The apartment was a small one, and contained only a few pieces of heavy antique furniture. Behind the curtains were iron shutters. In one corner was a strong safe. I walked to it, and for the first time I permitted myself to think of the combination word. Slowly I fitted it together, and the great door swung open.
There were several padlocked dispatch-boxes, and, on a shelf above, a bundle of folded papers. I took this bundle carefully out and laid it on the table before me. I was on the point of undoing the red tape with which it was tied, when my fingers became suddenly rigid. I stared at the packet with wide-open eyes. I felt my breath come short and my brain reeling. The papers were there sure enough, but it was not at them that I was looking. It was the double knot in the pink tape which fascinated me.
AN EXPRESSION OF CONFIDENCE
I have no exact recollection of how long I spent in that little room. After a while I closed the door safe, and reset the combination lock with trembling fingers. Then I searched all round, but could find no traces of any recent intruder. I undid the heavy shutters, and let in a stream of sunshine. Outside, Ray and Lady Angela were strolling up and down the terrace. I watched the latter with fascinated eyes. It was from her that this strange warning had come to me, this warning which as yet was only imperfectly explained. What did she know? Whom did she suspect? Was it possible that she, a mere child, had even the glimmering of a suspicion as to the truth? My eyes followed her every movement. She walked with all the lightsome grace to which her young limbs and breeding entitled her, her head elegantly poised on her slender neck, her face mostly turned towards her companion, to whom she was talking earnestly. Even at this distance I seemed to catch the inspiring flash of her dark eyes, to follow the words which fell from her lips so gravely. And as I watched a new idea came to me. I turned slowly away and went in search of the Duke.
I found him sitting fully dressed in an anteroom leading from his bedroom, with a great pile of letters before him, and an empty postbag. He was leaning forward, his elbow upon the table, his head resting upon his right hand. Engrossed as I was with my own terrible discovery, I was yet powerfully impressed by his unfamiliar appearance. In the clear light which came flooding in through the north window he seemed to me older, and his face more deeply lined than any of my previous impressions of him had suggested. His eyes were fixed upon the mass of correspondence before him, most of which was as yet unopened, and his expression was one of absolute aversion. At my entrance he looked up inquiringly.
“What do you want, Ducaine?” he asked.
“I am sorry to have disturbed your Grace,” I answered. “I have come to place my resignation in your hands.”