J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “A Rebel Among Us”

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is nearly upon us. This year will look much different because of Covid-19. Parties will be limited, Trick or Treating will include social distancing, and of course, everyone will be wearing masks, whether they are Halloween-themed or not. This Halloween will be extra special, because it will have a full moon, which is the second one this month, and is known as a blue moon. The holiday will also be followed by the end of daylight savings time and Election Day next Tuesday. We’re in for a bit of crazy during the next few days!

In the spirit of Halloween, I would like to share an excerpt from my novel, A Rebel Among Us. Two of the main characters discuss their renditions of All Hallows Eve. I hope you enjoy it. Have a safe and happy Halloween!

On October 31, Patrick arrived with a bottle of whiskey and invited David to partake with him. They stood shivering at the back door, passing the bottle between them. 

“‘Tis Samhain tonight, lad. All Hallow’s Eve. Were ye aware of it?” 

David nodded. “Where’d you git this whiskey?” he asked. 

“Aye, ‘tis a grand thing the Meyers provide me with allowance for such an indulgence,” he replied. He pulled a pipe from his coat pocket and lit it. Puffing away, he shook his head and remarked, “Sure’n ‘tis a far cry from real tobacco.” 

A thought crossed David’s mind. “I’ll be right back,” he said. 

He went upstairs to his room, grabbed the pouch of tobacco, and brought it back down to his friend. 

Patrick peeked inside before taking a deep whiff. “Ah!” he sighed, relishing the pungent aroma. “Might this be the Southern tobacco I’ve heard tell about?” 

David grinned. “Jake brought it along for tradin’, and this here’s what’s left.” 

Patrick loaded his pipe, relit it, and puffed euphorically, smiling all the while. “‘Tis a wee bit o’ heaven, indeed.” He glanced at his friend. “Now, have ye any scary tales from the Southland that might have me skin crawlin’?” 

David thought for a moment, “There’s a story from north Alabama about a place called the Red Bank.” 

Raising his eyebrows, Patrick said, “Let’s see if ye might be tellin’ it frightfully enough to send a shiver up me spine.” He happily puffed away. 

David grinned. He lowered his voice so it was a threatening grumble and delved into his story. Once he had completed the tale of an Indian maiden who had killed herself after losing her baby and had promptly turned into a ghost, he paused. 

Patrick puffed silently on his pipe. “Well, now, I have a scarier one.” He puffed again, took a swig from the whiskey bottle, handed it to David, and said, “‘Tis an old tale from the motherland.” 

The wind blew past them, whistling off through the barren fields. Both young men shivered, suddenly aware of the ominous darkness surrounding them. 

David forced a nervous laugh before taking a swallow. “All right, Patrick. Let’s hear it.” 

He took a puff and slowly exhaled. “There once lived a wealthy lady who was courted by two lords. One of the lords grew so jealous of the other that he plotted to kill his rival. So one night, he snuck into the unsuspectin’ lad’s bedchamber. But instead of choppin’ off his head—” 

He said this with so much exuberance David jumped. 

“He accidentally chopped off his legs instead.” 

A dog howled in the distance, adding to the nuance of Patrick’s eerie Irish story. 

“His torso received a proper burial, but his legs were tossed into a hole in the castle garden and covered with dirt. The murderin’ lord deceived the lady by tellin’ her the other suitor had abandoned his proposal to her. She agreed to marriage. But on their weddin’ night, in walked the two bodyless legs.” 

An owl hooted from somewhere off in the empty trees. 

“The legs followed the bridegroom relentlessly until the day he died. It’s said the legs can still be seen walkin’ round by themselves. ‘Tis a true phuca.” Upon this conclusion, Patrick puffed on the pipe. Smoke billowed around his head like an apparition. 

“What’s a phuca?” asked David. 

“A ghost,” Patrick responded. 

Raising a skeptical eyebrow, David snorted. “I reckon that’s the dumbest spook story I ever did hear.” 

A gate near the barn caught in the wind and slammed loudly against the fencepost. The two men jumped. They chuckled at their reaction, but immediately felt the terrible chill. Reasoning they would be more comfortable inside, they entered the kitchen, consumed the remainder of the whiskey, and bid each other goodnight. Patrick returned home, and David retired quietly upstairs, careful not to wake the others. Relieved the fireplace had been lit for him, he undressed. 

Climbing into bed, he snickered at the thought of two legs unattached to a body, chasing after a rival. Once he’d fallen asleep, however, the thought invaded his dreams. The legs ran toward him. Right behind them rode the headless Union horseman. The torso raised its saber and swung it where its head should have been. Just as the blade came down, David jolted awake. He gasped to catch his breath, realizing, once again, his imagination had gotten the best of him. Slowly, he lay back. Unable to sleep, he listened to the wind rattle the shutters and shake through the skeleton-like tree limbs from outside the frosty, lace-covered windows. 

Interview With Dixie Heritage Newsletter

Recently, I was invited to participate in a podcast interview conducted by Dr. Edward DeVries, who publishes a weekly newsletter known as The Dixie Heritage Newsletter. I was honored to have the opportunity to discuss all four of my published books, as well as upcoming projects. We also talked about music, the Confederate gold, and several other topics. I hope you enjoy listening to this as much as I enjoyed recording it.

Dixie Heritage Banner

New Cover Reveal for A Rebel Among Us!

I am so excited to reveal the new cover for my novel, A Rebel Among Us! The new cover comes with a new publisher as well, Westwood Books Publishing, LLC. The book is the recipient of the 2017 John Esten Cooke Fiction Award, which is given by the Military Order of the Stars and Bars. This is a very prestigious honor, since the MOSB does not give the award every year, but only to books they deem as worthy of representing the Confederacy.

ARAU Cover

A Rebel Among Us is the third book in the Renegade Series. Two other books, A Beautiful Glittering Lie and A Beckoning Hellfire, are also in the series and have been re-published with Westwood Books Publishing as well.

I’m always fishing for reviews, so if you’re interested, let me know and I’ll send you a PDF copy for review!

Happy New Year!

I would like to wish you a very happy New Year! This year is especially special, because it is a new decade, and it is, once again the Roaring 20’s! I hope that this decade graces you with love, joy, prosperity and peace. I also hope this year provides you with many opportunities, blessings, and reasons to achieve your goals.

https---qprime-uploader-published-prod.s3.amazonaws.com-store-event-158859-image-87eb6b8dff2aed703af40a329afbffb6

During the past decade, I faced many blessings, some challenges, and a few heartaches. My husband was transferred several times, so we moved from Horn Lake, Mississippi to Loveland, Colorado to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and finally landed in Colorado Springs, Colorado three years ago. We bought a little fixer-upper bungalow with a gorgeous view of the Rockies and Pikes Peak. I lost my father in 2012, but we were blessed with two grandsons, the youngest of which is only four weeks old. And we met many new friends.

The past year was somewhat challenging for me. My previous publisher decided to drop my Civil War Renegade Series, so I spent months finding a new publisher. I have succeeded and look forward to re-publishing A Beautiful Glittering Lie, A Beckoning Hellfire and A Rebel Among Us with Westwood Books Publishing. It should prove to be a very exciting and lucrative partnership.

In the meantime, my nonfiction book, Horses in Gray, has been holding its own. I’m thinking of making it into an audio book. What do you think?

Horses in Gray Cover

One of my favorite authors, Claire Cook (Must Love Dogs), sent me an email with this inspiring list, so I’m passing it on to you. Thanks Claire!

 

2020 vision pic

Seven Simple Steps to Find Your 2020 Vision

SELF. You can’t have self-awareness, self-confidence, or any of those other good self words until you decide to like yourSELF, and who you really are.

SOUL SEARCHING. Sometimes it’s just getting quiet enough to figure out what you really want; often it’s digging up that buried dream you had before life got in the way.

SERENDIPITY. When you stay open to surprises, they often turn out to be even better than the things you planned. Throw your routine out the window and let spontaneity change your life.

SYNCHRONICITY. It’s like that saying about luck being the place where preparation meets opportunity. Open your eyes and ears—then catch the next wave that’s meant for you!

STRENGTH. Life is tough. Decide to be tougher. If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters (204 if you’re in Japan!).

SISTERHOOD. Connect, network, smile. Build a structure of support, step by step. Do something nice for someone—remember, karma is a boomerang!

SATISFACTION. Of course you can get some (no matter what the Rolling Stones said). Call it satisfaction, fulfillment, gratification, but there’s nothing like the feeling of setting a goal and achieving it. So make yours a good one!

BONUS STEP: SIMPLIFY! In the years since writing this list, I’ve discovered how truly fabulous it is to simplify. I’ve moved and downsized twice in the last decade, cleared away so much physical and mental clutter, and learned to say yes only to the things I really want to do. I’m finding the balance between writing and walking the beach every day.

BONUS 2020 VISION TIP: Pick one of the words above (or another!) and make it your theme for 2020. Print out the word in big letters and tape it to the refrigerator or your bathroom mirror. Write it in tiny letters on a small river rock or on the inside of a seashell and carry it in your pocket or purse. Scrawl it across the top of your daily journal entry or write it on each day of your calendar. Choosing a single word is such a great way to set your intention and keep your focus on it for the whole year.

 

Respecting the Dead

vandal
It’s a shame how our culture has bred so many who think it’s okay to vandalize grave sites because of their political views. I see too frequently where headstones have been broken, statues have been overturned, and monuments have been painted with graffiti. Why have we lost so much respect for the dead?

In my last blog, I talked about the undead, and brought up Frankenstein as an example. Gruesome as it seems, graves were commonly robbed back in the day. Not only were the grave robbers after jewelry and valuables, but some were after body parts!

grave-robbers

Here is an excerpt describing such horrific deeds from my novel, A Rebel Among Us. Watch for its re-release, complete with a new book cover, coming soon.

Have a happy, and safe, Halloween!

halloweenspirit
Hershel awoke near sunset. “Huntsville, go fetch me a pencil and paper.”
David did as he asked, returning shortly with the requested items.
“You write this down,” he said, pointing a wilting finger at him.
David knelt beside him.
The old man continued. “You write to my wife, and tell her I loved her dearly, and tell her I miss her, but I’m fixin’ to go to a better place.”
“Harrison, there ain’t no need to …”
“Now don’t you be tellin’ me there ain’t a need!” he exclaimed.
David drew back, startled by the sudden, unexpected outburst.
“Sorry,” he apologized softly. “Tell her I long to see her and the young’uns once again, but since that’s impossible, tell her that my final thoughts were of them.”
David nodded.
“You go now, Huntsville. Go write that. Savvy? And send it to her in Tupelo. Can you do that?”
“Yessir,” David replied compassionately. He gazed down at the sickly old man momentarily before stepping out of the tent. Overcome with sorrow, he made his way back to the barracks.
The first weekend of February brought a horrendous blizzard,which dumped nearly two feet of snow. The town of Elmira shut down, and the trains ceased to run, as the thermometer plunged into the single digits. When the storm finally passed, David struggled to make his way across Foster’s Pond to check on his bunkmate. Entering the tent, he saw that two of the cots were empty. The sick man lying there alone looked up at him.
“Where’s the feller who was occupyin’ this cot?” David asked him.
The man seemed too weak to respond, but finally uttered, “Dead house.”
Stunned, David quickly walked to the morgue, and entered to see several attendees place frozen bodies into pine coffins. The cadavers’ bones cracked as they were being forced into their eternal chambers. He grimaced, meandering down an aisle until he unwittingly found a coffin with a wooden marker tied to the top of it that read:

Ltn Hershel P Harrison

42nd Mississippi

Died 2-8-1865

Standing over the pine box, he stared down at the chiseled lettering. A cart lumbered up, coming to a halt outside the morgue. With a heavy sigh, he departed the cold charnel, barely noticing other inmates who were loading the coffins onto the back of the wagon before transporting them to Woodlawn Cemetery.

One of the attendants noticed him, and said, “No need to fret. John Jones will tend to them proper.”

“Who’s John Jones?” he asked.

“He’s the ex-slave whose markin’ every grave. Doin’ a right thorough job of it, too.”

David watched for a moment, still tying to comprehend that Hershel was truly gone. He slowly shuffled through the deep snow, and dismally wondered if he might soon end up the same way. Suddenly, he remembered what one of the Tarheels had told him about grave robbers. According to Sherwood Richardson, the loathsome ghouls unearthed buried cadavers, and sold them to area doctors so that they could conduct experiments on them. He hoped that such a fate wouldn’t befall Hershel’s body.

A Christmas Dilemma

Merry Christmas! In this wonderful time of the year, I would like to share with you an excerpt from my novel, A Rebel Among Us. In this excerpt, David Summers learns that, although his intentions are sincere, they aren’t taken that way, and he is still considered to be the enemy. I hope you enjoy this, and I hope you have a very  happy holiday season.

ARAU Medium

The little girls were up before dawn, pounding on doors, rousing everyone awake, and gleefully yelling “Merry Christmas!”

David groggily sat up. He heard Maggie’s voice on the other side of the door.

“Where’s the fire?” she asked.

“There’s no fire. Santa’s been here,” squeaked Claudia.

He heard Anna say something and pulled himself out of bed. The group had already gone downstairs, so he followed after them and entered the parlor. Rubbing sleep from his eyes, he saw Sarah lighting a fire.

“What time is it?” he yawned.

“Fifteen minutes past five,” said Grace. She tightened her robe around herself. “Oh! It looks as though Santa has been here, all right.”

The girls ran to the fireplace, yanked down their stockings, and dumped the contents out onto the rug, gasping at the sight of their bounty. Each one had received two peppermints, a gold coin, and a licorice.

Maggie had already started distributing gifts from under the tree. She called out the name on each package while Claudia and Abigail took turns delivering them to their recipients. Handing her aunt the last remaining present, she seated herself beside the fireplace. Everyone began opening gifts.

With a smile on his face, David watched the sisters, Grace, and Claudia exchange gifts with each other.

“Go on, David. Open yours,” Sarah coaxed him.

He drew the boxes toward him and eagerly tore into them. A package from Maggie and Abigail contained new boots. Amazed, he humbly thanked them. Another gift contained everyday clothes Sarah had sewn for him, and still another held a new pair of calf-skin gloves from Claudia and her mother. Anna gave him a book and several pair of socks.

She opened his gift. David held his breath, hoping she would be impressed by his handiwork. He had specially crafted for her a comb and hand-held looking glass made of Cherrywood with intricately carved angels on them.

“Oh, David,” she gasped. “I don’t know what to say.”

He didn’t either, so he nervously waited for her to continue.

“They’re absolutely breathtaking!” She dragged the comb through her long blonde hair, gazing at her likeness in the mirror.

David thought he could watch her do that for hours on end and smiled at his accomplishment. He had managed to impress her. His heart soared.

“Oh, it’s lovely.” Sarah smiled. She held up the broach he’d carved for her. Tiny birds adorned the front of it.

“Glad you like it, Miss Sarah,” he replied with a shy grin.

He gave a similar one to Grace. Abigail and Claudia opened their gifts from him: miniature carousels with interchangeable animals. They happily thanked him and traded animals, seeing if one would fit into the other’s carousel.

Maggie opened the gift he had created for her to reveal a three-dimensional wooden carving of a girl sitting in a chair with a cat curled around her feet. “It’s a girl with a cat,” she flatly remarked.

“It’s beautiful,” Anna breathed, smiling at him.

He grinned back at her.

Maggie turned the wooden carving in her hands for a moment. Glaring at David, she threw it into the fire. 

Sarah gasped.

David watched in shock. His jaw dropped in disbelief, and his eyes grew wide. The carving he had spent hours on, created especially for her, was quickly consumed by flames.

“Maggie, how could you?” Anna scolded.

He gaped at her, stunned. Maggie glared back at him. Coming to his senses, he scowled and jumped to his feet. Hurt and anger flared up inside him.

“Pardon me, ladies,” he said, quickly walking toward the kitchen.

He heard Anna holler at her sister. The screen door slammed behind him. Dawn was just beginning to illuminate the yard. Anxious to distance himself, he sprinted toward the barn.

“David,” Anna yelled as she ran after him. “David, wait!”

She screamed. He turned to see she had fallen onto the cold, snow-covered ground. His heart lurched.

“Anna!”

She started sobbing and grabbed her ankle.

He ran back to her. Without a second thought, he knelt down to comfort her.

“It’s all right,” he said. “I’ve got you.”

Gently, he picked her up. He noticed how light she was in his arms as he carried her into the house. Returning to the parlor, he carefully set her on the sofa and gazed down at her concernedly. The sight of her in pain tore at his heartstrings so badly it hurt.

“What happened?” Sarah inquired sternly.

“It’s nothing, Aunt Sarah,” Anna replied, wiping away her tears. “I think I twisted my ankle.”

“Go fetch some ice from the basement,” Sarah said to Maggie, who left the room without a word.

David knelt beside Anna and held her hand. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “This is all my fault.”

“No,” she sniffed. “No, it isn’t.”

Maggie returned with an ice pack and handed it to her older sister.

“You owe David an enormous apology,” Anna said to her sister.

Maggie scowled at him. “I appreciate that you went to all the trouble,” she stated malevolently, “but I regret nothing.” She turned and stomped upstairs.

“She doesn’t mean it, David,” Anna mewled.

“Yes, she does, Miss Anna,” he forlornly responded. “She despises me, and nothin’s gonna change that, no matter how hard I try.”

He stood and walked toward the kitchen. Deciding he should get on with his chores, he took an extra-long time in doing so.

When he had finished bringing in firewood, Sarah pulled him aside.

“I didn’t have the opportunity to give this to you earlier,” she said and presented him with a book titled Wild Man of the West.

“Thank you kindly, Miss Sarah.” 

He went upstairs to his room, threw himself onto the bed, and began reading. Ever since he was a small boy, he had dreamed of going out West into undiscovered Indian Territory. The thought terrified and thrilled him at once. Setting it aside, he picked up the book Anna had given him, Gulliver’s Travels. Just like Gulliver, he felt alone in a strange land, surrounded by people with small minds.

Favorite Ban

Image result for banned book week

This is banned book week, when libraries, bookstores, and all things literary celebrate the tomes that have been banned throughout the years for various reasons. It is interesting to see what books made the list. But the amazing part is that they were even banned in the first place, especially here in the states, where freedom of speech and expression are supposedly within our constitutional rights.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_banned_books

Image result for gone with the wind

My favorite banned book is Gone With the Wind. I absolutely adore this novel. I always thought it was so amazing that Margaret Mitchell published her book in 1936, and it immediately became a bestseller. Only a few years later, in 1939, it became a phenomenal film that won eight Academy Awards, one of which was awarded to an African-American person for the first time, Ms. Hattie McDaniel, for Best Supporting Actress. The movie also won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Editing, as well as two honorary awards for its use of equipment and color. It was the first color film to win Best Picture.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_with_the_Wind_(film)

I have to admit that, since I wrote my novels, the tide of Confederate sentiment has turned. It is quite strange and disturbing, but nevertheless, it has happened. I certainly hope my books don’t make the banned book list because of it, but if they do, they’re in good company.

 

New Interview With The Authors Show

9434755558_aafe3bfff1_b

Nearly two weeks ago, I was interviewed by Linda Thompson of the Authors Show. Linda lives in Phoenix, and told me about how she had just survived a dust storm. I lived in Phoenix when I was little and vaguely remember those storms. I wouldn’t wish them on anybody.

My interview airs today! Please click on this link: https://wnbnetworkwest.com/. You will see my name listed on Channel 3. My interview mostly centered around my novel, A Rebel Among Us, so click on that book title to hear the podcast.

ARAU Medium

I also talk about the first two books in the Renegade Series, as well as my nonfiction book, Horses in Gray. And I also mention some future publications. Please have a listen and let me know what you think. Thanks so much for listening!

Friday the 13th

16521360921_26e739f5b9_b

As you know, today is Friday the 13th. This year, there are only two. The first one was in April. Today is a celebration of all things macabre, thanks to long-time superstitions.

“The fear of Friday the 13th stems from two separate fears — the fear of the number 13 and the fear of Fridays. Both fears have deep roots in Western culture, most notably in Christian theology.

“Thirteen is significant to Christians because it is the number of people who were present at the Last Supper (Jesus and his 12 apostles). Judas, the apostle w­ho betrayed Jesus, was the 13th member of the party to arrive.”

32680439656_111b6dc9d2_b

This is from a really interesting article I found, so check it out: https://people.howstuffworks.com/friday-thirteenth1.htm

Speaking of all things macabre, there was plenty of that going on during the Civil War. One of the grossest things that struck me while I was researching the strange and interesting Victorian era was the fact that, because medicine at that time was so primitive, doctors stole cadavars to conduct experiments and learn more about human anatomy. Ew!

Frankenstein

Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Rebel Among Us, describing the nightmarish practice. BTW, Mary Shelley’s infamous novel, Frankenstein, published in 1818, brought to the surface integrated fears of resurrecting the dead, but not to their previous state of being. We have always had a profound interest in death and the undead, like the vampire rage a few years back, Pet Cemetery by Stephen King, and the recent zombie fascination.

ARAU Medium

Excerpt From A Rebel Among Us

“Where’s the feller who was occupyin’ this cot?” David asked him.

The man seemed too weak to respond, but finally uttered, “Dead house.”

Stunned, David quickly walked to the morgue. He entered to see several attendees place frozen bodies into pine coffins. The cadavers’ bones cracked as they were forced into their eternal chambers. David grimaced. Meandering down an aisle, he unwittingly found a coffin with a wooden marker tied to the top of it that read:

Ltn Hershel P Harrison

42nd Mississippi

Died 2-5-1865

He stood over the pine box, staring down at the chiseled lettering. A cart lumbered up and came to a halt outside the morgue. With a heavy sigh, David departed the cold charnel. He barely noticed the other inmates, who loaded coffins onto the back of a wagon before transporting them to Woodlawn Cemetery.

One of the attendants saw him and said, “No need to fret. John Jones will tend to them proper.”

“Who’s John Jones?” he asked.

“He’s the ex-slave who’s markin’ every grave. Doin’ a right thorough job of it too.”

David watched for a moment, still trying to comprehend that Hershel was truly gone. He slowly shuffled through the deep snow, dismally wondering if he might soon end up the same way. He remembered what one of the Tar Heels had told him about grave robbers. According to Sherwood, the loathsome ghouls unearthed buried cadavers and sold them to area doctors who conducted experiments on them. He hoped such a fate wouldn’t befall Hershel’s body.

Making his way past the guardhouse used for solitary confinement, he looked up. A few feet in front of him, sitting on its haunches, was the largest rat he had ever seen. It looked to be at least the size of a tomcat. The enormous rodent bared its long, yellow teeth at him. Astonished, David gasped. He hurried back to his bunk; continuously glancing over his shoulder to make sure the giant rat wasn’t coming after him. All the while, he shivered from the cold, and from the sight of the frightful creature he had just encountered.

Reaching the sanctuary of his confines, he rubbed his hands together for several minutes, sat down, and forced himself to construct a sympathy letter to Hershel’s family. The sad event filled his heart with melancholy. He was thankful he didn’t have to tell them in person.

Glancing around, he noticed how some of the convicts were invested in lively games while their comrades lay dying on the beds beside them. It appalled him that no one seemed to take notice. Death was nothing more than a trite matter of circumstance. But to him, it was a life-changing event. He knew he would never forget Hershel. Struggling to hold back tears, he started writing.

A Not So Happy 4th

35654786176_435b9ee939_b

This year marks the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. After three days of bloody conflict, Lee’s army retreated back to Virginia. It must have been a very sad 4th of July for the Confederacy indeed, as the South not only lost the battle in Gettysburg, but Vicksburg also fell.

4762152313_474a66fb54_b

Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Rebel Among Us, and how three sisters react to their unexpected “guest” on the 4th of July.

ARAU Medium

She slept for a few hours until distant voices awoke her. Sliding into her pale blue summer dress, she combed through her long blonde hair, parted it down the middle, contained it in a beige snood, and went to check on the soldier. He had bled through his bandages, so she gently replaced them, trying not to stir him.

Once she had finished, she quietly opened the door to leave, but heard footsteps coming up the stairs. Her heart leaped. Should her guests find the intruder there, Anna and her sisters would undoubtedly be in dire circumstances. She knew her neighbors were avid Unionists. If they discovered a Confederate in her father’s room, it would mean certain death for him and, most likely, a jail sentence for her. Being the oldest, she would surely be held responsible. Quickly, she scurried down the hallway to intercept the unwanted guest.

“Hello, my dear,” Mrs. Montgomery greeted her. “I was just coming up to give you this.” She smiled and handed Anna a small basket of handmade soap. “I fragranced them with roses. Your favorite.”

Anna returned the smile. “Why, thank you very much, Mrs. Montgomery,” she replied. “I’ll set these in my room and be right down. Go on ahead and help yourselves to some lemonade.”

Mrs. Montgomery turned and went downstairs. Waiting until she was gone from sight, Anna tossed the basket into her room, closed the door, and came downstairs to find her neighbors in the parlor. All were dressed in their Sunday finery, even though it was Saturday.

Mrs. Montgomery embraced her this time. Her daughter, Mary, mimicked the gesture. Stepping back, she looked Anna over. “Why aren’t you in mourning?”

“Father specifically requested that we not wear black or cover the windows, so we’re honoring his wishes,” Anna explained.

She remembered her father’s words while he lay dying only a few months ago: I don’t want darkness to befall my sunny girls. This explanation seemed sufficient for Mary, who smiled at her and walked over to talk with Maggie. Anna hoped the soldier wouldn’t awaken or start making a lot of noise…or even worse, come downstairs himself.

Inviting everyone to the dining room for dinner, she graciously went around the table, serving her guests. She couldn’t help but glance several times into the hallway, waiting for the soldier to clomp down the wooden steps in his worn out boots.

“Anna, are you all right?”

She froze like a deer in the rifle sights. “Yes, of course, Mary,” she replied. Taking a seat, she spread her napkin across her lap. “Why do you ask?”

“It’s just that you seem a bit distracted,” said Mary. “As though you are nervous about something.”

Anna and Maggie exchanged glances.

With a forced smile, Anna said, “It’s the heat. I’m fine, really.”

It was a lie. Truth be told, she wasn’t fine. Not at all. She wished they had never invited their neighbors over for an Independence Day celebration, and she also wished her guests would leave before something happened. Unable to eat, she dabbed at the perspiration on her forehead with her napkin. She listened for the slightest sound from upstairs and resisted the temptation to look out into the hallway or dash upstairs.

Once dinner was finished, everyone returned to the parlor. Abigail and Claudia played their piano piece flawlessly, encouraging everyone to sing along to “The Star Spangled Banner.” Their patriotic spirit soared.

Mr. Montgomery raised a toast for the preservation of the United States. “Here’s to our country’s victory,” he said. “To the Union!”

“To the Union!” everyone chanted together and raised their glasses. They sipped their lemonade like it was champagne.

“I’ve been informed this morning we have won the fight at Gettysburg,” Mr. Montgomery added. He lit a cigar and puffed on it while happily smiling.

Anna scowled. It’s as I thought. That Rebel did come from Gettysburg. She looked at Maggie, who raised her eyebrows, apparently thinking the same thing.

“What’s wrong, Anna?” asked Mary. “You appear to be unhappy about the news.”

Anna flashed a smile at her. “On the contrary. I’m elated.” She glanced around the room. “Why don’t we go out onto the porch,” she suggested. The room had become stiflingly hot.

They accepted her invitation and proceeded outside. As soon as they congregated with drinks in hand, it began to sprinkle.

“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. Montgomery. “I’m afraid we’ll have to leave now, girls. I left the sheets out to dry, and the chickens are out in the yard.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that, Mrs. Montgomery. But thank you for coming,” Anna said, trying not to appear too eager to be rid of them, even though she couldn’t wait for them to go.

Mr. Montgomery assisted his wife and daughter into the buggy before climbing in.

“Anna, we had a lovely time,” Mary said, her blonde pipe curls bouncing as she exaggerated her compliment.

Anna didn’t know if she was sincere or not.

“I’m only sorry my brother couldn’t be here today,” Mary added.

“Have you heard from Stephen?” asked Maggie.

“Yes,” Mary replied, tying on her pale yellow bonnet. “He said he would be home on furlough in a few months. Anna, he wanted me to tell you that he misses you.”

She smiled cordially, but secretly, she wanted to scream. She knew she wasn’t what Stephen missed. His attitude had changed, and it alarmed her. What he really missed was her farm. The thought of his counterfeit attraction enraged her, and knowing that he would be back in a few months to woo her repulsed her even more.

“By the way,” Abigail said, “how’s your dog, Corky? The one Anna mended?”

Anna’s eyes grew large. She stared at Abigail and hoped she wouldn’t say anything about a Confederate being in their midst.

“Why, he’s doing just fine, sweetheart,” Mrs. Montgomery responded. “Spry and lively as ever.”

“Well, goodbye all,” said Mr. Montgomery. He smiled through his neatly-trimmed beard and slapped the reins.

Their tall, dark chestnut horse pranced down the lane, pulling the buggy behind it. Watching their neighbors drive away, all four girls let out a sigh of relief.

“Let’s go check on the Rebel,” Claudia suggested.

She and Abigail ran into the house. Maggie and Anna followed. The girls gathered around the big bed, gazing down at the unconscious soldier.

“Is he still breathing?” asked Abigail.

“Yes, unfortunately,” replied Maggie. She looked at Anna. “I’ll go clean up the dishes,” she said.

As she went downstairs, Anna called out to her. “Maggie, could you please bring a spoonful of tallow when you come back up?”

“What do you need tallow for?” asked Abigail.

“Never mind,” said Anna. “Why don’t you and Claudia assist Maggie?”

“Okay.”

Claudia followed Abigail out. Anna heard them descend the stairs. She listened to the three girls engage in lively colloquy, their conversation accented by clanking dishes. A strong breeze blew in through the open windows. She realized it was getting much cooler, so she partially closed them. Noticing the Rebel’s forgotten pile of clothing that had yet to be disposed of, she started a fire in the fireplace. It had been several months since a flame had been lit there, not because of warmer weather, but because of her father’s passing. While she waited for the fire to blaze, she heard a church bell chime repeatedly in the distance. She stood gazing out the window in the direction of the Lutheran church she knew was positioned just beyond the hill.

Maggie entered, carrying a tray which held a teapot, cup, and a spoonful of lard. She set it on the dresser next to the porcelain pitcher and bowl.

“What do you imagine the bells are for?” Anna asked. “The holiday?”

“No, I think it’s in celebration. Because we won the battle,” Maggie replied.

They both looked at the Confederate soldier, who was sleeping peacefully.

Maggie shook her head and sighed. “We’re going to round up the livestock,” she said. “There’s a storm headed our way.”

Anna nodded in response. Her little sister left the room. She poured herself a cup of tea, carried the cup and spoon over to the bedside, and sat next to the Rebel. Gently, she rubbed the tallow over his dry, cracked lips with her fingertips in hopes it would soothe them. A chill wind blew in through the partially opened windows. Glad she’d lit the fire, she watched the flames grow higher before tossing in the Confederate’s clothing. She gazed into the fire as it consumed the worn-out garments. Once they were destroyed, she seated herself beside him, lit the kerosene lamp on the table next to her, picked up her needles, and commenced knitting. Rain began pelting against the glass. She stood, walked to the window, and looked out into the yard to see her sisters and Claudia scurrying about to gather the last of the chickens. They contained them in the coop and ran toward the house. She heard them enter downstairs.

Gazing back at the wounded soldier, she wondered how his horse was doing. Abigail and Claudia had secretly informed her during the party that they had gone out earlier to observe the spotted horse when they noticed his injured hoof. Finally relieving him of his saddle and bridle, they rummaged through the Rebel’s saddlebags and discovered a container of ointment, which they assumed was to be used on the horse. They also found a small Bible, along with some personal effects, a few items of clothing, and his slouch hat. Abigail had proudly informed her older sister she had brushed the horse down with his curry comb and applied the liniment to his hoof. She and Claudia had cleverly snuck the soldier’s belongings upstairs and hidden them in a dresser drawer while everyone else was enjoying dinner.

Upon this recollection, Anna walked over to the dresser. The Rebel’s hat, coiled belt, and buckle sat on top. She pulled the top drawer open. Beside her father’s forgotten socks, she found some of the soldier’s personal effects, including a tiny sewing kit, a pocket knife, a pouch of tobacco, and a Testament. She picked up the little Bible. Pulling the flap open, she discovered a tiny, hand sewn Confederate flag inside. It was saving a page of Scripture, Psalms 23. She glanced over the words.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Curious why his Bible was covered with dirt, Anna looked over at the young man. She noticed that, even though all of his items were from the South, they looked the same as any she’d ever seen. She placed the Testament back in the dresser drawer, set the Rebel’s hat in her father’s armoire, and returned to the rocking chair.

 

Post Navigation