Saturday, February 15, 2014

Saturday Sample - February 15, 2014

Welcome back to my Saturday Sample!

In this portion of a scene from my forthcoming novel, Gone for a Soldier, Rulon struggles with a disease often found in Civil War camps: mumps.

Throughout the week, Rulon suffered a great deal of pain from his ailment. He began to write a rough journal of what was happening to him in case he didn't survive the disease, and got Ren to promise he would send the account of his illness to Mary in that event.

He wrote of fever coming and going, of nights of torment spent pacing beneath a tent upon which drummed incessant rain, of keen pains darting through his jaw and each tooth, of muscles and nerves jerking and quailing at the pain, of tremors, then more pain that the doctor could not ease.

One night he found that sitting alongside the stove with his mouth full of cold water brought a small amount of relief. Finally, the pain, fever and swelling abated, and he looked forward to being discharged the next morning.

He awoke while it was yet dark and screamed in agony. The other side of his jaw had risen in the night, and all the pain, fever, and throbbing were back. One of the men assigned to nurse the patients came running with a light, and tried to shush him.

"Quiet, man. What ails you?" He held up the light and swore. "That must pain you a mite."

Rulon tried to tear his jaw off to relieve his distress, but the nurse tied his hands down and summoned the physician.

The doctor swore in his turn. "It's four o'clock in the morning. Keep silent!"

Rulon clamped his teeth shut, shame crowding him into desperation. He thrashed on the cot. He wanted to die. He could not endure this torture further.

"Oswald, bring me the laudanum."

"Can he take that?"

"Do as I say. These dying men shouldn't deal with all this noise."

Sometime after the doctor administered part of a tumbler of bitter liquid to him, Rulon began to drift in a half-lit world of haze and buzzing. Then he went into a dark place and knew no more.

Many of us have never seen anyone afflicted with the mumps. I didn't realize how much pain it could cause until I researched it. Although my mother and baby brother had the mumps when I was a child, I never caught it. I was too young to notice if they suffered like Rulon did.

I hope you enjoyed this short bit from Gone for a Soldier, my forthcoming novel set during the American Civil War. Rulon's suffering is based on a journal account from a Southern soldier who served in that conflict.

Thank you for visiting. I love to read your comments, so if anything in the sample compels you to speak up, rest assured that I eventually read what you write and will reply, if needed. Questions? I'm open to them, too.

Please come back next Saturday for another sample. Thank you!

Marsha Ward is the award-winning author of the acclaimed novel series featuring the Owen family. Her latest book, Spinster's Folly, won the 2013 USA Best Book Award for Western Fiction. A former journalist, Ward has published over 900 articles, columns, poems and short stories. She is the founder of American Night Writers Association aka ANWA.


  1. Holy cow. Is Rulon dying? He's in a tent full of dying men. Or is he just in there cuz they didn't have any other place to billet him? Wondering why he couldn't have laudanum in the first place, too. Other readers might have the same question. Otherwise…poor Rulon.

    1. Hospital quarters served both the wounded and the ill. Rulon's tent mate wouldn't let him stay in camp when he contracted the mumps (shown in another scene). The doctor may have overstated the case, though. ;-)

      Thank you for stopping by and making a comment, Debra!

    2. Good question about the laudanum. I'll clarify in the scene.


I welcome your comments.

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