“And his father’s before him,” said the gray man.
“And I’ve come home to go into this war,” Hilary went on.
“And just at present,” said Gray, “you’re casting shot and shell and now and then a cannon; good for you! You want to give us your guarantee—?”
“That my friend and I will be together every moment till he leaves to-morrow morning on the Jackson Railroad, bound for the North without a stop.”
“To go into this war on the other side!”
“Why, of course!” said the smiling Kincaid. “Now, that’s all, isn’t it? I fear we’re keeping you.”
“Oh, no.” The gray man’s crow’s-feet deepened playfully. “If you think you need us we’ll stick by you all night.”
“No,” laughed Kincaid, “there’s no call for you to be so sticky as all that.” The horsemen mounted.
“Better us than the Patriots’ League,” said the younger detective to Hilary as Greenleaf moved off. “They’ve got your friend down in their Send-’em-to-hell book and are after him now. That’s how come we to be—”
“I perceive,” replied Hilary, and smiled in meditation. “Why—thank you, both!”
“Oh, you go right along, Mr. Kincaid. We’ll be at the depot to-morrow ourselves, and to-night we’ll see that they don’t touch neither one of you.”
Hilary’s smile grew: “Why—thank you again! That will make it more comfortable for them. Good-night.”
The two friends rode to a corner, turned into Poydras Street, crossed Magazine and Tchoupitoulas and presently, out from among the echoing fronts of unlighted warehouses, issued upon the wide, white Levee.
“Wait,” murmured Greenleaf, as they halted to view the scene. From their far right came the vast, brimming river, turbid, swift, silent, its billows every now and then rising and looking back as if they fled from implacable pursuers; sweeping by long, slumbering ranks of ships and steamboats; swinging in majestic breadth around the bend a mile or more below; and at the city’s end, still beyond, gliding into mystic oblivion. Overhead swarmed the stars and across the flood came faintly the breath of orange-groves, sea-marshes and prairies.
Greenleaf faced across the wide bend at his left. In that quarter, quite hidden in live-oaks and magnolias, as both well knew, were the low, red towers of Jackson Barracks. But it was not for them the evicted young soldier claimed this last gaze. It was for a large dwelling hard by them, a fine old plantation house with wide verandas, though it also was shut from view, in its ancient grove.
“Fred,” said Hilary, “didn’t she tell you why?”
“No,” replied the lover when they had turned away and were moving up the harbor front, “except that it isn’t because I’m for the Union.”
Hilary’s eyes went wide: “That’s wonderful, old man! But I don’t believe she likes a soldier of any sort. If I were a woman I’d be doggoned if I’d ever marry a soldier!”