He was still engaged in this unpleasant occupation when the door of the room opened and the Irishman O’Hara entered, having finished his interview with Captain Stewart below. He came up beside the bed and looked down not unkindly upon the man who lay there, but Ste. Marie scowled back at him, for he was in a good deal of pain and a vile humor.
“How’s the leg—and the head?” asked the amateur surgeon. To do him justice, he was very skilful, indeed, through much experience.
“They hurt,” said Ste. Marie, shortly. “My head aches like the devil, and my leg burns.”
O’Hara made a sound which was rather like a gruff laugh, and nodded.
“Yes, and they’ll go on doing it, too,” said he. “At least the leg will. Your head will be all right again in a day or so. Do you want anything to eat? It’s near dinner-time. I suppose we can’t let you starve—though you deserve it.”
“Thanks; I want nothing,” said Ste. Marie. “Pray don’t trouble about me.”
The other man nodded again indifferently and turned to go out of the room, but in the doorway he halted and looked back.
“As we’re to have the pleasure of your company for some time to come,” said he, “you might suggest a name to call you by. Of course I don’t expect you to tell your own name—though I can learn that easily enough.”
“Easily enough, to be sure,” said the man on the bed. “Ask Stewart. He knows only too well.”
The Irishman scowled. And after a moment he said:
“I don’t know any Stewart.”
But at that Ste. Marie gave a laugh, and a tinge of red came over the Irishman’s cheeks.
“And so, to save Captain Stewart the trouble,” continued the wounded man, “I’ll tell you my name with pleasure. I don’t know why I shouldn’t. It’s Ste. Marie.”
“What?” cried O’Hara, hoarsely. “What? Say that again!”
He came forward a swift step or two into the room, and he stared at the man on the bed as if he were staring at a ghost.
“Ste. Marie?” he cried, in a whisper. “It’s impossible! What are you,” he demanded, “to Gilles, Comte de Ste. Marie de Mont-Perdu? What are you to him?”
“He was my father,” said the younger man; “but he is dead. He has been dead for ten years.”
He raised his head, with a little grimace of pain, to look curiously after the Irishman, who had all at once turned away across the room and stood still beside a window with bent head.
“Why?” he questioned. “What about my father? Why did you ask that?”
O’Hara did not answer at once, and he did not stir from his place by the window, but after a while he said:
“I knew him.... That’s all.”
And after another space he came back beside the bed, and once more looked down upon the young man who lay there. His face was veiled, inscrutable. It betrayed nothing.