“Send him here!” The commander’s eye came back to Irby: “Old man, how long have you had this?”
“About an hour.”
“Oh, my stars, Adolphe, you should have told me!”
It was a fair sight, though maddening to Flora yonder by the glass case, to see the two cousins standing eye to eye, Hilary’s brow dark with splendid concern while without a glance at Anna he passed her the despatch and she read it.
“Steve,” he said, as the Mandeville pair pressed up, “look at that! boots-and-saddles! now! to-night! for you and Adolphe and me! Yes, Charlie, and you; go, get your things and put Jerry on the train with mine.”
The boy’s partner was Victorine. Before she could gasp he had kissed her. Amid a laugh that stopped half the dance he waved one farewell to sister, grandmother and all and sprang away. “Dance on, fellows,” called Hilary, “this means only that I’m going with you.” The lads cheered and the dance revived.
Their captain turned: “Miss Flora, I promised your brother he should go whenever—”
“But me al-so you promised!” she interrupted, and a fair sight also, grievous to Irby, startling to Anna, were this pair, standing eye to eye.
“Yes,” replied Kincaid, “and I’ll keep my word. In any extremity you shall come to him.”
“As likewise my wive to me!” said the swelling Mandeville, openly caressing the tearful Constance. “Wive to ’usband,” he declaimed, “sizter to brother—” But his audience was lost. Hilary was speaking softly to Anna. She was very pale. The throng drew away. You could see that he was asking if she only could in no extremity come to him. His words were inaudible, but any one who had ever loved could read them. And now evidently he proposed something. There was ardor in his eye—ardor and enterprise. She murmured a response. He snatched out his watch.
“Just time,” he was heard to say, “time enough by soldier’s measure!” His speech grew plainer: “The law’s right for me to call and for you to come, that’s all we want. What frightens you?”
“Nothing,” she said, and smiled. “I only feared there wasn’t time.”
The lover faced his cousin so abruptly that all started and laughed, while Anna turned to her kindred, as red as a rose. “Adolphe,” cried he, “I’m going for my marriage license. While I’m getting it, will you—?”
Irby went redder than Anna. “You can’t get it at this hour!” he said. His eyes sought Flora, but she was hurriedly conferring with her grandmother.
Hilary laughed: “You’ll see. I fixed all that a week ago. Will you get the minister?”
“Why, Hilary, this is—”
“Yass!” piped Madame, “he’ll obtain him!”
The plaudits of the dancers, who once more had stopped, were loud. Flora’s glance went over to Irby, and he said, “Why, yes, Hilary, if you—why, of course I will.” There was more applause.