The Inn at the Red Oak
by Latta Griswold
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"A thousand thanks, Monsieur le Marquis," murmured Mrs. Frost, "how much pleasure you give us!"

They all rose then, as the Marquis smiled his appreciation and withdrew.

"Give me your arm, Dan," the old lady said. "It must be past my bedtime. Come, Nancy."

"Yes, mother." The girl rose wearily, stopping a moment at the mantelpiece to snuff the candles there. Tom seized his opportunity, and was by her side. She started, as she realized him near her.

"Nance, Nance, I must have a word with you," he exclaimed in a tense whisper, "don't go!"

"Nance, come," called Mrs. Frost from the hall.

"Yes, Mother, I am coming ... I must go, Tom. Don't delay me. You know how Mother is ..."

"What difference will it make if you wait a moment? Good Lord! Nance, I have been trying all evening to get a word with you, and you have not so much as given me a glance. Don't go—please don't go! Oh, Nancy dear,—I love you so!"

He seized her hands and kissed them passionately. "Nance, Nance ... please ..." His arms were about her.

"Tom, you make it so hard ... Remember, you promised me ... No word of love until I can think, until I have time to know ... Please, Tom, let me go."

"I can't let you go. Oh sweetheart dear."

"Tom, we musn't—Dan, Mother! ..."

Unheeding her protest, he put his arms around her. An instant he felt her yield, then quickly thrusting him aside, she ran from the room, leaving him standing alone there, trembling with excitement, chagrin, happiness, alarm.

In a moment his friend returned and Tom pulled himself together. "Come on," said Dan, "I have a lot to tell you."

"Did you find anything this afternoon?" exclaimed Pembroke.

"Sh! for heaven's sake be careful. Don't talk here. Let's go upstairs."

A few minutes later they were closeted in Dan's chamber. The curtains were tightly drawn and a heavy quilt was hung over the door. Good Lord! thought Tom, could it be possible that these precautions in part at least were taken against Nancy. The world seemed to have turned upside down for him in the last twenty-four hours.

"Aren't we going to keep watch to-night?" he asked.

"Yes, but later. They are just getting to bed—or pretending to. Look here, this may throw light on the mystery. I found this paper in a secret cubby-hole in the old cabinet in the Oak Parlour. Draw a chair up to the table so that you can see."

"The cabinet," he continued, as he took the paper out of his strong-box and began to unfold it, "was brought from some old manor house in England. It has four little secret cubby-holes, opened by hidden springs, that Mother says were probably used by the Roman Catholics to hide pages of their mass-books during the days of persecution. She remembered fortunately a little about them. They were all empty but one, and in that I found this torn scrap of paper."

He handed the yellowed bit of writing to Tom, who flattened it out on the table before him.

"Why it's written in French," Pembroke exclaimed, as he bent over to examine it.

"Yes, I know it is," said Dan. "I can't make head or tail of it. Besides it seems to be only a part of a note or letter. I could hardly wait to give you a chance at it. You can make something of it, can't you?"

"I don't know—I guess I can. It's hard to read the handwriting. The thing's torn in two—haven't you the rest of it?"

"No, I tell you; that's all I could find; that's all, I am sure, that can be in the cabinet now. My theory is that the old marquis has somehow come across the other half and is still looking for this. God only knows who hid it there.

"How the deuce could the Marquis know about it. Ah! look—it's signed somebody, something de Boisdhyver—'ancois—that's short for Francois, I guess. Evidently 't wasn't the Marquis himself. Wonder what it means?"

For goodness' sake, try to read it."

"Wait. Get that old French dictionary out of the bookcase downstairs, will you? I'll see if I can translate."

Dan crept softly out, leaving Tom bent over the paper. Again he smoothed it out carefully on the table, bringing the two candles nearer, and tried to puzzle out the faint fine handwriting.

"I can make out some of it," he remarked to Dan, when his friend returned with the dictionary. "Let me have that thing; there are a few words I don't know at all, but I'll write out as good a translation as I can."

While Tom was busy with the dictionary, Dan placed writing materials to his hand, and sat down to wait as patiently as he could. His curiosity was intensified by Pembroke's occasional exclamations and the absorption with which he bent over the task.

"There!" Tom exclaimed after half-an-hour's labour, "that's the best I can do with it. You see the original note was evidently torn into two or three strips and we have only got the righthand one, so we don't get a single complete sentence—, but what we have is mighty suggestive. Listen—This is what it says: Make great efforts ... gap ... glorious, I am about to leave' ... gap ... 'to offer my' ... gap ... 'that I should not return' ... gap ... 'directions' ... gap ... 'this paper which I tear' ... gap ... 'the explanation' ... something missing ... 'to discover' ... that's the end of a sentence. The next one begins, 'This treasure' ... than another gap ... 'jewels and money' ... 'secret chamber' ... 'one can enter' ... something gone here ... 'by the salon de chene'—that's the Oak Parlour, I suppose ... something missing again ... 'by a spring' ... 'hand of the lady in the picture' ... 'chimney on the north side of the' ... 'side a panel which reveals' ... 'one will find the directions' ... more missing ... 'of the treasure in a golden chest' ... That's the end of it. And, as I said before it is signed,—'ancois de Boisdhyver.' There, you can read it. That's the best I can make of it."

Dan bent over his friend's translation. "Whoever wrote it was about to leave here to offer something to somebody, and if he did not return, apparently he is giving directions, in this paper, which he tears in to two or three parts, how to discover—a treasure?—jewels and money, I guess,—that he is about to hide or has hidden in a secret chamber, which is entered in some way from the Oak Parlour—? ... pushes a spring,—Something to do with the hand of the lady in the picture, near the chimney on the north side of the room ... then a panel which reveals ...where? ... the directions will be found, for getting the treasure, in a golden chest in the secret chamber? How's that for a version? I reckon the other half doesn't tell as much ...'ancois de Boisdhyver!—That can't be the Marquis, for none of his names end 'ancois; do they? Let's see, what are they?—Marie, Anne, Timelon, Armand ... Tom,"—and Dan faced his friend excitedly,—"that old devil is after treasure! Who the deuce is 'ancois de Boisdhyver, and how did he come to leave money in the Oak Parlour? Hanged if I believe there's any secret chamber! By gad, man, if I didn't hurt when I pinch myself, I'd think I was asleep and dreaming. What do you make of it?"

"Pretty much what you do. Somebody sometime,—a good many years ago, concealed some valuables here in the Inn. It must be some one who is connected with our marquis, for the last names are the same. These are directions, or half the directions, for finding it. The Marquis knows enough about it to have been hunting for this paper. Who the devil is the Marquis?"

"The Lord knows. But how does Nance come in?"

"Blamed if I can see; wish I could! This accounts for the Marquis's mysterious investigations, anyway. Probably he's no right to the paper. Maybe he isn't a Boisdhyver at all. I'll be damned if I can understand how he has got Nance to league with him."

"And now what the deuce are we going to do about it?" asked Dan.

"Hunt for the treasure ourselves, eh?"

"Well, why not? but to do that we've got to get rid of the Marquis. He'll be suspicious if we begin to poke about the north wing. Hanged if I wouldn't like to have it all out with him!"

"Yes, but we'd better think and talk it over before we decide to do anything. We can watch them. We'll watch to-night any way, and plan something definite to-morrow."

"I tell you one thing, Tom, I am going to make Mother tell me all she knows about Nancy. Perhaps she is mixed up in some way with all this. But it's time to keep watch now. We'll put out the candles and I'll watch for the first two hours. If you go to sleep, I'll wake you up to take the next turn. How about it?"

"Hang sleep!" Tom replied.

"All right, but we must blow out the light. Lucky it's clear. Let's whisper after this."

Tom threw himself on the bed, while Dan sat near the window and kept his eyes fixed on the door of the bowling-alley. They talked for some time in low tones, but eventually Tom fell asleep. Dan waked him at twelve for his vigil, and he in turn was wakened at two. During the third watch they both succumbed to weariness.

Tow awoke with a start about four, and sprang to the window. The moon was sinking low in the western sky, but its light still flooded the deserted courtyard beneath. He heard the patter of a horse's hoofs on the road beyond and the crunching of the snow beneath the runners of a sleigh. Well, he thought, as he rubbed his eyes, it was too near morning for anything to happen, so he turned in and was soon asleep, as though no difficult problems were puzzling his mind and heart and no mysteries were being enacted around him.



When Dan came downstairs in the morning Mrs. Frost called him to the door of her bedroom. "What on earth is the matter with Nancy?" she exclaimed; "I have been waiting for her the past hour. No one has been near me since Deborah came in to lay the fire. Call the girl Danny; I want to get up."

"All right, mother. She has probably overslept; she had a long walk yesterday."

"But that is no excuse for sleeping till this time of day. Tell her to hurry."

"It is only seven, mother."

"Yes, Danny, dear, but I mean to breakfast with you all this morning if I ever succeed in getting dressed."

Dan crossed the hall and knocked at Nancy's door. There was no response. He knocked again, then opened the door and looked within. Nancy was not there, and her bed had not been slept in.

He went back to his mother. "Nancy is not in her room," he said. "She has probably gone out for a walk. I'll go and look for her."

He went to the kitchens to enquire of the maids, but they had not seen their young mistress since the night before.

"Spec she's taken dem dogs a walkin'," said black Deborah unconcernedly. "Miss Nance she like de early morn' 'fore de sun come up."

Dan went out to the stables. The setters came rushing out, bounding and barking joyously about him.

"Have you seen Miss Nancy this morning, Jess?" he asked.

"No, Mister Dan, ain't seen her this mornin'. Be n't she in the house?"

"She doesn't seem to be. Take a look down the road, and call after her, will you? Down, Boy; down, Girl!" he cried to the dogs.

Dan began to be thoroughly alarmed. If Nancy had gone out, the dogs would certainly have followed her. She must be within!

He went back into the house, and searched room after room, but no trace of her was to be found. He returned at last to his mother's chamber.

"I can't find Nancy," he said. "She must have gone off somewhere."

"Gone off! why, she must have left very early then. I have been awake these two hours—since daylight—; I would have heard every sound."

"Well, she isn't about now, Mother. She will be back by breakfast time, I don't doubt. Just stay abed this morning, I will send her to you as soon as she comes."

"I shall have to, I suppose. Really, Dan, it is extraordinary how neglectful of me that child can sometimes be. She knew—"

"Mother, don't find fault with her. She is devoted to you, and you know it."

"I daresay she is. Of course she is, and I am devoted to her. Where would she be, I wonder, if it hadn't been for me? Good heavens! Dan, can anything have happened to her?"

"No, no—of course not,—nothing."

"Search the house, boy; she may be lying some place in a faint. She isn't strong—I have always been worried—"

"Don't get excited, Mother. We will wait until breakfast time. If she doesn't turn up then, you may be sure I shall find her."

He looked at his watch. It was already nearly eight o'clock, so he decided to say nothing to Pembroke until after breakfast. He found the Marquis and Tom chatting before the fire in the bar.

"Shall we have breakfast?" said Dan. "Mother will not be in this morning."

"Ah!" exclaimed the Marquis, as they took their seats at table, "that is a disappointment. And shall we not wait for Mademoiselle Nancy?"

"My sister has stepped out, monsieur; she may be late. Shall I give you some coffee?"

"If you please—. We have another of these so beautiful days, eh? This so glorious weather, these moonlight nights, this snow—C'est merveilleux. Last night I sat myself for a long time in my window. Ah la nuit—the moon past its full, say you not?—the sea superbly dark, superbly blue, the wonderful white country! As I sat there, messieurs, a sight too beautiful greeted my eyes. A ship, with three great sails, appeared out on the sea and sailed as a bird up the river to our little cove, Voila, mes amis"—he waved his hand toward the eastern windows—"She is anchored at our feet."

The two young men looked in the direction in which the marquis pointed, and to their astonishment they saw, riding securely at her moorings in the cove, a large sailing vessel. She was a three-masted schooner of perhaps fifteen hundred tons, a larger ship than they had seen at anchor in the Strathsey for many a year.

"By all that's good!" exclaimed Tom, "that is exactly the sort of ship my father used to have in the West Indie trade, a dozen or fifteen years ago. What is she? I wonder; and why is she anchored here instead of in the Port?"

The Marquis shrugged his shoulders. "That I can tell you not, my friend; but I am happy that she is anchored there for the hours of beauty she has already given to me. On this strange coast of yours one so rarely sees a sail."

"No, they go too far to the south... But what is she?" asked Dan. "We must find out." He went to the cupboard, and got out his marine glass and took a long look at the stranger.

"What do you make her out?" asked Tom.

"There are men on deck, some swabbing out the roundhouse. One of them is lolling at the wheel. She flies the British flag."

"Do you, perhaps, make out the name?" asked the Marquis.

"I don't know—yes," Dan replied, twisting the lens to suit his eyes better and spelling out the letters, "S,O,U,T,H,E,R,N,C,R—the Southern Cross. By Jingo, Tom, we'll have to go down to the beach and have a look at her."

Tom took the glasses; turning them over presently to the Marquis. "She is a good fine boat, eh?" exclaimed M. de Boisdhyver, as he applied his eye to the end of the glass.

"She certainly is," said Dan.

They sat down at length and resumed their breakfast. The ship had diverted Tom's attention for the moment from the fact that Nancy had not appeared.

"Where is Nance, Dan?" he asked at length, striving to conceal his impatience.

"I don't know," Dan replied. "I think she has gone over to see Mrs. Meath and stayed for breakfast."

"Madame Meath—?" enquired the Marquis.

"At the House on the Dunes," Dan answered, a trifle sharply.

"A long walk for Mademoiselle on a cold morning," commented Monsieur Boisdhyver, as he sipped his coffee.

In a few moments Dan rose. "Going to the Port to-day, Tom?"

"Not till later, any way; I am going down to the beach to have a look at that ship."

"Wait a little, and I'll go with you," He turned to the door and motioned Tom to follow him.

Outside he took his friend's arm and drew him close. "Tom, something's up; Nancy's not here."

"Nancy's not here;" exclaimed Pembroke. "What do you mean? Where is she?"

"To tell the truth, I don't know where she is; her bed has not been slept in. I thought at first she had gone for a walk with the dogs as she does sometimes, but Boy and Girl are both in the barn. It's half-past eight now, and she ought to be back,"

"Good Lord! man, have you searched the house?"

"I've been over it from garret to cellar."

"And you can't find her?"

"Not a sign of her."

"Have you been through the north wing?"

"Yes, all over it. I have been in every room in the house, boy. Nance isn't there. You heard nothing in the night, did you?"


"When did you go to sleep?"

"Perhaps about half-past three. Come to think of it, I awoke at four with a start, for I heard a sleigh on the Port Road. After that I went to bed."

"The sleigh hadn't been at the Inn?"

"It couldn't have been—I'd have heard of it if it had; you see it woke me up just going along the road."

"I don't suppose we need worry. But it is queer—none of the servants have seen her since last night."

"My God, what can have happened to her?" cried Tom.

"Sh, boy! We have nothing to go on, but I wager that old French devil knows more than he will tell."

"Then, we'll choke it out of him."

"No, no, don't be a fool! She may be back any minute. I'll get the sleigh and go over to the House on the Dunes. In the meanwhile don't show that you are anxious! I'll be back inside of an hour, and we can have a look at the ship. If Nance isn't with Mrs. Meath, why I am sure I'll find her here. Let's not worry till we have to."

Tom assented to this proposition somewhat unwillingly. Despite his friend's reassuring words, he did not feel that Nancy would be found at the House on the Dunes or that she would immediately return. He remembered her telling him of her desire to go away. He remembered how strangely she had received the declaration of his love, and he feared almost as much that she had fled from him, as that the Marquis, weird and evil as he began to think him, had any hand in her disappearance.

After Dan's departure in the sleigh, Tom wandered about restlessly. When half an hour passed and Frost did not return, he went out to look down the road and see if he were coming. The white open country was still and empty, and the only sign of life was the great three-masted ship riding at anchor in the cove, with seamen lolling about her deck.

As Tom stood under the Red Oak, the Marquis stepped out of the front door. He was wrapped in his great coat, about to take his morning walk up and down the gallery.

"Why so pensive, Monsieur Pembroke? Is it that you are moved by the beauty of the scene—, the land so white, the sea so blue, and the Southern Cross shining as it were in a northern sky!"

Tom grunted a scarcely civil reply, and turning away to avoid further conversation, strolled down the avenue of maples toward the road.

Monsieur de Boisdhyver raised his eyebrows slightly, and began his walk. By and by, still more impatient, Pembroke walked back toward the house. If Dan did not return soon, he determined he would go after him. As he came up to the gallery again the Marquis paused and spoke to him. "And Mademoiselle, she has not returned?" he asked.

"No!" Pembroke replied sharply. "She has gone to the House on the Dunes and her brother has driven over to fetch her."

"Ah! pardon," exclaimed Monsieur de Boisdhyver; "I did not know... But it is cold for me, Monsieur Pembroke; I seek the fire."

Tom did not reply. The Marquis went inside, and presently Tom could see him standing at the window, the marine glass in his hands, sweeping the countryside.

Pembroke passed an anxious morning. Ten o'clock came; half-past; eleven struck. Nancy had not appeared, or was there a sign of Dan. Unable to be patient longer, he set out on the Port Road to meet his friend.



The smoke was curling from the chimneys of the House on the Dunes as Dan drove up the long marsh road from the beach. He had half convinced himself that Nancy would be there, and he hoped that she herself would answer his knock. When at length the door was opened it was not by Nancy nor by Mrs. Meath, but by a stranger whom he had never seen before.

"Yes?" a pleasant voice questioned, but giving an accent to the monosyllable that made Dan think instantly of France.

He found himself facing a charming woman, her bright blue eyes looking into his with a smile that instantly attracted him. She was well-dressed, with a different air from the women he knew. And she was undeniably pretty—of that Dan was convinced, and the conviction overwhelmed him with shyness. He stood awkward and ill-at-ease; for the moment forgetting his errand. "I suppose," he stammered, "—I beg your pardon—but I suppose you are Mrs. Heath's new boarder,—Mrs. Fountain?"

"Yes," replied the strange lady with an amused smile, "that is what I imagine that I am called. My name is Madame de La Fontaine. And you—?"

"I?—Oh, yes—of course—I am Dan Frost from the Inn over yonder. I came to see Mrs. Meath to ask if my sister Nancy is here."

"Alas!" replied Madame de La Fontaine, "poor Mrs. Meath she this morning is quite unwell. She is in her room, so that I am afraid you cannot see her. But, I may tell you, there is no one else here, just myself and my servants."

"You have not seen or heard anything then of my sister, Nancy Frost?" repeated Dan.

"Nancy Frost?—your sister?—No, monsieur. I am arrived only last night and have seen no one."

"I had hoped my sister would be here. I am sorry about Mrs. Meath; perhaps I can be of some service. If you should need me at any time, I can almost always be found at the Inn at the Red Oak."

"The Inn at the Red Oak?" repeated Madame de La Fontaine, "and is that near by?"

"It is about a mile and a half by the road," Frost replied, "but you can see it plainly from the doorstep here."

The foreign lady stepped out in the crisp February air. "Can you point it out to me? I may need your assistance some time."

"You see the woods and the oak at the edge of them," said Dan, pointing across the Dunes. "That great tree is the Red Oak, the rambling old building beneath it is the Inn."

"Ah! one can see quite plainly from one house to the other, is it not so?"

"Quite," Dan replied.

"Thank you, monsieur. I trust there will be no need for assistance. But it makes one glad to know where are neighbours, especially—" she added, "while poor Mrs. Meath is ill."

As she spoke she turned to the door with the air of dismissing him, but on second thoughts she faced him again. "I wonder, Mr. Frost, will you do me a favour?"

"I shall be delighted," Dan exclaimed.

"My luggage arrived last night," said Madame de La Fontaine, "upon the ship that is at anchor in the bay. They are to bring my boxes ashore. But before that I desire to give directions to the captain at the beach, and I cannot well do so by my servant. Will you be kind enough to walk with me and show me the way?"

Dan forgot about Nancy in his eagerness to assure this unusually attractive lady that he was at her disposal. She disappeared within, and he heard her give some quick, sharp directions in French to a maid. Then in a moment she reappeared on the little porch, bonneted and wrapped for a walk in the cold.

As they set out across the Dunes, she kept up a rapid fire of questions that might have seemed inquisitive to one more accustomed to the world than Dan. He found himself in the course of that quarter of an hour talking quite freely with the charming stranger.

"No, I did not make the journey from France in the Southern Cross," she replied to one of his interrogations, "that would have been uncomfortable, I fear. But she brings over my boxes. She is arrived somewhat sooner than I was promised."

"Do you expect to signal her from the beach?"

"But yes."

"How will they know who you are?"

"Oh, they have instructions. You must think all this curious!" she commented with a smile. "You must think me an odd person."

The possible oddness of Madame de La Fontaine made less impression upon Dan than did her charm. He was conversing easily with a very lovely woman, and all else was forgotten in that agreeable sensation.

As they emerged from the Dunes upon the little beach of the Cove, Dan observed on the deck of the Southern Cross a sailor watching them through a glass. Madame de La Fontaine drew her handkerchief from beneath her cloak and waved it toward the ship.

"This is the signal," she explained, "that they were instructed to look out for. If I am not mistaken Captain Bonhomme will come to the shore for my directions. You speak French, monsieur?"

"Not at all," Dan replied.

"Ah!" sighed the lady, "you lose a great deal."

"I might have learned some this winter," said Dan; "for we have had a French gentleman as our guest at the Inn."

"Indeed! And who, may I ask, is your French gentleman?"

"His name is the Marquis de Boisdhyver. Do you, by any chance, know him?"

"The Marquis de Boisdhyver?" repeated Madame de La Fontaine. "I know the name certainly; it is an old family with us, monsieur. But I do not recall that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting any one who bore it... But see! they are lowering the boat."

They were now at the edge of the surf. Madame de La Fontaine again waved a hand in the direction of the clipper. Dan saw a small boat alongside her, into which several sailors and an officer, as it seemed, were clambering over the rail. They pushed off, and began to row vigorously for the shore.

The French lady stood watching them intently. Within a few moments the little boat was beached, the officer sprang out, advanced to Madame de La Fontaine, and saluted. She exchanged sentences with him in French of which Dan understood nothing. Then the seaman touched his cap, got into his small boat, and gave orders to push off.

"He understands no English," remarked Madame de La Fontaine. "I gave directions about my boxes. We may return now, monsieur; or doubtless I am able to find my way back alone."

"Oh no," exclaimed Dan gallantly, "I will go with you."

The lady smiled graciously. As they walked back across the Dunes, she kept up a lively conversation, no longer asking him questions, nor, he observed, giving him the opportunity to ask any.

At the door of the House on the Dunes she dismissed him finally. "I am but too grateful, Monsieur, for your kindness. I hope that we shall meet again while I dwell in your beautiful country. In the meantime, I trust you will find your sister."

Dan flushed, how could he have forgotten Nancy! Taking the hand that his new acquaintance offered, he hurried away. He met Tom on the Port Road about half a mile from the Inn and was truly worried to find that Nancy had not returned; he explained briefly his own delay in his expedition with the strange lady to the beach.

"It is certainly odd, though perhaps not so odd as stupid, that they should have anchored in the Cove just to disembark one woman's boxes. It would have been much simpler to go to the Port, as every well-bred skipper does, and had the French woman's stuff carted out. At any rate, we'll go down this afternoon and have a look at her."

By the time they reached the Inn it was noon, and still there was no word of Nancy. The dinner was a silent one, as the Marquis tactfully did not disturb his companions' preoccupation, and Mrs. Frost, who was unusually nervous, did not appear.

After the meal the two young men started for the beach. At Tom's suggestion they got a little dory from the boathouse and rowed out to the clipper. The wind had shifted to the southeast, but still there was not enough of a sea to give them any trouble; and in a few minutes they were under the bows of The Southern Cross. Dan hailed a seaman who was leaning over the gunwale and watching them with idle curiosity. If the man replied in French, it was in a variety of that tongue that Tom's limited attainments did not understand, and, annoyed by the incomprehensible replies, he asked for "le captaine". At length,—possibly attracted by the altercation at the bows,—the authoritative-looking person who had come ashore in the morning in response to Madame de La Fontaine's signal, now appeared at the gunwale and glanced below at the two young men in the dory. His expression betrayed no sign that he recognized Frost. Indeed he vouchsafed no syllable of reply to the questions Dan asked in English or to those that Tom ventured to phrase in Dr. Watson's French.

He was not, they thought, an attractive person; his countenance was swarthy, his eyes were black his hair was black, his heavy jaw was shadowed by an enormous black mustachio. A kerchief of brilliant red tied about his throat gave him the appearance of the matador in a Spanish bullfight rather than the officer of an English merchantman. He glanced at the dory occasionally, shook his head silently in response to the requests to go aboard, and at length when that did not serve to put an end to them, he shrugged his shoulders and disappeared. The seaman continued to lean over the gunwale and spat nonchalantly as though that were the measure of their appreciation of this unasked-for visit.

"I move we skip up the rope," said Tom, "and explain ourselves at close quarters."

"Thanks, no," replied Dan. "Either of those two amiable gentlemen looks capable and willing of pitching us overboard. The water is too cold for bathing."

"Very well," said Tom, "I will yield to your sober judgment for the moment; but I propose to see the inside of that ship sooner or later unless she weighs anchor in the hour and sails away. But we ought to be getting to town to make enquiries about Nancy. For Heavens' sake, Dan, where do you suppose she can be?"

They rowed back to the beach, stowed the dory in the boathouse, and set out in the sleigh for Monday Port. Diligent enquiry there, in likely and unlikely places, proved fruitless. It was nightfall when they returned to the Inn.

They were greeted by the Marquis in the bar. "Mademoiselle Nancy, she has not been found?"

"No," said Dan. "I take it from your question that she has not come home yet either."

"She is not come, no. Perhaps she stays at the House on the Dunes?"

"I do not know," Dan answered tartly. "I expect her every moment, but it is idle to conceal from you, Monsieur, that we are much concerned as to her absence."

The Marquis grew sympathetic,—optimistically sympathetic. Tom clutched at his re-assuring words, but Dan was even more irritated by the silence that Monsieur de Boisdhyver had maintained throughout the day.

Directly after supper Dan went into his mother's parlour, leaving the others to their own devices. The Marquis settled himself near the fire and was soon absorbed in reading an old folio; Tom wandered restlessly about, now up and down the long bar, now in the corridors, now on the gallery and in the court without.

The night, after the bright day, had set in raw and cold; a damp breeze blew from the southwest, and gave promise both of wind and rain. From his position under the Red Oak, Tom could see the red and green lights of The Southern Cross at her moorings in the Cove below, and across the Neck the lighted windows of the House on the Dunes. Over all else the night had cast its black damp mantle.

As he stood watching, deeply anxious for the welfare of the girl he loved, he noticed a new light appear in one of the upper windows of the House on the Dunes—not yellow as is the light of candles, but green like the light on the port side of the clipper in the Cove. Had he not seen the lights from the other windows he could have thought it was another ship on the ocean side of the Neck.

He looked for a long time at the tiny spark in the distance, wondering what whim had induced Mrs. Meath to shade her candles with so deep a green. As he strolled back toward the Inn, he glanced through the windows of the bar where the Marquis still read by the fireside. Suddenly the old gentleman, as Tom curiously watched him, laid his book down on the table and rose from his chair. He looked about the room and then advanced to the window. Tom instinctively slipped behind the trunk of the great oak. Monsieur de Boisdhyver stood for several moments peering into the darkness. Then he turned away and crossed the room to the door into the front hall. It flashed through Tom's mind that possibly the Marquis had started on another of his mysterious tours. He ran down again into the court far enough from the house to command a view of the entire facade, and watched curiously, particularly the north wing. All was dark, save for the lights below.

Suddenly he saw the flicker of a candle in one of the windows, not of the north wing, but of the south. A moment's glance, and he made sure that it was the room occupied as a sleeping apartment by Monsieur de Boisdhyver.

The Marquis was standing by the window, with his face pressed close to the pane, peering out into the night. He still held the candle in his hand. To Dan's surprise, he placed it carefully on the broad window-sill, and drew down the dark shade to within a foot of the sill, blotting out all save a narrow band of light. Then the Marquis disappeared for several moments into the interior of the room. Dan was about to turn back into the house, when again Monsieur de Boisdhyver came to the window. He did not raise the shade, but inserted between the windowpane and the candle a strip of dark green paper. It was translucent and had the effect of sending a beam of green light southward, across the meadows and the dunes, to meet—Tom suddenly realized—the rays of the green light from the House on the Dunes.

Was it a signal being exchanged, and between whom? The coincidence of green lights from the Inn and the House on the Dunes, at the same moment, was too marked to be without significance. To what end was the Marquis de Boisdhyver exchanging mysterious signals with some one in that lonely farmhouse, and what did they mean?

Tom repressed his agitation and remained for some time watching the two green lights that glowed toward one another over the dark landscape.

Suddenly the light in the House on the Dunes was extinguished; then, momentarily it shone again, but quickly went out and left the great sweep of dunes in darkness. Two minutes later the same thing took place in the window of the south chamber of the Inn. The light flashed and was gone, flashed again and shone no more.

Tom went in, by a rear entrance, to the bar. The Marquis was seated by a table, absorbed in reading. He started as Tom entered. "Still no word of Mademoiselle?" he piped.

"Still no word, monsieur," Pembroke answered laconically. He also seated himself in the candle light and took up the last issue of the Port News.

"Do you know what has become of Dan?" Pembroke asked presently.

"Monsieur Frost he has been closeted with madame his mother for the past half-hour. You have no further plans for seeking Mademoiselle? For myself, I grow alarmed."

"I know nothing but what you know, monsieur. Nancy has not returned. There has been no word of her. We shall have to wait." With tremendous effort to conceal his agitation and annoyance, Tom resumed his reading.

Monsieur de Boisdhyver glanced at him for a moment with a little air of interrogation, then shrugged his shoulders slightly and turned again to his French paper.



After the long day of fruitless search and enquiry for the vanished Nancy, supper being over and Tom having gone outside, Dan joined his mother in the blue parlour.

Mrs. Frost was weary with waiting and anxiety, but as Dan threw himself on a couch near her chair, she watched him patiently.

"There is no clue, Dan?" she ventured at last.

"No clue, mother, not the slightest. Nancy seems to have vanished as completely as if she had dissolved into air. As you know, the house has been thoroughly searched; the servants carefully questioned; and enquiries have been made at every conceivable place in Monday Port. I have been to the House on the Dunes, and to the farmhouses on every road round about. No one has seen or heard of her. She has taken French leave, but for what reason I can't imagine."

"Nancy has not been happy for some time, Dan," said Mrs. Frost.

"No, I have fancied that she was not. But why? Do you suppose she has left us deliberately? or—". He paused uncertain whether or not to give voice to his suspicions.

"Or what?" asked his mother.

"Or she has been forced away against her will."

"Against her will!" the old lady exclaimed. "Who could have forced her? and for what reason? Do you think she may have been kidnapped?"

"Either kidnapped or decoyed away."

"But who could have designs upon Nancy? It is more reasonable to suppose that she left of her own accord. I confess that would not altogether surprise me."

"I don't know, mother, but I have my fears and suspicions. There may be some one who has a deep interest in Nancy, who for reasons of his own, which I don't yet understand, may wish to control her movements. I wish you would tell me all you know of Nancy's origin. You have never told me;—you have never told her, I fancy,—who she really is and how you came to adopt her as your own child. I have never been curious to know, in fact I have not wanted to know, for she has always been to me precisely what a sister of my own blood would be. But now, it may help me to understand certain strange things that have happened in the last few days."

For a moment Mrs. Frost was silent. "No, I have never spoken to you or to Nancy of her early history, Dan; simply because, to all intent she has been our own. I have always wished that she should feel absolutely one with us; and I think she always has, until this winter. But of late I have noticed her discontent, her growing restlessness, and I have sometimes wondered if she could be brooding over the mystery of her early years. But she has never asked me a direct question; and I have kept silent."

"I think now, mother," Dan replied, "it is your duty to tell me all you know."

"I have no reason, my dear, to keep anything from you. I should have told you years ago, if you had asked me. There is not much to tell. You may remember when you were a boy about six or seven years old, a French exile came to the Inn, a military gentleman, who had left France in consequence of the fall of the great Napoleon."

"Yes, I remember him distinctly," said Dan. "He used to tell stories to Tom and me of his adventures in the wars. Tom was speaking of him only the other day."

"Well," continued Mrs. Frost, "this gentleman called himself General Pointelle. I learned afterwards it was not his real name. Who he actually was, I have not the slightest idea. He brought with him a little girl two years old, a sweet little black-eyed girl, to whom I, having lost your only sister at about that age, took a great fancy. The General also had two servants with him, a valet, and a maid. The maid, a pretty young thing, took care of the child. They arrived in mid-summer, on a merchantman that plied between Marseilles and Monday Port. I do not know why General Pointelle came to this part of the country, or why he chose to stay at the Inn; at any rate he came, and he engaged for an indefinite period the best suite of apartments in the old north wing. He had the Oak Parlour—"

"The Oak Parlour!" exclaimed Dan.

"Yes," replied Mrs. Frost, "that was part of the suite reserved usually for our most distinguished guests. The general used that for a sitting-room and the adjoining chamber as a bed-room. The maid and child occupied connecting rooms across the hall. The valet, I believe, was in some other part of the house. General Pointelle proved himself a fascinating guest, and his little daughter Eloise was a favourite with all the household. The maid, pretty as she certainly was and apparently above her station, I somehow never trusted. I have always believed that the relations between the general and herself were not what they should have been. But Frenchmen look at such things differently, I am told; and it was not to our interests to be over-curious.

"They had been with us about two months when one fine morning we awoke to find that General Pointelle, his valet, and the charming Marie had disappeared, and little Eloise was crying alone in her big room. You have probably guessed the child was Nancy."

"Yes," Dan agreed, "but do you mean that the father actually abandoned her?"

"Practically. He left a note for me and a little bag of gold amounting to two thousand dollars to be used for the child. If you will hand me that old secretary there, I will show you the letter."

Dan placed the old-fashioned writing-desk on the table beside her, and waited anxiously while she fumbled in her pocket for the key. She unlocked the desk, and after searching a few moments amongst innumerable papers, drew out an old letter. This she unfolded carefully and handed to Dan. It was written in English, in a fine running hand. He read it attentively.

"The Inn at the Red Oak, Deal:

"14 October, '814.


"Political circumstances over which I have no control, patriotic considerations which I cannot withstand, demand my immediate return to France. In the conditions into which I am about to be plunged the care of my dear little daughter becomes an impossibility. Inhuman as it must seem to you, lacking in all sense of Christian duty as it must appear to you, I entrust, without the formality of consulting you, my beautiful little Eloise to your humane and tender care. With this letter I deposit with you the sum of two thousand dollars in gold, which will go a little way at least to compensate you for the burden I thus unceremoniously, but of necessity, thrust upon you. I appeal to and confide in the goodness of your heart, of which already I have such abundant testimony, that will take pity upon the misfortune of a helpless infant and an equally helpless parent. May you be a mother to the motherless, and may the Heavenly Father bless you for what you shall do.

"I embark, madame, upon a dangerous and uncertain mission. Should that mission prove successful and restore the fortunes of my house, I will return and claim my daughter. Should fate overwhelm me with disaster, I must beg that you will continue to regard her and love her as your own. The issue will have been decided within five years. Permit me to add but one thing more,—in the event that I fall in the cause I have embraced, I have made arrangements whereby communications shall be established with you, madame, that will redound to your own good fortune and that of the little Eloise.

"All effort to thwart my plans or to establish my identity in the meantime, will, I must warn you, be fruitless.

"Adieu, madame: accept the assurance of my gratitude for all that you have already done to sweeten exile and of my earnest prayer for the blessing of God upon your great good heart.

"I remain, madame, for the present, but always, under whatever name,

"Your grateful and sincere servant,


As Dan, with gathering brows, concluded the reading of this extraordinary letter, Mrs. Frost resumed her story.

"We always imagined that the general and his companions had sailed in a French vessel that lay at that time in the Passage and left that morning at dawn. There was nothing to do but adopt little Eloise Pointelle for my own. I changed her name, at your father's suggestion, to Nancy Frost; knowing that Pointelle was not the general's real name. For five years we looked to see our guest return; and afterwards for years, we hoped to receive some communication that would prove, as he promised, of advantage to Nancy and ourselves. But from the night General Pointelle left our house to this day, I have not heard one word to show that he still existed or, indeed, that he ever had existed. We brought Nancy up as our own daughter, though, never concealing from her the fact that she was not of our blood. Indeed, Dan, I have loved her dearly."

"Certainly, you have always treated her with the greatest kindness. But this is quite extraordinary, Mother. I think it will throw light on Nancy's present disappearance."

"Do you think the father is alive, Dan? that he has communicated with her?"

"Not that, mother; I am really in the dark. But I believe that the Marquis de Boisdhyver has some connection with your General Pointelle, and that his stay with us this winter has something to do with Nancy."

In response to Mrs. Frost's questions, he told of the meetings of Nancy and the marquis, but decided to say nothing about the paper that he had found in the Oak Parlour.

"I want you to be careful, Mother, to give no hint to the Marquis that we suspect him in any way. Tom and I are trying to solve the mystery, and secrecy is of the greatest importance. It is a more complicated business than we imagined. I must go now and find Tom. May I keep this letter?"

"Yes, but keep it under lock and key. I have guarded it for sixteen years; and it is the only evidence I possess of Nancy's origin."

Dan returned to the bar, where he found the Marquis and Tom still reading their papers.

"Ah!" exclaimed Monsieur de Boisdhyver, "I trust, Monsieur Frost, you bring us the good news at last of the return of Mademoiselle."

"Unfortunately, I do not, monsieur," Dan replied. "Our efforts to find out what has become of her have been entirely unsuccessful. I am very anxious, as you may imagine."

"And to what mishap do you attribute Mademoiselle's so unceremonious departure?"

"I do not attribute it to any mishap," replied Dan. "I think that my sister has gone off on a visit to some friends, and that her messages to us have been miscarried. I feel certain that to-morrow we will be completely reassured."

"Ah! I hope so with all my heart," exclaimed the Marquis fervently. "It is a matter of deep distress to me—monsieur. But if—to-morrow passes and still you do not hear—?"

"God knows, sir. We must do everything to find her."

"We shall find her," cried Tom, as he sprang to his feet, unable longer to repress his anxiety or his irritation. "And if we do not find her safe and well, woe to the man who has harmed her."

"Bravo!" cried the Marquis. "Permit me to adopt those words to express my own sentiments. I applaud this determination, monsieur, de tout mon coeur."

Tom glared at the little old man with an expression of illconcealed rage. He was about to blurt out some angry reply, when a warning gesture from Dan checked him. Without speaking, he flung himself out of the room.

"Poor Tom!" said Dan quickly, to cover Pembroke's attitude toward the Marquis, "this takes him especially hard. He is in love with Nancy."

"Eh bien! I sympathize with his good taste. It is that that accounts for his vigour of his expressions, so much more emphatique than our good host."

"More emphatic, perhaps," said Dan, "though I do not feel less strongly."

The Marquis made a little bow, as he rose to retire. "If, chance, monsieur could require my assistance—"

"Thank you," said Dan quickly. "In that case, sir, I shall be only too happy to call upon you." He rose also, and courteously held the candle till the Marquis had reached the top of the stairs.

Tom waited his friend impatiently in their common chamber. And when at last, having closed the house for the night, Dan joined him, he told at once of the signals which he supposed had been exchanged between the Marquis at the Inn and someone at the House on the Dunes. In return Dan repeated what he had learned about Nancy from Mrs. Frost.

"There is no doubt in my mind," said Dan, "that the Marquis knows all about Nancy's disappearance and where she is, and further I believe that Nancy's disappearance is part of a plot with the Marquis here, Madame de la Fontaine at the House on the Dunes, and that schooner riding at anchor in the Cove. I have a plan, Tom."

"Go ahead for heaven's sake. If we don't do something, I'll go in and choke the truth out of that old reprobate. He applauds my sentiments, eh! Good God! If he knew them!"

"Yes, yes," said Dan. "But the time for choking has not come. You nearly gave yourself away to-night, you will ruin our plans, and involve Nancy in some harm. She is probably in that old villain's power. Now listen to me. The first thing to do is to discover Nancy's whereabouts. The second is to get at the bottom of the Marquis's plot and the secret of the torn scrap of paper. We will find the clew to both, I think, if we can discover the meaning of the signals between the Marquis and the lady in the House on the Dunes."

"Right!" cried Tom. "But how?"

"One of us must stay at the Inn and watch the Marquis to-night, and the other investigate the House on the Dunes. I have already been there and made the acquaintance of the lady, so I had better do that, and you stay here. Do you agree?"

"Yes, of course; though I envy you the chance to be out and doing."

"You will be doing something here. I want you to hide yourself in the hallway near the Marquis's door and watch all night—till dawn anyway. He cannot get out of his room without coming into the hall, and we must know what he does to-night. If the Marquis can spend a sleepless night, we can afford to do so. I don't know what I can do at the House on the Dunes but I shall take the pistol, and you can keep my gun. To-morrow I will get more arms, for I shouldn't be surprised if we needed them. Is everything clear?"

"Perfectly," said Tom. "I'll watch as soon as you are off."

"Good-night, old boy, good luck."

"Good-night," and Dan slipped out of the room and down the dark stairs.



As soon as Dan had gone Tom blew out his light and slipped into the hallway.

This portion of the Inn was simple in design. A long corridor ran through the middle of the house to meet a similar passage at the southern end extending at right angles to the main hall. The South Chamber, occupied by the Marquis de Boisdhyver, opened into the southwest passage, but the door was well beyond the juncture of the two corridors. It was Pembroke's intention to conceal himself in the bedroom next the Marquis's chamber, from the door of which he could look down the entire length of the main hall, and by stepping outside get a view of the branch hallway into which the door of this room and that of the Marquis actually opened. A further advantage was that the windows of this room, like those of the South Chamber, looked out upon the Dunes and the Cove.

As Tom stepped from his chamber, the house seemed utterly deserted; save for the roaring of the wind without and an occasional creak or crack in the time-worn boards, there were no sounds.

The night was not a dark one, although the wind was rising and rain was threatening; for a full moon lurked behind the thick veil of cloud and something of its weird weak light relieved the darkness even of the great corridor of the Inn.

Tom stole softly down the hallway and gained the room next the Marquis's. He took his position in a great chair, which he drew near the open door, and laid his gun on the floor near at hand. No one could enter the hall without his seeing him. Every few moments he would tiptoe to the doorway, thrust his head into the corridor, and listen intently for any sound in the South Chamber.

It was a lonely and unpleasant vigil. The night was wild, the storm was rising, the old Inn was moaning as though in distress; and, despite his natural courage, fantastic terrors and dangers thrust themselves upon his excited imagination. He would much have preferred, he felt, to be out in the open as Dan was, even facing real dangers and greater difficulties. Deeper than by these imaginary fears of the night, he was racked with anxiety to know what had become of the girl he loved. Had she been decoyed away by the evil genius of the place; was she in danger? Had she disappeared of her own free will; and didn't she really love him?

He was not in the least sleepy; but after a while the vigil began to tell upon his nerves. He found it almost impossible to sit still and wait, perhaps in vain. He made innumerable trips across the room to the windows to look out into the bleak night. The landscape was blotted out. Not a light showed from the House on the Dunes; only the two lamps on the schooner at anchor in the Cove gleamed across the night. Eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock struck solemnly from the old clock on the stairs.

Once as he was looking out of the window, it seemed to him that the green light on the Southern Cross was moving. But it was impossible that she should weigh anchor in the teeth of the rising storm. He was mistaken. Nay, he was sure. But it was rising, slowly, steadily, as though drawn by an invisible hand, to about the height of the masthead. There at last it stopped, and swung to the wind, to and fro, to and fro; high above its red companion, high above the deck.

And then, suddenly, as if to answer this mysterious manoeuvre, the green light, that earlier in the evening had glowed from a north window of the House on the Dunes, now flashed from an east window of the old farmhouse; flashed, then gleamed steadily. The light on the Southern Cross was lowered slowly, then raised again. The light in the House on the Dunes vanished; soon flashed again and then vanished once more. Slowly the light in the schooner descended to its normal position. A moment later the green light appeared on the north side of the House on the Dunes, where it had been earlier, and shone there steadily.

Was it a signal to the Marquis de Boisdhyver? Tom tiptoed to the partition between his room and the South Chamber, and put his ear to the wall to listen. Not a sound reached him. He turned to the door to go into the corridor, and stood suddenly motionless. For there, advancing ever so cautiously down the hall, carrying a lighted candle in his hand, was the old Marquis. He was clad in night dress and cap, with a gayly-coloured dressing-gown worn over the white shirt. Slowly, silently, pausing every instant to listen; he stole on, gun in hand, and Tom followed him as cautiously and as quietly. Instead of turning to the right at the partition that divides the north and south wings of the Inn and going down stairs, the Marquis turned to the left, into the short hall that led directly to the great chamber occupied by Tom and Dan.

By the time Pembroke in pursuit had reached the turn and dared to peep around the corner of the wall, the Marquis was at the door of Dan's room. He stood there, ear bent close to the panel, intently listening.

Tom waited breathless. Not satisfied, Monsieur de Boisdhyver turned about and went into an adjoining chamber, the door of which stood open. Pembroke was about to advance, when the Marquis emerged again into the corridor, having left his lighted candle in the empty room. This manoeuvre, whatever advantage it had for the Marquis, was fortunate for Pembroke, for it left the end of the little hall, where he stood watching, in deep shadow. He could now step boldly from behind the concealing wall without fear of immediate detection.

Again the Marquis stood and listened at the door of Dan's room, then cautiously turned the knob. The door yielded and opened an inch or so. Monsieur de Boisdhyver put his ear to the crack. Dissatisfied with the absolute silence that must have met him, he pushed open the door a little further and thrust his head inside. In a moment he disappeared within.

Tom realized that the Marquis would soon discover the fact that the room was empty. He looked about quickly for a place of concealment that would command a view of all the halls. Fortunately the partition that divided the long corridor between the north and south wings was hung with heavy curtains. Deciding instantly, Pembroke slipped behind them, and ruthlessly slit an opening in the thick green stuff, through which he could peek out. He was just in time, as the Marquis came out of their bedroom and softly closed the door. He stood irresolute; then, with even greater caution, re-entered the room in which he had left his candle. To Tom's chagrin, the candle was suddenly extinguished and the Inn left in darkness.

For some moments, there was absolute silence. Then Tom could hear faintly,—or feel rather than hear—the Marquis cautiously finding his way back. Luckily, the old Frenchman was groping his way next the other wall. Pembroke slipped from behind the curtains and stole softly in pursuit. As he reached the south end of the corridor, he heard the latch of the Marquis's door click softly. Alarmed by discovering that they were not in bed, thought Tom, he had abandoned whatever purpose he had in mind for his midnight prowl.

After waiting a little and hearing no more, Tom went again to the window. The rain had begun now and the wind was blowing a gale. Suddenly Pembroke discerned a light shining from the window next the very one from which he was peering into the darkness,—the steady glow of a deep red light.

"Another signal!" he murmured; then waited to see if it would be answered by the House on the Dunes. Perhaps fifteen minutes passed, and then, suddenly, there gleamed through the rain and dark, a tiny bit of red flame, just where the House on the Dunes must be. A little later the red lamp on the Southern Cross performed a fantastic ascension to what Pembroke took to be the masthead.

The red light in the neighbouring window was extinguished. Almost instantly the red spark on the Dunes disappeared, and in a few moments the schooner's lamp began its descent. Simultaneously they glowed again and the ship's light danced upward; then the two red lights on shore vanished and the lamp on the Southern Cross sank to its proper place and stayed there.

Of one thing Tom was sure: The Marquis, the lady at the House on the Dunes, and the skipper of the schooner in the Cove, were in collusion. Of another thing he felt almost equally certain: the red light was a signal of danger, and the message of danger flashed across the night was the fact that he and Dan were not safe asleep in bed.

For a long time he watched, keen with excitement; listened patiently; started at every sound. But nothing more unusual did he hear that night than the roar of the wind, the dash of the brawling southeaster against the panes, and the groans of the old house, shaken by the storm. Toward morning he crept back to bed and fell instantly into a deep and dreamless sleep.

While Tom was thus watching and sleeping a somewhat different experience had fallen to the lot of Dan Frost. He had no definite plan in making a midnight visit to the vicinity of the House on the Dunes, but he hoped to discover some clue to the surrounding mysteries. From time to time during the day he had taken his field glasses to one of the upper rooms of the Inn, and scanned the countryside but nothing unusual seemed astir in the white world without. The Southern Cross had lain on the surface of the little cove all day, swaying with wind and tide, no sign of activity upon her decks. It was after ten when he started forth. The night was not quite dark, for the full moon was shining somewhere behind the thick veil of clouds. Earlier in the evening Dan had intended to go boldly to the House itself and demand an interview with old Mrs. Meath; but he reflected that he would probably be met with the excuse that Mrs. Meath was ill, and he did not know how he could force himself in, particularly past the barrier of Madame de la Fontaine's charming manner.

It was an unpleasant walk with the wind in his face, and it was nearly eleven before he turned into the long dune road, which branched from the Port Road near the Rocking Stone and led directly to the old farmhouse on Strathsey Neck. To his chagrin it appeared that all lights had been extinguished as if the inmates of the house had gone to bed.

The old farmhouse loomed before him, dark and forbidding. On either side there were outhouses, and in the rear quite near the house a barn. There was not a tree on the place; indeed, there was little vegetation upon the entire Neck, save the grass of the middle meadows which in summer furnished scant nourishment for the cattle and a flock of sheep. Now all was bleak and covered with snow, and a freshening gale swept out of the great maw of the Atlantic.

Keeping close to the fence, Frost began to make a complete circuit of the farmhouse. As he turned a corner of the south end, or rear of the house, he was relieved to see a light burning in the kitchen. He stole cautiously to a position within the shadow of the barn from which he could get a glimpse of the interior. In the kitchen standing before a deal table, he saw a young woman—not Jane, Mrs. Heath's maid-of-all-work, but a stranger,—with her hands deep in a bowl of dough. Her back was toward him, but he guessed that she was Madame de la Fontaine's maid, whom he had seen in the morning. The door into the dining-room beyond stood open, and by craning his neck, Dan could see that the room was lighter, but he could not discover whether or not it were occupied. The shutters of the dining-room were so closely barred and the curtains so tightly drawn that not a ray of light penetrated to the outside.

The girl in the kitchen proceeded busily about her work. She was evidently engaged, despite the lateness of the hour, in mixing bread.

Once while he waited patiently, to what end he hardly knew, Madame de la Fontaine entered the kitchen. She was clad in black and held in her hands what Dan took to be a ship's lamp. She stood for a moment in the doorway and spoke to the servant maid. The girl stopped her work, and taking a strip of paper, ignited it at a candle and lighted the lamp, which Madame de la Fontaine held up for her. It glowed instantly with a deep green flame, such as Tom had described as shining from a window of the House on the Dunes in the early evening.

As soon as her lamp was lighted Madame de la Fontaine left the room. Supposing that she was about to give a signal, Dan's heart leaped at the prospect of some result to his eavesdropping, and he stole carefully around to the front of the house. Presently from an upper window in the east side of the house, not the north as he had expected, he saw the green light sending forth its message across the Dunes—to whom? Probably the signal could be seen from the Inn, but it more likely was intended for the schooner in the Cove. Sure enough, as he watched, Dan saw the phenomenon of the ascending lamp on the Southern Cross, which at that identical moment Tom Pembroke was watching from his post of vantage in one of the south windows of the Inn.

A little later the signal was removed from the east window of the farmhouse and placed in a north window. Dan looked to see the answering gleam from the Inn at the Red Oak. But none came. Crouched in a corner of the fence, he waited perhaps for half-an-hour.

Suddenly a signal gleamed from the Inn, but this time it was not green as he expected, but red. In a few moments a form appeared in the window of the farmhouse, and a white hand, which he supposed was that of Madame de la Fontaine, took hold of the lamp and reversed it, so that now it showed red. The light in the Inn vanished, reappeared, vanished again. The same thing happened to the light in the House on the Dunes. And looking eastward, Dan saw the ship's red lamp perform its fantastic ascent and descent. Soon all was left in darkness. Frost slipped back to his post near the barn and looked again into the kitchen.

Madame de la Fontaine was standing in the doorway as before. The maid, turning away from the table, came at that moment to the window, and raised the sash, as though she were overheated. Presently, leaving the window open, she turned to her mistress, and Dan could hear the sharp staccato of her voice as she said something in what seemed to him her barbarous French.

Impelled by curiosity, he crept closer to the house. He was within six feet of the window, standing on the tip of his toes. Suddenly he felt himself pinioned from behind; his arms were gripped as in a vise, a hand grasped his throat and began to choke him, and a sharp knee was planted with terrific force in the small of his back. He made a gurgling sound as he went backward, but there was no opportunity for struggling. He recovered from the shock to find himself stretched at full length in the wet snow. Some one was sitting upon him, struggling to thrust a gag into his mouth; some one else was binding his hands and feet.

He could just distinguish, in the sickly moonlight and the dim rays of the candle from the kitchen, the faces of his assailants. One was the murderous looking Frenchman, the skipper of the Southern Cross, the other he took to be a common seaman.

Attracted by the scuffle, the French maid had thrust her head out of the window and was addressing the combatants in vigorous French. Neither then nor later did Madame de la Fontaine appear. When Frost was safely bound and gagged, Captain Bonhomme arose, said a few words to his companion, and disappeared into the farmhouse. Dan's guard searched him rapidly, confiscated his revolver and knife, and then resumed his seat upon his legs. Inside the kitchen Dan could hear the sounds of an animated French dialogue, in which he imagined from time to time that he detected the silvery tones of Madame de la Fontaine's voice. Perhaps fifteen minutes elapsed. Captain Bonhomme came out of the house, strode to the spot where Dan was lying, and addressed him in excellent English.

"Monsieur; for purposes which it is superfluous to explain, it is decided to extend to you for a while the hospitality of my good ship the Southern Cross—a hospitality, I may say, that your unceremonious eavesdropping has thrust upon you. I will release your feet; and then, monsieur, you follow my good Jean across the sands. If you are quiet, no harm shall come to you. If you resist, cher monsieur, it will be of painful duty that I entrust the contents of this revolver into—mais non! Vous comprenez, n'est-ce pas?—Bien!"

He gave a sharp order to the seaman. The handkerchief about Dan's ankles was untied, and he was roughly assisted to his feet.

"The snow is wet, eh! Yes, for the good wind is moist. Now, Allons!"

Jean led the way, and Dan, deciding that he had no choice in the matter, followed obediently. The captain brought up the rear. As they went out through the gate, Dan turned for a moment and looked back at the house. He could see the French maid still at the kitchen window. At the same moment Captain Bonhomme glanced back and ceremoniously raised his hat.

"Bonsoir, mam'zelle."

"Bonsoir, monsieur," was the sharp reply, and the window was lowered with a bang.

They went on in silence across the Dunes to the beach. There, drawn up above high water line, they found a skiff. The captain and Jean shoved off, sprang in, and the little boat plunged into the combing waves. They reached the Southern Cross without misadventure. The captain blew a call upon a boatswain's whistle. A rope was lowered and Jean made the skiff fast to the ladder at the schooner's side. The captain took out his revolver and held it in his hand, while Jean unloosed the cords that bound Dan's wrists.

"Now up, mon ami."

For a moment Dan thought of risking a scuffle in the unsteady skiff, but discretion proved the better part of valour, and he climbed obediently on to the deck. The seaman stood close by till the captain and Jean had clambered up after him. A few words in French to his men, then Captain Bonhomme, beckoning to Dan to follow, led the way down the companion. He opened the door of a little cabin amidships and bade Frost enter.

"You will find everything required for your comfort, monsieur," he said, "and I trust you will make yourself at home, as you say; and enjoy a good night and a sound sleep. We can discuss our affairs in the morning."

And with the words, he closed the door, turned the key in the lock, and left Dan to his reflections.





Dan spent a miserable night. He had soon satisfied himself that escape was impossible. A child could not have squeezed through the port hole, and the stoutness of the door—barred, he fancied, as well as locked on the outside,—seemed to indicate that this particular cabin had been constructed for the purpose of keeping an enemy out of mischief.

Young Frost's reflections, as at length he stretched himself upon the bunk, were anything but agreeable. The reconnoitre at the House on the Dunes had established nothing but what they already practically knew—that the Marquis, the lady, and the captain of the schooner were working together. If they were responsible for Nancy's disappearance, as Dan was convinced, he had not succeeded in getting a scrap of evidence against them. And to cap the climax, he had stupidly allowed himself to be captured. The method of his capture seemed to him quite as ignominious as the fact.

He was not particularly alarmed for his own safety. He did not doubt that eventually he would escape, though at the moment he could not imagine how; or, failing in that, he supposed he would be released,—honorably discharged, as it were,—when it was too late for him to interfere with the designs of the conspirators. And this was the bitterest reflection of all: that a carefully-planned conspiracy was on foot, and no sooner had he and Tom realized it than through sheer stupidity he must not only make it clear to the Marquis and his colleagues that they were being watched, but must let himself fall into their power. Poor Tom! thought Dan ruefully as he tossed upon the little bunk, there must fall upon him now the brunt of whatever was to be done for Nancy's rescue, for the thwarting of whatever nefarious designs this gang of French desperados were concocting.

Escape! A dozen times and more he sprang from his bed to press his face against the thick glass of the little port and to rage futilely that he could not elongate his six feet of anatomy, and slip through. In vain he would throw his weight against the door, without so much as shaking it. And then he would sink back upon the bunk and determine to conserve his strength by snatching a bit of sleep. And he would wait—since he must wait—till morning.

The gale had lashed itself into a fury; the rain was pouring in torrents; and the ship rolled distressingly in the rising sea. It was near dawn before Dan succeeded in getting to sleep at all, but from then on for several hours he slept heavily. When he awoke the storm, like many storms that come out of the south, had exhausted itself. The rain had ceased, the wind had fallen, and it was evident from the motion of the ship, that the sea was going down. Dan sprang to the port hole and peered out, and was thankful to realize that the peep hole of his prison gave upon the shore.

Though it had stopped raining, the clouds were still grey and lowering, and the morning light was weak and pale. The Dunes, beyond the disturbed waters of the little cove, looked dirty and bedraggled. The snow had been washed off the hillocks, the little streams that here and there emptied into the Cove had swollen to the size of respectable brooks, and the high water of the night had strewn the beach with brown tangled seaweed. There was no sign of human life in evidence. Dan could just see the upper story of the House on the Dunes, but no other habitation save the deserted fisherman's huts that straggled along the beach.

His watch showed half-past seven when the evil-visaged Jean unbarred the door, opened it about a foot, and thrust in upon the floor a tray of food. Dan sprang forward and succeeded in getting his foot into the opening, so that Jean could not close the door. He was prepared to fight for his liberty. Despite Jean's superior strength, Dan had the advantage in that his own body acted as a lever, and for a moment it seemed that he was to be successful; but the Frenchman, with a violent execration, suddenly let go his hold on the knob, the door swung in, and Dan fell back on all fours upon the floor. By the time he had recovered himself for another dash, he was confronted by Jean, a disagreeable leer upon his unpleasant countenance and a cocked pistol in his hand.

Dan stood in his tracks. "I want to see Captain Bonhomme!" he demanded, making up in the tone of his voice for the vigor his movements suddenly lacked.

"Je ne parle pas englais," was the irritating reply, as Jean, menacing the prisoner with the pistol, reached for the door and closed it with a snap. Dan had the chagrin of hearing the key turn in the lock and the heavy bar fall into place across the panels.

He sat down ruefully, but after a moment or so took up the tray and placed it on the bunk before him. He made a bad breakfast off thick gruel, black bread and villainous coffee, and then kicked his heels impatiently for an hour or more.

Eventually Jean reappeared, this time pistol in hand, and behind him, to Dan's relief, Captain Bonhomme. The captain entered the little cabin, leaving the door open behind him while Jean stood in the passage on duty as guard. The swarthy unattractive face of Captain Bonhomme wore this morning an expression of sarcastic levity that was more irritating to Frost than its ferocious anger had been the night before.

"Bon jour, monsieur," said the captain in a tone of obnoxious pleasantry. "I trust the night has gone well with you."

"You will oblige me," snapped Dan for reply, "by omitting your hypocritical courtesy. I demand to know what you mean by this proceeding,—capturing me like a common thief and imprisoning me on this confounded ship?"

Captain Bonhomme's countenance quickly lost its factitious cheerfulness. "Monsieur," he replied sharply, "I did not come to you to bandy words. If you will reflect on the occupation you were indulging last night at the moment we surprised you, you will comprehend that it was certainly to be inferred that, if you were not a thief, you were an eavesdropper; which, to my way of thinking, is as bad. If you address me again in that insulting tone, I shall leave you till such a time as you may be willing to listen at least with common courtesy to what I have to say. You are, young gentleman, a prisoner on my ship and very much in my power. You have grossly offended a distinguished countrywoman who is under my protection in your barbarous country. Madame de la Fontaine, however, has been good enough to interest herself in your behalf and to beg that I shall not unceremoniously pitch you overboard to feed the fishes as you so richly deserve."

Dan bit his lips, but for the moment kept silent.

"I am come this morning," continued Captain Bonhomme, "not for the pleasure of entering upon a discussion, but to inform you that a little later in the morning, when this infernal wind of yours has blown itself out, Madame de la Fontaine proposes to come aboard. For reasons of her own, she does you the honor to desire a conversation with you. I have to ask that you will meet my distinguished patroness as the gentleman you doubtless profess to be, and that you will give me your word not to attempt to escape while Madame is on board the ship."

"I shall not give my word," protested Dan, "under any circumstances to a pirate such as I take you to be."

"Eh bien, monsieur; in that case, you will appear before Madame in irons. From your window, so admirably small, you will see at what hour Madame comes aboard. If in the meantime you have decided to give us your word of honour, well and good; if you continue to display your freedom of choice by the exercise of your stupidity, also, well and good. And now, an revoir." Captain Bonhomme smiled grimly, bowed again with insulting politeness, and left Dan alone in the cabin.

An hour, two hours passed. The wind had abated, the sun was struggling to dissipate the murky bank of cloud that hung from zenith to the eastern horizon. From his coign of vantage at the little port hole Dan saw Madame de la Fontaine pick her way across the Dunes and come upon the little beach. A small boat had put off from the schooner and was being rowed to shore by two seamen. The French lady gathered her skirts about her ankles, and stepped lightly into the skiff, as the men held it at the edge of the surf. The little boat was then pushed off and rowed briskly toward the Southern Cross.

Half-an-hour passed before the door of Dan's cabin was opened again, and Captain Bonhomme, attended by the faithful Jean, reappeared. In the skipper's hand was a pair of irons.

"Monsieur," said the captain, holding up the irons, "Madame de la Fontaine does you the honour of desiring an interview in the saloon. May I venture to enquire your pleasure?"

The ignominy of appearing before his charming acquaintance of the day before manacled like a criminal, was too much for Dan's vanity. "I give you my word of honour," he said gruffly.

"Ah, monsieur," murmured the captain, "permit me to applaud your good taste. But let us be exact: until you are returned to this cabin and are again under lock and key, that is to say until Madame is safely upon shore again,—you give me your word of honour as a gentleman to make no attempt to escape?"

"Yes, yes," said Dan, striving to conceal his irritation. "But spare me, I beg, your explanations. As you know, I am practically helpless. We understand each other. I trust that Madame de la Fontaine will give me an explanation of the outrage that you have refused."

"Sans doute, sane doute!" exclaimed the captain. He waved his hand toward the door. "Apres vous, monsieur. Our worthy Jean will lead the way."

Without more ado they left the little cabin that had served as Dan's prison and traversed a narrow passageway aft to the door of a little saloon.

In the saloon, seated in a deep arm chair by the side of the table, was Madame de la Fontaine. She was clad in some soft green gown, with furs about her neck and wrists, and a little bonnet, adorned by the gay plumage of a tropical bird, worn close upon her head. At first glance she was as bewitchingly beautiful, as entirely charming, as she had seemed to Dan the day before. He blushed to the roots of his hair and for the moment quite forgot the extraordinary predicament in which he was placed. Madame de la Fontaine rose, a bright smile beaming from her soft blue eyes, and waited for Dan to approach.

"Good morning, Mr. Frost. This is charming of you. And now, Captain Bonhomme, if you will be so kind,—" she turned with her delightful smile to the skipper. "Eh bien, Jean!" This last remark was uttered in a sharp tone of command, very different from the silvery accents in which she had spoken to Frost and the captain. Dan wondered at it.

The disagreeable impression was but momentary, for the lady turned again to Dan, engaged him with her frank and pleasant glance, and young Frost forgot everything in the presence of the most charming woman he had ever met.

Captain Bonhomme and his watchdog had disappeared, closing the saloon door behind them. Dan and Madame de la Fontaine were alone.

"Will you not seat yourself, monsieur?" she said. "We shall then talk so much more at our ease."

"Thank you," Dan murmured vaguely, and advancing a step or two nearer, seated himself in the first chair within reach.

"Ah, not there, Mr. Frost," the lady protested with a little laugh of amusement. "It will never be that we are able to talk at so great a distance." She indicated a more comfortable chair at much closer quarters.

Dan obediently changed his seat, and waited for Madame de la Fontaine to begin the conversation. But she continued for a moment silently to regard him with a naive air of interest and of unconcealed admiration.

"May I ask," said Dan at length, disturbed by this scrutiny, and rising to a courtesy that was in reality beyond him, "for what reason you have done me the honour to wish to speak with me?"

"Vraiment," replied Madame de la Fontaine; "after the events of last night there is need that we should have some conversation. You are very young and I have reason to be grateful to you for courtesy and kindness, so I have yielded to impulse, against my judgment, to interfere with Captain Bonhomme who has great anger with you."

"You are very kind, madame," Dan replied with dignity. "I am to infer then that my liberty or my further unwarranted imprisonment on this ship is to be determined by you?"

"Mais non, Monsieur. It is true only that I have a little influence with Captain Bonhomme. Last night you were watching me, so it interests me to know why."

"I was watching Mrs. Heath's house," Dan answered.

"Ah! but I and my maid were alone in the room into which you so unceremoniously looked, monsieur!"

"Yes, madame, but why should you infer that my motive in looking into that room was interest in your affairs?"

"I do not altogether assume that, Mr. Frost," the lady protested. "I infer simply—but, pardon! you were to say—?"

"Merely to ask you, madame, what Captain Bonhomme proposes to do with me, should you not be so good as to use your influence in my behalf?"

For reply the lady shrugged her shoulders a trifle. "I have fear, monsieur," she said after a moment, "that Captain Bonhomme will take you for a sail, perhaps a long sail, on the Southern Cross."

"Then," said Dan, "since there is no doubt in my mind of your influence with the captain, I beg that you will have him release me."

"It is that that I desire, monsieur; and yet—?" Madame de la Fontaine paused and glanced at her companion with a charming little air of interrogation.

"And yet?" repeated Dan, flushing a little as he looked into the lovely blue eyes that met his so frankly.

"I confess, monsieur, I must first discover if you are really deserving of my efforts. I care to know very much why you watched me last night at the House on the Dunes. For what reason do you watch me at midnight? a stranger, a woman? Why is it that my affairs give you interest? I would know."

Her voice, her countenance expressed now only her sense of injury, an injury which, as it were, she was striving not to regard also as an insult. Under the persistent searching of her soft glance, Dan felt himself very small indeed.

"Answer me, if you please," she said. This time Dan detected just a trace of the sharpness with which she had dismissed the obsequious Jean. It gave him courage and a sense of protection from the fascination he knew that this strange woman was successfully exerting over him.

As he replied, his glance encountered hers with frankness. "Madame de la Fontaine, I told you yesterday morning, my sister, Nancy Frost, has disappeared. We searched for her all day in vain. Not a trace of her has been found. But certain strange events have led me to suspect that certain persons have had something to do with her disappearance and must know her whereabouts. I will be frank Madame. One of the persons whom I so suspect is yourself."

"I!—mon Dieu! and why is it that you believe this, Monsieur?"

"I suspect you, madame, because I suspect the Marquis de Boisdhyver."

"Ah! the French gentleman who is staying with you at the Inn at the Red Oak, is it not so?"


"But—why me?"

"Because, madame, I discovered that you and the Marquis de Boisdhyver have been in secret communication with each other."

"C'est impossible. Te me comprende pas, monsieur. Will you tell me why it is that you can think that this Marquis de Bois—what is the name?"

"De Boisdhyver."

"Merci. Why is it that you can think that the Marquis de Boisdhyver and I have been in secret communication?"

"Lights, green and red lights, have been used as signals; by the Marquis at the Inn; by you, madame, from the House on the Dunes; and by some one,—Captain Bonhomme, I suppose,—from this ship."

"Lights, you have seen lights?"

"Several times last night, Madame. My suspicions were aroused. I was determined to find my sister. I resolved to learn the meaning of those mysterious signals. My method was stupid: I blundered, and as you have several times so gently hinted, I am in your power."

For a moment Madame de la Fontaine was silent, then she looked quickly up; a half-vexed, half-amused expression curling her pretty lips.

"Look at me, monsieur," she said. "Do you know what you tell me? That I am an adventuress?"

Dan flushed suddenly as he met her steadfast gaze. "I have stated only a suspicion, madame, to account for my own stupid blundering. But if you think that my suspicions are extraordinary, don't you think that our present situation and conversation are also extraordinary, and that they might rather confirm my suspicions?"

Madame de la Fontaine dropped her eyes with a perceptible frown of displeasure; but again she looked up, smiling.

"C'est drole, monsieur, but I find you very attractive? You are at once so naive and so clever?"

Dan, finding nothing to reply to this unexpected remark, bit his lips.

"Will you not trust me?" she asked him suddenly, and putting out her hand she touched his own with the tips of her fingers.

Poor Frost tingled at this unaccustomed contact. "I—I—" he stammered awkwardly. "I have certainly no desire to distrust you, madame."

"And yet it is that you do distrust me."

"But what would you have me do?"

"Ah!" Her hand spontaneously closed upon his with a clasp that delighted and yet disconcerted him. "I hope that we shall make each other to understand."

"What would you have me do?" Dan repeated.

"Monsieur, let me make to you a confession. I understand your suspicions; I understand your desire to find if they are true. You have reason; Monsieur le Marquis de Boisdhyver and I have exchanged the mysterious signals that you have witnessed. Why should I deny that which already you know? Monsieur de Boisdhyver and I are occupied with affairs of great importance, and it is necessary that all is kept secret. But I believe, that it is that I can trust you, monsieur."

"And Nancy—?" exclaimed Dan.

"Pas si vite, pas si vite!" said the lady, laughing gayly, Dan's hand still in her friendly pressure. "All in good time, mon ami. It is necessary before I confide in you our little secret that I consult Monsieur le Marquis."

Dan's face betrayed his disappointment. "But you do know about Nancy," he insisted; "you will assure me—"

"Of nothing, dear boy,"—and she withdrew her hand. "But it had been so much better for us all if only Monsieur le Marquis had at the first confided in you."

Madame de la Fontaine had risen now and was holding out her hand to say good-bye.

"It is necessary that I return to the shore. I will see Monsieur le Marquis this afternoon, and immediately afterward—"

"But, madame, surely," Dan exclaimed, "I am to accompany you?"

"Ah! monsieur," she replied with a charming little smile, "for the present you must rest content to be mon captif. We must quite clearly understand each other before—well. But you are too impetuous, Monsieur Dan. For the moment I leave you here."

"But Madame de la Fontaine," cried Dan, "I cannot consent—"

"No! no!" she said, as with a gay laugh, she placed a cool little hand across his mouth to prevent his finishing his sentence.

What absurd impulse fired his blood at this sudden familiarity, Dan did not know; but, quite spontaneously, as though all his life he had been in the habit of paying such gallantries to charming ladies, he kissed the soft fingers upon his lips. Madame de la Fontaine quickly withdrew them.

"Ah, mon ami;" she said, "I expected not to find here une telle galanterie."

"I have offended you," murmured Dan, blushing furiously.

"Ah, pas du tout!" said Madame de la Fontaine. "You are a dear boy, monsieur Dan, and I—well, I find you charming."

As she said this, to Dan's complete confusion, Madame de la Fontaine lightly brushed his cheeks with her lips, and passing him rapidly, went out of the door of the saloon.



Owing to his long watch during the greater part of the night, Pembroke slept heavily until late the next morning. Indeed, he did not waken until Jesse, alarmed that neither Dan nor he had appeared, knocked on their door. He sprang up quickly then, and began to dress hastily. Dan's bed had not been slept in, and Tom wondered how the night had gone with him.

In a few moments he was down stairs and in the breakfast-room. He found the Marquis de Boisdhyver already at table, pouring out his coffee, which Deborah had just placed before him. Mrs. Frost had not appeared.

Tom murmured an apology for being late, and delayed the black woman, who was on the point of leaving the room, by a question.

"Where is Mr. Dan?"

"Sure an, Mass' Tom, I ain't seen him dis mornin' yet. Ain't he done over-slept hisself like you?"

"No; but I dare say he is about the place somewheres. All right, Deb; bring my breakfast quickly, please."

"You will pardon me," said Monsieur de Boisdhyver, "for having begun without you?"

"Oh, certainly," said Tom; "Don't know what was the matter, but I slept unusually soundly last night; that is, after I got to sleep, for the storm kept me awake for hours."

"Et moi aussi," said the Marquis. "What wind! I am but thankful it has exhausted itself at last. And Monsieur Frost, he has also over-slept, you say?"

"No. He got up early without disturbing me. I guess he will be in any minute now."

The Marquis stirred his coffee and slowly sipped it.

Tom made a hasty breakfast, and then went outside to reconnoitre. He discovered no trace of his friend. There was but one inference in his uneasy mind: Dan had met with some misadventure at the House on the Dunes. At last, after wandering about aimlessly for some time, he decided to tell Jesse of his uneasiness.

"If Mr. Dan is not back by dinner time, I shall go over to the House on the Dunes and try to find out what has become of him. Heaven knows what has become of Miss Nancy. I don't like that schooner, Jess, and its ugly crew, lying there in the Cove. It's all a darn queer business."

"They're certainly a rough-looking lot, Mr. Tom, as I saw when I was on the beach yesterday. And she don't appear to have any particular business anchoring there. I hope they've nothing to do with Miss Nancy's and Mr. Dan's being away."

"I don't know, Jess, what to think. But listen here I want you to go into the Port this morning and engage Ezra Manners to come out here and stay with us for a week or so. Don't tell him too much, but I guess Ezra won't balk at the notion of a scrap. Bring him out with you, and offer to pay him enough to make sure of his coming. And I want you to go to Breeze's on the Parade and get some guns and powder, enough to arm every blessed soul of us in the Inn. Charge the stuff to me. And be careful how you bring it back, for I don't want any one here to know about it, particularly the old Frenchman. Understand? You ought to get back by dinner-time, if you start at once. I'll stay here till you return."

"I'll start right off, sir. Guess I'll have to drive, for the rain'll have washed the snow off the roads. I'll be back by halfpast twelve, Mr. Tom."

"All right," said Pembroke. "Be sure not to let any one know what you are doing."

"Sure I won't, sir. I've been pretty much worried myself about Miss Nancy. Didn't seem a bit like Miss Nance to go off without sayin' a word to anybody.

"Well, hurry along now, Jesse."

"Yes, sir."

Tom's next task was to try to explain to Mrs. Frost without alarming her. She happily jumped to the idea that Dan had gotten trace of Nancy, had gone to fetch her, and would return with her before nightfall. So Tom left her quite cheerfully knitting in her room for the day.

From time to time during the morning Tom wandered into the bar always to find Monsieur de Boisdhyver absorbed in his writing before the fire. The morning passed—a long restless morning for Pembroke—and nothing had happened. Dan had not returned. He tried to think out a plan of action. He went into the north wing of the Inn and barricaded the door leading from the bowling alley into the hallway. He made sure that all other doors and windows were fastened, and he put the key of the door that opened from the bar into the old wing into his pocket. Then he looked at the doors and windows in the south wing.

About noon, as he was standing at an upper window anxiously scanning the landscape for any sign of his friend, Tom saw the Marquis, wrapped in his great black cloak, emerge from the gallery, go down the steps by the Red Oak, and walk rapidly down the avenue of maples. He went along the Port Road, to the point where a little road branched off and led to the beach of the Cove; here he turned and walked in the direction of the beach. With the field glass Tom could follow him quite easily as he picked his way through the slush.

Beyond, on the waters of the Cove, the Southern Cross rode at anchor. A small boat had put off from the schooner, two seamen at the oars, and a woman seated in the stern. The boat reached the shore, the lady was lifted out upon the sands, the men jumped in again, pushed off and rowed briskly back to the schooner. Tom could not distinguish the lady's features, but from the style of her dress, cut in so different a fashion than that the ladies of Caesarea were wont to display, and from the character of her easy graceful walk, he judged that that was the Madame de la Fontaine, of whom Dan had told him the day before. The lady, whoever she might be, advanced along the beach and turned into the road down which the Marquis de Boisdhyver was going to meet her. Tom could see her extend her hand, and the old gentleman, bending ceremoniously, lift it to his lips. Then leaning against a stone wall beside a meadow of bedraggled snow, they engaged in animated conversation. The lady talked, the Marquis talked. They shrugged their shoulders, they nodded their heads, they pointed this way and then that. Poor Tom felt he must know what was being said. At last, their conference ended, they parted as ceremoniously as they had met, the lady starting across the Dunes and the Marquis retracing his steps toward the Inn.

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