Read Secret of Richmond Manor Online
Authors: Gilbert L. Morris
Â© 1995 by G
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All Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
Interior and Front Cover Design: Ragont Design
Back Cover Design: Brady Davidson
Cover Illustration: Brian Jekel
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To Andrea Smith,
my blonde, blue-eyed Texan granddaughter,
with all my affection.
I know you'll grow up to be perfect in every way
âexactly like your mother!
6. Why Are You So Nervous, Leah?
9. A Noble Deed
11. A Friend Loves at All Times
17. Someday All This Will Be Over
eah Carter bent over the wood cookstove and opened the oven door. A delicious aroma wafted out. She inhaled it with enjoyment, then pulled out the large pan and placed it on the table. Looking around, she found the broom in the corner and quickly removed one of the straws. Coming back to the table, she leaned over the cake that bulged over the pan and plunged the straw into the top.
“Just right!” she said with satisfaction. She placed the cake aside and then stepped back to the stove, where a saucepan of chocolate was bubbling. She stood watching it for awhile, and when it looked right she picked up the pan and went to the cake. Carefully she added the icing and then, putting the saucepan down, examined her creation. “You look like a fine cake,” she said.
“You talking to yourself, Leah?”
She jumped, startled, and turned to the man who had come in. “Uncle Silas,” she scolded, “I wish you wouldn't sneak up on me like that!”
“I wasn't sneaking.” Silas Carter grinned at her with an air of innocence. He was a small man with a full white beard and a pair of merry blue eyes. “I came clomping in like a herd of elephants.” A sly smirk touched his lips, and he said, “I think you must be thinking about some young man.”
“I was not!” Leah protested.
“Well, have it your own way.” Uncle Silas walked over to the table and looked down at the cake. “How âbout I have a piece of that?”
“No, that's for supper.”
“Well, let me just taste the icing.”
When her uncle reached out to draw his finger across the frosting, Leah squealed, “Don't you dare!” Turning, she picked up the saucepan. “Here, you can scrape the pan.” She watched him greedily lick the spoon, then begin scraping at the thick icing on the inside. “You're just like a child,” she exclaimed, shaking her head.
Silas did not stop eating the icing. “Well, I did without good cooking so long,” he said between bites, “I don't miss many chances.”
“I hope you've got something to do today,” Leah said. “I can't cook with you underfoot all the time.”
“I'll just sit right over here.” Silas drew a cane-bottomed chair from under the table and moved it against the wall. Carefully he sat down and tilted it back, placing his heels on the rung. “Now this is what I like. Lots of good food and a fine-looking young woman to do the housework! I should have thought of this a long time ago.”
“You're spoiled,” Leah accused the old man.
Silas nodded cheerfully. “About time, I say.” He gave the spoon another healthy swipe with his tongue. “If I had known I could've had a life like this, I would've gotten sick a long time ago.”
Silas's two nieces, Leah and Sarah Carter, had come all the way to Virginia from Kentucky to care for him after he had gotten ill. They had, he insisted, saved his life from the awful woman he'd hired to take care of him. He had grown very fond of the girls and had been saddened when Sarah had to
return home. She had had a slight misunderstanding with the Confederate authorities. In fact, she'd been falsely accused of being a spy and had been forced to leave Richmond.
Looking over at Leah, Silas said, “I'm sure glad you could stay and take care of me. I miss Sarah, though. She sure is a fine girl!”
Leah was busy rattling pans, getting ready to cook the evening meal. “I miss her too. And Pa and Maâand Esther.”
“Too bad Sarah had to go home. I was sad to see it happenâbut not as sorry as Tom.”
He gave the spoon one more lick, then gruffly said, “I guess he's all she writes about in her letters.” He handed the pan to Leah and said, “What time are the Majors boys coming?”
She began cleaning the saucepan. “They said they'd be here late this afternoon.”
“I was surprised that they could get off, what with this battle shaping up,” Uncle Silas said.
The mention of the battle caused Leah to frown. “I guess it's only because Lt. Majors is still weak from being in that ole Yankee prison camp. I still don't like the way he looks. He ought to take a month off.”
“I don't think he's going to get it, though, the way the Yankees are headed this way. We'll need every man we can get to hold off them blue-bellies.” Silas tilted his chair forward and stood to his feet. “What all we having for supper? I'm hungry already.”
“You get out of here, Uncle Silas,” Leah scolded. “I can't get a thing done with you around, and you're not going to spoil your supper by getting into that cake!”
Silas shook his head sadly. “That was exactly my intention,” he said. “But you're the boss in the kitchen, so I'll go out and hoe the beans a little bit.”
Leah, looking out the window, smiled as her uncle picked up a hoe and headed for the garden. As he began hoeing slowly and methodically, she thought again how strange it was that she was here in Richmond. She'd grown up in Kentucky, but when the war came that state had split in twoâhalf for the Union and half for the South. The Carter family had been for the Unionâher own brother, Royal, was serving in the Union army. The thought of Royal made her sad for a moment. She was afraid he was in the Army of the Potomac that everyone said was headed for Richmond.
She thought of the job of getting the chicken ready for supper. She didn't like that part of cookingâkilling the chicken. But it was something that had to be done.
She went out into the chicken yard where the white birds flocked to her, expecting to be fed.
I wish there was some way to eat chickens without killing them
, she thought. She loved animals, and it was hard to choose one, but she did. She quickly went through the ritual of killing the bird and picking the feathers off. When she came back into the house, she complained, “I should've waited and made Jeff do that.”
As she cut the chicken into parts and put them in a bowl, she thought about Jeff Majors. He and Tom were the two sons of Lt. Nelson Majors, and Leah had known them all her life. They had been neighbors back in Kentucky. Lt. Majors was from Virginia though, and after Fort Sumter was fired on
he'd taken his family South. Here he'd joined the Confederate army, as had his sons, Tom and Jeff.
As Leah thought of Jeff, her eyes brightened. “I wish he didn't have to go to that war. He's not really old enoughâonly fifteen.” Jeff was a drummer boy in his father's company. She and Jeff had grown up together, were more like brother and sister, and he'd said he was glad she'd come to Richmond, for he had been lonesome for her.
Finally all the dinner preparations were completed. Just as she finished, Leah heard her uncle call out, “Here they come, Leah.”
She whipped off her apron and ran out the door. She stopped on the porch as three men in a wagon waved and called to her.
Leah looked for Jeff, who sprang out of the wagon first. He was a tall boy with the blackest hair she'd ever seen. His eyes also were black. He was wearing a gray Confederate uniform with buttons down the front and looked very handsome, she thought. She wouldn't say so, however.
As he came up to her, she pouted. “I should have known you'd come in time for supper. You never miss a meal, do you?”
Jeff Majors grinned. “I'd be a fool if I did, with as good a cook as you are.”
His dark eyes gleamed with humor, and he looked her over. She was wearing a light blue dress today with white trim around the neck and sleeves and had tied her long blonde hair with a single bow.
“Why, you look right pretty, Leah. It's always good when you have a pretty cook instead of an ugly one.”
Leah flushed with pleasure, for Jeff didn't pay her many compliments. “You wouldn't care if an
cooked your food, Jeff Majors!” She turned then to greet his father and brother and thought,
I reckon Nelson Majors is one of the handsomest men in the world
Lt. Majors was indeed fine looking, over six feet tall, dark-skinned, having the same black hair that Jeff had. He had hazel eyes, however, that were very unusual. He bowed formally to Leah and said, “Miss Leah, I'm sorry for youâa troop of hungry soldiers here to be fed.”
Leah took the hand he held out and, when he kissed it, blushed. “All you officers talk fancy,” she said.
“So do we corporals.” Tom Majors, tall and dark like his father, came to shake Leah's hand himself. He grinned at her. “I feel like I could eat a bear.”
“Well, we don't have any bears,” she said. “But you sit out here on the porch and talk. Supper'll be ready as soon as I call you.”
She went back inside and quickly put the chicken on to fry. As it did, she set the table, putting on Uncle Silas's best white tablecloth. She placed a bowl of fresh flowers, including violets and daisies, in the middle of the table. By the time she'd done all that and mashed the potatoes, the chicken was almost done. She went to the door and called, “Come and get it while it's hot.”