He walked on in the direction which lay before him, but he took no heed of where he went, and Mlle. Coira O’Hara spoke to him twice before he heard or saw her.
* * * * *
MEDEA GOES OVER TO THE ENEMY
They were near the east end of the rond point, in a space where fir-trees stood and the ground underfoot was covered with dry needles.
“I was just on my way to—our bench beyond the fountain,” said she.
And Ste. Marie nodded, looking upon her sombrely. It seemed to him that he looked with new eyes, and after a little time, when he did not speak, but only gazed in that strange manner, the girl said:
“What is it? Something has happened. Please tell me what it is.”
Something like the pale foreshadow of fear came over her beautiful face and shrouded her golden voice as if it had been a veil.
“Your father,” said Ste. Marie, heavily, “has just been telling me—that you are to marry young Arthur Benham. He has been telling me.”
She drew a quick breath, looking at him, but after a moment she said:
“Yes, it is true. You knew it before, though, didn’t you? Do you mean that you didn’t know it before? I don’t quite understand. You must have known that. What, in Heaven’s name, did you think?” she cried, as if with a sort of anger at his dulness.
The man rubbed one hand wearily across his eyes.
“I—don’t quite know,” said he. “Yes, I suppose I had thought of it. I don’t know. It came to me with such a—shock! Yes. Oh, I don’t know. I expect I didn’t think at all. I—just didn’t think.”
Abruptly his eyes sharpened upon her, and he moved a step forward.
“Tell me the truth!” he said. “Do you love this boy?”
The girl’s cheeks burned with a swift crimson and she set her lips together. She was on the verge of extreme anger just then, but after a little the flush died down again and the dark fire went out of her eyes. She made an odd gesture with her two hands. It seemed to express fatigue as much as anything—a great weariness.
“I like him,” she said. “I like him—enough, I suppose. He is good—and kind—and gentle. He will be good to me. And I shall try very, very hard, to make him happy.”
Quite suddenly and without warning the fire of her anger burned up again. She flamed defiance in the man’s face.
“How dare you question me?” she cried. “What right have you to ask me questions about such a thing? You—what you are!”
Ste. Marie bent his head.
“No right, Mademoiselle,” said he, in a low voice. “I have no right to ask you anything—not even forgiveness. I think I am a little mad to-day. It—this news came to me suddenly. Yes, I think I am a little mad.”
The girl stared at him and he looked back with sombre eyes. Once more he was stabbed with intolerable pain to think what she was. Yet in an inexplicable fashion it pleased him that she should carry out her trickery to the end with a high head. It was a little less base, done proudly. He could not have borne it otherwise.