John Sherman

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 wasMr. Gamble Starts a School.

"I can't wait to get to school Monday and tell the kids that the stranger was real, and real bad," Jacob said as they neared home.

"Oh sweetie, you can't tell anyone about this, no one, nothing," Mama said. "No one must know."

Jacob's heart sank.

The greatest adventure of my life, and no one gets to know?

"Believe me, I know how you feel, but this is for the safety of those runaways, and the Finneys, and us," Mama said.

There was a long silence.

"I'll tell you what. We will want Papa to know, so you may tell him, and Grandpappy should know, because he can keep a secret.

"And I will take you to Mr. Day's house for a private telling of your adventure. He will love to hear the story, especially since he was in on the beginning."

That's good enough. I can keep the secret from the others as long as I have to.

"Well, Mordecai, it looks like your tree climbing paid off," Cassie said.

"And the drinking gourd isn't the only constellation to lead our runaways. Ol' Cassiopeia was pretty helpful," Jacob replied.

The next day in church, Jacob kept noticing things that reminded him of his adventure. The Gospel reading was from St. Matthew: Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.

The Epistle reading quoted Paul: I am a slave for the sake of Jesus Christ. The hymns were "Lead On, O King Eternal" and "I Love to Tell the Story."

Rev. Feddes' sermon was about God setting us free, as He set the Hebrews free. And the Psalm of the day was a portion of number 119.

Thank you, Lord, that it wasn't the whole thing.

Knowing that Papa and Grandpappy and Mr. Day would soon know the story, it was easier for Jacob to bite his lip whenever a friend would ask about the stranger, especially when someone started teasing him about the "mythical creature."

I'll bet Honus is behind that.

But mostly, Jacob was glad to get back to normal, which for him was climbing trees, eating supper at the camp, attending school, trying not to practice piano and playing Rounders, although the weather was hindering that last activity.

Miss Porter seemed more and more determined that her students know their geography and history as the war moved on.

She often brought in newspapers for students to read news of the day, carefully selected for her students.

They learned about Mr. Lincoln's appointments to his cabinet and his generals in the army. They read about recruitment drives in each of the states, and stories about groups of Union soldiers forming in them, even in some of the border states like Tennessee and Arkansas.

They read about the Sherman brigade and the class prayed for the Union and the brigade every day, especially since so many of her students had fathers or brothers enlisting.

She even arranged a visit by the artillery commander, the uncle of one of the students. Jacob never lost his desire for people to know what he had done, and occasionally he would catch Cassie drawing pictures on her chalkboard that he knew meant she was thinking about it, too.

Cornstalks, the barn, watermelons. She would just blush a little when he caught her. She wants people to know, too.

They came close to telling Mr. Costin that next Wednesday, as they went to piano lessons. They both came close, Jacob by bringing up the stranger's encounter with them, and Cassie by, well, doing the same.

Mr. Costin did not even remember the stranger, until Jacob replayed the encounter almost word-for-word, and even then he didn’t seem to care. Then Cassie brought it up after Jacob went up for his lesson, and Mr. Costin thought it odd that they were so interested in it.

"What is so interesting to you about this stranger?" he asked.

"Oh, nothing, I was just, talking."

"And so was your brother."

Cassie changed the subject.

"Mr. Costin, did you think about joining the Sherman Brigade?"

“Of course, but I need time to put things in order, help Tim take over the business -- he's better with numbers anyway -- and then perhaps I can sign up next spring.

"I'm afraid there will be plenty of time to join."

Sitting around the kitchen table one night, Cassie wondered aloud about the runaways, whether they had made it to Canada.

"I hope so, but we have to be prepared to never know," Mama said.

"Do you think we will ever see them again?" Jacob asked.

"Perhaps, but it was a brief encounter, and they probably don't even know where they were when you helped them." Cassie brightened up.

"Mama, did you ever hear from that family you helped?"

"In a way."

"Did you see them?"

"One, I saw one."

"Do you know her, or him?"

"I do," Mama said, walking out the door. "And you do, too!"

Cassie and Jacob looked at each other.

"Who, Mama, who?"

But Mama was gone. It was her way of saying they would have to figure that out on their own.