Off to War – Chapter 2, Scenes 7 & 8

Off to War Cover 1Off to War

Chapter 2 – Scene 7

Dr. William Smith tracked down a spare pair of boots that would suit Elizabeth and had them sent to her tent. He then headed back toward his own tent, deep in thought about the young woman whose acquaintance he had just made. How many others were there like her in the camp? In the war? The wives of working class men would often come along with their husbands to assist in the war effort. But women of the upper class found other ways to contribute, ways that did not involve getting their hands dirty. Yet, here she was, her hands red and raw from carrying the packs today. Those hands had likely been smooth and free from callouses until today. One thing was for certain – this war would change her.

Arriving at his tent, he entered, nodding to Dr. Taylor as he did so.

“Nothing needing a second pair of hands, I hope.” John looked up from inventorying some of the supplies in their medical kits. There wasn’t much chance anything had gotten lost between their itemization at the train and here, perhaps Dr. Taylor just liked to know where everything was.

William offered his colleague a smile as he moved toward his cot. “No, only some bad blisters needing to be lanced.”

“That was quite a walk today. Someone have improper footwear?” John asked, his focus now back on his work.

William nodded, sitting. “One of the women.”

“Seems about right.”

“I wouldn’t be so quick to judge this young woman.” William yawned and stretched. His body was worn from the walking of the day and sleep would be good.

“What do you mean?” John looked up from his ledger.

William’s eyes settled on John, trying to wager how much to share. How much could he trust the man? Soon enough, he reasoned, they’d be putting their lives in each other’s hands. Might as well start trusting him now. “She is a woman from a privileged life. From an upper class home.”

“What is she doing here?” John jerked upright from his crouched position.

“Choosing to serve her country.” William responded, his voice even.

“We have to tell the commanding officer,” John said, his voice rushed. “Her parents couldn’t be aware that she…”

William shook his head, and spoke in a firm voice. “No matter her circumstances at home or how she got here, I’m doing nothing of the sort. I respect what she’s doing. It’s rather brave, don’t you think?” Though tired, William tried to be patient with John’s knee-jerk response. He was young. And he still saw things in black and white.

“But she has no idea the hardships she’ll endure out here while…” John started to argue.

“It’s her choice to face them.”

John fell silent, shrugging his shoulders. After some moments, he refocused on his work and left William in peace. Perhaps John was so adamant because he thought of his own sister or fiancé out here facing such adversity and danger. William hoped that this woman’s family and friends would be able to make peace with her decision. Someday.

 

Chapter 2 – Scene 8

The doorbell rang at the Thompson residence. Charlotte Taylor was admitted to the house, her coat was taken, and she was escorted to the parlor. Once she entered the parlor, Charlotte rushed over to her friend and embraced her.

Abigail welcomed her dear friend’s hug, fighting fresh tears.

When they broke apart, Abigail led Charlotte to a couch.

“Oh, Abigail, I scarcely know what to say!” Charlotte confessed, eyebrows furrowed.

“It’s alright. I don’t know what to say myself,” she sniffled, dabbing at her eyes with her handkerchief.

“Elizabeth gave no indication she was planning anything like this?” Charlotte asked the obvious question. But it needed to be asked.

Abigail shook her head. “We knew, of course, that she was unhappy with John’s leaving.”

“As did we all,” Charlotte added, laying a hand on Abigail’s arm for support.

“But who could have imagined this?” Abigail cried.

“Who indeed, dear friend? And what is to be done?” Charlotte’s eyes widened.

“Nothing,” Abigail said, near tears. “Thomas says there is nothing that can be done now that she is gone.”

Charlotte hung her head. She pulled herself to her feet, taking some steps away from Abigail. “I must confess, friend, I feel as if I am partially to blame. My son…”

“No! I won’t hear of it,” Abigail said, her voice firm. “Elizabeth is head strong all on her own.”

Relieved that her friend was not blaming her in the slightest for having any part of Elizabeth’s flight, Charlotte turned back toward her friend and took a deep breath before continuing. “Do you think John knows?”

“Her letter didn’t say, but I find it doubtful.” Abigail’s eyes held Charlotte’s

“I, too, doubt it. It’s unimaginable that he would have let her go through with it.” Charlotte moved across the room again. This time toward the window that overlooked the front of the house.

“That is what I told Thomas,” Abigail said, unwavering.

Turning to face her friend, Charlotte said, “I imagine once he discovers her, he will send her right back home to you. He doesn’t want her in harm’s way any more than you do.”

“I know, dear friend. Your son is a good man and he loves my Elizabeth a great deal.”

Silence fell between them for some moments. Charlotte’s attention was drawn out of the front window toward a young couple walking by. That should have been John and Elizabeth on an afternoon stroll, on their way home to announce their engagement even.

“I know we haven’t spoken of it, but I was surprised they did not make plans to marry before he went off to war,” Charlotte wondered out loud.

“I admit, I was as well. But I think we’re all relieved they didn’t add the stress and emotion of a wedding to the mix, but it was what I expected when John first made it known he had enlisted.” Now focused on something else, Abigail’s voice was not so charged with emotion.

“I wonder which of them convinced the other to wait.”

“It is a mystery with those two,” Abigail sighed.

“Everything always is with them.” Charlotte turned back toward Abigail.

“Indeed,” Abigail said, looking into her friend’s eyes.

As Charlotte watched, Abigail’s eyes filled with emotion again. Charlotte rejoined her on the sofa, laying a hand on her shoulder. She waited for her friend to speak.

“I now know what torment you have been going through, knowing your child is off to war.”

Charlotte nodded, swallowing hard.

“And I understand your obsession with the war effort,” Abigail added, meeting her friend’s eyes again.

“It’s a way to stay connected to him,” Charlotte confirmed.

Abigail nodded her understanding. “Do you think you could use another hand to write letters? Or another person to collect donations?”

“Of course!” Charlotte said, excited at the prospect of her friend working alongside her. “We’ll be happy to have you!”

“Good. Because as long as she’s out there, I want her to have everything that she needs.”

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