Engleton rose to his feet.
“So much the better,” he said. “You might keep me here till doomsday, and the end would be the same.”
“We do not propose,” Forrest continued, “to keep you here till doomsday, or anything like it. What we have come to say to you is this—that if you still refuse to give your promise—I need not say more than that—we are going to set you free.”
“Do you mean that literally?” Engleton asked.
“Perhaps not altogether as you would wish to understand it,” Forrest admitted. “We shall give you a chance at high tide to swim for your life.”
Engleton shrunk a little back. After all, his nerves were a little shattered.
“Out there?” he asked, pointing to the seaward end of the passage.
“It will be a chance for you,” he said.
Engleton looked at them for a moment, dumbfounded.
“It will be murder,” he said slowly.
Forrest shrugged his shoulders.
“You may call it so if you like,” he answered. “Personally, I should not be inclined to agree with you. You will be alive when you go into the sea. If you cannot swim, the fault is not ours.”
“And when, may I ask,” Engleton continued, “do you propose to put into operation your amiable plan?”
“Just whensoever we please, you d—d obstinate young puppy!” Forrest cried, suddenly losing his nerve. “Curse your silent tongue and your venomous face! You think you can get the better of us, do you? Well, you are mistaken. You’ll tell no stories from amongst the seaweed.”
“I shall take particular good care,” he said, “to avoid the seaweed.”
“Enough,” Forrest declared. “Listen! Here is the issue. We are tired of negative things. To-night you sign the paper and give us your word of honour to keep silent, or before morning, when the tide is full, you go into the sea!”
“I warn you,” Engleton said, “that I can swim.”
“I will guarantee,” Forrest answered suavely, “that by the time you reach the water you will have forgotten how.”
The days that followed were strange ones for Jeanne. Every morning at sunrise, or before, she would steal out of the little cottage where she was staying, and make her way along the top of one of the high dyke banks to the sea. Often she saw the sun rise from some lonely spot amongst the sandbanks or the marshes, heard the awakening of the birds, and saw the first glimpses of morning life steal into evidence upon the grey chill wilderness. At such times she saw few people. The house where she was staying was apart from the village, and near the head of one of the creeks, and there were times when she would leave it and return without having seen a single human being. She knew, from cautious inquiries made from her landlady’s daughter, that Cecil and Major Forrest were still at the Red Hall, and for that reason during the daytime she seldom left the cottage, sitting out in the old-fashioned garden, or walking a little way in the fields at the back. For the future she made no plans. She was quite content to feel that for the present she had escaped from an intolerable situation.