Although Dick Butler might continue missing in the flesh, in the spirit he and his miserable affair seem to have been ever present and ubiquitous, and a most fruitful source of trouble.

It would be at about this time that there befell in Lisbon the deplorable event that nipped in the bud the career of that most promising young officer, Major Berkeley of the famous Die-Hards, the 29th Foot.

Coming into Lisbon on leave from his regiment, which was stationed at Abrantes, and formed part of the division under Sir Rowland Hill, the major happened into a company that contained at least one member who was hostile to Lord Wellington’s conduct of the campaign, or rather to the measures which it entailed. As in the case of the Principal Souza, prejudice drove him to take up any weapon that came to his hand by means of which he could strike a blow at a system he deplored.

Since we are concerned only indirectly with the affair, it may be stated very briefly. The young gentleman in question was a Portuguese officer and a nephew of the Patriarch of Lisbon, and the particular criticism to which Major Berkeley took such just exception concerned the very troublesome Dick Butler. Our patrician ventured to comment with sneers and innuendoes upon the fact that the lieutenant of dragoons continued missing, and he went so far as to indulge in a sarcastic prophecy that he never would be found.

Major Berkeley, stung by the slur thus slyly cast upon British honour, invited the young gentleman to make himself more explicit.

“I had thought that I was explicit enough,” says young impudence, leering at the stalwart red-coat. “But if you want it more clearly still, then I mean that the undertaking to punish this ravisher of nunneries is one that you English have never intended to carry out. To save your faces you will take good care that Lieutenant Butler is never found. Indeed I doubt if he was ever really missing.”

Major Berkeley was quite uncompromising and downright. I am afraid he had none of the graces that can exalt one of these affairs.

“Ye’re just a very foolish liar, sir, and you deserve a good caning,” was all he said, but the way in which he took his cane from under his arm was so suggestive of more to follow there and then that several of the company laid preventive hands upon him instantly.

The Patriarch’s nephew, very white and very fierce to hear himself addressed in terms which—out of respect for his august and powerful uncle—had never been used to him before, demanded instant satisfaction. He got it next morning in the shape of half-an-ounce of lead through his foolish brain, and a terrible uproar ensued. To appease it a scapegoat was necessary. As Samoval so truly said, the mob is a ferocious god to whom sacrifices must be made. In this instance the sacrifice, of course, was Major Berkeley. He was broken and sent home to cut his pigtail (the adornment still clung to by the 29th) and retire into private life, whereby the British army was deprived of an officer of singularly brilliant promise. Thus, you see, the score against poor Richard Butler—that foolish victim of wine and circumstance—went on increasing.

But in my haste to usher Major Berkeley out of a narrative which he touches merely at a tangent, I am guilty of violating the chronological order of the events. The ship in which Major Berkeley went home to England and the rural life was the frigate Telemachus, and the Telemachus had but dropped anchor in the Tagus at the date with which I am immediately concerned. She came with certain stores and a heavy load of mails for the troops, and it would be a full fortnight before she would sail again for home. Her officers would be ashore during the time, the welcome guests of the officers of the garrison, bearing their share in the gaieties with which the latter strove to kill the time of waiting for events, and Marcus Glennie, the captain of the frigate, an old friend of Tremayne’s, was by virtue of that friendship an almost daily visitor at the adjutant’s quarters.

But there again I am anticipating. The Telemachus came to her moorings in the Tagus, at which for the present we may leave her, on the morning of the day that was to close with Count Redondo’s semi-official ball. Lady O’Moy had risen late, taking from one end of the day what she must relinquish to the other, that thus fully rested she might look her best that night. The greater part of the afternoon was devoted to preparation. It was amazing even to herself what an amount of detail there was to be considered, and from Sylvia she received but very indifferent assistance. There were times when she regretfully suspected in Sylvia a lack of proper womanliness, a taint almost of masculinity. There was to Lady O’Moy’s mind something very wrong about a woman who preferred a canter to a waltz. It was unnatural; it was suspicious; she was not quite sure that it wasn’t vaguely immoral.

At last there had been dinner—to which she came a full half-hour late, but of so ravishing and angelic an appearance that the sight of her was sufficient to mollify Sir Terence’s impatience and stifle the withering sarcasms he had been laboriously preparing. After dinner—which was taken at six o’clock—there was still an hour to spare before the carriage would come to take them into Lisbon.

Sir Terence pleaded stress of work, occasioned by the arrival of the Telemachus that morning, and withdrew with Tremayne to the official quarters, to spend that hour in disposing of some of the many matters awaiting his attention. Sylvia, who to Lady O’Moy’s exasperation seemed now for the first time to give a thought to what she should wear that night, went off in haste to gown herself, and so Lady O’Moy was left to her own resources—which I assure you were few indeed.

The evening being calm and warm, she sauntered out into the open. She was more or less annoyed with everybody—with Sir Terence and Tremayne for their assiduity to duty, and with Sylvia for postponing all thought of dressing until this eleventh hour, when she might have been better employed in beguiling her ladyship’s loneliness. In this petulant mood, Lady O’Moy crossed the quadrangle, loitered a moment by the table and chairs placed under the trellis, and considered sitting there to await the others. Finally, however, attracted by the glory of the sunset behind the hills towards Abrantes, she sauntered out on to the terrace, to the intense thankfulness of a poor wretch who had waited there for the past ten hours in the almost despairing hope that precisely such a thing might happen.

She was leaning upon the balustrade when a rustle in the pines below drew her attention. The rustle worked swiftly upwards and round to the bushes on her right, and her eyes, faintly startled, followed its career, what time she stood tense and vaguely frightened.

Then the bushes parted and a limping figure that leaned heavily upon a stick disclosed itself; a shaggy, red-bearded man in the garb of a peasant; and marvel of marvels!—this figure spoke her name sharply, warningly almost, before she had time to think of screaming.

“Una! Una! Don’t move!”

The voice was certainly the voice of Mr. Butler. But how came that voice into the body of this peasant? Terrified, with drumming pulses, yet obedient to the injunction, she remained without speech or movement, whilst crouching so as to keep below the level of the balustrade the man crept forward until he was immediately before and below her.

She stared into that haggard face, and through the half-mask of stubbly beard gradually made out the features of her brother.

“Richard!” The name broke from her in a scream.

“‘Sh!” He waved his hands in wild alarm to repress her. “For God’s sake, be quiet! It’s a ruined man I am if they find me here. You’ll have heard what’s happened to me?”

She nodded, and uttered a half-strangled “Yes.”

“Is there anywhere you can hide me? Can you get me into the house without being seen? I am almost starving, and my leg is on fire. I was wounded three days ago to make matters worse than they were already. I have been lying in the woods there watching for the chance to find you alone since sunrise this morning, and it’s devil a bite or sup I’ve had since this time yesterday.”

“Poor, poor Richard!” She leaned down towards him in an attitude of compassionate, ministering grace. “But why? Why did you not come up to the house and ask for me? No one would have recognised you.”

“Terence would if he had seen me.”

“But Terence wouldn’t have mattered. Terence will help you.”

“Terence!” He almost laughed from excess of bitterness, labouring under an egotistical sense of wrong. “He’s the last man I should wish to meet, as I have good reason to know. If it hadn’t been for that I should have come to you a month ago—immediately after this trouble of mine. As it is, I kept away until despair left me no other choice. Una, on no account a word of my presence to Terence.”

“But... he’s my husband!”

“Sure, and he’s also adjutant-general, and if I know him at all he’s the very man to place official duty and honour and all the rest of it above family considerations.”

“Oh, Richard, how little you know Terence! How wrong you are to misjudge him like this!”

“Right or wrong, I’d prefer not to take the risk. It might end in my being shot one fine morning before long.”


“For God’s sake, less of your Richard! It’s all the world will be hearing you. Can you hide me, do you think, for a day or two? If you can’t, I’ll be after shifting for myself as best I can. I’ve been playing the part of an English overseer from Bearsley’s wine farm, and it has brought me all the way from the Douro in safety. But the strain of it and the eternal fear of discovery are beginning to break me. And now there’s this infernal wound. I was assaulted by a footpad near Abrantes, as if I was worth robbing. Anyhow I gave the fellow more than I took. Unless I have rest I think I shall go mad and give myself up to the provost-marshal to be shot and done with.”

“Why do you talk of being shot? You have done nothing to deserve that. Why should you fear it?”

Now Mr. Butler was aware—having gathered the information lately on his travels—of the undertaking given by the British to the Council of Regency with regard to himself. But irresponsible egotist though he might be, yet in common with others he was actuated by the desire which his sister’s fragile loveliness inspired in every one to spare her unnecessary pain or anxiety.

“It’s not myself will take any risks,” he said again. “We are at war, and when men are at war killing becomes a sort of habit, and one life more or less is neither here nor there.” And upon that he renewed his plea that she should hide him if she could and that on no account should she tell a single soul—and Sir Terence least of any—of his presence.

Having driven him to the verge of frenzy by the waste of precious moments in vain argument, she gave him at last the promise he required. “Go back to the bushes there,” she bade him, “and wait until I come for you. I will make sure that the coast is clear.”

Contiguous to her dressing-room, which overlooked the quadrangle, there was a small alcove which had been converted into a storeroom for the array of trunks and dress boxes that Lady O’Moy had brought from England. A door opening directly from her dressing room communicated with this alcove, and of that door Bridget, her maid, was in possession of the key.

As she hurried now indoors she happened to meet Bridget on the stairs. The maid announced herself on her way to supper in the servants’ quarters, and apologised for her presumption in assuming that her ladyship would no further require her services that evening. But since it fell in so admirably with her ladyship’s own wishes, she insisted with quite unusual solicitude, with vehemence almost, that Bridget should proceed upon her way.

“Just give me the key of the alcove,” she said. “There are one or two things I want to get.”

“Can’t I get them, your ladyship?”

“Thank you, Bridget. I prefer to get them, myself.”

There was no more to be said. Bridget produced a bunch of keys, which she surrendered to her mistress, having picked out for her the one required.

Lady O’Moy went up, to come down again the moment that Bridget had disappeared. The quadrangle was deserted, the household disposed of, and it wanted yet half-an-hour to the time for which the carriage was ordered. No moment could have been more propitious. But in any case no concealment was attempted—since, if detected it must have provoked suspicions hardly likely to be aroused in any other way.

When Lady O’Moy returned indoors in the gathering dusk she was followed at a respectful distance by the limping fugitive, who might, had he been seen, have been supposed some messenger, or perhaps some person employed about the house or gardens coming to her ladyship for instructions. No one saw them, however, and they gained the dressing-room and thence the alcove in complete safety.

There, whilst Richard, allowing his exhaustion at last to conquer him, sank heavily down upon one of his sister’s many trunks, recking nothing of the havoc wrought in its priceless contents, her ladyship all a-tremble collapsed limply upon another.

But there was no rest for her. Richard’s wound required attention, and he was faint for want of meat and drink. So having procured him the wherewithal to wash and dress his hurt—a nasty knife-slash which had penetrated to the bone of his thigh, the very sight of which turned her ladyship sick and faint—she went to forage for him in a haste increased by the fact that time was growing short.

On the dining-room sideboard, from the remains of dinner, she found and furtively abstracted what she needed—best part of a roast chicken, a small loaf and a half-flask of Collares. Mullins, the butler, would no doubt be exercised presently when he discovered the abstraction. Let him blame one of the footmen, Sir Terence’s orderly, or the cat. It mattered nothing to Lady O’Moy.

Having devoured the food and consumed the wine, Richard’s exhaustion assumed the form of a lethargic torpor. To sleep was now his overmastering desire. She fetched him rugs and pillows, and he made himself a couch upon the floor. She had demurred, of course, when he himself had suggested this. She could not conceive of any one sleeping anywhere but in a bed. But Dick made short work of that illusion.

“Haven’t I been in hiding for the last six weeks?” he asked her. “And haven’t I been thankful to sleep in a ditch? And wasn’t I campaigning before that? I tell you I couldn’t sleep in a bed. It’s a habit I’ve lost entirely.”

Convinced, she gave way.

“We’ll talk to-morrow, Una,” he promised her, as he stretched himself luxuriously upon that hard couch. “But meanwhile, on your life, not a word to any one. You understand?”

“Of course I understand, my poor Dick.”

She stooped to kiss him. But he was fast asleep already.

She went out and locked the door, and when, on the point of setting out for Count Redondo’s, she returned the bunch of keys to Bridget the key of the alcove was missing.

“I shall require it again in the morning, Bridget,” she explained lightly. And then added kindly, as it seemed: “Don’t wait for me, child. Get to bed. I shall be late in coming home, and I shall not want you.”

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