Part One: Summer of Recovery – July and August, 1863
Chapter One: Thursday, 9 July 1863
John Andrews fought his way out of a vivid dream. A professor of engineering at the University of Missouri, he dreamt he got caught in a time eddy which placed him in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in July of 1863. Yet he imagined he heard a familiar voice addressing him. He moved his legs. Pain surging through his right thigh brought him to full consciousness.
“Hey, sleepyhead, I thought you wanted to go into town today. You’re going to have to start moving if we want to get there before noon!” Cathy repeated as she prodded her companion. “Or are you planning to stay in bed all day?”
“What?” John sat up and looked around. He was lying on an old iron bedstead in a small room in a cabin. It all came back in a rush. He hadn’t been dreaming.
He and Dr. Mary Catherine Howell, best friends from the age of four, had been transported through time from 2015 back to 1863 from a re-enactment they were attending. No, transported was too mild. Drop-kicked was more like it. Without warning, without knowing why or how, and just in time to witness one of the worst battles in the American War Between the States, it had been quite disconcerting. The two days before the battle were spent trying to find some logic to their predicament. None had come to mind. John never did believe in coincidences; he and Cathy had to be in 1863, in Gettysburg, for a reason. Passing as step-brother and sister, the pair had dealt with events as they unfolded.
Never in his thirty-five years of life had he imagined he would be participating in the real thing; nothing in his living history re-enactments had prepared him for leading a company of men, the 9th New York cavalry, into a real battle. His actions had saved the Union line on McPherson’s Ridge until John Reynolds’ relief troops had come up. The bonus was personal: he had insisted General John Buford leave the front line moments before a Confederate shot landed where he had stood. All it had cost him was a major wound to his right leg. A bullet had driven a silver dollar into his thigh. Cathy, who ran the Emergency Department at the University of Missouri Medical Center, had managed to put him put back together. The dented coin was now his lucky charm.
That had been eight days ago. A few days after the battle, an unexplained voice had come into their heads to explain, “When the time is right, you will come full circle.” He and Cathy had taken that to mean once they had done the task set – he had kept the battle line from collapsing, saved the general’s life, and once he was healed fully – they would be restored to their own time.
John looked up at Cathy. Standing five feet tall, and petite, she was at his bedside, waiting for his reaction to her words.
“Well?” she prompted as her green eyes met his dark brown ones. She tossed her auburn hair over her shoulder. “Have you changed your mind about going into Gettysburg?”
John, still fuzzy from sleep, regarded her with curiosity; as what she said fully registered, he grinned. “You mean it? We’re going to town? I can walk to town?”
“We’re going to have to take it slow and easy, but yes. When I left yesterday, I told Mary and Miss Martha that I’d be late today because you would be coming with me.” Cathy smiled at his enthusiasm as she rolled up her bed.
Cathy had been sleeping on the floor of the small partitioned room to make sure John wasn’t bothered. She had worked hard, damned hard, to make sure he wasn’t going to lose his leg, and she didn’t want to risk injuring it by rushing the walk. “You’ll get the hero’s dinner of your life, too. So get dressed in your best civilian clothes. I’ll be outside for a bit. Water for tea is on the stove.”
“No problem.” John swung his leg over the side with practiced ease, grabbed his crutches, and started getting ready. He realized that the exercises and walking Cathy had been encouraging had prepared him for the long journey into town. It was almost nine; he had slept past dawn for the first time since their arrival. As he dressed, he hummed what had become their private theme song: Look for the silver lining when e’er a cloud appears in the blue…. They both regarded it as a piece of their childhood, as his mother used to sing it to them when they were sick or scared.
Cathy, for her part, checked the garden plot she had planted earlier that week. Knowing they had to stay until John’s leg was fully healed, she had decided the best way to have fresh vegetables was to grow them. There were no spouts showing yet, but there were a few weeds. She watered and pulled the weeds before returning to the cabin to change her clothes; she realized that John’s eagerness would not bear any delays. While John was outside at the sink, she gathered their faithful carry bag and John’s empty knapsack, which he could wear across his body without it interfering with the crutch movement. The cabin, well out of the way in a clearing where two streams met, was ordinarily a forty-five minute walk from the home of their friends, John and Martha Scott. Martha’s sister, Mary McAllister, lived with the Scotts; Cathy worked for Mary in her store. The walk would take twice as long today because of John’s crutches.
John sat at the table and waited for his morning cup of tea and one of the leftover biscuits she had made. Cathy sat down with hers, and looked him over. It was the first time he had dressed fully since the battle, and he looked super.
“You look quite distinguished, Professor. Very much the wounded hero,” she teased. “The sisters can’t wait to see you.”
He was always presentable; although not classically handsome, his dark, wavy hair and dark brown eyes had turned more than a few girls’ heads on campus. The light tan he had when they had gotten to the re-enactment site – one hundred and fifty-two years from now? – had faded in the week he had been indoors since the battle, but even pale he looked good. At five feet seven inches, he was short for their own time, but almost above average for current circumstances.
“Should I bring the bench sketch?” he asked her.
“Absolutely, and also the sketch for the tables. I think Mr. John is looking forward to having another man to talk things over with. You can compare notes; he hasn’t been up and around himself long. His first real day up was yesterday, and only after I told him he could.” Cathy sighed, recalling how she had risked breaking the timeline by giving their friend aspirin. “That virus took a lot out of him.”
“That’s what is strange. He’s not that much older than I am.”
“Nutrition, medical care, and regular exercise make a big difference. Remember, John Buford was, or rather, is only two years older than we are.” She sighed. “Such a waste. ‘Back home’ Buford would have meds to control the arthritis, and he’d be doing so much better.” General Buford was the only person who knew they were from the future, and he had refused any medical help to ease the constant pain of rheumatoid arthritis.
“Scary. I know I can’t walk on this leg yet. I think I moved it in my sleep last night and the pain woke me up briefly,” he related. “I hope you know I’m trying to be patient.”
“We’ll see how you do today, and I’ll make the decision whether or not to cast it.” Cathy collected the table service items, washed them off, and dried her hands. She sighed as she looked down at them. “I’d love some hand lotion. Does baby oil exist yet?”
“Not sure about baby oil, but petroleum jelly and lanolin do, so we can contrive something,” John replied. “I know you have your own stuff with you. Are you running out?”
“Not yet, but I don’t want to wait until I do to find something to replace it. I’ll put it on the list of questions for the sisters,” Cathy said. “Oh, that reminds me! I want to bring your uniform pants. I mended the seam, so now they are just dirty and bloody with a hole from the bullet.” She stuffed the rolled up pants into the carry bag between the molasses crock and the milk jug. “Ready?”
“I’m so ready I’m halfway there.” H gave her a big grin, moving to the door as she followed him, laughing.
The walk to town took a bit longer than the predicted hour and a half, and what John called the half-way log was welcome. As they approached the outskirts of town, both noticed the growing stench of rotting flesh.
“It was noticeable as a background smell on the first time I came in, and it’s been getting steadily stronger,” Cathy informed him.
“I’ve read accounts that describe it, but whew! This is nasty, and will probably get worse.”
They made their way down Chambersburg Street and spotted Martha Scott on the front stoop.
“Cathy! And John!” She ran to meet them, tears forming. “Oh, Captain, it is so good to see you!”
“Miss Martha, whatever is the matter?” Cathy gave the older woman a hug, lapsing into the more formal language she and John used in public.
“Nothing,” she said, wiping her eyes. “It is wonderful to see the Captain up and around.”
“What is happening? How are the soldiers?” Cathy asked, thinking of the men she had treated at the Scott home the past few days. She had been helping the sisters tend the wounded men sheltered in their home after the battle.
“The Confederate lieutenant died after you left yesterday. He passed quietly in his sleep.”
“He is with his family now,” Cathy murmured, swallowing hard, “which is what he wanted. I’m happy to know he died peacefully.” One of the toughest calls in her professional career was to leave a major wound alone at the request of her patient, knowing his death might have been excruciating.
“The doctors came last night and took the rest of our wounded to hospitals. It almost seems strange having the house to ourselves after having the men underfoot for all that time,” Martha confided. “Mary went to see if we need to provide food for the men still in the church, and I awaiting her to return.”
“How’s the young soldier Cathy helped?” John was curious. Cathy had used available tools and modern knowledge to try to save a man’s arm.
“He’s doing very well,” Martha assured her. “He was taken to the hospital yesterday with the rest of the men, and they were talking about letting him go home for a spell.”
“May he stay well,” Cathy said softly, thinking of the young man whose arm she had treated despite the risk of changing the timeline.
“We wrote to his wife, and Michael hopes to be home next week,” Martha continued. “He wanted me to thank you again. The hospital people said his arm looks fine.” Martha spotted Mary coming down the street, and went to meet her.
“You did good, lady,” John told her, giving Cathy a squeeze. “Real good.”
Cathy sighed with relief. “Yep, I did. They both got what they wanted, and knowing the lieutenant died peacefully helps. Honoring his wishes was a tough call.”
“Captain!” Mary called out as she came to the house. “We are so glad to see you. Go on into the house, please. You do not need to be standing out here!”
John made his way into the front parlor and sank onto the settee, putting his crutches to the side. “I cannot thank you enough for the loan of the crutches,” he told the sisters. “It has made all the difference to me. I was really chafing to be up and around.”
“He was becoming quite cantankerous,” Cathy added with a smile. “I think the walls of the bedroom appeared to be getting smaller after almost a week.”
“Have you had breakfast?”
“Miss Martha, I confess I was in such a hurry to make the trip to town I only had a cup of tea and one of Cathy’s biscuits,” John admitted. “I do thank you for giving her the instructions to make them and instilling the confidence she needed to utilize the recipe.”
“I did relate that you were going to try one of my variations,” Cathy told Martha, “however, I suspect he did not fully believe me.”
Martha laughed. “We have certainly missed the banter between you,” she teased. “John, if you will make your way to the kitchen, I shall get you a proper breakfast. Later, we’ll have a nice early dinner.”
Everyone was in the kitchen when there was a knock at the door. Mary went to answer it.
“Cathy, one of the men you tended yesterday would like to thank you. He’s waiting in the front room.”
Cathy went through and saw it was one of the amputees whose stump had suddenly begun to hemorrhage the day before. She smiled her greeting and gestured for him to sit.
“Miss Cathy, ma’am, I wanted to say again how grateful I am for your help with this,” he began, lifting his left arm, which was in a sling. “They are letting me go home now.”
“I am glad I was here to help. May I ask how you were injured? I didn’t get a chance to inquire yesterday.”
“I was hurt the first day, ma’am. I was on the front line with the cavalry, and the Rebels moved in kind of sudden-like. I got cut really bad, and the surgeon said he’d have to take off part of my arm. I reckon I’m lucky it was not worse, but I got some scared when the bleeding started yesterday.”
“Cathy,” John called to her as he came into the dining room, “Miss Martha wants to know….” He stopped, seeing the young man with her. “Bobby?”
“Captain!” Smiling, the young man rose and saluted. “Sir, I am so glad to see you! We feared the worst for you.”
“Cathy, this is Corporal Bobby Healy. He was with me under Colonel Devin,” John said smiling, coming forward on his crutches to shake the man’s hand. “I see neither of us survived unscathed.”
“No, sir, but we both made it,” Healy said firmly, “and that is what matters. Captain, I seem to recall you arguing with the Colonel over who was going to tend to you. He made quite a fuss, ma’am,” he told Cathy, “about how he didn’t want the surgeon to touch his leg.”
“So I was given to understand,” Cathy said, smiling. “He can be most stubborn. I believe that once General Buford realized there was no arguing with him, he arranged to have my brother brought to where I was staying.”
“I didn’t realize that Miss Cathy is your sister, sir.”
“She is indeed. Since she tended your arm, you perhaps can understand why I refused to let anyone other than my sister touch my leg,” John stated. “She’s the best nurse in Missouri.”
“Yes, Captain, I’ll give no argument.” Bobby grinned, looking his age for the first time. “Sir, we held the line, and I’m proud to know you. I want to thank you both, as I reckon I wouldn’t be standing here otherwise. I’m going home.”
“It was an honor to serve with you,” John told the boy sincerely. “May God keep you and yours safe.”
Bobby Healy saluted once more and left. Cathy saw that John was touched at the man’s honesty.
“That boy lost part of his arm because of me, Cathy,” John said with a heavy sigh.
“Johnny, that man is alive because of you. That’s how he sees it and I’d trust that, if I were you,” Cathy told him gently. “Now, we’d best get back to the kitchen or Miss Martha will come after us with her rolling pin!”
While Martha cooked, Mary popped her head in to say she would be at her store if needed.
“Well now, Captain,” said John Scott, coming into the kitchen from outside, “I was told you were up and around.” He offered John his hand, and the men shook. Their host got himself a cup of coffee and joined them as they ate.
“It is good to see you up and around too, sir,” John echoed, smiling. “I heard from Cathy that you did not precisely follow her advice.”
“And rued it most sincerely,” the other man stated. “Captain, it is my understanding that you have designed a few pieces of furniture for what Martha calls the uncivilized cabin.”
“Cathy has insisted that we have a few comforts above bare survival,” John said, winking at her. “To be candid, I can agree with the notion. However, Miss Martha’s generosity has already given us a few touches of home. Even before the battle, Cathy had put up curtains.”
“It’s surprising how a few simple things can make a big difference. Lest Johnny leave you with a false impression,” Cathy put in, “we have found the cabin, as rustic as it is, to be a quiet haven in these tumultuous times. We did not have to bear direct bombardment or dodge stray shots the way you in town did, and I, for one, am heartily grateful.”
“With our primary needs fulfilled,” John told the older man, “I feel we can now turn our efforts to some of the comforts, hence the design for the small tables and bench for outdoors. I should be grateful for your opinions, if you would care to venture any.” He handed the sketch sheets to Scott.
Cathy, figuring she could leave them to it, told John she was going to see if Mary needed help at the store, located across Chambersburg Street from the house.
Scott studied the designs for a few moments. “Can you walk a few blocks? I’d like to show these to a friend of mine.”
“Mr. John,” replied John as he picked up his crutches, “I walked here from the cabin, so I suppose I can walk a few blocks.” The men set off together.
In the midst of helping straighten out the mess in the store left by both sides, Cathy glanced out the front window just in time to see them leave. She pointed this out to Mary.
“I would guess that John wants to show the Captain’s designs to Edward Fahnestock. He has another store not far from here. It’s more in the way of a dry goods store with some hardware. It is also being used as the headquarters for the new Sanitation Commission, but knowing John you will have your bench by tomorrow,” Mary said, chuckling. “I think they both need to do something useful. John has been busy with the telegraph, but he’s been looking for an excuse to get out of the house.”
Amidst the confusion of setting up the Commission, Scott introduced John Andrews to some of the town’s men who were getting supplies to repair or rebuild what had been destroyed as a result of the conflict. Asked to relate his battle experience, John gave the short form: he had been with the 9th New York under Colonel Devin and General Buford, and had been wounded on the front lines the first day of the battle.
“His sister told us that General Buford wrote a letter commending Captain Andrews’ service with him,” Scott added, as it wouldn’t hurt to have these men realize the newcomer should be considered a hero.
“My sister is proud of my service, sir. However, I am just as proud of what she did. After I was wounded,” he told the proprietor, “the General had me taken to her because she’s a nurse. I want to try to make the cabin more of a home for her, as she not only saved my leg but my life.”
“Miss Cathy also helped Martha and Mary with the wounded at our house, and nursed me when I was sick.”
“What may I do for you, Captain?”
“I wanted the Captain to show you some designs he drew,” Scott said to Edward Fahnestock.
“What would it take to build them?” John asked.
“All it would require is the wood and a few nails,” he replied, studying the bench. “I like the look of this, Captain. It’s different, not flat boards or simple slats. I see you have listed what you need, lengths included. This will not be at all hard to construct.”
“That’s my hope.” John leaned on his crutches. “I’m an engineer, not a carpenter. How much will you charge for the wood and nails?”
“Let me keep the design for use and you can have the materials. I’d be honored to put it together, seeing as how you are on crutches.”
“Begging your pardon, sir,” John interrupted, “as much as I appreciate your kind offer, I am staying in a cabin outside of town, and once built, the bench would be impossible for me to move. I was hoping to take wood, nails, and a hammer back with me and build it there.”
“Where’s the cabin?”
“It’s not easy to describe,” he replied hesitantly. “It sits in a clearing near a spot where two streams meet.”
“John, if the bench is built, I’ll make sure it gets to you.” Scott turned to Fahnestock. “Please look at the sketch for the tables.”
“If I can get the wood and nails, I can easily build these if Mr. John will loan me a hammer,” John said, pointing to the second sheet. “I kept the table simple and traditional. My sister has asked for two side tables, and I would hate to disappoint her.”
“It looks sturdy. This should be easier to build than the bench,” Scott commented.
“That was my intention.”
“Did I understand you to say you are an engineer?” Fahnestock inquired, thinking out loud.
“Yes, sir. I teach civil engineering at the University of Missouri, or I did until the war shut down the school.” John regarded the man behind the counter. “If there are any local projects, or rebuilding to be done due to damage from the battle, I hope you will inform me as I would be pleased and honored to help.”
“We have a railroad bridge out. The Confederates blew up the bridge over Rock Creek the week before the battle, and our rail is now useless,” Fahnestock explained. “Work has begun on the repairs, but we would be obliged if you would lend your expertise.”
“Mr. John, can you take me out to see it?”
“Let’s get the materials for the tables. While you wait for the order, I shall return to the house for a cart and take you out to the bridge. We can drop the wood off at the cabin, as it is more or less on the way. For now, Edward,” Scott said to Fahnestock, “put the wood and nails on my account, and the Captain and I will settle up later.” As John started to protest, Scott put his hand. “You were wounded defending this town, and we owe you. More personally, I owe Miss Cathy for taking care of me when I was poorly.” He left.
John turned to the proprietor, who was handing the list of materials for the tables to his assistant, a teenaged boy who introduced himself as Dan Skelly. Fahnestock told Dan to put the order together and have it ready for pick up. “Cut the wood to the lengths on the sheet. That will make it easier for the Captain.”
“Sir, my sister and I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the town. I hope to repay you in kind,” John said sincerely.
“You help us get that bridge back in order, and we’ll show you real gratitude,” the proprietor responded. “Ah, here comes Joseph Broadhead. He works for the railroad.”
“Morning,” said the man coming up to the counter.
“Joseph, this is Captain John Andrews. The Captain was wounded the first day of the battle, and he and his sister are good friends of John and Martha Scott. She helped tend the wounded they sheltered.”
“My sister will also be working for Mary McAllister at her store,” John put in as he shook Broadhead’s hand.
“I heard telling of a nurse helping out at the Scott place. My wife Sallie has been going to the hospital at the Seminary, and your sister would be most welcome there.”
“I will relay that to her. I must confess to being shamefully selfish in keeping her to myself. After the first day of the fight, she was busy taking care of me,” John said. “She insisted she could save my leg.”
“Understandable,” Broadhead commented. “What do you do, when you are not in the middle of a war?”
“Captain Andrews is a civil engineer,” Fahnestock replied. “I thought he might be of some help getting the railroad bridge back up.”
“We would be mighty grateful if you could, Captain. From where do you hail?” Broadhead asked.
“My sister and I both teach at the University of Missouri,” John said. “Or at least we did until most of the school was shut down due to the war. I was with the Third Missouri Cavalry until I fell sick in Arkansas, and Cathy came out to nurse me. We made our way across the war so I could join General Buford’s troops. I had hoped to serve with them for more than a morning,” he added ruefully.
The men were talking about the rail damage when Dan Skelly came to the counter to report he had the order completed; at the same time Scott entered to announce he had the cart. John was told to go to the cart and the other three moved the wood to it. The cart was hitched to an old pony that looked so bedraggled John guessed both sides left it alone.
“She is stronger than she looks,” Scott said with a smile, seeing John’s skepticism. “If we had cleaned her up, the Rebs would have taken her, too.”
“Mr. John, I hope you told the ladies where we are going and why.”
“Captain, I’ve been married for many years. The reason it has been happy is because I remember to do things like that,” his host chuckled.
The drive out to the railroad bridge was not as long as he expected it to be. John realized that the long walk to and from the cabin was only long because they were walking over uneven terrain. He saw the turnoff they used for the shortcut, but didn’t comment.
There was a work party of men at the destroyed railroad bridge. John was introduced by his host, and took a quick tour of the damage, partly by cart and partly on his crutches. He was able to give the foreman of the railroad’s team a few tips on what needed shoring up in addition to the work which was already in progress.
“I am concerned there may be a good chance that there is some hidden damage in the rails beyond what is visible,” he cautioned. “To be safe, I would recommend you pull the rails from another forty yards on either side. Check the beds to make sure they have not shifted, and if you have the available rail, replace that which is closest to the bridge.” Metal fatigue would be increased with the impact of the explosion, although that concept was decades, if not almost a century, away.
The foreman quickly realized he had an expert to consult; he brought over the original construction drawings of the bridge. John looked them over and made a few suggestions for future use. He kept them simple, nothing drastic for fear of really impacting the timeline; just basic ideas that logically followed the designs. His history classes were clearer than ever, and he wondered if the textbooks would change any.
John was sitting on a makeshift bench, looking over the spec drawings when one of the workers approached him with a cup of water. Taking it and drinking, John was about to hand the cup back when the man asked if he had been wounded during the battle.
“I caught a bullet the first day,” John replied.
“You are fortunate you have your leg,” the man stated flatly without being unfriendly. “Most do not.”
“I am aware of that and grateful,” John returned simply, and extended his hand. “John Andrews, Captain, formerly with the 3rd Missouri and 9th New York cavalry.”
“Bartholomew Scovel,” the man replied. “You are being mighty helpful to us, sir. Some lengths of rail we are pulling up are not as good as we thought they were, and the bed needed leveling. You probably kept a few accidents from happening.” Scovel was about John’s height, maybe a bit taller, with a serious manner.
“I’m happy to help. This town has been good to me, and I wanted to find a way to thank the people here.”
“I think this will come close to clearing whatever debt you feel you owe,” Scovel said with the barest of smiles. “We have workers, but the Army took our engineers.”
“The same way I was. I’m an engineer yet they placed me in a cavalry unit,” John replied, with a wry smile. “At times I fear there is little reasoning behind some of the military policies.”
“Yes, sir.” Scovel hesitated. “I regret you were hurt in the fight.”
“My sister would agree with that,” John explained, nodding, “yet as you say, I’m one of the lucky ones.”
“I will tell you frankly, Captain, I’m getting real tired of seeing good Union men being killed, maimed, and crippled fighting this war. I love my country, yet I wonder if it would have hurt to let the Confederacy stand on its own. The way I reckon it, the states wouldn’t make it for long and would be forced to come back peaceable.”
“I can understand your frustration,” John admitted, wondering where this was going. “I saw a lot of good men fall the day I was hit, and I know there were many, many more killed and wounded over the next two days. I guess I never thought of letting the Confederates leave. This war is supposed to preserve the Union, or at least that is what I heard.”
“There are a lot of men who feel it would be for the best to let the South go.”
“After experiencing the horrors of battle, I can see how that might appeal to folks,” John murmured, recalling that some northerners embraced that philosophy. “Mr. Scovel, do you work for the railroad?”
“I’ve been on the rails since I was sixteen. I’m from over towards Hanover way, and I ride these tracks a lot.” Scovel regarded John and the crutches. “Will you be able to work again after the war?”
“I am told I will make a full recovery,” John replied, “and I am thankful.”
“Are you staying in one of the hospitals?”
“My sister and I are living in a cabin not far from here,” John said. “She is a nurse and took care of me after I was wounded.”
“Probably why you still have your leg,” Scovel observed with a smile. “Smart of you not to let the surgeons work on it.”
“To be fair, they have to work fast, and she took her time. She used to help her father, who is a doctor.” John realized how naturally their cover story – Cathy’s father was actually a lawyer – came out.
“If I see you in town, I’d be proud to buy you a drink, sir.”
“I would enjoy that,” John replied honestly. They shook hands again and Scovel rejoined the work party, leaving John to think about what had been said.
After over three hours on the site, John Scott suggested they get going. The foreman, Daniel Adamson, thanked them for coming out, and John made sure the man knew how to reach him, through Scott, if he could be of further help.
“I cannot believe how good it feels to be useful after this past week,” John commented with a sigh as they left the site. “I’m tired, but it’s a different sort of tired.”
“Captain, I wasn’t wounded but I have been laid up, so I do understand how you feel,” his host replied.
“I was glad to hear of your recovery, sir. I know Cathy was concerned.”
“My good lady was as well. I had hoped to be of more use, the Lord knows help was needed, but that sickness really laid me out.” He shuddered as they followed the pathway John and Cathy used the first day. “Here’s the cabin. Martha was afraid it was a shack, but this looks fine. Once we get this unloaded, we’ll head back to the house. There’s a big dinner for you and Cathy.”
Cathy was helping set the table when the men got back to the house. Once glance at John’s face told her the story. “I’m glad you were able to help,” she greeted him with a smile.
“He did,” replied Scott, entering, “and we are grateful.”
Once they were seated at the table, their host said grace, including thanks for the deliverance of his family, friends, and town from the ravages of war. Heartfelt ‘amens’ echoed around the table.
John brought up his conversation with the worker. “I was wondering if there is much agreement with this thinking.”
“There is some, especially with the way the war is going,” Scott replied. “There are people who see it as wrong to force the secessionist states to stay.”
“I spoke with some of the wounded soldiers,” Cathy started, “and some of the Union men are just plain tired of fighting what they see as a losing war.”
“You’d probably find more of it in Maryland, as it is on the Confederacy border,” added Scott.
“I never thought the fighting would get this far north,” Mary stated. “I do not mind saying that I was scared. Even Saturday, there were sharpshooters around. The man across the street was shot even as he called a warning to me as I crossed to my store.”
“I would like to propose we speak of other things,” Martha said, passing around a bowl of potatoes. “This is a time for celebration, and I, for one, believe it might help our digestion if we cease discussing the war!”
“Hear, hear!” Mary agreed. “Cathy, how is your garden coming along?”
The subject of the war was dropped. John related some anecdotes from his childhood with Cathy, who noted that he carefully hedged places and time. He was a good storyteller, and she joined in the laughter.
After the dishes were cleared and washed, Scott offered to take the pair back to the cabin in the pony cart.
“As much as I would appreciate the ride,” John began, “I think we had better walk. I must to get used to this.”
Cathy looked at the clock on the mantle, and realized that as much as she’d like the ride, John meant it. “If we leave now, we ought to make it back by dark,” she agreed, somewhat reluctantly. “I guess I knew that once he started walking, he would insist on continuing to do so.” She made a face.
“We shall walk slowly and I promise I’ll let you rest,” John said, and as the comment elicited chuckles, he asked, “Do we have the bags?”
“Here they are,” Mary said, handing him the knapsack and Cathy the other one. Both were full.
“Miss Mary, ma’am, your generosity is overwhelming,” John assured her sincerely. “We shall endeavor to find a way to repay you.”
“Nonsense,” Scott stated firmly. “With your help, the railroad bridge will be operational by Saturday, and Miss Cathy has done her share of nursing besides helping at the store.”
Cathy regarded their hosts and turned to her companion. “Johnny, one certain sign of intelligence is to realize when you have lost a debate. I do believe we can call this one over,” she stated amid laughter. “Mary, I shall see you tomorrow at the store.”
The pair took their leave, Cathy walking to John’s pace as he thumped along with his crutches. They had gone a few blocks when a man hailed John from across the way, at the Globe Tavern.
John looked across the street and murmured to Cathy, “That’s the worker I mentioned.”
Scovel crossed the street to where they stopped. Cathy saw he was slightly taller and stockier than John, clean-shaven, with wavy brown hair and solemn blue eyes.
“Mr. Scovel, this is my step-sister, Miss Catherine Howell. Cathy, this is Bartholomew Scovel, one of the men I met at the railroad bridge project.”
Cathy bobbed a small curtsey, fully aware the man was studying her with marked interest.
“Miss Howell,” Scovel said, “your brother is a right smart engineer. He spotted a problem with the tracks we had not considered.”
“I am delighted he could be of service, Mr. Scovel. After being laid up for a week or more, I am certain it also did him a world of good.”
“Cathy and I are returning to our cabin,” John told the larger man. “It’s been a very long day for me.” The fatigue was showing on his face.
“The Globe serves a good ale, and I was going to offer you that drink, yet I won’t keep you now, sir. You do look a bit peaky.”
“Perhaps another time,” Cathy agreed. “We really should try to get back before it gets dark. The pathway is not even, and I should hate to see my brother trip and fall on his wounded leg.”
“I would otherwise be happy to accept your offer, Mr. Scovel, I assure you. It has been a while since I’ve been able to relax over a pint,” John said with a grin, “however we should get a move on now. Will you be in town tomorrow or Saturday?”
“I’ll be at the bridge site tomorrow. We hope to get it finished by sundown,” Scovel explained.
“I shall be working in Miss McAllister’s store tomorrow, if you wish to get a message to John,” Cathy stated quickly, heading off any response of John’s. “I suspect today has taken more out of him than he realizes at the moment. I shall encourage him to do as little as possible tomorrow.”
“Ma’am, I will make a point of stopping by to see how he fares,” Scovel replied. “Until then.”
Goodbyes were said. Cathy and John continued on their way. John started to speak once they were out of earshot, but Cathy told him to save his energy and concentrate on not tripping over anything.
It was past dusk, almost dark, when they reached the cabin, which looked like a haven to John. He collapsed into a chair, not resisting when Cathy asked him to take off his pants. Checking the dressing, she sat back on her heels with a sigh.
“I know you’re exhausted and in pain, but the dressing looks clean. Any burning sensations?”
“Nope. Just aching pain.”
“Let’s get you to bed, and I’ll go ahead and make a cast splint,” she told him. “I think it will help support your leg, which should cut down on the amount you have to do to keep it in the slightly bent position you need for walking.”
“Won’t that make it harder for me to sleep?”
“No, it’ll be removable.”
An hour and a half later, John looked at the splint now drying on the floor. The engineer in him appreciated the flexibility of the design, simple yet supportive.
“That’s amazing. I can use it when I’m up or walking, and take it off when I want to sit or lie down.” He looked at Cathy. “I’m really impressed.”
“It’s a hard plastic. Once it dries, it will be lightweight and we can hold it in place with elastic wraps, all of which are hidden by clothing. It’s not what you would call period-specific, but it will help.” Cathy smiled, delighted she had succeeded in surprising him. “I learned this from an orthopod in charge of some residents last year. It’s not quite a half-clamshell, which is sometimes used after surgery, but it’s close. I don’t want to cast your leg because we do want some muscle mobility and I have to be able to get to the dressing, yet I wanted support for it. Best of both worlds.”
“It should also help protect me in case I do fall,” he observed.
“I can’t wait to try it out,” John said, yawning widely. “Tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow.” Cathy stretched. “As for now, I think a snack and then bed. I’m almost as tired as you are.”
John noticed that Cathy was singing “Look for the Silver Lining” to herself as she settled onto her bedroll. He smiled, recalling the number of times his mother had sung it to them both when they were little.
“So always look for the silver lining, and try to find the sunny side of life,” Cathy finished. “Good night, Johnny.”