friendly and meaning smile, which somehow made
my cheeks bum. It was no fault of mine that Blanche
had been hanging over my chair.
" Come," she said, " I'm sure I'm very glad to see
you once more, Mr. Ducaine. Such a stranger as
you are too ! But you don't mean to sit in here
without a fire all the afternoon, I suppose, Blanche.
Tea is just ready in the dining-room. Bring Mr.
Ducaine along, Blanche."
I held out my hand.
" I am sorry that I cannot stop, Mrs. Moyat," I
said. " Good afternoon. Miss Moyat."
She looked me in the eyes.
" You are not going," she murmured.
" I am afraid," I answered, " that it is imperative.
I ought to have been at Rowchester long ago. We
are too near neighbours, though, not to see something
of one another again before long "
150 THE BETRAYAL.
" Well, I'm sure there's no need to hurry so," Mrs.
Moyat declared, backing out of the room. " Blanche,
you see if you can't persuade Mr. Ducaine. Father'll
be home early this evening, too."
" I think," Blanche said, " that Mr. Ducaine has
made up his mind."
She walked with me to the hall door, but she
declined to shake hands with me. Her appearance
was little short of tragic. I think that at another
time I might have been amused, for never in my
life had I spoken more than a few courteous words
to the girl. But my nerv^es were all on edge, and I
took her seriously. I walked down the street, leaving
her standing in the threshold with the door open as
though anxious to give me a chance to return if I
would. I looked back at the corner, and waved my
hand. There was something almost threatening
in the grim, irresponsive figure, standing watching me,
and making no pretence at returning my farewell â€”
watching me with steady eyes and close-drawn brows.
MOSTYN RAY EXPLAINS.
I WALKED straight to the house, and locked up
my papers in the great safe. I had hoped to
escape without seeing either Ray or Lady
Angela, but as I crossed the hall they issued from
the billiard-room. Lady Angela turned towards
" Mr. Ducaine," she exclaimed, " have you seen
anything of Lord Blenavon to-day ? "
I shook my head.
" I have not seen him for several days, Lady
Angela," I answered.
Ray said something to her, which I could not
hear. She nodded and left us together.
" It seems," he said, " that this amiable young
MOSTYN RAY EXPLAINS. 151
gentleman is more or less in the clutches of our siren
friend at Braster Grange. I think that you and I
had better go and dig him out."
" Thank you," I answered, " but I had all I wanted
of Braster Grange last night."
" Pooh ! " he answered lightly, " you are not even
scratched. They are clumsy conspirators there, I
think that you and I are a match for them. Come
along ! "
" You must excuse me, Colonel Ray," I said,
" but I have no desire to visit Braster Grange,
even with you."
Lady Angela, whose crossing the hall had been
noiseless, suddenly interposed.
" You are quite right, Mr. Ducaine," she said ;
" but this is no visit of courtesy, is it ? I am sure
that my brother would never stay there voluntarily.
Something must have happened to him."
** We will go and see," Ray declared. " Come
I hesitated, but a glance from Lady Angela settled
the matter. For another such I would have walked
into hell. Ray and I started off together, and I
was not long before I spoke of the things which were
in my mind. W^i
" Colonel Ray," I said, ** when I saw you this
morning you made two statements, both of which
Ray brought out his pipe and began to fill it in
" Go on," he said. " What were they ? "
" The first was that you had come down from
London by the newspaper train this morning, and
the second was that you had received your injuries,
in a taxi-cab accident."
His pipe was started, and he puffed out dense
volumes of smoke with an air of keen enjoyment.
" Worst of having a woman for your hostess," he
152 THE BETRAYAL.
remarked, " one can't smoke except a sickly cigarette
or two. You should take to a pipe, Ducaine."
" Will you be good enough to explain those two
misstatements. Colonel Ray ? "
" Lies, both of them ! " he answered, with grim
cheerfulness. " Rotten lies, and I hate telling 'em.
The taxi-cab accident must have sounded a bit thin."
"It did," I assured him.
He removed his pipe from his teeth, and pushed
down the tobacco with the end of his finger.
" I came down from town by the same train that
you did," he said, " and as for my broken head and
smashed arm, you did it yourself."
" I imagined so," I answered. " Perhaps you will
admit that you owe me some explanation."
He laughed, a deep bass laugh, and looked down
at me with a gleam of humour in his black eyes.
" Come," he said, " I think that the boot is on
the other leg. My head is exceedingly painful and
my leg is very stiff. For a young man of your build
you have a most surprising muscle."
" I am to understand, then, that it was you who
committed an unprovoked assault upon me â€” who
planned to have me waylaid in that dastardly
fashion ? "
" Do you think," Ray asked quietly, " that I
should be such a damned fool ? "
" What am I to think, then ; what am I to
believe ? " I asked, with a sudden anger. " You
found me starving, and you gave me employment,
but ever since I started my work life has become
a huge ugly riddle. Are you my friend or my enemy ?
I do not know. There is a drama being played out
before my very eyes. The figures in it move about
me continually, yet I alone am blindfolded. I am
trusted to almost an incredible extent. Great issues
are confided to me. I have been given such a post
as a man might work for a lifetime to secure. Yet
MOSTYN RAY EXPLAINS. 153
where a little confidence would give me zest for my
work â€” would take away this horrible sense of moving
always in the darkness â€” it is withheld from me."
Ray smoked on in silence for several moments.
" Well," he said, " I am not sure that you are
altogether unreasonable. But, on the other hand,
you must not forget that there is method and a good
deal of it, in the very things of which you complain.
There are certain positions in which a man may find
himself where a measure of ignorance is a blessed
thing. Believe me, that if you understood, your
difficulties would increase instead of diminish."
I shrugged my shoulders.
" But between you and me at least. Colonel Ray,"
I said, " there is a plain issue. You can explain
the events of last night to me."
" I will do that," he answered, " since you have
asked it. Briefly, then, I parted from you on the steps
of my club at a few minutes past nine last night."
!! Yes ! "
" I saw from the moment we appeared that you
were being watched. I saw the man who was loitering
on the pavement lean over to hear the address you
gave to the taxi driver, and you were scarcely away
before he was following you. But it was only just
as he drove by, leaning a little forward in his taxi,
that I saw his face. I recognised him for one of
that woman's most dangerous confederates, and I
knew then that some villainy was on foot. To cut
a long story short, I came down unobserved in your
train, followed you to Braster Grange and was only
a yard or two behind when this fellow, who acts as
the woman's chauffeur, sprang out upon you. I was
unfortunately a little too quick to the rescue, and
received a smash on the head from your stick. Then
you bolted, and I found myself engaged with a pair
of them. On the whole I think that they got the
worst of it."
154 THE BETRAYAL.
" The other one â€” was Lord Blenavon ! " I
" It was."
" Then he is concerned in the plots which are
going on against us/' I continued. " I felt certain
of it. What a blackguard ! "
" For his sister's sake," Colonel Ray said softly,
*' I want to keep him out of it if I can. Therefore
I hit him a little harder than was necessary. He
should be hors de combal for some time."
" But why didn't you cry out to me ? I should not
have run if I had known that I had an ally there."
" To run was exactly what I wanted you to do,"
Ray answered. " You had the despatch-box, and
I wanted to see you safe away."
I glanced at his bandaged head and arm.
" I suppose that I ought to apologise to you,"
" Under the circumstances," he declared, " we
will cry quits."
Then as we walked together in the glittering spring
sunshine, this big silent man and I, there came upon
me a swift, poignant impulse, the keener perhaps
because of the loneliness of my days, to implore him
to unravel all the things which lay between us. I
wanted the story of that night, of my concern in it,
stripped bare. Already my lips were opened, when
round the corner of the rough lane by which Braster
Grange was approached on this side came a doctor's
gig. Ray shaded his eyes and gazed at its occupant.
" Is this Bouriggs, Ducaine ? " he asked, " the
man who shot with us ? "
" It is Dr. Bouriggs," I answered.
Ray stopped the gig and exchanged greetings
with the big sandy-haired man, who held a rein in
each hand as though he were driving a market wagon.
They chatted for a moment or two idly enough, as it
seemed to me.
MOSTYN RAY EXPLAINS. 155
" Any one ill at the Grange, doctor ? '' Ray asked
The doctor looked at him curiously.
" I have just come from there/' he answered.
" There is nothing very seriously wrong."
" Can you tell me if Lord Blenavon is there ? "
The doctor hesitated.
" It was hinted to me, Colonel Ray," he said,
" that my visit to the Grange was not to be spoken
of. You will understand, of course, that the etiquette
of our profession "
" Quite right," Ray interrupted. " The fact is,
Lady Angela is very anxious about her brother, who
did not return to Rowchester last night, and she
has sent us out as a search party. Of course, if you
were able to help us she would be very gratified."
The doctor hesitated.
" The Duke and, in fact, all the family have always
been exceedingly kind to me," he remarked, looking
straight between his horse's ears. " Under the
circumstances you mention, if you were to assert
that Lord Blenavon was at Braster Grange I do not
think that I should contradict you."
" Thank you, doctor," he said. " Good morning."
The doctor drove on, and we pursued our way.
" It was a very dark night," Ray said, half to
himself, " but if Blenavon was the man I hit _^ he
ought to have a cracked skull."
After all, our interrogation of the doctor was quite
unnecessary. We were admitted at once to the
Grange by a neatly dressed parlour-maid. Mrs.
Smith-Lessing was at home, and the girl did not; for
a moment seem to doubt her mistress's willingness to
receive us. As she busied herself poking the fire and
opening wider the thick curtains, Ray asked her
156 THE BETRAYAL.
" Do you know if Lord Blenavon is here ? "
" Yes, sir," the girl answered promptly. " He was
brought in last night rather badly hurt, but he is
much better this morning. I will let Mrs. Smith-
Lessing know that you are here, sir."
She hurried out, with the rustle of stiff starch and
the quick light-footedness of the well-trained servant.
Ray and I exchanged glances.
" After all, this is not such a home of mystery as
we expected," I remarked.
" Apparently not," he answered. " The httle
woman is playing a bold game."
Then Mrs. Smith-Lessing came in.
LORD BLENAVON'S SURRENDER.
SHE came in very quietly, a little pale and wan
in this cold evening light. She held out her
hand to me with a subdued but charming smile
" I am so glad that you have come to see me," she
said softly. " You can help me, too, about this
unfortunate young man who has been thrown upon
my hands. I "
Then she saw Ray, and the words seemed to die
away upon her lips. I had to steel my heart against
her to shut out the pity which I could scarcely help
feeling. She was white to the lips. She stood as one
turned to stone, with her distended eyes fixed upon
him. It was like a trapped bird, watching its
impending fate. She faltered a little on her feet,
and â€” I could not help it â€” I hurried to her side with
a chair. As she sank into it she thanked me with a
very plaintive smile.
" Thank you," she said, simply. " I am not very
strong, and I did not know that man was with you."
LORD BLENAVON'S SURRENDER. 157
Ray broke in. His voice sounded harsh, his
manner, I thought, was unnecessarily brutal.
'' I can understand," he said, " that you find my
presence a little unwelcome. I need scarcely say that
this is not a visit of courtesy. You know very well
that willingly I would never spend a moment under
the same roof as you. I am here to speak a few plain
words, to which you will do well to listen."
She raised her eyes to his. Her courage seemed to
be returning at the note of battle in his tone. Her
small, well-shaped head was thrown back. The
hands which grasped the sides of her chair ceased
" Go on," she said.
" We will not play at cheap diplomacy," he said,
sneeringly. " I know you by a dozen names, which
you alter and adopt to suit the occasion. You are
a creature of the French police, one of those parasitical
creatures who live by sucking the honesty out of
simpler persons. You are here because the more
private meetings of the English Council of Defence
are being held at Rowchester. It is your object by
bribery, or theft, or robbery, or the seductive use of
those wonderful charms of yours, to gain possession
of copies of any particulars whatever about the
English autumn manoeuvres, which, curiously enough,
have been arranged as a sort of addendum to those
on your side of the Channel. You have an ally, I
regret to say, in the Duke's son ; you are seeking to
gain for yourself a far more valuable one in the person
of this boy. You say to yourself, no doubt, * Like
father, like son.' You ruined and disgraced the one.
You think, perhaps, the other will be as easy."
** Stop ! " she cried.
He looked at her curiously. Her face was drawn
with pain. In her eyes was the look of a being
stricken to death.
*' It is terrible ! " she murmured, " that men so
158 THE BETRAYAL.
coarse and brutal as you should have the gift of
speech. I do not wish to ask for any mercy from you,
but if I am to stay here and listen, you will speak only
He shrugged his shoulders contemptuously.
" You should be hardened by this time," he said,
" but I forgot that we had an audience. It is always
worth while to play a little to the gallery, isn't it ?
Well, facts, then. The boy is warned against you,
and from to-day this house is watched by picked
detectives. Blenavon can avail you nothing, for he
knows nothing. Such clumsy schemes as last night's
are foredoomed to failure, and will only get you into
trouble. You will waste your time here. Take my
advice, and go ! "
She rose to her feet. Smaller and frailer than
ever she seemed, as she stood before Ray, dark
" Your story is plausible," she said coldly. " It
may even be true. But, apart from that, I had another
and a greater reason for coming to England, for
coming to Braster. I came to seek my husband â€”
the father of this boy. I am even now in search
I held my breath and gazed at Ray. For the
moment it seemed as though the tables were turned.
No signs of emotion were present in his face, but he
seemed to have no words. He simply looked at her.
" He left me in January," she continued, " deter-
mined at least to have speech with his son. He
heard then for the first time of the absconding trustee.
He came to England, if not to implore his son's
forgiveness, at least to place him above want. And
in this country he has never been heard of. He has
disappeared. I am here to find him. Perhaps," she
added, leaning a little over towards Ray, and in a
slightly altered tone, " perhaps you can help me ? "
Again it seemed to me that Ray was troubled by a
LORD BLENAVON'S SURRENDER. 159
certain speechlessness. When at last he found words,
they and his tone were alike harsh, almost violent.
" Do you think," he said, " that I would stretch
out the little finger of my hand to help you or him ?
You know very well that I would not. The pair of
you, in my opinion, were long since outside the pale
of consideration from any living being. If he is
lost, so much the better. If he is dead, so much the
"It is because I know how you feel towards
him," she said, slowly, "that I wondered â€” yes, I
wondered ! "
" Well ? "
" Whether you could not, if you chose, solve for
me the mystery of his disappearance."
There was as much as a dozen seconds or so of
tense silence between them. She never once flinched.
The cold question of her eyes seemed to bum its way
into the man's composure. A fierce exclamation
broke from his lips.
"If he were dead," he said, " and if it were my
hand which had removed him, I should count it
amongst the best actions of my life."
She looked at him curiously â€” as one might regard
a wild beast.
" You can speak like this before his son ? "
" I veil my words at no time and for no man," he
answered. " The truth is always best."
Then the door opened, and Blenavon entered.
His arm and head were bandaged, and he walked
with a limp. He was deathly pale, and apparently
very nervous. He attempted a casual greeting with
Ray, but it was a poor pretence. Ray, for his part,
had evidently no mind to beat about the bush.
" Lord Blenavon," he said, " this house is no fit
place for your father's son. I have warned you before,
but the time for advice is past. Your hostess here is
a creature of the French police, and her business here
i6o THE BETRAYAL.
is to suborn you and others whom she can buy or
cajole into a treasonable breach of confidence. It
is very possible that you know all this, and more.
But I appeal to you as an Englishman and the
representative of a great English family. Are you
willing to leave at once with us and to depart
altogether from this part of the country, or will you
face the consequences ? "
Blenavon was a coward. He shook and stammered.
He was not even master of his voice.
" I do not understand you," he faltered. " You
have no right to speak to me like this."
" Right or no right, I do," Ray answered. " If
you refuse I shall not spare you. Last night was only
one incident of many. I break my faith as a soldier
by giving you this opportunity. Will you come ? "
" I am waiting now for a car," Blenavon answered.
" I have sent to the house for one."
" You will not return to the house," Ray said
shortly. " You will leave here for the station, the
station for London, and London for the Continent.
You do this, and I hold my peace. You refuse, and
I see Lord Chelsford and your father to-night."
From the first I knew that he would yield, but he
did it with an ill grace.
" I don't see why I should go," he said sulkily.
" Either you and I together, or I alone, are going
to catch the six o'clock train to London," Ray said.
" If I go alone you will be an exile from England for
the rest of your life, your name will be removed from
every club to which you belong, and you will have
brought irreparable disgrace upon your family. The
choice is yours."
Blenavon turned towards the woman as though
for aid. But she stood with her back to him, pale
and with a thin scornful smile upon her lips.
" The choice," Ray repeated, glancing at his
watch, " is yours, but the time is short."
LORD BLENAVON'S SURRENDER. i6i
** I will go," Blenavon said. " I was off in a day
or two, anyway. Of what you suspect me I don't
know, and I don't care. But I will go."
Ray put his watch into his pocket. He turned to
" Better come too," he said quietly. " You have
no more chance here. Every one knows now who and
what you are."
She looked at him with white, expressionless face.
" It does not suit me to leave the neighbourhood
at present," she said calmly.
If she had been a man Ray would have struck her.
I could see his white teeth clenched fiercely together.
" It does not suit me," he said, in a low tone vibrate
with suppressed passion, " to have you here. You are
a plague spot upon the place. You have been a plague
spot all your life. Whatever you touch you corrupt."
She shrank away for a moment. After all, she
was a woman, and I hated Ray for his brutality.
" What a butcher you are ! " she said, looking at
him curiously. " If ever you should marry â€” God
help the woman."
"There are women and women," he answered
roughly. "As for you,you do not count in the sex at all."
She turned away from him with a little shudder,
and for the first time during the interview she hid her
face in her hands. It was aU I could do to avoid speech.
" Come," he said, " do you agree ? Will you leave
this place ? I promise you that your schemes here
at any rate are at an end."
She turned to me. Perhaps something in my face had
spoken the sympathy which I could not wholly suppress.
" Guy," she said, " I want to be rid of this man,
because every word he speaks â€” hurts. But I cannot
even look at him any more. At this war of words he
has won. I am beaten. I admit it. I am crushed.
I am not going away. I spoke truthfully when I said
that I came to England in search of your father. We
i62 THE BETRAYAL.
may both of us be the creatures that man would have
you beheve, but we have been husband and wife for
eighteen years, and it is my duty to find out what has
become of him. Therefore I stay."
I could see Ray's black eyes flashing. He almost
gripped my arm as he drew me away. We three left the
house together. At the bottom of the drive we met a
car sent down from Rowchester. Ray stopped it.
" Blenavon and I will take this car to the station,"
he said. " Will you, Ducaine, return to Lady Angela
and tell her exactly what has happened ? "
" Oh, come, I'm not going to have that," Blenavon
" It will not be unexpected news," Ray said
sternly. " Your sister suspects already."
" I'm not going to be bundled away and leave you
to concoct any precious story you think fit," Blen-
avon declared doggedly. " I "
Ray opened the car door and gripped Blenavon's
arm. " Get in," he said in a low, suppressed tone.
There was something almost animal in the fury of
Ray's voice. I looked away with a shudder. Blen-
avon stepped quietly into the car. Then Ray came
over to me, and as he looked searchingly into my
face, he pointed up the carriage drive.
" Boy," he said, " you are young, and in hell itself
there cannot be many such as she. You think me
brutal. It is because I remember â€” your mother ! "
He stepped into the car. I turned round and set
out for Rowchester.
THERE followed for me another three days of
unremitting work. Then midway through one
morning I threw my pen from me with a
great sense of relief. They might come or send for
me when they chose. I had_^finished. My eyes were
MY SECRET. 163
hot and my brain weary. Instinctively I threw open
my front door, and it seemed to me that the sun and
the wind and the birds were calhng.
So I walked northwards down on the beach, across
the grass-sprinkled sandhills and the mud-bottomed
marshes. I walked with my cap stuffed in my pocket,
my head bared to the freshening wind, and all the
way I met no living creature. As I walked, my
thoughts, which had been concentrated for these last
few days upon my work, went back to that terrible
half-hour at Braster Grange. I thought of Ray. I
realised now that for days past I had been striving
not to think of him. The man's sheer brutality
appalled me. I believed in him now wholly, I
believed at least in his honesty, his vigorous and
trenchant loyalty. But the ways of the man were
surely brutal to torture even vermin caught in the
trap, and that woman, adventuress though she might
be, had flinched before him in agony, as though her
very nerves were being hacked out of her body.
And Blenavon, too ! Surely he might have re-
membered that he was her brother. He might have
helped him to retain just a portion of his self-respect.
Was he as severe on every measure of wrong-doing ?
I fancied to myself the meeting on that lonely road
between the poor white-faced creature who had
looked in upon my window, and this strong, merciless
man. Warmed with exercise as I was, I shivered.
Ray reminded me of those grim figures of the Old
Testament. An eye for an eye, a hfe for a life, were