Cotillion: Danse Macabre.
Remember the Bastille! some wit toasted, and we raised our flutes for freedom, liberte , since the pale champagne was French. I wore my best muslin and the scent of honeysuckle. If I must move among them with guile, I reasoned, why not savor the benefits in style? Also, they served oysters and honeyed ham so sweet the war seemed distant. Smoke and aroma of cigars, the gleam of polished boots, even spurs. Yes, Yankee Cavaliers! I hated them all but wore my gown the color of tea with panache among the luxuries, and even then I wondered how to tell this story, how to alter history, just a woman ... no, still a girl. "Exude mystery," Hannah said, "and you will spark intrigue." Almost a million troops in the field and so many secrets! Even now, I think slavery was not at the root so much as five hundred rich men thirsty for blood ... or perhaps just appetite for brass and braid, the chance to bivouac under stars. When the band struck up "Lancers Quadrille," we pranced and swirled, the shimmering silk and shades of lilac, of peach and perry, a june-bug green in fashion that year, and lace the color of salt, which was scarce. A ridiculous Major Redstone "coaxed" me to the verandah (a shoddy affair pleading for paint) and would woo "dear Belle, such a pert lady" back to his hayseed Kentucky. I thought him a traitor to the South but dazzled him with Milton, in case he might prove of use. A freedman played the spinet with such skill, I wish I'd asked where he learned. Eighteen and world-ignorant, I thought at the time "inborn, natural, music as God's gift in return for making them simple." My folly. The evening was young, the war as well. What I learned, I struggle to tell, even if--by candlelight in a cheap theater, reciting my "exploits" as "La Belle Rebel"-- the one I want to enlighten is myself, as if hard Hell could be averted in the end by how you spell and spiel your wicked life. Past fifty, I know better, and worse. No scripture, this story of perils is my own creation, sly chapter and weary verse.
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|Date:||Jun 22, 2009|
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