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HOME > Classical Novels > White Motley > CHAPTER XVI TWO OPINIONS
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Benny arrived at the chalet at a quarter to nine, and was shown immediately into the sitting-room. There he found Lily seated before her writing-table; but she had written no letters, and the note-paper was covered by meaningless hieroglyphics which her pen inscribed ceaselessly.

Men are rarely observant when it is a question of knowing whether a woman is well or ill, and this good-natured engineer was no exception to a common rule. Had anyone called his attention to the extraordinary pallor of Lily's face, he would have admitted its significance; but, as it was, his desire to resume their conversation of the morning blinded him to the truth. He had come to know if she were ready to return to England; he found her determined upon another purpose altogether.

"I thought you'd have done dinner by this time, Lady Delayne," he explained, "and so I ventured to come in. It's a fine night outside, and good for walking. I half expected you to be down with the Palace people. They're dancing to-night, and they tried to run me in. But I'm too old to prance round with yearlings, and so I told them. I'd sooner drive an airship across the Mediterranean than steer some of the heavy-weights down yonder—yes, a hundred times. But I thought it might be different in your case."

She did not smile; her manner arrested his words, and was an omen of her answer. Benny watched her rising from her chair as he would have watched an accusing figure about to approach him. She had discovered the truth—he was sure of it.

"Mr. Benson," she said slowly, "why did you not deal more generously with me this morning?"

He did not shrink from it. The question appealed to his manhood, and resolution made him strong. He was glad, moreover, that the hour of suspense had passed; he would keep nothing from her now.

"I wanted to shield you," he rejoined very naturally. "It was a man's part to do that. I wanted to keep trouble from you. Now I see my own foolishness. It couldn't be done, Lady Delayne. The whole place is talking of the affair; you were bound to hear of it. But I did my best, because I wanted to be your friend."

She knew that it was true, and his frankness disarmed her. The irony of life had left her with but one friend in the world, and he a man she had seen for the first time a week ago. It needed some resolution to keep her courage in the face of that.

"It was not friendship to deceive me," she said, against her convictions; "so much might have happened. I am grateful to you, none the less. Will you now tell me all you know?"

She sat upon a sofa near to him, a lamp behind her, and her face in shadow. He perceived that she breathed heavily; but there was no other overt testimony either of fear or grief.

"I'll tell you willingly, every word," he rejoined. "There's no doubt that Bothand and Co. got out a warrant in England against Sir Luton, and that the Swiss police, acting on instructions from Scotland Yard, traced him here. They sent an officer, Eugène Gaillarde, from Martigny, to ascertain if their man was at Vermala; he watched your husband for a couple of days. I think he may have followed him over from Grindelwald, but I do not know for sure. If they had established his identity, word would have been sent to London; most likely they would have arrested him, and applied for extradition. Anyway, it seems clear that Sir Luton knew he was being followed, and that he resented the fact just in the way such a man would resent it. As bad luck would have it, he seems to have met Gaillarde face to face on the plateau below the hotel. There were words passed between them, and then blows. What precisely befell we shall never know, but I make no doubt that Gaillarde lost his footing and was thrown over. He must have fallen about thirty-five feet and struck the clump of trees at the foot. I saw him there myself, lying stone dead, and that's how I came to warn your husband. If Sir Luton hadn't gone away, it would have been a murder charge. We may avoid that if they don't trace him, and time will put the affair in another light. It would be manslaughter at the worst—though I can't keep it from you that, whichever it is, it's bad enough in a country like this. What you and I have to do is to keep the thing black dark while we can. I've sent Sir Luton where no police will find him, and if he's wise he will stay there until the worst has blown over. Then he ought to go to the East for a couple of years. We can tell a tale in the English papers if the truth ever does come out, and he won't want sympathisers. We hate bureaucrats in our country, and there's many who will understand just what happened in his case. It would be otherwise if they had taken him and brought the trial on immediately. I had to stop that at any cost—that's why I sent him into Italy. The same reason lay behind my idea that you should go to England. You are a danger to him here, Lady Delayne, so it seems to me. You are a danger every hour you remain, and if you would save him, you won't lose an hour in going away. I'm glad that I can tell you so freely, for I couldn't this morning, much as I wanted to—"

He paused, a little afraid of his own eloquence. What impression he had made he did not know; but one thing was plain, and that was the woman's courage. There was no hysterical outburst now, no expression of a vain regret—nothing but a quiet determination which astonished him.

"I could never forget my obligation to you," she began; "that must be lifelong. You say that I should return to England to save my husband; but surely it would be the wiser thing to remain. If they do not know all the facts, why should they seek Sir Luton Delayne? May we not hope that this question of identity will protect him to the end? Indeed, I am beginning to believe that my first duty is to him, to go to him, Mr. Benson, and to forget! If he were really guilty of a monstrous crime, it would be another thing. But can we believe that he is?—unless passion itself be such a crime. I cannot say that; his sins have been greatly punished, and am I to judge him at such an hour? Not so, surely. I will go to Italy whatever the cost. I feel it is my duty."

He was amazed to hear her. His primitive knowledge of woman had prepared him for an issue so very different. She would have been humbled utterly by the disclosure, he thought, overwhelmed and incapable of any clear purpose. And here she was prepared for an act of madness which, whatever its sublimity, must bring down the house of his hopes with a crash. Let her go to Italy and the end might be at hand. Which is to say, that he doubted his own hypothesis, and put little faith in identity as an ally. Had not Sir Luton been followed from Grindelwald? Why, there would be twenty ready to bear witness.

"My dear lady," he said, hardly knowing how to put it to her, "your wish does you great credit, but do not forget that if you are followed from here to Locarno, it will not take the authorities very long to guess what is going on. Pe............
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