“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.”

Helplessly distraught, she sank to an ottoman. The night had been a very trying one for her ladyship. She gave way to tears.

“It is all your fault, Dick,” she reproached him.

“Naturally you would blame me,” he said with resignation—the complete martyr.

“If only you had been ready at the time, as he told you to be, there would have been no delays, and you would have got away before any of this happened.”

“Was it my fault that I should have reopened my wound—bad luck to it!—in attempting to get down that damned ladder?” he asked her. “Is it my fault that I am neither an ape nor an acrobat? Tremayne should have come up at once to assist me, instead of waiting until he had to come up to help me bandage my leg again. Then time would not have been lost, and very likely my life with it.” He came to a gloomy conclusion.

“Your life? What do you mean, Dick?”

“Just that. What are my chances of getting away now?” he asked her. “Was there ever such infernal luck as mine? The Telemachus will sail without me, and the only man who could and would have helped me to get out of this damned country is under arrest. It’s clear I shall have to shift for myself again, and I can’t even do that for a day or two with my leg in this state. I shall have to go back into that stuffy store-cupboard of yours till God knows when.” He lost all self-control at the prospect and broke into imprecations of his luck.

She attempted to soothe him. But he wasn’t easy to soothe.

“And then,” he grumbled on, “you have so little sense that you want to run straight off to Terence and explain to him what Tremayne was doing here. You might at least have the grace to wait until I am off the premises, and give me the mercy of a start before you set the dogs on my trail.”

“Oh, Dick, Dick, you are so cruel!” she protested. “How can you say such things to me, whose only thought is for you, to save you.”

“Then don’t talk any more about telling Terence,” he replied.

“I won’t, Dick. I won’t.” She drew him down beside her on the ottoman and her fingers smoothed his rather tumbled red hair, just as her words attempted to smooth the ruffles in his spirit. “You know I didn’t realise, or I should not have thought of it even. I was so concerned for Ned for the moment.”

“Don’t I tell you there’s not the need?” he assured her. “Ned will be safe enough, devil a doubt. It’s for you to keep to what you told them from the balcony; that you heard a cry, went out to see what was happening and saw Tremayne there bending over the body. Not a word more, and not a word less, or it will be all over with me.”

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