Armed guards, keeping the rabble out, passed the ladies in before the procession had appeared in the old Rue Conde. But now here it came, its music swelling, the crowd—shabbier than last month and more vacant of face—parting before it. Carrying their sabres, but on foot and without their pieces, heading the column as escort of honor, lo, Kincaid’s Battery; rearmost the Chasseurs, masses and masses of them; and in between, a silver crucifix lifted high above a body of acolytes in white lace over purple, ranks of black-gowned priests, a succession of cloth-of-gold ecclesiastics, and in their midst the mitred archbishop.
But the battery! What a change since last February! Every man as spruce as ever, but with an added air of tested capability that inspired all beholders. Only their German musicians still seemed fresh from the mint, and oh! in what unlucky taste, considering the ecclesiastics, the song they brayed forth in jaunty staccato.
“They’re offering us that hand of theirs again,” murmured Anna to Constance, standing in a side pew; but suddenly the strain ceased, she heard Hilary’s voice of command turning the column, and presently, through a lane made by his men, the Chasseurs marched in to the nave, packed densely and halted. Then in close order the battery itself followed and stood. Now the loud commands were in here. Strange it was to hear them ring through the holy place (French to the Chasseurs, English to the battery), and the crashing musket-butts smite the paved floor as one weapon, to the flash of a hundred sabres.
So said to itself the diary on the afternoon of the next day, and there hurriedly left off. Not because of a dull rumble reaching the writer’s ear from the Lake, where Kincaid and his lieutenants were testing new-siege-guns, for that was what she was at this desk and window to hear; but because of the L.S.C.A., about to meet in the drawing-room below and be met by a friend of the family, a famed pulpit orator and greater potentate, in many eyes, than even the Catholic archbishop.
He came, and later, in the battery camp with the Callenders, Valcours, and Victorine, the soldiers clamoring for a speech, ran them wild reminding them with what unique honor and peculiar responsibility they were the champions of their six splendid guns. In a jostling crowd, yet with a fine decorum, they brought out their standard and—not to be outdone by any Chasseurs under the sky—obliged Anna to stand beside its sergeant, Maxime, and with him hold it while the man of God invoked Heaven to bless it and bless all who should follow it afield or pray for it at home. So dazed was she that only at the “amen” did she perceive how perfectly the tables had been turned on her. For only then did she discover that Hilary Kincaid had joined the throng exactly in time to see the whole tableau.