Temperature 55 degrees
Eben was looking at Sarah in the way every girl prays some boy will one day look at her. “I will marry you, Sarah,” said Eben. “I will be a good husband. A Puritan husband. Who will one day take us both back home.”
Wind shifted the lace of Sarah’s gown and the auburn of one loose curl.
“I love you, Sarah,” said Eben. “I’ve always loved you.”
Tears came to Sarah’s eyes: she who had not wept over her own family. She stood as if it had not occurred to her that she could be loved; that an English boy could adore her. “Oh, Eben!” she whispered. “Oh, yes, oh, thank you, I will marry you. But will they let us, Eben? We will need permission.”
“I’ll ask my father,” said Eben. “I’ll ask Father Meriel.”
They were not touching. They were yearning to touch, they were leaning forward, but they were holding back. Because it is wrong? wondered Mercy. Or because they know they will never get permission?
“My French family will put up a terrible fuss,” said Sarah anxiously. “Pierre might even summon his fellow officers and do something violent.”
Eben grinned. “Not if I have Huron warriors behind me.”
The Indians rather enjoyed being French allies one day and difficult neighbors the next. Lorette Indians might find this a fine way to stab a French soldier in the back without drawing blood.
They would need Father Meriel. He could arrange anything if he chose; he had power among all the peoples. But he might say no, and so might Eben’s Indian family.
Mercy translated what was going on for Nistenha and Snow Walker. “They want to get married,” she told them. “Isn’t it wonderful?” She couldn’t help laughing from the joy and the terror of it. Ransom would no longer be the first word in Sarah’s heart. Eben would be. Mercy said, “Eben asked her right here in the street, Snow Walker. He wants to save her from marriage to a French soldier she doesn’t want. He’s loved Sarah since the march.”
The two Indians had no reaction. For a moment Mercy thought she must have spoken to them in English. Nistenha turned to walk away and Snow Walker turned with her.
If Nistenha was not interested in Sarah and Eben’s plight, no Indian would be.
Mercy called on her memory of every speech in every ceremony, every dignified phrase and powerful word. “Honored mother,” she said softly. “Honored sister. We are in need and we beg you to hear our petition.”
Nistenha stopped walking, turned back and stared at her in amazement. Sarah and Eben and Snow Walker stared at her in amazement.
Sam can build canoes, thought Mercy. I can make a speech. “This woman my sister and this man my brother wish to spend their lives together. My brother will need the generous permission of his Indian father. Already we know that my sister will be refused the permission of her French owners. We will need an ally to support us in our request. We will need your strength and your wisdom. We beseech you, Mother, that you stand by us and help us.”
The city of Montreal swirled around them.
Eben, property of an Indian father in Lorette; Sarah, property of a French family in Montreal; and Mercy, property of Tannhahorens, awaited her answer.
“Your words fill me with pride, Munnunock,” said Nistenha softly. She reached into her shopping bundle. Slowly she drew out a fine French china cup, undoubtedly meant for the feast of Flying Legs. She held it for a moment, and then her stern face softened and she gave it to Eben.
Indians sealed a promise with a gift.
She would help them.
From her bundle, Snow Walker took dangling silver earrings she must have bought for Mercy and handed them to Sarah.
Because she knew that Sarah’s Mohawk was not good enough and that Eben was too stirred to speak, Mercy gave the flowery thanks required after such gifts.
“God bless us,” she said to Sarah and Eben, and Eben said, “He has.
Caroline B. Cooney (The Ransom of Mercy Carter)