The Carriage Driver³ - The Well of Souls
Griffin bent down and picked a flower, like no other he had ever seen. At the snap of the stem, a bolt of lightning crossed the sky. Nuelle used her muzzle and cheek to direct Griffin’s attention to the skirmish of warriors taking place in the forgotten fallow cotton field where they stood. One fellow after another fell until they all lay still. They then rose again from the ground and the scene played out again through the sulfur-infused air. After the third battle recreation, the warriors on the field gathered and sat down together.
It was Jubal who spotted Griffin and Nuelle at the end of their field. He didn’t say anything, just set wondering.
Nuelle and Griffin made their way to the small group of men. The scene was so familiar with the two of them.
“Hi boys,” Griffin called to them when close enough. “Didn’t mean to disturb your fun.”
“Fun the man said,” the lanky boy in blue spoke up.
“Cobb, you forgot what fun was.” Jubal teased. Jubal’s gray uniform covered in mud from when he fell.
“I’m Griffin, and this horse is Nuelle. She and I have been together for a long time. Can I have a seat?”
“Sure, plenty of ground around here,” Halleck told him. His blue uniform showed the stains from years ago.
“We watched you go through the same battle three times. How many times have you fought this skirmish?”
“Well, sir, we fought this here skirmish every which way we could think of. We played it out where someone different fired each beginning shot. No matter which way we played it, we all died. There was no one to tell anyone we passed or where to find us. Peyton says we died in the tall grass, away from the primary battle that happened over that ridge.” He pointed to the north. “Peyton said, no one found us, cause no one was looking for us. Now, Sylvanus there, says he heard lots of commotion even after the guns of August quieted down. He claims he was the last to die here, and that carriages were crisscrossing these fields carrying away those that fell. Course we only have his word for it. When Sylvanus gets to talking, he says that the little black carriages was so busy, it scared him to death. We all found that pretty funny.”
“What regiment were you men in?” Griffin asked.
It was Winfield that spoke up. “Us blue bellies, as our friends calls us, were not with a regiment. Well, mostly. We got separated from the column and was working our way toward the fighting. We stepped into this field, and these boys looked as lost as we were.”
“That’s right,” Samuel spoke up. “We were as lost as they were. The two skinny fellows, they’re from Tennessee. Me, I’m from New Hampshire and get a ribbing every time I say it cause, I don’t know where Hampshire is, just New Hampshire. Bumpus there,” he pointed to a man, who never said no to a meal, waved his hand. “Well, Bumpus is from North Carolina. And George in from South Carolina.”
Little Mac, joined in, “We been from right here for a good many number of years now. It took a long time, but we have all become friends here in this field.” The small group of men sitting in the circle nodded their heads.
Cobb spoke up, “Peyton and me had the same kind of issues with our crops, though we lived hundreds of miles apart. Me and Mitchell both lost a boy aged four. We all have a good deal in common, yet we arrived at this field intent on blow’n each other to kingdom come.” There was a long pause, “So that’s what we done. But the kingdom didn’t come.” The second pause was shorter, “Peyton says, it’s cause we died in the tall grass.”
Little Mac, “None of us expected much in the way of kingdom come. All we knew was hardship. Now, we sit around trying to remember the taste of a fresh baked biscuit.”
Griffin stood and went to Nuelle. He whispered into her ear. She swished her tail and tossed her mane.
“You boys heard of the underground railroad?”
Winfield spoke up, “Sure, it was set up to get folks to freedom. What about it?”
“Well, me and Nuelle, just set up a new kind of railroad. We think we can guide you. If you are interested, that is.”
A general chatter broke out. One by one each man stood. One by one they let their rifles fall to the ground. “We’re ready,” Peyton announced.
“Follow us.” Griffin took hold of the leather rein and walked beside Nuelle with the twelve men following and talking amongst themselves. After some distance of ground was covered they came to a clearing where a cottage rested. There was a small stream of smoke coming from the chimney. There were well-tended flower beds and a young lady stood and trimmed from the vines that grew up the posts of the front porch.
“Welcome,” she called when she spotted Nuelle and of course Griffin. The scent of sweet water hung in the air. “We haven’t heard from you in a while. Of course, the angels that follow you stop by for tea and friendly chats in the evening. I see you have brought us company.” A young lady with the long brown hair opened the front door. “We have company for dinner.”
The young woman inside went to the doorway and seeing Griffin went out and greeted him with a hug. “Come in. You ready to help get a meal together for your friends?” She turned to the group of men. “What are your names?”
“Jubal, George, Bumpus, Peyton, Winfield, Sylvanus, Cobb, Halleck, Samuel, Little Mac and Mitchell," sounded off, one by one.
“Make yourself comfortable.” She waved her hand toward the yard. “I am afraid, you will not all fit inside. We will bring you a meal here on the porch.”
The men settled in, giving each other glances that said, ‘we don’t know what to expect.’
Soon, there was the smell of hot biscuits in the air. Bumpus knew the smell of stew when it was nearby, and his heart lifted with joy as only a hungry soldier knows.
Sylvanus, Samuel, and Winfield were the first to spot the three angels coming through the front gate, and each stood. They were followed closely by the rest of the men.
The three walked inside the cottage and soon returned with a plate in each hand piled high with stew and biscuits. The boys sat and ate their first hot meal since their skirmish hereabouts all those forgotten years ago.
The woman who had been trimming the vines found an apple and went and fed Nuelle.
Griffin spoke up about half way through the meal. “We are going to take you across the river.” A lightning strike flashed in the distance, and a warm rain began to fall.
“After your meal, one of these ladies is going to escort you in pairs across. Once there, things will become clear.”
Between the aroma of honeysuckle, stew, and biscuits, the men could almost not imagine a better spot than where they stood now.
When the boys finished their meals and the dishes washed, an angel went and stood in front of the two closest men. She extended her hands. Each man reached out his hand after wiping it along the side of his pants. She took them down a well-worn path and with a man on each arm, stepped into the water and guided them to the other shore.
The five women each made a trip. Until the last two Peyton and Samuel stood at the edge up to their knees in the water. With dripping wet angels, with big smiles on their faces, behind them, they walked into the flow of water from the well of souls.