“The True Delta,” remarked Anna to Miranda, “is right down here on the next square,” and of his own motion the driver turned that way.
“Bitwin Common Strit and Can-al,” added Victorine, needless words being just then the most needed.
Midway in front of the hotel Anna softly laid a hand on Flora, who respondingly murmured. For the reporter was back, moving their way along the sidewalk almost at a run. Now Constance was aware of him.
“When we cross Common Street,” she observed to Miranda, “he’ll want to stop us.”
In fact, as soon as their intent to cross was plain, he sped out beside them and stood, his empty sleeve pinned up, his full one raised and grief evident in his courteous smile. Some fifty yards ahead, by the True Delta office, men were huddling around a fresh bulletin. Baring his brow to the sun, the young man came close to the wheels.
“Wouldn’t you-all as soon—?” he began, but Constance interrupted:
“The news is as good as ever, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but wouldn’t you-all as soon drive round by Carondelet Street?” A gesture with his hat showed a piece of manifold writing in his fingers.
He looked to Miranda, but she faltered. Flora, in her own way, felt all the moment’s rack and stress, but some natures are built for floods and rise on them like a boat. So thought she of herself and had parted her lips to speak for all, when, to her vexed surprise, Anna lifted a hand and in a clear, firm tone inquired, “Is there any bad news for us five?” The youth’s tongue failed; he nodded.
“Brodnax’s brigade?” she asked. “Our battery?”
“Yes, Monday, just at the last,” he murmured.
“Not a gun!” replied the boy, with a flash. Anna reflected it, but her tone did not change:
“There are four men, you know, whom we five—”
“Which of them is the bad news about?”
“All four,” murmured the youth. His eyes swam. His hat went under the stump of his lost arm and he proffered the bit of writing. Idlers were staring. “Take that with you,” he said. “They were all four together and they’re only—”
The carriage was turning, but the fair cluster bent keenly toward him. “Only what?” they cried.
There was no real choice. Nothing seemed quite rational but the heaviest task of all—to wait, and to wait right here at home.
To this queenly city must come first and fullest all news of her own sons, and here the “five” would not themselves be “missing” should better tidings—or worse—come seeking them over the wires.
“At the front?” replied Doctor Sevier to Anna, “why, at the front you’ll be kept in the rear, lost in a storm of false rumors.”