THE “SISTERS OF KINCAID’S BATTERY”
A week or two ran by, and now again it was March. Never an earlier twelvemonth had the women of New Orleans—nor of any town or time—the gentlewomen—spent in more unselfish or arduous toil.
At any rate so were flutteringly construed the crisp declarations of our pale friend of old, Doctor Sevier, as in Callender House he stood (with Anna seated half behind him as near as flounced crinoline would allow) beside a small table whose fragile beauty shared with hers the enthralled contemplation of every member of a numerous flock that nevertheless hung upon the Doctor’s words; such a knack have women of giving their undivided attention to several things at once. Flora was getting her share.
This, he said, was a women’s—a gentlewomen’s—war.
“Ah!” A stir of assent ran through all the gathering. The long married, the newly wed, the affianced, the suspected, the debutantes, the post-marriageable, every one approved. Yes, a gentlewomen’s war—for the salvation of society!
Hardly had this utterance thrilled round, however, when the speaker fell into an error which compelled Anna softly to interrupt, her amazed eyes and protesting smile causing a general hum of amusement and quickening of fans. “No-o!” she whispered to him, “she was not chairman of the L.S.C.A., but only one small secretary of that vast body, and chairman pro tem.—nothing more!—of this mere contingent of it, these ’Sisters of Kincaid’s Battery.’”
Pro tem., nothing more! But that is how—silly little Victorine leading the hue and cry which suddenly overwhelmed all counter-suggestion as a levee crevasse sweeps away sand-bags—that is how the permanent and combined chairmanship of Sisters and Bazaar came to be forcibly thrust upon Anna instead of Flora.
Experienced after Odd-Fellows’ Hall and St. Louis Hotel, the ladies were able to take up this affair as experts. Especially they had learned how to use men; to make them as handy as—“as hairpins,” prompted Miranda, to whom Anna had whispered it; and of men they needed all they could rally, to catch the first impact of the vast and chaotic miscellany of things which would be poured into their laps, so to speak, and upon their heads: bronzes, cutlery, blankets, watches, thousands of brick (orders on the brick-yards for them, that is), engravings, pianos, paintings, books, cosmetics, marbles, building lots (their titles), laces, porcelain, glass, alabaster, bales of cotton, big bank checks, hair flowers, barouches, bonds, shawls, carvings, shell-work boxes, jewellery, silks, ancestral relics, curios from half round the world, wax fruits, tapestries, and loose sapphires, diamonds, rubies, and pearls. The Callenders and Valcours could see, in fancy, all the first chaos of it and all the fair creation that was to arise from it.