时间：<2020-06-04 15:08:26 作者：Yb成都到西昌pT5 浏览量：9777
"Oh, Hilary, my soldier, my flag's, my country's defender, come back to me--here!--now!--my yet living hero, my Hilary Kincaid!"
"Ah!" murmured the critic, as who should say, "checkmate!"
Suddenly there was a glad stoppage of all by-play in the swarming streets. Down St. Charles from LaFayette Square came the shock of saluting artillery, and up Royal from Jackson Square rolled back antiphonal thunders.The word was the old coachman Israel's. What a tender joy it was to find him in the wretched drawing-room trying to make it decent for her and dropping his tears as openly as the maid. With what a grace, yet how boldly, he shut the door between them and blue authority. While the girl arranged on a table, for Anna's use, a basket of needlework brought with them he honestly confessed his union loyalty, yet hurriedly, under his breath, bade Anna not despair, and avowed a devotion to the safety and comfort of "ole mahs's and mis's sweet baby" as then and forever his higher law. He was still autocrat of the basement, dropsied with the favor of colonels and generals, deferential to "folks," but a past-master in taking liberties with things. As he talked he so corrected the maid's arrangement of the screen that the ugly hole in the wall was shut from the view of visitors, though left in range of Anna's work-table, and as Anna rose at a tap on the door, with the gentle ceremony of the old home he let in Doctor Sevier and Colonel Greenleaf and shut himself out.
This transfer Irby, with silent reservations, quietly executed, and the day, hour and place, the cathedral, were named. A keen social flutter ensued and presently the wedding came off--stop! That is not all. Instantly upon the close of the ceremony the bride had to be more lifted than led to her carriage and so to her room and couch, whence she sent loving messages to the bridegroom that she would surely be well enough to see him next day. But he had no such fortune, and here claims record a fact even more wonderful than Anna's presentiment as to Hilary that morning in Mobile Bay. The day after his wedding Irby found his parole revoked and himself, with others, back in prison and invited to take the oath and go free--stand up in the war-worn gray and forswear it--or stay where they were to the war's end. Every man of them took it--when the war was over; but until then? not one. Not even the bridegroom robbed of his bride. Every week or so she came and saw him, among his fellows, and bade him hold out! stand fast! It roused their great admiration, but not their wonder. The wonder was in a fact of which they knew nothing: That the night before her marriage Flora had specifically, minutely prophesied this whole matter to her grandmother, whose only response was that same marveling note of nearly four years earlier--Black was that Friday for the daughters of Dixie. Farragut demanded surrender, Lovell declined. The mayor, the council, the Committee of Public Safety declined.
Before the battery had got half way to Virginia Hilary had written back to Anna his inevitable rhapsody over that amazing performance of hers, taking it as patent and seal of her final, utter, absolute self-bestowal. And indeed this it might have turned out to be had he but approached it by a discreet circuit through the simplest feminine essentials of negative make-believe. But to spring out upon it in that straightforward manner--! From May to February her answer to this was the only prompt reply he ever received from her. It crowds our story backward for a moment, for it came on one of those early Peninsula days previous to Manassas, happening, oddly, to reach him--by the hand of Villeneuve--as he stood, mounted, behind the battery, under a smart skirmish fire. With a heart leaping in joyous assurance he opened the small missive and bent his eyes upon its first lines.Bragg's gray army, he heard, was in far Chattanooga facing Rosecrans, and all the slim remnants of Johnston's were hurrying to its reinforcement. Mobile was merely garrisoned. Little was there save artillery. Here in New Orleans lay thousands of veterans flushed with their up-river victories, whose best and quickest aid to Rosecrans would be so to move as to turn Bragg's reinforcements back southward. A cavalry dash across the pine-barrens of East Louisiana to cut the railroad along the Mississippi-Alabama line, a quick joint movement of land and naval forces by way of the lakes, sound, and gulf, and Mobile would fall. These things and others, smaller yet more startling, the listener learned of, not as pastime talk, but as a vivid scheme already laid, a mine ready to be sprung if its secret could be kept three days longer; and now he hurried after his four compatriots, his own brain teeming with a counter-plot to convey this secret through the dried-up swamps to the nearest Confederate telegraph station while Anna should bear it (and the recovered treasure) by boat to Mobile, two messengers being so many times surer than one.
"Well, what am I in Kincaid's Battery for?" he retorted, with a sweep of his arm that sent her staggering. He caught the younger girl by the shoulders: "Jularkie, if you want to go, too, with or without grannie and Flo', by Jove, come along! I'll take care of you!"
"Too late!" moaned Flora to the detective, Madame to Constance and Miranda, and the battery lads to their girls, from whose hands they began to wring wild good-byes as a peal of fifes and drums heralded the oncome of the departing regiment.
"How much does it fall short?" asked Anna with a heart at full stop, and the pounding shock came when the shortage proved less than the missing proceeds of the bazaar. For there heaved up the problem, whether to pass on in the blind hope of finding her heart's own, or to turn instead and seek the two detectives and the salvation of a city. This was the dilemma which in the last few days had torn half the life out of her and, more gravely than she knew, was threatening the remnant.
Greenleaf and the firm expressed their pleasure. "We hang out at the corner of Poet and Good-Children Streets," said the black-haired man, but made his eyes big to imply that this was romance.And Anna: What could she say after what she had seen? Could she tell him--with Flora, as it were, still in his arms--could she explain that she had been seeking him to cast herself there? Or if she stood mute until he should speak, what could he say to count one heart-throb against what she had seen? Oh, before God! before God! it was not jealousy that could make her dumb or deaf to either of them. She confessed its pangs. Yes! yes! against both of them, when she remembered certain things or forgot this and that, it raged in her heart, tingled in the farthest reach of her starved and fever-dried veins. Yet to God himself, to whom alone she told it, to God himself she protested on her knees it did not, should not, could not rule her. What right had she to give it room? Had she not discerned from the beginning that those two were each other's by natural destiny? Was it not well, was it not God-sent to all three, that in due time, before too late, he and she--that other, resplendent she--should be tried upon each other alone--together? Always hitherto she, Anna, had in some way, some degree, intervened, by some chance been thrust and held between them; but at length nature, destiny, had all but prevailed, when once more she--stubbornly astray from that far mission of a city's rescue so plainly hers--had crashed in between to the shame and woe of all, to the gain of no cause, no soul, no sweet influence in all love's universe. Now, meeting Hilary, what might she do or say?