“Really, you know grandmama, sometimes me also I feel like that, when to smazh the furniture ’t would be a delightful—or to wring somebody the neck, yes. But for us, and to-day, even to get a li’l’ mad, how is that a possibl’?” She turned again, archly, to the brother, but flashed in alarm and sprang toward him.
His arm stiffly held her off. With failing eyes bent on the whimpering grandmother he sighed a disheartened oath and threshed into a chair gasping—
“My wound—opened again.”
THE SCHOOL OF SUSPENSE
Thus it fell to Flora to be letter-bearer and news-bearer in her brother’s stead. Yet he had first to be cared for by her and the grandmother in a day long before “first aid” had become common knowledge. The surgeon they had hailed in had taken liberal time to show them how, night and morning, to unbandage, cleanse and rebind, and to tell them (smiling into the lad’s mutinous eyes) that the only other imperative need was to keep him flat on his back for ten days. Those same weeks of downpour which had given the Shiloh campaign two-thirds of its horrors had so overfed the monstrous Mississippi that it was running four miles an hour, overlapping its levees and heaving up through the wharves all along the city’s front, until down about the Convent and Barracks and Camp Callender there were streets as miry as Corinth. And because each and all of these hindrances were welcome to Flora as giving leisure to read and reread Irby’s long letter about his cousin and uncle, and to plan what to say and do in order to reap all the fell moment’s advantages, the shadows were long in the Callender’s grove when she finally ascended their veranda steps.
She had come round by way of Victorine’s small, tight-fenced garden of crape-myrtles, oleanders and pomegranates—where also the water was in the streets, backwater from the overflowed swamp-forests between city and lake—and had sent her to Charlie’s bedside. Pleasant it would be for us to turn back with the damsel and see her, with heart as open as her arms, kiss the painted grandam, and at once proceed to make herself practically invaluable; or to observe her every now and then dazzle her adored patient with a tear-gem of joy or pity, or of gratitude that she lived in a time when heroic things could happen right at home and to the lowliest, even to her; sweet woes like this, that let down, for virtuous love, the barriers of humdrum convention. But Flora draws us on, she and Anna. As she touched the bell-knob Constance sprang out to welcome her, though not to ask her in—till she could have a word with her alone, the young wife explained.
“I saw you coming,” she said, drawing her out to the balustrade. “You didn’t get Anna’s note of last night—too bad! I’ve just found out—her maid forgot it! What do you reckon we’ve been doing all day long? Packing! We’re going we don’t know where! Vicksburg, Jackson, Meridian, Mobile, wherever Anna can best hunt Hilary from—and Charlie too, of course.”