David took a seat at his usual desk and looked through the books. There was what looked like a new history book and a new math book, but there was also a collection of plays.
“What’s this?” he asked, and held up the book to his mother.
“William Shakespeare,” his mother replied.
“He’s a terrible old bore,” Michael said. “And you can’t understand anything he says.”
“They’re comedies,” their mother said, ignoring Michael.
“And I bet they’re about as funny as bee sting,” Michael said.
With that, Julia picked Michael up by his ear. Michael gave a help and a hurried apology. His mother held him for a few extra seconds, then released him. It made David laugh in spite of himself, for his mother was a small woman and Michael was nearly full grown and towered over her. With a stern look from her, David stuffed his laughter.
He and his brother tried to read one of the Shakespeare plays with their mother, one called A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but the boys were constantly interrupting the reading with questions. At first, they were genuine, as the text made little sense to them, but quickly it evolved into an uncoordinated jest between them.
“Who on earth would name their child Bottom?” David said. “Wouldn’t his mother think of the teasing?”
“Or did he look like a bottom, or was she angry at him for being born?” Michael said.
“I think that’s enough,” their mother said, and put down her book. “Read the rest of act I for yourselves, then answer the questions in your companion.”
Michael picked up the reading companion and opened it. “There’s nothing but questions in here!”
“Which is how you prove your knowledge,” Julia said. “Your tutor will test you tomorrow.”
Their mother left them to it, but David found himself drifting in his mind, looking out the window at the distant trees and thinking of Ezra through no will of his own. The day whiled away and the boys’ mother released them from their lessons, though David had made scant progress on his questions and Michael had done virtually nothing.
The boys rushed outside to find a crowd gathering in one of the fields. Charles was walking toward them.
“Michael! Go back inside and get father,” Charles shouted.
“What’s going on?” Michael said.
“Just go!” Charles said. “David, run round to the stable and fetch a draft horse. Bring it to the barn. Quickly now!”
Both boys complied, and David went running through the sowing field to the stable. He went down the aisles and found the one resting draft horse, then lead him by the halter out of his pen and toward the barn at as quick a pace as he could get the huge beast to walk. Outside the barn Bernie, one of the overseers, was making ready a two-axle horse cart. David helped him to harness up the horse, then hopped in the back of the cart as the overseer drove the cart out in the field.
The crowd had dispersed, and slaves were busy with their tasks again, but David saw as they approached why the crowd had gathered in the first place. On the ground was one of the slaves, and as they drew near David could see that it was Tiny, who he and Michael liked to talk to when they all had free time to do so. He was lying in the dirt clutching his bare left leg, which was bloody and clearly broken. He breathed heavily and in pain.
David’s father was walking across the field scowling. He stopped in front of the scene.
“It’s broken for sure,” Charles said.
“How did this happen?” Edward said.
Bernie spoke up. “We had that two axel cart loaded up. Wheel snapped and the side of the wagon fell on him.”
Edward was silent for a moment. “Is he lamed?”
“Forever?” Bernie said. “Don’t know as I’m not a doctor, but he won’t be walking anytime soon.”
“You have any experience with this sort of thing?” Edward said.
“No boss,” Bernie said. “I think Johnny has set a leg before, but he ain’t here.”
“Should we call the doctor?” David said, locking with Tiny’s trembling eyes. “He’s bleeding really bad.”
Edward gave him a hard look. “You have to think of costs with this sort of thing.”
“It’s still early in the season, Pa,” Charles said. “If we could get him on his feet again in a few weeks that’s still plenty of work.”
Edward took a breath. “Do it. Go ahead and load him up and take him to town. I don’t want to waste time fetching the doctor out here.” He reached into his pocket and withdrew a purse, from which he produced a stack of silver coins, which he handed to Charles. “Better you than me, as I don’t get along with Doctor Corning. Take David with you. He needs a bit of reality in his world. Michael, go fetch a few guns, will you?”
Michael ran off and returned with a double-barreled shotgun and big cap musket while Tiny was loaded onto the big wagon by some of the other slaves. He winced as he was laid down. Charles got in the driver’s seat and David hopped in the back, seating himself beside Tiny as the wagon drove toward the road.
“You’re still bleeding,” David said as he looked at Tiny’s leg. The break in the bone beneath the gash, now that he was up close, was very apparent.
“Let’s hope I don’t run out of blood,” Tiny said, flashing a smile despite his pain.
“I can rig up a tourniquet for now,” David said. “That’ll help.”
Tiny nodded. David took a handkerchief out of his pocket and wrapped it around Tiny’s leg just below the knee and above where his shinbone began. He jammed his long pocketknife into the extra length of cloth and began to twist. Tiny cried out slightly, but lay back after David finished tightening the device. The blood slowed to a trickle.
“You’re a good man, David Smith,” Tiny said, laying back in the wagon.
David chuckled. “I’m not a man yet.”
“More a man than some I know.” Tiny didn’t explain toward whom such a comment was directed; David didn’t ask.
“The doctor strikes me as a good man,” David said. “He’ll fix you up.”
If you are enjoying this story, please consider heading to Amazon and buying my Historical Fantasy book, Muramasa: Blood Drinker. I appreciate it!