Sir Terence sat alone in his spacious, severely furnished private room in the official quarters at Monsanto. On the broad carved writing-table before him there was a mass of documents relating to the clothing and accoutrement of the forces, to leaves of absence, to staff appointments; there were returns from the various divisions of the sick and wounded in hospital, from which a complete list was to be prepared for the Secretary of State for War at home; there were plans of the lines at Torres Vedras just received, indicating the progress of the works at various points; and there were documents and communications of all kinds concerned with the adjutant-general’s multifarious and arduous duties, including an urgent letter from Colonel Fletcher suggesting that the Commander-in-Chief should take an early opportunity of inspecting in person the inner lines of fortification.

Sir Terence, however, sat back in his chair, his work neglected, his eyes dreamily gazing through the open window, but seeing nothing of the sun-drenched landscape beyond, a heavy frown darkening his bronzed and rugged face. His mind was very far from his official duties and the mass of reminders before him—this Augean stable of arrears. He was lost in thought of his wife and Tremayne.

Five days had elapsed since the ball at Count Redondo’s, where Sir Terence had surprised the pair together in the garden and his suspicions had been fired by the compromising attitude in which he had discovered them. Tremayne’s frank, easy bearing, so unassociable with guilt, had, as we know, gone far, to reassure him, and had even shamed him, so that he had trampled his suspicions underfoot. But other things had happened since to revive his bitter doubts. Daily, constantly, had he been coming upon Tremayne and Lady O’Moy alone together in intimate, confidential talk which was ever silenced on his approach. The two had taken to wandering by themselves in the gardens at all hours, a thing that had never been so before, and O’Moy detected, or imagined that he detected, a closer intimacy between them, a greater warmth towards the captain on the part of her ladyship.

Thus matters had reached a pass in which peace of mind was impossible to him. It was not merely what he saw, it was his knowledge of what was; it was his ever-present consciousness of his own age and his wife’s youth; it was the memory of his ante-nuptial jealousy of Tremayne which had been awakened by the gossip of those days—a gossip that pronounced Tremayne Una Butler’s poor suitor, too poor either to declare himself or to be accepted if he did. The old wound which that gossip had dealt him then was reopened now. He thought of Tremayne’s manifest concern for Una; he remembered how in that very room some six weeks ago, when Butler’s escapade had first been heard of, it was from avowed concern for Una that Tremayne had urged him to befriend and rescue his rascally brother-in-law. He remembered, too, with increasing bitterness that it was Una herself had induced him to appoint Tremayne to his staff.

There were moments when the conviction of Tremayne’s honesty, the thought of Tremayne’s unswerving friendship for himself, would surge up to combat and abate the fires of his devastating jealousy.

But evidence would kindle those fires anew until they flamed up to scorch his soul with shame and anger. He had been a fool in that he had married a woman of half his years; a fool in that he had suffered her former lover to be thrown into close association with her.

Thus he assured himself. But he would abide by his folly, and so must she. And he would see to it that whatever fruits that folly yielded, dishonour should not be one of them. Through all his darkening rage there beat the light of reason. To avert, he bethought him, was better than to avenge. Nor were such stains to be wiped out by vengeance. A cuckold remains a cuckold though he take the life of the man who has reduced him to that ignominy.

Tremayne must go before the evil transcended reparation. Let him return to his regiment and do his work of sapping and mining elsewhere than in O’Moy’s household.

Eased by that resolve he rose, a tall, martial figure, youth and energy in every line of it for all his six and forty years. Awhile he paced the room in thought. Then, suddenly, with hands clenched behind his back, he checked by the window, checked on a horrible question that had flashed upon his tortured mind. What if already the evil should be irreparable? What proof had he that it was not so?

The door opened, and Tremayne himself came in quickly.

“Here’s the very devil to pay, sir,” he announced, with that odd mixture of familiarity towards his friend and deference to his chief.

O’Moy looked at him in silence with smouldering, questioning eyes, thinking of anything but the trouble which the captain’s air and manner heralded.

“Captain Stanhope has just arrived from headquarters with messages for you. A terrible thing has happened, sir. The dispatches from home by the Thunderbolt which we forwarded from here three weeks ago reached Lord Wellington only the day before yesterday.”

Sir Terence became instantly alert.

“Garfield, who carried them, came into collision at Penalva with an officer of Anson’s Brigade. There was a meeting, and Garfield was shot through the lung. He lay between life and death for a fortnight, with the result that the dispatches were delayed until he recovered sufficiently to remember them and to have them forwarded by other hands. But you had better see Stanhope himself.”

The aide-de-camp came in. He was splashed from head to foot in witness of the fury with which he had ridden, his hair was caked with dust and his face haggard. But he carried himself with soldierly uprightness, and his speech was brisk. He repeated what Tremayne had already stated, with some few additional details.

“This wretched fellow sent Lord Wellington a letter dictated from his bed, in which he swore that the duel was forced upon him, and that his honour allowed him no alternative. I don’t think any feature of the case has so deeply angered Lord Wellington as this stupid plea. He mentioned that when Sir John Moore was at Herrerias, in the course of his retreat upon Corunna, he sent forward instructions for the leading division to halt at Lugo, where he designed to deliver battle if the enemy would accept it. That dispatch was carried to Sir David Baird by one of Sir John’s aides, but Sir David forwarded it by the hand of a trooper who got drunk and lost it. That, says Lord Wellington, is the only parallel, so far as he is aware, of the present case, with this difference, that whilst a common trooper might so far fail to appreciate the importance of his mission, no such lack of appreciation can excuse Captain Garfield.”

“I am glad of that,” said Sir Terence, who had been bristling. “For a moment I imagined that it was to be implied I had been as indiscreet in my choice of a messenger as Sir David Baird.”

“No, no, Sir Terence. I merely repeated Lord Wellington’s words that you may realise how deeply angered he is. If Garfield recovers from his wound he will be tried by court-martial. He is under open arrest meanwhile, as is his opponent in the duel—a Major Sykes of the 23rd Dragoons. That they will both be broke is beyond doubt. But that is not all. This affair, which might have had such grave consequences, coming so soon upon the heels of Major Berkeley’s business, has driven Lord Wellington to a step regarding which this letter will instruct you.”

Sir Terence broke the seal. The letter, penned by a secretary, but bearing Wellington’s own signature, ran as follows:

“The bearer, Captain Stanhope, will inform you of the particulars of this disgraceful business of Captain Garfield’s. The affair following so soon upon that of Major Berkeley has determined me to make it clearly understood to the officers in his Majesty’s service that they have been sent to the Peninsula to fight the French and not each other or members of the civilian population. While this campaign continues, and as long as I am in charge of it, I am determined not to suffer upon any plea whatever the abominable practice of duelling among those under my command. I desire you to publish this immediately in general orders, enjoining upon officers of all ranks without exception the necessity to postpone the settlement of private quarrels at least until the close of this campaign. And to add force to this injunction you will make it known that any infringement of this order will be considered as a capital offence; that any officer hereafter either sending or accepting a challenge will, if found guilty by a general court-martial, be immediately shot.”

Sir Terence nodded slowly.

“Very well,” he said. “The measure is most wise, although I doubt if it will be popular. But, then, unpopularity is the fate of wise measures. I am glad the matter has not ended more seriously. The dispatches in question, so far as I can recollect, were not of great urgency.”

“There is something more,” said Captain Stanhope. “The dispatches bore signs of having been tampered with.”

“Tampered with?” It was a question from Tremayne, charged with incredulity. “But who would have tampered with them?”

“There were signs, that is all. Garfield was taken to the house of the parish priest, where he lay lost until he recovered sufficiently to realise his position for himself. No doubt you will have a schedule of the contents of the dispatch, Sir Terence?”

“Certainly. It is in your possession, I think, Tremayne.”

Tremayne turned to his desk, and a brief search in one of its well-ordered drawers brought to light an oblong strip of paper folded and endorsed. He unfolded and spread it on Sir Terence’s table, whilst Captain Stanhope, producing a note with which he came equipped, stooped to check off the items. Suddenly he stopped, frowned, and finally placed his finger under one of the lines of Tremayne’s schedule, carefully studying his own note for a moment.

“Ha!” he said quietly at last. “What’s this?” And he read: “‘Note from Lord Liverpool of reinforcements to be embarked for Lisbon in June or July.’” He looked at the adjutant and the adjutant’s secretary. “That would appear to be the most important document of all—indeed the only document of any vital importance. And it was not included in the dispatch as it reached Lord Wellington.”

The three looked gravely at one another in silence.

“Have you a copy of the note, sir?” inquired the aide-de-camp.

“Not a copy—but a summary of its contents, the figures it contained, are pencilled there on the margin,” Tremayne answered.

“Allow me, sir,” said Stanhope, and taking up a quill from the adjutant’s table he rapidly copied the figures. “Lord Wellington must have this memorandum as soon as possible. The rest, Sir Terence, is of course a matter for yourself. You will know what to do. Meanwhile I shall report to his lordship what has occurred. I had best set out at once.”

“If you will rest for an hour, and give my wife the pleasure of your company at luncheon, I shall have a letter ready for Lord Wellington,” replied Sir Terence. “Perhaps you’ll see to it, Tremayne,” he added, without waiting for Captain Stanhope’s answer to an invitation which amounted to a command.

Thus Stanhope was led away, and Sir Terence, all other matters forgotten for the moment, sat down to write his letter.

Later in the day, after Captain Stanhope had taken his departure, the duty fell to Tremayne of framing the general order and seeing to the dispatch of a copy to each division.

“I wonder,” he said to Sir Terence, “who will be the first to break it?”

“Why, the fool who’s most anxious to be broke himself,” answered Sir Terence.

There appeared to be reservations about it in Tremayne’s mind.

“It’s a devilish stringent regulation,” he criticised.

“But very salutary and very necessary.”

“Oh, quite.” Tremayne’s agreement was unhesitating. “But I shouldn’t care to feel the restraint of it, and I thank heaven I have no enemy thirsting for my blood.”

Sir Terence’s brow darkened. His face was turned away from his secretary. “How can a man be confident of that?” he wondered.

“Oh, a clean conscience, I suppose,” laughed Tremayne, and he gave his attention to his papers.

Frankness, honesty and light-heartedness rang so clear in the words that they sowed in Sir Terence’s mind fresh doubts of the galling suspicion he had been harbouring.

“Do you boast a clean conscience, eh, Ned?” he asked, not without a lurking shame at this deliberate sly searching of the other’s mind. Yet he strained his ears for the answer.

“Almost clean,” said Tremayne. “Temptation doesn’t stain when it’s resisted, does it?”

Sir Terence trembled. But he controlled himself.

“Nay, now, that’s a question for the casuists. They right answer you that it depends upon the temptation.” And he asked point-blank: “What’s tempting you?”

Tremayne was in a mood for confidences, and Sir Terence was his friend. But he hesitated. His answer to the question was an irrelevance.

“It’s just hell to be poor, O’Moy,” he said.

The adjutant turned to stare at him. Tremayne was sitting with his head resting on one hand, the fingers thrusting through the crisp fair hair, and there was gloom in his clear-cut face, a dullness in the usually keen grey eyes.

“Is there anything on your mind?” quoth Sir Terence.

“Temptation,” was the answer. “It’s an unpleasant thing to struggle against.”

“But you spoke of poverty?”

“To be sure. If I weren’t poor I could put my fortunes to the test, and make an end of the matter one way or the other.”

There was a pause. “Sure I hope I am the last man to force a confidence, Ned,” said O’Moy. “But you certainly seem as if it would do you good to confide.”

Tremayne shook himself mentally. “I think we had better deal with the matter of this dispatch that was tampered with at Penalva.”

“So we will, to be sure. But it can wait a minute.” Sir Terence pushed back his chair, and rose. He crossed slowly to his secretary’s side. “What’s on your mind, Ned?” he asked with abrupt solicitude, and Ned could not suspect that it was the matter on Sir Terence’s own mind that was urging him—but urging him hopefully.

Captain Tremayne looked up with a rueful smile. “I thought you boasted that you never forced a confidence.” And then he looked away. “Sylvia Armytage tells me that she is thinking of returning to England.”

For a moment the words seemed to Sir Terence a fresh irrelevance; another attempt to change the subject. Then quite suddenly a light broke upon his mind, shedding a relief so great and joyous that he sought to check it almost in fear.

“It is more than she has told me,” he answered steadily. “But then, no doubt, you enjoy her confidence.”

Tremayne flashed him a wry glance and looked away again.

“Alas!” he said, and fetched a sigh.

“And is Sylvia the temptation, Ned?”

Tremayne was silent for a while, little dreaming how Sir Terence hung upon his answer, how impatiently he awaited it.

“Of course,” he said at last. “Isn’t it obvious to any one?” And he grew rhapsodical: “How can a man be daily in her company without succumbing to her loveliness, to her matchless grace of body and of mind, without perceiving that she is incomparable, peerless, as much above other women as an angel perhaps might be above herself?”

Before his glum solemnity, and before something else that Tremayne could not suspect, Sir Terence exploded into laughter. Of the immense and joyous relief in it his secretary caught no hint; all he heard was its sheer amusement, and this galled and shamed him. For no man cares to be laughed at for such feelings as Tremayne had been led into betraying.

“You think it something to laugh at?” he said tartly.

“Laugh, is it?” spluttered Sir Terence. “God grant I don’t burst a blood-vessel.”

Tremayne reddened. “When you’ve indulged your humour, sir,” he said stiffly, “perhaps you’ll consider the matter of this dispatch.”

But Sir Terence laughed more uproariously than ever. He came to stand beside Tremayne, and slapped him heartily on the shoulder.

“Ye’ll kill me, Ned!” he protested. “For God’s sake, not so glum. It’s that makes ye ridiculous.”

“I am sorry you find me ridiculous.”

“Nay, then, it’s glad ye ought to be. By my soul, if Sylvia tempts you, man, why the devil don’t ye just succumb and have done with it? She’s handsome enough and well set up with her air of an Amazon, and she rides uncommon straight, begad! Indeed it’s a broth of a girl she is in the hunting-field, the ballroom, or at the breakfast-table, although riper acquaintance may discover her not to be quite all that you imagine her at present. Let your temptation lead you then, entirely, and good luck to you, my boy.”

“Didn’t I tell you, O’Moy,” answered the captain, mollified a little by the sympathy and good feeling peeping through the adjutant’s boisterousness, “that poverty is just hell. It’s my poverty that’s in the way.”

“And is that all? Then it’s thankful you should be that Sylvia Armytage has got enough for two.”

“That’s just it.”

“Just what?”

“The obstacle. I could marry a poor woman. But Sylvia—”

“Have you spoken to her?”

Tremayne was indignant. “How do you suppose I could?”

“It’ll not have occurred to you that the lady may have feelings which having aroused you ought to be considering?”

A wry smile and a shake of the head was Tremayne’s only answer; and then Carruthers came in fresh from Lisbon, where he had been upon business connected with the commissariat, and to Tremayne’s relief the subject was perforce abandoned.

Yet he marvelled several times that day that the hilarity he should have awakened in Sir Terence continued to cling to the adjutant, and that despite the many vexatious matters claiming attention he should preserve an irrepressible and almost boyish gaiety.

Meanwhile, however, the coming of Carruthers had brought the adjutant a moment’s seriousness, and he reverted to the business of Captain Garfield. When he had mentioned the missing note, Carruthers very properly became grave. He was a short, stiffly built man with a round, good-humoured, rather florid face.

“The matter must be probed at once, sir,” he ventured. “We know that we move in a tangle of intrigues and espionage. But such a thing as this has never happened before. Have you anything to go upon?”

“Captain Stanhope gave us nothing,” said the adjutant.

“It would be best perhaps to get Grant to look into it,” said Tremayne.

“If he is still in Lisbon,” said Sir Terence.

“I passed him in the street an hour ago,” replied Carruthers.

“Then by all means let a note be sent to him asking him if he will step up to Monsanto as soon as he conveniently can. You might see to it, Tremayne.”

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