Samuel Marston dropped to his knees and wrapped his arms around Sansa, pressing his cheek to her belly. He embraced her tightly feeling the gentle stroke of her fingers through his hair. When he looked up at her, his face was filled with regret and sadness.
“You see now?” he pleaded. “Everything I touch dies or is destroyed. When they take you away from me, I won’t only lose you, but our child as well.”
Sansa smiled broadly into his upturned face. It confused him, because Marston’s heart was wrenched in pain. He couldn’t understand why Sansa could be happy.
“They can’t take me away now, Samuel. I’m pregnant. That means we are a family. They cannot separate a family. That’s against the law.”
“But Governor Phillip will not allow our relationship to continue.”
Sansa shook a finger before Marston’s eyes. “No, he said he could not allow reckless immorality to continue. Governor Phillip wants –”
Sansa was interrupted when Marston gasped. It was a deep throaty sound - almost a growl. He stared at her wide-eyed with his mouth agape. The revelation had hit him like a thunderclap, like a sucker punch that threatened to knock him from his feet.
Quickly, he stood and took Sansa by the arms and held her close. He slid his huge hands up her slim neck to the sides of her face and smiled – genuinely smiled. Sansa was enthralled to see how handsome his face was, suddenly awash with hope and happiness.
Marston opened his mouth, paused, and then blurted. “I love you, Sansa.” His face turned red with embarrassment. He had never said those words to anyone in his life before - never imagined having the reason or opportunity to ever say them. He leaned down and kissed her long and hard. “I love you,” he repeated. He liked the way the words sound coming from, like the way the words felt on his tongue. he wanted to say it over and over. Instead, Samuel Marston dropped back down to his knees.
“Will you marry me?” he asked her. Sansa gasped. She was unable to answer, breathless and shocked. A sudden gush crawled up her body from somewhere in her belly and squeezed from her eyes. Warm tears flowed down her face and dripped off her chin. Sansa nodded her head between sobs of joy. She clutched at his shoulders to pull him up so that she could wrap her arms around him.
Samuel Marston picked Sansa up in his arms and embraced her tightly against him, cradling her head against his. When he set her down, he wiped the tears from her face with rough trembling fingers and kissed her.
“Promise me that you will never leave me,” he begged of her.
Sansa smiled between fresh streams of tears. “I will never leave you.” She took Marston’s hand and held it against her belly. “Not everything you touch dies,” she reminded him.
When Marston and Sansa reentered the Governor’s office, everyone was waiting for them, including Major Ross. Sansa gasped and looked up at Marston. He returned her look of astonishment. They were not surprised at Major Ross’s presence, but at the fact that there was no visible evidence of his crime. Unnerved at this development, the couple approached the Governor’s desk.
“Well?” Governor Phillip asked, waiting.
“We have decided not to continue our immoral relationship,” Sansa informed them. Loud sighs were heard from several in the room. “Rather,” Sansa continued, “we have decided to make our relationship a legitimate one so that it can no longer be construed as a scandalous affair.” A smirk accompanied a sideways glance toward Reverend Johnson.
A thick heavy silence blanketed the room. Reverend Johnson leaned forward on the table. “What exactly are you trying to tell us, Mistress?” he asked suspiciously.
Marston stepped forward, took Sansa’s hand in his and said, “I have asked Mistress Stark to marry me and she has agreed.”
“Absolutely not!” the reverend bellowed.
“You have a choice,” Sansa informed the men in the room. You can allow us to marry, or you can allow us to continue our relationship, immoral though it may be, but you cannot separate us. To wrench us apart would be against family law.”
“Family law?” Governor Phillip questioned.
Marston put his arm around Sansa’s shoulders. “Mistress Stark is with child.” He looked pointedly first at Major Ross and then at Reverend Johnson. “She is carrying my child,” he clarified in case there was doubt in their minds.
An argument erupted with statutes and bible verses being hurled in both directions. In the end, Governor Phillip could not deny the right for Marston and Sansa to continue their relationship if they were willing to make it lawful. They were more than willing.
Reverend Johnson steadfastly refused to marry them. However, colony law also dictated that if a man of the cloth was not available, an officer of the highest standing could perform the ceremony. A ship’s captain could also perform a marriage ceremony. Governor Phillip was both.
“You’ll need witnesses,” Governor Phillip informed them. Sansa named Sam Roach as her witness. Marston named Jonas Martin as his. Timmins was sent to fetch them.
Sam Roach and Jonas Martin entered the Governor’s office and moved to stand beside Sansa and Marston respectively.
“You’ve been called as witnesses for the marriage of Mistress Sansa Stark and the blacksmith known as Marston.”
“His name is Samuel Marston,” Sansa reminded the governor with vinegar in her voice. Phillip hissed between his teeth, but nodded toward the blacksmith and reluctantly stated, “Samuel Marston.”
“Do you agree that these two should be married?” Governor Phillip asked the witnesses. Sam Roach immediately consented. Jonas stalled looking ashamed as he kicked at an imaginary stone on the floor.
“For Heaven’s sake, boy! Show some respect for your Governor,” Major Ross admonished him. “Stand up straight and take you hands out of your pockets!”
Jonas hesitantly looked at the faces around him. Sansa leaned over to peer past Marston at the boy. “Do as you’re told, Jonas,” she encouraged.
Sansa gasped when Jonas removed his hands from his pockets. All turned to looked directly at the boy. In the dim light of the office, his hands were aglow with a blue-green luminescence.
“Jonas!” Sansa stammered. “It was you who has been stealing the ration bags?”
“What is going on here?” the governor demanded.
Sansa and Marston explained the truth of their plan to discover who was behind the rash of thefts. They hesitantly admitted that they had initially believed it was Major Ross in an attempt to frame Marston or turn the other prisoners against him.
“Why Jonas?” Sansa asked kneeling before him.
Jonas turned angry and sulky. “Why would you want a man like him?” he said indicating Marston. “Don’t you got no dignity, Mistress? Why would you marry a man who don’t love you? I was doing you a favor gettin’ rid of him.”
“I do love her, Jonas,” Marston interjected stepping closer to Sansa and tightening the grip of the arm that was around her shoulders.
“Why would you frame Samuel for a crime like this?” Sansa asked the boy in disbelief.
“With him gone, we could be together. Couldn’t you love me, Mistress? I love you,” he pleaded. It was then that Sansa could see the lovestruck teenager that stood before her. In his eyes was a desperation brought by puberty and loneliness and the need for a motherly figure in his life.
In the most sympathetic but detached manner that she could, Sansa backed away from Jonas. She reached for Marston's hand and entwined her fingers tightly with his.
"I love Samuel Marston," she told Jonas emphatically. "And Samuel loves me." Sansa turned away from Jonas then to face Governor Phillip and the other officers with her soon-to-be-husband besdie her.
In the end, Governor Phillip agreed not to charge the boy with his crimes, but had other plans for him instead. He was clearly a lustful teenager who’d had an overwhelming infatuation with Sansa. The boy was taken away and Marston grudgingly asked James Freeman to be his witness. James reluctantly agreed – a tentative level of respect had developed between the two men. And after all, it was better that they were allies than enemies.
After the marriage ceremony, Sam Roach had confided in Sansa and Marston that he never really believed that Major Ross was guilty of framing Marston for ration theft, but figured the plan would illuminate the true thief anyway. Sam explained that Major Ross was not a man that got his hands dirty … ever. Someone else always carried out his dirty work for him.
With a new energy given to farming, cultivation, and domestication, the colony was able to expand and feed its growing population. Sam Roach took over the horticultural duties with guidance from Sansa. Samuel Marston maintained his position as the blacksmith. Together, they lived in Sansa’s cabin. As a token of apology for the crimes of his son, Henry Martin constructed a hand-carved cradle which he presented to the new couple.
To keep the colony at peace, Governor Phillip arranged for the transfer of two dozen prisoners and citizens to the penal colony at Moreton Bay when the next fleet arrived in 1791. He also decided that it was in the best interests of the colony to redistribute some of the officers and exchange them for the fresh troops that had arrived. Among those placed aboard the Albemarle were Major Ross, Henry and Jonas Martin, and Reverend and Mrs. Johnson. The new minister, who had arrived with the fleet in June of 1791, had a softer hand thrust into his bible, and so he was welcomed with open arms.
In August of 1791, Samuel and Sansa Marston gave birth to their first child, Eleanor. They went on to have three more. In 1795, when his term was complete, Samuel Marston became a free man.