A Storyby E. L. Doctorow
Emily Thompson sent Wilma upstairs to sit with him in his bedroom. I have the steam kettle on the hearth so the Judge will breathe easier, she said. If he wakes, call me.
She’d done all she could—hidden coffee, sugar, cornmeal, lard, and two hams in the hope chest under two embroidered pillows and her mother’s wedding gown. She’d left enough of the staples in the pantry so that they might not think she had hidden anything. Then she threw on a shawl and stood outside at the top of the steps, with the front door closed behind her. She was Georgia Supreme Court Justice Horace Thompson’s daughter, and she posed herself with her hands clasped at her waist to indicate as much, though her heartbeat was tremulous as a rabbit’s.
The street, the entire neighborhood, was unnaturally quiet as the first of them appeared. Mounted or on foot, they were not exactly shy, but they weren’t arrogant, either. And they were so young. Few were the age of Foster Thompson when he fell. A lieutenant dismounted, opened the cast-iron gate, and came up the walk. Standing at the foot of the steps, he saluted her and said she had nothing to fear. General Sherman does not war against women and children, he said.