Voices in the Walls 13

Chapter two, continued

It was a long, uncomfortable night. Every time I fell asleep the swaying coach threatened to throw me to the floor. Fortunately the seat opposite us was empty, so I got Sarah stretched out there and held her in place by sitting with my heels braced against the edge of her seat, with her shoulder wedged against the sole of my boots. I doubt that Mrs. Davison would have approved.

We arrived at Gettysburg late the following morning. Sarah was awake, but irritable. I left her standing on the platform while I watched the porters take her trunks out of the baggage car.

The arrival of the train is a major event in any small town. The brightly colored engine and tender, the noise of the whistle and the rolling steam from the pistons, make a sight that few can resist. Children and dogs rushed wildly about. A teamster stood by the heads of his horses to keep them from panicking when the train pulled out again. I asked him about Aunt Rachel’s house and found out that it was on a farm two miles south of Gettysburg on the Emmitsburg Road.

The teamster’s name was Dreyfus. He looked me over with distaste, and allowed that he was heading down the Emmitsburg Road himself after he had loaded up. I was wearing a dark suit and riding boots, and looked like a Southern gentleman’s son. He was dressed in ragged shirt and trousers, with shoes that might have belonged to someone else before him. He didn’t like me, but he was willing to take my money to let us ride along with him.

When the train had pulled out and he had maneuvered his wagon up to the platform, I hung my coat on the brake lever alongside his battered hat and lent a hand with the loading. There were heavy crates of shovels and hoes, and bags of grain and seed potatoes. I think he was surprised that I chose to help him, and even more surprised that I stood up to the work. At least, when we threw Sarah’s many trunks up on top of his load, he did not make the cutting remarks I had expected.

Sarah, on the other hand, had had enough. She stood with her hands on her hips looking at the teamster’s wagon and refused to go.

“I’ve been on that old train for a whole day and a night, and I’m tired. I hurt all over and I don’t intend to go anywhere in a wagon that smells like – like what cows do! I’m going to stay right here until Aunt Rachel comes to pick us up.”

Dreyfus rolled his eyes and spat tobacco juice. I was tired myself, and in no mood for spoiled brat behavior, so I told her sharply, “Aunt Rachel doesn’t know we are here. I see no reason for Mr. Dreyfus to take your trunks out to the farm and have Aunt Rachel quit whatever she is doing, hitch up a team, and drive out here because you don’t like what his wagon smells like.”

She sat down on the edge of the platform with a theatrical flounce and pouted. All I could think of was Mrs. Davison, and I really hadn’t liked the woman all that much.

I went to the wagon, made a nest for Sarah out of empty feed sacks, and then hoisted her aboard. She squealed in protest, but I paid her no mind, except to say, “If this wagon is good enough for Mr. Dreyfus and for me, it’s good enough for you.”

Half a mile out of town, the teamster spat over the side and laughed. “Mr. Dreyfus! Man, that’s prime.”

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