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Where was life taking her?
Fifteen-year-old Margaet Reeves O'Neill isn't likely to forget the day the war came home to Springfield, Missouri. That was the day her father left to join the Confederacy, fighting for principles he no longer believed in, but for a state he loved. It was also the day she met Percival Wilder, a flirtatious Yankee officer who, instead of being her enemy, became an intimate friend.
Now Federal troops have arrived in Springfield. Reeves watches neighbors turn against one another—some supporting Secessionists, others the Union—and she witnesses generosity and bravery side by side with greed and looting. The life she took for granted—her home, family, the very truths she's always held dear—is changing before her eyes....
Living in the border state of Missouri during the Civil War, fifteen-year-old Reeves tries to understand her father's decision regarding their slaves.
Yesterday I slipped over to see Mrs. Phelps, and that vile Federal officer who rides a black charger tipped his hat to me again, It is very provoking. I'm not interested in such foolishness.
-- The Diary of Margaret Reeves O'Neill, July 14, 1861
"It isn't lucky to talk about your own death." Mama's voice swept up the stairs like a stormy March wind. I set down my pen and looked over at Lucy, who was admiring herself in her new sprigged muslin for this afternoon's social.
"Daddy must be talking about his will again," I said.
Lucy met my gaze in the mirror, her eyes scared and big. "I think it's noble what Daddy's doing. I just wish he wouldn't talk about it so much."
I almost said everybody was talking about dying these days. But that wasn't so. Everybody was talking about fighting, not dying. Though as Daddy said, it amounted to the same thing.
"Folks are just caught up in all the glory of war right now," he'd said the night before at dinner with the Campbells. "But after the first battle comes, we'll see how the people of Missouri really feel about this war--after glory steals life from both sides."
"I won't hear any more of this talk, Gaylen." Now Mama'svoice was sharp, insistent-- "I don't care what your last will and testament says. Besides, our servants will stay on--no matter what happens in this war."
"You mean our slaves, my dear. They are not our servants."
"Whatever you call them," Mama replied firmly, "they're staying right here with us, where they belong."
The door to Daddy's library closed, and Mama's skirtsswooshed around the landing, up the stairs. She burst into our bedroom, her face flushed, ringlets of golden hair damp against her forehead.
"Put that diary away this instant, Margaret Reeves," sheordered. "You'll get ink all over your new gown." Then her voice softened, and she smiled. "Dear, you'll never get a beau if all the young men in Greene County think you're bookish."
I nodded obediently and put my diary away, but as sheturned toward Lucy, I slipped a small notebook and pencilinto the secret pocket I'd had Juneau sew into the side seamof my new watered silk.
Mama looked at Lucy's reflection and smiled. "My, that new muslin is nice, Lucinda. Before you know it, you'll be wearing real hoop skirts like Reeves."
Lucy's face was still pale, her eyes wide. "Why does Daddytalk so much about his will?"
Mama's voice went flinty cold. "Don't speak of suchthings, Lucinda. it isn't proper."
"He's going to volunteer with the governor's militia, isn'the?"
Though both Mama and Daddy had tried to shield Lucy from politics, she knew as well as anybody that Governor Jackson expected all loyal Missourians to arm themselves against President Lincoln's invading Federal army. The truth was there for the knowing like smoke in the wind.
"Lucy, your daddy is going to stay right here with us in Springfield. He has no plans to leave us all alone." Mama took a deep breath to regain what she called a lady's proper composure. Then she tried to smile. "Now, girls, it isn't your place to worry about politics. Calm yourselves and think pleasant, summertime thoughts." She whisked toward the doorway. "I'll send Juneau up for you in a few minutes. Reeves, be sure you wash the ink from your hands and rinse them in rosewater. Soft hands soften the heart of one's true love."
Lucy waited until Mama's footsteps reached the hall downstairs, then she quivered. "Do you think Daddy is really going to stay home with us?"
I turned away. Lucy was awfully young, just eleven years old. But Daddy had confided in me when I was younger, and sometimes I wondered if I knew more about him at fifteen than Mama did at thirty-two.
From the road out front came the hard, tromping sounds of men marching. Federal volunteers--hundreds of German immigrants from St. Louis, perfectly in step. I ran to the window and leaned out for a closer look. I never tired of watching them. They had run Governor Jackson out of the Capitol. Now they planned to run him out of Missouri, to free the whole state of Secessionists who supported President Davis's new Confederacy.A Voice from the Border. Copyright © by Pamela Hill. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.