Devoutly to Be Wished
I found that although we were moving as quickly as we could, it wasn’t enough for my sensibilities. It is an odd thing how time stretches out when we are awaiting some event we have wished for, and how it shrinks when that day comes, or we are with the person we have been waiting to see. It seemed to me that we were scarcely moving although I knew this was not the case. Adolphus must have sensed my mood because he said, “I know this long journey seems longer to you than it does to the rest of us.”
“I was just having the same thought,” I said. “It seems like we will never get there.”
“You know we will, eventually.”
“Yes, but I feel that with my head. My heart says otherwise.”
“Let us press on with renewed vigor, then.”
This we did, although we seemed to pass through the towns in slow procession. We camped out for the night and slept soundly because of our exertions. Thus fortified, we increased our pace and reached the Winchester area about noon.
“It won’t be long now!” I called.
“Indeed!” Adolphus answered. “I am anxious to meet Laurel and see where you live.”
“So am I,” I said in a tone that made the others laugh.
We followed the way that I was so familiar with, first as a street, then a lane and then a wide path and finally a narrow one. It was hard to keep from running, but I wanted to stay with my fellows. Finally, when we came to the slight rise beyond which my cabin lay, I could restrain myself no longer, and broke into a dead run for my family.
I saw Laurel bending over in the garden hoeing weeds while little Caleb, who was much bigger than when I saw him last, picked out errant bits of greenery.
“Laurel!” I shouted. “Laurel, I’m home! I have come back to you!”
I saw her straighten and shield her eyes from the sun, and then it was her turn to break into a run. We covered the distance in short order, and then we were in each other’s arms, kissing, holding tight, and murmuring words I do not recall except they were full of passion and love. We held this posture long enough for the others to catch up to us, but they stayed a distance back, respecting our privacy as much as they were able.
Finally we broke apart and took each other by the hand. Little Caleb had reached us by then, and I swept him up with one arm and held him there. We stood there holding that pose for several minutes, happy beyond words to be together at last. Finally I motioned my comrades over, and they came up. Andrew and Hiram deferred to Adolphus since he was the eldest of them, and so he stepped over to us. He took Laurel by the hand, bowed and kissed her hand. “I have been looking forward to meeting I have been looking forward to meeting you for so long,” he said. “Caleb has made clear that you are a woman of quality and virtue, and that he loves you like no other.”
Laurel blushed at this. “I am so pleased to make your acquaintance,” she said. “Caleb has likewise described in in letters your many fine qualities and how you have been the best of friends to him. Welcome to our home.”
Since Hiram and Andrew knew Laurel, they each gave her a hug, but said nothing. It was clear from the look in their eyes that they shared in their particulars the thoughts and feelings that we had heard to that point.
Laurel broke the silence. “It’s time for lunch, and I bet you all are hungry. I have a side of beef we’ve been eating off. How does that sound?”
“Anything but pork sounds beyond belief,” Andrew offered, and we all laughed.
“Yes,” Laurel said. “Caleb has informed me of your cuisine in the army. Let’s to the house, then!”
We followed her and went inside. Little Caleb went over to Hiram. “Where’s your arm?” he asked.
“Someone took it.”
“That was a mean thing to do. If I had three arms, I’d give you one.”
“And I’d take it gladly.”
We watched this scene play out with emotion and also with thankfulness that we had raised so sensitive a child. Actually, it was Laurel who had done the raising, and it was to her credit that little Caleb had turned out as he had.
“All of you, sit and relax while I prepare what I have, ”Laurel said. “There are also some dried beans I can boil up, and also some dried apples. If you had come along later, I would have fresh food for you, but that is not possible.”
I went over and put my arms around her. “It will taste like a feast fit for a king because we will be eating it in a house filled with love.”
As Laurel busied herself with the meal and little Caleb helped her, the three of us sat in chairs and, tired from our journey, soon fell asleep. It was nice to do so without having to listen for a duty call or the sound of bugles. We were home, and peace lay across the land like a benediction.