While the Judge lived the Callenders had been used to the company of men by the weight of whose energies and counsel the clock of public affairs ran and kept time; senators, bishops, bank presidents, great lawyers, leading physicians; a Dr. Sevier, for one. Some of these still enjoyed their hospitality, and of late in the old house life had recovered much of its high charm and breadth of outlook. Yet March was tedious.
For in March nearly all notables felt bound to be up at Montgomery helping to rock the Confederacy’s cradle. Whence came back sad stories of the incapacity, negligence, and bickerings of misplaced men. It was “almost as bad as at Washington.” Friends still in the city were tremendously busy; yet real business—Commerce—with scarce a moan of complaint, lay heaving out her dying breath. Busy at everything but business, these friends, with others daily arriving in command of rustic volunteers, kept society tremendously gay, by gas-light; and courage and fortitude and love of country and trust in God and scorn of the foe went clad in rainbow colors; but at the height of all manner of revels some pessimist was sure to explain to Anna why the war must be long, of awful cost, and with a just fighting chance to win.
“Then why do we not turn about right here?”
“Too late now.”
Such reply gave an inward start, it seemed so fitted to her own irrevealable case. But it was made to many besides her, and women came home from dinings or from operas and balls for the aid of this or that new distress of military need, and went up into the dark and knelt in all their jewels and wept long. In March the poor, everywhere, began to be out of work, and recruiting to be lively among them too, because for thousands of them it was soldier’s pay or no bread. Among the troops from the country death had begun to reap great harvests ere a gun was fired, and in all the camps lovers nightly sang their lugubrious “Lorena,” feeling that “a hundred months had passed” before they had really dragged through one. March was so tedious, and lovers are such poor arithmeticians. Wherever Hilary Kincaid went, showing these how to cast cannon (that would not burst), those where to build fortifications, and some how to make unsickly camps, that song was begged of him in the last hour before sleep; last song but one, the very last being always—that least liked by Anna.
Tedious to Kincaid’s Battery were his absences on so many errands. Behind a big earthwork of their own construction down on the river’s edge of the old battle ground, close beyond the Callenders’, they lay camped in pretty white tents that seemed to Anna, at her window, no bigger than visiting-cards. Rarely did she look that way but the fellows were drilling, their brass pieces and their officers’ drawn sabres glinting back the sun, horses and men as furiously diligent as big and little ants, and sometimes, of an afternoon, their red and yellow silk and satin standard unfurled—theirs and hers. Of evenings small bunches of the boys would call to chat and be sung to; to threaten to desert if not soon sent to the front; and to blame all delays on colonels and brigadiers “known” by them to be officially jealous of—They gave only the tedious nickname.