The girl’s eyes melted with yearning, but the response was Flora’s: “Simpleton! When you haven’ the sense enough to take care of yourself!”
“Ah, shame!” ventured the sweetheart. “He’s the lover of his blidding country, going ag-ain to fighd for her—and uz—whiles he can!—to-day!—al-lone!—now!” Her fingers clutched his wrists, that still held her shoulders, and all her veins surged in the rapture of his grasp.
But Charlie stared at his sister. It could not enter his mind that her desires were with the foe, yet his voice went deep in scorn: “And have you too turned coward?”
The taunt stung. Its victim flashed, but in the next breath her smile was clemency itself as she drew Victorine from him and shot her neat reply, well knowing he would never guess the motives behind it—the bow whence flew the shaft: the revenge she owed the cause that had burned their home; her malice against Anna; the agony of losing him they now called dead and buried; the new, acute loathing that issued from that agony upon the dismal Irby; her baffled hunger for the jewels; her plans for the chest of plate; hopes vanishing in smoke with yonder burning ship; thought of Greenleaf’s probable return with the blue army, of the riddles that return might make, and of the ruin, the burning and sinking riot and ruin, these things were making in her own soul as if it, too, were a city lost.
“Charlie,” she said, “you ‘ave yo’ fight. Me, I ’ave mine. Here is grandma. Ask her—if my fight—of every day—for you and her—and not yet finish’—would not eat the last red speck of courage out of yo’ blood.”
She turned to Victorine: “Oh, he’s brave! He ’as all that courage to go, in that condition! Well, we three women, we ’ave the courage to let him go and ourselve’ to stay. But—Charlie! take with you the Callender’! Yes! You, you can protec’ them, same time they can take care of you. Stop!—Grandma!—yo’ bonnet and gaiter’! All three, Victorine, we will help them, all four, get away!”
On the road to Callender House, while Charlie and Victorine palavered together—“I cannot quite make out,” minced the French-speaking grandmother to Flora, “the real reason why you are doing this.”
“’T is with me the same!” eagerly responded the beauty, in the English she preferred. “I thing maybe ’t is juz inspiration. What you thing?”
“I? I am afraid it is only your great love for Anna—making you a trifle blind.”
The eyes of each rested in the other’s after the manner we know and the thought passed between them, that if further news was yet to come of the lost artillerist, any soul-reviving news, it would almost certainly come first to New Orleans and from the men in blue.
“No,” chanted the granddaughter, “I can’t tell what is making me do that unlezz my guardian angel!”
ANNA AMAZES HERSELF