Part 5 out of 7
The visitor was shaking her head: "No. Ah, no! home, yes, and al-I've;
"Oh, Flora, Flora! alive and at home! home and alive!" While the words
came their speaker slowly folded her arms about the bearer of tidings,
and with a wholly unwonted strength pressed her again to the rail and
drew bosom to bosom, still exclaiming, "Alive! alive! Oh, whatever his
plight, be thankful, Flora, for so much! Alive enough to _come_ home!"
FROM THE BURIAL SQUAD
The pinioned girl tried to throw back her head and bring their eyes
together, but Anna, through some unconscious advantage, held it to her
shoulder, her own face looking out over the garden.
"Ah, let me be glad for you, Flora, let me be glad for you! Oh, think of
it! You _have_ him! have him at home, to look upon, to touch, to call by
name! and to be looked upon by _him_ and touched and called by name! Oh,
God in heaven! God in heaven!"
Miranda's fond protests were too timorous to check her, and Flora's
ceased in the delight of hearing that last wail confess the thought of
Hilary. Constance strove with tender energy for place and voice: "Nan,
dearie, Nan! But listen to Flora, Nan. See, Nan, I haven't opened
Steve's letter yet. Wounded and what, Flora, something worse? Ah, if
worse you couldn't have left him."
"I know," sighed Anna, relaxing her arms to a caress and turning her
gaze to Flora. "I see. Your brother, our dear Charlie, has come back to
life, but wounded and alone. Alone. Hilary is still missing. Isn't that
it? That's all, isn't it?"
Constance, in a sudden thought of what her letters might tell, began to
open one, though with her eyes at every alternate moment on Flora as
eagerly as Miranda's or Anna's. Flora stood hiddenly revelling in that
complexity of her own spirit which enabled her to pour upon her
questioner a look, even a real sentiment, of ravishing pity, while
nevertheless in the depths of her being she thrilled and burned and
danced and sang with joy for the very misery she thus compassionated. By
a designed motion she showed her grandmother's reticule on her arm. But
only Anna saw it; Constance, with her gaze in the letter, was drawing
Miranda aside while both bent their heads over a clause in it which had
got blurred, and looked at each other aghast as they made it out to
read, "'--from the burial squad.'" The grandmother's silken bag saved
them from Anna's notice.
"Oh, Flora!" said Anna again, "is there really something worse?"
Abruptly, she spread a hand under the bag and with her eyes still in the
eyes of its possessor slid it gently from the yielding wrist. Dropping
her fingers into it she brought forth a tobacco-pouch, of her own
embroidering, and from it, while the reticule fell unheeded to the
floor, drew two or three small things which she laid on it in her
doubled hands and regarded with a smile. Vacantly the smile increased as
she raised it to Flora, then waned while she looked once more on the
relics, and grew again as she began to handle them. Her slow voice took
the tone of a child alone at play.
"Why, that's _my_ photograph," she said. "And this--this is his
watch--watch and chain." She dangled them. A light frown came and went
between her smiles.
With soft eagerness Flora called Constance, and the sister and Miranda
"See, Connie," the words went on, "see, 'Randa, this is my own
photograph, and this is his own watch and chain. I must go and put them
away--with my old gems." Constance would have followed her as she moved
but she waved a limp forbiddal, prattling on: "This doesn't mean he's
dead, you know. Oh, not at all! It means just the contrary! Why, I saw
him alive last night, in a dream, and I can't believe anything else, and
I won't! No, no, not yet!" At that word she made a misstep and as she
started sharply to recover it the things she carried fell breaking and
jingling at her feet.
"Oh-h!" she sighed in childish surprise and feebly dropped to her knees.
Flora, closest by, sprang crouching to the rescue, but recoiled as the
kneeling girl leaned hoveringly over the mementos and with distended
eyes and an arm thrust forward cried aloud, "No! No! No-o!"
At once, however, her voice was tender again. "Mustn't anybody touch
them but me, ever any more," she said, regathering the stuff, regained
her feet and moved on. Close after her wavering steps anxiously pressed
the others, yet not close enough. At the open door, smiling back in
rejection of their aid, she tripped, and before they could save her,
tumbled headlong within. From up-stairs, from downstairs came servants
running, and by the front door entered a stranger, a private soldier in
swamp boots and bespattered with the mire of the river road from his
spurs to his ragged hat.
"No, bring her out," he said to a slave woman who bore Anna in her
arms, "out to the air!" But the burden slipped free and with a cleared
mind stood facing him.
"Ladies," he exclaimed, his look wandering, his uncovered hair matted,
"if a half-starved soldier can have a morsel of food just to take in his
hands and ride on with--" and before he could finish servants had sprung
to supply him.
"Are you from down the river?" asked Anna, quietly putting away her
sister's pleading touch and Flora's offer of support.
"I am!" spouted the renegade, for renegade he was, "I'm from the very
thick of the massacre! from day turned into night, night into day, and
heaven and earth into--into--"
"Hell," placidly prompted Flora.
"Yes! nothing short of it! Our defenses become death-traps and
slaughter-pens--oh, how foully, foully has Richmond betrayed her sister
Flora felt a new tumult of joy. "That Yankee fleet--it has pazz' those
fort'?" she cried.
"My dear young lady! By this time there ain't no forts for it to pass!
When I left Fort St. Philip there wa'n't a spot over in Fort Jackson as
wide as my blanket where a bumbshell hadn't buried itself and blown up,
and every minute we were lookin' for the magazine to go! Those _awful_
shells! they'd torn both levees, the forts were flooded, men who'd lost
their grit were weeping like children--"
"Oh!" interrupted Constance, "why not leave the forts? We don't need
them now; those old wooden ships can never withstand our terrible
[Illustration: "No! not under this roof--nor in sight of _those
"Well, they're mighty soon going to try it! Last night, right in the
blaze of all our batteries, they cut the huge chain we had stretched
across the river--"
"Ah, but when they see--oh, they'll never dare face even the
_Manassas_--the 'little turtle,' ha-ha!--much less the great
"Alas! madam, the _Louisiana_ ain't ready for 'em. There she lies tied
to the levee, with engines that can't turn a wheel, a mere floating
battery, while our gunboats--" Eagerly the speaker broke off to receive
upon one hand and arm the bounty of the larder and with a pomp of
gratitude to extend his other hand to Anna; but she sadly shook her head
and showed on her palms Hilary's shattered tokens:
"These poor things belong to one, sir, who, like you, is among the
missing. But, oh, thank God! _he_ is missing at the front, _in_ the
The abashed craven turned his hand to Flora, but with a gentle
promptness Anna stepped between: "No, Flora dear, see; he hasn't a red
scratch on him. Oh, sir, go--eat! If hunger stifles courage, eat! But
eat as you ride, and ride like mad back to duty and honor! No! not under
this roof--nor in sight of _these things_--can any man be a ladies' man,
who is missing _from_ the front, at the rear."
He wheeled and vanished. Anna turned: "Connie, what do your letters
The sister's eyes told enough. The inquirer gazed a moment, then
murmured to herself, "I--don't--believe it--yet," grew very white,
swayed, and sank with a long sigh into out-thrown arms.
The cathedral clock struck ten of the night. Yonder its dial shone, just
across that quarter of Jackson Square nearest the Valcours' windows,
getting no response this time except the watchman's three taps of his
iron-shod club on corner curbstones.
An hour earlier its toll had been answered from near and far, up and
down the long, low-roofed, curving and recurving city--"seven, eight,
nine"--"eight, nine"--the law's warning to all slaves to be indoors or
go to jail. Not Flora nor Anna nor Victorine nor Doctor Sevier nor Dick
Smith's lone mother nor any one else among all those thousands of
masters, mistresses and man-and maid-servants, or these thousands of
home-guards at home under their mosquito-bars, with uniforms on bedside
chairs and with muskets and cartridge-belts close by--not one of all
these was aware, I say, that however else this awful war might pay its
cost, it was the knell of slavery they heard, and which they,
themselves, in effect, were sounding.
Lacking wilder excitement Madame sat by a lamp knitting a nubia.
Victorine had flown home at sundown. Charlie lay sleeping as a soldier
lad can. His sister had not yet returned from Callender House, but had
been fully accounted for some time before by messenger. Now the knitter
heard horses and wheels. Why should they come at a walk? It was like
stealth. They halted under the balcony. She slipped out and peered down.
Yes, there was Flora. Constance was with her. Also two trim fellows
whom she rightly guessed to be Camp Callender lads, and a piece of
luggage--was it not?--which, as they lifted it down, revealed a size and
weight hard even for those siege-gunners to handle with care. Unseen,
silently, they came in and up with it, led by Flora. (Camp Callender was
now only a small hither end of the "Chalmette Batteries," which on both
sides of the river mounted a whole score of big black guns. No wonder
the Callenders were leaving.)
Presently here were the merry burden-bearers behind their radiant guide,
whispered ah's and oh's and wary laughter abounding.
"'Such a getting up-stairs I never did see!'"
A thousand thanks to the boys as they set down their load; their thanks
back for seats declined; no time even to stand; a moment, only, for new
vows of secrecy. "Oui!--Ah, non!--Assurement!" (They were Creoles.)
"Yes, mum 't is the word! And such a so-quiet getting down-stair'!"--to
Mrs. Mandeville again--and trundling away!
When the church clock gently mentioned the half-hour the newly gleeful
grandam and hiddenly tortured girl had been long enough together and
alone for the elder to have nothing more to ask as to this chest of
plate which the Callenders had fondly accepted Flora's offer to keep for
them while they should be away. Not for weeks and weeks had the old lady
felt such ease of mind on the money--and bread--question. Now the two
set about to get the booty well hid before Charlie should awake. This
required the box to be emptied, set in place and reladen, during which
process Flora spoke only when stung.
"Ah!" thinly piped she of the mosquito voice, "what a fine day tha's
been, to-day!" but won no reply. Soon she cheerily whined again:
"All day nothing but good luck, and at the end--this!" (the treasure
But Flora kept silence.
"So, now," said the aged one, "they will not make such a differenze,
those old jewel'."
"I will get them yet," murmured the girl.
"You think? Me, I think no, you will never."
The tease pricked once more: "Ah! all that day I am thinking of that
Irbee. I am glad for Irbee. He is 'the man that waits,' that Irbee!"
The silent one winced; fiercely a piece of the shining ware was lifted
high, but it sank again. The painted elder cringed. There may have been
genuine peril, but the one hot sport in her fag end of a life was to
play with this beautiful fire. She held the girl's eye with a look of
frightened admiration, murmuring, "You are a _merveilleuse!_"
"Yes, to feel that way and same time to be ab'e to smile like that!"
"Ah? how is that I'm feeling?"
"You are filling that all this, and all those jewel' of Anna, and the
life of me, and of that boy in yond', you would give them all, juz' to
be ab'e to bil-ieve that foolishness of Anna--that he's yet al-live,
The piece of plate half rose again, but--in part because the fair
threatener could not help enjoying the subtlety of the case--the smile
persisted as she rejoined, "Ah! when juz' for the fun, all I can get the
chance, I'm making her to bil-ieve that way!"
"Yes," laughed the old woman, "but why? Only biccause that way you, you
The lithe maiden arose to resume their task, the heavy silver still in
her hand. The next moment the kneeling grandam crouched and the
glittering metal swept around just high enough to miss her head. A
tinkle of mirth came from its wielder as she moved on with it, sighing,
"Ah! ho! what a pity--that so seldom the aged commit suicide."
"Yes," came the soft retort, "but for yo' young grandmama tha'z not yet
the time, she is still a so indispensib'."
"Very true, ma chere," sang Flora, "and in heaven you would be so
Out in the hazy, dark, heavily becalmed night the clock tolled eleven.
Eleven--one--three--and all the hours, halves and quarters between and
beyond, it tolled; and Flora, near, and Anna, far, sometimes each by her
own open window, heard and counted. A thin old moon was dimly rising
down the river when each began to think she caught another and very
different sound that seemed to arrive faint from a long journey out of
the southeast, if really from anywhere, and to pulse in dim persistency
as soft as breathing, but as constant. Likely enough it was only the
rumble of a remote storm and might have seemed to come out of the north
or west had their windows looked that way, for still the tempestuous
rains were frequent and everywhere, and it was easy and common for man
to mistake God's thunderings for his own.
Yet, whether those two wakeful maidens truly heard or merely fancied, in
fact just then some seventy miles straight away under that gaunt old
moon, there was rising to heaven the most terrific uproar this delta
land had ever heard since man first moved upon its shores and waters.
Six to the minute bellowed and soared Porter's awful bombs and arched
and howled and fell and scattered death and conflagration. While they
roared, three hundred and forty great guns beside, on river and land,
flashed and crashed, the breezeless night by turns went groping-black
and clear-as-day red with smoke and flame of vomiting funnels, of
burning boats and fire-rafts, of belching cannon, of screaming grape and
canister and of exploding magazines. And through the middle of it all,
in single file--their topmasts, yards, and cordage showing above the
murk as pale and dumb as skeletons at every flare of the havoc, a white
light twinkling at each masthead, a red light at the peak and the stars
and stripes there with it--Farragut and his wooden ships came by the
"Boys, our cake's all dough!" said a commander in one of the forts.
When day returned and Anna and Flora slept, the murmur they had heard
may after all have been only God's thunder and really not from the
southeast; but just down there under the landscape's flat rim both
forts, though with colors still gallantly flying, were smoking ruins,
all Dixie's brave gunboats and rams lay along the river's two shores,
sunken or burned, and the whole victorious Northern fleet, save one boat
rammed and gone to the bottom, was on its cautious, unpiloted way,
snail-slow but fate-sure, up the tawny four-mile current and round the
gentle green bends of the Mississippi with New Orleans for its goal and
A CITY IN TERROR
Before the smart-stepping lamplighters were half done turning off the
street lights, before the noisy market-houses all over the town, from
Camp Callender to Carrollton, with their basket-bearing thousands of
jesting and dickering customers, had quenched their gaslights and
candles to dicker and jest by day, or the devotees of early mass had
emerged from the churches, Rumor was on the run. With a sort of muffled
speed and whisper she came and went, crossed her course and reaffirmed
herself, returned to her starting-point and stole forth again, bearing
ever the same horrid burden, brief, persistent, unexaggerated: The Foe!
The Foe! In five great ships and twice as many lesser ones--counted at
Quarantine Station just before the wires were cut--the Foe was hardly
twenty leagues away, while barely that many guns of ours crouched
between his eight times twenty and our hundred thousand women and
Yet, for a brief spell, so deep are the ruts of habit, the city kept to
its daily routine, limp and unmeaning though much of it had come to be.
The milkman, of course, held to his furious round in his comical
two-wheeled cart, whirling up to alley gates, shouting and ringing his
big hand-bell. In all his tracks followed the hooded bread-cart, with
its light-weight loaves for worthless money and with only the staggering
news for lagnappe. Families ate breakfast, one hour and another,
wherever there was food. Day cabmen and draymen trotted off to their
curbstones; women turned to the dish-pan, the dust-pan, the beds, the
broom; porters, clerks and merchants--the war-mill's wasteful refuse and
residuum, some as good as the gray army's best, some poor enough--went
to their idle counters, desks and sidewalks; the children to the public
schools, the beggar to the church doorstep, physicians to their sick,
the barkeeper to his mirrors and mint, and the pot-fisher to his catfish
lines in the swollen, sweeping, empty harbor.
But besides the momentum of habit there was the official pledge to the
people--Mayor Monroe's and Commanding-General Lovell's--that if they
would but keep up this tread-mill gait, the moment the city was really
in danger the wires of the new fire-alarm should strike the tidings from
all her steeples. So the school teachers read Scripture and prayers and
the children sang the "Bonnie Blue Flag," while outside the omnibuses
trundled, the one-mule street-cars tinkled and jogged and the bells hung
Nevertheless a change was coming. Invisibly it worked in the general
mind as that mind gradually took in the meanings of the case; but
visibly it showed as, from some outpost down the river, General Lovell,
(a sight to behold for the mud on him), came spurring at full speed by
Callender House, up through the Creole Quarter and across wide Canal
Street to the St. Charles. Now even more visibly it betrayed itself,
where all through the heart of the town began aides, couriers and
frowning adjutants to gallop from one significant point to another.
Before long not a cab anywhere waited at its stand. Every one held an
officer or two, if only an un-uniformed bank-officer or captain of
police, and rattled up or down this street and that, taking corners at
breakneck risks. That later the drays began to move was not so
noticeable, for a dray was but a dray and they went off empty except for
their drivers and sometimes a soldier with a musket and did not return.
Moreover, as they went there began to be seen from the middle of almost
any cross-street, in the sky out over the river front, here one, there
another, yonder a third and fourth, upheaval of dense, unusual smoke,
first on the hither side of the harbor, then on the far side, yet no
fire-engines, hand or steam, rushed that way, nor any alarm sounded.
From the Valcours' balcony Madame, gasping for good air after she and
Flora had dressed Charlie's wound, was startled to see one of those
black columns soar aloft. But it was across the river, and she had
barely turned within to mention it, when up the stair and in upon the
three rushed Victorine, all tears, saying it was from the great dry-dock
at Slaughter-House Point, which our own authorities had set afire.
The enfeebled Charlie half started from his rocking-chair laughing
angrily. "Incredible!" he cried, but sat mute as the girl's swift tongue
told the half-dozen other dreadful things she had just beheld on either
side the water. The sister and grandmother sprang into the balcony and
stood astounded. Out of the narrow streets beneath them--Chartres,
Conde, St. Peter, St. Ann, Cathedral Alley--scores and scores of rapidly
walking men and women and scampering boys and girls streamed round and
through the old Square by every practicable way and out upon the levee.
"Incredib'!" retorted meanwhile the pouting daughter of Maxime, pressing
into the balcony after Flora. "Hah! and look yondah another incredib'!"
She pointed riverward across the Square.
"Charlie, you must not!" cried Flora, returning half into the room.
"Bah!" retorted the staggering boy, pushed out among them and with
profane mutterings stood agaze.
Out across the Square and the ever-multiplying flow of people through
and about it, and over the roof of the French Market close beyond, the
rigging of a moored ship stood pencilled on the sky. It had long been a
daily exasperation to his grandmother's vision, being (unknown to
Charlie or Victorine), the solitary winnings of Flora's privateering
venture, early sold, you will remember, but, by default of a buyer,
still in some share unnegotiably hers and--in her own and the
grandmother's hungry faith--sure to command triple its present value the
moment the fall of the city should open the port. Suddenly the old lady
wheeled upon Flora with a frantic look, but was checked by the
granddaughter's gleaming eyes and one inaudible, visible word: "Hush!"
The gazing boy saw only the ship. "Oh, great Lord!" he loathingly
drawled, "is it Damned Fools' Day again?" Her web of cordage began to
grow dim in a rising smoke, and presently a gold beading of fire ran up
and along every rope and spar and clung quivering. Soon the masts
commenced, it seemed, to steal nearer to each other, and the vessel
swung out from her berth and started down the wide, swift river, a mass
"Oh, Mother of God," cried Victorine with a new gush of tears! "'ave
mercy upon uz women!" and in the midst of her appeal the promised alarum
began to toll--here, yonder, and far away--here, yonder, and far
away--and did not stop until right in the middle of the morning it had
"Good-by! poor betrayed New Orleans!" exclaimed Charlie, turning back
into the room. "Good-by, sweetheart, I'm off! Good-by, grannie--Flo'!"
The three followed in with cries of amazement, distress, indignation,
command, reproach, entreaty, all alike vain. As if the long-roll of his
own brigade were roaring to him, he strode about the apartment preparing
His sister tried to lay preventing hands on him, saying, "Your life!
your life! you are throwing it away!"
"Well, what am I in Kincaid's Battery for?" he retorted, with a sweep of
his arm that sent her staggering. He caught the younger girl by the
shoulders: "Jularkie, if you want to go, too, with or without grannie
and Flo', by Jove, come along! I'll take care of you!"
The girl's eyes melted with yearning, but the response was Flora's:
"Simpleton! When you haven' the sense enough to take care of yourself!"
"Ah, shame!" ventured the sweetheart. "He's the lover of his blidding
country, going ag-ain to fighd for her--and uz--whiles he
can!--to-day!--al-lone!--now!" Her fingers clutched his wrists, that
still held her shoulders, and all her veins surged in the rapture of his
But Charlie stared at his sister. It could not enter his mind that her
desires were with the foe, yet his voice went deep in scorn: "And have
you too turned coward?"
The taunt stung. Its victim flashed, but in the next breath her smile
was clemency itself as she drew Victorine from him and shot her neat
reply, well knowing he would never guess the motives behind it--the bow
whence flew the shaft: the revenge she owed the cause that had burned
their home; her malice against Anna; the agony of losing him they now
called dead and buried; the new, acute loathing that issued from that
agony upon the dismal Irby; her baffled hunger for the jewels; her plans
for the chest of plate; hopes vanishing in smoke with yonder burning
ship; thought of Greenleaf's probable return with the blue army, of the
riddles that return might make, and of the ruin, the burning and sinking
riot and ruin, these things were making in her own soul as if it, too,
were a city lost.
"Charlie," she said, "you 'ave yo' fight. Me, I 'ave mine. Here is
grandma. Ask her--if my fight--of every day--for you and her--and not
yet finish'--would not eat the last red speck of courage out of yo'
She turned to Victorine: "Oh, he's brave! He 'as all that courage to go,
in that condition! Well, we three women, we 'ave the courage to let him
go and ourselve' to stay. But--Charlie! take with you the Callender'!
Yes! You, you can protec' them, same time they can take care of you.
Stop!--Grandma!--yo' bonnet and gaiter'! All three, Victorine, we will
help them, all four, get away!"
On the road to Callender House, while Charlie and Victorine palavered
together--"I cannot quite make out," minced the French-speaking
grandmother to Flora, "the real reason why you are doing this."
"'T is with me the same!" eagerly responded the beauty, in the English
she preferred. "I thing maybe 't is juz inspiration. What you thing?"
"I? I am afraid it is only your great love for Anna--making you a trifle
The eyes of each rested in the other's after the manner we know and the
thought passed between them, that if further news was yet to come of the
lost artillerist, any soul-reviving news, it would almost certainly come
first to New Orleans and from the men in blue.
"No," chanted the granddaughter, "I can't tell what is making me do that
unlezz my guardian angel!"
ANNA AMAZES HERSELF
Once more the Carrollton Gardens.
Again the afternoon hour, the white shell-paved court, its two playing
fountains, the roses, lilies, jasmines and violets, their perfume
spicing all the air, and the oriole and mocking-bird enrapturing it with
their songs, although it was that same dire twenty-fourth of April of
which we have been telling. Townward across the wide plain the distant
smoke of suicidal conflagration studded the whole great double crescent
of the harbor. Again the slim railway, its frequent small trains from
the city clanging round the flowery miles of its half-circle, again the
highway on either side the track, and again on the highway, just
reaching the gardens, whose dashing coach and span, but the Callenders'?
Dashing was the look of it, not its speed. Sedately it came. Behind it
followed a team of four giant mules, a joy to any quartermaster's
vision, drawing a plantation wagon filled with luggage. On the old
coachman's box sat beside him a slave maid, and in the carriage the
three Callenders and Charlie. Anna and Miranda were on the rear seat and
for the wounded boy's better ease his six-shooter lay in Anna's lap. A
brave animation in the ladies was only the more prettily set off by a
pinkness of earlier dejection about their eyes. Abreast the gate they
halted to ask an armed sentry whether the open way up the river coast
was through the gardens or--
He said there was no longer any open way without a pass from General
Lovell, and when they affably commended the precaution and showed a pass
he handed it to an officer, a heated, bustling, road-soiled young
Creole, who had ridden up at the head of a mounted detail. This youth,
as he read it, shrugged. "Under those present condition'," he said, with
a wide gesture toward the remote miles of blazing harbor, "he could not
honor a pazz two weeks ole. They would 'ave to rit-urn and get it
"Oh! how? How hope to do so in all yonder chaos? And how! oh, how!
could an army--in full retreat--leaving women and wounded soldiers to
the mercy of a ravening foe--compel them to remain in the city it was
itself evacuating?" A sweet and melodious dignity was in all the
questions, but eyes shone, brows arched, lips hung apart and
bonnet-feathers and hat-feathers, capes and flounces, seemed to ruffle
wider, with consternation and hurt esteem.
The officer could not explain a single how. He could do no more than
stubbornly regret that the questioners must even return by train, the
dread exigencies of the hour compelling him to impress these horses for
one of his guns and those mules for his battery-wagon.
Anna's three companions would have sprung to their feet but in some way
her extended hand stayed them. A year earlier Charlie would have made
sad mistakes here, but now he knew the private soldier's helplessness
before the gold bars of commission, and his rage was white and dumb, as,
with bursting eyes, he watched the officer pencil a blank.
"Don't write that, sir," said a clear voice, and the writer, glancing
up, saw Anna standing among the seated three. Her face was drawn with
distress and as pale as Charlie's, but Charlie's revolver was in her
hand, close to her shoulder, pointed straight upward at full cock, and
the hand was steady. "Those mules first," she spoke on, "and then we,
sir, are going to turn round and go home. Whatever our country needs of
us we will give, not sell; but we will not, in her name, be robbed on
the highway, sir, and I will put a ball through the head of the first
horse or mule you lay a hand on. Isaac, turn your team."
Unhindered, the teamster, and then the coachman, turned and drove. Back
toward, and by and by, into the vast woe-stricken town they returned in
the scented airs and athwart the long shadows of that same declining sun
which fourteen years before--or was it actually but fourteen
months?--had first gilded the splendid maneuverings of Kincaid's
Battery. The tragi-comic rencounter just ended had left the three ladies
limp, gay, and tremulous, with Anna aghast at herself and really
wondering between spells of shame and fits of laughter what had happened
to her reason.
With his pistol buckled on again, Charlie had only a wordy wrath for the
vanished officer, and grim worship of Anna, while Constance and Miranda,
behind a veil of mirthful recapitulations, tenderly rejoiced in the
relief of mind and heart which the moment had brought to her who had
made it amazing. And now the conditions around them in streets, homes,
and marts awoke sympathies in all the four, which further eased their
The universal delirium of fright and horror had passed. Through all the
city's fevered length and breadth, in the belief that the victorious
ships, repairing the lacerations of battle as they came, were coming so
slowly that they could not arrive for a day or two, and that they were
bringing no land forces with them, thousands had become rationally,
desperately busy for flight. Everywhere hacks, private carriages, cabs,
wagons, light and heavy, and carts, frail or strong, carts for bread or
meat, for bricks or milk, were bearing fugitives--old men, young
mothers, grandmothers, maidens and children--with their trunks, bales,
bundles, slaves and provisions--toward the Jackson Railroad to board
the first non-military train they could squeeze into, and toward the New
and Old Basins to sleep on schooner decks under the open stars in the
all-night din of building deckhouses. Many of them were familiar
acquaintances and chirruped good-by to the Callenders. Passes? No
trouble whatever! Charlie need only do this and that and so and so, and
there you were!
But Charlie was by this time so nervously spent and in such pain that
the first thing must be to get him into bed again--at Callender House,
since nothing could induce him to let sister, sweetheart or grandmother
know he had not got away. To hurt his pride the more, in every direction
military squads with bayonets fixed were smartly fussing from one small
domicile to another, hustling out the laggards and marching them to
encampments on the public squares. Other squads--of the Foreign Legion,
appointed to remain behind in "armed neutrality"--patroled the sidewalks
strenuously, preserving order with a high hand. Down this street drums
roared, fifes squealed and here passed yet another stately regiment on
toward and now into and down, Calliope Street, silent as the rabble it
marched through, to take train for Camp Moore in the Mississippi hills.
"Good Lord!" gasped Charlie, "if that isn't the Confederate Guards! Oh,
what good under heaven can those old chaps do at the front?"--the very
thing the old chaps were asking themselves.
THE CALLENDER HORSES ENLIST
Mere mind should ever be a most reverent servant to the soul. But in
fact, and particularly in hours stately with momentous things, what a
sacrilegious trick it has of nagging its holy mistress with triflet
light as air--small as gnats yet as pertinacious.
To this effect, though written with a daintier pen, were certain lines
but a few hours old, that twenty-fourth of April, in a diary which
through many months had received many entries since the one that has
already told us of its writer paired at Doctor Sevier's dinner-party
with a guest now missing, and of her hearing, in the starlight with that
guest, the newsboys' cry that his and her own city's own Beauregard had
opened fire on Fort Sumter and begun this war--which now behold!
Of this droll impishness of the mind, even in this carriage to-day, with
these animated companions, and in all this tribulation, ruin, and
flight, here was a harrying instance: that every minute or two, whatever
the soul's outer preoccupation or inner anguish, there would, would,
would return, return and return the doggerel words and swaggering old
tune of that song abhorred by the gruff General, but which had first
awakened the love of so many hundreds of brave men for its brave, gay
singer now counted forever lost:
"Ole mahs' love' wine, ole mis' love' silk--"
Generally she could stop it there, but at times it contrived to steal
unobserved through the second line and then no power could keep it from
marching on to the citadel, the end of the refrain. Base, antic awakener
of her heart's dumb cry of infinite loss! For every time the tormenting
inanity won its way, that other note, that unvoiced agony, hurled itself
against the bars of its throbbing prison.
"Ole mahs' love' wine, ole mis' love'--"
"Oh, Hilary, my Hilary!"
From the Creole Quarter both carriage and wagon turned to the water
front. Charlie's warning that even more trying scenes would be found
there was in vain. Anna insisted, the fevered youth's own evident wish
was to see the worst, and Constance and Miranda, dutifully mirthful,
reminded him that through Anna they also had now tasted blood. As the
equipage came out upon the Levee and paused to choose a way, the sisters
sprang up and gazed abroad, sustaining each other by their twined arms.
To right, to left, near and far--only not just here where the Coast
steamboats landed--the panorama was appalling. All day Anna had hungered
for some incident or spectacle whose majesty or terror would suffice to
distract her from her own desolation; but here it was made plain to her
that a distress before which hand and speech are helpless only drives
the soul in upon its own supreme devotion and woe. One wide look over
those far flat expanses of smoke and flame answered the wonder of many
hours, as to where all the drays and floats of the town had gone and
what they could be doing. Along the entire sinuous riverside the whole
great blockaded seaport's choked-in stores of tobacco and cotton,
thousands of hogsheads, ten thousands of bales--lest they enrich the
enemy--were being hauled to the wharves and landings and were just now
beginning to receive the torch, the wharves also burning, and boats and
ships on either side of the river being fired and turned adrift.
Yet all the more because of the scene, a scene that quelled even the
haunting strain of song, that other note, that wail which, the long day
through, had writhed unreleased in her bosom, rose, silent still, yet
only the stronger and more importunate--
"Oh, Hilary, my soldier, my flag's, my country's defender, come back to
me--here!--now!--my yet living hero, my Hilary Kincaid!"
Reluctantly, she let Constance draw her down, and presently, in a voice
rich with loyal pride, as the carriage moved on, bade Charlie and
Miranda observe that only things made contraband by the Richmond
Congress were burning, while all the Coast Landing's wealth of Louisiana
foodstuffs, in barrels and hogsheads, bags and tierces, lay unharmed.
Yet not long could their course hold that way, and--it was Anna who
first proposed retreat. The very havoc was fascinating and the
courage of Constance and Miranda, though stripped of its mirth,
remained undaunted; but the eye-torture of the cotton smoke was enough
alone to drive them back to the inner streets.
[Illustration: "Ole mahs' love' wine, ole--"]
Here the direction of their caravan, away from all avenues of escape,
no less than their fair faces, drew the notice of every one, while to
the four themselves every busy vehicle--where none was idle,--every
sound remote or near, every dog in search of his master, and every
man--how few the men had become!--every man, woman or child, alone or
companioned, overladen or empty-handed, hurrying out of gates or into
doors, standing to stare or pressing intently or distractedly on,
calling, jesting, scolding or weeping--and how many wept!--bore a new,
strange interest of fellowship. So Callender House came again to view,
oh, how freshly, dearly, appealingly beautiful! As the Callender train
drew into its gate and grove, the carriage was surrounded, before it
could reach the veranda steps, by a full dozen of household slaves, male
and female, grown, half-grown, clad and half-clad, some grinning, some
tittering, all overjoyed, yet some in tears. There had been no such
gathering at the departure. To spare the feelings of the mistresses the
dominating "mammy" of the kitchen had forbidden it. But now that they
were back, Glory! Hallelujah!
"And had it really," the three home-returning fair ones asked, "seemed
so desolate and deadly perilous just for want of them? What!--had seemed
so even to stalwart Tom?--and Scipio?--and Habakkuk? And were Hettie and
Dilsie actually so in terror of the Yankees?"
"Oh, if we'd known that we'd never have started!" exclaimed Constance,
with tears, which she stoutly quenched, while from all around came sighs
and moans of love and gratitude.
And were the three verily back to stay?
Ah! that was the question. While Charlie, well attended, went on up and
in they paused on the wide stair and in mingled distress and drollery
asked each other, "_Are_ we back to stay, or not?"
A new stir among the domestics turned their eyes down into the garden.
Beyond the lingering vehicles a lieutenant from Camp Callender rode up
the drive. Two or three private soldiers hung back at the gate.
"It's horses and mules again, Nan," gravely remarked Constance, and the
three, facing toward him, with Miranda foremost, held soft debate.
Whether the decision they reached was to submit or resist, the wide ears
of the servants could not be sure, but by the time the soldier was
dismounting the ladies had summoned the nerve to jest.
"Be a man, Miranda!" murmured Constance.
"But not the kind I was!" prompted Anna.
"No," said her sister, "for this one coming is already scared to death."
"So's Miranda," breathed Anna as he came up the steps uncovering and
plainly uncomfortable. A pang lanced through her as she caught herself
senselessly recalling the flag presentation. And then--
"Mrs. Callender?" asked the stranger.
"Yes, sir," said that lady.
"My business"--he glanced back in nervous protest as the drivers
beneath gathered their reins--"will you kindly detain--?"
"If you wish, sir," she replied, visibly trembling. "Isaac--"
From the rear of the group came the voice of Anna: "Miranda, dear, I
wouldn't stop them." The men regathered the lines. She moved half a step
down and stayed herself on her sister's shoulder. Miranda wrinkled back
at her in an ecstasy of relief:
"Oh, Anna, do speak for all of us!"
The teams started away. A distress came into the soldier's face, but
Anna met it with a sober smile: "Don't be troubled, sir, you shall have
them. Drive round into the basement, Ben, and unload." The drivers went.
"You shall have them, sir, on your simple word of honor as--"
"Of course you will be reimbursed. I pledge--"
"No, sir," tearfully put in Constance, "we've given our men, we can't
sell our beasts."
"They are not ours to sell," said Anna.
"They belong to Kincaid's Battery," said Anna, and Constance, Miranda,
and the servants smiled a proud approval. Even the officer flushed with
a fine ardor:
"You have with you a member of that command?"
"Then, on my honor as a Southern soldier, if he will stay by them and us
as far as Camp Moore, to Kincaid's Battery they shall go. But, ladies--"
"Yes," knowingly spoke Miranda. "Hettie, Scipio, Dilsie, you-all can go
'long back to your work now." She wrinkled confidentially to the
"Yes," he replied, "we shall certainly engage the enemy's ships
to-morrow, and you ladies must--"
"Must not desert our home, sir," said Anna.
"Nor our faithful servants," added the other two.
"Ah, ladies, but if we should have to make this house a field hospital,
with all the dreadful--"
"Oh, that settles it," cried the three, "we stay!"
HERE THEY COME!
What a night! Yet the great city slept. Like its soldiers at their
bivouac fires it lay and slumbered beside its burning harbor. Sleep was
Callender House kept no vigil. Lighted by the far devastation, its roof
shone gray, its cornice white, its tree-tops green above the darkness of
grove and garden. From its upper windows you might have seen the
townward bends of the river gleam red, yellow, and bronze, or the
luminous smoke of destruction (slantingly over its flood and farther
shore) roll, thin out, and vanish in a moonless sky. But from those
windows no one looked forth. After the long, strenuous, open-air day,
sleep, even to Anna, had come swiftly.
Waking late and springing to her elbow she presently knew that every one
else was up and about. Her maid came and she hastened to dress. Were the
hostile ships in sight? Not yet. Was the city still undestroyed? Yes,
though the cotton brought out to the harbor-side was now fifteen
thousand bales and with its blazing made a show as if all the town were
afire. She was furiously hungry; was not breakfast ready? Yes, Constance
and Miranda--"done had breakfuss and gone oveh to de cottage fo' to fix
it up fo' de surgeon ... No, 'm, not dis house; he done change' his
mine." Carriage horses--mules? "Yass, 'm, done gone. Mahs' Chahlie gone
wid 'm. He gone to be boss o' de big gun what show' f'om dese windehs."
Oh, but that was an awful risk, wounded as he was! "Yass, 'm, but he
make his promise to Miss Flo'a he won't tech de gun hisseff." What! Miss
Flora--? "Oh, she be'n, but she gone ag'in. Law'! she a brave un! It
e'en a'most make me brave, dess to see de high sperits she in!" The
How incredible was the hour. Looking out on the soft gray sky and river
and down into the camp, that still kept such quiet show of routine, or
passing down the broad hall stair, through the library and into the
flowery breakfast room, how keenly real everything that met the eye, how
unreal whatever was beyond sight. How vividly actual this lovely home in
the sweet ease and kind grace of its lines and adornments. How hard to
move with reference to things unseen, when heart and mind and all power
of realizing unseen things were far away in the ravaged fields, mangled
roads and haunted woods and ravines between Corinth and Shiloh.
But out in the garden, so fair and odorous as one glided through it to
the Mandeville cottage, things boldly in view made sight itself hard to
believe. Was that bespattered gray horseman no phantom, who came
galloping up the river road and called to a servant at the gate that the
enemy's fleet was in sight from English Turn? Was that truly New
Orleans, back yonder, wrapped in smoke, like fallen Carthage or
Jerusalem? Or here! this black-and-crimson thing drifting round the bend
in mid-current and without a sign of life aboard or about it, was this
not a toy or sham, but one more veritable ship in veritable flames? And
beyond and following it, helpless as a drift-log, was that lifeless
white-and-crimson thing a burning passenger steamer--and that behind it
another? Here in the cottage, plainly these were Constance and Miranda,
and, on second view, verily here were a surgeon and his attendants. But
were these startling preparations neither child's play nor dream?
Child's play persistently seemed, at any rate, the small bit of yellow
stuff produced as a hospital flag. Oh, surely! would not a much larger
be far safer? It would. Well, at the house there was some yellow
curtaining packed in one of the boxes, Isaac could tell which--
"I think I know right where it is!" said Anna, and hurried away to find
and send it. The others, widow and wife, would stay where they were and
Anna would take command at the big house, where the domestics would soon
need to be emboldened, cheered, calmed, controlled. Time flies when
opening boxes that have been stoutly nailed and hooped over the nails.
When the goods proved not to be in the one where Anna "knew" they were
she remembered better, of course, and in the second they were found.
Just as the stuff had been drawn forth and was being hurried away by
the hand of Dilsie, a sergeant and private from the camp, one with a
field glass, the other with a signal flag, came asking leave to use them
from the belvedere on the roof. Anna led them up to it.
How suddenly authentic became everything, up here. Flat as a map lay
river, city, and plain. Almost under them and amusingly clear in detail,
they looked down into Camp Callender and the Chalmette fortifications.
When they wigwagged, "Nothing in sight," to what seemed a very real toy
soldier with a very real toy flag, on a green toy mound in the midst of
the work (the magazine), he wigwagged in reply, and across the river a
mere speck of real humanity did the same from a barely definable
With her maid beside her Anna lingered a bit. She loved to be as near
any of the dear South's defenders as modesty would allow, but these two
had once been in Kincaid's Battery, her Hilary's own boys. As lookouts
they were not yet skilled. In this familiar scene she knew things by the
eye alone, which the sergeant, unused even to his glass, could hardly be
sure of through it.
Her maid looked up and around. "Gwine to rain ag'in," she murmured, and
the mistress assented with her gaze in the southeast. In this humid air
and level country a waterside row of live-oaks hardly four miles off
seemed at the world's edge and hid all the river beyond it.
"There's where the tips of masts always show first," she ventured to the
sergeant. "We can't expect any but the one kind now, can we?"
"'Fraid not, moving up-stream."
"Then yonder they come. See? two or three tiny,
needle-like--h-m-m!--just over that farth'--?"
He lowered the glass and saw better without it.
The maid burst out: "Oh, Lawd, _I_ does! Oh, good Gawd A'mighty!" She
sprang to descend, but with a show of wonder Anna spoke and she halted.
"If you want to leave me," continued the mistress, "you need only ask."
"Law, Miss Nannie! Me leave you? I--"
"If you do--now--to-day--for one minute, I'll never take you back. I'll
have Hettie or Dilsie."
"Missie,"--tears shone--"d' ain't nothin' in Gawd's worl' kin eveh make
me a runaway niggeh f'om you! But ef you tell me now fo' to go fetch
ev'y dahky we owns up to you--"
"Yes! on the upper front veranda! Go, do it!"
"Yass, 'm! 'caze ef us kin keep 'em anywahs it'll be in de bes' place
fo' to see de mos' sights!" She vanished and Anna turned to the
soldiers. Their flagging had paused while they watched the far-away
top-gallants grow in height and numbers. Down in the works the long-roll
was sounding and from every direction men were answering it at a run.
Across the river came bugle notes. Sighingly the sergeant lowered his
"Lordy, it's the whole kit and b'ilin'! Wag, John. When they swing up
round this end of the trees I'll count 'em. Here they come! One, ...
two, ... why, what small--oh, see this big fellow! Look at the width of
those yards! And look at all their hulls, painted the color of the
river! And see that pink flutter--look!" he said to Anna, "do you get
it? high up among the black ropes? that pink--"
"Yes," said Anna solemnly, "I see it--"
"That's the old--"
"Yes. Must we fire on that? and fire first?"
"We'd better!" laughed the soldier, "if we fire at all. Those chaps have
got their answer ready and there won't be much to say after it." The
three hurried down, the men to camp, Anna to the upper front veranda.
There, save two or three with Constance and Miranda, came all the
servants, shepherded by Isaac and Ben with vigilant eyes and smothered
vows to "kill de fuss he aw she niggeh dat try to skedaddle"; came and
stood to gaze with her over and between the grove trees. Down in the
fortification every man seemed to have sprung to his post. On its outer
crest, with his adjutant, stood the gilded commander peering through his
"Missie," sighed Anna's maid, "see Mahs' Chahlie dah? stan'in' on de
woodworks o' dat big gun?"
"Yes," said Anna carelessly, but mutely praying that some one would make
him get down. Her brain teemed with speculations: Where, how occupied
and in what state of things, what frame of mind, was Victorine, were
Flora and Madame? Here at Steve's cottage with what details were 'Randa
and Connie busy? But except when she smiled round on the slaves, her
gaze, like theirs, abode on the river and the shore defenses, from whose
high staffs floated brightly the Confederate flag. How many a time in
this last fearful year had her own Hilary, her somewhere still living,
laughing, loving Hilary, stood like yon commander, about to deal havoc
from, and to draw it upon, Kincaid's Battery. Who would say that even
now he might not be so standing, with her in every throb of his
Something out in the view disturbed the servants.
"Oh, Lawd 'a' massy!" moaned a woman.
"Trus' Him, Aun' Jinnie!" prompted Anna's maid. "Y' always is trus'
"Whoeveh don't trus' Him, I'll bus' him!" confidentially growled Isaac
to those around him.
"We all of us must and will!" said Anna elatedly, though with shameful
inward sinkings and with no sustaining word from any of the flock, while
out under the far gray sky, emerging from a slight angle of the shore
well down the water's long reach the battle line began to issue, each
ship in its turn debouching into full relief from main-truck to
SHIPS, SHELLS, AND LETTERS
Strange! how little sense of calamity came with them--at first. So
graceful they were. So fitted--like waterfowl--to every mood of air and
tide; their wings all furled, their neat bodies breasting the angry
flood by the quiet power of their own steam and silent submerged wheels.
So like to the numberless crafts which in kinder days, under friendly
tow, had come up this same green and tawny reach and passed on to the
queenly city, laden with gifts, on the peaceful embassies of the world.
But, ah! how swiftly, threateningly they grew: the smaller, two-masted
fore-and-afts, each seemingly unarmed but for one monster gun pivoted
amidships, and the towering, wide-armed three-masters, the low and the
tall consorting like dog and hunter. Now, as they came on, a nice eye
could make out, down on their hulls, light patches of new repair where
our sunken fleet had so lately shot and rammed them, and, hanging over
the middle of each ship's side in a broad, dark square to protect her
vitals, a mass of anchor chains. Their boarding-netting, too, one saw,
drawn high round all their sides, and now more guns--and more!--and
more! the huger frowning over the bulwarks, the lesser in unbroken rows,
scowling each from its own port-hole, while every masthead revealed
itself a little fort bristling with arms and men. Yes, and there, high
in the clouds of rigging, no longer a vague pink flutter now, but
brightly red-white-and-blue and smilingly angry--what a strange
home-coming for it! ah, what a strange home-coming after a scant
year-and-a-half of banishment!--the flag of the Union, rippling from
"Ain' dey neveh gwine shoot?" asked a negro lad.
"Not till they're out of line with us," said Anna so confidently as to
draw a skeptical grunt from his mother, and for better heart let a tune
float silently in and out on her breath:
"I loves to be a beau to de ladies.
I loves to shake a toe wid de ladies--"
She felt her maid's touch. Charlie was aiming his great gun, and on
either side of her Isaac and Ben were repeating their injunctions. She
"If they all shoot true we're safe enough now."
"An' ef de ships don't," put in Isaac, "dey'll mighty soon--"
The prophecy was lost. All the shore guns blazed and crashed. The white
smoke belched and spread. Broken window-panes jingled. Wails and moans
from the slave women were silenced by imperious outcries from Isaac and
Ben. There followed a mid-air scream and roar as of fifty railway trains
passing each other on fifty bridges, and the next instant a storm of the
enemy's shells burst over and in the batteries. But the house stood fast
and half a dozen misquotations of David and Paul were spouted from the
braver ones of Anna's flock. In a moment a veil of smoke hid ships and
shore, yet fearfully true persisted the enemy's aim. To home-guards,
rightly hopeless of their case and never before in action, every hostile
shot was like a volcano's eruption, and their own fire rapidly fell off.
But on the veranda, amid a weeping, prattling, squealing and gesturing
of women and children, Anna could not distinguish the bursting of the
foe's shells from the answering thunder of Confederate guns, and when in
a bare ten minutes unarmed soldiers began to come out of the smoke and
to hurry through the grove, while riders of harnessed horses and
mules--harnessed to nothing--lashed up the levee road at full run, and
Isaac and Ben proudly cried that one was Mahs' Chahlie and that the
animals were theirs of Callender House, she still asked over the
balustrade how the fight had gone.
For reply despairing hands pointed her back toward the river, and
there, as she and her groaning servants gazed, the great black masts and
yards, with headway resumed and every ensign floating, loomed silently
forth and began to pass the veranda. Down in the intervening garden,
brightly self-contained among the pale stragglers there, appeared the
one-armed reporter, with a younger brother in the weather-worn gray and
red of Kincaid's Battery. They waved a pocket-soiled letter and asked
how to get in and up to her; but before she could do more than toss them
a key there came, not from the ships but from close overhead under a
blackening sky, one last, hideous roar and ear-splitting howl. The
beautiful treasure-laden home heaved, quivered, lurched and settled
again, the women shrieked and crouched or fell prone with covered heads,
and a huge shell, sent by some pain-crazed fugitive from a gun across
the river, and which had entered at the roof, exploded in the basement
with a harrowing peal and filled every corner of the dwelling with
blinding smoke and stifling dust.
Constance and Miranda met Anna groping and staggering out of the chaos.
Unharmed, herself, and no one badly hurt? Ah, hear the sudden wail of
that battery boy as he finds his one-armed brother! Anna kneels with him
over the writhing form while women fly for the surgeon, and men, at her
cry, hasten to improvise a litter. No idle song haunts her now, yet a
clamoring whisper times itself with every pulsation of her bosom: "The
letter? the letter?"
Pity kept it from her lips, even from her weeping eyes; yet somehow the
fallen boy heard, but when he tried to answer she hushed him. "Oh, never
mind that," she said, wiping away the sweat of his agony, "it isn't
important at all."
"Dropped it," he gasped, and had dropped it where the shell had buried
Each for the other's sake the lads rejected the hospital, with its risk
of capture. The younger had the stricken one hurried off toward the
railway and a refugee mother in the hills, Constance tenderly protesting
until the surgeon murmured the truth:
"It'll be all one to him by to-morrow."
As the rearmost ship was passing the house Anna, her comeliness
restored, half rose from her bed, where Miranda stood trying to keep
her. From all the far side of the house remotely sounded the smart tramp
and shuffle of servants clearing away wreckage, and the din of their
makeshift repairs. She was "all right again," she said as she sat, but
the abstraction of her eyes and the harkening droop of her head showed
that inwardly she still saw and heard the death-struck boy.
Suddenly she stood. "Dear, brave Connie!" she exclaimed, "we must go
help her, 'Randa." And as they went she added, pausing at the head of a
stair, "Ah, dear! if we, poor sinners all, could in our dull minds only
multiply the awful numbers of war's victims by the woes that gather
round any one of them, don't you think, 'Randa--?"
Yes, Miranda agreed, certainly if man--yes, and woman--had that gift
wars would soon be no more.
On a high roof above their apartment stood our Valcour ladies. About
them babbling feminine groups looked down upon the harbor landings black
with male vagabonds and witlings smashing the precious food freight (so
sacred yesterday), while women and girls scooped the spoils from mire
and gutter into buckets, aprons or baskets, and ran home with it through
Jackson Square and scurried back again with grain-sacks and
pillow-slips, and while the cotton burned on and the ships, so broadly
dark aloft, so pale in their war paint below and so alive with silent,
motionless men, came through the smoking havoc.
"No uze to hope," cooed the grandmother to Flora, whose gaze clung to
the tree-veiled top of Callender House. "It riffuse' to burn. 'Tis not a
so inflammab' like that rope and tar." The rope and tar meant their own
"Ah, well," was the light reply, "all shall be for the bes'! Those who
watch the game close and play it with courage--"
"And cheat with prudenze--?"
"Yes! to them God is good. How well you know that! And Anna, too, she's
learning it--or she shall--dear Anna! Same time me, I am well content."
"Oh, you are joyful! But not because God is good, neither juz' biccause
those Yankee' they arrive. Ah, that muz' bring some splandid news, that
lett'r of Irbee, what you riscieve to-day and think I don't know it. 'T
is maybe ab-out Kincaid's Batt'rie, eh?" At Flora's touch the speaker
flinched back from the roof's edge, the maiden aiding the recoil.
"Don't stand so near, like that," she said. "It temp' me to shove you
They looked once more to the fleet. Slowly it came on. Near its line's
center the flag-ship hovered just opposite Canal Street. The rear was
far down by the Mint. Up in the van the leading vessel was halting
abreast St. Mary's Market, a few hundred yards behind which, under black
clouds and on an east wind, the lone-star flag of seceded Louisiana
floated in helpless defiance from the city hall. All at once heaven's
own thunders pealed. From a warning sprinkle the women near about fled
down a roofed hatchway. One led Madame. But on such a scene Flora craved
a better curtain-fall and she lingered alone.
It came. As if all its millions of big drops raced for one prize the
deluge fell on city, harbor, and fleet and on the woe-smitten land from
horizon to horizon, while in the same moment the line of battle dropped
anchor in mid-stream. With a swirling mist wetting her fair head she
waved in dainty welcome Irby's letter and then pressed it to her lips;
not for his sake--hah!--but for his rueful word, that once more his
loathed cousin, Anna's Hilary! was riding at the head of Kincaid's
SAME APRIL DAY TWICE
Black was that Friday for the daughters of Dixie. Farragut demanded
surrender, Lovell declined. The mayor, the council, the Committee of
Public Safety declined.
On Saturday the two sides parleyed while Lovell withdrew his forces. On
Sunday the Foreign Legion preserved order of a sort highly displeasing
to "a plain sailor," as Farragut, on the Hartford, called himself, and
to all the plain sailors of his fleet--who by that time may have been
hard to please. On Monday the "plain sailor" bade the mayor, who had
once been a plain stevedore, remove the city's women and children within
forty-eight hours. But on Tuesday, in wiser mood, he sent his own
blue-jackets, cutlasses, muskets and hand-dragged howitzers, lowered the
red-and-yellow-striped flag of one star and on mint and custom-house ran
up the stars and stripes. Constance and Miranda, from their distant
roof, saw the emblem soar to the breeze, and persuaded Anna to an act
which cost her as many hours as it need have taken minutes--the
destruction of the diary. That was on the twenty-ninth of April.
Let us not get dates confused. "On the twenty-ninth of April," says
Grant, "the troops were at Hard Times (Arkansas), and the fleet (another
fleet), under Admiral Porter, made an attack upon Grand Gulf
(Mississippi), while I reconnoitered." But that twenty-ninth was a year
later, when New Orleans for three hundred and sixty-five separate
soul-torturing days had been sitting in the twilight of her captivity,
often writhing and raving in it, starved to madness for news of Lee's
and Stonewall's victories and of her boys, her ragged, gaunt, superb,
bleeding, dying, on-pressing boys, and getting only such dubious crumbs
of rumor as could be smuggled in, or such tainted bad news as her
captors delighted to offer her through the bars of a confiscated press.
No? did the treatment she was getting merely--as Irby, with much truth,
on that twenty-ninth remarked in a group about a headquarters camp-fire
near Grand Gulf--did it merely seem so bad to poor New Orleans?
Oh, but!--as the dingy, lean-faced Hilary cried, springing from the
ground where he lay and jerking his pipe from his teeth--was it not
enough for a world's pity that to her it seemed so? How it seemed to the
Callenders in particular was a point no one dared raise where he was. To
them had come conditions so peculiarly distressing and isolating that
they were not sharers of the common lot around them, but of one
strangely, incalculably worse. Rarely and only in guarded tones were
they spoken of now in Kincaid's Battery, lately arrived here, covered
with the glory of their part in Bragg's autumn and winter campaign
through Tennessee and Kentucky, and with Perryville, Murfreesboro' and
Stone River added to the long list on their standard. Lately arrived,
yes; but bringing with them as well as meeting here a word apparently so
authentic and certainly so crushing, (as to those sweet Callenders),
that no one ever let himself hint toward it in the hearing even of
Charlie Valcour, much less of their battle-scarred, prison-wasted,
march-worn, grief-torn, yet still bright-eyed, brave-stepping,
brave-riding Major. Major of Kincaid's Battalion he was now, whose whole
twelve brass pieces had that morning helped the big iron batteries fight
"Finding Grand Gulf too strong," says Grant, "I moved the army below,
running the batteries there as we had done at Vicksburg. Learning here
that there was a good road from Bruinsburg up to Port Gibson" (both in
Mississippi), "I determined to cross--"
How pleasantly familiar were those names in New Orleans. Alike
commercially and socially they meant parterres, walks, bowers in her
great back-garden. From the homes of the rich planters around the towns
and landings so entitled, and from others all up and down the river from
Natchez to Vicksburg and the Bends, hailed many a Carondelet Street
nabob and came yearly those towering steamboat-loads--those floating
cliffs--of cotton-bales that filled presses, ships and bank-boxes and
bought her imports--plows, shoes, bagging, spices, silks and wines: came
also their dashing sons and daughters, to share and heighten the
splendors of her carnivals and lure away her beaux and belles to summer
outings and their logical results. In all the region there was hardly a
family with which some half-dozen of the battery were not acquainted, or
"Home again, home again from a foreign shore,"
sang the whole eighty-odd, every ladies' man of them, around out-of-tune
pianos with girls whose brothers were all away in Georgia and Virginia,
some forever at rest, some about to fight Chancellorsville. Such a
chorus was singing that night within ear-shot of the headquarters group
when Ned Ferry, once of the battery, but transferred to Harper's
cavalry, rode up and was led by Hilary to the commanding general to say
that Grant had crossed the river. Piano and song hushed as the bugles
rang, and by daybreak all camps had vanished and the gray columns were
hurrying, horse, foot, and wheels, down every southerly road to crush
At the head of one rode General Brodnax. Hearing Hilary among his staff
he sent for him and began to speak of Mandeville, long gone to Richmond
on some official matter and daily expected back; and then he mentioned
"this fellow Grant," saying he had known him in Mexico. "And now," he
concluded, "he's the toughest old he one they've got."
On the face of either kinsman there came a fine smile that really made
them look alike. "We'll try our jaw-teeth on him to-morrow," laughed the
"Hilary, you weren't one of those singers last evening, were you?"
"Why, no, uncle, for once you'll be pleased--"
"Not by a dam-site!" The smile was gone. "You know, my boy, that in such
a time as this if a leader--and above all such a capering, high-kicking
colt as you--begins to mope and droop like a cab-horse in the rain, his
men will soon not be worth a--what?... Oh, blast the others, when _you_
do so you're moping, and whether your men can stand it or not, I
can't!--what?... Well, then, for God's sake don't! For there's another
point, Hilary: as long as you were every night a 'ladies' man' and every
day a laugher at death you could take those boys through hell-fire at
any call; but if they once get the notion--which you came mighty near
giving them yesterday--that you hold their lives cheap merely because
you're tired of your own, they'll soon make you wish you'd never set
eyes on a certain friend of ours, worse than you or they or I have ever
wished it yet."
"I've never wished it yet, uncle. I can't. I've never believed one
breath of all we've heard. It's not true. It can't be, simply because
it can't be."
"Then why do you behave as if it were?" "I won't, uncle. Honor bright!
You watch me." And next day, in front of Port Gibson, through all the
patter, smoke, and crash, through all the charging, cheering and
volleying, while the ever-thinning, shortening gray lines were being
crowded back from rise to rise--back, back through field, grove, hedge,
worm-fence and farmyard, clear back to Grindstone Ford, Bayou Pierre,
and with the cavalry, Harper's, cut off and driven up eastward through
the town--the enraged old brigadier watched and saw. He saw far, saw
close, with blasphemous exultation, how Hilary and his guns, called
here, sent there, flashed, thundered, galloped, blazed, howled and held
on with furious valor and bleeding tenacity yet always with a
quick-sightedness which just avoided folly and ruin, and at length stood
rock fast, honor bright, at North Fork and held it till, except the
cavalry, the last gray column was over and the bridges safely burning.
That night Ned Ferry--of the cavalry withdrawn to the eastward uplands
to protect that great source of supplies and its New Orleans and Jackson
Railroad--was made a lieutenant, and a certain brave Charlotte, whom
later he loved and won, bringing New Orleans letters to camp, brought
also such news of the foe that before dawn, led by her, Ferry's Scouts
rode their first ride. All day they rode, while the main armies lay with
North Fork between them, the grays entrenching, the blues rebridging.
When at sundown she and Ned Ferry parted, and at night he bivouacked his
men for a brief rest in a black solitude from which the camp-fires of
both hosts were in full sight and the enemy's bridge-building easily
heard, he sought, uncompanioned, Kincaid's Battery and found Hilary
Kincaid. War is what Sherman called it, who two or three days later, at
Grand Gulf (evacuated), crossed into this very strife. Yet peace
(so-called) and riches rarely bind men in such loving pairs as do cruel
toil, deadly perils, common griefs, exile from woman and daily
experience of one another's sweetness, valor, and strength, and it was
for such things that this pair, loving so many besides, particularly
loved each other.
With glad eyes Kincaid rose from a log.
"Major," began the handsome scout, dapper from kepi to spurs in contrast
to the worn visage and dress of his senior, but Hilary was already
"My gentle Ned!" he cried. "_Lieutenant_--Ferry!"
Amid kind greetings from Captain Bartleson and others the eyes of the
two--Hilary's so mettlesome, Ferry's so placid--exchanged meanings, and
the pair went and sat alone on the trail of a gun; on Roaring Betsy's
knee, as it were. There Hilary heard of the strange fair guide and of
news told by her which brought him to his feet with a cry of joy that
drew the glad eyes of half the battery.
"The little mother saint of your flag, boys!" he explained to a knot of
them later, "the little godmother of your guns!" The Callenders were out
of New Orleans, banished as "registered enemies."
IN DARKEST DIXIE AND OUT
Unhappy Callender House! Whether "oppressors" or "oppressed" had
earliest or oftenest in that first year of the captivity lifted against
it the accusing finger it would be hard to tell.
When the Ship Island transports bore their blue thousands up the river,
and the streets roared a new drum-thunder, before the dark columns had
settled down in the cotton-yards, public squares, Carrollton suburb and
Jackson Barracks, Callender House--you may guess by whose
indirection--had come to the notice of a once criminal lawyer, now the
plumed and emblazoned general-in-chief, to whom, said his victims
(possibly biased), no offense or offender was too small for his
hectoring or chastisement.
The women in that house, that nest of sedition, he had been told, at
second-hand, had in the very dawn of secession completely armed the
famous "Kincaid's Battery" which had early made it hot for him about
Yorktown. Later in that house they had raised a large war-fund--still
somewhere hidden. The day the fleet came up they had sent their
carriage-horses to Beauregard, helped signal the Chalmette
fortifications, locked ten slaves in the dwelling under shell fire and
threatened death to any who should stir to escape. So for these twelve
months, with only Isaac, Ben, and their wives as protectors and the
splendid freedom to lock themselves in, they had suffered the duress of
a guard camped in the grove, their every townward step openly watched
and their front door draped with the stars and stripes, under which no
feminine acquaintance could be enticed except the dear, faithful
But where were old friends and battery sisters? All estranged. Could not
the Callenders go to them and explain? Explain! A certain man of not
one-fifth their public significance or "secesh" record, being lightly
asked on the street if he had not yet "taken the oath" and as lightly
explaining that he "wasn't going to," had, fame said, for that alone,
been sent to Ship Island--where Anna "already belonged," as the
commanding general told the three gentle refusers of the oath, while in
black letters on the whited wall above his judgment seat in the
custom-house they read, "No distinction made here between he and she
But could not the Valcours, those strangely immune, yet unquestioned
true-lovers of poor Dixie, whose marvelous tact won priceless favors for
so many distressed Dixie-ites, have explained for the Callenders? Flora
had explained!--to both sides, in opposite ways, eagerly, tenderly, over
and over, with moist eyes, yet ever with a cunning lameness that kept
convincement misled and without foothold. Had the Callenders dwelt
up-town the truth might have won out; but where they were, as they were,
they might as well have been in unspeakable Boston. And so by her own
sweet excusings she kept alive against them beliefs or phantoms of
beliefs, which would not have lived a day in saner times.
Calumny had taken two forms: the monstrous black smoke of a vulgar
version and the superior divinings of the socially elect; a fine, hidden
flame fed from the smoke. According to the vulgate the three ladies,
incensed at a perfectly lawful effort to use their horses for the
Confederate evacuation and actually defying it with cocked revolver, had
openly abjured Dixie, renounced all purpose to fly to it and, denying
shelter to their own wounded, had with signal flags themselves guided
the conquering fleet past the town's inmost defenses until compelled to
desist by a Confederate shell in their roof. Unable to face an odium so
well earned they had clung to their hiding, glad of the blue camp in
their grove, living fatly on the bazaar's proceeds, and having high
times with such noted staff-officers as Major Greenleaf, their kindness
to whom in the days of his modest lieutenancy and first flight and of
his later parole and exchange, was not so hard now to see through.
Greenleaf had come back with General Banks when Banks had succeeded
Butler. Oppressed with military cares, he had barely time to be, without
scrutiny, a full believer in the Valcours' loyalty to the Union. Had
they not avowed it to him when to breathe it was peril, on that early
day when Irby's command became Kincaid's Battery, and in his days of
Parish Prison and bazaar? How well those words fitly spoken had turned
out! "Like apples of gold," sang Flora to the timorous grandmother, "in
wrappers of greenbacks."
All the more a believer was he because while other faithfuls were making
their loyalty earn big money off the government this genteel pair
reminding him, that they might yet have to risk themselves inside the
gray lines again to extricate Charlie, had kept their loyalty as
gracefully hidden as of old except from a general or two. Preoccupied
Greenleaf, amiable generals, not to see that a loyalist in New Orleans
stood socially at absolute zero, whereas to stand at the social
ebullition point was more to the Valcours than fifty Unions, a hundred
Dixies and heaven beside. It was that fact, more than any other, save
one, which lent intrepidity to Flora's perpetual, ever quickening dance
on the tight-rope of intrigue; a performance in which her bonny face had
begun to betray her discovery that she could neither slow down nor dance
backward. However, every face had come to betray some cruel strain;
Constance's, Anna's, even Victorine's almond eyes and Miranda's baby
wrinkles. Yes, the Valcours, too, had, nevertheless, their monetary
gains, but these were quiet and exclusively from their ever dear,
however guilty, "rebel" friends, who could not help making presents to
Madame when brave Flora, spurning all rewards but their love, got for
them, by some spell they could not work, Federal indulgences; got them
through those one or two generals, who--odd coincidence!--always knew
the "rebel" city's latest "rebel" news and often made stern use of it.
Full believer likewise, and true sorrower, was Greenleaf, in Hilary's
death, having its seeming proof from Constance and Miranda as well as
from Flora. For in all that twelvemonth the Callenders had got no glad
tidings, even from Mandeville. Battle, march and devastation, march,
battle and devastation had made letters as scarce as good dreams, in
brightest Dixie. But darkest Dixie was New Orleans. There no three
"damned secesh" might stop on a corner in broadest sunlight and pass the
time of day. There the "rebel" printing-presses stood cold in dust and
rust. There churches were shut and bayonet-guarded because their
ministers would not read the prayers ordered by the "oppressor," and
there, for being on the street after nine at night, ladies of society,
diners-out, had been taken to the lock-up and the police-court. In New
Orleans all news but bad news was contraband to any "he or she adder,"
but four-fold contraband to the Callenders, the fairest member of whose
trio, every time a blue-and-gold cavalier forced her conversation, stung
him to silence with some word as mild as a Cordelia's. And yet,(you
demur,) in the course of a whole year, by some kind luck, surely the
blessed truth--Ah, the damsel on the tight-rope took care against that!
It was part of her dance to drop from that perch as daintily as a
bee-martin way-laying a hive, devour each home-coming word as he devours
bees, and flit back and twitter and flutter as a part of all nature's
harmony, though in chills of dismay at her peril and yet burning to go
to Hilary, from whom this task alone forever held her away.
So throughout that year Anna had been to Greenleaf the veiled widow of
his lost friend, not often or long, and never blithely met; loved more
ardently than ever, more reverently; his devotion holding itself in a
fancied concealment transparent to all; he defending and befriending
her, yet only as he could without her knowledge, and incurring-a certain
stigma from his associates and superiors, if not an actual distrust. A
whole history of itself would be the daily, nightly, monthly war of
passions between him, her, Flora, and those around them, but time flies.
One day Greenleaf, returning from a week-long circuit of outposts, found
awaiting him a letter bearing Northern imprints of mailing and
forwarding, from Hilary Kincaid, written long before in prison and
telling another whole history, of a kind so common in war that we have
already gone by it; a story of being left for dead in the long stupor of
a brain hurt; of a hairbreadth escape from living burial; of weeks in
hospital unidentified, all sense of identity lost; and of a daring feat
of surgery, with swift mental, not so swift bodily, recovery. Inside the
letter was one to Anna. But Anna was gone. Two days earlier, without
warning, the Callenders--as much to Flora's affright as to their
relief, and "as much for Fred's good as for anything," said his obdurate
general when Flora in feigned pity pleaded for their stay--had been
deported into the Confederacy.
"Let me carry it to her," cried Flora to Greenleaf, rapturously clasping
the letter and smiling heroically. "We can overtague them, me and my
gran'mama! And then, thanks be to God! my brother we can bring him back!
Maybe also--ah! maybee! I can obtain yo' generals some uzeful news!"
After some delay the pair were allowed to go. At the nearest gray
outpost, in a sudden shower of the first true news for a week--the
Mississippi crossed, Grant victorious at Port Gibson and joined by
Sherman at Grand Gulf--Flora learned, to her further joy, that the
Callenders, misled by report that Brodnax's brigade was at Mobile, had
gone eastward, as straight away from Brodnax and the battery as
Gulf-shore roads could take them, across a hundred-mile stretch of
townless pine-barrens with neither railway nor telegraph.
Northward, therefore, with Madame on her arm, sprang Flora,
staggeringly, by the decrepit Jackson Railroad, along the quiet eastern
bound of a region out of which, at every halt, came gloomy mention of
Tallahala River and the Big Black; of Big Sandy, Five Mile and Fourteen
Mile creeks; of Logan, Sherman and Grant; of Bowen, Gregg, Brodnax and
Harper, and of daily battle rolling northward barely three hours' canter
away. So they reached Jackson, capital of the state and base of General
Joe Johnston's army. They found it in high ferment and full of
stragglers from a battle lost that day at Raymond scarcely twenty miles
down the Port Gibson road, and on the day following chanced upon
Mandeville returning at last from Richmond. With him they turned west,
again by rail, and about sundown, at Big Black Bridge, ten miles east of
Vicksburg, found themselves clasping hands in open air with General
Brodnax, Irby and Kincaid, close before the torn brigade and the wasted,
cheering battery. Angels dropped down they seemed, tenderly begging off
from all talk of the Callenders, who, Flora distressfully said, had been
"grozzly exaggerated," while, nevertheless, she declared herself, with
starting tears, utterly unable to explain why on earth they had gone to
Mobile--"unlezz the bazaar." No doubt, however, they would soon
telegraph by way of Jackson. But next day, while she, as mistress of a
field hospital, was winning adoration on every side, Jackson, only
thirty miles off but with every wire cut, fell, clad in the flames of
its military factories, mills, foundries and supplies and of its
eastern, Pearl River, bridge.
BETWEEN THE MILLSTONES
Telegraph! They had been telegraphing for days, but their telegrams have
not yet been delivered.
On the evening when the camps of Johnston and Grant with burning Jackson
between them put out half the stars a covered carriage, under the
unsolicited escort of three or four gray-jacketed cavalrymen and driven
by an infantry lad seeking his command after an illness at home, crossed
Pearl River in a scow at Ratcliff's ferry just above the day's
"When things are this bad," said the boy to the person seated beside him
and to two others at their back, his allusion being to their
self-appointed guard, "any man you find straggling to the _front_ is the
kind a lady can trust."
This equipage had come a three hours' drive, from the pretty town of
Brandon, nearest point to which a railway train from the East would
venture, and a glimpse into the vehicle would have shown you, behind
Constance and beside Miranda, Anna, pale, ill, yet meeting every inquiry
with a smiling request to push on. They were attempting a circuit of
both armies to reach a third, Pemberton's, on the Big Black and in and
Thus incited they drove on in the starlight over the gentle hills of
Madison county and did not accept repose until they had put Grant ten
miles behind and crossed to the south side of the Vicksburg and Jackson
Railroad at Clinton village with only twenty miles more between them and
Big Black Bridge. The springs of Anna's illness were more in spirit than
body. Else she need not have lain sleepless that night at Clinton's many
cross-roads, still confronting a dilemma she had encountered in Mobile.
In Mobile the exiles had learned the true whereabouts of the brigade,
and of a battery then called Bartleson's as often as Kincaid's by a
public which had half forgotten the seemingly well-established fact of
Hilary's death. Therein was no new shock. The new shock had come when,
as the three waited for telegrams, they stood before a vast ironclad
still on the ways but offering splendid protection from Farragut's
wooden terrors if only it could be completed, yet on which work had
ceased for lack of funds though a greater part of the needed amount,
already put up, lay idle solely because it could not be dragged up to a
total that would justify its outlay.
"How much does it fall short?" asked Anna with a heart at full stop, and
the pounding shock came when the shortage proved less than the missing
proceeds of the bazaar. For there heaved up the problem, whether to pass
on in the blind hope of finding her heart's own, or to turn instead and
seek the two detectives and the salvation of a city. This was the
dilemma which in the last few days had torn half the life out of her
and, more gravely than she knew, was threatening the remnant.
Constance and Miranda yearned, yet did not dare, to urge the latter
choice. They talked it over covertly on the back seat of the carriage,
Anna sitting bravely in front with the young "web-foot," as their wheels
next day plodded dustily westward out of Clinton. Hilary would never be
found, of course; and _if_ found how would he explain why he, coming
through whatever vicissitudes, he the ever ready, resourceful and
daring, he the men's and ladies' man in one, whom to look upon drew into
his service whoever looked, had for twelve months failed to get so much
as one spoken or written word to Anna Callender; to their heart-broken
Nan, the daily sight of whose sufferings had sharpened their wits and
strung their hearts to blame whoever, on any theory, could be blamed.
Undoubtedly he might have some dazzling explanation ready, but that
explanation they two must first get of him before she should know that
her dead was risen.
Our travellers were minus their outriders now. At dawn the squad,
leaving tender apologies in the night's stopping-place, had left the
ladies also, not foreseeing that demoralized servants would keep them
there with torturing delays long into the forenoon. When at length the
three followed they found highways in ruin, hoof-deep in dust and no
longer safe from blue scouts, while their infantry boy proved as
innocent of road wisdom as they, and on lonely by-ways led them astray
for hours. We may picture their bodily and mental distress to hear, at a
plantation house whose hospitality they craved when the day was near its
end, that they were still but nine miles from Clinton with eleven yet
between them and Big Black Bridge.
Yet they could have wept for thanks as readily as for chagrin or
fatigue, so kindly were they taken in, so stirring was the next word of
"Why, you po' city child'en!" laughed two sweet unprotected women. "Let
these girls bresh you off. You sho'ly got the hafe o' Hinds County on
you ... Pemberton's men? Law, no; they _wuz_ on Big Black but they right
out here, now, on Champion's Hill, in sight f'om our gin-house ... Brodnax'
bri'--now, how funny! We jess heard o' them about a' hour
ago, f'om a bran' new critter company name' Ferry's Scouts. Why, Ferry's
f'om yo' city! Wish you could 'a' seen him--oh, all of 'em, they was
that slick! But, oh, slick aw shabby, when our men ah fine they ah fine,
now, ain't they! There was a man ridin' with him--dressed diff'ent--he
_wuz_ the batteredest-lookin', gayest, grandest--he might 'a' been a
gen'al! when in fact he was only a majo', an' it was him we heard say
that Brodnax was some'uz on the south side o' the railroad and couldn't
come up befo' night ... What, us? no, we on the nawth side. You didn't
notice when you recrossed the track back yondeh? Well, you _must_ 'a'
Anna dropped a fervid word to Miranda that set their hostesses agape.
"Now, good Lawd, child, ain't you in hahdship and dangeh enough? Not one
o' you ain't goin' one step fu'ther this day. Do you want to git shot?
Grant's men are a-marchin' into Bolton's Depot right now. Why, honey,
you might as well go huntin' a needle in a haystack as to go lookin' fo'
Brodnax's brigade to-night. Gen'al Pemberton himself--why, he'd jest
send you to his rear, and that's Vicksburg, where they a-bein' shelled
by the boats day and night, and the women and child'en a-livin' in
caves. You don't want to go there?"
"We don't know," drolly replied Anna.
"Well, you stay hyuh. That's what that majo' told us. Says 'e, 'Ladies,
we got to fight a battle here to-morrow, but yo'-all's quickest way out
of it'll be to stay right hyuh. There'll be no place like home
to-morrow, not even this place,' says 'e, with a sort o' twinkle that
made us laugh without seein' anything to laugh at!"
GATES OF HELL AND GLORY
The next sun rose fair over the green, rolling, open land, rich in
half-grown crops of cotton and corn between fence-rows of persimmon and
sassafras. Before it was high the eager Callenders were out on a main
road. Their Mobile boy had left them and given the reins to an old man,
a disabled and paroled soldier bound homeward into Vicksburg. Delays
plagued them on every turn. At a cross-road they were compelled to wait
for a large body of infantry, followed by its ordnance wagons, to sweep
across their path with the long, swift stride of men who had marched for
two years and which changed to a double-quick as they went over a
hill-top. Or next they had to draw wildly aside into the zigzags of a
worm-fence for a column of galloping cavalry and shroud their heads from
its stifling dust while their driver hung to his mules' heads by the
bits. More than once they caught from some gentle rise a backward
glimpse of long thin lines puffing and crackling at each other; oftener
and more and more they heard the far resound of artillery, the
shuffling, clattering flight of shell, and their final peal as they
reported back to the guns that had sent them; and once, when the ladies
asked if a certain human note, rarefied by distance, was not the
hurrahing of boys on a school-ground, the old man said no, it was "the
Yanks charging." But never, moving or standing from aides or couriers
spurring to front or flank, or from hobbling wounded men or unhurt
stragglers footing to the rear, could they gather a word as to Brodnax's
brigade or Kincaid's Battery.
"Kincaid's Battery hell! You get those ladies out o' this as fast as
them mules can skedaddle."
By and by ambulances and then open wagons began to jolt and tilt past
them full of ragged, grimy, bloody men wailing and groaning, no one
heeding the entreaties of the three ladies to be taken in as nurses.
Near a cross-road before them they saw on a fair farmhouse the yellow
flag, and a vehicle or two at its door, yet no load of wounded turned
that way. Out of it, instead, excited men were hurrying, some lamely,
feebly, afoot, others at better speed on rude litters, but all rearward
across the plowed land. Two women stepped out into a light trap and
vanished behind a lane hedge before Constance could call the attention
of her companions.
"Why, Nan, if we didn't _know_ she was in New Orleans I'd stand the
world down that that was Flora!"
There was no time for debate. All at once, in plain sight, right at
hand, along a mask of young willows in the near left angle of the two
roads, from a double line of gray infantry whose sudden apparition had
startled Anna and Miranda, rang a long volley. From a fringe of woods on
the far opposite border the foe's artillery pealed, and while the
Callenders' mules went into agonies of fright the Federal shells began
to stream and scream across the space and to burst before and over the
gray line lying flat in the furrows and darting back fire and death.
With their quaking equipage hugging the farther side of the way the
veiled ladies leaned out to see, but drew in as a six-mule wagon coming
from the front at wild speed jounced and tottered by them. It had nearly
passed when with just a touch of hubs it tossed them clear off the road,
smashing one of their wheels for good and all. Some one sprang and held
their terrified mules and they alighted on a roadside bank counting
themselves already captured.
"Look out, everybody," cried a voice, "here come our own guns, six of
'em, like hell to split!" and in a moment the way was cleared.
A minute before this, down the cross-road, southward a quarter of a mile
or so, barely out of sight behind fence-rows, the half of a battalion of
artillery had halted in column, awaiting orders. With two or three
lesser officers a general, galloping by it from behind, had drawn up on
a slight rise at the southwest corner of the fire-swept field, taken one
glance across it and said, "Hilary, can your ladies' men waltz into
action in the face of those guns?"
"They can dance the figure, General."
"Take them in."
Bartleson, watching, had mounted drivers and cannoneers before Kincaid
could spur near enough to call, "Column, forward!" and turn again
toward the General and the uproar beyond. The column had barely
stretched out when, looking back on it as he quickened pace, Hilary's
cry was, "Battery, trot, march!" So the six guns had come by the
general: first Hilary, sword out, pistols in belt; then his adjutant;
then bugler and guidon, and then Bartleson and the boys; horses striding
out--ah, there were the Callenders' own span!--whips cracking,
carriages thumping and rumbling, guns powder-blackened and brown, their
wheels, trails, and limbers chipped and bitten, and their own bronze
pock-pitted by the flying iron and lead of other fights, and the heroes
in saddle and on chests--with faces as war-worn as the wood and metal
and brute life under them--cheering as they passed. Six clouds of dust
in one was all the limping straggler had seen when he called his glad
warning, for a tall hedge lined half the cross-road up which the
whirlwind came; but a hundred yards or so short of the main way the
whole battery, still shunning the field because of spongy ground, swept
into full view at a furious gallop. Yet only as a single mass was it
observed, and despite all its thunder of wheels was seen only, not
heard. Around the Callenders was a blindfold of dust and vehicles, of
shouting and smoke, and out in the field the roar of musketry and
howling and bursting of shell. Even Flora, in her ambulance close beyond
both roads, watching for the return of a galloping messenger and seeing
Hilary swing round into the highway, low bent over his charger at full
run, knew him only as he vanished down it hidden by the tempest of
hoofs, wheels, and bronze that whirled after him.
At Anna's side among the rearing, trembling teams a mounted officer, a
surgeon, Flora's messenger, was commanding and imploring her to follow
Constance and Miranda into the wagon which had wrecked their conveyance.
And so, alas! all but trampling her down, yet unseeing and unseen though
with her in every leap of his heart, he who despite her own prayers was
more to her than a country's cause or a city's deliverance flashed by,
while in the dust and thunder of the human avalanche that followed she
stood asking whose battery was this and with drowned voice crying, as
she stared spell-bound, "Oh, God! is it only Bartleson's? Oh, God of
mercy! where is Hilary Kincaid?" A storm of shell burst directly
overhead. Men and beasts in the whirling battery, and men and beasts
close about her wailed, groaned, fell. Anna was tossed into the wagon,
the plunging guns, dragging their stricken horses, swept out across the
field, the riot of teams, many with traces cut, whipped madly away, and
still, thrown about furiously in the flying wagon, she gazed from her
knees and mutely prayed, but saw no Hilary because while she looked for
a rider his horse lay fallen.
Never again came there to that band of New Orleans boys such an hour of
glory as this at Champion's Hill. For two years more, by the waning
light of a doomed cause, they fought on, won fame and honor; but for
blazing splendor--of daring, skill, fortitude, loss and achievement
which this purblind world still sees plainest in fraternal
slaughter--that was the mightiest hour, the mightiest ten minutes, ever
spent, from 'Sixty-one to 'Sixty-five, by Kincaid's Battery.
Right into the face of death's hurricane sprang the ladies' man, swept
the ladies' men. "Battery, trot, walk. Forward into battery! Action
front!" It was at that word that Kincaid's horse went down; but while
the pieces trotted round and unlimbered and the Federal guns vomited
their fire point-blank and blue skirmishers crackled and the gray line
crackled back, and while lead and iron whined and whistled, and chips,
sand and splinters flew, and a dozen boys dropped, the steady voice of
Bartleson gave directions to each piece by number, for "solid shot," or
"case" or "double canister." Only one great blast the foe's artillery
got in while their opponents loaded, and then, with roar and smoke as if
the earth had burst, Kincaid's Battery answered like the sweep of a
scythe. Ah, what a harvest! Instantly the guns were wrapped in their own
white cloud, but, as at Shiloh, they were pointed again, again and again
by the ruts of their recoil, Kincaid and Bartleson each pointing one as
its nine men dwindled to five and to four, and in ten minutes nothing
more was to be done but let the gray line through with fixed bayonets
while Charlie, using one of Hilary's worn-out quips, stood on Roaring
Betsy's trunnion-plates and cursed out to the shattered foe, "Bricks,
lime and sand always on hand!--,--,--!"
Yet this was but a small part of the day's fight, and Champion's Hill
was a lost battle. Next day the carnage was on Baker's Creek and at Big
Black Bridge, and on the next Vicksburg was invested.
Behold, "Vicksburg and the Bends."
In one of those damp June-hot caves galleried into the sheer yellow-clay
sides of her deep-sunken streets, desolate streets where Porter's great
soaring, howling, burrowing "lamp-posts" blew up like steamboats and
flew forty ways in search of women and children, dwelt the Callenders.
Out among Pemberton's trenches and redans, where the woods were dense on
the crowns and faces of the landside bluffs, and the undergrowth was
thick in the dark ravines, the minie-ball forever buzzed and pattered,
and every now and then dabbed mortally into some head or breast. There
ever closer and closer the blue boys dug and crept while they and the
gray tossed back and forth the hellish hand-grenade, the heavenly
hard-tack and tobacco, gay jokes and lighted bombs. There, mining and
countermining, they blew one another to atoms, or under shrieking shells
that tore limbs from the trees and made missiles of them hurled
themselves to the assault and were hurled back. There, in a ruined villa
whose shrubberies Kincaid named "Carrollton Gardens," quartered old
Brodnax, dining on the fare we promised him from the first, and there
the nephew sang an ancient song from which, to please his listeners, he
had dropped "old Ireland" and made it run:
"O, my heart's in New Orleans wherever I go--"
meaning, for himself, that wherever roamed a certain maiden whose
whereabouts in Dixie he could only conjecture, there was the New Orleans
of his heart.
One day in the last week of the siege a young mother in the Callenders'
cave darted out into the sunshine to rescue her straying babe and was
killed by a lump of iron. Bombardments rarely pause for slips like that,
yet the Callenders ventured to her burial in a graveyard not far from
"Carrollton Gardens." As sympathy yet takes chances with contagions it
took them then with shells.
Flora Valcour daily took both risks--with contagions in a field hospital
hard by the cemetery, and with shells and stray balls when she fled at
moments from the stinking wards to find good air and to commune with her
heart's desires and designs. There was one hazard beside which foul air
and stray shots were negligible, a siege within this siege. To be
insured against the mere mathematical risk that those designs, thus far
so fortunate, might by any least mishap, in the snap of a finger, come
to naught she would have taken chances with the hugest shell Grant or
Porter could send. For six weeks Anna and Hilary--Anna not knowing if he
was alive, he thinking her fifty leagues away--had been right here,
hardly an hour's walk asunder. With what tempest of heart did the
severed pair rise at each dawn, lie down each night; but Flora suffered
no less. Let either of the two get but one glimpse, hear but one word,
of the other, and--better a shell, slay whom it might.
On her granddaughter's brow Madame Valcour saw the murk of the storm.
"The lightning must strike some time, you are thinking, eh?" she
"No, not necessarily--thanks to your aid!"
Thanks far more to Flora's subtlety and diligence. It refreshed Madame
to see how well the fair strategist kept her purposes hid. Not even Irby
called them--those he discerned--hers. In any case, at any time, any
possessive but my or mine, or my or mine on any lip but his, angered
him. Wise Flora, whenever she alluded to their holding of the plighted
ones apart, named the scheme his till that cloyed, and then "ours" in a
way that made it more richly his, even when--clearly to Madame, dimly
to him, exasperatingly to both--her wiles for its success--woven around
his cousin--became purely feminine blandishments for purely feminine
ends. In her own mind she accorded Irby only the same partnership of
aims which she contemptuously shared with the grandam, who, like Irby,
still harped on assets, on that estate over in Louisiana which every one
else, save his uncle, had all but forgotten. The plantation and its
slaves were still Irby's objective, and though Flora was no less so, any
chance that for jealousy of her and Hilary he might throw Anna into
Hilary's arms, was offset by his evident conviction that the estate
would in that moment be lost to him and that no estate meant no Flora.
Madame kept that before him and he thanked and loathed her accordingly.
Flora's subtlety and diligence, yes, indeed. By skill in phrases and
silences, by truth misshapen, by flatteries daintily fitted, artfully
distributed, never overdone; by a certain slow, basal co-operation from
Irby (his getting Mandeville sent out by Pemberton with secret
despatches to Johnston, for example), by a deft touch now and then from
Madame, by this fine pertinacity of luck, and by a sweet new charity of
speech and her kindness of ministration on every side, the pretty
schemer had everybody blundering into her hand, even to the extent of
keeping the three Callenders convinced that Kincaid's Battery had been
cut off at Big Black Bridge and had gone, after all, to Mobile. No
wonder she inwardly trembled.
And there was yet another reason: since coming into Vicksburg, all
unaware yet why Anna so inordinately prized the old dagger, she had told
her where it still lay hid in Callender House. To a battery lad who had
been there on the night of the weapon's disappearance and who had died
in her arms at Champion's Hill, she had imputed a confession that,
having found the moving panel, a soldier boy's pure wantonness had
prompted him to the act which, in fact, only she had committed. So she
had set Anna's whole soul upon getting back to New Orleans to regain the
trinket-treasure and somehow get out with it to Mobile, imperiled
Mobile, where now, if on earth anywhere, her hope was to find Hilary
Does it not tax all patience, that no better intuition of heart, no
frenzy of true love in either Hilary or Anna--suffering the frenzies
they did--should have taught them to rend the poor web that held them
separate almost within the sound of each other's cry? No, not when we
consider other sounds, surrounding conditions: miles and miles of
riflemen and gunners in so constant a whirlwind of destruction and
anguish that men like Maxime Lafontaine and Sam Gibbs went into open
hysterics at their guns, and even while sleeping on their arms, under
humming bullets and crashing shells and over mines ready to be sprung,
sobbed and shivered like babes, aware in their slumbers that they might
"die before they waked." In the town unearthly bowlings and volcanic
thunders, close overhead, cried havoc in every street, at every cave
door. There Anna, in low daily fevers, with her "heart in New Orleans,"
had to be "kept quiet" by Miranda and Constance, the latter as widowed
as Anna, wondering whether "Steve was alive or not."
This is a history of hearts. Yet, time flying as it does, the wild
fightings even in those hearts, the famishing, down-breaking sieges in
them, must largely be left untold--Hilary's, Anna's, Flora's, all.
Kincaid was in greater temptation than he knew. Many a battery boy,
sick, sound or wounded--Charlie for one--saw it more plainly than he.
Anna, supposed to be far away and away by choice, was still under the
whole command's impeachment, while Flora, amid conditions that gave
every week the passional value of a peacetime year, was here at hand, an
ever-ministering angel to them and to their hero; yet they never
included him and Flora in one thought together but to banish it, though
with tender reverence. Behind a labored disguise of inattention they
jealously watched lest the faintest blight or languor should mar, in
him, the perfect bloom of that invincible faith to, and faith in, the
faithless Anna, which alone could satisfy their worship of him. Care for
these watchers brought the two much together, and in every private
moment they talked of the third one; Flora still fine in the role of
Anna's devotee and Hilary's "pilot," rich in long-thought-out