“And he claimed charity from you because of your connection with Canada?”
“Exactly. Having no other plea. I was right, madame: you know this man?”
“He was my bitterest enemy!” she answered, half rising in her vehemence. “But for him I might have had a happy life.”
Father Paul looked shocked.
“Forgive me,” he said, in a troubled voice, “I am grieved to have spoken of him.”
“On the contrary, I am thankful you did so. If I had met him by chance in the street, I believe he could not change so much that I should not know him, and he—”
She stopped, then asked abruptly,
“You did not mention me?”
“Most assuredly not.”
“Yet he might recognise me. What shall I do?”
She was speaking to herself, and not to her companion now, and she looked impatiently towards the pier where Lucia was slowly coming back.
Presently she recovered herself a little, and asked a few more questions about Bailey. She gathered from the answers that he had been some time at Bourg-Cailloux, getting gradually more poverty-stricken and utterly disreputable. That he was now wandering about without a home, or money even for gambling. She knew enough of the man to be certain that under such circumstances he would snatch at any means of obtaining money, and what means easier, if he only knew it, than to threaten and persecute her. And at any moment he might discover her—her very acquaintance with Father Paul might betray her to him. She cast a terrified look over all the groups of people on the beach, half expecting to see the well-remembered features of Bailey among them; but he was not there. Close by her, however, stood Lucia, and at a little distance the carriage, which had been ordered to fetch them, was just drawing up.
Mrs. Costello said nothing to Lucia on their way home about Bailey. She sat in her corner of the carriage, leaning back and thinking despairingly what to do. Her spirits had so far given way with her failing health that she no longer felt the courage necessary to face annoyance. And it was plainly to be feared that in case this man discovered her, he would have no scruples, being so needy and degraded, about using every means in his power to extort money from her. Undoubtedly he had such means—he had but to tell her story, as he could tell it, and not only her own life, but Lucia’s, would be made wretched; the separation from Maurice, which she was beginning to hope might be only temporary, would become irrevocable—and, what seemed to her still more terrible, there would be perpetual demands from her enemy, and the misery of perpetual contact with him. To buy off such a man, at once and finally, was, she knew, utterly beyond her power—what then could she do?
When they were at home, and the door of their sitting-room safely closed, she turned anxiously to Lucia,