Fields of the Fatherless
Revolutionary War and Colonial American Historical Fiction
(Based on a true story)
by Elaine Marie Cooper
Lighthouse of the Carolinas
In the early months of 1775, war is brewing in the American colonies. Although frightened, eighteen-year-old Betsy Russell of Menotomy Village, Massachusetts, wants to be prepared in case of attack by the British troops.
Her father, prosperous farmer Jason, is the fourth generation of Russells on this land—yet their very rights as British Colonials are being stripped away one by one. Will the King of England take the Russells’ land as well?
Tensions are growing here in the countryside west of Boston and the outbreak of battle seems almost a certainty. Jason desperately wants to protect his family—his wife, children and grandchildren—and their future. Betsy makes every attempt to be prepared for the worst.
But not even the American militia could have predicted what was about to occur—right on the Russells’ doorstep. If Betsy loses everything she holds dear, are the rights of all the Colonists endangered?
The hissing sound of steam greeted Betsy as Jacob plunged a hot bar of iron into water to cool it down.
Betsy forced a friendly smile. “Good day, Mr. Watson.”
He turned at the sound of her voice.
“I fear my nephew here has acquired a sty under his eye, and father requested I take him to you.”
Jacob revealed a set of white teeth in the middle of his soot-covered face. He placed his burly hands on his hips. His heavy, leather apron squeaked as it rubbed against his massive chest and belly. “Well, now, is that so, young Mr. Josiah?”
The boy nodded and covered his eye while scrunching his face.
“Well, lad, I’ll be with ye soon enough. Why don’t ya come hither and see this axe head I’m forgin’?”
Josiah hesitated, but Betsy urged him forward. “’Tis fine, Josiah. He’ll not let you get too close.”
The boy walked slowly toward Jacob and watched with rapt attention. The smith gripped the piece of iron with a large metal tong and heated it until it was red, then beat it with several blows of the hammer. After the iron submitted to the tool, Jacob plunged the hot piece into the slack tub filled with water, where steam surrounded the worker and his small audience of one. Jacob repeated the process, stoking the fire that he allowed Josiah to look at closely.
Between the steam and the smoke, Josiah’s eyes began to water. The boy must not have noticed, because he never wiped the moisture off his face. When Jacob had completed the axe head, he set his tools on the anvil.
“Now then. Where be this sty your grandsire spoke of?”
Josiah blinked several times and first pointed to one eye, then the other. “I think it was this one, but I am not certain.”
Betsy covered her mouth to keep from laughing. She observed the blacksmith gently push the boy’s head back. “Well, well. Everything looks well enough.” Turning toward Betsy, he winked. “Looks like the steam and smoke did the job right thorough.”
Josiah’s eyes narrowed. “What happened, Aunt Betsy?”
“Looks like the sty has opened and gone away, Josiah. Mr. Watson is quite the sty doctor, is he not?” She picked up his long queue of hair and tugged on it gently. “You are well enough, indeed.”
As if forgetting he was ever in discomfort, Josiah ran out toward the bridge. “I want to throw rocks in the river.”
“Don’t get too close to the water.”
“I won’t, Aunt Betsy.”
Betsy paused for a moment while watching her nephew play. She felt the urge to speak to Mr. Watson about her fears, but she did not know where to begin. Clutching her cloak, she smiled awkwardly and looked at the ground.
Jacob put his hands on his hips. “Somethin’ weighin’ on yer heart, Miss Russell?”
She took in a hurried breath and gathered her courage. “Aye, Mr. Watson. Pray, forgive me for asking you to bear this burden of mine, but there’s no one at home to confide my fears to. Father just keeps telling me ’twill be all right, he’ll watch out for me. And Mother … she ne’er wishes to discuss the possibility that we might go to war with England. It seems the very thought constricts her words.” Betsy’s voice trailed off.
I wish there were more jovial moments in my life.
Jacob soberly glanced at the dirt floor of the shop, then looked up. “’Tis difficult for parents to speak of such things to their child, Miss Russell. Yer parents take much delight in their only daughter. To speak of such concerns as the loomin’ war is a frightenin’ talk for a mother and sire. I know. I wish I didna’ have to prepare my family neither.”
Betsy’s eyes looked in earnest at the smith. “Mr. Watson, not speaking of the fear will not change the facts. I want to be ready. I do not wish to be unprepared. My father says he’ll protect us, but what if he’s gone with the militia? Then what? ’Tis certain, I have no way to defend myself or my family.”
She clutched her cloak with tight fingers and felt her heart pounding through the wool.
Jacob’s eyes softened and crinkled with his warm smile. “I know your father does not wish you to carry a musket, lass. ’Tis true that the men will do the fightin’.” He paused and then lowered his voice. “But the women are always in danger as well.” He inhaled sharply and stared at the sky for a moment, seeming to be in deep thought. After a moment, he turned toward her. “Wait here.”
Fields of the Fatherless can be purchased on Amazon for kindle or in paperback.
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Lisa Norato is the multi-published author of Prize of My Heart, an inspirational, seafaring historical from Bethany House, set during the Federal era. A life-long New Englander, Lisa lives in a historic village with homes and churches dating as far back as the eighteenth century.