This is a preview to the chapter Chapter Five from the book A Beautiful Glittering Lie by J D R Hawkins.
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Lincoln reportedly said to McClellan, “The supreme command of the army will entail a vast labor upon you,” to which the general replied, “I can do it all.” His pompous, arrogant nature was overlooked, for he was adored by his men, and so he deemed himself worthy of the elevated position.
According to newspaper reports, the USS San Jacinto stopped the British ship Trent in international waters, and arrested two Confederate ambassadors: J. M. Mason, who was commissioner to England, and the commissioner to France, John Slidell. The men were taken to Boston and imprisoned, but when the news broke, public outcry prevailed, so Lincoln felt compelled to release the two captives, excusing his disregard for foreign policy by saying only, “One war at a time.”
The North instigated the Revenue Act of 1861, which placed a federal income tax on all its citizens in order to pay for the increasing war debt. It also established a 3 percent tax on annual incomes exceeding $800, which was far more than what most wage-earners made.
By mid-November, winter in north Alabama made itself known. The ground hardened, the first frost transpired, and hardwood trees dropped their leaves. Several days of gray, gloomy, drizzly weather set in. To occupy their time indoors, Caroline cooked, the girls read voraciously, and the womenfolk sewed clothing for the troops, but David was too restless. When he wasn’t tending to farm chores, he spent his time cutting wood, riding Cotaco around the neighborhood, or working with Renegade on a lead rope. He couldn’t wait till the day he could ride him, and anticipated the adventures they would embark on together.
Two of their five hogs had been slaughtered, and hung in the smokehouse, drying. The three cows had been bred, and were expected to produce calves in the spring. As far as the rest of the livestock was concerned, everything was well tended to and accounted for. David kept a close eye on the chickens, the number of barn cats they had at the moment, and of course, his two faithful hounds. Hunting was fruitful, and he frequently returned from day-trips with a deer or wild turkey carcass.
Jake expressed David’s unease one day in early December while they sat in his front parlor playing chess. “I wish there was somethin’ more excitin’ to do than this,” he muttered. “Checkmate!”
David moaned. “What did you have in mind?” he growled, annoyed by his loss.
“Oh, I don’t know.”
Suddenly, they heard a vehicle coming, so they looked out through the lace-curtained window to see a carriage approach. It came to a stop in front of the house, and the Negro coachman jumped down. He opened the carriage door. Out stepped a young woman Jake and David’s age, who was wearing a flowing red dress with an embroidered burgundy shawl draped over her shoulders. She climbed the steps to the veranda, and rapped on the door. Jake sprang to his feet to answer it.
“Why, Jake, darlin’!” she greeted him enthusiastically as she whisked into the parlor. She gave him a mock kiss on both cheeks, sashayed across to David, and gave him the same treatment. “How have y’all been?” Her sultry belle air surrounded her like glowing embers.
“Jist fine, Miss Callie,” said Jake, “but we’re mighty bored with the state of things.”
“Well, I have a remedy for that.” She winked at David, who blushed. “Is your mother here?” she asked, handing Jake her shawl. Removing her bonnet, she let her long blond hair fall freely. She withdrew a fan from her dress pocket and promptly began fanning herself, fluttering her eyelashes as quickly as she fluttered her fan.
“She’s in the kitchen with Isabelle,” Jake responded. “Want me to fetch her?”
“Oh, no! Don’t bother. I’ll tell y’all myself, and you can inform her of our intentions later on.”
She took a seat on the floral velvet sofa. David noticed that, for once, she wasn’t wearing hoops.
“My folks are hostin’ a Christmas party, and I’m here to give y’all a proper invitation to our grand soirée.”
“When is it?” David timidly asked.
She fluttered the fan at him suggestively, motioning him to her. He obeyed by taking a seat beside her on the sofa.
“In two weeks, on the twenty-first,” she said softly. Her mesmerizing blue eyes gazed into his. “It’s the Saturday before Christmas. You will attend, won’t you, Mr. Summers?”
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