Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series which runs each Thursday morning titled the Richland Chronicles, by author Paul Lintern. It is set in the 1860s and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of young people. The books are available from Lintern for $25 a set, tax and shipping included. Each book is about 120 pages written for intermediate readers (4th grade) with local illustrations. Volume I is Amelia Changes Her Tune. Volume II is Isaac and Wolf Paw Find Their Home. Volume III is Autumn Keeps Her Secret. Volume IV is Mr. Gamble Starts a School. Volume V is Jacob Blows his Horn. Volume VI is Cassie Fights the War. Volume VII is Emilene Adopts Her Family.
Base ball is a game of ups and downs. After Mansﬁeld’s exhilarating score of ﬁve tallies against those Red Stockings, Cincinnati came up in the top of the eighth inning and scored six, so that now, instead of Mansﬁeld being down by 37 as they had been an inning ago, they were now down by 38.
“It’s a cruel game,” Gopher sighed as he kicked the ground by the bench.
“Not if you are better than the other guys,” Birdlegs replied.
“As I said, it’s a cruel game,” Gopher replied.
Although the ﬁddles had continued playing as the teams changed sides, they didn’t play as long. The crowd was happy for the game to end as soon as possible.
Still, the music seemed to lift spirits, even if it didn’t raise the score.
David found himself suddenly tired. The excitement of the game, the frustration of the game, the thrill of dancing in front of everyone and the sadness of recent events were piling on him.
It’s been a day. Can we be done?
Middle of the eight inning: Cincinnati 46, Mansﬁeld, 8.
+ + +
“It’s all gone, Mama. It’s all gone.”
Cassie was sobbing into her mother’s shoulder, with Julianne standing nearby.
David was staring ahead, at a pile of hot coals, burning logs and billowing smoke that used to be the Oakland Inn.
Papa and Nate were poking around from the other side of the building. Phillip, Jacob and Levi were carrying furniture and some rescued items into the barn.
Grace and Emilene were holding on to Mama and Cassie. Martin was sitting under one of the trees, his head in his hands.
“After all that work, after we had moved everything in. After that nice prayer by Martin. How can this be?”
Everything smells hot, and burnt, and smokey. And gone.
David looked at the embers for anything he could recognize.
Martin’s gun barrel, the stove, the windows, their bedframe. And, is that the iron sconce that held the candles on the wall?
“We were so excited. We were so proud. We all worked so hard. Martin and I were looking forward to our ﬁrst night in our new home. It got chilly, so Martin built a ﬁre in the ﬁreplace.
“It all seemed ﬁne, nice and warm, and we fell asleep in front of it.
“We woke up with smoke pouring down from the upstairs and saw ﬂames through the ﬂoorboards up there.”
Mama hugged her tighter as they both began sobbing again.
“I’m so sorry we burned down your Inn, Mama.”
“Oh Cassie, I’m so thankful you and Martin got out in time.”
“That was the one thing we forgot to check, the chimney,” Papa was saying to Nate, loud enough that others could hear.
“Ten years of not being used; something up there was blocked.”
Papa just shook his head.
“Oh Cassie, I am so sorry for you,” Mama said.
The girls squeezed tighter.
How can there be so little there, when there was so much before. How can ﬁre just, just destroy everything? David thought.
“After we got out, we realized we couldn’t ﬁght it with the little water we had, and we couldn’t get help in time to be help, so we started running in and grabbing things to bring out. That’s what was all over the ground when you got here,” Cassie said.
“It was so scary. The ﬁre was so loud, and some places seemed protected when we were grabbing things, then all of a sudden, the ﬂames broke through.
“I was so worried about losing Martin. I knew if I were overcome, he could drag me out, but I didn’t think I could get him out if he fell.”
David looked at Martin. He saw Papa and Nate going over to him.
He’s just sitting there. I haven’t seen him move since we got here.
“That was brave of both of you, but not wise. Everything can be replaced except people, my daughter.”
“I know Mama. I just thought we were ready to really start our life together, and that we would make this place our home, and honor Grandpappy and Grandmama Zeiters.
“And now we’ve destroyed their Inn, our history.”
Mama was silent, her ﬁngers combing through Cassie’s hair. Finally, grabbing Cassie by each shoulder, she pulled her back to arm's length and looked straight in Cassie’s face.
“The Inn was just an old building. It had served its purpose and you were inventive to turn it into your home. But Cassie, our history is still that. We’ll rebuild. You’ll rebuild. This land will have the Zeiter, and Zimmerman, and now Burns name on it still, and for years to come.
“Just trust that something better will come of this.”
At least the barn is still standing.
“And look, the barn was saved. A little shifting around and you can stay in there until you know what you are doing.”
Papa and Nate walked toward the girls, with Martin getting up and walking with them. Papa put an arm around David as he neared the group.
“The Lord is gracious. Our children are safe, safe for now and, we pray, for the next generation,” he said.
“Martin seems to feel responsible for not checking the chimney,” Papa said. “I was feeling the same way.”
“We all are kicking ourselves for not thinking of that,” Nate said. “All that time we’ve been here these last weeks.”
I’m not kicking myself. I had no idea chimneys could catch ﬁre.
“And we’re kicking ourselves for oﬀering to move furniture when everyone else is just standing around,” Phillip shouted from the barn.
Nothing wrong with Phillip’s hearing.
“It really was an old building,” Nate said. “We covered it with good new wood, but it still was just a big old log cabin.
“You can do better.”
Martin remained quiet.
Cassie whispered, “If you say so, Nate.”