Jeanne travelled first, because she had never thought of travelling any other way. She sat in the corner of an empty carriage, looking steadily out of the window, and seeing nothing but the fragments of her little life. Now that she was detached from it, she seemed to realize how little real pleasure she had found in the life which the Princess had insisted upon dragging her into. She remembered how every man whom she had met addressed her with the same empressement, how their eyes seemed to have followed her about almost covetously, how the girls had openly envied her, how the court of the men had been so monotonous and so unreal. She drew a little breath, almost of relief. When she was used to the idea she might even be glad that this great fortune had taken to itself wings and flitted away. She was no longer the heiress of untold wealth. She was simply a girl, standing on the threshold of life, and looking forward to the happiness which at that age seems almost a natural heritage.
The sense of freedom grew on her next morning, as she walked once more upon the marshes, listened to the larks, now in full song, and felt the touch of the salt wind upon her cheeks. She had found rooms very easily, and no one had seemed to treat her coming as anything but a matter of course. One old fisherman of whom she asked questions, told her many queer stories about the Red Hall and its occupants.
“As restless young men as them two as is there now,” he admitted, “Mr. Cecil and his friend, I never did see. Fust one of them one day goes to London, back he comes on the next day, and away goes the other. Why they don’t go both together the Lord only knows, but that is so for a fact, miss, and you can take it from me. Every week of God’s year, one of them goes to London, and directly he comes back the other goes.”
“And Mr. Andrew de la Borne?” she asked. “Has he gone back there yet?”
“He have not,” the man answered, “but I doubt he’ll be back again one day ’fore long. Sure he need be. They’re beginning to talk about the shuttered windows at the Red Hall.”
The girl turned and looked toward the house, bleak and desolate-looking enough now that the few encircling trees were shorn of their leaves.
“I shouldn’t care to live there all the year round,” she remarked.
“I’ve heerd others say the same thing,” he answered, “and yet in Salthouse village we’re moderate well satisfied with life. It’s them as have too much,” he continued, “who rush about trying to make more. A simple life and a simple lot is what’s best in this world.”
“Things were livelier up there,” Jeanne remarked, seating herself on the edge of his boat, “when the smugglers used to bring in their goods.”
The old man smiled.