Room 13

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Chapter 5

JOHNNY was alone in the lower garden, huddled up on a corner of the marble bench, out of sight but not out of hearing of the guests who were assembling on the lawn. He had to think, and think quickly. Marney knew! But Marney had not told, and Johnny guessed why.

When had Jeff Legge told her? On the way back from the church, perhaps. She would not let Peter know—Peter, who deemed her future assured, her happiness beyond question. What had Jeff said? Not much, Johnny guessed. He had given her just a hint that the charming Major Floyd she had married was not the Major Floyd with whom she was to live.

Johnny was cool now—icy cold was a better description. He must be sure, absolutely sure, beyond any question of doubt. There might be some resemblance between Jeff Legge and this Major Floyd. He had only seen the crook once, and that at a distance.

He heard the rustle of skirts and looked round quickly. It was the maid he had seen quarrelling with Barney.

"Mr. Kane says, would you care to be in the group that is being photographed. Captain Gray?" she asked.

He did not immediately reply. His eyes were scanning her with a new interest.

"Tell him I'd rather not, and come back."

"Come back, sir?" she repeated in astonishment.

"Yes, I want to talk to you," said Johnny with a smile. "Have mercy on a disgruntled guest, who can find nobody to entertain him."

She stood, hesitating. He could see the indecision in her face.

"I don't know if Mr. Kane would like that," she said, and a smile trembled at the corner of her mouth. "Very well, I'll come back."

It was not till ten minutes later, when he judged the photograph had been taken and the guests had gone again to the house, that she appeared, demure but curious.

"Sit down," said Johnny. He threw away his cigarette and moved to the end of the stone bench.

"Don't stop smoking for me, Captain Gray," she said.

"How long have you been here?" he asked.

"With Mr. Kane? About six months," she said.

"Pretty good job?" he asked carelessly.

"Oh, yes, sir, very."

"What is your name?"

"My name is Lila. Why do you ask?"

"I think you and I ought to get better acquainted, Lila," he said, and took her unresisting hand.

Secretly she was amused; on the surface she showed some sign of being shocked.

"I didn't know you were that type of flirting man, Mr. Gray—you're a Captain, though, aren't you?"

"'Captain' is a purely honorary title, Lila," said Johnny. "I suppose you'll miss your lady?"

"Yes, I shall miss her," said Lila.

"A nice girl, eh?" bantered Johnny.

"And a very nice husband," she said tartly.

"Do you think so?"

"Yes, I suppose he is a nice fellow. I don't know much about him."

"Good-looking?" suggested Johnny.

The woman shrugged her shoulders.

"I suppose he is."

"And very much in love with Miss Kane. That fellow adores her," said Johnny. "In fact, I don't know that I've ever seen a man so much in love with a woman."

She suppressed a sigh.

"Oh, yes, I suppose he is," she said impatiently. "Do you want me any more, Captain Gray, because I've a lot of work to do?"

"Don't run away," said Johnny in his most gentle voice, "Weddings always make me romantic." He took up the thread where it was interrupted. "I don't expect the Major will have eyes for any other girl for years," he said. "He's head over heels in love, and why shouldn't he be? I suppose," he said reminiscently, avoiding her eyes, "he is the sort of man who would have had many love affairs in the past." He shrugged his shoulders. "With the kind of girls that one picks up and puts down at pleasure."

Now a flush, deep and even, had come to her face, and her eyes held a peculiar brightness.

"I don't know anything about Major Floyd," she said shortly, and was rising, but his hand fell upon her arm.

"Don't run away, Lila."

"I'm not going to stay," she said with sudden vehemence. "I don't want to discuss Major Floyd or anybody else. If you want me to talk to you—"

"I want to talk to you about the honeymoon. Can't you picture them, say, on Lake Como, in a bower of roses? Can't you imagine him forgetting all that's past, all the old follies, all the old girls—?"

She wrenched her arm from his grip and stood up, and her face was deadly white.

"What are you getting at. Gray?" she asked, all the deference, all the demureness, gone from her voice.

"I'm getting at you, Miss Lila Sain," he said, "and if you attempt to get away from me, I'll throttle you!"

She stared at him, her breath coming quickly. "You were supposed to be a gentleman, too," she said.

"I'm supposed to be Johnny Gray from Dartmoor. Sit down. What's the graft, Lila?"

"I don't understand what you're talking about."

"What's the graft?" asked Johnny with deadly calm. "Jeff Legge put you here to nose the house for him, and keep him wise as to what was going on."

"I don't know Jeff Legge," she faltered.

"You're a liar," said Johnny ungently. "I know you, Lila. You run with Legge and you're a cheap squeak. I've seen you a dozen times. Who is Major Floyd?"

"Go and ask him," she said defiantly.

"Who is Major Floyd?"

The grip on her arm tightened.

"You know," she said sullenly. "It's Jeff Legge."

"Now listen, Lila. Come here." He had released her, and now he crooked his finger. "Go and blow to Jeff, and I'll squeak on you both—you understand that? I'll put Jeff just where I want him to be—there's a vacant cell at Dartmoor, anyway. That gives you a twinge, doesn't it? You're keen on Jeff?"

She did not reply.

"I'll put him where I want him to be," he repeated slowly and deliberately, "unless you do as I tell you."

"You're going to put the 'black' on him?" she said, her lips curling.

"'Black' doesn't mean anything in my young life," said Johnny. "But I tell you this, that I'll find Reeder and squeak the whole pageful unless I have my way."

"What do you want?" she asked.

"I want to know where they're going, and where they're staying. I want to know their plans for the future. Are you married to him, by any chance?"

A glance at her face gave him the answer.

"You're not? Well, you may be yet, Lila. Aren't you tired of doing his dirty work?"

"Perhaps I am and perhaps I'm not," she replied defiantly. "You can do nothing to him now, anyway, Johnny Gray. He's got your girl, and if you squeaked like a garden of birds you couldn't undo what that old God-man did this morning! Jeff's too clever for you. He'll get you, Gray—"

"If he knows," said Johnny quietly. "But if he knows, Reeder knows too. Do you get that?"

"What are you going to do?" she asked after a silence.

"I'm having one of my little jokes," said Johnny between his teeth. "A real good joke! It is starting now. I can't tell Peter, because he'd kill your young man, and I have a particular objection to Peter going to the drop. And you can't tell Jeff, because there'd be a case for a jury, and when Jeff came out you'd be an old woman. That's not a good prospect, eh? Now tell me all you've got to tell, and speak slowly, because I don't write shorthand."

He whipped a small notebook from his pocket, and as she spoke, reluctantly, sulkily, yet fearfully, he wrote rapidly. When he had finished: "You can go now, my gentle child," he said, and she stood up, her eyes blazing with rage.

"If you squeak, Johnny Gray, I'll kill you. I never was keen on this marriage business—naturally. I knew old Legge wanted him to marry Peter's daughter, because Legge wanted to get one back on him. But Jeff's been good to me; and the day the busies come for Legge I'll come for you, and I'll shoot you stone dead, Johnny, as God's my judge!"

"Beat it!" said Johnny tersely.

He waited till she was gone through one of the openings in the box hedge, then passed along to the other and stopped. Peter Kane was standing in the open, shielded from view by the thin box bush, and Peter's face was inscrutable.

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