Horse and Buggy

Photo by Pixabay.com.

Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series which runs each Thursday morning titled the Richland Chronicles Volume 5, by author Paul Lintern. It is set in the 1860s and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of young people. This is the fifth in a series. Volume I was Amelia Changes Her Tune. Volume II was Isaac and Wolf Paw Find Their Home. Volume III was Autumn Keeps Her Secret. Volume IV was Mr. Gamble Starts a School.

"Grandpappy, are you busy?" Jacob asked the next day, poking his head in the door of the small sitting room that had become Jacob Zeiters' living space.

"Very busy, grandson, making all the decisions that President Lincoln needs to run his war. Fortunately, I don't have the Oakland Inn any more to distract me from it."

He flashed a sly smile.

"But I can make time in my schedule for my namesake," he said.

"And his sister," he added as Cassie walked in right behind her twin. "To what do I owe this distinguished honor?"

"Grandpappy, we have a problem and we don't know who to go to," Jacob said.

"Jacob saw someone in town who looked and acted like he was up to no good," Cassie said.

"That could be any number of scoundrels in this town, especially after visiting one of the town taverns," he said.

Grandpappy Zeiters had always been proud of not serving alcohol at his Inn, even though it meant making a lot less money. Moving into town and seeing all the taverns and lounges there confirmed his decision.

"No, this was someone I've never seen before and when I heard him talk to Mr. Costin the other day, I knew he wasn't from here. Turns out he's from Maryland," Jacob said.

"A lot of good folks come from Maryland," Grandpappy said.

"But this man was up to something. We think he is a Rebel spy. Tell him the whole story, Jake."

Jacob told everything he could think of, from the start, and the two then told about their friends walking throughout town, looking for him.

"Have you told any adults, such as your father, or Mr. Gilkinson?"

"We were going to, but Papa seemed so busy right now with Mr. Brinkerhoff's work, and we didn't think anyone else would believe us." Jacob said.

Grandpappy was silent a long time.

Please don't think we're dumb children.

He breathed in and out slowly, then looked right in Jacob's eyes.

"I know you are concerned, and you just may have seen something that other people missed. But this is not a game, and it is not for 10-year-olds to do alone.

"If you really think something is wrong, go see Mr. Gilkinson, or let Papa tell someone at camp," he said.

Cassie hugged him.

"Thank you for believing us," she said. "All of my children were smarter than I thought they were, much earlier than I figured they would be. And each of them did things that I would not have let them do, if I had known, but afterward, I could see their hearts had been guided by the right Spirit," he said.

"Even Mama?" Cassie asked.

"Especially your mother," he replied.

The twins decided to go find Mr. Gilkinson and tell him what they knew.

Mansfield Hedges Gilkinson was the city marshall, the only marshall. He was the first baby born in Mansfield, back when there were only a few cabins around the square, and just before the War of 1812 began.

Because he was the first, Mr. Hedges, the city founder, offered to give the parents a lot on the square, if they would let him name the baby. Mr. and Mrs. Gilkinson agreed and hence the name, Mansfield Hedges.

In addition, Mr. Gilkinson had lived in Mansfield his whole life, right on the square, or just around the corner. He knew everybody, good and bad.

Being the only marshall, the one responsible for law and order, he knew which citizens were good to call on when he needed help with other citizens who were not behaving so well. They headed to his home, which also served as his office.

As they walked, Cassie asked, "What do you think Mama did?"

"What do you mean?"

"That Grandpappy was talking about. What do you think she did that was so brave?"

"I 'spose we could ask her, but she would never tell us. Maybe Grandpappy will,” Jacob said.

"Doubt it. Otherwise he would have told us already. He loves to tell stories," she said.

"I love his stories about Uncle Luke and Sam, Josh, too, and what was Grammy's name?"

"Margaret, no, Peggy," Cassie said. "Wish we had met her."

"Grandpappy had a brother, too, and some sisters, didn't he?" Jacob asked.

"They were Mama's sisters. I don't remember any of them being alive, but Phillip and Nathaniel do," she said.

"Must be hard to be the only one left," Jacob said.

"I imagine that's why the stories are so important," Cassie said. "Probably be good for us to pay better attention."

Cassie was about to comment when she stopped abruptly and grabbed Jacob's arm to stop him as well.

"What…"

"Shhh. Look at that wagon, with all the watermelons."

They were only a few feet away from a wagon driven by a bearded man, about Papa's age. The back gate had come down and more than a dozen watermelons had fallen out. Normally they would have run to help the man pick them up, but what stopped Cassie is that she saw people in the wagon, lying down under the watermelons.

Black people, at least three! Jacob and Cassie just stood there as the man quickly put the gate back up and started replacing the fruit. They noticed two women, who also had seen everything, were approaching him and putting the melons back, too.

He quickly got back on the wagon, nodded to the women, and started on his way again. He glanced at Jacob and Cassie, but, unlike the stranger, this man just nodded at them as though he were reassuring them after getting caught red-handed.

Cassie and Jacob just looked at each other, and shook their heads.

"Do we tell Mr. Gilkinson about that, too?" Jacob asked.

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