The trivial enjoyment of children no longer fascinates me as it once did. I can not see any fun in the whippings or hangings that they so enjoy watching. Today’s festivities at the town center were different however. I was on my way home from helping the poor lady down the street with her cows, when my sister, Lily, came running to me.
“Trinity!” she called her face splotched red from excitement. No doubt she had been watching the whippings today.
“Trinity, They caught Eli!” Lily panted as she caught up with me.
I froze, a deep breath held hostage behind my clenched teeth. I tried not to appear concerned but those muscle movements were beyond my control. I continued walking speedily, with Lily trotting at my side. Lily began to walk towards the whipping post where she automatically assumed I would be heading, but I veered toward home.
Our small house sat in the front of our large farm. My father had come to the Colonies for the land profit. He had gotten his choice pick in Edenton Port, where there were less than few farmers.
At home I mechanically placed my goods from town in their places. Lily was still pestering at my side. I wanted her to go away but, I knew that if she did I would collapse inside of
myself, so I let her stay. When I had finally finished unpacking all of the things I had brought home I took a deep breath, composed myself, and followed Lily through the doorway out in to the street.
“Trinity, It was terrible” she said, not sounding terrified in the least. “They said he was associating with sugar smugglers. They sentenced him to 13 lashes. One for each of the known smugglers in town.” Lily continued to drone.
I blocked her voice from my ears, but quickened my step. Mentally I was cursing myself because I knew he was involved, and I had not warned him.
The smell of blood pierced my nose. I coughed gently knowing it would not rid the pain that chilled my own blood. It took precious seconds for me to find Eli’s dirty-blonde, brown head. He was already covered with blood. The deep wounds on his back oozed onto the dirt street. I walked to where I could see his face. Our eyes locked, and he looked brave for my sake. I could see the pain he was in, but that uncanny ability of his to always keep a smile gave me hope that it was not as bad as it looked. I smiled back, and turned my head away. I could not let anyone see me looking at him. I knew people were already suspicious of me because I had come. My presence at the whipping post was very uncommon. I had not seen a whipping since I was 10, Lily’s age.
My turned gaze fell to my little sister’s face. She was astounded by whippings she had not missed a single one since we first came to the colonies. Her rusty hair was a mess from running, and her new leather shoes were already covered
in dirt and mud. When Lily caught sight of Eli’s lacerated back she gasped, the short sound turning to a squeal between her teeth. I reached for a hand, knowing what she felt.
The first time I saw someone I knew being whipped was the last time I ever went to a whipping. When a recognized face is twisted in agony, your own face can bear the same expression.
I wrapped an arm around Lily’s shoulder and she turned her head to my skirts, tears pooling in her eyes.
Lily’s love and care for Eli was almost as great as my own. I could feel her tears begin to moisten my apron, and with a last look at Eli’s distorted face I began to walk her home, wishing there was some way I could help him with out being noticed.
Dinner was unnervingly quiet. Neither Lily nor I were very hungry, and my parents kept giving each other knowing glances. I picked through my chicken filling my stomach with the kind of substance it did not want.
Father knew I had gone to the whipping post today, and I was terrified that he would ask why. My mind was not functioning fast enough to find a suitable excuse. I also knew that if I had to remember Eli’s distraught face, and torn back I would begin to cry again.
My father looked up across the table. His dull eyes settled one me. I focused all my
concentration on keeping my facial expression and body language indifferent. I then remembered to keep putting potatoes in my mouth.
“Trinity, did you enjoy the whippings
today?” he asked, sounding smug. I felt Lily stiffen in her seat beside me.
Numbly I felt myself nod my head, and then shocked that I could agree that I enjoyed seeing Eli whipped I began to cough to avoid choking on tears and chicken. I sensed Lily begin shake next to me.
I raised my gaze back to my father, he was still waiting for a sounded answer from me. Thinking briskly I responded.
“I just went to fetch Lily, and then I ended-up watching with her.”
Father redirected his eyes on Lily who nodded weakly. Mother gently cleared her throat and Father stormily got up from the table and stalked outside to smoke his pipe and talk politics with the neighbor.
Mother stood and motioned for Lily and I to help clear supper away. I took my half-eaten food out to the chicken coop. I could not even force out my usual humor at the irony of the way the chickens gobbled up the chicken.
Lily called my name from the kitchen and I dumbly turned, picked up the bucket of water by the back doorstep and stepped back into the house. I collected my apron from the hook on the kitchen wall and began to wash the dishes within the bucket and hand them to Lily for her to dry.
Neither of us spoke until we were sure Mama had gone to do her cross-stitching. Then Lily’s small voice piped in.
“I’m sorry I told you to come to the whippings” she regretted sounding devastated. I could not allow her to feel guilty and
take the blame for my own doing. She was only 10
and did not understand. I interrupted her apology. “No, I could have stayed home. I needed
to see that anyway.” I murmured, handing Lily the last plate.
I took away the dirty water and disposed of it out the kitchen door. I watched the water soak into the dirt forming puddles and becoming mud. I wished I had been able to help Eli. I hated not being allowed to even curtsey when he tipped his hat to me in town. My father had higher prospects and expectations for me. A nephew of the blacksmith had nothing to offer. A son of a judge or doctor however, could never posses or attempt to duplicate the same charm and kindness that Eli did.
I awoke the next morning in a cold sweat with nightmares still flashing through and around my head. I was sweaty and my hands shook as I slid in to my dress. I checked on Lily before heading out to the town to run some errands for my mother. She was still soundly sleeping and did not appear to be distressed by nightmares, or the terrible kind of dreams I had experienced.
I was glad that her vicious memories of the previous day’s events seemed to be
disappearing already. I only hoped that mine could vanished at five times the length hers did.
With a sigh I trudged down from the upstairs and into the kitchen to fetch an apple to eat on the walk to town. Father was already gone out to the farm with the horses, and Mother was in the parlor writing a letter to her family back in England.
I located my basket and my Mother’s
coin purse and slipped out the door unnoticed. I munched on my apple while taking the long route to town so I would not have to walk past the whipping post and see Eli’s dried blood spilt across the ground. I swallowed hard picturing his body laying out all night if no one had gone to help him. I had always known Eli would get himself mixed with rebels like the Sons of Liberty, and other anti-British groups. I never actually thought though that he would have the ability to smuggle sugar. The only reason I could think of for him to smuggle was just to be defiant of the King. I hoped that he had learned his lesson from the whippings because I did not think I could ever bear to see him lying on the ground soaking in his own blood ever again.
“Speak of the Devil.” I muttered beneath my breath as I took my last turn before getting to the general store
I found myself on the street where the blacksmith, Mr. Commondew, Eli and his uncle worked. I froze, wondering if I dared go in and find out if Eli was okay. I knew that Mr. Commondew liked me and I liked him, so there wouldn’t be any issues there, but I was still upset with Eli for getting caught.
Decisively, but yet timidly, I approached the door and rapped on it several times with my knuckles. I almost sprinted away when I heard steady footsteps approaching, but that would have made me no better than the immature school boys that played mean jokes on shop owners. I plastered a smile on my face the door squeaked open. It was Mr. Commondew who answered the door, wearing his black smith apron and with a
black smear across his face. “Trinity!’ he exclaimed with a smile, and I
could feel a real smile inch across my own face. “I was expecting you would be here, come in and have some tea!” he boomed in his rocky, voice.
I nodded and stepped inside, always on the lookout for Eli. I followed Mr. Commondew through the hallway to the parlor where he had some tea set out. A very large incriminating smile stretched out on my face and my eyes alighted when I saw Eli sitting on a bench swallowing some tea. I quickly rearranged my face into a blunt look of dismay. Eli winced as I bore my eyes into his head. Mr. Commondew motioned for me to have a seat on the other side of the room in a comfortable looking chair. I did and took the cup of tea that was to handed me. Mr. Commondew mumbled something about horse shoes and left. I knew it was not very civil or correct to be left alone in a room with a boy that I was not courting, but at the moment I did not really care.
I shot daggers at Eli with my eyes, and he shrugged them off. Flustered I let out a stream of words in a huff.
“I cannot believe you went and got caught. Do you not realize how terrifying it was to everyone that loved you when they had to see you lying on the dirty forsaken ground with crisscross slashes bleeding violently from your back. What were you thinking?” I was practically shouting at him, and my face was reddening with my anxiety as my mind replayed the scene of him lying motionless on the ground and then him giving me a weak pained smile.
“Do you think I got caught on purpose?”
he asked in that calm composed way that was sometimes charming but at the moment was just making me infuriated.
I growled at him in a very unladylike
“You did not have to smuggle.” I hissed between my clenched teeth.
“I was doing was was right for my country.” he began to become irritated. “The Brits do not have a single right to parade us around and force us to pay their debt.” I could tell he was in pain, but I decided he deserved it and continued to urge him on.
“That debt was caused by a war that we created with the French.” I pushed further into the fight I knew he was waiting for.
“Only, as their tool.” he glared, his patriotic side ebbing away at the pain.
I paused knowing I actually agreed with most everything he said. I just longed to convince him to think. He was always being hasty and acting form his heart not his head. In exasperation I sat down my tea cup and rose from my chair. With a little last sympathy I left the room and the shop.
“Just be more careful next time.”
I was gone before his reply could reach my ears. Speedily, I walked towards the general store keeping my eyes lowered to the ground, and focused on my feet. I stepped into the store to be greeted by the shop keeper.
“G’morning, Miss Smith, How are you today?” he asked in a scratching cheerful manner.
“Hello, sir.” I replied with a curtsey. “My mother sent me for some sugar.”
“I have some right over here, five pounds?”
He asked already poised to scoop out the sugar. I nodded noticing the absence of a tax
stamp on the barrel. I did not want to see anymore kind heartened souls get whipped for untaxed sugar, so I voiced no opinion on the barrel, just accepted the sugar and paid for it.
Stepping back out into the daylight of the sun on the street, I saw children playing near the school and all of life seemed to be simple. I knew though, that underneath, so many of my neighbors were covering their tracks and taking cover from the dreaded day when they would be caught and punished.