written by James Rada, Jr.
7: The best is yet to come
Caleb Sachs walked out of St. Joseph’s Church and stopped at the Gettysburg Road. He leaned against a stone pillar and took a deep breath.
He had been so sure he had gotten through to Margaret Rosensteel. He had laid all his cards on the table for her. He had thought she would take a chance to let their relationship develop and see how things went. Now, unfilled expectations would weigh on his mind, particularly if he saw her around town.
He walked back to his family’s store on Main Street in Emmitsburg. His father stood behind the counter, while his mother was in the kitchen making dinner.
“Hello, son,” his father said.
Caleb said nothing as he walked behind the counter to get to the staircase that led to the rooms where they lived on the second floor of the building.
Caleb stopped and looked at his father.
“Is something the matter?” Daniel Sachs asked.
Caleb shrugged. “I guess it depends on who you ask.”
That was true. Things were a disaster for him, but everyone else—Margaret’s brothers, his mother, and who knows how many others—would be happy.
He walked upstairs to his room and paced from one side to the other. He stopped and looked out the window. A few people walked along Main Street and the evening stage went past.
Caleb sat down at his desk and wrote out a letter. It was short. He had little to say, at least little that his parents would understand.
Samuel Rosensteel fumed while he waited for Margaret to return. His daughter had run off after he and her mother told Margaret that they would be sending her to join the Daughters of Charity sooner than she had expected.
Why was she upset about that? She had known for years that she would become a sister. She had had time to get used to the idea. It was a noble calling. She would do well in the world, teaching, healing, bringing God to the people.
It was that boy. Caleb Sachs. He had confused Margaret. He was the reason she needed to go away sooner, before the two of them did something they shouldn’t.
He saddled his horse and rode into town. His son, Jack, saw him and joined him.
“Where are you going, Father?”
“I mean to get your sister and bring her home,” Samuel said.
“She went to see that boy, didn’t she?”
“I think so.”
Jack shook his head. “Some people just don’t learn the lessons they’re taught.”
They rode into town and tied their horses up in front of the Sachs Mercantile. Samuel stormed inside, and the man behind the counter jumped up.
“Where’s my daughter?” Samuel demanded.
“I’m sure I don’t know,” Daniel Sachs said.
“She’s here. She came to see your son.”
“My son just came home a short time ago, and he came alone.”
“I want to see him.”
Daniel hesitated, but then walked to the back doorway and called up the stairs, “Caleb, can you come down here, please?”
No one answered.
Still no answer.
Daniel turned to the Rosensteels. “Wait here. I’ll get him.”
Daniel walked upstairs, but he found Caleb’s room empty. He saw an envelope sitting on the pillow on his son’s bed addressed to him.
He opened the letter.
I have left for Gettysburg. I can’t stay in Emmitsburg any longer. Too many people have shown me how they really feel about me. All Margaret and I want is to be happy and get to know each other. No one would let us, including Mother. So I am going someplace where I can try to be happy.
I will write when I have settled in.
Your son, Caleb.
Daniel walked downstairs, holding the letter.
“Where’s your son?” Samuel asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. He’s left for Gettysburg.”
The outside door opened and Margaret walked in.
“Margaret, where have you been?” Samuel asked.
“I was at the church.”
Samuel Rosensteel sighed. “Thank Heavens for that. Now you need to get home.”
Margaret shook her head. “No, I came to see Caleb. We need to talk.”
“I was just telling your father he’s not here,” Daniel said.
“Do you know where he is?”
“He left a letter that said he’s left for Gettysburg.”
Margaret’s eyes widened. She looked from Daniel to her father. “Father, I need to take your horse.”
“Fine, take it and go home.” He waved her off.
Margaret ran back outside. She mounted her father’s horse and galloped off to the north.
How much of a lead did Caleb have? Was he on foot, horse, or wagon? She should have asked. Would he take the Gettysburg Road or go through Fairfield, where he could find a place to stay for the night?
She made a quick estimate of how long he might have been riding and headed for the Gettysburg Road.
She didn’t see him at first because she was looking for someone on horseback. She saw him walking toward the Flat Run Bridge, carrying a suitcase.
She was about to call out to him, but she got an idea when she saw the Flat Run Bridge.
She took a side street and galloped around Caleb. She splashed across Flat Run and then urged the horse up the hill.
When she reached the top of the hill, she dismounted and took a deep breath and tried to calm herself. Then she began humming to herself and dancing around. She spun in gentle circles and bounced up and down.
“What are you doing?”
She stopped moving and looked toward the road. Caleb had set his suitcase on the ground and was staring at her.
“I agree,” she said.
“I agree. Let’s make a lot of memories. That’s what you said in the church.”
“Your family won’t like it.”
“I know, but it’s not their decision to make. God didn’t spare my life just to have my parents lay out what I should do with that life. It’s my decision to make.”
She held out her hands toward him. He picked up his suitcase and walked up the hill.
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” he asked.
“No, not at all, but I want to have good memories if I become a sister. I don’t want to have regrets. And if I don’t become a sister, then I need to have a good reason why I’m not.”
She took his hands and started dancing again, pulling him into the moves. He laughed and joined in the dance freely.
Then he pulled her close and kissed her. She grabbed his head and held him close.
“We’re going to make some good memories,” he said.
She leaned her forehead against his. “One way or another, I think the next year will be the best one of my life.”