Part 2 out of 6
She turned suddenly round.
"I quite forgot," she said. "I must go into the village after all. I
am going to send a telegram."
They retraced their steps in silence. As they entered the telegraph-
office Andrew was just leaving, and the postmistress was wishing him
a respectful farewell. He touched his hat as the two entered, and
stepped on one side. Jeanne, however, held out her hand.
"Mr. Andrew," she said, "I am so glad to see you. I want to go out
again in that great punt of yours. Please, when can you take me?"
"I am afraid," Andrew answered, "that I am rather busy just now. I--
He stopped short, for something in her face perplexed him. It was
impossible for her, of course, to feel disappointment to that
extent, and yet she had all the appearance of a child about to cry.
He felt suddenly awkward and ill at ease.
"Of course," he said, "if you really care about it, I should be very
pleased to take you any morning toward the end of the week."
"To-morrow morning, please," she begged.
He glanced towards his brother, who shrugged his shoulders.
"If Miss Le Mesurier is really inclined to go, Andrew," the latter
said, "I am sure that you will take good care of her. Perhaps some
of us will come, too."
She nodded her farewells to Andrew, and turned back with her host
toward the Hall. Cecil looked at her a little curiously. It was
certain that she seemed in better spirits than a short time ago.
What a creature of caprices!
"Will you tell me, Mr. De la Borne," she asked, "why the
postmistress called Mr. Andrew 'sir' if he is only a fisherman?"
"Habit, I suppose," Cecil answered carelessly. "They call every one
sir and ma'am."
"I am not so sure that it was habit," she said thoughtfully. "I
think that Mr. Andrew is not quite what he represents himself to be.
No one who had not education and experience of nice people could
behave quite as he does. Of course, he is rough and brusque at
times, I know, but then many men are like that."
Cecil did not reply. A grey mist was sweeping in from the sea, and
Jeanne shivered a little as they turned into the avenue.
"I wonder," she said pensively, "why we came here. My mother as a
rule hates to go far from civilization, and I am sure Lord Ronald is
"I think one reason why your mother brought you here," Cecil said
slowly, "is because she wanted to give me a chance."
She picked up her skirts and ran, ran so lightly and swiftly that
Cecil, who was taken by surprise, had no chance of catching her.
From the hall door she looked back at him, panting behind.
"Too many cigarettes," she laughed. "You are out of training. If you
do not mind you will be like Lord Ronald, an old young man, and I
would never let any one say the sort of things you were going to say
who couldn't catch me when I ran away."
She went laughing up the stairs, and Cecil de la Borne turned into
his study. The Princess was playing patience, and the two men were
"At last!" the Princess remarked, throwing down her cards. "My dear
Cecil, do you realize that you have kept us waiting nearly an hour?"
"I thought, perhaps," he answered, "that you had had enough bridge."
"Absurd!" the Princess declared. "What else is there to do? Come and
cut, and pray that you do not draw me for a partner. My luck is dead
out--at patience, anyhow."
"Mine," Cecil remarked, with a hard little laugh, "seems to be out
all round. Touch the bell, will you, Forrest. I must have a brandy
and soda before I start this beastly game again."
The Princess raised her eyebrows.
"I trust," she said, "that my charming ward has not been unkind?"
"Your charming ward," Cecil answered, "has as many whims and fancies
as an elf. She yawns when I talk to her, and looks longingly after
one of my villagers. Hang the fellow!"
"A very superior villager," the Princess remarked, "if you mean Mr.
Forrest looked up, and fixed his cold intent eyes upon his host.
"I suppose," he said, "you are sure that this man Andrew is really
what he professes to be, and not a masquerader?"
"I have known him," Cecil answered, "since I was old enough to
remember anybody. He has lived here all his life, and only been away
three or four times."
They played until the dressing-bell rang. Then Cecil de la Borne
rose from his seat with a peevish exclamation.
"My luck seems dead out," he said.
The Princess raised her eyebrows.
"Possibly, my dear boy," she said, "but you must admit that you also
played abominably. Your last declaration of hearts was indefensible,
and why you led a diamond and discarded the spade in Lord Ronald's
'no trump' hand, Heaven only knows!"
"I still think that I was right," Cecil declared, a little sullenly.
The Princess said nothing, but turned toward the door.
"Any one dining to-night, Mr. Host?" she said.
"No one," he answered. "To tell you the truth there is no one to ask
within a dozen miles, and you particularly asked not to be bothered
with meeting yokels."
"Quite right," the Princess answered, "only I am getting a little
bored, and if you had any yokels of the Mr. Andrew sort, with just a
little more polish, they might be entertaining. You three men are
getting deadly dull."
"Princess!" Lord Ronald declared reproachfully. "How can you say
that? You never give any one a chance to see you until the
afternoon, and then we generally start bridge. One cannot be
brilliantly entertaining while one is playing cards."
The Princess yawned.
"I never argue," she said. "I only state facts. I am getting a
little bored. Some one must be very amusing at dinner-time or I
shall have a headache."
She swept up to her room.
"I suppose we'd better go and change," Cecil remarked, leading the
way out into the hall.
Forrest, who was at the window, screwed his eyeglass in and leaned
forward. A faint smile had parted the corner of his lips, and he
beckoned to Cecil, who came over at once to his side. On the top of
the sand-dyke two figures were walking slowly side by side. Jeanne,
with the wind blowing her skirts about her small shapely figure, was
looking up all the time at the man who walked by her side, and who,
against the empty background of sea and sky, seemed of a stature
"Quite an idyll!" Forrest remarked with a little sneer.
Cecil bit his lip, and turned away without a word.
"I don't think," Engleton said slowly, "that I care about playing
any more--just now."
The Princess yawned as she leaned back in her chair. Both Forrest
and De la Borne, who had left his place to turn up one of the lamps,
glanced stealthily round at the speaker.
"I am not keen about it myself," Forrest said smoothly. "After all,
though, it's only three o'clock."
Cecil's fingers shook, so that his tinkering with the lamp failed,
and the room was left almost in darkness. Forrest, glad of an excuse
to leave his place, went to the great north window and pulled up the
blind. A faint stream of grey light stole into the room. The
Princess shrieked, and covered her face with her hands.
"For Heaven's sake, Nigel," she cried, "pull that blind down! I do
not care for these Rembrandtesque effects. Tobacco ash and cards and
my complexion do not look at their best in such a crude light."
Forrest obeyed, and the room for a moment was in darkness. There was
a somewhat curious silence. The Princess was breathing softly but
quickly. When at last the lamp burned up again, every one glanced
furtively toward the young man who was leaning back in his chair
with his eyes fixed absently upon the table.
"Well, what is it to be?" Forrest asked, reseating himself. "One
more rubber or bed?"
"I've lost a good deal more than I care to," Cecil remarked in a
somewhat unnatural tone, "but I say another brandy and soda, and one
more rubber. There are some sandwiches behind you, Engleton."
"Thank you," Engleton answered without looking up. "I am not
The Princess took up a fresh pack of cards, and let them fall idly
through her fingers. Then she took a cigarette from the gold case
which hung from her chatelaine, and lit it.
"One more rubber, then," she said. "After that we will go to bed."
The others came toward the table, and the Princess threw down the
cards. They all three cut. Engleton, however, did not move.
"I think," he said, "that you did not quite understand me. I said
that I did not care to play any more."
"Three against one," the Princess remarked lightly.
"Why not play cut-throat, then?" Engleton remarked. "It would be an
"Why so?" Forrest asked.
"Because you could rob one another," Engleton said. "It would be
interesting to watch."
A few seconds intense silence followed Engleton's words. It was the
Princess who spoke first. Her tone was composed but chilly. She
looked toward Engleton with steady eyes.
"My dear Lord Ronald," she said, "is this a joke? I am afraid my
sense of humour grows a little dull at this hour of the morning."
"It was not meant for a joke," Engleton said. "My words were spoken
The Princess, without any absolute movement, seemed suddenly to
become more erect. One forgot her rouge, her blackened eyebrows, her
powdered cheeks. It was the great lady who looked at Engleton.
"Are we to take this, Lord Ronald," she asked, "as a serious
"You can take it for what it is, madam," Engleton answered--"the
Cecil de la Borne rose to his feet and leaned across the table. His
cheeks were as pale as death. His voice was shaking.
"I am your host, Engleton," he said, "and I demand an explanation of
what you have said. Your accusation is absurd. You must be drunk or
out of your senses."
"I am neither drunk nor out of my senses," Engleton answered, "nor
am I such an utter fool as to be so easily deceived. The fact that
you, as my partner, played like an idiot, made rotten declarations,
and revoked when one rubber was nearly won, I pass over. That may or
may not have been your miserable idea of the game. Apart from that,
however, I regret to have discovered that you, Forrest, and you,
madam," he added, addressing the Princess, "have made use throughout
the last seven rubbers of a code with your fingers, both for the
declarations and for the leads. My suspicions were aroused, I must
confess, by accident. It was remarkably easy, however, to verify
them. Look here!"
Engleton touched his forehead.
"Hearts!" he said.
He touched his lip.
"Diamonds!" he added.
He passed his fingers across his eyebrows.
"Clubs!" he remarked.
He beat with his fourth finger softly upon the table.
Major Forrest rose to his feet.
"Lord Ronald," he said, "I am exceedingly sorry that owing to my
introduction you have become a guest in this house. As for your
ridiculous accusation, I deny it."
"And I," the Princess murmured.
"Naturally," Engleton answered smoothly. "I really do not see what
else you could do. I regret very much to have been the unfortunate
means of breaking up such a pleasant little house-party. I am going
to my room now to change my clothes, and I will trespass upon your
hospitality, Mr. De la Borne, only so far as to beg you to let me
have a cart, or something of the sort, to drive me into Wells, as
soon as your people come on the scene."
Engleton rose to his feet, and with a stiff little bow, walked
toward the door. He, too, seemed somehow during the last few minutes
to have shown signs of a greater virility than was at any time
manifest in his boyish, somewhat unintelligent, face. He carried
himself with a new dignity, and he spoke with the decision of an
older man. For a moment they watched him go. Then Forrest, obeying a
lightning-like glance from the Princess, crossed the room swiftly
and stood with his back to the door.
"Engleton," he said, "this is absurd. We can afford to ignore your
mad behaviour and your discourtesy, but before you leave this room
we must come to an understanding."
Lord Ronald stood with his hands behind his back.
"I had imagined," he said, "that an understanding was exactly what
we had come to. My words were plain enough, were they not? I am
leaving this house because I have found myself in the company of
sharks and card-sharpers."
Forrest's eyes narrowed. A quick little breath passed between his
teeth. He took a step forward toward the young man, as though about
to strike him.
Engleton, however, remained unmoved.
"You are going to carry away a story like this?" he said hoarsely.
"I shall tell my friends," Engleton answered, "just as much or as
little as I choose of my visit here. Since, however, you are
curious, I may say that should I find you at any future time in any
respectable house, it will be my duty to inform any one of my
friends who are present of the character of their fellow-guest. Will
you be so good as to stand away from that door?"
"No!" Forrest answered.
Engleton turned toward Cecil.
"Mr. De la Borne," he said, "may I appeal to you, as it is your
house, to allow me egress from it?"
Cecil came hesitatingly up to the two. The Princess, with a sweep of
her skirts, followed him.
"Major Forrest is right," she declared. "We cannot have this madman
go back to London to spread about slanderous tales. Major Forrest
will stand away from that door, Lord Ronald, as soon as you pass
your word that what has happened to-night will remain a secret."
Engleton laughed contemptuously.
"Not I," he answered. "Exactly what I said to Major Forrest, I
repeat, madam, to you, and to you, sir, my host. I shall give my
friends the benefit of my experience whenever it seems to me
Forrest locked the door, and put the key into his pocket.
"We shall hope, Lord Ronald," he said quietly, "to induce you to
change your mind."
"Every one down for luncheon!" Jeanne declared. "What energy! Where
is Lord Ronald, by the by?" she added, looking around the room. "He
promised to take me out sailing this morning. I wonder if I missed
him on the marshes."
The Princess yawned, and glanced at the clock.
"By this time," she remarked, "Lord Ronald is probably in London. He
had a telegram or something in the middle of the night, and went
away early this morning."
Jeanne looked at them in surprise.
"How queer!" she remarked. "I was down before nine o'clock. Had he
"Long before then, I believe," Forrest answered. "He is very likely
coming back in a day or two."
Jeanne nodded indifferently. The intelligence, after all, was of
little importance to her.
"Has the luncheon gong gone?" she asked. "I have been out since ten
o'clock, and I am starving."
Cecil led the way across the hall into the dining-room.
"Come along," he said. "I wish we all had such healthy appetites."
She glanced at him, and then at the others.
"Well," she said, "you certainly look as though you had been up very
late last night. What is the matter with you all?"
"We were very foolish," Major Forrest said softly. "We sat up a
great deal too late, and I am afraid that we all smoked too many
cigarettes. You see it was our last night, for without Engleton our
bridge is over."
"We must try," Cecil said, "and find some other form of
entertainment for you. Would you like to sail again this afternoon,
"I believe," she answered, "that I should like it if I may have
plenty of cushions and a soft place for my head, so that if I feel
like it I can go to sleep. Really, these late nights are dreadful. I
am almost glad that Lord Ronald has gone. At least there will be no
excuse for us to sit up until daylight." "To-night," Major Forrest
remarked, "let us all be primitive. We will go to bed at eleven
o'clock, and get up in the morning and walk with Miss Le Mesurier
upon the marshes. What do you find upon the sands, I wonder," he
added, turning a little suddenly toward the girl, "to bring such a
colour to your cheeks, and to keep you away from us for so many
Jeanne looked at him for a moment without change of features.
"It would not be easy," she said, "for me to tell you, for I find
things there which you could not appreciate or understand."
"You find them alone?" Major Forrest asked smiling.
She turned her left shoulder upon him and addressed her host.
"Major Forrest is very impertinent," she said. "I think that I will
not talk with him any more. Tell me, Mr. De la Borne, do you really
mean that we can go sailing this afternoon?"
"If you will," he answered. "I have sent down to the village to tell
them to bring the boat up to our harbourage."
"I shall love it," she declared. "It will be such a good thing for
you three, too, because it will make you all sleepy, and then you
will be able to go to bed and not worry about your bridge. When is
Lord Ronald coming back?"
"He was not quite sure," the Princess remarked. "It depends upon the
urgency of his business which summoned him away."
"How odd," Jeanne remarked, "to think of Lord Ronald as having any
business at all. I cannot understand even now why I did not hear the
car go. My room is just over the entrance to the courtyard."
"It is a proof," Major Forrest remarked, "that you sleep as soundly
as you deserve."
"I am not so sure about that," Jeanne said. "Last night, for
instance, it seemed to me that I heard all manner of strange
Cecil de la Borne looked up quickly.
"Sounds?" he repeated. "Do you mean noises in the house?"
"Yes, and voices! Once I thought that you must be all quarrelling,
and then I thought that I heard some one fall down. After that there
was nothing but the opening and shutting of doors."
"And after that," the Princess remarked smiling, "you probably went
"Exactly," Jeanne admitted. "I went to sleep listening for
footsteps. I think it was very rude of Ronald to go away without
saying good-bye to me."
"You would have thought it still ruder," Cecil remarked, "if he had
had you roused at five o'clock or so to make his adieux."
The Princess and Jeanne left the table together a few minutes before
the other two, and Jeanne asked her stepmother a question.
"How long are we going to stop here?" she inquired. "I thought that
our visit was for two or three days only."
The Princess hesitated.
"Cecil is such a nice boy," she said, "and he is so anxious to have
us stay a little longer. What do you say? You are not bored?"
"I am not bored," Jeanne answered, "so long as you can keep him from
saying silly things to me. On the contrary, I like to be here. I
like it better than London. I like it better than any place I have
been in since I left school."
The Princess looked at her a little curiously.
"I wonder," she said, "whether I ought to be looking after you a
little more closely, my child. What do you do on the marshes there
all the time? Do you talk with this Mr. Andrew?"
"I went with him in his boat this morning," Jeanne answered
composedly. "It was very pleasant. We had a delightful sail."
The Princess shrugged her shoulders.
"Well," she said, "one must amuse oneself, and I suppose it is only
reasonable that we should all choose different ways. I think I need
not tell even such a child as you that men are the same all the
world over, and that even a fisherman, if he is encouraged, may be
guilty sometimes of an impertinence."
Jeanne raised her eyebrows.
"I have not the slightest fear," she said, "that Mr. Andrew would
ever be guilty of anything of the sort. I wish I could say the same
of some of the people whom I have met in our own circle of society."
The Princess smiled tolerantly.
"Nowadays," she remarked, "it is perfectly true that men do take too
great liberties. Well, amuse yourself with your fisherman, my dear
child. It is your legitimate occupation in life to make fools of all
manner of men, and there is no harm in your beginning as low down as
you choose if it amuses you."
Jeanne walked deliberately away. The Princess laughed a little
uneasily. As she watched Jeanne ascend the stairs, Forrest and Cecil
came out into the hall. They all three moved together into the
further corner, where coffee was set out upon a small table, and it
was significant that they did not speak a word until they were
there, and even then Major Forrest looked cautiously around before
he opened his lips.
"Well?" he asked.
The Princess smiled scornfully at their white, anxious faces.
"What are you afraid of?" she asked contemptuously. "Jeanne suspects
nothing, of course. There is nothing which she could suspect. She
has not mentioned his name even."
Cecil drew a little breath of relief. His face seemed to have grown
haggard during the last few hours.
"I wish to God," he muttered, "we were out of this!"
The Princess turned her head and looked at him coldly.
"My young friend," she said, "you men are all the same. You have no
philosophy. The inevitable has happened, or rather the inevitable
has been forced upon us. What we have done we did deliberately. We
could not do otherwise, and we cannot undo it. Remember that. And if
you have a grain of philosophy or courage in you, keep a stouter
heart and wear a smile upon your face."
Cecil rose to his feet.
"You are right," he said. "Are you ready, Forrest? Will you come
Forrest rose slowly to his feet.
"Of course," he said. "By the by, a sail this afternoon was a good
idea. We must develop an interest in country pursuits. It is
possible even," he added, "that we may have to take to golf."
The Princess, too, rose.
"Come into my room, one of you," she said, "and see me for a moment,
afterwards. I suppose we shall start for our sail about three?"
"The boat will be here by then," he said.
"And I will come up and bring you the news, if there is any,"
The man who stood with a telescope glued to his eye watching the
coming boat, shut it up at last with a little snap. He walked round
to the other side of the cottage, where Andrew was sitting with a
pipe in his mouth industriously mending a fishing net.
"Andrew," he said, "there are some people coming here, and I am
almost sure that they mean to land."
Andrew rose to his feet and strolled round to the little stretch of
beach in front of the cottage. When he saw who it was who
approached, he stopped short and took his pipe from his mouth.
"By Jove, it's Cecil," he exclaimed, "and his friends!"
His companion nodded. He was a man still on the youthful side of
middle age, with bronzed features, and short, closely-cut beard. He
looked what he was, a traveller and a sportsman.
"So I imagined," he said, "but I don't see Ronald there."
Andrew shaded his eyes with his hand.
"No!" he said. "There is the Princess and Cecil, and Major Forrest
and Miss Le Mesurier. No one else. They certainly do look as though
they were going to land here."
"Why not?" the other man remarked. "Why shouldn't Cecil come to
visit his hermit brother?"
"Berners," he said, "I want you to remember this. If they land here
and you see anything of them, will you have the goodness to
understand that I am Mr. Andrew, fisherman, and that you are my
Andrew's companion looked at him in surprise.
"What sort of a game is this, Andrew?" he asked.
Andrew de la Borne shrugged his shoulders and smiled good-naturedly.
"Never mind about that, Dick," he answered. "Call it a whim or
anything else you like. The fact is that Cecil had some guests
coming whom I did not particularly care to meet, and who certainly
would not have been interested in me. I thought it would be best to
clear out altogether, so I have left Cecil in possession of the
Hall, and they don't even know that I exist."
The man named Berners looked up at his host with twinkling eyes.
"Right!" he said. "So far as I am concerned, you shall be Mr.
Andrew, fisherman. Will you also kindly remember that if any
curiosity is evinced as to my identity, I am Mr. Berners, and that I
am here for a rest-cure. By the by, how are you going to explain
that elderly domestic of yours?"
"He is your servant, of course," Andrew answered. "He understands
the position. I have spoken to him already. Yes, they are coming
here right enough! Suppose you help me to pull in the boat for
The two men sauntered down to the shelving beach. The boat was close
to them now, and Cecil was standing up in the bows.
"We want to land for a few minutes," he called out.
"Throw a rope, then," Andrew answered briefly. "You had better come
in this side of the landing-stage."
The rope was thrown, and the boat dragged high and dry upon the
pebbly beach. The Princess, after a glance at him through her
lorgnette, surrendered herself willingly to Andrew's outstretched
"I am quite sure," she said, "that you will not let me fall. You
must be the wonderful person whom my daughter has told me about. Is
this queer little place really your home?"
"I live here," Andrew de la Borne said simply.
Jeanne leaned over towards him.
"Won't you please help me, Mr. Andrew?" she said, smiling down at
He held out his arms, and she sprang lightly to the ground.
"I hope you don't mind our coming," she said to him. "I was so
anxious to see your cottage."
"There is little enough to see," Andrew answered, "but you are very
"We are sorry to trouble you," Cecil said, a little uneasily, "but
would it be possible to give these ladies some tea?"
"Certainly," Andrew answered. "I will go and get it ready."
"Oh, what fun!" Jeanne declared. "I am coming to help. Please, Mr.
Andrew, do let me help. I am sure I could make tea."
"It is not necessary, thank you," Andrew answered. "I have a lodger
who has brought his own servant. As it happens he was just preparing
some tea for us. If you will come round to the other side, where it
is a little more sheltered, I will bring you some chairs."
They moved across the grass-grown little stretch of sand. The
Princess peered curiously at Berners.
"Your face," she remarked, "seems quite familiar to me."
Berners did not for the moment answer her. He was looking towards
Forrest, who was busy lighting a cigarette.
"I am afraid, madam," he said, after a slight pause, "that I cannot
claim the honour of having met you."
The Princess was not altogether satisfied. Jeanne had gone on with
Andrew, and she followed slowly walking with Berners.
"I have such a good memory for faces," she remarked, "and I am very
"I am afraid," Berners said, "that this must be one of those rare
occasions. If you will allow me I will go and help Andrew bring out
He disappeared into the cottage, and came out again almost directly
with a couple of chairs. This time he met Forrest's direct gaze, and
the two men stood for a moment or two looking at one another.
Forrest turned uneasily away.
"Who the devil is that chap?" he whispered to Cecil. "I'll swear
I've seen him somewhere."
"Very likely," Cecil answered wearily, throwing himself down on the
turf. "I've no memory for faces."
Jeanne had stepped into the cottage, and gave a little cry of
delight as she found herself in a small sitting-room, the walls of
which were lined with books and guns and fishing-tackle.
"What a delightful room, Mr. Andrew!" she exclaimed. "Why--"
She paused and looked up at him, a little mystified.
"Do the fishermen in Norfolk read Shakespeare and Keats?" she asked.
"And French books, too, De Maupassant and De Musset?"
"They are my lodger's," Andrew answered. "This is his room. I sit in
the kitchen when I am at home."
His dialect was more marked than ever, and his answer had been
delivered without any hesitation. Nevertheless, Jeanne was still a
"May I come into the kitchen, please?" she asked.
"Certainly," he answered. "You will find Mr. Berners' servant there
getting tea ready."
Jeanne peeped in, and looked back at Andrew, who was standing behind
"What a lovely stone floor!" she exclaimed. "And your copper kettle,
too, is delightful! Do you mean that when you have not a lodger
here, you cook and do everything for yourself?"
"There are times," he answered composedly, "when I have a little
assistance. It depends upon whether the fishing season has been
Berners came in, and threw himself into an easychair in the sitting-
"Make what use you like of my man, Andrew," he said. "I will have a
cup of tea in here afterwards."
"I'm very much obliged, sir," Andrew answered.
The Princess called out to him, and he stepped back once more to
where they were all sitting.
"It is a shame," she said, "that we drive your lodger away from his
seat. Will you not ask him to take tea with us?"
"I am afraid," Andrew answered, "that he is not a very sociable
person. He has come down here because he wants a complete rest, and
he does not speak to any one unless he is obliged. He has just asked
me to have his tea sent into his room."
"Where does he come from, this strange man?" the Princess asked. "It
is all the time in my mind that I have met him somewhere. I am sure
that he is one of us."
"I believe that he lives in London," Andrew answered, "and his name
is Berners, Mr. Richard Berners."
"I do not seem to remember the name," the Princess remarked, "but
the man's face worries me. What a delightful looking tea-tray! Mr.
Andrew, you must really sit down with us. We ought to apologize for
taking you by storm like this, and I have not thanked you yet for
being so kind to my daughter." Andrew stepped back toward the
cottage with a firm refusal upon his lips, but Jeanne's hand
suddenly rested upon the arm of his coarse blue jersey.
"If you please, Mr. Andrew," she begged, "I want you to sit by me
and tell me how you came to live in so strange a place. Do you
really not mind the solitude?"
Andrew looked down at her for a moment without answering. For the
first time, perhaps, he realized the charm of her pale expressive
face with its rapid changes, and the soft insistent fire of her
beautiful eyes. He hesitated for a moment and then remained where he
was, leaning against the flag-staff.
"It is very good of you, miss," he said. "As to why I came to live
here, I do so simply because the house belongs to me. It was my
father's and his father's. We folk who live in the country make few
She looked at him curiously. The men whom she had known, even those
of the class to whom he might be supposed to belong, were all in a
way different. This man talked only when he was obliged. All the
time she felt in him the attraction of the unknown. He answered her
questions and remarks in words, the rest remained unspoken. She
looked at him contemplatively as he stood by her side with a tea-cup
in his hand, leaning still a little against the flag-staff.
Notwithstanding his rough clothes and heavy fisherman's boots, there
was nothing about his attitude or his speech, save in its dialect,
to denote the fact that he was of a different order from that in
which she had been brought up. She felt an immense curiosity
concerning him, and she felt, too, that it would probably never be
gratified. Most men were her slaves from the moment she smiled upon
them. This one she fancied seemed a little bored by her presence. He
did not even seem to be thinking about her. He was watching steadily
and with somewhat bent eyebrows Cecil de la Borne and Forrest.
Something struck her as she looked from one to the other.
"I read once," she remarked, "that people who live in a very small
village for generation after generation grow to look like one
another. In a certain way I cannot conceive two men more unlike, and
yet at that moment there was something in your face which reminded
me of Mr. De la Borne."
He looked down at her with a quick frown. Decidedly he was annoyed.
"You are certainly the first," he said drily, "who has ever
discovered the likeness, if there is any."
"It does not amount to a likeness," she answered, "and you need not
look so angry. Mr. De la Borne is considered very good-looking. Dear
me, what a nuisance! Do you see? We are going!"
Andrew de la Borne took the cup from her hand and helped to prepare
the boat. With a faint smile upon his lips he heard a little
colloquy between Cecil and the Princess which amused him. The
Princess, as he prepared to hand her into the boat, showed herself
at any rate possessed of the instincts of her order. She held out
her hand and smiled sweetly upon Andrew.
"We are so much obliged to you for your delightful tea, Mr. Andrew,"
she said. "I hope that next time my daughter goes wandering about in
dangerous places you may be there to look after her."
Andrew looked swiftly away towards Jeanne. Somehow or other the
Princess' words seemed to come to him at that moment charged with
some secondary meaning. He felt instinctively that notwithstanding
her thoroughly advanced airs, Jeanne was little more than a child as
compared with these people. She met his eyes with one of her most
"Some day, I hope," she said, "that you will take me out in the punt
again. I can assure you that I quite enjoyed being rescued."
The little party sailed away, Cecil with an obvious air of relief.
Andrew turned slowly round, and met his friend issuing from the door
of the cottage.
"Andrew," he said, "no wonder you did not care about being host to
such a crowd!"
There was meaning in his tone, and Andrew looked at him
"Do you know--anything definite?" he asked.
"About one of them," he said, "I certainly do. I wonder what on
earth has become of Ronald. He was with them yesterday."
"Had enough, perhaps," Andrew suggested.
Berners shook his head.
"I am afraid not," he answered slowly. "I wish I could think that he
had so much sense."
Cecil came into the room abruptly, and closed the door behind him.
He was breathing quickly as though he had been running. His lips
were a little parted, and in his eyes shone an unmistakable
expression of fear. Forrest and the Princess both looked towards him
"What is it, Cecil?" the latter asked quickly. "You are a fool to go
about the house looking like that."
Cecil came further into the room and threw himself into a chair.
"It is that fellow upon the island," he said. "You remember we all
said that his face was familiar. I have seen him again, and I have
"Remembered what?" the Princess asked.
"Where it was that I saw him last," Cecil answered. "It was in Pall
Mall, and he was walking with--with Engleton. It was before I knew
him, but I knew who he was. He must be a friend of Engleton's. What
do you suppose that he is doing here?"
Cecil was shaking like a leaf. The Princess looked towards him
"Come," she said, "there is no need for you to behave like a
terrified child. Even if you have seen him once with Lord Ronald,
what on earth is there in that to be terrified about? Lord Ronald
had many friends and acquaintances everywhere. This one is surely
harmless enough. He behaved quite naturally on the island,
Cecil shook his head.
"I do not understand," he said. "I do not understand what he can be
doing in this part of the world, unless he has some object. I saw
him just now standing behind a tree at the entrance to the drive,
watching me drive golf balls out on to the marsh. I am almost
certain that he was about the place last night. I saw some one who
looked very much like him pass along the cliffs just about dinner-
"You are frightened at shadows," the Princess declared
contemptuously. "If he were one of Lord Ronald's friends, and he had
come here to look for him, he wouldn't play about watching you from
a distance. Besides, there has been no time yet. Lord Ronald only--
left here yesterday morning."
"What is he doing, then, watching this house?" Cecil asked. "That is
what I do not like."
The Princess raised her eyebrows contemptuously.
"My dear Cecil," she said, "it is just a coincidence, and not a very
remarkable one at that. Lord Ronald had the name, you know, of
having acquaintances in every quarter of the world."
Cecil drew a little breath.
"It may be all right," he said, "but I am not used to this sort of
thing, and it gives me the creeps."
"Of course it is all right," the Princess said composedly. "One
would think that we were a pack of children, to take any notice of
such trifles. It is too early, my dear Cecil, by many a day, to look
for trouble yet. Lord Ronald always wandered about pretty much as he
chose. It will be months before--"
"Don't go on," Cecil interrupted. "I suppose I am a fool, but all
the time I am fancying things."
Forrest moved away with a little laugh, and the Princess rose and
thrust her arm through Cecil's.
"Silly boy!" she said. "You have nothing to be frightened about, I
can assure you."
"I am not frightened," Cecil answered. "I don't think that I was
ever a coward. All the same, there are some things about this fellow
which I don't quite understand."
The Princess laughed as she swept from the room.
"Don't be foolish, Cecil," she said. "Remember that we are all here,
and that nothing can go wrong unless we lose our nerve."
Forrest found the Princess alone a little later in the evening,
waiting in the hall for the dinner-gong. He drew her into a corner,
under pretext of showing her one of the old engravings, dark with
age, which hung upon the wall.
"Ena," he said, "I suppose that you trust Cecil de la Borne? You
haven't any fear about him, eh?"
The Princess shrugged her shoulders.
"No!" she answered. "He is a coward at heart, but he has enough
vanity, I believe, to keep him from doing anything foolish. All the
same, I think it is wiser not to leave him alone here."
"He would not stay," Forrest remarked. "He told me so only this
"You suggested leaving?" the Princess asked.
"I couldn't help it," he said, a little sullenly. "There is
something about these great empty rooms, and the silence of the
place, that's getting on my nerves. I start every time that great
front-door bell clangs, or I hear an unfamiliar footstep in the
hall. God! What fools we have been," he added, with a sudden bitter
strength. "I couldn't have believed that I could ever have done
anything so clumsy. Fancy giving ourselves away to a fool like
Engleton, a self-opinionated young cub scarcely out of his cradle."
He felt his damp forehead. The Princess was watching him curiously.
"Don't be a fool, Nigel," she said. "We underrated Engleton, that
was all. If ever a man looked an idiot, he did, and you must
remember that we were in a corner. Yet," she added, leaning a little
forward in her chair and gazing with hard, set face into the fire,
"it was foolish of me. With Jeanne to play with, I ought to have had
no such difficulties. I never counted upon the tradespeople being so
unreasonable. If they had let me finish the season it would have
been all right."
Forrest walked restlessly across the room, and stood for a moment
looking out of the window. Outside, the wind had suddenly changed.
The sunshine had departed, and a grey fog was blowing in from the
sea. He turned away with a shiver.
"What a cursed place this is!" he muttered. "I've half a mind even
now to turn my back upon it and to run."
The Princess watched his pale face scornfully.
"I thought, Nigel," she said, "that you were a more reasonable
person. Remember that if we show the white feather now, it is the
end of everything--the Colonies, if you like, or a little cheap
watering-place at the best. As for me, I might have a better chance
of brazening it out, but remember that I could never afford to be
seen in the company of a suspected person."
"It was the fear of losing you," he muttered, "which made me so
The Princess laughed very softly.
"My dear friend," she said, "I do not believe you. I may seem to you
sometimes very foolish, but at least I understand this. Life with
you is self, self, self, and nothing more. You have scarcely a
generous instinct, scarcely a spark of real affection left in you."
"And yet--" he began quietly.
"And yet," she whispered, repulsing him with a little gesture, but
with a suddenly altered look in her face, "and yet we women are
She turned round to meet her host, who was crossing the hall, and
almost simultaneously the dinner gong rang out. Their party was
perhaps a little more cheerful than it had been on any of the last
few evenings. Forrest drank more wine than usual, and exerted
himself to entertain. Cecil followed his example, and the Princess,
who sat by his side, looked often into his face, and whispered now
and then in his ear. Jeanne was the only one who was a little
distrait. She left the table early, as usual, and slipped out into
the garden. The Princess, contrary to her custom, rose from the
table and followed her. A sudden change of wind had blown the fog
away, and the night was clear. The wind, however, had gathered
force, and the Princess held down her elaborately coiffured hair and
cried out in dismay.
"My dear Jeanne," she exclaimed, "but it is barbarous to wander
about outside a night like this!"
Jeanne laughed. Her own more simply arranged hair was blown all over
"I love it," she explained. "You don't want me indoors. I am going
to walk down the grove and look at the sea."
"Come back into the hall one moment," the Princess said. "I want to
speak to you."
Jeanne turned unwillingly round, and her step-mother drew her into
the shelter of the open door.
"Jeanne," she said, "you seem to meet your friend the fisherman very
often. If you should see anything of him to-morrow, I wish you would
inquire particularly as to his lodger. You know whom I mean, the man
who was on the island with him yesterday afternoon."
Jeanne looked at her stepmother curiously.
"What am I to ask about him?" she demanded.
"Where he comes from, and what he is doing here," the Princess said.
"Find out if you can if Berners is really his name. I have a curious
idea about him, and Cecil fancies that he has seen him before."
Jeanne looked for a minute interested.
"You are not usually so curious about people," she remarked.
The Princess lowered her voice a little.
"Jeanne," she said, "I will tell you something. Lord Ronald, when he
left here, was very angry with us all. There was a quarrel, and he
behaved very absurdly. Cecil fancies that this man Berners is a
friend of Lord Ronald's. We want to know if it is so."
Jeanne raised her head and looked her stepmother steadily in the
"This is all very mysterious," she said. "I do not understand it at
all. We seem to be almost in hiding here, seeing no one and going
nowhere. And I notice that Major Forrest, whenever he walks even in
the garden, is always looking around as though he were afraid of
something. What did you quarrel with Lord Ronald about?"
"It is no concern of yours," the Princess answered, a little
sharply. "Major Forrest has had a somewhat eventful career, and he
has made enemies. It was chiefly his quarrel with Lord Ronald, and
it was over a somewhat serious matter. He has an idea that this man
Berners is connected with it in some way or other. Do find out if
you can, there's a dear child."
"I do not suppose," Jeanne said, "that Mr. Andrew would know
anything. However, when I see him I will ask him."
The Princess turned away from the open door, shivering.
"You are not really going out?" she said.
"Certainly I am," Jeanne answered. "I suppose you three will play
cards, and it does not interest me to watch you. There is nothing
which interests me here at all except the gardens and the sea. I am
going down to the beach, and then I shall sit there behind the
hollyhocks until it is bedtime."
The Princess looked at her curiously.
"You're a queer child," she said, turning away.
"It is not strange, that," Jeanne answered, with a little curl of
The Princess went back to the library. Coffee and liqueurs had
already been served, and the card-table was set out, although none
of the three had the slightest inclination to play. Jeanne walked
along the beach and then came back to her favourite seat, sheltered
by the little grove of stunted trees and the tall hollyhocks which
bordered the garden. Her eyes were fixed upon the darkening sea,
whitened here and there by the long straight line of breakers. The
marshes on her right hand were hung with grey mists, floating about
like weird phantoms, and here and there between them shone the
distant lights of the village. She half closed her eyes. The soft
falling of the waves upon the sand below, and the murmur of the wind
through the bushes and scanty trees was like a lullaby. She sat
there she scarcely knew how long. She woke up with a start,
conscious that two men were standing talking together within a few
yards of her in the rough lane that led down to the sea.
The Princess was attempting a new and very complicated form of
patience. Forrest was watching her. Their host was making an attempt
to read the newspaper.
"In five minutes," the Princess declared, "I shall have achieved the
impossible. This time I am quite sure that I am going to do it."
A breathless silence followed her announcement. The Princess,
looking up in surprise, found that the eyes of her two companions
were fixed not upon her but upon the door. She laid down her cards
and turned her head. It was Jeanne who stood there, her hair tossed
and blown by the wind, her face ashen white.
"What is the matter, child?" the Princess demanded.
Jeanne came a little way into the room.
"There were two men," she faltered, "talking in the shrubbery close
to where I was sitting behind the hollyhocks. I could not understand
all that they said, but they are coming here. They were speaking of
"Go on," Forrest muttered, leaning forward with dilated eyes.
"They spoke as though something might have happened to him here,"
the girl whispered. "Oh! it is too horrible, this! What do you think
that they meant?"
She looked at the three people who confronted her. There was nothing
reassuring in the faces of the two men. The Princess leaned back in
her chair and laughed.
"My dear child," she said, "you have been asleep and dreamed these
foolish things; or if not, these yokels to whom you have been
listening are mad. What harm do you suppose could come to Lord
"I do not know," Jeanne said, speaking in a low tone, and with the
fear still in her dark eyes.
"I told you," the Princess continued, "that there was some sort of a
quarrel. What of it? Lord Ronald simply chose to go away. Do you
suppose that there is any one here who would think of trying to
hinder him? Look at us three and ask yourself if it is likely. Look
at Major Forrest here, for instance, who never loses his temper, and
whose whole life is a series of calculations. Or our host. Look at
him," the Princess continued, with a little wave of her hand. "He
may have secrets that we know nothing of, but if he is a desperate
criminal, I must say that he has kept the knowledge very well to
himself. As for me, you know very well that I quarrel with no one.
Le jeu ne vaut pas la peine."
Jeanne drew a little breath. Her face was less tragic. There was a
moment's silence. Then Cecil de la Borne moved toward the fireplace.
He was pale, but his manner was more composed. The Princess' speech,
drawn out, and very slowly spoken, of deliberate intent, had
achieved its purpose. The first terror had passed away from all of
"I will ring the bell," Cecil said, "and find out who these
trespassers are, wandering about my grounds at this hour of the
night. Or shall we all go out and look for them ourselves?"
"As you will," Forrest answered. "Personally, I should think that
Miss Jeanne has overheard some gossip amongst the servants, and
misunderstood it. However, this sort of thing is just as well put a
A sudden peal rang through the house. The front-door bell, a huge
unwieldy affair, seldom used, because, save in the depths of winter,
the door stood open, suddenly sent a deep resonant summons echoing
through the house. The bareness and height of the hall, and the fact
that the room in which they were was quite close to the front door
itself, perhaps accounted for the unusual volume of sound which
seemed created by that one peal. It was more like an alarm bell,
ringing out into the silent night, than any ordinary summons. Coming
in the midst of those tense few seconds, it had an effect upon the
people who heard it which was almost indescribable. Cecil de la
Borne was pale with the nervousness of the coward, but Forrest's
terror was a real and actual thing, stamped in his white face,
gleaming in his sunken eyes, as he stood behind the card-table with
his head a little thrust forward toward the door, as though
listening for what might come next. The Princess, if she was in any
way discomposed, did not show it. She sat erect in her chair, her
head slightly thrown back, her eyebrows a little contracted. It was
as though she were asking who had dared to break in so rudely upon
her pastime. Jeanne had sunk back into the window, and was sitting
there, her hands clasped together.
Cecil de la Borne glanced at the clock.
"It is nearly eleven o'clock," he said. "The servants will have gone
to bed. I must go and see who that is."
No one attempted to stop him. They heard his footsteps go echoing
down the silent hall. They heard the harsh clanking of the chain as
he drew it back, and the opening of the heavy door. They all looked
at one another in tense expectation. They heard Cecil's challenge,
and they heard muffled voices outside. Then there came the closing
of the door, and the sound of heavy footsteps in the hall. Forrest
grasped the table with both hands, and his face was bloodless. The
Princess leaned towards him.
"For God's sake, Nigel," she whispered in his ear, "pull yourself
together! One look into your face is enough to give the whole show
away. Even Jeanne there is watching you."
The man made an effort. Even as the footsteps drew near he dashed
some brandy into a tumbler and drank it off. Cecil de la Borne
entered, followed by the man who had been Andrew's guest and
another, a small dark person with glasses, and a professional air.
Cecil, who had been a little in front, turned round to usher them
"I cannot keep you out of my house, gentlemen, I suppose," he said,
"although I consider that your intrusion at such an hour is entirely
unwarrantable. I regret that I have no other room in which I can
receive you. What you have to say to me, you can say here before my
friends. If I remember rightly," he added, "your name is Berners,
and you are lodging in this neighbourhood."
The man who had called himself Berners bowed to the Princess and
Jeanne before replying. His manner was grave, but not in any way
threatening. His companion stood behind him and remained silent.
"I have called myself Berners," he said, "because it is more
convenient at times to do so. I am Richard Berners, Duke of
Westerham. A recent guest of yours--Lord Ronald--is my younger
The silence which reigned in the room might almost have been felt.
The Duke, looking from one to the other, grew graver.
"I suppose," he continued, "I ought to apologize for coming here so
late at night, but my solicitor has only just arrived from London,
and reported to me the result of some inquiries he has been making.
Ronald is my favourite brother, although I have not seen much of him
lately. I trust, therefore," he continued, still speaking to Cecil
de la Borne, "that you will pardon my intrusion when I explain that
from the moment of quitting your house my brother seems to have
completely disappeared. I have come to ask you if you can give me
any information as to the circumstances of his leaving, and whether
he told you his destination."
Cecil de la Borne was white to the lips, but he was on the point of
answering when the Princess intervened. She leaned forward toward
the newcomer, and her face expressed the most genuine concern.
"My dear Duke," she said, "this is very extraordinary news that you
bring. Lord Ronald left here for London. Do you mean to say that he
has never arrived there?"
The Duke turned towards his companion.
"My solicitor here, Mr. Hensellman," he said, "has made the most
careful inquiries, and has even gone so far as to employ detectives.
My brother has certainly not returned to London. We have also wired
to every country house where a visit from him would have been a
probability, without result. Under those circumstances, and others
which I need not perhaps enlarge upon, I must confess to feeling
some anxiety as to what has become of him."
"Naturally," the Princess answered at once. "And yet," she
continued, "it is only a few days ago since he left here. Your
brother, Duke, who seemed to me a most delightful young man, was
also distinctly peculiar, and I do not think that the fact of your
not being able to hear of him at his accustomed haunts for two or
three days is in any way a matter which need cause you any anxiety."
The Duke bowed.
"Madam," he said, "I regret having to differ from you. I beg that
you will not permit anything which I say to reflect upon yourself or
upon Mr. De la Borne, whose honour, I am sure, is above question.
But you have amongst you a person whom I am assured is a very bad
companion indeed for boys of my brother's age. I refer to you, sir,"
he added, addressing Forrest.
Forrest bowed ironically.
"I am exceedingly obliged to you, sir," he said, "for your amiable
opinion, although why you should go out of your way to volunteer it
here, I cannot imagine."
"I do so, sir," the Duke answered, "because during the last two or
three days cheques for a considerable amount have been honoured at
my brother's bank, bearing your endorsement. I may add, sir, that I
came down here to see my brother. I wished to explain to him that
you were not a person with whom it was advisable for him to play
Forrest took a quick step forward.
"Sir," he exclaimed, "you are a liar!"
The Duke bowed.
"I do not quote my own opinion," he said. "I speak from the result
of the most careful investigations. Your reputation you cannot deny.
Even at your own clubs men shrug their shoulders when your name is
mentioned. I will give you the benefit of any doubt you wish. I will
simply say that you are a person who is suspected in any assembly
where gentlemen meet together, and that being so, as my brother has
disappeared from this house after several nights spent in playing
cards with you, I am here to learn from you, and from you, sir," he
added, turning to Cecil de la Borne, "some further information as to
the manner of my brother's departure, or to remain here until I have
acquired that information for myself."
The Princess rose to her feet and laid her hand upon Forrest's
shoulder. The veins were standing out upon his forehead, and his
face was black with anger. He seemed to be in the act of springing
upon the man who made these charges against him.
"Nigel," she said, "please let me talk to the Duke. Remember that,
after all, from his own point of view, what he is saying is not so
outrageous as it seems to us. Cecil, please don't interfere," she
added turning towards him. "Duke," she continued, speaking firmly,
and with much of the amiability gone from her tone, "you are playing
the modern Don Quixote to an extent which is unpardonable, even
taking into account your anxiety concerning your brother. Lord
Ronald was a guest here of Mr. De la Borne's, and to the best of my
knowledge he lost little more than he won all the time he was here.
In any case, on Major Forrest's behalf, and as an old friend, I deny
that there was any question whatever as to the fairness of any games
that were played. Your brother received a telegram, and asked to be
allowed the use of the car to take him to Lynn Station early on the
following morning. He promised to return within a week."
"You have heard from him since he left?" the Duke asked quickly.
"We have not," the Princess answered. "Only yesterday morning I
remarked that it was slightly discourteous. Your brother left here
on excellent terms with us all. You can interview, if you will, any
member of the household. You can make your inquiries at the station
from which he departed. Your appearance here at such an untimely
hour, and your barely veiled accusations, remind me of the fable of
the bull in the china shop. If you think that we have locked your
brother up here, pray search the house. If you think," she added,
with curling lip, "that we have murdered him, pray bring down an
army of detectives, invest the place, and pursue your investigations
in whatever direction you like. But before you leave, I should
advise you, if you wish to preserve your reputation as a person of
breeding, to apologize to Mr. De la Borne for your extraordinary
behaviour here to-night, and the extraordinary things at which you
The Duke smiled pleasantly.
"Madam," he said, "I came here to-night not knowing that you were
amongst the difficulties which I should have to deal with. I wish to
speak to Mr. De la Borne. You will permit me?"
The Princess shrugged her shoulders and turned away.
"I have ventured to speak for both of them," she remarked, "for the
sake of peace, because I am a woman and can keep my temper, and they
are men who might have resented your impertinence."
The Duke remained as though he had not heard her speech. He laid his
hand upon Cecil's shoulder.
"De la Borne," he said, "you and I are scarcely strangers, although
we have never met. There have been friendships in our families for
many years. Don't be afraid to speak out if anything has gone a
little wrong here and you are ashamed of it. I want to be your
friend, as you know very well. Tell me, now. Can't you help me to
find Ronald. Haven't you any idea where he is?"
"None at all," Cecil answered.
"Tell me this, then," the Duke said, his clear brown eyes fixed
steadily upon Cecil's miserable white face. "Were there any unusual
circumstances at all connected with his leaving here?"
"None whatever," Cecil answered, with an uneasy little laugh,
"except that I had to get up to see him off, and it was a beastly
The lawyer, who had been standing silent all this time, drew the
Duke for a moment on one side.
"I should recommend, sir," he whispered, "that we went away. If they
know anything they do not mean to tell, and the less we let them
know as to whether we are satisfied or not, the better."
The Duke nodded, and turned once more to Cecil.
"I am forced to accept your word, Mr. De la Borne," he said, "and
when my brother confirms your story I shall make a special visit
here to offer you my apologies. Madam," he added, bowing to the
Princess, "I regret to have disturbed your interesting occupation."
Forrest he completely ignored, turning his back upon him almost
immediately. Cecil went out with them into the hall. In a moment the
great front door was opened and closed. Cecil came back into the
room, and the perspiration stood out in great beads upon his
forehead. Now that the Duke had departed, something seemed to have
fallen from their faces. They looked at one another as the ghosts of
their real selves might have looked. Forrest stumbled toward the
sideboard. Cecil was already there.
"The brandy!" he muttered. "Quick!"
Bareheaded, Jeanne walked upon the yellow sands close to the softly
breaking waves. Inland stretched the marshes, with their patches of
vivid green, their clouds of faintly blue wild lavender, their
sinuous creeks stealing into the bosom of the land. She climbed on
to a grassy knoll, warm with the sun's heat, and threw herself down
upon the turf. She turned her back upon the Hall and looked steadily
seawards, across the waste of sands and pasture-land to where sky
and sea met. Here at least was peace. She drew a long breath of
relief, cast aside the book which she had never dreamed of reading,
and lay full length in the grass, with her eyes upturned to where a
lark was singing his way down from the blue sky.
Andrew came before long, speeding his way out of the village harbour
in his little catboat. She watched him cross the sandy bar of the
inlet, and run his boat presently upon the beach below where she
sat. Then she shook out her skirts and made room for him by her
"Really, Mr. Andrew," she said, resting her chin upon her hands, and
looking up at him with her full dark eyes, "you are becoming almost
gallant. Until now, when I have been weary, and have wished to talk
to you, I have had almost to come and fetch you. To-day it is you
who come to me. That is a good sign."
"It is true," he admitted. "I have kept my telescope fixed upon the
sands here for more than an hour. I wanted to see you."
"You have something to tell me about last night?" she asked gravely.
"No!" he answered, "I did not come here to talk about that."
"Did you know," she asked, "who your lodger really was?"
"Yes," he said, "I guessed! I will be frank with you, Miss Jeanne,
if you will allow me. I do not like your stepmother and I do not
like Major Forrest, but I think that the Duke is going altogether
too far when he suspects them of having anything to do with the
disappearance of his brother."
She drew a little sigh of relief.
"Oh! I am glad to hear you say that," she declared. "It is all so
horrible. I could not sleep last night for thinking about it."
"Lord Ronald will probably turn up in a day or two," Andrew said
gravely. "We will not talk any more about him."
She settled herself a little more comfortably, and smoothed out her
skirts. Then she looked up at him with faintly parted lips.
"What shall we talk about, Mr. Andrew?" she said softly.
"About ourselves," he answered, "or rather about you. It seems to me
that we both stand a little outside the game of life, as your
friends up there understand it."
He waved his large brown hand in the direction of the Hall.
"You are a child, fresh from boarding-school, too young to
understand, too young to know where to look for your friends, or
discriminate against your enemies. I am a rough sort of fellow,
also, outside their lives, from necessity, from every reason which
the brain of man could evolve. Sometimes we outsiders see more than
is intended. Is the Princess of Strurm really your stepmother?"
"Of course she is," Jeanne answered. "She was married to my father
when I was quite a little girl, and she has visited me at the
convent where I was at school, all my life, and when I left last
year it was she who came for me. Why do you ask so strange a
"Because," he said, "I should consider her about the worst possible
guardian that a child like you could have. Tell me, what is it that
goes on all day up at the Hall there--or rather what was it that did
go on before Engleton went away?--eating and drinking, cards, and
God knows what sort of foolishness! Nothing else, nothing worth
doing, not a thing said worth listening to! It's a rotten life for a
child like you. They tell me you're an heiress. Are you?"
She smoothed her crumpled skirts, and looked steadily at the tip of
her brown shoe.
"One of the greatest in Europe," she answered. "No one knows how
rich I am. You see all the money was left to me when I was six years
old, and it is so strictly tied up that no one has had power to
touch a single penny until I am of age. That is why it has gone on
increasing and increasing."
"And when are you of age?" he asked.
"Next year," she answered.
"By that time, I imagine," Andrew continued, "your stepmother will
have sold you to some broken-down hanger-on of hers. Haven't you any
other relations, Miss Jeanne?"
She laughed softly.
"You are a ridiculous person," she said. "I am very fond of my
stepmother. I think that she is a very clever woman."
"Bah!" he exclaimed in disgust. "A clever woman she may be, but a
good woman, no! I am sure of that. You may judge a person by the
company they keep. Neither she or this man Forrest are fit
associates for a child of your age."
She laughed softly.
"They don't do me any harm," she said. "Mr. De la Borne and Lord
Ronald have asked me to marry them, of course, but then every young
man does that when he knows who I am. My stepmother has promised me
at least that I shall not be bothered by any of them just yet. I am
going to be presented next season, we are going to have a house in
town, and I am going to choose a husband of my own."
It was Andrew now who looked long and steadily out seawards. She
watched him covertly from under her heavily lidded eyes.
"Mr. Andrew," she said softly, "I wish very much--"
Then she stopped short, and he looked at her a little abruptly.
"What is it that you wish?" he asked.
"I wish that you did not wear such strange clothes and that you did
not talk the dialect of these fishermen, and that you had more
money. Then you too might come and see me, might you not, when we
have that house in London?"
He laughed boisterously.
"I fancy I see myself in London, paying calls," he declared. "Give
me my catboat and fishing line. I'd rather sail down the home creek,
with a northeast gale in my teeth, than walk down Piccadilly in
"I am afraid," she admitted, "that as a town acquaintance you are
"I am afraid so," he answered, looking steadily seawards. "We
country people have strong prejudices, you see. It seems to us that
all the sin and all the unhappiness and all the decadence and all
the things that mar the beauty of the world, come from the cities
and from life in the cities. No wonder that we want to keep away. It
isn't that we think ourselves better than the other folk. It is
simply that we have realized pleasures greater than we could find in
paved streets and under smoke-stained skies. We know what it is to
smell the salt wind, to hear it whistling in the cords and the sails
of our boats, to feel the warmth of the sun, to listen to the song
of the birds, to watch the colouring of God's land here. I suppose
we have the thing in our bloods; we can't leave it. We hear the call
of the other things sometimes, but as soon as we obey we are
restless and unhappy. It is only an affair of time, and generally a
very short time. One cannot fight against nature."
"No!" she answered softly. "One cannot fight against nature. But
there are children of the cities, children of the life artificial as
well as children of nature. Look at me!"
He turned toward her quickly.
"Look at me!" she commanded, and he obeyed.
He saw her pale skin, which the touch of the sun seemed to have no
power to burn or coarsen. The clear, wonderful eyes, the delicate
eyebrows, the masses of dark hair, the scarlet lips. He saw her
white throat swelling underneath her muslin blouse. The daintiness
of her gown, airy and simple, yet fresh from a Paris workshop. The
stockings and shoes, exquisite, but strangely out of place with
their high heels buried in the sand.
"How do I know," she demanded, "that I am not one of the children of
the cities, that I was not fashioned and made for the gas-lit life,
to eat unreal food at unreal hours, and feed my brain upon the
unreal epigrams of the men whom you would call decadents. Two days
here, a week--very well. In a month I might be bored. Who shall
guarantee me against it?"
"No one," he answered. "And yet there is something in your blood
which calls for the truth, which hates the shams, which knows real
beauty. Why don't you try and cultivate it? In your heart you know
where the true things lie. Consider! Every one with great wealth can
make or mar many lives. You enter the world almost as a divinity.
Your wealth is reckoned as a quality. What you do will be right.
What you condemn will be wrong. It is a very important thing for
others as well as yourself, that you should see a clear way through
A moment's intense dejection seized upon her. The tears stood in her
eyes as she looked away from him.
"Who is there to show it me?" she asked. "Who is there to help me
"Not those friends whom you have left to play bridge in a room with
drawn curtains at this hour of the day," he answered. "Not your
stepmother, or any of her sort. Try and realize this. Even the
weakest of us is not dependent upon others for support. There is
only one sure guide. Trust yourself. Be faithful to the best part of
yourself. You know what is good and what is ugly. Don't be coerced,
don't be led into the morass."
She looked at him and laughed gaily. Her mood had changed once more
with chameleon-like swiftness.
"It is all very well for you," she declared. "You are six foot four,
and you look as though you could hew your way through life with a
cudgel. One could fancy you a Don Quixote amongst the shams,
knocking them over like ninepins, and moving aside neither to the
right nor to the left. But what is a poor weak girl to do? She wants
some one, Mr. Andrew, to wield the cudgel for her."
It was several seconds before he turned his head. Then he found
that, although her lips were laughing, her eyes were longing and
serious. She sprang suddenly to her feet and leaned towards him.
"This is the most delightful nonsense," she whispered. "Please!"
She was in his arms for a moment, her lips had clung to his. Then
she was away, flying along the sands at a pace which seemed to him
miraculous, swinging her hat in her hands, and humming the maddening
refrain of some French song, which it seemed to him was always upon
her lips, and which had haunted him for days. He hesitated,
uncertain whether to follow, ashamed of himself, ashamed of the
passion which was burning in his blood. And while he hesitated she
passed out of sight, turning only once to wave her hand as she
crossed the line of grass-grown hillocks which shut him out from her
"To-morrow," the Princess said softly, "we shall have been here a
Cecil de la Borne came and sat by her side upon the sofa.
"I am afraid," he said, "that leaving out everything else, you have
been terribly bored."
"I have been nothing of the sort," she answered. "Of course, the
last week has been a strain, but we are not going to talk any more
about that. You prepared us for semi-barbarism, and instead you have
made perfect sybarites of us. I can assure you that though in one
way to go will be a release, in another I shall be very sorry."
"And I," he said, in a low tone, "shall always be sorry."
He let his hand fall upon hers, and looked into her eyes. The
Princess stifled a yawn. This country style of love-making was a
thing which she had outgrown many years ago.
"You will find other distractions very soon," she said, "and
besides, the world is a small place. We shall see something of you,
I suppose, always. By the by, you have not been particularly
attentive to my stepdaughter during the last few days, have you?"
"She gives me very little chance," he answered, in a slightly
"She is very young," the Princess said, "too young, I suppose, to
take things seriously. I do not think that she will marry very
Cecil bent over his companion till his head almost touched hers.
"Dear lady," he said, "I am afraid that I am not very interested in
your stepdaughter while you are here."
"Absurd!" she murmured. "I am nearly twice your age."
"If you were," he answered, "so much the better, but you are not. Do
you know, I think that you have been rather unkind to me. I have
scarcely seen you alone since you have been here."
She laughed softly, and took up her little dog into her arm as
though to use him for a shield.
"My dear Cecil," she said earnestly, "please don't make love to me.
I like you so much, and I should hate to feel that you were boring
me. Every man with whom I am alone for ten minutes thinks it his
duty to say foolish things to me, and I can assure you that I am
past it all. A few years ago it was different. To-day there are only
three things in the world I care for--my little spaniel here,
bridge, and money."
His face darkened a little.
"You did not talk like this in London," he reminded her.
"Perhaps not," she admitted. "Perhaps even now it is only a mood
with me. I can only speak as I feel for the moment. There are times
when I feel differently, but not now."
"Perhaps," he said jealously, "there are also other people with whom
you feel differently."
"Perhaps," she admitted calmly.
"When I came into the room the other day," he said, "Forrest was
holding your hand."
"Major Forrest," she said, "has been very much upset. He needed a
little consolation. He has some other engagements, and he ought to
have left before now, but, as you know, we are all prisoners. I
wonder how long it will last."
"I cannot tell," Cecil answered gloomily. "Forrest knows more about
it than I do. What does he say to you?"
"He thinks," the Princess said slowly, "that we may be able to leave
in a few days now."
"Then while you do stay," Cecil begged, "be a little kinder to me."
She withdrew her hand from her dog and patted his for a moment.
"You foolish boy," she said. "Of course I will be a little kinder to
you, if you like, but I warn you that I shall only be a
disappointment. Boys of your age always expect so much, and I have
so little to give."
"Why do you say that?" he asked.
She shrugged her shoulders.
"Because it is the truth," she answered. "You must not expect
anything more from me than the husk of things. Believe me, I am not
a poseuse. I really mean it."
"You may change your mind," he said.
"I may," she answered. "I have no convictions, and my enemies would
add, no principles. If any one could make me feel the things which I
have forgotten how to feel, I myself am perfectly willing! But don't
hope too much from that. And do, there's a dear boy, go and stop my
maid. I can see her on her way down the drive there. She has some
telegrams I gave her, and I want to send another."
Cecil hurried out, and the Princess, moving to the window, beckoned
to Forrest, who was lounging in a wicker chair with a cigarette in
"Nigel," she said, "how much longer?"
Forrest looked despondently at his cigarette.
"I cannot tell," he answered. "Perhaps one day, perhaps a week,
"No!" the Princess interrupted, "I do not wish to hear that
"You know that the Duke is still about?" Forrest said gloomily. "I
saw him this morning. There has been a fellow, too--a detective, of
course--enquiring about the car and who was able to drive it."
"But that," the Princess interrupted, "is all in our favour. You
were seen to bring it back up the drive about ten o'clock in the
"Don't let's talk about it," he said. "Where is Jeanne? Do you
The Princess pointed toward the lawn to where Cecil and Jeanne were
just starting a game of croquet. Forrest watched them for a few
"Ena," he said, dropping his voice a little, "what are you going to
do with that child? I have never quite understood your plans. You
promised to talk to me about it while we were down here."
"I know," the Princess answered, "only this other affair has driven
everything out of our minds. What I should like to do," she
continued, "is to marry her before she comes of age, if I can find
any one willing to pay the price."
"The price?" he repeated doubtfully.
The Princess nodded.
"Supposing," she continued, "that her fortune amounted to nearly
four hundred thousand pounds, I think that twenty-five thousand
pounds would be a very moderate sum for any one to pay for a wife
with such a dowry."
"Have you any one in your mind?" he asked.
The Princess nodded.
"I have a friend in Paris who is making some cautious inquiries,"
she answered. "I am expecting to hear from her in the course of a
"So far," he remarked, "you have made nothing out of your
guardianship except a living allowance."
"And a ridiculously small one," she remarked. "All that I have had
is two thousand a year. I need not tell you, my dear Nigel, that
that does not go very far when it has to provide dresses and
servants and a home for both of us. Jeanne is content, and never
grumbles, or her lawyers might ask some very inconvenient
"Supposing," he asked, "that she won't have anything to do with this
man, when you have found one who is willing to pay?"
"Until she is of age," the Princess answered, "she is mine to do
what I like with, body and soul. The French law is stricter than the
English in this respect, you know. There may be a little trouble, of
course, but I shall know how to manage her."
"She has likes and dislikes of her own," he remarked, "and fairly
positive ones. I believe if she had her own way, she would spend all
her time with this fisherman here."
The Princess smoothed the lace upon her gown, and gazed reflectively
at the turquoises upon her white fingers.
"Jeanne's father," she remarked, "was bourgeois, and her mother had
little family. Race tells, of course. I have never attempted to
influence her. When there is a great struggle ahead, it is as well
to let her have her own way in small things. Hush! She is coming. I
suppose the croquet has been a failure."
Jeanne came across to them, swinging her mallet in her hand.
"Will some one," she begged, "take our too kind host away from me?
He follows me everywhere, and I am bored. I have played croquet with
him, but he is not satisfied. If I try to read, he comes and sits by
my side and talks nonsense. If I say I am going for a walk, he wants
to come with me. I am tired of it."
The Princess looked at her stepdaughter critically. Jeanne was
dressed in white, with a great red rose stuck through her waistband.
She was paler even than usual, her eyes were dark and luminous, and
the curve of her scarlet lips suggested readily enough the weariness
of which she spoke.
The Princess shrugged her shoulders and gathered up her skirts.
"Do what you like, my dear," she said. "I will tell Cecil to leave
you alone. But remember that he is our host. You must really be
civil to him."
She strolled across the lawn to where Cecil was still knocking the
croquet balls about. Jeanne sank into her place, and Forrest looked
at her for a few moments attentively.
"You are a strange child," he said at last.
She glanced towards him as though she found his speech an
impertinence. Then she looked away across the old-fashioned,
strangely arranged garden, with its irregular patches of many
coloured flowers, its wind-swept shrubs, its flag-staff rising from
the grassy knoll at the seaward extremity. She watched the seagulls,
wheeling in from the sea, and followed the line of smoke of a
distant steamer. She seemed to find all these things more
interesting than conversation.
"You do not like me," he remarked quietly. "You have never liked
"I have liked very few of my stepmother's friends," she answered,
"any more than I like the life which I have been compelled to lead
since I left school."
"You would prefer to be back there, perhaps?" he remarked, a little
"I should," she answered. "It was prison of a sort, but one was at
least free to choose one's friends."
"If," he suggested, "you could make up your mind that I was a person
at any rate to be tolerated, I think that I could make things easier
for you. Your stepmother is always inclined to follow my advice, and
I could perhaps get her to take you to quieter places, where you
could lead any sort of life you liked."
"Thank you," she answered. "Before very long I shall be my own
mistress. Until then I must make the best of things. If you wish to
do something for me you can answer a question."
"Ask it, then," he begged at once. "If I can, I shall be only too
"You can tell me something which since the other night," she said,
"has been worrying me a good deal. You can tell me who it was that
drove Lord Ronald to the station the morning he went away. I thought
that he sent his chauffeur away two days ago, and that there was no
one here who could drive the car."
Forrest was momentarily taken aback. He answered, however, with
scarcely any noticeable hesitation.
"I did," he answered. "I didn't make much of a job of it, and the
car has been scarcely fit to use since, but I managed it somehow, or
rather we did between us. He came and knocked me up about five
o'clock, and begged me to come and try."
She looked at him with peculiar steadfastness. There was nothing in
her eyes or her expression to suggest belief or disbelief in his
"But I have heard you say so often," she remarked, "that you knew
absolutely nothing about the mechanism of a car, and that you would
not drive one for anything in the world."
"I am not proud of my skill," he answered, "but I did try at Homburg
once. There was nothing else to do, and I had some idea of buying a
small car for touring in the Black Forest. If you doubt my words,
you can ask any of the servants. They saw me bring the car up the
avenue later in the morning."
"It was being dragged up," she reminded him. "The engine was not
He looked a little startled.
"It had only just gone wrong," he said. "I had brought it all the