“Tell him no!” whispered Flora, but in vain, so quickly had Anna handed Irby the order.
“Good-night, all!” cried Hilary, mounting. He wheeled, swung his cap and galloped.
“Hear him!” laughed Miranda to Flora, and from up the dim way his song came back:
“’I can’t stand the
But a few days, a few days.’”
Still swinging his cap he groaned to himself and dropped his head, then lifted it high, shook his locks like a swimmer, and with a soft word to his horse sped faster.
“Yo’ pardon, sir,” said Mandeville to Irby, declining the despatch, “I wou’n’t touch it. For why he di’n’ h-ask me? But my stable is juz yondeh. Go, borrow you a horse—all night ’f you like.”
Thence Irby galloped to Bartleson’s tent, returned to Callender House, dismounted and came up the steps. There stood Anna, flushed and eager, twining arms with the placid Flora. “Ah,” said the latter, as he offered her his escort home, “but grandma and me, we—”
Anna broke in: “They’re going to stay here all night so that you may ride at once to General Brodnax. Even we girls, Captain Irby, must do all we can to help your cousin get away with the battery, the one wish of his heart!” She listened, untwined and glided into the house.
Instantly Flora spoke: “Go, Adolphe Irby, go! Ah, snatch your luck, you lucky—man! Get him away to-night, cost what cost!” Her fingers pushed him. He kissed them. She murmured approvingly, but tore them away: “Go, go, go-o!”
Anna, pacing her chamber, with every gesture of self-arraignment and distress, heard him gallop. Then standing in her opened window she looked off across the veranda’s balustrade and down into the camp, where at lines of mess-fires like strings of burning beads the boys were cooking three days’ rations. A tap came on her door. She snatched up a toilet brush: “Come in?”
She was glad it was only Flora. “Cherie,” tinkled the visitor, “they have permit’ me!”
Anna beamed. “I was coming down,” she recklessly replied, touching her temples at the mirror.
“Yes,” said the messenger, “’cause Mandeville he was biggening to tell about Fort Sumter, and I asked them to wait—ah”—she took Anna’s late pose in the window—“how plain the camp!”
“Yes,” responded Anna with studied abstraction, “when the window happens to be up. It’s so warm to-night, I—”
“What, dear?” In secret panic Anna came and looked out at Flora’s side caressingly.
“At last,” playfully sighed the Creole, “’tis good-by, Kincaid’s Battery. Good-by, you hun’red good fellows, with yo’ hun’red horses and yo’ hun’red wheels and yo’ hun’red hurras.”
“And hundred brave, true hearts!” said Anna.
“Yes, and good-by, Bartleson, good-by, Tracy, good-by ladies’ man!—my dear, tell me once more! For him why always that name?” Both laughed.