A horrible scream made the three of us jump. Good Lord, that had to be Prissy. Lulu, Elsie, and myself exchanged glances and I then took off for her room, Elsie close behind me.
Prissy’s room was a tiny little thing, more like a closet than a room. She had insisted on having a room all to herself, saying living with another person was death to her. Since we all lived in the slave’s quarters, finding something that would suit her was not easy, but at last the little room had been set up for her.
Coming over to her room, we saw Sands standing quite paralyzed in the open doorway. Prissy was inside, screaming her head off. Elsie shoved the man out of the way and the two of us ran in.
“He’s in my room!” Prissy shrieked when she saw me. “The Yank is in my room! He’s going to have his way with meeeeeeee!”
I grabbed her arms, “he’s not going to hurt you, Prissy. Didn’t George warn you? The soldiers are searching the house, and everyone was supposed to go the parlor.”
Prissy paid no attention to my words and went on screaming at the top of her lungs.
“Come on, Prissy, let’s go,” I tried to pull her from her chair, but she was in hysterics and refused to budge. Elsie came to my rescue and forcefully yanked her out of her seat. We began leading her out of the room but Prissy shrieked all the louder and fought the two of us.
“Priscilla Melissa Thompson, stop this right now! No one is going to hurt you as long as you cooperate,” I shouted at her, my patience having run rather thin. Between Elsie and myself we managed to drag the screaming, fighting Prissy out of the room and towards the parlor. Halfway we were met by Robert, who had come running.
“Is everything alright?” He breathlessly asked.
“Everything is fine,” I struggled to make myself heard and keep Prissy under control. “Prissy is just having a fit.”
“Priscilla Thompson,” Elsie hollered. Her voice was stronger than mine and better heard over Prissy. “She’s the neighbor’s daughter.”
Robert slowly nodded his head, staring wide-eyed at the scene of us dragging Prissy into the parlor. Once inside, it didn’t get any better. Poor Evy jumped up in fright at the sight of Prissy and ran to George for protection. Elsie tried to get Prissy to sit down, but Prissy balked and repeatedly tried to hit her.
That action caused me to lose the last strand of patience. Roughly grabbing her shoulders, I began shaking her with all my might. “Prissy, you shut that mouth of yours,” I yelled at her, “you’re driving us all mad. Stop screaming this instant or I swear I’ll hit you, I’ll hit you so hard you’ll find yourself screaming from pain.”
At first she didn’t pay any attention to me, but when I raised my hand she gulped down the remnants of her hysterics and collapsed into a chair. Burying her face into her hands, she sobbed loudly, “You all have no sympathy for my feelings! How can you threaten me like that? How can you be so cruel? What would you have done if a Yankee soldier barged into your bedroom like that?”
“What were you doing in the bedroom? Didn’t George tell you to come to the parlor?”
“I do not take orders from a slave,” Prissy lifted her head and spoke in a cold tone. “If I wish to remain in my room, then I shall remain in my room. That man,” she pointed towards George, “has to remember who he is and who I am.”
“He just happens to be the only man we’ve got!” I shot back at her, “And everything he has ever done so far is to protect who you are, and that is a woman. I asked him to bring you here because the house is being searched.”
“He still has no right to order me around.”
“He has every right. I give him every right. From now on you will obey whatever it is George or Lulu or Elsie tell you, is that clear?”
“Oh look who decided to get all bossy?” Prissy hissed at me.
“Priscilla Thompson,” I stood up and glared at her, “allow me to remind you that you are living under my roof and that means you abide by my rules.”
“What was that Yank doing here anyway? It was your duty to keep the soldiers out of this house, and certainly out of my room.”
I grit my teeth in anger, but didn’t bother answering. Of course apart from having to deal with the soldiers, I had to keep them out of the house, while she sat around and did nothing. I needed a break from that girl, so I promptly left the room, with Elsie following close behind
“What am I going to do with her?” I sighed as we stood by the parlor door.
“Threaten her,” Elsie suggested, “threaten to throw her out, just like you threatened to hit her.”
“Oh no, I did that in a fit of anger,” I argued, “I could never threaten to throw her out just for being a snob.”
“Sarah you has got to be firm,” Elsie’s growled at me, “you can’t let Miss Priss walk all over you!”
“I’m not letting her walk all over me, but she could test me and I would have to go through with it, and you know I could never throw Prissy out in cold blood.” I gave another frustrated sigh, “I only wish you could tell me one thing, whatever induced Jeff to want to marry her?”
They made a very thorough check of the house. Searched in each of the rooms, in some they searched several times. Inwardly, it really bugged me to have them prowling around the house the way they did. I couldn’t do anything about it though, so getting angry wasn’t going to help. We spent the entire day in the parlor. Once the tree was up and decorated with bit of string and scraps of cloth, Elsie and I busied ourselves with the mending, Evy played with her rag dolls at our feet. Prissy curled up in a chair and stared out the window. Lulu had gone to sit upstairs with Kristoffs and George settled in the corner with a book. As of yet, we hadn’t heard anything from Arthur.
As dinner time drew near, Elsie went to put something together. I helped Evy with her reading and writing. George cut some more wood as our supply was running low. When the food was ready Elsie called and we ate our meager, Christmas supper. Dinner had just finished when the clattering of horses told me Colonel White and his men had returned. We heard the front door open and the heavy footsteps of Colonel White enter. I got up and left the table. Tiptoeing down the hall, I peeked out and saw Colonel White and Robert.
“Well?” Robert asked.
“Nothing! Searched the grounds as best we could, went over to where the freed slaves live, asked around, but I couldn’t find him. I don’t even know in which direction he could have gone. Sawnders searched the entire Thompson Plantation, didn’t find him either. That man has vanished without a trace, I’ve lost his scent and don’t know where to look. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he flew away.” I could easily detect frustration in the colonel’s voice. “What about you?”
“Went through the place with a fine tooth comb; didn’t find anything. What now?”
“I don’t know. I’m going to write headquarters and find out what my next orders are. Should we keep trying to track him down or move on. I’ll mention Sawnders behavior as well.”
“Do you really think that necessary, sir?”
“Of course I do. You know what sort of a man Sawnders is. Don’t you remember Gettysburg? I remember Gettysburg,” Colonel White shuddered. “I’m surprised we won the battle at all, that man’s stupidity nearly lost us an entire battalion. Not only is he arrogant and completely stupid, but cruel. No, I am determined to have him removed of his position. Where can I find Miss Rose?”
“They just finished dinner, sir, look in the servants’ quarters; they’ve got something of a dining room there.”
“And where are the servants’ quarters?”
“Private Sands, show the colonel the way.”
I ran back and just managed to sit down at the table when there was a knock on the door and Colonel White entered.
“Miss Rose, I was wondering if you might have a table I could write on.”
I looked at him strangely. This house was full of tables, what was stopping him from just sitting down and writing on one?
“If you want some privacy sir, you can go to the parlor. There’s a table with a candle there.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” He gave a bow and left, closing the door behind him.
“He sure has manners, that colonel does.” Elsie commented.
“A welcome change,” I agreed. Colonel White had done nothing but impress me from the moment he arrived, but at the same time, the truth of who he really was kept eating away at me.
“So, who is doing the dishes?” Elsie asked.
“I will,” I volunteered, I desperately needed some kind of work. Working was the only way I knew how to deal with stress.
“Alright, I’ll go up and get Kristoff’s dishes from Lulu and then I’ll join you. George can play nursemaid and watch Evy.” Elsie winked at George, who frowned at her. I giggled and gathering the dishes went off to the kitchen. On my way I bumped into Colonel White.
“Miss Rose, I have a great favor to ask you.”
One look out the window and I knew what he was going to ask. Certainly not! I would not have seven Yankee soldiers spending the night in my home! I had stood by and watched them search my house, search my entire property and not said a word. I was even alright with them spending the night on the land. But not in the house!
“If you’ll give me a moment, Colonel, I’ll put the dishes in the kitchen and hear you out,” I told him. Shutting the kitchen door I placed the dishes in the sink and waited for Elsie. She came in a few minutes.
“Why is Colonel White standing by the door?”
“He wants us to let the soldiers in for the night,” I blurted out to her. “But that is asking too much.”
“If yous enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head.”
“Oh, Elsie,” I threw my hands in the air, “don’t quote that Book to me! Not now!”
“It’s the one and only Book I’s gonna quote to you in a time like this.”
“But Elsie, we are a house full of unmarried women.”
“Lulu is married, and it certainly isn’t her fault that ol’ Massa Beverly went and sold her husband.”
“That is not what I meant. There are seven soldiers out there, it would be horribly improper for us all to spend the night under one roof.”
“What was that about loving our enemies? The house is large and the colonel is disciplined. And just think, if it had been Jeff in a situation like this, wouldn’t you want the person in your place to show him some sympathy?”
I groaned. I didn’t mind it when Elsie was right, but I wished she just wouldn’t be right at this moment. I couldn’t do such a thing. I had done enough as it was. Surely God would forgive me. Turning I opened the door and faced Colonel White.
“Yes, sir, your men can come into the house. It is cold and wet outside; winter is never a pleasant time and no doubt they are chilled. You can all spend the night in the ballroom. Only there is no coal to heat it, so you shall have to chop your own wood. And I would appreciate it if the men would not go wandering around the house.”
He was so taken back by what I had just said, for a minute he just stared at me. “I, uh, how did you know what I was going to ask?” He sputtered at last.
He gave a bow, “I’m very grateful, Miss Rose.”
I nodded my head and escaped back to the kitchen; not fully believing what I had just done. But then, Elsie had been right. They all had mothers, wives, sweethearts, sisters, and cousins, who were worrying about how they could get along this winter. We may be on different sides of the war, but first and foremost, we were human beings, not to mention citizens of the same country. No matter what everyone around us was saying, there was a greater law that told us to love our neighbors, and same Person who gave us that law told us our neighbors were anyone who needed our help. Be they Samaritans, Jews, slaves or Yankee soldiers!