Touching the Sky
house?”
    “Well, that leaves something to be desired. The folks didn’t get around to really proving up due to the war. I’m telling you, though, the property is prime. You’d be a fool to let it get away. Homesteading is the way to go, and you could no doubt prove it up soon enough and build a nice house for you and your gal.”
    Brandon looked at the map a moment longer. “I’ll think on it. I’m still not convinced about remaining in Texas. My folks are expecting me to return to Indiana.”
    “They won’t be the first parents to suffer disappointment,” Justin countered. “Besides, you just might interest them in moving to Texas. We could use another good preacher. General Russell says nobody can preach hellfire and damnation like your pa.”
    Laughing, Brandon got to his feet. “He’s got that right. I’ll pray on it, Justin. Rest assured that I’m open to whatever direction God wants to take me. I just need to know for sure that it’s God’s leading and not my own.”
    Brandon left his friend’s office and headed toward the boardinghouse where he’d taken up residence. He wasn’t but a few yards down the street, however, when he came face-to-face with two of his former men.
    “Cap’n,” the first man said, coming to attention.
    “Not any longer,” Brandon countered. “How are you, Simon . . . Claypas?”
    The two men smiled. “We be fine, Cap’n,” Claypas answered. “We was wishin’ you were still with us.”
    “Sometimes I wish that, as well.” A thought came to him as he remembered Laura’s desire to teach reading to the blacks. “I have a question for you two, if you don’t mind.”
    “No, suh,” Claypas said.
    “I have a friend who is interested in starting a school for former slaves. She wants to teach reading and writing. Would former slaves be willing to be taught by a white woman?”
    The two men exchanged a glance before Claypas replied. “Womenfolk and children might. I reckon it would figure on the cost. Colored folks ain’t gonna have extra money to learn to read and write.”
    “Matters, too, on how far away they’d have to go to get to this schoolin’,” Simon threw in. “But I’m thinkin’ folks would go to jest about any lengths to educate themselves.”
    Brandon nodded. “Education is going to be essential in helping former slaves get ahead. Without the ability to read and write, they will be forced to take on the menial jobs they had while in bondage. I hope you’ll remember that.”
    “You ain’t sayin’ nothing we don’t know, Cap’n,” Claypas said. “Problem is, most white folks don’t feel the same way.”
    “Shore don’t,” Simon agreed.
    Brandon knew what they said was true. “Perhaps my friend can help things change.” He knew they needed to get on with their patrol. “I’d best let you get back to your duties. It’s good to see you again, men.”
    “Good seein’ you, too, Cap’n.” Simon replied and Claypas nodded in agreement.
    Brandon watched the two men move off down the street. They were good men. He’d known them to be quick learners. Even so, what would the future hold for them? Where would they be accepted and given a fair chance? Like Claypas said, most white people wanted no part in associating with the blacks for anything other than free labor.
    Heaving a sigh, Brandon moved out. In so many ways , he thought, this war will go on for a great many years to come.

    Once their mother departed the breakfast table, Laura and Carissa were left alone. Laura figured it was a perfect opportunity to speak to Carissa about Malcolm. The memory of his appearing to sneak around and slip down the alleyway still haunted her.
    Laura reached for a piece of melon. “Is Malcolm enjoying his work at the flour mill?”
    Carissa looked up in surprise. “Goodness, how would I know?”
    “Don’t you ever discuss his work?”
    “Never. I have no reason to. In fact, nothing is further from my mind.” Carissa spread butter on a

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