"It will make me very happy," Cecil de la Borne said, bowing over
her hand, "to try and show you."
Her eyes seemed to pass through him, to look out of the crowded
room, as though indeed they had found their way into some corner of
the world where the things which make life lie. It was a lapse from
which she recovered almost immediately, but when she looked at him,
and with a little farewell nod withdrew her hand, the transforming
gleam had passed away.
"And there is the sea, too," she remarked, looking backwards as they
passed out. "I am longing to see that again."
Perhaps there was never a moment in the lives of these two men when
their utter and radical dissimilarity, physically as well as in the
larger ways, was more strikingly and absolutely manifest. Like a
great sea animal, huge, black-bearded, bronzed, magnificent, but
uncouth, Andrew de la Borne, in the oilskins and overalls of a
village fisherman, stood in the great bare hall in front of the open
fireplace, reckless of his drippings, at first only mildly amused by
the half cynical, half angry survey of the very elegant young man
who had just descended the splendid oak staircase, with its finely
carved balustrade, black and worm-eaten, Cecil de la Borne stared at
his brother with the angry disgust of one whose sense of all that is
holiest stands outraged. Slim, of graceful though somewhat
undersized figure, he was conscious of having attained perfection in
matters which he reckoned of no small importance. His grey tweed
suit fitted him like a glove, his tie was a perfect blend between
the colour of his eyes and his clothes, his shoes were of immaculate
shape and polish, his socks had been selected with care in the Rue
de la Paix. His hair was brushed until it shone with the proper
amount of polish, his nails were perfectly manicured, even his
cigarette came from the dealer whose wares were the caprice of the
moment. That his complexion was pallid and that underneath his eyes
were faint blue lines, which were certainly not the hall-marks of
robust health, disturbed him not at all. These things were correct.
Health was by no means a desideratum in the set to which he was
striving to belong. He looked through his eyeglass at his brother
"Really, Andrew," he said calmly, but with an undernote of anger
trembling in his tone, "I am surprised to see you like this! You
might, I think, have had a little more consideration. Can't you
realize what a sight you are, and what a mess you're making!"
Andrew took off his cap and shook it, so that a little shower of
salt water splashed on to the polished floor.
"Never mind, Cecil," he said good-humouredly. "You've all the
deportment that's necessary in this family. And salt water doesn't
stain. These boards have been washed with it many a time."
The young man's face lost none of his irritation.
"But what on earth have you been doing?" he exclaimed. "Where have
you been to get in a state like that?"
Andrew's face was suddenly overcast. It did not please him to think
of those last few hours.
"I had to go out to bring a mad woman home," he said. "Kate Caynsard
was out in her catboat a day like this. It was suicide if I hadn't
reached her in time."
"You - did reach her in time?" the young man asked quickly.
Andrew turned to face the questioner, and the eyes of the brothers
met. Again the differences between them seemed to be suddenly and
marvellously accentuated. Andrew's cheeks, bronzed and hardened with
a life spent wholly out of doors, were glistening still with the
salt water which dripped down from his hair and hung in sparkling
globules from his beard. Cecil was paler than ever; there was
something almost furtive in that swift insistent look. Perhaps he
recognized something of what was in the other's mind. At any rate
the good-nature left his manner - his tone took to itself a sterner
"I came back," he said grimly. "I should not have come back alone.
She was hard to save, too," he added, after a moment's pause.
"She is mad," Cecil muttered. "A queer lot, all the Caynsards."
"She is as sane as you or I," his brother answered. "She does rash
things, and she chooses to treat her life as though it were a matter
of no consequence. She took a fifty to one chance at the bar, and
she nearly lost. But, by heaven, you should have seen her bring my
little boat down the creek, with the tide swelling, and a squall
right down on the top of us. It was magnificent. Cecil!"
"Why does Kate Caynsard treat her life as though it were of less
value than the mackerel she lowers her line for? Do you know?"
The younger man dropped his eyeglass and shrugged his shoulders
"Since when," he demanded, "have I shown any inclination to play the
village Lothario? Thick ankles and robust health have never appealed
to me - I prefer the sicklier graces of civilization."
"Kate Caynsard," Andrew said thoughtfully, "is not of the villagers.
She leads their life, but her birth is better on her father's side,
at any rate, than our own."
"If I might be allowed to make the suggestion," Cecil said,
regarding his brother with supercilious distaste, "don't you think
it would be just as well to change your clothes before our guests
"Why should I?" Andrea asked calmly.
"They are not my friends. I scarcely know even their names. I
entertain them at your request. Why should I be ashamed of my
oilskins? They are in accord with the life I live here. I make no
pretence, you see, Cecil," he added, with a faintly amused smile,
"at being an ornamental member of Society."
His brother regarded him with something very much like disgust.
"No!" he said sarcastically. "No one could accuse you of that."
Something in his tone seemed to suggest to Andrew a new idea. He
looked down at the clothes he wore beneath his oilskins - the clothes
almost of a working man. He glanced for a moment at his hands,
hardened and blistered with the actual toil which he loved - and he
looked his brother straight in the face.
"Cecil," he said, "I believe you're ashamed of me."
"Of course I am," the younger man answered brutally. "It's your own
fault. You choose to make a fisherman or a labouring man of
yourself. I haven't seen you in a decent suit of clothes for years.
You won't dress for dinner. Your hands and skin are like a
ploughboy's. And, d - n it all, you're my elder brother! I've got to
introduce you to my friends as the head of the De la Bornes, and
practically their host. No wonder I don't like it!"
There was a moment's silence. If his words hurt, Andrew made no
sign. With a shrug of the shoulders he turned towards the staircase.
"There is no reason," he remarked, carelessly enough, "why I should
inflict the humiliation of my presence on you or on your friends. I
am going down to the Island. You shall entertain your friends and
play the host to your heart's content. It will be more comfortable
for both of us."
Cecil prided himself upon a certain impassivity of features and
manner which some fin de siecle oracle of the cities had pronounced
good form, but he was not wholly able to conceal his relief. Such an
arrangement was entirely to his liking. It solved the situation
satisfactorily in more ways than one.
"It's a thundering good idea, Andrew, if you're sure you'll be
comfortable there," he declared. "I don't believe you would get on
with my friends a bit. They're not your sort. Seems like turning you
out of your own house, though."
"It is of no consequence," Andrew said coldly. "I shall be perfectly
"You see," Cecil continued, "they're not keen on sport at all, and
you don't play bridge - "
Andrew had already disappeared. Cecil turned back into the hall and
lit a cigarette.
"Phew! What a relief!" he muttered to himself. "If only he has the
sense to keep away all the time!"
He rang the bell, which was answered by a butler newly imported from
"Clear away all this mess, James," Cecil ordered, pointing in
disgust to the wet places upon the floor, and the still dripping
southwester, "and serve tea here in an hour, or directly my friends
arrive - tea, and whisky and soda, and liqueurs, you know, with
sandwiches and things."
"I will do my best, sir," the man answered. "The kitchen
arrangements are a little - behind the times, if I might venture to
"I know, I know," Cecil answered irritably. "The place has been
allowed to go on anyhow while I was away. Do what you can, and let
them know outside that they must make room for one, or perhaps two
Upstairs Andrew was rapidly throwing a few things together. With an
odd little laugh he threw into the bottom of a wardrobe an unopened
parcel of new clothes and a dress suit which had been carefully
brushed. In less than twenty minutes he had left the house by the
back way, with a small portmanteau poised easily upon his massive
shoulders. As he turned from the long ill-kept avenue, with its
straggling wind-smitten trees all exposed to the tearing ocean
gales, into the high road, a great automobile swung round the corner
and slackened speed. Major Forrest leaned out and addressed him.
"Can you tell me if this is the Red Hall, my man - Mr. De la Borne's
place?" he asked.
Andrew nodded, without a glance at the veiled and shrouded women who
were leaning forward to hear his answer.
"The next avenue is the front way," he said. "Mind how you turn in -
the corner is rather sharp."
He spoke purposely in broad Norfolk, and passed on.
"What a Goliath!" Engleton remarked.
"I should like to sketch him," the Princess drawled. "His shoulders
But neither of them had any idea that they had spoken with the owner
of the Red Hall.
About half-way through dinner that night, Cecil de la Borne drew a
long sigh of relief. At last his misgivings were set at rest. His
party was going to be, was already, in fact, pronounced, a success.
A glance at his fair neighbour, however, who was lighting her third
or fourth Russian cigarette since the caviare, sent a shiver of
thankfulness through his whole being. What a sensible fellow Andrew
had been to clear out. This sort of thing would not have appealed to
him at all.
"My dear Cecil," the Princess declared, "I call this perfectly
delightful. Jeanne and I have wanted so much to see you in your own
home. Jeanne, isn't this nicer, ever so much nicer, than anything
you had imagined?"
Jeanne, who was sitting opposite, lifted her remarkable eyes and
glanced around with interest.
"Yes," she admitted, "I think that it is! But then, any place that
looks in the least like a home is a delightful change after all that
rushing about in London."
"I agree with you entirely," Major Forrest declared. "If our friend
has disappointed us at all, it is in the absence of that
primitiveness which he led us to expect. One perceives that one is
drinking Veuve Clicquot of a vintage year, and one suspects the
nationality of our host's cook."
"You can have all the primitivism you want if you look out of the
windows," Cecil remarked drily. "You will see nothing but a line of
stunted trees, and behind, miles of marshes and the greyest sea
which ever played upon the land. Listen! You don't hear a sound like
that in the cities."
Even as he spoke they heard the dull roar of the north wind booming
across the wild empty places which lay between the Red Hall and the
sea. A storm of raindrops was flung against the window. The Princess
"It is an idyll, the last word in the refining of sensations," Major
Forrest declared. "You give us sybaritic luxury, and in order that
we shall realize it, you provide the background of savagery. In the
Carlton one might dine like this and accept it as a matter of
course. Appreciation is forced upon us by these suggestions of the
"Not all without, either," Cecil de la Borne remarked, raising his
eyeglass and pointing to the walls. "See where my ancestors frown
down upon us - you can only just distinguish their bare shapes. No De
la Borne has had money enough to have them renovated or even
preserved. They have eaten their way into the canvases, and the
canvases into the very walls. You see the empty spaces, too. A
Reynolds and a Gainsboro' have been cut out from there and sold. I
can show you long empty galleries, pictureless, and without a scrap
of furniture. We have ghosts like rats, rooms where the curtains and
tapestries are falling to pieces from sheer decay. Oh! I can assure
you that our primitivism is not wholly external."
He turned from the Princess, who was not greatly interested, to find
that for once he had succeeded in riveting the attention of the
girl, whose general attitude towards him and the whole world seemed
to be one of barely tolerant indifference.
"I should like to see over your house, Mr. De la Borne," she said.
"It all sounds very interesting."
"I am afraid," he answered, "that your interest would not survive
very long. We have no treasures left, nor anything worth looking at.
For generations the De la Bornes have stripped their house and sold
their lands to hold their own in the world. I am the last of my
race, and there is nothing left for me to sell," he declared, with a
"Hadn't you - a half brother?" the Princess asked.
Cecil hesitated for a moment. He had drifted so easily into the
position of head of the house. It was so natural. He felt that he
filled the place so perfectly.
"I have," he admitted, "but he counts, I am sorry to say, for very
little. You are never likely to come across him - nor any other
There was a subtle indication in his tone of a desire not to pursue
the subject. His guests naturally respected it. There was a moment's
silence. Then Cecil once more leaned forward. He hesitated for a
moment, even after his lips had parted, as though for some reason he
were inclined, after all, to remain silent, but the consciousness
that every one was looking at him and expecting him to speak induced
him to continue with what, after all, he had suddenly, and for no
explicit reason, hesitated to say.
"You spoke, Miss Le Mesurier," he began, "of looking over the house,
and, as I told you, there is very little in it worth seeing. And yet
I can show you something, not in the house itself, but connected
with it, which you might find interesting."
The Princess leaned forward in her chair.
"This sounds so interesting," she murmured. "What is it, Cecil? A
Their host shook his head.
"Something far more tangible," he answered, "although in its way
quite as remarkable. Hundreds of years ago, smuggling on this coast
was not only a means of livelihood for the poor, but the diversion
of the rich. I had an ancestor who became very notorious. His name
seems to have been a by-word, although he was never caught, or if he
was caught, never punished. He built a subterranean way underneath
the grounds, leading from the house right to the mouth of one of the
creeks. The passage still exists, with great cellars for storing
smuggled goods, and a room where the smugglers used to meet."
Jeanne looked at him with parted lips.
"You can show me this?" she asked, "the passage and the cellars?"
"I can," he answered. "Quite a weird place it is, too. The walls are
damp, and the cellars themselves are like the vaults of a cathedral.
All the time at high tide you can hear the sea thundering over your
head. To-morrow, if you like, we will get torches and explore them."
"I should love to," Jeanne declared. "Can you get out now at the
"The passage," he said, "starts from a room which was once the
library, and ends half-way up the only little piece of cliff there
is. It is about thirty feet from the ground, but they had a sort of
apparatus for pulling up the barrels, and a rope ladder for the men.
The preventive officers would see the boat come up the creek, and
would march down from the village, only to find it empty. Of course,
they suspected all the time where the things went, but they could
not prove it, and as my ancestor was a magistrate and an important
man they did not dare to search the house."
The Princess sighed gently.
"Those were the days," she murmured, "in which it must have been
worth while to live. Things happened then. To-day your ancestor
would simply have been called a thief."
"As a matter of fact," Cecil remarked, "I do not think that he
himself benefited a penny by any of his exploits. It was simply the
love of adventure which led him into it."
"Even if he did," Major Forrest remarked, "that same predatory
instinct is alive to-day in another guise. The whole world is
preying upon one another. We are thieves, all of us, to the tips of
our finger-nails, only our roguery is conducted with due regard to
The Princess smiled faintly as she glanced across the table at the
"I am afraid," she said, with a little sigh, "that you are right. I
do not think that we have really improved with the centuries. My own
ancestors sacked towns and held the inhabitants to ransom. To-day I
sit down to bridge opposite a man with a well-filled purse, and my
one idea is to lighten it. Nothing, I am convinced, but the fear of
being found out, keeps us reasonably moral."
"If we go on talking like this," Lord Ronald remarked, "we shall
make Miss Le Mesurier nervous. She will feel that we, and the whole
of the rest of the world, have our eyes upon her moneybags."
"I am absolutely safe," Jeanne answered smiling. "I do not play
bridge, and even my signature would be of no use to any one yet."
"But you might imagine us," Lord Ronald continued, "waiting around
breathlessly until the happy time arrived when you were of age, and
we could pursue our diabolical schemes."
Jeanne shook her head.
"You cannot frighten me, Lord Ronald," she said. "I feel safe from
every one. I am only longing for to-morrow, for a chance to explore
this wonderful subterranean passage."
"I am afraid," their host remarked, "that you will be disappointed.
With the passing of smuggling, the romance of the thing seems to
have died. There is nothing now to look at but mouldy walls, a bare
room, and any amount of the most hideous fungi. I can promise you
that when you have been there for a few minutes your only desire
will be to escape."
"I am not so sure," the girl answered. "I think that associations
always have an effect on me. I can imagine how one might wait there,
near the entrance, hear the soft swish of the oars, look down and
see the smugglers, hear perhaps the muffled tramp of men marching
from the village. Fancy how breathless it must have been, the
excitement, the fear of being caught."
Cecil curled his slight moustache dubiously.
"If you can feel all that in my little bit of underground world," he
said, "I shall think that you are even a more wonderful person - "
He dropped his voice and leaned toward her, but Jeanne laughed in
his face and interrupted him.
"People who own things," she remarked, "never look upon them with
proper reverence. Don't you see that my mother is dying for some
The Princess was only obeying a faint sign from Forrest. She leaned
forward and addressed her host.
"It isn't a bad idea," she declared. "Where are we going to play
bridge, Cecil? In some smaller room, I hope. This one is really
beginning to get on my nerves a little. There is an ancestor exactly
opposite who has fixed me with a luminous and a disapproving eye.
And the blank spaces on the wall! Ugh! I feel like a Goth. We are
too modern for this place, Cecil."
Their host laughed as he rose and turned towards Jeanne.
"Your mother," he said, "is beginning to be conscious of her
environment. I know exactly how she is feeling, for I myself am a
constant sufferer. Are you, too, sighing for the gilded salons of
"Not in the least," Jeanne answered frankly. "I am tired of mirrors
and electric lights and babble. I prefer our present surroundings,
and I should not mind at all if some of those disapproving ancestors
of yours stepped out of their frames and took their places with us
"If they have been listening to our conversation," he said, "I think
that they will stay where they are. Like royalty," he continued, "we
can boast an octagonal chamber. I fear that its glories are of the
past, but it is at least small, and the wallpaper is modern. I have
ordered coffee and the card-tables there. Shall we go?"
He led the way out of the gloomy room, chilly and bare, yet in a way
magnificent still with its reminiscences of past splendour, across
the hall, modernized with rugs and recent furnishing, into a smaller
apartment, where cheerfulness reigned. A wood fire burnt in an open
grate. Lamps and a fine candelabrum gave a sufficiency of light. The
furniture, though old, was graceful, and of French design. It had
been the sitting chamber of the ladies of the De la Borne family for
generations, and it bore traces of its gentler occupation. One thing
alone remained of primevalism to remind them of their closer contact
with the great forces of nature. The chamber was built in the tower,
which stood exposed to the sea, and the roar of the wind was
"Here at least we shall be comfortable, I think," Cecil remarked, as
they all entered. "My frescoes are faded, but they represent
flowers, not faces. There are no eyes to stare at you from out of
the walls here, Princess."
The Princess laughed gaily as she seated herself before a Louis
Quinze card-table, and threw a pack of cards across the faded green
"It is charming, this," she declared. "Shall we challenge these two
boys, Nigel? You are the only man who understands my leads, and who
does not scold me for my declarations."
"I am perfectly willing," Forrest answered smoothly. "Shall we cut
Cecil de la Borne leaned over and turned up a card.
"I am quite content," he remarked. "What do you say, Engleton?"
Engleton hesitated for a moment. The Princess turned and looked at
him. He was standing upon the hearthrug smoking, his face as
expressionless as ever.
"Let us cut for partners," he drawled. "I am afraid of the Princess
and Forrest. The last time I found them a quite invincible couple."
There was a moment's silence. The Princess glanced toward Forrest,
who only shrugged his shoulders.
"Just as you will," he answered.
He turned up an ace and the Princess a three.
"After all," he remarked, with a smile, "it seems as though fate
were going to link us together."
"I am not so sure," Cecil de la Borne said, also throwing down an
ace. "It depends now upon Engleton."
Engleton came to the table, and drew a card at random from the pack.
Forrest's eyes seemed to narrow a little as he looked down at it.
Engleton had drawn another ace.
"Forrest and I," he remarked. "Jolly low cutting, too. I have played
against you often, Forrest, but I think this is our first rubber
together. Here's good luck to us!"
He tossed off his liqueur and sat down. They cut again for deal, and
the game proceeded.
Jeanne had moved across towards the window, and laid her fingers
upon the heavy curtains. Cecil de la Borne, who was dummy, got up
and stood by her side.
"Do you know," she said, "although your frescoes are flowers, I feel
that there are eyes in this room, too, only that they are looking in
from the night. Can one see the sea from here, Mr. De la Borne?"
"It is scarcely a hundred yards away," he answered. "This window
looks straight across the German Ocean, and if you look long enough
you will see the white of the breakers. Listen! You will hear, too,
what my forefathers, and those who begat them, have heard, from the
birth of the generations."
The girl, with strained face, stood looking out into the darkness.
Outside, the wind and sea imposed their thunder upon the land.
Within, there was no sound but the softer patter of the cards, the
languid voices of the four who played bridge. A curious little
company, on the whole. The Princess of Strurm, whose birth was as
sure as her social standing was doubtful, the heroine of countless
scandals, ignored by the great heads of her family, impoverished,
living no one knew how, yet remaining the legal guardian of a
stepdaughter, who was reputed to be one of the greatest heiresses in
Europe. The courts had moved to have her set aside, and failed. A