“They were true, my Queen,” said he, smiling. “They were quite, quite true. It is for me to prove now that they shall be true no longer.” He took the girl’s hand in his rather ceremoniously, and bent his head and kissed it. As he did so he was aware that she stirred, all at once, uneasily, and when he had raised his head he looked at her in question.
“I thought some one was coming into the room,” she explained, looking beyond him. “I thought some one started to come in between the portieres yonder. It must have been a servant.”
“Then it is understood,” said Ste. Marie. “To bring you back your happiness, and to prove myself in some way worthy of your love, I am to devote myself with all my effort and all my strength to finding your brother or some trace of him, and until I succeed I will not see your face again, my Queen.”
“Oh, that!” she cried—“that, too?”
“I will not see you,” said he, “until I bring you news of him, or until my year is passed and I have failed utterly. I know what risk I run. If I fail, I lose you. That is understood, too. But if I succeed—”
“Then?” she said, breathing quickly. “Then?”
“Then,” said he, “I shall come to you, and I shall feel no shame in asking you to marry me, because then you will know that there is in me some little worthiness, and that in our lives together you need not be buried in obscurity—lost to the world.”
“I cannot find any words to say,” said she. “I am feeling just now very humble and very ashamed. It seems that I haven’t known you at all. Oh yes, I am ashamed.”
The girl’s face, habitually so cool and composed, was flushed with a beautiful flush, and it had softened, and it seemed to quiver between a smile and a tear. With a swift movement she leaned close to him, holding by his shoulder, and for an instant her cheek was against his. She whispered to him:
“Oh, find him quickly, my dear! Find him quickly, and come back to me!”
Ste. Marie began to tremble, and she stood away from him. Once he looked up, but the flush was gone from Miss Benham’s cheeks and she was pale again. She stood with her hands tight clasped over her breast. So he bowed to her very low, and turned and went out of the room and out of the house.