Monday, April 3, 2017


It had been years since she had seen him.  It was hard not to turn around again after their eyes had locked, but they were in church, for goodness sakes.  Though Hamilton, her husband, bumped her shoulder and pointed to the  hymn, she sang knowing the other young man's eyes were still upon her.

"O God, our Help in ages past,
Our Hope for years to come,
Our Shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal Home!"

"Under the shadow of Thy throne
Still may we dwell secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure."

Amie thought that nothing seemed sure right now, certainly not their defense.  She felt as they were not dwelling in anything securely, as if the rug could be pulled out from under them at any moment.  The Union was dissolved.  The southern states had made good on their promise of succession.  Just as bad, Hamilton, had pressed her into a hurried marriage before he joined the Confederate troops.  After all, he reasoned, they had been engaged for over a year.  Her thoughts were pulled back to that day.

"But papa, I'm not ready to be married," she had cried, a stream of tears flowing from her sobs.  Amie's stomach had clenched into a tight knot that would not be untangled. Yet her father had exerted his own pressure.  It was a mutual agreement between two gentlemen neighbors that their children should marry.  It had been arranged since they were mere children. 

Her father had tried to reason with her, "Seventeen is old enough, Amie, especially in these uncertain times.   It gives courage to a soldier to know he is fighting for a wife and loved ones back home.  It is your patriotic duty.  This war will be fought and won in mere months, not years.  Then you will begin your duties as his wife at Shadow Grove.  Be thankful Hamilton will allow you to remain here in your home with me at Sweetwater until he returns." 

Later on that dreadful day, Amie found herself standing before the minister in her home with Hamilton as her groom.  Their union was procured while the nation's had been severed.  The next morning he would be leaving with his troops.  She had to endure just one night.

Now here he sat beside her again like a banty rooster in a church full of banties with puffed up chests having had success in their most recent battle under General Lee.  Amie looked over to where Mrs. Randolph sat in her black mourning gown.  Her son was never coming home.  War was horrible!

When church was let out, Amie's eyes searched the congregation to see her friend's face.  Daniel had been her sister's beau.  Amie loved when he would come calling.  Since the young couple were never to be left alone, sometimes she was the only chaperone when her nanny was busy.  However, Daniel had never made her feel unwanted, just teased her and once in a while even drew her into their conversations.  Because of her constant questions, he gave Amie the nickname of Miss Curiosity always reminding her that curiosity killed the cat. 

Amie sighed.  Her sister had died a few months later.  Seeing Daniel was like a fragrance from a crushed flower making her heart clutch.  No one spoke her sister Esther's name any more, so seeing him drew her like trying to catch a glimpse out of a window to the pleasant past. 

By the time they broke through the church doors into the bright sunshine of a warm spring day, she had lost him.  Amie was gripping Hamilton's sleeve while she turned this way and that bringing on his ire.

"Whatever are you doing, Amie.  It is unseemly to be gawking about," he said while detaching her gloved hand from his arm brushing down the sleeve of his uniform as if she had sullied him.   

"Oh, Hamilton, I saw Daniel Wise.  I'm sure of it."

He growled, "Well, that shirker better not show his face around here.  He would like as not be strung up from the nearest tree."

Amie gasped, "Gracious, Hamilton!  How could you say such a thing."

"Because it's true.  People are saying he's refusing to join up, that his loyalties are with the North."

This gave Amie pause.  "Good for him," she thought, "Finally someone with a mind of their own and a backbone."  She hated how their great country had been divided.  She yearned for the day when the fighting would cease.  Amie even hoped that the issue of slavery would be resolved, that freedom would come to an oppressed people.  At their plantation, the house slaves were the closest she felt to having family since her own mother and sister had died.   But she did not have to look beyond her own neatly kept yard to see the horrors they endured from her father's overseer.  It was even worse at Shadow Grove.

Hamilton looked around.  "He must have left in a hurry.  I'd hate to waste the Sabbath on chasing him down.  Perhaps they'll round him up tomorrow," he sniffed while wiping the beaded sweat off his forehead. 

Amie kept her head down to hide her distaste of her husband.  Though they had grow up together as children, he had tormented her enough to know that he had a streak of cruelty.  She wasn't sure if it would resurface in their married life.  This was his first time home on a furlough, and she was trying to find her way through in her new role as his wife.  She dreaded the night and felt guilty.  She hoped he would not stay long before heading back with his troop.

Amie jolted at the distant sound of canons.

"They are miles away, dear.  Don't worry.  It won't come closer," Hamilton said patronizingly patting her shoulder.  "You are safe.  A couple more battles like the last, and our side will win this war!"  He walked away to join his comrade in arms. 

Amie decided to wait in the buggy.  At least it was parked under the shade of one of the giant magnolia trees gracing the perimeter of the church yard.

"Hello, Miss Curiosity.  How are you this fine day?"

"Daniel!" He had startled her almost speechless.  "I did not expect to see you here."

"I had business in town yesterday until late and decided to stay over to rest on the Sabbath. You are looking lovely and quite grown up.  I hear you are married now."  His smile did not meet his eyes.

Amie looked down at her gloves.  "Yes.  It was expected of me."  But then she looked up to earnestly search his eyes.  "Be careful Daniel.  There's talk about you, you know."

He glanced over his shoulder where Hamilton was glaring at him.  "Yes, I know.  I'll be careful. Perhaps I will be traveling this afternoon after all.   It was good seeing you again, Amie."  His gaze pulled her in searchingly, then he was gone.  It was for the best as her husband made strides over to her.  But she had wanted to tell Daniel that he would be in her prayers.

"What was that about, Amie?  Are you patronizing with the enemy?" he growled.

"Hardly, Hamilton.  You know as well as I do that Daniel was my sister's suitor and is a family friend."

He climbed onto the seat beside her and used the sting of his whip to get the poor horse moving.  "I won't have it," he said through clenched teeth.  "Do not speak to him again, not that you'll have the chance after tomorrow." He laughed without mirth.  "My friends and I have plans and a stout rope."

Amie sucked in her breath quickly, but looked away hoping Hamilton did not notice her dismay.  "When will you be going back, you and your friends?  Doesn't General Lee need you with fighting this close?"

He looked at her coldly.  "Are you trying to be rid of my company already, Amie, after such a short time together as man and wife?"  He snorted and did not say another word as they rode back to Sweetwater.  Finally, Hamilton threatened, "I'm tempted to move you over to Shadow Grove before I go back.  You need to learn to be its mistress."

"Please, let me stay with my father, Hamilton.  He has no one else in his household, but me.  There will be time enough to become settled in your home after the South prevails."  She tried to appease him with his favorite subject, the South's soon to be victory, at least in his eyes.  Amie had her own doubts.

He huffed, but turned in her drive.  She knew that he far more enjoyed the fare that came out of their kitchen than what was served at his home.  She also knew that his relationship with his father was testy at best.

After the meal, he turned away to follow her father in his study to discuss the war, since it was a taboo subject matter around the table, even if she was the only lady present.  As she walked past the study, she overheard him telling her father about Daniel, that they would chase him down and string him up as a traitor to their cause.  They had been told on clear authority that Daniel had joined the North. 

Feeling absolute devastation that her father would even allow such talk about their dear friend sickened her.  She turned and went into the summer kitchen that was built outside to keep from heating the whole house.  Amie found her pen and paper she'd used to copy a recipe yesterday and turned it over to send an urgent message.  "Jasper?" 

"Yes, ma'am."  He ran up in his too short pants due to his constant growth spurts. 

"I need you to take this letter to Mr. Daniel Wise.  Do you remember where he lives?"  Her sister had used the lad to take letters to him while they were courting.

"Yes, ma'am.  Does you want me to stay there tonight or should I come back in the dark, 'cause it's a far piece away."

"Yes, ask to stay until morning, but hurry.  It's important.  But tell no one where you are going.  Just say that I am sending you on an errand.  Do you understand?"  She made sure he looked her in the eye, something they had been taught not to do, to remain as a subservient ought. 

"Yes, ma'am.  I hear what you is saying."

"You may use my horse, Jasper.  If anyone asks, just tell them that I asked you to exercise him for me."  She knew he rode like he was born on the back of a horse.  She reached over and broke off a piece of a sugar cone.  "Here, give this to him when you get there.  And take these apples too, one for you, one for my horse.  And here's a canteen."

Amie had scrawled in a messy hand on the back of the recipe, of the threat she'd overheard without naming names and leaving it unsigned.  All she could hope and pray was that he would take it seriously.

Feeling exhausted, she found a lounge chair on the back porch where a fan was rigged that only needed a child to pull the rope to keep it circling.  Little Jasmine, barely four years old, ran out to do her duty.  It made Amie feel guilty having such a little child wait on her, but at least the poor  thing would be cooled by the same wafting of air as she would enjoy. 

Was this a day to overhear yet another conversation?  Two of their slaves, were sitting outside in the shade snapping beans.  Susie was telling Martha, "I hear tell that young  Izzy over at Shadow Grove is carrying another one of the master's chile's.  If it's too white when it'z born, he already be threatening to sell it downriver, just like he did the last time.  He say he can't have people knowing he fathered a chile'  with his slave woman.  It's a curse to be as purty as she is."

"That it is, poor thing.  She hardly more'n a chile herself."

This chilled Amie to the bone, no matter the heat that radiated in waves off the limestone gravel pathway.  She stayed still hoping to hear more, but the women went back inside the kitchen taking the sound of their voices away with them.  Tears slipped down her cheek, but she soon wiped them away as Hamilton came around the house. 

"There you are.  I've been looking all over for you," he groused.  Come inside."

"I was just trying to nap out here where it's cooler," she said almost whimpering dreading what he wanted.   He pulled her upstairs.

He left early the next morning.  She felt terrible to feel so relieved.  After all.  Hamilton was her husband.

A month and a half later, she woke on a Sunday morning and forced herself to go to church.  Amie refused to have more than a half of a cup of coffee and a piece of toast feeling queasy.  She sat gripping the side of the buggy seated beside her father feeling rather green.  He looked a little more grim than usual. 

"Is everything alright, Father?"

"I don't know.  We are so outnumbered and the loss of life is so great, that we have had to withdraw when all  had hoped they would march onto Washington."  Then he looked at her questioningly, "I expected Hamilton to join us this weekend.  Many of his men are home again on furlough."

Amie looked up though bowed by the burden of war and the loss of life.  Her eyes were full though no tears fell.  "Were any more of our friends lost in the fighting?"  Her hands were clenched.

"I'm sure we will hear of it at church this morning if they were," he said unsmiling.

There were three more women wearing black bombazine than last week.  A wave of sickness roiled, but she fought it off.  Amie went into the sanctuary clinging to her father's arm.

After church her father cornered some of Hamilton's friends, fellow soldiers.  "Why isn't my son-in-law here?" he asked.  "I expected him to be with you."

Two of the men looked at each other with their lips sealed while a third one blurted out, "Oh, he stayed in Atlanta.  The city was throwing a ball for the officers, the lucky dog."  One man kicked him in the shin while the other glared.  He just said, "What?  What'd you do that for?"

Hamilton's closest friend who enlisted with him said, "Some of the officers were needed to meet with the higher ups," he said lamely refusing to look Amie in the eye.

Amie understood that to mean that Hamilton had had a choice.  Of course he would choose to attend a gala affair, to be toasted and who knows what all.  He did like to dance with pretty women.  Again, her stomach protested.

"Father, I need to go home.  The heat is overwhelming me today," she said limply.

When she reclined on the porch that afternoon, her old nanny walked by.  Amie called to her. 

"What sugar?  Do you needs me to do something for you?"

Amie kept her voice low.  "I haven't been feeling well, sick to my stomach this past week."

"Humhuph," she said crossing her arms looking her over.  The woman had helped birth her and had taken care of her ever since Amie was slapped on the bottom and made to cry.  "Have you missed your monthlies, baby girl?"

Aime's eyes went wide.  She had not thought, had not suspected such a thing.  She had hardly been with Hamilton, only a few times.

"It only takes one time sometimes," she nodded knowingly.  "My baby maybe's goin' to be a mama.  I knew there was somethin' glowing on you," and she whispered, and it sure 'nuf ain't cause of your yearning fer your man, now is it?"

Amy's face burned with embarrassment and did not answer.

Yet, that man she didn't yearn for rode in with his horse lathered that evening.  He sat tightlipped at the table not saying a word to her, only answered her father's questions with hardly more than a grunt. 

Once upstairs, he shoved her hard up against the bed.  "So you ratted on us to the enemy.  You know some people have hung for less."

"What?"  But she knew he'd found out about her warning Daniel.  She was relieved except for the fearsome look in her husband's eyes. 

"You did, didn't you?  You warned Daniel Wise so he could escape to fight for the North.  You're disloyal to the Cause, woman!  How would you feel if he raised his gun against me?  Huh? Would you mourn?"  Hamilton grabbed her up by her collar and slapped her. 

Amie was shocked, shocked speechless.  No one had ever lifted a hand against her.  He dropped her and let her fall to her knees.  but he pulled her by the hair until she was forced to look up at him.

"Did you think I wouldn't recognize Jasper on your horse coming from Daniel's place?  Do you think I'm an idiot?  If the men I was with had recognized either the boy or the horse, it could have been me hanging from that rope for colluding with the enemy."  He pulled her up and backhanded her again.  "Don't you know that this is war?"

Amie was quickly becoming aware of its cost.  The genteel southern way she'd been raised with had been shattered.  Then he left.  She didn't know where he went, perhaps at his father's, but was just glad he was gone.  She stayed up in her room hiding the bruises on her face and waited on pins and needles wondering if he would return that night.  She finally fell asleep after the sun rose above the tree shadows, relieved he truly was gone.  She slept past noon, exhausted.

It was the last she ever saw him.  He died for his beloved South.  Hamilton's father came over to tell them.  His face moved like ripples in a stream, one moment proud of his son, the next, broken over his death.  Amie tried her best to share his grief, but only felt numb. 

"It's my duty now to take his place," her father-in-law announced suddenly with a wild gleam in his eye.  "Yes, that's what I'll do."

"What about your plantation?" her father asked.

"My overseer will handle things.  He won't let my slaves run."

They'd heard last Sunday how many of their friends' slaves were lost by running away to follow the Northern troops nearby.  Even a couple of their own young men had escaped.

"My only regret is that Hamilton did not live long enough to give me an offspring to be heir of Shadow Grove."

Her father cleared his throat.  "My Amie just told me last night that she believes she is in the family way."  It wasn't something men liked to say in polite company.

Hamilton's father was overcome.  He gripped her arms so tightly that he probably left bruises and shook her.  "Why didn't you tell me, dear?  Did Hamilton know?"

"No, sir, I was waiting to tell him to his face when next he came home," she said looking away, hardly bearing to look the man in the face.  Truth be told, he had at least one offspring sold down river and possibly another due weeks before her own, both by his slave girl.  No matter, her child would be the heir.

With the dread of Hamilton gone, Amie was able to enjoy the babe growing inside her.  Her father was more solicitous than ever she remembered.  The child was perhaps the only heir he would have as well.  However, Amie treasured the baby just for his or her self, not as the one in line to inherit.  Who knew what this horrid war would bring.  In fact, she never imagined what it did indeed bring.

As her laying in was upon her, Amie's father was away most of the time.  The war raged closer and closer, so her father had joined a home protection unit.  One morning, she asked Nanny if the girl Izzy had given birth yet.

"No, chile, not yet.  She's near to bursting though.  You not near as big as she be."

"Let me know when she delivers, will you?"

Her nanny gave her one of her looks through narrow eyes.  "Why you so interested in that slave girl anyhow?"

"I guess because I'm pregnant and due to have a baby close to her time as well.  Just curious, that's all."

Nanny threw back her head and laughed, You still Miss Curiosity, just like that that nice Mr. Daniel used to say."

Thinking about that man gave her a pang.  If her Hamilton met death, would Daniel as well?  She couldn't bear to lose him, not after losing her sister too."  She tried to keep her chin from quivering.  All through her pregnancy, her emotions had been running wild, tears here, laughter there, everywhere but concerning Hamilton.  As for that, her heart was cold.  Amie had not even cried at his funeral. Even her father had shed a tear, but not her.  She used her lacy handkerchief to wipe away non-existent tears, just for show. 

Nanny lowered her voice and said, We all's so proud of you for warning Mr. Daniel so he could escape those Southern boys and their rope." 

"Jasper told you?"

"Martha overheard you sending him away with your note.  But Jasper also told us Mr. Hamilton saw him coming out Mr. Wise's drive, that he didn't have time to hide hisself.  He felt real bad about that, though Mr. Hamilton pretended he didn't know him.  When he got home, he kept hisself scarce so the man couldn't beat him.  I could tell though, that Mr. Hamilton slapped you around for what you done.  I was afeared for your baby, but look at you now, close to having this chile."

Amie ran her hand over her belly.  "Nanny, I haven't felt the baby move for a couple of days," she said with a quiver in her voice.

Nanny's face went slack, then she forced a smile saying, "Be it about that time when a baby loses most his moving around space is all.  Don't worry, but I can have Jasper ride for the doctor.  He should be checking on you anyhow."

Amie just curled around her stomach with her back to her nanny.  As much as she loved this woman, she missed her mother.  "Thank you, nanny."

The doctor told her she would have to wait and see.  Though he had not heard a heartbeat.  It didn't mean anything for sure, he'd said.  But Amie did lose her baby the next day, a stillbirth.   She had a boy.  He looked perfect, though he never took a breath.  She made everyone leave warning them not to tell a soul yet, not even her father.  Only Nanny, Martha and Susie knew.  Amie had to come to grips with her loss first.  She never knew a heart could hurt so badly, feeling as empty as her womb. 

When Martha came to change her sheets, Amie asked in a broken voice, "Did Izzy have her baby yet?"

"Sure nuf, Miss Amie.  A little girl chile."

"Is she white?" Amie asked through gritted teeth.

"Yessum, she is as white as you be, Miss Amie, with light hair even.  Why you ask?"

Amie only said, "Ask Nanny to come up to my room, please."

"Yessum, sure will.  I'm almost done here."

"Thank you, Martha.  You all have been so good to me."

"We be so sorry for you, Miss Amie," Martha said wiping a tear.

"Thank you," Amie said looking down at her lifeless son in his cradle. 

Nanny hurried up to her room as fast as her ach'n bones could allow.  "What do you need, sweet girl?"

Amie voiced the crazy idea that had been rolling around in her head.  She needed to know what her nanny would say.  She took a deep breath, "Nobody knows, except you three house slaves, that my baby was stillborn, right?"

"Yes, Missy.  We have kept it quiet, jest like you asked."

"I heard Susie tell Martha months ago that Hamilton's father threatened to sell Izzy's baby down river if the child was white like him.  It's been heavy on my heart ever since. What would you think of us switching babies?"

She heard Nanny gasp but went on.  "She could pretend to bury her newborn, which would be my...son, buried on his father's land..."  Amie's chin quivered, then she went on, "while I could take hers to raise for her.  I would even ask the overseer to let her come stay with me to be a wet nurse--which would be for her own infant.  That way, she could keep her baby close, even be her child's nanny.  Then, if the North wins, she could keep this child as her own.  I'd let Izzy live with me and the child as long as she wants."

"Land sakes, Miss Amie!  Here you be grieving your loss while thinking of deh chile of a slave, wondering all the while hows you could help her!  It would be jest like Pharaoh's daughter rescuing the chile from going down the river and askn' Moses' mother to come help take care of her own chile."  Nanny was wiping tears away.

"The baby is Hamilton's half-sister, after all.  Family.  No one would think anything of it if she took after his side of the kinfolk."  Amie didn't say, but she wasn't doing this for the sake of Hamilton, and certainly not his father, not even for herself with her empty arms, but only for the child herself and little slave mother.  Yet, she couldn't help but think of the irony that this slave child would be the heir to Hamilton's family plantation, Shadow Grove, as the daughter of his father, that is if her secret was never discovered.

Make sure you tell no one else, as few as possible, only the ones who know about my stillbirth and those who know about Izzy's baby.  Izzy could pretend to mourn for her baby when we make the switch.

Nanny was wiping her eyes, laughing and crying all at the same.  I'll go right now to see Izzy.  Tom can fix a little box for your son, and I'll wrap him up nice in his soft little blanket.  We can have a little service when we bury your boy, Miss Amie, a sweet little service with sad songs and a Scripture.

Amie knew that she would always grieve her baby boy, even though a baby girl would take his place in her arms.  "Here, Nanny, you better take him now.  Wrap him up and don't let on to anybody that you are holding a child."

Amie took one more look at her baby, kissed his cold fingers and let Nanny take him away.  Then she turned to the wall and sobbed.

The baby came that night.  Nanny knocked softly on the door.

"Come in."

"You sure bout this, Missy?"

Even though it was her idea, even though she was expecting to see Izzy's baby, it still shook her to the core when Nanny laid the slave woman's child in her arms.  She was a fair as if she'd birthed her herself.

"She just fed her, so she should be quiet.  I have to go back so we can bury your son tonight.  I couldn't let anyone hear this baby girl crying in the meanwhile, if you know what I mean, so I thought I'd best leave her here with you first.  I'll come to you, don't you worry none, and will try to bring Izzy back with me."

She nodded with a lump in her throat.  "Here, take this letter to the overseer.  Remind Izzy to act like she is grieving the loss of her child." 

" Oh, she be wailing and carrying on all right.  I heard her as soon as I carried this chile away.  But, don't you doubt but I will cry myself, real tears over your son for you, Miss Amie, real tears for sure when we bury him.  I'm sorry you cain't be there, but nobody would understand if you showed up for a slave infant's funeral, even if you was ready to get out of bed, which you ain't.  I'm sending Martha up here to help you until I get back.  Jasper's been driving me back and forth, jest so you know.  My Tom has finished his little box to lay him in.  I'm taking it with me now."

The infant slept in her arms.  Amy watched her breathing in and out and her little pursed mouth moving as if nursing.  She searched her face for any resemblance to her father or her half-brother.  But when the baby startled and opened her eyes to stare at her, she saw them both.  Amie only wished she could see a resemblance to herself in this little one, but of course, that was impossible.  She kissed her on her forehead and cuddled her close until they both went back to sleep.

Amie hardly registered hearing the knock before Izzy burst in with Nanny on her heels.  The baby stirred, arched her back and let out a cry.  She let Izzy scoop her up whispering endearments to sit in the rocking chair.  Izzy was fairly light-skinned, obviously only half-black herself.  As the young woman unbuttoned her blouse, Amie felt her own milk let down.

"Nanny, I think you need to wrap me again.  I'm leaking through," she said in a voice void of emotion.

"Miss Amie, you will never know how much this means to me, you saving my baby for me like this.  Nanny done told me everything.  You mother her as much as you want.  She will be the most loved chile in this whole world between you and me both." 

And she was.  It didn't take Amie long to fall completely in love with the beautiful little girl.  Izzy hovered over her like no nanny ever could.  The child learned to walk going from one to the other.  Nanny fretted constantly, "You goin' to spoil that chile!  She has you two wrapped around her baby finger."

And she did.  She was toddling all over the house when the war was over.  Shadow Grove plantation had headquartered Confederate troops.  Sweetwater was invaded by Union troops as soon as they routed their enemy.  Her house was saved while Hamilton's home was burned to the ground.  It was perhaps merciful that his father did not live to see it.  He died, father like son, for the Cause. 

Her own father came home a shell of a man.  His house was infested with his enemy. Most of their slaves were gone except those who chose to stay and share crop the land.

Amie felt totally protected by the Union troops because Daniel was there.  When he rode up, she ran down the steps and hung on his muddy boot until he stepped off his horse and captured her in an embrace.  He stepped back grinning.  "Hello, Miss Curiosity.  You are a sight for sore eyes!"  He held her hand, fingers laced, as she led him inside.

He told his superior officer of how she had saved his neck.  The men loved seeing little Isabelle toddling around.  When they looked at her, she reminded them of their homes, wives, and children they had not seen in ages.  Tender looks melted at her generous smiles, a relief from their onerous duties.  One would give her a horsey ride while another would carve her another animal for her menagerie.  Then there was Daniel.  No one could rock her to sleep like he could with his soft singing.  Amie loved listening, never far away.

Daniel would often then take her on walks in the cool of the evening.  Amie found herself putting a name to the affection for the man she'd always felt, though now compounding by leaps and bounds.  She was in love. 

One night as they walked she braved the question always on her mind.  She asked, "Do you miss my sister, Daniel?  Did you love her?"

"Oh, Amie, that was a lifetime ago, in another time that has faded from reality compared to what we have been living and breathing.  I can't say if I truly loved her though.  We were young and probably infatuated more like it."  He cleared his throat and said in a low voice, "It's nothing like what I am feeling now, dear Amie.  After this war, I have put away childish things.  I value only what is important in this life, holding onto the ones we love above all else, above love of country and only below love of God.  Do I know love.  I believe I do now, every time I look at you, I fall more deeply.  Do you return my affection or am I just your sister's beau?"  He had stopped and looked down into her eyes.

Amie hesitated, "I must tell you something first that might change how you feel."  She felt her face burning with, not shame, but embarrassment for her deception. 

"What is it, Amie?  Tell me quickly for my heart is in your hands."

"Isabelle is not my child, Daniel.  She is Izzy's and Hamilton's father's offspring.  Izzy was his slave whom he abused.  When my baby was stillborn, and Isabelle just a newborn, we switched them so that her father could not sell her down river like he threatened. I intended to save the little girl for Izzy's sake, but as you can see, I love her like my own. Only a few of our former slaves know this.  But I realize this may change everything for you, how you feel towards me, towards Isabelle."

Amie's head hung down, afraid to look at the man she loved.  He put his hand under her chin and raised her face up towards his.  His eyes were shining with mirth? Admiration? Love?

"Who, but you, dear Amie, could have thought of another mother in your time of loss and saved her child.  Who, but you could treat her as your own, yet sharing her joy with a whole houseful of soldiers?  This soldier, this Northern boy from the South, fought for this child's freedom.  This soldier not only has fallen in love with her adoptive mother, but with the little girl as well.  Will you have me, Miss Amie, Miss Curiosity?  I adore you?"

"Yes, Daniel!  I fell in love with you while a girl, but now admire you and love you with everything in me.  Yes, yes, yes!

"Good, for I want to marry you in this very house, or in the church, or out under the trees, I don't care.  I only do not want to wait.  I've waited all these years while at war remembering you when I saw you in church that day.  I couldn't look away though I knew you belonged to another.  Now you are free.  God allowed me to be here in your very home.  It is as if He ordained it."

Since the church had sustained damage during Sherman's march, they married under the trees at Sweetwater as his whole unit of Union soldiers saluted, as did her father, a defeated Confederate who finally wore a hint of a smile at her wedding.  Just as Lincoln had once again united this great nation, Aimee and Daniel celebrated their union, a union of North and South. But truly, he'd had her heart all along wherever that Northerner from the South fought for the nation and to put an end to slavery.  It would be difficult to save her plantation without slave labor, but she had hope in a new day with him by her side.  The pastor surprised her from her thoughts when he read from Ecclesiastes, 

"To everything there is a season,
And a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to break down and a time to build up;
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get and a time to lose;
A time to keep and a time to cast away;
A time to rend and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence and a time to speak;
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time of war and a time of peace."
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

He finished by saying,"Let it be known here and now, this is a time to love, a time to embrace,
a time to dance, a time to laugh, a time to heal, and a time for peace."

Daniel looked at her grinning and said, "Amen!" Then he kissed her. The time was ripe.

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