Mingo and Yadkin had figured out what Cincinnatus was up to about the same time I did. I headed for the tavern the next morning to catch the conniving innkeeper as he was rising from his bed, but when I opened the door I found my two friends had beat me to it. I told them how Becky was mad as heck at me because that woman, Corinthe, was looking at me with 'bedroom eyes'. Yadkin was mad because Priscilla was trying to fix him up with Bitsy Sue. Mingo was mad because Bitsy Sue wouldn't leave him alone and had terrified the whole Cherokee village. We wanted to know how those women came to be in Boonesborough with no husbands.
"I'm paying their room and board," Cincinnatus said.
"What in the world for?" I asked perturbed.
"I paid for their journey here and offered them room and board so some of those fool men would marry em'."
"You mean you ordered brides like you order stock?" I asked. "Is that why they are all tall?"
"Well, Dan'l, yeah, I suppose you might say that. I stipulated their height thinkin' the taller the better. I was thinkin' of Becky."
Cincinnatus thinking on Becky made me stop and think, but I quickly cleared my thoughts. "Are they bondswomen?" I asked.
"You mean to say you bonded yourself to them?" I asked. The grizzly proprietor's eyes widened in shock. I knew then he hadn't thought this thing full out.
Yadkin picked the proprietor up off the floor by his shirt lapels and slammed him against the wall.
"Now, see here," Cincinnatus sputtered, "I had no intention of them botherin' you three. I meant for some of these crazy single boys to get hitched to quiet them down and keep them a home at a reasonable hour so they wouldn't tear up my tavern every weekend."
"Your plan does not appear to be working," Mingo said.
"It just needs to be righted," the innkeeper said with a gasp as Yadkin tightened his grip. "You two just tell those women you ain't lookin' for no wives."
Yadkin snarled, "I've done told them. Priscilla won't take no for an answer. You tell 'em to leave us alone."
"Daniel, make this big oaf put me down. This ain't no way to treat a business man just taking care of his business."
"Yad, put the man down, so Mingo and I can scalp him."
Yadkin let go and Cincinnatus dropped to the floor landing with a thump on his rear.
The innkeeper rubbed his throat. "I don't reckon these things can be planned out exactly. Women favor who they favor. There's no science to it. I cain't very well tell them you boys don't want 'em. Why that would be plumb cruel. Besides...I've sort of guaranteed there would be husbands here for them."
"What did you say?" I asked not believing my ears.
Cincinnatus ignored me and looked with pleading eyes first at Mingo then at Yad. "Yadkin what's wrong with Bitsy Sue? She's darn good-looking and talented."
"What would I do with a woman that sits around scribblin' all day? Why she'd be worthless at skinnin' and tannin'. Besides those good-looks just mean I'd be worried all the time about some man stealin' her. I wouldn't have any friends anymore."
Cincinnatus looked at Mingo. "Now, Mingo ain't it 'bout time you thought about takin' a woman? Bitsy Sue can birth babies."
Mingo looked shocked at the older man. "Cincinnatus, she would not last one day at Chota. She almost met an early death as a pile of ashes this morning. What makes you think I want a woman birthing babies? Has the whole world decided to plan my life without consulting me?"
The innkeeper looked forlorn. "Well, I've an obligation to care for 'em till they're married or for life. That's part of the deal. If I go belly-up, ya'll lose this store and tavern."
I'd been quietly listening to my friends' remonstrations when a thought came to me. "Cincinnatus, why don't you marry one of 'em and show these boys how it's done?"
"Yeah, you!" all three of us yelled in chorus.
Cincinnatus got up off the floor adjusted his apron and crossed his arms over his chest. "Well, that Priscilla can sure turn out the socks." He pointed his thumb to a pile next to the chair where Priscilla sat every Friday and Saturday night. "I reckon she could pay for herself."
With a little instruction from Becky, Cincinnatus started courting Priscilla, but she had no interest in him and brushed him off like a fly. She and the little innkeeper made an odd couple as she was a good foot taller than him. I encouraged him to quit slouching but it did no good. Those women were taller then most of the men in Boonesborough. Why only Mingo, Yad and I turned our eyes downward to talk to 'em.
One morning Becky interrupted my wood-chopping to tell me, "Dan, Priscilla only has eyes for Mingo."
"Well, that's too bad 'cause Mingo has no interest in gettin' married and I advise you not to say a word to him about it."
"Dan, once a woman has her mind set on a particular man," Becky explained, "trying to turn her to another is like trying to marry a porcupine to a goat."
I must have looked unconvinced because she grabbed my head and pointed it at Mingo and Cincinnatus standing near the well. "Can you not see what I'm sayin' to you?"
I shook my head, which caused her to roll her eyes to the sky and stretch her arms up as if beseeching heavenly assistance. I never did understand what she was trying to tell me. Seems like a man is a man and if one wants t'marry and the other not, the choice to a husband-seeking woman ought to be plain.
What was obvious to me though is that Priscilla grew more and more jealous of Bitsy Sue. There was no convincing those two women that Mingo was unattainable.
Becky forbade me from going to the fort while 'that Boston woman' was there, but I went anyway. I feared those women were going to cause a war and I felt responsible. That's what happens when a town is named after you. It's the curse of responsibility.
Another Friday night came around. Priscilla had knitted a sweater for Mingo and Bitsy Sue had written an ode to him. Corinthe snuck up behind Bitsy Sue and grabbed her journal then proceeded to read the ode aloud for the assembled patrons. I couldn't help laughing though I tried mightily to keep from it. It was something about silky dark hair blowing in the breeze and fierce eyes of black fire. My, my, my. Her words made my face turn red, so I could imagine the discomfort Mingo was in.
None of it seemed to disturb Bitsy Sue. She dared a quick peck on the Cherokee's cheek. Mingo bolted from the tavern with Priscilla and Bitsy Sue after him and Yadkin and I laughed 'till our sides hurt.
The men figured out why the women were in Boonesborough. They had no intention of helping Cincinnatus out of his situation. They laughed, drank and got merry and forgot the women were there.
Corinthe surprised them all when she hitched-up her white laced petticoats and climbed on a chair. She bellowed, "Listen here, as long as I'm here, and I have to be here per my contract, you men are going to behave yourselves. You are all a disgrace to your gender, your country and your gods. Why the noble natives of this land are less savage than you."
Ned laughed. "Lady, if you don't like our company, we can put you in a canoe and send you down the river to the Shawnee if you like." He tried to get fresh with the Boston woman but she slapped him hard on his balding head. The rest of the men fell to laughing.
That was when I decided it was time for me to step in and yank those sorry excuses for men back to their senses even if it meant beating the tar out of each and every one. But just as I stood, rolled up my sleeves and opened my mouth to yell over the din, the door opened and three tall handsome strangers strode into the tavern as if deposited there by the very rays of the sun at their backs. All eyes turned, the room went dead quiet, and I shut my mouth.
The strangers turned out to be brothers. The gregarious men told their life stories before ever closing the door behind them. They were headed out west to grab some land, start a cattle farm. One's name was Joe, one was Eric and the third was Adam. They had a raft on the river and just stopped to stock up with supplies. They planned on reaching the Mississippi by month's end.
Corinthe climbed down slowly from her chair and sidled over to Adam. She slipped her arm under his and turned a bright willing face up to meet his gaze. A slow grin came across Adam's face revealing his perfect white teeth. Every man in the room had his mouth open staring at the newly made couple. It was like some veil was lifted revealing Corinthe as the most desirable woman on earth.
Joe and Eric sauntered to the bar. "Give us your best," thundered Eric as he slapped the wood top. Cincinnatus shook his head as if to clear it and poured up two tall ones.
Bitsy Sue and Priscilla re-entered the tavern after giving up on chasing the fleet-footed Cherokee. They were disheveled with briars and brush debris stuck here and there. I reckoned Mingo had led them on a merry chase through difficult terrain. I was a mite worried about him, though. The women started primping and adjusting as soon as they caught sight of the new men in town.
Bitsy walked up to Joe. He turned and looked her up and down with a roving practiced eye. "What's your name little lady," he said with a saucy grin.
"It's Bitsy Sue."
"Well that's an apt name for you, ain't it so Eric?"
I don't know how they come to that conclusion when Bitsy Sue was looking eye to eye with six-foot Joe, but she was as skinny as a bird.
"Are you hitched to this place?" Joe asked.
"No, I'm all alone and without a friend," she pitifully pleaded. She turned woeful eyes upon Priscilla.
"How 'bout you head out west with me and my brothers?" Joe asked, throwing caution to the wind.
"Are you proposing?" Bitsy Sue asked shyly.
"I sure is."
"There something you should know about me, Joe," Bitsy Sue said with her head bowed sorrowfully. "I'm a tainted woman…"
I held my breath for fear was what she was going to say.
"…I nearly started a Cherokee war."
Joe laughed. "Oh that's nothing. Me and Eric fired the first shots at Lexington."
"Then I accept," Bitsy chirped with a beaming face.
Priscilla hung her head and looked forlorn when Eric said, "Now what are you all hang-jawed about woman?"
"I don't have anybody. Bitsy and Corinthe are just going to leave me here to this rabble," she said with a sniffle.
Eric reached out his big arm and swallowed Priscilla up. "I got a hankering for some woman cooking and kindness myself. What say you saddle up with me?"
Priscilla's smile brightened the whole place and there wasn't a frown or jeer to be seen, except for ole' Cincinnatus who was muttering to himself and rubbing the finish off a place on his bar with his apron.
As the magistrate of Boonesborough, I married the three couples in a quick ceremony in the tavern. Yadkin, Mingo and Becky happily attended. They all felt the lifting of a mighty burden with the exodus of Cincinnatus's women. All the settlers bid the newlyweds a kind farewell at the river's edge and watched them float off into the sunset towards a new life out west.
"Yad," Mingo asked with a sigh, "is this going to be a dull lifeless place again without those women?"
Yadkin was clearly struggling with the contradictions in his mind. "Them dandies ain't better then us are they, Mingo?"
"They are adventurers, Yadkin, and I suppose we look rather settled and boring next to them."
"Borin'? You and me ain't borin' and we ain't bad lookin' either and I don't know about you but I'm far from settled. I ain't met the woman that can settle me."
Mingo raised his brows. "I cannot disagree with that, Yadkin, but we are not going to exciting new places, we are not seeking better lives than what we have right here, and few women pass this way. Have you ever thought about that?"
My friends were feeling a little abandoned and rejected. I have to admit my self-esteem was a mite deflated as well when I saw Corinthe take to that Adam so fast, but I just said, "Hope the Shawnee don't get 'em."