My story begins in the colonial countryside of Haverhill, Massachusetts...
“To Have the Courage” - Part 1
It didn’t matter if the neighbor boy was actually doing a good job. He was clumsy and deserved to be picked on--or so Isaac thought. To him, it was his duty to keep an eye on clutzy Joseph and be ready to yell at him if he made a mistake. So what if, in doing so, he missed a few weeds himself?
Unfortunately, Isaac couldn’t find much fault with Joseph’s work today, but he decided to yell at him anyway:
“Hey, you missed a spot!” his taunting voice shouted across the field of waist-high grass.
“D-did not!” came the response. “You’re just saying that b-b-because I’m doing it right!”
Tossing down his sickle, Isaac Bradley stomped over to the little neighbor boy and sized him up. Even in his dreams, he couldn’t imagine little Joseph Whittaker ever using his mind or body for anything useful. He was a clumsy, slow witted baby who never held his sickle right and always got in the way of Isaac’s progress.
“Y-you don’t have to look at me like that! It was your b-brother who wanted an extra hand today... It’s not my fault he p-picked me.” Having spoke his mind, Joseph turned back to his patch of weeds, but stumbled when his bare foot hit a stone. Isaac chuckled to see his face slam into the soft earth.
“Ya know, boy, just because you’re our neighbor doesn’t mean my brother has any right to sign you up as my partner. I can do this work just as well, even better without you.”
As Joseph pulled himself off the ground and his face out of the dirt, Isaac spied a single tear making a trail down his mud-stained face.
Isaac scowled, walked back to his sickle, and resumed chopping weeds. It was really too bad the dumb neighbor boy was the only person around to help his family with their fields. Joseph’s family was poor - dirt poor - and they needed the money Isaac’s brother would pay him for helping in the fields.
As he bent over to chop another patch of weeds, an annoying wave of red hair flopped onto his sweaty forehead. Isaac pushed it off angrily; he was so sick of his hair! Why did it have to be red? Red and untamable - just like his father’s. But he didn’t want to dwell on that unpleasant topic. Quickly, he pushed the painful memories of his beloved father aside and straightened up, his back popping as the annoying crick in his spine released.
It was high afternoon, the sun at its zenith. Sweat poured down Isaac’s face as he looked up and uneasily fixed his gaze on the tree line. Just this morning, he thought he had caught sight of dark shapes moving among the trees, but had quickly blamed it on his imagination. He didn’t see anything now and felt relieved.
“W-want any water, Isaac?” Joseph was suddenly at his side, his sickle in one hand and his small keg of water in the other.
“Kid, I don’t want nothing from you!” he snapped briskly, shoving him aside to escape to another part of the field. Joseph teetered from the nudge and dropped his sickle and keg of water. The liquid spilled out, splashing him, and soiling his shirt--a shirt that was more patches than actual fabric.
Tears threatened in the back of Joseph’s eyes and he bent down to snatch up his sickle, and in doing so, let out a cry of pain. Turning around, Isaac saw that Joseph had picked up his sickle by the blade and now held his bleeding fingers against his water-soaked shirt. Since his shirt had no more room to absorb liquid, the blood skimmed along the fabric’s surface and splashed onto his dirty feet. Big tears were rolling down his babyish cheeks and he was trembling.
Rolling his eyes, Isaac reached into his pocket for his handkerchief and trudged over to the neighbor boy. “Here, hold this on your wound.” Joseph looked at him cautiously. Isaac persisted and shoved the handkerchief into his hand: “Hold it tight on your fingers now...and why don’t you go take a break.” The young boy looked puzzled and slowly reached down for his sickle, the handle this time.
“Uh--I don’t--it doesn’t--” he seemed to be having trouble turning his words over in his head. “It’s n-not that bad.”
Slowly, their work continued without any more speaking or teasing. It surprised Isaac that the quieter he was, the more work they both accomplished.
It was only a little later that he looked up to see Joseph gazing at the sky, his brow furrowed. “D-don’t you think we better get--get home? I’ve heard s-s-stories about these woods. B-beasts and such.”
“No, we still have lots of work to do and it isn’t even dark yet,” Isaac snapped. Joseph went back to his silence, working with a worried expression.
It wasn’t until the shadows had grown long and the sun was nothing more than a glow of orange and red colors that Isaac decided they better get home. For some reason, he had wanted to linger in the quiet before going home to an evening of more work.
Without a word, Joseph started to follow him across the field. They had only gone a short distance when he suddenly stopped and gave a faint yell. Forgetting any little patience he had had earlier, Isaac whirled around and scolded him.
“What is it now, kid? My brother will give me a thrashing if I don’t get home to milk the cows. Why I oughta--” he stopped, following Joseph’s gaze. The little neighbor boy was staring into the dark woods, his big, blue eyes wide with fear.
What was it about the look on Joseph’s face that made the hair rise on the back of Isaac’s neck and send shivers running up and down his spine?
And then he saw it himself---from the woods, two shadows were emerging. Two tall, dark shadows.
Joseph’s face grew white with horror and he sunk to his knees. Isaac gripped the knife in his belt, staring at the shadows that were growing closer, ever closer.
He didn’t have to be told what or who they were. In the last rays of the sun he could see their glittering tomahawks and painted faces. His heart pounded in his chest and on impulse, he jerked Joseph up onto his feet.
He took off across the field towards home, dragging Joseph behind him. The little boy was surprisingly heavy for his size, but even in his dislike for him, he couldn’t let him here alone to face those men.
It was the same stone Joseph had tripped on earlier that was the downfall of Isaac. He landed hard, Joseph sprawling beside him, whimpering.
A pair of rough hands jerked Isaac back to his feet, shaking him violently. There were two Indians, one taller and stronger than the other. The smaller one pulled Joseph up, yelling something and slapping him across the face.
“Leave him alone!” Isaac cried, impulsively lunging towards the smaller Indian. The tall Indian jerked him back by the arm, his aged, painted face furious with anger. For a moment, he fingered Isaac’s thick red hair, marveling at its wild curliness. He said something to his comrade and they both laughed like a pair of happy boys.
“Let go! Stop it!” Isaac kept struggling as he watched the smaller Indian tie Joseph’s wrists. Isaac’s captor moved to do the same and Isaac kicked him hard in the kneecap, his eyes wild with fury. “Dare to touch me, filthy savage!”
Suddenly, without warning, the tall Indian pushed Isaac back and slammed his foot into his left kneecap. Isaac jerked back, his body crashing onto the fresh dirt of his family’s field. As his back hit the ground with a hollow thud, he let out a strangled scream of pain.
“N-no! I-Isaac!” Joseph struggled to free himself as the tall Indian pulled a tomahawk from his belt which he held it over Isaac’s head as the boy writhed in pain. “Please, please d-don’t! He, he-didn’t mean it!” Suddenly, the shorter Indian stepped forward, his young face stern.
“Akando awasos!” he called out, an authoritative tone in his voice. Shaking his head, he grabbed the wrist of the taller Indian and quickly pried the tomahawk out of his hand.
“Hmph!” replied the other. The shorter Indian then jerked his head towards the woods and the older one reluctantly nodded.
Without a word, the tall Indian bent down and snatched Isaac up, tossing him over his shoulder. Isaac gritted his teeth against the violent movement and the pain that surged through his leg. From the corner of his eye, he could see Joseph being drug by his arm over the rough, uneven field, his clumsiness causing the short Indian to be harsh.
No! This can’t be happening to us. They can’t take us! First father, now me? They can’t do this to us! Isaac made one last effort to free himself, but it was no use. Help! Isaac screamed inwardly. They’re taking us away....forever!
To Be Continued...