Seven-year-old Jane Malone absentmindedly tugged on the long sleeve of her beige broadcloth dress as she stood staring out the window of her small bedroom, watching her three brothers playing in the yard. It was the near the end of November and unseasonably warm. Her parents, Joseph and Molly Malone, had been worried the grand house wouldn’t be finished before winter set in. Although they had been in the Kansas Territory for only three years, they knew how fickle the weather could be. One year the winter might be quite mild with very little snow and the next might bring terrible blizzards. Molly and Joseph Malone did not want to chance having a bad winter before getting the house completed. The Malone family had come to the Kansas Territory from Boston with a group of people who had settled and founded the town of Lawrence. For reasons beyond the understanding of the three young boys, Lawrence had come under several attacks by pro-slavers who wanted Kansas to be admitted to the Union as a slave state. The majority of the citizens in Lawrence were free-staters who fiercely opposed slavery and were law-abiding citizens. Over a year had passed now since the last major offensive against Lawrence and with the passing of time, the boys had forgotten everything except the excitement of battle. They had living on this farm outside the town of Olathe in Johnson County for just a few days, having left the town of Lawrence and their friends behind. Still, the boys’ favorite pastime was still re-enacting the Sack of Lawrence, as it had become known. And although Lawrence in Douglas County was only twenty-five miles from their new home, it was a great distance to travel just to visit a friend, so now they had only each other to act out all the parts in their “battles”.
Jane continued watching as her brothers, Johnny, Charlie and Henry ran around the yard pretending to be jayhawkers fighting the dreaded Missourian bushwhackers. Johnny was the eldest and at eight years old, the troubles he had seen in Lawrence and in the new Territory of Kansas, were exciting rather than frightening. Charlie was not yet six and didn’t really understand what was happening in this new place, but he dearly enjoyed playing “soldiers” with his brothers. The youngest of the family was Henry who had turned five just a few months previously and he remembered none of the earlier events in the territory. He was just happy that day to be included in on of his older brothers’ games. As she stood at the window, Jane thought her brothers looked silly, although she secretly wished she could play with them instead of helping her mother with more “feminine” pursuits. The young girl folded her arms across her chest and glared out the window. “I don’t know why I can’t be a soldier! I don’t want to cook and clean or —” She stopped as tears began to form. She gritted her teeth in defiance of her own emotions and tried valiantly to keep from crying, but failed. Just as her tears began to flow, she was startled out of her thoughts by her mother’s voice.
“Jane? Jane, come down here!” her mother, Molly, called out loudly from downstairs.
Jane wiped her eyes and cheeks and scurried out of the room, down the narrow staircase, down the hall and into the kitchen at the back of the house. Her mother, standing over the kitchen sink, turned around and looked up as Jane ran into the kitchen in a decidedly unladylike manner with her long, strawberry-blond hair flying wildly behind her.
Her petite, twenty-five-year old mother shook her head ruefully at the sight of her daughter. “Jane, Jane. What am I going to do with you?” Molly didn’t expect an answer from the girl so she continued, “Your father and Uncle Frank will be here in just a few hours and there is much to be done.” Molly looked towards her daughter to make sure she had heard. When Jane didn’t respond, Molly repeated her statement, this time looking directly at the girl. “Did you hear me, child?” she asked in annoyance.
“Oh, yes, Mama.” Jane hung her head. “I am sorry.” The two looked very much like mother and daughter although Jane was more of a strawberry blonde as was her maternal grandmother than a true red-hair as was her mother. But both had emerald-colored eyes and fair skin with tiny, barely-visible freckles on their small noses and heart-shaped faces. Jane had also inherited the same melodic, soft, lilting voice as her mother and had begun to pick up many of her mannerisms. The three boys, on the other hand, looked exactly like their father with very dark brown hair and deep-blue eyes.
Molly brought the bowl full of fresh vegetables from the sink, which boasted an inside pump, and placed it on the old table which was in the middle of the large kitchen. She then smiled broadly and spread out her arms. Jane rushed to her mother and hugged her tightly, then pulled back in astonishment.
“Mama! You, uh, you–,” she stammered, unable to articulate as she stared at her mother’s cotton pink-and-white striped dress.
Molly laughed then said, “Yes, I know. I don’t have those horrible whale-bone stays in my corset any longer.” The unflappable Jane was speechless. “Do not look so aghast, young lady.” Molly giggled and pulled her daughter back into her arms. “I believe that a well-made corset such as I have, doesn’t need stays. Besides, my dear girl, we farmers will be doing entirely too much work to wear the restrictive stays.” She gently let go of her daughter after kissing her on the forehead. “Now, please cut up these vegetables,” Molly instructed her daughter. “I must kill one of the chickens for dinner.” Jane stared at her mother with a look of great distaste on her face, causing her mother to emit a small, nervous laugh. Molly shrugged and then shuddered suddenly, quite against her will. “I really do not want to do it,” she admitted with another shudder, “However, we all must learn to do things we do not wish to do if we are to make it as farmers. Especially since your father will surely be gone much of the time—there are so few attorneys in the territory at present.” Jane simply nodded and looked down on the kitchen table to the bowl which held the vegetables she was to cut. Though she normally disdained having to do anything in the kitchen, the thought of having to kill and pluck a chicken made preparing vegetables seem enjoyable.
Molly watched Jane for a few seconds before taking a long, heavy, bloodstained apron off of a hook near the door and tying it around her tiny waist. With a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and headed off towards the wooden barn. As she walked slowly out to the barn, Charlie, Johnny and Henry stopped what they were doing to watch her. The strange look on her face was disconcerting and at first the boys thought they were in trouble. To their great relief, she scarcely acknowledged them as she strode resolutely into the barn. The three boys were still standing there when she emerged back out of the barn with an axe in her hands. The boys’ eyes grew large with shock, wondering what their mother was going to do. They watched in fascination as she marched to the chicken coop and then the boys turned and looked at one another with their mouths hanging open.
“Think she’s going to kill a chicken?” Charlie asked his older brother, Johnny.
“Suppose so,” Johnny replied slowly as he brushed back his dark brown hair from his dirty face. His blue eyes twinkled beneath all the grime and dust. He motioned to his two younger brothers. “Come on, men. Perhaps Mama will let us help. Soldiers should be able to kill a chicken!”
“Yes, sir!” answered Charlie with a sloppy salute which knocked his raggedy hat off of his head, exposing his unkempt hair.
“Yeath, sir!” echoed little Henry, not really wanting to help kill anything, yet not wishing to be left out. His brothers rarely let him play with them even though Charlie was only a little over a year older than Henry. They followed their mother to the chicken coop and then stopped as she came out of the coop, holding onto a large hen. She walked towards the barn again, placing the hen onto a tree stump. Molly was so intent on her task that she didn’t even notice her sons. She was also very apprehensive.
Back in Lawrence, they had lived in town and bought their meat from the farmers’ market. Molly and Joseph had both come from wealthy families and had been raised with servants. As a young girl, Molly would often sneak into the kitchen of her parents’ mansion in New York in order to watch and listen to the cook and her staff; however, not only had she had never butchered an animal, she had never even seen it done. Her mother would have been shocked just finding out Molly had helped in the kitchen and especially if she had known her daughter had actually been allowed to help cook. Molly knew this and made certain her mother never knew the truth; she was having too much fun in the forbidden kitchen to have it end. Her mother might have been even more shocked—or perhaps surprised—had she know Molly also had envied Mrs. O’Hara, the cook, and her large brood of children. Often Molly had made up daydreams in which she was one of Mrs. O’Hara’s fifteen children. She figured since there were so many children, they undoubtedly were allowed to do whatever they pleased and surely didn’t have to dress up and act ladylike all the time as she had to do as a daughter of high-society parents. Though young Molly’s ideas about how the less fortunate lived was somewhat skewed, at least she had learned to cook—something that now came in very handy in this new territory.
The first time Molly had had to pluck and cut up a chicken, it had caused her to get sick. Now she actually had to do the killing and she wasn’t entirely sure she could do it, especially as the chicken she was struggling to hold on to was not cooperating. It kept clucking, squirming and trying to bite her. She started to let it go, but when she saw her three sons watching, she was resolved to do it no matter how disgusting it seemed. She held on to the neck of the hen with her left hand and lifted the axe with her right hand. As she lifted up the axe, she shut her eyes then realized she might cut off her own hand if she didn’t watch what she was doing, so she opened them again. She took a big breath and then swoosh down came the axe, cutting off the chicken’s head in one stroke. Molly let go and the chicken fell down then jumped back up. It began running around the yard with blood spurting out of its neck. Molly screamed and the boys yelped with glee. Jane ran out of the kitchen to see what all the commotion was about and then she, too, screamed as she watched the chicken running around and around before finally flopping over. Molly was both laughing and crying. On one hand, it was funny, yet on the other it was horrifying and scary. The chicken had seemed possessed and unholy, being able to run without a head, and no one knew what to make of it. Finally, it stopped and flopped down on the ground. Johnny ran over to it and picked up the hen, holding it upside down by the feet.
“Bennie back in Lawrence told me stories about chickens running around with their heads cut off, though I didn’t believe him. Guess they were true. He also said you need to let the blood run out. Don’t know if that’s true, but it can’t hurt,” Johnny said in a serious tone.
“I think that’s with hogs,” Charlie said, scrunching up his face as he tried to remember what one of his friends had told him. “It might work with chickens, too, though.”
“Thank you, Johnny,” Molly said as she took the dead fowl from her oldest child. “For a moment I thought the devil had gotten into this hen.” She smiled warmly. Looking down, she saw the blood on her hands and all over the apron. “Ugh!” she said as she swallowed hard to keep from vomiting. “Would you boys pluck this now, please?”
“Yes! Yes!” they yelled in union, to their mother’s great relief. They ran off with the hen to the side of the barn as Molly and Jane walked back to the house.
Before re-entering the kitchen, Molly removed the bloodstained apron and laid it across the porch railing to dry. Once inside the kitchen, Molly thanked Jane for cutting the vegetables and then instructed her daughter to place them in the pot on the stove while her mother put on a clean apron. Jane complied and even lit the stove without being asked. “Thank you, dear,” Molly said as she smoothed out Jane’s hair, which was sticking out in all directions as usual. She kissed her daughter again on the forehead. “You can go play with your brothers,” she announced with a hint of sadness in her voice. “There is more than ample time for you to learn to be a proper cook.” Molly couldn’t help but laugh at the visible look of relief on her daughter’s face. She watched as Jane ran with unabashed happiness into the yard to join her brothers. The young mother sighed and said very softly, “You so wish you had been born a boy, my dear daughter. And I do understand how you feel, though you may never know it.” She sighed again and went back to her cooking. After stirring the vegetables, she started on the biscuits.
It wasn’t long before the boys came bounding into the kitchen. Johnny held the plucked hen out to his mother who thanked them as she shooed them out of the kitchen. She then went about removing the innards and preparing the bird to go into the oven. After that was accomplished, she finished the biscuits and put them in the fireplace oven which was actually shelf made for baking. Just as she placed the biscuits in the oven, she was startled by a deep, male voice calling out in a terrible imitation of an Irish brogue. “Mary Margaret, my dear sweet lass!”
Startled, Molly looked up expecting to see her husband, Joseph, who was forever trying to imitate Molly’s Ireland-born father, but it was not Joseph; it was her long-time friend, Frank Stevenson. Molly ran over to the tall man, wiping her hands on her apron before giving him a big hug. “I thought you were Joseph, my dear friend,” Molly said with a laugh. Frank and Molly had grown up together in New York. Their fathers were co-owners of the successful New York Gazette newspaper and the two families lived within blocks of one another. Everyone had predicted that Frank and Molly would marry when they grew up. Then all that changed one Christmas when Frank brought home a young boy from his boarding school for the holidays and Molly had fallen head-over-heels in love at first sight of the young, handsome Joseph Malone. Even after Joseph and Molly had married, the three of them remained such good friends that when Joseph and Molly moved to Boston where Joseph worked in his family’s law firm, Frank had followed them shortly thereafter. Now, four years later, Frank was twirling Molly around in the kitchen of her farm. Finally he put her down and the two laughed heartily. “Where on earth is my dear husband?” Molly inquired breathlessly between giggles. “I thought he would have been here before you. Did you not leave Fort Scott at the same time?”
“Yes, dear heart,” Frank answered. “We rode up this morning from the fort and stopped off in town. Joseph was to meet with J.B. Mahaffie and I stopped off in town to check on the house since Laura and the girls are gone. Told him I would meet him here, thinking he would surely arrive long before I did.”
Molly shook her head and sighed before asking, “Do you know how long Laura and the girls will be in Boston?”
“My dear mother-in-law wanted her only child to stay for a few days after the funeral. Laura, naturally, was quite devastated by the death of her father and since I have been so busy with all this territorial business, I assured her she should stay as long as she wished.”
Molly merely nodded and then went to check on the biscuits. She removed them from the oven and placed them on the table. “Did you run into any bushwhackers?” she asked as she scooped the hot biscuits into a home-woven basket lined with linen.
“Not that we know of,” Frank replied with a shrug. “It’s not so easy to recognize them. I am not even sure about everyone around these parts, Molly. There are those who still believe Kansas should be admitted as a slave state.” He shook his head with regret. “And even some of those who are for a free state are just as rough and bloodthirsty as the pro-slavers. In fact, we ran into a band of Montgomery’s jayhawkers and they certainly appeared to be up to no good, but—”
“You must have ridden like the wind, sir,” a tall, handsome man interrupted as he entered the kitchen, removing his hat.
“Joseph!” Molly squealed, running to her husband. Joseph kissed his wife and then patted his friend affectionately on the back.
“Smells heavenly in here, my wife,” Joseph remarked as he lifted the linen on the basket of biscuits. Then he stopped, sniffed and raised his eyebrows in amazement. “Is that a chicken I smell roasting?” he asked with disbelief in his voice. Molly nodded. “Did you actually kill a chicken, my dear?”
“Yes, husband,” Molly answered and then shuddered at the memory. “It was not agreeable; however, I did manage and the boys plucked it for me.” Joseph grabbed his wife again and kissed her so hard and passionately it left her breathless. When he let go, Molly blushed a deep red and chastised her husband in a low whisper, “Joseph, Frank is standing right there.” Joseph merely laughed and then asked how soon it would be before dinner. “Less than an hour, I would say,” Molly replied.
Joseph turned to Frank and asked if he would care to go out for a smoke. Frank nodded in agreement and the two men stepped out on the porch to light their cigars then proceeded towards the barn to check on their horses. Molly went to the window and pulled back the curtains to watch them. As the two men approached the barn, the three young boys and their sister came running out of nowhere, whooping and hollering. The children were all very excited to see their father and their “Uncle” Frank and it was a few minutes before the men were able to extract themselves from the children’s eager grips and continue into the barn. Watching her family’s interaction, Molly smiled broadly and returned to her cooking.
True to her prediction, less than an hour later Molly went out to the porch and rang the bell to call everyone in for dinner. The first ones into the kitchen were the four filthy children. “My goodness!” Molly exclaimed. “I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but you are all even dirtier than before. Surely there is no topsoil left in the yard—it is all on you four. Now go outside to the pump and wash off.” She turned around and pulled open a cupboard drawer, taking out a couple of towels. “Here. Wash and dry,” she said, handing them the towels. “And do try to shake off some of that dirt before coming back in.” The children grabbed the towels and ran back outside. Molly just shook her head. She could hear the children’s laughter which was soon joined in with the deep laughter of the two older men.
Molly had just finished setting the tables when the men and children entered the house. The children, still far too dirty to eat in the dining room with the adults, were relegated to the kitchen. Molly had already set the children’s food on their table with the remainder in the adjacent dining room. Joseph said a short prayer and as soon as he said “Amen,” the children began to scoop food onto their plates. Though no less hungry, the three adults were much more restrained.
As soon as dinner was over, the men adjourned to the drawing room which also served as a library and Joseph’s study and the three boys rushed outside to complete the evening chores while Molly and Jane cleaned up in the kitchen. For once, Jane didn’t complain about doing the dishes. Molly was surprised, yet said nothing; sometimes it was best to leave well enough alone.
They had been working for in silence for some time when Jane suddenly announced, “Later, I shall play the piano for Uncle Frank. And I shall also sing.”
Molly nearly dropped a plate. “Why Jane, that would be most delightful! I am certain we shall all enjoy that immensely.” She smiled brightly and then instructed her daughter to get their embroidery ready. “I shall finish up and join you in the parlor,” Molly told Jane as the young girl bounded out of the kitchen and down the hall. Molly finished putting the dishes away.
She walked down the hall to the parlor, pulled back the heavy, blue velvet draperies, called portières, and joined Jane in the front parlor, across the foyer from the drawing room. As was the custom, the drawing room and parlor were filled with furniture, plants and knick-knacks. Carefully navigating around all the furniture, Molly sat on the sofa next to Jane. She helped her daughter with a few stitches and then began working on her own cross-stitching. As a young child, Molly had been intrigued by the untamed prairie and had written a prose poem about it. At Jane’s urging, Molly had designed a wall hanging and had been cross-stitching the verses onto it. They worked in silence for some time. The only sounds they heard were the occasion word or laugh from across the hall and the stomping of the three boys going up to their room. After about an hour, Jane put down her sewing and asked, “Do you wish we had stayed in Lawrence, Mama?”
“My goodness, why would you ask?” Jane just shrugged. Molly eyed her daughter for a moment before continuing, “But no. I do not regret moving here. This house greatly pleases me.” She reached over to pat Jane’s hand. “And I enjoy looking out over this land of ours. We may not be very good farmers yet, however, we shall be someday.”
“Do you miss Boston and the big house?”
Molly considered the question before answering. “Actually, no. I am very happy here and I truly believe this is where I belong.”
Jane nodded, not really understanding, but thinking she did. “It is very much to my liking also. The open spaces and the sound of the wind blowing across the tall grass, fill me with great pleasure.” Jane seemed to be echoing her mother’s thoughts, which took Molly completely by surprise. “I am glad we came,” Jane said with a faraway look in her eyes.
“As am I.” Molly smiled again and then arose. “Let us put this away for the evening.” She picked up her own sewing and handed it to Jane. “Shall I ask Uncle Frank and your father to come in to hear you play?” Jane nodded eagerly. Music was very dear to her and she was amazingly talented. Although, Molly had taught Jane to play at a very early age, Molly was a mediocre piano player. Her talent lay in singing; she had perfect pitch and a beautiful voice. And although Jane’s voice was not as lovely as her mother’s, she could play the piano like a professional.
Molly knocked softly on the door of the drawing room and invited the two men to join them in the parlor for a “recital”. They went into the parlor where Jane was already spreading out her sheet music, although she really didn’t need it. Solemnly, the girl stood up from the bench and curtsied awkwardly. The three adults grinned broadly. Jane sat back down and began to play “Shells of Oceans”. As she played, she was totally immersed in her music, forgetting where she was and who was around her. When she was finished, Joseph sprang to his feet and clapped loudly, joined in by Frank and Molly.
“Oh, Papa,” Jane said, trying to sound modest, but the sparkle in her bright-green eyes belied that modesty; she was enormously pleased with herself.
“I have always liked the 'Youth by the Brook',” stated Frank. “Laura plays that tune for me.”
Jane nodded and began playing the music by heart while she sang along. After Jane had performed several other pieces, Molly announced that it was time for the young girl to go to bed. Jane curtsied again before kissing Frank, her father and then her mother. After saying goodnight, she left the room and went upstairs to join her siblings.
There was a brief moment of silence before Joseph announced that he and Frank still had some things to discuss. “I shall try not to wake you when I come to bed,” he said.
Molly told him she was going to finish working on her sewing for a while yet and might still be up when they were through. “You know where Johnny’s bedroom is, Frank,” Molly stated. Frank nodded. Johnny would sleep in his brothers’ bedroom whenever they had company. “Will I see you before you leave for Lawrence in the morning?”
Assuring his wife they would not be leaving until after breakfast, Joseph and Frank went back across the hall and shut the door behind them. Molly tried to concentrate on her cross-stitching yet couldn’t. She put all her sewing away and walked quietly out of the room down the hall towards the kitchen, grabbing a shawl on her way. She slowly opened the kitchen door so it wouldn’t squeak and stepped out onto the wooden porch, which wrapped around the side of the house all the way across the front. She knew it wasn’t really very polite to eavesdrop; however, she dearly wished to hear what the men were discussing and, although Joseph had repeatedly tried to assure his wife all the violence and fighting in the new territory was over, Molly had heard too many rumors in town to believe it. Tiptoeing across the porch, she edged her way towards the outside of the drawing room to a window that had been opened to let the cigar smoke out of the room. Molly took hold of the edge of a small bench and eased it very, very slowly and quietly to just under the window. Wrapping her shawl around her in the cool November night, Molly sat down and listened, but there was no sound.
For a moment, she thought perhaps the men had left the drawing room when a male voice boomed out, startling her. “That damned Dred Scott Decision!” Joseph stated. He was standing just inches away from her on the other side of the window. Molly held her breath. Her heart was pounding so loudly with guilt that she was sure her husband would be able to hear it. “This can’t help our cause any.” Molly could hear Frank’s voice in reply, but she couldn’t make out what he was saying only Joseph’s reply. “I agree. The Supreme Court may have just helped the pro-slavers win the issue – Yes, again – No, yet if they had ruled that Scott had rights to sue his master, then it would have gone a long way to helping our cause – Perhaps not.” Molly strained to hear more.
She knew the story of the former slave quite well. Dred Scott had been a slave who had been taken by his master, an officer in the U.S. Army, from the slave state of Missouri to Illinois, which was a free state, and then to the free territory of Wisconsin. When the Army ordered his master back to Missouri, Scott was taken with him where, unfortunately, his master died. In March 1846, Scott, with the help of abolitionist attorneys, had sued for his freedom, claiming that he had lived on free soil for a sufficient amount of time to be considered a free man. The case had gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where it was subsequently voted down on March 6, 1857. The Supreme Court under Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, a former slave owner from Maryland, had ruled that Congress could not stop slavery in the new territories and declared no slave or descendent of a slave could be a U.S. citizen and as such, had no rights and could not sue. The court further stated that the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution was violated since it prohibited Congress from depriving people of their property without due process of law.
Molly thought about the story for a few moments before realizing it was very quiet. Again, she thought the men had left the room until Frank, who had now walked over to the window by his friend, said, “—clear evidence that the South hopes to extend slavery through the entire country, setting themselves up as supreme rulers. Even Lincoln’s speaking out against this travesty makes no difference to those jackasses. This is yet another setback to Kansas becoming admitted to the Union as a free state. Yet it is not entirely hopeless. We simply must stop those damned Missourians from coming over and voting here.”
“I believe, however, that we are getting closer and closer to a civil war,” Joseph hissed. “I hope I’m wrong, though I think not.”
Frank murmured something and then told Joseph they should turn in since they were leaving fairly early in the morning. Molly jumped up and tiptoed as quietly and swiftly as she could back to the kitchen. She took off her shawl, threw it across a chair and walked down the hall towards the parlor just as the men emerged from the drawing room.
“You are still up,” Joseph said to his wife.
Molly nodded then said she needed to turn out the lamps in the parlor, but Frank went into the parlor and did it for her. Joseph motioned for his wife to go ahead of him and they all climbed up the stairs where Joseph and Molly bade their friend goodnight and went into their room. Molly lit one small candle so they could see to dress for bed. Once they were through dressing and Molly had extinguished the candle’s flame, Joseph took his wife in his arms and kissed her hungrily. They made love as though they would never be together again, which frightened Molly a bit. She loved Joseph more than she thought possible. She fell asleep in utter contentment.
The next morning, Molly awoke to the smell of bacon and coffee. She dressed quickly and went down to the kitchen where she found Joseph and Frank cooking breakfast and drinking coffee. She was astounded, yet quite pleased. Seeing his wife in the doorway, Joseph ran to her and kissed her lightly on the lips. “Good morning, my love,” he said with a big grin. “Frank and I thought we would surprise you by cooking breakfast.”
“You succeeded,” Molly admitted with a giggle. “I didn’t realize either of you were such good cooks.”
“My good woman,” teased Frank, “how do you think we have survived on all our excursions?” Molly shrugged and sat down in the chair that Frank held out for her. Joseph placed a cup of coffee in front of her and went back to frying eggs. On the kitchen table were two newspapers which were both about two months old. “Thought you might enjoy these,” Frank explained. “We obtained them on our many travels.”
Molly picked up the first newspaper, the Doniphan Kansas Constitutional. Joseph turned and told Frank to read it out loud. “This is an editorial by Thomas J. Key, about Sol Miller, the editor of the free-state Kansas Chief in White Cloud. Let’s see.” Frank read to himself for a moment then began, “The editor of the Chief wishes us to bring him’—him being Sol Miller—into notice . . . We would gently hint to the cross-eyed, crank-sided, peaked and long razor-nosed, blue-mouthed, white-eyed, soft-headed, long-eared, crane-necked, blobber-lipped, squeaky-voiced, empty-headed, snaggle-toothed, filthy-mouthed, box-ankled, pigeon-toed, reel-footed, goggly-eyed, hammer-hearted, cat-hammed, hump-shouldered, blander-shanked, splay-footed, ignoble, Black Republican, abolition editor, to attend to his own affairs or we will pitch into him in earnest.”
Molly had managed not to laugh until Frank was finished, but now she couldn’t contain herself. She laughed so boisterously she was actually afraid she might rip her bodice. Joseph and Frank guffawed along with her before Joseph prodded Frank to read the other editorial.
“This is Sol Miller's reply from the Kansas Chief.” Frank cleared his throat then read aloud, “We did not exactly tell the truth about him. We said his name was Thomas Jefferson Key. We beg Thomas Jefferson’s pardon, it should have been Thomas Jack-Ass Key! . . . No insult intended to jack-asses generally. . . . To think that such wretches are sent to form a Constitution for the government of decent people . . . the thought is humiliating! Thomas J. Key occupies a position which makes him public property—or, rather a public nuisance—and we intend to take a long pole with a hook and a spike in one end of it, and haul him about, and turn him over, and hold up his rotten, filthy carcass to the gaze of the public, until it makes all decent men gag, and turn from it in disgust!”
They all three burst out in loud guffaws. Molly had tears running down her face and Joseph was nearly choking. Finally the laughter subsided and Molly, wiping her tears, stated, “I can hardly believe these are words from learned men. They sound so childish and silly and I do believe they made up most of those words!”
Joseph finished cooking and placed a plate of fried eggs, bacon and leftover biscuits in front of Molly. “My goodness!” she exclaimed. “Should I should be worried about my position in the kitchen? You are quite the cook, Joseph!”
Joseph laughed. “Hardly, my dear wife. Unless the family wishes to eat eggs and bacon every day. ‘Tis all I can cook properly.” He bent down and kissed his wife on the top of her head then went back to the stove to get the other two plates. He returned to the table and placed a plate in front of Frank and sat down with the other one. After a quick prayer, they all ate their breakfast with gusto. Molly found that working on the farm gave her an unexpected and perhaps, unladylike, appetite. However, the hard work also kept her from gaining unwanted weight.
After they were through eating, Frank and Joseph arose and took the dishes to the sink where Joseph washed them and Frank dried. Molly was astounded. She watched them, utterly flabbergasted, as they cleaned up everything and put the dishes away.
“Thank you, sirs,” she said. She smiled up at Joseph, who smiled back and then frowned.
“We must go, Molly,” Joseph said with a glum look. “I am sorry.”
“I know, Joseph. You should go before it gets any later. I realize you have a lot to do in Lawrence.” Molly turned to Frank. “Please be careful. Both of you.” Frank assured her they would as he said goodbye and took off for the barn.
Joseph kissed his wife and held her for a long time without speaking. Slowly, he let go and kissed her on the forehead. He walked over to the door, opened it and then turned back to face Molly. “Please don’t worry. Things have been calm for a while now.”
“That is precisely why I am worried,” replied Molly, frowning. Then she added as cheerfully as she could, “I promise I shall try, but please be careful anyway.”
“Always am, my dear,” he assured her. “Tell the children I’ll be back in just a few days.” He cocked his head to one side and grinned mischievously. “Goodbye, Mary Margaret Malone.”
“Goodbye, Joseph David Malone,” Molly said in a small voice. Then Joseph walked out, shutting the door behind him.
Molly went to the window and watched as the men mounted the two horses Frank had saddled and brought out of the barn. Joseph looked back to the kitchen window and waved to his wife who blew him a kiss. As the two men rode off, Molly watched until she could see them no more. Then she wept.
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