After chores and lunch, he turned hands to the seasonal work; in September, harvesting and preserving food for both people and livestock occupied everyone. Winters were always longer than imagined. This day, he had joined his servant David, bringing Joanna and Will to join in harvesting the corn; two cut the stalks, and two bundled and stacked sheaves. Then they’d fill the crib with the shucked cobs. They had yet to harvest the hay, but that could be done well into October. Before dusk, they’d secured the chickens, pigs, horses, sheep, and cows for the night, letting the children muck out their barn and lay fresh hay. An hour after sundown, on most days, he could no longer keep his eyes open, nor did he try. The nights were pitch-dark, and night hunters prowled the forest, no time for good men to be abroad. Every morning, he began the cycle again, every day but the Sabbath.
In the dwindling light, William went to the door and stepped outside, where the western sky flamed above the hilltop and set the oaks and maples on fire as well. The chill of the autumn night reached his skin, though he was warm enough in his flaxen shirt and woolen doublet. Birds that would normally be murmuring to sleep in their nests had already migrated south, so it was profoundly silent. He heard only the lowing cows and a lone turkey gobbling in the distance. Later, he’d hear the screech owls’ tortured shrieks and wolf packs’ lonely howls. Or a predator’s soft hoots and a victim’s scream.
He shuddered as thoughts of mortality assailed him; the news from London was dire. A conflagration had destroyed more than three quarters of the city; what’s more, the Exchange, the center of New England trade, had burned, too. Following so closely on the heels of the plague, the second disaster reminded him that God could punish as well as provide. Was not London comparable to Israel, and the fate of Anglicans, to the fate of the Israelites? He bowed his head and prayed. ‘God grant me wisdom; let me not stray from your righteous path.’
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish