He lowered his voice, and Hartley answered him in the same tone.
“The man is in a delirium. Heaven knows how it’ll end. He may die and he may pull through. I hope he pulls through—except for the sake of the family—because then we can make him pay for what he’s done. I don’t want him to go scot free by dying.”
“Nor I,” said Ste. Marie, fiercely. “Nor I. I want him to pay, too—long and slowly and hard; and if he lives I shall see that he does it, family or no family. Now I must be off.”
Ste. Marie’s face was shining and uplifted. The other man looked at it with a little envious sigh.
“I see everything is all right,” said he, “and I congratulate you. You deserve it if ever any one did.”
Ste. Marie stared for an instant, uncomprehending. Then he saw.
“Yes,” he said, gently, “everything is all right.”
It was plain that the Englishman did not know of Miss Benham’s decision. He was incapable of deceit. Ste. Marie threw an arm over his friend’s shoulder and went with him a little way toward the drawing-room.
“Go in there,” he said. “You’ll find some one glad to see you, I think. And remember that I said everything is all right.”
He came back after he had turned away, and met Hartley’s puzzled frown with a smile.
“If you’ve that motor here, may I use it?” he asked. “I want to go somewhere in a hurry.”
“Of course,” the other man said. “Of course. I’ll go home in a cab.”
So they parted, and Ste. Marie went out to the waiting car.
On the left bank the streets are nearly empty of traffic at night, and one can make excellent time over them. Ste. Marie reached the Porte de Versailles, at the city’s limits, in twenty minutes and dashed through Issy five minutes later. In less than half an hour from the time he had left the rue de l’Universite he was under the walls of La Lierre. He looked at his watch, and it was not quite half-past eleven.
He tried the little door in the wall, and it was unlocked, so he passed in and closed the door behind him. Inside he found that he was running, and he gave a little laugh, but of eagerness and excitement, not of mirth. There were dim lights in one or two of the upper windows, but none below, and there was no one about. He pulled at the door-bell, and after a few impatient moments pulled again and still again. Then he noticed that the heavy door was ajar, and, since no one answered his ringing, he pushed the door open and went in.
The lower hall was quite dark, but a very faint light came down from above through the well of the staircase. He heard dragging feet in the upper hall, and then upon one of the upper flights, for the stairs, broad below, divided at a half-way landing and continued upward in an opposite direction in two narrower flights. A voice, very faint and weary, called: