“Forrest,” he said, “I cannot stand it any longer. This place is sending me mad. I think that the best thing we can do is to chuck it.”
“Do you?” Forrest answered drily. “That may be all very well for you, a countryman, with enough to live on, and the whole world before you. As for me, I couldn’t face it. I have passed middle age, and my life runs in certain grooves. It must run in them now until the end. I cannot break away. I would not if I could. Existence would simply be intolerable for me if that young fool were ever allowed to tell his story.”
“We cannot keep him for ever,” Cecil answered gloomily. “We cannot play the jailer here all our lives. Besides, there is always the danger of being found out. There are two detectives in the place already, and I am fairly certain that if they have been in the house while we have been out—”
“There is nothing for them to discover here,” Forrest answered. “I should keep the doors open. Let them search if they want to.”
“That is all very well,” Cecil answered, “but if these fellows hang about the place, sooner or later they will hear some of the stories these villagers are only too anxious to tell.”
“There,” he said, “I am not disinclined to agree with you. Hasn’t it ever struck you, De la Borne,” he continued, after a moment’s slight hesitation, “that there is only one logical way out of this?”
“No!” Cecil answered eagerly. “What way? What do you mean?”
Forrest filled his glass to the brim with wine before he answered. Then he passed the decanter back to Cecil.
“We are not children, you and I,” he said. “Why should we let a boy like Engleton play with us? Why do we not let him have the issue before him in black and white? We say to him now—’Sign this paper, pledge your word of honour, and you may go.’ He declines. He declines because the alternative of staying where he is is endurable. I propose that we substitute another alternative. Drink your wine, De la Borne. This is a chill house of yours, and one loses courage here. Drink your wine, and think of what I have said.”
Cecil set down his glass empty.
“Well,” he said, “what other alternative do you propose?”
“Can’t you see?” Forrest answered. “We cannot keep Engleton shut up for ever. I grant you that that is impossible. But if he declines to behave like a reasonable person, we can threaten him with an alternative which I do not think he would have the courage to face.”
“You mean?” Cecil gasped.
“I mean,” Forrest answered, “what your grandfather would have told him, or your great grandfather, in half a dozen words weeks ago. At full tide there is sea enough to drown a dozen such as he within a few yards of where he lies. Why should we keep him carefully and safe, knowing that the moment he steps back into life you and I are doomed men?”