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TRUST JESUS TODAY
A raging Civil War forces Ana Grace to flee the only home she has ever known. Can the young and handsome Sgt. Jacob Dalton get her to safety and help her reclaim a faith she thought was gone forever? And…can he help her discover a love not even the horrors of war can keep apart?
The carriage barreled down the street hitting holes and dodging other carriages and riders on horseback. By the time they reached the south end of town and the train her father had secured for them, Ana felt pretty shaken up. The men jumped out of the carriage and helped them to the ground, then turned to fetch their things.
They were led into a passenger car that had been redesigned into an informal sitting room. Liza sat with Ana and Lucy on a rose colored cameo sofa, each trying their best to control their emotions. Marks and Dalton made sure they were settled and after saying their goodbyes, turned things over to the conductor.
As they exited the train, however, gunshots and shouting erupted. Dalton came rushing back into the car and began firing one shot after another out of the window. He stopped briefly and shouted over his shoulder for everyone to take cover on the floor. Ana fell on top of Lucy to shield her and Liza did the same for her. It was then that Ana realized the train had begun to move.
The conductor pulled a gun himself and began firing out the door. You could hear the sound of glass breaking, bullets hitting the wooden walls, and the frantic prayers of a tearful Liza. Not knowing what else to do, Ana began to pray as well.
The train began to pick up speed and in a short time, the gunfire quieted. Returning to their seats Ana and Liza began trying to coax Lucy into calming down.
“Are you three okay?” Dalton asked.
“Yes’sa, I believes we alright.”
He turned his attention to the conductor who had realized that he had been grazed by a bullet. Dalton and Liza helped to bandage the wound then Dalton and the conductor started keeping watch out the windows.
About an hour later, the men agreed that they were in the clear and began to relax a little. By this time they were well into Alabama and far enough away from the fighting that even Liza, Lucy and Ana started to relax as well.
Once Ana was sure everyone’s nerves had settled a bit she asked, “Where’s Captain Marks?”
Dalton and the conductor exchanged a glance.
“He was shot as soon as he stepped off of the train.” Dalton explained, a look of regret covering his face.
“Shot! Why didn’t you help him?” she demanded.
“There was nothing I could do. He was dead as soon as the bullet hit him and I had to get you all to safety… I did what I had to do.”
Ana hung her head and began to cry, reality sinking in. Liza, who was still holding Lucy, wrapped her free arm around her and the three of them sat and cried together. A while later, Lucy announced that she was hungry, causing the conductor to jump into action.
He seemed to Ana to be around the same age as her father. He was a little shorter and a lot bigger around with dark hair that was graying on the sides. Thinking back about watching him waving his gun and firing off shots, was somewhat comical. With his black conductor suit, white shirt and plump middle, he reminded her of a penguin that she had seen once in a book of her father’s.
“Here you go, little one,” he said as he offered Lucy food from a tray that he had pulled from the sideboard. “It’s not much, but it’s all I could get on such short notice. I planned on stocking up in the morning before we left.”
“This is quiet alright,” Ana assured him.
The tray had a couple kinds of cheese and some bread. Lucy took a wedge of cheese and he turned and set the tray on a nearby drop leaf table. He went back to the sideboard and pulled out a big silver bowl full of apples, oranges, and pears and sat that on the table as well. Liza motioned for Ana and Lucy to take a seat at the table and began to help the conductor in serving them.
“Please, Ms. Liza, have a seat and help yourself to something,” he instructed.
Liza had been a free woman for many years now, but she still would never dream of taking such liberties until everyone else had had their fill. She hesitated until Dalton insisted as well. Once they had a little food in their stomachs and were feeling a little better, Ana turned her attention to the robust man in our presence.
“What is your name?” she wanted to know.
“Oh, forgive me, Miss Ana, in all the excitement…” he stood and assumed his most formal pose and continued with a flourish. “My dear ladies, allow me to introduce myself…Thomas Schneider at your service,” he finished with an exaggerated bow that gave Lucy and Ana the giggles. The giggles spread and before they knew it they were all having a time of it. Ana decided right then and there, she liked Mr. Thomas Schneider!
They spent the next little bit watching Mr. Schneider do a multitude of cheesy magic tricks. While the older people in the car would catch on to the trick, Lucy was constantly amazed. During all of this, Dalton paced back and forth, stopping every few minutes to peer out a window into the growing darkness. Ana stood and made her way to his side.
“Do you think they’ll catch up with us, Dalton?”
“No,” he began. “I think were safe. It’s a good idea to keep a lookout just in case though. Please, call me Jacob. Some of my friends call me Jake, so you could do that if you want.”
“I’m sorry. I forgot Dalton was your last name.”
“That’s okay,” he said with a grin. “That’s all you’ve heard anyone call me, so it was an honest mistake. When it’s not someone from the army talking to me, I would rather be called by my first name, though,” he laughed, “that way I don’t forget it.”
This made Ana laugh, too. He really wasn’t like all the other army men she had met, after all. Everyone else was always so serious, especially her father.
“Do you think Papa is okay?”
“Your Papa is a very capable man. He has the reputation in the army of being very smart and brave, so yes, I do believe he is fine,” he said looking her straight in the eye.
That’s when Ana noticed he had the prettiest eyes she had ever seen. She couldn’t believe she had never noticed before! They were a dark brown with tiny specs of gold around the edges and were accented by the most captivating lashes ever. As she studied them a new and glorious feeling sprang to life within her causing her face to burn hot. Breaking the spell, he removed his hat revealing a thick mass of dark blonde waves. He smoothed his tresses back out of his face and replaced his hat. Still feeling a bit flushed, Ana scolded herself.
“What are you doing? He’s not much older than you, but older none the less, and a soldier to boot!” She tried to push those thoughts from her mind by changing the subject.
“Are you going to go all the way to Texas with us?”
He gave a slight shake of his head. “We will be stopping in Huntsville in a little while and I am going to try and get a telegram off to your Papa. I expect him to tell me to send you on with Mr. Schneider and then head on back to Chattanooga. They probably need all the help they can get right now.”
“Aren’t you scared to go back? I mean as much as I didn’t want to leave my Papa at the time, once all the shelling started all I wanted to do was run.”
“It is scary, but I have to remember the importance of what we are fighting for.”
“Do you have slaves?”
“No, we’ve never had slaves.”
“So what are you fighting for then?”
Ana had a real issue with the whole slave thing, having been practically raised by Liza. Ana couldn’t imagine someone owning another person. And the stories that she’s heard over the years about how some owners treat their slaves made her sick.
“I’m fighting strictly to protect my home and family. I don’t want someone coming in thinking they can do what they want with what is ours or telling us what we can and can’t do and get away with it. .”
“So, if you wanted to have slaves then that should be okay?”
“No, that’s the one thing I believe is totally wrong. I mean, look at how God helped Moses rescue all those people that were enslaved to the Pharaoh. That’s proof to me that no one should be able to own another person and force them to do the work that they should be doing themselves.”
“You really believe that God helped Moses?”
“Of course I do, don’t you?”
“I don’t know,” Ana said with a hint of regret, sorry she had even asked.
“Ana, do you believe in God?”
“I guess I do,” she said, the pounding in her heart causing her to wish all of a sudden that she had never started this.
“Tell me about what you believe.”
“Well… we used to go to church all the time before Mama passed. I really liked going, too. I loved the stories from the bible the teacher would read and the songs we would sing. I even liked sitting during service and listening to the preacher. It all sort of captivated me.”
“Then Mama took sick with scarlet fever and passed away four years ago. After the funeral Papa wouldn’t allow us to even mention anything about church, or God for that matter. Liza tried to sneak and teach us stuff from the bible, while Papa was away, but he caught her once and gave her a good tongue lashing. She never attempted it again. Well at least…not until today anyway.”
“What did she do today?”
“She had Lucy and me get on our knees and pray with her before we came down stairs.”
“How did you feel in doing that?”
“It made me feel better… not so scared, you know?”
With a smile and quick tap on my chin with his finger he said, “I know exactly what you mean.”
“Ana,” he continued, “Don’t lose that precious feeling.”
“How do I keep from it?” she found herself genuinely wanting to know.
“Keep talking to him, and not only when you’re scared, but all the time,” he instructed. “He’s always there to listen.”
Ana smiled her thanks then thought to ask, “How long do you think it will take us to get to Flint Creek where my aunt lives?”
“Well, I’ve been thinking on it,” he began, tilting his head to one side, “and I figure it will take about two and a half days to reach Austin by train and then about ten hours on to Flint Creek on the stage. Now that’s without any stops and there will have to be a few stops along the way, so about four or five days maybe.”
“Oh, my,” Ana said all the while thinking about having to be cooped up on the train for that long.
While she was still in thought she felt the train begin to slow. Jacob quickly looked out the window and announced that they had made it to Huntsville Depot. He instructed for all of them to wait on the train while he went inside. He returned a short time later and told them that he was able to get a response to his telegraph.
“Liza, Colonel Lawson wants me to send you on to Texas with the girls as soon as possible. I spoke to the engineer and they will be ready to head that way in two hours.” He informed them.
“What about you?” Ana asked him.
“I’m to head back to Chattanooga in the morning.”
Feeling safer with him around, Ana had hoped that he would be able to go with them. She found herself worrying if Mr. Schneider would be able to handle things that might come up.
“I’ll stay here with you until the train starts to leave,” he was quick to add, seeing the fear creeping up in her face.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
“Right now though, I’m going to walk across the street to the mercantile and pick up a few more supplies for the trip.”
“Do you need some money? I have what the colonel gave me for the trip,” Mr. Schneider offered.
“No, I’ve got plenty for now. He slipped me a few bills before we left, too.”
With that he headed for the door, coming back a short time later loaded down with all sorts of food and a few surprises as well.
“I thought you ladies would like to have something to keep you occupied,” he said with a big smile on his face. He had bought a small doll for Lucy and book of Bible stories for Ana.
“Ms. Liza, I didn’t forget you,” he said and handed that woman a couple balls of yarn and knitting needles. “I noticed the shawl that you are wearing and I took the chance that you had made it and would know how to use these.”
She took the items from Jacob with a hint of tears in her eyes.
A quite “Thank you’sa” was all she could manage.
“Mr. Schneider, I thought these might come in handy,” he handed him a deck of cards and a checker board game. “Maybe you can teach the girls how to play checkers, if they don’t already know how.”
“I’ll do that.”
The next two hours went by a little too fast for Ana, and before she was ready the train’s whistle blew and Jacob was standing to leave. They all stood with him and began to say their goodbyes. Even though they had only known Jacob for a few hours, it somehow seemed much longer. Ana wasn’t sure if she would ever see this man again, but deep down she sure hoped that she would.
“Mr. Schneider, you take good care of these ladies,” Jacob said as they shook hands.
“Will do...and you take care of yourself, Dalton.”
“Ms. Liza, it’s been a pleasure to meet you. Take care of these girls,” he said as he turned her way.
“You know I wills’sa,” she responded with confidence.
He offered a smile and turned his attention to Lucy and Ana. “Ms. Lucy, you be a good girl now, okay? Take care of everybody for me.”
“Okay, I will.”
“Ana, always remember what I told you.”
With this he pulled her aside for a little privacy. “Talk to Him, all the time. He will make things easier for you.”
Ana nodded then asked, “Will we ever see you again, Jacob?”
“Oh, you never know. Once this war is over, I might have to come for a visit.” Somehow she felt as though he really didn’t mean it, but it still felt good to hear him say it anyway.
“I tell you what, for now you can write to me. How’s that? It would be nice to have someone to write to.”
“I would like that very much,” she answered a little too quickly. “Wait, you don’t already have someone to write to, someone that would be upset, maybe, if we wrote to one another?”
With a big smile and wink signifying his understanding of her meaning, he answered, “Nope.”
He gave her a quick hug, turned, waved goodbye to the others and was out the door. Ana watched him on the platform as the train pulled away all the while secretly hoping that what he said would come true someday, that she would see him once again.
“I’m tired,” Lucy whined a short time later.
“It has been a long day,” Liza said. “Maybe we should try’s and git some sleep somewhere’s.”
“Come, I’ll show you where you can do just that,” Mr. Schneider said as he stood and headed for the rear door of the car.
They all followed him into the next car where bunks were lined up and down both sides. “You should be able to get a decent night’s sleep in here. I’ll stay in the other car and keep watch.”
He then tipped his hat and headed for the door.
“Thank you’sa,” Liza replied and began readying Lucy for bed.
Ana took care of herself and crawled up into the top berth across from Lucy. Once Liza was finished tucking her in, she turned and did the same for Ana. Even though she was getting a little old for “tucking”, she still liked it. Standing between them and holding onto their hands she spoke.
“I know this is hard fo you girls, but we’s gonna be jist fine, you’ll see. Now, let’s pray to God an’ask him to be protect’n us through the night.”
Ana and Lucy followed her lead, all the while Jacob’s words were echoing in Ana’s mind. “Talk to Him all the time and He will make things easier.” She made a vow to do that, and in no time after the prayer and after the lantern had been turned down, sleep settled in.
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