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   Chapter 41 FOR AN EMERGENCY

Kincaid's Battery By George Washington Cable Characters: 14088

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03


Hilary stared, reddened as she paled, and with a slow smile shook his head. She murmured again:

"It's lost! the dagger! with all--"

"Why,--why, Miss Anna,"--his smile grew playful, but his thought ran back to the exploded powder-mill, to the old inventor, to Flora in those days, the deported schoolmistress's gold still unpaid to him, the jeweller and the exchanged gems, the Sterling bill--"Why, Miss Anna! how do you mean, lost?"

"Taken! gone! and by my fault! I--I forgot all about it."

He laughed aloud and around: "Pshaw! Now, ladies and gentlemen, this is some joke you're"--he glanced toward the show-case--

"No," insisted Anna, "it's taken! Here are the other things." She displayed the box.

Madame, very angry, smiled from it to Flora: "Oh, thou love's fool! not to steal that and leave the knife, with which, luckily! now that you have it, you dare not strike!"

All this the subtle girl read in the ancient lady's one small "ahem!" and for reply, in some even more unvoiced way, warned her against the eye of the gray man near the gun. To avoid whose scrutiny herself she returned sociably to his side.

"The other things!" scoffed meantime the gay Hilary, catching up Anna's word. "No! if you please, here is the only other thing!" and boyishly flaunted the license at Mandeville and all the Callenders, the throng merrily approving. His eye, falling upon the detective, kindled joyfully: "Oh, you godsend! You hunt up the lost frog-sticker, will you--while we--?" He flourished the document again and the gray man replied with a cordial nod. Kincaid waved thanks and glanced round. "Adolphe!" he called. "Steve, where in the dickens--?"

Whether he so designed it or not, the contrast between his levity and Anna's agitation convinced Flora, Madame, all, that the weapon's only value to the lovers was sentimental. "Or religious," thought the detective, whose adjectives could be as inaccurate as his divinations. While he conjectured, Anna spoke once more to Hilary. Her vehement words were too soft for any ear save his, but their tenor was so visible, her distress so passionate and her firmness of resolve so evident that every mere beholder fell back, letting the Callender-Valcour group, with Steve and the gentle detective, press closer. With none of them, nor yet with Hilary, was there anything to argue; their plight seemed to her hopeless. For them to marry, for her to default, and for him to fly, all in one mad hour--one whirlwind of incident--"It cannot be!" was all she could say, to sister, to stepmother, to Flora, to Hilary again: "We cannot do it! I will not!--till that lost thing is found!"

With keen sympathy the detective, in the pack, enjoyed the play of Hilary's face, where martial animation strove inspiringly against a torture of dashed hopes. Glancing aside to Flora's as she turned from Anna, he caught there no sign of the storm of joy which had suddenly burst in her bosom; but for fear he might, and to break across his insight and reckoning, she addressed him.

"Anna she don't give any reason" she exclaimed. "Ask her, you, the reason!"

"'Tain't reason at all," he softly responded, "it's superstition. But hold on. Watch me." He gestured for the lover's attention and their eyes met. It made a number laugh, to see Hilary's stare gradually go senseless and then blaze with intelligence. Suddenly, joyfully, with every eye following his finger, he pointed into the gray man's face:

"Smellemout, you've got it!"

The man shook his head for denial, and his kindly twinkle commanded the belief of all. Not a glint in it showed that his next response, however well-meant, was to be a lie.

"Then Ketchem has it!" cried Kincaid.

The silent man let his smile mean yes, and the alert company applauded. "Go h-on with the weddingg!" ordered the superior Mandeville.

"Where's Adolphe?" cried Kincaid, and "On with the wedding!" clamored the lads of the battery, while Anna stood gazing on the gray man and wondering why she had not guessed this very thing.

"Yes," he quietly said to her, "it's all right. You'll have it back to-morrow. 'Twon't cut love if you don't."

At that the gay din redoubled, but Flora, with the little grandmother vainly gripping her arms, flashed between the two.

"Anna!" she cried, "I don't bil-ieve!"

Whether it was true or false Mandeville cared nothing, but--"Yes, 'tis true!" he cried in Flora's face, and then to the detective--"Doubtlezz to phot-ograph it that's all you want!"

The detective said little, but Anna assured Flora that was all. "He wants to show it at the trial!"

"Listen!" said Flora.

"Here's Captain Irby!" cried Mrs. Callender--Constance--half a dozen, but--

"Listen!" repeated Flora, and across the curtained veranda and in at the open windows, under the general clamor, came a soft palpitating rumble. Did Hilary hear it, too? He was calling:

"Adolphe, where's your man--the minister? Where in the--three parishes--?" and others were echoing, "The minister! where's the minister?"

Had they also caught the sound?

"Isn't he here?" asked Irby. He drew his watch.

"Half-hour slow!" cried Mandeville, reading it.

"But have you heard noth--?"

"Nothingg!" roared Mandeville.

"Where'd you leave him?" sharply asked Kincaid.

His cousin put on great dignity: "At his door, my dear sir, waiting for the cab I sent him."

"Oh, sent!" cried half the group. "Steve," called Kincaid, "your horse is fresh--"

"But, alas, without wings!" wailed the Creole, caught Hilary's shoulder and struck a harkening pose.

"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.

Thus Charlie Valcour found the company as suddenly he reappeared in it, pushing in to the main group where his leader stood eagerly engaged with Anna.

"All right, Captain!" He saluted: "All done!" But a fierce anxiety was on his brow and he gave no heed to Hilary's dismissing thanks: "Captain, what's 'too late'?" He turned, scowling, to his sister: "What are we too late for, Flo? Good God! not the wedding? Not your wedding, Miss Anna? It's not too late. By Jove, it sha'n't be too late."

All the boyish lawlessness of his nature rose into his eyes, and a boy's tears with it. "The minister!" he retorted to Constance and his grandmother, "the minister be--Oh, Captain, don't wait for him! Have the thing without a minister!"

The whole room was laughing, Hilary loudest, but the youth's voice prevailed. "It'll hold good!" He turned upon the detective: "Won't it?"

A merry nod was the reply, with cries of "Yes," "Yes," from the battery boys, and he clamored on:

"Why, there's a kind of people--"

"Quakers!" sang out some one.

"Yes, the Quakers! Don't they do it all the time! Of course they do!" With a smile in his wet eyes the lad wheeled upon Victorine: "Oh, by S'n' Peter! if that wa

s the only--"

But the small, compelling hand of the detective faced him round again and with a sudden swell of the general laugh he laughed too. "He's trying to behave like Captain Kincaid," one battery sister tried to tell another, whose attention was on a more interesting matter.

"Here!" the gray man was amiably saying to Charlie. "It's your advice that's too late. Look."

Before he had half spoken a hush so complete had fallen on the company that while every eye sought Hilary and Anna every ear was aware that out on the levee road the passing drums had ceased and the brass--as if purposely to taunt the theatrical spirit of Flora--had struck up The Ladies' Man. With military curtness Kincaid was addressing the score or so of new cannoneers:

"Corporal Valcour, this squad--no, keep your partners, but others please stand to the right and left--these men are under your command. When I presently send you from here you'll take them at a double-quick and close up with that regiment. I'll be at the train when you reach it. Captain Mandeville,"--he turned to the married pair, who were hurriedly scanning the license Miranda had just handed them,--"I adjure you as a true and faithful citizen and soldier, and you, madam, as well, to testify to us, all, whether that is or is not the license of court for the marriage of Anna Callender to Hilary Kincaid."

"It is!" eagerly proclaimed the pair.

"Hand it, please, to Charlie. Corporal, you and your men look it over."

"And now--" His eyes swept the throng. Anna's hand, trembling but ready, rose shoulder-high in his. He noted the varied expressions of face among the family servants hurriedly gathering in the doors, and the beautiful amaze of Flora, so genuine yet so well acted. Radiantly he met the flushed gaze of his speechless cousin. "If any one alive," he cried, "knows any cause why this thing should not be, let him now speak or forever hereafter hold his peace." He paused. Constance handed something to her husband.

"Oh, go on," murmured Charlie, and many smiled.

"Soldiers!" resumed the lover, "this fair godmother of your flag agrees that for all we two want just now Kincaid's Battery is minister enough. For all we want is--" Cheers stopped him.

"The prayer-book!" put in Mandeville, pushing it at him. The boys harkened again.

"No," said Kincaid, "time's too short. All we want is to bind ourselves, before Heaven and all mankind, in holy wedlock, for better, or worse, till death us do part. And this we here do in sight of you all, and in the name and sight and fear of God." He dropped his glance to Anna's: "Say Amen."

"Amen," said Anna. At the same moment in one of the doors stood a courier.

"All right!" called Hilary to him. "Tell your colonel we're coming! Just a second more, Captain Irby, if you please. Soldiers!--I, Hilary, take thee, Anna, to be my lawful wedded wife. And you--"

"I, Anna," she softly broke in, "take thee, Hilary, to be my--" She spoke the matter through, but he had not waited.

"Therefore!" he cried, "you men of Kincaid's Battery--and you, sir,--and you,"--nodding right and left to Mandeville and the detective,--"on this our solemn pledge to supply as soon as ever we can all form of law and social usage here omitted which can more fully solemnize this union--do now--"

Up went the detective's hand and then Mandeville's and all the boys', and all together said:

"Pronounce you man and wife."

"Go!" instantly rang Kincaid to Charlie, and in a sudden flutter of gauzes and clink of trappings, with wringing of soft fingers by hard ones, and in a tender clamor of bass and treble voices, away sprang every cannoneer to knapsacks and sabres in the hall, and down the outer stair into ranks and off under the stars at double-quick. Sisters of the battery, gliding out to the veranda rail, faintly saw and heard them a precious moment longer as they sped up the dusty road. Then Irby stepped quickly out, ran down the steps, mounted and galloped. A far rumble of wheels told the coming of two omnibuses chartered to bear the dancers all, with the Valcours and the detective, to their homes. Now out to the steps came Mandeville. His wife was with him and the maidens kindly went in. There the detective joined them. At a hall door Hilary was parting with Madame, Flora, Miranda. Anna was near him with Flora's arm about her in melting fondness. Now Constance rejoined the five, and now Hilary and Anna left the other four and passed slowly out to the garden stair alone.

Beneath them there, with welcoming notes, his lone horse trampled about the hitching-rail. Dropping his cap the master folded the bride's hands in his and pressed on them a long kiss. The pair looked deeply into each other's eyes. Her brow drooped and he laid a kiss on it also. "Now you must go," she murmured.

"My own beloved!" was his response. "My soul's mate!" He tried to draw her, but she held back.

"You must go," she repeated.

"Yes! kiss me and I fly." He tried once more to draw her close, but still in vain.

"No, dearest," she whispered, and trembled. Yet she clutched his imprisoning fingers and kissed them. He hugged her hands to his breast.

"Oh, Hilary," she added, "I wish I could! But--don't you know why I can't? Don't you see?"

"No, my treasure, not any more. Why, Anna, you're Anna Kincaid now. You're my wed'--"

Her start of distress stopped him short. "Don't call me that,--my--my own," she faltered.

"But if you are that--?"

"Oh, I am! thank God, I am! But don't name the name. It's too fearfully holy. We're married for an emergency, love, an awful crisis! which hasn't come to you yet, and may not come at all. When it does, so will I! in that name! and you shall call me by it!"

"Ah, if then you can come! But what do we know?"

"We know in whom we trust, Hilary; must, must, must trust, as we trust and must trust each other."

Still hanging to his hands she pushed them off at arm's-length: "Oh, my Hilary, my hero, my love, my life, my commander, go!" And yet she clung. She drew his fingers close down again and covered them with kisses, while twice, thrice, in solemn adoration, he laid his lips upon her heavy hair. Suddenly the two looked up. The omnibuses were here in the grove.

Here too was the old coachman, with the soldier's horse. The vehicles jogged near and halted. A troop of girls, with Flora, tripped out. And still, in their full view, with Flora closest, the bride's hands held the bridegroom's fast. He had neither the strength to pull free nor the wit to understand.

"What is it?" he softly asked, as the staring men waited and the girls about Flora hung back.

"Don't you know?" murmured Anna. "Don't you see--the--the difference?"

All at once he saw! Throwing away her hands he caught her head between his big palms. Her arms flew round his neck, her lips went to his, and for three heart-throbs they clung like bee and flower. Then he sprang down the stair, swung into the saddle, and fled after his men.

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