I looked at him in surprise, as well I might.
" Sit down, Mr. Ducaine," he repeated, " I have
said enough, I hope, to prove that I am not trifling
" You have managed, at any rate, to surprise me
very much, your Grace," I said. " I am eager to
receive employment of any sort. May I ask what
it was that you had in view ? "
He shook his head slowly.
" I cannot tell you to-day," he said. " It is a
matter upon which I should have to consult others.'
A sudden thought struck me.
" May I ask at whose suggestion you thought of
me ? " I asked.
" It was Colonel Ray who pointed out several
necessary qualifications which you possess," the
Duke answered. " I shall report to him, and to
some others, the result of our conversation, and I
presume you have no objection to my making such
inquiries as I think necessary concerning you ? "
" None whatever," I answered.
The Duke rose to his feet. I took up my cap.
" If Colonel Ray is in," I said, " and it is not in-
convenient, I should be glad to see him for a moment."
" Colonel Ray left unexpectedly by the first train
this morning," the Duke answered, looking at me
I gave no sign, but my heart sank.
"If it is anything important I can give you his
address," he remarked.
*' Thank you," I answered, "it is of no
There was a moment's silence. It seemed to me
that the Duke was watching me with peculiar
intentness. " Ray stayed with you late last night,"
34 THE BETRAYAL.
" Colonel Ray was very kind," I answered.
'' By the by," he said, " I hear that some stranger
lost his life in the storm last night. You fomid the
body, did you not ? "
" Yes," I answered.
The Duke nodded.
" It was no one belonging to the neighbourhood,
I understand ? " he asked.
" The man was a stranger to all of us," I answered.
The Duke stood with knitted brows. He seemed
on the point of asking me some other question, but
apparently he abandoned the idea. He nodded
again and rang the bell. I was dismissed.
LADY ANGELA GIVES ME SOME ADVICE.
AS I emerged from the house, Lady Angela was
standing talking to a gardener. She turned
round at the sound of my footsteps, and came
at once towards me.
She was bareheaded, and looked as straight and
slim as a dart. I fancied that she could be no more
than eighteen, her figure and face were so girlish.
The quiet composure of her manner however, and the
subdued yet graceful ease of her movements, were
so suggestive of the " great lady," that it was hard
to beheve that she was indeed little more than a
" I hope that you are better, Mr. Ducaine," she
" Thank you. Lady Angela, I have quite recovered,"
She looked at me critically.
" I can assure you," she said, " that you look
a very different person. You gave us quite a fright
LADY ANGELA GIVES ADVICE. 35
*' I am ashamed to have been so much trouble/'
" You must take more care of yourself," she said
gravely. " By the by, if you are on your way
home I can show you a path which wdU save you
nearly half the distance."
" You are very kind, Lady Angela," I answered.
" Cannot I find it, though, without taking you out
of your way ? "
" You might," she said, " but I walk down to the
cliffs every afternoon. I was just starting when
you came. It is quite a regular pilgrimage with me.
All day long we hear the sea, but except from the
upper windows we have no clear view of it. This
is the path."
We crossed the Park together. All the while she
talked to me easily and naturally of the country
around, the great antiquity of its landmarks,
the survival of many ancient customs and almost
obsolete forms of speech. At last we came to a small
plantation, through which we emerged on to the
cliffs. Here, to my surprise, we came upon a quaintly-
shaped grey stone cottage almost hidden by the
trees. I had passed on the sands below many times
without seeing it.
*' Rather a strange situation for a house, is it not ? '*
Lady Angela remarked. " My grandfather built it
for an old pensioner, but I do not think that it has
been occupied for some time."
" It is marvellously hidden," I said. " I never
had the least idea that there was a house here at all."
We stood now on the edge of the cliff, and she
pointed downwards. " There is a little path there,
leading to the sands," she said. " It saves you
quite half the distance to your cottage if you do not
mmd a scramble. You must take care just at first.
So many of the stones are loose."
36 THE BETRAYAL.
I understood that I was dismissed, and I thanked
her and turned away. But she almost immediately
called me back.
" Mr. Ducaine," she said, " did my father make
you any offer of employment this afternoon ? "
It was a direct, almost a blunt question. I was
taken by surprise, but I answered her without
" He made me no definite offer," I said. " At the
same time he asked me a great many questions, for
which he must have had some reason, and he gave
me the idea that, subject to the approval of some
others, he was thinking of me in connection with
" Colonel Ray was telling me," she said, " how
unfortunate you have been with your pupils. I
wonder â€” don't you think perhaps that you might
get some others ? "
" I have tried," I answered. " So far I have not
been lucky. At present, too, I scarcely see how I
could expect to get any, for I have nowhere to put
them. I had to give up the lease of the Grange, and
there is no house round here which I could afford to
Some portion of her delicate assurance had certainly
deserted her. Her manner was almost nervous.
" H you could possibly find the pupils," she said,
hesitatingly, " I should like to ask you a favour
The Manor Farm on the other side of the village is
my own, and I should so like it occupied, I would
let it to you furnished for ten pounds a year. There
is a man and his wife living there now as caretakers.
They would be able to look after you."
" You are very kind," I said again, " but I am
afraid that I could not take advantage of such an
" Why not ? "
** I have no claim upon you or your father," I
LADY ANGELA GIVES ADVICE. 37
answered. " I might accept and be grateful for
employment, but this is charity."
" A very conventional reply, Mr. Ducaine," she
-remarked, with faint sarcasm. " I gave you credit
for a larger view of things."
I found her still inexplicable. She was evidently
annoyed, and yet she did not seem to wish me to be.
There was a cloud upon her face and a nervousness
in her manner which I wholly failed to understand.
" If I were to tell you," she said, raising her eyes
suddenly to mine, " that your acceptance of my offer
would be a favour â€” would put me under a real
obligation to you ? "
" I should still have to remind you," I declared,
" that as yet I have no pupils, and it takes time to
get them. Further, I have arrived at that position
when immediate employment is a necessity to me."
" My father will offer you a post," she said slowly.
" Now you are a real Samaritan, Lady Angela,"
I declared. " I only hope that it may be so."
Her face reflected none of my enthusiasm.
" You jump at conclusions," she said coldly.
" How do you know that the post will be one which
you will be able to fill ? "
" If your father offers it to me," I answered,
confidently, " he must take the risk of that."
I was surprised at her speech â€” perhaps a little
nettled. I was an " Honours" man, an exceptional
linguist, and twenty-five. It did not seem likely
to me that there was any post which the Duke
might offer which, on the score of ability, at any rate,
I should not be competent to fill.
" He will offer it you," she said, looking steadily
downwards on to the sands below, " and you will
accept it. I am sorry ! "
" Sorry ! " I exclaimed.
** Very. If I could find you those pupils, I would,"
38 THE BETRAYAL.
she continued. " If I could persuade you to lay
aside for once the pride which a man seems to think
a part of his natural equipment, it would make me
very happy. I "
"Stop," I interrupted. "You must explain
this, Lady Angela."
She shook her head.
" Explain is just what I cannot," she said sadly.
" That is what I can never do."
I was completely bewildered now. She was looking
seaward, her face steadily averted from mine. As to
her attitude towards me, I could make nothing of
it. I could not even decide whether it was friendly
or inimical. Did she want this post for some one
else ? If so, surely her influence with her father
would be strong enough to secure it. She had spoken
to me kindly enough. The faint air of reserve that
she seemed to carry with her everywhere, which,
coupled with a certain quietness of deportment,
appeared to most of the people around to indicate
pride, had for these few minutes, at any rate, been
lifted. She had come down from the clouds, and
spoken to me as any other woman to any other man.
And now she had wound up by throwing me into a
state of hopeless bewilderment.
" Lady Angela," I said, " I think that you owe
me some explanation. If you can assure me that
it is in any way against your wishes, if you will give
me the shadow of a reason why I should refuse what
has not yet been offered to me â€” well, I will do it.
I will do it even if I must starve."
A little forced smile parted her lips. She looked
at me kindly.
" I have said a great deal more than I meant to,
Mr. Ducaine. I think that it would have been
better if I had left most of it unsaid. You must
go your own way. I only wanted to guard you
COLONEL RAY'S RING. 39
" Disappointment ! You think, after all,
" No, that is not what I meant," she interrupted.
/* I am sure that j^-ou will be offered the post, and I
am sure that you will not hesitate to accept it. But
nevertheless I think that it will bring with it great
disappointments. I will tell you this. Already
three young men whom I knew very well have held
this post, and each in turn has been dismissed."
" You are very mysterious, Lady Angela," I said,
" It is of necessity,*' she answered. " Perhaps
I take rather a morbid view of things, but one of
them was the brother of a great friend of mine, and
they fear that he has lost his reason. There are
peculiar and painful difficulties in connection with
this post, Mr. Ducaine, and I think it is only fair
to give you this warning."
" You are very kind," I said. " I only wish that
the whole thing was clearer to me."
She smiled a little sadly.
" At least," she said, "let me give you one word
of advice. You will be brought into contact with
many people whose integrity will seem to you a
positive and certain thing. Nevertheless, treat
every one alike. Trust no one. Absolutely no one,
Mr. Ducaine. It is your only chance. Now go,"
COLONEL ray's RING.
THE ring lay on the table between us. Colonel
Ray had not yet taken it up. In grim silence
he listened to my faltering words. When I
finished he smiled upon me as one might upon a child
that needed humouring.
" So," he said, slipping the ring upon his finger,
40 THE BETRAYAL.
'* you have saved me from the hangman. What
remains ? Your reward, eh ? "
" It may seem to you," I answered hotly, " a
fitting subject for jokes. I am sorry that my sense
of humour is not in touch with yours. You are a
great traveller, and you have shaken death by the
hand before. For me it is a new thing. The man's
face haunts me ! I cannot sleep or rest for thinking
of it â€” as I have seen it dead, and as I saw it
alive pressed against my window â€” that night. Who
was he ? What did he want with me ? "
" How do you know," Ray asked, " that he wanted
anything from you ? "
" He looked in at my window."
" He might have seen me enter."
Then I told him what I had meant to keep secret.
" He asked for me in the village. He was directed
to my cottage."
Ray had been filling his pipe. His fingers paused
in their task. He looked at me steadily.
" How do you know that ? " he asked.
** The person to whom he spoke in the village told
" Then why did that person not appear at the
inquest ? "
" Because I asked her not to," I told him.
" It seems to me," he said quietly, " that you have
acted foolishly. If that woman chooses to tell the
truth later on, you will be in an awkward position."
" If she had told the truth yesterday," I answered,
*' the position would have been quite awkward
enough. Let that go ! I want to know who that
man was, what he wanted with me."
Colonel Ray shrugged his shoulders.
" My young friend," he said, " have you come
from Braster to ask that question ? "
" To give you the ring and to ask you that
COLONEL RAY'S RING. 41
** How do you know that the ring is mine ? "
" I saw it on your finger when you were giving
" Then you believe," he said, " that I killed him ? "
" It is no concern of mine," I cried hoarsely. " I
do not want to know. But I tell you that the man's
face haunts me. I feel that he came to Rowchester
to see me. And he is dead. Whatever he came to
say or to tell me will be buried with him. Who
was he ? Tell me that."
Ray smoked on for a few moments reflectively.
" Sit down, sit down ! " he said gmffly, " and do
abandon that tragical aspect. The creature was
not worth all this agitation. He lived like a dog,
and he died like one."
" It is true, then ? " I murmured.
" If you insist upon knowing," Ray said cooUy,
" I killed him 1 There are reptiles which one
removes from the earth without a qualm, with a
certain sense of relief. He was of this order."
" He was a human being," I answered.
" He was none the better for that," Ray declared.
*' I have known animals of finer disposition."
" You at least," I said fiercely, " were not his
judge. You struck him in the dark, too. It was a
Ray turned his head. Then I saw that around
his neck was a circular bandage.
" If it interests you to know it," he remarked dryly,
" I was not the assailant. But for the fact that I
was warned it might have been my body which you
came across on the sands. I started a second too
soon for our friend â€” and our exchange of compliments
sent him to eternity."
*' It was in self-defence, then ? "
*' Scarcely that. He would have run away if he
could. I decided otherwise."
" Tell me who he was," I insisted.
42 THE BETRAYAL.
Ray shook his head.
" Better for you not to know," he remarked
My cheeks grew hot with anger.
" Colonel Ray," I said, " this may yet be a serious
affair for you. Why you should assume that I am
willing to be a silent accessory to your cnme I cannot
imagine. I insist upon knowing who this man was."
" You have come to London," Ray answered
quietly, " to ask me this ? "
" I have told you before why I am here," I
answered. " I will not be put off any longer. Who
was that man, and what did he want with me ? "
For a period of time which I could not measure,
but which seemed to me of great duration, there
was silence between us. Then Ray leaned over
" I think," he said, " that it is my turn to talk.
You have called me a coward. It is only a year or
so since His Majesty pinned a little cross upon my
coat â€” for valour. I won that for saving a man's
life. Mind you, he was a man. He was a man and
a comrade. To save him I rode through a hell of
bullets. It ought to have meant death. As a matter
of fact it didn't. That was my luck. But you
mustn't call me a coward, Ducaine. It is an insult
to my decoration."
" Oh, I know that you are brave enough," I
answered; " but this man was a poor weak creature,
a baby in your hands."
" So are the snakes we stamp beneath our feet,"
he answered coolly. "Yet we kill them. I am
not a bloodthirsty man. When I kill, it is because
necessity demands it. As for that creature whom you
found in the marshes, well, if there were a dozen such
in this room now, I would do my best to rid the earth
of them. Take my advice. Dismiss the whole
subject from your mind. Go back to Braster and
COLONEL RAY'S RING. 43
wait. Something may happen within the next
twenty-four hours which will be very much to your
benefit. Go back to Braster and wait."
" You will tell me nothing, then ? " I asked. " It
is treating me like a child. I am not a sentimentalist.
If the man deserved death the matter is between
you and your conscience. But he came to Rowchester
to see me. I want to know why."
" Go back to Rowchester and wait," Ray said.
" I shall tell you nothing. Depend upon it that his
business with you, if he had any, was evil business.
He and his whole brood left their mark for evil
wherever they crawled."
" His name ? " I asked.
" Were there no papers upon him ? " Ray
" So much the better," Ray declared grimly.
" Now, my young friend, I have given you all the
time I can spare. Beyond what I have said I shall
say nothing. If you had known me better â€” you
would not be here still."
So I left him. His words gave me no loophole
of hope. His silence was the silence of a strong
man, and I had no weapons with which to assail
it. I had wasted the money which I could ill afford
on this journey to London. Certainly Ray's advice
was good. The sooner I was back in Braster the
From the station I had walked straight to Ray's
house, and from Ray's house I returned, without
any deviation, direct to the great terminus. For
a man with less than fifty pounds in the world London
is scarcely a hospitable city. I caught a slow train,
and after four hours of jolting, cold, and the usual
third-class miseries, alighted at Rowchester Junction.
Already I had started on the three mile tramp home,
my coat collar turned up as some slight protection
44 THE BETRAYAL.
against the drizzling rain, when a two-wheeled trap
overtook me, and Mr. Moyat shouted out a gruff
greeting. I clambered in by his side.
" Been to Sunbridge ? " he inquired cheerfully.
" I have been to London," I answered.
" You haven't been long about it," he remarked.
" I saw you on the eight-twenty, didn't I ? "
" My business was soon over," I said.
" I've been to Sunbridge," he told me. " Went
over with -his Grace. My girl was talking about
you the other night, Mr. Ducaine."
" Indeed ? " I answered.
" Seemed to think," he continued, " that things
had been going a bit rough for you, losing those pupils
after j^ou'd been at the expense of taking the Grange,
and all that, you know."
" It was rather bad luck," I admitted quietly.
" I've been wondering," he continued with some
diffidence, " whether you'd care for a bit of work
in my office, just to carry you along till things looked
up, Blanche, she was set upon it that I should
ask you anyway. Of course, you being a college
young gentleman might not care about it, but
there's times when any sort of a job is better than
none, eh ? "
" It is very kind of you, Mr. Moyat," I answered,
" and very kind of Miss Moyat to have thought
of it. A week ago I shouldn't have hesitated. But
within the last few days I have had a sort of offer
â€¢ â€” I don't know whether it will come to anything,
but it may. Might I leave it open for the present ? "
" Just as you say," he declared. " I ain't
particular in want of any one, but I'm getting to
find my own bookkeeping a bit hard, especially now
that my eyes ain't what they were. Of course it
would only be a thirty bob a week job, but I suppose
COLONEL RAY'S RING. 45
you'd live on that all right, unless j^ou were thinking
of getting married, eh ? "
I laughed derisively.
" Married, Mr. Moyat ! " I exclaimed. " Why,
Vm next door to a pauper."
" There's such a thing," he remarked thoughtfully,
" if one's a steady sort of chap, and means work, as
picking up a girl with a bit of brass now and then."
" I assure you, Mr. Moyat," I said as coolly as
possible, " that anything of that sort is out of the
question so far as I am concerned."
He seemed about to say something, but checked
himself. We drove on in silence till we came to a
dark pile of buildings standing a little way back
from the road. He moved his head towards it.
" They tell me Braster Grange is took after all,"
he remarked. " Mr. Hulshaw told me so this
I was very little interested, but was prepared to
welcome any change in the conversation.
" Do you know who is coming there ? " I asked.
'* An American lady, I believe, name of Lessing.
I don't know what strangers want coming to such
a place, I'm sure."
I glanced involuntarily over my shoulder. Braster
Grange was a long grim pile of buildings, which
had been unoccupied for many years. Between it
and the sea was nothing but empty marshland. It
was one of the bleakest spots along the coast â€” to
the casual observer nothing but an arid waste of sands
in the summer, a wilderness of desolation in the
winter. Only those who have dwelt in those parts
are able to feel the fascination of that great empty
land, a fascination potent enough, but of slow growth.
Mr. Moyat's remark was justified.
We drove into his stable yard.
" You'll come in and have a bit of supper," Mr.
46 THE BETRAYAL.
I hesitated. I felt that it would be wiser to refuse,
but I was cold and wet, and the thought of my fire-
less room depressed me. So I was ushered into the
long, low dining-room, with its old hunting prints
and black oak furniture, and, best of all, with its huge
log fire. Mrs. Moyat greeted me with her usual
negative courtesy. I do not think that I was a
favourite of hers, but whatever her welcome lacked
in impressiveness Blanche's made up for. She kept
looking at me as though anxious that I should
remember our common secret. More than once I
was almost sorry that I had not let her speak.
** You've had swell callers again," she remarked,
as we sat side by side at supper time. " A car from
Rowchester was outside your door when I passed."
*' Ah, he's a good sort is the Duke," Mr. Moyat
declared appreciatively. " A clever chap, too. He's
Ai in politics, and a first-class business man, chair-
man of the Great Southern Railway Company,
and on the board of several other City companies."
" I can't see what the gentry want to meddle
with such things at all for," Mrs. Moyat said.
'* There's some as says as the Duke's lost more than
he can afford bj^ speculations."
" The Duke's a shrewd man," Mr. Moyat declared.
" If he hasn't lost money," Mrs. Moyat demanded,
" why is Rowchester Castle let to that American
miUionaire ? Why doesn't he live there himself ? "
'* Prefers the East Coast," Mr. Moyat declared
cheerfully, " suits his constitution better. I've
heard him say so himself."
" That is all very well," Mrs. Moyat said, " but
I can't see that Rowchester is a fit country house
for a nobleman. What do you think, Mr. Ducaine ? "
I was more mterested in the discussion than anxious
to be drawn into it, so I returned an evasive reply.
Mrs. Moyat nodded sympathetically.
" Of course," she said, " you haven't seen the
COLONEL RAY'S RING. 47
house except from the road, but I ve been over it
many a time when Mrs. Felton was housekeeper and
the Duke didn't come down so often, and I say that
'it's a poor place for a Duke."
" Well, well, mother, we won't quarrel about it,"
Mr. Moyat declared, rising from the table. " I
must just have a look at the mare. Do you look
after Mr. Ducaine, Blanche."
To my annoyance the retreat of Mr. and Mrs.
Moyat was evidently planned, and accelerated by a
frown from their daughter. Blanche and I were left
alone â€” whereupon I, too, rose to my feet.
" I must be going," I said, looking at the clock.
Blanche only laughed, and bade me sit down by
"I'm so gla.d dad brought you in to-night," she
said. " Did he say anything to you ? "
" What about ? "
" Never mind," she answered archly. " Did he
say anything at all ? "
" He remarked once or twice that it was a wet
night," I said.
" Stupid ! " she exclaimed. *' You know what
" He did make me a very kind offer," I admitted.
She looked at me eagerly.
" Well ? "
" I told him that I am expecting an offer of work
of some sort from the Duke. Of course it may not
come. In any case, it was very kind of Mr, Moyat."
She drew a little closer to me.
" It was my idea," she whispered.
" Then it was very kind of you, too," I answered.
She was apparently disappointed. We sat for
several moments in silence. Then she looked around