The damsel blushed worse. “Well, at any rate,” she said, “the case doesn’t in any slightest way involve Miss Valcour.”
“Oh, I know that!” was the cocksure reply as they alighted in Canal Street to take an up-town mule-car.
Could Madame and Flora have overheard, how they would have smiled to each other.
With now a wary forward step and now a long pause, and now another short step and another pause, Hilary, in his letters to Anna, despite Flora’s often successful contrivings, had ventured back toward that understanding for which the souls of both were starving, until at length he had sent one which seemed, itself, to kneel, for him, at her feet—would have seemed, had it not miscarried. But, by no one’s craft, merely through the “terribleness” of the times, it had gone forever astray. When, not knowing this, he despatched another, this latter had promptly arrived, but its unintelligible allusions to lines in the lost forerunner were unpardonable for lack of that forerunner’s light, and it contained especially one remark—trivial enough—which, because written in the irrepressible facetiousness so inborn in him, but taken, alas! in the ineradicable earnest so natural to her, had compelled her to reply in words which made her as they went, and him as they smote him, seem truly to have “aged three years in one.” Yet hardly had they left her before you would have said she had recovered the whole three years and a fraction over, on finding a postscript, till then most unaccountably overlooked, which said that its writer had at that moment been ordered (as soon as he could accomplish this and that and so and so) to hasten home to recruit the battery with men of his own choice, and incidentally to bring the wounded Charlie with him. Such godsends raise the spring-tides of praise and human kindness in us, and it was on the very next morning, after finding that postscript, that there had come to Anna her splendid first thought of the Bazaar.
And now behold it, a visible reality! Unlighted as yet, unpeopled, but gorgeous, multiform, sentinelled, and ready, it needed but the touch of the taper to set forth all the glories of art and wealth tenfolded by self-sacrifice for a hallowed cause. Here was the Bazaar, and yonder, far away on the southern border of Tennessee, its wasted ranks still spruce in their tatters, the battery; iron-hearted Bartleson in command; its six yellow daughters of destruction a trifle black in the lips, but bright on the cheeks and virgins all; Charlie on the roster though not in sight, the silken-satin standard well in view, rent and pierced, but showing seven red days of valor legended on its folds, and with that white-moustached old centaur, Maxime, still upholding it in action and review.
Intermediate, there, yonder, and here, from the farthest Mississippi State line clear down to New Orleans, were the camps of instruction, emptying themselves northward, pouring forth infantry, cavalry, artillery by every train that could be put upon the worn-out rails and by every main-travelled wagon road. But homeward-bound Charlie and his captain, where were they? Irby knew.