Living the Word, Part 2


ohls_icon.jpg marcus_icon.jpgAbigail_icon.jpggrace_icon.jpgjesse_icon.jpg


* Missus Sackett and her six lovely children.

Summary: Arden's called out to fix a broken wagon. Human kindness wins out. Marcus gets a lesson in hot forging.

Date: 14 February, 2010.

Living the Word, Part 2

Blacksmith's Shop

Arden makes her way through the yard that separates the house from the shop proper, not bothering to have put on a coat, as she'd only have to take it off again once she got inside. But she's quick, and attentive, as she scans to room to see who's in the shop and looking for a smith at this hour and in these temperatures.

The woman looks very tired, and very withdrawn. Clutching her thin shawl about her bony shoulders, she wearily tries to ride herd on a half dozen youngsters, all of whom are hollow eyed with hunger and fear. As someone enters the shop, she jumps convulsively, a thin hand going to her mouth. "Excuse us," she says in a thin, tired voice, "We need some repairs to our wagon, but I fear we have little money."

Arden's eyes focus on the children first, and then the woman after, before she nods, "I can take care of the repairs. Let's get the wagon in here so I can see what all needs to be done." She makes no attempt to ask about payment, instead motioning to the children, "Might get a bit busy in here. Why don't you all go stand over in the corner there?" It's out of the way, but it's still warm and dry and comfortable.

One of the younger boys stares at the blacksmith, while the twelve year old and the eleven year old go out to lead the wagon inside.
The younger child bursts out, "Mama! She looks like that man. maybe she's Madeline Broussard!""Zachariah Sackett!" the woman scolds, "Shush your mouth, and do as you were told!"

Arden laughs, at the young boy's comment, moving to help bring the wagon in, eyes assessing the damage to the wheel, "Well, my name isn't Madeline, but it is Arden, and you may call me that if you like." A nod, as she gives the entire wagon a once over, "You've been through some rough roads. I'll check the wheel, see if it's alright, but you'll need a new rim, which I can do, and it looks like," she offers, looking around, "a new single tree. Good work on keeping her going through, it was good thinking, and well done to get you all here."

The oldest boy puts in, "It was all him, that feller what helped us." Missus Sackett tries to shush him as well, then tuns on Zachariah who bubbles up suddenly, "he kilt a whole passel of injuns and tooken their hair too! An' give Paw letters to bring here. Just 'bout the ugliest fell..mmmpsh!" his vocie is muffled as his Mother covers his mouth, looking towards Arden, "I am sorry, ma'am," she says softly, "There was no place to leave them, and..they have been through much of late."

Marcus steps into the shop, slipping his gunbelt back on around his waist. He brushes what little bit of snow fell onto him on the brief journey from the house to the shop. He waves at the people inside.

Arden looks between the mother and her son, eyebrows raising as she hears the story, but she knows when to hold her tongue and when to let it loose, and so, when the woman apologizes, she shakes her head, "Children will be children, and he means no harm. Let me see what I can do." Arden moves to the wheel, going to get wooden jacks and crimps to hold the wagon up so she can remove the wheel proper, "You and your children are welcome to stay here and be warm, get a hot meal, if you've the mind for it." Used to working alone, and skilled with the tools, she's well on her way to getting the wheel off, though she always makes certain that the six children and their mother are far enough to keep them safe. As the door to the back of the smithy opens, she looks back, spotting Marcus, "See the wood pile there? Go and add it to the forge, use the small feed door on the side, not the one facing out. Once it's catching, add a shovel of coal, and let it start to char."

As though her nerves were gone, Missus Sackett shies away as the door opens, putting her arms protectively about her younger children. Her eyes, ringed with dark circles, widen in fear as she stifles a trembling gasp.
On seeing another white woman, she relaxes a bit, though remains hovering over the youngsters, but on the advent of the man, shrinks further into the shadows, "Pplease..we have little enough, there is nothing of value to take." Big tears fill her eyes, and make dusty trails down her weathered cheeks.

Marcus nods to her instruction and slips his nicely-made frock coat off, setting it somewhere. He rolls up his shirt sleeves and starts gathering the wood. He makes it over to the feed door and tosses each piece in one by one. He eyes the cowering woman and looks over at Arden, "What do you make of this?"

Jesse makes his way out of the house, clad in a suitcoat, suit and tie, so on. He has his hands behind him as he moves out into the yard, and then into the shop itself. "Well, who are these wonderous children?" he says with a booming, cheerful voice, smiling. "Miss, there is plenty of food. I'm Jesse Young - a preacher ma'am and might I say, those are some strong and hearty children there," he adds.

Missus Sackett, still shivering and casting frightened eyes towards Marcus, gives the preacher a tremulous smile, "Reverend, it is good to see a man of the cloth in these parts. We have seen perilous times, and lost all we had. Only God sent us an angel of death to deliver us from the evil."
She sounds half-maddened by fear and weariness, so her oldest son speaks for her, "I don't reckon he was no angel, of death or otherwise, but pa says we got to pray for the feller nohows."

Arden shakes her head, as she unfastens the wheel, and pulls it free of the wagon, carrying over to her work table, "No one will be taking anything from you tonight, Missus. But we'll offer you what we can." she looks over towards her apprentice, "Can you go make up a little something, Abigail?" The blond nods, moving back towards the back of the shop and towards the yard, "Minister Young is a friend, and Mr. Berry will be helping me tonight." At Marcus' comment, her voice is curt, "What I make of it, is that we have work to do, and our minds should be focused on that. There's a pile of bricks just to the left there, use those long tongs and place three to heat inside the forge." The forge was kept banked most of the day, but it's still mighty hot, "The bellows there every ten seconds until I tell you when."

"Ma'am, you are in the hands of friends, I can assure you of that," Jesse tells Missus Sackett with a smile as he approaches her. "If you would, why don't you step inside. We can let you rest here, I have a home with the church you are welcome to stay in as well. I doubt that the blacksmith here will charge you - she's a good, fine woman - but if she has material costs, I will cover them. For now, your goal is to rest, and hug your children."

Mad she may be, but Missus Sackett has some shreds of pride, "We be thanking you, Reverend, but my Mister ain't gonna take no charity." She raises her voice so Marcus can hear, "Not sinct we taken a man's money for food and bedding, and the LAW come took our farm, turning us out."
Ebenezer, the eldest boy shakes his head at Jesse, "No, Sir, Pa'll not like it if we accepted charity none atall. He's got letters to deliver, then I reckon we'll just move on." As an afterthought, "Though if you'd say a prayer for that 'breed's soul, he'd be mighty obliged."

Marcus grabs the shovel and starts puts a heaping scoop of coal inside the forge before setting it down and moving onto his next task. He doesn't add anymore comments to the conversation. He does the next step as instructed, adding the bricks.

"It's not charity, Missus. Especially if your boys would be willing to help me out a bit in the shop while I work, it would just be a return service to pay me for mine. I am not sure how things are done here, but where I am from, we often barter work for work and service for service, and that does just as well as coin." Arden works at removing the wire from around the metal rim, carefully peeling the rim away from the wheel, before she goes to inspect it for damage, "Looks like the wheel is still sound, so that's a spot of good news. Just the tire you'll be needing, for that part." She sets aside the wire and the spent wheel, and picks up a traveler, to measure the circumference of the wheel. With the number and the width in hand, she goes to her stockpile, to find a piece that can be made to fit.

"Plus, it ain't charity if the minister is offering. That makes it God's offering, in His way," Jesse offers with a smile. "Your father and husband sounds like a good and sound man. And I suspect we all deserve a prayer. But at least sit down, rest for a bit and get some food? I always hated eating alone, and I'd really like it if you'd eat with me."

Abigail does politely as she's been asked of, removing herself swiftly and quietly from the smithy and heading out into the yard and snow. It takes her a time and a half in arriving back but she does so with an idle smile; nothing more, nothing less, for the snow chills and her hands are full rather than taking to dusting things off. The blonde carries a tray of bowls of porridge, made of oats and milk. It's fresh and it's warm, unlike her chilled skin. Whilst stepping from the rear, she calmly speaks up, "It's the best I can gather."

Marcus continues working in the background, not adding much to anything, just staying focused on doing his task well and getting it right.

The hollow-eyed children, obviously having had short rations for some tiem, all turn pleading eyes to their Mother. Looking at each of them, she finally relents, "Aye, children, we may eat with the Reverend. Eb, find your pa, and tell him where we have gone."
Turning to Arden, however she says, "And we appreciate your kind offer, Ma'am, but we cannot accept your work without recompense." She pulls a small, very light leather pouch from under her dress. With shaking fingers, she counts out coins, then holds the meager handful out. "Please, take them."

Arden looks at the woman's hand, counting out the coin, and then takes only a quarter of what she holds out. "That's too much, Missus. The materials were free, left over from the last blacksmith, and I do not charge much for labour. But the offer was well recieved." She takes the coins, tucking them into a clean rag, and then into her tool belt, as she carries the metal over to the forge. When she opens the main door, the heat is ferocious, well into the hundreds of degrees, perhaps higher, but she moves neatly and swiftly, setting the metal in to heat, while she moves back to prepare her tools. "Marcus, can you unyoke that horse and bring the single tree over?" The piece in question has been repaired with a deadfall tree, and is roughly repaired, but it got them here.

"Ma'am. The Lord offers to those that need it. Sometimes, He offers through His servants," Jesse says. "Just keep that in mind, Miss," he adds as he brings over some crates from his wagon for everyone to sit on within view of the shop, and gestures for the children to join him, sitting down himself with a smile. To one of the younger ones he asks, "Have you ever seen an authentic Army saber, young man?" he asks.

The younger boy's eyes go round and wide, as he seeks shelter behind his Mother. The oldest girl, perhaps eight, replies in a voice devoid of emotion, "We seed plenty of them when the Army come and taken our farm for helping that Mister Franklin." She begins to cry and turns to bury her face against Missus Sackett's leg. 'They killed Spotty with their swords!"

Marcus walks over to Arden and listens to the conversation between her and the young mother. He hears his instructions and marches off to do as he's told. He unyokes the horse and rubs it along the back of it's head. He gets what's requested and brings it to her. He hears the girl cry and speak of Will. He tilts his head, "The Army did this to you? For helping Billy!?"

"I'm sorry to hear that ma'am … I truly am. I didn't know," the minister says with a frown, shaking his head and pointing at the food. "Ma'am, we should get some food into them .. and some rest," he adds. "I'll help you however I can," he adds.

Pulling her shawl closer, Missus Sackett replies, addressing Marcus "We offered Christian charity to men and did not ask who they were or what their business was. In return for the shelter of our barn, and a pig, we were fairly paid. The Army, however, seized our farm, and turned us out. Since then, we have suffered breakage, foul weather and an Indian attack." She indicates the wagon, "That damage occured during the attack, my oldest son was killed and we were saved by a man more savage than the redskins. The Almighty saw our hour of peril and sent a savior to smite the heathen, hip and thigh."
Zachariah tugs on her skirt, "Ma? He din't smite 'em, he scalped 'em! we all seed it!"Ebenezer returns, looking red of face, "Ma" I found him, he was in the whor," casting his eyes towards the women, "The brothel..the newspaper lady sent him there to find that Madeline gal."

Arden moves to measure the single tree as well, and the metal hooks used to attach it to the hitch. A nod, as she moves to rummage yet again, to find a suitable replacement, the wood missing the hooks, but those can be added later. "Thank you, Abigail. It was kind of you to bring that back for us. Want to help me get some hooks for the tree? Try to match what they have already, if not, I'll have to forge them to fit." She returns to the forge, her tools having been set up properly, and checks the temperature of the steel. Tongs pull the piece of metal out, and she takes it to the anvil, beginning to bend the flat metal into the beginnings of a ring.

Marcus scratches at his beard and looks at Zachariah, "Do you remember what the savage looked like?" He asks of the boy, not sternly, but with a mildly friendly tone in his voice.

Jesse shakes his head, "Ma'am, lets get some food. And a prayer or two, I think, is in order," he adds softly.

Missus Sackett's lips turn down in a frown at the news of her husband's whereabouts, and murmurs, "It is God's mission he is on, and I am sure he will be forgiven his trespass." The children sit and stare at the food, each of them holding their hands clasped on their knees, fidgeting.
Zachariah, put on the spot, looks at the food with longing, then stands, "Yes sir. he was about the ugliest feller we ever seed. Like the whole side of his face was burnt, and had but one eye. And he was hell," swallowing the word and blushing,"some dickens with fightin'" he finishes.

Marcus nods to Zachariah, "Thanks kid." He stands back up and straightens out his clothes, "Sounds like Bill and I have something in store for the United States Army. There's just no sense in all this." He walks back over to Arden, "You need me for anything else, ma'am?"

Arden leaves the minister to see to the woman and her family and their prayers, while she works at forging the wheel, and as Marcus comes up to speak to her, she doesn't look up, keeping her eyes on her work, but she does answer, "Did you or did you not wish to apprentice to me? I do not see that all of the work that needs to be done tonight has been done." She moves from the anvil, placing the metal back into the forge to reheat. "I do not accept apprentices that pick and choose when they work and when they do not. That start a job and then decide they don't want to finish it. You're free to go, but if you do, you don't come back."

Jesse glances at Marcus, "Don't suggest that in front of civilized folk, son. That's a crime, and a federal one at that." He turns to the woman and smiles. "Ma'a .. if you'd like, I have a new church here. And a home. ANd I'd like to have someone to help me. If you're going to be here a while, would you agree to let you and your children tend to the church - helping me clean it, and keep the house up? It's honest work, for an honest wage." he adds.

Marcus tilts his head at Arden, "I wasn't asking to leave, ma'am. I've done all of the chores that you've asked of me…do you have more for me to do?" He grins at her and scratches his beard. A glance at Jesse, "I've no idea what you mean, reverend."

Missus Sackett looks stunned, and murmurs, "Thank you, Reverend. Such a decision I would have to speak with my Mister." She swallows a lump in her throat, "I am sure that he will be grateful for the offer as well." Burying her face in her hands, she sobs, "We have no place else to go, and no means fo going."

Jesse lifts his hands, "Ma'am, the Lord provides. I'll have work to do - and I could use a good strong back. The manse, the church may need some work. I'm a good hand with a hammer, but if your husband wants to help, I'll pay a fair wage," he adds. He smiles, "No one will be left out in the cold as long as we have good hearted CHristians around, ma'am. Of that, you have my word. We help each other.'

"There's going to be plenty of work to do come spring. I've heard quite a few of the business owners are looking for hands to help rebuilt what was lost in the fire." Arden looks up to Marcus as she turns back to the anvil, the reddened metal coming out with her, "I told you to stay on the bellows until I told you otherwise, which you should have been doing while following my other instructions as well." She returns the the anvil, the metal turning nicely, as she forges it into a smooth circle, perhaps, when finally finished perhaps a width and a half smaller than the wagon wheel itself.

Marcus nods to her and just shakes his head, "I've been on it." He scurries back to the bellows and works them, continuing to heat the forge. He works them for a good, steady while and pauses to dab his forehead with a rag he pulled from his pocket.

Jesse will make sure that the children get food, the wife, and the husband when he arrives, but otherwise he's quiet and just dabing at his face.

"The key to working metal," Arden begins, as she works at the wheel rim, sure hands and long experience making the bending of the metal seem like a simple thing. She speaks, between sparking strikes of the hammer, longer sentences when the metal is being reheated. "You do not have to be very strong to work metal, if it is the right temperature, but if it's too cold, you'll use all of your strength and exhaust yourself in the process. The hotter, the redder the metal, the more malleable it is going to be, the easier to work. Get it hot enough and you could bend it with barely any pressure."

Marcus continues working the bellows while watching Arden, listening intently to the lecture about the correlation between the temperature and how malleable the material is, "Yeah, that makes sense."

"Stand outside if you're getting too warm, Jesse. You don't really need to get used to this. You, however," she offers to Marcus, "do." Arden finishes the loop of the rim, and then sets it back in the forge, putting the ends into the hottest section of the forge, "Wagon wheels are tricky, but they're what you'll be making a lot of, so you'll need to learn how. The process is simple. You take the wheel and use the traveler to measure the circumference. Select a piece of metal the exact width of the wheel and give it an extra three to four inches at the ends. Those will be forged together to create the complete ring. Luckily, wheels come in standard sizes, so we often buy the metal in precut lengths."

Marcus watches the woman work with fascination, he's apparently absorbing it like a big, intimidating sponge. Nod nod, "Makes sense," nod nod, "forge together," nod nod, "precut sizes."

The door opens letting in a delicious blast of frigid air.
It's gone all too soon as the door closes again, leaving naught but a tiny redhead with an expression most unusual for her: glum. "Miss Ohl—- Marcus!" Grace's immediate calling for Arden is interrupted by her surprise of seeing Marcus here.

Arden finally retrieves the metal ring, the ends now almost white hot. Carrying it back over to the anvil, she starts striking it once again, after she uses the tongs to lay one end over the other. It really does look like it would be hard work, but it really isn't, and the two white hot pieces are soon forges into a single smooth join. back into the fire it goes. "When you make the ring, it needs to measure about one and a hald times smaller than the width of the wagon wheel. The reason is that you simply can't place the rim onto the wheel and hope it sticks on. It has to be forge-shrunk onto the wheel." She nods, "Leave the bellows for a bit, it'll stay hot enough for this for a while yet, take the wheel and go and soak it in the large bucket there, it needs to be wet, so that it doesn't burn too much when we put on the rim." She moves to replace the wheel rim in the forge, a forearm wiping the sweat from her face, as she looks back at Grace, "Miss O'Coilean."

Marcus grins at Grace as he's called, "Well if it isn't my tiny, Irish betrothed in the flesh. Don't pounce on my, love, I'm covered in sweat right now." He chuckles and listens to Arden, taking the large wagon wheel and moves is, almost without effort, to the large tub of water, "What do you do to make up for the swelling of the wood?"

"The wood's not left in long enough for water to soak in far enough to swell it, you just want the outside damp, so that the steam acts like a blanket between the wood and the metal rim. leave it in for about three minutes, then place it on that board there." The board in question has a series of charred marks, having been well used, but it also has a hole in the middle, so that the hub of the wheel can fall through and leave the wheel sitting flat. "Now, we wait. Once the wheel rim is forged, we place it back into the forge, and rest it on those three bricks you put in earlier. And then we leave it in until it's expanded to fit the wheel. We test it with this." She reaches into her toolbelt, pulling out a piece of hickory wood. "If the steel feels rough, it's not ready…when it feels slick and smooth, then it's both hot enough and expanded enough." She offers Marcus the stick.
And now the time comes to wait, and they do, Marcus testing the rim every now and then, until it's ready. Once the metal is hot enough and expanded enough, the pair get to the real work, "Grab those tongs, the long ones. What we're going to do is take the rim, and place it on the wheel, it'll be a tight fit, but we need to just get the edge. We'll use hammers to hammer the rim the rest of the way on." The pair set the rim, and again, steel sparks under two hammers as the metal 'tire' is hammered down onto the wood, "Now we douse the wheel," which Arden does, ignoring the steam and the smoke that's rising from the wheel, using the large ladle from the bucket next to the wheel to douse the metal. The sound of wood strain can be heard as the metal quickly cools, tightening and hardening onto the wheel, the steam almost obscuring the pair. But the wheel is soon quenched and the job's done. "Now, get some water to drink. And then we have a single tree to repair."


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