Tremayne elbowed his way through the gorgeous crowd, exchanging greetings here and there as he went, and so reached the ballroom during a pause in the dancing. He looked round for Lady O’Moy, but he could see her nowhere, and would never have found her had not Carruthers pointed out a knot of officers and assured him that the lady was in the heart of it and in imminent peril of being suffocated.

Thither the captain bent his steps, looking neither to right nor left in his singleness of purpose. Thus it happened that he saw neither O’Moy, who had just arrived, nor the massive, decorated bulk of Marshal Beresford, with whom the adjutant stood in conversation on the skirts of the throng that so assiduously worshipped at her ladyship’s shrine.

Captain Tremayne went through the group with all a sapper’s skill at piercing obstacles, and so came face to face with the lady of his quest. Seeing her so radiant now, with sparkling eyes and ready laugh, it was difficult to conceive her haunted by any such anxieties as Miss Armytage had mentioned. Yet the moment she perceived him, as if his presence acted as a reminder to lift her out of the delicious present, something of her gaiety underwent eclipse.

Child of impulse that she was, she gave no thought to her action and the construction it might possibly bear in the minds of men chagrined and slighted.

“Why, Ned,” she cried, “you have kept me waiting.” And with a complete and charming ignoring of the claims of all who had been before him, and who were warring there for precedence of one another, she took his arm in token that she yielded herself to him before even the honour was so much as solicited.

With nods and smiles to right and left—a queen dismissing her court—she passed on the captain’s arm through the little crowd that gave way before her dismayed and intrigued, and so away.

O’Moy, who had been awaiting a favourable moment to present the marshal by the marshal’s own request, attempted to thrust forward now with Beresford at his side. But the bowing line of officers whose backs were towards him effectively barred his progress, and before they had broken up that formation her ladyship and her cavalier were out of sight, lost in the moving crowd.

The marshal laughed good-humouredly. “The infallible reward of patience,” said he. And O’Moy laughed with him. But the next moment he was scowling at what he overheard.

“On my soul, that was impudence!” an Irish infantryman had protested.

“Have you ever heard,” quoth a heavy dragoon, who was also a heavy jester, “that in heaven the last shall be first? If you pay court to an angel you must submit to celestial customs.”

“And bedad,” rejoined the infantryman, “as there’s no marryin’ in heaven ye’ve got to make the best of it with other men’s wives. Sure it’s a great success that fellow should be in paradise. Did ye remark the way she melted to him beauty swooning at the sight of temptation! Bad luck to him! Who is he at all?”

They dispersed laughing and followed by O’Moy’s scowling eyes. It annoyed him that his wife’s thoughtless conduct should render her the butt of such jests as these, and perhaps a subject for lewd gossip. He would speak to her about it later. Meanwhile the marshal had linked arms with him.

“Since the privilege must be postponed,” said he, “suppose that we seek supper. I have always found that a man can best heal in his stomach the wounds taken by his heart.” His fleshy bulk afforded a certain prima-facie confirmation of the dictum.

With a roll more suggestive of the quarter-deck than the saddle, the great man bore off O’Moy in quest of material consolation. Yet as they went the adjutant’s eyes raked the ballroom in quest of his wife. That quest, however, was unsuccessful, for his wife was already in the garden.

“I want to talk to you most urgently, Ned. Take me somewhere where we can be quite private,” she had begged the captain. “Somewhere where there is no danger of being overheard.”

Her agitation, now uncontrolled, suggested to Tremayne that the matter might be far more serious and urgent than Miss Armytage had represented it. He thought first of the balcony where he had lately been. But then the balcony opened immediately from the ante-room and was likely at any moment to be invaded. So, since the night was soft and warm, he preferred the garden. Her ladyship went to find a wrap, then arm in arm they passed out, and were lost in the shadows of an avenue of palm-trees.

“It is about Dick,” she said breathlessly.

“I know—Miss Armytage told me.”

“What did she tell you?”

“That you had a premonition that he might come to you for assistance.”

“A premonition!” Her ladyship laughed nervously. “It is more than a premonition, Ned. He has come.”

The captain stopped in his stride, and stood quite still.

“Come?” he echoed. “Dick?”

“Sh!” she warned him, and sank her voice from very instinct. “He came to me this evening, half an hour before we left home. I have put him in an alcove adjacent to my dressing-room for the present.”

“You have left him there?” He was alarmed.

“Oh, there’s no fear. No one ever goes there except Bridget. And I have locked the alcove. He’s fast asleep. He was asleep before I left. The poor fellow was so worn and weary.” Followed details of his appearance and a recital of his wanderings so far as he had made them known to her. “And he was so insistent that no one should know, not even Terence.”

“Terence must not know,” he said gravely.

“You think that too!”

“If Terence knows—well, you will regret it all the days of your life, Una.”

He was so stern, so impressive, that she begged for explanation. He afforded it. “You would be doing Terence the utmost cruelty if you told him. You would be compelling him to choose between his honour and his concern for you. And since he is the very soul of honour, he must sacrifice you and himself, your happiness and his own, everything that makes life good for you both, to his duty.”

She was aghast, for all that she was far from understanding. But he went on relentlessly to make his meaning clear, for the sake of O’Moy as much as for her own—for the sake of the future of these two people who were perhaps his dearest friends. He saw in what danger of shipwreck their happiness now stood, and he took the determination of clearly pointing out to her every shoal in the water through which she must steer her course.

“Since this has happened, Una, you must be told the whole truth; you must listen, and, above all, be reasonable. I am Dick’s friend, as I am your own and Terence’s. Your father was my best friend, perhaps, and my gratitude to him is unbounded, as I hope you know. You and Dick are almost as brother and sister to me. In spite of this—indeed, because of this, I have prayed for news that Dick was dead.”

Her grasp interrupted him, and he felt the tightening clutch of her hands upon his arm in the gloom.

“I have prayed this for Dick’s sake, and more than all for the sake of your happiness and Terence’s. If Dick is taken the choice before Terence is a tragic one. You will realise it when I tell you that duty forced him to pledge his word to the Portuguese Government that Dick should be shot when found.”

“Oh!” It was a gasp of horror, of incredulity. She loosed his arm and drew away from him. “It is infamous! I can’t believe it. I can’t.”

“It is true. I swear it to you. I was present, and I heard.”

“And you allowed it?”

“What could I do? How could I interfere? Besides, the minister who demanded that undertaking knew nothing of the relationship between O’Moy and this missing officer.”

“But—but he could have been told.”

“That would have made no difference—unless it were to create fresh difficulties.”

She stood there ghostly white against the gloom. A dry sob broke from her. “Terence did that! Terence did that!” she moaned. And then in a surge of anger: “I shall never speak to Terence again. I shall not live with him another day. It was infamous! Infamous!”

“It was not infamous. It was almost noble, almost heroic,” he amazed her. “Listen, Una, and try to understand.” He took her arm again and drew her gently on down that avenue of moonlight-fretted darkness.

“Oh, I understand,” she cried bitterly. “I understand perfectly. He has always been hard on Dick! He has always made mountains out of molehills where Dick was concerned. He forgets that Dick is young a mere boy. He judges Dick from the standpoint of his own sober middle age. Why, he’s an old man—a wicked old man!”

Thus her rage, hurling at O’Moy what in the insolence of her youth seemed the last insult.

“You are very unjust, Una. You are even a little stupid,” he said, deeming the punishment necessary and salutary.

“Stupid! I stupid! I have never been called stupid before.”

“But you have undoubtedly deserved to be,” he assured her with perfect calm.

It took her aback by its directness, and for a moment left her without an answer. Then: “I think you had better leave me,” she told him frostily. “You forget yourself.”

“Perhaps I do,” he admitted. “That is because I am more concerned to think of Dick and Terence and yourself. Sit down, Una.”

They had reached a little circle by a piece of ornamental water, facing which a granite-hewn seat had been placed. She sank to it obediently, if sulkily.

“It may perhaps help you to understand what Terence has done when I tell you that in his place, loving Dick as I do, I must have pledged myself precisely as he did or else despised myself for ever. And being pledged, I must keep my word or go in the same self-contempt.” He elaborated his argument by explaining the full circumstances under which the pledge had been exacted. “But be in no doubt about it,” he concluded. “If Terence knows of Dick’s presence at Monsanto he has no choice. He must deliver him up to a firing party—or to a court-martial which will inevitably sentence him to death, no matter what the defence that Dick may urge. He is a man prejudged, foredoomed by the necessities of war. And Terence will do this although it will break his heart and ruin all his life. Understand me, then, that in enjoining you never to allow Terence to suspect that Dick is present, I am pleading not so much for you or for Dick, but for Terence himself—for it is upon Terence that the hardest and most tragic suffering must fall. Now do you understand?”

“I understand that men are very stupid,” was her way of admitting it.

“And you see that you were wrong in judging Terence as you did?”

“I—I suppose so.”

She didn’t understand it all. But since Tremayne was so insistent she supposed there must be something in his point of view. She had been brought up in the belief that Ned Tremayne was common sense incarnate; and although she often doubted it—as you may doubt the dogmas of a religion in which you have been bred—yet she never openly rebelled against that inculcated faith. Above all she wanted to cry. She knew that it would be very good for her. She had often found a singular relief in tears when vexed by things beyond her understanding. But she had to think of that flock of gallants in the ballroom waiting to pay court to her and of her duty towards them of preserving her beauty unimpaired by the ravages of a vented sorrow.

Tremayne sat down beside her. “So now that we understand each other on that score, let us consider ways and means to dispose of Dick.”

At once she was uplifted and became all eagerness.

“Yes, Yes. You will help me, Ned?”

“You can depend upon me to do all in human power.”

He thought rapidly, and gave voice to some of his thoughts. “If I could I would take him to my lodgings at Alcantara. But Carruthers knows him and would see him there. So that is out of the question. Then again it is dangerous to move him about. At any moment he might be seen and recognised.”

“Hardly recognised,” she said. “His beard disguises him, and his dress—” She shuddered at the very thought of the figure he had cut, he, the jaunty, dandy Richard Butler.

“That is something, of course,” he agreed. And then asked: “How long do you think that you could keep him hidden?”

“I don’t know. You see, there’s Bridget. She is the only danger, as she has charge of my dressing-room.”

“It may be desperate, but—Can you trust her?”

“Oh, I am sure I can. She is devoted to me; she would do anything—”

“She must be bought as well. Devotion and gain when linked together will form an unbreakable bond. Don’t let us be stingy, Una. Take her into your confidence boldly, and promise her a hundred guineas for her silence—payable on the day that Dick leaves the country.”

“But how are we to get him out of the country?”

“I think I know a way. I can depend on Marcus Glennie. I may tell him the whole truth and the identity of our man, or I may not. I must think about that. But, whatever I decide, I am sure I can induce Glennie to take our fugitive home in the Telemachus and land him safely somewhere in Ireland, where he will have to lose himself for awhile. Perhaps for Glennie’s sake it will be safer not to disclose Dick’s identity. Then if there should be trouble later, Glennie, having known nothing of the real facts, will not be held responsible. I will talk to him to-night.”

“Do you think he will consent?” she asked in strained anxiety—anxiety to have her anxieties dispelled.

“I am sure he will. I can almost pledge my word on it. Marcus would do anything to serve me. Oh, set your mind at rest. Consider the thing done. Keep Dick safely hidden for a week or so until the Telemachus is ready to sail—he mustn’t go on board until the last moment, for several reasons—and I will see to the rest.”

Under that confident promise her troubles fell from her, as lightly as they ever did.

“You are very good to me, Ned. Forgive me what I said just now. And I think I understand about Terence—poor dear old Terence.”

“Of course you do.” Moved to comfort her as he might have been moved to comfort a child, he flung his arm along the seat behind her, and patted her shoulder soothingly. “I knew you would understand. And not a word to Terence, not a word that could so much as awaken his suspicions. Remember that.”

“Oh, I shall.”

Fell a step upon the patch behind them crunching the gravel. Captain Tremayne, his arm still along the back of the seat, and seeming to envelop her ladyship, looked over her shoulder. A tall figure was advancing briskly. He recognised it even in the gloom by its height and gait and swing for O’Moy’s.

“Why, here is Terence,” he said easily—so easily, with such frank and obvious honesty of welcome, that the anger in which O’Moy came wrapped fell from him on the instant, to be replaced by shame.

“I have been looking for you everywhere, my dear,” he said to Una. “Marshal Beresford is anxious to pay you his respects before he leaves, and you have been so hedged about by gallants all the evening that it’s devil a chance he’s had of approaching you.” There was a certain constraint in his voice, for a man may not recover instantly from such feelings as those which had fetched him hot-foot down that path at sight of those two figures sitting so close and intimate, the young man’s arm so proprietorialy about the lady’s shoulders—as it seemed.

Lady O’Moy sprang up at once, with a little silvery laugh that was singularly care-free; for had not Tremayne lifted the burden entirely from her shoulders?

“You should have married a dowd,” she mocked him. “Then you’d have found her more easily accessible.”

“Instead of finding her dallying in the moonlight with my secretary,” he rallied back between good and ill humour. And he turned to Tremayne: “Damned indiscreet of you, Ned,” he added more severely. “Suppose you had been seen by any of the scandalmongering old wives of the garrison? A nice thing for Una and a nice thing for me, begad, to be made the subject of fly-blown talk over the tea-cups.”

Tremayne accepted the rebuke in the friendly spirit in which it appeared to be conveyed. “Sorry, O’Moy,” he said. “You’re quite right. We should have thought of it. Everybody isn’t to know what our relations are.” And again he was so manifestly honest and so completely at his ease that it was impossible to harbour any thought of evil, and O’Moy felt again the glow of shame of suspicions so utterly unworthy and dishonouring.

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