فصل 19

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فصل 19

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Chapter nineteen

Mary Rees-Talbot greeted Colonel Race with a cry of delight. ‘My dear! I haven’t seen you since you disappeared so mysteriously from Allahabad that time. Why are you here? You never make social visits. Come on, tell me the truth.’

Race smiled. ‘Is Betty Archdale the maid who let me in?’

‘Don’t tell me she’s a dangerous European spy!’

‘No, no. She’s just a parlourmaid. But I think she may be able to tell me something.’

‘I’m sure you’re right. She’s the kind of servant who always manages to be passing by when there’s anything interesting going on. What do you want me to do?’

‘Offer me a drink, then call for Betty and order it.’

‘And when Betty brings it? ‘

‘Then please go away.’

‘Oh, all right, then. I’ll play!’

Mrs Rees-Talbot rang the bell for Betty and asked her to bring Colonel Race a whisky and soda. When Betty returned with the drink on a tray, Mrs Rees-Talbot was standing by the door.

‘Colonel Race has some questions to ask you,’ she said, and went out.

Betty looked at the tall, grey-haired soldier with alarm. He took the glass from the tray and smiled. ‘Have you seen the papers today?’ he asked.

‘Yes, sir,’ she said, cautiously.

‘Did you read that Mr George Barton died last night at the Luxembourg Restaurant? ‘

‘Oh, yes, sir.’ Betty’s eyes sparkled with pleasure at the chance to discuss the public scandal. ‘Wasn’t it dreadful?’

‘You were in service with the Bartons, weren’t you?’

‘Yes, sir. I left soon after Mrs Barton died. Was Mr Barton murdered, too? The papers didn’t say exactly.’

‘Why do you say “too”, Betty? Mrs Barton’s death was judged to be a suicide.’

She glanced at him doubtfully. ‘Yes, sir.’

‘Didn’t you think it was?’

‘No, sir. Not really.’

‘Why not? ‘

‘Well,’ Betty hesitated. ‘It was something I heard one day.’

‘Yes?’ he encouraged her.

‘Well, I would never go and listen at a door, or anything, but I was going through the hall carrying a tray, and the parlour door wasn’t shut, and Mrs Barton and Mr Browne were speaking quite loudly. She said something about Anthony Browne not being his name. And Mr Browne threatened to cut her face. Then he said if she didn’t do what he told her, he would murder her! I didn’t hear any more, because Miss Iris was coming down the stairs. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but after Mrs Barton committed suicide at that party, and I heard Mr Browne had been there at the time - well, it scared me!’

‘But you didn’t say anything?’

She shook her head. ‘I didn’t want to get mixed up with the police. And perhaps if I had said anything, I would have been murdered, too! And, anyway, it might have been a joke. Mr Browne was always joking, so I couldn’t tell, sir, could I?’

Race agreed that she couldn’t. ‘Mrs Barton said Browne wasn’t his real name. Did she mention his real name?’

‘Yes, and he said “Forget about Tony”… Tony something… Reminded me of the cherry jam that cook had been making.’

‘Tony Cheriton? Cherable?’

She shook her head again. ‘It began with an M. It sounded foreign.’

‘Well, if you remember, write to me at the address on this card.’ Race handed Betty his business card and a pound note.

‘I will, sir. Thank you, sir.’

As she left the room, Mary Rees-Talbot returned. ‘Well, was it successful?’

‘Yes. There’s just one problem. Maybe you can help me. Can you think of a name that would remind you of cherry jam?’

What an extraordinary question!’

‘Please, Mary.’

‘Well, we don’t often make cherry jam. It’s much too sweet, unless you use cooking cherries. Morello cherries.’

‘That’s it!’ Race exclaimed. ‘Mary, I’m very grateful. Could you ring that bell again, so that Betty comes to show me out?’

‘Aren’t you going to tell me what it’s all about?’ she asked, indignantly.

‘I promise to come back and tell you the whole story,’ he called as he left the room.

Betty was waiting in the hall with his hat and coat. He thanked her and walked out of the front door. At the top of the steps, he paused. ‘By the way, Betty,’ he said, ‘was the name Morelli?’

Betty smiled. ‘Quite right, sir! Tony Morelli!’

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