Flora’s subtlety and diligence, yes, indeed. By skill in phrases and silences, by truth misshapen, by flatteries daintily fitted, artfully distributed, never overdone; by a certain slow, basal co-operation from Irby (his getting Mandeville sent out by Pemberton with secret despatches to Johnston, for example), by a deft touch now and then from Madame, by this fine pertinacity of luck, and by a sweet new charity of speech and her kindness of ministration on every side, the pretty schemer had everybody blundering into her hand, even to the extent of keeping the three Callenders convinced that Kincaid’s Battery had been cut off at Big Black Bridge and had gone, after all, to Mobile. No wonder she inwardly trembled.
And there was yet another reason: since coming into Vicksburg, all unaware yet why Anna so inordinately prized the old dagger, she had told her where it still lay hid in Callender House. To a battery lad who had been there on the night of the weapon’s disappearance and who had died in her arms at Champion’s Hill, she had imputed a confession that, having found the moving panel, a soldier boy’s pure wantonness had prompted him to the act which, in fact, only she had committed. So she had set Anna’s whole soul upon getting back to New Orleans to regain the trinket-treasure and somehow get out with it to Mobile, imperiled Mobile, where now, if on earth anywhere, her hope was to find Hilary Kincaid.
Does it not tax all patience, that no better intuition of heart, no frenzy of true love in either Hilary or Anna—suffering the frenzies they did—should have taught them to rend the poor web that held them separate almost within the sound of each other’s cry? No, not when we consider other sounds, surrounding conditions: miles and miles of riflemen and gunners in so constant a whirlwind of destruction and anguish that men like Maxime Lafontaine and Sam Gibbs went into open hysterics at their guns, and even while sleeping on their arms, under humming bullets and crashing shells and over mines ready to be sprung, sobbed and shivered like babes, aware in their slumbers that they might “die before they waked.” In the town unearthly bowlings and volcanic thunders, close overhead, cried havoc in every street, at every cave door. There Anna, in low daily fevers, with her “heart in New Orleans,” had to be “kept quiet” by Miranda and Constance, the latter as widowed as Anna, wondering whether “Steve was alive or not.”
This is a history of hearts. Yet, time flying as it does, the wild fightings even in those hearts, the famishing, down-breaking sieges in them, must largely be left untold—Hilary’s, Anna’s, Flora’s, all. Kincaid was in greater temptation than he knew. Many a battery boy, sick, sound or wounded—Charlie for one—saw it more plainly than he. Anna, supposed to be far away and away by choice, was still under the whole command’s impeachment, while Flora, amid conditions that gave every week the passional value of a peacetime