Roger Sheringham and the Vane Mystery

Roger Sheringham and the Vane Mystery by Anthony Berkeley Read Free Book Online

Book: Roger Sheringham and the Vane Mystery by Anthony Berkeley Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anthony Berkeley
Tags: General Fiction
    Margaret dived into her bag and produced a little mirror. Sounds of dismay issued from her, and a powder puff was hastily brought into action.
    “That’s better,” she observed a minute or two later, scrutinising her image with close attention. She turned and faced Anthony with a frank smile that was a tacit acknowledgment of the bond between them. “Will you ever forgive me for making such an idiot of myself?”
    “Look here,” Anthony said slowly, “I don’t want to butt in on anything you don’t want to tell me, but wouldn’t you like to tell me the whole story? You know I’m only too anxious to do anything I possibly can to help you, and matters seem to be a bit – well, a bit more serious even than I’d thought. If you would like to let me know the whole circumstances –?”
    He paused, and the girl nodded understandingly. “You mean it’s no good asking you to help me unless you know what I’m up against?” she said thoughtfully. “Well, that stands to reason. Of course I’ll tell you. I was going to before as a matter of fact, only I –” She left the sentence unfinished and, hunching her knees, resumed her former pose and gazed out to sea.
    “Do you mind if I smoke?” Anthony asked, producing his pipe.
    “Of course not. In fact I rather feel I need a cigarette myself. No, don’t you bother!” she added quickly, as Anthony felt in his pockets. “I’ve got some of my own particular brand here, and I hardly ever smoke anything else.”
    She produced a cigarette-case from her bag, and Anthony held a match for her, lighting his own pipe from it afterward. She drew one or two deep inhalations and sighed contentedly.
    “Well, about myself; there’s really very little to tell you. Four months ago I was in London, broke to the wide – as I had been off and on for the last seven years. My father was an officer in the regular army; he was killed in France in 1917, when I was fifteen years old. I inherited about two hundred pounds from him and, of course, a pension; the pension was just enough to keep body and soul together if one lived on rice and cold water, but not much more.” She paused for a moment as if in thought.
    “Unfortunately,” she went on with a touch of cynicism, “it appears that my father had ‘married beneath him’. I don’t remember my mother at all (she died when I was a baby), but I believe that she was the daughter of a fraudulent bucket-shop proprietor in Liverpool who had served two terms of imprisonment and my father was more or less entrapped into marriage with her when he was a young subaltern. He never hinted a word of all this to me, by the way; don’t think that. He was a dear. But it’s been rubbed into me pretty thoroughly since by other charming people.”
    “I say,” Anthony put in in acute distres, “please don’t tell me anything you’d rather not. I mean –!”
    “Why not?” asked the girl in a hard voice. “Why shouldn’t I tell you everything? That police inspector seems to know all about it. Probably it will be in all the papers tomorrow.”
    “But –” Anthony shifted his position and relapsed into uncomfortable silence.
    “Well, the consequence was that my father had been cut off by his family. They wouldn’t have anything more to do with him. Nor would they with me. One of his brothers sent five hundred pounds to daddy’s solicitors to provide for my education and keep me till I was old enough to earn my own living, but that was as far as any of them would go. I’m not complaining; in the circumstances it was remarkably generous of him. That money, with my own two hundred, kept me till I was eighteen, after that I had to earn my own living. You’ve probably heard that girls had some difficulity in getting jobs after the war. It’s perfectly true. I was trained as a shorthand typist, but unfortunately nobody seemed to want a shorthand typist. But I got work all right. I had to. During the last three years I’ve

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