written by James Rada, Jr.
A new serial fiction romance story for your enjoyment
Caleb Sachs could see Emmitsburg in the distance as he drove his wagon along the dirt road. He’d spent the day making deliveries for this father to some farmers outside of town. His father offered the service, but it fell on Caleb to make the deliveries when the orders came in.
Caleb didn’t mind it so much on a day like today, warm and sunny. It was the wintry days or rainy ones that made him miserable, although he doubted much could have made him miserable today.
He was head over heels… what? In love? He wasn’t sure about that, but he definitely liked Margaret Rosensteel more than any other girl he had ever met. She understood what he was feeling, and she had had a great sense of humor. It didn’t hurt that she was also pretty.
He was so lost in his thoughts, he let the horses drive themselves back to town.
Two men on horses rode up on either side of the wagon and stopped the horses.
“What’s going on?” Caleb said. Then he recognized the two men as Margaret’s older brothers, Jack and Paul Rosensteel.
“We need to talk,” Jack said.
“Then ride along beside me. I need to get home,” Caleb replied.
The older men didn’t let go of Caleb’s horse, nor did they start walking alongside the wagon.
“People saw you and Margaret on the hill north of town yesterday,” Jack said.
Caleb shrugged. “So? We did nothing wrong. We were right out in the open where anyone could see us.”
“You need to stay away from her,” Paul said. “She has bigger plans for this life than being with a cheating shopkeeper’s son.”
Caleb wasn’t sure what angered him more: that these men had called his father a cheater or that they thought Caleb wasn’t good enough for their sister.
“I’d say that’s for Margaret and me to decide. It’s none of your business.” He picked up the reins and clucked at the horses, but the Rosensteel brothers held onto them.
“She’s our sister, so that makes it our business,” Paul told him.
“I’m not talking about this with you,” Caleb said. “Now let go of my horses.”
Jack poked Caleb in the shoulder. “We aren’t going to talk with you about it. We’re warning you. Stay away from Margaret.” He poked Caleb again, and Caleb knocked the hand aside.
“Get out of my way,” he said.
Caleb reached out to slap Paul’s horse on the rump so that Caleb could get the wagon moving. Paul grabbed his arm and yanked, pulling Caleb off the wagon. Caleb fell onto the road as Paul laughed. Caleb jumped up and pulled the bigger man off his horse.
“Not so funny now, is it?” Caleb said.
Jack rode his horse around the wagon and kicked Caleb, sending him sprawling. Then he jumped from the horse. Jack grabbed Caleb by the shirt and punched him in the stomach and the face.
“Some people just have to learn the hard way,” Jack said.
Paul jumped up and landed a few punches of his own. Caleb tried to defend himself, but these men were taller and heavier than he was. He hit back, but his punches didn’t seem to hurt them. They pounded him to the ground, and Caleb rolled under the wagon to shield himself.
The brothers mounted their horses, and Jack said, “You’ll get more of that if you don’t leave her alone.”
Then they rode off.
Caleb hoped he could sneak in the back of the store and up to his room before anyone saw him. His mother happened to be retrieving something in the back room when he came in.
“Caleb! What happened?” She rushed over to him. “Are you all right? Do you need a doctor?”
Caleb shook his head. “I’m fine, Mother. I just came out on the wrong end of a fight.”
“A fight! Why were you fighting? With whom?”
She grabbed a towel off the shelf. She pumped water into the sink, then soaked the cloth, wrung it out, and wiped at Caleb’s face.
He tried to shake off her ministrations. “It doesn’t matter. I just want to lie down for a little while.”
He could name Jack and Paul as his attackers. What good would it accomplish? They might get in trouble, but how would that make Margaret feel? Word would get out about him and Margaret, and it might damage her reputation or get her in trouble with her father.
“Who were you fighting?” his mother asked.
“It doesn’t matter. Some of the boys were roughhousing, and things just got out of hand. I landed my own punches.”
He hadn’t, but it made him sound like he was just as much to blame. His mother couldn’t get his attackers in trouble without getting him in trouble.
He walked upstairs, holding the towel to his face.
Margaret was kneading dough in the kitchen when her brothers came in. They were in a good mood, laughing and kissing their wives on the cheeks. They washed their hands in the sink and sat down at the table.
“You will not have to worry about that Jew boy distracting you from your calling anymore,” Paul said.
Jack elbowed his brother and glared at him.
Margaret paused. This did not sound good. “What are you talking about?”
Jack and Paul looked at each other.
“You might as well tell her. You let the cat out of the bag,” Jack said.
Paul grinned. “We gave Caleb Sachs a message to leave you alone. I think he understood.”
Margaret hefted the dough and considered throwing it at her brothers. “What did you do?”
Jack shrugged. “Nothing permanent.”
Margaret remembered how her brothers had handled the situation with Caleb’s friends at the dance. They were too eager to fight. She slapped the dough onto the table. Then she washed her hands and pulled off her apron.
“You’re not done yet,” her mother said.
“I need to go into town,” Margaret told her.
Paul said, “Don’t let her go, Mother.”
Margaret spun around. “If you did what I think you did, you had better hope the sheriff doesn’t come for you.”
“What are you talking about?” her mother asked.
“I think they beat Caleb up like they did to his friends at dance.”
“Oh, Margaret, they’re grown, married men. They know better than that.”
Margaret rolled her eyes. “Didn’t you hear what I said, Mother? They beat up Caleb’s friends at the dance. They like to fight.”
She hurried out of the house and nearly ran to town. Margaret found the store on West Main Street and walked through the door. She saw a middle-aged woman behind the counter. She must have been Caleb’s mother.
“Hello, I’m looking for Caleb,” Margaret said.
“He can’t see anyone right now.”
“I wanted to see if he was all right.”
“All right? What do you know about what happened to him?” Mrs. Sachs asked.
“Nothing for sure, but I think my brothers may have attacked him.”
“Who are you?”
Mrs. Sachs nodded. “Let me guess. You’re the girl who Caleb has been so interested in?”
“We met at the dance Friday.”
“I definitely do not agree with what your brothers did, but they were right in one respect: You and my Caleb can’t be together.”
Margaret felt her cheeks redden. “We’re not together.”
“Yet. Your brothers must see it in you. I can see it in Caleb. There’s more than a healthy interest. Look at what happened to him because of you. I’m sure you are a very nice girl, but you aren’t Jewish.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing except that your children would not be Jewish. When Caleb marries, it will be to an appropriate woman. Now I think you had better go.”
Margaret’s shoulders sagged. She had thought it was only her family that wanted to keep her and Caleb apart. Was what she and Caleb wanted so wrong?
…to be continued next month