“That’s what I want to do every time I look at him!” called Charlie to his sister.
“Then look the other way!” carolled back the slender beauty. To whom Anna smiled across in her belated way, and wondered if the impulse to follow Hilary Kincaid ever came to women.
But now out yonder the two cousins were in the saddle, Irby’s sabre was out, and soon the manoeuvres were fully under way. Flora, at the General’s side, missed nothing of them, yet her nimble eye kept her well aware that across here in this open seclusion the desperate Greenleaf’s words to Anna were rarely explanatory of the drill.
“And now,” proclaimed Mandeville, “you’ll see them form into line fazed to the rear!” And Flora, seeing and applauding, saw also Anna turn to her suitor a glance, half pity for him, half pleading for his pity.
“I say unless—” Greenleaf persisted—
“There is no ‘unless.’ There can’t ever be any.”
“But may I not at least say—?”
“I’d so much rather you would not,” she begged.
“At present, you mean?”
“Or in the future,” said Anna, and, having done perfectly thus far, spoiled all by declaring she would “never marry!” Her gaze rested far across the field on the quietly clad figure of Kincaid riding to and fro and pointing hither and yon to his gold-laced cousin. Off here on the left she heard Mandeville announcing:
“Now they’ll form batt’rie to the front by throwing caisson’ to the rear—look—look!... Ah, ha! was not that a prettie?”
Pretty it was declared to be on all sides. Flora called it “a beautiful.” Part of her charm was a Creole accent much too dainty for print. Anna and Greenleaf and the other couples regathered about the carriage, and Miss Valcour from her high seat smiled her enthusiasm down among them, exalting theirs. And now as a new movement of the battery followed, and now another, her glow heightened, and she called musically to Constance, Mrs. Callender and Anna, by turns, to behold and admire. For one telling moment she was, and felt herself, the focus of her group, the centre of its living picture. Out afield yet another manoeuvre was on, and while Anna and her suitor stood close below her helplessly becalmed each by each, Flora rose to her feet and caught a great breath of delight. Her gaze was on the glittering mass of men, horses, and brazen guns that came thundering across the plain in double column—Irby at its head, Kincaid alone on the flank—and sweeping right and left deployed into battery to the front with cannoneers springing to their posts for action.
“Pretties’ of all!” she cried, and stood, a gentle air stirring her light draperies, until the boys at the empty guns were red-browed and short of breath in their fierce pretence of loading and firing. Suddenly the guns were limbered up and went bounding over the field, caissons in front. And now pieces passed their caissons, and now they were in line, then in double column, and presently were gleaming in battery again, faced to the rear. And now at command the tired lads dropped to the ground to rest, or sauntered from one lounging squad to another, to chat and chaff and puff cigarettes. Kincaid and Irby lent their horses to Mandeville and Charlie, who rode to the battery while the lenders joined the ladies.