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   Chapter 35 THE SISTERS OF KINCAID'S BATTERY

Kincaid's Battery By George Washington Cable Characters: 5040

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03


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 débutantes, 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 box

es, 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.

What joy of planning! The grove should be ruddy with pine-knot flares perched high, and be full of luminous tents stocked with stuffs for sale at the most patriotic prices by Zingaras, Fatimas, and Scheherazades. All the walks of the garden would be canopied with bunting and gemmed with candles blinking like the fireflies round that bower of roses by Bendermere's stream. The verandas would be enclosed in canvas and be rich in wares, textiles, and works of art. Armed sentries from that splendid command, the Crescent Regiment, would be everywhere in the paved and latticed basement (gorged with wealth), and throughout the first and second floors. The centrepiece in the arrangement of the double drawing-rooms would be a great field-piece, one of Hilary's casting, on its carriage, bright as gold, and flanked with stacks of muskets. The leading item in the hall would be an allegorical painting--by a famous Creole artist of nearly sixty years earlier--Louisiana Refusing to Enter the Union. Glass cases borrowed of merchants, milliners and apothecaries would receive the carefully classified smaller gifts of rare value, and a committee of goldsmiths, art critics, and auctioneers, would set their prices. If one of those torrential hurricanes--however, there came none.

How much, now, could they hope to clear? Well, the women of Alabama, to build a gun-boat, had raised two hundred thousand dollars, and--

"They will 'ave to raise mo'," twittered Madame Valcour, "if New Orleans fall'."

"She will not fall," remarked Anna from the chair, and there was great applause, as great as lace mitts could make.

Speaking of that smaller stronghold, Flora had a capital suggestion: Let this enterprise be named "for the common defence." Then, in the barely conceivable event of the city's fall, should the proceeds still be in women's hands--and it might be best to keep them so--let them go to the defence of Mobile!

Another idea--Miranda's and Victorine's--quite as gladly accepted, and they two elected to carry it out--was, to compile, from everybody's letters, a history of the battery, to be sold at the bazaar. The large price per copy which that work commanded was small compared with what it would bring now.

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