Two of the morning. Had the leader, the idol of Kincaid’s Battery, failed in his endeavor? Anna, on her bed, half disrobed, but sleepless yet, still prayed he might not succeed. Just this one time, oh, Lord! this one time! With Thee are not all things possible? Canst Thou not so order all things that a day or two’s delay of Kincaid’s Battery need work no evil to the Cause nor any such rending to any heart as must be hers if Kincaid’s Battery should go to-night? Softly the stair clock boomed three. She lifted her head and for a full three minutes harkened toward the camp. Still no sound there, thank God! She turned upon her pillow.
But—what! Could that be the clock again, and had she slumbered? “Three, four,” murmured the clock. She slipped from her bed and stole to the window. Just above the low, dim parapet, without a twinkle, the morning star shone large, its slender, mile-long radiance shimmering on the gliding river. In all the scented landscape was yet no first stir of dawn, but only clearness enough to show the outlines of the camp ground. She stared. She stared again! Not a tent was standing. Oh! and oh! through what bugling, what rolling of drums and noise of hoofs, wheels, and riders had she lain oblivious at last? None, really; by order of the commanding general—on a private suggestion of Irby’s, please notice, that the practice would be of value—camp had been struck in silence. But to her the sole fact in reach was that all its life was gone!
Sole fact? Gone? All gone? What was this long band of darkness where the gray road should be, in the dull shadow of the levee? Oh, God of mercy, it was the column! the whole of Kincaid’s Battery, in the saddle and on the chests, waiting for the word to march! Ah, thou ladies’ man! Thus to steal away! Is this your profound—abiding—consuming love? The whisper was only in her heart, but it had almost reached her lips, when she caught her breath, her whole form in a tremor. She clenched the window-frame, she clasped her heaving side.
For as though in reply, approaching from behind the house as if already the producer had nearly made its circuit, there sounded close under the balustrade the walking of a horse. God grant no other ear had noted it! Now just beneath the window it ceased. Hilary Kincaid! She could not see, but as sure as sight she knew. Her warrior, her knight, her emperor now at last, utterly and forever, she his, he hers, yet the last moment of opportunity flitting by and she here helpless to speak the one word of surrender and possession. Again she shrank and trembled. Something had dropped in at the window. There it lay, small and dark, on the floor. She snatched it up. Its scant tie of ribbon, her touch told her, was a bit of the one she had that other time thrown down to him, and the thing it tied and that looked so black in the dusk was a red, red rose.
She pressed it to her lips. With quaking fingers that only tangled the true-love knot and bled on the thorns, she stripped the ribbon off and lifted a hand high to cast it forth, but smote the sash and dropped the emblem at her own feet. In pain and fear she caught it up, straightened, and glanced to her door, the knot in one hand, the rose in the other, and her lips apart. For at some unknown moment the door had opened, and in it stood Flora Valcour.