As children in the drowsy little town of Havre de Grace, Maryland, Adelaide “Lady” Tarelton and Silas Mitchell were near constant companions. Although Adelaide was a good bit younger than the dashing Silas, he saw it as his duty to watch over and protect her, especially as she was his 3rd cousin, twice removed. Or was it his 2nd cousin, thrice removed? At any rate, it also didn’t hurt that she was bright and lovely. Truth be told, his protection was hardly needed. Adelaide’s widowed father, the gruff Captain Archibald Tarelton, owned a fleet of graceful skipjacks that whispered up and down the Susquehanna, ferreting out huge caches of oysters and crabs from the muddy shoals of the Chesapeake, but his only daughter was no pampered simpering belle. She loved stealing away to the railway and watching the hands repair the mighty steam engines, so much so that she fashioned a secret workshop for herself in a disused room under the scullery. Captain Tarelton was far too busy to notice his quiet daughter’s unusual pastimes. By the time Silas found her there, she had crafted quite a number of contraptions and some of them were rather fearsome if fanciful-looking weapons. They all worked with chilling precision. Nowhere else before or since would Silas see their like, and his esteem for his unusual cousin increased even more, something he would not have thought possible. Silas couldn’t have been more thrilled, and he set up some of his laboratory equipment to further test the new inventions.
Sadly, close as they were to the Mason Dixon line, the cousins’ idyll was not to last. While Captain Tarelton was an avid abolitionist, the War of Northern Aggression, as Adelaide’s wild-eyed uncle Carlisle called it, was gearing up to explode, and explode it did at Fort Sumter and Antietam and finally Chambersburg. Adelaide begged Silas to stay out of it, and while he was eager to contribute their formidable weapons to the war effort, as a Southern abolitionist he was utterly flummoxed as to which side he might be on. The Chesapeake seemed to run red with the blood of friends and neighbors and Adelaide had had enough. Heartsick of the war and the destructive toll it had taken on everyone she loved, Adelaide took one last look at her fearsome cache of arcane weapons and she began digging, burying every one of her lethal inventions in the deep forest behind her father’s sprawling estate. That very night, two families of escaped slaves showed up at Tarelton’s home, desperate, hungry and wild-eyed with fear. Adelaide tucked them into her scullery workshop until they could be fed and sent on to their next safe destination, and Adelaide and Silas found themselves to be a part of a railroad of a very different sort. Whether or not the cousins’ weapons would have turned the tide of the war will never be known, but no one can say their subsequent actions made no difference.
This lovely portrait is all that remains of Silas and the inventions. Framed in a heavy 8” x 5 1/2” ornate vintage Italian brass frames, this original collage is hand cut and hand assembled using vintage images and art paper and accented with tiny brass watch gears. More gears adorns the frame.
This original artwork and story are copyright Ramona Szczerba 2011. Copyright to this material is in no way transferable with the sale of this item. The buyer is not entitled to any reproduction rights – neither image nor story can be reproduced without my express written permission. Thanks!