Copyright © 2018 by William Clark Russell.


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First Edition: January 2018



CHAPTER I      5





















My dandy-rigged yacht, the Spitfire, of twenty-six tons, lay in Boulogne harbour, hidden in the deep shadow of the wall against which she floated. It was a breathless night, dark despite the wide spread of cloudless sky that was brilliant with stars. It was hard upon the hour of midnight, and low down where we lay we heard but dimly such sounds of life as was still abroad in the Boulogne streets. Ahead of us loomed the shadow of a double-funnelled steamer--an inky dye of scarcely determinable proportions upon the black and silent waters of the harbour. The Capécure pier made a faint, phantom-like line of gloom as it ran seawards on our left, with here and there a lump of shadow denoting some collier fast to the skeleton timbers.

The stillness was impressive; from the sands came a dull and distant moan of surf; the dim strains of a concertina threaded the hush which seemed to dwell like something material upon the black, vague shape of a large brig almost directly abreast of us. We were waiting for the hour of midnight to strike and our ears were strained.

"What noise is that?" I exclaimed.

"The dip of sweeps, sir," answered my captain, Aaron Caudel; "some smack a-coming along--ay, there she is," and he shadowily pointed to a dark, square heap betwixt the piers, softly approaching to the impulse of her long oars, the rhythmic grind of which in the thole-pins made a strange, wild ocean music of the far-off roar of the surf, and the sob of water alongside, and the delicate wash of the tide in the green piles and timbers of the two long, narrow, quaint old piers.

"How is your pluck now, Caudel?" said I in a low voice, sending a glance up at the dark edge of the harbour-wall above us, where stood the motionless figure of a douanier, with a button or two of his uniform faintly glimmering to the gleam of a lamp near him.

"Right for the job, sir--right as your honour could desire it. There's but one consideration which ain't like a feeling of sartinty--and that I must say consarns the dawg."

"Smother the dog! But you are right, Caudel. We must leave our boots in the ditch."

"Ain't there plenty of grass, sir?" said he.

"I hope so; but a fathom of gravel will so crunch under those hoofs of yours that the very dead buried beneath might turn in their coffins--let alone a live dog wide awake from the end of his beastly cold snout to the tip of his tail. Does the ladder chafe you?"

"No, sir. Makes me feel a bit asthmatic-like, and if them duniers get a sight of me they'll reckon I've visited the Continent to make a show of myself," he exclaimed, with a low, deep-sea laugh, whilst he spread his hands upon his breast, around which, under cover of a large, loose, long pea-coat, he had coiled a length of rope-ladder with two iron hooks at one end of it, which made a hump under either shoulder-blade. There was no other way, however, of conveying the ladder ashore. In the hand it would instantly have challenged attention, and a bag would have been equally an object of curiosity to the two or three Custom-House phantoms flitting about in triangular-shaped trousers and shako-like headgear.

"There goes midnight, sir!" cried Caudel.

As I listened to the chimes a sudden fit of excitement set me trembling.

"Are ye there, Job?" called my captain.

"Ay, sir," responded a voice from the bows of the yacht.


"Here, sir," answered a second voice out of the darkness forward.


"Here, sir."


"Here, sir," responded the squeaky note of a boy.

"Lay aft all you ship's company and don't make no noise," growled Caudel.

I looked up; the figure of the douanier had vanished. The three men and the boy came sneaking out of the yacht's head.

"Now, what ye've got to do," said Caudel, "is to keep awake. You'll see all ready for hoisting and gitting away the hinstant Mr. Barclay and me arrives aboard. You onderstand that?"

"It's good English, cap'n," said one of the sailors.

"No skylarking, mind. You're a listening, Bobby?"

"Ay, sir."

"You'll just go quietly to work and see all clear, and then tarn to and loaf about in the shadows. Now, Mr. Barclay, sir, if you're ready, I am."

"Have you the little bull's-eye in your pocket?" said I.

He felt and answered, "Yes."


"Two boxes."

"Stop a minute," said I, and I descended into the cabin to read my darling's letter for the last time, that I might make sure of all details of our romantic plot, ere embarking on as hare-brained an adventure as was ever attempted by a lover and his sweetheart.

The cabin lamp burned brightly. I see the little interior now and myself standing upright under the skylight, which found me room for my stature, for I was six feet high. The night-shadow came black against the glass, and made a mirror of each pane. My heart was beating fast, and my hands trembled as I held my sweetheart's letter to the light. I had read it twenty times before--you might have known that by the creases in it and the frayed edges, as though, forsooth, it had been a love-letter fifty years old--but my nervous excitement obliged me to go through it once more for the last time, as I have said, to make sure.

The handwriting was girlish--how could it be otherwise, seeing that the sweet writer was not yet eighteen? The letter consisted of four sheets, and on one of them was very cleverly drawn, in pen and ink, a tall, long, narrow, old-fashioned château, with some shrubbery in front of it, a short length of wall, then a tall hedge with an arrow pointing at it, under which was written, "HERE IS THE HOLE." Under another arrow indicating a big, square door to the right of the house, where a second short length of wall was sketched in, were written the words, "HERE IS THE DOG." Other arrows--quite a flight of them, indeed, causing the sketch to resemble a weather-chart--pointed to windows, doors, a little balcony, and so forth, and against them were written, "MAM'SELLE'S ROOM," "THE GERMAN GOVERNESS'S ROOM," "FOUR GIRLS SLEEP HERE,"--with other hints of a like kind.

I carefully read the letter. Suppose the ladder which Caudel had wound around his broad breast should prove too short? No! the height from the balcony to the ground was exactly ten feet. She had measured it herself, and that there might be no error, had enclosed me the length of pack-thread with which--with a little weight at the end of it--she had plumbed the trifling distance. She hoped it would be a fine night. If there should be thunder I must not come. She would rather die than leave the house in a thunderstorm. Neither must I come if the sea was rough. She was acting very wrongly--why did she love me so?--why was I so impatient? Could I not wait until she was twenty-one? Then she would be of age and her own mistress: three years and a month or two would soon pass, and, meanwhile, our love for each other would be growing deeper and deeper--at least hers would. She could not answer for mine. She was content to have faith.

All this was very much underlined, and here and there was a little smudge as though she had dropped a tear.

But she had plucked up as she drew towards the close of her letter, and, mere child as she was, there was a quality of decision in her final sentence which satisfied me that she would not fail me when the moment came. I put the letter in my pocket and went on deck.

"Where are you, Caudel?"

"Here, sir," cried a shadow in the starboard gangway.

"Let us start," said I; "there is half-an-hour's walk before us, and though the agreed time is one, there is a great deal to be done when we arrive."

"I've been a-thinking, Mr. Barclay," he exclaimed, "that the young lady'll never be able to get aboard this yacht by that there up and down ladder," meaning the perpendicular steps affixed to the harbour wall.

"No!" cried I, needlessly startled by an insignificant oversight on the very threshold of the project.

"The boat," he continued, "had better be in waiting at them stairs, just past the smack, astarn of us there."

"Give the necessary orders," said I.

He did so swiftly, bidding two of the men to be at the stairs by one o'clock, the others to have the port gangway unshipped that we might step aboard in a moment, along with sails loosed and gear all seen to, ready for a prompt start. We then ascended the ladder and gained the top of the quay.

A douanier stood at a little distance. As we rose over the edge of the wall he approached, and by the aid of the lamp burning strongly close at hand, he recognised us as persons who had been coming and going throughout the day. Caudel called out "Bong swore," and moved off that his bulky frame might not be visible. The man in a civil voice asked in French if we had any fire-arms on us.

"No, no," I responded, "we are going to fetch a friend who has consented to take a little cruise with us. The tide is making, and we hope to be under way before two o'clock."

"You English love the sea," said he, good-naturedly; "all hours of the day and night are the same to you. For my part, give me my bed at night."

"Here is something to furnish you with a pleasant dream when you get to bed," said I, giving him a franc. "When are you off duty?"

"I am here till four o'clock," he answered.

"Good," said I, and carelessly strolled after the portly figure of my captain.

We said little until we had cleared the Rue de l'Ecu and were marching up the broad Grande Rue, with the church of St. Nicholas soaring in a dusky mass out of the market-place, and the few lights of the wide, main street rising in fitful twinklings to the shadow of the rampart walls. A mounted gendarme passed; the stroke of his horse's hoofs sounded hollow in the broad thoroughfare and accentuated the deserted appearance of the street. Here and there a light showed in a window; from a distance came a noise of chorusing: a number of fellows, no doubt, arm-in-arm, singing "Mourir pour la Patrie," to the inspiration of several glasses of sugar and water.

"I sha'n't be sorry when we're there," said Caudel. "This here ladder makes my coat feel a terrible tight fit. I suppose it'll be the first job of the sort ye was ever engaged in, sir?"

"The first," said I, "and the last too, believe me. It is nervous work. I would rather have to deal with an armed burglar than with an elopement. I wish the business was ended, and we were heading for Penzance."

"And I don't suppose the young lady feels extray comfortable, either," he exclaimed. "Let me see: I've got to be right in my latitude and longitude, or we shall be finding ourselves ashore. It's for us to make the signal, ain't it, sir?"

"Yes," said I, puffing, for the road was steep and we were walking rapidly; "first of all you'll have to prepare the ladder. You haven't forgotten the rungs, I hope?" referring to three brass pieces to keep the ropes extended, contrivances which had been made to my order, resembling stair rods with forks and an arrangement of screws by which they could be disconnected into pieces convenient for the pocket.

"They're here, sir," he exclaimed, slapping his breast.

"Well, we proceed thus: The bull's-eye must be cautiously lighted and darkened. We have then to steal noiselessly to abreast of the window on the left of the house and flash the lantern. This will be answered by the young lady striking a match at the window."

"Won't the scraping of the lucifer be heard?" inquired Caudel.

"No, Miss Bellassys writes to me that no one sleeps within several corridors of that room."

"Well, and then I think you said, sir," observed Caudel, "that the young lady'll slip out on to the balcony, and lower away a small length of line to which this here ladder," he said, giving his breast a thump, "is to be bent on, she hauling of it up?"

"Quite right," said I; "you must help her to descend whilst I hold the ladder taut at the foot of it. No fear of the ropes breaking, I hope?"

"Lord love 'ee," he said heartily, "it's brand new rattline-stuff, strong enough to hoist the mainmast out of a first-rate."

By this time we had gained the top of the Grande Rue. Before us stretched an open space dark with lines of trees; at long intervals the gleam of an oil lamp dotted that space of gloom; on our right lay the dusky mass of the rampart walls, the yawning gateway dully illuminated by the trembling flame of a lantern into a picture which carried the imagination back into heroic times, when elopements were exceedingly common, when gallant knights were to be met with galloping away with women of beauty and distinction clinging to them, when the midnight air was vocal with guitars, and nearly every other darkling lattice framed some sweet, pale, listening face.

"Which'll be the road, sir?" broke in Caudel's tempestuous voice.

I had explored the district that afternoon, had observed all that was necessary, and discovered that the safest, if not the shortest, way to the Rue de Maquétra where my sweetheart, Grace Bellassys, was at school, lay through the Haute Ville or Upper Town as the English called it. The streets were utterly deserted; not so much as a cat stirred. One motionless figure we passed, hard by the Cathedral--a policeman or gendarme--he might have been a statue; it was like pacing the streets of a town that had been sacked, in which nothing lived to deliver so much as a groan; and the fancy was not a little improved by our emergence into what resembled a tract of country through a gateway similar to that by which we had entered, over which there faintly glimmered out to the sheen of a near lamp the figure of Our Lady of Boulogne erect in some carving of a boat.

"Foreigners is a queer lot," exclaimed Caudel. "I dunno as I should much relish living between them walls. How much farther off is it, sir?"

"About ten minutes," said I.

"A blooming walk, Mr. Barclay, sir, begging your pardon. Wouldn't it have been as well if you'd had ordered a fee-hacre to stand by ready to jump aboard of?"

"A fee what?" said I.

"What's the French for a cab, sir?"

"Oh, I see what you mean. No. It's all down-hill for the lady. A carriage makes a noise; then there is the cabman to be left behind to tell all that he knows."

Caudel grunted an assent, and we strode onwards in silence. It was an autumn night, but the air was very soft, and the largest of the luminaries shone with the mellow glory of a summer that was yet rich and beautiful in its decay. From afar, in the direction of the Calais Road, came the dim rumbling noise of a heavy vehicle, like the sound of a diligence in full trot; otherwise the dark and breezeless atmosphere was of an exquisite serenity--too placid indeed to please me; for though the yacht was to be easily towed out of Boulogne harbour, I had no fancy for finding myself becalmed close off the pier-heads when the dawn broke.

The Rue de Maquétra was--is, I may say; I presume it still exists--a long, narrow lane leading to a pretty valley. Something more than half-way up it, on the left-hand side, stands a tall convent wall, the shadow of which, dominated as the heights were by trees on such a motionless midnight as this, plunged the roadway into deepest gloom. The whole length of the lane, to the best of my remembrance, was illuminated by two, at the outside by three, lamps which revealed nothing but their own flames, and so bewildered instead of assisting the eye.

Directly opposite the convent wall stood the old château, darkened and thickened in front by a profusion of shrubbery, with a short length of wall, as I have already said, at both extremities of it. The grounds belonging to the house, as they rose with the hill, were divided from the lane by a thick hedge which terminated at a distance of some two hundred feet.

We came to a stand and listened, staring our hardest with all our eyes. The house was in blackness; the line of the roof ran in a clear sweep of ink against the stars, and not the faintest sound came from it or its grounds, save the delicate tinkling murmur of a fountain playing somewhere amongst the shrubbery in front.

"Where'll be the dawg?" exclaimed Caudel in a hoarse whisper.

"Behind the wall there," I answered, "yonder, where the great square door is. Hark! Did not that sound like the rattle of a chain?"

We listened; then said I:

"Let us make for the hole in the hedge. I have its bearings. It directly fronts the third angle of that convent wall."

We crept soundlessly past the house, treading the verdure that lay in dark streaks upon the glimmering ground of this little-frequented lane. The clock of the convent opposite struck half-past twelve.

"One bell, sir," said Caudel; "it's about time we tarned to, and no mistake. Lord, how I'm a-perspiring! Yet it ben't so hot neither. Which side of the house do the lady descend from?"

"From this side," I answered.

"Well clear of the dawg anyhow," said he, "and that's a good job."

"Here's the hole," I cried, with my voice shrill beyond recognition of my own hearing through the nervous excitement I laboured under.

The hole was a neglected gap in the hedge, a rent originally made probably by donkey-boys, several of whose cattle I had remarked that afternoon browsing along the ditch and bank-side. We squeezed through, and found ourselves in a sort of kitchen garden, as I might imagine from the aspect of the shadowy vegetation; it seemed to run clear to the very wall of the house on this side in dwarf bushes and low-ridged growths.

"There'll be a path I hope," growled Caudel. "What am I atreading on? Cabbages? They crackle worse nor gravel, Mr. Barclay."

"Clear yourself of the rope-ladder, and then I'll smother you in your big pea-coat whilst you light the lamp," said I. "Let us keep well in the shadow of the hedge. Who knows what eyes may be star-gazing yonder?"

The hedge flung a useful dye upon the blackness of the night; and our figures against it, even though they should have been viewed close to, must have been indistinguishable. With a seaman's alacrity Caudel slipped off his immense coat, and in a few moments had unwound the length of ladder from his body. He wore a coloured flannel shirt--I had dreaded to find him figuring in white calico! He dropped the ladder to the ground, and the iron hooks clanked as they fell together. I hissed a sea blessing at him through my teeth.

"Have you no wick in those tallow-candle fingers of yours? Hush! Stand motionless."

As I spoke the dog began to bark. That it was the dog belonging to the house I could not swear. The sound, nevertheless, proceeded from the direction of the yard in which my sweetheart had told me the dog was chained. The deep and melancholy note was like that of a bloodhound giving tongue. It was reverberated by the convent wall and seemed to penetrate to the farthest distance, awaking the very echoes of the sleeping river Liane, and it filled the breathless pause that had fallen upon us with a torment of inquietude and expectation. After a few minutes the creature ceased.

"He'll be a whopper, sir. Big as a pony, sir, if his voice don't belie him," said Caudel, fetching a deep breath. "I was once bit by a dawg----" he was about to spin a yarn.

"For heaven's sake! now bear a hand and get your bull's eye alight," I angrily whispered, at the same moment snatching up his coat and so holding it as to effectually screen his figure from the house.

Feeling over the coat he pulled out the little bull's-eye lamp and a box of matches, and catching with oceanic dexterity the flame of the lucifer in the hollow of his hands, he kindled the wick, and I immediately closed the lantern with its glass eclipsed. This done, I directed my eyes at the black smears of growths--for thus they showed--lying round about us, in search of a path; but apparently we were on the margin of some wide tract of vegetables, through which we should have to thrust to reach the stretch of sward that, according to the description in my pocket, lay immediately under the balcony from which my sweetheart was to descend.

"Pick up that ladder--by the hooks--see they don't clank--crouch low; make a bush of yourself as I do, and come along," said I.

Foot by foot we groped our way towards the tall, thin shadow of the house through the cabbages--to give the vegetation a name--and presently arrived at the edge of the sward; and now we had to wait until the clock struck one. Fortunately there were some bushes here, but none that rose higher than our girth, and this obliged us to maintain a posture of stooping which in a short time began to tell upon Caudel's rheumatic knees, as I knew by his snuffling and uneasy movements, though the heart of oak suffered in silence.






This side of the house lay so black against the fine, clear, starry dusk of the sky that it was impossible to see the outlines of the windows in it. I could manage, however, to faintly trace the line of the balcony. My heart beat fast as I thought that even now my darling might be standing at the window peering through it, waiting for the signal flash. Caudel was thinking of her too.

"The young lady, begging of your pardon, sir, must be a gal of uncommon spirit, Mr. Barclay."

"She loves me, Caudel, and love is the most animating of spirits, my friend."

"I dorn't doubt it, sir. What room will it be that she's to come out of?"

"The dining-room--a big, deserted apartment where the girls take their meals."

"'Tain't her bedroom, then?"

"No. She is to steal dressed from her bedroom to the salle-à-manger--"

"The Sally what, sir?"

"No matter, no matter," I answered.

I pulled out my watch, but there was no power in the starlight to reveal the dial-plate. All continued still as the tomb, saving at fitful intervals a low note of silken rustling that stole upon the ear with some tender, dream-like gushing of night-air, as though the atmosphere had been stirred by the sweep of a large, near, invisible pinion.

"This here posture ain't so agreeable as dancing," hoarsely grumbled Caudel, "could almost wish myself a dwarf. That there word beginning with a Sally--"

"Not so loud, man; not so loud."

"It's oncommon queer," he persisted, "to feel one's self in a country where one's language ain't spoke. The werry soil don't seem natural. As to the language itself, burst me if I can understand how a man masters it. I was once trying to teach an Irish sailor how to dance a quadrille. 'Now, Murphy,' says I to him, 'you onderstand you're my wiz-a-wee?' 'What's dat you call me?' he cried out. 'You're anoder and a damn scoundrel besoides!' Half the words in this here tongue sound like cussing of a man. And to think of a dining-room being called a Sally--"

The convent clock struck one.

"Now," said I, "stand by."

I held up the lamp, and so turned the darkened part as to produce two flashes. A moment after a tiny flame showed and vanished above the balcony.

"My brave darling!" I exclaimed. "Have you the ladder in your hand?"

"Ay, sir."

"Mind these confounded hooks don't chink."

We stepped across the sward and stood under the balcony.

"Grace, my darling, is that you?" I called in a low voice.

"Yes, Herbert. Oh, please be quick. I am fancying I hear footsteps. My heart is scarcely beating for fright."

But despite the tremble in her low, sweet voice my ear seemed to find strength of purpose enough in it to satisfy me that there would be no failure from want of courage on her part. I could just discern the outline of her figure as she leaned over the balcony, and see the white of her face vague as a fancy.

"My darling, lower the line to pull the ladder up with--very softly, my pet--there are iron hooks which make a noise."

In a few moments she called: "I have lowered the line."

I felt about with my hand and grasped the end of it--a piece of twine, but strong enough to support the ladder. The deep, blood-hound-like baying of the dog recommenced, and at the same time I heard a sound of footsteps in the lane.

"Hist! Not a stir--not a whisper," I breathed out.

It was the staggering step of a drunken man. He broke maudlingly into a song when immediately abreast of us, ceased his noise suddenly and halted. This was a little passage of agony, I can assure you! The dog continued to utter its sullen, deep-throated bark in single strokes like the beat of a bell. Presently there was a sound as of the scrambling and crunching of feet, followed with the noise of a lurching tread; the man fell to drunkenly singing to himself again and so passed away up the lane.

Caudel fastened the end of the twine to the ladder, and then grunted out: "All ready for hoisting."

"Grace, my sweet," I whispered, "do you hear me?"

"Distinctly, dearest; but I am so frightened!"

"Pull up this ladder softly and hook the irons on to the rim of the balcony."

"Blast that dawg!" growled Caudel, "dummed if I don't think he smells us."

The ladder went rising into the air.

"It is hooked, Herbert."

"All right, Caudel, swing off upon the end of it--test it, and then aloft with you for mercy's sake!"

The three metal rungs held the ropes bravely stretched apart. The seaman sprang, and the ladder held as though it had been the shrouds of a man-of-war.

"Now, Caudel, you are a seaman--you must do the rest," said I.

He had removed his boots, and, mounting with cat-like agility, gained the balcony; then taking my sweetheart in his arms he lifted her over the rail and lowered her with his powerful arms until her little feet were half-way down the ladder. She uttered one or two faint exclamations, but was happily too frightened to cry out.

"Now, Mr. Barclay," hoarsely whispered Caudel, "you kitch hold of her, sir."

I grasped the ladder with one hand, and passed my arm round her waist; my stature made the feat an easy one; thus holding her to me I sprang back, then for an instant strained her to my heart with a whisper of joy, gratitude, and encouragement.

"You are as brave as you are true and sweet, Grace."

"Oh, Herbert!" she panted, "I can think of nothing. I am very wicked and feel horribly frightened."

"Mr. Barclay," softly called Caudel from the balcony, "what's to be done with this here ladder?"

"Let it be, let it be," I answered. "Bear a hand, Caudel, and come down."

He was alongside of us in a trice, pulling on his boots. I held my darling's hand, and the three of us made for the hole in the hedge with all possible speed. But the cabbages were very much in the way of Grace's dress, and so urgent was the need to make haste that, I believe, in my fashion of helping her, I carried her one way or another more than half the distance across that wide tract of kitchen-garden stuff.

The dog continued to bark. I asked Grace if the brute belonged to the house, and she answered yes. There seemed little doubt, from the persistency of the creature's deep delivery, that it scented some sort of mischief going forward, despite its kennel standing some considerable distance away on the other side of the house. I glanced back as Caudel was squeezing through the hole--I had told him to go first to make sure that all was right with the aperture, and to receive and help my sweetheart across the ditch--I glanced back, I say, in this brief pause; but the building showed as an impenetrable shadow against the winking brilliance of the sky hovering over and past it rich with the radiance in places of meteoric dust; no light gleamed; the night-hush, deep as death, was upon the château.

In a few moments my captain and I had carefully handed Grace through the hole and got her safe in the lane, and off we started, keeping well in the deep gloom cast by the convent wall, walking swiftly, yet noiselessly, and scarcely fetching our breath till we were clear of the lane, with the broad, glimmering St. Omer Road running in a rise upon our left.

By the aid of the three or four lamps we had passed I managed very early to get a view of my sweetheart, and found that she had warmly robed herself in a fur-trimmed jacket, and that her hat was a sort of turban as though chosen from her wardrobe with a view to her passage through the hole in the hedge. I had her hand under my arm; and pressed and caressed it as we walked. Caudel taking the earth with sailorly strides bowled and rolled along at her right, keeping her between us. I spoke to her in hasty sentences, forever praising her for her courage and thanking her for her love, and trying to hearten her; for now that the first desperate step had been taken, now that the wild risks of escape were ended, the spirit that had supported her failed; she could scarcely answer me; at moments she would direct looks over her shoulder; the mere figure of a tree would cause her to tighten her hold of my arm, and press against me as though starting.

"I feel so wicked--I feel that I ought to return--oh! how frightened I am;--how late it is!--what will mam'selle think?--How the girls will talk in the morning!"

I could coax no more than this sort of exclamations from her.

As we passed through the gate in the rampart wall and entered the Haute Ville, my captain broke the silence he had kept since we quitted the lane.

"How little do the folks who's sleeping in them houses know, Mr. Barclay, of what's a-passing under their noses. There ain't no sort of innocence like sleep."

He said this and yawned with a noise that resembled a shout.

"This is Captain Caudel, Grace," said I, "the master of the Spitfire. His services to-night I shall never forget."

"I am too frightened to thank you, Captain Caudel," she exclaimed. "I will thank you when I am calm. But shall I ever be calm? And ought I to thank you then?"

"Have no fear, miss. This here oneasiness 'll soon pass. I know the yarn--his honour spun it to me. What's been done, and what's yet to do is right and proper, and if it worn't--" his pause was more significant than had he proceeded.

Until we reached the harbour we did not encounter a living creature. I could never have imagined of the old town of Boulogne that its streets, late even as the hour was, would be so utterly deserted as we found them. I was satisfied with my judgment in not having ordered a carriage. The rattling of the wheels of a vehicle amid the vault-like stillness of those thoroughfares would have been heart-subduing to my mood of passionately nervous anxiety to get on board and away. I should have figured windows flung open and night-capped heads projected, and heard in imagination the clanking sabre of a gendarme trotting in our wake.

I did not breathe freely till the harbour lay before us. Caudel said as we crossed to where the flight of steps fell to the water's edge:

"I believe there's a little air of wind amoving."

"I feel it," I answered; "what's its quarter?"

"Seems to be off the land," said he.

"There is a man!" cried Grace, arresting me by a drag at my arm.

A figure stood at the head of the steps, and I believed it one of our men until a few strides brought us near enough to witness the gleam of uniform buttons, showing by the pale light of a lamp at a short distance from him.

"A douanier," said I. "Nothing to be afraid of, my pet."

"But if he should stop us, Herbert?" cried she, halting.

"Sooner than that should happen," rumbled Caudel, "I'd chuck him overboard. But why should he stop us, miss? We ain't smugglers."

"I would rather throw myself into the water than be taken back," exclaimed my sweetheart. I gently induced her to walk, whilst my captain advancing to the edge of the quay and looking down, sang out:

"Below there! Are ye awake?"

"Ay, wide awake," was the answer, floating up in hearty English accents from the cold, dark surface on which the boat lay.

The douanier drew back a few steps; it was impossible to see his face, but his steadfast suspicious regard was to be imagined. I have no doubt he understood exactly what was happening. He asked us the name of our vessel. I answered in French. "The small yacht Spitfire lying astern of the Folkestone steamer." Nothing more passed and we descended the steps.

I felt Grace shiver as I handed her into the boat. The harbour water washed black and cold to the dark line of pier and wharf opposite; there was an edge of chill, too, in the distant sound of surf crawling upon the sand, and the wide spread of stars carried the fancy to the broad, black breast of ocean over which they were trembling. The oars dipped, striking a dim cloud of phosphor into the eddies they made; and a few strokes of the blades carried us to the side of the little Spitfire. I sprang on to the deck, and lifting my darling through the gangway, called to Caudel to make haste to get the boat in and start, for the breeze, that had before been little more than a fancy to me, I could now hear as it brushed the surface of the harbour wall, making the reflection of the large stars in the water alongside twinkle and widen out, and putting a perfume of fresh seaweed into the atmosphere, though the draught, such as it was, came from a malodorous quarter.

I led Grace to the little companion hatch, and together we entered the cabin. The lamp burnt brightly; the skylight lay open, and the interior was cool and sweet with several pots of flowers which I had sent aboard in the afternoon. It was a little box of a place, as you will suppose, of a dandy craft of twenty-six tons; but I had not spared my purse in decorating it, and I believe no prettier interior of the kind in a vessel of the size of the Spitfire