It was a time of stress and even of temptation for Sir Terence. Honour and pride demanded that he should keep the appointment made with Samoval; common sense urged him at all costs to avoid it. His frame of mind, you see, was not at all enviable. At moments he would consider his position as adjutant-general, the enactment against duelling, the irregularity of the meeting arranged, and, consequently, the danger in which he stood on every score; at others he could think of nothing but the unpardonable affront that had been offered him and the venomously insulting manner in which it had been offered, and his rage welled up to blot out every consideration other than that of punishing Samoval.

For two days and a night he was a sort of shuttlecock tossed between these alternating moods, and he was still the same when he paced the quadrangle with bowed head and hands clasped behind him awaiting Samoval at a few minutes before twelve of the following night. The windows that looked down from the four sides of that enclosed garden were all in darkness. The members of the household had withdrawn over an hour ago and were asleep by now. The official quarters were closed. The rising moon had just mounted above the eastern wing and its white light fell upon the upper half of the facade of the residential site. The quadrangle itself remained plunged in gloom.

Sir Terence, pacing there, was considering the only definite conclusion he had reached. If there were no way even now of avoiding this duel, at least it must remain secret. Therefore it could not take place here in the enclosed garden of his own quarters, as he had so rashly consented. It should be fought upon neutral ground, where the presence of the body of the slain would not call for explanations by the survivor.

From distant Lisbon on the still air came softly the chimes of midnight, and immediately there was a sharp rap upon the little door set in one of the massive gates that closed the archway.

Sir Terence went to open the wicket, and Samoval stepped quickly over the sill. He was wrapped in a dark cloak, a broad-brimmed hat obscured his face. Sir Terence closed the door again. The two men bowed to each other in silence, and as Samoval’s cloak fell open he produced a pair of duelling-swords swathed together in a skin of leather.

“You are very punctual, sir,” said O’Moy.

“I hope I shall never be so discourteous as to keep an opponent waiting. It is a thing of which I have never yet been guilty,” replied Samoval, with deadly smoothness in that reminder of his victorious past. He stepped forward and looked about the quadrangle. “I am afraid the moon will occasion us some delay,” he said. “It were perhaps better to wait some five or ten minutes, by then the light in here should have improved.”

“We can avoid the delay by stepping out into the open,” said Sir Terence. “Indeed it is what I had to suggest in any case. There are inconveniences here which you may have overlooked.”

But Samoval, who had purposes to serve of which this duel was but a preliminary, was of a very different mind.

“We are quite private here, your household being abed,” he answered, “whilst outside one can never be sure even at this hour of avoiding witnesses and interruption. Then, again, the turf is smooth as a table on that patch of lawn, and the ground well known to both of us; that, I can assure you, is a very necessary condition in the dark and one not to be found haphazard in the open.”

“But there is yet another consideration, sir. I prefer that we engage on neutral ground, so that the survivor shall not be called upon for explanations that might be demanded if we fought here.”

Even in the gloom Sir Terence caught the flash of Samoval’s white teeth as he smiled.

“You trouble yourself unnecessarily on my account,” was the smoothly ironic answer. “No one has seen me come, and no one is likely to see me depart.”

“You may be sure that no one shall, by God,” snapped O’Moy, stung by the sly insolence of the other’s assurance.

“Shall we get to work, then?” Samoval invited.

“If you’re set on dying here, I suppose I must be after humouring you, and make the best of it. As soon as you please, then.” O’Moy was very fierce.

They stepped to the patch of lawn in the middle of the quadrangle, and there Samoval threw off altogether his cloak and hat. He was closely dressed in black, which in that light rendered him almost invisible. Sir Terence, less practised and less calculating in these matters, wore an undress uniform, the red coat of which showed greyish. Samoval observed this rather with contempt than with satisfaction in the advantage it afforded him. Then he removed the swathing from the swords, and, crossing them, presented the hilts to Sir Terence. The adjutant took one and the Count retained the other, which he tested, thrashing the air with it so that it hummed like a whip. That done, however, he did not immediately fall on.

“In a few minutes the moon will be more obliging,” he suggested. “If you would prefer to wait—”

But it occurred to Sir Terence that in the gloom the advantage might lie slightly with himself, since the other’s superior sword-play would perhaps be partly neutralised. He cast a last look round at the dark windows.

“I find it light enough,” he answered.

Samoval’s reply was instantaneous. “On guard, then,” he cried, and on the words, without giving Sir Terence so much as time to comply with the invitation, he whirled his point straight and deadly at the greyish outline of his opponent’s body. But a ray of moonlight caught the blade and its livid flash gave Sir Terence warning of the thrust so treacherously delivered. He saved himself by leaping backwards—just saved himself with not an inch to spare—and threw up his blade to meet the thrust.

“Ye murderous villain,” he snarled under his breath, as steel ground on steel, and he flung forward to the attack.

But from the gloom came a little laugh to answer him, and his angry lunge was foiled by an enveloping movement that ended in a ripost. With that they settled down to it, Sir Terence in a rage upon which that assassin stroke had been fresh fuel; the Count cool and unhurried, delaying until the moonlight should have crept a little farther, so as to enable him to make quite sure that his stroke when delivered should be final.

Meanwhile he pressed Sir Terence towards the side where the moonlight would strike first, until they were fighting close under the windows of the residential wing, Sir Terence with his back to them, Samoval facing them. It was Fate that placed them so, the Fate that watched over Sir Terence even now when he felt his strength failing him, his sword arm turning to lead under the strain of an unwonted exercise. He knew himself beaten, realised the dexterous ease, the masterly economy of vigour and the deadly sureness of his opponent’s play. He knew that he was at the mercy of Samoval; he was even beginning to wonder why the Count should delay to make an end of a situation of which he was so completely master. And then, quite suddenly, even as he was returning thanks that he had taken the precaution of putting all his affairs in order, something happened.

A light showed; it flared up suddenly, to be as suddenly extinguished, and it had its source in the window of Lady O’Moy’s dressing-room, which Samoval was facing.

That flash drawing off the Count’s eyes for one instant, and leaving them blinded for another, had revealed him clearly at the same time to Sir Terence. Sir Terence’s blade darted in, driven by all that was left of his spent strength, and Samoval, his eyes unseeing, in that moment had fumbled widely and failed to find the other’s steel until he felt it sinking through his body, searing him from breast to back.

His arms sank to his sides quite nervelessly. He uttered a faint exclamation of astonishment, almost instantly interrupted by a cough. He swayed there a moment, the cough increasing until it choked him. Then, suddenly limp, he pitched forward upon his face, and lay clawing and twitching at Sir Terence’s feet.

Sir Terence himself, scarcely realising what had taken place, for the whole thing had happened within the time of a couple of heart-beats, stood quite still, amazed and awed, in a half-crouching attitude, looking down at the body of the fallen man. And then from above, ringing upon the deathly stillness, he caught a sibilant whisper:

“What was that? ‘Sh!”

He stepped back softly, and flattened himself instinctively against the wall; thence profoundly intrigued and vaguely alarmed on several scores he peered up at the windows of his wife’s room whence the sound had come, whence the sudden light had come which—as he now realised—had given him the victory in that unequal contest. Looking up at the balcony in whose shadow he stood concealed, he saw two figures there—his wife’s and another’s—and at the same time he caught sight of something black that dangled from the narrow balcony, and peered more closely to discover a rope ladder.

He felt his skin roughening, bristling like a dog’s; he was conscious of being cold from head to foot, as if the flow of his blood had been suddenly arrested; and a sense of sickness overcame him. And then to turn that horrible doubt of his into still more horrible certainty came a man’s voice, subdued, yet not so subdued but that he recognised it for Ned Tremayne’s.

“There’s some one lying there. I can make out the figure.”

“Don’t go down! For pity’s sake, come back. Come back and wait, Ned. If any one should come and find you we shall be ruined.”

Thus hoarsely whispering, vibrating with terror, the voice of his wife reached O’Moy, to confirm him the unsuspecting blind cuckold that Samoval had dubbed him to his face, for which Samoval—warning the guilty pair with his last breath even as he had earlier so mockingly warned Sir Terence—had coughed up his soul on the turf of that enclosed garden.

Crouching there for a moment longer, a man bereft of movement and of reason, stood O’Moy, conscious only of pain, in an agony of mind and heart that at one and the same time froze his blood and drew the sweat from his brow.

Then he was for stepping out into the open, and, giving flow to the rage and surging violence that followed, calling down the man who had dishonoured him and slaying him there under the eyes of that trull who had brought him to this shame. But he controlled the impulse, or else Satan controlled it for him. That way, whispered the Tempter, was too straight and simple. He must think. He must have time to readjust his mind to the horrible circumstances so suddenly revealed.

Very soft and silently, keeping well within the shadow of the wall, he sidled to the door which he had left ajar. Soundlessly he pushed it open, passed in and as soundlessly closed it again. For a moment he stood leaning heavily against its timbers, his breath coming in short panting sobs. Then he steadied himself and turning, made his way down the corridor to the little study which had been fitted up for him in the residential wing, and where sometimes he worked at night. He had been writing there that evening ever since dinner, and he had quitted the room only to go to his assignation with Samoval, leaving the lamp burning on his open desk.

He opened the door, but before passing in he paused a moment, straining his ears to listen for sounds overhead. His eyes, glancing up and down, were arrested by a thin blade of light under a door at the end of the corridor. It was the door of the butler’s pantry, and the line of light announced that Mullins had not yet gone to bed. At once Sir Terence understood that, knowing him to be at work, the old servant had himself remained below in case his master should want anything before retiring.

Continuing to move without noise, Sir Terence entered his study, closed the door and crossed to his desk. Wearily he dropped into the chair that stood before it, his face drawn and ghastly, his smouldering eyes staring vacantly ahead. On the desk before him lay the letters that he had spent the past hours in writing—one to his wife; another to Tremayne; another to his brother in Ireland; and several others connected with his official duties, making provision for their uninterrupted continuance in the event of his not surviving the encounter.

Now it happened that amongst the latter there was one that was destined hereafter to play a considerable part; it was a note for the Commissary-General upon a matter that demanded immediate attention, and the only one of all those letters that need now survive. It was marked “Most Urgent,” and had been left by him for delivery first thing in the morning. He pulled open a drawer and swept into it all the letters he had written save that one.

He locked that drawer; then unlocked another, and took thence a case of pistols. With shaking hands he lifted out one of the weapons to examine it, and all the while, of course, his thoughts were upon his wife and Tremayne. He was considering how well-founded had been his every twinge of jealousy; how wasted, how senseless the reactions of shame that had followed them; how insensate his trust in Tremayne’s honesty, and, above all, with what crafty, treacherous subtlety Tremayne had drawn a red herring across the trail of his suspicions by pretending to an unutterable passion for Sylvia Armytage. It was perhaps that piece of duplicity, worthy, he thought, of the Iscariot himself, that galled Sir Terence now most sorely; that and the memory of his own silly credulity. He had been such a ready dupe. How those two together must have laughed at him! Oh, Tremayne had been very subtle! He had been the friend, the quasi-brother, parading his affection for the Butler family to excuse the familiarities with Lady O’Moy which he had permitted himself under Sir Terence’s very eyes. O’Moy thought of them as he had seen them in the garden on the night of Redondo’s ball, remembered the air of transparent honesty by which that damned hypocrite when discovered had deflected his just resentment.

Oh, there was no doubt that the treacherous blackguard had been subtle. But—by God!—subtlety should be repaid with subtlety! He would deal with Tremayne as cruelly as Tremayne had dealt with him; and his wanton wife, too, should be repaid in kind. He beheld the way clear, in a flash of wicked inspiration. He put back the pistol, slapped down the lid of the box and replaced it in its drawer.

He rose, took up the letter to the Commissary-general, stepped briskly to the door and pulled it open.

“Mullins!” he called sharply. “Are you there? Mullins?”

Came the sound of a scraping chair, and instantly that door at the end of the corridor was thrown open, and Mullins stood silhouetted against the light behind him. A moment he stood there, then came forward.

“You called, Sir Terence?”

“Yes.” Sir Terence’s voice was miraculously calm. His back was to the light and his face in shadow, so that its drawn, haggard look was not perceptible to the butler. “I am going to bed. But first I want you to step across to the sergeant of the guard with this letter for the Commissary-General. Tell him that it is of the utmost importance, and ask him to arrange to have it taken into Lisbon first thing in the morning.”

Mullins bowed, venerable as an archdeacon in aspect and bearing, as he received the letter from his master: “Certainly, Sir Terence.”

As he departed Sir Terence turned and slowly paced back to his desk, leaving the door open. His eyes had narrowed; there was a cruel, an almost evil smile on his lips. Of the generous, good-humoured nature imprinted upon his face every sign had vanished. His countenance was a mask of ferocity restrained by intelligence, cold and calculating.

Oh, he would pay the score that lay between himself and those two who had betrayed him. They should receive treachery for treachery, mockery for mockery, and for dishonour death. They had deemed him an old fool! What was the expression that Samoval had used—Pantaloon in the comedy? Well, well! He had been Pantaloon in the comedy so far. But now they should find him Pantaloon in the tragedy—nay, not Pantaloon at all, but Polichinelle, the sinister jester, the cynical clown, who laughs in murdering. And in anguished silence should they bear the punishment he would mete out to them, or else in no less anguished speech themselves proclaim their own dastardy to the world.

His wife he beheld now in a new light. It was out of vanity and greed that she had married him, because of the position in the world that he could give her. Having done so, at least she might have kept faith; she might have been honest, and abided by the bargain. If she had not done so, it was because honesty was beyond her shallow nature. He should have seen before what he now saw so clearly. He should have known her for a lovely, empty husk; a silly, fluttering butterfly; a toy; a thing of vanities, emotions, and nothing else.

Thus Sir Terence, cursing the day when he had mated with a fool. Thus Sir Terence whilst he stood there waiting for the outcry from Mullins that should proclaim the discovery of the body, and afford him a pretext for having the house searched for the slayer. Nor had he long to wait.

“Sir Terence! Sir Terence! For God’s sake, Sir Terence!” he heard the voice of his old servant. Came the loud crash of the door thrust back until it struck the wall and quick steps along the passage.

Sir Terence stepped out to meet him.

“Why, what the devil—” he was beginning in his bluff, normal tones, when the servant, showing a white, scared face, cut him short.

“A terrible thing, Sir Terence! Oh, the saints protect us, a dreadful thing! This way, sir! There’s a man killed—Count Samoval, I think it is!”

“What? Where?”

“Out yonder, in the quadrangle, sir.”

“But—” Sir Terence checked. “Count Samoval, did ye say? Impossible!” and he went out quickly, followed by the butler.

In the quadrangle he checked. In the few minutes that were sped since he had left the place the moon had overtopped the roof of the opposite wing, so that full upon the enclosed garden fell now its white light, illumining and revealing.

There lay the black still form of Samoval supine, his white face staring up into the heavens, and beside him knelt Tremayne, whilst in the balcony above leaned her ladyship. The rope ladder, Sir Terence’s swift glance observed, had disappeared.

He halted in his advance, standing at gaze a moment. He had hardly expected so much. He had conceived the plan of causing the house to be searched immediately upon Mullins’s discovery of the body. But Tremayne’s rashness in adventuring down in this fashion spared him even that necessity. True, it set up other difficulties. But he was not sure that the matter would not be infinitely more interesting thus.

He stepped forward, and came to a standstill beside the two—his dead enemy and his living one.

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