Major Swan may or may not have been a gifted soldier. History is silent on the point. But the surviving records of the court-martial with which we are concerned go to show that he was certainly not a gifted speaker. His vocabulary was limited, his rhetoric clumsy, and Major Carruthers denounces his delivery as halting, his very voice dull and monotonous; also his manner, reflecting his mind on this occasion, appears to have been perfectly unimpassioned. He had been saddled with a duty and he must perform it. He would do so conscientiously to the best of his ability, for he seems to have been a conscientious man; but he could not be expected to put his heart into the matter, since he was not inflamed by any zeal born of conviction, nor had he any of the incentives of a civil advocate to sway his audience by all possible means.

Nevertheless the facts themselves, properly marshalled, made up a dangerous case against the prisoner. Major Swan began by dwelling upon the evidence of motive: there had been a quarrel, or the beginnings of a quarrel, between the deceased and the accused; the deceased had shown himself affronted, and had been heard quite unequivocally to say that the matter could not be left at the stage at which it was interrupted at Sir Terence’s luncheon-table. Major Swan dwelt for a moment upon the grounds of the quarrel. They were by no means discreditable to the accused, but it was singularly unfortunate, ironical almost, that he should have involved himself in a duel as a result of his out-spoken defence of a wise measure which made duelling in the British army a capital offence. With that, however, he did not think that the court was immediately concerned. By the duel itself the accused had offended against the recent enactment, and, moreover, the irregular manner in which the encounter had been conducted, without seconds or witnesses, rendered the accused answerable to a charge of murder, if it could be proved that he actually did engage and kill the deceased. Major Swan thought this could be proved.

The irregularity of the meeting must be assigned to the enactment against which it offended. A matter which, under other circumstances, considering the good character borne by Captain Tremayne, would have been quite incomprehensible, was, he thought, under existing circumstances, perfectly clear. Because Captain Tremayne could not have found any friend to act for him, he was forced to forgo witnesses to the encounter, and because of the consequences to himself of the encounter’s becoming known, he was forced to contrive that it should be held in secret. They knew, from the evidence of Colonel Grant and Major Carruthers, that the meeting was desired by Count Samoval, and they were therefore entitled to assume that, recognising the conditions arising out of the recent enactment, the deceased had consented that the meeting should take place in this irregular fashion, since otherwise it could not have been held at all, and he would have been compelled to forgo the satisfaction he desired.

He passed to the consideration of the locality chosen, and there he confessed that he was confronted with a mystery. Yet the mystery would have been no less in the case of any other opponent than Captain Tremayne, since it was clear beyond all doubt that a duel had been fought and Count Samoval killed, and no less clear that it was a premeditated combat, and that the deceased had gone to Monsanto expressly to engage in it, since the duelling swords found had been identified as his property and must have been carried by him to the encounter.

The mystery, he repeated, would have been no less in the case of any other opponent than Captain Tremayne; indeed, in the case of some other opponent it might even have been deeper. It must be remembered, after all, that the place was one to which the accused had free access at all hours.

And it was clearly proven that he availed himself of that access on the night in question. Evidence had been placed before the court showing that he had come to Monsanto in a curricle at twenty minutes to twelve at the latest, and there was abundant evidence to show that he was found kneeling beside the body of the dead man at ten minutes past twelve—the body being quite warm at the time and the breath hardly out of it, proving that he had fallen but an instant before the arrival of Mullins and the other witnesses who had testified.

Unless Captain Tremayne could account to the satisfaction of the court for the manner in which he had spent that half-hour, Major Swan did not perceive, when all the facts of motive and circumstance were considered, what conclusion the court could reach other than that Captain Tremayne was guilty of the death of Count Jeronymo de Samoval in a single combat fought under clandestine and irregular conditions, transforming the deed into technical murder.

Upon that conclusion the major sat down to mop a brow that was perspiring freely. From Lady O’Moy in the background came faintly, the sound of a half-suppressed moan. Terrified, she clutched the hand of Miss Armytage,—and found that hand to lie like a thing of ice in her own, yet she suspected nothing of the deep agitation under her companion’s outward appearance of calm.

Captain Tremayne rose slowly to address the court in reply to the prosecution. As he faced his, judges now he met the smouldering eyes of Sir Terence considering him with such malevolence that he was shocked and bewildered. Was he prejudged already, and by his best friend? If so, what must be the attitude of the others? But the kindly, florid countenance of the president was friendly and encouraging; there was eager anxiety for him in the gaze of his friend Caruthers. He glanced at Lord Wellington sitting at the table’s end sternly inscrutable, a mere spectator, yet one whose habit of command gave him an air that was authoritative and judicial.

At length he began to speak. He had considered his defence, and he had based it mainly upon a falsehood—since the strict truth must have proved ruinous to Richard Butler.

“My answer, gentlemen,” he said, “will be a very brief one as brief, indeed, as the prosecution merits—for I entertain the hope that no member of this court is satisfied that the case made out against me is by any means complete.” He spoke easily, fluently, and calmly: a man supremely self-controlled. “It amounts, indeed, to throwing upon me the onus of proving myself innocent, and that is a burden which no British laws, civil or miliary, would ever commit the injustice of imposing upon an accused.

“That certain words of disagreement passed between Count Samoval and myself on the eve of the affair in which the Count met his death, as you have heard from various witnesses, I at once and freely admitted. Thereby I saved the court time and trouble, and some other witnesses who might have been caused the distress of having to testify against me. But that the dispute ever had any sequel, that the further subsequent discussion threatened at the time by Count Samoval ever took place, I most solemnly deny. From the moment that I left Sir Terence’s luncheon-table on the Saturday I never set eyes on Count Samoval again until I discovered him dead or dying in the garden here at Monsanto on Sunday night. I can call no witnesses to support me in this, because it is not a matter susceptible to proof by evidence. Nor have I troubled to call the only witnesses I might have called—witnesses as to my character and my regard for discipline—who might have testified that any such encounter as that of which I am accused would be utterly foreign to my nature. There are officers in plenty in his Majesty’s service who could bear witness that the practice of duelling is one that I hold in the utmost abhorrence, since I have frequently avowed it, and since in all my life I have never fought a single duel. My service in his Majesty’s army has happily afforded me the means of dispensing with any such proof of courage as the duel is supposed to give. I say I might have called witnesses to that fact and I have not done so. This is because, fortunately, there are several among the members of this court to whom I have been known for many years, and who can themselves, when this court comes to consider its finding, support my present assertion.

“Let me ask you, then, gentlemen, whether it is conceivable that, entertaining such feelings as these towards single combat, I should have been led to depart from them under circumstances that might very well have afforded me an ample shield for refusing satisfaction to a too eager and pressing adversary? It was precisely because I hold the duel in such contempt that I spoke with such asperity to the deceased when he pronounced Lord Wellington’s enactment a degrading one to men of birth. The very sentiments which I then expressed proclaimed my antipathy to the practice. How, then, should I have committed the inconsistency of accepting a challenge upon such grounds from Count Samoval? There is even more irony than Major Swan supposes in a situation which himself has called ironical.

“So much, then, for the motives that are alleged to have actuated me. I hope you will conclude that I have answered the prosecution upon that matter.

“Coming to the question of fact, I cannot find that there is anything to answer, for nothing has been proved against me. True, it has been proved that I arrived at Monsanto at half-past eleven or twenty minutes to twelve on the night of the 28th, and it has been further proved that half-an-hour later I was discovered kneeling beside the dead body of Count Samoval. But to say that this proves that I killed him is more, I think, if I understood him correctly, than Major Swan himself dares to assert.

“Major Swan is quite satisfied that Samoval came to Monsanto for the purpose of fighting a duel that had been prearranged; and I admit that the two swords found, which have been proven the property of Count Samoval, and which, therefore, he must have brought with him, are a prima-facie proof of such a contention. But if we assume, gentlemen, that I had accepted a challenge from the Count, let me ask you, can you think of any place less likely to have been appointed or agreed to by me for the encounter than the garden of the adjutant-general’s quarters? Secrecy is urged as the reason for the irregularity of the meeting. What secrecy was ensured in such a place, where interruption and discovery might come at any moment, although the duel was held at midnight? And what secrecy did I observe in my movements, considering that I drove openly to Monsanto in a curricle, which I left standing at the gates in full view of the guard, to await my return? Should I have acted thus if I had been upon such an errand as is alleged? Common sense, I think, should straightway acquit me on the grounds of the locality alone, and I cannot think that it should even be necessary for me, so as to complete my answer to an accusation entirely without support in fact or in logic, to account for my presence at Monsanto and my movements during the half-hour in question.”

He paused. So far his clear reasoning had held and impressed the court. This he saw plainly written on the faces of all—with one single exception. Sir Terence alone the one man from whom he might have looked for the greatest relief—watched him ever malevolently, sardonically, with curling lip. It gave him pause now that he stood upon the threshold of falsehood; and because of that inexplicable but obvious hostility, that attitude of expectancy to ensnare and destroy him, Captain Tremayne hesitated to step from the solid ground of reason, upon which he had confidently walked thus far, on to the uncertain bogland of mendacity.

“I cannot think,” he said, “that the court should consider it necessary for me to advance an alibi, to make a statement in proof of my innocence where I contend that no proof has been offered of my guilt.”

“I think it will be better, sir, in your own interests, so that you may be the more completely cleared,” the president replied, and so compelled him to continue.

“There was,” he resumed, then, “a certain matter connected with the Commissary-General’s department which was of the greatest urgency, yet which, under stress of work, had been postponed until the morrow. It was concerned with some tents for General Picton’s division at Celorico. It occurred to me that night that it would be better dealt with at once, so that the documents relating to it could go forward early on Monday morning to the Commissary-General. Accordingly, I returned to Monsanto, entered the official quarters, and was engaged upon that task when a cry from the garden reached my ears. That cry in the dead of night was sufficiently alarming, and I ran out at once to see what might have occasioned it. I found Count Samoval either just dead or just dying, and I had scarcely made the discovery when Mullins, the butler, came out of the residential wing, as he has testified.

“That, sirs, is all that I know of the death of Count Samoval, and I will conclude with my solemn affirmation, on my honour as a soldier, that I am as innocent of having procured it as I am ignorant of how it came about.

“I leave myself with confidence in your hands, gentlemen,” he ended, and resumed his seat.

That he had favourably impressed the court was clear. Miss Armytage whispered it to Lady O’Moy, exultation quivering in her whisper.

“He is safe!” And she added: “He was magnificent.”

Lady O’Moy pressed her hand in return. “Thank God! Oh, thank God!” she murmured under her breath.

“I do,” said Miss Armytage.

There was silence, broken only by the rustle of the president’s notes as he briefly looked them over as a preliminary to addressing the court. And then suddenly, grating harshly upon that silence, came the voice of O’Moy.

“Might I suggest, Sir Harry, that before we hear you three of the witnesses be recalled? They are Sergeant Flynn, Private Bates and Mullins.”

The president looked round in surprise, and Carruthers took advantage of the pause to interpose an objection.

“Is such a course regular, Sir Harry?” He too had become conscious at last of Sir Terence’s relentless hostility to the accused. “The court has been given an opportunity of examining those witnesses, the accused has declined to call any on his own behalf, and the prosecution has already closed its case.”

Sir Harry considered a moment. He had never been very clear upon matters of procedure, which he looked upon as none of a soldier’s real business. Instinctively in this difficulty he looked at Lord Wellington as if for guidance; but his lordship’s face told him absolutely nothing, the Commander-in-Chief remaining an impassive spectator. Then, whilst the president coughed and pondered, Major Swan came to the rescue.

“The court,” said the judge-advocate, “is entitled at any time before the finding to call or recall any witnesses, provided that the prisoner is afforded an opportunity of answering anything further that may be elicited in re-examination of these witnesses.”

“That is the rule,” said Sir Terence, “and rightly so, for, as in the present instance, the prisoner’s own statement may make it necessary.”

The president gave way, thereby renewing Miss Armytage’s terrors and shaking at last even the prisoner’s calm.

Sergeant Flynn was the first of the witnesses recalled at Sir Terence’s request, and it was Sir Terence who took up his re-examination.

“You said, I think, that you were standing in the guardroom doorway when Captain Tremayne passed you at twenty minutes to twelve on the night of the 28th?”

“Yes, sir. I had turned out upon hearing the curricle draw up. I had come to see who it was.”

“Naturally. Well, now, did you observe which way Captain Tremayne went?—whether he went along the passage leading to the garden or up the stairs to the offices?”

The sergeant considered for a moment, and Captain Tremayne became conscious for the first time that morning that his pulses were throbbing. At last his dreadful suspense came to an end.

“No, sir. Captain Tremayne turned the corner, and was out of my sight, seeing that I didn’t go beyond the guardroom doorway.”

Sir Terence’s lips parted with a snap of impatience. “But you must have heard,” he insisted. “You must have heard his steps—whether they went upstairs or straight on.”

“I am afraid I didn’t take notice, sir.”

“But even without taking notice it seems impossible that you should not have heard the direction of his steps. Steps going up stairs sound quite differently from steps walking along the level. Try to think.”

The sergeant considered again. But the president interposed. The testiness which Sir Terence had been at no pains to conceal annoyed Sir Harry, and this insistence offended his sense of fair play.

“The witness has already said that the didn’t take notice. I am afraid it can serve no good purpose to compel him to strain his memory. The court could hardly rely upon his answer after what he has said already.”

“Very well,” said Sir Terence curtly. “We will pass on. After the body of Count Samoval had been removed from the courtyard, did Mullins, my butler, come to you?”

“Yes, Sir Terence.”

“What was his message? Please tell the court.”

“He brought me a letter with instructions that it was to be forwarded first thing in the morning to the Commissary-General’s office.”

“Did he make any statement beyond that when he delivered that letter?”

The sergeant pondered a moment. “Only that he had been bringing it when he found Count Samoval’s body.”

“That is all I wish to ask, Sir Harry,” O’Moy intimated, and looked round at his fellow-members of that court as if to inquire whether they had drawn any inference from the sergeant’s statements.

“Have you any questions to ask the witness, Captain Tremayne?” the president inquired.

“None, sir,” replied the prisoner.

Came Private Bates next, and Sir Terence proceeded to question him..

“You said in your evidence that Captain Tremayne arrived at Monsanto between half-past eleven and twenty minutes to twelve?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You told us, I think, that you determined this by the fact that you came on duty at eleven o’clock, and that it would be half-an-hour or a little more after that when Captain Tremayne arrived?”

“Yes, sir.”

“That is quite in agreement with the evidence of your sergeant. Now tell the court where you were during the half-hour that followed—until you heard the guard being turned out by the sergeant.”

“Pacing in front of quarters, sir.”

“Did you notice the windows of the building at all during that time?”

“I can’t say that I did, sir.”

“Why not?”

“Why not?” echoed the private.

“Yes—why not? Don’t repeat my words. How did it happen that you didn’t notice the windows?”

“Because they were in darkness, sir.”

O’Moy’s eyes gleamed. “All of them?”

“Certainly, sir, all of them.”

“You are quite certain of that?”

“Oh, quite certain, sir. If a light had shown from one of them I couldn’t have failed to notice it.”

“That will do.”

“Captain Tremayne—” began the president.

“I have no questions for the witness, sir,” Tremayne announced.

Sir Harry’s face expressed surprise. “After the statement he has just made?” he exclaimed, and thereupon he again invited the prisoner, in a voice that was as grave as his countenance, to cross-examine he witness; he did more than invite—he seemed almost to plead. But Tremayne, preserving by a miracle his outward calm, for all that inwardly he was filled with despair and chagrin to see what a pit he had dug for himself by his falsehood, declined to ask any questions.

Private Bates retired, and Mullins was recalled. A gloom seemed to have settled now upon the court. A moment ago their way had seemed fairly clear to its members, and they had been inwardly congratulating themselves that they were relieved from the grim necessity of passing sentence upon a brother officer esteemed by all who knew him. But now a subtle change had crept in. The statement drawn by Sir Terence from the sentry appeared flatly to contradict Captain Tremayne’s own account of his movements on the night in question.

“You told the court,” O’Moy addressed the witness Mullins, consulting his notes as he did so, “that on the night on which Count Samoval met his death, I sent you at ten minutes past twelve to take a letter to the sergeant of the guard, an urgent letter which was to be forwarded to its destination first thing on the following morning. And it was in fact in the course of going upon this errand that you discovered the prisoner kneeling beside the body of Count Samoval. This is correct, is it not?”

“It is, sir.”

“Will you now inform the court to whom that letter was addressed?”

“It was addressed to the Commissary-General.”

“You read the superscription?”

“I am not sure whether I did that, but I clearly remember, sir, that you told me at the time that it was for the Commissary-General.”

Sir Terence signified that he had no more to ask, and again the president invited the prisoner to question the witness, to receive again the prisoner’s unvarying refusal.

And now O’Moy rose in his place to announce that he had himself a further statement to, make to the court, a statement which he had not conceived necessary until he had heard the prisoner’s account of his movements during the half-hour he had spent at Monsanto on the night of the duel.

“You have heard from Sergeant Flynn and my butler Mullins that the letter carried from me by the latter to the former on the night of the 28th was a letter for the Commissary-General of an urgent character, to be forwarded first thing in the morning. If the prisoner insists upon it, the Commissary-General himself may be brought before this court to confirm my assertion that that communication concerned a complaint from headquarters on the subject of the tents supplied to the third division Sir Thomas Picton’s—at Celorico. The documents concerning that complaint—that is to say, the documents upon which we are to presume that the prisoner was at work during tine half-hour in question—were at the time in my possession in my own private study and in another wing of the building altogether.”

Sir Terence sat down amid a rustling stir that ran through the court, but was instantly summoned to his feet again by the president.

“A moment, Sir Terence. The prisoner will no doubt desire to question you on that statement.” And he looked with serious eyes at Captain Tremayne.

“I have no questions for Sir Terence, sir,” was his answer.

Indeed, what question could he have asked? The falsehoods he had uttered had woven themselves into a rope about his neck, and he stood before his brother officers now in an agony of shame, a man discredited, as he believed.

“But no doubt you will desire the presence of the Commissary-General?” This was from Colonel Fletcher his own colonel and a man who esteemed him—and it was asked in accents that were pleadingly insistent.

“What purpose could it serve, sir? Sir Terence’s words are partly confirmed by the evidence he has just elicited from Sergeant Flynn and his butler Mullins. Since he spent the night writing a letter to the Commissary, it is not to be doubted that the subject would be such as he states, since from my own knowledge it was the most urgent matter in our hands. And, naturally, he would not have written without having the documents at his side. To summon the Commissary-General would be unnecessarily to waste the time of the court. It follows that I must have been mistaken, and this I admit.”

“But how could you be mistaken?” broke from the president.

“I realise your difficulty in crediting, it. But there it is. Mistaken I was.”

“Very well, sir.” Sir Harry paused and then added “The court will be glad to hear you in answer to the further evidence adduced to refute your statement in your own defence.”

“I have nothing further to say, sir,” was Tremayne’s answer.

“Nothing further?” The president seemed aghast. “Nothing, sir.”

And now Colonel Fletcher leaned forward to exhort him. “Captain Tremayne,” he said, “let me beg you to realise the serious position in which you are placed.”

“I assure you, sir, that I realise it fully.”

“Do you realise that the statements you have made to account for your movements during the half-hour that you were at Monsanto have been disproved? You have heard Private Bates’s evidence to the effect that at the time when you say you were at work in the offices, those offices remained in darkness. And you have heard Sir Terence’s statement that the documents upon which you claim to have been at work were at the time in his own hands. Do you realise what inference the court will be compelled to draw from this?”

“The court must draw whatever inference it pleases,” answered the captain without heat.

Sir Terence stirred. “Captain Tremayne,” said he, “I wish to add my own exhortation to that of your colonel! Your position has become extremely perilous. If you are concealing anything that may extricate you from it, let me enjoin you to take the court frankly and fully into your confidence.”

The words in themselves were kindly, but through them ran a note of bitterness, of cruel derision, that was faintly perceptible to Tremayne and to one or two others.

Lord Wellington’s piercing eyes looked a moment at O’Moy, then turned upon the prisoner. Suddenly he spoke, his voice as calm and level as his glance.

“Captain Tremayne—if the president will permit me to address you in the interests of truth and justice—you bear, to my knowledge, the reputation of an upright, honourable man. You are a man so unaccustomed to falsehood that when you adventure upon it, as you have obviously just done, your performance is a clumsy one, its faults easily distinguished. That you are concealing something the court must have perceived. If you are not concealing something other than that Count Samoval fell by your hand, let me enjoin you to speak out. If you are shielding any one—perhaps the real perpetrator of this deed—let me assure you that your honour as a soldier demands, in the interests of truth and justice, that you should not continue silent.”

Tremayne looked into the stern face of the great soldier, and his glance fell away. He made a little gesture of helplessness, then drew himself stiffly up.

“I have nothing more to say.”

“Then, Captain Tremayne,” said the president, “the court will pass to the consideration of its finding. And if you cannot account for the half-hour that you spent at Monsanto while Count Samoval was meeting his death, I am afraid that, in view of all the other evidences against you, your position is likely to be one of extremest gravity.

“For the last time, sir, before I order your removal, let me add my own to the exhortations already addressed to you, that you should speak. If still you elect to remain silent, the court, I fear, will be unable to draw any conclusion but one from your attitude.”

For a long moment Captain Tremayne stood there in tense, expectant silence. Yet he was not considering; he was waiting. Lady O’Moy he knew to be in court, behind him. She had heard, even as he had heard, that his fate hung perhaps upon whether Richard Butler’s presence were to be betrayed or not. Not for him to break faith with her. Let her decide. And, awaiting that decision, he stood there, silent, like a man considering. And then, because no woman’s voice broke the silence to proclaim at once his innocence, and the alibi that must ensure his acquittal, he spoke at last.

“I thank you, sir. Indeed, I am very grateful to the court for the consideration it has shown me. I appreciate it deeply, but I have nothing more to say.”

And then, when all seemed lost, a woman’s voice rang out at last:

“But I have!”

Its sharp, almost strident note acted like an electric discharge upon the court; but no member of the assembly was more deeply stricken than Captain Tremayne. For though the voice was a woman’s, yet it was not the voice for which he had been waiting.

In his excitement he turned, to see Miss Armytage standing there, straight and stiff, her white face stamped with purpose; and beside her, still seated, clutching her arm in an agony of fear, Lady O’Moy, murmuring for all to hear her:

“No, no, Sylvia. Be silent, for God’s sake!”

But Sylvia had risen to speak, and speak she did, and though the words she uttered were such as a virgin might wish to whisper with veiled countenance and averted glance, yet her utterance of them was bold to the point of defiance.

“I can tell you why Captain Tremayne is silent. I can tell you whom he shields.”

“Oh God!” gasped Lady O’Moy, wondering through her anguish how Sylvia could have become possessed of her secret.

“Miss Armytage—I implore you!” cried Tremayne, forgetting where he stood, his voice shaking at last, his hand flung out to silence her.

And then the heavy voice of O’Moy crashed in:

“Let her speak. Let us have the truth—the truth!” And he smote the table with his clenched fist.

“And you shall have it,” answered Miss Armytage. “Captain Tremayne keeps silent to shield a woman—his mistress.”

Sir Terence sucked in his breath with a whistling sound. Lady O’Moy desisted from her attempts to check the speaker and fell to staring at her in stony astonishment, whilst Tremayne was too overcome by the same emotion to think of interrupting. The others preserved a watchful, unbroken silence.

“Captain Tremayne spent that half-hour at Monsanto in her room. He was with her when he heard the cry that took him to the window. Thence he saw the body in the courtyard, and in alarm went down at once—without considering the consequences to the woman. But because he has considered them since, he now keeps silent.”

“Sir, sir,” Captain Tremayne turned in wild appeal to the president, “this is not true.” He conceived at once the terrible mistake that Miss Armytage had made. She must have seen him climb down from Lady O’Moy’s balcony, and she had come to the only possible, horrible conclusion. “This lady is mistaken, I am ready to—”

“A moment, sir. You are interrupting,” the president rebuked.

And then the voice of O’Moy on the note of terrible triumph sounded again like a trumpet through the long room.

“Ah, but it is the truth at last. We have it now. Her name! Her name!” he shouted. “Who was this wanton?”

Miss Armytage’s answer was as a bludgeon-stroke to his ferocious exultation.

“Myself. Captain Tremayne was with me.”

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