The Last Hope
Henry Seton Merriman
Part 4 out of 6
twenty years, had always been the guide and mentor and friend--the
compulsory pilot he had gaily called himself. He had a vast experience of
the world. He had always moved in the best French society. All that he
knew, all the influence he could command, and the experience upon which
he could draw were unreservedly at Barebone's service. The difference in
years had only affected their friendship in so far as it defined their
respective positions and prohibited any thought of rivalry. Colville had
been the unquestioned leader, Barebone the ready disciple.
And now in the twinkling of an eye the positions were reversed. Colville
stood watching Barebone's face with eyes rendered almost servile by a
great suspense. He waited breathless for the next words.
"This portrait," said Barebone, "of the Queen was placed in the locket by
Colville nodded with a laugh of conscious cleverness rewarded by complete
success. There was nothing in his companion's voice to suggest suppressed
anger. It was all right after all. "I had great difficulty in finding
just what I wanted," he added, modestly.
"What I remember--though the memory is necessarily vague--was a portrait
of a woman older than this. Her style of dress was more elaborate. Her
hair was dressed differently, with sort of curls at the side, and on the
top, half buried in the hair, was the imitation of a nest--a dove's nest.
Such a thing would naturally stick in a child's memory. It stuck in
"Yes--and nearly gave the game away to-night," said Colville, gulping
down the memory of those tense moments.
"That portrait--the original--you have not destroyed it?"
"Oh no. It is of some value," replied Colville, almost naively. He felt
in his pocket and produced a silver cigar-case. The miniature was wrapped
in a piece of thin paper, which he unfolded. Barebone took the painting
and examined it with a little nod of recognition. His memory had not
failed after twenty years.
"Who is this lady?" he asked.
Dormer Colville hesitated.
"Do you know the history of that period?" he inquired, after a moment's
reflection. For the last hour he had been trying to decide on a course of
conduct. During the last few minutes he had been forced to change it half
a dozen times.
"Septimus Marvin, of Farlingford, is one of the greatest living
authorities on those reigns. I learnt a good deal from him," was the
"That lady is, I think, the Duchesse de Guiche."
"Even Marvin could not tell you for certain," replied Colville, mildly.
He did not seem to perceive a difference in Barebone's manner toward
himself. The quickest intelligence cannot follow another's mind beyond
its own depth.
"Then the inference is that my father was the illegitimate son of the
"Afterward Charles X, of France," supplemented Colville, significantly.
"Is that the inference?" persisted Barebone. "I should like to know your
opinion. You must have studied the question very carefully. Your opinion
should be of some interest, though--"
"Though--" echoed Colville, interrogatively, and regretted it
"Though it is impossible to say when you speak the truth and when you
And any who doubted that there was royal blood in Leo Barebone's veins
would assuredly have been satisfied by a glance at his face at that
moment; by the sound of his quiet, judicial voice; by the sudden and
almost terrifying sense of power in his measuring eyes.
Colville turned away with an awkward laugh and gave his attention to the
logs on the hearth. Then suddenly he regained his readiness of speech.
"Look here, Barebone," he cried. "We must not quarrel; we cannot afford
to do that. And after all, what does it matter? You are only giving
yourself the benefit of the doubt--that is all. For there is a doubt. You
may be what you--what we say you are, after all. It is certain enough
that Marie Antoinette and Fersen were in daily correspondence. They were
both clever--two of the cleverest people in France--and they were both
desperate. Remember that. Do you think that they would have failed in a
matter of such intense interest to her, and therefore to him? All these
pretenders, Naundorff and the others, have proved that quite clearly, but
none has succeeded in proving that he was the man."
"And do you think that I shall be able to prove that I am the man--when I
By way of reply Dormer Colville turned again to the fireplace and took
down the print of Louis XVI engraved from a portrait painted when he was
still Dauphin. A mirror stood near, and Colville came to the table
carrying the portrait in one hand, the looking-glass in the other.
"Here," he said, eagerly, "Look at one and then at the other. Look in the
mirror and then at the portrait. Prove it! Why, God has proved it for
"I do not think we had better bring Him into the question," was the
retort: an odd reflex of Captain Clubbe's solid East Anglian piety. "No.
If we go on with the thing at all, let us be honest enough to admit to
ourselves that we are dishonest. The portrait in that locket points
clearly enough to the Truth."
"The portrait in that locket is of Marie Antoinette," replied Colville,
half sullenly. "And no one can ever prove anything contrary to that. No
one except myself knows of--of this doubt which you have stumbled upon.
De Gemosac, Parson Marvin, Clubbe--all of them are convinced that your
father was the Dauphin."
"And Miss Liston?"
"Miriam Liston--she also, of course. And I believe she knew it long
before I told her."
Barebone turned and looked at him squarely in the eyes. Colville wondered
a second time why Loo Barebone reminded him of Captain Clubbe to-night.
"What makes you believe that?" he asked.
"Oh, I don't know. But that isn't the question. The question is about the
future. You see how things are in France. It is a question of Louis
Napoleon or a monarchy--you see that. Unless you stop him he will be
Emperor before a year is out, and he will drag France in the gutter. He
is less a Bonaparte than you are a Bourbon. You remember that Louis
Bonaparte himself was the first to say so. He wrote a letter to the Pope,
saying so quite clearly. You will go on with it, of course, Barebone. Say
you will go on with it! To turn back now would be death. We could not do
it if we wanted to. _I_ have been trying to think about it, and I cannot.
That is the truth. It takes one's breath away. At the mere thought of it
I feel as if I were getting out of my depth."
"We have been out of our depths the last month," admitted Barebone,
And he stood reflecting, while Colville watched him.
"If I go on," he said, at length, "I go on alone."
"Better not," urged Colville, with a laugh of great relief. "For you
would always have me and my knowledge hanging over you. If you succeeded,
you would have me dunning you for hush-money."
Which seemed true enough. Few men knew more of one side of human nature
than Dormer Colville, it would appear.
"I am not afraid of that."
"You can never tell," laughed Colville, but his laugh rather paled under
Barebone's glance. "You can never tell."
"Wise men do not attempt to blackmail--kings."
And Colville caught his breath.
"Perhaps you are right," he admitted, after a pause. "You seem to be
taking to the position very kindly, Barebone. But I do not mind, you
know. It does not matter what we say to each other, eh? We have been good
friends so long. You must do as you like. And if you succeed, I must be
content to leave my share of the matter to your consideration. You
certainly seem to know the business already, and some day perhaps you
will remember who taught you to be a King."
"It was an old North Sea skipper who taught me that," replied Barebone.
"That is one of the things I learnt at sea."
"Yes--yes," agreed Colville, almost nervously. "And you will go on with
the thing, will you not? Like a good fellow, eh? Think about it till
to-morrow morning. I will go now. Which is my candle? Yes. You will think
about it. Do not jump to any hasty decision."
He hurried to the door as he spoke. He could not understand Barebone at
"If I do go on with it," was the reply, "it will not be in response to
any of your arguments. It will be only and solely for the sake of
"Yes--of course," agreed Colville, and closed the door behind him.
In his own room he turned and looked toward the door leading through to
that from which he had hurriedly escaped. He passed his hand across his
face, which was white and moist.
"For the sake of France!" he echoed in bewilderment. "For the sake of
France! Gad! I believe he _is_ the man after all."
A SIMPLE BANKER
Mr. John Turner had none of the outward signs of the discreet adviser in
his person or surroundings. He had, it was currently whispered, inherited
from his father an enormous clientele of noble names. And to such as have
studied the history of Paris during the whole of the nineteenth century,
it will appear readily comprehensible that the careful or the penniless
should give preference to an English banker.
Mr. Turner's appearance suggested solidity, and the carpet of his private
room was a good one. The room smelt of cigar smoke, while the office,
through which the client must pass to reach it, was odoriferous of
Half a dozen clerks were seated in the office, which was simply furnished
and innocent of iron safes. If a client entered, one of the six, whose
business it was, looked up, while the other five continued to give their
attention to the books before them.
One cold morning, toward the end of the year, Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence
was admitted by the concierge. She noted that only one clerk gave heed to
her entry, and, it is to be presumed, the quiet perfection of her furs.
"Of the six young men in your office," she observed, when she was seated
in the bare wooden chair placed invitingly by the side of John Turner's
writing-table, "only one appears to be in full possession of his senses."
Turner, sitting--if the expression be allowed--in a heap in an armchair
before a table provided with pens, ink, and a blotting-pad, but otherwise
bare, looked at his client with a bovine smile.
"I don't pay them to admire my clients," he replied.
"If Mademoiselle de Montijo came in, I suppose the other five would not
John Turner settled himself a little lower into his chair, so that he
appeared to be in some danger of slipping under the table.
"If the Archangel Gabriel came in, they would still attend to their
business," he replied, in his thick, slow voice. "But he won't. He is not
one of my clients. Quite the contrary."
Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence smoothed the fur that bordered her neat jacket
and glanced sideways at her banker. Then she looked round the room. It
was bare enough. A single picture hung on the wall--a portrait of an old
lady. Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence raised her eyebrows, and continued her
scrutiny. Here, again, was no iron safe. There were no ledgers, no
diaries, no note-books, no paraphernalia of business. Nothing but a bare
table and John Turner seated at it, in a much more comfortable chair than
that provided for the client, staring apathetically at a date-case which
stood on a bare mantelpiece.
The lady's eyes returned to the portrait on the wall.
"You used to have a portrait of Louis Philippe there," she said.
"When Louis Philippe was on the throne," admitted the banker.
"And now?" inquired this daughter of Eve, looking at the portrait.
"My maternal aunt," replied Turner, making a gesture with two fingers, as
if introducing his client to the portrait.
"You keep her, one may suppose, as a stop-gap--between the dynasties. It
is so safe--a maternal aunt!"
"One cannot hang a republic on the wall, however much one may want to."
"Then you are a Royalist?" inquired Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence.
"No; I am only a banker," replied Turner, with his chin sinking lower on
his bulging waistcoat and his eyes scarcely visible beneath the heavy
The remark, coupled with a thought that Turner was going to sleep, seemed
to remind the client of her business.
"Will you kindly ask one of your clerks to let me know how much money I
have?" she said, casting a glance not wholly innocent of scornful
reproach at the table, so glaringly devoid of the bare necessities of a
"Only eleven thousand francs and fourteen sous," replied Turner, with a
promptness which seemed to suggest that he kept no diary or note-book on
the table before him because he had need of neither.
"I feel sure I must have more than that," said Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence,
with some spirit. "I quite thought I had."
But John Turner only moistened his lips and sat patiently gazing at the
date. His attitude dimly suggested--quite in a nice way--that the chair
upon which Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence sat was polished bright by the
garments of persons who had found themselves labouring under the same
"Well, I must have a hundred thousand francs to-morrow; that is all.
Simply must. And in notes, too. I told you I should want it when you came
to see me at Royan. You must remember. I told you at luncheon."
"When we were eating a sweetbread _aux champignons._ I remember
perfectly. We do not get sweetbreads like that in Paris."
And John Turner shook his head sadly. "Well, will you let me have the
money to-morrow morning--in notes?"
"I remember I advised you not to sell just now; after we had finished the
sweetbread and had gone on to a _creme renversee_--very good one, too.
Yes, it is a bad time to sell. Things are uncertain in France just now.
One cannot even get one's meals properly served. Cook's head is full of
politics, I suppose."
"To-morrow morning--in notes," repeated Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence.
"Now, your man at Royan was excellent--kept his head all through--and a
light hand, too. Got him with you in Paris?"
"No, I have not. To-morrow morning, about ten o'clock--in notes."
And Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence tapped a neat gloved finger on the corner of
the table with some determination.
"I remember--at dessert--you told me you wanted to realise a considerable
sum of money at the beginning of the year, to put into some business
venture. Is this part of that sum?"
"Yes," returned the lady, arranging her veil.
"A venture of Dormer Colville's, I think you told me--while we were
having coffee. One never gets coffee hot enough in a private house, but
yours was all right."
"Yes," mumbled Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence, behind her quick finger, busy
with the veil.
Beneath the sleepy lids John Turner's eyes, which were small and
deep-sunken in the flesh, like the eyes of a pig, noted in passing that
his client's cheeks were momentarily pink.
"I hope you don't mean to suggest that there is anything unsafe in Mr.
Colville as a business man?"
"Heaven forbid!" ejaculated Turner. "On the contrary, he is most
enterprising. And I know no one who smokes a better cigar than
Colville--when he can get it. And the young fellow seemed nice enough."
"Which young fellow?" inquired the lady, sharply.
"His young friend--the man who was with him. I think you told me, after
luncheon, that Colville required the money to start his young friend in
"Never!" laughed Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence, who, if she felt momentarily
uneasy, was quickly reassured. For this was one of those fortunate ladies
who go through life with the comforting sense of being always cleverer
than their neighbour. If the neighbour happen to be a man, and a stout
one, the conviction is the stronger for those facts. "Never! I never told
you that. You must have dreamt it."
"Perhaps I did," admitted the banker, placidly. "I am afraid I often feel
sleepy after luncheon. Perhaps I dreamt it. But I could not hand such a
sum in notes to an unprotected lady, even if I can effect a sale of your
securities so quickly as to have the money ready by to-morrow morning.
Perhaps Colville will call for it himself."
"If he is in Paris."
"Every one is in Paris now," was Mr. Turner's opinion. "And if he likes
to bring his young friend with him, all the better. In these uncertain
times it is not fair on a man to hand to him a large sum of money in
notes." He paused and jerked his thumb toward the window, which was a
double one, looking down into the Rue Lafayette. "There are always people
in the streets watching those who pass in and out of a bank. If a man
comes out smiling, with his hand on his pocket, he is followed, and if an
opportunity occurs, he is robbed. Better not have it in notes."
"I know," replied Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence, not troubling further to
deceive one so lethargic and simple. "I know that Dormer wants it in
"Then let him come and fetch it."
Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence rose from her chair and shook her dress into
straighter folds, with the air of having accomplished a task which she
had known to be difficult, but not impossible to one equipped with wit
"You will sell the securities, and have it all ready by ten o'clock
to-morrow morning," she repeated, with a feminine insistence.
"You shall have the money to-morrow morning, whether I succeed in selling
for cash or not," was the reply, and John Turner concealed a yawn with
"No banker lends--except to kings," replied Turner, stolidly. "Call it an
Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence glanced at him sharply over the fur collar which
she was clasping round her neck. Here was a banker, reputed wealthy, who
sat in a bare room, without so much as a fireproof safe to suggest
riches; a business man of world-wide affairs, who drummed indolent
fingers on a bare table; a philosopher with a maxim ever ready to teach,
as all maxims do, cowardice in the guise of prudence, selfishness
masquerading as worldly wisdom, hard-heartedness passing for foresight.
Here was one who seemed to see, and was yet too sleepy to perceive. Mrs.
St. Pierre Lawrence was not always sure of her banker, but now, as ever
before, one glance at his round, heavy face reassured her. She laughed
and went away, well satisfied with the knowledge, only given to women, of
having once more carried out her object with the completeness which is
known as twisting round the little finger.
She nodded to Turner, who had ponderously risen from the chair which was
more comfortable than the client's seat, and held the door open for her
to pass. He glanced at the clock as he did so. And she knew that he was
thinking that it was nearly the luncheon hour, so transparent to the
feminine perception are the thoughts of men.
When he had closed the door he returned to his writing-table. Like many
stout people, he moved noiselessly, and quickly enough when the occasion
He wrote three letters in a very few minutes, and, when they were
addressed, he tapped on the table with the end of his pen-holder, which
brought, in the twinkling of an eye, that clerk whose business it was to
abandon his books when called.
"I shall not go out to luncheon until I have the written receipt for each
one of those letters," said the banker, knowing that until he went out to
luncheon his six clerks must needs go hungry. "Not an answer," he
explained, "but a receipt in the addressee's writing."
And while the clerk hurried from the room and down the stone stairs at a
break-neck speed, Turner sank back into his chair, with lustreless eyes
fixed on space.
"No one can wait," he was in the habit of saying, "better than I can."
THE LANE OF MANY TURNINGS
If John Turner expected Colville to bring Loo Barebone with him to the
Rue Lafayette he was, in part, disappointed. Colville arrived in a hired
carriage, of which the blinds were partially lowered.
The driver had been instructed to drive into the roomy court-yard of the
house of which Turner's office occupied the first floor. Carriages
frequently waited there, by the side of a little fountain which splashed
all day and all night into a circular basin.
Colville descended from the carriage and turned to speak to Loo, who was
left sitting within it. Since the unfortunate night at the Hotel Gemosac,
when they had been on the verge of a quarrel, a certain restraint had
characterised their intercourse. Colville was shy of approaching the
subject upon which they had differed. His easy laugh had not laughed away
the grim fact that he had deceived Loo in such a manner that complicity
was practically forced upon an innocent man.
Loo had not given his decision yet. He had waited a week, during which
time Colville had not dared to ask him whether his mind was made up.
There was a sort of recklessness in Loo's manner which at once puzzled
and alarmed his mentor. At times he was gay, as he always had been, and
in the midst of his gaiety he would turn away with a gloomy face and go
to his own room.
To press the question would be to precipitate a catastrophe. Dormer
Colville decided to go on as if nothing had happened. It is a compromise
with the inconveniences of untruth to which we must all resort at some
crisis or another in life.
"I will not be long," he assured Barebone, with a gay laugh. The prospect
of handling one hundred thousand francs in notes was perhaps
exhilarating; though the actual possession of great wealth would seem to
be of the contrary tendency. There is a profound melancholy peculiar to
the face of the millionaire. "I shall not be long; for he is a man of his
word, and the money will be ready."
John Turner was awaiting his visitor, and gave a large soft hand inertly
into Colville's warm grasp.
"I always wish I saw more of you," said the new-comer.
"Is there not enough of me already?" inquired the banker, pointing to the
vacant chair, upon which fell the full light of the double window. A
smaller window opposite to it afforded a view of the court-yard. And it
was at this smaller window that Colville glanced as he sat down, with a
pause indicative of reluctance.
Turner saw the glance and noted the reluctance. He concluded, perhaps, in
the slow, sure mind that worked behind his little peeping eyes, that Loo
Barebone was in the carriage in the court-yard, and that Colville was
anxious to return to him as soon as possible.
"It is very kind of you to say that, I am sure," pursued Turner, rousing
himself to be pleasant and conversational. "But, although the loss is
mine, my dear Colville, the fault is mostly yours. You always know where
to find me when you want my society. I am anchored in this chair, whereas
one never knows where one has a butterfly like yourself."
"A butterfly that is getting a bit heavy on the wing," answered Colville,
with his wan and sympathetic smile. He sat forward in the chair in an
attitude antipathetic to digression from the subject in hand.
"I do not see any evidence of that. One hears of you here and there
in France. I suppose, for instance, you know more than any man in
Paris at the present moment of the--" he paused and suppressed a yawn,
"the--er--vintage. Anything in it--eh?"
"So far as I could judge, the rains came too late; but I shall be glad to
tell you all about it another time. This morning--"
"Yes; I know. You want your money. I have it all ready for you. But I
must make out some sort of receipt, you know."
Turner felt vaguely in his pocket, and at last found a letter, from which
he tore the blank sheet, while his companion, glancing from time to time
at the window, watched him impatiently.
"Seems to me," said Turner, opening his inkstand, "that the vintage of
1850 will not be drunk by a Republic."
"What do you think?"
"Well, to tell you the truth, my mind was more occupied in the quality of
the vintage than in its ultimate fate. If you make out a receipt on
behalf of Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence, I will sign it," answered Colville,
fingering the blotting-paper.
"Received on behalf of, and for, Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence, the sum of one
hundred thousand francs," muttered the banker, as he wrote.
"She is only a client, you understand, my dear Colville," he went on,
holding out his hand for the blotting-paper, "or I would not part with
the money so easily. It is against my advice that Mrs. St. Pierre
Lawrence realises this sum."
"If a woman sets her heart on a thing, my dear fellow--" began Colville,
"Yes, I know--reason goes to the wall. Sign there, will you?"
Turner handed him pen and receipt, but Colville was looking toward the
window sunk deep in the wall on the inner side of the room. This was not
a double window, and the sound of carriage wheels rose above the gentle,
continuous plash of the little fountain in the court-yard.
Colville rose from his seat, but to reach the window he had to pass
behind Turner's chair. Turner rose at the same moment, and pushed his
chair back against the wall in doing so. This passage toward the window
being completely closed by the bulk of John Turner, Colville hurried
round the writing-table. But Turner was again in front of him, and,
without appearing to notice that his companion was literally at his
heels, he opened a large cupboard sunk in the panelling of the wall. The
door of it folded back over the little window, completely hiding it.
Turning on his heel, with an agility which was quite startling in one so
stout, he found Colville's colourless face two feet from his own. In
fact, Colville almost stumbled against him. For a moment they looked each
other in the eyes in silence. With his right hand, John Turner held the
cupboard-door over the window.
"I have the money here," he said, "in this cupboard." And as he spoke, a
hollow rumble, echoing in the court-yard, marked the exit of a carriage
under the archway into the Rue Lafayette. There had been only one
carriage in attendance in the court-yard--that in which Colville had left
"Here, in this cupboard," repeated Turner to unheeding ears. For Dormer
Colville was already hurrying across the room toward the other window
that looked out into the Rue Lafayette. The house was a lofty one, with a
high entresol, and from the windows of the first floor it was not
possible to see the street immediately below without opening the sashes.
Turner closed the cupboard and locked it, without ceasing to watch
Colville, who was struggling with the stiff fastening of the outer sash.
"Anything the matter?" inquired the banker, placidly. "Lost a dog?"
But Colville had at length wrenched open the window and was leaning out.
The roar of the traffic drowned any answer he may have made. It was
manifest that the loss of three precious minutes had made him too late.
After a glance down into the street, he came back into the centre of the
room and snatched up his hat from Turner's bare writing-table.
He hurried to the door, but turned again, with his back against it, to
face his companion, with the eyes usually so affable and sympathetic,
ablaze for once with rage.
"Damn you!" he cried. "Damn you!"
And the door banged on his heels as he hurried through the outer office.
Turner was left standing, a massive incarnation of bewilderment, in the
middle of the room. He heard the outer door close with considerable
emphasis. Then he sat down again, his eyebrows raised high on his round
forehead, and gazed sadly at the date-card.
* * * * *
Colville had left Leo Barebone seated in the hired carriage in a frame of
mind far from satisfactory. A seafaring life, more than any other,
teaches a man quickness in action. A hundred times a day the sailor needs
to execute, with a rapidity impossible to the landsman, that which
knowledge tells him to be the imminent necessity of the moment. At sea,
life is so far simpler than in towns that there are only two ways: the
right and the wrong. In the devious paths of a pavement-ridden man there
are a hundred byways: there is the long, long lane of many turnings
Loo Barebone had turned into this lane one night at the Hotel Gemosac, in
the Ruelle St. Jacob, and had wandered there ever since. Captain Clubbe
had taught him the two ways of seamanship effectively enough. But the
education fell short of the necessities of this crisis. Moreover,
Barebone had in his veins blood of a race which had fallen to low estate
through Compromise and Delay.
Let those throw the first stone at him who have seen the right way gaping
before their feet with a hundred pitfalls and barriers, apparently
insurmountable, and have resolutely taken that road. For the devious path
of Compromise has this merit--that the obstacles are round the corner.
Barebone, absorbed in thought, hardly noticed that the driver of his
carriage descended from the box and lounged toward the archway, where the
hum of traffic and the passage of many people would serve to beguile a
long wait. After a minute's delay, a driver returned and climbed to the
seat--but it was not the same driver. He wore the same coat and hat, but
a different face looked out from the sheep-skin collar turned up to the
ears. There was no one in the court-yard to notice this trifling change.
Barebone was not even looking out of the window. He had never glanced at
the cabman's face, whose vehicle had happened to be lingering at the
corner of the Ruelle St. Jacob when Colville and his companion had
emerged from the high doorway of the Hotel Gemosac.
Barebone was so far obeying instructions that he was leaning back in the
carriage, his face half hidden by the collar of his coat. For it was a
cold morning in mid-winter. He hardly looked up when the handle of the
door was turned. Colville had shut this door five minutes earlier,
promising to return immediately. It was undoubtedly his hand that opened
the door. But suddenly Barebone sat up. Both doors were open.
Before he could make another movement, two men stepped quietly into the
carriage, each closing the door by which he had entered quickly and
noiselessly. One seated himself beside Barebone, the other opposite to
him, and each drew down a blind. They seemed to have rehearsed the
actions over and over again, so that there was no hitch or noise or
bungling. The whole was executed as if by clock-work, and the carriage
moved away the instant the doors were closed.
In the twilight, within the carriage, the two men grasped Loo Barebone,
each by one arm, and held him firmly against the back of the carriage.
"Quietly, _mon bon monsieur_; quietly, and you will come to no harm."
Barebone made no resistance, and only laughed.
"You have come too soon," he said, without attempting to free his arms,
which were held, as if by a vice, at the elbow and shoulder. "You have
come too soon, gentlemen! There is no money in the carriage. Not so much
as a sou."
"It is not for money that we have come," replied the man who had first
spoken--and the absolute silence of his companion was obviously the
silence of a subordinate.
"Though, for a larger sum than monsieur is likely to offer, one might
make a mistake, and allow of escape--who knows?"
The remark was made with the cynical honesty of dishonesty which had so
lately been introduced into France by him who was now Dictator of that
"Oh! I offer nothing," replied Barebone. "For a good reason. I have
nothing to offer. If you are not thieves, what are you?"
The carriage was rattling along the Rue Lafayette, over the
cobble-stones, and the inmates, though their faces were close together,
had to shout in order to be heard.
"Of the police," was the reply. "Of the high police. I fancy that
monsieur's affair is political?"
"Why should you fancy that?"
"Because my comrade and I are not engaged on other cases. The criminal
receives very different treatment. Permit me to assure you of that.
And no consideration whatever. The common police is so unmannerly.
There!--one may well release the arms--since we understand each other."
"I shall not try to escape--if that is what you mean," replied Barebone,
with a laugh.
"Nothing else--nothing else," his affable captor assured him.
And for the remainder of a long drive through the noisy streets the three
men sat upright in the dim and musty cab in silence.
A large French fishing-lugger was drifting northward on the ebb tide with
its sails flapping idly against the spars. It had been a fine morning,
and the Captain, a man from Fecamp, where every boy that is born is born
a sailor, had been fortunate in working his way in clear weather across
the banks that lie northward of the Thames.
He had predicted all along in a voice rendered husky by much shouting in
dirty weather that the fog-banks would be drifting in from the sea before
nightfall. And now he had that mournful satisfaction which is the special
privilege of the pessimistic. These fog-banks, the pest of the east
coast, are the materials that form the light fleecy clouds which drift
westward in sunny weather like a gauze veil across the face of the sky.
They roll across the North Sea from their home in the marshes of Holland
on the face of the waters, and the mariner, groping his way with dripping
eyelashes and a rosy face through them, can look up and see the blue sky
through the rifts overhead. When the fog-bank touches land it rises,
slowly lifted by the warm breath of the field. On the coast-line it lies
low; a mile inland it begins to break into rifts, so that any one working
his way down one of the tidal rivers, sails in the counting of twenty
seconds from sunshine into a pearly shadow. Five miles inland there is a
transparent veil across the blue sky slowly sweeping toward the west, and
rising all the while, until those who dwell on the higher lands of Essex
and Suffolk perceive nothing but a few fleecy clouds high in the heavens.
The lugger was hardly moving, for the tide had only turned half an hour
"Provided," the Captain had muttered within the folds of his woollen
scarf rolled round and round his neck until it looked like a dusky
life-belt--"provided that they are ringing their bell on the Shipwash, we
shall find our way into the open. Always sea-sick, this traveller, always
And he turned with a kindly laugh to Loo Barebone, who was lying on a
heap of old sails by the stern rail, concealing as well as he could the
pangs of a consuming hunger.
"One sees that you will never be a sailor," added the man from Fecamp,
with that rough humour which sailors use.
"Perhaps I do not want to be one," replied Barebone, with a ready gaiety
which had already made him several friends on this tarry vessel, although
the voyage had lasted but four days.
"Listen," interrupted the Captain, holding up a mittened hand. "Listen! I
hear a bell, or else it is my conscience."
Barebone had heard it for some time. It was the bell-buoy at the mouth of
Harwich River. But he did not deem it necessary for one who was a
prisoner on board, and no sailor, to interfere in the navigation of a
vessel now making its way to the Faroee fisheries for the twentieth time.
"My conscience," he observed, "rings louder than that."
The Captain took a turn round the tiller with a rope made fast to the
rail for the purpose, and went to the side of the ship, lifting his nose
toward the west.
"It is the land," he said. "I can smell it. But it is only the Blessed
Virgin who knows where we are."
He turned and gave a gruff order to a man half hidden in the mist in the
waist of the boat to try a heave of the lead.
The sound of the bell could be heard clearly enough now--the uncertain,
hesitating clang of a bell-buoy rocked in the tideway--with its
melancholy note of warning. Indeed, there are few sounds on sea or land
more fraught with lonesomeness and fear. Behind it and beyond it a faint
"tap-tap" was now audible. Barebone knew it to be the sound of a
caulker's hammer in the Government repairing yard on the south side. They
were drifting past the mouth of the Harwich River.
The leadsman called out a depth which Loo could have told without the
help of line or lead. For he had served a long apprenticeship on these
coasts under a captain second to none in the North Sea.
He turned a little on his bed of sails under repair, at which the Captain
had been plying his needle while the weather remained clear, and glanced
over his shoulder toward the ship's dinghy towing astern. The rope that
held it was made fast round the rail a few feet away from him. The boat
itself was clumsy, shaped like a walnut, of a preposterous strength and
weight. It was fitted with a short, stiff mast and a balance lug-sail. It
floated more lightly on the water than the bigger vessel, which was laden
with coal and provender and salt for the North Atlantic fishery, and the
painter hung loose, while the dinghy, tide-borne, sidled up to stern of
its big companion like a kitten following its mother with the uncertain
steps of infancy.
The face of the water was glassy and of a yellow green. Although the scud
swept in toward the land at a fair speed, there was not enough wind to
fill the sails. Moreover, the bounty of Holland seemed inexhaustible.
There was more to come. This fog-bank lay on the water halfway across the
North Sea, and the brief winter sun having failed to disperse it, was now
sinking to the west, cold and pale.
"The water seems shallow," said Barebone to the Captain. "What would you
do if the ship went aground?"
"We should stay there, _mon bon monsieur_, until some one came to help us
at the flood tide. We should shout until they heard us."
"You might fire a gun," suggested Barebone.
"We have no gun on board, mon bon monsieur," replied the Captain, who had
long ago explained to his prisoner that there was no ill-feeling.
"It is the fortune of war," he had explained before the white cliffs of
St. Valerie had faded from sight. "I am a poor man who cannot afford to
refuse a good offer. It is a Government job, as you no doubt know without
my telling you. You would seem to have incurred the displeasure or the
distrust of some one high placed in the Government. 'Treat him well,'
they said to me. 'Give him your best, and see that he comes to no harm
unless he tries to escape. And be careful that he does not return to
France before the mackerel fishing begins.' And when we do return to
Fecamp, I have to lie to off Notre Dame de la Garde and signal to the
Douane that I have you safe. They want you out of the way. You are a
dangerous man, it seems. _Salut_!"
And the Captain raised his glass to one so distinguished by Government.
He laughed as he set his glass down on the little cabin table.
"No ill-feeling on either side," he added. "_C'est entendu_."
He made a half-movement as if to shake hands across the table and thought
better of it, remembering, perhaps, that his own palm was not innocent of
blood-money. For the rest they had been friendly enough on the voyage.
And had the "Petite Jeanne" been in danger, it is probable that Barebone
would have warned his jailer, if only in obedience to a seaman's instinct
against throwing away a good ship.
He had noted every detail, however, of the dinghy while he lay on the
deck of the "Petite Jeanne"; how the runner fitted to the mast; whether
the halliards were likely to run sweetly through the sheaves or were
knotted and would jamb. He knew the weight of the gaff and the great
tan-soddened sail to a nicety. Some dark night, he had thought, on the
Dogger, he would slip overboard and take his chance. He had never looked
for thick weather at this time of year off the Banks, so near home,
within a few hours' sail of the mouth of Farlingford River.
If a breeze would only come up from the south-east, as it almost always
does in these waters toward the evening of a still, fine day! Without
lifting his head he scanned the weather, noting that the scud was blowing
more northward now. It might only be what is known as a slant. On the
other hand, it might prove to be a true breeze, coming from the usual
quarter. The "tap-tap" of the caulker's hammer on the slip-way in Harwich
River was silent now. There must be a breeze in-shore that carried the
The topsail of the "Petite Jeanne" filled with a jerk, and the Captain,
standing at the tiller, looked up at it. The lower sails soon took their
cue, and suddenly the slack sheets hummed taut in the breeze. The "Petite
Jeanne" answered to it at once, and the waves gurgled and laughed beneath
her counter as she moved through the water. She could sail quicker than
her dinghy: Barebone knew that. But he also knew that he could handle an
open boat as few even on the Cotes-du-Nord knew how.
If the breeze came strong, it would blow the fog-bank away, and Barebone
had need of its covert. Though there must be many English boats within
sight should the fog lift--indeed, the guardship in Harwich harbour would
be almost visible across the spit of land where Landguard Fort lies
hidden--Barebone had no intention of asking help so compromising. He had
but a queer story to tell to any in authority, and on the face of it he
must perforce appear to have run away with the dinghy of the "Petite
He desired to get ashore as unobtrusively as possible. For he was not
going to stay in England. The die was cast now. Where Dormer Colville's
persuasions had failed, where the memory of that journey through Royalist
France had yet left him doubting, the incidents of the last few days had
clinched the matter once for all. Barebone was going back to France.
He moved as if to stretch his limbs and lay down once more, with his
shoulders against the rail and his elbow covering the stanchion round
which the dinghy's painter was made fast.
The proper place for the dinghy was on deck should the breeze freshen.
Barebone knew that as well as the French Captain of the "Petite Jeanne."
For seamanship is like music--it is independent of language or race.
There is only one right way and one wrong way at sea, all the world over.
The dinghy was only towing behind while the fog continued to be
impenetrable. At any moment the Captain might give the order to bring it
At any moment Barebone might have to make a dash for the boat.
He watched the Captain, who continued to steer in silence. To drift on
the tide in a fog is a very different thing to sailing through it at ten
miles an hour on a strong breeze, and the steersman had no thought to
spare for anything but his sails. Two men were keeping the look-out in
the bows. Another--the leadsman--was standing amidships peering over the
side into the mist.
Still Barebone waited. Captain Clubbe had taught him that most difficult
art--to select with patience and a perfect judgment the right moment. The
"Petite Jeanne" was rustling through the glassy water northward toward
At a word from the Captain the man who had been heaving the lead came aft
to the ship's bell and struck ten quick strokes. He waited and repeated
the warning, but no one answered. They were alone in these shallow
channels. Fortunately the man faced forward, as sailors always do by
instinct, turning his back upon the Captain and Barebone.
The painter was cast off now and, under his elbow, Barebone was slowly
hauling in. The dinghy was heavy and the "Petite Jeanne" was moving
quickly through the water. Suddenly Barebone rose to his feet, hauled in
hand over hand, and when the dinghy was near enough, leaped across two
yards of water to her gunwale.
The Captain heard the thud of his feet on the thwart, and looking back
over his shoulder saw and understood in a flash of thought. But even
then he did not understand that Loo was aught else but a landsman
half-recovered from sea-sickness. He understood it a minute later,
however, when the brown sail ran up the mast and, holding the tiller
between his knees, Barebone hauled in the sheet hand over hand and
steered a course out to sea.
He looked back over the foot of the sail and waved his hand. "_Sans
rancune!_" he shouted. "_C'est entendu!_" The Captain's own words.
The "Petite Jeanne" was already round to the wind, and the Captain was
bellowing to his crew to trim the sails. It could scarcely be a chase,
for the huge deep-sea fishing-boat could sail half as fast again as her
own dinghy. The Captain gave his instructions with all the quickness of
his race, and the men were not slow to carry them out. The safe-keeping
of the prisoner had been made of personal advantage to each member of the
The Captain hailed Barebone with winged words which need not be set down
here, and explained to him the impossibility of escape.
"How can you--a landsman," he shouted, "hope to get away from us? Come
back and it shall be as you say '_sans rancune._' Name of God! I bear
you no ill-will for making the attempt."
They were so close together that all on board the "Petite Jeanne" could
see Barebone laugh and shake his head. He knew that there was no gun on
board the fishing-boat. The lugger rushed on, sailing quicker, lying up
closer to the wind. She was within twenty yards of the little boat
now--would overhaul her in a minute.
But in an instant Barebone was round on the other tack, and the Captain
swore aloud, for he knew now that he was not dealing with a landsman. The
"Petite Jeanne" spun round almost as quickly, but not quite. Every time
that Barebone put about, the "Petite Jeanne" must perforce do the same,
and every time she lost a little in the manoeuvre. On a long tack or
running before the wind the bigger boat was immeasurably superior.
Barebone had but one chance--to make short tacks--and he knew it. The
Captain knew it also, and no landsman would have possessed the knowledge.
He was trying to run the boat down now.
Barebone might succeed in getting far enough away to be lost in the fog.
But in tacking so frequently he was liable to make a mistake. The bigger
boat was not so likely to miss stays. He passed so close to her that he
could read the figures cut on her stern-post indicating her draught of
There was another chance. The "Petite Jeanne" was drawing six feet; the
dinghy could sail across a shoal covered by eighteen inches of water. But
such a shoal would be clearly visible on the surface of the water.
Besides, there was no shallow like that nearer than the Goodwins.
Barebone pressed out seaward. He knew every channel and every bank
between the Thames and Thorpeness. He kept on pressing out to sea by
short tacks. All the while he was peeping over the gunwale out of the
corner of his eye. He was near, he must be near, a bank covered by five
feet of water at low tide. A shoal of five feet is rarely visible on the
Suddenly he rose from his seat on the gunwale, and stood with the tiller
in one hand and the sheet in the other, half turning back to look at
"Petite Jeanne" towering almost over him. And as he looked, her bluff
black bows rose upward with an odd climbing movement like a horse
stepping up a bank. With a rattle of ropes and blocks she stood still.
Barebone went about again and sailed past her.
"_Sans rancune_!" he shouted. But no one heeded him, for they had other
matters to attend to. And the dinghy sailed into the veil of the mist
toward the land.
The breeze freshened, and, as was to be expected, blew the fog-bank away
Sep Marvin had been an unwilling student all day. Like many of his cloth
and generation, Parson Marvin pinned all his faith on education. "Give a
boy a good education," he said, a hundred times. "Make a gentleman of
him, and you have done your duty by him."
"Make a gentleman of him--and the world will be glad to feed and clothe
him," was the real thought in his mind, as it was in the mind of nearly
all his contemporaries. The wildest dreamer of those days never
anticipated that, in the passage of one brief generation, social
advancement should be for the shrewdly ignorant rather than for the
scholar; that it would be better for a man that his mind be stored with
knowledge of the world than the wisdom of the classics; that the
successful grocer might find a kinder welcome in a palace than the
scholar; that the manufacturer of kitchen utensils might feed with kings
and speak to them, without aspirates, between the courses.
Parson Marvin knew none of these things, however; nor suspected that the
advance of civilisation is not always progressive, but that she may take
hands with vulgarity and dance down-hill, as she does to-day. His one
scheme of life for Sep was that he should be sent to the ancient school
where field-sports are cultivated to-day and English gentlemen turned
upon the world more ignorant than any other gentlemen in the universe.
Then, of course, Sep must go to that College with which his father's life
had been so closely allied. And if it please God to call him to the
Church, and the College should remember that it had given his father a
living, and do the same by him--for that reason and no other--then, of
course, Sep would be a made man.
And the making of Sep had been in progress during the winter day that a
fog-bank came in from the North Sea and clung tenaciously to the low,
surfless coast. In the afternoon the sun broke through at last, wintry
and pale. Sep, who, by some instinct--the instinct, it is to be supposed,
of young animals--knew that he was destined to be of a generation that
should cultivate ignorance out of doors, rather than learning by the
fireside, threw aside his books and cried out that he could no longer
breathe in his father's study.
So Parson Marvin went off, alone, to visit a distant parishioner--one who
was dying by himself out on the marsh, in a cottage cut off from all the
world in a spring tide.
"Don't forget that it is high tide at five o'clock, and that there is no
moon, and that the dykes will be full. You will never find your way
across the marsh after dark," said Sep--the learned in tides and those
practical affairs of nature, which were as a closed book to the scholar.
Parson Marvin vaguely acknowledged the warning and went away, leaving Sep
to accompany Miriam on her daily errand to the simple shops in
Farlingford, which would awake to life and business now that the sea-fog
was gone. For the men of Farlingford, like nearly all seafarers, are
timorous of bad weather on shore and sit indoors during its passage,
while they treat storm and rain with a calm contempt at sea.
"Sail a-coming up the river, master," River Andrew said to Sep, who was
awaiting Miriam in the village street, and he walked on, without further
comment, spade on shoulder, toward the church-yard, where he spent a
portion of his day, without apparent effect.
So, when Miriam had done her shopping, it was only natural that they
should turn their footsteps toward the quay and the river-wall. Or was it
fate? So often is the natural nothing but the inevitable in holiday garb.
"That is no Farlingford boat," said Sep, versed in riverside knowledge,
so soon as he saw the balance-lug moving along the line of the
river-wall, half a mile below the village.
They stood watching. Few coasters were at sea in these months of wild
weather, and there was nothing moving on the quay. The moss-grown
slip-way, where "The Last Hope" had been drawn up for repair, stood gaunt
and empty, half submerged by the flowing tide. Many Farlingford men were
engaged in the winter fisheries on the Dogger, and farther north, in
Lowestoft boats. In winter, Farlingford--thrust out into the North Sea,
surrounded by marsh--is forgotten by the world.
The solitary boat came round the corner into the wider sheet of water,
locally known as Quay Reach.
"A foreigner!" cried Sep, jumping, as was his wont, from one foot to the
other with excitement. "It is like the boat that was brought up by the
tide, with a dead man in it, long ago. And that was a Belgian boat."
Miriam was looking at the boat with a sudden brightness in her eyes, a
rush of colour to her cheeks, which were round and healthy and of that
soft clear pink which marks a face swept constantly by mist and a salty
air. In flat countries, where men may see each other, unimpeded by hedge
or tree or hillock, across a space measured only by miles, the eye is
soon trained--like the sailor's eye--to see and recognise at a great
There was no mistaking the attitude of the solitary steersman of this
foreign boat stealing quietly up to Farlingford on the flood tide. It was
Loo Barebone sitting on the gunwale as he always sat, with one knee
raised on the thwart, to support his elbow, and his chin in the palm of
his hand, so that he could glance up the head of the sail or ahead,
without needing to change his position.
Sep turned and looked up at her.
"I thought you said he was never coming back," he said, reproachfully.
"So I did. I thought he was never coming back."
Sep looked at her again, and then at the boat. One never knows how much
children, and dogs--who live daily with human beings--understand.
"Your face is very red," he observed. "That comes from telling untruths."
"It comes from the cold wind," replied Miriam, with an odd, breathless
"If we do not go home, he will be there before us," said Sep, gravely.
"He will make one tack across to the other side, and then make the mouth
of the creek."
They turned and walked, side by side, on the top of the sea-wall toward
the rectory. Their figures must have been outlined against the sky, for
any watching from the river. The girl, tall and strong, walking with the
ease that comes from health and a steadfast mind; the eager, restless boy
running and jumping by her side. Barebone must have seen them as soon as
they saw him. They were part of Farlingford, these two. He had a sudden
feeling of having been away for years, with this difference--that he came
back and found nothing changed. Whereas, in reality, he who returns after
a long absence usually finds no one awaiting him.
He did as Sep had foretold--crossing to the far side of the river, and
then gaining the mouth of the creek in one tack. Miriam and Sep had
reached the rectory garden first, and now stood waiting for him. He came
on in silence. Last time--on "The Last Hope"--he had come up the river
Sep waved his hand, and, in response, Barebone nodded his head, with one
eye peering ahead, for the breeze was fresh.
The old chain was still there, imperfectly fastened round a tottering
post at the foot of the tide-washed steps. It clinked as he made fast the
boat. Miriam had not heard the sound of it since that night, long ago,
when Loo had gone down the steps in the dark and cast off.
"I was given a passage home in a French fishing-boat, and borrowed their
dinghy to come ashore in," said Loo, as he came up the steps. He knew
that Farlingford would want some explanation, and that Sep would be proud
to give it. An explanation is never the worse for a spice of truth.
"Miriam told me you were never coming home again," answered Sep, still
nourishing that grievance.
"Well, she was wrong, and here I am!" was Loo's reply, with his old,
ready laugh. "And here is Farlingford--unchanged, and no harm done."
"Why should there be any harm done?" was Sep's prompt question.
Barebone was shaking hands with Miriam.
"Oh, I don't know," he answered. "Because there always is harm done, I
Miriam was thinking that he had changed; that the man who had unmoored
his boat at these steps six months ago had departed for ever, and that
another had come back in his place. A minute later, as he turned to close
the gate that shut off the rectory garden from the river-wall, chance
ruled it that their eyes should meet for an instant, and she knew that he
had not changed; that he might, perhaps, never change so long as he
lived. She turned abruptly and led the way to the house.
Sep had a hundred questions to ask, but only a few of them were personal.
Children live in a world of their own, and are not slow to invite those
whom they like to come into it, while to the others, they shut the door
with a greater frankness than is permissible later in life.
"Father," he explained, "has gone to see old Doy, who is dying."
"Is he still dying? He will never die, I am sure; for he has been trying
to do it ever since I remember," laughed Barebone; who was interested, it
seemed, in Sep's affairs, and never noticed that Miriam was walking more
quickly than they were.
"And I am rather anxious about him," continued Sep, with the gravity that
comes of a realised responsibility. "He moons along, you know, with his
mind far away, and he doesn't know the path across the marsh a bit. He is
bound to lose his way, and it is getting dark. Suppose I shall have to go
and look for him."
"With a lantern," suggested Loo, darkly, without looking toward Miriam.
"Oh, yes!" replied Sep, with delight. "With a lantern, of course. Nobody
but a fool would go out on to the marshes after dark without a lantern.
The weed on the water makes it the same as the grass, and that old woman
who was nearly drowned last winter, you know, she walked straight in, and
thought it was dry land."
And Loo heard no more, for they were at the door; and Miriam, in the
lighted hall, was waiting for them, with all the colour gone from her
"He is sure to be in in a few minutes," she said; for she had heard the
end of their talk. She could scarcely have helped hearing Loo's weighty
suggestion of a lantern, which had had the effect he must have
anticipated. Sep was already hurriedly searching for matches. It would be
difficult to dissuade him from his purpose. What boy would willingly give
up the prospect of an adventure on the marsh alone, with a bull's-eye?
Miriam tried, and tried in vain. She gained time, however, and was
listening for Marvin's footstep on the gravel all the while.
Sep found the matches--and it chanced that there was a sufficiency of oil
in his lantern. He lighted up and went away, leaving an abominable smell
of untrimmed wick behind him.
It was tea-time, and, half a century ago, that meal was a matter of
greater importance than it is to-day. A fire burned in the dining-room,
glowing warmly on the mellow walls and gleaming furniture; but there was
no lamp, nor need of one, in a room with large windows facing the sunset
Miriam led the way into this room, and lifted the shining, old-fashioned
kettle to the hob. She took a chair that stood near, and sat, with her
shoulder turned toward him, looking into the fire.
"We will have tea as soon as they come in," she said, in that voice of
camaraderie which speaks of a life-long friendship between a man and a
woman--if such a friendship be possible. Is it?--who knows? "They will
not be long, I am sure. You will like tea, after having been so long
abroad. It is one of the charms of coming home, or one of the
alleviations. I don't know which. And now, tell me all that has happened
since you went away--if you care to."
OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES
Miriam's manner toward him was the same as it had always been so long as
he could remember. He had once thought--indeed, he had made to her the
accusation--that she was always conscious of the social gulf existing
between them; that she always remembered that she was by birth and
breeding a lady, whereas he was the son of an obscure Frenchman who was
nothing but a clockmaker whose name could be read (and can to this day be
deciphered) on a hundred timepieces in remote East Anglian farms.
Since his change of fortune he had, as all men who rise to a great height
or sink to the depths will tell, noted a corresponding change in his
friends. Even Captain Clubbe had altered, and the affection which peeped
out at times almost against his puritanical will seemed to have suffered
a chill. The men of Farlingford, and even those who had sailed in "The
Last Hope" with him, seemed to hold him at a distance. They nodded to him
with a brief, friendly smile, but were shy of shaking hands. The hand
which they would have held out readily enough, had he needed assistance
in misfortune, slunk hastily into a pocket. For he who climbs will lose
more friends than the ne'er-do-well. Some may account this to human
nature for righteousness and others quite the contrary: for jealousy,
like love, lies hidden in unsuspected corners.
Juliette do Gemosac had been quite different to Loo since learning his
story. Miriam alone remained unchanged. He had accused her of failing to
rise superior to arbitrary social distinctions, and now, standing behind
her in the fire-lit dining-room of the rectory, he retracted that
accusation once and for all time in his own heart, though her
justification came from a contrary direction to that from which it might
have been expected.
Miriam alone remained a friend--and nothing else, he added, bitterly, in
his own heart. And she seemed to assume that their friendship, begun in
face of social distinctions, should never have to suffer from that
"I should like to hear," she repeated, seeing that he was silent, "all
that has happened since you went away; all that you may care to tell me."
"My heritage, you mean?"
She moved in her seat but did not look round. She had laid aside her hat
on coming into the house, and as she sat, leaning forward with her hands
clasped together in her lap, gazing thoughtfully at the fire which glowed
blue and white for the salt water that was in the drift-wood, her hair,
loosened by the wind, half concealed her face.
"Yes," she answered, slowly.
"Do you know what it is--my heritage?" lapsing, as he often did when
hurried by some pressing thought, into a colloquialism half French.
She shook her head, but made no audible reply.
"Do you suspect what it is?" he insisted.
"I may have suspected, perhaps," she admitted, after a pause.
"When? How long?"
She paused again. Quick and clever as he was, she was no less so. She
weighed the question. Perhaps she found no answer to it, for she turned
toward the door that stood open and looked out into the hall. The light
of the lamp there fell for a moment across her face.
"I think I hear them returning," she said.
"No," he retorted, "for I should hear them before you did. I was brought
up at sea. Do not answer the question, however, if you would rather not.
You ask what has happened since I went away. A great many things have
happened which are of no importance. Such things always happen, do they
not? But one night, when we were quarrelling, Dormer Colville mentioned
your name. He was very much alarmed and very angry, so he perhaps spoke
the truth--by accident. He said that you had always known that I might be
the King of France. Many things happened, as I tell you, which are of no
importance, and which I have already forgotten, but that I remember and
"I have always known," replied Miriam, "that Mr. Dormer Colville is a
liar. It is written on his face, for those who care to read."
A woman at bay is rarely merciful.
"And I thought for an instant," pursued Loo, "that such a knowledge might
have been in your mind that night, the last I was here, last summer, on
the river-wall. I had a vague idea that it might have influenced in some
way the reply you gave me then."
He had come a step nearer and was standing over her. She could hear his
"Oh, no," she replied, in a calm voice full of friendliness. "You are
quite wrong. The reason I gave you still holds good, and--and always
In the brief silence that followed this clear statement of affairs, they
both heard the rattle of the iron gate by the seawall. Sep and his father
were coming. Loo turned to look toward the hall and the front door, dimly
visible in the shadow of the porch. While he did so Miriam passed her
hand quickly across her face. When Loo turned again and glanced down at
her, her attitude was unchanged.
"Will you look at me and say that again?" he asked, slowly.
"Certainly," she replied. And she rose from her chair. She turned and
faced him with the light of the hall-lamp full upon her. She was smiling
"I thought," he said, looking at her closely, "as I stood behind you,
that there were tears in your eyes."
She went past him into the hall to meet Sep and his father, who were
already on the threshold.
"It must have been the firelight," she said to Barebone as she passed
A minute later Septimus Marvin was shaking him by the hand with a vague
and uncertain but kindly grasp.
"Sep came running to tell me that you were home again," he said,
struggling out of his overcoat. "Yes--yes. Home again to the old place.
And little changed, I can see. Little changed, my boy. _Tempora
mutantur_, eh? and we _mutamur in illis_. But you are the same."
"Of course. Why should I change? It is too late to change for the better
"Never! Never say that. But we do not want you to change. We looked for
you to come in a coach-and-four--did we not, Miriam? For I suppose you
have secured your heritage, since you are here again. It is a great thing
to possess riches--and a great responsibility. Come, let us have tea and
not think of such things. Yes--yes. Let us forget that such a thing as a
heritage ever came between us--eh, Miriam?"
And with a gesture of old-world politeness he stood aside for his niece
to pass first into the dining-room, whither a servant had preceded them
with a lamp.
"It will not be hard to do that," replied Miriam, steadily, "because he
tells me that he has not yet secured it."
"All in good time--all in good time," said Marvin, with that faith in
some occult power, seemingly the Government and Providence working in
conjunction, to which parsons and many women confide their worldly
affairs and sit with folded hands.
He asked many questions which were easy enough to answer; for he had no
worldly wisdom himself, and did not look for it in other people. And then
he related his own adventure--the great incident of his life--his visit
"A matter of business," he explained. "Some duplicates--one or two of my
prints which I had decided to part with. Miriam also wished me to see
into some small money matters of her own. Her guardian, John Turner,
you may remember, resides in Paris. A schoolfellow of my own, by the
way. But our ways diverged later in life. I found him unchanged--a kind
heart--always a kind heart. He attempts to conceal it, as many do, under
a flippant, almost a profane, manner of speech. _Brutum fulmen._ But I
saw through it--I saw through it."
And the rector beamed on Loo through his spectacles with an innocent
delight in a Christian charity which he mistook for cunning.
"You see," he went on, "we have spent a little money on the rectory.
To-morrow you will see that we have made good the roof of the church. One
could not ask the villagers to contribute, knowing that the children want
boots and scarcely know the taste of jam. Yes, John Turner was very kind
to me. He found me a buyer for one of my prints."
The rector broke off with a sharp sigh and drank his tea.
"We shall never miss it," he added, with the hopefulness of those who can
blind themselves to facts. "Come, tell me your impressions of France."
"I have been there before," replied Loo, with a curtness so unusual as to
make Miriam glance at him. "I have been there before, you know. It would
be more interesting to hear your own impressions, which must be fresher."
Miriam knew that he did not want to speak of France, and wondered why.
But Marvin, eager to talk of his favourite study, seized the suggestion
in all innocence. He had gone to Paris as he had wandered through life,
with the mind of a child, eager, receptive, open to impression. Such
minds pass by much that is of value, but to one or two conclusions they
bring a perceptive comprehension which is photographic in its accuracy.
"I have followed her history with unflagging interest since boyhood," he
said, "but never until now have I understood France. I walked through the
streets of Paris and I looked into the faces of the people, and I
realised that the astonishing history of France is true. One can see it
in those faces. The city is brilliant, beautiful, unreal. The reality is
in the faces of the people. Do you remember what Wellington said of them
half a century ago? 'They are ripe,' he said, 'for another Napoleon.' But
he could not see that Napoleon on the political horizon. And that is what
I saw in their faces. They are ripe for something--they know not what."
"Did John Turner tell you that?" asked Loo, in an eager voice. "He who
has lived in Paris all his life?"
And Miriam caught the thrill of excitement in the voice that put this
question. She glanced at Loo. His eyes were bright and his cheeks
colourless. She knew that she was in the presence of some feeling that
she did not understand. It was odd that an old scholar, knowing nothing
but history, could thus stir a listener whose touch had hitherto only
skimmed the surface of life.
"No," answered Marvin, with assurance. "I saw it myself in their faces.
Ah! if another such as Napoleon could only arise--such as he, but
different. Not an adventurer, but a King and the descendant of Kings--not
allied, as Napoleon was, with a hundred other adventurers."
"Yes," said Loo, in a muffled voice, looking away toward the fire.
"A King whose wife should be a Queen," pursued the dreamer.
"Yes," said Loo again, encouragingly.
"They could save France," concluded Marvin, taking off his spectacles and
polishing them with a silk handkerchief. Loo turned and looked at him,
for the action so characteristic of a mere onlooker indicated that the
momentary concentration of a mind so stored with knowledge that confusion
reigned there was passing away.
"From what?" asked Loo. "Save France from what?"
"From inevitable disaster, my boy," replied Marvin, gravely. "That is
what I saw in those gay streets."
Loo glanced at him sharply. He had himself seen the same all through
those provinces which must take their cue from Paris whether they will or
"What a career!" murmured Marvin. "What a mission for a man to have in
life--to save France! One does not like to think of the world without a
France to lead it in nearly everything, or with a France, a mere ghost of
her former self, exploited, depleted by another Bonaparte. And we must
look in vain for that man as did the good Duke years ago."
"I should like to have a shot at it," put in Sep, who had just despatched
a large piece of cake.
"Heaven forbid!" exclaimed his father, only half in jest.
"Better sit all day under the lee of a boat and make nets, like Sea
Andrew," advised Loo, with a laugh.
"Do you think so?" said Miriam, without looking up.
"All the same, I'd like to have a shot at it," persisted Sep. "Pass the
Loo had risen and was looking at the clock. His face was drawn and tired
and his eyes grave.
"You will come in and see us as often as you can while you are
here?" said the kindly rector, as if vaguely conscious of a change in
this visitor. "You will always find a welcome whether you come in a
coach-and-four or on foot--you know that."
"Thank you--yes. I know that."
The rector peered at him through his spectacles. "I hope," he said, "that
you will soon be successful in getting your own. You are worried about
it, I fear. The responsibilities of wealth, perhaps. And yet many rich
people are able to do good in the world, and must therefore be happy."
"I do not suppose I shall ever be rich," said Loo, with a careless laugh.
"No, perhaps not. But let us hope that all will be for the best. You must
not attach too much importance to what I said about France, you know. I
may be wrong. Let us hope I am. For I understand that your heritage is
"Yes," answered Loo, who was shaking hands with Sep and Miriam, "my
heritage is there."
"And you will go back to France?" inquired Marvin, holding out his hand.
"Yes," was the reply, with a side glance in the direction of Miriam. "I
shall go back to France."
At Farlingford, forgotten of the world, events move slowly and men's
minds assimilate change without shock. Old people look for death long
before it arrives, so that when at last the great change comes it is
effected quite calmly. There is no indecent haste, no scrambling to put a
semblance of finish to the incomplete, as there is in the hurried death
of cities. Young faces grow softly mellow without those lines and anxious
crow's-feet that mar the features of the middle-aged, who, to earn their
daily bread or to kill the tedium of their lives, find it necessary to
dwell in streets.
"Loo's home again," men told each other at "The Black Sailor"; and the
women, who discussed the matter in the village street, had little to add
to this bare piece of news. There was nothing unusual about it. Indeed,
it was customary for Farlingford men to come home again. They always
returned, at last, from wide wanderings, which a limited conversational
capacity seemed to deprive of all interest. Those that stayed at home
learnt a few names, and that was all.
"Where are ye now from, Willum?" the newly returned sailor would be
kindly asked, with the sideward jerk of the head.
"A'm now from Va'paraiso."
And that was all that there was to be said about Valparaiso and the
experiences of this circumnavigator. Perhaps it was not considered good
form to inquire further into that which was, after all, his own business.
If you ask an East Anglian questions he will tell you nothing; if you do
not inquire he will tell you less.
No one, therefore, asked Barebone any questions. More especially is it
considered, in seafaring communities, impolite to make inquiry into your
neighbour's misfortune. If a man have the ill luck to lose his ship, he
may well go through the rest of his life without hearing the mention of
her name. It was understood in Farlingford that Loo Barebone had resigned
his post on "The Last Hope" in order to claim a heritage in France. He
had returned home, and was living quietly at Maidens Grave Farm with Mrs.
Clubbe. It was, therefore, to be presumed that he had failed in his
quest. This was hardly a matter for surprise to such as had inherited
from their forefathers a profound distrust in Frenchmen.
The brief February days followed each other with that monotony, marked by
small events, that quickly lays the years aside. Loo lingered on, with a
vague indecision in his mind which increased as the weeks passed by and
the spell of the wide marsh-lands closed round his soul. He took up again
those studies which the necessity of earning a living had interrupted
years before, and Septimus Marvin, who had never left off seeking, opened
new historical gardens to him and bade him come in and dig.
Nearly every morning Loo went to the rectory to look up an obscure
reference or elucidate an uncertain period. Nearly every evening, after
the rectory dinner, he returned the books he had borrowed, and lingered
until past Sep's bedtime to discuss the day's reading. Septimus Marvin,
with an enthusiasm which is the reward of the simple-hearted, led the way
down the paths of history while Loo and Miriam followed--the man with the
quick perception of his race, the woman with that instinctive and
untiring search for the human motive which can put heart into a printed
page of history.
Many a whole lifetime has slipped away in such occupations; for history,
already inexhaustible, grows in bulk day by day. Marvin was happier than
he had ever been, for a great absorption is one of Heaven's kindest
For Barebone, France and his quest there, the Marquis de Gemosac, Dormer
Colville, Juliette, lapsed into a sort of dream, while Farlingford
remained a quiet reality. Loo had not written to Dormer Colville. Captain
Clubbe was trading between Alexandria and Bristol. "The Last Hope" was
not to be expected in England before April. To communicate with Colville
would be to turn that past dream, not wholly pleasant, into a grim
reality. Loo therefore put off from day to day the evil moment. By nature
and by training he was a man of action. He tried to persuade himself that
he was made for a scholar and would be happy to pass the rest of his days
in the study of that history which had occupied Septimus Marvin's
thoughts during a whole lifetime.
Perhaps he was right. He might have been happy enough to pass his days
thus if life were unchanging; if Septimus Marvin should never age and
never die; if Miriam should be always there, with her light touch on the
deeper thoughts, her half-French way of understanding the unspoken, with
her steady friendship which might change, some day, into something else.
This was, of course, inconsistent. Love itself is the most inconsistent
of all human dreams; for it would have some things change and others
remain ever as they are. Whereas nothing stays unchanged for a single
day: love, least of all. For it must go forward or back.
"See!" cried Septimus Marvin, one evening, laying his hand on the open
book before him. "See how strong are racial things. Here are the Bourbons
for ever shutting their eyes to the obvious, for ever putting off the
evil moment, for ever temporising--from father to son, father to son;
generation after generation. Finally we come to Louis XVI. Read his
letters to the Comte d'Artois. They are the letters of a man who knows
the truth in his own heart and will not admit it even to himself."
"Yes," admitted Loo. "Yes--you are right. It is racial, one must
And he glanced at Miriam, who did not meet his eyes but looked at the
open page, with a smile on her lips half sad, wholly tolerant.
Next morning, Loo thought, he would write to Dormer Colville. But the
following evening came, and he had not done so. He went, as usual, to the
rectory, where the same kind welcome awaited him. Miriam knew that he had
not written. Like him, she knew that an end of some sort must soon come.
And the end came an hour later.
Some day, Barebone knew, Dormer Colville would arrive. Every morning he
half looked for him on the sea-wall, between "The Black Sailor" and the
rectory garden. Any evening, he was well aware, the smiling face might
greet him in the lamp-lit drawing-room.
Sep had gone to bed earlier that night. The rector was reading aloud an
endless collection of letters, from which the careful student could
scarcely fail to gather side-lights on history. Both Miriam and Loo heard
the clang of the iron gate on the sea-wall.
A minute or two later the old dog, who lived mysteriously in the back
premises, barked, and presently the servant announced that a gentleman
was desirous of speaking to the rector. There were not many gentlemen
within a day's walk of the rectory. Some one must have put up at "The
Black Sailor." Theoretically, the rector was at the call of any of his
parishioners at all moments; but in practice the people of Farlingford
never sought his help.
"A gentleman," said Marvin, vaguely; "well, let him come in, Sarah."
Miriam and Barebone sat silently looking at the door. But the man who
appeared there was not Dormer Colville. It was John Turner.
He evinced no surprise on seeing Barebone, but shook hands with him with
a little nod of the head, which somehow indicated that they had business
He accepted the chair brought forward by Marvin and warmed his hands at
the fire, in no hurry, it would appear, to state the reason for this
unceremonious call. After all, Marvin was his oldest friend and Miriam
his ward. Between old friends, explanations are often better omitted.
"It is many years," he said, at length, "since I heard their talk. They
speak with their tongues and their teeth, but not their lips."
"And their throats," put in Marvin, eagerly. "That is because they are of
Teuton descent. So different from the French, eh, Turner?"
Turner nodded a placid acquiescence. Then he turned, as far, it would
appear, as the thickness of his neck allowed, toward Barebone.
"Saw in a French paper," he said, "that the 'Petite Jeanne' had put in to
Lowestoft, to replace a dinghy lost at sea. So I put two and two
together. It is my business putting two and two together, and making five
of them when I can, but they generally make four. I thought I should find
Loo made no answer. He had only seen John Turner once in his life--for a
short hour, in a room full of people, at Royan. The banker stared
straight in front of him for a few moments. Then he raised his sleepy
little eyes directly to Miriam's face. He heaved a sigh, and fell to
studying the burning logs again. And the colour slowly rose to Miriam's
cheeks. The banker, it seemed, was about his business again, in one of
those simple addition sums, which he sometimes solved correctly.
"To you," he said, after a moment's pause, with a glance in Loo's
direction, "to you, it must appear that I am interfering in what is not
my own business. You are wrong there."
He had clasped his hands across his abnormal waistcoat, and he half
closed his eyes as he blinked at the fire.
"I am a sort of intermediary angel," he went on, "between private persons
in France and their friends in England. Nothing to do with state affairs,
you understand, at least, very little. Many persons in England have
relations or property in France. French persons fall in love with people
on this side of the Channel, and vice versa. And, sooner or later, all
these persons, who are in trouble with their property or their
affections, come to me, because money is invariably at the bottom of the
trouble. Money is invariably at the bottom of all trouble. And I
He pursed up his lips and gazed somnolently at the fire.
"Ask anybody," he went on, dreamily, after a pause, "if that is not the
bare truth. Ask Colville, ask Mrs. St. Pierre Lawrence, ask Miriam
Liston, sitting here beside us, if I exaggerate the importance of--of
"Every one," admitted Barebone, cheerfully, "knows that you occupy a
great position in Paris."
Turner glanced at him and gave a thick chuckle in his throat.
"Thank you," he said. "Very decent of you. And that point being
established, I will explain further, that I am not here of my own free
will. I am only an agent. No man in his senses would come to Farlingford
in mid-winter unless--" he broke off, with a sharp sigh, and glanced down
at Miriam's slipper resting on the fender, "unless he was much younger
than I am. I came because I was paid to do it. Came to make you a
"To make me a proposition?" inquired Loo, as the identity of Turner's
hearers had become involved.
"Yes. And I should recommend you to give it your gravest consideration.
It is one of the most foolish propositions, from the proposer's point of
view, that I have ever had to make. I should blush to make it, if it were
any use blushing, but no one sees blushes on my cheeks now. Do not decide
in a hurry--sleep on it. I always sleep on a question."
He closed his eyes, and seemed about to compose himself to slumber then
"I am no longer young," he admitted, after a pause, "and therefore
propose to take one of the few alleviations allowed to advancing years
and an increasing avoirdupois. I am going to give you some advice. There
is only one thing worth having in this life, and that is happiness. Even
the possibility of it is worth all other possibilities put together. If a
man have a chance of grasping happiness--I mean a home and the wife he
wants.... and all that--he is wise to throw all other chances to the
wind. Such, for instance, as the chance of greatness, of fame or wealth,
of gratified vanity or satisfied ambition."
He had spoken slowly, and at last he ceased speaking, as if overcome by a
growing drowsiness. A queer silence followed this singular man's words.
Barebone had not resumed his seat. He was standing by the mantelpiece, as
he often did, being quick and eager when interested, and not content to
sit still and express himself calmly in words, but must needs emphasise
his meaning by gestures and a hundred quick movements of the head.
"Go on," he said. "Let us have the proposition."
"And no more advice?"
Loo glanced at Miriam. He could see all three faces where he stood, but
only by the light of the fire. Miriam was nearest to the hearth. He could
see that her eyes were aglow--possibly with anger.
Barebone shrugged his shoulders.
"You are not an agent--you are an advocate," he said.
Turner raised his eyes with the patience of a slumbering animal that has
"Yes," he said--"your advocate. There is one more chance I should advise
any man to shun--to cast to the four winds, and hold on only to that
tangible possibility of happiness in the present--it is the chance of
enjoying, in some dim and distant future, the satisfaction of having, in
a half-forgotten past, done one's duty. One's first duty is to secure, by
all legitimate means, one's own happiness."
"What is the proposition?" interrupted Barebone, quickly; and Turner,
beneath his heavy lids, had caught in the passing the glance from
Miriam's eyes, for which possibly both he and Loo Barebone had been
"Fifty thousand pounds," replied the banker, bluntly, "in first-class
English securities, in return for a written undertaking on your part to
relinquish all claim to any heritage to which you may think yourself
entitled in France. You will need to give your word of honour never to
set foot on French soil--and that is all."
"I never, until this moment," replied Barebone, "knew the value of my own
"Yes," said Turner, quietly; "that is the obvious retort. And having
made it, you can now give a few minutes' calm reflection to my
proposition--say five minutes, until that clock strikes half-past
nine--and then I am ready to answer any questions you may wish to ask."
Barebone laughed good-humouredly, and so far fell in with the suggestion
that he leant his elbow on the corner of the mantelpiece, and looked at
IN THE DARK
Had John Turner been able to see round the curve of his own vast cheeks
he might have perceived the answer to his proposition lurking in a little
contemptuous smile at the corner of Miriam's closed lips. Loo saw it
there, and turned again to the contemplation of the clock on the
mantelpiece which had already given a preliminary click.
Thus they waited until the minutes should elapse, and Turner, with a
smile of simple pleasure at their ready acquiescence in his suggestion,
probably reflected behind his vacuous face that silence rarely implies
When at last the clock struck, Loo turned to him with a laugh and a shake
of the head as if the refusal were so self-evident that to put it into
words were a work of supererogation.
"Who makes the offer?" he asked.
Turner smiled on him with visible approbation as upon a quick and worthy
foe who fought a capable fight with weapons above the board.
"No matter--since you are disposed to refuse. The money is in my hands,
as is the offer. Both are good. Both will hold good till to-morrow
Septimus Marvin gave a little exclamation of approval. He had been
sitting by the table looking from one to the other over his spectacles
with the eager smile of the listener who understands very little, and
while wishing that he understood more, is eager to put in a word of
approval or disapprobation on safe and general lines. It was quite
obvious to John Turner, who had entered the room in ignorance on this
point, that Marvin knew nothing of Barebone's heritage in France while
Miriam knew all.
"There is one point," he said, "which is perhaps scarcely worth
mentioning. The man who makes the offer is not _only the most
unscrupulous_, but is likely to become one of the most powerful men in
Eur--men I know. There is a reverse side to the medal. There always is a
reverse side to the good things of this world. Should you refuse his
ridiculously generous offer you will make an enemy for life--one who is
nearing that point where men stop at nothing."
Turner glanced at Miriam again. Her clean-cut features had a stony
stillness and her eyes looked obstinately at the clock. The banker moved
in his chair as if suddenly conscious that it was time to go.
"Do not," he said to Barebone, "be misled or mislead yourself into a
false estimate of the strength of your own case. The offer I make you
does not in any way indicate that you are in a strong position. It merely
shows the indolence of a man naturally open-handed, who would always
rather pay than fight."
"Especially if the money is not his own."
"Yes," admitted Turner, stolidly, "that is so. Especially if the money is
not his own. I dare say you know the weakness of your own case: others
know it too. A portrait is not much to go on. Portraits are so easily
copied; so easily changed."
He rose as he spoke and shook hands with Marvin.
Then he turned to Miriam, but he did not meet her glance. Last of all he
shook hands with Barebone.
"Sleep on it," he said. "Nothing like sleeping on a question. I am
staying at 'The Black Sailor.' See you tomorrow."
He had come, had transacted his business and gone, all in less than an
hour, with an extraordinary leisureliness almost amounting to indolence.
He had lounged into the house, and now he departed without haste or
explanation. Never hurry, never explain, was the text upon which John
Turner seemed to base the sleepy discourse of his life. For each of us is
a living sermon to his fellows, and, it is to be feared, the majority are
Turner had dragged on his thick overcoat, not without Loo's assistance,
and, with the collar turned up about his ears, he went out into the
night, leaving the three persons whom he had found in the drawing-room
standing in the hall looking at the door which he closed decisively
behind him. "Seize your happiness while you can," he had urged. "If
not--" and the decisive closing of a door on his departing heel said the
The clocks struck ten. It was not worth while going back to the
drawing-room. All Farlingford was abed in those days by nine o'clock.
Barebone took his coat and prepared to follow Turner. Miriam was already
lighting her bedroom candle. She bade the two men good night and went
slowly upstairs. As she reached her own room she heard the front door
closed behind Loo and the rattle of the chain under the uncertain fingers
of Septimus Marvin. The sound of it was like the clink of that other
chain by which Barebone had made fast his boat to the tottering post on
Miriam's room was at the front of the house, and its square Georgian
windows faced eastward across the river to the narrow spit of marsh-land
and the open sea beyond it. A crescent of moon far gone on the wane,
yellow and forlorn, was rising from the sea. An uncertain path of light
lay across the face of the far-off tide-way--broken by a narrow strip of
darkness and renewed again close at hand across the wide river almost to
the sea-wall beneath the window. From this window no house could be seen
by day--nothing but a vast expanse of water and land hardly less level
and unbroken. No light was visible on sea or land now, nothing but the
waning moon in a cold clear sky.
Miriam threw herself, all dressed, on her bed with the abandonment of one
who is worn out by some great effort, and buried her face in the pillow.
Barebone's way lay to the left along the river-wall by the side of the
creek. Turner had gone to the right, taking the path that led down the
river to the old quay and the village. Whereas Barebone must turn his
back on Farlingford to reach the farm which still crouches behind a
shelter of twisted oaks and still bears the name of Maiden's Grave;
though the name is now nothing but a word. For no one knows who the
maiden was, or where her grave, or what brought her to it.
The crescent moon gave little light, but Loo knew his way beneath the
stunted cedars and through the barricade of ilex drawn round the rectory
on the northern side. His eyes, trained to darkness, saw the shadowy form
of a man awaiting him beneath the cedars almost as soon as the door was
He went toward him, perceiving with a sudden misgiving that it was not
John Turner. A momentary silhouette against the northern sky showed that
it was Colville, come at last.
"Quick--this way!" he whispered, and taking Barebone's arm he led him
through the bushes. He halted in a little open space between the ilex and
the river-wall, which is fifteen feet high at the meeting of the creek
and the larger stream. "There are three men, who are not Farlingford men,
on the outer side of the sea-wall below the rectory landing. Turner must
have placed them there. I'll be even with him yet. There is a large
fishing-smack lying at anchor inside the Ness--just across the marsh. It
is the 'Petite Jeanne.' I found this out while you were in there. I could
hear your voices."
"Could you hear what he said?"
"No," answered Colville, with a sudden return to his old manner, easy and
sympathetic. "No--this is no time for joking, I can tell you that. You
have had a narrow escape, I assure you, Barebone. That man, the Captain
of the 'Petite Jeanne,' is well known. There are plenty of people in
France who want to get quietly rid of some family encumbrance--a man in
the way, you understand, a son too many, a husband too much, a stepson
who will inherit--the world is full of superfluities. Well, the Captain
of the 'Petite Jeanne' will take them a voyage for their health to the
Iceland fisheries. They are so far and so remote--the Iceland fisheries.
The climate is bad and accidents happen. And if the 'Petite Jeanne'
returns short-handed, as she often does, the other boats do the same. It
is only a question of a few entries in the custom-house books at Fecamp.
Do you see?"
"Yes," admitted Barebone, thoughtfully. "I see."
"I suppose it suggested itself to you when you were on board, and that is
why you took the first chance of escape."
"Well, hardly; but I escaped, so it does not matter."
"No." acquiesced Colville. "It doesn't matter. But how are we to get out
of this? They are waiting for us under the sea-wall. Is there a way
across the marsh?"
"Yes--I know a way. But where do you want to go to-night?"
"Out of this," whispered Colville, eagerly. "Out of Farlingford and
Suffolk before the morning if we can. I tell you there is a French
gunboat at Harwich, and another in the North Sea. It may be chance and it
may not. But I suspect there is a warrant out against you. And, failing
that, there is the 'Petite Jeanne' hanging about waiting to kidnap you a
second time. And Turner's at the bottom of it, damn him!"
Again Dormer Colville allowed a glimpse to appear of another man quite
different from the easy, indolent man-of-the-world, the well-dressed
adventurer of a day when adventure was mostly sought in drawing-rooms,
when scented and curled dandies were made or marred by women. For a
moment Colville was roused to anger and seemed capable of manly action.
But in an instant the humour passed and he shrugged his shoulders and
gave a short, indifferent laugh beneath his breath.
"Come," he said, "lead the way and I will follow. I have been out here
since eight o'clock and it is deucedly cold. I followed Turner from
Paris, for I knew he was on your scent. Once across the marsh we can talk
without fear as we go along."
Barebone obeyed mechanically, leading the way through the bushes to the
kitchen-garden and over an iron fencing on to the open marsh. This
stretched inland for two miles without a hedge or other fence but the
sunken dykes which intersected it across and across. Any knowing his way
could save two miles on the longer way by the only road connecting
Farlingford with the mainland and tapping the great road that runs north
and south a few miles inland.
There was no path, for few ever passed this way. By day, a solitary
shepherd watched his flocks here. By night the marsh was deserted. Across
some of the dykes a plank is thrown, the whereabouts of which is
indicated by a post, waist-high, driven into the ground, easily enough
seen by day, but hard to find after dark. Not all the dykes have a plank,
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