Put Out the Light - Ethel Lina White - ebook

Put Out the Light ebook

Ethel Lina White

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Ethel Lina White is a lover of intriguing stories. One of these is „Put Out the Light”. This is a terrible, exciting story of love, disappointment and jealousy, bred in a gloomy house on a hill. Florence Pye read in the cards, „Death to an old woman. Her prophesy came true, silently and violently in the depths of the night. What Miss Pie didn’t foresee was that she would find the body first.

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Liczba stron: 396

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Contents

I. THE SHADOW

II. THE VICTIM

III. AND SO TO BED

IV. THE CRUEL LOOKING-GLASS

V. LIONS

VI. NOCTURNAL

VII. DRESDEN CHINA

VII. THE JOKER

IX. AFTERMATH

X. ACCOUNT RENDERED

XI. THE SHADOW GROWS

XII. A BUSINESS TEST

XIII. PRELUDE

XIV. THE WILL

xv. IMMORTALITY

XVI. WOMAN TO WOMAN

XVII. A MUSEUM PIECE

XVIII. ANTHEA'S MIRROR

XIX. VIGIL

XX. MIRAGE

XXI. CASTLES IN SPAIN

XXII. A CHANGE OF HEART

XXIII. CRISIS

XXIV. FLOWERS FOR THE POLICE

XXV. THE FINAL CURTAIN

XXVI. THE DREAM

XXVII. ORDEAL

XXVIII. THE LIGHT GOES OUT

XXIX. THE FOOTMAN'S CIGARETTE

XXX. THE SPHINX SPEAKS

XXXI. INQUEST

XXXII. THE TIDE TURNS

XXXIII. ULTIMATUM

XXXIV. A BROKEN TEACUP

XXXV. BETSY

I. THE SHADOW

WHEN Miss Vine went to bed she was accompanied by her shadow thrown on the white marble wall.

At first, it was a blurred, servile shape, that slunk behind her, dogging her heel. Then it attained her own stature and grew clearer, keeping pace with her as a friendly silhouette.

But, at the bend of the staircase, it changed and became terrible. A monstrous distortion, it shot up–taller and taller–until it leaped over her head and rushed before her, to her own room.

At that moment, Miss Anthea Vine always felt afraid. In the turgid depths of her heart she knew that it was stealing on to search for that other darker shadow, which, one night, would be waiting for her...

By day, Oldtown was a homely huddle of roofs, clustering in a tree-lined valley; but, by night, it was a black bowl filled to the brim with shadows.

Timid, fluttering shadows; squat, swollen shadows; mean, sneaking shadows; starved, elongated shadows; poisonous, malignant shadows, they foamed up in the brew and overflowed the rim, into the streets–hiding in corners, stealing into windows, following people home.

Fighting the shadows, were the lights of Oldtown, which swarmed over the black bowl, like golden bees. It was easy to trace the chain of lamps in the High Street and the glowing dial of the Town Hall clock amid the chaotic straggle of the widely spaced illuminations.

One other light was distinct in character and received definite recognition. Every evening, at eleven o’clock, it glowed from out the left wing of the great pile of Jamaica Court. The porters at the hillside station always watched for it, as it was more punctual than their scheduled trains. In addition, it was informative, for it broadcast a parochial news bulletin.

Miss Anthea Vine was going to bed.

At twelve o’clock, to the stroke, the light went out.

II. THE VICTIM

“THAT’S a woman who’s going to be murdered.” Miss Pye spoke with calm authority, as she poured out the breakfast coffee, in the small dining room of the Cherry Orchard. She was fair, fat and she liked to be taken for forty. A pleasant woman, of strong character and sound common sense, she was fixed of purpose as the Pole Star, although she clouded her issue behind a Milky Way of words.

At the word “murder,” her brother, Superintendent Pye, pricked up his ears. He was bull-necked and massive in build, with great cheeks like ripe plums, and choleric blue eyes. His reputation was that of a good mixer and a competent football referee.

For generations his people had lived in Oldtown, where they had been, originally, landowners, and Pye, himself, was essentially of the soil. His present job was one of Fate’s misdeals. While he was in general request as judge, at every local dog show, the prevalent opinion was that, from long cold storage in Oldtown, his brain had mildewed.

Only his sister, Florence, believed in him; for she worshiped her Maker, in public, every Sunday, but she worshiped her brother, in private, every day of her life.

Oblivious of criticism, Pye’s ambition was static. He yearned to handle a subtle murder-mystery. And all Providence sent him was dog fights and drunks.

At his sister’s words he glanced across his garden, where the friable dark soil was spiked with the green tips of bulbs. On the tarred road stood two young men and a girl, engaged in noisy conversation. The youths presented a contrast in figure, as one was short, and thickset and the other, tall and slender. Both were well-dressed in conventional country style, and betrayed more than the usual correct slouch of boredom.

Only the back of their companion was visible to Pye, but her slim form, in its short tweed suit, held the allure and grace of girlhood. Her grass-green beret revealed short golden curls which glittered in the pale spring sunlight. As she poised on one toe she looked like the Spirit of Youth Triumphant–hovering for one golden moment of laughter, before she winged on her eternal flight.

Youth–never lingering–always passing on.

Superintendent Pye pointed to the girl’s back, with his pipe.

“D’you mean Miss Vine, Flo?”

“I do,” replied his sister. “She’s just asking for it. Carrying on with those boys, just like Queen Elizabeth.”

“No. Queen Elizabeth had quite a good brain–for a woman.”

As Pye spoke Miss Vine suddenly spun round on a slender stem of silken leg, revealing the painted, triangular face of an elderly woman.

He swallowed a gulp of repulsion.

“Murdered?” he grunted. “Well, she’d be the better for it. It might cure her complaint. Silly, vain old maid, pink and hollow as an Easter egg.”

His sister took no offense at his Gilbertian contempt for spinsterhood.

“You can’t call Miss Vine a fool,” she objected. “Think of the fortune she’s made.”

“Not she. Men have made her fortune for her. She’s lucky with her managers.”

“Well, doesn’t it show brains to get men to make money for her?”

“I call it a canker. She squeezes them dry and then sacks them. A very different kind of business woman to our Doris.”

Pye’s face beamed with pride as he mentioned his favourite younger sister–the proprietress of the Timberdale Arms. She had not only been a pretty girl, but, as the widow of Major Law, she had, at one time of her life, been honored by association with a man.

Miss Pye began to collect the china and stack it together on the tray. At a sudden gust of loud laughter from the road, she stood with a teacup in her hand.

“I wonder what she’s telling those boys,” she remarked.

“Some ripe, old-fashioned story, you bet,” grinned Pye. “They say that little lady can go one beyond the limit. Not that I’ve ever heard her. Not in her class.”

Miss Pye’s mild eyes gleamed fiercely behind her glasses.

“Does she patronize you?” she gasped.

The next second she had regained her calm.

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