“Stay,” said another voice, and at the small opening still left in the wall, lo! the face of Greenleaf and the upper line of his blue and gilt shoulders. His gaze was on Flora. She could do nothing but gaze again. “I know, now,” he continued, “your whole two-years’ business. Stay just as you are till I can come round and in. Every guard is doubled and has special orders.”
She dropped into a seat, staring like one demented, now at door and windows, now from one man to the other, now to the floor, while Kincaid sternly said, “Colonel Greenleaf, the reverence due from any soldier to any lady—” and Greenleaf interrupted—
“The lady may be sure of.”
“And about this, Fred, you’ll be—dumb?”
“Save only to one, Hilary.”
“Where is she, Fred?”
“On that boat, fancying herself disguised. Having you, we’re only too glad not to have her.”
The retaken prisoner shone with elation: “And those fellows of last night?—got them back?”
Greenleaf darkened, and shook his head.
“Hurrah,” quietly remarked the smiling Hilary.
“Wait a moment,” said the blue commander, and vanished.
“WHEN I HANDS IN MY CHECKS”
Kincaid glanced joyfully to Flora, but her horrified gaze held him speechless.
“Now,” she softly asked, “who is the helplezz—the cage’—the doom’? You ‘ave kill’ me.”
“I’ll save you! There’s good fighting yet, if—”
“H-oh! already, egcep’ inside me, I’m dead.”
“Not by half! There’s time for a last shot and I’ve seen it win!” He caught up the trowel, turned to his work and began to sing once more:
“When I hands in my checks, O, my
Mighty little I espec’s, O, my ladies—”
[Illustration: She dropped into a seat, staring like one demented.]
He ceased and listened. Certainly, somewhere, some one had moaned. Sounds throughout the house were growing, as if final orders had set many in motion at once. For some cause unrelated to him or to Anna, to Flora or the silent boat, bugles and drums were assembling the encamped brigade. Suddenly, not knowing why, he flashed round. Flora was within half a step of him with her right arm upthrown. He seized it, but vain was the sparring skill that had won at the willow pond. Her brow was on his breast, the knife was in her left hand, she struck with thrice her natural power, an evil chance favored her, and, hot as lightning, deep, deep, the steel plunged in. He gulped a great breath, his eyes flamed, but no cry came from him or her. With his big right hand crushing her slim fingers as they clung to the hilt, he dragged the weapon forth and hurled her off.
Before he could find speech she had regained her balance and amazed him yet again with a smile. The next instant she had lifted the dagger against herself, but he sprang and snatched it, exclaiming as he drew back:—