“I can’t!” she cried, nervously. “I can’t—touch him. Please, I can’t do it.”
“Come!” said the man, in a sharp tone. “It’s no time for nerves. I don’t like it, either, but it’s got to be done.”
The woman began a half-hysterical sobbing, but after a moment she turned and came with slow feet to where Stewart lay.
Ste. Marie slipped his arms under the man’s body and began to raise him from the floor.
“You needn’t help, after all,” he said. “He’s not heavy.”
And, indeed, under his skilfully shaped and padded clothes the man was a mere waif of a man—as unbelievably slight as if he were the victim of a wasting disease. Ste. Marie held the body in his arms as if it had been a child, and carried it across and laid it on the bed; but it was many months before he forgot the horror of that awful thing shaking and twitching in his hold, the head thumping hideously upon his shoulder, the arms and legs beating against him. It was the most difficult task he had ever had to perform. He laid Captain Stewart upon the bed and straightened the helpless limbs as best he could.
“I suppose,” he said, rising again—“I suppose when the man comes out of this he’ll be frightfully exhausted and drop off to sleep, won’t he? We’ll have to—”
He halted abruptly there, and for a single swift instant he felt the black and rushing sensation of one who is going to faint away. The wall behind the ornate Empire bed was covered with photographs, some in frames, others left, as they had been received, upon the large squares of weird cardboard which are termed “art mounts.”
“Come here a moment, quickly!” said Ste. Marie, in a sharp voice.
Mlle. Nilssen’s sobs had died down to a silent, spasmodic catching of the breath, but she was still much unnerved, and she approached the bed with obvious unwillingness, dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. Ste. Marie pointed to an unframed photograph which was fastened to the wall by thumb-tacks, and his outstretched hand shook as he pointed. Beneath them the other man still writhed and tumbled in his epileptic fit.
“Do you know who that woman is?” demanded Ste. Marie, and his tone was such that Olga Nilssen turned slowly and stared at him.
“That woman,” said she, “is the reason why I wished to pull the world down upon Charlie Stewart and me to-night. That’s who she is.”
Ste. Marie gave a sort of cry.
“Who is she?” he insisted. “What is her name? I—have a particularly important reason for wanting to know. I’ve got to know.”
Mlle. Nilssen shook her head, still staring at him.
“I can’t tell you that,” said she. “I don’t know the name. I only know that—when he met her, he—I don’t know her name, but I know where she lives and where he goes every day to see her—a house with a big garden and walled park on the road to Clamart. It’s on the edge of the wood, not far from Fort d’Issy. The Clamart-Vanves-Issy tram runs past the wall of one side of the park. That’s all I know.”