Volunteer for Glory—Part 3

Here’s another excerpt of Volunteer for Glory, so that you can see whether or not it’s a book you might like to purchase.

Rachel, muffled in a heavy winter shawl, pail in hand, met them in the yard.  The afternoon had grown late, and, as twilight approached, she had prepared to milk the bawling cow.  Now she was embarrassed, for Stuart had not come alone.  Her dress was limp and bedraggled after a day spent over the laundry tub. Angry with her husband, she would have liked nothing better than to withdraw to the house in silent dignity.

“Hello, sweetheart.”  Stuart swung off his horse, well aware of her displeasure, but willing to risk a kiss anyway.  “I wasn’t going to leave you with the chores.”  He smiled as he took the empty pail from her unresisting hand.  “I’ve brought company.  Mrs. Westbrook’s nursing at the Dudleys so I thought Ferris and Jared could use some home cooking.”

By the time the men came in from the barn, stamping snow from their boots and unwinding their mufflers, Rachel had regained her composure, though her cheeks were hot with hurry.  While they unhitched, and Stuart did chores, Rachel had been tidying, smoothing her hair, and tying on a fresh apron.

Jared, who had only seen her once before at a distance, was taken aback at her nearness, and the sound of her pretty voice. Her blue dress made her eyes seem all the bluer.  At twenty-four, he was inexperienced with women, school studies, and work on his father’s farm, conspiring to keep him solitary.  His only near romance had ended prematurely when the young lady he had been attracted to had grown tired of his procrastination and married another.  A fleeting picture of the girl passed through his mind but without regret.

He hung his hat and coat on the pegs by the door, and, feeling too tall and clumsy, sat down by the fire.  Looking around, his attention focused on a nearby bookshelf. Books, he knew.  He was comfortable with them, the way he was comfortable with the changing seasons that dictated the work of the land.  He couldn’t help trying to guess which books she had chosen. Whittier, Longfellow, Keats, and the several anthologies were most likely hers, for he couldn’t imagine Stuart musing over an Ode to a Grecian Urn.  The books on agriculture and animal husbandry were likely his, he conceded, but not the rest.  While his father and Stuart debated secession, he glanced at an open book lying on the footstool beside him.

The table had been set, and he caught Rachel’s inquiring glance as she passed him.  “Yours?”  He lifted the volume of Emerson’s Essays to show her.  A shy nod acknowledged his gesture.

Catching the by-play, Stuart quipped, “Rachel fancies herself a scholar, but I tell her blue stockings are out of fashion for pretty young ladies.”

Laughing, they took their places around the table for a meal of smoked ham and delicately seasoned root vegetables. Rachel’s experience as a minister’s daughter had taught her be both quick and inventive when dealing with unexpected guests.

When Stuart mentioned the shots fired in Charleston Bay, her dark brows drew together.  Divining that a change of subject would be welcome, Jared urged his father to tell them stories of the early days.

Warming to this, Ferris related that he had come west, and fallen in love with a pretty Norwegian girl. Once married, he and Elsa began farming in 1830.  Wolves had roamed the prairies, and he made a good story detailing how they had huddled together on winter nights, listening to howls rising from the creek bed that now ran through the Norcross acres.  But wolves no longer roamed the prairie, Ferris assured Rachel.  The farmers and the railroads had driven them out.

*          *          *

            After their guests had gone, Stuart helped Rachel carry the damp laundry out of their bedroom.  “You didn’t mind me bringing company, did you?” he asked, haphazardly draping a garment across the wooden drying rack.  He glanced sideways at her.

“No.”  Rachel shook the wrinkles from an apron and rearranged his part of the work.  “But I was mad about the milking!”  They laughed and Stuart caught her to him.  He pulled the pins out of her hair, fixing her with an intense look.  Seeing her with the Westbrooks, watching their gallant attention, her desirability was enhanced.  He had forgotten her pregnancy.  Her dark lashes and full pink mouth intoxicated him.  He unbuttoned her dress.

Published in: on July 11, 2011 at 4:00 am  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Alice,

    I’m readingVolunteers for Glory and am newly amazed by all the historical details in it. How did you conduct your research?

    • I read tons of history books, anything relating to the Civil War I could get my hands on, went to the library at Portland State to access the Official Records of the War Between the States, wrote letters, studied maps, and let my imagination enter into the mix. Whew. Now aren’t you sorry you asked?

  2. I’m still lusting after that bonnet. Of course, I think Stuart ought to be smacked with a thick stick.

    • Barb, Barb! Come away with me in September to the Reenactment at McIver. There you shall bonnets to excite lust and longing!

  3. I want to buy a copy!! Remind me at next Chrysalis and can give you a check after meeting!

    • Absolutely will do. Thanks.

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