Masterworks of Adventure: Lost Worlds

The Ultimate Anthology: 32 Classic Tales

Long before Indiana Jones... The ‘Lost World’ or ‘Lost Race’ genre was one of the most popular genres of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This Masterworks of Adventure anthology is a collection of 32 tales considered to be among the best and most influential works. We started with 333: A Bibliography of the Science-Fantasy Novel, by Crawford, Donahue and Grant (1953), which lists the best works published before 1950, then cross-referenced them with Science-fiction, the Early Years by Everett Franklin Bleiler and Jessica Amanda Salmonson’s Lost Race Check Guide, the ultimate checklist for collectors. You’ll find stories told in a variety of styles: travelogues, boy’s adventure, romantic adventure, philosophical adventure and pulp fiction. Some have been made available for Kindle for the very first time and are exclusive to ROH Press.

What people are saying

She: The most famous of the ‘lost world’ novels. It was incredibly popular and is still one of the best-selling books of all time, having sold over a hundred million copies. ~ Graeme Shimmin

The Lost World: “The tone and techniques that Conan Doyle first refined in The Lost World have become standard narrative procedures in popular entertainment of the present day.” ~ Michael Crichton

Eureka: “One of the finer books of its kind, unfortunately very rare.” ~ Jessica Amanda Salmonson

The Knight of the Silver Star: “Excellent tale.” ~ Jessica Amanda Salmonson

The Phantom City, A Volcanic Romance: “Intelligently written.” ~ Everett Franklin Bleiler, Science-fiction, the Early Years

Check out each title's rating on Goodreads.com

Fields of Sleep

Chapter 1: Overture to Adventure

THE WARMTH OF THE ROOM, obviously one in a private suite, was in keeping with its ostentatious magnificence: both were oppressive. Marshall, coming in from the chill of a late November afternoon, flung back his sleet-moistened overcoat, which had been none too much protection against the temperature of London streets. A tall girl stood to face him—she struck him as more than tall, at a first glance; then he got the quality of her grey eyes, and the soft, deep note of her voice.
“Mr. Victor Marshall?” she asked, supplementing the hotel page’s announcement by the Christian name.
Mr. Marshall bowed assent. “With regard to your advertisement—my letter,” he answered.
“My step-mother, Madame Delarey, put the advertisement in,” the girl corrected. “She will be here in a minute.” She looked past him. “This is Mr. Victor Marshall.” she ended.
He swung round to face a little, faded-looking old lady who stood just within the room, leaning on a heavy ebony stick. She was small and white-haired and very wrinkled, and the hands on the stick were gnarled and ill-kept, as those of one who works always; the magnificence of the rings she wore was incongruous with her hands, as was she with this garish hotel sitting-room. She peered at Marshall for long seconds, and then came forward, seating herself stiffly on the very edge of one of the plush-covered chairs, as if she feared to disturb the fabric.
“You will sit down—yes? When you have remove your coat, Mr. Victor Marshall.”
“Thank you—the coat doesn’t matter,” he answered, seating himself so as to face her.
“This—my daughter Stephanie—she know,” Madame Delarey explained, accounting for the girl’s presence. The girl herself made a little gesture of dissent, but did not speak. Marshall merely bowed his head assentingly.
“I advertise for a man, young, resourceful, strong, who know the languages of Malay. You answer—you?”
“I answered,” Marshall said. “I don’t know what you want of the man, but—well, I answered.”
Stephanie Delarey, as Marshall judged her name to be, went and sat down by the window, looking out into the street. Her manner was that of one who had heard all before, and thus was little interested.
“I pick out your letter, for you say little—there were many letters,” Madame Delarey pursued. “Now I see you, I think I pick right. Two men come here before you today, and they go away. I do not like them. I am Frainch, Mr. Victor Marshall, and quick, vairy quick, to like or not to like. You, I like.”
Marshall waited. Then: “What is the service—what is it that you want of your man?” he asked.
“You listen, I tell,” said the little old lady. “It is what you call a story, and all that story I must tell. You listen—yes?”
“Certainly,” Marshall answered, gravely.
“Bon! Then I tell you my story, and you see if you laik my proposal. You are not married—no?”
Marshall shook his head, smiling. The little old lady was so misplaced here, bourgeoisie in a salon of utter exclusiveness; she was like a washerwoman at a court drawing-room, and all the magnificence of her jewellery and rustling silks could not make her other than incongruous. It struck him that, uncertainly as she pronounced her English, she knew it well.
“The man I want shall be free, able to go where I want, do what I ask, and he shall be of those who know the islands of the East, and the talk of the islands. You are that man—yes?”
“I am that man,” Marshall said. “I gave you my experience of the islands in my letter of application.”
“Bon! Then I tell you my tale. You listen.”
She settled herself very gingerly on the edge of her chair, as if she feared to sit on it too heavily. Again Marshall smiled; she was so evidently an intruder on the ultra-magnificence of the furnished suite. The girl by the window looked out into the street.
“I ’ave my ’usband, my son Clement, and my daughter Stephanie—this is my daughter Stephanie,” said Madame Delarey, indicating the girl by the window, who again made that little gesture indicative of dissent or denial. “My ’usband was a good man, but at business not good—you understand? ’E was ancien regime—aristocrat—you understand?”
Marshall bowed rather than nodded. The grace and dignity of the girl Stephanie, so much at variance with the manner and appearance of the little old lady, might be due to her father’s stock, he thought.
“One day,” Madame Delarey pursued, “my ’usband come to me and ’e say, ‘Annette, there is one month, and I must raise three ’undred thousand francs. Else it is disgrace, and ’ow shall I, a Delarey, be disgrace?’ And the month go past, but the money do not come. My ’usband write to ’is brother Armand, and Armand write back to say that since my ’usband disgrace ’is people by marrying me, ’e shall lie on the bed ’e made. And when that month is ended, my ’usband shoot ’imself, and I am widow.”
It was stated quietly, unemotionally; Marshall looked across at the girl Stephanie, but she sat with her face averted, gazing out into the sleet-swept London street. The little old lady plucked thoughtfully at her rich black silk, and then smoothed it down carefully.
“I send for Stephanie from her convent school, and for Clement my dear son from ’is school, and Armand my ’usband’s brother come to me with tears in ’is eyes. I tell ’im no tears can give me back my ’usband, and I spit on ’im. So ’e go away.
“After the burying, when it come time for my dear son Clement to go back to school, ’e come to me and put ’is ’ands on my shoulders, and ’e say it is not fit that ’e go back to school to waste more time. ’E is then nearly nineteen years old. ’E say, ‘I will work till all the money is paid, and my father’s name is once more a name of honour. ’E could not pay, so ‘e die as a Delarey should die, but for me it is to restore ’is name.’ So with my blessing ’e go out to Pierre Delarey, ’is cousin in Sapelung. For my ’usband ’ave two brothers, Armand who would not ’elp and I spit on, and Jean, who die and leave ’is business to ’is son Pierre, ’is son in Sapelung. And I bid good-bye to Clement when ’e sail for Batavia, six years ago, and against my wish ’e take an oath to the Blessed Virgin that ’e will not come back till the last sou of the three ’undred thousand francs is paid.”
She paused in her recital. The girl Stephanie stirred restlessly and settled to immobility again. Marshall felt the airless heat of the room as utterly oppressive, and wondered whither this strange story was tending.
“That was six years ago,” the little old lady went on. “For two years Clement write to me from Sapelung, and say ’ow Pierre was good to ’elp ’im, and altogether ’e send me five thousand francs, which I pay to my ’usband’s creditors.
Then one day come a letter. Armand, my ’usband’s brother, die, and leave to my dear son Clement six million francs, ‘to atone,’ as ’e say, in ’is will that leave the money. But I do not even forgive ’im dead, for it would ’ave been so easy to save my ’usband when ’e ask. Six million francs, of which the notaries say I ’old in trust for my dear son, and so I write to Clement, but no word come back. I write to Pierre, and ’e write that Clement went with American man, ’e think, shooting, and from that day I ’ave no word of my dear son. I ’ear no word, and ’e is all I ’ave, my Clement.”
The girl Stephanie rose, went to a Japanned dispatch box, and took thence a photograph which she gave to Marshall.
“That is my step-brother,” she said. She appeared not to notice the implied slight in the old lady’s last words. Perhaps she had grown used to it.
“You understand?” Madame Delarey pursued. “There is no need for ’im to stay away, if ’e only knew. Pierre say ’e cannot trace Clement, and no more word come to me, so I advertise, three years ago. I send two men out to Batavia and on to Pierre at Sapelung, to go on to find my dear son. What names were they, Stephanie?”
“Henry Benson and Jean Pernaud,” the girl answered. It seemed to Marshall that the story was so familiar as to have lost all interest for her.
“Yes,” Madame Delarey said, “Benson and Pernaud. To each of these I pay the passage to Batavia and on to Sapelung, and to each I give five ’undred pounds, with the promise of five ’undred pounds each if they bring back my dear son. And I write to Pierre, and tell ’im. The man Pernaud die at Sapelung, and Benson ’e go pearl fishing—So Pierre write to tell me. That was two passages and one thousand pound—for nothing! Then another year I advertise again, and a man with a funny name, Erasmus Whauple, I pick ’im to go. I give ’im five ’undred pounds, and I promise other five ’undred if ’e bring back my dear son, and ’e go. Beyond Sapelung ’e go, to where they grow rubber and there is country not yet fit for growing, and once ’e write back to me that Clement is gone to the valley of silent men. I sent the letter to Pierre, and ask ’im, and ’e write back to say that Erasmus Whauple, when ’e say the valley of silent men, mean death. ’E know no other meaning of ‘silent men’ so ’e say when ’e write back to me. And from Erasmus Whauple come back no more word to me—’e is lost, like my dear son. So again I advertise, and of all men who answer I tell you this story, and see if you go.”
Marshall considered it silently. Already he knew that he would go, but there was more to learn, first. This was but a bare outline.
“Pierre Delarey—you know him well?” he asked at last.
Madame Delarey shook her head. “I ’ave not seen ’im,” she answered, in a frightened way, as if this cross-questioning were unexpected. “My ’usband was ’is father’s elder brother, and Jean Delarey was agent in Sapelung before I was married—I ’ave not seen ’im too, ever.”
“Why are you, French, in England?” Marshall queried, abruptly.
“Armand Delarey ’ave English estates—I cannot sell—I ’old in trust for my dear son,” the little old lady answered.
Again Marshall reflected. Clement, not his mother, was beneficiary; he might be merely lost, and again there might be those who would benefit by his disappearance.
“If—forgive me—if your son were proved dead, who is the next heir?” he asked next.
“To Stephanie, ’ere, two million francs, and to Pierre Delarey four million francs,” Madame Delarey answered unhesitatingly. “But my dear son is not dead—it is just that ’e is somewhere so ’e do not know, and do not earn money to send as at first.”
It was hope against hope, rather than belief, that spoke. The probabilities were strongly against such a conclusion.
“No, of course not,” Marshall said, gently.
Madame Delarey looked at him earnestly, searchingly. “Mr. Victor Marshall,” she said, and her tone was almost timid, “you are young man, strong, of course—you will go for me and try to find my dear son?”
“I will go,” Marshall answered, slowly. “You can book my passage and give me five hundred pounds, like the others, and I will sign any agreement you like, within reason, for a year’s service. If possible, I will bring him back.”
“’E is all I ’ave,” Madame Delarey said, and her lip quivered. “All I ’ave.”
“But,” Marshall said, speaking more slowly still, “you shall not tell Pierre Delarey one word of me, nor give him any hint that any man is following the others you sent.”
She gazed hard at him. “You think—?” she asked.
“Nothing,” Marshall said,” “for I have nothing to think—no cause to think. But if Pierre Delarey is to be told my errand, I will tell him myself.”
“Then you will go?” she asked, eagerly.
“I will go—when you like,” Marshall answered.
The little old lady rose from her chair. “You shall ’ear from me tomorrow, Mr. Victor Marshall,” she promised. “I will tell my notary—solicitor, you call ’im, and you shall ’ear.”
Marshall shook hands with her, bowed to the girl who had risen and stood silent by the window, and went out.
Going down the stairs from Madame Delarey’s suite to the carpeted, settee-spotted entrance hall of the great hotel, Marshall buttoned his coat, for, though the revolving door kept from him the full chill of the outer air, there was great difference between the normal temperature of the place and Madame Delarey’s apartments.
“Childe Roland up to date,” he murmured to himself as he went, “and what a dark tower!”
“Mr. Marshall?” The words came at him as he reached the last stair—Stephanie Delarey’s voice. The thick pile of the carpet had permitted of her coming to him inaudibly; he turned and stood facing her, waiting.
“You will go—you will take up this search for Clement?” she asked; he saw that she looked fluttered, nervous, almost fearful—far different from the immobile being who had sat by the window while he talked with Madame Delarey.
“I will go,” he answered. “I told your—I told Madame Delarey I would go.”
She noted his faint annoyance, realized that it was to him as if she had questioned his word with regard to going. She looked to him somewhere in the early twenties, slight, tall, and—he would have said—daintily formed, but most of all he noted her agitation, nervousness.
She leaned toward him ever so little. “Will you take me with you?” she asked.
A pistol fired by his ear would not have startled him more than that abrupt request. “No,” he answered promptly. “Why?”
Stephanie Delarey stood thoughtful; flung back on realities by the bald denial and equally bald query, she knew that the refusal had been inevitable, and blamed herself for the lack of tact that had led her to make such a request without preface, without explanation. But, at times, the little old lady whom she had just left drove her to tactless expedients.
“Unless you are in a hurry, I will tell you why,” she answered.
“Your mother—won’t she need you?” he asked.
“She is not my mother, and for the present she will not need me,” Stephanie answered. “Let us sit down—here.”
She led the way to one of the plush settees, and took a corner, smiling up at Marshall and inviting him to a seat by patting the cushion. The trepidant nervousness of the first minute had passed, and now, assessing him more coolly, she saw him as a personable man, exceptionally attractive by reason of the strength his face showed—and she liked his grey eyes. But she saw him more as a means to a possible end than as a man, and calculated her smile in exact proportion to the impression she wished to create in his mind.
“So she is not your mother?” Marshall suggested.
“My father married twice,” Stephanie told him. “I was three months old when my mother died. Clement is my half-brother. For me, there were two beings, God and my father, both past questioning. I loved him, and in my sight he could do no wrong. It was his blood in the boy Clement, his fine sense, that sent him to Pierre at Sapelung instead of back to school. Little as I like Clement—”
“So?” Marshall said thoughtfully, not realizing that he interrupted her explanation.
“I want to be just!” she exclaimed, with almost fierce insistence. She felt that she must convince him of her utter sincerity, and he might yet reverse that initial refusal. For him, seen once, she cared nothing—for the chance of escape from her present life, everything.
“I think you would be, anyhow,” he commented.
“Here—as I live now—it is not easy,” she went on. “I, my father’s daughter, am that woman’s servant. I am bi-lingual, capable, penniless, dependent on her for everything—you know how difficult it would be to break away—for a girl—”
Marshall began to understand. “Worse than difficult,” he agreed.
“And”—she felt it almost impossible to make real to him the hatefulness of her position, dependent on a woman whom she disliked—“you see why I want to escape? Oh, I have tried, again and again, and come to the conclusion that there is nothing but the streets. I am”—she laughed, nervously—“too attractive. They will not take me seriously. And I am a Delarey—she was a factory girl!”
There was something either magnificent or absurd in that claim—“I am a Delarey.” With the quickness of intuition she saw its effect on him. “We are antithetical,” she went on, before he could comment, “and life with her is not life. I have tried to get away—”
She felt that she had put her case badly—it was just another failure. Later, when she could look back and assess the matter coolly, she saw how impossible the thing she asked must have seemed to him, with only that little explanation to justify it.
“And so,” she ended, “I want you to take me with you.”
“No,” he said again. “Consider it—I came in answer to your—to Madame Delarey’s advertisement, and accepted a business proposal. It entails heaven knows what in the wilds—one man has got lost on it already, and to burden myself with a woman at the outset—I put this frankly as you have put your request to me. How could you come—sister, fiancée, wife—”
Suddenly she saw him as man, rather than as a means to an end. “I have not explained all,” she said, hastily. “I wouldn’t have you think of me as imposing—”
Marshall smiled. “I’m intensely sorry I see no way of helping you, that’s all,” he said.
“But—it is difficult to explain it all,” she insisted. “Listen—if Clement had been living, she would have heard, she would have had word from him. Since he is dead, when there is proof of his death I shall inherit two million francs. You go to get that proof—when you have got it and so have made my inheritance mine, I will pay you to take me, as she pays you to go. It is that I may get away—this life is unbearable—you understand?”
“Fully,” he answered, “but—”
“When I asked you, without explaining first, I did not consider the personal side. I—”
She paused, leaving him to guess what she would have said.
“It cannot be done,” Marshall answered.
“Even if I could finance the two of us on those lines, which I can’t, still it couldn’t be done. I don’t see—you don’t know where a hunt like this may lead—I don’t know myself, till I get there.”
She sat silent, and from the quality of the silence he could sense her disappointment.
“Look here,” he went on. “We’re talking pretty frankly, for a first meeting. I’ll make a suggestion, if you’ll listen. It’s a gamble, I know, but you might like to try it. I gather I shall be sailing for Batavia in about a fortnight.”
Stephanie nodded. “In about that time,” She agreed.
“Supposing you sold all the jewellery you have, raked up every penny possible, how much money could you lay hands on—of your own?” he asked bluntly.
She looked up at him, and down to calculate. “About three hundred pounds, I think,” she answered,
“Not nearly enough to finance you out with me, in a suitable way,” he commented, “but enough to last you a year in this country, going carefully. Now, as you said, I reckon that if I succeed on this search of mine, I shall come back with news of Clement’s death. He’d not have kept silent so long if he had been living.”
“He would not have kept silent,” she agreed, speaking slowly. It was not of Clement that she was thinking, but of what might lie at the end of this train of postulates.
“And,” Marshall went on, “if Clement Delarey is proved dead, you get your two million francs under your uncle’s will?”
“That is so,” she agreed.
“Then I suggest”—he paused to find words to clothe the suggestion—“that I find you a home for the time I’m away, of some sort that will let your three hundred pounds keep you for the year. I have a sister who would like you, and you might like her—it’s easy to get you a little circle of friends and interests, through her. I suggest that you and I go through the ceremony of marriage before I go to hunt for your half-brother—the ceremony only—and when I come back with word of Clement Delarey’s death you give me one fourth of your two million francs, and we get the marriage annulled. It won’t be divorce, in all probability—only annulment. That is a way out for you.”
She thought for a little time. “You may wish for other ties—regret it,” she suggested.
“I believe that one woman is just as good as another, and as bad,” he reported, cynically. “I’ve never fallen in love yet, and never shall. This is a business deal, to help you out.”
“It is very generous,” she said, “very good of you, Mr. Marshall, but I cannot accept it. I would have gone with you—”
“No,” he said firmly, for the third time.
“Then”—she rose—“I shall see you again, when you come to settle with Madame Delarey about going out. I—I thank you for your offer, Mr. Marshall—good-bye.”
Walking through the slush of the streets, Marshall smiled to himself. Adventurer from boyhood, he had never stumbled on such an adventure as this promised to be, and he felt glad that he had been free to embark on it. His thoughts reverted to Stephanie; the unthinking impulsiveness behind that “take me with you” was almost incredible, yet he could understand it. He pictured years of petty irritations, the girl’s whole life reversed from the time of her father’s death, and now an unreasoning impulse to seize on anything, any way out. Yet she had refused a far more reasonable way: assuming, as she might safely assume, that her half-brother was dead, a safer, easier way—
Stephanie Delarey went slowly back up the carpeted stairway, and as she went—
‘“One woman is just as god as another, and as bad,’” she quoted to herself. “It is not true—clever, but not true.”
She entered the room in which the little old lady had interviewed Marshall.
‘‘Why are you so long away, girl?” her step-mother asked, querulously, with a vindictive look at her.
“There are no letters—I stayed for a while in the cool,” Stephanie answered.
“Do not be impertinent—I will not ’ave your superiority—your insolence!” Madame Delarey announced, loudly.
Stephanie went to the window, making no answer.
“Why do you not speak—can you not speak?” Madame demanded. “This Marshall—’e is a good man—yes?”
“He is a man,” Stephanie agreed, listlessly.
“’E will bring my dear son back—I feel ’e will succeed—not like the others. ’E is not like them.”
“Perhaps,” Stephanie said, with faint interest. The heat of the room oppressed her.
“Ah!” said the little old lady, vindictively. “You think of the two million francs for yourself if Clement die—you wicked girl!” Growing furious, she lapsed to her native tongue—“You have no heart, no affection—you are hateful, and the very bread you eat is at my expense! Clement shall judge your ingratitude, dependent as you are, when he comes—”
She paused to take breath, and then, staring at the closed door beyond which Stephanie had passed, called—
“Come back—come back—I need you!”
But, for almost the first time in their ill-assorted relationship to each other, Stephanie did not come back. She had gone to think things over, out of hearing of that nagging, persistent voice.
Three days later Marshall was ushered into the presence of the little old lady—he came in answer to a letter which enclosed voluminous instructions and information drawn out by a firm of solicitors, together with an agreement—he had already signed it—binding him to a year’s undivided service in quest of Clement Delarey, dating from the sailing of the S. S. Sanjredim a fortnight hence. Stephanie bowed to him as he entered—coolly, he thought. In reality she was trepidant, not cool.
“Mr Victor Marshall, ’ere in this envelope is your passage ticket, with return,” the little old lady said, without preface, placing her heavily jewelled fingers on the papers before her, “and ’ere is five ’undred pound bank notes. You ’ave the full instructions I tell the notary to send to you?”
“Yes,” he answered. “Here is your agreement—signed. I suppose you know it is waste paper when I reach Sapelung—quite useless?”
“I do not know,” she answered. “It is form—the notary ’e will ’ave it so, and I do not mind. You ’ave said you will go—I trust you, Mr Victor Marshall.”
The reiteration of the full name annoyed him vaguely. “I will do my best,” he promised.
“Then that is all.” She stood up and held out her hand to him. “Bon voyage, and you take my prayers for success. You must bring ’im back to me—’e is all I ’ave.”
“I will do my best,” he repeated.
He paused at the foot of the stair on his way out, and there again Stephanie overtook him, as on his first visit. “I feared to miss you.” she said, rather breathlessly.
“Well, you haven’t,” he answered, smiling.
“I wish”—she hesitated nervously—“to accept your proposal, since you will not take me with you.”
Marshall stood silent for what seemed to her a long time. “To accept,” he repeated at last.
She held out an envelope toward him.
“I have written it all down here—the half-million francs, the promise to annul—all, and signed it. If you will arrange, and let me know, I will be ready when you wish.”
“I’m not sure—” he began thoughtfully.
“No—don’t humiliate me so far—don’t refuse!” she broke in. “Don’t you see—it’s not easy to say—I am driven—” She paused, inarticulate, almost desperate.
“My dear lady, I never dreamed of refusing,” Marshall assured her. “A reasonable prospect of half a million francs in return for a mere formality is too good a chance to refuse. I’m not sure about the arrangements, that’s all. As quickly as I can I’ll make them, and I’ll write and let you know, shall I?”
His matter-of-fact air restored her calm. “Thank you,” she said. “I shall be ready at any time. But—it is not easy—will you make it as easy as you can for me?”
“I’ll be consideration itself,” he promised, smiling. “Regard it as what it is, a formal business deal, and you’ll find it isn’t very difficult. Look at it in that light.”
She smiled back at him. “I am grateful,” she said, holding out her hand. “Will you forgive me—I must go back, now.”
“Then—au revoir, and I will write to tell you when,” he said, and let her go.
She had come down to him fearful, dreading refusal. She went back smiling, almost happy, seeing a way out from the life she hated. And, as Marshall had bidden, she regarded it as a formal business deal.

IT WANTED FOUR DAYS OF Marshall’s date of sailing when, having taken her morning cup of chocolate to Madame Delarey (which the fractious old lady would never allow a servant to bring into the room, since she had not put in her false teeth at that early hour), Stephanie rang the bell for the hall porter. She indicated a small trunk and a large suit case in her own room—
“A taxi for Charing Cross station, and put these on it, please,” she said. “I shall be down in a minute.
When he had gone, she put on her coat and hat, collected a few personal belongings for which she had reserved an attaché case, and went down to the waiting taxi. At Charing Cross she saw her baggage safely into the cloakroom, and the next hour she spent shrunk into a corner of the chilly waiting-room. Marshall had appointed eleven o’clock for their meeting, but she had had to leave the hotel before Madame rose and made her toilet; this meant a full hour in the waiting room, a time of deadly fear lest somebody should track her out, take her back, and deliver her up to the terrible old woman from whom she was about to escape, with Marshall’s help. Viewing her situation sanely, she knew full well that nobody had the power to take her thus, but yet there was the feeling, due to the years of subservience which her step-mother had imposed on her; it was an unreasoning fear, but not less real for that, and she felt that the time of waiting would never pass.
But nobody came to trouble her, until Marshal] himself stood before her.
“Have you been waiting long?” he asked, by way of greeting.
“Fear made it seem long,” she answered, smiling as she rose, “but it is all right, now. Where do we go first?”
“Registrar’s,” he answered. “The first thing is to alter your surname, so that everything’s legal and straight. I gave your age as twenty-four—was that right?”
“A good guess,” she answered, “only a year short of reality. And the other particulars?”
“Near enough—there’s nobody to question. There’ll be no informalities—unfortunately for you, it must be binding.”
“Not more unfortunately for me than for you,” she said, with some asperity. “It couldn’t be a change for the worse.”
“Thank you,” Marshall said drily. He put up a hand for a taxi in the station yard.
Inside the taxi, she laid her hand on his arm. “Please, I am grateful to you, really,” she said. “But you say things which sound so bitter—I can’t help retorting.”
“Well,” he answered, reflectively, “you won’t hear them much longer. As a matter of fact, it’s I who ought to be grateful to you, really. A chance of half-a-million francs for a mere day of formalities—with a very charming companion to share them—is some cause for gratitude, you know.”
There was a hint of satiric amusement in his way of uttering the compliment, and Stephanie made no answer. She felt that she almost hated him for this coolness, this utter disregard for all but the business deal involved in the adventure; she had yet to realize that he adopted the only attitude such a situation would admit.
She was never able, after, to determine the location of that registry office. She retained a memory of passing St. Pancras station, and another memory of spoken words, shabby witnesses signing, somebody speaking a formal and unmeaning phrase of congratulation, and of emerging to the cold of the winter day and finding the taxi driver stamping back and forth to warm himself.
“An’ a fine pair you make, sir, if I may say so,” he told Marshall, as he held the door of the cab open.
“My good man,” Marshall said, “every couple is not a pair, as you ought to know. Make for Gennaro’s.”
At the little restaurant, where they seemed to know him very well, a secluded corner table was reserved. Marshall consulted Stephanie as to her taste in wine, ordered lunch with discrimination, and eyed the initial cocktails approvingly. He took up his glass—
“Mrs. Marshall,” he said, lightly, “I’m glad to have the honour of drinking your health on this auspicious occasion—” He put the glass down, again, suddenly. “Why, child, what on earth’s the matter?”
For, instead of responding as he had expected, she pushed her glass away and sobbed, almost noiselessly, till the tears trickled between her fingers in spite of her handkerchief. Marshall got up and stood beside her.
“Go away—I’ll call you,” he said to the waiter who appeared. “Stephanie—child—I wouldn’t hurt you for the world—it’s all to help you through—”
Suddenly he realized how much he wanted her through, and in the realization gathered something of the cause of this outbreak. But Stephanie, controlling herself, showed him a wet, smiling face—
“It’s all right,” she said, “just a fit of nerves. You can’t—you wouldn’t understand, if I told you.”
After a pause he went back to his seat. “Perhaps I do understand,” he said, soberly. “Anyhow, I’ll drink to your happiness when the real day comes and this muddle is over.”
“And I to yours,” she answered. “May it reward you for your kindness to me.”
Marshall beckoned to the waiter. “Fully paid, don’t forget,” he reminded her. “A purely business deal.”
She let it pass in silence, His insistence on the point might be due to consideration for her, but it was none the less irritating.
“Where do we go next?” she asked, after a silence.
“To my bank, before it closes, to open an account for you,” he answered. “You brought your capital with you, I hope?”
“It’s not all money,” she explained. “Most is jewellery that I want you to sell, for me.”
“And how do you know I won’t bolt with the proceeds of the sale?” he asked.
“If I did not know, I should not be here,” she answered, coldly. “I wish you would be yourself—not pretend.”
“You’ll trust less easily after being deceived a few times,” he commented, more seriously. “There’s something about you so youthful, inexperienced—as if you had been bottled away somewhere instead of living. You seem too trusting.”
“Some people one can always trust—you are one,” she answered. “Shall we take that for granted?”
“Consider it done,” he agreed. “Well fix up your account at the bank under your new signature, and then, unless you have any calls to make, there’ll be time for tea and a cinema or any other wild dissipation that may appeal to you, before I take you up to my sister and spring the surprise of her life on her.”
Stephanie stared at him. “You have not told her?” she asked.
Marshall shook his head and grinned like a schoolboy. “It would have been bad policy,” he said. “Confront her with the deed accomplished, and the trick’s done. A woman always hates the girl her brother is going to marry, unless she chooses that girl for him. She may like his wife, if she’s wise as well as clever—like my sister.”
“Is she married herself?” Stephanie asked. For the first time she realized that she knew absolutely nothing about the man before her, nothing about his life and people—
Marshall nodded. “Not so much as her husband is, poor chap,” he said. “They live up at Golders Green, and I keep two rooms in the house while I’m in England. I leave it to you to decide whether you retain those two rooms for my time away, or find others. You’d better see my sister first, to judge whether you can stand her.”
Stephanie reflected, and shook her head slowly. “It would not be wise,” she said, “we shall be better friends in the end if we keep quite apart.”
“It doesn’t apply,” he pointed out. “There is only the matter of my year away—after that, you needn’t bother about my sister, or about me—you seem to forget that.”
“I had forgotten it,” she agreed, smiling.
Growing used to her presence, he felt that he had no great wish for her to remember the temporary nature of their contract. “Well, anyhow, I’ll have a talk over things with her before I go, and get her to help you in finding a place for yourself—if you still think of doing so after you’ve seen her.”
“There was one thing, arising out of your bargain with my stepmother,” Stephanie said, “that I wanted to remind you of. You insisted that Pierre, at Sapelung, should not know you were going out to search for Clement.”
“Well?” he asked. “It may be unnecessary, but on the other hand it may be very necessary. Don’t forget that three men went by way of Pierre, and they have all vanished. It may be coincidence, but—”
She made a little gesture that implied he had misunderstood her intent in speaking. “Not that,” she said. “It occurred to me—the solicitors who drew up the agreement—I do not know, but Pierre is joint heir with me, and they may be in communication with him. If they are, I don’t see how you can go without his knowing—to Sapelung.”
Marshall considered it, silently.
“Thanks,” he said at last, “it was good of you to point it out—I had overlooked that possibility. I think I see a way round it, though.”
“And—you’ll write to me if anything happens?” she asked.
“Not unless?” he asked in turn.
“Why should you?” she countered, quickly.
Marshall looked steadily at her. “Do you happen to have a pocket mirror about you?” he inquired.
“But that,” she said, “is foolishness. Besides, it is outside our compact.”
“Technically,” he agreed, “but it’s a bit annoying that a man mayn’t—never mind, though.”
She did not ask him to complete the sentence. Instead, she looked at him in a rather scared way, as if she feared lest she had merely exchanged one disability for another. He smiled when he saw the look.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “In four days’ time you’ll have nothing to worry about.”
For the rest of the day he was consideration itself, and he kept her occupied to the exclusion of thought, even resorting to the threatened cinema entertainment.
Then he took her up by taxi to Golders Green, and on to the house in Bearnais Road where his sister lived, a smaller and more alert copy of himself. She stared, voicelessly, at sight of the strange girl and her trunk and suitcase.
“Stephanie,” Marshal said, “this is my sister Elizabeth, always called Bob for short. Bob, I have the honour to introduce my wife.”
Bob looked at him as if unwilling rather than unable to believe it of him, but he nodded confirmation. Then she laid her hands on Stephanie’s shoulders and kissed her.
“I do not understand,” Stephanie said, the tears in her eyes. “Why are you so good to me!”
“Come,” Bob said. “I’ll show you the way to Victor’s room while he gets rid of the cab. You’ll soon get used to our little habits. I’m used to his trick of springing surprises, though this is a little bit out of the ordinary, even for him.”
She took Stephanie off, and Marshall, after dismissing the cabman, went to inform his brother-in-law in the dining-room of his latest venture.
“What did Bob say?” asked Harry Crawford, Bob’s husband.
“Just nothing,” Marshall answered. “She seemed to be doing a power of thinking.”
Crawford observed, “Bob beats you in some ways, Victor.”
Then Stephanie and Bob came back. The four of them had a rather constrained meal together, and, after, Marshall took Stephanie up to his sitting-room.
“Well,” he said “you’re fixed. I think everything’s settled, isn’t it?”
She nodded assent. “You have been more than good to me,” she answered. “If you knew what it felt like to know that I shall not go back there—to her—”
“Nothing more you want?” Marshall asked.
“Nothing.”
She faced him in these new surroundings, smiling, more content and at rest than he had seen her, before. She seemed to take for granted that all would be well, now. Marshall half turned away, and swung back toward her—
“Supposing—supposing—Stephanie—” he said, awkwardly, and hesitated. “If it were real—”
Her smile vanished. She looked at him steadily.
Marshall made a curious gesture, half of negation, half of dismay.
“Good-night, Stephanie.” He offered his hand.
Before he could prevent her, she had bent and kissed it.
“You make me ashamed,” she said.
Marshall laughed, lightly. “Wait till I claim my half-million,” he said, and left her.
“Well?” he asked his sister, down in the dining-room.
Bob laughed. “Give me time to find out,” she answered. “I like the first impression.”
“You had to say that much,” he observed. “Now—look after her, Bob. I’ve got to leave. I may see you more than once again before I sail, and I may not—there’s much to be done.”
“You’re not leaving her here alone?” she asked, incredulously.
“Just that,” he answered, “and it may be of the utmost importance—it may mean as much as half a million francs to me—that you should be absolutely certain I left her here alone, tonight. Remember that.”
She looked her questioning, but did not voice it. Victor was always making mysteries, though this looked by far the most mysterious of any in her experience.
“She’ll tell you all about it, probably, if you ask her,” he said. “Take care of her—she’s a bit unworldly, in some ways. Help her if she needs help”—he looked past her to the clock on the mantel—“good-night, Bob—I’m off.”