5 Great Books About Military Wives in 19th Century America

Since you all know I love history and historical fiction, I thought I’d share some lists of my favorite books by topic that I used when writing THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES. I hope research geeks will use these posts as a good place to start on the subjects I will feature and that readers of my fiction who have had their appetites whetted for the time period will enjoy the lists as well.Yes, I will put my own books on the lists — 😉

Happy reading and make sure to add your favorites on the subject in the comments below!

BOOTS AND SADDLES

THE COLONEL’S LADY ON THE WESTERN FRONTIER

VANISHED ARIZONA

LIFE AND MANNERS IN THE FRONTIER ARMY

THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD

 

Fiction: Revelations

The Crenshaws followed the men to the camp hospital and waited as Buck sullenly had his face bandaged yet again. Maybe God was punishing him. He’d handled his family all wrong. In a matter of a few hours he had managed to insult his sister, annoy his mother, hurt his father, and fight his brother. What had he really learned?

Thankful, a pile of children, and Mrs. Markham pushed into the crowded room. Thankful’s belly bulged, and in her hurry she had forgotten the handsome blue shawl Mrs. Markham made for her to hide what was nobody’s business.

The family understood her condition right away and huddled in the corner aghast. Thankful pretended not to see them, her face flushing with humiliation. “Poor Buck, you must be in terrible pain.”

Mrs. Markham and her children cried over the patient. “It was the meanest thing the children have ever seen,” Mrs. Markham said, “to have someone hit you when you’re already so sore. Very cruel, indeed!” The captain’s wife glared at Fred.

Margaret took offense. “Whoever you are, you’re in no position to judge my son!”

“I’m the captain’s wife, Mrs. Crenshaw, and I’m in a position to spot an injustice when I see it and to defend dear friends—Buck being one of them. He’s been such a comfort to my husband and me since the death of our daughter—every night reading to us—tracts he thinks might be soothing. The Spirit is working through him—truly.”

“Buck?” Graham asked in astonishment.

“I’ve heard about you western Bible folk,” Margaret said. “You’re crazy and you’ve gotten my son under a spell.”

Kenyon arrived with an Apache scout Buck had befriended over the gospel.

“For heaven’s sake, Buck, what’s happened now?” Kenyon asked, pushing his way past the Crenshaw family.

“I’ve failed, Seth,” Buck said, throwing his hands up in despair. “I’m no use to God or anyone and didn’t turn the other cheek.”

Kenyon saw the bandage. “Well, you should have,” he joked.

“I’ve prayed a lot,” Buck continued, “but still I’m so weak. I hoped to start things new with them, but it’s much harder than I imagined.”

“We talked about this, my friend,” Kenyon said matching his tone to the gravity expressed by Buck. “Sometimes God brings us into the valley to prepare us, to teach us. You’ve been enjoying the summit for a while now—that’s the easy part. But God is working in you. You are already forgiven, remember?”

“What the hell is this?” Fred cried. “God is working in Buck? Is that code or something? What is he, some new savior? This whole thing is scary.” He turned to his parents. “I hope you both see how frightening this is!”

“Fred, be quiet,” Graham said curious and jealous of the intimacy between Buck and this man.

“Buck,” Kenyon said, “remember what the Lord said to Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for strength is made perfect in weakness.’

Buck nodded and continued. Therefore most gladly I would rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak then I am strong.”

“Father, he’s been hypnotized!” Fred declared. He pushed Kenyon aside and grabbed Buck’s shoulders. “Get a hold of yourself, boy. Take pleasure in weakness? Are you mad? Are you satisfied being pathetic—the world will tear you apart!”

“It already has,” Buck replied.

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Fiction: Battle-tested

“No,” Graham said. “Buck can and should stand on his own. He’s struggling lately. It’s why he needs the crutch of religion, but it’ll pass when he’s stronger.”

“Father! How dare you pretend to know me when all you’ve ever done is overlook me! Don’t make excuses for me. Don’t belittle my faith. God doesn’t disappoint like everyone else does—especially you!”

“Where was God when you got shot?” Fred asked. “Does God get you nice things like Father does?”

“I don’t need nice things.”

“Oh—then why don’t you hand over that watch Father gave you?” Fred coveted it.

“I sold it!” Buck said, his eyes flashing at Fred. “I sold it to buy food for the poor Indians.”

“That’s what the government is for!” Margaret cried.

“You thought so little of me, son, that you sold my brother’s memory?” Graham asked, his voice shaking.

So the inscription, the hope filled inscription engraved into that watch had been meant for his father’s brother—not Buck. “I didn’t think the watch was all that special. I thought I’d help people in need—something you never did for me!”

“I thought you wanted to be friends with Father?” Fred laughed. “I guess this Christianity thing is only skin deep. Too bad—I was getting inspired.”

Buck grabbed for Fred, but Fred punched him first, landing a shot in the face—on the sore side. The pain sent Buck reeling. He dropped to the ground. The family stood still. A few soldiers, passing by, joined them. “What’s happened to Buck?” one of them asked.

In a second they had him on his feet, blood sneaking between the fingers Buck held to his face.

“Let me see,” Graham said.

“No. Get away from me. I can’t stand any of you. You ruin everything that’s good.”

Margaret said to the soldiers, “He is suffering under some type of nervous complaint.”

“Hmm. Well, Buck was all himself yesterday,” one of the soldiers said. “A real good example to the other young men. He’s started a Bible study and all. What would lead him to fisticuffs, I don’t know.”

The other, noting Fred’s strong resemblance to Thankful, said, “Family is what led him.” He stared at Fred. “When someone goes and clobbers a feller of our own, it doesn’t sit well with us. Buck may be a bit queer, but we’ve grown to like ‘im. You had better keep that in mind, sir.”

Fred stood, furious but silent.

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Fiction: Honest Appraisals

A soldier poked his head in to the coach to greet the Crenshaw family when they came to a stop. He scanned the group of strangers. Opening the door, the soldier held out his hand to Buck’s sister Meg. “Allow me to help you, miss.”

Despite her best efforts to appear unmoved, she giggled, blushed, and took the soldier’s hand. “Thank you, sir,” she said, hopping down as lightly as she could but still managing to bump up against the soldier.

The soldier laughed and Meg went red.

“Will you be staying long enough to attend one of our dances, miss?” the soldier asked. “A pretty girl like yourself would be happily employed all evening. Do you like to dance?”

Meg pursed her lips but replied, “I love to dance.”

“Bully. You might reserve a dance for me. I’m Lieutenant Wilder. Royal Wilder.” He called to Buck. “You never told me you had two lovely sisters, Crenshaw!”

The rest of the family descended into the withering heat of mid-afternoon, shielding their eyes.

“Lieutenant Wilder,” Buck said, “this is my father, Doctor Graham Crenshaw, and my mother, Margaret Crenshaw, and this is Fred. You’ve met Meg.”

“Just Meg?” Lieutenant Wilder asked. He was a heavy man with clear blue eyes and dark hair.

“You may call me that if you like,” Meg replied with wide doe-eyes as she fanned herself.

Margaret took her by the arm. “My daughter is rather forward, sir. You may call her Miss Crenshaw. She’s not a sodbuster’s daughter.”

The man kept smiling. “Whatever you say ma’am. I suppose your daughter gets her looks from you.”

“You soldiers don’t charm me in the least, sir,” Margaret said. “Meg’s not meant for frontier living.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Wilder said but turned and winked at Meg.

“Sir, I’m to take my family to Captain Markham’s,” Buck said.

“Yes. Certainly. And it’s been a pleasure meeting you all,” the lieutenant said, touching his cap.

Meg waved. Margaret caught it and slapped her hand. “Young lady, you are not to make eyes with every bold soldier you see. Besides, you should realize that Mr. Wilder was obviously not serious. I saw the way he laughed at your clumsiness—that’s why he mentioned dancing—as a joke on you, dear. I tell you all the time that there’s a great deal of difference between plump and downright fat, and you have long since crossed that line—just like your father. Do you think I’d ever be brave enough to dance with him?”

“I’d never ask you,” Graham grumbled.

The soft flesh beneath Meg’s chin trembled.

“Sis, the lieutenant’s fat too,” Buck said. “Wilder’s in no position to judge.”

“Oh, Buck, you’re a caution!” Fred laughed. “Is this the new man? All full of helpful honesty.”

“Meg, I didn’t mean it the way it sounded,” Buck said.

“Buck, shut up your glab! Don’t try and do me any favors,” Meg said. “I may be fat, but you’re ugly.”

Buck kept quiet, but thought to himself, “I will forgive her because I must.”

“Were these buildings erected by soldiers?” Margaret asked. “They certainly are shabby. Thankful would have one believe she lived in a paradise. God deliver us from this sand!”

“Mama, that’s a ridiculous prayer!” Buck said.

“Well, maybe you can teach us how to do it properly, if you’re so smart,” Fred said. “What did those soldiers call you? Apostle? Give us a break if you would. I see nothing but the same old Buck insulting his mother and sister. It’s no wonder you have no luck with the ladies.”

Buck lunged forward, but then said, “No. I won’t do this. I won’t fight you.” For a moment Buck had shown restraint. He thanked God.

“Good thinking. You’ve never beaten me yet at anything. You need me, so stop being a fool.”

“I don’t need anyone—but God,” Buck said not sure if he meant it.

Fred, Margaret and Meg laughed uproariously. Graham looked disturbed. “You seem tired, son,” he said, but Buck knew he meant “unhinged” by the tone of his voice.

“Look what happens when you’re left alone,” Fred said. “You take up with niggers, get beaten and shot. Now you go over into a religious rapture …”

“I’m afraid that Fred is right, dear,” Margaret added. “You need guidance—someone to stabilize your mind. You’re a danger to yourself, and that’s a fact.”

“No,” Graham said. “Buck can and should stand on his own. He’s struggling lately. It’s why he needs the crutch of religion, but it’ll pass when he’s stronger.”

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Featured Image: Portrait of an Italian Lady by Mary Cassatt (Gilcrease Museum)

Fiction: The Wedding Party

On the train west, Margaret Crenshaw insulted the coachmen and train conductors while fretting over the linens and china purchased and packed with great care for Thankful’s wedding.

Fred in his booming arrogance educated his family about Indian tribes and the sinister Chinese—betraying his ignorance of both. Meg stared out the window, chin in hand, glum over a missed trip to Europe with friends. Graham fighting a mix of dread and sadness, begged Margaret and Fred to be quiet.

Thankful had always pleased Graham. Even after she stole his money, Graham assumed she’d come home married to William—not the best match, but one he could accept. Now Thankful was lost to a poor Irish soldier. At one time Graham suggested he might keep Thankful to himself as a nurse or even a doctor in his practice, but Margaret blocked the idea of careers for her girls. Often now the old doctor took to daydreams and fabulous fantasies only to wake up more depressed than ever. And sometimes still, he wished he might love his wife and resolved to try harder.

The waving grasses of the plains and now the bright desert sky held no appeal. Graham loved the soft forests, the friendly mountains—just the right size for average people to climb—and the temperate weather of New Jersey and his little part in it. He dreaded seeing Buck, whom he hadn’t spoken with since Christmas. There had been no news of his son since the telegram he sent to his mother from Willcox upon his arrival over a month ago.

“Well, there’s no point in worrying, I suppose,” he said out loud to no one in particular.

“It’s too late now to fuss, Graham. We’re here to marry our daughter to a Catholic,” Margaret complained, fanning herself. “I knew it was trouble to raise her so unprejudiced. You’ve done Thankful a great disservice. My Meg would never do something so scandalous.”

Graham turned back to staring out the window. Plain Meg would be lucky to marry anyone. Fred smirked until Margaret slapped him.

“Well, damn, Father,” Fred said. “We must be nearly there by now. These trains are never run on time—lazy foreigners and trash.”

“Dear, what’s the hurry?” Margaret asked. “All we have to look forward to is a dusty old camp with bugs and heat.”

“How about seeing your children?” Graham pointed out, wiping his brow.

“Don’t lecture me about valuing the children, Graham. How much time did you ever spend with them?”

“When did you ever let me? You conspired to have them hate me!”

Meg stood and pushed past Fred. “If I hear one more word from either of you I’ll scream!”

“Next station Willcox, Arizona!” the conductor called.

The Crenshaws stretched their necks to get a first glimpse of the town.

“It’s godawful!” Fred remarked, but his eyes were eager.

Margaret and Meg peered with their mouths ajar, taking in the rough and forlorn buildings and the array of unusual people as the train pulled into the station. In their elegant eastern attire, Margaret and Meg stood paralyzed with revulsion.

“Girls, let’s go,” Graham ordered, nudging his wife.

Fred trotted down the aisle. Graham’s heart raced and sweat poured from him as he stepped on to the platform, craning his neck in search of Buck and Thankful. He saw two soldiers on leave leaning against a dilapidated adobe storehouse near the tracks. “Fellows, we’re looking for my son,” Graham began. “You may know him.”

The disinterested soldiers sneered, but Graham stood, mopping sweat from his brow and waiting. One with a cigar hanging from the corner of his mouth relented. “Has this son of yours got a name?”

“Yes, of course. Buck Crenshaw—he’s a cadet.”

“Oh, you mean The Apostle?”

“Pardon?” Graham laughed at the notion.

The one nodded. “Yep, your son is just over there yonder.” He pointed behind the station.

Graham for a moment didn’t recognize him. Buck’s hair hung longer as he talked in an uncharacteristically relaxed manner to a ragged stranger instead of greeting his family at the train. Graham waited in curiosity. Fred paid someone to load up their things on a coach before joining his family as they appraised the situation. Taking the lead, Fred strode forward with the rest of the family at his heels.

Buck quoted, “‘The Lord is just in all His ways and holy in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He fulfills the desire of all who fear Him, He hears their cry and saves them. The Lord keeps all who love Him, but all the wicked he will destroy.’”

“What on earth?” Graham whispered.

“It’s a psalm, Father—145.” Fred smiled. “What’s Buck up to now?”

“I know it’s a psalm,” Graham said, and Buck whirled around at the sound of his father.

“Father!” he cried, his voice still weak. The sick man moved away into a shadowy alley. Buck embraced his stiff father. “Father, I want to ask you for forgiveness. I’ve been a terrible son. I’ve had a lot of time to think and …” He wept. “I’ve been a fool. I want to do things right this time. I love you.”

What sort of game was Buck playing? Graham hesitated, searching his son’s eyes for guile or something other than what seemed earnestness. “Buck …”

“I don’t deserve your forgiveness,” Buck began.

“No, son, it’s me.” Graham burst into unexpected tears. “I’ve treated you badly all these years and never should have been away so much.”

Fred, Margaret, and Meg looked on in horror.

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Fiction: Choices

“Do you really believe that you had any control over your parents?”

“Yes, they depended on me! I went wild when they needed me to be calm. I poisoned a teacher and Mother lost a replacement for Eliza, and then my father took me and I tried to please him but still he did the morphine.”

“You were a child.”

“Yes, but now, now it’s so much worse because I know it’s true,” William said, his fingers trembling a little as he flicked the ashes from his cigarette.

“The dream?”

“No! I know my father loved the morphine more than me.”

“Don’t be silly …”

“Mr. Kenyon, I’m not silly or a kid. I love to drink. I do love it more than my family. I love it more than anything, and now that I know how it feels—I feel more … sad or angry or something … about my father—and mother. She’ll always come second.”

“But … your father chose you and your mother, didn’t he?”

William put out his cigarette against the adobe wall. “I never trusted it would last. And it hasn’t.”

“So you waited all of these years to see what your father would do?”

“Yes, we all did. If my papa went anywhere on his own, we worried. Would he fall or stop at the druggist’s or leave for good.”

“Well, that’s a very sad story. It must have been hard for your father knowing you had no faith in him.”

“Yes, poor Papa. We all felt so sorry when he was the bastard to let us down.”

“You’ve let me down once or twice. How should I feel?” Kenyon asked.

“You can fire me—no hard feelings,” William offered.

“Yes, I suppose I could give up on you because you’re problematic, but I won’t. I’ll leave that decision up to you.”

“I thought I only had this one chance.”

Kenyon laughed. “Did I say that? I told you what my expectations were, but to be honest, I never imagined you’d be perfect. I recall promising not to desert you.”

“What do the others say?”

“They think I’m crazy, but I want your drawings,” Kenyon replied. “So what will you decide, Mr. Weldon?”

“I’d better not stay. After what happened the other night, I can’t make any promises. I don’t want to, and right now I’d love a drink,” William said.

“Very well. It’s your life—what’s left of it,” Kenyon said. He stood and patted William on the shoulder with a weak, disappointed smile and left.

William sighed in momentary relief. No more demands. No more cigarettes. Damn. He’d put himself at loose ends again with little money. Even the art supplies were not his own. Papa had been so proud of the cheap little set of paints he’d given him. Kenyon and his men would have laughed at such junk. But … his father had tried his best.

No! He would not pity his father. Yet William’s heart ached listening to Thankful talk to Buck out under the porch. He missed his mother—the way she laughed at ruined meals and the way she took off his boots and rubbed his sore leg as if it were some kind of honor. He shouldn’t have spoken ill of her to Kenyon.

William sighed staring up at the ceiling as a spider mended its web. He had to get out of here!

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FEATURED IMAGE: Edvard Munch Self Portrait

Fiction: Stealing Salvation

Buck cupped Thankful’s wet cheeks in his hands. “Poor you, you’re as messed up as the rest of us Crenshaws, but I love you for it. Don’t cry, it’s all right. I’m so glad now that I’m here for you.”

“Oh, Buck, it means so much to me that you don’t hate me. I’ve been such a fool and I’ve had no one to talk to! Pierce steals little things, silly things, and at first I was angry, but he pointed out what I had done to Father …”

“No, Father was glad you took the money. How else would you get by? And he hoped William might watch after you—that was a mistake.”

“Oh, I miss Father. I know he wasn’t so nice to you, but I love him,” Thankful cried. “And even Mama too!”

“I never gave Father a reason to like me,” Buck said.

“Buck, I used to think I was better than a whore, but I guess I’m not,” Thankful said, folding her handkerchief in her lap.

“I used to think I was better than a murderer until I almost became one,” Buck said.

Thankful and Buck burst out into hysterical laughter. William cursed them both. “Will the two of you shut up?!”

Ignoring him, Buck got serious.

“But if none of this bad stuff happened I wouldn’t have found God, so I’m glad for it. It makes no sense and it sounds crazy, but I’m very happy.”

Thankful smiled. “You are crazy, but it’s wonderful—you’re different now—I can see it already.”

“Oh, that’s just my gashes and pus filled sores,” Buck joked.

Thankful kissed his good cheek.

Mr. Kenyon walked in and took off his hat. “Miss Crenshaw, I heard that you had a rough time with the lieutenant. I’m sorry.”

Thankful took a deep breath and stood. “Mr. Kenyon, it seems that you’ve stolen my brother and sent another in his place. It’s an answer to prayers. Buck was always so unhappy and there he is foolishly beaming now! Thank you.”

“No, I won’t take the credit. The truth is, I was ministering to William, but your brother was a pest—thank God—or I wouldn’t have noticed. He kept whispering questions, like a fly buzzing in my ear. Meanwhile my pride was set on getting to William. But God has his own plans—that’s still a lesson I’m learning. So despite me, Buck found what he needed to find.”

William fumed in his bed with arms tightly folded as the three discussed alienating and annoying religious things. He wondered at how unchristian they were being by leaving him out.

“Thankful, maybe I’ll take air while the doctor’s not around to stop me. We can sit under the porch for a while.” Buck stood, putting his arm over Thankful’s shoulders. “Who knows how much trouble I’m in. I’ll enjoy my freedom while I can.”

Thankful led him out, marveling at Buck’s light mood.

Kenyon took a seat beside William and poured him another glass of water, which William refused. Kenyon waited.

“That Buck is such a fake. I can’t believe you stand for it,” William said.

“I don’t get that impression. Seems like Buck was saving all his words for now though.” Kenyon laughed. “I don’t think people have much listened to him over the years, but he’s quite an intelligent young man.”

“Yes, I know. I’ve heard all my life how smart they are—the Crenshaws. Now Buck’s charmed you and you’ll play the fool, I bet!”

“Well, I’ve played the fool many times. I’m not afraid of that. I’m happy for him. Buck’s told me an awful lot about himself—and you too.”

“Great.”

“People can’t be trusted, can they, William?”

“No.”

“So your father disappointed you, then?”

“No! It’s more than that, but it’s none of your damned business. I knew you were a liar,” William mumbled, searching for another cigarette.

“Liar?”

“You admitted to Buck and me just now that you were only trying to get me as some sort of trophy—one more caught in your net, right? Well, I told you from the start I didn’t want to be caught.”

“And I didn’t believe you,” Kenyon admitted. “But it’s not as if you don’t understand what missionaries do, William. You were the dishonest one from the start—trying to have it both ways. Drinking on the sly—but even in that, you’re no good at deception and I suppose I liked that about you. But don’t think for a second you were any more special or had any more potential than anyone else. You weren’t my very special case. I do my best for God—not you—although I hope I can be of service to you. In the end it was Buck who wanted and needed God. Maybe your time hasn’t come yet, or maybe you’ll never want it.”

“Then I’ll be eternally damned, right?”

Kenyon said nothing.

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Fiction: Purity

Buck sat tucked back in bed, trying to read his small Bible while swatting gnats. William, with the occasional sideways glance at his roommate, smoked cigarette after crummy cigarette, wondering how things had gone so wrong. How had Thankful ever loved him? And how had he not seen it?

Soon the doctor strode in, leading a sobbing Thankful to her brother. Thankful sat at the edge of his bed, wringing her hanky. “Oh, Buck! I’ve already failed the lieutenant! I’ve upset him—I’m so afraid!”

Buck took a quick glance into his Bible, hoping to catch a bit of inspiration, before turning to the doctor.

“Miss Crenshaw collapsed,” the doctor explained. “It’s all so shocking for her—don’t be so hard on yourself, dear. You’ll get used to everything.”

“I don’t want to! I’m not able for it!” Thankful admitted and sobbed some more. “How will I care for Mr. Fahy and a baby? I couldn’t even look at the catheter!”

“Sis, you can do anything. We can do anything …” Buck quickly flipped through his Bible and found what he was looking for. “Here, this is what I read yesterday … um, wait—oh, yes, here it is.” He glanced up at Thankful, sheepishly. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

“Yes, yes, very good, Buck. You were always good at memorizing …” Thankful wiped her eyes.

“Sis, I promise—I’ll be by your side come what may,” Buck said.

“When the lieutenant needed my assurance, I gave him my weakness,” Thankful said. “He thinks I find him repulsive. He told me to leave and was so hurt. I’m a terrible failure. Why did I ever come here? Everything has gone wrong!”

“You came here because you wanted to be away from Mama and Father, but a girl shouldn’t be on her own. Fahy led you astray—you see that don’t you? I know you think you love him.”

“How dare you! I do love him and why shouldn’t I?”

“First off, he’s a thief.”

William turned on his side, straining to hear Buck over Thankful’s sobs. If Buck had one weakness that William understood, it was his reticence, his timidity of voice, but now Buck’s raspy voice was full of emotion and power. William remembered listening to Buck and Fred mechanically recite scripture in church. He’d always been envious and impressed, but Buck’s words now were his own set free.

“Mr. Fahy is struggling to live,” Thankful said. “He’ll never walk, and you bring up petty crimes.”

“Stealing from destitute people and sullying the army’s reputation is hardly petty, and I hope you took no part in it,” Buck said.

“Destitute people?”

“The Apaches. William accused the lieutenant of fixing the scales for the Indian annuities, and he didn’t deny it. He’s charging them for condemned military clothing against orders—Seth says.”

“Seth? For heaven’s sake, who’s Seth?” Thankful asked.

“Mr. Kenyon, to the rest of us,” answered William.

“Pierce said William was under Mr. Kenyon’s spell, but you, Buck? What’s happened to you? Maybe it’s your injuries …”

William laughed with a roll of the eyes. “Nope, Thankful, he’s been saved by Kenyon.”

“Sakes alive, what’s going on?” Thankful asked.

“It’s only that I’ve put my life in God’s hands,” Buck said with an unnerving giddiness. “I don’t understand why it bothers you, Willy.”

“It bothers me because it’s fake and I don’t think you should trick Seth—I mean Mr. Kenyon.”

“Oh, so you’re worried about Seth now, are you?” Buck croaked.

“Boys!” Thankful cried. “Mr. Fahy, my future husband, is more important than Mr. Kenyon. Why would anyone accuse the lieutenant of stealing? He’d never hurt poor people!”

“But what about your ring?” Buck asked.

“It was a mistake—everybody says so. And the small things from the quartermaster’s—well, everyone does things like that.”

“What have you ever stolen?” Buck asked.

“Father’s money!” Thankful cried.

“Hmm, that’s right, I forgot,” Buck said. “Well, we all make mistakes.”

William sniggered at Buck’s attempt at support.

“And the lieutenant too, I guess,” Buck continued. “I shouldn’t be so quick to point out his flaws when I’ve more than enough of my own. Thankful, I know what it’s like to be taken down the wrong road, and I think Fahy is wrong for you.”

“Well, your advice is too late now, isn’t it?” Thankful said, still wringing her handkerchief.

“I only wish you hadn’t let Fahy poke you,” Buck said.

“Miss Peckham was right!” Thankful cried. “There’s no equality between the sexes!”

“Who’s Miss Peckham?” Buck asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” Thankful said with an impatient toss of her head, “but you men do as you like!”

“You took no part in your condition, sis?” Buck asked.

“No, I … well, the lieutenant wanted it so badly, and I couldn’t stand to see him angry. Anyway, it’s not as if you couldn’t have the same trouble.”

Buck said, “Our father is a bastard. I don’t want that for my children.”

Thankful laughed. “And please tell me how you’ve prevented that so far.”

Buck’s face went red as he glanced over at William. “I’ve saved myself.”

“What?” Thankful exclaimed in disbelief. “But Fred always said …”

“Fred never was with me spooning. Father once told me it was the worst mistake of his life, marrying Mama because she was pregnant with Fred and me, so I don’t have anything to be ashamed of in that one regard.”

“So you were a lily-white Christian boy underneath it all?” William said.

Buck coughed, keeping his attention on his sister. “I guess I thought it would be nice if it meant something. I hope it meant something special for you, Thankful.”

She began to cry again. “No! I only did it to make him keep me! Just like Mama!”

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Featured Image: Detail from john Collier’s Portrait of Marian Huxley