As the rearmost ship was passing the house Anna, her comeliness restored, half rose from her bed, where Miranda stood trying to keep her. From all the far side of the house remotely sounded the smart tramp and shuffle of servants clearing away wreckage, and the din of their makeshift repairs. She was “all right again,” she said as she sat, but the abstraction of her eyes and the harkening droop of her head showed that inwardly she still saw and heard the death-struck boy.
Suddenly she stood. “Dear, brave Connie!” she exclaimed, “we must go help her, ’Randa.” And as they went she added, pausing at the head of a stair, “Ah, dear! if we, poor sinners all, could in our dull minds only multiply the awful numbers of war’s victims by the woes that gather round any one of them, don’t you think, ’Randa—?”
Yes, Miranda agreed, certainly if man—yes, and woman—had that gift wars would soon be no more.
On a high roof above their apartment stood our Valcour ladies. About them babbling feminine groups looked down upon the harbor landings black with male vagabonds and witlings smashing the precious food freight (so sacred yesterday), while women and girls scooped the spoils from mire and gutter into buckets, aprons or baskets, and ran home with it through Jackson Square and scurried back again with grain-sacks and pillow-slips, and while the cotton burned on and the ships, so broadly dark aloft, so pale in their war paint below and so alive with silent, motionless men, came through the smoking havoc.
“No uze to hope,” cooed the grandmother to Flora, whose gaze clung to the tree-veiled top of Callender House. “It riffuse’ to burn. ’Tis not a so inflammab’ like that rope and tar.” The rope and tar meant their own burnt ship.
“Ah, well,” was the light reply, “all shall be for the bes’! Those who watch the game close and play it with courage—”
“And cheat with prudenze—?”
“Yes! to them God is good. How well you know that! And Anna, too, she’s learning it—or she shall—dear Anna! Same time me, I am well content.”
“Oh, you are joyful! But not because God is good, neither juz’ biccause those Yankee’ they arrive. Ah, that muz’ bring some splandid news, that lett’r of Irbee, what you riscieve to-day and think I don’t know it. ’T is maybe ab-out Kincaid’s Batt’rie, eh?” At Flora’s touch the speaker flinched back from the roof’s edge, the maiden aiding the recoil.
“Don’t stand so near, like that,” she said. “It temp’ me to shove you over.”
They looked once more to the fleet. Slowly it came on. Near its line’s center the flag-ship hovered just opposite Canal Street. The rear was far down by the Mint. Up in the van the leading vessel was halting abreast St. Mary’s Market, a few hundred yards behind which, under black clouds and on an east wind, the lone-star flag of seceded Louisiana floated in helpless defiance from the city hall. All at once heaven’s own thunders pealed. From a warning sprinkle the women near about fled down a roofed hatchway. One led Madame. But on such a scene Flora craved a better curtain-fall and she lingered alone.