Waking late and springing to her elbow she presently knew that every one else was up and about. Her maid came and she hastened to dress. Were the hostile ships in sight? Not yet. Was the city still undestroyed? Yes, though the cotton brought out to the harbor-side was now fifteen thousand bales and with its blazing made a show as if all the town were afire. She was furiously hungry; was not breakfast ready? Yes, Constance and Miranda—“done had breakfuss and gone oveh to de cottage fo’ to fix it up fo’ de surgeon ... No, ‘m, not dis house; he done change’ his mine.” Carriage horses—mules? “Yass, ‘m, done gone. Mahs’ Chahlie gone wid ‘m. He gone to be boss o’ de big gun what show’ f’om dese windehs.” Oh, but that was an awful risk, wounded as he was! “Yass, ’m, but he make his promise to Miss Flo’a he won’t tech de gun hisseff.” What! Miss Flora—? “Oh, she be’n, but she gone ag’in. Law’! she a brave un! It e’en a’most make me brave, dess to see de high sperits she in!” The narrator departed.
How incredible was the hour. Looking out on the soft gray sky and river and down into the camp, that still kept such quiet show of routine, or passing down the broad hall stair, through the library and into the flowery breakfast room, how keenly real everything that met the eye, how unreal whatever was beyond sight. How vividly actual this lovely home in the sweet ease and kind grace of its lines and adornments. How hard to move with reference to things unseen, when heart and mind and all power of realizing unseen things were far away in the ravaged fields, mangled roads and haunted woods and ravines between Corinth and Shiloh.
But out in the garden, so fair and odorous as one glided through it to the Mandeville cottage, things boldly in view made sight itself hard to believe. Was that bespattered gray horseman no phantom, who came galloping up the river road and called to a servant at the gate that the enemy’s fleet was in sight from English Turn? Was that truly New Orleans, back yonder, wrapped in smoke, like fallen Carthage or Jerusalem? Or here! this black-and-crimson thing drifting round the bend in mid-current and without a sign of life aboard or about it, was this not a toy or sham, but one more veritable ship in veritable flames? And beyond and following it, helpless as a drift-log, was that lifeless white-and-crimson thing a burning passenger steamer—and that behind it another? Here in the cottage, plainly these were Constance and Miranda, and, on second view, verily here were a surgeon and his attendants. But were these startling preparations neither child’s play nor dream?
Child’s play persistently seemed, at any rate, the small bit of yellow stuff produced as a hospital flag. Oh, surely! would not a much larger be far safer? It would. Well, at the house there was some yellow curtaining packed in one of the boxes, Isaac could tell which—