“Why belittle him with that?” queried Miranda, winning Anna’s silent gratitude.
“It doesn’t belittle him,” cried Charlie. “That’s the joke. It makes him loom larger!”
Others had other explanations: Their guns were “ladies’ guns!” Were the guns the foremost cause? Some qualified: “Foremost, yes; fundamental, no.” Rather the fact that never was a woman cited in male gossip but instantly he was her champion; or that no woman ever brought a grievance to any camp where he might be but she wanted to appeal it to him.
Anna “thought the name was all from the song.”
“Oh, fully as much from his hundred and one other songs! Had he never sung to her—
“’I’d offer thee this hand of mine—’?”
Frankly, it was agreed, he did most laughably love ladies’ company; that he could always find it, as a horse can find water; that although no evening in their society could be so gay or so long that he would not be certain to work harder next day than any one else, no day could be so cruelly toilsome that he could not spend half the next night dancing with the girls; and lastly, that with perfect evenness and a boyish modesty he treated them all alike.
Anna laughed with the rest, but remembered three separate balls to which, though counted on, he had not come, she uninformed that military exigencies had at the last moment curtly waved him off, and he unaware that these exigencies had been created by Irby under inspiration from the daintiest and least self-assertive tactician in or about New Orleans.
CONSTANCE TRIES TO HELP
One day, in Canal Street, Kincaid met “Smellemout and Ketchem.” It was pleasant to talk with men of such tranquil speech. He proposed a glass of wine, but just then they were “strictly temperance.” They alluded familiarly to his and Greenleaf’s midnight adventure. The two bull-drivers, they said, were still unapprehended.
Dropping to trifles they mentioned a knife, a rather glittering gewgaw, which, as evidence, ought—
“Oh, that one!” said Hilary. “Yes, I have it, mud, glass jewels and all. No,” he laughed, “I can keep it quite as safely as you can.”
So they passed to a larger matter. “For, really, as to Gibbs and Lafontaine—”
“You can’t have them either,” interrupted their Captain, setting the words to a tune. Then only less melodiously—“No, sir-ee! Why, gentlemen, they weren’t trying to kill the poor devil, he was trying to kill them, tell your Committee of Public Safety. And tell them times are changed. You can take Sam and Maxime, of course, if you can take the whole battery; we’re not doing a retail business. By the by—did you know?—’twas Sam’s gun broke the city’s record, last week, for rapid firing! Funny, isn’t it!—Excuse me, I must speak to those ladies.”
The ladies, never prettier, were Mrs. Callender and Constance. They were just reentering, from a shop, their open carriage. In amiable reproach they called him a stranger, yet with bewitching resignation accepted and helped out his lame explanations.