peril ! "
There was a moment's breathless silence. Then
with an incredibly swift movement my stepmother
stepped in between and snatched up the little roll.
She glanced behind at the grate, but the fire was
almost extinct. With a little gesture of despair
she held them out to me.
" Take them, Guy," she cried.
Ray stood by my side, and I felt his hand descend
like a vice upon my shoulder.
" Give me those papers," he demanded.
I hesitated for a moment. Then I obeyed him.
222 THE BETRAYAL.
I heard a little sob from behind. The pistol had
fallen from my father's shaking fingers, his head had
fallen forwards upon his hands. A tardy remorse
seemed for a moment to have pierced the husk of his
" It is all my fault, my fault ! " he muttered.
My stepmother turned upon him, pale to the
lips, with blazing eyes.
" You are out of your senses," she exclaimed.
" Guy, this man is a bully. All his life it has been
his pleasure to persecute the weak and defenceless.
The papers are yours. I do not know what they are,
nor does he," she added, pointing to where my father
still crouched before the table. " Don't let him
frighten you into giving them up. He is trying to
drag you into the mesh with us. Don't let him !
You have nothing to do with us, thank heaven ! "
She stopped suddenly, and snatched the pistol
from my father's nerveless grasp. Then her hand
flashed out. Ray was covered, and her white
fingers never quivered. Even Ray took a quick
" Give him back those papers," she commanded.
I intervened, stepping into the line of fire.
" I gave them to him willingly," I told her. " I
do not wish to have them back. He is one of my
employers, and he has a right to claim them."
I spoke firmly, and she saw that I was at any rate
in earnest. Yet the look which she drew upon me
was a strange one. I felt that she was disappointed,
that a certain measure of contempt too was mingled
with her disappointment. She threw the pistol on
to the sofa, and shrugged her shoulders.
" After all," she said, " I suppose you are right.
The whole affair is not worth those heroics. I am
ready to go with you to the Duke, Guy, unless Colonel
Ray has any contrary orders for us."
Ray turned to me.
MYSELF AND MY STEPMOTHER. 223
" You must come with me at once to my rooms,"
he said coldly. " This person can find the Duke by
herself, if indeed the Duke has sent for her."
I understood then why people hated Ray. There
was a vein of positive brutality somewhere in the
" I am sorry," I answered him, " but I cannot come
to your rooms at present. The Duke is my present
employer, and I am here to take Mrs. Smith-Lessing
to him. As long as she is willing to accept my escort
I shall certainly carry out my instructions."
" Don't be a fool, boy," Ray exclaimed sharply.
" I want to give you a last chance before I go to
" I do not think," I answered, " that I care about
accepting any favours from you just now, Colonel
Ray. Nor am I at all sure that I need them," I
He turned on his heel, but at the door he hesitated
" Guy," he said in a low tone, " will you speak to me
for a moment outside ? "
I stood on the landing with him. He closed the
door leading into the sitting-room.
" Guy," he said, " you know that if I leave you
behind, you link your lot with â€” them. You will
be an outcast and a fugitive all your days. You will
have to avoid every place where the English language
is spoken. You will never be able to recover your
honour, you v/ill be the scorn of all EngHshmen and
Englishwomen. I speak to you for your mother's
sake, boy. You have started life with a cursed
heritage. I want to make allowance for it."
I looked him straight in the face.
" I am afraid. Colonel Ray," I said, " that you are
not inclined to give me credit for very much common
sense. Take those papers to Lord Chelsford. I will
come round to your rooms as soon as possible."
224 THE BETRAYAL.
He looked at me with eager, searching gaze.
" You mean this ? "
" Certainly ! " I answered.
He seemed about to say something, but changed his
mind. He left me without another word. I stepped
back into the sitting-room. My father, with an
empty tumbler in his hand, was crouched foi-ward
over the table, breathing heavily. My stepmother,
with marble face and hard, set eyes, was leaning
forward in her chair, looking into the dying fire.
She scarcely glanced at me as I entered.
" Has he gone ? " she asked.
" Yes," I answered. " Will you get ready, please ?
I want to take you to the Duke."
She rose to her feet at once, and moved towards
the door, I was left alone with my father, but he
never stirred during her absence, nor did I speak to
him. She returned in a few minutes, dressed very
quietly, and wearing a veil which completely ob-
scured her features. We walked to the comer of the
square, and then I called a taxi.
" I know nothing about Lord Blenavon," she said,
a little wearily. " I suppose the Duke will not
believe that, but it is true."
" You can do no more than tell the truth," I
" Tell me what he is like â€” the Duke ? " she asked
" He is a typical man of his class," I answered.
" He is stiff, obstinate, punctilious, with an extreme
sense of honour, to gratify which, by the by, he has
just deliberately pauperised himself. He will not
remind you in the least of Lord Blenavon."
" I should imagine not," she answered.
Then there was a short silence, and I could see
that she was crying under her veil. I laid my hand
" I am afraid," I said gently, " that I have misled
ANGELA'S CONFESSION. 225
you a little. You are worrying about me, and it isn't
half so necessary as you imagine. You thought me
mad to listen to my father's offer, and a coward to
give up those papers to Ray. Isn't that so ? "
My words seemed to electrify her. She pushed
up her veil and looked at me eagerly.
" Well ? Go on ! " she exclaimed.
*' There are some things," I said, " which I have
made up my mind to tell no one. But at least I can
assure you of this. I am not nearly in so desperate a
position as you and Colonel Ray seem to think."
She caught hold of my hand and grasped it con-
vulsively. The hard lines seemed to have fallen away
from her face. She smiled tremulously.
" Oh, I am glad ! " she declared. " I am glad ! "
Just then a car passed us, and I saw Lady Angela
lean a little forward in her seat as though to gain a
better view of us.
THE Duke was in his study awaiting our arrival.
I saw him rise and bow stiffly to my step-
mother. Then I closed the door and left
I wandered through the house, a little at a loss to
know what to do with myself. It was too soon to
go to Ray, and the work on which I was engaged
was all in the study. Just as I passed the drawing-
room door, however, it opened suddenly, and Lady
Angela came out, talking to a white-haired old
gentleman, who carried a stick on which he leaned
heavily. He looked at me rather curiously, and then
began to hobble down the hall at a great pace. But
Lady Angela laid her hand upon his arm.
" Why, Sir Michael," she exclaimed, " this won't
do at all. You can't look him in the face and run.
Mr. Ducaine, this is Sir Michael Trogoldy."
226 THE BETRAYAL.
He swung round and held out his hand. His eyes
searched my face eagerly.
" Nephew," he said, " I wanted to meet you,
and I didn't want to meet you. God bless my soul !
you've got Muriel's eyes and mouth. Come and dine
with me one night next week â€” any night : let me
know. Good-bye, good-bye, Lady Angela. God
bless you. Here, James, give me your arm down the
steps, and whistle for my fellow to draw up. There
he is, in the middle of the road, the blockhead."
Lady Angela and I exchanged glances. I think
that we should both have laughed but for the tears
which we had seen in his eyes.
" Poor old man," she murmured. "He is very
nervous and very sensitive. I know that he dreaded
seeing you, and yet he came this afternoon for no
other purpose. Will you come into the drawing-room
for a moment ? "
There was a certain stiffness in her manner, which
was new to me. She remained standing, and her
soft, dark eyes were full of grave inquiry.
" Mr. Ducaine," she said, " I passed you just now
driving in a taxi with a person â€” of whom I disapprove.
May I know â€” is it any secret why you were with
her ? "
" It is no secret at all. Lady Angela," I answered.
" I was sent to fetch her by your father."
" By my father ? " she repeated incredulously.
" Do you mean that she is in this house ? "
" Certainly," I answered. " Your father is anxious,
I believe, about Lord Blenavon. It occurred to me
that he perhaps hoped to get news of him from
Mrs. Smith-Lessing. At any rate, he sent me for her."
She seemed to me to be trembling a little. Her
eyes sought mine almost pathetically. She was afraid
of something. In the half-lights she appeared to me
then so frail and girlish that a great wave of tender-
ness swept in upon me. I longed to take her into
ANGELA'S CONFESSION. 227
my arms â€” even to hold her hands and try to comfort
her. Surely to do these things was the privilege of
the man who loved her. And I loved her â€” loved her
so that the pain and joy of it were woven together
like live things in my heart, fighting always against
the grim silence which lay like a seal upon my lips.
But there were moments when I was sorely tried, and
this was one of them. My eyes fell from hers. I
dared not look her in the face.
" Is this â€” all ? " she asked falteringly.
" It is all that I know," I answered.
Then we were silent. With a little sigh she sank
down in the corner of a high-backed easy-chair. It
seemed to me that she was thinner, that something of
the delicate childishness of her appearance had passed
away since her coming to London. I knew that she
was in trouble, and I dared not ask her the cause of it.
" I wish that we were going back to Braster to-
morrow," she said suddenly. " Everything and
everj'body is different here. You seem to spend most
of your time trying to avoid me â€” and â€” Colonel Ray.
I do not know what is the matter with him, but he has
become lilce a walking tragedy."
" I have not tried to avoid you," I said. " I "
Then I stopped short. Her eyes were fixed
upon mine, and the lie stuck in my throat. I went
" I think," I said, " that if you fancy Colonel Ray
is different you should ask him about it."
She shook her head dejectedly.
" I cannot," she said. " Sometimes I am frightened
of Colonel Ray. It is like that just now."
" But you should try and get over it," I said
gently. " He has strange moods, but you should
always remember that he is the man whom you are
going to marry. There ought to be every confidence
between you, and I know â€” yes, I know that he is
very fond of you."
228 THE BETRAYAL.
She leaned a little forward. Her hair was a little
dishevelled, her face was almost haggard. Her under
lip was quivering like a child's.
" I am afraid of him," she sobbed out suddenly.
" I am afraid of him, and I have promised to marry
him. Can't somebody â€” help me ? "
Her head fell suddenty forward and was buried in
her hands. Her whole frame shook with convulsive
weeping, and then suddenly a little white hand shot
out towards me. She did not look up, but the hand
was there, timid, yet inviting. I dropped on my knee
by her side, and I held it in mine.
" Dear Lady Angela," I murmured. " You must
not give way like this, you must not ! Ray is not
used to women, and you are very young. But he
loves you ; I know that he loves you."
" I don't â€” want him to love me," she sobbed.
"Oh, I know that I am foolish and wicked and
childish, but I am afraid of him."
I kept silence, for my own battle was a hard one.
The little hand was holding fast to mine. She lay
curled up in the corner of the chair, her face hidden,
her slim, delicate figure shaking every now and then
with sobs. All the while I longed passionately to
take her into my arms and comfort her.
'â€¢ Don't ! " I begged. " Oh, don't ! Ray has told
me his story. He has made me his confidant. He
has told me how unhappy he has been, and how he
loves you. Oh, Lady Angela, what is there I can
say ? What can I do ? "
I was losing my head a little, I think, for her fingers
were gripping mine convulsively, warm and tender
little fingers which seemed to be drawing me all the
while closer to her.
" I am so miserable," she murmured.
Then suddenly her other arm was around my neck,
her wet, tear-stained face was pressed to mine. I
scarcely knew how it happened, but I knew that she
ANGELA'S CONFESSION. 229
was in my arms, and my lips were pressed to hers.
A sudden, beautiful wave of colour flooded her cheeks ;
she smiled gladly up at me. She gave a delicious
little sigh of satisfaction and then buried her face
on my shoulder. Almost at the same moment Ray
entered the room.
She did not at once raise her head, although she pushed
me gently away from her at the sound of the opening
door. But I, who was standing facing that direction,
saw him from the first, a dark, stern figure, standing
as though rooted to the ground, with the door-handle
still in his hand. For the second time in one day he
seemed to have intervened at the precise psychological
moment. He did not speak to me, nor I to him.
Lady Angela, as though wondering at the silence,
turned her head at last, and a little gasping cry
broke from her lips.
" Mostyn," she exclaimed. " Is that you ? "
For answer he turned towards the wall and flooded
the room with electric light. Then he looked at us
both intently and mercilessly ; only this time I
saw that much of his wonderful self-control was
wanting. He did not answer Lady Angela. He did
not glance towards her.
" You cur ! " he cried. " Twice in a day am I to
be brought face to face with your cursed treachery ?
Twice in a day ! Lady Angela, may I beg that you
will leave us ? "
She stood up and faced him, slim and white-
faced, yet with her head thrown back and her voice
*' Mostyn," she said, " this is my fault. I do not
ask for your forgiveness. I have behaved shamefully,
but I was miserable, and I forgot. Mr. Ducaine is
blameless. It was my fault."
" You will pardon the keenness of my observation,"
he answered, " but the attitude in which I was
unfortunate enough to find you tells its own story.
230 THE BETRAYAL.
You will oblige me, Lady Angela, by leaving us
I would have spoken, but she held out her hand.
" I think you forget, Colonel Ray," she said, " that
this is my house. I am not disposed to leave you and
Mr. Ducaine here together in your present mood."
He laughed harshly.
" Are you afraid for your lover ? " he asked. " I
promise you that I will hold his person sacred."
" Lady Angela," I begged, " please leave us.
Then came an interruption, so unexpected and yet
so natural, that the whole scene seemed at once to
dissolve into bathos. The door was thrown open, and
a footman ushered in callers.
" Lady Ciielsford and the Marchioness of Cardenne,
your ladyship," he announced. " Mrs. and the Miss
Colquhoun. Sir George Treherne ! "
It was a transformation. The room, with its dull
note of tragedy was suddenly filled with faint per-
fumes, shaken from the rustling draperies of half a
dozen women, a little chorus of light voices started the
babel of small-talk. Lady Angela had taken her place
behind the large round tea-table and was talking
nonsense with the tall young guardsman who had
drawn his chair up to her side, and I, with a plate of
sandwiches in my hand, nearly ran into Ray, who
was carrying a cup of tea. For a quarter of an hour
or so we played our parts in the comedy. Then a
servant entered the room and whispered in my ear.
" His Grace would be glad to see you in the
I rose at once. Angela's eyes were fixed upon mine
questioningly. As I passed the table I spoke to her,
and purposely raised my voice so that Ray should hear.
" Your father has sent for me. Lady Angela. He
is terribly industrious to-day."
She smiled back to me quietly. I lingered in the
I LOSE MY POST. 231
hall for a minute, and Ray joined me there. He did
not speak a word, but he motioned me fiercely to
precede him to the library. Directly we entered
it was clear that something unusual had happened.
The great safe door stood open. Lord Chelsford and
the Duke were both awaiting our coming.
I LOSE MY POST.
THE Duke solemnly closed the door.
" Ray," he said, " I am glad that you are
here. Something serious has happened. Mr.
Ducaine, Lord Chelsford and I desire to ask you a
I bowed. What was coming I could not indeed
imagine, unless Ray had already made the disclosure.
" The code word for the safe to-day was Magenta, I
believe ? " the Duke asked.
" That is correct, sii," I answered.
" And it was known to whom ? "
" To Lord Chelsford, yourself, Colonel Ray, and
myself," I answered.
" And what was there in the safe ? " the Duke asked.
" The plans for the Guildford Camp, the new map
of Surrey pricked for fortifications, and one or two
transport schemes," I answered.
" Exactly ! Those documents are now all missing."
I strode to the safe and looked in. It was as the
Duke had said. The safe was practically empty.
" They were there this morning," I said. " It was
arranged that I should examine the contents of the
safe the first thing, and take any finished work over
to the War Office. Do you remember who has been
in the room to-day, sir ? "
" Yourself, myself, and the woman whom you
brought here an hour or so ago."
" Mrs. Smith-Lessing ? " I exclaimed'
2 32 THE BETRAYAL.
" Precisely ! " the Duke remarked dryly.
" Did you leave her alone here ? " I asked.
" For two minutes only," the Duke answered.
" I was called up on the telephone from the House of
Lords. I did not imagine that there could be the
slightest risk in leaving her, for without the knowledge
of that word Magenta the safe would defy a pro-
" You will forgive my suggesting it, your Grace,"
I said, with some hesitation, " but you have not, I pre-
sume, had occasion to go to the safe during the day ? "
" I have not," the Duke answered tersely.
" Then I cannot suggest any explanation of the
opening of the safe," I admitted. " It was impossible
for Mrs. Smith-Lessing to have opened it unless she
knew the code word."
" The question is," the Duke said quietly, " did
she know it ? "
Then I realised the object of this cross-examination.
The colour flared suddenly into my cheeks, and as
suddenly left them. The absence of those papers
was extraordinary to me. I utterly failed to under-
" I think I know what you mean, sir," I said.
" It is true that Mrs. Smith-Lessing is my stepmother.
I believe it is true, too, that she is connected with
the French Secret Police. I was there this afternoon
â€” you yourself sent me. But I did not tell Mrs. Smith-
Lessing the code word, and I know nothing of the
disappearance of those documents."
Then Ray moved forward and placed deliberately
upon the table the roll of papers which I had given
up to him a few hours ago.
" What about these ? " he asked with biting scorn.
" Tell the Duke and Lord Chelsford where I found
them ! Let us hear your glib young tongue telling the
truth for once, sir."
Both the Duke and Lord Chelsford were obviously
I LOSE MY POST. 233
startled. Ray had always been my friend and up-
holder. He spoke now with very apparent enmity.
" Perhaps you would prefer to tell the story
yourself," I answered. " I will correct you if it is
" Very well," he answered. " I will tell the story,
and a pitiful one it is. This boy is watched, as we
all know, for, owing to my folly in ignoring his ante-
cedents, a great trust has been reposed in him.
News was brought to me that he had been seen
with his father and Mrs. Smith-Lessing in Gattini's
Restaurant ; later, that he had found his way to
their lodging. I followed him there. He may have
gone there with an errand from you, Duke, but when
I arrived he was doing a little business on his own
account, and these papers were in the act of passing
from him to his father."
" What are they ? " Lord Chelsford asked.
" Your lordship may recognise them," I answered
quietly. " They are a summary of the schemes of
defence of the southern ports. I was at that moment,
the moment when Colonel Ray entered, considering
an offer of five thousand pounds for them."
Even Ray was staggered at my admission, and the
Duke looked as though he could scarcely believe his
ears. Lord Chelsford was busy looking through the
" You young blackguard," Ray muttered through
his teeth. " After that admission, do you still deny
that you told Mrs. Smith-Lessing, or whatever the
woman calls herself, the code word for that safe ? "
" Most certainly I deny it," I answered firmly.
" The two things are wholly disconnected."
The Duke sat down heavily in his chair. I knew
very well that of the three men he was the most sur-
prised. Lord Chelsford carefully placed the papers
which he had been reading in his breast-pocket.
Raj' leaned over towards him.
234 THE BETRAYAL.
*' Lord Chelsford," he said, " and you, Duke, you
took this young man on trust, and I pledged my word
for him. Like many a better man, I made a mistake.
For all that we know he has secret copies of all the
work he has done for us, ready to dispose of. What,
in God's name, are we going to do with him ? "
" What do you suggest ? " Lord Chelsford asked
" My way would not be yours," Ray answered,
with a hard laugh. " I am only half civihsed, you
know, and if he and I were alone in the desert at this
moment, I would shoot him without remorse. vSuch
a breach of trust as this deserves death."
" We are, unfortunately," Lord Chelsford remarked,
" not in a position to adopt such extreme measures.
It would not even be wise for us to attempt to formu-
late a legal charge against him. The position is some-
what embarrassing. What do you suggest, Duke ? "
I glanced towards the Duke, and I was surprised
to see that his hands were shaking. For a man who
rarely displays feeling the Duke seemed to be
" I can suggest nothing," he answered in a low
tone. " I must confess that I am bewildered. These
matters have developed so rapidly."
Lord Chelsford looked thoughtful for a moment.
" I have a plan in my mind," he said slowly.
" Duke, should I be takmg a liberty if I asked to be
left alone with this young man for five minutes ? "
The Duke rose slowly to his feet. He had the air
of one not altogether approving of the suggestion.
Ray glowered upon us both, but offered no objection.
They left the room together. Lord Chelsford at once
turned to me.
" Ducaine," he said, " forgive me that I did not
come to your aid. I will see that you do not suffer
later on. But what in heaven's name is the meaning
of this last abstraction from the safe ? "
I LOSE MY POST. 235
I shook my head.
" The woman could never have guessed the word ! "
" Impossible ! " he agreed. " Ducaine, do you know
why Lord Blenavon left England so suddenly ? "
" Colonel Ray knows, sir," I answered. " Ask him ! "
Lord Chelsford became very thoughtful.
" Ducaine," he said, " we are in a fix. So far your
plan has worked to perfection. Paris has plenty of
false information, and your real copies have all
reached me safely. But if you leave, how is this to
be carried on ? I do not know whom I mistrust,
but if the day's work of the Board is really to be left
in the safe, either here or at Braster "
" You must choose my successor yourself, sir," I
" The Duke has always opposed my selections. Be-
sides,you have prepared your false copies with rare skill.
Even I was deceived for a moment j ust now by your
summary. You don't overdo it. Everything is just a
little wrong. I am not sure even now whether I should
not do better to tell Ray and the Duke the truth."
" I am in your hands, sir," I answered. " You
must do as you think best."
%." They will be back in a moment. It is absurd
to doubt either of them, Ducaine. Yet I shaU keep
silent. I have an idea. Agree to everything I say."
The Duke and Ray returned together. Lord Chels-
ford turned to them.
" Mr. Ducaine," he said coldly, " persists in his
denial of any knowledge of to-day's affair. With