And the girl said, “Oh!” and remained for a little while silent. But at the end she looked up and met his eyes, and the man saw that she was very grave. She said:
“Richard, there is something that you and I have been avoiding and pretending not to see. It has gone too far now, and we’ve got to face it with perfect frankness. I know what was in your note to Ste. Marie. It was what you found out the other evening about—my uncle—the matter of the will and the other matter. He knew about the will, but he told you and Ste. Marie that he didn’t. He said to you, also, that I had told him about my engagement and Ste. Marie’s determination to search for Arthur, and that was—a lie. I didn’t tell him, and grandfather didn’t tell him. He listened in the door yonder and heard it himself. I have a good reason for knowing that. And then,” she said, “he tried very hard to persuade you and Ste. Marie to take up your search under his direction, and he partly succeeded. He sent Ste. Marie upon a foolish expedition to Dinard, and he gave him and gave you other clews just as foolish as that one. Richard, do you believe that my uncle has hidden poor Arthur away somewhere or—worse than that? Do you? Tell me the truth!”
“There is not,” said Hartley, “one particle of real evidence against him that I’m aware of. There’s plenty of motive, if you like, but motive is not evidence.”
“I asked you a question,” the girl said. “Do you believe my uncle has been responsible for Arthur’s disappearance?”
“Yes,” said Richard Hartley, “I’m afraid I do.”
“Then,” she said, “he has been responsible for Ste. Marie’s disappearance also. Ste. Marie became dangerous to him, and so vanished. What can we do, Richard? What can we do?”
* * * * *
A CONVERSATION OVERHEARD
In the upper chamber at La Lierre the days dragged very slowly by, and the man who lay in bed there counted interminable hours and prayed for the coming of night with its merciful oblivion of sleep. His inaction was made bitterer by the fact that the days were days of green and gold, of breeze-stirred tree-tops without his windows, of vagrant sweet airs that stole in upon his solitude, bringing him all the warm fragrance of summer and of green things growing.
He suffered little pain. There was, for the first three or four days, a dull and feverish ache in his wounded leg, but presently even that passed, and the leg hurt him only when he moved it. He thought sometimes that he would be grateful for a bit of physical anguish to make the hours pass more quickly.