“Well?” I repeated.
“I am glad to hear,” he continued, “that you are holding such an important position. Clerk to the Military Defence Board, eh? Quite an important position, of course; but it might be made—yes, with care, it might be made,” he added, watching me with nervous alertness, “a very lucrative one.”
“I am quite satisfied with my salary,” I remarked calmly.
“Pooh! my dear boy, that is nonsense,” he continued. “You do not understand me. It is an open secret. Maud, are we overheard here, do you think? Is it safe to discuss an important matter with Guy here?”
I rose to my feet and took up my hat. Again she whispered in his ear, and this time he seemed to assent.
“Quite right! Quite right!” he said, nodding his head. “Guy, my boy, you shall come and see us. No. 29, Bloomsbury Street—poor rooms, but our remittances have gone astray, and I have been ill. To-morrow, eh? or the next day? We shall expect you, Guy. We do not go out except in the evenings. You will not fail, Guy?”
I looked down into his flushed face. His lips were shaking, and his eyes were fixed anxiously upon mine. I was miserably ashamed and unhappy.
“I do not think that I shall care to hear what you have to say,” I answered. “But I will come to see you.”
I left them there. As I went out she was gently countermanding his order for more brandy.
THE DUKE’S MESSAGE
It was late, but I felt that I must see Ray. I went to his house, little expecting to find him there. I was shown, however, into the study, where he was hard at work with a pile of correspondence. He wore an ancient shooting jacket, and his feet were encased in slippers. As usual, his pipe was between his teeth, and the tobacco smoke hung about him in little clouds.
“Well,” he said gruffly. “What do you want of me? I am busy. Speak to the point.”
“I have come to ask your advice,” I said. “I am afraid that I must resign my post.”
“My father is in London. I have seen and spoken with him.”
“With that woman?”
“And you have spoken to him in a public place, perhaps?”
Ray was silent for a moment. Then he looked at me keenly.
“Do you want to give it up?” he asked.
“No,” I answered. “But do you suppose Lord Chelsford and the others would be willing for me to continue—under the circumstances?”
“Probably not,” he admitted. “The Duke would not, at any rate.”
“Then what am I to do?” I asked.
“I don’t know!” he answered shortly. “It requires consideration. I will see Lord Cheisford. You shall hear from me in the morning.”
That was all the consolation I had from Colonel Mostyn Ray.
At ten o’clock the next morning the Duke came to me in the study, where I was already at work. He was looking, even for him, particularly trim and smart, and he wore a carefully-selected pink rosebud in his buttonhole. His greeting was almost cordial. He gave me a few instructions, and then lit a cigarette.