* * *
Dinner was over, and the little party of three were settling down to their coffee and cigarettes when the Princess’ maid came down and whispered in her mistress’ ear. The Princess turned to her host perplexed.
“Has any one seen anything of Jeanne?” she inquired. “Reynolds has just told me that she has not returned at all.”
“I thought you said that she was lying down with a headache,” Cecil interposed eagerly.
“I thought so myself,” the Princess answered. “Early this afternoon she told me that she had no sleep last night, that she had a very bad headache, and that she was going to bed. As a matter of fact she went out almost at once, and has not returned.” Cecil was already on his way to the door.
“We will send out into the village at once,” he said, “and some one must go on the marshes. There are plenty of places there where it would have been absolutely unsafe for her in such a storm as we have had. Ring the bell, Forrest, will you?”
Andrew stepped in and closed the door behind him.
“It is not necessary,” he said. “I can tell you all about Miss Le Mesurier.”
There was a moment’s breathless silence as Andrew stood there looking in upon the little group. Then he left his position at the door and came up to the table round which they were seated.
“Madam,” he said to the Princess, “your daughter is safe. She came down to the island this afternoon, and was unable to return owing to the storm.”
The Princess gave a little sigh of relief.
“Foolish child!” she said. “But where is she now, Mr. Andrew?”
“She is still at the island,” Andrew answered. “It was impossible for her to leave, so I came here to tell you of her whereabouts.”
“It was extremely thoughtful of you,” the Princess said graciously.
“If Miss Le Mesurier was unable to leave the island, how was it that you came?” Major Forrest asked, looking at Andrew through his eyeglass as though he were some sort of natural curiosity.
“I swam over,” Andrew answered. “It was a very short distance.”
It was about this time that they all noticed the fact that Andrew was wearing clothes of an altogether different fashion to the fisherman’s garb in which they had seen him previously. The Princess looked at him perplexed. Cecil felt instinctively that the event which he had most dreaded was about to happen.
“And you came up here purposely to relieve our minds, Mr. Andrew,” the Princess said. “Really it is most kind of you. I wish that there were some way—”
She hesitated, a slight note of question in her tone, expressed also by her upraised eyebrows.
“I had a further reason for coming,” Andrew said slowly. “I am very sorry indeed to seem inhospitable or discourteous, but there is a certain matter which must be cleared up, and at once. I refer to the disappearance of Lord Ronald.”