A Secret Refuge [02] Sisters of the Confederacy
de name of de Lawd.” Meshach raised his voice on the last words at the gravesite of Sarah. They didn’t even have a last name for the poor woman, only an idea of how terribly she’d been treated during the final days of her life.
    Before she came to them.
    Jesselynn made herself stay at the service, for politeness if nothing else. While Jane Ellen had tears running down her cheeks, none of the others had had time to much care about the deceased. Was death becoming such a commonplace thing that she couldn’t even summon up sadness? All the regret stemmed from not being able to save her.
    “We’ll go tonight,” Meshach said as they walked back up the slope to the cave.
    “I’ll come too. That way if we are stopped, I can say I’m taking my slaves in to work on my aunt’s house. No one can argue with that, and that’s what we will do if followed.” For a change, Meshach didn’t argue with her. She had hoped he would see the reason in her plan.
    He’d spent the day breaking two of the new horses to the harness so they could leave the Thoroughbreds safe in the cave. Neither of the mares should be working now, and they surely didn’t want to use the stallions. The filly was getting big and heavy enough to train, but Jesselynn hated to break her to harness before the saddle. Chess and Roman had a kicking contest while out to pasture. They’d have to learn to get along, that was all.
    “I loaded the wagon with wood too. Best we take some tools along if we be workin’ on de house.” His raised eyebrow told her he was teasing her.
    “Good idea. I reckon we’ll look right proper.”
    By afternoon the temperature was dropping again after two fairly warm days. Jesselynn took the two remaining deer hides and wrapped the men’s feet. Daniel had given the younger man his deerskin shirt, saying he could always make another. They shot deer aplenty.
    The shirt he now wore of Meshach’s looked like a tent on his slender frame.
    Thaddeus pointed at Daniel and giggled, setting Sammy off, which made Jane Ellen smile and the freed slaves actually laugh. Never had the cave heard such ringing laughter.
    Jesselynn wished she could laugh. Lately it seemed that as tears had dried up, so had her laughter, blowing away like puffs of a dandelion. What if they were caught? Would her story hold up? Of course it would. It sounded perfectly plausible. But what if someone acted suspicious? Could she trust these men to carry out the deception if needed?
    She was getting plenty of practice in shutting off disturbing questions. As her mother always said, “One step at a time.” Of course she had added something like “God only lights the way ahead one step at a time.” But Jesselynn was trying to ignore that last part.
    Frost was already coating the ground when they hitched up the team and started off. The two-hour trip to town seemed to go on forever because they couldn’t see the landmarks. A sickle moon hung low in the west by the time the lights of Springfield came into view. Many houses were dark already, either the folks gone to bed or the house damaged too badly in the battle to use.
    Since the Quaker house was close to the edge of town, Jesselynn halted the wagon under an oak tree that would have been good shade in the summer. Tonight its naked branches rattled in the rising wind.
    “Now follow me like I said.” Meshach spoke softly. Within seconds they all disappeared into an alley running along the backs of the houses. Jesselynn gave them a few minutes head start and then drove her wagon on up the street, turning at the corner to pass the Quaker house. As she drew even with the barn, Meshach climbed back aboard the wagon, and they continued on until they reached Dummont’s store. Quickly they unloaded the wood, stacking it behind the building. Jesselynn stuck a note into the doorframe telling who left the wood, and they headed back out of town.
    They’d driven for some time before Jesselynn said, “Now I feel I can

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