Gently she came and took her rescuer’s hands: “Dear child! If—if while there was yet time—I had only got a certain word to—him—you know? But, ah, me! I keep it idle yet; a secret, Victorine, a secret worth our three lives! oh, three times three hundred lives! Even now—”
“Give it me, Anna! Give it! Give it me, that sick-rate! I’ll take it him!”
Anna shook her head: “Ah, if you could—in time! Or even—even without him, letting him go, if just you and I—Come!” They walked to and fro in embrace: “Dear, our front drawing-room, so ruined, you know, by that shell, last year—”
“Ah, the front? no! The behine, yes, with those two hole’ of the shell and with thad beegue hole in the floor where it cadge fiah.”
“Victorine, I could go—with you—in that boat, if only I could be for one minute in that old empty front room alone.”
Victorine halted and sadly tossed a hand: “Ah! h-amptee, yes, both the front and the back—till yes-the-day! This morning, the front, no! Juz’ sinze laz’ week they ‘ave brick’ up bitwin them cloze by that burned hole, to make of the front an office, and now the front ’t is o’cupy!”
“Oh, not as an office, I hope?”
“Worse! The worse that can be! They ‘ave stop’ five prisoner’ from the boat and put them yondeh. Since an hour Col-on-el Grinleaf he tol’ me that—and she’s ad the bottom, that Flora! Bicause—” The speaker gazed. Anna was all joy.
“Because what?” demanded Anna, “because Hil—?”
“Yaas! bicause he’s one of them! Ringgleadeh! I dunno, me, what is that, but tha’z what he’s accuse’—ringg-leadingg!”
Still the oblivious Anna was glad. “It is Flora’s doing,” she gratefully cried. “She’s done it! done it for us and our cause!”
“Ah-h! not if she know herseff!”
Anna laughed the discussion down: “Come, dear, come! the whole thing opens to me clear and wide!”
Not so clear or wide as she thought. True, the suffering Flora was doing this, in desperate haste; but not for Anna, if she knew herself. Yet when Anna, in equal haste, made a certain minute, lengthy writing and, assisted by that unshaken devotee, her maid, and by Victorine, baked five small cakes most laughably alike (with the writing in ore) and laid them beside some plainer food in a pretty basket, the way still seemed wide enough for patriotism.
Now if some one would but grant Victorine leave to bestow this basket! As she left Anna she gave her pledge to seek this favor of any one else rather than of Greenleaf; which pledge she promptly broke, with a success that fully reassured her cheerful conscience.
“Happiest man in New Orleans!”
So called himself, to Colonel Greenleaf, the large, dingy-gray, lively-eyed Major Kincaid, at the sentinelled door of the room where he and his four wan fellows, snatched back from liberty on the eve of release, were prisoners in plain view of the vessel on which they were to have gone free.