“Oh, rest easy,” said the cheerful soldier, “mum’s the word. But, Miss Flora, tell me this: How on earth did she lose it?”
“Captain Kincaid, by the goodness of the heart!”
“But how did it go; was it—?”
“Blown up! Blown up with that poor old man in the powder-mill! Ah, what do we know about money, Captain Kincaid, we silly women? That poor, innocent child, she lent it to the old gentleman. His theories, they were so convincing, and she, she was so ambitious to do a great patriotic service. ’Twas to make wonders for the powder and gun, and to be return’ in three days. But that next day ’twas Sunday, and whiles I was kneeling in the church the powder, the gun, the old man and the money—”
Hilary gestured facetiously for the narrator: “That’s how millions have got to go in this business, and this driblet—why, I might have lent it, myself, if I’d been here! No, I’m the only loser, and—”
“Ah, Captain Kincaid, no, no! I implore you, no!—and for her sake! Oh, what are those few hundred for her to lose, if so she can only wipe that mistake? No, they shall be in the charge of that cashier before you’re at Virginia, and that shall be my first news written to my brother—though he’ll not comprehend except that he is to tell it you.”
So it was arranged and agreed. As again he moved to go she won a new pledge of unending secrecy, and Charlie came with a document. Beside the parlor lamp, where, with one tiny foot covertly unslippered for the easement of angry corns, Madame sat embroidering, Kincaid broke the seal and read. He forced a scowl, but through it glimmered a joy in which Flora discerned again the thought of Anna. “Charlie,” he said as a smile broke through, “prepare yourself.”
“Now, Captain, if those old imbeciles—”
The commander’s smile broadened: “Our battery, ladies and gentlemen, can’t go for a week.”
All laughed but Charlie. He swore at the top of his voice and threw himself from the room.
When his Captain had followed, Flora, standing and smiling, drew from her bosom a small, well-filled jewel-bag, balanced it on her uplifted palm and, rising to her toes, sang, “At last, at last, grace au ciel, money is easy!”
“Yet at the same time my gifted granddaughter,” remarked the old lady, in her native tongue and intent on her embroidery, “is uneasy, eh?”
Flora ignored the comment. She laid a second palm, on the upraised booty, made one whole revolution, her soft crinoline ballooning and subsiding with a seductive swish as she paused: “And you shall share these blessings, grannie, love, although of the assets themselves”—she returned the bag to its sanctuary and smoothed the waist where the paper proceeds of the schoolmistress’s gold still hid—“you shall never handle a dime.” She sparkled airily.
“No?” said Madame, still moving the needle and still in French. “Nevertheless, morning and evening together, our winnings are—how much?”