Months later, when Mama E’Kun left home with Ulaylee, in the company of Marina and Marina’s strong husband, people did take notice. When Mama E’Kun returned home in the company of another young man amid rumors that the ugly Ulaylee had married a rich man, people, that is mothers with marriageable daughters, narrowed their eyes and rethought the E’KuN family.
They whispered among themselves. “Did you see all the tools and pretty fabric Marina and her husband bought?”
Aunt. J’VT held her chin up and declared, “Well, I don’t like to act as if I’m better than others so when Corinna E’Kun passed by my house, I just called out friendly-like and asked after her daughters. She told me Sabrina is expecting, and she’d been to visit while they added two rooms to their house. So next, I enquired right-out about Ulaylee, and she said, as bold as you please, that Ulaylee had married a very well set up young man. I didn’t believe this, but that young man with her nodded his head. Then Corinna rushed away without introducing the young man.” Aunt J’VT almost whined as she lamented not meeting the young man.
“Has anybody met him?” Mrs. M’TN had two unmarried daughters. The oldest had a twisted foot but if the E’KuNs could get rid of Ulaylee, maybe she could get rid of Sprig.
Mrs. M’TN might be illiterate, but she knew what is what. As soon as she returned from market she pulled some fig preserves off a shelf, dipped off the layer of mold, spread the preserves on some oatcakes and rushed off to the E’KuNs to give her new friend a Welcome Home present.
Mrs. M’TN found Uncle J’VT had arrived before her and was deep in negotiations for a bowl and “something pretty for the wife, you know. I brought Medina here to carry something delicate.”
Medina nodded and tried to look like a delicate, but useful, sort of girl.
Young Kam who had graciously offered to protect Mama E’KuN on her trip home, looked Medina over carefully. He listened to the negotiations. He looked around the E’KuN hut. He nodded. One of the E’KuN girls would not look down on him and his modest holdings, where as someone accustomed to richer furnishings and fine china might not be content.
Mrs. M’TN inquired boldly whether Kam had come to pick out a wife.
Kam blushed and looked out the door. “The S’TOs bought some fine tools when they were in the city. I would like to purchase such as they have. Rue and Hau have done well for themselves. I figure nobody could do better.” He had noticed Mama E’KuN’s surprise when the M’TN woman pushed through their gate. Kam knew what is what.
Uncle J’VT quizzed Kam carefully about his home. “Are there many families in the neighborhood? Do Marina and Sabrina have many female friends their age?” He could barely contain his glee at the news of a whole valley full of rich, unmarried young men.”
The next day, Kam and Papa E’KuN left for the city. They had not quite reached the edge of the village when Aunt Zu sent her daughter out to the gate to purchase a plate and cup from Papa E’KuN.
Papa E’KuN finally had to start laughing out loud over how the road had become strewn with marriageable girls as they picked their way toward the city, stopping to sell a bowl here and a plate there. Papa E’KuN had one cup left when he reached the city. Never had he sold his pottery for so much.
Upon returning home, Papa E’KuN sat down to an elegant dinner of quail, bean cakes, cheese and a sweet pudding. He raised his eyebrows at his wife who commented dryly, “My neighbors are happy to see me home and brought gifts. Their daughters miss Marina and Sabrina and long to visit them.”
Papa E’KuN nodded, “The same daughters that threw sticks at them I suppose.”
Mama E’KuN scowled at the memory, “Perhaps it is not wise to remember such things when people bring gifts.”
The next morning, Kam left the E’KuN house early in the morning with the remaining two sisters. To be sure, the youngest was a bit young to be in charge of a household, but since she stayed with the S’TO’s cousins and married Young Phillip, she had many older women for guidance.
Before the luster of the E’KuNs marrying off five impoverished daughters had a chance to wear off, Kam sent his younger brother to help Papa E’KuN work in the clay. Not only could the young man do more hard work than all the E’KuN daughters put together, but a steady stream of gifts and young women poured through the gate of the E’KuN hut.
Uncle J’VT asked Papa E’KuN to become a member of the village elders. He explained his reasoning to the other elders. If that man could marry off those daughters, he just might have something to say. Also, I’ve noticed they must be receiving gifts from the girls’ families for they always have a full table. Little did anybody realize that the rest of the village was filling that table.
Over the next few years, a total of ten young women, including Sprig with the twisted foot, moved to the valley in the mountains. Their families continued to trade with the village to the mutual benefit of both communities. Papa E’KuN became a respected elder eventually opening the first store for trading goods in the village.