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Jeanne Of The Marshes by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Part 6 out of 6

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tastes and education of a gentleman, and not even money enough to
buy a farm and work with one's hands for a living?"

The Princess moved to the window and back again.

"I, too, Nigel," she said, "have had shocks. Jeanne has come back.
She has been at Salthouse all the time."

"It was probably she, then, who sent for De la Borne," Forrest said

"Perhaps so," the Princess assented, "but listen to this. It will
surprise you. She came back and she told De Brensault in this room
only a short while ago that her supposed fortune was a myth. De
Brensault took it like a lamb. He wants to marry her still."

Forrest looked up in amazement.

"And will he?" he asked.

"Oh, I do not know!" the Princess answered. "Nigel, I am sick of
life myself. There are times when everything you have been trying
for seems not worth while, when even one's fundamental ideas come
tottering down. Just now I feel as though every stone in the
foundation of what has seemed to me to mean life, is rotten and
insecure. I am tired of it. Shall I tell you what I feel like

"Yes!" he answered.

"I have a little house in Silesia, where I am still a great lady,
half-a-dozen servants, perhaps, farms which bring in a trifle of
money. I think I will go and live there. I think I will get up in
the mornings as Jeanne does, and try to love my mountains, and go
about amongst my people, and try to spell life with different
letters. Come with me, Nigel. There is shooting and fishing there,
and horses wild enough for even you to find pleasure in riding. We
have tried many things in life. Let us make one last throw, and try
the land of Arcady."

He looked at her, at first in amazement. Afterwards some change
seemed to come into his face, called there, perhaps, by what he saw
in hers.

"Ena," he said, "you mean it?"

"Absolutely," she answered. "Fortunately we are both free, and we
can set our peasants an absolutely respectable example. You shall be
farmer and I will be housewife. Nigel, it is an inspiration."

He bent over her fingers.

"I wonder," he murmured, "if there is good enough left in me to make
it worth your while."

Late that afternoon another caller thundered at the door of the
house in Berkeley Square. The Duke of Westerham desired to see Miss
Le Mesurier. The butler was respectful but doubtful. Miss Le
Mesurier had just arrived from a journey and was lying down. The
Duke, however, was insistent. He waited twenty minutes in a small
back morning-room and presently Jeanne came in to him.

He held out his hands.

"Little girl," he said, "you know what you promised. I am afraid
that you have forgotten."

She smiled pitifully.

"No," she said, "I have not forgotten. I went away alone because I
had to go, because I wanted to be quite alone and quite quiet. Now I
have come home, and there is no one who can help me at all."

"Rubbish!" he answered. "There was never trouble in the world where
a friend couldn't help. What is it now?"

She shook her head.

"I cannot tell you," she said, "only I am going to marry the Count
de Brensault."

"I'm hanged if you are!" the Duke declared vigorously. "Look here,
Miss Jeanne. This is your stepmother's doing. I know all about it.
Don't you believe that in this country you are obliged to marry any
one whom you don't want to."

"But I do want to," Jeanne answered, "or rather I don't mind whom I
do marry, or whether I marry any one or no one."

The Duke was grave.

"I thought," he said, "that my friend Andrew had a chance."

Her face was suddenly burning.

"Mr. Andrew," she said, "does not want me; I mean that it is
impossible. Oh, if you please," she added, bursting into tears,
"won't you let me alone? I am going to marry the Count de Brensault.
I have quite made up my mind. Perhaps you have not heard that it is
all a mistake about my having a great fortune. The Count de
Brensault is very kind, and he is going to marry me although I have
no money."

The Duke stared at her for several moments. Then he rang the bell.

"Will you tell your mistress," he said to the servant, "that the
Duke of Westerham would be exceedingly obliged if she would spare
him five minutes here and now."

The man bowed and withdrew. The Princess came almost at once.

"Madam," the Duke said, "I trust that you will forgive my sending
for you, but I am very much interested in the happiness of our
little friend Miss Jeanne here. She tells me that she is going to
marry the Count de Brensault, that she has lost her fortune and she
is evidently very unhappy. Will you forgive me if I ask you whether
this marriage is being forced upon her?"

The Princess hesitated.

"No," she said, "it is not that. Jeanne told him of her loss of
fortune. She told him, too, without any prompting from me, that she
would marry him if he still wished it. That is all that I know."

The Duke bowed. He moved a few steps across towards the Princess.

"Princess," he said, "will you make a friend? Will you let me take
your little girl to my sister's for say one week? You shall have her
back then, and you shall do as you will with her."

"Willingly," the Princess answered. "I am only anxious that she
should be happy."

The Duke marvelled then at the sincerity in her tone. Nevertheless,
for fear she should change her mind, he hurried Jeanne out of the
house into his brougham.


"So this," the Duke said, "is your wonderful land."

"Is there anything like it in the world?" Jeanne asked as she stood
bareheaded on the grass-banked dyke with her face turned seaward.

Above their heads the larks were singing. To their right stretched
the marshes and pasture land, as yet untouched by the sea, glorious
with streaks of colour, fragrant with the perfume of wild lavender
and mosses. To their left, through the opening in the sandbanks,
came streaming the full tide, rushing up into the land, making
silver water-ways of muddy places, bringing with it all the salt and
freshness and joy of the sea. Over their heads the seagulls cried.
Far away a heron lifted its head from a tuft of weeds, and sent his
strange call travelling across the level distance.

"Oh, it is beautiful to be here again!" Jeanne said. "Even though it
hurts," she added, in a lower tone, "it is beautiful."

A little boat came darting down the shallows. Kate Caynsard stood up
and waved her hand. Jeanne waved back. A sudden flush of colour
stained her cheeks. Her first impulse seemed to be to turn away. She
conquered it, however, and beckoned to the girl, who ran her boat
close to them.

"My last sail," the girl cried, as she stepped to land. "I am saying
good-bye to all these wonderful places, Miss Le Mesurier," she
added. "To-morrow we are going to sail for Canada."

Jeanne looked at her in amazement.

"You are going to Canada?" she asked.

The girl, too, was surprised.

"Have you not heard?" she said. "I thought, perhaps, that Mr. Andrew
might have told you. Cecil and I are sailing to-morrow, directly
after we are married. He has bought a farm out there."

Jeanne felt for a moment that the beautiful world was spinning round
her. She clutched at the Duke's arm.

"You are going to Canada with Cecil?" she exclaimed.

"Of course," Kate answered, a little shyly. "I thought, in fact I
know that I told you about him. Won't you wish me joy?" she added,
holding out her hand a little timidly.

Jeanne grasped it. To the girl's surprise Jeanne's eyes were full of

"Oh, I am so foolish!" she declared. "I have been so mad. I thought-
-You said Mr. De la Borne."

"Hang it all!" the Duke exclaimed. "I believe you thought that she
meant our friend Andrew. Don't you know that all the world here half
the time calls Cecil, Mr. De la Borne, and Andrew, Mr. Andrew?"

Kate looked behind her, and touched the Duke on the sleeve.

"Wouldn't you like, sir," she asked, a little timidly, "to come for
a sail with me?"

The Duke saw what she saw, and notwithstanding his years and his
weight, he clambered into the little boat. Jeanne turned round and
walked slowly towards the man who came so swiftly along the dyke. It
was a dream! She felt that it must be a dream!

Andrew, with his gun over his shoulder, his rough tweed clothes
splashed with black mud, gazed at her as though she were an
apparition. Then he saw something in her face which told him so much
that he forgot the little catboat, barely out of sight, he forgot
the little red-roofed village barely a mile away, he forgot the lone
figures of the shrimpers, standing like sentinels far away in the
salt pools. He took Jeanne into his arms, and he felt her lips melt
upon his.

"The Duke was right, then," he murmured a moment later, as he stood
back for a moment, his face transformed with the new thing that had
come into his life.

"Dear man!" Jeanne murmured.

They watched the boat gliding away in the distance.

"I believe," he declared, "that they went away on purpose."

She laughed as they scrambled down on to the marsh, and turned
toward the place where he had first met her.

"I believe they did," she answered.

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