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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesJeanne Of The Marshes - Book 1 - Chapter 18
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Jeanne Of The Marshes - Book 1 - Chapter 18 Post by :hydrospell Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :732

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Jeanne Of The Marshes - Book 1 - Chapter 18

BOOK I CHAPTER XVIII

The storm died away with the coming of evening, but a great sea still broke upon the island beach and floated up the estuary. Andrew stood outside his door and looked across toward the mainland with a perplexed frown. It was barely a hundred yards crossing, but it was certain that no boat could live for half the distance. Jeanne, who had recovered her spirits, stood by his side, and smiled as she saw the white crested waves come rolling up.

"It is beautiful, this," she declared. "Do you not love to feel the spray on your cheeks, Mr. Andrew? And how salt it smells, and fresh!"

"That is all very well," Andrew answered, "but I am wondering how we are going to get over to the other side there."

"I do not think," she answered, "that it will be possible for a long, long time. You will have to take me as a lodger whether you want to or not. I would not trust myself in a boat even with you, upon a sea like that."

"It will be high tide in half an hour," Andrew said, "and the sea will go down fast enough then."

"It may not," she answered hopefully. "I rather believe that there is another storm blowing up."

"There will be no dinner for you," he warned her.

"That I can endure cheerfully," she declared. "I am sick of dinners. I hate them. They come much too soon, and one has always the same things to eat. I am quite sure that I shall dine quite nicely with you, Mr. Andrew."

He glanced at his watch and looked out seaward. It was even as she had said. There were indications of another storm. Even while they stood there the large raindrops fell.

"We had better go in," Andrew said. "It is going to rain again."

She clapped her hands, and danced lightly back into the house. She subsided into his easy chair and clasped her hands over her head.

"Come and stand there on the hearthrug," she demanded, "and tell me stories--stories of fishing adventures and storms, and things that have happened to yourself. Never mind how ordinary they may seem. I want to hear them. Remember that everything is new to me. Everything is interesting." He accepted the inevitable at last, and they talked until the twilight filled the room. It was strange how much and yet how little she knew. The fascination of her worldly ignorance was a thing which grew continually upon him. Suddenly she burst into a little peal of laughter.

"I was wondering," she remarked, "whether they are waiting dinner for me. I can just imagine how frightened they all are."

"I had forgotten all about them," Andrew confessed. "Wait a moment."

He left the room and walked out on to the beach. The sea was still dashing its spray high over the roof of the little cottage. The stones outside were wet to within a few feet of his door. He looked across toward the mainland. Far away he fancied that he could see men carrying lanterns like will-o'-the-wisps, in that part of the marshes near the Hall. He retraced his steps to the sitting-room.

"I am afraid," he said, "that it will not be possible to take you back to-night. The sea is still too rough for my boat, and shows no sign of going down."

She clapped her hands.

"I am very glad," she declared frankly. "I would very much rather stay here than go back. Shall we go and see what there is for dinner? I can cook quite well. I learnt at the convent, but I have never had a chance to really try what I can do."

He smiled.

"Well," he said, "you can do exactly what you like with the contents of my larder, but so far as I am concerned, I must go."

"Go?" she repeated wonderingly. "If I cannot leave the island, surely you cannot!"

"Yes!" he answered. "There is another way. I am going to swim over to the mainland and let them know at the Hall where you are."

She was suddenly serious, serious as well as disappointed.

"You must not," she declared. "It is too dangerous. I will not have you try it. You must stay here with me. I am not used to being left alone. I should be very lonely indeed. You must please not think of going."

"Miss Jeanne," he said quietly, "there are many things which you do not know, and you must let me tell you this, that it is not possible for me to keep you here as my guest until to-morrow. You cannot leave the island, so I am going to. I can assure you that it is nothing whatever of a swim, and I shall get to the other side quite easily. Then I am going down to the village to get some dry clothes, and I shall go up to the Hall and talk to your stepmother."

"If you make me go back," she declared, "I shall run away the first time I have an opportunity, and if you will not have me, I dare say I can find some one else who has a room to let, who will."

"I am not your keeper," he answered, "but please don't do anything rash until I tell you what your stepmother says."

"It is you who are rash," she declared. "I do not think that I can let you go. I am afraid, and the water looks so cruel to-night."

He laughed as he stepped outside.

"I am going round to leave some orders with Mr. Berners' servant," he said, "and after that I am going. You must ring for anything you want, and the man will show you your room if you want to lie down. I dare say, though, that some one will come from the Hall presently. The sea will be calmer in a few hours' time."

She walked with him to the edge of the beach. When he drew off his coat and turned up his sleeves she trembled with anxiety.

"Oh, I am afraid," she muttered. "I don't like your going in. I don't like your doing this. I am sorry that I ever came."

He laughed a little scornfully, and plunged in. She watched his head appear and disappear, her heart beating fast all the time. Once she lost sight of it altogether and screamed. Almost immediately he came up to the surface again, and turning round waved his hand to her.

"I am all right," he sang out. "Going strong. It's quite easy."

A few minutes later she saw him wading, and directly afterwards he stood upon the sands opposite to her. He waved his hand. She put her fingers to her lips and threw him a kiss. He pretended not to notice, and started off toward the village, and her low laugh came floating to him in a momentary lull of the wind.

Half-way across the marshes he changed his course, clambered up a high bank on to the road, and turned toward the Hall. Barer than ever the great gaunt building seemed to stand out against the sky line, but from every window lights were flashing, and the windows of the dining-room seemed to reflect a perfect blaze of light. Andrew made his way to the back entrance, and entering unobserved, made his way up to his own room.

* * *

Dinner was over, and the little party of three were settling down to their coffee and cigarettes when the Princess' maid came down and whispered in her mistress' ear. The Princess turned to her host perplexed.

"Has any one seen anything of Jeanne?" she inquired. "Reynolds has just told me that she has not returned at all."

"I thought you said that she was lying down with a headache," Cecil interposed eagerly.

"I thought so myself," the Princess answered. "Early this afternoon she told me that she had no sleep last night, that she had a very bad headache, and that she was going to bed. As a matter of fact she went out almost at once, and has not returned." Cecil was already on his way to the door.

"We will send out into the village at once," he said, "and some one must go on the marshes. There are plenty of places there where it would have been absolutely unsafe for her in such a storm as we have had. Ring the bell, Forrest, will you?"

Andrew stepped in and closed the door behind him.

"It is not necessary," he said. "I can tell you all about Miss Le Mesurier."

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BOOK I CHAPTER XIXThere was a moment's breathless silence as Andrew stood there looking in upon the little group. Then he left his position at the door and came up to the table round which they were seated. "Madam," he said to the Princess, "your daughter is safe. She came down to the island this afternoon, and was unable to return owing to the storm." The Princess gave a little sigh of relief. "Foolish child!" she said. "But where is she now, Mr. Andrew?" "She is still at the island," Andrew answered. "It was impossible for her to leave, so I
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BOOK I CHAPTER XVIIAndrew looked up from his gardening, startled by the sudden peal of thunder. Absorbed in his task, he had not noticed the gathering storm. The sky was black with clouds, riven even while he looked with a vivid flash of forked lightning. The ground beneath his feet seemed almost to shake beneath that second peal of thunder. In the stillness that followed he heard the cry of a woman in distress. He threw down his spade and raced to the other side of the garden. About twenty yards from the shore, Jeanne, in a small boat, was rowing
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