“But I must clear out mighty soon,” said Hilary that evening to Greenleaf, whose exchange he had procured at last and, rather rashly, was taking him to Callender House to say good-by. They talked of Anna. Greenleaf knew the paramount secret; had bravely given his friend a hand on it the day he was told. Now Hilary said he had been begging her again for practical steps, and the manly loser commended.
“But think of that from me, Fred! who one year ago—you know how I talked—about Steve, for instance. Shame!—how reckless war’s made us. Here we are, by millions, in a perpetual crash of victory and calamity, and yet—take me for an example—in spite of me my one devouring anxiety—that wakes me up in the night and gives me dreams in the day—is how to get her before this next battle get’s me. Yes, the instant I’m ordered I go, and if I’m not ordered soon I go anyhow. I wouldn’t have my boys”—etc.
And still the prison-blanched Greenleaf approved. But the next revelation reddened his brow: Anna, Hilary said, had at last “come round—knuckled down! Yes, sir-ee, cav-ed in!” and this evening, after the Bazaar, to a few younger sisters of the battery whom she would ask to linger for a last waltz with their young heroes, she would announce her engagement and her purpose to be wed in a thrillingly short time.
The two men found the Bazaar so amusingly collapsed that, as Hilary said, you could spell it with a small b. A stream of vehicles coming and going had about emptied the house and grounds. No sentries saluted, no music chimed. In the drawing-rooms the brass gun valiantly held its ground, but one or two domestics clearing litter from the floors seemed quite alone there, and some gay visitors who still tarried in the library across the hall were hardly enough to crowd it. “Good,” said Hilary beside the field-piece. “You wait here and I’ll bring the Callenders as they can come.”
But while he went for them whom should Greenleaf light upon around a corner of the panelled chimney-breast but that secret lover of the Union and all its defenders, Mademoiselle Valcour. Her furtive cordiality was charming as she hurriedly gave and withdrew a hand in joy for his liberation.
“Taking breath out of the social rapids?” he softly inquired.
“Ah, more! ’Tis from that deluge of—”
He understood her emotional gesture. It meant that deluge of disloyalty—rebellion—there across the hall, and all through this turbulent city and land. But it meant, too, that they must not be seen to parley alone, and he had turned away, when Miranda, to Flora’s disgust, tripped in upon them with her nose in full wrinkle, archly surprised to see Flora here, and proposing to hale both into the general throng to applaud Anna’s forthcoming “proclamation!”
Greenleaf de trop? Ah, nay! not if he could keep the old Greenleaf poise! and without words her merry nose added that his presence would only give happier point to what every one regarded as a great Confederate victory. At a subtle sign from Flora the hostess and he went, expecting her to follow.