“A Protestant hardly caters to a papist when he puts some faith in the courage of a man like Father Olivier,” said Rice to Peggy.
“Did I hint that you would cater to any one?” she responded, with a lift of her slender chin. The wind had blown out a long tress of Peggy’s hair, which trailed to the floor. Rice seldom looked at her; but he noticed this sweep of living redness with something like approval; in shadow it shone softened to bronze.
“I think my father and Colonel Menard are coming back,” said Angelique. “I see a light moving out from the bluffs.”
“Oh, no; they are only picking their way among trees to a landing.”
“They have gone with the current and the wind,” said Rice. “It will take a longer time to make their way back against the current and the wind.”
“Let us begin to bind and gag madame now, anyhow,” Peggy suggested recklessly. “It’s what the colonel will do, if he is forced to it. She will never of her own will go into the boat.”
“Poor tante-gra’mere. I should have asked Father Olivier to urge her. But this is such a time of confusion one thinks of nothing.”
Angelique bent to watch Maria’s stupor. Rice had put the skeleton hand under a coverlet which was drawn to the sick girl’s chin. He sat beside her on one of the brocaded drawing-room chairs, his head resting against the high back and his crossed feet stretched toward the window, in an attitude of his own which expressed quiescent power. Peggy went directly behind the screens, determined to pounce upon the woman who prolonged their stay in a flooded house, and deal with her as there would not be opportunity to do later. Tante-gra’mere was asleep.
Angelique sat down with Peggy on the floor, a little way from the pile of feather beds. They were very weary. The tonic of excitement, and even of Rice Jones’s presence, failed in their effect on Peggy. It was past midnight. The girls heard cocks crowing along the bluffs. Angelique took the red head upon her shoulder, saying,—
“It would be better if we slept until they call, since there is nothing else to do.”
“You might coquette over Maria Jones. I won’t tell.”
“What a thorn you are, Peggy! If I did not know the rose that goes with it”—Angelique did not state her alternative.
“A red rose,” scoffed Peggy; and she felt herself drowsing in the mother arms.
Rice was keenly awake, and when the girls went into the privacy of the screens he sat looking out of the window at the oblong of darkly blue night sky which it shaped for him. His temples throbbed. Though the strange conditions around him were not able to vary his usual habits of thought, something exhilarated him; and he wondered at that, when Peggy had told him Angelique’s decision against him. He felt at peace with the world, and for the first time even with Dr. Dunlap.
“We are here such a little time,” thought Rice, “and are all such poor wretches. What does it matter, the damage we do one another in our groping about? God forgive me! I would have killed that man, and maybe added another pang to the suffering of this dying girl.”