“No,” she answered, “this is better.”
She stepped out upon the gallery; I followed, and she closed the door. Upon the veranda of my pavilion were my visitors from Quesnay, staring up at us apprehensively; Madame Brossard and Keredec still held the foot of the steps, but la Mursiana had abandoned the siege, and, accompanied by Mr. Percy and Rameau, the black-bearded notary, who had joined her, was crossing the garden toward her own apartment.
At the sound of the closing door, she glanced over her shoulder, sent forth a scream, and, whirling about, ran viciously for the steps, where she was again blocked by the indomitable Keredec.
“Ah, you foolish woman, I know who you are,” she cried, stepping back from him to shake a menacing hand at the quiet lady by my side. “You want to get yourself into trouble! That man in the room up there has been my husband these two years and more.”
“No, madame,” said Louise Harman, “you are mistaken; he is my husband.”
“But you divorced him,” vociferated the other wildly. “You divorced him in America!”
“No. You are mistaken,” the quiet voice replied. “The suit was withdrawn. He is still my husband.”
I heard the professor’s groan of despair, but it was drowned in the wild shriek of Mariana. “What? You tell me that? Ah, the miserable! If what you say is true, he shall pay bitterly! He shall wish that he had died by fire! What! You think he can marry me, break my leg so that I cannot dance again, ruin my career, and then go away with a pretty woman like you and be happy? Aha, there are prisons in France for people who marry two like that; I do not know what they do in your barbaric country, but they are decent people over here and they punish. He shall pay for it in suffering—” her voice rose to an incredible and unbearable shriek—“and you, you shall pay, too! You can’t come stealing honest women’s husbands like that. You shall pay!”
I saw George Ward come running forward with his hand upraised in a gesture of passionate warning, for Mrs. Harman, unnoticed by me—I was watching the Spanish woman—had descended the steps and had passed Keredec, walking straight to Mariana. I leaped down after her, my heart in my throat, fearing a thousand things.
“You must not talk like that,” she said, not lifting her voice—yet every one in the courtyard heard her distinctly. “You can do neither of us any harm in the world.”
It is impossible to say what Mariana would have done had there been no interference, for she had worked herself into one of those furies which women of her type can attain when they feel the occasion demands it, a paroxysm none the less dangerous because its foundation is histrionic. But Rameau threw his arms about her; Mr. Percy came hastily to his assistance, and Ward and I sprang in between her and the too-fearless lady she strove to reach. Even at that, the finger-nails of Mariana’s right hand touched the pretty white hat—but only touched it and no more.