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Authors: Margery Allingham

Death of a Ghost

BOOK: Death of a Ghost
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CONTENTS

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Also by Margery Allingham

Dedication

Title Page

Epigraph

1. Interior with Figures

2. Show Sunday

3. Murder at the Reception

4. ‘Not I!'

5. The Facts

6. The Gesture

7. Confession

8. Little Things

9. Salesmanship

10. The Key

11. Before the Fact

12. What Shall We Do?

13. Police Work

14. Ravellings

15. As It Happened

16. That was on the Sunday

17. The Slack Cord

18. Dangerous Business

19. The End of the Thread

20. A Nice Little House

21. A Day in the Country

22. Invitation

23. Night Out

24. In the Morning

25. Good-bye, Belle

Also Available

Vintage Murder Mysteries

Copyright

About the Book

John Lafcadio's ambition to be known as the greatest painter since Rembrandt was not to be thwarted by a matter as trifling as his own death. A set of twelve sealed paintings is the bequest he leaves to his widow – together with the instruction that she unveil one canvas each year before a carefully selected audience.

Albert Campion is among the cast of gadabouts, muses and socialites gathered for the latest ceremony – but art is the last thing on the sleuth's mind when a brutal stabbing occurs …

About the Author

Margery Allingham was born in London in 1904. She attended the Perse School in Cambridge before returning to London to the Regent Street Polytechnic. Her father – author H.J. Allingham – encouraged her to write, and was delighted when her first story was published when she was thirteen in her aunt's magazine,
Mother and Home
.

Her first novel was published in 1923 when she was nineteen. In 1928 she published her first detective story,
The White Cottage Mystery
, which had been serialised in the
Daily Express
. The following year, in
The Crime at Black Dudley
, she introduced the character who was to become the hallmark of her writing – Albert Campion. Her novels heralded the more sophisticated suspense genre: characterised by her intuitive intelligence, extraordinary energy and accurate observation, they vary from the grave to the openly satirical, whilst never losing sight of the basic rules of the classic detective tale. Famous for her London thrillers, such as
Hide My Eyes
and
The Tiger in the Smoke
, she has been compared to Dickens in her evocation of the city's shady underworld.

In 1927 she married the artist, journalist and editor Philip Youngman Carter. They divided their time between their Bloomsbury flat and an old house in the village of Tolleshunt D'Arcy in Essex. Margery Allingham died in 1966.

ALSO BY MARGERY ALLINGHAM IN THE ALBERT CAMPION SERIES

The Crime at Black Dudley

Mystery Mile

Look to the Lady

Police at the Funeral

Sweet Danger

Death of a Ghost

Dancers in Mourning

The Case of the Late Pig

The Fashion in Shrouds

Mr Campion and Others

Black Plumes

Traitor's Purse

Coroner's Pidgin

The Casebook of Mr Campion

More Work for the Undertaker

The Tiger in the Smoke

The Beckoning Lady

Hide My Eyes

The China Governess

The Mind Readers

A Cargo of Eagles

To

H.J. Allingham

this book is respectfully dedicated by his industrious apprentice

This story, the characters in it, and the district immediately round Little Venice, are products of the author's imagination and have no reference to any incident, living people, or topographical fact.

NOTE ON MR ALBERT CAMPION

T
HIS
young man is an adventurer in the prettiest sense of the word, and his activities, which I have chronicled for some years, seem to fall into two distinct classes. There are those which have been frankly picaresque, as in the affair at
Mystery Mile
, the business at Pontisbright, published under the title of
Sweet Danger
, and several others. But now and again he comes up against less highly coloured but even more grave difficulties, as in the Cambridge tragedy,
Police at the Funeral
, and now in the present story.

The two types of experience are distinct and it is perhaps surprising that they should touch the same person. However, most of us have a serious as well as a lighter side, and Mr Campion is no exception to the rule.

M.A.

L
AFCADIO
, John Sebastian, R.A., b. 1845, d. 1912. Painter. Entered studio of William Pakenham, R.A., 1861. Lived in Italy, 1865–1878. First exhibited Royal Academy 1871. A.R.A. 1881. R.A. 1900. M. 1880 Arabella Theodora, d. of Sir J. and Lady Reid of Wendon Parva, Sussex. One son, John Sebastian, b. 1890. Killed in action, 1916. Best known works include: ‘The Girl at the Pool' (Nat. Gallery), ‘Group in Sunlight' (Tate), ‘Belle Darling' (Louvre), ‘Portraits of Three Young Men' (Boston), ‘Meeting of the Magi' and ‘Satirical Portrait' (Yokohama), etc., etc. Also Loan Collection of forty works destroyed in Moscow 1918.

Cf
.

The Life and Work of Lafcadio
, Vols 1, 2, and 3. Max Fustian.

 

The Victorian Iconoclast
. Mrs Betsy Fragonard.

 

The Moscow Tragedy
. Max Fustian.

 

Lafcadio the Man
. Max Fustian.

 

Biographie d'un Maître de Peinture à l'Huile
. Ulysse Lafourchardière.

 

Weitere Bemerkungen zur Wahl der Bilder von John Lafcadio
. Günther Wagner.

Weber's
Who's Who in Art

L
AFCADIO,
J. See
Charles Tanqueray, Letters to
. (Phelps, 15s)

Dent's Dictionary of Authors

‘John Lafcadio … the man who saw himself the first painter in Europe and whom we who are left recognize as the last.'

K.J.R. in
The Times
, 16 April, 1912

CHAPTER 1
Interior with Figures

–

T
HERE
are, fortunately, very few people who can say that they have actually attended a murder.

The assassination of another by any person of reasonable caution must, in a civilized world, tend to be a private affair.

Perhaps it is this particular which accounts for the remarkable public interest in the details of even the most sordid and unintellectual examples of this crime, suggesting that it is the secret rather than the deed which constitutes the appeal.

If only in view of the extreme rarity of the experience, therefore, it seems a pity that Brigadier-General Sir Walter Fyvie, a brilliant raconteur and a man who would have genuinely appreciated so odd a distinction, should have left the reception at Little Venice at twenty minutes past six, passing his old acquaintance Bernard, Bishop of Mold, in the doorway, and thus missing the extraordinary murder which took place there by a little under seven minutes.

As the General afterwards pointed out, it was all the more irritating since the Bishop, a specialist upon the more subtle varieties of sin, did not appreciate his fortune in the least.

At twenty minutes past six on the preceding day, that is to say exactly twenty-four hours before the General passed the Bishop in the doorway, the lights in the drawing-room on the first floor of Little Venice were up and Belle herself (the original ‘Belle Darling' of the picture in the Louvre) was seated by the fire talking to her old friend Mr Campion, who had come to tea.

The house of a famous man who has been dead for any length of time, if it is still preserved in the condition in which he left it, is almost certain to have a museum-like quality if it has not achieved the withered wreaths and ragged garlands of a deserted shrine. It is perhaps the principal key to Belle's character that Little Venice in 1930 was as much John Lafcadio's home as if he were still down in the studio in the garden fighting and swearing and sweating over his pigments until he had thrashed them into another of his tempestuous pictures, which had so fascinated and annoyed his gentle and gentlemanly contemporaries.

If Belle Lafcadio was no longer the Belle of the pictures, she was still Belle Darling. She had, so she said, never had the disadvantage of being beautiful, and now, at two months off seventy, ample, creased, and startlingly reminiscent of Rembrandt's portrait of his mother, she had the bright quick smile and the vivacity of one who never has been anything but at her best.

At the moment she was wearing one of those crisp white muslin bonnets in which Normandy peasants delighted until fifty years ago. She wore it with the assurance that it was unfashionable, unconventional, and devastatingly becoming. Her black gown was finished with a little white fillet round the neck and her slippers were adorned with shameless marcasite buckles.

The room in which she sat had the same lack of conformity to any period or scheme. It was a personal room, quite evidently a part of someone's home, a place of strange curios but comfortable chairs.

L-shaped, it took up the entire first floor of the old house on the canal, and although nothing in it had been renewed since the war it had escaped the elegant banalities of Morris and the horrors of the Edwardian convention. It was Belle's boast that she and Johnnie had never bought anything unless they had liked it, with the result that the deep Venetian-red damask curtains, although faded, were still lovely, the Persian carpet had worn silky, and the immense over mantel which took up all one narrow end of the room and which was part of a reredos from a Flemish church had grown mellow and at one with the buff walls, as things do when accustomed to living together.

What was odd was that the sketch of Réjane by Fantin-Latour, the casual plaster study of a foot by Rodin and the stuffed polar bear presented to Lafcadio by Jensen after the 1894 portrait, should also live together in equal harmony, or for that matter the hundred and one other curios with which the room was littered; yet they did, and the effect was satisfying and curiously exciting.

Mrs Lafcadio's visitor sat opposite her, an unexpected person to find in such a room or in such company. He was a lank, pale-faced young man with sleek fair hair and horn-rimmed spectacles. His lounge suit was a little masterpiece, and the general impression one received of him was that he was well-bred and a trifle absent-minded. He sat blinking at his hostess, his elbows resting upon the arms of his chair and his long hands folded in his lap.

The two were friends of long standing, and the conversation had waned into silence for some moments when Belle looked up.

‘Well,' she said with the chuckle which had been famous in the nineties, ‘here we are, my dear, two celebrities. Isn't it fun?'

He glanced at her. ‘I'm no celebrity,' he protested fervently. ‘Heaven forbid. I leave that to disgraceful old ladies who enjoy it.'

Mrs Lafcadio's brown eyes, whose irises were beginning to fade a little, smiled at some huge inward joke.

‘Johnnie loved it,' she said. ‘At the time of Gladstone's unpopularity after the Gordon business Johnnie was approached to make a portrait of him. He refused the commission, and he wrote to Salmon, his agent: “I see no reason to save Mr Gladstone's face for posterity”.'

BOOK: Death of a Ghost
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