“Well, monsieur, what is the purpose of this visit?” I asked.
“To tell you,” he thundered, “that you must give up the unhappy woman who has accompanied you here.”
“That is precisely what I intend to do,” I answered.
“To me,” he said. “Her husband——”
I felt my brain whirling. I knew now that I had always cherished a hope, despite the ring—what a fool I had been!
“I married them,” continued Pere Antoine.
“Where is he?” I demanded desperately.
He appeared disconcerted. I gathered from his stare that he had supposed I knew.
“This is a Catholic country,” he went on, more quietly. “There is no divorce; there can be none. Marriage is a sacrament. Sinning as she is——”
I placed my hand on his shoulder. “I will not hear any more,” I said. “Go!” I pointed toward the door.
“I am going to take her away with me,” he said, and crossing the threshold into the corridor, placed one hand on the door of Jacqueline’s room.
I got there first. I thrust him violently aside—it was like pushing a monument; turned the key, which happily was still outside, and put it in my pocket.
“I am ready to deal with her husband,” I said. “I am not ready to deal with you. Leave at once, or I will have you arrested, priest or no priest.”
He raised his arm threateningly. “In God’s name—” he began.
“In God’s name you shall not interfere with me,” I cried. “Tell that to your confederate, Simon Leroux. A pretty priest you are!” I raged. “How do I know she has a husband? How do I know you are not in league with her persecutors? How do I know you are a priest at all?”
He seemed amazed at the violence of my manner.
“This is the first time my priesthood has been denied,” he said quietly. “Well, I have offered you your chance. I cannot use violence. If you refuse, you will bring your own punishment upon your head, and hers on that of the unhappy woman whom you have led into sin.”
“Go!” I shouted, pointing down the passage.
He turned and went, his soutane sweeping against the door of Jacqueline’s room as he went by. At the entrance to the elevator he turned again and looked back steadily at me. Then the door clanged and the elevator went down.
I unlocked the door of Jacqueline’s room. I saw her standing at the foot of the bed. She was supporting herself by her hands on the brass framework. Her face was white. As I entered she looked up piteously at me.
“Who—was—that?” she asked in a frightened whisper.
“An impudent fellow—that is all, Jacqueline.”
“I thought I knew his voice,” she answered slowly. “It made me—almost—remember. And I do not want to remember, Paul.”
She put her arms about my neck and cried. I tried to comfort her, but it was a long time before I succeeded.