A Rebel In My House (Civil War Romance #2)

By: Sandra Merville Hart
CHAPTER ONE



Friday, June 26, 1863

Two miles outside Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Running feet on the dirt road outside quickened Sarah Hubbard’s heartbeat. Her fingers stiffened on her sewing machine and her back straightened.

Were they coming? Every conversation these days centered on the Confederate soldiers crossing into southern Pennsylvania.

“Miz Hubbard. Miz Hubbard, please let us in!”

Not soldiers but friends. Sarah’s body sagged at Elsie Craig’s voice, but why did she yell? Sarah dropped the gingham dress she’d been sewing and ran to throw open the front door. Alarmed at the fear lining Elsie’s dark face and eyes as she clutched the hand of her four-year-old daughter, Mae, Sarah scanned the horizon for Confederate soldiers. “Hurry inside.”

Elsie needed no second bidding. She guided Mae over the threshold and closed the door. “Miz Hubbard, you gotta hide us.” Her tall, thin body leaned against the door. “The Rebs are in town gathering up all the colored folks they can find. Someone said they’ll be taking them south as slaves and that they’re warning folks not to hide us.”

Sarah gasped. “Why do such a terrible thing?”

“Don’t make sense, does it? Some of us have lived in Gettysburg for years. Others like me have always been free, but it don’t seem to matter to the Southern army.” A long loaf of bread peeked out among jars and clothing in a well-laden basket Elsie set on the rug. She dropped to her knees and wrapped her arms around her trembling child. “I had to leave my house and most of my possessions, but I’ve got the most important thing right here.” She looked up at Sarah as she patted Mae’s shoulder. “Last week my Sam left for Pine Hill, the settlement up near Biglerville. With it being two miles off the main road to Carlisle, the Rebs won’t find him there. Sam never expected the army to come after women and children or he’d never have left us. I miss him something fierce. We’ll go to him when the soldiers get out of town.”

Tears etched tracks in a smudge on Mae’s cheek, tugging at Sarah’s heart as much as Elsie’s wide eyes and trembling hands. Sarah rushed to an open window and pushed aside the curtain a few inches. The Pennsylvania governor, Andrew Curtin, had declared a state of emergency two weeks earlier and called for local militia. Where was their help?

Birds chirped. A rooster crowed. The familiar rush of water on Willoughby Run, a nearby creek, didn’t need to drown out marching footsteps. No soldiers appeared on the country lane outside her white clapboard home beside the woods. Despite the calm view outside her window, Sarah shivered as if standing in a cold draft. How could two women and a child protect themselves from soldiers?

Elsie peeked around Sarah’s shoulder. “Can we hide here?”

“Of course.” She strove for a confident tone despite her shaky legs. “But where? My sister’s horse is in the barn. They will certainly search there.”

“Rebs are buying up livestock, so Mrs. Burke’s horse ain’t safe neither.” The pretty young mother’s gaze darted across the sparse room where two chairs and a drop-leaf table rested against the inner wall. A blue dress adorned the wall near the fireplace. She glanced toward the narrow wooden stairs that led to a loft bedroom. “The garret is the first place they’ll look.” She rubbed her shoe against a faded brown rug. “Does this rug cover a cellar door?”

“No, the opening is in the kitchen.” Sarah indicated the doorway with a shrug of her shoulder.

Elsie tugged Mae’s hand, and the little girl followed her through the opening.

Sarah joined them in the room that served as her kitchen and the sewing room. “There.” She pointed to the three-foot by four-foot wooden hatch that lay flush with the floor between the table and the large black stove. Her sewing machine table and chair sat close to the room’s lone window.

“Is the cellar big enough for us to hide there?”

“Yes. It covers the length of this room and extends into the yard.” Sarah lifted the door to reveal a ladder leading to a dark space below. She knew the location of each jar and can that lined the shelves just out of view along with flour-filled cotton sacks. Most of the meat lay deep in the ash pile behind the house, buried there when the Southern army crossed the Mason-Dixon. The bulk of her precious fabric, wrapped in India rubber to protect it from the ashes, hid beside the meat.

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