Henry Fitzhugh Lee's vision of fire finally manifests itself in Lofton County -- 27 years delayed, but not denied!
To get totally caught up on The Posture of Innocence, here are the prologue, day 1, day 2, day 3, day 3.5, day 4, day 4.5, day 5, day 5.5, day 6, day 7, day 7.5, day 8, day 9, day 9.5, day 10, day 10.5, day 11, day 11.5, day 12, day 12.5, day 13, day 13.5, day 14, day 15, day 16, day 16.5, day 17, day 18, day 19, day 19.5, day 20, day 20.5, day 21, day 22, day 22.5, day 23, day 23.5, day 24, day 24.5, day 25, day 25.5, day 26, day 26.5, day 27, day 27.5, day 28, day 28.5, day 29, day 29.5, day 30, day 30.5, day 31, day 31.5, day 32, day 32.5, day 33, day 33.5, day 34, day 34.5, day 35, day 35.5, day 36, day 36.5, day 37, day 37.5, day 38, day 38.5, day 39, day 39.5, day 40, day 40.5, day 41, day 41.5, day 42, day 42.5, day 43, day 44, day 44.5, day 45, day 46, day 46.33, day 46.67, day 47, day 47.5, day 48, day 48.5, day 49, day 49.5, and day 50!
Captain Lee thanked God for speed dial; his normally steady fingers were shaking as he called in his remaining lieutenants and called up his reserve, and then called Commissioner Scott and explained the situation.
“Oh, no,” Commissioner Scott said. “It's already been – wait a minute – what, Ms. Thornton? Look out the – what?”
A pause, and then –.
“Oh, dear Lord and Savior I have just in the last two weeks come to know, have mercy – get up here, Captain Lee!”
Captain Lee ran, fearing and hoping not to see what he knew he was going to see – in 90 minutes, of course it had to be – and it was. The Blue Ridge, Starview, and Skyview neighborhoods were all on fire, and the fire was flying on the firefly wind … all of them were connected by the same road, and as Captain Lee knew all too well, 90 minutes was more than enough time to send it all up. He had nearly done it, 27 years earlier.
Yet that also meant he was prepared, 27 years later, to keep that fire from topping the ridge and sweeping down the other side – in the next minute he was on the phone with Big Loft's fire chief explaining the layout of that part of the ridge and the only possible place to make a stand under those conditions. The fire chief's computer data bore out the same results, so, Captain Lee's full division and full reserve would go into opposite-side ridge evacuations, because even with a stand at the appropriate places, there was no guarantee a fire that vicious could be stopped.
There was also the question of where an arsonist who set those neighborhoods aflame would have to get out … Captain Lee knew that too. There was enough time for said arsonist to have gotten away, but, there was also a ghost of a chance that he had wanted to enjoy his handiwork.
So, there he was after getting off the phone with the fire chief, looking out of the window in the commissioner's officer at the nightmare he had wanted to create – for just a moment, grief overcame the heart of Henry Fitzhugh Lee, at the wickedness that had been in his heart, at the wickedness that had been in the heart of the family circle he had come from, and the wickedness he had been investigating that had been funded right where the flames were wreaking vengeance. Hell had arisen to meet Lofton County, as it had arisen to meet much of the South during the Civil War.
And what was a commander named Lee to do? He had surrendered, and repented, and still had to face the flames – but as an agent of mercy as opposed to the torch of judgment.
“Far more merciful than I deserved,” he said to himself as he began to break into a run. “Thank You, Lord – I will face the flames, on the side of mercy, that same mercy You showed me.”
In the next instant, Captain Lee understood how it was that his cousin, Ironwood Hamilton, kept getting home from situations. To that moment, he had not even seen Magdalena Thornton in the office – but when he turned and around and saw her, he saw her – all the love, the fear, the longing, the need for him to come back alive. It was all written there, in her tear-streaked face.
Captain Lee paused a moment, temporarily at a loss for what to do. Commissioner Scott shouted down the whole thing.
“Look, I wasn't born yesterday so I already know – please go ahead and at least hug the woman and tell her you're coming back so I can get some decent work done here until you get back!”
Well, that being established, Captain Lee ran back and swallowed up Mrs. Thornton in his embrace as they laughed through their tears.
“Get some decent work done now,” he teased as he released her. “I will have mine done when I get back.”
“You make sure you get back,” she said.
Captain Lee smiled.
“That's the plan, and if the Lord uphold it, I promise you I'll be back.”
And, one last time, “Henry the Entertainer,” with tap shoes, emerged …
“You have the part that folks call my heart,
So I'll be back, with all of me!”
He tipped an imaginary hat as Commissioner Scott and Mrs. Thornton fell out laughing, and then went from tap routine into a dead run. Leave 'em laughing … a joyful memory … his sickly uncle Hopkins Sr. had taught him that … no one remembered anything about Uncle Hoppy but the joy. That was his legacy of love. Leave the beloved a memory of joy … yes.