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      [257]To that Greenleaf agreed, and the subject was changed. With shipping ever on their left and cotton-yards and warehouses for tobacco and for salt on their right their horses' feet clinked leisurely over the cobble pavements, between thousands of cotton-bales headed upon the unsheltered wharves and only fewer thousands on the narrow sidewalks.

      Flora Valcour daily took both risks--with contagions in a field hospital hard by the cemetery, and with shells and stray balls when she fled at moments from the stinking wards to find good air and to commune with her heart's desires and designs. There was one hazard beside which foul air and stray shots were negligible, a siege within this siege. To be insured against the mere mathematical risk that those designs, thus far so fortunate, might by any least mishap, in the snap of a finger, come to naught she would have taken chances with the hugest shell Grant or Porter could send. For six weeks Anna and Hilary--Anna not knowing if he was alive, he thinking her fifty leagues away--had been right here, hardly an hour's walk asunder. With what tempest of heart did the severed pair rise at each dawn, lie down each night; but Flora suffered no less. Let either of the two get but one glimpse, hear but one word, of the other, and--better a shell, slay whom it might."Don't cry, Connie dear," she whispered, though stubborn drops were salting her own lips, "it will make it harder for Steve."

      She could not have denied herself the note of triumph if her life had depended upon it.

      "No!" was the too eager reply, "It's here in the morning paper." They read the item. The visitor flashed as she dropped the sheet.

      79 Melitta bent still lower to give the swing a stronger push. This loosened the gold clasp that fastened her dress at the neck, and the dainty dazzling shoulders appeared a moment.

      With tight lips the soldier drew breath. "You know my uncle expects now to be sent to Virginia at once?"



      Across the waters westward, where the lake's margin, black-rimmed with cypresses, lapsed into a watery horizon, and the sun was going down in melancholy splendor, ran unseen that northbound railway by which four years earlier they had set off for the war with ranks full and stately, with music in the air and with thousands waving them on. Now not a note, not a drum-tap, not a boast nor a jest illumined their return. In the last quarter-hour aboard, when every one was on the lower deck about the forward gangway, Hilary and Anna, having chanced to step up upon a coil of rope, found it easier, in the unconscious press, to stay there than to move on, and in keeping with his long habit as a leader he fell into a lively talk with those nearest him,--Sam and Charlie close in front, Bartleson and Mandeville just at his back,--to lighten the general heaviness. At every word his listeners multiplied, and presently, in a quiet but insistent tone, came calls for a "speech" and the "ladies' man."


      Then, with a swift change of manner, she raised her head still higher, and, with a spot of red on either cheek, said: