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Enter Bryan Devisher, over the side of the ketch in which Mordaunt was taking Mr. Julius Ricardo home to London on the summons of his old friend, Inspector Hanaud of the Paris Surete and the English ‘idioms.’ Exit, Devisher and Mordaunt. Enter Daniel Horbury. Exit Daniel Horbury-violently, with his throat slit in the garden room of the House in Lordship Lane, with Olivia, his wife, locked in her bedroom upstairs. Enter Septimus Crottle, patriarchal, tough old shipowner ; and the Crottle family, at a Sunday evening reading attended by Hanaud and Ricardo. Re-enter Mordaunt and Devisher-in Cairo. Exit Septimus Crottle, mysteriously ; re-enter Hanaud, hurriedly ; re-enter Sep. .nus, with all the toughness gone. But the house ?n Lordship Lane has never gone out of the story, and the master-craftsman brings us back to it at the end. And, when you read what really had happened in the garden room that night when Olivia drove her husband down to Lordship Lane, you remember the ejaculation of one reviewer, ‘What a work of art a thriller can be!’
369 pages, with a reading time of ~5.75 hours (92,299 words), and first published in 1946. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2016.
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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 Sureté 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.”
“I do not keep a lodging house.”
“Definitely no.” 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.