Read CHAPTER IX - ON THE WYE of Cynthia's Chauffeur , free online book, by Louis Tracy, on

For this is what happened.  To Mrs. Devar, gazing darkly at Cynthia’s too innocent discovery of Medenham standing on the tiny quay, came the Welsh maid, saying: 

“Beg pardon, mam, but iss your chauf-feur’s name Fitz-roy?”


“Then he iss wan-ted on the tel-e-phone from Her-e-ford, mam.”

“There he is, below there, near the river.”

Mrs. Devar smiled sourly at the thought that the interruption was well-timed, since Medenham was just raising his cap with a fine assumption of surprise at finding Miss Vanrenen strolling by the water’s edge.  The civil-spoken maid was about to trip off in pursuit of him, when Mrs. Devar changed her mind.  The notion suddenly occurred to her that it would be well if she intervened in this telephonic conversation, and Fitzroy could still be summoned a minute later if desirable.

“Don’t trouble,” she cried, “I think that Miss Vanrenen wishes to go boating, so I will attend to the call myself.  Perhaps Fitzroy’s presence may be dispensed with.”

The felt-lined telephone box was well screened off; as first impressions might be valuable, she adjusted the receivers carefully over both ears before she shouted “Hallo!”

“That you, my lord?” said a voice.

“Hallo! who wants Fitzroy?” she asked in the gruffest tone she could adopt.

“It’s Dale, my But who is talking?  Is that you, sir?”

“Go on.  Can’t you hear?”

“Not very well, my lord, but I’m that upset....  It wasn’t my fault, but your lordship’s father dropped on to me at Bristol, an’ he’s here now.  What am I to do?”

“My lordship’s father!  What are you talking about?  Who are you?”

“Isn’t that Lord Oh, dash it, aren’t you Miss Vanrenen’s chauffeur, Fitzroy?”

“No.  This is the Symon’s Yat Hotel.  The party is out now, and Fitzroy as well, but I can tell him anything you wish to say.”

Mrs. Devar fancied that the speaker, whose words thus far had excited her liveliest curiosity, would imagine that he was in communication with the proprietors of the hotel.  She was not mistaken.  Dale fell into the trap instantly, though, indeed, he was not to be blamed, since he had asked most earnestly that “Mr. Fitzroy, Miss Vanrenen’s chauffeur” should be brought to the telephone.

“Well, mam,” he said, “if I can’t get hold of of Fitzroy I must leave a message, as I don’t suppose I’ll have another chanst.  I’m his man, I’m Dale; have you got it?”

“Yes Dale.”

“Tell him the Earl of Fairholme turned up in Bristol an’ forced me to explain everything.  I couldn’t help it.  The old gentleman fell from the blooming sky, he did.  Will you remember that name?”

“Oh, yes:  the Earl of Fairholme.”

“Well, his lordship will understand.  I mean you must tell Fitzroy what I said.  Please tell him privately.  I expect I’ll get the sack anyhow over this business, but I’m doin’ me best in tryin’ the telephone, so you’ll confer a favor, mam, if you call Fitzroy on one side before tellin’ him.”

Though the telephone-box was stuffy when the door was closed, Mrs. Devar felt a cold chill running down her spine.

“I don’t quite understand,” she said thickly.  “You’re Dale, somebody’s man; whose man?”

“His lordship’s.  Oh, d n.  Beg pardon, mam, but I’m Fitzroy’s chauffeur.”

It was a glorious night of early summer, yet lightning struck in that little shut-off section of the hotel.

“Do you mean that you are Viscount Medenham’s chauffeur?” she gasped, and her hands trembled so much that she could scarce hold the receivers to her ears.

“Yes’m.  Now you’ve got it.  But, look here, I daren’t stop another minnit.  Tell his lordship tell Mr. Fitzroy that I’ll dodge the Earl in some way an’ remain here.  He says he has been tricked, wot between me an’ the Frenchman, but he means to go back to London to-morrow.  Good-by, mam.  You won’t forget strickly private?”

“Oh, no, I won’t forget,” said Mrs. Devar grimly; nevertheless, she felt weak and sick, and in her anxiety to rush out into the fresh air she did forget to hang up the receivers, and the Symon’s Yat Hotel was cut off from the world of telephones until someone entered the box early next morning.

She was of a not uncommon type a physical coward endowed with nerves of steel, but, for once in her life, she came perilously near fainting.  It was bad enough that a money-making project of some value should show signs of tumbling in ruins, but far worse that she, an experienced tuft-hunter, should have lived in close companionship with a viscount for four long days and snubbed him rancorously and without cease.  There was no escaping the net she had contrived for her own entanglement.  She had actually written to Peter Vanrenen that she deemed it her duty as Cynthia’s chaperon to acquaint him with Simmonds’s defection and the filling of his place by Fitzroy, “a most unsuitable person to act as Miss Vanrenen’s chauffeur” indeed, a young man who, she was sure, “would never have been chosen for such a responsible position” by Mr. Vanrenen himself.

And Fitzroy was Viscount Medenham, heir to the Fairholme estates, one of the most eligible young bachelors in the kingdom!  Oh, blind and crass that she had not guessed the truth!  The car, the luncheon-basket, the rare wine, the crest on the silver, the very candor of the wretch in giving his real name, his instant recognition of “Jimmy” Devar’s mother, the hints of a childhood passed in Sussex why, even the aunt he spoke of on Derby Day must be Susan St. Maur, while Millicent Porthcawl had actually met him in the Bournemouth hotel! these and many another vivid index pointed the path of knowledge to one so well versed as she in the intricacies of Debrett.  The very attributes which she had taken for an impertinent aping of the manners of society had shouted his identity into her deaf ears time and again.  Even an intelligent West-end housemaid would have felt some suspicion of the facts when confronted by these piled-up tokens.  She remembered noticing his hands, the quality of his linen, his astonishingly “good” appearance on the only occasion that she had seen him in evening dress; she almost groaned aloud when she recalled the manner of her son’s departure from Bristol, and some imp in her heart raked the burnt ashes of the fire that had devoured her when she heard why Captain Devar was requested to resign his commission.  Of course, this proud young aristocrat recognized him at once, and had brushed him out of his sight as one might brush a fly off a windowpane.

But how was she to act in face of the threatened disaster?  Why had not her son warned her?  Did Marigny know, and was that the explanation of his sheepish demeanor when she and Cynthia were about to enter the car that morning?  Indeed, Marigny’s quiet acceptance of the position was quite as difficult to understand as her own failure to grasp the significance of all that happened since noon on Wednesday.  This very day, before breakfast, he had come to her room with the cheering news that information to hand from London would certainly procure the dismissal of “Fitzroy” forthwith.  The Mercury was registered in the name of the Earl of Fairholme, the obvious deduction being that his lordship’s chauffeur was careering through England in a valuable car without a shred of permission; the merest whisper to Cynthia of this discovery, said the Frenchman, would send “Fitzroy” packing.

And again, what had Cynthia meant when she referred at Chepstow to the “Norman baron scowl” with which “Fitzroy” had favored Marigny?  Was she, too, in the secret?  Unhappy Mrs. Devar!  She glowered at the darkening Wye, and wriggled on her chair in torture.

“Wass it all right a-bout the tel-e-phone, mam?” said a soft voice at her ear.

She started violently, and the maid was contrite.

“I’m ver-ry sor-ry, mam,” she said, “but I see Mr. Fitz-roy down there on the riv-er ”

“Where, where?” cried the other, rather to gain time to collect her wits than to ascertain Medenham’s whereabouts.

The girl pointed.

“In that lit-tle boat, all by its-self, mam,” she said.

“Oh, it was of no importance.  By the way,” and Mrs. Devar produced her purse, “you might tell the people in the office not to pay any attention to the statements of a man named Dale, if he rings up from Hereford.  He is only a chauffeur, and we shall see him in the morning; perhaps it will be best, if he asks for Fitzroy again to-night, to tell him to await our arrival.”

“Yess, mam,” and the maid went off, the richer by half-a-crown.  Mrs. Devar’s usual “tip” was a sixpence for a week’s attentions, so it would demand an abstruse arithmetical calculation to arrive at an exact estimate of the degree of mental disturbance that led to the present lack of proportion.

Left alone once more, her gaze followed a small skiff speeding upstream over the placid surface of the silvery Wye; Medenham was rowing, and Cynthia held the tiller ropes; but Mrs. Devar’s thoughts turned her mind’s eyes inward, and they surveyed a gray prospect.  Dale, the unseen monster who had struck this paralyzing blow, spoke of “the Frenchman.”  Lord Fairholme had charged both Dale and “the Frenchman” with tricking him.  Therefore, the Earl and Marigny had met at Bristol.  If so, and there could be little doubt of it, Marigny would hardly appear in Hereford, and if she attempted to telephone to the Green Dragon Hotel, where Cynthia had engaged rooms, she would not only fail to reach Marigny but probably reveal to a wrathful Earl the very fact which Dale seemed to have withheld from him, namely, his son’s address at the moment.

She assumed that Dale knew how to communicate with his master because Medenham had telegraphed the name of the hotel at Symon’s Yat.  Therein she was right.  Medenham wanted his baggage, and, having ascertained that there was a suitable train, sent instructions that Dale was to travel by it.  This, of course, the man could not do.  Lord Fairholme had carried off his son’s portmanteaux, and had actually hired a room in the Green Dragon next to that reserved for Cynthia.

Suddenly grown wise, Mrs. Devar decided against the telephone.  But there remained the secrecy of the post-office.  What harm if she sent a brief message to both the Green Dragon and the Mitre Hotels Marigny would be sure to put up at one or the other if he were in Hereford and demand his advice?  She hurried to the drawing-room and wrote: 

     Remaining Symon’s Yat Hotel to-night.  Suppose you are aware
     of to-day’s developments.  F. is son of gentleman you met in
     Bristol.  Wire reply.  DEVAR.

She went to the hotel bureau, but a sympathetic landlady shook her head.

“The post-office is closed.  No telegrams can be dispatched until eight o’clock on Monday,” she said.  “But there is the telephone ”

“It is matterless,” said Mrs. Devar, crushing the written forms in her fingers as though she had reason to believe they might sting her.

She resolved to let events drift now.  They had passed beyond her control.  Perhaps a policy of masterly inactivity might rescue her from the tornado which had swept her off her feet.  In any case, she must fight her own battles, irrespective of the cabal entered into in Paris.  Captain James Devar was an impossible ally; the French Count was a negligible quantity when compared with an English viscount whose ancestry threw back to the Conquest and whose estates covered half of a midland shire; but there remained, active as ever, the self-interest of a poor widow from whose despairing grasp was slipping a golden opportunity.

“Is it too late?” she asked herself.  “Can anything be done?  Maud, my dear, you are up against it, as they say in America.  Pull yourself together, and see if you can’t twist your mistakes to your own advantage.”

Cynthia, meanwhile, was enjoying herself hugely.  The placid reaches of the Wye offered a delightful contrast to the sun-baked roads of Monmouthshire; and, it may be added, there was enough of Mother Eve in her composition to render the proceeding none the less attractive because it was unconventional.  Perhaps, deep hidden in her consciousness, lurked a doubt but that was successfully stifled for the hour.

Indeed, her wits were trying to solve a minor puzzle.  Her woman’s eye had seen and her quick brain was marveling at certain details in Medenham’s costume.  There are conditions, even in England, in which a flannel suit is hard to obtain, and the manner of their coming to Symon’s Yat seemed to preclude the buying of ready-made garments, a solution which would occur to an American instantly.  Yet here was that incomprehensible chauffeur clad in the correct regalia of the Thames Rowing Club, though Cynthia, of course, did not recognize the colors.

“How did you manage it?” she asked, wide-eyed and smiling.

“I hunted through the hotels and met a man about my own size who was just off to town,” he said.

“But there are gaps.”

“I thought they fitted rather well.  In fact, he was slightly the stouter of the two.”

“Don’t be stupid.  The gaps are in your story.  Did you borrow or buy?”

“I borrowed.  Luckily, he was a decent fellow, and there was no trouble.”

“Did you know him?”

“By name only.”

“Do Englishmen lend their clothes to promiscuous strangers?”

“More, much more; they give them at times.”

She was silent for a few seconds.  He had persuaded her that oars were preferable to sails on such a still night, especially as he was not acquainted with the shallows, but he had not explained that if he rowed and she steered he would be able to gaze his fill at her.

“What colors are those?” she demanded suddenly.

“I ought to have told you that I happened to find a member of the club to which I belong,” he countered.  Then, before she could pin him down to a definite statement, he tried to carry the war into the enemy’s country.

“By the way, I hope I am not presuming on the fact that you have consented to take this little excursion, Miss Vanrenen, but may I ask how you contrive to appear each evening in a muslin frock?  Those hold-alls on the motor are strictly utilitarian, and a mere man would imagine that muslin could not escape being crushed.”

“It doesn’t.  I have a maid iron it for me before dinner.  At Hereford I shall receive a fresh one from London, and send this back by post.  But fancy you noticing such a thing!  Have you any sisters?”

“Yes, one.”

“How old is she?”


“Dear me!  A year older than me.  Oh, ought I to have said ‘than I’?  That always puzzles me.”

“You have Milton on your side.  He wrote: 

     Satan than whom no higher sat.

Still, it is generally allowed that Milton wrote bad grammar there.”

Cynthia was awed momentarily a quotation from “Paradise Lost” always commands respect so she harked back to an easier topic.

“Is your sister married?”


“What is her husband?”

“She married rather well, as the saying is.  Her husband is a man named Scarland, and he is chiefly interested in pedigree cattle.”

“Let me see,” she mused.  “I seem to remember the name; it had something to do with fat cattle, too....  Scarland?  Does he exhibit?”

Medenham wished then that he had not been so glib with the Marquis of Scarland’s pet occupation.

“I have been in England so little during the past few years ” he began.

“I hope you haven’t quarreled with your sister?” she put in promptly.

“What, quarrel with Betty?  I?” And he laughed at the conceit, though he wondered what Cynthia would say if, on Monday, he deviated a few miles from the Hereford and Shrewsbury main road and showed her Scarland Towers and the park in which the marquis’s prize stock were fattening.

“Oh, is she so nice?  And pretty, too, I suppose?”

“People generally speak of her as good-looking.  It is a recognized fact, I believe, that pretty girls usually have brothers not so favored ”

“What, fishing now as well as rowing?  Didn’t I say you had a Norman aspect?”

“Consisting largely of a scowl, I understand.”

“But a man is bound to look fierce sometimes.  At least, my father does, though he is celebrated for his unchanging aspect, no matter what happens.  Perhaps he may look like a Sphinx when he is carrying through what he calls ‘a deal,’ but I remember very well seeing lightning in his eye when an Italian prince was rude to me one day.  We were at Pompeii, and this Prince Monte-something induced me to look at a horrid fresco under the pretense that it was very artistic.  Without thinking what I was doing, I ran to father and complained about it.  My goodness!  I wonder the lava didn’t melt again before he got through with his highness, who, after all, was a bit of a virtuoso, and may have really admired nasty subjects so long as they conformed to certain standards of art.”

“Some ideals call for correction by the toe of a strong boot I share Mr. Vanrenen’s views on that point most emphatically.”

Medenham’s character was one that transmuted words to deeds.  He drove the skiff onward with a powerful sweep that discovered an unexpected shoal.  There might have been some danger of an upset if the oars were in less skillful hands.  As it was, they were back in deep water within a few seconds.

Cynthia laughed without the least tremor.

“You were kicking my Italian acquaintance in imagination then; I hope you see now that you might have been mistaken,” she cried.

“Even in this instance I only touched mud.”

“Well, well, let us forget the Signor Principe.  Tell me about yourself.  How did you come to enlist?  In my country, men of your stamp do not join the army unless some national crisis arises.  But, perhaps, that applies to your case.  The Boers nearly beat you, didn’t they?”

He took advantage of the opening thus presented, and was able to interest her in stories of the campaign without committing himself to details.  Nevertheless, a man who had served on the headquarters staff during the protracted second phase of the South African war could hardly fail to exhibit an intimate knowledge of that history which is never written.  Though Cynthia had met many leaders of thought and action, she had never before encountered one who had taken part in a struggle of such peculiar significance as the Boer revolt.  She was not an English girl, eager only to hear tales of derring-do in which her fellow-countrymen figure heroically, but a citizen of that wider world that refuses to look at events exclusively through British spectacles; therein lay the germ of real peril to Medenham.  He had not only to narrate but to convince.  He was called on to answer questions of policy and method that few if any of the women in his own circle would think of putting.  Obviously, this appeal to his intellect weakened the self-imposed guard on his lips.  There is excellent authority for the belief that Desdemona loved Othello for the dangers he had passed, and did with greedy ear devour his discourse, yet it may well be conceded that an explanatory piquancy would have been added to the Moor’s account

                   Of most disastrous chances,
     Of moving accidents by flood and field,

if the lady were not a maid of Venice but hailed from some kindred city that refused to range all the virtues on the side of the Mistress of the Adriatic.

More than once it chanced that Medenham had to exercise his wits very quickly to trip his tongue when on the verge of some indiscretion that would betray him.  Perhaps he was unduly cautious.  Perhaps his listener’s heart had mastered her brain for the time.  Perhaps she would not have woke up in a maze from a dream that was not less a dream because she was not sleeping even if some unwary utterance caused her to ask what manner of man this could be.

But that can never be known, since Cynthia herself never knew.  The one sharp and clear fact that remained in her mind as a memory of a summer’s evening passed in a boat on a river flowing through fairyland, was provided by a set of circumstances far removed from tales of stormy night-riding after De Wet or the warp and weft of European politics as they fashioned the cere-cloths of the two Dutch republics.

Neither the one nor the other should be blamed if they found a boat on the Wye a most pleasant exchange for an eager automobile on roads that tempted to high speed.  At any rate, they gave no heed to the time until Cynthia happened to glance at the horizon and saw that the sun was represented by a thin seam of silver hemming the westerly fringe of a deep blue sky.  If there was a moon, it was hidden by the hills.

“Whatever o’clock is it?” she cried in a voice that held almost a sound of scare.

Medenham looked at his watch, and had to hold it close to his eyes before he could make out the hour.

“Time you were back at the hotel,” he said, swinging the boat round quickly.  “I am afraid I have kept you out too long, Miss Vanrenen.  It is a perfect night, but you must not risk catching a chill ”

“I’m not worrying about that sort of chill there are others:  what will Mrs. Devar think?”

“The worst,” he could not help saying.

“What time is it, really?”

“Won’t you be happier not to know?  We have the stream with us now ”

“Mr. Fitzroy what time is it?”

“Nearly half-past ten o’clock.  You did not leave the hotel till after half-past eight.”

“Oh, blame me, of course.  ‘The woman tempted me and I did eat.’”

“No, no.  Apples are not the only forbidden fruit.  May I vary an unworthy defense?  The woman came with me and I didn’t care.”

“But I do care.  Please hurry.  Mrs. Devar will be real mad, and I shan’t have a word to say for myself.”

Medenham bent to it, and the outrigger traveled downstream at a rare pace.  Cynthia steered with fair accuracy by the track they had followed against the current, but the oarsman glanced over his shoulder occasionally, and advised her as to the probable trend of the channel.

“Keep a bit wide here,” he said when they were approaching a sharp bend.  “I believe we almost touched ground in midstream as we came up.”

She obeyed, and a wide expanse of low-lying land opened before her eyes.

“I don’t see the lights of the hotel yet,” she said, with a note of anxiety.

“You are not making enough allowance for the way in which this river turns and twists.  There are sections in which you box the compass during the course of a short ”

A sharp tearing noise in the bottom of the boat amidships was followed by an inrush of water.  Medenham sprang upright, leaped overboard, and caught the port outrigger with his left hand.  He was then immersed to the waist, but he flung his right arm around Cynthia and lifted her clear of the sinking craft.

“Sit on my shoulder.  Steady yourself with your hands on my head,” he said, and his voice was so unemotional that the girl could almost have laughed.  Beyond one startled “Oh!” when the plank was ripped out she had uttered no sound, and she followed his instructions now implicitly.  She was perched comfortably well above the river when she felt that he was moving, not to either bank, but down the center of the stream.  Suddenly he let go the boat, which had swung broadside on.

“It is sinking, and the weight was pulling me over,” he explained, still in the same quiet way, as though he were stating the merest commonplace.  Some thrill that she could not account for vibrated through her body.  She was not frightened in the least.  She had the most complete confidence in this man, whose head was braced against her left thigh, and whose arm was clasping her skirts closely round her ankles.

“Which side do you mean to make for?” she asked.

“I hardly know.  You are higher up than me.  Perhaps you can decide best as to the set of the current.  The boat seems to have been carried to the right.”

“Yes.  I think the river shoals to the left.”

“Suppose we try the other way first.  The hotel is on that side.”

“Anything you like.”

He took a cautious step, then another.  The water was rising.  Luckily the current was not very strong or he could not have stood against it.

“No good,” he said.  “We must go back.”

“Pity I’m not a circus lady.  Then I might have balanced myself gracefully on the top of your head.”

He murmured something indistinctly, but Cynthia fancied she caught the words: 

“You’re a dear, anyhow.”

“What did you say?” she asked.

“It is high time we were out of here,” he answered, turning his back to the pressure of water, which was very great in that place.

“What will happen if there are two channels, and we have pitched on a bank in the middle?”

“I must walk about a bit until I find the right track.  The Wye is not very deep at this point.  It must shelve rapidly in one direction or the other.”

“But it mayn’t.”

“In that event I shall lower you into the water, ask you to hold tight to my coat collar with both hands, and let me swim.  It is only a few yards.”

“But I can swim, too.”

“Not in a long dress....  Ah, here we are.  I thought so.”

In a couple of strides the water was below his knees.  Soon he was standing on a pebbly beach at the nose of the promontory formed by the bend where the accident had happened.  In order to lower Cynthia to the ground without bringing her muslin flounces in contact with his dripping clothes he had to stoop somewhat.  Her hair brushed his forehead, his eyes, his lips, as he lifted her down.  His hands rested for an instant on the warm softness of her neck and shoulders.  His heart leaped in a mad riot of joy at the belief that she would have uttered no protest if he had drawn her nearer instead of setting her decorously on her feet.  He dared not look at her, but turned and gazed at the river.

“Thank God, that is over!” he said.

Cynthia heard something in his voice then that was absent when they were both in peril of being swept away by the silent rush of the black stream.

“Quite an adventure,” she sighed, stooping to feel the hem of her frock.

“You are not wet?” he asked, after a pause.

“Not a thread.  The water barely touched my feet.  How prompt you were!  I suppose men who fight have often to decide quickly like that....  What caused it?  A whole seam was torn open.”

“It cannot be a stake.  Such a thing would not be permitted to exist in this river....  A snag probably.  Some old tree stump undermined by last month’s heavy rain.”

“What of the boat?  Is it lost?”

“No.  It will be found easily enough in the morning.  The damage is trifling.  How splendid you were!”

“Please don’t.  I haven’t said a word to you, and I don’t mean to.”

“But ”

“Well, say it, if you must.”

“I am not going to compliment you in the ordinary terms.  Just this nature intended you to be a soldier’s bride, Miss Vanrenen.”

“Nature, being feminine, may promise that which she does not always mean to carry out.  Besides, I don’t know many soldiers....  It is charming here, by the river’s edge, but I must remember that you are soaked to the skin.  Where are we, exactly?”

“About four miles from the hotel, by water:  perhaps a mile and three-quarters as the crow flies.”

“How far as a girl walks?”

“Let us try,” he said briskly.  “We seem to have landed in a meadow.  If we cross it, all my efforts to save that muslin frock will count as naught, since there is sure to be a heavy dew on the grass after this fine day.  Suppose we follow the bank a little way until we reach some sort of a path.  Will you take my hand?”

“No, I need both hands to hold up my dress.  But you might grab my arm.  I am wearing French shoes, which are not built for clambering over rocks.”

Cynthia was adroit.  The use of one small word had relieved the situation.  Medenham might hold her arm with the utmost tenderness, but so long as he was “grabbing” it there was nothing more to be said.

He piloted her to a narrow strip of turf that bordered the Wye, found a path that ran close to a small wood, and soon they were in a road.  There was slight excuse for arm-holding now, but Cynthia seemed to think that her frills still needed safeguarding, so he did not withdraw the hand which clung to her elbow.

A light in a laborer’s cottage promised information; he knocked at the door, which was not opened, but a voice cried: 

“Who is it?  What do you want?”

“Tell me the nearest way to the Symon’s Yat Hotel, please,” said Medenham.

“Keep straight on till you come to the ferry.  If the boat is on this side you can pull yourself across.”

“But if it is not?”

“You must chance it.  The nearest bridge is a mile the other way.”

“By gad!” said Medenham under his breath.

“I wouldn’t care a pin if Mrs. Devar wasn’t waiting for me,” whispered Cynthia, whose mental attitude during this mishap on the Wye contrasted strangely with her alarm when Marigny’s motor collapsed on the Mendips.

“Mrs. Devar is the real problem,” laughed Medenham.  “We must find some means of soothing her agitation.”

“Why don’t you like her?”

“That is one of the things I wish to explain later.”

“She has been horrid to you, I know, but ”

“I am beginning to think that I owe her a debt of gratitude I can never repay.”

“What will happen if that wretched ferryboat is on the wrong side of the river?”

Medenham took her arm again, for the road was dark where there were trees.

“You are not to think about it,” he said.  “I have been doing all the talking to-night.  Now tell me something of your wanderings abroad.”

These two already understood each other without the spoken word.  He respected her desire to sheer off anything that might be construed as establishing a new relationship between them, and she appreciated his restraint to the full.  They discussed foreign lands and peoples until the road bent toward the river again and the ferry was reached at a point quite half a mile below the hotel.

And there was no boat!

A wire rope drooped into the darkness of the opposite bank, but no voice answered Medenham’s hail.  Cynthia said not a syllable until her companion handed her his watch with a request that she should hold it.

“You are not going into that river,” she cried determinedly.

“There is not the slightest risk,” he said.

“But there is.  What if you were seized with cramp?”

“I shall cling to the rope, if that will satisfy you.  I have swum the Zambesi before to-day, not from choice, I admit, and it is twenty times the width of the Wye, while it holds more crocodiles than the Wye holds salmon.”

“Well if you promise about the rope.”

Soon he was out of sight, and her heart knew its first pang of fear.  Then she heard his cry of “Got the boat,” followed by the clank of a sculling oar and the creak of the guiding-wheel on the hawser.

At last, shortly before midnight, they neared the hotel.  Lights were visible on the quay, and Medenham read their meaning.

“They are sending out a search party,” he said.  “I must go and stop them.  You run on to the hotel, Miss Vanrenen.  Good-night!  I shall give you an extra hour to-morrow.”

She hesitated the fraction of a second.  Then she extended a hand.

“Good-night,” she murmured.  “After all, I have had a real lovely time.”

Then she was gone, and Medenham turned to thank the hotel servants and others who were going to the rescue.

“I wonder what the guv’nor will say when he sees Cynthia,” he thought, with the smile on his face of the lover who deems his lady peerless among her sex.  He recalled that moment before many days had passed, and his reflections then took a new guise, for not all the knowledge and all the experience a man may gather can avail him a whit to forecast the future when Fate is spinning her complex web.