Almost below her breath she instantly replied, “I will not!” She stood at her full, beautiful height. “Together we go or together stay. List-en!—no-no, not for that.” (Meaning the gun.) In open anger she crimsoned again: “’Twill shoot, all right, and Anna, she’ll go. Yes, she will leave you. She can do that. And you, you can sen’ her away!”
He broke in with a laugh of superior knowledge and began to draw back, but she caught his jacket in both hands, still pouring forth,—“She has leave you—to me! me to you! My God! Hilary Kincaid, could she do that if she love’ you? She don’t! She knows not how—and neither you! But you, ah, you shall learn. She, she never can!” Through his jacket her knuckles felt the bare knife. Her heart leapt.
“Let go,” he growled, backing away and vainly disengaging now one of her hands and now the other. “My trowel’s too silent.”
But she clung and dragged, speaking on wildly: “You know, Hilary, you know? You love me. Oh, no-no-no, don’ look like that, I’m not crazee.” Her deft hands had got the knife, but she tossed it into the work-basket: “Ah, Hilary Kincaid, oft-en we love where we thing we do not, and oft-en thing we love where we do not—”
He would not hear: “Oh, Flora Valcour! You smother me in my own loathing—oh, God send that gun!” The four hands still strove.
“Hilary, list-en me yet a moment. See me. Flora Valcour. Could Flora Valcour do like this—ag-ains’ the whole nature of a woman—if she—?”
“Stop! stop! you shall not—”
“If she di’n’ know, di’n’ feel, di’n’ see, thad you are loving her?”
“Yet God knows I’ve never given cause, except as—”
“A ladies’ man?” prompted the girl and laughed.
The blood surged to his brow. A wilder agony was on hers as he held her from him, rigid; “Enough!” he cried; “We’re caged and doomed. Yet you still have this one moment to save us, all of us, from life-long shame and sorrow.”
She shook her head.
“Yes, yes,” he cried. “You can. I cannot. I’m helpless now and forever. What man or woman, if I could ever be so vile as to tell it, could believe the truth of this from me? In God’s name, then, go!” He tenderly thrust her off: “Go, live to honor, happiness and true love, and let me—”
“Ezcape, perchanze, to Anna?”
“Yes, if I—” He ceased in fresh surprise. Not because she toyed with the dagger lying on Anna’s needlework, for she seemed not to know she did it; but because of a strange brightness of assent as she nodded twice and again.
“I will go,” she said. Behind the brightness was the done-for look, plainer than ever, and with it yet another, a look of keen purpose, which the grandam would have understood. He saw her take the dirk, so grasping it as to hide it behind wrist and sleeve; but he said only, beseechingly, “Go!”