Her eyes glistened with unshed tears as she pulled him close, her slender fingers stroking his hair.
“All they know is he was taken—they looked—they searched for hours.” His shoulders
begin to shake with sobs and his mother took his face in her hands. “They’ll do everything they can, Isaac. Your father’s a strong man...I know God will give him the courage to get through this.”
“God?!” the boy screamed, jerking away. “When has God ever done anything for us?” His mother tried to grab hold of him again, wanting only to comfort the grieving boy. “He’s let dozens of people die in these attacks, He’s let our crops fail this year, and now He’s taken away father!”
“Isaac, please...God is with your father. He’s with us.” Isaac dodged his mother’s incoming caress and angrily headed for the door.
“You can think that all you want, Ma! But God’s abandoned us—He’s abandoned me.” Opening the door, he headed out into the dark night.
“Isaac! Isaac, come back, please! Isaac….Isaac…….Isaac………....”
“Isaac? Isaac...are you a-a-awake?”
As his dream faded away, Isaac Bradley tried to open his eyes. His stomach churned painfully and an excruciating stabbing sensation seized his entire left leg. To make things worse, someone was tapping him on the chest.
“No touch!!” an angry voice boomed, forcing Isaac wide awake with a start. His eyes snapped open just in time to see the tall Indian rush over and give little Joseph a sharp kick in the side.
Without another word, the tall Indian turned and stalked back to the fire ring where the other Indian men were. Taking a look at his surroundings, Isaac noticed they were in some sort of dark clearing, deep in the woods. It wasn’t even light out yet.
I wonder why they stopped? Isaac thought to himself. If they want us far away why did they stop?
“I-Isaac are you d-dead?” a small voice timidly asked from nearby. Joseph carefully crept closer and peered into Isaac’s face with a concerned look.
“My leg….they broke my leg.” Isaac gritted his teeth and tried to pull himself up against a nearby stump for support.
Joseph leaned over, touching the broken bone. “H-here, I think I can f-fix it.”
“Get away from me, kid!” Isaac slapped his hand and pulled himself farther away. “You don’t know how to do anything right. I can do it myself.”
“But--but, Isaac. I broke my leg once and--and I watched my Pa fix it.”
“I don’t care what your Pa did. I could have got away from those Injuns if wasn’t for you! But, no, you had to be there and ruin everything! This’s all your fault!” As he said this, another wave of pain washed over his entire body, causing him to fall back against the stump with a groan. Joseph moved away, a lonely tear flowing down his cheek.
Reaching forward, Isaac gingerly touched his knee. His older brother had broken his arm once, but he couldn’t remember what their father had done to put the bone back in place.
Exhausted, Isaac fell against the stump, hugging his arms to himself. If only Father was here! He would send dumb Joseph away and help me get home. At the thought of that troublesome boy, Isaac turned his head to look at him.
Joseph’s small hands were folded in front of him as he knelt beside a small bush not far away, praying.
Praying never helped nobody. Isaac scoffed inwardly. Suddenly, another wave of pain crashed over him. Try as he might to fight it and stay awake, the darkness engulfed him and he was again unconscious.
It was the rough hand of the tall Indian that woke the suffering boy the next morning. Without a word, he pointed to Isaac, then over to the horses, then back to Isaac again before walking off.
It looked like the Indian camp was packing up, and everyone appeared to be in quite a hurry. Scanning the group of Indians, Isaac looked around for Joseph and saw him being tied to a connecting rope that went from a horse’s halter to around his wrists. His face was ashen and his lips were pursed in a thin line.
Isaac looked closer at him, wondering what on earth had happened to his shirt. Joseph was visibly shivering and the older boy noticed how badly his ribs stuck out from his skinny body.
Isaac tried to get up, using his good leg to push himself, when he noticed a little wet wrapping tied around his left knee.
That’s Joseph’s shirt...he used his shirt...for me? Isaac looked from the trembling Joseph to the checkered shirt that was wrapped around his swelling knee.
The tall Indian approached him swiftly, waving his hand impatiently to show Isaac that he wanted him to stand.
“Uh, I can’t! You broke my leg, remember?” Without a word, the Indian gripped him under the arms and dragged him to his feet.
The Indian hissed a few foreign words between his lips and Isaac wished with all his heart that he could understand their language. Until he learned their native tongue, he would have to be on constant guard every moment.
The tall Indian handed Isaac a stout stick. He nodded, grunted, and then turned to join his group of natives. Isaac gripped his new stick tightly and found it helped support his weight some, but he still teetered back and forth, feeling as if he could tumble to the ground at any moment.
Without another word, the small group of Indians started off through the thick woods, leaving Isaac standing in the clearing all by himself. Suddenly, it dawned on him...they were leaving him to fend for himself.
“What are you doing?!” he screamed. “You're leaving me here?!” Desperate, Isaac stumbled forward, trying not to fall.
He looked around for the younger Indian who had saved him from getting tomahawked last night. Surely that man would help, wouldn’t he?
“Come back! You can’t leave me!” Thick tears gathered at the back of Isaac’s eyes and rolled down his cheeks. “Please! Please don’t leave me here!” Tripping, Isaac fell hard, crying out in pain as his leg hit the ground.
Isaac, on the brink of unconsciousness, heard a stern voice ring from across the clearing. A string of Indian words followed and suddenly, a pair of arms came from nowhere and lifted him off the ground.
“He lazy. He big mouth. Need to learn lesson!” It was the tall Indian that spoke from atop his horse. His arms were crossed, and he glared openly at the young Indian that had just picked up Isaac.
“Akando, ride out and let this boy in my charge.” Startled that the young warrior carrying him spoke good English, Isaac’s heart leapt. Maybe he could tell him this was all a mistake! He had no place here and needed to be at home with his family!
“How boy going ride?” the tall Indian asked.
The large dark eyes of the young man carrying Isaac looked stern. “Don’t ask any questions. He’ll ride with me.”
The tall Indian looked bewildered and furious. “You treat captives too well. Wait we get back, I tell your father.”
Ignoring him, the young Indian helped Isaac mount a large dappled horse which stood nearby. It hurt terribly to have his leg in the riding position, but he was not about to complain and bring the wrath of that tall Indian upon himself.
It seemed to Isaac, as their horse took the lead, that this young warrior carried a lot of authority throughout the group. The moment he shouted a string of Indian words, the whole group moved into the forest without a word.
This sudden turn of events seemed unbelievable. Just a few moments ago, he was left for dead in the woods. Now he was sitting on a Indian’s horse, clutching tightly to the man’s coarse shirt to keep from falling off.
I wonder if my father had someone watching out for him like this Indian is for me. Isaac wondered, the first hopeful thought he had had for a long time. Maybe this man will help me get home! He settled back onto the horse, rehearsing the perfect speech that would make this nice Indian turn around and take Isaac back to his family. This will be easier than I thought!
Isaac was mistaken. The moment he tried to talk to the Indian in front of him, a hard hand swung back and struck him.
“No talking. If you know what’s good for you, keep your mouth closed.” Embarrassed, Isaac glanced around to see if anyone had noticed him. His cheeks burned as he realized the tall Indian was smiling cruelly at him from behind.
With nothing to do while riding along, Isaac looked around for Joseph. He finally spotted him, on the other side of the tall Indian’s horse, tethered to it like some kind of animal. Every once in awhile, Joseph would lose his footing and stumble to the ground.
Impatiently, the tall Indian would jerk on his tethers until he stood up. Isaac could see Joseph’s face, hands, and bare chest bleeding from where he had fallen so many times, and something inside him felt sour.
Joseph has to walk and I get to ride? That Indian is too rough with him! Can’t he see he’s trying his hardest? But the moment this thought entered his mind, Isaac shoved it aside. He deserves it, anyway. This is all his fault.
As Isaac watched him, Joseph suddenly raised his scraped and dirty face to the older boy. For a moment, their eyes locked. His eyes cried out to Isaac, begging him to entreat the Indian he was riding with.
Steeling his heart, the older boy turned away, ignoring him altogether.
Isaac had mixed emotions when he saw the smoke rising from the trees in the distance. This was their third day of travel. Nothing much had happened as they tread through the thick dense woods.
It had been such slow going. Much to his embarrassment, Isaac had terrible trouble with his leg. Often, the pain would become so intense he’d have to beg the Indian like a whining child just to get down for a moment.
Without a word the young man would let him, holding up the group for a few minutes. Isaac hated the way everyone watched him stumble about and try to stretch his good leg.
Once or twice he had fallen, bringing rapturous laughs from everyone. A silent hand from the young warrior silenced everyone in a second.
Besides stopping every few hours for quick breaks and to eat dry powdery corn that the young Indian mixed with water and gave to him, the travel seemed endless. On and on they went, with seemingly no end in sight.
Isaac was so weary and so detached from everyone and everything, that the sight of smoke was something to get his attention.
With just a glance around he saw that everyone was jittery. Was this their camp? Is this our new home? Isaac wondered when he saw small smiles on the Indian’s faces as they too caught sight of the smoke.
When the woods suddenly broke off into a narrow trail along a fast moving river, Isaac knew they were approaching what was most likely his and Joseph’s new home.
The moment the trail became larger, Isaac could see the village between the trees. His heart began to pound rapidly. What would happen to them once they got into the village? He’d heard stories of captives being brutally killed by villagers.
Is this what father felt like when the Indians brought him to a camp like this? Did father even make it to a village before they killed him?
The village was like nothing Isaac had ever seen. Dozens of medium sized wigwams lined a broad dirt path going down the very center of the village, ending at an even larger wigwam decorated with multicolored strips of fabric and feathers. There were fires glowing out in front of almost every wigwam, and the smell of roasted meat was almost too much for the poor captive boy.
Isaac had expected this place to be filthy and full of disgusting bits of rubbish. To his surprise, it was quite the opposite! Everything was neat and trim, the massive, crystal-clear lake in the background completing the scene that was peculiarly picturesque. It reminded Isaac of a fishing trip he and his father had taken several years ago.
Glancing over at Joseph, he couldn’t help but notice how weak the little boy seemed. He had a glazed-over expression on his face, and his skin looked terribly pale. Isaac began to wonder if the tall Indian had actually fed the boy on their journey.
As the villagers began to gather and stare at the newcomers, Isaac wished he could knock the Indian off his horse and bolt off into the woods. It was a ridiculous idea, but he wished he could try.
Again, the young warrior’s hand came up in a silent motion, and all at once the people rushed forward with whoops of laughter and excitement. Children, women, and young men quickly engulfed the warriors. Children hugged their fathers and brothers, and in return, the travelers brought out small gifts.
Isaac saw one young, shy Indian squaw take the hand of a warrior and lead him over to where a small child played in the dirt. Kneeling down, the proud father tousled the boy’s hair.
Isaac turned his face away, feeling an ugly pang of jealousy and loneliness. It wasn’t fair. A hundred memories rushed back, reminding him of how his own father used to catch him up in his arms and smile down at him proudly saying,
“My, my, Isaac. I’m gone a few days and I come home to find you nearly grown!” At that, his father would tackle him playfully and they’d wrestle until their mother would tell them to hush and clean up for dinner.
The villagers didn’t seem to acknowledge Isaac or Joseph, except for a few curious and scrutinizing looks. Finally, the young Indian warrior dismounted his horse, leaving Isaac, and walked over to a large, white haired man who come from the big wigwam. The young Indian bowed low to the old man, and held out his hands…….
Isaac inched forward on the horse. He saw his chance and decided to take it, even with everyone milling about.
He plunged his knees deep into the horse’s side, not even wincing at the pain that shot up his injured leg. The horse reared up with a loud whinny, then shot off through the encampment like a bullet! Isaac held on for dear life, loudly encouraging the horse to run as fast as its legs could go.
Behind him he heard terrified screams of women and children, along with the angry shouts of men.
They won’t catch me! Isaac laughed. I’m going home!
To Be Continued…..