“Strange, isn’t it,” Sammy said in an amused voice, a smile playing on his lips, “the first thing I should hear coming from your mouth, Elsie, is how someone is too independent. If I didn’t know better, I’d think my double was in the house. Some people are just made in stone.”
“Lord love me, Samuel Climb! Where did you come from?” Poor Elsie sputtered. “I suppose I should give you a hug first, and then get angry at you scaring the livin’ daylights out of me! Coming up out of nowhere like that, you nearly gave me a heart attack, wretched boy.”The smile on her face contradicted with what she was saying. She reached over to give him a hug, and since Sammy was a good two heads taller than Elsie, she had to stand on her tiptoes to reach around his neck.
It truly was a touching scene, so beautiful and filled with love. I saw a tear steal down Sam’s cheek, Elsie had plenty of them in her eyes. Elsie had always made light on the fact that she had been separated from her family, but when I saw her and Sam hugging each other, I understood just how of a sacrifice it had been for her to stay behind.
At last Elsie pulled away and wiped the tears from her eyes. “Who would have thought?” She sniffed, “I was sure I would never see you again and here you are right in front of me. And all dressed up in uniform too. Wait a minute,” she turned to face me, “how come yous not all surprised and upset?”
“I saw him earlier, outside,” I explained.
“And you didn’t tell me nothing? Why it should have been the first thing coming out of your mouth the moment you came to this kitchen.”
“I’m sorry Elsie, but there is so much going on at the moment, and I’m just not handling it all.”
“Does it hurt?” Sammy motioned to my face.
“Does what hurt? Oh,” my hand covered the cut on my lip, “no, not at all. I don’t even remember about it until someone points it out.”
“Was it your captain, Sam, who attacked our Sarah?” Elsie demanded. How awkward it was to remember that we were on opposite sides of the war.
“No, that was Captain Sawnders,” I answered before him. “It was Sam’s officer who came to my rescue.”
“I told her not to go out there, but she obviously didn’t’ listen to me,” Elsie scolded.
“You should have seen her though,” Sammy defended me, “didn’t show any fear even in front of an entire regiment of soldiers. Who would have though Sarah could be so brave?”
It was very embarrassing to hear the two of them discussing me and all I wanted to do was get out of there.
“Well, uh, I’m afraid the two of you will have to excuse me.” I said.
“Where are you going?” Sammy seemed confused at how I was trying to get past him and out of the kitchen door.
“To hear out what sort of questions Colonel White has to ask me. Do you know where he is?” I directed my question to Sammy.”
“He’s in the parlor.”
“Thank you,” I gave a slight smile and retreated out of the kitchen.
“Ten to one she’s trying to get away from you,” I heard Elsie’s say.
“Why do you always have to be such a wet blanket?”
I shut the door and walked off before I could hear anymore of the conversation. Right now I didn’t have time for matters of my heart; I had bigger problems to deal with. Shoving Sammy into a dark corner of my mind where I hoped he wouldn’t bother me, I headed to the parlor. The door was shut and as I reached over to grasp the door handle I heard voices on the other side. It sounded like the sergeant speaking. My hand remained over the handle but I didn’t open the door. I figured I would listen a bit. We were at war after all, and I just might hear something useful.
“I’ll keep Private Sands and search the house,” the sergeant was saying, “that will leave you with four men to search the plantation. Is that alright with you? Colonel, sir, can you hear me? Sir, sir? Brandon!”
“What?” I recognized Colonel White’s voice.
“Did you even hear what I just said?”
“Of course I did, I just didn’t quite grasp the meaning of it.”
“What’s wrong, Brandon?” the sergeant asked. It was strange to hear him suddenly switch to the colonel’s first name. “I’ve never seen you so discomposed or distracted before. You can’t focus on anything I’m telling you.”
“I’m sorry, Robert, I’m being haunted.”
“Brandon, you don’t believe in ghosts.”
“Not by ghosts, by memories.”
“What sort of memories could haunt you here?”
There was a pause, before the colonel spoke up again, “memories of a life I have long tried to forget. If I would have known that painting would greet me at the door, I would have never agreed to enter the house.”
“Are you speaking about the painting of Miss Evelyn Beverly?”
“You know Evelyn Beverly?” Colonel White asked incredulously.
“You know Evelyn Beverly?” The sergeant was just as shocked.
“I knew her once upon a time. It was in New York, we worked together in the theater? Where did you know her?”
“In Boston, I am the son of her former landlord.”
I gave a quiet gasp. Impossible! The sergeant was really Robert Hosehigh? Good God, the world was just getting smaller and smaller. What sort of fate brought all these people to my doorstep?
“So you are acquainted with Miss Rose?” The colonel asked.
“Holy Saint’s of Ireland!” The truth dawned on Robert. It was a great pity I couldn’t see his face. “But of course, we‘re on the Greensten Plantation and Helen Greensten was the name of Sarah’s aunt. Why didn’t I realize it before? That young lady is Sarah, little Sarah whom we sent away all on her own to the south. How often did my dear mother wonder what became of her. Well, she’s Rose now, so that means…no, she said she was Miss Rose, meaning she’s not married. No wonder I didn’t realize who she was, I always knew her as…well…never mind.”
“You knew her as Sarah Beverly?”
There was an awkward silence. Then the colonel spoke up again.
“No doubt her name was changed to keep secret that fact that she,” his voice dropped to a whisper so low I could barely hear it, “that she was born out of wedlock.”
“How do you know that?” Robert asked in surprise. “You weren’t around when she was born.”
“Birth happens nine months after being in the mother’s womb, Robert.”
“But Brandon, you were in Europe in 1840.”
“Tell me, were you around when Sarah was born?” Colonel White asked on impulse.
“My mother was Miss Beverly’s midwife, I held Sarah only an hour after she came to this earth.”
“Right, let’s do some back tracking. Do you remember when Miss Beverly came to Boston?”
“In the end of January she showed up at our doorstep, asking for lodgings.”
“And in what month was Sarah born.”
“Count back nine months from her birth, what do you get?”
“Exactly, I left for Europe in early September of that same year and Evelyn only came to Boston in January of the next, what does that tell you?”
“That tells me you were in New York…blessed Lord, that tells me you might know who her father is,” Robert’s voice was hushed but excited. “Do you?”
My heart began beating faster and I drew a deep breath.
Slowly I let it go.
“Brandon, you must tell me!”
“Must I now?”
I bit my lower lip, almost afraid to breathe. I had to keep silent, I had to let them finish, I might just find out who my father was. Another chance would never present itself.
“You don’t understand,” Robert kept badgering, “Sarah’s father was always a great mystery to my family. Miss Beverly spoke very little about her life as an actress and never ever said anything about the father of her child. We could all only guess who he might have been. Mind you, if I ever met him face to face, I would tell him a thing or two.”
I frowned impatiently. Could they just stop beating around the bush and get to the point?
“Like who did he think he was to go ahead and ruin such a beautiful woman’s life? How dare he disgrace her the way he did and run off like a coward instead of facing up to his actions. She had a glittering career ahead of her but she was forced into self exile in order to hide from a cruel and judgmental society. He ruined a woman and made a charming, innocent little girl an outcast, robbing her of both mother and family. And that is just the beginning of the speech. Oh there is much I would give to get a chance to speak to him.”
“It just so happens, Robert,” Colonel White’s voice went down an octave,” you don't have to give anything. You are speaking to him right now.”
My hand flew to my mouth to keep the cry of horror from comming out. My heart thumped against my chest, my breathing became fast and irregular.
“Brandon?” Robert’s voice was filled with disbelief.
“Yes, Robert, I am her father.”
“How, how can you be sure of that?”
Colonel White gave a bitter laugh. “It isn't so hard actually. She told me Evy died the year she turned eight and that it would be sixteen years in June. I did the math and calculated Sarah is twenty three, which makes her the right age. Then there was the locket around her neck. I gave Evy that locket for her twentieth birthday. And last of all, when I asked about her father she informed me in a flat voice that her only relative had been her aunt, telling me that her father had never been around. It was painfully easy to figure it all out.”
“Does she know?”
“Good heavens, no. She doesn’t even suspect.”
“Are you going to tell her?”
“Would you quit ‘Brandoning’ me? It is obvious I wouldn’t tell her.”
“Why not? I think she has a right to know.”
“Oh, and how do you suggest I tell her? Walk up and say: Miss Rose, I am your father, the man who broke your mother’s heart, the reason for her untimely and tragic death and the reason you were born an outcast. Seriously, who would I sound like?”
“It certainly wouldn’t make you the hero you have been so far,” Robert agreed. “But still, I still think she should know.”
“And I think it would be easier for her if she doesn’t. I can’t face her, Robert, not after the way I treated her mother. Evy confronted me with the truth and my reply was to run off to Europe. You were right when you said I acted like a coward. If I had done the honorable thing, Sarah wouldn’t be in this hell. But no, I abandoned them and here we are now, I am a colonel in the Union Army and she is a woman in the Confederacy. I’m the enemy as it is and I have no desire to make myself the enemy squared.”
I spun around at the low voice calling my name. Sammy was standing behind me, eyebrows knitted together in suspicion. I turned a deep red, he had caught me listening to the conversation of a Union officer; no doubt Sammy thought I was spying. At the same time, I couldn’t tell him what I had heard, I couldn’t tell anyone. I pressed my finger to my lips, my eyes pleading with him not to give away the fact that I had been standing there. Then I turned and fled. I ran as far from that horrible room as I could. I needed to be alone, somewhere quiet where I could try and to sort through all the information I had just heard. Curiosity had just killed the cat, but this time there was no satisfaction to bring it back and I wished with all my heart that I had not heard all Colonel White had said.
Shocking? This is the last update I will put up before the new year. May you all have a festive, joyful New Years Eve and see you all in 2015 :)