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   Chapter 66 WHEN I HANDS IN MY CHECKS

Kincaid's Battery By George Washington Cable Characters: 4279

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03


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 ladies,

Mighty little I espec's, O, my ladies--"

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:--

"No, you sha'n't do that, either."

She strove after it. He held her off by an arm, but already his strength was failing. "My God!" he groaned, "it's you, Flora Valcour, who've killed me. Oh, how did--how did you--was it accid'--wasn't it accident? Fly!" He flung her loose. "For your life, fly! Oh, that gun! Oh, God send it! Fly! Oh, Anna, Anna Callender! Oh, your city, Flora Valcour, your own city! Fly, poor child! I'll keep up the sham for you!"

Starting now here, now there, Flora wavered as he reeled to the broken wall and seized the

trowel. The knife dropped to the floor but he set foot on it, brandished the tool and began to sing:

"When I hands in my checks, O, my ladies--"

A cry for help rang from Flora. She darted for the door but was met by Greenleaf. "Stay!" he repeated, and tone, hand, eye told her she was a prisoner. He halted aghast at the crimson on her hands and brow, on Hilary's, on Hilary's lips and on the floor, and himself called, "Help here! a surgeon! help!" while Kincaid faced him gaily, still singing:

"Mighty little I espec's, O, my ladies--"

Stooping to re-exchange the tool for the weapon, the singer went limp, swayed, and as Greenleaf sprang to him, toppled over, lengthened out and relaxed on the arm of his foe and friend. Wild-eyed, Flora swept to her knees beside him, her face and form all horror and affright, crying in a voice fervid and genuine as only truth can make it in the common run of us, "He di'n' mean! Oh, he di'n' mean! 'Twas all accident! He di'n' mean!"

"Yes, Fred," said Hilary. "She--she--mere accident, old man. Keep it mum." He turned a suffering brow to Flora: "You'll explain for me--when"--he gathered his strength--"when the--boat's gone."

The room had filled with officers asking "who, how, what?" "Did it himself, to cheat the gallows," Madame heard one answer another as by some fortune she was let in. She found Greenleaf chief in a group busy over the fallen man, who lay in Flora's arms, deadly pale, yet with a strong man's will in every lineament.

"Listen, Fred," he was gasping. "It'll sound. It's got to! Oh, it will! One minute, Doctor, please. My love and a city--Fred, can't some one look and see if--?"

From a lifted window curtain the young aide who had brought Anna to the house said, "Boat's off."

"Thank God!" panted Hilary. "Oh, Fred, Fred, my girl and all! Just a minute, Doctor,--there!"

A soft, heavy boom had rolled over the land. The pain-racked listener flamed for joy and half left the arms that held him: "Oh, Fred, wasn't that heaven's own music?" He tried to finish his song:

"But whaheveh I is sent, dey mus' undehstan'--"

and swooned.

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