Chapter Five

It was well before dawn when Lakota, carrying one of the lanterns they had been given, entered the tent that had been designated for the infirmary.

A large crate of supplies had been pried open for his assessment but up until now he had not taken the time to inventory the articles. He had his own medical bag and state of the art surgical equipment with him but that would hardly be enough to care for these men should illness or injuries befall them.

The top of the crate was padded with straw, a hopeful sign that some valuable and delicate supplies were contained within. He lifted the straw away to reveal a large number of small boxes carefully labelled with the names of the medications they held. Laudanum, opium, belladonna, and morphine to name a few, were all supplied in fairly generous quantities. If he was careful with them they should last quite a while.

He placed the medications on an empty crate that had been left for his use as a table of sorts and dug further into the supply box. Large bottles filled with petroleum jelly, alcohol and other medicinal liquids followed, along with rolled bandaging, cotton wadding and the like. A small box held several precious mercury thermometers, a fairly new invention. He had two of his own in his medical bag but this addition would be greatly appreciated. There were also a number of pieces of equipment such as a stethoscope, catheters, curettes, dilators, and speculums.

He looked up as Yancey entered the tent and smiled. “Another early riser, eh? Good, I can use the help.”

“Just let me know what you want done and we’ll have this place set to rights in no time.”

“I have unpacked the crate of medical supplies. They have been fairly generous with what they have given us.”

“That’s good to hear because I have a feeling they’ll be needed with almost thirty men to be care for.”

Together with his nurse, Lakota spent the next two hours setting up the clinic. They were able to acquire another of the long empty crates to use as an examination table, which Yancey padded the top of with the packing straw and covered with a blanket, hardly luxurious but serviceable. The medicines and supplies were carefully placed back in the crate they’d come in, which the doctor had turned up on its end and was using as a storage cabinet of sorts. Aiden had said he was a master cabinet maker, so Lakota intended to ask him to fashion a proper cupboard for these things. However, he knew that would have to wait its turn amongst the long list of things which required a carpenter’s skills.

The smaller of the available crates was set up as a table or desk on which Lakota placed the record books, pen and ink that he’d been supplied with. He had learned well from his mentor, Dr. Samuel Jonas, accurate and complete notes were the best way to ensure quality care. His fellows had chided him for the careful neat script in his patients’ records. However, none could fault him when they had to provide follow-up care and there was never missing or illegible information in his notes.

The first meeting of the council would take place after the morning meal so Lakota could now report to them that the clinic was ready and apprise them as to the supplies they had been given. His one concern at this point was the security of the medications. If any of these men had a taste for the more potent of the pharmaceuticals, the supply could rapidly be depleted. He wondered if anyone had a lock and key which he could procure or perhaps a satchel or trunk with a built-in lock. This he would have to investigate soon.

Yancey tied the tent flaps shut, placing a slate on the outside upon which he had printed ‘INFIRMARY, Doctor Out’ and they headed over towards the fire pit where several others had gathered.

Galen crawled out of his pallet; quietly dressed and packed his bag, cramming in the blankets he’d taken from his bed. Grabbing up his satchel and guitar, he slipped out of the tent just as the sun was beginning to brighten the eastern sky. Seeing a lamp on in the infirmary, he realised others were already up and working. He purposefully avoided going anywhere near it or the site of last night’s fire where Walker, Aiden and Larry were quietly talking.

The young man fed the livestock as inconspicuously as possible, collected the eggs, milked the goats and set the covered buckets of milk to cool at the ocean’s edge. He helped himself to the last of yesterday’s biscuits, a can of milk, a couple of eggs, and a few utensils. Next he gathered up his meagre belongings, quickly skirted the encampment and ran towards the latrine where he changed directions to move further into the forest.

The early morning sun woke Thomas from the first peaceful sleep he’d had since the day his beloved Jacob had been lynched. Though his pallet was hard, the blankets had been sufficient to keep him warm and there was comfort to be taken from sharing this shelter with these men. The thought of young Galen brought him a smile, though he still felt concerned enough for the lad to see to it that the doctor had a look at him.

He stretched his muscles into wakefulness as he turned to look for Galen, who had been asleep on the pallet next to his. Seeing the bed had been abandoned and the blankets removed, he sat up and looked about the tent.  All that remained of Galen’s things was the sweater he’d been wearing the day before, which he’d neglectfully left on the ground near Thomas’ satchel. He was surprised to note only one other man still inside, young Kelby, was sleeping soundly on the farthest pallet from him.

Within moments, Thomas was dressed and leaving the tent in search of his companion. The infirmary tent was closed, and he could see the sign that indicated someone had been working in it. He spotted Lakota, Walker, Larry and Aiden talking by the fire pit and a number of the other men beginning to mill about. But as he scanned the camp site, Galen was not to be seen. He wandered over to the area where the animals had been secured for the night, pausing to check in each of the tents; still there was no sign of the lad.

Thomas approached the men by the fire. “Excuse me for interrupting, gentlemen, but have any of you seen young Galen about this morning?”

“I spotted him verra much earlier walking towards the latrine. Och, thinking about it, he was bearing an arm load of items and ne’er returned. Do ye think he’ll have gone far?”

“I’ve looked everywhere in the camp and not only is he not to be found, but his bedding and most of his other personal effects have vanished with him.” Thomas tried not to sound overly concerned but the look on Aiden’s face told him that he’d been read like a book. “I think he may have gone into the woods.”

“Aye, and we best be after him then,” Aiden agreed. “I’ve got me rifle, so I’ll just fetch some rope and extra ammunition, then I’ll be right with ye.” He then headed for the tent where the weapons and survival equipment were stored.

“I’ve got to get the morning meal started,” Walker announced as he walked towards the mess hall, shaking his head and wondering what the lad was up to.

It was a worried man who ran his fingers through his hair. “I seem to have forgotten my manners,” Thomas confessed. “I didn’t even say ‘good morning’ to anyone. Please excuse me,” he offered his sincere apologies to Lakota and Larry.

“It is understandable when you’re upset,” Lakota kindly replied.

“When we get back with Galen, would you be available to examine him? He’s very much underweight.”

“Of course,” Lakota assured him.

Thomas paced while he waited impatiently for the few moments it took Aiden to return with the articles he’d gone in search of. “I cannot believe he would just run off like this. We talked about this very thing last evening and I clearly told him about the dangers of being alone in unexplored areas. To say nothing of the fact that he made a promise he would speak to me first before leaving the camp,” Thomas declared as he and the Scotsman started for the woods.

“Wait up, Thomas!” Walker called out as an afterthought. He realised they would need help in tracking Galen and knew his dogs would be the perfect choice. He returned moments later with two leashed animals. “Use the retrievers to track the boy. If my services are not required, I’ll oversee things in the kitchen and keep some breakfast aside for the three of you.”

“Thank you, Walker. I’ve got the lad’s sweater he left in the tent. Hopefully the dogs can pick up his scent from it.”  Thomas retrieved the sweater and held it to the dogs’ snouts, giving them the scent. They followed the anxious animals as they pulled on their leads towards the woods.

“I dinnae ken,” Aiden commented as they walked. “What ’twould make him run off when ’tis plain as day the wee lad wants to spend his time with ye. He looks to ye for friendship and carin’ support.”

Thomas shook his head.  “I don’t understand it either. He seemed prepared to settle in here last evening.”  The dogs began to move faster through the brush, pulling the two large men along behind them.

Larry took advantage of finding himself alone with Lakota. “Doc, I wonder if I could have a private word with you?”

“Certainly, Larry. What can I do for you?” Lakota answered with a smile.

“Aiden and I were talking earlier and speculated about you needing a secure place to store whatever medications have been supplied. I have a chest with a large padlock on it. As the only item I have of any value to me is my diary, I’d like you to have it.”

“I would not want you to risk something so valuable as your diary. A man’s personal thoughts are private; not to be fodder for those who lack respect.”

“Aiden figures it would be safe and out of sight under my sleeping pallet. He says woe to anyone tempted to touch it,” Larry laughed as he remembered of the Scotsman’s thinly veiled threat to would-be trespassers.

“Very well then, I accept your generous offer,” the older man replied.

“I’ll go get it and take it over to the infirmary. There’s a need to make things more difficult for someone who may have an addiction problem, by ensuring the medications are not easily accessible.” Larry quickly headed towards his tent to get what he considered his donation to the cause.

 “I brought you a cup of coffee, Lakota,” Yancey announced, suddenly appearing by the doctor’s side and handing him one of the mugs he was carrying.

“Thank you, Yancey. I have some news for you. We will be having our very first patient sometime today when Thomas and Aiden get back with our runaway. And Larry, the young ex-marine, has kindly offered us a trunk to store our pharmaceuticals in. Would you mind placing them in it as the new council will be meeting right after breakfast and I must attend?”  Lakota asked.

“I don’t mind in the least taking care of the medications, but your meeting is probably going to be rescheduled due to two of the council members going in search of Galen who seems to have left the campsite for parts as yet unknown. I guess you’ll probably find out at breakfast which, by the way, is ready.”

Lakota nodded to show his acceptance of Yancey’s assumption but kept his thoughts on the situation to himself as he silently trailed behind his nurse to the mess hall.

Meanwhile, Galen was curiously investigating a small cave he had discovered and decided to take shelter in. The trek here had been rather arduous because he’d erroneously taken a pathless route. He had ended up in an area he could only hope even Brock hadn’t been to. It had taken him a while before stumbling upon this secluded pool after first hearing the sound of rushing water and following the stream that had led him here. He quickly concluded that this was the place for him to make a home for himself. The sun shining on the waterfall resulted in a rainbow which Galen took as a sign of welcome. He’d been perplexed by one side of the falls appearing darker than the other and it was only after he climbed up a bit of a rocky path that, much to his delight, the cave was revealed.  

It appeared to have been occupied by wildlife at one time, but fortunately not at the moment. He put his bag down and slipped back out from behind the cascading water. He searched for and found a leafy branch for sweeping and some dry wood. Re-entering the cave, he set about cleaning it out before lighting a small fire near the opening.

It was nearing mid-morning when he finally sat down to eat. He gulped down the milk and rinsed out the metal container. Then he filled it with the fresh clear water from the falls and carefully dropped in the eggs he had taken, before setting the can on the fire to boil. He sat nibbling on the last of the biscuits and planning his next move while waiting for the eggs to cook.

Hunger appeased for the time being and putting to use the survival skills his grandfather had taught him, Galen began gathering moss to make a bed for himself so he wouldn’t have to sleep on the hard, cold ground of his new abode. Next he fashioned a couple of rabbit snares and fishing lines out of the things he had accumulated on his journey from the camp. Leaving his nest once again, he set the traps and began collecting more firewood.

Galen wanted to stay busy so he wouldn’t have to think. It hurt too much to remember. But the memories kept resurfacing and reminding him of the times he’d spent with Thomas during the past week. He’d enjoyed listening to the songs and joining in with the other men last evening. It had felt so good to relax like that. It had felt even better a little while later when he began to nod off and Thomas pulled him down to rest his head on the older man’s lap. Galen vaguely recalled, or was it a dream, being half-carrying to the tent and tucked in bed. It must have happened; how else could he have awoken where he did on the pallet next to Thomas’ with the extra blankets that had been provided to keep him warm?

He was returning to the cave with his arms full when he heard a strange commotion. Turning in the direction of the sound, he found himself face to face with a wild boar. His eyes widened, his heart started racing and his breath was coming in short gasps as he clutched his bundle tighter and stood frozen in fear. He had never seen an animal like this before; so big, so ugly, and so dangerously near. He was absolutely terrified.

The beast snarled, pawed the ground and made ready to charge her captive audience. A shot rang out; the boar stopped in her tracks then fell to the ground, dead. Galen closed his eyes and would have sunk to his knees had strong arms not enveloped him.

Aiden stood with the smoking Winchester in his hand. He sent up a silent prayer of thanks that they had arrived in time.

Thomas held Galen upright and tried to determine which of them was shaking the most. Turning Galen around, he practically had to pry the sticks of wood out of the young man’s arms. The same arms that once freed of their burden wrapped around the bigger man’s waist and clung as if they’d never let go.

“Galen lad, are you alright?” Thomas asked the trembling man in his arms.

“I-I ...” Galen stammered, being unable to vocalise his jumbled thoughts.

Thomas took Galen by the shoulders and held him away from himself enough to look the younger man over carefully. He saw no obvious sign of injury. “Would you mind telling me what in the name of all that’s holy, you’re doing out here?” Thomas’ voice took on a slight edge of anger mixed with relief.

“W-what are you doing here? How did you find m-me?” Galen answered once again with questions of his own as he glanced over his shoulder to see Aiden standing over the body of the slain beast.

“Galen, I was afraid for you and not just a little upset. Did you not understand what I said last evening about wandering off alone?” Thomas admonished.

“Y-yes, I understood….but…” he turned back to Thomas and whimpered. “B-but you don’t understand. I-I can’t go to the doctor. I had to run away!”

“No, lad, I guess I don’t understand. What is it about seeing the doctor that would make you want to run off?”

Galen chewed on his lower lip. How could he make this man, who had been willing to be his friend, understand how frightened he was of the prospect of being examined by yet another man in a white coat, a man who represented only physical and emotional pain? Deciding he didn’t really want to live on his own and that Thomas would eventually learn the truth, Galen spoke hesitantly in a low voice. “B-because I’m afraid of doctors; they don’t really help p-people, they just hurt them.”

Thomas drew in a slow deep breath in an attempt to calm his nerves. He looked around, spotted a fallen log and guided Galen over to take a seat on it with him. He gave Aiden a look which requested patience. “You’re saying that you’ve seen doctors in the past who have hurt you?” he asked softly.

“Uh-huh, too m-many and too often. M-my mother was always taking m-me to the city to see them. I used to hate leaving the vineyard w-with her. Each time she w-would p-promise the newest one w-would be able to m-make me not stutter anymore, but none of them ever did. A couple of them sent her out of the room and did things to m-me as if I was some kind of object to try out new theories on.” Galen drew in a shuddering breath. He closed his eyes in an attempt to shut out the dreaded scenes playing through his mind but failed. “They hurt m-me,” he whispered.

“Can you tell me what they did to you?”

“Different types of tests; experiments I guess, and sometimes they used b-bloodsuckers. They were awful and left p-painful m-marks on my skin.”

“Leeches you mean?”

Aiden cursed and turned his back, not wanting the two men to see his anger. He dealt with the seldom felt emotion by drawing out his hunting knife, forcefully stabbing it into the boar’s neck and slitting the animal wide open in preparation for gutting.

“Is that w-what those things are called?” Galen asked out of curiosity.

“Yes, lad, they’re leeches. Did they bleed you as well? You know, did they opened a vein and let you bleed into a cup?” Thomas asked, holding his breath in dread of the answer.

“Yes, and it really hurt.” Galen grimaced as he nodded his head and unconsciously rubbed at an old scar on his wrist.

“Damn!” Thomas swore softly under his breath. “Galen, those practices are outdated and cruel. They affect no cure but only torture the patient. I can promise you that Dr. Evans is a modern man of medicine and he would never perform such barbaric acts.” He gave the young man a reassuring hug.

Further comfort was provided by one of the dogs laying her head on Galen’s lap and turning sympathetic eyes up to the young man as he petted her; her counterpart seemly more interested in what Aiden was doing.

“The last ones said I w-was dim-witted, and it was m-my fault they couldn’t help m-me. Do you think I’m b-backward or stupid?" Galen hesitated to ask even though he had to know.

“The only backward or stupid thing is what was done to you, Galen. You are a wonderful, delightful person. It was their simple-minded practice that couldn’t help you. In no way was it your fault,” Thomas replied, anger coming through in his voice.

Galen watched the motion of Thomas’ lips. He wanted so much to believe the words he was hearing and reading. Aiden throwing a rope over the branch of a large tree drew Galen’s attention. The big man’s body language clearly illustrated his wrath and Galen couldn’t understand what was making the two older men so irate. ‘It’s probably because they had to come looking for me when they were supposed to be having their first council meeting,’ the young man thought. “I’m sorry for running away, Thomas. I should have talked to you.” Galen hung his head and quietly admitted his wrongdoing.

“I would like it, Galen, if you would come to me in the future when you’re afraid of something, because running away is never the answer. Don’t you know that?”

The younger man glanced up and with a deep sigh, tentatively asked, “am I in trouble?” He knew had he pulled a stunt like this at home he would be facing a very angry parent, but such was not the case here. Thomas wasn’t his father. Galen looked up at the sharp expletive that escaped Aiden’s mouth.

“Lad, I’m sorely tempted to turn you over my knee for the scare you gave me. However, it’s not my right to do so. But hear me good, I’ll not tolerate such nonsense in the future!” Thomas firmly stated.

Galen’s eyes widened at the implied threat in Thomas’ words and although he was unsure if the older man would carry it out, he thought it best not to push his luck and hastened to reassure both his rescuers. “I w-won’t run away again! P-promise!” He paused for a moment before hesitantly asking, “Thomas, will you still talk to me?”

“Of course, Galen, I’ll always talk to you.” The older man was confused by the question but decided now wasn’t the time to pursue it.  

“Hmm, do I still have to see Lakota?” Galen figured he already knew the answer but queried anyway.

“Yes, you still need to see Lakota, if for no other reason than to learn that you can trust him and me to do what’s right for you.” He took Galen by the hand and pulled him to his feet. Next, he looked him up and down. The boy was beautiful. Sighing deeply, Thomas mumbled softly under his breath, “if you were mine....”

Galen let out a groan of apprehension but resigned himself to obeying Thomas. Not looking forward to seeing another doctor, he did desperately want to trust Thomas’ words. “W-will you come w-with m-me?”

“Of course, I’ll be with you all the way. I promise no harm will come to you,” Thomas smiled reassuringly.

“Soooo, we’re still friends, right?” Galen questioned hopefully.

“I’ll be your friend as long as you want me to be, Galen.”

For the first time that morning, Galen’s smile put in an appearance. He threw his arms around the older man, this time not in terror but in friendship.

Thomas smiled brightly and returned the hug. He rather enjoyed this tactile tendency the young man had. It indicated he must have grown up in an affectionate home. “Let’s get back to the camp. There is a breakfast with our names on it and a doctor’s appointment to keep.”

Leaving Thomas’ embrace, Galen turned and walked over to the big Scotsman. “Thank you for saving m-my life, Aiden.”

Aiden lifted the smaller man off his feet and hugged him. “Just see to it, laddie, that it ne’er happens again or if Thomas fails to give ye the skelpin’ ye deserve, I will.” Aiden wouldn’t have believed it possible a person’s eyes could open so wide had he not seen it for himself.

Galen pushed himself back from the Scotsman’s clasp and stammered, “aah, I have to get m-my things out of the cave.” He accepted his sweater from Thomas, slipped it over his head and started towards the waterfall, all the while looking over his shoulder to throw speculative glances at the giant.

Aiden gave a deep-throat chuckle at the multitude of expressions on Galen’s face before stating in a voice full of amusement, “I’d be thinking ye’re going to have yer hands full with that wean, Thomas!” He laughed aloud at the other man’s glare of feigned exasperation. “Och, well I’ve hung the boar to bleed out. If ye can find yer way back without me, I’ll be taking the dogs and going ahead to let the others know the lad’s been found. I’ll send back a few stout men to retrieve our kill,” Aiden offered with a smirk.

Thomas pasted on a false smile and looked to Aiden. “Roast boar for supper, I’m thinking.”

“Aye, but a late supper, I’d be thinking. ’Tis going to take time to get the beastie back to camp and prepare it for the spit. ’Twill also need several hours to cook.” Aiden’s laughter rang out as he stomped his way through the brush, beating down a path for the other two to follow.

Back at the campsite, Dallas had been closely monitoring Lakota and Yancey’s every move. He knew these were the men who had access to the morphine. He also knew he’d eventually need some as the meagre supply he’d stolen when aboard the ship had run out this morning.

Kevin noticed Dallas’ preoccupation with their medical team. He was curious about the younger man’s movements and felt that even though he couldn’t quite fathom the man’s behaviour, there was something familiar about it. He shrugged as he walked towards the mess hall. The pleasant aromas were causing his stomach to rumble.

‘This could be my best chance!’ Dallas convinced himself an hour later. ‘The doctor has finally left the Infirmary again, the big Scot and Thomas are looking for someone who’s wandered off, that ex-marine will soon be handing out assignments to get everyone helping with one thing or another,’ he mentally checked off everyone’s whereabouts.

After looking over his shoulder once more to make sure the coast was clear, he lifted the flap and sneaked into the tent. Glancing around, he was surprised to find it smaller than he had anticipated. Then he realised it had been divided into two areas. At first he could see nothing resembling a medicine cabinet, but a moment later spied the large, padlocked chest sitting in the corner.

Yancey had just finished making the last of the six beds in the ward, when he heard a noise coming from the examination room. He silently walked over to the curtain, opening it in time to see a young man bent over the footlocker. He could not make out the article in the other man’s hand, but knew he had to find out what was going on. “Hello, there! May I help you?” he inquired politely.

“Ah…ah…” Dallas stammered, red-faced at being caught out. He cursed himself for not considering the possibility of the nurse being present as he sneakily slid his pocket knife up his sleeve and out of sight.

“Are you feeling ill or are you injured?” Yancey asked, peering closely at his unexpected visitor.

“Nope!” Dallas was thinking fast. “Just interested!” Dallas smiled, trying to charm Yancey. Charm had worked well in his previous life. Not seeing any change in the nurse’s expression, Dallas side-stepped him and left the tent.

Yancey narrowed his eyes in thought. Had the young man been searching for medications? ‘Hmm, better let Lakota know about this!’

It was shortly after the morning meal, when Nathan methodically went through two trunks as the twins stood by silently watching him. They had asked the man some time ago to help them sort through their clothing but still felt a little like a pair of schoolboys standing in line while their headmaster went over their homework.

“Uh-huh! Umm. Ahh.” The twins looked at one another and raised their eyebrows as Nathan made inarticulate noises.

“We really should separate these clothes,” Nathan suggested. “This pile here will be good, practical, everyday wear and this over here can just be put back in one of the trunks.”  

“Why?” Wes demanded.

“Because you need suitable clothes to wear around the island and these are obviously not at all practical. So we will keep them safe until you have an occasion to put them on. Make sense?”

“Like what? A funeral?” Wes grumbled under his breath.

Wayne nudged him while Nathan turned to raise an eyebrow at the younger man. “Excuse me?” Nathan inquired in a suddenly stern tone.

Wes rolled his eyes, but quickly dropped them to the ground as he felt scorched by the older man’s stare. “Well, I meant what occasion is there? I mean, we are stuck here on this god-forsaken island, so it’s not like,” he shrugged uncertainly, “.… you know?”

Nathan nodded easily. ‘No sense in aggravating the situation,’ he thought. ‘Everyone is going through different emotional stages and this beautiful young man in front of me is justifiably a little on the testy side.’ Keeping his voice neutral, Nathan explained his suggestions. “I understand, Wesley, but there are always things like birthdays. And let’s not forget Christmas or other holidays. I am sure we can find things to celebrate if we keep a positive outlook. Some can even be altered to fit others who are not as fortunate. Agree?”

Wes shrugged yet again. “I guess.”

“Remember what I said the other night about putting the past behind us?” Nathan prompted in a gentle tone.

Wes heaved a sigh and nodded his head. “Yes, I remember. So which trunk shall we use to keep these shirts?”

Nathan was proud of the younger men’s efforts to make the necessary adjustments to their lifestyle in order to better fit in with the more rugged way of the island. Being a connoisseur of fine clothing and the best of materials, he recognised the sacrifice these two boys were making, and his heart went out to them. He also felt an unexpected attraction to Wes but as yet had been unable to rationalise it. He very much would have like to put an arm around each of the twins’ shoulders and offer comfort but didn’t want to take advantage of their vulnerability. ‘All in good time,’ he silently told himself.

In the meantime, Larry was eagerly awaiting Aiden’s return for more than one reason. Primarily to learn Galen had been found safe and sound, and next to report on the morning’s accomplishments.

It was almost twelve o’clock when the big Scotsman came into view and Larry hurried over to greet him. “Did you find him?” he asked anxiously. “You were gone so long, and we were all beginning to panic.”

“No need to fash yerselves,” Aiden assured him as he set the dogs loose. “The wee toerag was farther away than we feared. Aye, and we’re gonna need a few brawn men to fetch home the trophy we bagged. We left a boar hanging to bleed out. ’Tis a ways off to keep unwanted prey from nearing the campsite.”

As the men gathered around, Aiden explained about the kill and also informed them of Thomas and Galen’s imminent arrival. Brock, Preston, Hendrik and Mitchell volunteered to retrieve the dead animal, happily anticipating the delicious meal Walker would prepare with it.

“Now, laddie, what else has ye in a tether?” Aiden teased as he walked with the younger man towards the mess hall.

“I want to tell you of all that was done while you were gone, sir,” Larry respectfully answered.

“Let me be seated with the breakfast Walker’s been keeping warm and ye can talk while I eat.”

“Of course, sir. You must be hungry.” Larry sat down and patiently waited for Aiden to load up his plate and sit across from him.

“So, lad, give me yer news,” Aiden requested between mouthfuls.

“Well, we finished unpacking all but two of the crates. We left them nailed shut. Quentin has the inventory almost done, thanks to Kelby’s assistance. Spyke was delighted to discover several cartons of privy tissue. Troy was excited by the supply of books, paper, pens, ink, slates and chalk we found. We moved it all to one of the storage tents for the time being. Thad and Jordan have staked out a patch of ground to be overturned behind the kitchen. It’s for Walker’s vegetable garden. A laundry has been started but will probably take most the day to get it all done. After all, we have over a week’s worth piled up.”

“Ye have all been verra busy indeed. Why were two crates left unopened?”

“They have your name on them.”

“Aye, must be the last of me belongings. Friends were going to clear out me old workshop with hopes of having everything shipped with the rest of the cargo. ’Twould appear they met with success.” Aiden smiled contentedly. “I imagine the second container ’tis somewhat heavier than the first. ’Tis a pot-belly stove which I’ll be donating to the infirmary. Let’s go deliver it right now.” Aiden pushed his empty plate away and got to his feet.

“Lakota is going to like that!” Larry exclaimed with a wide grin. He followed in Aiden’s footsteps and chattered on. “Oh, and we weren’t able to hold the council meeting this morning as planned. What with you and Thomas having to track down Galen, we had to reschedule it for after lunch. It that alright?”

“’Tis fine by me, lad,” Aiden responded as he lifted his head and sniffed the air. “’Twould that be fish I’m smelling?”

“Yes! A few of the guys went fishing and got lucky. Others tore apart most the empty crates to be used to build additional pens for the livestock. In fact, Mitchell and Henrik have already started a more substantial one for the pigs. I bet Galen’s going to be impressed. Right now, some men are gathering more firewood and as you can see,” Larry moved his arm to indicate the activity taking place, “others are helping Walker with the noon meal.”

“I’m picking up another delicious aroma; what ’twould that be?”

“Oh, that’s another stew. Brock once again returned from his early morning hunting excursion with half a dozen rabbits. He says there is plenty of game on the island. Man, you should have seen how fast he skinned and cleaned those little creatures, preparing them for tanning. When the pelts are ready, he’ll give them to Nathan.”

“Seems ye have everything under control then, lad,” Aiden praised and smiled at the young man’s blush of pleasure. “I’ll be paying a short visit to Lakota before opening the last two containers. There should be plenty of time before the meeting. The rest of the animal pens will probably have to wait ’til tomorrow.”


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