FOR a moment Jeff Legge stood, helpless with rage. Then he flung all his weight against the door, but it did not yield. He took up the telephone, but changed his mind. He did not want a scandal. Least of all did he wish to be advertised as Jeffrey Legge. Compromise was a blessed word—he knocked at the door.
"Marney, come out and be sensible," he said, "I was only joking. The whole thing was just to try you—"
She offered no reply. There was probably a telephone in the bedroom, he thought. Would she dare call her father? He heard another door unlocked. The bedroom gave on to the corridor, and he went out, to see the big chambermaid emerging. She was alone, and no sooner was she outside the door than it was locked upon her.
"I'll report you to the management," he said furiously. He could have murdered her without compunction. But his rage made no impression upon the phlegmatic Welsh woman.
"A good character I have, look you, from all my employers. To be in the bedroom, it was my business. You shall not use bad language to me, look you, or I will have the law on you!"
Jeffrey thought quickly. He waited in the corridor until the woman had disappeared, then he beckoned from the far end a man who was evidently the floor waiter.
"Go down to the office and ask the manager, with my compliments, if I can have a second set of keys to my rooms," he said suavely. "My wife wishes to have her own."
He slipped a bill into the man's hand, of such magnitude that the waiter was overwhelmed.
"Certainly, sir. I think I can arrange," he said.
"And perhaps you would lend me your pass key," said Jeff carelessly.
"I haven't a pass key, sir. Only the management have that," replied the man; "but I believe I can get you what you want."
He came back in a few minutes to the sitting-room with many apologies. There were no duplicate sets of keys.
Jeff closed the sitting-room door on the man and locked it. Then he went over to the bedroom door.
"Marney!" he called, and this time she answered him. "Are you going to be sensible?"
"I think I'm being very sensible," was her reply.
"Come out and talk to me."
"Thank you, I would rather remain here."
There was a pause.
"If you go to your father, I will follow and kill him. I've got to shoot first, you know, Marney, after what you've told me."
There was a silence, and he knew that his words had impressed her.
"Think it over," he suggested. "Take your time about it."
"Will you promise to leave me alone?" she asked.
"Why, sure, I'll promise anything," he said, and meant it. "Come out, Marney," he wheedled. "You can't stay there all day. You've got to eat."
"The woman will bring me my dinner," was the instant reply, and Jeffrey cursed her softly.
"All right, have it your own way," he said. "But I tell you this, that if you don't come out to-night, there will be trouble in your happy family."
He was satisfied, even though she did not answer him, that Marney would make no attempt to communicate with her father—that night, at least. After that night, nothing mattered.
He got on to the telephone, but the man he sought had not arrived. A quarter of an hour later, as he was opening his second bottle of champagne, the telephone bell tinkled and Emanuel Legge's voice answered him.
"She's giving me trouble," he said in a low voice, relating what had happened.
He heard his father's click of annoyance and hastened to excuse his own precipitancy.
"She had to know sooner or later."
"You're a fool," snarled the old man. "Why couldn't you leave it?"
"You've got to cover me here," said Jeff urgently. "If she phones to Peter, there is going to be trouble. And Johnny—"
"Don't worry about Johnny," said Emanuel Legge unpleasantly. "There will be no kick coming from him."
He did not offer any explanation, and Jeff was too relieved by the assurance in his father's voice to question him on the subject.
"Take a look at the keyhole," said Emanuel, "and tell me if the key's in the lock. Anyway, I'll send you a couple of tools, and you'll open that door in two jiffs—but you've got to wait until the middle of the night, when she's asleep."
Half an hour later a small package arrived by district messenger, and Jeffrey, cutting the sealed cord, opened the little box and picked out two curiously wrought instruments. For an hour he practised on the door of the second bedroom leading from the saloon, and succeeded in turning the key from the reverse side. Toward dinner-time he heard voices in Marney's bedroom, and, creeping to the door, listened. It was the Welsh woman, and there came to his ears the clatter of plates and cutlery, and he smiled. He had hardly got back to his chair and his newspaper when the telephone bell rang. It was the reception clerk.
"There's a lady to see you. She asked if you'd come down. She says it is very important."
"Who is it?" asked Jeffrey, frowning.
"Lila!" He hesitated. "Send her up, please," he said, and drew a heavy velvet curtain across the door of Marney's room.
At the first sight of Peter Kane's maid he knew that she had left Horsham in a hurry. Under the light coat she wore he saw the white collar of her uniform.
"What's the trouble with you, Lila?" he asked.
"Where is Marney?" she asked.
He nodded to the curtained room.
"Have you locked her in?"
"To be exact, she locked herself in," said Jeff with a twisted smile.
The eyes of the woman narrowed. "Oh, it's like that, is it?" she asked harshly. "You haven't lost much time, Jeff."
"Don't get silly ideas in your nut," he said coolly. "I told her who I was, and there was a row—that's all there is to it. Now, what's the trouble?"
"Peter Kane's left Horsham with a gun in his pocket, that's all," she said, and Jeffrey paled.
"Sit down and tell me just what you mean."
"After you'd gone I went up to my room, because I was feeling mighty bad," she said. "I've got my feelings, and there isn't a woman breathing that can see a man go away with another girl—"
"Cut out all the sentiment and let's get right down to the facts," commanded Jeff.
"I'll tell it in my own way if you don't mind, Jeffrey Legge," said Lila.
"Well, get on with it," he said impatiently.
"I wasn't there long before I heard Peter in his room—it is underneath mine—and he was talking to himself. I guess curiosity got the better of my worry, and I went down and listened. I couldn't hear what he was saying, and so I opened the door of his room a little bit. He had just changed. The moment I went in he was slipping the magazine in the butt of a Browning—I saw him put it in his coat pocket, and then I went downstairs. After a while he came down too, and, Jeff, I didn't like the look of his face. It was all grey and pinched, and if ever I saw a devil in a man's eyes I saw it in Peter Kane's. I heard him order the car, and then I went down into the kitchen, thinking he was going at once. But he didn't leave for about half an hour."
"What was he doing?"
"He was in his own room, writing. I don't know what he was writing, because he always uses a black blotting-pad. He must have written a lot, because I know there were half a dozen sheets of stationery in the rack, and when I went in after he'd left they had all gone. There was nothing torn up in the waste-paper basket, and he'd burnt nothing, so he must have taken all the stuff with him. I tried to get you on the phone, but you hadn't arrived, and I decided to come up."
"How did you come up—by train or car?"
"By taxi. There wasn't a train for nearly two hours."
"You didn't overtake Peter by any chance?" She shook her head.
"I wouldn't. He was driving himself; his machine is a Spanz, and it moves!"
Jeff bit his nails. "That gun of Peter's worries me a little," he said after a while, "because he isn't a gunman. Wait."
He took up the telephone and again called his father, and in a few words conveyed the story which Lila had brought.
"You'll have to cover me now," he said anxiously. "Peter knows."
A long pause. "Johnny must have told him. I didn't dream he would," said Emanuel. "Keep to the hotel, and don't go out. I'll have a couple of boys watching both entrances, and if Peter shows his nose in Pall Mall he's going to be hurt."
Jeff hung up the receiver slowly and turned to the girl. "Thank you, Lila. That's all you can do for me."
"It is not all you can do for me," said Lila. "Jeff, what is going to happen now? I've tried to pin you down, but you're a little too shifty for me. You told me that this was going to be one of those high-class platonic marriages which figure in the divorce courts, and, Jeff, I'm beginning to doubt."
"Then you're a wise woman," said Jeffrey calmly. For a moment she did not understand the significance of the words.
"I'm a wise woman?" she repeated. "Jeff, you don't mean—"
"I'm entitled to my adventures," said Jeffrey, settling himself comfortably in the big armchair and crossing his legs. "I have a dear little wife, and for the moment, Lila, our little romance is finished."
"You don't mean that?" she asked unsteadily. "Jeff, you're kidding. You told me that all you wanted was to get a share of Peter's money, and Emanuel told me the same. He said he was going to put the 'black' on Peter and get away with forty thousand."
"In the meantime I've got away with the girl," said Jeffrey comfortably, "and there's no sense in kicking up a fuss, Lila. We've had a good time, and change is everything in life."
She was on her feet now, glaring down at him.
"And have I been six months doing slavey work, nosing for you, Jeffrey Legge, to be told that our little romance is finished?" she asked shrilly. "You've double-crossed me, you dirty thief! And if I don't fix you, my name's not Lila."
"It isn't," said Jeffrey. He reached for a cigar and lit it. "And never was. Your name's Jane—that is, if you haven't been telling me lies. Now, Lila, be an intelligent human being. I've put aside five hundred for you—"
"Real money, I hope," she sneered. "No, you're not going to get away with it so easy, Mr. Jeffrey Legge. You've fooled me from beginning to end, and you either carry out your promise or I'll—"
"Don't say you'll squeak," said Jeffrey, closing his eyes in mock resignation. "You're all squeakers. I'm tired of you! You don't think I'd give you anything to squeak about, do you? That I'd trust you farther than I could fling you? No, my girl, I'm four kinds of a fool, but not that kind. You know just as much about me as the police know, or as Johnny Gray knows. You can't tell my new wife, because she knows too. And Peter knows—in fact, I shouldn't be surprised if somebody didn't write a story about it in the newspapers to-morrow!"
He took out his pocket-case, opened it, and from a thick wad of notes peeled five, which he flung on to the table. "There's your 'monkey,' and au revoir, beauteous maiden,'" he said.
She took up the notes slowly, folded them, and slipped them into her bag. Her eyes were burning fires, her face colourless. If she had flown at him in a fury he would have understood, and was, in fact, prepared. But she said nothing until she stood, the knob of the door in her hand.
"There are three men after you, Jeffrey Legge," she said, "and one will get you. Reeder, or Johnny, or Peter—and if they fail, you look out for me!"
And on this threat she took her departure, slamming the door behind her, and Jeffrey settled down again to his newspaper, with the feeling of satisfaction which comes to a man who has got through a very unpleasant task.