“May I come in?” she asked him from the doorway.
He sprang to his feet. “Why, certainly, Miss Armytage.” For so imperturbable a young man he seemed oddly breathless in his eagerness to welcome her. “Are you looking for O’Moy? He left me nearly half-an-hour ago to go to breakfast, and I was just about to follow.”
“I scarcely dare detain you, then.”
“On the contrary. I mean . . . not at all. But . . . were you wanting me?”
She closed the door, and came forward into the room, moving with that supple grace peculiarly her own.
“I want you to tell me something, Captain Tremayne, and I want you to be frank with me.”
“I hope I could never be anything else.”
“I want you to treat me as you would treat a man, a friend of your own sex.”
Tremayne sighed. He had recovered from the surprise of her coming and was again his imperturbable self.
“I assure you that is the last way in which I desire to treat you. But if you insist – “
“I do.” She had frowned slightly at the earlier part of his speech, with its subtle, half-jesting gallantry, and she spoke sharply now.
“I bow to your will,” said Captain Tremayne.
“What has Dick Butler been doing?”
He looked into her face with sharply questioning eyes.
“What was it that happened at Tavora?”
He continued to look at her. “What have you heard?” he asked at last.
“Only that he has done something at Tavora for which the consequences, I gather, may be grave. I am anxious for Una’s sake to know what it is.”
“Does Una know?”
“She is being told now. Count Samoval let slip just what I have outlined. And she has insisted upon being told everything.”
“Then why did you not remain to hear?”
“Because they sent me away on the plea that – oh, on the silly plea of my youth and innocence, which were not to be offended.”
“But which you expect me to offend?”
“No. Because I can trust you to tell me without offending.”
“Sylvia!” It was a curious exclamation of satisfaction and of gratitude for the implied confidence. We must admit that it betrayed a selfish forgetfulness of Dick Butler and his troubles, but it is by no means clear that it was upon such grounds that it offended her.
She stiffened perceptibly. “Really, Captain Tremayne!”
“I beg your pardon,” said he. “But you seemed to imply – ” He checked, at a loss.
Her colour rose. “Well, sir? What do you suggest that I implied or seemed to imply?” But as suddenly her manner changed. “I think we are too concerned with trifles where the matter on which I have sought you is a serious one.”
“It is of the utmost seriousness,” he admitted gravely.
“Won’t you tell me what it is?”
He told her quite simply the whole story, not forgetting to give prominence to the circumstances extenuating it in Butler’s favour. She listened with a deepening frown, rather pale, her head bowed.
“And when he is taken,” she asked, “what – what will happen to him?”
“Let us hope that he will not be taken.”
“But if he is – if he is?” she insisted almost impatiently.
Captain Tremayne turned aside and looked out of the window. “I should welcome the news that he is dead,” he said softly. “For if he is taken he will find no mercy at the hands of his own people.”
“You mean that he will be shot?” Horror charged her voice, dilated her eyes.
A shudder ran through her, and she covered her face with her halls. When she withdrew then Tremayne beheld the lovely countenance transformed. It was white and drawn.
“But surely Terence can save him!” she cried piteously.
He shook his head, his lips tight pressed. “‘There is no man less able to do so.”
“What do you mean? Why do you say that?”
He looked at her, hesitating for a, moment, then answered her: “‘O’Moy has pledged his word to the Portuguese Government that Dick Butler shall be shot when taken.”
“Terence did that?”
“He was compelled to it. Honour and duty demanded no less of him. I alone, who was present and witnessed the undertaking, know what it cost him and what he suffered. But he was forced to sink all private considerations. It was a sacrifice rendered necessary, inevitable for the success of this campaign.” And he proceeded to explain to her all the circumstances that were interwoven with Lieutenant Butler’s ill-timed offence. “Thus you see that from Terence you can hope for nothing. His honour will not admit of his wavering in this matter.”
“Honour?” She uttered the word almost with contempt. “And what of Una?”
“I was thinking of Una when I said I should welcome the news of Dick’s death somewhere in the hills. It is the best that can be hoped for.”
“I thought you were Dick’s friend, Captain Tremayne.”
“Why, so I have been; so I am. Perhaps that is another reason why I should hope that he is dead.”
“Is it no reason why you should do what you to save him?”
He looked at her steadily for an instant, calm under the reproach of her eyes.
“Believe me, Miss Armytage, if I saw a way to save him, to do anything to help him, I should seize it, both for the sake of my friendship for himself and because of my affection for Una. Since you yourself are interested in him, that is an added reason for me. But it is one thing to admit willingness to help and another thing actually to afford help. What is there that I can do? I assure you that I have thought of the matter. Indeed for days I have thought of little else. But I can see no light. I await events. Perhaps a chance may come.”
Her expression had softened. “I see.” She put out a hand generously to ask forgiveness. “I was presumptuous, and I had no right to speak as I did.”
He took the hand. “I should never question your right to speak to me in any way that seemed good to you,” he assured her.
“I had better go to Una. She will be needing me, poor child. I am grateful to you, Captain Tremayne, for your confidence and for telling me.” And thus she left him very thoughtful, as concerned for Una as she was herself.
Now Una O’Moy was the natural product of such treatment. There had ever been something so appealing in her lovely helplessness and fragility that all her life others had been concerned to shelter her from every wind that blew. Because it was so she was what she was; and because she was what she was it would continue to be so.
But Lady O’Moy at the moment did not stand in such urgent need of Miss Armytage as Miss Armytage imagined. She had heard the appalling story of her brother’s escapade, but she had been unable to perceive in what it was so terrible as it was declared. He had made a mistake. He had invaded the convent under a misapprehension, for which it was ridiculous to blame him. It was a mistake which any man might have made in a foreign country. Lives had been lost, it is true; but that was owing to the stupidity of other people – of the nuns who had run for shelter when no danger threatened save in their own silly imaginations, and of the peasants who had come blundering to their assistance where no assistance was required; the latter were the people responsible for the bloodshed, since they had attacked the dragoons. Could it be expected of the dragoons that they should tamely suffer themselves to be massacred?
Thus Lady O’Moy upon the affair of Tavora. The whole thing appeared to her to be rather silly, and she refused seriously to consider that it could have any rave consequences for Dick. His continued absence made her anxious. But if he should come to be taken, surely his punishment would be merely a formal matter; at the worst he might be sent home, which would a very good thing, for after all the climate of the Peninsula had never quite suited him.
In this fashion she nimbly pursued a train of vitiated logic, passing from inconsequence to inconsequence. And O’Moy, thankful that she should take such a view this – mercifully hopeful that the last had been heard of his peccant and vexatious brother-in-law – content, more than content, to leave her comforted such illusions.
And then, while she was still discussing the matter terms of comparative calm, came an orderly to summon him away, so that he left her in the company of Samoval.
The Count had been deeply shocked by the discover that Dick Butler was Lady O’Moy’s brother, and a little confused that he himself in his ignorance should have been the means of bringing to her knowledge a painful matter that touched her so closely and that hitherto had been so carefully concealed from her by her husband. He was thankful that she should take so op optimistic a view, and quick to perceive O’Moy’s charitable desire to leave her optimism undispelled. But he was no less quick to perceive the opportunities which the circumstances afforded him to further a certain deep intrigue upon which he was engaged.
Therefore he did not take his leave just yet. He sauntered with Lady O’Moy on the terrace above the wooded slopes that screened the village of Alcantara, and there discovered her mind to be even more frivolous and unstable than his perspicuity had hitherto suspected. Under stress Lady O’Moy could convey the sense that she felt deeply. She could be almost theatrical in her displays of emotion. But these were as transient as they were intense. Nothing that was not immediately present to her senses was ever capable of a deep impression upon her spirit, and she had the facility characteristic of the self-loving and self-indulgent of putting aside any matter that was unpleasant. Thus, easily self-persuaded, as we have seen, that this escapade of Richard’s was not to be regarded too seriously, and that its consequences were not likely to be gave, she chattered with gay inconsequence of other things – of the dinner-party last week at the house of the Marquis of Minas, that prominent member of the council of Regency, of the forthcoming ball to be given by the Count of Redondo, of the latest news from home, the latest fashion and the latest scandal, the amours of the Duke of York and the shortcomings of Mr. Perceval.
Samoval, however, did not intend that the matter of her brother should be so entirely forgotten, so lightly treated. Deliberately at last he revived it.
Considering her as she leant upon the granite balustrade, her pink sunshade aslant over her shoulder, her flimsy lace shawl festooned from the crook of either arm and floating behind her, a wisp of cloudy vapour, Samoval permitted himself a sigh.
She flashed him a sidelong glance, arch and rallying.
“You are melancholy, sir – a poor compliment,” she told him.
But do not misunderstand her. Hers was an almost childish coquetry, inevitable fruit of her intense femininity, craving ever the worship of the sterner sex and the incense of its flattery. And Samoval, after all, young, noble, handsome, with a half-sinister reputation, was something of a figure of romance, as a good many women had discovered to their cost.
He fingered his snowy stock, and bent upon her eyes of glowing adoration. “Dear Lady O’Moy,” his tenor voice was soft and soothing as a caress, “I sigh to think that one so adorable, so entirely made for life’s sunshine and gladness, should have cause for a moment’s uneasiness, perhaps for secret grief, at the thought of the peril of her brother.”
Her glance clouded under this reminder. Then she pouted and made a little gesture of impatience. “Dick is not in peril,” she answered. “He is foolish to remain so long in hiding, and of course he will have to face unpleasantness when he is found. But to say that he is in peril is . . . just nonsense. Terence said nothing of peril. He agreed with me that Dick will probably be sent home. Surely you don’t think – “
“No, no.” He looked down, studying his hessians for a moment, then his dark eyes returned to meet her own. “I shall see to it that he is in no danger. You may depend upon me, who ask but the happy chance to serve you. Should there be any trouble, let me know at once, and I will see to it that all is well. Your brother must not suffer, since he is your brother. He is very blessed and enviable in that.”
She stared at him, her brows knitting. “But I don’t understand.”
“Is it not plain? Whatever happens, you must not suffer, Lady O’Moy. No man of feeling, and I least of any, could endure it. And since if your brother were to suffer that must bring suffering to you, you may count upon me to shield him.”
“You are very good, Count. But shield him from what?”
“From whatever may threaten. The Portuguese Government may demand in self-protection, to appease the clamour of the people stupidly outraged by this affair, that an example shall be made of the offender.”
“Oh, but how could they? With what reason?” She displayed a vague alarm, and a less vague impatience of such hypotheses.
He shrugged. “The people are like that – a fierce, vengeful god to whom appeasing sacrifices must be offered from time to time. If the people demand a scapegoat, governments usually provide one. But be comforted.” In his eagerness of reassurance he caught her delicate mittened hand in his own, and her anxiety rendering her heedless, she allowed it to lie there gently imprisoned. “Be comforted. I shall be here to guard him. There is much that I can do and you may depend upon me to do it – for your sake, dear lady. The Government will listen to me. I would not have you imagine me capable of boasting. I have influence with the Government, that is all; and I give you my word that so far as the Portuguese Government is concerned your brother shall take no harm.”
She looked at him for a long moment with moist eyes, moved and flattered by his earnestness and intensity of homage. “I take this very kindly in you, sir. I have no thanks that are worthy,” she said, her voice trembling a little. “I have no means of repaying you. You have made me very happy, Count.”
He bent low over the frail hand he was holding.
“Your assurance that I have made you happy repays me very fully, since your happiness is my tenderest concern. Believe me, dear lady, you may ever count Jeronymo de Samoval your most devoted and obedient slave.”
He bore the hand to his lips and held it to them for a long moment, whilst with heightened colour and eyes that sparkled, more, be it confessed, from excitement than from gratitude, she stood passively considering his bowed dark head.
As he came erect again a movement under the archway caught his eye, and turning he found himself confronting Sir Terence and Miss Armytage, who were approaching. If it vexed him to have been caught by a husband notoriously jealous in an attitude not altogether uncompromising, Samoval betrayed no sign of it.
With smooth self-possession he hailed O’Moy:
“General, you come in time to enable me to take my leave of you. I was on the point of going.”
“So I perceived,” said O’Moy tartly. He had almost said: “So I had hoped.”
His frosty manner would have imposed constraint upon any man less master of himself than Samoval. But the Count ignored it, and ignoring it delayed a moment to exchange amiabilities politely with Miss Armytage, before taking at last an unhurried and unperturbed departure.
But no sooner was he gone than O’Moy expressed himself full frankly to his wife.
“I think Samoval is becoming too attentive and too assiduous.”
“He is a dear,” said Lady O’Moy.
“That is what I mean,” replied Sir Terence grimly.
“He has undertaken that if there should be any trouble with the Portuguese Government about Dick’s silly affair he will put it right.”
“Oh!” said O’Moy, “that was it?” And out of his tender consideration for her said no more.
But Sylvia Armytage, knowing what she knew from Captain Tremayne, was not content to leave the matter there. She reverted to it presently as she was going indoors alone with her cousin.
“Una,” she said gently, “I should not place too much faith in Count Samoval and his promises.”
“What do you mean?” Lady O’Moy was never very tolerant of advice, especially from an inexperienced young girl.
“I do not altogether trust him. Nor does Terence.”
“Pooh! Terence mistrusts every man who looks at me. My dear, never marry a jealous man,” she added with her inevitable inconsequence.
“He is the last man – the Count, I mean – to whom, in your place, I should go for assistance if there is trouble about Dick.” She was thinking of what Tremayne had told her of the attitude of the Portuguese Government, and her clear-sighted mind perceived an obvious peril in permitting Count Samoval to become aware of Dick’s whereabouts should they ever be discovered.
“What nonsense, Sylvia! You conceive the oddest and most foolish notions sometimes. But of course you have no experience of the world.” And beyond that she refused to discuss the matter, nor did the wise Sylvia insist.
Although Dick Butler might continue missing in the flesh, in the spirit he and his miserable affair seem to have been ever present and ubiquitous, and a most fruitful source of trouble.
It would be at about this time that there befell in Lisbon the deplorable event that nipped in the bud the career of that most promising young officer, Major Berkeley of the famous Die-Hards, the 29th Foot.
Coming into Lisbon on leave from his regiment, which was stationed at Abrantes, and formed part of the division under Sir Rowland Hill, the major happened into a company that contained at least one member who was hostile to Lord Wellington’s conduct of the campaign, or rather to the measures which it entailed. As in the case of the Principal Souza, prejudice drove him to take up any weapon that came to his hand by means of which he could strike a blow at a system he deplored.
Since we are concerned only indirectly with the affair, it may be stated very briefly. The young gentleman in question was a Portuguese officer and a nephew of the Patriarch of Lisbon, and the particular criticism to which Major Berkeley took such just exception concerned the very troublesome Dick Butler. Our patrician ventured to comment with sneers and innuendoes upon the fact that the lieutenant of dragoons continued missing, and he went so far as to indulge in a sarcastic prophecy that he never would be found.
Major Berkeley, stung by the slur thus slyly cast upon British honour, invited the young gentleman to make himself more explicit.
“I had thought that I was explicit enough,” says young impudence, leering at the stalwart red-coat. “But if you want it more clearly still, then I mean that the undertaking to punish this ravisher of nunneries is one that you English have never intended to carry out. To save your faces you will take good care that Lieutenant Butler is never found. Indeed I doubt if he was ever really missing.”
Major Berkeley was quite uncompromising and downright. I am afraid he had none of the graces that can exalt one of these affairs.
Ye’re just a very foolish liar, sir, and you deserve a good caning,” was all he said, but the way in which he took his cane from under his arm was so suggestive of more to follow there and then that several of the company laid preventive hands upon him instantly.
The Patriarch’s nephew, very white and very fierce to hear himself addressed in terms which – out of respect for his august and powerful uncle – had never been used to him before, demanded instant satisfaction. He got it next morning in the shape of half-an-ounce of lead through his foolish brain, and a terrible uproar ensued. To appease it a scapegoat was necessary. As Samoval so truly said, the mob is a ferocious god to whom sacrifices must be made. In this instance the sacrifice, of course, was Major Berkeley. He was broken and sent home to cut his pigtail (the adornment still clung to by the 29th) and retire into private life, whereby the British army was deprived of an officer of singularly brilliant promise. Thus, you see, the score against poor Richard Butler – that foolish victim of wine and circumstance – went on increasing.
But in my haste to usher Major Berkeley out of a narrative which he touches merely at a tangent, I am guilty of violating the chronological order of the events. The ship in which Major Berkeley went home to England and the rural life was the frigate Telemachus, and the Telemachus had but dropped anchor in the Tagus at the date with which I am immediately concerned. She came with certain stores and a heavy load of mails for the troops, and it would be a full fortnight before she would sail again for home. Her officers would be ashore during the time, the welcome guests of the officers of the garrison, bearing their share in the gaieties with which the latter strove to kill the time of waiting for events, and Marcus Glennie, the captain of the frigate, an old friend of Tremayne’s, was by virtue of that friendship an almost daily visitor at the adjutant’s quarters.
But there again I am anticipating. The Telemachus came to her moorings in the Tagus, at which for the present we may leave her, on the morning of the day that was to close with Count Redondo’s semi-official ball. Lady O’Moy had risen late, taking from one end of the day what she must relinquish to the other, that thus fully rested she might look her best that night. The greater part of the afternoon was devoted to preparation. It was amazing even to herself what an amount of detail there was to be considered, and from Sylvia she received but very indifferent assistance. There were times when she regretfully suspected in Sylvia a lack of proper womanliness, a taint almost of masculinity. There was to Lady O’Moy’s mind something very wrong about a woman who preferred a canter to a waltz. It was unnatural; it was suspicious; she was not quite sure that it wasn’t vaguely immoral.
At last there had been dinner – to which she came a full half-hour late, but of so ravishing and angelic an appearance that the sight of her was sufficient to mollify Sir Terence’s impatience and stifle the withering sarcasms he had been laboriously preparing. After dinner – which was taken at six o’clock – there was still an hour to spare before the carriage would come to take them into Lisbon.
Sir Terence pleaded stress of work, occasioned by the arrival of the Telemachus that morning, and withdrew with Tremayne to the official quarters, to spend that hour in disposing of some of the many matters awaiting his attention. Sylvia, who to Lady O’Moy’s exasperation seemed now for the first time to give a thought to what she should wear that night, went off in haste to gown herself, and so Lady O’Moy was left to her own resources – which I assure you were few indeed.
The evening being calm and warm, she sauntered out into the open. She was more or less annoyed with everybody – with Sir Terence and Tremayne for their assiduity to duty, and with Sylvia for postponing all thought of dressing until this eleventh hour, when she might have been better employed in beguiling her ladyship’s loneliness. In this petulant mood, Lady O’Moy crossed the quadrangle, loitered a moment by the table and chairs placed under the trellis, and considered sitting there to await the others. Finally, however, attracted by the glory of the sunset behind the hills towards Abrantes, she sauntered out on to the terrace, to the intense thankfulness of a poor wretch who had waited there for the past ten hours in the almost despairing hope that precisely such a thing might happen.
She was leaning upon the balustrade when a rustle in the pines below drew her attention. The rustle worked swiftly upwards and round to the bushes on her right, and her eyes, faintly startled, followed its career, what time she stood tense and vaguely frightened.
Then the bushes parted and a limping figure that leaned heavily upon a stick disclosed itself; a shaggy, red-bearded man in the garb of a peasant; and marvel of marvels! – this figure spoke her name sharply, warningly almost, before she had time to think of screaming.
“Una! Una! Don’t move!”
The voice was certainly the voice of Mr. Butler. But how came that voice into the body of this peasant? Terrified, with drumming pulses, yet obedient to the injunction, she remained without speech or movement, whilst crouching so as to keep below the level of the balustrade the man crept forward until he was immediately before and below her.
She stared into that haggard face, and through the half-mask of stubbly beard gradually made out the features of her brother.
“Richard!” The name broke from her in a scream.
“‘Sh!” He waved his hands in wild alarm to repress her. “For God’s sake, be quiet! It’s a ruined man I am they find me here. You’ll have heard what’s happened to me?”
She nodded, and uttered a half-strangled “Yes.”
“Is there anywhere you can hide me? Can you get me into the house without being seen? I am almost starving, and my leg is on fire. I was wounded three days ago to make matters worse than they were already. I have been lying in the woods there watching for the chance to find you alone since sunrise this morning, and it’s devil a bite or sup I’ve had since this time yesterday.”
“Poor, poor Richard!” She leaned down towards him in an attitude of compassionate, ministering grace. “But why? Why did you not come up to the house and ask for me? No one would have recognised you.”
“Terence would if he had seen me.”
“But Terence wouldn’t have mattered. Terence will help you.”
“Terence!” He almost laughed from excess of bitterness, labouring under an egotistical sense of wrong. “He’s the last man I should wish to meet, as I have good reason to know. If it hadn’t been for that I should have come to you a month ago – immediately after this trouble of mine. As it is, I kept away until despair left me no other choice. Una, on no account a word of my presence to Terence.”
“But . . . he’s my husband!”
“Sure, and he’s also adjutant-general, and if I know him at all he’s the very man to place official duty and honour and all the rest of it above family considerations.”
“Oh, Richard, how little you know Terence! How wrong you are to misjudge him like this!”
“Right or wrong, I’d prefer not to take the risk. It might end in my being shot one fine morning before long.”
“For God’s sake, less of your Richard! It’s all the world will be hearing you. Can you hide me, do you think, for a day or two? If you can’t, I’ll be after shifting for myself as best I can. I’ve been playing the part of an English overseer from Bearsley’s wine farm, and it has brought me all the way from the Douro in safety. But the strain of it and the eternal fear of discovery are beginning to break me. And now there’s this infernal wound. I was assaulted by a footpad near Abrantes, as if I was worth robbing. Anyhow I gave the fellow more than I took. Unless I have rest I think I shall go mad and give myself up to the provost-marshal to be shot and done with.”
“Why do you talk of being shot? You have done nothing to deserve that. Why should you fear it?”
Now Mr. Butler was aware – having gathered the information lately on his travels – of the undertaking given by the British to the Council of Regency with regard to himself. But irresponsible egotist though he might be, yet in common with others he was actuated by the desire which his sister’s fragile loveliness inspired in every one to spare her unnecessary pain or anxiety.
“It’s not myself will take any risks,” he said again. “We are at war, and when men are at war killing becomes a sort of habit, and one life more or less is neither here nor there.” And upon that he renewed his plea that she should hide him if she could and that on no account should she tell a single soul – and Sir Terence least of any – of his presence.
Having driven him to the verge of frenzy by the waste of precious moments in vain argument, she gave him at last the promise he required. “Go back to the bushes there,” she bade him, “and wait until I come for you. I will make sure that the coast is clear.”
Contiguous to her dressing-room, which overlooked the quadrangle, there was a small alcove which had been converted into a storeroom for the array of trunks and dress boxes that Lady O’Moy had brought from England. A door opening directly from her dressing room communicated with this alcove, and of that door Bridget, her maid, was in possession of the key.
As she hurried now indoors she happened to meet Bridget on the stairs. The maid announced herself on her way to supper in the servants’ quarters, and apologised for her presumption in assuming that her ladyship would no further require her services that evening. But since it fell in so admirably with her ladyship’s own wishes, she insisted with quite unusual solicitude, with vehemence almost, that Bridget should proceed upon her way.
“Just give me the key of the alcove,” she said. “There are one or two things I want to get.”
“Can’t I get them, your ladyship?”
“Thank you, Bridget. I prefer to get them, myself.”
There was no more to be said. Bridget produced a bunch of keys, which she surrendered to her mistress, having picked out for her the one required.
Lady O’Moy went up, to come down again the moment that Bridget had disappeared. The quadrangle was deserted, the household disposed of, and it wanted yet half-an-hour to the time for which the carriage was ordered. No moment could have been more propitious. But in any case no concealment was attempted – since, if detected it must have provoked suspicions hardly likely to be aroused in any other way.
When Lady O’Moy returned indoors in the gathering dusk she was followed at a respectful distance by the limping fugitive, who might, had he been seen, have been supposed some messenger, or perhaps some person employed about the house or gardens coming to her ladyship for instructions. No one saw them, however, and they gained the dressing-room and thence the alcove in complete safety.
There, whilst Richard, allowing his exhaustion at last to conquer him, sank heavily down upon one of his sister’s many trunks, recking nothing of the havoc wrought in its priceless contents, her ladyship all a-tremble collapsed limply upon another.
But there was no rest for her. Richard’s wound required attention, and he was faint for want of meat and drink. So having procured him the wherewithal to wash and dress his hurt – a nasty knife-slash which had penetrated to the bone of his thigh, the very sight of which turned her ladyship sick and faint – she went to forage for him in a haste increased by the fact that time was growing short.
On the dining-room sideboard, from the remains of dinner, she found and furtively abstracted what she needed – best part of a roast chicken, a small loaf and a half-flask of Collares. Mullins, the butler, would no doubt be exercised presently when he discovered the abstraction. Let him blame one of the footmen, Sir Terence’s orderly, or the cat. It mattered nothing to Lady O’Moy.
Having devoured the food and consumed the wine, Richard’s exhaustion assumed the form of a lethargic torpor. To sleep was now his overmastering desire. She fetched him rugs and pillows, and he made himself a couch upon the floor. She had demurred, of course, when he himself had suggested this. She could not conceive of any one sleeping anywhere but in a bed. But Dick made short work of that illusion.
“Haven’t I been in hiding for the last six weeks?” he asked her. “And haven’t I been thankful to sleep in a ditch? And wasn’t I campaigning before that? I tell you I couldn’t sleep in a bed. It’s a habit I’ve lost entirely.”
Convinced, she gave way.
“We’ll talk to-morrow, Una,” he promised her, as he stretched himself luxuriously upon that hard couch. “But meanwhile, on your life, not a word to any one. You understand?”
“Of course I understand, my poor Dick.”
She stooped to kiss him. But he was fast asleep already.
She went out and locked the door, and when, on the point of setting out for Count Redondo’s, she returned the bunch of keys to Bridget the key of the alcove was missing.
“I shall require it again in the morning, Bridget,” she explained lightly. And then added kindly, as it seemed: “Don’t wait for me, child. Get to bed. I shall be late in coming home, and I shall not want you.”
MISS ARMYTAGE’S PEARLS
Lady O’Moy and Miss Armytage drove alone together into Lisbon. The adjutant, still occupied, would follow as soon as he possibly could, whilst Captain Tremayne would go on directly from the lodgings which he shared in Alcantara with Major Carruthers – also of the adjutant’s staff – whither he had ridden to dress some twenty minutes earlier.
“Are you ill, Una?” had been Sylvia’s concerned greeting of her cousin when she came within the range of the carriage lamps. “You are pale as a ghost.” To this her ladyship had replied mechanically that a slight headache troubled her.
But now that they sat side by side in the well upholstered carriage Miss Armytage became aware hat her companion was trembling.
“Una, dear, whatever is the matter?”
Had it not been for the dominant fear that the shedding of tears would render her countenance unsightly, Lady O’Moy would have yielded to her feelings and wept. Heroically in the cause of her own flawless beauty she conquered the almost overmastering inclination.
“I – I have been so troubled about Richard,” she faltered. “It is preying upon my mind.”
“Poor dear!” In sheer motherliness Miss Armytage put an arm about her cousin and drew her close. “We must hope for the best.”
Now if you have understood anything of the character of Lady O’Moy you will have understood that the burden of a secret was the last burden that such a nature was capable of carrying,. It was because Dick was fully aware of this that he had so emphatically and repeatedly impressed upon her the necessity for saying not a word to any one of his presence. She realised in her vague way – or rather she believed it since he had assured her – that there would be grave danger to him if he were discovered. But discovery was one thing, and the sharing of a confidence as to his presence another. That confidence must certainly be shared.
Lady O’Moy was in an emotional maelstrom that swept her towards a cataract. The cataract might inspire her with dread, standing as it did for death and disaster, but the maelstrom was not to be resisted. She was helpless in it, unequal to breasting such strong waters, she who in all her futile, charming life had been borne snugly in safe crafts that were steered by others.
Remained but to choose her confidant. Nature suggested Terence. But it was against Terence in particular that she had been warned. Circumstance now offered Sylvia Armytage. But pride, or vanity if you prefer it, denied her here. Sylvia was an inexperienced young girl, as she herself had so often found occasion to remind her cousin. Moreover, she fostered the fond illusion that Sylvia looked to her for precept, that upon Sylvia’s life she exercised a precious guiding influence. How, then, should the supporting lean upon the supported? Yet since she must, there and then, lean upon something or succumb instantly and completely, she chose a middle course, a sort of temporary assistance.
“I have been imagining things,” she said. “It may be a premonition, I don’t know. Do you believe in premonitions, Sylvia?”
“Sometimes,” Sylvia humoured her.
“I have been imagining that if Dick is hiding, a fugitive, he might naturally come to me for help. I am fanciful, perhaps,” she added hastily, lest she should have said too much. “But there it is. All day the notion has clung to me, and I have been asking myself desperately what I should do in such a case.”
“Time enough to consider it when it happens, Una. After all – “
“I know,” her ladyship interrupted on that ever-ready note of petulance of hers. “I know, of course. But I think I should be easier in my mind if I could find an answer to my doubt. If I knew what to do, to whom to appeal for assistance, for I am afraid that I should be very helpless myself. There is Terence, of course. But I am a little afraid of Terence. He has got Dick out of so many scrapes, and he is so impatient of poor Dick. I am afraid he doesn’t understand him, and so I should be a little frightened of appealing to Terence again.”
“No,” said Sylvia gravely, “I shouldn’t go to Terence. Indeed he is the last man to whom I should go.”
“You say that too!” exclaimed her ladyship.
“Why?” quoth Sylvia sharply. “Who else has said it?”
There was a brief pause in which Lady O’Moy shuddered. She had been so near to betraying herself. How very quick and shrewd Sylvia was! She made, however, a good recovery.
“Myself, of course. It is what I have thought myself. There is Count Samoval. He promised that if ever any such thing happened he would help me. And he assured me I could count upon him. I think it may have been his offer that made me fanciful.”
“I should go to Sir Terence before I went to Count Samoval. By which I mean that I should not go to Count Samoval at all under any circumstances. I do not trust him.”
“You said so once before, dear,” said Lady O’Moy.
“And you assured me that I spoke out of the fullness of my ignorance and inexperience.”
“Ah, forgive me.”
“There is nothing to forgive. No doubt you were right. But remember that instinct is most alive in the ignorant and inexperienced, and that instinct is often a surer guide than reason. Yet if you want reason, I can supply that too. Count Samoval is the intimate friend of the Marquis of Minas, who remains a member of the Government, and who next to the Principal Souza was, and no doubt is, the most bitter opponent of the British policy in Portugal. Yet Count Samoval, one of the largest landowners in the north, and the nobleman who has perhaps suffered most severely from that policy, represents himself as its most vigorous supporter.”
Lady O’Moy listened in growing amazement. Also she was a little shocked. It seemed to her almost indecent that a young girl should know so much about politics – so much of which she herself, a married woman, and the wife of the adjutant-general, was completely in ignorance.
“Save us, child!” she ejaculated. “You are so extraordinarily informed.”
“I have talked to Captain Tremayne,” said Sylvia. “He has explained all this.”
“Extraordinary conversation for a young man to hold with a young girl,” pronounced her ladyship. “Terence never talked of such things to me.”
“Terence was too busy making love to you,” said Sylvia, and there was the least suspicion of regret in her almost boyish voice.
“That may account for it,” her ladyship confessed, and fell for a moment into consideration of that delicious and rather amusing past, when O’Moy’s ferocious hesitancy and flaming jealousy had delighted her with the full perception of her beauty’s power. With a rush, however, the present forced itself back upon her notice. “But I still don’t see why Count Samoval should have offered me assistance if he did not intend to grant it when the time came.”
Sylvia explained that it was from the Portuguese Government that the demand for justice upon the violator of the nunnery at Tavora emanated, and that Samoval’s offer might be calculated to obtain him information of Butler’s whereabouts when they became known, so that he might surrender him to the Government.
“My dear!” Lady O’Moy was shocked almost beyond expression. “How you must dislike the man to suggest that he could be such a – such a Judas.”
“I do not suggest that he could be. I warn you never to run the risk of testing him. He maybe as honest in this matter as he pretends. But if ever Dick were to come to you for help, you must take no risk.”
The phrase was a happier one than Sylvia could suppose. It was almost the very phrase that Dick himself had used; and its reiteration by another bore conviction to her ladyship.
“To whom then should I go?” she demanded plaintively. And Sylvia, speaking with knowledge, remembering the promise that Tremayne had given her, answered readily: “There is but one man whose assistance you could safely seek. Indeed I wonder you should not have thought of him in the first instance, since he is your own, as well as Dick’s lifelong friend.”
“Ned Tremayne?” Her ladyship fell into thought. “Do you know, I am a little afraid of Ned. He is so very sober and cold. You do mean Ned – don’t you?”
“Whom else should I mean?”
“But what could he do?”
“My dear, how should I know? But at least I know – for I think I can be sure of this – that he will not lack the will to help you; and to have the will, in a man like Captain Tremayne, is to find a way.”
The confident, almost respectful, tone in which she spoke arrested her ladyship’s attention. It promptly sent her off at a tangent:
“You like Ned, don’t you, dear?”
“I think everybody likes him.” Sylvia’s voice was now studiously cold.
“Yes; but I don’t mean quite in that way.” And then before the subject could be further pursued the carriage rolled to a standstill in a flood of light from gaping portals, scattering a mob of curious sight-seers intersprinkled with chairmen, footmen, linkmen and all the valetaille that hovers about the functions of the great world.
The carriage door was flung open and the steps let down. A brace of footmen, plump as capons, in gorgeous liveries, bowed powdered heads and proffered scarlet arms to assist the ladies to alight.
Above in the crowded, spacious, colonnaded vestibule at the foot of the great staircase they were met-by Captain Tremayne, who had just arrived with Major Carruthers, both resplendent in full dress, and Captain Marcus Glennie of the Telemachus in blue and gold. “Together they ascended the great staircase, lined with chatting groups, and ablaze with uniforms, military, naval and diplomatic, British and Portuguese, to be welcomed above by the Count and Countess of Redondo.
Lady O’Moy’s entrance of the ballroom produced the effect to which custom had by now inured her. Soon she found herself the centre of assiduous attentions. Cavalrymen in blue, riflemen in green, scarlet officers of the line regiments, winged light-infantrymen, rakishly pelissed, gold-braided hussars and all the smaller fry of court and camp fluttered insistently about her. It was no novelty to her who had been the recipient of such homage since her first ball five years ago at Dublin Castle, and yet the wine of it had gone ever to her head a little. But to-night she was rather pale and listless, her rose-petal loveliness emphasised thereby perhaps. An unusual air of indifference hung about her as she stood there amid this throng of martial jostlers who craved the honour of a dance and at whom she smiled a thought mechanically over the top of her slowly moving fan.
The first quadrille impended, and the senior service had carried off the prize from under the noses of the landsmen. As she was swept away by Captain Glennie, she came face to face with Tremayne, who was passing with Sylvia on his arm. She stopped and tapped his arm with her fan.
“You haven’t asked to dance, Ned,” she reproached him.
“With reluctance I abstained.”
“But I don’t intend that you shall. I have something to say to you.” He met her glance, and found it oddly serious – most oddly serious for her. Responding to its entreaty, he murmured a promise in courteous terms of delight at so much honour.
But either he forgot the promise or did not conceive its redemption to be an urgent matter, for the quadrille being done he sauntered through one of the crowded ante-rooms with Miss Armytage and brought her to the cool of a deserted balcony above the garden. Beyond this was the river, agleam with the lights of the British fleet that rode at anchor on its placid bosom.
“Una will be waiting for you,” Miss Armytage reminded him. She was leaning on the sill of the balcony. Standing erect beside her, he considered the graceful profile sharply outlined against a background of gloom by the light from the windows behind them. A heavy curl of her dark hair lay upon a neck as flawlessly white as the rope of pearls that swung from it, with which her fingers were now idly toying. It were difficult to say which most engaged his thoughts: the profile; the lovely line of neck; or the rope of pearls. These latter were of price, such things as it might seldom – and then only by sacrifice – lie within the means of Captain Tremayne to offer to the woman whom he took to wife.
He so lost himself upon that train of thought that she was forced to repeat her reminder.
“Una will be waiting for you, Captain Tremayne.”
“Scarcely as eagerly,” he answered, “as others will be waiting for you.”
She laughed amusedly, a frank, boyish laugh. “I thank you for not saying as eagerly as I am waiting for others.”
“Miss Armytage, I have ever cultivated truth.”
“But we are dealing with surmise.”
“Oh, no surmise at all. I speak of what I know.”
“And so do I” And yet again she repeated: “Una will be waiting for you.”
He sighed, and stiffened slightly. “Of course if you insist,” said he, and made ready to reconduct her.
She swung round as if to go, but checked, and looked him frankly in the eyes.
“Why will you for ever be misunderstanding me?” she challenged him.
“Perhaps it is the inevitable result of my overanxiety to understand.”
“Then begin by taking me more literally, and do not read into my words more meaning than I intend to give them. When I say Una is waiting for you, I state a simple fact, not a command that you shall go to her. Indeed I want first to talk to you.”
“If I might take you literally now – “
“Should I have suffered you to bring me here if I did not?”
“I beg your pardon,” he said, contrite, and something shaken out of his imperturbability. “Sylvia,” he ventured very boldly, and there checked, so terrified as to be a shame to his brave scarlet, gold-laced uniform.
“Yes?” she said. She was leaning upon the balcony again, and in such a way now that he could no longer see her profile. But her fingers were busy at the pearls once more, and this he saw, and seeing, recovered himself.
“You have something to say to me?” he questioned in his smooth, level voice.
Had he not looked away as he spoke he might have observed that her fingers tightened their grip of the pearls almost convulsively, as if to break the rope. It was a gesture slight and trivial, yet arguing perhaps vexation. But Tremayne did not see it, and had he seen it, it is odds it would have conveyed no message to him.
There fell a long pause, which he did not venture to break. At last she spoke, her voice quiet and level as his own had been.
“It is about Una.”
“I had hoped,” he spoke very softly, “that it was about yourself.”
She flashed round upon him almost angrily. “Why do you utter these set speeches to me?” she demanded. And then before he could recover from his astonishment to make any answer she had resumed a normal manner, and was talking quickly.
She told him of Una’s premonitions about Dick. Told him, in short, what it was that Una desired to talk to him about.
“You bade her come to me?” he said.
“Of course. After your promise to me.”
He was silent and very thoughtful for a moment. “I wonder that Una needed to be told that she had in me a friend,” he said slowly.
“I wonder to whom she would have gone on her own impulse?”
“To Count Samoval,” Miss Armytage informed him.
“Samoval!” he rapped the name out sharply. He was clearly angry. “That man! I can’t understand why O’Moy should suffer him about the house so much.”
“Terence, like everybody else, will suffer anything that Una wishes.”
“Then Terence is more of a fool than I ever suspected.”
There was a brief pause. “If you were to fail Una in this,” said Miss Armytage presently, “I mean that unless you yourself give her the assurance that you are ready to do what you can for Dick, should the occasion arise, I am afraid that in her present foolish mood she may still avail herself of Count Samoval. That would be to give Samoval a hold upon her; and I tremble to think what the consequences might be. That man is a snake – a horror.”
The frankness with which she spoke was to Tremayne full evidence of her anxiety. He was prompt to allay it.
“She shall have that assurance this very evening,” he promised.
“I at least have not pledged my word to anything or to any one. Even so,” he added slowly, “the chances of my services being ever required grow more slender every day. Una may be full of premonitions about Dick. But between premonition and event there is something of a gap.”
Again a pause, and then: “I am glad,” said Miss Armytage, “to think that Una has a friend, a trustworthy friend, upon whom she can depend. She is so incapable of depending upon herself. All her life there has been some one at hand to guide her and screen her from unpleasantness until she has remained just a sweet, dear child to be taken by the hand in every dark lane of life.”
“But she has you, Miss Armytage.”
“Me?” Miss Armytage spoke deprecatingly. “I don’t think I am a very able or experienced guide. Besides, even such as I am, she may not have me very long now. I had letters from home this morning. Father is not very well, and mother writes that he misses me. I am thinking of returning soon.”
“But – but you have only just come!”
She brightened and laughed at the dismay in his voice. “Indeed, I have been here six weeks.” She looked out over the shimmering moonlit waters of the Tagus and the shadowy, ghostly ships of the British fleet that rode at anchor there, and her eyes were wistful. Her fingers, with that little gesture peculiar to her in moments of constraint, were again entwining themselves in her rope of pearls. “Yes,” she said almost musingly, “I think I must be going soon.”
He was dismayed. He realised that the moment for action had come. His heart was sounding the charge within him. And then that cursed rope of pearls, emblem of the wealth and luxury in which she had been nurtured, stood like an impassable abattis across his path.
“You – you will be glad to go, of course?” he suggested.
“Hardly that. It has been very pleasant here.” She sighed.
“We shall miss you very much,” he said gloomily. “The house at Monsanto will not be the same when you are gone. Una will be lost and desolate without you.”
“It occurs to me sometimes,” she said slowly, “that the people about Una think too much of Una and too little of themselves.”
It was a cryptic speech. In another it might have signified a spitefulness unthinkable in Sylvia Armytage; therefore it puzzled him very deeply. He stood silent, wondering what precisely she might mean, and thus in silence they continued for a spell. Then slowly she turned and the blaze of light from the windows fell about her irradiantly. She was rather pale, and her eyes were of a suspiciously excessive brightness. And again she made use of the phrase:
“Una will be waiting for you.”
Yet, as before, he stood silent and immovable, considering her, questioning himself, searching her face and his own soul. All he saw was that rope of shimmering pearls.
“And after all, as yourself suggested, it is possible that others may be waiting for me,” she added presently.
Instantly he was crestfallen and contrite. “I sincerely beg your pardon, Miss Armytage,” and with a pang of which his imperturbable exterior gave no hint he proffered her his arm.
She took it, barely touching it with her finger-tips, and they re-entered the ante-room.
“When do you think that you will be leaving?” he asked her gently.
There was a note of harshness in the voice that answered him.
“I don’t know yet. But very soon. The sooner the better, I think.”
And then the sleek and courtly Samoval, detaching from, seeming to materialise out of, the glittering throng they had entered, was bowing low before her, claiming her attention. Knowing her feelings, Tremayne would not have relinquished her, but to his infinite amazement she herself slipped her fingers from his scarlet sleeve, to place them upon the black one that Samoval was gracefully proffering, and greeted Samoval with a gay raillery as oddly in contrast with her grave demeanour towards the captain as with her recent avowal of detestation for the Count.
Stricken and half angry, Tremayne stood looking after them as they receded towards the ballroom. To increase his chagrin came a laugh from Miss Armytage, sharp and rather strident, floating towards him, and Miss Armytage’s laugh was wont to be low and restrained. Samoval, no doubt, had resources to amuse a woman – even a woman who instinctively, disliked him – resources of which Captain Tremayne himself knew nothing.
And then some one tapped him on the shoulder. A very tall, hawk-faced man in a scarlet coat and tightly strapped blue trousers stood beside him. It was Colquhoun Grant, the ablest intelligence officer in Wellington’s service.
“Why, Colonel!” cried Tremayne, holding out his hand. “I didn’t know you were in Lisbon.”
“I arrived only this afternoon.” The keen eyes flashed after the disappearing figures of Sylvia and her cavalier. “Tell me, what is the name of the irresistible gallant who has so lightly ravished you of your quite delicious companion?”
“Count Samoval,” said Tremayne shortly.
Grant’s face remained inscrutable. “Really!” he said softly. “So that is Jeronymo de Samoval, eh? How very interesting. A great supporter of the British policy; therefore an altruist, since himself he is a sufferer by it; and I hear that he has become a great friend of O’Moy’s.”
“He is at Monsanto a good deal certainly,” Tremayne admitted.
“Most interesting.” Grant was slowly nodding, and a faint smile curled his thin, sensitive lips. “But I’m keeping you, Tremayne, and no doubt you would be dancing. I shall perhaps see you to-morrow. I shall be coming up to Monsanto.”
And with a wave of the hand he passed on and was gone.
Tremayne elbowed his way through the gorgeous crowd, exchanging greetings here and there as he went, and so reached the ballroom during a pause in the dancing. He looked round for Lady O’Moy, but he could see her nowhere, and would never have found her had not Carruthers pointed out a knot of officers and assured him that the lady was in the heart of it and in imminent peril of being suffocated.
Thither the captain bent his steps, looking neither to right nor left in his singleness of purpose. Thus it happened that he saw neither O’Moy, who had just arrived, nor the massive, decorated bulk of Marshal Beresford, with whom the adjutant stood in conversation on the skirts of the throng that so assiduously worshipped at her ladyship’s shrine.
Captain Tremayne went through the group with all a sapper’s skill at piercing obstacles, and so came face to face with the lady of his quest. Seeing her so radiant now, with sparkling eyes and ready laugh, it was difficult to conceive her haunted by any such anxieties as Miss Armytage had mentioned. Yet the moment she perceived him, as if his presence acted as a reminder to lift her out of the delicious present, something of her gaiety underwent eclipse.
Child of impulse that she was, she gave no thought to her action and the construction it might possibly bear in the minds of men chagrined and slighted.
“Why, Ned,” she cried, “you have kept me waiting.” And with a complete and charming ignoring of the claims of all who had been before him, and who were warring there for precedence of one another, she took his arm in token that she yielded herself to him before even the honour was so much as solicited.
With nods and smiles to right and left – a queen dismissing her court – she passed on the captain’s arm through the little crowd that gave way before her dismayed and intrigued, and so away.
O’Moy, who had been awaiting a favourable moment to present the marshal by the marshal’s own request, attempted to thrust forward now with Beresford at his side. But the bowing line of officers whose backs were towards him effectively barred his progress, and before they had broken up that formation her ladyship and her cavalier were out of sight, lost in the moving crowd.
The marshal laughed good-humouredly. “The infallible reward of patience,” said he. And O’Moy laughed with him. But the next moment he was scowling at what he overheard.
“On my soul, that was impudence!” an Irish infantryman had protested.
“Have you ever heard,” quoth a heavy dragoon, who was also a heavy jester, “that in heaven the last shall be first? If you pay court to an angel you must submit to celestial customs.”
“And bedad,” rejoined the infantryman, “as there’s no marryin’ in heaven ye’ve got to make the best of it with other men’s wives. Sure it’s a great success that fellow should be in paradise. Did ye remark the way she melted to him beauty swooning at the sight of temptation! Bad luck to him! Who is he at all?”
They dispersed laughing and followed by O’Moy’s scowling eyes. It annoyed him that his wife’s thoughtless conduct should render her the butt of such jests as these, and perhaps a subject for lewd gossip. He would speak to her about it later. Meanwhile the marshal had linked arms with him.
“Since the privilege must be postponed,” said he, “suppose that we seek supper. I have always found that a man can best heal in his stomach the wounds taken by his heart.” His fleshy bulk afforded a certain prima-facie confirmation of the dictum.
With a roll more suggestive of the quarter-deck than the saddle, the great man bore off O’Moy in quest of material consolation. Yet as they went the adjutant’s eyes raked the ballroom in quest of his wife. That quest, however, was unsuccessful, for his wife was already in the garden.
“I want to talk to you most urgently, Ned. Take me somewhere where we can be quite private,” she had begged the captain. “Somewhere where there is no danger of being overheard.”
Her agitation, now uncontrolled, suggested to Tremayne that the matter might be far more serious and urgent than Miss Armytage had represented it. He thought first of the balcony where he had lately been. But then the balcony opened immediately from the ante-room and was likely at any moment to be invaded. So, since the night was soft and warm, he preferred the garden. Her ladyship went to find a wrap, then arm in arm they passed out, and were lost in the shadows of an avenue of palm-trees.
“It is about Dick,” she said breathlessly.
“I know – Miss Armytage told me.”
“What did she tell you?”
“That you had a premonition that he might come to you for assistance.”
“A premonition!” Her ladyship laughed nervously. “It is more than a premonition, Ned. He has come.”
The captain stopped in his stride, and stood quite still.
“Come?” he echoed. “Dick?”
“Sh!” she warned him, and sank her voice from very instinct. “He came to me this evening, half an hour before we left home. I have put him in an alcove adjacent to my dressing-room for the present.”
“You have left him there?” He was alarmed.
“Oh, there’s no fear. No one ever goes there except Bridget. And I have locked the alcove. He’s fast asleep. He was asleep before I left. The poor fellow was so worn and weary.” Followed details of his appearance and a recital of his wanderings so far as he had made them known to her. “And he was so insistent that no one should know, not even Terence.”
“Terence must not know,” he said gravely.
“You think that too!”
“If Terence knows – well, you will regret it all the days of your life, Una.”
He was so stern, so impressive, that she begged for explanation. He afforded it. “You would be doing Terence the utmost cruelty if you told him. You would be compelling him to choose between his honour and his concern for you. And since he is the very soul of honour, he must sacrifice you and himself, your happiness and his own, everything that makes life good for you both, to his duty.”
She was aghast, for all that she was far from understanding. But he went on relentlessly to make his meaning clear, for the sake of O’Moy as much as for her own – for the sake of the future of these two people who were perhaps his dearest friends. He saw in what danger of shipwreck their happiness now stood, and he took the determination of clearly pointing out to her every shoal in the water through which she must steer her course.
“Since this has happened, Una, you must be told the whole truth; you must listen, and, above all, be reasonable. I am Dick’s friend, as I am your own and Terence’s. Your father was my best friend, perhaps, and my gratitude to him is unbounded, as I hope you know. You and Dick are almost as brother and sister to me. In spite of this – indeed, because of this, I have prayed for news that Dick was dead.”
Her grasp interrupted him, and he felt the tightening clutch of her hands upon his arm in the gloom.
“I have prayed this for Dick’s sake, and more than all for the sake of your happiness and Terence’s. If Dick is taken the choice before Terence is a tragic one. You will realise it when I tell you that duty forced him to pledge his word to the Portuguese Government that Dick should be shot when found.”
“Oh!” It was a gasp of horror, of incredulity. She loosed his arm and drew away from him. “It is infamous! I can’t believe it. I can’t.”
“It is true. I swear it to you. I was present, and I heard.”
“And you allowed it?”
“What could I do? How could I interfere? Besides, the minister who demanded that undertaking knew nothing of the relationship between O’Moy and this missing officer.”
“But – but he could have been told.”
“That would have made no difference – unless it were to create fresh difficulties.”
She stood there ghostly white against the gloom. A dry sob broke from her. “Terence did that! Terence did that!” she moaned. And then in a surge of anger: “I shall never speak to Terence again. I shall not live with him another day. It was infamous! Infamous!”
“It was not infamous. It was almost noble, almost heroic,” he amazed her. “Listen, Una, and try to understand.” He took her arm again and drew her gently on down that avenue of moonlight-fretted darkness.
“Oh, I understand,” she cried bitterly. “I understand perfectly. He has always been hard on Dick! He has always made mountains out of molehills where Dick was concerned. He forgets that Dick is young a mere boy. He judges Dick from the standpoint of his own sober middle age. Why, he’s an old man – a wicked old man!”
Thus her rage, hurling at O’Moy what in the insolence of her youth seemed the last insult.
“You are very unjust, Una. You are even a little stupid,” he said, deeming the punishment necessary and salutary.
“Stupid! I stupid! I have never been called stupid before.”
“But you have undoubtedly deserved to be,” he assured her with perfect calm.
It took her aback by its directness, and for a moment left her without an answer. Then: “I think you had better leave me,” she told him frostily. “You forget yourself.”
“Perhaps I do,” he admitted. “That is because I am more concerned to think of Dick and Terence and yourself. Sit down, Una.”
They had reached a little circle by a piece of ornamental water, facing which a granite-hewn seat had been placed. She sank to it obediently, if sulkily.
“It may perhaps help you to understand what Terence has done when I tell you that in his place, loving Dick as I do, I must have pledged myself precisely as he did or else despised myself for ever. And being pledged, I must keep my word or go in the same self-contempt.” He elaborated his argument by explaining the full circumstances under which the pledge had been exacted. ” But be in no doubt about it,” he concluded. “If Terence knows of Dick’s presence at Monsanto he has no choice. He must deliver him up to a firing party – or to a court-martial which will inevitably sentence him to death, no matter what the defence that Dick may urge. He is a man prejudged, foredoomed by the necessities of war. And Terence will do this although it will break his heart and ruin all his life. Understand me, then, that in enjoining you never to allow Terence to suspect that Dick is present, I am pleading not so much for you or for Dick, but for Terence himself – for it is upon Terence that the hardest and most tragic suffering must fall. Now do you understand?”
“I understand that men are very stupid,” was her way of admitting it.
“And you see that you were wrong in judging Terence as you did?”
“I – I suppose so.”
She didn’t understand it all. But since Tremayne was so insistent she supposed there must be something in his point of view. She had been brought up in the belief that Ned Tremayne was common sense incarnate; and although she often doubted it – as you may doubt the dogmas of a religion in which you have been bred – yet she never openly rebelled against that inculcated faith. Above all she wanted to cry. She knew that it would be very good for her. She had often found a singular relief in tears when vexed by things beyond her understanding. But she had to think of that flock of gallants in the ballroom waiting to pay court to her and of her duty towards them of preserving her beauty unimpaired by the ravages of a vented sorrow.
Tremayne sat down beside her. “So now that we understand each other on that score, let us consider ways and means to dispose of Dick.”
At once she was uplifted and became all eagerness.
“Yes, Yes. You will help me, Ned?”
“You can depend upon me to do all in human power.”
He thought rapidly, and gave voice to some of his thoughts. “If I could I would take him to my lodgings at Alcantara. But Carruthers knows him and would see him there. So that is out of the question. Then again it is dangerous to move him about. At any moment he might be seen and recognised.”
“Hardly recognised,” she said. “His beard disguises him, and his dress – ” She shuddered at the very thought of the figure he had cut, he, the jaunty, dandy Richard Butler.
“That is something, of course,” he agreed. And then asked: “How long do you think that you could keep him hidden?”
“I don’t know. You see, there’s Bridget. She is the only danger, as she has charge of my dressing-room.”
“It may be desperate, but – Can you trust her?”
“Oh, I am sure I can. She is devoted to me; she would do anything – “
“She must be bought as well. Devotion and gain when linked together will form an unbreakable bond. Don’t let us be stingy, Una. Take her into your confidence boldly, and promise her a hundred guineas for her silence – payable on the day that Dick leaves the country.”
“But how are we to get him out of the country?”
“I think I know a way. I can depend on Marcus Glennie. I may tell him the whole truth and the identity of our man, or I may not. I must think about that. But, whatever I decide, I am sure I can induce Glennie to take our fugitive home in the Telemachus and land him safely somewhere in Ireland, where he will have to lose himself for awhile. Perhaps for Glennie’s sake it will be safer not to disclose Dick’s identity. Then if there should be trouble later, Glennie, having known nothing of the real facts, will not be held responsible. I will talk to him to-night.”
“Do you think he will consent?” she asked in strained anxiety – anxiety to have her anxieties dispelled.
“I am sure he will. I can almost pledge my word on it. Marcus would do anything to serve me. Oh, set your mind at rest. Consider the thing done. Keep Dick safely hidden for a week or so until the Telemachus is ready to sail – he mustn’t go on board until the last moment, for several reasons – and I will see to the rest.”
Under that confident promise her troubles fell from her, as lightly as they ever did.
“You are very good to me, Ned. Forgive me what I said just now. And I think I understand about Terence – poor dear old Terence.”
“Of course you do.” Moved to comfort her as he might have been moved to comfort a child, he flung his arm along the seat behind her, and patted her shoulder soothingly. “I knew you would understand. And not a word to Terence, not a word that could so much as awaken his suspicions. Remember that.”
“Oh, I shall.”
Fell a step upon the patch behind them crunching the gravel. Captain Tremayne, his arm still along the back of the seat, and seeming to envelop her ladyship, looked over her shoulder. A tall figure was advancing briskly. He recognised it even in the gloom by its height and gait and swing for O’Moy’s.
“Why, here is Terence,” he said easily – so easily, with such frank and obvious honesty of welcome, that the anger in which O’Moy came wrapped fell from him on the instant, to be replaced by shame.
“I have been looking for you everywhere, my dear,” he said to Una. “Marshal Beresford is anxious to pay you his respects before he leaves, and you have been so hedged about by gallants all the evening that it’s devil a chance he’s had of approaching you.” There was a certain constraint in his voice, for a man may not recover instantly from such feelings as those which had fetched him hot-foot down that path at sight of those two figures sitting so close and intimate, the young man’s arm so proprietorialy about the lady’s shoulders – as it seemed.
Lady O’Moy sprang up at once, with a little silvery laugh that was singularly care-free; for had not Tremayne lifted the burden entirely from her shoulders?
“You should have married a dowd,” she mocked him. “Then you’d have found her more easily accessible.”
“Instead of finding her dallying in the moonlight with my secretary,” he rallied back between good and ill humour. And he turned to Tremayne: “Damned indiscreet of you, Ned,” he added more severely. “Suppose you had been seen by any of the scandalmongering old wives of the garrison? A nice thing for Una and a nice thing for me, begad, to be made the subject of fly-blown talk over the tea-cups.”
Tremayne accepted the rebuke in the friendly spirit in which it appeared to be conveyed. “Sorry, O’Moy,” he said. “You’re quite right. We should have thought of it. Everybody isn’t to know what our relations are.” And again he was so manifestly honest and so completely at his ease that it was impossible to harbour any thought of evil, and O’Moy felt again the glow of shame of suspicions so utterly unworthy and dishonouring.
THE INTELLIGENCE OFFICER
In a small room of Count Redondo’s palace, a room that had been set apart for cards, sat three men about a card-table. They were Count Samoval, the elderly Marquis of Minas, lean, bald and vulturine of aspect, with a deep-set eye that glared fiercely through a single eyeglass rimmed in tortoise-shell, and a gentleman still on the fair side of middle age, with a clear-cut face and iron-grey hair, who wore the dark green uniform of a major of Cacadores.
Considering his Portuguese uniform, it is odd that the low-toned, earnest conversation amongst them should have been conducted in French.
There were cards on the table; but there was no pretence of play. You might have conceived them a group of players who, wearied of their game, had relinquished it for conversation. They were the only tenants of the room, which was small, cedar-panelled and lighted by a girandole of sparkling crystal. Through the closed door came faintly from the distant ballroom the strains of the dance music.
With perhaps the single exception of the Principal Souza, the British policy had no more bitter opponent in Portugal than the Marquis of Minas. Once a member of the Council of Regency – before Souza had been elected to that body – he had quitted it in disgust at the British measures. His chief ground of umbrage had been the appointment of British officers to the command of the Portuguese regiments which formed the division under Marshal Beresford. In this he saw a deliberate insult and slight to his country and his countrymen. He was a man of burning and blinded patriotism, to whom Portugal was the most glorious nation in the world. He lived in his country’s splendid past, refusing to recognise that the days of Henry the Navigator, of Vasco da Gama, of Manuel the Fortunate – days in which Portugal had been great indeed among the nations of the Old World were gone and done with. He respected Britons as great merchants and industrious traders; but, after all, merchants and traders are not the peers of fighters on land and sea, of navigators, conquerors and civilisers, such as his countrymen had been, such as he believed them still to be. That the descendants of Gamas, Cunhas, Magalhaes and Albuquerques – men whose names were indelibly written upon the very face of the world – should be passed over, whilst alien officers lead been brought in to train and command the Portuguese legions, was an affront to Portugal which Minas could never forgive.
It was thus that he had become a rebel, withdrawing from a government whose supineness he could not condone. For a while his rebellion had been passive, until the Principal Souza had heated him in the fire of his own rage and fashioned him into an intriguing instrument of the first power. He was listening intently now to the soft, rapid speech of the gentleman in the major’s uniform.
“Of course, rumours had reached the Prince of this policy of devastation,” he was saying, “but his Highness has been disposed to treat these rumours lightly, unable to see, as indeed are we all, what useful purpose such a policy could finally serve. He does not underrate the talents of milord Wellington as a commander. He does not imagine that he would pursue such operations out of pure wantonness; yet if such operations are indeed being pursued, what can they be but wanton? A moment, Count,” he stayed Samoval, who was about to interrupt. His mind and manner were authoritative. “We know most positively from the Emperor’s London agents that the war is unpopular in England; we know that public opinion is being prepared for a British retreat, for the driving of the British into the sea, as must inevitably happen once Monsieur le Prince decides to launch his bolt. Here in the Tagus the British fleet lies ready to embark the troops, and the British Cabinet itself” (he spoke more slowly and emphatically) “expects that embarkation to take place at latest in September, which is just about the time that the French offensive should be at its height and the French troops under the very walls of Lisbon. I admit that by this policy of devastation if, indeed, it be true – added to a stubborn contesting of every foot of ground, the French advance may be retarded. But the process will be costly to Britain in lives and money.”
“And more costly still to Portugal,” croaked the Marquis of Minas.
“And, as you, say, Monsieur le Marquis, more costly still to Portugal. Let me for a moment show you another side of the picture. The French administration, so sane, so cherishing, animated purely by ideas of progress, enforcing wise and beneficial laws, making ever for the prosperity and well-being of conquered nations, knows how to render itself popular wherever it is established. This Portugal knows already – or at least some part of it. There was the administration of Soult in Oporto, so entirely satisfactory to the people that it was no inconsiderable party was prepared, subject to the Emperor’s consent, to offer him the crown and settle down peacefully under his rule. There was the administration of Junot in Lisbon. I ask you: when was Lisbon better governed?
“Contrast, for a moment, with these the present British administration – for it amounts to an administration. Consider the burning grievances that must be left behind by this policy of laying the country waste, of pauperising a million people of all degrees, driving them homeless from the lands on which they were born, after compelling them to lend a hand in the destruction of all that their labour has built up through long years. If any policy could better serve the purposes of France, I know it not. The people from here to Beira should be ready to receive the French with open arms, and to welcome their deliverance from this most costly and bitter British protection.
“Do you, Messieurs, detect a flaw in these arguments?”
Both shook their heads.
“Bien!” said the major of Portuguese Cacadores. “Then we reach one or two only possible conclusions: either these rumours of a policy of devastation which have reached the Prince of Esslingen are as utterly false as he believes them to be, or – “
“To my cost I know them to be true, as I have already told you,” Samoval interrupted bitterly.
“Or,” the major persisted, raising a hand to restrain the Count, “or there is something further that has not been yet discovered – a mystery the enucleation of which will shed light upon all the rest. Since you assure me, Monsieur le Comte, that milord Wellington’s policy is beyond doubt, as reported to Monsieur, le Marechal, it but remains to address ourselves to the discovery of the mystery underlying it. What conclusions have you reached? You, Monsieur de Samoval, have had exceptional opportunities of observation, I understand.”
“I am afraid my opportunities have been none so exceptional as you suppose,” replied Samoval, with a dubious shake of his sleek, dark head. “At one tine I founded great hopes in Lady O’Moy. But Lady O’Moy is a fool, and does not enjoy her husband’s confidence in official matters. What she knows I know. Unfortunately it does not amount to very much. One conclusion, however, I have reached: Wellington is preparing in Portugal a snare for Massena’s army.”
“A snare? Hum!” The major pursed his full lips into a smile of scorn. “There cannot be a trap with two exits, my friend. Massena enters Portugal at Almeida and marches to Lisbon and the open sea. He may be inconvenienced or hampered in his march; but its goal is certain. Where, then, can lie the snare? Your theory presupposes an impassable barrier to arrest the French when they are deep in the country and an overwhelming force to cut off their retreat when that barrier is reached. The overwhelming force does not exist and cannot be manufactured; as for the barrier, no barrier that it lies within human power to construct lies beyond French power to over-stride.”
“I should not make too sure of that,” Samoval warned him. “And you have overlooked something.”
The major glanced at the Count sharply and without satisfaction. He accounted himself – trained as he had been under the very eye of the great Emperor – of some force in strategy and tactics, a player too well versed in the game to overlook the possible moves of an opponent.
“Ha!” he said, with the ghost of a sneer. “Far instance, Monsieur le Comte?”
“The overwhelming force exists,” said Samoval.
“Where is it then? Whence has it been created? If you refer to the united British and Portuguese troops, you will be good enough to bear in mind that they will be retreating before the Prince. They cannot at once be before and behind him.”
The man’s cool assurance and cooler contempt of Samoval’s views stung the Count into some sharpness
“Are you seeking information, sir, or are you bestowing it?” he inquired.
“Ah! Your pardon, Monsieur le Comte. I inquire of course. I put forward arguments to anticipate conditions that may possibly be erroneous.”
Samoval waived the point. “There is another force besides the British and Portuguese troops that you have left out of your calculations.”
“And that?” The major was still faintly incredulous.
“You should remember what Wellington obviously remembers: that a French army depends for its sustenance upon the country it is invading. That is why Wellington is stripping the French line of penetration as bare of sustenance as this card-table. If we assume the existence of the barrier – an impassable line of fortifications encountered within many marches of the frontier – we may also assume that starvation will be the overwhelming force that will cut off the French retreat.”
The other’s keen eyes flickered. For a moment his face lost its assurance, and it was Samoval’s turn to smile. But the major made a sharp recovery. He slowly shook his iron-grey head.
“You have no right to assume an impassable barrier. That is an inadmissible hypothesis. There is no such thing as a line of fortifications impassable to the French.”
“You will pardon me, Major, but it is yourself have no right to your own assumptions. Again you overlook something. I will grant that technically what you say is true. No fortifications can be built that cannot be destroyed – given adequate power, with which it is yet to prove that Massena not knowing what may await him, will be equipped.
“But let us for a moment take so much for granted, and now consider this: fortifications are unquestionably building in the region of Torres Vedras, and Wellington guards the secret so jealously that not even the British – either here or in England – are aware of their nature. That is why the Cabinet in London takes for granted an embarkation in September. Wellington has not even taken his Government into his confidence. That is the sort of man he is. Now these fortifications have been building since last October. Best part of eight months have already gone in their construction. It may be another two or three months before the French army reaches them. I do not say that the French cannot pass them, given time. But how long will it take the French to pull down what it will have taken ten or eleven months to construct? And if they are unable to draw sustenance from a desolate, wasted country, what time will they have at their disposal? It will be with them a matter of life or death. Having come so far they must reach Lisbon or perish; and if the fortifications can delay them by a single month, then, granted that all Lord Wellington’s other dispositions have been duly carried out, perish they must. It remains, Monsieur le Major, for you to determine whether, with all their energy, with all their genius and all their valour, the French can – in an ill-nourished condition – destroy in a few weeks the considered labour of nearly a year.”
The major was aghast. He had changed colour, and through his eyes, wide and staring, his stupefaction glared forth at them.
Minas uttered a dry cough under cover of his hand, and screwed up his eyeglass to regard the major more attentively. “You do not appear to have considered all that,” he said.
“But, my dear Marquis,” was the half-indignant answer, “why was I not told all this to begin with? You represented yourself as but indifferently informed, Monsieur de Samoval. Whereas – “
“So I am, my dear Major, as far as information goes. If I did not use these arguments before, it was because it seemed to me an impertinence to offer what, after all, are no more than the conclusions of my own constructive and deductive reasoning to one so well versed in strategy as yourself.”
The major was silenced for a moment. “I congratulate you, Count,” he said. “Monsieur le Marechal shall have your views without delay. Tell me,” he begged. “You say these fortifications lie in the region of Torres Vedras. Can you be more precise?”
“I think so. But again I warn you that I can tell you only what I infer. I judge they will run from the sea, somewhere near the mouth of the Zizandre, in a semicircle to the Tagus, somewhere to the south of Santarem. I know that they do not reach as far north as San, because the roads there are open, whereas all roads to the south, where I am assuming that the fortifications lie, are closed and closely guarded.”
“Why do you suggest a semicircle?”
“Because that is the formation of the hills, and presumably the line of heights would be followed.”
“Yes,” the major approved slowly. “And the distance, then, would be some thirty or forty miles?”
The major’s face relaxed its gravity. He even smiled. “You will agree, Count, that in a line of that extent a uniform strength is out of the question. It must perforce present many weak, many vulnerable, places.”
“Plans of these lines must be in existence.”
“Again undoubtedly. Sir Terence O’Moy will have plans in his possession showing their projected extent. Colonel Fletcher, who is in charge of the construction, is in constant communication with the adjutant, himself an engineer; and – as I partly imagine, partly infer from odd phrases that I have overheard – especially entrusted by Lord Wellington with the supervision of the works.”
“Two things, then, are necessary,” said the major promptly. “The first is, that the devastation of the country should be retarded, and as far as possible hindered altogether.”
“That,” said Minas, “you may safely leave to myself and Souza’s other friends, the northern noblemen who have no intention of becoming the victims of British disinclination to pitched battles.”
“The second – and this is more difficult – is that we should obtain by hook or by crook a plan of the fortifications.” And he looked directly at Samoval.
The Count nodded slowly, but his face expressed doubt.
“I am quite alive to the necessity. I always have been. But – “
“To a man of your resource and intelligence – an intelligence of which you have just given such veer signal proof – the matter should be possible.” He paused a moment. Then: “If I understand you correctly, Monsieur de Samoval, your fortunes have suffered deeply, and you are almost ruined by this policy of Wellington’s. You are offered the opportunity of making a magnificent recovery. The Emperor is the most generous paymaster in the world, and he is beyond measure impatient at the manner in which the campaign in the Peninsula is dragging on. He has spoken of it as an ulcer that is draining the Empire of its resources. For the man who could render him the service of disclosing the weak spot in this armour, the Achilles heel of the British, there would be a reward beyond all your possible dreams. Obtain the plans, then, and – “
He checked abruptly. The door had opened, and in a Venetian mirror facing him upon the wall the major caught the reflection of a British uniform, the stiff gold collar surmounted by a bronzed hawk face with which he was acquainted.
“I beg your pardon, gentlemen,” said the officer in Portuguese, “I was looking for – “
His voice became indistinct, so that they never knew who it was that he had been seeking when he intruded upon their privacy. The door had closed again and the reflection had vanished from the mirror. But there were beads of perspiration on the major’s brow.
“It is fortunate,” he muttered breathlessly, “that my back was towards him. I would as soon meet the devil face to face. I didn’t dream he was in Lisbon.”
“Who is he?” asked Minas.
“Colonel Grant, the British Intelligence officer. Phew! Name of a Name! What an escape!” The major mopped his brow with a silk handkerchief. “Beware of him, Monsieur de Samoval.”
He rose. He was obviously shaken by the meeting.
“If one of you will kindly make quite sure that he is not about I think that I had better go. If we should meet everything might be ruined.” Then with a change of manner he stayed Samoval, who was already on his way to the door. “We understand each other, then?” he questioned them. “I have my papers, and at dawn I leave Lisbon. I shall report your conclusions to the Prince, and in anticipation I may already offer you the expression of his profoundest gratitude. Meanwhile, you know what is to do. Opposition to the policy, and the plans of the fortifications – above all the plans.”
He shook hands with them, and having waited until Samoval assured him that the corridor outside was clear, he took his departure, and was soon afterwards driving home, congratulating himself upon his most fortunate escape from the hawk eye of Colquhoun Grant.
But when in the dead of that night he was awakened to find a British sergeant with a halbert and six redcoats with fixed bayonets surrounding his bed it occurred to him belatedly that what one man can see in a mirror is also visible to another, and that Marshal Massena, Prince of Esslingen, waiting for information beyond Ciudad Rodrigo, would never enjoy the advantages of a report of Count Samoval’s masterly constructive and deductive reasoning.
THE GENERAL ORDER
Sir Terence sat alone in his spacious, severely furnished private room in the official quarters at Monsanto. On the broad carved writing-table before him there was a mass of documents relating to the clothing and accoutrement of the forces, to leaves of absence, to staff appointments; there were returns from the various divisions of the sick and wounded in hospital, from which a complete list was to be prepared for the Secretary of State for War at home; there were plans of the lines at Torres Vedras just .received, indicating the progress of the works at various points; and there were documents and communications of all kinds concerned with the adjutant-general’s multifarious and arduous duties, including an urgent letter from Colonel Fletcher suggesting that the Commander-in-Chief should take an early opportunity of inspecting in person the inner lines of fortification.
Sir Terence, however, sat back in his chair, his work neglected, his eyes dreamily gazing through the open window, but seeing nothing of the sun-drenched landscape beyond, a heavy frown darkening his bronzed and rugged face. His mind was very far from his official duties and the mass of reminders before him – this Augean stable of arrears. He was lost in thought of his wife and Tremayne.
Five days had elapsed since the ball at Count Redondo’s, where Sir Terence had surprised the pair together in the garden and his suspicions had been fired by the compromising attitude in which he had discovered them. Tremayne’s frank, easy bearing, so unassociable with guilt, had, as we know, gone far, to reassure him, and had even shamed him, so that he had trampled his suspicions underfoot. But other things had happened since to revive his bitter doubts. Daily, constantly, had he been coming upon Tremayne and Lady O’Moy alone together in intimate, confidential talk which was ever silenced on his approach. The two had taken to wandering by themselves in the gardens at all hours, a thing that had never been so before, and O’Moy detected, or imagined that he detected, a closer intimacy between them, a greater warmth towards the captain on the part of her ladyship.
Thus matters had reached a pass in which peace of mind was impossible to him. It was not merely what he saw, it was his knowledge of what was; it was his ever-present consciousness of his own age and his wife’s youth; it was the memory of his ante-nuptial jealousy of Tremayne which had been awakened by the gossip of those days – a gossip that pronounced Tremayne Una Butler’s poor suitor, too poor either to declare himself or to be accepted if he did. The old wound which that gossip had dealt him then was reopened now. He thought of Tremayne’s manifest concern for Una; he remembered how in