“Do you know if Lord Blenavon is here?”
“Yes, sir,” the girl answered promptly. “He was brought in last night rather badly hurt, but he is much better this morning. I will let Mrs. Smith-Lessing know that you are here, sir.”
She hurried out, with the rustle of stiff starch and the quick light-footedness of the well-trained servant. Ray and I exchanged glances.
“After all, this is not such a home of mystery as we expected,” I remarked.
“Apparently not,” he answered. “The little woman is playing a bold game.”
Then Mrs. Smith-Lessing came in.
LORD BLENAVON’S SURRENDER
She came in very quietly, a little pale and wan in this cold evening light. She held out her hand to me with a subdued but charming smile of welcome.
“I am so glad that you have come to see me,” she said softly. “You can help me, too, about this unfortunate young man who has been thrown upon my hands. I—”
Then she saw Ray, and the words seemed to die away upon her lips. I had to steel my heart against her to shut out the pity which I could scarcely help feeling. She was white to the lips. She stood as one turned to stone, with her distended eyes fixed upon him. It was like a trapped bird, watching its impending fate. She faltered a little on her feet, and—I could not help it—I hurried to her side with a chair. As she sank into it she thanked me with a very plaintive smile.
“Thank you,” she said, simply. “I am not very strong, and I did not know that man was with you.”
Ray broke in. His voice sounded harsh, his manner, I thought, was unnecessarily brutal.
“I can understand,” he said, “that you find my presence a little unwelcome. I need scarcely say that this is not a visit of courtesy. You know very well that willingly I would never spend a moment under the same roof as you. I am here to speak a few plain words, to which you will do well to listen.”
She raised her eyes to his. Her courage seemed to be returning at the note of battle in his tone. Her small, well-shaped head was thrown back. The hands which grasped the sides of her chair ceased to tremble.
“Go on,” she said.
“We will not play at cheap diplomacy,” he said, sneeringly. “I know you by a dozen names, which you alter and adopt to suit the occasion. You are a creature of the French police, one of those parasitical creatures who live by sucking the honesty out of simpler persons. You are here because the more private meetings of the English Council of Defence are being held at Rowchester. It is your object by bribery, or theft, or robbery, or the seductive use of those wonderful charms of yours, to gain possession of copies of any particulars whatever about the English autumn manoeuvres, which, curiously enough, have been arranged as a sort of addendum to those on your side of the Channel. You have an ally, I regret to say, in the Duke’s son, you are seeking to gain for yourself a far more valuable one in the person of this boy. You say to yourself, no doubt, Like father, like son. You ruined and disgraced the one. You think, perhaps, the other will be as easy.”