Lord Newhaven took the lighters out of the glass. He glanced suddenly at Hugh’s stunned face and went on:
“I am sorry the idea is not my own. I read it in a magazine. Though comparatively modern, it promises soon to become as customary as the much-to-be-regretted pistols for two and coffee for four. I hold the lighters thus, and you draw. Whoever draws or keeps the short one is pledged to leave this world within four months, or shall we say five, on account of the pheasant shooting? Five be it. Is it agreed? Just so! Will you draw?”
A swift spasm passed over Hugh’s face, and a tiger glint leaped into Lord Newhaven’s eyes, fixed intently upon him.
There was a brief second in which Hugh’s mind wavered, as the flame of a candle wavers in a sudden draught. Lord Newhaven’s eyes glittered. He advanced the lighters an inch nearer.
If he had not advanced them that inch Hugh thought afterwards that he would have refused to draw.
He backed against the mantel-piece, and then put out his hand suddenly and drew. It seemed the only way of escape.
The two men measured the lighters on the table under the electric light.
Lord Newhaven laughed.
Hugh stood a moment, and then went out.
“Is it well with thee? Is it well with thy husband?”
When Lady Newhaven slipped out of the supper-room after her husband and Hugh, and lingered at the door of the study, she did not follow them with the deliberate intention of eavesdropping, but from a vague impulse of suspicious anxiety. Yet she crouched in her white satin gown against the door listening intently.
Neither man moved within, only one spoke. There was no other sound to deaden her husband’s distinct, low voice. The silence that followed his last words, “Will you draw?” was broken by his laugh, and she had barely time to throw herself back from the door into a dark recess under the staircase before Hugh came out. He almost touched her as he passed. He must have seen her, if he had been capable of seeing anything; but he went straight on unheeding. And as she stole a few steps to gaze after him, she saw him cross the hall and go out into the night without his hat and coat, the amazed servants staring after him.
She drew back to go up-stairs, and met her husband coming slowly out of the study. He looked steadily at her, as she clung trembling to the banisters. There was no alteration in his glance, and she suddenly perceived that what he knew now he had always known. She put her hand to her head.
“You look tired,” he said, in the level voice to which she was accustomed. “You had better go to bed.”
She stumbled swiftly up-stairs, catching at the banisters, and went into her own room.
Her maid was waiting for her by the dressing-table with its shaded electric lights. And she remembered that she had given a party, and that she had on her diamonds.