I think that her face might well have answered him: very white it was, and very sorrowful.
“Blenavon met Mrs. Smith-Lessing, I believe, at Bordighera,” she said. “I have seen them together several times.”
“Here?” the Duke asked sharply.
“Yes, I have seen them riding on the sands, and Blenavon dined there on the night—Mr. Ducaine has been speaking of.”
“Blenavon is a fool!” the Duke said. “This is to my mind convincing proof that he was ignorant of the woman’s antecedents. At the worst he probably regarded her as an ordinary adventuress. As for the rest, I look upon it as the most extraordinary mare’s nest which the mind of man could possibly conceive. Do you mean to tell me, Mr. Ducaine, that Colonel Ray went so far as to charge Blenavon to his face with being in league with this person?”
“He certainly did, sir.”
“And Blenavon? Oh, Ray is mad, stark mad!”
“Your son denied it, sir,” I answered.
“Denied it! Of course he did. What followed?”
“Colonel Ray was very forcible and very imperative, sir,” I answered. “He insisted upon Lord Blenavon leaving England at once.”
“Lord Blenavon consented to do so, sir,” I said quietly.
I saw the veins in the Duke’s forehead stand out like whipcord. He began a sentence and left it unfinished. He was in that condition when words are impotent.
“Can you tell me, Mr. Ducaine,” he asked, “what possible argument Colonel Ray could have made use of to induce my son to consent to this extraordinary proceeding?”
“I know no more about the matter, your Grace,” I answered. “Perhaps Lord Blenavon felt that his intimacy with Mrs. Smith-Lessing had compromised him—that appearances were against him—”
“Pshaw!” the Duke interrupted. “Blenavon’s intrigues are foolish enough, but they are beside the mark.. I want to know what further argument or inducement Colonel Ray used. I understand neither why Ray desired to get rid of my son, nor why my son obeyed his ridiculous request.”
“Colonel Ray will doubtless have some further explanation to offer you, sir,” I said.
“He had better,” the Duke answered grimly. “I shall wire him to come here at once. With your permission, Mr. Ducaine, I will sit down for a moment. This affair has shaken me.”
Indeed, as the excitement passed away, I could see that he was looking ill and worn. Lady Angela made him take the easy chair, and he accepted a liqueur glass full of brandy which I poured out. He remained for several minutes sipping it and looking thoughtfully into the fire. He seemed to me to have aged by a dozen years. The brisk alertness of his manner had all departed. He was an old man, limp and querulous.
“This unfortunate affair, Mr. Ducaine,” he said, looking up at last, “remains of course between ourselves and Ray—and the woman.”