This is the second part in a series, so if you have not already done so, you might want to read Part I before continuing.
“Did they ever find him again?” James’s blue eyes were wide as he asked the question during the dramatic pause in his friend’s narration.
Tom shook his head gravely. “All they found was his hat and his shoes. Both were ripped to shreds and covered in blood.”
James shuddered, his eyes still wide and locked on Tom.
“What happened to him?” The question, barely above a whisper, came from little Glenn, whose eyes also remained on Tom as he soaked up the delicious suspense of the story.
“No one knows. But not far from his hat and shoes, they found an arrow. With a red feather tied to the end.” His audience gasped and Tom paused again for dramatic effect. Everyone knew Chief Red Feather was the most fearsome Indian in the New World, though no one had ever seen him. “And they say the slashes in his hat and shoes … look like they were made … by a tomahawk!” More gasps and Tom couldn’t suppress a small smile, clearly delighted by the reaction he was getting from his audience.
Rory, ever the skeptic, wrinkled his brow as he thought it all over. “Where did you say all this happened?”
“Deep in the woods of New York. Not thirty miles from Sleepy Hollow.”
“I didn’t think Chief Red Feather had ever been spotted that far north.”
“He’s never been spotted anywhere. That’s why everyone’s so afraid of him. Because there’s no way of knowing where he’ll strike next.” Tom swept his arm in a wide arc around him, looking far into the distance to indicate the multitude of places Chief Red Feather could attack without warning.
“I’m just glad he’s never ventured this far north,” said Bridget. Then she quickly rapped the trunk of the tree she was sitting against, mumbling, “Thanks be to the Goddess” under her breath.
She kept her fist behind her as she knocked on the tree trunk, but Rory spotted her. “What are you doing?”
“You said something while knocking on that tree trunk.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did, I saw you.”
Bridget felt her heart break into a run as she scrambled to come up with an excuse that wouldn’t end with her getting burned at the stake. Before she knew what she was doing, she heard the words, “Knock on wood,” come out of her mouth.
“What?” Rory cocked his head.
“It’s just a silly superstition my parents taught me to ward off bad luck. When you say something, and you don’t want it to come back to haunt you, you knock on wood, see?” She rapped on the tree trunk again, saying, “Knock on wood,” giving each rap its own word.
“I’ve never heard of that superstition.”
“It’s just a tradition they brought from the Old Country. It probably doesn’t mean anything.”
“Does it work?”
Bridget stumbled over her answer, not knowing if to say yes would be an admission of witchcraft. “I don’t know,” she finally admitted. “But I suppose it can’t hurt.”
Rory turned his face to the tree trunk, as though that would provide him with some answers. “I’m also glad Chief Red Feather has never come this far north. And I hope he never does. Knock. On. Wood.” He rapped hesitantly on the tree trunk as he said the last three words, as though afraid the tree would somehow rebel against all this knocking on its trunk.
When nothing happened, he turned and smiled at Bridget. “If three knocks are good, six must be better, right?”
Bridget inwardly heaved a sigh of relief as she returned Rory’s smile and said, “I suppose so.”