Andrew de la Borne shrugged his shoulders and smiled good-naturedly.
“Never mind about that, Dick,” he answered. “Call it a whim or anything else you like. The fact is that Cecil had some guests coming whom I did not particularly care to meet, and who certainly would not have been interested in me. I thought it would be best to clear out altogether, so I have left Cecil in possession of the Hall, and they don’t even know that I exist.”
The man named Berners looked up at his host with twinkling eyes.
“Right!” he said. “So far as I am concerned, you shall be Mr. Andrew, fisherman. Will you also kindly remember that if any curiosity is evinced as to my identity, I am Mr. Berners, and that I am here for a rest-cure. By the by, how are you going to explain that elderly domestic of yours?”
“He is your servant, of course,” Andrew answered. “He understands the position. I have spoken to him already. Yes, they are coming here right enough! Suppose you help me to pull in the boat for them.”
The two men sauntered down to the shelving beach. The boat was close to them now, and Cecil was standing up in the bows.
“We want to land for a few minutes,” he called out.
“Throw a rope, then,” Andrew answered briefly. “You had better come in this side of the landing-stage.”
The rope was thrown, and the boat dragged high and dry upon the pebbly beach. The Princess, after a glance at him through her lorgnette, surrendered herself willingly to Andrew’s outstretched hands.
“I am quite sure,” she said, “that you will not let me fall. You must be the wonderful person whom my daughter has told me about. Is this queer little place really your home?”
“I live here,” Andrew de la Borne said simply.
Jeanne leaned over towards him.
“Won’t you please help me, Mr. Andrew?” she said, smiling down at him.
He held out his arms, and she sprang lightly to the ground.
“I hope you don’t mind our coming,” she said to him. “I was so anxious to see your cottage.”
“There is little enough to see,” Andrew answered, “but you are very welcome.”
“We are sorry to trouble you,” Cecil said, a little uneasily, “but would it be possible to give these ladies some tea?”
“Certainly,” Andrew answered. “I will go and get it ready.”
“Oh, what fun!” Jeanne declared. “I am coming to help. Please, Mr. Andrew, do let me help. I am sure I could make tea.”
“It is not necessary, thank you,” Andrew answered. “I have a lodger who has brought his own servant. As it happens he was just preparing some tea for us. If you will come round to the other side, where it is a little more sheltered, I will bring you some chairs.”
They moved across the grass-grown little stretch of sand. The Princess peered curiously at Berners.
“Your face,” she remarked, “seems quite familiar to me.”