“Marching orders?” asked Miranda, and while his affirming smile startled every one, Steve, for some reason in the newspaper itself, put it up.
“Are the enemy’s ships—?” began Anna—
“We’re ordered down the bay,” replied Bartleson.
“Then so are we,” she dryly responded, at which all laughed, though the two women had spent much time of late on a small boat which daily made the round of the bay’s defenses. In a dingy borrowed rig they hastened away toward their lodgings.
As they drove, Anna pressed Miranda’s hand and murmured, “Oh, for Hilary Kincaid!”
“Ah, dear! not to be in this—’tea-party’?”
“Yes! Yes! His boys were in so many without him, from Shiloh to Port Gibson, and now, with all their first guns lost forever—theirs and ours—lost for them, not by them—and after all this year of idleness, and the whole battery hanging to his name as it does—oh, ’Randy, it would do more to cure his hurts than ten hospitals, there or here.”
“But the new risks, Nan, as he takes them!”
“He’ll take them wherever he is. I can’t rest a moment for fear he’s trying once more to escape.”
(In fact, that is what, unknown to her, he had just been doing.)
“Whether he’s here or there, Kincaid’s Battery, his other self, will be in whatever goes on, and so, of course, will the Tennessee.”
“Yes,” said Miranda, at their door.
“Yes, and it’s not just all our bazaar money that’s in her, nor all our toil—”
“Nor all your sufferings,” interrupted Miranda, as Constance wonderingly let them in.
“Oh, nor yours! nor Connie’s! nor all—his; nor our whole past of the last two interminable years; but this whole poor terrified city’s fate, and, for all we know, the war’s final issue! And so I—Here, Con,” (handing a newspaper), “from Steve, husband.”
(Behind the speaker Miranda, to Constance, made eager hand and lip motions not to open it there.)
“And so, ’Ran, I wish we could go ashore to-morrow, as far down the bay as we can make our usefulness an excuse, and stay!—day and night!—till—!” She waved both hands.
Constance stared: “Why, Nan Callender!”
“Now, Con, hush. You and Steve Second are non-combatants! Oh, ’Randa, let’s do it! For if those ships—some of them the same we knew so well and so terribly at home—if they come I—whatever happens—I want to see it!”
BY THE DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT
Luck loves to go in mask. It turned out quite as well, after all, that for two days, by kind conspiracy of Constance and Miranda, the boat trip was delayed. In that time no fleet came.