“I know there are,” she said, her eyes lifted to his, but the next instant was so panic-smitten and shamed that she ran into a lamp post. And when he called that his fault her denial was affirmative in its feebleness, and with the others she presently resumed the carriage and said good-night.
“Flippantly!” thought the one left alone on the crowded sidewalk.
Yet—“It is I who am going to have the hardest of it,” said the diary a short hour after. “I’ve always thought that when the right one came I’d never give in the faintest bit till I had put him to every test and task and delay I could invent. And now I can’t invent one! His face quenches doubt, and if he keeps on this way—Ah, Flora! is he anything to you? Every time he speaks my heart sees you. I see you now! And somehow—since Charlie’s mishap—more yours than his if—”
For a full minute the pen hovered over the waiting page, then gradually left it and sank to rest on its silver rack.
FLORA TAPS GRANDMA’S CHEEK
Meanwhile, from a cluster of society folk sipping ices at “Vincent’s” balcony tables, corner of Carondelet Street (where men made the most money), and Canal (where women spent the most), Flora and her grandmother, in Irby’s care, made their way down to the street.
Kincaid, once more on horseback with General Brodnax, saw them emerge beside his cousin’s hired carriage, and would have hurried to them, if only to inquire after the injured boy; but the General gave what he was saying a detaining energy. It was of erecting certain defences behind Mobile; of the scarcity of military engineers; and of his having, to higher authority, named Hilary for the task. The Captain could easily leave the battery in camp for a day or two, take the Mobile boat—He ceased an instant and scowled, as Hilary bowed across the way.
There was a tender raillery in the beam with which Flora held the young man’s eye a second, and as she turned away there was accusation in the faint toss and flicker of the deep lace that curtained her hat. Both her companions saw it, but Irby she filled with an instant inebriation by one look, the kindest she had ever given him.
“Both barrels!” said the old lady to herself.
As Irby reached the carriage door Flora’s touch arrested him. It was as light as a leaf, but it thrilled him like wine—whose thrill he well knew.
“I’ve lost one of my gloves,” she said.
He looked about her feet.
“You mus’ have drop’ it on the stair,” said grandmamma, discerning the stratagem, and glad to aid it.
Problem in tactics: To hunt the glove all the way up to the balcony and return before Hilary, if he was coming, could reach Flora’s side. Irby set his teeth—he loathed problems—and sprang up the steps.
“No use,” chanted Madame with enjoyment; “the other one is not coming.”