She halted there, and Ste. Marie saw her eyes turn slowly toward the door, and he saw a crimson flush come up over her cheeks and die away, leaving her white again. He drew a little breath of relief and gladness, for he was sure of her now. She had had no part in it.
“It is nothing, Mademoiselle,” said he, cheerfully. “Think no more of it. It is nothing.”
“Nothing?” she cried, in a loud voice. “Do you call poison nothing?” She began to shiver again very violently. “You would have drunk it!” she said, staring at him in a white agony. “But for a miracle you would have drunk it—and died!”
Abruptly she came beside the bed and threw herself upon her knees there. In her excitement and horror she seemed to have forgotten what they two were to each other. She caught him by the shoulders with her two hands, and the girl’s violent trembling shook them both.
“Will you believe,” she cried, “that I had nothing to do with this? Will you believe me? You must believe me!”
There was no acting in that moment. She was wrung with a frank anguish, an utter horror, and between her words there were hard and terrible sobs.
“I believe you, Mademoiselle,” said the man, gently. “I believe you. Pray think no more about it.”
He smiled up into the girl’s beautiful face, though within him he was still cold and a-shiver, as even the bravest man might well be at such an escape, and after a moment she turned away again. With unsteady hands she put the new-made bowl of coffee and the brioches and other things together upon the tray and started to carry it across the room to the bed, but half-way she turned back again and set the tray down. She looked about and found an empty glass, and she poured a little of the coffee into it. Ste. Marie, who was watching her, gave a sudden cry.
“No, no, Mademoiselle, I beg you! You must not!”
But the girl shook her head at him gravely over the glass.
“There is no danger,” she said, “but I must be sure.”
She drank what was in the glass, and afterward went across to one of the windows and stood there with her back to the room for a little time.
In the end she returned and once more brought the breakfast-tray to the bed. Ste. Marie raised himself to a sitting posture and took the thing upon his knees, but his hands were shaking.
“If I were not as helpless as a dead man, Mademoiselle,” said he, “you should not have done that. If I could have stopped you, you should not have done it, Mademoiselle.”
A wave of color spread up under the brown skin of the girl’s face, but she did not speak. She stood by for a moment to see if he was supplied with everything he needed, and when Ste. Marie expressed his gratitude for her pains she only bowed her head. Then presently she turned away and left the room.
Outside the door she met some one who was approaching. Ste. Marie heard her break into rapid and excited speech, and he heard O’Hara’s voice in answer. The voice expressed astonishment and indignation and a sort of gruff horror, but the man who listened could hear only the tones, not the words that were spoken.