The Viper - Hulbert Footner - ebook

The Viper ebook

Hulbert Footner

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Opis

A collection of crime fiction short stories featuring Mme. Rosika Storey and her resourceful assistant Bella Brickley. Mme. Storey unravels complex cases with thorough investigation and an understanding of human nature. Her way to resolve the mystery is original and bring you in a new world. She is Madame Storey, like Sherlock has fantastic powers of deduction and understanding of psychology, and her secretary is like Watson though she does’t have a degree in medicine. These short stories are written through Bella Brickley’s point-of-view. It is definitely recommended for a wide circle of readers who want to have a couple of hours of fascinating reading.

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Contents

THE VIPER

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

THE STEERERS

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

THE HANDSOME YOUNG MEN

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

XI

XII

THE VIPER

I

It was on the very morning of Mme Storey’s sailing for Paris for her annual vacation that Mrs. Daniel Greenfield came to our office. When I heard the name she gave I looked at her with an extraordinary interest. One of our most famous philanthropists, her name is on everybody’s lips, but as she has always refused to allow a photograph of herself to be published, scarcely anybody knows what she looks like.

Well, I beheld an exquisite little old lady who looked more like a French marquise than the wife of an American millionaire. Decidedly a personality. She was so fragile she was obliged to support herself with an ebony stick, nevertheless, not an old lady who was asking for the consideration due to age. She met you on your own ground. Her dark eyes were still full of spirit, yes, and of beauty too, though she must have been close upon seventy. Her lovely clothes drew a nice line between the dignity of an older fashion and the modishness of the new. All in black, of course, for her husband was lately dead, but she eschewed the ostentatious widow’s veil. She was accompanied by a nurse, or companion, a pleasant-faced woman, who had nothing of the usual dehumanized look of those who wait upon the rich. She was unaffectedly devoted to her mistress, which is something money can’t usually buy.

At the moment Mme Storey was as busy as a nailer, trying to clear her desk preparatory to taking a taxicab to the pier, but one doesn’t send a Mrs. Daniel Greenfield away. I carried her name in, and my mistress came out to greet her. Apparently they had not met before.

“I read in my newspaper this morning that you were sailing on the Majestic at noon,” little Mrs. Greenfield said, with a great lady’s disarming air of apology, “and I yielded to a sudden impulse to come to see you. I know I have no business to be troubling you at such a moment. I can only throw myself on your mercy. I assure you it is a matter of the most urgent importance–at least to me. Can you give me a few minutes?”

Her wistfulness, the wistfulness of a child, or of the very old, melted Mme Storey entirely. “An hour if necessary,” she said at once.

Mme Storey led the way into her own room, and I went along after them. Mrs. Greenfield’s companion remained sitting in my room.

“I assume that you wish to consult me professionally,” Mme Storey said. “If that is so, you will not object to my secretary Miss Brickley being present. She will make the necessary notes.”

Mrs. Greenfield accepted me with a courteous bow. So different from many of the men who come to consult us! We seated ourselves, I with my notebook. The sight of the great room made my heart heavy, thinking of the empty days ahead. I do not enjoy vacations. All the room’s beauties were packed away or shrouded in cottons. Giannino had gone to board at the veterinary’s. I would even have been glad to hear Giannino’s chatter, the provoking little ape!

When the beautiful old lady applied herself to the telling of her business, one perceived that she was greatly harassed and worn. Her charm of address upon entering had hidden that. One received the impression of a great trouble proudly kept to herself. I remembered having read that she had no children. Poor lonely soul, that was why she had tried to adopt all the unfortunates.

“I must school myself to be very direct and brief,” she began. “They say it is hard for the old. It is in relation to the death of my husband that I came to see you. You may have read of it–eight months ago?”

Mme Storey inclined her head.

“He had an apoplectic seizure in his office. He died instantly.” The delicate wrinkled hands were trembling, but the voice was steady. “It is only fair to tell you at the start that there were no suspicious circumstances. There was an–an–I must speak of these things–an autopsy. The cause of his death was certainly a cerebral hemorrhage. Moreover, his affairs, as you may know, were found to be in perfect order, yet–yet–ah! do not smile at me even in kindness! Do not in your own mind dismiss my story yet awhile! I am haunted by the conviction that he did not die a natural death!”

Mme Storey’s beautiful face was soft and grave with sympathy. It expressed no surprise. As for me, I was one great Oh! inside. A mystery in the death of Daniel Greenfield! Here was a case indeed!

“I never make up my mind in advance about things,” said Mme Storey quietly. “What reason have you–”

“Ah, that’s the rub!” the old lady interrupted her despairingly. “I have no reason. I have only a feeling!”

“Well, I do not overrate reason,” said my mistress. “I should not have used that word.”

“I have no evidence,” Mrs. Greenfield went on. “I have nothing but a dumb conviction in here”–she struck her breast–“that my husband was murdered–somehow. A conviction that will not be downed. Oh, I assure you I have struggled against it, argued with myself. It makes no difference. There it remains in my breast. I feel that he was murdered. I have spoken of my feelings to one or two men that I trusted–his best friend, a lawyer, a doctor–only to be listened to with a pitying smile. They tried to soothe me! What a humiliating experience! But men must have evidence!…Ah, don’t you pretend to sympathize and send me away. Hear me out–question me. You are my last hope. I wish I had come to you before. This thing is killing me–no, that is nothing; what is life to me now?–Worse, it’s driving me out of my senses. I cannot go mad. I must remain cool and sane. If he was murdered, it is for me to live to see that his murderess is brought to justice. Then I could go in peace!”

“I am not a man,” said Mme Storey softly. “You will not find me deafening my ears to the inward voices.”

“Ah, thank you for that!” cried the old lady in a tone of heartfelt relief. “It is the first crumb of comfort I have had!”

“You said murderess,” said Mme Storey. “Your suspicions have, then, a definite object?”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Greenfield. “His secretary. Her name is Margaret Gowan.”

“Tell me all about her,” said Mme Storey.

As my mistress applied her mind to the case, her eyes sought the cigarette box desirously, but she refrained from helping herself. But the sharp-eyed old lady marked her glance and its direction, and she said quickly:

“Pray smoke, Madame Storey. Your cigarettes are famous. I am not narrow-minded.”

“A detestable habit,” said Mme Storey apologetically. “I am thoroughly ashamed of it.” Nevertheless, she took a cigarette and, lighting it, luxuriously inhaled.

“Miss Gowan worked for my husband for twelve years,” said Mrs. Greenfield. “She was an admirable secretary in every respect. Daniel relied on her completely. He was never tired of singing her praises.”

“But you did not like her?” suggested Mme Storey.

“Ah, don’t say that!” cried Mrs. Greenfield with quick reproachfulness. “That shows you are thinking the same that those men thought when I spoke to them of her, that it was just another case of an old woman’s jealousy of her husband’s young secretary. I assure you, Madame Storey, it is nothing of that sort. You must believe me. She was not at all the kind of young woman to make a wife anxious: a quiet, capable, businesslike person, nothing of the ‘charmer’ about her. She lacked that–well, you know what I mean–that appeal.” Old as she was, and broken with trouble, Mrs. Greenfield’s fine eyes still flashed with remembered power. “No, indeed! My mind was never troubled on that score. But she was deep!–deep! Ah, much deeper than Daniel ever guessed! Sometimes that thought used to cross my mind uncomfortably, but I liked the girl. I was grateful to her for easing my husband’s burden. It allowed him more time to spend with me. No shadow of a suspicion that anything was wrong ever crossed my mind until after his death.”

“And then?”

“It was the day of the funeral,” said Mrs. Greenfield, her eyes darkening at the recollection. “I did not go downstairs. Miss Gowan sent up word to ask if I cared to see her. My heart was full of kindness toward her, they told me she had acted so splendidly, and I said by all means. And she came up. When she entered my room–how can I describe it to you?–something seemed to enter with her. When she came near me a strange rage seized and shook me. I was taken by surprise. A dreadful unthinking feeling. I could have attacked her had I been stronger. I wept at my own powerlessness. Yet her attitude was admirable. Everybody spoke of it: so quiet and capable and self-effacing; so sympathetic, so helpful, so unaffectedly saddened by her own loss. That is what everybody said. Well, everybody does not see very far. I saw in her demure and downcast eyes that she had killed my husband and was glad of her work. And I wished to kill her!”

The old lady paused, breathless and exhausted with emotion. How strange it was to see so much raw emotion in one so old and so elegant. It upset one’s sense of values.

“Describe her appearance to me,” said Mme Storey.

“That is difficult,” said Mrs. Greenfield with contemptuous lips. “Nothing much to describe. A little woman; light brown hair, watchful gray eyes, repressed mouth. Not pretty; not ill-favoured, either. She must be about thirty-two now, but she scarcely looks it. There is nothing in her face to betray the passage of time. Looking back, one feels that she willed herself to be neutral, inconspicuous. I apprehend an iron will in the insignificant little creature. In what she revealed she was nothing but a reflection of my husband’s tastes and wishes and ideas.

“Sometimes I used to wonder what sort of a life she led apart from my husband. Not much, apparently. Anyway, not on the surface. When this happened I had her investigated without telling anybody. The result was negligible. Apparently she has led an exemplary life–taking care of an invalid mother for years. Since the death of her mother has lived in the same boarding house for seven years. Apparently satisfied with the casual contacts she obtained there. A quiet, studious little person; no expensive tastes; no love affairs. In short, a life as open as the day. If you are interested, I will send you a copy of the report I received upon her.”

“Please do,” said Mme Storey.

“Have I conveyed anything to you?” Mrs. Greenfield went on. “But wait! She had one characteristic she could not modify: a peculiar walk; stiff-kneed and rising on her toes. One might call it a strut. Like this.” The brisk old lady arose from her chair, and, as far as the infirmities of age would permit, proceeded to illustrate.

“I suppose Miss Gowan was of great assistance in settling up your husband’s affairs,” suggested Mme Storey.

“Oh, invaluable!” said Mrs. Greenfield. “The lawyers and the accountants could not praise her enough. All the details of my husband’s affairs were at her finger tips. My husband was a peculiar man in some respects. In business he had no close associates, no advisers, no confidants. He kept no regular books. It was a saying downtown that Daniel Greenfield carried all his business under his hat. Yet the girl guided the lawyers unerringly in their investigation. And everything was always found to be just as she said it would be. Nothing was obscure, nothing unaccounted for, they said…To me there was one suspicious circumstance, but I have not mentioned it to anybody. It is susceptible of many explanations, of course.”

“Tell me,” said Mme Storey.

The old lady lowered her head as if overcome by a painful recollection. “A few days before I lost my husband,” she murmured, “he said one night, jestingly–he said that if he died that night he would cut up–such were his words, about ten million clear. Yet when everything was settled up there was only about nine million. It seems strange he should have made so great an error.”

“I agree with you,” said Mme Storey.

“Then you think–you really think my story is worth investigating?” Mrs. Greenfield asked with a rather piteous eagerness.

“I do,” said Mme Storey simply.

The old lady partly broke down. She put a hand over her eyes. “Ah, it is sweet to find honest sympathy, understanding,” she murmured. “Until now I often wondered if I was indeed mad.”

“Tell me,” said Mme Storey, “what did the lawyers have to start from in order to prove and trace and check up his property?”

“Nothing but a little red notebook,” said Mrs. Greenfield. “What they call a loose-leaf notebook. It was kept in his own handwriting. It was a sort of statement of his assets on one side and his liabilities on the other. Whenever the statement got too much marked up to be legible, he would start fresh pages and destroy the old ones. Although he was so well off, he always owed a great deal of money here and there. Why, I never quite understood. Making other people’s money work for him, he would say with his laugh.”

“Was there any other writing in the little book?” asked Mme Storey.

“He used to make random notes in the back and destroy them when the occasion had passed.”

“Where was the little red book found?”

“In the breast pocket of the coat he was wearing.”

“Was it always kept there?”

“I think so. He would often pull it out and read to me what securities he had bought or sold. It pleased us both to talk over such matters, though I am afraid I had but a very imperfect understanding of the transactions.”

“That little red book is still in existence?”

“Oh, yes. Furthermore, I insisted that all his business papers, the contents of his letter files, everything must be saved.”

“Excellent!” said Mme Storey. “One obvious question. Was Miss Gowan remembered in your husband’s will?”

“No. Several years ago he proposed to make her a legacy, but upon speaking of it to her she evinced such distress–even anger, he said–that he changed his mind. He was much pleased by the spirit in which she received the proposal. He raised her salary instead.”

“Ah!” said Mme Storey drily. “Her unwillingness to receive a legacy might have had another motive.”

“I understand you,” said Mrs. Greenfield, very low. “Do you think for years past she had been plotting…?”

“Oh, I think nothing yet,” said Mme Storey. “I am merely suggesting possibilities…You say you read that I was sailing to-day. What was there in that announcement to bring you to see me?”

All during the old lady’s story my mind had been running ahead, speculating on what effect it would have on Mme Storey’s plans. It seemed too much to hope that she would cancel her vacation. I listened now with avid ears.

“I have been hesitating for a long while about consulting you,” said Mrs. Greenfield. “The reference to your vacation in Paris decided me in a hurry. There seemed to be something providential in it. Miss Gowan is in Paris. At least, that was her ostensible destination when she sailed away two months ago.”

My hopes went down. Nothing in this for me.

“Ah, gone abroad,” said Mme Storey.

“She took care that it had nothing of the look of a flight,” said the old lady. “All during the months while the estate was being settled, she remained here in New York holding herself at the disposal of the lawyers and accountants…She came to bid me good-bye before she left.” Mrs. Greenfield’s lip curled in bitter scorn. “I managed to conceal my feelings. She said that she felt she owed it to herself to take a long vacation before she looked for another position. That made me very angry, but I said nothing. Because it was not my husband’s fault that she had had no vacation. He was always urging her to take one, and she refused.”

“She had never taken a vacation?” asked Mme Storey.

“Well, not in a good many years. But when we travelled she went with us; when we went to the country she accompanied us. And when my husband was away from his office she had almost nothing to do. Just looked after his mail.”

“So she went to Paris?”

“Yes. She said she had ten thousand dollars that she had saved out of her salary, and she meant to live in Paris until it was spent.”

“And you want me to…?”

“To find her,” said Mrs. Greenfield beseechingly. “They say you can read souls. Open the book of her soul and tell me what is written there.”

“I’m afraid I am scarcely the magician you credit me with being,” said Mme Storey soberly. “But I will do what I can.”

“Ah, thank you, my dear!” said the old lady with tears in her eyes.

Mme Storey glanced at her watch. “I wish I had another day,” she said, “But I can’t change my ship. It’s simply impossible to get berths at this season. We’ll contrive somehow. After I have gone, one of my assistants, Mr. Crider, will call upon you. You will please give him the notebook, also the report you received on Miss Gowan, and any other evidence he may call for from time to time. His job will be to make a further investigation of her antecedents; to discover if she is corresponding with her acquaintances in this country, and to obtain a photograph of her to send me.”

“Please do not take it amiss if I speak of money,” said Mrs. Greenfield diffidently. “I am sure you understand that it is nothing to me what this girl may have stolen. It is the other thing: to clear that up I will gladly spend every penny I have. As for yourself…”

“There will be no difficulty about that,” said Mme Storey carelessly. “I have my living to make, and I shall send you a bill, of course. But I am taking this case on its merits. Make your mind easy. I promise you, before we are through, we will either lay your doubts or prove them.”

“Ah, you have taken a load off me already!” said Mrs. Greenfield. “The loneliness of mind was the worst. If everyone believes you mad, you might as well be mad. I feel that I have found a friend. That is an event in one’s life!”

After she had gone Mme Storey sat for a few moments in a deep study, stabbing her desk blotter with a pencil. Then she lighted a fresh cigarette and smiled at me in the way that invites comment. I felt obliged to speak up for prudence.

“Are you sure that this conviction of hers may not after all be the product of a mind disordered by grief?”

“I am sure of nothing, Bella,” she said, smiling.

“According to her own story, everything is against it,” I pointed out.

“That is just what appeals to me. It brings up the old and never-to-be-settled controversy between reason and intuition. You know what side I fight on, Bella. I’m for intuition.”

“How are you going to find her?” I said. “Paris is a city of how many millions of souls?”

“But the American colony is like a gossipy village. If she’s spending money I shall hear of her at once.”

We both glanced involuntarily at our watches. It lacked just fifty minutes of sailing time.

“Bella,” drawled Mme Storey in that tone she adopts when she wishes to plague me, “if I’ve got to work in Paris, you must come along with me.”

My heart at the same time began to pound and flutter. My breath was taken away. I suppose I looked at my mistress like one moonstruck, for she laughed merrily.

“Why not? You’re a free and unattached female like myself. Just telephone your landlady that you’ll mail her a check in advance for your rent. We’ll write out Crider’s instructions on the ship and send it ashore by the pilot.”

“But–but my things?” I stammered.

“You’ll have to share mine. My maid will make the necessary alterations. In Paris we’ll get you a new outfit. I’ve always wanted a chance to dress you, Bella.”

“Every berth on the ship is sold.”

“Yes, but I’m doing myself the luxury of a sitting room this trip. You shall bunk there. Fortunately, you have a passport. We’ll have it visaed on the way to the pier. We can just make it. Leave everything as it stands.”

I was silenced. I flew about locking things. I felt like a woman in a dream. Paris! Paris! Paris! was ringing in my ears like a chime. Sober, matter-of-fact me going to Paris! And with my beloved mistress! Well as I knew her, and many as had been our shared adventures, I guessed that there was a Rosika Storey in Paris that I did not know, and the most delightful of all, perhaps. I don’t suppose I shall ever recapture the bliss of that moment. Oh, well, once was something!

II

The next six days passed in a dream of delight: the sunny sea, the spaces of the mighty liner, the amusing human show, the luxury that lapped us–Mme Storey and I actually had our own tiny private veranda on deck; one felt one’s self translated to an urbaner sphere. Mme Storey condescended to fascinate the captain, and our voyage was made very pleasant. Nowadays one must go to sea for real undisturbed luxury; on shore life is full of discomforts even for the affluent.

And then Paris! Paris in June! Out-of-doors Paris! Paris under the night sky! Déjeuner at the Pavilion d’Armenonville in the Bois: dinner on Montmartre: ices, and such ices, any time of the day or night, at the Café de la Paix, the centre of the world! Paris, where you may ride in taxicabs as much as ever you want for the price of trolley rides at home! Oh, Paris was more than ever a heaven for Americans at this time, with francs at seventeen to the dollar! It was really a sin not to drink champagne with every meal. But I must not say anything more about its effect on me. I am telling another story now.

That story recommences on the seventh day, when I found myself lunching beside a window at Meurice’s between Mme Storey and Mrs. Wynn Charlton: the latter a name to conjure with among Americans in Paris. I should say in the beginning that Mme Storey passed as a lady of leisure in Paris. Nothing was known of her professional activities. I was regarded as her friend. Mme Storey was at my right, Mrs. Charlton at my left, and I, facing the window, looked out on the Rue de Rivoli under the arcade, with the Jardins des Tuileries across the street. The world was full of sunshine, and I felt like pinching myself to see if this was really I. What is, I suppose, the best-dressed crowd in the world, streamed by under the arcade. Mostly Americans. The Rue de Rivoli in June is theirs. I couldn’t tell you what we ate. It was brought, and it was taken away as in a dream.

This Mrs. Wynn Charlton was a remarkable woman. By sheer force of determination she got herself accepted as beautiful and clever. She had a lot of money, though, that helped. At the moment the most remarkable thing about her was her hat. A tall-crowned hat set at a rakish angle with three upright feathers in contrasting shades. Everybody turned around to look at that hat. A stroke of genius–but not Mrs. Charlton’s genius. From under the brim of it her little eyes peered at you in a way that was intended to be languorous and alluring. The exotic was her note; but when she became excited she forgot and talked like a buzzing aëroplane. In a word, Paris engrafted upon Waterbury, Conn.

My dear mistress created a sensation of another sort. Whoso liked to be astonished stared at Mrs. Charlton’s hat; whoso loved beauty offered the tribute of his glances to Mme Storey. I understood at once why she loved Paris so: it was her natural element; she seemed to expand and to glow in that air. With a sure instinct she dressed more plainly in Paris than in New York. We are all beauty lovers, but the French are less tender minded than we; less apt to accept the pretentious at its own valuation. Masters of dress, they see through it. Mme Storey, in her sand-coloured turban and straight brown dress, was beauty, and in Paris she received her due.

She had desired to hear the latest gossip of the American colony, and Mrs. Charlton was giving her an earful. It would require pages to set it all down, even if I could remember it all. I shall give you only that part which has to do with the story.

“There’s a newcomer,” said Mrs. Charlton, “a sensation, not only in our set, but tout Paris. A Mrs. J. Eben Smith of Ypsilanti, Mich. Mysterious. Entirely alone; antecedents unknown. But as far as that goes the antecedents of most everybody over here is–or should I say are? That’s what makes Paris so fascinating. You never know. I suppose Smith must be her real name, because nobody would ever choose such an alias.”

“A clever woman might,” murmured Mme Storey, “just for that reason.”

“Well, anyway, Gertie de Vimoutier wrote to the postmaster at Ypsilanti asking about her, and got an answer back saying he had never heard of such a person. Gertie is always doing things like that, and then telling about them. She has no sense of fitness. Anyway, Mrs. Smith should worry. Her money is real.”

“Money?” said Mme Storey, cocking an eyebrow.

“Lashings, my dear. And no encumbrances, apparently. Some women have all the luck…A strange woman! None of us can make her out. She’s something to talk about. Nobody can understand why such a woman was ever attracted to Paris.”

“Why not her as well as another woman?” asked Mme Storey. With her chin on her palm my mistress mused smilingly, just dropping a question now and then to keep Mrs. Charlton keyed up.

“Well, my dear, sexless. Fancy that in this age of sex. A married woman (at least, she says she is) well over thirty years old, who still sports a virginal, remote air. Why, that sort of thing went out in the ‘nineties. What does she want to come to Paris for? A Frenchman wouldn’t know what to do with her. And our men are more French than the French, if you know what I mean.”

“Well, she had to go somewhere,” said Mme Storey, smiling.

“A strange woman, I tell you,” insisted Mrs. Charlton; “she’s not pretty, she has no allure, she’s dumb as an oyster, yet in two months already she’s a success.”

“Two months?” said Mme Storey, glancing at me. Of course we couldn’t know as yet that we were on the track of our quarry, but it was amusing to listen to Mrs. Charlton.

“…A success!” she rattled on. “She’s in our set, and none of us can tell just how she got in. Sort of insinuated herself. Of course she has money. And there’s nothing blatant about her. She can keep her mouth shut. The most significant set in Paris if I do say it. You know. The leading American women, and the ultra-ultra young French artists. Everything starts in our set. Why, my dear–”

“But about Mrs. Smith,” prompted my mistress softly. “How do you account for her success?”

“Well, she’s had the wit to put herself in the hands of the best men in Paris. Craqui raves over her type. I suppose it’s really her absence of type that appeals to him. Being a nullity he can make whatever he likes of her. At any rate, Mrs. Smith is his pet this season; all his best designs are for her.”

“His mistress?”

“No, indeed! I told you the woman was sexless. It is a purely artistic relation. They say that Craqui does her hair himself, and makes up her face in harmony with the costumes he designs for her. I assure you the ensembles are marvellous–marvellous! Egyptian, Chinese, or Central African effects. A lay figure on which Craqui spends all his art. Once it would have been thought outlandish, but nowadays you can’t go too far. Everybody thought Craqui was spoiled by rich American tourists, but, after all, there is nobody like him. In Mrs. J. Eben Smith’s gowns Craqui has come back. The woman creates a sensation wherever she appears, and that’s all she does do, just appears.”

“What’s her colouring?” asked Mme Storey.

“Originally her hair was a lifeless light brown, I believe, but now, my dear! various new shades of red and gold woven together! It must be dyed strand by strand. The effect is astonishing. It never occurred to anybody before to dye their hair several shades at once. It’s bound to become the rage…Her eyes are a cold gray; extraordinarily steady, cold, contemptuous eyes; basilisk eyes; gives you the shivers to look into them. Smudged in and elongated with make-up, the effect is snaky in the extreme. Somebody does wonderful things to her with make-up; curious shadows about the lips that give the effect of petulance; a dead pallor with just a tinge of bistre; one eyebrow a little higher than the other. Oh, chic! chic! my dear! The sort of thing you can’t copy!”

By this time Mme Storey and I had a strong suspicion that we need seek no further.

“Is she a particular friend of yours?” Mme Storey asked carelessly.

“A particular friend of nobody’s, my dear. Everybody knows her and nobody knows her. Men like to be seen with her, she looks so expensive, but her silences, her basilisk eyes, make them uneasy. She doesn’t play up. It’s just as well, perhaps, that she is silent. Rochechouart told me they were lunching at Laperouse’s, and in the midst of one of her sphinxlike silences, when he was wondering whether she was dreaming about voodoo or the lovers she had thrown to the crocodiles of the Nile, she looked down in her plate and said: ‘Say, Prince, these peas are so green!’…But you can’t believe a word Hélie de Rochechouart says.

“I saw her first at the Jockey. That’s a little place on the Boulevard Montparnasse where we go. New place since you were here, dear. It’s Boué Say’s hangout, and Exeideuil’s and Dun le Roi’s and Amasa Ounce’s. The most advanced set in Paris. I don’t know who brought her the first time. That night she was swathed in batik draperies representing tortoise shell with a necklace of enormous topazes and a peacock fan. Everybody in the room knew that Paris had a new celebrity when she entered with her stiff jerky little walk–a sort of a cross between the gait of an empress and incipient locomotor ataxia–but women don’t have locomotor ataxia, do they? Anyhow, like everything else about her, it was effective.”

Mme Storey and I exchanged another glance. We were sure now.

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This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.