​​Amy Belding Brown

The wind comes up before dawn, whining against the roof and clapboards, waking Mary from a troubling dream in which Joseph has lost his way in the wilderness. She sees him caught fast in a tangle of undergrowth beneath great trees while savage beasts and Indians circle him in ever tightening rings. She can do nothing to save him, but stands watching while he cries out for mercy.

She sits up, praying that God has not sent the dream as a prophesy. Marie lies sprawled on the far side of the bed. Sarah whimpers in her sleep. Mary pushes the curtains aside, ignoring the familiar catch in her back and knees as she stands. She relieves herself in the chamber pot and quickly puts on her bodice and skirts over her shift. She takes her apron and pocket from the hook by the bed and straps them on before making her way to the hearth, where the dogs reluctantly rise and make room for her. The fire has burned down to embers and it takes a long time to coax it back to life, time spent kneeling on frozen stone and carefully rearranging the coals, blowing and feeding strips of bark to the embers to rekindle the flame.

She is still crouched on the hearth when she hears the first shriek. She tells herself it is but the wind against the flankers and adds another handful of sticks to the small fire. Then she hears it again and knows it is not the wind, for the shriek is followed by musket fire.

Flight of the Sparrow: an excerpt