Chenoa, Kesegowasse’s mother, was constantly at his side, soothing his cries when the agony of his healing leg became too much. She would smile softly, sometimes running her fingers through his hair. Once he thought he heard her humming, but wasn’t sure.
He had only seen Kesegowasse a few times, but they had never spoken…just glanced at each other before looking away. The chief, on the other hand, would come by everyday and glare at him. Isaac supposed he was still angry that he had stolen a horse and tried to escape.
Rubbing his sore leg, Isaac carefully sat up and leaned against the wall of the wigwam. It was a chilly day, but from the open slats overhead he could see bright sunlight and blue sky.
A beautiful fall day. Isaac mused, rubbing the scar he had gotten from falling into the river. You’re a mess, Isaac. He laughed. A complete mess. What would Mother say? At the thought of his mother, Isaac’s bit of joy vanished.
I wonder if she thinks I’m dead. A single tear rolled down his cheek and he brushed it away. If only I had a friend to talk to. A real friend. A pang of guilt nagged at Isaac but he pushed it away. Joseph is no friend…he’s just a bothersome little boy.
Closing his eyes, Isaac attempted to think of other things. But try as he might, thoughts of that little, fumbling, towheaded Joseph kept sneaking into his mind.
Why do I dislike him so much? The moment he thought it, Isaac squirmed. Deep down he knew why he disliked Joseph.
A rumbling feeling in Isaac’s stomach broke his reverie. I’m hungry. Wonder when Chenoa will be back. Suddenly an idea struck him. I just know they all think I’m lazy and babyish. The way the chief looks at me, the way Kesegowasse avoids me, and Chenoa’s busy way of keeping me quiet. Well, I’m not a baby!
Pushing the bear hide blanket aside, Isaac grabbed hold of the shelf above, and pulled himself up. I’ll make a fire and boil some of that dried trout for dinner.
He felt very important all of a sudden. He took the flint and stone Chenoa used to start the fire and bent down awkwardly by the fire ring. He snatched some nearby twigs and dried grass and quickly arranged them in the pit. Isaac soon had a nice little flame going and he blew on it until it grew. Leaning back, Isaac sighed. All that quick movement had exhausted him. Putting the stone and flint away, he lay back down and pulled the soft furs over him.
I’ll just rest my leg a bit, then start dinner. Pleased with himself, Isaac stretched out, trying to flex his leg a little.
I won’t hear their whispers of me being lazy anymore...what do they know? As soon as the fire is going, I’ll cook that trout. He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath as the comforting smell of the burning wood filtered throughout the wigwam.
Relaxed, Isaac let his thoughts wander to home. I wonder what Mother is making for supper? Probably a big, juicy ham, late vegetables from the garden, and oh….her sweet plum cake.
Isaac scrunched his nose up. Why was so much smoke blowing into his face and why did it smell like burnt hair? Sitting up slowly, and wincing at the tingling pain in his leg, Isaac’s eyes met with an alarming sight. Somehow the edge of his bear hide blanket had fallen right into his newly built fire! Flames lapped at the edge of his blanket and he was horrified to see a trail of fire running across the earthen floor to the wall of the wigwam.
Isaac pulled himself back from the burning blanket, coughing as he breathed in some of the smoke. He grabbed the pot of water nearby and tossed it onto the flames. It sizzled, but did nothing to put out the fire. Tearing one of Chenoa’s blankets off a small birch rack above his head, he tried to smother the blaze. The only thing he accomplished was to catch those blankets on fire as well.
What can I do?! Isaac cried inwardly. He quickly realized he couldn’t do anything, as he watched a basket of new furs catch fire. It’s spreading too quickly...how did it spread so fast? Isaac backed up even farther, trying to cover his mouth. I’m trapped in here! I’m trapped in here and I’m going to die!
“Help!!” he shrieked, coughing on the smoke that swirled around him. “Someone help me!” Panic gripped Isaac in its iron fist as he remembered that the men had gone hunting today, and all but a handful of women were cleaning fish down by the lake.
Crouching low, Isaac tried to see through the thick smoke and find the doorway through the flames. He couldn’t. In a matter of minutes he would surely be overwhelmed by the thick smoke.
Straining his ears, Isaac caught sound of screams and terrified yells of women from outside the wigwam. Surely someone will try to help me…surely…
Isaac heard cracking above and looked up to see the roof burning.
“Oh God,” he prayed. “Oh, dear God...please help me!”
Suddenly, from out of the smoky flames, a hand grasped his arm and pulled him forward.
“Come on Isaac!” a voice screamed. For a moment, Isaac was paralyzed. How could he trust someone he couldn’t see?
“Isaac, you’ll die!” The pulling became stronger, and Isaac begin to follow his rescuer through the dense smoke and burning flames. He felt no pain in his leg and felt that maybe he was being carried off to heaven. But as he moved along, he could feel the intense heat scorching his skin, and he gasped for a single breath of fresh air.
Suddenly, he burst into the light of outside. He felt hands grab at him and jerk him from the heat trying to follow him out the door. He gasped, trying to suck in as much fresh air as he could.
Isaac thought he saw little Joseph’s face mixed in with the the concerned faces of a few women but his eyes were burning and the pain in his head was too intense that he thought he was just imagining things. Before he could say a word to explain what happened, his world became dark.
Isaac felt someone touch his forehead, a cool cloth being pressed to his face.
“Wha—what happened?” His voice broke and his throat burned. He saw Chenoa’s face bending over him and he tried to open his eyes the whole way. “What happened?” He asked again, this time struggling to sit up on his bed. Glancing around he saw he was in an old, poorly built wigwam.
“No, Napayshni—” Chenoa pushed him down, keeping him there. “You must rest.”
Isaac saw the look of concern in her eyes and he grabbed her hand. “What happened? What did I do to myself?”
Chenoa moved her hand to Isaac’s and squeezed it. “You started a fire didn’t you?”
“I—yes. I wanted to make some dinner.” Isaac winced as she rubbed some sweet smelling salve on his face.
Chenoa didn’t say anything else. She wouldn’t meet Isaac’s eyes either. Isaac tried to remember what had happened after starting the fire. His head pounded and he couldn’t seem to remember.
“What happened? What did I do?” He heard her sigh heavily but she still did not answer. “Chenoa.” He grabbed her arm and pulled on it. “What did I just do?”
He heard her take a sharp breath in and blow it out quickly. “Isaac—you burnt down our wigwam.”
For a moment Isaac lay still in terror. He had burnt down the chief’s wigwam? He had burnt down Kesegowasse’s house? Than he begin to wonder how Chenoa knew his real name.
“Isaac.” Chenoa said again softly, almost in a whisper. “You didn’t mean to do it did you?”
“No. I wanted to help—” Nearly choking on his words Isaac answered hoarsely. “I wanted to make dinner.” Isaac could still see a worried expression in Chenoa’s eyes and he caught her gaze again. “Did anything else get burned?”
“Oh, Napayshni—Four more wigwams. The men couldn’t get here fast enough. No one was hurt besides you and one other.”
Isaac’s heart sank. He had ruined five homes and had injured another person. That’s what I get for trying to help. Maybe I really am a helpless baby.
Isaac winced as Chenoa rubbed some of the salve on his burnt arm. He didn’t know what hurt worse. The guilt of ruining some of the village or the pain.
Chenoa helped him sit up so he could sip some water. “That little one was so brave running in and saving you like that.” She said, helping him lay back down.
Isaac scrunched up his face. He vaguely remembered being saved, but he never found out who rescued him.
“Who...who saved me?”
“Why, that little boy...that little white captive that came into the village with you.” Isaac sat up in shock. Chenoa looked at him strangely as she pushed him back down.
“We were all down by the lake and didn’t hear anything until that little boy came running towards us waving his arms. He stayed only long enough to tell us what had happened then hurried away.” Chenoa lifted Isaac’s hand and nodded to something on her lap. “This will sting but it will help it heal faster.” She was right. Whatever Chenoa put onto his hand stung so badly he wanted to cry.
“What...what will happen to me?” Isaac finally asked in a small voice. He heard Chenoa sigh and she bent over to pick something up off the floor.
“The chief is not pleased, Napayshni. First you run off taking Kesegowasse’s horse, then you burn down part of the village. It’s just—” Chenoa stopped, pressing her lips together tightly. “Rest now. Try to sleep.”
With a pang of loneliness, Isaac watched her leave.
Sleep?! I just burnt down part of the village! Tears seeped through Isaac’s closed eyelids and rolled down his face. I just want to go home. Ignoring the numb pain in his leg, he rolled over onto his stomach and begin to sob.
Suddenly, a breeze rushed into the room and a beam of light shot across his bed. Opening one of his eyes, Isaac wanted with all his heart to disappear into the ground.
The chief was standing in the doorway of the wigwam with a group of angry looking men behind him.
To Be Continued…