A little way to the left of where they sat, there was a curious kind of wooden pier, which ran far away out into the sea and terminated in a small square wooden building. The whole thing was raised on piles about five or six feet above the present level of the water which flowed underneath it. The pier itself, in fact, was only a narrow bridge or footpath railed partly on one side only, partly on both, and with an oddly unsafe and yet tempting look about it. Lucia had been attracted by it before, and she drew her mother’s attention to it now—
“Look, mamma,” she said, “does not it seem as if one could almost cross the Channel on it, it goes so far out. See that woman, now—I have watched since she started from this end, and now you can scarcely distinguish her figure.”
“There is a priest coming along it—is it not Father Paul?”
“I do believe it is. I wish he would come and talk to you for a little while, and then I would go.”
“You need not stay for that, dear. I shall sit here alone quite comfortably, if you wish to go out there.”
“I should like very much to go. I want to see what the sea looks like away from the beach. There is no harm, is there?”
“None whatever. Go, and I will watch you.”
Lucia rose to go.
“It is Father Paul,” she said, “and he is coming this way.”
She lingered a minute, and the priest, who had recognized them, came up.
Mrs. Costello told him of Lucia’s wish to go out on the pier, and he assured her she would enjoy it.
“The air seems even fresher there than here,” he said; and she went off, and left him and her mother together.
For a few minutes they talked about the weather, the sea, and the people about them, as two slight acquaintances would naturally do; but then, when there had been a momentary pause, Father Paul startled Mrs. Costello, by saying,
“Last night, madam, you told me of persons I had not heard of for years—this morning, strangely enough, I have met with a person of whom you probably know something—or knew something formerly.”
“I?” she answered. “Impossible! I know no one in France.”
“This is not a Frenchman. He is named Bailey, an American, I believe.”
“Bailey?” Mrs. Costello repeated, terrified. “Surely he is not here?”
“There is a man of that name here—a miserable ruined gambler, who says that he knows Moose Island, and once travelled in Europe with a party of Indians.”
“And what is he doing now?”
“Nothing. He is the most wretched, squalid object you can imagine. He came to me this morning to ask for the loan of a few francs. He had not even the honesty to beg without some pretence of an intention to pay.”
“Is he so low then as to need to beg?”
“Madame, he is a gambler, I repeat it. If he had a hundred francs to-night, he would most likely be penniless to-morrow morning.”