I caught the Prefects glance; he was regarding me with enquiry writ large on his face.
Sapt, said I, I must speak a word to the Prefect. Will you ride on a few paces with the princess? And I added to the Prefect: Come, sir, what do you mean?
He drew close to me, and I bent in the saddle.
If he were in love with the lady? he whispered. Nothing has been heard of him for two months; and this time it was the eye of the Prefect which travelled towards the Castle.
Yes, the lady is there, I said quietly. But I dont suppose Mr. Rassendyllis that the name?is.
The duke, he whispered, does not like rivals, sire.
Youre right there, said I, with all sincerity. But surely you hint at a very grave charge?
He spread his hands out in apology. I whispered in his ear:
This is a grave matter. Go back to Strelsau
But, sire, if I have a clue here?
Go back to Strelsau, I repeated. Tell the Ambassador that you have a clue, but that you must be left alone for a week or two. Meanwhile, Ill charge myself with looking into the matter.
The Ambassador is very pressing, sir.
You must quiet him. Come, sir; you see that if your suspicions are correct, it is an affair in which we must move with caution. We can have no scandal. Mind you return tonight.
He promised to obey me, and I rode on to rejoin my companions, a little easier in my mind. Enquiries after me must be stopped at all hazards for a week or two; and this clever official had come surprisingly near the truth. His impression might be useful some day, but if he acted on it now it might mean the worse to the King. Heartily did I curse George Featherly for not holding his tongue.
Well, asked Flavia, have you finished your business?
Most satisfactorily, said I. Come, shall we turn round? We are almost trenching on my brothers territory.
We were, in fact, at the extreme end of the town, just where the hills begin to mount towards the Castle. We cast our eyes up, admiring the massive beauty of the old walls, and we saw a cortege winding slowly down the hill. On it came.
Let us go back, said Sapt.
I should like to stay, said Flavia; and I reined my horse beside hers.
We could distinguish the approaching party now. There came first two mounted servants in black uniforms, relieved only by a silver badge. These were followed by a car drawn by four horses: on it, under a heavy pall, lay a coffin; behind it rode a man in plain black clothes, carrying his hat in his hand. Sapt uncovered, and we stood waiting, Flavia keeping by me and laying her hand on my arm.
It is one of the gentlemen killed in the quarrel, I expect, she said.
I beckoned to a groom.
Ride and ask whom they escort, I ordered.
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|