“Dear,” slowly said Anna, “I don’t believe it was his. It would not have been in gold. Some men of the battery were here last evening—You know the Abolition schoolmistress who was sent North that day?”
“Yes, I know, ’twas hers.”
“Well, dear, if she could entrust it to him—”
“Ah! she had a sort of right, being, as the whole battery knows, in love with him”—the beauty swept a finger across her perfect brows—“up to there! For that I don’t know is he to blame. If a girl has no more sense—”
“No,” murmured Anna as the cruel shaft went through her. “What did Charlie do with the money?”
Flora tossed a despairing hand: “Gave it to grandma! And poor innocent grandma lent it to the old gentleman! ’Twas to do wonders for the powder and gun, and be return’ in three days. But the next—”
“I see,” sighed Anna, “I see!”
“Yes, next day ’twas Sunday, and whiles I was kneeling in the church the powder, the gun, the old man and the money—Oh, Anna, what shall I do?”
“My dear, I will tell you,” began Anna, but the seeker of advice was not quite ready for it.
“We have a few paltry things, of course,” she spoke on, “but barely would they pay half. They would neither save our honor, neither leave us anything for rent or bread! Our house, to be sure, is worth more than we have borrowed on it, but in the meantime—”
“In the meantime, dear, you shall—” But still Flora persisted:
“Any day, any hour, Captain Kincaid may return. Oh, if ’twere anybody in this worl’ but him! For, Anna, I must take all the blame—all!” The face went again into the hands.
“My dear, you shall take none. You shall hand him every dollar, every picayune, on sight.”
“Ah, how is that possible? Oh, no, no, no. Use your money? Never, never, never!”
“It isn’t money, Flora. And no one shall ever know. I’ve got some old family jewellery—”
“Family—Oh, sweet, for shame!”
“No shame whatever. There’s a great lot of it—kinds that will never be worn again. Let me—” The speaker rose.
“No, no, no! No, Anna, no! For Heaven’s sake—”
“Just a piece or two,” insisted Anna. “Barely enough to borrow the amount.” She backed away, Flora clinging to her fingers and faltering: “No, blessed angel, you must not! No, I will not wait. I’ll—I’ll—”
But Anna kissed the clinging hands and vanished.
A high elation bore her quite to her room and remained with her until she had unlocked the mass of old jewels and knelt before them. But then all at once it left her. She laid her folded hands upon them, bent her brow to the hands, then lifted brow and weeping eyes and whispered to Heaven for mercy.