and Mary watched his gaze stray to Virginia’s unbound hair, its length glinting with peculiar maroon shades in the setting sunlight.
“Cover your hair, Virginia. You’re still in mourning, it’s obscene,” she hissed. Virginia colored and her green eyes flashed to Elias, whose gaze held unconcealed lust. Hers dropped in humility.
“Of course,” she muttered as she yanked the shawl from her shoulders up to her crown and tied it under her chin. She retreated to the porch of her small house, where her mother took Virginia’s hand and covered it in hers.
“Envy is one of their deadliest sins, is it not?” she whispered as the wagon rattled away. Beatrice didn’t dare speak of the religion of her fellow settlers as “theirs” unless alone with her daughter, but then she made it clear it wasn’t hers.
“Avarice,” Virginia sighed. “But the words are similar, aye?”
“She wouldn’t know. Ignorance makes her cruel, my dear. It’s a nice evening, let us walk to the water and see if my traps have caught us a fish for supper.”
Virginia lingered, watching Elias’s wagon disappear over the hill for a few moments before she followed her mother inside. She screamed when she saw the man clutching Beatrice, aiming a knife to her mother’s throat, pinning her back to his front. He glared at Virginia warily. Victoria stared with frightened eyes from her penned-off corner.
“Which of you is the healer?”
His rough voice was English accented.
“I am,” they both answered instantly.
“Which is it!” he shouted, shaking the knife at Virginia.
“We both,” Virginia answered anxiously. “Please, there is no need for violence. We will help you if you cannot pay.”
“It’s my captain what needs it. Out in the harbor. And we will pay if you can save him. I’ll take her if you please,” he snickered, yanking Beatrice hard with an arm around her throat. “Older and wiser might be best!”
Virginia thought fast. “No! No you mustn’t. She can’t swim,” she lied. “And if we must row out in the harbor, I can’t risk it. I know everything that she knows.”
“Coruja,” her mother averred in Portuguese. “Não seja tolo.” Don’t be foolish.
“Take me, please. I will try to help him if you won’t harm us. She will need to help me gather my tools and herbs.” His shifty eyes scoured Virginia, then released Beatrice and shoved her forward with an order to be quick.
They hastily readied a bag of all their most commonly used herbs and tools to cure. At another angry shout from the man to hurry, Virginia hugged her mother and her daughter. Then, to her mother, she whispered a warning farewell.
“Se eles me prejudicam, mate-os.”
Beatrice nodded solemnly to her daughter’s message.
If they harm me, kill them.