Tom had a hand-carried letter for Mother:
Mrs Ira Johnson
Courtesy of Lance-Corporal T. J. Johnson,
C Company, 2nd Missouri Regiment.
I had hoped and expected to return home in the same train as our son Thomas. Indeed, by the terms of enrolment under which I accepted appointment as surgeon in our state militia on federal duty, I cannot be held more than ore hundred and twenty days beyond the proclamation of peace, id est, the 12th of December last, or the 6thof January, this current month - the difference in dates being a legal technicality now moot.
I regret that I must inform you that the Surgeon General of the Army has asked me and my professional colleagues to continue on duty here on a day to day basis until our services can be spared, and that I have accepted.
We had thought that we bad these devastating fevers under control under control and that we could dismantle the field hospitals here and send our remaining patients to Fort Bragg. But, with the arrival three weeks ago of casuals and casualties from Tampa, our hopes were dashed.
In short, Madam, my patients need me. I will come home as quickly as the Surgeon General decides that I can be spared. .. under the spirit of the Oath of Hippocrates rather than through any quibble over the letter of the contract.
I trust that you will understand, as you have so many times in the past.
I remain, faithfully yours,
Your loving husband,
Ira Johnson, M. D. ,
Captain (M. C. ) AUS
Mother did not cry where anyone could see her. .. and I didn't cry where anyone could see me.
Late in February I received a letter from Mr Smith. .. postmarked Cincinnati!
Dear Miss Maureen,
By the time this reaches you I will have laid aside my Army blues and resumed wearing mufti; our engineering battalion, Ohio militia, is rolling west as I write this.
It is my dearest wish to see you and to resume my suit for your hand in matrimony. With that prime purpose in mind, after a few days at home with my family, I purpose going at once to Rolla with the intention of reenrolling. Although I was granted my degree in April last year about six weeks early, that sheepskin does not supply me with academic work that I missed. So I intend to make up what I lost, plus a bit more for good measure - which puts me close to Thebes for each weekend (which is what the wily fellow had in mind all along! ).
May I hope to see you on Saturday afternoon March 4th, and again on Sunday, March 5th? A postal card should reach me at School of Mines - but if I do not hear from you, I shall assume that your answer is Yes.
This train is moving too slowly to suit me!
My respects to your parents and my greetings to all your family.
While looking forward eagerly to the 4th,
I remain faithfully yours, Brian Smith, B. S. ,
Sergeant, Eng. Battalion,
Ohio Militia (Federal Duty)
I reread it, then took a deep breath and held it, to slow my heart. Then I found Mother and asked her to read it. She did so, and smiled. ‘I'm happy for you, dear. '
‘I don't have to tell him to wait until Father gets home? '
‘Your father has already expressed his approval of Mr Smith. .. in which I concur. He is welcome. ' Mother looked thoughtful. ‘Will you ask him to consider fetching with him his uniform? '
‘Truly. So that he can wear it in church on Sunday. Would you like that? '
Would I! I told her so. ‘Like Tom did, his first Sunday home. Goody! '
‘We will be proud of him. I intend to ask your father to wear his uniform his first Sunday home, too. ' She looked thoughtful. ‘Maureen, there is no reason why Mr Smith should have to put up with Mrs Henderson's boarding house, or drive clear back to Butler to the Mansion House. Frank can sleep in the other bed in Tom's room and Mr Smith can have Edward's old room. '
‘Oh, that would be nice! '
‘Yes, dear. But - Look at me, Maureen. ' She held my eyes. ‘Don't let his presence under this roof cause either of you to permit any of the children - including Thomas, I must add to see, or even to suspect, any impropriety. '
I blushed clear to my collarbones. ‘I promise, chère mama. '
‘No need for promises; just be discreet. We are women together, dear daughter; I want to help you. '
March came in like a lamb, which just suited me, as I did not want to spend a long afternoon being primly proper in our parlour. The weather was warm and sunny, with no breeze to speak of. So on Saturday the fourth I was the perfect shy young maiden, with parasol and leg o' mutton sleeves and a silly number of petticoats. .. until Daisy had us a hundred yards from the house and out of earshot of anyone. ‘Briney! '
‘Yes, Miss Maureen? '
‘"Miss Maureen, " my foot. Briney, you've had me in the past; you can stop being formal, now that we are alone. Do you have an erection? '
‘Now that you mention it - Yes! '
‘If you had said No, I would have burst into tears. Look, darling, I've found the loveliest place -‘
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