A shaft of golden light from the low sun slanted into the place through the western window from which the Venetians had been pulled back, and fell across the face of the man who lay still and lax in his chair, eyes closed and chin dropped a little so that his mouth hung weakly open. He looked very ill, as, indeed, any one might look after such an attack as he had suffered on the night previous. That one long moment of deathly fear before he had fallen down in a fit had nearly killed him. All through this following day it had continued to recur until he thought he should go mad. And there was worse still. How much did Olga Nilssen know? And how much had she told? She had astonished and frightened him when she had said that she knew about the house on the road to Clamart, for he thought he had hidden his visits to La Lierre well. He wondered rather drearily how she had discovered them, and he wondered how much she knew more than she had admitted. He had a half-suspicion of something like the truth, that Mlle. Nilssen knew only of Coira O’Hara’s presence here, and drew a rather natural inference. If that was all, there was no danger from her—no more, that is, than had already borne its fruit, for Stewart knew well enough that Ste. Marie must have learned of the place from her. In any case Olga Nilssen had left Paris—he had discovered that fact during the day—and so for the present she might be eliminated as a source of peril.
The man in the chair gave a little groan and rolled his head wearily to and fro against the uncomfortable chair-back, for now he came to the real and immediate danger, and he was so very tired and ill, and his head ached so sickeningly that it was almost beyond him to bring himself face to face with it.
There was the man who lay helpless upon a bed up-stairs! And there were the man’s friends, who were not at all helpless or bedridden or in captivity!
A wave of almost intolerable pain swept through Stewart’s aching head, and he gave another groan which was almost like a child’s sob. But at just that moment the door which led into the central hall opened, and the Irishman O’Hara came into the room. Captain Stewart sprang to his feet to meet him, and he caught the other man by the arm in his eagerness.
“How is he?” he cried out. “How is he? How badly was he hurt?”
“The patient?” said O’Hara. “Let go my arm! Hang it, man, you’re pinching me! Oh, he’ll do well enough. He’ll be fit to hobble about in a week or ten days. The bullet went clean through his leg and out again without cutting an artery. It was a sort of miracle—and a damned lucky miracle for all hands, too! If we’d had a splintered bone or a severed artery to deal with I should have had to call in a doctor. Then the fellow would have talked, and there’d have been the devil to pay. As it is, I shall be able to manage well enough with my own small skill. I’ve dressed worse wounds than that in my time. By Jove, it was a miracle, though!” A sudden little gust of rage swept him. He cried out: “That confounded fool of a gardener, that one-eyed Michel, ought to be beaten to death. Why couldn’t he have slipped up behind this fellow and knocked him on the head, instead of shooting him from ten paces away? The benighted idiot! He came near upsetting the whole boat!”