The bucketful of mud splashed down on the helmet of one of the soldiers below.
Plop! A rock hit the ground in front of another. Clank! Another rock hit the armor of the third. It didn’t hurt him any, but all three whirled and looked up, furious. One wiped the mud from his face.
Will wished he had some more mud but knew he was done for the moment. He ducked down, grabbed his bucket and ran, jumping down from the bridge into the soft pine needles.
He dropped to the ground, crawling as fast as he could through the brush. The soldiers scrambled after him, but he disappeared into the woods. Will dodged boulders and logs and was soon long gone.
“William Turdey!” He stopped short, ready to change direction, but he realized it was only his fifteen year old sister.
“I saw what you did!” Bridget set her laundry basket down and placed her hands on her hips, glaring at him. “Father would be so disappointed! How could you do this when he’s so sick! And there’s my milk bucket! You give it here!” She took one look. “You clean that out right now. ”
He ignored her fussing and focused on one thing. “How do you know what I did?”
“I saw you from the hill. Throwing things from that bridge again? Are you daft? Aren’t we all in enough trouble without you playing silly tricks on the king’s soldiers?”
She grabbed the bucket with one hand, and his ear with the other, dragging him off toward the house.
“They’re not silly! And I’m only giving them what they deserve. More than that, if I could….” he said furiously. “If no one else around here will avenge their cruelty, I will!”
Bridget let go of his ear and her anger subsided suddenly. She sighed. “Father would be even more disappointed at that. You know what the Scriptures say about revenge and loving our enemies!” She settled down somewhat and added fearfully. “You know what they’d do to you if they ever caught you!”
“Oh!” Will waved off her words angrily. “Someone’s got to do something!”
She shook her head at his stubbornness and shoved the bucket back at him as they reached the well. “Clean that out and go milk the cow. I’m so far behind in my work what with your tricks, the supper’ll be late.”
“If we have any!” grumbled the boy. “If you’d let me steal something from the marketplace, we’d at least have some bread or potatoes for Father.”
“We Turdeys do not steal. And that’s that. And we have food. Widow Maclain brought us some things.”
“We’re poorer then the poorest widows!”
But Bridget just walked off into the house, her steps slow. He knew he’d made her sad but….he couldn’t help his anger. His tricks were childish, but only because he didn’t have any other weapons.
He cleaned out the milk bucket and stomped off to milk the cow. At least they still had milk, if nothing else.
Father thanked the Lord for the steaming potatoes and creamy milk with as much enthusiasm as if the meal had been a feast in a castle. Will ate quickly, frustrated as always with his father’s glowing outlook on life.
Father had also prayed for protection for them all, though it didn’t seem as if he knew of Will’s escapades. Will was pretty sure Bridget hadn’t bothered their father with that story.
Will rose from the bed where he’d been sitting. They had started gathering around their father’s cot for meals. It was about all he could do to sit up these days. Bridget had drawn Mother’s old chair to the bed, the only decent piece of furniture they had. She sat, savoring her potatoes and sipping her milk.
“We haven’t had potatoes in so long. They’re delicious.”
“Yes, just pottage and scraps from the garden!” murmured Will. If they weren’t Separatists, they wouldn’t be in danger from the king’s soldiers—or the Church. They’d have a decent house, his father would be able to work. As it was, he had been hurt by a soldier for daring to believe something different. His leg had been broken in a way that couldn’t heal right and his back had been hurt. There was no possible way that he could work any longer.
The boy headed for the door but his father’s voice stopped him.
“Where are you going, Will?”
“To take care of the cow,” he lied, trying to keep his tone dutiful. One didn’t treat Father disrespectfully even if he was bedridden. It just wasn’t done.
“Not before Devotions, son.”
Will sighed and returned to the bed.
“Get the Bible, son.”
The boy removed the loose stone under the mantle and lifted out the thick book. It was old, handwritten, handed down from the time before the printing press.
The loose stone was so inadequate in concealing the hiding place, and the book so large that if their shack was searched, it would be found immediately.
“It should be buried,” thought Will. “or put somewhere that no one would ever find it. We’re in enough trouble without being found with a Bible.” But his father used it every day.
Bridget set aside her plate and cup. She opened the large book, but said, “I do wish we had more than the New Testament. I do love the psalms so.”
“I know, dear. But we’ve memorized so many. Let’s recite the hundredth, children, and then see where we left off—we finished Second Timothy, I believe.”
They recited the short psalm of joy together.
Finally Father finished his long prayer. Will and his sister rose from their knees, and their father laid back to rest.
Bridget placed the dishes in the tub and hung the kettle of water to heat. Will stalked out to the shed, where he could fume in peace.
Why his family and their friends had to take this religious prattle so far, he would never know. There were plenty of good men that he knew that didn’t have any use for God—sailors and soldiers and such. Of course Bridget would call them drunkards and coarse, but he liked them.
Why couldn’t his father stick with the Church instead of going off on these radical beliefs that were so different than what everyone else believed? Simply keeping the rules and acting like everyone else would keep them safe. Instead….they sided with these Separatists…people who wanted to be separate from the government church. And do things like reading the Bible at home in a language they could understand….
“This Bible is the truth. We need to be able to read it for ourselves,” Father had explained to him. “Keeping the rules of the Church will not save us. Only faith in Christ and what He did on the cross can save us.”
Yes, and this is what had gotten Father so lame that he would probably be in bed for the rest of his life!
Anger surged through him yet again. Will threw down the large wooden fork which he was using to clean out Belle’s stall and rushed out—across the back meadow, through the woods. He bypassed the way to the bridge and stopped at the cliff that overlooked the town. He would watch yet again for the soldiers who had chased them down, for the one that had caused his father to fall….
Will had seen it all! He would never forget the soldier who had done it! The man had captured others of their secret church and taken them away to prison.
He didn’t care much about God but he did care about avenging his father. He slipped down from the ridge and hurried down the hill, entering the town, knowing that someday, he would find the ones who had done this.
And Will was determined to have his revenge!
To be continued….
by Carol Bennett
Separatists-Christians in the 16th and 17th centuries who chose to separate from the state church because of differences in beliefs about Jesus and the Bible
Troubadour-A musician who sang and played instruments for entertainment, especially love songs.