“Can you suggest any better way of dealing with the matter?”
“I don’t know that I can at the moment, but I doubt if you’ll get any satisfaction out of him. He’ll stick to all he can, and his promise of restitution is all bunkum, I should fear.”
“And would you help him to get away in any case?”
“Personally, I think a course of penal servitude would be of the greatest service to him. But, for Charles’s sake and his mother’s, the sooner the whole matter is buried the better, and so I should be sorry to hear of him being taken. It would only revive the scandal.”
“That’s just what we all feel;” and he saw that the problem of Jeremiah Pixley was too much even for Lady Elspeth.
And so the party of four on the Courier lacked vivacity, and found no enjoyment in the lonely austerity of the Casquets or Ortach; and the frowning southern cliffs of Alderney itself, as the steamer raced up the Swinge to Braye Harbour, seemed to them but a poor copy of their own little isle of Sark, lacking its gem-like qualities. But then their minds were intent upon the business ahead and their outlook was darkened.
“Would you like me to come up with you, Charles?” Graeme asked, as the steamer rounded the breakwater.
“Yes, I’d like it,” said Charles gloomily. “But I think I’d better go alone. I don’t believe anything’s going to come of it.”
“I’m afraid not—as far as we’re concerned. You’ll just have to keep a stiff upper lip and stick to what you believe the right thing to do.” To which Charles replied only with a grim nod, and they went ashore.
“We’ll walk up to the town with you,” said Graeme, when they got outside the harbour precincts. “When you’ve got as far as you can with him, come down to the shore due West. You’ll find us by that old fort we saw from the boat;” and presently they branched off towards the sea, while Charles went doggedly on into St. Anne on as miserable an errand as ever son had.
He tramped on along the hot white road, till he found himself in the sleepy little town, where the grass grew between the granite sets in the roadways and a dreamy listlessness pervaded all things. He sought out No. 99A High Street and knocked on the door.
It was opened by an elderly woman who seemed surprised at sight of a visitor.
“Mr. Peace?” asked Charles, feeling thereby particeps criminis.
“He’s inside. Will you come in?”
She opened a door off the passage, said, “A gentleman to see you;” and Charles went in and closed the door behind him.
His father had started up from a couch where he had been lying. There was a startled look in his eyes and his face was pale and worn, but a touch of colour came back into his cheeks when he saw who his visitor was.