The House in Lordship Lane - A.E.W. Mason - ebook

The House in Lordship Lane ebook

A.E.W. Mason

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The plump, middle-aged and ever-optimistic Inspector Gabriel Hanaud features in A.E.W. Mason’s detective fiction. This was the last outing for inspector Hanaud who was said to be one of the inspirations for Agatha Christie’s creation of Hercule Poirot. Julius Ricardo hitches a lift home across the English Channel to see his friend Inspector Hanaud and en route picks up an escapee from a prison ship, who holds a grudge against Daniel Horbury, M.P. When Horbury is found dead at his home in Lordship Lane, Inspector Hanaud and Ricardo assist Scotland Yard in the investigation, which also involves the owner of a shipping line. This is a classic Hanaud thriller that will not fail to delight crime fans everywhere.

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Liczba stron: 463

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Contents

Chapter 1. MR. RICARDO IN BRITTANY

Chapter 2. MEERSCHAUM

Chapter 3. MORDAUNT WRITES A LETTER

Chapter 4. “AGAMEMNON’S” BATH

Chapter 5. DANIEL HORBURY

Chapter 6. A WAKEFUL NIGHT

Chapter 7. THE LITTLE AFFAIR THREATENS TO BECOME THE BIG AFFAIR

Chapter 8. WHITE BARN: THE LOCKED DOOR

Chapter 9. THE UNSPOKEN WORD

Chapter 10. OLIVIA

Chapter 11. THE BLIND MAN’S DOG

Chapter 12. BIG BUSINESS AND SWITCHBACK BUSINESS

Chapter 13. FEARS, DOUBTS, CURIOSITY

Chapter 14. A MEETING IS ARRANGED

Chapter 15. SEPTIMUS READS A BOOK

Chapter 16. HANAUD SMOKES A CIGAR—OR DOES HE?

Chapter 17. THE TORN CARD

Chapter 18. THE HOLLY HEDGE

Chapter 19. THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING O. AND NOT D

Chapter 20. MORDAUNT READS A SIGNAL

Chapter 21. THE HOUSE WITH THE TAMARISKS

Chapter 22. MORDAUNT MAKES A BRILLIANT SUGGESTION

Chapter 23. HANAUD RETURNS AND ANOTHER

Chapter 24. AN UNLIKELY MEETING ON THE FAIRMILE

Chapter 25. AT ARKWRIGHT’S FARM

Chapter 26. TWO OF THE LITTLE ACCIDENTS

Chapter 27. SHATTERING QUESTIONS

Chapter 28. HANAUD BORROWS ROLLS-ROYCE NO. 2

Chapter 29. THE LETTER TO SEPTIMUS

Chapter 30. STRAWS IN THE WIND

Chapter 31. THE GRIM WORD

Chapter 32. COUNTERPLOTS

Chapter 33. GEORGE RETURNS

Chapter 34. THE LAST

Chapter 1. MR. RICARDO IN BRITTANY

MR. RICARDO sat on an iron chair at an iron table outside a Bar and drank with his coffee a sweet and heady liqueur. Yet he was exhilarated. “Nobody would believe it,” he said with a little giggle. But it was Brittany and summer time. “Browsing with. Browning in Brittany,” he alliterated wittily, “and so far I have been fortunate enough not to meet James Lee’s wife.” Mr. Ricardo was quite alone. He had sent his luggage home from Aix and with his suit-case, his fine big Rolls-Royce and his chauffeur was making a roundabout tour through Brittany to Cherbourg; whence by a transatlantic liner what was to him a preferable entry to England could be achieved. But the car had lurched and something had broken. For three days he must stay in this little town with the uncommon name. But his liner wasn’t due at Cherbourg for four days–and it was Brittany and summer time.

Moreover, this drowsy little square of Lezardrieux, with the raised terrace at which he sat, the three sides of shops and houses and the empty fourth, where a steep cliff of sand and bushes dropped to the pool of the Lezardrieux river, made a sharp appeal to him. It was operatic. Below the brow of the hill, he could almost hear the conductor tap with his baton for attention. That boy in the bright red shirt strolling across the square might at any moment burst into song. But it would only have made an anti-climax if he had. For the stout, middle-aged woman who had waddled out from the Bar with a big letter in her hand was now at Mr. Ricardo’s elbow.

“You gave my estaminet as your address at Lezardrieux, sir?”

“I telegraphed it,” Mr. Ricardo agreed. “I had not yet found a lodging in the town.”

“Then this letter is for you, perhaps. There is another English gentleman....”

“Captain Mordaunt. Yes. He owns the small yacht in the Pool. Perhaps if you would let me see the letter, I could tell you for which of us it comes.”

For the woman, in her desire that so unusual an occurrence as a letter should not miscarry, was clasping it tightly to her bosom. As she showed the face of it, Mr. Ricardo recognised the hand which had written it.

“It’s for me,” he cried with a little whoop of excitement. He snatched the envelope from her reluctant hand and tore it open. He read:

My dear friend,

I accuse the reception of your invitation..., and sat back, reflecting with toleration, “Yes, he would accuse something–it’s his nature to–and I have no doubt that he has signed his name like a peer of England.” He turned to the back of the letter. There it was. “Hanaud”–just “Hanaud”–the name of terror.

“Really, really,” Mr. Ricardo said to himself and the smile of amusement passed from his lips.

After all, it was a year since he had invited Chief Inspector Hanaud of the Paris Sûreté to spend a holiday in Grosvenor Square. Hanaud could have accused the reception of his letter a year ago. But he had not accused it. He had kept it on the chance that he might want to accuse it at a later time. And the time had come.

“But I don’t know,” said Mr. Ricardo indignantly, as he turned to the lady of the estaminet. “It is Madame Rollard, is it not?”

It certainly was Madame Rollard, as she assured him. But Mr. Ricardo was not thinking of Madame Rollard. He hit the offending letter with his knuckles.

“These are not manners.”

“No?”

“No.”

“I do not keep a lodging house.”

“No?”

“Definitely no.”

Madame Rollard shook her head as though she had fathomed his troubles, and at each shake her body wobbled like a jelly.

“I must consider,” said Mr. Ricardo truculently.

“Yes, yes,” said Madame. “There must be thought, and no doubt Calvados to encourage it;” and she waddled back to her bar.

Over his second Calvados, Mr. Ricardo read the rest of Hanaud’s letter, and one sentence in it dispersed all his irritation: “Besides the holiday, there is a little thing I have to do, a little perplexity I have to make clear, in which I shall ask for your help.” The letter fluttered down upon Mr. Ricardo’s knees, and he drew in a breath and his face lost ten years of its age. Those little perplexities! Didn’t he know them? He would be insulted, ridiculed, outraged, baffled, humiliated, used. Yet there would be thrills, excitements, perils. Life would become once more a topaz instead of a turquoise. He would be helping to track great criminals to their doom. He and Hanaud, or, more probably, Hanaud and he.

Mr. Ricardo turned again to the letter; and in a few moments sprang to his feet. Hanaud would travel by the Channel steamer to Dover to-morrow. He would reach London by five, Grosvenor Square by five-thirty. But here was Ricardo, marooned in Lezardrieux. He rushed to the Post Office and sent off a telegram to his housekeeper. If only he were volatile enough to travel on that same beam! There was a midnight ship from Havre, but he couldn’t reach Havre. He came back into the square. Oh, he couldn’t sit in that iron chair by that iron table for two more days and, frankly, however much enthusiasm for Brittany might have hidden the truth from him at the beginning, he did not like Calvados. In despair he walked to the edge of the square and looked down into the pool. There were fishing boats drawn up on the beach, fishing boats afloat at anchor, and amongst them–yes, undoubtedly–a small ketch yacht. The water in the pool was so deep that the ketch was moored close enough under the hill to escape a careless eye. But to Mr. Ricardo’s envious gaze, the lustrous black paint of its sides, its white deck and burnished brass were as explicit as a dictionary.

“If I only owned it,” cried Mr. Ricardo, noting, to be sure, how calm was the air and the sky how cloudless.

And lo! there was a stir upon the deck. The ketch was slowly beginning to swing her bows towards the sea. Three men clambered from the fo’c’sle, removed the covers from the sails and the wheel and pulled the dinghy in to the starboard side.

Mr. Ricardo looked over his shoulder and saw Captain Mordaunt walking across the square to the path which slanted down the sand cliff to the beach.

“Captain Mordaunt,” he said, stepping to his side. Mr. Ricardo remembered him as a retired Captain of Grenadiers who passed from cocktail party to cocktail party but had no intimates; a man dissatisfied, jealous, with a grudge against the world. But there was no sign of discontent about him now. His face had smoothed out, there was a smile upon his lips, a friendliness in his manner.

“Yes, Mr. Ricardo.”

Ricardo looked down at the river. A hand was sculling the dinghy towards the beach.

“That is your ketch.”

Mordaunt nodded his head.

“Agamemnon,” he said with a laugh. “There was a time when trawler-owners fancied high-sounding names. I didn’t change it when I bought her. But I added a bathroom.”

“Very convenient,” said Mr. Ricardo primly.

“Inevitable,” returned Captain Mordaunt. “Agamemnon without a bathroom? He would be alive now.”

Mr. Ricardo, whose acquaintance with the classics was limited, felt it prudent to titter. He added:

“You are crossing to England?”

Captain Mordaunt became wary. He looked at the sky; he looked at Mr. Ricardo.

“You would like a passage?”

“Yes.”

Captain Mordaunt nodded his head.

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