“Why is it you think women would improve politics?” Thankful asked. “I’d hate for a woman like you to speak for me—nothing personal, of course, Miss Peckham. I’m fond of men. I wouldn’t want them to change.”
“Miss Crenshaw, (you seem such a smart girl), was it God who planned slavery?”
“Well, no, I guess it was men, but . . .”
“Just like it’s men who keep women from the vote. I don’t for a minute expect women to be better voters. Most women are too stupid to realize how enslaved they are and would probably waste their votes on a handsome yet stupid candidate. But if the Negro, only up from complete and utter ignorance, should vote then why not a woman? Many slaves loved their masters—or at least the security they were given. They had a home and food and a place in the order of things—just like women. They all need to see the real way of things. I consider myself an educator. . .” Miss Peckham proclaimed.
“My father never offered my mother security, and she’s devoted just the same,” William said, never missing an opportunity to snipe at his father. There was an embarrassed silence. The trumpeter called for stable duty.
“My goodness, how do you all put up with that infernal racket?” Miss Peckham complained.
“I love it,” Thankful said with her arms folded in front of her.
“Me too,” William said with a small smile at Thankful.
She offered no such response, but said quietly, “It was low of you, William, to speak so unkindly of your father in front of a stranger and old military acquaintances.”
“Bill gets a scolding. How nice,” Miss Peckham laughed.
William fumed. “Miss Crenshaw, you have no right to judge me at all!”
“I’m your friend.”
“Really?” William asked.
“Why, yes! How can you question that?” Thankful replied on the verge of tears. “Why do you want to hurt me?”
“Hurt you?” William was taken aback.
Mrs. Markham spoke uneasily, “Of course we’re all friends—Bill, don’t be so silly—we ALL miss you at the post. Now, I’ll set up a nice meal for us, and we’ll get along—as we must—till morning.”
William looked at Thankful with soft eyes before turning his attention to Miss Peckham. He cleared his throat. “Mrs. Markham always has nice meals.”
“It will be an excellent chance at research,” Miss Peckham said.
“You’re not visiting a foreign land,” Mrs. Markham said, with an annoyed laugh. “Our food is of the most ordinary sort.”
“I’ll be the judge of that!” Miss Peckham laughed too.
The matron glanced at the telegraph line as she set off for home, with the small party traipsing behind.
Thankful and William understood how frugal an army wife—even an officer’s wife–must be if she had any ideas for her children’s education, or a trip east for a wardrobe change every few years. What the captain’s wife offered that evening was more than she could afford.
William ate reluctantly, figuring the little ones seated in the kitchen might be going with less, but didn’t turn down the wine. Thankful ate like a bird—an unusual trait for a Crenshaw. Miss Peckham pushed the ordinary and bland food on her plate with her fork, unimpressed.
“Maybe someone might offer to take me to a real live Indian meal,” she said as she moved her plate away.
William whispered, slurring his words, “What were you expecting soldiers to eat—Indian testicles?”
Miss Peckham let out a big guffaw as Thankful and Mrs. Markham cleared the table for coffee and tea. Thankful, standing with a few stacked plates, watched William cling to his glass, pour another and get closer to Miss Peckham. Mrs. Markham pulled Thankful’s sleeve.
“Some are just bent on their own ruin, poor boy.”
“He’s not poor in the least; just blind,” Thankful said, storming off with the dishes.
Miss Peckham teased and flirted with William. He couldn’t think of a way to quiet her, so he drank and enjoyed it, noting the annoyed glances of Thankful.
“Miss Peckham, you’re probably too worn out to come dancing,” Mrs. Markham said.
“My goodness, of course I’m not tired a lick—your strong army coffee is quite a restorative!”
“I would think that dancing might be against your beliefs since the men lead,” Thankful said with a triumphant grin.
The captain’s wife laughed, too.
Miss Peckham ignored Thankful. “Mr. Weldon, you’ll escort me, won’t you?”
“No, I’m afraid I’m no dancer and unwelcome anyhow,” William replied.
“Bill Weldon, that’s a great fiction you’ve invented,” Mrs. Markham said. “You’ll come as my guest.”
“Well, I’ll come to watch, maybe,” William said, pouring out the last of the wine.
“It’s a shame that dances aren’t held on horseback—then you wouldn’t be so awkward, Mr. Weldon,” Miss Peckham said.
The women did not appreciate it. William excused himself for a smoke on the porch.
“Miss Peckham, you are very insensitive!” Thankful scolded.
“Mr. Weldon is still bitter over the accident that kept him from a place at West Point,” Mrs. Markham added.
Thankful had related many of William’s trials and accomplishments to the garrison. The stories were so enmeshed with her own.
“How is it that Mr. Weldon is so well-known here?” Miss Peckham asked.
“Why Miss Crenshaw and Mr. Weldon are from the same town in New Jersey—their parents are friends, and Bill’s father served in the military years ago under General Crook,” Mrs. Markham said.
“Oh, General Crook, I’ve heard he has kind feelings toward the Indians. Anyway, I’m sure you’re all well-meaning. Bill seems to be a pet to you, but a man should never be overly pampered,” Miss Peckham stated. “My remark was said in jest—Bill is a good horseman.”
“William suffered awful torment and abuse at school, and pain, too. If you had been aware of that . . .” Thankful started.
“I’m aware that he’s crippled physically, but he’s fine company, and I’m sure has many other talents—I didn’t think he needed any coddling.”
There was a new voice on the porch. Thankful ran to the stairs. “Land sakes, Lieutenant Fahy is here, and I’m not ready!”
“Miss Peckham, you may freshen up . . .”
“I need no improvement, Mrs. Markham—besides, I don’t have any of my clothes.”
The captain’s wife sensed a small chink in the young lady’s confident demeanor. “Miss Peckham, you may look through my things, though I know they’re not as modern as you may be used to. We are about the same size.”
PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING
Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s misadventures when you buy the book today!
“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review
“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”