Once more Hilary yielded Flora and sought Anna; but with kinder thought for Flora Anna pressed herself upon Irby, to the open chagrin of his uncle. So Kincaid cheerfully paired with Flora. But thus both he and Anna unwittingly put the finishing touch upon that change of heart in the General which Flora, by every subtlety of indirection, this hour and more in the carriage, had been bringing about.
A query: With Kincaid and Irby the chief figures in their social arena and Hilary so palpably his cousin’s better in looks, in bearing, talents, and character, is it not strange that Flora, having conquest for her ruling passion, should strive so to relate Anna to Hilary as to give her, Anna, every advantage for the higher prize? Maybe it is, but she liked strangeness—and a stiff game.
Second half as well as first, the drill was ended. The low acacias and great live-oaks were casting their longest shadows. The great plain rested from the trample and whirl of hoofs, guns, and simulated battle. A whiff of dust showed where the battery ambled townward among roadside gardens, the Callender carriage spinning by it to hurry its three ladies and Mandeville far away to the city’s lower end. At the column’s head rode Irby in good spirits, having got large solace of Flora’s society since we last saw her paired with Kincaid. Now beside the tiny railway station Hilary was with her once more as she and Charlie awaited the train from town. Out afield were left only General Brodnax and Greenleaf, dismounted between the Northerner’s horse and Hilary’s. Now Kincaid came across the turf.
“Greenleaf,” said the old soldier, “why does Hilary forever walk as though he were bringing the best joke of the season? Can’t you make him quit it?”
The nephew joined them: “Uncle, if you’d like to borrow my horse I can go by train.”
That was a joke. “H-m-m! I see! No, Greenleaf’s going by train. Would you like to ride with me?”
“Well, eh—ha! Why, uncle, I—why, of course, if Fred really—” They mounted and went.
“How is it now? Like my girl any better?”
“Why—yes! Oh, she’s fine! And yet I—”
“You must say? What must you say?”
“Nothing much; only that she’s not the kind to seem like the owner of a field battery. My goodness! uncle, if she had half Miss Flora’s tang—”
“She hasn’t the least need of it! She’s the quiet kind, sir, that fools who love ‘tang’ overlook!”
“Yes,” laughed Hilary, “she’s quiet; quiet as a fortification by moonlight! Poor Fred! I wish—”
“Well, thank God you wish in vain! That’s just been settled. I asked him—oh, don’t look surprised at me. Good Lord! hadn’t I the right to know?”
The two rode some way in silence. “I wish,” mused the nephew aloud, “it could be as he wants it.”