Previously on… The Civil War Story: Peter and his father’s personal issues with one another boil over and he is determined to strike out on his own.
Peter approaches the town blacksmith, we’ll call him Mr. Martin. He and Mr. Martin have a pseudo father-son relationship, as much as two people can have with limited interaction outside of business transactions. But Peter respects Mr. Martin, and Mr. Martin has always taken a liking to Peter, regardless of his apparent behavioral issues since his mother died.
So when Peter approaches Mr. Martin at his forge no sooner than the sun has risen he can tell this is not a regular visit. It just so happens that a long time blacksmith friend of Mr. Martin’s, Mr. Windt, is passing through Gettysburg on the way to his next destination. Martin and Windt are chatting animatedly with one another while Peter stands politely out of the way, waiting for a break in the conversation.
As he’s waiting, Peter overhears Mr. Windt talking about how he just got rid of an absolutely horrid apprentice. Lazy, ungrateful, and a spoiled brat as Windt describes him. Mr. Martin notices Peter and indicates he’ll be just a moment. Martin takes Windt into his forge for a moment and they look at some small artistic pieces that Martin has made and they make a quick trade. Mr. Windt heads back to his cart across the way and Mr. Martin invites Peter over.
At first Peter isn’t sure what to say so he keeps things formal. But when Mr. Martin presses him, knowing something is awry, Peter hesitantly asks if he might have the opportunity to learn from Mr. Martin. He says he has decided it’s time him to get out of the house and learn a useful skill.
Mr. Martin is surprised. Considering Robert’s social status he wouldn’t have picked his son to pursue blacksmithing. However, Peter’s curious disposition sparks an idea in Mr. Martin. Mr. Martin calls Mr. Windt back over and introduces the two. When Peter looks into Mr. Windt’s eyes they are hard and critical but not unkind. Peter is intimidated. “If it would be agreeable to you both, I have a proposition. Mr. Windt here is in need of an apprentice.” Mr. Windt huffs slightly, as if he doesn’t really need an apprentice after his last failed attempt. “Peter here is looking to learn something about blacksmithing. I don’t have the means to employ an apprentice at the moment, but I suspect Mr. Windt isn’t so put out by his last charge that he wouldn’t consider hiring a young man; for whom I can personally vouch as one of quality.”
Peter, Mr. Windt, and Mr. Martin all look at each other in consideration. Mr. Martin raises an eyebrow, and Mr. Windt nearly rolls his eyes, but Mr. Windt takes one more good look at Peter and says, “Well, son, I suppose I could spare the trouble to teach you. But I need assurance that you’re willing to do exactly as I say without complaint or conceit. And I’ll tell you right now, you’ll be sore and tired. All the time. I’ve been sore and tired for 30 years and I don’t complain. Do you think you can humble yourself to such a state?”
Peter musters all the gall he has not to tremble. He can’t kid himself, he is intimidated, he is even a little scared about placing his personal health and safety in this man’s hands who he doesn’t even know. For a fleeting moment he wishes his father were there to advise him, but he quickly forces the thought from his mind.
“Yes sir, I believe I can do those things. Without complaint or conceit,” he says.
Mr. Windt laughs. “Ha! You’ve got a smooth tongue boy, but I don’t mind a smooth tongue so long as it’s directed at paying customers and not at trying to get out of hard work.” Mr. Windt and Mr. Martin shake hands. Peter indicates he had everything he’ll need with him and Mr. Windt motions for him to throw it in the cart. Peter quickly shakes hands with Mr. Martin, thanks him for his confidence, and as quickly as he met Mr. Windt he’s rolling down the road with him, out of Gettysburg, poised to experience life in a way he’d never imagined he would.
NEXT UP: Peter writes a letter home to Charlotte after Mr. Windt suggests he do so, and Kate’s marriage shows premature signs of trouble not long before she gets pregnant.