The train slowed, and I knew that the next station had to be Winchester. When I got there, I would be within walking distance of all I held dear.
Our trip had been slower than I expected. The train kept running out of fuel, and the train crew had to go into the forest and cut and split wood. I along with a number of passengers helped, but it still took more time than I would have liked.
Finally the station came into view, and I leaped to my feet to be the first to disembark. That was not to be, since the badly wounded came off first, which was as it should have been. I helped with them, and watched as they were laid in wagons, thinking that the rough ride of those vehicles would do nothing for their condition, or make it even worse. They might not make it into the big hospital in town.
I went down the platform to the street that would lead eventually to my house. I had sent Laurel a letter about my coming, but I wasn’t sure that she would have received it. I might surprise her, which would be better, since she would not know I was coming and would not fret about my traveling there.
Encumbered by my rifle and back pack, I tried to run, but that didn’t last long. My condition would not permit it, so I slowed to a walk and tried to rein in my excitement about seeing my family.
The walk seemed longer than I remembered that, but I attributed that to my eagerness to see my family. At least the day was fair and not too cold, especially considering it was December and it could have been snowing.
I came to a slight hill, and I knew that our cabin lay just over it. My excitement at being so near my family gave me more energy, and I began running again. The cabin came into view, and I stopped and looked at it, wondered if this could be a dream. But no, this was real enough, and so I began running again.
Laurel was in the garden by the side of the cabin with Clinton and little Caleb, but I thought that he was no longer little. The baby had become a child in my absence.
Clinton saw me first, and evidently said something to Laurel, for she looked in my direction, shading her eyes against the son. Then she recognized me and started running, leaving Clinton and our son to follow. We rapidly closed the distance between us, and then we were kissing and embracing and saying words I have forgotten, but that is no matter. I was home, at least for a while.
Laurel drew back and put her hand on my face. “You are so thin. Are you not eating well?”
“As well as the army can feed me. Remember I have been recovering from a wound.”
“Of course. How silly of me!”
“You can never be silly, my love.”
About that time Clinton came up, with Caleb ten yards behind him.
Clinton shook my hand. “We’re happy you’re here, Mr. Dillard!”
“So am I. And look who’s coming now!”
I caught Caleb up in my arms and swung him around. I could not tell if he were laughing or crying, but that was no matter. I was home and we were together at long last. Laurel came over and embraced both of us. Clinton looked on, smiling.
Laurel pulled back. “Are you hungry? I can fix something very quickly.”
“I am. I had a little dried pork on the train. I am heartily tired of pork.”
“This is pork, but not army pork.”
“Let’s go in, then.”
We walked to the cabin, our arms around each other’s waist. This is truly a dream come true, I thought. If only it would last longer.