In the House of the Mighty
I will not reveal to you the details of our trip to Washington, except to say that I refused all of Eleanor’s advances, which threw her into a fury. She threatened to put me off in Alexandria, saying that I could walk the rest of the way in the rain and that she hoped I caught some contagion and died of it. I had not seen or heard the likes of it, having little experience with vile women. I thanked God mightily for giving me Laurel, and, having done, brought her to mind so strongly I wanted to weep. I gathered myself since Eleanor would take advantage of any kind of weakness.
I think that she allowed me to remain on the train since she needed me for her nefarious schemes, and I would be no good to her if I were dead, although I think a walk in the rain would not be the end of me. And so we arrived at the B & O Railroad Depot in the late afternoon. We waited while the coachman drove the carriage off and we walked toward it. I was pleased to see that the coachman would help her up, and so there would be no possibility of what happened at the beginning of our journey reoccurring, at least not that time. I shuddered to think the she would have other opportunities to lead me astray, and resolved to resist her, regardless of the consequence, including death. I had often thought that I would willingly die for Laurel, and I might have the opportunity do so and count it a blessing.
We got on and Eleanor turned to me. “For the nonce, you will stay with me until your place at the War Department is ready.”
“I will stay with you?”
“That is the best place for you to be so I can know what you are doing.”
“And I am going to be at the War Department?”
“Are you hard of hearing? That is twice you have repeated what I have told you not two seconds before. Yes, you will be at the War Department and you will act as a secretary to Secretary Stanton. That way you will be able to gather the best information about his troops and plans.” She regarded me archly. “Do you wish me to repeat what I have just told you?”
“No, that will not be necessary.”
“That is good. A deaf agent would be of little use to me.”
We moved down Pennsylvania Avenue to M street, which we turned down and followed to her mansion in Georgetown.
“We have arrived,” she said as we pulled up to the curb.
I could ask you if you thought me blind since I can see where we are with my own eyes, I thought. We got out onto the sidewalk and waited while the coachman removed our belongings from the top of the carriage and carried them to the door. He rang the bell, and the same butler who was there while I was being prepared for my mission came out. We approached the steps. “Welcome home, m’am.”
“Thank you, Arthur. I trust that all has been well here?”
He nodded. “Everything is in order, as you like it. You received a communication from Secretary Stanton.”
“What sort of communication?”
“I cannot say. It came in the form of a letter and I of course did not open it.”
“Very good, Arthur. You did well.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Perry. And I see that you have Private Dillard with you?”
“Yes, and he is soon to be Lieutenant Dillard, if Secretary Stanton’s letter contains what I think it does.”
Arthur nodded. “Congratulations, Lieutenant.”
“Thank you, Arthur,” I told him, but thought, I have done nothing to deserve this promotion. This woman has strange ways about her.
Arthur took my few possessions and had the coachman help him with Eleanor’s rather large trunk. I wondered what she had in it, but of course did not ask.
We followed them into the house where the coachman put the trunk down and turned to go.
“One moment, George,” Eleanor said. “I have something for you.” I watched as she gave him a folded hundred dollar bill. I knew she was wealthy, but apparently I didn’t know how wealthy.
George took the bill and bowed low. “Thank you, m’am. You are most generous and kind.”
I smiled at the idea that Eleanor was kind. She turned to me. “And what amuses you, Caleb?”
“I smiled at the size of your fortune.”
“Really? That is an odd thing to smile about. Perhaps with your background you are not accustomed to the ways of the wealthy. If you do as I say, you will be richly rewarded and become wealthy yourself. Would you like that?”
“Honestly, m’am, I do not care for wealth and its effects on people.”
“You are indeed peculiar, but I think being with me will show you what wealth can do, and you will come to appreciate it.”
Not if Hell freezes over, I thought. I did not wish to become as she was.
Although Arthur offered to carry my belongings to me room, I refused his offer and took them up myself. I was pleased to be by myself after so many weeks in the company of others, and I was glad to be away from Eleanor, if only for a few hours. Before I left, she told me that we would go to meet Secretary Stanton to arrange the particulars of my service to him. I went upstairs, laid on the bed, and promptly fell asleep.