“All day nothing but good luck, and at the end—this!” (the treasure chest).
But Flora kept silence.
“So, now,” said the aged one, “they will not make such a differenze, those old jewel’.”
“I will get them yet,” murmured the girl.
“You think? Me, I think no, you will never.”
The tease pricked once more: “Ah! all that
day I am thinking of that
Irbee. I am glad for Irbee. He is ‘the man that waits,’ that Irbee!”
The silent one winced; fiercely a piece of the shining ware was lifted high, but it sank again. The painted elder cringed. There may have been genuine peril, but the one hot sport in her fag end of a life was to play with this beautiful fire. She held the girl’s eye with a look of frightened admiration, murmuring, “You are a merveilleuse!”
“Yes, to feel that way and same time to be ab’e to smile like that!”
“Ah? how is that I’m feeling?”
“You are filling that all this, and all those jewel’ of Anna, and the life of me, and of that boy in yond’, you would give them all, juz’ to be ab’e to bil-ieve that foolishness of Anna—that he’s yet al-live, that Kin—”
The piece of plate half rose again, but—in part because the fair threatener could not help enjoying the subtlety of the case—the smile persisted as she rejoined, “Ah! when juz’ for the fun, all I can get the chance, I’m making her to bil-ieve that way!”
“Yes,” laughed the old woman, “but why? Only biccause that way you, you cannot bil-ieve.”
The lithe maiden arose to resume their task, the heavy silver still in her hand. The next moment the kneeling grandam crouched and the glittering metal swept around just high enough to miss her head. A tinkle of mirth came from its wielder as she moved on with it, sighing, “Ah! ho! what a pity—that so seldom the aged commit suicide.”
“Yes,” came the soft retort, “but for yo’ young grandmama tha’z not yet the time, she is still a so indispensib’.”
“Very true, ma chere,” sang Flora, “and in heaven you would be so uzeless.”
Out in the hazy, dark, heavily becalmed night the clock tolled eleven. Eleven—one—three—and all the hours, halves and quarters between and beyond, it tolled; and Flora, near, and Anna, far, sometimes each by her own open window, heard and counted. A thin old moon was dimly rising down the river when each began to think she caught another and very different sound that seemed to arrive faint from a long journey out of the southeast, if really from anywhere, and to pulse in dim persistency as soft as breathing, but as constant. Likely enough it was only the rumble of a remote storm and might have seemed to come out of the north or west had their windows looked that way, for still the tempestuous rains were frequent and everywhere, and it was easy and common for man to mistake God’s thunderings for his own.