Northward, therefore, with Madame on her arm, sprang Flora, staggeringly, by the decrepit Jackson Railroad, along the quiet eastern bound of a region out of which, at every halt, came gloomy mention of Tallahala River and the Big Black; of Big Sandy, Five Mile and Fourteen Mile creeks; of Logan, Sherman and Grant; of Bowen, Gregg, Brodnax and Harper, and of daily battle rolling northward barely three hours' canter away. So they reached Jackson, capital of the state and base of General Joe Johnston's army. They found it in high ferment and full of stragglers from a battle lost that day at Raymond scarcely twenty miles down the Port Gibson road, and on the day following chanced upon Mandeville returning at last from Richmond. With him they turned west, again by rail, and about sundown, at Big Black Bridge, ten miles east of Vicksburg, found themselves clasping hands in open air with General Brodnax, Irby and Kincaid, close before the torn brigade and the wasted, cheering battery. Angels dropped down they seemed, tenderly begging off from all talk of the Callenders, who, Flora distressfully said, had been "grozzly exaggerated," while, nevertheless, she declared herself, with starting tears, utterly unable to explain why on earth they had gone to Mobile--"unlezz the bazaar." No doubt, however, they would soon telegraph by way of Jackson. But next day, while she, as mistress of a field hospital, was winning adoration on every side, Jackson, only thirty miles off but with every wire cut, fell, clad in the flames of its military factories, mills, foundries and supplies and of its eastern, Pearl River, bridge.She snatched it from him and pressed the hand in which it was gripped against her throbbing heart. Trafford gazed at her with a smoldering fire in his eyes, his teeth clinched.
When they reached the hut they found Mother Melinda sobbing and wringing her hands. Varley comforted her as well as he could.
"I mean what I say. To you I leave her."
He felt strongly impelled to do so; then he thought of the scandal, the open shame, his father, Lilias, and he stood irresolute. Besides, even at that moment his love pleaded for her. She was so young, so inexperienced; there had been no one to help her, to stretch out a hand and pluck her from the brink of the precipice. No! he could not proclaim her guilt.