Sarah's Roses, Book II: Roses of White

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Chapter XXVIII

Chapter XXVIII

I don’t think I ever saw a man each so much food in so little time. Lt. Harper just wolfed down everything we brought him. Lulu grumbled about how he would eat us out of the house, but I didn’t pay attention to her. Harper had brought me news of Jeff and I would have fed him every scrap of food we had in gratitude. Thankfully his stomach wasn’t big enough.

“Many thanks, Miss Rose,” he said when at last he had eaten his fill, “I haven’t had a decent meal in so long, and in such civilized conditions. I hope you will not mind me asking, but a thought has been plaguing me, and I find my curiosity getting the better of me.”

“What is it, Mr. Harper?”

“Where is Mr. Greensten? Jeff often spoke of his uncle, but I haven’t seen a single white face in this house, save yours.”

“My uncle died in February,” I softly explained.

“Oh, my condolences,” his voice also dropped, “so now it is just you and the colored folks? I’m surprised they didn’t take off and leave you.”

“I’m surprise too,’ I smiled, “most of the household slaves left, but these few remained out of sympathy towards me. I am very grateful; I should never have made it through these years without them. Priscilla Thompson, Jeff’s betrothed, also lives with us, but these days she rarely comes out of her room. Our last Yankee visit really discomposed her. I am hoping the news of Jeff will put her in better spirits.”

“What happened to her family?”

“Mr. Thompson was killed by the Yanks, Mrs. Thompson perished in the fire and her brother was killed in action.”

Lt. Harper shook his head, “such is war, Miss Rose, such is war.” We were both silent for a few seconds.

“You really must go, Lt. Harper, it is not safe here. And…if you should by some miracle chance upon Captain Greensten, tell him we are managing, that God is keeping us safe and that we await the end of the war so he may return home.”

He nodded his head, kiss my hand and with a fond farewell left the house. I was about to lock the door behind him when I remember I had prepared some food for him to take with him. Rushing into the kitchen, I grabbed the sack and ran out the back door, hoping to catch him before he rode away. I ran around the house and was about to call to him when a voice caused me to shrink back and hide behind the large stairs of the front porch.

“Don’t move, sir!”

Oh Lord, that was Sammy.

I could see Lt. Harper, who had just been about to mount his horse, freeze and turn around. The large wall making up the stairs hid Sammy from my view, but a click told me he was holding a gun at Harper.

“Who are you?” Sammy demanded. Lt. Harper had lost a shade of color from his already pale face, but he remained cool and calm.

“Ridiculous question. Seeing as I am obviously not a Yank, we must conclude I am the enemy.”

“What is your business in this house?”

“My business is none of your business therefore I am not obligated to share it with you,” Lt. Harper retorted and made a move to climb onto his horse.

“Don’t you get on that horse,” Sammy commanded, “drop your weapon and come with me. You are under arrest and now a prisoner of the Union Army.”

“Oh, aren’t we glad to finally order the white man around,” Lt. Harper snapped, “well, sorry, but I don’t take orders from the likes of you.”

“Are you insulting me because I am black?”

“Maybe,” Lt. Harper shrugged, “maybe it’s because you’re Yank, maybe because you’re a common soldier, or maybe it is an unfortunate combination of all three. Either way it doesn’t really matter because I am not going to be your prisoner, so you might as well just shoot me.”

“I’m taking you back to camp; the colonel will be plenty interested in you. The only reason a rebel could be lurking around these parts on his own would be if he were a spy.”

“Well, I’m not interested in your colonel, so I’ll bid you goodbye.”

“Make one move, sir, and I swear I’ll shoot. There is no need to shed blood out here, get away from the horse, drop you weapon and come with me.”

It was plain as day Lt. Harper wasn’t going to let himself be taken into custody. He had too much information to allow himself to get caught. The look on his face said he was going to get away, or die trying. He set his lips in a firm line and turned toward his horse. There was about half a second before Sammy would have to carry out his threat, and I knew I had to intervene. My actions would never be understood by poor Sammy, but what could I do? His duty as a Yankee soldier was to shoot Lt. Harper, and my duty as a Confederate woman was to get in the way. Taking a deep breath and bracing myself for what could be the last couple minutes of my life, I dropped the food, rushed out of my hiding place and threw myself in front of Lt. Harper just as Sammy pulled the trigger.

BAM!

A loud gunshot broke the air as the little metal bullet found its mark in my ribs. A small cry of pain escaped my lips as I sank to the ground. Lt. Harper reached to support me, but I shook my head. “Go,” I mouthed the words, my eyes begging him to not let my sacrifice go in vain. He understood the message, and with regret in his eyes hopped on his horse and urged it into a gallop. Poor Sammy was stunned for a couple of seconds; I heard my name escape his lips in a hoarse sort of gasp as he stood frozen to the ground. He was now faced with a dreadful decision. Duty told him to chase Harper, feelings told him to jump from his horse and rush to me. What was worse, he had milliseconds to make the choice, for Harper was getting away. Kicking his horse’s sides, Sammy chose the call of duty and did the hardest thing in his life: took off after Harper, leaving me bleeding on the ground.

Thankfully he didn’t leave me alone for long, the sound of gunshots brought George running out of the house. He saw me lying in a pool of blood, and was at my side in no time.

“Miss Sarah, Miss Sarah, answer me,” he gently lifted my head. I moaned a little and opened my eyes. The pain in my side was unbearable and I could almost feel my life trickling out of me.

“He didn’t do it on purpose,” I whispered, “it just…happened.”

“What is it, George?” I heard Elsie’s voice, only why was it all so distant. It sounded like they were miles and miles away. And why was George taking off his shirt?

“It’s Miss Sarah, she’s shot,” George replied, pressing his shirt to my side in an attempt to stop the blood flow.

“Bad luck is just my name,” I attempted to giggle, but something gurgled in my throat and I choked.

“Good God, she’s coughing up blood,” George’s voice was filled with horror, “it’s really serious, Elsie, we’s gonna need some professional help.”

The word help awakened a memory in my foggy brain.

“He said if I needed help, to fire two shots into the air,” my voice was sinking below a whisper. “He said to use this,” I struggled to pull the colt revolver out of the pocket, “he promised he’d come, and he always keeps his promises.”

“Who?” George asked, his voice was even more distant now.

“My…my…father,” just as the word came out I choked again and spit out more blood.

“Who?” George was confused but Elsie grabbed the gun and fired two shots, one right after the other.

“I’ll explain later,” she said to George, “let’s get her into the house.”

I felt George lifting me off the ground.

“How quickly the sun is setting,” I mumbled, “it is getting dark so fast.”

“Oh no, Sarah,” Elsie’s voice was desperate, “you fight that darkness, you hear me? Don’t let it take over, we’s getting you home, we’ll fix it all in no time. Just hang on in there.” Two more shots rang out, as Elsie fired again. I guess she was trying to hurry up and get the colonel attention.

“George,” what little strength I had was fading, but I had to make sure they passed on an important message, “tell Sam I don’t blame him.”

“Sam? Sam did this?” Elsie asked incredulously.

I wanted to explain what had happened, how it wasn’t really anyone’s fault, just the sad circumstances we had been placed in. I wanted to have them tell Sammy that I was proud of him for leaving me, proud of him for putting duty above all else, that this was war and we had to make choices like such as these, but I knew I didn’t have the time to say all that. I could only see blurry shadows in the midst of pitch blackness so I decided to just stick with that which was most important. “Tell him,” George leaned closer to try and catch the words I was just barely saying, “tell him I love him.” With those words the darkness claimed victory and my head rolled back as I lost all contact with the physical world.

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The End.

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