“Forgive me,” I said. “I thought that you and he were very intimate, and that you might know. I wonder whether he takes the Prince seriously.”
“Colonel Ray is one of my best friends,” she said, “but I am not in his confidence.”
A slight reserve had crept into her tone. I stole a glance at her face; paler and more delicate than ever it seemed in the gathering darkness. Her lips were firmly set, but her eyes were kind. A sudden desire for her sympathy weakened me.
“Lady Angela,” I said, “I must talk to some one. I do not know whom to trust. I do not know who is honest. You are the only person whom I dare speak to at all.”
She looked round cautiously. We were out of the plantation now, in the open park, where eavesdropping was impossible.
“You have a difficult post, Mr. Ducaine,” she said, “and you will remember—”
“Oh, I remember,” I interrupted. “You warned me not to take’ it. But think in what a position I was. I had no career, I was penniless. How could I throw away such a chance?”
“Something has happened—this morning, has it not?” she asked.
She waited for me to go on. She was deeply interested. I could hear her breath coming fast, though we were walking at a snail’s pace. I longed to confide in her absolutely, but I dared not.
“Do not ask me to tell you what it was,” I said. “The knowledge would only perplex and be a burden to you. It is all the time like poison in my brain.”
We were walking very close together. I felt her fingers suddenly upon my arm and her soft breath upon my cheek.
“But if you do not tell me everything—how can you expect my sympathy, perhaps my help?”
“I may not ask you for either,” I answered sadly. “The knowledge of some things must remain between your father and myself.”
“Between my father—and yourself!” she repeated.
I was silent, and then we both started apart. Behind us we could hear the sound of footsteps rapidly approaching, soft quick footsteps, muffled and almost noiseless upon the spongy turf. We stood still.
I wheeled round and peered into the darkness. Lady Angela’s fingers clutched my arm. I could feel that she was trembling violently. It was Grooton whose figure loomed up almost immediately before us—Grooton, bareheaded and breathless. “What is it?” I exclaimed quickly. “I think, sir, that you had better return,” he panted.