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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Betrayal - Chapter 22. Miss Moyat Makes A Scene
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The Betrayal - Chapter 22. Miss Moyat Makes A Scene Post by :Eagle55 Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :783

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The Betrayal - Chapter 22. Miss Moyat Makes A Scene

CHAPTER XXII. MISS MOYAT MAKES A SCENE

Ray was smoking his customary enormous pipe, which he deliberately emptied as Lady Angela and I approached. The sight of him and the significance of his wounds reduced me to a state of astonishment which could find no outlet in words. I simply stood and stared at him. Lady Angela, however, after her first exclamation of surprise, went up and greeted him.

"Why, my dear Mostyn," she exclaimed, "wherever have you sprung from, and what have you been doing to yourself?"

"I came from London--newspaper train," he answered.

"And your head and arm?"

"Thrown out of a hansom last night," he said grimly.

We were all silent for a moment. So far as I was concerned, speech was altogether beyond me. Lady Angela, too, seemed to find something disconcerting in Ray's searching gaze.

"My welcome," he remarked quietly, "does not seem to be overpowering."

Lady Angela laughed, but there was a note of unreality in her mirth.

"You must expect people to be amazed, Mostyn," she said, "if you treat them to such surprises. Of course I am glad to see you. Have you seen Blenavon yet?"

"I have not been to the house," he answered. "I came straight here."

"And your luggage?" she asked.

"Lost," he answered tersely. "I only just caught the train, and the porter seems to have missed me."

"You appear to have passed through a complete chapter of mishaps," she remarked. "Never mind! You must want your lunch very badly, or do you want to talk to Mr. Ducaine?"

"Next to the walk up to the house with you," he answered, "I think that I want my lunch more than anything in the world."

Lady Angela smiled her farewells at me, and Ray nodded curtly. I watched them pass through the plantation and stroll across the Park. There was nothing very loverlike in their attitude. Ray seemed scarcely to be glancing towards his companion; Lady Angela had the air of one absorbed in thought. I watched them until they disappeared, and then I entered my own abode and sat down mechanically before the lunch which Grooton had prepared. I ate and drank as one in a dream. Only last night Ray had said nothing about coming to Braster. Yet, there he was, without luggage, with his arm and head bound up. Just like this I expected to see the man whom I had struck last night.

Now though Ray's attitude towards me was often puzzling, an absolute faith in his honesty was the one foundation which I had felt solid beneath my feet during these last few weeks of strange happenings. This was the first blow which my faith had received, and I felt that at any cost I must know the truth. After lunch I finished the papers which, when complete, it was my duty to lock away in the library safe up at the house, and secured them in my breast-pocket. But instead of going at once to the house I set out for Braster Junction.

There was a porter there whom I had spoken to once or twice. I called him on one side.

"Can you tell me," I asked, "what passengers there were from London by the newspaper train this morning?"

"None at all, sir," the man answered readily.

"Are you quite sure?" I asked.

The man smiled.

"I'm more than sure, sir," the man answered, "because she never stopped. She only sets down by signal now, and we had the message 'no passengers' from Wells. She went through here at forty miles an hour."

"I was expecting Colonel Ray by that train," I remarked, "the gentleman who lectured on the war, you know, at the Village Hall."

The man looked at me curiously.

"Why, he came down last night, same train as you, sir. I know, because he only got out just as the train was going on, and he stepped into the station master's house to light his pipe."

"Thank you," I said, giving the man a shilling. "I must have just missed him, then."

I left the station and walked home. Now, indeed, all my convictions were upset. Colonel Ray had left me outside his clubhouse last night, twenty minutes before the train started, without a word of coming to Braster. Yet he travelled down by the same train, avoided me, lied to Lady Angela and myself this morning, and had exactly the sort of wounds which I had inflicted upon that unknown assailant who attacked me in the darkness. If circumstantial evidence went for anything, Ray himself had been my aggressor.

I avoided the turn by Braster Grange and went straight on to the village. Coming out of the post office I found myself face to face with Blanche Moyat. She held out her hand eagerly.

"Were you coming in?" she asked.

"Well, not to-day," I answered. "I am on my way to Rowchester, and I am late already."

She kept by my side.

"Come in for a few moments," she begged, in a low tone. "I want to talk to you."

"Not the old subject, I hope," I remarked.

She looked around with an air of mystery.

"Do you know that some one is making inquiries about--that man?"

"I always thought it possible," I answered, "that his friends might turn up some time or other."

We were opposite the front of the Moyats' house. She opened the door and beckoned me to follow. I hesitated, but eventually did so. She led the way into the drawing-room, and carefully closed the door after us.

"Mr. Ducaine," she said, "I mean it, really. There is some one in the village making inquiries--about--the man who was found dead."

"Well," I said, "that is not very surprising, is it? His friends were almost certain to turn up sooner or later."

"His friends! But do you know who it is?" she asked.

I sank resignedly into one of Mrs. Moyat's wool-work covered chairs. An absurd little canary was singing itself hoarse almost over my head. I half closed my eyes. How many more problems was I to be confronted with during these long-drawn-out days of mystery?

"Oh, I do not know," I declared. "I am sure I do not care. I am sorry that I ever asked you for one moment to keep your counsel about the fellow. I never saw him, I do not know who he was, I know nothing about him. And I don't want to, Miss Moyat. He may have been prince or pedlar for anything I care."

"Well, he wasn't an ordinary person, after all," she declared, with an air of mystery. "Have you heard of the lady who's taken Braster Grange? She's a friend of Lord Blenavon's. He's always there."

"I have heard that there is such a person," I answered wearily.

"She's been making inquiries right and left--everywhere. There's a notice in yesterday's _Wells Gazette_, and a reward of fifty pounds for any one who can give any information about him sufficient to lead to identification."

"If you think," I said, "that you can earn the pounds, pray do not let me stand in your way."

She looked at me with a fixed intentness which I found peculiarly irritating.

"You don't think that I care about the fifty pounds," she said, coming over and standing by my chair.

"Then why take any notice of the matter at all?" I said. "All that you can disclose is that he came from the land and not from the sea, and that he asked where I lived. Why trouble yourself or me about the matter at all? There really isn't any necessity. Some one else probably saw him besides you, and they will soon find their way to this woman."

"It was only to me," she murmured, "that he spoke of you."

"Do you believe," I asked, "that I murdered him?"

She shuddered.

"No, of course I don't," she declared.

"Then why all this nervousness and mystery?" I asked. "I have no fear of anything which might happen. Why should you be afraid?"

"I am not afraid," she said slowly, "but there is something about it which I do not understand. Ever since that morning you have avoided me."

"Nonsense!" I exclaimed.

"It is not nonsense," she answered. "It is the truth. You used to come sometimes to see father--and now you never come near the place. It is--too bad of you," she went on, with a little sob. "I thought that after that morning, and my promising to do what you asked, that we should be greater friends than ever. Instead of that you have never been near us since. And I don't care who knows it. I am miserable."

She was leaning against the arm of my chair. It was clearly my duty to administer the consolation which the situation demanded. I realized, however, that the occasion was critical, and I ignored her proximity.

"Miss Moyat," I said, "I am sorry if asking you to tell that harmless little fib has made you miserable. I simply desired--"

"It isn't altogether that," she interrupted. "You know it isn't."

"You give me credit for greater powers of divination than I possess," I answered calmly. "Your father was always very kind to me, and I can assure you that I have not forgotten it. But I have work to do now, and I have scarcely an hour to spare. Mr. Moyat would understand it, I am sure."

The door was suddenly opened. Mrs. Moyat, fat and comely, came in. She surveyed us both with a friendly and meaning smile, which somehow made my cheeks burn. It was no fault of mine that Blanche had been hanging over my chair.

"Come," she said, "I'm sure I'm very glad to see you once more, Mr. Ducaine. Such a stranger as you are too! But you don't mean to sit in here without a fire all the afternoon, I suppose, Blanche. Tea is just ready in the dining-room. Bring Mr. Ducaine along, Blanche."

I held out my hand.

"I am sorry that I cannot stop, Mrs. Moyat," I said. "Good-afternoon, Miss Moyat."

She looked me in the eyes.

"You are not going," she murmured.

"I am afraid," I answered, "that it is imperative. I ought to have been at Rowchester long ago. We are too near neighbours, though, not to see something of one another again before long."

"Well, I'm sure there's no need to hurry so," Mrs. Moyat declared, backing out of the room. "Blanche, you see if you can't persuade Mr. Ducaine. Father'll be home early this evening, too."

"I think," Blanche said, "that Mr. Ducaine has made up his mind."

She walked with me to the hall door, but she declined to shake hands with me. Her appearance was little short of tragic. I think that at another time I might have been amused, for never in my life had I spoken more than a few courteous words to the girl. But my nerves were all on edge, and I took her seriously. I walked down the street, leaving her standing in the threshold with the door open as though anxious to give me a chance to return if I would. I looked back at the corner, and waved my hand. There was something almost threatening in the grim irresponsive figure, standing watching me, and making no pretence at returning my farewell--watching me with steady eyes and close-drawn brows.

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