As promised, here’s the second scene from Chapter One of Dearest Druid.
In the kitchen of the main house, Rose gathered a pan of water and a rag while Jack swung a chair around at the table and straddled it. Uncomfortably aware of him, she waited for him to unbutton his shirt and push it down, allowing her to see the cut running across his left shoulder blade. Hesitantly, she stepped close and began to gently wipe blood from around the wound with the dampened rag. Her tall sister-in-law, Lil, stood watching nearby. Tye had already gone back out to the corral, wanting to examine the stallion’s injured leg.
“It doesn’t look too bad,” Lil commented. Her protruding stomach brushed Rose’s arm as she bent close to study the wound. She was due to give birth to her and Tye’s first child in late March or early April.
“Nay, the cut isn’t very deep,” Rose agreed.
“Do you need me to fetch a needle and thread?”
Rose shook her head. “I think not. A bit of healing salve would help, but I haven’t any with me.”
“That’s all right. Ma keeps a jar of the stuff, something her ma’s people use. I’ll get it.”
Left alone with Jack, Rose nervously cleared her throat. “I need to wash out the cut. ’Twill hurt a bit.”
“Go ahead,” he said, the first words he’d spoken to her since entering the house.
Biting her lip, Rose wiped bits of wood and dirt from his wound as gently as she could. He didn’t so much as twitch, causing her to admire his fortitude. While working over him, she contemplated his copper skin. She’d thought his face to be dark from working outside in the sun, but he was the same copper color beneath his shirt. It suddenly dawned on her that he must be an Indian. Her heart skipped a beat and a tremor of fear raced through her. She’d heard stories of terrible atrocities committed by Indians upon white settlers. Lil and her mother were part Cherokee, though, and she’d never been afraid of them. But Jack was a man. White or red, that was reason enough to fear him. Yet, she couldn’t forget he’d saved her from injury, possibly even death, with no thought for his own safety.
Warily stepping around him to rinse out her rag in the pan of water, Rose surreptitiously studied her silent companion. His features were square-cut, with a high brow, hawkish nose and sharply chiseled mouth, bringing to mind the term noble savage. He turned his head and caught her watching him. Face heating, she lowered her eyes and hastily returned to cleaning his wound. To her dismay, she encountered a small, jagged edge of wood embedded near the top of the gash. “Begorra! You’ve a sliver buried under your skin. I’ll have to remove it.”
“Do it,” Jack said curtly.
By now, Lil had returned with a small jar, which she deposited on the table. Looking up, Rose asked, “D’ye perchance have some nippers I could use to pull out the sliver?”
“Nippers?” Lil looked mystified.
“Uh. Tweezers, I mean.”
“Oh. Yeah, I think Ma has a pair. I’ll see if I can find ’em.”
Again, Rose found herself alone with her stoic patient. She couldn’t think of a thing to say. Hoping Lil would hurry, she wiped more blood from Jack’s seeping wound, then rinsed out the rag once again.
“You come from Chicago?” Jack asked, drawing her surprised glance.
“Aye, I did.”
“Mm, I figured.”
“Ye did? How did ye . . .? Oh, ye knew Tye and my sister came from there, I suppose.”
He nodded. “You got more kin up there?”
“Only Da. Um, my father, I mean,” she explained, wringing out the washrag.
He didn’t say anything more. Stepping behind him to dab at the troublesome cut, Rose dared to inquire, “And yourself? Where d’ye come from?”
After a moment’s silence, he said, “I grew up in Texas, up near the Red River, but I’ve moved around since then.”
“I see.” She wanted to ask where he’d moved around to, but Lil returned at that moment.
“Here you go.” She handed Rose a pair of tweezers that had seen better days. “They’re kind of bent.”
“They’ll do,” Rose said, squeezing the small instrument. Finding it operable, she stepped close to Jack. “Are ye ready?”
“Do it,” he repeated.
“Very well.” Rose gingerly probed with the tweezers, trying to get hold of the end of the embedded sliver. When she finally succeeded, she took a deep breath and pulled.
Jack sat stone still through the probing process, but Rose felt him stiffen as she carefully drew out the long, ugly sliver. He made no sound, however, and Rose wondered how he could be so brave. When it was over, she breathed a sigh of relief as she staunched a fresh flow of blood from the wound. Pressing gently along the length of the wound, she felt no other bits of wood.
“I think that’s all of it,” she said, hoping she was right. She was tempted to use her hands to close the gash, but resisted the urge. Instead, she reached for the jar Lil had brought, uncapped it and took a sniff, detecting the scent of yarrow and other herbs she might use in her own healing ointments. Reassured, she dipped her fingers into the aromatic concoction and scooped out a generous dollop. It had to sting as she spread it over Jack’s wound, but once again, he showed no sign of pain.
“There, that should be enough.” She glanced at Lil. “Will ye help me wrap a bandage around him to protect the wound?”
“Sure. Just have to work around Junior here.” Grinning, she patted her rounded middle.