He began again: “Ladies and gentlemen and comrades in arms!” and pulled his moustache, and smote and rubbed his brow, and suddenly drove his hand into an inside pocket and snatched out a slip of paper. But what should come trailing out with it but a long loop of ribbon! As he pushed it back he dropped the paper, which another whiff of wind flirted straight over his head, sent it circling and soaring clear above Moody’s store and dropped it down upon the roof. And there gazed Anna and all that multitude, utterly blank, until the martyr himself burst into a laugh. Then a thousand laughs pealed as one, and he stood smiling and stroking back his hair, till his men began to cry, “song! song!”
Upon that he raised the flag high in one hand, let it balloon to the wind, made a sign of refusal, and all at once poured out a flood of speech—pledges to Anna and her fellow-needlewomen—charges to his men—hopes for the cherished cause—words so natural and unadorned, so practical and soldier-like, and yet so swift, that not a breath was drawn till he had ended. But then what a shout!
It was over in a moment. The great black cloud that had been swelling up from the south gave its first flash and crash, and everybody started pell-mell for home. The speaker stood just long enough for a last bow to Anna while the guard went before him with the colors. Then he hurried below and had the whole battery trotting down Canal Street and rounding back on its farther side, with the beautiful standard fluttering to the storm, before the Callenders could leave the balcony.
Canal Street that evening was a veritable fairyland. When, growing tired of their carriage, the Callenders and Mandeville walked, and Kincaid unexpectedly joined them, fairyland was the only name he could find for it, and Anna, in response, could find none at all. Mallard’s, Zimmerman’s, Clark’s, Levois’s, Laroussini’s, Moody’s, Hyde & Goodrich’s, and even old Piffet’s were all aglow. One cannot recount half. Every hotel, every club-house, all the theatres, all the consul’s offices in Royal and Carondelet streets, the banks everywhere, Odd Fellows’ Hall—with the Continentals giving their annual ball in it—and so forth and so on! How the heart was exalted!
But when the heart is that way it is easy to say things prematurely, and right there in Canal Street Hilary spoke of love. Not personally, only at large; although when Anna restively said no woman should ever give her heart where she could not give a boundless and unshakable trust, his eyes showed a noble misery while he exclaimed:
“Oh, but there are women of whom no man can ever deserve that!” There his manner was all at once so personal that she dared not be silent, but fell to generalizing, with many a stammer, that a woman ought to be very slow to give her trust if, once giving it, she would not rather die than doubt.
“Do you believe there are such women?” he asked.