My old friend’s cigar fell on the table. “Monsieur,” he stammered, “you speak of a lady so, in a public place?”
The young man stared at him. “Who is this person?” he said to his companion.
My guest took up Jules’s glove that lay on the table; before either of us could raise a finger, he had swung it in the speaker’s face. “Enough!” he said, and, dropping the glove, walked away.
We all jumped to our feet. I left Jules and hurried after him. His face was grim, his eyes those of a creature who has been struck on a raw place. He made a movement of his fingers which said plainly. “Leave me, if you please!”
I went back to the cafe. The two young men had disappeared, so had Jules, but everything else was going on just as before; the bandsman still twanging out his czardas; the waiters serving drinks; the orientals trying to sell their carpets. I paid the bill, sought out the manager, and apologised. He shrugged his shoulders, smiled and said: “An eccentric, your friend, nicht wahr?” Could he tell me where M. Le Ferrier was? He could not. I left to look for Jules; could not find him, and returned to my hotel disgusted. I was sorry for my old guest, but vexed with him too; what business had he to carry his Quixotism to such an unpleasant length? I tried to read. Eleven o’clock struck; the casino disgorged a stream of people; the Place seemed fuller of life than ever; then slowly it grew empty and quite dark. The whim seized me to go out. It was a still night, very warm, very black. On one of the seats a man and woman sat embraced, on another a girl was sobbing, on a third—strange sight—a priest dozed. I became aware of some one at my side; it was my old guest.
“If you are not too tired,” he said, “can you give me ten minutes?”
“Certainly; will you come in?”
“No, no; let us go down to the Terrace. I shan’t keep you long.”
He did not speak again till we reached a seat above the pigeon-shooting grounds; there, in a darkness denser for the string of lights still burning in the town, we sat down.
“I owe you an apology,” he said; “first in the afternoon, then again this evening—your guest—your friend’s glove! I have behaved as no gentleman should.” He was leaning forward with his hands on the handle of a stick. His voice sounded broken and disturbed.
“Oh!” I muttered. “It’s nothing!"’
“You are very good,” he sighed; “but I feel that I must explain. I consider I owe this to you, but I must tell you I should not have the courage if it were not for another reason. You see I have no friend.” He looked at me with an uncertain smile. I bowed, and a minute or two later he began....