“Now, if necessary.”
“It will receive orders to move at seven to-morrow morning!” The Creole’s fervor amuses the rabble, and when Hilary smiles his earnestness waxes to a frown. Kincaid replies lightly and the rider bends the rein to wheel away, but the slippery stones have their victim at last. The horse’s feet spread and scrabble, his haunches go low. Constance snatches both Anna’s hands. Ah! by good luck the beast is up again! Yet again the hoofs slip, the rider reels, and Charlie and a comrade dart out to catch him, but he recovers. Then the horse makes another plunge and goes clear down with a slam and a slide that hurl his master to the very sidewalk and make a hundred pale women cry out.
Constance and her two companions bend wildly from the balustrade, a sight for a painter. Across the way Flora, holding back her grandmother, silently leans out, another picture. In the ranks near Charlie a disarray continues even after Kincaid has got the battered Mandeville again into the saddle, and while Mandeville is rejecting sympathy with a begrimed yet haughty smile.
“Keep back, ladies!” pleads Madame’s late informant, holding off two or three bodily. “Ladies, sit down! Will you please to keep back!” Flora still leans out. Some one is melodiously calling:
“Captain Kincaid!” It is Mrs. Callender. “Captain!” she repeats.
He smiles up and at last meets Anna’s eyes. Flora sees their glances—angels ascending and descending—and a wee loop of ribbon that peeps from his tightly buttoned breast. Otherwise another sight, elsewhere, could not have escaped her, though it still escapes many.
“Poor boy!” it causes two women behind her to exclaim, “poor boy!” but Flora pays no heed, for Hilary is speaking to the Callenders.
“Nothing broken but his watch,” he gayly comforts them as to Mandeville.
“He’s bleeding!” moans Constance, very white. But Kincaid softly explains in his hollowed hands:
“Only his nose!”
The nose’s owner casts no upward look. Not his to accept pity, even from a fiancee. His handkerchief dampened “to wibe the faze,” two bits of wet paper “to plug the noztril’,”—he could allow no more!
“First blood of the war!” said Hilary.
“Yez! But”—the flashing warrior tapped his sword—“nod the last!” and was off at a gallop, while Kincaid turned hurriedly to find that Charlie, struck by the floundering horse, had twice fainted away.
In the balconies the press grew dangerous. An urchin intercepted Kincaid to show him the Callenders, who, with distressed eyes, pointed him to their carriage hurrying across Canal Street.
“For Charlie and Flora!” called Anna. They could not stir “themselves” for the crush; but yonder, on Moody’s side, the same kind citizen noticed before had taken matters in hand:
“Keep back, ladies! Make room! Let these two ladies out!” He squeezed through the pack, holding aloft the furled colors, which all this time had been lying at Flora’s feet. Her anxious eyes were on them at every second step as she pressed after him with the grandmother dangling from her elbow.