FLORA’S LAST THROW
Normal as cock-crowing seemed the antiphony to the common ear, which scarcely noticed the rareness of the indoor voice. But Greenleaf’s was not the common ear, nor was Flora Valcour’s.
To her that closing strain made the torture of inaction finally unbearable. Had Anna heard? Leaving Madame she moved to a hall door of the room where they sat. Was Anna’s blood surging like her own? It could not! Under what a tempest of conjectures she looked down and across the great hall to the closed and sentinelled door of that front drawing-room so rife with poignant recollections. There, she thought, was Anna. From within it, more faintly now, came those sounds of a mason at work which had seemed to ring with the song. But the song had ceased. About the hall highly gilded officers conferred alertly in pairs or threes, more or less in the way of younger ones who smartly crossed from room to room. Here came Greenleaf! Seeking her? No, he would have passed unaware, but her lips ventured his name.
Never had she seen such a look in his face as that with which he confronted her. Grief, consternation, discovery and wrath were all as one save that only the discovery and wrath meant her. She saw how for two days and nights he had been putting this and that and this and that and this and that together until he had guessed her out. Sternly in his eyes she perceived contumely withholding itself, yet even while she felt the done-for cry heave through her bosom, and the floor fail like a sinking deck, she clung to her stage part, babbled impromptu lines.
“Doctor Sevier—?” she began—
“He had to go.”
Again she read the soldier’s eyes. God! he was comparing her changed countenance—a fool could see he was!—with Anna’s! both smitten with affliction, but the abiding peace of truth in one, the abiding war of falsehood in the other. So would Kincaid do if he were here! But the stage waited: “Ah, Colonel, Anna! poor Anna!” Might not the compassion-wilted supplicant see the dear, dear prisoner? She rallied all her war-worn fairness with all her feminine art, and to her amazement, with a gleam of purpose yet without the softening of a lineament, he said yes, waved permission across to the guard and left her.
She passed the guard and knocked. Quietly in the room clinked the brick-mason’s work. He strongly hummed his tune. Now he spoke, as if to his helper, who seemed to be leaving him. Again she knocked, and bent her ear. The mason sang aloud:
“Some day dis worl’ come to
I don’t know how, I don’t know when—”
She turned the door-knob and murmured, “Anna!”
The bricklaying clinked, tapped and scraped on. The workman hummed again his last two lines.
“Who is it?” asked a feigned voice which she knew so instantly to be Kincaid’s that every beat of her heart jarred her frame.