“May I make a suggestion?” asked the younger man.
The other did not answer him, and he made it.
“Give it up!” said he. “You’re riding for a tremendous fall, you know. We shall smash you completely in the end. It’ll mean worse than ruin—much worse. Give it up, now, before you’re too late. Help me to send for Hartley and we’ll take the boy back to his home. Some story can be managed that will leave you out of the thing altogether, and those who know will hold their tongues. It’s your last chance, Stewart. I advise you to take it.”
Captain Stewart turned his gray face slowly and looked at the other man with a sort of dull and apathetic wonder.
“Are you mad?” he asked, in a voice which was altogether without feeling of any kind. “Are you quite mad?”
“On the contrary,” said Ste. Marie, “I am quite sane, and I’m offering you a chance to save yourself before it’s too late. Don’t misunderstand me!” he continued. “I am not urging this out of any sympathy for you. I urge it because it will bring about what I wish a little more quickly, also because it will save your family from the disgrace of your smash-up. That’s why I’m making my suggestion.”
Captain Stewart was silent for a little while, but after that he got heavily to his feet. “I think you must be quite mad,” said he, as before, in a voice altogether devoid of expression. “I cannot talk with madmen.” He beckoned to the old Michel, who stood near-by, leaning upon his carbine, and when the gardener had approached he said, “Take this—prisoner back to his room!”
Ste. Marie rose with a little sigh. He said: “I’m sorry, but you’ll admit I have done my best for you. I’ve warned you. I sha’n’t do it again. We shall smash you now, without mercy.”
“Take him away!” cried Captain Stewart, in a sudden loud voice, and the old Michel touched his charge upon the shoulder. So Ste. Marie went without further words. From a little distance he looked back, and the other man still stood by the fallen tree-trunk, bent a little, his arms hanging lax beside him, and his face, Ste. Marie thought, fancifully, was like the face of a man damned.
* * * * *
THE LAST ARROW
The one birdlike eye of the old Michel regarded Ste. Marie with a glance of mingled cunning and humor. It might have been said to twinkle.
“To the east, Monsieur?” inquired the old Michel.
“Precisely!” said Ste. Marie. “To the east, mon vieux.” It was the morning of the fourth day after that talk with Captain Stewart beside the rose-gardens.