“A queer, mysterious business this death of Samoval,” said Colonel Grant.

“So I was beginning to perceive,” Wellington agreed, his brow dark.

They were alone together in the quadrangle under the trellis, through which the sun, already high, was dappling the table at which his lordship sat.

“It would be easier to read if it were not for the duelling swords. Those and the nature of Samoval’s wound certainly point unanswerably to a duel. Otherwise there would be considerable evidence that Samoval was a spy caught in the act and dealt with out of hand as he deserved.”

“How? Count Samoval a spy?”

“In the French interest,” answered the colonel without emotion, “acting upon the instructions of the Souza faction, whose tool he had become.” And Colonel Grant proceeded to relate precisely what he knew of Samoval.

Lord Wellington sat awhile in silence, cogitating. Then he rose, and his piercing eyes looked up at the colonel, who stood a good head taller than himself.

“Is this the evidence of which you spoke?”

“By no means,” was the answer. “The evidence I have secured is much more palpable. I have it here.” He produced a little wallet of red morocco bearing the initial “S” surmounted by a coronet. Opening it, he selected from it some papers, speaking the while. “I thought it as well before I left last night to make an examination of the body. This is what I found, and it contains, among other lesser documents, these to which I would draw your lordship’s attention. First this.” And he placed in Lord Wellington’s hand a holograph note from the Prince of Esslingen introducing the bearer, M. de la Fleche, his confidential agent, who would consult with the Count, and thanking the Count for the valuable information already received from him.

His lordship sat down again to read the letter. “It is a full confirmation of what you have told me,” he said calmly.

“Then this,” said Colonel Grant, and he placed upon the table a note in French of the approximate number and disposition of the British troops in Portugal at the time. “The handwriting is Samoval’s own, as those who know it will have no difficulty in discerning. And now this, sir.” He unfolded a small sketch map, bearing the title also in French: Probable position and extent of the fortifications north of Lisbon.

“The notes at the foot,” he added, “are in cipher, and it is the ordinary cipher employed by the French, which in itself proves how deeply Samoval was involved. Here is a translation of it.” And he placed before his chief a sheet of paper on which Lord Wellington read:

“This is based upon my own personal knowledge of the country, odd scraps of information received from time to time, and my personal verification of the roads closed to traffic in that region. It is intended merely as a guide to the actual locale of the fortifications, an exact plan of which I hope shortly to obtain.”

His lordship considered it very attentively, but without betraying the least discomposure.

“For a man working upon such slight data as he himself confesses,” was the quiet comment, “he is damnably accurate. It is as well, I think, that this did not reach Marshal Massena.”

“My own assumption is that he put off sending it, intending to replace it by the actual plan—which he here confesses to the expectation of obtaining shortly.”

“I think he died at the right moment. Anything else?”

“Indeed,” said Colonel Grant, “I have kept the best for the last.” And unfolding yet another document, he placed it in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief. It was Lord Liverpool’s note of the troops to be embarked for Lisbon in June and July—the note abstracted from the dispatch carried by Captain Garfield.

His lordship’s lips tightened as he considered it. “His death was timely indeed, damned timely; and the man who killed him deserves to be mentioned in dispatches. Nothing else, I suppose?”

“The rest is of little consequence, sir.”

“Very well.” He rose. “You will leave these with me, and the wallet as well, if you please. I am on my way to confer with the members of the Council of Regency, and I am glad to go armed with so stout a weapon as this. Whatever may be the ultimate finding of the court-martial, the present assumption must be that Samoval met the death of a spy caught in the act, as you suggested. That is the only conclusion the Portuguese Government can draw when I lay these papers before it. They will effectively silence all protests.”

“Shall I tell O’Moy?” inquired the colonel.

“Oh, certainly,” answered his lordship, instantly to change his mind. “Stay!” He considered, his chin in his hand, his eyes dreamy. “Better not, perhaps. Better not tell anybody. Let us keep this to ourselves for the present. It has no direct bearing on the matter to be tried. By the way, when does the court-martial sit?”

“I have just heard that Marshal Beresford has ordered it to sit on Thursday here at Monsanto.”

His lordship considered. “Perhaps I shall be present. I may be at Torres Vedras until then. It is a very odd affair. What is your own impression of it, Grant? Have you formed any?”

Grant smiled darkly. “I have been piecing things together. The result is rather curious, and still very mystifying, still leaving a deal to be explained, and somehow this wallet doesn’t fit into the scheme at all.”

“You shall tell me about it as we ride into Lisbon. I want you to come with me. Lady O’Moy must forgive me if I take French leave, since she is nowhere to be found.”

The truth was, that her ladyship had purposely gone into hiding, after the fashion of suffering animals that are denied expression of their pain. She had gone off with her load of sorrow and anxiety into the thicket on the flank of Monsanto, and there Sylvia found her presently, dejectedly seated by a spring on a bank that was thick with flowering violets. Her ladyship was in tears, her mind swollen to bursting-point by the secret which it sought to contain but felt itself certainly unable to contain much longer.

“Why, Una dear,” cried Miss Armytage, kneeling beside her and putting a motherly arm about that full-grown child, “what is this?”

Her ladyship wept copiously, the springs of her grief gushing forth in response to that sympathetic touch.

“Oh, my dear, I am so distressed. I shall go mad, I think. I am sure I have never deserved all this trouble. I have always been considerate of others. You know I wouldn’t give pain to any one. And—and Dick has always been so thoughtless.”

“Dick?” said Miss Armytage, and there was less sympathy in her voice. “It is Dick you are thinking about at present?”

“Of course. All this trouble has come through Dick. I mean,” she recovered, “that all my troubles began with this affair of Dick’s. And now there is Ned under arrest and to be court-martialled.”

“But what has Captain Tremayne to do with Dick?”

“Nothing, of course,” her ladyship agreed, with more than usual self-restraint. “But it’s one trouble on another. Oh, it’s more than I can bear.”

“I know, my dear, I know,” Miss Armytage said soothingly, and her own voice was not so steady.

“You don’t know! How can you? It isn’t your brother or your friend. It isn’t as if you cared very much for either of them. If you did, if you loved Dick or Ned, you might realise what I am suffering.”

Miss Armytage’s eyes looked straight ahead into the thick green foliage, and there was an odd smile, half wistful, half scornful, on her lips.

“Yet I have done what I could,” she said presently. “I have spoken to Lord Wellington about them both.”

Lady O’Moy checked her tears to look at her companion, and there was dread in her eyes.

“You have spoken to Lord Wellington?”

“Yes. The opportunity came, and I took it.”

“And whatever did you tell him?” She was all a-tremble now, as she clutched Miss Armytage’s hand.

Miss Armytage related what had passed; how she had explained the true facts of Dick’s case to his lordship; how she had protested her faith that Tremayne was incapable of lying, and that if he said he had not killed Samoval it was certain that he had not done so; and, finally, how his lordship had promised to bear both cases in his mind.

“That doesn’t seem very much,” her ladyship complained.

“But he said that he would never allow a British officer to be made a scapegoat, and that if things proved to be as I stated them he would see that the worst that happened to Dick would be his dismissal from the army. He asked me to let him know immediately if Dick were found.”

More than ever was her ladyship on the very edge of confiding. A chance word might have broken down the last barrier of her will. But that word was not spoken, and so she was given the opportunity of first consulting her brother.

He laughed when he heard the story.

“A trap to take me, that’s all,” he pronounced it. “My dear girl, that stiff-necked martinet knows nothing of forgiveness for a military offence. Discipline is the god at whose shrine he worships.” And he afforded her anecdotes to illustrate and confirm his assertion of Lord Wellington’s ruthlessness. “I tell you,” he concluded, “it’s nothing but a trap to catch me. And if you had been fool enough to yield, and to have blabbed of my presence to Sylvia, you would have had it proved to you.”

She was terrified and of course convinced, for she was easy of conviction, believing always the last person to whom she spoke. She sat down on one of the boxes that furnished that cheerless refuge of Mr. Butler’s.

“Then what’s to become of Ned?” she cried. “Oh, I had hoped that we had found a way out at last.”

He raised himself on his elbow on the camp-bed they had fitted up for him.

“Be easy now,” he bade her impatiently. “They can’t do anything to Ned until they find him guilty; and how are they going to find him guilty when he’s innocent?”

“Yes; but the appearances!”

“Fiddlesticks!” he answered her—and the expression chosen was a mere concession to her sex, and not at all what Mr. Butler intended. “Appearances can’t establish guilt. Do be sensible, and remember that they will have to prove that he killed Samoval. And you can’t prove a thing to be what it isn’t. You can’t!”

“Are you sure?”

“Certain sure,” he replied with emphasis.

“Do you know that I shall have to give evidence before the court?” she announced resentfully.

It was an announcement that gave him pause. Thoughtfully he stroked his abominable tuft of red beard. Then he dismissed the matter with a shrug and a smile.

“Well, and what of it?” he cried. “They are not likely to bully you or cross-examine you. Just tell them what you saw from the balcony. Indeed you can’t very well say anything else, or they will see that you are lying, and then heaven alone knows what may happen to you, as well as to me.”

She got up in a pet. “You’re callous, Dick—callous!” she told him. “Oh, I wish you had never come to me for shelter.”

He looked at her and sneered. “That’s a matter you can soon mend,” he told her. “Call up Terence and the others and have me shot. I promise I shall make no resistance. You see, I’m not able to resist even if I would.”

“Oh, how can you think it?” She was indignant.

“Well, what is a poor devil to think? You blow hot and cold all in a breath. I’m sick and ill and feverish,” he continued with self-pity, “and now even you find me a trouble. I wish to God they’d shoot me and make an end. I’m sure it would be best for everybody.”

And now she was on her knees beside him, soothing him; protesting that he had misunderstood her; that she had meant—oh, she didn’t know what she had meant, she was so distressed on his account.

“And there’s never the need to be,” he assured her. “Surely you can be guided by me if you want to help me. As soon as ever my leg gets well again I’ll be after fending for myself, and trouble you no further. But if you want to shelter me until then, do it thoroughly, and don’t give way to fear at every shadow without substance that falls across your path.”

She promised it, and on that promise left him; and, believing him, she bore herself more cheerfully for the remainder of the day. But that evening after they had dined her fears and anxieties drove her at last to seek her natural and legal protector.

Sir Terence had sauntered off towards the house, gloomy and silent as he had been throughout the meal. She ran after him now, and came tripping lightly at his side up the steps. She put her arm through his.

“Terence dear, you are not going back to work again?” she pleaded.

He stopped, and from his fine height looked down upon her with a curious smile. Slowly he disengaged his arm from the clasp of her own. “I am afraid I must,” he answered coldly. “I have a great deal to do, and I am short of a secretary. When this inquiry is over I shall have more time to myself, perhaps.” There was something so repellent in his voice, in his manner of uttering those last words, that she stood rebuffed and watched him vanish into the building.

Then she stamped her foot and her pretty mouth trembled.

“Oaf!” she said aloud.

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