George VanArsdale
Steamboat landing
Ithaca, New York
August 24, 1863 - Monday. Early morning.

George's Second Departure

At the landing, a small band played merry martial tunes for the departing enlistees as a steamboat waited, belching black smoke. Ladies dabbed their eyes and their noses with handkerchiefs, as their sons, brothers, husbands, and beaus said goodbyes. Black porters beheld the proceedings with mixed reactions; one of them looked enviously upon the recruits going off to war, while most simply tried to look available for work yet invisible. Civilians coming and going, women and men, bossed the porters. "Here, you, get my bag."

George looked one last time upon Hiram and Nancy and the Wyeths. Hiram said, "Looks like my ideas worked, ha ha ha!"

"Yes. Thank you, Hi. For everything."

"Don't be makin' this a habit. You stay enlisted this time! Ha ha ha!"

Nancy said, "You be careful, now, George."

"Thank you, Mrs. Black." He turned to the Wyeths. "Mrs. Wyeth, goodbye. Thank you for all the lovely meals."

"God be with you, George."

Reverend Wyeth said, "Amen. God watch over you and help you bring an end to the evil, and bring you back home to our embrace."

Just then, Clarissa Fallon rushed up, out of breath. "George VanArsdale! There you are!" She caught her breath. "I went to the railroad depot!"

A careful observer of human facial expressions who happened to be looking at George just then would have seen that he had not been expecting Clarissa.

Mrs. Wyeth tugged her husband's sleeve. "We should leave them, dear." He nodded, smiling.

Nancy took the hint. "Let's go, Hi."

Hi laughed, "You stay out of trouble, George. Ha ha ha!" Nancy slapped Hiram's shoulder as the two couples departed.

George faced the music. Clarissa was upset. "Why did you not tell me you had enlisted again?"

"I didn't know how you would react, Clarissa. I thought it best."

Clarissa turned instantly mushy. "You are so considerate, George. Always thinking of me. But I am not so fragile. Kiss me goodbye, George!"

"I d..." She wrapped her arms around him tightly and gave him a long, lingering kiss. A recruit, walking by onto the boarding ramp, observing them, hooted loudly, "Hoo hoo!" Other boys shipboard at the rail joined in the hootfest.

George disengaged himself. "Clarissa, I have been thinking. And I think it would be best if..."

"Dear, dear George! We can discuss our future plans by letter."

A fellow on the boat shouted over Clarissa's words, "Kiss her again!" Another added, "Give her a squeeze for me!"

Clarissa continued, "I shall write you every day."

George started, "Clarissa..."

"Oh! You are so noble, so brave! All the town knows you are leaving my loving embrace to go to war for the righteous cause. It is the highest mark of romantic patriotism, and I... we have the admiration and sympathy of everyone. I shall wait for your return!"

"I will not come back, Clarissa."

"Don't say that! Have faith. You shall survive, I just know it. I shall be waiting for you, and we shall live happily ever after."

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© 2019 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be re-published without written permission of the author.