“And yet, Mademoiselle,” said he, gently, “I think there are such men alive to-day, if only one will look for them. Remember, they were not common even in Bayard’s time. Oh yes, I think there are preux chevaliers nowadays, only perhaps they don’t go about things in quite the same fashion. Other times, other manners,” he said again.
“Do you know any such men?” she demanded, facing him with shadowy eyes.
And he said: “Yes, I know men who are in all ways as honorable and as high-hearted as Bayard was. In his place they would have acted as he did, but nowadays one has to practise heroism much less conspicuously—in the little things that few people see and that no one applauds or writes books about. It is much harder to do brave little acts than brave big ones.”
“Yes.” she agreed, slowly. “Oh yes, of course.”
But there was no spirit in her tone, rather a sort of apathy. Once more the leaves overhead swayed in the breeze, opened a tiny rift, and the little trembling ray of sunshine shot down to her where she sat. She stretched out one hand cup-wise, and the sunbeam, after a circling gyration, darted into it and lay there like a small golden bird panting, as it were, from fright.
“If I were a painter,” said Ste. Marie, “I should be in torture and anguish of soul until I had painted you sitting there on a stone bench and holding a sunbeam in your hand. I don’t know what I should call the picture, but I think it would be something figurative—symbolic. Can you think of a name?”
Coira O’Hara looked up at him with a slight smile, but her eyes were gloomy and full of dark shadows. “It might be called any one of a great number of things, I should think,” said she. “Happiness—belief—illusion. See! The sunbeam is gone.”
* * * * *
A MIST DIMS THE SHINING STAR
Ste. Marie remained in his room all the rest of that day, and he did not see Mlle. O’Hara again, for Michel brought him his lunch and the old Justine his dinner. For the greater part of the time he sat in bed reading, but rose now and then and moved about the room. His wound seemed to have suffered no great inconvenience from the morning’s outing. If he stood or walked too long it burned somewhat, and he had the sensation of a tight band round the leg; but this passed after he had lain down for a little while, or even sat in a chair with the leg straight out before him; so he knew that he was not to be crippled very much longer, and his thoughts began to turn more and more keenly upon the matter of escape.