Dedicating this chapter to joyofmusic15. Many thanks for your unending support :)
The next day the surgeon, Dr. Fieldmore came to examine me. He was a crusty man of about fifty, with grey hair and a thick, grey beard.
“What you need to do is guard against infection,” he told me, “as long as the wound remains clean, you will be just fine. And don’t go jumping in front of bullets next time, ‘tis not the business of women to interfere with the wars of men.”
I had a lot of responses to that statement, but I bit my tongue. Arguing with an enemy doctor on subjects of the war was not very wise.
“Disinfect the wound every day,” he continued talking, “and I’d say you could pull the stitches out in three weeks time. Take it easy, young Miss, rest is a wonderful healer.”
“But I can get out of bed?” I questioned.
“If you feel like it,” he replied, “but I don’t want you walking around too much, rest, rest is your sure ticket to a complete recovery.”
I nodded my head, but inwardly I wasn’t at all planning to sit around and do nothing while the wound was healing. I didn’t want to be a burden to this household, goodness knows Prissy was enough. As soon as the pain in my side eased a little, I would be up and out of bed, doing something useful.
Dr. Fieldmore didn’t only examine me, but Kristoffs also. He gave him some kind of medicine and said that as long as Kristoffs didn’t overwork, he should up and about in no time. I was glad for this; I had been so worried about losing Kristoffs and couldn’t bear the idea of his death. I had grown rather attached to this dear man, with the dark sad eyes that spoke of a tragic past. How often I wished he would tell me a little of his life, but he refused too. Said the things he had lived through shouldn’t be spoken of.
The day after Dr. Fieldmore’s visit, Sammy came round to see me. I was out of bed this time, dressed and sitting in a chair, busy mending clothes.
“Are you sure you should be up?” Sammy questioned as he entered the room. I looked up at him in surprise.
“How do you manage to come here without the colonel getting upset?” I asked him.
“Is that the kind of greeting I get?” Sammy chuckled, walking up and placing a kiss on my lips. “Don’t worry about the colonel and me. He sends me to this area to patrol and he knows I stop by the house.”
“And he isn’t angry?”
“I think Colonel White is happy because he can get firsthand knowledge how you are doing. He has been very worried about you.”
I looked down.
“What’s with the gloomy face, my love?” Sammy asked, taking a seat next to me.
My love? He had never called me that before, and for some reason the two words brought a blush to my cheeks. “Oh, I can’t help feeling a little bad that I caused so many people to worry over me.”
“I’ll say,” Sammy agreed with me and I scowled at him.
“How did Elsie react to you coming here?”
“She was upset, but there is nothing she can do about my presence here. I’m not a little boy, I’m a grown man and she can’t dictate how I choose to spend my time,” Sammy smiled, proud of his independence.
“But don’t you know it isn’t safe coming here? If the Home Guard catches you, they’ll hang you for sure.”
Sammy rolled his eyes, “Oh my, I am so scared!” His flat, emotionless voice made me laugh. “We haven’t seen any sort of Home Guard in all this time, so you should quite your worrying,” he added.
“I’ll try,” I promised, “how long do you plan to be stuck out here? Must be very miserable having to camp out on that pile of rubble in this weather.”
“We’re waiting for Colonel White’s battalion to catch up with us,” Sammy explained, “that and a new officer is being sent to take control of Sawnders regiment. Once they arrive our orders are to head out southwest.”
“What happened to Captain Sawnders?”
“Colonel White had him court marshaled and found him guilty of many offences. He had the captain sent to Washington and last I heard he was discharged and sent home in disgrace.”
“Oh dear, I’m surprised he hasn’t come here to get his revenge on me,” the idea of Sawnders being out there made me a little nervous.
“I don’t think he is going to bother coming all the way down here,” Sammy reassured, “and besides, Colonel White is particular of us keeping an eye on you, so you have nothing to fear. I have to say, the colonel is really protective of you, I guess fatherly instinct kicks in pretty fast for some people.”
I slowly nodded my head. For a few minutes we sat silently, I kept busy with my work, while Sammy just looked at me.
“You seem very distant,” he spoke up at last, “is something troubling you? Are you in any pain? I don’t know who let you get out of bed, you mustn't take bullet wounds lightly. Trust me, Sarah, I should know, I’ve had several. You came very near death, And yes, Fieldmore was very positive about your recovery, but you ran such a dangerously high fever for two days that he was forced to bath you in cold water to cool it then wrap you up in blankets to keep you from being chilled. Such a method can work wonders, but there was a possibility you heart wouldn’t be able to handle it. He kept saying you’ll pull through, that you had a good heart, but let me tell you, that night was the longest night in my life, and to think I had to spend it away from you.”
“Wait,” I was busy trying to calculate, “how long was I out?”
“Two days and three nights.”
“Three whole nights?” I raised my eyebrows, then knit them together, “it seemed a lot shorter than that.”
It was Sammy’s turn to be confused, “Sarah, you were unconscious, how could you know how long or short it was.”
I bit my lower lip, wondering how to explain it to him. “While I was running a fever, I had a dream…or a vision, I don’t know what to call it. I was in the old basement I used to live in and Mama was there. She looked very beautiful and her face was full of peace, which was something she never had when she lived. She told me something rather strange. She said it was time for me to discover the past that everyone had kept from me. Said something about the past that is broken was the today we did not mend.”
Sammy’s face was filled with curiosity, “so, are you going to try and turn detective again? I remember last time you tried to get people to reveal the past it didn’t exactly work for you.”
“Not to mention that just about everyone who I could ask is dead or gone,” I added, “the only ones left are George, Lulu, and Kristoffs, and try getting anything out of them. I mean, I do have my mother’s diaries, but I haven’t read anything in there that wasn’t told to me by Harriet and Aunt Helen.”
“Wait, your mother’s diaries, how did you get a hold of them? And the Mistress Greensten actually told you something? Didn’t she hate you?”
“Before her death we made peace,” I softly said. “As for my diaries, Uncle Andrew told me they were in my grandfather’s old room, so I went there and took them out.”
“No! You opened up the Massa Beverly’s old quarters?” Sammy looked at me with wonder mixed with a tint of mischief.
“Yes,” I shrugged, “only why are you looking at me in such a manner?”
“There is a secret chamber there you know?”
“How do you know about that chamber?” I skeptically asked.
“Papa told me. I didn’t think you would know about it, only Papa and Mr. Greensten knew.”
The idea of Sammy knowing about the chamber discomposed me, seeing as among other things, I tended it to hide people it. “And if I found out about it and opened it?” I tried to remain vague.
“Did you see his ghost?”
His excited manner made me laugh. “Samuel Climb,” I scoffed, “don’t you tell me you believe in that story.”
“I want to know if you saw his ghost,” Sammy persisted.
“No I didn’t,” I tossed my head, “what a silly notion. What would the ghost of my grandfather be doing in his room?”
“Not in the room, in the secret chamber.”
“I still don’t know what he would be doing there.”
“You don’t know the story of your grandfather’s death?”
I rolled my eyes, “Of course I know the story of my grandfather’s death. I can even tell you the date it happened, February 15th, 1840, exactly two months to the date before my birth. The cause of his death was a heart attack. It happened around lunch time in his private quarters. The whole thing was very sudden and very swift, he died almost instantly. It’s not the sort of story to get excited about, such things happen,” I paused for a second, thinking of Uncle Andrew’s sudden death.
A mysterious smile appeared on Sammy’s face, “oh, it was sudden and swift, but it wasn’t a heart attack. No, your grandfather was stabbed. It was Massa Greensten who discovered him in his room, a knife in his back. There was a scrap of paper attached to the knife with a single word: revenge.”
“Sammy,” I narrowed my eyes, “if my grandfather had been murdered, it would have created a large scandal and everyone would have been talking about it.”
“Not necessarily. The family name had been subject to too much gossip as it was, so they kept the truth a secret. The fact that he was stabbed was even kept from most of the slaves. They informed everyone that James Beverly died from a heart attack and a private detective was hired and paid to keep his mouth shut. The investigation proved to be fruitless, however, and the murder was never found.”
“How do you know all this?” I still had trouble believing him, “and if it is true why didn’t you tell me before?”
“I didn’t know before. The only people who knew the full truth were the Massa and Mrs. Greensten, and my father. After we had run away and settled in Philadelphia, he told the story to Nettie and myself. Oh Sarah, you should have heard him tell it, he made it sound so spooky. Poor Nettie couldn’t sleep for a week and Mama forbid Papa to ever tell any kind of ghost stories again.”
I frowned. Could this really be true? “But who would want to kill my grandfather?”
“Ha,” Sammy laughed, “who wouldn’t want to kill him? Every slave on the plantation wished him dead.”
“Alright, so my grandfather was murdered, that doesn’t mean his ghost has to be hanging around the house.”
“Ah, there is more to the story. Papa said it wasn’t a mortal who killed him.”
“What do you mean?” This story was getting more and more far-fetched.
“Remember the note attached to the knife, well it was written in Mrs. Beverly’s handwriting. Thing is Mrs. Beverly had died a year before. According to Papa, the ghost of Mr. Beverly’s wife came to get revenge and she locked up his ghost in his secret chamber, telling he would stay there until he atoned all his sins. And he had enough of them to fill an entire library, if someone bothered to write them down of course. Only Mr. Beverly doesn’t want to sit in his room, so he’s trying to get out.”
“Samuel, you will stop right there,” I ordered, a chill going down my spine. “I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. To start with, even if ghosts do exist, they can’t kill people. And second, my grandmother would never do such a thing. I've read my mother’s diaries and I know all my grandmother ever did was try to excuse her husband’s behavior and cover up his scandals. She did that till the day she died and I don't think her crossing over the bar would suddenly make her angry and murderous."
“Then what is your theory on his death?” Sammy challenged.
“I don’t know and I really don’t care. It all happened before I was born, not to mention I never knew the man and good riddance for that. I opened the chamber nearly two years ago and there has been no ghost in all this time, so it is obvious that the story is not true."
Sammy was very disappointed with the cold facts I had presented him. I couldn't understand how such a stupid fairy-tale could so fascinate him
"However," I continued, "what you told me has gotten me very interested. I remember when I first came here everyone was telling me the stories of the past were better left untouched, unknown. I didn’t understand why they had to be so secretive, but I think I am beginning to now. Perhaps this plantation houses darker secrets then I originally thought. You know, I have all my mother’s diaries except for the very last one. The one from 1837, the year she ran away from the plantation, it is missing. I’m guessing she took it with her, and that is sad because now it is lost for good and I never read the thoughts she had before she ran off. I know she left because her father was forcing her to marry Mr. Earl, but I think there is more to her running. had two people, two dying people, grab my hand on their death bed and repeat over and over to me how it wasn’t her fault. This must be what mother was telling me about, there are secrets caught up in this house and she said it would be best for me to discover them. I have no idea how I am going to do it though.”
“I don’t know either,” Sammy gave a small laugh, “but when you do find out, be sure to tell me. I’m very curious to find out the dark history of this plantation.”
I shivered a little, “I hope it’s not too dark. I don’t like dark histories.”
Sammy chuckled, “I think whatever it is, you can handle it. The Sarah before the war might have not been tough enough, but this Sarah, who can argue with Union officers, keep her cool when the father she never knew suddenly appears at her doorstep, and throw herself in front of bullets, this Sarah can handle anything. I don’t know if you have realized this, Sarah, but you are no longer that little girl trying to prove her worth to the world. You are a woman, a strong, independent and mature woman.” He caught my hand and kissed it, “and this lovely woman has forever captured my heart.”
“And this brave, loyal, and caring man,” I softly added, “has forever caught mine.” My words brought a smile to his lips and I leaned over and kissed him. “You had better go,” I whispered, “before Elsie comes here and drags you out by the ear again.”
We both laughed at this. “I’ll see you again as soon as I can, my dear,” he said and with a final kiss on my forehead, left the room.
And the picture to your right (or up above) is how I envision Sammy to look like
(oh, and it's from the 1989 movie Glory, starring Morgan Freeman and Densel Washington. Great, great film, especially if you enjoy movies about the Civil War. And it is based on a true story! In any case, I really liked it :) )