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- The Spanish Chest - 30/39 -


that possibly be? Of course it is only a chance resemblance but it must exist since you notice it, too. I wonder whether Fran ever carried out her intention of asking Edith whether they had any relatives in the United States. She spoke of doing so."

"What good would that do, if Mrs. Aldrich is the person Estelle resembles?" asked Win. "Haven't you known her all her life?"

"I met her at school," replied his mother, "when we both were young girls and then knew her intimately. Of later years, we have seen less of each other, though we have always kept up the friendship. There seems no possible connection between Carrie Aldrich and Estelle and the likeness must be only in our minds. They say, you know, that every person in the world has a double somewhere."

"I'd like mighty well to be Mr. Max's double if I could only choose," muttered Win to himself.

CHAPTER XVIII

ROGER THE MAROONED

No word came from the Manor the next day, only a big bunch of fragrant lilies for Win and some jelly of which Paget alone knew the secret recipe. Early Tuesday morning Max's prophesied storm arrived in earnest and the young people at Rose Villa saw the Granville boat leave her pier amid sheets of driving rain. Her decks looked dreary and deserted, for all the passengers were inside.

"I suppose Mr. Max is on board for he was obliged to go," observed Frances, as the steamer disappeared in low-hanging banks of fog drifting continually nearer shore.

"Yes," agreed Win, who was dressed and about, though still looking ill. "There will be some word when he gets back to Paris. It stormed so yesterday that he probably couldn't go into the cave as he planned."

"Life seems very tame after all the interesting things that happened last week," sighed Frances, gathering her French grammar and other school books. "Rain or no rain, there will be school, and English rain seems somehow _wetter_ than American. You'd better eat that jelly, Win. According to Nurse, it is the elixir of life and warranted to cure every ill known to man."

Win smiled as he watched his sister and Edith down the steps, and waved a listless hand as they turned inquiring faces under bobbing umbrellas at the end of the terrace. He looked enviously after Roger, a tall slim clothespin in black rubber coat and boots, sou'wester pulled firmly over his head, tramping sturdily toward the beach, evidently on some definite errand. Win would have liked mightily to be swinging along with him through the storm, but the fun of facing a tempest was not for Win.

For a few moments he stood idly by the window, wondering whether Connie knew what Max had possibly discovered in his inspection of cave and vaults. Then he turned with a sigh, reminding himself that with the weather what it was, and in this land of few telephones, there was no chance of hearing anything from the Manor.

Gradually the stormy morning passed, somewhat dully for Win, who still felt unfit to study or even to occupy himself with a book, and lay upon the couch while his mother read aloud.

Frances returned from school, ravenously hungry and quite rosy with the rain that had beaten in her face.

"Mother, I am nearly starved!" she announced.

"Why, it is time for luncheon," said Mrs. Thayne, awakening to a realization of that fact. "But where is Roger? He can't have taken the whole morning just to deliver that message for Estelle."

"He could easily, Mother," said Win. "Why, if I had a chance to get out in this storm, I feel sure it would take me forever to do the simplest errand. He'll come home when he's hungry."

The gong for luncheon sounded and the three sat down to Annette's delicious scallops, daintily creamed in their own big shells, her French bread and perfect chocolate. Still Roger did not come.

Nurse took the plates, and brought dessert; fruit, clotted cream with plum jam, and a special glass of egg-nog for Win.

"Shall we put Mr. Roger's lunch to the fire?" she asked of Mrs. Thayne.

"I don't see why he doesn't come. He can't have gone to the Manor and if he had, they would have sent word if he were staying. No, you needn't keep it warm, Nurse. Unless he has some very good excuse when he comes, he may lunch upon bread and milk. It's really very naughty of him to go off like this when he had lessons to learn."

"It's queer where he can be," observed Fran. "He started on his errand just after Edith and I came out and saw Annette buying scallops of the fish-woman. He's crazy about them you know, and he asked particularly if they were for luncheon, and told her to be sure to get plenty."

"Oh, I don't suppose anything has happened," said Mrs. Thayne quietly, for she did not wish Win to worry.

When Roger was still missing half an hour later, Mrs. Thayne sought Estelle.

"Whatever can have happened?" said Estelle helplessly. "I can't think. Did he have any money?"

"Why, perhaps a few pence, not much anyway," replied Mrs. Thayne. "You think he went into St. Helier's and had to walk back? That's possible. Fran, it's not storming so hard now. Put on your rain- coat and run out to the end of the terrace. Perhaps with the field-glasses you can make out whether he is coming down the beach or is anywhere in sight."

Frances returned with the report that there was practically no beach, owing to the high tide, and no foot-farers on the narrow strip that was visible in the fog.

Neither Estelle nor Mrs. Thayne knew what was best to do. Estelle suggested the police and then the rector, but neither seemed to Mrs. Thayne likely to offer a solution.

"We will wait a while," she said with an anxious glance at the clock just striking two. "Don't do or say anything to let Win think I am worried, Fran. Let me take your coat. I'll go down to the beach myself. I really think that Roger should be punished for causing us such anxiety."

Had his mother only known, Roger was already enduring considerable self-inflicted penance for getting into a predicament which made it impossible for him to return.

Delivering Estelle's message at a cottage by the shore had taken but a few moments and with most of the morning before him, Roger set out along the beach, glorying in the force of wind and rain. True, there were lessons to be prepared for Bill Fish, who would come cheerfully swimming in at the appointed hour, but there was surely time for a stroll toward Noirmont Point.

The tide was far out and wet hard sand stretched in every direction, very pleasing to stamp over, and retaining little trace of any footprint. Only gray gulls and drifting fog banks distinguished the immediate surroundings.

As Roger tramped on, he noticed that the fog grew steadily thicker and that his path included occasional seaweed-covered rocks, but not until a black mass loomed up before him, did he realize that he had left the true beach and was walking straight out to sea. The bulk he had encountered was not the martello tower on Noirmont Point but the old castle of St. Aubin's, at high tide an island in the bay.

No thought of any danger in his position struck Roger. He had always intended to investigate that island but somehow had never yet done so. Here it lay before him.

Climbing the rocks upon which the castle stands, he made a careful survey of its outside and finally gained access to the interior, much disappointed to find nothing at all remarkable, though St. Aubin's castle is not wholly a ruin and was once rented and occupied for a season by an eccentric Englishman.

Nothing was now visible save swirling fog and for the first time, Roger realized what that fog meant. He hastily made his way to the little beach, where the tide, still out, would permit him to cross to the mainland. To start in the right direction was simple enough, for he very well knew which side of the castle faced the shore, but he had taken scarcely twenty steps down the sand when he saw that he had no certainty of keeping his bearings once the island was left behind.

Roger was only twelve, but he was possessed of common-sense and self-reliance. Though the youngest of the family he had been so thoroughly impressed with the necessity of considering "safety first" in regard to Win, that in an emergency of any kind he was usually level-headed. He stopped where he was, searching his pockets for the compass Captain Thayne had given to each of his three children.

Roger's pockets yielded a strange and varied assortment of objects, presumably of value, but no compass. He looked irresolutely behind where the castle was just visible as a darker spot in the fog. Nothing at all could be distinguished ahead.

From the lighthouse on the point came the tolling of a bell, but its warning tones were so scattered and disguised by the fog, that its sound was of no use as a guide.

For several moments Roger stood where he was. The distance to shore was not great if he was only certain of going straight ahead. To swerve from that direction meant wandering out to meet


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