She may have intended but one look at the stars, but they and the spiced air were enchanting, and in confidence that no earthly eye was on her she tarried, gazing out to the farthest gleam of the river where it swung southward round the English Turn.
Down in the garden a mirthful ecstasy ran through all the blood of her culprit observer and he drank to her only with his eyes. Against the window’s brightness her dark outline showed true, and every smallest strand of her hair that played along the contours of brow and head changed his merriment to reverence and bade his heart recognize how infinitely distant from his was her thought. Hilary Kincaid! can you read no better than that?
Her thought was of him. Her mind’s eye saw him on his homeward ride. It marked the erectness of his frame, the gayety of his mien, the dance of his locks. By her inner ear she heard his horse’s tread passing up the narrow round-stone pavements of the Creole Quarter, presently to echo in old St. Peter Street under the windows of Pontalba Row—one of which was Flora’s. Would it ring straight on, or would it pause between that window and the orange and myrtle shades of Jackson Square? Constance had said that day to Miranda—for this star-gazer to overhear—that she did not believe Kincaid loved Flora, and the hearer had longed to ask her why, but knew she could not tell. Why is a man’s word. “They’re as helpless without it,” the muser recalled having very lately written on a secret page, “as women are before it. And yet a girl can be very hungry, at times, for a why. They say he’s as brave as a lion—why is he never brave to me?”
So futilely ended the strain on the remembered page, but while his unsuspected gaze abode on her lifted eyes her thought prolonged the note: “If he meant love to-night, why did he not stand to his meaning when I laughed it away? Was that for his friend’s sake, or is he only not brave enough to make one wild guess at me? Ah, I bless Heaven he’s the kind that cannot! And still—oh, Hilary Kincaid, if you were the girl and I the man! I shouldn’t be on my way home; I’d be down in this garden—.” She slowly withdrew.
Hilary, stepping back to keep her in sight, was suddenly aware of the family coachman close at his side. Together they moved warily a few steps farther.
“You mus’ escuse me, Cap’n,” the negro amiably whispered. “You all right, o’ co’se! Yit dese days, wid no white gen’leman apputtainin’ onto de place—”
“Old man!” panted Hilary, “you’ve saved my life!”
“Oh, my Lawd, no! Cap’n, I—”
“Yes, you have! I was just going into fits! Now step in and fetch me out here—” He shaped his arms fantastically and twiddled his fingers.
Bending with noiseless laughter the negro nodded and went.
Just within her window, Anna, still in reverie, sat down at a slender desk, unlocked a drawer, then a second one inside it, and drew forth—no mere secret page but—a whole diary! “To Anna, from Miranda, Christmas, 1860.” Slowly she took up a pen, as gradually laid it by again, and opposite various dates let her eyes rest on—not this, though it was still true: