“My business”—he glanced back in nervous protest as the drivers beneath gathered their reins—“will you kindly detain—?”
“If you wish, sir,” she replied, visibly trembling. “Isaac—”
From the rear of the group came the voice of Anna: “Miranda, dear, I wouldn’t stop them.” The men regathered the lines. She moved half a step down and stayed herself on her sister’s shoulder. Miranda wrinkled back at her in an ecstasy of relief:
“Oh, Anna, do speak for all of us!”
The teams started away. A distress came into the soldier’s face, but Anna met it with a sober smile: “Don’t be troubled, sir, you shall have them. Drive round into the basement, Ben, and unload.” The drivers went. “You shall have them, sir, on your simple word of honor as—”
“Of course you will be reimbursed. I pledge—”
“No, sir,” tearfully put in Constance, “we’ve given our men, we can’t sell our beasts.”
“They are not ours to sell,” said Anna.
“They belong to Kincaid’s Battery,” said Anna, and Constance, Miranda, and the servants smiled a proud approval. Even the officer flushed with a fine ardor:
“You have with you a member of that command?”
“Then, on my honor as a Southern soldier, if he will stay by them and us as far as Camp Moore, to Kincaid’s Battery they shall go. But, ladies—”
“Yes,” knowingly spoke Miranda. “Hettie, Scipio, Dilsie, you-all can go ’long back to your work now.” She wrinkled confidentially to the officer.
“Yes,” he replied, “we shall certainly engage the enemy’s ships to-morrow, and you ladies must—”
“Must not desert our home, sir,” said Anna.
“Nor our faithful servants,” added the other two.
“Ah, ladies, but if we should have to make this house a field hospital, with all the dreadful—”
“Oh, that settles it,” cried the three, “we stay!”
HERE THEY COME!
What a night! Yet the great city slept. Like its soldiers at their bivouac fires it lay and slumbered beside its burning harbor. Sleep was duty.
Callender House kept no vigil. Lighted by the far devastation, its roof shone gray, its cornice white, its tree-tops green above the darkness of grove and garden. From its upper windows you might have seen the townward bends of the river gleam red, yellow, and bronze, or the luminous smoke of destruction (slantingly over its flood and farther shore) roll, thin out, and vanish in a moonless sky. But from those windows no one looked forth. After the long, strenuous, open-air day, sleep, even to Anna, had come swiftly.