Cavalry officer meets Hope in 'Fringe of Battle'


The following is excerpted from George Kenney's Civil War-era novel "Fringe of Battle."

Confederate Lt. John W. Murray has ridden to the Lockweed farm with an advance party to ask Mrs. Lockweed's permission for his troops to bivouac in her fields. During their conversation, the cavalry officer suspects someone is watching from behind a curtain. It is Hope, an orphaned cousin in her late teens who lives with the family. John, the Lockweed's 14-year-old son, narrates.

Before the Reb officer could move another step, Hope came out of the house. Hope was wearing blue denim pants and a white blouse. Her hair was tied with a blue ribbon, back from her ears, and if I was the kind of fellow that fell for girls, which I wasn't at the time, I could have been taken by her; that is if I didn't know her so well.

"No need going in there Major," she said to Lieutenant Murray. "You don't need your big black revolver for little old me."

I knew Hope was scared. I knew cause I could always tell her moods. But she wasn't showin' that she was scared. Oh no, not Hope. She looked as cool as a pan of fresh milk in the springhouse. Lieutenant Murray was stopped cold. The last thing he expected was a girl, and in particular a girl, a girl in boys pants, lookin' mighty nice.

"Why I -- I --," he started to say.

"Go on," said Hope. "Go on and search the house. We got a couple of kittens in there. Please don't shoot them with your big black gun. I never thought a Confederate major would act so ungentlemanly, I declare!"

"I -- I am not a major, just a lieutenant," said the poor officer, now completely at her mercy.

I'd seen this girl, Hope, work the boys before at Sunday school picnics. She sure used to run those guys ragged. And now, she was using every trick in her bag, and borrowing a few from the knittin' bags of her school chums.

"You all are not a major," she drawled, slightly Southern-style. Then she became exasperated. She stamped her foot and pointed back to the waiting troops at the edge of the field. "Go back and get the major then. I'll talk to him." She crossed her arms and stood there tapping her foot.

Sometimes now when I see a picture of Napoleon with his arms crossed and his jaw stuck out, as he watched his retreating army passing him on his flight out of Russia, the picture always fades from Napoleon to Hope, standing there in total disdain of the Confederate Army.

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