Part 5 out of 6
drop, and the world can take you into its arms again."
"I refuse," Engleton answered. "I refuse once and for always. I tell
you that I have made up my mind to see you punished for this. How I
get out I don't care, but I shall get out, and when I do, you two
will be laid by the heels."
"We came here to-night," Forrest said slowly, "prepared to
compromise with you."
"There is no compromise," Engleton answered fiercely. "There is
nothing which you could offer which could repay me for the horror of
the nights you have left me to shiver here in this d--d vault. Don't
flatter yourself that I shall ever forget it. I stay on because I
cannot escape, but I would sooner stay here for ever than beg for
mercy from either of you."
"Upon my word," Forrest declared, "our friend is quite a hero."
"I am hero enough, at any rate," Engleton answered, "to refuse to
bargain with you. Get out, both of you, before I lose my temper."
Forrest came a little further into the room. The thunder of the sea
seemed almost above their heads. The little lamp on the table by
Engleton's side gave little more than a weird, unnatural light
around the circle in which he sat.
"That isn't quite all that we came to say," Forrest remarked coldly.
"To tell you the truth we have had enough of playing jailer."
"I can assure you," Engleton answered, "that I have had equally
enough of being your prisoner."
"We are agreed, then," Forrest continued smoothly. "You will
probably be relieved when I tell you that we have decided to end
Engleton rose to his feet.
"So much the better," he said. "You might keep me here till
doomsday, and the end would be the same."
"We do not propose," Forrest continued, "to keep you here till
doomsday, or anything like it. What we have come to say to you is
this--that if you still refuse to give your promise--I need not say
more than that--we are going to set you free."
"Do you mean that literally?" Engleton asked.
"Perhaps not altogether as you would wish to understand it," Forrest
admitted. "We shall give you a chance at high tide to swim for your
Engleton shrunk a little back. After all, his nerves were a little
"Out there?" he asked, pointing to the seaward end of the passage.
"It will be a chance for you," he said.
Engleton looked at them for a moment, dumbfounded.
"It will be murder," he said slowly.
Forrest shrugged his shoulders.
"You may call it so if you like," he answered. "Personally, I should
not be inclined to agree with you. You will be alive when you go
into the sea. If you cannot swim, the fault is not ours."
"And when, may I ask," Engleton continued, "do you propose to put
into operation your amiable plan?"
"Just whensoever we please, you d--d obstinate young puppy!" Forrest
cried, suddenly losing his nerve. "Curse your silent tongue and your
venomous face! You think you can get the better of us, do you? Well,
you are mistaken. You'll tell no stories from amongst the seaweed."
"I shall take particular good care," he said, "to avoid the
"Enough," Forrest declared. "Listen! Here is the issue. We are tired
of negative things. To-night you sign the paper and give us your
word of honour to keep silent, or before morning, when the tide is
full, you go into the sea!"
"I warn you," Engleton said, "that I can swim."
"I will guarantee," Forrest answered suavely, "that by the time you
reach the water you will have forgotten how."
The days that followed were strange ones for Jeanne. Every morning
at sunrise, or before, she would steal out of the little cottage
where she was staying, and make her way along the top of one of the
high dyke banks to the sea. Often she saw the sun rise from some
lonely spot amongst the sandbanks or the marshes, heard the
awakening of the birds, and saw the first glimpses of morning life
steal into evidence upon the grey chill wilderness. At such times
she saw few people. The house where she was staying was apart from
the village, and near the head of one of the creeks, and there were
times when she would leave it and return without having seen a
single human being. She knew, from cautious inquiries made from her
landlady's daughter, that Cecil and Major Forrest were still at the
Red Hall, and for that reason during the daytime she seldom left the
cottage, sitting out in the old-fashioned garden, or walking a
little way in the fields at the back. For the future she made no
plans. She was quite content to feel that for the present she had
escaped from an intolerable situation.
The woman from whom Jeanne had taken the rooms, a Mrs. Caynsard, she
had seen only once or twice. She was waited upon most of the time by
an exceedingly diminutive maid servant, very shy at first, but very
talkative afterwards, in broad Norfolk dialect, when she had grown a
little accustomed to this very unusual lodger. Now and then Kate
Caynsard, the only daughter of the house, appeared, but for the most
time she was away, sailing a fishing boat or looking after the
little farm. To Jeanne she represented a type wholly strange, but
altogether interesting. She was little over twenty years of age, but
she was strong and finely built. She had the black hair and dark
brown eyes, which here and there amongst the villagers of the east
coast remind one of the immigration of worsted spinners and silk
weavers from Flanders and the North of France, many centuries ago.
She was very handsome but exceedingly shy. When Jeanne, as she had
done more than once, tried to talk to her, her abrupt replies gave
little opening for conversation. One morning, however, when Jeanne,
having returned from a long tramp across the sand dunes, was sitting
in the little orchard at the back of the house, she saw her
landlady's daughter come slowly out to her from the house. Jeanne
put down her book.
"Good morning, Miss Caynsard!" she said.
"Good morning, miss!" the girl answered awkwardly. "You have had a
"I went so far," she said, "that I had to race the tide home, or I
should have had to wade through the home creek."
"The tide do come sometimes," she said, "at a most awful pace. I
have been out after whelks myself, and had to walk home with the sea
all round me, and nothing but a ribbon of dry land. One needs to
know the ways about on this wilderness."
"One learns them by watching," Jeanne remarked. "I suppose you have
lived here all your life."
"All my life," the girl answered, "and my father and grandfather
before me. 'Tis a queer country, but them as is born and bred here
seldom leaves it. Sometimes they try. They go to the next village
inland, or to some town, or to foreign parts, but sooner or later if
they live they come back."
Jeanne nodded sympathetically.
"It is a wonderful country," she said. "When I saw it first it
seemed to me that it was depressing. Now I love it!"
"And I," the girl remarked, with a sudden passion in her tone, "I
Jeanne looked at her, surprised.
"It sounds so strange to hear you say that," she remarked. "I should
have thought that any one who had lived here always would have loved
it. Every day I am here I seem to discover new beauties, a new
effect of colouring, a new undertone of the sea, or to hear the cry
of some new bird."
"It is beautiful sometimes," the girl answered. "I love it when the
creeks are full, and the April sun is shining, and the spring seems
to draw all manner of living things and colours from the marsh and
the pasturage lands. I love it when the sea changes its colour as
the clouds pass over the sun, and the wind blows from the west. The
place is well enough then. But there are times when it is nothing
but a great wilderness of mud, and the grey mists come blowing in,
and one is cold here, cold to the bone. Then I hate the place worse
"Have you ever tried to go away for a time?" Jeanne asked.
"I went once to London," the girl said, turning her head a little
away. "I should have stayed there, I think, if things had turned out
as I had expected, but they didn't, and my father died suddenly, so
I came home to take care of the farm."
Jeanne nodded sympathetically. She was beginning to wonder why this
girl had come out from the house with the obvious intention of
speaking to her. She stood by her side, not exactly awkward, but
still not wholly at her ease, her hands clasped behind her straight
back, her black eyebrows drawn together in a little uneasy frown.
Her coarse brown skirt was not long enough to conceal her
wonderfully shaped ankles. Sun and wind had done little more than
slightly tan her clear complexion. She had somehow the appearance of
a girl of some other nation. There was something stronger, more
forceful, more brilliant about her, than her position seemed to
"There is a question, miss," she said at last, abruptly, "I should
like to ask you. I should have asked you when you first came, if I
had been in when you came to look at the rooms."
"What is it?" Jeanne asked quietly.
"I've a good eye for faces," Kate said, "and I seldom forget one.
Weren't you the young lady who was staying up at the Red Hall a few
"Yes," she said, "I was staying there. It was because I liked the
place so much, and because I was so much happier here than in
London, that I came back."
There was a moment's silence. Jeanne looked up and found Kate's
magnificent eyes fixed steadfastly upon her face.
"Is it for no other reason, miss," she asked, "that you have come
"For none other in the world," Jeanne answered. "I was unhappy in
London, and I wanted to get somewhere where I should be quite
unknown. That is why I came here."
"You didn't come back," Kate asked, "to see more of Mr. De la Borne,
The simple directness of the question seemed to rob it of its
impertinence. Jeanne laughed goodhumouredly.
"I can assure you that I did not," she answered. "To tell you the
truth, and I hope that you will be kind and remember that I do not
wish any one to know this, the reason why I only go out so early in
the morning or late at night is because I do not wish to see any one
from the Red Hall. I do not wish them to know that I am here."
"They do gossip in a small place like this most amazing," the girl
said slowly. "When you and the other lady came down from London to
stay up yonder, they did say that you were a great heiress, and that
Mr. De la Borne was counting on marrying you, and buying back all
the lands that have slipped away from the De la Bornes back to
Burnham Market and Wells township."
Jeanne shrugged her shoulders.
"I cannot help," she said, "what people say. Every one has spoken of
me always as being very rich, and a good many men have wanted to
marry me to spend my money. That is why I came down here, if you
want to know, Miss Caynsard. I came to escape from a man whom my
stepmother was determined that I should marry, and whom I hated."
The girl looked at her wonderingly.
"It is a strange manner of living," she said, "when a girl is not to
choose her own man."
"In any case," Jeanne said smiling, "if I had but one or two to
choose from in the world, I should never choose Mr. De la Borne."
The girl was gloomily silent. She was looking up towards the Red
Hall, her lips a little parted, her face dark, her brows lowering.
"'Tis a family," she said slowly, "that have come down well-nigh to
their last acre. They hold on to the Hall, but little else. Folk say
that for four hundred years or more the De la Bornes have heard the
sea thunder from within them walls. 'Tis, perhaps, as some writer
has said in a book I've found lately, that the old families of the
country, when once their menkind cease to be soldiers or fighters in
the world, do decay and become rotten. It is so with the De la
Bornes, or rather with one of them."
"Mr. Andrew," Jeanne remarked timidly.
"Mr. Andrew," the girl interrupted, "is a great gentleman, but he is
never one of those who would stop the rot in a decaying race. He is
a great strong man is Mr. Andrew, and deceit and littleness are
things he knows nothing of. I wish he were here to-day."
The girl's face wore a troubled expression. Jeanne began to suspect
that she had not as yet come to the real object of this interview.
"Why do you wish that Mr. Andrew were here?" Jeanne asked. "What
could he do for you that Mr. Cecil could not?"
A strange look filled the girl's eyes.
"I think," she said, "that I would not go to Mr. Cecil whatever
might betide, but there is a matter--"
She hesitated again. Jeanne looked at her thoughtfully.
"You have something on your mind, I think, Miss Caynsard," she said.
"Can I help you? Do you wish to tell me about it?"
The girl seemed to have made up her mind. She was standing quite
close to Jeanne now, and she spoke without hesitation.
"You remember the young lord," she said, "of whom there has been so
much in the papers lately? He was staying at the Red Hall when you
were, and is supposed to have left for London early one morning and
"Lord Ronald Engleton," Jeanne said. "Yes, I know all about that, of
"Sometimes," Kate said slowly, "I have had strange thoughts about
him. Mr. Cecil and the other man, Major Forrest they call him, are
still at the Hall, and the servants say that they do little but
drink and swear at one another. I wonder sometimes why they are
there, and why Mr. Andrew stays away."
Jeanne leaned a little forward in her chair. Something in the
other's words had interested her.
"There is something," she said, "behind in your thoughts. What is
The girl was silent for a moment.
"To-night," she said, "if you have the courage to come with me, I
will show you what I mean."
"I am afraid," Jeanne declared, "that I cannot go on. I have not the
eyes of a cat. I cannot see one step before me."
Her companion laughed softly as she turned round.
"I forgot," she said. "You are town bred. To us the darkness is
nothing. Do not be afraid. I know the way, every inch of it. Give me
"But I cannot see at all," Jeanne declared. "How far is this place?"
"Less than a mile," Kate answered. "Trust to me. I will see that
nothing happens to you. Hold my hand tightly, like that. Now come."
Jeanne reluctantly trusted herself to her companion's guidance. They
made their way down the rough road which led from the home of the
Caynsards, half cottage, half farmhouse, to the lane at the bottom.
There was no moon, and though the wind was blowing hard, the sky
seemed everywhere covered with black clouds. When Kate opened the
wooden gate which led on to the marshes, Jeanne stopped short.
"I am not going any farther," she declared. "Even you, I am sure,
could not find your way on the marshes to-night. Didn't you hear
what the fisherman said, too, that it was a flood tide? Many of the
paths are under water. I will not go any farther, Kate. If there is
anything you have to tell me, say it now."
She felt a hand suddenly tighten upon her arm, a hand which was like
"You must come with me," Kate said. "As to the other things, do not
be foolish. On these marshes I am like a cat in a dark room. I could
feel my way across every inch of them on the blackest night that
ever was. I know how high the tide is. I measured it but half an
hour since by Treadwell's pole. You come with me, miss. You'll not
miss your way by a foot. I promise you that."
Even then Jeanne was reluctant. They were on the top of the grass-
grown dyke now, and below she could dimly see the dark, swelling
water lapping against the gravel bottom.
"But you do not understand," she declared. "I do not even know where
to put my feet. I can see nothing, and the wind is enough to blow us
over the sides. Listen! Listen how it comes booming across the sand
dunes. It is not safe here. I tell you that I must go back."
Her companion only laughed a little wildly.
"There will be no going back to-night," she said. "You must come
with me. Set your feet down boldly. If you are afraid, take this."
She handed her a small electric torch.
"It's one of those new-fangled things for making light in the
darkness," she remarked. "It's no use to me, for if I could not see
I could feel. For us who live here, 'tis but an instinct to find our
way, in darkness or in light, across the land where we were born.
But if you are nervous, press the knob and you will see."
Jeanne took the torch with a little sigh of relief.
"Go on," she said. "I don't mind so much now I have this."
Nevertheless, as they moved along she found it sufficiently
alarming. The top of the bank was but a few feet wide. The west
wind, which came roaring down across the great open spaces, with
nothing to check or divide its strength, was sometimes strong enough
to blow them off their balance. On either side of the dyke was the
water, black and silent. Here and there the torch light showed them
a fishing-smack or a catboat, high and dry a few hours ago, now
floating on the bosom of the full tide. They came to a stile, and
Jeanne's courage once more failed her.
"I cannot climb over this," she said. "I shall fall directly I lift
up my feet."
Kate turned round with a little laugh of contempt. Jeanne felt
herself suddenly lifted in a pair of strong arms. Before she knew
where she was she was on the other side. Breathless she followed her
guide, who came to a full stop a few yards farther on.
"Turn on your light," Kate ordered. "Look down on the left. There
should be a punt there."
Jeanne turned on the torch. A great flat-bottomed boat, shapeless
and unwieldy, was just below. Kate stepped lightly down the steep
bank, and with one foot on the side of the punt, held out her hand
"Come," she said. "Step carefully."
"But what are we going to do?" Jeanne asked. "You are not going in
"Why not?" Kate laughed. "It is a few strokes only. We are going to
cross to the ridges."
Jeanne followed her. Somehow or other she found it hard to disobey
her guide. None the less she was afraid. She stepped tremblingly
down into the punt, and sat upon the broad wet seat. Kate, without a
moment's hesitation, took up the great pole and began pushing her
way across the creek. The tide was almost at its height, but even
then the current was so strong that they went across almost
sideways, and Jeanne heard her companion's breath grow shorter and
shorter, as with powerful strokes she did her best to guide and
propel the clumsy craft.
"We are going out toward the sea," Jeanne faltered. "It is getting
wider and wider."
She flashed her torch across the dark waters. They could not see the
bank which they had left or the ridges to which they were making.
"Don't be afraid," Kate answered. "After all, you know, we can only
die once, and life isn't worth making such a tremendous fuss over."
"I do not want to die," Jeanne objected, "and I do not like this at
Kate laughed contemptuously.
"Sit still," she said, "and you are as safe as though you were in
your own armchair. No current that ever ran could upset this clumsy
raft. The only reason I am working so hard is that I do not want to
be carried down past the ridges. If we get too low down we shall
have to walk across the black mud."
Jeanne kept silence, listening only to the swirl of the water struck
by the pole, and to the quick breathing of her companion. Once she
asked whether she could not help.
"There is no need," Kate answered. "Shine your torch on the left. We
are nearly across."
Almost as she spoke they struck the sandy bottom. Jeanne fell into
the bottom of the boat. Kate, with a little laugh, sprang ashore and
held out her hand.
"Come," she said, "we have crossed the worst part now."
"Where are we going?" Jeanne asked, a little relieved as she felt
her feet land on the sodden turf.
"Towards the Hall," Kate answered. "Give me your hand, if you like,
or use your torch. The way is simple enough, but we must twist and
turn to-night. It has been a flood tide, and there are great pools
left here and there, pools that you have never seen before."
"But how do you know?" Jeanne asked, in amazement. "I can see
Her guide laughed contemptuously.
"I can see and I can feel," she said. "It is an instinct with me to
walk dry-footed here. To the right now--so."
"Stand still for a moment," Jeanne pleaded. "The wind takes my
"You have too many clothes on," Kate said contemptuously. "One
should not wear skirts and petticoats and laces here."
"If you would leave my clothes alone and tell me where you are
going," Jeanne declared, a little tartly, "it would be more
The girl laughed. She thrust her arm through her companion's and
drew her on.
"Don't be angry," she said. "It is quite easy now to find our way.
There is room for us to walk like this. Can you hear what I say to
"I can hear," Jeanne answered, raising her voice, "but it is getting
more difficult all the time. Is that the sea?"
"Yes!" Kate answered. "Can't you feel the spray on your cheeks? The
wind is blowing it high up above the beach. Let me go first again.
There is an inlet here. Be careful."
They came to a full stop before a dark arm of salt water. They
skirted the side and crossed round to the other side.
"Be careful, now," Kate said. "This way."
They turned inland. In a few minutes her guide stopped short.
"Turn on your torch," she said. "There ought to be a wall close
Jeanne did as she was bid, and gave a little stifled cry.
"Why, we are close to the Red Hall!" she said. Kate nodded.
"A little way farther up there is a gate," she said. "We are going
"You are not going to the house?" Jeanne asked, in terror.
"No," Kate answered, "I am not going there! Follow me, and don't
talk more than you can help. The wind is going down."
"But it is the middle of the night," Jeanne said. "No one will be
"One cannot tell," Kate answered slowly. "It is in my mind that
there have been strange doings here, and I know well that there is a
man who watches this place by day and by night. He has discovered
nothing, but it is because he has not known where to look."
"What do you mean?" Jeanne asked hoarsely.
"Wait!" her companion said.
They passed through the wooden gate. They were now in a little weedy
plantation of undersized trees. The ground was full of rabbit holes,
and Jeanne stumbled more than once.
"How much farther?" she asked. "We are getting toward the house."
"Not yet," Kate answered. "There are the gardens first, but we are
not going there. Wait a moment."
She felt for one of the trees, and passed her hand carefully round
its trunk. Then she took a few steps forward and stopped short.
"Wait!" she said.
She lay flat down upon the grass and was silent for several minutes.
Then she whispered to Jeanne.
"Don't turn on your torch," she said. "Lie down here by my side, put
your ear to the ground, and tell me whether you can hear anything."
Jeanne obeyed her breathlessly. At first she could hear nothing. Her
own heart was beating fast, and the boughs of the trees above them
were creaking and groaning in the wind. Presently, however, she gave
a little cry. From somewhere underground it seemed to her that she
could hear a faint hammering.
"What is it?" she asked.
Kate sat up.
"There is no animal," she said, "which makes a noise like that. It
is somewhere there underground. It seems to me that it is some one
who is trying to get out."
"Some one underground?" Jeanne repeated.
Kate leaned over and whispered in her ear.
"There is a passage underneath here," she said, "which goes from the
Hall to the cliffs, and a room, or rather a vault."
"I know," Jeanne declared suddenly. "Mr. De la Borne showed it to
us. It was the way the smugglers used to bring their goods up to the
cellars of the Red Hall."
"We are just above the room here," Kate said slowly, "and I fancy
that there is some one there."
A sudden light broke in upon Jeanne.
"You think that it is Lord Engleton!" she declared.
"Why not?" Kate answered. "Listen again, with your ear close to the
ground. Last night I was almost sure that I heard him call for
Jeanne did as she was told, and her face grew white as death.
Distinctly between the strokes she heard the sound of a man moaning!
Once more the two men sat over the remnants of their evening meal.
This time the deterioration in their own appearance seemed to have
spread itself to their surroundings. The table was ill-laid, there
were no flowers, an empty bottle of wine and several decanters
remained where they had been set. There was every indication that
however little the two might have eaten, they had been drinking
heavily. Yet they were both pale. Cecil's face even was ghastly, and
the hand which played nervously with the tablecloth shook all the
"Forrest," he said abruptly, "it is a mistake to clear out all the
servants like this. Not only have we had to eat a filthy dinner, but
it's enough to make people suspicious, eh? Don't you think so? Don't
you think afterwards that they may wonder why we did it?"
"No!" Forrest answered, with something that was almost like a snarl.
"No, I don't! Shut up, and don't be such an infernal young fool! We
couldn't have town servants spying and whispering about the place. I
caught that London butler of yours hanging around the library this
afternoon as though he were looking for something. They were a d--d
careless lot, anyhow, with no mistress or housekeeper to look after
them, and they're better gone. Who is there left exactly now?"
"There's a kitchen-maid, who cooked this wretched mess," Cecil
answered, "and another under her from the village, who seems half an
idiot. There is no one else except Pawles, a man who comes in from
the stables to do the rough work and pump the water up for the bath.
We are practically alone in the house."
"Thank Heaven it's our last night," Forrest answered.
"You really mean, then," Cecil asked, in a hoarse whisper, "to
finish this now?"
"I mean that we are going to," Forrest answered. "You know I'm half
afraid of you. Sometimes you're such a rotten coward. If ever I
thought you looked as though you were going back on me, I'd get even
with you, mind that."
"Don't talk like a fool!" Cecil answered. "What we do, we do
together, of course, only my nerves aren't strong, you know. I can't
bear the thought of the end of it."
"Whatever happens to him," Forrest said, "he's asking for it. He has
an easy chance to get back to his friends. It is brutal obstinacy if
he makes us end it differently. You're only a boy, but I've lived a
good many years, and I tell you that if you don't look out for
yourself and make yourself safe, there are always plenty of people,
especially those who call themselves your friends, who are ready and
waiting to kick you down into Hell. I am going to have something
more to drink. Nothing seems to make any difference to me to-night.
I can't even get excited, although we must have drunk a bottle of
wine each. We'll have some brandy. Here goes!"
He filled a wine-glass and passed the bottle to Cecil.
"You're about in the same state," he remarked, looking at him
keenly. "Why the devil is it that when one doesn't require it, wine
will go to the head too quickly, and when one wants to use it to
borrow a little courage and a little forgetfulness, the stuff goes
down like water. Drink, Cecil, a wine-glass of it. Drink it off,
Forrest drained his wine-glass and set it down. Then he rose to his
feet. His cheeks were still colourless, but there was an added
glitter in his eyes.
"Come, young man," he said, "you have only to fancy that you are one
of your own ancestors. I fancy those dark-looking ruffians, who
scowl down on us from the walls there, would not have thought so
much of flinging an enemy into the sea. It is a wise man who wrote
that self-preservation was the first law of nature. Come, Cecil,
remember that. It is the first law of nature that we are obeying.
Ring the bell first, and see that there are no servants about the
Cecil obeyed, ringing the bell once or twice. No one came. They
stepped out into the hall. The emptiness of the house seemed almost
apparent. There was not a sound anywhere.
"The servants' wing is right over the stables, a long way off,"
Cecil remarked. "They could never hear a bell there that rang from
any of the living-rooms."
"So much the better," he said. "Come along to the library. I have
everything ready there."
They crossed the hall and entered the room to which Forrest pointed.
Their footsteps seemed to awake echoes upon the stone floor. The
hall, too, was all unlit save for the lamp which Forrest was
carrying. Cecil peered nervously about into the shadows.
"It's a ghostly house this of yours," Forrest said grumblingly, as
they closed the door behind them. "I shall be thankful to get back
to my rooms in town and walk down Piccadilly once more. What's that
"The wind," Cecil answered. "I thought it was going to be a rough
The window had been left open at the top, and the roar of the wind
across the open places came into the room like muffled thunder. The
lamp which Forrest carried was blown out, and the two men were left
"Shut the window, for Heaven's sake, man!" Forrest ordered sharply.
He took an electric torch from his pocket, and both men drew a
little breath of relief as the light flashed out. Cecil climbed on
to a chair and closed the window. Forrest glanced at the clock.
"It's quite late enough," he said. "It should be high tide in a
quarter of an hour, and the sea in that little cove of yours is
twenty feet deep. Come along and work this door."
"Have you got everything?" Cecil asked nervously.
"I have the chloroform," Forrest answered, touching a small bottle
in his waistcoat pocket. "We don't need anything else. He hasn't the
strength of a rabbit, and you and I can carry him down the passage.
If he struggles there's no one to hear him."
Cecil pushed his way against the panels and opened the clumsy door.
They groped their way down the passage.
"Faugh!" Forrest exclaimed. "What smells! Cecil," he added, "I
suppose half the village know about this place, don't they?"
"They know that it has been here always," Cecil answered, "but they
most of them think that it is blocked up now. We did try to, Andrew
and I, but the masonry gave way. These lumps on the floor are the
remains of our work. Keep your torch down. You'll fall over them."
Forrest stopped short. Curiously enough, it was he now who seemed
the more terrified. The wind and the thunder of the sea together
seemed to reach them through the walls of earth in a strange
monotonous roar, sometimes shriller as the wind triumphed, sometimes
deep and low so that the very ground beneath their feet vibrated as
the sea came thundering up into the cove. Cecil, who was more used
to such noises, heard them unmoved.
"If my people had left me such a dog's hole as this," Forrest
declared viciously, "I'd have buried them in it and blown it up to
the skies. It's only fit for ghosts."
The very weakening of the other man seemed for the moment to give
Cecil added courage. He laughed hoarsely.
"There are worse things to fear," he muttered, "than this. Hold
hard, Forrest. Here is the door. I'll undo the padlock. You stand by
in case he makes a rush."
But there was no rush about Engleton. He was lying on his back,
stretched on a rough mattress at the farther end of the room,
moaning slightly. The two men exchanged quick glances.
"We are not going to have much trouble," Forrest muttered. "What a
beastly atmosphere! No wonder he's knocked up."
Cecil, however, looked about suspiciously.
"Don't you notice," he whispered, "that we can hear the wind much
plainer here than in the passage? I believe I can feel a current of
fresh air, too. I wonder if he's been trying to cut his way through
to the air-hole. It's only a few feet up."
He flashed his light upon the wall near where Engleton was lying.
Then he turned significantly to Forrest.
"See," he said, "he has cut steps in the wall and tried to make an
opening above. He must have guessed where the ventilating pipe was.
I wonder what he did it with."
They crossed the room. The man on the couch opened his eyes and
looked at them dully.
"So you've been improving the shining hour, eh?" Forrest remarked,
pointing to the rough steps. "We shall have to find what you did it
with. Hidden under the mattress, I suppose."
He stooped down, and Engleton flew at his throat with all the fury
of a wild cat. Forrest was taken aback for a moment, but the effort
was only a brief one. Engleton's strength seemed to pass away even
before he had concluded his attack. He sank back and collapsed upon
the floor at a touch.
"You brutes!" he muttered.
Cecil lifted the mattress. There was a large flat stone, sharp-edged
and coated with mud, lying underneath.
"I thought so," he whispered. "Jove, he's gone a long way with it,
too!" he muttered, looking upward. "Another foot or so and he would
have been outside. I wonder the place didn't collapse."
Engleton dragged himself a little way back. He remained upon the
floor, but there was support for his back now against the wall.
"Well," he said, "what is it this evening?"
"The end," Forrest answered shortly.
Engleton did not flinch. Of the three men, although his physical
condition was the worst, he seemed the most at his ease.
"The end," he remarked. "Well, I don't believe it. I don't believe
you have either of you the pluck to go through life with the fear of
the rope round your neck every minute. But if I am indeed a
condemned man. I ought to have my privileges. Give me a cigarette,
one of you, for God's sake."
Forrest took out his gold case and threw him a couple of cigarettes.
Then he struck a match and passed it over.
"Smoke, by all means," he said. "Listen! In five minutes we are
going to throw you from the seaward end of this place, down into the
cove or creek, or whatever they call it. It is high tide, and the
sea there is twenty feet deep. As for swimming, you evidently
haven't the strength of a cat, and there is no breathing man could
swim against the current far enough to reach any place where he
could climb out. But to avoid even that risk, we are going to give
you a little chloroform first. It will make things easier for you,
and we shall not be distressed by your shrieks."
"An amiable programme," Engleton muttered. "I am quite ready for
"Then I don't think we need waste words," Forrest said slowly. "You
have made up your mind, I suppose, that you do not care about life.
Remember that it is not we who are your executioners. You have an
"If you mean," Engleton said, "will I purchase my liberty by letting
you two blackguards off free, for this and for your dirty card-
sharping, I say no! I will take my chances of life to the last
second. Afterwards I shall know that I am revenged. Men don't go
happily through life with the little black devil sitting on their
"We'll take our risk," Forrest said thickly. "You have chosen, then?
This is your last chance."
"Absolutely!" Engleton answered.
Forrest took out the phial from his pocket and held his handkerchief
on the palm of his hand.
"Open the door, will you, Cecil," he said, "so that we can carry him
Cecil opened it, and came slowly back to where Forrest was counting
the drops which fell from the bottle on to his handkerchief. Then he
suddenly came to a standstill. Forrest, too, paused in his task and
looked up. He gave a nervous start, and the bottle fell from his
"What in God's name was that?" he asked.
It came to them faintly down the long passage, but it was
nevertheless alarming enough. The hoarse clanging of a bell, pulled
by impetuous fingers. Cecil and Forrest stared at one another for a
moment with dilated eyes.
"Can't you speak, you d----d young fool?" Forrest asked. "What bell
"It is the front-door bell of the Red Hall," Cecil answered, in a
voice which he scarcely recognized as his own. "There it goes
They stood perfectly silent and listened to it, listened until its
echoes died away.
For the fourth time the bell rang. The two men had now retraced
their steps. Cecil, who had been standing in the hall within a few
feet of the closed door, started away as though he had received some
sort of shock. Forrest, who was lurking back in the shadows, cursed
him for a timid fool.
"Open the door, man," he whispered. "Don't stand fumbling there.
Remember you are angry at being disturbed. Send them away, whoever
they are. Look sharp! They are going to ring again. Can't you hear
that beastly bell-wire quivering?"
Cecil set his teeth, turned the huge key, and pulled back the heavy
door. He gave a little gasp of astonishment. It was a woman who
stood there. He held out his electric torch and stepped back with a
"Kate!" he cried. "What on earth are you doing here at this hour?
What do you mean by ringing the bell like that?"
The girl stepped into the hall.
"Close the door," she said. "The wind will blow the pictures off the
walls, and I can scarcely hear you speak."
Cecil obeyed at once.
"Light a lamp," she said. "It is not fair that you should have all
the light. I want to see your face too."
"But Kate," Cecil interrupted, "why did you come like this? Why did
"Never mind," she answered sternly. "Perhaps I did not come to see
you at all. Light the lamp. There is something I have to say to
Forrest stepped forward from the obscurity and struck a match. The
girl showed no signs of fear at his coming. As the lamp grew
brighter she looked at him steadfastly.
"So this is the reason we are waked up in the middle of the night,"
Forrest remarked, with a smile which somehow or other seemed to lose
its suggestiveness. "A little affair of this sort, eh, Mr. Cecil?
Why don't you teach the young lady a simpler way of summoning you
than by that infernal bell?"
Still Kate did not reply. She was standing with her back to the oak
table in the centre of the hall, and the men, who were both watching
her covertly, were conscious of a certain significance in her
attitude. Her black hair was tossed all over her face; from its
tangled web her eyes seemed to gleam with a steady inimical gaze.
Her dress of dark red stuff was splashed in places with the salt
water, and her feet were soaking. With her left hand she clasped the
table; her right seemed hidden in the folds of her skirt.
"What do you want, Kate?" Cecil asked at last. "What do you mean by
coming here like this? If you want to see me you know how, without
arousing the whole household at this time of night."
"You are not fool enough," Kate said calmly, "to imagine that I came
to-night to listen to your lies. I came to know whom it is that you
are keeping hidden away in the smugglers' room."
Neither man answered. They looked at one another, and Cecil's face
grew once more as pale as death.
"What do you mean?" he exclaimed. "What rubbish is this you are
talking, Kate?" he added, in a sharper tone. "There is no one there
that I know of."
"You lie," she answered calmly. "You lie, as you always do whenever
it answers your purpose. Only an hour ago I lay upon the turf in the
plantation there, and I heard a man moaning down in the store-room.
Now tell me the truth, Cecil de la Borne. I do not wish to bring any
harm upon you, although God knows you deserve it, but if you do not
bring me the man whom you have down there, and set him free before
my eyes at once, I'll bring half the village up to the mound there
and dig him out."
Forrest stepped forward. His manner was suave and his tone was
smooth, but there was a dangerous glitter in his eyes.
"This is rather absurd, Cecil," he said. "I do not know whom this
young lady is, but I feel sure that she will listen to reason. There
is no one down in the smugglers' store-room. If she heard anything,
it was probably the rabbits."
"Lies!" Kate answered calmly. "You are another of the breed; I can
see it in your face. I would not trust the word of either of you."
Forrest shrugged his shoulders. He glanced towards Cecil with a
slight uplifting of the eyebrows.
"Your friend, my dear Cecil," he remarked, "is like most of her sex,
a trifle unreasonable. However, since she says that she will believe
no evidence save the evidence of her eyes, show her the smugglers'
room. It would be a quaint excursion to take at this time of night,
but I will go with you for the sake of the proprieties," he added,
with a little laugh.
Cecil looked at him for a moment steadily, and then turned away.
There was fear now upon his face, a new fear. What was this thing
which Forrest could propose?
"She can come if she insists," he said slowly, "but the place has
not been opened for a long time. The air is bad. It really is not
fit for any human being."
The girl faced them both without shrinking.
"Perhaps you think that I should be afraid," she answered. "Perhaps
you think that when I am there it would be very easy to dispose of
me, so that I shall ask no more inconvenient questions. Never mind.
I am not afraid. I will go with you."
Cecil shrugged his shoulders as he led the way across the hall.
"There is nothing to fear," he said, "except the bad air and the
ghosts of smugglers, if you are superstitious enough to fear them.
Only, when you are perfectly satisfied, and you are convinced that
your errand here has been fruitless, perhaps I may have something to
The girl's lips parted. Curiously enough there was a note almost of
real merriment in the laugh which followed.
"I am not very brave, my dear Cecil," she said, "but I am not afraid
of you. I think that one does not fear the things that one
understands too well, and you I do understand too well, much too
They reached the empty gun-room. Cecil threw open the hidden door.
"Will you go first or last?" he said to the girl. "Choose your own
The girl laughed.
"The door seemed to open easily," she remarked, "considering that it
has not been used for so long."
"Never mind about that," Cecil said sharply. "Are you coming with
"I am coming," Kate answered composedly, "and I will walk last."
"As you please," Cecil answered. "Come, Forrest, you may as well see
this thing through with me."
As they stumbled along the narrow way, Cecil whispered in Forrest's
"What are we going to do with her?"
"God knows!" Forrest answered. "Do you suppose that any one knows
where she is? Who is she?"
"One of the village girls," Cecil answered, "an old sweetheart of
mine. They are strange people, and have few friends. I doubt whether
any one knows that she is out to-night."
Forrest passed on.
"If we are going to put our necks into the halter," he muttered, "a
little extra trouble won't hurt us."
They paused before the door. The girl was looking at the padlock.
"A new padlock, I see," she remarked. "Listen!"
They all listened, and now there was no doubt about it. From inside
the room they could hear the sound of a man, half singing, half
"Are those rabbits?" the girl asked, leaning forward, so that her
eyes seemed to gleam like live coal through the darkness. "Cecil,
you are being made a fool of by this man. I don't wish you any harm.
Do the right thing now, and I'll stick by you. Let this man free,
whoever he is. Don't listen to what he tells you," she added,
pointing toward Forrest.
Cecil hesitated. Forrest, who was watching him closely, could not
tell whether that hesitation was genuine or only a feint.
"It was only a joke, this, Kate," he muttered. "It was a joke which
we have carried a little too far. Yes, you shall help me if you
will. I have had enough of it. Go inside and see for yourself who is
Cecil threw open the door and Kate stepped boldly inside. Forrest
entered last and remained near the threshold. Engleton started to
his feet when he saw a third person.
"We have brought you a visitor," Forrest cried out. "You have
complained of being lonely. You will not be lonely any longer."
Kate turned toward him.
"What do you mean?" she said. "We are going to leave here together,
that man and myself, within the next few minutes."
"You lie!" Forrest answered fiercely. "You have thrust yourself into
a matter which does not concern you, and you are going to take the
"And what might they be?" Kate asked slowly.
"They rest with him," Forrest answered, pointing toward Engleton.
"There is a man there who was our friend until a few days ago. He
dared to accuse us of cheating at cards, and if we let him go he
will ruin us both. We are doing what any reasonable men must do. We
are seeking to preserve ourselves. We have kept him here a prisoner,
but he could have gained his freedom on any day by simply promising
to hold his peace. He has declined, and the time has come when we
can leave him no more. To-night, if he is obstinate, we are going to
throw him into the sea."
"And what about me?" Kate asked.
"You are going with him," Forrest answered. "If he is obstinate fool
enough to chuck your life away and his, he must do it. Only he had
better remember this," he added, looking across at Engleton, "it
will mean two lives now, and not one."
Engleton rose to his feet slowly.
"Who is she?" he asked, pointing to the girl.
"I am Kate Caynsard, one of the village people here," she answered.
"I heard you working to-night from outside. You heard me shout
"Yes!" he said. "I know."
"I will tell the truth," the girl continued. "I was fool enough once
to come here to meet that man"--she pointed to De la Borne--"that is
all over. But one night I was restless, and I came wandering through
the plantation here. It was then I saw from the other end that the
place had been altered, and it struck me to listen there where the
air-shaft is. I heard voices, and the next day they were all talking
about the disappearance of Lord Ronald Engleton. You, I suppose,"
she added, "are Lord Ronald."
"I believe I was," he answered, with a little catch in his throat.
"God knows who I am now! I give it up, De la Borne. If you are going
to send the girl after me, I give it up. I'll sign anything you
like. Only let me out of the d--d place!"
A flash of triumph lit up Forrest's face, but it lasted only for a
second. Kate had suddenly turned upon them, and was standing with
her back to the wall. The hand which had been hidden in the folds of
her dress so long, was suddenly outstretched. There was a roar which
rang through the place like the rattle of artillery, the smell of
gunpowder, and a little cloud of smoke. Through it they could see
her face; her lips parted in a smile, the wild disorder of her hair,
her sea-stained gown, her splendid pose, all seemed to make her the
central figure of the little tableau.
"I have five more barrels," she said. "I fired that one to let you
know that I was in earnest. Now if you do not let us go free, and
without conditions, it will be you who will stay here instead of us,
only you will stay here for ever!"
The smoke cleared slowly away. Engleton had risen to his feet, the
light of a new hope blazing in his eyes. Forrest and Cecil de la
Borne stood close together near the door, which still stood ajar.
The girl, who stood with her back to the wall, saw their involuntary
movement towards it, and her voice rang out sharp and clear.
"If you try it on I shoot!" she exclaimed. "You know what that
means, Cecil. A pistol isn't a plaything with me."
Cecil looked no more toward the door. He came instead a little
farther into the room.
"My dear Kate," he said, "we are willing to admit, Forrest and I,
that we are beaten. You can do exactly what you like with us except
leave us here. Our little joke with Engleton is at an end. Perhaps
we carried it too far. If so, we must face the penalty. Take him
away if you like. Personally I do not find this place attractive."
Kate lowered her revolver and turned to Engleton.
"Come over to my side," she said. "We are going to leave this
Engleton staggered towards her. He had always been thin, but he
seemed to have lost more flesh in the last few days.
"For God's sake let's get out!" he said. "If I don't breathe some
fresh air soon, it will be the end of me."
"In any order you please," Cecil de la Borne said smiling. "The only
condition I make is that before you leave the place altogether,
Kate, I have a few minutes' conversation with you. You can hold your
pistol to my temple, if you like, while I talk, but there are a few
things I must say."
"Afterwards, then," she answered. "We are going first out of the
place. We shall turn seawards and wait for you. When you have come
out, you will hand us your electric torches and go on in front."
"You are quite a strategist," Forrest remarked grimly. "Do as she
says, Cecil. The sooner we are out of this, the better."
Kate passed her hand through Engleton's arm.
"Come along," she said. "Lean on me if you are not feeling well. Do
not be afraid. They will not dare to touch us."
Engleton laughed weakly, but with the remains of the contempt with
which he had always treated his jailers.
"Afraid of them!" he exclaimed contemptuously. "I fancy the boot has
been on the other leg. Who you are, my dear young lady, I do not
know, but upon my word you are the most welcome companion a man ever
The pair moved toward the doorway. Neither Forrest nor Cecil de la
Borne made any effort to prevent their passing out. Kate turned a
little to the right, and then stood with the revolver clasped in her
"Please come out now," she said. "You will give your electric torch
She indicated Engleton, who stretched out his hand. Cecil and
Forrest obeyed her command to the letter. Engleton held the torch,
and they all four made their way along the noisome passage. Forrest
turned his head once cautiously toward his companion's, but Cecil
shook his head.
"Wait," he whispered softly.
The thunder of the sea grew less and less distinct. Before them
shone a faint glimmer of light. Soon they reached the three steps
which led up into the gun-room. Cecil and Forrest climbed up. Kate
and Engleton followed. Cecil carefully closed the door behind them.
"You see," he remarked, "we are reconciled to our defeat. Let us sit
down for a moment and talk."
"Open the window and give me some brandy," Engleton said.
Kate felt him suddenly grow heavy upon her arm.
"Bring a chair quick," she ordered. "He is going to faint."
She bent over him, alarmed at the sudden change in his face. Her
attention for one moment was relaxed. Then she felt her wrist seized
in a grip of iron. The revolver, which she was still holding, fell
to the ground, and Cecil calmly picked it up and thrust it into his
"You have played the game very well, Kate," he said. "Now I think it
is our turn."
She looked at him indignantly, but without any trace of fear.
"You brute!" she exclaimed. "Can't you see that he has fainted? Do
you want him to die here?"
"Not in the least," Cecil answered. "Here, Forrest, you take care of
this," he added, passing the revolver over to him. "I'll look after
He led him to an easy-chair close to the window. He opened it a few
inches, and a current of strong fresh air came sweeping in. Then he
poured some brandy into a glass and gave it to Kate.
"Let him sip this," he said. "Keep his head back. That's right. We
will call a truce for a few moments. I am going to talk with my
He turned away, and Kate, with a sudden movement, sprang toward the
fireplace and pulled the bell. Cecil looked around and smiled
"It is well thought of," he remarked, "but unfortunately there is
not a servant in the house. Go on ringing it, if you like. All that
it can awake are the echoes."
Kate dropped the rope and turned back towards Engleton. The colour
was coming slowly back to his cheeks. With an effort he kept from
altogether losing consciousness.
"I am not going to faint," he said in a low tone. "I will not. Tell
me, they have the pistol?"
"Yes," Kate answered, "but don't be afraid. I am not going back
there again, nor shall they take you."
He pressed her hand.
"You are a plucky girl," he muttered. "Stick to me now and I'll
never forget it. I've held out so long that I'm d--d if I let them
off their punishment now."
Cecil came slowly across the room.
"Feeling better, Engleton?" he asked.
Engleton turned his head.
"Yes," he answered, "I am well enough. What of it?"
"We'd better have an understanding," Cecil said.
"Have it, then, and be d----d to you!" Engleton answered. "You won't
get me alive down into that place again. If you are going to try,
"Come," Cecil said, "there is no need to talk like that. Why not
pass your word to treat this little matter as a joke? It's the
simplest way. Go up to your room, change your clothes and shave,
have a drink with us, and take the morning train to town. It's not
worth while risking your life for the sake of a little bit of
revenge on us for having gone too far. I admit that we were wrong in
keeping you here. You terrified us. Forrest has more enemies than
friends and I am unknown in London. If you went to the club with
your story, people would believe it. We shouldn't have a chance.
That is why we were afraid to let you go back. Forget the last few
days and cry quits."
"I'll see you d----d first," Engleton answered.
Cecil's face changed a little.
"Well," he said, "I have made you a fair offer. If you refuse, I
shall leave it to my friend Forrest to deal with you. You may not
find him so easy, as I have been."
Kate stepped for a moment forward, and laid her hand on Cecil's
"Mr. De la Borne," she said, "we don't want to have anything to say
to your friend. We trust him less than you. Open the door and let us
"Where are you going to?" Cecil asked. "Engleton is not fit to walk
"I am going to take him back home with me," Kate answered. "Oh, I
can get him there all right. I am not afraid of that. He will have
plenty of strength to walk away from this place."
"It is impossible, my dear Kate," Cecil answered. "Take my advice.
Leave him to us. We will deal with him reasonably enough. Kate,
He passed his arm through hers and drew her a little on one side.
"Kate," he said, "I'm afraid I haven't behaved exactly well to you.
I got up in London amongst a lot of people who seemed to look at
things so differently, and there were distractions, and I'm afraid
that I forgot some of my promises. But I have never forgotten you.
Why do you take the part of that miserable creature over there? He
is just a young simpleton, who, because he was half drunk, dared to
accuse us of cheating. We were obliged to keep him shut up until he
took it back. Leave him to us. He shall come to no harm. I give you
my word, and I will never forget it."
Kate looked at him a little curiously.
"Will you keep your promise?" she asked curiously.
Cecil hesitated, but only for a minute.
"Yes," he said, "I will even do that."
She withdrew her arm firmly, but without haste.
"Is that all you have to say?" she asked.
"I offer you my promise," he answered. "Isn't that worth something?"
"Something," she answered, "not much. I want no more to do with you,
Mr. Cecil de la Borne. Don't think you can make terms with me for
you can't. I only hope that you get punished for what you have
Cecil raised his hand as though about to strike her.
"You little cat!" he exclaimed. "We'll see the thing through, then.
You are prisoners here just as much as though you were in the
Forrest, who had spoken very little, came suddenly forward.
"We have talked too much," he said, "and wasted too much time. Let
us have the issue before us in black and white. Engleton, are you
well enough to understand what I say?"
"Perfectly," Engleton answered. "Go on."
"Will you sign a retraction of your charges against us, and pledge
your word of honour never to repeat them, or to make any complaint,
formal or otherwise, as to your detention here."
"I'm d----d if I will!" Engleton answered.
"Consider what your refusal means first," Forrest said. "Open the
passage door, Cecil."
Cecil pushed it back, and a little breath of the noxious odour stole
into the room.
"You either make us that promise, Engleton," he said, "or as sure as
I'm standing here, we'll drag you both down that passage, right to
the end, and throw you into the sea."
"And hang for it afterwards," Engleton said, with a sneer.
"Not we," Forrest declared. "The currents down there are strange
ones, and it would be many weeks before your bodies were recovered.
Your character in London is pretty well known, and Kate here has
been seen often enough on her way up to the Hall. People will soon
put two and two together. There are a dozen places in the Spinney
where one could slip off into the sea. Besides we shall have a
little evidence to offer. Oh, there is nothing for us to fear, I can
assure you. Now then. I can see it's no use arguing with you any
"One moment," Kate said. "What about the young lady I left outside?"
Cecil turned upon her swiftly.
"Don't tell lies, Kate," he said. "It's a poor sort of tale that."
"At any rate it's no lie," Kate answered. "When I came to your front
door, I left the young lady who was staying here only a few weeks
ago, Miss Le Mesurier you called her, sitting in the barn waiting."
Cecil laughed scornfully.
"Did she drop from the clouds?" he asked.
"She has been staying at the farm," Kate answered, "for days. I
brought her with me to-night because I thought that she might know
something about Lord Ronald's disappearance. She is there waiting.
If I do not return by daylight, she will go to the police."
"I think," Forrest remarked ironically, "that we will risk the young
lady outside. Your story, my dear, is ingenious, but scarcely
plausible. If you are ready, Cecil--"
The four of them were suddenly stupefied into a dead silence. Their
eyes were riveted upon the door which led to the underground
passage. Cecil's face was almost grotesque with the terrible writing
of fear. Distinctly they could all hear footsteps stumbling along
the uneven way. Forrest was first to recover the power of speech. He
called out to Cecil from the other end of the room.
"Shut the door! Shut it, I say!"
Cecil took a quick step forward. Before he could reach the door,
however, the girl had thrown her arms round his waist.
"You shall not close it," she cried.
"Who is it coming?" Cecil cried panting.
"God knows!" she answered. "They say the ghosts walk here."
He strove to loosen himself from her grasp, but he was powerless.
Nevertheless he got a little nearer to the door. Forrest came
swiftly across the room. Engleton struck at him with a chair, but
the blow was harmless.
"Stand aside, Cecil," Forrest said. "I'll close it."
"I'm hanged if you will," was the sudden reply.
Andrew de la Borne stepped out of the darkness and stood upright,
blinking and looking around in amazement.
Jeanne was sitting in the garden of the Caynsard farm. The
excitement of the last twenty-four hours had left her languid. For
once she lay and watched with idle, almost with indifferent eyes,
the great stretch of marshes riven with the incoming sea. She saw
the fishing boats that a few hours ago were dead inert things upon a
bed of mud, come gliding up the tortuous water-ways. On the horizon
was the sea bank, with its long line of poles, and the wires
connecting the coastguard stations. They stood like silent
sentinels, clean and distinct against the empty background. Jeanne
sighed as she watched, and the thoughts came crowding into her head.
It was a restful country this, a country of timeworn, mouldering
grey churches, and of immemorial landmarks, a country where
everything seemed fixed and restful, everything except the sea. A
wave of self pity swept over her. After all she had lived a very
little time to know so much unhappiness. Worse than all, this
morning she was filled with apprehensions. She feared something. She
scarcely knew what, or from what direction it might come. The song
of the larks brought her no comfort. The familiar and beautiful
places upon which she looked pleased her no more. She was glad when
Kate Caynsard came out of the house and moved slowly towards her.
Kate, too, showed some of the signs of the recent excitement. There
were black lines under her wonderful eyes, and she walked
hesitatingly, without any of the firm splendid grace which made her
movements a delight to watch. Jeanne was afraid at first that she
was going to turn away, and called to her.
"Kate," she exclaimed, "I want you. Come here and talk to me."
Kate threw herself on to the ground by Jeanne's side.
"All the talking in the world," she murmured, "will not change the
things that happened last night. They will not even smooth away the
Jeanne was silent. There was a thought in her head which had been
there twisting and biting its way in her brain through the silent
hours of the night and again in her waking moments. She looked down
towards her companion stretched at her feet.
"Kate," she said, "how did Mr. Andrew get the message that brought
him to the Red Hall last night?"
"I sent it," Kate answered. "I sent him word that there were things
going on at the Red Hall which I could not understand. I told him
that I thought it would be well if he came."
"You knew his address?" Jeanne asked, a little coldly.
"Yes!" Kate answered.
"You have written him before, perhaps?" Jeanne asked.
"Yes!" the girl answered absently.
There was a short silence. Each of the two seemed occupied in her
own thoughts. When Jeanne spoke again her manner was changed. The
other girl noticed it, without being conscious of the reason.
"What has happened this morning, do you know?" Jeanne asked.
"They are all at the Red Hall still," Kate answered. "Major Forrest
tried to leave this morning, but Mr. Andrew would not let him. He
will not let either of them go away until Lord Ronald is well enough
to say what shall be done."
"I wonder," Jeanne said, "what would have happened if Mr. Andrew had
not arrived last night."
"God knows!" Kate answered. "He is a wily brute, the man Forrest.
How was it that you," she added, "found Mr. Andrew?"
"I waited on the mound in the plantation," Jeanne said, "with my ear
to the ground, and presently I heard a pistol shot and then a
scuffle, and afterwards silence. I was frightened, and I made my way
to the road and hurried along toward the village. Then I saw a cart
and I stopped it, and inside was Mr. Andrew, on his way from Wells.
I told him something of what was happening, and he put me in the
cart and sent me back. Then he went on to the Red Hall."
Kate nodded slowly.
"I am glad that I sent for him," she said. "I am afraid that last
night there would have been bloodshed if he had not come. When he
was there there was not one who dared speak or move any more, except
as he directed. He is very strong, and he was made, I think, to
Jeanne's lips quivered for a moment. Her eyes were fixed upon the
distant figure, motionless now, upon the raised sandbanks. Kate had
turned her head toward the Red Hall, and was looking at one of the
windows there as though her eyes would pierce the distance.
"Tell me," Jeanne asked. "I have seen you once with Mr. De la Borne.
He is a great friend of yours?"
"He was," the girl at her feet whispered.
Jeanne found herself shaking. She stooped down.
"What do you mean?" she whispered.
Kate looked up from the ground. She raised herself a little. For a
moment her eyes flashed.
"I mean," she said, "that before you came he was more than a friend.
It was you who drove his thoughts of me away. You with your great
fortune, and your childish, foreign ways. Oh, I talk like a fool, I
know!" she said, springing up, "but I am not a fool. I do not hate
you. I have never tried to do you any harm. It is not your fault. It
is what one calls fate. Once," she cried, "we Caynsards lived along
the coast there in a house greater than the Red Hall, and our lands
were richer. Generation after generation of us have been pushed by
fortune downwards and downwards. The men lose lands and money, and
the women disgrace themselves, or creep into some corner to die with
a broken heart. I talk to you as one of the villagers here. I know
very well that I speak the dialect of the peasants, and that my
words are ill-chosen. How can I help it? We are all paupers, every
one of us. That is why sometimes I feel that I cannot breathe. That
is why I do mad things, and people believe that I am indeed out of
She sprang to her feet. Jeanne tried to detain her.
"Let me talk to you for a little time, Kate," she begged. "You are
none of the things you fancy, and I am very sure that Mr. De la
Borne does not care for me, or for my fortune. Stay just for a
But Kate was already gone. Jeanne could see her speeding down to the
harbour, and a few minutes later gliding down the creek in her
The Count de Brensault was angry, and he had not sufficient dignity
to hide it. The Princess, in whose boudoir he was, regarded him from
her sofa as one might look at some strange animal.
"My dear Count," she said, "it is not reasonable that you should be
angry with me. Is it my fault that I am plagued with a stepdaughter
of so extraordinary a temperament? She will return directly, or we
shall find her. I am sure of it. The wedding can be arranged then as
speedily as you wish. I give her to you. I consent to your marriage.
What could woman do more?"
"That is all very well," the Count said, "all very well indeed, but
I do not understand how it is that a young lady could disappear from
her home like this, and that her guardian should know nothing about
it. Where could she have gone to? You say that she had very little
money. Why should she go? Who was unkind to her?"
"All that I did," the Princess answered, "was to tell her that she
must marry you."
The Count twirled his moustache.
"Is it likely," he demanded, "that that should drive her away from
her home? The idea of marriage, it may terrify these young misses at
the first thought, but in their hearts they are very, very glad.
Ah!" he added softly, "I have had some experience. I am not a boy."
The Princess looked at him. Whatever her thoughts may have been, her
face remained inscrutable.
"No!" the Count continued, drawing his chair a little nearer to the
Princess' couch, and leaning towards her, "I do not believe that it
was the fear of marriage which drove little Jeanne to disappear."
"Then what do you believe, my dear Count?" the Princess asked.
His eyes seemed to narrow.
"Perhaps," he said significantly, "you may have thought that with
her great fortune, and seeing me a little foolish for her, that you
had not driven quite a good enough bargain, eh?"
"You insulting beast!" the Princess remarked.
The Count grinned. He was in no way annoyed.
"Ah!" he said. "I am a man whom it is not easy to deceive. I have
seen very much of the world, and I know the ways of women. A woman
who wants money, my dear Princess, is very, very clever, and not too
"Your experiences, Count," the Princess said, "may be interesting,
but I do not see how they concern me."
"But they might concern you," the Count said, "if I were to speak
plainly; if, for instance, I were to double that little amount we
"Do you mean to insinuate," the Princess remarked, "that I know
where Jeanne is now? That it is I who have put her out of the way
for a little time, in order to make a better bargain with you?"
The Count bowed his head.
"A very clever scheme," he declared, "a very clever scheme indeed."
The Princess drew a little breath. Then she looked at the Count and
suddenly laughed. After all, it was not worth while to be angry with
such a creature. Besides, if Jeanne should turn up, she might as
well have the extra money.
"You give me credit, I fear," she said, "for being a cleverer woman
than I am, but as a matter of curiosity, supposing I am able to hand
you over Jeanne very shortly, would you agree to double the little
amount we have spoken of?"
"I will double it," the Count declared solemnly. "You see when I
wish for a thing I am generous. I can only hope," he added, with a
peculiar smile, "Miss Jeanne may soon make her reappearance." There
was a knock at the door. The Princess looked up, frowning. Her maid
put her head cautiously in.
"I am sorry to disturb you, madam, against your orders," she said,
"but Miss Jeanne has just arrived."
The Count opened his mouth. It was his way of expressing supreme
astonishment. The Princess sat bolt upright on her couch and gazed
at Jeanne with wide-open and dilated eyes. Curiously enough it was
the Count who first recovered himself.
"Is it a game, this?" he asked softly. "You press the button and the
little girl appears. That means that I increase the stakes and the
prize pops up."
The Princess rose to her feet. She crossed the room to meet Jeanne
with outstretched arms.
"Shut up, you fool!" she said to the Count in passing. "Jeanne my
child," she added, "is it really you?"
Jeanne accepted the proffered embrace, without enthusiasm. She
recognized the Count, however, with a little wave of colour.
"Yes," she said quietly, "I have come back. I am sorry I went away.
It was a mistake, a great mistake."
"You have driven us nearly wild with anxiety," the Princess
declared. "Where have you been to?"
"Yes!" the Count echoed, fixing his eyes upon her, "where have you
Jeanne behaved with a composure which astonished them both. She
calmly unbuttoned her gloves and seated herself in the easy-chair.
"I have been to Salthouse," she said.
"What! back to the Red Hall?" the Princess exclaimed.
Jeanne shook her head.
"No!" she said, "I have been in rooms at a farmhouse there,
Caynsard's farm. I went away because I did not like the life here,
and because my stepmother," she continued, turning toward the Count,
"seemed determined that I should marry you. I thought that I would
go away into the country, somewhere where I could think quietly. I
went to Salthouse because it was the only place I knew."
"You are the maddest child!" the Princess exclaimed.
Jeanne smiled, a little wearily.
"If I have been mad," she said, "I have come to my senses again."
The Count leaned toward her eagerly.
"I trust," he said, "that that means that you are ready now to obey
your stepmother, and to make me very, very happy."
Jeanne looked at him deliberately.
"It depends," she said, "upon circumstances."
"Tell me what they are quickly," the Count declared. "I am
impatient. I cannot bear that you keep me waiting. Let me know of my
The Princess was suddenly uneasy. There was one weak point in her
schemes, a weakness of her own creating. Ever since she had told
Jeanne the truth about her lack of fortune, she had felt that it was
a mistake. Suppose she should be idiot enough to give the thing
away! The Princess felt her heart beat fast at the mere supposition.
There was something about Jeanne's delicate oval face, her straight
mouth and level eyebrows, which somehow suggested that gift which to
the Princess was so incomprehensible in her sex, the gift of
honesty. Suppose Jeanne were to tell the Count the truth!
"First of all, then," Jeanne said, "I must ask you whether my
stepmother has told the truth about myself and my fortune."
The Princess knew then that the game was up. She sank back upon the
sofa, and at that moment she would have declared that there was
nothing in the world more terrible than an ungrateful and
"The truth?" the Count remarked, a little puzzled. "I know only what
the world knows, that you are the daughter of Carl le Mesurier, and
that he left you the residue of one of the greatest fortunes in
Jeanne drew a letter from her pocket.
"The Princess," she remarked, "must have forgotten to tell you. This
great fortune that all the world has spoken of, and that seems to
have made me so famous, has been all the time something of a myth.
It has existed only in the imaginations of my kind friends. A few
days ago my stepmother here told me of this. I wrote at once to
Monsieur Laplanche, my trustee. She would not let me send the
letter. When I was at Salthouse, however, I wrote again, and this
time I had a reply. It is here. There is a statement," she
continued, "which covers many pages, and which shows exactly how my
father's fortune was exaggerated, how securities have dwindled, and
how my stepmother's insisting upon a very large allowance during my
school-days, has eaten up so much of the residue. There is left to
me, it appears, a sum of fourteen thousand pounds. That is a very
small fortune, is it not?" she asked calmly.
The Count was gazing at her as one might gaze upon a tragedy.
"It is not a fortune!" he exclaimed. "It is not even a dot! It is
nothing at all, a year's income, a trifle."
"Nevertheless," Jeanne said calmly, "it is all that I possess. You
see," she continued, "I have come back to my stepmother to tell her
that if I am bound by law to do as she wishes until I am of age, I
will be dutiful and marry the man whom she chooses for me, but I
wish to tell you two things quite frankly. The first you have just
heard. The second is that I do not care for you in the least, that
in fact I rather dislike you."
The Princess buried her head in her hands. She was not anxious to
look at any one just then, or to be looked at. The Count rose to his
feet. There were drops of perspiration upon his forehead. He was
"Is this true, madam?" he asked of the Princess.
"It is true," she admitted.
He leaned towards her.
"What about my three thousand pounds?" he whispered. "Who will pay
me back that? It is cheating. That money has been gained by what you
call false pretences. There is punishment for that, eh?"
The Princess dabbed at her eyes with a little morsel of lace
"One must live," she murmured. "It was not I who talked about
Jeanne's fortune. It was all the world who said how rich she was.
Why should I contradict them? I wanted a place once more in the only
Society in Europe which counts, English society. There was only one
way and I took it. So long as people believed Jeanne to be the
heiress of a great fortune, I was made welcome wherever I chose to
go. That is the truth, my dear Count."
"It is all very well," the Count answered, "but the money I have
"You took your own risk," the Princess answered, coldly. "I was not
to know that you were expecting to repay yourself out of Jeanne's
fortune. It is not too late. You are not married to her."
"No," the Count said slowly, "I am not married to her."
The Princess watched him from the corners of her eyes. He was
evidently very much distracted. He walked up and down the room.
Every now and then he glanced at Jeanne. Jeanne was very pale, but
she wore a hat with a small green quill which he had once admired.
Certainly she had an air, she was distinguished. There was something
vaguely provocative about her, a charm which he could not help but
feel. He stopped short in the middle of his perambulations. It was
the moment of his life. He felt himself a hero.
"Madam," he said, addressing the Princess, "I have been badly
treated. There is no one who would not admit that. I have been
deceived--a man less kind than I might say robbed. No matter. I
forget it all. I forget my disappointment, I forget that this young
lady whom you offer me for a wife has a dot so pitifully small that
it counts for nothing. I take her. I accept her. Jeanne," he added,
moving towards her, "you hear? It is because I love you so very,
Jeanne shrank back in her chair.
"You mean," she cried, "that you are willing to take me now that you
know everything, now that you know I have so little money? You mean
that you want to marry me still?"
The Count assented graciously. Never in the course of his whole
life, had he admired himself so much.
"I forget everything," he declared, with a little wave of the hand,
"except that I love you, and that you are the one woman in the world
whom I wish to make the Comtesse de Brensault. Mademoiselle permits
He stooped and raised her cold hand to his lips. Jeanne looked at
him with the fascinated despair of some stricken animal. The
Princess rose to her feet. It was wonderful, this--a triumph beyond
"Jeanne, my child," she said, "you are the most fortunate girl I
know, to have inspired a devotion so great. Count," she added, "you
are wonderful. You deserve all the happiness which I am sure will
come to you."
The Count looked as though he were perfectly convinced of it. All
the same he whispered in her ear a moment later--
"You must pay me back that three thousand pounds!"
For the Princess it was a day full of excitements. The Count had
only just reluctantly withdrawn, and Jeanne had gone to her room
under the plea of fatigue, when Forrest was shown in. She started at
the look in his drawn face.
"Nigel," she exclaimed hastily, "is everything all right?"
He threw himself into a chair.
"Everything," he answered, "is all wrong. Everything is over."
The Princess saw then that he had aged during the last few days,
that this man whose care of himself had kept him comparatively
youthful looking, notwithstanding the daily routine of an
unwholesome life, was showing signs at last of breaking down. There
were lines about his eyes, little baggy places underneath. He
dragged his feet across the carpet as though he were tired. The
Princess pushed up an easy-chair and went herself to the sideboard.
"Give me a little brandy," he said, "or rather a good deal of
brandy. I need it."
The Princess felt her own hand shake. She brought him a tumbler and
sat down by his side.
"You had to kill him?" she asked, in a whisper. "Is it that?"
Forrest set down his glass--empty.
"No!" he answered. "We were going to, when a mad woman who lives
there got into the place and found us out. We had them safe, the two
of them, when the worst thing happened which could have befallen us.
Andrew de la Borne broke in upon us."
The Princess listened with set face.
"Go on," she said. "What happened?"
"The game was up so far as we were concerned," he answered. "Cecil
crumpled up before his brother, and gave the whole show away. There
was nothing left for me to do but to wait and hear what they had to
say, before I decided whether or no to make my graceful exit from
"Go on," she commanded. "What happened exactly?"
"We were kept there," he continued, "until this morning, waiting
until Engleton was well enough to make up his mind what to do. The
end is simple enough. Considering that but for that girl's
intervention Engleton would have been in the sea by now, and he
knows it, I suppose it might have been worse. I have signed a paper
undertaking to leave England within forty-eight hours, and never to
show myself in this country again. Further, I am not to play cards
at any time with any Englishman."
"Is that all?" the Princess asked.
"Yes!" Forrest answered. "I suppose you would say that they have let
me off lightly. I wish I could feel so. If ever a man was sick of
those dirty disreputable foreign places, where one holds on to life
and respectability only with the tips of one's fingernails, I am. I
think I shall chuck it, Ena. I am tired of those foreign crowds,
suspicious, semi-disreputable. There's something wrong with every
one of them. Even the few decent ones you know very well speak to
you because you are in a foreign country, and would cut you in Pall
"It isn't so bad as that," the Princess said calmly. "There are some
of the places worth living in. You must live a quieter life, spend
less, and find distractions. You used to be so fond of shooting and
He laughed hardly.
"How am I to live," he demanded, "away from the card-tables? What do
you suppose my income is? A blank! It is worse than a blank, for I
owe bills which I shall never pay. How am I going to live from day
to day unless I go on the same infernal treadmill. I am an
adventurer, I know," he went on, "but what is one to do who has the