“Diamond Courage,” Part 22

Chapter 23

Westward

October, 1862

And so we went as far north as we could go on the North Fork, pulled the boat ashore and piled out belongings on the bank. I went back to the river and shoved the boat out into the current, which rapidly took it away. I figured someone else could have use of it, and I wished them well with it. I wish we could have taken it with us for our trip south on another river but it would have been impossible to carry what we had and take care of Caleb as well.

We walked westward on what must have been trails the Indians first trod, from the looks of them. I remembered there was a gap somewhere near where we were which I wanted to take. It would be much easier than climbing over the mountains. We made several false starts until we came to a notch in the mountains which looked likely. We crested the pass and then found ourselves beside a creek which Laurel said was Happy Creek, which I think suited the situation, for I was very happy to be with my family and be moving away from all the difficulty we had encountered.

We followed the creek down until we came to the bottom of the pass and, looking at what we would have to do to find a pass through the Appalachians, decided to stop for the night about four o’clock. We were also exhausted by all we had been through. We made camp, and Laurel took out the last of the chicken and beans that the Widow had given us. We ate, and as darkness fell, Caleb went to sleep on his pallet. Laurel and I sat up beside the fire and talked for about an hour before we, too, lay down to sleep. Although we went to bed early for us, it had certainly been a long day.

I had a dream that night. I dreamed that I was walking southward down a valley, trying for some reason the reach the Gulf of Mexico, but I every time I tried, a huge bird with Eleanor’s face kept me from going any further. In my dream, I would climb over the next mountain range into another valley, only to find that the Eleanor bird was there before me. I must have done this ten times, and the last time, I decided to keep going no matter what happened. I had to reach the Gulf.

As I made my way down the valley, I dreamed I could see the Gulf, but just as I was about to reach it, the Eleanor bird swooped down and carried me off to a prison on a ship, where she left me. The ship had no crew, but sailed by itself.

It was at this point in the dream that I felt someone—or something—grasping me by the shoulder and shaking me back and forth. I feared it was the bird from earlier and cried out, “Leave me alone! Let go of me!” in a most piteous voice. Just as I thought I could endure no more shaking, I heard Laurel’s voice.

“Caleb! Caleb! It is I, your wife Laurel! You must wake up!”

I slowly gathered my wits and saw Laurel sitting beside me, her face lit by the dying embers of our fire. “Why did you tell me to leave you alone when I tried to wake you from your sleep. You must have been having a terrible nightmare, you were thrashing about so.”

I embraced her and slowly nodded. “Yes, I was. I dream that a bird with Eleanor’s face picked me up as I was trying to reach the Gulf of Mexico and put me in a jail on a ship and then came back and tried to carry me off again. That was why I was tell you to leave me alone. I thought you were the Eleanor creature, which you could never be.”

She looked at me with mixed love and concern. “‘Tis a strange dream you had, then.”

“Yes, ‘twas most strange.”

“And yet, I can understand why you had it.”

“Understand or no, I wish no more of that kind of dream.”

“Caleb, you are my dream.” She smiled at me.

“And you mine.” We that, we went back to sleep and slept soundly the rest of the night.

The next day, we set out again and, climbing up on the pass, saw our next obstacle, a range of mountains the likes of which I had never seen before. Laurel said they were the Appalachians, and I knew we would have to find a pass through them. As we went on, I saw a low place in the mountains, and we made for that. Laurel looked around, and remembering some maps she used in the classroom, said, “This is Ashby’s Gap. It will give us an easier passage through the mountains.”

We walked all day to come to the other side of the mountains, and there stopped for the night. We had eaten all the chicken the Widow had given us, so I went out to shoot something for our supper, thinking we were too far away from anyone to attract attention. I was being careful, for I did not wish a repeat of our former difficulties.

I quickly scared up a rabbit and killed him with the first shot. I dressed him in the field and took him back to Laurel. She had fashioned a spit from some branches, and soon Mr. Rabbit was turning over the coals. Laurel had found some edible plants in my absence, and with the meat which was soon finished, we had a good supper.

Caleb again drifted off to sleep with the sunset, and so we had a chance to talk about our plans.

“Are you convinced that your plan for losing ourselves is the best one?”

“In truth I cannot say that it is the best one. Rather, I think it is the only one open to us at this time.”

“That is my thinking as well.”

“If you can think of a fairer plan, I hope you would share it with me.”

“You may count on that. I will think more on where we should go and what we should do.

We fell asleep beneath the stars, and I had no nightmare, but only sweet, blissful rest.

 

 

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