There the girl’s gayety waned. The pair were at this moment in desperate need of money. Mandeville was one of the old coffee-planter’s descendants. Had fate been less vile, thought Flora, this house might have been his, and so hers in the happy event of his demise. But now, in such case, to Constance, as his widow, would be left even the leavings, the overseer’s cottage; which was one more convenient reason for detesting—not him, nor Constance—that would be to waste good ammunition; but—
“Still thinking of dear Anna?” asked the dame.
The maiden nodded: “Grandma”—a meditative pause—“I love Anna. Anna’s the only being on earth I can perfectly trust.”
“Ahem!” was the soft rejoinder, and the two smilingly held each other’s gaze for the larger part of a minute. Then one by one came in the ladies of the house, and it was kiss and chirrup and kiss again.
“Cousin Constance—ah, ha, ha!—cousin Flora!”
The five talked of the wedding. Just to think! ’Twas barely a month ago, they said.
Yet how much had occurred, pursued Miranda, and how many things hoped and longed for had not occurred, and how time had dragged! At those words Flora saw Anna’s glance steal over to Miranda. But Miranda did not observe, and the five chatted on. How terrifying, at still noon of the last Sabbath—everybody in church—had been that explosion of the powder-mill across the river. The whole business blown to dust. Nothing but the bare ground left. Happily no workmen there. No, not even a watchman, though the city was well known to be full of the enemy’s “minions” (Flora’s term). Amazing negligence, all agreed. Yet only of a piece—said Constance—etc.
And how sad to find there was a victim, after all, when poor, threadbare old Doctor Visionary, inventor of the machine-gun and a new kind of powder, began to be missed by his landlady, there being, in Captain Kincaid’s absence, no one else to miss him. Yes, it was the Captain who had got him a corner to work in at the powder-mill. So much the worse for both. Now plans, models, formulae, and inventor were gone in that one flash and roar that shook the whole city and stopped all talk of Captain Kincaid’s promotion as an earthquake stops a clock.
“Well,” cried Constance to Flora, who had grown silent, “the battery will love him all the more!”
“And so will we all!” said Madame, also to Flora; and Flora, throwing off a look of pain, explained to Anna, “He is so good to my brother!”
“Naturally,” quizzed Miranda, with her merriest wrinkles. Flora sparkled, made a pretty face at her and forced a change of theme; gave Anna’s roses new praise, and said she had been telling grandma of the swarms of them in the rear garden. So the old lady, whom she had told no such thing, let Constance and Miranda conduct her there. But Flora softly detained Anna, and the moment they were alone seized both her hands. Whereat through all Anna’s frame ran despair, crying, “He has asked her! He has asked her!”