Part 4 out of 7
merely through the "terribleness" of the times, it had gone forever
astray. When, not knowing this, he despatched another, this latter had
promptly arrived, but its unintelligible allusions to lines in the lost
forerunner were unpardonable for lack of that forerunner's light, and it
contained especially one remark--trivial enough--which, because written
in the irrepressible facetiousness so inborn in him, but taken, alas! in
the ineradicable earnest so natural to her, had compelled her to reply
in words which made her as they went, and him as they smote him, seem
truly to have "aged three years in one." Yet hardly had they left her
before you would have said she had recovered the whole three years and a
fraction over, on finding a postscript, till then most unaccountably
overlooked, which said that its writer had at that moment been ordered
(as soon as he could accomplish this and that and so and so) to hasten
home to recruit the battery with men of his own choice, and incidentally
to bring the wounded Charlie with him. Such godsends raise the
spring-tides of praise and human kindness in us, and it was on the very
next morning, after finding that postscript, that there had come to Anna
her splendid first thought of the Bazaar.
And now behold it, a visible reality! Unlighted as yet, unpeopled, but
gorgeous, multiform, sentinelled, and ready, it needed but the touch of
the taper to set forth all the glories of art and wealth tenfolded by
self-sacrifice for a hallowed cause. Here was the Bazaar, and yonder,
far away on the southern border of Tennessee, its wasted ranks still
spruce in their tatters, the battery; iron-hearted Bartleson in command;
its six yellow daughters of destruction a trifle black in the lips, but
bright on the cheeks and virgins all; Charlie on the roster though not
in sight, the silken-satin standard well in view, rent and pierced, but
showing seven red days of valor legended on its folds, and with that
white-moustached old centaur, Maxime, still upholding it in action and
Intermediate, there, yonder, and here, from the farthest Mississippi
State line clear down to New Orleans, were the camps of instruction,
emptying themselves northward, pouring forth infantry, cavalry,
artillery by every train that could be put upon the worn-out rails and
by every main-travelled wagon road. But homeward-bound Charlie and his
captain, where were they? Irby knew.
Flora, we have seen, had been willing, eager, for them to come--to
arrive; not because Charlie, but because his captain, was one of the
two. But Irby, never sure of her, and forever jealous of the ladies'
man, had contrived, in a dull way, to detain the home-comers in
mid-journey, with telegraphic orders to see here a commandant and there
a factory of arms and hurry men and munitions to the front. So he killed
time and tortured hope for several hearts, and that was a comfort in
However, here was the Bazaar. After all, its sentinels were not of the
Crescent Regiment, for the same grave reason which postponed the opening
until to-morrow; the fact that to-day that last flower of the city's
young high-life was leaving for the fields of war, as Kincaid's Battery
had left in the previous spring. Yet, oh, how differently! Again up St.
Charles Street and down Calliope the bands played, the fifes squealed;
once more the old men marched ahead, opened ranks, let the serried
youngsters through and waved and hurrahed and kissed and wept; but all
in a new manner, far more poignant than the earlier. God only knew what
was to happen now, to those who went or to those who stayed, or where or
how any two of them should ever meet again. The Callenders, as before,
were there. Anna had come definitely resolved to give one particular
beardless Dick Smith a rousing kiss, purely to nullify that guilty one
of last year. But when the time came she could not, the older one had
made it impossible; and when the returning bands broke out--
"Charlie is my darling! my darling! my darling!"
and the tears came dripping from under Connie's veil and Victorine's and
Miranda's and presently her own, she was glad of the failure.
As they were driving homeward across Canal Street, she noted, out beyond
the Free Market, a steamboat softly picking its way in to the levee.
Some coal-barges were there, she remembered, lading with pitch-pine and
destined as fire-ships, by that naval lieutenant of the despatch-boat
whom we know, against the Federal fleet lying at the head of the passes.
The coachman named the steamer to Constance: "Yass, 'm, de ole _Genl al
Quitman_; dass her."
"From Vicksburg and the Bends!" cried the inquirer. "Why, who knows but
With both hands she clutched Miranda and Victorine, and brightened upon
"And Flora not with us!" was the common lament.
"TILL HE SAID, 'I'M COME HAME, MY LOVE'"
How absurdly poor the chance! Yet they bade the old coachman turn that
way, and indeed the facts were better than the hope of any one of them.
Charlie, very gaunt and battered, but all the more enamored of himself
therefor and for the new chevrons of a gun corporal on his dingy sleeve,
was actually aboard that boat. In one of the small knots of passengers
on her boiler deck he was modestly companioning with a captain of
infantry and two of staff, while they now exchanged merry anecdotes of
the awful retreat out of Tennessee into Mississippi, now grimly damned
this or that bad strategy, futile destruction, or horrible suffering,
now re-discussed the comical chances of a bet of General Brodnax's,
still pending, and now, with the crowd, moved downstairs to the freight
deck as the boat began to nose the wharf.
Meanwhile the Callenders' carriage had made easy speed. Emerging by the
Free Market, it met an open hack carrying six men. At the moment every
one was cringing in a squall of dust, but as well as could be seen these
six were the driver, a colored servant at his side, an artillery
corporal, and three officers. Some army wagons hauling pine-knots to the
fire-fleet compelled both carriages to check up. Thereupon, the gust
passing and Victorine getting a better glance at the men, she tossed
both hands, gave a stifled cry and began to laugh aloud.
"Charlie!" cried Anna. "Steve!" cried Constance.
"And Captain Irby!" remarked Miranda.
The infantry captain, a transient steamboat acquaintance, used often
afterward to say that he never saw anything prettier than those four
wildly gladdened ladies unveiling in the shade of their parasols. I
doubt if he ever did. He talked with Anna, who gave him so sweet an
attention that he never suspected she was ravenously taking in every
word the others dropped behind her.
"But where he is, that Captain Kincaid?" asked Victorine of Charlie a
"Well, really," stammered the boy at last, "we--we can't say, just now,
where he is."
("He's taken prisoner!" wailed Anna's heart while she let the infantry
captain tell her that hacks, in Nashville on the Sunday after Donelson,
were twenty-five dollars an hour.)
"He means," she heard Mandeville put in, "he means--Charlie--only that
we _muz_ not tell. 'Tis a sicret."
"You've sent him into the enemy's lines!" cried Constance to Irby in one
of her intuitions.
"We?" responded the grave Irby, "No, not we."
"Captain Mandeville," exclaimed Victorine, "us, you don't need to tell
us some white lies."
The Creole shrugged: "We are telling you only the whitess we can!"
("Yes," the infantry captain said, "with Memphis we should lose the
largest factory of cartridges in the Confederacy.")
But this was no place for parleying. So while the man next the
hack-driver, ordered by Mandeville and laden with travelling-bags,
climbed to a seat by the Callenders' coachman the aide-de-camp crowded
in between Constance and Victorine, the equipage turned from the
remaining soldiers, and off the ladies spun for home, Anna and Miranda
riding backward to have the returned warrior next his doting wife.
Victorine was dropped on the way at the gate of her cottage. When the
others reached the wide outer stair of their own veranda, and the
coachman's companion had sprung down and opened the carriage, Mandeville
was still telling of Mandeville, and no gentle hearer had found any
chance to ask further about that missing one of whom the silentest was
famishing to know whatever--good or evil--there was to tell. Was Steve
avoiding their inquiries? wondered Anna.
Up the steps went first the married pair, the wife lost in the hero, the
hero in himself. Was he, truly? thought Anna, or was he only trying,
kindly, to appear so? The ever-smiling Miranda followed. A step within
the house Mandeville, with eyes absurdly aflame, startled first his wife
by clutching her arm, and then Miranda by beckoning them into a door at
their right, past unheeded treasures of the Bazaar, and to a front
window. Yet through its blinds they could discover only what they had
just left; the carriage, with Anna still in it, the garden, the grove,
an armed soldier on guard at the river gate, another at the foot of the
steps, a third here at the top.
It was good to Anna to rest her head an instant on the cushioning
behind it and close her eyes. With his rag of a hat on the ground and
his head tightly wrapped in the familiar Madras kerchief of the slave
deck-hand, the attendant at the carriage side reverently awaited the
relifting of her lids. The old coachman glanced back on her.
"Missy?" he tenderly ventured. But the lids still drooped, though she
"Watch out fo' de step," said the nearer man. His tone was even more
musically gentle than the other's, yet her eyes instantly opened into
his and she started so visibly that her foot half missed and she had to
catch his saving hand.
"Stiddy! stiddy!" He slowly let the cold, slim fingers out of his as she
started on, but she swayed again and he sprang and retook them. For half
a breath she stared at him like a wild bird shot, glanced at the
sentinels, below, above, and then pressed up the stair.
Constance, behind the shutters, wept. "Go away," she pleaded to her
husband, "oh, go away!" but pushed him without effect and peered down
again. "He's won!" she exclaimed in soft ecstasy, "he's won at last!"
"Yes, he's win!" hoarsely whispered the aide-de-camp. "He's win the
Constance flashed indignantly: "What has he bet?"
"Bet. 'He has bet three-ee general' he'll pazz down Canal Street and
through the middl' of the city, unreco'nize! And now he's done it,
they'll let him do the rest!" From his Creole eyes the enthusiast blazed
a complete argument, that an educated commander, so disguised and
traversing an enemy's camp, can be worth a hundred of the common run
who go by the hard name of spy, and may decide the fortunes of a whole
campaign: "They'll let him! and he'll get the prom-otion!"
"Ho-oh!" breathed the two women, "he's getting all the promotion _he_
wants, right now!" The three heard Anna pass into the front drawing-room
across the hall, the carriage move off and the disguised man enter the
hall and set down the travelling-bags. They stole away through the
library and up a rear stair.
It was not yet late enough to set guards within the house. No soul was
in the drawing-rooms. In the front one, on its big wheels between two
stacks of bayoneted rifles, beneath a splendor of flags and surrounded
by innumerable costly offerings, rested as mutely as a seated idol that
superior engine of death and woe, the great brass gun. Anna stole to it,
sunk on her knees, crossed her trembling arms about its neck and rested
her brow on its face.
She heard the tread in the hall, quaked to rise and flee, and yet could
not move. It came upon the threshold and paused. "Anna," said the voice
that had set her heart on fire across the carriage step. She sprang up,
faced round, clutched the great gun, and stood staring. Her follower was
still in slave garb, but now for the first time he revealed his full
stature. His black locks were free and the "Madras" dropped from his
fingers to the floor. He advanced a pace or two.
"Anna," he said again, "Anna Callender,"--he came another step--"I've
come back, Anna, to--to--" he drew a little nearer. She gripped the
He lighted up drolly: "Don't you know what I've come for? I didn't
know, myself, till just now, or I shouldn't have come in this rig,
though many a better man's in worse these days. I didn't
know--because--I couldn't hope. I've come--" he stole close--his arms
began to lift--she straightened to her full height, but helplessly
relaxed as he smiled down upon it.
"I've come not just to get your promise, Anna Callender, but to muster
you in; to _marry_ you."
She flinched behind the gun's muzzle in resentful affright. He lowered
his palms in appeal to her wisdom. "It's the right thing, Anna, the only
safe way! I've known it was, ever since Steve Mandeville's wedding. Oh!
it takes a colossal assurance to talk to you so, Anna Callender, but
I've got the _colossal assurance_. I've got that, beloved, and you've
got all the rest--my heart--my soul--my life. Give me yours."
Anna had shrunk in against the farther wheel, but now rallied and moved
a step forward. "Let me pass," she begged. "Give me a few moments to
myself. You can wait here. I'll come back."
He made room. She moved by. But hardly had she passed when a soft word
stopped her. She turned inquiringly and the next instant--Heaven only
knows if first on his impulse or on hers--she was in his arms, half
stifled on his breast, and hanging madly from his neck while his kisses
fell upon her brow--temples--eyes--and rested on her lips.
Flora sat reading a note just come from that same "A.C." Her brother had
gone to call on Victorine. Irby had just bade the reader good-by, to
return soon and go with her to Callender House to see the Bazaar.
Madame Valcour turned from a window with a tart inquiry:
[Illustration: And the next instant she was in his arms]
"And all you had to do was to say yes to him?"
"That would have been much," absently replied the reader, turning a
"'Twould have been little!--to make him rich!--and us also!"
"Not us," said the abstracted girl; "me." Something in the missive
caused her brows to knit.
"And still you trifle!" nagged the grandam, "while I starve! And while
at any instant may arrive--humph--that other fool."
Even this did not draw the reader's glance. "No." she responded. "He
cannot. Irby and Charlie lied to us. He is already here." She was
The grandmother stared, tossed a hand and moved across the floor. As she
passed near the girl's slippered foot it darted out, tripped her and
would have sent her headlong, but she caught by the lamp table. Flora
smiled with a strange whiteness round the lips. Madame righted the
shaken lamp, quietly asking, "Did you do that--h-m-m--for hate of the
lady, or, eh, the ladies' man?"
"The latter," said the reabsorbed girl.
"Strange," sighed the other, "how we can have--at the same time--for the
same one--both feelings."
But Flora's ears were closed. "Well," she audibly mused, "he'll get a
"Even if it must be forged?" twittered the dame.
ANNA'S OLD JEWELS
A Reporters' heaven, the Bazaar. So on its opening night Hilary named it
"A faerye realm," the scribes themselves itemed it; "myriad
lights--broad staircases gracef'y asc'd'g--ravish'g perfumes--met our
gaze--garlandries of laurel and magn'a--prom'd'g from room to room--met
our gaze--directed by masters of cerem'y in Conf'te G'd's unif'm--here
turn'g to the right--fair women and brave men--carried thither by the
dense throng--music with its volup's swell--met our gaze--again
descend'g--arriv'g at din'g-hall--new scene of ench't bursts--refr't
tables--enarched with ev'gr's and decked with labarums and
burgees--thence your way lies through--costly volumes and shimm'g
bijoutries--met our gaze!"
It was Kincaid who saw their laborious office in this flippant light,
and so presented it to Anna that she laughed till she wept; laughing was
now so easy. But when they saw one of the pencillers writing awkwardly
with his left hand, aided by half a right arm in a pinned-up sleeve, her
mirth had a sudden check. Yet presently it became a proud thrill, as the
poor boy glowed with delight while Hilary stood and talked with him of
the fearful Virginia day on which that ruin had befallen him at Hilary's
own side in Kincaid's Battery, and then brought him to converse with
her. This incident may account for the fervor with which a next
morning's report extolled the wonders of the "fair chairman's"
administrative skill and the matchless and most opportune executive
supervision of Captain Hilary Kincaid. Flora read it with interest.
With interest of a different kind she read in a later issue another
passage, handed her by the grandmother with the remark, "to warn you, my
dear." The matter was a frothy bit of tragical romancing, purporting to
have been gathered from two detectives out of their own experience of a
year or so before, about a gift made to the Bazaar by Captain Kincaid,
which had--"met our gaze jealously guarded under glass amid a brilliant
collection of reliques, jewels, and bric-a-brac; a large, evil-looking
knife still caked with the mud of the deadly affray, but bearing legibly
in Italian on its blade the inscription, 'He who gets me in his body
never need take a medicine,' and with a hilt and scabbard encrusted with
Now, one of the things that made Madame Valcour good company among
gentlewomen was her authoritative knowledge of precious stones. So when
Flora finished reading and looked up, and the grandmother faintly smiled
and shook her head, both understood.
"And the rest--not worth--?"
"Your stealing," simpered the connoisseur, and, reading, herself, added
meditatively, "I should hate anyhow, for you to have that thing. The
devil would be always at your ear."
The grandmother shrugged: "That depends. I look to see you rise, yet, to
some crime of dignity; something really tragic and Italian. Whereas at
present--" she pursed her lips and shrugged again.
The girl blandly laughed: "You venerable ingrate!"
At the Bazaar that evening, when Charlie and grandma and the crowd were
gone, Flora handled the unlovely curiosity. She and Irby had seen Hilary
and Anna and the Hyde & Goodrich man on guard just there draw near the
glass case where it lay "like a snake on a log," as Charlie had said,
take it in their hands and talk of it. The jeweller was expressing
confidentially a belief that it had once been set with real stones, and
Hilary was privately having a sudden happy thought, when Flora and
Adolphe came up only in time to hear the goldsmith's statement of its
present poor value.
"But surely," said Kincaid, "this old jewellery lying all about it
"That? that's the costliest gift in the Bazaar!"
Irby inquired whose it was, Anna called it anonymous, and Flora,
divining that the giver was Anna, felt herself outrageously robbed. As
the knife was being laid back in place she recalled, with odd interest,
her grandmother's mention of the devil, and remembered a time or two
when for a moment she had keenly longed for some such bit of steel;
something much more slender, maybe, and better fitting a dainty hand,
but quite as long and sharp. A wave from this thought may have prompted
Anna's request that the thing be brought forth again and Flora allowed
to finger it; but while this was being done Flora's main concern was to
note how the jeweller worked the hidden spring by which he opened the
glass case. As she finally gave up the weapon: "Thank you," she sweetly
said to both Anna and Hilary, but with a meaning reserved to herself.
You may remember how once she had gone feeling and prying along the fair
woodwork of these rooms for any secret of construction it might hold.
Lately, when the house began to fill with secretable things of large
money value, she had done this again, and this time, in one side of a
deep chimney-breast, had actually found a most innocent-looking panel
which she fancied to be kept from sliding only by its paint. Now while
she said her sweet thanks to Anna and Hilary she could almost believe in
fairies, the panel was so near the store of old jewels. With the knife
she might free the panel, and behind the panel hide the jewels till
their scent grew cold, to make them her bank account when all the banks
should be broken, let the city fall or stand. No one need ever notice,
so many were parting with their gems perforce, so many buying them as a
form of asset convenient for flight. So good-night, old dagger and
jewels; see you again, but don't overdo your limited importance. Of the
weapon Flora had further learned that it was given not to the Bazaar but
to Anna, and of the jewels that they were not in that lottery of
everything, with which the affair was to end and the proceeds of whose
tickets were pouring in upon Anna, acting treasurer, the treasurer being
Tormentingly in Hilary's way was this Lottery and Bazaar. Even from
Anna, sometimes especially from Anna, he could not understand why
certain things must not be told or certain things could not be done
until this Bazaar--etc. Why, at any hour he might be recalled! Yes,
Anna saw that--through very moist eyes. True, also, she admitted,
Beauregard and Johnston _might_ fail to hold off Buell and Grant; and
true, as well, New Orleans _could_ fall, and might be sacked. It was
while confessing this that with eyes down and bosom heaving she accepted
the old Italian knife. Certainly unless the pooh-poohing Mandeville was
wrong, who declared the forts down the river impregnable and Beauregard,
on the Tennessee, invincible, flight (into the Confederacy) was
safest--but--the Bazaar first, flight afterward. "We women," she said,
rising close before him with both hands in his, "must stand by _our_
guns. We've no more right"--it was difficult to talk while he kissed her
fingers and pressed her palms to his gray breast--"no more right--to be
cowards--than you men."
Her touch brought back his lighter mood and he told the happy
thought--project--which had come to him while they talked with the
jeweller. He could himself "do the job," he said, "roughly but well
enough." Anna smiled at the fanciful scheme. Yet--yes, its oddity was in
its favor. So many such devices were succeeding, some of them to the
vast advantage of the Southern cause.
When Flora the next evening stole a passing glance at the ugly trinket
in its place she was pleased to note how well it retained its soilure of
clay. For she had that day used it to free the panel, behind which she
had found a small recess so fitted to her want that she had only to
replace panel and tool and await some chance in the closing hours of the
show. Pleased she was, too, to observe that the old jewels lay in a
careless heap. Now to conceal all interest and to divert all eyes, even
grandmama's! Thus, however, night after night an odd fact eluded her:
That Anna and her hero, always singly, and themselves careful to lure
others away, glimpsed that disordered look of the gems and unmolested
air of the knife with a content as purposeful as her own. Which fact
meant, when came the final evening, that at last every sham jewel in the
knife's sheath had exchanged places with a real one from the loose heap,
while, nestling between two layers of the sheath's material, reposed,
payable to bearer, a check on London for thousands of pounds sterling.
Very proud was Anna of her lover's tremendous versatility and
From Camp Villere, close below small Camp Callender, one more last
regiment--Creoles--was to have gone that afternoon to the Jackson
Railroad Station and take train to join their Creole Beauregard for the
defence of their own New Orleans.
More than a day's and a night's journey away was "Corinth," the village
around which he had gathered his forces, but every New Orleans man and
boy among them knew, and every mother and sister here in New Orleans
knew, that as much with those men and boys as with any one anywhere, lay
the defence and deliverance of this dear Crescent City. With Grant swept
back from the Tennessee, and the gunboats that threatened Island Ten
and Memphis sunk, blown up; or driven back into the Ohio, New Orleans,
they believed, could jeer at Farragut down at the Passes and at Butler
out on horrid Ship Island. "And so can Mobile," said the Callenders to
"The fortunes of our two cities are one!" cried Constance, and the
smiling Valcours were inwardly glad to assent, believing New Orleans
doomed, and remembering their Mobile home burned for the defence of the
two cities of one fortune.
However, the Camp Villere regiment had not got off, but would move at
midnight. On the train with them Hilary was sending recruits to the
battery, younger brothers of those who had gone the year before. He had
expected to conduct, not send, them, but important work justified--as
Anna told Flora--his lingering until his uncle should bid him come.
Which bidding Irby might easily have incited, by telegraph, had Flora
let him. But Flora's heart was too hopelessly entangled to release
Hilary even for the gain of separating him from Anna; and because it was
so entangled (and with her power to plot caught in the tangle), she was
learning to hate with a distemper of passion that awed even herself.
"But I must clear out mighty soon," said Hilary that evening to
Greenleaf, whose exchange he had procured at last and, rather rashly,
was taking him to Callender House to say good-by. They talked of Anna.
Greenleaf knew the paramount secret; had bravely given his friend a hand
on it the day he was told. Now Hilary said he had been begging her again
for practical steps, and the manly loser commended.
"But think of that from me, Fred! who one year ago--you know how I
talked--about Steve, for instance. Shame!--how reckless war's made us.
Here we are, by millions, in a perpetual crash of victory and calamity,
and yet--take me for an example--in spite of me my one devouring
anxiety--that wakes me up in the night and gives me dreams in the
day--is how to get her before this next battle get's me. Yes, the
instant I'm ordered I go, and if I'm not ordered soon I go anyhow. I
wouldn't have my boys"--etc.
And still the prison-blanched Greenleaf approved. But the next
revelation reddened his brow: Anna, Hilary said, had at last "come
round--knuckled down! Yes, sir-ee, cav-ed in!" and this evening, after
the Bazaar, to a few younger sisters of the battery whom she would ask
to linger for a last waltz with their young heroes, she would announce
her engagement and her purpose to be wed in a thrillingly short time.
The two men found the Bazaar so amusingly collapsed that, as Hilary
said, you could spell it with a small b. A stream of vehicles coming and
going had about emptied the house and grounds. No sentries saluted, no
music chimed. In the drawing-rooms the brass gun valiantly held its
ground, but one or two domestics clearing litter from the floors seemed
quite alone there, and some gay visitors who still tarried in the
library across the hall were hardly enough to crowd it. "Good," said
Hilary beside the field-piece. "You wait here and I'll bring the
Callenders as they can come."
But while he went for them whom should Greenleaf light upon around a
corner of the panelled chimney-breast but that secret lover of the
Union and all its defenders, Mademoiselle Valcour. Her furtive
cordiality was charming as she hurriedly gave and withdrew a hand in joy
for his liberation.
"Taking breath out of the social rapids?" he softly inquired.
"Ah, more! 'Tis from that deluge of--"
He understood her emotional gesture. It meant that deluge of
disloyalty--rebellion--there across the hall, and all through this
turbulent city and land. But it meant, too, that they must not be seen
to parley alone, and he had turned away, when Miranda, to Flora's
disgust, tripped in upon them with her nose in full wrinkle, archly
surprised to see Flora here, and proposing to hale both into the general
throng to applaud Anna's forthcoming "proclamation!"
Greenleaf de trop? Ah, nay! not if he could keep the old Greenleaf
poise! and without words her merry nose added that his presence would
only give happier point to what every one regarded as a great
Confederate victory. At a subtle sign from Flora the hostess and he
went, expecting her to follow.
But Flora was in a perilous strait. Surprised by Hilary's voice, with
the panel open and the knife laid momentarily in the recess that both
hands might bring the jewels from the case, she had just closed the
opening with the dagger inside when Greenleaf confronted her. Now, in
this last instant of opportunity at his and Miranda's back, should she
only replace the weapon or still dare the theft? At any rate the panel
must be reopened. But when she would have slid it her dainty fingers
failed, failed, failed until a cold damp came to her brow and she
trembled. Yet saunteringly she stepped to the show-case, glancing airily
about. The servants had gone. She glided back, but turned to meet
another footfall, possibly Kincaid's, and felt her anger rise against
her will as she confronted only the inadequate Irby. A sudden purpose
filled her, and before he could speak:
"Go!" she said, "telegraph your uncle! instantly!"
"I've done so."
Her anger mutinied again: "Without consult'--! And since when?"
She winced yet smiled: "And still--your cousin--he's receive' no
order?" Her fingers tingled to maim some one--this dolt--anybody! Her
Irby spoke: "The order has come, but--"
"What! you have not given it?"
"Flora, it includes me! Ah, for one more evening with you I am
Her look grew fond though she made a gesture of despair: "Oh,
short-sighted! Go, give it him! Go!"
Across the hall a prolonged carol of acclamation, confabulation,
laughter, and cries of "Ah-r, indeed!" told that Anna's word was out.
"What difference," Irby lingered to ask, "can an hour or two between
But the throng was upon them. "We don't know!" cried Flora. "Give it
him! We don't know!" and barely had time herself to force a light laugh
when here were Charlie and Victorine, Hilary, Anna, Miranda, Madame,
Constance, Mandeville, and twenty others.
"Fred!" called Hilary. His roaming look found the gray detective:
"Where's Captain Greenleaf?"
"With never a word of good-by? Oh, bless my soul, he _did_ say good-by!"
There was a general laugh. "But this won't do. It's not safe for him--"
The gray man gently explained that his younger associate was with
Greenleaf as bodyguard. The music of harp and violins broke out and
dancers swept round the brass gun and up and down the floors.
THE LICENSE, THE DAGGER
Hilary had bent an arm around Anna when Flora called his name. Irby
handed him the order. A glance made it clear. Its reader cast a wide
look over the heads of the dancers and lifting the missive high beckoned
with it to Mandeville. Then he looked for some one else: "Charlie!"
"Out on the veranda," said a passing dancer.
"Send him here!" The commander's eye came back to Irby: "Old man, how
long have you had this?"
"About an hour."
"Oh, my stars, Adolphe, you should have told me!"
It was a fair sight, though maddening to Flora yonder by the glass case,
to see the two cousins standing eye to eye, Hilary's brow dark with
splendid concern while without a glance at Anna he passed her the
despatch and she read it.
"Steve," he said, as the Mandeville pair pressed up, "look at that!
boots-and-saddles! now! to-night! for you and Adolphe and me! Yes,
Charlie, and you; go, get your things and put Jerry on the train with
The boy's partner was Victorine. Before she could gasp he had kissed
her. Amid a laugh that stopped half the dance he waved one farewell to
sister, grandmother and all and sprang away. "Dance on, fellows," called
Hilary, "this means only that I'm going with you." The lads cheered and
the dance revived.
Their captain turned: "Miss Flora, I promised your brother he should go
"But me al-_so_ you promised!" she interrupted, and a fair sight also,
grievous to Irby, startling to Anna, were this pair, standing eye to
"Yes," replied Kincaid, "and I'll keep my word. In any extremity you
shall come to him."
"As likewise my wive to me!" said the swelling Mandeville, openly
caressing the tearful Constance. "Wive to 'usband," he declaimed,
"sizter to brother--" But his audience was lost. Hilary was speaking
softly to Anna. She was very pale. The throng drew away. You could see
that he was asking if she only could in no extremity come to him. His
words were inaudible, but any one who had ever loved could read them.
And now evidently he proposed something. There was ardor in his
eye--ardor and enterprise. She murmured a response. He snatched out his
"_Just_ time," he was heard to say, "time enough by soldier's measure!"
His speech grew plainer: "The law's right for me to call and for you to
come, that's all we want. What frightens you?"
"Nothing," she said, and smiled. "I only feared there wasn't time."
The lover faced his cousin so abruptly that all started and laughed,
while Anna turned to her kindred, as red as a rose. "Adolphe," cried he,
"I'm going for my marriage license. While I'm getting it, will you--?"
Irby went redder than Anna. "You can't get it at this hour!" he said.
His eyes sought Flora, but she was hurriedly conferring with her
Hilary laughed: "You'll see. I fixed all that a week ago. Will you get
"Why, Hilary, this is--"
"Yass!" piped Madame, "he'll obtain him!"
The plaudits of the dancers, who once more had stopped, were loud.
Flora's glance went over to Irby, and he said, "Why, yes, Hilary, if
you--why, of course I will." There was more applause.
"Steve," said Hilary, "some one must go with me to the clerk's office
"To vouch you!" broke in the aide-de-camp. "That will be Steve
Mandeville!" Constance sublimely approved. As the three Callenders moved
to leave the room one way and the three captains another, Anna seized
the hands of Flora and her grandmother.
"You'll keep the dance going?" she solicited, and they said they would.
Flora gave her a glowing embrace, and as Irby strode by murmured to him.
"Put your watch back half an hour."
In such disordered days social liberty was large. When the detective,
after the Callenders were gone up-stairs and the captains had galloped
away, truthfully told Miss Valcour that his only object in tarrying here
was to see the love-knot tied, she heard him affably, though inwardly
in flames of yearning to see him depart. She burned to see him go
because she believed him, and also because there in the show-case still
lay the loosely heaped counterfeit of the booty whose reality she had
already ignorantly taken and stowed away.
What should she do? Here was grandma, better aid than forty Irbys; but
with both phases of her problem to deal with at once--how to trip
headlong this wild matrimonial leap and how to seize this treasure by
whose means she might leave Anna in a fallen city and follow Hilary to
the war--she was at the end of her daintiest wits. She talked on with
the gray man, for that kept him from the show-case. In an air full of
harmonies and prattle, of fluttering draperies, gliding feet, undulating
shoulders, twinkling lights, gallantry, fans, and perfume, she dazzled
him with her approval when he enlarged on the merits of Kincaid and when
he pledged all his powers of invention to speed the bridal. Frantic to
think what better to do, she waltzed with him, while he described the
colonel of the departing regiment as such a martinet that to ask him to
delay his going would only hasten it; waltzed on when she saw her
grandmother discover the knife's absence and telegraph her a look of
contemptuous wonder. But ah, how time was flying! Even now Kincaid must
be returning hitherward, licensed!
The rapturous music somewhat soothed her frenzy, even helped her
thought, and in a thirst for all it could give she had her partner swing
her into the wide hall whence it came and where also Hilary must first
reappear. Twice through its length they had swept, when Anna, in
altered dress, came swiftly down the stair with Constance protestingly
at her side. The two were speaking anxiously together as if a choice of
nuptial adornments (for Constance bore a box that might have held the
old jewels) had suddenly brought to mind a forgotten responsibility. As
they pressed into the drawing-rooms the two dancers floated after them
by another door.
When presently Flora halted beside the gun and fanned while the dance
throbbed on, the two sisters stood a few steps away behind the opened
show-case, talking with her grandmother and furtively eyed by a few
bystanders. They had missed the dagger. Strangely disregarded by Anna,
but to Flora's secret dismay and rage, Constance, as she talked, was
dropping from her doubled hands into the casket the last of the gems.
Now she shut the box and laid it in Anna's careless arms.
Leaving the gray man by the gun, Flora sprang near. Anna was enduring,
with distracted smiles, the eager reasonings of Madame and Constance
that the vanished trinket was but borrowed; a thief would have taken the
_jewels_, they argued; but as Flora would have joined in, every line of
Anna's face suddenly confided to her a consternation whose cause the
silenced Flora instantly mistook. "Ah, if you knew--!" Anna began, but
ceased as if the lost relic stood for something incommunicable even to
nearest and dearest.
"They've sworn their love on it!" was the thought of Flora and the
detective in the same instant. It filled her veins with fury, yet her
response was gentle and meditative. "To me," she said, "it seemed such a
good-for-nothing that even if I saw it is gone, me, I think I wouldn'
have take' notice." All at once she brightened: "Anna! without a doubt!
without a doubt Captain Kincaid he has it!" About to add a caress, she
was startled from it by a masculine voice that gayly echoed out in the
"Without a doubt!"
The dance ceased and first the short, round body of Mandeville and then
the tall form of Hilary Kincaid pushed into the room. "Without a doubt!"
repeated Hilary, while Mandeville asked right, asked left, for Adolphe.
"Without a doubt," persisted the lover, "Captain Kincaid he has it!" and
proffered Anna the law's warrant for their marriage.
She pushed it away. Her words were so low that but few could hear. "The
dagger!" she said. "Haven't you got the dagger? You haven't got it?"
FOR AN EMERGENCY
Hilary stared, reddened as she paled, and with a slow smile shook his
head. She murmured again:
"It's lost! the dagger! with all--"
"Why,--why, Miss Anna,"--his smile grew playful, but his thought ran
back to the exploded powder-mill, to the old inventor, to Flora in those
days, the deported schoolmistress's gold still unpaid to him, the
jeweller and the exchanged gems, the Sterling bill--"Why, Miss Anna! how
do you mean, lost?"
"Taken! gone! and by my fault! I--_I forgot all about it_."
He laughed aloud and around: "Pshaw! Now, ladies and gentlemen, this is
some joke you're"--he glanced toward the show-case--
"No," insisted Anna, "it's taken! Here are the other things." She
displayed the box.
Madame, very angry, smiled from it to Flora: "Oh, thou love's fool! not
to steal _that_ and leave the knife, with which, luckily! now that you
have it, you dare not strike!"
All this the subtle girl read in the ancient lady's one small "ahem!"
and for reply, in some even more unvoiced way, warned her against the
eye of the gray man near the gun. To avoid whose scrutiny herself she
returned sociably to his side.
"The other things!" scoffed meantime the gay Hilary, catching up Anna's
word. "No! if you please, _here_ is the only other thing!" and boyishly
flaunted the license at Mandeville and all the Callenders, the throng
merrily approving. His eye, falling upon the detective, kindled
joyfully: "Oh, you godsend! _You_ hunt up the lost frog-sticker, will
you--while we--?" He flourished the document again and the gray man
replied with a cordial nod. Kincaid waved thanks and glanced round.
"Adolphe!" he called. "Steve, where in the dickens--?"
Whether he so designed it or not, the contrast between his levity and
Anna's agitation convinced Flora, Madame, all, that the weapon's only
value to the lovers was sentimental. "Or religious," thought the
detective, whose adjectives could be as inaccurate as his divinations.
While he conjectured, Anna spoke once more to Hilary. Her vehement words
were too soft for any ear save his, but their tenor was so visible, her
distress so passionate and her firmness of resolve so evident that every
mere beholder fell back, letting the Callender-Valcour group, with Steve
and the gentle detective, press closer. With none of them, nor yet with
Hilary, was there anything to argue; their plight seemed to her
hopeless. For them to marry, for her to default, and for him to fly, all
in one mad hour--one whirlwind of incident--"It cannot be!" was all she
could say, to sister, to stepmother, to Flora, to Hilary again: "We
cannot do it! I will not!--till that lost thing is found!"
With keen sympathy the detective, in the pack, enjoyed the play of
Hilary's face, where martial animation strove inspiringly against a
torture of dashed hopes. Glancing aside to Flora's as she turned from
Anna, he caught there no sign of the storm of joy which had suddenly
burst in her bosom; but for fear he might, and to break across his
insight and reckoning, she addressed him.
"Anna she don't give any _reason_" she exclaimed. "Ask her, you, the
"'Tain't reason at all," he softly responded, "it's superstition. But
hold on. Watch me." He gestured for the lover's attention and their eyes
met. It made a number laugh, to see Hilary's stare gradually go
senseless and then blaze with intelligence. Suddenly, joyfully, with
every eye following his finger, he pointed into the gray man's face:
"Smellemout, you've got it!"
The man shook his head for denial, and his kindly twinkle commanded the
belief of all. Not a glint in it showed that his next response, however
well-meant, was to be a lie.
"Then Ketchem has it!" cried Kincaid.
The silent man let his smile mean yes, and the alert company applauded.
"Go h-on with the weddingg!" ordered the superior Mandeville.
"Where's Adolphe?" cried Kincaid, and "On with the wedding!" clamored
the lads of the battery, while Anna stood gazing on the gray man and
wondering why she had not guessed this very thing.
"Yes," he quietly said to her, "it's all right. You'll have it back
to-morrow. 'Twon't cut love if you don't."
At that the gay din redoubled, but Flora, with the little grandmother
vainly gripping her arms, flashed between the two.
"Anna!" she cried, "I don't bil-ieve!"
Whether it was true or false Mandeville cared nothing, but--"Yes, 'tis
true!" he cried in Flora's face, and then to the detective--"Doubtlezz
to phot-ograph it that's all you want!"
The detective said little, but Anna assured Flora that was all. "He
wants to show it at the trial!"
"Listen!" said Flora.
"Here's Captain Irby!" cried Mrs. Callender--Constance--half a dozen,
"Listen!" repeated Flora, and across the curtained veranda and in at the
open windows, under the general clamor, came a soft palpitating rumble.
Did Hilary hear it, too? He was calling:
"Adolphe, where's your man--the minister? Where in the--three
parishes--?" and others were echoing, "The minister! where's the
Had they also caught the sound?
"Isn't he here?" asked Irby. He drew his watch.
"Half-hour slow!" cried Mandeville, reading it.
"But have you heard noth--?"
"Nothingg!" roared Mandeville.
"Where'd you leave him?" sharply asked Kincaid.
His cousin put on great dignity: "At his door, my dear sir, waiting for
the cab I sent him."
"Oh, sent!" cried half the group. "Steve," called Kincaid, "your horse
"But, alas, without wings!" wailed the Creole, caught Hilary's shoulder
and struck a harkening pose.
"Too late!" moaned Flora to the detective, Madame to Constance and
Miranda, and the battery lads to their girls, from whose hands they
began to wring wild good-byes as a peal of fifes and drums heralded the
oncome of the departing regiment.
Thus Charlie Valcour found the company as suddenly he reappeared in it,
pushing in to the main group where his leader stood eagerly engaged with
"All right, Captain!" He saluted: "All done!" But a fierce anxiety was
on his brow and he gave no heed to Hilary's dismissing thanks: "Captain,
what's 'too late'?" He turned, scowling, to his sister: "What are we too
late for, Flo? Good God! not the wedding? Not your wedding, Miss Anna?
It's _not_ too late. By Jove, it sha'n't be too late."
All the boyish lawlessness of his nature rose into his eyes, and a boy's
tears with it. "The minister!" he retorted to Constance and his
grandmother, "the minister be--Oh, Captain, don't wait for him! Have the
thing without a minister!"
The whole room was laughing, Hilary loudest, but the youth's voice
prevailed. "It'll hold good!" He turned upon the detective: "Won't it?"
A merry nod was the reply, with cries of "Yes," "Yes," from the battery
boys, and he clamored on:
"Why, there's a kind of people--"
"Quakers!" sang out some one.
"Yes, the Quakers! Don't they do it all the time! Of course they do!"
With a smile in his wet eyes the lad wheeled upon Victorine: "Oh, by
S'n' Peter! if that was the only--"
But the small, compelling hand of the detective faced him round again
and with a sudden swell of the general laugh he laughed too. "He's
trying to behave like Captain Kincaid," one battery sister tried to tell
another, whose attention was on a more interesting matter.
"Here!" the gray man was amiably saying to Charlie. "It's your advice
that's too late. Look."
Before he had half spoken a hush so complete had fallen on the company
that while every eye sought Hilary and Anna every ear was aware that out
on the levee road the passing drums had ceased and the brass--as if
purposely to taunt the theatrical spirit of Flora--had struck up The
Ladies' Man. With military curtness Kincaid was addressing the score or
so of new cannoneers:
"Corporal Valcour, this squad--no, keep your partners, but others please
stand to the right and left--these men are under your command. When I
presently send you from here you'll take them at a double-quick and
close up with that regiment. I'll be at the train when you reach it.
Captain Mandeville,"--he turned to the married pair, who were hurriedly
scanning the license Miranda had just handed them,--"I adjure you as a
true and faithful citizen and soldier, and you, madam, as well, to
testify to us, all, whether that is or is not the license of court for
the marriage of Anna Callender to Hilary Kincaid."
"It is!" eagerly proclaimed the pair.
"Hand it, please, to Charlie. Corporal, you and your men look it over."
"And now--" His eyes swept the throng. Anna's hand, trembling but ready,
rose shoulder-high in his. He noted the varied expressions of face among
the family servants hurriedly gathering in the doors, and the beautiful
amaze of Flora, so genuine yet so well acted. Radiantly he met the
flushed gaze of his speechless cousin. "If any one alive," he cried,
"knows any cause why this thing should not be, let him now speak or
forever hereafter hold his peace." He paused. Constance handed something
to her husband.
"Oh, go on," murmured Charlie, and many smiled.
"Soldiers!" resumed the lover, "this fair godmother of your flag agrees
that for all we two want just now Kincaid's Battery is minister enough.
For all we want is--" Cheers stopped him.
"The prayer-book!" put in Mandeville, pushing it at him. The boys
"No," said Kincaid, "time's too short. All we want is to bind ourselves,
before Heaven and all mankind, in holy wedlock, for better, or worse,
till death us do part. And this we here do in sight of you all, and in
the name and sight and fear of God." He dropped his glance to Anna's:
"Amen," said Anna. At the same moment in one of the doors stood a
"All right!" called Hilary to him. "Tell your colonel we're coming! Just
a second more, Captain Irby, if you please. Soldiers!--I, Hilary, take
thee, Anna, to be my lawful wedded wife. And you--"
"I, Anna," she softly broke in, "take thee, Hilary, to be my--" She
spoke the matter through, but he had not waited.
"Therefore!" he cried, "you men of Kincaid's Battery--and you, sir,--and
you,"--nodding right and left to Mandeville and the detective,--"on this
our solemn pledge to supply as soon as ever we can all form of law and
social usage here omitted which can more fully solemnize this union--do
Up went the detective's hand and then Mandeville's and all the boys',
and all together said:
"Pronounce you man and wife."
"Go!" instantly rang Kincaid to Charlie, and in a sudden flutter of
gauzes and clink of trappings, with wringing of soft fingers by hard
ones, and in a tender clamor of bass and treble voices, away sprang
every cannoneer to knapsacks and sabres in the hall, and down the outer
stair into ranks and off under the stars at double-quick. Sisters of the
battery, gliding out to the veranda rail, faintly saw and heard them a
precious moment longer as they sped up the dusty road. Then Irby stepped
quickly out, ran down the steps, mounted and galloped. A far rumble of
wheels told the coming of two omnibuses chartered to bear the dancers
all, with the Valcours and the detective, to their homes. Now out to
the steps came Mandeville. His wife was with him and the maidens kindly
went in. There the detective joined them. At a hall door Hilary was
parting with Madame, Flora, Miranda. Anna was near him with Flora's arm
about her in melting fondness. Now Constance rejoined the five, and now
Hilary and Anna left the other four and passed slowly out to the garden
Beneath them there, with welcoming notes, his lone horse trampled about
the hitching-rail. Dropping his cap the master folded the bride's hands
in his and pressed on them a long kiss. The pair looked deeply into each
other's eyes. Her brow drooped and he laid a kiss on it also. "Now you
must go," she murmured.
"My own beloved!" was his response. "My soul's mate!" He tried to draw
her, but she held back.
"You must go," she repeated.
"Yes! kiss me and I fly." He tried once more to draw her close, but
still in vain.
"No, dearest," she whispered, and trembled. Yet she clutched his
imprisoning fingers and kissed them. He hugged her hands to his breast.
"Oh, Hilary," she added, "I wish I could! But--don't you know why I
can't? Don't you see?"
"No, my treasure, not any more. Why, Anna, you're Anna Kincaid now.
You're my wed'--"
Her start of distress stopped him short. "Don't call me that,--my--my
own," she faltered.
"But if you are that--?"
"Oh, I am! thank God, I am! But don't name the name. It's too fearfully
holy. We're married for an emergency, love, an awful crisis! which
hasn't come to you yet, and may not come at all. When it does, so will
I! in that name! and you shall call me by it!"
"Ah, if then you can come! But what do we know?"
"We know in whom we trust, Hilary; must, must, must trust, as we trust
and must trust each other."
Still hanging to his hands she pushed them off at arm's-length: "Oh, my
Hilary, my hero, my love, my life, my commander, go!" And yet she clung.
She drew his fingers close down again and covered them with kisses,
while twice, thrice, in solemn adoration, he laid his lips upon her
heavy hair. Suddenly the two looked up. The omnibuses were here in the
Here too was the old coachman, with the soldier's horse. The vehicles
jogged near and halted. A troop of girls, with Flora, tripped out. And
still, in their full view, with Flora closest, the bride's hands held
the bridegroom's fast. He had neither the strength to pull free nor the
wit to understand.
"What is it?" he softly asked, as the staring men waited and the girls
about Flora hung back.
"Don't you know?" murmured Anna. "Don't you see--the--the difference?"
All at once he saw! Throwing away her hands he caught her head between
his big palms. Her arms flew round his neck, her lips went to his, and
for three heart-throbs they clung like bee and flower. Then he sprang
down the stair, swung into the saddle, and fled after his men.
"VICTORY! I HEARD IT AS PL'--"
The last few days of March and first three or four of April, since the
battery boys and the three captains had gone, were as full of frightened
and angry questions as the air is of bees around a shaken hive.
So Anna had foreboded, yet it was not so for the causes she had in mind;
not one fierce hum asked another where the bazaar's money was. That
earlier bazaar, in the St. Louis Hotel, had taken six weeks to report
its results, and now, with everybody distracted by a swarm and buzz of
far larger, livelier, hotter queries, the bazaar's sponsors might report
or not, as they chose. Meanwhile, was the city really in dire and
shameful jeopardy, or was it as safe as the giddiest boasted? Looking
farther away, over across Georgia to Fort Pulaski, so tremendously
walled and armed, was the "invader" merely wasting lives, trying to take
it? On North Carolina's coast, where our priceless blockade-runners
plied, had Newbern, as so stubbornly rumored, and had Beaufort, already
fallen, or had they really not? Had the _Virginia_ not sunk the
_Monitor_ and scattered the Northern fleets? Was it _not_ by France,
after all (asked the Creoles), but only by Paraguay that the Confederacy
had been "reco'nize'"? Was there _no_ truth in the joyous report that
McClellan had vanished from Yorktown peninsula? _Was_ the loss of
Cumberland Gap a trivial matter, and did it in fact not cut in two our
great strategic front? Up yonder at Corinth, our "new and far better"
base, was Sidney Johnston an "imbecile," a "coward," a "traitor"? or
was he not rather an unparagoned strategist who, having at last "lured
the presumptuous foe" into his toils, was now, with Beauregard,
notwithstanding Beauregard's protracted illness, about to make the "one
fell swoop" of our complete deliverance? And after the swoop and its joy
and its glory, when Johnnie should come marching home, whose Johnnies,
and how many, would never return? As to your past-and-gone bazaar, law,
So, as to that item, in all the wild-eyed city shaking with its ague of
anxieties only Anna was troubled when day after day no detective came
back with the old mud-caked dagger and now both were away on some quite
alien matter, no one could say where. She alone was troubled, for she
alone knew it was the bazaar's proceeds which had disappeared. Of what
avail to tell even Miranda, Connie, or Flora if they must not tell
others? It would only bind three more souls on the rack. "Vanished with
the dagger!" That would be all they could gasp, first amazed, then
scandalized, at a scheme of safe-keeping so fantastically reckless;
reckless and fantastical as her so-called marriage. Yes, they would be
as scandalized as they would have been charmed had the scheme prospered.
And then they would blame not her but Hilary. Blame him in idle fear of
a calamity that was not going to befall!
She might have told that sternest, kindest, wisest of friends, Doctor
Sevier. As the family's trustee he might yet have to be told. But on
that night of fantastical recklessness he had been away, himself at
Corinth to show them there how to have vastly better hospitals, and to
prescribe for his old friend Beauregard. He had got back but yesterday.
Or she might have told the gray detective, just to make him more
careful, as Hilary, by letter, suggested. In part she had told him,
through Flora; told him that to save that old curio she would risk her
life. Surely, knowing that, he would safeguard it, in whatever hands,
and return it the moment he could. Who ever heard of a detective not
returning a thing the moment he could? Not Flora, _not_ yet Madame, they
said. To be sure, thought Anna, those professional masters of delay, the
photographers, might be more jewel-wise than trustworthy, but what
photographer could ever be so insane as to rob a detective? So, rather
ashamed of one small solicitude in this day of great ones, she urged her
committees for final reports--which never came--and felt very wisely in
writing her hero for his consent to things, and to assure him that at
the worst her own part of the family estate would make everything good,
the only harrowing question being how to keep Miranda and Connie from
sharing the loss.
On the first Sunday evening in April Doctor Sevier took tea with the
Callenders, self-invited, alone and firmly oblivious of his own tardy
wedding-gift to Anna as it gleamed at him on the board. To any of a
hundred hostesses he would have been a joy, to share with as many
friends as he would consent to meet; for in the last week he had eaten
"hog and hominy," and sipped corn-meal coffee, in lofty colloquy with
Sidney Johnston and his "big generals"; had talked confidentially with
Polk, so lately his own bishop; had ridden through the miry streets of
Corinth with all the New Orleans commanders of division or
brigade--Gibson, Trudeau, Ruggles, Brodnax; out on the parapets, between
the guns, had chatted with Hilary and his loved lieutenants; down among
the tents and mess-fires had given his pale hand, with Spartan
injunctions and all the home news, to George Gregory, Ned Ferry, Dick
Smith, and others of Harper's cavalry, and--circled round by Charlie
Valcour, Sam Gibbs, Maxime, and scores of their comrades in Kincaid's
Battery--had seen once more their silken flag, so faded! and touched its
sacred stains and tatters. Now at the tea table something led him to
remark that here at home the stubborn illness of this battery sister for
whom Anna was acting as treasurer had compelled him to send her away.
Timely topic: How to go into the country, and whither. The Callenders
were as eager for all the facts and counsel he could give on it as if
they were the "big generals" and his facts and counsel were as to the
creeks, swamps, ridges, tangled ravines, few small clearings, and many
roads and by-roads in the vast, thinly settled, small-farmed,
rain-drenched forests between Corinth and the clay bluffs of the
Tennessee. For now the Callenders also were to leave the city, as soon
as they could be ready.
"Don't wait till then," crisply said the Doctor.
"We must wait till Nan winds up the bazaar."
He thought not. In what bank had she its money?
When she said not in any he frowned. Whereupon she smilingly stammered
that she was told the banks themselves were sending their treasure into
the country, and that even ten days earlier, when some one wanted to
turn a fund into its safest portable form, three banks had declined to
give foreign exchange for it at any price.
"Hmm!" he mused. "Was that your, eh,--?"
"My husband, yes," said Anna, so quietly that the sister and stepmother
exulted in her. As quietly her eyes held the doctor's, and his hers,
while the colour mounted to her brow. He spoke:
"Still he got it into some good shape for you, the fund, did he not?"
Then suddenly he clapped a hand to a breast pocket and stared: "He gave
me a letter for you. Did I--? Ah, yes, I have your written thanks. Anna,
I thoroughly approve what you and he have done."
Constance and Miranda were overjoyed. He turned to them: "I told Hilary
so up in camp. I told Steve. Yes, Anna, you were wise. You are wise.
I've no doubt you're doing wisely about that fund."
It was hard for the wise one not to look guilty.
"Have you told anybody," he continued, "in what form you have it, or
"No!" put in the aggrieved Constance, "not even her blood kin!"
"Wise again. Best for all of you. Now just hang to the lucre. It comes
too late to be of use here; this brave town will have to stand or fall
without it. But it's still good for Mobile, and Mobile saved may be New
On a hint from the other women, and urged by their visitor, Anna brought
the letter and read him several closely written pages on the strategic
meaning of things. The zest with which he discussed the lines made her
newly proud of their source.
"They're so like his very word o' mouth," said he, "they bring him right
back here among us. Yes, and the whole theatre of action with him. They
draw it about us so closely and relate it all to us so vitally that
"Seems," broke in the delighted Constance, "as if we saw it all from the
top of this house!"
The Doctor's jaw set. Who likes phrases stuffed into his mouth? Yet
presently he allowed himself to resume. It confirmed, he said,
Beauregard's word in his call for volunteers, that there, before
Corinth, was the place to defend Louisiana. Soon he had regained his
hueless ardor, and laid out the whole matter on the table for the
inspiration of his three confiding auditors. Here at Chattanooga, so
impregnably ours, issued Tennessee river and the Memphis and Charleston
railroad from the mountain gateway between our eastern and western seats
of war. Here they swept down into Alabama, passed from the state's
north-east to its north-west corner and parted company. Here the railway
continued westward, here it crossed the Mobile and Ohio railroad at
Corinth, here the Mississippi Central at Grand Junction, and pressed on
to Memphis, our back-gate key of the Mississippi.
"In war," said the Doctor, "rivers and railro'--"
"Are the veins and arteries of--oh, pardon!" The crime was Anna's this
"Are the lines fought for," resumed the speaker, "and wherever two or
three of them join or cross you may look for a battle." His long finger
dropped again to the table. Back here in Alabama the Tennessee turned
north to seek the Ohio, and here, just over the Mississippi state line,
in Tennessee, some twenty miles north of Corinth, it became navigable
for the Ohio's steamboats--gunboats--transports--at a place called in
the letter "Pittsburg Landing."
Yes, now, between Hilary's pages and the Doctor's logic, with Hilary
almost as actually present as the physician, the ladies saw why this
great Memphis-Chattanooga fighting line was, not alone pictorially, but
practically, right at hand! barely beyond sight and hearing or the feel
of its tremor; a veritable back garden wall to them and their beloved
city; as close as forts Jackson and St. Philip, her front gate. Yes,
and--Anna ventured to point out and the Doctor grudgingly admitted--if
the brave gray hosts along that back wall should ever--could ever--be
borne back so far southward, westward, the last line would have to run
from one to another of the Crescent City's back doorsteps and doors;
from Vicksburg, that is, eastward through Jackson, Mississippi's
capital, cross the state's two north-and-south railways, and swing down
through Alabama to Mobile on the Gulf. This, she silently perceived, was
why the letter and the Doctor quite agreed that Connie, Miranda, and she
ought to find their haven somewhere within the dim region between New
Orleans and those three small satellite cities; not near any two
railways, yet close enough to a single one for them to get news, public
or personal, in time to act on it.
At leave-taking came the guest's general summing up of fears and faiths.
All his hope for New Orleans, he said, was in the forts down at the
Passes. Should they fall the city could not stand. But amid their
illimitable sea marshes and their impenetrable swamp forests, chin-deep
in the floods of broken levees, he truly believed, they would hold out.
Let them do so only till the first hot breath of real Delta summer
should bring typhoid, breakbone, yellow, and swamp fevers, the last by
all odds the worst, and Butler's unacclimated troops would have to
reembark for home pell-mell or die on Ship Island like poisoned fish. So
much for the front gate. For the back gate, Corinth, which just now
seemed--the speaker harkened.
"Seemed," he resumed, "so much more like the front--listen!" There came
a far, childish call.
"An extra," laughed Constance. "Steve says we issue one every time he
brushes his uniform."
"But, Con," argued Anna, "an extra on Sunday evening, brought away down
here--" The call piped nearer.
"Victory!" echoed Constance. "I heard it as pl'--"
"Beauregard! Tennessee!" exclaimed both sisters. They flew to the
veranda, the other two following. Down in the gate could be seen the old
coachman, already waiting to buy the paper. Constance called to him
their warm approval. "I thought," murmured Miranda, "that Beauregard was
Anna touched her, and the cry came again: "Great victory--!" Yes, yes,
but by whom, and where? Johnston? Corinth? "Great victory at--!" Where?
Where, did he say? The word came again, and now again, but still it was
tauntingly vague. Anna's ear seemed best, yet even she could say only,
"I never heard of such a place--out of the bible. It sounds
Shiloh it was. At a table lamp indoors the Doctor bent over the fresh
print. "It's true," he affirmed. "It's Beauregard's own despatch. 'A
complete victory,' he says. 'Driving the enemy'--" The reader ceased and
stared at the page. "Why, good God!" Slowly he lifted his eyes upon
those three sweet women until theirs ran full. And then he stared once
more into the page: "Oh, good God! Albert Sidney Johnston is dead."
THAT SABBATH AT SHILOH
"Whole theatre of action."
The figure had sounded apt to Anna on that Sunday evening when the
Doctor employed it; apt enough--until the outburst of that great and
dreadful news whose inseparable implications and forebodings robbed her
of all sleep that night and made her the first one astir at daybreak.
But thenceforward, and now for half a week or more, the aptness seemed
quite to have passed. Strange was the theatre whose play was all and
only a frightful reality; whose swarming, thundering, smoking stage had
its audience, its New Orleans audience, wholly behind it, and whose
curtain of distance, however thin, mocked every bodily sense and
compelled all to be seen and heard by the soul's eye and ear, with all
the joy and woe of its actuality and all its suspense, terror, triumph,
heartbreak, and despair.
Yet here was that theatre, and the Doctor's metaphor was still good
enough for the unexacting taste of the two Valcour ladies, to whom Anna
had quoted it. And here, sprinkled through the vast audience of that
theatre, with as keen a greed for its play as any, were all the various
non-combatants with whom we are here concerned, though not easily to be
singled out, such mere units were they of the impassioned multitude
every mere unit of which, to loved and loving ones, counted for more
than we can tell.
However, our favourites might be glimpsed now and then. On a certain
midday of that awful half-week the Callenders, driving, took up
Victorine at her gate and Flora at her door and sped up-town to the
newspaper offices in Camp street to rein in against a countless surge of
old men in fine dress, their precious dignity thrown to the dogs, each
now but one of the common herd, and each against all, shouldering,
sweating, and brandishing wide hands to be the first purchaser and
reader of the list, the long, ever-lengthening list of the killed and
wounded. Much had been learned of the great two-days' battle, and many
an infantry sister, and many a battery sister besides Anna, was
second-sighted enough to see, night and day, night and day, the muddy
labyrinth of roads and by-roads that braided and traversed the wide,
unbroken reaches of dense timber--with their deep ravines, their long
ridges, and their creek-bottom marshes and sloughs--in the day's journey
from Corinth to the bluffs of the Tennessee. They saw them, not empty,
nor fearlessly crossed by the quail, the wild turkey, the fox, or the
unhunted deer, nor travelled alone by the homespun "citizen" or by
scouts or foragers, but slowly overflowed by a great gray, silent,
tangled, armed host--cavalry, infantry, ordnance trains, batteries,
battery wagons and ambulances: Saw Hilary Kincaid and all his heroes and
their guns, and all the "big generals" and their smart escorts and busy
staffs: Saw the various columns impeding each other, taking wrong ways
and losing priceless hours while thousands of inexperienced boys,
footsore, drenched and shivering yet keen for the fight, ate their
five-days' food in one, or threw it away to lighten the march, and
toiled on in hunger, mud, cold and rain, without the note of a horn or
drum or the distant eye of one blue scout to tell of their oncoming.
They saw, did Anna and those sisters (and many and many a wife and
mother from Callender House to Carrollton), the vast, stealthy, fireless
bivouac at fall of night, in ear-shot of the enemy's tattoo, unsheltered
from the midnight storm save by raked-up leaves: Saw, just in the
bivouac's tortuous front, softly reddening the low wet sky, that huge,
rude semicircle of camps in the dark ridged and gullied forests about
Shiloh's log meeting-house, where the victorious Grant's
ten-thousands--from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa,
Wisconsin, Michigan, as new to arms as their foe, yet a band of lions in
lair--lay dry-tented, full fed and fast asleep, safely flanked by
swollen streams, their gunboats behind them and Buell coming, but
without one mounted outpost, a scratch of entrenchment or a whisper of
Amid the eager carriage talk, in which Anna kept her part, her mind's
eye still saw the farther scene as it changed again and the gray dawn
and gray host furtively rose together and together silently spread
through the deep woods. She watched the day increase and noon soar up
and sink away while the legions of Hardee, Bragg, Polk and Breckinridge
slowly writhed out of their perplexed folds and set themselves, still
undetected in their three successive lines of battle. She beheld the
sun set calm and clear, the two hosts lie down once more, one in its
tents, the other on its arms, the leafy night hang over them resplendent
with stars, its watches near by, the Southern lines reawaken in
recovered strength, spring up and press forward exultantly to the awful
issue, and the Sabbath dawn brighten into a faultless day with the boom
of the opening gun.
As the ladies drew up behind the throng and across the throat of
Commercial Alley the dire List began to flutter from the Picayune office
in greedy palms and over and among dishevelled heads like a feeding
swarm of white pigeons. News there was as well as names, but every eye
devoured the names first and then--unless some name struck lightning in
the heart, as Anna saw it do every here and there and for that poor old
man over yonder--after the names the news.
"Nan, we needn't stay if you--"
"Oh, Miranda, isn't all this ours?"
The bulletin boards were already telling in outline, ahead of the list,
thrilling things about the Orleans Guards, the whirlwind onset of whose
maiden bayonets had captured double its share of the first camp taken
from the amazed, unbreakfasted enemy, and who again and again, hour by
hour, by the half-mile and mile, had splendidly helped to drive
him--while he hammered back with a deadly stubbornness all but a match
for their fury. Through forests, across clearings, over streams and bogs
and into and out of ravines and thickets they had swept, seizing
transiently a whole field battery, permanently hundreds of prisoners,
and covering the strife's broad wake with even more appalling numbers
of their own dead and wounded than of the foe's: wailing wounded,
ghastly, grimy dead, who but yesterday were brothers, cousins and
playmates of these very men snatching and searching the list. They told,
those boards, of the Washington Artillery (fifth company, never before
under fire) being thanked on the field by one of the "big generals,"
their chests and wheels shot half to splinters but no gun lost. They
told of all those Louisiana commands whose indomitable lines charged and
melted, charged and withered, over and over the torn and bloody ground
in that long, horrible struggle that finally smoked out the "Hornets'
Nest." They told of the Crescent Regiment, known and loved on all these
sidewalks and away up to and beyond their Bishop-General Polk's Trinity
Church, whose desperate gallantry had saved that same Washington
Artillery three of its pieces, and to whose thinned and bleeding ranks
swarms of the huddled Western farm boys, as shattered and gory as their
captors and as glorious, had at last laid down their arms. And they told
of Kincaid's Battery, Captain Kincaid commanding; how, having early lost
in the dense oak woods and hickory brush the brigade--Brodnax's--whose
way they had shelled open for a victorious charge, they had followed
their galloping leader, the boys running beside the wheels, from
position to position, from ridge to ridge, in rampant obedience of an
order to "go in wherever they heard the hottest firing", how for a time
they had fought hub to hub beside the Washington Artillery; how two of
their guns, detached for a special hazard and sweeping into fresh action
on a flank of the "Hornets' Nest," had lost every horse at a single
volley of the ambushed foe, yet had instantly replied with slaughterous
vengeance; and how, for an hour thereafter, so wrapped in their own
smoke that they could be pointed only by the wheel-ruts of their recoil,
they had been worked by their depleted gunners on hands and knees with
Kincaid and Villeneuve themselves at the trails and with fuses cut to
one second. So, in scant outline said the boards, or more in detail read
one man aloud to another as they hurried by the carriage.
"But," said Anna, while Flora enjoyed her pallor, "all that is about the
first day's fight!"
"No," cried Constance, "it's the second day's, that Beauregard calls 'a
great and glorious victory!'"
"Yes," interposed Flora, "but writing from behind his fortification' at
"THEY WERE ALL FOUR TOGETHER"
Both Constance and Victorine flashed to retort, but saw the smiling
critic as pale as Anna and recalled the moment's truer business, the
list still darting innumerably around them always out of reach. The
carriage had to push into the very surge, and Victorine to stand up and
call down to this man and that, a fourth and fifth, before one could be
made to hear and asked to buy for the helpless ladies. Yet in this
gentlewomen's war every gentlewoman's wish was a military command, and
when at length one man did hear, to hear was to vanish in the turmoil on
their errand. Now he was back again, with the list, three copies! Oh,
thank you, thank you and thank you!
Away trotted the handsome span while five pairs of beautiful eyes
searched the three printed sheets, that bore--oh, marvellous
fortune!--not one of the four names writ largest in those five hearts.
Let joy be--ah, let joy be very meek while to so many there is
unutterable loss. Yet let it meekly abound for the great loved cause so
splendidly advanced. Miranda pointed Anna to a bit of editorial:
"Monday was a more glorious day than Sunday. We can scarcely forbear to
speculate upon the great results that are to flow from this decisive
victory. An instant pursuit of the flying enemy should--"
Why did the carriage halt at a Gravier Street crossing obliquely
opposite the upper front corner of the St. Charles Hotel? Why did all
the hotel's gold-braided guests and loungers so quietly press out
against its upper balustrades? Why, under its arches, and between
balcony posts along the curbstones clear down to Canal Street, was the
pathetically idle crowd lining up so silently? From that point why, now,
did the faint breeze begin to waft a low roar of drums of such grave
unmartial sort? And why, gradually up the sidewalks' edges in the hot
sun, did every one so solemnly uncover? Small Victorine stood up to see.
At first she made out only that most commonplace spectacle, home guards.
They came marching in platoons, a mere company or two. In the red and
blue of their dress was all the smartness yet of last year, but in their
tread was none of it and even the bristle of their steel had vanished.
Behind majestic brasses and muffled drums grieving out the funeral
march, they stepped with slow precision and with arms reversed. But now
in abrupt contrast there appeared, moving as slowly and precisely after
them, widely apart on either side of the stony way, two single
attenuated files of but four bronzed and shabby gray-jackets each, with
four others in one thin, open rank from file to file in their rear, and
in the midst a hearse and its palled burden. Rise, Anna, Constance,
Miranda--all. Ah, Albert Sidney Johnston! Weep, daughters of a
lion-hearted cause. The eyes of its sons are wet. Yet in your gentle
bosoms keep great joy for whoever of your very own and nearest the awful
carnage has spared; but hither comes, here passes slowly, and yonder
fades at length from view, to lie a day in state and so move on to
burial, a larger hope of final triumph than ever again you may fix on
one mortal man.
Hats on again, softly. Drift apart, aimless crowd. Cross the two streets
at once, diagonally, you, young man from the St. Charles Hotel with
purpose in your rapid step, pencil unconsciously in hand and trouble on
your brow. Regather your reins, old coachman--nay, one moment! The
heavy-hearted youth passed so close under the horses' front that only
after he had gained the banquette abreast the carriage did he notice its
occupants and Anna's eager bow. It was the one-armed Kincaid's Battery
boy reporter. With a sudden pitying gloom he returned the greeting,
faltered as if to speak, caught a breath and then hurried on and away.
What did that mean; more news; news bad for these five in particular?
Silently in each of them, without a glance from one to another, the
question asked itself.
"The True Delta," remarked Anna to Miranda, "is right down here on the
next square," and of his own motion the driver turned that way.
"Bitwin Common Strit and Can-al," added Victorine, needless words being
just then the most needed.
Midway in front of the hotel Anna softly laid a hand on Flora, who
respondingly murmured. For the reporter was back, moving their way along
the sidewalk almost at a run. Now Constance was aware of him.
"When we cross Common Street," she observed to Miranda, "he'll want to
In fact, as soon as their intent to cross was plain, he sped out beside
them and stood, his empty sleeve pinned up, his full one raised and
grief evident in his courteous smile. Some fifty yards ahead, by the
True Delta office, men were huddling around a fresh bulletin. Baring his
brow to the sun, the young man came close to the wheels.
"Wouldn't you-all as soon--?" he began, but Constance interrupted:
"The news is as good as ever, isn't it?"
"Yes, but wouldn't you-all as soon drive round by Carondelet Street?" A
gesture with his hat showed a piece of manifold writing in his fingers.
He looked to Miranda, but she faltered. Flora, in her own way, felt all
the moment's rack and stress, but some natures are built for floods and
rise on them like a boat. So thought she of herself and had parted her
lips to speak for all, when, to her vexed surprise, Anna lifted a hand
and in a clear, firm tone inquired, "Is there any bad news for us five?"
The youth's tongue failed; he nodded.
"Brodnax's brigade?" she asked. "Our battery?"
"Yes, Monday, just at the last," he murmured.
"Not a gun!" replied the boy, with a flash. Anna reflected it, but her
tone did not change:
"There are four men, you know, whom we five--"
"Which of them is the bad news about?"
"All four," murmured the youth. His eyes swam. His hat went under the
stump of his lost arm and he proffered the bit of writing. Idlers were
staring. "Take that with you," he said. "They were all four together and
The carriage was turning, but the fair cluster bent keenly toward him.
"Only what?" they cried.
There was no real choice. Nothing seemed quite rational but the heaviest
task of all--to wait, and to wait right here at home.
To this queenly city must come first and fullest all news of her own
sons, and here the "five" would not themselves be "missing" should
better tidings--or worse--come seeking them over the wires.
"At the front?" replied Doctor Sevier to Anna, "why, at the front you'll
be kept in the rear, lost in a storm of false rumors."
General Brodnax, in a letter rife with fatherly romantic tenderness and
with splendid praise of Hilary as foremost in the glorious feat which
had saved old "Roaring Betsy" but lost (or mislaid) him and his three
comrades, also bade her wait. Everything, he assured her, that human
sympathy or the art of war--or Beauregard's special orders--could effect
was being done to find the priceless heroes. In the retreat of a great
host--ah, me! retreat was his very word and the host was
Dixie's--retreating after its first battle, and that an awful one, in
deluging rains over frightful roads and brimming streams, unsheltered,
ill fed, with sick and wounded men and reeling vehicles hourly breaking
down, a hovering foe to be fended off, and every dwelling in the land a
hospitable refuge, even captains of artillery or staff might be most
honorably and alarmingly missing yet reappear safe and sound. So, for a
week and more it was sit and wait, pace the floor and wait, wake in the
night and wait; so for Flora as well as for Anna (with a difference),
both of them anxious for Charlie--and Steve--and Maxime, but in anguish
Then tidings, sure enough! glad tidings! Mandeville and Maxime safe in
camp again and back to duty, whole, hale and in the saddle. Their
letters came by the wasted yellow hands of two or three of the
home-coming wounded, scores of whom were arriving by every south-bound
train. From the aide-de-camp and the color-bearer came the first whole
story of how Kincaid, with his picked volunteers, barely a gun
detachment, and with Mandeville, who had brought the General's consent,
had stolen noiselessly over the water-soaked leaves of a thickety oak
wood in the earliest glimmer of a rainy dawn and drawn off the
abandoned gun by hand to its waiting horses; also how, when threatened
by a hostile patrol, Hilary, Mandeville, Maxime and Charlie had hurried
back on foot into the wood and hotly checked the pursuit long enough for
their fellows to mount the team, lay a shoulder to every miry wheel and
flounder away with the prize. But beyond that keen moment when the four,
after their one volley from ambush, had sprung this way and that
shouting absurd orders to make-believe men, cheering and firing from
behind trees, and (cut off from their horses) had made for a gully and
swamp, the two returned ones could tell nothing of the two unreturned
except that neither of them, dead or alive, was anywhere on the ground
of the fight or flight as they knew it. For days, inside the enemy's
advancing lines, they had prowled in ravines and lain in blackberry
patches and sassafras fence-rows, fed and helped on of nights by the
beggared yet still warm-hearted farm people and getting through at last,
but with never a trace of Kincaid or Charlie, though after their own
perilous search they had inquired, inquired, inquired.
So, wait, said every one and every dumb condition, even the miseries of
the great gray army, of which Anna had mind pictures again, as it toiled
through mire and lightning, rain, sleet and hail, and as its thousands
of sick and shattered lay in Corinth dying fifty a day. And Flora and
Anna waited, though with minds placid only to each other and the outer
"Yes," moaned Anna to Constance, when found at dead of night staring
Corinthward from a chamber window. "Yes, friends advise! All our friends
advise! What daring thing did any one ever do who waited for friends to
advise it? Does your Steve wait for friends to advise?... Patience? Ah,
lend me yours! You don't need it now.... Fortitude? Oh, I never had
any!... What? command the courage to do nothing when nothing is the only
hard thing to do? Who, I? Connie! I don't even want it. I'm a craven; I
want the easy thing! I want to go nurse the box-carloads and
mule-wagonloads of wounded at Corinth, at Okolona and strewed all the
way down to Mobile--that's full of them. Hilary may be somewhere among
them--unidentified! They say he wore no badge of rank that morning, you
know, and carried the carbine of a wounded cavalryman to whom he had
given his coat. Oh, he's mine, Con, and I'm his. We're not engaged,
we're _married,_ and I _must_ go. It's only a step--except in miles--and
I'm going! I'm going for your sake and Miranda's. You know you're
staying on my account, not for me to settle this bazaar business but to
wait for news that's never coming till I go and bring it!"
This tiny, puny, paltry business of the bazaar--the whereabouts of the
dagger and its wealth, or of the detectives, gone for good into military
secret service at the front--she drearily smiled away the whole trivial
riddle as she lay of nights contriving new searches for that
inestimable, living treasure, whose perpetual "missing," right yonder
"almost in sight from the housetop," was a dagger in her heart.
And the Valcours? Yes, they, too, had their frantic impulses to rise and
fly. For Madame, though her lean bosom bled for the lost boy, the
fiercest pain of waiting was that its iron coercion lay in their
penury. For Flora its sharpest pangs were in her own rage; a rage not of
the earlier, cold sort against Anna and whoever belonged to Anna--that
transport had always been more than half a joy--but a new, hot rage
against herself and the finical cheapness of her scheming, a rage that
stabbed her fair complacency with the revelation that she had a heart,
and a heart that could ache after another. The knife of that rage turned
in her breast every time she cried to the grandam, "We must go!" and
that rapacious torment simpered, "No funds," adding sidewise hints
toward Anna's jewels, still diligently manoeuvred for, but still
somewhere up-stairs in Callender House, sure to go with Anna should Anna
go while the manoeuvrers were away.
A long lane to any one, was such waiting, lighted, for Anna, only by a
faint reflection of that luster of big generals' strategy and that
invincibility of the Southern heart which, to all New Orleans and even
to nations beyond seas, clad Dixie's every gain in light and hid her
gravest disasters in beguiling shadow. But suddenly one day the long
lane turned. The secret had just leaked out that the forts down the
river were furiously engaged with the enemy's mortar-boats a few miles
below them and that in the past forty-eight hours one huge bomb every
minute, three thousand in all, had dropped into those forts or burst
over them, yet the forts were "proving themselves impregnable." The lane
turned and there stood Charlie.
There he stood, in the stairway door of the front room overlooking
Jackson Square. The grandmother and sister had been keenly debating the
news and what to do about it, the elder bird fierce to stay, the younger
bent on flight, and had just separated to different windows, when they
heard, turned and beheld him there, a stranger in tattered gray and
railway dirt, yet their own coxcomb boy from his curls to his ill-shod
feet. Flora had hardly caught her breath or believed her eyes before the
grandmother was on his neck patting and petting his cheeks and head and
plying questions in three languages: When, where, how, why, how, where
Dimly he reflected their fond demonstrations. No gladness was in his
face. His speech, as hurried as theirs, answered no queries. He asked
loftily for air, soap, water and the privacy of his own room, and when
they had followed him there and seen him scour face, arms, neck, and
head, rub dry and resume his jacket and belt, he had grown only more
careworn and had not yet let his sister's eyes rest on his.
He had but a few hours to spend in the city, he said; had brought
despatches and must carry others back by the next train. His story, he
insisted, was too long to tell before he had delivered certain battery
letters; one to Victorine, two to Constance Mandeville, and so on. Here
was one to Flora, from Captain Irby; perhaps the story was in it. At any
rate, its bearer must rush along now. He toppled his "grannie" into a
rocking-chair and started away. He "would be back as soon as ever he--"
But Flora filled the doorway. He had to harden his glance to hers at
last. In her breast were acutest emotions widely at war, yet in her eyes
he saw only an unfeeling light, and it was the old woman behind him who
alone noted how painfully the girl's fingers were pinched upon Irby's
unopened letter. The boy's stare betrayed no less anger than suffering
and as Flora spoke he flushed.
"Charlie," she melodiously began, but his outcry silenced her:
"Now, by the eternal great God Almighty, Flora Valcour, if you dare to
ask me that--" He turned to the grandmother, dropped to his knees,
buried his face in her lap and sobbed.
With genuine tenderness she stroked his locks. Yet while she did so she
lifted to the sister a face lighted up with a mirth of deliverance. To
nod, toss, and nod again, was poor show for her glee; she smirked and
writhed to the disdaining girl like a child at a mirror, and, though
sitting thus confined, gave all the effects of jigging over the floor.
Hilary out of the way! Kincaid eliminated, and the whole question free
of him, this inheritance question so small and mean to all but her and
Irby, but to him and her so large, so paramount! Silently, but plainly
to the girl, her mouth widely motioned, "Il est mort! grace"--one hand
stopped stroking long enough to make merrily the sign of cross--"grace
au ciel, il est mort!"
No moment of equal bitterness had Flora Valcour ever known. To tell half
her distresses would lose us in their tangle, midmost in which was a
choking fury against the man whom unwillingly she loved, for escaping
her, even by a glorious death. One thought alone--that Anna, as truly as
if stricken blind, would sit in darkness the rest of her days--lightened
her torture, and with that thought she smiled a stony loathing on the
mincing grandam and the boy's unlifted head. Suddenly, purpose gleamed
from her. She could not break forth herself, but to escape suffocation
she must and would procure an outburst somewhere. Measuredly, but with
every nerve and tendon overstrung, she began to pace the room.
"Don't cry, Charlie," she smoothly said in a voice as cold as the crawl
of a snake. The brother knew the tone, had known it from childhood, and
the girl, glancing back on him, was pleased to see him stiffen. A few
steps on she added pensively, "For a soldier to cry--and befo' ladies--a
ladies' man--of that batt'rie--tha's hardly fair--to the ladies, eh,
But the boy only pressed his forehead harder down and clutched the aged
knees under it till their owner put on, to the scintillant beauty, a
look of alarm and warning. The girl, musingly retracing her calculated
steps to where the kneeler seemed to clinch himself to his posture,
halted, stroked with her slippered toe a sole of his rude shoes and
spoke once more: "Do they oft-ten boohoo like that, grandma, those
The boy whirled up with the old woman clinging. A stream of oaths and
curses appallingly original poured from him, not as through the lips
alone but from his very eyes and nostrils. That the girl was first of
all a fool and damned was but a trivial part of the cry--of the
explosion of his whole year's mistaken or half-mistaken inferences and
smothered indignation. With equal flatness and blindness he accused her
of rejoicing in the death of Kincaid: the noblest captain (he ramped on)
that ever led a battery; kindest friend that ever ruled a camp; gayest,
hottest, daringest fighter of Shiloh's field; fiercest for man's purity
that ever loved the touch of women's fingers; sternest that ever wept on
the field of death with the dying in his arms; and the scornfullest of
promotion that ever was cheated of it at headquarters.
All these extravagances he cursed out, too witless to see that this same
hero of his was the one human being, himself barely excepted, for whose
life his sister cared. He charged her of never having forgiven Hilary
for making Anna godmother of their flag, and of being in some dark
league against him--"hell only knew what"--along with that snail of a
cousin whom everybody but Kincaid himself and the silly old uncle knew
to be the fallen man's most venomous foe. Throughout the storm the
grandmother's fingers pattered soothing caresses, while Flora stood as
unruffled by his true surmises as by any, a look of cold interest in her
narrowed eyes, and her whole bodily and spiritual frame drinking relief
from his transport. Now, while he still raged, she tenderly smiled on
their trembling ancestress.
"Really, _you_ know grandmama, sometimes me also I feel like that, when
to smazh the furniture 't would be a delightful--or to wring somebody
the neck, yes. But for us, and to-day, even to get a li'l' mad, how is
that a possibl'?" She turned again, archly, to the brother, but flashed
in alarm and sprang toward him.
His arm stiffly held her off. With failing eyes bent on the whimpering
grandmother he sighed a disheartened oath and threshed into a chair
"My wound--opened again."
THE SCHOOL OF SUSPENSE
Thus it fell to Flora to be letter-bearer and news-bearer in her
brother's stead. Yet he had first to be cared for by her and the
grandmother in a day long before "first aid" had become common
knowledge. The surgeon they had hailed in had taken liberal time to show
them how, night and morning, to unbandage, cleanse and rebind, and to
tell them (smiling into the lad's mutinous eyes) that the only other
imperative need was to keep him flat on his back for ten days. Those
same weeks of downpour which had given the Shiloh campaign two-thirds of
its horrors had so overfed the monstrous Mississippi that it was running
four miles an hour, overlapping its levees and heaving up through the
wharves all along the city's front, until down about the Convent and
Barracks and Camp Callender there were streets as miry as Corinth. And
because each and all of these hindrances were welcome to Flora as giving
leisure to read and reread Irby's long letter about his cousin and
uncle, and to plan what to say and do in order to reap all the fell
moment's advantages, the shadows were long in the Callender's grove when
she finally ascended their veranda steps.
She had come round by way of Victorine's small, tight-fenced garden of
crape-myrtles, oleanders and pomegranates--where also the water was in
the streets, backwater from the overflowed swamp-forests between city
and lake--and had sent her to Charlie's bedside. Pleasant it would be
for us to turn back with the damsel and see her, with heart as open as
her arms, kiss the painted grandam, and at once proceed to make herself
practically invaluable; or to observe her every now and then dazzle her
adored patient with a tear-gem of joy or pity, or of gratitude that she
lived in a time when heroic things could happen right at home and to the
lowliest, even to her; sweet woes like this, that let down, for virtuous
love, the barriers of humdrum convention. But Flora draws us on, she and
Anna. As she touched the bell-knob Constance sprang out to welcome her,
though not to ask her in--till she could have a word with her alone, the
young wife explained.
"I saw you coming," she said, drawing her out to the balustrade. "You
didn't get Anna's note of last night--too bad! I've just found out--her
maid forgot it! What do you reckon we've been doing all day long?
Packing! We're going we don't know where! Vicksburg, Jackson, Meridian,
Mobile, wherever Anna can best hunt Hilary from--and Charlie too, of
"Yes," said Flora, one way to the speaker and quite another way to
"Yes, she wants to do it, and Doctor Sevier says it's the only thing for
her. Ah, Flora, how well _you_ can understand that!"
"Indeed, yes," sighed the listener, both ways again.
"We know how absolutely you believe the city's our best base, else we'd
have asked you to go with us." The ever genuine Constance felt a
mortifying speciousness in her words and so piled them on. "_We_ know
the city is best--unless it should fall, and it won't--oh, it won't,
God's not going to let so many prayers go unanswered, Flora! But we've
tossed reason aside and are going by instinct, the way I always feel
safest in, dear. Ah, poor Anna! Oh, Flora, she's so sweet about it!"
"Yes? Ab-out what?"
"You, dear, and whoever is suffering the same--"
Flora softly winced and Constance blamed herself so to have pained
another sister's love. "And she's so quiet," added the speaker, "but,
oh, so pale--and so hard either to comfort or encourage, or even to
discourage. There's nothing you can say that she isn't already
heart-sick of saying herself, _to_ herself, and I beg you, dear, in your
longing to comfort her, please don't bring up a single maybe-this or
maybe-that; any hope, I mean, founded on a mere doubt."
"Ah, but sometime' the doubt--it is the hope!"
"Yes, sometimes; but not to her, any more. Oh, Flora, if it's just as
true of you, you won't be--begrudge my saying it of my sister--that no
saint ever went to her matyrdom better prepared than she is, right now,
for the very worst that can be told. There's only one thing to which she
never can and never will resign herself, and that is doubt. She can't
breathe its air, Flora. As she says herself, she isn't so built; she
hasn't that gift."
The musing Flora nodded compassionately, but inwardly she said that,
gift or no gift, Anna should serve her time in Doubting Castle, with
her, Flora, for turnkey. Suddenly she put away her abstraction and with
a summarizing gesture and chastened twinkle spoke out: "In short, you
want to know for w'at am I come."
"Ah, but, my dear, you are ri-ight. That is 'all correct,' as they say,
and one thing I'm come for--'t is--" She handed out Mandeville's two
The wife caught them to her bosom, sprang to her tiptoes, beamed on the
packet a second time and read aloud, "Urbanity of Corporal Valcour!" She
heaved an ecstatic breath to speak on, but failed. Anna and Miranda had
joined them and Flora had risen from her seat on the balustrade, aware
at once that the role she had counted on was not to be hers, the role of
comforter to an undone rival.
Pale indeed was the rival, pale as rivalry could wish. Yet instantly
Flora saw, with a fiery inward sting, how beautiful pallor may be. And
more she saw: with the chagrin then growing so common on every armed
front--the chagrin of finding one's foe entrenched--she saw how utterly
despair had failed to crush a gentle soul. Under cover of affliction's
night and storm Anna, this whole Anna Callender, had been reinforced,
had fortified and was a new problem.
She greeted Flora with a welcoming beam, but before speaking she caught
her sister's arm and glanced herself, at the superscription.
"Flora!" she softly cried, "oh, Flora Valcour! has your brother--your
Charlie!--come home alive and well?--What; no?--No, he has not?"