“A man of honor,” repeated Ste. Marie. “When I give my word I keep it. Voila! I keep it. And,” said he, “I have here forty francs. Two louis. A large sum. It is yours, my brave Michel, for the mere trouble of turning your back just thirty seconds.”
“Monsieur,” whispered the old man, “it is impossible. He would kill me—by torture.”
“He will never know,” said Ste. Marie, “for I do not mean to try to escape. I give you my word of honor that I shall not try to escape. Besides, I could not climb over that wall, as you see. Two louis, Michel! Forty francs!”
The old man’s hands twisted and trembled round the barrel of the carbine, and he swallowed once with some difficulty. He seemed to hesitate, but in the end he shook his head. It was as if he shook it in grief over the grave of his first-born. “It is impossible,” he said again. “Impossible.” He tore the beadlike eye away from those two beautiful, glowing golden things, and Ste. Marie saw that there was nothing to be done with him just now. He slipped the money back into his pocket with a little sigh and turned away toward the rose-gardens.
“Ah, well,” said he. “Another time, perhaps. Another time. And there are more louis still, mon vieux. Perhaps three or four. Who knows?”
Michel emitted a groan of extreme anguish, and they moved on.
But a few moments later Ste. Marie gave a sudden low exclamation, and then a soundless laugh, for he caught sight of a very familiar figure seated in apparent dejection upon a fallen tree-trunk and staring across the tangled splendor of the roses.
* * * * *
A SETTLEMENT REFUSED
Captain Stewart had good reason to look depressed on that fresh and beautiful morning when Ste. Marie happened upon him beside the rose-gardens. Matters had not gone well with him of late. He was ill and he was frightened, and he was much nearer than is agreeable to a complete nervous breakdown.
It seemed to him that perils beset him upon every side, perils both seen and unseen. He felt like a man who is hunted in the dark, hard pressed until his strength is gone, and he can flee no farther. He imagined himself to be that man shivering in the gloom in a strange place, hiding eyes and ears lest he see or hear something from which he cannot escape. He imagined the morning light to come, very slow and cold and gray, and in it he saw round about him a silent ring of enemies, the men who had pursued him and run him down. He saw them standing there in the pale dawn, motionless, waiting for the day, and he knew that at last the chase was over and he near done for.