Not for disbelief of the demonstration, but because of a general laugh around a tilt of words between Kincaid and the cavalry fellows, Anna lighted down and faced about, to find him, for the third time in five days, at close range. With much form he drew nearer, a bright assurance in his eyes, a sort of boyish yes, for a moment, but the next moment gone as it met in hers a womanly no.
“You little artist,” thought Flora.
A PARKED BATTERY CAN RAISE A DUST
Down in the camp the battery was forming into park; a pretty movement. The ladies watched it, the cavalrymen explaining. Now it was done. The command broke ranks, and now its lieutenants joined the fair company and drank its eulogies—grimly, as one takes a dram.
Back among the tents and mess fires—
“Fellows!” said the boys, in knots, “yonder’s how he puts in his ’best licks’ for us!” But their wanton gaze was also fond as it followed the procession of parasols and sword-belts, muslins and gold lace that sauntered down along the levee’s crest in couples, Hilary and Anna leading.
Flora, as they went, felt a most unusual helplessness to avert a course of things running counter to her designs. It is true that, having pledged herself to the old General to seek a certain issue and to Irby to prevent it, she might, whichever way the matter drifted, gather some advantage if she could contrive to claim credit for the trend; an if which she felt amply able to take care of. To keep two men fooled was no great feat, nor even to beguile her grandmother, whose gadfly insistence centred ever on the Brodnax fortune as their only true objective; but so to control things as not to fool herself at last—that was the pinch. It pinched more than it would could she have heard how poorly at this moment the lover and lass were getting on—as such. Her subtle interferences—a mere word yesterday, another the day before—were having more success than she imagined, not realizing how much they were aided by that frantic untamableness to love’s yoke, which, in Hilary only less than in Anna, qualified every word and motion.
Early in the talk of these two Hilary had mentioned his speech just made, presently asking with bright abruptness how Anna liked it and, while Anna was getting her smile ready for a safe reply, had added that he never could have made it at all had he dreamed she was looking on. “Now if she asks why,” he thought to himself in alarm, “I’ve got to blurt it out!”
But she failed to ask; only confessed herself unfit to judge anybody’s English.
“English! oh, pass the English!” he said, he “knew how bad that was.” What he wanted her criticism on was—“its matter—its spirit—whichever it was, matter or spirit!” How comical that sounded! They took pains that their laugh should be noticed behind them. Flora observed both the laugh and the painstaking.