Ruth Ardmore sat proudly in her elegant Savannah parlor. The late afternoon sun, filtering through white organdy curtains, burnished her silvering blonde hair. Exquisitely dressed in lavender silk, she embodied the essence of breeding and grace, but there was no yielding in the steely set of her aristocratic features or the bolt uprightness of her slender form.
Despite Philo's eloquent entreaties, she refused to budge from her stately home.
"My children were born here, and here I stay," she declared resolutely. "William Tecumseh Sherman cannot frighten me away. The ladies of Atlanta may have fled atwitter before him, but this is Savannah. There is quite a difference, you see."
"You do not fully understand the nature of General Sherman, Mother," Philo insisted from a roomy chair opposite hers. "Your use of the word frighten implies the presence of emotion. There is no such human sensibility involved in this operation. He has set out methodically to destroy Georgia as an example to the South. His troops have orders to cut a swathe of death and destruction all the way to the sea, which refers to Savannah. His army is a doomsday machine."
Sam paced in front of the fireplace, his fingers looped behind his back. "Philo's right, Momma. This is the end of our world. My crew have collected their families. All we lack is you."
"Hear me, Mother," her son-in-law interposed. "There is neither glory nor honor in placing yourself in harm's way for...for the sake of a house!"
Ruth Ardmore bristled, glaring at Philo. "How dare you speak of my home that way!" she berated him. "It is more than a house. It represents a culture, a tradition. It represents, sir, my life!"
"Damnation, Momma," Sam sputtered, "this house is not your life. I am your life, and Nelle, and Philo, and Ardie...we are your life." He stormed across the room to a waist-high oaken stand supporting the venerable family Bible. He laid his hand upon the cover. "It's in here, Momma, in the Book of Ruth, your own namesake. How many times did you read her story to Nelle and me when we were children? Fifty times? A hundred? You told us often that what Ruth said to Naomi constituted the truest form of love. Do you remember? I want to hear you say it, Momma, now!"
Stunned by the authority in his command, she remained upright for a moment, then fell back, her determination visibly drained away. The change left her looking frail.
"'And Ruth said,'" she began in a quavering voice that strengthened as she spoke, "Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go. And where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me."
Ruth Ardmore took a deep breath and stood up from her chair. "I will go to Nassau," she stated in precise tones, then glanced wistfully around the room.