written by James Rada, Jr.
A new serial fiction romance story for your enjoyment
When he recalled this day, Caleb Sachs was sure he would tell people Heaven had whispered to him, and in doing so, created the blustery wind that seemed to tell him, “Look! An angel.”
No one would mistake Caleb for a visionary man. Because the Sachs were the only Jewish family in Emmitsburg, they were too far away to travel to a synagogue on Shabbat. Since his father was a shopkeeper and Saturday was the busiest day of the week, he had made allowances. His father kept the shop open on Saturday, closing mid-afternoon, and then recognizing Shabbat from mid-Saturday through Sunday.
Caleb followed his father’s rules. He didn’t work after the store closed, and he read the Torah in the evening. However, he also liked to wrestle, play cards, and race horses with his friends. Although they were still a bit young, when Matthew Hayes could sneak a bottle out of his father’s tavern, Caleb and his friends would sneak off into the woods and drink.
This day, though, Caleb was sober and serious. His father had trusted him to drive the wagon to Gettysburg and pick up an order coming in on the Harrisburg and Gettysburg Railroad. It could have shipped to Emmitsburg on the Emmitsburg Railroad, but that would have involved sending the freight to Baltimore, transferring it to the Western Maryland Railroad, and then transferring it to the Emmitsburg Railroad at Emmitsburg Junction. Not only would that have taken another two days, but it would also have cost additional freight charges. With Gettysburg only 12 miles away, it was easier to send a wagon to pick up the goods at the depot in Gettysburg.
At 16 years old, this was Caleb’s first solo trip to Gettysburg, and he meant to show his father he could be trusted to do a man’s job.
He drove north out of town along Emmitsburg Road, which would take him right into the center of Gettysburg. He crossed the wooden bridge over Flat Run. It was a little trickle of a stream that rarely needed a bridge to span it unless it had rained recently.
That was when the wind picked up as Heaven whispered to him. He started the wagon up the hill when he saw her. She stood on the crest of the hill on the west side of the road. The sun behind her silhouetted her figure as she danced around to the sound of music that only she heard. The white shawl she wore billowed out, appearing to be an angel’s wings, and locks of her blond hair flew in all directions around her head forming a halo.
She looked so beautiful, Caleb had to stop the wagon to watch her.
She was so engrossed in her silent song, she never saw him, although he was only 20 yards away. Then, either she finished what she was doing, or perhaps she heard him. She stopped and ran off in another direction.
Caleb knew he would remember her. Even though he’d not seen her face, something about the love of life she showed in those moments or the carefree spirit of her dance told him she was beautiful no matter what she looked like.
The thought of her kept a smile on his face during the 12-mile ride to Gettysburg. He grinned at the stationmaster, who must have thought Caleb was crazy. He kept smiling as he loaded the goods his father had ordered for the store into the wagon bed.
On his way back to Emmitsburg, Caleb wondered if he shouldn’t have introduced himself to the woman. It just hadn’t seemed right. He had an image of what she looked like in his mind. Perhaps he imagined her nothing like she actually looked. It didn’t matter. The face he saw in his mind belonged to the angel he had seen dancing. Whether it was reality, it was still truth.
Margaret Rosensteel entered St. Joseph’s Church through the front doors. She paused a moment to let her eyes adjust to the dimmer light as she looked into the chapel. It had been warm in the light of the bright sun, but winter still clung to the inside of the church. The stoves couldn’t generate enough heat in the large room, and too few people sat in the pews to generate enough body heat to warm the room.
The young girl genuflected and slid into a pew near the rear of the chapel. Father Harmon was already well into the Mass, and he didn’t even glance at her.
Sister Mary Agatha did, though. The Daughter of Charity sat across the aisle and three rows forward of Margaret. The sister glanced back, saw Margaret, and she smiled. Then she mouthed, “You’re late.”
Margaret raised her eyebrows and shrugged. It wasn’t the first time, and it undoubtedly wouldn’t be the last time she was late to Mass. Her mother compared her to one of the foolish virgins in the Bible who arrived too late to greet the bridegroom, and so was locked out of the home.
“But I’ll never be a bride, Mama, so what does it matter?” Margaret had answered once.
“You’ll be married to God, but I guess you’ll be late for him, too.”
“Well, he must know what he is getting into. He made me this way.”
Margaret had known she was destined to be a Daughter of Charity since she was six years old. That was the year she nearly died from scarlet fever. As she had burned up from the fever, her parents had tried to lower her temperature and prayed at her bedside.
The doctor had told her parents to prepare for the worst, but Margaret had recovered. The Rosensteels declared their daughter’s recovery to be a miracle. That is when they told Margaret she would become a Daughter of Charity when she was old enough because they had promised God they would do so if he spared her life.
Margaret had trouble concentrating on Mass this morning. It was the first sunny and warm day of the year, and she wanted to be out and about, dancing and singing in the sunlight. Instead, she was sitting inside, trying to remember her Latin, so she could understand Father Harmon.
She walked outside after Mass ended and lifted her chin toward the sun, so her face could drink in its warmth. She heard the jangle of wagon traces and looked up Emmitsburg Road. She saw a pair of horses pulling a wagon crest the hill. Different size boxes were piled on the rear, but it wasn’t the boxes Margaret noticed. It was the driver.
He was a young man about her age. He sat proudly in the seat with his shoulders thrown back and his face concentrating on his work. She had never seen him before, although she spent most of her time on the family farm rather than in town.
As he passed, he glanced at her and did a double-take. Then he smiled and lifted his hat to her. Moments later, he was past her. Margaret turned to watch him as he turned the wagon onto West Main Street.
She couldn’t get past the fact that he looked familiar. She couldn’t place his face. Some might say it was the face of an angel.