NEPHEW, COUSIN, UNCLE
Watertown, September 1671
The next day, she sent the children off to school and made them promise they would watch over one another. Then she helped Samuel dress and headed for the door.
“Mother, isn’t Samuel coming with us?” Elizabeth asked.
“Not today,” Mary said. “Today, Samuel is coming with me.”
Samuel stopped in his tracks. “But I want to go to school. Me and Johnny have to get our slates.”
“Tomorrow, I promise you can go to school. Just today you come with me.”
The walk to her parents’ homestead on its hilltop was energizing. Even Samuel forgot about school and skipped along the road, stopping to gawk at grazing animals or a twisted tree. He picked field flowers by the roadside and held up the small bouquet, insisting that Mary take it.
She found her sister Joanna in the garden. She was picking the last of green beans from the vines she had tented from a tall pole. She stopped, staring at Samuel in surprise. “Samuel, we’ve been so worried. Ben said you went home with your cousins.”
Mary stepped forward. “He’s fine. He was with me last night.”
“What happened? Why?”
“I’ll explain when we find mother.”
“I stayed with Johnny. He says I’m his new brother.” Samuel said.
“His new brother. Wonderful.” Joanna grinned sardonically. She knew well that Samuel would appreciate a new brother. The old one, Ben, was a torment.
Together they went to the house and found Susanna basting up the hem on the new dress she and Abigail were finishing. “Samuel! You decide to come home? Ben says you stayed with Mary last night.”
“I did,” Samuel said, grinning.
“All’s well. You go play now.” Susanna turned to Mary as Samuel bounded out of the room. “What’s this about?”.
“Benjamin is tormenting Samuel. I caught him on the way to school pushing the boy down. He cut himself and was bleeding. I brought him home with me to keep him away. And I’ve told Master Norcross as well.” Mary stared at her mother accusingly.
“It's not as though I haven’t intervened, Mary. You know that’s the case.” Susanna motioned to Abigail to turn and continued to baste the hem.
“I know you punish Ben when you catch him, but that isn’t often. Samuel is like me. He has second sight. He’s been using his gift to avoid Ben; he lives in constant fear. He’s become stealthier than a sneaking Indian. Mother we have to do something.”
Joanna laughed. “It's his moccasins. Goodman Brigham’s hand made him a pair, and you’ll not separate him from them.”
“Punishing Ben is useless. I don’t know what to do.” Susanna pulled at Abigail skirt to turn her. “Your father has disciplined him in the past.”
“Perhaps separating them?” Mary said.
“You mean have Samuel come live with you?”
“I’m sure Jonathan would object to that, but Samuel could spend more time with us. Samuel and Johnny are both five, and they like each other. Maybe you could have Johnny here, too. Between the two of us, we could give Samuel some protection. And I could help him with the second sight.”
“You are giving us another way out. Abigail and Joanna have done their best, and Rebecca too. We’re all aware of the problem with Ben. He’s the proverbial black sheep.”
“Then it's settled? Now we’re aware, we can keep the two separated.”
Over the next two months, their plan worked well. The Sherborns teased Samuel about his ‘nephew’ Johnny, and the Browns teased Jonathan about his ‘uncle’ Sam, but both families approved of the protective friendship between these two boys.
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