“I think you forget, Colonel Ray,” she said, “that this is my house. I am not disposed to leave you and Mr. Ducaine here together in your present mood.”
He laughed harshly.
“Are you afraid for your lover?” he asked. “I promise you that I will hold his person sacred.”
“Lady Angela,” I begged. “Please leave us. I—”
Then came an interruption so unexpected and yet so natural that the whole scene seemed at once to dissolve into bathos. The door was thrown open, and a footman ushered in callers.
“Lady Chelsford and the Marchioness of Cardenne, your ladyship,” he announced. “Mrs. and the Misses Colquhoun. Sir George Treherne!”
It was a transformation. The room, with its dull note of tragedy, was suddenly filled with faint perfumes, shaken from the rustling draperies of half a dozen women, a little chorus of light voices started the babel of small-talk, Lady Angela had taken her place behind the large round tea-table and was talking nonsense with the tall young guardsman who had drawn his chair up to her side, and I, with a plate of sandwiches in my hand, nearly ran into Ray, who was carrying a cup of tea. For a quarter of an hour or so we played our parts in the comedy. Then a servant entered the room and whispered in my ear.
“His Grace would be glad to see you in the library, sir.”
I rose at once. Angela’s eyes were fixed upon mine questioningly. As I passed the table I spoke to her, and purposely raised my voice so that Ray should hear.
“Your father has sent for me, Lady Angela. He is terribly industrious to-day.”
She smiled back to me quietly. I lingered in the hall for a minute, and Ray joined me there. He did not speak a word, but he motioned me fiercely to precede him to the library. Directly we entered it was clear that something unusual had happened. The great safe door stood open. Lord Chelsford and the Duke were both awaiting our coming.
I LOSE MY POST
The Duke solemnly closed the door. “Ray,” he said, “I am glad that you are here. Something serious has happened. Mr. Ducaine, Lord Chelsford and I desire to ask you a few questions.”
I bowed. What was coming I could not indeed imagine, unless Ray had already made the disclosure.
“The word code for the safe to-day was Magenta, I believe?” the Duke asked.
“That is correct, sir,” I answered.
“And it was known to whom?”
“To Lord Chelsford, yourself, Colonel Ray, and myself,” I answered.
“And what was there in the safe?” the Duke asked.
“The plans for the Guildford Camp, the new map of Surrey pricked for fortifications, and one or two transport schemes,” I answered.
“Exactly! Those documents are now all missing.”
I strode to the safe and looked in. It was as the Duke had said. The safe was practically empty.