“Diamond Courage,” Part 38

 

Chapter 38

Revelation

March,1863

In the morning, I would not have known that the month had changed had not Andrew awakened before me and brought up a newspaper. In it I found news of Grant’s campaign, and was grateful once again to Huck for telling us not to go to New Orleans.

“I was talking to someone downstairs about what we were trying to do, and he suggested that we try places where women are kept.”

“That sounds serious. What are some of those places?”

“Houses of ill repute—“

My face flushed as I grew angry. “Laurel would NEVER do anything like that! We’d be wasting our time to make such a search.”

“I’m only making a suggestion. We don’t have to act on it.”

“All right. I apologize. What are some of the other places?”

“There are rescue houses, this fellow said, who take in women who are in difficult circumstances. The other places are hospitals and churches,” he added.

“Let’s start with them,” I said.

We visited most of the hospitals and churches we thought it likely that Laurel might be, but to no avail. We stopped for lunch at a tavern which looked better than the one I had gone into before I ended up on the ship.

“Do you not fear that the provost marshall will be looking for you?” Andrew asked.

“I have three days before that would happen, and I am determined to find Laurel before that time is up.”

“I hope for both our sakes that you are right.”

We visited the other places we thought Laurel might be that afternoon, but found no sign of her. Weary and dejected, we went back to the hotel. I went up to the room while Andrew stayed and talked to the desk clerk for a while.

I had barely settled myself for a nap before Andrew came in a state of great excitement. “I was speaking with the desk clerk, as perhaps you knew, and he told me of a new home for desperate women that opened this week not two blocks from here.”

“Let’s go see if Laurel is here!” My heart was pounding so violently I almost fancied that Andrew could hear it. We sprinted down the steps and into the street, running among the people out at the time to an address two blocks away, as Andrew had said.

We rushed up the six steps to the door and pulled on a cord hanging nearby. A bell tolled somewhere in the building. A moment later, an elderly woman opened the door. “Yes? May I help you?”

“M’am,” I began breathlessly, “My wife was taken from me about a month ago, and I believe she might be here.”

“What is her name?”

“Laurel Dillard.”

“And you are?”

“Caleb Dillard.” I chafed at these few questions. I had to know if Laurel were there or not!

“One moment,” the woman murmured and closed the door.

I hopped on one foot and then the other out of sheer impatience. Why could she not let us in? Why did she not know who was staying there? I had to know, and the sooner the better.

The door opened again to reveal a dignified-looking man. “You are Mr. Dillard?”

“Yes, of course,” I answered. Who else would I be?

“And you believe your wife might be here?”

“That’s what I’m trying to find out.”

“Do you have some form of identification?”

My heart sank. My identification was with my discarded naval uniform. “No, sir. You’ll have to believe me. Go get Laurel if she’s here, and she will tell you who I am.”

He shook his head. “I cannot do that without proper identification. I am sorry.” With that he closed and locked the door.

I looked at Andrew with amazement. “Wha—who—why,” I began. I could not complete my sentence.

“I do not believe what I just saw.”

“Nor do I. I have a feeling that she is here, and we cannot get in to find out for certain.”

Andrew sat on the porch. “We must think of something else.”

I joined him. “I don’t know what that would be.”

He put his hand on my shoulder. “We need more time. Something will come to us.”

“It had better happen soon. I cannot tolerate this state of affairs.”

A policeman turned the corner and came toward us. “Are you Caleb Dillard?” he asked me.

“Yes, I am.”

“You will come with me.”

I was amazed again. “Why? We are doing nothing illegal.”

“I received a report from Mr. Truman here that you were acting strangely and might be a threat to the women here.”

“A threat? I asked if my wife might be here. I posed no menace to anyone.”

“I require you to come with me.” He made a move to put his hand on my arm, and I lashed out at him.

“No! Leave me alone! I have done nothing!”

He jumped on me, and we wrestled our way down the steps to the porch and into the street. “Help!” the policeman cried. “Help me!”

A couple of burly workers ran over to us and took me by the arms. Andrew stood on the porch, shocked and unable to move.

“Now you’re in more trouble, assaulting me like that.” He spoked to the two men holding me. “Take him to the station. It’s right around the corner.”

As they dragged me away, I called to Andrew, “Keep trying to see if they will let you talk to Laurel!” The last I saw of my young friend, he was standing on the porch, still staring at us.

The two men, followed by the policeman, took me to the police station. We entered, and found ourselves in a large room with several other policemen and men I was sure were in the same state that I was. Another policeman sat at an enormous desk in the back of the room and looked up as we came in. “What do you have, Richard?”

“Tom, this one was acting strangely over at the home and when I put my hand on him to bring him in, he started fighting me. These gentlemen—” he indicated the two had helped him bring me in whom I would say were no gentlemen at all after the way they handled me— “helped me bring him here.”

“All right,” said the man behind the desk. “I’ll take care of it.”

He and the men who brought me in went out into the street. “All right,” the man behind the desk said. “What is your name?”

“Caleb Dillard.”

“You have any proof of that?”

“No, and that’s what brought me here.”

He looked puzzled. I sighed. “I wanted to get into the rescue house and the man asked me for identification. I told him I didn’t have any, and he shut the door. I suppose he thought I was a threat to the women in the house, so he called a policeman, who brought me here.”

“I see. Did you actually threaten anyone?”

“No. I was upset, but there were no threats.”

“Do you have a witness to this event?”

“Yes, my young friend Andrew, whom I left standing on the porch to the house.”

Tom called another policeman over and whispered something to him. I don’t know why he did that, since it was obvious to me that he was telling the other man to go bring Andrew back. He left, and in a few minutes returned with Andrew.

Tom pointed to me. “Do you know this man?”

“Of course. This is Caleb Dillard, and he saved my life.”

“That’s very nice, but did Mr. Dillard threaten anyone in any way at the rescue house?”

“No, sir. He did get upset when the man wouldn’t let him in, but there were no threats.”

“I see.” He consulted some papers on his desk and then looked up at me. “Mr. Dillard, I see no reason to hold you. You are free to go. Just stay away from the rescue house.”

“But, sir, my wife might be there.”

“Stay away anyhow. You’ll have to think of some other way to find out if she’s there.”

“Yes, sir,” I said.

Andrew and I went back into the street. “How do you plan to find out if Laurel is in the house?”

“Let me think. Oh, I have it! We can find some willing lady to go into the house and see if she’s there.”

“Who would this ‘willing lady’ you speak of  be?”

“We can ask at the hotel desk. Surely they would know of someone.”

We went back to the hotel and went to the front desk. “Yes, sir, what can I do for you?” the desk clerk asked.

“We wanted to know if you know of a woman of good reputation who might go to the rescue house for us and see if my wife is in there. They will not let me in.”

The clerk thought for a minute. “I know just the person. She is the wife of the minister of the church across the way, and she has a tender heart for women in distress.”

“How might we talk to her?”

“You will have to talk to her husband to gain his permission for what you wish. Go to the church I told you about and ask.”

“I thank you , sir.”

He smiled. “You are welcome.”

Andrew and I turned and made our way to the church the clerk spoke of. We went in, and found a young man sitting at a desk. “May I help you?” he asked.

“Yes, we would like to speak to the minister if he’s available,” I said.

“One moment. I will check.” He went out through a door and returned in a short time. “Yes, he will see you now. I’ll conduct you to his office.”

We followed him through the door and down a hall to the minister’s office. He went in and we followed. “Here are the two gentlemen who wish to see you,” he said.

The minister, an older man with graying hair, stood up. “Welcome. Please come in and have a seat. I am Reverend Hale.”

“I am Caleb Dillard,” I said, “and this young man is my friend Andrew.”

“Pleased to meet both of you.” When we were seated, he said, “What can I do for you?”

“We need your help in determining if my wife is in the home for desperate women across the way.”

He thought for a moment. “Yes, I’m familiar with them. They are doing the Lord’s work. Why is it your wife is there?”

“She was taken from me over a month ago and brought here. I have reason to believe she was ill-treated, so she escaped from her captor and ended up at the home.”

“I see. Do you have anyone who can corroborate your story?”

I nodded. “Yes, my friend Andrew here. His parents disappeared and he found us and has been with me most of the time ever since.”

Hale turned to Andrew. “Is what I have heard all true?”

“Yes, sir,” Andrew told him. “Caleb and Laurel are so attached to each other. And they love their son.”

“Oh, so there’s a child involved. Is he with your wife?”

“I haven’t been able to get into the home to see. I assume he is.”

“I have the picture now. What can I do to help?”

“We would like for your wife to go into the home and see if my wife is there. She will be able to do that easily, whereas I have failed to do so.”

Hale thought some about this. “Very well. I will ask her this evening when I get home from the church.” He stood, and we shook hands all around.

“Blessings on you for being willing to help me,” I said.

“I must be about the Lord’s work, and I think this is an example of that.”

“We are lodged at the hotel down the way. You may contact us there.”

“I have a better idea. Why don’t you come in tomorrow morning, say at nine o’clock. I will be here then.”

“We will. Thank you again.”

With that, we turned and left the church. “What shall we do now?” Andrew asked.

“Amuse ourselves as best we can,” I said, and I thought, the time until we see the minister will seem long, I am sure, but it can’t be helped.

 

 

 

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