Written for a dueling banjos single-node nodeshell challenge from TheDeadGuy. Rematch!
Set"tler (Webster), n.
1. One who settles, becomes fixed, established, etc.
2. Especially, one who establishes himself in a new region or a colony; a colonist; a planter; as, the first settlers of New England.
3. That which settles or finishes; hence, a blow, etc., which settles or decides a contest.
4. A vessel, as a tub, in which something, as pulverized ore suspended in a liquid, is allowed to settle.
One who settles, becomes fixed, established, etc.
Her mother's face was white as the china cup she clenched between two bloodless, jeweled fingers. "It's time," she said, "for you to settle on one of them."
Elaine said nothing. She poured cream into her Darjeeling, and watched it billow into a perfect cloud. The dark tea swirled into the cloud and diffused it into a stormy amber. She added sugar, and stirred her tea with one of the delicate silver spoons her mother was so proud of. It had come from England, on a sister ship to the one the notorious Mr. Adams had raided in December. The port was now closed, and Elaine suspected that her mother would be hosting fewer elaborate teas. This, of course, was the full extent to which she considered herself inconvenienced by the increasing demands of the British.
Elaine thought her mother was a fool. The feeling was reciprocated.
At seventeen, Elaine was welcomed throughout Boston society as a renowned beauty. She had glowing chestnut hair that caught candlelight - and kept it. Her eyes were a changeable hazel that caused her suitors no end of despair when they attempted to capture their aspect in one of their wretched love poems. Were they blue like the sky? Green like a spring leaf? Stymied in the search for simile, they resorted to increasingly desperate and contrived metaphors that disinclined her even more thoroughly to their ardent advances. When she fled their attentions, it was with a heartbreaking grace.
Her father had been a ship's captain, and from him she had inherited a fierce independence, the ability to tie 346 different kinds of knots, the ability to read the changing sky like a weather book, and to tell whether or not a man was trustworthy within five minutes of meeting him. Less importantly, from him she also had the reasonable sum of 300 pounds a year. She missed him terribly, and knew he would think as she did of her seven hapless suitors.
They had moist palms, wetly beseeching eyes, and irreproachable pedigrees. She felt certain that none of them could have looked her father in his steely eye without keeling over from sheer fright. They themselves had eyes like lapdogs. They smelled of violet water. Their faces were like Maggie's bread dough - soft and white and unformed. Their florid speeches and humid kisses on her hand made her so impatient that she had to bite the inside of her cheeks to keep from screaming when her mother admitted yet another one into the parlor.
And she was to marry one of them? Yes, everyone agreed. Her presence at balls had begun to complicate the prospects of other marriageable girls.
"It is time for you to settle on one of them," her mother repeated, more forcefully. Her nostrils flared slightly as she steeled herself for objections to the next: "Edward Tremont will do nicely. I have invited him for tomorrow, to ride with you through the Common."
Again, Elaine said nothing. But she knew that if they were to ride through the Common together, they were as good as engaged. And after that, everything would move very quickly. Wedded, settled, fixed, established, ensconced, and immutable. She had seen the most lively and vivacious girls of her acquaintance fall to the force of marriage's gravity. Their faces became heavy, their gait leaden, their eyes dull and trapped. They were held up universally to the maidens of Boston's Brahmin class as great successes.
She lifted the cup of Darjeeling smoothly to her lips, and sipped. Yes, she thought. I will settle.
"Then I shall need to buy a new dress today," she replied.
Her mother relaxed visibly. Her mouth twitched with triumph, hastily repressed and replaced with a more ladylike satisfied smile. She handed her daughter a key from the ring at her stomacher. "Take what you need for the dressmaker from the coffer," she said. "And an extra 200 pounds to settle our bill. We will have your trousseau made in Paris, of course."
Elaine nodded, and rose as slowly as she could from the stiffbacked chair. She went to the library, and opened her father's desk with the key. The drawer with the coffer was still redolent with the rich smell of his favorite pipe tobacco, despite his absence of many years. The scent rose from the drawer like a benign ghost, and she felt it as a blessing. She remembered her father's calloused hands on her face, drawing her close, his warm kiss on her forehead. Her eyes blurred as she opened the coffer. She shook her head resolutely, and emptied the coffer into her reticule, counting about 400 pounds.
She briefly considered saying goodbye to Maggie, but reconsidered. Maggie knew her too well, and the news of her surrender would surely have reached the kitchen by now. In fact, she probably had Little Mary standing watch for her at the front staircase. And so she left by the west door, into a rare blue-sky March afternoon.
Especially, one who establishes himself in a new region or a colony
"Settlers Wanted", the sign read. She'd been seeing it for weeks, posted on every street corner near the Common. "Go West! 100 pounds to join Boonesboro-bound caravan. Experienced leader. Indenturements available for remission. Apply to Transylvania Company at Faneuil Hall."
She headed down the hill, toward the harbor, toward the open sea...
"No." The man exhaled a vast quantity of acrid smoke on the word and scowled, as if to underscore its finality. What is this beautiful, beautiful girl settling for? he wondered. Soft hands. Hard eyes, though. None of my business. This last was almost his motto, dealing as he did with such people as he did. And Sevier knew perfectly well what he was selling. Freedom. But still, this was a risk. If she was caught in his party, he'd be lucky if all he was arrested for was kidnapping.
"200 pounds, then," Elaine countered. "But that will need to include my board for the duration and your wife's assistance in acquiring the clothes and goods I'll need."
This figure put the question of whether or not Sevier was prepared to take the renegade West in a new (or at least brighter) light. At double his asking price, the young lady from up the hill was more than welcome to ride with his own party.
He smiled up at Elaine. "Make your list, then, and Sally will do your marketing. But you can only take so much as a trunk, and only so far as Boonesboro. And I don't want to know your real name. Make one up, or I will for you."
Elaine thought for a moment, while she pulled her list (which she had been working on since she first saw the sign) from her reticule, and handed it to him with the 200 pounds. "Faith," she said. "Faith Westerly."
Sevier grinned approvingly at her. Had it been one of his daughters, he knew, it would have been "Josephine Leonora de Beautranchet" or somesuch, and a list comprised of silk mittens, dancing slippers, and a parasol. "Faith's" list read "Shoes, sturdy. Two pairs woolens. Cotton dress. Wool dress. Two cotton petticoats. One woolen petticoat. Needles. Sturdy thread. Bolt plain blue cotton." And so on. Whatever she'd been reading that made her think this was a good idea, it wasn't the latest romance.
"Faith, then." he said, "Come upstairs and meet my Sally."
It was settled.
That which...settles or decides a contest.
The journey down the Wilderness Road which Boone's woodsmen had carved out only a short time ago had been long and arduous. She had imagined hardship. She had imagined discomfort. But for the first time in her life, she had discovered that the events of a day could, on a regular basis, defy her imagination's expectation.
But her timing had been perfect - within a month of leaving Boston, the war had begun in earnest, and the Tories were paying Indians to attack settlers along the Western frontier. It was still peaceful out here, even further West than the lands forbidden in 1763. The blue hills were hazed slightly with mist in the first light of morning. She was walking by the river, away from the encampment. Boonesboro was nothing more than several log huts in a sycamore hollow leading to a wide river. Henderson and his Transylvania Company woodsmen were planning to build a stockade, but for the moment the boundaries of the town were defined only by the huddled forms of bodies still sleeping around last night's campfires.
She needed time to think. The arguments of the night before had outlasted the firewood they'd gathered, and had run hotter as well. The new settlers had arrived to find that those who had come before them had decided to ignore the rights of the Transylvania Company to deed land, and were taking what they wished, catch as can.
Faith had planned to settle in Boonesboro, which she'd pictured as a small, rustic town - but there was really nowhere to live. She was getting more attention than she liked from some of the woodsmen, and she could tell that Sevier was wearying of intervening on her behalf. The other night he'd said "niece" when the night before he'd said "cousin", and nearly ended up in a brawl when he failed to talk his way out of it. The jig was nearly up.
She needed to leave. She didn't know how she'd survive in the wilderness, but she was nearly ready to find out. She'd already chosen a particular hill, notched with natural terraces that looked sunny and promising. It rose up like a hopeful dream from the bluegrass, and she came out to look at it every morning. The rest of the day she spent talking to the elder woodsmen, learning how to settle.
She closed her eyes, and breathed in deep. She loved the scents out here, so distant from the closeted and polished smell of her Boston home. Here it was the scent of dew on the sweet bluegrass. The faint odor of horse from the encampment behind her. Her father's pipesmoke.
She whirled around so fast that she nearly knocked the pipe out of its smoker's hands. Not her father, she quickly realized. Not her father. She nearly burst into tears.
She was still so close to the border of dreams this early in the morning that she'd really believed that it could be him.
The man before her had coppery eyes that crinkled at the corners, a broad smile that was now quirking with uncertainty, and a tousle of brown hair a shade lighter than his deeply tanned skin. He had a kind and open face, though it was clouding with concern as he examined her reddening face. Her father's face had been sharp and canny, but she found herself thinking that he'd approve of this one. The man opened his mouth to say something to her, probably about the waste of his tobacco, but shut it again when he saw her eyes welling up.
"There now," he said in a soft brogue, "Don't go salting your dress, now." And he reached for her, patting her shoulders clumsily with his big hands. This unexpected kindness tipped her over, and her sorrow spilled out in heavy sobs.
He sat her down in the bluegrass then, and him next to her, and repacked his pipe with hands suddenly become deft and capable. "Flynn," he said. "I'm Flynn."
They talked for hours, there in the bluegrass, ignoring the settlement as it came to life behind them. When they discovered that their mutual objective was the sun-dappled terraces of the western hill, there was nothing for it but to arm-wrestle for it. No other authority, they agreed, could settle it for them. They lay on their bellies in the sweet grass, bracing their elbows against the warming earth. They clasped hands. And when they looked again, they saw themselves in each other's eyes.
A vessel in which something is allowed to settle.
The new house was nearly finished. It only needed a roof to make it livable, but Faith didn't need a roof to sit on the porch and churn butter. Flynn was away, hunting with the Cherokee, who seemed indisposed thus far to consider them in a negative light. She'd milked the cow, whom she'd named Ernestina (after her dear mother), some hours earlier. The cream had risen to the top of the milk. She lifted it out carefully with her cream ladle, pouring it into her churn. It was the perfect temperature to churn it fresh and make sweet cream butter.
Every day she settled into her new life a little more. And as she did, she could feel herself rising. A little higher every day. Rising like cream, like the sun, like her lover's eyes to hers, like the smooth swell of her belly, like her voice in song.
Historical figures, places, and entities have been borrowed with attention to historial fact and some dismay at the lack of related nodes to link to. :-)