“I do not suppose,” Jeanne said, “that Mr. Andrew would know anything. However, when I see him I will ask him.”
The Princess turned away from the open door, shivering.
“You are not really going out?” she said.
“Certainly I am,” Jeanne answered. “I suppose you three will play cards, and it does not interest me to watch you. There is nothing which interests me here at all except the gardens and the sea. I am going down to the beach, and then I shall sit there behind the hollyhocks until it is bedtime.”
The Princess looked at her curiously.
“You’re a queer child,” she said, turning away.
“It is not strange, that,” Jeanne answered, with a little curl of the lips.
The Princess went back to the library. Coffee and liqueurs had already been served, and the card-table was set out, although none of the three had the slightest inclination to play. Jeanne walked along the beach and then came back to her favourite seat, sheltered by the little grove of stunted trees and the tall hollyhocks which bordered the garden. Her eyes were fixed upon the darkening sea, whitened here and there by the long straight line of breakers. The marshes on her right hand were hung with grey mists, floating about like weird phantoms, and here and there between them shone the distant lights of the village. She half closed her eyes. The soft falling of the waves upon the sand below, and the murmur of the wind through the bushes and scanty trees was like a lullaby. She sat there she scarcely knew how long. She woke up with a start, conscious that two men were standing talking together within a few yards of her in the rough lane that led down to the sea.
The Princess was attempting a new and very complicated form of patience. Forrest was watching her. Their host was making an attempt to read the newspaper.
“In five minutes,” the Princess declared, “I shall have achieved the impossible. This time I am quite sure that I am going to do it.”
A breathless silence followed her announcement. The Princess, looking up in surprise, found that the eyes of her two companions were fixed not upon her but upon the door. She laid down her cards and turned her head. It was Jeanne who stood there, her hair tossed and blown by the wind, her face ashen white.
“What is the matter, child?” the Princess demanded.
Jeanne came a little way into the room.
“There were two men,” she faltered, “talking in the shrubbery close to where I was sitting behind the hollyhocks. I could not understand all that they said, but they are coming here. They were speaking of Lord Ronald.”
“Go on,” Forrest muttered, leaning forward with dilated eyes.
“They spoke as though something might have happened to him here,” the girl whispered. “Oh! it is too horrible, this! What do you think that they meant?”