“Are we to take this, Lord Ronald,” she asked, “as a serious accusation?”
“You can take it for what it is, madam,” Engleton answered—“the truth.”
Cecil de la Borne rose to his feet and leaned across the table. His cheeks were as pale as death. His voice was shaking.
“I am your host, Engleton,” he said, “and I demand an explanation of what you have said. Your accusation is absurd. You must be drunk or out of your senses.”
“I am neither drunk nor out of my senses,” Engleton answered, “nor am I such an utter fool as to be so easily deceived. The fact that you, as my partner, played like an idiot, made rotten declarations, and revoked when one rubber was nearly won, I pass over. That may or may not have been your miserable idea of the game. Apart from that, however, I regret to have discovered that you, Forrest, and you, madam,” he added, addressing the Princess, “have made use throughout the last seven rubbers of a code with your fingers, both for the declarations and for the leads. My suspicions were aroused, I must confess, by accident. It was remarkably easy, however, to verify them. Look here!”
Engleton touched his forehead.
“Hearts!” he said.
He touched his lip.
“Diamonds!” he added.
He passed his fingers across his eyebrows.
“Clubs!” he remarked.
He beat with his fourth finger softly upon the table.
Major Forrest rose to his feet.
“Lord Ronald,” he said, “I am exceedingly sorry that owing to my introduction you have become a guest in this house. As for your ridiculous accusation, I deny it.”
“And I,” the Princess murmured.
“Naturally,” Engleton answered smoothly. “I really do not see what else you could do. I regret very much to have been the unfortunate means of breaking up such a pleasant little house-party. I am going to my room now to change my clothes, and I will trespass upon your hospitality, Mr. De la Borne, only so far as to beg you to let me have a cart, or something of the sort, to drive me into Wells, as soon as your people come on the scene.”
Engleton rose to his feet, and with a stiff little bow, walked toward the door. He, too, seemed somehow during the last few minutes to have shown signs of a greater virility than was at any time manifest in his boyish, somewhat unintelligent, face. He carried himself with a new dignity, and he spoke with the decision of an older man. For a moment they watched him go. Then Forrest, obeying a lightning-like glance from the Princess, crossed the room swiftly and stood with his back to the door.
“Engleton,” he said, “this is absurd. We can afford to ignore your mad behaviour and your discourtesy, but before you leave this room we must come to an understanding.”
Lord Ronald stood with his hands behind his back.
“I had imagined,” he said, “that an understanding was exactly what we had come to. My words were plain enough, were they not? I am leaving this house because I have found myself in the company of sharks and card-sharpers.”