The Mirk and Midnight Hour
of Seeley. How do you propose I should handle him, since obviously I’ve been failing in that area?”
    “What you need to do,” I said carefully, “is to see the world through his eyes.”
    He looked charmingly confused. “How do you mean?”
    “Be whimsical. Seeley’s awfully imaginative.”
    A blue-winged dragonfly lit on the bank near Dorian’s hand. For one lightning-quick second I considered trying to call it to me as I did the bees. I had never tried my gift—my knack or whatever it was—with other creatures. I wondered what Dorian would think of it. Would he find it fascinating? Or alarming?
    He flicked the poor creature with his fingers so sharply it felllifeless into the water. “There!” he said in triumph. “That’s hard to do—have you ever managed to flick a dragonfly? They’re faster than you’d think.”
    I would never tell anyone about the bees.
    We were silent for a moment while I removed my bonnet and let the sun’s warmth bathe my face.
    “Aren’t you afraid of tanning?” Dorian asked. “I’m bound your stepsister would be.”
    “Yes, she would. And that’s partly why she looks as she does and I look as I do.” I closed my eyes. Sparkles dazzled behind my eyelids. “At this moment I don’t care. It’s worth every freckle to feel the sun this way.”
    Dorian laughed. “Like a lady snake sunning herself on a rock.”
    “Exactly.”
    “You’re an unusual girl, Cousin Violet. No wonder you’ve already won Seeley over. How does someone so beautiful get to be so interesting as well?” He inched closer.
    I am not beautiful. Nobody could honestly call me beautiful . He’d made a mistake using that word. There was an awkward pause as I shook my head, my eyes still closed. “Oh, Dorian, Dorian, Dorian,” I said finally in a lofty tone.
    “What? Why do you ‘Oh, Dorian’ me?”
    My eyes flashed open. “You know perfectly well.” I stood. “It’s time for lunch.”
    After we ate, I searched out King to help me fix up the box room for Seeley. By the time we finished, the boy was missing once more. At last I found him outside beneath the bridal wreath bush.
    “Would you like to come see a hideout Michael made in the woods?” I asked. “He built it in case the thieving Federals arrive and we need a place to duck into.”
    Seeley jumped up enthusiastically. We brushed ourselves and each other off and made our way through lush undergrowth. Seeley created a lot of noise as he bounded through the brush.
    “Watch out—” I started to say.
    He stumbled and barely caught himself by clutching a branch.
    “—for the roots,” I finished. Dorian was right: Seeley was indeed an ungainly child. His feet seemed to constantly trip each other up. As we went, I showed him how to be mindful of poison ivy, snakes, and other lurking dangers of the wildwood. I would teach him the best I could to take appropriate care, but no mollycoddling. He had to learn to manage himself in the outdoors.
    “If Mammy had ever let me go into the forest to practice, I would already be an expert woodsman,” my cousin said. “For one thing, I’ve read all about it.”
    He snatched up a straight stick, splotchy with lichen, and commenced shooting at nothing, making explosive sounds. “I’m being Heath Blackstock,” he confided when he remembered I was there. “He saves people from bushwhackers and outlaws and Indians.”
    This sounded so familiar. “Rush was usually named Max Kerrigan. Laney and I always had to be the bad men. He used my mother’s red satin petticoat for a cape. Very swashbuckling except for the lace ruffle at the bottom. I’ll have to see if it’s still around—and if you’re very good, I’ll even take off the lace.”
    Seeley fired his stick especially loudly at a scolding squirrel.
    “I don’t know why you boys are all so fond of guns,” I said. “Guns and loud, bangy things like firecrackers. Honestly.”
    Seeley looked earnest. “If I had a rifle, I would only shoot

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