Confederate Camp, Virginia

“Stylish, yet practical,” Star announced to nobody in particular as she twirled about, and spun into the tall figure of Lieutenant Black.

“Oh, beg your pardon,” she said, wobbling dizzily away from him.

A low chuckle. “You know, Miss Anderson, we really should stop running into each other like this,” he said, reaching out to steady her.

Her smile became shyer, but she did not flinch away. Although she was still unsure as to how to act around this Yankee of hers, she had lost much of her fear of him.

He gestured at the bundle at his feet. “It’s getting near dark. I was wondering where you’d like your tent put up.”

Early on Will had informed her that “We’ll be on the road constantly,” and though sometimes the general might stop at a local home for a night or two, more often than not everyone would be sleeping out in the open, or in small tents and lean-tos. Including herself. So she’d learned to set up her own tiny tent and thus remain relatively dry.

But then her uncle had appeared yesterday with a much larger tent. “Should have realized you’d need a little bit more privacy,” was all he’d said. He might as well have said “you need a little bit more propriety in this very improper situation.”

She sighed, suddenly a little less happy. All the time I was growing up, I never gave a fig about my reputation, nor what was proper for a lady. But now, in the most improper place imaginable, now I care. Though I shan’t complain about the room to move around. Perhaps now I can bathe properly, not just let the rain soak me. She had complained to Iris that morning that if she didn’t get a real bath soon, she was going to need a hoe to scrape the dirt off herself. The mare had snickered, and commented that if she started to grow plants in all that dirt, then maybe she could pass herself off as a dryad.

She flung an arm out wide, encompassing the whole camp. “Oh, I don’t care. You know far more about tenting than I.”

“True,” he agreed gravely, hobbling off a few paces to a level patch of grass and dumping his burden on the ground.

Travis had watched with some mirth her pathetic attempt to set the tent up last night. She could see him trying quite hard not to laugh at her, but before she lost her temper, he had offered very politely to put it up for her. Which he did with ease, despite the injured arm. This morning he’d even taken it down without asking, and carried it with him on Vulcan, Will’s big roan. Will had loaned him the gelding to lighten Iris’ load and leave Star free to carry her father’s medical bag and an orderly’s knapsack.

She watched him as he worked, under the cover of picking up her sewing supplies. The damning blue jacket had disappeared after that first day; in faded trousers and a borrowed linen shirt, he blended in with the rest of the troopers. Now, if only she could do more for his wounds than keep the infection at bay and relieve most of the pain . . .

 

–from An Uncivilized Yankee

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