In his own smoke the General’s eyes opened aggressively. But hark! His nephew spoke again:
“Fred, if you knew all that girl has done for that boy and that grandmother—It may sound like an overstatement, but you must have observed—”
“That she’s a sort of overstatement herself?”
“Go to grass! Your young lady’s not even an understatement; she’s only a profound pause. See here! what time is it? I prom—”
On the uncle’s side of the fence a quick step brought a newcomer, a Creole of maybe twenty-nine years, member of his new staff, in bright uniform:
“Ah, General, yo’ moze ob-edient! Never less al-lone then when al-lone? ’T is the way with myseff—”
He seemed not unrefined, though of almost too mettlesome an eye; in length of leg showing just the lack, in girth of waist just the excess, to imply a better dignity on horseback and to allow a proud tailor to prove how much art can overcome. Out on the road a liveried black coachman had halted an open carriage, in which this soldier had arrived with two ladies. Now these bowed delightedly from it to the General, while Kincaid and his friend stood close hid and listened agape, equally amused and dismayed.
“How are you, Mandeville?” said the General. “I am not nearly as much alone as I seem, sir!”
A voice just beyond the green-veiled fence cast a light on this reply and brought a flush to the Creole’s very brows. “Alas! Greenleaf,” it cried, “we search in vain! He is not here! We are even more alone than we seem! Ah! where is that peerless chevalier, my beloved, accomplished, blameless, sagacious, just, valiant and amiable uncle? Come let us press on. Let not the fair sex find him first and snatch him from us forever!”
The General’s scorn showed only in his eyes as they met the blaze of Mandeville’s. “You were about to remark—?” he began, but rose and started toward the carriage.
There not many minutes later you might have seen the four men amicably gathered and vying in clever speeches to pretty Mrs. Callender and her yet fairer though less scintillant step-daughter Anna.
THE GENERAL’S CHOICE
Anna Callender. In the midst of the gay skirmish and while she yielded Greenleaf her chief attention, Hilary observed her anew.
What he thought he saw was a golden-brown profusion of hair with a peculiar richness in its platted coils, an unconsciously faultless poise of head, and, equally unconscious, a dreamy softness of sweeping lashes. As she laughed with the General her student noted further what seemed to him a rare silkiness in the tresses, a vapory lightness in the short strands that played over the outlines of temple and forehead, and the unstudied daintiness with which they gathered into the merest mist of a short curl before her exquisite ear.