But Flora was in a perilous strait. Surprised by Hilary’s voice, with the panel open and the knife laid momentarily in the recess that both hands might bring the jewels from the case, she had just closed the opening with the dagger inside when Greenleaf confronted her. Now, in this last instant of opportunity at his and Miranda’s back, should she only replace the weapon or still dare the theft? At any rate the panel must be reopened. But when she would have slid it her dainty fingers failed, failed, failed until a cold damp came to her brow and she trembled. Yet saunteringly she stepped to the show-case, glancing airily about. The servants had gone. She glided back, but turned to meet another footfall, possibly Kincaid’s, and felt her anger rise against her will as she confronted only the inadequate Irby. A sudden purpose filled her, and before he could speak:
“Go!” she said, “telegraph your uncle! instantly!”
“I’ve done so.”
Her anger mutinied again: “Without consult’—! And since when?”
She winced yet smiled: “And still—your cousin—he’s receive’ no order?” Her fingers tingled to maim some one—this dolt—anybody! Her eyes sweetened.
Irby spoke: “The order has come, but—”
“What! you have not given it?”
“Flora, it includes me! Ah, for one more evening with you I am risking—”
Her look grew fond though she made a gesture of despair: “Oh, short-sighted! Go, give it him! Go!”
Across the hall a prolonged carol of acclamation, confabulation, laughter, and cries of “Ah-r, indeed!” told that Anna’s word was out. “What difference,” Irby lingered to ask, “can an hour or two between trains—?”
But the throng was upon them. “We don’t know!” cried Flora. “Give it him! We don’t know!” and barely had time herself to force a light laugh when here were Charlie and Victorine, Hilary, Anna, Miranda, Madame, Constance, Mandeville, and twenty others.
“Fred!” called Hilary. His roaming look found the gray detective: “Where’s Captain Greenleaf?”
“With never a word of good-by? Oh, bless my soul, he did say good-by!” There was a general laugh. “But this won’t do. It’s not safe for him—”
The gray man gently explained that his younger associate was with Greenleaf as bodyguard. The music of harp and violins broke out and dancers swept round the brass gun and up and down the floors.
THE LICENSE, THE DAGGER
Hilary had bent an arm around Anna when Flora called his name. Irby handed him the order. A glance made it clear. Its reader cast a wide look over the heads of the dancers and lifting the missive high beckoned with it to Mandeville. Then he looked for some one else: “Charlie!”
“Out on the veranda,” said a passing dancer.