* * * * *
THE STONE BENCH AT THE ROND POINT
Mlle. Coira O’Hara sat alone upon the stone bench at the hither end of the rond point. With a leisurely hand she put fine stitches into a mysterious garment of white, with lace on it, and over her not too arduous toil she sang, a demi voix, a little German song all about the tender passions.
Ste. Marie halted his dragging steps a little way off, but the girl heard him and turned to look. After that she rose hurriedly and stood as if poised for flight, but Ste. Marie took his hat in his hands and came forward.
“If you go away, Mademoiselle,” said he, “if you let me drive you from your place, I shall limp across to that pool and fall in and drown myself, or I shall try to climb the wall yonder and Michel will have to shoot me.”
He came forward another step.
“If it is impossible,” he said, “that you and I should stay here together for a few little moments and talk about what a beautiful day it is—if that is impossible, why then I must apologize for intruding upon you and go on my way, inexorably pursued by the would-be murderer who now stands six paces to the rear. Is it impossible, Mademoiselle?” said Ste. Marie.
The girl’s face was flushed with that deep and splendid understain. She looked down upon the white garment in her hand and away across the broad rond point, and in the end she looked up very gravely into the face of the man who stood leaning upon his stick before her.
“I don’t know,” she said, in her deep voice, “what my father would wish. I did not know that you were coming into the garden this morning, or—”
“Or else,” said Ste. Marie, with a little touch of bitterness in his tone—“or else you would not have been here. You would have remained in the house.”
He made a bow.
“To-morrow, Mademoiselle,” said he, “and for the remainder of the days that I may be at La Lierre, I shall stay in my room. You need have no fear of me.”
All the man’s life he had been spoiled. The girl’s bearing hurt him absurdly, and a little of the hurt may have betrayed itself in his face as he turned away, for she came toward him with a swift movement, saying:
“No, no! Wait!—I have hurt you,” she said, with a sort of wondering distress. “You have let me hurt you.... And yet surely you must see,... you must realize on what terms.... Do you forget that you are not among your friends... outside?... This is so very different!”