(Music: "Maryland, My Maryland")

Jane's attack on Little Bart had broken his nose and seriously cut an eyelid when the delicate figurine shattered. Doctor Heskitt had to employ all his skill to ensure that the boy would suffer neither disfigurement of visage nor impairment of vision.
"The soft cartilage of extreme youth was the saving grace," he announced after the bandages came off.
Annie sighed with relief.
"You got dat wrong, Doctuh," she disagreed. "It was yo' magic fingers and yo' fine education what done it! I wants mah boys to be educated gentlemens like you, Doctuh, but I don' wanna send dem back to school right now. Dey be too upset. Dey needs to be home wif me foh awhile."
The doctor nodded. "Annie, I think you're right. Why don't I talk it over with Frank Patterson? Maybe we can find a good tutor who'll teach them at home, at least for the rest of the school year."
"I thanks you, suh, an' mebbe...mebbe....."
"Maybe what, Annie?" he asked.
"Mebbe ol' Annie she take de readin' an' writin' lessons, too. You reckon dat be awright, Doctuh?"
Touched by the earnestness in her voice, Doctor Heskitt readily agreed.
So did it come about that "Old Annie's boys," as Ardie and Little Bart began constantly to refer to themselves, did not return to F. Knapp's German and English School in January, where they would have entered the last term of their second year.
So also did it come about that Annie Creel learned to read and write.
A woman of pragmatic disposition, she easily disciplined herself to listen attentively to the instructions and to carry them out, literally, to the letter. Annie became an exemplary student after whom the boys could not help but model themselves. In emulation of her habit, they kept small dictionaries at hand when they read, vying with her in a quest for new words.
Bessie, who had been educated in a similar manner by Ruth Ardmore alongside her daughter, Sarah, became Annie's guide through the literary treasures of Philo's library. She encouraged Annie and the boys to read aloud together in the long winter evenings beside a cozy fire in the parlor.
Frank Patterson, a bachelor, and Doctor Heskitt occasionally joined them for these sessions, in company with Rose Heskitt, the doctor's Virginia-born wife. Rose played the piano well. Delighted by Annie's beautiful contralto, she took pleasure in accompanying her and brought songbooks so that Annie could expand her talent.
This little group comprised an extended family.
The war dragged on until the Union General Sheridan's victorious army cut off the Rebel retreat at Appomattox. This forced the Confederacy's General Robert E. Lee to surrender on the ninth of April 1865.
The news was received with mixed emotions in Baltimore. Heavily populated by Southerners, it had considered itself "occupied" by the North. Many had cheered when a contingent of Confederate cavalry reached the outskirts of the city the previous summer and burned Governor Bradford's mansion. Lee's capitulation was to those Baltimoreans a humiliation.
This was not the case at the North Charles Street house. They were thrilled. It did not matter to them who had won. They were just glad the fighting was over.
The long winter of war had come to an end in the springtime of a new age.
For Bessie, the surrender meant word from Sarah. Annie enjoyed the comfort of knowing her boys could grow up in a united country. Little Bart and Ardie were so closely knit as brothers by then that they were neither Virginian nor Marylander. The Heskitts' newly widowed granddaughter, wife of a Confederate soldier, had fled to the doctor's home from Richmond with her four-year-old daughter, Beth. She had escaped when General Grant's troops entered the Confederate capital to burn it earlier in the month.
To celebrate the peace and to introduce her grand-daughter to society, Ruth Heskitt invited prominent friends to her home, promising a surprise in entertainment. The gathering was set for the fourteenth of April, five days after the surrender.
Late that Friday evening, the guests assembled in the ballroom after dinner. Governor Bradford had sent his regrets due to a plethora of engagements in the city, but Mayor Brown, hero of the Pratt Street battle that had so terrified Nelle in the first days of the war, was there.
Unadorned by jewelry, Rose addressed them from a dais lavish with buttery hothouse blooms of the Maryland state flower, the black-eyed Susan. Her soignée black lace dress, and the gold-mesh snood covering the back of her silvery hair, complemented the dainty blossom.
"Welcome to all of you, dear friends," she smiled. "For our entertainment on this grand evening, I wish to present Miss Annie Creel, guardian of the children of the late Captain and Missus Philo Duncan of the Duncan Cargo Line, an enterprise which has enhanced the reputation of our beloved city as one of the busiest ports on the Atlantic seaboard. Miss Creel will sing!"
Annie timidly entered the room between cloth-of-gold portieres swept back with black ribbon. Suspended on her forehead was a jeweled pendant given her by Nelle. It glowed above a sleevless cloth-of-gold evening blouse that fell in folds over a hoop skirt of shimmering black satin, an ensemble carefully planned and sewn by Rose for Annie's debut. Rose knew well that a black woman appearing before an audience of Confederate sympathizers in the wake of their defeat would have to impress them with her person before winning them with her voice.
Rose had seated herself at a concert grand piano. Choosing a place beside it, Annie began to sing traditional songs in her vibrant contralto. Looks of surpise when she first walked on stage gave way to astonishment which in turn gave way to admiration. Song after song filled the ballroom with enchantment. When the audience refused to let her go, Annie continued with the spirituals she had sung all her life. Moved by the solemnity of her demeanor, few applauded, but many wept in tribute to the death of their beloved South.
The boys, permitted on this special occasion to stay up long past their bedtime, sat with tiny Beth on a love seat in the next room, enthralled, as ever, by their mam-my's music.
At half past midnight, despite universal protest, Annie announced her last song.
"I shall sing for you," she said in carefully measured diction showing the tremendous progress she had made, "one final composition which has become dear to all our hearts in...Balta..." she paused, struggling to get her tongue in the right place "Baltee..." - giving up, she shrugged - "...in Bawlermuh!"
Mayor Brown stood up in the midst of the ensuing laughter and shouted: "That's fine, Miss Annie! That's the way us real Bawlermoryuns pronounce it!"
There was cheering until Rose, beaming from the piano, waved her hands for calm.
"In honor of this occasion, I want the children to join me," Annie continued. "Boys! Beth! Come out here!"
Shyly, Ardie stumbled through the golden portieres, prodded by Little Bart, who pulled Beth by the hand. Inspired with confidence by Annie's loving smile, Ardie took up a position on one side. Little Bart stepped to the other with bashful Beth, who hid her face in the folds of his smock. How they had resisted when Annie togged them out in black for the event! As if the black silk smocks weren't enough, and the matching pantaloons bloused out of the black canvas boots, she made spit curls of the tips of their Ambrose Burnsides, a name to evolve later into "sideburns."
Not knowing then what Annie had in mind when she dressed them so grandly in black and gold, they now preened like peacocks before the cream of Baltimore, the colors of the city's flag, honoring the Baltimore oriole. Beth completed the theme, in black velvet with a cloth-of-gold sash and golden ribbons in her fair hair.
When Rose played the opening chords of Maryland, My Maryland, the anthem of the state, the audience stood. Proudly, Annie led them in song.
When the last bars faded away, silence fell, a silence abruptly broken by a cry from Doctor Heskitt as he rushed into the ballroom.
"The President has been shot!" he shouted. "Abraham Lincoln has been shot! This man has brought us the news. He was at Ford's Theater in Washington earlier tonight, where it happened!"
A man in a tattered uniform had followed the doctor into the room. Several in the audience gasped, recognizing him at once.
As his message sank in, tumult struck. Frightened, Beth ran to her mother. Someone was heard to yell above the din: "My God, it's Philo Duncan! We thought you were dead!"
Seeing his loved ones on the dais, Philo ran toward them. "Ardie! Annie! Little Bart!" he cried, making his way through the churning crowd.
Clustered together, bound in each other's arms, Annie and her boys remained perfectly still, their eyes wide with shock.
Before reaching them, Philo suddenly stopped. He looked around. "Where is my wife? Where is my Nelle?"
Rose stepped forward.
"Captain Duncan," she said, "God help me, but I must inform you...that your lovely wife...is...dead."  

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