Sir Terence, however, sat back in his chair, his work neglected, his eyes dreamily gazing through the open window, but seeing nothing of the sun-drenched landscape beyond, a heavy frown darkening his bronzed and rugged face. His mind was very far from his official duties and the mass of reminders before him—this Augean stable of arrears. He was lost in thought of his wife and Tremayne.
Five days had elapsed since the ball at Count Redondo's, where Sir Terence had surprised the pair together in the garden and his suspicions had been fired by the compromising attitude in which he had discovered them. Tremayne's frank, easy bearing, so unassociable with guilt, had, as we know, gone far, to reassure him, and had even shamed him, so that he had trampled his suspicions underfoot. But other things had happened since to revive his bitter doubts. Daily, constantly, had he been coming upon Tremayne and Lady O'Moy alone together in intimate, confidential talk which was ever silenced on his approach. The two had taken to wandering by themselves in the gardens at all hours, a thing that had never been so before, and O'Moy detected, or imagined that he detected, a closer intimacy between them, a greater warmth towards the captain on the part of her ladyship.
Thus matters had reached a pass in which peace of mind was impossible to him. It was not merely what he saw, it was his knowledge of what was; it was his ever-present consciousness of his own age and his wife's youth; it was the memory of his ante-nuptial jealousy of Tremayne which had been awakened by the gossip of those days—a gossip that pronounced Tremayne Una Butler's poor suitor, too poor either to declare himself or to be accepted if he did. The old wound which that gossip had dealt him then was reopened now. He thought of Tremayne's manifest concern for Una; he remembered how in that very room some six weeks ago, when Butler's escapade had first been heard of, it was from avowed concern for Una that Tremayne had urged him to befriend and rescue his rascally brother-in-law. He remembered, too, with increasing bitterness that it was Una herself had induced him to appoint Tremayne to his staff.
There were moments when the conviction of Tremayne's honesty, the thought of Tremayne's unswerving friendship for himself, would surge up to combat and abate the fires of his devastating jealousy.
But evidence would kindle those fires anew until they flamed up to scorch his soul with shame and anger. He had been a fool in that he had married a woman of half his years; a fool in that he had suffered her former lover to be thrown into close association with her.
Thus he assured himself. But he would abide by his folly, and so must she. And he would see to it that whatever fruits that folly yielded, dishonour should not be one of them. Through all his darkening rage there beat the light of reason. To avert, he bethought him, was better than to avenge. Nor were such stains to be wiped out by vengeance. A cuckold remains a cuckold though he take the life of the man who has reduced him to that ignominy.
Tremayne must go before the evil transcended reparation. Let him return to his regiment and do his work of sapping and mining elsewhere than in O'Moy's household.
Eased by that resolve he rose, a tall, martial figure, youth and energy in every line of it for all his six and forty years. Awhile he paced the room in thought. Then, suddenly, with hands clenched behind his back, he checked by the window, checked on a horrible question that had flashed upon his tortured mind. What if already the evil should be irreparable? What proof had he that it was not so?
The door opened, and Tremayne himself came in quickly.
"Here's the very devil to pay, sir," he announced, with that odd mixture of familiarity towards his friend and deference to his chief.
O'Moy looked at him in silence with smouldering, questioning eyes, thinking of anything but the trouble which the captain's air and manner heralded.
"Captain Stanhope has just arrived from headquarters with messages for you. A terrible thing has happened, sir. The dispatches from home by the Thunderbolt which we forwarded from here three weeks ago reached Lord Wellington only the day before yesterday."
Sir Terence became instantly alert.
"Garfield, who carried them, came into collision at Penalva with an officer of Anson's Brigade. There was a meeting, and Garfield was shot through the lung. He lay between life and death for a fortnight, with the result that the dispatches were delayed until he recovered sufficiently to remember them and to have them forwarded by other hands. But you had better see Stanhope himself."
The aide-de-camp came in. He was splashed from head to foot in witness of the fury with which he had ridden, his hair was caked with dust and his face haggard. But he carried himself with soldierly uprightness, and his speech was brisk. He repeated what Tremayne had already stated, with some few additional details.
"This wretched fellow sent Lord Wellington a letter dictated from his bed, in which he swore that the duel was forced upon him, and that his honour allowed him no alternative. I don't think any feature of the case has so deeply angered Lord Wellington as this stupid plea. He mentioned that when Sir John Moore was at Herrerias, in the course of his retreat upon Corunna, he sent forward instructions for the leading division to halt at Lugo, where he designed to deliver battle if the enemy would accept it. That dispatch was carried to Sir David Baird by one of Sir John's aides, but Sir David forwarded it by the hand of a trooper who got drunk and lost it. That, says Lord Wellington, is the only parallel, so far as he is aware, of the present case, with this difference, that whilst a common trooper might so far fail to appreciate the importance of his mission, no such lack of appreciation can excuse Captain Garfield."
"I am glad of that," said Sir Terence, who had been bristling. "For a moment I imagined that it was to be implied I had been as indiscreet in my choice of a messenger as Sir David Baird."
"No, no, Sir Terence. I merely repeated Lord Wellington's words that you may realise how deeply angered he is. If Garfield recovers from his wound he will be tried by court-martial. He is under open arrest meanwhile, as is his opponent in the duel—a Major Sykes of the 23rd Dragoons. That they will both be broke is beyond doubt. But that is not all. This affair, which might have had such grave consequences, coming so soon upon the heels of Major Berkeley's business, has driven Lord Wellington to a step regarding which this letter will instruct you."
Sir Terence broke the seal. The letter, penned by a secretary, but bearing Wellington's own signature, ran as follows:
"The bearer, Captain Stanhope, will inform you of the particulars of this disgraceful business of Captain Garfield's. The affair following so soon upon that of Major Berkeley has determined me to make it clearly understood to the officers in his Majesty's service that they have been sent to the Peninsula to fight the French and not each other or members of the civilian population. While this campaign continues, and as long as I am in charge of it, I am determined not to suffer upon any plea whatever the abominable practice of duelling among those under my command. I desire you to publish this immediately in general orders, enjoining upon officers of all ranks without exception the necessity to postpone the settlement of private quarrels at least until the close of this campaign. And to add force to this injunction you will make it known that any infringement of this order will be considered as a capital offence; that any officer hereafter either sending or accepting a challenge will, if found guilty by a general court-martial, be immediately shot."
Sir Terence nodded slowly.
"Very well," he said. "The measure is most wise, although I doubt if it will be popular. But, then, unpopularity is the fate of wise measures. I am glad the matter has not ended more seriously. The dispatches in question, so far as I can recollect, were not of great urgency."
"There is something more," said Captain Stanhope. "The dispatches bore signs of having been tampered with."
"Tampered with?" It was a question from Tremayne, charged with incredulity. "But who would have tampered with them?"
"There were signs, that is all. Garfield was taken to the house of the parish priest, where he lay lost until he recovered sufficiently to realise his position for himself. No doubt you will have a schedule of the contents of the dispatch, Sir Terence?"
"Certainly. It is in your possession, I think, Tremayne."
Tremayne turned to his desk, and a brief search in one of its well-ordered drawers brought to light an oblong strip of paper folded and endorsed. He unfolded and spread it on Sir Terence's table, whilst Captain Stanhope, producing a note with which he came equipped, stooped to check off the items. Suddenly he stopped, frowned, and finally placed his finger under one of the lines of Tremayne's schedule, carefully studying his own note for a moment.
"Ha!" he said quietly at last. "What's this?" And he read: "'Note from Lord Liverpool of reinforcements to be embarked for Lisbon in June or July.'" He looked at the adjutant and the adjutant's secretary. "That would appear to be the most important document of all—indeed the only document of any vital importance. And it was not included in the dispatch as it reached Lord Wellington."
The three looked gravely at one another in silence.
"Have you a copy of the note, sir?" inquired the aide-de-camp.
"Not a copy—but a summary of its contents, the figures it contained, are pencilled there on the margin," Tremayne answered.
"Allow me, sir," said Stanhope, and taking up a quill from the adjutant's table he rapidly copied the figures. "Lord Wellington must have this memorandum as soon as possible. The rest, Sir Terence, is of course a matter for yourself. You will know what to do. Meanwhile I shall report to his lordship what has occurred. I had best set out at once."
"If you will rest for an hour, and give my wife the pleasure of your company at luncheon, I shall have a letter ready for Lord Wellington," replied Sir Terence. "Perhaps you'll see to it, Tremayne," he added, without waiting for Captain Stanhope's answer to an invitation which amounted to a command.
Thus Stanhope was led away, and Sir Terence, all other matters forgotten for the moment, sat down to write his letter.
Later in the day, after Captain Stanhope had taken his departure, the duty fell to Tremayne of framing the general order and seeing to the dispatch of a copy to each division.
"I wonder," he said to Sir Terence, "who will be the first to break it?"
"Why, the fool who's most anxious to be broke himself," answered Sir Terence.
There appeared to be reservations about it in Tremayne's mind.
"It's a devilish stringent regulation," he criticised.
"But very salutary and very necessary."
"Oh, quite." Tremayne's agreement was unhesitating. "But I shouldn't care to feel the restraint of it, and I thank heaven I have no enemy thirsting for my blood."
Sir Terence's brow darkened. His face was turned away from his secretary. "How can a man be confident of that?" he wondered.
"Oh, a clean conscience, I suppose," laughed Tremayne, and he gave his attention to his papers.
Frankness, honesty and light-heartedness rang so clear in the words that they sowed in Sir Terence's mind fresh doubts of the galling suspicion he had been harbouring.
"Do you boast a clean conscience, eh, Ned?" he asked, not without a lurking shame at this deliberate sly searching of the other's mind. Yet he strained his ears for the answer.
"Almost clean," said Tremayne. "Temptation doesn't stain when it's resisted, does it?"
Sir Terence trembled. But he controlled himself.
"Nay, now, that's a question for the casuists. They right answer you that it depends upon the temptation." And he asked point-blank: "What's tempting you?"
Tremayne was in a mood for confidences, and Sir Terence was his friend. But he hesitated. His answer to the question was an irrelevance.
"It's just hell to be poor, O'Moy," he said.
The adjutant turned to stare at him. Tremayne was sitting with his head resting on one hand, the fingers thrusting through the crisp fair hair, and there was gloom in his clear-cut face, a dullness in the usually keen grey eyes.
"Is there anything on your mind?" quoth Sir Terence.
"Temptation," was the answer. "It's an unpleasant thing to struggle against."
"But you spoke of poverty?"
"To be sure. If I weren't poor I could put my fortunes to the test, and make an end of the matter one way or the other."
There was a pause. "Sure I hope I am the last man to force a confidence, Ned," said O'Moy. "But you certainly seem as if it would do you good to confide."
Tremayne shook himself mentally. "I think we had better deal with the matter of this dispatch that was tampered with at Penalva."
"So we will, to be sure. But it can wait a minute." Sir Terence pushed back his chair, and rose. He crossed slowly to his secretary's side. "What's on your mind, Ned?" he asked with abrupt solicitude, and Ned could not suspect that it was the matter on Sir Terence's own mind that was urging him—but urging him hopefully.
Captain Tremayne looked up with a rueful smile. "I thought you boasted that you never forced a confidence." And then he looked away. "Sylvia Armytage tells me that she is thinking of returning to England."
For a moment the words seemed to Sir Terence a fresh irrelevance; another attempt to change the subject. Then quite suddenly a light broke upon his mind, shedding a relief so great and joyous that he sought to check it almost in fear.
"It is more than she has told me," he answered steadily. "But then, no doubt, you enjoy her confidence."
Tremayne flashed him a wry glance and looked away again.
"Alas!" he said, and fetched a sigh.
"And is Sylvia the temptation, Ned?"
Tremayne was silent for a while, little dreaming how Sir Terence hung upon his answer, how impatiently he awaited it.
"Of course," he said at last. "Isn't it obvious to any one?" And he grew rhapsodical: "How can a man be daily in her company without succumbing to her loveliness, to her matchless grace of body and of mind, without perceiving that she is incomparable, peerless, as much above other women as an angel perhaps might be above herself?"
Before his glum solemnity, and before something else that Tremayne could not suspect, Sir Terence exploded into laughter. Of the immense and joyous relief in it his secretary caught no hint; all he heard was its sheer amusement, and this galled and shamed him. For no man cares to be laughed at for such feelings as Tremayne had been led into betraying.
"You think it something to laugh at?" he said tartly.
"Laugh, is it?" spluttered Sir Terence. "God grant I don't burst a blood-vessel."
Tremayne reddened. "When you've indulged your humour, sir," he said stiffly, "perhaps you'll consider the matter of this dispatch."
But Sir Terence laughed more uproariously than ever. He came to stand beside Tremayne, and slapped him heartily on the shoulder.
"Ye'll kill me, Ned!" he protested. "For God's sake, not so glum. It's that makes ye ridiculous."
"I am sorry you find me ridiculous."
"Nay, then, it's glad ye ought to be. By my soul, if Sylvia tempts you, man, why the devil don't ye just succumb and have done with it? She's handsome enough and well set up with her air of an Amazon, and she rides uncommon straight, begad! Indeed it's a broth of a girl she is in the hunting-field, the ballroom, or at the breakfast-table, although riper acquaintance may discover her not to be quite all that you imagine her at present. Let your temptation lead you then, entirely, and good luck to you, my boy."
"Didn't I tell you, O'Moy," answered the captain, mollified a little by the sympathy and good feeling peeping through the adjutant's boisterousness, "that poverty is just hell. It's my poverty that's in the way."
"And is that all? Then it's thankful you should be that Sylvia Armytage has got enough for two."
"That's just it."
"The obstacle. I could marry a poor woman. But Sylvia—"
"Have you spoken to her?"
Tremayne was indignant. "How do you suppose I could?"
"It'll not have occurred to you that the lady may have feelings which having aroused you ought to be considering?"
A wry smile and a shake of the head was Tremayne only answer; and then Carruthers came in fresh from Lisbon, where he had been upon business connected with the commissariat, and to Tremayne's relief the subject was perforce abandoned.
Yet he marvelled several times that day that the hilarity he should have awakened in Sir Terence continued to cling to the adjutant, and that despite the many vexatious matters claiming attention he should preserve an irrepressible and almost boyish gaiety.
Meanwhile, however, the coming of Carruthers had brought the adjutant a moment's seriousness, and he reverted to the business of Captain Garfield. When he had mentioned the missing note, Carruthers very properly became grave. He was a short, stiffly built man with a round, good-humoured, rather florid face.
"The matter must be probed at once, sir," he ventured. "We know that we move in a tangle of intrigues and espionage. But such a thing as this has never happened before. Have you anything to go upon?"
"Captain Stanhope gave us nothing," said the adjutant.
"It would be best perhaps to get Grant to look into it," said Tremayne.
"If he is still in Lisbon," said Sir Terence.
"I passed him in the street an hour ago," replied Carruthers.
"Then by all means let a note be sent to him asking him if he will step up to Monsanto as soon as he conveniently can. You might see to it, Tremayne."
CHAPTER X. THE STIFLED QUARREL
It was noon of the next day before Colonel Grant came to the house at Monsanto from whose balcony floated the British flag, and before whose portals stood a sentry in the tall bearskin of the grenadiers.
He found the adjutant alone in his room, and apologised for the delay in responding to his invitation, pleading the urgency of other matters that he had in hand.
"A wise enactment this of Lord Wellington's," was his next comment. "I mean this prohibition of duelling. It may be resented by some of our young bloods as an unwarrantable interference with their privileges, but it will do a deal of good, and no one can deny that there is ample cause for the measure."
"It is on the subject of the cause that I'm wanting to consult you," said Sir Terence, offering his visitor a chair. "Have you been informed of the details? No? Let me give you them." And he related how the dispatch bore signs of having been tampered with, and how the only document of any real importance came to be missing from it.
Colonel Grant, sitting with his sabre across his knees, listened gravely and thoughtfully. In the end he shrugged his shoulders, the keen hawk face unmoved.
"The harm is done, and cannot very well be repaired. The information obtained, no doubt on behalf of Massena, will by now be on its way to him. Let us be thankful that the matter is not more grave, and thankful, too, that you were able to supply a copy of Lord Liverpool's figures. What do you want me to do?"
"Take steps to discover the spy whose existence is disclosed by this event."
Colquhoun Grant smiled. "That is precisely the matter which has brought me to Lisbon."
"How?" Sir Terence was amazed. "You knew?"
"Oh, not that this had happened. But that the spy—or rather a network of espionage—existed. We move here in a web of intrigue wrought by ill-will, self-interest, vindictiveness and every form of malice. Whilst the great bulk of the Portuguese people and their leaders are loyally co-operating with us, there is a strong party opposing us which would prefer even to see the French prevail. Of course you are aware of this. The heart and brain of all this is—as I gather the Principal Souza. Wellington has compelled his retirement from the Government. But if by doing so he has restricted the man's power for evil, he has certainly increased his will for evil and his activities.
"You tell me that Garfield was cared for by the parish priest at Penalva. There you are. Half the priesthood of the country are on Souza's side, since the Patriarch of Lisbon himself is little more than a tool of Souza's. What happens? This priest discovers that the British officer whom he has so charitably put to bed in his house is the bearer of dispatches. A loyal man would instantly have communicated with Marshal Beresford at Thomar. This fellow, instead, advises the intriguers in Lisbon. The captain's dispatches are examined and the only document of real value is abstracted. Of course it would be difficult to establish a case against the priest, and it is always vexatious and troublesome to have dealings with that class, as it generally means trouble with the peasantry. But the case is as clear as crystal."
"But the intriguers here? Can you not deal with them?"
"I have them under observation," replied the colonel. "I already knew the leaders, Souza's lieutenants in Lisbon, and I can put my hand upon them at any moment. If I have not already done so it is because I find it more profitable to leave them at large; it is possible, indeed, that I may never proceed to extremes against them. Conceive that they have enabled me to seize La Fleche, the most dangerous, insidious and skilful of all Napoleon's agents. I found him at Redondo's ball last week in the uniform of a Portuguese major, and through him I was able to track down Souza's chief instrument—I discovered them closeted with him in one of the card-rooms."
"And you didn't arrest them?"
"Arrest them! I apologised for my intrusion, and withdrew. La Fleche took his leave of them. He was to have left Lisbon at dawn equipped with a passport countersigned by yourself, my dear adjutant."
"A passport for Major Vieira of the Portuguese Cacadores. Do you remember it?"
"Major Vieira!" Sir Terence frowned thoughtfully. Suddenly he recollected. "But that was countersigned by me at the request of Count Samoval, who represented himself a personal friend of the major's."
"So indeed he is. But the major in question was La Fleche nevertheless."
"And Samoval knew this?"
Sir Terence was incredulous.
Colonel Grant did not immediately answer the question. He preferred to continue his narrative. "That night I had the false major arrested very quietly. I have caused him to disappear for the present. His Lisbon friends believe him to be on his way to Massena with the information they no doubt supplied him. Massena awaits his return at Salamanca, and will continue to wait. Thus when he fails to be seen or heard of there will be a good deal of mystification on all sides, which is the proper state of mind in which to place your opponents. Lord Liverpool's figures, let me add, were not among the interesting notes found upon him—possibly because at that date they had not yet been obtained."
"And you say that Samoval was aware of the man's real identity?" insisted Sir Terence, still incredulous. "Aware of it?" Colonel Grant laughed shortly. "Samoval is Souza's principal agent—the most dangerous man in Lisbon and the most subtle. His sympathies are French through and through."
Sir Terence stared at him in frank amazement, in utter unbelief. "Oh, impossible!" he ejaculated at last.
"I saw Samoval for the first time," said Colonel Grant by way of answer, "in Oporto at the time of Soult's occupation. He did not call himself Samoval just then, any more than I called myself Colquhoun Grant. He was very active therein the French interest; I should indeed be more precise and say in Bonaparte's interest, for he was the man instrumental in disclosing to Soult the Bourbon conspiracy which was undermining the marshal's army. You do not know, perhaps, that French sympathy runs in Samoval's family. You may not be aware that the Portuguese Marquis of Alorna, who holds a command in the Emperor's army, and is at present with Massena at Salamanca, is Samoval's cousin."
"But," faltered Sir Terence, "Count Samoval has been a regular visitor here for the past three months."
"So I understand," said Grant coolly. "If I had known of it before I should have warned you. But, as you are aware, I have been in Spain on other business. You realise the danger of having such a man about the place. Scraps of information—"
"Oh, as to that," Sir Terence interrupted, "I can assure you that none have fallen from my official table."
"Never be too sure, Sir Terence. Matters here must ever be under discussion. There are your secretaries and the ladies—and Samoval has a great way with the women. What they know you may wager that he knows."
"They know nothing."
"That is a great deal to say. Little odds and ends now; a hint at one time; a word dropped at another; these things picked up naturally by feminine curiosity and retailed thoughtlessly under Samoval's charming suasion and display of Britannic sympathies. And Samoval has the devil's own talent for bringing together the pieces of a puzzle. Take the lines now: you may have parted with no details. But mention of them will surely have been made in this household. However," he broke off abruptly, "that is all past and done with. I am as sure as you are that any real indiscretions in this household are unimaginable, and so we may be confident that no harm has yet been done. But you will gather from what I have now told you that Samoval's visits here are not a mere social waste of time. That he comes, acquires familiarity and makes himself the friend of the family with a very definite aim in view."
"He does not come again," said Sir Terence, rising.
"That is more than I should have ventured to suggest. But it is a very wise resolve. It will need tact to carry it out, for Samoval is a man to be handled carefully."
"I'll handle him carefully, devil a fear," said Sir Terence. "You can depend upon my tact."
Colonel Grant rose. "In this matter of Penalva, I will consider further. But I do not think there is anything to be done now. The main thing is to stop up the outlets through which information reaches the French, and that is my chief concern. How is the stripping of the country proceeding now?"
"It was more active immediately after Souza left the Government. But the last reports announce a slackening again."
"They are at work in that, too, you see. Souza will not slumber while there's vengeance and self-interest to keep him awake." And he held out his hand to take his leave.
"You'll stay to luncheon?" said Sir Terence. "It is about to be served."
"You are very kind, Sir Terence."
They descended, to find luncheon served already in the open under the trellis vine, and the party consisted of Lady O'Moy, Miss Armytage, Captain Tremayne, Major Carruthers, and Count Samoval, of whose presence this was the adjutant's first intimation.
As a matter of fact the Count had been at Monsanto for the past hour, the first half of which he had spent most agreeably on the terrace with the ladies. He had spoken so eulogistically of the genius of Lord Wellington and the valour of the British soldier, and, particularly-of the Irish soldier, that even Sylvia's instinctive distrust and dislike of him had been lulled a little for the moment.
"And they must prevail," he had exclaimed in a glow of enthusiasm, his dark eyes flashing. "It is inconceivable that they should ever yield to the French, although the odds of numbers may lie so heavily against them."
"Are the odds of numbers so heavy?" said Lady O'Moy in surprise, opening wide those almost childish eyes of hers.
"Alas! anything from three to five to one. Ah, but why should we despond on that account?" And his voice vibrated with renewed confidence. "The country is a difficult one, easy to defend, and Lord Wellington's genius will have made the best of it. There are, for example, the fortifications at Torres Vedras."
"Ah yes! I have heard of them. Tell me about them, Count."
"Tell you about them, dear lady? Shall I carry perfumes to the rose? What can I tell you that you do not know so much better than myself?"
"Indeed, I know nothing. Sir Terence is ridiculously secretive," she assured him, with a little frown of petulance. She realised that her husband did not treat her as an intelligent being to be consulted upon these matters. She was his wife, and he had no right to keep secrets from her. In fact she said so.
"Indeed no," Samoval agreed. "And I find it hard to credit that it should be so."
"Then you forget," said Sylvia, "that these secrets are not Sir Terence's own. They are the secrets of his office."
"Perhaps so," said the unabashed Samoval. "But if I were Sir Terence I should desire above all to allay my wife's natural anxiety. For I am sure you must be anxious, dear Lady O'Moy."'
"Naturally," she agreed, whose anxieties never transcended the fit of her gowns or the suitability of a coiffure. "But Terence is like that."
"Incredible!" the Count protested, and raised his dark eyes to heaven as if invoking its punishment upon so unnatural a husband. "Do you tell me that you have never so much as seen the plans of these fortifications?"
"The plans, Count!" She almost laughed.
"Ah!" he said. "I dare swear then that you do not even know of their existence." He was jocular now.
"I am sure that she does not," said Sylvia, who instinctively felt that the conversation was following an undesirable course.
"Then you are wrong," she was assured. "I saw them once, a week ago, in Sir Terence's room."
"Why, how would you know them if you saw them?" quoth Sylvia, seeking to cover what might be an indiscretion.
"Because they bore the name: 'Lines of Torres Vedras.' I remember."
"And this unsympathetic Sir Terence did not explain them to you?" laughed Samoval.
"Indeed, he did not."
"In fact, I could swear that he locked them away from you at once?" the Count continued on a jocular note.
"Not at once. But he certainly locked them away soon after, and whilst I was still there."
"In your place, then," said Samoval, ever on the same note of banter, "I should have been tempted to steal the key."
"Not so easily done," she assured him. "It never leaves his person. He wears it on a gold chain round his neck."
"Always, I assure you."
"Too bad," protested Samoval. "Too bad, indeed. What, then, should you have done, Miss Armytage?"
It was difficult to imagine that he was drawing information from them, so bantering and frivolous was his manner; more difficult still to conceive that he had obtained any. Yet you will observe that he had been placed in possession of two facts: that the plans of the lines of Torres Vedras were kept locked up in Sir Terence's own room—in the strong-box, no doubt—and that Sir Terence always carried the key on a gold chain worn round his neck.
Miss Armytage laughed. "Whatever I might do, I should not be guilty of prying into matters that my husband kept hidden."
"Then you admit a husband's right to keep matters hidden from his wife?"
"Madam," Samoval bowed to her, "your future husband is to be envied on yet another count."
And thus the conversation drifted, Samoval conceiving that he had obtained all the information of which Lady O'Moy was possessed, and satisfied that he had obtained all that for the moment he required. How to proceed now was a more difficult matter, to be very seriously considered—how to obtain from Sir Terence the key in question, and reach the plans so essential to Marshal Massena.
He was at table with them, as you know, when Sip Terence and Colonel Grant arrived. He and the colonel were presented to each other, and bowed with a gravity quite cordial on the part of Samoval, who was by far the more subtle dissembler of the two. Each knew the other perfectly for what he was; yet each was in complete ignorance of the extent of the other's knowledge of himself; and certainly neither betrayed anything by his manner.
At table the conversation was led naturally enough by Tremayne to Wellington's general order against duelling. This was inevitable when you consider that it was a topic of conversation that morning at every table to which British officers sat down. Tremayne spoke of the measure in terms of warm commendation, thereby provoking a sharp disagreement from Samoval. The deep and almost instinctive hostility between these two men, which had often been revealed in momentary flashes, was such that it must invariably lead them to take opposing sides in any matter admitting of contention.
"In my opinion it is a most arbitrary and degrading enactment," said Samoval. "I say so without hesitation, notwithstanding my profound admiration and respect for Lord Wellington and all his measures."
"Degrading?" echoed Grant, looking across at him. "In what can it be degrading, Count?"
"In that it reduces a gentleman to the level of the clod," was the prompt answer. "A gentleman must have his quarrels, however sweet his disposition, and a means must be afforded him of settling them."
"Ye can always thrash an impudent fellow," opined the adjutant.
"Thrash?" echoed Samoval. His sensitive lip curled in disdain. "To use your hands upon a man!" He shuddered in sheer disgust. "To one of my temperament it would be impossible, and men of my temperament are plentiful, I think."
"But if you were thrashed yourself?" Tremayne asked him, and the light in his grey eyes almost hinted at a dark desire to be himself the executioner.
Samoval's dark, handsome eyes considered the captain steadily. "To be thrashed myself?" he questioned. "My dear Captain, the idea of having hands laid upon me, soiling me, brutalising me, is so nauseating, so repugnant, that I assure you I should not hesitate to shoot the man who did it just as I should shoot any other wild beast that attacked me. Indeed the two instances are exactly parallel, and my country's courts would uphold in such a case the justice of my conduct."
"Then you may thank God," said O'Moy, "that you are not under British jurisdiction."
"I do," snapped Samoval, to make an instant recovery: "at least so far as the matter is concerned." And he elaborated: "I assure you, sirs, it will be an evil day for the nobility of any country when its Government enacts against the satisfaction that one gentleman has the right to demand from another who offends him."
"Isn't the conversation rather too bloodthirsty for a luncheon-table?" wondered Lady O'Moy. And tactlessly she added, thinking with flattery to mollify Samoval and cool his obvious heat: "You are yourself such a famous swordsman, Count."
And then Tremayne's dislike of the man betrayed him into his deplorable phrase.
"At the present time Portugal is in urgent need of her famous swordsmen to go against the French and not to increase the disorders at home."
A silence complete and ominous followed the rash words, and Samoval, white to the lips, pondered the imperturbable captain with a baleful eye.
"I think," he said at last, speaking slowly and softly, and picking his words with care, "I think that is innuendo. I should be relieved, Captain Tremayne, to hear you say that it is not."
Tremayne was prompt to give him the assurance. "No innuendo at all. A plain statement of fact."
"The innuendo I suggested lay in the application of the phrase. Do you make it personal to myself?"
"Of course not," said Sir Terence, cutting in and speaking sharply. "What an assumption!"
"I am asking Captain Tremayne," the Count insisted, with grim firmness, notwithstanding his deferential smile to Sir Terence.
"I spoke quite generally, sir," Tremayne assured him, partly under the suasion of Sir Terence's interposition, partly out of consideration for the ladies, who were looking scared. "Of course, if you choose to take it to yourself, sir, that is a matter for your own discretion. I think," he added, also with a smile, "that the ladies find the topic tiresome."
"Perhaps we may have the pleasure of continuing it when they are no longer present."
"Oh, as you please," was the indifferent answer. "Carruthers, may I trouble you to pass the salt? Lady O'Callaghan was complaining the other night of the abuse of salt in Portuguese cookery. It is an abuse I have never yet detected."
"I can't conceive Lady O'Callaghan complaining of too much salt in anything, begad," quoth O'Moy, with a laugh. "If you had heard the story she told me about—"
"Terence, my dear!" his wife checked him, her fine brows raised, her stare frigid.
"Faith, we go from bad to worse," said Carruthers. "Will you try to improve the tone of the conversation, Miss Armytage? It stands in urgent need of it."
With a general laugh, breaking the ice of the restraint that was in danger of settling about the table, a semblance of ease was restored, and this was maintained until the end of the repast. At last the ladies rose, and, leaving the men at table, they sauntered off towards the terrace. But under the archway Sylvia checked her cousin.
"Una," she said gravely, "you had better call Captain Tremayne and take him away for the present."
Una's eyes opened wide. "Why?" she inquired.
Miss Armytage was almost impatient with her. "Didn't you see? Resentment is only slumbering between those men. It will break out again now that we have left them unless you can get Captain Tremayne away."
Una continued to look at her cousin, and then, her mind fastening ever upon the trivial to the exclusion of the important, her glance became arch. "For whom is your concern? For Count Samoval or Ned?" she inquired, and added with a laugh: "You needn't answer me. It is Ned you are afraid for."
"I am certainly not afraid for him," was the reply on a faint note of indignation. She had reddened slightly. "But I should not like to see Captain Tremayne or any other British officer embroiled in a duel. You forget Lord Wellington's order which they were discussing, and the consequences of infringing it."
Lady O'Moy became scared.
"You don't imagine—"
Sylvia spoke quickly: "I am certain that unless you take Captain Tremayne away, and at once, there will! be serious trouble."
And now behold Lady O'Moy thrown into a state of alarm that bordered upon terror. She had more reason than Sylvia could dream, more reason she conceived than Sylvia herself, to wish to keep Captain Tremayne out of trouble just at present. Instantly, agitatedly, she turned and called to him.
"Ned!" floated her silvery voice across the enclosed garden. And again: "Ned! I want you at once, please."
Captain Tremayne rose. Grant was talking briskly at the time, his intention being to cover Tremayne's retreat, which he himself desired. Count Samoval's smouldering eyes were upon the captain, and full of menace. But he could not be guilty of the rudeness of interrupting Grant or of detaining Captain Tremayne when a lady called him.
CHAPTER XI. THE CHALLENGE
Rebuke awaited Captain Tremayne at the hands of Lady O'Moy, and it came as soon as they were alone together sauntering in the thicket of pine and cork-oak on the slope of the hill below the terrace.
"How thoughtless of you, Ned, to provoke Count Samoval at such a time as this!"
"Did I provoke him? I thought it was the Count himself who was provoking." Tremayne spoke lightly.
"But suppose anything were to happen to you? You know the man's dreadful reputation."
Tremayne looked at her kindly. This apparent concern for himself touched him. "My dear Una, I hope I can take care of myself, even against so formidable a fellow; and after all a man must take his chances a soldier especially."
"But what of Dick?" she cried. "Do you forget that he is depending entirely upon you—that if you should fail him he will be lost?" And there was something akin to indignation in the protesting eyes she turned upon him.
For a moment Tremayne was so amazed that he was at a loss for an answer. Then he smiled. Indeed his inclination was to laugh outright. The frank admission that her concern which he had fondly imagined to be for himself was all for Dick betrayed a state of mind that was entirely typical of Una. Never had she been able to command more than one point of view of any question, and that point of view invariably of her own interest. All her life she had been accustomed to sacrifices great and small made by others on heir own behalf, until she had come to look upon such sacrifices her absolute right.
"I am glad you reminded me," he said with an irony that never touched her. "You may depend upon me to be discreetness itself, at least until after Dick has been safely shipped."
"Thank you, Ned. You are very good to me." They sauntered a little way in silence. Then: "When does Captain Glennie sail?" she asked him. "Is it decided yet?"
"Yes. I have just heard from him that the Telemachus will put to sea on Sunday morning at two o'clock."
"At two o'clock in the morning! What an uncomfortable hour!"
"Tides, as King Canute discovered, are beyond mortal control. The Telemachus goes out with the ebb. And, after all, for our purposes surely no hour could be more suitable. If I come for Dick at midnight tomorrow that will just give us time to get him snugly aboard before she sails. I have made all arrangements with Glennie. He believes Dick to be what he has represented himself—one of Bearsley's overseers named Jenkinson, who is a friend of mine and who must be got out of the country quietly. Dick should thank his luck for a good deal. My chief anxiety was lest his presence here should be discovered by any one."
"Beyond Bridget not a soul knows that he is here not even Sylvia."
"You have been the soul of discreetness."
"Haven't I?" she purred, delighted to have him discover a virtue so unusual in her.
Thereafter they discussed details; or, rather, Tremayne discussed them. He would come up to Monsanto at twelve o'clock to-morrow night in a curricle in which he would drive Dick down to the river at a point where a boat would be waiting to take him out to the Telemachus. She must see that Dick was ready in time. The rest she could safely leave to him. He would come in through the official wing of the building. The guard would admit him without question, accustomed to seeing him come and go at all hours, nor would it be remarked that he was accompanied by a man in civilian dress when he departed. Dick was to be let down from her ladyship's balcony to the quadrangle by a rope ladder with which Tremayne would come equipped, having procured it for the purpose from the Telemachus.
She hung upon his arm, overwhelming him now with her gratitude, her parasol sheltering them both from the rays of the sun as they emerged from the thicket intro the meadowland in full view of the terrace where Count Samoval and Sir Terence were at that moment talking earnestly together.
You will remember that O'Moy had undertaken to provide that Count Samoval's visits to Monsanto should be discontinued. About this task he had gone with all the tact of which he had boasted himself master to Colquhoun Grant. You shall judge of the tact for yourself. No sooner had the colonel left for Lisbon, and Carruthers to return to his work, than, finding himself alone with the Count, Sir Terence considered the moment a choice one in which to broach the matter.
"I take it ye're fond of walking, Count," had been his singular opening move. They had left the table by now, and were sauntering together on the terrace.
"Walking?" said Samoval. "I detest it."
"And is that so? Well, well! Of course it's not so very far from your place at Bispo."
"Not more than half-a-league, I should say."
"Just so," said O'Moy. "Half-a-league there, and half-a-league back: a league. It's nothing at all, of course; yet for a gentleman who detests walking it's a devilish long tramp for nothing."
"For nothing?" Samoval checked and looked at his host in faint surprise. Then he smiled very affably. "But you must not say that, Sir Terence. I assure you that the pleasure of seeing yourself and Lady O'Moy cannot be spoken of as nothing."
"You are very good." Sir Terence was the very quintessence of courtliness, of concern for the other. "But if there were not that pleasure?"
"Then, of course, it would be different." Samoval was beginning to be slightly intrigued.
"That's it," said Sir Terence. "That's just what I'm meaning."
"Just what you're meaning? But, my dear General, you are assuming circumstances which fortunately do not exist."
"Not at present, perhaps. But they might."
Again Samoval stood still and looked at O'Moy. He found something in the bronzed, rugged face that was unusually sardonic. The blue eyes seemed to have become hard, and yet there were wrinkles about their corners suggestive of humour that might be mockery. The Count stiffened; but beyond that he preserved his outward calm whilst confessing that he did not understand Sir Terence's meaning.
"It's this way," said Sir Terence. "I've noticed that ye're not looking so very well lately, Count."
"Really? You think that?" The words were mechanical. The dark eyes continued to scrutinise that bronzed face suspiciously.
"I do, and it's sorry I am to see it. But I know what it is. It's this walking backwards and forwards between here and Bispo that's doing the mischief. Better give it up, Count. Better not come toiling up here any more. It's not good for your health. Why, man, ye're as white as a ghost this minute."
He was indeed, having perceived at last the insult intended. To be denied the house at such a time was to checkmate his designs, to set a term upon his crafty and subtle espionage, precisely in the season when he hoped to reap its harvest. But his chagrin sprang not at all from that. His cold anger was purely personal. He was a gentleman—of the fine flower, as he would have described himself—of the nobility of Portugal; and that a probably upstart Irish soldier—himself, from Samoval's point of view, a guest in that country—should deny him his house, and choose such terms of ill-considered jocularity in which to do it, was an affront beyond all endurance.
For a moment passion blinded him, and it was only by an effort that he recovered and kept his self-control. But keep it he did. You may trust your practised duellist for that when he comes face to face with the necessity to demand satisfaction. And soon the mist of passion clearing from his keen wits, he sought swiftly for a means to fasten the quarrel upon Sir Terence in Sir Terence's own coin of galling mockery. Instantly he found it. Indeed it was not very far to seek. O'Moy's jealousy, which was almost a byword, as we know, had been apparent more than once to Samoval. Remembering it now, it discovered to him at once Sir Terence's most vulnerable spot, and cunningly Samoval proceeded to gall him there.
A smile spread gradually over his white face—a smile of immeasurable malice.
"I am having a very interesting and instructive morning in this atmosphere of Irish boorishness," said he. "First Captain Tremayne—"
"Now don't be after blaming old Ireland for Tremayne's shortcomings. Tremayne's just a clumsy mannered Englishman."
"I am glad to know there is a distinction. Indeed I might have perceived it for myself. In motives, of course, that distinction is great indeed, and I hope that I am not slow to discover it, and in your case to excuse it. I quite understand and even sympathise with your feelings, General."
"I am glad of that now," said Sir Terence, who had understood nothing of all this.
"Naturally," the Count pursued on a smooth, level note of amiability, "when a man, himself no longer young, commits the folly of taking a young and charming wife, he is to be forgiven when a natural anxiety drives him to lengths which in another might be resented." He bowed before the empurpling Sir Terence.
"Ye're a damned coxcomb, it seems," was the answering roar.
"Of course you would assume it. It was to be expected. I condone it with the rest. And because I condone it, because I sympathise with what in a man of your age and temperament must amount to an affliction, I hasten to assure you upon my honour that so far as I am concerned there are no grounds for your anxiety."
"And who the devil asks for your assurances? It's stark mad ye are to suppose that I ever needed them."
"Of course you must say that," Samoval insisted, with a confident and superior smile. He shook his head, his expression one of amused sorrow. "Sir Terence, you have knocked at the wrong door. You are youthful at least in your impulsiveness, but you are surely as blind as old Pantaloon in the comedy or you would see where your industry would be better employed in shielding your wife's honour and your own."
Goaded to fury, his blue eyes aflame now with passion, Sir Terence considered the sleek and subtle gentleman before him, and it was in that moment that the Count's subtlety soared to its finest heights. In a flash of inspiration he perceived the advantages to be drawn by himself from conducting this quarrel to extremes.
This is not mere idle speculation. Knowledge of the real motives actuating him rests upon the evidence of a letter which Samoval was to write that same evening to La Fleche—afterwards to be discovered—wherein he related what had passed, how deliberately he had steered the matter, and what he meant to do. His object was no longer the punishing of an affront. That would happen as a mere incident, a thing done, as it were, in passing. His real aim now was to obtain the keys of the adjutant's strong-box, which never left Sir Terence's person, and so become possessed of the plans of the lines of Torres Vedras. When you consider in the light of this the manner in which Samoval proceeded now you will admire with me at once the opportunism and the subtlety of the man.
"You'll be after telling me exactly what you mean," Sir Terence had said.
It was in that moment that Tremayne and Lady O'Moy came arm in arm into the open on the hill-side, half-a-mile away—very close and confidential. They came most opportunely to the Count's need, and he flung out a hand to indicate them to Sir Terence, a smile of pity on his lips.
"You need but to look to take the answer for yourself," said he.
Sir Terence looked, and laughed. He knew the sect of Ned Tremayne's heart and could laugh now with relish at that which hitherto had left him darkly suspicious.
"And who shall blame Lady O'Moy?" Count Samoval pursued. "A lady so charming and so courted must seek her consolation for the almost unnatural union Fate has imposed upon her. Captain Tremayne is of her own age, convenient to her hand, and for an Englishman not ill-looking."
He smiled at O'Moy with insolent compassion, and O'Moy, losing all his self-control, struck him slapped him resoundingly upon the cheek.
"Ye're a dirty liar, Samoval, a muck-rake," said he.
Samoval stepped back, breathing hard, one cheek red, the other white. Yet by a miracle he still preserved his self-control.
"I have proved my courage too often," he said, "to be under the necessity of killing you for this blow. Since my honour is safe I will not take advantage of your overwrought condition."
"Ye'll take advantage of it whether ye like it or not," blazed Sir Terence at him. "I mean you to take advantage of it. D' ye think I'll suffer any man to cast a slur upon Lady O'Moy? I'll be sending my friends to wait on you to-day, Count; and—by God!—Tremayne himself shall be one of them."
Thus did the hot-headed fellow deliver himself into the hands of his enemy. Nor was he warned when he saw the sudden gleam in Samoval's dark eyes.
"Ha!" said the Count. It was a little exclamation of wicked satisfaction. "You are offering me a challenge, then?"
"If I may make so bold. And as I've a mind to shoot you dead—"
"Shoot, did you say?" Samoval interrupted gently.
"I said 'shoot'—and it shall be at ten paces, or across a handkerchief, or any damned distance you please."
The Count shook his head. He sneered. "I think not—not shoot." And he waved the notion aside with a hand white and slender as a woman's. "That is too English, or too Irish. The pistol, I mean—appropriately a fool's weapon." And he explained himself, explained at last his extraordinary forbearance under a blow. "If you think I have practised the small-sword every day of my life for ten years to suffer myself to be shot at like a rabbit in the end—ho, really!" He laughed aloud. "You have challenged me, I think, Sir Terence. Because I feared the predilection you have discovered, I was careful to wait until the challenge came from you. The choice of weapons lies, I think, with me. I shall instruct my friends to ask for swords."
"Sorry a difference will it make to me," said Sir Terence. "Anything from a horsewhip to a howitzer." And then recollection descending like a cold hand upon him chilled his hot rage, struck the fine Irish arrogance all out of him, and left him suddenly limp. "My God!" he said, and it was almost a groan. He detained Samoval, who had already turned to depart. "A moment, Count," he cried. "I—I had forgotten. There is the general order—Lord Wellington's enactment."
"Awkward, of course," said Samoval, who had never for a moment been oblivious of that enactment, and who had been carefully building upon it. "But you should have considered it before committing yourself so irrevocably."
Sir Terence steadied himself. He recovered his truculence. "Irrevocable or not, it will just have to be revocable. The meeting's impossible."
"I do not see the impossibility. I am not surprised you should shelter yourself behind an enactment; but you will remember this enactment does not apply to me, who am not a soldier."
"But it applies to me, who am not only a soldier, but the Adjutant-General here, the man chiefly responsible for seeing the order carried out. It would be a fine thing if I were the first to disregard it."
"I am afraid it is too late. You have disregarded it already, sir."
"The letter of the law is against sending or receiving a challenge, I think."
O'Moy was distracted. "Samoval," he said, drawing himself up, "I will admit that I have been a fool. I will apologise to you for the blow and for the word that accompanied it."
"The apology would imply that my statement was a true one and that you recognised it. If you mean that—"
"I mean nothing of the kind. Damme! I've a mind to horsewhip you, and leave it at that. D' ye think I want to face a firing party on your account?"
"I don't think there is the remotest likelihood of any such contingency," replied Samoval.
But O'Moy went headlong on. "And another thing. Where will I be finding a friend to meet your friends? Who will dare to act for me in view of that enactment?"
The Count considered. He was grave now. "Of course that is a difficulty," he admitted, as if he perceived it now for the first time. "Under the circumstances, Sir Terence, and entirely to accommodate you, I might consent to dispense with seconds."
"Dispense with seconds?" Sir Terence was horrified at the suggestion. "You know that that is irregular—that a charge of murder would lie against the survivor."
"Oh, quite so. But it is for your own convenience that I suggest it, though I appreciate your considerate concern on the score of what may happen to me afterwards should it come to be known that I was your opponent."
"Afterwards? After what?"
"After I have killed you."
"And is it like that?" cried O'Moy, his countenance inflaming again, his mind casting all prudence to the winds.
It followed, of course, that without further thought for anything but the satisfaction of his rage Sir Terence became as wax in the hands of Samoval's desires.
"Where do you suggest that we meet?" he asked.
"There is my place at Bispo. We should be private in the gardens there. As for time, the sooner the better, though for secrecy's sake we had better meet at night. Shall we say at midnight?"
But Sir Terence would agree to none of this.
"To-night is out of the question for me. I have an engagement that will keep me until late. To-morrow night, if you will, I shall be at your service." And because he did not trust Samoval he added, as Samoval himself had almost reckoned: "But I should prefer not to come to Bispo. I might be seen going or returning."
"Since there are no such scruples on my side, I am ready to come to you here if you prefer it."
"It would suit me better."
"Then expect me promptly at midnight to-morrow, provided that you can arrange to admit me without my being seen. You will perceive my reasons."
"Those gates will be closed," said O'Moy, indicating the now gaping massive doors that closed the archway at night. "But if you knock I shall be waiting for you, and I will admit you by the wicket."
"Excellent," said Samoval suavely. "Then—until to-morrow night, General." He bowed with almost extravagant submission, and turning walked sharply away, energy and suppleness in every line of his slight figure, leaving Sir Terence to the unpleasant, almost desperate, thoughts that reflection must usher in as his anger faded.
CHAPTER XII. THE DUEL
It was a time of stress and even of temptation for Sir Terence. Honour and pride demanded that he should keep the appointment made with Samoval; common sense urged him at all costs to avoid it. His frame of mind, you see, was not at all enviable. At moments he would consider his position as adjutant-general, the enactment against duelling, the irregularity of the meeting arranged, and, consequently, the danger in which he stood on every score; at others he could think of nothing but the unpardonable affront that had been offered him and the venomously insulting manner in which it had been offered, and his rage welled up to blot out every consideration other than that of punishing Samoval.
For two days and a night he was a sort of shuttlecock tossed between these alternating moods, and he was still the same when he paced the quadrangle with bowed head and hands clasped behind him awaiting Samoval at a few minutes before twelve of the following night. The windows that looked down from the four sides of that enclosed garden were all in darkness. The members of the household had withdrawn over an hour ago and were asleep by now. The official quarters were closed. The rising moon had just mounted above the eastern wing and its white light fell upon the upper half of the facade of the residential site. The quadrangle itself remained plunged in gloom.
Sir Terence, pacing there, was considering the only definite conclusion he had reached. If there were no way even now of avoiding this duel, at least it must remain secret. Therefore it could not take place here in the enclosed garden of his own quarters, as he had so rashly consented. It should be fought upon neutral ground, where the presence of the body of the slain would not call for explanations by the survivor.
From distant Lisbon on the still air came softly the chimes of midnight, and immediately there was a sharp rap upon the little door set in one of the massive gates that closed the archway.
Sir Terence went to open the wicket, and Samoval stepped quickly over the sill. He was wrapped in a dark cloak, a broad-brimmed hat obscured his face. Sir Terence closed the door again. The two men bowed to each other in silence, and as Samoval's cloak fell open he produced a pair of duelling-swords swathed together in a skin of leather.
"You are very punctual, sir," said O'Moy.
"I hope I shall never be so discourteous as to keep an opponent waiting. It is a thing of which I have never yet been guilty," replied Samoval, with deadly smoothness in that reminder of his victorious past. He stepped forward and looked about the quadrangle. "I am afraid the moon will occasion us some delay," he said. "It were perhaps better to wait some five or ten minutes, by then the light in here should have improved."
"We can avoid the delay by stepping out into the open," said Sir Terence. "Indeed it is what I had to suggest in any case. There are inconveniences here which you may have overlooked."
But Samoval, who had purposes to serve of which this duel was but a preliminary, was of a very different mind.
"We are quite private here, your household being abed," he answered, "whilst outside one can never be sure even at this hour of avoiding witnesses and interruption. Then, again, the turf is smooth as a table on that patch of lawn, and the ground well known to both of us; that, I can assure you, is a very necessary condition in the dark and one not to be found haphazard in the open."
"But there is yet another consideration, sir. I prefer that we engage on neutral ground, so that the survivor shall not be called upon for explanations that might be demanded if we fought here."
Even in the gloom Sir Terence caught the flash of Samoval's white teeth as he smiled.
"You trouble yourself unnecessarily on my account," was the smoothly ironic answer. "No one has seen me come, and no one is likely to see me depart."
"You may be sure that no one shall, by God," snapped O'Moy, stung by the sly insolence of the other's assurance.
"Shall we get to work, then?" Samoval invited.
"If you're set on dying here, I suppose I must be after humouring you, and make the best of it. As soon as you please, then." O'Moy was very fierce.
They stepped to the patch of lawn in the middle of the quadrangle, and there Samoval threw off altogether his cloak and hat. He was closely dressed in black, which in that light rendered him almost invisible. Sir Terence, less practised and less calculating in these matters, wore an undress uniform, the red coat of which showed greyish. Samoval observed this rather with contempt than with satisfaction in the advantage it afforded him. Then he removed the swathing from the swords, and, crossing them, presented the hilts to Sir Terence. The adjutant took one and the Count retained the other, which he tested, thrashing the air with it so that it hummed like a whip. That done, however, he did not immediately fall on.
"In a few minutes the moon will be more obliging," he suggested. "If you would prefer to wait—"
But it occurred to Sir Terence that in the gloom the advantage might lie slightly with himself, since the other's superior sword-play would perhaps be partly neutralised. He cast a last look round at the dark windows.
"I find it light enough," he answered.
Samoval's reply was instantaneous. "On guard, then," he cried, and on the words, without giving Sir Terence so much as time to comply with the invitation, he whirled his point straight and deadly at the greyish outline of his opponent's body. But a ray of moonlight caught the blade and its livid flash gave Sir Terence warning of the thrust so treacherously delivered. He saved himself by leaping backwards—just saved himself with not an inch to spare—and threw up his blade to meet the thrust.
"Ye murderous villain," he snarled under his breath, as steel ground on steel, and he flung forward to the attack.
But from the gloom came a little laugh to answer him, and his angry lunge was foiled by an enveloping movement that ended in a ripost. With that they settled down to it, Sir Terence in a rage upon which that assassin stroke had been fresh fuel; the Count cool and unhurried, delaying until the moonlight should have crept a little farther, so as to enable him to make quite sure that his stroke when delivered should be final.
Meanwhile he pressed Sir Terence towards the side where the moonlight would strike first, until they were fighting close under the windows of the residential wing, Sir Terence with his back to them, Samoval facing them. It was Fate that placed them so, the Fate that watched over Sir Terence even now when he felt his strength failing him, his sword arm turning to lead under the strain of an unwonted exercise. He knew himself beaten, realised the dexterous ease, the masterly economy of vigour and the deadly sureness of his opponent's play. He knew that he was at the mercy of Samoval; he was even beginning to wonder why the Count should delay to make an end of a situation of which he was so completely master. And then, quite suddenly, even as he was returning thanks that he had taken the precaution of putting all his affairs in order, something happened.
A light showed; it flared up suddenly, to be as suddenly extinguished, and it had its source in the window of Lady O'Moy's dressing-room, which Samoval was facing.
That flash drawing off the Count's eyes for one instant, and leaving them blinded for another, had revealed him clearly at the same time to Sir Terence. Sir Terence's blade darted in, driven by all that was left of his spent strength, and Samoval, his eyes unseeing, in that moment had fumbled widely and failed to find the other's steel until he felt it sinking through his body, searing him from breast to back.
His arms sank to his sides quite nervelessly. He uttered a faint exclamation of astonishment, almost instantly interrupted by a cough. He swayed there a moment, the cough increasing until it choked him. Then, suddenly limp, he pitched forward upon his face, and lay clawing and twitching at Sir Terence's feet.
Sir Terence himself, scarcely realising what had taken place, for the whole thing had happened within the time of a couple of heart-beats, stood quite still, amazed and awed, in a half-crouching attitude, looking down at the body of the fallen man. And then from above, ringing upon the deathly stillness, he caught a sibilant whisper:
"What was that? 'Sh!"
He stepped back softly, and flattened himself instinctively against the wall; thence profoundly intrigued and vaguely alarmed on several scores he peered up at the windows of his wife's room whence the sound had come, whence the sudden light had come which—as he now realised—had given him the victory in that unequal contest. Looking up at the balcony in whose shadow he stood concealed, he saw two figures there—his wife's and another's—and at the same time he caught sight of something black that dangled from the narrow balcony, and peered more closely to discover a rope ladder.
He felt his skin roughening, bristling like a dog's; he was conscious of being cold from head to foot, as if the flow of his blood had been suddenly arrested; and a sense of sickness overcame him. And then to turn that horrible doubt of his into still more horrible certainty came a man's voice, subdued, yet not so subdued but that he recognised it for Ned Tremayne's.
"There's some one lying there. I can make out the figure."
"Don't go down! For pity's sake, come back. Come back and wait, Ned. If any one should come and find you we shall be ruined."
Thus hoarsely whispering, vibrating with terror, the voice of his wife reached O'Moy, to confirm him the unsuspecting blind cuckold that Samoval had dubbed him to his face, for which Samoval—warning the guilty pair with his last breath even as he had earlier so mockingly warned Sir Terence—had coughed up his soul on the turf of that enclosed garden.
Crouching there for a moment longer, a man bereft of movement and of reason, stood O'Moy, conscious only of pain, in an agony of mind and heart that at one and the same time froze his blood and drew the sweat from his brow.
Then he was for stepping out into the open, and, giving flow to the rage and surging violence that followed, calling down the man who had dishonoured him and slaying him there under the eyes of that trull who had brought him to this shame. But he controlled the impulse, or else Satan controlled it for him. That way, whispered the Tempter, was too straight and simple. He must think. He must have time to readjust his mind to the horrible circumstances so suddenly revealed.
Very soft and silently, keeping well within the shadow of the wall, he sidled to the door which he had left ajar. Soundlessly he pushed it open, passed in and as soundlessly closed it again. For a moment he stood leaning heavily against its timbers, his breath coming in short panting sobs. Then he steadied himself and turning, made his way down the corridor to the little study which had been fitted up for him in the residential wing, and where sometimes he worked at night. He had been writing there that evening ever since dinner, and he had quitted the room only to go to his assignation with Samoval, leaving the lamp burning on his open desk.
He opened the door, but before passing in he paused a moment, straining his ears to listen for sounds overhead. His eyes, glancing up and down, were arrested by a thin blade of light under a door at the end of the corridor. It was the door of the butler's pantry, and the line of light announced that Mullins had not yet gone to bed. At once Sir Terence understood that, knowing him to be at work, the old servant had himself remained below in case his master should want anything before retiring.
Continuing to move without noise, Sir Terence entered his study, closed the door and crossed to his desk. Wearily he dropped into the chair that stood before it, his face drawn and ghastly, his smouldering eyes staring vacantly ahead. On the desk before him lay the letters that he had spent the past hours in writing—one to his wife; another to Tremayne; another to his brother in Ireland; and several others connected with his official duties, making provision for their uninterrupted continuance in the event of his not surviving the encounter.
Now it happened that amongst the latter there was one that was destined hereafter to play a considerable part; it was a note for the Commissary-General upon a matter that demanded immediate attention, and the only one of all those letters that need now survive. It was marked "Most Urgent," and had been left by him for delivery first thing in the morning. He pulled open a drawer and swept into it all the letters he had written save that one.
He locked that drawer; then unlocked another, and took thence a case of pistols. With shaking hands he lifted out one of the weapons to examine it, and all the while, of course, his thoughts were upon his wife and Tremayne. He was considering how well-founded had been his every twinge of jealousy; how wasted, how senseless the reactions of shame that had followed them; how insensate his trust in Tremayne's honesty, and, above all, with what crafty, treacherous subtlety Tremayne had drawn a red herring across the trail of his suspicions by pretending to an unutterable passion for Sylvia Armytage. It was perhaps that piece of duplicity, worthy, he thought, of the Iscariot himself, that galled Sir Terence now most sorely; that and the memory of his own silly credulity. He had been such a ready dupe. How those two together must have laughed at him! Oh, Tremayne had been very subtle! He had been the friend, the quasi-brother, parading his affection for the Butler family to excuse the familiarities with Lady O'Moy which he had permitted himself under Sir Terence's very eyes. O'Moy thought of them as he had seen them in the garden on the night of Redondo's ball, remembered the air of transparent honesty by which that damned hypocrite when discovered had deflected his just resentment.
Oh, there was no doubt that the treacherous blackguard had been subtle. But—by God!—subtlety should be repaid with subtlety! He would deal with Tremayne as cruelly as Tremayne had dealt with him; and his wanton wife, too, should be repaid in kind. He beheld the way clear, in a flash of wicked inspiration. He put back the pistol, slapped down the lid of the box and replaced it in its drawer.
He rose, took up the letter to the Commissary-general, stepped briskly to the door and pulled it open.
"Mullins!" he called sharply. "Are you there? Mullins?"
Came the sound of a scraping chair, and instantly that door at the end of the corridor was thrown open, and Mullins stood silhouetted against the light behind him. A moment he stood there, then came forward.
"You called, Sir Terence?"
"Yes." Sir Terence's voice was miraculously calm. His back was to the light and his face in shadow, so that its drawn, haggard look was not perceptible to the butler. "I am going to bed. But first I want you to step across to the sergeant of the guard with this letter for the Commissary-General. Tell him that it is of the utmost importance, and ask him to arrange to have it taken into Lisbon first thing in the morning."
Mullins bowed, venerable as an archdeacon in aspect and bearing, as he received the letter from his master: "Certainly, Sir Terence."
As he departed Sir Terence turned and slowly paced back to his desk, leaving the door open. His eyes had narrowed; there was a cruel, an almost evil smile on his lips. Of the generous, good-humoured nature imprinted upon his face every sign had vanished. His countenance was a mask of ferocity restrained by intelligence, cold and calculating.
Oh, he would pay the score that lay between himself and those two who had betrayed him. They should receive treachery for treachery, mockery for mockery, and for dishonour death. They had deemed him an old fool! What was the expression that Samoval had used—Pantaloon in the comedy? Well, well! He had been Pantaloon in the comedy so far. But now they should find him Pantaloon in the tragedy—nay, not Pantaloon at all, but Polichinelle, the sinister jester, the cynical clown, who laughs in murdering. And in anguished silence should they bear the punishment he would mete out to them, or else in no less anguished speech themselves proclaim their own dastardy to the world.
His wife he beheld now in a new light. It was out of vanity and greed that she had married him, because of the position in the world that he could give her. Having done so, at least she might have kept faith; she might have been honest, and abided by the bargain. If she had not done so, it was because honesty was beyond her shallow nature. He should have seen before what he now saw so clearly. He should have known her for a lovely, empty husk; a silly, fluttering butterfly; a toy; a thing of vanities, emotions, and nothing else.
Thus Sir Terence, cursing the day when he had mated with a fool. Thus Sir Terence whilst he stood there waiting for the outcry from Mullins that should proclaim the discovery of the body, and afford him a pretext for having the house searched for the slayer. Nor had he long to wait.
"Sir Terence! Sir Terence! For God's sake, Sir Terence!" he heard the voice of his old servant. Came the loud crash of the door thrust back until it struck the wall and quick steps along the passage.
Sir Terence stepped out to meet him.
"Why, what the devil—" he was beginning in his bluff, normal tones, when the servant, showing a white, scared face, cut him short.
"A terrible thing, Sir Terence! Oh, the saints protect us, a dreadful thing! This way, sir! There's a man killed—Count Samoval, I think it is!"
"Out yonder, in the quadrangle, sir."
"But—" Sir Terence checked. "Count Samoval, did ye say? Impossible!" and he went out quickly, followed by the butler.
In the quadrangle he checked. In the few minutes that were sped since he had left the place the moon had overtopped the roof of the opposite wing, so that full upon the enclosed garden fell now its white light, illumining and revealing.
There lay the black still form of Samoval supine, his white face staring up into the heavens, and beside him knelt Tremayne, whilst in the balcony above leaned her ladyship. The rope ladder, Sir Terence's swift glance observed, had disappeared.
He halted in his advance, standing at gaze a moment. He had hardly expected so much. He had conceived the plan of causing the house to be searched immediately upon Mullins's discovery of the body. But Tremayne's rashness in adventuring down in this fashion spared him even that necessity. True, it set up other difficulties. But he was not sure that the matter would not be infinitely more interesting thus.
He stepped forward, and came to a standstill beside the two—his dead enemy and his living one.
CHAPTER XIII. POLICHINELLE
"Why, Ned," he asked gravely, "what has happened?"
"It is Samoval," was Tremayne's quiet answer. "He is quite dead."
He stood up as he spoke, and Sir Terence observed with terrible inward mirth that his tone had the frank and honest ring, his bearing the imperturbable ease which more than once before had imposed upon him as the outward signs of an easy conscience. This secretary of his was a cool scoundrel.
"Samoval, is it?" said Sir Terence, and went down on one knee beside the body to make a perfunctory examination. Then he looked up at the captain.
"And how did this happen?"
"Happen?" echoed Tremayne, realising that the question was being addressed particularly to himself. "That is what I am wondering. I found him here in this condition."
"You found him here? Oh, you found him here in this condition! Curious!" Over his shoulder he spoke to the butler: "Mullins, you had better call the guard." He picked up the slender weapon that lay beside Samoval. "A duelling sword!" Then he looked searchingly about him until his eyes caught the gleam of the other blade near the wall, where himself he had dropped it. "Ah!" he said, and went to pick it up. "Very odd!" He looked up at the balcony, over the parapet of which his wife was leaning. "Did you see anything, my dear?" he asked, and neither Tremayne nor she detected the faint note of wicked mockery in the question.
There was a moment's pause before she answered him, faltering:
"N-no. I saw nothing." Sir Terence's straining ears caught no faintest sound of the voice that had prompted her urgently from behind the curtained windows.
"How long have you been there?" he asked her.
"A—a moment only," she replied, again after a pause. "I—I thought I heard a cry, and—and I came to see what had happened." Her voice shook with terror; but what she beheld would have been quite enough to account for that.
The guard filed in through the doors from the official quarters, a sergeant with a halbert in one hand and a lantern in the other, followed by four men, and lastly by Mullins. They halted and came to attention before Sir Terence. And almost at the same moment there was a sharp rattling knock on the wicket in the great closed gates through which Samoval had entered. Startled, but without showing any signs of it, Sir Terence bade Mullins go open, and in a general silence all waited to see who it was that came.
A tall man, bowing his shoulders to pass under the low lintel of that narrow door, stepped over the sill and into the courtyard. He wore a cocked hat, and as his great cavalry cloak fell open the yellow rays of the sergeant's lantern gleamed faintly on a British uniform. Presently, as he advanced into the quadrangle, he disclosed the aquiline features of Colquhoun Grant.
"Good-evening, General. Good-evening, Tremayne," he greeted one and the other. Then his eyes fell upon the body lying between them. "Samoval, eh? So I am not mistaken in seeking him here. I have had him under very close observation during the past day or two, and when one of my men brought me word tonight that he had left his place at Bispo on foot and alone, going along the upper Alcantara road, If had a notion that he might be coming to Monsanto and I followed. But I hardly expected to find this. How has it happened?"
"That is what I was just asking Tremayne," replied Sir Terence. "Mullins discovered him here quite by chance with the body."
"Oh!" said Grant, and turned to the captain. "Was it you then—"
"I?" interrupted Tremayne with sudden violence. He seemed now to become aware for the first time of the gravity of his position. "Certainly not, Colonel Grant. I heard a cry, and I came out to see what it was. I found Samoval here, already dead."
"I see," said Grant. "You were with Sir Terence, then, when this—"
"Nay," Sir Terence interrupted. "I have been alone since dinner, clearing up some arrears of work. I was in my study there when Mullins called me to tell me what he had discovered. It looks as if there had been a duel. Look at these swords." Then he turned to his secretary. "I think, Captain Tremayne," he said gravely, "that you had better report yourself under arrest to your colonel."
Tremayne stiffened suddenly. "Report myself under arrest?" he cried. "My God, Sir Terence, you don't believe that I—"
Sir Terence interrupted him. The voice in which he spoke was stern, almost sad; but his eyes gleamed with fiendish mockery the while. It was Polichinelle that spoke—Polichinelle that mocks what time he slays. "What were you doing here?" he asked, and it was like moving the checkmating piece.
Tremayne stood stricken and silent. He cast a desperate upward glance at the balcony overhead. The answer was so easy, but it would entail delivering Richard Butler to his death. Colonel Grant, following his upward glance, beheld Lady O'Moy for the first time. He bowed, swept off his cocked hat, and "Perhaps her ladyship," he suggested to Sir Terence, "may have seen something."
"I have already asked her," replied O'Moy.
And then she herself was feverishly assuring Colonel Grant that she had seen nothing at all, that she had heard a cry and had come out on to the balcony to see what was happening.
"And was Captain Tremayne here when you came out?" asked O'Moy, the deadly jester.
"Ye-es," she faltered. "I was only a moment or two before yourself."
"You see?" said Sir Terence heavily to Grant, and Grant, with pursed lips, nodded, his eyes moving from O'Moy to Tremayne.
"But, Sir Terence," cried Tremayne, "I give you my word—I swear to you—that I know absolutely nothing of how Samoval met his death."
"What were you doing here?" O'Moy asked again, and this time the sinister, menacing note of derision vibrated clearly in the question.
Tremayne for the first time in his honest, upright life found himself deliberately choosing between truth and falsehood. The truth would clear him—since with that truth he would produce witnesses to it, establishing his movements completely. But the truth would send a man to his death; and so for the sake of that man's life he was driven into falsehood.
"I was on my way to see you," he said.
"At midnight?" cried Sir Terence on a note of grim doubt. "To what purpose?"
"Really, Sir Terence, if my word is not sufficient, I refuse to submit to cross-examination."
Sir Terence turned to the sergeant of the guard, "How long is it since Captain Tremayne arrived?" he asked.
The sergeant stood to attention. "Captain Tremayne, sir, arrived rather more than half-an-hour ago. He came in a curricle, which is still waiting at the gates."
"Half-an-hour ago, eh?" said Sir Terence, and from Colquhoun Grant there was a sharp and audible intake of breath, expressive either of understanding, or surprise, or both. The adjutant looked at Tremayne again. "As my questions seem only to entangle you further," he said, "I think you had better do as I suggest without more protests: report yourself under arrest to Colonel Fletcher in the morning, sir."
Still Tremayne hesitated for a moment. Then drawing himself up, he saluted curtly. "Very well, sir," he replied.
"But, Terence—" cried her ladyship from above.
"Ah?" said Sir Terence, and he looked up. "You would say—?" he encouraged her, for she had broken off abruptly, checked again—although none below could guess it—by the one behind who prompted her.
"Couldn't you—couldn't you wait?" she was faltering, compelled to it by his question.
"Certainly. But for what?" quoth he, grimly sardonic.
"Wait until you have some explanation," she concluded lamely.
"That will be the business of the court-martial," he answered. "My duty is quite clear and simple; I think. You needn't wait, Captain Tremayne."
And so, without another word, Tremayne turned and departed. The soldiers, in compliance with the short command issued by Sir Terence, took up the body and bore it away to a room in the official quarters; and in their wake went Colonel Grant, after taking his leave of Sir Terence. Her ladyship vanished from the balcony and closed her windows, and finally Sir Terence, followed by Mullins, slowly, with bowed head and dragging steps, reentered the house. In the quadrangle, flooded now by the cold, white light of the moon, all was peace once more. Sir Terence turned into his study, sank into the chair by his desk and sat there awhile staring into vacancy, a diabolical smile upon his handsome, mobile mouth. Gradually the smile faded and horror overspread his face. Finally he flung himself forward and buried his head in his arms.
There were steps in the hall outside, a quick mutter of voices, and then the door of his study was flung open, and Miss Armytage came sharply to rouse him.
"Terence! What has happened to Captain Tremayne?"
He sat up stiffly, as she sped across the room to him. She was wrapped in a blue quilted bed-gown, her dark hair hung in two heavy plaits, and her bare feet had been hastily thrust into slippers.
Sir Terence looked at her with eyes that were dull and heavy and that yet seemed to search her white, startled face.
She set a hand on his shoulder, and looked down into his ravaged, haggard countenance. He seemed suddenly to have been stricken into an old man.
"Mullins has just told me that Captain Tremayne has been ordered under arrest for—for killing Count Samoval. Is it true? Is it true?" she demanded wildly.
"It is true," he answered her, and there was a heavy, sneering curl on his upper lip.
"But—" She stopped, and put a hand to her throat; she looked as if she would stifle. She sank to her knees beside him, and caught his hand in both her own that were trembling. "Oh, you can't believe it! Captain Tremayne is not the man to do a murder."
"The evidence points to a duel," he answered dully.
"A duel!" She looked at him, and then, remembering what had passed that morning between Tremayne and Samoval, remembering, too, Lord Wellington's edict, "Oh, God!" she gasped. "Why did you let them take him?"
"They didn't take him. I ordered him under arrest. He will report himself to Colonel Fletcher in the morning."
"You ordered him? You! You, his friend!" Anger, scorn, reproach and sorrow all blending in her voice bore him a clear message.
He looked down at her most closely, and gradually compassion crept into his face. He set his hands on her shoulders, she suffering it passively, insensibly.
"You care for him, Sylvia?" he said, between inquiry and wonder. "Well, well! We are both fools together, child. The man is a dastard, a blackguard, a Judas, to be repaid with betrayal for betrayal. Forget him, girl. Believe me, he isn't worth a thought."
"Terence!" She looked in her turn into that distorted face. "Are you mad?" she asked him.
"Very nearly," he answered, with a laugh that was horrible to hear.
She drew back and away from him, bewildered and horrified. Slowly she rose to her feet. She controlled with difficulty the deep emotion swaying her. "Tell me," she said slowly, speaking with obvious effort, "what will they do to Captain Tremayne?"
"What will they do to him?" He looked at her. He was smiling. "They will shoot him, of course."
"And you wish it!" she denounced him in a whisper of horror.
"Above all things," he answered. "A more poetic justice never overtook a blackguard."
"Why do you call him that? What do you mean?"
"I will tell you—afterwards, after they have shot him; unless the truth comes out before."
"What truth do you mean? The truth of how Samoval came by his death?"
"Oh, no. That matter is quite clear, the evidence complete. I mean—oh, I will tell you afterwards what I mean. It may help you to bear your trouble, thankfully."
She approached him again. "Won't you tell me now?" she begged him.
"No," he answered, rising, and speaking with finality. "Afterwards if necessary, afterwards. And now get back to bed, child, and forget the fellow. I swear to you that he isn't worth a thought. Later I shall hope to prove it to you."
"That you never will," she told him fiercely.
He laughed, and again his laugh was harsh and terrible in its bitter mockery. "Yet another trusting fool," he cried. "The world is full of them—it is made up of them, with just a sprinkling of knaves to batten on their folly. Go to bed, Sylvia, and pray for understanding of men. It is a possession beyond riches."
"I think you are more in need of it than I am," she told him, standing by the door.
"Of course you do. You trust, which is why you are a fool. Trust," he said, speaking the very language of Polichinelle, "is the livery of fools."
She went without answering him and toiled upstairs with dragging feet. She paused a moment in the corridor above, outside Una's door. She was in such need of communion with some one that for a moment she thought of going in. But she knew beforehand the greeting that would await her; the empty platitudes, the obvious small change of verbiage which her ladyship would dole out. The very thought of it restrained her, and so she passed on to her own room and a sleepless night in which to piece together the puzzle which the situation offered her, the amazing enigma of Sir Terence's seeming access of insanity.
And the only conclusion that she reached was that intertwined with the death of Samoval there was some other circumstance which had aroused in the adjutant an unreasoning hatred of his friend, converting him into Tremayne's bitterest enemy, intent—as he had confessed—upon seeing him shot for that night's work. And because she knew them both for men of honour above all, the enigma was immeasurably deepened.
Had she but obeyed the transient impulse to seek Lady O'Moy she might have discovered all the truth at once. For she would have come upon her ladyship in a frame of mind almost as distraught as her own; and she might—had she penetrated to the dressing-room where her ladyship was—have come upon Richard Butler at the same time.
Now, in view of what had happened, her ladyship, ever impulsive, was all for going there and then to her husband to confess the whole truth, without pausing to reflect upon the consequences to others than Ned Tremayne. As you know, it was beyond her to see a thing from two points of view at one and the same time. It was also beyond her brother—the failing, as I think I have told you, was a family one—and her brother saw this matter only from the point of view of his own safety.
"A single word to Terence," he had told her, putting his back to the door of the dressing-room to bar her intended egress, "and you realise that it will be a court-martial and a firing party for me."
That warning effectively checked her. Yet certain stirrings of conscience made her think of the man who had imperilled himself for her sake and her brother's.
"But, Dick, what is to become of Ned?" she had asked him.
"Oh, Ned will be all right. What is the evidence against him after all? Men are not shot for things they haven't done. Justice will out, you know. Leave Ned to shift for himself for the present. Anyhow his danger isn't grave, nor is it immediate, and mine is."