Away trotted the handsome span while five pairs of beautiful eyes searched the three printed sheets, that bore—oh, marvellous fortune!—not one of the four names writ largest in those five hearts. Let joy be—ah, let joy be very meek while to so many there is unutterable loss. Yet let it meekly abound for the great loved cause so splendidly advanced. Miranda pointed Anna to a bit of editorial:
“Monday was a more glorious day than Sunday. We can scarcely forbear to speculate upon the great results that are to flow from this decisive victory. An instant pursuit of the flying enemy should—”
Why did the carriage halt at a Gravier Street crossing obliquely opposite the upper front corner of the St. Charles Hotel? Why did all the hotel’s gold-braided guests and loungers so quietly press out against its upper balustrades? Why, under its arches, and between balcony posts along the curbstones clear down to Canal Street, was the pathetically idle crowd lining up so silently? From that point why, now, did the faint breeze begin to waft a low roar of drums of such grave unmartial sort? And why, gradually up the sidewalks’ edges in the hot sun, did every one so solemnly uncover? Small Victorine stood up to see.
At first she made out only that most commonplace spectacle, home guards. They came marching in platoons, a mere company or two. In the red and blue of their dress was all the smartness yet of last year, but in their tread was none of it and even the bristle of their steel had vanished. Behind majestic brasses and muffled drums grieving out the funeral march, they stepped with slow precision and with arms reversed. But now in abrupt contrast there appeared, moving as slowly and precisely after them, widely apart on either side of the stony way, two single attenuated files of but four bronzed and shabby gray-jackets each, with four others in one thin, open rank from file to file in their rear, and in the midst a hearse and its palled burden. Rise, Anna, Constance, Miranda—all. Ah, Albert Sidney Johnston! Weep, daughters of a lion-hearted cause. The eyes of its sons are wet. Yet in your gentle bosoms keep great joy for whoever of your very own and nearest the awful carnage has spared; but hither comes, here passes slowly, and yonder fades at length from view, to lie a day in state and so move on to burial, a larger hope of final triumph than ever again you may fix on one mortal man.
Hats on again, softly. Drift apart, aimless crowd. Cross the two streets at once, diagonally, you, young man from the St. Charles Hotel with purpose in your rapid step, pencil unconsciously in hand and trouble on your brow. Regather your reins, old coachman—nay, one moment! The heavy-hearted youth passed so close under the horses’ front that only after he had gained the banquette abreast the carriage did he notice its occupants and Anna’s eager bow. It was the one-armed Kincaid’s Battery boy reporter. With a sudden pitying gloom he returned the greeting, faltered as if to speak, caught a breath and then hurried on and away. What did that mean; more news; news bad for these five in particular? Silently in each of them, without a glance from one to another, the question asked itself.