her brother – the failing, as I think I have told you, was a family one – and her brother saw this matter only from the point of view of his own safety.
“A single word to Terence,” he had told her, putting his back to the door of the dressing-room to bar her intended egress, “and you realise that it will be a court-martial and a firing party for me.”
That warning effectively checked her. Yet certain stirrings of conscience made her think of the man who had imperilled himself for her sake and her brother’s.
“But, Dick, what is to become of Ned? ” she had asked him.
“Oh, Ned will be all right. What is the evidence against him after all? Men are not shot for things they haven’t done. Justice will out, you know. Leave Ned to shift for himself for the present. Anyhow his danger isn’t grave, nor is it immediate, and mine is.”
Helplessly distraught, she sank to an ottoman. The night had been a very trying one for her ladyship. She gave way to tears.
“It is all your fault, Dick,” she reproached him.
” Naturally you would blame me,” he said with resignation – the complete martyr.
“If only you had been ready at the time, as he told you to be, there would have been no delays, and you would have got away before any of this happened.”
“Was it my fault that I should have reopened my wound – bad luck to it! – in attempting to get down that damned ladder?” he asked her. “Is it my fault that I am neither an ape nor an acrobat? Tremayne should have come up at once to assist me, instead of waiting until he had to come up to help me bandage my leg again. Then time would not have been lost, and very likely my life with it.” He came to a gloomy conclusion.
“Your life? What do you mean, Dick?”
“Just that. What are my chances of getting away now?” he asked her. “Was there ever such infernal luck as mine? The Telemachus will sail without me, and the only man who could and would have helped me to get out of this damned country is under arrest. It’s clear I shall have to shift for myself again, and I can’t even do that for a day or two with my leg in this state. I shall have to go back into that stuffy store-cupboard of yours till God knows when.” He lost all self-control at the prospect and broke into imprecations of his luck.
She attempted to soothe him. But he wasn’t easy to soothe.
“And then,” he grumbled on, “you have so little sense that you want to run straight off to Terence and explain to him what Tremayne was doing here. You might at least have the grace to wait until I am off the premises, and give me the mercy of a start before you set the dogs on my trail.”
“Oh, Dick, Dick, you are so cruel!” she protested. “How can you say such things to me, whose only thought is for you, to save you.”
“Then don’t talk any more about telling Terence,” he replied.
“I won’t, Dick. I won’t.” She drew him down beside her on the ottoman and her fingers smoothed his rather tumbled red hair, just as her words attempted to smooth the ruffles in his spirit. “You know I did didn’t realise, or I should not have thought of it even. I was so concerned for Ned for the moment.”
“Don’t I tell you there’s not the need?” he assured her. “Ned will be safe enough, devil a doubt. It’s for you to keep to what you told them from the balcony; that you heard a cry, went out to see what was happening and saw Tremayne there bending over the body. Not a word more, and not a word less, or it will be all over with me.”
With the possible exception of her ladyship, I do not think that there was much sleep that night at Monsanto for any of the four chief actors in this tragicomedy. Each had his own preoccupations. Sylvia’s we know. Mr. Butler found his leg troubling him again, and the pain of the reopened wound must have prevented him from sleeping even had his anxieties about his immediate future not sufficed to do so. As for Sir Terence, his was the most deplorable case of all. This man who had lived a life of simple and downright honesty in great things and in small, a man who had never stooped to the slightest prevarication, found himself suddenly launched upon the most horrible and infamous course of duplicity to encompass the ruin of another. The offence of that other against himself might be of the most foul and hideous, a piece of treachery that only treachery could adequately avenge; yet this consideration was not enough to appease the clamours of Sir Terence’s self-respect.
In the end, however, the primary desire for vengeance and vengeance of the bitterest kind proved master of his mind. Captain Tremayne had been led by his villainy into a coil that should presently crush him, and Sir Terence promised himself an infinite balm for his outraged honour in the entertainment which the futile struggles of the victim should provide. With Captain Tremayne lay the cruel choice of submitting in tortured silence to his fate, or of turning craven and saving his miserable life by proclaiming himself a seducer and a betrayer. It should be interesting to observe how the captain would decide, and his punishment was certain whatever the decision that he took.
Sir Terence came to breakfast in the open, grey-faced and haggard, but miraculously composed for a man who had so little studied the art of concealing his emotions. Voice and glance were calm as he gave a good-morning to his wife and to Miss Armytage.
“What are you going to do about Ned?” was one of his wife’s first questions.
It took him aback. He looked askance at her, marvelling at the steadiness with which she bore his glance, until it occurred to him that effrontery was an essential part of the equipment of all harlots.
“What am I going to do?” he echoed. “Why, nothing. The matter is out of my hands. I may be asked to give evidence; I may even be called to sit upon the court-martial that will try him. My evidence can hardly assist him. My conclusions will naturally be based upon the evidence that is laid before the court.”
Her teaspoon rattled in her saucer. “I don’t understand you, Terence. Ned has always been your best friend.”
“He has certainly shared everything that was mine.”
“And you know,” she went on, “that he did not kill Samoval.”
“Indeed?” His glance quickened a little. “How should I know that?”
“Well . . . I know it, anyway.”
He seemed moved by that statement. He leaned forward with an odd eagerness, behind which there was something terrible that went unperceived by her.
“Why did you not say so before? How do you know? What do you know?”
“I am sure that he did not.”
“Yes, yes. But what makes you so sure? Do you possess some knowledge that you have not revealed?”
He saw the colour slowly shrinking from her cheeks under his burning gaze. So she was not quite shameless then, after all. There were limits to her effrontery.
“What knowledge should I possess?” she filtered.
“That is what I am asking.”
She made a good recovery. “I possess the knowledge that you should possess yourself,” she told him. “I know Ned for a man incapable of such a thing. I am ready to swear that he could not have done it.”
“I see: evidence as to character.” He sack back into his chair and thoughtfully stirred his chocolate. “It may weigh with the court. But I am not the court, and my mere opinions can do nothing for Ned Tremayne.”
Her ladyship looked at him wildly. “The court?” she cried. “Do you mean that I shall have to give evidence?”
“Naturally,” he answered. “You will have to say what you saw.”
“But – but I saw nothing.”
“Something, I think.”
“Yes; but nothing that can matter.”
“Still the court will wish to hear it and perhaps to examine you upon it.”
“Oh no, no!” In her alarm shy half rose, then sank again to her chair. “You must keep me out of this, Terence. I couldn’t – I really couldn’t,”
He laughed with an affectation of indulgence, masking something else.
“Why,” he said, “you would not deprive Tremayne of any of the advantages to be derived from your testimony? Are you not ready to bear witness as to his character? To swear that from your knowledge of the man you are sure he could not have done such a thing? That he is the very soul of honour, a man incapable of anything base or treacherous or sly?”
And then at last Sylvia, who had been watching them, and seeking to apply to what she heard the wild expressions that Sir Terence had used to herself last night, broke into the conversation.
“Why do you apply these words to Captain Tremayne?” she asked.
He turned sharply to meet the opposition he detected in her. “I don’t apply them. On the contrary, I say that, as Una knows, they are not applicable.”
“Then you make an unnecessary statement, a statement that has nothing to do with the case. Captain Tremayne has been arrested for killing Count Samoval in a duel. A duel may be a violation of the law as recently enacted by Lord Wellington, but it is not an offence against honour; and to say that a man cannot have fought a duel because a man is incapable of anything base or treacherous or sly is just to say a very foolish and meaningless thing.”
“Oh, quite so,” the adjutant, admitted. “But if Tremayne denies having fought, if he shelters himself behind a falsehood, and says that he has not killed Samoval, then I think the statement assumes some meaning.”
“Does Captain Tremayne say that?” she asked him sharply.
“It is what I understood him to say last night when I ordered him under arrest.”
“Then,” said Sylvia, with full conviction, “Captain Tremayne did not do it.”
“Perhaps he didn’t,” Sir Terence admitted. “The court will no doubt discover the truth. The truth, you know, must prevail,” and he looked at his wife again, marking the fresh signs of agitation she betrayed.
Mullins coming to set fresh covers, the conversation was allowed to lapse. Nor was it ever resumed, for at that moment, with no other announcement save such as was afforded by his quick step and the click-click of his spurs, a short, slight man entered the quadrangle from the doorway of the official wing.
The adjutant, turning to look, caught his breath suddenly in an exclamation of astonishment.
“Lord Wellington!” he cried, and was immediately on his feet.
At the exclamation the new-comer checked and turned. He wore a plain grey undress frock and white stock, buckskin breeches and lacquered boots, and he carried a riding-crop tucked under his left arm. His features were bold and sternly handsome; his fine eyes singularly piercing and keen in their glance; and the sweep of those eyes now took in not merely the adjutant, but the spread table and the ladies seated before it. He halted a moment, then advanced quickly, swept his cocked hat from a brown head that was but very slightly touched with grey, and bowed with a mixture of stiffness and courtliness to the ladies.
“Since I have intruded so unwittingly, I had best remain to make my apologies,” he said. “I was on my way to your residential quarters, O’Moy, not imagining that I should break in upon your privacy in this fashion.”
O’Moy with a great deference made haste to reassure him on the score of the intrusion, whilst the ladies themselves rose to greet him. He bore her ladyship’s hand to his lips with perfunctory courtesy, then insisted upon her resuming her chair. Then he bowed – ever with that mixture of stiffness and deference – to Miss Armytage upon her being presented to him by the adjutant.
“Do not suffer me to disturb you,” he begged them. “Sit down, O’Moy. I am not pressed, and I shall be monstrous glad of a few moments’ rest. You are very pleasant here,” and he looked about the luxuriant garden with approving eyes.
Sir Terence placed the hospitality of his table at his lordship’s disposal. But the latter declined graciously.
“A glass of wine and water, if you will. No more. I breakfasted at Torres Vedras with Fletcher.” Then to the look of astonishment on the faces of the ladies he smiled. “Oh yes,” he assured them, “I was early astir, for time is very precious just at present, which is why I drop unannounced upon you from the skies, O’Moy.” He took the glass that Mullins proffered on a salver, sipped from it, and set it down. “There is so much vexation, so much hindrance from these pestilential intriguers here in Lisbon, that I have thought it as well to come in person and speak plainly to the gentlemen of the Council of Regency.” He was peeling off his stout riding-gloves as he spoke. “If this campaign is to go forward at all, it will go forward as I dispose. Then, too, I wanted to see Fletcher and the works. By gad, O’Moy, he has performed miracles, and I am very pleased with him – oh, and with you too. He told me how ably you have seconded him and counselled him where necessary. You must have worked night and day, O’Moy.” He sighed. “I wish that I were as well served in every direction.” And then he broke off abruptly. “But this is monstrous tedious for your ladyship, and for you, Miss Armytage. Forgive me.”
Her ladyship protested the contrary, professing a deep interest in military matters, and inviting his lordship to continue. Lord Wellington, however, ignoring the invitation, turned the conversation upon life in Lisbon, inquiring hopefully whether they found the place afforded them adequate entertainment.
“Indeed yes,” Lady O’Moy assured him. “We are very gay at times. There are private theatricals and dances, occasionally an official ball, and we are promised picnics and water-parties now that the summer is here.”
“And in the autumn, ma’am, we may find you a little hunting,” his lordship promised them. “Plenty of foxes; a rough country, though; but what’s that to an Irishwoman?” He caught the quickening of Miss Armytage’s eye. “The prospect interests you, I see.”
Miss Armytage admitted it, and thus they made conversation for a while, what time the great soldier sipped his wine and water to wash the dust of his morning ride from his throat. When at last he set down an empty glass Sir Terence took this as the intimation of his readiness to deal with official matters, and, rising, he announced himself entirely at his lordship’s service.
Lord Wellington claimed his attention for a full hour with the details of several matters that are not immediately concerned with this narrative. Having done, he rose at last from Sir Terence’s desk, at which he had been sitting, and took up his riding-crop and cocked hat from the chair where he had placed them.
“And now,” he said, “I think I will ride into Lisbon and endeavour to come to an understanding with Count Redondo and Don Miguel Forjas.”
Sir Terence advanced to open the door. But Wellington checked him with a sudden sharp inquiry.
“You published my order against duelling, did you not?”
“Immediately upon receiving it, sir.”
“Ha! It doesn’t seem to have taken long for the order to be infringed, then.” His manner was severe. his eyes stern. Sir Terence was conscious of a quickening of his pulses. Nevertheless his answer was calmly regretful:
“I am afraid not.”
The great man nodded. “Disgraceful! I heard of it from Fletcher this morning. Captain What’s-his-name had just reported himself under arrest, I understand, and Fletcher had received a note from you giving the grounds for this. The deplorable part of these things is that they always happen in the most troublesome manner conceivable. In Berkeley’s case the victim was a nephew of the Patriarch’s. Samoval, now, was a person of even greater consequence, a close friend of several members of the Council. His death will be deeply resented, and may set up fresh difficulties. It is monstrous vexatious.” And abruptly he asked “What did they quarrel about?”
O’Moy trembled, and his glance avoided the other’s gimlet eye. “The only quarrel that I am aware of between them,” he said, “was concerned with this very enactment of your lordship’s. Samoval proclaimed it infamous, and Tremayne resented the term. Hot words passed between them, but the altercation was allowed to go no further at the time by myself and others who were present.”
His lordship had raised his brows. “By gad, sir,” he ejaculated, “there almost appears to be some justification for the captain. He was one of your military secretaries, was he not?”
“Ha! Pity! Pity!” His lordship was thoughtful for a moment. Then he dismissed the matter. “But then orders are orders, and soldiers must learn to obey implicitly. British soldiers of all degrees seem to find the lesson difficult. We must inculcate it more sternly, that is all.”
O’Moy’s honest soul was in torturing revolt against the falsehoods he had implied – and to this man of all men, to this man whom he reverenced above all others, who stood to him for the very fount of military honour and lofty principle! He was in such a mood that one more question on the subject from Wellington and the whole ghastly truth must have come pouring from his lips. But no other question came. Instead his lordship turned on the threshold and held out his hand.
“Not a step farther, O’Moy. I’ve left you a mass of work, and you are short of a secretary. So don’t waste any of your time on courtesies. I shall hope still to find the ladies in the garden so that I may take my leave without inconveniencing them.”
And he was gone, stepping briskly with clicking spurs, leaving O’Moy hunched now in his chair, his body the very expression of the dejection that filled his soul.
In the garden his lordship came upon Miss Armytage alone, still seated by the table under the trellis, from which the cloth had by now been removed. She rose at his approach and in spite of gesture to her to remain seated.
“I was seeking Lady O’Moy,” said he, “to take my leave of her. I may not have the pleasure of coming to Monsanto again.”
“She is on the terrace, I think,” said Miss Armytage. “I will find her for your lordship.”
“Let us find her together,” he said amiably, and so turned and went with her towards the archway. “You said your name is Armytage, I think?” he commented.
“Sir Terence said so.”
His eyes twinkled. “You possess an exceptional virtue,” said he. “To be truthful is common; to be accurate rare. Well, then, Sir Terence said so. Once I had a great friend of the name of Armytage. I have lost sight of him these many years. We were at school together in Brussels.”
“At Monsieur Goubert’s,” she surprised him by saying. “That would be John Armytage, my uncle.”
“God bless my soul, ma’am!” he ejaculated. “But I gathered you were Irish, and Jack Armytage came from Yorkshire.”
“My mother is Irish, and we live in Ireland now. I was born there. But father, none the less, was John Armytage’s brother.”
He looked at her with increased interest, marking the straight, supple lines of her, and the handsome, high-bred face. His lordship, remember, never lacked an appreciative eye for a fine woman. “So you’re Jack Armytage’s niece. Give me news of him, my dear.”
She did so. Jack Armytage was well and prospering, had made a rich marriage and retired from the Blues many years ago to live at Northampton. He listened with interest, and thus out of his boyhood friendship for her uncle, which of late years he had had no opportunity to express, sprang there and then a kindness for the niece. Her own personal charms may have contributed to it, for the great soldier was intensely responsive to the appeal of beauty.
They reached the terrace. Lady O’Moy was nowhere in sight. But Lord Wellington was too much engrossed in his discovery to be troubled.
“My dear,” he said, “if I can serve you at any timer both for Jack’s sake and your own, I hope that you will let me know of it.”
She looked at him a moment, and he saw her colour come and go, arguing a sudden agitation.
“You tempt me, sir,” she said, with a wistful smile.
“Then yield to the temptation, child,” he urged her kindly, those keen, penetrating eyes of his perceiving trouble here.
“It isn’t for myself,” she responded. “Yet there is something I would ask you if I dare – something I had intended to ask you in any case if I could find the opportunity. To be frank, that is why I was waiting there in the garden just now. It was to waylay you. I hoped for a word with you.”
“Well, well,” he encouraged her. “It should be the easier now, since in a sense we find that we are old friends.”
He was so kind, so gentle, despite that stern, strong face of his, that she melted at once to his persuasion.
” It is about Lieutenant Richard Butler,” she began.
“Ah,” said he lightly, “I feared as much when you said it was not for yourself you had a favour to ask.”
But, looking at him, she instantly perceived how he had misunderstood her.
“Mr. Butler,” she said, “is the officer who was guilty of the affair at Tavora.”
He knit his brow in thought. “Butler-Tavora?” he muttered questioningly. Suddenly his memory found what it was seeking. “Oh yes, the violated nunnery.” His thin lips tightened; the sternness of his ace increased. “Yes?” he inquired, but the tone was now forbidding.
Nevertheless she was not deterred. “Mr. Butler is Lady O’Moy’s brother,” she said.
He stared a moment, taken aback. “Good God! Ye don’t say so, child! Her brother! O’Moy’s brother-in-law! And O’Moy never said a word to me about it.
“What should he say? Sir Terence himself pledged his word to the Council of Regency that Mr. Butler would be shot when taken.”
“Did he, egad!” He was still further surprised out of his sternness. “Something of a Roman this O’Moy in his conception of duty! Hum! The Council no doubt demanded this?”
“So I understand, my lord. Lady O’Moy, realising her brother’s grave danger, is very deeply troubled.”
“Naturally,” he agreed. “But what can I do, Miss Armytage? What were the actual facts, do you happen to know?”
She recited them, putting the case bravely for the scapegrace Mr. Butler, dwelling particularly upon the error under which he was labouring, that he had imagined himself to be knocking at the gates of a monastery of Dominican friars, that he had broken into the convent because denied admittance, and because he suspected some treacherous reason for that denial.
He heard her out, watching her with those keen eyes of his the while.
“Hum! You make out so good a case for him that one might almost believe you instructed by the gentleman himself. Yet I gather that nothing has since been heard of him?”
“Nothing, sir, since he vanished from Tavora, nearly, two months ago. And I have only repeated to your lordship the tale that was told by the sergeant and the troopers who reported the matter to Sir Robert Craufurd on their return.”
He was very thoughtful. Leaning on the balustrade, he looked out across the sunlit valley, turning his boldly chiselled profile to his companion. At last he spoke slowly, reflectively: “But if this were really so – a mere blunder – I see no sufficient grounds to threaten him with capital punishment. His subsequent desertion, if he has deserted – I mean if nothing has happened to him – is really the graver matter of the two.”
“I gathered, sir, that he was to be sacrificed to the Council of Regency – a sort of scapegoat.”
He swung round sharply, and the sudden blaze of his eyes almost terrified her. Instantly he was cold again and inscrutable. “Ah! You are oddly well informed throughout. But of course you would be,” he added, with an appraising look into that intelligent face in which he now caught a faint likeness of Jack Armytage. “Well, well, my dear, I am very glad you have told me of this. If Mr. Butler is ever taken and in danger – there will be a court-martial, of course – send me word of it, and I will see what I can do, both for your sake and for the sake of strict justice.”
“Oh, not for my sake,” she protested, reddening slightly at the gentle imputation. “Mr. Butler is nothing to me – that is to say, he is just my cousin. It is for Una’s sake that I am asking this.”
“Why, then, for Lady O’Moy’s sake, since you ask it,” he replied readily. “But,” he warned her, “say nothing of it until Mr. Butler is found.” It is possible he believed that Butler never would be found. “And remember, I promise only to give the matter my attention. If it is as you represent it, I think you may be sure that the worst that will befall Mr. Butler will be dismissal from the service. He deserves that. But I hope I should be the last man to permit a British officer to be used as a scapegoat or a burnt-offering to the mob or to any Council of Regency. By the way, who told you this about a scapegoat?”
“Captain Tremayne? Oh, the man who killed Samoval?”
“He didn’t,” she cried.
On that almost fierce denial his lordship looked at her, raising his eyebrows in astonishment.
“But I am told that he did, and he is under arrest for it this moment – for that, and for breaking my order against duelling.”
“You were not told the truth, my lord. Captain Tremayne says that he didn’t, and if he says so it is so.”
“Oh, of course, Miss Armytage!” He was a man of unparalleled valour and boldness, yet so fierce was she in that moment that for the life of him he dared not have contradicted her.
“Captain Tremayne is the most honourable man I know,” she continued, “and if he had killed Samoval he would never have denied it; he would have proclaimed it to all the world.”
“There is no need for all this heat, my dear,” he reassured her. “The point is not one that can remain in doubt. The seconds of the duel will be forthcoming; and they will tell us who were the principals.”
“There were no seconds,” she informed him.
“No seconds!” he cried in horror. “D’ ye mean they just fought a rough and tumble fight?”
“I mean they never fought at all. As for this tale of a duel, I ask your lordship: Had Captain Tremayne desired a secret meeting with Count Samoval, would he have chosen this of all places in which to hold it?”
“This. The fight – whoever fought it – took place in the quadrangle there at midnight.”
He was overcome with astonishment, and he showed it.
“Upon my soul,” he said, “I do not appear to have been told any of the facts. Strange that O’Moy should never have mentioned that,” he muttered, and then inquired suddenly: “Where was Tremayne arrested?”
“Here,” she informed him.
“Here? He was here, then, at midnight? What was he doing here?”
“I don’t know. But whatever he was doing, can your lordship believe that he would have come here to fight a secret duel?”
“It certainly puts a monstrous strain upon belief,” said he. “But what can he have been doing here?”
“I don’t know,” she repeated. She wanted to add a warning of O’Moy. She was tempted to tell his lordship of the odd words that O’Moy had used to her last night concerning Tremayne. But she hesitated, and her courage failed her. Lord Wellington was so great a man, bearing the destinies of nations on his shoulders, and already he had wasted upon her so much of the time that belonged to the world and history, that she feared to trespass further; and whilst she hesitated came Colquhoun Grant clanking across the quadrangle looking for his lordship. He had come up, he announced, standing straight and stiff before them, to see O’Moy, but hearing of Lord Wellington’s presence, had preferred to see his lordship in the first instance.
“And indeed you arrive very opportunely, Grant,” his lordship confessed.
He turned to take his leave of Jack Armytage’s niece.
“I’ll not forget either Mr. Butler or Captain Tremayne,” he promised her, and his stern face softened into a gentle, friendly smile. “They are very fortunate in their champion.”
“A queer, mysterious business this death of Samoval,” said Colonel Grant.
“So I was beginning to perceive,” Wellington agreed, his brow dark.
They were alone together in the quadrangle under the trellis, through which the sun, already high, was dappling the table at which his lordship sat.
“It would be easier to read if it were not for the duelling swords. Those and the nature of Samoval’s wound certainly point unanswerably to a duel. Otherwise there would be considerable evidence that Samoval was a spy caught in the act and dealt with out of hand as he deserved.”
“How? Count Samoval a spy?”
“In the French interest,” answered the colonel without emotion, “acting upon the instructions of the Souza faction, whose tool he had become.” And Colonel Grant proceeded to relate precisely what he knew of Samoval.
Lord Wellington sat awhile in silence, cogitating. Then he rose, and his piercing eyes looked up at the colonel, who stood a good head taller than himself.
“Is this the evidence of which you spoke?”
“By no means,” was the answer. “The evidence I have secured is much more palpable. I have it here.” He produced a little wallet of red morocco bearing the initial “S ” surmounted by a coronet. Opening it, he selected from it some papers, speaking the while. “I thought it as well before I left last night to make an examination of the body. This is what I found, and it contains, among other lesser documents, these to which I would draw your lordship’s attention. First this.” And he placed in Lord Wellington’s hand a holograph note from the Prince of Esslingen introducing the bearer, M. de la Fleche, his confidential agent, who would consult with the Count, and thanking the Count for the valuable information already received from him.
His lordship sat down again to read the letter. “It is a full confirmation of what you have told me,” he said calmly.
“Then this,” said Colonel Grant, and he placed upon the table a note in French of the approximate number and disposition of the British troops in Portugal at the time. “The handwriting is Samoval’s own, as those who know it will have no difficulty in discerning. And now this, sir.” He unfolded a small sketch map, bearing the title also in French: Probable position and extent of the fortifications north of Lisbon.
“The notes at the foot,” he added, “are in cipher, and it is the ordinary cipher employed by the French, which in itself proves how deeply Samoval was involved. Here is a translation of it.” And he placed before his chief a sheet of paper on which Lord Wellington read:
“This is based upon my own personal knowledge of the country, odd scraps of information received from time to time, and my personal verification of the roads closed to traffic in that region. It is intended merely as a guide to the actual locale of the fortifications, an exact plan of which I hope shortly to obtain.”
His lordship considered it very attentively, but without betraying the least discomposure.
“For a man working upon such slight data as he himself confesses,” was the quiet comment, “he is damnably accurate. It is as well, I think, that this did not reach Marshal Massena.”
“My own assumption is that he put off sending it, intending to replace it by the actual plan – which he here confesses to the expectation of obtaining shortly.”
“I think he died at the right moment. Anything else?”
“Indeed,” said Colonel Grant, “I have kept the best for the last.” And unfolding yet another document, he placed it in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief. It was Lord Liverpool’s note of the troops to be embarked for Lisbon in June and July – the note abstracted from the dispatch carried by Captain Garfield.
His lordship’s lips tightened as he considered it. “His death was timely indeed, damned timely; and the man who killed him deserves to be mentioned in dispatches. Nothing else, I suppose?”
“The rest is of little consequence, sir.”
“Very well.” He rose. “You will leave these with me, and the wallet as well, if you please. I am on my way to confer with the members of the Council of Regency, and I am glad to go armed with so stout a weapon as this. Whatever may be the ultimate finding of the court-martial, the present assumption must be that Samoval met the death of a spy caught in the act, as you suggested. That is the only conclusion the Portuguese Government can draw when I lay these papers before it. They will effectively silence all protests.”
“Shall I tell O’Moy?” inquired the colonel.
“Oh, certainly,” answered his lordship, instantly to change his mind. “Stay!” He considered, his chin in his hand, his eyes dreamy. “Better not, perhaps. Better not tell anybody. Let us keep this to ourselves for the present. It has no direct bearing on the matter to be tried. By the way, when does the court-martial sit?”
“I have just heard that Marshal Beresford has ordered it to sit on Thursday here at Monsanto.”
His lordship considered. “Perhaps I shall be present. I may be at Torres Vedras until then. It is a very odd affair. What is your own impression of it, Grant? Have you formed any?”
Grant smiled darkly. “I have been piecing things together. The result is rather curious, and still very mystifying, still leaving a deal to be explained, and somehow this wallet doesn’t fit into the scheme at all.”
“You shall tell me about it as we ride into Lisbon. I want you to come with me. Lady O’Moy must forgive me if I take French leave, since she is nowhere to be found.”
The truth was, that her ladyship had purposely gone into hiding, after the fashion of suffering animals that are denied expression of their pain. She had gone off with her load of sorrow and anxiety into the thicket on the flank of Monsanto, and there Sylvia found her presently, dejectedly seated by a spring on a bank that was thick with flowering violets. Her ladyship was in tears, her mind swollen to bursting-point by the secret which it sought to contain but felt itself certainly unable to contain much longer.
“Why, Una dear,” cried Miss Armytage, kneeling beside her and putting a motherly arm about that full-grown child, “what is this?”
Her ladyship wept copiously, the springs of her grief gushing forth in response to that sympathetic touch.
“Oh, my dear, I am so distressed. I shall go mad, I think. I am sure I have never deserved all this trouble. I have always been considerate of others. You know I wouldn’t give pain to any one. And – and Dick has always been so thoughtless.”
“Dick?” said Miss Armytage, and there was less sympathy in her voice. “It is Dick you are thinking about at present?”
“Of course. All this trouble has come through Dick. I mean,” she recovered, “that all my troubles began with this affair of Dick’s. And now there is Ned under arrest and to be court-martialled.”
“But what has Captain Tremayne to do with Dick? “
“Nothing, of course,” her ladyship agreed, with more than usual self-restraint. “But it’s one trouble on another. Oh, it’s more than I can bear.”
“I know, my dear, I know,” Miss Armytage said soothingly, and her own voice was not so steady.
“You don’t know! How can you? It isn’t your brother or your friend. It isn’t as if you cared very much for either of them. If you did, if you loved Dick or Ned, you might realise what I am suffering.”
Miss Armytage’s eyes looked straight ahead into the thick green foliage, and there was an odd smile, half wistful, half scornful, on her lips.
“Yet I have done what I could,” she said presently. “I have spoken to Lord Wellington about them both.”
Lady O’Moy checked her tears to look at her companion, and there was dread in her eyes.
“You have spoken to Lord Wellington?”
“Yes. The opportunity came, and I took it.”
“And whatever did you tell him?” She was all a-tremble now, as she clutched Miss Armytage’s hand.
Miss Armytage related what had passed; how she had explained the true facts of Dick’s case to his lordship; how she had protested her faith that Tremayne was incapable of lying, and that if he said he had not killed Samoval it was certain that he had not done so; and, finally, how his lordship had promised to bear both cases in his mind.
“That doesn’t seem very much,” her ladyship complained.
“But he said that he would never allow a British officer to be made a scapegoat, and that if things proved to be as I stated them he would see that the worst that happened to Dick would be his dismissal from the army. He asked me to let him know immediately if Dick were found.”
More than ever was her ladyship on the very edge of confiding. A chance word might have broken down the last barrier of her will. But that word was not spoken, and so she was given the opportunity of first consulting her brother.
He laughed when he heard the story.
“A trap to take me, that’s all,” he pronounced it. “My dear girl, that stiff-necked martinet knows nothing of forgiveness for a military offence. Discipline is the god at whose shrine he worships.” And he afforded her anecdotes to illustrate and confirm his assertion of Lord Wellington’s ruthlessness. “I tell you,” he concluded, “it’s nothing but a trap to catch me. And if you had been fool enough to yield, and to have blabbed of my presence to Sylvia, you would have had it proved to you.”
She was terrified and of course convinced, for she was easy of conviction, believing always the last person to whom she spoke. She sat down on one of the boxes that furnished that cheerless refuge of Mr. Butler’s.
“Then what’s to become of Ned?” she cried. “Oh, I had hoped that we had found a way out at last.”
He raised himself on his elbow on the camp-bed they had fitted up for him.
“Be easy now,” he bade her impatiently. “They can’t do anything to Ned until they find him guilty; and how are they going to find him guilty when he’s innocent?”
“Yes; but the appearances!”
“Fiddlesticks!” he answered her – and the expression chosen was a mere concession to her sex, and not at all what Mr. Butler intended. “Appearances can’t establish guilt. Do be sensible, and remember that they will have to prove that he killed Samoval. And you can’t prove a thing to be what it isn’t. You can’t!”
“Are you sure?”
“Certain sure,” he replied with emphasis.
“Do you know that I shall have to give evidence before the court?” she announced resentfully.
It was an announcement that gave him pause. Thoughtfully he stroked his abominable tuft of red beard. Then he dismissed the matter with a shrug and a smile.
“Well, and what of it?” he cried. “They are not likely to bully you or cross-examine you. Just tell them what you saw from the balcony. Indeed you can’t very well say anything else, or they will see that you are lying, and then heaven alone knows what may happen to you, as well as to me.”
She got up in a pet. “You’re callous, Dick – callous!” she told him. “Oh, I wish you had never come to me for shelter.”
He looked at her and sneered. “That’s a matter you can soon mend,” he told her. “Call up Terence and the others and have me shot. I promise I shall make no resistance. You see, I’m not able to resist even if I would.”
“Oh, how can you think it?” She was indignant.
“Well, what is a poor devil to think? You blow hot and cold all in a breath. I’m sick and ill and feverish,” he continued with self-pity, “and now even you find me a trouble. I wish to God they’d shoot me and make an end. I’m sure it would be best for everybody.”
And now she was on her knees beside him, soothing him; protesting that he had misunderstood her; that she had meant – oh, she didn’t know what she had meant, she was so distressed on his account.
“And there’s never the need to be,” he assured her. “Surely you can be guided by me if you want to help me. As soon as ever my leg gets well again I’ll be after fending for myself, and trouble you no further. But if you want to shelter me until then, do it thoroughly, and don’t give way to fear at every shadow without substance that falls across your path.”
She promised it, and on that promise left him; and, believing him, she bore herself more cheerfully for the remainder of the day. But that evening after they had dined her fears and anxieties drove her at last to seek her natural and legal protector.
Sir Terence had sauntered off towards the house, gloomy and silent as he had been throughout the meal. She ran after him now, and came tripping lightly at his side up the steps. She put her arm through his.
“Terence dear, you are not going back to work again?” she pleaded.
He stopped, and from his fine height looked down upon her with a curious smile. Slowly he disengaged his arm from the clasp of her own. “I am afraid I must,” he answered coldly. “I have a great deal to do, and I am short of a secretary. When this inquiry is over I shall have more time to myself, perhaps.” There was something so repellent in his voice, in his manner of uttering those last words, that she stood rebuffed and watched him vanish into the building.
Then she stamped her foot and her pretty mouth trembled.
“Oaf!” she said aloud.
The board of officers convened by Marshal Beresford to form the court that was to try Captain Tremayne, was presided over by General Sir Harry Stapleton, who was in command of the British troops quartered in Lisbon. It included, amongst others, the adjutant-general, Sir Terence O’Moy; Colonel Fletcher of the Engineers, who had come in haste from Torres Vedras, having first desired to be included in the board chiefly on account of his friendship for Tremayne; and Major Carruthers. The judge-advocate’s task of conducting the case against the prisoner was deputed to the quartermaster of Tremayne’s own regiment, Major Swan.
The court sat in a long, cheerless hall, once the refectory of the Franciscans, who had been the first tenants of Monsanto. It was stone-flagged, the windows set at a height of some ten feet from the ground, the bare, whitewashed walls hung with very wooden portraits of long-departed kings and princes of Portugal who had been benefactors of the order.
The court occupied the abbot’s table, which was set on a shallow dais at the end of the room – a table of stone with a covering of oak, over which a green cloth had been spread; the officers – twelve in number, besides the president – sat with their backs to the wall, immediately under the inevitable picture of the Last Supper.
The court being sworn, Captain Tremayne was brought in by the provost-marshal’s guard and given a stool placed immediately before and a few paces from the table. Perfectly calm and imperturbable, he saluted the court, and sat down, his guards remaining some paces behind him.
He had declined all offers of a friend to represent him, on the grounds that the court could not possibly afford him a case to answer.
The president, a florid, rather pompous man, who spoke with a faint lisp, cleared his throat and read the charge against the prisoner from the sheet with which he had been supplied – the charge of having violated the recent enactment against duelling made by the Commander-in-Chief of his Majesty’s forces in the Peninsula, in so far as he had fought: a duel with Count Jeronymo de Samoval, and of murder in so far as that duel, conducted in an irregular manner, and without any witnesses, had resulted in the death of the said Count Jeronymo de Samoval.
“How say you, then, Captain Tremayne?” the judge-advocate challenged him. “Are you guilty of these charges or not guilty?”
The president sat back and observed the prisoner with an eye that was officially benign. Tremayne’s glance considered the court and met the concerned and grave regard of his colonel, of his friend Carruthers and of two other friends of his own regiment, the cold indifference of three officers of the Fourteenth – then stationed in Lisbon with whom he was unacquainted, and the utter inscrutability of O’Moy’s rather lowering glance, which profoundly intrigued him, and, lastly, the official hostility of Major Swan, who was on his feet setting forth the case against him. Of the remaining members of the court he took no heed.
>From the opening address it did not seem to Captain Tremayne as if this case – which had been hurriedly prepared by Major Swan, chiefly that same morning would amount to very much. Briefly the major announced his intention of establishing to the satisfaction of the court how, on the night of the 28th of May, the prisoner, in flagrant violation of an enactment in a general order of the 26th of that same month, had engaged in a duel with Count Jeronymo de Samoval, a peer of the realm of Portugal.
Followed a short statement of the case from the point of view of the prosecution, an anticipation of the evidence to be called, upon which the major thought – rather sanguinely, opined Captain Tremayne – to convict the accused. He concluded with an assurance that the evidence of the prisoner’s guilt was as nearly direct as evidence could be in a case of murder.
The first witness called was the butler, Mullins. He was introduced by the sergeant-major stationed by the double doors at the end of the hall from the ante-room where the witnesses commanded to be present were in waiting.
Mullins, rather less venerable than usual, as a consequence of agitation and affliction on behalf of Captain Tremayne, to whom he was attached, stated nervously the facts within his knowledge. He was occupied with the silver in his pantry, having remained up in case Sir Terence, who was working late in his study, should require anything before going to bed. Sir Terence called him, and –
“At what time did Sir Terence call you?” asked the major.
“It was ten minutes past twelve, sir, by the clock in my pantry.”
“You are sure that the clock was right?”
“Quite sure, sir; I had put it right that same evening.”
“Very well, then. Sir Terence called you at ten minutes past twelve. Pray continue.”
“He gave me a letter addressed to the Commissary-general. ‘Take that,’ says he, ‘to the sergeant of the guard at once, and tell him to be sure that it is forwarded to the Commissary-General first thing in the morning.’ I went out at once, and on the lawn in the quadrangle I saw a man lying on his back on the grass and another man kneeling beside him. I ran across to them. It was a bright, moonlight night – bright as day it was, and you could see quite clear. The gentleman that was kneeling looks up, at me, and I sees it was Captain Tremayne, sir. ‘What’s this, Captain dear?’ says I. ‘It’s Count Samoval, and he’s kilt,’ says he, ‘for God’s sake, go and fetch somebody.’ So I ran back to tell Sir Terence, and Sir Terence he came out with me, and mighty startled he was at what he found there. ‘What’s happened ?’says he, and the captain answers him just as he had answered me: ‘It’s Count Samoval, and he’s kilt. ‘But how did it happen?’ says Sir Terence. ‘Sure and that’s just what I want to know,’ says the captain; ‘I found him here.’ And then Sir Terence turns to me, and ‘Mullins,’ says he, ‘just fetch the guard,’ and of course, I went at once.”
“Was there any one else present?” asked the prosecutor.
“Not in the quadrangle, sir. But Lady O’Moy was on the balcony of her room all the time.”
“Well, then, you fetched the guard. What happened when you returned?”
“Colonel Grant arrived, sir, and I understood him to say that he had been following Count Samoval … “
“Which way did Colonel Grant come?” put in the president.
“By the gate from the terrace.”
“Was it open?”
“No, sir. Sir Terence himself went to open the wicket when Colonel Grant knocked.”
Sir Harry nodded and Major Swan resumed the examination.
“What happened next?”
“Sir Terence ordered the captain under arrest.”
“Did Captain Tremayne submit at once?”
“Well, not quite at once, sir. He naturally made some bother. ‘Good God!’ he says, ‘ye’ll never be after thinking I kilt him? I tell you I just found him here like this.’ ‘What were ye doing here, then?’ says Sir Terence. ‘I was coming to see you,’ says the captain. ‘What about?’ says Sir Terence, and with that the captain got angry, said he refused to be cross-questioned and went off to report himself under arrest as he was bid.”
That closed the butler’s evidence, and the judge-advocate looked across at the prisoner.
“Have you any questions for the witness?” he inquired.
“None,” replied Captain Tremayne. “He has given his evidence very faithfully and accurately.”
Major Swan invited the court to question the witness in any manner it considered desirable. The only one to avail himself of the invitation was Carruthers, who, out of his friendship and concern for Tremayne – and a conviction of Tremayne’s innocence begotten chiefly by that friendship desired to bring out anything that might tell in his favour.
“What was Captain Tremayne’s bearing when he spoke to you and to Sir Terence?”
“Quite as usual, sir.”
“He was quite calm, not at all perturbed?”
“Devil a bit; not until Sir Terence ordered him under arrest, and then he was a little hot.”
“Thank you, Mullins.”
Dismissed by the court, Mullins would have departed, but that upon being told by the sergeant-major that he was at liberty to remain if he chose he found a seat on one of the benches ranged against the wall.
The next witness was Sir Terence, who gave his evidence quietly from his place at the board immediately on the president’s right. He was pale, but otherwise composed, and the first part of his evidence was no more than a confirmation of what Mullins had said, an exact and strictly truthful statement of the circumstances as he had witnessed them from the moment when Mullins had summoned him.
“You were present, I believe, Sir Terence,” said Major Swan, “at an altercation that arose on the previous day between Captain Tremayne and the deceased? “
“Yes. It happened at lunch here at Monsanto.”
“What was the nature of it?”
“Count Samoval permitted himself to criticise adversely Lord Wellington’s enactment against duelling, and Captain Tremayne defended it. They became a little heated, and the fact was mentioned that Samoval himself was a famous swordsman. Captain Tremayne made the remark that famous swordsmen were required by Count Samoval’s country to, save it from invasion. The remark was offensive to the deceased, and although the subject was abandoned out of regard for the ladies present, it was abandoned on a threat from Count Samoval to continue it later.”
“Was it so continued?”
“Of that I have no knowledge.”
Invited to cross-examine the witness, Captain Tremayne again declined, admitting freely that all that Sir Terence had said was strictly true. Then Carruthers, who appeared to be intent to act as the prisoner’s friend, took up the examination of his chief.
“It is of course admitted that Captain Tremayne enjoyed free access to Monsanto practically at all hours in his capacity as your military secretary, Sir Terence?”
“Admitted,” said Sir Terence.
“And it is therefore possible that he might have come upon the body of the deceased just as Mullins came upon it?”
“It is possible, certainly. The evidence to come will no doubt determine whether it is a tenable opinion.”
“Admitting this, then, the attitude in which Captain Tremayne was discovered would be a perfectly natural one? It would be natural that he should investigate the identity and hurt of the man he found there?”
“But it would hardly be natural that he should linger by the body of a man he had himself slain, thereby incurring the risk of being discovered?”
“That is a question for the court rather than for me.”
“Thank you, Sir Terence.” And, as no one else desired to question him, Sir Terence resumed his seat, and Lady O’Moy was called.
She came in very white and trembling, accompanied by Miss Armytage, whose admittance was suffered by the court, since she would not be called upon to give evidence. One of the officers of the Fourteenth seated on the extreme right of the table made gallant haste to set a chair for her ladyship, which she accepted gratefully.
The oath administered, she was invited gently by Major Swan to tell the court what she knew of the case before them.
“But – but I know nothing,” she faltered in evident distress, and Sir Terence, his elbow leaning on the table, covered his mouth with his hand that its movements might not betray him. His eyes glowered upon her with a ferocity that was hardly dissembled.
“If you will take the trouble to tell the court what you saw from your balcony,” the major insisted, “the court will be grateful.”
Perceiving her agitation, and attributing it to nervousness, moved also by that delicate loveliness of hers, and by deference to the adjutant-generates lady, Sir Harry Stapleton intervened.
“Is Lady O’Moy’s evidence really necessary?” he asked. “Does it contribute any fresh fact regarding the discovery of the body?”
“No, sir,” Major Swan admitted. “It is merely a corroboration of what we have already heard from Mullins and Sir Terence.”
“Then why unnecessarily distress this lady?”
“Oh, for my own part, sir – ” the prosecutor was submitting, when Sir Terence cut in:
“I think that in the prisoner’s interest perhaps Lady O’Moy will not mind being distressed a little.” It was at her he looked, and for her and Tremayne alone that he intended the cutting lash of sarcasm concealed from the rest of the court by his smooth accent. “Mullins has said, I think, that her ladyship was on the balcony when he came into the quadrangle. Her evidence therefore, takes us further back in point of time than does Mullins’s.” Again the sarcastic double meaning was only for those two. “Considering that the prisoner is being tried for his life, I do not think we should miss anything that may, however slightly, affect our judgment.”
“Sir Terence is right, I think, sir,” the judge-advocate supported.
“Very well, then,” said the president. “Proceed, if you please.”
“Will you be good enough to tell the court, Lady O’Moy, how you came to be upon the balcony?”
Her pallor had deepened, and her eyes looked more than ordinarily large and child-like as they turned this way and that to survey the members of the court. Nervously she dabbed her lips with a handkerchief before answering mechanically as she had been schooled:
“I heard a cry, and I ran out – “
“You were in bed at the time, of course?” quoth her husband, interrupting.
“What on earth has that to do with it, Sir Terence?” the president rebuked him, out of his earnest desire to cut this examination as short as possible.
“The question, sir, does not seem to me to be without point,” replied O’Moy. He was judicially smooth and self-contained. “It is intended to enable us to form an opinion as to the lapse of time between her ladyship’s hearing the cry and reaching the balcony.”
Grudgingly the president admitted the point, and the question was repeated.
“Ye-es,” came Lady O’Moy’s tremulous, faltering answer, “I was in bed.”
“But not asleep – or were you asleep?” rapped O’Moy again, and in answer to the president’s impatient glance again explained himself: “We should know whether perhaps the cry might not have been repeated several times before her ladyship heard it. That is of value.”
“It would be more regular,” ventured the judge-advocate, “if Sir Terence would reserve his examination of the witness until she has given her evidence.”
“Very well,” grumbled Sir Terence, and he sat back, foiled for the moment in his deliberate intent to torture her into admissions that must betray her if made.
“I was not asleep,” she told the court, thus answering her husband’s last question. “I heard the cry, and ran to the balcony at once. That – that is all.”
“But what did you see from the balcony?” asked Major Swan.
“It was night, and of course – it – it was dark,” she answered.
“Surely not dark, Lady O’Moy? There was a moon, I think – a full moon?”
“Yes; but – but – there was a good deal of shadow in the garden, and – and I couldn’t see anything at first.”
“But you did eventually?”
“Oh, eventually! Yes, eventually.” Her fingers were twisting and untwisting the handkerchief they held, and her distressed loveliness was very piteous to see. Yet it seems to have occurred to none of them that this distress and the minor contradictions into which it led her were the result of her intent to conceal the truth, of her terror lest it should nevertheless be wrung from her. Only O’Moy, watching her and reading in her every word and glance and gesture the signs of her falsehood, knew the hideous thing she strove to hide, even, it seemed, at the cost of her lover’s life. To his lacerated soul her torture vas a balm. Gloating, he watched her, then, and watched her lover, marvelling at the blackguard’s complete self-mastery and impassivity even now.
Major Swan was urging her gently.
“Eventually, then, what was it that you saw?”
“I saw a man lying on the ground, and another kneeling over him, and then – almost at once – Mullins came out, and – “
“I don’t think we need take this any further, Major Swan,” the president again interposed. “We have heard what happened after Mullins came out.”
“Unless the prisoner wishes – ” began the judge-advocate.
“By no means,” said Tremayne composedly. Although outwardly impassive, he had been watching her intently, and it was his eyes that had perturbed her more than anything in that court. It was she who must determine for him how to proceed; how far to defend himself. He had hoped that by now Dick Butler might have been got away, so that it would have been safe to tell the whole truth, although he began to doubt how far that could avail him, how far, indeed, it would be believed in the absence of Dick Butler. Her evidence told him that such hopes as he may have entertained had been idle, and that he must depend for his life simply upon the court’s inability to bring the guilt home to him. In this he had some confidence, for, knowing himself innocent, it seemed to him incredible that he could be proven guilty. Failing that, nothing short of the discovery of the real slayer of Samoval could save him – and that was a matter wrapped in the profoundest mystery. The only man who could conceivably have fought Samoval in such a place was Sir Terence himself. But then it was utterly inconceivable that in that case Sir Terence, who was the very soul of honour, should not only keep silent and allow another man to suffer, but actually sit there in judgment upon that other; and, besides, there was no quarrel, nor ever had been, between Sir Terence and Samoval.
“There is,” Major Swan was saying, “just one other matter upon which I should like to question Lady O’Moy.” And thereupon he proceeded to do so: “Your ladyship will remember that on the day before the event in which Count Samoval met his death he was one of a small luncheon party at your house here in Monsanto.”
“Yes,” she replied, wondering fearfully what might be coming now.
“Would your ladyship be good enough to tell the court who were the other members of that party?”
“It – it was hardly a party, sir,” she answered, with her unconquerable insistence upon trifles. “We were just Sir Terence and myself, Miss Armytage, Count Samoval, Colonel Grant, Major Carruthers and Captain Tremayne.”
“Can your ladyship recall any words that passed between the deceased and Captain Tremayne on that occasion – words of disagreement, I mean?”
She knew that there had been something, but in her benumbed state of mind she was incapable of remembering what it was. All that remained in her memory was Sylvia’s warning after she and her cousin had left the table, Sylvia’s insistence that she should call Captain Tremayne away to avoid trouble between himself and the Count. But, search as she would, the actual subject of disagreement eluded her. Moreover, it occurred to her suddenly, and sowed fresh terror in her soul, that, whatever it was, it would tell against Captain Tremayne.
“I – I am afraid I don’t remember,” she faltered at last.
“Try to think, Lady O’Moy.”
” I – I have tried. But I – I can’t.” Her voice had fallen almost to a whisper.
“Need we insist?” put in the president compassionately. “There are sufficient witnesses as to what passed on that occasion without further harassing her ladyship.”
“Quite so, sir,” the major agreed in his dry voice. “It only remains for the prisoner to question the witness if he so wishes.”
Tremayne shook his head. “It is quite unnecessary, sir,” he assured the president, and never saw the swift, grim smile that flashed across Sir Terence’s stern face.
Of the court Sir Terence was the only member who could have desired to prolong the painful examination of her ladyship. But he perceived from the president’s attitude that he could not do so without betraying the vindictiveness actuating him; and so he remained silent for the present. He would have gone so far as to suggest that her ladyship should be invited to remain in court against the possibility of further evidence being presently required from her but that he perceived there was no necessity to do so. Her deadly anxiety concerning the prisoner must in itself be sufficient to determine her to remain, as indeed it proved. Accompanied and half supported by Miss Armytage, who was almost as pale as herself, but otherwise very steady in her bearing, Lady O’Moy made her way, with faltering steps to the benches ranged against the side wall, and sat there to hear the remainder of the proceedings.
After the uninteresting and perfunctory evidence of the sergeant of the guard who had been present when the prisoner was ordered under arrest, the next witness called was Colonel Grant. His testimony was strictly in accordance with the facts which we know him to have witnessed, but when he was in the middle of his statement an interruption occurred.
At the extreme right of the dais on which the table stood there was a small oaken door set in the wall and giving access to a small ante-room that was known, rightly or wrongly, as the abbot’s chamber. That anteroom communicated directly with what was now the guardroom, which accounts for the new-comer being ushered in that way by the corporal at the time.
At the opening of that door the members of the court looked round in sharp annoyance, suspecting here some impertinent intrusion. The next moment, however, this was changed to respectful surprise. There was a scraping of chairs and they were all on their feet in token of respect for the slight man in the grey undress frock who entered. It was Lord Wellington.
Saluting the members of the court with two fingers to his cocked hat, he immediately desired them to sit, peremptorily waving his hand, and requesting the president not to allow his entrance to interrupt or interfere with the course of the inquiry.
“A chair here for me, if you please, sergeant,” he called and, when it was fetched, took his seat at the end of the table, with his back to the door through which he had come and immediately facing the prosecutor. He retained his hat, but placed his riding-crop on the table before him; and the only thing he would accept was an officer’s notes of the proceedings as far as they had gone, which that officer himself was prompt to offer. With a repeated injunction to the court to proceed, Lord Wellington became instantly absorbed in the study of these notes.
Colonel Grant, standing very straight and stiff in the originally red coat which exposure to many weathers had faded to an autumnal brown, continued and concluded his statement of what he had seen and heard on the night of the 28th of May in the garden at Monsanto.
The judge-advocate now invited him to turn his memory back to the luncheon-party at Sir Terence’s on the 27th, and to tell the court of the altercation that had passed on that occasion between Captain Tremayne and Count Samoval.
“The conversation at table,” he replied, “turned, as was perhaps quite natural, upon the recently published general order prohibiting duelling and making it a capital offence for officers in his Majesty’s service in the Peninsula. Count Samoval stigmatised the order as a degrading and arbitrary one, and spoke in defence of single combat as the only honourable method of settling differences between gentlemen. Captain Tremayne dissented rather sharply, and appeared to resent the term ‘degrading’ applied by the Count to the enactment. Words followed, and then some one – Lady O’Moy, I think, and as I imagine with intent to soothe the feelings of Count Samoval, which appeared to be ruffled – appealed to his vanity by mentioning the fact that he was himself a famous swordsman. To this Captain Tremayne’s observation was a rather unfortunate one, although I must confess that I was fully in sympathy with it at the time. He said, as nearly as I remember, that at the moment Portugal was in urgent need of famous swords to defend her from invasion and not to increase the disorders at home.”
Lord Wellington looked up from the notes and thoughtfully stroked his high-bridged nose. His stern, handsome face was coldly impassive, his fine eyes resting upon the prisoner, but his attention all to what Colonel Grant was saying.
“It was a remark of which Samoval betrayed the bitterest resentment. He demanded of Captain Tremayne that he should be more precise, and Tremayne replied that, whilst he had spoken generally, Samoval was welcome to the cap if he found it fitted him. To that he added a suggestion that, as the conversation appeared to be tiresome to the ladies, it would be better to change its topic. Count Samoval consented, but with the promise, rather threateningly delivered, that it should be continued at another time. That, sir, is all, I think.”
“Have you any questions for the witness, Captain Tremayne?” inquired the judge-advocate.
As before, Captain Tremayne’s answer was in the negative, coupled with the now usual admission that Colonel Grant’s statement accorded perfectly with iris own recollection of the facts.
The court, however, desired enlightenment on several subjects. Came first of all Carruthers’s inquiries as to the bearing of the prisoner when ordered under arrest, eliciting from Colonel Grant a variant of the usual reply.
“It was not inconsistent with innocence,” he said.
It was an answer which appeared to startle the court, and perhaps Carruthers would have acted best in Tremayne’s interest had he left the question there. But having obtained so much he eagerly sought for more.
“Would you say that it was inconsistent with guilt?” he cried.
Colonel Grant smiled slowly, and slowly shook his head. “I fear I could not go so far, as that,” he answered, thereby plunging poor Carruthers into despair.
And now Colonel Fletcher voiced a question agitating the minds of several members of the count.
“Colonel Grant,” he said, “you have told us that on the night in question you had Count Samoval under observation, and that upon word being brought to you of his movements by one of your agents you yourself followed him to Monsanto. Would you be good enough to tell the court why you were watching the deceased’s movements at the time?”
Colonel Grant glanced at Lord Wellington. He smiled a little reflectively and shook his head.
“I am afraid that the public interest will not allow me to answer your question. Since, however, Lord Wellington himself is present, I would suggest that you ask his lordship whether I am to give you the information you require.”
“Certainly not,” said his lordship crisply, without awaiting further question. “Indeed, one of my reasons for being present is to ensure that nothing on that score shall transpire.”
There followed a moment’s silence. Then the president ventured a question. “May we ask, sir, at least whether Colonel Grant’s observation of Count Samoval resulted from any knowledge of, or expectation of, this duel that was impending?”
“Certainly you may ask that,” Lord Wellington., consented.
“It did not, sir,” said Colonel Grant in answer to the question.
“What grounds had you, Colonel Grant, for assuming that Count Samoval was going to Monsanto?” the president asked.
“Chiefly the direction taken.”
“And nothing else?”
“I think we are upon forbidden ground again,” said Colonel Grant, and again he looked at Lord Wellington for direction.
“I do not see the point of the question,” said Lord Wellington, replying to that glance. “Colonel Grant has quite plainly informed the court that his observation of Count Samoval had no slightest connection with this duel, nor was inspired by any knowledge or suspicion on his part that any such duel was to be fought. With that I think the court should be content. It has been necessary for Colonel Grant to explain to the court his own presence at Monsanto at midnight on the 28th. It would have been better, perhaps, had he simply stated that it was fortuitous, although I can understand that the court might have hesitated to accept such a statement. That, however, is really all that concerns the matter. Colonel Grant happened to be there. That is all that the court need remember. Let me add the assurance that it would not in the least assist the court to know more, so far as the case under consideration is concerned.”
In view of that the president notified that he had nothing further to ask the witness, and Colonel Grant saluted and withdrew to a seat near Lady O’Moy.
There followed the evidence of Major Carruthers with regard to the dispute between Count Samoval and Captain Tremayne, which substantially bore out what Sir Terence and Colonel Grant had already said, notwithstanding that it manifested a strong bias in favour of the prisoner.
“The conversation which Samoval threatened to resume does not appear to have been resumed,” he added in conclusion.
“How can you say that?” Major Swan asked him.
“I may state my opinion, sir,” flashed Carruthers, his chubby face reddening.
“Indeed, sir, you may not,” the president assured him. “You are upon oath to give evidence of facts directly within your own personal knowledge.”
“It is directly within my own personal knowledge that Captain Tremayne was called away from the table by Lady O’Moy, and that he did not have another opportunity of speaking with Count Samoval that day. I saw the Count leave shortly after, and at the time Captain Tremayne was still with her ladyship – as her ladyship can testify if necessary. He spent the remainder of the afternoon with me at work, and we went home together in the evening. We share the same lodging in Alcantara.”
“There was still all of the next day,” said Sir Harry. “Do you say that the prisoner was never out of your sight on that day too?”
“I do not; but I can’t believe – “
“I am afraid you are going to state opinions again,” Major Swan interposed.
“Yet it is evidence of a kind,” insisted Carruthers, with the tenacity of a bull-dog. He looked as if he would make it a personal matter between himself and Major Swan if he were not allowed to proceed. “I can’t believe that Captain Tremayne would have embroiled himself further with Count Samoval. Captain Tremayne has too high a regard for discipline and for orders, and he is the least excitable man I have ever known. Nor do I believe that he would have consented to meet Samoval without my knowledge.”
“Not perhaps unless Captain Tremayne desired to keep the matter secret, in view of the general order, which is precisely what it is contended that he did.”
“Falsely contended, then,” snapped Major Carruthers, to be instantly rebuked by the president.
He sat down in a huff, and the judge-advocate called Private Bates, who had been on sentry duty on the night of the 28th, to corroborate the evidence of the sergeant of the guard as to the hour at which the prisoner had driven up to Monsanto in his curricle.
Private Bates having been heard, Major Swan announced that he did not propose to call any further witnesses, and resumed his seat. Thereupon, to the president’s invitation, Captain Tremayne replied that he had no witnesses to call at all.
“In that case, Major Swan,” said Sir Harry, “the court will be glad to hear you further.”
And Major Swan came to his feet again to address the court for the prosecution.
Major Swan may or may not have been a gifted soldier. History is silent on the point. But the surviving records of the court-martial with which we are concerned go to show that he was certainly not a gifted speaker. His vocabulary was limited, his rhetoric clumsy, and Major Carruthers denounces his delivery as halting, his very voice dull and monotonous; also his manner, reflecting his mind on this occasion, appears to have been perfectly unimpassioned. He had been saddled with a duty and he must perform it. He would do so conscientiously to the best of his ability, for he seems to have been a conscientious man; but he could not be expected to put his heart into the matter, since he was not inflamed by any zeal born of conviction, nor had he any of the incentives of a civil advocate to sway his audience by all possible means.
Nevertheless the facts themselves, properly marshalled, made up a dangerous case against the prisoner. Major Swan began by dwelling upon the evidence of motive: there had been a quarrel, or the beginnings of a quarrel, between the deceased and the accused; the deceased had shown himself affronted, and had been heard quite unequivocally to say that the matter could not be left at the stage at which it was interrupted at Sir Terence’s luncheon-table. Major Swan dwelt for a moment upon the grounds of the quarrel. They were by no means discreditable to the accused, but it was singularly unfortunate, ironical almost, that he should have involved himself in a duel as a result of his out-spoken defence of a wise measure which made duelling in the British army a capital offence. With that, however, he did not think that the court was immediately concerned. By the duel itself the accused had offended against the recent enactment, and, moreover, the irregular manner in which the encounter had been conducted, without seconds or witnesses, rendered the accused answerable to a charge of murder, if it could be proved that he actually did engage and kill the deceased. Major Swan thought this could be proved.
The irregularity of the meeting must be assigned to the enactment against which it offended. A matter which, under other circumstances, considering the good character borne by Captain Tremayne, would have been quite incomprehensible, was, he thought, under existing circumstances, perfectly clear. Because Captain Tremayne could not have found any friend to act for him, he was forced to forgo witnesses to the encounter, and because of the consequences to himself of the encounter’s becoming known, he was forced to contrive that it should be held in secret. They knew, from the evidence of Colonel Grant and Major Carruthers, that the meeting was desired by Count Samoval, and they were therefore entitled to assume that, recognising the conditions arising out of the recent enactment, the deceased had consented that the meeting should take place in this irregular fashion, since otherwise it could not have been held at all, and he would have been compelled to forgo the satisfaction he desired.
He passed to the consideration of the locality chosen, and there he confessed that he was confronted with a mystery. Yet the mystery would have been no less in the case of any other opponent than Captain Tremayne, since it was clear beyond all doubt that a duel had been fought and Count Samoval killed, and no less clear that it was a premeditated combat, and that the deceased had gone to Monsanto expressly to engage in it, since the duelling swords found had been identified as his property and must have been carried by him to the encounter.
The mystery, he repeated, would have been no less in the case of any other opponent than Captain Tremayne; indeed, in the case of some other opponent it might even have been deeper. It must be remembered, after all, that the place was one to which the accused had free access at all hours.
And it was clearly proven that he availed himself of that access on the night in question. Evidence had been placed before the court showing that he had come to Monsanto in a curricle at twenty minutes to twelve at the latest, and there was abundant evidence to show that he was found kneeling beside the body of the dead man at ten minutes past twelve – the body being quite warm at the time and the breath hardly out of it, proving that he had fallen but an instant before the arrival of Mullins and the other witnesses who had testified.
Unless Captain Tremayne could account to the satisfaction of the court for the manner in which he had spent that half-hour, Major Swan did not perceive, when all the facts of motive and circumstance were considered, what conclusion the court could reach other than that Captain Tremayne was guilty of the death of Count Jeronymo de Samoval in a single combat fought under clandestine and irregular conditions, transforming the deed into technical murder.
Upon that conclusion the major sat down to mop a brow that was perspiring freely. From Lady O’MOY in the background came faintly, the sound of a half-suppressed moan. Terrified, she clutched the hand of Miss Armytage, – and found that hand to lie like a thing of ice in her own, yet she suspected nothing of the deep agitation under her companion’s, outward appearance of calm.
Captain Tremayne rose slowly to address the court in reply to the prosecution. As he faced his, judges now he met the smouldering eyes of Sir Terence considering him with such malevolence that he was shocked and bewildered. Was he prejudged already, and by his best friend? If so, what must be the attitude of the others? But the kindly, florid countenance of the president was friendly and encouraging; there was eager anxiety for him in the gaze of his friend Caruthers. He glanced at Lord Wellington sitting at the table’s end sternly inscrutable, a mere spectator, yet one whose habit of command gave him an air that was authoritative and judicial.
At length he began to speak. He had considered his defence, and he had based it mainly upon a falsehood – since the strict truth must have proved ruinous to Richard Butler.
“My answer, gentlemen” he said, “will be a very brief one as brief, indeed, as the prosecution merits – for I entertain the hope than no member of this court is satisfied that the case made out against me is by any means complete.” He spoke easily, fluently, and calmly: a man supremely self-controlled. “It amounts, indeed, to throwing upon me the onus of proving myself innocent, and that is a burden which no British laws, civil or miliary, would ever commit the injustice of imposing upon an accused.
“That certain words of disagreement passed between Count Samoval and myself on the eve of the affair in which the Count met his death, as you have heard from various witnesses, I at once and freely admitted. Thereby I saved the court time and trouble, and some other witnesses who might have been caused the distress of having to testify against me. But that the dispute ever had any sequel, that the further subsequent discussion threatened at the time by Count Samoval ever took place, I most solemnly deny. From the moment that I left Sir Terence’s luncheon-table on the Saturday I never set eyes on Count Samoval again until I discovered him dead or dying in the garden here at Monsanto on Sunday night. I can call no witnesses to support me in this, because it is not a matter susceptible to proof by evidence. Nor have I troubled to call the only witnesses I might have called – witnesses as to my character and my regard for discipline – who might have testified that any such encounter as that of which I am accused would be utterly foreign to my nature. There are officers in plenty in his Majesty’s service who could bear witness that the practice of duelling is one that I hold in the utmost abhorrence, since I have frequently avowed it, and since in all my life I have never fought a single duel. My service in his Majesty’s army has happily afforded me the means of dispensing with any such proof of courage as the duel is supposed to give. I say I might have called witnesses to that fact and I have not done so. This is because, fortunately, there are several among the members of this court to whom I have been known for many years, and who can themselves, when this court comes to consider its finding, support my present assertion.
“Let me ask you, then, gentlemen, whether it is conceivable that, entertaining such feelings as these towards single combat, I should have been led to depart from them under circumstances that might very well have afforded me an ample shield for refusing satisfaction to a too eager and pressing adversary? It was precisely because I hold the duel in such contempt that I spoke with such asperity to the deceased when he pronounced Lord Wellington’s enactment a degrading one to men of birth. The very sentiments which I then expressed proclaimed my antipathy to the practice. How, then, should I have committed the inconsistency of accepting a challenge upon such grounds from Count Samoval? There is even more irony than Major Swan supposes in a situation which himself has called ironical.
“So much, then, for the motives that are alleged to have actuated me. I hope you will conclude that I have answered the prosecution upon that matter.
“Coming to the question of fact, I cannot find that there is anything to answer, for nothing has been proved against me. True, it has been proved that I arrived at Monsanto at half-past eleven or twenty minutes to twelve on the night of the 28th, and it has been further proved that half-an-hour later I was discovered kneeling beside the dead body of Count Samoval. But to say that this proves that I killed him is more, I think, if I understood him correctly, than Major Swan himself dares to assert.
“Major Swan is quite satisfied that Samoval came to Monsanto for the purpose of fighting a duel that had been prearranged; and I admit that the two swords found, which have been proven the property of Count Samoval, and which, therefore, he must have brought with him, are a prima-facie proof of such a contention. But if we assume, gentlemen, that I had accepted a challenge from the Count, let me ask you, can you think of any place less likely to have been appointed or agreed to by me for the encounter than the garden of the adjutant-general’s quarters? Secrecy is urged as the reason for the irregularity of the meeting. What secrecy was ensured in such a place, where interruption and discovery might come at any moment, although the duel was held at midnight? And what secrecy did I observe in my movements, considering that I drove openly to Monsanto in a curricle, which I left standing at the gates in full view of the guard, to await my return? Should I have acted thus if I had been upon such an errand as is alleged? Common sense, I think, should straightway acquit me on the grounds of the locality alone, and I cannot think that it should even be necessary for me, so as to complete my answer to an accusation entirely without support in fact or in logic, to account for my presence at Monsanto and my movements during the half-hour in question.”
He paused. So far his clear reasoning had held and impressed the court. This he saw plainly written on the faces of all – with one single exception. Sir Terence alone the one man from whom he might have looked for the greatest relief – watched him ever malevolently, sardonically, with curling lip. It gave him pause now that he stood upon the threshold of falsehood; and because of that inexplicable but obvious hostility, that attitude of expectancy to ensnare and destroy him, Captain Tremayne hesitated to step from the solid ground of reason, upon which he had confidently walked thus far, on to the uncertain bogland of mendacity.
“I cannot think,” he said, “that the court should consider it necessary for me to advance an alibi, to make a statement in proof of my innocence where I contend that no proof has been offered of my guilt.”
“I think it will be better, sir, in your own interests, so that you may be the more completely cleared,” the president replied, and so compelled him to continue.
“There was,” he resumed, then, “a certain matter connected with the Commissary-General’s department which was of the greatest urgency, yet which, under stress of work, had been postponed until the morrow. It was concerned with some tents for General Picton’s division at Celorico. It occurred to me that night that it would be better dealt with at once, so that the documents relating to it could go forward early on Monday morning to the Commissary-General. Accordingly, I returned to Monsanto, entered the official quarters, and was engaged upon that task when a cry from the garden reached my ears. That cry in the dead of night was sufficiently alarming, and I ran out at once to see what might have occasioned it. I found Count Samoval either just dead or just dying, and I had scarcely made the discovery when Mullins, the butler, came out of the residential wing, as he has testified.
“That, sirs, is all that I know of the death of Count Samoval, and I will conclude with my solemn affirmation, on my honour as a soldier, that I am as innocent of having procured it as I am ignorant of how it came about.
“I leave myself with confidence in your hands, gentlemen,” he ended, and resumed his seat.
That he had favourably impressed the court was clear. Miss Armytage whispered it to Lady O’Moy, exultation quivering in her whisper.
“He is safe!” And she added: “He was magnificent.”
Lady O’Moy pressed her hand in return. “Thank God! Oh, thank God!” she murmured under her breath.
“I do,” said Miss Armytage.
There was silence, broken only by the rustle of the president’s notes as he briefly looked them over as a preliminary to addressing the court. And then suddenly, grating harshly upon that silence, came the voice of O’Moy.
“Might I suggest, Sir Harry, that before we hear you three of the witnesses be recalled? They are Sergeant Flynn, Private Bates and Mullins.”
The president looked round in surprise, and Carruthers took advantage of the pause to interpose an objection.
“Is such a course regular, Sir Harry?” He too had become conscious at last of Sir Terence’s relentless hostility to the accused. “The court has been given an opportunity of examining those witnesses, the accused has declined to call any on his own behalf, and the prosecution has already closed its case.”
Sir Harry considered a moment. He had never been very clear upon matters of procedure, which he looked upon as none of a soldier’s real business. Instinctively in this difficulty he looked at Lord Wellington as if for guidance; but his lordship’s face told him absolutely nothing, the Commander-in-Chief remaining an impassive spectator. Then, whilst the president coughed and pondered, Major Swan came to the rescue.
“The court,” said the judge-advocate, “is entitled at any time before the finding to call or recall any witnesses, provided that the prisoner is afforded an opportunity of answering anything further that may be elicited in re-examination of these witnesses.”
“That is the rule,” said Sir Terence, “and rightly so, for, as in the present instance, the prisoner’s own statement may make it necessary.”
The president gave way, thereby renewing Miss Armytage’s terrors and shaking at last even the prisoner’s calm.
Sergeant Flynn was the first of the witnesses recalled at Sir Terence’s request, and it was Sir Terence who took up his re-examination.
“You said, I think, that you were standing in the guardroom doorway when Captain Tremayne passed you at twenty minutes to twelve on the night of the 28th?”
“Yes, sir. I had turned out upon hearing the curricle draw up. I had come to see who it was.”
“Naturally. Well, now, did you observe which way Captain Tremayne went? – whether he went along the passage leading to the garden or up the stairs to the offices?”
The sergeant considered for a moment, an Captain Tremayne became conscious for the first time that morning that his pulses were throbbing. At last his dreadful suspense came to an end.
“No, sir. Captain Tremayne turned the corner, and was out of my sight, seeing that I didn’t go beyond the guardroom doorway.”
Sir Terence’s lips parted with a snap of impatience. “But you must have heard,” he insisted. “You must have heard his steps – whether they went upstairs or straight on.”
“I am afraid I didn’t take notice, sir.”
“But even without taking notice it seems impossible that you should not have heard the direction of his steps. Steps going up stairs sound quite differently from steps walking along the level. Try to think.”
The sergeant considered again. But the president interposed. The testiness which Sir Terence had been at no pains to conceal annoyed Sir Harry, and this insistence offended his sense of fair play.
“The witness has already said that the didn’t take notice. I am afraid it can serve no good purpose to compel him to strain his memory. The court could hardly rely upon his answer after what he has said already.”
“Very well,” said Sir Terence curtly. “We will pass on. After the body of Count Samoval had been removed from the courtyard, did Mullins, my butler, come to you?”
“Yes, Sir Terence.”
“What was his message? Please tell the court.”
“He brought me a letter with instructions that it was to be forwarded first thing in the morning to the Commissary-General’s office.”
“Did he make any statement beyond that when he delivered that letter?”