Part 2 out of 6
"Shall I always drag along so far behind him?" she said. "Shall I never
rise to him, save in the moods of an hour?"
She began suddenly to realize what the man's going away meant--that she
might not see him again for weeks, months, even a year. For was it at
all likely that he could succeed in what he had undertaken?
"Why did I let him go?" she cried. "Oh, fool, fool, to let him go!" But
even as she said it she knew that she could not have held him back.
She began to be afraid, not for him, but of herself. He had taught her
what it might be to love. For the first time love's premonitory
thrill--promise of unspeakable, uncomprehended mysteries--had wrung her,
and the echo of that thrill stirred in her yet; but what might not
happen in his long absence? She was afraid of that critical and
analyzing power of mind which she had so long trained to attack all that
came to her. What might it not work with the new thing that had come? To
what pitiful shreds might it not be rent while he who only could renew
it was away? She looked ahead at the weeks and months to come, and she
was terribly afraid.
She went out of the room and up to her grandfather's chamber and knocked
there. The admirable Peters, who opened to her, said that his master had
not been very well, and was just then asleep, but as they spoke together
in low tones the old gentleman cried, testily, from within:
"Well? Well? Who's there? Who wants to see me? Who is it?"
Miss Benham went into the dim, shaded room, and when old David saw who
it was he sank back upon his pillows with a pacified growl. He certainly
looked ill, and he had grown thinner and whiter within the past month,
and the lines in his waxlike face seemed to be deeper scored.
The girl went up beside the bed and stood there a moment, after she had
bent over and kissed her grandfather's cheek, stroking with her hand the
absurdly gorgeous mandarin's jacket--an imperial yellow one this time.
"Isn't this new?" she asked. "I seem never to have seen this one before.
It's quite wonderful."
The old gentleman looked down at it with the pride of a little girl over
her first party frock. He came as near simpering as a fierce person of
eighty-six, with a square white beard, can come.
"Rather good--what? What?" said he. "Yes, it's new. De Vries sent it me.
It is my best one. Imperial yellow. Did you notice the little Show
medallions with the swastika? Young Ste. Marie was here this afternoon."
He introduced the name with no pause or change of expression, as if Ste.
Marie were a part of the decoration of the mandarin's jacket. "I told
him he was a damned fool."
"Yes," said Miss Benham, "I know. He said you did. I suppose," she said,
"that in a sort of very informal fashion I am engaged to him. Well, no,
perhaps not quite that; but he seems to consider himself engaged to me,
and when he has finished something very important that he has undertaken
to do he is coming to ask me definitely to marry him. No, I suppose we
aren't engaged yet; at least, I'm not. But it's almost the same, because
I suppose I shall accept him whether he fails or succeeds in what he is
"If he fails in it, whatever it may be," said old David, "he won't give
you a chance to accept him; he won't come back. I know him well enough
for that. He's a romantic fool, but he's a thoroughgoing fool. He plays
the game." The old man looked up to his granddaughter, scowling a
little. "You two are absurdly unsuited to each other," said he, "and I
told Ste. Marie so. I suppose you think you're in love with him."
"Yes," said the girl, "I suppose I do."
"Idleness and all? You were rather severe on idleness at one time."
"He isn't idle any more," said she. "He has undertaken--of his own
accord--to find Arthur. He has some theory about it; and he is not going
to see me again until he has succeeded--or until a year is past. If he
fails, I fancy he won't come back."
Old David gave a sudden hoarse exclamation, and his withered hands shook
and stirred before him. Afterward he fell to half-inarticulate
"The young romantic fool!--Don Quixote--like all the rest of them--those
Ste. Maries. The fool and the angels. The angels and the fool."
The girl distinguished words from time to time. For the most part, he
mumbled under his breath. But when he had been silent a long time, he
"It would be ridiculously like him to succeed."
The girl gave a little sigh.
"I wish I dared hope for it," said she. "I wish I dared hope for it."
She had left a book that she wanted in the drawing-room, and, when
presently her grandfather fell asleep in his fitful manner, she went
down after it. In crossing the hall she came upon Captain Stewart, who
was dressed for the street and had his hat and stick in his hands. He
did not live in his father's house, for he had a little flat in the rue
du Faubourg St. Honore, but he was in and out a good deal. He paused
when he saw his niece, and smiled upon her a benignant smile which she
rather disliked, because she disliked benignant people. The two really
saw very little of each other, though Captain Stewart often sat for
hours together with his sister, up in a little boudoir which she had
furnished in the execrable taste which to her meant comfort, while that
timid and colorless lady embroidered strange tea cloths with stranger
flora, and prattled about the heathen, in whom she had an academic
He said: "Ah, my dear! It's you?"
Indisputably it was, and there seemed to be no use of denying it, so
Miss Benham said nothing, but waited for the man to go on if he had more
"I dropped in," he continued, "to see my father, but they told me he was
asleep, and so I didn't disturb him. I talked a little while with your
"I have just come from him," said Miss Benham. "He dozed off again as I
left. Still, if you had anything in particular to tell him, he'd be glad
to be wakened, I fancy. There's no news?"
"No," said Captain Stewart, sadly--"no, nothing. I do not give up hope,
but I am, I confess, a little discouraged."
"We are all that, I should think," said Miss Benham, briefly.
She gave him a little nod and turned away into the drawing-room. Her
uncle's peculiar dry manner irritated her at times beyond bearing, and
she felt that this was one of the times. She had never had any reason
for doubting that he Was a good and kindly soul, but she disliked him
because he bored her. Her mother bored her, too--the poor woman bored
everybody--but the sense of filial obligation was strong enough in the
girl to prevent her from acknowledging this even to herself. In regard
to her uncle she had no sense of obligation whatever, except to be as
civil to him as possible, and so she kept out of his way. She heard the
heavy front door close, and gave a little sigh of relief.
"If he had come in here and tried to talk to me," she said, "I should
* * * * *
Meanwhile Ste. Marie, a man moving in a dream, uplifted,
cloud-enwrapped, made his way homeward. He walked all the long
distance--that is, looking backward upon it, later, he thought he must
have walked, but the half-hour was a blank to him, an indeterminate, a
chaotic whirl of things and emotions.
In the little flat in the rue d'Assas he came upon Richard Hartley, who,
having found the door unlocked and the master of the place absent, had
sat comfortably down, with a pipe and a stack of _Couriers Francais_, to
wait. Ste. Marie burst into the doorway of the room where his friend sat
at ease. Hat, gloves, and stick fell away from him in a sort of shower.
He extended his arms high in the air. His face was, as it were,
luminous. The Englishman regarded him morosely. He said:
"You look as if somebody had died and left you money. What the devil you
looking like that for?"
"He!" cried Ste. Marie, in a great voice. "He, the world is mine!
Embrace me, my infant! Sacred name of a pig, why do you sit there?
He began to stride about the room, his head between his hands. Speech
lofty and ridiculous burst from him in a sort of splutter of fireworks,
but the Englishman sat still in his chair, and a gray, bleak look came
upon him, for he began to understand. He was more or less used to these
outbursts, and he bore them as patiently as he could, but though seven
times out of the ten they were no more than spasms of pure joy of
living, and meant, "It's a fine spring day," or "I've just seen two
beautiful princesses of milliners in the street," an inner voice told
him that this time it meant another thing. Quite suddenly he realized
that he had been waiting for this--bracing himself against its
onslaught. He had not been altogether blind through the past month. Ste.
Marie seized him and dragged him from his chair.
"Dance, lump of flesh! Dance, sacred English rosbif that you are! Sing,
gros polisson! Sing!" Abruptly, as usual, the mania departed from him,
but not the glory; his eyes shone bright and triumphant. "Ah, my old,"
said he, "I am near the stars at last. My feet are on the top rungs of
the ladder. Tell me that you are glad!"
The Englishman drew a long breath.
"I take it," said he, "that means that you're--that she has accepted
you, eh?" He held out his hand. He was a brave and honest man. Even in
pain he was incapable of jealousy. He said: "I ought to want to murder
you, but I don't. I congratulate you. You're an undeserving beggar, but
so were the rest of us. It was an open field, and you've won quite
honestly. My best wishes!"
Then at last Ste. Marie understood, and in a flash the glory went out of
his face. He cried: "Ah, mon cher ami! Pig that I am to forget. Pig!
The other man saw that tears had sprung to his eyes, and was horribly
embarrassed to the very bottom of his good British soul.
"Yes! Yes!" he said, gruffly. "Quite so, quite so! No consequence!" He
dragged his hands away from Ste. Marie's grasp, stuck them in his
pockets, and turned to the window beside which he had been sitting. It
looked out over the sweet green peace of the Luxembourg Gardens, with
their winding paths and their clumps of trees and shrubbery, their
flaming flower-beds, their groups of weather-stained sculpture. A youth
in laborer's corduroys and an unclean beret strolled along under the
high palings; one arm was about the ample waist of a woman somewhat the
youth's senior, but, as ever, love was blind. The youth carolled in a
high, clear voice, "Vous etes si jolie," a song of abundant sentiment,
and the woman put up one hand and patted his cheek. So they strolled on
and turned up into the rue Vavin.
Ste. Marie, across the room, looked at his friend's square back, and
knew that in his silent way the man was suffering. A great sadness, the
recoil from his trembling heights of bliss, came upon him and enveloped
him. Was it true that one man's joy must inevitably be another's pain?
He tried to imagine himself in Hartley's place, Hartley in his, and he
gave a little shiver. He knew that if that bouleversement were actually
to take place he would be as glad for his friend's sake as poor Hartley
was now for his, but he knew also that the smile of congratulation would
be a grimace of almost intolerable pain, and so he knew what Hartley's
black hour must be like.
"You must forgive me," he said. "I had forgotten. I don't know why.
Well, yes, happiness is a very selfish state of mind, I suppose. One
thinks of nothing but one's self--and one other. I--during this past
month I've been in the clouds. You must forgive me."
The Englishman turned back into the room. Ste. Marie saw that his face
was as completely devoid of expression as it usually was, that his
hands, when he chose and lighted a cigarette, were quite steady, and he
marvelled. That would have been impossible for him under such
"She has accepted you, I take it?" said Hartley again.
"Not quite that," said he. "Sit down and I'll tell you about it." So he
told him about his hour with Miss Benham, and about what had been agreed
upon between them, and about what he had undertaken to do. "Apart from
wishing to do everything in this world that I can do to make her happy,"
he said--"and she will never be at peace again until she knows the truth
about her brother--apart from that, I'm purely selfish in the thing.
I've got to win her respect, as well as--the rest. I want her to respect
me, and she has never quite done that. I'm an idler. So are you, but you
have a perfectly good excuse. I have not. I've been an idler because it
suited me, because nothing turned up, and because I have enough to eat
without working for my living. I know how she has felt about all that.
Well, she shall feel it no longer."
"You're taking on a big order," said the other man.
"The bigger the better," said Ste. Marie. "And I shall succeed in it or
never see her again. I've sworn that."
The odd look of exaltation that Miss Benham had seen in his face, the
look of knightly fervor, came there again, and Hartley saw it, and knew
that the man was stirred by no transient whim. Oddly enough he thought,
as had the girl earlier in the day, of those elder Ste. Maries, who had
taken sword and lance and gone out into a strange world--a place of
unknown terrors--afire for the Great Adventure. And this was one of
"I'm afraid you don't realize," he went on, "the difficulties you've got
to face. Better men than you have failed over this thing, you know."
"A worse might nevertheless succeed," said Ste. Marie. And the other
"Yes. Oh yes. And there's always luck to be considered, of course. You
might stumble on some trace." He threw away his cigarette and lighted
another, and he smoked it down almost to the end before he spoke. At
last he said: "I want to tell you something. The reason why I want to
tell it comes a little later. A few weeks before you returned to Paris I
asked Miss Benham to marry me."
Ste. Marie looked up with a quick sympathy. "Ah," said he. "I have
sometimes thought--wondered. I have wondered if it went as far as that.
Of course, I could see that you had known her well, though you seldom go
"Yes," said Hartley, "it went as far as that, but no farther. She--well,
she didn't care for me--not in that way. So I stiffened my back and shut
my mouth, and got used to the fact that what I'd hoped for was
impossible. And now comes the reason for telling you what I've told. I
want you to let me help you in what you're going to do--if you think you
can, that is. Remember, I--cared for her, too. I'd like to do something
for her. It would never have occurred to me to do this until you thought
of it, but I should like very much to lend a hand--do some of the work.
D'you think you could let me in?"
Ste. Marie stared at him in open astonishment, and, for an instant,
something like dismay.
"Yes, yes! I know what you're thinking," said the Englishman. "You'd
hoped to do it all yourself. It's _your_ game. I know. Well, it's your
game even if you let me come in. I'm just a helper. Some one to run
errands. Some one, perhaps, to take counsel with now and then. Look at
it on the practical side. Two heads are certainly better than one.
Certainly I could be of use to you. And besides--well, I want to do
something for her. I--cared, too, you see. D'you think you could take me
It was the man's love that made his appeal irresistible. No one could
appeal to Ste. Marie on that score in vain. It was true that he had
hoped to work alone--to win or lose alone; to stand, in this matter,
quite on his own feet; but he could not deny the man who had loved her
and lost her. Ste. Marie thrust out his hand.
"You love her, too!" he said. "That is enough. We work together. I have
a possibly foolish idea that if we can find a certain man we will learn
something about Arthur Benham. I'll tell you about it."
But before he could begin the door-bell jangled.
* * * * *
CAPTAIN STEWART MAKES A KINDLY OFFER
Ste. Marie scowled.
"A caller would come singularly malapropos just now," said he. "I've
half a mind not to go to the door. I want to talk this thing over with
"Whoever it is," objected Hartley, "has been told by the concierge that
you're at home. It may not be a caller, anyhow. It may be a parcel or
something. You'd best go."
So Ste. Marie went out into the little passage, blaspheming fluently the
while. The Englishman heard him open the outer door of the flat. He
heard him exclaim, in great surprise:
"Ah, Captain Stewart! A great pleasure! Come in! Come in!"
And he permitted himself a little blaspheming on his own account, for
the visitor, as Ste. Marie had said, came most malapropos, and, besides,
he disliked Miss Benham's uncle. He heard the American say:
"I have been hoping for some weeks to give myself the pleasure of
calling here, and to-day such an excellent pretext presented itself that
I came straightaway."
Hartley heard him emit his mewing little laugh, and heard him say, with
the elephantine archness affected by certain dry and middle-aged
"I come with congratulations. My niece has told me all about it. Lucky
young man! Ah--"
He reached the door of the inner room and saw Richard Hartley standing
by the window, and he began to apologize profusely, saying that he had
had no idea that Ste. Marie was not alone. But Ste. Marie said:
"It doesn't in the least matter. I have no secrets from Hartley. Indeed,
I have just been talking with him about this very thing."
But for all that he looked curiously at the elder man, and it struck him
as very odd that Miss Benham should have gone straight to her uncle and
told him all this. It did not seem in the least like her, especially as
he knew the two were on no terms of intimacy. He decided that she must
have gone up to her grandfather's room to discuss it with that old
gentleman--a reasonable enough hypothesis--and that Captain Stewart must
have come in during the discussion. Quite evidently he had wasted no
time in setting out upon his errand of congratulation.
"Then," said Captain Stewart, "if I am to be good-naturedly forgiven for
my stupidity, let me go on and say, in my capacity as a member of the
family, that the news pleased me very much. I was glad to hear it."
He shook Ste. Marie's hand, looking very benignant indeed, and Ste.
Marie was quite overcome with pleasure and gratitude; it seemed to him
such a very kindly act in the elder man. He produced things to smoke and
drink, and Captain Stewart accepted a cigarette and mixed himself a
rather stiff glass of absinthe--it was between five and six o'clock.
"And now," said he, when he was at ease in the most comfortable of the
low cane chairs, and the glass of opalescent liquor was properly curdled
and set at hand--"now, having congratulated you and--ah, welcomed you,
if I may put it so, as a probable future member of the family--I turn to
the other feature of the affair."
He had an odd trick of lowering his head and gazing benevolently upon an
auditor as if over the top of spectacles. It was one of his elderly
ways. He beamed now upon Ste. Marie in this manner, and, after a moment,
turned and beamed upon Richard Hartley, who gazed stolidly back at him
"You have determined, I hear," said he, "to join us in our search for
poor Arthur. Good! Good! I welcome you there, also."
Ste. Marie stirred uneasily in his chair.
"Well," said he, "in a sense, yes. That is, I've determined to devote
myself to the search, and Hartley is good enough to offer to go in with
me; but I think, if you don't mind--of course, I know it's very
presumptuous and doubtless idiotic of us--but, if you don't mind, I
think we'll work independently. You see--well, I can't quite put it into
words, but it's our idea to succeed or fail quite by our own efforts. I
dare say we shall fail, but it won't be for lack of trying."
Captain Stewart looked disappointed.
"Oh, I think--" said he. "Pardon me for saying it, but I think you're
rather foolish to do that." He waved an apologetic hand. "Of course, I
comprehend your excellent motive. Yes, as you say, you want to succeed
quite on your own. But look at the practical side! You'll have to go
over all the weary weeks of useless labor we have gone over. We could
save you that. We have examined and followed up, and at last given over,
a hundred clews that on the surface looked quite possible of success.
You'll be doing that all over again. In short, my dear friend, you will
merely be following along a couple of months behind us. It seems to me a
pity. I sha'n't like to see you wasting your time and efforts."
He dropped his eyes to the glass of Pernod which stood beside him, and
he took it in his hand and turned it slowly and watched the light gleam
in strange pearl colors upon it. He glanced up again with a little smile
which the two younger men found oddly pathetic.
"I should like to see you succeed," said Captain Stewart. "I like to see
youth and courage and high hope succeed." He said: "I am past the age of
romance, though I am not so very old in years. Romance has passed me by,
but--I love it still. It still stirs me surprisingly when I see it in
other people--young people who are simple and earnest, and who--and who
are in love." He laughed gently, still turning the glass in his hand. "I
am afraid you will call me a sentimentalist," he said, "and an elderly
sentimentalist is, as a rule, a ridiculous person. Ridiculous or not,
though, I have rather set my heart on your success in this undertaking.
Who knows? You may succeed where we others have failed. Youth has such a
way of charging in and carrying all before it by assault--such a way of
overleaping barriers that look unsurmountable to older eyes! Youth!
Youth! Eh, my God," said he, "to be young again, just for a little
while! To feel the blood beat strong and eager! Never to be tired! Eh,
to be like one of you youngsters! You, Ste. Marie, or you, Hartley!
There's so little left for people when youth is gone!"
He bent his head again, staring down upon the glass before him, and for
a while there was a silence which neither of the younger men cared to
"Don't refuse a helping hand," said Captain Stewart, looking up once
more. "Don't be over-proud. I may be able to set you upon the right
path. Not that I have anything definite to work upon--I haven't, alas!
But each day new clews turn up. One day we shall find the real one, and
that may be one that I have turned over to you to follow out. One never
Ste. Marie looked across at Richard Hartley, but that gentleman was
blowing smoke-rings and to all outward appearance giving them his entire
attention. He looked back to Captain Stewart, and Stewart's eyes
regarded him, smiling a little wistfully, he thought. Ste. Marie scowled
out of the window at the trees of the Luxembourg Gardens.
"I hardly know," said he. "Of course, I sound a braying ass in
hesitating even a moment; but, in a way, you understand, I'm so anxious
to do this or to fail in it quite on my own. You're--so tremendously
kind about it that I don't know what to say. I must seem very
ungrateful, I know; but I'm not."
"No," said the elder man, "you don't seem ungrateful at all. I
understand exactly how you feel about it, and I applaud your
feeling--but not your judgment. I am afraid that for the sake of a
sentiment you're taking unnecessary risks of failure."
For the first time Richard Hartley spoke.
"I've an idea, you know," said he, "that it's going to be a matter
chiefly of luck. One day somebody will stumble on the right trail, and
that might as well be Ste. Marie or I as your trained detectives. If you
don't mind my saying so, sir--I don't want to seem rude--your trained
detectives do not seem to accomplish much in two months, do they?"
Captain Stewart looked thoughtfully at the younger man.
"No," he said, at last. "I am sorry to say they don't seem to have
accomplished much--except to prove that there are a great many places
poor Arthur has _not_ been to and a great many people who have _not_
seen him. After all, that is something--the elimination of ground that
need not be worked over again." He set down the glass from which he had
been drinking. "I cannot agree with your theory," he said. "I cannot
agree that such work as this is best left to an accidental solution.
Accidents are too rare. We have tried to go at it in as scientific a way
as could be managed--by covering large areas of territory, by keeping
the police everywhere on the alert, by watching the boy's old friends
and searching his favorite haunts. Personally, I am inclined to think
that he managed to slip away to America very early in the course of
events, before we began to search for him, and, of course, I am having a
careful watch kept there as well as here. But no trace has appeared as
yet--nothing at all trustworthy. Meanwhile, I continue to hope and to
work, but I grow a little discouraged. In any case, though, we shall
hear of him in three months more if he is alive."
"Why three months?" asked Ste. Marie. "What do you mean by that?"
"In three months," said Captain Stewart, "Arthur will be of age, and he
can demand the money left him by his father. If he is alive he will turn
up for that. I have thought, from the first, that he is merely hiding
somewhere until this time should be past. He--you must know that he went
away very angry, after a quarrel with his grandfather? My father is not
a patient man. He may have been very harsh with the boy."
"Ah, yes," said Hartley; "but no boy, however young or angry, would be
foolish enough to risk an absolute break with the man who is going to
leave him a large fortune. Young Benham must know that his grandfather
would never forgive him for staying away all this time if he stayed away
of his own accord. He must know that he'd be taking tremendous risks of
being cut off altogether."
"And besides," added Ste. Marie, "it is quite possible that your father,
sir, may die at any time--any hour. And he's very angry at his grandson.
He may have cut him off already."
Captain Stewart's eyes sharpened suddenly, but he dropped them to the
glass in his hand.
"Have you any reason for thinking that?" he asked.
"No," said Ste. Marie. "I beg your pardon. I shouldn't have said it.
That is a matter which concerns your family alone. I forgot myself. The
possibility occurred to me suddenly for the first time."
But the elder man looked up at him with a smile.
"Pray don't apologize," said he. "Surely we three can speak frankly
together! And, frankly, I know nothing of my father's will. But I don't
think he would cut poor Arthur off, though he is, of course, very angry
about the boy's leaving in the manner he did. No, I am sure he wouldn't
cut him off. He was fond of the lad, very fond--as we all were."
Captain Stewart glanced at his watch and rose with a little sigh.
"I must be off," said he. "I have to dine out this evening, and I must
get home to change. There is a cabstand near you?" He looked out of the
window. "Ah, yes! Just at the corner of the Gardens."
He turned about to Ste. Marie, and held out his hand with a smile. He
"You refuse to join forces with us, then? Well, I'm sorry. But, for all
that, I wish you luck. Go your own way, and I hope you'll succeed. I
honestly hope that, even though your success may show me up for an
He gave a little kindly laugh, and Ste. Marie tried to protest.
"Still," said the elder man, "don't throw me over altogether. If I can
help you in any way, little or big, let me know. If I can give you any
hints, any advice, anything at all, I want to do it. And if you happen
upon what seems to be a promising clew come and talk it over with me.
Oh, don't be afraid! I'll leave it to you to work out. I sha'n't spoil
"Ah, now, that's very good of you," said Ste. Marie. "Only you make me
seem more than ever an ungrateful fool. Thanks, I will come to you with
my troubles if I may. I have a foolish idea that I want to follow out a
little first, but doubtless I shall be running to you soon for
The elder man's eyes sharpened again with keen interest.
"An idea!" he said, quickly. "You have an idea? What--May I ask what
sort of an idea?"
"Oh, it's nothing," declared Ste. Marie. "You have already laughed at
it. I just want to find that man O'Hara, that's all. I've a feeling that
I should learn something from him."
"Ah!" said Captain Stewart, slowly. "Yes, the man O'Hara. There's
nothing in that, I'm afraid. I've made inquiries about O'Hara. It seems
he left Paris six months ago, saying he was off for America. An old
friend of his told me that. So you must have been mistaken when you
thought you saw him in the Champs-Elysees; and he couldn't very well
have had anything to do with poor Arthur. I'm afraid that idea is hardly
worth following up."
"Perhaps not," said Ste. Marie. "I seem to start badly, don't I? Ah,
well, I'll have to come to you all the sooner, then."
"You'll be welcome," promised Captain Stewart. "Good-bye to you!
Good-day, Hartley. Come and see me, both of you. You know where I live."
He took his leave then, and Hartley, standing beside the window, watched
him turn down the street, and at the corner get into one of the fiacres
there and drive away.
Ste. Marie laughed aloud.
"There's the second time," said he, "that I've had him about O'Hara. If
he is as careless as that about everything, I don't wonder he hasn't
found Arthur Benham. O'Hara disappeared from Paris--publicly, that
is--at about the time young Benham disappeared. As a matter of fact, he
remains, or at least for a time remained, in the city without letting
his friends know, because I made no mistake about seeing him in the
Champs-Elysees. All that looks to me suspicious enough to be worth
investigation. Of course," he admitted, doubtfully--"of course, I'm no
detective; but that's how it looks to me."
"I don't believe Stewart is any detective, either," said Richard
Hartley. "He's altogether too cocksure. That sort of man would rather
die than admit he is wrong about anything. He's a good old chap, though,
isn't he? I liked him to-day better than ever before. I thought he was
rather pathetic when he went on about his age."
"He has a good heart," said Ste. Marie. "Very few men under the
circumstances would come here and be as decent as he was. Most men would
have thought I was a presumptuous ass, and would have behaved
Ste. Marie took a turn about the room, and his face began to light up
with its new excitement and exaltation.
"And to-morrow!" he cried--"to-morrow we begin! To-morrow we set out
into the world and the Adventure is on foot! God send it success!"
He laughed across at the other man; but it was a laugh of eagerness, not
"I feel," said he, "like Jason. I feel as if we were to set sail
to-morrow for Colchis and the Golden Fleece."
"Y-e-s," said the other man, a little dryly--"yes, perhaps. I don't want
to seem critical, but isn't your figure somewhat ill chosen?"
"'Ill chosen'?" cried Ste. Marie. "What d'you mean? Why ill chosen?"
"I was thinking of Medea," said Richard Hartley.
* * * * *
JASON MEETS WITH A MISADVENTURE AND DREAMS A DREAM
So on the next day these two rode forth upon their quest, and no quest
was ever undertaken with a stouter courage or with a grimmer
determination to succeed. To put it fancifully, they burned their tower
behind them, for to one of them, at least--to him who led--there was no
But, after all, they set forth under a cloud, and Ste. Marie took a
heavy heart with him. On the evening before an odd and painful incident
had befallen--a singularly unfortunate incident.
It chanced that neither of the two men had a dinner engagement that
evening, and so, after their old habit, they dined together. There was
some wrangling over where they should go, Hartley insisting upon
Armenonville or the Madrid, in the Bois, Ste. Marie objecting that these
would be full of tourists so late in June, and urging the claims of some
quiet place in the Quarter, where they could talk instead of listening
perforce to loud music. In the end, for no particular reason, they
compromised on the little Spanish restaurant in the rue Helder. They
went there about eight o'clock, without dressing, for it is a very quiet
place which the world does not visit, and they had a sopa de yerbas, and
some langostinos, which are shrimps, and a heavenly arroz, with fowl in
it, and many tender, succulent strips of red pepper. They had a salad
made out of a little of everything that grows green, with the true
Spanish oil, which has a tang and a bouquet unappreciated by the
Philistine; and then they had a strange pastry and some cheese and green
almonds. And to make then glad, they drank a bottle of old red
Valdepenas, and afterward a glass each of a special Manzanilla, upon
which the restaurant very justly prides itself.
It was a simple dinner and a little stodgy for that time of the year,
but the two men were hungry and sat at table, almost alone in the upper
room, for a long time, saying how good everything was, and from time to
time despatching the saturnine waiter, a Madrileno, for more peppers.
When at last they came out into the narrow street, and thence to the
thronged Boulevard des Italiens, it was nearly eleven o'clock. They
stood for a little time in the shelter of a kiosk, looking down the
boulevard to where the Place de l'Opera opened wide and the lights of
the Cafe de la Paix shone garish in the night. And Ste. Marie said:
"There's a street fete in Montmartre. We might drive home that way."
"An excellent idea," said the other man. "The fact that Montmartre lies
in an opposite direction from home makes the plan all the better. And
after that we might drive home through the Bois. That's much farther in
the wrong direction. Lead on!"
So they sprang into a waiting fiacre, and were dragged up the steep,
stone-paved hill to the heights, where La Boheme still reigns, though
the glory of Moulin Rouge has departed and the trail of the tourist is
over all. They found Montmartre very much en fete. In the Place Blanche
were two of the enormous and brilliantly lighted merry-go-rounds, which
only Paris knows--one furnished with stolid cattle, theatrical-looking
horses, and Russian sleighs; the other with the ever-popular galloping
pigs. When these dreadful machines were in rotation, mechanical organs,
concealed somewhere in their bowels, emitted hideous brays and shrieks
which mingled with the shrieks of the ladies mounted upon the galloping
pigs, and together insulted a peaceful sky.
The square was filled with that extremely heterogeneous throng which the
Parisian street fete gathers together, but it was, for the most part, a
well-dressed throng, largely recruited from the boulevards, and it was
quite determined to have a very good time in the cheerful, harmless
Latin fashion. The two men got down from their fiacre and elbowed a way
through the good-natured crowd to a place near the more popular of the
merry-go-rounds. The machine was in rotation. Its garish lights shone
and glittered, its hidden mechanical organ blared a German waltz tune,
the huge, pink-varnished pigs galloped gravely up and down as the
platform upon which they were mounted whirled round and round. A little
group of American trippers, sight-seeing with a guide, stood near by,
and one of the group, a pretty girl with red hair, demanded plaintively
of the friend upon whose arm she hung: "Do you think momma would be
shocked if we took a ride? Wouldn't I love to!"
Hartley turned, laughing, from this distressed maiden to Ste. Marie. He
was wondering, with mild amusement, why anybody should wish to do such a
foolish thing; but Ste. Marie's eyes were fixed upon the galloping pigs,
and the eyes shone with a wistful excitement. To tell the truth, it was
impossible for him to look on at any form of active amusement without
thirsting to join it. A joyous and carefree lady in a blue hat, who was
mounted astride upon one of the pigs, hurled a paper serpentine at him
and shrieked with delight when it knocked his hat off.
"That's the second time she has hit me with one of those things," he
said, groping about his feet for the hat. "Here, stop that boy with the
A vendor of the little rolls of paper ribbon was shouting his wares
through the crowd. Ste. Marie filled his pockets with the things, and
when the lady with the blue hat came round, on the next turn, lassoed
her neatly about the neck and held the end of the ribbon till it broke.
Then he caught a fat gentleman, who was holding himself on by his
steed's neck, in the ear, and the red-haired American girl laughed
"When the thing stops," said Ste. Marie, "I'm going to take a ride--just
one ride. I haven't ridden a pig for many years."
Hartley jeered at him, calling him an infant, but Ste. Marie bought more
serpentines, and when the platform came to a stop clambered up to it and
mounted the only unoccupied pig he could find. His friend still scoffed
at him and called him names, but Ste. Marie tucked his long legs round
the pig's neck and smiled back, and presently the machine began again to
At the end of the first revolution Hartley gave a shout of delight, for
he saw that the lady with the blue hat had left her mount and was making
her way along the platform toward where Ste. Marie sat hurling
serpentines in the face of the world. By the next time round she had
come to where he was, mounted astride behind him, and was holding
herself with one very shapely arm round his neck, while with the other
she rifled his pockets for ammunition. Ste. Marie grinned, and the
public, loud in its acclaims, began to pelt the two with serpentines
until they were hung with many-colored ribbons like a Christmas-tree.
Even Richard Hartley was so far moved out of the self-consciousness with
which his race is cursed as to buy a handful of the common missiles, and
the lady in the blue hat returned his attention with skill and despatch.
But as the machine began to slacken its pace, and the hideous wail and
blare of the concealed organ died mercifully down, Hartley saw that his
friend's manner had all at once altered, that he sat leaning forward
away from the enthusiastic lady with the blue hat, and that the paper
serpentines had dropped from his hands. Hartley thought that the rapid
motion must have made him a little giddy, but presently, before the
merry-go-round had quite stopped, he saw the man leap down and hurry
toward him through the crowd. Ste. Marie's face was grave and pale. He
caught Hartley's arm in his hand and turned him round, crying, in a low
"Come out of this as quickly as you can! No, in the other direction. I
want to get away at once!"
"What's the matter?" Hartley demanded. "Lady in the blue hat too
friendly? Well, if you're going to play this kind of game you might as
well play it."
"Helen Benham was down there in the crowd," said Ste. Marie. "On the
opposite side from you. She was with a party of people who got out of
two motor-cars to look on. They were in evening things, so they had come
from dinner somewhere, I suppose. She saw me."
"The devil!" said Hartley, under his breath. Then he gave a shout of
laughter, demanding: "Well, what of it? You weren't committing any
crime, were you? There's no harm in riding a silly pig in a silly
merry-go-round. Everybody does it in these fete things." But even as he
spoke he knew how extremely unfortunate the meeting was, and the
laughter went out of his voice.
"I'm afraid," said Ste. Marie, "she won't see the humor of it. Good God,
what a thing to happen! _You_ know well enough what she'll think of me.
At five o'clock this afternoon," he said, bitterly, "I left her with a
great many fine, high-sounding words about the quest I was to give my
days and nights to--for her sake. I went away from her like a--knight
going into battle--consecrated. I tell you, there were tears in her eyes
when I went. And _now_--now, at midnight--she sees me riding a galloping
pig in a street fete with a girl from the boulevards sitting on the pig
with me and holding me round the neck before a thousand people. What
will she think of me? What but one thing can she possibly think? Oh, I
know well enough! I saw her face before she turned away. And," he cried,
"I can't even go to her and explain--if there's anything to explain, and
I suppose there is not. I can't even go to her. I've sworn not to see
"Oh, I'll do that," said the other man. "I'll explain it to her, if any
explanation's necessary. I think you'll find that she will laugh at it."
But Ste. Marie shook his head.
"No, she won't," said he.
And Hartley could say no more; for he knew Miss Benham, and he was very
much afraid that she would not laugh.
They found a fiacre at the side of the square and drove home at once.
They were almost entirely silent all the long way, for Ste. Marie was
buried in gloom, and the Englishman, after trying once or twice to cheer
him up, realized that he was best left to himself just then, and so held
his tongue. But in the rue d'Assas, as Ste. Marie was getting
down--Hartley kept the fiacre to go on to his rooms in the Avenue de
l'Observatoire--he made a last attempt to lighten the man's depression.
"Don't you be a silly ass about this! You're making much too much of it,
you know. I'll go to her to-morrow or next day and explain, and she'll
laugh---if she hasn't already done so. You know," he said, almost
believing it himself, "you are paying her a dashed poor compliment in
thinking she's so dull as to misunderstand a little thing of this kind.
Yes, by Jove, you are!"
Ste. Marie looked up at him, and his face, in the light of the cab lamp,
showed a first faint gleam of hope.
"Do you think so?" he demanded. "Do you really think that? Maybe I am.
But--Oh, Lord, who would understand such an idiocy? Sacred imbecile that
I am! Why was I ever born? I ask you."
He turned abruptly, and began to ring at the door, casting a brief
"Good-night" over his shoulder. And after a moment Hartley gave it up
and drove away.
Above, in the long, shallow front room of his flat, with the three
windows overlooking the Gardens, Ste. Marie made lights, and after much
rummaging unearthed a box of cigarettes of a peculiarly delectable
flavor which had been sent him by a friend in the Khedivial household.
He allowed himself one or two of them now and then, usually in sorrowful
moments, as an especial treat; and this seemed to him to be the moment
for smoking all that were left. Surely his need had never been greater.
In England he had, of course, learned to smoke a pipe, but pipe-smoking
always remained with him a species of accomplishment; it never brought
him the deep and ruminative peace with which it enfolds the Anglo-Saxon
heart. The "vieux Jacob" of old-fashioned Parisian Bohemia inspired in
him unconcealed horror, of cigars he was suspicious because, he said,
most of the unpleasant people he knew smoked cigars, so he soothed his
soul with cigarettes, and he was usually to be found with one between
He lighted one of the precious Egyptians, and after a first ecstatic
inhalation went across to one of the long windows, which was open, and
stood there with his back to the room, his face to the peaceful,
fragrant night. A sudden recollection came to him of that other night a
month before when he had stood on the Pont des Invalides with his eyes
upon the stars, his feet upon the ladder thereunto. His heart gave a
sudden exultant leap within him when he thought how far and high he had
climbed, but after the leap it shivered and stood still when this
evening's misadventure came before him.
Would she ever understand? He had no fear that Hartley would not do his
best with her. Hartley was as honest and as faithful as ever a friend
was in this world. He would do his best. But even then--It was the
girl's inflexible nature that made the matter so dangerous. He knew that
she was inflexible, and he took a curious pride in it. He admired it. So
must have been those calm-eyed, ancient ladies for whom other Ste.
Maries went out to do battle. It was well-nigh impossible to imagine
them lowering their eyes to silly revelry. They could not stoop to such
as that. It was beneath their high dignity. And it was beneath hers
also. As for himself, he was a thing of patches. Here a patch of exalted
chivalry--a noble patch--there a patch of bourgeois, childlike love of
fun; here a patch of melancholic asceticism, there one of something
quite the reverse. A hopeless patchwork he was. Must she not shrink from
him when she knew? He could not quite imagine her understanding the
wholly trivial and meaningless impulse that had prompted him to ride a
galloping pig and cast paper serpentines at the assembled world.
Apart from her view of the affair, he felt no shame in it. The moment of
childish gayety had been but a passing mood. It had in no way slackened
his tense enthusiasm, dulled the keenness of his spirit, lowered his
high flight. He knew that well enough. But he wondered if she would
understand, and he could not believe it possible. The mood of exaltation
in which they had parted that afternoon came to him, and then the sight
of her shocked face as he had seen it in the laughing crowd in the Place
"What must she think of me?" he cried, aloud. "What must she think of
So, for an hour or more, he stood in the open window staring into the
fragrant night, or tramped up and down the long room, his hands behind
his back, kicking out of his way the chairs and things which impeded
him, torturing himself with fears and regrets and fancies, until at
last, in a calmer moment, he realized that he was working himself up
into an absurd state of nerves over something which was done and could
not now be helped. The man had an odd streak of fatalism in his
nature--that will have come of his Southern blood--and it came to him
now in his need. For the work upon which he was to enter with the morrow
he had need of clear wits, not scattered ones; a calm judgment, not
disordered nerves. So he took himself in hand, and it would have been
amazing to any one unfamiliar with the abrupt changes of the Latin
temperament to see how suddenly Ste. Marie became quiet and cool and
master of himself.
"It is done," he said, with a little shrug, and if his face was for a
moment bitter it quickly enough became impassive. "It is done, and it
cannot be undone--unless Hartley can undo it. And now, revenons a nos
moutons! Or, at least," said he, looking at his watch--and it was
between one and two--"at least, to our beds!"
So he went to bed, and, so well had he recovered from his fit of
excitement, he fell asleep almost at once. But for all that the jangled
nerves had their revenge. He who commonly slept like the dead, without
the slightest disturbance, dreamed a strange dream. It seemed to him
that he stood spent and weary in a twilight place--a waste place at the
foot of a high hill. At the top of the hill She sat upon a sort of
throne, golden in a beam of light from heaven--serene, very beautiful,
the end and crown of his weary labors. His feet were set to the ascent
of the height whereon she waited, but he was withheld. From the shadows
at the hill's foot a voice called to him in distress, anguish of
spirit--a voice he knew; but he could not say whose voice. It besought
him out of utter need, and he could not turn away from it.
Then from those shadows eyes looked upon him, very great and dark eyes,
and they besought him, too; he did not know what they asked, but they
called to him like the low voice, and he could not turn away.
He looked to the far height, and with all his power he strove to set his
feet toward it--the goal of long labor and desire; but the eyes and the
piteous voice held him motionless--for they needed him.
From this anguish he awoke trembling. And after a long time, when he was
composed, he fell asleep once more, and once more he dreamed the dream.
So morning found him pallid and unrefreshed. But by daylight he knew
whose eyes had besought him, and he wondered and was a little afraid.
* * * * *
JASON GOES UPON A JOURNEY, AND RICHARD HARTLEY PLEADS FOR HIM
It may as well be admitted at the outset that neither Ste. Marie nor
Richard Hartley proved themselves to be geniuses, hitherto undeveloped,
in the detective science. They entered upon their self-appointed task
with a fine fervor, but, as Miss Benham had suggested, with no other
qualifications in particular. Ste. Marie had a theory that, when engaged
in work of this nature, you went into questionable parts of the city,
ate and drank cheek by jowl with questionable people--if possible, got
them drunk while you remained sober (difficult feat), and sooner or
later they said things which put you on the right road to your goal, or
else confessed to you that they themselves had committed the particular
crime in which you were interested. He argued that this was the way it
happened in books, and that surely people didn't write books about
things of which they were ignorant.
Hartley, on the other hand, preferred the newer, or scientific, methods.
You sat at home with a pipe and a whiskey-and-water--if possible, in a
long dressing-gown with a cord round its middle. You reviewed all the
known facts of the case, and you did mathematics about them with Xs and
Ys and many other symbols, and in the end, by a system of elimination,
you proved that a certain thing must infallibly be true. The chief
difficulty for him in this was, he said, that he had been at Oxford
instead of at Cambridge, and so the mathematics were rather beyond him.
In practice, however, they combined the two methods, which was doubtless
as well as if they hadn't, because for some time they accomplished
nothing whatever, and so neither one was able to sneer at the other's
This is not to say that they found nothing in the way of clews. They
found an embarrassment of them, and for some days went about in a fever
of excitement over these; but the fever cooled when clew after clew
turned out to be misleading. Of course, Ste. Marie's first efforts were
directed toward tracing the movements of the Irishman O'Hara, but the
efforts were altogether unavailing. The man seemed to have disappeared
as noiselessly and completely as had young Arthur Benham himself. He was
unable even to settle with any definiteness the time of the man's
departure from Paris. Some of O'Hara's old acquaintances maintained that
they had seen the last of him two months before, but a shifty-eyed
person in rather cheaply smart clothes came up to Ste. Marie one evening
in Maxim's and said he had heard that Ste. Marie was making inquiries
about M. O'Hara. Ste. Marie said he was, and that it was an affair of
money; whereupon the cheaply smart individual declared that M. O'Hara
had left Paris six months before to go to the United States of America,
and that he had had a picture postal-card from him, some weeks since,
from New York. The informant accepted an expensive cigar and a Dubonnet
by way of reward, but presently departed into the night, and Ste. Marie
was left in some discouragement, his theory badly damaged.
He spoke of this encounter to Richard Hartley, who came on later to join
him, and Hartley, after an interval of silence and smoke, said: "That
was a lie! The man lied!"
"Name of a dog, why?" demanded Ste. Marie; but the Englishman shrugged
"I don't know," he said. "But I believe it was a lie. The man came to
you--sought you out to tell his story, didn't he? And all the others
have given a different date? Well, there you are! For some reason, this
man or some one behind him--O'Hara himself, probably--wants you to
believe that O'Hara is in America. I dare say he's in Paris all the
"I hope you're right," said the other. "And I mean to make sure, too. It
certainly was odd, this strange being hunting me out to tell me that. I
wonder, by-the-way, how he knew I'd been making inquiries about O'Hara.
I've questioned only two or three people, and then in the most casual
way. Yes, it's odd."
It was about a week after this--a fruitless week, full of the alternate
brightness of hope and the gloom of disappointment--that he met Captain
Stewart, to whom he had been, more than once, on the point of appealing.
He happened upon him quite by chance one morning in the rue Royale.
Captain Stewart was coming out of a shop, a very smart-looking shop,
devoted, as Ste. Marie, with some surprise and much amusement, observed,
to ladies' hats, and the price of hats must have depressed him, for he
looked in an ill humor, and older and more yellow than usual. But his
face altered suddenly when he saw the younger man, and he stopped and
shook Ste. Marie's hand with every evidence of pleasure.
"Well met! Well met!" he exclaimed. "If you are not in a hurry, come and
sit down somewhere and tell me about yourself."
They picked their way across the street to the terrace of the Taverne
Royale, which was almost deserted at that hour, and sat down at one of
the little tables, well back from the pavement, in a corner.
"Is it fair," queried Captain Stewart--"is it fair, as a rival
investigator, to ask you what success you have had?"
Ste. Marie laughed rather ruefully, and confessed that he had as yet no
success at all.
"I've just come," said he, "from pricking one bubble that promised well,
and Hartley is up in Montmartre destroying another, I fancy. Oh, well,
we didn't expect it to be child's play."
Captain Stewart raised his little glass of dry vermouth in an
old-fashioned salute and drank it.
"You," said he--"you were--ah, full of some idea of connecting this man,
this Irishman O'Hara, with poor Arthur's disappearance. You've found
that not so promising as you went on, I take it."
"Well, I've been unable to trace O'Hara," said Ste. Marie. "He seems to
have disappeared as completely as your nephew. I suppose you have no
clews to spare? I confess I'm out of them at the moment."
"Oh, I have plenty," said the elder man. "A hundred. More than I can
possibly look after." He gave a little chuckling laugh. "I've been
waiting for you to come to me," he said. "It was a little ungenerous,
perhaps, but we all love to say, 'I told you so.' Yes, I have a great
quantity of clews, and of course they all seem to be of the greatest and
most exciting importance. That's a way clews have."
He took an envelope from an inner pocket of his coat, and sorted several
folded papers which were in it.
"I have here," said he, "memoranda of two--chances, shall I call
them?--which seem to me very good, though, as I have already said, every
clew seems good. That is the maddening, the heart-breaking, part of such
an investigation. I have made these brief notes from letters received,
one yesterday, one the day before, from an agent of mine who has been
searching the bains de mer of the north coast. This agent writes that
some one very much resembling poor Arthur has been seen at Dinard and
also at Deauville, and he urges me to come there or to send a man there
at once to look into the matter. You will ask, of course, why this agent
himself does not pursue the clew he has found. Unfortunately, he has
been called to London upon some pressing family matter of his own; he is
"Why haven't you gone yourself?" asked Ste. Marie.
But the elder man shrugged his shoulders and smiled a tired, deprecatory
"Oh, my friend," said he, "if I should attempt personally to investigate
one-half of these things, I should be compelled to divide myself into
twenty parts. No, I must stay here. There must be, alas! the spider at
the centre of the web. I cannot go; but if you think it worth while, I
will gladly turn over the memoranda of these last clews to you. They may
be the true clews, they may not. At any rate, some one must look into
them. Why not you and your partner--or shall I say assistant?"
"Why, thank you!" cried Ste. Marie. "A thousand thanks! Of course, I
shall be--we shall be glad to try this chance. On the face of it, it
sounds very reasonable. Your nephew, from what I remember of him, is
much more apt to be in some place that is amusing, some place of gayety,
than hiding away where it is merely dull, if he has his choice in the
matter--that is, if he is free. And yet--" He turned and frowned
thoughtfully at the elder man. "What I want to know," said he, "is how
the boy is supporting himself all this time? You say he had no money, or
very little, when he went away. How is he managing to live if your
theory is correct--that he is staying away of his own accord? It costs a
lot of money to live as he likes to live."
Captain Stewart nodded.
"Oh, that," said he--"that is a question I have often proposed to
myself. Frankly, it's beyond me. I can only surmise that poor Arthur,
who had scattered a small fortune about in foolish loans, managed,
before he actually disappeared (mind you, we didn't begin to look for
him until a week had gone by)--managed to collect some of this money,
and so went away with something in pocket. That, of course, is only a
"It is possible," said Ste. Marie, doubtfully, "but--I don't know. It is
not very easy to raise money from the sort of people I imagine your
nephew to have lent it to. They borrow, but they don't repay." He
glanced up with a half-laughing, half-defiant air. "I can't," said he,
"rid myself of a belief that the boy is here in Paris, and that he is
not free to come or go. It's only a feeling, but it is very strong in
me. Of course, I shall follow out these clews you've been so kind as to
give me. I shall go to Dinard and Deauville, and Hartley, I imagine,
will go with me, but I haven't great confidence in them."
Captain Stewart regarded him reflectively for a time, and in the end he
"If you will pardon my saying it," he said, "your attitude is just a
little womanlike. You put away reason for something vaguely intuitive. I
always distrust intuition myself."
Ste. Marie frowned a little and looked uncomfortable. He did not relish
being called womanlike--few men do; but he was bound to admit that the
elder man's criticism was more or less just.
"Moreover," pursued Captain Stewart, "you altogether ignore the point of
motive--as I may have suggested to you before. There could be no
possible motive, so far as I am aware, for kidnapping or detaining, or
in any way harming, my nephew except the desire for money; but, as you
know, he had no large sum of money with him, and no demand has been made
upon us since his disappearance. I'm afraid you can't get round that."
"No," said Ste. Marie, "I'm afraid I can't. Indeed, leaving that
aside--and it can't be left aside--I still have almost nothing with
which to prop up my theory. I told you it was only a feeling."
He took up the memoranda which Captain Stewart had laid upon the
marble-topped table between them, and read the notes through.
"Please," said he, "don't think I am ungrateful for this chance. I am
not. I shall do my best with it, and I hope it may turn out to be
important." He gave a little wry smile. "I have all sorts of reasons,"
he said, "for wishing to succeed as soon as possible. You may be sure
that there won't be any delays on my part. And now I must be going on. I
am to meet Hartley for lunch on the other side of the river, and, if we
can manage it, I should like to start north this afternoon or evening."
"Good!" said Captain Stewart, smiling. "Good! That is what I call true
promptness. You lose no time at all. Go to Dinard and Deauville, by all
means, and look into this thing thoroughly. Don't be discouraged if you
meet with ill success at first. Take Mr. Hartley with you, and do your
He paid for the two glasses of aperitif, and Ste. Marie could not help
observing that he left on the table a very small tip. The waiter cursed
him audibly as the two walked away.
"If you have returned by a week from to-morrow," he said, as they shook
hands, "I should like to have you keep that evening--Thursday--for me. I
am having a very informal little party in my rooms. There will be two or
three of the opera people there, and they will sing for us, and the
others will be amusing enough. All young--all young. I like young people
about me." He gave his odd little mewing chuckle. "And the ladies must
be beautiful as well as young. Come if you are here! I'll drop a line to
Mr. Hartley also."
He shook Ste. Marie's hand, and went away down the street toward the rue
du Faubourg St. Honore where he lived.
Ste. Marie met Hartley as he expected to do, at lunch, and they talked
over the possibilities of the Dinard and Deauville expedition. In the
end they decided that Ste. Marie should go alone, but that he was to
telegraph, later on, if the clew looked promising. Hartley had two or
three investigations on foot in Paris, and stayed on to complete these.
Also he wished, as soon as possible, to see Helen Benham and explain
Ste. Marie's ride on the galloping pigs. Ten days had elapsed since that
evening, but Miss Benham had gone into the country the next day to make
a visit at the De Saulnes' chateau on the Oise.
So Ste. Marie packed a portmanteau with clothes and things, and departed
by a mid-afternoon train to Dinard, and toward five Richard Hartley
walked down to the rue de I'Universite. He thought it just possible that
Miss Benham might by now have returned to town, but if not he meant to
have half an hour's chat with old David Stewart, whom he had not seen
for some weeks.
At the door he learned that mademoiselle was that very day returned and
was at home. So he went in to the drawing-room, reserving his visit to
old David until later. He found the room divided into two camps. At one
side Mrs. Benham conversed in melancholic monotones with two elderly
French ladies who were clad in depressing black of a dowdiness surpassed
only in English provincial towns. It was as if the three mourned
together over the remains of some dear one who lay dead among them.
Hartley bowed low, with an uncontrollable shiver, and turned to the
tea-table, where Miss Benham sat in the seat of authority, flanked by a
young American lady whom he had met before, and by Baron de Vries, whom
he had not seen since the evening of the De Saulnes' dinner-party.
Miss Benham greeted him with evident pleasure, and to his great delight
remembered just how he liked his tea--three pieces of sugar and no milk.
It always flatters a man when his little tastes of this sort are
remembered. The four fell at once into conversation together, and the
young American lady asked Hartley why Ste. Marie was not with him.
"I thought you two always went about together," she said--"were never
seen apart and all that--a sort of modern Damon and Phidias."
Hartley caught Baron de Vries' eye, and looked away again hastily.
"My--ah, Phidias," said he, resisting an irritable desire to correct the
lady, "got mislaid to-day. It sha'n't happen again, I promise you. He's
a very busy person just now, though. He hasn't time for social
dissipation. I'm the butterfly of the pair."
The lady gave a sudden laugh.
"He was busy enough the last time I saw him," she said, crinkling her
eyelids. She turned to Miss Benham. "Do you remember that evening we
were going home from the Madrid and motored round by Montmartre to see
"Yes," said Miss Benham, unsmiling, "I remember."
"Your friend Ste. Marie," said the American lady to Hartley, "was
distinctly the lion of the fete--at the moment we arrived, anyhow. He
was riding a galloping pig and throwing those paper streamer
things--what do you call them?--with both hands, and a genial lady in a
blue hat was riding the same pig and helping him out. It was just like
the _Vie de Boheme_ and the other books. I found it charming."
Baron de Vries emitted an amused chuckle.
"That was very like Ste. Marie," he said. "Ste. Marie is a very
exceptional young man. He can be an angel one moment, a child playing
with toys the next, and--well, a rather commonplace social favorite the
third. It all comes of being romantic--imaginative. Ste. Marie--I know
nothing about this evening of which you speak, but Ste. Marie is quite
capable of stopping on his way to a funeral to ride a galloping pig--or
on his way to his own wedding. And the pleasant part of it is," said
Baron de Vries, "that the lad would turn up at either of these two
ceremonies not a bit the worse, outside or in, for his ride."
"Ah, now, that's an oddly close shot," said Hartley. He paused a moment,
looking toward Miss Benham, and said: "I beg pardon! Were you going to
"No," said Miss Benham, moving the things about on the tea-table before
her, and looking down at them. "No, not at all!"
"You came oddly close to the truth," the man went on, turning back to
Baron de Vries.
He was speaking for Helen Benham's ears, and he knew she would
understand that, but he did not wish to seem to be watching her.
"I was with Ste. Marie on that evening," he said. "No, I wasn't riding a
pig, but I was standing down in the crowd throwing serpentines at the
people who were. And I happen to know that he--that Ste. Marie was on
that day, that evening, more deeply concerned about something, more
absolutely wrapped up in it, devoted to it, than I have ever known him
to be about anything since I first knew him. The galloping pig was an
incident that made, except for the moment, no impression whatever upon
him." Hartley nodded his head. "Yes," said he, "Ste. Marie can be an
angel one moment and a child playing with toys the next. When he sees
toys he always plays with them, and he plays hard, but when he drops
them they go completely out of his mind."
The American lady laughed.
"Gracious me!" she cried. "You two are emphatic enough about him, aren't
"We know him," said Baron de Vries.
Hartley rose to replace his empty cup on the tea-table. Miss Benham did
not meet his eyes, and as he moved away again she spoke to her friend
about something they were going to do on the next day, so Hartley went
across to where Baron de Vries sat at a little distance, and took a
place beside him on the chaise lounge. The Belgian greeted him with
raised eyebrows and the little, half-sad, half-humorous smile which was
characteristic of him in his gentler moments.
"You were defending our friend with a purpose," he said, in a low voice.
"Good! I am afraid he needs it--here."
The younger man hesitated a moment. Then he said:
"I came on purpose to do that. Ste. Marie knows that she saw him on that
confounded pig. He was half wild with distress over it, because--well,
the meeting was singularly unfortunate just then. I can't explain--"
"You needn't explain," said the Belgian, gravely. "I know. Helen told me
some days ago, though she did not mention this encounter. Yes, defend
him with all your power, if you will. Stay after we others have gone
and--have it out with her. The Phidias lady (I must remember that mot,
by-the-way) is preparing to take her leave now, and I will follow her at
once. She shall believe that I am enamoured, that I sigh for her. Eh!"
said he, shaking his head--and the lines in the kindly old face seemed
to deepen, but in a sort of grave tenderness--"eh, so love has come to
the dear lad at last! Ah, of course, the hundred other affairs! Yes,
yes. But they were light. No seriousness in them. The ladies may have
loved. He didn't--very much. This time, I'm afraid--"
Baron de Vries paused as if he did not mean to finish his sentence, and
"You say 'afraid'! Why afraid?"
The Belgian looked up at him reflectively.
"Did I say 'afraid'?" he asked. "Well, perhaps it was the word I wanted.
I wonder if these two are fitted for each other. I am fond of them both.
I think you know that, but--she's not very flexible, this child. And she
hasn't much humor. I love her, but I know those things are true. I
wonder if one ought to marry Ste. Marie without flexibility and without
"If they love each other," said Richard Hartley, "I expect the other
things don't count. Do they?"
Baron de Vries rose to his feet, for he saw that the Phidias lady was
"Perhaps not," said he; "I hope not. In any case, do your best for him
with Helen. Make her comprehend if you can. I am afraid she is unhappy
over the affair."
He made his adieus, and went away with the American lady, to that young
person's obvious excitement. And after a moment the three ladies across
the room departed also, Mrs. Benham explaining that she was taking her
two friends up to her own sitting-room, to show them something vaguely
related to the heathen. So Hartley was left alone with Helen Benham.
It was not his way to beat about the bush, and he gave battle at once.
He said, standing, to say it more easily:
"You know why I came here to-day? It was the first chance I've had since
that--unfortunate evening. I came on Ste. Marie's account."
Miss Benham said a weak "Oh!" And because she was nervous and
overwrought, and because the thing meant so much to her, she said,
cheaply: "He owes me no apologies. He has a perfect right to act as he
pleases, you know."
The Englishman frowned across at her. "I didn't come to make apologies,"
said he. "I came to explain. Well, I have explained--Baron de Vries and
I together. That's just how it happened. And that's just how Ste. Marie
takes things. The point is that you've got to understand it. I've got to
The girl smiled up at him dolefully. "You look," she said, "as if you
were going to beat me if necessary. You look very warlike."
"I feel warlike," the man said, nodding. He said: "I'm fighting for a
friend to whom you are doing, in your mind, an injustice. I know him
better than you do, and I tell you you're doing him a grave injustice.
You're failing altogether to understand him."
"I wonder," the girl said, looking very thoughtfully down at the table
"I know," said he.
Quite suddenly she gave a little overwrought cry, and she put up her
hands over her face. "Oh, Richard!" she said, "that day when he was
here! He left me--oh, I cannot tell you at what a height he left me! It
was something new and beautiful. He swept me to the clouds with him. And
I might--perhaps I might have lived on there. Who knows? But then that
hideous evening! Ah, it was too sickening: the fall back to common earth
"I know," said the man, gently--"I know. And _he_ knew, too. Directly
he'd seen you he knew how you would feel about it. I'm not pretending
that it was of no consequence. It was unfortunate, of course. But the
point is, it did not mean in him any slackening, any stooping, any
letting go. It was a moment's incident. We went to the wretched place by
accident after dinner. Ste. Marie saw those childish lunatics at play,
and for about two minutes he played with them. The lady in the blue hat
made it appear a little more extreme, and that's all."
Miss Benham rose to her feet and moved restlessly back and forth. "Oh,
Richard," she said, "the golden spell is broken--the enchantment he laid
upon me that day. I'm not like him, you know. Oh, I wish I were! I wish
I were! I can't change from hour to hour. I can't rise to the clouds
again after my fall to earth. It has all--become something different.
Don't misunderstand me!" she cried. "I don't mean that I've ceased to
care for him. No, far from that! But I was in such an exalted heaven,
and now I'm not there any more. Perhaps he can lift me to it again. Oh
yes, I'm sure he can, when I see him once more; but I wanted to go on
living there so happily while he was away! Do you understand at all?"
"I think I do," the man said, but he looked at her very curiously and a
little sadly, for it was the first time he had ever seen her swept from
her superb poise by any emotion, and he hardly recognized her. It was
very bitter to him to realize that he could never have stirred her to
this--never, under any conceivable circumstances.
The girl came to him where he stood, and touched his arm with her hand.
"He is waiting to hear how I feel about it all, isn't he?" she said. "He
is waiting to know that I understand. Will you tell him a little lie for
me, Richard? No, you needn't tell a lie. I will tell it. Tell him that I
said I understood perfectly. Tell him that I was shocked for a moment,
but that afterward I understood and thought no more about it. Will you
tell him I said that? It won't be a lie from you, because I did say it.
Oh, I will not grieve him or hamper him now while he is working in my
cause! I'll tell him a lie rather than have him grieve."
"Need it be a lie?" said Richard Hartley. "Can't you truly believe what
She shook her head slowly.
"I'll try," said she, "but--my golden spell is broken and I can't mend
it alone. I'm sorry."
He turned with a little sigh to leave her, but Miss Benham followed him
toward the door of the drawing-room.
"You're a good friend, Richard," she said, when she had come
near--"you're a good friend to him."
"He deserves good friends," said the young man, stoutly. "And besides,"
said he, "we're brothers in arms nowadays. We've enlisted together to
fight for the same cause." The girl fell back with a little cry.
"Do you mean," she said, after a moment--"do you mean that _you_ are
working with him--to find Arthur?"
"But--" said she, stammering. "But, Richard--"
The man checked her.
"Oh, I know what I'm doing," said he. "My eyes are open. I know that I'm
not--well, in the running. I work for no reward except a desire to help
you and Ste. Marie. That's all. It pleases me to be useful."
He went away with that, not waiting for an answer, and the girl stood
where he had left her, staring after him.
* * * * *
CAPTAIN STEWART ENTERTAINS
Ste. Marie returned, after three days, from Dinard in a depressed and
somewhat puzzled frame of mind. He had found no trace whatever of Arthur
Benham, either at Dinard or at Deauville, and, what was more, he was
unable to discover that any one even remotely resembling that youth had
been seen at either place. The matter of identification, it seemed to
him, should be a rather simple one. In the first place, the boy's
appearance was not at all French, nor, for that matter, English; it was
very American. Also, he spoke French--so Ste. Marie had been told--very
badly, having for the language that scornful contempt peculiar to
Anglo-Saxons of a certain type. His speech, it seemed, was, like his
appearance, ultra-American--full of strange idioms and oddly pronounced.
In short, such a youth would be rather sure to be remembered by any
hotel management and staff with which he might have come in contact.
At first Ste. Marie pursued his investigations quietly and, as it were,
casually; but after his initial failure he went to the managements of
the various hotels and lodging-houses, and to the cafes and bathing
establishments, and told them, with all frankness, a part of the
truth--that he was searching for a young man whose disappearance had
caused great distress to his family. He was not long in discovering that
no such young man could have been either in Dinard or Deauville.
The thing which puzzled him was that, apart from finding no trace of the
missing boy, he also found no trace of Captain Stewart's agent--the man
who had been first on the ground. No one seemed able to recollect that
such a person had been making inquiries, and Ste. Marie began to suspect
that his friend was being imposed upon. He determined to warn Stewart
that his agents were earning their fees too easily.
So he returned to Paris more than a little dejected, and sore over this
waste of time and effort. He arrived by a noon train, and drove across
the city in a fiacre to the rue d'Assas. But as he was in the midst of
unpacking his portmanteau--for he kept no servant; a woman came in once
a day to "do" the rooms--the door-bell rang. It was Baron de Vries, and
Ste. Marie admitted him with an exclamation of surprise and pleasure.
"You passed me in the street just now," explained the Belgian, "and as I
was a few minutes early for a lunch engagement I followed you up." He
pointed with his stick at the open bag. "Ah, you have been on a journey!
Ste. Marie pushed his guest into a chair, gave him cigarettes, and told
him about the fruitless expedition to Dinard. He spoke, also, of his
belief that Captain Stewart's agent had never really found a clew at
all; and at that Baron de Vries nodded his gray head and said, "Ah!" in
a tone of some significance. Afterward he smoked a little while in
silence, but presently he said, as if with some hesitation: "May I be
permitted to offer a word of advice?"
"But surely!" cried Ste. Marie, kicking away the half-empty portmanteau.
"Do whatever you are going to do in this matter according to your own
judgment," said the elder man, "or according to Mr. Hartley's and your
combined judgments. Make your investigations without reference to our
friend Captain Stewart." He halted there as if that were all he had
meant to say, but when he saw Ste. Marie's raised eyebrows he frowned
and went on, slowly, as if picking his words with some care. "I should
be sorry," he said, "to have Captain Stewart at the head of any
investigation of this nature in which I was deeply interested--just now,
at any rate. I am afraid--it is difficult to say; I do not wish to say
too much--I am afraid he is not quite the man for the position."
Ste. Marie nodded his head with great emphasis. "Ah," he cried, "that's
just what I have felt, you know, all along! And it's what Hartley felt,
too, I'm sure. No, Stewart is not the sort for a detective. He's too
cocksure. He won't admit that he might possibly be wrong now and then.
"He is too much occupied with other matters," said Baron de Vries.
Ste. Marie sat down on the edge of a chair. "Other matters?" he
demanded. "That sounds mysterious. What other matters?"
"Oh, there is nothing very mysterious about it," said the elder man. He
frowned down at his cigarette, and brushed some fallen ash neatly from
his knees. "Captain Stewart," said he, "is badly worried, and has been
for the past year or so--badly worried over money matters and other
things. He has lost enormous sums at play, as I happen to know, and he
has lost still more enormous sums at Auteuil and at Longchamps. Also,
the ladies are not without their demands."
Ste. Marie gave a shout of laughter. "Comment donc!" he cried. "Ce
"Ah, well," deprecated the other man. "Vieillard is putting it rather
high. He can't be more than fifty, I should think. To be sure, he looks
older; but then, in his day, he lived a great deal in a short time. Do
you happen to remember Olga Nilssen?"
"I do," said Ste. Marie. "I remember her very well, indeed. I was a sort
of go-between in settling up that affair with Morrison. Morrison's
people asked me to do what I could. Yes, I remember her well, and with
some pleasure. I felt sorry for her, you know. People didn't quite know
the truth of that affair. Morrison behaved very badly to her."
"Yes," said Baron de Vries, "and Captain Stewart has behaved very badly
to her also. She is furious with rage or jealousy--or both. She goes
about, I am told, threatening to kill him, and it would be rather like
her to do it one day. Well, I have dragged in all this scandal by way of
showing you that Stewart has his hands full of his own affairs just now,
and so cannot give the attention he ought to give to hunting out his
nephew. As you suggest, his agents may be deceiving him. I don't know. I
suppose they could do it easily enough. If I were you I should set to
work quite independently of him."
"Yes," said Ste. Marie, in an absent tone. "Oh yes, I shall do that, you
may be sure." He gave a sudden smile. "He's a queer type, this Captain
Stewart. He begins to interest me very much. I had never suspected this
side of him, though I remember now that I once saw him coming out of a
milliner's shop. He looks rather an ascetic--rather donnish, don't you
think? I remember that he talked to me one day quite pathetically about
feeling his age and about liking young people round him. He's an odd
character. Fancy him mixed up in an affair with Olga Nilssen! Or,
rather, fancy her involved in an affair with him! What can she have seen
in him? She's not mercenary, you know--at least, she used not to be."
"Ah! there," said Baron de Vries, "you enter upon a terra incognita. No
one can say what a woman sees in this man or in that. It's beyond our
He rose to take his leave, and Ste. Marie went with him to the door.
"I've been asked to a sort of party at Stewart's rooms this week," Ste.
Marie said. "I don't know whether I shall go or not. Probably not. I
suppose I shouldn't find Olga Nilssen there?"
"Well, no," said the Belgian, laughing. "No, I hardly think so.
Good-bye! Think over what I've told you. Good-bye!"
He went away down the stair, and Ste. Marie returned to his unpacking.
Nothing more of consequence occurred in the next few days. Hartley had
unearthed a somewhat shabby adventurer who swore to having seen the
Irishman O'Hara in Paris within a month, but it was by no means certain
that this being did not merely affirm what he believed to be desired of
him, and in any case the information was of no especial value, since it
was O'Hara's present whereabouts that was the point at issue. So it came
to Thursday evening. Ste. Marie received a note from Captain Stewart
during the day, reminding him that he was to come to the rue du Faubourg
St. Honore that evening, and asking him to come early, at ten or
thereabouts, so that the two could have a comfortable chat before any
one else turned up. Ste. Marie had about decided not to go at all, but
the courtesy of this special invitation from Miss Benham's uncle made it
rather impossible for him to stay away. He tried to persuade Hartley to
follow him on later in the evening, but that gentleman flatly refused
and went away to dine with some English friends at Armenonville.
So Ste. Marie, in a vile temper, dined quite alone at Lavenue's, beside
the Gare Montparnasse, and toward ten o'clock drove across the river to
the rue du Faubourg. Captain Stewart's flat was up five stories, at the
top of the building in which it was located, and so, well above the
noises of the street. Ste. Marie went up in the automatic lift, and at
the door above his host met him in person, saying that the one servant
he kept was busy making preparations in the kitchen beyond. They entered
a large room, long but comparatively shallow, in shape not unlike the
sitting-room in the rue d'Assas, but very much bigger, and Ste. Marie
uttered an exclamation of surprise and pleasure, for he had never before
seen an interior anything like this. The room was decorated and
furnished entirely in Chinese and Japanese articles of great age and
remarkable beauty. Ste. Marie knew little of the hieratic art of these
two countries, but he fancied that the place must be an endless delight
to the expert.
The general tone of the room was gold, dulled and softened by great age
until it had ceased to glitter, and relieved by the dusty Chinese blue
and by old red faded to rose and by warm ivory tints. The great expanse
of the walls was covered by a brownish-yellow cloth, coarse like burlap,
and against it, round the room, hung sixteen large panels representing
the sixteen Rakan. They were early copies--fifteenth century, Captain
Stewart said--of those famous originals by the Chinese Sung master
Ririomin, which have been for six hundred years or more the treasures of
Japan. They were mounted upon Japanese brocade of blue and dull gold,
framed in keyaki wood, and out of their brown, time-stained shadows the
great Rakan scowled or grinned or placidly gazed, grotesquely graceful
masterpieces of a perished art.
At the far end of the room, under a gilded canopy of intricate
wood-carving, stood upon his pedestal of many-petalled lotus a great
statue of Amida Buddha in the yogi attitude of contemplation, and at
intervals against the other walls other smaller images stood or sat:
Buddha, in many incarnations; Kwannon, goddess of mercy; Jizo Bosatzu
Hotei, pot-bellied, god of contentment; Jingo-Kano, god of war. In the
centre of the place was a Buddhist temple table, and priests' chairs,
lacquered and inlaid, stood about the room. The floor was covered with
Chinese rugs, dull yellow with blue flowers, and over a doorway which
led into another room was fixed a huge rama of Chinese pierced carving,
gilded, in which there were trees and rocks and little grouped figures
of the hundred immortals.
It, was, indeed an extraordinary room. Ste. Marie looked about its
mellow glow with a half-comprehending wonder, and he looked at the man
beside him curiously, for here was another side to this many-sided
character. Captain Stewart smiled.
"You like my museum?" he asked. "Few people care much for it except, of
course, those who go in for the Oriental arts. Most of my friends think
it bizarre--too grotesque and unusual. I have tried to satisfy them by
including those comfortable low divan-couches (they refuse altogether to
sit in the priests' chairs), but still they are unhappy."
He called his servant, who came to take Ste. Marie's hat and coat and
returned with smoking things.
"It seems entirely wonderful to me," said the younger man. "I'm not an
expert at all--I don't know who the gentlemen in those sixteen panels
are, for example--but it is very beautiful. I have never seen anything
like it at all." He gave a little laugh. "Will it sound very impertinent
in me, I wonder, if I express surprise--not surprise at finding this
magnificent room, but at discovering that this sort of thing is a taste
and, very evidently, a serious study of yours? You--I remember your
saying once with some feeling that it was youth and beauty and--well,
freshness that you liked best to be surrounded by. This," said Ste.
Marie, waving an inclusive hand, "was young so many centuries ago! It
fairly breathes antiquity and death."
"Yes," said Captain Stewart, thoughtfully. "Yes, that is quite true."
The two had seated themselves upon one of the broad, low benches which
had been built into the place to satisfy the Philistine.
"I find it hard to explain," he said, "because both things are passions
of mine. Youth--I could not exist without it. Since I have it no longer
in my own body, I wish to see it about me. It gives me life. It keeps my
heart beating. I must have it near. And then this--antiquity and death,
beautiful things made by hands dead centuries ago in an alien country! I
love this, too. I didn't speak too strongly; it is a sort of passion
with me--something quite beyond the collector's mania--quite beyond
that. Sometimes, do you know, I stay at home in the evening, and I sit
here quite alone, with the lights half on, and for hours together I
smoke and watch these things--the quiet, sure, patient smile of that
Buddha, for example. Think how long he has been smiling like that, and
waiting! Waiting for what? There is something mysterious beyond all
words in that smile of his, that fixed, crudely carved wooden smile--no,
I'll be hanged if it's crude! It is beyond our modern art. The dead men
carved better than we do. We couldn't manage that with such simple
means. We can only reproduce what is before us. We can't carve
Through the pale-blue, wreathing smoke of his cigarette Captain Stewart
gazed down the room to where eternal Buddha stood and smiled eternally.
And from there the man's eyes moved with slow enjoyment along the
opposite wall over those who sat or stood there, over the panels of the
ancient Rakan, over carved lotus, and gilt contorted dragon forever in
pursuit of the holy pearl. He drew a short breath which seemed to
bespeak extreme contentment, the keenest height of pleasure, and he
stirred a little where he sat and settled himself among the cushions.
Ste. Marie watched him, and the expression of the man's face began to be
oddly revolting. It was the face of a voluptuary in the presence of his
desire. He was uncomfortable, and wished to say something to break the
silence, but, as often occurs at such a time, he could think of nothing
to say. So there was a brief silence between them. But presently Captain
Stewart roused himself with an obvious effort.
"Here, this won't do!" said he, in a tone of whimsical apology. "This
won't do, you know. I'm floating off on my hobby (and there's a mixed
metaphor that would do credit to your own Milesian blood!). I'm boring
you to extinction, and I don't want to do that, for I'm anxious that you
should come here again--and often. I should like to have you form the
habit. What was it I had in mind to ask you about? Ah, yes! The journey
to Dinard and Deauville. I am afraid it turned out to be fruitless or
you would have let me know."
"Entirely fruitless," said Ste. Marie.
He went on to tell the elder man of his investigation, and of his
certainty that no one resembling Arthur Benham had been at either of the
"It's no affair of mine, to be sure," he said, "but I rather suspect
that your agent was deceiving you--pretending to have accomplished
something by way of making you think he was busy."
Ste. Marie was so sure the other would immediately disclaim this that he
waited for the word, and gave a little smothered laugh when Captain
Stewart said, promptly:
"Oh no! No! That is impossible. I have every confidence in that man. He
is one of my best. No, you are mistaken there. I am more disappointed
than you could possibly be over the failure of your efforts, but I am
quite sure my man thought he had something worth working upon.
By-the-way, I have received another rather curious communication--from
Ostend this time. I will show you the letter, and you may try your luck
there if you would care to." He felt in his pockets and then rose. "I've
left the thing in another coat," said he; "if you will allow me, I'll
fetch it." But before he had turned away the door-bell rang and he
paused. "Ah, well," he said, "another time. Here are some of my guests.
They have come earlier than I had expected."
The new arrivals were three very perfectly dressed ladies, one of them
an operatic light, who chanced not to be singing that evening and whom
Ste. Marie had met before. The two others were rather difficult of
classification, but probably, he thought, ornaments of that mysterious
border-land between the two worlds which seems to give shelter to so
many people against whose characters nothing definite is known, but
whose antecedents and connections are not made topics of conversation.
The three ladies seemed to be on very friendly terms with Captain
Stewart, and greeted him with much noisy delight. One of the
unclassified two, when her host, with a glance toward Ste. Marie,
addressed her formally, seemed inordinately amused, and laughed for a
Within the next hour ten or a dozen other guests had arrived, and they
all seemed to know one another very well, and proceeded to make
themselves quite at home. Ste. Marie regarded them with a reflective and
not over-enthusiastic eye, and he wondered a good deal why he had been
asked here to meet them. He was as far from a prig or a snob as any man
could very well be, and he often went to very Bohemian parties which
were given by his painter or musician friends, but these people seemed
to him quite different. The men, with the exception of two eminent
opera-singers, who quite obviously had been asked because of their
voices, were the sort of men who abound at such places as Ostend and
Monte Carlo, and Baden-Baden in the race week. That is not to say that
they were ordinary racing touts or the cheaper kind of adventurers
(there was a count among them, and a marquis who had recently been
divorced by his American wife), but adventurers of a sort they
undoubtedly were. There was not one of them, so far as Ste. Marie was
aware, who was received anywhere in good society, and he resented very
much being compelled to meet them.
Naturally enough, he felt much less concern on the score of the ladies.
It is an undoubted and well-nigh universal truth that men who would
refuse outright to meet certain classes of their own sex show no
reluctance whatever over meeting the women of a corresponding
circle--that is, if the women are attractive. It is a depressing fact
and inclines one to sighs and head-shakes, and some moral indignation,
until the reverse truth is brought to light--namely, that women have
identically the same point of view; that, while they cast looks of
loathing and horror upon certain of their sisters, they will meet with
pleasure any presentable man whatever his crimes or vices.
Ste. Marie was very much puzzled over all this. It seemed to him so
unnecessary that a man who really had some footing in the newer society
of Paris should choose to surround himself with people of this type; but
as he looked on and wondered he became aware of a curious and, in the
light of a past conversation, significant fact: all of the people in the
room were young; all of them in their varying fashions and degrees very
attractive to look upon; all full to overflowing of life and spirits and
the determination to have a good time. He saw Captain Stewart moving
among them, playing very gracefully his role of host, and the man seemed
to have dropped twenty years from his shoulders. A miracle of
rejuvenation seemed to have come upon him: his eyes were bright and
eager, the color was high in his cheeks, and the dry, pedantic tone had
gone from his voice. Ste. Marie watched him, and at last he thought he
understood. It was half revolting, half pathetic, he thought, but it
certainly was interesting to see.
Duval, the great basso of the Opera, accompanied at the piano by one of
the unclassified ladies, was just finishing Mephistopheles' drinking
song out of _Faust_ when the door-bell rang.
* * * * *
A GOLDEN LADY ENTERS--THE EYES AGAIN
The music of voice and piano was very loud just then, so that the
little, soft, whirring sound of the electric bell reached only one or
two pairs of ears in the big room. It did not reach the host certainly,
and neither he nor most of the others observed the servant make his way
among the groups of seated or standing people and go to the outer door,
which opened upon a tiny hallway. The song came to an end, and everybody
was cheering and applauding and crying "Bravo!" or "Bis!" or one of the
other things that people shout at such times, when, as if in unexpected
answer to the outburst, a lady appeared between the yellow portieres and
came forward a little way into the room. She was a tall lady of an
extraordinary and immediately noticeable grace of movement--a lady with
rather fair hair; but her eyebrows and eyelashes had been stained darker
than it was their nature to be. She had the classic Greek type of
face--and figure, too--all but the eyes, which were long and
narrow--narrow, perhaps, from a habit of going half closed; and when
they were a little more than half closed they made a straight black line
that turned up very slightly at the outer end with an Oriental effect
which went oddly in that classic face. There is a popular piece of
sculpture now in the Luxembourg Gallery for which this lady "sat" as
model to a great artist. Sculptors from all over the world go there to
dream over its perfect line and contour, and little schoolgirls pretend
not to see it, and middle-aged maiden tourists, with red Baedekers in
their hands, regard it furtively and pass on, and after a while come
back to look again.
The lady was dressed in some very close-clinging material which was not
cloth of gold, but something very like it, only much duller--something
which gleamed when she stirred, but did not glitter--and over her
splendid shoulders was hung an Oriental scarf heavily worked with
metallic gold. She made an amazing and dramatic picture in that golden
room. It was as if she had known just what her surroundings would be and
had dressed expressly for them.
The applause ceased as suddenly as if it had been trained to break off
at a signal, and the lady came forward a little way, smiling a quiet,
assured smile. At each step her knee threw out the golden stuff of her
gown an inch or two, and it flashed suddenly--a dull, subdued flash in
the overhead light--and died and flashed again. A few of the people in
the room knew who the lady was, and they looked at one another with
raised eyebrows and startled faces; but the others stared at her with an
eager admiration, thinking that they had seldom seen anything so
beautiful or so effective. Ste. Marie sat forward on the edge of his
chair. His eyes sparkled, and he gave a little quick sigh of pleasurable
excitement. This was drama, and very good drama, too, and he suspected
that it might at any moment turn into a tragedy.
He saw Captain Stewart, who had been among a group of people half-way
across the room, turn his head to look when the cries and the applause
ceased so suddenly, and he saw the man's face stiffen by swift degrees,
all the joyous, buoyant life gone out of it, until it was yellow and
rigid like a dead man's face; and Ste. Marie, out of his knowledge of
the relations between these two people, nodded, en connaisseur, for he
knew that the man was very badly frightened.
So the host of the evening hung back, staring for what must have seemed
to him a long and terrible time, though in reality it was but an
instant; then he came forward quickly to greet the new-comer, and if his
face was still yellow-white there was nothing in his manner but the
courtesy habitual with him. He took the lady's hand, and she smiled at
him, but her eyes did not smile--they were hard. Ste. Marie, who was the
nearest of the others, heard Captain Stewart say:
"This is an unexpected pleasure, my dearest Olga!"
And to that the lady replied, more loudly: "Yes, I returned to Paris
only to-day. You didn't know, of course. I heard you were entertaining
this evening, and so I came, knowing that I should be welcome."
"Always!" said Captain Stewart--"always more than welcome!"
He nodded to one or two of the men who stood near, and when they
approached presented them. Ste. Marie observed that he used the lady's
true name--she had, at times, found occasion to employ others--and that
he politely called her "Madame Nilssen" instead of "Mademoiselle." But
at that moment the lady caught sight of Ste. Marie, and, crying out his
name in a tone of delighted astonishment, turned away from the other
men, brushing past them as if they had been furniture, and advanced
holding out both her hands in greeting.
"Dear Ste. Marie!" she exclaimed. "Fancy finding you here! I'm so glad!
Oh, I'm so very glad! Take me away from these people! Find a corner
where we can talk. Ah, there is one with a big seat! Allons-y!"
She addressed him for the most part in English, which she spoke
perfectly--as perfectly as she spoke French and German and, presumably,
her native tongue, which must have been Swedish.
They went to the broad, low seat, a sort of hard-cushioned bench, which
stood against one of the walls, and made themselves comfortable there by
the only possible means, which, owing to the width of the thing, was to
sit far back with their feet stuck straight out before them. Captain
Stewart had followed them across the room and showed a strong tendency
to remain. Ste. Marie observed that his eyes were hard and bright and
very alert, and that there were two bright spots of color in his yellow
cheeks. It occurred to Ste. Marie that the man was afraid to leave him
alone with Olga Nilssen, and he smiled to himself, reflecting that the
lady, even if indiscreetly inclined, could tell him nothing--save in
details--that he did not already know. But after a few rather awkward
moments Mile. Nilssen waved an irritated hand.
"Go away!" she said to her host. "Go away to your other guests! I want
to talk to Ste. Marie. We have old times to talk over."
And after hesitating awhile uneasily, Captain Stewart turned back into
the room; but for some time thereafter Ste. Marie was aware that a
vigilant eye was being kept upon them and that their host was by no
means at his ease.
When they were left alone together the girl turned to him and patted his
arm affectionately. She said:
"Ah, but it is very good to see you again, mon cher ami! It has been so
long!" She gave an abrupt frown. "What are you doing here?" she
And she said an unkind thing about her fellow-guests. She called them
"canaille." She said:
"Why are you wasting your time among these canaille? This is not a place
for you. Why did you come?"
"I don't know," said Ste. Marie. He was still a little resentful, and he
said so. He said: "I didn't know it was going to be like this. I came
because Stewart went rather out of his way to ask me. I'd known him in a
very different milieu."
"Ah, yes!" she said, reflectively. "Yes, he does go into the world also,
doesn't he? But this is what he likes, you know." Her lips drew back for
an instant, and she said: "He is a pig-dog!"
Ste. Marie looked at her gravely. She had used that offensive name with
a little too much fierceness. Her face had turned for an instant quite
white, and her eyes had flashed out over the room a look that meant a
great deal to any one who knew her as well as Ste. Marie did. He sat
forward and lowered his voice. He said:
"Look here, Olga! I'm going to be very frank for a moment. May I?"
For just an instant the girl drew away from him with suspicion in her
eyes, and something else, alertly defiant. Then she put out her hands to
"You may be what you like, dear Ste. Marie," she said, "and say what you
like. I will take it all--and swallow it alive--good as gold. What are
you going to do to me?"
"I've always been fair with you, haven't I?" he urged. "I've had
disagreeable things to say or do, but--you knew always that I liked you
and--where my sympathies were."
"Always! Always, mon cher!" she cried. "I trusted you always in
everything. And there is no one else I trust. No one! No one!--Ste.
"What then?" he asked.
"Ste. Marie," she said, "why did you never fall in love with me, as the
other men did?"
"I wonder!" said he. "I don't know. Upon my word, I really don't know."
He was so serious about it that the girl burst into a shriek of
laughter. And in the end he laughed, too.
"I expect it was because I liked you too well," he said, at last. "But
come! We're forgetting my lecture. Listen to your grandpere Ste. Marie!
I have heard--certain things--rumors--what you will. Perhaps they are
foolish lies, and I hope they are. But if not, if the fear I saw in
Stewart's face when you came here to-night, was--not without cause, let
me beg you to have a care. You're much too savage, my dear child. Don't
be so foolish as to--well, turn comedy into the other thing. In the
first place, it's not worth while, and, in the second place, it recoils
always. Revenge may be sweet. I don't know. But nowadays, with police