Johanna's daughter falls in love with a seminary student who is cast out from the southern community when he chooses to fight for the North.
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After supper, JoBeth helped Annie, the Cadys' elderly cook, in the kitchen, drying the dishes and putting away the silver, one of JoBeth's regular household chores. It wasn't until JoBeth went back upstairs to her bedroom that she had a chance to complete the letter she had started earlier.
She was more aware than ever, from the evening's dinner-table conversation, that war was now inevitable. Hillsboro was a hotbed of anti-Union sentiment. This was what Wes would be returning to in a few weeks. What would be his reaction? More to the point, how would they respond to his reaction? All his talk of brotherhood, settling differences peacefully, not taking up arms all part of his Quaker grandmother's influence and his years at college in Philadelphia was in direct opposition to what had been discussed among her relatives.
JoBeth pulled her half-finished letter out from under the blotter on her desk and began to write.
Everything here is talk of war. My uncles were here for supper, and the whole evening was spent in blaming President Lincoln for bringing about all this trouble. Uncle Madison kept pounding on the table and booming, "States' rights." Of course, Harvel and Munroe agree. They say, "If we're invaded, we'll defend ourselves." Would the president really send troops into North Carolina?
JoBeth paused, thinking about what had led up to all this. All the previous fall and winter, JoBeth had witnessed the growing resentment against the government in Washington. Every Thursday evening, friends and associates of her Uncle Madison gathered at the Cady house. Before the country's present crisis, it had been an evening of convivial fellowship, friendly conversation, congenial company, sometimes a game or two of cards. More recently it had become increasingly political. Often voices rose in not-so-gentlemanly confrontation. Most of the men present believed strongly not only in states' rights but also in the Union, and roundly put down the idea of secession as seditious and not to be considered.
The ladies of the house were never a part of the discussions, although they heard Madison's own opinions the next morning at breakfast. No one offered any comment. It would have been useless to do so, because naturally Uncle Madison never expected any difference to be voiced in his own household. However, JoBeth knew that Wes's views were almost directly opposed to her uncle's. This troubled her a great deal.
She dipped her pen in the inkwell and started writing again.
I wish you were here. All this would be so much easier if you were here to explain it to me. I miss you. I can't wait to see you.
JoBeth hesitated. Her pen hovered uncertainly. How should she sign this? Would "Love" be too bold? Although she did love Wesley and was pretty sure he loved her, too, they had not said those words to each other. Although they had nearly done so the day before he had left last Christmas.
JoBeth wished she had some small piece of poetry or something she could send with her letter, as Wes sometimes did with his. She reached into the pigeonhole in the desk, brought out his last letter to her, and read the poem he had enclosed.
Never seek to tell thy love,
Love that never told can be;
For the gentle wind doth move
Certainly that said something, she thought as she read it over. Through their correspondence this year, they had become much closer. It had been easier somehow to write about feelings than to speak about them. JoBeth tapped the end of the pen thoughtfully against her chin. Finally deciding that "discretion was the better part of" she simply wrote
As ever, JoBeth
She sealed the letter and again slipped it under the blotter. She would take it herself to the post office the next day and mail it.
As she got ready for bed, JoBeth thought of last summer. It had been a wonderful summer, a perfect one. At eighteen, JoBeth was an accepted part of the lively circle of young people in Hillsboro. Parties, picnics, dances, church socials, barbecues, and outings at the river. Wes spent half the year with his grandmother in Philadelphia while at college, but his summers were spent with his cousins in Hillsboro.
Of course, they had known each other long before that. In fact, Wes Rutherford was JoBeth's first friend in Hillsboro. JoBeth, her mother, and JoBeth's little brother, Shelby, had come back to live there after her doctor father, Ross Davison, had died. Her mother's family had lived there for several generations, and there were lots of aunts, uncles, cousins. Still, JoBeth had felt forlorn.
She missed her father, their mountain home, Granny Eliza, her cousins, and the life she had known. Life with her great-aunt Josie and great-uncle Madison was as different as could be from their life before. Here there was order, discipline, and nonnegotiable times to do everything from morning prayers before breakfast to wearing starched petticoats and high-button shoes that pinched little feet used to going bare six months of the year.
At first she was desperately homesick for the mountains, her freedom to roam, to wade in the streams, to pick berries and wildflowers. Gradually, with the natural resilience of children, she and her brother adapted to life in town, Shelby sooner than JoBeth. A quiet, handsome little boy with a naturally sweet disposition, he quickly became the household pet. Aunt Cady declared he reminded her of her own two boys, now both grown-up men.
JoBeth was entirely different. She was restless, imaginative, stubborn, often a trial to her mother and frequently the despair of Aunt Cady, who had envisioned bringing up a perfect, ladylike little girl.
In spite of their differences in personality, JoBeth and Shelby were very close. They played, read together, shared each other's secrets, and were each other's confidantes.
JoBeth blew out her lamp, climbed into the high, poster bed, recalling her first meeting with Wes.
That fall she had been enrolled in school. Shelby was too young, so JoBeth had to go alone. In a small town where everyone knew everyone else, she had felt lost and lonely. It was agony for her to sit quietly among a roomful of strange children.
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