Hilary laughed to the skies, the rest echoing.
“A ladies’ man!” the uncle scoffed on. “Of all things on God’s earth!” But there he broke into lordly mirth: “Don’t you believe that of him, ladies, at any rate. If only for my sake, Anna, don’t you ever believe a breath of it!”
The ladies laughed again, but now Kincaid found them a distraction. Following his glance cityward they espied a broad dust-cloud floating off toward the river. He turned to Anna and softly cried, “Here come your guns, trying to beat the train!”
The ladies stood up to see. An unseen locomotive whistled for a brief stop. The dust-cloud drew nearer. The engine whistled to start again, and they could hear its bell and quickening puff. But the dust-cloud came on and on, and all at once the whole six-gun battery—six horses to each piece and six to each caisson—captain, buglers, guidon, lieutenants, sergeants and drivers in the saddle, cannoneers on the chests—swept at full trot, thumping, swaying, and rebounding, up the highway and off it, and, forming sections, swung out upon the field in double column, while the roaring train rolled by it and slowed up to the little frame box of Buerthe’s Station with passengers cheering from every window.
The Callenders’ carriage horses were greatly taxed in their nerves, yet they kept their discretion. Kept it even when now the battery flashed from column into line and bore down upon them, the train meanwhile whooping on toward Carrollton. And what an elated flock of brightly dressed citizens and citizenesses had alighted from the cars—many of them on the moment’s impulse—to see these dear lads, with their romantically acquired battery, train for the holiday task of scaring the dastard foe back to their frozen homes! How we loved the moment’s impulse those days!
What a gay show! And among the very prettiest and most fetchingly arrayed newcomers you would quickly have noticed three with whom this carriage group exchanged signals. Kincaid spurred off to meet them while Greenleaf and Mandeville helped Anna and Miranda to the ground. “There’s Constance,” said the General.
“Yes,” Mrs. Callender replied, “and Flora and Charlie Valcour!” as if that were the gleefulest good luck of all.
Captain Irby, strong, shapely, well clad, auburn-haired, left his halted command and came into the carriage group, while from the train approached his cousin and the lithe and picturesque Miss Valcour.
The tallish girl always looked her best beside some manly form of unusual stature, and because that form now was Hilary’s Irby was aggrieved. All their days his cousin had been getting into his light, and this realization still shaded his brow as Kincaid yielded Flora to him and returned to Anna to talk of things too light for record.