“Oh no,” he pushed away from the wall and pulled his trousers higher before securing them, stumbling over his feet as he rushed to the door and yanked it open before grabbing me and pulling me into the room, slamming the door shut behind me, “Henry why are you awake?!”
I stared at him, turned to look at my hand where the pitch fork had been before, but it seemed I’d lost my grip on it from the shock of what I’d just seen. My head turned sharply to watch Josiah yanking the threadbare shirt back onto his body, my right eye ticking enough for me to feel it. Before I knew it, Daniel was in front of me, pressed against my chest with his arms around my waist, struggling to keep me in my spot, as I was trying to rush the slave.
“Stop, please stop!”
“Daniel,” my voice was rough as I stopped struggling against him, grabbing him by his shoulders and pushing him away from me so I could see him clearly, “What did he do to you?”
“What?” the confusion on his face made my heart ache, “He didn’t do anything. Henry please listen to me!” he pushed harshly against my chest, stunning me enough that I stumbled, my back pressing against the door as I watched my brother put his hand against his chest, “Please don’t tell father. Don’t tell anyone what you just saw.”
“Don’t tell anyone?” I repeated in bewilderment, “Daniel-!”
“I love him, Henry,” my head reeled, Daniel held a steady glare against me, and I felt suddenly helpless against it, wincing as he repeated the same words, “I love him.”
I didn’t know what to say. Love? Did he even know what that word meant?
My hand lifted, motioning towards Josiah, “He’s a slave, Daniel. He is a man!”
“He’s not a slave!” Daniel snapped, and again I felt utterly stunned at the venom in his voice, something I’d never heard from my normally gentle younger brother before.
He seemed to take a moment to compose himself, breathing deeply through his nose before closing his eyes, “Please just trust me,” he started, opening his eyes to me again and smiling softly, “He would never hurt me, Henry.”
My gaze rose to look over Daniel’s head at where Josiah had been standing silently in the background. He was watching us with a rightfully uneasy look in his eyes, it appeared as if he wanted to pull Daniel away from me, he wanted me to go away, he looked scared, but I’d already seen, and there was no way I could forget this.
I didn’t know what to say, in baffling situations I would normally go to my father for help, ask him for advice, but… something told me this would get Daniel in a lot of trouble. I didn’t know what our father would do, but I was afraid to find out. It was my job to protect him…
“We’re going to bed,” I decided, grabbing Daniel’s arm and pointing at Josiah, “You, return to your quarters, if I see you near the house so help me-.”
He didn’t let me finish, just bowed his head and strode forward. Daniel reached out and grabbed his sleeve, and Josiah paused, until I pulled the door open, and he carefully pulled away from my brother, leaving the room. A strange sound left my brother’s lips, like a whimper, like he was struggling not to cry, and when I looked at him I wasn’t surprised to see his blue eyes were glassy.
I grabbed my lantern from the floor before blowing out the candle in the room, dragging Daniel out of the barn and towards the house. When we got inside he wrenched himself out of my grasp, turned to shoot me a heated glare paired with a snarl, then stormed his way to his room, leaving me in the kitchen to stare after him and wonder silently what I was going to do about what I’d seen.