“Boy,” he said, “have you any wine?”
“The Duke sent me some claret,” I answered. “Will that do?”
I summoned Grooton and ordered the wine and some biscuits. Ray was a man who ate and drunk sparingly. Yet he filled a tumbler and drank it straight off.
“You and I,” he remarked, “are the only two who sat the whole show out. It was a grind, wasn’t it?”
“It was,” I answered, “but I have slept, and I feel none the worse for it. Lord Cheisford carried us on splendidly. There is solid work here,” I said; “something worth the planning.”
I touched my notebook almost affectionately, for the work was fascinating now that it had attained coherent form. Ray smoked on and said nothing for several minutes. Then he looked up at me.
“Have you a spare bedroom, Ducaine?”
“One or two,” I answered. “They are not all furnished, but one at any rate is decent.”
“Will you put me up for a day—perhaps two?”
“Of course,” I answered, “but—”
He answered my unspoken question.
“The Duke has turned me out,” he said grimly. “Who would have suspected the old man of such folly? He believes in Blenavon. I told him the plain truth, and he told me that I was a liar.”
“I thought that he would be difficult to convince,” I remarked.
“He has all the magnificent pig-headedness of his race,” Ray answered. “Blenavon is Blenavon, and he can do no wrong. He would summon him home again, but fortunately the young man himself is no fool. He will not come. You told Lady Angela?”
“She believed you?”
“I think that she did,” I answered.
His face softened.
“The Duke showed me from the door himself,” he said. “You will not object to my sending a note to Lady Angela by your servant?”
“Make whatever use of him you choose,” I answered. “There are pen and ink and notepaper upon the table.”
Then I settled down to my work. Ray wrote his note, and went upstairs to sleep. In an hour’s time he was down again. There were black rims under his eyes, and I could see at once that he had had no rest. Grooton had brought his bag from the house, and a note from Lady Angela. He read it with unchanging face, and placed it carefully in his breast coat-pocket.
“I am off to the village to send some telegrams,” he said, “and afterwards I shall go on for a walk.” “What about lunch?” I asked, glancing at the clock. “None for me,” he answered. “Some tea at four o’clock, if I may have it. I will be back by then.” He swung off, and I was thankful, for my work demanded my whole attention and very careful thought. At a few minutes after four he returned, and Grooton brought us some tea. Directly we were alone Ray looked across at me with a black frown upon his face.
“You know what they are saying in the village about you, young man?”