Part 3 out of 6
way from Lynn."
She rose to her feet.
"Thank you for answering my question," she said. "I am going for a
He leaned quite close to her.
"Alone?" he asked suggestively.
She swept away without even looking at him. He shrugged his
shoulders as he resumed his seat.
"I am not sure," he said reflectively, as he lit a cigarette, "that
Ena will find that young woman so easy to deal with as she
Andrew looked up from his gardening, startled by the sudden peal of
thunder. Absorbed in his task, he had not noticed the gathering
storm. The sky was black with clouds, riven even while he looked
with a vivid flash of forked lightning. The ground beneath his feet
seemed almost to shake beneath that second peal of thunder. In the
stillness that followed he heard the cry of a woman in distress. He
threw down his spade and raced to the other side of the garden.
About twenty yards from the shore, Jeanne, in a small boat, was
rowing toward the island. She was pulling at the great oars with
feeble strokes, and making no headway against the current which was
sweeping down the tidal way. There was no time for hesitation.
Andrew threw off his coat, and wading into the water, reached her
just in time. He clambered into the boat and took the oars from her
trembling fingers. He was not a moment too soon, for the long tidal
waves were rushing in now before the storm. He bent to his task, and
drove the boat safely on to the beach. Then he stood up, dripping,
and handed her out.
"My dear young lady," he said, a little brusquely, and forgetting
for the moment his Norfolk dialect, "what on earth are you about in
that little boat all by yourself?"
She was still frightened, and she looked at him a little piteously.
"Please don't be angry with me," she said. "I wanted to come here
and see you, to--to ask your advice. The boat was lying there, and
it looked such a very short distance across, and directly I had
started the big waves began to come in and I was frightened."
The storm broke upon them. Another peal of thunder was followed by a
downpour of rain. He caught hold of her hand.
"Run as hard as you can," he said.
They reached the cottage, breathless. He ushered her into his little
"Has your friend gone?" she asked.
"Yes!" he answered. "He went last night."
"I am glad," she declared. "I wanted to see you alone. You said that
he was lodging here, did you not?"
"Yes," he said, "but he only stayed for a few days."
"You have an extra room here, then?" she asked.
"Certainly," he answered, wondering a little at the drift of her
"Will you let it to me, please?" she asked. "I am looking for
lodgings, and I should like to stay for a little time here."
He looked at her in amazement.
"My dear young lady!" he exclaimed. "You are joking!"
"I am perfectly serious," she answered. "I will tell you all about
it if you like."
"But your stepmother!" he protested. "She would never come to such a
place. Besides, you are Mr. De la Borne's guests."
"I do not wish to stay there any longer," she said. "I do not wish
to stay with my stepmother any longer. Something has happened which
I cannot altogether explain to you, but which makes me feel that I
want to get away from them all. I have enough money, and I am sure I
should not be much trouble. Please take me, Mr. Andrew."
He suddenly realized what a child she was. Her dark eyes were raised
wistfully to his. Her oval face was a little flushed by her recent
exertions. She wore a very short skirt, and her hair hung about her
shoulders in a tangled mass. Her little foreign mannerisms, half
inciting, half provocative, were forgotten. His heart was full of
pity for her.
"My dear child," he said, "you are not serious. You cannot possibly
be serious. Your stepmother is your guardian, and she certainly
would not allow you to run away from her like this. Besides, I have
not even a maid-servant. It would be absolutely impossible for you
to stay here."
Her eyes filled with tears. She dropped her arms with a weary little
"But I should love it so much," she said. "Here I could rest, and
forget all the things which worry me in this new life. Here I could
watch the sea come in. I could sit down on the beach there and
listen to the larks singing on the marshes. Oh! it would be such a
rest--so peaceful! Mr. Andrew, is it quite impossible?"
He played his part well enough, laughing at her good-humouredly.
"It is more than impossible," he said. "If you stayed here for any
time at all, your stepmother would come and fetch you back, and I
should get into terrible disgrace. Mr. De la Borne would probably
turn me out of my house," he added as an afterthought.
She sat down and looked out of the window in despair. The storm was
still raging. The skies were black, and the window-pane streaming
with rain-drops. She shivered a little.
"If I could help you in any other way," he continued, after a
moment's pause, "I should be very glad to try."
She turned upon him quickly.
"How can you help me, or any one," she demanded, "unless you can
take me away from these people? Listen! Until a few months ago I had
scarcely seen my stepmother. She fetched me away from the convent,
took me to Paris for some clothes, and since then I have done
nothing but go to parties and houses where the people seem all to
have fine names, but behave horribly. I know that I am rich. They
told me that before I left the convent, so that I might be a little
prepared, but is that any reason why every man, old and young,
should say foolish things to me, and pretend that they have fallen
in love, when I know all the time that it is my fortune they are
thinking of. And my stepmother speaks of marrying me as though I
were a piece of merchandise, to be disposed of to the highest
bidder. I do not like her friends. I do not like the way they live.
I have never liked Major Forrest. Last night your lodger and another
man came to the Hall. They asked questions about Lord Ronald. They
asked questions and they were told lies. I am sure of it. It got on
my nerves. I thought I should shriek. Major Forrest said that it was
he who drove Lord Ronald into Lynn, thirty-five miles away, at six
o'clock in the morning. I am sure that he could not have driven the
car a hundred yards."
"Good God!" Andrew muttered.
"I am sure of it," Jeanne continued. "Two days before Lord Ronald
disappeared, he wanted the car to take us over to Sandringham, and
he could not find the chauffeur. It seems that he was down at the
public-house at the village, and he came back intoxicated. Lord
Ronald was angry, and he sent the man away. The car was there in the
coach-house, and there was no one who could drive it."
"But," Andrew protested, "Major Forrest was seen returning in the
"He was pulled up the avenue in it," Jeanne answered. "How he got
the car there I don't know, but I do not believe that it had ever
been any further."
"Why do you not believe that?" Andrew asked.
She leaned towards him.
"Because," she said, "I was up early. The car was there at eight
o'clock, alone, just outside the gates. There were the marks where
it had come down from the house, but there were no marks on the
other side. I am sure that it had been no further. I felt the engine
and it was cold. I do not believe that it had been started at all."
Andrew was looking very serious.
"Then," he said, "if Lord Ronald was not taken to Lynn that morning,
what do you suppose has become of him?"
"I do not know," she cried. "I am afraid. I dare not stay there.
They all look at one another and leave off talking when I come into
the room unexpectedly. They all seem as though some trouble were
hanging over them. I am afraid to be there, Mr. Andrew."
Andrew was very serious indeed now.
"I will go up to the Hall at once," he said, "and I will see Mr. De
la Borne. I have some influence with him, and I will get to the
bottom of the whole matter. I will take you back, and I will make
inquiries at once."
She settled down in his easy chair. Her dark eyes were full of
"But, Mr. Andrew," she said, "I do not want to go back to the Hall.
I am afraid of them all, and I am afraid of my stepmother more than
any of them. Why may I not stay here? I will be very good, and I
will give you no trouble at all."
"My child," he said firmly, "you are talking nonsense. I am only a
village fisherman, but you could not possibly stay in my house here.
I have not even a housekeeper."
"That," she declared calmly, "is an excellent reason why I should
stop. I will be your housekeeper. Come and sit here by me and let us
talk about it."
He walked instead to the window. He did not choose at that moment
that she should see his face.
"You do not wish to have me!" she cried.
He turned round. She slid out of her chair and came over to his
"I can only tell you," he said gravely, "that it is impossible for
you to stay here, and that I must take you home at once."
She took his arm and looked up into his face.
"At once, Mr. Andrew?" she asked timidly.
"As soon as the storm goes down," he answered, glancing uneasily
towards the clock. "Listen, please, Miss--"
"Jeanne," she whispered.
"Miss Jeanne, then," he said. "There are some things which you do
not yet understand very well, because you have been brought up
differently to most English girls. I have some influence with Mr. De
la Borne, and I shall do what I can for you up at the house. But it
is very certain that you must not think of leaving your stepmother
unless you have some other relative who is willing to take you. A
child of your age cannot live alone. It is unheard of."
She sighed, and turned away.
"Very well, Mr. Andrew," she said. "If you do not wish to be
troubled with me I will go back. I am ready when you are."
Andrew looked once more out of the window.
"We cannot cross just yet," he said. "The tide is coming in very
fast, and even here there is a big sea."
"It is magnificent," she answered, stealing back to his side. "I
only wish that we were outside."
"You could not stand up," he answered. "Listen!"
The thunder of the incoming waves seemed to fill the room. Even
while they stood there a little shower of pebbles and spray were
dashed against the windows. Andrew looked anxiously across the
estuary and tapped the barometer by his side.
"I am afraid," he said, "that you are going to be late for dinner
to-night. You are a bona fide prisoner here for an hour or more at
"I am so glad," she answered.
There was a knock at the door. A man entered with a tea-tray. He was
in plain clothes and was obviously a servant. Jeanne looked at him
"Has Mr. Berners left his servant here?" she asked.
"For a day or two," Andrew answered hastily. "He may come back, you
see, and he went away in a great hurry. Martin, bring another
teacup, and make the tea. please."
The man set down the tray and bowed.
"Very good, sir," he answered.
Jeannie watched him disappear, perplexed. Was it because he was so
perfectly trained a servant that he addressed the man at her side
with the same respect that he would have shown to his own master?
"I may stay for tea, may I?" she asked. "That is something, at any
rate. I am going to look round at your things. You don't mind, do
"Certainly not," he answered. "That big fish on the wall was caught
within fifty yards of this island. Those sea-birds, too, were all
shot from here."
"What strange little creatures!" she murmured. "You seem to find
quite a lot of time to read and do other things beside fish, Mr.
Andrew," she remarked, as she looked over his bookcases. "You puzzle
me very much sometimes. I had no idea," she added, looking at him
hesitatingly, "that people who have to work, as you have to, for a
living, understood and read books like this."
"Ah, well," he answered, "I had perhaps a little more education than
some of them."
The servant returned with some more things upon a tray. Jeanne sat
down with a little laugh in front of the teapot. She was very much
afraid of saying more than was polite, and she felt that she was
amongst utterly strange surroundings. Yet it seemed to her a most
extraordinary thing that a fisherman in a country village should
possess a silver teapot and old Worcester china, and should be
waited upon by a man servant even though he were the man servant of
The storm died away with the coming of evening, but a great sea
still broke upon the island beach and floated up the estuary. Andrew
stood outside his door and looked across toward the mainland with a
perplexed frown. It was barely a hundred yards crossing, but it was
certain that no boat could live for half the distance. Jeanne, who
had recovered her spirits, stood by his side, and smiled as she saw
the white crested waves come rolling up.
"It is beautiful, this," she declared. "Do you not love to feel the
spray on your cheeks, Mr. Andrew? And how salt it smells, and
"That is all very well," Andrew answered, "but I am wondering how we
are going to get over to the other side there."
"I do not think," she answered, "that it will be possible for a
long, long time. You will have to take me as a lodger whether you
want to or not. I would not trust myself in a boat even with you,
upon a sea like that."
"It will be high tide in half an hour," Andrew said, "and the sea
will go down fast enough then."
"It may not," she answered hopefully. "I rather believe that there
is another storm blowing up."
"There will be no dinner for you," he warned her.
"That I can endure cheerfully," she declared. "I am sick of dinners.
I hate them. They come much too soon, and one has always the same
things to eat. I am quite sure that I shall dine quite nicely with
you, Mr. Andrew."
He glanced at his watch and looked out seaward. It was even as she
had said. There were indications of another storm. Even while they
stood there the large raindrops fell.
"We had better go in," Andrew said. "It is going to rain again."
She clapped her hands, and danced lightly back into the house. She
subsided into his easy chair and clasped her hands over her head.
"Come and stand there on the hearthrug," she demanded, "and tell me
stories--stories of fishing adventures and storms, and things that
have happened to yourself. Never mind how ordinary they may seem. I
want to hear them. Remember that everything is new to me. Everything
is interesting." He accepted the inevitable at last, and they talked
until the twilight filled the room. It was strange how much and yet
how little she knew. The fascination of her worldly ignorance was a
thing which grew continually upon him. Suddenly she burst into a
little peal of laughter.
"I was wondering," she remarked, "whether they are waiting dinner
for me. I can just imagine how frightened they all are."
"I had forgotten all about them," Andrew confessed. "Wait a moment."
He left the room and walked out on to the beach. The sea was still
dashing its spray high over the roof of the little cottage. The
stones outside were wet to within a few feet of his door. He looked
across toward the mainland. Far away he fancied that he could see
men carrying lanterns like will-o'-the-wisps, in that part of the
marshes near the Hall. He retraced his steps to the sitting-room.
"I am afraid," he said, "that it will not be possible to take you
back to-night. The sea is still too rough for my boat, and shows no
sign of going down."
She clapped her hands.
"I am very glad," she declared frankly. "I would very much rather
stay here than go back. Shall we go and see what there is for
dinner? I can cook quite well. I learnt at the convent, but I have
never had a chance to really try what I can do."
"Well," he said, "you can do exactly what you like with the contents
of my larder, but so far as I am concerned, I must go."
"Go?" she repeated wonderingly. "If I cannot leave the island,
surely you cannot!"
"Yes!" he answered. "There is another way. I am going to swim over
to the mainland and let them know at the Hall where you are."
She was suddenly serious, serious as well as disappointed.
"You must not," she declared. "It is too dangerous. I will not have
you try it. You must stay here with me. I am not used to being left
alone. I should be very lonely indeed. You must please not think of
"Miss Jeanne," he said quietly, "there are many things which you do
not know, and you must let me tell you this, that it is not possible
for me to keep you here as my guest until to-morrow. You cannot
leave the island, so I am going to. I can assure you that it is
nothing whatever of a swim, and I shall get to the other side quite
easily. Then I am going down to the village to get some dry clothes,
and I shall go up to the Hall and talk to your stepmother."
"If you make me go back," she declared, "I shall run away the first
time I have an opportunity, and if you will not have me, I dare say
I can find some one else who has a room to let, who will."
"I am not your keeper," he answered, "but please don't do anything
rash until I tell you what your stepmother says."
"It is you who are rash," she declared. "I do not think that I can
let you go. I am afraid, and the water looks so cruel to-night."
He laughed as he stepped outside.
"I am going round to leave some orders with Mr. Berners' servant,"
he said, "and after that I am going. You must ring for anything you
want, and the man will show you your room if you want to lie down. I
dare say, though, that some one will come from the Hall presently.
The sea will be calmer in a few hours' time."
She walked with him to the edge of the beach. When he drew off his
coat and turned up his sleeves she trembled with anxiety.
"Oh, I am afraid," she muttered. "I don't like your going in. I
don't like your doing this. I am sorry that I ever came."
He laughed a little scornfully, and plunged in. She watched his head
appear and disappear, her heart beating fast all the time. Once she
lost sight of it altogether and screamed. Almost immediately he came
up to the surface again, and turning round waved his hand to her.
"I am all right," he sang out. "Going strong. It's quite easy."
A few minutes later she saw him wading, and directly afterwards he
stood upon the sands opposite to her. He waved his hand. She put her
fingers to her lips and threw him a kiss. He pretended not to
notice, and started off toward the village, and her low laugh came
floating to him in a momentary lull of the wind.
Half-way across the marshes he changed his course, clambered up a
high bank on to the road, and turned toward the Hall. Barer than
ever the great gaunt building seemed to stand out against the sky
line, but from every window lights were flashing, and the windows of
the dining-room seemed to reflect a perfect blaze of light. Andrew
made his way to the back entrance, and entering unobserved, made his
way up to his own room.
* * *
Dinner was over, and the little party of three were settling down to
their coffee and cigarettes when the Princess' maid came down and
whispered in her mistress' ear. The Princess turned to her host
"Has any one seen anything of Jeanne?" she inquired. "Reynolds has
just told me that she has not returned at all."
"I thought you said that she was lying down with a headache," Cecil
"I thought so myself," the Princess answered. "Early this afternoon
she told me that she had no sleep last night, that she had a very
bad headache, and that she was going to bed. As a matter of fact she
went out almost at once, and has not returned." Cecil was already on
his way to the door.
"We will send out into the village at once," he said, "and some one
must go on the marshes. There are plenty of places there where it
would have been absolutely unsafe for her in such a storm as we have
had. Ring the bell, Forrest, will you?"
Andrew stepped in and closed the door behind him.
"It is not necessary," he said. "I can tell you all about Miss Le
There was a moment's breathless silence as Andrew stood there
looking in upon the little group. Then he left his position at the
door and came up to the table round which they were seated.
"Madam," he said to the Princess, "your daughter is safe. She came
down to the island this afternoon, and was unable to return owing to
The Princess gave a little sigh of relief.
"Foolish child!" she said. "But where is she now, Mr. Andrew?"
"She is still at the island," Andrew answered. "It was impossible
for her to leave, so I came here to tell you of her whereabouts."
"It was extremely thoughtful of you," the Princess said graciously.
"If Miss Le Mesurier was unable to leave the island, how was it that
you came?" Major Forrest asked, looking at Andrew through his
eyeglass as though he were some sort of natural curiosity.
"I swam over," Andrew answered. "It was a very short distance."
It was about this time that they all noticed the fact that Andrew
was wearing clothes of an altogether different fashion to the
fisherman's garb in which they had seen him previously. The Princess
looked at him perplexed. Cecil felt instinctively that the event
which he had most dreaded was about to happen.
"And you came up here purposely to relieve our minds, Mr. Andrew,"
the Princess said. "Really it is most kind of you. I wish that there
were some way--"
She hesitated, a slight note of question in her tone, expressed also
by her upraised eyebrows.
"I had a further reason for coming," Andrew said slowly. "I am very
sorry indeed to seem inhospitable or discourteous, but there is a
certain matter which must be cleared up, and at once. I refer to the
disappearance of Lord Ronald."
There was an instant's dead silence. Then Forrest, with white face,
leaned across the table.
"Who the devil are you?" he asked.
"I am Andrew de la Borne," Andrew answered, "the owner of these poor
estates, which I am very well content to leave for the greater part
of the time in my brother's care, only that he is young, and is
liable to make mistakes. He has made one, sir, I fear, in offering
you the hospitality of the Red Hall."
Forrest rose slowly to his feet. The Princess held out her hand as
though to beg him not to speak. She turned towards Andrew.
"I do not understand, sir," she said, "why you have chosen to
masquerade under another name, and why you come now to insult your
brother's guests in such a manner. Is what he says true, Cecil?" she
added, turning towards him. "Is this man your brother?"
"Yes!" Cecil answered sullenly. "He tells the truth. It is just like
him to make such a thundering idiot of himself."
"I beg your pardon," Andrew answered. "It is not I, Cecil, who
desire to come here and say these things to any guest of yours. It
is you who are sheltering under this roof one man at least to whom
you should never have offered your hospitality. The Duke of
Westerham, who has been my guest for the last few days, told me all
that one needs to know about you, sir, and your career."
Forrest asked no more questions. He turned to Cecil.
"Mr. De la Borne," he said, "I have understood that you were my
host, and I appeal to you. Is this person indeed your elder
"Yes!" Cecil answered.
"You know what this means," Forrest continued, speaking to Cecil. "I
cannot remain in this house any longer. I could only accept
hospitality from those who have at least learned to comport
themselves as gentlemen."
"I will not grudge you, sir," he said, "any reasonable excuse for
leaving this house as quickly as may be, but before you go, I insist
upon knowing what has become of Lord Ronald."
Cecil turned towards his brother angrily.
"I am sick of hearing about Engleton!" he declared. "I tell you that
he left here, Andrew, on Wednesday morning, and caught the 9-5 train
to London, or at any rate to Peterboro'. Whether he went north,
south, east, or west, is no concern of ours. We only know that he
promised to come back and has not come."
"There is more to be learnt then," Andrew answered. "How did he get
to Lynn Station that morning?"
"In the motor car," Cecil answered.
"Who drove it?" Andrew asked.
"Major Forrest," Cecil answered.
"It is a lie!" Andrew declared. "The car never went a hundred yards
beyond the gates. I know that for a fact."
Again there was silence. The Princess intervened.
"Mr. Andrew," she began--"I beg your pardon, Mr. De la Borne--
supposing Lord Ronald did wish to keep his departure and the manner
of it a great secret, why should it trouble you? You don't suppose,
I presume, that there has been a fight, or anything of that sort?"
"I only know," Andrew answered, "that the brother of one of my
dearest friends has disappeared from this house, after spending
several days in the company of a man of bad reputation. That is
quite enough for me. I am determined to get to the bottom of the
"It is a very little matter, after all," the Princess said calmly.
She hesitated, and looked at the two other men.
"Perhaps," she continued slowly, "it would be as well to tell you
"If you do not, madam," Andrew answered, "it is more than probable
that I shall speedily elicit it."
Both Forrest and Cecil seemed stricken speechless, and before they
could recover themselves the Princess had commenced her story,
talking with easy and convincing fluency.
"Lord Ronald," she said, "did leave here at the time you and the
Duke have been told, and Major Forrest did try to drive him in the
motor to Lynn Station. When he found that that was impossible, that
they could not get the engine to go, Lord Ronald left his luggage
here and walked to Wells. That is the last we have heard of him. He
asked that his luggage should be sent to his rooms in London, and we
sent it off the next day. He left here on good terms with everybody,
but he told us distinctly that the business on which he was summoned
away was of a very unpleasant nature. I think that some one was
trying to blackmail him. Now you can make what inquiries you like,
but I am very certain of one thing, that anything you may discover
is more likely to bring discredit upon Lord Ronald himself than
"Madam," Andrew said, "your story, of course, I am bound to accept
as the truth, but I must tell you frankly that I shall pass it on to
the Duke, who will take up his inquiries from the point you name. If
he finds that the facts do not correspond with what you have told
me, I fear that the consequences will be disagreeable for all of
"Of what on earth do you suspect us?" Major Forrest asked sharply.
"Do you think that we have made away with Engleton? Why should we?
We may be the adventurers you delicately suggest, but at least we
should have an object in our crimes. Engleton had not a ten-pound
note of ready money with him. I know that for a fact, because I lent
him some money to pay his chauffeur's wages when he sent him away."
"You are perhaps holding some of his IOU's?" Andrew asked.
"I certainly am," Forrest answered, "and the sooner I hear from him
the better. If you are really the owner of this house, I shall leave
Andrew bowed coldly.
"That," he said, "would certainly seem to be your best course. On
the contrary," he added, "I am not altogether sure that I am
justified in letting you go."
The Princess frowned at him indignantly.
"You talk nonsense, my dear Mr. Andrew, or Mr. Andrew de la Borne,"
she said. "If you tried to retain Major Forrest on such a cock and
bull pretext, you would be probably very soon sorry for it. Besides
you have no power to do anything of the sort."
"Madam," Andrew answered, "I am a magistrate, and I could sign a
warrant on the spot. I do not, however, feel justified in going to
such lengths. I feel sure that if Major Forrest is wanted, we shall
be able to find him."
"Of course you will," the Princess intervened calmly. "Men like
Major Forrest do not run away just because some one chooses to make
a ridiculous charge against them. If only I could get Jeanne, I
would leave myself to-night."
"My dear Princess," Cecil said, "I hope that you do not mean it. My
brother has said more than he means, I am sure."
"I have said less." Andrew replied. "I have the very best reasons
for believing that Major Forrest has lied his way into whatever
friendship he may have had with Lord Ronald and my brother."
Forrest moved toward the door.
"Mr. De la Borne," he said to Cecil, "you will forgive me if I
decline to remain here to be insulted by your brother."
The Princess followed him from the room. Cecil and Andrew were
"D--n you, Andrew!" the former said, turning upon him, whitefaced,
and with a sort of petulant anger. "Why do you come here and spoil
things like this?"
Andrew stood upon the hearthrug, and looked at his brother, black
"Cecil," he said, "my life has been spoilt by paying for your
excesses. Ever since I came of age I have been hampered all the time
by paying your debts and providing you with money. I even let you
pose here as the master of the Red Hall because it pleased you. I
have had enough of it. If you run up any more debts, you must pay
them yourself. I am master here and I intend to remain so."
Cecil was suddenly pale.
"Do you mean," he asked, "that you intend to remain here now?"
"Your guests are leaving," he said. "Why not?"
"But they may not go until to-morrow or the next day," Cecil said.
"I cannot turn them out."
Andrew stood for a moment looking thoughtfully at the door.
"They cannot stay more than a day," he said, "if Major Forrest is
really their friend. In any case, I shall not return until they are
Cecil's face cleared a little, but he was still perplexed.
"They had just promised," he said, "to stay another week."
"If you wish to entertain the Princess and Miss Le Mesurier," Andrew
said, "and they are willing to stop after what has passed, I have
nothing, of course, to say against it. But the man Forrest I will
not have here. If ever cheat and coward were written in a man's
face, your friend carries the marks in his."
"He has won nothing to speak of from me here," Cecil declared.
"You are probably too small game," Andrew answered. "How about
Engleton? Did he lose?"
"I am not sure," Cecil answered. "Not very much, if anything."
The Princess came rustling back. She held her little spaniel up to
her cheek, and she affected not to notice the somewhat strained
attitude of the two men. She went at once to Andrew.
"Mr. De la Borne," she said, "I think that you have been very unjust
and very rude to Major Forrest, who is an old friend of mine. I am
sure that you have been misled, and I am sure that some day you will
ask his pardon."
Andrew bowed slightly, and looked her straight in the face.
"Princess," he said, "may I ask how long you have known the
gentleman who has just left us?"
"For a very great many years," she answered. "Why?"
"Are you sure of your own knowledge," Andrew asked, "that he is
really a person of good repute and against whom there have been no
"I do not listen to gossip," the Princess answered. "Major Forrest
goes everywhere in London, and I have seen nothing in his deportment
at any time to induce me to withdraw my friendship."
"I fancy, then," Andrew said, "that some day you will find you have
been a little deceived."
"What about Lord Ronald?" the Princess asked. "Perhaps, Mr. De la
Borne, you think that we are all a little company of adventurers.
This is such a likely spot for our operations, isn't it?"
"Lord Ronald," Andrew said, "is the brother of my old friend, and he
is, of course, above suspicion, but Lord Ronald appears to have left
you somewhat abruptly, I might almost say mysteriously."
"He was here for some time," the Princess said, "and he is coming
"In the meantime," Andrew continued, "he appears to have vanished
from the face of the earth."
The Princess turned away carelessly.
"That," she said, "is scarcely our affair. I have not the slightest
doubt but that he will turn up again."
"If it should turn out that I am mistaken," Andrew said stiffly, "I
should be glad to ask your pardons, but from my present information
I can only say I do not care to extend the hospitality of my house
to Major Forrest, nor do I consider him a fit associate, madam, for
you and your step-daughter."
"May I ask," the Princess inquired, "who Major Forrest's traducers
"My information," Andrew answered, "comes from the Duke of
Westerham. I have every reason to believe that the case against him
has been understated."
"The Duke," Cecil declared, "is a pig-headed old fool!"
Andrew shrugged his shoulders.
"I have always found him a man of remarkably keen judgment," he
"What are you going to do about Jeanne?" the Princess asked,
changing the subject abruptly.
"I should suggest," Andrew answered, "that you have a maid pack a
bag and prepare to go with me over to the island early in the
morning. There is no chance to cross before then, as the tide would
"But how nervous she will be there all alone!" the Princess
"My servant is there," Andrew answered, "and also an old woman who
cooks for me. They will, I am sure, do everything they can to make
her comfortable. I shall go myself and bring her back here as soon
as it is daylight."
"We are giving you a great deal of trouble, I am afraid, Mr. De la
Borne," the Princess said stiffly. "To-morrow, as soon as my maid
can pack, we will return to London."
Andrew bowed as he turned to leave the room.
"I trust," he said, "that you will not let my presence interfere
with your plans. I shall remain on the island myself to-morrow,
after I have brought your daughter back."
Jeanne awoke the next morning to find herself between lavender
scented sheets in a small iron bedstead, with a soft sea-wind
blowing in through the half-open window. Her maid was ready to wait
upon her, and her bath was of salt water fresh from the sea. She
descended to find Andrew at work in the garden, the sun already high
in the heavens, and the sea as blue and placid as though the storm
of the night before were a thing long past and forgotten.
"I am never going away," she declared, as they sat at breakfast. "I
take your rooms, Monsieur Andrew. I will import as many chaperons as
you please, but I will not leave this island."
"I am afraid," he answered smiling, "that there are other people who
would have something to say about that. Your stepmother is already
anxious. I have promised that you shall be back at the Hall by ten
The gaiety suddenly faded from her face. Her lips, which had been
curved in laughter, quivered.
"You mean that?" she faltered.
"Most assuredly," he answered. "I have no place for lodgers here. As
a matter of fact, if you knew the truth, you would admit that your
staying here is quite impossible."
"Well," she said, "I should like to know the truth. Suppose you tell
"I must confess, then," Andrew answered, "that I am somewhat of a
fraud. Berners was my friend, not my lodger, and I am Andrew de la
Borne, Cecil's elder brother."
She looked at him for several moments steadily.
"I think that you might have told me," was all she said.
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Why?" he asked, a little brusquely. "I am not of your world, or
your stepmother's. When Cecil told me that he had invited some of
his fashionable friends down here to stay, I begged him to leave me
out of it. I chose to retire here, and I preferred not to see any of
you. Mine are country ways, Miss Le Mesurier. I am at heart what I
pretended to be, fisherman, countryman, yokel, call me what you
will. The other side of life, Cecil's side, doesn't appeal to me a
bit. I felt that it would be more comfortable for you people and for
me, if I kept out of the way."
"You class me with them," she remarked quietly, "a little
ruthlessly. I think you forget that as yet I have not chosen my way
"That is true," he answered, "but how can you help but choose what
every one of those who call themselves your friends regards as
inevitable. You must dance in many ballrooms, and make your bow
before the great ones of the earth. It is a part of the penalty that
you must pay for your name and riches. All that I can wish you is
that you lose as little of yourself as possible in the days that lie
"I thank you," she answered quietly. "You will let me know when you
are ready to take me back."
"Have I offended you?" he asked, as they rose from the table. "I am
clumsy, I know, and the words do not come readily to my mouth. But
after all, you must understand."
"Yes," she said sadly, "I do understand."
They went down to the beach and he helped her into the boat. Her
maid sat by her side, and he rowed them across with a few powerful
"Storm and sunshine," he remarked, "follow one another here as
swiftly as in any corner of the world. Yesterday we had wind and
thunder and rain. To-day, look! The sky is cloudless, the birds are
singing everywhere upon the marshes, the waves can do no more than
ripple in upon the sands. Will you walk across the marshes, Miss
Jeanne, or will you come to the village and wait while I send for a
"We will walk," she answered. "It may be for the last time."
The maid fell behind. Andrew and his companion, who seemed smaller
and slimmer than ever by his side, started on their tortuous way,
here and there turning to the right and to the left to follow the
course of some tidal stream, or avoid the swampy places. The faint
odour of wild lavender was mingled with the brackish scent of the
sea. The ground was soft and spongy beneath their feet, and a breeze
as soft as a caress blew in their faces. Up before them always,
gaunt and bare, surrounded by its belts of weather-stricken trees,
stood the Red Hall. Andrew looked toward it gloomily.
"Do you wonder," he asked, "that a man is sometimes depressed who is
born the heir to a house like that, and to fortunes very similar?"
"Are you poor?" she asked him. "I thought perhaps you were, as your
brother tried to make love to me."
He frowned impatiently at her words.
"For Heaven's sake, child," he said, "don't be so cynical! Don't
fancy that every kind word that is spoken to you is spoken for your
wealth. There are sycophants enough in the world, Heaven knows, but
there are men there as well. Give a few the credit of being honest.
Try and remember that you are--"
He looked at her and away again toward the sea.
"That you are," he repeated, "young enough and attractive enough to
win kind words for your own sake."
"Then," she whispered, leaning towards him, "I do not think that I
am very fortunate."
"Why not?" he asked.
"Because," she answered, "one person who might say kind things to
me, and whom my money would never influence a little bit in the
world, does not say them."
"Are you sure," he asked, "that you believe that there is any one in
the world who would be content to take you without a penny?"
She shook her head.
"Not that," she said sadly. "I am not what you call conceited enough
for that, but I would like to believe that I might have a kind word
or two on my own account."
She tried hard to see his face, but he kept it steadfastly turned
away. She sighed. Only a few yards behind the maid was walking.
"Mr. Andrew," she said, "it was you whom I meant. Won't you say
something nice to me for my own sake?"
They were nearing the Hall now, and it seemed natural enough that he
should hold her hand for a minute in his.
"I will tell you," he said quietly, "that your coming has been a
pleasure, and your going will be a pain, and I will tell you that
you have left an empty place that no one else can fill. You have
made what our people here call the witch music upon the marshes for
me, so that I shall never walk here again as long as I live without
hearing it and thinking of you."
"Is that all?" she whispered.
He pretended not to hear her.
"I am nearly double your age," he said, "and I have lived an idle,
perhaps a worthless, life. I have done no harm. My talents, if I
have any, have certainly been buried. If I had met you out in the
world, your world, well, I might have taught myself to forget--"
He broke off abruptly in his sentence. Cecil stood before them,
suddenly emerged from the hand-gate leading into the Hall gardens.
"At last!" he exclaimed, taking Jeanne by the hands. "The Princess
is distracted. We have all been distracted. How could you make us so
She drew her hands away coldly.
"I fancy that my stepmother," she said, "will have survived my
absence. I was caught in a storm. I expect that your brother has
already told you about it."
He looked from one to the other.
"So you have told her, Andrew," he said simply.
Andrew nodded. The three walked up toward the house in somewhat
constrained silence. She was trying her hardest to make Andrew look
at her, and he was trying his hardest to resist. The Princess came
out to them. The morning was warm, and she was wearing a white
wrapper. Her toilette was not wholly completed, but she was
"My dear Jeanne," she cried, "you have nearly sent us mad with
anxiety. How could you wander off like that!"
Jeanne stood a little apart. She avoided the Princess' hands. She
stood upon the soft turf with her hands clasped, her cheeks very
pale, her eyes bright with some inward excitement.
"Do you wish me to answer that question?" she said.
The Princess stared.
"What do you mean, my child?" she exclaimed.
"You ask me," Jeanne said, "why I went wandering off into the
marshes. I will tell you. It is because I am unhappy. It is because
I do not like the life into which you have brought me, nor the
people with whom we live. I do not like late hours, supper parties
and dinner parties, dances where half the people are bourgeois, and
where all the men make stupid love to me. I do not like the shops,
the vulgar shop people, fashionable clothes, and fashionable
promenading. I am tired of it already. If I am rich, why may I not
buy the right to live as I choose?"
The Princess rarely allowed herself to show surprise. At this
moment, however, she was completely overcome.
"What is it you want, then, child?" she demanded.
"I should like," Jeanne answered, "to buy Mr. De la Borne's house
upon the island, and live there, with just a couple of maids, and my
books. I should like some friends, of course, but I should like to
find them for myself, amongst the country people, people whom I
could trust and believe in, not people whose clothes and manners and
speech are all hammered out into a type, and whose real self is so
deeply buried that you cannot tell whether they are honest or
rogues. That is what I should like, stepmother, and if you wish to
earn my gratitude, that is how you will let me live."
The Princess stared at the child as though she were a lunatic.
"Jeanne," she exclaimed weakly, "what has become of you?"
"Nothing," Jeanne answered, "only you asked me a question, and I
felt an irresistible desire to answer you truthfully. It would have
come sooner or later."
Andrew turned slowly toward the girl, who stood looking at her
stepmother with flushed cheeks and quivering lips.
"Miss Le Mesurier," he said, "on one condition I will sell you the
island, but on only one."
"And that is?" she asked.
The Princess recovered herself just in time, and sailed in between
"Mr. De la Borne," she said, "my daughter is too young for such
conversations. For two years she is under my complete guidance. She
must obey me just as though she were ten years older and married,
and I her husband. The law has given me absolute control over her.
You understand that yourself, don't you, Jeanne?"
"Yes," Jeanne answered quietly, "I understand."
"Go indoors, please," the Princess said. "I have something to say to
Mr. De la Borne."
"And I, too," Jeanne said. "Let me stay and say it. I will not be
The Princess pointed toward the door.
"I will not have it," she said coldly. "Cecil, take my daughter
indoors. I insist upon it."
She turned away unwillingly. The Princess took Andrew by the arm and
led him to a more distant seat.
"Now, if you please, my dear Mr. Andrew," she said, "will you tell
me what it is that you have done to my foolish little girl?"
The Princess arranged her skirts so that they drooped gracefully,
and turned upon her companion with one of those slow mysterious
smiles, which many people described but none could imitate.
"Mr. De la Borne," she said, "I can talk to you as I could not talk
to your brother, because you are an older and a wiser man. You may
not have seen much of the world, but you are at any rate not a young
idiot like Cecil. Will you listen to me, please?"
"It seems to me," Andrew answered drily, "that I am already doing
"I am not going to ask you," she continued, "whether you are in love
with my little girl or not, because the whole thing is too
ridiculous. I have no doubt that she has some sort of a fancy for
you. It is evident that she has. I want you to remember that she is
fresh from school, that as yet she has not entered life, and that a
few months ago she did not know a man from a gate-post."
"An admirable simile," Andrew murmured.
"What I want you to understand is," the Princess continued, "that as
yet she cannot possibly be in a position to make up her mind as to
her future. She has seen nothing of the world, and what she has seen
has been the least favourable side. She has a perfectly enormous
fortune, so ridiculously tied up that although I am never out of
debt and always borrowing money, I cannot touch a penny of it, not
even with her help. Very soon she will be of age, and the amount of
her fortune will be known. I can assure you that it will be a
surprise to every one."
Andrew bowed his head indifferently.
"Very possibly," he answered, "and yet, madam, if your daughter has
the wisdom to see that the matter of her wealth is after all but a
trifle amongst the conditions which make for happiness, why should
you deny her the benefits of that wisdom?"
"My dear friend," she continued earnestly, "for this reason--because
Jeanne to-day is too young to choose for herself. She has not got
over that sickly sentimental age, when a girl makes a hero of
anything unusual in the shape of a man, and finds a sort of
unwholesome satisfaction in making sacrifices for his sake. It may
be that Jeanne may, after all, look to what you call the simple life
for happiness. Well, if she does that after a year or so, well and
good. But she shall not do so with my consent, without indeed my
downright opposition, until she has had an opportunity of testing
both sides, of weighing the matter thoroughly from every point of
view. Do you not agree with me, Mr. De la Borne?"
"You speak reasonably, madam," he assented.
"Jeanne," she continued, "has perhaps charmed you a little. She is,
after all, just now a child of nature. She is something of an
artist, too. Beautiful places and sights and sounds appeal to her.
"She is ready, with her imperfect experience, to believe that there
is nothing greater or better worth cultivating in life. But I want
you to consider the effects of heredity. Jeanne comes from restless,
brilliant people. Her mother was a leader of society, a pleasure-
loving, clever, unscrupulous woman. Her father was a financier and a
diplomat, many-sided, versatile, but with as complex a disposition
as any man I ever met. Jeanne will ripen as the years go on;
something of her mother, something of her father will appear. It is
my place, knowing these things, to see that she does not make a
fatal mistake. All that I say to you, Mr. De la Borne, is to let her
go, to give her her chance, to let her see with both eyes before she
does anything irremediable. I think that I may almost appeal to you,
as a reasonable man and a gentleman, to help me in this."
Andrew de la Borne looked out through the wizened branches of his
stunted trees, to the white-flecked sea rolling in below. The
Princess was right. He knew that she was right. Those other thoughts
were little short of madness. Jeanne was no coquette at heart, but
she was a child. She had great responsibilities. She was turned into
the world with a heavy burden upon her shoulders. It was not he or
any man who could help her. She must fight her own battle, win or
lose her own happiness. A few years' time might see her the wife of
a great statesman or a great soldier, proud and happy to feel
herself the means by which the man she loved might climb one step
higher upon the great ladder of fame. How like a child's dream these
few days upon the marshes, talking to one who was no more than a
looker-on at the great things of life, must seem! He could imagine
her thinking of them with a shiver as she remembered her escape. The
Princess was right, she was very right indeed. He rose to his feet.
"Madam," he said, "I have not pretended to misunderstand you. I
think that you have spoken wisely. Your stepdaughter must solve for
herself the great riddle. It is not for any one of us to handicap
her in her choice while she is yet a child."
"You are going, Mr. De la Borne?" she asked.
He pointed to a brown-sailed fishing-boat passing slowly down from
the village toward the sea.
"That is one of my boats," he said. "I shall signal to her from the
island to call for me. I need a change, and she is going out into
the North Sea for five weeks' fishing."
The Princess held out her hand, and Andrew took it in his.
"You are a man," she said. "I wish there were more of your sort in
the world where I live."
The Princess stood for a moment on the edge of the lawn, watching
Andrew's tall figure as he strode across the marsh toward the
village. Never once did he look back or hesitate on his swift,
vigorous way. Then she sighed a little and turned away toward the
house. After all, this was a man, although he was so far removed
from the type she knew and understood.
Cecil was walking restlessly up and down the hall when she entered.
He drew her eagerly into the library.
"Look here," he said, "Forrest declares that he is going. He is
upstairs now packing his things."
"Your brother," the Princess answered, "scarcely left him much
"That's all very well," Cecil answered, "but if he goes I go. I am
not going to be left here alone."
The Princess looked at him, and the colour came into his cheeks. It
is never well for a man when he sees such a look upon a woman's
"It isn't that I'm afraid," Cecil declared. "I can stand any
ordinary danger, but I am not going to be left shut up here alone,
with the whole responsibility upon me. I couldn't do it. It wouldn't
be fair to ask me."
"There is no fresh news, I suppose?" the Princess asked.
"None," Cecil answered gloomily. "If only we could see our way to
the end of it, I shouldn't mind."
The Princess was thoughtful for a few moments.
"Well," she said, "I don't know, after all, if Forrest need go just
yet. Your brother has made up his mind to go fishing for several
weeks. I think that he is going to start to-day."
"Do you mean it?" Cecil exclaimed, incredulously.
The Princess nodded.
"He has been philandering with Jeanne," she said, "and his
magnificent conscience is taking him out into the North Sea."
Cecil's features relaxed. After all, though he played at maturity,
he was little more than a boy.
"Fancy old Andrew!" he exclaimed. "Gone on a child like Miss Jeanne,
too! Well, anyhow, that makes it all right about Forrest staying,
"He shall stop," the Princess answered slowly. "Jeanne and I will
stay, too, until Monday. Perhaps by that time--"
"By that time," Cecil repeated, "something may have happened."
His Grace the Duke of Westerham stepped forward from the hearthrug,
in the middle of which he had been standing, and held out both his
hands. His lips were parted in a smile, and there was a twinkle in
"My dear Andrew," he exclaimed, "it is delightful to see you. You
seem to bring the salt of the North Sea into our frowsy city."
Andrew grasped his friend's hands.
"I have been fishing with some of my men for three weeks," he said,
"off the Dogger Bank. The salt does cling to one, you know, and I
suppose I am as black as a nigger."
The Duke sighed a little.
"My dear Andrew," he said, "you make one wonder whether it is worth
while to count for anything at all in the world. You represent the
triumph of physical fitness. You could break me, or a dozen like me,
in your hands. You know what the faddists of the moment say? They
declare that brains and genius have had their day--that the greatest
man in the world nowadays is the strongest."
Andrew smiled as he settled down in the armchair which his friend
had wheeled towards him.
"You do not believe in your own doctrines," he remarked. "You would
not part with a tenth part of your brains for all my muscle."
The Duke paused to think.
"It is not only the muscle," he said. "It is this appearance of
splendid physical perfection. You have but to show yourself in a
London drawing-room, and you will establish a cult. Do you want to
be worshipped, friend Andrew--to wear a laurel crown, and have
beautiful ladies kneeling at your feet?"
"Chuck it!" Andrew remarked good humouredly. "I didn't come here to
be chaffed. I came here on a serious mission."
The Duke nodded.
"It must indeed have been serious," he said, "for you to have had
your hair cut and your beard trimmed, and to have attired yourself
in the garments of civilization. You are the last man whom I should
have expected to have seen in a coat which might have been cut by
Poole, if it wasn't, and wearing patent boots."
"Jolly uncomfortable they are," Andrew remarked, looking at them.
"However, I didn't want to be turned away from your doors, and I
still have a few friends in town whom I daren't disgrace. Honestly,
Berners, I came up to ask you something."
The Duke was sympathetic but silent.
"Well?" he remarked encouragingly.
"The fact is," Andrew continued, "I wonder whether you could help me
to get something to do. We have decided to let the Red Hall, Cecil
and I. The rents have gone down to nothing, and altogether things
are pretty bad with us. I don't know that I'm good for anything. I
don't see, to tell you the truth, exactly what place there is in the
world that I could fill. Nevertheless, I want to do something. I
love the villager's life, but after all there are other things to be
considered. I don't want to become quite a clod."
The Duke produced a cigar box, passed it to Andrew, and deliberately
lighted a cigar himself.
"Friend Andrew," he said, "you have set me a puzzle. You have set me
a good many since I used to run errands for you at Eton, but I think
that this is the toughest."
"You'll think your way through it, if any one can," he remarked. "I
don't expect anything, of course, that would enable me to afford
cigars like this, but I'd be glad to find some work to do, and I'd
be glad to be paid something for it."
The Duke was silent for a moment. He looked down at his cigar and
then suddenly up again.
"Has that young idiot of a brother of yours been making a fool of
himself?" he asked.
"Cecil is never altogether out of trouble," Andrew answered drily.
"He seems to have taken bridge up with rather unfortunate results,
and there were some other debts which had to be paid, but we needn't
talk about those. The point is that we're jolly well hard up for a
year or two. He's got to work, and so have I. If it wasn't for
looking after him, I should go to Canada to-morrow."
"D----d young idiot!" the Duke muttered. "He's spent his own money
and yours too, I suppose. Never mind, the money's gone."
"It isn't only the money," Andrew interrupted. "The fact is, I'm not
altogether satisfied, as I told you before, with living just for
sport. I'm not a prejudiced person. I know that there are greater
things in the world, and I don't want to lose sight of them
altogether. We De la Bornes have contributed poets and soldiers and
sailors and statesmen to the history of our country, for many
generations. I don't want to go down to posterity as altogether a
drone. Of course, I'm too late for anything really worth doing. I
know that just as well as you can tell me. At the same time I want
to do something, and I would rather not go abroad, at any rate to
stay. Can you suggest anything to me? I know it's jolly difficult,
but you were always one of those sort of fellows who seem to see
round the corner."
"Do you want a permanent job?" the Duke asked. "Or would a temporary
one fit you up for a time?"
"A temporary one would be all right, if it was in my line," Andrew
"We've got to send three delegates to a convention to be held at The
Hague in a fortnight's time, for the revision of the International
Fishing laws," the Duke remarked. "Could you take that on?"
"I should think so," Andrew answered. "I've been out with the men
from our part of the world since I was a child, and I know pretty
well all that there is to be known on our side about it. What is the
"There are at least a dozen points to be considered," the Duke
answered. "I'll send you the papers to any address you like, to-
morrow. They're at my office now in Downing Street. Look 'em
through, and see whether you think you could take it on. I have two
men already appointed, but they are both lawyers, and I wanted some
one who knew more about the practical side of it."
"I should think," Andrew remarked, "that this is my job down to the
ground. What's the fee?"
"The fee's all right," the Duke answered. "You won't grumble about
that, I promise you. You'll get a lump sum, and so much a day, but
the whole thing, of course, will be over in a fortnight. What to do
with you after that I can't for the moment think."
"We may hit upon something," Andrew said cheerfully. "What are you
doing for lunch? Will you come round to the 'Travellers' with me?
It's the only London club I've kept going, but I dare say we can get
something fit to eat there."
"I'm jolly sure of it," the Duke answered, "but while you're in
London you're going to do your lunching with me. We'll go to the
Athenaeum and show these sickly-looking scholars and bishops what a
man should look like. It's almost time for luncheon, isn't it?"
"Past," Andrew answered. "It was half-past twelve when I got here."
"Then we will leave at once," the Duke declared. "I have nothing to
do this morning, fortunately. You don't care about driving, I know.
We'll walk. It isn't half a mile."
They turned into the street together.
"By the by," the Duke asked, "what has become of your brother's
friends? I mean the little party that we broke into so
"The Princess and Miss Le Mesurier are, I believe, in London,"
Andrew answered. "I was very surprised to hear this morning that
Forrest was still down at the Red Hall with Cecil. By the by, Ronald
has turned up again, of course?"
The Duke hesitated for so long that Andrew turned towards him, and
noticed for the first time the anxious lines in his face.
"Since the day he left the Red Hall," the Duke said, "Ronald has
neither been seen nor heard from. I forgot that you had been outside
civilization for nearly a month. Although I have tried hard, I have
not been able to keep the affair altogether out of the papers."
Andrew was thunderstruck.
"Good God!" he exclaimed. "Why, Berners, this is one of the
strangest things I ever heard of. What are you doing about it?"
"I am employing detectives," the Duke answered. "I do not see what
else I could do. They have been down to the Red Hall. In fact I
believe one of them is still in the vicinity. Your brother's story
as to his departure seems to be quite in order, although no one at
the railway station is able to remember his travelling by that
train. They seem to remember the car, however, which is practically
the same thing, and several people saw Major Forrest bringing it
back early in the morning."
"Did any one," Andrew asked slowly, "see Lord Ronald in the car on
his way to the station?"
"Not a soul," the Duke answered.
Andrew was honestly perplexed. Jeanne's statement that she had seen
Forrest leaving the Red Hall with the car empty except for himself,
he had never regarded seriously. Even now he could only conclude
that she had been mistaken.
"Have any large cheques been presented against your brother's
account?" he asked.
The Duke shook his head.
"Not one," he answered.
"Have the detectives any clue at all?"
"Not the ghost of one," the Duke answered. "Ronald had a few
harmless little entanglements, but absolutely nothing that could
have proved of any anxiety to him. He had several engagements during
the last ten days which I know that he meant to keep. Something must
have happened to him, God knows when or where! But here we are at
the club. Andrew, I see that you have no umbrella, so I need not
repeat the old joke about the bishops."
"What a selfish fellow I am!" Andrew remarked, as they seated
themselves at a small table in the luncheon room. "Here have I been
bothering you about my affairs, and all the time you have had this
thing on your mind. Berners, I want you to tell me something."
"Go ahead," the Duke answered.
"Have you any idea in your head that Ronald has come to any harm at
the Red Hall?"
The Duke shook his head.
"No!" he answered decidedly. "Frankly, if he had been there with
Forrest alone, that would have been my first idea, but with your
brother there, and the Princess, it is impossible to suspect
anything, even if one knew what to suspect. The only possible clue
as to his disappearance which is connected in any way with the Red
Hall is that I understand he was paying attentions to Miss Le
Mesurier, which she was disinclined to accept."
"I think," he said, "that is probable."
"On the other hand," the Duke continued, "Ronald isn't in the least
the sort of man to make away with himself or hide, because a girl,
whom he could not have known very well, refused to marry him."
"Have you seen anything of the Princess in town?" Andrew asked, a
"I met her with her stepdaughter at Hereford House last night," the
Duke answered. "The Princess was looking as brilliant as ever, but
the little girl was pale and bored. She had a dozen men around her,
and not a smile for one of them. Dull little thing, I should think."
Andrew said nothing. He was looking out of the window upon Pall
Mall, but his eyes saw a little sandy hillock with blades of
sprouting grass. Behind, the lavender-streaked marsh; in front, the
yellow sands and the rippling sea. The sun seemed to warm his
cheeks, the salt wind blew in his face. Westerham wondered for a
moment what his friend saw in the grey flagged street to bring that
faint reminiscent smile to his lips.
A messenger from the hall outside came in, and respectfully
addressed the Duke.
"Your Grace is wanted upon the telephone," he announced.
The Duke excused himself. He was absent only for a few minutes, and
when he returned and took his place he leaned over towards Andrew.
"My message was from the detective," he said. "He wants to see me.
In fact, he is coming round here directly."
Cecil came face to face with his brother in the room where
refreshments were being dispensed by solemn-looking footmen and trim
parlour-maids. He stared at him for a moment in surprise.
"What on earth are you doing here, Andrew?" he asked.
"Exactly what I was wondering myself," Andrew answered, setting down
his empty glass. "I met Bellamy Smith this afternoon in Bond Street,
and he asked me to dine, without saying anything about this sort of
show afterwards. By the by, Cecil," he added, "what are you doing in
town? I thought you said that you were not coming up until the late
"No more I am, for any length of time," Cecil answered. "I am up for
the day, back to-morrow. There were one or two things I wanted, and
it was easier to come up and see about them than to write."
"Is Forrest still with you?" Andrew asked.
Cecil hesitated, and his brother had an unpleasant conviction that
for a moment he was uncertain whether to tell the truth or no.
"Yes!" Cecil answered, "he is still there. I know you don't like
him, Andrew, but he really isn't a bad sort, and he's quite a
"Does he play cards with you?" Andrew asked.
"Never even suggested it," Cecil declared eagerly. "Fact is, we're
out shooting all day, duck shooting, or fishing, or motoring, and we
go to bed soon after dinner."
"You can't come to much harm at that," Andrew admitted. "By the by,
do you know that Engleton has never turned up?"
"I have heard so," Cecil admitted. "I am not so surprised."
"Why not?" Andrew asked.
Cecil raised his eyebrows in a superior manner.
"Well," he said, "I know he was very sick about his brother looking
too closely into his concerns. He has a little affair on just now
that he wants to keep to himself, and I think that that is the
reason he went off so quietly."
"His brother is very upset about it," Andrew remarked.
"Oh! the Duke was always a heavy old stick," Cecil answered. "I see
you've been doing your duty to-night," he added, making a determined
effort to change the conversation.
"Do I look so hot?" he asked. "I am not used to these close rooms,
or dancing either. Unfortunately they seem short of men, and Mrs.
Bellamy Smith had me set."
"That's the worst of dining before a dance," he remarked. "You're
pretty well cornered before the crowd comes. Upon my word, old
chap," he added, looking his brother up and down with an air of
kindly patronage, "you don't turn out half badly. Country tailor
"Mind your own business, you young jackanapes," Andrew answered. "Do
you think that no one can wear town clothes except yourself?"
Cecil laughed. After all, considering everything, Andrew was a good-
"By the by," he said, "do you know who is here this evening?"
Andrew demolished another sandwich.
"Every one, I should think," he answered. "I never saw such a crowd
in my life."
"The Princess and Jeanne are here," Cecil said. "I don't suppose we
shall either of us get near them. People are getting to know about
Jeanne's little dot, and they are fairly mobbed everywhere."
Andrew stood for a moment quite still. His first emotion was one of
dismay, and Cecil, noticing it, laughed at him.
"You can go ahead with your little flirtation," he remarked. "I had
quite forgotten that. You needn't consider me. I haven't a chance
with Miss Jeanne. She's too cranky a young person for me. I like
something with a little more go in it."
Cecil drifted away, and Andrew glanced at his card. There were two
dances for which he was still engaged, and he made his way slowly
back to the ballroom. There was a slight block at the entrance, and
he had to stand aside to let several couples pass out. One of the
last of these was Jeanne, on the arm of young Bellamy Smith. Andrew
stood quite still looking at her. He saw her start for a moment as
she recognized him, and her eyes swept him over with a half
incredulous, half startled expression. She drew a little breath. And
then Andrew saw her suddenly and instinctively stiffen. She looked
him in the face and bowed very slightly, without the vestige of a
"How do you do, Mr. De la Borne?" she said as she passed on, without
taking the slightest notice of the hand, which, forgetting where he
was, he had half extended towards her.
Andrew went on into the ballroom, found his partner, and danced with
her. As soon as he could he made his adieux and hurried off to the
cloakroom. His coat was already upon his arm when Cecil discovered
"What are you bolting off for, old man?" he asked.
"I've had enough," Andrew answered. "I can't stand the atmosphere,
and I hate dancing, as you know. See you to-morrow, Cecil. I want to
have a talk with you. I am going away for a few weeks."
"Right oh!" Cecil answered. "But you can't go just yet. Mademoiselle
Le Mesurier sent me for you. She wants to speak to you at once."
"Do you mean this, Cecil?" he asked.
"Of course I do," Cecil answered. "I haven't been rushing about
looking into every corner of the place for nothing. Come along. I'll
take you to where she is."
Andrew handed back his coat and hat to the attendant, and followed
Cecil into the ballroom. In a passage leading to the billiard-room,
where several chairs had been arranged for sitting out, Jeanne was
ensconced, with two men leaning over her. She waved them away when
she saw who it was coming. Without a smile, or the vestige of one,
she motioned to Andrew to take the vacant seat by her side.
"I have executed your commission, Miss Le Mesurier," Cecil said,
bowing before her. "I will claim my reward when we meet again."
He sauntered away, leaving them alone. Jeanne turned at once towards
"I am sorry," she said, "if my sending for you was in any way an
annoyance. I understand, of course, you have made it quite clear to
me, that our little friendship, or whatever you may choose to call
it, is at an end. But I do insist upon knowing what it was that you
and my stepmother were discussing for nearly half an hour in the
gardens of the Red Hall. The truth, mind. You and I should owe one
"We talked of you," he answered. "What other subject can you
possibly imagine your stepmother and I could have in common?"
"That is a good start," she answered. "Now tell me the rest."
"I am not sure," he answered, "that I feel inclined to do that."
She leaned forward and looked at him. Unwillingly he turned his head
to meet her gaze.
"You must tell me, please," she said. "I insist upon knowing."
"Your stepmother," he said, "was perfectly reasonable and very
candid. She reminded me that you were a great heiress, and that as
yet you had seen nothing of the world. I do not know why she thought
it necessary to point this out to me, except that perhaps she
thought that in some mad moment I might have conceived the idea that
"That I?" she repeated softly, as he hesitated.
He set his teeth hard and frowned.
"You know what I mean," he said coldly. "Your stepmother is a clever
woman, and a woman of the world. She takes into account all
contingencies, never mind how improbable they might be. She was
afraid that I might think things were possible between us which
after all must always remain outside serious consideration. She
wanted to warn me. That was all. It was kindness, but I am sure that
it was unnecessary."
"You are not very lucid," she murmured. "It is because I am a great
heiress, then, that you go off fishing for three weeks without
saying good-bye; that you leave our next meeting to happen by chance
in the last place I should have expected to see you? What do you
think of me, Mr. Andrew? Do you imagine that I am of my stepmother's
world, or ever could be? Have the hours we have spent together
taught you nothing different?"
"You are a child," he answered evasively. "You do not know as yet to
what world you will belong. It is as your stepmother said to me.
With your fortune you may marry into one of the great families of
Europe. You might almost take a part in the world's history. It is
not for such as myself to dream of interfering with a destiny such
as yours may be."
"For that reason," she remarked, leaning a little towards him, "you
went fishing in a dirty little boat with those common sailors for
three weeks. For that reason you bow to me when you meet me as
though I were an acquaintance whom you barely remembered. For that
reason, I suppose, you were hurrying away when your brother found
"It was the inevitable thing to do," he answered. "You may think to-
day one thing, but it is for others who are older and wiser than you
to remember that you are only a child, and that you have not
realized yet the place you fill in the world. If it pleases you to
know it, let me tell you that I am very glad indeed that you came to
Salthouse. You have made me think more seriously. You have made me
understand that after all the passing life is short, that idle days
and physical pleasures do not make up the life which is worthiest. I
am going to try other things. For the inspiration which bids me seek
them, I have to thank you."
She touched his great brown hand with the delicate tips of her
"Dear Mr. Andrew," she said, "you are very big and strong and
obstinate. You will have your own way however I may plead. Go, then,
and strike your great blows upon the anvil of life. You say that I
am passing the threshold, that as yet I am ignorant. Very well, I
will make my way in with the throng. I will look about me, and see
what this thing, life, is, and how much more it may mean to me
because I chance to be the possessor of many ill-earned millions.
Before very long we will meet again and compare notes, only I warn
you, Mr. Andrew, that if any change comes, it comes to you. I am one
of the outsiders who has looked into life, and who knows very well
what is there even from across the borders."
He rose at once. To stay there was worse torture than to go.
"So it shall be," he said. "We will each take our draught of
experience, and we will meet again and speak of the flavour of it.
Only remember that whatever may be your lot, hold fast to those
simple things which we have spoken of together, and the darkest days
of all can never come."
She gave him her hand, and flashed a look at him which he was not
likely to forget.
"So!" she said simply. "I shall remember."
The Princess was enjoying a few minutes of well-earned repose. She
had lunched with Jeanne at Ranelagh, where they had been the guests
of a lady who certainly had the right to call herself one of the
leaders of Society. The newspapers and the Princess' confidences to
a few of her friends had done all that was really necessary. Jeanne
was accepted, and the Princess passed in her wake through those
innermost portals which at one time had come perilously near being
closed upon her. She was lying on a sofa in a white negligee gown.
Jeanne had just brought in a pile of letters, mostly invitations.
The Princess glanced them through, and smiled as she tossed them on
"How these people amuse one!" she exclaimed. "Eighteen months ago I
was in London alone, and not a soul came near me. To-day, because I
am the guardian of a young lady whom the world believes to be a
great heiress, people tumble over one another with their invitations
and their courtesies."
Jeanne looked up.
"Why do you say 'believes to be?'" she asked quickly. "I am a great
heiress, am I not?"
The Princess smiled, a slow, enigmatic smile, which might have meant
anything, but which to Jeanne meant nothing at all.
"My dear child," she said, "of course you are. The papers have said
so, Society has believed them. If I were to go out and declare right
and left that you had nothing but a beggarly twenty thousand pounds
or so, I should not find a soul to believe me. Every one would
believe that I was trying to scare them off, to keep you for myself,
or some one of my own choice. Really it is a very odd world!"
Jeanne was looking a little pensive. Her stepmother sometimes
completely puzzled her.
"Who are the trustees of my money?" she asked, a little abruptly.
The Princess raised her eyebrows.
"Bless the child!" she exclaimed. "What do you know about trustees?"
"When I am of age," Jeanne said calmly, "which will happen sometime
or other, I suppose, it will interest me to know exactly how much
money I have and how it is invested."
The Princess looked a little startled.
"My dear Jeanne," she exclaimed, "pray don't talk like that until
after you are married. Your money is being very well looked after.
What I should like you to understand is this. You are going to meet
to-night at dinner the man whom I intend you to marry."
Jeanne raised her eyebrows.
"I had some idea," she murmured, "of choosing a husband for myself."
"Impossible!" the Princess declared. "You have had no experience,
and you are far too important a person to be allowed to think of
such a thing. To-night at dinner you will meet the Count de
Brensault. He is a Belgian of excellent family, quite rich, and very
much attracted by you. I consider him entirely suitable, and I have
advised him to speak to you seriously."
"Thank you," Jeanne said, "but I don't like Belgians, and I do not
mean to marry one."
The Princess laughed, a little unpleasantly.
"My dear child," she said, "you may make a fuss about it, but
eventually you will have to marry whom I say. You must remember that
you are French, not English, and that I am your guardian. If you
want to choose for yourself, you will have to wait three or four
years before the law allows you to do so."
"Then I will wait three or four years," Jeanne answered quietly. "I
have no idea of marrying the Count de Brensault."
The Princess raised herself a little on her couch.
"Child," she said, "you would try any one's patience. Only a month
or so ago you told me that you were quite indifferent as to whom you
might marry. You were content to allow me to select some one
suitable." "A few months," Jeanne answered, "are sometimes a very
long time. My views have changed since then."
"You mean," the Princess said, "that you have met some one whom you
wish to marry?"
"Perhaps so," Jeanne answered. "At any rate I will not marry the
Count de Brensault."
The Princess' face had darkened.
"I do not wish to quarrel with you, Jeanne," she said, "but I think
that you will. Whom else is it that you are thinking of? Is it our
island fisherman who has taken your fancy?"
"Does that matter?" Jeanne answered calmly. "Is it not sufficient if
I say that I will not marry the Count de Brensault."
"No, it is not quite sufficient," the Princess remarked coldly. "You
will either marry the man whom I have chosen, or give me some
definite and clear reason for your refusal."
"One very definite and clear reason," Jeanne remarked, "is that I do
not like the Count de Brensault. I think that he is a noisy,
forward, and offensive young man."
"His income is nearly fifty thousand a year," the Princess remarked,
"so he must be forgiven a few eccentricities of manner."
"His income," Jeanne said, "scarcely matters, does it? If my money
is ever to do anything for me, it should at least enable me to
choose a husband for myself."
"That's where you girls always make such absurd mistakes," the
Princess remarked. "You get an idea or a liking into your mind, and
you hold on to it like wax. You forget that the times may change,
new people may come, the old order of things may pass altogether
away. Suppose, for instance, you were to lose your money?"
"I should not be sorry," Jeanne answered calmly. "I should at least
be sure that I was not any longer an article of merchandise. I could
lead my own life, and marry whom I pleased."
The Princess laughed scornfully.
"Men do not take to themselves penniless brides nowadays," she
"Some men--" Jeanne began.
The Princess interrupted her.
"Bah!" she said. "You are thinking of your island fisherman again. I
see by the papers that he has gone away. He is very wise. He may be
a very excellent person, but the whole world could not hold a less
suitable husband for you."
"Well," she said, "we shall see. I certainly do not think that he
will ever ask me to marry him. He is one of those whom my gold does
not seem to attract."
"He is clumsy," the Princess remarked. "A word of encouragement
would have brought him to your feet."
"If I had thought so," Jeanne remarked, "I would have spoken it."
The Princess looked across at her stepdaughter searchingly.
"Tell me the truth, Jeanne," she said. "Have you been idiot enough
to really care for this man?"
"That," Jeanne answered, "is a subject which I cannot discuss with
any one, not even you."
"It is all very well," the Princess answered, "but whatever happens,
I must see that you do not make an idiot of yourself. It is very
important indeed, for more reasons than you know of."
Jeanne looked up.
"Such as--?" she asked.
The Princess hesitated. There were two evils before her. It was not
possible to escape from both. She found herself weighing the chances
of each of them, their nearness to disaster.
"Well," she said, "great fortunes even like yours are not above the
chances of the money-markets. Your fortune, or a great part of it,
might go. What would happen to you then? You would be a pauper."
"I can see nothing terrifying in that," she answered, "but at the
same time I do not think that a fortune such as mine is a very
"You are right, of course," the Princess said. "You will be one of