From long habit he scanned the ground looking for tracks. Interesting. A large party had recently passed this way. His gut tightened as his hand fell to his gun. After three years of war, the presence of these tracks was a matter of concern.
Skirting the edge of the woods along the driveway, he silently moved toward the house. Just past the first curve he halted as if a regiment of Yankees in blue coats stood in front of him. The field in front of the house had been planted in cotton ever since he was a little boy, but small pines and blackberry bushes had taken over the field. Dear God!
The sound of a fiddle came to his ears. Was there a party? Did that explain the tracks? He shouldered his haversack and continued up the drive. Rounding the last curve in the road, he saw people gathered in the front yard which had been swept to smooth perfection. As he came closer, he saw Preacher Sentell standing in front of a man and woman. Why, somebody was getting married.
Hold on. From the back the woman looked like Grace, but … She turned her head slightly; it was Grace! What the hell was going on here?
When he strode forward, some of the people in the back of the crowd saw him. Gladys Roper whom he’d known for years screamed as if she’d seen a rattler, and everyone turned around, including Grace and the man. Her soft brown eyes bored into his and looked as if they were about to jump out of her head. She fumbled for the man beside her and crumpled onto the ground, sending red dust flying through the air and onto her white dress.
The man pulled Grace into his arms as some of the guests pressed forward and others stared at him as if he’d grown horns. A wail arose from somewhere in the crowd, and a small woman in black shoved her way through the guests. “My boy,” she wailed. Tears coursed down her thin face. “Nathan, oh, Nathan!”
She flung herself into Nathan’s arms in spite of his dirty, ragged clothing and hugged him in an iron grip he’d find hard to break in spite of her size. Moments later the crowd parted for his father who stumped to meet him on an ill-fitting, wooden peg leg. He grabbed Nathan’s arm and pounded him on the back. “We thought you were dead,” he cried, swallowing convulsively. His eyes gleamed with unshed tears. “General Hampton himself wrote to tell us.”
If you're interested in the Civil War, check out my Civil War series that I posted in July and August of 2009.