Ste. Marie clasped his head with his hands.
“So near to it!” he groaned, “and yet—Ah!” He bent forward suddenly over the bed and spelled out the name of the photographer which was pencilled upon the brown cardboard mount. “There’s still a chance,” he said, “There’s still one chance.”
He became aware that the woman was watching him curiously, and nodded to her.
“It’s something you don’t know about,” he explained. “I’ve got to find out who this—girl is. Perhaps the photographer can help me. I used to know him.” All at once his eyes sharpened. “Tell me the simple truth about something!” said he. “If ever we have been friends, if you owe me any good office, tell me this: Do you know anything about young Arthur Benham’s disappearance two months ago, or about what has become of him?”
Again the woman shook her head.
“No,” said she. “Nothing at all. I hadn’t even heard of it. Young Arthur Benham! I’ve met him once or twice. I wonder—I wonder Stewart never spoke to me about his disappearance! That’s very odd.”
“Yes,” said Ste. Marie, absently, “it is.” He gave a little sigh. “I wonder about a good many things,” said he.
He glanced down upon the bed before them, and Captain Stewart lay still, save for a slight twitching of the hands. Once he moved his head restlessly from side to side and said something incoherent in a weak murmur.
“He’s out of it,” said Olga Nilssen. “He’ll sleep now, I think. I suppose we must get rid of those people and then leave him to the care of his man. A doctor couldn’t do anything for him.”
“Yes,” said Ste. Marie, nodding, “I’ll call the servant and tell the people that Stewart has been taken ill.”
He looked once more toward the photograph on the wall, and under his breath he said, with an odd, defiant fierceness: “I won’t believe it!” But he did not explain what he wouldn’t believe. He started out of the room, but, half-way, halted and turned back. He looked Olga Nilssen full in the eyes, saying:
“It is safe to leave you here with him while I call the servant? There’ll be no more—?”
But the woman gave a low cry and a violent shiver with it.
“You need have no fear,” she said. “I’ve no desire now to—harm him. The—reason is gone. This has cured me. I feel as if I could never bear to see him again. Oh, hurry! Please hurry! I want to get away from here!”
Ste. Marie nodded, and went out of the room.
* * * * *
THE NAME OF THE LADY WITH THE EYES—EVIDENCE HEAPS UP SWIFTLY
Ste. Marie drove home to the rue d’Assas with his head in a whirl, and with a sense of great excitement beating somewhere within him—probably in the place where his heart ought to be. He had a curiously sure feeling that at last his feet were upon the right path. He could not have explained this to himself—indeed, there was nothing to explain, and if there had been he was in far too great an inner turmoil to manage it. It was a mere feeling—the sort of thing which he had once tried to express to Captain Stewart and had got laughed at for his pains.