with an unwilling smile. " I am sorry. Lord Blenavon,
that I cannot accept this explanation of the Prince's
behaviour. I am compelled to take the evidence of
my eyes and ears as final."
Blenavon sucked at his cigarette fiercely for a
minute, threw it away, and commenced to roll another.
" It's all rot 1 " he exclaimed. " Malors wouldn't do
a mean action, and, besides, what on earth has he
to gain ? He is a fanatical Royalist. He is not
even on speaking terms with the Government of
" I perceive," I remarked, looking at him closely,
" that you are familiar with the nature of my
He returned my glance, and it seemed to me that
there was some hidden meaning in his eyes which I
failed to catch.
" I am in my father's confidence," he said slowly.
There was a moment's silence. I was listening to
a distant voice in the lower part of the hall.
" Am I to take it, Mr. Ducaine, then," he
said at last, " that you decline to apologise to the
Prince ? "
" I have nothing to apologise for," I answered
calmly. " The Prince was attempting to obtain
information in an illicit manner by the perusal of
papers which were in my charge."
Blenavon rose slowly to his feet. His eyes were
fixed upon the opposite comer of the hall. Lady
Angela, who had just descended the stairs, was
standing there, pale and unsubstantial as a shadow,
and it seemed to me that her eyes, as she looked
across at me, were full of trouble. She came slowly
towards us. Blenavon laid his hand upon her arm.
" Angela," he said, " Mr. Ducaine will not accept
my word. I can make no impression upon him.
Perhaps he will the more readily believe yours."
A RELUCTANT APOLOGY. 93
" Lady Angela will not ask me to disbelieve the
evidence of my own senses," I said confidently.
She stood between us. I was aware from the first
of something unfamiliar in her manner, something of
which a glimmering had appeared on our way home
through the wood.
" It is about Malors, Angela," he continued. " You
were there. You know all that happened. Malors
is very reasonable about it. He admits that his
actions may have seemed suspicious. He will accept
an apology from Mr. Ducaine, and remain."
She turned to me.
** And you ? " she asked.
" The idea of an apology," I answered, " appears
to be ridiculous. My own poor little possessions were
wholly at his disposal. I caught him, however, in
the act of meddling with papers which are mine
only on trust."
Lady Angela played for a moment with the dainty
trifles which hung from her bracelet. When she
spoke she did not look at me.
" The Prince's explanation," she said, " is plausible,
and he is our guest. I think perhaps it would be
wisest to give him the benefit of the doubt."
" Doubt ! " I exclaimed, bewildered. " There is
no room for doubt in the matter."
Then she raised her eyes to mine, and I saw there
new things. I saw trouble and appeal, and behind
both the shadow of mystery.
" Have yod spoken to my father ? " she asked.
" Yes," I answered.
" Did he accept â€” your view ? "
" He did not," I answered bitterly. " I could not
convince him of what I saw with my own eyes."
"You have done your duty, then," she said softly.
" Why not let the rest go ? As you told us just now,
this is not a personal matter, and there are reasons
why he did not wish the Prince to leave suddenly.'*
94 THE BETRAYAL.
I was staggered. I held my peace, and the two
stood watching me. Then I heard footsteps
approaching us, and a famihar voice.
" What a trio of conspirators is this talking so
earnestly in the shadows ? Ah ! "
The Prince had seen me, and he stood still. I
faced him at once.
" Prince," I said, " it has been suggested to me that
my eyesight is probably defective. It is possible
in that case that I have not seen you before to-day,
that the things with which I charge you are false,
that in all probability you were in some other place
altogether If this is so, I apologise for my remarks
and behaviour towards you."
He bowed with a faint, mirthless smile.
"It is finished, my young friend," he declared.
" I wipe it from my memory."
It seemed to me that I could hear Blenavon's sigh
of relief, that the shadow had fallen from Lady
Angela's face. There was a little murmur of
satisfaction from both of them. But I turned
abruptly, and with scarcely even an attempt at a
conventional farewell I left the house and walked
homewards across the Park.
TWO FAIR CALLERS.
AFTER three days the house party at Rowchester
was somewhat unexpectedly broken up. Lord
Chelsford departed early one morning by
special train, and the Duke himself and the remainder
of his guests left for London later on in the day. I
remained behind with three weeks' work, and a fear
which never left me by day or by night. Yet the
relief of solitude after the mysteries of the last few
days was in itself a thing to be thankful for.
For nine days I spoke with no one save Grooton.
TWO FAIR CALLERS. 95
For an hour every afternoon, and for rather longer
at night, I walked on the cliffs or the sands. Here
on these lonely stretches of empty land I met no
one, saw no living thing save the seagulls. It was
almost like a corner of some forgotten land. These
walks, and an occasional few hours' reading, were
my sole recreation.
It was late in the afternoon when I saw a shadow
pass my window, and immediately aftenvards there
was a timid knock at the door. Grooton had gone on
his daily pilgrimage with letters to the village, so I
was obliged to open it myself. To my surprise it was
Blanche Moyat who stood upon the threshold. She
laughed a little nervously.
" I'm no ghost, Mr. Ducaine," she said, " and I
shan't bite ! "
" Forgive me," I answered, " I was hard at work
and your knock startled me. Please come in."
I ushered her into my sitting-room. She was
wearing what I recognised as her best clothes, and
not being entirely at her ease she talked loudly and
" Such a stranger as you are, Mr. Ducaine," she
exclaimed. " Fancy, it's getting on for a month
since any of us saw a sign of you, and I'm sure
never a week used to pass but father' d be looking for
you to drop in. We heard that you were living here
aU by yourself, and this morning mother said,
perhaps he's ill. We tried to get father to come up and
see, but he's off to Downham Market to-day, and
goodness knows when he'd find time if we left it to
him. So I thought I'd come and find out for myself."
" I am quite well, thanks, Miss Moyat," I answered,
" but very busy. The Duke has been giving me some
work to do, and he has lent me this cottage, so that
I shall be close at hand. I should have looked you up
the first time I came to Braster, but as a matter of fact
I have not been there since the night of my lecture."
96 THE BETRAYAL.
She was nervously playing with the fastening of
her umbrella, and it seemed to me that her silence
was puiposeful. I ventured some remark about the
weather, which she interrupted ruthlessly.
" It's a mile and a half to our house from here,"
she said, " not a step farther. I don't see why you
shouldn't have made a purpose journey."
I ignored the reproach in her eyes, as I had every
right to do. But I began to understand the reason of
her nervousness and her best clothes, and I prayed
for Grooton's return.
" If I had had an evening to myself," I said, " I
should certainly have paid your father a visit. But
as it happens, the Duke has required me at the house
every night while he was here, and he has left me
enough work to do to keep me busy night and day
till he comes back."
She looked down upon the floor.
" I had to come and see you," she said in a low
tone. " Sometimes I can't sleep for thinking of it.
I feel that I haven't done right."
I knew, of course, what she meant.
" I thought we had talked all that out long ago,"
I answered, a little wearily. " You would have been
very foohsh if you had acted differently. I don't see
how else you could have acted."
" Oh, I don't know," she said. *' We were always
brought up very particular â€” especially about telling
" Well, you haven't said anything that wasn't the
truth," I reminded her.
" Oh, I don't know. I haven't said what I ought
to say," she declared. " It seems all right when you
are with me, and talk about it," she continued slowly,
raising her eyes to mine. " It's when I don't see you
for weeks and weeks that it seems to get on my mind,
and I get afraid. I don't understand it, I don't under-
stand it even now."
TWO FAIR CALLERS. 97
" Don't understand what ? " I repeated.
She looked around. Her air of troubled mystery
was only half assumed.
*' How that man died ! " she whispered.
" I can assure you that I did not kill him, if that
is what you mean," I told her coolly. " The matter
is over and done with. I think that you are very
foolish to give it another thought."
" Men can forget those things easier," she said.
** Perhaps he had a wife and children. Perhaps they
are wondering all this time what has become of him."
" People die away from their homes and families
every day, every hour," I answered. " It is only
morbid to brood over one particular example."
" Father would never forgive me if he knew," she
murmured, irrelevantly. " He hates us to do anything
I heard Grooton return with a sigh of relief.
" You will have some tea," I suggested.
She shook her head and stood up. I did not
" No, I won't," she said. " I am sorry I came.
I don't understand you, Mr. Ducaine. You seem to
have changed altogether just these last few weeks.
I can see that you are dying to get rid of me now, but
you were glad enough to see me, or at any rate you
pretended to be, once."
My breath was a little taken away. I looked at her
in surprise. Her cheeks were flushed, her voice had
shaken with something more like anger than any form
of pathos. I was at a loss how to answer her, and
while I hesitated the interruption which I had been
praying for came, though from a strange quarter.
My door was pushed a few inches open, and I heard
Lady Angela's clear young voice.
" Are you there, Mr. Ducaine ? May I come in ? "
Before I could answer she stood upon the threshold.
^8 THE BETRAYAL.
I saw the delightful little smile fade from her lips
as she looked in. She hesitated, and seemed for a
moment about to retreat.
" Please come in, Lady Angela," I begged eagerly.
She came slowly forward.
" I must apologise for my abominable country
manners," she said, resting the tips of her fingers for
a moment in mine. " I saw your door was not
latched, and it never occurred to me to knock."
" It was not necessary," I assured her. " A front
door which does not boast a knocker or a bell must
expect to be taken Hberties with. But it is a great
surprise to see you here. I had no idea that any
one was at Rowchester, or expected there, except
Lord Blenavon. Has the Duke returned ? "
She shook her head.
" I came down alone," she answered. " I found
London dull. Let me see, I am sure that I know your
face, do I not ? " she added, turning to Blanche
Moyat with a smile. " You live in Braster, surely ? "
" I am Miss Moyat," Blanche answered quietly.
" Of course. Dear me ! I ought to have recognised
you. We have been neighbours for a good many
" I will wish you good afternoon, Mr. Ducaine,"
Blanche said, turning to me. " Good afternoon â€”
your ladyship," she added a little awkwardly.
I opened the door for her.
" I will come down and see your father the first
evening I have to spare," I said. " I hope you will
tell him from me that I should have been before, but
for the luxury of having some work to do."
" I will tell him," she said, almost inaudibly.
" And thank you very much for coming to inquire
after me," I added. " Good afternoon."
" Good afternoon, Mr. Ducaine."
I closed the door. Lady Angela was lounging in
my easy-chair with a slight smile upon her lips.
TWO FAIR CALLERS. 99
" Two lady callers in one afternoon, Mr. Ducaine,"
she remarked quietly. " You will lose your head, I
" I can assure you, Lady Angela," I answered,
" that there is not the slightest fear of such a
She sat looking meditatively into the fire, swinging
her dogskin gloves in her hands. She wore a plain
pearl-grey walking dress and deerstalker hat with a
single quill in it. The severe but immaculate
simplicity of her toilette might have been designed to
accentuate the barbarities of Blanche Moyat's
" I understood that you would-be in town for at
least three weeks," I remarked. " I trust that his
Grace is well."
" I trust that he is," she answered. " I see nothing
of him in London. He has company meetings and
political work every moment of his time. I do not
believe that there is any one who works harder."
" He has, at least," I remarked, " the compensation
" You are wondering, I suppose," she said, looking
up at me quickly, " what has brought me back again
" I certainly did not expect you," I admitted.
She rose abruptly.
" Come outside," she said, " and I will show you.
Bring your hat."
We passed into the March twilight. She led the
way down the cliff and towards the great silent
stretch of salt marshes. An evening wind, sharp with
brine, was blowing in from the ocean, stirring the
surface of the long creeks into silent ripples, and
bending landwards the thin streaks of white smoke
rising amongst the red-tiled roofs of the village. I felt
the delicate sting of it upon my cheeks. Lady Angela
half closed her eyes as she turned her face seawards.
100 THE BETRAYAL.
" I came for this," she murmured. " There is
nothing hke it anywhere else."
We stood there in silence for several long minutes.
Then she turned to me with a little sigh.
" I am content," she said. " Will you come up and
dine with us to-night ? Blenavon will be there,
'' I am afraid it is rather a bother to you to leave
your work," she continued, " but I am not offering
you idle hospitality. I really want you to come."
" In that case," I answered, " of course I shall be
She pointed to Braster Grange away on the other
side of the village. I noticed for the first time that it
was all lit up.
" Have you heard anything of our new neigh-
bours ? " she asked.
" Only their names," I answered. " I did not
even know that they had arrived."
" There is only a woman, I believe," she said. " I
have met her abroad, and I dislike her â€” greatly. I
hear that my brother spends most of his time with
her, and that he has dined there the last three nights.
It is not safe or wise of him, for many reasons. I want
to stop it. That is why I have asked you to
come to us."
" It is quite sufficient," I told her. " If you want
me for any reason I will come. I am two days ahead
of my work."
We threaded our way amongst the creeks. All
the time the salt wind blew upon us, and the smell of
fresh seaweed seemed to fill the air with ozone. Just
as we came in sight of the road we heard the thunder
of hoofs behind. We turned around. It was
Blenavon, riding side by side with a lady who was a
stranger to me. Her figure was slim but elegant. I
caught a glimpse of her face as they flashed by, and
TWO FAIR CALLERS. loi
it puzzled me. Her hair was almost straw coloured,
her complexion was negative, her features were
certainly not good. Yet there was something about
her attractive, something which set me guessing at
once as to the colour of her eyes, the quality of her
voice, if she should speak. Blenavon reined in his
" So you have turned up, Angela," he remarked,
looking at her a little nervously. " You remember
Mrs. Smith-Lessing, don't you â€” down at Bordighera,
you know ? "
Angela shook her head, but she never glanced to-
wards the woman who sat there with expectant smile.
" I am afraid that I do not," she said. " I
remember a good many things about Bordighera, but
â€” not Mrs. Smith-Lessing. I shall see you at dinner-
time, Blenavon. I have some messages for you."
I saw the whip come down upon the woman's
horse, but I did not dare to look into her face.
Blenavon, with a smothered oath and a black look
at his sister, galloped after her. I rejoined Lady
Angela, who was already in the road.
*' Dear me," she said, " what a magnificent nerve
that woman must have ! To dare to imagine that I
should receive her ! Why, she is known in every
capital in Europe â€” a police spy, a creature whose
brains and body and soul are to be bought by any
** What on earth can such a woman want here ? "
'* In hiding, very likely," Lady Angela remarked.
"Or perhaps she may be an additional complication
I laughed a little scornfully.
" You, too, are getting suspicious," I declared.
" The Prince and Mrs. Smith-Lessing are a strong
" Be careful then that they are not too strong for
102 THE BETRAYAL.
you," she answered, smiling. " I have heard a
famous boast of Mrs. Smith-Lessing's, that never a
man nor a lock has yet resisted her."
I thought of her face as I had seen it in the half-
light â€” a faint impression of delicate colourlessness,
and for the life of me I could not help a little shiver.
Lady Angela looked at me in suq^rise.
" Are you cold ? " she asked. " Let us walk
" It is always cold at this time in the evening," I
remarked. "It is the mist coming up from the
marshes. One feels it at unexpected moments."
" I am not going to take you any farther," she
declared, " especially as you are coming up to-night.
Eight o'clock, remember. Go and salve your
conscience with some work."
I protested, but she was firm. So I stood by the
gate and watched her slim young figure disappear
in the gathering shadows.
LADY Angela's engagement.
I DINED that night at Rowch ester. Lord Blenavon
was sulky, and Lady Angela was only fitfully gay.
It was not altogether a cheerful party. Lady
Angela left us the moment Blenavon produced his
" Do not stay too long, Mr. Ducaine," she said, as
I held the door open for her. " I want a lesson at
I bowed and returned to my seat. Blenavon was
leaning back in his chair, smoking thoughtfully.
" My sister," he remarked, looking up at the
ceiling and speaking as though to himself, " would
make an admirable heroine for the psychological
novelist. She is a bundle of fancies ; one can never
rely upon what she is going to do. What other girl
LADY ANGELA'S ENGAGEMENT. 103
in the world would get engaged on the Thursday, and
come down here on the Friday to think it over â€”
leaving, of course, hex fiance in town ? Doesn't that
strike you as singular ? "
" Is it," I asked calmly, " a genuine case ? "
Lord Blenavon nodded.
" I do not think that it is a secret," he said, helping
himself to wine and passing the decanter. " She
has made up her mind at last to marry Mostyn Ray.
The affair has been hanging about for more than a
year. In fact, I think that there was something said
about it before Ray went abroad. Personally, I
think that he is too old. I don't mind saying so to
you, because that has been my opinion all along.
However, I suppose it is all settled now."
I kept my eyes fixed upon the wineglass in front
of me, but the things which I saw, no four walls
had ever enclosed. One moment the rush of the sea
was in my ears, another I was lying upon the little
horsehair couch in my sitting-room. I felt her soft,
white fingers upon my pulse and forehead. Again,
I saw her leaning down from the saddle of her great
brown horse, and heard her voice, slow, emotionless,
yet always with its strange power to play upon my
heartstrings. And yet, while the grey seas of despair
were closing over my head, I sat there with a stereo-
typed smile upon my lips, fingering carelessly the
stem of my wineglass, unwilling guest of an unwilling
host. I do not know how long we sat there in silence,
but it seemed to me an eternity, for aU the time I
knew that Blenavon was watching me. I felt like a
victim upon the rack, whilst he, the executioner, held
the cords. I do not think, however, that he learnt
anything from my face.
With a little shrug of the shoulders he abandoned
" By the by, Ducaine,'' he said, " I hope you won't
mind my asking you a rather personal question."
104 THE BETRAYAL.
" If it is only personal," I answered quietly, " not
at all. As you know, I may not discuss any subject
connected with my work."
" Quite so ! I only want to know whether your
secretarial duties begin and end with your work on
the Council of Defence, or are you at all in my father's
confidence as regards his private affairs ? "
" I am temporary secretary to the Council of
Defence only, Lord Blenavon," I answered, " I
know nothing whatever of your father's private
affairs. He has his own man of business."
I am not sure whether he believed me. He cracked
some walnuts and commenced peeling them.
" My father will never hsten to me," he said, " but
I feel sure that he makes a mistake in becoming a
director of all these companies. Politics should be
quite sufficient to engross his time, and the money
cannot be so much of an object to him. I don't
suppose his holdings are large, but I am quite sure
that one or two of those Australian gold mines are
dicky, and you know he was an enormous holder of
Chartereds, and wouldn't sell, worse luck ! Of course
I'm not afraid of his losing in the long run, but it
isn't exactly a dignified thing to be associated with
these concerns that aren't exactly Ai. His name
might lead people into speculations who couldn't
altogether afford it."
" I know nothing whatever of these matters," I
answered, ** but from what I have seen of your father
I should imagine that he is remarkably able to guard
his own interests."
" I suppose that is true," he admitted. " But when
he is already a rich man, with very simple tastes, I
am rather surprised that he should care to meddle
with such things."
" Playing at commerce," I remarked, " has become
rather a hobby with men of leisure lately."
LADY ANGELA'S ENGAGEMENT. 105
*' And women, too," Blenavon assented. ** Rather
an ugly hobby, I call it."
A servant entered and addressed Blenavon.
" The car is at the door, your lordship," he
Blenavon glanced at his watch and rose.
*' I shall have to ask you to excuse me, Ducaine,"
he said. " I was to have dined out to-night, and I
must go and make my peace. Another glass of wine ? "
I rose at once.
*' Nothing more, thank you," I said. " I will just
say good night to your sister."
" She's probably in the drawing-room," he
remarked. " If not, I will make your excuses when
I see her,"
Blenavon hurried out. A few moments later I
heard his car pass the long front of the house and
turn down the avenue. I lingered for a moment where
I was. The small oak table at which we had dined
seemed like an oasis of colour in the midst of an
atmosphere of gloom. The room was large and lofty,
and the lighting was altogether inadequate. From
the walls there frowned through the shadows the
warlike faces of generations of Rowchesters. At
the farther end of the apartment four armed giants
stood grim and ghostlike in the twilight, which
seemed to supply their empty frames with the
presentment of actual warriors. I looked down upon
the table, all agleam with flowers, and fruit, and
silver, over which shone the red glow of the shaded
lamps. Exactly opposite to me, in that chair now
pushed carelessly back, she had sat, so close that
my hand could have touched hers at any moment, so
close that I had been able to wonder more than ever
befc^e at the marvellous whiteness of her skin, the
perfection of her small, finely-shaped features, the
strange sphinxlike expression of her face, always
suggestive of some great self-restraint, mysterious,
io6 THE BETRAYAL.
and subtly stimulating. And as I stood there she
seemed again to be occupying the chair, at first a
faint shadowy presence, but gaining with every
second shape and outline, until I could scarcely
persuade myself that it was not she who sat there,
she whose eyes more than once during dinner-
time had looked into mine with that curious and
instinctive demand for sympathy, even as regards
the things of the moment, the passing jest, the most
transitory of emotions. A few minutes ago I had
felt that I knew her better than ever before in my