Leigh Ann's Civil War

Leigh Ann's Civil War by Ann Rinaldi Read Free Book Online

Book: Leigh Ann's Civil War by Ann Rinaldi Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ann Rinaldi
left a warm place inside me, Camille did.
    We went back to the homestead. Pa was settled in his rocker on the verandah, the boy named Jon giving him a second, or third, cup of coffee.
    "Well, did they march off like the toy soldiers they are?" Pa asked.
    Viola burst into deeper crying and ran into the house. I stood there. "Yes, sir," I answered, "they're gone." I could see he was very much himself this morning.
    "Did your mother go to see them off?"
    "No, sir," I said.
    He answered with a word I would spend two hours in a chair in the library for using.
    "Come here and give me a kiss," he said.
    I did so. He was cleanly shaved and wore a crisp white shirt and trousers. He smelled of tobacco and mild soap. Jon was doing his job, but I wished he wouldn't linger and watch us. Pa hugged me strong. "I'm here to take care of you," he said. Then he released me.
    The empty house was not to be borne at first.
    I expected to see Teddy come out of Pa's library and demand,
Well, where have you been? You missed breakfast, and you know I won't tolerate that. Where have you been?
I couldn't tell him, of course. Because I'd been down to the stream with Careen, and with some lighted torches, we'd smoked some snakes out of a pile of rocks. Teddy would have a hissy fit if he found out. Anyway, he would set me down in a chair in the library and pick up a book and I'd have to sit there for an hour until he thought I'd been sufficiently punished. No matter that I was about starved or that I had to pee. Neither request would move him.
    I would give anything to have that hour in that chair in that room with him now.
    I stood in the wide center hall, looking at the Persian runner, the Duncan Phyfe table, the gas lamp, the hunt scenes on the walls, as if I'd never seen them before. How many times had my brothers clambered down those wide, carpeted stairs?
    The emptiness of the rooms mocked me. Normally I wouldn't even bother with my brothers, or them with me, if they were home. My chief goal would be to avoid them so that I could go about the business of my day, which would consist of mischief. Unless Teddy offered to teach me to bow-and-arrow hunt. Or swim in the stream. Or Louis suggested we ride into town and "see what all was going on."
    I wished I could do something for them now. Maybe I could make some cookies and send them.
    "What are you doing?" Careen sauntered toward me.
    "Just wishing I could do something for my brothers."
    She smiled. "You can. I can show you what you can do."
    "I can show you how to do a spell and tell if'n your brothers will be safe."
    I gasped. "Let's do it," I agreed. Surely this wouldn't be naughty. Surely, this is what we all needed right now, wasn't it?

    "We gots to have a fire," Careen said.
    "In here?" I asked. "In this heat?"
    "Jus' a little fire," she coaxed.
    The fireplace in the front parlor had been scrupulously cleaned for the spring. Boughs of ivy had been expertly arranged inside over a few cords of beech wood.
    "I gots matches," Careen said. "An' salt. Take away that ivy. We needs some paper to light the beech wood."
    "We'll dirty the fireplace," I told her. And "What if we get caught?"
    "You such a scaredy-cat. Massa Teddy ain't here to punish you. Anyway, anybody else catches us, all we say is we's doin' it for the boys. C'mon now, do as I say. Git some paper."
    I ran across the hall to Pa's library, found an old newspaper, and brought it to Careen. She soon had a rosy glow going in the hearth.
    "Now all's I gotta do is throw some bits of salt on the fire, an' in the sparks that flame up I'll see the messages we want. You gotta be still, though, and quiet. And think on your brothers. And chase out all other thoughts and noises."
    I nodded. I trusted in her powers.
    If her mother caught her she would be punished. She didn't care.
    She looked at me now. "Take off the hoops," she said, "so's you kin get closer to me."
    I stood up and did as she said, leaving my hoops on the

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