Leaving the gray man by the gun, Flora sprang near. Anna was enduring, with distracted smiles, the eager reasonings of Madame and Constance that the vanished trinket was but borrowed; a thief would have taken the jewels, they argued; but as Flora would have joined in, every line of Anna’s face suddenly confided to her a consternation whose cause the silenced Flora instantly mistook. “Ah, if you knew—!” Anna began, but ceased as if the lost relic stood for something incommunicable even to nearest and dearest.
“They’ve sworn their love on it!” was the thought of Flora and the detective in the same instant. It filled her veins with fury, yet her response was gentle and meditative. “To me,” she said, “it seemed such a good-for-nothing that even if I saw it is gone, me, I think I wouldn’ have take’ notice.” All at once she brightened: “Anna! without a doubt! without a doubt Captain Kincaid he has it!” About to add a caress, she was startled from it by a masculine voice that gayly echoed out in the hall:
“Without a doubt!”
The dance ceased and first the short, round body of Mandeville and then the tall form of Hilary Kincaid pushed into the room. “Without a doubt!” repeated Hilary, while Mandeville asked right, asked left, for Adolphe. “Without a doubt,” persisted the lover, “Captain Kincaid he has it!” and proffered Anna the law’s warrant for their marriage.
She pushed it away. Her words were so low that but few could hear. “The dagger!” she said. “Haven’t you got the dagger? You haven’t got it?”
FOR AN EMERGENCY
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.