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overleaping barriers that look unsurmountable to older eyes! Youth!
Youth! Eh, my God," said he, "to be young again, just for a little
while! To feel the blood beat strong and eager! Never to be tired! Eh,
to be like one of you youngsters! You, Ste. Marie, or you, Hartley!
There's so little left for people when youth is gone!"

He bent his head again, staring down upon the glass before him, and for
a while there was a silence which neither of the younger men cared to

"Don't refuse a helping hand," said Captain Stewart, looking up once
more. "Don't be over-proud. I may be able to set you upon the right
path. Not that I have anything definite to work upon - I haven't, alas!
But each day new clews turn up. One day we shall find the real one, and
that may be one that I have turned over to you to follow out. One never

Ste. Marie looked across at Richard Hartley, but that gentleman was
blowing smoke-rings and to all outward appearance giving them his entire
attention. He looked back to Captain Stewart, and Stewart's eyes
regarded him, smiling a little wistfully, he thought. Ste. Marie scowled
out of the window at the trees of the Luxembourg Gardens.

"I hardly know," said he. "Of course, I sound a braying ass in
hesitating even a moment; but, in a way, you understand, I'm so anxious
to do this or to fail in it quite on my own. You're - so tremendously
kind about it that I don't know what to say. I must seem very
ungrateful, I know; but I'm not."

"No," said the elder man, "you don't seem ungrateful at all. I
understand exactly how you feel about it, and I applaud your
feeling - but not your judgment. I am afraid that for the sake of a
sentiment you're taking unnecessary risks of failure."

For the first time Richard Hartley spoke.

"I've an idea, you know," said he, "that it's going to be a matter
chiefly of luck. One day somebody will stumble on the right trail, and
that might as well be Ste. Marie or I as your trained detectives. If you
don't mind my saying so, sir - I don't want to seem rude - your trained
detectives do not seem to accomplish much in two months, do they?"

Captain Stewart looked thoughtfully at the younger man.

"No," he said, at last. "I am sorry to say they don't seem to have
accomplished much - except to prove that there are a great many places
poor Arthur has _not_ been to and a great many people who have _not_
seen him. After all, that is something - the elimination of ground that
need not be worked over again." He set down the glass from which he had
been drinking. "I cannot agree with your theory," he said. "I cannot
agree that such work as this is best left to an accidental solution.
Accidents are too rare. We have tried to go at it in as scientific a way
as could be managed - by covering large areas of territory, by keeping
the police everywhere on the alert, by watching the boy's old friends
and searching his favorite haunts. Personally, I am inclined to think
that he managed to slip away to America very early in the course of
events, before we began to search for him, and, of course, I am having a
careful watch kept there as well as here. But no trace has appeared as
yet - nothing at all trustworthy. Meanwhile, I continue to hope and to
work, but I grow a little discouraged. In any case, though, we shall
hear of him in three months more if he is alive."

"Why three months?" asked Ste. Marie. "What do you mean by that?"

"In three months," said Captain Stewart, "Arthur will be of age, and he
can demand the money left him by his father. If he is alive he will turn
up for that. I have thought, from the first, that he is merely hiding
somewhere until this time should be past. He - you must know that he went
away very angry, after a quarrel with his grandfather? My father is not
a patient man. He may have been very harsh with the boy."

"Ah, yes," said Hartley; "but no boy, however young or angry, would be
foolish enough to risk an absolute break with the man who is going to
leave him a large fortune. Young Benham must know that his grandfather
would never forgive him for staying away all this time if he stayed away
of his own accord. He must know that he'd be taking tremendous risks of
being cut off altogether."

"And besides," added Ste. Marie, "it is quite possible that your father,
sir, may die at any time - any hour. And he's very angry at his grandson.
He may have cut him off already."

Captain Stewart's eyes sharpened suddenly, but he dropped them to the
glass in his hand.

"Have you any reason for thinking that?" he asked.

"No," said Ste. Marie. "I beg your pardon. I shouldn't have said it.
That is a matter which concerns your family alone. I forgot myself. The
possibility occurred to me suddenly for the first time."

But the elder man looked up at him with a smile.

"Pray don't apologize," said he. "Surely we three can speak frankly
together! And, frankly, I know nothing of my father's will. But I don't
think he would cut poor Arthur off, though he is, of course, very angry
about the boy's leaving in the manner he did. No, I am sure he wouldn't
cut him off. He was fond of the lad, very fond - as we all were."

Captain Stewart glanced at his watch and rose with a little sigh.

"I must be off," said he. "I have to dine out this evening, and I must
get home to change. There is a cabstand near you?" He looked out of the
window. "Ah, yes! Just at the corner of the Gardens."

He turned about to Ste. Marie, and held out his hand with a smile. He

"You refuse to join forces with us, then? Well, I'm sorry. But, for all
that, I wish you luck. Go your own way, and I hope you'll succeed. I
honestly hope that, even though your success may show me up for an
incompetent bungler."

He gave a little kindly laugh, and Ste. Marie tried to protest.

"Still," said the elder man, "don't throw me over altogether. If I can
help you in any way, little or big, let me know. If I can give you any
hints, any advice, anything at all, I want to do it. And if you happen
upon what seems to be a promising clew come and talk it over with me.
Oh, don't be afraid! I'll leave it to you to work out. I sha'n't spoil
your game."

"Ah, now, that's very good of you," said Ste. Marie. "Only you make me
seem more than ever an ungrateful fool. Thanks, I will come to you with
my troubles if I may. I have a foolish idea that I want to follow out a
little first, but doubtless I shall be running to you soon for

The elder man's eyes sharpened again with keen interest.

"An idea!" he said, quickly. "You have an idea? What - May I ask what
sort of an idea?"

"Oh, it's nothing," declared Ste. Marie. "You have already laughed at
it. I just want to find that man O'Hara, that's all. I've a feeling that
I should learn something from him."

"Ah!" said Captain Stewart, slowly. "Yes, the man O'Hara. There's
nothing in that, I'm afraid. I've made inquiries about O'Hara. It seems
he left Paris six months ago, saying he was off for America. An old
friend of his told me that. So you must have been mistaken when you
thought you saw him in the Champs-Elysées; and he couldn't very well
have had anything to do with poor Arthur. I'm afraid that idea is hardly
worth following up."

"Perhaps not," said Ste. Marie. "I seem to start badly, don't I? Ah,
well, I'll have to come to you all the sooner, then."

"You'll be welcome," promised Captain Stewart. "Good-bye to you!
Good-day, Hartley. Come and see me, both of you. You know where I live."

He took his leave then, and Hartley, standing beside the window, watched
him turn down the street, and at the corner get into one of the fiacres
there and drive away.

Ste. Marie laughed aloud.

"There's the second time," said he, "that I've had him about O'Hara. If
he is as careless as that about everything, I don't wonder he hasn't
found Arthur Benham. O'Hara disappeared from Paris - publicly, that
is - at about the time young Benham disappeared. As a matter of fact, he
remains, or at least for a time remained, in the city without letting
his friends know, because I made no mistake about seeing him in the
Champs-Elysées. All that looks to me suspicious enough to be worth
investigation. Of course," he admitted, doubtfully - "of course, I'm no
detective; but that's how it looks to me."

"I don't believe Stewart is any detective, either," said Richard
Hartley. "He's altogether too cocksure. That sort of man would rather
die than admit he is wrong about anything. He's a good old chap, though,
isn't he? I liked him to-day better than ever before. I thought he was
rather pathetic when he went on about his age."

"He has a good heart," said Ste. Marie. "Very few men under the
circumstances would come here and be as decent as he was. Most men would
have thought I was a presumptuous ass, and would have behaved

Ste. Marie took a turn about the room, and his face began to light up
with its new excitement and exaltation.

"And to-morrow!" he cried - "to-morrow we begin! To-morrow we set out
into the world and the Adventure is on foot! God send it success!"

He laughed across at the other man; but it was a laugh of eagerness, not
of mirth.

"I feel," said he, "like Jason. I feel as if we were to set sail
to-morrow for Colchis and the Golden Fleece."

"Y-e-s," said the other man, a little dryly - "yes, perhaps. I don't want
to seem critical, but isn't your figure somewhat ill chosen?"

"'Ill chosen'?" cried Ste. Marie. "What d'you mean? Why ill chosen?"

"I was thinking of Medea," said Richard Hartley.

* * * * *



So on the next day these two rode forth upon their quest, and no quest
was ever undertaken with a stouter courage or with a grimmer
determination to succeed. To put it fancifully, they burned their tower
behind them, for to one of them, at least - to him who led - there was no
going back.

But, after all, they set forth under a cloud, and Ste. Marie took a
heavy heart with him. On the evening before an odd and painful incident
had befallen - a singularly unfortunate incident.

It chanced that neither of the two men had a dinner engagement that
evening, and so, after their old habit, they dined together. There was
some wrangling over where they should go, Hartley insisting upon
Armenonville or the Madrid, in the Bois, Ste. Marie objecting that these
would be full of tourists so late in June, and urging the claims of some
quiet place in the Quarter, where they could talk instead of listening
perforce to loud music. In the end, for no particular reason, they
compromised on the little Spanish restaurant in the rue Helder. They
went there about eight o'clock, without dressing, for it is a very quiet
place which the world does not visit, and they had a sopa de yerbas, and
some langostinos, which are shrimps, and a heavenly arroz, with fowl in
it, and many tender, succulent strips of red pepper. They had a salad
made out of a little of everything that grows green, with the true
Spanish oil, which has a tang and a bouquet unappreciated by the
Philistine; and then they had a strange pastry and some cheese and green
almonds. And to make then glad, they drank a bottle of old red
Valdepenas, and afterward a glass each of a special Manzanilla, upon
which the restaurant very justly prides itself.

It was a simple dinner and a little stodgy for that time of the year,
but the two men were hungry and sat at table, almost alone in the upper
room, for a long time, saying how good everything was, and from time to
time despatching the saturnine waiter, a Madrileno, for more peppers.
When at last they came out into the narrow street, and thence to the
thronged Boulevard des Italiens, it was nearly eleven o'clock. They
stood for a little time in the shelter of a kiosk, looking down the
boulevard to where the Place de l'Opéra opened wide and the lights of
the Café de la Paix shone garish in the night. And Ste. Marie said:

"There's a street fête in Montmartre. We might drive home that way."

"An excellent idea," said the other man. "The fact that Montmartre lies
in an opposite direction from home makes the plan all the better. And
after that we might drive home through the Bois. That's much farther in
the wrong direction. Lead on!"

So they sprang into a waiting fiacre, and were dragged up the steep,
stone-paved hill to the heights, where La Bohême still reigns, though
the glory of Moulin Rouge has departed and the trail of the tourist is
over all. They found Montmartre very much en fête. In the Place Blanche
were two of the enormous and brilliantly lighted merry-go-rounds, which
only Paris knows - one furnished with stolid cattle, theatrical-looking
horses, and Russian sleighs; the other with the ever-popular galloping
pigs. When these dreadful machines were in rotation, mechanical organs,
concealed somewhere in their bowels, emitted hideous brays and shrieks
which mingled with the shrieks of the ladies mounted upon the galloping
pigs, and together insulted a peaceful sky.

The square was filled with that extremely heterogeneous throng which the
Parisian street fête gathers together, but it was, for the most part, a
well-dressed throng, largely recruited from the boulevards, and it was
quite determined to have a very good time in the cheerful, harmless
Latin fashion. The two men got down from their fiacre and elbowed a way
through the good-natured crowd to a place near the more popular of the
merry-go-rounds. The machine was in rotation. Its garish lights shone
and glittered, its hidden mechanical organ blared a German waltz tune,
the huge, pink-varnished pigs galloped gravely up and down as the
platform upon which they were mounted whirled round and round. A little
group of American trippers, sight-seeing with a guide, stood near by,
and one of the group, a pretty girl with red hair, demanded plaintively
of the friend upon whose arm she hung: "Do you think momma would be
shocked if we took a ride? Wouldn't I love to!"

Hartley turned, laughing, from this distressed maiden to Ste. Marie. He
was wondering, with mild amusement, why anybody should wish to do such a
foolish thing; but Ste. Marie's eyes were fixed upon the galloping pigs,
and the eyes shone with a wistful excitement. To tell the truth, it was
impossible for him to look on at any form of active amusement without
thirsting to join it. A joyous and carefree lady in a blue hat, who was
mounted astride upon one of the pigs, hurled a paper serpentine at him
and shrieked with delight when it knocked his hat off.

"That's the second time she has hit me with one of those things," he
said, groping about his feet for the hat. "Here, stop that boy with the

A vendor of the little rolls of paper ribbon was shouting his wares
through the crowd. Ste. Marie filled his pockets with the things, and
when the lady with the blue hat came round, on the next turn, lassoed
her neatly about the neck and held the end of the ribbon till it broke.
Then he caught a fat gentleman, who was holding himself on by his
steed's neck, in the ear, and the red-haired American girl laughed

"When the thing stops," said Ste. Marie, "I'm going to take a ride - just
one ride. I haven't ridden a pig for many years."

Hartley jeered at him, calling him an infant, but Ste. Marie bought more
serpentines, and when the platform came to a stop clambered up to it and
mounted the only unoccupied pig he could find. His friend still scoffed
at him and called him names, but Ste. Marie tucked his long legs round
the pig's neck and smiled back, and presently the machine began again to

At the end of the first revolution Hartley gave a shout of delight, for
he saw that the lady with the blue hat had left her mount and was making
her way along the platform toward where Ste. Marie sat hurling
serpentines in the face of the world. By the next time round she had
come to where he was, mounted astride behind him, and was holding
herself with one very shapely arm round his neck, while with the other
she rifled his pockets for ammunition. Ste. Marie grinned, and the
public, loud in its acclaims, began to pelt the two with serpentines
until they were hung with many-colored ribbons like a Christmas-tree.
Even Richard Hartley was so far moved out of the self-consciousness with
which his race is cursed as to buy a handful of the common missiles, and
the lady in the blue hat returned his attention with skill and despatch.

But as the machine began to slacken its pace, and the hideous wail and
blare of the concealed organ died mercifully down, Hartley saw that his
friend's manner had all at once altered, that he sat leaning forward
away from the enthusiastic lady with the blue hat, and that the paper
serpentines had dropped from his hands. Hartley thought that the rapid
motion must have made him a little giddy, but presently, before the
merry-go-round had quite stopped, he saw the man leap down and hurry
toward him through the crowd. Ste. Marie's face was grave and pale. He
caught Hartley's arm in his hand and turned him round, crying, in a low

"Come out of this as quickly as you can! No, in the other direction. I
want to get away at once!"

"What's the matter?" Hartley demanded. "Lady in the blue hat too
friendly? Well, if you're going to play this kind of game you might as
well play it."

"Helen Benham was down there in the crowd," said Ste. Marie. "On the
opposite side from you. She was with a party of people who got out of
two motor-cars to look on. They were in evening things, so they had come
from dinner somewhere, I suppose. She saw me."

"The devil!" said Hartley, under his breath. Then he gave a shout of
laughter, demanding: "Well, what of it? You weren't committing any
crime, were you? There's no harm in riding a silly pig in a silly
merry-go-round. Everybody does it in these fête things." But even as he
spoke he knew how extremely unfortunate the meeting was, and the
laughter went out of his voice.

"I'm afraid," said Ste. Marie, "she won't see the humor of it. Good God,
what a thing to happen! _You_ know well enough what she'll think of me.
At five o'clock this afternoon," he said, bitterly, "I left her with a
great many fine, high-sounding words about the quest I was to give my
days and nights to - for her sake. I went away from her like a - knight
going into battle - consecrated. I tell you, there were tears in her eyes
when I went. And _now_ - now, at midnight - she sees me riding a galloping
pig in a street fête with a girl from the boulevards sitting on the pig
with me and holding me round the neck before a thousand people. What
will she think of me? What but one thing can she possibly think? Oh, I
know well enough! I saw her face before she turned away. And," he cried,
"I can't even go to her and explain - if there's anything to explain, and
I suppose there is not. I can't even go to her. I've sworn not to see

"Oh, I'll do that," said the other man. "I'll explain it to her, if any
explanation's necessary. I think you'll find that she will laugh at it."

But Ste. Marie shook his head.

"No, she won't," said he.

And Hartley could say no more; for he knew Miss Benham, and he was very
much afraid that she would not laugh.

They found a fiacre at the side of the square and drove home at once.
They were almost entirely silent all the long way, for Ste. Marie was
buried in gloom, and the Englishman, after trying once or twice to cheer
him up, realized that he was best left to himself just then, and so held
his tongue. But in the rue d'Assas, as Ste. Marie was getting
down - Hartley kept the fiacre to go on to his rooms in the Avenue de
l'Observatoire - he made a last attempt to lighten the man's depression.
He said:

"Don't you be a silly ass about this! You're making much too much of it,
you know. I'll go to her to-morrow or next day and explain, and she'll
laugh - -if she hasn't already done so. You know," he said, almost
believing it himself, "you are paying her a dashed poor compliment in
thinking she's so dull as to misunderstand a little thing of this kind.
Yes, by Jove, you are!"

Ste. Marie looked up at him, and his face, in the light of the cab lamp,
showed a first faint gleam of hope.

"Do you think so?" he demanded. "Do you really think that? Maybe I am.
But - Oh, Lord, who would understand such an idiocy? Sacred imbecile that
I am! Why was I ever born? I ask you."

He turned abruptly, and began to ring at the door, casting a brief
"Good-night" over his shoulder. And after a moment Hartley gave it up
and drove away.

Above, in the long, shallow front room of his flat, with the three
windows overlooking the Gardens, Ste. Marie made lights, and after much
rummaging unearthed a box of cigarettes of a peculiarly delectable
flavor which had been sent him by a friend in the Khedivial household.
He allowed himself one or two of them now and then, usually in sorrowful
moments, as an especial treat; and this seemed to him to be the moment
for smoking all that were left. Surely his need had never been greater.
In England he had, of course, learned to smoke a pipe, but pipe-smoking
always remained with him a species of accomplishment; it never brought
him the deep and ruminative peace with which it enfolds the Anglo-Saxon
heart. The "vieux Jacob" of old-fashioned Parisian Bohemia inspired in
him unconcealed horror, of cigars he was suspicious because, he said,
most of the unpleasant people he knew smoked cigars, so he soothed his
soul with cigarettes, and he was usually to be found with one between
his fingers.

He lighted one of the precious Egyptians, and after a first ecstatic
inhalation went across to one of the long windows, which was open, and
stood there with his back to the room, his face to the peaceful,
fragrant night. A sudden recollection came to him of that other night a
month before when he had stood on the Pont des Invalides with his eyes
upon the stars, his feet upon the ladder thereunto. His heart gave a
sudden exultant leap within him when he thought how far and high he had
climbed, but after the leap it shivered and stood still when this
evening's misadventure came before him.

Would she ever understand? He had no fear that Hartley would not do his
best with her. Hartley was as honest and as faithful as ever a friend
was in this world. He would do his best. But even then - It was the
girl's inflexible nature that made the matter so dangerous. He knew that
she was inflexible, and he took a curious pride in it. He admired it. So
must have been those calm-eyed, ancient ladies for whom other Ste.
Maries went out to do battle. It was well-nigh impossible to imagine
them lowering their eyes to silly revelry. They could not stoop to such
as that. It was beneath their high dignity. And it was beneath hers
also. As for himself, he was a thing of patches. Here a patch of exalted
chivalry - a noble patch - there a patch of bourgeois, childlike love of
fun; here a patch of melancholic asceticism, there one of something
quite the reverse. A hopeless patchwork he was. Must she not shrink from
him when she knew? He could not quite imagine her understanding the
wholly trivial and meaningless impulse that had prompted him to ride a
galloping pig and cast paper serpentines at the assembled world.

Apart from her view of the affair, he felt no shame in it. The moment of
childish gayety had been but a passing mood. It had in no way slackened
his tense enthusiasm, dulled the keenness of his spirit, lowered his
high flight. He knew that well enough. But he wondered if she would
understand, and he could not believe it possible. The mood of exaltation
in which they had parted that afternoon came to him, and then the sight
of her shocked face as he had seen it in the laughing crowd in the Place

"What must she think of me?" he cried, aloud. "What must she think of

So, for an hour or more, he stood in the open window staring into the
fragrant night, or tramped up and down the long room, his hands behind
his back, kicking out of his way the chairs and things which impeded
him, torturing himself with fears and regrets and fancies, until at
last, in a calmer moment, he realized that he was working himself up
into an absurd state of nerves over something which was done and could
not now be helped. The man had an odd streak of fatalism in his
nature - that will have come of his Southern blood - and it came to him
now in his need. For the work upon which he was to enter with the morrow
he had need of clear wits, not scattered ones; a calm judgment, not

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Online LibraryJustus Miles FormanJason → online text (page 6 of 23)