I first saw him in the light of the setting sun. He sat straight and
proud astride a chestnut bay, handsome in his grey lieutenant’s
uniform. He rode into the yard following my pa who was driving the
family wagon. In the back of the wagon lay the “Captain.”
There was supposed to be a war going on, but we hadn’t heard about no
battles yet. Nevertheless, here was a wounded captain. He had been shot
in the arm and got a fever from it. Me and Ma ministered to him as best
we could. There weren’t nothing much we could do but cover him with
blankets and wait for the fever to break.
Their names were Tom and Huck, and it turned out they weren’t really
officers, but we didn’t know that at the time. They had stolen the
uniforms and were deserting our boys in grey. Huck was the
“Lieutenant” and Tom, the “Captain.”
There was no room in the house, so they had to sleep in the barn.
The next morning, we was roused from breakfast by a knock on the door.
My pa looked out the window and saw a young Yankee private standing on
our porch and two older Yankees sitting their horses out in the yard—a
sergeant and another private. Pa grabbed his gun and went to see what
was going on. The Yankee on the porch didn’t say nothing, but seeing
my pa held a gun, the sergeant had plenty to say.
“You rebels are always looking for a fight. We’re just peaceful
soldiers doing what was asked of us. We’re here to commandeer food and
anything else that might help us defeat you rebs. You might as well get
the rest of the vipers out here, no use getting shot from a window. Tell
everyone to come out unarmed. And private,” he said to the one on the
porch, “relieve the reb of his weapon.”
Well, Pa had nothing left to do but give up his gun. The rest of us
filed out onto the porch and stood behind my pa. Then the sergeant said
we was to come down into the yard where he could get a better look at
I had just turned eighteen and some said I was fair looking. I don’t
know about that, but the sergeant took one look at me and started to
drag me to the barn while ordering the privates to shoot the first of my
family that moved.
Even though I knew what the sergeant had in mind for me, I didn’t want
anything to happen to my family and was about to yell out that I would
be all right when my pa made a run at the sergeant. The younger Yankee
raised his gun and sighted Pa, but did not fire.
That’s when Huck stepped out of the barn and demanded that I be let
go. But it’s a funny thing; he didn’t wait for an answer or for the
sergeant to release me. He shot the sergeant right through the heart
pretty as you please and the older private in the forehead before either
one of them knew what hit him. Huck didn’t kill the young private
because he saw him take aim at Pa but not shoot. Though, using his
pistol, he did knock him out with a blow behind the ear.
My family gathered around Huck, slapped him on the back, and thanked him
for saving us. Right then and there I fell in love.
That afternoon, I asked Huck to walk with me. When we were on the road,
I told him how much I appreciated him saving my virtue and that I was
going to go with him when he left.
He slowed down, looked at me with those beautiful brown eyes of his and
said, “Miss Molly, there’s something you’ve got to know about men.
I mean honorable men. And that is, when a man accepts another man’s
hospitality, he does not ride out the next day taking that man’s
daughter with him. Do you understand what I’m sayin’?”
I understood alright. Huck thought I was ugly and that I’d be an
embarrassment to him. But when I accused him of thinking that way, he
smiled at me and touched my cheek with the back of his hand. “You are
a very pretty girl, Molly Lee, and don’t let no one tell you no
different.” After a deep sigh, like he had just made up his mind about
something, he said I could go with him the next day. I was so happy at
that moment, I kissed him full on the mouth!
I awoke early the next morning. I remember the date, 23 July 1861. It
was to be the day I was going away with my hero—the man who had saved
my virtue, maybe even my life. I did love him so.
Ma was setting out the plates for breakfast when I noticed that she was
a mite shy on the number. “Ma, ain’t you gonna feed Mister Finn and
That’s when Ma said the words that would change my life forever.
“Mister Finn and the Captain are gone; they left before first
I turned from Ma so she wouldn’t see the look on my face, then I ran
out to the barn. Sure enough, Huck and Tom were gone, and they had taken
the Yankee boy with them. At that moment, the air was hard to breathe. I
couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t believe Huck would leave
without me. There must be some mistake! But there was no mistake, Huck
had gone and left me behind.
He told me he lived in Missouri, and how big can Missouri be?
Pa was in the upper west forty doing his plowing with my brother Caleb.
Ma was busy with the young’uns, and I was going to my love. I saddled
one of the horses that had belonged to the Yankees and lit out after
He’s only a few hours ahead of me. I’ll have no trouble catching up.
We womenfolk have it tougher than men when it comes to affairs of the
heart. What you are about to read is my story. It is not a pretty story,
and I am not proud of it. I think the only proud moment of my life was
the day I met and fell in love with Huck Finn.
I rode all that day and never did catch up with Huck. By the time it was
getting dark, I was growing mighty hungry and wishing I had taken some
food with me. But Ma was in the kitchen when I left, and she would have
known something was up.
That night, I found a clearing off the side of the road where I could
get some rest. I slept under the horse blanket and used the saddle as my
pillow. As I lay there listening to the sounds of the night, I thought
of my home. Ma and Pa would worry about me, and I surely didn’t want
that. But what could I do? I knew that Huck and me were destined to be
together. I felt it in my heart. I once read a book about a prince going
on a quest for his lady fair. He rode a beautiful white horse as he
searched for his ladylove. Well, if a man can do it, why not a girl? I
hugged myself tight and fell asleep with thoughts of Huck, my prince,
rescuing me from the lonely night and from then on I’d be his
Come morning, I was downright famished! There was a farm up the road a
bit where we had a passing acquaintance with the people that lived
there. The short of it is, I cadged a meal by telling them my pa was
sending me up to Coopersville on an errand, and somehow I had lost the
bag containing my money, clothes, and the little food I had. After
feeding me, they sent me on my way with two fat ham sandwiches and two
dollars that they said they’d collect from Pa when next they saw him.
I went through Coopersville without stopping because I was hoping to
catch up with Huck, but it was not to be. I ate the last ham sandwich
and slept under the horse blanket again that night. Once more, thoughts
of the castle Huck and me would live in went through my head. It
wasn’t really a castle; it was a farm. I pictured the chair where Huck
would sit in the evenings, smoking his pipe as I darned his socks. With
the glow from the fireplace reflecting in his brown eyes, he would tell
me of his day. We would be so much in love.
On my third day out, I ran into trouble. I was on a tree-shaded road
thinking of Huck—how I was going to lie to him, how I was going to
tell him Pa said I could go with him—when I saw three men coming my
way. I didn’t think much of it. Over the last two days, I had passed
many people on the road, most of them men.
When they drew abreast, one of them grabbed the reins of my horse and
asked where I was going. They didn’t look like much. Probably from
back in the hills. One of them was older with a grey beard. The younger
ones favored him, but wore only mustaches. Maybe they were kin.
“Ain’t none of your business where I’m headed! Now let go. I’ve
got someplace I gotta be.”
“Ain’t she the little hot-headed one?” said Grey Beard.
“She sure is,” answered the one holding my horse’s reins.
The one that had not yet spoken suddenly dragged me from my horse,
carried me into the woods, and threw me onto the ground. The other two
I pushed myself up to run away, but when I was halfway there, a hand
smacked me across the face, drawing blood. I fell back down and looked
up at the three laughing faces, the coppery taste of blood filling my
As I lay there, the terror I felt must have shown on my face because the
old man, baring yellowed teeth, said, “This ain’t gonna hurt a bit,
missy. Just lie there and enjoy it.”
That’s when the others grabbed my arms and held me tight.
I looked up at the skinny old man as he slowly slid his suspenders from
his shoulders and let his pants fall to his ankles. Then he was on his
knees pulling at my dress. I kicked and screamed, but a hand covered my
mouth, and all I could do was squirm about, all to no avail.
When he was done, the other two took their turns. I was left there on
the ground, crying, bleeding, and broken. As they were leaving, the old
man said, “We’ll be taking your horse, she’s a fine specimen of
horseflesh. Good day ma’am; it’s been a pleasure.”
When they were gone, I lay there looking up through a canopy of green
branches at the blue sky. The woods were peaceful, the sky so beautiful.
It’s funny that I should be thinking those thoughts just then. I
can’t explain it. It was like I was two people. One who had just been
violated and was in terrible pain, and another, outside of me, who saw
the beauty of God’s world.
My dress was covered in blood. My insides hurt so much that all I could
do was lie there wishing for Death to take me in his arms and carry me
away. After a few hours, seeing as how I wasn’t going to die, I
decided to do something.
I ripped a piece off what was left of my dress to stem the bleeding
between my legs. I did not want anyone to see me in that condition, so I
stayed in the woods until it was full dark and then made my way back to
the road. I hurt so bad I had trouble walking. My dress was falling off
me; I had to hold it together with both hands. I didn’t know where I
was going or what I was going to do once I got there, but the kindling
of a small fire had taken hold in my belly. I was not going to die. I
was going to my prince if I had to walk to him in a torn and bloody
I was on the road for only a few minutes when I heard a horse coming up
behind me. My first thought was to run back into the woods until it
passed. Instead, I fainted.
When I came to, I was in the back of a wagon with my head resting on
someone’s lap. I started to sit up, but a gentle voice, a woman’s
voice, said, “Now, now. Don’t you fret, child. Ain’t nobody gonna
hurt you no more. I’m Clara McCaskill, and the man driving is my
Her touch felt good, but I couldn’t help from crying.
“I know, child. I seen what he done to you. We’ll git you to our
home and once there, we’ll start making you whole again.”
We rode on in silence except for the squeak of the wagon wheels and the
sound of my weeping.
Excerpted from "Molly Lee" by Andrew Joyce. Copyright © 2015 by Andrew Joyce. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.