This chapter is dedicated to VictoriaHether. You have been such an amazing reader, thank you so much for your votes, your wonderful comments and you support. I really am so grateful.
The regiment remained on the Thompson Plantation for two weeks. I would often see the Yanks as they rode about, patrolling the area. Robert came to see me twice and Sammy would of course use every possible excuse to come over. Apart from wanting to see me and Elsie, he was now very curious to find out the many secrets this house had. I knew he would pester Lulu, George and Kristoffs, and they were very annoyed at him. Lulu said that the secrets of the Beverly family were never any of his concern, and so he didn't need to know about them.
"Why are they so secretive," he confronted me once, after yet another unsuccessful attempt to get something out of George.
"Remember that Rome wasn't built in a day," I pointed out. "If I have learned anything it is that openly asking questions in this house won't get you anywhere."
"Well, maybe you could help me out a little!"
"Honestly, Sammy," I was a little annoyed, "I am currently occupied with more pressing matters. Must I remind you that this country is at war and my home just so happens to be right on the warpath. I've got a household to try and keep together, and that means I don't have a lot of free time like I did before."
Sammy frowned, but I could see he understood my point.
"Why don't you leave the secrets of the Beverly family to the last Beverly descendent," I suggested. "Instead of bothering everyone here, you could put your detective skills to use in trying to get Colonel White tell you something about his past with my mother." Honestly, I was a little afraid of the tragic tale of my parents, but then Mama had said that nothing in my past was dangerous, so I figured I could be brave enough to at least try and discover their back story. And Sammy was my perfect key. With his help I could things find out without actually having to get involved.
I hadn't heard much from Colonel White since he had left. When Dr. Fieldmore had come to examine me he had passed on the colonel's compliments and said Colonel White was glad to hear I was improving. I in turn had asked the doctor to give the colonel my deepest gratitude for all he did. That concluded all communication with him, I neither saw nor heard from the colonel in the entire time he was on Thompson's.
It was the beginning of January, about ten days after the shooting incident, when Sammy came for another visit to the house. I was washing some laundry when he entered the room. He was rather downcast and I noticed it right away.
"Is something the matter?" I asked, wringing out the pillowcase
"A messenger came today, Colonel White's battalion is only a day's march from here. They should arrive tomorrow at sundown and at first light the next day we will be marching out."
"Oh." I put the wet pillowcase in the tub and turned to sit down. I still couldn't stand for long periods of time. Sammy supported me by the arm as he helped me into a chair.
"You have got to take better care of yourself," he scolded, concern flashing in his eyes. "Can't you just take it easy for a few days? The wound needs time to heal. It's not like Elsie and Lulu can't manage without you."
I stubbornly shook my head, "inactivity makes my mind wander. As long as I keep busy, my sanity remains intact. I don't know how Prissy manages to sit in her room doing nothing all day long, such behavior would have driven me mad. But then I guess we all have our own ways of deal with hardship and stress. Don't worry, dear Sammy, so far I've only done light housework."
"Scrubbing sheets and pillowcases isn't light housework," Sammy argued, "You have to make sure you don't get any infection in the wound, it could cost you your life! Sarah," he took my face in his hands, "remember when you told me my death would kill you? Well, did it ever cross your mind that your death might kill me?"
"Nah," a slight smile played on my lips, "you're stronger than that."
"How can you be so inconsiderate to my feelings?" Sammy frowned, crossing his arms in front of him, "what would I do if you died?"
"I can tell you what you would do," I kept my voice soft and earnest, "you would be heartbroken for a while, but then you would let time heal the wound. Perhaps in a few years you would meet a girl, maybe she would remind you of me, maybe she would be completely different,"
Sammy opened his mouth to protest, but I held up my hand, "your broken heart would turn to her for comfort and support, and she would seek to fill that which you had lost. The two of you would marry and you would name your daughter in honor of me. That way, every time you called her, you would remember me and a little part of me would always be with you."
Sammy shook his head, but I cut him off before he had a chance to speak, "Sammy, the heart can heal if you will let it."
"So says you," Sammy shrugged his shoulders, understanding it would be fruitless to argue with me, "but you're not dead yet, and if you take care of yourself you won't die in a long time and save me from such torture."
"But in time, Sammy, you must..."
"Let's not go there, my love," Sammy interrupted, "not now, not here."
"You've been calling me that a lot recently," I pointed out, "you never did before?"
"Before, I was too busy being upset that I couldn't have you in the open I didn't realize what a privilege it was that I could have you in secret. Only when I left and you stayed behind did I realize how little I valued those years. That is why I don't want to waste these moments, these days, because I know they are going to end and I don't know what will happen after that."
I nodded my head. The two of us where old enough to understand that of course, nothing could come of the love we shared. Elsie had been true when she said the world would never accept the romance, we had let it continue because time was short. I didn't know if Sammy would ever appear in my life once his battalion moved away.
"But you have got to promise me," Sammy spoke up again, "that you won't go jumping in front of any more bullets."
I took his hand and looked into his eyes, "I can make no promises, Sammy. I'm a soldier too, and my battleground is the Home Front. Whatever happens, will happen."
Sammy looked down, frustrated with my answer, frustrated with the fact that he couldn't protect me. "You say you are doing this for Jeff," he mumbled, "but for all you know, Jeff is dead."
"Don't!" My grip on his hand tightened, "don't say those words! He isn't dead, he can't be dead. Captain Greensten would never go down without a fight, he knows we are depending on him."
"Jeff is a captain?"
"I know, it sounds very strange to think of him as someone with authority and in charge of an entire regiment of soldiers. The Jeff I knew was such a boy, but I feel the war has changed him, just like it has changed us all,. You know, he would read my letters out loud to the men because he thought it would give them hope. I can't even remember what exactly I would write to him, I do remember telling him to keep holding on, that we would somehow pull through this, and I never thought my letters would have such an impact on them all." I felt a tear stealing its way down my cheek and hurriedly wiped it. "You know what he wrote me once? He said that my letters were the only thing he looked forward too, and he said when he would go out to battle, he would keep me in his thoughts and that was the only thing that would make him survive."
"What about Prissy? Didn't he ever mention her?"
"Not to me, but then, its rare lovers ever mention each other to anyone but themselves." I sighed, "Oh Sammy, if I could have one wish granted me for this New Year, it would be for Jeff to come home. I don't care who wins, I don't care if he returns the victor or the defeated, I don't care if he comes back missing a leg or an arm or an eye, as long as he comes back, safe and sound."
Silence followed my statement and I wondered if perhaps it was silly of me to say such things to Sammy, who had never really like Jeff and was on the opposite side of the war. "I'm sorry, Sammy," I felt my face turning red, "I don't know why I started talking about all this. It's been on my heart for so long and there hasn't' been anyone to discuss it with and then you came along and I'm so used to sharing everything on my heart I just babbled it. I'm sorry if it makes you angry, or upset, or unhappy."
Sammy let out a quiet sigh, "the only thing that makes me unhappy, Sarah, is that you are surrounded by danger and I can't protect you. It hurts me to know that my presence can bring you pain."
"I thought you said it was worth the pain," I teased a little.
"Not your pain!"
"Sammy, Sammy, you must understand this is a two way street. You can't expect to take all the difficulties on yourself. I promised to let you handle you pain, so you let me handle mine. It's like you said, I'm no longer that little girl hiding from the world anymore. I've changed. I'm stronger then I look."
"You're right, my love," Sammy softly said and smiled, though his eyes remained sad. I could tell he was troubled over something, and I hoped it didn't have anything to do with what I had been telling him.
Two days later, just as the sun was starting to rise, Elsie quietly woke me up and said that Sammy was downstairs and wished to see me. I hurriedly dressed and followed her. It was strange to see her so calm about the fact that Sammy was asking for me.
Sammy was in the parlor and when I came in he took me in his arms and kissed me without a moment's hesitation. I blushed at the idea of Elsie watching us. Hearing the door click, I guessed she must have left to give us some privacy.
"We's moving out," Sammy said, "the colonel has given me permission to come and say goodbye, but I have precious little time. There is so much I wish to say to you, but the clock is against me. Seeing you again was the best thing that happened to me during this war. I don't know if I will ever see you again, but let me say that no matter what happens, there will always be a place in my heart for you and only you, my white rose."
I looked at him tenderly, "whatever the future brings to you and me, Sammy, wherever you go and whatever you do, remember that I will love you till the day I die." I released his grasp on me to reach into my dress pocket. "Here," I carefully pulled out the lock of hair I had prepared earlier, "I want you to have this, so you can keep a part of me with you no matter where you are."
Sammy smiled and taking the lock, put it in his pocket. "Sarah," he became a little uncomfortable, "I've been wondering for a while...you don't have to answer if you don't want too, but I still felt I had to ask. If...if circumstances had been different, if society hadn't been what it is and if the rules and laws were less cruel...if...if I were to ask you...that is to say..."
"Yes, Sammy," I gently interrupted, "I would go to the church this very second with you and take the vow to cherish and to hold till death did us part."
Sammy's whole face lit up at my words, "really?"
"If I could Sammy, I would."
"But she can't, so she won't," Elsie stated, walking back into the room. "Sam, you had better go before they come looking for you."
Sammy sighed, "you are right, Elsie. Take care, dear, it was good to see you again." He put his arms around her and pulled her into a tight embrace.
"Stay out of mischief, little brother," Elsie whispered, "don't go looking for trouble and trouble won't find you."
Sammy laughed at her words and kissed her on the cheek, "I wonder if a day will ever come when you stop bossing people around."
"Nah," she shook her head, "it is something I do best." The both chuckled at this and Sammy gave her one last hug before turning again to me.
"Here," he pulled a folded paper out of his pocket, "this is for you." We clung to each other for a brief second, "I love you," Sammy whispered.
"I love you too," I whispered back, giving him a tender kiss. He let me go, almost reluctantly, "Oh and the colonel sends his compliments," he said, wringing my hands in his. He gave Elsie a final kiss and hurried to the door. Elsie and I watched from the window as he rode away.
"Fate is a strange thing, isn't it, Sarah," Elsie mused to me. "Well, seeing as I am up, I might as well go and make breakfast."
I could see her eyes were a little watery and knew she wanted to get away from me so I wouldn't see her crying, so I didn't offer to help her. When she had left I sat down and unfolded the note.
To my dearest Sarah,
I wish I could say all this to you personally, but there isn't the time so I am forced to write it. I know these years have been hard for you, and you have faced one grief after another. During the time I was fighting, I would catch myself wondering on how you were doing and if you were coping. You see, in my mind you were still so young and vulnerable. But then I came here and saw you and I realized you had what it takes. I think you had it all along, it was just when things were easy and you didn't have to pull out that inner strength you posses. I was talking with Sergeant Hosehigh and he mentioned about how when he knew you, you were a fighter to your core. Quiet, frightened and skittish, he said, but you never gave up. He spoke of how when Miss Beverly came down ill and could no longer work, you would rise every morning and go out into the streets, selling flowers to buy your bread and water. Now you are fighting once again, only the fear that clouded your life is slowly disappearing. Put away the blue rose, Sarah, you are no longer a mystery, you are something whole and something pure. I wish I could be the one to protect you and keep you safe, but since I cannot, I will entrust you into the hands of God. And I have found peace, knowing there is no safer place to be in the world. I hope you will still be here when the war ends, to once again enjoy a time of peace. I do not know if I will see you again, but I do know that wherever I am, I will keep your memory, the memory of the woman you are now, with me.
My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Always and forever yours,
P.S. After some careful search, I have manage to discover something for you concerning your parents. The last diary of your mother, the one you told me was missing, it is in Colonel White's possession.
The post script left me puzzled. How did Colonel White obtain that diary, and why did he carry it around with him?