“He’s always doing it!” laughed Hilary.
The word was truer than he meant. The Irby-value of things was all that ever seriously engaged the ever serious cousin. Just now his eyes had left the shore, where Flora’s lingered, and he was speaking of Kincaid. “I see,” he said, “what you think: that although no one of these things—uncle Brodnax’s nonsense, Greenleaf’s claims, Hilary’s own preaching against—against, eh—”
“Making brides to-day and widows to-morrow?”
“Yes, that while none of these is large enough in his view to stop him by itself, yet combined they—”
“All working together they do it,” said the girl. Really she had no such belief, but Irby’s poor wits were so nearly useless to her that she found amusement in misleading them.
“Hilary tells me they do,” he replied, “but the more he says it the less I believe him. Miss Flora, the fate of all my uncle holds dear is hanging by a thread, a spider’s web, a young girl’s freak! If ever she gives him a certain turn of the hand, the right glance of her eye, he’ll be at her feet and every hope I cherish—”
“Captain Irby,” Flora softly asked with her tinge of accent, “is not this the third time?”
“Yes, if you mean again that—”
“That Anna, she is my dear, dear frien’! The fate of nothing, of nobody, not even of me—or of—you—” she let that pronoun catch in her throat—“can make me to do anything—oh! or even to wish anything—not the very, very best for her!”
“Yet I thought it was our understanding—”
“Captain: There is bitwin us no understanding excep’”—the voice grew tender—“that there is no understanding bitwin us.” But she let her eyes so meltingly avow the very partnership her words denied, that Irby felt himself the richest, in understandings, of all men alive.
“What is that they are looking?” asked his idol, watching Anna and Hilary. The old battle ground had been passed. Anna, gazing back toward its townward edge, was shading her eyes from the burnished water, and Hilary was helping her make out the earthwork from behind which peered the tents of Kincaid’s Battery while beyond both crouched low against the bright west the trees and roof of Callender House—as straight in line from here, Flora took note, as any shot or shell might ever fly.
HARD GOING, UP STREAM
Very pleasant it was to stand thus on the tremulous deck of the swiftest craft in the whole Confederate service. Pleasant to see on either hand the flat landscape with all its signs of safety and plenty; its orange groves, its greening fields of young sugar-cane, its pillared and magnolia-shaded plantation houses, its white lines of slave cabins in rows of banana trees, and its wide wet plains swarming with wild birds; pleasant to see it swing slowly, majestically back and melt into a skyline as low and level as the ocean’s.