Previously on… The Civil War Story: After Peter has a blow out with his father he makes a spur of the moment decision to become a blacksmith’s apprentice and leaves Gettsyburg with Mr. Windt.
The notion that he was on his own hit Peter fairly quickly. The adrenaline which carried him through the morning began to wane as he and Mr. Windt rolled out of town. A nagging voice in the back of his head felt guilty for not saying goodbye to his family, but he was well practiced at pushing such thoughts aside. It helped that Mr. Windt began talking as soon as they left the city limits, and didn’t stop until what felt like weeks.
They did indeed spend weeks on the road, heading south. And from the time Peter woke up in the morning to the time he or Mr. Windt fell asleep at night, it was a constant lesson in smithing. For days Mr. Windt talked about the hearth and proper heating and proper fuel sources (Peter never knew there was such a variety of coal to be found along any given path or stream, and they spent time searching for coal, finding it far less than Peter had patience for). Throughout their journey Mr. Windt had Peter build different types of fire every night, sometimes even in the middle of the day, sometimes leaving Peter without lunch.
After Mr. Windt was satisfied with Peter’s basic skills of fire building, he started on the tools and the anvil. Occasionally he’d pull out half a dozen tools that looked nearly identical and explain to Peter how each had a very specific purpose. Of course, none of these tools would work sufficiently if Peter wasn’t strong enough or precise enough to wield them properly. So Mr. Windt had Peter chopping down ridiculously large trees, pounding a bare anvil for an hour before dinner, and occasionally jogging alongside the wagon. Mr. Windt claimed the jogging would help his stamina, but it felt more like a punishment for nodding off or not remembering a detail when Mr. Windt quizzed him.
And Mr. Windt quizzed Peter constantly. This wore on Peter at first as he had not expected such a steep learning curve, and he spent a lot of time jogging alongside the wagon. But he learned to listen and repeat things in his head or out loud whenever Mr. Windt stopped talking for 30 seconds or walked away. It was exhausting but it distracted Peter from his lingering nerves about leaving home. Mr. Windt could be icy and stern but Peter felt relatively safe in his presence. He felt he had an ally and suspected loyalty was important to Mr. Windt.
While Mr. Windt spent most of the day and night talking about smithing, he did occasionally meander into other topics. One night the conversation turned toward Peter’s choice to become a blacksmith’s apprentice. Peter was feeling particularly thruthsome and admitted he hadn’t any particular calling to smithing, but he was simply looking for some vehicle to strike out on his own. He hadn’t expected to find himself on a cross country venture with a man he didn’t know.
Mr. Windt was an intuitive man and fancied himself a good judge of character. The fact that Peter hadn’t any romanticized preconceptions of smithing and was looking for a way to make a living was encouraging that he might not fall by the wayside like his previous apprentice. He also sensed some uncertainty in Peter. He worked around the subject and let Peter get to it on his own. Peter had a rocky relationship with his father, but he seemed to care about his younger sister, whom his uncertainty and guilt appeared to center around. He suggested Peter write her a letter, it might ease his conscience. Peter denied any desire to do so, but Mr. Windt casually left out a pencil and parchment by Peter’s blankets before he went to sleep. In the morning he found the pencil returned to its proper place in the wagon and caught a glimpse of folded parchment in Peter’s jacket pocket. It disappeared after passing through a small town with a post office.
Next Up: Kate’s marriage is just beginning and there are already signs that it might not be wedded bliss. Kate also learns she’s pregnant. That was quick.