“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 own distresses.
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!