David kicked the horse into a canter through the empty streets.
“You know, I don’t think your father will take kindly to me riding about with you in the back of my saddle,” he said.
“Allowed once, allowed forever,” Ezra said. “Now turn here. There’s a little path on the other side of this fallow field that will take us their quickly, even if the horse must pick his way more slowly.”
David nodded and guided the horse through a low-lying field. Mist was collecting in the gullies of the field as the temperature dropped. A mild fog hung outside of town, blowing away in places due to the wind. Large farmhouses dotted the horizon to their right, and rows of lit windows seemed to hover in the pale night.
“I’m sorry if I jest too much,” Ezra said quietly into David’s ear. “Who is injured?
“My brother. He’s had a fever and been bedridden horribly since last night.”
“Then I am sorry again.”
“Think nothing of it,” David said. “It’s good to joke sometimes.”
“But not all the time,” Ezra said. She gripped him a little tighter as the horse found the path and was able to quicken its pace.
They ran alongside a tall bed of rushes beside a creek, then the path turned eastward and wound its way between cotton fields. Soon they passed through another fallow field, then caught a larger road. David kicked the horse into a gallop for a few dozen paces, then let off as Ezra guided him to a rougher path that led to a large farmhouse standing sentinel among a grove of oak trees.
They approached and dismounted. A girl stood on the porch of the large house wearing a yellow dress with a blanket draped over her arms. A large lamp flickered on a nearby stand.
“Ezra, that is you!” she said, putting out her hands as she flitted down the steps.
Ezra hugged the girl and said, “It’s good to see you, Emily. Where is my father?”
The girl nodded back toward the front door. “In there. It was a bit too much for me. I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m the one is sorry,” Ezra said. “May we go in?”
“Yes, I suppose,” Emily said. “But it’s a bloody sight.”
“Maybe you should stay here,” David said.
“I’ll have you know, David Smith-” Ezra began, but then suddenly shut her mouth. She frowned in thought for a moment, then in a more soothing tone, she said, “Yes, call for me if you have need.”
David nodded and headed through the front door. He knew immediately where to find the doctor, as the grunts and cries filled the interior of the large house. He found Ely Corning in the kitchens, wrangling with a hysterical young man covered in blood that trashed about on a block table. Another man was doing his best to hold him down. They both had their sleeves rolled up to reveal bloody hands. David started at the horror of it.
Ely suddenly looked up at him.
“Don’t just stand there, boy! Give us a hand or go piss yourself outside!”
David snapped out of it and rushed forward, grabbing at the man’s moving shoulders while the older man held his legs. As the boy (for that is what he really was – if was eighteen it was by weeks) eventually settled with his shoulders to the top of the block, he noticed a round wound below his right collarbone. He also took in the face of Paul Abbot, a boy he had talked to a few times with Michael. His blue eyes glared like that of an animal caught in a trap.
“That’s better,” Ely said. “Now let me try this again.”
“No!” grunted the boy.
“Christ almighty, doc, can’t you give him a draught of whiskey?” the older man said.
“No. It thins the blood,” Ely replied.
“Opium?” David said.
Ely caught David’s eyes and he stared for a moment, as if suddenly realizing who he was. “No. Not with the amount of blood he’s lost. Would take to long for effect anyway.” The doctor turned his attention back to the boy on the table, and he looked in his eyes. “This is going to hurt, Paul, probably more than anything else I can think of, but we have to get that ball out of you.”
“Here,” David said. He withdrew his belt and folded it over, then held it up to Paul’s mouth. Paul opened up and bit down on it. Ely then pushed open the wound with a long pair of forceps and pushed another pair deep into the flesh. Paul screamed and bit down on the belt, his face turning red.
“Almost got it,” Ely said. “Damn!” He withdrew both pairs of forceps. “Paul, I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to do one more thing.” Paul nodded. Ely put the forceps back in the wound and spread it slightly “Here, David.” Ely handed the handles of the forceps off to David.. “I’m going to open the wound up a bit with a cut.” He took out a short bladed knife and cut the flesh on one side of the wound. Paul flinched, but didn’t buck. Fresh blood poured out. “Keep it up, David.” The doctor put in another pair of forceps, with a larger set of ends. Paul bucked slightly and cried out.
“Hallelujah,” The older man holding Paul’s legs said as Ely withdrew a large, elongated musketball.