The Inn at the Red Oak
by Latta Griswold
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In the meantime, fortunately before the Marquis reached the Port Road, Jesse had returned, accompanied by the able-bodied Ezra Manners, and laden with the supply of arms and ammunition that Pembroke had ordered.

Within half-an-hour Tom and Monsieur de Boisdhyver were seated together in the dining-room.

"Ah, and where is Monsieur Dan?" asked the Marquis, with an affectation of cheerfulness. "Is he not returned?"

"Not yet, monsieur," Tom replied grimly.

"But you have heard from him?"

"Oh, yes," was Tom's answer; "I have heard from him of course."

"And from Mademoiselle Nancy, I trust, also?"

"Yes, from Nancy also."

"Ah, I am so relieved, Monsieur Pembroke. I was most anxious for their safety. One knows not what may happen. We shall have a charming little reunion at supper, n'est-ce pas?"

"Delightful," said Tom, but in a tone of voice that did not encourage the Marquis to ask further questions or to continue his comments.

After dinner, Tom slipped the field glass beneath his jacket, and ran upstairs to take another view of the countryside. To his great satisfaction he saw a dark spot moving across the snowy dunes and recognized the lady of the morning. Apparently she was on her way to the Cove again.

He took a loaded pistol, ran down stairs, gave Jesse strict orders to keep his eye on the Marquis, saddled his horse, and galloped off madly for Mrs. Meath's house.

When he reached the gate of the farmhouse, Tom hitched his horse to the fence, went rapidly up the little walk, and knocked boldly and loudly on the front door. Repeated and prolonged knocking brought no response. He tried the door and found it fastened. He walked about the house. Every window on the ground floor was tightly closed and barred. There was no sign of life. He knocked at the door of the kitchen, but with no result. He tried it, and found it also locked. Determined not to be thwarted in his effort to see Mrs. Meath, he kicked vigourously against the door with his great hob-nailed boots. Unsuccessful in this, he detached a rail from the top of the fence and used it against the door as a battering-ram. At the first crash of timbers, the sash of a window in the second story, directly above the kitchen, was thrown open, and a dark-eyed, dark-haired, excessively angry-looking, young woman thrust her head out.

"Qui va la?" she exclaimed.

"Well," said Tom, smiling a little in spite of himself, for the young woman was in a state of great indignation. "I want to see Mrs. Meath. I may say, I am determined to see Mrs. Meath."

"Peste! Je ne parle pas anglais!" snapped the damsel.

"Very well then, mademoiselle, I'll try you in French," said Tom. And in very bad French indeed, scarcely even the French of Dr. Watson's school for the sons of gentlemen, Pembroke repeated his remarks.

"Je ne comprend pas," said the young woman.

Tom essayed his explanation again, but whether the youthful female in the window could or would not understand, she kept repeating in the midst of his every sentence "Je ne parle pas anglais," till Tom lost his temper.

"Bien, my fine girl," he exclaimed at last; "I am going to enter this house. If you won't open the door, I will batter it down. Understand? Comprenez-vous?"

"Je ne parle pas anglais."

"As you will." He raised the fence-rail again and made as if to ram the door. "Ouvrez la porte! Do you understand that?"

"Bete!" cried the girl, withdrawing her head and slamming down the window.

Tom waited a moment to see if his threats had been effective, and was relieved by hearing the bar within removed and the key turned in the lock. The door was opened, and the young woman stood on the sill and volleyed forth a series of French execrations that made Tom wince, though he did not understand a word she was saying. Despite her protests, he brushed her aside and stalked into the house. He went rapidly from room to room, upstairs and down, from garret to cellar, the girl following him with her chorus of abusive reproach. She might have held her peace, thought Tom, for within half-an-hour he was convinced that there was not a person in the House on the Dunes save himself and his excited companion. All he discovered for his pains was that old Mrs. Meath was also among the missing.

"Ou est Madame Meath?"

"Madame Meath! Que voulez vous? Je ne connais pas Madame Meath...." And infinitely more of which Tom could gather neither head nor tail.

Satisfied at last that there was nothing to be gained by further search or parley with the woman, he thanked her civilly enough and went out. He unhitched his horse, vaulted into the saddle, and dashed back, as fast as his beast could be urged to carry him, to the Inn. He was certain now that the schooner held the secret of his vanished friends, and it occurred to him to play their own game and turn the tables on Monsieur the Marquis de Boisdhyver.

Arrived at the Inn, Tom turned his horse, white with lather, over to Jesse; made sure that the Marquis was in the bar; and then, with the help of Manners, rapidly made a few preparations.

It was about five o'clock when, his arrangements completed, he returned to the bar, where Monsieur de Boisdhyver was quietly taking his tea. Tom bowed to the old gentleman, seated himself in a great chair about five feet away, and somewhat ostentatiously took from his pocket a pistol, laid it on the arm of his chair, and let his fingers lightly play upon the handle. The old marquis watched Pembroke's movements out of the corner of his eye, still somewhat deliberately sipping his tea. Manners, meanwhile, had entered, and stood respectfully in the doorway, oddly enough also with a pistol in his hand.

Suddenly Monsieur de Boisdhyver placed his teacup on the table, and leaning back in his chair, surveyed Tom with an air of indignant astonishment.

"Monsieur Pembroke," he said, "to what am I to attribute these so unusual attentions? Is it that you are mad?"

"You may attribute these unusual attentions, marquis, to the fact that from now on, you are not a guest of the Inn at the Red Oak, but a prisoner."

"Ah!" exclaimed the Marquis with a start, as he made a spasmodic motion toward the pocket of his coat. But if his intention had been to draw a weapon, Tom was too quick for him. The Marquis found himself staring into the barrel of a pistol and heard the unpleasant click of the trigger as it was cocked.

The old gentleman paled, whether with fright or indignation, Tom was not concerned to know. "You will please keep perfectly still, marquis."

"Monsieur Pembroke," exclaimed the old gentleman, "C'est abominable, outrageous, Mon Dieu, what insult!"

"Manners," said Tom, "kindly search that gentleman and put his firearms out of his reach."

"Monsieur, c'est extraordinaire. I protest."

"Quick, Ezra," replied Tom, "or one of us is likely to know how it feels to have a bullet in his skin. Up with your hands, marquis."

Monsieur de Boisdhyver obeyed perforce, while Manners quickly searched him, removed a small pistol from his coat pocket and a stiletto from his waistcoat, and handed them to Tom.

"I thought as much," said Pembroke, slipping them into his pocket. "Now, sir, you will oblige me by dropping that attitude of surprised indignation."

"Monsieur," said the Marquis, "What is it that you do? Why is it that you so insult me?"

"Monsieur, I will explain. You are my prisoner. I intend to lock you up safely and securely until my friend and his sister return, unharmed, to the Inn. When they are safe at home, when Madame de la Fontaine has taken her departure from the House on the Dunes, and when the Southern Cross has sailed out of the Strathsey, we shall release you and see you also safely out of this country. Is that clear?"

"Mais, monsieur—"

"I am quite convinced that you know where Nancy is and what has happened to Dan. As my friends are probably in your power or in the power of your friends, so, dear marquis, you are in mine. If you wish to regain your own liberty, you will have to see that they have theirs. Now kindly follow Manners; it will give him pleasure to show you to your apartment. There you may burn either red or green lights, and I am sure the snowbirds and rabbits of Lovel's Woods will enjoy them. After you, monsieur."

"Sir, I refuse."

"My dear marquis, do not make me add force to discourtesy. After you."

The Marquis bowed ironically, shrugged his shoulders, and followed Manners up the stairs. He was ushered into a chamber on the west side of the Inn, whose windows, had they not been heavily barred, would have given him a view but of the thick tangles of the Woods.

"I trust you will be able to make yourself comfortable here," said Tom. "Your meals will be served at the accustomed hours. I shall return myself in a short time, and perhaps by then you will have reconciled yourself to the insult I have offered you and be prepared to talk with me."

With that Tom bowed as ironically as the Marquis had done, went out and closed the door, and securely locked and barred it outside. Monsieur de Boisdhyver was left to his reflections.



For several hours after his return to the little cabin Dan had ample leisure in which to think over his extraordinary interview. There could be no doubt that the conspirators, for such he had come to call them to himself, were determined and desperate enough to go to any lengths in accomplishing their designs. Whether his suspicions and activity in seeking Nancy had precipitated their plans, his unexpected capture seemed to embarrass his captors as much as it did himself. At least, he gathered this from Madame de la Fontaine's conversation. Whatever might be the motive of the lady's proposed confidence, poor Frost could see nothing for it but to await their disclosure and then seize whatever advantage they might open to him. Notwithstanding the fact that Dan had cautioned himself against trusting the flattery of his charming visitor, notwithstanding that he told himself to be forewarned, even by his own suspicions, was to be forearmed, he was in reality unconscious of the degree to which he had proved susceptible to the lady's blandishments, if indeed she had employed blandishments and had not merely given him the evidence of a good heart upon which his youth and naivete had made a genuine impression.

Dan's experiences with girls up to this time had been limited. His emotional nature had never, as yet, been deeply stirred. But no one could be insensible to Madame de la Fontaine's beauty and charm, and her delightfully natural familiarity; and, finally, her fleeting kiss had seemed to Dan but evidence of a warm impulsive heart. To be sure, with all the good will in the world, he could not acquit her of being concerned in a mysterious plot—indeed, had she not admitted so much?—though, also, he must in justice remember that he knew very little of the nature of the plot in question.

As he paced restlessly back and forth the length of his prison, he tried to think clearly of the accumulating mystery. Was there a hidden treasure and how did the Marquis know about it? What part had the Southern Cross to play with its diabolical looking captain, and what could have become of Nancy? Then why had Madame de la Fontaine—but again his cheek would burn and remembrance of the bewitching Frenchwoman blotted out all else.

At half-past twelve Captain Bonhomme appeared again. This time he invited Dan to partake of luncheon with him on the condition once more of a parole. And Dan accepted. He and the Captain made their luncheon together, attended by the faithful Jean; and, though no mention was made to their anomalous position, the meal was not altogether a comfortable one. Captain Bonhomme asked a great many questions about the country, to which Frost was inclined to give but the briefest replies; nor, on his part, did he show more disposition to be communicative in response to Dan's questions about France. Jean regarded the situation with obviously surly disapproval. When the meal was finished, Frost was conducted back to his little cabin.

About two o'clock he saw the small boat put off for shore, and glancing in that direction, he was relieved to see Madame de la Fontaine already waiting upon the beach. Within half-an-hour he was again in her presence in the Captain's saloon, where their conversation had taken place in the morning.

The lady received him graciously. "Ah! monsieur Dan, I fear you have had a weary day of it; but it was impossible for me to return sooner."

"It is very kind of you to return at all," replied Dan, gallantly enough.

"Now, Monsieur, you are anxious, I know, that I keep my promise of the morning."

"Most anxious," said Dan.

"Without doubt. Come here, my friend, sit near me and listen attentively to a long story."

"You have consulted with the Marquis?"

"Mais oui. It was difficult, but I have brought him to my way of thinking. I am certain that it was an error in the first place not taking you into our confidence. Eh bien! Tell me, do you know how your foster-sister came to be in the charge of your mother at the Inn at the Red Oak?"

"Yes, I know what my mother has told me. The child was abandoned to her rather than left in her charge."

"Mais non" said Madame de la Fontaine; "General Pointelle was impelled to act as he did by the strongest motives,—nothing less than the tremendous task, undertaken for his country, to liberate the Emperor Napoleon from Elba. General Pointelle was a soldier,—more, he was a marechal of the Empire; the greatest responsibilities devolved upon him. It was impossible for him to be burdened with a child."

"But why, madame, did he not take my mother into his confidence?"

"Secrecy was imperative, monsieur. Even to this day, you do not know who General Pointelle actually was. His was a name well-known in France, glorious in the annals of the Empire; a name, too, familiar to you in a somewhat different connection. 'General Pointelle' was the nom-de-guerre, as it were, of Francois, Marquis de Boisdhyver, marechal de France."

"Francois! you say, Francois!" exclaimed Dan.

"Mais oui, monsieur; but that should hardly astonish you so much as the fact that he was a Boisdhyver. Why are you surprised?"

"Simply, madame," exclaimed Dan hastily, "by the fact that it is the same name as that of our Marquis."

"Not quite," corrected the lady; "our Marquis—as you say—is Marie-Anne-Timelon-Armand de Boisdhyver, the General's younger brother."

"Ah! and therefore Nancy's uncle?"

"Yes, the uncle of Nancy Frost, or of Eloise de Boisdhyver."

"I see," said Dan. "I begin to see."

"Eh bien, monsieur. General Pointelle—the marechal de Boisdhyver,—left the Inn at the Red Oak upon a mission for the Emperor, then at Elba. Helas! that mission ended with disaster after the Hundred Days; for, as you know, the Emperor was sent in exile to St. Helena; and, as you may not know, the Marechal de Boisdhyver was killed on the plains of Waterloo. Allons; when he left Deal, he concealed in a hidden chamber, which one enters, I believe, from a room you call the Oak Parlour, a large treasure, of jewels and gold. This treasure, saved from the debacle in France, he had brought with him to America, and he hid it in the Inn, for the future of his little daughter Eloise. You remember that your mother was to hear something of advantage to her and the child, did not the General return. It was the secret of the treasure and the directions to find it. Well, Monsieur, at Waterloo, you must know, the Marechal and his brother, the present Marquis, fought side by side. Francois de Boisdhyver fell, nobly fighting for the glory of France; Marie-Anne had the good fortune to preserve his life, but was taken prisoner by the English. Before the Marechal received his death wound, the two brothers spoke with each other for the last time. In that moment, monsieur, the Marquis Francois revealed to the Marquis Marie-Anne that he had abandoned his daughter in America and that he had concealed in your old inn a treasure sufficient to provide for her future. He charged his brother to go to America, if he survived the battle; claim the little Eloise; rescue the treasure, and return with her to France and restore the fallen fortunes of the House of Boisdhyver.

"It took the Marquis Marie-Anne a long time to carry out his brother's dying injunctions," said Dan.

"Ah! but yes. You do not realize that the Marquis Marie-Anne, after the fall of Napoleon, spent many years in a military prison in England, for I have already told you that he fell into the hands of the enemy on the field of Waterloo. When at last he was released, he was aged, broken, and in poverty. His brother, in those dreadful moments on the battlefield, had been able to give him but the briefest description of the Inn at the Red Oak and the hidden treasure. He did not tell him where the treasure was, but only how he might obtain the paper of instructions which the Marechal had concealed in a curiously-carved old cabinet in the Oak Parlour. The Marechal, monsieur, loved the mysterious, and chose the device of tearing into two parts this paper of directions and concealing them in different hiding-places of the cabinet. Those directions, after many years, grew vague in the younger brother's memory.

"Eh bien, the Marquis was at last able to make the journey to this country. You must remember he had nothing wherewith to prove his story, if he gave you his confidence at once; and so, he decided, to investigate quietly alone. But he won the confidence of Mademoiselle Nancy,—that is, of his niece, Eloise de Boisdhyver,—and revealed to her the secret of her identity and the mysterious story of the treasure. You follow me in all this, Monsieur Dan?"

"Perfectly, madame," Frost replied. "But as yet you have told me nothing of your own connection with this strange history."

"Pardon, dear boy," rejoined Madame de la Fontaine; "I was about to do so, but there is so much to tell. My own connection with the affair is quite simple. I am an old friend, one of the oldest, of Monsieur le Marquis de Boisdhyver, and, when I was a very young girl, I knew the Marechal himself. It has been my happiness to be able to prove my friendship for a noble and a fallen family. One day last summer, Monsieur de Boisdhyver told me his brother's dying words, and it was I, Monsieur Dan, who was able to give the money for this strange expedition. The poor Marquis had lost quite all his fortune."

"I understand," said Frost. "But, yet, madame, I do not see the necessity for the secrecy, the mystery, for these strange signals at night, for these midnight investigations, for this schooner and its rough crew, for Nancy's disappearance, for my own imprisonment here."

"Please, please," murmured Madame de la Fontaine, as she held up her hands in smiling protest. "You go too fast for me. Un moment, mon ami, un moment. It was sixteen years ago that the Marechal de Boisdhyver was a guest at the Inn at the Red Oak. You forget that the Marquis de Boisdhyver had no proof of his right to the treasure, save his own story, save his account of his brother's instructions on the field of Waterloo. By telling all he might have awakened deeper suspicions than by secrecy."

"That, I must say," Dan interrupted, "would hardly be possible."

"So!" exclaimed Madame de la Fontaine, with an accent of displeasure. "Ecoutez! Monsieur le Marquis was to come a month in advance, as he did come; take up his quarters at the Inn; reconnoitre the ground; and win, if possible, the confidence and aid of mademoiselle. He fortunately succeeded in this last, for he found it otherwise impossible to enter into the old wing of the Inn and examine the Oak Parlour. With the assistance of Eloise, this was accomplished at last, and the paper of directions was found; at least, found in part.

"Then I, having impressed the services of Captain Bonhomme and his ship the Southern Cross, set sail and arrived at the House on the Dunes only a few days ago, as you already know. The signals that you saw flashing at night were to indicate that all was well."

"The green light, I suppose," commented Dan, "was to indicate that; and the red—"

"Was the signal of danger. Because the Marquis discovered last night that you were not in the house; he flashed the warning that made Captain Bonhomme go to the House on the Dunes. Quite recently the manners of your friend, Mr.—eh—?"


"Yes, Mr. Pembroke—led the Marquis to believe that he was being watched.

"I understand," said Dan, "but nothing you have told me so far, madame, accounts for Nancy's disappearance, and I am as anxious as ever to know where she is."

"Mademoiselle is perfectly safe, Monsieur Dan; I assure you. She left the Inn because she had fear of betraying our plans, particularly as she loved your friend, Mr. Pembroke."

"It is still strange to me, madame, that Nancy should distrust her oldest and best friends. But now you will let me see her?"

"Of course I shall soon, very soon, my dear boy. I have told you all, and now you will aid me to find the treasure that is your foster-sister's heritage, will you not?"

"Why certainly I want Nancy to have what is hers," replied Dan.

"Bravo, my friend. We are to count you one of us, I am sure."

"Just a moment," said Dan, resisting the temptation to touch the little hand that had been placed impulsively upon his arm. "May I ask one more question?"

"A thousand, my dear, if you desire."

"Why then, since until last night everything has gone as you planned it, why has not the treasure already been discovered?"

"Because, mon ami; the Marquis has only been able to visit the Oak Parlour at night. And also it was decided to wait until I arrived."

"With the schooner?" suggested Dan.

"With the schooner, if you will. And you may remember that it was only the day before yesterday that I reached your so hospitable countryside."

"Ah! I understand; so then all that you desire of me, madame, is that I shall permit the Marquis or anyone else whom you may select for the purpose, to make such investigation of the Oak Parlour as is desired."

"Yes, my friend; and also there is yet another thing that we desire."

"But suppose, madame, that I cannot agree to that?"

"Ah! cher ami, but you will. I confess—you must remember that the Marquis de Boisdhyver has been a soldier—that my friends have not agreed with me entirely. It has seemed to them simpler that we should keep you a prisoner on this ship, as we could so easily do, until our mission is accomplished. But,—I like you too much to agree to that."

Dan flushed a trifle, but he was not yet quite sure enough to fall in entirely with his charming gaoler's suggestions. "Madame de la Fontaine," he said after a moment's reflection, "I am greatly obliged to you for explaining the situation to me so fully. I shall be only too happy to help you, particularly in anything that is for the benefit of Nancy."

"I was sure of it. Now, my friend, there is a service that you can immediately render."

"And that is?" asked Dan.

"To entrust to me the other half of the paper of directions written by Francois de Boisdhyver, which you found in a secret cubby-hole in the old cabinet."

"What makes you think that I was successful in finding that, when the Marquis failed?"

"Because, at first having forgotten his precise directions after so many years, the Marquis could not find the fourth and last hiding-place in the cabinet, in which he knew the Marechal had placed the other half of the torn scrap of paper. Another time he did find the cubby-hole, and it was empty. So knowing he was watched by you and Mr. Pembroke, he decided that you must have found it. Is it not so, that you have it?"

"It is certainly not in my possession at this moment," said Dan.

"No, but you have it?"

"And if I have?"

"It is necessary for our success."

"Then, my first service, is to put you into complete possession of the secret?"

"If you will so express it."

"Very well, madame, I will do so; but, on one condition."

"And what is that, my friend?"

"That I be allowed to see Nancy, and that she herself shall ask me to do as you desire."

For a moment Madame de la Fontaine was silent. "Eh bien," she said at last, "you do not trust me?"

"But, dear madame, think of my situation, it is hard for me."

"Ah! I know it, believe me. C'est difficile. But I hoped you would trust me as I have you."

"Indeed, madame," exclaimed Dan, "I must try to think of everything, the mystery, this extraordinary mission upon which you are engaged, the fact that I am quite literally your prisoner. When I think about you, I know only you are beautiful, that you are lovely, and that I am happy near you."

She looked at him for a moment with a glance of anxious interrogation, as if to ask were it safe for her to believe these protestations. "You say, my friend," she asked at length, "that you care a little for me, for just me? C'est impossible. If Claire de la Fontaine could believe that, understand me, monsieur, it would be very sweet and very precious to her."

"I do care," cried Dan.

"Ah!" she exclaimed. "You have touched my heart. I am not a young girl, mon ami, but I confess that you have made me to know again the dreams of youth."

"Only let me prove that I care," cried Dan, considering but little now to what he committed himself.

"Let me prove," cried she, "that I too believe in you. I must first see the Marquis, and then, tonight, if it can be arranged, you shall receive from Eloise de Boisdhyver's own lips the request I have made of you. But if, for any reason, this cannot be arranged for to-night, you must be patient till morning; you must trust me to the extent of remaining on this ship. I cannot act entirely on my own judgment, but I assure you that in the end my judgment will prevail. And now, au revoir."

She placed her hand in his, and responded to the impulsive pressure with which he clasped it. Their eyes met; in Dan's the frankest expression of her conquest of his emotions; in her's a glance at once tender and sad, above all a glance that seemed to search his spirit for assurance that he was in earnest. Suddenly fired by her alluring beauty, Dan drew her to him and bent his head to hers.

"Ah! my friend," she murmured, "you are taking an unfair advantage of the fact that this morning I too rashly yielded to an impulse."

"I cannot help it," Dan stammered. "You bewitch me." He bent lower to kiss her cheek, when he suddenly thrilled to the realization that his lips had met hers.

A moment later Madame de la Fontaine was gone and Captain Bonhomme had reappeared in the doorway.



Tom Pembroke was as good as his word. He returned to the little room, in which he had confined the Marquis, within an hour after he had left him. It was then nearly supper-time and dusk was fast settling upon the gloomy countryside. An unwonted calm had fallen upon land and sea after the sharp blow of the previous night, but the sky was still gray and there was promise of more rain, if not of wind.

To Tom's indignation and alarm, though scarcely to his surprise, there had been no sign or word from Dan or Nancy. Shortly after he had left the Marquis, he saw, by aid of the field-glass, Madame de la Fontaine, attended by two seamen, leave the schooner and return to the House on the Dunes. He smiled a little as he thought of the account the lively young maid-servant would give of his recent visit. But withal, he felt very much as if he were playing a game of blind man's buff and that he was "it." He was impatient for his interview with the Marquis, though he was but little hopeful that an hour's confinement would have been sufficient to bring the old gentleman to terms. Nor was he to be surprised.

He found Monsieur de Boisdhyver huddled in a great arm chair near the fire that that been kindled on the hearth of his prison. The Marquis glanced up, as Tom entered, but dropped his eyes at once and offered him no greeting. Tom placed his candle on the table and, drawing up a chair, seated himself between the Marquis and the door.

"Well, sir," he said at last, "as I promised you, I have returned within an hour. Have you anything to say to me?"

"Have I anything to say to you!" exclaimed the Marquis. "For why, monsieur? If I venture to express my astonishment and indignation at the way I am treated, you subject me to a barbarity that could be matched no where else in the civilized world than in this extraordinary country. My life is menaced with firearms. My protests are sneered at. I have left but one inference—you have gone mad."

"No, marquis," said Pembroke, "I am not mad. I am simply determined that the mysteries by which we have been surrounded and of which you are the center, shall cease. You have a free choice: put me in the way of getting my friend and his sister back to the Inn, or resign yourself to a prolonged confinement in this room."

"But monsieur I have nothing to communicate to you concerning the disappearance of your friends."

"Pardon me, marquis," returned Pembroke; "you have much to communicate to me. Perhaps you are not aware that I know the motive of your coming to the Inn at the Red Oak; that I know the reason for your prolonged stay here; that I know of the influence that you have acquired over Nancy Frost; and that I have been a witness of your midnight prowlings about the Inn. Nor am I in ignorance of your connection with the rascally-looking captain of the schooner at anchor in the Cove and with the mysterious woman, who has taken possession of the House on the Dunes. I am convinced that you know what has become of Dan as well as what has happened to Nancy. And, believe me, I am determined to find out."

"Bien!" exclaimed Monsieur de Boisdhyver, "permit me to wish you good luck in your undertaking. I repeat, Monsieur Pembroke, I have no information to give to you. I do not know to what extent I have been watched, but I may say with truth that my actions do not in the least concern you."

"They concern my friends," said Tom. "Dan, as you know, is more to me than a brother; and as for his sister Nancy, I hope and expect to make her my wife."

"In that case," rejoined the Marquis with ill-concealed irony, "I may be permitted to offer to you my congratulations. But even so, monsieur, there is nothing that I can do to facilitate your matrimonial plans."

"You refuse then to come to terms?" asked Pembroke.

The Marquis raised his hands with a gesture of despair. "What shall I say, monsieur? If you insisted upon my flying from here to yonder beach, I might have all the desire in the world to oblige you, but the fact would remain that I was without the means of doing so. Since you are so little disposed to accept my protestations, I will no longer make them, but simply decline your proposal. And, pardon me, but so long as I am submitted to the indignity of this confinement, it would be a courtesy that I should appreciate if you would spare me your company."

"Very good," said Tom. "Your meals will be served regularly; and you may ask the servant for anything necessary. I shall not visit you again until you request me to do so."

"Merci," said the Marquis drily. He rose from his seat as Dan turned toward the door, and bowed ironically.

Pembroke went downstairs to have his supper with Mrs. Frost. He said what he could to pacify her, not altogether with success, for as darkness fell the old lady became increasingly apprehensive.

"I know you are anxious, Mrs. Frost," said Tom, "but you must not worry. Try to believe that all will come out right. I am going out after supper, but I shall leave Jesse and Ezra on guard, and you may be sure everything will be safe."

It was some time before Mrs. Frost would consent to his leaving the Inn. If she had yielded to her inclinations, she would have spent the evening in hysterics with Tom at hand to administer comfort. Pembroke, however, deputed that office to black Deborah, and immediately after supper set about his business.

He gave the necessary instructions to Jesse, Ezra and the maids, saw that everything was closely locked and barred, supplied himself with arms and ammunition, and slipped out into the night. Having saddled Fleetwing, he swung himself on the young hunter's back, and trotted down the avenue to the Port Road. The night was intensely dark and still. The moon had not yet risen, and a thick fog rolled in from the sea, shrouding the countryside with its impenetrable veil.

At the Beach Road Pembroke dismounted, tied his horse to a fence rail, and proceeded thence on foot toward the Cove. Stumbling along through the heavy sand, he made his way to the boathouse at the northern end of the little beach. There he ventured to light his lantern, unlocked the door and stepped within. On either side of the entrance were the two sailboats that he and Dan used in summer and to the rear was the old-fashioned whaleboat with which they did their deep fishing. Over it, in a rudely constructed rack, was the Indian birch-bark canoe which Dan had purchased in the mountains a few years before. As the sea had fallen to a dead calm, he decided to use this canoe, which he could paddle quite noiselessly, and pulling down the little craft from its winter resting-place, he carried it to the water's edge. The sea, so angry the night before, now scarcely murmured; only a low lazy swell, at regularly recurring intervals, slapped the shore and hissed upon the sands. Tom pushed the nose of the canoe into the water, leaped lightly over the rail, and with his paddle thrust it off the beach. He was launched without mishap.

Not the faintest gleam of light showed the position of the Southern Cross, but estimating as well as he could the general direction, he paddled out through the enshrouding fog. For ten minutes or so, he pushed on into the strange, misty night. Then suddenly he found himself alongside an old fisherman's yawl that had been rotting all winter at her moorings, and he knew from her position that he could not be far from the Southern Cross.

A few more strokes to leeward, and a spot of dull light broke through the darkness. He headed directly for it. To his relief it grew brighter; when suddenly, too late to stop the progress of his canoe, he shot under it, and the bow of his craft bumped with a dull thud against the timber side of the schooner. Its dark outlines were just perceptible above him; and at one or two points there gleamed rays of light in the fog, green and red from the night lamps on the masthead, and dull yellow from the port holes in the rear. A second after the contact the canoe receded, then the wash of the sea drew her toward the stern. Another moment and Pembroke felt his prow scrape gently against the rudder, which prevented further drifting. Apparently, since he heard nothing from the deck above, he had reached his goal without attracting attention.

He kept perfectly still, however, for some little time, until satisfied that there was no one at the wheel above, he pushed the canoe softly back to the rope ladder, that a day or so before he had seen hanging over the side. It was the work of a moment to make his little boat fast to the lower rung. Then slipping over the rail, he climbed stealthily up till his head protruded above the gunwhale. The immediate deck seemed deserted; but he was sure that some one was keeping the watch, and probably near the point where he was, that is to say, where access to the deck was easiest. But the fog and the darkness afforded him protection, as he climbed over the gunwhale and, without making a sound, moved toward the stern, crossed the after-deck and found the wheel. As he had surmised, it was deserted. The watch evidently was forward. Beneath him, sending its ineffectual rays obliquely into the fog, shone the light from the little cabin below.

Determined to get a look through the port, he climbed over the gunwhale again, fastened a stern-sheet about his waist and to a staple, and at the risk, if he slipped or if the rope gave way, of plunging head foremost into the icy waters of the Cove, he let himself down until his head was on a level of the port.

Through the blurred glass he peered into a tiny cabin. There with back toward him, just a few feet away stood Nancy Frost. He steadied himself with an effort, and looking again saw that she was alone. A moment's hesitation, and he tapped resolutely on the pane with his finger tips. At first Nancy did not hear, but presently, aroused by the slight tapping, she glanced with a frightened expression toward the door, and stood anxiously listening. Tom continued to knock on the window, not daring to make it louder for fear of being heard above. The alarm deepened on Nancy's face, and in sheer pity Tom was tempted to desist; but at that instant her attention was riveted upon the spot whence the tapping came. At last, still with the expression of alarm on her face, she came slowly toward the port. She hesitated, then pressed her face against the pane over which Tom had spread his fingers. At whatever risk, of frightening her or of danger to himself, as she drew back, he pressed his own face against the outside of the little window glass. She stared at him as if she were looking at a ghost.

He moved his lips to form the word "Open." At length, in obedience to this direction, Nancy cautiously unloosened the window of the port and drew it back.

"Good heavens, Tom!" she whispered. "Is it you?"

"Yes, yes," Pembroke whispered back. "But for God's sake, speak softly. I'm in a devilishly unpleasant position, and can hang here but a minute. Tell me quickly—are you here of your own free will or are you a prisoner?"

"How can you ask?" she exclaimed. "For the love of heaven, help me to escape."

"That's what I'm here for," was Toms reply. "Now, quick; are you only locked in or barred as well? I've brought some keys along."

"Only locked, I think."

"Where does that door lead?"

"Into a little passage off the companion-way. Give me your keys. They have but one man on watch. The captain is on shore to-night, apt to return at any moment. And you?"

"I have a canoe tied to the ladder on the shore side. If the captain returns, I'm caught. Try those keys." He slipped into her the bunch of keys that he had brought along. "I was sure you were here, and against your will."

"Dan, too, is locked up on board."

"I thought as much; but you first. Hurry."

Nancy sprang to the door, trying one key after another in feverish haste. At last, to Tom's infinite relief, he saw the key turn in the lock, and the door open.

"On deck," she whispered; "at the ladder. I'm not likely to be caught." Then she waved her hand and disappeared into the passage.

Tom pulled himself up, unloosed the rope, and stole along the rail toward the ladder. For a few moments, which seemed like a thousand years, he stood in anguished suspense waiting for Nancy. Then suddenly she came out of the mist and was at his side. They stood for a moment like disembodied spirits, creatures of the night and the fog. The next instant a hand shot out and grasped the girl's shoulder.

"Peste! mam'zelle," a rough voice hissed, "ou allez-vous?"

As the man spoke Tom swung at him with the butt of his revolver, and without a murmur the figure fell to the deck.

"Quick now," Pembroke whispered, "down the ladder."

Instantly Nancy was over the rail and Tom was climbing down after her. As he knelt in the bow and fumbled with the painter, the plash of oars sounded a dozen yards away.

"Ho! Croix du Midi!" came a hail through the fog.

"Curse it!" muttered Tom; "the painter's caught." He drew out his knife, slashed the rope that bound them to the schooner, got to his place amidships, and pushed the canoe free. The lights of a small boat were just emerging from the dark a dozen feet away. But the canoe slid by unobserved, in the fog. They heard the nose of the small boat bump against the schooner; then an oath, and a man's voice calling the watch.

"They've found my painter," whispered Tom, "and in a second they'll find the sailor on their deck."

The lights of the Southern Cross grew dim; vanished; the sound of angry voices became muffled. They were half-way to shore when they heard the noise of oars again. Evidently some one had started in pursuit. For a moment Tom rested, listening intently; but the sound was still some distance away. Probably, he thought, they were heading directly for the shore, whereas he, at a considerable angle, was making for the boathouse at the north end of the beach. In ten minutes he had beached the canoe within a rod of the point from where he embarked.

"I can't hear them," whispered Tom, after a moment's listening. "They've made for shore down the beach. They can't find us in the dark. I've got Fleetwing tied to a fence in the meadow yonder. Come."

It was the work of a moment to stow the canoe, lock the boathouse, run across the sands, and mount Nancy in front of him on the back of his trusty hunter. A second later Fleetwing's hoofs were striking fire on the stones that the high tides had washed into the beach road. In the distance there was a cry, the sharp ring of a pistol shot; but they were safe on their way, racing wildly for the Inn. The escape, the adventure had thrilled Nancy. Tom's arms were around her, and her hands on his that grasped the bridle. At last they were in the avenue, and Tom pulled in under the great branches of the Red Oak. He slipped from the back of the horse and held out his arms to Nance.

"We are safe, girl," he whispered.

"You are sure? Oh, thank God, thank God! Quick, let us in! Can they be following?"

"No, no. They won't follow. It's all right. Easy,—before we go in—please, dear—once—kiss me."

"Oh, Tom, Tom," she whispered, as she lifted her face to his.

"I have you at last, sweetheart," he murmured. "You love me?"

"Ah!" she cried, "with my whole heart and soul."



It was after eleven before Nancy rejoined Tom in the bar. She seemed more like herself as she slipped in and took her accustomed seat beside the blazing logs.

"Oh, I am all right, thank you," she insisted, declining the glass of wine that Pembroke poured out for her. "I wonder, Tom, if you killed that poor wretch on the deck?"

"Don't know," Tom answered. "I hope so. But what the deuce, Nance, has been happening? I can wait till to-morrow to hear, if you are too tired to tell me; but I do want awfully to know."

"I am not tired," Nancy replied, "and I shan't sleep a wink anyway. If I close my eyes I'll feel that hand on my shoulder and hear the thud of that man's fall on the deck. I can't bear to think that this miserable business will bring bloodshed."

"But tell me, Nance, who is the Marquis—what happened—how did they get you away?"

"Ah! the Marquis," exclaimed Nancy with a shudder. "I am glad you have him locked up. I can't bear to think of him, but I'll tell you what I know. You remember, Tom, he tried to be friends with me from the first; and he seemed to fascinate me in some unaccountable way. Then he questioned me about my identity, and began to drop hints that he knew more than he cared to let appear to the others, and my curiosity was excited. I have always known of course that there was some mystery about my being left to Mrs. Frost's care. She has been kind, good, all that she should be; but she wasn't my mother. Well, the Marquis stirred all the old wonder that I had as a child, and before long quite won my confidence. He told me after a time that I was the daughter of his elder brother, the Marquis Francois de Boisdhyver, who in 1814 stayed here at the Inn at the Red Oak under the name of General Pointelle. I was not altogether surprised, for I have always believed that I was French by birth, and his assertion that I was his niece seemed to account for his interest in me. My father, if this Marquis de Boisdhyver was my father, was one of the Emperor Napoleon's marshals and was a party to the plot to rescue the Emperor from Elba. He was obliged to return to France, and since it was impossible for him to take me with him—I was a little girl of two at the time—he left me with Mrs. Frost. Thinking of my future, he hid a large treasure in some secret chamber off the Oak Parlour."

"I know," Tom interrupted.

"What? You mean there is a treasure?"

"I think there is; but go on. I will tell you afterwards."

"Then he set sail for France, took part in the great events of the Hundred Days, and fell at Waterloo. It was on the field of Waterloo that he met his younger brother—our Marquis—and told him about the child left in America and about the treasure hidden in the Inn at the Red Oak."

"Well," Nancy continued, having answered a volley of questions from Tom, "the Marquis—I mean our old Marquis—was held for many years in a military prison in England. Upon his release he was poor and unable to come to America to seek his little niece and the fortune that he believed to be hidden in the Inn. Tom, at first I didn't believe this strange story about a treasure; but gradually I became convinced; for the Marquis believed in it thoroughly, and for proof of it he showed me a torn scrap of paper that he found in the cabinet in the Oak Parlour the day after he arrived at the Inn. It seems the old marshal had torn the paper in two and hidden the parts in different cubby-holes of that old Dorsetshire cabinet. He couldn't find an opportunity to hunt for the other half, so at last he persuaded me to help him in the search. Of course, he swore me to secrecy, and I was foolish enough to give him my promise. I got the key to the bowling alley from the ring in Dan's closet, and two or three times went with him at night after you all were asleep."

"I know you did," said Tom.

"How could you know it—has the Marquis—?"

"No, Dan and I saw you. I woke one night, happened to look out of the window and saw the Marquis going into the bowling alley. It was moonlight, you know. I woke Dan, we slipped down stairs, saw a light in the Oak Parlour, peeped through the shutters and saw you and the old Marquis at the cabinet."

"When was this?" asked Nancy.

"The night—before our walk in the woods."

"And you did not tell me! What could you think I was doing?"

"I didn't know. How could I know? It was that which first made me suspicious of the Marquis. We made up our minds to watch. But that day in the woods—well, I forgot everything in the world but just that I was in love with you."

"Ah!" exclaimed Nancy, flushing.

"But tell me," asked Tom, "What did you find in the cabinet?"

"We found nothing. I began to think that the Marquis had deceived me. I didn't know what to believe. I didn't know what to do. I threatened each day to tell Dan. And then came our walk. When we came in that night—do you recall?—we found the Marquis sitting in the bar before the fire, and I went over and spoke to him."

"Yes, I remember," Tom answered.

"I had made up my mind that I must take you all,—mother and you and Dan,—into my confidence. I told him so. He begged me to wait until the next day and promised that he would tell you then himself. I was beginning to think he might be a little crazy, that there was no hidden treasure."

"I'm sure there is," said Tom. "There was another half of that torn scrap of paper, hidden in one of the cubby-holes of the old cabinet. Dan found it. It's the directions, sure enough, for finding the treasure."

"Ah! but what has it all to do with me?"

"I don't know; something I fancy, or the Marquis would not have told you as much as he did. But here is the other half. You can tell whether it is part of the paper he showed you."

He drew from his pocket the yellowed bit of paper and spread it on the table before them. Nance bent over and examined it closely.

"I believe it is the other half. See, it is signed ...'ancois de Boisdhyver'. I remember perfectly that the signature of the other was missing, except for the letters 'F-r-' It is, it must be, Francois de Boisdhyver, who, the Marquis says, was my father. Then look! here are the words 'tresor', 'bijoux et monaie'. I remember in the other there were phrases that seemed to go with these—'tresor cache' 'lingots d'or'. Ah! do you suppose there really is a fortune hidden away in the Inn all these years?"

"Yes, I think so," said Tom. "And I feel certain you have some claim to it, or they wouldn't have made such an effort to involve you in their plot. But, please, Nance, tell me the rest. You got to the night of your disappearance."

"It was a horror—that night!" exclaimed Nancy. "It must have been about twelve that the Marquis came and tapped at my door. For some reason I was restless and had not gone to bed. I slipped out into the hall with him and we came in here to talk. He begged me to make one more expedition with him to the Oak Parlour. But I refused—I insisted that I must tell Dan. Suddenly, Tom, without the slightest warning, I felt my arms pinioned from behind, and before I could scream, the Marquis himself had thrust a handkerchief in my mouth, and I was gagged and bound. Everything was done so quickly, so noiselessly, that not a soul in the house could have heard. They carried me out of the Inn and into the avenue of maples. From there on I was forced to walk. We went to the beach. I was put into a small boat and rowed out to the schooner, and there they locked me up in the little cabin in which you found me."

"What time did you say it was?" asked Tom.

"About twelve—after midnight, perhaps; I don't know for sure. The Marquis went to the beach with us and pretended to assure me that I was in no danger; that I would be released in good time, and that he would see me again. As a matter of fact for three days I have seen no one but Captain Bonhomme. He brought my meals, and was inclined to talk about anything that come into his head. Last night he told me that Dan was also a prisoner on the Southern Cross, if that would be of any consolation to me. Then he said he had to go ashore and locked me up. Several times I was taken on deck for exercise, but the captain kept close by my side."

"And you haven't seen or heard from the Marquis again?"

"No! nor do I want to see him. But, Tom, what is the meaning of it all? How are we going to rescue Dan? What are we going to do? We can't keep the Marquis a prisoner indefinitely."

Tom gave her his own version of the last few days. He told her of what he and Dan had suspected, of Dan's proposal to visit the House on the Dunes and his disappearance, of his own investigations there, and his determination to play the same game with the Marquis as hostage.

"But what to do next, I confess I don't know," he continued. "At present it seems to be stale mate. For to-night, any way, we are safe, I think, for I shall take turns in keeping guard with Jesse and Ezra. I have the idea that to-morrow, when they realize something has happened to the Marquis we shall hear from Madame de la Fontaine or from the schooner. In the morning I am going to take you and Mrs. Frost to the Red Farm for safety. I intend to fight this thing out with that gang, whatever happens. If there is treasure, according to their own story, it belongs to you. If I don't get a proposal from them, I shall make the offer, through Madame de la Fontaine, of exchanging the Marquis for Dan.... But I must go now, Nance, and relieve one of the men. We must all get some sleep to-night, and it's already after twelve. Go to bed, sweetheart, and try to get some rest. One of us will be within call all night, watching right there in the hall; so don't be afraid."

"It was my wretched curiosity that got us into all this trouble."

"Not a bit of it! The trouble was all arranged by the Marquis; he was simply waiting for the schooner. Now that I have you back again, my heart is fairly light. We shall get Dan to-morrow, I am sure."



In the morning the fog lifted, a bright sun shone from a cloudless sky, the marshes sparkled with pools of melted snow and the long-promised thaw seemed definitely to have set in. Soon after breakfast Tom sent Jesse to the Red Farm with directions for the people there to make preparations for Mrs. Frost and Nancy, whom he proposed to drive over himself in the course of the afternoon.

About the middle of the morning as Tom and Nancy stood on the gallery discussing the situation, Tom drew her attention to a small boat putting off from The Southern Cross. They examined it through the glass, and Nancy recognized the figure of Captain Bonhomme sitting amongst the stern-sheets.

"You may depend upon it," said Tom, "he is going to the House on the Dunes to report your disappearance to Madame de la Fontaine. The most curious thing about this whole business to me is the mixing-up in it of such a woman as Dan described Madame de la Fontaine to be."

"It is strange," Nancy agreed, "but from the bits of talk I've overheard, I should say that she was the prime mover in it all."

"In a way I am rather glad of that," said Tom, "for with a woman at the head of things there is less chance of their resorting to force to gain their ends. But the stake they are playing for must be a big one, and already they have done enough to make me sure that we should be prepared for anything. I shall be surprised if we don't get some communication from them to-day. The old Marquis counts on it, or he would not keep so still. At any cost, we must get Dan back."

They talked for some time longer and were about to go in, when Nancy pointed to a horse and rider coming down the avenue of Maples. A glance sufficed to show that the rider was a woman. Nancy slipped inside to escape observation, while Tom waited on the gallery to receive the visitor.

As the lady drew rein under the Red Oak, he ran down the steps, and helped her to dismount. Her grace, her beauty, her manner as of the great world, made him sure that he was in the presence of Madame de la Fontaine.

"Good morning, sir," said the lady, with a charming smile, "if I mistake not, I have the pleasure of addressing Mr. Pembroke?"

"Yes, madam,—at you service," replied Tom.

"I am come on a strange errand, monsieur; as an ambassadress, so to say, of those whom I fear you take to be your enemies."

"You are frank, madam. I believe that I am speaking with—?"

"Madame de la Fontaine," the lady instantly supplied. "Events have so precipitated themselves, monsieur, that pretense and conventionality were an affectation. I am informed, you understand, of your brilliant rescue of Mademoiselle Eloise de Boisdhyver."

"If you mean Nancy Frost by Mademoiselle Eloise de Boisdhyver, madam, your information is correct. I gathered that you had been told of this, when I saw Captain Bonhomme make his way to the House on the Dunes this morning."

"Ah! What eyes, monsieur!" exclaimed the lady. "But I have grown accustomed to having my privacy examined over-curiously during the few days I have spent on your hospitable shores. Mais pardon—my purpose in coming to the Inn at the Red Oak this morning was but to request that my name be conveyed to Monsieur the Marquis de Boisdhyver."

"You mean, madam, that you wish to see the Marquis?"

"Yes, monsieur, if you will be so good as to allow me to do so."

"I am sorry," Tom rejoined, "that I must disappoint you. Circumstances over which the Marquis has no control will deprive him of the pleasure of seeing you this morning."

"Ah!" exclaimed Madame de la Fontaine, "I was right then. Monsieur le Marquis is, shall we say, in confinement?"

"As you please, madam; as safe, for the time, as is my friend Dan Frost."

"Eh bien, monsieur! It is that you have—do you not say?—turned the tables upon us?"

"Precisely, madam," assented Tom.

"And you will not permit me even a word—ever so little a word—with my poor friend?" murmured Madame de la Fontaine plaintively.

"Again I am sorry to refuse you, madam; but—not even a little word."

"So! Mais oui, I am not greatly surprised. I was assured last night...."

"When you did not see the signals?" suggested Tom quickly.

"When I did not see the signals," repeated the lady, with a glance of the briefest enquiry, "I was assured that something had befallen Monsieur le Marquis. Mais vraiment, monsieur, you do us much dishonour in assuming a wicked conspiracy on our parts. The Marquis is my friend; he is also the friend of the charming Mademoiselle. All that we wish, all that we would do is as much in her interest as in his own. But it is impossible that my old friend shall remain in confinement. On what condition, monsieur, will you release the Marquis de Boisdhyver?"

"On the condition, naturally, that my friend Dan Frost is released from the Southern Cross."

"Ah! Is it that you are quite sure that Monsieur Frost is confined on the ship?"

"Quite sure, Madame de la Fontaine. I was on board The Southern Cross last night."

"Yes, I know it; and I congratulate you upon your extraordinary success. Very well, then, I accept your condition. Monsieur Dan Frost returns; Monsieur le Marquis is released. And now you will perhaps have the kindness—"

"No, madame; in this affair the Marquis and his friends have been the aggressors. I cannot consent that you should hold any communication with the Marquis till Dan returns free and unharmed to the Inn."

"And what assurance then shall I have that the Marquis will be released?"

"None, madame, but my word of honour."

"Pardon, monsieur. I accept your terms. Monsieur Frost shall return. The instant he enters the Inn at the Red Oak, you promise that the Marquis de Boisdhyver be released and that he be given this note from me?"

"Certainly, madam."

The lady took a sealed note from the pocket of her habit and handed it to Tom. "There remains, monsieur," she murmured, "but to bid you good-day. If you will be so kind—"

She ran lightly down the steps, and held up her foot for Tom to assist her into the saddle.

"Your friend will return tout de suite, monsieur," she cried gayly, as she drew in the rein.

"And we shall have the pleasure of seeing you again?" asked Tom.

"Ah! who can tell?" She touched the horse lightly with her whip, inclined her head, and soon disappeared down the avenue of maples.

Some time later Nancy and Tom watched her cantering across the beach. She waved her handkerchief as a signal to the schooner; a small boat put ashore, and she was rowed out to The Southern Cross.

"Once Dan is back, and we get rid of the old Marquis," said Tom, "I shall breathe considerably easier."

"I can't believe they will give the game up so easily," was Nancy's reply. "Seizing the Marquis, Tom, was a check, not a mate."

Out on the schooner in the Cove, Madame de la Fontaine and Dan Frost were once more talking together.

"Dear boy," said the lady. "I cannot do that which I promised. It is impossible that your sister shall make to you the request to give me the torn scrap of paper, for the reason that Mademoiselle Nancy has chosen to disappear. Have no fear, monsieur, for I have good reason to believe she has returned to the Inn at the Red Oak. Our schemes, mon ami, have failed. You are no longer a prisoner, you are free. And this is good-bye. I abandon our mission. I leave the House on the Dunes to-day; to-morrow I return to France."

"But, madame, you bewilder me," exclaimed Dan. "Why should you go; why should we not all join forces, hunt for the treasure together, if there is a treasure; why this division of interests?"

"C'est impossible!" she exclaimed impetuously. "Monsieur le Marquis will not consent. He is treated with intolerable rudeness by your friend Mr. Pembroke. He will not accept that which I propose. And I—vraiment, I desire no longer to work against you. No, monsieur Dan, tout est fini, we must say good-bye."

She held out her hands and Dan impetuously seized them. Then, suddenly, she was in his arms and his lips were seeking hers.

"I cannot let you go," he cried hoarsely. "I cannot say good-bye."

For a moment he held her, but soon, almost brusquely, she repulsed him. "C'est folie, mon ami, folie! We lose our heads, we lose our hearts."

"But I love you," cried Dan. "You must believe it; will you believe it if I give you the paper?"

"No, no!—What!—you wish to give to me the secret of the Oak Parlour?—"

"Aye, to entrust to you my life, my soul, my honour."

"Ah, but you must go," she murmured tensely.

"Captain Bonhomme is returning. It is better that he knows of your release after you are gone. C'est vrai, my friend, that I risk not a little in your behalf. Go now, quickly ... No! No!" she protested, as she drew away from him. "I tell you, C'est folie,—madness and folly. You do not know me. Go now, while there is time!"

"But you will see me again?" insisted Dan. "Promise me that; or, on my honour, I refuse to leave. Do with me what you will, but—"

"Listen!" she whispered hurriedly. "I shall meet you to-night at ten o'clock, at the end of the avenue of maples near to your inn; you know the place? Bien! Bring me the paper there, to prove that you trust me. And I—mais non, I implore you—go quickly!"

Dan turned at last and opened the door. Madame de la Fontaine called sharply to the waiting Jean, and he, motioning to Dan to follow him, led the way on deck. In a moment they were in a little boat heading for the shore. The afternoon sun was bright in the western sky. The Southern Cross rode serenely at anchor, and from her deck, Madame de la Fontaine was waving him good-bye.



By the time Dan was put ashore on the beach of the Cove it was afternoon. During the short row from the schooner he had been unable to exchange remarks with the surly Jean, for that individual's only response to his repeated efforts, was a surly "Je ne parle pas anglais," which seemed to answer as a general formula to the conspirators. He gave up at last in disgust, and waited impatiently for the small boat to be beached, distrustful lest at the last moment some fresh trick be played upon him. Not that his ingenuous faith in the beautiful French lady failed him, but he was suspicious lest, having acted independently of the Marquis and Captain Bonhomme in releasing him, she should not have the power to make that release genuinely effective.

But his apprehensions were groundless. The seaman rowed straight for the shore, beached the boat with a last sturdy pull at the oars, and leaping out into the curling surf, held the skiff steady.

"Thank you very much," said Dan, shaking the spray from his coat.

"Eh?" grunted Jean.

"Oh!—beg pardon!—merci," he explained, exaggerating the pronunciation of the French word.

"Huh!" was the gutteral reply, as the man jumped back into the skiff, and pushed off. Dan looked once more towards the distant schooner and the slight figure in the stern. Then he started at a rapid pace for the Inn.

As he turned into the avenue of maples, he was surprised to see Jesse standing on the gallery, musket in hand, as though he were a sentinel on guard.

"Bless my soul, Mister Dan! I thought the Frenchies had made way with you. You're a blessed sight to lay eyes on. But Mister Tom was right, he said you'd be coming back this afternoon."

"Well, here I am, Jesse," Dan replied grasping his hand, "as large as life and twice as natural, I guess. I feel as if I'd been away for a year and a day. But tell me, what's the news? Where is Tom? Has Nancy come back? How is Mother? Have you been having trouble, that you are guarding the door like a soldier on duty?"

"Well, now, Mister Dan, one at a time, if you please. Can't say exactly as we've been havin' trouble; but we've sort of been lookin' for it. And Mister Tom—"

"Where is Tom? I must see him at once.'

"He ain't here, sir; he left about an hour ago, driving the old Miss and Miss Nancy to the Red Farm, sir; so as to be out of harm's way. He'll be back before night, sir."

"Ah, good! Then Nance is back? When did she come?"

"She come back last night, sir; leastways Mister Tom brought her back. Mister Tom, he got the idea that they'd cooped Miss Nance up on that there schooner laying in the Cove, and sure enough, he found her there and got her off somehows last night."

"Good for Tom! How did he work it?"

"I ain't heard no particulars, Mister Dan. We've been too busy watching things to talk much. We got Ezra Manners out from the Port to help do guard duty."


"Why, the Inn, sir. Mister Tom he's been sort of expectin' some kind of attack. That's the reason he took the women folks over to the Red Farm."

"I see—and where's the old Marquis?"

Jesse chuckled. "The old Marquis's where he hasn't been doin' any harm for the last twenty-four hours, sir. Mister Tom he locked him up last night in one of the south bedrooms. That reminds me, I was to let him out just as soon as you come back."

"Why lock him up, and then let him out? Things have been moving at the Inn, Jess, since I've been gone!"

"Moving—yes, sir. But them's my orders—first thing I was to do soon as you come back was to let the old Frenchy out and do as he pleased. Mister Tom was to arrange everything else with you, sir."

"Seems as if Tom had a whole campaign planned out. All right—we'll obey orders, Jess. Let the Marquis out, and tell him he can find me in the bar if he wants to see me. What time will Tom be back?"

"Before dark, sir, I'm sure. He's been gone over an hour."

Dan ran up to his bedroom, made a quick toilet, took the torn scrap of paper from his strong-box, and put it in his wallet. Then he went down stairs into the bar. The Marquis, released from his confinement, was awaiting him.

"Ah, Monsieur Frost!" the old gentleman exclaimed, coming forward with outstretched hands, "I rejoice at your return. Now this so horrible nightmare will end... Ah!" This last exclamation was uttered in a tone of surprise and indignation, for Dan faced him with folded arms, deliberately refusing the handclasp.

"Yes, Marquis," he said, "I have returned; but I cannot say that I am particularly pleased to see you."

"Monsieur, te me comprends pas; this abuse, this insult—it is impossible that I understand."

"Pray, Monsieur de Boisdhyver," replied Dan, with dignity, "Let us have done with make-believe and sham. For two days I have been in prison on that confounded ship yonder, whose villainous crew are in your pay."

"You in prison—the ship—the villainous crew!" repeated the Marquis. "What is it that you say?"

"Come, Marquis, your protests are useless," Dan interrupted. "I know of the conspiracy in which you are engaged, of your deceit and trickery here, of your part in my poor sister's disappearance. You know that Madame de la Fontaine has told me much. Do you expect me to meet you as though nothing had happened?"

"But, mon cher, monsieur," continued the Marquis, "if it is that you have been told anything by Madame de la Fontaine, my so good friend, the bright angel of an old age too-cruelly shattered by misfortune, you well know how innocent are my designs, how sincere my efforts for your foster-sister, for her who is my niece."

"Marquis, I do not understand all that has taken place. I may say further that I do not care to discuss the situation with you until I have talked with my sister and Mr. Pembroke."

"Ah! then Eloise—then Mademoiselle Nancy, is returned?" exclaimed the old gentleman.

"I believe so. But I have not seen her. I must decline, Marquis, to continue this conversation. I must first learn what has taken place in my absence. When Tom returns—he is out just now—I am perfectly willing to talk matters over with you and him together."

The Marquis's eyes flashed. "But, Monsieur," he protested, "you must understand that I cannot submit to meet with Monsieur Pembroke again. A Marquis de Boisdhyver does not twice put himself in the position to be insulted with impunity."

"I should hardly imagine," Dan replied, "that it would be more difficult for you to meet Pembroke again than it has been difficult for me to meet you."

"How—me?—je ne comprends pas. But I have been insulted, imprisoned, I have suffered much that is terrible."

"I found myself in an identical situation," said Dan.

"But, monsieur, un moment" protested the old gentleman, as Dan made as if to leave the room, "give me the time to explain to you this misunderstanding.—"

"No, Marquis. I will not talk until I have seen Tom."

The black eyes of Monsieur de Boisdhyver gleamed unpleasantly. "I have said to you, Monsieur Frost, that I refuse to meet Monsieur Tom Pembroke once more. It would be intolerable. Impossible, absolutment! I must insist that you will be kind enough to facilitate my departure at once."

"Certainly, as you wish, Marquis."

The old gentleman hesitated. For once indecision was shown by the agitation of his features and the shifting of his eyes, but he gave no other expression to the quandaries in his mind. After a moment's silence he drew himself up with exaggerated dignity. With one hand upon his breast and the other extended, in a fashion at once absurd and a little pathetic, he addressed Dan for the last time, as might an ambassador taking leave of a sovereign upon his declaration of war.

"Monsieur, I renew my gratitude for the hospitality of the Inn at the Red Oak, so long enjoyed, so discourteously withdrawn. I require but the presentation of my account for the time, I have trespassed upon your good will, and I request the assistance of a servant to facilitate my departure. But I do not take my farewell without protesting, avec tout mon coeur, at the misunderstanding to which I am persistently subjected. The inevitable bitterness in my soul does not prevent me even now to forget the sweet hours of rest that I have enjoyed here. The unwillingness on your part, monsieur, to comprehend my position, does not interfere to stifle in my breast the consciousness but of honourable purpose. I make my compliments to mesdames."

"Very good, marquis—and at what time shall I have a carriage ready for you?"

The Marquis glanced nonchalantly at his watch, "In fifteen minutes, monsieur."

"It will be ready, Marquis."

"Your very obedient servant; Monsieur Frost."

"Your obedient servant, Marquis de Boisdhyver."

The old gentleman bowed again with elaborate courtesy and, turning sharply on his heel, left the room.

Somewhat disturbed by the turn affairs had taken, Dan stood for a moment lost in thought. There was nothing for it, he supposed: Tom, who had been in command, had given orders, and they should be obeyed; besides there was no reason that he could see why the Marquis should be detained at the Inn if he chose to leave it. So he sat down at a table, made out the old gentleman's bill for the month, and then stepped to the door to call for Jesse.

"Take this," he said when the man appeared in response to his summons, "to the old Marquis. It is the bill for his board. If he pays you, well and good; if not—in any case, treat him courteously, and do not interfere with his movements. He is leaving the Inn for good. I want you to have the buggy ready within half-an-hour and drive him where he wishes to go. I fancy he will want his stuff put on the schooner in the Cove."

"All right, sir," replied Jesse. "Now that you and Miss Nance are back, sir, I guess the sooner we get rid of the Marquis the better."

Jesse carried the bill to the Marquis, then came down and went to the barn to harness the horse. A little later he drove round to the courtyard, hitched the horse to a ring in the Red Oak, and ran upstairs to fetch the Marquis's boxes.

Perhaps half-an-hour had passed when he returned to Dan in the Bar. "The old gentleman's gone, sir," he said.

"Gone!—where?" cried Dan.

"Don't know, sir," Jesse replied. "To the schooner, I guess. He left this money on his dressing-bureau."

Dan took the gold which Jesse held out to him. "Well, well," he murmured, "quite on his dignity, eh? All right, Jess, take his stuff to the beach and hail the schooner. He will probably have given directions. I hope we've seen the last of him."





The Marquis's belongings were sent after him to the schooner, where, however, it appeared that they had not been expected, for it was some time before Jesse could obtain an answer to his hail from the shore, and still longer before he could make the men on the ship understand what it was he wanted with them. Eventually Captain Bonhomme had rowed ashore, and the Marquis's bags, boxes, writing-desk, and fiddle were loaded into the small boat and taken off to The Southern Cross.

It appeared from Jesse's report that the Captain had been sufficiently polite, and had attributed the misunderstanding of his men to their inability to speak English. They had not gotten their orders for the Marquis. He had asked no further questions about Monsieur de Boisdhyver or about his recent prisoners, but had feed Jesse liberally, and dismissed him, with his own and the Marquis's thanks.

"Well," said Tom, who had returned an hour before and had been exchanging experiences with Dan, "that seems to be the end of him for the present. I don't know that I did right in promising your French lady that I should release him, but there seemed no other way to make sure of getting you back."

"I am glad you promised," replied Dan. "It is a relief not to have him under our roof. For the last week I've felt as if the place were haunted by an evil spirit."

"So it has been, and so it still will be, I am afraid," was Tom's reply. "If there is treasure here, you may be sure that gang won't sail away without making a desperate effort to get it. I move that we beat them out by hunting for it ourselves. Why not begin to-night?"

"Not to-night," protested Dan. "I am tired to death. You can imagine that I didn't get much sleep cooped up on that confounded ship."

"No more have I, old boy. But I believe in striking while the iron is hot. Every day's delay gives them a better chance for their plans, if they mean to attack the Inn."

"I doubt if they'll do that. I don't think force is precisely their line. You know, I believe that the story Madame de la Fontaine told isn't altogether a fiction."

"Pshaw!" exclaimed Tom. "I don't believe a word of it. Naturally they wouldn't use force, if they could help it. But their plans have all been upset, and a gang like that won't stop at anything."

"But we live in a civilized community, my boy. This isn't the middle ages."

"We live in a civilized community, perhaps; but if you can find a more isolated spot, a place more remote from help, in any other part of the civilized world, I'd be glad to see it. We might as well be in the middle of the Sahara desert. Find the treasure and get it out of harm's way—that's my idea."

"All right, but to-morrow; I swear I'm not up to it to-night."

"To-morrow! Well, then to-morrow. Though for the life of me, I don't see why you want to delay things. Jesse and Ezra can keep watch tonight."

"But we must get some sleep, Tom."

"The devil with sleep! However, you're the boss now. It's your inn, your treasure, your sister, that are involved. I'll take a back seat."

"Come, come, Tom—don't let's quarrel. Give me to-night to—to get myself together, and tomorrow I'll pull the Inn down with you, if you wish."

Perhaps Dan was right, he did need rest and sleep and a few hours would restore him. They had their supper, then, apportioned the night into watches, and Dan went upstairs for his first period of sleep.

His brain was a-whirl. All through the afternoon, during his talk with the Marquis, and later during his talk with Tom, one idea had been dominating his thought, dictating his plan of action, colouring his judgment. The fascination which Madame de la Fontaine exerted over his senses was too strong for him even to contemplate resisting it. She was confessedly in league with a gang of adventurers upon a quest for treasure. She had lied to him at first about the Marquis, she had lied to him about Nancy, she had lied to him about his release; and when she had left him under the pretext of arranging his return to the Inn, she had in fact gone to Tom to bargain an exchange of him for the old Marquis. Her lies, her subterfuges, her flatteries, had been evidently designed but to get possession of the torn scrap of paper which was so necessary to their finding the hidden treasure. All this Dan told himself a hundred times, and then, quickly dispelling the witness of these cold hard facts, there would flash before him the vision of her wonderful eyes, of her strange appealing beauty, of her stirring personality; he would feel once more the touch of her cheek and her lips pressing his, intoxicating as wine; and delicious fires flamed through his veins, and set his heart to beating, and made havoc of his honour and his conscience. Whatever were the consequences, he would meet her again that night as he had promised. It was his first experience of passion and it was sweeping him off his feet.

Alone in his room Dan sat down at the table. He drew from his pocket the torn paper, and as an act of justice to the friends he felt that he was about to betray, he labourously made a copy of the difficult French handwriting. This done, he locked the copy in his strong box and put the original back in his pocket. Then, like the criminal he thought himself to be, he crept cautiously down the stairs. The door into the bar was open, and he stood for a moment, shoes in hand, peering into the dimly-lit room. Tom sat by the hearth, reading, a pipe in his mouth and a cocked pistol on the table by his side. A pang went through Dan's breast, but he checked the impulse to speak, and stole softly across the hall and into his mother's parlour. Ever so cautiously he closed the door behind him, crossed the room, and raised the sash of one of the windows.

It was dark, but starlight; the moon had not yet risen. In a moment he had slipped over the sill and stood upon the porch. Lowering the sash, he crept across the band of light that shone from the windows of the bar, and into the shadow of the Red Oak. There he buttoned his great coat tightly about him, put on his shoes, and started softly down the avenue of maples. Scarcely a sound disturbed the silence of the night, save the lazy creaking of the windmill as it turned now and then to the puff of a gentle breeze.

At every few steps, he paused to listen, fearful lest his absence had been detected and he were followed by some one from the Inn. Then he would start on again, peering eagerly into the darkness ahead for any sign of her whom he sought. At last he reached the end of the avenue. His heart was beating wildly, in a very terror that she might not come. Nothing—no catastrophe, no danger, no disgrace,—could be so terrible to him as that the woman he loved so recklessly and madly should not come. She must not fail! He looked at his watch; it was already three minutes past ten. If in five—then minutes she did not come, he would go to seek her—to the House on the Dunes, aye, if must be to The Southern Cross itself.

Suddenly a dark figure slipped out of the gloom, and Claire de la Fontaine was in his arms. For a moment she let him clasp her, let his lips again meet hers; then quickly she disengaged herself. "Are we safe?" she asked in a whisper. "Is it that we can talk here."

"We are perfectly safe," he answered. "Nothing can be heard from the Inn. No one is about."

"You escaped without notice? Are you certain that no one follows you?"

"Absolutely. I am sure. And you?"

"I?—Oh, no, no—. There is no one to question me. I have been at the House on the Dunes all the evening. Marie, my maid,—she thinks that I am gone to the schooner. Mon Dieu! cher ami, what terrors I have suffered for you. It had not seemed possible that Claire de la Fontaine would ride and walk two so long miles in a desolate country to meet a lover—It must be that we are gone mad."

"Madness then is the sweetest experience of life," said Dan, seizing her hand again and carrying it to his lips.

"Ah peut-etre, mon ami. But now there are many affairs to discuss. Tell me—the Marquis, he was released, as your friend has promised me he should be?"

"Of course, didn't you know it?"

"I know nothing. Why then is it he has not left the Inn?"

"But he did leave—in the middle of the afternoon, half an hour after I returned."

"And where is it that he has gone?"

"To the schooner, I suppose. He left alone, giving directions for his things to be sent after him."

"Ah! to the schooner, you say? You are certain?"

"Yes—that is, I think he went there. Jesse took his boxes and bags down to the shore, and Captain Bonhomme received them, and thanked him in the Marquis's name,''

"Mais non! Est-ce possible?" For a moment she was silent, considering deeply. "Bien!" she exclaimed presently. "It is as you say, of course. And you, my friend?" She stopped suddenly, for they had been walking slowly forward, and withdrawing her hand from his arm, she held it out before him. "The paper?" she demanded.

"Here it is," murmured Dan, fumbling in his pocket, and pulling out the scrap of paper. She took it eagerly from his hand and held it up before her eyes as though trying to see it in the dark.

"This is it, really?" she asked.

"I swear it," he answered. "It is the piece of writing that I found in the hidden cubby-hole of the old cabinet in the Oak Parlour. It is written in French, you know."

"Yes, I know, I know," she assented absently. For a moment she was quite still, and then, with a strange exclamation, she put the paper to her lips. "Quels souvenirs, d'autrefois!" she murmured. "Ah, mon Dieu, mon Dieu!"

"Dearest, what is it?" asked Dan.

"Nothing, nothing," she replied, withdrawing a little from his touch. "I was unwell for the moment,—ce ne fait rien. No, no, you are not to kiss me, please." Again she unloosed his arm from about her neck, slipped the paper into her muff, and pressed a little forward. For a space they walked slowly, silently, toward the Inn.

"But, dearest one," murmured Dan, "this proves to you my love, doesn't it? You no longer doubt me. For your sake, I give my honour; it may be, the safety of my friends. You must see how I love you with all my heart and soul. Won't you,—"

Suddenly she stopped again quite still and faced him. "My poor boy," she said gently, "you really love me?"

"Love you! My God, have I not proved it! What more would you have me do?"

"Mais oui," she answered quickly. "You have proved it, but I have thought that it was not possible."

"And you—you do care—oh, tell me—"

"Helas, mon paurve ami. I love as tenderly as it remains in me to love. Ah, dear, dear boy, so sincerely, that I cannot have you to sell your honour for the futile kisses of Claire de la Fontaine."

"What do you mean? Have I—"

"No, no, no! This—take the paper. You must not again give it me, I desire that you will not." She drew the paper from her muff with an impulsive movement and thrust it toward him. "Take it, I implore you."

"But why—?"

"Because that you shall not give your honour to a woman such as I am. Mai vraiment, I love you. That is why you must take back the paper."

"But you must explain—"

"Mon Dieu! is it that I have not explained? There is time for nothing more. I have fear, mon ami; a kiss, and it is necessary that I go. It is good-bye."

"But you love me, you have said so. I cannot, I will not let you go."

"Listen to me, my friend," she said, her voice rising for the moment above the whisper in which she had cautiously spoken heretofore. "From the first I have deceived you, betrayed you, played upon your affection but to betray you afresh. And now I find that I love you. I am not that which you call good, but it is impossible that I injure you. Go back to your friends."

"Never! I love you. What matters now anything that you have said or done? And you love me. Ah dearest one, what can that mean but good?"

"Bien-aime, what will you that I say?" she interrupted speaking rapidly, "I am what you Americans call 'a bad woman',—the sort of woman that you know nothing of. I was the woman who sixteen years ago stayed at the Inn at the Red Oak with Francois de Boisdhyver, the woman your mother called nurse, who cared for his little daughter. And now I have told you all. Will you know from now that I am a thousand times unworthy? Pour l'amour de Dieu, give it to me to do this one act of honour and of generosity."



With these words she thrust the scrap of paper into his hands and turning swiftly, started forward as though to escape his further importunities by flight. But Dan was instantly by her side, trying to catch her hand in the darkness.

Again she faced him passionately. "C'est folie," she cried hoarsely, "have I not told you that we are in great danger? Go, go back to the Inn. It is there only that you will be safe.—O, mon Dieu!"

A figure had sprung suddenly from the blackness of the trees. Dan felt a sharp blow on his shoulder, and then he was grappling with a wiry antagonist, striving to keep at safe distance a hand that clutched an open knife. Locked in a close embrace, swaying from side to side of the road, they fought desperately. Dan striving to get at the pistol which he carried, his assailant trying to use his knife.

It seemed as if Dan could no longer hold the man off when two small hands closed over the fist that held the gleaming knife and a clear voice rang out in French. Dan felt his antagonist's grip loosen and he wrenched himself free. Madame de la Fontaine had come to his rescue. "Quick, quick—to the Inn. I am safe. You have but one chance for your life," she cried. Already his assailant had put a boatswain's whistle to his lips and was sounding a shrill blast.

As Dan hesitated, uncertain what to do, he heard a number of men come crashing through the underbrush of the neighbouring field. Again Madame de la Fontaine cried, "Mon Dieu! will you not run?" Then she turned and disappeared in the darkness. Simultaneously came the crack of a pistol shot, and a bullet whizzed by his ear. There was nothing for it but to run; and run he did, shouting at the top of his voice the while to Tom in the Inn. He probably owed his start to the fact that for the moment his attacker, who had been held at bay by Madame de la Fontaine, was uncertain whether to follow her or Dan. That moment's delay saved Dan's life, for though, with a curse, the man started after him now, he had a poor chance of catching him in the darkness. But on he came only a dozen yards or so behind, and after him the thundering steps and harsh cries of those who had responded to the call of the whistle.

At last Dan was at the door of the Inn, beating wildly upon it, and calling, "Open, Tom; quick, for God's sake! It's Dan." As the door was flung back, he sprang in and slammed it shut. Already the attackers were in the courtyard, a volley of shots rang against the stout oak, followed almost at once, by the flinging against it of half-a-dozen men. But the great oaken beam had been slipped into place and held firmly. Dan was none the worse for his experience, save for a graze on the cheek where the knife had glanced, and a slit on his shoulder from a bullet.

"They're here!" he cried. "No time for explanations, Tom. I went out—fool that I was!—was attacked. They're here in force."

By this time Jesse had rushed into the bar, attracted by the firing, and soon Ezra Manners came running down from the floor above. After the first impact against the door those without had withdrawn, evidently taking up a position in the courtyard again, for almost at once there was a fusilade of shots against door and windows, which luckily the heavy oak was proof against.

"They're welcome to keep that up all night," said Tom. "Only a waste of ammunition. How many are there?" He would liked to have asked Dan why he had gone out, but there was no time for discussion.

"I don't know—half-a-dozen at least, I should guess," was Dan's reply. "Bonhomme is at their head, I'm sure. It was he who tackled me in the avenue. They may have the whole crew of the schooner here. That would mean a dozen or more."

"Well," said Tom, "we're in for it now, I guess. We'll have to watch in different parts of the house, for we don't know where they will attack. Unless they are all fools, it won't be here."

"You're right. I'll stay and look out for the south wing. You go to the north wing, Tom; Jesse to the kitchen, and Ezra to the end of the south passage. That'll cover the house as well as we can cover it. They'll try to force an entrance somewheres. Have you all got guns? Good. Leave the doors open so that we can hear each other call."

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