The plantation and its slaves were still Irby's objective, and though Flora was no less so, any chance that for jealousy of her and Hilary he might throw Anna into Hilary's arms, was offset by his evident conviction that the estate would in that moment be lost to him and that no estate meant no Flora. Madame kept that before him and he thanked and loathed her accordingly.
And because each and all of these hindrances were welcome to Flora as giving leisure to read and reread Irby's long letter about his cousin and uncle, and to plan what to say and do in order to reap all the fell moment's advantages, the shadows were long in the Callender's grove when she finally ascended their veranda steps.
With a swirling mist wetting her fair head she waved in dainty welcome Irby's letter and then pressed it to her lips; not for his sake hah! but for his rueful word, that once more his loathed cousin, Anna's Hilary! was riding at the head of Kincaid's Battery. Black was that Friday for the daughters of Dixie. Farragut demanded surrender, Lovell declined.
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?
And now yea, verily! General Brodnax and his staff of brigade! Wave, Valcours, wave Callenders! Irby's bow to Flora was majestic, and hers to him as gracious as the smell of flowers in the air. And here was Mandeville, most glittering in all the glitter.
"That's what I want to do every time I look at him!" called Charlie to his sister. "Then look the other way!" carolled back the slender beauty. To whom Anna smiled across in her belated way, and wondered if the impulse to follow Hilary Kincaid ever came to women. But now out yonder the two cousins were in the saddle, Irby's sabre was out, and soon the manoeuvres were fully under way.
Greenleaf had come back with General Banks when Banks had succeeded Butler. Oppressed with military cares, he had barely time to be, without scrutiny, a full believer in the Valcours' loyalty to the Union. Had they not avowed it to him when to breathe it was peril, on that early day when Irby's command became Kincaid's Battery, and in his days of Parish Prison and bazaar?
In her breast were acutest emotions widely at war, yet in her eyes he saw only an unfeeling light, and it was the old woman behind him who alone noted how painfully the girl's fingers were pinched upon Irby's unopened letter. The boy's stare betrayed no less anger than suffering and as Flora spoke he flushed.
"Yes, that while none of these is large enough in his view to stop him by itself, yet combined they " "All working together they do it," said the girl. Really she had no such belief, but Irby's poor wits were so nearly useless to her that she found amusement in misleading them. "Hilary tells me they do," he replied, "but the more he says it the less I believe him.