17 THE ENGAGEMENT RING  

jasonabadboy4u 29M
48 posts
6/11/2006 3:25 am

Last Read:
7/23/2006 4:01 am

17 THE ENGAGEMENT RING

17 THE ENGAGEMENT RING
The young confederate soldiers marched along the road, their bodies exhausted from battle, their uniforms bloody and torn. But they were the lucky ones. They had survived the awful battle that the Union soldiers had won. Many of their friends lay dead on the battlefield, never to return. A young lieutenant named William rode his horse alongside them. It had been his first battle, and he had seen things he wanted to forget. Several times, he had sensed death lurking near him, but he had escaped. William looked up from the dusty road to see a carriage passing by the line of soldiers. A pretty young girl sat in it. She met his eyes and smiled. Inside the carriage, Amy continued to smile. The young officer had looked dirty and tired, but he was very handsome. Like many young men, he obviously thought she was something to look at. Amy had just turned seventeen, and she spent a great deal of time in front of the mirror. The carriage jolted on down the rough road, carrying Amy to her uncle's plantation in the country. She had had to flee from the city where she was going to a boarding school when the Union soldiers had drawn too near. Her rich uncle had offered to take her in, since she had been orphaned three years ago when both her parents had died in an epidemic. Amy stuck her head out the carriage window to peer back at the soldiers. The war was exciting to her, and she thought the young men looked brave and dashing in their uniforms. Someday soon she hoped to meet a handsome, rich man and marry him. The shadows of night were falling over the white-columned mansion when Amy arrived at her uncle's house. It was a beautiful, spacious house -- very different from the modest home Amy had grown up in. As she walked up to the door held open by a servant, she vowed to live this life always. She must simply marry the right husband. Amy's aunt and uncle received her with affection and hospitality. She was shown to a beautiful bedroom with a closet full of expensive dresses that had belonged to her cousin Eleanor, who had died in the same epidemic as Amy's parents. Before she went to bed, Amy tried many of the dresses on. She looked in the mirror and smiled. Her new life was beginning. In the middle of that night, a knock sounded on the mansion door. Amy's uncle Thomas, opened it and saw an exhausted confederate captain standing there. The officer asked if his soldiers could spend the night on his land. Her uncle Thomas readily agreed and invited the officer and his lieutenants to stay in the mansion. Amy came down for breakfast the next morning dressed in a rose-colored silk dress that cast a glow over her white skin and set off her deep blue eyes. She walked into the dining room, expecting to greet only her aunt and uncle. She was startled to see four young men and one older man sitting with her relatives. They were all dressed in the gray uniforms of officers of the confederate army. "My niece, Amy," her uncle said graciously. Then, as all the officers rose to meet her, he introduced each of them. Amy nodded and smiled to each. But she smiled most when she was introduced to Lieutenant William. She remembered having seen his handsome face from her carriage the day before. Today it was scrubbed and shaved clean and his auburn hair shone in the sunlight. She took her place across from his at the long table set with fine china and silver. During the breakfast, While Uncle Thomas and the officers discussed the progress of the war, Amy often looked up to see William staring at her with a longing look in his cat-like green eyes. She let herself blush, knowing it complimented her. "I insist that you and your men stay on the plantation until you get further orders," her uncle Thomas said to the captain. "Thank you sir," the captain answered. "My men need to stop running for a while. The war has taken its toll on them." Lucy looked again at Lieutenant William and saw the happiness on his face. She wondered if he was as rich as he was handsome. She vowed to find out as soon as possible. That afternoon, from her bedroom window, Amy saw Lieutenant William walking in the rose garden near the mansion. She took a last look in the mirror, then hurried down the wide staircase, out the door of the mansion, and down the path to the rose garden. She slowed down when she saw the lieutenant leaning against an old oak ahead. "Amy! he said with more feeling than he wanted to betray when he saw her. "Excuse me, I mean Miss." She insisted that he call her Amy, and he asked that she call him William. By the time they had walked around the rose garden twice, she knew that he was in love with her. War had brought his feelings close to the surface and made them intense. Once he started to tell her about the terrible battle he'd just been in, but then stopped. He turned away and broke off a red rose from a nearby bush. He picked off the thorns and gave it to Amy with a look that made her heart stutter. That evening they sat beside each other at dinner and shared private conversation while the others talked about the war. Amy went to bed that night with her head swimming with thoughts of William. She reminded herself that tomorrow she must find out how rich he was. The next evening, as they sat together in the rose garden after dinner, Amy asked William where his home was. But instead of hearing about a white mansion like her uncle's, she heard about a wood-frame house like the one she had grown up in. Her heart sank as she listened to him speak sadly of his widowed mother, living a life made poorer by the war. But his words faded from her mind when he suddenly kissed her under a weeping willow tree, in the shadows of the Spanish moss that hung like a canopy around them. The soldiers stayed on for three more weeks while Lieutenant William planned his next move against the Union army. Amy and William spent their days together and dreamed of each other at night. Then one morning the Lieutenant made an announcement at breakfast. "Tomorrow we march north," he said. "The Union army is on the move again. We'll meet them in battle fifty miles north of here." Amy Met William's eyes and saw the sadness deep inside them. The captain gave orders to his soldiers about all they had to do that day. Before he left, William made Amy promise to meet him in the rose garden, one last time that night. They met under the same tree as before. Amy's heart beat fast as she watched William pull out something small and shiny from the pocket of his uniform. He told her that it was passed down from generation to generation. And that it held mystical powers. His mother had given it to him before he went off to war. Then she felt him slip the smooth, gold band onto the ring finger of her left hand. "Marry me Amy, when I come back," he said, dropping down on one knee as he asked her. Amy looked at the plain ring in the moonlight. She had always dreamed of a diamond ring, a huge stone that sent off glints of fire. But then she looked down at William's face. He was going off to battle the next day. She said she would marry him. William stood up and kissed her. Then he held her shoulders tightly in his hands and stared intently into her eyes. "Promise me something, Amy," he asked. "If I don't come back from this battle, say you'll never marry anyone else." Amy hesitated. She twisted the tight ring around her finger. William was still staring into her eyes. "I promise, William. I'll never marry anyone but you." The soldiers left the next morning. William rode away on his horse, waving good-bye to Amy on the steps of the mansion. Amy nervously twisted the ring on her finger as she watched him ride off into the rising sun and out of sight. Then she went up to her room and stared in the mirror. Five nights later, there was another knock on the mansion door. Again Uncle Thomas opened it to find an exhausted Confederate officer. He was a young captain with new of the terrible battle that had taken place fifty miles to the north. The South had lost the battle and suffered a great loss of men. Captain Sanders asked if he and his men could stay on Uncle Thomas's land. Before he left to settle in his men, he gave one more piece of news. He had word about Lieutenant William to give Miss Amy. Lieutenant William had been shot in the battle and was dead. When her uncle Thomas broke the news to Amy the next morning about the fate of her fiance William, he waited for her to cry. But she seemed to take William's death with great calm. She only betrayed her feelings by twisting the gold ring around her finger over and over again. The next weeks were confused and chaotic in the mansion. The young captain had moved into the house with his other officers. The servants and family tended to the sick and wounded soldiers quartered in the barns. Amy found that the memories of William that haunted her were eased by the presence of Captain Sanders. She found him handsome and was fascinated by the stories he told of his father's plantation, which was still prosperous and safe in the Deep South. Amy suspected that Captain Sanders found her attractive, but he was too much of a gentleman to show it, especially since he had brought the news of her fiance's death. One day Captain Sanders offered to take her to the cemetery where the Confederate soldiers killed in the great battle had been buried. Lieutenant William was among them. Amy eagerly accepted his invitation, and when the day came, she chose to wear a brightly colored and low cut-off dress that complimented her young woman hood. She rode in the carriage with Captain Sanders to the cemetery, nervously twisting the gold band around her finger as she listened to his stories of his life before the war. When the captain took her to William's grave, she insisted that she be left alone there. And when she saw that Captain Sanders was out of sight, She bent over William's grave and whispered softly into the wind. "I'm sorry that your dead William," Amy began. "You were a nice guy but I found someone else now. Someone that can give me all that I want and need from a man. I have my own life to live the best that I can. I hope that you can forgive me for not being able to keep my promise." And with that she pulled the gold ring off her finger and threw it among the weeds that had already sprung up over William's grave. Her aunt and uncle were shocked when two months later, Captain Sanders announced that Amy had agreed to marry him. They were both eager to be married before the next great battle. Hastily Uncle Thomas arranged for the wedding to take place the next Saturday in the local church. Amy walked around the mansion as if on air, showing everyone the beautiful diamond engagement ring that Captain Sanders had given her. The best seamstress in the country was hired to work day and night to make a beautiful silk and lace wedding gown. Only once did her aunt dare to mention William's name. Amy had screamed that she never wanted to hear of him again, and she had twisted the diamond ring on her finger so hard that she cut herself. On the morning of her wedding, Amy walked down the aisle of the small country church on the arm of her uncle. She stared lovingly into the eyes of her bridegroom as he waited for her at the altar. The minister began the ceremony. As she came closer and closer to the moment when she would become Captain Sander's rich and beautiful wife, Amy felt a nervousness rising inside her. The ring on her finger seemed to be burning with unnatural heat, and Amy had to hold herself back from twisting it around and around. The minister came to the familiar words of the wedding ceremony, just before he pronounced them man and wife. "If anyone has just cause to stop this marriage, let him speak now . . . or forever hold his peace." Amy felt a horrible coldness start at the back of her neck and then creep all through her body. Then she heard the bang of a door and felt a cold wind rush up the aisle. Like everyone else in the church, she turned around. She met the hard, satanic gaze of her former fiance William, standing at the back of the church. As he stiffly walked step by creaking step, up the aisle toward her, Amy saw the red stain on his gray uniform. It looked like a red rose over his heart. But as he came closer and closer, she saw that it was blood. William's eyes burned like Hell fire, but his face was the horrible decomposed, rot of death. Amy shrank back and clasped her right hand over the diamond ring to hide it. Everyone else seemed frozen by the cold wind that blew through the church like a whirlwind with William at its center. Amy screamed in terrified horror as she saw William's crispy, brown, bony, hands reach out toward her. Then she felt herself being swooped up in a deathly grip and carried down the aisle by her ghostly bridegroom. When Captain Sander's and Amy's relatives rushed out of the church, they could find no sign of Amy. They only heard the eerie clip-clopping of a horse's hoofs breaking into a gallop. The men called for their horses and rode off in the direction of the sound the horse had taken. They galloped down the road that led inevitably to the graveyard where William had been laid to his uneasy rest. Captain Sanders ran through the rows of tombstones to the place where he had brought Amy only a short time before. This time, there were flowers on the grave. What he found chilled him to his very soul. There, at the grave, a young woman's hand stuck out from the hard, cold, earth. And on her third finger was the plain, gold, wedding ring . . . that William had given his bride to be. And there on the tombstone were the engraved words for the eternal epitaph, In Death Shall We Be Together . . .


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