A few days later Anna, waking in the bliss of a restored mind, and feeling beneath her a tremor of paddlewheels, gazed on the nurse at her side.
“Am I a—prisoner?” she asked.
The woman bent kindly without reply.
“Anyhow,” said Anna, with a one-sided smile, “they can’t call me a spy.” Her words quickened: “I’m a rebel, but I’m no spy. I was lost. And he’s no spy. He was in uniform. Is he—on this boat?”
Yes, she was told, he was, with a few others like him, taken too soon for the general parole of the surrender. Parole? she pondered. Surrender? What surrender? “Where are we going?” she softly inquired; “not to New Orleans?”
The nurse nodded brightly.
“But how can we get—by?”
“By Vicksburg? We’re already by there.”
“Has Vicks—?... Has Vicksburg—fallen?”
The confirming nod was tender. Anna turned away. Presently—“But not Mobile? Mobile hasn’t—?”
“No, not yet. But it must, don’t you think?”
“No!” cried Anna. “It must not! Oh, it must not! I—if I—Oh, if I—”
The nurse soothed her smilingly: “My poor child,” she said, “you can’t save Mobile.”
THE FLAG-OF-TRUCE BOAT
September was in its first week. The news of Vicksburg—and Port Hudson—ah, yes, and Gettysburg!—was sixty days old.
From Southern Mississippi and East Louisiana all the grays who marched under the slanting bayonet or beside the cannon’s wheel were gone. Left were only the “citizen” with his family and slaves, the post quartermaster and commissary, the conscript-officer, the trading Jew, the tax-in-kind collector, the hiding deserter, the jayhawker, a few wounded boys on furlough, and Harper’s cavalry. Throughout the Delta and widely about its grief-broken, discrowned, beggared, shame-crazed, brow-beaten Crescent City the giddying heat quaked visibly over the high corn, cotton, and cane, up and down the broken levees and ruined highways, empty by-ways, and grass-grown railways, on charred bridges, felled groves, and long burnt fence lines. The deep, moss-draped, vine-tangled swamps were dry.
So quivered the same heat in the city’s empty thoroughfares. Flowers rioted in the unkept gardens. The cicada’s frying note fried hotter than ever. Dazzling thunder-heads towered in the upper blue and stood like snow mountains of a vaster world. The very snake coiled in the shade. The spiced air gathered no freshness from the furious, infrequent showers, the pavements burned the feet, and the blue “Yank” (whom there no one dared call so by word or look), so stoutly clad, so uncouthly misfitted, slept at noon face downward in the high grass under the trees of the public squares preempted by his tents, or with piece loaded and bayonet fixed slowly paced to and fro in the scant shade of some confiscated office-building, from whose upper windows gray captives looked down, one of them being “the ladies’ man.”