In the first place, what did the boy mean by “dirty work”? To be sure, spying, in its usual sense, is not held to be one of the noblest of occupations, but—in such a cause as this! It was absurd, ridiculous, to call it “dirty work.” And what did he mean by the words which he had used afterward? Ste. Marie did not quite follow the idiom about the “big enough pot,” but he assumed that it referred to money. Did the young fool think he was being paid for his efforts? That was ridiculous, too.
The boy’s face came before him as it had looked with that sudden hard and bitter expression. What did he mean by saying that no one knew the crookedness of humanity under money temptation better than he knew it after something that had happened to him? In a sense his words were doubtless very true. Captain Stewart—and he must have been “old Charlie”; Ste. Marie remembered that the name was Charles—O’Hara, and O’Hara’s daughter stood excellent examples of that bit of cynicism, but obviously the boy had not spoken in that sense—certainly not before Mlle. O’Hara! He meant something else, then. But what—what?
Ste. Marie rose with some difficulty to his feet and carried the pillows back to the bed whence he had taken them. He sat down upon the edge of the bed, staring in great perplexity across the room at the open window, but all at once he uttered an exclamation and smote his hands together.
“That boy doesn’t know!” he cried. “They’re tricking him, these others!”
The lad’s face came once more before him, and it was a foolish and stubborn face, perhaps, but it was neither vicious nor mean. It was the face of an honest, headstrong boy who would be incapable of the cold cruelty to which all circumstances seemed to point.
“They’re tricking him somehow!” cried Ste. Marie again. “They’re lying to him and making him think—”
What was it they were making him think, these three conspirators? What possible thing could they make him think other than the plain truth? Ste. Marie shook a weary head and lay down among his pillows. He wished that he had “old Charlie” in a corner of that room with his fingers round “old Charlie’s” wicked throat. He would soon get at the truth then; or O’Hara, either, that grim and saturnine chevalier d’industrie, though O’Hara would be a bad handful to manage; or—Ste. Marie’s head dropped back with a little groan when the face of young Arthur’s enchantress came between him and the opposite wall of the room and her great and tragic eyes looked into his.
It seemed incredible that that queen among goddesses should be what she was!
* * * * *
THE INVALID TAKES THE AIR
When O’Hara, the next morning, went through the formality of looking in upon his patient, and after a taciturn nod was about to go away again, Ste. Marie called him back. He said, “Would you mind waiting a moment?” and the Irishman halted inside the door. “I made an experiment yesterday,” said Ste. Marie, “and I find that, after a poor fashion, I can walk—that is to say, I can drag myself about a little without any great pain if I don’t bend the left leg.”