The man touched his hat and rode away. Blanche Moyat, who had been standing a few yards off, rejoined me.
“Has the Duke sent for you to go there?” she asked, with obvious curiosity.
“Yes. He has offered to lend me the village hall,” I told her. “I expect that is what he wants to see me about.”
She tossed her head.
“You didn’t tell me so just now when I told you that father had offered to speak about it,” she remarked.
“I am afraid,” I said, gravely, “my mind was full of more serious matters.”
She said no more until we reached the front of the Moyats’ house. Then she did not offer me her hand, but she stood quite close to me, and spoke in an unnaturally low tone.
“You wish me, then,” she said, “not to mention about that man—his asking the way to your cottage?”
“It seems quite unnecessary,” I answered, “and it would only mean that I should be bothered with questions which I could not answer.”
“Very well,” she said, “Good-bye!”
I shuddered to myself as I followed the wagon down the narrow street towards the police station. A strange reserve had crept into her manner during the latter portion of our walk. There was something in her mind which she shrank from putting into words. Did she believe that I was responsible for this grim tragedy which had so suddenly thrown its shadow over my humdrum little life?
THE GRACIOUSNESS OF THE DUKE
At a quarter-past three that afternoon I was ushered into the presence of the Duke of Rowchester. I had never seen him before, and his personality at once interested me. He was a small man, grey-haired, keen-eyed, clean shaven. He received me in a somewhat bare apartment, which he alluded to as his workroom, and I found him seated before a desk strewn with papers. He rose immediately at my entrance, and I could feel that he was taking more than usual note of my appearance.
“You are Mr. Ducaine,” he said, holding out his hand. “I am very glad to see you.”
He motioned me to a chair facing the window, a great uncurtained affair, through which the north light came flooding in, whilst he himself sat in the shadows.
“I trust,” he said, “that you have quite recovered from your last night’s indisposition. My daughter has been telling me about it.”
“Quite, thank you,” I answered. “Lady Angela and Colonel Ray were very kind to me.”
He nodded, and then glanced at the papers on his desk.
“I have been going through several matters connected with the estate, Mr. Ducaine,” he said, “and I have come across one which concerns you.”
“The proposed lease of the Grange,” I remarked.
“Exactly. It seems that you arranged a three years’ tenancy with Mr. Hulshaw, my agent, and were then not prepared to carry it out.”