At once, as he sat there, his elbows on the table, his head in his hands, he found himself surrounded by those three, against each of whom he had sinned under the spell of the jealousy that had blinded him and led him by the nose.

His wife put an arm about his neck in mute comfort of a grief of which she only understood the half—for of the heavier and more desperate part of his guilt she was still in ignorance. Sylvia spoke to him kindly words of encouragement where no encouragement could avail. But what moved him most was the touch of Tremayne’s hand upon his shoulder, and Tremayne’s voice bidding him brace himself to face the situation and count upon them to stand by him to the end.

He looked up at his friend and secretary in an amazement that overcame his shame.

“You can forgive me, Ned?”

Ned looked across at Sylvia Armytage. “You have been the means of bringing me to such happiness as I should never have reached without these happenings,” he said. “What resentment can I bear you, O’Moy? Besides, I understand, and who understands can never do anything but forgive. I realise how sorely you have been tried. No evidence more conclusive that you were being wronged could have been placed before you.”

“But the court-martial,” said O’Moy in horror. He covered his face with his hand. “Oh, my God! I am dishonoured. I—I—” He rose, shaking off the arm of his wife and the hand of the friend he had wronged so terribly. He broke away from them and strode to the window, his face set and white. “I think I was mad,” he said. “I know I was mad. But to have done what I did—” He shuddered in very horror of himself now that he was bereft of the support of that evil jealousy that had fortified him against conscience itself and the very voice of honour. Lady O’Moy turned to them, pleading for explanation.

“What does he mean? What has he done?”

Himself he answered her: “I killed Samoval. It was I who fought that duel. And then believing what I did, I fastened the guilt upon Ned, and went the lengths of perjury in my blind effort to avenge myself. That is what I have done. Tell me, one of you, of your charity, what is there left for me to do?”

“Oh!” It was an outcry of horror and indignation from Una, instantly repressed by the tightening grip of Sylvia’s hand upon her arm. Miss Armytage saw and understood, and sorrowed for Sir Terence. She must restrain his wife from adding to his present anguish. Yet, “How could you, Terence! Oh, how could you!” cried her ladyship, and so gave way to tears, easier than words to express such natures.

“Because I loved you, I suppose,” he answered on a note of bitter self-mockery. “That was the justification I should have given had I been asked; that was the justification I accounted sufficient.”

“But then,” she cried, a new horror breaking on her mind—“if this is discovered—Terence, what will become of you?”

He turned and came slowly back until he stood beside her. Facing now the inevitable, he recovered some of his calm.

“It must be discovered,” he said quietly. “For the sake of everybody concerned it must—”

“Oh, no, no!” She sprang up and clutched his arm in terror. “They may fail to discover the truth.”

“They must not, my dear,” he answered her; stroking the fair head that lay against his breast. “They must not fail. I must see to that.”

“You? You?” Her eyes dilated as she looked at him. She caught her breath on a gasping sob. “Ah no, Terence,” she cried wildly. “You must not; you must not. You must say nothing—for my sake, Terence, if you love me, oh, for my sake, Terence!”

“For honour’s sake, I must,” he answered her. “And for the sake of Sylvia and of Tremayne, whom I have wronged, and—”

“Not for my sake, Terence,” Sylvia interrupted him.

He looked at her, and then at Tremayne.

“And you, Ned—what do you say?” he asked.

“Ned could not wish—” began her ladyship.

“Please let him speak for himself, my dear,” her husband interrupted her.

“What can I say?” cried Tremayne, with a gesture that was almost of anger. “How can I advise? I scarcely know. You realise what you must face if you confess?”

“Fully, and the only part of it I shrink from is the shame and scorn I have deserved. Yet it is inevitable. You agree, Ned?”

“I am not sure. None who understands as I understand can feel anything but regret. Oh, I don’t know. The evidence of what you suspected was overwhelming, and it betrayed you into this mistake. The punishment you would have to face is surely too heavy, and you have suffered far more already than you can ever be called upon to suffer again, no matter what is done to you. Oh, I don’t know! The problem is too deep for me. There is Una to be considered, too. You owe a duty to her, and if you keep silent it may be best for all. You can depend upon us to stand by you in this.”

“Indeed, indeed,” said Sylvia.

He looked at them and smiled very tenderly.

“Never was a man blessed with nobler friends who deserved so little of them,” he said slowly. “You heap coals of fire upon my head. You shame me through and through. But have you considered, Ned, that all may not depend upon my silence? What if the provost-marshal, investigating now, were to come upon the real facts?”

“It is impossible that sufficient should be discovered to convict you.”

“How can you be sure of that? And if it were possible, if it came to pass, what then would be my position? You see, Ned! I must accept the punishment I have incurred lest a worse overtake me—to put it at its lowest. I must voluntarily go forward and denounce myself before another denounces me. It is the only way to save some rag of honour.”

There was a tap at the door, and Mullins came to announce that Lord Wellington was asking to see Sir Terence.

“He is waiting in the study, Sir Terence.”

“Tell his lordship I will be with him at once.”

Mullins departed, and Sir Terence prepared to follow. Gently he disengaged himself from the arms her ladyship now flung about him.

“Courage, my dear,” he said. “Wellington may show me more mercy than I deserve.”

“You are going to tell him?” she questioned brokenly.

“Of course, sweetheart. What else can I do? And since you and Tremayne find it in your hearts to forgive me, nothing else matters very much.” He kissed her tenderly and put her from him. He looked at Sylvia standing beside her and at Tremayne beyond the table. “Comfort her,” he implored them, and, turning, went out quickly.

Awaiting him in the study he found not only Lord Wellington, but Colonel Grant, and by the cold gravity of both their faces he had an inspiration that in some mysterious way the whole hideous truth was already known to them.

The slight figure of his lordship in its grey frock was stiff and erect, his booted leg firmly planted, his hands behind him clutching his riding-crop and cocked hat. His face was set and his voice as he greeted O’Moy sharp and staccato.

“Ah, O’Moy, there are one or two matters to be discussed before I leave Lisbon.”

“I had written to you, sir,” replied O’Moy. “Perhaps you will first read my letter.” And he went to fetch it from the writing-table, where he had left it when completed an hour earlier.

His lordship took the letter in silence, and after one piercing glance at O’Moy broke the seal. In the background, near the window, the tall figure of Colquhoun Grant stood stiffly erect, his hawk face inscrutable.

“Ah! Your resignation, O’Moy. But you give no reasons.” Again his keen glance stabbed into the adjutant’s face. “Why this?” he asked sharply.

“Because,” said Sir Terence, “I prefer to tender it before it is asked of me.” He was very white, yet by an effort those deep blue eyes of his met the terrible gaze of his chief without flinching.

“Perhaps you’ll explain,” said his lordship coldly.

“In the first place,” said O’Moy, “it was myself killed Samoval, and since your lordship was a witness of what followed, you will realise that that was the least part of my offence.”

The great soldier jerked his head sharply backward, tilting forward his chin. “So!” he said. “Ha! I beg your pardon, Grant, for having disbelieved you.” Then, turning to O’Moy again: “Well,” he demanded, his voice hard, “have you nothing to add?”

“Nothing that can matter,” said O’Moy, with a shrug, and they stood facing each other in silence for a long moment.

At last when Wellington spoke his voice had assumed a gentler note.

“O’Moy,” he said, “I have known you these fifteen years, and we have been friends. Once you carried your friendship, appreciation, and understanding of me so far as nearly to ruin yourself on my behalf. You’ll not have forgotten the affair of Sir Harry Burrard. In all these years I have known you for a man of shining honour, an honest, upright gentleman, whom I would have trusted when I should have distrusted every other living man. Yet you stand there and confess to me the basest, the most dishonest villainy that I have ever known a British officer to commit, and you tell me that you have no explanation to offer for your conduct. Either I have never known you, O’Moy, or I do not know you now. Which is it?”

O’Moy raised his arms, only to let them fall heavily to his sides again.

“What explanation can there be?” he asked. “How can a man who has been—as I hope I have—a man of honour in the past explain such an act of madness? It arose out of your order against duelling,” he went on. “Samoval offended me mortally. He said such things to me of my wife’s honour that no man could suffer, and I least of any man. My temper betrayed me. I consented to a clandestine meeting without seconds. It took place here, and I killed him. And then I had, as I imagined—quite wrongly, as I know now—overwhelming evidence that what he had told me was true, and I went mad.” Briefly he told the story of Tremayne’s descent from Lady O’Moy’s balcony and the rest.

“I scarcely know,” he resumed, “what it was I hoped to accomplish in the end. I do not know—for I never stopped to consider—whether I should have allowed Captain Tremayne to have been shot if it had come to that. All that I was concerned to do was to submit him to the ordeal which I conceived he must undergo when he saw himself confronted with the choice of keeping silence and submitting to his fate, or saving himself by an avowal that could scarcely be less bitter than death itself.”

“You fool, O’Moy-you damned, infernal fool!” his lordship swore at him. “Grant overheard more than you imagined that night outside the gates. His conclusions ran the truth very close indeed. But I could not believe him, could not believe this of you.”’

“Of course not,” said O’Moy gloomily. “I can’t believe it of myself.”

“When Miss Armytage intervened to afford Tremayne an alibi, I believed her, in view of what Grant had told me; I concluded that hers was the window from which Tremayne had climbed down. Because of what I knew I was there to see that the case did not go to extremes against Tremayne. If necessary Grant must have given full evidence of all he knew, and there and then left you to your fate. Miss Armytage saved us from that, and left me convinced, but still not understanding your own attitude. And now comes Richard Butler to surrender to me and cast himself upon my mercy with another tale which completely gives the lie to Miss Armytage’s, but confirms your own.”

“Richard Butler!” cried O’Moy. “He has surrendered to you?”

“Half-an-hour ago.”

Sir Terence turned aside with a weary shrug. A little laugh that was more a sob broke from him. “Poor Una!” he muttered.

“The tangle is a shocking one—lies, lies everywhere, and in the places where they were least to be expected.” Wellington’s anger flashed out. “Do you realise what awaits you as a result of all this damned insanity?”

“I do, sir. That is why I place my resignation in your hands. The disregard of a general order punishable in any officer is beyond pardon in your adjutant-general.”

“But that is the least of it, you fool.”

“Sure, don’t I know? I assure you that I realise it all.”

“And you are prepared to face it?” Wellington was almost savage in an anger proceeding from the conflict that went on within him. There was his duty as commander-in-chief, and there was his friendship for O’Moy and his memory of the past in which O’Moy’s loyalty had almost been the ruin of him.

“What choice have I?”

His lordship turned away, and strode the length of the room, his head bent, his lips twitching. Suddenly he stopped and faced the silent intelligence officer.

“What is to be done, Grant?”

“That is a matter for your lordship. But if I might venture—”

“Venture and be damned,” snapped Wellington.

“The signal service rendered the cause of the allies by the death of Samoval might perhaps be permitted to weigh against the offence committed by O’Moy.”

“How could it?” snapped his lordship. “You don’t know, O’Moy, that upon Samoval’s body were found certain documents intended for Massena. Had they reached him, or had Samoval carried out the full intentions that dictated his quarrel with you, and no doubt sent him here depending upon his swordsmanship to kill you, all my plans for the undoing of the French would have been ruined. Ay, you may stare. That is another matter in which you have lacked discretion. You may be a fine engineer, O’Moy, but I don’t think I could have found a less judicious adjutant-general if I had raked the ranks of the army on purpose to find an idiot. Samoval was a spy—the cleverest spy that we have ever had to deal with. Only his death revealed how dangerous he was. For killing him when you did you deserve the thanks of his Majesty’s Government, as Grant suggests. But before you can receive those you will have to stand a court-martial for the manner in which you killed him, and you will probably be shot. I can’t help you. I hope you don’t expect it of me.”

“The thought had not so much as occurred to me. Yet what you tell me, sir, lifts something of the load from my mind.”

“Does it? Well, it lifts no load from mine,” was the angry retort. He stood considering. Then with an impatient gesture he seemed to dismiss his thoughts. “I can do nothing,” he said, “nothing without being false to my duty and becoming as bad as you have been, O’Moy, and without any of the sentimental justification that existed in your case. I can’t allow the matter to be dropped, stifled. I have never been guilty of such a thing, and I refuse to become guilty of it now. I refuse—do you understand? O’Moy, you have acted; and you must take the consequences, and be damned to you.”

“Faith, I’ve never asked you to help me, sir,” Sir Terence protested.

“And you don’t intend to, I suppose?”

“I do not.”

“I am glad of that.” He was in one of those rages which were as terrible as they were rare with him. “I wouldn’t have you suppose that I make laws for the sake of rescuing people from the consequences of disobeying them. Here is this brother-in-law of yours, this fellow Butler, who has made enough mischief in the country to imperil our relations with our allies. And I am half pledged to condone his adventure at Tavora. There’s nothing for it, O’Moy. As your friend, I am infernally angry with you for placing yourself in this position; as your commanding officer I can only order you under arrest and convene a court-martial to deal with you.”

Sir Terence bowed his head. He was a little surprised by all this heat. “I never expected anything else,” he said. “And it’s altogether at a loss I am to understand why your lordship should be vexing yourself in this manner.”

“Because I’ve a friendship for you, O’Moy. Because I remember that you’ve been a loyal friend to me. And because I must forget all this and remember only that my duty is absolutely rigid and inflexible. If I condoned your offence, if I suppressed inquiry, I should be in duty and honour bound to offer my own resignation to his Majesty’s Government. And I have to think of other things besides my personal feelings, when at any moment now the French may be over the Agueda and into Portugal.”

Sir Terence’s face flushed, and his glance brightened.

“From my heart I thank you that you can even think of such things at such a time and after what I have done.”

“Oh, as to what you have done—I understand that you are a fool, O’Moy. There’s no more to be said. You are to consider yourself under arrest. I must do it if you were my own brother, which, thank God, you’re not. Come, Grant. Good-bye, O’Moy.” And he held out his hand to him.

Sir Terence hesitated, staring.

“It’s the hand of your friend, Arthur Wellesley, I’m offering you, not the hand of your commanding officer,” said his lordship savagely.

Sir Terence took it, and wrung it in silence, perhaps more deeply moved than he had yet been by anything that had happened to him that morning.

There was a knock at the door, and Mullins opened it to admit the adjutant’s orderly, who came stiffly to attention.

“Major Carruthers’s compliments, sir,” he said to O’Moy, “and his Excellency the Secretary of the Council of Regency wishes to see you very urgently.”

There was a pause. O’Moy shrugged and spread his hands. This message was for the adjutant-general and he no longer filled the office.

“Pray tell Major Carruthers that I—” he was beginning, when Lord Wellington intervened.

“Desire his Excellency to step across here. I will see him myself.”

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