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of his man. A doctor couldn't do anything for him."

"Yes," said Ste. Marie, nodding, "I'll call the servant and tell the
people that Stewart has been taken ill."

He looked once more toward the photograph on the wall, and under his
breath he said, with an odd, defiant fierceness: "I won't believe it!"
But he did not explain what he wouldn't believe. He started out of the
room, but, half-way, halted and turned back. He looked Olga Nilssen full
in the eyes, saying:

"It is safe to leave you here with him while I call the servant?
There'll be no more - ?"

But the woman gave a low cry and a violent shiver with it.

"You need have no fear," she said. "I've no desire now to - harm him.
The - reason is gone. This has cured me. I feel as if I could never bear
to see him again. Oh, hurry! Please hurry! I want to get away from

Ste. Marie nodded, and went out of the room.

* * * * *



Ste. Marie drove home to the rue d'Assas with his head in a whirl, and
with a sense of great excitement beating somewhere within him - probably
in the place where his heart ought to be. He had a curiously sure
feeling that at last his feet were upon the right path. He could not
have explained this to himself - indeed, there was nothing to explain,
and if there had been he was in far too great an inner turmoil to manage
it. It was a mere feeling - the sort of thing which he had once tried to
express to Captain Stewart and had got laughed at for his pains.

There was, in sober fact, no reason whatever why Captain Stewart's
possession of a photograph of the beautiful lady whom Ste. Marie had
once seen in company with O'Hara should be taken as significant of
anything except an appreciation of beauty on the part of Miss Benham's
uncle - not even if, as Mlle. Nilssen believed, Captain Stewart was in
love with the lady. But to Ste. Marie, in his whirl of reawakened
excitement, the discovery loomed to the skies, and in a series of
ingenious but very vague leaps of the imagination he saw himself, with
the aid of this new evidence (which was no evidence at all, if he had
been calm enough to realize it), victorious in his great quest: leading
young Arthur Benham back to the arms of an ecstatic family, and kneeling
at the feet of that youth's sister to claim his reward. All of which
seems a rather startling flight of the imagination to have had its
beginning in the sight of one photograph of a young woman. But, then,
Ste. Marie was imaginative if he was anything.

He fell to thinking of this girl whose eyes, after one sight of them,
had so long haunted him. He thought of her between those two men, the
hard-faced Irish adventurer, and the other, Stewart, strange compound of
intellectual and voluptuary, and his eyes flashed in the dark and he
gripped his hands together upon his knees. He said again:

"I won't believe it! I won't believe it!" Believe what? one wonders.

He slept hardly at all: only, toward morning, falling into an uneasy
doze. And in the doze he dreamed once more the dream of the dim, waste
place and the hill, and the eyes and voice that called him back - because
they needed him.

As early as he dared, after his morning coffee, he took a fiacre and
drove across the river to the Boulevard de la Madeleine, where he
climbed a certain stair, at the foot of which were two glass cases
containing photographs of, for the most part, well-known ladies of the
Parisian stage. At the top of the stair he entered the reception-room of
a young photographer who is famous now the world over, but who, at the
beginning of his career, when he had nothing but talent and no
acquaintance, owed certain of his most important commissions to M. Ste.

The man, whose name was Bernstein, came forward eagerly from the studio
beyond to greet his visitor, and Ste. Marie complimented him chaffingly
upon his very sleek and prosperous appearance, and upon the new
decorations of the little salon, which were, in truth, excellently well
judged. But after they had talked for a little while of such matters, he

"I want to know if you keep specimen prints of all the photographs you
have made within the past few months, and, if so, I should like to see

The young Jew went to a wooden portfolio-holder which stood in a corner,
and dragged it out into the light.

"I have them all here," said he - "everything that I have made within the
past ten or twelve months. If you will let me draw up a chair you can
look them over comfortably."

He glanced at his former patron with a little polite curiosity as Ste.
Marie followed his suggestion, and began to turn over the big
portfolio's contents; but he did not show any surprise nor ask
questions. Indeed, he guessed, to a certain extent, rather near the
truth of the matter. It had happened before that young gentlemen - and
old ones, too - wanted to look over his prints without offering
explanations, and they generally picked out all the photographs there
were of some particular lady and bought them if they could be bought.

So he was by no means astonished on this occasion, and he moved about
the room putting things to rights, and even went for a few moments into
the studio beyond until he was recalled by a sudden exclamation from his
visitor - an exclamation which had a sound of mingled delight and

Ste. Marie held in his hands a large photograph, and he turned it toward
the man who had made it.

"I am going to ask you some questions," said he, "that will sound rather
indiscreet and irregular, but I beg you to answer them if you can,
because the matter is of great importance to a number of people. Do you
remember this lady?"

"Oh yes," said the Jew, readily, "I remember her very well. I never
forget people who are as beautiful as this lady was." His eyes gleamed
with retrospective joy. "She was splendid!" he declared. "Sumptuous! No,
I cannot describe her. I have not the words. And I could not photograph
her with any justice, either. She was all color: brown skin, with a
dull-red stain under the cheeks, and a great mass of hair that was not
black but very nearly black - except in the sun, and then there were red
lights in it. She was a goddess, that lady, a queen of goddesses - the
young Juno before marriage - the - "

"Yes," interrupted Ste. Marie - "yes, I see. Yes, quite evidently she was
beautiful; but what I wanted in particular to know was her name, if you
feel that you have a right to give it to me (I remind you again that the
matter is very important), and any circumstances that you can remember
about her coming here: who came with her, for instance and things of
that sort."

The photographer looked a little disappointed at being cut off in the
middle of his rhapsody, but he began turning over the leaves of an
order-book which lay upon a table near by.

"Here is the entry," he said, after a few moments. "Yes, I thought so,
the date was nearly three months ago - April 5th. And the lady's name was
Mlle. Coira O'Hara."

"What!" cried the other man, sharply. "What did you say?"

"Mlle. Coira O'Hara was the name," repeated the photographer. "I
remember the occasion perfectly. The lady came here with three
gentlemen - one tall, thin gentleman with an eyeglass, an Englishman, I
think, though he spoke very excellent French when he spoke to me. Among
themselves they spoke, I think, English, though I do not understand it,
except a few words, such as ''ow moch?' and 'sank you' and 'rady,
pleas', now.'"

"Yes! yes!" cried Ste. Marie, impatiently. And the little Jew could see
that he was laboring under some very strong excitement, and he wondered
mildly about it, scenting a love-affair.

"Then," he pursued, "there was a very young man in strange clothes - a
tourist, I should think, like those Americans and English who come in
the summer with little red books and sit on the terrace of the Café de
la Paix." He heard his visitor draw a swift, sharp breath at that, but
he hurried on before he could be interrupted. "This young man seemed to
be unable to take his eyes from the lady - and small wonder! He was very
much épris - very much épris, indeed. Never have I seen a youth more so.
Ah, it was something to see, that - a thing to touch the heart!"

"What did the young man look like?" demanded Ste. Marie.

The photographer described the youth as best he could from memory, and
he saw his visitor nod once or twice, and at the end he said:

"Yes, yes; I thought so. Thank you."

The Jew did not know what it was the other thought, but he went on:

"Ah, a thing to touch the heart! Such devotion as that! Alas, that the
lady should seem so cold to it! Still, a goddess! What would you? A
queen among goddesses. One would not have them laugh and make little
jokes - make eyes at love-sick boys. No, indeed!" He shook his head
rapidly and sighed.

M. Ste. Marie was silent for a little space, but at length he looked up
as if he had just remembered something.

"And the third man?" he asked.

"Ah, yes, the third gentleman," said Bernstein. "I had forgotten him.
The third gentleman I knew well. He had often been here. It was he who
brought these friends to me. He was M. le Capitaine Stewart. Everybody
knows M. le Capitaine Stewart - everybody in Paris."

Again he observed that his visitor drew a little, swift, sharp breath,
and that he seemed to be laboring under some excitement.

However, Ste. Marie did not question him further, and so he went on to
tell the little more he knew of the matter - how the four people had
remained for an hour or more, trying many poses; how they had returned,
all but the tall gentleman, three days later to see the proofs and to
order certain ones to be printed (the young man paying on the spot in
advance), and how the finished prints had been sent to M. le Capitaine
Stewart's address.

When he had finished, his visitor sat for a long time silent, his head
bent a little, frowning upon the floor and chafing his hands together
over his knees. But at last he rose rather abruptly. He said:

"Thank you very much, indeed. You have done me a great service. If ever
I can repay it, command me. Thank you!"

The Jew protested, smiling, that he was still too deeply in debt to M.
Ste. Marie, and so, politely wrangling, they reached the door, and with
a last expression of gratitude the visitor departed down the stair. A
client came in just then for a sitting, and so the little photographer
did not have an opportunity to wonder over the rather odd affair as much
as he might have done. Indeed, in the press of work, it slipped from his
mind altogether.

But down in the busy boulevard Ste. Marie stood hesitating on the curb.
There were so many things to be done, in the light of these new
developments, that he did not know what to do first.

"Mlle. Coira O'Hara! - _Mademoiselle!_" The thought gave him a sudden
sting of inexplicable relief and pleasure. She would be O'Hara's
daughter, then. And the boy, Arthur Benham (there was no room for doubt
in the photographer's description) had seemed to be badly in love with
her. This was a new development, indeed! It wanted thought, reflection,
consultation with Richard Hartley. He signalled to a fiacre, and when it
had drawn up before him sprang into it and gave Richard Hartley's
address in the Avenue de l'Observatoire. But when they had gone a little
way he changed his mind and gave another address, one in the Boulevard
de la Tour Maubourg. It was where Mlle. Olga Nilssen lived. She had told
him when he parted from her the evening before.

On the way he fell to thinking of what he had learned from the little
photographer Bernstein, to setting the facts, as well as he could, in
order, endeavoring to make out just how much or how little they
signified by themselves or added to what he had known before. But he was
in far too keen a state of excitement to review them at all calmly. As
on the previous evening, they seemed to him to loom to the skies, and
again he saw himself successful in his quest - victorious - triumphant.
That this leap to conclusions was but a little less absurd than the
first did not occur to him. He was in a fine fever of enthusiasm, and
such difficulties as his eye perceived lay in a sort of vague mist to be
dissipated later on, when he should sit quietly down with Hartley and
sift the wheat from the chaff, laying out a definite scheme of action.

It occurred to him that in his interview with the photographer he had
forgotten one point, and he determined to go back, later on, and ask
about it. He had forgotten to inquire as to Captain Stewart's attitude
toward the beautiful lady. Young Arthur Benham's infatuation had filled
his mind at the time, and had driven out of it what Olga Nilssen had
told him about Stewart. He found himself wondering if this point might
not be one of great importance - the rivalry of the two men for O'Hara's
daughter. Assuredly that demanded thought and investigation.

He found the prettily furnished apartment in the Avenue de la Tour
Maubourg a scene of great disorder, presided over by a maid who seemed
to be packing enormous quantities of garments into large trunks. The
maid told him that her mistress, after a sleepless night, had departed
from Paris by an early train, quite alone, leaving the servant to follow
on when she had telegraphed or written an address. No, Mlle. Nilssen had
left no address at all - not even for letters or telegrams. In short, the
entire proceeding was, so the exasperated woman viewed it, everything
that is imbecile.

Ste. Marie sat down on a hamper with his stick between his knees, and
wrote a little note to be sent on when Mlle. Nilssen's whereabouts
should be known. It was unfortunate, he reflected, that she should have
fled away just now, but not of great importance to him, because he did
not believe that he could learn very much more from her than he had
learned already. Moreover, he sympathized with her desire to get away
from Paris - as far away as possible from the man whom she had seen in so
horrible a state on the evening past.

He had kept the fiacre at the door, and he drove at once back to the rue
d'Assas. As he started to mount the stair the concierge came out of her
loge to say that Mr. Hartley had called soon after Monsieur had left the
house that morning, had seemed very much disappointed on not finding
Monsieur, and before going away again had had himself let into
Monsieur's apartment with the key of the femme de ménage, and had
written a note which Monsieur would find là haut.

Ste. Marie thanked the woman, and went on up to his rooms, wondering why
Hartley had bothered to leave a note instead of waiting or returning at
lunch-time, as he usually did. He found the communication on his table
and read it at once. Hartley said:

I have to go across the river to the Bristol to see some relatives who
are turning up there to-day, and who will probably keep me until
evening, and then I shall have to go back there to dine. So I'm leaving
a word for you about some things I discovered last evening. I met Miss
Benham at Armenonville, where I dined, and in a tête-à-tête conversation
we had after dinner she let fall two facts which seem to me very
important. They concern Captain S. In the first place, when he told us
that day, some time ago, that he knew nothing about his father's will or
any changes that might have been made in it, he lied. It seems that old
David, shortly after the boy's disappearance, being very angry at what
he considered, and still considers, a bit of spite on the boy's part,
cut young Arthur Benham out of his will and transferred that share to
_Captain S._ (Miss Benham learned this from the old man only yesterday).
Also it appears that he did this after talking the matter over with
Captain S., who affected unwillingness. So, as the will reads now, Miss
B. and Captain S. stand to share equally the bulk of the old man's
money, which is several millions - in dollars, of course. Miss B.'s
mother is to have the interest of half of both shares as long as she
lives. Now mark this: Prior to this new arrangement, Captain S. was to
receive only a small legacy, on the ground that he already had a
respectable fortune left him by his mother, old David's first wife (I've
heard, by-the-way, that he has squandered a good share of this.)

Miss B. is, of course, much cut up over the injustice to the boy, but
she can't protest too much, as it only excites old David. She says the
old man is much weaker.

You see, of course, the significance of all this. If David Stewart dies,
as he's likely to do, before young Arthur's return, Captain S. gets the

The second fact I learned was that Miss Benham did not tell her uncle
about her semi-engagement to you or about your volunteering to search
for the boy. She thinks her grandfather must have told him. I didn't say
so to her, but that is hardly possible in view of the fact that Stewart
came on here to your rooms very soon after you had reached them

So that makes two lies for our gentle friend - and serious lies, both of
them. To my mind, they point unmistakably to a certain conclusion.
_Captain S. has been responsible for putting his nephew out of the way_.
He has either hidden him somewhere and is keeping him in confinement, or
he has killed him.

I wish we could talk it over to-day, but, as you see, I'm helpless.
Remain in to-night, and I'll come as soon as I can get rid of these
confounded people of mine.

One word more. Be careful! Miss B. is, up to this point, merely puzzled
over things. She doesn't suspect her uncle of any crookedness, I'm sure.
So we shall have to tread softly where she is concerned.

I shall see you to-night. R.H.

Ste. Marie read the closely written pages through twice, and he thought
how like his friend it was to take the time and trouble to put what he
had learned into this clear, concise form. Another man would have
scribbled, "Important facts - tell you all about it to-night," or
something of that kind. Hartley must have spent a quarter of an hour
over his writing.

Ste. Marie walked up and down the room with all his strength forcing his
brain to quiet, reasonable action. Once he said, aloud:

"Yes, you're right, of course. Stewart has been at the bottom of it all
along." He realized that he had been for some days slowly arriving at
that conclusion, and that since the night before he had been practically
certain of it, though he had not yet found time to put his suspicions
into logical order. Hartley's letter had driven the truth concretely
home to him, but he would have reached the same truth without it - though
that matter of the will was of the greatest importance. It gave him a
strong weapon to strike with.

He halted before one of the front windows, and his eyes gazed unseeing
across the street into the green shrubbery of the Luxembourg Gardens.
The lace curtains had been left by the femme de ménage hanging straight
down, and not, as usual, looped back to either side, so he could see
through them with perfect ease, although he could not be seen from

He became aware that a man who was walking slowly up and down a path
inside the high iron palings was in some way familiar to him, and his
eyes sharpened. The man was inconspicuously dressed, and looked like
almost any other man whom one might pass in the streets without taking
any notice of him; but Ste. Marie knew that he had seen him often, and
he wondered how and where. There was a row of lilac shrubs against the
iron palings just inside and between the palings and the path, but two
of the shrubs were dead and leafless, and each time the man passed this
spot he came into plain view; each time, also, he directed an oblique
glance toward the house opposite. Presently he turned aside and sat down
upon one of the public benches, where he was almost, but not quite,
hidden by the intervening foliage.

Then at last Ste. Marie gave a sudden exclamation and smote his hands

"The fellow's a spy!" he cried, aloud. "He's watching the house to see
when I go out." He began to remember how he had seen the man in the
street and in cafés and restaurants, and he remembered that he had once
or twice thought it odd, but without any second thought of suspicion. So
the fellow had been set to spy upon him, watch his goings and comings
and report them to - no need of asking to whom.

Ste. Marie stood behind his curtains and looked across into the pleasant
expanse of shrubbery and greensward. He was wondering if it would be
worth while to do anything. Men and women went up and down the path,
hurrying or slowly, at ease with the world - laborers, students, bonnes
with market-baskets in their hands and long bread loaves under their
arms, nurse-maids herding small children, bigger children spinning
diabolo spools as they walked. A man with a pointed black beard and a
soft hat passed once and returned to seat himself upon the public bench
that Ste. Marie was watching. For some minutes he sat there idle,
holding the soft felt hat upon his knees for coolness. Then he turned
and looked at the other occupant of the bench, and Ste. Marie thought he
saw the other man nod, though he could not be sure whether either one
spoke or not. Presently the new-comer rose, put on the soft hat again,
and disappeared down the path going toward the gate at the head of the
rue du Luxembourg.

Five minutes later the door-bell rang.

* * * * *



Ste. Marie turned away from the window and crossed to the door. The man
with the pointed beard removed his soft hat, bowed very politely, and
asked if he had the honor to address M. Ste. Marie.

"That is my name," said Ste. Marie. "Entrez, Monsieur!" He waved his
visitor to a chair and stood waiting.

The man with the beard bowed once more. He said:

"I have not the great honor of Monsieur's acquaintance, but
circumstances, which I will explain later, have put it in my power - have
made it a sacred duty, if I may be permitted to say the word - to place
in Monsieur's hands a piece of information."

Ste. Marie smiled slightly and sat down. He said:

"I listen with pleasure - and anticipation. Pray go on!"

"I have information," said the visitor, "of the whereabouts of M. Arthur

Ste. Marie waved his hand.

"I feared as much," said he. "I mean to say, I hoped so. Proceed,

"And learning," continued the other, "that M. Ste. Marie was conducting
a search for that young gentleman, I hastened at once to place this
information in his hands."

"At a price," suggested his host. "At a price, to be sure."

The man with the beard spread out his hands in a beautiful and eloquent
gesture which well accompanied his Marseillais accent.

"Ah, as to that!" he protested. "My circumstances - I am poor, Monsieur.
One must gain the livelihood. What would you? A trifle. The merest

"Where is Arthur Benham?" asked Ste. Marie.

"In Marseilles, Monsieur. I saw him a week ago - six days. And, so far as
I could learn, he had no intention of leaving there immediately - though
it is, to be sure, hot."

Ste. Marie laughed a laugh of genuine amusement, and the man with the
pointed beard stared at him with some wonder. Ste. Marie rose and
crossed the room to a writing-desk which stood against the opposite
wall. He fumbled in a drawer of this, and returned holding in his hand a
pink-and-blue note of the Banque de France. He said:

"Monsieur - pardon! I have forgotten to ask the name - you have remarked
quite truly that one must gain a livelihood. Therefore, I do not presume
to criticise the way in which you gain yours. Sometimes one cannot
choose. However, I should like to make a little bargain with you,
Monsieur. I know, of course, being not altogether imbecile, who sent you
here with this story and why you were sent - why, also, your friend who
sits upon the bench in the garden across the street follows me about and
spies upon me. I know all this, and I laugh at it a little. But,
Monsieur, to amuse myself further, I have a desire to hear from your own
lips the name of the gentleman who is your employer. Amusement is almost
always expensive, and so I am prepared to pay for this. I have here a
note of one hundred francs. It is yours in return for the name - the
_right_ name. Remember, I know it already."

The man with the pointed beard sprang to his feet quivering with
righteous indignation. All Southern Frenchmen, like all other Latins,
are magnificent actors. He shook one clinched hand in the air, his face

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Online LibraryJustus Miles FormanJason → online text (page 10 of 23)