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The Evil Genius

29. Mr. Sarrazin
As a lawyer, Randal's guest understood that a narrative of events can only produce the
right effect, on one condition: it must begin at the beginning. Having related all that had
been said and done during his visit to the cottage, including his first efforts in the
character of an angler under Kitty's supervision, he stopped to fill his glass again--and
then astonished Randal by describing the plan that he had devised for escaping from the
spies by crossing the lake in the fog.
"What did the ladies say to it?" Randal inquired. "Who spoke first?"
"Mrs. Presty, of course! She objected to risk her life on the water, in a fog. Mrs. Linley
showed a resolution for which I was not prepared. She thought of Kitty, saw the value of
my suggestion, and went away at once to consult with the landlady. In the meantime I
sent for the gardener, and told him what I was thinking of. He was one of those stolid
Englishmen, who possess resources which don't express themselves outwardly. Judging
by his face, you would have said he was subsiding into a slumber under the infliction of a
sermon, instead of listening to a lawyer proposing a stratagem. When I had done, the man
showed the metal he was made of. In plain English, he put three questions which gave me
the highest opinion of his intelligence. 'How much luggage, sir?' 'As little as they can
conveniently take with them,' I said. 'How many persons?' 'The two ladies, the child, and
myself.' 'Can you row, sir?' 'In any water you like, Mr. Gardener, fresh or salt'. Think of
asking Me, an athletic Englishman, if I could row! In an hour more we were ready to
embark, and the blessed fog was thicker than ever. Mrs. Presty yielded under protest;
Kitty was wild with delight; her mother was quiet and resigned. But one circumstance
occurred that I didn't quite understand--the presence of a stranger on the pier with a gun
in his hand."
"You don't mean one of the spies?"
"Nothing of the sort; I mean an idea of the gardener's. He had been a sailor in his time--
and that's a trade which teaches a man (if he's good for anything) to think, and act on his
thought, at one and the same moment. He had taken a peep at the blackguards in front of
the house, and had recognized the shortest of the two as a native of the place, perfectly
well aware that one of the features attached to the cottage was a boathouse. 'That chap is
not such a fool as he looks,' says the gardener. 'If he mentions the boat-house, the other
fellow from London may have his suspicions. I thought I would post my son on the pier--
that quiet young man there with the gun--to keep a lookout. If he sees another boat (there
are half a dozen on this side of the lake) putting off after us, he has orders to fire, on the
chance of our hearing him. A little notion of mine, sir, to prevent our being surprised in
the fog. Do you see any objection to it?' Objection! In the days when diplomacy was
something more than a solemn pretense, what a member of Congress that gardener would
have made! Well, we shipped our oars, and away we went. Not quite haphazard--for we
had a compass with us. Our course was as straight as we could go, to a village on the
 
 
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