My Love, My Enemy

Excerpt

Cassandra boarded the carriage. Prince Albert popped a whip, and the horse leaned against the load and pulled the carriage at a fast walk. Motion of the carriage brought cool air across her face that felt good. It’s only nine o’clock and hot already. Well that’s summer in Alabama, she thought. The breeze caused reflected sunlight to pulsate as it gently caused wavelets on her long yellow dress.


Prince Albert drove her through quiet streets to the Memphis and Charleston Railroad Depot. She found the double front doors wide open and the waiting room empty. A shaft of bright sunlight shone through the door and onto the bench seats, making her long dress and parasol an even brighter yellow. She sat on a bench near the door, folded the parasol, and watched. She saw her carriage outside. The horse blubbered and stamped a foot. Prince Albert had apparently wandered off somewhere. The morning sun continued to stream through the door, but no one approached.


“Mam.” The ticket clerk’s voice echoed off the shiny benches and broke the golden silence.


“Yes?” Cassandra stood and cautiously approached the ticket window.


“Mam, are you Mrs. Cole?”


“Yes.”


“The person you are to meet left a message for you. He asked that you meet him at the Cotton Patch Café.”
Somewhat perturbed, Cassandra had Prince Albert, drive her to the café. Inside, as she approached a small round table, she saw a middle aged man walking toward her. He wore an expensive suit and puffed out red silk tie with a pearl stickpin. 


“Mrs. Cole, please have a seat. Waiter, two coffees.” The man held up two fingers. The waiter nodded and hurried toward the kitchen.


“Mrs. Cole, I’m John Smith.” He extended a hand.
Cassandra shook the hand.


“Sure you are.” She eased her body down to the small chair and arranged her long skirt.


John Smith ignored the retort, and spoke in a low voice. “I have it on good authority that you want to serve your country, the United States of America.”


“I thought that might be what this was about. I guess you knew I attended a meeting last night.”   

  
The waiter brought coffee cups and saucers, sat them on the little table, and placed a spoon in each saucer with a musical “clink.”


“That coffee smells good, doesn’t it?  Yes I received a full report of the meeting. One of our people thinks you would be willing to risk your life to help your country and end slavery.”


“I would indeed,” Cassandra said.


“Did you ever drink coffee that tastes as good as it smells?” John Smith asked. Then not waiting for an answer, continued more quietly, “I understand that your husband is a major in the Confederate Army. Would that be a problem for you?”


Cassandra abruptly set down her coffee cup, spilling some into the saucer. “Of course it’s a problem,” she said emphatically. ”My husband is a patriotic Confederate and doing what he believes best for his country. It would break his heart to learn I am supporting his enemy.”


“That is not the only problem. If you are caught you may be tortured. Your fellow southerners will consider you a traitor.”


“I appreciate the South’s cry for states’ rights, but even greater is the cry for freedom of poor Negros who have been brought here against their will and forced into slavery. And even worse, their children are born into slavery.” She picked up the coffee cup again. “I’m prepared to take my chances.”

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