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I have decided to write down my account of what happened in that fateful year of 1864 and to deposit it in a sealed envelope with our family's lawyers. Tomorrow is the first day of the twentieth century and I will leave instructions with the papers that they may not be unsealed until another hundred years has passed. My descendents may then finally learn the strange truth about how they came to be.

There is certainly much shame in the account but perhaps matters which seem important now will not seem so important then. Perhaps it may even be that American men will regard American women as truly free and equal in all human activities, even the procreative ones. Alas though, I feel that many times a hundred years must pass before our society can change to such an extent.

Yet although I cannot hope to know what the future holds I can at least be sure that the great waters of the Missouri river will still be flowing. The river was my constant companion for many years when I grew up in Kansas, and again when I crossed the border into Missouri state to become a teacher in the village of Stony Creek.

Lacking the gift of prophecy, all I can do is to pray on my knees that, whatever fate may have befallen my descendents, in the year 2000 the glorious flag of our God given Union will still flutter bravely above every settlement along the banks of the mighty Missouri. For I remember all too well when for a day and a night the Stars and Stripes proudly flying above Stony Creek were ursurped by the iniquitous banner of the Southern Rebels.

It was what I did during those few strange hours that I feel I must explain, lest dark rumors still linger about my memory. I - and the other village women - did what we did because that was the way the fortunes of war fell out for us. In 1861 the mad dogs of the Confederacy dared to fire on Fort Sumter and in time their rabid bites sent the whole country as mad as themselves. Can we be blamed for acting out an insanity when we found ourselves trapped in an insane situation?

Let those who wish to sit in judgement read my story first, and then ask themselves what they would have done under the same circumstances.



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The chalk scratched on the blackboard as Miss Shilling carefully wrote the date on it, 'October 17th, 1864'. Then, in the top center of the board she wrote 'TRIGONOMETRY'. Finally, underneath the word, she drew the outline of a tree. When she turned around her class was still waiting dutifully, neither of the boys or girls daring to indulge in any horseplay even when her back was turned.
Amanda Shilling was an imposing figure, very tall for a female, with a full figure which caused many an admiring male eye to linger on the generous cut of her bodice and the trim dimensions of her hips. In fact it was widely agreed amongst the men of Clayton County that School Ma'am Shilling was just about the beatingest thing to come down the river in a coon's age. Selectman Jenkins had spoken for all of his gender at the regular Saturday night cock fight a week after her arrival: "She's a great young gal, that one. Shaped like a real woman and as handsome as Cleopatra, you bet. Yes, sirree, she's a huckleberry above most peoples' persimmons. Gonna be a real lucky man that she sets her cap at."

In the weeks since her arrival Amanda had not picked out any of her many male admirers for any special signs of favor but the general liking for her in the village had continued to increase. Respectable but not high-faluting, a strong disciplinarian but a well gifted teacher, never one to flaunt her good looks but happy to be sociable with all. In only one way had she upset some of the population of Stony Creek, and that was in her fervent support of the Northern cause. Yet she certainly wasn't alone in that regard because both the secessionist and abolitionist states had their ardent supporters along the banks of the Missouri. Like so many other settlements in the area Stony Creek was split almost fifty-fifty between Jayhawks and Separatists.

"Now, children, look at the word on the board. Trigonometry: it sounds strange but all it's saying is that we're going to study triangles. You are probably wondering what could be interesting about triangles but they can be very useful in solving problems. For example, you've seen the tree I've drawn on the board. Now suppose it was a very tall tree and you wanted to measure how high it was without having to climb it. Can anybody tell me how you could do that?"

Silence from the rows of well scrubbed faces.

"Very well." Amanda picked up a ruler. "Imagine that the sun is shining and the tree is casting a shadow. I draw one line straight down the side of the tree and another straight line across from it to show how long the shadow is. When we measure the shadow of the tree we find it is sixty feet long. But, of course, shadows get shorter and longer depending on where the sun is in the sky, so how can that help us?"

Again there was silence in the class room but a long drawn out howl from a riverboat's siren called out to the village from the river. Mildly surprised, Amanda walked across to the window and looked out at the steam packet churning up the muddy water near the landing with its paddle wheels. Certainly the Henrietta P. Johnson, but arriving two days earlier than on its normal schedule, with several blue shirted soldiers visible on the lower deck and with a large red flag flying above the Texas deck.

"Samuel Trent".

A chair scraped behind one of the desks as a boy stood up. "Yes, Ma'am?"

"Why is the Henrietta coming in today, Samuel?"

"Been chartered by the bluebellies - sorry, Ma'am, I mean the army. The Union army that is." Samuel was proud of his special source of knowledge as the wharfinger's son, as much as he was obviously influenced by his father's Southern sympathies.

"She's carrying supplies to General Blunt's men at Lexington?"

"Supposed to be, Ma'm, but the Rebs have gotten clustered up around Lexington like mountain men around a keg of whiskey. Ain't no way the captain of the Henrietta is going down river to Lexington with that powder aboard her."

"Powder?" Amanda looked around at her pupil, rising fourteen and standing so tall he was almost eye to eye with her. "You mean gunpowder?"

Samuel was shyly smiling at this reversal of their usual roles and reveling in the pleasure of being a source of information to his teacher.

"Why yes, Ma'm, twenty tons of it according to the bill of lading we was sent. If it's on board she'll be flying a red danger flag."

"Yes, there is a red flag. There are some soldiers on board as well."

Samuel nodded knowingly: "That'll be the army fire guard, Ma'am. To make sure nobody smokes anywhere near those powder kegs. And I daresay my Pa will be searching every wharf rat before he lets any of them start work unloading the Henrietta. He'll have his cudgel in his hand and he's said he'll break the skull of any man found carrying a pipe, 'baccy or loco-focos onto the landing stage."

"Really? The gunpowder is that dangerous?"

Samuel Trent came as close to openly laughing in the classroom as he'd ever done since Miss Shilling had arrived. "Why, Ma'am, one spark in the wrong place and the Henrietta would get blown so high the pieces could still be falling come Christmas. Leastways, that's what my Pa says."

"Thank you, Samuel, you can sit down again. Now, we were talking about how to find the height of the tree. As I said, just measuring the shadow tells us nothing. So what we might do is to take a stick and carefully cut off three feet of it. Then we put it in the ground, burying it for a depth of one foot. If the stick is three feet long and one foot is in the ground, how much would be left above the ground? Anybody?"

There were plenty of eager hands held aloft: "Teddy Smith?"

"Two feet, Ma'am."

"Quite right. Now suppose we measured the shadow the stick was casting and it was four feet long. Can anybody tell me what the ratio would be between the length of the shadow and the length of the stick? Yes, Elizabeth?"

"The shadow is twice as long, Ma'am."

"Exactly. So if we measure the tree's shadow at that very same moment and it's sixty feet long, then how tall must the tree be?"

"Thirty feet, Ma'm."

Elizabeth Manders was almost always the first to answer any difficult question. A pity that she was only a girl from a poor family with no hope of ever being anything more than a village school teacher. Which was precisely Amanda Shilling's own predestinated fate until she chose to abandon even that modest degree of ambition by agreeing to love, honor and obey some byre smelling, muddy booted farmer for the rest of her life.

"Quite right. Now suppose there was a church steeple nearby and you knew that the top of the steeple was forty feet above the ground. How long a shadow would it be . . ."

Her lesson was abruptly interrupted by a pounding of hooves, ululating screams, the sound of shots being fired nearby. The school marm looked out at the window again, but this time no further than the muddy street beside the school horse. A dozen horses were galloping down it in a solid mass, their riders whooping and firing carbines and pistols into the air and the few citizens of Stony Creek who were abroad scurrying to get clear of the onrushing charge. Amanda thought at first that she was witnessing an attempt to raid the township's bank, until she realized the men were wearing uniforms, some of the jackets a dull gray, others dyed buttercup brown. All of the riders also had on kepi styled flat hats.

"Lord, save us, they're Johnny Rebs!"

Amanda was astonished. Certainly, she'd seen plenty of Confederate troops before - in the early days of the Rebellion the entire Missouri state militia had enlisted in the Southern cause. But that had been long ago, in the heady days of Rebel pride and confidence. Now General Grant was hammering the Secessionists' homeland into ruins and the Rebs should have had enough to worry about without making a futile attempt to recapture lost territory along the Missouri. In any case General Sterling's Confederate troops were supposed to be at Lexington, just as Samuel Trent had said, and Lexington was at least a day's ride away. This must be a small raiding party of cavalry, the kind of lawless insurgents whom had made the border areas of Kansas and Missouri such places of misery even before the war had begun.

"Damn their eyes!"

Amanda checked herself guilty as she realized her muttered oath might have been heard by the tender ears of the children. What sort of feather head was she, to swear a vile curse in her own classroom just because of a few marauding soldiers?

"Class, pay attention. It seems that some soldiers have ridden into village and it maybe that I shall choose to send you home early. But I think it better that you stay here for the time being, until things settle down. Yes, Samuel?"

"Are they Rebs, please, Ma'm?"

"I do believe so, Samuel."

The boy was clearly pleased. "Ma'm, I just bet they saw the danger flag flying on the Henrietta and came down to grab her powder for their own army."

"Perhaps."

Amanda felt her legs trembling. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings came wisdom. It might well be that it was the sight of the red flagged side-wheeler arriving which had bought the grayback cavalry sweeping down to the village and towards the landing stage. Enemy soldiers, and twenty tons of gunpowder in their hands! But there was nothing to be done about it for the time being and the children would be better off kept occupied in the school house until calm was restored. Which shouldn't take long, as soon as the Confederates discovered that the town was defenseless

"Class, please copy out the drawing on the blackboard."

The children picked up their own chalks and began drawing on their slates. Amanda walked up the aisle between the desks, lips pursed and teeth gritted at the chorus of squeaky, scratchy sounds which always annoyed her so much. It would be a wonderful thing to teach in a school which could afford paper and pens for every lesson.

Then the irritation of the slates ceased because of the sound of a horse neighing in the street and a man's rough voice calling out: "Hey, in the school house there, let's see your hides."

A glance through the nearest window showed three cavalry soldiers outside, all looking at the schoolhouse, carbines casually resting on their saddles and pointed at the building. Fury brewed up inside Amanda in a red hot stream at the thought of her class being threatened by the slave owning ruffians. A desperate desire to show her contempt for them and their ragamuffin Rebel uniforms made her careless of the menacing firearms. With a firm resolve she swept back quickly down the room, her long skirts rustling against the children's desks. Behind her own desk was the patriotic emblem of her country, a large United States flag. She unhooked it, draped it around her, then threw open the door and stepped out onto the verandah.

Amanda had hoped to annoy the Southerners with her impulsive action in wearing the stars and stripes but instead of anger the response was laughter. Especially galling as none of the Rebel soldiers seemed much older than the oldest children in her classroom. Tired, dirty, their horses splashed to the hocks with mud, but young and in a cheerful mood. One of them, hardly twenty but wearing Sergeant's chevrons, laughed openly at the sight of the flag, his eyes fastening especially on Amanda's bosom.

"Best be careful there, Miss. We're just the boys to storm any breastworks that have got a Federal flag flying over them."

His companions greeted his insolence with delight, slapping their legs and laughing as if they were watching a circus performance.

"Keep a civil tongue in your head, you filthy traitor."

Again, the Sergeant appeared delighted at her response instead of becoming angry. He was something around medium height, blue eyes set widely apart underneath the bill of his kepi, a shaven and strong jaw line, his face deeply tanned by the weather, handling the reins one handed as if he'd been born on a horse's back.

"I'd have to admit we're not in our Sunday best, Ma'am, but nobody puts on their good clothes when they're out hog killing. And back home, when we get guests calling round, we kinda take to being polite to them, 'stead of calling them all kinds of filthy names."

"Then I suggest you go back home immediately, wherever your log cabin is, instead of coming where you're not wanted and terrifying decent people."

"Well, Ma'm, first off, if living in a log cabin is a sin, I guess you'll have to point out to me where your mansion is, 'cause this whole village seems to me to be pretty much a collection of wooden shacks floating on mud."

Even Amanda in the fullness of her wrath couldn't gainsay him on that point; Stony Creek was not a picturesque sight, not even by Missouri standards.

"Secondly, Ma'am, I'd be real delighted to go back home if'n only old longshanks Lincoln would promise to leave me in peace once I was back there. And thirdly, I guess you don't seem too terrified to me."

Amanda drew herself up on tiptoe, eyes flashing defiance, her hands still clasped in the folds of the flag of the United States. "I'm not scared of you! But you're pointing your guns at my classroom and the children in my charge."

The Sergeant reluctantly took his eyes away from the splendid sight of the bristling school Ma'am - whoever was her beau was sure one lucky son of a bitch. Every window in the school house was packed tight with curious faces - children's faces.

"OK, boys, put up your pieces. Joey, just take a glance and make sure no men are hiding inside."

"What men are you looking for?" the teacher asked.

"All and every able bodied man in village, Ma'am. We're confining them in the cargo deck of that steamer. We need to keep them under our eyes and out of mischief whilst we're here. Don't worry though, nobody is going to get hurt. We're here today and gone tomorrow."

As one of the Rebs looked around the schoolhouse Amanda saw a dozen glum looking townsmen walking down the street, two cavalry men riding behind the procession, carbine butts resting on their hips. One of the soldiers was chewing like a cow on its cud and as he passed Amanda and the Union flag a stream of tobacco stained juice spurted from his lips and across the schoolhouse steps.

"If you're dressed for killing hogs, I think you can make a start in your own ranks," Amanda snapped at the Sergeant.

"Don't pay no mind to Josh Chamberlain, Ma'am. He's a good soul but he lost two brothers at Gettysburg and now just got news his home in Atlanta's been burnt down by Sherman's men."

"Oh."

"Ma'am, I think it might be a good idea to dismiss your class for today. Just until the ructions are over."

"That's my decision to make," Amanda flared back.

The Sergeant's grin softened into something nearer to a smile: "Look, Ma'am, I'm paid to fight Federalist soldiers but savagerous school marms are more than I ever reckoned on. You can do whatever you like but it seems to me that the woman folk hereabouts would be glad to have their children safe at home while their men folk are away. Also, I've got an invitation for you."

"An invitation - what sort of an invitation?"

"An invitation from Lieutenant Lee, our officer. He'd be right obliged if you'd step on board the steamer presently. He's got some news for the village women and he needs somebody to pass it on to them. He said to me, particular, that if I should find a lady teacher I should ask her over, as being the best for the job. I guess if he'd known how handsome the school marms are hereabouts he'd have asked even more particularly."

"Dash your impudence," Amanda responded fiercely. "Are you algerines and kidnappers like Mosby's bushwhackers?"

"No, ma'm, we're from Georgia and we treat all ladies with respect, especially ones that look as if they like posing in front of an audience." His companions chuckled again. "Miss, you'll be treated honorably, my word on it. Lieutenant Lee is a fine gentleman and a school teacher himself when he ain't soldiering in a war: he can read Greek and Latin to beat anything. He wouldn't have asked you to call 'cept it was important."

Amanda nodded: "Very well, I'll come directly."

The Sergeant held up his hand: "No, Ma'am, no. Give us half an hour first. We're making all the men shuck off their clothes before we put them below decks. Can't risk having anybody down in that boat with tools, 'baccy or any way of making fire on them. Not with the cargo she's carrying. And I guess the gentlemen would be right shy about you seeing them in public without their unmentionables on - though I daresay most of them would be real happy to take them off for you in private."

The cavalrymen guffawed again, Amanda's cheeks blushed scarlet and she stamped a foot in fury as the Rebs swung their horses' heads around and cantered off down Main street.

"Oh, you . . . you villains!"

With an effort she restrained her anger and went back into the classroom, all the children guilty rushing back to their desks. Amanda carefully rehung the flag in its place of pride and then turned to face her class.

"Children, I'm going to dismiss you for the rest of the day. Go home quietly and directly. I want each of you to take a message home from me to your mothers. Tell them I'm going to speak to the Rebel officer presently and I expect to have some news afterwards. I want all the ladies who can to come here to the schoolhouse at one o'clock so that I can tell them what's happening. Please make sure your mothers hear about the meeting - here, at the schoolhouse, at one o'clock this afternoon. Now put your things away and file out quietly."

When the classroom was empty Amanda went to the bookcase at the back of the room and selected a volume from it: "The Life of Admiral Horatio Nelson."

Flicking quickly through the pages she found the chapter dealing with the Battle of the Nile. Then, with pursed lips, she carefully read the account of what had happened when the powder magazine aboard the French flagship 'L'Orient' had exploded. Even the passage of almost seventy years since the battle did little to soften the horrors the book described. It was in a very thoughtful mood that Amanda finally put on her bonnet and walked between the street puddles towards the landing stage.

The village seemed abandoned, save for a couple of Confederates riding past. All the men held in the Henrietta, all the women staying at home and not even the Rebs showing much interest in the village. But there were a long line of cavalry horses tethered to a fence near the landing stage. Soldiers were busy around them, some fetching buckets of water from a nearby drinking trough, others carrying fodder from the deck of the Henrietta and breaking the bales open for the horses to feed on. Amanda stopped and watched, judging the weight of the bales by the fact that two men were needed to lift each one. She also saw how many more bales were still piled on the deck. Then she counted the horses in the row. Fourteen and at least two more riding on patrol inside the village. Mmmm . . .

"Ma'am." It was the Sergeant again, walking towards her. This time he wasn't smiling but stopped in front of her and lifted his hand to his cap in a crisp salute. "Sergeant Wade, Ma'am."

Amanda nodded her head in brief acknowledgement of the NCO's new found civility.

"Glad you could come, Ma'am. The Lieutenant is on board, on the Texas deck, if you'd care to follow me."

Amanda nodded again and followed him onto the landing stage and up the gangplank. A board was set on an easel at the head of the gangplank, a white painted board with red wording on it: "DANGER - NO SMOKING, NO UNSHIELDED CANDLES." The teacher looked up at the two high cast iron smokestacks towering above the Henrietta and thought that her crew must have had a nervous trip down river.

The Sergeant led her up an outside staircase to the top deck. The sun suddenly appeared for the first time that day and Amanda unexpectedly felt her spirits rising in time to her ascending footsteps. The Sergeant held open the door.

"Lieutenant Lee will see you now, Ma'am. Please go in."

The leather bound couches and chairs scattered throughout the glassed in deck were as luxurious as Amanda remembered from the only other time she had been aboard the Henrietta. The pile carpet just as thick, the pictures on the walls depicting river scenes just as pleasant, the air still redolent with the lingering aroma of fine cigars, the spittoons just as brightly polished. But now there was no crowd of prosperous business men, no fine ladies, no busy stewards. Just a tall, slender young man with long blonde hair and a fine set of golden mutton-chop whiskers, a young man who gave every appearance of having fallen asleep in the armchair he was now lifting himself out of. Which wouldn't have surprised Amanda because there were lines of strain around his eyes and his uniform was as crumpled and travel strained as any of his men's.

"Beg your pardon, Ma'am, beg your pardon. Must have nodded off unexpectedly."

The officer juggled uncertainly with what had been resting on his lap, a holed gray sock with a wooden darning mushroom inside it and a needle dangling from the hole on woolen threads. He finally put the sock down on the coffee table between them, next to a belt with a saber scabbard attached and an open holster displaying the well oiled butt of a revolving pistol. Then the Confederate lieutenant made a formal bow to her. Amanda acknowledged with a stiff nod of her head, which brought her attention to the officer's feet. No boots, and one sock on, the left foot bare. She couldn't help smiling at the sight.

"Must apologize, Ma'am. I don't normally receive ladies in this manner."

"The fortunes of war, Lieutenant. Please don't worry about it. May I sit down?"

"Please do, Ma'am, please do."

Amanda settled herself in the chair opposite to his, across the coffee table.

"My name is Amanda, Amanda Shilling. Are you any relation to the famous General Lee?"

"Why no, Ma'am, Miss Shilling. I'm just plain James Lee, a Georgia school teacher and noways a member of the first families of Virginia. But I guess I didn't tell the boys that until after they'd elected me as a company officer." He smiled - or at least she thought he did. It was hard to tell underneath all that facial hair.

"Please call me Amanda, James. I think we have some important matters to discuss and we should be as friendly towards each other as we can."

James huffed and blew into his whiskers, apparently distressed: "I would surely like to be good friends with you, Miss Shilling, even if you are a red hot Federalist, or so Sergeant Wade says. But to tell the honest truth, there's no way I can be friends with anybody in this township."

Amanda bent forward, picked up the sock and the darning mushroom and looked with amusement at the typical male botch James had been making of the simple job.

"May I?" She began drawing the needle neatly back and forth across the heel of the sock.

James seemed astonished and then even more upset: "Miss Shilling, please don't do that. It's right civil of you but where I come from we kind of think it's important to return civility with civility and I can't do that - not here and not now."

"Mmmm." Amanda looked up from the sock. "You're talking about the gunpowder, aren't you?"

"Yes, Ma'am. To tell the truth I was only supposed to take my patrol up river on a reconnaissance mission. But when we saw a side-wheeler flying a gunpowder warning flag and putting into a village under our noses without hardly a Yankee soldier in sight, well, I guess we just had to up and take our chance. So here we are."

"Yes, so here you are. And what happens next?"

"Today and tonight we rest ourselves and our horses, water them, and feed them on the forage we found aboard. We'll fill our saddlebags from the US army rations here as well. Then, tomorrow morning, we'll turn your men folk loose and tell them to step lively out of the village as quick as ever they can. And thirty minutes later we'll have to set fire to this fine boat."

Amanda nodded in calm understanding. "And when all the gunpowder in the hold explodes half of our houses will get flattened. And all those bales of fodder will get blown into the air, most of them on fire I suppose, and crash down on the roofs of the rest of the village like a shower of burning comets. I doubt that a house in the entire settlement won't get blown over or burnt to the ground. A fine way to make war, Lieutenant."

"Miss Shilling, if I were to leave the powder intact, it could be used to kill hundreds of Confederate soldiers. My own troopers would probably hang me if I were to leave here without getting rid of it. And there's no way they'll care overmuch about what happens to your village. Talk about the horrors of war to Grant, to Sherman, to the folks in Atlanta, but don't waste your breath talking about them to my boys. They know only too well what your blue belly armies are doing down South."

Amanda nodded, rotated the mushroom in her fingers and began cross weaving the wool across the hole.

"Suppose you were to bore some holes in the bottom of the Henrietta and set her adrift. She'd sink and your job would be done, wouldn't it?"

"Ma'am, if you were to come out onto the bridge with me I could show you a dozen mud banks in sight of this landing stage. Were I to push the boat out into the current it's as likely as not she'd run up onto the mud somewhere and stay there high and dry. Maybe she'd never steam again but the Yankee army would soon salvage the powder and all the other supplies on board."

"Set a powder train to explode the powder and then let the Henrietta drift away."

"Ma'am, Miss Shilling, powder trains are dangerous and not very reliable. The only way I can be sure of doing the job is to start a fire myself in the lower cabins, a fire I know can't be put out, and then jump on my horse and gallop away as quickly as I can. That's why I asked you to come here. I want you to explain to the women folk hereabouts how things stand and to tell them get what valuables they can out of their houses before dawn tomorrow."

"Without the men to help us, we couldn't move much at all. Not that the collection of oldsters and loafers you've imprisoned here on the Henrietta would amount to much help anyway - all the real men are away fighting in the war on one side or the other. Besides, what's the use of moving out valuables if we're left with no roofs over our heads?"

A dimple appeared in James's chin as he set it firmly against her blandishments: "Ma'am, I'm plumb sorry, but a warning is the best I can do for you."

"Mmmmm . . ." Amanda lifted up her eyes again, fastening them directly on the officer's. "But suppose you started the fire and then had the Henrietta poled out away from the wharf? There'd at least be a chance she'd drift far enough away so as not to damage the village when she exploded."

"Ma'am! Ma'am!" James pulled on his whiskers with exasperation. "Can't you see how dangerous such a thing would be? I've nineteen men here and it would need every one of them to pole out a boat this size smartly enough to stand a chance of getting it away and down river before the fire reached the powder barrels. I'd be risking my entire command just to save some civilians' houses. The boys would think I was as mad as a meat axe if I was to suggest such a thing to them. I'm sorry, but this isn't the kind of war with any chivalry left in it. Maybe it started out like that but all the gallant knights in blue and gray have been buried at Bull Run and Sharpsburg and a thousand other places. Nowadays there's nothing left but spite and dirty dealings."

"Alright, James, let's talk about dirty dealings then. By the by, have you got a pair of scissors?"

The Southerner blinked in surprise at her words, then reached out to a small roll of canvas on the coffee table and spread it out. From one of the pockets inside the roll he withdrew a small pair of scissors. Amanda took them from his fingers and neatly clipped off the threads from the sock.

"There. Now, suppose your men were to agree to take the risk of poling out the Henrietta when she was on fire. Would that change matters?"

The officer shook his head in despair at her stubbornness: "Miss Shilling, they plain won't, and even if they did, I wouldn't let them. Losing men in a war is bad enough, but getting them killed just in trying to save a few houses would be plumb crazy."

"Mmmm. . ." Amanda stood up, still holding the repaired sock. "James, why don't you stretch yourself out on that couch. Put your feet up on the arm rest and I'll see if that other sock needs darning as well."

James blinked, his blue eyes puzzled: "What?"

"Please lie down on the couch, Lieutenant. I've got some more things to say to you yet. In the meantime, I'll take a look at that other sock. Now don't be shy and just spread yourself out." She walked over and patted the red tinged cowhide back of the couch. "Come on, James, relax. You've earned it. And whilst you're resting we'll discuss a very ancient legend. Believe me, you'll find it interesting."

James had stood up when she had but was still hesitating: "What legend would that be, Miss Shilling?"

"The legend about the rape of the Sabine Women, Lieutenant Lee, sir."

He was still confused, but certainly interested. At least she had no doubt now that the Lieutenant was a man with a normal man's interest in women. "What?"

"If you want to hear the story you must lie down like a good boy." Amanda's coyness tempted him, his feet moved across the carpet. Then a sudden suspicious thought turned his head towards the coffee table and the belt on it. Amanda smiled as she followed his thoughts.

"Don't worry, Lieutenant, I've no intention of playing the Charlotte Corday to your Marat. I'm not going to try to shoot you with your pistol or stab you with your own saber."

The officer smiled in embarrassment, more so as the school teacher picked up two cushions from a chair and put them down on one end of the couch. She patted them invitingly and smiled again. The Lieutenant found the invitation irresistible. He stretched out on the couch and rested his head on the cushions. Yet his arms remained stiffly by his side as he watched Amanda. She bent over him and tweaked the cushions a little, smiling at him.

"You remember the legend about the Sabine women, James?"

"Yes. The story goes that when Rome was first founded the city didn't have enough women and so they tried to buy some brides from a nearby tribe called the Sabines. But the tribe wouldn't sell them any, so the Romans kidnapped the women they wanted."

"That's right, Lieutenant, that's right."

She straightened again and walked around the couch until she was at the other end of it, looking down at his face. He trembled in surprise as he felt her fingers stroke the soles of his feet, one bare, the other still with a sock on it. Then his eyes widened further as she knelt down and rubbed his feet harder.

"Oh dear, James, I'm afraid this is another holy sock to match your boot's sole. I'd better take it off as well."

She felt his leg quivering as she ran her fingernails over it, gently drawing off the strongly smelling sock. In truth, although the stench was strong touching the man's foot was making her catch her breath in excitement. She was astonished to find herself acting so brazenly and even enjoying it.

"Miss Shilling, this ain't right. You shouldn't be doing that and I know I stink like a polecat because I've hardly been out of my saddle for a week 'cept to sleep."

"My name is Amanda, Lieutenant, and that's what you must call me. Amanda."

She leaned forward and brushed her lips against his instep, his left one. Then she did the same to the right one.

"Is this what you get your slave girls in Georgia to do for you, James?"

The Southerner gave a bark of laughter: "School teachers can't afford slaves, Amanda. You should know that. Especially not slave girls."

"But if you did have them, would you like them to do this to you?" This time she put out her tongue and flicked it over the bottom of his feet.

"Yes, I guess I would at that, Amanda." His voice was deeper, almost grunting.

"Do you think the Romans made the Sabine women do this for them after they'd stolen them? Before they got down to the serious business of turning them from virgins into wives?"

James gasped in astonishment: "By crackey, you sure are the boldest school marm that ever I've met!"

"One of those houses out there is mine, James. Every cent I've got in the world is invested in it. I guess this is a time when I need to be bold."

She ran her tongue along the toes on his right foot as if she was drawing a paint brush along a picket fence. The officer stirred again and lifted his hands to cover the growing bulge in his pants.

"Leave it be, James. I like seeing it standing up so proud. Are you thinking about using it as if you were my husband?"

"Lord, Amanda, I'd love to but I've told you the truth. The men wouldn't let me risk their lives to save this village, no matter how much you pleasured me."

Amanda stood up again, smiling: "I know you're telling the truth, James, and I respect you for it. But do you remember the last part of the legend? How the Sabine men came to fight to get their women back but then the women themselves stepped in and said they were living happily in Rome and wanted peace?"

"I remember."

"Good."

Amanda spread out her skirts and knelt down again, by his side. She undid her bonnet ribbons, carefully took off the hat and put it aside. Her right hand settled as gently as a humming bird on the fork of the thick army pants, her palm lying on the obvious sign of his aroused manhood.

"Suppose your soldiers were offered a bargain, James? That they could do whatever they liked with all the good looking women in this village for tonight, if only they'd agree to try to save the village tomorrow morning. Not much of a peace, but one long enough to try to push this steamer way from the wharf once it's on fire." Her fingers closed around his shaft and rubbed it gently. "If they'd agree to a bargain like that, would you agree as well?"

"I - I don't know."

Amanda's fingers undid the belt around his pants, loosening it and then pulling it apart.

"Think about it, James. For one night you could be another Caeser. Rows of helpless women chained and kneeling in front of you, begging for mercy. Do you think you'll ever get another chance like that in your entire life? Shall I tell you what sort of a play I'm planning on staging for you?"

Amanda plucked open the top button of the uniform pants as she was speaking. If the secret of talking to a mule was to get its attention, there was no doubt that Lieutenant Lee's ears were as pricked as much as any mule's could be. And that sure wasn't the only place he was pricked up.

She turned her head and smiled at him: "If you'll listen to me I'll undo all these buttons for you."

"Do tell, Amanda, do tell!"

"What you should do is search the Henrietta and I daresay you'll find plenty of chains and neck irons on her someplace. Nobody is ever going to transport another coffle of slaves down this river but the packet captains won't believe that until the South finally surrenders. So you find all the chains and neck irons you can, and you tell your boys to leave them down in the main saloon."

She bent to her task again and eased open another button. "OK, so far, Lieutenant?"

"Fine, just fine."

"Then tell them that each man is to leave a shirt in the saloon as well. And each man is to write down his name on a piece of paper and leave it in one of his shirt pockets."

She touched another button, pressing down on it against the pressure of the rising flesh beneath to get enough room to wriggle it free. The Reb's ardor was pushing up a fold of his shirt like a tent post. The school Ma'am put her hand on it and squeezed it gently. James' whiskers quivered as if he were feeling the heat of a branding iron being held against his body.

"I guess this must be the horn of plenty I've heard so much about, sir," Amanda giggled. "A true cornucopia."

"Lordy, Amanda, lordy!" The Lieutenant was almost whimpering with pleasure.

"Now, I plan to bring all the ladies down to the boat for their working bee about seven o'clock. We'll all be carrying food and we'll tell anybody who asks afterwards that we were ordered to cook the victuals and bring them down to the boat for you. But what we'll really be doing is taking off our clothes in the saloon and making ourselves up into coffles with the chains. Then we'll each put on a soldier's shirt and come up here to the Texas deck, where the village men down below can't hear anything."

Her nimble fingers undid the last button and opened the pants as widely as she could, wriggling the top of his pants down around the Southerner's narrow hips. She giggled again when she discovered there was nothing worn beneath the pants but the bottom of James' shirt, still draping a column which reared up amid the officer's rumpled clothing as if were an inflated balloon. But when she touched it through the fabric her fingers found a hardness they couldn't compress.

"Is this what a husband looks like, Lieutenant? Can I see it?"

Reueben groaned and nodded, his glazed eyes fastened on her as if she was the most fascinating thing he'd ever encountered.

"Alright, but let me tell you first what's going to happen tonight. We'll all get down on our hands and knees and kiss the men's feet to show how we're submitting to them and begging for mercy. Then you'll pick a woman at random and get her to read out the name in her pocket. Then she has to take off the shirt and give it back to the man it belongs to."

Amanda lifted up James's own shirt, staring at what she had revealed. "Is all this really you? Landsakes, I've never seen a body change so much."

She lowered the shirt on the far side of the shaft and plucked gently at the black curls clustered around the bottom of it: "I surely never saw one as big as this on my illustrations of Greek statutes, but I have seen these before."

Her fingertips juggled his balls lightly, and she watched in fascination as the man jerked as though she was hitting him instead of barely stroking the taut skinned eggs of his testicles. "James, can you feel that?"

"Yes, yes!"

"Fine - fine. So what I'm planning is that whenever a woman is claimed by a man she has to do whatever he says. Whether with him or with his friends as well, and with the other girls in that coffle helping out. Do you think a game like that would make your soldiers happy?"

"God, yes!"

"And you'll agree to tell your men about the suggestion and let them decide? The women for tonight to save the village tomorrow?"

"Yes! I'll tell them!"

"Alright, James. Now, just as a matter of interest, if you were a Roman and I was one of the Sabine women, what would you make me do for you right now?"

His hands reached out, one gripping her hair, the other seizing her behind the neck in a vice-tight hold. "Open your mouth, slave." He bent her head forward, close to the top of his swollen organ. "OK, Amanda, let's see you fire off my cannon."

She squealed - quietly. Her jaw hung open as he positioned her where he wished, then pressed her head down onto his rampant prick. He felt her lips slide around him, the dampness of her tongue against and around the side of his cock. Far from resisting him, her head began to bob up and down on his shaft as smartly as a feeding duck dipping below the water.

It was unbelievable, it couldn't be happening. He could hear his men calling and chaffing to each other out on the wharf, hear one of them singing:


"Sitting by the road-side on a summer's day,
Chatting with my messmates, passing time away."

There were shadows stretching out across the smart saloon, sunlight glinting off bottles behind the bar, and this fine looking young school Ma'am snorting and snuffling into his lap as she sucked him with enthusiasm - amateur enthusiasm perhaps but a thousand times more enjoyable because of that than being performed on by a paid whore from Hooker's Headquarters or Mother Russel's Bake House. She was right - never, ever, would a chance like this come along again. And if the other woman in the village would really perform like this school teacher . . . Oh Lordy, what a night was a-coming!


"Lying in the shadow underneath the trees,
Goodness, how delicious, eating goober peas!
Peas! peas! peas! peas! Eating goober peas!
Goodness, how delicious, eating goober peas!
The officer felt the woman's giggles coming from deep within her throat and through the tingling nerve endings of his organ as both of them heard the song. His fingers looped around the silk hair net holding the chignon of fair hair at the nape of her neck: clutching it firmly he bent her further forward yet to her work until she was snorting for breath and the locket hanging around her neck was resting on his hip.

Long fingernails scratched lightly against one of James's legs, others across his stomach. Then one of her hands was holding the bottom of his cock to steady it as her lips slid further and further down the swollen shaft. It seemed incredible to him that any respectable woman could have succeeded so quickly in taking him so deeply into her throat. She was submitting as much as she possibly could to his size, even glorying in it, her jaws stretched so widely apart that her teeth were barely scraping over his rampant flesh. The fingernails which had been running up and down his legs moved underneath and behind his balls, every light scratch making him shudder in delight. The officer bellowed in triumph, feeling himself ready to spurt forth into the school Marm's throat, holding her immobile and unable to move an inch to escape her fate.

Then the dam broke, the pressure was released, his seed came shooting out of him like steam from the boat's boiler, a whistle of utter satisfaction from between his clenched lips as Amanda choked, snorted, writhed, continued to jerk her head up and down on his lap to mark his final ecstasy with the ultimate feminine submission. When he was finally spent he watched in fascination as the girl calmly patted her lips with her handkerchief, sucking in her cheeks with her eyes closed, as if draining the last drop of sweet taste from a piece of honeycomb. Incredibly, there seemed some expression of smugness on her face - as if pleased with herself.

Later still, she was sitting in one of the armchairs, a smile still hovering on her lips as she sipped a glass of ginger beer that James had brought her from the bar. He was leaning back in an armchair with his bare feet on the coffee table, drawing in with deep satisfaction from a long nine cigar taken into Confederate service from the boat's humidor.

"Well, Lieutenant, was that a satisfactory token of good faith?"

"Indeed it was, Amanda." There was a pause as James wondered whether to speak aloud of his curiosity about her behavior. "May I be permitted to inquire as to how you came to be aware of that particular practice? Of course it's none of my business but you do seem to be a very . . . a very worldly-wise lady for one in your profession."

Amanda smiled disarmingly, looking like a teenage miss caught with a hand in the cookie jar.

"Oh dear, must I hold a candle to my shames? Very well then, James. The teacher before me in Stony Creek was an elderly man of European origins who died very suddenly from a chill. Since he had no relatives the school board put aside all his books in case some of them might be useful for the school. But I suppose they never examined them very closely because when I went through them I discovered a German volume called 'Gestohlen Fraun'. My German is very weak but apparently that means 'Stolen Women'. It's of no matter about the words anyway as the book is full of skilfully executed drawings of the most lascivious kind. In fact it was the drawings which gave me the idea of approaching you."

"Really?"

"Yes. The story appears to be about two sisters of the Italian aristocracy and their maids whom are captured by bandits and taken to a mountain lair where they are subjected to every whim of the bandits. The illustrations show many of the . . . the activities in a most life like way. They certainly give the impression that the men involved are greatly enjoying themselves."

James grinned and blew onto the glowing tip of the cigar: "It sure sounds like hot stuff for a demure village school teacher. The good people of Stony Creek would probably burn you at the stake as a witch if they knew what their school marm was studying."

Amanda blushed prettily: "Very well, I will confess that ever since I found the book a month ago I have indeed been studying it very closely - more perhaps than is good for me. I fear it has indeed aroused some regrets about my own unmarried state and a lack of a male partner to help me experiment with some of the activities shown in the illustrations."

"But now you've cast aside your scruples?"

Amanda's smile became as inscrutable as the Mona Lisa's. "Why, sir, it seems that fate has conspired to make a virtue out of desire by forcing me to cast them aside. But did I really do it properly? I was fearful that you would start laughing at my efforts."

James spluttered and tugged at his whiskers to regain a measure of self control: "No, Amanda, I didn't feel at all like laughing. You were very good, I do assure you."

Amanda bowed her head in appreciation: "Oh, thank you so much for saying so. Do you think I might crave your indulgence in helping my education further in these matters?"

"I'll be - I'd be delighted, Amanda. What have you in mind?"

"Well, Lieutenant, I daresay all the other ladies whom might come to this evening's social even are already married - or, at least, they've acted the part in the past. I, however, am still - what shall I say - uncharted territory? And I would much prefer that my situation should be altered before this evening's public performance. Do you think you might possibly visit the schoolhouse about three o'clock this afternoon? I have a meeting scheduled there with the village ladies earlier but I daresay our business will be concluded by then. So I shall know then whether the ladies are agreeable to the arrangement and if I will need your assistance."

"My assistance?" He thought he understood what she was asking yet still couldn't accept the reality of it.

"Why yes, James. In fully introducing me to those of your gender. In playing the role of a founding father. Surely you know what I mean?"

James coughed as if he'd swallowed a piece of burning tobacco.

"Lord, Amanda, I'm exfluncticated, tetotaciously exfluncticated. I haven't ever had such a day for cutting up didoes, nor never even dreamed of such a one. But you can bet I'll be there on time, with my hair in a braid."

"Thank you, kind sir. And now I must go before your men wonder what's keeping me up here for such a time."

He helped her down the boat's steps, he escorted her back onto the rough hewn planks of the landing stage, he walked along it with her and reluctantly parted company with Amanda by the line of horses. Both of them pretended not to notice the wide grins on the faces of the Rebel troops. Perhaps Amanda was genuinely unaware of them the Lieutenant thought. He, wiser in the way of soldiers, would not have been at all surprised to learn that his men had already got a pretty good idea of what had happened on the Texas deck. Perhaps they'd even guessed somehow about Amanda's shameless offering up of the village's women - an offer he was now convinced she was likely to be on her own in making. Certainly none of the respectable wives of Stony Creek would consider such hellfire and brimstone behavior; of that at least he was sure.

Personally, he didn't care at all about any other women as long as he could only find a way of getting the school teacher stretched out across her own desk, sans crinoline, drawers and all her other clothing. The very thought of such a scene was vividly exciting - too exciting. All the way back to the paddle steamer he could only retain control of an involuntary arousal by digging his nails into the palms of his hands, feeling as ready to explode at any second as the barrels of gunpowder stored in the Henrietta's hold. And three words he whispered repeatedly under his breath: "Veni, vidi, vici".

Amanda was right. He did feel like Caesar and like a conqueror. Or perhaps more like a Mark Antony, matched against a queen defending her own territory with remarkable powers of courage, cunning and wantonness.

Amanda herself returned to her home feeling well content with her efforts. At least she'd succeeded in making an ally of the Rebel officer. Nor did she have much doubt that he was an honorable man who would stick to any bargain that he made. As for his men, the promised treat ought to seal the deal which would save the village. The only people whom needed to be canvassed now were the women. Of course she couldn't predict their reaction but at least they'd surely listen seriously to any idea at all for saving their homes from certain destruction. Then they would have to make their own choices.

Not that it was going to be easy to just up and tell the ladies the story. Before she went to her pre-arranged meeting Amanda had several nips from a small stone bottle of applejack discretely hidden away in the bedroom of her small home. From an even more discreet hiding place she withdrew her yellow covered German volume and weighed it in her hands for some time, her face a study in concentration.

Eventually she dropped the book into a basket to take to the schoolhouse with her. Perhaps this was a time when a book could be worth a thousand embarrassing words. Maybe the applejack would help as well.

There was certainly no shortage in the way of an audience. There must have been thirty women waiting outside the schoolhouse for her to unlock the door. All of them looking deeply concerned. Some tried to question Amanda as soon as she appeared but she said nothing until the school room was full, all those present standing. With crinolines and bustles at the height of fashion it was quite impossible for any respectably dressed female to have attempted to sit down at the pupils' desks.

Amanda went to her usual place in front of the blackboard and explained the situation in a few simple sentences. The Henrietta was loaded with gunpowder and had been captured by the Confederate cavalry. The Reb officer was determined that the powder would never reach the Union army and was going to set fire to the vessel at dawn. The only possible way of saving the village from certain destruction was for the burning boat to be poled out from the wharf and into the river current before it exploded. Only the Confederate soldiers had the strength and discipline to stand a chance of managing the feat. The Rebs were not going to risk their lives to save the village of Stony Creek without some special reward being offered.

"Now, ladies. Having heard all this I suspect that most of you have reached an understanding of what I might be talking about. There are only three things which men will risk anything for. We've got no choice but to feed them and we don't have enough money to tempt them into risking their lives for us. The third male imperative is making love to as many women as they can. And that's our only bargaining chip."

Amanda picked up her basket: "Any of you whom choose to leave right now can of course do so. I suggest you make arrangements to get your most valuable possessions out of the village as soon as possible. If any of you are willing to make the sacrifice necessary to save our homes, please stay."

Euphemia Fitzpatrick stepped forward. She was short and well rounded, normally with a bright smile for everybody. The district midwife, with a strong personality and thus of great influence on the other women.

"Well . . . well, Amanda, for land sakes! Have you spoken to the Reb officer about this?"

"Yes, he's certainly agreeable."

"I just bet he is!" Euphemia giggled, relaxing the tension. Some of the other women also smiled.

"But what exactly did you say to him?"

"We agreed on an arrangement I suggested. But perhaps there is no need to discuss that until we've sorted out the wheat from the chaff - if you'll pardon me for using such an expression. What happened was that the officer showed me a book of his and lent it to me. A German book with some drawings in it."

Amanda wondered if there was a recording angel up in heaven writing down this blatant falsehood against her name. Her sins certainly seemed to be accumulating at an alarming rate. She laid the German volume on her desk, opening it at the bookmark. There was writing on one page, a detailed drawing filled the other one. A drawing which she'd spent hours looking at, a masterpiece of composition and depravity.

"Ladies, this is the book I'm talking about. Classical students would describe it as a pornographic work, which means that it deals with sexual matters in a totally uninhibited way. As I understand it, the story is about some ladies kidnapped by brigands and thereafter used in the most shameless way. One of the scenes in the story is depicted on the illustration on the opened page. It was made quite clear to me that the Rebs intend to act out the roles of the kidnappers and we are to become their helpless captives. What that means is, I think, made quite clear by this illustration. Those of you who wish to may step forward and take a look. Thereafter you may stay or go, again as you wish. But I repeat what I've already said: if some of us at least don't agree to submit to the Reb's demands tonight then our whole village will be a heap of smoking ashes by breakfast time tomorrow.

"I've just one other thing to say. If any of you want to get up into a pulpit and lecture me on my wickedness, I'll bear your reproaches without argument. I just hope that the first lady to cast a stone will still be in the same way of thinking tomorrow when she's trying to make a wickiup for her family out of branches and blankets."

A chorus of dissent came from her audience and Euphemia shook her head sharply: "No, no way is anybody here going to say against you, Amanda. I reckon you've been smart enough to see straight off the only way there might be out of this mess. Aye, and determined enough to do what has to be done. There's only question I guess I'd like to ask you right now, if you don't mind."

"Go ahead."

"Well, what about you? You're single, with your good name to lose. If the worst came to the worst at least you could make up your baggage tonight and move back into Kansas with the next upriver boat. So are you fixing to be at the Reb party tonight or not?"

Amanda lifted up her head and stared straight back: "I'm intending to do whatever I need to do to save my home. As for my good name, I guess it wouldn't pay anybody to start talking about this business. Not unless they want to cause a whole peck of trouble for themselves and the entire village."

The teacher was astonished when there was a spontaneous ripple of hand clapping inside the school house. She'd been half expecting to be run out of town on a rail by outraged matrons when they got the drift of her notions but things were turning out more like a school prize giving ceremony. There was a sudden movement in the audience and an old lady limped out, her hand resting on a walking stick. The widow Dawson, from the oldest established family in Stony Creek, and the richest. The widow owned both the tavern and the tannery.

"Amanda, I want to say to you that I surely admire your spirit and good sense. Now I guess I'm not able to be one of your recruits, but I want to tell you that I'll stand behind you and any other gal that helps to save my property. I'll also take care of any blabbering bitch by seeing to it that her ears get notched. So, tomorrow, you give me the names of those that have done the deeds and I'll put two hundred dollars in cash in each lady's hand as a mark of gratitude."

Amanda was almost reeling. She seemed to be making as successful a speech as a Senate candidate arriving on the village green with a barrel of free beer. Although it was true that the widow's promise of a bounty for successful sinning drew far more applause than Amanda's words had received.

"Just one thing, Amanda. Before I leave, can I take a look at the book that Reb gave you? Just to satisfy my curiosity."

The teacher nodded and waved her hand towards the desk. The widow limped over to it and bent over the book, fiddling with the spectacles perched on her nose. She stared down at the pages, then gasped aloud. Amanda felt her own cheeks burning, every line of the illustration etched on her own memory. The artist's viewpoint was that of an observer standing by a large spoked wagon wheel mounted flatways and waist high on a post. Four women were around the wheel, each of them chained by the neck to a spoke. And around each of the women were men - men with long hair and long beards, but covered with very little else. And the women were in the same condition, their clothing removed and dropped on the floor or thrown across the wheel.

One of the women was also thrown down over it, each hand gripping a spoke, only her legs and feet still clad in silk stockings and court shoes. The rest of her body was totally bare, a shamelessly exposed plump derriere lifted high for all to see. More than that, the largest brigand of all was standing directly behind her, his beard plaited into two halves and his hand guiding his manhood into her cave of Venus. The pen which had rendered the drawing had shown remarkable skill in not only depicting his victim's expression of pop-eyed surprise at this violation but her equal astonishment at the size of the interloper she was being required to find accommodation for.

Across the wheel another woman was on her back, wedged between two spokes, nothing left to protect her modesty save the ribbons in her hair. Two men were holding her legs up and widely apart, two more of their fellows had stood up between the spokes, each one claiming a prominent breast to fondle. Between her splayed out thighs yet another bearded brigand was kneeling, applying his tongue into her innermost recesses to the laughing approval of his fellows. As for his victim, her head was tilted back, lips and tongue showing in a long drawn out cry as her hands apparently joined those of the male malefactor's in playing with her own bosom, to their evident delight.

Another prisoner, a shapely girl with long black hair, was in much the same position, each of her hands scratching the backs of the men holding firmly onto her teats, but her eyes fastened on the bandit who was holding her hips as he cleaved her open with his masculine scepter, a sport which several of the other felons were clearly eager to partake in as soon as this lucky pioneer had slaked his desire and quitted the promised land. In the meantime several other outlaws were crowded around the last of their booty, the oldest of the women, with high piled, disordered hair and still wearing a corset from which twin piles of flesh had overflowed. Kneeling on the floor her arms were lifted up as if to shield off the heads of attacking snakes which threatened her, but apparently in fact placating them with strokes and pats as she dealt with the closest one by giving it a place of refuge within her mouth.

At least, Amanda thought, at least that is one part of the picture which I now understand better than I did before. But what is widow Dawson going to say?

At first the widow kept on staring at the page, apparently taking in every detail. Then her shoulders heaved as if in distress at the sight. Amanda got ready to rush forward and support the old woman should she collapse. A strange sound came from the frail body - like the sound of a barn owl hunting. The widow was hooting with laughter! When she finally turned away from the book her hand was up to her eyes, dabbing away tears of mirth.

"Oh dear, Amanda, that's sure some pumpkins. I've been of steady habits all my creation and maybe I missed out on some real interesting experiences because of it. Well, I guess I'd better go and take all the other un's that are too long in retiracy for these sort of games. But don't you go giving that book back to those Georgia boys - it's too good for those goober grabbers. Come on Violet, come on Mabel, come on Keziah, come on Lydia. Let's go back to our homes and pray for these ladies' good works tonight. Even if we're all too much of a age to get down on our knees, we can still pray for our homes to be spared."

The widow began hustling out the other old ladies in the school room like a flock of geese. All of them very respectable, all part of the backbone of the village congregation, and all looking mournfully over their shoulders as the widow drove them away from the open book. Seeing the righteous being led forcefully away from temptation was a cause of satisfaction to many in the audience, especially the more unrighteous of the village women who were finding a refreshing change in sinning suddenly becoming a civic virtue.

Amanda let out a deep breath and took out the stone bottle she'd put inside the basket. "OK, ladies, I guess you can step up in your own time and take a look. Anyone of you who feels she might need fortifying first is welcome to take a taste of anti-fogmatic."

It was an offer which received plenty of takers. In fact there was quite a hint of discreet pushing and shoving for a taste of the liquor, but nowhere as steady a demand as there was to take a look at the book. In fact within seconds it was picked up and being passed around from hand to hand, from one cluster of examiners to another knot of lowered heads and gasped exclamations: "Lord a'mercy! I never seen the like in all creation!" "Would never have believed to see such carrying-on all on one stick!" "Those sure are European ways, I guess!"

And mixed in with the expressions of surprise and the rapidly draining applejack were giggles, straight out laughter, and long married woman nudging each other in the ribs as if they were young wenches flirting with the boys at a hoe-down. It was two of these red cheeked titters whom finally approached the school teacher.

"Come on, Amanda, tell us what you've got planned for tonight. What sort of shines are we going to be cutting?"

A sudden silence fell over the crowded room, the question spoken loud enough to be heard and clearly falling on interested ears. Amanda felt herself blushing as she became the center of attention again.

"That's right," Euphemia urged. "Give us the whole story, Amanda."

Instinctively the teacher moved behind her desk before she began speaking. And for the second time that day she heard unexpected hoof beats approaching the school house. Meaningful looks were exchanged between the assembled females - the only people who could be riding in Stony Creek today were Johnny Rebs. Euphemia looked through a window.

"It's the Sergeant. And four other Rebs."

Amanda joined her: yes, Sergeant Wade, with four other graybacks as an escort. What was happening?

The soldiers dismounted, secured their bridles, then knocked on the door even as Amanda was opening it. Sergeant Wade smiled at her, the other men hanging back, all four of them trying to look through the school house windows without being too obvious in their curiosity. Surprised as she was herself about this unexpected meeting, Amanda knew the important thing to do was to somehow keep the negotiations going.

"Come in Sergeant, gentlemen, come in, please."

It seemed strange to be talking as if this was a social occasion for coffee and cakes. And only the Sergeant accepted the invitation to enter the classroom, smiling widely around him as the women of Stony Creek displayed unconcealed interest in this representative of their anticipated ravishers.

"Thank you, Miss Shilling. I'm sorry the Lieutenant hasn't come but he seems to be having a real good sleep. Guess something must have tired him out."

Amanda wondered whether Wade knew about her assignation with James. Was he planning to do something his officer wouldn't have allowed if he was awake? The NCO's boyish face looker older as he leered knowingly at Amanda. His eyes passed around the nearest women to him and quickly returned to Helen Smith, a tall rangy brunette beauty standing nearby, a woman married to a long absent Confederate soldier. Amanda wondered if Wade somehow knew of Helen's weakness for spending a lot of time in company with any handsome male strangers visiting Stony Creek - or was the Sergeant one of those lucky men who could spot a sporting filly with the unerring eye of a Gypsy horse coper?

"The men asked me to come and speak to you, Ma'am. As their man of business, you might say. In fact, we have a message for the ladies. You see, we found a whole heap of general cargo on that side-wheeler we could unload now, rather than leave it to be burnt tomorrow. The ladies who are agreeable to coming along to the wing-ding tonight could visit the boat during the day, say hello and take their pick, and I guess my boys would be happy to give them a hand to carry the fixings back home. Got the manifest here if you'd like me to read it out. Would sure be a pity to waste all this good stuff. Ma'am, shall I read out a list of what's on offer?"

"Mmmm . . . well, ladies, you've heard all that I've got to say and you've heard what the Sergeant has said. Would all of you who like him to continue speaking please raise your hands."

The soldier watched in satisfaction as the hands came up. Some quickly, others slowly, but in the end all of them. "Motion seems to be carried almost unanimously. What about you, Miss Shilling?"

Amanda looked into his hard blue eyes and put her right hand up in the air. The Sergeant grinned, turned again momentarily from a dominating warrior into a naughty school boy. "That's your style, school teacher," he said approvingly.

For a second Amanda opened her mouth to reprove his familiarity, then realized the silliness of any such action. She thought it odd that the Sergeant should seem so much at ease in such a situation. Hard eyed from hard service though and full of confidence, as evident from his ready tongue. Still, the NCO looked so young, especially with being clean shaven, such an unusual thing for any American male past boyhood.

The Sergeant took a piece of paper from his pocket.

"OK, my lovelies, this is for you if'n you want it. We got salt, spices, sugar, molasses, raisins, fruits, vegetables, cheese, eggs, butter, salted meats and fish, tea, coffee, and chocolate. We've beer and vinegar and bushels of dried peas. Plenty of pickles and crackers, and a whole slew of canned beans in tomato sauce. We've even got a barrel of Monongahela whiskey for those of you with refined tastes."

He winked at Helen Smith again, setting her to putting her hand to her mouth as she tried to control a burst of laughter. Helen's eyes flickered sideways as she looked slantindicular at the opened book. The Sergeant saw the direction of her glance and moved over to the desk. He studied the pages for a moment or two, then whistled in surprise before turning around to face his embarrassed audience.

"Ladies, you can string me up for gander pulling if ever I saw the like. And to think that all you good women would be studying something as inspirational as this. Getting yourselves all fired up for your good works amongst the needy, I guess. Well, I do thank you kindly for your thoughts because me and the boys sure are in genuine need of some female company. Just you watch and see."

He picked up the book, walked over to a window and tapped on it. A full beard topped by a sharp nose and beady eyes appeared behind the glass. Wade held up the opened book, showing the illustration to the soldier. "Hey, Jubel, you want to see what they teach in Northern school houses?"

The beady eyes nearly popped out of their sockets and an opening appeared in the black depths of the beard as the man's mouth fell open. In a second all four of the soldiers had their faces pressed against the glass in a full blown parody of boys at a sweet shop window. The Sergeant laughed and opened the window, handing the volume through it.

"There you go, lads, never say the Army of the South neglects your schooling. And if you get any ideas about improving your education here and now, why I guess you'll never get a better chance."

The NCO strutted back into the middle of the room and clapped his hands together in a movement of spontaneous joy before starting off on some more of his peddler hustling.

"OK, especially for you good looking gals, we've got all sorts of notions. Fashionable calicoes, French work collars and capes, elegant milk pans and Harrison skimmers. Patent pills to cure anything that ails you. Shaker yarbs, essences, wintergreen and lobely. Tapes, needles, hooks and eyes, broaches and bracelets, smelling bottles and castor oil. Corn-plasters, mustard, gardening seeds, silver spoons, teapots and green tea to put in them. Song-books and tracts, thimbles and baby whistles, playing cards, pudding sticks and baskets and wooden bowls. There's powder and shot as well but I guess we need that more than you do. There's also a crate of female preventatives which we sure don't have any use for but you're all welcome to dip into - if you're willing to step up and say you want them."

The village woman were looking stunned, then cautiously pleased. What with widow Dawson's offer and now this unexpected bonus the wages of sin were starting to come along nicely. Not that most of them would ever have dreamt normally of stealing as much as a handkerchief, but if it was all going to be burnt if they didn't take it - well, wastefulness was a wicked thing too, everybody knew that. Mean time some other brand of wickedness was brewing out on the verandah right now, to judge by the bellows of coarse laughter coming from outside the school house. The soldiers were finding the German volume every bit as interesting as the Sergeant had predicted. Nor was any woman in the school house surprised when the door opened and a thick set corporal walked in. His craggy face was flushed red with excitement, the tips of his straggly brown mustache quivering.

"Permission requested to speak to you outside, Sergeant."

Wade smiled: "Why, what's on your mind, Patrick?"

"Sure, Sergeant, and aren't we fighting the devil himself outside and all his works, and every man jack of us losing hand over fist? Sergeant, will you not come outside and organize a prayer meeting so we can decide what's to be done for salvation's sake?"

Wade's lips quivered in amusement: "Well, I guess this might be a right opportune time to thank the Lord for all his gifts. Excuse us for a moment, ladies."

The two NCO's left the room. As soon as they were gone a buzz of excited conversation ran around the school house.

Euphemia leaned over to whisper to Amanda: "I'm sure that soaplock of a Sergeant is planning on some devilment, my dear. I could see it in his eyes. I guess you know what I mean?"

Helen was also listening, her cheeks flushed and well filled out bosom heaving: "Oh, there's going to be some larks, you can lay to that. I feel all-overish, and then some. Can I take another drink, Amanda?"

"Not until I've had one."

Amanda picked up the jug and took a swallow from it that set her throat burning. As she was passing it to Helen she heard a round of raucous laughter from the verandah, then sudden overriding bursts of conversation as if all the men were trying to talk at once, each trying to get the others to listen to his ideas

"Land's sakes! Somebody's going to catch it, you mark my words," Helen prophesied darkly.

The door opened and Sergeant Wade sauntered back in. Behind him came the other four Rebs, all looking around them like foxes that had found an unguarded chicken run and didn't know where to start feeding. Wade smiled as happily as a railroad speculator at a depot opening.

"Well, ladies, we've decided on a text for today: 'Whom the Lord loves, he chastises'. So first of all we'll do some chastising, and then some loving. We'll need some room to work in though."

He nodded to the other men set to work with hasty impatience. The desks were picked up and carried to the end of the schoolroom, leaving the other two thirds of the room empty. Then Amanda's desk was set down in the middle of the open space.

"You two ladies, come here."

Wade pointed at Yvonne Folland, a skinny long nosed woman married to the local cooper, then at Gwenneth McAlistair, a rather pretty little dark eyed lass whose husband was in the Union army. They both looked around as if unable to believe that their fate was to be the first.

"Relax ladies. All I want you to do is to take down that flag on the wall and hold it up directly behind the teacher's desk. One of you at each end and stretch it out."

Once the graybacks had finished moving the table they began searching through the school cupboards. One of them gave a cry of satisfaction and held up his discovery - the birch, the bundle of twigs used to discipline naughty children. The Sergeant took it and beckoned to Euphemia.

"Right. Ma'am, you can be my standard bearer. The master at arms. You carry this and follow me wherever I go, and when I tell you to use it, you lay on with a will - or else."

The Sergeant had stopped smiling. He watched as Yvonne and Gwenneth held up the flag for his inspection. "That's the ticket, girls. Keep the bottom about level with the desk. Now, Amanda, you go and stand behind it and look towards your friends."

The teacher did as she was bid. She wondered what it was exactly that Wade was planning to do. Her cheeks began to burn as some of the possibilities occurred to her.

"Surely did like the look of you this morning, School Ma'am, with that flag around you. But I guess it would have looked even better if that was all you'd been wearing. Seems to me though that's a big enough flag for another lady to be company with you in hiding her modesty behind it. Yes sirree, what we want is another right charmer."

His eyes swung around the room, from woman to woman, a half smile on his lips. Until they finally reached Helen Smith: "And what might your name be. Ma'am?"

Helen told him.

"Helen, hey? You know something Helen, I think Miss Shilling might be a genuine cold back but you're a married lady. So I think you might be just the one to go and stand behind the flag with the teacher. She won't be so nervous if she's teamed up with a mare that's already been well broken in."

Helen gasped at his directness, putting her fingers to her lips and blushing as she'd just made a involuntary rude sound in church. The Sergeant pointed to the birch and then the flag. "Would you like to hold your hands out to be smacked, Ma'am, or would you rather do as you're told?"

"I ... I," Helen looked around her, at the audience, then at the twigs and at Euphemia. "Oh Lord. If Henry was ever to find out ... "

"It's alright, Helen," the midwife reassured her. "Nobody is going to tell on you. And you wouldn't want Henry coming back and finding his home all blowed away, would you? We womenfolk have got to stick together on this, just like Amanda says - - one for all, and all for one."

Helen nodded to show her understanding and walked over to the table, joining Amanda so they were elbow to elbow behind the flag. Sergeant Wade laughed and clapped his hands.

"OK, ladies. Now I need another volunteer. The one who squeals most get the job."

He walked along the row of females. The first he selected was Madeline Masefield, married to the town butcher. She was built on generous lines, with wide hips and a more than ample bosom, and she didn't squeal she certainly gave several loud gasps as the Sergeant grabbed both of her plumpers and fondled her roughly. Her hands came up to fend him off, only to be caught and restrained by the women alongside her.

"It's alright, Madeline, it'll be the same for all of us, by and by," one of them said. Madeline blushed like a babe in a bath tub, closed her eyes and stood still as the Sergeant took his liberties.

"OK, you'll do Ma'am. Go over there and start taking off Helen's clothes. Bring them back here piece by piece. The boys will reward you for each trip, the same way as I just have. Off you go." He pushed Madeline in the back and sent her tottering towards the table.

"Now, have we got another outstanding pair of titties in the room? Yes, the lady in the back in the blue bonnet. Step forward and let's take a look at you."

It was Gertrude Rohrer he'd selected, taller than himself, her homely blushing face framed with blonde plaits, her eyes cast down towards the bulges in the front of her dress which had been the reason for her choice for public shame. Then she peeked up again and blanched as she saw the hands held up ready for her. She must have been thinking about many things, especially about her husband, away down river on a scow. But the other village women around her plucked at her sleeves as others behind pushed her forward..

"Go to it, Gertie. Madeline stood it."

"That's right, Gertie, you won't let us down, will you?"

Gertrude set her jaw and took the last two steps which delivered her into Wade's grasp. She went even redder than before and gave out a low moan of outrage as he took his time in squeezing through the layers of fabric covering her breasts. She lowered her eyes, then lifted them again and stared into the NCO's face, her tongue licking nervously around her lips.

"You'll do for our boys, Gertie. Go over and start stripping off Amanda. Every piece of clothing on the floor back here and we'll set you up on your toes for every return trip."

The rest of the graybacks nudged each other and guffawed, thinking it a great game. As it went on that opinion seemed to strengthen. Not once did Madeline or Gertrude came back with a item of discarded feminine clothing without each of the five men openly saluting her with stroking palms and busy fingers. Quick movements, for they had no intention of holding up either lady in her errands, but effective ones. Gertrude was snorting deep in her throat presently each time she became the brief center of the grayback's attention, although she still tried to avoid the eyes of anybody in the audience. Madeline, on the contrary, kept on looking around and giggling each time her gang of admirers crowded around her to openly perform their lewd caresses.

Amanda and Helen could see all this as they looked over the top of the flag, their need for protection behind the square of fabric becoming more urgent with each trip. It was a blessing that they were both of the same height but even so to keep the flag down to a decent level at the table top meant that an awful lot had to be revealed above the top of the emblem. Emma felt as if she was in the lowest cut gown imaginable and the eyes of the men a few paces away examined her freckle topped swellings as if they were golden treasures. Helen's white globes were also receiving as much attention whenever the men glanced in their direction. Although it was true that much of their attention was distracted by Gertrude and Madeline. And, presently, whenever both of those ladies were away, another was seized on as a temporary substitute.

The Sergeant began to make a game out of it by using a dunce's cap he'd taken from the corner, and also the stool that was there. The stool was set down by the growing pile of clothes, the cap on it and then Wade took a woman and sat her on the stool. She was then obliged to put the tall conical paper hat on her head and hold it there as the men paid their admiration to each seated victim's soft curves with their stroking palms and grabbing fingers.

Then the game was changed again by the Sergeant. The next woman was accompanied by two more of the audience. They stood on her sides, each one with a hand balancing the hat, and directed to use their other hand to stroke the front of the soldiers' pants. The seated woman was also required to use her hands in the same service.

"Oh, Amanda, I'm so sorry," Gertrude whispered as she knelt and drew down the teacher's last garment, the untied drawers piling up in a pile of white linen around her ankles.

"Nothing to be done about it," the teacher replied. "Lordie, I'm frightened though."

"It's OK, Amanda," Helen reassured her in a low voice. "You're only going to get what you would have got on your wedding night anyway. These are good old boys and they ain't drunk - as soon as they've had the spunk drawn out of them they'll be as quiet as lambs."

Well, they were quiet just then, watching intently as Amanda stepped out of her drawers. Then the quivering movements in her breasts brought whistles of appreciation from the Reb soldiers. More whistles greeted the sight of the nether garments being brought forward to be added to the piles of discarded clothing. Tension snapped and crackled in the muggy air as the two women behind the desk were both perceived to be as naked as Eve before the fall. The men lost interest in the games they'd been playing and gathered around the desk. Wade bent a little and whispered in Euphemia's ear. The midwife nodded in understanding, gave a look of mute regret to Helen and Amanda and then walked around behind them, the birch still held firmly in her right hand.

"Well, ladies, the boys had a meeting outside and decided that what they'd always wanted to see when they were at school was a mettlesome young school marm bent over her own desk without a stitch to her name. I guess none of them thought they'd ever see such a sight, but here it is. So, you two ladies holding the flag, you get ready to let go of it when I clap my hands. And Helen and Amanda, you put your hands up and gone behind your necks."

Helen obeyed him immediately, Amanda slowly following suit until Ward pointed to her and clicked his fingers. She yelped and dropped her hands again, onto her bottom, stinging from a blow from the birch. Euphemia had delivered the stroke with enough strength for the impact to be heard right around the classroom, all the other woman watching with the mouths in tightened up into ovals of surprise. The Rebs glanced at each other in delight, eyes alight with excitement. The NCO's left finger lifted up towards Amanda again, thumb and finger pressed together on his right hand ready to give another signal to Euphemia for a punishment stroke.

Instantly grasping the situation, Amanda laced her fingers together underneath the chignon at the back of her neck. Incredibly, it hadn't been more than an hour or so since Lieutenant Lee's fingers had been in the same place, giving her first experience of love making. It didn't seem as if he was going to provide her second one though, the damned fool, snoring his head off whilst his Sergeant was behaving like a Viking ravisher. Wade chuckled and spread his fingers out and hands close together, ready to slap one palm against another. The other men tensed, as if bracing themselves to start a foot race. Behind them the village woman seemed completely fascinated by the tableau, none of them averting their eyes from the scene. The only other obvious response was the way the flag was trembling in Gwenneth and Yvonne's nervous hands.

Wade smiled: "Here we go, boys. The best sight of the war, a Federalist flag going down in surrender."

His palms smacked together and the flag fell first from Gwenneth's grasp, then from Yvonne's. The upper portion landed on top of the desk, then slithered down on the floor as the weight of the bottom half pulled it down. The Rebs grunted and whistled in appreciation at the unveiling, female gasps counter pointing the deeper male sounds. There was the sound of fingers snapping and the smack of twigs against flesh. Amanda looked sideways and saw that the Corporal pointing towards Helen, having made the same punishment signal that Wade had used.

"Keep your hands where they are girlie," the Corporal commanded in his thick brogue.

Helen whimpered, lifted up her hands again and squirmed around without moving her feet. The men chuckled. There was Blackbeard and the Corporal, over on the left, Sergeant Wade in the middle. The other two men looked like tap room brawlers, men who'd muscled their way into the party by their brute strength. One was the tallest man in the room, broad shouldered, a large piece missing from his left ear, probably bitten off in some drunken melee. Much of his face was obscured by a straggly brown mustache and his skin was as swarthy as an Indian's. For some unexplainable reason Amanda immediately decided that ear-bitten was a butcher or a slaughterer in his own town. The last of the Rebs was stocky with arms like a blacksmith and a face framed by long ginger hair and ginger sideburns. Ginger's face was dominated by glittering blue eyes set close together above a large nose. Small pox scars pitted his cheeks and chin and it seemed strange he hadn't grown a beard over the disfiguring marks. All the soldiers were armed, naturally, but the ginger haired one had three large knives in his belt as well as a pistol.

All in all any one of the Rebs could have been pencilled into the illustrations of the book as one of the bandits and fitted the part perfectly - except the boyish looking Sergeant. But so far he'd shown more devilment than the others put together. Yet that was changing, as Amanda learnt when bitten-ear pointed at her and clicked his fingers. There was a dreadful pause as Euphemia changed her position, and then a stinging impact on Amanda's already tingling seat had the teacher wriggling around like Helen and on the verge of weeping. This was hurtful and demeaning, especially the way she couldn't help whimpering after the blow.

"God save us, look at the pussies on those two," the Corporal declared. "One fair and one dark and both as fuckable as any I've ever seen. Let's be getting started hey, Billy boy?"

Wade laughed: "Never thought I'd ever have so much fun in a school house, that's for sure. OK, ladies, bend forward over the desk, onto your elbows. And let's see those asses high up in the air."

Both of the women obeyed. Amanda's weight rested on her forearms, her naked nipples almost touching the desk blotter, the familiar planks of the floor looking the same as they always did but a draft of cold air blowing over her sore bottom to prove this was nothing like a normal day. Beside her Helen's bare arm was almost touching her own.

"Brace those legs, get your butts up."

Amanda hastened to obey the Sergeant, hearing the gloating pleasure in his voice as he controlled them both with his voice, like a pair of obedient dogs.

"OK, boys, if'n you ever wanted to give a school marm a taste of her own medicine, this is your chance. I wouldn't be using that birch though, or you'll be taking the girl's minds off what they should be thinking about. Use your hands and not too hard or too soft, that's the way to bring them along. Like this."

He came around behind the desk. Amanda trembled in anticipation, giving out a little gasp as his fingers gently stroked her rounded rump instead of landing a blow. Then she gasped again as his roughened palm did come down sharply on her. The slap didn't hurt anywhere near as much as the birch but it was enough to make her wriggle her buttocks, which she instantly found had an immediate effect on the watching men.

"God almighty," Ginger hair whispered. "I've never seen the like. Let me at it!"

He shot around the desk and settled into giving Helen a spanking as well. Like Amanda she started crying out immediately and heaving around in a lascivious style, flaunting her bottom to the soldiers' eyes. Amanda clung to the edge of the desk and rolled her head from side to side. The men were all around her and Helen now, taking turns at slapping the blushing derrieres at their mercy. Not only that, but relentless male fingers were also reaching underneath each of the helpless females to pinch and tug at the plump breasts hanging underneath them. Helen was yelping in protest at the rough handling, with Amanda echoing her cries.

"OK, boys, that'll do for that. Now let's get them purring."

Amanda heard something clink and looked up. The Sergeant had apparently glanced inside the pantry cupboard and seen the loaves of bread which were the children's usual midday meal. Wade had reached into the water dish beside the loaves and taken out the butter crock which was standing in the cool water. He put two fingers inside the jar and lifted out a pat of butter.

"No better cure for a spanking than this. All it needs is to be well rubbed in. How about you, teacher, would you like some nice fresh butter rubbed all over your big beautiful butt?"

As compared to more spanking it was an easy choice. She nodded her head.

"Can't hear you teacher - - can't hear you!"

"Yes, please . . . rub it in for me!"

"My pleasure, Ma'am. Somebody should have rubbed it into you interfering federalists years ago."

The Rebs laughed at Wade's joke as he came back to the desk and put the butter crock down on it. Then he moved back behind the table and began to massage the butter into Amanda's trembling rump. Gently but firmly, with flat palms and outsretched fingers: as the palms rotated in larger and larger circles the fingers explored widening areas of her still stinging skin, the nails beginning to brush against the clump of hair between her legs. At the same time the other men were scooping out yellow blotches from the crock. Some of it was spread on Helen, other hands crept in underneath Amanda to smear greasy patches across her nipples, then to work the grease into and around the tightening points. A lingering moan of desire slipped past her lips, her bottom involuntarily rose higher, offering her private parts up to the Sergeant's touch.

"We're going to fuck you, school marm, we're going to fuck you but good." She wasn't sure, she thought it was the Corporal making the promise. Somebody else was saying something, she couldn't catch it, there was more movement in the room.

When she squinted up she saw Blackbeard, surrounded by women. Gertrude, Madeline, Yvonne: they were taking his uniform off. Gwenneth McAlistair was kneeling in front of him, unlacing the man's boots. Amanda heard Sergeant Wade laugh as his greasy fingertips began to trace the cleft of her womanhood. When one of the fingers found the swollen rosebud hidden within it and deftly tweaked the spot Amanda writhed as if she was being Indian tortured over a slow fire - yet this was a fire smoldering and spurting into flame in her own vitals, and it was the worst kind of torture, one she didn't want stopped. Her leg muscles tensed and she went up on her toes, then cried out in something of the same manner as the soldiers had done when they stormed into the village.

"Ha, we'll make a Reb out of her yet. When she's got enough Southern spunk in her to know the difference." It might have been the Sergeant speaking, she wasn't sure. Helen was making enough noise on her own to make everything sound confused.

The Corporal was coming back, stark naked, his bare shaft bobbing and up down at every step like a canoe riding over waves. He lifted up the butter crock with one hand and used the other to guide the top of his male member in a wiping motion around the interior of the lip of the pot. Amanda made a mental note that she'd have to get another one, none of the mothers would want their children eating from it in future. A pity, it was a nice piece of pottery with violets and roses on it she'd carefully hand painted herself. Then the Reb held his butter decorated shaft up to her lips.

"Lick this off, teacher, before it melts, or I'll shove that birch up your ass!"

If he thought that he was going to get any kind of fearful, tearful refusal he was about two hours too late. Amanda immediately reached out and held the NCO's red flushed cock steady, then wriggled forward to do as the man wanted. There were cries of approval from around the desk. But her hips were tightly seized and she was hauled back again.

"Oh no you don't, Patrick. You get the other 'un to do that for you. The School Ma'am's going to get my bit between her teeth first. Jubal, you take over here."

Jubal's hands had none of the gentleness or timing of the Sergeant's. But he knew just as well how to excite a girl and his busy fingers combined with the continual massaging of her slippery breasts brought Amanda to a state of near hysteria, especially when she looked sideways and saw the Corporal holding onto Helen's hair as he moved himself against her, filling her mouth with his column of flesh and then pulling it back to let her squeal and gulp in air. Amanda was acutely aware that but for the Sergeant's intervention she would now be in Helen's situation herself, and certainly would be sharing the same fate when Sergeant Wade returned. Not only that, the female spectators at the other end of the room were moving closer to the desk to view the men's actions, edging closer in cautious groups like feeding crows. The Sergeant suddenly appeared in the front rank, wearing nothing but his kepi hat, Getrude and Madeline on each side of him, his arms around both of their ample waistlines.

The trio stopped in front of the desk, in front of Amanda, and she saw the fullness of the sergeant's upthrusting member, red flushed all over and twitching like a hound dog's nose. "Butter me up, girls," he chuckled.

Gertrude took a dab of butter out of the jar and spread it over the waiting cock, with Madeline's hand joining in the task. Sergeant Wade groaned with pleasure as Madeline took a grip around his shaft, then worked her hand up and down the glistening skin which looked as if it was going to split open at any second because of the pressure trapped inside it. The Reb NCO didn't seem to be feeling any pain though, although he let out a shuddering gasp as Gertude scratched the hard lumps underneath his protruding ram.

"OK, School Marm, now you lick the butter off, real delicate."

Amanda lifted up her head, opened her mouth and put out her tongue. Madeline and Gertrude both steadied the cock by gripping it at the bottom and guiding the tip of it onto her tongue. The teacher lapped at the hot, incredibly smooth flesh and then nearly flew off the desk as she felt Jubal's beard press in between her thighs. She wondered for a moment what was happening, felt his tongue licking her mound, remembered the illustration in the book and then the beard was scratching her as if she was straddling a hedgerow and the Reb's tongue had found her clitoris. Amanda called out in astonished joy as if she was a ship's lookout sighting a new land, a new world. The Sergeant's hand twined into her hair and held her head steady as his salty butter tasting cock pushed forcefully past her lips and over her tongue. The teacher closed her eyes and despaired of being able to fully satisfy the man and to breathe at the same time. As for what Jubal was doing, her pussy was dissolving into a pool of shimmering white hot mercury which the rest of her body was bound to slide into and melt out of existence.

Yet it was the Sergeant's cock which was suddenly gone from her mouth, and Jubal's tongue which was taken away from his target. Amanda blinked and fully opened her eyes again, then gasped. Another man had appeared by the desk, fully dressed, even to the saber hanging from his belt. James Lee, and sounding very angry.

"You men take your fun further down the room. The teacher stays here, on her desk."

Amanda tried to catch up on the situation. The Sergeant and the other soldiers seemed to be doing as they were ordered, because Amanda felt the desk move as Helen was lifted off it and dragged away. She saw the gray pants she remembered so well moving behind the desk.

"Would you ladies mind moving a little closer? Get your skirts around the table, please."

Amanda heard something fall on the floor - the saber probably, and the belt it was on to, she guessed, and presumably the pants the belt had been holding up. All around it was like being in a curtained off little room, because so many of the village woman were standing right up against the desk, shielding it with their skirts. Hands horny from holding reins seized her buttocks, squeezed them passionately. She moaned with desire and looked around. James was directly behind her, naked from the waist down and Euphemia was standing next to him, her fingers running up and down James's stiffening erection, apparently as skillfully as Gertrude and Madeline had dealt with Sergeant Wade's, like a musician tapping the stop holes on a flute. Amanda's friends seemed to have skills she would never have suspected. On the other side of the skirts a female voice was calling out and then giving a scream of pure pleasure. But Amanda had no time to worry about what was happening to any other woman while Euphemia was positioning the head of James' cock into the center of the wet patch Jubal had left behind.

"She's yours, Lieutenant. Start tupping her!"

Amanda had a crazy thought that if James made her pregnant and Euphemia delivered the baby she'd be duty bound to make the midwife the child's Godmother - after all she'd certainly have had a hand at both ends of the conception. Then she felt her body parted like the Red Sea by God's unstoppable will and James was inside her, part of her, and the pain of it was like the tumbling of Jericho's walls, triumphant trumpet calls mingling in with her yelps of protest. Protests which died away into long drawn out moans of contentment, other woman holding her hands in comfort as if she was giving birth, more women calling out down the room and Rebel yells echoing around the schoolhouse.

"Fuck her - fuck her - fuck her!"

It was Euphemia saying that? Yes, it was, and the audience around the desk were joining in the chant as Reuben's strokes carried him into Amanda's inner temple, where everything in her body and soul was falling and worshipping the appearance of this long promised godhead. Her body went into convulsive spasms, muscles never before used clutching at the flesh which had been shaped perfectly by nature to fit into her like a fish had been formed to swim in water.

"Fuck her - fuck her - fuck her!"

It was impossible, it was a chant in unison, as though the excited women were calling out the timing for a tug-of-war team at a church picnic. Oh God, the Lord himself would surely raise the muddy waters of the Missouri to wash away Stony Creek and all its unexpected wickedness!

Somehow the crowd parted for a moment and between a brown dress and a black one Amanda saw a row of desks, a naked woman kneeling on the sloping lid of each one, booted feet braced against the back rests, arms down by their sides. Gertrude and Madeline, wide eyed and gasping, huge breasts hanging and banging together like the teats on cows being driven into a milking shed. The soldiers behind them were ruthlessly spearing the women on their cocks, Sergeant Wade coupling with Gertrude, the Corporal with Madeline. Pretty little Gwenneth had been press ganged as well, stripped and mounted on a desk, then mounted from behind by the eager Jubel. Nothing else was visible in the gap, except for a pair of boots pointing up towards the roof with their owner flat on her back, her skirts piled up around her head and a naked Reb on top of her.

Perhaps James saw the scene as well, for he began to gasp for air as though he was being hung on a rope's end and his strokes grew more frantic yet, plunging into her stretched cunt like hammer blows drawing out red metal on an anvil.

"Fuck her - fuck her - fuck her." They were witches all of them, underneath their usually respectable fronts. Witches - - MacBeth - -'I'll drain him as dry as hay'. Was she going to drain James? If she did she'd truly be a woman now!

Amanda heard her man bellow, felt a boiling in her depths, and then her eyelids were clamped shut as the end of the world and the Jubilee hit her together and she went flying up into the sky on a rocket blowing off stars and sparks. She supposed the gunpowder had suddenly exploded for some reason and what St Peter would say when the female villagers of Stony Creek appeared outside the gates of Heaven in their present circumstances hardly bore thinking about. He'd probably send all of them straight down to Hell, or back to Missouri.



THE END
2 comments

READERReport

2004-02-24 04:58:19
Very nice story, Perhaps to be continued in further chapters?

READERReport

2004-02-17 14:29:34
Good story, except for the ending. Perhaps the author realized it was getting long and ended it but should have made it long enough to tell whether the ladies saved the town and who it was that wrote the beginning of the story. Was James Lee her father? Too many unanswered questions. Overall I liked it, would make a good movie.

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