OH, MY DARLING ABIGAIL

 

(A female version of Walter Mitty)

 

By Jo Anzalone 9-6-1962

 

 

A tortured gasp burst involuntarily from David's lips as the arrow plowed into his

shoulder.  He caught his lower lip between his teeth and resumed firing.  The Indians

were getting closer.  He glanced quickly at the woman beside him.  Her dress was torn

and streaked with gunpowder.  She stood behind the flimsy wooden barricade and

silently reloaded his rifle.  Slowly her eyes met his.  His heart swelled a the sight of

the quiet courage he found shining in them.  An arrow hissed by, missing her by scant

inches.  Seeming not to notice the feathered death which filled the desert sky, she

gradually extended her clenched right hand.  Her slim fingers uncurled one by one. 

The sun glinted on the bullets in her palm.  There were three of them.  David's tanned

fingers gathered up the last of their ammunition.  Three bullets.  The Indians were

gathering for a final attack.  David loaded his revolver.  He fired twice, picking his

targets with careful precision.  Then with a dark agony in his eyes, he turned toward

her.  In a second the Indians would overrun their barricade.  They must not take her

alive.  He raised the revolver.  "Abby...," he began with trembling voice.  She nodded

almost imperceptibly.  A world of love poured out to him from her eyes.  Silently her

lips formed the words, "I love you." An Indian's howling shriek rent the hot air.

 

"Miss Crump!" wailed nine-year-old Cathy.  "Tommy pulled my pigtail!"

 

Abigail Crump looked blankly at her howling pupil.  As she slowly blinked her eyes

several times, the thundering hoofbeats of the Indian ponies faded in the distance. 

"Tommy!" she exclaimed, trying to make her thin voice sound stern.  "How many

times must I tell you to leave Cathy's braids alone?"

 

"I won't do it again, Miss Crump," said Tommy with his chubby fingers tightly crossed

behind his back.

 

"Ummm," said Abigail Crump absently as she adjusted her glasses.  Then, glancing at

the clock, she announced that it was time to read the reports she had assigned yesterday. 

"Let's see," Abigail said as she scanned a list.  "I believe, Peggy, that you were to look

up some information on Shakespeare. You may give your report first."

 

Peggy, a small, thin red-head, stood up and began to read in a shrill voice.  "William Shakespeare was born in 1564.  He was English. He wrote many plays and stories and

poems such as 'Hamalot', 'Joolyus Sayser', and 'Romyoo and Joo...."

 

..."Darling."  The whispered word floated up in the night air.  Abigail, a vision in white

lace, appeared on the tiny balcony.

 

"Where are you, my beloved?" she called softly.

 

She heard a rustle below and suddenly a tall form wrapped in a flowing cape leaped

over the carved rail.  Silently they embraced, then stood there a long moment holding

each other closely.  Slowly Abigail lifted her lovely face toward his.  In the moonlight

she looked so soft and beautiful that the young man's heart nearly burst in a flood of overwhelming tenderness.  He ran one finger down the curve of her cheek.

 

 

"I love you, Abigail," he said in a deep-soft voice that made her thrill all over.

 

"And I love you," she replied in a tone that was a veritable caress to his ears.

 

The night air about them was suddenly filled with giggles.  Abigail Crump, startled,

looked up.  A sea of grinning faces bobbed before her eyes.  Quickly she cleared her

throat and, wondering with embarrassment if she'd spoken those last four words aloud,

asked Peggy if she would finish her report.

 

"But I was all done five minutes ago," exclaimed Peggy righteously.

 

The giggles that arose at that confirmed Miss Crump's fears that she had, indeed, spoken

those last four fateful words aloud.  "I believe," she mumbled, "it is recess time."  She

stood up.  "Class dismissed until 1:30." 

 

A brief stampede, then silence.  Abigail Crump strolled over and looked out the third-

story window.  Ivy crept up the brick wall of the schoolhouse to her ledge.

 

..."Quickly, Sir Roger, the guards may appear at any moment!"

Lady Abigail leaned out the small window in the high stone tower.  Sir Roger clung

to the treacherous vines, making slow progress upward to her window.  Fear for him

consumed her.  She could watch no longer.  Fretfully she paced the cold stone floor in

her satin slippers.  Lady Abigail peered through the small barred opening in the heavy

door of her chamber.  Yes, the guard was still there. Soon the escort would appear, the

escort that was to lead her to the great hall where she would be forced to marry the

fat, old Baron Limpsey.  Abigail shuddered at the mere thought of him and rushed back

to the window.  Sir Roger, her handsome and dashing Sir Roger, was only eight feet

below her ledge.  He struggled up one foot, then two, then three.  Abigail leaned down

toward him and extended a slim arm.  Suddenly a troop of guards appeared at the base

of the tower and began firing their crossbows at Sir Roger. He was too exposed!  A leaden

bolt caught him between the shoulder blades.  He began slipping.  Abigail stretched

frantically toward him. Sir Roger's right hand crept slowly up the vines to her. Straining,

teeth clenched, sweat pouring down his forehead, he raised that arm inch by inch. 

Abigail's fingers clawed at the air, trying to reach it.  At last their fingertips brushed. 

Unheeded tears streamed down Abigail's face.  Desperately she encircled his fingers

with her own.  Even as she grasped them, she felt them sliding away.

 

"ROGER!" The scream tore from her tortured throat.  Their fingers parted.  Roger's

eyes closed.

The recess bell rang and Abigail Crump watched a large oak leaf flutter down to the

ground.  An hour later she dismissed the class for the day.  Putting on her little black

hat and sticking the long hatpin securely through it, she gathered up a pile of papers

to be graded, and with a sigh locked the door behind her.  Abigail walked the six blocks

to the hospital clinic where she helped out two afternoons a week.  In the small cloakroom

of the clinic, she pulled out her hatpin and hung her black hat upon a hook.  Abigail

Crump opened the cloakroom door and stood looking down the corridor to the main

ward.  Through the ward's wide entrance she could see the long rows of hospital beds.

 

..."Hurry, Abigail!!" exclaimed a harried-looking nurse.  "Dr. Adams needs you

desperately to assist him in the amputation of that soldier's leg."

 

"I'll be right there," Abigail replied calmly.

 

Abigail stepped forth into the overcrowded ward.  There had been a battle not far

outside Atlanta at Kennesaw Mountain.  It had been a victory for the Confederacy, 

but that didn't keep the hospital wards from overflowing with wounded Rebel soldiers. 

Minus her hoop, Abigail's long skirts swept the floor as she passed, but she didn't heed

the blood that soon stained her hem. She laid a cool hand on a hot forehead, gave water

to a dying soldier, spoke gentle words of comfort as she passed down the long rows of

cots.  Murmured "Bless you's" and fervent "Thanks" followed in her wake.  Dr. Adams

 strode up to her and clasped her hands.

 

"Thank God you're here, Abigail! You don't know how very much I need you!"

 

Soon Abigail was standing by a blood-stained cot on which lay a young Confederate in

the very tattered remnants of a gray uniform.  Agonized moans escaped from his pale

lips.  Abigail brushed the blond hair back from his fine brow and lay a cool cloth upon

it.  The delirious young man grasped her hand and wouldn't free it.  He clung desperately

to it.  The tired doctor began work with his saw.  Abigail kept up a constant soothing

murmur to the soldier.  The saw bit bone.  He screamed and crushed Abigail's hand in

a terrible grip.

 

"Ouch!" exclaimed Abigail Crump as she freed her fingers from the hinge of the

cloakroom door where she'd absent-mindedly stuck them.

 

Two hours of hard labor later, Abigail collapsed wearily into a large leather chair in

the waiting room.  She rested her tired head against the padded back and emitted an

exhausted sigh.

 

...Someone tapped lightly on her shoulder.  Abigail Crump, the competent counterspy,

was instantly alert.

 

"There are many leaves on the trees this day," said the strange man in a practically

inaudible voice.

 

"And the autumn colors shine brightly," Abigail replied.

 

"What colors do you find the leaves?" asked the man.

 

"Red, white, and blue," answered Abigail.

 

The man sighed in relief.  "I've been looking all over Paris for you, Operator 927."

 

"It took some time to elude Baron Richter's men," Abigail said calmly. "I'm here now,"

she continued.  "What is the assignment?"

 

"General Von Bruner's personal aide is carrying a packet of important papers. We

MUST have them! He leaves by train at 11:45 tonight for Berlin. Get that packet!" 

The man disappeared into another room as two other men appeared.  Abigail tightened

the belt of her trench coat and with a confident smile strode toward the exit.

 

"Ohhhhh, Miss CRUUUUUMP!" sang out an elderly woman.  "Will you wash these

bottles for me while I check on the helper who's sorting laundry?"

 

Abigail got wearily up from the soft chair and followed at the woman's heels down the

long hall.  She left Abigail by the door of the wash room.  As Abigail opened it, the bright

lights in the room blazed forth, momentarily blinding her.

 

...Abigail Crump, the world-renowned opera singer, bowed deeply in the brilliant gleam

of the spotlights.  The audience sent their wild applause thundering to the ceiling.  And

the famous Abigail, sunk in her deep curtsy, smiled to herself...a small little smile of

utter contentment.

 

 

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