The Inn at the Red Oak
Part 2 out of 4
"All right, but we must blow out the light. Lucky it's clear. Let's
whisper after this."
Tom threw himself on the bed, while Dan sat near the window and kept his
eyes fixed on the door of the bowling-alley. They talked for some time in
low tones, but eventually Tom fell asleep. Dan waked him at twelve for
his vigil, and he in turn was wakened at two. During the third watch they
both succumbed to weariness.
Tow awoke with a start about four, and sprang to the window. The moon was
sinking low in the western sky, but its light still flooded the deserted
courtyard beneath. He heard the patter of a horse's hoofs on the road
beyond and the crunching of the snow beneath the runners of a sleigh.
Well, he thought, as he rubbed his eyes, it was too near morning for
anything to happen, so he turned in and was soon asleep, as though no
difficult problems were puzzling his mind and heart and no mysteries were
being enacted around him.
When Dan came downstairs in the morning Mrs. Frost called him to the door
of her bedroom. "What on earth is the matter with Nancy?" she exclaimed;
"I have been waiting for her the past hour. No one has been near me since
Deborah came in to lay the fire. Call the girl Danny; I want to get up."
"All right, mother. She has probably overslept; she had a long walk
"But that is no excuse for sleeping till this time of day. Tell her
"It is only seven, mother."
"Yes, Danny, dear, but I mean to breakfast with you all this morning if I
ever succeed in getting dressed."
Dan crossed the hall and knocked at Nancy's door. There was no response.
He knocked again, then opened the door and looked within. Nancy was not
there, and her bed had not been slept in.
He went back to his mother. "Nancy is not in her room," he said. "She
has probably gone out for a walk. I'll go and look for her."
He went to the kitchens to enquire of the maids, but they had not seen
their young mistress since the night before.
"Spec she's taken dem dogs a walkin'," said black Deborah unconcernedly.
"Miss Nance she like de early morn' 'fore de sun come up."
Dan went out to the stables. The setters came rushing out, bounding and
barking joyously about him.
"Have you seen Miss Nancy this morning, Jess?" he asked.
"No, Mister Dan, ain't seen her this mornin'. Be n't she in the house?"
"She doesn't seem to be. Take a look down the road, and call after her,
will you? Down, Boy; down, Girl!" he cried to the dogs.
Dan began to be thoroughly alarmed. If Nancy had gone out, the dogs would
certainly have followed her. She must be within!
He went back into the house, and searched room after room, but no trace
of her was to be found. He returned at last to his mother's chamber.
"I can't find Nancy," he said. "She must have gone off somewhere."
"Gone off! why, she must have left very early then. I have been awake
these two hours--since daylight--; I would have heard every sound."
"Well, she isn't about now, Mother. She will be back by breakfast time, I
don't doubt. Just stay abed this morning, I will send her to you as soon
as she comes."
"I shall have to, I suppose. Really, Dan, it is extraordinary how
neglectful of me that child can sometimes be. She knew--"
"Mother, don't find fault with her. She is devoted to you, and you know
"I daresay she is. Of course she is, and I am devoted to her. Where would
she be, I wonder, if it hadn't been for me? Good heavens! Dan, can
anything have happened to her?"
"No, no--of course not,--nothing."
"Search the house, boy; she may be lying some place in a faint. She isn't
strong--I have always been worried--"
"Don't get excited, Mother. We will wait until breakfast time. If she
doesn't turn up then, you may be sure I shall find her."
He looked at his watch. It was already nearly eight o'clock, so he
decided to say nothing to Pembroke until after breakfast. He found the
Marquis and Tom chatting before the fire in the bar.
"Shall we have breakfast?" said Dan. "Mother will not be in this
"Ah!" exclaimed the Marquis, as they took their seats at table, "that is
a disappointment. And shall we not wait for Mademoiselle Nancy?"
"My sister has stepped out, monsieur; she may be late. Shall I give you
"If you please--. We have another of these so beautiful days, eh? This so
glorious weather, these moonlight nights, this snow--_C'est merveilleux_.
Last night I sat myself for a long time in my window. Ah _la nuit_--the
moon past its full, say you not?--the sea superbly dark, superbly blue,
the wonderful white country! As I sat there, messieurs, a sight too
beautiful greeted my eyes. A ship, with three great sails, appeared out
on the sea and sailed as a bird up the river to our little cove, _Voila,
mes amis_"--he waved his hand toward the eastern windows--"She is
anchored at our feet."
The two young men looked in the direction in which the marquis pointed,
and to their astonishment they saw, riding securely at her moorings in
the cove, a large sailing vessel. She was a three-masted schooner of
perhaps fifteen hundred tons, a larger ship than they had seen at anchor
in the Strathsey for many a year.
"By all that's good!" exclaimed Tom, "that is exactly the sort of ship my
father used to have in the West Indie trade, a dozen or fifteen years
ago. What is she? I wonder; and why is she anchored here instead of in
The Marquis shrugged his shoulders. "That I can tell you not, my friend;
but I am happy that she is anchored there for the hours of beauty she
has already given to me. On this strange coast of yours one so rarely
sees a sail."
"No, they go too far to the south... But what is she?" asked Dan. "We
must find out." He went to the cupboard, and got out his marine glass and
took a long look at the stranger.
"What do you make her out?" asked Tom.
"There are men on deck, some swabbing out the roundhouse. One of them is
lolling at the wheel. She flies the British flag."
"Do you, perhaps, make out the name?" asked the Marquis.
"I don't know--yes," Dan replied, twisting the lens to suit his eyes
better and spelling out the letters, "S,O,U,T,H,E,R,N,C,R--the
_Southern Cross_. By Jingo, Tom, we'll have to go down to the beach and
have a look at her."
Tom took the glasses; turning them over presently to the Marquis. "She is
a good fine boat, eh?" exclaimed M. de Boisdhyver, as he applied his eye
to the end of the glass.
"She certainly is," said Dan.
They sat down at length and resumed their breakfast. The ship had
diverted Tom's attention for the moment from the fact that Nancy had
"Where is Nance, Dan?" he asked at length, striving to conceal his
"I don't know," Dan replied. "I think she has gone over to see Mrs. Meath
and stayed for breakfast."
"Madame Meath--?" enquired the Marquis.
"At the House on the Dunes," Dan answered, a trifle sharply.
"A long walk for Mademoiselle on a cold morning," commented Monsieur
Boisdhyver, as he sipped his coffee.
In a few moments Dan rose. "Going to the Port to-day, Tom?"
"Not till later, any way; I am going down to the beach to have a look at
"Wait a little, and I'll go with you," He turned to the door and motioned
Tom to follow him.
Outside he took his friend's arm and drew him close. "Tom, something's
up; Nancy's not here."
"Nancy's not here;" exclaimed Pembroke. "What do you mean? Where is she?"
"To tell the truth, I don't know where she is; her bed has not been slept
in. I thought at first she had gone for a walk with the dogs as she does
sometimes, but Boy and Girl are both in the barn. It's half-past eight
now, and she ought to be back,"
"Good Lord! man, have you searched the house?"
"I've been over it from garret to cellar."
"And you can't find her?"
"Not a sign of her."
"Have you been through the north wing?"
"Yes, all over it. I have been in every room in the house, boy. Nance
isn't there. You heard nothing in the night, did you?"
"When did you go to sleep?"
"Perhaps about half-past three. Come to think of it, I awoke at four
with a start, for I heard a sleigh on the Port Road. After that I
went to bed."
"The sleigh hadn't been at the Inn?"
"It couldn't have been--I'd have heard of it if it had; you see it woke
me up just going along the road."
"I don't suppose we need worry. But it is queer--none of the servants
have seen her since last night."
"My God, what can have happened to her?" cried Tom.
"Sh, boy! We have nothing to go on, but I wager that old French devil
knows more than he will tell."
"Then, we'll choke it out of him."
"No, no, don't be a fool! She may be back any minute. I'll get the sleigh
and go over to the House on the Dunes. In the meanwhile don't show that
you are anxious! I'll be back inside of an hour, and we can have a look
at the ship. If Nance isn't with Mrs. Meath, why I am sure I'll find her
here. Let's not worry till we have to."
Tom assented to this proposition somewhat unwillingly. Despite his
friend's reassuring words, he did not feel that Nancy would be found at
the House on the Dunes or that she would immediately return. He
remembered her telling him of her desire to go away. He remembered how
strangely she had received the declaration of his love, and he feared
almost as much that she had fled from him, as that the Marquis, weird and
evil as he began to think him, had any hand in her disappearance.
After Dan's departure in the sleigh, Tom wandered about restlessly. When
half an hour passed and Frost did not return, he went out to look down
the road and see if he were coming. The white open country was still and
empty, and the only sign of life was the great three-masted ship riding
at anchor in the cove, with seamen lolling about her deck.
As Tom stood under the Red Oak, the Marquis stepped out of the front
door. He was wrapped in his great coat, about to take his morning walk up
and down the gallery.
"Why so pensive, Monsieur Pembroke? Is it that you are moved by the
beauty of the scene--, the land so white, the sea so blue, and the
_Southern Cross_ shining as it were in a northern sky!"
Tom grunted a scarcely civil reply, and turning away to avoid further
conversation, strolled down the avenue of maples toward the road.
Monsieur de Boisdhyver raised his eyebrows slightly, and began his walk.
By and by, still more impatient, Pembroke walked back toward the house.
If Dan did not return soon, he determined he would go after him. As he
came up to the gallery again the Marquis paused and spoke to him. "And
Mademoiselle, she has not returned?" he asked.
"No!" Pembroke replied sharply. "She has gone to the House on the Dunes
and her brother has driven over to fetch her."
"Ah! pardon," exclaimed Monsieur de Boisdhyver; "I did not know... But it
is cold for me, Monsieur Pembroke; I seek the fire."
Tom did not reply. The Marquis went inside, and presently Tom could see
him standing at the window, the marine glass in his hands, sweeping the
Pembroke passed an anxious morning. Ten o'clock came; half-past; eleven
struck. Nancy had not appeared, or was there a sign of Dan. Unable to be
patient longer, he set out on the Port Road to meet his friend.
The smoke was curling from the chimneys of the House on the Dunes as Dan
drove up the long marsh road from the beach. He had half convinced
himself that Nancy would be there, and he hoped that she herself would
answer his knock. When at length the door was opened it was not by Nancy
nor by Mrs. Meath, but by a stranger whom he had never seen before.
"Yes?" a pleasant voice questioned, but giving an accent to the
monosyllable that made Dan think instantly of France.
He found himself facing a charming woman, her bright blue eyes looking
into his with a smile that instantly attracted him. She was well-dressed,
with a different air from the women he knew. And she was undeniably
pretty--of that Dan was convinced, and the conviction overwhelmed him
with shyness. He stood awkward and ill-at-ease; for the moment forgetting
his errand. "I suppose," he stammered, "--I beg your pardon--but I
suppose you are Mrs. Heath's new boarder,--Mrs. Fountain?"
"Yes," replied the strange lady with an amused smile, "that is what I
imagine that I am called. My name is Madame de La Fontaine. And you--?"
"I?--Oh, yes--of course--I am Dan Frost from the Inn over yonder. I came
to see Mrs. Meath to ask if my sister Nancy is here."
"Alas!" replied Madame de La Fontaine, "poor Mrs. Meath she this morning
is quite unwell. She is in her room, so that I am afraid you cannot see
her. But, I may tell you, there is no one else here, just myself and my
"You have not seen or heard anything then of my sister, Nancy Frost?"
"Nancy Frost?--your sister?--No, monsieur. I am arrived only last night
and have seen no one."
"I had hoped my sister would be here. I am sorry about Mrs. Meath;
perhaps I can be of some service. If you should need me at any time, I
can almost always be found at the Inn at the Red Oak."
"The Inn at the Red Oak?" repeated Madame de La Fontaine, "and is
that near by?"
"It is about a mile and a half by the road," Frost replied, "but you can
see it plainly from the doorstep here."
The foreign lady stepped out in the crisp February air. "Can you point it
out to me? I may need your assistance some time."
"You see the woods and the oak at the edge of them," said Dan, pointing
across the Dunes. "That great tree is the Red Oak, the rambling old
building beneath it is the Inn."
"Ah! one can see quite plainly from one house to the other, is it not
"Quite," Dan replied.
"Thank you, monsieur. I trust there will be no need for assistance. But
it makes one glad to know where are neighbours, especially--" she added,
"while poor Mrs. Meath is ill."
As she spoke she turned to the door with the air of dismissing him, but
on second thoughts she faced him again. "I wonder, Mr. Frost, will you do
me a favour?"
"I shall be delighted," Dan exclaimed.
"My luggage arrived last night," said Madame de La Fontaine, "upon the
ship that is at anchor in the bay. They are to bring my boxes ashore. But
before that I desire to give directions to the captain at the beach, and
I cannot well do so by my servant. Will you be kind enough to walk with
me and show me the way?"
Dan forgot about Nancy in his eagerness to assure this unusually
attractive lady that he was at her disposal. She disappeared within, and
he heard her give some quick, sharp directions in French to a maid. Then
in a moment she reappeared on the little porch, bonneted and wrapped for
a walk in the cold.
As they set out across the Dunes, she kept up a rapid fire of questions
that might have seemed inquisitive to one more accustomed to the world
than Dan. He found himself in the course of that quarter of an hour
talking quite freely with the charming stranger.
"No, I did not make the journey from France in the _Southern Cross_," she
replied to one of his interrogations, "that would have been
uncomfortable, I fear. But she brings over my boxes. She is arrived
somewhat sooner than I was promised."
"Do you expect to signal her from the beach?"
"How will they know who you are?"
"Oh, they have instructions. You must think all this curious!" she
commented with a smile. "You must think me an odd person."
The possible oddness of Madame de La Fontaine made less impression upon
Dan than did her charm. He was conversing easily with a very lovely
woman, and all else was forgotten in that agreeable sensation.
As they emerged from the Dunes upon the little beach of the Cove, Dan
observed on the deck of the _Southern Cross_ a sailor watching them
through a glass. Madame de La Fontaine drew her handkerchief from beneath
her cloak and waved it toward the ship.
"This is the signal," she explained, "that they were instructed to look
out for. If I am not mistaken Captain Bonhomme will come to the shore for
my directions. You speak French, monsieur?"
"Not at all," Dan replied.
"Ah!" sighed the lady, "you lose a great deal."
"I might have learned some this winter," said Dan; "for we have had a
French gentleman as our guest at the Inn."
"Indeed! And who, may I ask, is your French gentleman?"
"His name is the Marquis de Boisdhyver. Do you, by any chance, know him?"
"The Marquis de Boisdhyver?" repeated Madame de La Fontaine. "I know the
name certainly; it is an old family with us, monsieur. But I do not
recall that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting any one who bore
it... But see! they are lowering the boat."
They were now at the edge of the surf. Madame de La Fontaine again waved
a hand in the direction of the clipper. Dan saw a small boat alongside
her, into which several sailors and an officer, as it seemed, were
clambering over the rail. They pushed off, and began to row vigorously
for the shore.
The French lady stood watching them intently. Within a few moments the
little boat was beached, the officer sprang out, advanced to Madame de La
Fontaine, and saluted. She exchanged sentences with him in French of
which Dan understood nothing. Then the seaman touched his cap, got into
his small boat, and gave orders to push off.
"He understands no English," remarked Madame de La Fontaine. "I gave
directions about my boxes. We may return now, monsieur; or doubtless I am
able to find my way back alone."
"Oh no," exclaimed Dan gallantly, "I will go with you."
The lady smiled graciously. As they walked back across the Dunes, she
kept up a lively conversation, no longer asking him questions, nor, he
observed, giving him the opportunity to ask any.
At the door of the House on the Dunes she dismissed him finally. "I am
but too grateful, Monsieur, for your kindness. I hope that we shall meet
again while I dwell in your beautiful country. In the meantime, I trust
you will find your sister."
Dan flushed, how could he have forgotten Nancy! Taking the hand that his
new acquaintance offered, he hurried away. He met Tom on the Port Road
about half a mile from the Inn and was truly worried to find that Nancy
had not returned; he explained briefly his own delay in his expedition
with the strange lady to the beach.
"It is certainly odd, though perhaps not so odd as stupid, that they
should have anchored in the Cove just to disembark one woman's boxes. It
would have been much simpler to go to the Port, as every well-bred
skipper does, and had the French woman's stuff carted out. At any rate,
we'll go down this afternoon and have a look at her."
By the time they reached the Inn it was noon, and still there was no word
of Nancy. The dinner was a silent one, as the Marquis tactfully did not
disturb his companions' preoccupation, and Mrs. Frost, who was unusually
nervous, did not appear.
After the meal the two young men started for the beach. At Tom's
suggestion they got a little dory from the boathouse and rowed out to the
clipper. The wind had shifted to the southeast, but still there was not
enough of a sea to give them any trouble; and in a few minutes they were
under the bows of _The Southern Cross_. Dan hailed a seaman who was
leaning over the gunwale and watching them with idle curiosity. If the
man replied in French, it was in a variety of that tongue that Tom's
limited attainments did not understand, and, annoyed by the
incomprehensible replies, he asked for "le captaine". At
length,--possibly attracted by the altercation at the bows,--the
authoritative-looking person who had come ashore in the morning in
response to Madame de La Fontaine's signal, now appeared at the gunwale
and glanced below at the two young men in the dory. His expression
betrayed no sign that he recognized Frost. Indeed he vouchsafed no
syllable of reply to the questions Dan asked in English or to those that
Tom ventured to phrase in Dr. Watson's French.
He was not, they thought, an attractive person; his countenance was
swarthy, his eyes were black his hair was black, his heavy jaw was
shadowed by an enormous black mustachio. A kerchief of brilliant red tied
about his throat gave him the appearance of the matador in a Spanish
bullfight rather than the officer of an English merchantman. He glanced
at the dory occasionally, shook his head silently in response to the
requests to go aboard, and at length when that did not serve to put an
end to them, he shrugged his shoulders and disappeared. The seaman
continued to lean over the gunwale and spat nonchalantly as though that
were the measure of their appreciation of this unasked-for visit.
"I move we skip up the rope," said Tom, "and explain ourselves at close
"Thanks, no," replied Dan. "Either of those two amiable gentlemen
looks capable and willing of pitching us overboard. The water is too
cold for bathing."
"Very well," said Tom, "I will yield to your sober judgment for the
moment; but I propose to see the inside of that ship sooner or later
unless she weighs anchor in the hour and sails away. But we ought to be
getting to town to make enquiries about Nancy. For Heavens' sake, Dan,
where do you suppose she can be?"
They rowed back to the beach, stowed the dory in the boathouse, and set
out in the sleigh for Monday Port. Diligent enquiry there, in likely and
unlikely places, proved fruitless. It was nightfall when they returned
to the Inn.
They were greeted by the Marquis in the bar. "Mademoiselle Nancy, she has
not been found?"
"No," said Dan. "I take it from your question that she has not come home
"She is not come, no. Perhaps she stays at the House on the Dunes?"
"I do not know," Dan answered tartly. "I expect her every moment, but it
is idle to conceal from you, Monsieur, that we are much concerned as to
The Marquis grew sympathetic,--optimistically sympathetic. Tom clutched
at his re-assuring words, but Dan was even more irritated by the silence
that Monsieur de Boisdhyver had maintained throughout the day.
Directly after supper Dan went into his mother's parlour, leaving the
others to their own devices. The Marquis settled himself near the fire
and was soon absorbed in reading an old folio; Tom wandered restlessly
about, now up and down the long bar, now in the corridors, now on the
gallery and in the court without.
The night, after the bright day, had set in raw and cold; a damp breeze
blew from the southwest, and gave promise both of wind and rain. From his
position under the Red Oak, Tom could see the red and green lights of
_The Southern Cross_ at her moorings in the Cove below, and across the
Neck the lighted windows of the House on the Dunes. Over all else the
night had cast its black damp mantle.
As he stood watching, deeply anxious for the welfare of the girl he
loved, he noticed a new light appear in one of the upper windows of the
House on the Dunes--not yellow as is the light of candles, but green like
the light on the port side of the clipper in the Cove. Had he not seen
the lights from the other windows he could have thought it was another
ship on the ocean side of the Neck.
He looked for a long time at the tiny spark in the distance, wondering
what whim had induced Mrs. Meath to shade her candles with so deep a
green. As he strolled back toward the Inn, he glanced through the windows
of the bar where the Marquis still read by the fireside. Suddenly the
old gentleman, as Tom curiously watched him, laid his book down on the
table and rose from his chair. He looked about the room and then advanced
to the window. Tom instinctively slipped behind the trunk of the great
oak. Monsieur de Boisdhyver stood for several moments peering into the
darkness. Then he turned away and crossed the room to the door into the
front hall. It flashed through Tom's mind that possibly the Marquis had
started on another of his mysterious tours. He ran down again into the
court far enough from the house to command a view of the entire facade,
and watched curiously, particularly the north wing. All was dark, save
for the lights below.
Suddenly he saw the flicker of a candle in one of the windows, not of the
north wing, but of the south. A moment's glance, and he made sure that it
was the room occupied as a sleeping apartment by Monsieur de Boisdhyver.
The Marquis was standing by the window, with his face pressed close to
the pane, peering out into the night. He still held the candle in his
hand. To Dan's surprise, he placed it carefully on the broad window-sill,
and drew down the dark shade to within a foot of the sill, blotting out
all save a narrow band of light. Then the Marquis disappeared for several
moments into the interior of the room. Dan was about to turn back into
the house, when again Monsieur de Boisdhyver came to the window. He did
not raise the shade, but inserted between the windowpane and the candle a
strip of dark green paper. It was translucent and had the effect of
sending a beam of green light southward, across the meadows and the
dunes, to meet--Tom suddenly realized--the rays of the green light from
the House on the Dunes.
Was it a signal being exchanged, and between whom? The coincidence of
green lights from the Inn and the House on the Dunes, at the same moment,
was too marked to be without significance. To what end was the Marquis de
Boisdhyver exchanging mysterious signals with some one in that lonely
farmhouse, and what did they mean?
Tom repressed his agitation and remained for some time watching the two
green lights that glowed toward one another over the dark landscape.
Suddenly the light in the House on the Dunes was extinguished; then,
momentarily it shone again, but quickly went out and left the great sweep
of dunes in darkness. Two minutes later the same thing took place in the
window of the south chamber of the Inn. The light flashed and was gone,
flashed again and shone no more.
Tom went in, by a rear entrance, to the bar. The Marquis was seated by a
table, absorbed in reading. He started as Tom entered. "Still no word of
Mademoiselle?" he piped.
"Still no word, monsieur," Pembroke answered laconically. He also
seated himself in the candle light and took up the last issue of the
"Do you know what has become of Dan?" Pembroke asked presently.
"Monsieur Frost he has been closeted with madame his mother for the past
half-hour. You have no further plans for seeking Mademoiselle? For
myself, I grow alarmed."
"I know nothing but what you know, monsieur. Nancy has not returned.
There has been no word of her. We shall have to wait." With tremendous
effort to conceal his agitation and annoyance, Tom resumed his reading.
Monsieur de Boisdhyver glanced at him for a moment with a little air of
interrogation, then shrugged his shoulders slightly and turned again to
his French paper.
MRS. FROST'S RECOLLECTIONS OF A FRENCH EXILE
After the long day of fruitless search and enquiry for the vanished
Nancy, supper being over and Tom having gone outside, Dan joined his
mother in the blue parlour.
Mrs. Frost was weary with waiting and anxiety, but as Dan threw himself
on a couch near her chair, she watched him patiently.
"There is no clue, Dan?" she ventured at last.
"No clue, mother, not the slightest. Nancy seems to have vanished as
completely as if she had dissolved into air. As you know, the house has
been thoroughly searched; the servants carefully questioned; and
enquiries have been made at every conceivable place in Monday Port. I
have been to the House on the Dunes, and to the farmhouses on every road
round about. No one has seen or heard of her. She has taken French leave,
but for what reason I can't imagine."
"Nancy has not been happy for some time, Dan," said Mrs. Frost.
"No, I have fancied that she was not. But why? Do you suppose she has
left us deliberately? or--". He paused uncertain whether or not to give
voice to his suspicions.
"Or what?" asked his mother.
"Or she has been forced away against her will."
"Against her will!" the old lady exclaimed. "Who could have forced her?
and for what reason? Do you think she may have been kidnapped?"
"Either kidnapped or decoyed away."
"But who could have designs upon Nancy? It is more reasonable to suppose
that she left of her own accord. I confess that would not altogether
"I don't know, mother, but I have my fears and suspicions. There may be
some one who has a deep interest in Nancy, who for reasons of his own,
which I don't yet understand, may wish to control her movements. I wish
you would tell me all you know of Nancy's origin. You have never told
me;--you have never told her, I fancy,--who she really is and how you
came to adopt her as your own child. I have never been curious to know,
in fact I have not wanted to know, for she has always been to me
precisely what a sister of my own blood would be. But now, it may help
me to understand certain strange things that have happened in the last
For a moment Mrs. Frost was silent. "No, I have never spoken to you or
to Nancy of her early history, Dan; simply because, to all intent she
has been our own. I have always wished that she should feel absolutely
one with us; and I think she always has, until this winter. But of late
I have noticed her discontent, her growing restlessness, and I have
sometimes wondered if she could be brooding over the mystery of her
early years. But she has never asked me a direct question; and I have
"I think now, mother," Dan replied, "it is your duty to tell me all
"I have no reason, my dear, to keep anything from you. I should have told
you years ago, if you had asked me. There is not much to tell. You may
remember when you were a boy about six or seven years old, a French exile
came to the Inn, a military gentleman, who had left France in consequence
of the fall of the great Napoleon."
"Yes, I remember him distinctly," said Dan. "He used to tell stories to
Tom and me of his adventures in the wars. Tom was speaking of him only
the other day."
"Well," continued Mrs. Frost, "this gentleman called himself General
Pointelle. I learned afterwards it was not his real name. Who he actually
was, I have not the slightest idea. He brought with him a little girl two
years old, a sweet little black-eyed girl, to whom I, having lost your
only sister at about that age, took a great fancy. The General also had
two servants with him, a valet, and a maid. The maid, a pretty young
thing, took care of the child. They arrived in mid-summer, on a
merchantman that plied between Marseilles and Monday Port. I do not know
why General Pointelle came to this part of the country, or why he chose
to stay at the Inn; at any rate he came, and he engaged for an indefinite
period the best suite of apartments in the old north wing. He had the Oak
"The Oak Parlour!" exclaimed Dan.
"Yes," replied Mrs. Frost, "that was part of the suite reserved usually
for our most distinguished guests. The general used that for a
sitting-room and the adjoining chamber as a bed-room. The maid and child
occupied connecting rooms across the hall. The valet, I believe, was in
some other part of the house. General Pointelle proved himself a
fascinating guest, and his little daughter Eloise was a favourite with
all the household. The maid, pretty as she certainly was and apparently
above her station, I somehow never trusted. I have always believed that
the relations between the general and herself were not what they should
have been. But Frenchmen look at such things differently, I am told; and
it was not to our interests to be over-curious.
"They had been with us about two months when one fine morning we awoke to
find that General Pointelle, his valet, and the charming Marie had
disappeared, and little Eloise was crying alone in her big room. You have
probably guessed the child was Nancy."
"Yes," Dan agreed, "but do you mean that the father actually
"Practically. He left a note for me and a little bag of gold amounting to
two thousand dollars to be used for the child. If you will hand me that
old secretary there, I will show you the letter."
Dan placed the old-fashioned writing-desk on the table beside her, and
waited anxiously while she fumbled in her pocket for the key. She
unlocked the desk, and after searching a few moments amongst innumerable
papers, drew out an old letter. This she unfolded carefully and handed
to Dan. It was written in English, in a fine running hand. He read it
"_The Inn at the Red Oak, Deal_:
"14 October, '814.
"Political circumstances over which I have no control, patriotic
considerations which I cannot withstand, demand my immediate return to
France. In the conditions into which I am about to be plunged the care of
my dear little daughter becomes an impossibility. Inhuman as it must seem
to you, lacking in all sense of Christian duty as it must appear to you,
I entrust, without the formality of consulting you, my beautiful little
Eloise to your humane and tender care. With this letter I deposit with
you the sum of two thousand dollars in gold, which will go a little way
at least to compensate you for the burden I thus unceremoniously, but of
necessity, thrust upon you. I appeal to and confide in the goodness of
your heart, of which already I have such abundant testimony, that will
take pity upon the misfortune of a helpless infant and an equally
helpless parent. May you be a mother to the motherless, and may the
Heavenly Father bless you for what you shall do.
"I embark, madame, upon a dangerous and uncertain mission. Should that
mission prove successful and restore the fortunes of my house, I will
return and claim my daughter. Should fate overwhelm me with disaster, I
must beg that you will continue to regard her and love her as your own.
The issue will have been decided within five years. Permit me to add but
one thing more,--in the event that I fall in the cause I have embraced, I
have made arrangements whereby communications shall be established with
you, madame, that will redound to your own good fortune and that of the
"All effort to thwart my plans or to establish my identity in the
meantime, will, I must warn you, be fruitless.
"Adieu, madame: accept the assurance of my gratitude for all that you
have already done to sweeten exile and of my earnest prayer for the
blessing of God upon your great good heart.
"I remain, madame, for the present, but always, under whatever name,
"Your grateful and sincere servant,
As Dan, with gathering brows, concluded the reading of this
extraordinary letter, Mrs. Frost resumed her story.
"We always imagined that the general and his companions had sailed in a
French vessel that lay at that time in the Passage and left that morning
at dawn. There was nothing to do but adopt little Eloise Pointelle for my
own. I changed her name, at your father's suggestion, to Nancy Frost;
knowing that Pointelle was not the general's real name. For five years we
looked to see our guest return; and afterwards for years, we hoped to
receive some communication that would prove, as he promised, of advantage
to Nancy and ourselves. But from the night General Pointelle left our
house to this day, I have not heard one word to show that he still
existed or, indeed, that he ever had existed. We brought Nancy up as our
own daughter, though, never concealing from her the fact that she was not
of our blood. Indeed, Dan, I have loved her dearly."
"Certainly, you have always treated her with the greatest kindness. But
this is quite extraordinary, Mother. I think it will throw light on
Nancy's present disappearance."
"Do you think the father is alive, Dan? that he has communicated
"Not that, mother; I am really in the dark. But I believe that the
Marquis de Boisdhyver has some connection with your General Pointelle,
and that his stay with us this winter has something to do with Nancy."
In response to Mrs. Frost's questions, he told of the meetings of Nancy
and the marquis, but decided to say nothing about the paper that he had
found in the Oak Parlour.
"I want you to be careful, Mother, to give no hint to the Marquis that we
suspect him in any way. Tom and I are trying to solve the mystery, and
secrecy is of the greatest importance. It is a more complicated business
than we imagined. I must go now and find Tom. May I keep this letter?"
"Yes, but keep it under lock and key. I have guarded it for sixteen
years; and it is the only evidence I possess of Nancy's origin."
Dan returned to the bar, where he found the Marquis and Tom still reading
"Ah!" exclaimed Monsieur de Boisdhyver, "I trust, Monsieur Frost, you
bring us the good news at last of the return of Mademoiselle."
"Unfortunately, I do not, monsieur," Dan replied. "Our efforts to find
out what has become of her have been entirely unsuccessful. I am very
anxious, as you may imagine."
"And to what mishap do you attribute Mademoiselle's so unceremonious
"I do not attribute it to any mishap," replied Dan. "I think that my
sister has gone off on a visit to some friends, and that her messages to
us have been miscarried. I feel certain that to-morrow we will be
"Ah! I hope so with all my heart," exclaimed the Marquis fervently. "It
is a matter of deep distress to me--monsieur. But if--to-morrow passes
and still you do not hear--?"
"God knows, sir. We must do everything to find her."
"We shall find her," cried Tom, as he sprang to his feet, unable longer
to repress his anxiety or his irritation. "And if we do not find her safe
and well, woe to the man who has harmed her."
"Bravo!" cried the Marquis. "Permit me to adopt those words to express
my own sentiments. I applaud this determination, monsieur, _de tout
Tom glared at the little old man with an expression of illconcealed rage.
He was about to blurt out some angry reply, when a warning gesture from
Dan checked him. Without speaking, he flung himself out of the room.
"Poor Tom!" said Dan quickly, to cover Pembroke's attitude toward the
Marquis, "this takes him especially hard. He is in love with Nancy."
"_Eh bien_! I sympathize with his good taste. It is that that accounts
for his vigour of his expressions, so much more _emphatique_ than our
"More emphatic, perhaps," said Dan, "though I do not feel less strongly."
The Marquis made a little bow, as he rose to retire. "If, chance,
monsieur could require my assistance--"
"Thank you," said Dan quickly. "In that case, sir, I shall be only too
happy to call upon you." He rose also, and courteously held the candle
till the Marquis had reached the top of the stairs.
Tom waited his friend impatiently in their common chamber. And when at
last, having closed the house for the night, Dan joined him, he told at
once of the signals which he supposed had been exchanged between the
Marquis at the Inn and someone at the House on the Dunes. In return Dan
repeated what he had learned about Nancy from Mrs. Frost.
"There is no doubt in my mind," said Dan, "that the Marquis knows all
about Nancy's disappearance and where she is, and further I believe that
Nancy's disappearance is part of a plot with the Marquis here, Madame de
la Fontaine at the House on the Dunes, and that schooner riding at anchor
in the Cove. I have a plan, Tom."
"Go ahead for heaven's sake. If we don't do something, I'll go in and
choke the truth out of that old reprobate. He applauds my sentiments, eh!
Good God! If he knew them!"
"Yes, yes," said Dan. "But the time for choking has not come. You nearly
gave yourself away to-night, you will ruin our plans, and involve Nancy
in some harm. She is probably in that old villain's power. Now listen to
me. The first thing to do is to discover Nancy's whereabouts. The second
is to get at the bottom of the Marquis's plot and the secret of the torn
scrap of paper. We will find the clew to both, I think, if we can
discover the meaning of the signals between the Marquis and the lady in
the House on the Dunes."
"Right!" cried Tom. "But how?"
"One of us must stay at the Inn and watch the Marquis to-night, and the
other investigate the House on the Dunes. I have already been there and
made the acquaintance of the lady, so I had better do that, and you stay
here. Do you agree?"
"Yes, of course; though I envy you the chance to be out and doing."
"You will be doing something here. I want you to hide yourself in the
hallway near the Marquis's door and watch all night--till dawn anyway.
He cannot get out of his room without coming into the hall, and we must
know what he does to-night. If the Marquis can spend a sleepless night,
we can afford to do so. I don't know what I can do at the House on the
Dunes but I shall take the pistol, and you can keep my gun. To-morrow I
will get more arms, for I shouldn't be surprised if we needed them. Is
"Perfectly," said Tom. "I'll watch as soon as you are off."
"Good-night, old boy, good luck."
"Good-night," and Dan slipped out of the room and down the dark stairs.
As soon as Dan had gone Tom blew out his light and slipped into
This portion of the Inn was simple in design. A long corridor ran through
the middle of the house to meet a similar passage at the southern end
extending at right angles to the main hall. The South Chamber, occupied
by the Marquis de Boisdhyver, opened into the southwest passage, but the
door was well beyond the juncture of the two corridors. It was Pembroke's
intention to conceal himself in the bedroom next the Marquis's chamber,
from the door of which he could look down the entire length of the main
hall, and by stepping outside get a view of the branch hallway into which
the door of this room and that of the Marquis actually opened. A further
advantage was that the windows of this room, like those of the South
Chamber, looked out upon the Dunes and the Cove.
As Tom stepped from his chamber, the house seemed utterly deserted; save
for the roaring of the wind without and an occasional creak or crack in
the time-worn boards, there were no sounds.
The night was not a dark one, although the wind was rising and rain was
threatening; for a full moon lurked behind the thick veil of cloud and
something of its weird weak light relieved the darkness even of the great
corridor of the Inn.
Tom stole softly down the hallway and gained the room next the Marquis's.
He took his position in a great chair, which he drew near the open door,
and laid his gun on the floor near at hand. No one could enter the hall
without his seeing him. Every few moments he would tiptoe to the doorway,
thrust his head into the corridor, and listen intently for any sound in
the South Chamber.
It was a lonely and unpleasant vigil. The night was wild, the storm was
rising, the old Inn was moaning as though in distress; and, despite his
natural courage, fantastic terrors and dangers thrust themselves upon his
excited imagination. He would much have preferred, he felt, to be out in
the open as Dan was, even facing real dangers and greater difficulties.
Deeper than by these imaginary fears of the night, he was racked with
anxiety to know what had become of the girl he loved. Had she been
decoyed away by the evil genius of the place; was she in danger? Had she
disappeared of her own free will; and didn't she really love him?
He was not in the least sleepy; but after a while the vigil began to tell
upon his nerves. He found it almost impossible to sit still and wait,
perhaps in vain. He made innumerable trips across the room to the windows
to look out into the bleak night. The landscape was blotted out. Not a
light showed from the House on the Dunes; only the two lamps on the
schooner at anchor in the Cove gleamed across the night. Eleven o'clock,
twelve o'clock struck solemnly from the old clock on the stairs.
Once as he was looking out of the window, it seemed to him that the green
light on the _Southern Cross_ was moving. But it was impossible that she
should weigh anchor in the teeth of the rising storm. He was mistaken.
Nay, he was sure. But it was rising, slowly, steadily, as though drawn by
an invisible hand, to about the height of the masthead. There at last it
stopped, and swung to the wind, to and fro, to and fro; high above its
red companion, high above the deck.
And then, suddenly, as if to answer this mysterious manoeuvre, the green
light, that earlier in the evening had glowed from a north window of the
House on the Dunes, now flashed from an east window of the old farmhouse;
flashed, then gleamed steadily. The light on the _Southern Cross_ was
lowered slowly, then raised again. The light in the House on the Dunes
vanished; soon flashed again and then vanished once more. Slowly the
light in the schooner descended to its normal position. A moment later
the green light appeared on the north side of the House on the Dunes,
where it had been earlier, and shone there steadily.
Was it a signal to the Marquis de Boisdhyver? Tom tiptoed to the
partition between his room and the South Chamber, and put his ear to the
wall to listen. Not a sound reached him. He turned to the door to go into
the corridor, and stood suddenly motionless. For there, advancing ever so
cautiously down the hall, carrying a lighted candle in his hand, was the
old Marquis. He was clad in night dress and cap, with a gayly-coloured
dressing-gown worn over the white shirt. Slowly, silently, pausing every
instant to listen; he stole on, gun in hand, and Tom followed him as
cautiously and as quietly. Instead of turning to the right at the
partition that divides the north and south wings of the Inn and going
down stairs, the Marquis turned to the left, into the short hall that led
directly to the great chamber occupied by Tom and Dan.
By the time Pembroke in pursuit had reached the turn and dared to peep
around the corner of the wall, the Marquis was at the door of Dan's room.
He stood there, ear bent close to the panel, intently listening.
Tom waited breathless. Not satisfied, Monsieur de Boisdhyver turned about
and went into an adjoining chamber, the door of which stood open.
Pembroke was about to advance, when the Marquis emerged again into the
corridor, having left his lighted candle in the empty room. This
manoeuvre, whatever advantage it had for the Marquis, was fortunate for
Pembroke, for it left the end of the little hall, where he stood
watching, in deep shadow. He could now step boldly from behind the
concealing wall without fear of immediate detection.
Again the Marquis stood and listened at the door of Dan's room, then
cautiously turned the knob. The door yielded and opened an inch or so.
Monsieur de Boisdhyver put his ear to the crack. Dissatisfied with the
absolute silence that must have met him, he pushed open the door a little
further and thrust his head inside. In a moment he disappeared within.
Tom realized that the Marquis would soon discover the fact that the
room was empty. He looked about quickly for a place of concealment that
would command a view of all the halls. Fortunately the partition that
divided the long corridor between the north and south wings was hung
with heavy curtains. Deciding instantly, Pembroke slipped behind them,
and ruthlessly slit an opening in the thick green stuff, through which
he could peek out. He was just in time, as the Marquis came out of
their bedroom and softly closed the door. He stood irresolute; then,
with even greater caution, re-entered the room in which he had left his
candle. To Tom's chagrin, the candle was suddenly extinguished and the
Inn left in darkness.
For some moments, there was absolute silence. Then Tom could hear
faintly,--or feel rather than hear--the Marquis cautiously finding his
way back. Luckily, the old Frenchman was groping his way next the other
wall. Pembroke slipped from behind the curtains and stole softly in
pursuit. As he reached the south end of the corridor, he heard the latch
of the Marquis's door click softly. Alarmed by discovering that they were
not in bed, thought Tom, he had abandoned whatever purpose he had in mind
for his midnight prowl.
After waiting a little and hearing no more, Tom went again to the window.
The rain had begun now and the wind was blowing a gale. Suddenly Pembroke
discerned a light shining from the window next the very one from which he
was peering into the darkness,--the steady glow of a deep red light.
"Another signal!" he murmured; then waited to see if it would be answered
by the House on the Dunes. Perhaps fifteen minutes passed, and then,
suddenly, there gleamed through the rain and dark, a tiny bit of red
flame, just where the House on the Dunes must be. A little later the red
lamp on the _Southern Cross_ performed a fantastic ascension to what
Pembroke took to be the masthead.
The red light in the neighbouring window was extinguished. Almost
instantly the red spark on the Dunes disappeared, and in a few moments
the schooner's lamp began its descent. Simultaneously they glowed again
and the ship's light danced upward; then the two red lights on shore
vanished and the lamp on the _Southern Cross_ sank to its proper place
and stayed there.
Of one thing Tom was sure: The Marquis, the lady at the House on the
Dunes, and the skipper of the schooner in the Cove, were in collusion. Of
another thing he felt almost equally certain: the red light was a signal
of danger, and the message of danger flashed across the night was the
fact that he and Dan were not safe asleep in bed.
For a long time he watched, keen with excitement; listened patiently;
started at every sound. But nothing more unusual did he hear that night
than the roar of the wind, the dash of the brawling southeaster against
the panes, and the groans of the old house, shaken by the storm. Toward
morning he crept back to bed and fell instantly into a deep and
While Tom was thus watching and sleeping a somewhat different experience
had fallen to the lot of Dan Frost. He had no definite plan in making a
midnight visit to the vicinity of the House on the Dunes, but he hoped to
discover some clue to the surrounding mysteries. From time to time during
the day he had taken his field glasses to one of the upper rooms of the
Inn, and scanned the countryside but nothing unusual seemed astir in the
white world without. The _Southern Cross_ had lain on the surface of the
little cove all day, swaying with wind and tide, no sign of activity upon
her decks. It was after ten when he started forth. The night was not
quite dark, for the full moon was shining somewhere behind the thick veil
of clouds. Earlier in the evening Dan had intended to go boldly to the
House itself and demand an interview with old Mrs. Meath; but he
reflected that he would probably be met with the excuse that Mrs. Meath
was ill, and he did not know how he could force himself in, particularly
past the barrier of Madame de la Fontaine's charming manner.
It was an unpleasant walk with the wind in his face, and it was nearly
eleven before he turned into the long dune road, which branched from the
Port Road near the Rocking Stone and led directly to the old farmhouse on
Strathsey Neck. To his chagrin it appeared that all lights had been
extinguished as if the inmates of the house had gone to bed.
The old farmhouse loomed before him, dark and forbidding. On either side
there were outhouses, and in the rear quite near the house a barn. There
was not a tree on the place; indeed, there was little vegetation upon the
entire Neck, save the grass of the middle meadows which in summer
furnished scant nourishment for the cattle and a flock of sheep. Now all
was bleak and covered with snow, and a freshening gale swept out of the
great maw of the Atlantic.
Keeping close to the fence, Frost began to make a complete circuit of
the farmhouse. As he turned a corner of the south end, or rear of the
house, he was relieved to see a light burning in the kitchen. He stole
cautiously to a position within the shadow of the barn from which he
could get a glimpse of the interior. In the kitchen standing before a
deal table, he saw a young woman--not Jane, Mrs. Heath's
maid-of-all-work, but a stranger,--with her hands deep in a bowl of
dough. Her back was toward him, but he guessed that she was Madame de la
Fontaine's maid, whom he had seen in the morning. The door into the
dining-room beyond stood open, and by craning his neck, Dan could see
that the room was lighter, but he could not discover whether or not it
were occupied. The shutters of the dining-room were so closely barred
and the curtains so tightly drawn that not a ray of light penetrated to
The girl in the kitchen proceeded busily about her work. She was
evidently engaged, despite the lateness of the hour, in mixing bread.
Once while he waited patiently, to what end he hardly knew, Madame de la
Fontaine entered the kitchen. She was clad in black and held in her hands
what Dan took to be a ship's lamp. She stood for a moment in the doorway
and spoke to the servant maid. The girl stopped her work, and taking a
strip of paper, ignited it at a candle and lighted the lamp, which Madame
de la Fontaine held up for her. It glowed instantly with a deep green
flame, such as Tom had described as shining from a window of the House on
the Dunes in the early evening.
As soon as her lamp was lighted Madame de la Fontaine left the room.
Supposing that she was about to give a signal, Dan's heart leaped at the
prospect of some result to his eavesdropping, and he stole carefully
around to the front of the house. Presently from an upper window in the
east side of the house, not the north as he had expected, he saw the
green light sending forth its message across the Dunes--to whom? Probably
the signal could be seen from the Inn, but it more likely was intended
for the schooner in the Cove. Sure enough, as he watched, Dan saw the
phenomenon of the ascending lamp on the _Southern Cross_, which at that
identical moment Tom Pembroke was watching from his post of vantage in
one of the south windows of the Inn.
A little later the signal was removed from the east window of the
farmhouse and placed in a north window. Dan looked to see the answering
gleam from the Inn at the Red Oak. But none came. Crouched in a corner of
the fence, he waited perhaps for half-an-hour.
Suddenly a signal gleamed from the Inn, but this time it was not green as
he expected, but red. In a few moments a form appeared in the window of
the farmhouse, and a white hand, which he supposed was that of Madame de
la Fontaine, took hold of the lamp and reversed it, so that now it showed
red. The light in the Inn vanished, reappeared, vanished again. The same
thing happened to the light in the House on the Dunes. And looking
eastward, Dan saw the ship's red lamp perform its fantastic ascent and
descent. Soon all was left in darkness. Frost slipped back to his post
near the barn and looked again into the kitchen.
Madame de la Fontaine was standing in the doorway as before. The maid,
turning away from the table, came at that moment to the window, and
raised the sash, as though she were overheated. Presently, leaving the
window open, she turned to her mistress, and Dan could hear the sharp
staccato of her voice as she said something in what seemed to him her
Impelled by curiosity, he crept closer to the house. He was within six
feet of the window, standing on the tip of his toes. Suddenly he felt
himself pinioned from behind; his arms were gripped as in a vise, a hand
grasped his throat and began to choke him, and a sharp knee was planted
with terrific force in the small of his back. He made a gurgling sound as
he went backward, but there was no opportunity for struggling. He
recovered from the shock to find himself stretched at full length in the
wet snow. Some one was sitting upon him, struggling to thrust a gag into
his mouth; some one else was binding his hands and feet.
He could just distinguish, in the sickly moonlight and the dim rays of
the candle from the kitchen, the faces of his assailants. One was the
murderous looking Frenchman, the skipper of the _Southern Cross_, the
other he took to be a common seaman.
Attracted by the scuffle, the French maid had thrust her head out of the
window and was addressing the combatants in vigorous French. Neither then
nor later did Madame de la Fontaine appear. When Frost was safely bound
and gagged, Captain Bonhomme arose, said a few words to his companion,
and disappeared into the farmhouse. Dan's guard searched him rapidly,
confiscated his revolver and knife, and then resumed his seat upon his
legs. Inside the kitchen Dan could hear the sounds of an animated French
dialogue, in which he imagined from time to time that he detected the
silvery tones of Madame de la Fontaine's voice. Perhaps fifteen minutes
elapsed. Captain Bonhomme came out of the house, strode to the spot where
Dan was lying, and addressed him in excellent English.
"Monsieur; for purposes which it is superfluous to explain, it is decided
to extend to you for a while the hospitality of my good ship the
_Southern Cross_--a hospitality, I may say, that your unceremonious
eavesdropping has thrust upon you. I will release your feet; and then,
monsieur, you follow my good Jean across the sands. If you are quiet, no
harm shall come to you. If you resist, _cher monsieur_, it will be of
painful duty that I entrust the contents of this revolver into--_mais
non! Vous comprenez, n'est-ce pas?--Bien_!"
He gave a sharp order to the seaman. The handkerchief about Dan's ankles
was untied, and he was roughly assisted to his feet.
"The snow is wet, eh! Yes, for the good wind is moist. Now, _Allons_!"
Jean led the way, and Dan, deciding that he had no choice in the matter,
followed obediently. The captain brought up the rear. As they went out
through the gate, Dan turned for a moment and looked back at the house.
He could see the French maid still at the kitchen window. At the same
moment Captain Bonhomme glanced back and ceremoniously raised his hat.
"_Bonsoir, monsieur_," was the sharp reply, and the window was lowered
with a bang.
They went on in silence across the Dunes to the beach. There, drawn up
above high water line, they found a skiff. The captain and Jean shoved
off, sprang in, and the little boat plunged into the combing waves. They
reached the _Southern Cross_ without misadventure. The captain blew a
call upon a boatswain's whistle. A rope was lowered and Jean made the
skiff fast to the ladder at the schooner's side. The captain took out
his revolver and held it in his hand, while Jean unloosed the cords that
bound Dan's wrists.
"Now up, _mon ami_."
For a moment Dan thought of risking a scuffle in the unsteady skiff, but
discretion proved the better part of valour, and he climbed obediently on
to the deck. The seaman stood close by till the captain and Jean had
clambered up after him. A few words in French to his men, then Captain
Bonhomme, beckoning to Dan to follow, led the way down the companion. He
opened the door of a little cabin amidships and bade Frost enter.
"You will find everything required for your comfort, monsieur," he said,
"and I trust you will make yourself at home, as you say; and enjoy a good
night and a sound sleep. We can discuss our affairs in the morning."
And with the words, he closed the door, turned the key in the lock, and
left Dan to his reflections.
THE SCHOONER IN THE COVE
THE SOUTHERN CROSS
Dan spent a miserable night. He had soon satisfied himself that escape
was impossible. A child could not have squeezed through the port hole,
and the stoutness of the door--barred, he fancied, as well as locked on
the outside,--seemed to indicate that this particular cabin had been
constructed for the purpose of keeping an enemy out of mischief.
Young Frost's reflections, as at length he stretched himself upon the
bunk, were anything but agreeable. The reconnoitre at the House on the
Dunes had established nothing but what they already practically
knew--that the Marquis, the lady, and the captain of the schooner were
working together. If they were responsible for Nancy's disappearance, as
Dan was convinced, he had not succeeded in getting a scrap of evidence
against them. And to cap the climax, he had stupidly allowed himself to
be captured. The method of his capture seemed to him quite as ignominious
as the fact.
He was not particularly alarmed for his own safety. He did not doubt that
eventually he would escape, though at the moment he could not imagine
how; or, failing in that, he supposed he would be released,--honorably
discharged, as it were,--when it was too late for him to interfere with
the designs of the conspirators. And this was the bitterest reflection of
all: that a carefully-planned conspiracy was on foot, and no sooner had
he and Tom realized it than through sheer stupidity he must not only make
it clear to the Marquis and his colleagues that they were being watched,
but must let himself fall into their power. Poor Tom! thought Dan
ruefully as he tossed upon the little bunk, there must fall upon him now
the brunt of whatever was to be done for Nancy's rescue, for the
thwarting of whatever nefarious designs this gang of French desperados
Escape! A dozen times and more he sprang from his bed to press his face
against the thick glass of the little port and to rage futilely that he
could not elongate his six feet of anatomy, and slip through. In vain he
would throw his weight against the door, without so much as shaking it.
And then he would sink back upon the bunk and determine to conserve his
strength by snatching a bit of sleep. And he would wait--since he must
The gale had lashed itself into a fury; the rain was pouring in
torrents; and the ship rolled distressingly in the rising sea. It was
near dawn before Dan succeeded in getting to sleep at all, but from then
on for several hours he slept heavily. When he awoke the storm, like
many storms that come out of the south, had exhausted itself. The rain
had ceased, the wind had fallen, and it was evident from the motion of
the ship, that the sea was going down. Dan sprang to the port hole and
peered out, and was thankful to realize that the peep hole of his prison
gave upon the shore.
Though it had stopped raining, the clouds were still grey and lowering,
and the morning light was weak and pale. The Dunes, beyond the disturbed
waters of the little cove, looked dirty and bedraggled. The snow had been
washed off the hillocks, the little streams that here and there emptied
into the Cove had swollen to the size of respectable brooks, and the high
water of the night had strewn the beach with brown tangled seaweed. There
was no sign of human life in evidence. Dan could just see the upper story
of the House on the Dunes, but no other habitation save the deserted
fisherman's huts that straggled along the beach.
His watch showed half-past seven when the evil-visaged Jean unbarred the
door, opened it about a foot, and thrust in upon the floor a tray of
food. Dan sprang forward and succeeded in getting his foot into the
opening, so that Jean could not close the door. He was prepared to fight
for his liberty. Despite Jean's superior strength, Dan had the advantage
in that his own body acted as a lever, and for a moment it seemed that he
was to be successful; but the Frenchman, with a violent execration,
suddenly let go his hold on the knob, the door swung in, and Dan fell
back on all fours upon the floor. By the time he had recovered himself
for another dash, he was confronted by Jean, a disagreeable leer upon his
unpleasant countenance and a cocked pistol in his hand.
Dan stood in his tracks. "I want to see Captain Bonhomme!" he demanded,
making up in the tone of his voice for the vigor his movements
"_Je ne parle pas englais_," was the irritating reply, as Jean, menacing
the prisoner with the pistol, reached for the door and closed it with a
snap. Dan had the chagrin of hearing the key turn in the lock and the
heavy bar fall into place across the panels.
He sat down ruefully, but after a moment or so took up the tray and
placed it on the bunk before him. He made a bad breakfast off thick
gruel, black bread and villainous coffee, and then kicked his heels
impatiently for an hour or more.
Eventually Jean reappeared, this time pistol in hand, and behind him, to
Dan's relief, Captain Bonhomme. The captain entered the little cabin,
leaving the door open behind him while Jean stood in the passage on duty
as guard. The swarthy unattractive face of Captain Bonhomme wore this
morning an expression of sarcastic levity that was more irritating to
Frost than its ferocious anger had been the night before.
"_Bon jour, monsieur_," said the captain in a tone of obnoxious
pleasantry. "I trust the night has gone well with you."
"You will oblige me," snapped Dan for reply, "by omitting your
hypocritical courtesy. I demand to know what you mean by this
proceeding,--capturing me like a common thief and imprisoning me on this
Captain Bonhomme's countenance quickly lost its factitious cheerfulness.
"Monsieur," he replied sharply, "I did not come to you to bandy words. If
you will reflect on the occupation you were indulging last night at the
moment we surprised you, you will comprehend that it was certainly to be
inferred that, if you were not a thief, you were an eavesdropper; which,
to my way of thinking, is as bad. If you address me again in that
insulting tone, I shall leave you till such a time as you may be willing
to listen at least with common courtesy to what I have to say. You are,
young gentleman, a prisoner on my ship and very much in my power. You
have grossly offended a distinguished countrywoman who is under my
protection in your barbarous country. Madame de la Fontaine, however, has
been good enough to interest herself in your behalf and to beg that I
shall not unceremoniously pitch you overboard to feed the fishes as you
so richly deserve."
Dan bit his lips, but for the moment kept silent.
"I am come this morning," continued Captain Bonhomme, "not for the
pleasure of entering upon a discussion, but to inform you that a little
later in the morning, when this infernal wind of yours has blown itself
out, Madame de la Fontaine proposes to come aboard. For reasons of her
own, she does you the honor to desire a conversation with you. I have to
ask that you will meet my distinguished patroness as the gentleman you
doubtless profess to be, and that you will give me your word not to
attempt to escape while Madame is on board the ship."
"I shall not give my word," protested Dan, "under any circumstances to a
pirate such as I take you to be."
"_Eh bien, monsieur_; in that case, you will appear before Madame in
irons. From your window, so admirably small, you will see at what hour
Madame comes aboard. If in the meantime you have decided to give us your
word of honour, well and good; if you continue to display your freedom of
choice by the exercise of your stupidity, also, well and good. And now,
_an revoir_." Captain Bonhomme smiled grimly, bowed again with insulting
politeness, and left Dan alone in the cabin.
An hour, two hours passed. The wind had abated, the sun was struggling to
dissipate the murky bank of cloud that hung from zenith to the eastern
horizon. From his coign of vantage at the little port hole Dan saw Madame
de la Fontaine pick her way across the Dunes and come upon the little
beach. A small boat had put off from the schooner and was being rowed to
shore by two seamen. The French lady gathered her skirts about her
ankles, and stepped lightly into the skiff, as the men held it at the
edge of the surf. The little boat was then pushed off and rowed briskly
toward the _Southern Cross_.
Half-an-hour passed before the door of Dan's cabin was opened again, and
Captain Bonhomme, attended by the faithful Jean, reappeared. In the
skipper's hand was a pair of irons.
"Monsieur," said the captain, holding up the irons, "Madame de la
Fontaine does you the honour of desiring an interview in the saloon. May
I venture to enquire your pleasure?"
The ignominy of appearing before his charming acquaintance of the day
before manacled like a criminal, was too much for Dan's vanity. "I give
you my word of honour," he said gruffly.
"Ah, monsieur," murmured the captain, "permit me to applaud your good
taste. But let us be exact: until you are returned to this cabin and are
again under lock and key, that is to say until Madame is safely upon
shore again,--you give me your word of honour as a gentleman to make no
attempt to escape?"
"Yes, yes," said Dan, striving to conceal his irritation. "But spare me,
I beg, your explanations. As you know, I am practically helpless. We
understand each other. I trust that Madame de la Fontaine will give me an
explanation of the outrage that you have refused."
"_Sans doute, sane doute_!" exclaimed the captain. He waved his
hand toward the door. "_Aprés vous, monsieur_. Our worthy Jean will
lead the way."
Without more ado they left the little cabin that had served as
Dan's prison and traversed a narrow passageway aft to the door of a
In the saloon, seated in a deep arm chair by the side of the table, was
Madame de la Fontaine. She was clad in some soft green gown, with furs
about her neck and wrists, and a little bonnet, adorned by the gay
plumage of a tropical bird, worn close upon her head. At first glance she
was as bewitchingly beautiful, as entirely charming, as she had seemed to
Dan the day before. He blushed to the roots of his hair and for the
moment quite forgot the extraordinary predicament in which he was placed.
Madame de la Fontaine rose, a bright smile beaming from her soft blue
eyes, and waited for Dan to approach.
"Good morning, Mr. Frost. This is charming of you. And now, Captain
Bonhomme, if you will be so kind,--" she turned with her delightful smile
to the skipper. "_Eh bien_, Jean!" This last remark was uttered in a
sharp tone of command, very different from the silvery accents in which
she had spoken to Frost and the captain. Dan wondered at it.
The disagreeable impression was but momentary, for the lady turned
again to Dan, engaged him with her frank and pleasant glance, and young
Frost forgot everything in the presence of the most charming woman he
had ever met.
Captain Bonhomme and his watchdog had disappeared, closing the saloon
door behind them. Dan and Madame de la Fontaine were alone.
"Will you not seat yourself, monsieur?" she said. "We shall then talk so
much more at our ease."
"Thank you," Dan murmured vaguely, and advancing a step or two nearer,
seated himself in the first chair within reach.
"Ah, not there, Mr. Frost," the lady protested with a little laugh
of amusement. "It will never be that we are able to talk at so
great a distance." She indicated a more comfortable chair at much
Dan obediently changed his seat, and waited for Madame de la Fontaine to
begin the conversation. But she continued for a moment silently to regard
him with a naive air of interest and of unconcealed admiration.
"May I ask," said Dan at length, disturbed by this scrutiny, and rising
to a courtesy that was in reality beyond him, "for what reason you have
done me the honour to wish to speak with me?"
"_Vraiment_," replied Madame de la Fontaine; "after the events of last
night there is need that we should have some conversation. You are very
young and I have reason to be grateful to you for courtesy and kindness,
so I have yielded to impulse, against my judgment, to interfere with
Captain Bonhomme who has great anger with you."
"You are very kind, madame," Dan replied with dignity. "I am to infer
then that my liberty or my further unwarranted imprisonment on this ship
is to be determined by you?"
"_Mais non, Monsieur_. It is true only that I have a little influence
with Captain Bonhomme. Last night you were watching me, so it interests
me to know why."
"I was watching Mrs. Heath's house," Dan answered.
"Ah! but I and my maid were alone in the room into which you so
unceremoniously looked, monsieur!"
"Yes, madame, but why should you infer that my motive in looking into
that room was interest in your affairs?"
"I do not altogether assume that, Mr. Frost," the lady protested. "I
infer simply--but, pardon! you were to say--?"
"Merely to ask you, madame, what Captain Bonhomme proposes to do with me,
should you not be so good as to use your influence in my behalf?"
For reply the lady shrugged her shoulders a trifle. "I have fear,
monsieur," she said after a moment, "that Captain Bonhomme will take you
for a sail, perhaps a long sail, on the _Southern Cross_."
"Then," said Dan, "since there is no doubt in my mind of your influence
with the captain, I beg that you will have him release me."
"It is that that I desire, monsieur; and yet--?" Madame de la Fontaine
paused and glanced at her companion with a charming little air of
"And yet?" repeated Dan, flushing a little as he looked into the lovely
blue eyes that met his so frankly.
"I confess, monsieur, I must first discover if you are really deserving
of my efforts. I care to know very much why you watched me last night
at the House on the Dunes. For what reason do you watch me at midnight?
a stranger, a woman? Why is it that my affairs give you interest? I
Her voice, her countenance expressed now only her sense of injury, an
injury which, as it were, she was striving not to regard also as an
insult. Under the persistent searching of her soft glance, Dan felt
himself very small indeed.
"Answer me, if you please," she said. This time Dan detected just a trace
of the sharpness with which she had dismissed the obsequious Jean. It
gave him courage and a sense of protection from the fascination he knew
that this strange woman was successfully exerting over him.
As he replied, his glance encountered hers with frankness. "Madame de la
Fontaine, I told you yesterday morning, my sister, Nancy Frost, has
disappeared. We searched for her all day in vain. Not a trace of her has
been found. But certain strange events have led me to suspect that
certain persons have had something to do with her disappearance and must
know her whereabouts. I will be frank Madame. One of the persons whom I
so suspect is yourself."
"I!--_mon Dieu_! and why is it that you believe this, Monsieur?"
"I suspect you, madame, because I suspect the Marquis de Boisdhyver."
"Ah! the French gentleman who is staying with you at the Inn at the Red
Oak, is it not so?"
"Because, madame, I discovered that you and the Marquis de Boisdhyver
have been in secret communication with each other."
"_C'est impossible. Te me comprende pas, monsieur_. Will you tell me why
it is that you can think that this Marquis de Bois--what is the name?"
"_Merci_. Why is it that you can think that the Marquis de Boisdhyver and
I have been in secret communication?"
"Lights, green and red lights, have been used as signals; by the Marquis
at the Inn; by you, madame, from the House on the Dunes; and by some
one,--Captain Bonhomme, I suppose,--from this ship."
"Lights, you have seen lights?"
"Several times last night, Madame. My suspicions were aroused. I was
determined to find my sister. I resolved to learn the meaning of those
mysterious signals. My method was stupid: I blundered, and as you have
several times so gently hinted, I am in your power."
For a moment Madame de la Fontaine was silent, then she looked quickly
up; a half-vexed, half-amused expression curling her pretty lips.
"Look at me, monsieur," she said. "Do you know what you tell me? That I
am an adventuress?"
Dan flushed suddenly as he met her steadfast gaze. "I have stated only a
suspicion, madame, to account for my own stupid blundering. But if you
think that my suspicions are extraordinary, don't you think that our
present situation and conversation are also extraordinary, and that they
might rather confirm my suspicions?"
Madame de la Fontaine dropped her eyes with a perceptible frown of
displeasure; but again she looked up, smiling.
"_C'est drole_, monsieur, but I find you very attractive? You are at once
so naive and so clever?"
Dan, finding nothing to reply to this unexpected remark, bit his lips.
"Will you not trust me?" she asked him suddenly, and putting out her hand
she touched his own with the tips of her fingers.
Poor Frost tingled at this unaccustomed contact. "I--I--" he stammered
awkwardly. "I have certainly no desire to distrust you, madame."
"And yet it is that you do distrust me."
"But what would you have me do?"
"Ah!" Her hand spontaneously closed upon his with a clasp that delighted
and yet disconcerted him. "I hope that we shall make each other to
"What would you have me do?" Dan repeated.
"Monsieur, let me make to you a confession. I understand your
suspicions; I understand your desire to find if they are true. You have
reason; Monsieur le Marquis de Boisdhyver and I have exchanged the
mysterious signals that you have witnessed. Why should I deny that which
already you know? Monsieur de Boisdhyver and I are occupied with affairs
of great importance, and it is necessary that all is kept secret. But I
believe, that it is that I can trust you, monsieur."
"And Nancy--?" exclaimed Dan.
"_Pas si vite, pas si vite_!" said the lady, laughing gayly, Dan's hand
still in her friendly pressure. "All in good time, _mon ami_. It is
necessary before I confide in you our little secret that I consult
Monsieur le Marquis."
Dan's face betrayed his disappointment. "But you do know about Nancy," he
insisted; "you will assure me--"
"Of nothing, dear boy,"--and she withdrew her hand. "But it had been so
much better for us all if only Monsieur le Marquis had at the first
confided in you."
Madame de la Fontaine had risen now and was holding out her hand to
"It is necessary that I return to the shore. I will see Monsieur le
Marquis this afternoon, and immediately afterward--"
"But, madame, surely," Dan exclaimed, "I am to accompany you?"
"Ah! monsieur," she replied with a charming little smile, "for the
present you must rest content to be _mon captif_. We must quite clearly
understand each other before--well. But you are too impetuous, Monsieur
Dan. For the moment I leave you here."
"But Madame de la Fontaine," cried Dan, "I cannot consent--"
"No! no!" she said, as with a gay laugh, she placed a cool little hand
across his mouth to prevent his finishing his sentence.
What absurd impulse fired his blood at this sudden familiarity, Dan did
not know; but, quite spontaneously, as though all his life he had been in
the habit of paying such gallantries to charming ladies, he kissed the
soft fingers upon his lips. Madame de la Fontaine quickly withdrew them.
"Ah, _mon ami_;" she said, "I expected not to find here _une telle
"I have offended you," murmured Dan, blushing furiously.
"Ah, _pas du tout_!" said Madame de la Fontaine. "You are a dear boy,
monsieur Dan, and I--well, I find you charming."
As she said this, to Dan's complete confusion, Madame de la Fontaine
lightly brushed his cheeks with her lips, and passing him rapidly, went
out of the door of the saloon.
TOM TURNS THE TABLES
Owing to his long watch during the greater part of the night, Pembroke
slept heavily until late the next morning. Indeed, he did not waken until
Jesse, alarmed that neither Dan nor he had appeared, knocked on their
door. He sprang up quickly then, and began to dress hastily. Dan's bed
had not been slept in, and Tom wondered how the night had gone with him.
In a few moments he was down stairs and in the breakfast-room. He found
the Marquis de Boisdhyver already at table, pouring out his coffee, which
Deborah had just placed before him. Mrs. Frost had not appeared.
Tom murmured an apology for being late, and delayed the black woman, who
was on the point of leaving the room, by a question.
"Where is Mr. Dan?"
"Sure an, Mass' Tom, I ain't seen him dis mornin' yet. Ain't he done
over-slept hisself like you?"
"No; but I dare say he is about the place somewheres. All right, Deb;
bring my breakfast quickly, please."
"You will pardon me," said Monsieur de Boisdhyver, "for having begun
"Oh, certainly," said Tom; "Don't know what was the matter, but I slept
unusually soundly last night; that is, after I got to sleep, for the
storm kept me awake for hours."
"_Et moi aussi_," said the Marquis. "What wind! I am but thankful it
has exhausted itself at last. And Monsieur Frost, he has also
over-slept, you say?"
"No. He got up early without disturbing me. I guess he will be in any
The Marquis stirred his coffee and slowly sipped it.
Tom made a hasty breakfast, and then went outside to reconnoitre. He
discovered no trace of his friend. There was but one inference in his
uneasy mind: Dan had met with some misadventure at the House on the
Dunes. At last, after wandering about aimlessly for some time, he decided
to tell Jesse of his uneasiness.
"If Mr. Dan is not back by dinner time, I shall go over to the House on
the Dunes and try to find out what has become of him. Heaven knows what
has become of Miss Nancy. I don't like that schooner, Jess, and its ugly
crew, lying there in the Cove. It's all a darn queer business."
"They're certainly a rough-looking lot, Mr. Tom, as I saw when I was on
the beach yesterday. And she don't appear to have any particular business
anchoring there. I hope they've nothing to do with Miss Nancy's and Mr.
Dan's being away."
"I don't know, Jess, what to think. But listen here I want you to go into
the Port this morning and engage Ezra Manners to come out here and stay
with us for a week or so. Don't tell him too much, but I guess Ezra won't
balk at the notion of a scrap. Bring him out with you, and offer to pay
him enough to make sure of his coming. And I want you to go to Breeze's
on the Parade and get some guns and powder, enough to arm every blessed
soul of us in the Inn. Charge the stuff to me. And be careful how you
bring it back, for I don't want any one here to know about it,
particularly the old Frenchman. Understand? You ought to get back by
dinner-time, if you start at once. I'll stay here till you return."
"I'll start right off, sir. Guess I'll have to drive, for the
rain'll have washed the snow off the roads. I'll be back by halfpast
twelve, Mr. Tom."
"All right," said Pembroke. "Be sure not to let any one know what you
"Sure I won't, sir. I've been pretty much worried myself about Miss
Nancy. Didn't seem a bit like Miss Nance to go off without sayin' a word
"Well, hurry along now, Jesse."
Tom's next task was to try to explain to Mrs. Frost without alarming her.
She happily jumped to the idea that Dan had gotten trace of Nancy, had
gone to fetch her, and would return with her before nightfall. So Tom
left her quite cheerfully knitting in her room for the day.
From time to time during the morning Tom wandered into the bar always to
find Monsieur de Boisdhyver absorbed in his writing before the fire. The
morning passed--a long restless morning for Pembroke--and nothing had
happened. Dan had not returned. He tried to think out a plan of action.
He went into the north wing of the Inn and barricaded the door leading
from the bowling alley into the hallway. He made sure that all other
doors and windows were fastened, and he put the key of the door that
opened from the bar into the old wing into his pocket. Then he looked at
the doors and windows in the south wing.
About noon, as he was standing at an upper window anxiously scanning the
landscape for any sign of his friend, Tom saw the Marquis, wrapped in his
great black cloak, emerge from the gallery, go down the steps by the Red
Oak, and walk rapidly down the avenue of maples. He went along the Port
Road, to the point where a little road branched off and led to the beach
of the Cove; here he turned and walked in the direction of the beach.
With the field glass Tom could follow him quite easily as he picked his
way through the slush.
Beyond, on the waters of the Cove, the _Southern Cross_ rode at anchor. A
small boat had put off from the schooner, two seamen at the oars, and a
woman seated in the stern. The boat reached the shore, the lady was
lifted out upon the sands, the men jumped in again, pushed off and rowed
briskly back to the schooner. Tom could not distinguish the lady's
features, but from the style of her dress, cut in so different a fashion
than that the ladies of Caesarea were wont to display, and from the
character of her easy graceful walk, he judged that that was the Madame
de la Fontaine, of whom Dan had told him the day before. The lady,
whoever she might be, advanced along the beach and turned into the road
down which the Marquis de Boisdhyver was going to meet her. Tom could see
her extend her hand, and the old gentleman, bending ceremoniously, lift
it to his lips. Then leaning against a stone wall beside a meadow of
bedraggled snow, they engaged in animated conversation. The lady talked,
the Marquis talked. They shrugged their shoulders, they nodded their
heads, they pointed this way and then that. Poor Tom felt he must know
what was being said. At last, their conference ended, they parted as
ceremoniously as they had met, the lady starting across the Dunes and the
Marquis retracing his steps toward the Inn.
In the meantime, fortunately before the Marquis reached the Port Road,
Jesse had returned, accompanied by the able-bodied Ezra Manners, and
laden with the supply of arms and ammunition that Pembroke had ordered.
Within half-an-hour Tom and Monsieur de Boisdhyver were seated together
in the dining-room.
"Ah, and where is Monsieur Dan?" asked the Marquis, with an affectation
of cheerfulness. "Is he not returned?"
"Not yet, monsieur," Tom replied grimly.
"But you have heard from him?"
"Oh, yes," was Tom's answer; "I have heard from him of course."
"And from Mademoiselle Nancy, I trust, also?"
"Yes, from Nancy also."
"Ah, I am so relieved, Monsieur Pembroke. I was most anxious for their
safety. One knows not what may happen. We shall have a charming little
reunion at supper, _n'est-ce pas_?"
"Delightful," said Tom, but in a tone of voice that did not encourage the
Marquis to ask further questions or to continue his comments.
After dinner, Tom slipped the field glass beneath his jacket, and ran
upstairs to take another view of the countryside. To his great
satisfaction he saw a dark spot moving across the snowy dunes and
recognized the lady of the morning. Apparently she was on her way to the
He took a loaded pistol, ran down stairs, gave Jesse strict orders to
keep his eye on the Marquis, saddled his horse, and galloped off madly
for Mrs. Meath's house.
When he reached the gate of the farmhouse, Tom hitched his horse to the
fence, went rapidly up the little walk, and knocked boldly and loudly on
the front door. Repeated and prolonged knocking brought no response. He
tried the door and found it fastened. He walked about the house. Every
window on the ground floor was tightly closed and barred. There was no
sign of life. He knocked at the door of the kitchen, but with no result.
He tried it, and found it also locked. Determined not to be thwarted in
his effort to see Mrs. Meath, he kicked vigourously against the door with
his great hob-nailed boots. Unsuccessful in this, he detached a rail from
the top of the fence and used it against the door as a battering-ram. At
the first crash of timbers, the sash of a window in the second story,
directly above the kitchen, was thrown open, and a dark-eyed,
dark-haired, excessively angry-looking, young woman thrust her head out.
"_Qui va la_?" she exclaimed.
"Well," said Tom, smiling a little in spite of himself, for the young
woman was in a state of great indignation. "I want to see Mrs. Meath. I
may say, I am determined to see Mrs. Meath."
"_Peste! Je ne parle pas anglais_!" snapped the damsel.
"Very well then, mademoiselle, I'll try you in French," said Tom. And in
very bad French indeed, scarcely even the French of Dr. Watson's school
for the sons of gentlemen, Pembroke repeated his remarks.
"_Je ne comprend pas_," said the young woman.
Tom essayed his explanation again, but whether the youthful female in the
window could or would not understand, she kept repeating in the midst of
his every sentence "_Je ne parle pas anglais_," till Tom lost his temper.
"_Bien_, my fine girl," he exclaimed at last; "I am going to enter this
house. If you won't open the door, I will batter it down. Understand?
"_Je ne parle pas anglais_."
"As you will." He raised the fence-rail again and made as if to ram the
door. "_Ouvrez la porte_! Do you understand that?"
"_Bete_!" cried the girl, withdrawing her head and slamming down
Tom waited a moment to see if his threats had been effective, and was
relieved by hearing the bar within removed and the key turned in the
lock. The door was opened, and the young woman stood on the sill and
volleyed forth a series of French execrations that made Tom wince,
though he did not understand a word she was saying. Despite her protests,
he brushed her aside and stalked into the house. He went rapidly from
room to room, upstairs and down, from garret to cellar, the girl
following him with her chorus of abusive reproach. She might have held
her peace, thought Tom, for within half-an-hour he was convinced that
there was not a person in the House on the Dunes save himself and his
excited companion. All he discovered for his pains was that old Mrs.
Meath was also among the missing.
"_Ou est Madame Meath_?"
"_Madame Meath! Que voulez vous? Je ne connais pas Madame Meath_...." And
infinitely more of which Tom could gather neither head nor tail.
Satisfied at last that there was nothing to be gained by further search
or parley with the woman, he thanked her civilly enough and went out. He
unhitched his horse, vaulted into the saddle, and dashed back, as fast as
his beast could be urged to carry him, to the Inn. He was certain now
that the schooner held the secret of his vanished friends, and it
occurred to him to play their own game and turn the tables on Monsieur
the Marquis de Boisdhyver.
Arrived at the Inn, Tom turned his horse, white with lather, over to
Jesse; made sure that the Marquis was in the bar; and then, with the help
of Manners, rapidly made a few preparations.
It was about five o'clock when, his arrangements completed, he returned
to the bar, where Monsieur de Boisdhyver was quietly taking his tea. Tom
bowed to the old gentleman, seated himself in a great chair about five
feet away, and somewhat ostentatiously took from his pocket a pistol,
laid it on the arm of his chair, and let his fingers lightly play upon
the handle. The old marquis watched Pembroke's movements out of the
corner of his eye, still somewhat deliberately sipping his tea. Manners,
meanwhile, had entered, and stood respectfully in the doorway, oddly
enough also with a pistol in his hand.
Suddenly Monsieur de Boisdhyver placed his teacup on the table, and
leaning back in his chair, surveyed Tom with an air of indignant
"Monsieur Pembroke," he said, "to what am I to attribute these so unusual
attentions? Is it that you are mad?"
"You may attribute these unusual attentions, marquis, to the fact that
from now on, you are not a guest of the Inn at the Red Oak, but a
"Ah!" exclaimed the Marquis with a start, as he made a spasmodic motion
toward the pocket of his coat. But if his intention had been to draw a
weapon, Tom was too quick for him. The Marquis found himself staring into
the barrel of a pistol and heard the unpleasant click of the trigger as
it was cocked.
The old gentleman paled, whether with fright or indignation, Tom was not
concerned to know. "You will please keep perfectly still, marquis."
"Monsieur Pembroke," exclaimed the old gentleman, "_C'est_ abominable,
outrageous, _Mon Dieu_, what insult!"
"Manners," said Tom, "kindly search that gentleman and put his firearms
out of his reach."
"Monsieur, _c'est extraordinaire_. I protest."
"Quick, Ezra," replied Tom, "or one of us is likely to know how it feels
to have a bullet in his skin. Up with your hands, marquis."
Monsieur de Boisdhyver obeyed perforce, while Manners quickly searched
him, removed a small pistol from his coat pocket and a stiletto from his
waistcoat, and handed them to Tom.
"I thought as much," said Pembroke, slipping them into his pocket. "Now,
sir, you will oblige me by dropping that attitude of surprised
"Monsieur," said the Marquis, "What is it that you do? Why is it that you
so insult me?"
"Monsieur, I will explain. You are my prisoner. I intend to lock you up
safely and securely until my friend and his sister return, unharmed, to
the Inn. When they are safe at home, when Madame de la Fontaine has taken
her departure from the House on the Dunes, and when the _Southern Cross_
has sailed out of the Strathsey, we shall release you and see you also
safely out of this country. Is that clear?"
"I am quite convinced that you know where Nancy is and what has happened
to Dan. As my friends are probably in your power or in the power of your
friends, so, dear marquis, you are in mine. If you wish to regain your
own liberty, you will have to see that they have theirs. Now kindly
follow Manners; it will give him pleasure to show you to your apartment.
There you may burn either red or green lights, and I am sure the
snowbirds and rabbits of Lovel's Woods will enjoy them. After you,
"Sir, I refuse."
"My dear marquis, do not make me add force to discourtesy. After you."
The Marquis bowed ironically, shrugged his shoulders, and followed
Manners up the stairs. He was ushered into a chamber on the west side of
the Inn, whose windows, had they not been heavily barred, would have
given him a view but of the thick tangles of the Woods.
"I trust you will be able to make yourself comfortable here," said Tom.
"Your meals will be served at the accustomed hours. I shall return myself
in a short time, and perhaps by then you will have reconciled yourself to
the insult I have offered you and be prepared to talk with me."
With that Tom bowed as ironically as the Marquis had done, went out and
closed the door, and securely locked and barred it outside. Monsieur de
Boisdhyver was left to his reflections.
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