Not quite. There were ships new to them, great and less, whose savage names, told by the man near the window, chilled the blood with reminder of old wars and massacres: the Winnebago, Chickasaw, Octorora, Ossipee, Metacomet, Seminale. “Look!” said the man, pointing, “the Tecumseh—”
SOUTHERN CROSS AND NORTHERN STAR
A red streak and white sun-lit puff sprang from the leading monitor’s turret, and the jarring boom of a vast gun came over the water, wholly unlike the ringing peals of Gaines’s lighter armament. Now its opposite cranny puffed and thundered. The man smiled an instant. “Spitting on her hands,” he said, but then murmured to himself, “Lord! look at that wind!”
“Is it bad?” asked Anna.
“It’ll blow every bit of smoke into our men’s eyes,” he sighed.
The two white puffs melted into the perfect blue of sea and sky unanswered. Fort Gaines and its besiegers even ceased to fire. Their fate was not in their own guns. More and more weird waxed the grisly dumbness of five-sided Morgan and the spectral silence of the oncoming league-long fleet. The light wind freshened. By the bell’s six taps it was seven o’clock. The boat drifting in on the tide made Fort Gaines seem to move seaward. Miranda looked back to Fort Powell and then out to sea again.
“The worst,” said Anna, reading her thought, “will be down there with the Tennessee.”
Miranda answered low: “Suppose, Nan, that, after all, he should—?”
Anna turned sharply: “Get here? I expect it! Oh, you may gaze! I don’t forget how often I’ve flouted Con’s intuitions. But I’ve got one now, a big one!”
“That he’s coming?”
“Been coming these two days—pure presentiment!”
“Nan, whether he is or not, if you’ll tell us what Colonel Greenleaf wrote you I’ll tell you—”
For a second Anna stared, Miranda wrinkling; but then, with her eyes on the fleet, she shook her head: “You’re mighty good, ’Randa, you and Con, never to have asked me in all these months; but neither he nor Hilary nor I will ever tell that. I wish none of us knew it. For one thing, we don’t, any of us, know clearly enough what really happened. Dear Fred Greenleaf!—if he does wear the blue, and is right now over there behind Fort Gaines!”
She stood a moment pondering a fact not in the Union soldier’s letter at all; that only through his masterful, self-sacrificing intercession in military court had Hilary escaped the death of a spy. But then her thought came back to Miranda’s request: “I can’t tell you, for I can’t tell Con. Flora’s her cousin, through Steve, and if she ever marries Captain Irby she’ll be Hilary’s cousin, and—”