On the first Sunday evening in April Doctor Sevier took tea with the Callenders, self-invited, alone and firmly oblivious of his own tardy wedding-gift to Anna as it gleamed at him on the board. To any of a hundred hostesses he would have been a joy, to share with as many friends as he would consent to meet; for in the last week he had eaten “hog and hominy,” and sipped corn-meal coffee, in lofty colloquy with Sidney Johnston and his “big generals”; had talked confidentially with Polk, so lately his own bishop; had ridden through the miry streets of Corinth with all the New Orleans commanders of division or brigade—Gibson, Trudeau, Ruggles, Brodnax; out on the parapets, between the guns, had chatted with Hilary and his loved lieutenants; down among the tents and mess-fires had given his pale hand, with Spartan injunctions and all the home news, to George Gregory, Ned Ferry, Dick Smith, and others of Harper’s cavalry, and—circled round by Charlie Valcour, Sam Gibbs, Maxime, and scores of their comrades in Kincaid’s Battery—had seen once more their silken flag, so faded! and touched its sacred stains and tatters. Now at the tea table something led him to remark that here at home the stubborn illness of this battery sister for whom Anna was acting as treasurer had compelled him to send her away.
Timely topic: How to go into the country, and whither. The Callenders were as eager for all the facts and counsel he could give on it as if they were the “big generals” and his facts and counsel were as to the creeks, swamps, ridges, tangled ravines, few small clearings, and many roads and by-roads in the vast, thinly settled, small-farmed, rain-drenched forests between Corinth and the clay bluffs of the Tennessee. For now the Callenders also were to leave the city, as soon as they could be ready.
“Don’t wait till then,” crisply said the Doctor.
“We must wait till Nan winds up the bazaar.”
He thought not. In what bank had she its money?
When she said not in any he frowned. Whereupon she smilingly stammered that she was told the banks themselves were sending their treasure into the country, and that even ten days earlier, when some one wanted to turn a fund into its safest portable form, three banks had declined to give foreign exchange for it at any price.
“Hmm!” he mused. “Was that your, eh,—?”
“My husband, yes,” said Anna, so quietly that the sister and stepmother exulted in her. As quietly her eyes held the doctor’s, and his hers, while the colour mounted to her brow. He spoke:
“Still he got it into some good shape for you, the fund, did he not?” Then suddenly he clapped a hand to a breast pocket and stared: “He gave me a letter for you. Did I—? Ah, yes, I have your written thanks. Anna, I thoroughly approve what you and he have done.”
Constance and Miranda were overjoyed. He turned to them: “I told Hilary so up in camp. I told Steve. Yes, Anna, you were wise. You are wise. I’ve no doubt you’re doing wisely about that fund.”