Part 5 out of 6
Issy and entered the little rue Barbes which led to La Lierre. Of
course, he promptly did the only possible thing under the circumstances.
He dashed on past the long stretch of wall, swung into the main avenue
beyond, and continued through Clamart to the Meudon wood, as if he were
going to St. Cloud. In the labyrinth of roads and lanes there he came to
a halt, and after a half-hour's wait ran slowly back to La Lierre.
There was no further sign of the other car, the pursuer, if so it had
been, but he passed two or three men on bicycles and others walking, and
what one of these might not be a spy paid to track him down?
It had frightened him badly, that hour of suspense and flight, and he
determined to remain at La Lierre for at least a few days, and wrote to
his servant in the rue du Faubourg to forward his letters there under
the false name by which he had hired the place.
He was thinking very wearily of all these things as he sat on the fallen
tree-trunk in the garden and stared unseeing across tangled ranks of
roses. And after a while his thoughts, as they were wont to do, returned
to Ste. Marie--that looming shadow which darkened the sunlight, that
incubus of fear which clung to him night and day. He was so absorbed
that he did not hear sounds which might otherwise have roused him. He
heard nothing, saw nothing, save that which his fevered mind projected,
until a voice spoke his name.
He looked over his shoulder thinking that O'Hara had sought him out. He
turned a little on the tree-trunk to see more easily, and the image of
his dread stood there a living and very literal shadow against the
Captain Stewart's overstrained nerves were in no state to bear a sudden
shock. He gave a voiceless, whispering cry and he began to tremble very
violently, so that his teeth chattered. All at once he got to his feet
and began to stumble away backward, but a projecting limb of the fallen
tree caught him and held him fast. It must be that the man was in a sort
of frenzy. He must have seen through a red mist just then, for when he
found that he could not escape his hand went swiftly to his coat-pocket,
and in his white and contorted face there was murder plain and
Ste. Marie was too lame to spring aside or to dash upon the man across
intervening obstacles and defend himself. He stood still in his place
and waited. And it was characteristic of him that at that moment he felt
no fear, only a fine sense of exhilaration. Open danger had no terrors
for him. It was secret peril that unnerved him, as in the matter of the
poison a week before.
Captain Stewart's hand fell away empty, and Ste. Marie laughed.
"Left it at the house?" said he. "You seem to have no luck, Stewart.
First the cat drinks the poison, and then you leave your pistol at home.
Dear, dear, I'm afraid you're careless."
Captain Stewart stared at the younger man under his brows. His face was
gray and he was still shivering, but the sudden agony of fear, which had
been, after all, only a jangle of nerves, was gone away. He looked upon
Ste. Marie's gay and untroubled face with a dull wonder, and he began to
feel a grudging admiration for the man who could face death without even
turning pale. He pulled out his watch and looked at it.
"I did not know," he said, "that this was your hour out-of-doors."
As a matter of fact, he had quite forgotten that the arrangement
existed. When he had first heard of it he had protested vigorously, but
had been overborne by O'Hara with the plea that they owed their prisoner
something for having come near to poisoning him, and Stewart did not
care to have any further attention called to that matter; it had already
put a severe strain upon the relations at La Lierre.
"Well," observed Ste. Marie, "I told you you were careless. That proves
it. Come! Can't we sit down for a little chat? I haven't seen you since
I was your guest at the other address--the town address. It seems to
have become a habit of mine--doesn't it?--being your guest." He laughed
cheerfully, but Captain Stewart continued to regard him without smiling.
"If you imagine," said the elder man, "that this place belongs to me you
are mistaken. I came here to-day to make a visit."
But Ste. Marie sat down at one end of the tree-trunk and shook his head.
"Oh, come, come!" said he. "Why keep up the pretence? You must know that
I know all about the whole affair. Why, bless you, I know it all--even
to the provisions of the will. Did you think I stumbled in here by
accident? Well, I didn't, though I don't mind admitting to you that I
remained by accident."
He glanced over his shoulder toward the one-eyed Michel, who stood
near-by, regarding the two with some alarm.
Captain Stewart looked up sharply at the mention of the will, and he
wetted his dry lips with his tongue. But after a moment's hesitation he
sat down upon the tree-trunk, and he seemed to shrink a little together,
when his limbs and shoulders had relaxed, so that he looked small and
feeble, like a very tired old man. He remained silent for a few moments,
but at last he spoke without raising his eyes. He said:
"And now that you--imagine yourself to know so very much, what do you
expect to do about it?"
Ste. Marie laughed again.
"Ah, that would be telling!" he cried. "You see, in one way I have the
advantage, though outwardly all the advantage seems to be with your
side--I know all about your game. I may call it a game? Yes? But you
don't know mine. You don't know what I--what we may do at any moment.
That's where we have the better of you."
"It would seem to me," said Captain Stewart, wearily, "that since you
are a prisoner here and very unlikely to escape, we know with great
accuracy what you will do--and what you will not."
"Yes," admitted Ste. Marie, "it would seem so. It certainly would seem
so. But you never can tell, can you?"
And at that the elder man frowned and looked away. Thereafter another
brief silence fell between the two, but at its end Ste. Marie spoke in a
new tone, a very serious tone. He said:
"Stewart, listen a moment!"
And the other turned a sharp gaze upon him.
"You mustn't forget," said Ste. Marie, speaking slowly as if to choose
his words with care--"you mustn't forget that I am not alone in this
matter. You mustn't forget that there's Richard Hartley--and that there
are others, too. I'm a prisoner, yes. I'm helpless here for the
present--perhaps, perhaps--but they are not, _and they know, Stewart.
Captain Stewart's face remained gray and still, but his hands twisted
and shook upon his knees until he hid them.
"I know well enough what you're waiting for," continued Ste. Marie.
"You're waiting--you've got to wait--for Arthur Benham to come of age,
or, better yet, for your father to die." He paused and shook his head.
"It's no good. You can't hold out as long as that--not by half. We shall
have won the game long before. Listen to me! Do you know what would
occur if your father should take a serious turn for the worse
to-night--or at any time? Do you? Well, I'll tell you. A piece of
information would be given him that would make another change in that
will just as quickly as a pen could write the words. That's what would
"That is a lie!" said Captain Stewart, in a dry whisper. "A lie!"
And Ste. Marie contented himself with a slight smile by way of answer.
He was by no means sure that what he had said was true, but he argued
that since Hartley suspected, or perhaps by this time knew so much, he
would certainly not allow old David to die without doing what he could
do in an effort to save young Arthur's fortune from a rascal. In any
event, true or false, the words had had the desired effect. Captain
Stewart was plainly frightened by them.
"May I make a suggestion?" asked the younger man.
The other did not answer him, and he made it.
"Give it up!" said he. "You're riding for a tremendous fall, you know.
We shall smash you completely in the end. It'll mean worse than
ruin--much worse. Give it up, now, before you're too late. Help me to
send for Hartley and we'll take the boy back to his home. Some story can
be managed that will leave you out of the thing altogether, and those
who know will hold their tongues. It's your last chance, Stewart. I
advise you to take it."
Captain Stewart turned his gray face slowly and looked at the other man
with a sort of dull and apathetic wonder.
"Are you mad?" he asked, in a voice which was altogether without feeling
of any kind. "Are you quite mad?"
"On the contrary," said Ste. Marie, "I am quite sane, and I'm offering
you a chance to save yourself before it's too late. Don't misunderstand
me!" he continued. "I am not urging this out of any sympathy for you. I
urge it because it will bring about what I wish a little more quickly,
also because it will save your family from the disgrace of your
smash-up. That's why I'm making my suggestion."
Captain Stewart was silent for a little while, but after that he got
heavily to his feet. "I think you must be quite mad," said he, as
before, in a voice altogether devoid of expression. "I cannot talk with
madmen." He beckoned to the old Michel, who stood near-by, leaning upon
his carbine, and when the gardener had approached he said, "Take
this--prisoner back to his room!"
Ste. Marie rose with a little sigh. He said: "I'm sorry, but you'll
admit I have done my best for you. I've warned you. I sha'n't do it
again. We shall smash you now, without mercy."
"Take him away!" cried Captain Stewart, in a sudden loud voice, and the
old Michel touched his charge upon the shoulder. So Ste. Marie went
without further words. From a little distance he looked back, and the
other man still stood by the fallen tree-trunk, bent a little, his arms
hanging lax beside him, and his face, Ste. Marie thought, fancifully,
was like the face of a man damned.
* * * * *
THE LAST ARROW
The one birdlike eye of the old Michel regarded Ste. Marie with a glance
of mingled cunning and humor. It might have been said to twinkle.
"To the east, Monsieur?" inquired the old Michel.
"Precisely!" said Ste. Marie. "To the east, mon vieux." It was the
morning of the fourth day after that talk with Captain Stewart beside
The two bore to the eastward, down among the trees, and presently came
to the spot where a certain trespasser had once leaped down from the top
of the high wall and had been shot for his pains. The old Michel halted
and leaned upon the barrel of his carbine. With an air of complete
detachment, an air vague and aloof as of one in a revery, he gazed away
over the tree-tops of the ragged park; but Ste. Marie went in under the
row of lilac shrubs which stood close against the wall, and a passer-by
might have thought the man looking for figs on thistles, for lilacs in
late July. He had gone there with eagerness, with flushed cheeks and
bright eyes; he emerged after some moments, moving slowly, with downcast
"There are no lilac blooms now, Monsieur," observed the old Michel, and
his prisoner said, in a low voice:
"No, mon vieux. No. There are none." He sighed and drew a long breath.
So the two stood for some time silent, Ste. Marie a little pale, his
eyes fixed upon the ground, his hands chafing together behind him, the
gardener with his one bright eye upon his charge. But in the end Ste.
Marie sighed again and began to move away, followed by the gardener.
They went across the broad park, past the double row of larches, through
that space where the chestnut-trees stood in straight, close rows, and
so came to the west wall which skirted the road to Clamart. Ste. Marie
felt in his pocket and withdrew the last of the four letters--the last
there could be, for he had no more stamps. The others he had thrown over
the wall, one each morning, beginning with the day after he had made the
first attempt to bribe old Michel. As he had expected, twenty-four hours
of avaricious reflection had proved too much for that gnomelike being.
One each day he had thrown over the wall, weighted with a pebble tucked
loosely under the flap of the improvised envelope, in such a manner that
it would drop but when the letter struck the ground beyond. And each
following day he had gone with high hopes to the appointed place under
the cedar-tree to pick figs of thistles, lilac blooms in late July. But
there had been nothing there.
"Turn your back, Michel!" said Ste. Marie.
And the old man said, from a little distance: "It is turned, Monsieur. I
see nothing. Monsieur throws little stories at the birds to amuse
himself. It does not concern me."
Ste. Marie slipped a pebble under the flap of the envelope and threw his
letter over the wall. It went like a soaring bird, whirling
horizontally, and it must have fallen far out in the middle of the road
near the tramway. For the third time that morning the prisoner drew a
sigh. He said, "You may turn round now, my friend," and the old Michel
faced him. "We have shot our last arrow," said he. "If this also fails,
I think--well, I think the bon Dieu will have to help us then.--Michel,"
he inquired, "do you know how to pray?"
"Sacred thousand swine, no!" cried the ancient gnome, in something
between astonishment and horror. "No, Monsieur. 'Pas mon metier, ca!" He
shook his head rapidly from side to side like one of those toys in a
shop-window whose heads oscillate upon a pivot. But all at once a gleam
of inspiration sparkled in his lone eye. "There is the old Justine!" he
suggested. "Toujours sur les genoux, cette imbecile la."
"In that case," said Ste. Marie, "you might ask the lady to say one
little extra prayer for--the pebble I threw at the birds just now.
Hein?" He withdrew from his pocket the last two louis d'or, and Michel
took them in a trembling hand. There remained but the note of fifty
francs and some silver.
"The prayer shall be said, Monsieur," declared the gardener. "It shall
be said. She shall pray all night or I will kill her."
"Thank you," said Ste. Marie. "You are kindness itself. A gentle soul."
They turned away to retrace their steps, and Michel rubbed the side of
his head with a reflective air.
"The old one is a madman," said he. (The "old one" meant Captain
Stewart.) "A madman. Each day he is madder, and this morning he struck
me--here on the head, because I was too slow. Eh! a little more of that,
and--who knows? Just a little more, a small little! Am I a dog, to be
beaten? Hein? Je ne le crois pas. He!" He called Captain Stewart two
unprintable names, and after a moment's thought he called him an animal,
which is not so much of an anti-climax as it may seem, because to call
anybody an animal in French is a serious matter.
The gardener was working himself up into something of a quiet passion,
and Ste. Marie said:
"Softly, my friend! Softly!" It occurred to him that the man's
resentment might be of use later on, and he said: "You speak the truth.
The old one is an animal, and he is also a great rascal."
But Michel betrayed the makings of a philosopher. He said, with profound
conviction: "Monsieur, all men are great rascals. It is I who say it."
And at that Ste. Marie had to laugh.
* * * * *
He had not consciously directed his feet, but without direction they led
him round the corner of the rose-gardens and toward the rond point. He
knew well whom he would find there. She had not failed him during the
past three days. Each morning he had found her in her place, and for his
allotted hour--which more than once stretched itself out to nearly two
hours, if he had but known--they had sat together on the stone bench,
or, tiring of that, had walked under the trees beyond.
Long afterward Ste. Marie looked back upon these hours with, among other
emotions, a great wonder--at himself and at her. It seemed to him then
one of the strangest relationships--intimacies, for it might well be so
called--that ever existed between a man and a woman, and he was amazed
at the ease, the unconsciousness, with which it had come about.
But during this time he did not allow himself to wonder or to examine,
scarcely even to think. The hours were golden hours, unrelated, he told
himself, to anything else in his life or in his interests. They were
like pleasant dreams, very sweet while they endured, but to be put away
and forgotten upon the waking. Only in that long afterward he knew that
they had not been put away, that they had been with him always, that the
morning hour had remained in his thoughts all the rest of the long day,
and that he had waked upon the morrow with a keen and exquisite sense of
something sweet to come.
It was a strange fool's paradise that the man dwelt in, and in some
small, vague measure he must, even at the time, have known it, for it is
certain that he deliberately held himself away from
thought--realization; that he deliberately shut his eyes, held his ears
lest he should hear or see.
That he was not faithless to his duty has been shown. He did his utmost
there, but he was for the time helpless save for efforts to communicate
with Richard Hartley, and those efforts could consume no more than ten
minutes out of the weary day.
So he drifted, wilfully blind to bearings, wilfully deaf to Sound of
warning or peril, and he found a companionship sweeter and fuller and
more perfect than he had ever before known in all his life, though that
is not to say very much, because sympathetic companionships between men
and women are very rare indeed, and Ste. Marie had never experienced
anything which could fairly be called by that name. He had had, as has
been related, many flirtations, and not a few so-called love-affairs,
but neither of these two sorts of intimacies are of necessity true
intimacies at all; men often feel varying degrees of love for women
without the least true understanding or sympathy or real companionship.
He was wondering, as he bore round the corner of the rose-gardens on
this day, in just what mood he would find her. It seemed to him that in
their brief acquaintance he had seen her in almost all the moods there
are, from bitter gloom to the irrepressible gayety of a little child. He
had told her once that she was like an organ, and she had laughed at him
for being pretentious and high-flown, though she could upon occasion be
quite high-flown enough herself for all ordinary purposes.
He reached the cleared margin of the rond point, and a little cold fear
stirred in him when he did not hear her singing under her breath, as she
was wont to do when alone, but he went forward and she was there in her
place upon the stone bench. She had been reading, but the book lay
forgotten beside her and she sat idle, her head laid back against the
thick stems of shrubbery which grew behind, her hands in her lap. It was
a warm, still morning, with the promise of a hot afternoon, and the girl
was dressed in something very thin and transparent and cool-looking,
open in a little square at the throat and with sleeves which came only
to her elbows. The material was pale and dull yellow, with very vaguely
defined green leaves in it, and against it the girl's dark and clear
skin glowed rich and warm and living, as pearls glow and seem to throb
against the dead tints of the fabric upon which they are laid.
She did not move when he came before her, but looked up to him gravely
without stirring her head.
"I didn't hear you come," said she. "You don't drag your left leg any
more. You walk almost as well as if you had never been wounded."
"I'm almost all right again," he answered. "I suppose I couldn't run or
jump, but I certainly can walk very much like a human being. May I sit
Mlle. O'Hara put out one hand and drew the book closer to make a place
for him on the stone bench, and he settled himself comfortably there,
turned a little so that he was facing toward her.
It was indicative of the state of intimacy into which the two had grown
that they did not make polite conversation with each other, but indeed
were silent for some little time after Ste. Marie had seated himself. It
was he who spoke first. He said:
"You look vaguely classical to-day. I have been trying to guess why, and
I cannot. Perhaps it's because your--what does one say: frock, dress,
gown?--because it is cut out square at the throat."
"If you mean by classical, Greek," said she, "it wouldn't be square at
the neck at all; it would be pointed--V-shaped. And it would be very
different in other ways, too. You are not an observing person, after
"For all that," insisted Ste. Marie, "you look classical. You look like
some lady one reads about in Greek poems--Helen or Iphigenia or Medea or
"Helen had yellow hair, hadn't she?" objected Mlle. O'Hara. "I should
think I probably look more like Medea--Medea in Colchis before Jason--"
She seemed suddenly to realize that she had hit upon an unfortunate
example, for she stopped in the middle of her sentence and a wave of
color swept up over her throat and face.
For a moment Ste. Marie did not understand, then he gave a low
exclamation, for Medea certainly had been an unhappy name. He remembered
something that Richard Hartley had said about that lady a long time
before. He made another mistake, for to lessen the moment's
embarrassment he gave speech to the first thought which entered his
mind. He said:
"Some one once remarked that you look like the young Juno--before
marriage. I expect it's true, too."
She turned upon him swiftly.
"Who said that?" she demanded. "Who has ever talked to you about me?"
"I beg your pardon," he said. "I seem to be singularly stupid this
morning. A mild lunacy. You must forgive me, if you can. To tell you
what you ask would be to enter upon forbidden ground, and I mustn't do
"Still, I should like to know," said the girl, watching him with sombre
"Well, then," said he, "it was a little Jewish photographer in the
Boulevard de la Madeleine."
And she said, "Oh!" in a rather disappointed tone and looked away.
"We seem to be making conversation chiefly about my personal
appearance," she said, presently. "There must be other topics if one
should try hard to find them. Tell me stories. You told me stories
yesterday; tell me more. You seem to be in a classical mood. You shall
be Odysseus, and I will be Nausicaa, the interesting laundress. Tell me
about wanderings and things. Have you any more islands for me?"
"Yes," said Ste. Marie, nodding at her slowly. "Yes, Nausicaa, I have
more islands for you. The seas are full of islands. What kind do you
"A warm one," said the girl. "Even on a hot day like this I choose a
warm one, because I hate the cold."
She settled herself more comfortably, with a little sigh of content that
was exactly like a child's happy sigh when stories are going to be told
before the fire.
"I know an island," said Ste. Marie, "that I think you would like
because it is warm and beautiful and very far away from troubles of all
kinds. As well as I could make out, when I went there, nobody on the
island had ever even heard of trouble. Oh yes, you'd like it. The people
there are brown, and they're as beautiful as their own island. They wear
hibiscus flowers stuck in their hair, and they very seldom do any work."
"I want to go there!" cried Mlle. Coira O'Hara. "I want to go there now,
this afternoon, at once! Where is it?"
"It's in the South Pacific," said he, "not so very far from Samoa and
Fiji and other groups that you will have heard about, and its name is
Vavau. It's one of the Tongans. It's a high, volcanic island, not a
flat, coral one like the southern Tongans. I came to it, one evening,
sailing north from Nukualofa and Haapai, and it looked to me like a
single big mountain jutting up out of the sea, black-green against the
sunset. It was very impressive. But it isn't a single mountain, it's a
lot of high, broken hills covered with a tangle of vegetation and set
round a narrow bay, a sort of fjord, three or four miles long, and at
the inner end of this are the village and the stores of the few white
traders. I'm afraid," said Ste. Marie, shaking his head--"I'm afraid I
can't tell you about it, after all. I can't seem to find the words. You
can't put into language--at least, I can't--those slow, hot, island days
that are never too hot because the trades blow fresh and strong, or the
island nights that are more like black velvet with pearls sewed on it
than anything else. You can't describe the smell of orange groves and
the look of palm-trees against the sky. You can't tell about the sweet,
simple, natural hospitality of the natives. They're like little,
unsuspicious children. In short," said he, "I shall have to give it up,
after all, just because it's too big for me. I can only say that it's
beautiful and unspeakably remote from the world, and that I think I
should like to go back to Vavau and stay a long time, and let the rest
of the world go hang."
Mlle. O'Hara stared across the park of La Lierre with wide and shadowy
eyes, and her lips trembled a little.
"Oh, I want to go there!" she cried again. "I want to go there--and
rest--and forget everything!" She turned upon him with a sudden bitter
resentment. "Why do you tell me things like that?" she cried. "Oh yes, I
know. I asked you, but--can't you see? To hide one's self away in a
place like that!" she said. "To let the sun warm you and the trade-winds
blow away--all that had ever tortured you! Just to rest and be at
peace!" She turned her eyes to him once more. "You needn't be afraid
that you have failed to make me see your island! I see it. I feel it. It
doesn't need many words. I can shut my eyes and I am there. But it was a
little cruel. Oh, I know, I asked for it. It's like the garden of the
Hesperides, isn't it?"
"Very like it," said Ste. Marie, "because there are oranges--groves of
them. (And they were the golden apples, I take it.) Also, it is very far
away from the world, and the people live in complete and careless
ignorance of how the world goes on. Emperors and kings die, wars come
and go, but they hear only a little faint echo of it all, long
afterward, and even that doesn't interest them."
"I know," she said. "I understand. Didn't you know I'd understand?"
"Yes," said he, nodding. "I suppose I did. We--feel things rather alike,
I suppose. We don't have to say them all out."
"I wonder," she said, in a low voice, "if I'm glad or sorry." She stared
under her brows at the man beside her. "For it is very probable that
when we have left La Lierre you and I will never meet again. I wonder if
For some obscure reason she broke off there and turned her eyes away,
and she remained without speaking for a long time. Her mind, as she sat
there, seemed to go back to that southern island, and to its peace and
loveliness, for Ste. Marie, who watched her, saw a little smile come to
her lips, and he saw her eyes half close and grow soft and tender as if
what they saw were very sweet to her. He watched many different
expressions come upon the girl's face and go again, but at last he
seemed to see the old bitterness return there and struggle with
something wistful and eager.
"I envy you your wide wanderings," she said, presently. "Oh, I envy you
more than I can find any words for. Your will is the wind's will. You go
where your fancy leads you, and you're free--free. We have wandered, you
know," said she, "my father and I. I can't remember when we ever had a
home to live in. But that is--that is different--a different kind of
"Yes," said Ste. Marie. "Yes, perhaps." And within himself he said, with
sorrow and pity, "Different, indeed!"
As if at some sudden thought the girl looked up at him quickly. "Did
that sound regretful?" she asked. "Did what I say sound--disloyal to my
father? I didn't mean it to. I don't want you to think that I regret it.
I don't. It has meant being with my father. Wherever he has gone I have
gone with him, and if anything ever has been--unpleasant, I was willing,
oh, I was glad, glad to put up with it for his sake and because I could
be with him. If I have made his life a little happier by sharing it, I
am glad of everything. I don't regret."
"And yet," said Ste. Marie, gently, "it must have been hard sometimes."
He pictured to himself that roving existence lived among such people as
O'Hara must have known, and it sent a hot wave of anger and distress
over him from head to foot.
But the girl said: "I had my father. The rest of it didn't matter in the
face of that." After a little silence she said, "M. Ste. Marie!"
And the man said, "What is it, Mademoiselle?"
"You spoke the other day," she said, hesitating over her words, "about
my aunt, Lady Margaret Craith. I suppose I ought not to ask you more
about her, for my father quarrelled with his people very long ago and he
broke with them altogether. But--surely, it can do no harm--just for a
moment--just a very little! Could you tell me a little about her, M.
Ste. Marie--what she is like and--and how she lives--and things like
So Ste. Marie told her all that he could of the old Irishwoman who lived
alone in her great house, and ruled with a slack Irish hand, a sweet
Irish heart, over tenants and dependants. And when he had come to an end
the girl drew a little sigh and said:
"Thank you. I am so glad to hear of her. I--wish everything were
different, so that--I think I should love her very much if I might."
"Mademoiselle," said Ste. Marie, "will you promise me something?"
She looked at him with her sombre eyes, and after a little she said: "I
am afraid you must tell me first what it is. I cannot promise blindly."
He said: "I want you to promise me that if anything ever should
happen--any difficulty--trouble--anything to put you in the position of
needing care or help or sympathy--"
But she broke in upon him with a swift alarm, crying: "What do you mean?
You're trying to hint at something that I don't know. What difficulty or
trouble could happen to me? Please tell me just what you mean."
"I'm not hinting at any mystery," said Ste. Marie. "I don't know of
anything that is going to happen to you, but--will you forgive me for
saying it?--your father is, I take it, often exposed to--danger of
various sorts. I'm afraid I can't quite express myself, only, if any
trouble should come to you, Mademoiselle, will you promise me to go to
Lady Margaret, your aunt, and tell her who you are and let her care for
"There was an absolute break," she said. "Complete."
But the man shook his head, saying:
"Lady Margaret won't think of that. She'll think only of you--that she
can mother you, perhaps save you grief--and of herself, that in her old
age she has a daughter. It would make a lonely old woman very happy,
The girl bent her head away from him, and Ste. Marie saw, for the first
time since he had known her, tears in her eyes. After a long time she
"I promise, then. But," she said, "it is very unlikely that it should
ever come about--for more than one reason. Very unlikely."
"Still, Mademoiselle," said he, "I am glad you have promised. This is an
uncertain world. One never can tell what will come with the to-morrows."
"I can," the girl said, with a little tired smile that Ste. Marie did
not understand. "I can tell. I can see all the to-morrows--a long, long
row of them. I know just what they're going to be like--to the very
But the man rose to his feet and looked down upon her as she sat before
him. And he shook his head.
"You are mistaken," he said. "Pardon me, but you are mistaken. No one
can see to-morrow--or the end of anything. The end may surprise you very
"I wish it would!" cried Mlle. O'Hara. "Oh, I wish it would!"
* * * * *
THE JOINT IN THE ARMOR
Ste. Marie put down a book as O'Hara came into the room and rose to meet
"I'm compelled," said the Irishman, "to put you on your honor to-day if
you are to go out as usual. Michel has been sent on an errand, and I am
busy with letters. I shall have to put you on your honor not to make any
effort to escape. Is that agreed to? I shall trust you altogether. You
could manage to scramble over the wall somehow, I suppose, and get clean
away, but I think you won't try it if you give your word."
"I give my word gladly," said Ste. Marie. "And thanks very much. You've
been uncommonly kind to me here. I--regret more than I can say that
we--that we find ourselves on opposite sides, as it were. I wish we were
fighting for the same cause."
The Irishman looked at the younger man sharply for an instant, and he
made as if he would speak, but seemed to think better of it. In the end
"Yes, quite so. Quite so. Of course you understand that any
consideration I have used toward you has been by way of making amends
for--for an unfortunate occurrence."
Ste. Marie laughed.
"The poison," said he. "Yes, I know. And of course I know who was at the
bottom of that. By the way, I met Stewart in the garden the other day.
Did he tell you? He was rather nervous and tried to shoot me, but he had
left his revolver at the house--at least it wasn't in his pocket when he
reached for it."
O'Hara's hard face twitched suddenly, as if in anger, and he gave an
exclamation under his breath, so the younger man inferred that "old
Charlie" had not spoken of their encounter. And after that the Irishman
once more turned a sharp, frowning glance upon his prisoner as if he
were puzzled about something. But, as before, he stopped short of speech
and at last turned away.
"Just a moment!" said the younger man. He asked: "Is it fair to inquire
how long I may expect to be confined here? I don't want to presume upon
your good-nature too far, but if you could tell me I should be glad to
The Irishman hesitated a moment and then said:--
"I don't know why I shouldn't answer that. It can't help you, so far as
I can see, to do anything that would hinder us. You'll stay until Arthur
Benham comes of age, which will be in about two months from now."
"Yes," said the other. "Thanks. I thought so. Until young Arthur comes
of age and receives his patrimony--or until old David Stewart dies. Of
course that might happen at any hour."
The Irishman said: "I don't quite see what--Ah, yes, to be sure! Yes, I
see. Well, I should count upon eight weeks if I were you. In eight weeks
the boy will be independent of them all, and we shall go to England for
"The wedding?" cried Ste. Marie. "What wedding?--Ah!"
"Arthur Benham and my daughter are to be married," said O'Hara, "so soon
as he reaches his majority. I thought you knew that."
In a very vague fashion he realized that he had expected it. And still
the definite words came to him with a shock which was like a physical
blow, and he turned his back with a man's natural instinct to hide his
feeling. Certainly that was the logical conclusion to be drawn from
known premises. That was to be the O'Haras' reward for their labor. To
Stewart the great fortune, to the O'Haras a good marriage for the girl
and an assured future. That was reward enough surely for a few weeks of
angling and decoying and luring and lying. That was what she had meant,
on the day before, by saying that she could see all the to-morrows. He
realized that he must have been expecting something like this, but the
thought turned him sick, nevertheless. He could not forget the girl as
he had come to know her during the past week. He could not face with any
calmness the thought of her as the adventuress who had lured poor Arthur
Benham on to destruction. It was an impossible thought. He could have
laughed at it in scornful anger, and yet--What else was she?
He began to realize that his action in turning his back upon the other
man in the middle of a conversation must look very odd, and he faced
round again trying to drive from his expression the pain and distress
which he knew must be there, plain to see. But he need not have troubled
himself, for the other man was standing before the next window and
looking out into the morning sunlight, and his hard, bony face had so
altered that Ste. Marie stared at him with open amazement. He thought
O'Hara must be ill.
"I want to see her married!" cried the Irishman, suddenly, and it was a
new voice, a voice Ste. Marie did not know. It shook a little with an
emotion that sat uncouthly upon this grim, stern man.
"I want to see her married and safe!" he said. "I want her to be rid of
this damnable, roving, cheap existence. I want her to be rid of me and
my rotten friends and my rotten life."
He chafed his hands together before him, and his tired eyes fixed
themselves upon something that he seemed to see out of the window and
glared at it fiercely.
"I should like," said he, "to die on the day after her wedding, and so
be out of her way forever. I don't want her to have any shadows cast
over her from the past. I don't want her to open closet doors and find
skeletons there. I want her to be free--free to live the sort of life
she was born to and has a right to."
He turned sharply upon the younger man.
"You've seen her!" he cried. "You've talked to her; you know her! Think
of that girl dragged about Europe with me ever since she was a little
child! Think of the people she's had to know, the things she's had to
see! Do you wonder that I want to have her free of it all, married and
safe and comfortable and in peace? Do you? I tell you it has driven me
as nearly mad as a man can be. But I couldn't go mad, because I had to
take care of her. I couldn't even die, because she'd have been left
alone without any one to look out for her. She wouldn't leave me. I
could have settled her somewhere in some quiet place where she'd have
been quit at least of shady, rotten people, but she wouldn't have it.
She's stuck to me always, through good times and bad. She's kept my
heart up when I'd have been ready to cut my throat if I'd been alone.
She's been the--bravest and faithfulest--Well, I--And look at her! Look
at her now! Think of what she's had to see and know--the people she's
had to live with--and look at her! Has any of it stuck to her? Has it
cheapened her in any littlest way? No, by God! She has come through it
all like a--like a Sister of Charity through a city slum--like an angel
through the dark."
The Irishman broke off speaking, for his voice was beyond control, but
after a moment he went on again, more calmly:
"This boy, this young Benham, is a fool, but he's not a mean fool.
She'll make a man of him. And, married to him, she'll have the comforts
that she ought to have and the care and--freedom. She'll have a chance
to live the life that she has a right to, among the sort of people she
has a right to know. I'm not afraid for her. She'll do her part and
more. She'll hold up her head among duchesses, that girl. I'm not afraid
He said this last sentence over several times, standing before the
window and staring out at the sun upon the tree-tops.
"I'm not afraid for her.... I'm not afraid for her."
He seemed to have forgotten that the younger man was in the room, for he
did not look toward him again or pay him any attention for a long while.
He only gazed out of the window into the fresh morning sunlight, and his
face worked and quivered and his lean hands chafed restlessly together
before him. But at last he seemed to realize where he was, for he turned
with a sudden start and stared at Ste. Marie, frowning as if the younger
man were some one he had never seen before. He said:
"Ah, yes, yes. You were wanting to go out into the garden. Yes, quite
so. I--I was thinking of something else. I seem to be absent-minded of
late. Don't let me keep you here."
He seemed a little embarrassed and ill at ease, and Ste. Marie said:
"Oh, thanks. There's no hurry. However, I'll go, I think. It's after
eleven. I understand that I'm on my honor not to climb over the wall or
burrow under it or batter it down. That's understood. I--"
He felt that he ought to say something in acknowledgment of O'Hara's
long speech about his daughter, but he could think of nothing to say,
and, besides, the Irishman seemed not to expect any comment upon his
strange outburst. So, in the end, Ste. Marie nodded and went out of the
room without further ceremony.
He had been astonished almost beyond words at that sudden and
unlooked-for breakdown of the other man's impregnable reserve, and dimly
he realized that it must have come out of some very extraordinary
nervous strain, but he himself had been in no state to give the
Irishman's words the attention and thought that he would have given them
at another time. His mind, his whole field of mental vision, had been
full of one great fact--_the girl was to be married to young Arthur
Benham_. The thing loomed gigantic before him, and in some strange way
terrifying. He could neither see nor think beyond it. O'Hara's burst of
confidence had reached his ears very faintly, as if from a great
distance--poignant but only half-comprehended words to be reflected upon
later in their own time.
He stumbled down the ill-lighted stair with fixed, wide, unseeing eyes,
and he said one sentence over and over aloud, as the Irishman standing
beside the window had said another.
"She is going to be married. She is going to be married."
It would seem that he must have forgotten his previous half-suspicion of
the fact. It would seem to have remained, as at the first hearing, a
great and appalling shock, thunderous out of a blue sky.
Below, in the open, his feet led him mechanically straight down under
the trees, through the tangle of shrubbery beyond, and so to the wall
under the cedar. Arrived there, he awoke all at once to his task, and
with a sort of frowning anger shook off the dream which enveloped him.
His eyes sharpened and grew keen and eager. He said:
"The last arrow! God send it reached home!" and so went in under the
He was there longer than usual; unhampered now, he may have made a
larger search, but when at last he emerged Ste. Marie's hands were over
his face and his feet dragged slowly like an old man's feet.
Without knowing that he had stirred he found himself some distance away,
standing still beside a chestnut-tree. A great wave of depression and
fear and hopelessness swept him, and he shivered under it. He had an
instant's wild panic, and mad, desperate thoughts surged upon him. He
saw utter failure confronting him. He saw himself as helpless as a
little child, his feeble efforts already spent for naught, and, like a
little child, he was afraid. He would have rushed at that grim
encircling wall and fought his way up and over it, but even as the
impulse raced to his feet the momentary madness left him and he turned
away. He could not do a dishonorable thing even for all he held dearest.
He walked on in the direction which lay before him, but he took no heed
of where he went, and Mlle. Coira O'Hara spoke to him twice before he
heard or saw her.
* * * * *
MEDEA GOES OVER TO THE ENEMY
They were near the east end of the rond point, in a space where
fir-trees stood and the ground underfoot was covered with dry needles.
"I was just on my way to--our bench beyond the fountain," said she.
And Ste. Marie nodded, looking upon her sombrely. It seemed to him that
he looked with new eyes, and after a little time, when he did not speak,
but only gazed in that strange manner, the girl said:
"What is it? Something has happened. Please tell me what it is."
Something like the pale foreshadow of fear came over her beautiful face
and shrouded her golden voice as if it had been a veil.
"Your father," said Ste. Marie, heavily, "has just been telling me--that
you are to marry young Arthur Benham. He has been telling me."
She drew a quick breath, looking at him, but after a moment she said:
"Yes, it is true. You knew it before, though, didn't you? Do you mean
that you didn't know it before? I don't quite understand. You must have
known that. What, in Heaven's name, _did_ you think?" she cried, as if
with a sort of anger at his dulness.
The man rubbed one hand wearily across his eyes.
"I--don't quite know," said he. "Yes, I suppose I had thought of it. I
don't know. It came to me with such a--shock! Yes. Oh, I don't know. I
expect I didn't think at all. I--just didn't think."
Abruptly his eyes sharpened upon her, and he moved a step forward.
"Tell me the truth!" he said. "Do you love this boy?"
The girl's cheeks burned with a swift crimson and she set her lips
together. She was on the verge of extreme anger just then, but after a
little the flush died down again and the dark fire went out of her eyes.
She made an odd gesture with her two hands. It seemed to express fatigue
as much as anything--a great weariness.
"I like him," she said. "I like him--enough, I suppose. He is good--and
kind--and gentle. He will be good to me. And I shall try very, very
hard, to make him happy."
Quite suddenly and without warning the fire of her anger burned up
again. She flamed defiance in the man's face.
"How dare you question me?" she cried. "What right have you to ask me
questions about such a thing? You--what you are!"
Ste. Marie bent his head.
"No right, Mademoiselle," said he, in a low voice. "I have no right to
ask you anything--not even forgiveness. I think I am a little mad
to-day. It--this news came to me suddenly. Yes, I think I am a little
The girl stared at him and he looked back with sombre eyes. Once more he
was stabbed with intolerable pain to think what she was. Yet in an
inexplicable fashion it pleased him that she should carry out her
trickery to the end with a high head. It was a little less base, done
proudly. He could not have borne it otherwise.
"Who are you," the girl cried, in a bitter resentment, "that you should
understand? What do you know of the sort of life I have led--we have led
together, my father and I? Oh, I don't mean that I'm ashamed of it! We
have nothing to feel shame for, but you simply do not know what such a
Though he writhed with pain, the man nodded over her. He was so glad
that she could carry it through proudly, with a high hand, an erect
She spread out her arms before him, a splendid and tragic figure.
"What chance have I ever had?" she demanded. "No, I am not blaming him.
I am not blaming my father. I chose to follow him. I chose it. But what
chance have I had? Think of the people I have lived among. Would you
have me marry one of them--one of those men? I'd rather die. And yet I
cannot go on--forever. I am twenty now. What if my father--You yourself
said yesterday--Oh, I am afraid! I tell you I have lain awake at night a
hundred times and shivered with cold, terrible fear of what would become
of me if--if anything should happen--to my father. And so," she said,
"when I met Arthur Benham last winter, and he--began to--he said--when
he begged me to marry him.... Ah, can't you see? It meant
safety--safety--safety! And I liked him. I like him now--very, very
much. He is a sweet boy. I--shall be happy with him--in a peaceful
fashion. And my father--Oh, I'll be honest with you," said she. "It was
my father who decided me. He was--he is--so pathetically pleased with
it. He so wants me to be safe. It's all he lives for now. I--couldn't
fight against them both, Arthur and my father, so I gave in. And then
when Arthur had to be hidden we came here with him--to wait."
She became aware that the man was staring at her with something strange
and terrible in his gaze, and she broke off in wonder. The air of that
warm summer morning turned all at once keen and sharp about
them--charged with moment.
"Mademoiselle!" cried Ste. Marie. "Mademoiselle, are you telling me the
For some obscure reason she was not angry. Again she spread out her
hands in that gesture of weariness. She said, "Oh, why should I lie to
you?" And the man began to tremble exceedingly. He stretched out an
"You--knew Arthur Benham last winter?" he said. "Long before his--before
he left his home? Before that?"
"He asked me to marry him last winter," said the girl. "For a long, long
time I--wouldn't. But he never let me alone. He followed me everywhere.
And my father--"
Ste. Marie clapped his two hands over his face, and a groan came to her
through the straining fingers. He cried, in an agony: "Mademoiselle!
He fell upon his knees at her feet, his head bent in what seemed to be
an intolerable anguish, his hands over his hidden face. The girl heard
hard-wrung, stumbling, incoherent words wrenched each with an effort out
of extreme pain.
"Fool! Fool!" the man cried, groaning. "Oh, fool that I have been! Worm,
animal! Oh, fool not to see--not to know! Madman, imbecile, thing
without a name!"
She stood white-faced, smitten with great fear over this abasement. Not
the least and faintest glimmer reached her of what it meant. She
stretched down a hand of protest, and it touched the man's head. As if
the touch were a stroke of magic, he sprang upright before her.
"Now at last, Mademoiselle," said he, "we two must speak plainly
together. Now at last I think I see clear, but I must know beyond doubt
or question. Oh, Mademoiselle, now I think I know you for what you are,
and it seems to me that nothing in this world is of consequence beside
that. I have been blind, blind, blind!... Tell me one thing. Why did
Arthur Benham leave his home two months ago?"
"He had to leave it," she said, wondering. She did not understand yet,
but she was aware that her heart was beating in loud and fast throbs,
and she knew that some great mystery was to be made plain before her.
Her face was very white. "He had to leave it," she said again. "_You_
know as well as I. Why do you ask me that? He quarrelled with his
grandfather. They had often quarrelled before--over money--always over
money. His grandfather is a miser, almost a madman. He tried to make
Arthur sign a paper releasing his inheritance--the fortune he is to
inherit from his father--and when Arthur wouldn't he drove him away.
Arthur went to his uncle--Captain Stewart--and Captain Stewart helped
him to hide. He didn't dare go back because they're all against him, all
his family. They'd make him give in."
Ste. Marie gave a loud exclamation of amazement. The thing was
incredible--childish. It was beyond the maddest possibilities. But even
as he said the words to himself a face came before him--Captain
Stewart's smiling and benignant face--and he understood everything. As
clearly as if he had been present, he saw the angry, bewildered boy,
fresh from David Stewart's berating, mystified over some commonplace
legal matter requiring a signature. He saw him appeal for sympathy and
counsel to "old Charlie," and he heard "old Charlie's" reply. It was
easy enough to understand now. It must have been easy enough to bring
about. What absurdities could not such a man as Captain Stewart instil
into the already prejudiced mind of that foolish lad?
His thoughts turned from Arthur Benham to the girl before him, and that
part of the mystery was clear also. She would believe whatever she was
told in the absence of any reason to doubt. What did she know of old
David Stewart or of the Benham family? It seemed to Ste. Marie all at
once incredible that he could ever have believed ill of her--ever have
doubted her honesty. It seemed to him so incredible that he could have
laughed aloud in bitterness and self-disdain. But as he looked at the
girl's white face and her shadowy, wondering eyes, all laughter, all
bitterness, all cruel misunderstandings were swallowed up in the golden
light of his joy at knowing her, in the end, for what she was.
"Coira! Coira!" he cried, and neither of the two knew that he called her
for the first time by her name. "Oh, child," said he, "how they have
lied to you and tricked you! I might have known, I might have seen it,
but I was a blind fool. I thought--intolerable things. I might have
known. They have lied to you most damnably, Coira."
She stared at him in a breathless silence without movement of any sort.
Only her face seemed to have turned a little whiter and her great eyes
darker, so that they looked almost black and enormous in that still
He told her, briefly, the truth: how young Arthur had had frequent
quarrels with his grandfather over his waste of money, how after one of
them, not at all unlike the others, he had disappeared, and how Captain
Stewart, in desperate need, had set afoot his plot to get the lad's
greater inheritance for himself. He described for her old David Stewart
and the man's bitter grief, and he told her about the will, about how he
had begun to suspect Captain Stewart, and of how he had traced the lost
boy to La Lierre. He told her all that he knew of the whole matter, and
he knew almost all there was to know, and he did not spare himself even
his misconception of the part she had played, though he softened that as
best he could.
Midway of his story Mlle. O'Hara bent her head and covered her face with
her hands. She did not cry out or protest or speak at all. She made no
more than that one movement, and after it she stood quite still, but the
sight of her, bowed and shamed, stripped of pride, as it had been of
garments, was more than the man could bear.
He cried her name, "Coira!" And when she did not look up, he called once
more upon her. He said: "Coira, I cannot bear to see you stand so. Look
at me. Ah, child, look at me! Can you realize," he cried--"can you even
begin to think what a great joy it is to me to know at last that you
have had no part in all this? Can't you see what it means to me? I can
think of nothing else. Coira, look up!"
She raised her white face, and there were no tears upon it, but a still
anguish too great to be told. It would seem never to have occurred to
her to doubt the truth of his words. She said: "It is I who might have
known. Knowing what you have told me now, it seems impossible that I
could have believed. And Captain Stewart--I always hated him--loathed
him--distrusted him. And yet," she cried, wringing her hands, "how could
I know? How could I know?"
The girl's face writhed suddenly with her grief, and she stared up at
Ste. Marie with terror in her eyes. She whispered: "My father! Oh, Ste.
Marie, my father! It is not possible. I will not believe--he cannot have
done this, knowing. My father, Ste. Marie!"
The man turned his eyes away, and she gave a sobbing cry.
"Has he," she said, slowly, "done even this for me? Has he given--his
honor, also--when everything else was--gone? Has he given me his honor,
too? Oh," she said, "why could I not have died when I was a little
child? Why could I not have done that? To think that I should have lived
to--bring my father to this! I wish I had died. Ste. Marie," she said,
pleading with him. "Ste. Marie, do you think--my father--knew?"
"Let me think," said he. "Let me think! Is it possible that Stewart has
lied to you all--to one as to another? Let me think!" His mind ran back
over the matter, and he began to remember instances which had seemed to
him odd, but to which he had attached no importance. He remembered
O'Hara's puzzled and uncomprehending face when he, Ste. Marie, had
spoken of Stewart's villany. He remembered the man's indignation over
the affair of the poison, and his fairness in trying to make amends. He
remembered other things, and his face grew lighter and he drew a great
breath of relief. He said: "Coira, I do not believe he knew. Stewart has
lied equally to you all--tricked each one of you." And at that the girl
gave a cry of gladness and began to weep.
As long as men and women continue to stand upon opposite sides of a
great gulf--and that will be as long as they exist together in this
world--just so long will men continue to be unhappy and ill at ease in
the face of women's tears, even though they know vaguely that tears may
mean just anything at all, and by no means always grief.
Ste. Marie stood first upon one foot and then upon the other. He looked
anxiously about him for succor. He said, "There! there!" or words to
that effect, and once he touched the shoulder of the girl who stood
weeping before him, and he was very miserable indeed.
But quite suddenly, in the midst of his discomfort, she looked up to
him, and she was smiling and flushed, so that Ste. Marie stared at her
in utter amazement.
"So now at last," said she, "I have back my Bayard. And I think the
rest--doesn't matter very much."
"Bayard?" said he, wondering. "I don't understand," he said.
"Then," said she, "you must just go without understanding. For I shall
never, never explain." The bright flush went from her face and she
turned grave once more. "What is to be done?" she asked. "What must we
do now, Ste. Marie--I mean about Arthur Benham? I suppose he must be
"Either he must be told," said the man, "or he must be taken back to his
home by force." He told her about the four letters which in four days he
had thrown over the wall into the Clamart road. "It was on the chance,"
he said, "that some one would pick one of them up and post it, thinking
it had been dropped there by accident. What has become of them I don't
know. I know only that they never reached Hartley."
The girl nodded thoughtfully. "Yes," said she, "that was the best thing
you could have done. It ought to have succeeded. Of course--" She paused
a moment and then nodded again. "Of course," said she, "I can manage to
get a letter in the post now. We'll send it to-day if you like. But I
was wondering--would it be better or not to tell Arthur the truth? It
all depends upon how he may take it--whether or not he will believe you.
He's very stubborn, and he's frightened about this break with his
family, and he is quite sure that he has been badly treated. Will he
believe you? Of course, if he does believe he could escape from here
quite easily at any time, and there'd be no necessity for a rescue. What
do you think?"
"I think he ought to be told," said Ste. Marie. "If we try to carry him
away by force there'll be a fight, of course, and--who knows what might
happen? That we must leave for a last resort--a last desperate resort.
First we must tell the boy." Abruptly he gave a cry of dismay, and the
girl looked up to him, staring. "But--but _you_, Coira!" said he,
stammering. "But _you_! I hadn't realized--I hadn't thought--it never
occurred to me what this means to you." The full enormity of the thing
came upon him slowly. He was asking this girl to help him in robbing her
of her lover.
She shook her head with a little wry smile. "Do you think," said she,
"that knowing what I know now I would go on with that until he has made
his peace with his family? Before, it was different. I thought him alone
and ill-treated and hunted down. I could help him then, comfort him. Now
I should be--all you ever thought me if I did not send him to his
grandfather." She smiled again a little mirthlessly. "If his love for me
is worth anything," she said, "he will come back--but openly this time,
not in hiding. Then I shall know that he is--what I would have him be.
Ste. Marie looked away.
"But you must remember, Coira," said he, "that the lad is very young and
that his family--they may try--it may be hard for him. They may say that
he is too young to know--Ah, child, I should have thought of this!"
"Ste. Marie," said the girl, and after a moment he turned to face her.
"What shall you say to Arthur's family, Ste. Marie," she demanded, very
soberly, "when they ask you if I--if Arthur should be allowed to--come
back to me?"
A wave of color flooded the man's face and his eyes shone. He cried:
"I shall tell them, Coira, that if that wretched, half-baked lad should
search this wide world round, from Paris on to Paris again, and if he
should spend a lifetime searching, he would never find the beauty and
the sweetness and the tenderness and the true faith that he left behind
at La Lierre--nor the hundredth part of them. I should say that you are
so much above him that he ought to creep to you on his knees from the
rue de l'Universite to this garden, thanking God that you were here at
the journey's end, and kissing the ground that he dragged himself over
for sheer joy and gratitude. I should tell them--Oh, I have no words! I
could tell them so pitifully little of you! I think I should only say,
'Go to her and see!' I think I should just say that."
The girl turned her head away with a little sob. But afterward she faced
him once more, and she looked up to him with sweet, half-shut eyes for a
long time. At last she said:
"For love of whom, Ste. Marie, did you undertake this quest--this search
for Arthur Benham? It was not in idleness or by way of a whim. It was
for love. For love of whom?"
For some strange and inexplicable reason the words struck him like a
blow and he stared whitely.
"I came," he said, at last, and his voice was oddly flat, "for his
sister's sake. For love of her."
Coira O'Hara dropped her eyes. But presently she looked up again with a
smile. She said, "God make you happy, my friend."
And she turned and moved away from him up among the trees. At a little
distance she turned, saying:
"Wait where you are. I will fetch Arthur or send him to you. He must be
told at once."
Then she went on and was lost to sight.
Ste. Marie followed a few steps after her and halted. His face was
turned by chance toward the east wall, and suddenly he gave a great cry
and smothered it with his hands over his mouth. His knees bent under
him, and he was weak and trembling. Then he began to run. He ran with
awkward steps, for his leg was not yet entirely recovered, but he ran
fast, and his heart beat within him until he thought it must burst.
He was making for that spot which was overhung by the half-dead
* * * * *
BUT THE FLEECE ELECTS TO REMAIN
Ste. Marie came under the wall breathless and shaking. What he had seen
there from a distance was no longer visible, but he pressed in close
among the lilac shrubs and called out in an unsteady voice. He said:
"Who is there? Who is it?" And after a moment he called again.
A hand appeared at the top of the high wall. The drooping screen of
foliage was thrust aside, and he saw Richard Hartley's face looking
down. Ste. Marie held himself by the strong stems of the lilacs, for
once more his knees had weakened under him.
"There's no one in sight," Hartley said. "I can see for a long way. No
one can see us or hear us." And he said: "I got your letter this
morning--an hour ago. When shall we come to get you out--you and the
"To-night at two," said Ste. Marie. He spoke in a loud whisper. "I'm to
talk with Arthur here in a few minutes. We must be quick. He may come at
any time. I shall try to persuade him to go home willingly, but if he
refuses we must take him by force. Bring a couple of good men with you
to-night, and see that they're armed. Come in a motor and leave it just
outside the wall by that small door that you passed. Have you any money
in your pockets? I may want to bribe the gardener."
Hartley searched in his pockets, and while he did so the man beneath
"Is old David Stewart alive?"
"Just about," Hartley said. "He's very low, and he suffers a great deal,
but he's quite conscious all the time. If we can fetch the boy to him it
may give him a turn for the better. Where is Captain Stewart? I had
spies on his trail for some time, but he has disappeared within the past
three or four days. Once I followed him in his motor-car out past here,
but I lost him beyond Clamart."
"He's here, I think," said Ste. Marie. "I saw him a few days ago."
The man on the wall had found two notes of a hundred francs each, and he
dropped them down to Ste. Marie's hands. Also he gave him a small
revolver which he had in his pocket, one of the little automatic weapons
such as Olga Nilssen had brought to the rue du Faubourg St. Honore.
Afterward he glanced up and said:
"Two people are coming out of the house. I shall have to go. At two
to-night, then--and at this spot. We shall be on time."
He drew back out of sight, and the other man heard the cedar-tree shake
slightly as he went down it to the ground. Then Ste. Marie turned and
walked quickly back to the place where Mlle. O'Hara had left him. His
heart was leaping with joy and exultation, for now at last he thought
that the end was in sight--the end he had so long labored and hoped for.
He knew that his face must be flushed and his eyes bright, and he made a
strong effort to crush down these tokens of his triumph--to make his
bearing seem natural and easy. He might have spared himself the pains.
Young Arthur Benham and Coira O'Hara came together down under the trees
from the house. They walked swiftly, and the boy was a step in advance,
his face white with excitement and anger. He began to speak while he was
still some distance away. He cried out, in his strident young voice:
"What the devil is all this silly nonsense about old Charlie and lies
and misunderstandings and--and all that guff?" he demanded. "What the
devil is it? D'you think I'm a fool? D'you think I'm a kid? Well, I'm
He came close to Ste. Marie, staring at him with an angry scowl, but his
scowl twitched and wavered and his hands shook a little beside him and
his breath came irregularly. He was frightened.
"There is no nonsense," said Ste. Marie. "There is no nonsense in all
this whole sorry business. But there has been a great deal of
misunderstanding and a great many lies and not a little cruelty. It's
time you knew the truth at last." He turned his eyes to where Coira
O'Hara stood near-by. "How much have you told him?" he asked.
And the girl said: "I told him everything, or almost. But I had to say
it very quickly, and--he wouldn't believe me. I think you'd best tell
The boy gave a short, contemptuous laugh.
"Well, I don't want to hear it," said he.
He was looking toward the girl. He said:
"This fellow may be able to hypnotize you, all right, but not Willie.
Little Willie's wise to guys like him."
And swinging about to Ste. Marie, he cried:
"Forget it! For-get it! I don't want to listen to your little song
to-day. Ah, you make me sick! You'd try to make me turn on old Charlie,
would you? Why, old Charlie's the only real friend I've got in the
world. Old Charlie has always stood up for me against the whole bunch of
them. Forget it, George! I'm wise to your graft."
Ste. Marie frowned, for his temper was never of the most patient, and
the youth's sneering tone annoyed him. Truth to tell, the tone was about
all he understood, for the strange words were incomprehensible.
"Look here, Benham," he said, sharply, "you and I have never met, I
believe, but we have a good many friends in common, and I think we know
something about each other. Have you ever heard anything about me which
would give you the right to suspect me of any dishonesty of any sort?
"Oh, slush!" said the boy. "Anybody'll be dishonest if it's worth his
"That happens to be untrue," Ste. Marie remarked, "and as you grow older
you will know it. Leaving my honesty out of the question if you like, I
have the honor to tell you that I am, perhaps not quite formally,
engaged to your sister, and it is on her account, for her sake, that I
am here. You will hardly presume, I take it, to question your sister's
motive in wanting you to return home? Incidentally, your grandfather is
so overcome by grief over your absence that he is expected to die at any
time. Come," said he, "I have said enough to convince you that you must
listen to me. Believe what you please, but listen to me for five
minutes. After that I have small doubt of what you will do."
The boy looked nervously from Ste. Marie to Mlle. O'Hara and back again.
He thrust his unsteady hands into his pockets, but withdrew them after a
moment and clasped them together behind him.
"I tell you," he burst out, at last--"I tell you, it's no good your
trying to knock old Charlie to me. I won't stand for it. Old Charlie's
my best friend, and I'd believe him before I'd believe anybody in the
world. You've got a knife out for old Charlie, that's what's the matter
"And your sister?" suggested Ste. Marie. "Your mother? You'd hardly know
your mother if you could see her to-day. It has pretty nearly killed
"Ah, they're all--they're all against me!" the lad cried. "They've
always stood together against me. Helen, too!"
"You wouldn't think they were against you if you could just see them
once now," said Ste. Marie.
And Arthur Benham gave a sort of shamefaced sob, saying:
"Ah, cut it out! Cut it out! Go on, then, and talk, if you want to, _I_
don't care. I don't have to listen. Talk, if you're pining for it."
And Ste. Marie, as briefly as he could, told him the truth of the whole
affair from the beginning, as he had told it to Coira O'Hara. Only he
laid special stress upon Charles Stewart's present expectations from the
new will, and he assured the boy that no document his grandfather might
have asked him to sign could have given away his rights in his father's
fortune, since he was a minor and had no legal right to sign away
anything at all even if he wished to.
"If you will look back as calmly and carefully as you can," he said,
"you will find that you didn't begin to suspect your grandfather of
anything wrong until you had talked with Captain Stewart. It was your
uncle's explanation of the thing that made you do that. Well, remember
what he had at stake--I suppose it is a matter of several millions of
francs. And he needs them. His affairs are in a bad way."
He told also about the pretended search which Captain Stewart had so
long maintained, and of how he had tried to mislead the other searchers
whose motives were honest.
"It has been a gigantic gamble, my friend," he said, at the last. "A
gigantic and desperate gamble to get the money that should be yours. You
can end it by the mere trouble of climbing over that wall yonder and
taking the Clamart tram back to Paris. As easily as that you can end
it--and, if I am not mistaken, you can at the same time save an old
man's life--prolong it at the very least." He took a step forward. "I
beg you to go!" he said, very earnestly. "You know the whole truth now.
You must see what danger you have been and are in. You must know that I
am telling you the truth. I beg you to go back to Paris."
And from where she stood, a little aside, Coira O'Hara said: "I beg you,
too, Arthur. Go back to them."
The boy dropped down upon a tree-stump which was near and covered his
face with his hands. The two who watched him could see that he was
trembling violently. Over him their eyes met and they questioned each
other with a mute and anxious gravity:
"What will he do?" For everything was in Arthur Benham's weak hands now.
For a little time, which seemed hours to all who were there, the lad sat
still, hiding his face, but suddenly he sprang to his feet, and once
more stood staring into Ste. Marie's quiet eyes. "How do I know you're
telling the truth?" he cried, and his voice ran up high and shrill and
wavered and broke. "How do I know that? You'd tell just as smooth a
story if--if you were lying--if you'd been sent here to get me back
to--to what old Charlie said they wanted me for."
"You have only to go back to them and make sure," said Ste. Marie. "They
can't harm you or take anything from you. If they persuaded you to sign
anything--which they will not do--it would be valueless to them, because
you're a minor. You know that as well as I do. Go and make sure. Or
wait! Wait!" He gave a little sharp laugh of excitement. "Is Captain
Stewart in the house?" he demanded. "Call him out here. That's better
still. Bring your uncle here to face me without telling him what it's
for, without giving him time to make up a story. Then we shall see. Send
"He's not here," said the boy "He went away an hour ago. I don't know
whether he'll be back to-night or not." Young Arthur stared at the elder
man, breathing hard. "Good God!" he said, in a whisper, "if--old Charlie
is rotten, who in this world isn't? I--don't know what to believe."
Abruptly he turned with a sort of snarl upon Coira O'Hara. "Have you
been in this game, too?" he cried out. "I suppose you and your precious
father and old Charlie cooked it up together. What? You've been having a
fine, low-comedy time laughing yourselves to death at me, haven't you?
Oh, Lord, what a gang!"
Ste. Marie caught the boy by the shoulder and spun him round. "That will
do!" he said, sternly. "You have been a fool; don't make it worse by
being a coward and a cad. Mlle. O'Hara knew no more of the truth than
you knew. Your uncle lied to you all." But the girl came and touched his
She said: "Don't be hard with him. He is bewildered and nervous, and he
doesn't know what he is saying. Think how sudden it has been for him.
Don't be hard with him, M. Ste. Marie."
Ste. Marie dropped his hand, and the lad backed a few steps away. His
face was crimson. After a moment he said: "I'm sorry, Coira. I didn't
mean that. I didn't mean it. I beg your pardon. I'm about half dippy, I
guess. I--don't know what to believe or what to think or what to do." He
remained staring at her a little while in silence, and presently his
eyes sharpened. He cried out: "If I should go back there--mind you, I
say 'if'--d'you know what they'd do? Well, I'll tell you. They'd begin
to talk at me one at a time. They'd get me in a corner and cry over me,
and say I was young and didn't know my mind, and that I owed them
something for all that's happened, and not to bring their gray hairs in
sorrow to the grave--and the long and short of it would be that they'd
make me give you up." He wheeled upon Ste. Marie. "That's what they'd
do!" he said, and his voice began to rise again shrilly. "They're three
to one, and they know they can talk me into anything. _You_ know it,
too!" He shook his head. "I won't go back!" he cried, wildly. "That's
what will happen if I do. I don't want granddad's money. He can give it
to old Charlie or to a gendarme if he wants to. I'm going to have enough
of my own. I won't go back, and that's all there is of it. You may be
telling the truth or you may not, but I won't go."
Ste. Marie started to speak, but the girl checked him. She moved closer
to where Arthur Benham stood, and she said: "If your love for me,
Arthur, is worth having, it is worth fighting for. If it is so weak that
your family can persuade you out of it, then--I don't want it at all,
for it would never last. Arthur, you must go back to them. I want you to
"I won't!" the boy cried. "I won't go! I tell you they could talk me out
of anything. You don't know 'em. I do. I can't stand against them. I
won't go, and that settles it. Besides, I'm not so sure that this
fellow's telling the truth. I've known old Charlie a lot longer than I
Coira O'Hara turned a despairing face over her shoulder toward Ste.
Marie. "Leave me alone with him," she begged. "Perhaps I can win him
over. Leave us alone for a little while."
Ste. Marie hesitated, and in the end went away and left the two
together. He went farther down the park to the rond point, and crossed
it to the familiar stone bench at the west side. He sat down there to
wait. He was anxious and alarmed over this new obstacle, for he had the
wit to see that it was a very important one. It was quite conceivable
that the boy, but half-convinced, half-yielding before, would balk
altogether when he realized, as evidently he did realize, what returning
home might mean to him--the loss of the girl he hoped to marry.
Ste. Marie was sufficiently wise in worldly matters to know that the
boy's fear was not unfounded. He could imagine the family in the rue de
l'Universite taking exactly the view young Arthur said they would take
toward an alliance with the daughter of a notorious Irish adventurer.
Ste. Marie's cheeks burned hotly with anger when the words said
themselves in his brain, but he knew that there could be no doubt of the
Benhams' and even of old David Stewart's view of the affair. They would
oppose the marriage with all their strength.
He tried to imagine what weight such considerations would have with him
if it were he who was to marry Coira O'Hara, and he laughed aloud with
scorn of them and with great pride in her. But the lad yonder was very
young--too young; his family would be right to that extent. Would he be
able to stand against them?
Ste. Marie shook his head with a sigh and gave over unprofitable
wonderings, for he was still within the walls of La Lierre, and so was
Arthur Benham. And the walls were high and strong. He fell to thinking
of the attempt at rescue which was to be made that night, and he began
to form plans and think of necessary preparations. To be sure, Coira
might persuade the boy to escape during the day, and then the night
attack would be unnecessary, but in case of her failure it must be
prepared for. He rose to his feet and began to walk back and forth under
the rows of chestnut-trees, where the earth was firm and black and mossy
and there was no growth of shrubbery. He thought of that hasty interview
with Richard Hartley and he laughed a little. It had been rather like an
exchange of telegrams--reduced to the bare bones of necessary question
and answer. There had been no time for conversation.
His eyes caught a far-off glimpse of woman's garments, and he saw that
Coira O'Hara and Arthur Benham were walking toward the house. So he went
a little way after them, and waited at a point where he could see any
one returning. He had not long to wait, for it seemed that the girl went
only as far as the door with her fiance and then turned back.
Ste. Marie met her with raised eyebrows, and she shook her head. "I
don't know," said she. "He is very stubborn. He is frightened and
bewildered. As he said awhile ago, he doesn't know what to think or what
to believe. You mustn't blame him. Remember how he trusted his uncle!
He's going to think it over, and I shall see him again this afternoon.
Perhaps, when he has had time to reflect--I don't know. I truly don't
"He won't go to your father and make a scene?" said Ste. Marie, and the
girl shook her head.
"I made him promise not to. Oh, Bayard," she cried--and in his
abstraction he did not notice the name she gave him--"I am afraid
myself! I am horribly afraid about my father."
"I am sure he did not know," said the man. "Stewart lied to him."
But Coira O'Hara shook her head, saying: "I didn't mean that. I'm afraid
of what will happen when he finds out how he has been--how we have been
played upon, tricked, deceived--what a light we have been placed in. You
don't know, you can't even imagine, how he has set his heart on--what he
wished to occur. I am afraid he will do something terrible when he
knows. I am afraid he will kill Captain Stewart."
"Which," observed Ste. Marie, "would be an excellent solution of the
problem. But of course we mustn't let it happen. What can be done?"
"We mustn't let him know the truth," said the girl, "until Arthur is
gone and until Captain Stewart is gone, too. He is terrible when he's
angry. We must keep the truth from him until he can do no harm. It will
be bad enough even then, for I think it will break his heart."
Ste. Marie remembered that there was something she did not know, and he
told her about his interview with Richard Hartley and about their
arrangement for the rescue--if it should be necessary--on that very
She nodded her head over it, but for a long time after he had finished
she did not speak. Then she said: "I am glad, I suppose. Yes, since it
has to be done, I suppose I am glad that it is to come at once." She
looked up at Ste. Marie with shadowy, inscrutable eyes. "And so,
Monsieur," said she, "it is at an end--all this." She made a little
gesture which seemed to sweep the park and gardens. "So we go out of
each other's lives as abruptly as we entered them. Well--" She had
continued to look at him, but she saw the man's face turn white, and she
saw something come into his eyes which was like intolerable pain; then
she looked away.
Ste. Marie said her name twice, under his breath, in a sort of soundless
cry, but he said no more, and after a moment she went on:
"Even so, I am glad that at last we know each other--for what we are....
I should have been sorry to go on thinking you ... what I thought
before.... And I could not have borne it, I'm afraid, to have you think
... what you thought of me ... when I came to know.... I'm glad we
understand at last."
Ste. Marie tried to speak, but no words would come to him. He was like a
man defeated and crushed, not one on the high-road to victory. But it
may have been that the look of him was more eloquent than anything he
could have said. And it may have been that the girl saw and understood.
So the two remained there for a little while longer in silence, but at
last Coira O'Hara said:
"I must go back to the house now. There is nothing more to be done, I
suppose--nothing left now but to wait for night to come. I shall see
Arthur this afternoon and make one last appeal to him. If that fails you
must carry him off. Do you know where he sleeps? It is the room
corresponding to yours on the other side of the house--just across that
wide landing at the top of the stairs. I will manage that the front door
below shall be left unlocked. The rest you and your friends must do. If
I can make any impression upon Arthur I'll slip a note under your door
this afternoon or this evening. Perhaps, even if he decides to go, it
would be best for him to wait until night and go with the rest of you.
In any case, I'll let you know."
She spoke rapidly, as if she were in great haste to be gone, and with
averted eyes. And at the end she turned away without any word of
farewell, but Ste. Marie started after her. He cried:
"Coira! Coira!" And when she stopped, he said: "Coira, I can't let you
go like this! Are we to--simply to go our different ways like this, as
if we'd never met at all?"
"What else?" said the girl.
And there was no answer to that. Their separate ways were determined for
them--marked plain to see.
"But afterward!" he cried. "Afterward--after we have got the boy back to
his home! What then?"
"Perhaps," she said, "he will return to me." She spoke without any show
of feeling. "Perhaps he will return. If not--well, I don't know. I
expect my father and I will just go on as we've always gone. We're used
to it, you know."
After that she nodded to him and once more turned away. Her face may
have been a very little pale, but, as before, it betrayed no feeling of
any sort. So she went up under the trees to the house, and Ste. Marie
watched her with strained and burning eyes.
When, half an hour later, he followed, he came unexpectedly upon the old
Michel, who had entered the park through the little wooden door in the
wall, and was on his way round to the kitchen with sundry parcels of
supplies. He spoke a civil "Bon jour, Monsieur," and Ste. Marie stopped
him. They were out of sight from the windows. Ste. Marie withdrew from
his pocket one of the hundred-franc notes, and the single, beadlike eye
of the ancient gnome fixed upon it and seemed to shiver with a
"A hundred francs!" said Ste. Marie, unnecessarily, and the old man
licked his withered lips. The tempter said: "My good Michel, would you
care to receive this trifling sum--a hundred francs?"
The gnome made a choked, croaking sound in his throat.
"It is yours," said Ste. Marie, "for a small service--for doing nothing
The beadlike eye rose to his and sharpened intelligently.
"I desire only," said he, "that you should sleep well to-night, very
"Monsieur," said the old man, "I do not sleep at all. I watch. I watch
Monsieur's windows. Monsieur O'Hara watches until midnight, and I watch
from then until day."
"Oh, I know that," said the other. "I've seen you more than once in the
moonlight, but to-night, mon vieux, slumber will overcome you.
Exhaustion will have its way and you will sleep. You will sleep like the
"I dare not!" cried the gardener. "Monsieur, I dare not! The old one
would kill me. You do not know him. He would cut me into pieces and burn
the pieces. Monsieur, it is impossible."
Ste. Marie withdrew the other hundred-franc note and held the two
together in his hand. Once more the gnome made his strange, croaking
sound and the withered face twisted with anguish.
"Monsieur! Monsieur!" he groaned.
"I have an idea," said the tempter. "A little earth rubbed upon one side
of the head--perhaps a trifling scratch to show a few drops of blood.
You have been assaulted, beaten down, despite a heroic resistance, and
left for dead. An hour afterward you stagger into the house a frightful
The withered face of the old man expanded slowly into a senile grin.
"Monsieur," said he, with admiration in his tone, "it is magnificent. It
shall be done. I sleep like the good dead--under the trees, not too near
the lilacs, eh? Bien, Monsieur, it is done!"
Into his trembling claw he took the notes; he made an odd bow and
shambled away about his business.
Ste. Marie laughed and went on into the house. He counted, and there
were fourteen hours to wait. Fourteen hours, and at the end of
them--what? His blood began to warm to the night's work.
* * * * *
THE NIGHT'S WORK
The fourteen long hours dragged themselves by. They seemed interminable,
but somehow they passed and the appointed time drew near. Ste. Marie
spent the greater part of the afternoon reading, but twice he lay down
upon the bed and tried to sleep, and once he actually dozed off for a
brief space. The old Michel brought his meals. He had thought it
possible that Coira might manage to bring the dinner-tray, as she had
already done on several occasions, and so make an opportunity for
informing him as to young Arthur's state of mind. But she did not come,
and no word came from her. So evening drew on and the dusk gathered and
deepened to darkness.
Ste. Marie walked his floor and prayed for the hours to pass. He had
candles and matches, and there was even a lamp in the room, so that he
could have read if he chose, but he knew that the words would have been
meaningless to him, that he was incapable of abstracting his thought
from the night's stern work. He began to be anxious over not having
heard from Mlle. O'Hara. She had said that she would talk with Arthur
Benham during the afternoon, and then slip a note under Ste. Marie's
door. Yet no word had come from her, and to the man pacing his floor in
the darkness the fact took on proportions tremendous and fantastic.
Something had happened. The boy had broken his promise, burst out upon
O'Hara, or more probably upon his uncle, and the house was by the ears.
Coira was watched--even locked in her room. Stewart had fled. A score of
such terrible possibilities rushed through Ste. Marie's brain and
tortured him. He was in a state of nervous tension that was almost
unendurable, and the little noises of the night outside, a wind-stirred
rustle of leaves, a bird's flutter among the branches, the sound of a
cracking twig, made him start violently and catch his breath.
Then at his utmost need came reassurance and something like ease of
mind. He heard a sound of voices at the front of the house, and sprang
to his balconied window to listen. Captain Stewart and O'Hara were
walking upon the brick-paved terrace and chatting calmly over their
cigars. The man above, prone upon the floor, his head pressed against
the ivy-masked grille of the balcony, listened, and though he could hear
their words only at intervals when they passed beneath him he knew that
they spoke of trivial matters in voices free of strain or concern.
He drew back with a breath of relief, and at that moment a sound across
the room arrested him, a soft scraping sound such as a mouse might make.
He went where it was, and a little square of paper gleamed white through
the darkness just within the door. Ste. Marie caught it up and took it
to the far side of the room away from the window. He struck a match,
opened the folded paper, and a single line of writing was there:
"He will go with you. Wait by the door in the wall."
The man nearly cried out with joy.
He struck another match and looked at his watch. It was a quarter to
ten. Four hours left out of the fourteen.
Once more he lay down upon the bed and closed his eyes. He knew that he
could not sleep, but he was tired from long tramping up and down the
room and from the strain of over-tried nerves. From hour to hour he
looked at his watch by match-light, but he did not leave the bed until
half-past one. Then he rose and took a long breath, and the time was at
He stood a little while gazing out into the night. An old moon was high
overhead in a cloudless sky, and that would make the night's work both
easier and more difficult, but on the whole he was glad of it. He looked
to the east, toward that wall where was the little wooden door, and the
way was under cover of trees and shrubbery for the whole distance save a
little space beside the house. He listened, and the night was very
still--no sound from the house below him, no sound anywhere save the
barking of a dog from far away, and after an instant the whistle of a
Ste. Marie turned back into the room and pulled the sheets from his bed.
He rolled them, corner-wise, into a sort of rope, and knotted them
together securely. Then he went to one of the east windows. There was no
balcony there, but, as in all French upper windows, a wood and iron bar
fixed, into the stone casing at both ends, with a little grille below
it. It crossed the window space a third of the distance from bottom to
top. He bent one end of the improvised rope to this, made it fast, and
let the other end hang out. The east side of the house was in shadow,
and the rolled sheet, a vague white line, disappeared into the darkness
below, but Ste. Marie knew that it must reach nearly to the ground. He
had made use of it because he was afraid there would be too much noise
if he tried to climb down the ivy. The room directly underneath was the
drawing-room, and he knew that it was closed and shuttered and
unoccupied both by day and by night. The only danger, he decided, was
from the sleeping-room behind his own, with its windows opening close
by; but, though he did not know it, he was safe there also, for the room
was Coira O'Hara's.
He felt in his pocket for the pistol, and it was ready to hand. Then he
buttoned his coat round him and swung himself out of the window. He held
his body away from the wall with one knee and went down hand under hand.
It was so quietly done that it did not even rouse the birds in the
near-by trees. Before he realized that he had come to the lower windows
his feet touched the earth and he was free.
He stood for a moment where he was, and then slipped rapidly across the
open, moonlit space into the inky gloom of the trees. He made a
half-circle round before the house and looked up at it. It lay gray and
black and still in the night. Where the moonlight was upon it, it was
gray; where there was shadow, black as black velvet, and the windows
were like open, dead eyes. He looked toward Arthur Benham's room, and
there was no light, but he knew that the boy was awake and waiting
there, shivering probably in the dark. He wondered where Coira O'Hara
was, and he pictured her lying in her bed fronting the gloom with
sleepless, open eyes, looking into those to-morrows which she had said
she saw so well. He wondered bitterly what the to-morrows were to bring
her, but he caught himself up with a stern determination and put her out
of his mind. He did not dare think of her in that hour.
He turned and began to make his way silently under the trees toward the
appointed meeting-place. Once he thought of the old Michel and wondered
where that gnarled and withered watch-dog had betaken himself.
Somewhere, within or without the house, he was asleep or pretending to
sleep, and Ste. Marie knew that he could be trusted. The man's cupidity
and his hatred of Captain Stewart together would make him faithful, or
faithless, as one chose to look upon it.
He came to that place where a row of lilac shrubs stood against the wall
and a half-dead cedar stretched gnarled branches above. He was a little
before his time, and he settled himself to listen and wait, his sharp
ears keenly on the alert, his eyes turned toward the dark and quiet
The little noises of the night broke upon him with exaggerated clamor. A
crackling twig was a thunderous crash, a bird's sleepy stir was the
sound of pursuit and disaster. A hundred times he heard the cautious
approach of Richard Hartley's motor-car without the wall, and he fell
into a panic of fear lest that machine prove unruly, break down,
puncture a tire, or burst into a series of ear-splitting explosions. But
at last--it seemed to him that he had waited untold hours and that the
dawn must be nigh--there came an unmistakable rustling from overhead and
the sound of a hard-drawn breath. The top of the wall, just at that
point, was in moonlight, and a man's head appeared over it, then an arm
and then a leg. Hartley called down to him in a whisper, and Ste. Marie,
from the gloom beneath, whispered a reply. He said:
"The boy has promised to come with us. We sha'n't have to fight for it."
Richard Hartley said, "Thank God!" He spoke to some one outside, and
then turning about let himself down to arm's-length and dropped to the
ground. "Thank God!" he said again. "The two men who were to have come
with me didn't show up. I waited as long as I dared, and then came on
with only the chauffeur. He's waiting outside by the car ready to crank
up when I give the word. The car's just a few yards away, headed out for
the road. How are we to get back over the wall?"
Ste. Marie explained that Arthur Benham was to come out to join them at
the wooden door, and doubtless would bring a key. If not, the three of
them could scale fifteen feet easily enough in the way soldiers and
firemen are trained to do it. He told his friend all that was necessary
for the time, and they went together along the wall to the more open
space beside the little door.
They waited there in silence for five minutes, and once Hartley, with
his back toward the house, struck a match under his sheltering coat,
looked to see what time it was, and found it was three minutes past two.
"He ought to be here," the man growled. "I don't like waiting. Good
Lord, you don't think he's funked it, do you? Eh?"
Ste. Marie did not answer, but he was breathing very fast and he could
not keep his hands still.
The dog which he had heard from his window began barking again very far
away in the night, and kept it up incessantly. Perhaps he was barking at
"I'm going a little way toward the house," said Ste. Marie, at last. "We
can't see the terrace from here."
But before he had started they heard the sound of hurrying feet, and
Richard Hartley began to curse under his breath. He said:
"Does the young idiot want to rouse the whole place? Why can't he come
Ste. Marie began to run forward, slipping the pistol out of his pocket
and holding it ready in his hand, for his quick ears told him that there
was more than one pair of feet coming through the night. He went to
where he could command the approach from the house and halted there, but
all at once he gave a low cry and started forward again, for he saw that
Arthur Benham and Coira O'Hara were running together, and that they were
in desperate haste. He called out to them, and the girl cried:
"Go to the door in the wall! The door in the wall! Oh, be quick!"
He fell into step beside her, and as they ran he said,
"You're going with him? You're coming with us?"
The girl answered him, "No, no!" and she sprang to the little, low door
and began to fit the iron key into the lock.
The three men stood about her, and young Arthur Benham drew his breath
in great, shivering gasps that were like sobs.
"They heard us!" he cried, in a whisper. "They're after us. They heard
us on the stairs. I--stumbled and fell. For God's sake, Coira, be
The girl fumbled desperately with the clumsy key, and dropped upon her
knees to see the better. Once she said, in a whisper: "I can't turn it.
It won't turn." And at that Richard Hartley pushed her out of the way
and lent his greater strength to the task.
A sudden, loud cry came from the house, a hoarse, screeching cry in a
voice which might have been either man's or woman's, but was as mad and
as desperate and as horrible in that still night as the screech of a
tortured animal--or of a maniac. It came again and again, and it was
"Oh, hurry, hurry!" said the girl. "Can't you be quick? They're coming."
And as she spoke the little group about the wall heard the engine of the
motor-car outside start up with a staccato roar and knew that the
faithful chauffeur was ready for them.
"I'm getting it, I think," said Richard Hartley, between his teeth. "I'm
getting it. Turn, you beast! Turn!"
There was a sound of hurrying feet, and Ste. Marie spun about. He cried:
"Don't wait for me! Jump into the car and go! Don't wait anywhere! Come
back after you've left Benham at home!"
He began to run forward toward those running feet, and he did not know
that the girl followed after him. A short distance away there was a
little open space of moonlight, and in its midst, at full career, he met
the Irishman O'Hara, a gaunt and grotesque figure in his sleeping-suit,
barefooted, with empty hands. Beyond him still, some one else ran,
stumbling, and sobbed and uttered mad cries.
Ste. Marie dropped his pistol to the ground and sprang upon the
Irishman. He caught him about the body and arms, and the two swayed and
staggered under the tremendous impact. At just that moment, from behind,
came the crash of the opened door and triumphant shouts. Ste. Marie gave
a little gasp of triumph, too, and clung the harder to the man with whom
he fought. He drove his head into the Irishman's shoulder, and set his
muscles with a grip which was like iron. He knew that it could not
endure long, for the Irishman was stronger than he, but the grip of a
nervous man who is keyed up to a high tension is incredibly powerful for
a little while. Trained strength is nothing beside it.
It seemed to Ste. Marie in this desperate moment--it cannot have been
more than a minute or two at the most--that a strange and uncanny
miracle befell him. It was as if he became two. Soul and body, spirit
and straining flesh, seemed to him to separate, to stand apart, each
from the other. There was a thing of iron flesh and thews which had
locked itself about an enemy and clung there madly with but one purpose,
one single thought--to grip and grip, and never loosen until flesh
should be torn from bones. But apart the spirit looked on with a
complete detachment. It looked beyond--he must have raised his head to
glance over O'Hara's shoulder--saw a mad figure staggering forward in
the moonlight, and knew the figure for Captain Stewart. It saw an
upraised arm and was not afraid, for the work was almost done now. It
listened and was glad, hearing the motor-car, without the walls, leap
forward into the night and its puffing grow fainter and fainter with
distance. It knew that the thing of strained sinews received a crashing
blow upon backflung head, and that the iron muscles were slipping away
from their grip, but it was still glad, for the work was done.
Only at the last, before red and whirling lights had obscured the view,
before consciousness was dissolved in unconsciousness, came horror and
agony, for the eyes saw Captain Stewart back away and raise the thing he
had struck with, a large revolver, saw Coira O'Hara, a swift and
flashing figure in the moonlight, throw herself upon him before he could
fire, heard together a woman's scream and the roar of the pistol's
explosion, and then knew no more.
* * * * *