“She carried nothing but a message?”
“Nothing but a piece of writing—mine! Colonel, I tell you faithfully, whatever Major Kincaid broke prison with was not brought here yesterday by any one and was never in Victorine’s hands.”
“Nor in yours, either?” kindly asked Greenleaf.
Anna caught her breath and went redder than ever. Doctor Sevier stirred to speak, but Anna’s maid gave her a soft thrust, pointed behind the screen, and covered a bashful smile with her apron. Anna’s blush became one of mirth. Her eyes went now to the Doctor and again to the broken wall.
“Israel!” she laughed, “why do you enter—?”
“On’y fitten’ way, missie. House so full o’ comin’ and goin’, and me havin’ dis cullud man wid me.”
Out on the basement ladder, at the ragged gap of Israel’s “on’y fittin’ way,” was visible, to prove his word, another man’s head, white-turbaned like his own, and two dark limy hands passing in a pail of mortar. Welcome distraction. True, Greenleaf’s luckless question still stood unanswered, but just then an orderly summoned him to the busy generals and spoke aside to Doctor Sevier.
“Miss Valcour,” explained the Doctor to Anna.
“Oh, Doctor,” she pleaded, “I want to see her! Beg them, won’t you, to let her in?”
“NOW, MR. BRICK-MASON,—”
Amid the much coming and going that troubled Israel—tramp of spurred boots, clank of sabres, seeking, meeting and parting of couriers and aides—Madame Valcour, outwardly placid, inwardly terrified, found opportunity to warn her granddaughter, softly, that unless she, the granddaughter, could get that look of done-for agony out of her eyes, the sooner and farther they fled this whole issue, this fearful entanglement, the better for them.
But brave Flora, knowing the look was no longer in the eyes alone but had for days eaten into her visage as age had for decades into the grandam’s, made no vain effort to paint it out with smiles but accepted and wore it in show of a desperate solicitude for Anna. Yet this, too, was futile, and before Doctor Sevier had exchanged five words with her she saw that to him the make-up was palpable and would be so to Greenleaf. Poor Flora! She had wrestled her victims to the edge of a precipice, yet it was she who at this moment, this dazzling September morning, seemed doomed to go first over the brink. Had not both Hilary and Anna met again this Greenleaf and through him found answer for all their burning questions? She could not doubt her web of deceptions had been torn to shreds, cast to the winds. Not one of the three could she now hope to confront successfully, much less any two of them together. To name no earlier reason—having reached town just as Kincaid was being sent out of it, she had got him detained on a charge so frivolous that how to sustain it now before Greenleaf and his generals she was tortured to contrive.