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Kincaid's Battery by George W. Cable

Part 2 out of 7

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"Nothing broken but his watch," he gayly comforts them as to Mandeville.

"He's bleeding!" moans Constance, very white. But Kincaid softly
explains in his hollowed hands:

"Only his nose!"

The nose's owner casts no upward look. Not his to accept pity, even from
a fiancee. His handkerchief dampened "to wibe the faze," two bits of wet
paper "to plug the noztril',"--he could allow no more!

"First blood of the war!" said Hilary.

"Yez! But"--the flashing warrior tapped his sword--"nod the last!" and
was off at a gallop, while Kincaid turned hurriedly to find that
Charlie, struck by the floundering horse, had twice fainted away.

In the balconies the press grew dangerous. An urchin intercepted Kincaid
to show him the Callenders, who, with distressed eyes, pointed him to
their carriage hurrying across Canal Street.

"For Charlie and Flora!" called Anna. They could not stir "themselves"
for the crush; but yonder, on Moody's side, the same kind citizen
noticed before had taken matters in hand:

"Keep back, ladies! Make room! Let these two ladies out!" He squeezed
through the pack, holding aloft the furled colors, which all this time
had been lying at Flora's feet. Her anxious eyes were on them at every
second step as she pressed after him with the grandmother dangling from
her elbow.

The open carriage spun round the battery's right and up its front to
where a knot of comrades hid the prostrate Charlie; the surgeon,
Kincaid, and Flora crouching at his side, the citizen from the balcony
still protecting grandmamma, and the gilded eagle of the unpresented
standard hovering over all. With tender ease Hilary lifted the sufferer
and laid him on the carriage's front seat, the surgeon passed Madame in
and sat next to her, but to Kincaid Flora exclaimed with a glow of
heroic distress:

"Let me go later--with Anna!" Her eyes overflowed--she bit her lip--"I
must present the flag!"

A note of applause started, a protest hushed it, and the overbending
Callenders and the distracted Victorine heard Hilary admiringly say:

"Come! Go! You belong with your brother!"

He pressed her in. For an instant she stood while the carriage turned, a
hand outstretched toward the standard, saying to Hilary something that
was drowned by huzzas; then despairingly she sank into her seat and was
gone down Royal Street.

"Attention!" called a lieutenant, and the ranks were in order. To the
holder of the flag Hilary pointed out Anna, lingered for a word with
his subaltern, and then followed the standard to the Callenders' balcony.



"Charlie has two ribs broken, but is doing well," ran a page of the
diary; "so well that Flora and Madame--who bears fatigue
wonderfully--let Captain Irby take them, in the evening, to see the
illumination. For the thunderstorm, which sent us whirling home at
midday, was followed by a clear evening sky and an air just not too cool
to be fragrant.

"I cannot write. My thoughts jostle one another out of all shape, like
the women in that last crush after the flag-presentation. I begged not
to have to take Flora's place from her. It was like snatching jewels off
her. I felt like a robber! But in truth until I had the flag actually in
my hand I thought we were only being asked to take care of it for a
later day. The storm had begun to threaten. Some one was trying to say
to me--'off to camp and then to the front,' and--'must have the flag
now,' and still I said, 'No, oh, no!' But before I could get any one to
add a syllable there was the Captain himself with the three men of the
color guard behind him, the middle one Victorine's father. I don't know
how I began, but only that I went on and on in some wild way till I
heard the applause all about and beneath me, and he took the colors
from me, and the first gust of the storm puffed them half
open--gorgeously--and the battery hurrahed. And then came his part.
He--I cannot write it."

Why not, the diary never explained, but what occurred was this:

"Ladies and gentlemen and comrades in arms!" began Hilary and threw a
superb look all round, but the instant he brought it back to Anna, it
quailed, and he caught his breath. Then he nerved up again. To help his
courage and her own she forced herself to gaze straight into his eyes,
but reading the affright in hers he stood dumb and turned red.

He began again: "Ladies and gentlemen and comrades in arms!" and pulled
his moustache, and smote and rubbed his brow, and suddenly drove his
hand into an inside pocket and snatched out a slip of paper. But what
should come trailing out with it but a long loop of ribbon! As he pushed
it back he dropped the paper, which another whiff of wind flirted
straight over his head, sent it circling and soaring clear above Moody's
store and dropped it down upon the roof. And there gazed Anna and all
that multitude, utterly blank, until the martyr himself burst into a
laugh. Then a thousand laughs pealed as one, and he stood smiling and
stroking back his hair, till his men began to cry, "song! song!"

Upon that he raised the flag high in one hand, let it balloon to the
wind, made a sign of refusal, and all at once poured out a flood of
speech--pledges to Anna and her fellow-needlewomen--charges to his
men--hopes for the cherished cause--words so natural and unadorned, so
practical and soldier-like, and yet so swift, that not a breath was
drawn till he had ended. But then what a shout!

It was over in a moment. The great black cloud that had been swelling
up from the south gave its first flash and crash, and everybody started
pell-mell for home. The speaker stood just long enough for a last bow to
Anna while the guard went before him with the colors. Then he hurried
below and had the whole battery trotting down Canal Street and rounding
back on its farther side, with the beautiful standard fluttering to the
storm, before the Callenders could leave the balcony.

Canal Street that evening was a veritable fairyland. When, growing tired
of their carriage, the Callenders and Mandeville walked, and Kincaid
unexpectedly joined them, fairyland was the only name he could find for
it, and Anna, in response, could find none at all. Mallard's,
Zimmerman's, Clark's, Levois's, Laroussini's, Moody's, Hyde &
Goodrich's, and even old Piffet's were all aglow. One cannot recount
half. Every hotel, every club-house, all the theatres, all the consul's
offices in Royal and Carondelet streets, the banks everywhere, Odd
Fellows' Hall--with the Continentals giving their annual ball in it--and
so forth and so on! How the heart was exalted!

But when the heart is that way it is easy to say things prematurely, and
right there in Canal Street Hilary spoke of love. Not personally, only
at large; although when Anna restively said no woman should ever give
her heart where she could not give a boundless and unshakable trust, his
eyes showed a noble misery while he exclaimed:

"Oh, but there are women of whom no man can ever deserve that!" There
his manner was all at once so personal that she dared not be silent,
but fell to generalizing, with many a stammer, that a woman ought to be
very slow to give her trust if, once giving it, she would not rather die
than doubt.

"Do you believe there are such women?" he asked.

"I know there are," she said, her eyes lifted to his, but the next
instant was so panic-smitten and shamed that she ran into a lamp post.
And when he called that his fault her denial was affirmative in its
feebleness, and with the others she presently resumed the carriage and
said good-night.

"Flippantly!" thought the one left alone on the crowded sidewalk.

Yet--"It is I who am going to have the hardest of it," said the diary a
short hour after. "I've always thought that when the right one came I'd
never give in the faintest bit till I had put him to every test and task
and delay I could invent. And now I can't invent one! His face
_quenches_ doubt, and if he keeps on this way--Ah, Flora! _is_ he
anything to you? Every time he speaks my heart sees you. I see you now!
And somehow--since Charlie's mishap--more yours than his if--"

For a full minute the pen hovered over the waiting page, then gradually
left it and sank to rest on its silver rack.



Meanwhile, from a cluster of society folk sipping ices at "Vincent's"
balcony tables, corner of Carondelet Street (where men made the most
money), and Canal (where women spent the most), Flora and her
grandmother, in Irby's care, made their way down to the street.

Kincaid, once more on horseback with General Brodnax, saw them emerge
beside his cousin's hired carriage, and would have hurried to them, if
only to inquire after the injured boy; but the General gave what he was
saying a detaining energy. It was of erecting certain defences behind
Mobile; of the scarcity of military engineers; and of his having, to
higher authority, named Hilary for the task. The Captain could easily
leave the battery in camp for a day or two, take the Mobile boat--He
ceased an instant and scowled, as Hilary bowed across the way.

There was a tender raillery in the beam with which Flora held the young
man's eye a second, and as she turned away there was accusation in the
faint toss and flicker of the deep lace that curtained her hat. Both her
companions saw it, but Irby she filled with an instant inebriation by
one look, the kindest she had ever given him.

"Both barrels!" said the old lady to herself.

As Irby reached the carriage door Flora's touch arrested him. It was as
light as a leaf, but it thrilled him like wine--whose thrill he well

"I've lost one of my gloves," she said.

He looked about her feet.

"You mus' have drop' it on the stair," said grandmamma, discerning the
stratagem, and glad to aid it.

Problem in tactics: To hunt the glove all the way up to the balcony and
return before Hilary, if he was coming, could reach Flora's side. Irby
set his teeth--he loathed problems--and sprang up the steps.

"No use," chanted Madame with enjoyment; "the other one is not coming."

But Flora remained benign while the old lady drew a little mocking sigh.
"Ah," said the latter, "if the General would only stop changing his mind
about his two nephews, what a lot of hard work that would save you!"

"It isn't hard!" cried Flora; so radiantly that passing strangers
brightened back, "I love it!"

"It!" mocked the grandmother as the girl passed her into the carriage.

"You poor tired old thing!" sighed the compassionate beauty. "Never
mind, dear; how the General may choose no longer gives me any anxiety."

"Oh, you lie!"

"No," softly laughed the girl, "not exactly. Don't collapse, love,
you'll get your share of the loot yet. My choice shall fit the General's
as this glove (drawing on the one Irby was still away in search of) fits
this hand."

Madame smiled her contempt: "Nevertheless you will risk all just to show

Flora made a gesture of delight but harkened on--

"That she cannot have her Captain till--"

"Till I'm sure I don't want him!" sang the girl.

"Which will never be!" came the quiet response.

The maiden flushed: "On the contrary, my dear, I was just going to say,
you will please begin _at once_ to be more civil to _our_

Madame gazed: "My God!"

"Ho!" said Flora, "I'd rather somebody else's." She cheerily smoothed
the bonnet-bows under the old lady's chin: "Now, _chere_, you know the
assets are all you care for--even if with them you have to take a
nincompoop for a grandson."

She was laughing merrily when Irby reappeared in the crowd, motioning
that he had found nothing. Her gloved hands raised in fond apology, and
Hilary's absence, appeased him, and he entered the vehicle.

So to Jackson Square, where it was good-by to Irby and the carriage, and
Age and Beauty climbed their staircase together. "To-morrow's Saturday,"
gayly sighed the girl. "I've a good mind to lie abed till noon, counting
up the week's successes."

"Especially to-day's," smirked weary Age.

"Ho-o-oh!" laughed the maiden, "you and to-day be--" The rest was
whispered close, with a one-fingered tap on the painted cheek. In the
gloom of the upper landing she paused to murmur, "hear this: Two things
I have achieved this week worth all to-day's bad luck ten times
over--you don't believe me?"

"No, you pretty creature; you would have told me sooner, if only for

"I swear to you it is true!" whispered the lithe boaster, with a gleeful
quiver from head to foot. "Listen! First--purely, of course, for love of
Anna--I have conspired with the General to marry her to Kincaid. And,
second, also purely for love of her, I have conspired with Irby to keep
her and Kincaid forever and a day apart!"

She tapped both the aged cheeks at once: "I hate to share anything so
delicious with you, but I must, because--"

"Ah-h! because, as usual--"

"Yes! Yes, you sweet old pelican! Because you are to turn the crank! But
it's all for love of Anna. Ah, there's no inspiration like

"Except destitution!" said the grandmother.

They came before Charlie with arms about each other and openly enjoyed
his only comment--a scornful rounding of his eyes.

In the Callender house, as the stair clock sounded the smallest hour of
the night, Miranda, seeing the chink under Anna's door to be still
luminous, stole to the spot, gently rapped, and winning no response
warily let herself in.

From the diary on her desk Anna lifted her cheek, looked up, reclosed
her lids, smiled and reopened them. Miranda took the blushing face
between her palms, and with quizzing eyes--and nose--inquired:

"Is there any reason under heaven why Anna Callender shouldn't go to bed
and have glad dreams?"

"None that I know of," said Anna.



Ole mahs' love' wine, ole mis' love' silk,
De piggies, dey loves buttehmilk,
An' eveh sence dis worl' began,
De ladies loves de ladies' man.
I loves to sing a song to de ladies!
I loves to dance along o' de ladies!
Whilse eveh I can breave aw see aw stan'
I's bound to be a ladies' man.

So sang Captain Hilary Kincaid at the Mandeville-Callender wedding
feast, where his uncle Brodnax, with nearly everyone we know, was
present. Hilary had just been second groomsman, with Flora for his "file
leader," as he said, meaning second bridesmaid. He sat next her at
table, with Anna farthest away.

Hardly fortunate was some one who, conversing with the new Miss
Callender, said the charm of Kincaid's singing was that the song came
from "the entire man." She replied that just now it really seemed so! In
a sense both comments were true, and yet never in the singer's life had
so much of "the entire man" refused to sing. All that night of the
illumination he had not closed his eyes, except in anguish for having
tried to make love on the same day when--and to the same Anna Callender
before whom--he had drawn upon himself the roaring laugh of the crowded
street; or in a sort of remorse for letting himself become the rival of
a banished friend who, though warned that a whole platoon of him would
make no difference, suddenly seemed to plead a prohibitory difference
to one's inmost sense of honor.

At dawn he had risen resolved to make good his boast and "fight like a
whale." Under orders of his own seeking he had left the battery the
moment its tents were up and had taken boat for Mobile. Whence he had
returned only just in time to stand beside Flora Valcour, preceded by a
relative of the bridegroom paired with Anna.

Yet here at the feast none was merrier than Kincaid, who, charmingly
egged on by Flora, kept those about him in gales of mirth, and even let
himself be "cajoled" (to use his own term) into singing this song whose
title had become his nickname. Through it all Anna smiled and laughed
with the rest and clapped for each begged-for stanza. Yet all the time
she said in her heart, "He is singing it at me!"

De squir'l he love' de hick'ry tree,
De clover love' de bummle-bee,
De flies, dey loves mullasses, an'--
De ladies loves de ladies' man.
I loves to be de beau o' de ladies!
I loves to shake a toe wid de ladies!
Whilse eveh I'm alive, on wateh aw Ian',
I's bound to be a ladies' man.

The General, seeing no reason why Hilary should not pay Anna at least
the attentions he very properly paid his "file leader," endured the song
with a smile, but took revenge when he toasted the bride:

"In your prayers to-night, my dear Constance, just thank God your
husband is, at any rate, without the sense of humor--Stop, my friends!
Let me finish!"

A storm of laughter was falling upon Mandeville, but the stubborn
General succeeded after all in diverting it to Hilary, to whom in solemn
mirth he pointed as--"_that_ flirtatious devotee of giddiness, without
a fault big enough to make him interesting!" ["Hoh!"--"Hoh!"--from men
and maidens who could easily have named huge ones.] Silent Anna knew at
least two or three; was it not a fault a hundred times too grave to be
uninteresting, for a big artillerist to take a little frightened lassie
as cruelly at her word as he was doing right here and now?

Interesting to her it was that his levity still remained unsubmerged,
failing him only in a final instant: Their hands had clasped in
leave-taking and her eyes were lifted to his, when some plea with which
"the entire man" seemed overcharged to the very lips was suddenly,
subtly, and not this time by disconcertion, but by self-mastery,
withheld. Irby put in a stiff good-by, and as he withdrew, Hilary echoed
only the same threadbare word more brightly, and was gone; saying to
himself as he looked back from the garden's outmost bound:

"She's _cold;_ that's what's the matter with Anna; cold and cruel!"

Tedious was the month of March. Mandeville devise' himself a splandid
joke on that, to the effect that soon enough there would be months of
tedieuse marches--ha, ha, ha!--and contribute' it to the news-pape'. Yet
the tedium persisted. Always something about to occur, nothing ever
occurring. Another vast parade, it is true, some two days after the
marriage, to welcome from Texas that aged general (friend of the
Callenders) who after long suspense to both sides had at last joined
the South, and was to take command at New Orleans. Also, consequent upon
the bursting of a gun that day in Kincaid's Battery, the funeral
procession of poor, handsome, devil-may-care Felix de Gruy; saxhorns
moaning and wailing, drums muttering from their muffled heads, Anna's
ensign furled in black, captain and lieutenants on foot, brows inclined,
sabres reversed, and the "Stars and Bars," new flag of the Confederacy,
draping the slow caisson that bore him past the Callenders' gates in
majesty so strange for the gay boy.

Such happenings, of course; but nothing that ever brought those things
for which one, wakening in the night, lay and prayed while forced by the
songster's rapture to "listen to the mocking-bird."

While the Judge lived the Callenders had been used to the company of men
by the weight of whose energies and counsel the clock of public affairs
ran and kept time; senators, bishops, bank presidents, great lawyers,
leading physicians; a Dr. Sevier, for one. Some of these still enjoyed
their hospitality, and of late in the old house life had recovered much
of its high charm and breadth of outlook. Yet March was tedious.

For in March nearly all notables felt bound to be up at Montgomery
helping to rock the Confederacy's cradle. Whence came back sad stories
of the incapacity, negligence, and bickerings of misplaced men. It was
"almost as bad as at Washington." Friends still in the city were
tremendously busy; yet real business--Commerce--with scarce a moan of
complaint, lay heaving out her dying breath. Busy at everything but
business, these friends, with others daily arriving in command of
rustic volunteers, kept society tremendously gay, by gas-light; and
courage and fortitude and love of country and trust in God and scorn of
the foe went clad in rainbow colors; but at the height of all manner of
revels some pessimist was sure to explain to Anna why the war must be
long, of awful cost, and with a just fighting chance to win.

"Then why do we not turn about right here?"

"Too late now."

Such reply gave an inward start, it seemed so fitted to her own
irrevealable case. But it was made to many besides her, and women came
home from dinings or from operas and balls for the aid of this or that
new distress of military need, and went up into the dark and knelt in
all their jewels and wept long. In March the poor, everywhere, began to
be out of work, and recruiting to be lively among them too, because for
thousands of them it was soldier's pay or no bread. Among the troops
from the country death had begun to reap great harvests ere a gun was
fired, and in all the camps lovers nightly sang their lugubrious
"Lorena," feeling that "a hundred months had passed" before they had
really dragged through one. March was so tedious, and lovers are such
poor arithmeticians. Wherever Hilary Kincaid went, showing these how to
cast cannon (that would not burst), those where to build fortifications,
and some how to make unsickly camps, that song was begged of him in the
last hour before sleep; last song but one, the very last being
always--that least liked by Anna.

Tedious to Kincaid's Battery were his absences on so many errands.
Behind a big earthwork of their own construction down on the river's
edge of the old battle ground, close beyond the Callenders', they lay
camped in pretty white tents that seemed to Anna, at her window, no
bigger than visiting-cards. Rarely did she look that way but the fellows
were drilling, their brass pieces and their officers' drawn sabres
glinting back the sun, horses and men as furiously diligent as big and
little ants, and sometimes, of an afternoon, their red and yellow silk
and satin standard unfurled--theirs and hers. Of evenings small bunches
of the boys would call to chat and be sung to; to threaten to desert if
not soon sent to the front; and to blame all delays on colonels and
brigadiers "known" by them to be officially jealous of--They gave only
the tedious nickname.

"Why belittle him with that?" queried Miranda, winning Anna's silent

"It doesn't belittle _him_," cried Charlie. "That's the joke. It makes
_him_ loom larger!"

Others had other explanations: Their guns were "ladies' guns!" Were the
guns the foremost cause? Some qualified: "Foremost, yes; fundamental,
no." Rather the fact that never was a woman cited in male gossip but
instantly he was her champion; or that no woman ever brought a grievance
to any camp where he might be but she wanted to appeal it to him.

Anna "thought the name was all from the song."

"Oh, fully as much from his hundred and one other songs! Had he never
sung to her--

"'I'd offer thee this hand of mine--'?"

Frankly, it was agreed, he did most laughably love ladies' company;
that he could always find it, as a horse can find water; that although
no evening in their society could be so gay or so long that he would not
be certain to work harder next day than any one else, no day could be so
cruelly toilsome that he could not spend half the next night dancing
with the girls; and lastly, that with perfect evenness and a boyish
modesty he treated them all alike.

Anna laughed with the rest, but remembered three separate balls to
which, though counted on, he had not come, she uninformed that military
exigencies had at the last moment curtly waved him off, and he unaware
that these exigencies had been created by Irby under inspiration from
the daintiest and least self-assertive tactician in or about New



One day, in Canal Street, Kincaid met "Smellemout and Ketchem." It was
pleasant to talk with men of such tranquil speech. He proposed a glass
of wine, but just then they were "strictly temperance." They alluded
familiarly to his and Greenleaf's midnight adventure. The two
bull-drivers, they said, were still unapprehended.

Dropping to trifles they mentioned a knife, a rather glittering gewgaw,
which, as evidence, ought--

"Oh, that one!" said Hilary. "Yes, I have it, mud, glass jewels and all.
No," he laughed, "I can keep it quite as safely as you can."

So they passed to a larger matter. "For, really, as to Gibbs and

"You can't have them either," interrupted their Captain, setting the
words to a tune. Then only less melodiously--"No, sir-ee! Why,
gentlemen, they weren't trying to kill the poor devil, he was trying to
kill them, tell your Committee of Public Safety. And tell them times are
changed. You can _take_ Sam and Maxime, of course, _if_ you can take the
whole battery; we're not doing a retail business. By the by--did you
know?--'twas Sam's gun broke the city's record, last week, for rapid
firing! Funny, isn't it!--Excuse me, I must speak to those ladies."

The ladies, never prettier, were Mrs. Callender and Constance. They were
just reentering, from a shop, their open carriage. In amiable reproach
they called him a stranger, yet with bewitching resignation accepted and
helped out his lame explanations.

"You look--" began Constance--but "careworn" was a risky term and she
stopped. He suggested "weather-beaten," and the ladies laughed.

"Yes," they said, "even they were overtasked with patriotic activities,
and Anna had almost made herself ill. Nevertheless if he would call he
should see her too. Oh, no, not to-day; no, not to-morrow; but--well--
the day after." (Miss Valcour passed so close as to hear the
appointment, but her greeting smile failed to draw their attention.)
"And oh, then you must tell us all about that fearful adventure in which
you saved Lieutenant Greenleaf's life! Ah, we've heard, just heard, _in
a letter_." The horses danced with impatience. "We shall expect you!"

As they drove into Royal Street with Constance rapturously pressing
Miranda's hand the latter tried vainly to exchange bows with a third
beauty and a second captain, but these were busy meeting each other in
bright surprise and espied the carriage only when it had passed.

Might the two not walk together a step or so? With pleasure. They were
Flora and Irby. Presently--

"Do you know," she asked, "where your cousin proposes to be day after
to-morrow evening--in case you should want to communicate with him?"

He did not. She told him.



The third evening came. On all the borders of dear Dixie more tents than
ever whitened sea-shores and mountain valleys, more sentinels paced to
and fro in starlight or rain, more fifers and trumpeters woke the echoes
with strains to enliven fortitude, more great guns frowned silently at
each other over more parapets, and more thousands of lovers reclined
about camp fires with their hearts and fancies at home, where mothers
and maidens prayed in every waking moment for God's mercy to keep the
brave truants; and with remembrance of these things Anna strove to
belittle her own distress while about the library lamp she and Miranda
seemed each to be reading a book, and Constance the newspaper sent from
Charleston by Mandeville.

Out in the mellow night a bird sang from the tip-top of a late-blooming
orange tree, and inside, away inside, inside and through and through the
poor girl's heart, the "years"--which really were nothing but the mantel
clock's quarter-hours--"crept slowly by."

At length she laid her book aside, softly kissed each seated companion,
and ascended to her room and window. There she stood long without sound
or motion, her eyes beyond the stars, her head pressed wearily against
the window frame. Then the lids closed while her lips formed soft words:

"Oh, God, he is not coming!" Stillness again. And then--"Oh, let me
believe yet that only Thy hand keeps him away! Is it to save him for
some one fairer and better? God, I ask but to know! I'm a rebel, but not
against Thee, dear Lord. I know it's a sin for me to suffer this way;
Thou dost not _owe_ me happiness; I owe it Thee. Oh, God, am I clamoring
for my week's wages before I've earned an hour's pay? Yet oh! yet
oh!"--the head rocked heavily on its support--"if only--if only--"

She started--listened! A gate opened--shut. She sprang to her glass and
then from it. In soft haste she needlessly closed the window and drew
its shade and curtains. She bathed her eyelids and delicately dried
them. At the mirror again she laid deft touches on brow and crown,
harkening between for any messenger's step, and presently, without
reason, began to set the room more exquisitely to rights. Now she faced
the door and stood attentive, and now she took up a small volume and sat
down by her lamp.

A tap: Constance entered, beaming only too tenderly. "It was better,
wasn't it," she asked, hovering, "to come than to send?"

"Why, of course, dear; it always is."

A meditative silence followed. Then Anna languidly inquired, "Who is

"Nobody but Charlie."

The inquirer brightened: "And why isn't Charlie as good as any one?"

"He is, to-night," replied the elder beauty, "except--the one

"Oh, Connie"--a slight flush came as the seated girl smilingly drew her
sister's hands down to her bosom--"there isn't any one exception, and
there's not going to be any. Now, that smile is downright mean of you!"

The offender atoned with a kiss on the brow.

"Why do you say," asked its recipient, "'as good as any one,

"Because," was the soft reply, "to-night he comes from--the other--to
explain why the other couldn't come."

"Why!"--the flush came back stronger--"why, Connie! why, that's
positively silly--ha, ha, ha!"

"I don't see how, Nan."

"My dear Con! Isn't his absence equally and perfectly innocent whether
he couldn't come or wouldn't come? But an explanation sent!--by
courier!--to--to shorten--ah, ha, ha!--to shorten our agony! Why, Con,
wouldn't you have thought better of him than that? H-oh, me! What a
man's 'bound to be' I suppose he's bound to be. What is the precious

With melting eyes Constance shook her head. "You don't deserve to hear
it," she replied. Her tears came: "My little sister, I'm on the man's
side in this affair!"

"That's not good of you," murmured Anna.

"I don't claim to be good. But there's one thing, Nan Callender, I never
did; I never chained up my lover to see if he'd stay chained. When

"Oh-h! Oh-h!" panted Anna, "you're too cruel! Hilary Kincaid wears no
chain of mine!"

"Oh, yes, he does! He's broken away, but he's broken away, chain and
all, to starve and perish, as one look into his face would show you!"

"He doesn't show his face. He sends--"

"An explanation. Yes. Which first you scorn and then consent to hear."

"Don't scorn _me_, Connie. What's the explanation?"

"It's this: he's been sent back to those Mobile fortifications--received
the order barely in time to catch the boat by going instantly. Nan, the
Valcours' house is found to stand right on their proposed line, and he's
gone to decide whether the line may be changed or the house must be

Anna rose, twined an arm in her sister's and with her paced the chamber.
"How perfectly terrible!" she murmured, their steps ceasing and her eyes
remote in meditation. "Poor Flora! Oh, the poor old lady! And oh, oh,
poor Flora!--But, Con! The line will be changed! He--you know what the
boys call him!"

"Yes, but there's the trouble. He's no one lady's man. Like Steve, he's
so absolutely fair--"

"Connie, I tell you it's a strange line he won't change for Flora

"Now, Nan Callender! The line will go where it ought to go. By the by,
Charlie says neither Flora nor her grandmother knows the house is in
danger. Of course, if it is harmed, the harm will be paid for."

"Oh, paid for!"

"Why, Nan, I'm as sorry for them as you. But _I_ don't forget to be
sorry for Hilary Kincaid too."

"Connie"--walk resumed, speaker's eyes on the floor--"if you'd only see
that to me he's merely very interesting--entertaining--nothing more
whatever--I'd like to say just a word about him."

"Say on, precious."

"Well--did you ever see a man so fond of men?"

"Oh, of course he is, or men wouldn't be so fond of him."

"_I_ think he's fonder of men than of women!"

Constance smiled: "Do you?"

"And I think," persisted Anna, "the reason some women find him so
agreeable is that our collective society is all he asks of us, or ever
will ask."

"Nan Callender, look me in the eye! You can't! My little sister, you've
got a lot more sense than I have, and you know it, but I can tell you
one thing. When Steve and I--"

"Oh, Connie, dear--nothing--go on."

"I won't! Except to say some lovers take love easy and some--can't. I
must go back to Charlie. I know, Nan, it's those who love hardest that
take love hardest, and I suppose it's born in Hilary Kincaid, and it's
born in you, to fight it as you'd fight fire. But, oh, in these strange
times, don't do it! Don't do it. You're going to have trouble a-plenty

The pair, moving to the door with hands on each other's shoulders,
exchanged a melting gaze. "Trouble a-plenty," softly asked Anna, "why do

"Oh, why, why, why!" cried the other, with a sudden gleam of tears. "I
wish you and Miranda had never learned that word."



You ask how the Valcour ladies, living outwardly so like the most of us
who are neither scamps nor saints, could live by moral standards so
different from those we have always thought essential to serenity of
brow, sweetness of bloom or blitheness of companionship, and yet could
live so prettily--remain so winsome and unscarred.

Well, neither of them had ever morally _fallen_ enough even to fret the
brow. It is the fall that disfigures. They had lived up to inherited
principles (such as they were), and one of the minor of these was, to
adapt their contours to whatever they impinged upon.

We covet solidity of character, but Flora and Madame were essentially
fluid. They never let themselves clash with any one, and their private
rufflings of each other had only a happy effect of aerating their
depths, and left them as mirror-smooth and thoroughly one as the bosom
of a garden lake after the ripples have died behind two jostling swans.
To the Callenders society was a delightful and sufficient end. To the
Valcours it was a means to all kinds of ends, as truly as commerce or
the industries, and yet they were so fragrantly likable that to call
them accomplices seems outrageous--clogs the pen. Yes, they were actors,
but you never saw that. They never stepped out of their parts, and they
had this virtue, if it is one: that behind all their roles they were
staunchly for each other in every pinch. When Kincaid had been away a
few days this second time, these two called at the Callender house.

To none was this house more interesting than to Flora. In her adroit
mind she accused it of harboring ancient secrets in its architecture,
shrewd hiding-places in its walls. Now as she stood in the panelled
drawing-rooms awaiting its inmates, she pointed out to her seated
companion that this was what her long-dead grandsire might have made
their own home, behind Mobile, had he spent half on its walls what he
had spent in them on wine, cards, and--

"Ah!" chanted the old lady, with a fierce glint and a mock-persuasive
smile, "add the crowning word, the capsheaf. You have the stamina to do

"Women," said the girl of stamina beamingly, and went floating about,
peering and tapping for hollow places. At one tap her eye, all to
itself, danced; but on the instant Anna, uninformed of their presence,
and entering with a vase of fresh roses, stood elated. Praise of the
flowers hid all confusion, and Flora, with laughing caresses and a droll
hardihood which Anna always enjoyed, declared she would gladly steal
roses, garden, house and all. Anna withdrew, promising instant return.

"Flora dear!" queried the grandmother in French, "why did you tell her
the truth? For once you must have been disconcerted!"

The sparkling girl laughed: "Why, isn't that--with due
modifications--just what we're here for?"

Madame suddenly looked older, but quickly brightened again as Flora
spoke on: "Don't you believe the truth is, now and then, the most
effective lie? I've sometimes inferred you did."

The old lady rather enjoyed the gibe: "My dear, I can trust you never to
give any one an overdose of it. Yet take care, you gave it a bit too
pure just now. Don't ever risk it so on that fool Constance, she has the
intuitive insight of a small child--the kind you lost so early."

The two exchanged a brief admiring glance. "Oh, I'm all right with
Constance," was the reply. "I'm cousin to 'Steve'!"

There the girl's gayety waned. The pair were at this moment in desperate
need of money. Mandeville was one of the old coffee-planter's
descendants. Had fate been less vile, thought Flora, this house might
have been his, and so hers in the happy event of his demise. But now, in
such case, to Constance, as his widow, would be left even the leavings,
the overseer's cottage; which was one more convenient reason for
detesting--not him, nor Constance--that would be to waste good
ammunition; but--

"Still thinking of dear Anna?" asked the dame.

The maiden nodded: "Grandma"--a meditative pause--"I love Anna. Anna's
the only being on earth I can perfectly trust."

"Ahem!" was the soft rejoinder, and the two smilingly held each other's
gaze for the larger part of a minute. Then one by one came in the ladies
of the house, and it was kiss and chirrup and kiss again.

"_Cousin_ Constance--ah, ha, ha!--_cousin_ Flora!"

The five talked of the wedding. Just to think! 'Twas barely a month ago,
they said.

Yet how much had occurred, pursued Miranda, and how many things hoped
and longed for had not occurred, and how time had dragged! At those
words Flora saw Anna's glance steal over to Miranda. But Miranda did not
observe, and the five chatted on. How terrifying, at still noon of the
last Sabbath--everybody in church--had been that explosion of the
powder-mill across the river. The whole business blown to dust. Nothing
but the bare ground left. Happily no workmen there. No, not even a
watchman, though the city was well known to be full of the enemy's
"minions" (Flora's term). Amazing negligence, all agreed. Yet only of a
piece--said Constance--etc.

And how sad to find there was a victim, after all, when poor, threadbare
old Doctor Visionary, inventor of the machine-gun and a new kind of
powder, began to be missed by his landlady, there being, in Captain
Kincaid's absence, no one else to miss him. Yes, it was the Captain who
had got him a corner to work in at the powder-mill. So much the worse
for both. Now plans, models, formulae, and inventor were gone in that
one flash and roar that shook the whole city and stopped all talk of
Captain Kincaid's promotion as an earthquake stops a clock.

"Well," cried Constance to Flora, who had grown silent, "the battery
will love him all the more!"

"And so will we all!" said Madame, also to Flora; and Flora, throwing
off a look of pain, explained to Anna, "He is so good to my brother!"

"Naturally," quizzed Miranda, with her merriest wrinkles. Flora
sparkled, made a pretty face at her and forced a change of theme; gave
Anna's roses new praise, and said she had been telling grandma of the
swarms of them in the rear garden. So the old lady, whom she had told no
such thing, let Constance and Miranda conduct her there. But Flora
softly detained Anna, and the moment they were alone seized both her
hands. Whereat through all Anna's frame ran despair, crying, "He has
asked her! He has asked her!"



"Dearest," warily exclaimed the Creole beauty, with a sudden excess of
her pretty accent, "I am in a situation perfectly dreadful!"

Anna drew her to a sofa, seeing pictures of her and Hilary together, and
tortured with a belief in their exquisite fitness to be so. "Can I help
you, dear?" she asked, though the question echoed mockingly within her.

"Ah, no, except with advice," said Flora, "only with advice!"

"Ho-o-oh! if I were worthy to advise you it wouldn't flatter me so to be

"But I muz' ask. 'Tis only with you that I know my secret will be--to
everybody--and forever--at the bed of the ocean. You can anyhow promise
me that."

"Yes, I can anyhow promise you that."

"Then," said Flora, "let me speak whiles--" She dropped her face into
her hands, lifted it again and stared into her listener's eyes so
piteously that through Anna ran another cry--"He has not asked! No girl
alive could look so if he had asked her!"

Flora seemed to nerve herself: "Anna, every dollar we had, every
picayune we could raise, grandma and I, even on our Mobile house and our
few best jewels, is--is--"

"Oh, what--what? Not lost? Not--not stolen?"

"Blown up! Blown up with that poor old man in the powder-mill!"

"Flora, Flora!" was all Anna, in the shame of her rebuked conjectures,
could cry, and all she might have cried had she known the very truth:
That every dollar, picayune, and other resource had disappeared
_gradually_ in the grist-mill of daily need and indulgence, and never
one of them been near the powder-mill, the poor old man or any of his

"His theories were so convincing," sighed Flora.

"And you felt so pitiful for him," prompted Anna.

"Grandma did; and I was so ambitious to do some great patriotic
service--like yours, you Callenders, in giving those cannon--and--"

"Oh, but you went too far!"

"Ah, if we had only gone no farther!"

"You went farther? How could you?"

"Grandma did. You know, dear, how suddenly Captain Kincaid had to leave
for Mobile--by night?"

"Yes," murmured Anna, with great emphasis in her private mind.

"Well, jus' at the las' he gave Charlie a small bag of gold, hundreds
of dollars, for--for--_me to keep for him till his return_. Anna! I was

"Oh, but surely he meant no--"

"Ah, my dear, did I ever give him the very least right to pick me out in
that manner? No. Except in that one pretty way he has with all of
us--and which you know so well--"

An uncourageous faint smile seemed the safest response.

"Yes," said Flora, "you know it. And I had never allowed myself--"

With eyes down the two girls sat silent. Then the further word came
absently, "I refused to touch his money," and there was another

"Dear," slowly said Anna, "I don't believe it was his. It would not have
been in gold. Some men of the battery were here last evening--You know
the Abolition schoolmistress who was sent North that day?"

"Yes, I know, 'twas hers."

"Well, dear, if she could entrust it to him--"

"Ah! _she_ had a sort of right, being, as the whole battery knows, in
love with him"--the beauty swept a finger across her perfect brows--"up
to there! For that I don't know is he to blame. If a girl has no more

"No," murmured Anna as the cruel shaft went through her. "What did
Charlie do with the money?"

Flora tossed a despairing hand: "Gave it to grandma! And poor innocent
grandma lent it to the old gentleman! 'Twas to do wonders for the powder
and gun, and be return' in three days. But the next--"

"I see," sighed Anna, "I see!"

"Yes, next day 'twas Sunday, and whiles I was _kneeling in the church_
the powder, the gun, the old man and the money--Oh, Anna, what shall I

"My dear, I will tell you," began Anna, but the seeker of advice was not
quite ready for it.

"We have a few paltry things, of course," she spoke on, "but barely
would they pay half. They would neither save our honor, neither leave us
anything for rent or bread! Our house, to be sure, is worth more than we
have borrowed on it, but in the meantime--"

"In the meantime, dear, you shall--" But still Flora persisted:

"Any day, any hour, Captain Kincaid may return. Oh, if 'twere anybody in
this worl' but him! For, Anna, I must take all the blame--all!" The face
went again into the hands.

"My dear, you shall take none. You shall hand him every dollar, every
picayune, on sight."

"Ah, how is that possible? Oh, no, no, no. Use your money? Never, never,

"It isn't money, Flora. And no one shall ever know. I've got some old
family jewellery--"

"Family--Oh, sweet, for shame!"

"No shame whatever. There's a great lot of it--kinds that will never be
worn again. Let me--" The speaker rose.

"No, no, no! No, Anna, no! For Heaven's sake--"

"Just a piece or two," insisted Anna. "Barely enough to borrow the
amount." She backed away, Flora clinging to her fingers and faltering:
"No, blessed angel, you must not! No, I will not wait. I'll--I'll--"

But Anna kissed the clinging hands and vanished.

A high elation bore her quite to her room and remained with her until
she had unlocked the mass of old jewels and knelt before them. But then
all at once it left her. She laid her folded hands upon them, bent her
brow to the hands, then lifted brow and weeping eyes and whispered to
Heaven for mercy.

"Oh"--a name she could not speak even there went through her heart in
two big throbs--"if only we had never met! I never set so much as a
smile to snare you, you who have snared me. Can Connie be right? Have
you felt my thraldom, and are you trying to throw me off? Then I must
help you do it. Though I covet your love more than life I will not
tether it. Oh, it's because I so covet that I will not tether it! With
the last gem from my own throat will I rather help you go free if you
want to go. God of mercy, what else can I do!"

In grave exultancy Flora moved up and down the drawing-room enjoying her
tread on its rich carpet. She would have liked to flit back to the side
of yonder great chimney breast, the spot where she had been surprised
while sounding the panel work, but this was no time for postponable
risks. She halted to regale her critical eye on the goodly needlework of
a folding-screen whose joints, she noticed, could not be peered through,
and in a pretty, bird-like way stole a glance behind it. Nothing there.
She stepped to a front window and stood toying with the perfect round of
her silken belt. How slimly neat it was. Yet beneath the draperies it
so trimly confined lay hid, in a few notes of "city money," the proceeds
of the gold she had just reported blown into thin air with the old
inventor--who had never seen a glimmer of it. Not quite the full amount
was there; it had been sadly nibbled. But now by dear Anna's goodness
(ahem!) the shortage could be restored, the entire hundreds handed back
to Captain Kincaid, and a snug sum be retained "for rent and bread." Yet
after all--as long as good stories came easy--why hand anything back--to
anybody--even to--him?

He! In her heart desire and odium beat strangely together. Fine as
martial music he was, yet gallingly out of her rhythm, above her key.
Liked her much, too. Yes, for charms she had; any fool could be liked
that way. What she craved was to be liked for charms she had not, graces
she scorned; and because she could not be sure how much of that sort she
was winning she tingled with heat against him--and against Anna--Anna
giver of guns--who _had the money_ to give guns--till her bosom rose
and fell. But suddenly her musing ceased, her eyes shone.

A mounted officer galloped into the driveway, a private soldier
followed, and the private was her brother. Now they came close. The
leader dismounted, passed his rein to Charlie and sprang up the veranda
steps. Flora shrank softly from the window and at the same moment Anna
reentered gayly, showing a glitter of values twice all expectation:

"If these are not enough--" She halted with lips apart. Flora had made
sign toward the front door, and now with a moan of fond protest covered
the gem-laden hand in both her palms and pushed it from her.

"Take them back," she whispered, yet held it fast, "'tis too late!
There--the door-bell! 'Tis Hilary Kincaid! All is too late, take them

"Take them, you!" as vehemently whispered Anna. "You must take them! You
must, you shall!"

Flora had half started to fly, but while she hung upon Anna's words she
let her palms slip under the bestowing hand and the treasure slide into
her own fingers.

"Too late, too late! And oh, I can never, never use them any'ow!" She
sprang noiselessly aside. To a maid who came down the hall Anna quietly
motioned to show the newcomer into an opposite room, but Flora saw that
the sign was misinterpreted: "She didn't understan'! Anna, she's going
to bring him!" Before the words were done the speaker's lithe form was
gliding down the room toward the door by which the other ladies had gone
out, but as she reached it she turned with a hand-toss as of some
despairing afterthought and flitted back.

Out in the hall the front door opened and closed and a sabre clinked:
"Is Miss Callender at home?"

Before the question was half put its unsuspected hearers had recovered a
faultless poise. Beside a table that bore her roses she whom the
inquirer sought stood retouching them and reflecting a faint excess of
their tint, while Flora, in a grave joy of the theatrical, equal to her
companion's distress of it, floated from view behind the silken screen.



His red kepi in hand and with all the stalwart briskness of the
flag-presentation's day and hour Hilary Kincaid stepped into the room
and halted, as large-eyed as on that earlier occasion, and even more
startled, before the small figure of Anna.

Yet not the very same Hilary Kincaid. So said her heart the instant
glance met glance. The tarnish of hard use was on all his trappings;
like sea-marshes on fire he was reddened and browned; about him hung
palpably the sunshine and air of sands and waves, and all the stress and
swing of wide designs; and on brow and cheek were new lines that looked
old. From every point of his aspect the truth rushed home to her
livelier, deadlier than ever hitherto, that there was War, and that he
and she were already parts of it.

But the change was more than this. A second and quieter look, the
hand-grasp lingering, showed something deeper; something that wove and
tangled itself through and about all designs, toils, and vigils, and
suddenly looking out of his eyes like a starved captive, cried,
"you--you--" and prophesied that, whether they would or not, this war
was to be his and hers together. A responding thrill must have run from
her fingers into his and belied the unaccountable restraint of her
welcome, for a joy shone from him which it took her ignoring smile and
her hand's withdrawal to quench.

"Miss Anna--"

They sat down. His earlier boyishness came again somewhat, but only
somewhat, as he dropped his elbows to his knees, looking now into his
cap and now into her face. A glance behind her had assured Anna that
there was no shadow on the screen, behind which sat Flora on the carpet,
at graceful ease listening while she eagerly appraised the jewels in her
hands and lap.

"Miss Anna," said the soldier again, "I've come--I've come to tell you
something. It's mighty hard to tell. It's harder than I thought it would
be. For, honestly, Miss Anna, you--from the first time I ever saw you,
you--you--Were you going to speak?"

Behind the screen Flora smiled malignly while Anna said, "No, I--I was
only--no, not at all; go on."

"Yes, Miss Anna, from the first time I--"

"When did you get back from Mobile?" asked Anna seeing he must be headed

"From Mobile? Just now, almost. You don't sup--"

"Oh! I hope"--she must head him off again--"I hope you bring good news?"
There was risk in the question, but where was there safety? At her back
the concealed listener waited keenly for the reply.

"Yes," said Hilary, "news the very best and hardly an hour old. Didn't
you hear the battery cheering? That's what I've come to tell you. Though
it's hard to tell, for I--"

"It's from Mobile, you say?"

"No, I can tell you the Mobile news first, but it's bad. Miss Flora's

Anna gave a start and with a hand half upthrown said quietly, "Don't
tell me. No, please, don't, I don't want to hear it. I can't explain,
but I--I--" Tears wet her lashes, and her hands strove with each other.
"I don't like bad news. You should have taken it straight to Flora. Oh,
I wish you'd do that now, won't you--please?"

Behind the screen the hidden one stiffened where she crouched with
fierce brow and fixed eyes.

Kincaid spoke: "Would you have me pass you by with my good news to go
first to her with the bad?"

"Oh, Captain Kincaid, yes, yes! Do it yet. Go, do it now. And tell her
the good news too!"

"Tell her the good first and then stab her with the bad?"

"Oh, tell her the bad first. Do her that honor. She has earned it.
She'll bear the worst like the heroine she is--the heroine and patriot.
She's bearing it so now!"

"What! she knows already?"

In her hiding Flora's intent face faintly smiled a malevolence that
would have startled even the grandam who still killed time out among the
roses with her juniors.

"Yes," replied Anna, "she knows already."

"Knows! Miss Anna--that her home is in ashes?"

Anna gave a wilder start: "Oh, no-o-oh! Oh, yes--oh, no--oh, yes, yes!
Oh, Captain Kincaid, how could you? Oh, monstrous, monstrous!" She made
all possible commotion to hide any sound that might betray Flora, who
had sprung to her feet, panting.

"But, but, Miss Anna!" protested Hilary. "Why, Miss Anna--"

"Oh, Captain Kincaid, how could you?"

"Why, you don't for a moment imagine--?"

"Oh, it's done, it's done! Go, tell her. Go at once, Captain Kincaid.
Please go at once, won't you?... Please!"

He had risen amazed. Whence such sudden horror, in this fair girl, of a
thing known by her already before he came? And what was this beside?
Horror in the voice yet love beaming from the eyes? He was torn with
perplexity. "I'll go, of course," he said as if in a dream. "Of course
I'll go at once, but--why--if Miss Flora already--?" Then suddenly he
recovered himself in the way Anna knew so well. "Miss Anna"--he
gestured with his cap, his eyes kindling with a strange mixture of
worship and drollery though his brow grew darker--"I'm gone now!"

"In mercy, please go!"

"I'm gone, Miss Anna, I'm truly gone. I always am when I'm with you.
Fred said it would be so. You scare the nonsense out of me, and when
that goes I go--the bubble bursts! Miss Anna--oh, hear me--it's my last
chance--I'll vanish in a moment. The fellows tell me I always know just
what to say to any lady or to anything a lady says; but, on my soul, I
don't think I've ever once known what to say to you or to anything
you've ever said to me, and I don't know now, except that I must and
will tell you--"

"That you did not order the torch set! Oh, say that!"

"No one ordered it. It was a senseless mistake. Some private soldiers
who knew that my lines of survey passed through the house--"

"Ah-h! ah-h!"

"Miss Anna, what would you have? Such is war! Many's the Southern home
must go down under the fire of--of Kincaid's Battery, Miss Anna, before
this war is over, else we might as well bring you back your flag and
guns. Shall we? We can't now, they're ordered to the front. There! I've
got it out! That's my good news. Bad enough for mothers and sisters. Bad
for the sister of Charlie Valcour. Good for you. So good and bad in one
for me, and so hard to tell and say no more! Don't you know why?"

"Oh, I've no right to know--and you've no right--oh, indeed, you
mustn't. It would be so unfair--to you. I can't tell you why, but it--it
would be!"

"And it wouldn't be of--?"

"Any use? No, no!"

Torturing mystery! that with such words of doom she should yet blush
piteously, beam passionately.

"Good-by, then. I go. But I go--under your flag, don't I? Under your
flag! captain of your guns!"

"Ah--one word--wait! Oh, Captain Kincaid, right is right! Not half those
guns are mine. That flag is not mine."

There was no quick reply. From her concealment Flora, sinking
noiselessly again to the carpet, harkened without avail. The soldier--so
newly and poignantly hurt that twice when he took breath he failed to
speak--gazed on the disclaiming girl until for; very distress she broke
the silence: "I--you--every flag of our cause--wherever our brave

"Oh, but Kincaid's Battery!--and _that_ flag, Anna Callender! The flag
you gave us! That sacred banner starts for Virginia to-morrow--goes into
the war, it and your guns, with only this poor beggar and his boys to
win it honor and glory. Will you deny us--who had it from your
hands--your leave to call it yours? Oh, no, no! To me--to me you will

For reply there came a light in Anna's face that shone into his heart
and was meant so to shine, yet her dissent was prompt: "I must. I must.
Oh, Capt--Captain Kincaid, I love that flag too well to let it go
misnamed. It's the flag of all of us who made it, us hundred girls--"

"Hundred--yes, yes, true. But how? This very morning I chanced upon your
secret--through little Victorine--that every stitch in all that flag's
embroideries is yours."

"Yet, Captain Kincaid, it is the flag of all those hundred girls; and if
to any one marching under it it is to be the flag of any one of us
singly, that one can only be--you know!"

Majestically in her hiding-place the one implied lowered and lifted her
head in frigid scorn and awaited the commander's answer.

"True again," he said, "true. Let the flag of my hundred boys be to all
and each the flag of a hundred girls. Yet will it be also the flag of
his heart's one choice--sister, wife, or sweetheart--to every man
marching, fighting, or dying under it--and more are going to die under
it than are ever coming back. To me, oh, to me, let it be yours. My
tasks have spared me no time to earn of you what would be dearer than
life, and all one with duty and honor. May I touch your hand? Oh, just
to say good-by. But if ever I return--no, have no fear, I'll not say it
now. Only--only--" he lifted the hand to his lips--"good-by. God's smile
be on you in all that is to come."

"Good-by," came her answering murmur.

"And the flag?" he exclaimed. "The flag?" By the clink of his sabre
Flora knew he was backing away. "Tell me--me alone--the word to perish
with me if I perish--that to me as if alone"--the clinking came nearer
again--"to me and for me and with your blessing"--again the sound drew
away--"the flag--the flag I must court death under--is yours."

Silence. From out in the hall the lover sent back a last beseeching
look, but no sound reached the hiding of the tense listener whose own
heart's beating threatened to reveal her; no sound to say that now Anna
had distressfully shaken her head, or that now her tears ran down, or
that now in a mingled pain and rapture of confession she nodded--nodded!
and yet imploringly waved him away.

It was easy to hear the door open and close. Faintly on this other hand
the voices of the ladies returning from the garden foreran them. The
soldier's tread was on the outer stair. Now theirs was in the rear
veranda. With it tinkled their laughter. Out yonder hoofs galloped.

The hidden one stole forth. A book on a table was totally engaging the
eyes of her hostess and at the instant grandma reentered laden with
roses. Now all five were in, and Anna, pouring out words with every
motion, and curiously eyed by Constance, took the flowers to give them a
handier form, while Flora rallied her kinswoman on wasting their
friends' morning these busy times, and no one inquired, and no one
told, who had been here that now had vanished.



It was like turning to the light the several facets of one of those
old-fashioned jewels Flora was privately bearing away, to see the five
beauties part company: "Good-by, good-by," kiss, kiss--ah, the sad waste
of it!--kiss left, kiss right, "good-by."

As the Callenders came in again from the veranda, their theme was Flora.
"Yet who," asked Constance, "ever heard her utter a moral sentiment?"

"Oh, her beauty does that," rejoined the kindly Miranda. "As Captain
Kincaid said that evening he--"

"Yes, I know. He said he would pass her into heaven on her face, and I
think it was a very strange thing for him to say!"

"Why?" daringly asked Miranda--and ran from the room.

The hater of whys turned upon her sister: "Nan, what's the matter?...
Oh, now, yes, there is. What made you start when Miranda mentioned--Yes,
you did. You're excited, you know you are. When we came in from the
garden you and Flora were both--"

"Now, Connie--"

"Pshaw, Nan, I know he's been here, it's in your face. Who was with him;

"Yes. They just dropped in to say good-by. The battery's ordered to
Virginia. Virginia hasn't seceded yet, but he feels sure she will before
they can get there, and so do I. Don't you? If Kentucky and Maryland
would only--"

"Now, Nan, just hush. When does he go?"

"To-morrow. But as to us"--the girl shrugged prettily while caressing
her roses--"he's gone now."

"How did he talk?"

"Oh--quite as usual." The head bent low into the flowers. "In the one
pretty way he has with all of us, you know."

Constance would not speak until their eyes met again. Then she asked,
"Did Charlie and Flora give him any chance--to express himself?"

"Oh, Con, don't be foolish. He didn't want any. He as much as said so!"

"Ye-es," drawled the bride incredulously, "but--"

"Oh, he really did not, Con. He talked of nothing but the battery flag
and how, because I'd presented it, they would forever and ever and ever
and ever--" She waved her hands sarcastically.

"Nan, behave. Come here." The pair took the sofa. "How did he look and
act when he first came in? Before you froze him stiff?"

"I didn't freeze him." The quiet, hurt denial was tremulous. "Wood
doesn't freeze." The mouth drooped satirically: "You know well enough
that the man who says his tasks have spared him no time to--to--"

"Nan, honest! Did _you_ give him a fair chance--the kind I gave Steve?"

"Oh, Con! He had all the chance any man ever got, or will get, from

The sister sighed: "Nan Callender, you are the _poorest_ fisherman--"

"I'm not! I'm none! And if I were one"--the disclaimant glistened with
mirth--"I couldn't be as poor a one as he is; he's afraid of his own
bait." She began to laugh but had to force back her tears: "I didn't
mean that! He's never had any bait--for me, nor wanted any. Neither he
nor I ever--Really, Con, you are the only one who's made any mistake as
to either of us! You seem to think--"

"Oh, dearie, I don't think at all, I just know. I know he's furiously in
love with you--Yes, furiously; but that he's determined to be fair to
Fred Greenleaf--"

"Oh!"--a yet wickeder smile.

"Yes, and that he feels poor. You know that if the General--"

The hearer lifted and dropped both arms: "Oh!--to be continued!"

"Well, I know, too, that he doesn't believe, anyhow, in soldiers
marrying. I've never told you, sweet, but--if I hadn't cried so
hard--Steve would have challenged Hilary Kincaid for what he said on
that subject the night we were married!"

Anna straightened, flashed, and then dropped again as she asked, "Is
that all you know?"

"No, I know what counts for more than all the rest; I know you're a
terror to him."

Remotely in the terror's sad eyes glimmered a smile that was more than
half satisfaction. "You might as well call him a coward," she murmured.

"Not at all. _You_ know you've been a terror to every suitor you've
ever had--except Fred Greenleaf; he's the only one you couldn't keep
frightened out of his wits. Now this time I know it's only because
you're--you're bothered! You don't know how you're going to feel--"

"Now, Con--"

"And you _don't_ want to mislead him, and you're just bothered to death!
It was the same way with me."

"It wasn't!" silently said Anna's lips, her face averted. Suddenly she
turned and clutched her sister's hands: "Oh, Con, while we talk trifles
Flora's home lies in ashes!... Yes, he told me so just now."

"Didn't he tell her too?"

"Why, no, Connie, he--he couldn't very well. It--it would have been
almost indelicate, wouldn't it? But he's gone now to tell her."

"He needn't," said Constance. "She knows it now. The moment I came in
here I saw, through all her lightness, she'd got some heavy news. She
must have overheard him, Nan."

"Connie, I--I believe she did!"

"Well, that's all right. What are you blushing for?"

"Blushing! Every time I get a little warm--" The speaker rose to go, but
the sister kept her hand:

"Keep fresh for this evening, honey. He'll be back."

"No, he won't. He doesn't propose to if he could and he couldn't if he
did. To get the battery off to-morrow--"

"It won't get off to-morrow, nor the next day, nor the next. You know
how it always is. When Steve--"

"Oh, I don't know anything," said Anna, pulling free and moving off.
"But you, oh, you know it all, you and Steve!"

But the elder beauty was right. The battery did not go for more than a
fortnight, and Hilary came again that evening. Sitting together alone,
he and Anna talked about their inner selves--that good old sign! and
when she gave him a chance he told her what Greenleaf had said about her
and the ocean. Also he confided to her his envy of small-statured
people, and told how it hurt him to go about showing the bigness of his
body and hiding the pettiness of his soul. And he came the next evening
and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next.



Not literally. That evening, yes, an end of it, but not the very next
four, did Kincaid spend with Anna. It merely looked so to Flora Valcour.

Even on that first day, after his too prompt forenoon gallop from
Callender House to the Valcour apartment had, of course, only insured
his finding Flora not at home, all its evening except the very end was
passed with her, Flora, in her open balcony overlooking the old Place
d'Armes. His head ringing with a swarm of things still to be done and
ordered done, he had purposed to remain only long enough to tell his
dire news manfully, accept without insistent debate whatever odium it
might entail, and decently leave its gentle recipients to their grief
and dismay. What steps they should take to secure compensation it were
far better they should discuss with Adolphe, who would be here to aid
them when he, Kincaid, would be in far Virginia. The only other
imperative matter was that of the young schoolma'am's gold, which must
be left in bank. Awkward business, to have to ask for it in scrambling
haste at such a moment.

But on a starlit balcony with two such ladies as the Valcours, to do
one's errands, such errands, in scrambling haste proved not even a
military possibility. Their greeting inquiries had to be answered:

"Yes, Charlie was well. He would be along soon, with fresh messages from
division headquarters. The battery was at last--Pardon?... Yes, the
Callenders were well--he supposed! He had seen only Miss Anna, and her
only for so brief an instant--"

No, Madame Valcour had merely cleared her throat. "That climate is hard
on those throat'."

He had seen Miss Anna, he resumed, "for so brief an instant--on an
errand--that he had not made civil inquiry after the others, but had
left good-by for them about as a news-carrier wads and throws in the
morning paper!"

It was so pretty, the silvery way the questioning pair laughed to each
other--at his simile, if that was the genuine source of their
amusement--that he let himself laugh with them.

"But how?" they further asked. "He had left good-by? Good-day, yes! But
for what good-by when juz' returning?"

"Ah, because here to them, also, it must be good-by, and be as brief as
there! The battery--he had sent word to them at sunrise, but had just
learned that his messenger had missed them--the battery was at last

"_Mon Dieu!_" gasped the old lady as if this was too cruelly sudden,
and, "Oh, my brother! Oh, Captain Kincaid!" beautifully sighed Flora,
from whom the grandmother had heard the news hours before.

Yet, "Of course _any_ time 'twould have to be sudden," they had
presently so recovered as to say, and Flora, for both, spoke on in
accents of loveliest renunciation. She easily got the promise she
craved, that no ill should come to Charlie which a commander's care
could avert.

The loss of their Mobile home, which also Madame had perfectly known
since morning, was broken to them with less infelicity, though they
would talk cheerily of the house as something which no evil ever would
or could befall, until suddenly the girl said, "Grandma, dearest, that
night air is not so pretty good for your rheum; we better pass inside,"
and the old lady, insistently unselfish, moved a step within, leaving
the other two on the balcony. There, when the blow came at last, Flora's
melodious grievings were soon over, and her sweet reasonableness, her
tender exculpation not alone of this dear friend but even of the silly
fellows who had done the deed, and her queenly, patriotic
self-obliteration, were more admirable than can be described. Were, as
one may say, good literature. The grateful soldier felt shamed to find,
most unaccountably, that Anna's positively cruel reception of the same
news somehow suited him better. It was nearer his own size, he said to
himself. At any rate the foremost need now, on every account, was to be
gone. But as he rose Flora reminded him of "those few hundred gold?"
Goodness! he had clean forgotten the thing. He apologized for the
liberty taken in leaving it with her, but--"Oh!" she prettily
interrupted, "when I was made so proud!"

Well, now he would relieve her and take it at once to a bank cashier who
had consented to receive it at his house this very night. She assured
him its custody had given her no anxiety, for she had promptly passed it
over to another! He was privately amazed:

"Oh--o-oh--oh, yes, certainly. That was right! To whom had she--?"

She did not say. "Yes," she continued, "she had at once thought it ought
to be with some one who could easily replace it if, by any strange
mishap--flood, fire, robbery--it should get lost. To do which would to
her be impossible if at Mobile her house--" she tossed out her hands and
dropped them pathetically. "But I little thought, Captain Kincaid--" she
began a heart-broken gesture--

"Now, Miss Flora!" the soldier laughingly broke out, "if it's lost it's
lost and no one but me shall lose a cent for it!"

"Ah, that," cried the girl, with tears in her voice, "'tis impossible!
'Twould kill her, that mortification, as well as me, for you to be the

"Loser! mortification!" laughed Hilary. "And what should I do with _my_
mortification if I should let you, or her, be the loser? Who is she,
Miss Flora? If I minded the thing, you understand, I shouldn't ask."

Flora shrank as with pain: "Ah, you must not! And you must not guess,
for you will surely guess wrong!" Nevertheless she saw with joy that he
had guessed Anna, yet she suffered chagrin to see also that the guess
made him glad. "And this you must make me the promise; that you never,
never will let anybody know you have discover' that, eh?"

"Oh, I promise."

"And you must let her pay it me back--that money--and me pay it you.
'Twill be easy, only she mus' have time to get the money, and without
needing to tell anybody for why, and for why in gold. Alas! I could have
kept that a secret had it not have been you are to go to-morrow morning"

"Oh, rest easy," said the cheerful soldier, "mum's the word. But, Miss
Flora, tell me this: How on earth did she lose it?"

"Captain Kincaid, by the goodness of the heart!"

"But how did it go; was it--?"

"Blown up! Blown up with that poor old man in the powder-mill! Ah, what
do we know about money, Captain Kincaid, we silly women? That poor,
innocent child, she lent it to the old gentleman. His theories, they
were so convincing, and she, she was so ambitious to do a great
patriotic service. 'Twas to make wonders for the powder and gun, and to
be return' in three days. But that next day 'twas Sunday, and whiles I
was _kneeling in the church_ the powder, the gun, the old man and the

Hilary gestured facetiously for the narrator: "That's how millions have
got to go in this business, and this driblet--why, I might have lent it,
myself, if I'd been here! No, I'm the only loser, and--"

"Ah, Captain Kincaid, no, no! I implore you, no!--and for her sake! Oh,
what are those few hundred for her to lose, if so she can only wipe that
mistake? No, they shall be in the charge of that cashier before you're
at Virginia, and that shall be my first news written to my
brother--though he'll not comprehend except that he is to tell it you."

So it was arranged and agreed. As again he moved to go she won a new
pledge of unending secrecy, and Charlie came with a document. Beside the
parlor lamp, where, with one tiny foot covertly unslippered for the
easement of angry corns, Madame sat embroidering, Kincaid broke the seal
and read. He forced a scowl, but through it glimmered a joy in which
Flora discerned again the thought of Anna. "Charlie," he said as a smile
broke through, "prepare yourself."

"Now, Captain, if those old imbeciles--"

The commander's smile broadened: "Our battery, ladies and gentlemen,
can't go for a week."

All laughed but Charlie. He swore at the top of his voice and threw
himself from the room.

When his Captain had followed, Flora, standing and smiling, drew from
her bosom a small, well-filled jewel-bag, balanced it on her uplifted
palm and, rising to her toes, sang, "At last, at last, _grace au ciel_,
money is easy!"

"Yet at the same time my gifted granddaughter," remarked the old lady,
in her native tongue and intent on her embroidery, "is uneasy, eh?"

Flora ignored the comment. She laid a second palm, on the upraised
booty, made one whole revolution, her soft crinoline ballooning and
subsiding with a seductive swish as she paused: "And you shall share
these blessings, grannie, love, although of the assets themselves"--she
returned the bag to its sanctuary and smoothed the waist where the paper
proceeds of the schoolmistress's gold still hid--"you shall never handle
a dime." She sparkled airily.

"No?" said Madame, still moving the needle and still in French.
"Nevertheless, morning and evening together, our winnings are--how

"Ours?" melodiously asked the smiling girl, "they are not ours, they are
mine. And they are--at the least"--she dropped to her senior's footstool
and spoke caressingly low--"a clean thousand! Is not that sweet enough
music to the ear of a venerable"--she whispered--"cormorant?" She
sparkled anew.

"I am sorry," came the mild reply, "you are in such torture you have to
call me names. But it is, of course, entirely concerning--the

Flora rose, walked to a window, and, as she gazed out across the old
plaza, said measuredly in a hard voice: "Never mind! Never mind her--or
him either. I will take care of the two of them!"

A low laugh tinkled from the ancestress: "Ha, ha! you thought the fool
would be scandalized, and instead he is only the more enamored."

The girl flinched but kept her face to the window: "_He_ is not the

"No? We can hardly tell, when we are--in love."

Flora wheeled and flared, but caught herself, musingly crossed the room,
returned half-way, and with frank design resumed the stool warily
vacated by the unslippered foot; whose owner was mincing on, just
enough fluttered to play defiance while shifting her attack--

"Home, sweet home! For our ravished one you will, I suppose, permit his
beloved country to pay--in its new paper money at 'most any
discount--and call it square, eh?" Half the bitterness of her tone was
in its sweetness.

In a sudden white heat the granddaughter clutched one aged knee with
both hands: "Wait! If I don't get seven times all it was ever worth, the
Yankees shall!" Then with an odd gladness in her eyes she added, "And
_she_ shall pay her share!"

"You mean--his?" asked the absorbed embroiderer. But on her last word
she stiffened upward with a low cry of agony, shut her eyes and swung
her head as if about to faint. Flora had risen.

"Oh-h-h!" the girl softly laughed, "was that your foot?"



With what innocent openness did we do everything in '61! "Children and
fools" could not tell the truth any faster or farther than did our
newspapers--_Picayune, Delta, True Delta, Crescent, L'Abeille, and
L'Estafette du Sud._ After every military review the exact number in
line and the name of every command and commander were hurried into
print. When at last we began to cast siege guns, the very first one was
defiantly proclaimed to all the Confederacy's enemies: an eight-inch
Dahlgren, we would have them to know. Kincaid and his foundry were
given full credit, and the defence named where the "iron monster" was to
go, if not the very embrasure designated into which you must fire to
dismount it.

The ladies, God bless them, were always free to pass the guard on the
city side of that small camp and earthwork, where with the ladies' guns
"the ladies' man" had worn the grass off all the plain and the zest of
novelty out of all his nicknamers, daily hammering--he and his only less
merciful lieutenants--at their everlasting drill.

Such ladies! Why shouldn't they pass? Was it not safe for the cause and
just as safe for them? Was not every maid and matron of them in the
"Ladies' Society of the Confederate Army"--whereof Miss Callender was a
secretary and Miss Valcour one of the treasurers? And had not the
fellows there, owing to an influence or two in the camp itself and
another or two just outside it, all become, in a strong, fine sense and
high degree, ladies' men? It was good for them spiritually, and good for
their field artillery evolutions, to be watched by maidenly and matronly
eyes. Quite as good was it, too, for their occasional heavy-gun practice
with two or three huge, new-cast, big-breeched "hell-hounds," as Charlie
and others called them, whose tapering black snouts lay out on the
parapet's superior slope, fondled by the soft Gulf winds that came up
the river, and snuffing them for the taint of the enemy.

One afternoon when field-gun manoeuvres were at a close, Kincaid spoke
from the saddle. Facing him stood his entire command, "in order in the
line," their six shining pieces and dark caissons and their twice six
six-horse teams stretching back in six statuesque rows; each of the
three lieutenants--Bartleson, Villeneuve, Tracy--in the front line,
midway between his two guns, the artificers just six yards out on the
left, and guidon and buglers just six on the right. At the commander's
back was the levee. Only now it had been empty of spectators, and he was
seizing this advantage.

"Soldiers!" It was his first attempt since the flag presentation, and it
looked as though he would falter, but he hardened his brow: "Some days
ago you were told not to expect marching orders for a week. Well the
week's up and we're told to wait another. Now that makes me every bit as
mad as it makes you! I feel as restless as any man in this battery, and
I told the commanding general to-day that you're the worst discontented
lot I've yet seen, and that I was proud of you for it. That's all I said
to him. But! if there's a man here who doesn't yet know the difference
between a soldierly discontent and unsoldierly _grumbling_ I want him to
GO! Kincaid's Battery is not for him. Let him transfer to infantry or
cavalry. Oh, I know it's only that you want to be in the very first
fight, and that's all right! But what we can't get we don't _grumble
for_ in Kincaid's Battery!"

He paused. With his inspired eyes on the splendid array, visions of its
awful destiny only exalted him. Yet signs which he dared not heed lest
he be confounded told him that every eye so fixed on his was aware of
some droll distraction. He must speak on.

"My boys! as sure as this war begins it's going to last. There'll be
lots of killing and dying, and I warn you now, your share'll be a double
one. So, then, no indecent haste. Artillery can't fight every day.
Cavalry can--in its small way, but you may have to wait months and
months to get into a regular hell on earth. All the same you'll get
there!--soon enough--times enough. Don't you know why, when we have to
be recruited--to fill up the shot holes--they'll go by the cavalry to
the infantry, and pick the best men there, and _promote_ them to your
ranks? It's because of how you've got to fight when your turn comes;
like devils, to hold up, for all you may know, the butt end of the whole
day's bloody business. That's why--and because of how you may have to
wait, _un-com-plain-ing_, in rotting idleness for the next tea party."

Again he ceased. What _was_ the matter? There sat his matchless hundred,
still and straight as stone Egyptians, welcoming his every word; yet
some influence not his was having effect and, strangest of all, was
enhancing his.

"One more word," he said. "You're sick of the drill-ground. Well, the
man that's spoiling for a fight and yet has no belly for drill--he--oh,
he belongs to the cavalry by birth! We _love_ these guns. We're mighty
dogg--we're extremely proud of them. Through thick and thin, through
fire and carnage and agony, remembering where we got them, we propose to
_keep_ them; and some proud day, when the trouble's all over, say two
years hence, and those of us who are spared come home, we propose to
come with these same guns unstained by the touch of a foe's hand, a
virgin battery still. Well, only two things can win that: infernal
fighting and perpetual toil. So, as you love honor and your country's
cause, wait. Wait in self-respectful patience. Wait and work, and you
shall be at the front--the foremost front!--the very first day and hour
my best licks can get you there. That's all."

Bartleson advanced from the line: "By section!" he called, "right

"Section," repeated each chief of section, "right wheel--"

"March!" commanded Bartleson.

"March," echoed the chiefs, and the battery broke into column. "Forward!
Guide right!" chanted Bartleson, and all moved off save Kincaid.

He turned his horse, and lo! on the grassy crest of the earthwork,
pictured out against the eastern pink and blue, their summer gauzes
filled with the light of the declining sun, were half a dozen smiling
ladies attended by two or three officers of cavalry, and among them
Flora, Constance, and Miranda.

Anna? Only when he had dismounted did his eager eye find her, where she
had climbed and seated herself on a siege gun and was letting a cavalier
show her how hard it would be for a hostile ship, even a swift steamer,
to pass, up-stream, this crater of destruction, and _ergo_ how
impossible for a fleet--every ship a terror to its fellows the moment it
was hurt--to run the gauntlet of Forts Jackson and St. Philip on a far
worse stretch of raging current some eighty miles farther down the

Not for disbelief of the demonstration, but because of a general laugh
around a tilt of words between Kincaid and the cavalry fellows, Anna
lighted down and faced about, to find him, for the third time in five
days, at close range. With much form he drew nearer, a bright assurance
in his eyes, a sort of boyish yes, for a moment, but the next moment
gone as it met in hers a womanly no.

"You little artist," thought Flora.



Down in the camp the battery was forming into park; a pretty movement.
The ladies watched it, the cavalrymen explaining. Now it was done. The
command broke ranks, and now its lieutenants joined the fair company and
drank its eulogies--grimly, as one takes a dram.

Back among the tents and mess fires--

"Fellows!" said the boys, in knots, "yonder's how he puts in his 'best
licks' for us!" But their wanton gaze was also fond as it followed the
procession of parasols and sword-belts, muslins and gold lace that
sauntered down along the levee's crest in couples, Hilary and Anna

Flora, as they went, felt a most unusual helplessness to avert a course
of things running counter to her designs. It is true that, having
pledged herself to the old General to seek a certain issue and to Irby
to prevent it, she might, whichever way the matter drifted, gather some
advantage if she could contrive to claim credit for the trend; an _if_
which she felt amply able to take care of. To keep two men fooled was no
great feat, nor even to beguile her grandmother, whose gadfly insistence
centred ever on the Brodnax fortune as their only true objective; but so
to control things as not to fool herself at last--that was the pinch.
It pinched more than it would could she have heard how poorly at this
moment the lover and lass were getting on--as such. Her subtle
interferences--a mere word yesterday, another the day before--were
having more success than she imagined, not realizing how much they were
aided by that frantic untamableness to love's yoke, which, in Hilary
only less than in Anna, qualified every word and motion.

Early in the talk of these two Hilary had mentioned his speech just
made, presently asking with bright abruptness how Anna liked it and,
while Anna was getting her smile ready for a safe reply, had added that
he never could have made it at all had he dreamed she was looking on.
"Now if she asks why," he thought to himself in alarm, "I've got to
blurt it out!"

But she failed to ask; only confessed herself unfit to judge anybody's

"English! oh, pass the English!" he said, he "knew how bad that was."
What he wanted her criticism on was--"its matter--its spirit--whichever
it was, matter or spirit!" How comical that sounded! They took pains
that their laugh should be noticed behind them. Flora observed both the
laugh and the painstaking.

"Matter or spirit," said Anna more gravely, "I can't criticise it. I
can't even praise it--oh! but that's only be--because I haven't--the

The lover's reply was low and full of meaning: "Would you praise it if
you had the courage?"

She could have answered trivially, but something within bade her not.
"Yes," she murmured, "I would." It was an awful venture, made
unpreparedly, and her eyes, trying to withstand his, dropped. Yet they
rallied splendidly--"They've got to!" said something within her--and, "I
could," she blushingly qualified, "but--I could criticise it too!"

His heart warmed at her defiant smile. "I'd rather have that honor than
a bag of gold!" he said, and saw his slip too late. Gold! Into Anna's
remembrance flashed the infatuation of the poor little schoolmistress,
loomed Flora's loss and distress and rolled a smoke of less definite
things for which this man was going unpunished while she, herself, stood
in deadly peril of losing her heart to him.

"Oh, Captain Kincaid!" Like artillery wheeling into action came her
inconsequent criticism, her eyes braving him at last, as bright as his
guns, though flashing only tears. "It was right enough for you to extol
those young soldiers' willingness to serve their country _when called_.
But, oh, how _could_ you commend their _chafing_ for battle and

"Ah, Miss Anna, you--"

"Oh, when you know that the sooner they go the sooner comes the
heartache and heartbreak for the hundreds of women they so
light-heartedly leave behind them! I looked from Charlie to Flora--"

"You should have looked to Victorine. She wants the boy to go and her
dad to go with him."

"Poor thoughtless child!"

"Why, Miss Anna, if I were a woman, and any man--with war coming
on--could _endure_ to hang back at home for love of me, I should feel--"

"Captain Kincaid! What we womenkind may feel is not to the point. It's
how the men themselves feel toward the women who love them."

"They ought," replied the soldier, and his low voice thrilled like a
sounding-board, "to love the women--out of every fibre of their being."

"Ah!" murmured the critic, as who should say, "checkmate!"

"And yet--" persisted this self-sung "ladies' man"--

"Yet what?" she softly challenged. (Would he stand by his speech, or his

"Why, honestly, Miss Anna, I think a man can love a woman--even his
heart's perfect choice--too much. I know he can!"

The small lady gave the blunderer a grave, brief, now-you-_have_-done-it
glance and looked down. "Well, I know," she measuredly said, "that a man
who can _tell_ a woman that, isn't capable of loving her half enough."
She turned to go back, with a quickness which, I avow, was beautifully
and tenderly different from irritation, yet which caused her petticoat's
frail embroidery to catch on one of his spurs and cling till the whole
laughing bevy had gathered round to jest over Flora's disentanglement of

* * * * *

"But really, Nan, you know," said Constance that evening in their home,
"you used to believe that yourself! The day Steve left you said almost

"Con--? Ah, Con! I think the _sister_ who could remind a _sister_ of
that--!" The sufferer went slowly up to her room, where half an hour
later she was found by Miranda drying her bathed eyes at a mirror and
instantly pretending that her care was for any other part of her face

"Singular," she remarked, "what a dust that battery can raise!"



About the middle of the first week in April--when the men left in the
stores of Common, Gravier, Poydras, or Tchoupitoulas street could do
nothing but buy the same goods back and forth in speculation; loathed by
all who did not do it, or whittle their chairs on the shedded sidewalks
and swap and swallow flaming rumors and imprecate the universal inaction
and mis-management--there embarked for Pensacola--

"What? Kincaid's Bat--?"

"No-o, the Zouaves! Infantry! when the one only sane thing to do," cried
every cannoneer of Camp Callender--in its white lanes or on three-hours'
leave at home on Bayou Road or Coliseum Square or Elysian Fields or

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