Tomorrow Came Early

by

Diana Lee Johnson

Sequel to Too Late for Tomorrow
 


       

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Prologue

Richmond, Virginia

March, 1865

Richmond was a desperate city in early 1865. The Union Army had not successfully cut it off from all supplies, but then, that was hardly necessary, as supplies and men were extremely scarce. Many disheartened, or frightened Southern patriots had already fled the city, as the Union patrols and sniping incidents increased.

In the face of this adversity, young Andrew Hamilton, second son of a plantation owner in North Carolina, did everything he could to help those remaining, in particular, to help the young girl with whom he had fallen in love.

Tracy Louise Saunders was the beautiful daughter of a Confederate congressman from Alabama.

Andrew was one of the few able-bodied soldiers left in the heart of the city. His main assignment was to assist officials of the Confederate government in packing up or destroying anything which might be of assistance to the Union Army, and then find escape routes and transportation for the officials to leave Richmond.

Some were fleeing south, some west, some were simply trying to go home and await the inevitable outcome of the war. It was obvious to most the end was near.

In early March, Payton Saunders, Tracy's widowed father, suffered a heart attack. He could not be moved yet when the Confederate Congress adjourned on March 18. The invasion of Richmond was imminent.

Andrew spent eighteen hours out of every day helping those left in the government, then he made his way to the Saunders home to help Tracy with her father before returning to his billet for three or four hours of sleep. Seven days a week, his routine was the same, leaving little time or energy for courting.

Chapter 1

"My child," Payton Saunders held his daughter's hand as he spoke soothingly to her, "you must go with young Hamilton. He will make sure you are safely on your way home. I don't want you here when the Yankees finally break through."

"I won't leave you, Pa. I won't! I've never disobeyed you before, but since I never knew Ma, you're all I have. I won't go. 'Sides just where would I go? Word was Payton Hall burned." Tears streamed down her freckled cheeks until her father could stand it no longer.

"All right, child, stop your cryin'." He held her hand tightly between his own. "Maybe I'll be well enough to travel before the enemy gets here, and we'll go home together. If our house is burned, we'll just build another. Home is wherever we can be together."

"Yes, Pa, that's right. We'll wait until you're better. Andrew will protect us." She forced a smile, kissed his forehead then left the room.

Saunders lay there on his bed, thinking about her welfare. I wish I had married sooner in life. Tracy wouldn't be in this predicament if she had come to me when I was still in my prime. Now she's saddled with a helpless old man and a world that is falling down around her just when she should be having fun, being courted. How unfair to her.


Though his time in the army had been relatively short, Andrew Hamilton was now a lieutenant, and he wore his uniform proudly. There were very few officers left within Richmond itself. Most were outside the city trying to organize for the repulsion of the Union forces. Andrew was often left to his own devices deciding what or who took precedence.

The general to whom he had been aide was somewhere east of the city, at last report, and Andrew wondered how he was faring as he approached the house where Payton and Tracy Saunders were living.

"Andy, I've been thinkin'." Tracy grasped his hand and pulled him though the front door before he could even knock. "It's kinda silly for you t' drag yourself back to wherever it is you're stayin', just to get a few hours sleep. You can stay here with us in a guest room. I'm sure that would ease Pa's mind since only Adam is still with us."

Her mind wandered, clinging to her old life, before the war, spoiled and waited-on living at Payton Hall.

"Imagine, Jasmine and Lucius runnin' off like that--first time they heard Yankee guns ... " Tracy was never good at hiding her disgust.

"Tracy, everybody's frightened. Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. Besides, I can't say you treated them too kindly." Andrew thought about his Negro friends at home in North Carolina.

"Now just what is that supposed to mean?" she snapped.

"Tracy, I've never made it a secret I don't believe in slavery." Andrew gave an exhausted sigh. "Our plantation in North Carolina ran just fine without them, slaves, that is."

"Oh, I know, Andy." She threw up her hands in surrender. "Let's not fight."

Andrew gave an exasperated smile. "How's your father today?"

"Some better, I think. We haven't seen a doctor for so long."

"They're real busy, Tracy."

"Oh, I know, I know. All those noisy Yankee bullets flyin' 'round."

"All those noisy Yankee bullets will be here before you know it." Andrew's fuse was short. He took a breath and tried to calm before continuing. "Have you started packin', like I told you to?"

"Well, no, not exactly. It's too hard without Jasmine. I'll mess up all my pretty things."

"Tracy, if you don't get packed, all your pretty things will be left behind. Now I told you, sweetheart," he tried to be patient, "pack only what you absolutely need. Useful items, and serviceable clothing and wear some sturdy shoes, not dancin' slippers! It isn't going to be an easy trip, and we have to start soon. I don't think our troops can hang on much longer."

"Yes, Andrew. Pa says since the Yankees are all over the South, we may as well head home as anywhere else. He thinks Payton Hall is far enough above Mobile and away from anythin' else, we may not be bothered, now that the war seems lost ... Is it lost, Andy?" She looked to him with the soulful, questioning eyes of a child.

"I'm afraid so." He put his arms around Tracy and she snuggled to his chest. Then she pulled back from him, throwing her chin in the air.

"Well, I'm glad it's almost over. I was tired of this place, servants runnin' off, noise and smoke, and not havin' enough food, and ... and ... well, just all of it. I wanna go home. I want things to be like they were before."

Andrew shook his head, one corner of his mouth lifted in an attempt to smile.

"Things will never be like they were, Tracy . . . never." His voice dropped pensively. Then he ran his hand across her cheek as she drew nearer to him. So much about Tracy reminded him of his younger sister, Denise, whom he adored. She was always demanding and rather material, but she had a heart of gold and proved it by becoming a battlefield nurse.

"Never, Andy?" Tracy whispered.

"Shhhhh. Everything will be all right in time. I promise."

"Promise you won't leave me, Andy. Promise?"

"I promise." After he kissed her softly, he swallowed and forced his own composure. He had grown into quite a man, and had he not been a gentleman, he would have proved his manhood to Tracy immediately.

"Now," he cleared his throat, "I have to get back to my map and decide the best route for us to take to get you and your father home. Your father says your home's about sixty miles north of Mobile on the Alabama River." He unrolled his map.

"Yes, that's right." Tracy looked at the map and pointed. "There it is, right there."


On March 23rd, Andrew returned to the Saunders' home, extremely weary from the long day. People were leaving Richmond in droves, and horses, mules, carriages and carts were scarce. He had hidden his own horse in the small servants quarters at the rear of the house. The stable was the first place anyone would look for him.

The brougham was still left, and seemed relatively safe for now. It didn't provide as much protection from weather or storage space as the carriage, which disappeared mysteriously, but it was lighter, and would be easier for one horse to pull with four people.

"Andy, Pa seems much better today." Tracy greeted him hopefully at the front door.

"I'm glad." Andrew replied half-heartedly as he sighed.

"But, Andy, don't you see? We can go home soon!"

"Tracy, soon may not be good enough. Our army can't hold Richmond much longer."

"But, Andrew--"

"Tracy, please, I'm tired. Just let me rest here a few minutes." He headed toward the sofa.

"But, Andy, Pa's been waitin' all day for you to bring him the latest news. Won't you go up for a moment first? I'll fix you somethin' t' eat."

"Oh, Tracy ... all right. You'd be totally exasperatin' if I didn't love you so much." He laid his palm against her cheek and forced a smile. He could hardly put one foot in front of the other as he climbed the stairs.

"Andrew, my dear boy. What is the latest news?" Saunders asked chipperly.

"It isn't good, sir. We only have, well, probably a few days left before the Union Army takes Richmond."

Saunders' already pale face took on an ashen hue. "Then you must take Tracy and go."

"Sir, you know she won't go without you, and I won't leave without her. I love her, sir. When this is all over, I plan on asking her to marry me."

"And you will have my blessin's, son."

"Do you think you can travel now, sir?"

"I think I'd best be findin' out, my boy." Saunders tried to get out of bed, but he was still too weak, even with Andrew's assistance.

Andrew helped him settle back into the big canopy bed.

"Just take it easy, Mr. Saunders. Maybe if Adam and I carry you to the brougham and we move slowly ... "

"The Yankees aren't gonna move slowly. I'm afraid it's no good, son. I think my time on this earth is just about up. I'll just have to convince Tracy to go on ahead with you. The Yankees won't do anything to an old man like me."

"I hope you have more luck with her than I do. She's a stubborn woman."

"I know," he laughed, "just like her Ma. Sick the whole time she was carryin' that child, her Ma just wasn't gonna give up 'til she brought her into this world. Died that same night, she did, but not without holdin' her baby and givin' her a name, Tracy, that was her family name, and Louise for my grandmother," his face saddened for a moment, then he snapped back. "Yup, stubborn clean through, them Tracys."

Andrew smiled at the old man.

"Now, you go on and rest, son. I'll be just fine. And you send Tracy up to me for a talk later on. I'll convince her to go."

Andrew shook his head in disbelief as he left the room.

Seconds after he sank into the sofa, he was fast asleep. Tracy covered him gently and returned to her father's bedside.

APa, you shouldn't be sittin' up. Doctor says you gotta rest, so's we can go home."

"Tracy, dear, I won't be goin' home. I just don't have the strength, but you and Andrew need to leave Richmond now." His voice was tremulous as he insisted.

"Now, Pa," Tracy cajoled, "we been all through that before. I'm not goin' home or anywhere else without you. Think I'd leave you to those nasty Yankees?" She tucked him back into bed. "You rest. I'll be back with your supper, soon as I feed Andy."

"Tracy-Lou, I'm tellin' you I expect you to go with young Hamilton. Marry him, too, soon as you get home, if not sooner."

Tracy didn't reply. She turned and gave him a winsome smile. As she closed the door behind herself, she could not see her father groping through the drawer of the table next to his bed.

There wasn't much to be had in the kitchen, even here in the home of a congressman. But, what there was, she joyfully prepared for the two men she loved.

Tracy was just about to set a tray on the table in front of the sofa and wake Andrew when a shot rang out from the upstairs. She dropped the tray haphazardly on the table and darted for the stairway.

Andrew awakened abruptly, thinking perhaps a sniper was near the house. Shaking the sleep from his head, he caught a glimpse of Tracy running for the stairs and pursued her. He overtook her near the top.

They entered the bedroom together finding Saunders in bed, pistol in hand, a bullet hole in his temple.

"Paaaaaa!" Tracy screamed as she struggled to free herself from Andrew's strong hold. "Let me go! Oh, Pa," she sobbed.

Andrew held her close. "He did it to save you, my darling--to make you leave the city before it's too late. And now you must do as your father wished." He buried his face in her hair, planting a kiss on the top of her head as he closed his eyes to the bloody sight.

"I won't, I won't leave him!" She lashed out at Andrew, but he held her fast.

Though only nineteen, Andrew Hamilton had seen enough of this war to cease finding anything glorious about it, making him as worldly wise as a man of thirty. He was not shocked by the bloody sight before him.

At last Tracy ceased struggling, but her body remained stiff in Andrew's arms as the only servant left in the house came to investigate the noises.

"Oh, no masta'" he said quietly, shaking his bowed head.

 

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