Room 13

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Chapter 4

HAD he betrayed himself, he wondered? All his willpower was exercised to prevent such a betrayal. Though a tornado of fury swept through and through him, though he saw the face of the man distorted and blurred, and brute instinct urged his limbs to savage action, he remained outwardly unmoved. It was impossible for the beholder to be sure whether he had paled, for the sun and wind of Dartmoor had tanned his lean face the colour of mahogany. For a while so terrific was the shock that he was incapable of speech or movement.

"Major Floyd" was Jeff Legge! In a flash he realised the horrible plot. This was Emanuel's revenge—to marry his crook son to the daughter of Peter Kane.

Jeff was watching him narrowly, but by no sign did Johnny betray his recognition. It was all over in a fraction of a second. He brought his eyes back to the girl, smiling mechanically. She seemed oblivious to her surroundings. That her new husband stood by, watching her with a gleam of amusement in his eyes, that Peter was frowning anxiously, and that even old Barney was staring open-mouthed, meant nothing. "Johnny, poor Johnny! You aren't hating me, are you?"

John smiled and patted the hand that lay in his. "Are you happy?" he asked in a low voice.

"Yes, oh yes, I'm happily married—that's what you mean, isn't it? I'm very happy… Johnny, was it terrible? I haven't stopped thinking about you, I haven't. Though I didn't write… after… Don't you think I was a beast? I know I was. Johnny, didn't it hurt you, old boy?"

He shook his head.

"There's one thing you mustn't be in Dartmoor—sorry for yourself. Are you happy?"

She did not meet his eyes.

"That is twice you've asked in a minute! Isn't it disloyal to say that I am? Don't you want to meet Jeffrey?"

"Why, of course, I want to meet Jeffrey."

He crossed to the man, and Jeff Legge watched him.

"I want you to meet Captain Gray, a very old friend of mine," she said with a catch in her voice.

Jeffrey Legge's cold hand gripped his.

"I'm glad to meet you, Captain Gray."

Had he been recognised? Apparently not, for the face turned to him was puckered in an embarrassed smile.

"You've just come back from East Africa, haven't you? Get any shooting?"

"No, I didn't do any shooting," said Johnny.

"Lots of lions, aren't there?" said Jeff.

The lips of the ex-convict twitched.

"In that part of the country where I was living, the lions are singularly tame," he said dryly.

"Marney, darling, you're glad to see Gray on your wedding day, aren't you?—it was good of you to come, Gray. Mrs. Floyd has often spoken about you."

He put his arm about the girl, his eyes never leaving Johnny's face. He designed to hurt—to hurt them both. She stood rigidly, neither yielding nor resisting, tense, breathless, pale. She knew! The realisation came to John Gray like a blow. She knew that this man was a liar and a villain. She knew the trick that had been played upon her father!

"Happy, darling?"

"Very—oh, very."

There was a flutter in her voice, and now Johnny was hurt and the fight to hold himself in became terrific. It was Peter who for the moment saved the situation.

"Johnny, I want you to know this boy. The best in the world. And I want you to think with me that he's the best husband in the world for Marney."

Jeff Legge laughed softly. "Mr. Kane, you embarrass me terribly. I'm not half good enough for her—I'm just an awkward brute that doesn't deserve my good luck."

He bent and kissed the white-faced girl. Johnny did not take his eyes from the man. "Happy, eh? I'll bet you're happy; you rascal," chuckled Kane.

Marney pulled herself away from the encircling arm. "Daddy, I don't think this is altogether amusing Johnny."

Her voice shook. The man from Dartmoor knew that she was on the verge of tears.

"It takes a lot to bore me." John Gray found his voice. "Indeed, the happiness of young people—I feel very old just now—is a joy. You're a Canadian, Major Floyd?"

"Yes—a French Canadian, though you wouldn't guess that from my name. My people were habitant and went west in the 'sixties—to Alberta and Saskatchewan, long before the railway came. You ought to go to Canada; you'd like it better than the place you've been to."

"I'm sure I should."

Peter had strolled away, the girl's arm in his.

"No lions in Canada, tame or wild," said Jeff, regarding him from under his drooped eyelids. Gray had lit a cigarette. He was steady now, steady of nerve and hand.

"I should feel lonely without lions," he said coolly, and then: "If you will forgive my impertinence. Major Floyd, you have married a very nice girl."

"The very, very best."

"I would go a long way to serve her—a long way. Even back to the lions." Their eyes met. In the bridegroom's was a challenge; in Johnny Gray's cold murder. Jeff Legge's eyes fell and he shivered. "I suppose you like—hunting?" he said. "Oh, no, you said you didn't. I wonder why a man of your—er—character went abroad?"

"I was sent," said Johnny, and he emphasised every word. "Somebody had a reason for sending me abroad—they wanted me out of the way. I should have gone, anyhow, but this man hurried the process."

"Do you know who it was?"

The East African pretence had been tacitly dropped. Jeff might do so safely, for he would know that the cause of John Gray's retirement from the world was no secret.

"I don't know the man. He was a stranger to me. Very few people know him personally. In his set—our set—not half a dozen people could identify him. Only one man in the police knows him—"

"Who is that?" interrupted the other quickly.

"A man named Reeder. I heard that in prison—of course you knew I had come from Dartmoor?"

Jeff nodded with a smile.

"That is the fellow who is called The Great Unknown," he said, striving to thin the contempt from his voice. "I've heard about him in the club. He is a very stupid person of middle age, who lives in Peckham. So he isn't as much unknown as your mystery man."

"It is very likely," said the other. "Convicts invest their heroes and enemies with extraordinary gifts and qualities. I only know what I have been told. At Dartmoor they say Reeder knows everything. The Government gave him carte blanche to find the Big Printer—"

"And has he found him?" asked Jeff Legge innocently.

"He'll find him," said Johnny. "Sooner or later there will be a squeak."

"May I be there to hear it," said Jeff Legge, and showed his white teeth in a mirthless smile.

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