Wow, I’m putting up a chapter a day. Holidays are such a wonderful thing, are they not? Since I wrote the first draft out long before, now it is only a matter of doing a little editing and revising, which takes a lot less time than the actual writing did. Hope you are enjoying it so far
There was no mistaking the fact. It was Samuel Climb sitting on that horse. The sight of him made a million questions to race through my mind. When had he learned to ride? What had he been doing all these years? What was he doing here? I struggled to keep my composure in front of all the men. I had crossed Sammy out of my life for good and now all of a sudden, there he is right in front of me. Our eyes met, I felt the heat rise to my face and I quickly turned my attention back to Colonel White and Captain Sawnders to keep the horrid blush from getting out of control.
“It says here you are to go to the Thompson Plantation,” Colonel White was saying as he handed the papers back to Sawnders. “What are you doing on the Greensten Estate? Have you forgotten how to read, Captain Sawnders? Or were you never taught in the first place? It has to be one of the two, because there is nothing wrong with the writing. It is spelled out in clear, comprehensive English that you are to set up camp at the Thompson Plantation and await further orders. So what brought you here? Got lost perhaps?”
“I was at the Thompson Estate, sir. It is nothing more than a burnt ruble.”
“My men have better things to do with their time than sit around on a dump. This plantation is right nearby and I figured…”
“You figured?” Colonel White interrupted him. “Captain Sawnders, this is a direct violation of orders. Just because you are a captain does not give you the right to go around doing whatever your darn well please. What is more, you had the nerve to come here and begin assaulting this young lady. Turn right around and get back to the Thompson Plantaion, and I assure you headquarters will hear about this.”
Captain Sawnder’s face flushed red with anger and humiliation. “Who are you to tell me what to do? And what are you doing on this plantation yourself? You have seen my orders, now let me take a look at yours.”
“My orders?” Colonel White thundered. I was sure he grew in height as he towered over Sawnders in rage. His voice made the ground shake and everyone, including myself, took a step back. “Captain Sawnders, who are you to ask such a thing of me? You have obviously allowed the fact that you are a captain get to your head. Do you know who I am? Do these insignias tell you nothing? Even the young lady here guessed right away. I am a colonel in the army and this makes me an officer of considerably higher rank. You do not ask questions of me, you do not talk back and you do not question my authority. It is plain as day you have no respect for your superiors and the time has come for you to be educated. You can rest assured that I will speak to the right people and have you removed from your position. Now get the hell out of here!”
A deafening silence hung once Colonel White was finished with his speech. Captain Sawnders was so red I thought he would explode. Without another word he turned and signaled for his regiment to follow him. Soon they were making their way off my land. I prayed Mr. Browne would be able to find safety. Sawnders was heading to the very place he had been meaning to hide.
Once the regiment had put a good distance between us, Colonel White returned his attention to me.
“We’ve been chasing a Confederate spy and we know he’s somewhere in these parts. Miss Rose, I’m afraid I am obligated to search your house. We have more than enough reason to believe he is here.”
“I am but one woman against an entire army, who am I to stop you?” I said, shrugging my shoulders.
“A rather depressing way of putting it.”
“If you have a more positive approach, Colonel, feel free to share it with me.”
He suppressed a smile; I could tell by the way he pulled his lips together. “There are also a few questions I would like to ask you.”
“You can ask my anything you want sir, I don’t promise you I will be able to answer. Only can we step inside? No point in asking questions in the cold.” I was beginning to really feel the outdoor chill, no coat or shawl being on me.
“Of course, Miss Rose, I should think you are quite frozen standing out here in this weather. Alright men,” he turned to his soldiers, “no dilly daddling. Sergeant, we’ll break up into two teams, one team will search the house, the others will scout the ground. Organize the men and report to me. Is that clear?”
The sergeant nodded his head with a loud, “yes sir,” and began barking orders to the men.
“After you, Miss Rose,” Colonel White motioned for me to step inside.
As I stepped through the front door, I could feel Sammy’s gaze following me and found it very unsettling. Colonel White was right behind me.
“Good Lord!” He took an abrupt step back, colliding into the door he had just shut
I glanced back at him, “is everything alright, sir?”
He gave a nervous laugh. “Pardon me, Miss Rose, I just didn’t expect her to jump out at me like that.”
“Who?” I couldn’t quite understand what he was talking about.
“The Ghost of Christmas Past,” he was pointing to the painting of my mother. I hadn’t taken it down because it had been too large to hide and too large for anyone to steal.
“You know the woman on the painting?”
He studied it for a while. “I know this sounds terribly strange, Miss Rose, seeing as I have never been to this part of the country before, but I could swear on the Bible, that is Evelyn Beverly.”
He kept on examining the painting, I just stared at him in disbelief. “You knew my mother, sir?”
“Your what?” His gaze turned sharply towards me.
“Evelyn Beverly, the woman in the painting, is my mother.”
He looked from me to painting and back to me. “Well I’ll be damned. Yes, you could easily be her daughter. Very similar features, except your eyes. Her eyes were the clearest blue, yours are a…” he searched my face, “yours are grey.” For a minute his eyes rested on the locket that hung around my neck before returning to the portrait. He studied it some more before turning back to me, his face filled with a sort of scared excitement. “Is she here?”
“What a ridiculous question, sir,” I felt very insulted. “Of course not.”
“Why is it ridiculous, and why of course not?” He asked in a confused, almost hurt voice.
It dawned on me that perhaps he hadn’t known of my mother’s death. “I’m sorry, Sir,” I softened my voice a little, “I can see you were not informed. I hate to be the bearer of bad tiding, but my mother is dead.”
“Dead?” His eyes widened with horror. “Evy is dead?”
“Yes sir, she passed away the summer just after my eighth birthday. It will be sixteen years next June.”
He lost several shades of color at this piece of information.
“When did you know my mother, sir?” I asked, very curious as to what his connection with her had been
“In New York, we worked together in the theater. I was an actor back then; it was a long time ago. I left for Europe at one point and when I returned your mother had vanished. No one knew what had become of her. I hoped, wherever she was…well…I certainly never thought her to be dead. She was such a strong and healthy young woman.”
“Factory work is very unhealthy for anyone, sir, and for a life bred for ease and comfort it is a sure killer.”
“Factory work?” Every question was asked with more and more disbelief. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the poor man; it was obvious this was coming as a very great shock.
“Yes sir, my mother worked in a factory in Boston, the city of my birth.”
“Why Boston?” He breathed the question and shook his head. “And you came to live here after she died?”
“Yes sir, the only relative I had was my mother’s sister Helen Greensten.”
“Your father?” he tentatively asked.
“I said my only relative was my aunt,” I crisply replied. At this point, little Evy came running up to me. “Elsie’s begging to see you, she’s in the kitchen.”
“Evy, Sarah’s busy right now.”
“She said it was urgent.”
“Tell Elsie I’ll come…”
“Miss Rose, perhaps you had better go,” Colonel White broke in.
“Colonel White, I think it would be better if I did not take up your time.”
“I have some other business to take care of. The questions can wait a couple of minutes. The house does have to be searched. Private Climb, Private Climb over here,” he turned his head a little and called out in his loud voice.
My heart skipped a beat and grabbing Evy’s hand I marched off to the kitchen only to collide into Sammy as he was making his way to Colonel White.
“Thousand apologies,” he said, reaching over to steady me.
“It is nothing, I’m alright,” I hastily assured and brushed past him. Poor Evy stumbled to keep up with my fast strides as I hurried to find Elsie. What a day this was turning out to be; first Mr. Browne showing up out of nowhere, then Captain Sawnders and his attacks, Colonel White telling me he knew my mother, and now Sammy.
“What is it?” I asked Elsie as soon as I got to the kitchen.
“What happened to your face?” She gasped when she saw my slightly swollen lip and the cut right next to it.
“A captain got a little violent. Don’t worry, Elsie, I’m alright. What is this urgent matter?”
“Arthur told me that some of men from the colonel’s regiment were speaking of searching the Thompson Plantation as well as Greensten.”
“Did they already head in that direction?”
“No, said they had to get the Colonel’s permission first.”
“That doesn’t give us much time. Captain Sawnders and his men are already on their way there. We have to send someone to warn Mr. Browne not to go there.” I played with the white hanky in my hands to the point of nearly tearing it. This action got Elsie very annoyed.
“Sarah, would you stop doing that?” she barked at me, “I can’t think straight while you play with that silly piece of fabric.”
I shoved the hanky in my dress pocket, thinking hard. “Who could we send? It has to be someone they wouldn’t notice went missing. Someone they haven’t seen before.”
Elsie and I jumped at Arthur’s voice.
“How many times have I told you not to listen in on grownup’s conversations?” Elsie slapped him on the back of the head, a habit she had when she was annoyed at him. “Stay out of business that is not your own.”
“Awww, lay off Elsie,” he grumbled.
“Arthur, we can’t send you, it’s far too dangerous,” I shook my head.
“It’s not dangerous for me. To start off with, I’s black. That means I’s got nothin’ to fear from the Yanks. They is fighting to free me. Second, I could sneak out of the house unnoticed. None of them has seen me yet, they don’t know about my existence. I’m swift on my feet and know all the short cuts to the Thompson’s place. I’ve done a lot of exploring you know.”
“I told you not to wander around like that, what is it with you and obeying?” Elsie fumed at him.
“Elsie, hush,” I put my hand on her shoulder, “I don’t know Arthur…”
“Come on, Sarah, I’m not a little boy, I’ve growed and I want to do something other than stay home and hide. Let me go and warn him.”
I bit my lip and closed my eyes, oh Lord, what should I do? “Fine, you can go,” I gave in, “but stay safe.”
“Don’t worry about me,” he broke into a large grin. Spinning around, Arthur grabbed his coat that was lying on the table and scampered out the kitchen door Elsie had opened for him. Shutting it once he had gone, she locked the door and placed the key in her apron pocket.
“You think he’ll manage to get there before them Yanks do?” She said after a moment of silence.
“I don’t know,” I shrugged my shoulders, “but it is our only chance. Arthur is a smart boy, he’ll come up with something.”
“That scoundrel is too independent for…Lord bless and save me,” Elsie’s eyes became wide as saucers. I spun around to see what had caused Elsie to get so uncharacteristically surprised and found myself looking straight into Sammy’s dark eyes. The heat rose, the blush began to appear and I looked down. That man was everywhere, and this time there was no getting away from him.