More’s the Matter
“Tell me again what Lee said.” Adolphus leaned back in the chair he had gotten from somewhere while I was gone. I would have to find out how he came about it.
“In so many words, he believes that the war will not last much longer, but he is troubled by what might happen afterwards.”
Adolphus nodded. “He could be tried for treason and, if found guilty, would be hanged, along with some others.”
“That seems extreme,” I offered.
“It is, but it is what the law requires. We should pray that his life be spared.
“That we can do. Do you think Lincoln might offer him a pardon if he is sentenced?”
Adolphus thought for a moment. “It is difficult to say. Lincoln has seen contention with the members of his own part, and there are those who are thirsty for the enemy’s blood, even symbolically.”
“I suppose we shall see what happens.”
“Yes, with this and many other things.”
We each withdrew into our own thoughts for a few minutes and then I said, “Was there any action while I was away?”
Adolphus shook his head. “No, none, and that worries me in a different way. I fear they are planning something much like the tunneling campaign. But, as we have said so many times, we shall see.”
“Yes, we will.”
That afternoon I stood guard duty and heard nothing the whole time I was there. I came back, had something to eat (and found myself wishing I had some of the water Lee had given me) and then sat around the fire, looking into its depths. I found myself wondering if Laurel was doing the same thing at this time. It would have been cold enough to have had a fire where she was, and I wondered further if she were thinking of me. She said so in her letters though, so it must be so. Every day I thanked God for a beautiful and faithful wife. Sometimes during my service I had been there when other poor soldiers opened letters from their wives saying that they could no longer be married to them and that they were leaving. The poor wretches were so broken and upset I feared for their sanity if not their lives, and no one could console them. Indeed, some of them did take their own lives, and that was harder to bear than their being killed on the battlefield.
I sat for a while enjoying the fire and distressed at times by other thoughts. Adolphus came up and sat with me for a while. I noticed he did not have his chair.
“What happened to your chair?”
“A sergeant took it. Said the captain needed it, but I know our captain, and if he knew the origin of the furniture, he would have it returned to me. So I imagine there is a sergeant who sits comfortably tonight.”
“Yes. It is unfortunate we have such men, but he is not the worst.”
“Well I know. I do not see how such men live with themselves.”
We sat a while longer, and then Adolphus said, “I observe on your face a pensive look. Is anything the matter?”
I shook my head. “No, I was musing on what a good and faithful wife I have and how she is not like others who abandon their husbands by means of a letter. I think that is one of the cruelest acts known to man, but I thank God I do not have to endure it.”
Adolphus nodded. “You are indeed fortunate. Laurel reminds me of the woman in the Bible, of whom it is said in the Book of Proverbs, ‘Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.’ It says much more, but you see the matter in it. Do you know that passage?”
“I have not your learning in such matters, so I regret that I do not, save for what you have just told me.”
“We shall have to work on that.”
“I would be in favor of such a move.”
“What would you think of starting a school when all this is over?”
“I think you could. I have not the education.”
“Laurel and I could teach you. You learn quickly, so it will take no time to learn what you need to know.”
“Hmmm. I believe I can do that.”
“It’s settled then. We’ll make it our first order of business.”
“But how will that work? You would have to leave your home and stay with us to fulfill our plans.”
“I don’t consider Richmond my home any more. There is too much destruction, and probably my home is gone, and I have such distant relatives left that they are not like relatives to me. So, upon your invitation, I will join you at your home.”
“What you have said is a foregone conclusion. By the grace of God, we will both make our way north when this war ends.”
“Amen,” said Adolphus. “May it be so.”
We sat and talked a while more until dusk settled on the landscape. “We’d best to bed,” Adolphus told me. “We both have early guard duty.”
“Indeed we do. I’m with you.”
We lay down on our blankets and soon were settling toward sleep. This has been quite a day, I thought. It’s not often that a corporal gets to be the commander of his army. With those thoughts, I became lost in sleep.