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   Chapter 16 REVELATIONS

The Mystery of the Sea By Bram Stoker Characters: 11187

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


In the hall I met together two men whom I knew well. The first was Adams of the American Embassy in London; the second Cathcart of the British Embassy at Washington, now on leave. I had not seen either for two years, and it was with mutual pleasure that we met. After our preliminary handshaking, and the inevitable drink at the American's request, Adams slapped me on the shoulder and said heartily:

"Well, old fellow, I congratulate you; or rather am I to congratulate you?"

"What do you mean?" I asked in feeble embarrassment.

"All right, old chap!" he said heartily. "Your blush is enough. I see it hasn't come off yet at all events!" A man never lets well alone when he is in an awkward position. If I had only held my tongue I might not have made a guy of myself; but as I was in doubt as to what might be the issue of my suit to Marjory, I felt additionally constrained to affect ignorance of his meaning. So I floundered on:

"'Come off yet'? What on earth do you mean?" Again he slapped me on the back as he said in his chaffing way:

"My dear boy I saw you come in over the bridge. You had had a long ride I could see by your wheels; and I am bound to say that you did seem on excellent terms with each other!" This was getting dangerous ground, so I tried to sheer off. "Oh," I said, "you mean my bike ride with Miss Anita"-I was interrupted by his sudden whistle.

"Oh," he said in exact imitation of my own manner. "You mean Miss Anita! So it has come to that already! Anyhow I congratulate you heartily, whether it has come, or may come, or will come to anything else."

"I don't see," I said, with a helpless feeling of having been driven into a corner, "that there is anything especially remarkable in a man having a bicycle ride with a young lady of his acquaintance."

"Keep your hair on, old man!" he said with a smile. "There is nothing remarkable about a man riding with a young lady; but there is something very remarkable about any man riding with this particular young lady. Why, man alive, don't you know that there isn't a man in America, or out of it, that wouldn't give the eyes out of his head to take your place on such an occasion. To ride alone with Marjory Drake-"

"With whom?" I said impulsively; and having spoken could have bitten out my tongue. Adams paused; he was silent so long that I began to grow uneasy. His face grew very grave, and there spread over it that look between cunning and dominance which was his official expression. Then he spoke, but his words had not the same careless ring in them. There was a manifest caution and a certain indefinable sense of distance.

"Look here, Archie Hunter! Is it possible that you don't know who it is that you were with. All right! I know of course that you are acquainted with her personally," for he saw I was about to protest, "the very fact of your being with her and your knowing the name that she seldom uses answer for that; and you may take it from me that the lady needs no character for discretion from me. But how is it that you are on such good terms with her, and yet don't seem even to know her name?" For fully a minute there was silence between us. Cathcart had as yet said not a word, and Adams was thinking. For myself I was in a sea of multitudinous concerns; whichever way I turned I was face to face with some new difficulty. It would not do to leave these men under the impression that there was any social irregularity in my friendship with Marjory; I was too jealous of her good name to allow such a thing to be possible. And yet I could not explain at length how we had come to be such good friends. Already there were so many little mysteries; right up to this very evening when she and Mrs. Jack had gone away so strangely, leaving me in the ridiculous position of a guest with no host. It was not easy to explain these things; it was impossible to avoid them. In the midst of this chaotic whirl of thoughts Adams spoke:

"I think I had better say no more, anyhow. After all, if Miss Drake chooses to keep a secret, or to make one, it is not my business to give it, or her, away. She knows what she's doing. You will excuse me, old fellow, won't you; but as it is manifestly a lady's wish, I think I can do best by holding my tongue."

"Any wish of that lady's," said I, and I felt that I must seem to speak grandiloquently, "can only have my most loyal support."

There was an awkward silence which was relieved by Cathcart, who said to me:

"Come up to my room, Archie; I want to tell you something. You'll join us, too, Sam, won't you?"

"All right, Billy," said Adams, "I'll come in a few minutes. I want to give some directions about a horse for to-morrow."

When we were in Cathcart's room, he closed the door and said to me with the most genuine good feeling:

"I didn't like to say a word downstairs, old chap; but I could see you were in some difficulty. Of course I know it's all right; but ought you not to know something of the lady? With any one else but Sam and myself such a thing might have conveyed a false impression. Surely you can best protect the lady by knowing how to avoid anything that might embarrass her!" This was all good sound common sense. For a moment I weighed up the matter against the possibility of Marjory's wishing to keep her name a secret. Looking back, however, I could see that any concealment that had been was rather positive than negative. The original error had been mine; she had simply allowed it to pass. The whole thing had probably been the passing fancy of a bright, spirited young girl; t

o take it too seriously, or to make too much of it might do harm. Why, even these men might, were I to regard it as important, take it as some piece of deliberate deceit on her part. Thus convinced of the wisdom of Cathcart's proposition I spoke:

"You are quite right! and I shall be much obliged if you will-if you will enlighten me." He bowed and smiled, and went on genially:

"The lady you called Miss Anita, you so far called quite correctly. Her name is Anita; but it is only her second Christian name. She is known to the world as Miss Marjory Drake, of Chicago."

"Known to the world." Was this a mere phrase, or the simple expression of a fact! I asked directly:

"How known to the world? Do you mean that is the name known amongst her circle of acquaintances? Is-is there any cause why the great world outside that circle should know her at all?" He smiled and laid his hand on my shoulder in a very brotherly way as he answered:

"Yes, old fellow. There is a reason, and a good one, why the great world should know her. I see you are all in the dark; so I had better tell you what I know. Marjory Anita Drake is an heiress, a great heiress, a very great heiress; perhaps a long way the greatest heiress in America, or out of it. Her father, who died when she was a baby, left her a gigantic fortune; and her trustees have multiplied it over and over again." He paused; so I said-it seeming necessary to say something:

"But being an heiress is not sufficient reason why a girl should be known to the world."

"It is a pretty good one. Most people wouldn't want any better. But this is not the reason in her case. She is the girl who gave the battle ship to the American Government!"

"Gave the battle ship! I don't understand!"

"It was this way. At the time the reports kept crowding in of the Spanish atrocities on the reconcentrados; when public feeling was rising in the United States, this girl got all on fire to free Cuba. To this end she bought a battle ship that the Cramp's had built for Japan. She had the ship armed with Krupp cannon which she bought through friends in Italy; and went along the Eastern coast amongst the sailors and fishermen till she had recruited a crew. Then she handed the whole thing over to the Government as a spur to it to take some action. The ship is officered with men from the Naval Academy at Annapolis; and they tell me there isn't one of the crew-from the cabin boy to the captain-that wouldn't die for the girl to-morrow."

"Bravo!" I said instinctively! "That's a girl for a nation to be proud of!"

"She is all that!" said Cathcart enthusiastically. "Now you can understand why Adams congratulated you; and why he was so surprised when you did not seem to know who she was." I stood for a moment thinking, and all the clouds which wrapped Marjory's purpose in mystery seemed to disperse. This, then, was why she allowed the error of her name to pass. She had not made an incognita; chance had done this for her, and she had simply accepted it. Doubtless, wearied with praise and with publicity and notoriety in all its popular forms, she was glad to get away and hide herself for a while. Fortune had thrown in her way a man who was manifestly ignorant of her very existence; and it was a pleasure to play with him at hide-and-seek!

It was, after all, an up-to-date story of the Princess in disguise; and I was the young man, all unknowing, with whom she had played.

Here a terrible doubt assailed me. Other Princesses had played hide-and-seek; and, having had their sport, had vanished; leaving desolation and an empty heart behind them. Was it possible that she too was like this; that she had been all the while playing with me; that even whilst she was being most gracious, she was taking steps to hide even her whereabouts from me? Here was I, who had even proposed marriage; and yet who did not even know when or where I should see her again-if indeed I should ever see her again at all. I could not believe it. I had looked into her eyes, and had seen the truth. Here was no wanton playing at bowls with men's hearts. My life upon her faith!

I seemed to have lost myself in a sort of trance. I was recalled from it by Cathcart, who seeing me in a reverie had gone over to the fireplace and stood with his back to me, filling his pipe at the mantel-piece:

"I think I hear Adams coming. Pardon me, old fellow, but though I am sure he knows I have told you about Miss Drake, and though he probably made an excuse for delay so that I might have an opportunity to do so, he wants to appear not to enter on the subject. He is diplomat all over. Remember he is of the U. S. Embassy; and Miss Drake, as an American citizen, is theoretically under his care in this foreign country. Let us be talking of something else when he comes in!" Sam came along the passage softly whistling a bar of "Yankee Doodle." Cathcart nodded to me and whispered:

"I told you so! He takes good care that he may not surprise us." When he came in we were talking of the prospects of the Autumn fishing on the Dee.

When we left Cathcart's room, after a cigar, I, being somewhat tired with my long ride, went at once to my room. Adams came with me as far as the door.

I was just getting into bed when I heard a slight tap at the door. I unlocked it and found Adams without. He raised a warning hand, and said in a whisper:

"May I come in? I want to say something very privately." More than ever mystified-everything seemed a mystery now-I opened the door. He came in and I closed it softly and locked it.

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