“Except yourself!” said Piers, with a smile that showed his set teeth.
“Quite so.” Tudor also smiled, a grim brief smile. “But then I happen to know you better than most. You gave yourself away so far as I am concerned that night in the winter. I knew then that once upon a time in your career—you had—killed a man.”
“And you didn’t tell Avery!” The words shot out unexpectedly. Piers was plainly astonished.
“I’m not a woman!” said Tudor contemptuously. “That affair was between us two.”
“Great Scott!” said Piers.
“At the same time,” Tudor continued sternly, “if I had known what I know now, I would have told her everything sooner than let her ruin her happiness by marrying you.”
Piers made a sharp gesture that passed unexplained. He had made no attempt at self-defence; he made none then. Perhaps his pride kicked at the idea; perhaps in the face of Tudor’s shrewd grip of the situation it did not seem worth while.
He held out his hand. “May I have that key?”
Tudor gave it to him. He was still watching narrowly, but Piers’ face told him nothing. The mask had been replaced, and the man behind it was securely hidden from scrutiny. Tudor would have given much to have rent it aside, and have read the thoughts and intentions it covered. But he knew that he was powerless. He knew that he was deliberately barred out.
Piers went to the door and fitted the key into the lock. His actions were all grimly deliberate. The volcanic fires which Tudor had seen raging but a few seconds before had sunk very far below the surface. Whatever was happening in the torture-chamber where his soul agonized, it was certain that no human being—save possibly one—would ever witness it. What he suffered he would suffer in proud aloofness and silence. It was only the effect of that suffering that could ever be made apparent, when the soul came forth again, blackened and shrivelled from the furnace.
Yet ere he left Tudor, some impulse moved him to look back.
He met Tudor’s gaze with brooding eyes which nevertheless held a faint warmth like the dim reflection of a light below the horizon.
“I am obliged to you,” he said, and was gone before Tudor could speak again.
THE GATES OF HELL
Up and down, up and down, in a fever of restlessness, Avery walked. She felt trapped. The gloomy, tapestried room seemed to close her in like a prison. The whole world seemed to have turned into a monstrous place of punishment. One thing only was needed to complete the anguish of her spirit, and that was the presence of her husband.
She could not picture the meeting with him. Body and soul recoiled from the thought. It would not be till the morning; that was her sole comfort. By the morning this fiery suffering would have somewhat abated. She would be calmer, more able to face him and hear his defence—if defence there could be. Somehow she never questioned the truth of the story. She knew that Tudor had not questioned it either. She knew moreover that had it been untrue, Piers would have been with her long ago in vehement indignation and wrath.