“It is unnecessary for you to ask me that, sir,” I answered quietly. “Colonel Ray will doubtless have some explanation. He is a man of vigorous temper, and I fancy that Lord Blenavon was not quite himself.”
The Duke rose to his feet.
“If you are ready, Angela,” he said, “we will not detain Mr. Ducaine further.”
“You will allow me to walk with you to the house, sir,” I begged.
He shook his head.
“I am quite recovered, I thank you,” he said. “My daughter will give me her arm.”
I let them out myself and held the lamp over my head to light them on their way. With slow uncertain steps, and leaning heavily upon Lady Angela’s arm, I watched him disappear in the blackness of the plantation.
THE LINK IN THE CHAIN
Practically for three days and three nights the Council sat continually. There was no pretence now at recreation, no other guests. We worked, all of us, from the Duke downwards, unflaggingly and with very little respite. When at last the end came, my padlocked notebook, with its hundreds of pages of hieroglyphics, held the principal material for three schemes of coast defence, each one considered separately and supported by a mass of detail as to transport, commissariat, and many minor points.
The principal members of the Council departed by special train early on Monday morning. I myself, a little dizzy and hot-eyed, walked across the park an hour after dawn, and flung myself upon my bed with a deep sigh of relief. Before I had closed my eyes, however, Grooton appeared with apologies for his dishabille.
“I have been up to the house twice, sir,” he said, “but they would not let me see you or even send in a message. I thought it only right to let you know at once, sir, that the police have been here rummaging about. They had what they called a search warrant, I believe. I came up to the house immediately, but I could not induce any of the servants to bring word in to you. Mr. Jesson, the Duke’s own man, told me that it was as much as his place was worth to allow any one to enter the library.”
“All right, Grooton,” I muttered. “Hang the police!”
I believe he said something else, but I never heard it. I was already fast asleep.
* * * * *
About mid-day I was awakened by the dazzling sunshine which seemed to fill the room. I called for a bath, dressed, and made an excellent breakfast. Then I brought out my notebook and prepared for work. I had scarcely dipped my pen in the ink, however, when a shadow darkened the window. I looked up quickly. It was Ray.
He entered without knocking, and I saw at once that he was in a strange condition. He scarcely greeted me, but sank into my easy chair, and drawing out his pipe began to fill it. Then I saw, too, what I had never seen before. His fingers were shaking.