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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 307 pages of information about Kincaid's Battery.

XXI

CONSTANCE CROSS-EXAMINES

It was like turning to the light the several facets of one of those old-fashioned jewels Flora was privately bearing away, to see the five beauties part company:  “Good-by, good-by,” kiss, kiss—­ah, the sad waste of it!—­kiss left, kiss right, “good-by.”

As the Callenders came in again from the veranda, their theme was Flora.  “Yet who,” asked Constance, “ever heard her utter a moral sentiment?”

“Oh, her beauty does that,” rejoined the kindly Miranda.  “As Captain Kincaid said that evening he—­”

“Yes, I know.  He said he would pass her into heaven on her face, and I think it was a very strange thing for him to say!”

“Why?” daringly asked Miranda—­and ran from the room.

The hater of whys turned upon her sister:  “Nan, what’s the matter?...  Oh, now, yes, there is.  What made you start when Miranda mentioned—­Yes, you did.  You’re excited, you know you are.  When we came in from the garden you and Flora were both—­”

“Now, Connie—­”

“Pshaw, Nan, I know he’s been here, it’s in your face.  Who was with him; Charlie?”

“Yes.  They just dropped in to say good-by.  The battery’s ordered to Virginia.  Virginia hasn’t seceded yet, but he feels sure she will before they can get there, and so do I. Don’t you?  If Kentucky and Maryland would only—­”

“Now, Nan, just hush.  When does he go?”

“To-morrow.  But as to us”—­the girl shrugged prettily while caressing her roses—­“he’s gone now.”

“How did he talk?”

“Oh—­quite as usual.”  The head bent low into the flowers.  “In the one pretty way he has with all of us, you know.”

Constance would not speak until their eyes met again.  Then she asked, “Did Charlie and Flora give him any chance—­to express himself?”

“Oh, Con, don’t be foolish.  He didn’t want any.  He as much as said so!”

“Ye-es,” drawled the bride incredulously, “but—­”

“Oh, he really did not, Con.  He talked of nothing but the battery flag and how, because I’d presented it, they would forever and ever and ever and ever—­” She waved her hands sarcastically.

“Nan, behave.  Come here.”  The pair took the sofa.  “How did he look and act when he first came in?  Before you froze him stiff?”

“I didn’t freeze him.”  The quiet, hurt denial was tremulous.  “Wood doesn’t freeze.”  The mouth drooped satirically:  “You know well enough that the man who says his tasks have spared him no time to—­to—­”

“Nan, honest!  Did you give him a fair chance—­the kind I gave Steve?”

“Oh, Con!  He had all the chance any man ever got, or will get, from me.”

The sister sighed:  “Nan Callender, you are the poorest fisherman—­”

“I’m not!  I’m none!  And if I were one”—­the disclaimant glistened with mirth—­“I couldn’t be as poor a one as he is; he’s afraid of his own bait.”  She began to laugh but had to force back her tears:  “I didn’t mean that!  He’s never had any bait—­for me, nor wanted any.  Neither he nor I ever—­Really, Con, you are the only one who’s made any mistake as to either of us!  You seem to think—­”

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