Not so light were the thoughts Anna kept unuttered. Here again, she reflected, was he who (according to Greenleaf) had declined to command her guns in order to let Irby have them. Why? In kindness to his cousin, or in mild dislike of a woman’s battery? If intuition was worth while, this man was soon to be a captain somewhere. Here was that rare find for which even maidens’ eyes were alert those days—a born leader. No ladies’ man this—“of all things on God’s earth!” A men’s man! And yet—nay, therefore—a man for some unparagoned woman some day to yield her heart and life to, and to have for her very own, herself his consummate adornment. She cast a glance at Flora.
But her next was to him as they talked on. How nearly black was the waving abundance of his hair. How placid his brow, above eyes whose long lashes would have made them meltingly tender had they not been so large with mirth: “A boy’s eyes,” thought she while he remembered what he had just called hers. She noted his mouth, how gently firm: “A man’s mouth!”
Charlie Valcour broke in between them: “Is there not going to be any drill, after all?”
“Tell Captain Irby you can’t wait any longer,” replied Kincaid with a mock frown and gave Anna yet gayer attention a minute more. Then he walked beside his cousin toward the command, his horse close at his back. The group, by pairs, chose view points. Only Miss Valcour stayed in the carriage with the General, bent on effecting a change in his mind. In Mobile Flora had been easily first in any social set to which she condescended. In New Orleans, brought into the Callenders’ circles by her cousin Mandeville, she had found herself quietly ranked second to Anna, and Anna now yet more pointedly outshining her through the brazen splendor of this patriotic gift of guns. For this reason and others yet to appear she had planned a strategy and begun a campaign, one of whose earliest manoeuvres must be to get Irby, not Kincaid, made their uncle’s adjutant-general, and therefore to persuade the uncle that to give Kincaid the battery would endear him to Anna and so crown with victory the old man’s perfectly obvious plan.
Greenleaf left his horse tied and walked apart with Anna. This, he murmured, was the last time they would be together for years.
“Yes,” she replied with a disheartening composure, although from under the parasol with which he shaded her she met his eyes so kindly that his heart beat quicker. But before he could speak on she looked away to his fretting horse and then across to the battery, where a growing laugh was running through the whole undisciplined command. “What is it about?” she playfully inquired, but then saw. In response to the neigh of Greenleaf’s steed Hilary’s had paused an instant and turned his head, but now followed on again, while the laughter ended in the clapping of a hundred hands; for Kincaid’s horse had the bridle free on his neck and was following his master as a dog follows. Irby scowled, the General set his jaws, and Hilary took his horse’s bridle and led him on.