“I believe,” said the Belgian, “that he is some connection of De Saulnes’. That explains his presence.” He lowered his voice. “You have heard no—news? They have found no trace?”
“No,” said she. “Nothing. Nothing at all. I’m rather in despair. It’s all so hideously mysterious. I am sure, you know, that something has happened to him. It’s—very, very hard. Sometimes I think I can’t bear it. But I go on. We all go on.”
Baron de Vries nodded his head strongly.
“That, my dear child, is just what you must do,” said he. “You must go on. That is what needs the real courage, and you have courage. I am not afraid for you. And sooner or later you will hear of him—from him. It is impossible nowadays to disappear for very long. You will hear from him.” He smiled at her, his slow, grave smile that was not of mirth but of kindness and sympathy and cheer.
“And if I may say so,” he said, “you are doing very wisely to come out once more among your friends. You can accomplish no good by brooding at home. It is better to live one’s normal life—even when it is not easy to do it. I say so who know.”
The girl touched Baron de Vries’ arm for an instant with her hand—a little gesture that seemed to express thankfulness and trust and affection.
“If all my friends were like you!” she said to him. And after that she drew a quick breath as if to have done with these sad matters, and she turned her eyes once more toward the broad room where the other guests stood in little groups, all talking at once, very rapidly and in loud voices.
“What extraordinarily cosmopolitan affairs these dinner-parties in new Paris are!” she said. “They’re like diplomatic parties, only we have a better time and the men don’t wear their orders. How many nationalities should you say there are in this room now?”
“Without stopping to consider,” said Baron de Vries, “I say ten.” They counted, and out of fourteen people there were represented nine races.
“I don’t see Richard Hartley,” Miss Benham said. “I had an idea he was to be here. Ah!” she broke off, looking toward the doorway. “Here he comes now!” she said. “He’s rather late. Who is the Spanish-looking man with him, I wonder? He’s rather handsome, isn’t he?”
Baron de Vries moved a little forward to look, and exclaimed in his turn. He said:
“Ah, I did not know he was returned to Paris. That is Ste. Marie.” Miss Benham’s eyes followed the Spanish-looking young man as he made his way through the joyous greetings of friends toward his hostess.
“So that is Ste. Marie!” she said, still watching him. “The famous Ste. Marie!” She gave a little laugh.
“Well, I don’t wonder at the reputation he bears for—gallantry and that sort of thing. He looks the part, doesn’t he?”