THE RELUCTANT SPY
By Sarah Stack
A tall, blue-eyed man stood at the prow of his ship the Starlight Voyager, along with his lovely Philippina wife. Captain Henry James smiled as the coast of North America came into view.
"Look, there, my love," he said warmly, "Soon we will be home."
"I'm so glad," the beautiful woman murmured, wrapping her arms around her husband's lean waist, "Now our children will be able to be anything that they desire to be."
The captain chuckled softly then gently extracted himself from his wife's arms, saying, "Wait here, my pearl. I must go check on my men and see if they need help with docking."
Once the Starlight Voyager docked, Captain James led his wife ashore and spoke grandly, "Welcome my love...To the land of freedom!"
Jocelyn gazed out at the landscape, listening to the hustle and bustle of the docks of New Orleans. At that moment, her stomach contracted strongly.
"Oh my..." she gasped, holding her stomach, "H-Henry...The baby!"
Henry gazed at her, wide-eyed as his wife's statement sunk in. Swiftly, the captain lifted her into his arms, carrying her bridal style and sprinted towards the unloading ramp. Jocelyn groaned as another wave of pain hit her, praying that they would be able to find a mid-wife soon. But fortune smiled down on Henry and his wife, for there happened to be a mid-wife living close to the docks. The baby was born without much difficulty, and was promptly named Clarissa.
Clarissa Ferraro sighed deeply as she made her way to the shipyards. Her father had left her and her mother to go whaling, only he never returned to the shores. As soon as she was old enough to understand how to walk and talk, her mother told her about her father and how dangerous whaling was.
Now, she was making daily trips to the shipyards in the false hopes that her father had finally returned home. As she stepped into the small shack situated next to the docks, Clarissa ignored the men that occasionally gathered there to chat about whaling business and other things.
"Ah, Miss Ferraro," the shipyard master Thomas Massey greeted the girl warmly, "What can I do for you today?"
"Has the Starlight Voyager come to port yet?" she asked, gazing up at the tall shipyard master eagerly.
Massey checked the list of ships that had recently come into port and shook his head sadly. Still no word of the Starlight Voyager from any of the ports situated on the gulf coast. There was a very high possibility that the ship had been lost at sea.
"Sorry Miss," the shipyard master said apologetically, "I don't have it in my records."
"Oh, I see," sighed Clarissa, her eyes downcast, "Thank you though, for looking. I suppose I should just give it up. "
Head bowed in disappointment, the dark-skinned girl made her way back home. She barely noticed the grandly built carriages as they passed her by on the cobblestone streets. Clarissa knew that she was going to have to do something about the financial situation that she and her mother were in. They did not have enough money to keep the small house that they'd been living in since she was old enough to walk, and there was a very unlikely chance that her father would be coming back anytime soon. Not to mention that her mother was growing ill with anxiety.
As she stepped through the front of their little house, Clarissa heard her mother squeak in surprise and then a clattering of silverware as they fell to the oak floor.
"Mother? Are you alright?" she asked, hurrying into the kitchen, "Do you need me to do anything?"
"I-I'm alright," Mrs. Ferraro stuttered, placing a trembling hand on her daughter's shoulder.
"Are you sure?" she inquired, her forehead creased in worry, "I can fetch the doctor if you need him."
"No, it's not necessary," her mother insisted, sinking down into the rocking chair by the fireplace, "Just fetch me a glass of water, my dear."
The girl sprang for the kitchen, snatched a small glass off the cabinet shelf and filled it with water from a porcelain pitcher. She then scurried back to her mother and handed her the glass.
Mrs. Ferraro drank deeply, the tepid water calming her nerves. When she had finished, the woman leaned back and closed her eyes for a moment.
"Mother...I've been thinking about this quite a bit," Clarissa began hesitantly, "We really can't stay here any longer, seeing as we've barely enough money to support support ourselves. I have heard that ladies' companions are treated well, and are taken care of by the employer."
"Maybe," Mrs. Ferraro mused thoughtfully, "I suppose it's worth a try. Your father had a friend living in Charleston, perhaps he can hire you as an indentured servant."
Clarissa nodded in agreement then began making the necessary arrangements. By the end of the week, they were ready to travel to South Carolina. While she was making a quick stop at the market to purchase some supplies for the journey to Charleston, Clarissa overheard a couple of soldiers conversing in low voices. Intrigued, she drew closer to hear more of their conversation.
"Did you hear that Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor was attacked?" the taller of the two guards whispered quietly.
"No way! Are you sure?" his companion exclaimed as softly as he could in disbelief.
"Most definitely," the guard replied, nodding his head in affirmation, "Many of the southern states are seceding from the Union so that they can keep their slaves."
The young lady withdrew from where she had been standing and hurried back to her mother to tell her what she overheard. When she returned to her mother, Mrs. Ferraro raised an eyebrow at her flustered appearance.
"Darling, what on earth have you been doing?" she asked her daughter, a slightly chiding tone to her voice.
"Sorry Mother," said Clarissa breathlessly, "But I just overheard a couple of soldiers saying that Fort Sumter was attacked. Will we be safe?"
"Yes dear, we'll be alright," Mrs. Ferraro soothed, "Now, the train that is taking us to South Carolina will be leaving in a moment. Now hurry and finish your packing."
The journey to South Carolina took a good long way, but the Ferraros finally made it to the beautiful white plantation house that was to be their home, for a little while.
Mr. George Turner was a wealthy slave owner with a large plantation. He was one of the few slave owners that treated his slaves fairly. He had kindly hazel eyes, a charming smile, and his midnight black hair was bound in a ponytail by a gray ribbon.
"Ah Jocelyn! So good to see you again!" Mr. George Turner said pleasantly, kissing the woman's hand, "Where is my childhood friend? Is he well?"
At these inquiries, Mrs. Ferraro's face grew grave. She glanced briefly at her daughter before saying, "It's best if we talk about this over some tea."
Mr. Turner nodded in understanding and beckoned for the two ladies to follow him into the house's parlor room. Once he had his guests settled down in the informal parlor, he motioned for Mrs. Ferraro to speak.
The poor woman took a deep breath before she explained the reason of their visit. Mr. Turner listened intently, a sad smile on his care-worn face.
"So you came to me in the hopes that you could be hired as a companion?" said Mr. Turner, raising an eyebrow at Clarissa, "I just might have an opening for you, dear. My wife Anne has been looking for a companion to accompany her wherever she goes. I think that you might fit the bill quite nicely, for my wife is quite choosy about who performs tasks for her. Your salary will be food, shelter, medical care, and the odd coin if you do a very good job."
Once they were settled in, Clarissa immediately took a liking to her job. Mrs. Turner was quite a nice lady, and often took the young woman to many tea parties and other social events. Clarissa quickly learned that Mistress Anne did not like for any of the Black slaves to prepare her food, and volunteered her mother for chef duty.
It was not uncommon for the young lady to be seen about with her mistress, as a matter of fact, it was quite a regular occurrence. Now, they were at a tea party when Mrs. Turner remembered that she'd accidentally left her parasol in the carriage.
"Clarissa, be a dear and go fetch my parasol," Mistress Anne commanded in that silky-smooth voice of hers, "I'll need it if I'm to go walking in the garden."
"Oh, of course," the girl said quickly, gathering up her skirts and moving towards the carriage house.
As she drew closer to the carriage house, Clarissa caught the sound of lowered voices. Once again, curiosity got the better of her, so she stealthy moved forward until she could hear the conversation without being seen. A couple of Confederate soldiers stood there smoking their pipes and talking.
"No way, you can't be serious," the first soldier drawled, "There's no way that Lincoln would let his generals attack Charleston. I mean, we're hardly a threat."
"But Lincoln has plenty of reason to attack us," the second soldier insisted vehemently, "This is where it all started. Also, I've heard that there's an encampment of Union soldiers just a little ways north of us."
"I don't know where you're getting your information, my friend," said the first voice sharply,
"Anyways, the general of our Confederate soldiers is getting ready to counter attack. Still, he wishes that he had a spy to sneak into the enemy camp and steal their battle plans."
Clarissa grimaced a little, pondering what she heard. Shrugging, the young woman turned to leave her hiding place but then accidentally stepped on a twig. Both men whirled around at the noise, and caught sight of her.
"Get her!" the second soldier shouted to his companion as he ran towards her.
The girl ran hard and fast, but the men possessed longer legs and soon caught her. She struggled violently to get out of their firm hold.
"Girl, stop struggling," the first man rasped into her ear, "Now, tell me why you were listening in our little chat."
"If you think I'm a spy for the Union, then you're wrong!" Clarissa snapped angrily, "I'm merely a companion for Mrs. Anne Turner! If you don't believe me, go ask her!"
"Listen carefully, girl," the second soldier hissed, "You seem like a smart one, so here's a little proposition I've got for you. If you can slip into the Union encampment and steal their battle plans for us, then we will make sure that your precious little home doesn't get ransacked by those Union dogs. If you don't help us...well, the results will be quite devastating."
At that moment, Mrs. Turner began calling Clarissa's name. The soldiers exchanged glances then released their captive.
"Remember what I said, girl," the short soldier said with a wicked smile, "If you decide to help us out, there will be a guide waiting for you at the camp tomorrow morning."
When Clarissa stumbled back towards the house with Mrs. Turner's parasol in hand, she heard a short gasp. She looked up to see Mistress Anne standing there on the back porch.
"Clarissa, what happened?" she exclaimed, her brow creased in worry, "You look as though you were running from something."
"A couple of soldiers caught me listening in on their conversation," the young woman said, panting slightly as she smoothed the ruffles out of her dress. "And..." her voice dropping to a whisper, "They want me to steal the Union's battle plans for them. They also threatened that if I didn't help them, they'd let the plantation get ransacked."
Mrs. Turner's emerald-green eyes narrowed in anger. Wordlessly, she beckoned to her companion and led her back into the house. During the rest of the tea party, Clarissa fidgeted uneasily as she sat beside her lady. On the carriage-ride back, neither of the two women spoke a word.
When they arrived home, Mistress Anne told Clarissa to go and clean herself up while she went and had a word with her husband. The young lady did as she was told, wondering what she should do. After dinner had passed, Mrs. Turner sat out on the porch with her husband and her companion to discuss the situation and how they should handle it.
When it was clear that Mistress Anne had finished speaking, Mr. Turner then spoke up, "Clarissa, if you don't want to do this, then that's quite alright. I don't blame you for being afraid. But, first and foremost, ask your mother for advice on this issue."
The young woman sighed deeply and nodded in agreement. Both Mr. and Mrs. Turner's ideas sounded like they were well-grounded. And, it took some of the burn of guilt away from the thought that she'd basically be handing the South to the North on a silver platter.
"Thank you for your advice," she said quietly, her face still downcast, "I'll go talk to my mother now."
Clarissa found her mother in the kitchen house preparing food for the evening meal.
"Mother, may I speak with you for a moment?" she asked nervously.
"Of course, dear," said Mrs. Ferraro kindly, immediately getting the feeling that something was off, "What is it?"
"Well, I...I suppose you could say that curiosity snatched the cat," Clarissa laughed weakly, "A couple of Confederate soldiers caught me eavesdropping on their conversation. Now, they want me to infiltrate the Union camp and steal the battle plans so that everyone who lives on this plantation will be safe."
"I see..." her mother said thoughtfully.
Mrs. Ferraro sighed deeply, no doubt thinking on what to do. After a few minutes passed, she spoke again, "You should probably go then. But stay safe and be careful."
"Thank you, Mother," she murmured, giving her mother a big hug, "I promise I'll be careful."
When the sun's brilliant rays touched the roof of the chicken-house, Clarissa dressed herself as a boy and took the letter that Mrs. Turner had left on the dresser for her. She then sprang away into the forest, moving from shadow to shadow like a furtive cat. Soon the Confederate camp came into view.
"So you decided to come," a tall, lithe privateer said softly from where he stood, half-hidden by tall underbrush, "Follow me and be quiet as a mouse.
The sun shifted its position high above them in the sky, Clarissa guessing that about half an hour had passed.
"Alright, this is as far as I can take you..." the privateer suddenly murmured, keeping his voice low, "From here, you'll have to make your way into the camp. God speed you, girl."
Clarissa smiled slightly, watched as her guide slunk back into the shadows to wait. She took a slow deep breath and moved forward until she was close to one of the tents on the outer edge. The young woman then paused for a moment listening to the faint hum of conversation coming from some Union soldiers gathered around a small campfire. She watched them for a moment and then swept her gaze around until she spotted the general's tent, pondering her next move.
The young lady moved deeper into the camp, glad that she'd decided to disguise herself as a boy. None of the soldiers questioned her appearance, no doubt they were thinking that she'd come from one of the tents on the edge. As she neared the general's tent, the young woman glanced around to make sure that no one was looking in her direction then entered the tent.
Doing her best to be quiet, Clarissa moved forward blindly until her searching hands made contact with a makeshift desk. She placed the note from Mrs. Turner on the wooden desk then began rummaging around for anything that vaguely looked like battle plans. In her frantic search, the young lady accidentally knocked a small silver snuff-box off of the desk. She stiffened when the Union general sat up and gazed in her direction with tired eyes.
"Who are you and what are you doing in here, boy?" General William T. Sherman asked grumpily, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, "Come now, be quick with your answers."
"Uh, General...I-I'm terribly sorry to disturb you," said Clarissa, lighting a candle so that the man could see more clearly, "But my mistress told me to give this to you."
General Sherman sighed deeply as he took the letter from the girl and read it. As he read the note, his dark gray eyes widened in surprise. Clarissa, meanwhile, fidgeted with the hem of her loose shirt as she anxiously watched the general.
"Well, that's quite a bit of information," Sherman finally said as he folded the letter up, "And I'm guessing that you should probably get a move on, right?"
"Well sir, I-I need to take something back to the Confederates or I might get into trouble," she said nervously, "That's part of the reason why I'm here."
"Hmmm...I believe I have a solution to your dilemma," the man said thoughtfully, "Here, hold on a moment while I write up something for you. Then you can return to the Confederate encampment without going back empty-handed."
After he was finished, the general handed the folded parchment to the young woman and gave her a kind smile.
"Go...And if anyone tries to stop you, tell them you're my personal courier..."
Clarissa grinned at him, turned and hurried out of the tent and into the warm morning air. Once again, she met with no opposition as she returned to the edge of the forest. There she waited until she saw her guide coming towards her.
"You got the plans?" the man inquired calmly. A nod from the young woman made his lips quirk into a half-smile. "Alright then Miss, let's go..."
When they reached the Confederate camp, General Beauregard was waiting for her outside his tent. Upon seeing the Confederate General P. T. G. Beauregard standing their, Clarissa shrank a little bit behind the soldier that had been her guide.
The stocky general chuckled at her shyness and spoke warmly, "Many thanks to you, Miss. The Confederate President Jefferson Davis and all the boys are very grateful to you. You may return to your home now. And don't worry about those two soldiers that threatened you yesterday. I've had a few words with them. Run along."
The young woman smiled up at him then turned and ran out of the Confederate encampment until she was back at the Turner plantation. Clarissa dashed into the kitchen house and flung her arms around her mother.
"I'm so proud of you, darling," Mrs. Ferraro whispered, holding her daughter close, "Now, go pack your things. We're going to go north with Mrs. Turner so that we'll be safe until the war's over."