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- A Fascinating Traitor - 60/66 -


"I'll fix the old blanc-bec," growled the boatswain, as the spy slid down the hill toward Rozel Pier.

"Take my flask, Jack!" said Alan Hawke.

"I don't drink on duty!" simply replied Blunt. "I shall get at work by eleven, and you'll hear from me by midnight! Then, look out only for yourself! The boat is mine, if there's any alarm. I'll send her back soon to Rozel Pier, if I have to run out to sea, and you are to be only honest fishermen. How long shall I wait in the cove for you?"

"Sail at three o'clock, if I'm not on board! Remember the hail, 'Saint Malo, Ahoy!'"

"This is dead square, for life and death!" cried Blunt.

"Dead square," echoed the renegade officer. Darkness now doubled its black folds, and the roar of the surf boomed sullenly upon the rocky Rozel beach. Crouching in their cave, the two French thugs eagerly watched the winding path below, and gathered a resentful vulpine ferocity in their hearts. With knife in one hand, and the heavy lead-weighted blackjacks in readiness, they cowered upon the path, waiting for the old soldier, whose thickened eyes were still sullenly gazing at the dingy clock in the Jersey Arms. He hated to leave the pretty, white-armed Ann.

Ten o'clock! The red-coated soldiery of Fort Regent and Elizabeth Castle, the guardians of Mont Orgueil, were all wrapped in slumber, save the poor, shivering sentinels. Ten o'clock! The drenched tide waiters at St. Heliers pier anathematized the still distant Stella, whose lights now blinked feebly, laboring far out at sea. "An hour yet to wait!" growled the bedraggled customs officers. Ten o'clock! The good burghers of St. Heliers had given up their whist, and taken their last drop of "hot and hot." In St. Aubin's Bay, from Corbin's Light, from mansion in town, and cot among the Druidical rocks, anxious eyes now gazed out on the wild sea, where Andrew Fraser tried to calm the terrified Nadine Johnstone.

Mattie Jones was lying senseless, a helpless mass of cowering humanity, while the anxious captain and pilot vigorously swore, as became hardy British seamen. The "Chief" had piped up "that the engines would be out of her," if they shipped another sea like the last. Prayer in the cabin, curses on the deck, fear in the hold, and misery everywhere; the stout Stella struggled shoreward, toward her dangerous landing at the pier, whose sheer sixty feet of masonry wall was now lashed by the wild waves. Black waters rose and fell in great surges. The shivering coastguards in the line of garrisoned martello towers, vowed that no such night had ever been seen since the "Great Storm."

Prince Djiddin had also given up all hope of the return of the faithful Moonshee whose plea of "business," had led him away to the society of his brave and beautiful bride. There was but one more day of "home life" before resuming the hoodwinking of the mentally excited historian of Thibet. "It's a fearful night on the Channel," thought Major Hardwicke as he waited in vain for Simpson's return to act as valet de chambre.

"God help all at sea! It's a fearful night," Prince Djiddin murmured as he closed his eyes, little reckoning that the beautiful girl whom he loved more than life was tempest-tossed off the Corbieres, while poor Mattie Jones literally "sickened on the heaving wave."

The great house was lone and still, and for the first time Prince Djiddin reflected upon the exposed situation of the old miser's home. "Poor old chap," he muttered, as he closed his eyes. "Somebody might come in and throttle him some night! No one would be here to stop it. I must speak to Simpson, yes, speak to Simpson--that is, if he is ever sober enough to listen. Poor old soldier! He will have his drink!"

There was a singular improvised bivouac going on in the ruined martello tower where Professor Alaric Hobbs had set up his instruments to take some interesting observations upon an occultation of Venus.

A coast-guard station at Bouley Bay and St. Catherine's Head rendered the further occupancy of the old martello tower at Rozel Head unnecessary, and only a few rats and bats now resented Alaric Hobbs' sequestration of the second story. He meditated a comparative memoir upon the "Tides of Fundy Bay, and the Channel Islands," with a treatise upon "Contracted Ocean Surface Currents." Astronomer, hydrog-rapher, geologist, and all-round savant, his lank form was already familiar to the Channel Islanders. And, like the wind, he veered around "where he listed."

"Great Jupiter aid us!" cried the son of Minerva, "Venus is unpropitious to-night. All my trouble is vain." For when the black storm broke upon the little channel islet, Alaric Hobbs saw no way of a comfortable return to the Royal Victoria at St. Heliers. "I might leave all here and claim old Fraser's hospitality for a night. No one can get up to the second story," mused Hobbes, who now regretted having ordered the fly to come for him only at day-break. "Here is a wild night of inky darkness. The star occults only at three A.M. This hurricane ruins all. And old man Fraser may not have returned from London." So with a basket of luncheon, a roll of blankets, and a bottle of cocktails, the volunteer astronomer reluctantly sought the dryest corner of the second floor of the old tower for a night's camp. A square trapdoor hole whence the moldering ladder had fallen away, was in the middle of the old barrack room floor over the four embrasured gun room below. "I'll just draw up my ladder, have a pipe, and take a nap. It may clear off. If so the observation goes, and then the highest tide of the year, I can get the register in the morning."

He had brought down his light instrument from the battlemented parapet for safety, and now, pulling up his rope ladder, he coiled it on the floor. "I can drop down below if I wish to if the rain should drive me out of here," he cried as he curled up like a sleeping coyote.

Below him the heavy door of the tower swung on its massive hinges, banging and creaking mournfully when a swirling gust set it swinging. The man who had slept out on the Lolo trail and bivouacked alone in the canyon of the Colorado, laughed the howling storm to scorn. "Better than being out in a blizzard in the Bad Lands!" he gayly cried, as he dozed away, having finished a good meal and lowered the level of the "Lone Wolf" cocktails. From sheer frontier habit, he laid his heavy revolver near at hand, and his old-time hunting knife. "You see, you don't know what emergencies may arise," often sagely observed Alaric Hobbes. "Thrice is he armed that hath two six shooters and a knife!"

When half-past ten rang out from the old French hall clock at the Banker's Folly, Janet Fairbarn, a gray ghastly figure, made her last timid rounds of the lower part of the mansion. Her maids were all snugly nested for the night. Simpson, the erring one, she believed to be in close attendance upon that foreign heathen, Prince Djiddin, in their second-story wing. Miss Nadine and her maid had locked their apartments on departure, the Professor's study was the only room open and vacant, and so with a last timid glance at the darkened halls and great salons of the main floor, the Scotch spinster retired to her rooms adjoining the Master's study and bedrooms on the ground floor.

Minded to "read a chapter" and to "compose herself for the night," the housekeeper sat late rocking alone in her rooms, while the hollow tick of the hall clock sounded doubly lonely in the cheerless night. The modern castle's walls were proof against the wildest rain and even the blows of a catapult, and so the dashing storm never even stirred the heavy leaded diamonded panes. "Thanks be to God, auld Andrew never ventured to cross on this raging sea! He'll no be here the morrow, neither. I must send down for telegrams in the morning," she mused when she had finally laid her spectacles across her Bible.

It was nearing eleven o'clock when the two half-drowned thugs hiding on Rozel Head were roused by their returning mate stumbling wildly into the muddy cavern in the cliff. They sprang up as he muttered, "On vient, tout pres d'ici! Soyous tous prets!" A bottle extended was half drained by the two ruffians, who then eagerly loosened their black jaws with a mad desire to revenge their cheerless vigil.

"Lei has," whispered the spy, pointing to a black object creeping unsteadily up the steep path--Simpson, dreaming still of pretty Ann's rounded white arms! It was indeed Simpson, with unsteady steps, breasting the hill. A fear of Andrew Fraser's arrival led the half-fuddled old veteran to hasten homeward now. "I can say the telegram was late," he chuckled. "They never will know." And then feeling for his pocket-flask, filled by handsome Ann, "as a last night-cap," he turned into the little cavern, where the school-boys, on a Saturday outing, often played "pirates," for his breath was gone and his eyes were drenched with salt scud.

Then, a half smothered cry arose, as the three waiting thugs leaped upon their prey. Simpson was taken off his guard! His muscles were all relaxed by drink. He fell prone as the heavy black jacks descended upon his head, muffled in the hood of his "dreadnaught."

"Ah! V'la un affaire bien fini! Allons! Jettez-le!" growled the grim boatswain, dropping his loaded club, as all three spurned the prostrate body, and then, with a heavy lurch, it bounded off the sodden bank plunging downward, over the cliff.

For a moment, there was no sound! Then skirting the furze bushes of the headland, the three assassins dragged their stiffened limbs along in the darkness, hastening to where the stout Hirondelle rocked easily in the dead water of the one protected cove to the north of Rozel Point.

They were all safely stowed away in the forecastle before half an hour, and, with grunts of satisfaction, examined the largess of their mysterious employer, "C'est ungaillard--un vrai coq d'Anglais!" growled the boatswain, as his chums produced another bottle, and the three doffed their drenched clothing. Then cognac drowned their scruples against murder--for the price was in their pockets.

It was half past eleven o'clock when gaunt old Andrew Fraser led his half-fainting ward ashore from the Stella, at St. Heliers pier. But one covered carriage had remained on the storm-beaten pier, braving the rigors of this terrible night. "Never mind the luggage, man," shouted the Professor to the driver. "Here's ten pounds to drive us over to Rozel, to my home! And, I'll bait yere horses, put ye up, and give ye a tip to open yere eyes." The hardy islander whipped up his horses, and soon cautiously climbed the hill of St. Saviours, crawling along carefully over the wind-swept mows toward St. Martin's Church. The exhausted maid was fast asleep. Nadine Johnstone herself lay in a semi-trance, while the fretful old scholar consulted his watch by the blinking carriage lights, and


A Fascinating Traitor - 60/66

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