When Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in South Africa’s brutal Robben Prison, he tirelessly turned to the poem Invicitus. The inspirational verse was by the Victorian William Ernest Henley, penned on the occasion of the amputation of his leg. Still I Rise takes its title from a work by Maya Angelou and it resonates with the same spirit of an unconquerable soul, a woman who is captain of her fate. Just as Invicitus brought solace to generations so does the contemporary classic. It embodies the strength of character of the women profiled. Each chapter will outline the fall and rise of great ladies who smashed all obstacles, rather than let all obstacles smash them. The book offers hope to those undergoing their own Sisyphean struggles. The intrepid women are the antithesis of the traditional damsels in distress; rather than waiting for the prince they took salvation into their own hands.
Women celebrated in the book include Madame C. J. Walker-first female American millionaire, Aung San Suu Kyi-Burma’s first lady of freedom, Betty Shabazz-civil rights activist, Nellie Sachs-Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize recipient, Selma Lagerlof-first woman Nobel Laureate, Fannie Lou Hamer-American voting rights activist, Bessie Coleman-first African-American female pilot, Wilma Randolph-first woman to win three gold medals, Sonia Sotomayor-first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, Wangari Maathai-Nobel Prize winner, Winnifred Mandela-freedom fighter, Lois Wilson-founder of Al-Anon, Roxanne Quimby-co-founder of Burt’s Bees.
From the Book:
"Still I Rise
Maya Angelou, 1928 - 2014
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Other books in this genre:
A week after uncovering the secret of what really happened at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, history professor Matt Conroy was lying in a morgue with the back of his head blown off.
SFPD homicide inspector Tom McGuire, a long-time friend of Conroy’s, volunteers to assist the FBI in bringing the killer to justice. The FBI, however, is ordered to stand down for “national security” reasons.
They thought that would be the end of it. They were wrong.
Tom McGuire was not about to stand down. Not for anyone, not for any reason. That decision put him in the crosshairs of one of the world’s most secretive and dangerous organizations – an organization whose rich, powerful and ruthless members would stop at nothing to make sure their 140-year-old secret remained hidden.
Drawn into a labyrinth of conspiracies over a century old, Tom McGuire has just walked into his worst nightmare
She was trying to slip out of the house in Geelong when David caught sight of her. “Where are you going to all dressed up in your finery?” he sneered.
“I'm getting married,” she said, in defiance because an argument was inevitable.
“You’re not old enough to marry without Mam's permission.”
“Well she's away in Melbourne, so she's not here to give it.”
“You'll break her heart again. Don’t you think she’s had enough trouble of late?”
“No, she'll be pleased when she meets John. He's a good catch.”
“You’re just another of his children to bring her sorrow; Hannah, Jacob, James, Sarah and now you. You're all the same,” he said, in disgust.
“That's not true,” she was angry. “You’re just a loser and always will be, but I'm going to make something of myself, so I can look after Mother.”
“Make something of yourself! A convict’s daughter with such airs and graces, well you can leave Mother to me. I'll be the one looking after her.”
“Convict, what do you mean? Father wasn't a convict?”
“Where do you think he got those stripes on his back?”
“The navy, Mother said he'd been in the navy and they flog sailors, don't they?”
“A chain gang, that's where he got the lash, hundreds by the look of his scars. Mother too, she came to Australia as a convict. Do you think your fancy man would marry you if he knew he was marrying a currency girl, the daughter of convicts?” David was scornful.
“How do you know they were convicts?” Jane cried, on the verge of tears. “They never mentioned it.”
“I lived in the bloody convict orphanage for four years, didn’t I? Do you think I can forget that misery? But don’t worry I’ll not stop you from marrying this fellow. I suppose you’ve already lied to him about your age and religion because you wouldn’t be rushing to marry him if he were Catholic, or are you in the family way? No, I’ll not stop you because I don’t care what you do.”
He stormed out of the house, banging the door behind him, while Jane shook with rage and horror. If it were true, it explained much, but if John found out would he call off the wedding? Jane stood in the hallway of the house wondering what to do and then she decided to act as if nothing had happened.
She asked the driver to turn around. Her cabbie could not drive fast enough to suit her. When she walked through the lobby of the Cinema 18, everyone was buzzing. She ran toward the crime scene but authorities had closed the hallway where she had been attacked. Her superhero had vanished.
Too late. Now what? Brandi’s hands were still shaking. Her palm felt cold against her forehead. Then, deep in thought, she was startled to hear a raspy male voice behind her.
“Brandi? Hi, my name’s Cody.”
She turned around. Her stomach, still in knots, leaped into her throat. His chiseled face was handsome in a home-on-the-range sort of way. His sculpted cheeks were partially masked by a rough-hewn beard — the obvious cover-up for scars visible through his whiskers. His nose had been broken at least once. This guy had been in some fights.
The Pirates cap he had worn earlier was now in his back pocket and his sandy blond hair wet around the sides. Did he know that his shirt had turned pink on the front? The blood spatters had faded together, partially washed off by heavy rains.
Was she face-to-face with a superhero? He was not as tall as she remembered. His fiery eyes that could have intimidated Lucifer earlier were now softer, like quiet blue waters. He offered his hand, but his shallow, forced smile told her he was not certain how she would respond. Was his shyness just an act?
Whew! His extended hand was attached to a massive forearm. His neck was wide and muscular, his body built to last, rough-cut from head to toe — a description that would make good print in her eyewitness report for the Gazette.
“I wanted to thank you,” Cody told her, “for savin’ my life earlier.”
She could hardly believe her ears. Was it a come-on? Was his voice naturally that raspy, or just a poor attempt to imitate Batman?
“You want to thank me? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”
She extended her hand. It was cold and unsteady. Would he notice? His handshake was warm, ardent, but gentle — the same paw that had just mauled three professional tough guys. She tried to swallow her stomach back down into place but her mouth was too dry.
“Well, I would’ve been a sittin’ duck if you hadn’t deflected that guy’s arm. You showed presence of mind and courage.”
“Presence of mind and courage?” She snickered. “You mean for a girl?”
Two souls, united for a brief moment in war-torn western Europe during World War II, is more than a coincidence. Major Daniel Humphrey, a former high school teacher, is injured while on a reconnaissance mission for General Patton’s Third Army at the start of winter in 1944. He is transported to a hospital in Nancy, France, where he meets a pretty American nurse named Cassandra Burns. For him, it is love at first sight, but it is only temporary. The next day she disappears, and he is told she never existed. However, the rose she left on his pillow tells him otherwise.
After the war ends the following spring, Daniel confirms Cassie’s existence but she did not return to the states. Fearing she died or is missing, he visits the place where they first met and unknowingly opens a Pandora box of intrigue that changes his life forever.
Cassie is an American spy and married to one of Hitler’s most notorious spymasters for the Eastern Front — Oberfuhrer Erik Bauer. Now, armed with information about Bauer’s plans to destroy the West’s restructuring efforts, Cassie is on the run.
Cassie wants out of the espionage game, but what price will she pay for leaving? Can Daniel find Cassie before Bauer and his band of Hitler loyalists find her first? Is Bauer the only threat to Cassie's safety, or is someone more sinister hiding in the shadows?
Bruno runs to the platform between the train cars chasing Jack and smashes him across his face with the big pistol. Jack falls back against the rail separating the cars and slumps to the steel floor. The train lurches and Bruno stumbles backward against the door trying to keep his balance. He grabs the door to steady himself and charges back toward Jack. The train slows and then speeds up as it crests a hill. Bruno stumbles on the uneven steel plates of the platform. He is off balance again and comes toward Jack with his head down and his arms outstretched to catch his fall. Jack pulls his knees to his chest, his feet catch Bruno in the stomach. Using Bruno’s own momentum, Jack pushes his legs up and vaults Bruno’s helpless bulk over the rail. The scream abruptly stops as he plummets under the thundering steel wheels.
Maddy bursts through the door and helps Jack to his feet.
“I was sure he was going to shoot you Jack, he seemed to go over the railing in slow motion and then get sucked under the train. That was awful but I could not take my eyes away.”
Jack puts his arms around Maddy and hugs her to him tightly. “It’s ok now baby, we need to think about getting off this thing before we get to the next station. We can’t be far from the border now. We’re coming into another turn let me see if I can see what’s up ahead.”
As the train goes around the turn, Jack can see past the line of cars.
“We are going up another hill with a turn at the top of it. The train will be going pretty slow as it makes the turn. It looks like a hay field on the outside of the turn. That should make for a pretty soft landing. Make sure you clear the road bed.”
Maddy looks down as the countryside flashes by at what seems to her to be an impossible speed. She looks back at Jack with her eyes wide. “What, Jack? Do you think I am going to jump from this train?”
“We’re gonna have to jump off this thing. Don’t think about it, just jump when I tell you. Let’s go, Maddy. Roll when you hit the ground. Come on, get ready it’s slowing down. Jump!”
WINNER! MILITARY HISTORY BOOK OF THE YEAR. Book 3 of the Historical Documentary Series on the Cold War. Order Now!
The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separates North and South Korea and is the most defended border in the world.
Both sides have dug their heels in and fortified the DMZ with defensive positions, mines and booby traps, missiles, and soldiers as they remain vigilant for the recommencement of a war that never ended.
˃˃˃ READ ABOUT THE DANGEROUS JOB OF OUR SOLDIERS IN KOREA ON THE DMZ!
The soldiers were responsible for enforcing the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War. The North Koreans violated it almost daily sending spies, marauders, hit squads, and ambush patrols into the southern controlled portion of the DMZ in their never-ending effort to destabilize South Korea and cause its collapse. Their blatant violations of the agreement has left a bloody trail of dead bodies that includes many American soldiers. This book takes the reader on a journey through the history of the Cold War and the defense of the DMZ from the perspective of nine American veterans, and eleven tours, who served in different capacities in South Korea from 1962 through 1991.
In 1866, Peter Baxter’s misfortune ends the day he leaves Badgerys Creek orphanage. Unsure of what to do next, Peter finds himself on a farm run by Mr. Brown. An aging man, Brown needs help and is happy to give Peter a place to live in exchange for his labor. Unbeknownst to Peter, Brown’s past is riddled with dark secrets tied to the same orphanage, which he has documented in a red folder.
During a chance encounter, Peter meets Rose. Peter cannot help but fall in love with her beauty, grace, and wit but fears that his affection will go unrequited as a result of his crippling poverty. But fate changes when Peter joins the search for gold in Hill End, New South Wales. Striking it rich, he returns to Rose a wealthy man. Peter is changed by his new found affluence, heading towards the mire of greed. Will Rose regret her relationship with Peter?
Meanwhile, Rose has her own troubled history. One that is deeply entwined with Brown’s past and Peter’s future.
Fate has dealt me a mortal blow. I know it. Never in my life have I done anything I am destined to regret more. William the Bastard has gotten the better of me, and has forced me to give an oath to support his claim to the throne. He trapped me in a golden cage of my own making.
It seemed a hundred years ago when I left Bosham with my hunting dogs and my falcon. I may have pretended I was going on a hunt, but my real aim was to ransom my little brother Wulfnoth and my nephew Hakon. They had been hostages in Normandy long enough. I was so proud of myself back then—so sure I was ready for anything. And just as soon as I set foot on land, my world went to pieces. I could still be languishing in Count Guy's dungeon if it weren't for Duke William's timely intervention. And so, like Scylla and Charybdis, I was caught between the rocky shoal and the whirlpool.
For a while I became William's hostage, as sure as Wulfnoth was. How was I to know that the duke thought himself King Edward's heir, duped by that wily Robert of Jumièges? Who would have thought the archbishop would take such a far-sighted revenge on my family—no, on our whole country—because of his feud with father? I never would have ventured to Normandy if I had known about William's expectations. And once I was caught in his power, I had no choice but to do his bidding. I would have done anything to get away from there.
As soon as William got what he wanted, he let me fly away. But not Wulfnoth. Poor Wulfnoth. The duke of Normandy kept my brother as surety for my wretched oath. Sick at heart for leaving Wulfnoth behind—wondering if I was doing the right thing—I watched the Norman coast recede along with my brother's hopes. What else could I have done? I listened to the boat creak and the water splash in that comforting way which tells us all is well; though in my case this was an illusion. I put my arm around my nephew Hakon's shoulders, chiding myself for wishing it was Wulfnoth standing beside me and not him. But I never had any feelings for Swegn's son and it was too late to change that now. It wasn't Hakon's fault Duke William saw fit to retain my little brother as hostage. Ironically, it was Hakon's good fortune that he had no particular value to anybody.
I should have felt some relief that my mission wasn't a total failure. But I didn't. I may have gained freedom for my nephew, but I may have lost my soul in the process. And my self-respect. How could things have gone so wrong?
No matter whom the witan elects as next king, Edward's successor will have to face Duke William and his remorseless claim. But there was something more that bothered me. Archbishop Robert was friends with King Edward. He had served the king for years, and only left the country because he was forced out of power—by my father, of course. His first act of revenge was to snatch away poor Wulfnoth and Hakon as hostages. His second act was to promise the throne to William. It's possible that he and Edward planned my family's outlawry all along; could it also be that the king really did offer the crown to Duke William? I shuddered to think on it.
And how was I going to ask him? I would have enough trouble explaining myself when I got back to England without seeming to accuse him. What would be the point? As king, Edward could do whatever he pleased. But to give away his country to a foreign ruler? I just didn't see how that was possible. Even Edward had some loyalty toward his subjects. I hope.
Looking back, I would say my troubles with Harold started after he returned from Normandy, back in the late summer of 1064. While Harold was gone, things were so much better. King Edward and I spent a lot of time together, and I'm proud to say he treated me like a close companion. Without my brother's presence, Edward was quite another man; he was more relaxed, he would laugh more and even jest on occasion. Anyway, when Harold returned—already stinging from the trouble his pride had brought him—he made a quiet entrance into the great hall. He took one look at the king and I, drinking together and laughing, and his face turned three shades of red. My sister the queen told me about it later, because at the time I was turned away from him. What I would have given to see my brother's face!
The king looked up and saw Harold, and the change that came over him was immediate. His smile faded, his eyes took on that old guarded expression; his manner turned formal as he stood with a hand out for Harold to kiss. "Welcome back to court," the king said sadly. "You have been sorely missed."
Everyone except Harold could tell that Edward said the exact opposite of what he meant. But of course my brother chose to take him literally. "I am relieved to be back, Sire," he said. "Although I'm sorry to say my mission was only half-accomplished."
Harold had gone to Normandy to retrieve my brother Wulfnoth and our nephew Hakon, held there as hostages for the last twelve years. Edward had advised him against going, but my brother had to play hero, no matter what the cost.
I sat up at his admission. "What happened?" I exclaimed. "Where is our brother?"
I expected some sort of retort from Harold, but he actually hung his head. "Duke William allowed me to bring back Hakon, though he insisted on keeping Wulfnoth. He wanted security against certain promises he extorted from me..."
He trailed off. I jumped to my feet, angrily. "What's that! You left Wulfnoth behind in Normandy?"
That got a reaction from him. "You weren't there, Tostig. I tried my best." He was angry, but something was holding him back.
"And your best wasn't good enough. Poor Wulfnoth! We'll never get him back now."
King Edward put a hand on my arm, nodding for me to contain myself. I turned away.
"Was it such a difficulty, then," he asked Harold, "getting my cousin William to cooperate?" William was more of a second or third cousin to Edward, but our king spoke of the duke with great regard.
"Sire," Harold blurted, rushing his words together, "I must speak to you alone on this matter."
My brother's manner radiated desperation. Despite myself, I watched curiously as he followed the king from the room. My sister and I exchanged glances, and she slipped out after them. Edward never excluded her from his presence—nor indeed, do I think he could have.
Tostig was right. My husband never forgave himself for exiling me to a nunnery when he banished my father back in 1051, even though I think he was glad when father died two years later. Still, there was no denying the injustice of my imprisonment, and ever since then, Edward attempted to atone by admitting me to his presence on any occasion I desired. That is how I was able to witness the emotional scene between Harold and the king, when he confessed to his foul oath to support William's claim to the English throne... Editha
My sister was gone a long time, and the great hall gradually emptied out. When Editha came back she was very pale. She sat down on the throne and I moved to her side, taking her usual chair. She put a hand to her forehead.
"Prepare yourself," she said to me. "I have some very disturbing news."
"He's gone. There is nothing more for him to say right now."
I took her hand. "Tell me."
Editha gave a great sigh. "Edward had warned him not to go. But mayhap it is better this way. At least we know."
She was trying my patience. I forced myself to stay calm.
"About William's designs on the throne. He sees himself as Edward's heir."
I gasped. What was she talking about?
"From what Harold just admitted, Archbishop Robert of Jumièges told him Edward promised the throne, way back after our father's exile. Robert delivered Wulfnoth and Hakon into William's hands as hostages for this promise. All this time, William has schemed for the throne of England."
I was shocked. But then I was puzzled.
"What has this to do with Harold?"
"Our brother fell into William's trap. The duke would not let him leave until he swore an oath to support William's claim. A frightful oath. An oath on the relics of Normandy's saints."
I crossed myself, twice. This was indeed dreadful news. For all of us.
"Harold was lucky to get away," she added. "Hakon was lucky to get away. William kept Wulfnoth as hostage against Harold's promise. Now our brother needs to expiate his sin, for we all know he made that oath in vain. What will happen to poor Wulfnoth?"
No wonder he couldn't face me. We could only hope that Edward would outlive William, which would make Harold's oath moot. Otherwise...well, there was nothing to be done now.
My meeting with the king was just as distressing as I expected it to be. At least he let me tell him alone, with just my sister in tow. I wasn't strong enough to confront Tostig just yet; the few words that passed between us were almost more than I could bear. He has a way of making me uneasy; ever since we were boys, he has always been on the verge of fighting with me, and his sarcasm can be biting.
Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling much better around Edward, but for different reasons. We both remembered his warning when I originally announced my plans. And now I couldn't shake the uncomfortable feeling that even back then, he knew much more than I did about William's secret ambition.
The king offered me a seat; I was glad of it, for my emotions were exhausting me. I looked at the floor, waiting for him to speak. But of course, I was the supplicant here.
"Tell me, Harold," he said finally. His voice was not friendly.
I raised my head.
"Sire, had I known William desired the throne, I never would have crossed the Channel."
That was as close as I dared to make an accusation. I waited for a reaction.
Edward was much better at hiding his feelings since our outlawry. He rubbed his cheek, looking into the distance.
"The throne," he said quietly. "What about the throne?"
Could it be possible he didn't know? I looked at my sister but she shrugged her shoulders.
"Wulfnoth told me," I went on, "that Archbishop Robert made the announcement directly after he left England. With my brother." This was shaky ground, for I don't think Edward ever forgave our victorious return from exile. Many of his Norman friends left the country and never came back. Including Robert, who died a couple of years later. I'm sure Edward was thinking about this as well, but his face betrayed no emotion. I took a deep breath.
"The archbishop told William you wanted him to be your heir. That you sent Wulfnoth and Hakon as hostages to secure your promise."
I stared at the king. He blinked back.
"Do you believe that?" he said finally.
I didn't know. I took a deep breath. "Wulfnoth said Robert told the duke that my father and the other great earls agreed. I certainly don’t believe that!" His question was only half answered. I waited. He didn’t move a muscle. "He said Robert made it all up to wreak revenge on us," I added.
After a moment, Edward nodded as if in agreement. "I will tell you this, Harold. When your father was in exile, Archbishop Robert and I spent a lot of time together, much of it in idle conversation."
He paused so long I thought he was finished. Editha bent over his shoulder.
"No, my dear, Harold deserves to know. You deserve to know. There was a time I mentioned William's name, more as wistful musing than any desire to act on it. I know the witan. William would not be popular in this country. He would understand your customs less than I did."
I didn't know what to say. Where was the truth in this?
"And the hostages?"
He looked away. "They were in Archbishop Robert's charge. I was not involved."
I frowned despite myself. As I suspected, Edward took no responsibility for my brother at all.
"He was so brave." My voice shook. "I hated to leave him behind."
"What exactly happened?"
It was hard to look back at those months. "William treated me well, but I was never left alone. He set guards outside my door at night. He kept me at his side nearly every day. He took me on campaign with him. He even knighted me..." Those words were hard to say and I had to swallow. "When I finally tried to take my leave, he insisted that I do so in front of a grand assembly of nobles and ecclesiastics."
The king pursed his lips but said nothing.
"Sire, he made me swear an oath that I would be his man in England and support his claim to the throne." I put my hands over my face. "He made me swear that I would give him Dover castle so he could garrison it with his own men." Edward gasped.
"There was no other way." My voice was almost pleading with him to understand. "I swore that oath on the bones of his saints, though I did not know it until too late. And I don't even know which saints!"
Edward probably crossed himself, for I heard the swish of his sleeves though I could not bear to uncover my face.
"I forswore myself to gain my freedom," I said, still trying to control my voice. "I took that oath under duress."
Those last words served to calm me, for I truly believed I could stand behind this defense. But when I finally looked at Edward, I was not reassured.
"Your actions will have grave consequences, Harold. I fear for you."
I gasped. He sounded like a reproachful prophet. Or was it my own guilt ringing in my ears?
Not long after we were comfortably housed in Flanders, Judith and I attended church with Matilda, Baldwin's only surviving daughter, and her ladies. Matilda was a tiny thing, but a spirited little bundle of energy nonetheless, and very pretty. She would have fit under Judith's chin. But she was the pride and joy of her parents, well-educated and very conscious of her lineage; her mother was the king of France's sister, and Baldwin's ancestors have ruled Flanders since the ninth century.
It had been raining that day and the sun was just peeking from the clouds as we finished the services in the church of St. Donation, which stood only about 400 meters from the castle. As we were leaving, Matilda led her little procession; I was far back in the crowd when the commotion began. Women were screaming, arms were waving, and people were pushing into each other trying to fall back. By the time I elbowed my way through the door, craning my neck to see over all the heads, Matilda was lying face-down in a puddle of mud. She was sobbing for all the world like she had just taken a beating. The poor girl was covered from head to toe with muck, and her beautiful dress was ruined. As she pushed herself up by the arms, I shook the girl next to me.
"It was him," she sobbed, pointing. Looking up, I saw a somewhat disheveled man riding away. There was no time to catch up with him—not with poor Matilda in need of assistance. I ran to her side and rolled her into my arms, picking the unresisting girl up like she was a child. She put her arms around my neck, smearing mud and tears all over my tunic.
"Take...take me home," she coughed between sobs. She didn't need to tell me that!
By now we had drawn a crowd, but they all parted respectfully as I carried Bruges' favorite daughter back to her father's castle. I heard the murmurs as we passed by.
"William the Bastard," said somebody.
"The Duke," said another. "He must be punished."
"Poor girl," said a third. "He just grabbed her by the back of the neck and threw her in the mud."
"He beat her!"
"No, he kicked her!"
"He rolled her in the mud then got on his horse."
I was shocked. That was the Duke of Normandy?
Murmuring words of encouragement, I carried Matilda up the hill to the castle. We passed between rows of soldiers and into the citadel where her ladies ran ahead of me to prepare her chamber. I laid Matilda on a pile of covers and she rolled on her side, hiding her face. Her father rushed in the door and knelt by her bedside.
"Oh my poor child. What happened?"
At that, she sat up and threw her arms around Baldwin's neck, covering him with mud, too. After a few moments of sobbing, she pulled herself together.
"Oh father. It was Duke William. He was waiting for me at the church. When I came out, he accused me of humiliating him! I told him I would not lower myself to marry a mere bastard, when he grabbed me and threw me into the mud. He pushed me back and forth until I was totally covered then got on his horse and rode away."
She took a cloth from one of her ladies and blew her nose in it.
"Outrageous!" spit the Count. "I will have his head for this!"
Turning Matilda over to her women, he rose and tried to look dignified. But he was all bespattered like myself, and decided to leave the room, taking the witnesses with him. He put an arm around my shoulder.
"Thank you, Tostig. Poor girl." He tried to straighten out his tunic then gave up. "Right before you came to Flanders, Duke William sent an embassy asking for Matilda's hand in marriage. You can imagine how quickly she sent them packing. William was beneath her station, and a bastard on top of everything else. She is not shy, my little Matilda!" He laughed briefly. "But we weren't expecting this!"
The more he thought about it, his face became redder and redder.
"How dare he shame my little girl! Come, Tostig. We cannot let this go unavenged!"
There is one thing I can say about Count Baldwin; he is a very decisive man. He wasted no time in calling together his scribes and composing letters to his knights and captains. He summoned his household steward and demanded an accounting of all supplies. He called for his banker so he could determine how many funds he could raise. He worked long into the night.
The following day, as Baldwin was busily giving orders, Matilda walked into the great hall, trailing her women. There were no signs of the previous afternoon's dishevelment; in fact, she had regained her proud bearing. Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at her.
"Father, I have made a decision," she said evenly. "You may stop preparations for war. I have decided I will marry Duke William of Normandy."
You could have heard a feather drop in the room. We were all stunned into silence.
"You what?" her father finally muttered.
"I will have no one else."
Apparently used to Matilda's strange behavior, her father leaned back and put the quill down.
"And what has brought about this change of mind?" He crossed his arms over his chest.
She appeared to think for a moment. "It must be a brave and powerful man who would dare do such a thing, right in the middle of your territory." A brief smile flicked across her face. "I understand him better, now."
Baldwin looked around at his courtiers. "There you have it. Cancel our preparations." I detected a bit of sarcasm in his voice, but he was quickly obeyed. He held out a hand to Matilda.
"Come, my child. Sit beside me."
Someone brought a chair and Matilda obliged, taking her father's hand.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" he said gently. "He may prove to be a dangerous husband."
"I will manage him. After all, he really didn't hurt me."
Baldwin didn't even try to reason with her. Given time, he told me later, she might change her mind again.
Saying goodbye to the company commanders was difficult. Saying goodbye to First Sergeant Tanneyhill was especially difficult. Conor promised Chaplain Yancey that he would attend as many of his services as possible, as he had been doing, and Conor thanked him for his support and friendship. The brigade commander, Colonel Baker, agreed that Captain Willingham would be the best choice as Conor’s replacement, and the three of them met for two hours to transition the regiment.
In the late evening, Conor was walking the regimental line with Captain Willingham when three soldiers called out from their trench.
“We hear you’re leaving us, sir. Before you get away, we’d like for you to join us down here.”
Willingham and Conor jumped down into the trench with the three young soldiers. One man reached into his coat pocket and brought out a handful of shelled, roasted peanuts. He passed three of the peanuts to Conor, three to the others, and they toasted each other by tapping the shells together. “To the Thirty-eighth Georgia,” they all repeated.
The peanuts were damp and stale, but Conor didn’t care. It was the purest, most unselfish, most cherished gift he could remember.
“We’ll miss you, sir. We walked a lot of miles together, didn’t we?”
“We did. And I appreciate what you men have meant to this regiment, and to me personally. I’ll ask you to give Captain Willingham the same great support you gave me.”
“We will, sir. Good luck to you.”
Conor mentioned to Willingham as they finished the inspection of the line, “Where did we get such men as these? How could I have been so blessed to command them? To have gone into battle with them, and bled with them, and watched so many of them die? These men have carried me from the field after being wounded. I have seen them march for days on dusty roads, wade fast-flowing, rain-swollen rivers, trudge through hard rain and thick mud, and lie down on the grass and be asleep in a matter of seconds. I have looked into their eyes just before we faced an enemy of superior strength and seen their determination, and knew they would be right there with me as we moved forward each time, every time. I have watched them freezing in the cold, half-starved, homesick, lovesick, physically sick, and yet they manned their posts. I have written to their mothers of their astonishing bravery and of how proud they should be of their dead heroic sons. I have listened to their ribald humor, their cursing, their sarcasm, and their prayers. I know that no matter how long I live, no matter what else I do in this life, I will never see their equal again. Just where did we get such men as these?”
Afterwards, when he got back to his hut and thought about those young, undernourished, loyal soldiers so eagerly sharing their few remaining peanuts with him, an act of extraordinary generosity matched only by their magnificent valor, Conor sat on the ground and wept.
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