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- Jeanne Of The Marshes - 10/52 -
their constitutions and our tastes!"
"The two would scarcely go together," Jeanne remarked. "But after all I should think that absinthe and cigarettes are more destructive. I am dying for some tea. Let us go in and find the others."
Tea was set out in the hall, but only Engleton was there. Forrest and the Princess were walking slowly up and down the avenue.
"I imagine," the latter was saying drily, "that we are fairly free from eavesdroppers here. Now tell me what it is that you have to say, Nigel."
"I am bothered about Engleton," Forrest said. "I didn't like his insisting upon cutting last night. What do you think he meant by it?"
The Princess shrugged her shoulders.
"Nothing at all," she answered. "He may have thought that we were lucky together, and of course he knows that you are the best player. There is no reason why he should be willing to play with Cecil de la Borne, when by cutting with you he would be more likely to win."
"You think that that is all?" Forrest asked.
"I think so," the Princess answered. "What had you in your mind?"
"I wondered," Forrest said thoughtfully, "whether he had heard any of the gossip at the club."
The Princess frowned impatiently.
"For Heaven's sake, don't be imaginative, Nigel!" she declared. "If you give way like this you will lose your nerve in no time."
"Very well," Forrest said. "Let us take it for granted, then, that he did it only because he preferred to play with me to playing against me. What is to become of our little scheme if we cut as we did last night all the time?"
The Princess smiled.
"You ought to be able to manage that," she said carelessly. "You are so good at card tricks that you should be able to get an ace when you want it. I always cut third from the end, as you know."
"That's all very well," Forrest answered, "but we can't go on cutting two aces all the time. I ran it pretty fine last night, when for the second time I gave you a three or a four, and drew a two myself. But he seems to have the devil's own luck. They cut under us, as you know."
The Princess looked up toward the house. She had seen Jeanne and Cecil appear.
"Those people are back from their underground pilgrimage," she remarked. "Have you anything definite to suggest? If not, we had better go in."
"There is only one way, Ena," Forrest said, "in which we could improve matters."
"And what is that?" she asked quickly.
"Don't you think we could get our host in?"
The Princess was silent for several moments.
"It is a little dangerous, I am afraid," she said.
"I don't see why," Forrest answered. "If he were once in he'd have to hold his tongue, and you can do just what you like with him. He seems to me to be just one of those pulpy sort of persons whom you could persuade into a thing before he had had time to think about it."
"I will drop him a hint if you like," the Princess said thoughtfully, "and see how he takes it. Are you sure that the game is worth the candle?"
"Absolutely," Forrest answered eagerly. "I saw Engleton drop two thousand playing baccarat one night, and he never turned a hair. I wasn't playing, worse luck."
"If I can get Cecil alone before dinner," the Princess said, "I will sound him. I think we had better go back now. We are a little old for romantic wanderings, and the wind is beginning to disarrange my hair."
"See what you can do with him, then," Forrest said, as they retraced their steps. "I'll call in and hear if you've anything to tell me on my way down for dinner."
The Princess nodded. They entered the hall, and Cecil at once drew an easy-chair to the tea-table.
"My good people," the Princess declared, "I am famished. Your sea air, Cecil, is the most wonderful thing in the world. For years I have not known what it was like to be hungry. Hot cakes, please! And, Jeanne, please make my tea. Jeanne knows just how I like it. Tell us about the smuggler's cave, Jeanne. Was it really so wonderful?"
"It was very, very weird and very smelly," she said. "I think that you were wise to turn back."
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."
"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
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