Would he ever see Charlie or his family again? So many men had died in this damnable war and, if the battles didn’t kill them, living in this huge hellhole surely would.
“Daniel!” a female voice called urgently. “Daniel Reid, is that you? Dear God!”
Tearing his eyes away from the spectacle of fear looming out across the river, he turned wearily to see who had called his name.
Standing a few yards away was a group of fashionably dressed young ladies, looking like beautiful bright butterflies. They huddled together clutching each other’s arms, staring at the dirty, tattered Confederate prisoners chained together. Their hands were full of packages they had obviously purchased at the little shops clustered near the wharf.
“Stay back, ladies!” one of the Yankee guards called, “You don’t want to get their vermin on you!”
A golden-haired girl shook off her companions and stepped closer.
“Nora!” Daniel cried hoarsely.
She took a few hesitant steps toward him.
“No, don’t go over there, Nora! They’re filthy beasts!” another girl called anxiously.
Turning, Nora cried, “But Mary, it’s my brother!” With that she overcame her fear and ran to him, tears running down her smooth, rosy cheeks and her yellow dress billowing about her ankles.
“Stop!” the guard yelled, his footsteps pounding on the wooden planks. He stepped in front of Daniel, blocking Nora’s path.
She halted, one hand on her heart. “What have they done to you, Daniel? Where are you going? Why are you not doctoring in the hospital?” she sobbed, reaching toward him with her other hand outstretched.
It was no wonder Nora was shocked. He was a mess. The blows to his face had cut his lip and cheekbone and blackened one eye. A seam had split on one of his jacket sleeves, and he had a large tear in the knee of his filthy trousers. Three weeks of beard covered the lower part of his face, hiding more bruises.
The shackles wouldn’t let him move his arms to hold his little sister, even if she could reach him.
“I’m all right, Nora,” he lied. “They’re sending me to prison, honey. Will you get word to Mother and Father…and my wife?”
“Get moving, you stinking Reb!”
The Yankee shoved him in the back with the rifle as the line began to move. Stumbling, chains rattling all around him, the line of prisoners shuffled toward the boat with Nora walking beside him.
“What will happen to you?”
Daniel’s heart broke to hear the sorrow and desperation in her voice. “I don’t know, Nora. Tell them I love them. Tell Charlie for me! I will always love her!”