“Ah-h! because, as usual—”
“Yes! Yes, you sweet old pelican! Because you are to turn the crank! But it’s all for love of Anna. Ah, there’s no inspiration like exasperation!”
“Except destitution!” said the grandmother.
They came before Charlie with arms about each other and openly enjoyed his only comment—a scornful rounding of his eyes.
In the Callender house, as the stair clock sounded the smallest hour of the night, Miranda, seeing the chink under Anna’s door to be still luminous, stole to the spot, gently rapped, and winning no response warily let herself in.
From the diary on her desk Anna lifted her cheek, looked up, reclosed her lids, smiled and reopened them. Miranda took the blushing face between her palms, and with quizzing eyes—and nose—inquired:
“Is there any reason under heaven why Anna Callender shouldn’t go to bed and have glad dreams?”
“None that I know of,” said Anna.
THE LONG MONTH OF MARCH
Ole mahs’ love’ wine, ole
mis’ love’ silk,
De piggies, dey loves buttehmilk,
An’ eveh sence dis worl’ began,
De ladies loves de ladies’ man.
I loves to sing a song to de ladies!
I loves to dance along o’ de ladies!
Whilse eveh I can breave aw see aw stan’
I’s bound to be a ladies’ man.
So sang Captain Hilary Kincaid at the Mandeville-Callender wedding feast, where his uncle Brodnax, with nearly everyone we know, was present. Hilary had just been second groomsman, with Flora for his “file leader,” as he said, meaning second bridesmaid. He sat next her at table, with Anna farthest away.
Hardly fortunate was some one who, conversing with the new Miss Callender, said the charm of Kincaid’s singing was that the song came from “the entire man.” She replied that just now it really seemed so! In a sense both comments were true, and yet never in the singer’s life had so much of “the entire man” refused to sing. All that night of the illumination he had not closed his eyes, except in anguish for having tried to make love on the same day when—and to the same Anna Callender before whom—he had drawn upon himself the roaring laugh of the crowded street; or in a sort of remorse for letting himself become the rival of a banished friend who, though warned that a whole platoon of him would make no difference, suddenly seemed to plead a prohibitory difference to one’s inmost sense of honor.
At dawn he had risen resolved to make good his boast and “fight like a whale.” Under orders of his own seeking he had left the battery the moment its tents were up and had taken boat for Mobile. Whence he had returned only just in time to stand beside Flora Valcour, preceded by a relative of the bridegroom paired with Anna.
Yet here at the feast none was merrier than Kincaid, who, charmingly egged on by Flora, kept those about him in gales of mirth, and even let himself be “cajoled” (to use his own term) into singing this song whose title had become his nickname. Through it all Anna smiled and laughed with the rest and clapped for each begged-for stanza. Yet all the time she said in her heart, “He is singing it at me!”