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

“Matter or spirit,” said Anna more gravely, “I can’t criticise it.  I can’t even praise it—­oh! but that’s only be—­because I haven’t—­the courage!”

The lover’s reply was low and full of meaning:  “Would you praise it if you had the courage?”

She could have answered trivially, but something within bade her not.  “Yes,” she murmured, “I would.”  It was an awful venture, made unpreparedly, and her eyes, trying to withstand his, dropped.  Yet they rallied splendidly—­“They’ve got to!” said something within her—­and, “I could,” she blushingly qualified, “but—­I could criticise it too!”

His heart warmed at her defiant smile.  “I’d rather have that honor than a bag of gold!” he said, and saw his slip too late.  Gold!  Into Anna’s remembrance flashed the infatuation of the poor little schoolmistress, loomed Flora’s loss and distress and rolled a smoke of less definite things for which this man was going unpunished while she, herself, stood in deadly peril of losing her heart to him.

“Oh, Captain Kincaid!” Like artillery wheeling into action came her inconsequent criticism, her eyes braving him at last, as bright as his guns, though flashing only tears.  “It was right enough for you to extol those young soldiers’ willingness to serve their country when called.  But, oh, how could you commend their chafing for battle and slaughter?”

“Ah, Miss Anna, you—­”

“Oh, when you know that the sooner they go the sooner comes the heartache and heartbreak for the hundreds of women they so light-heartedly leave behind them!  I looked from Charlie to Flora—­”

“You should have looked to Victorine.  She wants the boy to go and her dad to go with him.”

“Poor thoughtless child!”

“Why, Miss Anna, if I were a woman, and any man—­with war coming on—­could endure to hang back at home for love of me, I should feel—­”

“Captain Kincaid!  What we womenkind may feel is not to the point.  It’s how the men themselves feel toward the women who love them.”

“They ought,” replied the soldier, and his low voice thrilled like a sounding-board, “to love the women—­out of every fibre of their being.”

“Ah!” murmured the critic, as who should say, “checkmate!”

“And yet—­” persisted this self-sung “ladies’ man”—­

“Yet what?” she softly challenged. (Would he stand by his speech, or his song?)

“Why, honestly, Miss Anna, I think a man can love a woman—­even his heart’s perfect choice—­too much.  I know he can!”

The small lady gave the blunderer a grave, brief, now-you-have-done-it glance and looked down.  “Well, I know,” she measuredly said, “that a man who can tell a woman that, isn’t capable of loving her half enough.”  She turned to go back, with a quickness which, I avow, was beautifully and tenderly different from irritation, yet which caused her petticoat’s frail embroidery to catch on one of his spurs and cling till the whole laughing bevy had gathered round to jest over Flora’s disentanglement of it.

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