Just a quiet day at Archers’ Roost…
Nate had been sleeping with his copy of The Iliad by Homer. Nan hoped to read it eventually. She kept the book Jamie brought her on the kitchen table and refused to stoop to any such dramatic gesture, even if she was sure Artie directed Jamie’s choices. Pike’s Expedition wasn’t exactly a romantic piece in any case. It was merely useful, with its detail about the big empty places to the west. Not that I care about such things; useful is good.
“Enough sitting around you three,” she said on the second day. “That wood won’t split itself. Now that Artie has paddled the river maybe his hands are tough enough to be useful.” They were. She’d noticed. She noticed everything about him, but she needn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing.
The men grumbled, but they went. Nate, though pleased to be included as one of the men, imitated their complaining. Soon her workday was punctuated by the rhythm of axes on wood. In between customers, she kept at her knitting. Socks and scarves for Christmas, something good and practical—unlike The Iliad—were to be her gift.
The echo of pounding axes had silenced and the sun was sinking when the thud of a body thrown through the front door upended her peace. Two boatmen, her only customers, leaning on the bar, turned and gaped. “Where’s Artie?” Luke bellowed.
Nan studied at the man on the floor. Someone’s fist had rearranged his face something bad. She glanced back at her brother and began to chastise his crude behavior, but something in his face stopped her. “He’s out back stacking. I’ll fetch him.”
There was no need. Artie stood in the kitchen door with Jamie and Nate on his heels.
“Is this one of the bully boys that robbed you?” Luke demanded.
Artie came close to peer at the man struggling to rise. “I can’t tell. Lift him up.”
Luke grabbed an elbow and yanked the man to his feet. He swayed but stayed upright. Nan held her breath.
Artie shook his head. “Something seems to have happened to his face,” he said, throwing a sardonic glance at Luke before examining the man more closely. “Doesn’t look like Carpenter, especially not in those clothes. I don’t recognize that straight black hair, either, and he isn’t quite big enough to be one of the ones that beat me.”
“I never beat no one,” the man whined.
“He had this around his neck,” Luke said, reaching inside his buckskin shirt and pulling out an object dangling on a strip of rawhide.
Nan gasped. A ring glinted in the light from the window. Gold. With a big purple stone.
“My signet ring!” Phillip grabbed his ring, pathetically glad to see it. After weeks of confusion, sometimes feeling as if he was living as an alien in a strange land, it was a tangible piece of himself.
Note: excerpts from works in progress may have not yet been edited, will likely undergo change, and may not even make it into the final work!