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   Chapter 34 A FREE-GIFT BAZAAR

Kincaid's Battery By George Washington Cable Characters: 7347

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03


Again it was February. The flag of Louisiana whose lone star and red and yellow stripes still hovered benignly over the Ionic marble porch of the city hall, was a year old. A new general, young and active, was in command of all the city's forces, which again on the great Twenty-second paraded. Feebly, however; see letters to Irby and Mandeville under Brodnax in Tennessee, or to Kincaid's Battery and its commander in Virginia. For a third time the regimental standards were of a new sort. They were the battle-flag now. Its need had been learned at Manassas; eleven stars on St. Andrew's Cross, a field blood red, and the cross spanning all the field!

Again marched Continentals, Chasseurs, and so on. Yet not as before; all their ranks were of new men; the too old, the too frail, the too young, they of helpless families, and the "British subjects." Natives of France made a whole separate "French Legion," in red képis, blue frocks, and trousers shaped like inverted tenpins, as though New Orleans were Paris itself. The whole aspect of things was alert, anxious, spent.

But it was only now this spent look had come. Until lately you might have seen entire brigades of stout-hearted men in camps near by: Camps Benjamin, Walker, Pulaski and, up in the low pine hills of Tangipahoa, Camp Moore. From Camp Lewis alone, in November, on that plain where Kincaid's Battery had drilled before it was Kincaid's, the Bienville, Crescent City and many similar "Guards," Miles' Artillery, the Orleans Light Horse, the Orleans Howitzers, the Orleans Guards, the Tirailleurs d'Orléans, etc., had passed in front of Governor Moore and half a dozen generals, twenty-four thousand strong.

Now these were mostly gone--to Bragg--to Price--to Lee and Joe Johnston, or to Albert Sidney Johnston and Beauregard. For the foe swarmed there, refusing to stay "hurled back." True he was here also, and not merely by scores as battle captives, but alarmingly near, in arms and by thousands. Terrible Ship Island, occupied by the boys in gray and fortified, anathematized for its horrid isolation and torrid sands, had at length been evacuated, and on New Year's Day twenty-four of the enemy's ships were there disembarking bluecoats on its gleaming white dunes. Fair Carrollton was fortified (on those lines laid out by Hilary), and down at Camp Callender the siege-guns were manned by new cannoneers; persistently and indolently new and without field-pieces or brass music or carriage company.

The spent look was still gallant, but under it was a feeling of having awfully miscalculated: flour twelve dollars a barrel and soon to be twenty. With news in abundance the papers had ceased their evening issues, so scarce was paper, and morning editions told of Atlantic seaports lost, of Johnston's retreat from Kentucky, the fall of Fort Donelson with its fifteen thousand men, the evacuation of Columbus (one of the Mississippi River's "Gibraltars") and of Nashville, which had come so near being Dixie's capital. And yet the newspapers--

"'We see no cause for despondency,'" read Constance at the late breakfast table--"oh, Miranda, don't you see that with that spirit we can never be subjugated?" She flourished the brave pages, for which Anna vainly reached.

"Yes!" said Anna, "but find the report of the Bazaar!"--while Constance read on: "'Reverses, instead of disheartening, have aroused our people to the highest pitch of animation, and their resolution to conquer is invincible.'"

"Oh, how true! and ah, dearie!"--she pressed her sister's hand amid the silver and porcelain on the old mahogany--"that news (some item read earlier, about the battery), why, Miranda,

just that is a sign of impending victory! Straws tell! and Kincaid's Battery is the--"

"Biggest straw in Dixie!" jeered Anna, grasping the paper, which Constance half yielded with her eye still skimming its columns.

"Here it is!" cried both, and rose together.

'"Final Figures of the St. Louis Hotel Free-Gift Lottery and Bazaar'!" called Constance, while Anna's eyes flew over the lines.

"What are they?" exclaimed Miranda.

"Oh, come and see! Just think, Nan: last May, in Odd-Fellows' Hall, how proud we were of barely thirteen thousand, and here are sixty-eight thousand dollars!"

Anna pointed Miranda to a line, and Miranda, with their cheeks together, read out: "'Is there no end to the liberality of the Crescent City?'"

"No-o!" cried gesturing Constance, "not while one house stands on another! Why, 'Randa, though every hall and hotel from here to Carrollton--"

Anna beamingly laid her fingers on the lips of the enthusiast: "Con!--Miranda!--we can have a bazaar right in this house! Every friend we've got, and every friend of the bat'--Oh, come in, Flora Valcour! you're just in the nick o' time--a second Kirby Smith at Manassas!"

Thus came the free-gift lottery and bazaar of Callender House. For her own worth as well as to enlist certain valuable folk from Mobile, Flora was, there and then--in caucus, as it were--nominated chairman of everything. "Oh, no, no, no!"--"Oh, yes, yes, yes!"--she "yielded at last to overpowering numbers."

But between this first rapturous inception and an all-forenoon argumentation on its when, who, how, what, and for what, other matters claimed notice. "Further news from Charlie! How was his wound? What! a letter from his own hand--with full account of--what was this one? not a pitched battle, but--?"

"Anyhow a victory!" cried Constance.

"You know, Flora, don't you," asked Miranda, "that the battery's ordered away across to Tennessee?"

Flora was genuinely surprised.

"Yes," put in Constance, "to rejoin Beauregard--and Brodnax!"

Flora turned to Anna: "You have that by letter?"

"No!" was the too eager reply, "It's here in the morning paper." They read the item. The visitor flashed as she dropped the sheet.

"Now I see!" she sorely cried, and tapped Charlie's folded letter. "My God! Anna, wounded like that, Hilary Kincaid is letting my brother go with them!"

"Oh-h-h!" exclaimed the other two, "but--my dear! if he's so much better that he can be allowed--"

"Allowed!--and in those box-car'!--and with that snow--rain--gangrene--lockjaw--my God! And when 'twas already arrange' to bring him home!"

Slow Callenders! not to notice the word "bring" in place of "send": "Ah, good, Flora! ah, fine! You'll see! The dear boy's coming that far with the battery only on his way home to us!"

"H-m-m!" Flora nodded in sore irony, but then smiled with recovered poise: "From Tennessee who will bring him--before they have firs' fight another battle?--and he--my brother?"--her smile grew droll.

"Your brother sure to be in it!" gasped Anna. The Callenders looked heart-wrung, but Flora smiled on as she thought what comfort it would be to give each of them some life-long disfigurement.

Suddenly Constance cheered up: "Flora, I've guessed something! Yes, I've guessed who was intending--and, maybe, still intends--to bring him!"

Flora turned prettily to Anna: "Have you?"

Quite as prettily Anna laughed. "Connie does the guessing for the family," she said.

Flora sparkled: "But don't you know--perchanze?"

Anna laughed again and blushed to the throat as she retorted, "What has that to do with our bazaar?"

It had much to do with it.

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