“I think I do,” the man said, but he looked at her very curiously and a little sadly, for it was the first time he had ever seen her swept from her superb poise by any emotion, and he hardly recognized her. It was very bitter to him to realize that he could never have stirred her to this—never, under any conceivable circumstances.
The girl came to him where he stood, and touched his arm with her hand. “He is waiting to hear how I feel about it all, isn’t he?” she said. “He is waiting to know that I understand. Will you tell him a little lie for me, Richard? No, you needn’t tell a lie. I will tell it. Tell him that I said I understood perfectly. Tell him that I was shocked for a moment, but that afterward I understood and thought no more about it. Will you tell him I said that? It won’t be a lie from you, because I did say it. Oh, I will not grieve him or hamper him now while he is working in my cause! I’ll tell him a lie rather than have him grieve.”
“Need it be a lie?” said Richard Hartley. “Can’t you truly believe what you’ve said?”
She shook her head slowly.
“I’ll try,” said she, “but—my golden spell is broken and I can’t mend it alone. I’m sorry.”
He turned with a little sigh to leave her, but Miss Benham followed him toward the door of the drawing-room.
“You’re a good friend, Richard,” she said, when she had come near—“you’re a good friend to him.”
“He deserves good friends,” said the young man, stoutly. “And besides,” said he, “we’re brothers in arms nowadays. We’ve enlisted together to fight for the same cause.” The girl fell back with a little cry.
“Do you mean,” she said, after a moment—“do you mean that you are working with him—to find Arthur?”
“But—” said she, stammering. “But, Richard—”
The man checked her.
“Oh, I know what I’m doing,” said he. “My eyes are open. I know that I’m not—well, in the running. I work for no reward except a desire to help you and Ste. Marie. That’s all. It pleases me to be useful.”
He went away with that, not waiting for an answer, and the girl stood where he had left her, staring after him.
* * * * *
CAPTAIN STEWART ENTERTAINS
Ste. Marie returned, after three days, from Dinard in a depressed and somewhat puzzled frame of mind. He had found no trace whatever of Arthur Benham, either at Dinard or at Deauville, and, what was more, he was unable to discover that any one even remotely resembling that youth had been seen at either place. The matter of identification, it seemed to him, should be a rather simple one. In the first place, the boy’s appearance was not at all French, nor, for that matter, English; it was very American. Also, he spoke French—so Ste. Marie had been told—very badly, having for the language that scornful contempt peculiar to Anglo-Saxons of a certain type. His speech, it seemed, was, like his appearance, ultra-American—full of strange idioms and oddly pronounced. In short, such a youth would be rather sure to be remembered by any hotel management and staff with which he might have come in contact.