Part 4 out of 6
the richest young women in the country. There is nothing to prevent
it. It is a good thing that you have me to look after you."
Jeanne leaned a little forward in her chair, and looked steadfastly
at her stepmother.
"I suppose," she said, "that you are right. You know the world, at
any rate, and you are clever. But often you puzzle me. Why at first
did you want me to marry Major Forrest?"
The Princess' face seemed suddenly to harden.
"I never wished you to," she said coldly. "However, we will not talk
about that. For certain reasons I think that it would be well for
you to be married before you actually come of age. That is why I
have invited the Count de Brensault here to-night."
Jeanne's dark eyes were fixed curiously upon the Princess.
"Sometimes," she said, "I do not altogether understand you. Why
should there be all this nervous haste about my marriage? Do you
know that it would trouble me a great deal more, only that I have
absolutely made up my mind that nothing will induce me to marry any
one whom I do not really care for."
The Princess raised her head, and for a moment the woman and the
girl looked at one another. It was almost a duel--the Princess'
intense, almost threatening regard, and Jeanne's set face and
"My father left me all this money," Jeanne said, "that I might be
happy, not miserable. I am quite determined that I will not ruin my
life before it has commenced. I do not wish to marry at all for
several years. I think that you have brought me into what you call
Society a good deal too soon. I would rather study for a little
time, and try and learn what the best things are that one may get
out of life. I am afraid, from your point of view, that I am going
to be a failure. I do not care particularly about dances, or the
people we have met at them. I think that in another few weeks I
shall be as bored as the most fashionable person in London."
A servant knocked at the door announcing Major Forrest. Jeanne rose
to her feet and passed out by another door. The Princess made no
attempt to stop her.
The Princess looked up with ill-concealed eagerness as Forrest
"Well," she asked, "have you any news?"
Forrest shook his head.
"None," he answered. "I am up for the day only. Cecil will not let
me stay any longer. He was here himself the day before yesterday. We
take it by turns to come away."
"And there is nothing to tell me?" the Princess asked. "No change of
"None," Forrest answered. "It is no good attempting to persuade
ourselves that there is any."
"What are you up for, then?" she asked.
He laughed hardly.
"I am like a diver," he answered, "who has to come to the surface
every now and then for fresh air. Life down at Salthouse is very
nearly the acme of stagnation. Our only excitement day by day is the
danger--and the hope."
"Is Cecil getting braver?" the Princess asked.
"I think that he is, a little," Forrest answered.
The Princess nodded.
"We met him at the Bellamy Smiths'," she said. "It was quite a
reunion. Andrew was there, and the Duke."
Forrest's face darkened.
"Meddling fool," he muttered. "Do you know that there are two
detectives now in Salthouse? They come and go and ask all manner of
questions. One of them pretends that he believes Engleton was
drowned, and walks always on the beach and hires boatmen to explore
the creeks. The other sits in the inn and bribes the servants with
drinks to talk. But don't let's talk about this any longer. How is
"We are going," the Princess said quietly, "to have trouble with
"Why?" Forrest asked.
"She is developing a conscience," the Princess remarked. "Where she
got it from, Heaven knows. It wasn't from her father. I can answer
"Anything else?" Forrest asked.
"It is a curious thing," the Princess replied, "but ever since those
few days down at that tumbledown old place of Cecil de la Borne's,
she seems to have developed in a remarkable manner. I don't know how
much nonsense she talked with that fisherman of hers, but some of
it, at any rate, seems to have stuck. I am sure," she added, with a
little sigh, "that we are going to have trouble."
Forrest smiled grimly.
"So far as I'm concerned," he remarked, "the trouble has arrived.
I've a good mind to chuck it altogether."
The Princess looked up. Worn though her face was, she possessed one
feature, her eyes, which still entitled her to be called a beautiful
woman. She looked at Forrest steadily, and he felt himself growing
uncomfortable before the contempt of her steady regard.
"I wonder how it is," she said pensively, "that all men are more or
less cowards. You shield yourselves by speaking of an attack of
nerves. It is nothing more nor less than cowardice."
"I believe you are right," Forrest assented. "I'm not the man I
"You are not," the Princess agreed. "It is well for you that you
have had me to look after you, or you would have gone to pieces
altogether. You talk of giving up cards and retiring to the
Continent. My dear man, what do you propose to live on?"
He did not answer. He had bullied this woman for a good many years.
Now he felt that the tables were being turned upon him.
"What has become of the De la Borne money?" she asked. "I never
thought that you would get it, but he paid up every cent, didn't
"He did," he admitted, "or rather his brother did for him. I lost
four hundred at Goodwood, and there were some of my creditors I
simply had to give a little to, or they would have pulled me up
altogether. You talk about nerves, Ena, but, hang it all, it's
enough to give anyone the hum to lead the sort of life I've had to
lead for the last few years. I'm nothing more nor less than a common
"Whatever you are," the Princess answered steadily, "you are too old
to change your life or the manner of it. One can start again afresh
on the other side of forty, but at fifty the thing is hopeless.
Fortunately you have me."
"You!" he repeated bitterly. "You mean that I can dip into your
purse for pocket-money when you happen to have any. I have done too
much of it. You forget that there is one way into a new world, at
The Princess smiled.
"My dear Nigel," she said, "it is a way which you will never take.
Don't think I mean to be unkind when I say that you have not the
courage. However, we will not talk about that. I sent for you to
tell you that De Brensault is really in earnest about Jeanne. He is
dining here to-night. I will get some other people and we will have
bridge. De Brensault is conceited, and a bad player, and what is
most important of all, he can afford to lose."
Forrest began to look a little less gloomy.
"You were fortunate," he remarked, "to get hold of De Brensault.
There are not many of his sort about. I am afraid, though, that he
will not make much of an impression upon Jeanne."
The Princess' face hardened.
"If Jeanne is going to be obstinate," she said, "she must suffer for
it. De Brensault is just the man I have been looking for. He wants a
young wife, and although he is rich, he is greedy. He is the sort of
person I can talk to. In fact I have already given him a hint."
Forrest nodded understandingly.
"But, Ena," he said, "if he really does shell out, won't you be
sailing rather close to the wind?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"I am not afraid," she said. "I know De Brensault and his sort. If
he feels that he has been duped, he will keep it to himself. He is
too vain a man to allow the world to know it. Poor Jeanne! I am
afraid, I am very much afraid that he will take it out of her."
"I do not quite see," Forrest said reflectively, "how you are going
to make Jeanne marry any one, especially in this country."
"Jeanne is French, not English," the Princess remarked, "and she is
not of age. A mother has considerable authority legally, as I dare
say you are aware. We may not be able to manage it in England, but I
think I can guarantee that if De Brensault doesn't disappoint us,
the wedding will take place."
Forrest helped himself to a cigarette from an open box by his side.
"I think," he said, "that if it comes off we ought to go to the
States for a year or so. They don't know us so well there, and those
people are the easiest duped of any in the world."
The Princess nodded.
"I have thought of that," she remarked. "There are only one or two
little things against it. However, we will see. You had better go
now. I have some callers coming and must make myself respectable."
She gave him her hands and he raised them to his lips. Her eyes
followed him as he turned away and left the room. For a few moments
she was thoughtful. Then she shrugged her shoulders.
"Well," she said, "all things must come to an end, I suppose."
She rang the bell and sent for Jeanne. It was ten minutes, however,
before she appeared.
"What have you been doing?" the Princess asked with a frown.
"Finishing some letters," Jeanne answered calmly. "Did you want me
"To whom were you writing?" the Princess demanded.
"To Monsieur Laplanche for one person," Jeanne answered calmly.
The Princess raised her eyebrows.
"And what had you," she asked, "to say to Monsieur Laplanche?"
"I have written to ask him a few particulars concerning my fortune,"
"Such as?" the Princess inquired steadily.
"I want to know," Jeanne said, "at what age it becomes my own, and
how much it amounts to. It seems to me that I have a right to know
these things, and as you will not tell me, I have written to
The Princess held out her hand.
"Give me the letter," she said.
Jeanne made no motion to obey.
"Do you object to my writing?" she asked.
"I object," the Princess said, "to your writing anybody on any
subject without my permission, and so far as regards the information
you have asked for from Monsieur Laplanche, I will tell you all that
you want to know."
"I prefer," Jeanne said steadily, "to hear it from Monsieur
Laplanche himself. There are times when you say things which I do
not understand. I have quite made up my mind that I will have things
made plain to me by my trustee."
The Princess was outwardly calm, but her eyes were like steel.
"You are a foolish child," she said. "I am your guardian. You have
nothing whatever to do with your trustees. They exist to help me,
not you. Everything that you wish to know you must learn from me. It
is not until you are of age that any measure of control passes from
me. Give me that letter."
Jeanne hesitated for a moment. Then she turned toward the door.
"No!" she said. "I am going to post it."
The Princess rose from her chair, and crossing the room locked the
"Jeanne," she said, "come here."
The girl hesitated. In the end she obeyed. The Princess reached out
her hand and struck her on the cheek.
"Give me that letter," she commanded.
Jeanne shrank back. The suddenness of the blow, its indignity, and
these new relations which it seemed designed to indicate, bewildered
her. She stood passive while the Princess took the letter from her
fingers and tore it into pieces. Then she unlocked the door.
"Go to your room, Jeanne," she ordered.
Jeanne heard the sound of people ascending the stairs, and this time
she did not hesitate. The Princess drew a little breath and looked
at the fragments of the letter in the grate. It was victory of a
sort, but she realized very well that the ultimate issue was more
doubtful than ever. In her room Jeanne would have time for
reflection. If she chose she might easily decide upon the one step
which would be irretrievable.
The Count de Brensault was a small man, with a large pale face.
There were puffy little bags under his eyes, from which the colour
had departed. His hair, though skilfully arranged, was very thin at
the top, and his figure had the lumpiness of the man who has never
known any sort of athletic training. He looked a dozen years older
than his age, which was in reality thirty-five, and for the last ten
years he had been a constant though cautious devotee of every form
of dissipation. Jeanne, who sat by his side at dinner-time, found
herself looking at him more than once in a sort of fascinated
wonder. Was it really possible that any one could believe her
capable of marrying such a creature! There were eight people at
dinner, in none of whom she was in the least interested. The Count
de Brensault talked a good deal, and very loudly. He spoke of his
horses and his dogs and his motor cars, but he omitted to say that
he had ceased to ride his horses, and that he never drove his motor
car. Jeanne listened to him in quiet contempt, and the Princess
fidgetted in her chair. The man ought to know that this was not the
way to impress a child fresh from boarding-school!
"You seem," Jeanne remarked, after listening to him almost in
silence for a long time, "to give most of your time to sports. Do
you play polo?"
He shook his head.
"I am too heavy," he said, "and the game, it is a little dangerous."
"Do you hunt?" she asked.
"No!" he admitted. "In Belgium we do not hunt."
"Do you race with your motor cars?"
"I entered one," he answered, "for the Prix des Ardennes. It was the
third. My driver, he was not very clever."
"You did not drive it yourself, then?" she asked.
He laughed in a superior manner.
"I do not wish," he said, "to have a broken neck. There are so many
things in life which I still find very pleasant."
He smiled at her in a knowing manner, and Jeanne looked away to hide
"Your interest in sport," she remarked, "seems to be a sort of
second-hand one, does it not?"
"I do not know that," he answered. "I do not know quite what you
mean. At Ostend last year I won the great sweepstakes."
"For shooting pigeons?" she asked.
"So!" he admitted, with content.
"I see that I must beg your pardon," she said. "Have you ever done
any big game shooting?"
He shook his head.
"I do not like to travel very much," he answered. "I do not like the
cooking, and I think that my tastes are what you would call very
The Princess intervened. She felt that it was necessary at any cost
to do so.
"The Count," she told Jeanne, "has just been elected a member of the
Four-in-Hand Club here. If we are very nice to him he will take us
out in his coach."
"As soon," De Brensault interposed hastily, "as I have found another
team not quite so what you call spirited. My black horses are very
beautiful, but I do not like to drive them. They pull very hard, and
they always try to run away."
The Princess sighed. The man, after all, was really a little
hopeless. She saw clearly that it was useless to try and impress
Jeanne. The affair must take its course. Afterwards in the drawing-
room the Count came and sat by Jeanne's side.
"Always," he declared, "in England it is bridge. One dines with
one's friends, and one would like to talk for a little time, and it
is bridge. It must be very dull for you little girls who are not old
enough to play. There is no one left to talk to you."
"Perhaps," she said, "I am an exception. There are very few people
whom I care to have talk to me."
She looked him in the eyes, but he was unfortunately a very spoilt
young man, and he only stroked the waxed tip of a scanty moustache.
"I am very glad to hear you say so, mademoiselle," he said. "That
makes it the more pleasant that your excellent mother gives me one
quarter of an hour's respite from bridge that we may have a little
conversation. Have you ever been in my country, Miss Le Mesurier?"
"I have only travelled through it," Jeanne answered; "but I am
afraid that you did not understand what I meant just now. I said
that there were very few people with whom I cared to talk. You are
not one of those few, Monsieur le Comte."
He looked at her with a half-open mouth. His eyes were suddenly like
"I do not understand," he said.
"I am afraid," Jeanne answered, with a sigh, "that you are very
unintelligent. What I meant to say was that I do not like to sit
here and talk with you. It wearies me, because you do not say
anything that interests me, and I should very much rather read my
The Count de Brensault was nonplussed. He looked at Jeanne, and he
looked vaguely across the room at the Princess, as though wondering
whether he ought to appeal to her.
"Have I offended you?" he asked. "Perhaps I have said something that
you do not like. I am sorry."
"No, it is not that at all," Jeanne answered sweetly. "It is simply
that I do not like you. You must not mind if I tell you the truth.
You see I have only just come from boarding-school, and there we
were always taught to be quite truthful."
De Brensault stared at her again. This was the most extraordinary
young woman whom he had ever met in his life. Had not the Princess
only an hour ago told him that although he might find her a little
difficult at first, she was nevertheless prepared to receive his
advances. He had imagined himself dazzling her a little with his
title and possessions, gracefully throwing the handkerchief at her
feet, and giving her that slight share in his life and affection
which his somewhat continental ideas of domesticity suggested. Had
she really meant to be rude to him, or was she nervous? He looked at
her once more, still with that unintelligent stare. Jeanne was
perfectly composed, with her pale cheeks and large serious eyes. She
was obviously speaking the truth. Then as he looked the expression
in his eyes changed. She was gradually becoming desirable, not only
on account of her youth and dowry--there were other things. He felt
a sudden desire to kiss those very shapely, somewhat full lips,
which had just told him so calmly that their owner disliked him.
Already he was telling himself in his mind that some day, when she
was his altogether, for a plaything or what he chose to make of her,
he would remind her of this evening.
"I am sorry," he said, "that you do not like me, but that is because
you are not used to men. Presently you will know me better, and then
I am sure it will be different. As for you," he continued, looking
at her in a manner which he felt should certainly awaken some
different feeling in her inexperienced heart, "I admire you very
much indeed. I have seen you only once or twice, but I have thought
of you much. Some day I hope that we shall be very much better
He leaned a little toward her, and Jeanne calmly removed herself a
little further away. She turned her head now to look at him, as she
sat upright upon the sofa, very slim and graceful in her white gown.
"I do not think so," she said. "I do not care about being friendly
with people whom I dislike, and I am beginning to dislike you very
much indeed because you will not go away when I ask you."
He rose to his feet a little offended.
"Very well," he said, "I will go and talk to your stepmother, who
wants me to play bridge, but very soon I shall come back, and before
long I think that I am going to make you like me very much."
He crossed the room, and Jeanne's eyes followed his awkward gait
with a sudden flash of quiet amusement. She watched him talk to her
stepmother, and she saw the Princess' face darken. As a matter of
fact De Brensault felt that he had some just cause for complaint.
"Dear Princess," he said, "you did not tell me that she was so very
farouche, so very shy indeed. I speak to her quite kindly, and she
tells me that she does not like me, and that she wished me to go
The Princess looked across the room towards Jeanne, who was calmly
reading, and apparently oblivious of everything that was passing.
"My dear Count," she said, tapping his hand with her fan, "she is
very, very serious. She would like to have been a nun, but of course
we would not hear of it. I think that she was a little afraid of
you. You looked at her very boldly, you know, and she is not used to
the glances of men. At her age, perhaps--you understand?"
The Count was not quite sure that he did understand. He had a most
unpleasant recollection of the firmness and decision with which
Jeanne had announced her views with regard to him, but he looked
towards her again and the look was fatal. Jeanne was certainly a
most desirable young person, quite apart from her dowry.
"It may be as you say, Princess," he said. "I must leave her to you
for a little time. You must talk to her. She is quite pretty," he
added with an involuntary note of condescension in his tone. "I am
very pleased with her. In fact I am quite attracted."
"You will remember," the Princess said, dropping her voice a little,
"that before anything definite is said, you and I must have a little
De Brensault twirled his moustache. He looked up at the Princess as
though trying to fathom the meaning of her words.
"Certainly," he answered slowly. "I have not forgotten what you
said. Of course, her dot is very large, is it not?"
"It is very large indeed," the Princess answered, "and there are a
great many young men who would be very grateful to me indeed if I
were willing even to listen to them."
De Brensault nodded.
"Very well," he said. "We will have that little talk whenever you
The Princess nodded.
"I suppose," she said, "we must play bridge now. They are waiting
De Brensault looked behind to where Jeanne was still sitting
reading. Her head was resting upon a sofa pillow, deep orange
coloured, against which the purity of her complexion, the delicate
lines of her eyebrows, the shapeliness of her exquisite mouth, were
all more than ever manifest. She read with interest, and without
turning her head away from the pages of the book which she held in
long, slender fingers. De Brensault sighed as he turned away.
"Certainly," he said. "We will go and play bridge. But I will tell
you what it is, my dear Princess. I think I am very near falling in
love with your little stepdaughter."
Forrest crossed the room and waited his opportunity until the
Princess was alone.
"Let me take you somewhere," he said. "I want to talk to you."
She laid her fingers upon his arm, and they walked slowly away from
the crowded part of the ballroom.
"So you are up again," she remarked looking at him curiously. "Does
"It means nothing, worse luck," he answered, "except that I have
twenty-four hours' leave. I am off back again at eight o'clock to-
morrow morning. Tell me about this De Brensault affair. How is it
"Well enough on his side," she answered. "The amusing part of it is
that the more Jeanne snubs him, the keener he gets. He sends roses
and chocolates every day, and positively haunts the house. I never
was so tired of any one."
"Make him your son-in-law quickly," he said grimly. "You'll see
little enough of him then."
"I'm not sure," the Princess said reflectively, "whether it is quite
wise to hurry Jeanne so much."
"Wise or not," Forrest said, "it must be done. Even supposing the
other affair comes out all right, London is getting impossible for
me. I don't know who's at the bottom of it, but people have stopped
sending me invitations, and even at my pothouse of a club the men
seem to have as little to say to me as possible. Some one's at work
spreading reports of some sort or another. I am not over sensitive,
but the thing's becoming an impossibility."
"Do you suppose," she asked quietly, "that it is the Engleton
"People are saying all sorts of things," he answered. "I'd go abroad
to-morrow and leave De la Borne to look out for himself, but I
haven't even the money to pay my railway fare."
The Princess shrugged her shoulders expressively.
"Oh, I'm not begging!" he continued. "I know you're pretty well in
the same box."
"That," the Princess remarked, "scarcely expresses it. I am a great
deal worse off than you, because I have a houseful of unpaid
servants, and a mob of tradespeople, who are just beginning to
clamour. I see that you are looking at my necklace," she continued.
"I can assure you that I have not a single real stone left.
Everything I possess that isn't in pawn is of paste."
"Then don't you see, Ena," he said, "that this thing really must be
hurried forward? De Brensault is ready enough, isn't he?"
"Quite," she answered.
"And he understands the position?"
"I think so," the Princess answered. "I have given him to understand
it pretty clearly."
"Then have a clear business talk with him," Forrest said, "and then
have it out with Jeanne. You could all go abroad together, and they
could be married at the Embassy, say at Paris."
"Jeanne is the only difficulty," the Princess said. "It would suit
me better, for upon my word I don't know where I could get credit
for her trousseau."
"It isn't any use waiting," Forrest said. "I have watched them
together, and I am sure of it. De Brensault isn't one of those
fellows who improve upon acquaintance. Look, there they are. Nothing
very lover-like about that, is there?"
De Brensault and Jeanne were crossing the room together. Only the
very tips of her fingers rested upon his coat-sleeve, and there was
a marked aloofness about her walk and the carriage of her head. He
was saying something to her to which she seemed to be paying the
scantiest of attention. Her head was thrown back, and in her eyes
was a great weariness. Suddenly, just as they reached the entrance,
they saw her whole expression change. A wave of colour flooded her
cheeks. Her eyes were suddenly filled with life. They saw her lips
part. Her hands were outstretched to greet the man who, crossing the
room, had stopped at her summons. Both the Princess and Forrest
frowned when they saw who it was. It was Andrew de la Borne.
"That infernal fisherman!" Forrest muttered. "I saw in the paper
that he had returned this afternoon from The Hague."
The Princess made an involuntary movement forward, but Forrest
"You can do no good," he said. "Wait and see what happens."
What did happen was very simple, and for the Count de Brensault a
little humiliating. Jeanne passed her arm through the newcomer's and
with the curtest of nods to her late companion, disappeared through
an open doorway. The Belgian stood looking after them, twirling his
moustache with shaking fingers. His face was paler even than usual,
and he was shaking with anger.
"Leave him alone for a few minutes," Forrest said to the Princess.
"You will do no good at all by speaking to him just now. Ena, it is
absolutely necessary that you make Jeanne understand the state of
"I think," the Princess said thoughtfully, "that it will be best to
take her away from London. Lately I have noticed a development in
Jeanne which I do not altogether understand. She has begun to think
for herself most unpleasantly. She plays at being a child with De
Brensault, but that is simply because it is the easiest way to
Meanwhile Jeanne, whose face was transfigured, and whose whole
manner was changed, was sitting with her companion in the quietest
corner they could find.
"It is delightful to see you again," she said frankly. "I do not
think that any one ever felt so lonely as I do."
"I can assure you that I find it delightful to be back again," he
said, "although I have enjoyed my work very much. By the by, who
introduced you to the man whom you were with when I found you?"
"My stepmother," she answered. "He is the man, by the by, whom I am
told I am to marry."
Andrew looked as he felt for a moment, shocked.
"I am sorry to hear that," he said quietly.
"You need not be afraid," she answered. "I am not of age, and I was
brought up in a country where one's guardians have a good deal of
authority, but nothing in the world would ever induce me to marry a
creature like that."
His face cleared somewhat.
"I am very surprised," he said, "that your stepmother should have
thought of it. He is an unfit companion for any self-respecting
"I do not understand," Jeanne said quietly, "why they are so anxious
that I should marry quickly, but I know that my stepmother thinks of
nothing else in connection with me. Look! They are coming through
the conservatories. Let us go out by the other door."
They came face to face with a tall, grave-looking man, who wore an
order around his neck. Andrew stopped suddenly.
"I should like," he said to Jeanne, "to introduce you to my friend.
You have met him before down at the Red Hall, and on the island, but
that scarcely counts. Westerham, this is Miss Le Mesurier. You
remember that you saw her at Salthouse."
The Duke shook hands with the girl, looking at her attentively. His
manner was kind, but his eyes seemed to be questioning her all the
"I am very glad to know you, Miss Le Mesurier," he said. "My friend
Andrew here has spoken of you to me."
They remained talking together for some minutes, until, in fact,
Forrest and the Princess, who were in pursuit of them, appeared. The
Princess looked curiously at the Duke, and Forrest frowned heavily
when he recognized him. There was a moment's almost embarrassed
silence. Then Andrew did what seemed to him to be the reasonable
"Princess," he said, "will you allow me to present my friend the
Duke of Westerham. The Duke was staying with me a few weeks ago, as
you know, and at that time he had a particular reason for not
wishing his whereabouts to be known."
The Duke bowed over the Princess' hand, which was offered him at
once, and without hesitation, but his greeting to Forrest was
markedly cold. Forrest had evidently lost his nerve. He seemed
tongue-tied, and he was very pale. It was the Princess alone who
saved the situation from becoming an exceedingly embarrassing one.
"I have heard of you very often, Duke," she said. "Your brother,
Lord Ronald, took us down to Norfolk, you know. By the by, have you
heard from him yet?"
"Not yet, madam," the Duke said, "but I can assure you that it is
only a matter of time before I shall discover his whereabouts. I
wonder whether your ward will do me the honour of giving me this
dance?" he added, turning to her. "I am afraid I am not a very
skilful performer, but perhaps she will have a little consideration
for one who is willing to do his best."
He led Jeanne away from them, and Andrew, after a moment's
stereotyped conversation, also departed. The Princess and Forrest
"This is getting worse and worse," Forrest muttered. "He is
suspicious. I am sure that he is. They say that young Engleton was
his favourite brother, and that he is determined--"
"Hush!" the Princess said. "There are too many people about to talk
of these things. I wonder why the Duke took Jeanne off."
"An excuse for getting away from us," Forrest said. "Did you see the
way he looked at me? Ena, I cannot hang on like this any longer. I
must have a few thousand pounds and get away."
The Princess nodded.
"We will go and talk to De Brensault," she said. "I should think he
would be just in the frame of mind to consent to anything."
The Duke, who was well acquainted with the house in which they
were, led Jeanne into a small retiring room and found her an easy
"My dear young lady," he said, "I hope you will not be disappointed,
but I have not danced for ten years. I brought you here because I
wanted to say something to you."
Jeanne looked up at him a little surprised.
"Something to me?" she repeated.
"Andrew de la Borne is one of my oldest and best friends," he said,
"and what I am going to say to you is a little for his sake,
although I am sure that if I knew you better I should say it also
for your own. You must not be annoyed or offended, because I am old
enough to be your father, and what I say I say altogether for your
own good. They tell me that you are a young lady with a great
fortune, and you know that nowadays half the evil that is done in
the world is done for the sake of money. Frankly, without wishing to
say a word against your stepmother, I consider that for a young girl
you are placed in a very difficult and dangerous position. The man
Forrest--mind you must not be offended if he should be a friend of
yours--but I am bound to tell you that I believe him to be an
unscrupulous adventurer, and I am afraid that your stepmother is
very much under his influence. You have no other relatives or
friends in this country, and I hear that a man named De Brensault is
a suitor for your hand."
"I shall never marry him," Jeanne said firmly. "I think that he is
"I am glad to hear you say so," the Duke continued, "because he is
not a man whom I would allow any young lady for whom I had any shade
of respect or affection, to become acquainted with. Now the fact
that your stepmother deliberately encourages him makes me fear that
you may find yourself at any moment in a very difficult position. I
do not wish to say anything against your friends or your stepmother.
I hope you will believe that. But nowadays people who are poor
themselves, but who know the value and the use of money, are tempted
to do things for the sake of it which are utterly unworthy and
wrong. I want you to understand that if any time you should need a
friend it will give me very great happiness indeed to be of any
service to you I can. I am a bachelor, it is true, but I am old
enough to be your father, and I can bring you into touch at once
with friends more suitable for you and your station. Will you come
to me, or send for me, if you find yourself in any sort of trouble?"
She said very little, but she looked at him for a moment with her
wonderful eyes, very soft with unshed tears.
"You are very, very kind," she said. "I have been very unhappy, and
I have felt very lonely. It will make everything seem quite
different to know there is some one to whom I may come for advice
"I know, dear," the Duke interrupted, rising and holding out his
arm. "I know quite well what you mean. All I can say is, don't be
afraid to come or to send, and don't let any one bully you into
throwing away your life upon a scoundrel like De Brensault. I am
going to give you back to Andrew now. He is a good fellow--one of
the best. I only wish--"
The Duke broke off short. After all, he remembered, he had no right
to complete his sentence. Andrew, he felt, was no more of a marrying
man than he himself, and he was the last person in the world to ever
think of marrying a great heiress. They found him waiting about
"I must relinquish my charge," the Duke said smiling. "You will not
forget, Miss Le Mesurier?"
"I am never likely to," she answered gratefully.
The Count de Brensault had seldom been in a worse temper. That
Jeanne should have flouted him was not in itself so terrible,
because he had quite made up his mind that sooner or later he would
take a coward's revenge for the slights he had been made to endure
at her hands. But that he should have been flouted in the presence
of a whole roomful of people, that he should have been deliberately
left for another man, was a different matter altogether. His first
impulse when Jeanne left him, was to walk out of the house and have
nothing more to say to the Princess or Jeanne herself. The world was
full of girls perfectly willing to tumble into his arms, and mothers
only too anxious to push them there. Why should he put himself in
this position for Jeanne, great heiress though she might be? But
somehow or other, after he had tossed off two glasses of champagne
at the buffet, he realized that his fancy for her was a real thing,
and one from which he could not so readily escape. If she had wished
to deliberately attract him, she could scarcely have chosen means
more calculated to attain that end than by this avowed indifference,
even dislike. He sat by himself in a small smoking-room and thought
of her--her slim girlish perfection of figure and bearing, her
perfect complexion, her beautiful eyes, her scarlet lips. All these
things came into his mind as he sat there, until he felt his cheeks
flush with the desire to succeed, and his eyes grow bright at the
thought of the time when he should hold her in his arms and take
what revenge he chose for these slights. No! he would not let her
go, he determined. Dignified or undignified, he would pursue her to
the end, only he must have an understanding with the Princess,
something definite must be done. He would not run the risk again of
being made a laughing-stock before all his friends. Forrest found
him in exactly the mood most suitable for his purpose.
"Come and talk to the Princess," he said. "She has something to say
De Brensault rose somewhat heavily to his feet.
"And I," he said, "I, too, have something to say to her. We will
take a glass of champagne together, my friend Forrest, and then we
will seek the Princess."
"By all means," he said. "To tell you the truth I need it."
De Brensault looked at him curiously.
"You are very pale, my friend," he said. "You look as though things
were not going too well with you."
"I have been annoyed," Forrest answered. "There is a man here whom I
dislike, and it made me angry to see him with Miss Jeanne. I think
myself that the time has come when something definite must be done
as regards that child. She is too young to be allowed to run loose
like this, and a great deal too inexperienced."
"I agree with you," De Brensault said solemnly. "We will drink that
glass of wine together, and we will go and talk to the Princess."
They found the Princess where Forrest had left her. She motioned to
De Brensault to sit by her side, and Forrest left them.
"My dear Count," the Princess said, "to-night has proved to me that
it is quite time Jeanne had some one to look after her. Let me ask
you. Are you perfectly serious in your suit?"
"Absolutely!" De Brensault answered eagerly. "I myself would like
the matter settled. I propose to you for her hand."
The Princess bowed her head thoughtfully.
"Now, my dear Count," she said, "I am going to talk to you as a
woman of the world. You know that my husband, in leaving his fortune
entirely to Jeanne, treated me very badly. You may know this, or you
may not know it, but the fact remains that I am a very poor woman."
De Brensault nodded sympathetically. He guessed pretty well what was
"If I," the Princess continued, "assist you to gain my stepdaughter
Jeanne for your wife, and the control of all her fortune, it is only
fair," she continued, "that I should be recompensed in some way for
the allowance which I have been receiving as her guardian, and which
will then come to an end. I do not ask for anything impossible or
unreasonable. I want you to give me twenty thousand pounds the day
that you marry Jeanne. It is about one year's income for her rentes,
a mere trifle to you, of course."
"Twenty thousand pounds," De Brensault repeated reflectively.
The Princess nodded. She was sorry that she had not asked thirty
"I am not a mercenary woman," she said. "If I were not almost a
pauper I would accept nothing. As it is, I think you will call my
proposal a very fair one."
"The exact amount of Mademoiselle Jeanne's dot," he remarked, "has
never been discussed between us."
"The figures are altogether beyond me," the Princess said. "To tell
you the truth I have never had the heart to go into them. I have
always thought it terribly unfair that my husband should have left
me nothing but an annuity, and this great fortune to the child.
However, as you are both rich, it seems to me that settlements will
not be necessary. On your honeymoon you can go and see her trustees
in Paris, and you yourself will, of course, then take over the
management of her fortune."
De Brensault looked thoughtful for a moment or two.
"Perhaps," he said, "it would be better if I had a business
interview with her trustees before the ceremony."
"Just as you like," the Princess answered carelessly. "Monsieur
Laplanche is in Cairo just now, but he will be back in Paris in a
few weeks' time. Perhaps you would rather delay everything until
"No!" De Brensault said, after a moment's hesitation. "I would like
to delay nothing. I would like to marry Mademoiselle Jeanne at once,
if it can be arranged."
"To tell you the truth," the Princess said, "I think it would be
much the best way out of a very difficult situation. I am finding
Jeanne very difficult to manage, and I am quite sure that she will
be happier and better off married. I am proposing, if you are
willing, to exercise my authority absolutely. If she shows the
slightest reluctance to accept you, I propose that we all go over to
Paris. I shall know how to arrange things there."
De Brensault smiled. The prospect of winning Jeanne at any cost
became more and more attractive to him. The Princess, who was
looking at him through half closed eyes, saw that he was perfectly
"And now, my dear Count," she said, "I am going to ask you a favour.
I am doing for you something for which you ought to be grateful to
me all your life. For a mere trifle which will not recompense me in
the least for what I am giving up, I am finding you one of the most
desirable brides in Europe. I want you to help me a little."
"What is it that I can do?" he asked.
"Let me have five thousand pounds on account of what you are going
to give me, to-morrow morning," she said coolly.
De Brensault hesitated. He was prepared to pay for what he wanted,
but five thousand pounds was nevertheless a great deal of money.
"I would not ask you," the Princess continued, "if I were not really
hard up. I have been gambling, a foolish thing to do, and I do not
want to sell my securities, because I know that very soon they will
pay me over and over again. Will you do this for me? Remember, I am
giving you my word that Jeanne is to be yours."
"Make it three thousand," De Brensault said slowly. "Three thousand
pounds I will send you a cheque for, to-morrow morning."
The Princess nodded.
"As you will," she said. "I think if I were you, though, I should
make it five. However, I shall leave it for you to do what you can.
Now will you take me out into the ballroom. I am going to look for
They found her at supper with the Duke and Andrew and a very great
lady, a connection of the Duke's, who was one of those few who had
refused to accept the Princess. The Princess swept up to the little
party and laid her hand upon Jeanne's shoulder.
"I do not want to hurry you, dear," she said, "but when you have
finished supper I should be glad to go. We have to go on to
Dorchester House, you know."
Jeanne sighed. She had been enjoying herself very much indeed.
"I am ready now," she said, standing up, "but must we go to
Dorchester House? I would so much rather go straight home. I have
not had such a good time since I have been in London."
The Duke offered her his arm, ignoring altogether Count De
Brensault, who was standing by.
"At least," he said, "you will permit me to see you to your
The Princess smiled graciously. It was bad enough to be ignored, as
she certainly was to some extent, but on the other hand it was good
for De Brensault to see Jeanne held in such esteem. She took his arm
and they followed down the room. The Duke was bending down and
talking earnestly to Jeanne; this surprised the Princess.
"I wonder," she remarked, more to herself than to her companion,
"what he is saying."
De Brensault shrugged his shoulders.
"I do not care," he said. "We will keep to our bargain, you and I.
In a few days it will be my arm that she shall take, and nobody
else's. Perhaps I shall be a little jealous. Who can say? In a
little time she will not mind."
"Remember," the Duke was saying, as he drew Jeanne's hand through
his arm, "that I was very much in earnest in what I said to you just
now. I have seen a good deal of the world, and you nothing at all,
and I cannot help believing that the time when you may need some
one's help is a good deal nearer than you yourself imagine."
"I wonder," she asked, a little timidly, "why you are so kind to
"I accept you upon trust," the Duke said, "for the sake of my friend
Andrew. I know that he lives out of the world, and has not much
experience in judging others, but I do believe that when he has made
up his mind about anybody, he is generally right. Frankly, from what
I have heard, and a little that I know, I am afraid that I should
have been suspicious about even a child like you, because of your
associates. But because I believe in you, I am all the more sure
that very soon you are going to find yourself in trouble. It is
agreed, remember, that when that time comes you will remember that I
am your friend."
"I will remember," she murmured. "I am not likely to forget. Except
for you and Mr. De la Borne, no one has been really kind to me since
I left school. They all say foolish things, and try to make me like
them, because I am a great heiress, but one understands how much
that is worth."
The Duke looked at her, and seemed half inclined to say something.
Whatever it may have been, however, he thought better of it. He
contented himself with taking her hand in his and shaking it warmly.
"Good night," he said, "little Miss Jeanne, and remember, No. 51,
Grosvenor Square. If I am not there, I have a very nice old
housekeeper who will look after you until I turn up."
"No. 51," she repeated softly. "No, I shall not forget!"
The Princess and Jeanne drove homewards in a silence which remained
unbroken until the last few minutes. The events of the evening had
been somewhat perplexing to the former. She scarcely understood even
now why a great personage like the Duke of Westerham had shown such
interest in her charge.
"Tell me, Jeanne," she asked at last, "why is the Duke of Westerham
so friendly with your fisherman?"
Jeanne raised her eyebrows slightly.
"'My fisherman,' as you call him," she answered, "is, after all,
Andrew de la Borne! They were at school together."
"That is all very well," the Princess answered, "but I cannot see
what possible sympathy there can be between them now. Their stations
in life are altogether different. You talked with the Duke for some
"He was very kind to me," Jeanne answered.
"Did he give you any idea," the Princess asked, "as to why he was
staying down at Salthouse with Mr. Andrew?"
"None at all," Jeanne answered.
"You know very well," the Princess continued, "of what I am
thinking. Did he speak to you at all of Major Forrest?"
"Not a word," Jeanne answered.
"Of his brother, then?"
"He did not mention his name," Jeanne declared.
"He asked you no questions at all about anything which may have
happened at the Red Hall?"
Jeanne shook her head.
"You do not think, then," the Princess persisted, "that it was for
the sake of gaining information about his brother that he talked
with you so much?"
"Why should I think so?" Jeanne asked. "He scarcely mentioned any of
your names even. He talked to me simply out of kindness, and I think
because he knew that Mr. Andrew and I were friends."
The Princess smiled.
"You seem," she remarked, "to have made quite a conquest. I
congratulate you. The Duke has not the reputation of being an easy
man to get on with."
The carriage pulled up before their house in Berkeley Square, and
the Princess did not pursue the subject, but as Jeanne left her for
the night, her stepmother called her back.
"To-morrow morning," she said, "I should be glad if you would come
to my room at twelve o'clock, I have something to say to you."
Jeanne slept well that night. For the first time she felt that she
had lost the feeling of friendlessness which for the last few weeks
had constantly oppressed her. Andrew de la Borne was back in London,
and the Duke, who seemed to have some sort of understanding as to
the troubles which were likely to beset her, had gone out of his way
to offer her his help. She felt now that she would not have to fight
her stepmother's influence unaided. Yet when she sought her room at
twelve o'clock the next morning she had very little idea of the sort
of fight which she might indeed have to make.
The Princess had already spent an hour at her toilette. Her hair was
carefully arranged and her face massaged. She received her
stepdaughter with some show of affection, and bade her sit close to
"Jeanne," she said, "you are now nearly twenty years old. For many
reasons I wish to see you married. The Count de Brensault formally
proposed for you last night. He is coming at three o'clock this
afternoon for his answer."
Jeanne sat upright in her chair. Her stepmother noticed a new air of
determination in the poise of her head, and the firm lines of her
"The Count might have spared himself the trouble," she said. "He
knows very well what my answer will be. I think that you know, too.
It is no, most emphatically and decidedly! I will not marry the
Count de Brensault."
"Before you express yourself so irrevocably," the Princess said
calmly, "I should like you to understand that it is my wish that you
accept his offer."
"In all ordinary matters," Jeanne answered, "I am prepared to obey
you. In this, no! I think that I have the right to choose my husband
for myself, or at any rate to approve of whomever you may select. I-
-do not approve of the Count de Brensault. I do not care for him,
and I never could care for him, and I will not marry him!"
The Princess said nothing for several moments. Then she moved toward
the door which led into her sleeping chamber, where her maid was
still busy, and turned the key in the lock.
"Jeanne," she said when she returned, "I think it is time that you
were told something which I am afraid will be a shock to you. This
great fortune of yours, of which you have heard so much, and which
has been so much talked about, is a myth."
"What do you mean?" Jeanne asked, looking at her stepmother with
"Exactly what I say," the Princess continued. "Your father made huge
gifts to his relatives during the last few years of his life, and he
left enormous sums in charity. To you he left the remainder of his
estate, which all the world believed to amount to at least a million
pounds. But when things came to be realized, all his securities
seemed to have depreciated. The legacies were paid in cash. The
depreciation of his fortune all fell upon you. When everything had
been paid, there was something like twenty-five thousand pounds
left. More than half of that has gone in your education, and in an
allowance to myself since I have had the charge of you. There is a
little left in the hands of Monsieur Laplanche, but very little
indeed. What there is we owe for your dresses, the rent of this
house, and other things."
"You mean," Jeanne interrupted bewildered, "that I have no money at
"Practically none," the Princess answered. "Now you can see why it
is so important that you should marry a rich man."
Jeanne was bewildered. It was hard to grasp these things which her
stepmother was telling her.
"If this be true," she said, "how is it that every one speaks of me
as being a great heiress?"
The Princess glanced at her with a contemptuous smile.
"You do not suppose," she said, "that I have found it necessary to
take the whole world into my confidence."
"You mean," Jeanne said, "that people don't know that I am not a
"Certainly not," the Princess replied, "or we should scarcely be
"The Count de Brensault?" Jeanne asked.
"He does not know, of course," the Princess answered. "He is a rich
man. He can afford quite well to marry a girl without a DOT."
Jeanne's head fell slowly between her hands. The suddenness of this
blow had staggered her. It was not the loss of her fortune so much
which affected her as the other contingencies with which she was
surrounded. She tried to think, and the more she thought the more
involved it all seemed. She looked up at last.
"If my fortune is really gone," she said, "why do you let people
talk about it, and write about me in the papers as though I were
still so rich?"
The Princess shrugged her shoulders.
"For your own sake," she answered. "It is necessary to find you a
husband, is it not, and nowadays one does not find them easily when
there is no DOT."
Jeanne felt her cheeks burning.
"I am to be married, then," she said slowly, "by some one who thinks
I have a great deal of money, and who afterwards will be able to
turn round and reproach me for having deceived him."
The Princess laughed.
"Afterwards," she said, "the man will not be too anxious to let the
world know that he has been made a fool of. If you play your cards
properly, the afterwards will come out all right."
Jeanne rose slowly to her feet.
"I do not think," she said, "that you have quite understood me. I
should like you to know that nothing would ever induce me to marry
any one unless they knew the truth. I will not go on accepting
invitations and visiting people's houses, many of whom have only
asked me because they think that I am very rich. Every one must know
the truth at once."
"And how, may I ask, do you propose to live?" the Princess asked
"If there is nothing left at all of my money," Jeanne said, "I will
work. If it is the worst which comes, I will go back to the convent
and teach the children."
The Princess laughed softly.
"Jeanne," she said, "you are talking like a positive idiot. It is
because you have had no time to think this thing out. Remember that
after all you are not sailing under any false colours. You are your
father's daughter, and you are also his heiress. If the newspapers
and gossip have exaggerated the amount of his fortune, that is not
your affair. Be reasonable, little girl," she added, letting her
hand fall upon Jeanne's. "Don't give us all away like this. Remember
that I have made sacrifices for your sake. I owe more money than I
can pay for your dresses, for the carriage, for the house here.
Nothing but your marriage will put us straight again. You must make
up your mind to this. The Count de Brensault is so much in love with
you that he will ask no questions. You must marry him."
Jeanne drew herself away from her stepmother's touch.
"Nothing," she said, "would induce me to marry the Count de
Brensault, not even if he knew that I am penniless. If we cannot
afford to live in this house, or to keep carriages, let us go away
at once and take rooms somewhere. I do not wish to live under false
The Princess was very pale, but her eyes were hard and steely.
"Child," she said, "don't be a fool. Don't make me angry, or I may
say and do things for which I should be sorry. It is no fault of
mine that you are not a great heiress. I have done the next best
thing for you. I have made people believe that you are. Be
reasonable, and all will be well yet. If you are going to play the
Quixote, it will be ruin for all of us. I cannot think how a child
like you got such ideas. Remember that I am many years older and
wiser than you. You should leave it to me to do what is best."
Jeanne shook her head.
"I cannot," she said simply. "I am sorry to disappoint you, but I
shall tell every one I meet that I have no money, and I will not
marry the Count de Brensault."
The Princess grasped her by the wrist.
"You will not obey me, child?" she said.
"I will obey you in everything reasonable," Jeanne said.
"Very well, then," the Princess answered, "go to your room at once."
Jeanne turned and walked toward the door. On the threshold, however,
she paused. There were many times, she remembered, when her
stepmother had been kind to her. She looked around at the Princess,
sitting with her head resting upon her clasped hands.
"I am very sorry," Jeanne said timidly, "that I cannot do what you
wish. It is not honest. Cannot you see that it is not honest?"
The Princess turned slowly round.
"Honest!" she repeated scornfully. "Who is there in our world who
can afford to be honest? You are behaving like a baby, Jeanne. I
only hope that before long you may come to your senses. Will you
obey me if I tell you not to leave your room until I send for you?"
"Yes!" she said. "I will obey you in that."
"Then go there and wait," the Princess said. "I must think what to
The Count de Brensault called in Berkeley Square at three o'clock
precisely that afternoon, but it was the Princess who received him,
and the Princess was alone.
"Well?" he asked, a little eagerly. "Mademoiselle Jeanne is more
reasonable, eh? You have good news?"
The Princess motioned him to a seat.
"I think," she said, "we had forgotten how young Jeanne really is.
The idea of getting married to any one seems to terrify her. After
all, why should we wonder at it? The school where she was brought up
was a very, very strict one, and this plunge into life has been a
"You think, then," De Brensault asked eagerly, "that it is not I
personally whom she objects to so much?"
"Certainly not," the Princess answered. "It is simply you as the man
whom it is proposed that she should marry that she dislikes. I have
been talking to her for a long time this afternoon. Frankly, I do
not know which would be best--to give up the idea of anything of the
sort for some time, or to--to--"
"To what?" De Brensault demanded, as the Princess hesitated.
"To take extreme measures," the Princess answered slowly. "Mind, I
would not consider such a thing for a moment, if I were not fully
convinced that Jeanne, when she is a little older, would be
perfectly satisfied with what we have done. On the other hand, one
hesitates naturally to worry the child."
"She will not see me?" De Brensault asked. "It is possible that I
might be able to persuade her."
"You would do more harm than good," the Princess answered decidedly.
"She is terrified just now at the idea. She is in her room shaking
like a schoolgirl who is going to be punished. Really, I don't know
why I should have been plagued with such a charge. There are so many
things I want to do, and I have to stay here to look after Jeanne,
because she is too foolish to be trusted with any one else. I want
to go to America, and a very dear friend of mine has invited me to
go with her and some delightful people on a yachting cruise around
"Then why not use those measures you spoke of?" De Brensault said
eagerly. "I shall make Jeanne a very good husband, I assure you. I
shall promise you that in a fortnight's time she will be only too
delighted with her lot."
The Princess looked at him thoughtfully.
"I wonder," she said, "whether I could trust you."
"Trust me, of course you could, dear Princess!" De Brensault
exclaimed eagerly. "I will be kind to her, I promise you. Be
sensible. She would feel this way with any one. You yourself have
said so. There can be no more suitable marriage for her than with
me. Let us call it arranged. Tell me what it is that you propose.
Perhaps I may be able to help."
"Jeanne is, of course, not of age," the Princess said thoughtfully,
"and she is entirely under my control. In England people are rather
foolish about these things, but abroad they understand the situation
"Why not in Belgium?" De Brensault exclaimed. "We might go to a
little town I know of very near to my estates. Everything could be
arranged there very easily. I am quite well-known, and no questions
would be asked."
The Princess nodded thoughtfully.
"That might do," she admitted.
"Why not start at once?" De Brensault suggested. "There is nothing
to be gained by waiting. We might even leave to-morrow."
The Princess shook her head.
"You are too impetuous, my dear Count," she said.
"But what is there to wait for?" he demanded.
"I must see my lawyers first," she answered slowly, "and before I
leave London I must pay some bills."
The Count drew a cheque book from his pocket.
"I will keep my word," he said. "I will pay you on account the
amount we spoke of."
The Princess opened her escritoire briskly.
"There is a pen and ink there," she said, "and blotting paper.
Really your cheque will be a god-send to me. I seem to have had
nothing but expenses lately, and Jeanne's guardians are as mean as
they can be. They grumble even at allowing me five thousand a year."
De Brensault twirled his moustache as he seated himself at the
"Five thousand a year," he muttered. "It is not a bad allowance for
a young girl who is not yet of age."
The Princess shrugged her shoulders.
"My dear Count," she said, "you do not know what our expenses are.
Jeanne is extravagant, so am I extravagant. It is all very well for
her, but for me it is another matter. I shall be a poor woman when I
have resigned my charge."
De Brensault handed the cheque across.
"You will not find me," he said, "ungrateful. And now, my dear lady,
let us talk about Jeanne. Do you think that you could persuade her
to leave London so suddenly?"
"I am going up-stairs now," the Princess said, "to have a little
talk with her. Dine with me here to-night quite quietly, and I will
tell you what fortune I have had."
De Brensault went away, on the whole fairly content with his visit.
The Princess endorsed his cheque, and with a sigh of relief enclosed
it in an envelope, rang for a maid and ordered her carriage. Then
she went up-stairs to Jeanne, whom she found busy writing at her
desk. She hesitated for a moment, and then went and stood with her
hand resting upon the girl's shoulder.
"Jeanne," she said, "I think that we have both been a little hasty."
Jeanne looked up in surprise. Her stepmother's tone was altered. It
was no longer cold and dictatorial. There was in it even a note of
appeal. Jeanne wondered to find herself so unmoved.
"I am sorry," she said, "if I have said anything unbecoming. You
see," she continued, after a moment's pause, "the subject which we
were talking about did not seem to me to leave much room for
"There is no harm in discussing anything," the Princess said,
throwing herself into a wicker chair by the side of Jeanne's table.
"I am afraid that all that I said must have sounded very cruel and
abrupt. You see I have had this thing on my mind for so long. It has
been a trouble to me, Jeanne."
Jeanne raised her large eyes and looked steadily at her stepmother.
She felt almost ashamed of her coldness and lack of sympathy. The
Princess was certainly looking worn and worried.
"I am sorry," Jeanne said stiffly. "I cannot imagine how you could
have supported life for a day under such conditions."
Her stepmother sighed.
"That," she said, "is because you have had so little experience of
life, and you do not understand its practical necessities. Children
like you seem to think that the commonplace necessaries of life drop
into our laps as a matter of course, or that they are a sort of gift
from Heaven to the deserving. As a matter of fact," the Princess
continued, "nothing of the sort happens. Life is often a very cruel
and a very difficult thing. We are given tastes, and no means to
gratify them. How could I, for instance, face life as a lodging-
house keeper, or at best as a sort of companion to some ill-tempered
old harridan, who would probably only employ me to have some one to
bully? You yourself, Jeanne, are fond of luxuries."
It was a new reflection to Jeanne. She became suddenly thoughtful.
"I have noticed your tastes," the Princess continued. "You would be
miserable in anything but silk stockings, wouldn't you? And your
ideas of lingerie are quite in accord with the ideas of the modern
young woman of wealth. You fill your rooms with flowers. You buy
expensive books," she added, taking up for a moment a volume of De
Ronsard, bound in green vellum, with uncut edges. "Your tastes in
eating and drinking, too," she continued, "are a little on the
sybaritic side. Have you realized what it will mean to give all
these things up--to wear coarse clothes, to eat coarse food, to get
your books from a cheap library, and look at other people's
Jeanne frowned. The idea was certainly not pleasing.
"It will be bad for you," the Princess continued, "and it will be
very much worse for me, because I have been used to these things all
my life. You may think me very brutal at having tried to help you
toward the only means of escape for either of us, but I think, dear,
you scarcely realize the alternative. It is not only what you
condemn yourself to. Remember that you inflict the same punishment
"It is not I who do anything," Jeanne said. "It is you who have
brought this upon both of us. All this money that has been spent
upon luxuries, it was absurd. If I was not rich I did not need them.
I think that it was more than absurd. It was cruel."
The Princess produced a few inches of lace-bordered cambric. A
glance at Jeanne's face showed her that the child had developed a
new side to her character. There was something pitiless about the
straightened mouth, and the cold questioning eyes.
"Jeanne," the Princess said, "you are a fool. Some day you will
understand how great a one. I only trust that it may not be too
late. The Count de Brensault may not be everything that is to be
desired in a husband, but the world is full of more attractive
people who would be glad to become your slaves. You will live mostly
abroad, and let me assure you that marriage there is the road to
liberty. You have it in your power to save yourself and me from
poverty. Make a little sacrifice, Jeanne, if indeed it is a
sacrifice. Later on you will be glad of it. If you persist in this
unreasonable attitude, I really do not know what will become of us."
Jeanne turned her head, but she did not respond in the least to the
Princess' softened tone. There was a note of finality about her
words, too. She spoke as one who had weighed this matter and made up
"If there was no other man in the world," she said, "or no other way
of avoiding starvation, I would not marry the Count de Brensault."
The Princess rose slowly to her feet.
"Very well," she said, "that ends the matter, of course. I hope you
will always remember that it is you who are responsible for anything
that may happen now. You had better," she continued, "leave off
writing letters which will certainly never be posted, and get your
clothes together. We shall go abroad at the latest to-morrow
"Abroad?" Jeanne repeated.
"Yes!" the Princess answered. "I suppose you have sense enough to
see that we cannot stay on here for you to make your interesting
confessions. I should probably have some of these tradespeople
trying to put me in prison."
"I will tell Saunders at once," Jeanne said. "I am quite ready to do
anything you think best."
The Princess laughed hardly.
"You will have to manage without Saunders," she answered. "Paupers
like us can't afford maids. I am going to discharge every one this
afternoon. Have your boxes packed, please, to-night. Your dinner
will be sent up to you."
The Princess left the room, and Jeanne heard the key turn in the
Jeanne's packing was after all a very small matter. She ignored the
cupboards full of gowns, nor did she open one of the drawers of her
wardrobe. She simply filled her dressing-case with a few necessaries
and hid it under the table. At eight o'clock one of the servants
brought her dinner on a tray. Jeanne saw with relief that it was one
of the younger parlour maids, and not the Princess' own maid.
"Mary," Jeanne said, taking a gold bracelet from her wrist and
holding it out to her, "I am going to give you this bracelet if you
will do just a very simple thing for me."
The girl looked at Jeanne and looked at the bracelet. She was too
amazed for speech.
"I want you," Jeanne said, "when you go out to leave the door
unlocked. That is all. It will not make any difference to you so far
as your position here is concerned, because your mistress is sending
you all away in a few days."
The girl looked at the bracelet and did not hesitate for a moment.
"I would do it for you without anything, Miss Jeanne," she said.
"The bracelet is too good for me."
Jeanne laughed, and pushed it across the table to her.
"Run along," she said. "If you want to do something else, open the
back door for me. I am coming downstairs."
The girl looked a little perplexed. The bracelet which she was
holding still engrossed most of her thoughts.
"You are not doing anything rash, Miss Jeanne, I hope?" she asked
Jeanne shook her head.
"What I am doing is not rash at all," she said softly. "It is
Five minutes later Jeanne walked unnoticed down the back stairs of
the house, and out into the street. She turned into Piccadilly and
entered a bus.
"Where to, miss?" the man asked, as he came for his fare.
"I do not know," Jeanne said. "I will tell you presently."
The man stared at her and passed on. Jeanne had spoken the truth.
She had no idea where she was going. Her one idea was to get away
from every one whom she knew, or who had known her, as the Princess'
ward and a great heiress. She sat in a corner of the bus, and she
watched the stream of people pass by. Even there she shrank from any
face or figure which seemed to her familiar. She almost forgot that
she, too, had been a victim of her stepmother's deception. She
remembered only that she had been the principal figure in it, and
that to the whole world she must seem an object for derision and
contempt. It was not her fault that she had played a false part in
life. But nevertheless she had played it, and it was not likely that
many would believe her innocent. The thought of appealing to the
Duke, or to Andrew de la Borne, for help, made her cheeks burn with
shame. In any ordinary trouble she would have gone to them. This,
however, was something too humiliating, too impossible. She felt
that it was a blow which she could ask no one to share.
The omnibus rolled on eastwards and reached Liverpool Street. A
sudden overwhelming impulse decided Jeanne as to her destination.
She remembered that peculiar sense of freedom, that first escape
from her cramped surroundings, which had come to her walking upon
the marshes of Salthouse. She would go there again, if it was only
for a day or two; find rooms somewhere in the village, and write to
Monsieur Laplanche from there. Visitors she knew were not uncommon
in the little seaside village, and she would easily be able to keep
out of the way of Cecil, if he were still there. The idea seemed to
her like an inspiration. She went up to the ticket-office and asked
for a ticket for Salthouse. The man stared at her.
"Never heard of the place, miss," he said. "It's not on our line."
"It is near Wells on the east coast," she said. "Now I think of it,
I remember one has to drive from Wells. Can I have a ticket to
He glanced at the clock.
"The train goes in ten minutes, miss," he said.
Jeanne travelled first, because she had never thought of travelling
any other way. She sat in the corner of an empty carriage, looking
steadily out of the window, and seeing nothing but the fragments of
her little life. Now that she was detached from it, she seemed to
realize how little real pleasure she had found in the life which the
Princess had insisted upon dragging her into. She remembered how
every man whom she had met addressed her with the same EMPRESSEMENT,
how their eyes seemed to have followed her about almost covetously,
how the girls had openly envied her, how the court of the men had
been so monotonous and so unreal. She drew a little breath, almost
of relief. When she was used to the idea she might even be glad that
this great fortune had taken to itself wings and flitted away. She
was no longer the heiress of untold wealth. She was simply a girl,
standing on the threshold of life, and looking forward to the
happiness which at that age seems almost a natural heritage.
The sense of freedom grew on her next morning, as she walked once
more upon the marshes, listened to the larks, now in full song, and
felt the touch of the salt wind upon her cheeks. She had found rooms
very easily, and no one had seemed to treat her coming as anything
but a matter of course. One old fisherman of whom she asked
questions, told her many queer stories about the Red Hall and its
"As restless young men as them two as is there now," he admitted,
"Mr. Cecil and his friend, I never did see. Fust one of them one day
goes to London, back he comes on the next day, and away goes the
other. Why they don't go both together the Lord only knows, but that
is so for a fact, miss, and you can take it from me. Every week of
God's year, one of them goes to London, and directly he comes back
the other goes."
"And Mr. Andrew de la Borne?" she asked. "Has he gone back there
"He have not," the man answered, "but I doubt he'll be back again
one day 'fore long. Sure he need be. They're beginning to talk about
the shuttered windows at the Red Hall."
The girl turned and looked toward the house, bleak and desolate-
looking enough now that the few encircling trees were shorn of their
"I shouldn't care to live there all the year round," she remarked.
"I've heerd others say the same thing," he answered, "and yet in
Salthouse village we're moderate well satisfied with life. It's them
as have too much," he continued, "who rush about trying to make
more. A simple life and a simple lot is what's best in this world."
"Things were livelier up there," Jeanne remarked, seating herself on
the edge of his boat, "when the smugglers used to bring in their
The old man smiled.
"Why that's so, lady," he admitted. "Lord! When I was a boy I mind
some great doings. One night there was a great fight. I mind it now.
Fifteen of the King's men were lying hidden close to the cove there,
and it looked for all the world as though the boats which were being
rowed ashore must fall right into their hands. They were watching
from the Hall, though, and the Squire's new alarm was set going. It
were a cry like a siren, rising and falling like. The boats heerd it
and turned back, but three of the Squire's men were set on, and a
rare fight there was that night. There was broken heads to be
mended, and no mistake. Mat Knowles here, the father of him who
keeps the public now, he right forgot to shut his inn, and there it
was open two hours past the lawful time, and all were drinking as
though it were a great day of rejoicing, instead of being one of
sorrow for the De la Bornes. I mind you were here a few weeks ago,
miss. You know the two Mr. De la Bornes?"
"Yes!" Jeanne admitted. "I know them slightly."
"Mr. Andrew, he be one of the best," the man declared, "but Mr.
Cecil we none of us can understand, him nor his friends. What he is
doing up there now with this man what's staying with him, there's
none can tell. Maybe they gamble at cards, maybe they just sit and
look at one another, but 'tis a strange sort of life anyhow."
"I think it is a very interesting place to live in," Jeanne said.
"What became of the siren which warned the smugglers?"
"There's no one here as can tell that, miss," the man answered,
"There are them as have fancied on windy nights as they've heerd it,
but fancy it have been, in my opinion. Five and twenty years have
gone since I've heerd it mysen, and there's few 'as better ears."
"Mr. Andrew de la Borne is not here now, is he?" she asked.
The fisherman shook his head.
"Mr. Andrew," he said, "is mortal afraid of strangers and such like,
and there's photographers and newspaper men round in these parts
just now, by reason of the disappearance of this young lord that you
heerd tell on. Some say he was drowned, and I have heerd folk
whisper about a duel with the gentleman as is with Mr. Cecil now.
Anyway, it was here that he disappeared from, and though I've not
seen it in print, I've heerd as his brother is offering a reward of
a thousand pounds to any as might find him. It's a power of money
"It is a great deal of money," Jeanne admitted. "I wonder if Lord
Ronald was worth it."
The two men sat opposite to one another separated only by the small
round table upon which the dessert which had followed their dinner
was still standing. Even Forrest's imperturbable face showed signs
of the anxiety through which he had passed. The change in Cecil,
however, was far more noticeable. There were lines under his eyes
and a flush upon his cheeks, as though he had been drinking heavily.
The details of his toilette, usually so immaculate, were uncared
for. He was carelessly dressed, and his hair no longer shone with
frequent brushings. He looked like a person passing through the
rapid stages of deterioration.
"Forrest," he said, "I cannot stand it any longer. This place is
sending me mad. I think that the best thing we can do is to chuck
"Do you?" Forrest answered drily. "That may be all very well for
you, a countryman, with enough to live on, and the whole world
before you. As for me, I couldn't face it. I have passed middle age,
and my life runs in certain grooves. It must run in them now until
the end. I cannot break away. I would not if I could. Existence
would simply be intolerable for me if that young fool were ever
allowed to tell his story."
"We cannot keep him for ever," Cecil answered gloomily. "We cannot
play the jailer here all our lives. Besides, there is always the
danger of being found out. There are two detectives in the place
already, and I am fairly certain that if they have been in the house
while we have been out--"
"There is nothing for them to discover here," Forrest answered. "I
should keep the doors open. Let them search if they want to."
"That is all very well," Cecil answered, "but if these fellows hang
about the place, sooner or later they will hear some of the stories
these villagers are only too anxious to tell."
"There," he said, "I am not disinclined to agree with you. Hasn't it
ever struck you, De la Borne," he continued, after a moment's slight
hesitation, "that there is only one logical way out of this?"
"No!" Cecil answered eagerly. "What way? What do you mean?"
Forrest filled his glass to the brim with wine before he answered.
Then he passed the decanter back to Cecil.
"We are not children, you and I," he said. "Why should we let a boy
like Engleton play with us? Why do we not let him have the issue
before him in black and white? We say to him now--'Sign this paper,
pledge your word of honour, and you may go.' He declines. He
declines because the alternative of staying where he is is
endurable. I propose that we substitute another alternative. Drink
your wine, De la Borne. This is a chill house of yours, and one
loses courage here. Drink your wine, and think of what I have said."
Cecil set down his glass empty.
"Well," he said, "what other alternative do you propose?"
"Can't you see?" Forrest answered. "We cannot keep Engleton shut up
for ever. I grant you that that is impossible. But if he declines to
behave like a reasonable person, we can threaten him with an
alternative which I do not think he would have the courage to face."
"You mean?" Cecil gasped.
"I mean," Forrest answered, "what your grandfather would have told
him, or your great grandfather, in half a dozen words weeks ago. At
full tide there is sea enough to drown a dozen such as he within a
few yards of where he lies. Why should we keep him carefully and
safe, knowing that the moment he steps back into life you and I are
Cecil drew a little breath and lifted his hand to his forehead. He
was surprised to find it wet. All the time he was gazing at Forrest
with fascinated eyes.
"Look here," he said, in a hoarse whisper, "we mustn't talk like
this. Engleton will turn round in a day or two. People would think,
if they heard us, that we were planning a murder."
"In a woman's decalogue," Forrest said, "there is no sin save the
sin of being found out. Why not in ours? No one ever had such a
chance of getting rid of a dangerous enemy. The whole thing is in
our hands. We could never be found out, never even questioned. If,
by one chance in a thousand, his body is ever recovered, what more
natural? Men have been drowned before on the marshes here many a
"Go on!" Cecil said. "You have thought this out. Tell me exactly
what you propose."
"I propose," Forrest answered, "that we narrow the issues, and that
we put them before him in plain English, now--to-night--while the
courage is still with us. It must be silence or death. I tell you
frankly how it is with me. I would as soon press a pistol to my
forehead and pull the trigger as have this boy go back into the
world and tell his story. For you, too, it would be ruin."
Cecil sank back into his chair, and looked with wide-open but
unseeing eyes across the table, through the wall beyond. He saw his
future damned by that one unpardonable accusation. He saw himself
sent out into the world penniless, an outcast from all the things in
life which made existence tolerable. He knew very well that Andrew
would never forgive. There was no mercy to be hoped for from him.
There was nothing to be looked for anywhere save disaster, absolute
and entire. He looked across at Forrest, and something in his
companion's face sent a cold shiver through his veins.
"We might go and see what he says," he faltered. "I haven't been
there since the morning, have you?"
"No!" Forrest answered. "Solitude is good for him. Let us go now,
Without another word they rose from the table. Cecil led the way
into the library, where he rang for a servant.
"Set out the card-table here," he ordered, "and bring in the whisky
and soda. After that we do not wish to be disturbed. You
"Certainly, sir," the man answered.
They waited until the things were brought. Afterwards they locked
the door. Cecil went to a drawer and took out a couple of electric
torches, one of which he handed to Forrest. Then he went to the
wall, and after a few minutes' groping, found the spring. The door
swung open, and a rush of unwholesome air streamed into the room.
They made their way silently along the passage until at last they
reached the sunken chamber. Cecil took a key from his pocket and
opened the door.
* * *
Engleton was in evil straits, but there was no sign of yielding in
his face as he looked up. He was seated before a small table upon
which a common lamp was burning. His clothes hung about him loosely.
His face was haggard. A short, unbecoming beard disfigured his face.
He wore no collar or necktie, and his general appearance was
altogether dishevelled. Forrest looked at him critically.
"My dear Engleton!" he began.
"What the devil do you want with me at this time of night?" Engleton
interrupted. "Have you come down to see how I amuse myself during
the long evenings? Perhaps you would like to come and play cut-
throat. I'll play you for what stakes you like, and thank you for
coming, if you'll leave the door open and let me breathe a little
"It is your own fault that you are here," Cecil de la Borne
declared. "It is all your cursed obstinacy. Listen! I tell you once
more that what you saw, or fancied you saw, was a mistake. Forget
it. Give your word of honour to forget it, never to allude to it at
any time in your life, and you can walk out of here a free man."
"I have no doubt of it," he answered. "The worst of it is that
nothing in the world would induce me to forego the pleasure I
promise myself, before very long, too, of giving to the whole world
the story of your infamy. I am not tractable to-night. You had
better go away, both of you. I am more likely to fight."
Forrest sat down on the edge of a chest.
"Engleton," he said, "don't be a fool. It can do you no particular
good to ruin Cecil here and myself, just because you happen to be
suspicious. Let that drop. Tell us that you have decided to let it