Part 3 out of 4
MADAME DE LA FONTAINE
For several hours after his return to the little cabin Dan had ample
leisure in which to think over his extraordinary interview. There could
be no doubt that the conspirators, for such he had come to call them to
himself, were determined and desperate enough to go to any lengths in
accomplishing their designs. Whether his suspicions and activity in
seeking Nancy had precipitated their plans, his unexpected capture seemed
to embarrass his captors as much as it did himself. At least, he gathered
this from Madame de la Fontaine's conversation. Whatever might be the
motive of the lady's proposed confidence, poor Frost could see nothing
for it but to await their disclosure and then seize whatever advantage
they might open to him. Notwithstanding the fact that Dan had cautioned
himself against trusting the flattery of his charming visitor,
notwithstanding that he told himself to be forewarned, even by his own
suspicions, was to be forearmed, he was in reality unconscious of the
degree to which he had proved susceptible to the lady's blandishments, if
indeed she had employed blandishments and had not merely given him the
evidence of a good heart upon which his youth and naiveté had made a
Dan's experiences with girls up to this time had been limited. His
emotional nature had never, as yet, been deeply stirred. But no one could
be insensible to Madame de la Fontaine's beauty and charm, and her
delightfully natural familiarity; and, finally, her fleeting kiss had
seemed to Dan but evidence of a warm impulsive heart. To be sure, with
all the good will in the world, he could not acquit her of being
concerned in a mysterious plot--indeed, had she not admitted so
much?--though, also, he must in justice remember that he knew very little
of the nature of the plot in question.
As he paced restlessly back and forth the length of his prison, he tried
to think clearly of the accumulating mystery. Was there a hidden treasure
and how did the Marquis know about it? What part had the _Southern Cross_
to play with its diabolical looking captain, and what could have become
of Nancy? Then why had Madame de la Fontaine--but again his cheek would
burn and remembrance of the bewitching Frenchwoman blotted out all else.
At half-past twelve Captain Bonhomme appeared again. This time he invited
Dan to partake of luncheon with him on the condition once more of a
parole. And Dan accepted. He and the Captain made their luncheon
together, attended by the faithful Jean; and, though no mention was made
to their anomalous position, the meal was not altogether a comfortable
one. Captain Bonhomme asked a great many questions about the country, to
which Frost was inclined to give but the briefest replies; nor, on his
part, did he show more disposition to be communicative in response to
Dan's questions about France. Jean regarded the situation with obviously
surly disapproval. When the meal was finished, Frost was conducted back
to his little cabin.
About two o'clock he saw the small boat put off for shore, and glancing
in that direction, he was relieved to see Madame de la Fontaine already
waiting upon the beach. Within half-an-hour he was again in her
presence in the Captain's saloon, where their conversation had taken
place in the morning.
The lady received him graciously. "Ah! monsieur Dan, I fear you have had
a weary day of it; but it was impossible for me to return sooner."
"It is very kind of you to return at all," replied Dan, gallantly enough.
"Now, Monsieur, you are anxious, I know, that I keep my promise of
"Most anxious," said Dan.
"Without doubt. Come here, my friend, sit near me and listen attentively
to a long story."
"You have consulted with the Marquis?"
"_Mais oui_. It was difficult, but I have brought him to my way of
thinking. I am certain that it was an error in the first place not
taking you into our confidence. _Eh bien_! Tell me, do you know how
your foster-sister came to be in the charge of your mother at the Inn
at the Red Oak?"
"Yes, I know what my mother has told me. The child was abandoned to her
rather than left in her charge."
"_Mais non_" said Madame de la Fontaine; "General Pointelle was impelled
to act as he did by the strongest motives,--nothing less than the
tremendous task, undertaken for his country, to liberate the Emperor
Napoleon from Elba. General Pointelle was a soldier,--more, he was a
maréchal of the Empire; the greatest responsibilities devolved upon him.
It was impossible for him to be burdened with a child."
"But why, madame, did he not take my mother into his confidence?"
"Secrecy was imperative, monsieur. Even to this day, you do not know who
General Pointelle actually was. His was a name well-known in France,
glorious in the annals of the Empire; a name, too, familiar to you in a
somewhat different connection. 'General Pointelle' was the
_nom-de-guerre_, as it were, of François, Marquis de Boisdhyver, maréchal
"François! you say, _François_!" exclaimed Dan.
"_Mais oui_, monsieur; but that should hardly astonish you so much as the
fact that he was a Boisdhyver. Why are you surprised?"
"Simply, madame," exclaimed Dan hastily, "by the fact that it is the same
name as that of our Marquis."
"Not quite," corrected the lady; "our Marquis--as you say--is
Marie-Anne-Timélon-Armand de Boisdhyver, the General's younger brother."
"Ah! and therefore Nancy's uncle?"
"Yes, the uncle of Nancy Frost, or of Eloise de Boisdhyver."
"I see," said Dan. "I begin to see."
"_Eh bien_, monsieur. General Pointelle--the maréchal de
Boisdhyver,--left the Inn at the Red Oak upon a mission for the Emperor,
then at Elba. _Hélas_! that mission ended with disaster after the Hundred
Days; for, as you know, the Emperor was sent in exile to St. Helena; and,
as you may not know, the Maréchal de Boisdhyver was killed on the plains
of Waterloo. _Allons_; when he left Deal, he concealed in a hidden
chamber, which one enters, I believe, from a room you call the Oak
Parlour, a large treasure, of jewels and gold. This treasure, saved from
the _debacle_ in France, he had brought with him to America, and he hid
it in the Inn, for the future of his little daughter Eloise. You remember
that your mother was to hear something of advantage to her and the child,
did not the General return. It was the secret of the treasure and the
directions to find it. Well, Monsieur, at Waterloo, you must know, the
Maréchal and his brother, the present Marquis, fought side by side.
François de Boisdhyver fell, nobly fighting for the glory of France;
Marie-Anne had the good fortune to preserve his life, but was taken
prisoner by the English. Before the Maréchal received his death wound,
the two brothers spoke with each other for the last time. In that
moment, monsieur, the Marquis François revealed to the Marquis Marie-Anne
that he had abandoned his daughter in America and that he had concealed
in your old inn a treasure sufficient to provide for her future. He
charged his brother to go to America, if he survived the battle; claim
the little Eloise; rescue the treasure, and return with her to France and
restore the fallen fortunes of the House of Boisdhyver.
"It took the Marquis Marie-Anne a long time to carry out his brother's
dying injunctions," said Dan.
"Ah! but yes. You do not realize that the Marquis Marie-Anne, after the
fall of Napoleon, spent many years in a military prison in England, for I
have already told you that he fell into the hands of the enemy on the
field of Waterloo. When at last he was released, he was aged, broken, and
in poverty. His brother, in those dreadful moments on the battlefield,
had been able to give him but the briefest description of the Inn at the
Red Oak and the hidden treasure. He did not tell him where the treasure
was, but only how he might obtain the paper of instructions which the
Maréchal had concealed in a curiously-carved old cabinet in the Oak
Parlour. The Maréchal, monsieur, loved the mysterious, and chose the
device of tearing into two parts this paper of directions and concealing
them in different hiding-places of the cabinet. Those directions, after
many years, grew vague in the younger brother's memory.
"_Eh bien_, the Marquis was at last able to make the journey to this
country. You must remember he had nothing wherewith to prove his story,
if he gave you his confidence at once; and so, he decided, to investigate
quietly alone. But he won the confidence of Mademoiselle Nancy,--that is,
of his niece, Eloise de Boisdhyver,--and revealed to her the secret of
her identity and the mysterious story of the treasure. You follow me in
all this, Monsieur Dan?"
"Perfectly, madame," Frost replied. "But as yet you have told me nothing
of your own connection with this strange history."
"Pardon, dear boy," rejoined Madame de la Fontaine; "I was about to do
so, but there is so much to tell. My own connection with the affair is
quite simple. I am an old friend, one of the oldest, of Monsieur le
Marquis de Boisdhyver, and, when I was a very young girl, I knew the
Maréchal himself. It has been my happiness to be able to prove my
friendship for a noble and a fallen family. One day last summer, Monsieur
de Boisdhyver told me his brother's dying words, and it was I, Monsieur
Dan, who was able to give the money for this strange expedition. The poor
Marquis had lost quite all his fortune."
"I understand," said Frost. "But, yet, madame, I do not see the necessity
for the secrecy, the mystery, for these strange signals at night, for
these midnight investigations, for this schooner and its rough crew, for
Nancy's disappearance, for my own imprisonment here."
"Please, please," murmured Madame de la Fontaine, as she held up her
hands in smiling protest. "You go too fast for me. _Un moment, mon ami,
un moment_. It was sixteen years ago that the Maréchal de Boisdhyver was
a guest at the Inn at the Red Oak. You forget that the Marquis de
Boisdhyver had no proof of his right to the treasure, save his own story,
save his account of his brother's instructions on the field of Waterloo.
By telling all he might have awakened deeper suspicions than by secrecy."
"That, I must say," Dan interrupted, "would hardly be possible."
"So!" exclaimed Madame de la Fontaine, with an accent of displeasure.
"_Ecoutez_! Monsieur le Marquis was to come a month in advance, as he did
come; take up his quarters at the Inn; reconnoitre the ground; and win,
if possible, the confidence and aid of mademoiselle. He fortunately
succeeded in this last, for he found it otherwise impossible to enter
into the old wing of the Inn and examine the Oak Parlour. With the
assistance of Eloise, this was accomplished at last, and the paper of
directions was found; at least, found in part.
"Then I, having impressed the services of Captain Bonhomme and his ship
the _Southern Cross_, set sail and arrived at the House on the Dunes only
a few days ago, as you already know. The signals that you saw flashing at
night were to indicate that all was well."
"The green light, I suppose," commented Dan, "was to indicate that; and
"Was the signal of danger. Because the Marquis discovered last night that
you were not in the house; he flashed the warning that made Captain
Bonhomme go to the House on the Dunes. Quite recently the manners of your
"Yes, Mr. Pembroke--led the Marquis to believe that he was being
"I understand," said Dan, "but nothing you have told me so far, madame,
accounts for Nancy's disappearance, and I am as anxious as ever to know
where she is."
"Mademoiselle is perfectly safe, Monsieur Dan; I assure you. She left the
Inn because she had fear of betraying our plans, particularly as she
loved your friend, Mr. Pembroke."
"It is still strange to me, madame, that Nancy should distrust her oldest
and best friends. But now you will let me see her?"
"Of course I shall soon, very soon, my dear boy. I have told you all, and
now you will aid me to find the treasure that is your foster-sister's
heritage, will you not?"
"Why certainly I want Nancy to have what is hers," replied Dan.
"Bravo, my friend. We are to count you one of us, I am sure."
"Just a moment," said Dan, resisting the temptation to touch the little
hand that had been placed impulsively upon his arm. "May I ask one more
"A thousand, my dear, if you desire."
"Why then, since until last night everything has gone as you planned it,
why has not the treasure already been discovered?"
"Because, _mon ami_; the Marquis has only been able to visit the Oak
Parlour at night. And also it was decided to wait until I arrived."
"With the schooner?" suggested Dan.
"With the schooner, if you will. And you may remember that it was only
the day before yesterday that I reached your so hospitable countryside."
"Ah! I understand; so then all that you desire of me, madame, is that I
shall permit the Marquis or anyone else whom you may select for the
purpose, to make such investigation of the Oak Parlour as is desired."
"Yes, my friend; and also there is yet another thing that we desire."
"But suppose, madame, that I cannot agree to that?"
"Ah! _cher ami_, but you will. I confess--you must remember that the
Marquis de Boisdhyver has been a soldier--that my friends have not agreed
with me entirely. It has seemed to them simpler that we should keep you a
prisoner on this ship, as we could so easily do, until our mission is
accomplished. But,--I like you too much to agree to that."
Dan flushed a trifle, but he was not yet quite sure enough to fall in
entirely with his charming gaoler's suggestions. "Madame de la Fontaine,"
he said after a moment's reflection, "I am greatly obliged to you for
explaining the situation to me so fully. I shall be only too happy to
help you, particularly in anything that is for the benefit of Nancy."
"I was sure of it. Now, my friend, there is a service that you can
"And that is?" asked Dan.
"To entrust to me the other half of the paper of directions written by
François de Boisdhyver, which you found in a secret cubby-hole in the
"What makes you think that I was successful in finding that, when the
"Because, at first having forgotten his precise directions after so many
years, the Marquis could not find the fourth and last hiding-place in the
cabinet, in which he knew the Maréchal had placed the other half of the
torn scrap of paper. Another time he did find the cubby-hole, and it was
empty. So knowing he was watched by you and Mr. Pembroke, he decided
that you must have found it. Is it not so, that you have it?"
"It is certainly not in my possession at this moment," said Dan.
"No, but you have it?"
"And if I have?"
"It is necessary for our success."
"Then, my first service, is to put you into complete possession of
"If you will so express it."
"Very well, madame, I will do so; but, on one condition."
"And what is that, my friend?"
"That I be allowed to see Nancy, and that she herself shall ask me to do
as you desire."
For a moment Madame de la Fontaine was silent. "_Eh bien_," she said at
last, "you do not trust me?"
"But, dear madame, think of my situation, it is hard for me."
"Ah! I know it, believe me. _C'est difficile_. But I hoped you would
trust me as I have you."
"Indeed, madame," exclaimed Dan, "I must try to think of everything,
the mystery, this extraordinary mission upon which you are engaged, the
fact that I am quite literally your prisoner. When I think about you,
I know only you are beautiful, that you are lovely, and that I am happy
She looked at him for a moment with a glance of anxious interrogation,
as if to ask were it safe for her to believe these protestations. "You
say, my friend," she asked at length, "that you care a little for me,
for just me? _C'est impossible_. If Claire de la Fontaine could
believe that, understand me, monsieur, it would be very sweet and very
precious to her."
"I do care," cried Dan.
"Ah!" she exclaimed. "You have touched my heart. I am not a young girl,
_mon ami_, but I confess that you have made me to know again the dreams
"Only let me prove that I care," cried Dan, considering but little now to
what he committed himself.
"Let me prove," cried she, "that I too believe in you. I must first see
the Marquis, and then, tonight, if it can be arranged, you shall receive
from Eloise de Boisdhyver's own lips the request I have made of you. But
if, for any reason, this cannot be arranged for to-night, you must be
patient till morning; you must trust me to the extent of remaining on
this ship. I cannot act entirely on my own judgment, but I assure you
that in the end my judgment will prevail. And now, _au revoir_."
She placed her hand in his, and responded to the impulsive pressure with
which he clasped it. Their eyes met; in Dan's the frankest expression of
her conquest of his emotions; in her's a glance at once tender and sad,
above all a glance that seemed to search his spirit for assurance that he
was in earnest. Suddenly fired by her alluring beauty, Dan drew her to
him and bent his head to hers.
"Ah! my friend," she murmured, "you are taking an unfair advantage of the
fact that this morning I too rashly yielded to an impulse."
"I cannot help it," Dan stammered. "You bewitch me." He bent lower to
kiss her cheek, when he suddenly thrilled to the realization that his
lips had met hers.
A moment later Madame de la Fontaine was gone and Captain Bonhomme had
reappeared in the doorway.
IN THE FOG
Tom Pembroke was as good as his word. He returned to the little room, in
which he had confined the Marquis, within an hour after he had left him.
It was then nearly supper-time and dusk was fast settling upon the gloomy
countryside. An unwonted calm had fallen upon land and sea after the
sharp blow of the previous night, but the sky was still gray and there
was promise of more rain, if not of wind.
To Tom's indignation and alarm, though scarcely to his surprise, there
had been no sign or word from Dan or Nancy. Shortly after he had left the
Marquis, he saw, by aid of the field-glass, Madame de la Fontaine,
attended by two seamen, leave the schooner and return to the House on the
Dunes. He smiled a little as he thought of the account the lively young
maid-servant would give of his recent visit. But withal, he felt very
much as if he were playing a game of blind man's buff and that he was
"it." He was impatient for his interview with the Marquis, though he was
but little hopeful that an hour's confinement would have been sufficient
to bring the old gentleman to terms. Nor was he to be surprised.
He found Monsieur de Boisdhyver huddled in a great arm chair near the
fire that that been kindled on the hearth of his prison. The Marquis
glanced up, as Tom entered, but dropped his eyes at once and offered him
no greeting. Tom placed his candle on the table and, drawing up a chair,
seated himself between the Marquis and the door.
"Well, sir," he said at last, "as I promised you, I have returned within
an hour. Have you anything to say to me?"
"Have I anything to say to you!" exclaimed the Marquis. "For why,
monsieur? If I venture to express my astonishment and indignation at the
way I am treated, you subject me to a barbarity that could be matched no
where else in the civilized world than in this extraordinary country. My
life is menaced with firearms. My protests are sneered at. I have left
but one inference--you have gone mad."
"No, marquis," said Pembroke, "I am not mad. I am simply determined that
the mysteries by which we have been surrounded and of which you are the
center, shall cease. You have a free choice: put me in the way of getting
my friend and his sister back to the Inn, or resign yourself to a
prolonged confinement in this room."
"But monsieur I have nothing to communicate to you concerning the
disappearance of your friends."
"Pardon me, marquis," returned Pembroke; "you have much to communicate to
me. Perhaps you are not aware that I know the motive of your coming to
the Inn at the Red Oak; that I know the reason for your prolonged stay
here; that I know of the influence that you have acquired over Nancy
Frost; and that I have been a witness of your midnight prowlings about
the Inn. Nor am I in ignorance of your connection with the
rascally-looking captain of the schooner at anchor in the Cove and with
the mysterious woman, who has taken possession of the House on the Dunes.
I am convinced that you know what has become of Dan as well as what has
happened to Nancy. And, believe me, I am determined to find out."
"_Bien_!" exclaimed Monsieur de Boisdhyver, "permit me to wish you good
luck in your undertaking. I repeat, Monsieur Pembroke, I have no
information to give to you. I do not know to what extent I have been
watched, but I may say with truth that my actions do not in the least
"They concern my friends," said Tom. "Dan, as you know, is more to me
than a brother; and as for his sister Nancy, I hope and expect to make
her my wife."
"In that case," rejoined the Marquis with ill-concealed irony, "I may be
permitted to offer to you my congratulations. But even so, monsieur,
there is nothing that I can do to facilitate your matrimonial plans."
"You refuse then to come to terms?" asked Pembroke.
The Marquis raised his hands with a gesture of despair. "What shall I
say, monsieur? If you insisted upon my flying from here to yonder beach,
I might have all the desire in the world to oblige you, but the fact
would remain that I was without the means of doing so. Since you are so
little disposed to accept my protestations, I will no longer make them,
but simply decline your proposal. And, pardon me, but so long as I am
submitted to the indignity of this confinement, it would be a courtesy
that I should appreciate if you would spare me your company."
"Very good," said Tom. "Your meals will be served regularly; and you may
ask the servant for anything necessary. I shall not visit you again until
you request me to do so."
"_Merci_," said the Marquis drily. He rose from his seat as Dan turned
toward the door, and bowed ironically.
Pembroke went downstairs to have his supper with Mrs. Frost. He said what
he could to pacify her, not altogether with success, for as darkness fell
the old lady became increasingly apprehensive.
"I know you are anxious, Mrs. Frost," said Tom, "but you must not worry.
Try to believe that all will come out right. I am going out after supper,
but I shall leave Jesse and Ezra on guard, and you may be sure everything
will be safe."
It was some time before Mrs. Frost would consent to his leaving the Inn.
If she had yielded to her inclinations, she would have spent the evening
in hysterics with Tom at hand to administer comfort. Pembroke, however,
deputed that office to black Deborah, and immediately after supper set
about his business.
He gave the necessary instructions to Jesse, Ezra and the maids, saw that
everything was closely locked and barred, supplied himself with arms and
ammunition, and slipped out into the night. Having saddled Fleetwing, he
swung himself on the young hunter's back, and trotted down the avenue to
the Port Road. The night was intensely dark and still. The moon had not
yet risen, and a thick fog rolled in from the sea, shrouding the
countryside with its impenetrable veil.
At the Beach Road Pembroke dismounted, tied his horse to a fence rail,
and proceeded thence on foot toward the Cove. Stumbling along through the
heavy sand, he made his way to the boathouse at the northern end of the
little beach. There he ventured to light his lantern, unlocked the door
and stepped within. On either side of the entrance were the two sailboats
that he and Dan used in summer and to the rear was the old-fashioned
whaleboat with which they did their deep fishing. Over it, in a rudely
constructed rack, was the Indian birch-bark canoe which Dan had purchased
in the mountains a few years before. As the sea had fallen to a dead
calm, he decided to use this canoe, which he could paddle quite
noiselessly, and pulling down the little craft from its winter
resting-place, he carried it to the water's edge. The sea, so angry the
night before, now scarcely murmured; only a low lazy swell, at regularly
recurring intervals, slapped the shore and hissed upon the sands. Tom
pushed the nose of the canoe into the water, leaped lightly over the
rail, and with his paddle thrust it off the beach. He was launched
Not the faintest gleam of light showed the position of the _Southern
Cross_, but estimating as well as he could the general direction, he
paddled out through the enshrouding fog. For ten minutes or so, he pushed
on into the strange, misty night. Then suddenly he found himself
alongside an old fisherman's yawl that had been rotting all winter at her
moorings, and he knew from her position that he could not be far from the
A few more strokes to leeward, and a spot of dull light broke through the
darkness. He headed directly for it. To his relief it grew brighter; when
suddenly, too late to stop the progress of his canoe, he shot under it,
and the bow of his craft bumped with a dull thud against the timber side
of the schooner. Its dark outlines were just perceptible above him; and
at one or two points there gleamed rays of light in the fog, green and
red from the night lamps on the masthead, and dull yellow from the port
holes in the rear. A second after the contact the canoe receded, then the
wash of the sea drew her toward the stern. Another moment and Pembroke
felt his prow scrape gently against the rudder, which prevented further
drifting. Apparently, since he heard nothing from the deck above, he had
reached his goal without attracting attention.
He kept perfectly still, however, for some little time, until satisfied
that there was no one at the wheel above, he pushed the canoe softly back
to the rope ladder, that a day or so before he had seen hanging over the
side. It was the work of a moment to make his little boat fast to the
lower rung. Then slipping over the rail, he climbed stealthily up till
his head protruded above the gunwhale. The immediate deck seemed
deserted; but he was sure that some one was keeping the watch, and
probably near the point where he was, that is to say, where access to the
deck was easiest. But the fog and the darkness afforded him protection,
as he climbed over the gunwhale and, without making a sound, moved toward
the stern, crossed the after-deck and found the wheel. As he had
surmised, it was deserted. The watch evidently was forward. Beneath him,
sending its ineffectual rays obliquely into the fog, shone the light from
the little cabin below.
Determined to get a look through the port, he climbed over the gunwhale
again, fastened a stern-sheet about his waist and to a staple, and at the
risk, if he slipped or if the rope gave way, of plunging head foremost
into the icy waters of the Cove, he let himself down until his head was
on a level of the port.
Through the blurred glass he peered into a tiny cabin. There with back
toward him, just a few feet away stood Nancy Frost. He steadied himself
with an effort, and looking again saw that she was alone. A moment's
hesitation, and he tapped resolutely on the pane with his finger tips. At
first Nancy did not hear, but presently, aroused by the slight tapping,
she glanced with a frightened expression toward the door, and stood
anxiously listening. Tom continued to knock on the window, not daring to
make it louder for fear of being heard above. The alarm deepened on
Nancy's face, and in sheer pity Tom was tempted to desist; but at that
instant her attention was riveted upon the spot whence the tapping came.
At last, still with the expression of alarm on her face, she came slowly
toward the port. She hesitated, then pressed her face against the pane
over which Tom had spread his fingers. At whatever risk, of frightening
her or of danger to himself, as she drew back, he pressed his own face
against the outside of the little window glass. She stared at him as if
she were looking at a ghost.
He moved his lips to form the word "Open." At length, in obedience to
this direction, Nancy cautiously unloosened the window of the port and
drew it back.
"Good heavens, Tom!" she whispered. "Is it you?"
"Yes, yes," Pembroke whispered back. "But for God's sake, speak softly.
I'm in a devilishly unpleasant position, and can hang here but a minute.
Tell me quickly--are you here of your own free will or are you a
"How can you ask?" she exclaimed. "For the love of heaven, help me
"That's what I'm here for," was Toms reply. "Now, quick; are you only
locked in or barred as well? I've brought some keys along."
"Only locked, I think."
"Where does that door lead?"
"Into a little passage off the companion-way. Give me your keys. They
have but one man on watch. The captain is on shore to-night, apt to
return at any moment. And you?"
"I have a canoe tied to the ladder on the shore side. If the captain
returns, I'm caught. Try those keys." He slipped into her the bunch of
keys that he had brought along. "I was sure you were here, and against
"Dan, too, is locked up on board."
"I thought as much; but you first. Hurry."
Nancy sprang to the door, trying one key after another in feverish haste.
At last, to Tom's infinite relief, he saw the key turn in the lock, and
the door open.
"On deck," she whispered; "at the ladder. I'm not likely to be caught."
Then she waved her hand and disappeared into the passage.
Tom pulled himself up, unloosed the rope, and stole along the rail toward
the ladder. For a few moments, which seemed like a thousand years, he
stood in anguished suspense waiting for Nancy. Then suddenly she came out
of the mist and was at his side. They stood for a moment like disembodied
spirits, creatures of the night and the fog. The next instant a hand shot
out and grasped the girl's shoulder.
"_Peste! mam'zelle_," a rough voice hissed, "_ou allez-vous_?"
As the man spoke Tom swung at him with the butt of his revolver, and
without a murmur the figure fell to the deck.
"Quick now," Pembroke whispered, "down the ladder."
Instantly Nancy was over the rail and Tom was climbing down after her. As
he knelt in the bow and fumbled with the painter, the plash of oars
sounded a dozen yards away.
"_Ho! Croix du Midi_!" came a hail through the fog.
"Curse it!" muttered Tom; "the painter's caught." He drew out his knife,
slashed the rope that bound them to the schooner, got to his place
amidships, and pushed the canoe free. The lights of a small boat were
just emerging from the dark a dozen feet away. But the canoe slid by
unobserved, in the fog. They heard the nose of the small boat bump
against the schooner; then an oath, and a man's voice calling the watch.
"They've found my painter," whispered Tom, "and in a second they'll find
the sailor on their deck."
The lights of the _Southern Cross_ grew dim; vanished; the sound of angry
voices became muffled. They were half-way to shore when they heard the
noise of oars again. Evidently some one had started in pursuit. For a
moment Tom rested, listening intently; but the sound was still some
distance away. Probably, he thought, they were heading directly for the
shore, whereas he, at a considerable angle, was making for the boathouse
at the north end of the beach. In ten minutes he had beached the canoe
within a rod of the point from where he embarked.
"I can't hear them," whispered Tom, after a moment's listening. "They've
made for shore down the beach. They can't find us in the dark. I've got
Fleetwing tied to a fence in the meadow yonder. Come."
It was the work of a moment to stow the canoe, lock the boathouse, run
across the sands, and mount Nancy in front of him on the back of his
trusty hunter. A second later Fleetwing's hoofs were striking fire on the
stones that the high tides had washed into the beach road. In the
distance there was a cry, the sharp ring of a pistol shot; but they were
safe on their way, racing wildly for the Inn. The escape, the adventure
had thrilled Nancy. Tom's arms were around her, and her hands on his that
grasped the bridle. At last they were in the avenue, and Tom pulled in
under the great branches of the Red Oak. He slipped from the back of the
horse and held out his arms to Nance.
"We are safe, girl," he whispered.
"You are sure? Oh, thank God, thank God! Quick, let us in! Can they be
"No, no. They won't follow. It's all right. Easy,--before we go
in--please, dear--once--kiss me."
"Oh, Tom, Tom," she whispered, as she lifted her face to his.
"I have you at last, sweetheart," he murmured. "You love me?"
"Ah!" she cried, "with my whole heart and soul."
It was after eleven before Nancy rejoined Tom in the bar. She seemed more
like herself as she slipped in and took her accustomed seat beside the
"Oh, I am all right, thank you," she insisted, declining the glass of
wine that Pembroke poured out for her. "I wonder, Tom, if you killed that
poor wretch on the deck?"
"Don't know," Tom answered. "I hope so. But what the deuce, Nance, has
been happening? I can wait till to-morrow to hear, if you are too tired
to tell me; but I do want awfully to know."
"I am not tired," Nancy replied, "and I shan't sleep a wink anyway. If I
close my eyes I'll feel that hand on my shoulder and hear the thud of
that man's fall on the deck. I can't bear to think that this miserable
business will bring bloodshed."
"But tell me, Nance, who is the Marquis--what happened--how did they get
"Ah! the Marquis," exclaimed Nancy with a shudder. "I am glad you have
him locked up. I can't bear to think of him, but I'll tell you what I
know. You remember, Tom, he tried to be friends with me from the first;
and he seemed to fascinate me in some unaccountable way. Then he
questioned me about my identity, and began to drop hints that he knew
more than he cared to let appear to the others, and my curiosity was
excited. I have always known of course that there was some mystery about
my being left to Mrs. Frost's care. She has been kind, good, all that she
should be; but she wasn't my mother. Well, the Marquis stirred all the
old wonder that I had as a child, and before long quite won my
confidence. He told me after a time that I was the daughter of his elder
brother, the Marquis François de Boisdhyver, who in 1814 stayed here at
the Inn at the Red Oak under the name of General Pointelle. I was not
altogether surprised, for I have always believed that I was French by
birth, and his assertion that I was his niece seemed to account for his
interest in me. My father, if this Marquis de Boisdhyver was my father,
was one of the Emperor Napoleon's marshals and was a party to the plot to
rescue the Emperor from Elba. He was obliged to return to France, and
since it was impossible for him to take me with him--I was a little girl
of two at the time--he left me with Mrs. Frost. Thinking of my future, he
hid a large treasure in some secret chamber off the Oak Parlour."
"I know," Tom interrupted.
"What? You mean there is a treasure?"
"I think there is; but go on. I will tell you afterwards."
"Then he set sail for France, took part in the great events of the
Hundred Days, and fell at Waterloo. It was on the field of Waterloo that
he met his younger brother--our Marquis--and told him about the child
left in America and about the treasure hidden in the Inn at the Red Oak."
"Well," Nancy continued, having answered a volley of questions from Tom,
"the Marquis--I mean our old Marquis--was held for many years in a
military prison in England. Upon his release he was poor and unable to
come to America to seek his little niece and the fortune that he believed
to be hidden in the Inn. Tom, at first I didn't believe this strange
story about a treasure; but gradually I became convinced; for the Marquis
believed in it thoroughly, and for proof of it he showed me a torn scrap
of paper that he found in the cabinet in the Oak Parlour the day after
he arrived at the Inn. It seems the old marshal had torn the paper in two
and hidden the parts in different cubby-holes of that old Dorsetshire
cabinet. He couldn't find an opportunity to hunt for the other half, so
at last he persuaded me to help him in the search. Of course, he swore me
to secrecy, and I was foolish enough to give him my promise. I got the
key to the bowling alley from the ring in Dan's closet, and two or three
times went with him at night after you all were asleep."
"I know you did," said Tom.
"How could you know it--has the Marquis--?"
"No, Dan and I saw you. I woke one night, happened to look out of the
window and saw the Marquis going into the bowling alley. It was
moonlight, you know. I woke Dan, we slipped down stairs, saw a light in
the Oak Parlour, peeped through the shutters and saw you and the old
Marquis at the cabinet."
"When was this?" asked Nancy.
"The night--before our walk in the woods."
"And you did not tell me! What could you think I was doing?"
"I didn't know. How could I know? It was that which first made me
suspicious of the Marquis. We made up our minds to watch. But that day in
the woods--well, I forgot everything in the world but just that I was in
love with you."
"Ah!" exclaimed Nancy, flushing.
"But tell me," asked Tom, "What did you find in the cabinet?"
"We found nothing. I began to think that the Marquis had deceived me. I
didn't know what to believe. I didn't know what to do. I threatened each
day to tell Dan. And then came our walk. When we came in that night--do
you recall?--we found the Marquis sitting in the bar before the fire, and
I went over and spoke to him."
"Yes, I remember," Tom answered.
"I had made up my mind that I must take you all,--mother and you and
Dan,--into my confidence. I told him so. He begged me to wait until the
next day and promised that he would tell you then himself. I was
beginning to think he might be a little crazy, that there was no hidden
"I'm sure there is," said Tom. "There was another half of that torn scrap
of paper, hidden in one of the cubby-holes of the old cabinet. Dan found
it. It's the directions, sure enough, for finding the treasure."
"Ah! but what has it all to do with me?"
"I don't know; something I fancy, or the Marquis would not have told you
as much as he did. But here is the other half. You can tell whether it is
part of the paper he showed you."
He drew from his pocket the yellowed bit of paper and spread it on the
table before them. Nance bent over and examined it closely.
"I believe it is the other half. See, it is signed ...'ançois de
Boisdhyver'. I remember perfectly that the signature of the other was
missing, except for the letters 'F-r-' It is, it must be, François de
Boisdhyver, who, the Marquis says, was my father. Then look! here are the
words '_trésor', 'bijoux et monaie_'. I remember in the other there were
phrases that seemed to go with these--'_trésor caché' 'lingots d'or_'.
Ah! do you suppose there really is a fortune hidden away in the Inn all
"Yes, I think so," said Tom. "And I feel certain you have some claim to
it, or they wouldn't have made such an effort to involve you in their
plot. But, please, Nance, tell me the rest. You got to the night of your
"It was a horror--that night!" exclaimed Nancy. "It must have been about
twelve that the Marquis came and tapped at my door. For some reason I was
restless and had not gone to bed. I slipped out into the hall with him
and we came in here to talk. He begged me to make one more expedition
with him to the Oak Parlour. But I refused--I insisted that I must tell
Dan. Suddenly, Tom, without the slightest warning, I felt my arms
pinioned from behind, and before I could scream, the Marquis himself had
thrust a handkerchief in my mouth, and I was gagged and bound. Everything
was done so quickly, so noiselessly, that not a soul in the house could
have heard. They carried me out of the Inn and into the avenue of maples.
From there on I was forced to walk. We went to the beach. I was put into
a small boat and rowed out to the schooner, and there they locked me up
in the little cabin in which you found me."
"What time did you say it was?" asked Tom.
"About twelve--after midnight, perhaps; I don't know for sure. The
Marquis went to the beach with us and pretended to assure me that I was
in no danger; that I would be released in good time, and that he would
see me again. As a matter of fact for three days I have seen no one but
Captain Bonhomme. He brought my meals, and was inclined to talk about
anything that come into his head. Last night he told me that Dan was also
a prisoner on the _Southern Cross_, if that would be of any consolation
to me. Then he said he had to go ashore and locked me up. Several times I
was taken on deck for exercise, but the captain kept close by my side."
"And you haven't seen or heard from the Marquis again?"
"No! nor do I want to see him. But, Tom, what is the meaning of it all?
How are we going to rescue Dan? What are we going to do? We can't keep
the Marquis a prisoner indefinitely."
Tom gave her his own version of the last few days. He told her of what he
and Dan had suspected, of Dan's proposal to visit the House on the Dunes
and his disappearance, of his own investigations there, and his
determination to play the same game with the Marquis as hostage.
"But what to do next, I confess I don't know," he continued. "At present
it seems to be stale mate. For to-night, any way, we are safe, I think,
for I shall take turns in keeping guard with Jesse and Ezra. I have the
idea that to-morrow, when they realize something has happened to the
Marquis we shall hear from Madame de la Fontaine or from the schooner. In
the morning I am going to take you and Mrs. Frost to the Red Farm for
safety. I intend to fight this thing out with that gang, whatever
happens. If there is treasure, according to their own story, it belongs
to you. If I don't get a proposal from them, I shall make the offer,
through Madame de la Fontaine, of exchanging the Marquis for Dan.... But
I must go now, Nance, and relieve one of the men. We must all get some
sleep to-night, and it's already after twelve. Go to bed, sweetheart, and
try to get some rest. One of us will be within call all night, watching
right there in the hall; so don't be afraid."
"It was my wretched curiosity that got us into all this trouble."
"Not a bit of it! The trouble was all arranged by the Marquis; he was
simply waiting for the schooner. Now that I have you back again, my heart
is fairly light. We shall get Dan to-morrow, I am sure."
MADAME AT THE INN
In the morning the fog lifted, a bright sun shone from a cloudless sky,
the marshes sparkled with pools of melted snow and the long-promised thaw
seemed definitely to have set in. Soon after breakfast Tom sent Jesse to
the Red Farm with directions for the people there to make preparations
for Mrs. Frost and Nancy, whom he proposed to drive over himself in the
course of the afternoon.
About the middle of the morning as Tom and Nancy stood on the gallery
discussing the situation, Tom drew her attention to a small boat putting
off from _The Southern Cross_. They examined it through the glass, and
Nancy recognized the figure of Captain Bonhomme sitting amongst the
"You may depend upon it," said Tom, "he is going to the House on the
Dunes to report your disappearance to Madame de la Fontaine. The most
curious thing about this whole business to me is the mixing-up in it of
such a woman as Dan described Madame de la Fontaine to be."
"It is strange," Nancy agreed, "but from the bits of talk I've overheard,
I should say that she was the prime mover in it all."
"In a way I am rather glad of that," said Tom, "for with a woman at the
head of things there is less chance of their resorting to force to gain
their ends. But the stake they are playing for must be a big one, and
already they have done enough to make me sure that we should be prepared
for anything. I shall be surprised if we don't get some communication
from them to-day. The old Marquis counts on it, or he would not keep so
still. At any cost, we must get Dan back."
They talked for some time longer and were about to go in, when Nancy
pointed to a horse and rider coming down the avenue of Maples. A
glance sufficed to show that the rider was a woman. Nancy slipped
inside to escape observation, while Tom waited on the gallery to
receive the visitor.
As the lady drew rein under the Red Oak, he ran down the steps, and
helped her to dismount. Her grace, her beauty, her manner as of the
great world, made him sure that he was in the presence of Madame de
"Good morning, sir," said the lady, with a charming smile, "if I mistake
not, I have the pleasure of addressing Mr. Pembroke?"
"Yes, madam,--at you service," replied Tom.
"I am come on a strange errand, monsieur; as an ambassadress, so to say,
of those whom I fear you take to be your enemies."
"You are frank, madam. I believe that I am speaking with--?"
"Madame de la Fontaine," the lady instantly supplied. "Events have so
precipitated themselves, monsieur, that pretense and conventionality were
an affectation. I am informed, you understand, of your brilliant rescue
of Mademoiselle Eloise de Boisdhyver."
"If you mean Nancy Frost by Mademoiselle Eloise de Boisdhyver, madam,
your information is correct. I gathered that you had been told of
this, when I saw Captain Bonhomme make his way to the House on the
Dunes this morning."
"Ah! What eyes, monsieur!" exclaimed the lady. "But I have grown
accustomed to having my privacy examined over-curiously during the few
days I have spent on your hospitable shores. _Mais pardon_--my purpose in
coming to the Inn at the Red Oak this morning was but to request that my
name be conveyed to Monsieur the Marquis de Boisdhyver."
"You mean, madam, that you wish to see the Marquis?"
"Yes, monsieur, if you will be so good as to allow me to do so."
"I am sorry," Tom rejoined, "that I must disappoint you. Circumstances
over which the Marquis has no control will deprive him of the pleasure of
seeing you this morning."
"Ah!" exclaimed Madame de la Fontaine, "I was right then. Monsieur le
Marquis is, shall we say, in confinement?"
"As you please, madam; as safe, for the time, as is my friend Dan Frost."
"_Eh bien_, monsieur! It is that you have--do you not say?--turned the
tables upon us?"
"Precisely, madam," assented Tom.
"And you will not permit me even a word--ever so little a word--with my
poor friend?" murmured Madame de la Fontaine plaintively.
"Again I am sorry to refuse you, madam; but--not even a little word."
"So! _Mais oui_, I am not greatly surprised. I was assured last
"When you did not see the signals?" suggested Tom quickly.
"When I did not see the signals," repeated the lady, with a glance of the
briefest enquiry, "I was assured that something had befallen Monsieur le
Marquis. _Mais vraiment_, monsieur, you do us much dishonour in assuming
a wicked conspiracy on our parts. The Marquis is my friend; he is also
the friend of the charming Mademoiselle. All that we wish, all that we
would do is as much in her interest as in his own. But it is impossible
that my old friend shall remain in confinement. On what condition,
monsieur, will you release the Marquis de Boisdhyver?"
"On the condition, naturally, that my friend Dan Frost is released from
the _Southern Cross_."
"Ah! Is it that you are quite sure that Monsieur Frost is confined on
"Quite sure, Madame de la Fontaine. I was on board _The Southern Cross_
"Yes, I know it; and I congratulate you upon your extraordinary success.
Very well, then, I accept your condition. Monsieur Dan Frost returns;
Monsieur le Marquis is released. And now you will perhaps have the
"No, madame; in this affair the Marquis and his friends have been the
aggressors. I cannot consent that you should hold any communication with
the Marquis till Dan returns free and unharmed to the Inn."
"And what assurance then shall I have that the Marquis will be released?"
"None, madame, but my word of honour."
"_Pardon, monsieur_. I accept your terms. Monsieur Frost shall
return. The instant he enters the Inn at the Red Oak, you promise
that the Marquis de Boisdhyver be released and that he be given this
note from me?"
The lady took a sealed note from the pocket of her habit and handed it to
Tom. "There remains, monsieur," she murmured, "but to bid you good-day.
If you will be so kind--"
She ran lightly down the steps, and held up her foot for Tom to assist
her into the saddle.
"Your friend will return _tout de suite_, monsieur," she cried gayly, as
she drew in the rein.
"And we shall have the pleasure of seeing you again?" asked Tom.
"Ah! who can tell?" She touched the horse lightly with her whip, inclined
her head, and soon disappeared down the avenue of maples.
Some time later Nancy and Tom watched her cantering across the beach.
She waved her handkerchief as a signal to the schooner; a small boat put
ashore, and she was rowed out to _The Southern Cross_.
"Once Dan is back, and we get rid of the old Marquis," said Tom, "I shall
breathe considerably easier."
"I can't believe they will give the game up so easily," was Nancy's
reply. "Seizing the Marquis, Tom, was a check, not a mate."
Out on the schooner in the Cove, Madame de la Fontaine and Dan Frost were
once more talking together.
"Dear boy," said the lady. "I cannot do that which I promised. It is
impossible that your sister shall make to you the request to give me the
torn scrap of paper, for the reason that Mademoiselle Nancy has chosen to
disappear. Have no fear, monsieur, for I have good reason to believe she
has returned to the Inn at the Red Oak. Our schemes, _mon ami_, have
failed. You are no longer a prisoner, you are free. And this is good-bye.
I abandon our mission. I leave the House on the Dunes to-day; to-morrow I
return to France."
"But, madame, you bewilder me," exclaimed Dan. "Why should you go; why
should we not all join forces, hunt for the treasure together, if there
is a treasure; why this division of interests?"
"_C'est impossible_!" she exclaimed impetuously. "Monsieur le Marquis
will not consent. He is treated with intolerable rudeness by your friend
Mr. Pembroke. He will not accept that which I propose. And I--_vraiment,
I_ desire no longer to work against you. No, monsieur Dan, _tout est
fini_, we must say good-bye."
She held out her hands and Dan impetuously seized them. Then, suddenly,
she was in his arms and his lips were seeking hers.
"I cannot let you go," he cried hoarsely. "I cannot say good-bye."
For a moment he held her, but soon, almost brusquely, she repulsed him.
"_C'est folie, mon ami, folie_! We lose our heads, we lose our hearts."
"But I love you," cried Dan. "You must believe it; will you believe it if
I give you the paper?"
"No, no!--What!--you wish to give to me the secret of the Oak Parlour?--"
"Aye, to entrust to you my life, my soul, my honour."
"Ah, but you must go," she murmured tensely.
"Captain Bonhomme is returning. It is better that he knows of your
release after you are gone. _C'est vrai_, my friend, that I risk not a
little in your behalf. Go now, quickly ... No! No!" she protested, as she
drew away from him. "I tell you, _C'est folie_,--madness and folly. You
do not know me. Go now, while there is time!"
"But you will see me again?" insisted Dan. "Promise me that; or, on my
honour, I refuse to leave. Do with me what you will, but--"
"Listen!" she whispered hurriedly. "I shall meet you to-night at ten
o'clock, at the end of the avenue of maples near to your inn; you know
the place? _Bien_! Bring me the paper there, to prove that you trust me.
And I--_mais non_, I implore you--go quickly!"
Dan turned at last and opened the door. Madame de la Fontaine called
sharply to the waiting Jean, and he, motioning to Dan to follow him, led
the way on deck. In a moment they were in a little boat heading for the
shore. The afternoon sun was bright in the western sky. The _Southern
Cross_ rode serenely at anchor, and from her deck, Madame de la Fontaine
was waving him good-bye.
THE MARQUIS LEAVES THE INN
By the time Dan was put ashore on the beach of the Cove it was afternoon.
During the short row from the schooner he had been unable to exchange
remarks with the surly Jean, for that individual's only response to his
repeated efforts, was a surly "_Je ne parle pas anglais_," which seemed
to answer as a general formula to the conspirators. He gave up at last in
disgust, and waited impatiently for the small boat to be beached,
distrustful lest at the last moment some fresh trick be played upon him.
Not that his ingenuous faith in the beautiful French lady failed him, but
he was suspicious lest, having acted independently of the Marquis and
Captain Bonhomme in releasing him, she should not have the power to make
that release genuinely effective.
But his apprehensions were groundless. The seaman rowed straight for the
shore, beached the boat with a last sturdy pull at the oars, and leaping
out into the curling surf, held the skiff steady.
"Thank you very much," said Dan, shaking the spray from his coat.
"Eh?" grunted Jean.
"Oh!--beg pardon!--_merci_," he explained, exaggerating the pronunciation
of the French word.
"Huh!" was the gutteral reply, as the man jumped back into the skiff, and
pushed off. Dan looked once more towards the distant schooner and the
slight figure in the stern. Then he started at a rapid pace for the Inn.
As he turned into the avenue of maples, he was surprised to see
Jesse standing on the gallery, musket in hand, as though he were a
sentinel on guard.
"Bless my soul, Mister Dan! I thought the Frenchies had made way with
you. You're a blessed sight to lay eyes on. But Mister Tom was right, he
said you'd be coming back this afternoon."
"Well, here I am, Jesse," Dan replied grasping his hand, "as large as
life and twice as natural, I guess. I feel as if I'd been away for a year
and a day. But tell me, what's the news? Where is Tom? Has Nancy come
back? How is Mother? Have you been having trouble, that you are guarding
the door like a soldier on duty?"
"Well, now, Mister Dan, one at a time, _if_ you please. Can't say
exactly as we've been havin' trouble; but we've sort of been lookin' for
it. And Mister Tom--"
"Where is Tom? I must see him at once.'
"He ain't here, sir; he left about an hour ago, driving the old Miss and
Miss Nancy to the Red Farm, sir; so as to be out of harm's way. He'll be
back before night, sir."
"Ah, good! Then Nance is back? When did she come?"
"She come back last night, sir; leastways Mister Tom brought her back.
Mister Tom, he got the idea that they'd cooped Miss Nance up on that
there schooner laying in the Cove, and sure enough, he found her there
and got her off somehows last night."
"Good for Tom! How did he work it?"
"I ain't heard no particulars, Mister Dan. We've been too busy watching
things to talk much. We got Ezra Manners out from the Port to help do
"Why, the Inn, sir. Mister Tom he's been sort of expectin' some kind of
attack. That's the reason he took the women folks over to the Red Farm."
"I see--and where's the old Marquis?"
Jesse chuckled. "The old Marquis's where he hasn't been doin' any harm
for the last twenty-four hours, sir. Mister Tom he locked him up last
night in one of the south bedrooms. That reminds me, I was to let him out
just as soon as you come back."
"Why lock him up, and then let him out? Things have been moving at the
Inn, Jess, since I've been gone!"
"Moving--yes, sir. But them's my orders--first thing I was to do soon as
you come back was to let the old Frenchy out and do as he pleased. Mister
Tom was to arrange everything else with you, sir."
"Seems as if Tom had a whole campaign planned out. All right--we'll obey
orders, Jess. Let the Marquis out, and tell him he can find me in the bar
if he wants to see me. What time will Tom be back?"
"Before dark, sir, I'm sure. He's been gone over an hour."
Dan ran up to his bedroom, made a quick toilet, took the torn scrap of
paper from his strong-box, and put it in his wallet. Then he went down
stairs into the bar. The Marquis, released from his confinement, was
"Ah, Monsieur Frost!" the old gentleman exclaimed, coming forward with
outstretched hands, "I rejoice at your return. Now this so horrible
nightmare will end... Ah!" This last exclamation was uttered in a tone of
surprise and indignation, for Dan faced him with folded arms,
deliberately refusing the handclasp.
"Yes, Marquis," he said, "I have returned; but I cannot say that I am
particularly pleased to see you."
"Monsieur, _te me comprends pas_; this abuse, this insult--it is
impossible that I understand."
"Pray, Monsieur de Boisdhyver," replied Dan, with dignity, "Let us have
done with make-believe and sham. For two days I have been in prison on
that confounded ship yonder, whose villainous crew are in your pay."
"You in prison--the ship--the villainous crew!" repeated the Marquis.
"What is it that you say?"
"Come, Marquis, your protests are useless," Dan interrupted. "I know of
the conspiracy in which you are engaged, of your deceit and trickery
here, of your part in my poor sister's disappearance. You know that
Madame de la Fontaine has told me much. Do you expect me to meet you as
though nothing had happened?"
"But, _mon cher, monsieur_," continued the Marquis, "if it is that you
have been told anything by Madame de la Fontaine, my so good friend, the
bright angel of an old age too-cruelly shattered by misfortune, you well
know how innocent are my designs, how sincere my efforts for your
foster-sister, for her who is my niece."
"Marquis, I do not understand all that has taken place. I may say further
that I do not care to discuss the situation with you until I have talked
with my sister and Mr. Pembroke."
"Ah! then Eloise--then Mademoiselle Nancy, is returned?" exclaimed the
"I believe so. But I have not seen her. I must decline, Marquis, to
continue this conversation. I must first learn what has taken place in my
absence. When Tom returns--he is out just now--I am perfectly willing to
talk matters over with you and him together."
The Marquis's eyes flashed. "But, Monsieur," he protested, "you must
understand that I cannot submit to meet with Monsieur Pembroke again. A
Marquis de Boisdhyver does not twice put himself in the position to be
insulted with impunity."
"I should hardly imagine," Dan replied, "that it would be more
difficult for you to meet Pembroke again than it has been difficult for
me to meet you."
"How--me?--_je ne comprends pas_. But I have been insulted, imprisoned, I
have suffered much that is terrible."
"I found myself in an identical situation," said Dan.
"But, monsieur, _un moment_" protested the old gentleman, as Dan made as
if to leave the room, "give me the time to explain to you this
"No, Marquis. I will not talk until I have seen Tom."
The black eyes of Monsieur de Boisdhyver gleamed unpleasantly. "I have
said to you, Monsieur Frost, that I refuse to meet Monsieur Tom Pembroke
once more. It would be intolerable. _Impossible, absolutment_! I must
insist that you will be kind enough to facilitate my departure at once."
"Certainly, as you wish, Marquis."
The old gentleman hesitated. For once indecision was shown by the
agitation of his features and the shifting of his eyes, but he gave no
other expression to the quandaries in his mind. After a moment's silence
he drew himself up with exaggerated dignity. With one hand upon his
breast and the other extended, in a fashion at once absurd and a little
pathetic, he addressed Dan for the last time, as might an ambassador
taking leave of a sovereign upon his declaration of war.
"Monsieur, I renew my gratitude for the hospitality of the Inn at the Red
Oak, so long enjoyed, so discourteously withdrawn. I require but the
presentation of my account for the time, I have trespassed upon your good
will, and I request the assistance of a servant to facilitate my
departure. But I do not take my farewell without protesting, _avec tout
mon coeur_, at the misunderstanding to which I am persistently subjected.
The inevitable bitterness in my soul does not prevent me even now to
forget the sweet hours of rest that I have enjoyed here. The
unwillingness on your part, monsieur, to comprehend my position, does not
interfere to stifle in my breast the consciousness but of honourable
purpose. I make my compliments to mesdames."
"Very good, marquis--and at what time shall I have a carriage
ready for you?"
The Marquis glanced nonchalantly at his watch, "In fifteen minutes,
"It will be ready, Marquis."
"Your very obedient servant; Monsieur Frost."
"Your obedient servant, Marquis de Boisdhyver."
The old gentleman bowed again with elaborate courtesy and, turning
sharply on his heel, left the room.
Somewhat disturbed by the turn affairs had taken, Dan stood for a moment
lost in thought. There was nothing for it, he supposed: Tom, who had
been in command, had given orders, and they should be obeyed; besides
there was no reason that he could see why the Marquis should be detained
at the Inn if he chose to leave it. So he sat down at a table, made out
the old gentleman's bill for the month, and then stepped to the door to
call for Jesse.
"Take this," he said when the man appeared in response to his summons,
"to the old Marquis. It is the bill for his board. If he pays you, well
and good; if not--in any case, treat him courteously, and do not
interfere with his movements. He is leaving the Inn for good. I want you
to have the buggy ready within half-an-hour and drive him where he wishes
to go. I fancy he will want his stuff put on the schooner in the Cove."
"All right, sir," replied Jesse. "Now that you and Miss Nance are back,
sir, I guess the sooner we get rid of the Marquis the better."
Jesse carried the bill to the Marquis, then came down and went to the
barn to harness the horse. A little later he drove round to the
courtyard, hitched the horse to a ring in the Red Oak, and ran upstairs
to fetch the Marquis's boxes.
Perhaps half-an-hour had passed when he returned to Dan in the Bar. "The
old gentleman's gone, sir," he said.
"Gone!--where?" cried Dan.
"Don't know, sir," Jesse replied. "To the schooner, I guess. He left this
money on his dressing-bureau."
Dan took the gold which Jesse held out to him. "Well, well," he murmured,
"quite on his dignity, eh? All right, Jess, take his stuff to the beach
and hail the schooner. He will probably have given directions. I hope
we've seen the last of him."
THE ATTACK ON THE INN
THE AVENUE OF MAPLES
The Marquis's belongings were sent after him to the schooner, where,
however, it appeared that they had not been expected, for it was some
time before Jesse could obtain an answer to his hail from the shore, and
still longer before he could make the men on the ship understand what it
was he wanted with them. Eventually Captain Bonhomme had rowed ashore,
and the Marquis's bags, boxes, writing-desk, and fiddle were loaded into
the small boat and taken off to _The Southern Cross_.
It appeared from Jesse's report that the Captain had been sufficiently
polite, and had attributed the misunderstanding of his men to their
inability to speak English. They had not gotten their orders for the
Marquis. He had asked no further questions about Monsieur de Boisdhyver
or about his recent prisoners, but had feed Jesse liberally, and
dismissed him, with his own and the Marquis's thanks.
"Well," said Tom, who had returned an hour before and had been
exchanging experiences with Dan, "that seems to be the end of him for
the present. I don't know that I did right in promising your French lady
that I should release him, but there seemed no other way to make sure of
getting you back."
"I am glad you promised," replied Dan. "It is a relief not to have him
under our roof. For the last week I've felt as if the place were haunted
by an evil spirit."
"So it has been, and so it still will be, I am afraid," was Tom's reply.
"If there is treasure here, you may be sure that gang won't sail away
without making a desperate effort to get it. I move that we beat them out
by hunting for it ourselves. Why not begin to-night?"
"Not to-night," protested Dan. "I am tired to death. You can imagine that
I didn't get much sleep cooped up on that confounded ship."
"No more have I, old boy. But I believe in striking while the iron is
hot. Every day's delay gives them a better chance for their plans, if
they mean to attack the Inn."
"I doubt if they'll do that. I don't think force is precisely their line.
You know, I believe that the story Madame de la Fontaine told isn't
altogether a fiction."
"Pshaw!" exclaimed Tom. "I don't believe a word of it. Naturally they
wouldn't use force, if they could help it. But their plans have all been
upset, and a gang like that won't stop at anything."
"But we live in a civilized community, my boy. This isn't the
"We live in a civilized community, perhaps; but if you can find a more
isolated spot, a place more remote from help, in any other part of the
civilized world, I'd be glad to see it. We might as well be in the middle
of the Sahara desert. Find the treasure and get it out of harm's
way--that's my idea."
"All right, but to-morrow; I swear I'm not up to it to-night."
"To-morrow! Well, then to-morrow. Though for the life of me, I don't see
why you want to delay things. Jesse and Ezra can keep watch tonight."
"But we must get some sleep, Tom."
"The devil with sleep! However, you're the boss now. It's your inn, your
treasure, your sister, that are involved. I'll take a back seat."
"Come, come, Tom--don't let's quarrel. Give me to-night to--to get myself
together, and tomorrow I'll pull the Inn down with you, if you wish."
Perhaps Dan was right, he did need rest and sleep and a few hours would
restore him. They had their supper, then, apportioned the night into
watches, and Dan went upstairs for his first period of sleep.
His brain was a-whirl. All through the afternoon, during his talk with
the Marquis, and later during his talk with Tom, one idea had been
dominating his thought, dictating his plan of action, colouring his
judgment. The fascination which Madame de la Fontaine exerted over his
senses was too strong for him even to contemplate resisting it. She was
confessedly in league with a gang of adventurers upon a quest for
treasure. She had lied to him at first about the Marquis, she had lied
to him about Nancy, she had lied to him about his release; and when she
had left him under the pretext of arranging his return to the Inn, she
had in fact gone to Tom to bargain an exchange of him for the old
Marquis. Her lies, her subterfuges, her flatteries, had been evidently
designed but to get possession of the torn scrap of paper which was so
necessary to their finding the hidden treasure. All this Dan told
himself a hundred times, and then, quickly dispelling the witness of
these cold hard facts, there would flash before him the vision of her
wonderful eyes, of her strange appealing beauty, of her stirring
personality; he would feel once more the touch of her cheek and her lips
pressing his, intoxicating as wine; and delicious fires flamed through
his veins, and set his heart to beating, and made havoc of his honour
and his conscience. Whatever were the consequences, he would meet her
again that night as he had promised. It was his first experience of
passion and it was sweeping him off his feet.
Alone in his room Dan sat down at the table. He drew from his pocket the
torn paper, and as an act of justice to the friends he felt that he was
about to betray, he labourously made a copy of the difficult French
handwriting. This done, he locked the copy in his strong box and put the
original back in his pocket. Then, like the criminal he thought himself
to be, he crept cautiously down the stairs. The door into the bar was
open, and he stood for a moment, shoes in hand, peering into the
dimly-lit room. Tom sat by the hearth, reading, a pipe in his mouth and a
cocked pistol on the table by his side. A pang went through Dan's breast,
but he checked the impulse to speak, and stole softly across the hall and
into his mother's parlour. Ever so cautiously he closed the door behind
him, crossed the room, and raised the sash of one of the windows.
It was dark, but starlight; the moon had not yet risen. In a moment he
had slipped over the sill and stood upon the porch. Lowering the sash, he
crept across the band of light that shone from the windows of the bar,
and into the shadow of the Red Oak. There he buttoned his great coat
tightly about him, put on his shoes, and started softly down the avenue
of maples. Scarcely a sound disturbed the silence of the night, save the
lazy creaking of the windmill as it turned now and then to the puff of a
At every few steps, he paused to listen, fearful lest his absence had
been detected and he were followed by some one from the Inn. Then he
would start on again, peering eagerly into the darkness ahead for any
sign of her whom he sought. At last he reached the end of the avenue.
His heart was beating wildly, in a very terror that she might not come.
Nothing--no catastrophe, no danger, no disgrace,--could be so terrible
to him as that the woman he loved so recklessly and madly should not
come. She must not fail! He looked at his watch; it was already three
minutes past ten. If in five--then minutes she did not come, he would go
to seek her--to the House on the Dunes, aye, if must be to _The Southern
Suddenly a dark figure slipped out of the gloom, and Claire de la
Fontaine was in his arms. For a moment she let him clasp her, let his
lips again meet hers; then quickly she disengaged herself. "Are we safe?"
she asked in a whisper. "Is it that we can talk here."
"We are perfectly safe," he answered. "Nothing can be heard from the Inn.
No one is about."
"You escaped without notice? Are you certain that no one follows you?"
"Absolutely. I am sure. And you?"
"I?--Oh, no, no--. There is no one to question me. I have been at the
House on the Dunes all the evening. Marie, my maid,--she thinks that I
am gone to the schooner. _Mon Dieu! cher ami_, what terrors I have
suffered for you. It had not seemed possible that Claire de la Fontaine
would ride and walk two so long miles in a desolate country to meet a
lover--It must be that we are gone mad."
"Madness then is the sweetest experience of life," said Dan, seizing her
hand again and carrying it to his lips.
"Ah _peut-etre, mon ami_. But now there are many affairs to discuss. Tell
me--the Marquis, he was released, as your friend has promised me he
"Of course, didn't you know it?"
"I know nothing. Why then is it he has not left the Inn?"
"But he did leave--in the middle of the afternoon, half an hour after I
"And where is it that he has gone?"
"To the schooner, I suppose. He left alone, giving directions for his
things to be sent after him."
"Ah! to the schooner, you say? You are certain?"
"Yes--that is, I think he went there. Jesse took his boxes and bags down
to the shore, and Captain Bonhomme received them, and thanked him in the
"_Mais non! Est-ce possible_?" For a moment she was silent, considering
deeply. "_Bien_!" she exclaimed presently. "It is as you say, of course.
And you, my friend?" She stopped suddenly, for they had been walking
slowly forward, and withdrawing her hand from his arm, she held it out
before him. "The paper?" she demanded.
"Here it is," murmured Dan, fumbling in his pocket, and pulling out the
scrap of paper. She took it eagerly from his hand and held it up before
her eyes as though trying to see it in the dark.
"This is it, really?" she asked.
"I swear it," he answered. "It is the piece of writing that I found in
the hidden cubby-hole of the old cabinet in the Oak Parlour. It is written
in French, you know."
"Yes, I know, I know," she assented absently. For a moment she was quite
still, and then, with a strange exclamation, she put the paper to her
lips. "_Quels souvenirs, d'autrefois_!" she murmured. "_Ah, mon Dieu,
"Dearest, what is it?" asked Dan.
"Nothing, nothing," she replied, withdrawing a little from his touch. "I
was unwell for the moment,--_ce ne fait rien_. No, no, you are not to
kiss me, please." Again she unloosed his arm from about her neck, slipped
the paper into her muff, and pressed a little forward. For a space they
walked slowly, silently, toward the Inn.
"But, dearest one," murmured Dan, "this proves to you my love, doesn't
it? You no longer doubt me. For your sake, I give my honour; it may be,
the safety of my friends. You must see how I love you with all my heart
and soul. Won't you,--"
Suddenly she stopped again quite still and faced him. "My poor boy," she
said gently, "you really love me?"
"Love you! My God, have I not proved it! What more would you have me do?"
"_Mais oui_," she answered quickly. "You have proved it, but I have
thought that it was not possible."
"And you--you do care--oh, tell me--"
"_Hélas, mon paurve ami_. I love as tenderly as it remains in me to love.
Ah, dear, dear boy, so sincerely, that I cannot have you to sell your
honour for the futile kisses of Claire de la Fontaine."
"What do you mean? Have I--"
"No, no, no! This--take the paper. You must not again give it me, I
desire that you will not." She drew the paper from her muff with an
impulsive movement and thrust it toward him. "Take it, I implore you."
"Because that you shall not give your honour to a woman such as I am.
_Mai vraiment_, I love you. That is why you must take back the paper."
"But you must explain--"
"_Mon Dieu_! is it that I have not explained? There is time for nothing
more. I have fear, _mon ami_; a kiss, and it is necessary that I go. It
"But you love me, you have said so. I cannot, I will not let you go."
"Listen to me, my friend," she said, her voice rising for the moment
above the whisper in which she had cautiously spoken heretofore. "From
the first I have deceived you, betrayed you, played upon your affection
but to betray you afresh. And now I find that I love you. I am not that
which you call good, but it is impossible that I injure you. Go back to
"Never! I love you. What matters now anything that you have said or done?
And you love me. Ah dearest one, what can that mean but good?"
"_Bien-aimé_, what will you that I say?" she interrupted speaking
rapidly, "I am what you Americans call 'a bad woman',--the sort of woman
that you know nothing of. I was the woman who sixteen years ago stayed at
the Inn at the Red Oak with François de Boisdhyver, the woman your mother
called nurse, who cared for his little daughter. And now I have told you
all. Will you know from now that I am a thousand times unworthy? _Pour
l'amour de Dieu_, give it to me to do this one act of honour and of
With these words she thrust the scrap of paper into his hands and turning
swiftly, started forward as though to escape his further importunities by
flight. But Dan was instantly by her side, trying to catch her hand in
Again she faced him passionately. "_C'est folie_," she cried hoarsely,
"have I not told you that we are in great danger? Go, go back to the Inn.
It is there only that you will be safe.--O, _mon Dieu!"_
A figure had sprung suddenly from the blackness of the trees. Dan felt a
sharp blow on his shoulder, and then he was grappling with a wiry
antagonist, striving to keep at safe distance a hand that clutched an
open knife. Locked in a close embrace, swaying from side to side of the
road, they fought desperately. Dan striving to get at the pistol which he
carried, his assailant trying to use his knife.
It seemed as if Dan could no longer hold the man off when two small
hands closed over the fist that held the gleaming knife and a clear voice
rang out in French. Dan felt his antagonist's grip loosen and he wrenched
himself free. Madame de la Fontaine had come to his rescue. "Quick,
quick--to the Inn. I am safe. You have but one chance for your life," she
cried. Already his assailant had put a boatswain's whistle to his lips
and was sounding a shrill blast.
As Dan hesitated, uncertain what to do, he heard a number of men come
crashing through the underbrush of the neighbouring field. Again Madame
de la Fontaine cried, "_Mon Dieu_! will you not run?" Then she turned and
disappeared in the darkness. Simultaneously came the crack of a pistol
shot, and a bullet whizzed by his ear. There was nothing for it but to
run; and run he did, shouting at the top of his voice the while to Tom in
the Inn. He probably owed his start to the fact that for the moment his
attacker, who had been held at bay by Madame de la Fontaine, was
uncertain whether to follow her or Dan. That moment's delay saved Dan's
life, for though, with a curse, the man started after him now, he had a
poor chance of catching him in the darkness. But on he came only a dozen
yards or so behind, and after him the thundering steps and harsh cries
of those who had responded to the call of the whistle.
At last Dan was at the door of the Inn, beating wildly upon it, and
calling, "Open, Tom; quick, for God's sake! It's Dan." As the door was
flung back, he sprang in and slammed it shut. Already the attackers were
in the courtyard, a volley of shots rang against the stout oak, followed
almost at once, by the flinging against it of half-a-dozen men. But the
great oaken beam had been slipped into place and held firmly. Dan was
none the worse for his experience, save for a graze on the cheek where
the knife had glanced, and a slit on his shoulder from a bullet.
"They're here!" he cried. "No time for explanations, Tom. I went
out--fool that I was!--was attacked. They're here in force."
By this time Jesse had rushed into the bar, attracted by the firing, and
soon Ezra Manners came running down from the floor above. After the first
impact against the door those without had withdrawn, evidently taking up
a position in the courtyard again, for almost at once there was a
fusilade of shots against door and windows, which luckily the heavy oak
was proof against.
"They're welcome to keep that up all night," said Tom. "Only a waste of
ammunition. How many are there?" He would liked to have asked Dan why he
had gone out, but there was no time for discussion.
"I don't know--half-a-dozen at least, I should guess," was Dan's reply.
"Bonhomme is at their head, I'm sure. It was he who tackled me in the
avenue. They may have the whole crew of the schooner here. That would
mean a dozen or more."
"Well," said Tom, "we're in for it now, I guess. We'll have to watch in
different parts of the house, for we don't know where they will attack.
Unless they are all fools, it won't be here."
"You're right. I'll stay and look out for the south wing. You go to the
north wing, Tom; Jesse to the kitchen, and Ezra to the end of the south
passage. That'll cover the house as well as we can cover it. They'll try
to force an entrance somewheres. Have you all got guns? Good. Leave the
doors open so that we can hear each other call."
Evidently the attacking party had concluded that they were wasting their
lead and their time in shooting at doors and window-shutters, for as Tom
had said, all was now quiet outside. Fifteen minutes, half-an-hour
passed, and nothing occurred to alarm or to relieve the tension on the
anxious watchers within. At length Dan stole upstairs to reconnoitre.
It was fortunate that he chose the precise moment he did, for as his
head emerged above the last stair, he saw that the great shutters at
the end of the south corridor were open, and a man stood before the
window, evidently on the top rung of a ladder, trying the sash. It was
locked to be sure, but at the instant Dan saw him, he raised his fist
and smashed it. He was about to leap through the opening, fringed
though it was with jagged glass, when Dan aimed his pistol carefully,
and fired. There was a cry, and the form at the window fell crashing to
the ground below. Dan rushed to the casement, and could hear in the
court beneath him the curses and exclamations of the surprised
assailants. Quickly he thrust the end of the ladder from the wall, then
seizing a fresh pistol from his belt, fired at random into the darkness
below. Another cry of pain attested to the fact that his chance shot
had taken effect. By this time Tom had rushed to his assistance, and
together they barred the window again.
Dan gave a brief account of the incident. "But, for heaven's sake, Tom,"
he concluded, "get back to the north wing. We are in danger there every
moment. I'll watch out here."
As Tom returned to his post in the cold corridor of the north wing, he
heard heavy crashes, as of a battering-ram, against the great door that
opened into the gallery. A shrill whistle brought Ezra Manners to his
assistance. "Watch here!" he commanded. "If the door crashes in, shoot,
and shoot to kill; then run into the bar and barricade the door between.
I've a plan."
He himself ran into the bar, blew out the candles, and risking perhaps
too much on the chance of success, cautiously opened the front door. He
could scarcely make out the group at the farther end of the gallery, as
he stepped out; but he could hear the resounding crashes against the door
into the north hall, each one of which seemed to be the last that even
that massive frame could hold out against. Leveling his pistol at the
group; he took aim, and fired; snatched another from his pocket, and
fired a second time. Again, by good luck, the defender's shots had told.
There was a thud on the gallery floor, and the besiegers scurried to
cover beyond the courtyard fence. Tom dashed safely back into the house,
and slipped the great beam into place.
Upstairs Dan's attention had been attracted by the commotion in front of
the inn. He opened a window on to the roof of the gallery, climbed out,
and crawled along on his belly till his head just abutted over the eaves.
For a few moments, after the firing, he could hear the attackers moving
about behind the fence across the courtyard. At length, a couple of them
stole across the court and up on to the gallery beneath him. In a moment
they returned carrying the dead or wounded comrade; then all of them
seemed to go off together up the dark avenue of maples. He waited till
they could be heard no more, then crept back into the house and ran down
to tell Dan of their temporary withdrawal. For an hour or more the four
defenders of the Inn kept themselves occupied parading the corridors and
rooms, on the watch for a fresh attack. But nothing happened. They felt
no security, however, and would feel none till daylight.
In the silent watching of that night Dan had ample opportunity to reflect
upon his extraordinary interview with Madame de la Fontaine. He loved
her. Good heavens how he loved her, but--had she been sincere in her
refusal at the last to keep the scrap of paper for the possession of
which she had so desperately intrigued? Had she decoyed him to the
rendezvous in the dark but to betray him to the bandits with whom she was
in league? At first it would seem so. And yet the paper was in his
possession; and, she it was who had rescued him from the assassin's
knife. Where was she now? What had become of her? What was to be the end
of this mad night's work? That she was the woman who had accompanied
General Pointelle--or the Maréchal de Boisdhyver--somehow did not
surprise him. And for the time the full import of what that implied did
not dawn upon him. But what mattered anything now that he loved her?
He determined at last to reconnoitre again from the roof of the gallery.
It still lay in shadow, but it would not be long before the moon, now
rising over the eastern hills beyond the Strathsey flooded it with light.
In a moment, he had opened the window, was over the sill, and, creeping
cautiously along the roof to the ledge, he worked his way toward the
great oak at the farther end.
All was still and deserted below as the Inn courtyard would have been in
the middle of any winter's night. While he stood peering into the
darkness, listening intently, the moon, just showing above the distant
tree tops, cast the first rays of its light into the courtyard beneath
him. At the instant the figure of a woman stole across the flagged
pavement and crept fearfully to the Red Oak. With a strange thrill he
recognized Claire de la Fontaine. Reaching the shelter of the great tree,
she stooped, gathered a handful of gravel from the road bed, and then
cast it boldly at the shutters of the bar, calling softly, "Dan, Dan."
Instantly he replied. "Claire! Is that you? What is it? I am here, above
you, on the roof."
"Ah, _mon Dieu_!" she exclaimed, as she looked up startled, and
discerned his form leaning over the eaves, "for the love of heaven, my
friend, open to me. I am in danger and I must tell you that which is of
great importance to you. _Mais vite, mon ami_. In ten minutes they will
It did not occur to Dan to doubt her. Careless of the risk, he rushed
back to the window, climbed in, and in a few seconds had opened the door
to the anxious woman without. She seemed physically exhausted as she
stepped into the warm bar. Taking her in his arms, he carried her to a
chair, and poured out a glass of wine, which she eagerly drank.
"It matters not what I have been doing," she murmured in reply to his
questions, "I have but little time to give you my warning. _Ecoute_.
Bonhomme and his men are gone only to carry back their dead and wounded,
and to bring cutlasses, and the two or three sailors who were left on the
schooner. I have followed them--God knows how--and heard something of
their plans. They will make an attack--now, in a moment--in two different
places. But these attacks will be shams,--is not that the word?--they
will mean nothing. It is the Oak Parlour that they desire to enter. At
the window of that so horrible room Bonhomme will try to make an entrance
without alarm while the others hold your attention at the front and back
of the Inn. Is it that you understand? It is necessary that you are
prepared for these sham attacks, but the great danger is Bonhomme. The
window in the Oak Parlour is not strong. They have information--recent
information--from the Marquis probably,--that it will not be difficult to
break in. One of you must conceal himself in the dark and shoot Bonhomme
when he enters; you must shoot and shoot to kill, then we will be safe.
I have no fear of Monsieur le Marquis. The others--they are brutes--but
they will flee. And they know nothing, they do this for money,--ah, _mon
Dieu_, for money which I have furnished!"
For a moment, torn between his love and his deep distrust of this woman,
poor Dan stood uncertainly. Suddenly he knelt at her side and clasped his
arms about her. "Claire, you are on our side? You swear it."
"Ah, _mon Dieu_! is it that I deserve this?" she exclaimed bitterly.
"Ah! I tell you truth," she cried. "You must believe me--Listen! Are
they come already?"
"No, no, there is nothing. But I trust you, I will go."
Suddenly she sprang to her feet. "Let me go with you. It is terrible to
me to enter again that room; but I desire to prove myself of honour.
"Tom is there."
"Ah! send him here to the bar. But do you come, _mon ami_. See, I go with
you." She rose and forcing herself to the effort, led the way across the
bar and into the corridor of the north wing, as if to show him that in
sixteen years she had not forgotten.
IN THE OAK PARLOUR
"You know the way?" Dan exclaimed as he caught up with her, and held open
the door that led into the old north wing.
"But so well," she replied, catching her breath. "Would to God that
I did not!"
"Ah!" he murmured, "I forgot that you have been here before."
They pressed on silently. At the turn of the corridor upon which the Oak
Parlour gave, they discerned Tom Pembroke, a weird figure, in the dim
light of the tallow dip upon the table, that cast fantastic shadows upon
the whitewashed walls.
As he recognized them, he sprang forward in astonishment. "Madame de la
Fontaine! Dan! What does this mean?" he cried.
"You know Madame?" Dan replied hastily and in evident confusion. "At
great risk she has come to warn us--she is our friend, understand.--She
has come to tell us how Bonhomme and his men will attack the Inn."
Tom listened to his explanation with unconcealed dismay. "Good heavens,
Dan!" he protested, "You trust this woman? You know she is in league with
these ruffians. Do you want us to fall into a trap?"
"No, no, Monsieur Pembroke," interrupted Madame de la Fontaine, "you must
listen to me. I understand your fear. But at last you can trust me. I
repent that which I have done. Ah, _mon Dieu_, with what bitterness! And
now I desire to do all that is possible to save you. You must trust me."
"I do not--I can not trust you," Tom cried sternly. "Don't go in there,
Dan. Don't I beg of you, trust this woman's word. It is a trick."
"Perhaps," said Dan grimly, "but go back. I take the responsibility. I
do trust her, I shall trust her--to death. There is no time to lose,
man. Go back!"
"What deviltry has bewitched you?" cried Tom passionately. "Already once
to-night you have risked our lives by your fool-hardiness,--for the sake
of this woman, eh? By gad, man, I begin to see. But I tell you now, I
refuse to be a victim to your madness."
"_Mais non_, Monsieur Pembroke," Claire cried again. "By all that is good
and holy, I swear to you, that that which I have said is true. You must
go. They will attack the bar and the kitchen. If those places are not
defended, there will be danger."
"At any rate," said Dan, "I am going into the Oak Parlour. If you refuse
to act with me, barricade the door between the bar and the north wing. If
need be, I shall fight alone. Only now we lose time, precious time."
Pembroke looked at him as if he had gone mad, then shrugging his
shoulders he turned back into the bar, whistling for Jesse and Ezra as
he did so.
For a moment, glancing after Tom's retreating figure, shaken to his soul
by conflicting emotions, Dan stood irresolute.
"But come," said Madame de la Fontaine, touching his arm. Again like the
weird genius of this strange night she led the way on down the shadowy
hall, and paused only when her hand rested upon the knob of the door into
the Oak Parlour. "It is here," she said simply.
As Dan reached her side, she opened the door. The light of the candle
down the hallway did not penetrate the gloom of the disused room. A musty
smell as of cold stagnant air came strong to their nostrils, and Dan
felt, as they crossed the threshold together, that he was entering a
place where no life had been for a long long time, a place full of dead
The woman by his side was trembling violently. He put his arm about her
to reassure her, and there shot through him a sensation of strange and
terrible joy to be with her alone in this darkness and danger. For the
moment he was exulting that for her sake he had risked his honour, that
for her sake now he was risking life itself. He bent his head to hers.
"No! no!--not here!" she whispered hoarsely, but yet clinging to him with
shaking hands. "It is so cold, so dark. I have fear," she murmured.
"It is like a tomb," he said.
"The tomb of my hopes, of my youth," she breathed softly.
"Shall I strike a light?"
"No, no,--no light, I implore you. _Ecoute_! What is it that I hear?"
"I hear nothing. It is the wind in the Red Oak outside."
"It is an owl hooting."
Suddenly she drew her hand from his, and he could hear her moving swiftly
about. "All is as it used to be?" she asked.
"Precisely," he answered; "nothing has been changed."
"Here is the cabinet," she said, from across the room. "I can feel the
lion's head. It is opposite to the window and the moonlight will stream
in when the casement is opened, but if I crouch low I shall not be seen.
_Bien_! And you, _mon ami_? Tell me, is the old _escritoire_ still to the
left of the door?" Now she was back at his side once again.
"The _escritoire_?" he repeated.
"The little table where one writes. Ah! yes, it is here. See, behind
this, _mon ami_, shall you hide yourself. The moonlight will not reach
here--and it is so arranged that you will see plainly any one that
appears at the window. When the casement is opened, you will shoot, will
you not, and shoot to kill?"
"Yes, I will shoot," said Dan, his voice trembling.
"You promise me?" she cried in a tense whisper, as she grasped his arm
and held it tight in her grip.
"I tell you, yes."
"You must not fail."
"No. Shall I shoot at any one who opens?"
"Any one?--it will be Bonhomme,--no other."
Suddenly there came, from the front and the rear of the Inn, at the same
instant it seemed, the sharp staccato of a fusilade of pistol shots, and
the lumbering blows as of beams being thrust at distant doors.
"They are come!" she whispered, "hide." Dan could hear the swish of her
garments as she rapidly glided across the room to the old cabinet, then
he turned and crouched low behind the writing desk that she had chosen
for his place of concealment. He knelt there motionless, a cocked pistol
clenched in his right hand. His breath seemed to have stopped, but his
heart was pounding as though it must burst through his breast. How could
he shoot down in cold blood a fellow man? The horror of it crowded out
all other impressions, sensations fears. He could fight, risk his life,
but to pull the trigger of that pistol when the casement should open
seemed to him an impossibility. He would wait, grapple with him, fight
as men should.
Suddenly a ray of moonlight fell across the dark floor. Dan, looking up,
seemed frozen by horror. The shutters had opened, the casement swung back
noiselessly, and there in the opening, sharply outlined against the
moonlight-flooded night, was the great black hulk of Captain Bonhomme.
For a moment he stood there irresolute, listening intently. Dan was
fascinated, motionless, held as in a vice by the horror of the thing.
Suddenly Bonhomme moved his head to one side as if to listen more
acutely. As he did so, the ray of moonlight fell upon the cabinet, fell
upon Claire de la Fontaine, upon something that she held in an
outstretched hand that gleamed.
"_Nom de Dieu_!" There was the flash and crack of a pistol, a sharp cry,