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   Chapter 24 A SUBTLE PLAN

The Mystery of the Sea By Bram Stoker Characters: 10834

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

It was now a serious matter of thought to me how I could take Marjory into proper confidence, without spoiling things and betraying Adams's confidence. As I pondered, the conviction grew upon me that I had better be quite frank with her and ask her advice. Accordingly when I saw her at Crom at noon I entered on the matter, though I confess with trepidation. When I told her I wanted to ask her advice she was all attention. I felt particularly nervous as I began:

"Marjory, when a man is in a hole he ought to consult his best friend; oughtn't he?"

"Why certainly!"

"And you are my best friend; are you not?"

"I hope so! I should certainly like to be."

"Well, look here, dear, I am in such a tangle that I can't find a way out, and I want you to help me." She must have guessed at something like the cause of my difficulty, for a faint smile passed over her face as she said:

"The old trouble? Sam Adams's diplomacy, eh?"

"It is this. I want to know how you think I should act so as to give least pain to a very dear friend of mine, and at the same time do a very imperative duty. You may see a way out that I don't."

"Drive on dear; I'm listening."

"Since we met I have had some very disturbing information from a source which I am not at liberty to mention. I can tell you all about this, though you must not ask me how I know it. But first there is something else. I believe, though I do not know for certain, that your secret is blown; that the detectives have discovered where you live." She sat up at once.

"What!" I went on quickly:

"And I am sorry to say that if it is discovered it has been through me; though not by any act or indeed by any fault of mine." She laid her hand on mine and said reassuringly:

"If you are in it, I can look at it differently. May I ask how you came into that gallery?"

"Certainly! I am not pledged as to this. It was by the most simple and transparent of means. You and I were seen together. They did not know where to look for you or follow you up, when they had lost the scent; but they knew me and watched me. Voila!"

"That's simple enough anyhow!" was her only comment. After a while she asked:

"Do you know how far they have got in their search?"

"I do not; I only know that they expected to find where you lived two days ago. I suppose they have found it out by this."

"Sam Adams is getting too clever. They will be making him President, or Alderman or something, if he doesn't look out. But do you know yet why all this trouble is being taken about me."

"I can tell you," I answered "but you must not tell any one, for it would not do for the sake of others if it got about. There is a plan got up by a gang of blackmailers to kidnap you for a ransom." She jumped up with excitement and began to clap her hands.

"Oh, that is too delicious!" she said. "Tell me all you know of it. We may be able to lead them on a bit. It will be an awful lark!" I could not possibly share her mirth; the matter was really too grave. She saw my feeling in my face and stopped. She thought for a minute or two with her brows wrinkled and then she said:

"Are you really serious, Archie, as to any danger in the matter?"

"My dear, there is always danger in a conspiracy of base men. We have to fear, for we don't know the power or numbers of the conspiracy. We have no idea of their method of working, or where or how we may expect attack. The whole thing is a mystery to us. Doubtless it will only come from one point; but we must be ready to repel, all round the compass."

"But, look here, it is only danger."

"The danger is to you; if it were to me, I think I could laugh myself. But, my darling, remember that it is out of my love for you that my fear comes. If you were nothing to me, I could, I suppose, bear it easily enough. You have taken new responsibilities on you, Marjory, since you let a man love you. His heart is before you to walk on; so you have to tread carefully."

"I can avoid treading on it, can't I?" she said falling into the vein of metaphor. "Surely, if there is anything in the world that by instinct I could know is in danger, it would be your heart!"

"Ah, my dear, it does not stay still. It will keep rolling along with you wherever you go; hopping back and forward and sideways in every conceivable way. You must now and again tread on it for all your care; in the dark or in the light."

"I had no idea," she said "that I had taken such a responsibility on my shoulders when I said I would marry you."

"It is not the marrying" I said "but the loving that makes the trouble!"

"I see!" she replied and was silent for a while. Then she turned to me and said very sweetly:

"Anyhow Archie, whatever we may settle about what we are to do, I am glad you came to consult me and to tell me frankly of your trouble. Do this always, my dear. It will be best for you, and best for me too, to feel that you trust me. You have given me a pleasure to-day that is beyond words."

Then we spoke of other things, and we agreed to wait till the next day before arranging any fixed plan of action. Before I went away, and whilst the sentiment of parting was still on her, she said to me-and I could see that the thought had been in her mind for some time:

"Archie, you and I are to live together as man and wife. Is it not so? I think we both want to be as nearly one as a man and a woma

n can be-flesh of each other's flesh, and bone of bone, and soul of soul. Don't you think we shall become this better by being joined, us two, against all comers. We have known each other only a short time as yet. What we have seen of each other has been good enough to make us cling together for life. But, my dear, what has been, has been only the wishing to cling; the clinging must be the struggle that is to follow. Be one with me in this fight. It is my fight, I feel, begun before I ever knew you. When your fight comes, and I can see you have it before you with regard to that treasure, you will know that you can count on me. It may be only a fancy of mine, but the comradeship of pioneers, when the men and women had to fight together against a common foe, runs in my blood! Let me feel, before I give myself altogether to your keeping, or you to mine, that there is something of this comradeship between us; it will make love doubly dear!"

What could a man in love say to this? It seemed like the very essence of married love, and was doubly dear to me on that account. Pledged by my kisses I came away, feeling as if I had in truth left my wife behind.

When I got back to Cruden I took up the matter of the treasure whilst I was waiting for news from Adams. In the stir of the events of the last few days I had almost forgotten it. I read the papers over again, as I wished to keep myself familiar with the facts; I also went over the cipher, for I did not wish to get stale in it. As I laboured through it, all Marjory's sweetness to me on that day of the ride from Braemar came back to me; and as I read I found myself unconsciously drumming out the symbols on the table with the fingers of my right hand and my left after the fashion of Marjory's variant. When I was through, I sat pondering, and all sorts of new variants kept rising before me in that kind of linked succession when the mind runs free in day-dreaming and one idea brings up another. I was not altogether easy, for I was now always expecting some letter or telegram of a disconcerting kind; anxiety had become an habitual factor in my working imagination. All sorts of possibilities kept arising before me, mostly with reference to Marjory. I was glad that already we understood in common one method of secret communication; and I determined then and there that when I went over to Crom on the next day I would bring the papers with me, and that Marjory and I would renew our lesson, and practice till we were quite familiar with the cipher.

Just then a message was brought to me that a gentleman wished to see me, so I asked the maid to bring him up. I do not think that I was altogether surprised to find that he was one of the three men whom I had seen at Cruden before. He handed me in silence a letter which I found to be from Adams. I read it with a sinking heart. In it he told me that it was now ascertained that two members of the blackmail gang had come to England. They had been seen to land at Dover, but got out between there and London; and their trace was lost. He said he wished to advise me at once, so that I might be on the alert. He would himself take his own steps as I understood. The messenger, when he saw I had read the letter, asked me if there was any answer. I said "only thanks" and he went away. It was not till afterwards that I remembered that I might have asked the man to tell me something of the appearance of the suspected men, so that I might know them if I should come across them. Once again I fell in my own esteem as a competent detective. In the meantime I could do nothing; Marjory's last appeal to me made it impossible for me to take steps against her wishes. She manifestly wanted the fight with the kidnappers to go on; and she wanted me to be with her in it heart and soul. Although this community of purpose was sweet, there grew out of our very isolation a new source of danger, a never-ending series of dangers. The complications were growing such that it would soon be difficult to take any step at all with any prospect of utility. Marjory would now be watched with all the power and purpose of the American Secret Service. That she would before long infallibly find it out, and that she would in such case endeavour at all hazards to escape from it, was apparent. If she did escape from their secret surveillance, she would be playing into the hands of her enemies; and so might incur new danger. I began to exercise my brain as to how I could best help her wishes. If we were to fight together and alone, we would at least make as good a battle as we could.

I thought, and thought, and thought till my head began to spin; and then an idea all at once sprang into my view. It was so simple, and so much in accord with my wishes; so delightful, that I almost shouted out with joy.

I did not lose a minute, but hurried a change of clothes into a bag and caught the train for Aberdeen en route for London.

I did not lose any time. Next morning I was in London and went with my solicitor to Doctor's Commons. There I got a license of the Archbishop of Canterbury entitling Archibald Hunter and Marjory Anita Drake to be married anywhere in England-there being no similar license in Scotland. I returned at once, stopping at Carlisle to make arrangements with a local clergyman to be ready to perform a marriage service at eight o'clock of the second morning.

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