"Elizabeth,Elizabeth come here please". 16 year old Elizabeth crossed the room, and entered the sick woman's chamber.
"I am here mother" she said "What do you want?"
"Oh, Elizabeth, would you read me the 23rd Psalm again? it gives me such comfort!"
"Of course mother!" Elizabeth answered."I would do anything to help you!"
So in her sweet, gentle tones Elizabeth read. As she was reading, her mind wondered back to the events of the past few months. Just 3 months ago they had been a happy family. Then her mother had started coughing. At first everyone thought it was just a cold that had come from working outside to much during the cold months of December,January and February. Which, in West Virginia in 1862 were very cold months indeed! But mother had never gotten better. When the doter came he gave the the sad news that she had tuberculosis. And, sooner or later, she would die from it. Then they got the news that Mr. White, Elizabeth's father had died 2 months ago at the fall of Fort Sumter. It was now June and there was not much hope that her mother would live to see another year. Elizabeth finished the Psalm and looked down at her mothers face. How could anyone who knew they were dying have such a peaceful face which knew no fear? Elizabeth could not understand it.
Just then her mother opened her eyes. "Dearest Elizabeth," she said. "my only great sorrow in dying is that you will be alone. Other then that I am so full of joy in knowing that I will be in heaven with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and I will see my dear,dear husband again!
"I know mother." Said Elizabeth with tears in her eyes."I just can't bear the thought of both you and daddy being gone!"
"Elizabeth, remember you will never be alone." her mother replied. "Remember what Jesus said. "I will never leave thee nor will I forsake thee. It is a promise you will need to hold on to."
"I know mother. Said Elizabeth, "and it gives me great comfort! Well, I will leave you to rest now and I will go prepare supper. Elizabeth left the room and went down to the kitchen. She began to gather what she needed to make soup then realized that she needed to go down to the market the get some vegetables. Grabbing a basket to carry them in she headed for the market. There she found the carrots and celery she needed for the soup.
"Hello Miss White." the shopkeeper greeted her."were able to find everything you need?"
"Yes Sir, Thank You." Elizabeth answered. Quickly she paid for the vegetables and was about to leave the shop when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning, she looked up into the deep blue eyes of a union soldier. "Excuse me" he said. "but did I hear the shopkeeper call you Miss White?"
"Yes," said Elizabeth "I am Elizabeth White. Can I help you?"
'Would you be the daughter of David White, captain in the union army who died at the battle of Fort Sumter?" Quick tears came to Elizabeth's eyes at the mention of her fathers name. quickly she brushed them aside.
"Yes I am" she answered. "I am glad that I found you!" Said the soldier. "My name is Gilbert and I knew your father. he entrusted this into my care to give to you if he died." he said handing her a large envelope. Elizabeth looked at the envelope and immediately recognized her fathers handwriting. Tucking the envelope into her pocket she looked at Gilbert.
"Thank you so much!" she exclaimed. "
It was my pleasure miss" he said.
Remembering her manners Elizabeth said "would you to come to our house for supper? It will be simple, nothing much, but my mother and I would be happy to share it with you."
"Thank you I would enjoy that very much" Gilbert answered as he followed her out of the market place and down the street. Opening the door Elizabeth led him into the parlor.
Ttake a chair and make yourself comfortable" Said Elizabeth. "I am going to go finish supper."
leaving him there Elizabeth went down to the kitchen. Quickly she added the the carrots and celery to the soup and put the pot on to boil. This being done she went upstairs to check on her mother and found her awake. Taking the envelope from her pocket the handed it to her mother.
"Where did this come from?" she asked recognizing her husbands handwriting.
"I went to the market today to get some vegetables, and as I was leaving someone touched my shoulder and asked if I was David White's daughter because he had heard the shopkeeper call me Miss White. I said I was and he handed me this envelope."
"What was the gentleman's name" her mother asked. "his name is Gilbert and he is sitting in the parlor if you want to meet him. I invited him for dinner." As Elizabeth was speaking Mrs. White had opened the envelope. in side were two smaller envelope's. One addressed to Elizabeth and one to her mother. The both quietly read their letters. Suddenly Elizabeth gasped.
"What is it?' her mother asked
."Father said that he has put Gilbert in control of all the finances and the estate after you die." Elizabeth exclaimed. she read on "Gilbert is a very fine fellow and a christian. you may trust him with your life if need be." Elizabeth glanced at her mother. "did you know any of this?" she asked.
"I knew your father had found a person to handle everything. What I didn't know was that it was one of his fellow soldiers."
"Well I better go down and check supper." Elizabeth said. " after supper I will bring Gilbert up to meet you." Going downstairs she checked the soup then set the dinning room table. When she was finished she went into the parlor and found Gilbert reading a book.
"Supper is ready" she said and they both went down to the dinning room. They sat down and Gilbert said grace.
As they began to eat Elizabeth asked him " How were you able to be gone from the army during a war?" "Well I got shot in the leg and was unable to serve but I am to go back as soon as I am pronounced physically able by a doctor. As you can tell I still am limping but I am much better then I was."
"How did my father know you?" Elizabeth asked.
"Well he was my captain but I met him when we were first being trained." Then leaning across the table he asked "have you read your fathers letter Elizabeth?"
" I have" Elisabeth answered. "And I am very thankful to you for being so willing to look after everything." "It's my pleasure." he said smiling.
"Well, I assume you know all about me so tell me a little about you. Said Elizabeth.
"Well, my mother died when I was born and my father died a year ago. I have no other family so I enlisted in the army. there I met your father and you know the rest of the story."
"How old are you" Elizabeth asked.
"I am 21." Gilbert Answered.
"Well we better go upstairs" Elizabeth said after she had washed the dishes. "Mother wants to meet you." They went upstairs and when Gilbert saw Mrs. White he felt very sorry for the young girl standing beside him. it was clear she wouldn't live more then a month. But he put on a cheerful face and went to meet her. Elizabeth went downstairs and brought a bowl of soup up to her mother. standing outside the door which was partially closed she heard what was being said. She was about to go in when she heard her name and stopped.
"Elizabeth will have no one after I die" her mother was saying. "I am thankful that you are willing to look after her and the estate.
"I am happy to do that Mrs. White" Gilbert said "Your daughter is a wonderful person"
hearing this Elizabeth's face flushed and she walked into the room. "Hear is your soup, mother" she said. "Thank you, dear" said mother.
"Would you please show Gilbert the spare room. He will stay here with us until he is called back to the army."
"Yes, mother" Elizabeth answered. "follow me, Gilbert."
She led him up one more flight of stairs then turned and opened the door to a small, cozy room.
"This is where you will be staying"she said. "I hope you find everything comfortable and to your liking" "Quite" he answered with a satisfied smile. "I thank you for your hospitality on such short notice."
"You are more then welcome" said Elizabeth. "I would do much more for my fathers friend."
Turning she left the room. After checking on her mother she went up to her own room and sitting down on her bed gave way to the tears that had been threatening all afternoon. First a letter from her father with a note saying that a certain stranger who she hadn't known for more then four hours was in charge of her and all the estate until she came of age. Which basically meant that someone only five years older then her was her legal guardian. Well since that was her fathers wishes she would follow them. She changed her clothes then got ready for bed then sitting down he opened her Bible. It fell open to the 23rd Psalm and after reading it she felt as if a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. The Lord Jesus was her ultimate guardian and he would lead her and there would be nothing that she would want. Saying a prayer of thanksgiving, the climbed into bed and immediately feel into a deep and peaceful sleep. When she awoke the next morning she dressed and quickly went downstairs to make breakfast. Soon Gilbert came down, said good morning and went into the parlor to read. When breakfast was ready she went upstairs to wake her mother but when she got upstairs she knew something was wrong. Her mother was still. To still. She walked up to she bed and felt her mothers pulse. There was none. With a cry of anguish she fell to the floor and burst into tears. Downstairs, Gilbert heard her and immediately ran upstairs.He lifted her up off the floor and she clung to him.
"Mother is dead!' She sobbed. In vain he tried to calm her.Then he picked up her mothers Bible that lay on the table.
"Your mother is in heaven. With your father and with Jesus" he said. These words quieted her and she said
"I know mother is happy but know I am all alone.!"
"No you are not." he reminded her. "Jesus is with you and he will not give you more then you can bear. And I will be with you until I am called back to the army"
"I am so glad!" Elizabeth exclaimed "I couldn't bear to be alone right now." Three days later was her mothers funeral and she was glad that Gilbert was with for she would have found it hard to be alone at the funeral. In the weeks that followed, Elizabeth found that she was happier then she had ever thought she would be without her mother. Gilbert was very attentive to her and everything she had ever wanted she had. It was as though He had become the older brother she had always wished she had. Bu,t to him she was something much more. She would never have thought of him in that way until one day a letter came commanding him to return to the battlefield. The day she heard that news she went upstairs into her room. She knew then what he meant to her. She had fallen in love with him. And now he must leave her and never come back. Oh how could she bear it! He was all she had and now he must leave too. "Well" She thought "the least I can do is make his last day a happy one. So she put a smile on her face and went downstairs to prepare supper. As they were eating Gilbert leaned across the table and asked
"Will you take a walk with me tonight after supper?" She looked up startled.
"Of course" she answered. After supper they took a walk in the garden. As they walked Gilbert said
"You know I will leave tomorrow, but before I go I need to ask you a question, will you marry me and be my wife when I return from the army? Oh please say you will Elizabeth!"
Elizabeth looked up into his face and looked intently into his deep blue eyes. That was all the answer he needed.
Gilbert left the next day, and, Elizabeth did not see or hear from him until four years later. She was outside walking in the same garden were he had proposed to her four, long years ago. She was walking among the flower,s and plants wondering if she would ever see him again when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning around she looked in to the deep blue eyes she knew all to well.
"I am home" Gilbert said "I am home to stay!"