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One Boy is One boy

Author: Eglantine-br

Title One Boy is One Boy

Kyd/ Marlowe – pre canon stoy

Word Count 775

One Boy is One Boy

Canturbury 1576

The yoke burned his shoulders, and his breath rasped. He had filled the buckets to the very top edge. He walked rigidly, feeling the balance all across his body. He was careful not to splash. It he lost any he would have to go back. If he went back he would be late to school.

Last week he had spilled half the left bucket, right on the doorstep. His mother had been sharp with him, standing holding the door, with the hem of her dress soaked. She called him “Thou slugabed.” but she smiled as she said it, and kissed him just as hard as he picked up his satchel.

Kit was the oldest, and the boy. Most families had a few, the Riggses, down the street had five. But Kit was the only one in his house. And father had no 'prentice. He had a little saying he recited when Kit asked him why.

One boy is one boy, two boys is half a boy, three boys is no boy at all.”

So Kit had a lot to do. He had to fetch wood in, at midday. And he cleaned father's workshop after school.

Anne was next after him and Jane. She was was too small for heavy work. She helped mother with fetching and cleaning. She could carry kindling twigs, or spoons and plates, and feel herself a big girl.

As for Jane, she was still getting well. The blood did not come into her mouth any more, but she could not breathe deep. Coughing hurt her, Kit could tell. Every morning almost, mother or father said 'Jane is better today.' Still Kit watched her struggle to breathe, to not cough. She fought hard and silent, with sweat all over the pale of her face. She fought and lost again and again. And he could not say 'It hurts to hear you cough,' not when being Jane must hurt so much more. Sometimes she had to drop to the ground and rest on her haunches and fists. She said that leaning that way made more room inside for air. He hated that. And Kit could not remember when he had not counted every bite she ate, imagining mother's good food going in and making Jane strong again.

She did not go to school, she was a girl, after all. But one day Kit had said “Finish your porridge, Jane, and I will teach you to read.” Mother and Father had smiled at him, and Jane took up her spoon with fierce determination. Later he had gotten out his old horn-book and they had set to work. Now Jane could read perfectly brisk, just as Kit did. She could not run and play as she had used to do, she could not work yet, as the rest of them did, but she could read, that was something even father and mother could not really do. And some part of Kit ached with happiness to think on it.

Younger than Kit, Jane and Anne, came Dorothy. She was a toddling baby, just done with the breast. No use at anything yet. Anne lifted her under the arms, and lugged her about. They all had to watch that she didn't fall in the fire. There would be another baby in a year or two of course. Maybe this one would be a brother. But even if so, he would be no use for ages.

He turned at the gate, careful. Mother was there with the door open. She could not hold it to long, it made the smoke back up in the chimney, but she knew how long he took, and she was usually ready. He had only splashed a little. The top of one stocking was wet, but that was all. Good enough. He poured the water carefully.

Mother cast her eye over him-- “Hands Kit,” she said. And so he washed them quickly. Time to go. She pulled him close for a kiss. He scrubbed it off with the back of his hand, and he saw her lips compress, she was holding back a strange little smile.

He ran all the way to school, feeling his legs stretching strong, and the good air all around. He was not late.

The little saying is one my brother and I heard quite often. When it comes to carrying wood, cleaning barns, or any other task, the more children, the longer the work takes. Applies to girls too.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 31st, 2013 09:47 am (UTC)
I like the little details you put in - that they had to watch in case the baby fell into the fire, the fact that the fire smoked with the door open. I'm no good at detail!
Jul. 31st, 2013 05:45 pm (UTC)
I read recently that one of the reasons for keeping babies of the past wrapped up like burritos for so long, (older babies who wanted to move, not tiny babies who enjoy it,) was to keep them from toddling into the fire.

This makes some sense, I suppose, until you figure that there was probably a child a year or two older who could be tasked with that.

These are the sort of things that puzzle me about the past.

Jul. 31st, 2013 10:30 am (UTC)
That's good.

May I make one small (and hopefully constructive) criticism? "Tardy" in that context is an Americanism, I think; "late" might be a more appropriate word in British English.
Jul. 31st, 2013 01:32 pm (UTC)
I wondered. Will swap out, thank you for letting me know. Their language is a constant amazement to me. I try not to fret over it too much, just use it as flavor, but the narration voice should match and not be jarring.

This is exactly the sort of thing I want to know!
Jul. 31st, 2013 01:39 pm (UTC)
You're welcome :-)
Jul. 31st, 2013 11:22 am (UTC)
Aw, luvverly. I'd not heard that expression about "One boy..." ever!
Jul. 31st, 2013 01:38 pm (UTC)
My mother was one who collected such things, she had favorite words too, that she tried to insert into the conversation whenever she could.

(Since her two fave words were 'piton' and and 'friable' it made talking to her a little bizzare at times, like something out of a Thurber story.)

But that saying was one that I heard a lot. Especially when i had a job to do, and wanted a friend over to keep me company.

She had another saying I gave to Kyd. 'You are my cross to bear.' I have never used that one-- ever.
Jul. 31st, 2013 03:02 pm (UTC)
Ah, now that's one I'm familiar with.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )