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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesJeanne Of The Marshes - Book 1 - Chapter 9
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Jeanne Of The Marshes - Book 1 - Chapter 9 Post by :hydrospell Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :1297

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Jeanne Of The Marshes - Book 1 - Chapter 9

BOOK I CHAPTER IX

Andrew came face to face with his brother in the village street on the next morning. He looked at him for a moment in surprise.

"What have you been doing?" he asked, drily. "Sitting up all night?"

Cecil nodded dejectedly.

"Pretty well," he admitted. "We played bridge till nearly five o'clock."

"You lost, I suppose?" Andrew asked.

"Yes, I lost!" Cecil admitted.

"Your party," Andrew said, "does not seem to me to be an unqualified success."

"It is not," Cecil admitted. "Miss Le Mesurier has been quite unapproachable the last few days. She's just civil to me and no more. She isn't even half as decent as she was in town. I wish I hadn't asked them here. It's cost a lot more money than we can afford, and done no good that I can see."

Andrew looked away seaward for a moment. Was it his fancy, or was there indeed a slim white figure coming across the marshes from the Hall?

"Cecil," he said, "are you quite sure that your guests are worth the trouble you have taken to entertain them? I refer more particularly to the two men."

"They go everywhere," Cecil answered. "Lord Ronald is a bit of a wastrel, of course, and I am not very keen on Forrest, but we were all together when I gave the invitation, and I couldn't leave them out."

Andrew nodded.

"Well," he said, "I should be careful how I played cards with Forrest if I were you."

Cecil's face grew even a shade paler.

"You do not think," he muttered, "that he would do anything that wasn't straight?"

"On the contrary," Andrew answered, "I have reason to believe that he would. Isn't that one of your guests coming? You had better go and meet her."

Andrew passed on his way, and Cecil walked towards Jeanne. All the time, though, she was looking over his shoulder to where Andrew's tall figure was disappearing.

"What a nuisance!" she pouted. "I wanted to see Mr. Andrew, and directly I came in sight he hurried away."

"Can I give him any message?" Cecil asked with faint irony. "He will no doubt be up with the fish later in the day."

She turned her back on him.

"I am going back to the house," she said. "I did not come out here to walk with you."

"Considering that I am your host," he began--

"You lose your claim to consideration on that score when you remind me of it," she answered. "Really the only man who has not bored me for weeks is Mr. Andrew. You others are all the same. You say the same things, and you are always paving the way toward the same end. I am tired of it. Stop!"

She turned suddenly round.

"I quite forgot," she said. "I must go into the village after all. I am going to send a telegram."

They retraced their steps in silence. As they entered the telegraph- office Andrew was just leaving, and the postmistress was wishing him a respectful farewell. He touched his hat as the two entered, and stepped on one side. Jeanne, however, held out her hand.

"Mr. Andrew," she said, "I am so glad to see you. I want to go out again in that great punt of yours. Please, when can you take me?"

"I am afraid," Andrew answered, "that I am rather busy just now. I-- "

He stopped short, for something in her face perplexed him. It was impossible for her, of course, to feel disappointment to that extent, and yet she had all the appearance of a child about to cry. He felt suddenly awkward and ill at ease.

"Of course," he said, "if you really care about it, I should be very pleased to take you any morning toward the end of the week."

"To-morrow morning, please," she begged.

He glanced towards his brother, who shrugged his shoulders.

"If Miss Le Mesurier is really inclined to go, Andrew," the latter said, "I am sure that you will take good care of her. Perhaps some of us will come, too."

She nodded her farewells to Andrew, and turned back with her host toward the Hall. Cecil looked at her a little curiously. It was certain that she seemed in better spirits than a short time ago. What a creature of caprices!

"Will you tell me, Mr. De la Borne," she asked, "why the postmistress called Mr. Andrew 'sir' if he is only a fisherman?"

"Habit, I suppose," Cecil answered carelessly. "They call every one sir and ma'am."

"I am not so sure that it was habit," she said thoughtfully. "I think that Mr. Andrew is not quite what he represents himself to be. No one who had not education and experience of nice people could behave quite as he does. Of course, he is rough and brusque at times, I know, but then many men are like that."

Cecil did not reply. A grey mist was sweeping in from the sea, and Jeanne shivered a little as they turned into the avenue.

"I wonder," she said pensively, "why we came here. My mother as a rule hates to go far from civilization, and I am sure Lord Ronald is miserable."

"I think one reason why your mother brought you here," Cecil said slowly, "is because she wanted to give me a chance."

She picked up her skirts and ran, ran so lightly and swiftly that Cecil, who was taken by surprise, had no chance of catching her. From the hall door she looked back at him, panting behind.

"Too many cigarettes," she laughed. "You are out of training. If you do not mind you will be like Lord Ronald, an old young man, and I would never let any one say the sort of things you were going to say who couldn't catch me when I ran away."

She went laughing up the stairs, and Cecil de la Borne turned into his study. The Princess was playing patience, and the two men were in easy-chairs.

"At last!" the Princess remarked, throwing down her cards. "My dear Cecil, do you realize that you have kept us waiting nearly an hour?"

"I thought, perhaps," he answered, "that you had had enough bridge."

"Absurd!" the Princess declared. "What else is there to do? Come and cut, and pray that you do not draw me for a partner. My luck is dead out--at patience, anyhow."

"Mine," Cecil remarked, with a hard little laugh, "seems to be out all round. Touch the bell, will you, Forrest. I must have a brandy and soda before I start this beastly game again."

The Princess raised her eyebrows.

"I trust," she said, "that my charming ward has not been unkind?"

"Your charming ward," Cecil answered, "has as many whims and fancies as an elf. She yawns when I talk to her, and looks longingly after one of my villagers. Hang the fellow!"

"A very superior villager," the Princess remarked, "if you mean Mr. Andrew."

Forrest looked up, and fixed his cold intent eyes upon his host.

"I suppose," he said, "you are sure that this man Andrew is really what he professes to be, and not a masquerader?"

"I have known him," Cecil answered, "since I was old enough to remember anybody. He has lived here all his life, and only been away three or four times."

They played until the dressing-bell rang. Then Cecil de la Borne rose from his seat with a peevish exclamation.

"My luck seems dead out," he said.

The Princess raised her eyebrows.

"Possibly, my dear boy," she said, "but you must admit that you also played abominably. Your last declaration of hearts was indefensible, and why you led a diamond and discarded the spade in Lord Ronald's 'no trump' hand, Heaven only knows!"

"I still think that I was right," Cecil declared, a little sullenly.

The Princess said nothing, but turned toward the door.

"Any one dining to-night, Mr. Host?" she said.

"No one," he answered. "To tell you the truth there is no one to ask within a dozen miles, and you particularly asked not to be bothered with meeting yokels."

"Quite right," the Princess answered, "only I am getting a little bored, and if you had any yokels of the Mr. Andrew sort, with just a little more polish, they might be entertaining. You three men are getting deadly dull."

"Princess!" Lord Ronald declared reproachfully. "How can you say that? You never give any one a chance to see you until the afternoon, and then we generally start bridge. One cannot be brilliantly entertaining while one is playing cards."

The Princess yawned.

"I never argue," she said. "I only state facts. I am getting a little bored. Some one must be very amusing at dinner-time or I shall have a headache."

She swept up to her room.

"I suppose we'd better go and change," Cecil remarked, leading the way out into the hall.

Forrest, who was at the window, screwed his eyeglass in and leaned forward. A faint smile had parted the corner of his lips, and he beckoned to Cecil, who came over at once to his side. On the top of the sand-dyke two figures were walking slowly side by side. Jeanne, with the wind blowing her skirts about her small shapely figure, was looking up all the time at the man who walked by her side, and who, against the empty background of sea and sky, seemed of a stature almost gigantic.

"Quite an idyll!" Forrest remarked with a little sneer.

Cecil bit his lip, and turned away without a word.

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BOOK I CHAPTER X"I don't think," Engleton said slowly, "that I care about playing any more--just now." The Princess yawned as she leaned back in her chair. Both Forrest and De la Borne, who had left his place to turn up one of the lamps, glanced stealthily round at the speaker. "I am not keen about it myself," Forrest said smoothly. "After all, though, it's only three o'clock." Cecil's fingers shook, so that his tinkering with the lamp failed, and the room was left almost in darkness. Forrest, glad of an excuse to leave his place, went to the great north
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Jeanne Of The Marshes - Book 1 - Chapter 8 Jeanne Of The Marshes - Book 1 - Chapter 8

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BOOK I CHAPTER VIII"Not another step!" the Princess declared. "I am going back at once." "I too," Forrest declared. "Your smuggling ancestors, my dear De la Borne, must indeed have loved adventure, if they spent much of their time crawling about here like rats." "As you will," Cecil answered. "The expedition is Miss Jeanne's, not mine." "And I am going on," Jeanne declared. "I want to see where we come out on the beach." "This way, then," Cecil said. "You need not be afraid to walk upright. The roof is six feet high all the way. You must tread carefully, though.
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