“My story is as true as God’s Word,” I declared.
“I am inclined to believe in it myself, Mr. Ducaine,” said Lord Chelsford. “There are indications of a strong revival of Royalist sentiment amongst the French people, and it is very possible that the Prince of Malors may wish to ingratiate himself by any means with the French army. This sort of thing scarcely sounds like practical politics, but one has to bear in mind the peculiar temperament of the man himself, and the nation. I personally believe that the Prince of Malors would consider himself justified in abusing the hospitality of his dearest friend in the cause of patriotism. At any rate, this is my view, and I am acting upon it. All danger from that source will now be at an end, for in an hour’s time the Prince will be under the surveillance of detectives for the remainder of his stay in England.”
I breathed a sigh of relief.
“I am to go back to Braster, then?” I asked.
“To-night, if possible,” Lord Chelsford answered. “Go on living as you have been living. And, listen! If you should have further cause to suspect the Prince of Malors or anybody else, communicate with me or with Ray. The Duke is, of course, a man of ability and an honourable man, but he is prejudiced in favour of his friends. Some of us others have had to learn our lessons of life, and men, in a sharper school. You understand me, Mr. Ducaine, I am sure.”
“I perfectly understand, sir,” I answered.
“There is nothing more which you wish to ask me?”
“There is a suggestion I should like to make, sir, with regard to the disposal of my finished work,” I told him.
“Go on, Mr. Ducaine. I shall be glad to listen to it.”
There was a knock at the door. Lord Chelsford held up his finger.
“Send it me in writing,” he said in a low tone, “to-morrow.—Come in!”
Ray and I left the building together. As we turned into Pall Mall he glanced at his watch.
“You have missed the six o’clock train,” he remarked. “I suppose you know that there is nothing now till the nine-twenty. Will you come to the club with me, and have some dinner?”
It was less an invitation than a command. I felt a momentary impulse of rebellion, but the innate masterfulness of the man triumphed easily. I found myself walking, a little against my will, down Pall Mall by his side. A man of some note, he was saluted every minute by passers-by, whom, however, he seemed seldom to notice. In his town clothes, his great height, his bronzed face, and black beard made him a sufficiently striking personality. I myself, though I was little short of six feet, seemed almost insignificant by his side. Until we reached the club he maintained an unbroken silence. He even ignored some passing comment of mine; but when once inside the building he seemed to remember that he was my host, and his manner became one of stiff kindness. He ordered an excellent dinner and chose the wine with care. Then he leaned a little forward across the table, and electrified me by his first remark.