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Authors: Paula Marshall

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This time the salon they went to was a grand one. Cobie and she sat on gilt chairs again, while the Marquise conferred with that great person, the
—who seemed more enchanted by Cobie than by Dinah.

‘An American!' he exclaimed, throwing up his hands. ‘Monsieur looks to be a Frenchman to the life.'

He did, too, Dinah thought. He was wearing French clothes as though he had worn them since he was a child. Black-and-white striped trousers, a black frock coat, high white glossy collar, black cravat, a very, very tall top hat, high black buttoned boots and a cane with a silver top. His French was superb, too.

It came to her that in England he looked and sounded exactly like an English gentleman. She supposed that in America he was totally Yankee. What was the real man like beneath his trappings, she wondered. Which was the real Cobie Grant? Was there even a real Cobie Grant? She
had half-thought this before but never quite as strongly as she did now.

After that she had no time to think anything, because the Marquise and Cobie chose clothes for her to wear and she was pushed and pulled in and out of them, the
murmuring in her ear while he rearranged the folds of her gown, ‘You have the perfect figure for the clothes I design, Milady. When I have finished with you,
tout Paris
will be at your feet.' Which was going a bit far, Dinah thought.

When they had bought her a complete wardrobe they all went to luncheon at a very grand hotel, and Dinah found that she was ravenous, which surprised her enormously. Her appetite pleased her husband, or so he told her, and then she was driven to a hairdressing salon, where her unruly locks were tamed at last.

She was allowed to rest a little when they reached home. The Marquise shooed Cobie away, ‘Go and amuse yourself, child. We have work to do.'

To Dinah's surprise and secret amusement, he, the man whom she was sure organised and arranged everything, meekly bowed and said, ‘Of course. I have work to do, too, and will go and do it.'

‘Be not back too late,' the Marquise ordered him. ‘It is the Richelieus' reception tonight, and Milady Dinah must be baptised there!'

Well, if baptism is to follow, catechism comes after, thought Dinah wryly, but it didn't: it came before!

After she had been allowed to lie down for about half an hour she returned to the drawing room. There, a large book was balanced on her head—‘To destroy your bookworm's slouch,' said Madame de Cheverney severely. She was told to walk up and down the room, curtsy, take a full cup of tea, return it to the Marquise, sit down, acknowledge
an imaginary Excellency, converse politely with him, and all without the book falling off!

Oh, but it did: many times.

Each time the Marquise groaned at her. ‘And this is to be done, all day and every day—even when you eat,' she was told, ‘until your back is straight, your head is just so, and you look the world calmly in the eye. Calm, always calm, my child. I see that you are inclined to be passionate. Save that for your life in private, for
. Be calm in public and all will be well.'

After that Madame organised a conversazione—still with the wretched book on Dinah's head—and she was told again, ‘Be gentle, my child, when you speak. Do not so much express an opinion as subtly offer it. On some things you must have no opinion at all. You must learn those useful phrases which are the mortar of conversation. At the moment you have too many bricks to offer!'

This made Dinah giggle, and, inevitably, the book fell off. Again!

She was allowed another short rest in her room, and a tisane was sent up.

‘To calm your nerves, my child'—a favourite phrase of the Marquise's, Dinah was to discover. Before the tisane had time to work properly, however, the Marquise was back, with Pearson in tow, looking sullen, the Marquise's lady's maid, and a little French girl wearing a black dress and a pretty white lace apron and cap.

‘This,' the Marquise told her tersely, ‘is Hortense, who will be your lady's maid in future. Mees Pearson will be her aide to do the sewing, to iron your clothes, and take charge of your wardrobe. Hortense will arrange your hair and dress you. We shall begin now the ceremony which you will follow in England, when you return.'

Pearson threw Dinah a pleading look. The Marquise fielded it and said sternly, ‘All this Monsieur Grant arranged in the last week, before you arrived in Paris. To save you trouble, you understand.'

‘He said nothing of this to me,' observed Dinah mutinously.

‘He is your husband,' the Marquise returned, as though that explained all.

Well, she would speak to Cobie about
, rather than brawl with the Marquise before the servants. Without knowing it, Dinah had already begun to learn the lessons which the Marquise was teaching her. Before the afternoon session she would have defied the Marquise and rushed at Cobie when he returned. But she did neither, allowing the Marquise and Hortense to dress her, Pearson assisting.

They had brought home with them from the
several of the dresses which Cobie had chosen and which fitted Dinah perfectly. One of them was of
peau de soie
striped in pale blue, cream and the most delicate of pinks. It had an oval neckline, descending towards Dinah's slight bosom, with a small frill of cream lace, running around it.

Around her waist Hortense fastened a ribbon from which small pads depended, and over which the dress fell, giving her the air of a woman with a grander figure than the one she possessed, but not overdoing things. The skirt had been cut to give the dress a beautiful line from her waist to just above the ankle. This allowed her pale blue silk stockings and her little Louis-heeled blue, pink and cream shoes to show their best advantage.

The dress had also been cunningly cut to make her bosom look larger than it was, and before it was reverently eased on to her, she had been laced into a corset which made her tiny waist even tinier.

After everyone had walked around her, exclaiming at her transformation, Hortense went to work on her face. First, she creamed it; next, she applied the merest touch of
papier poudré
and pale pink lip salve, and finally arranged her hair so that it rose high at the back but fell in cunning little tendrils around her face.

To finish off the whole remarkable ensemble Dinah was handed a dear little fan, cream, painted with roses, and told to allow it to depend from her wrist, unless the room grew too hot when she was to use it.

‘But not violently, you understand. Nothing must be violent,' the Marquise told her severely as though it were Dinah's custom to go around striking at people—with her fan as well as her voice, presumably.

The whole operation took so long that Dinah thought ruefully that she would have had time to read a whole chapter of Gibbon's great work which Mr Van Deusen had given her, and which, if today was anything to go by, she would never have the time or opportunity to read again.

She was not allowed to look in a mirror, nor to sit down. Instead, the book was placed on her head again, and she walked round the room, Pearson glowering, the Marquise and Hortense applauding when all was done correctly, and looking sad when the book dropped off, or she said the wrong thing.

There was a knock on the door, and in response to the Marquise crying, ‘Enter,' after she had gently pushed Dinah behind a screen, Cobie came in.

Dinah peered around the screen to see that he was dressed for the evening, French style. He looked so magnificent that the very sight of him made her feel nervous. He was carrying a small leather case and a bouquet of tiny pink and cream rosebuds.

‘Lady Dinah is ready, Madame?'

‘Just,' said the Marquise. ‘I think that you will find an improvement, even after this short time. Milady is an apt pupil. Patient and willing to learn.'

She walked to the screen, folded it shut, exclaiming in a dramatic fashion,
as though she were a stage magician demonstrating her greatest illusion.

Cobie looked at his wife. She bore no resemblance to the girl he had married and brought to Paris. The gown, the careful and discreet make-up, her newly styled hair, and the improvement in her carriage which the afternoon's drill had brought about, had already begun to change her. At this rate Dinah's weeks in France would have her sister Violet eating her heart out with jealousy when she was let loose on London.

‘You look enchanting, Lady Dinah Grant,' he said gravely, holding out to her the leather case and the bouquet which he was carrying. ‘I think that this will complete your ensemble.'

His compliment bewildered Dinah—but, of course, she thought, he was simply being kind. Cobie saw her disbelieving expression, and said to the Marquise, ‘She has not yet been allowed a mirror?'

‘As you ordered, Monsieur Grant.'

‘Good. Come here, Dinah, my love. Take your present from me, and open it.'

Mortar, Dinah was thinking sardonically, I mustn't forget mortar. She took the case from him and said, calmly, remembering the Marquise's insistence that she must not be passionate, ‘Thank you, Cobie. You do me too great an honour.'

She felt, as much as heard, the Marquise purr with pleasure, and knew from the expression on her husband's face,
and the slight twitch of his mouth that he was aware that she was mocking them both.

Still smiling, not too little, not too much, after the fashion which the Marquise had taught her earlier, she opened the case, to find there an exquisite necklace of tiny pale pink pearls. This time, her pleasure was genuine. ‘Oh, how beautiful, and it goes with my new dress, too.'

All the Marquise's lessons flew away at once. Dinah began to move towards Cobie to embrace him. His mouth twitched even more, but all that he said when he received her kiss on his cheek was, ‘Yes, the match of colours was intended, my love. Now you will allow your husband to put it on for you, I hope. The clasp will be a little too difficult for you to manage on your own.'

‘Oh, yes,' she said impetuously, and then, eyes glowing, remembering all that she had learned that afternoon, she continued more gently, ‘It will be a pleasure.'

Dinah could feel the fingers of his strong and beautiful hands warm on her neck, and without thinking, after he had arranged the necklace to its greatest advantage, she bent her head to kiss them.

Cobie allowed his hands to linger on her neck for a moment, before saying quietly, ‘Unshroud the mirror, Madame la Marquise,
s'il vous plaît

Madame obeyed and he swung Dinah gently round to face it, so that she saw her new self for the first time.

Was that Dinah Freville? Had one day done so much to change her?

Where had that graceful figure come from? The dressmaker's art, and the Marquise's instructions to Hortense and Pearson, together with the torture of the book, had all combined to create an elegant creature who bore little re
lation to the Dinah Freville who had been married in the dowdy gown which Violet had chosen for her.

Of course, it wasn't Lady Dinah Freville she was looking at. She was Lady Dinah Grant now—and she must never forget it.

Like Cinderella, the Marquise and Cobie took her to the ball that night, but her Prince had already chosen her, her carriage didn't turn into a pumpkin at midnight, and she only had one cruel sister, not two, and no one in their right mind could ever have called Violet ugly.

All the time that she was in Paris Dinah felt that she was living in a pantomime, instead of watching it, which she had once done with her nurse when she had been a child.

Except that in the here and now there was no curtain to fall at the end of the performance, no coat to put on to go through the dark streets back to normal life again.

For to be Lady Dinah Grant, Jacobus Grant's wife, was to be admired and envied: and this, this, improbably was her real life.

Chapter Eight

e's back from Paris, guv. Without his missis. D'you still want me to follow him?'

Walker knew that his vendetta against the mysterious Mr Horne, whom he was certain, but couldn't yet prove, was Jacobus Grant, was personal, not official, and he really ought to drop the matter and concentrate on the real criminals who surrounded him, of whom he did know. Only yesterday the Commissioner had asked him if he had made any progress in discovering who the mystery man was who had bribed them.

When Walker told him, ‘No, but I've not given up hope of unmasking him, sir,' the Commissioner had sighed and said,

‘There's more important work on the agenda, Walker. Give it a miss now.'

Well, he wasn't going to give it a miss. Neither Bates nor anyone else need know what the Commissioner had ordered.

‘No, not you, Bates,' he told him. ‘Not for the time being. He knows your face. Put Alcott on to him. Tell him to be careful, and to report back to me at the weekend.'

Alcott was careful, but not careful enough. After forty-eight hours Cobie knew that he was being followed. He had a sixth sense about such things, one of his many odd talents about which London society knew nothing. He was not only blessed—or cursed—with total recall, which made him such a masterly card and chess player, but he always knew when he was being watched.

More than that, he invariably knew when he was being lied to, which was the most unnerving accomplishment of all, and which reinforced the profound cynicism with which he viewed his fellow men and women.

So he covertly watched his shadow, and led him a merry dance around Mayfair, while he ambled through its streets and squares in the sun. While doing so, now that he had been unmasked, he decided to baffle and annoy Walker even more—and amuse himself in the doing.

The next day, dressed in his undistinguished clothing, he led the wretched Alcott an even merrier dance. He had learned that the London police were nicknamed rozzers by the criminal element—of whom he was one—so he allowed this particular rozzer to follow him to his dingy office on the edge of the City. There the delighted Alcott, by devious questioning, discovered that he was going under the name of Mr Dilley.

He grinned to himself at the excitement with which this news would be greeted at Scotland Yard. He wasn't wrong. Happy to have succeeded where Bates had failed, Alcott burst into Walker's cubby-hole that afternoon, full of himself, to tell his guv'nor, and a glum Bates, what he had unearthed.

‘Well done, Constable,' was his reward from Walker. ‘Carry on, and let me know anything further you discover.'

Two days later he returned even more pleased with himself to confront Walker with his latest coup.

‘He's an interest in some property down by the docks, his clerk told me. He visits it occasionally. Something odd is going on there, the clerk thinks.'

For one moment Walker thought that this might be all too easy, but dismissed the thought. Alcott was a hardworking fellow, getting good results, and so he taunted Bates, when Bates came in later after a hard day spent trying to put the frighteners on a small fence with a shop off Leadenhall Street.

He would have been right to be suspicious. Mr Dilley was feeding to his clerk each piece of information—which Walker greeted so joyfully—with strict instructions to him to tell his curious new friend exactly that, and nothing more.

He had left Dinah in Paris deliberately, to allow the Marquise time to groom her, but until he had started to deceive Alcott he had been finding life oddly boring without her.

Never mind. He was going to enliven everyone's life before he had finished with Will Walker. That it might only serve to confirm to Walker that he was the mysterious Mr Horne/Dilley worried him not one whit, for the whole business would be a dead-end—he would make sure of that.

Bit by bit Alcott discovered that Mr Dilley occasionally visited his Dockland property. It was two largish eighteenth-century terraced houses made into one. It was shabby and set back from the road, Alcott said, and he could discover little about it—other than that the man and wife who ran it seemed to have a large number of children.

‘Children?' mused Walker thoughtfully. ‘Some sort of blind, perhaps. What's our man doing with children? You're sure it
our man, Alcott?'

‘Quite sure, sir.' Alcott could see promotion in the offing.

‘Right,' Walker said, ‘and he's going there next week, is he, wearing his funny clothes, no doubt.' For Alcott had been allowed to discover the lodgings where Jacobus Grant changed into a dubious-seeming masher wearing loud brown-checked trousers, brown jacket, and brown bowler, the uniform of a lower-class artisan.

‘What the hell can he be up to? We'll raid the place, Bates, that's what we'll do. Next Saturday, as ever was. Find out what his little game is. You can come along, too, Alcott.'

He could hardly contain himself that Saturday when he reached the house, Alcott and Bates trailing behind him. Dilley/Horne had been tracked there by Alcott that morning, and hadn't returned to his low-class pad just across the river.

Walker rang the bell. The door was opened by a bent old man.

‘Police!' announced Walker. ‘I've a warrant to enter this house,' which was a lie, but most of the people he dealt with usually caved in when he said so. ‘I want to speak to the owner, or the tenant.'

The old man blinked at them.

‘Ain't no one in but me,' he quavered. ‘I'm the odd job man here, Parker's me name. Mr Dilley told me to answer the door, he did, seein' as how my sight ain't good these days. They're all at the Church Hall down the road.'

‘At the Church Hall? I'll have to come in to check that there is no one but you on the premises.'

Walker and his men shouldered their way past the bemused old man, to find that he had told them the truth. The
place was clean, shabby, cheerful and deserted. Upstairs there were beds for twenty children, two to a room.

Walker stormed downstairs. ‘Where's the Church Hall, and what are they doing there? What's Dilley doing here—and there?'

The old man, who had been coached by Mr Dilley himself, quavered, ‘I don't know, I'm sure.'

Walker was beginning to have the ghastly fear that this time
, with Alcott's help, might have led them all into another mare's nest only to find a beast even more spavined than Bates's usual discovery had been. With Alcott breathing excitedly down his neck, however, and Bates looking sullen, there was nothing he could do but persevere.

‘Where's this Church Hall, then?'

The old man gave them directions, and they all set off. Alcott, perennially optimistic, was now the only member of the party not certain that they were heading for some kind of disaster.

They found the Hall easily. It was a wooden building with a corrugated iron roof, from which the noise of shouting and clapping came. A clergyman with a soft, benevolent face stood at the door. He allowed them to enter when Walker grunted ‘Police' at him—leaving him to wonder what the police were doing visiting a children's entertainment.

For an entertainment it was. The Hall was full of children, not only the twenty from the house they had just visited. There were a number of adults present, some wearing Salvation Army uniform, and several others, who, Alcott whispered, were from the big house which was connected with Mr Dilley. Along one wall ran trestle tables, set out with children's party food. A dragon in the shape
of a grim woman with a mouth like a rat trap was guarding it.

Mr Dilley/Horne/Jacobus Grant was there, too. On the stage. He was wearing his brown masher's suit. His hair, which Walker had seen in Half Moon Street as a mass of carefully ordered golden curls, sleek to his head, had been brushed up on end. He had, after some fashion, extinguished his golden good looks and now resembled every cheap comedian who had ever graced a music hall stage—and his audience was ecstatic.

He was in the middle of a juggling act. After that was over he called a boy on to the stage with him, to begin pulling coloured handkerchiefs from his ears, mouth and pockets. While doing so he saw Walker, Alcott, and Bates, standing there, petrified. He finished playing with the coloured handkerchiefs, returned the boy to the audience, produced a pack of cards, waved them in the air, and shouted, ‘I want another volunteer.'

A dozen childish arms waved in answer. Mr Dilley, his grin now from ear to ear, ignored them all.

‘No, I'd like a bigger boy,' he announced, and his voice was pure cockney, causing Walker's teeth to grind at his persecutor's accomplishments, and his insolence.

‘You, sir, what about you? The one with the big feet at the back.' He pointed at the blinking Alcott, who was beginning to grasp that not all of Mr Dilley's magic tricks were confined to the stage.

‘I forbid it,' snarled Walker into Alcott's ear. Alcott shook his head miserably, as all the children turned to stare at him.

‘Oh, shame, spoilsport,' Mr Dilley was reproving. ‘Would you ruin these little ones' fun? Tell him to come
up here, at once, boys and girls. Altogether now, “Come on, Mister!”'

The children began howling in unison, ‘Come on, Mister,' waving and laughing at the three men, glumly incongruous among all the happy faces.

‘Oh, for Gawd's sake, get it over, Alcott, and go up there. You got us into this fine mess, and you'd better pay for it.'

Walker's snarl on saying this was nastier than ever, provoked because he had been compelled to change his mind in order to avoid further embarrassment.

Pay for it Alcott did. Mr Dilley's repertoire seemed endless. His magic tricks with cards were succeeded by his tricks with hoops and coins, all designed to confuse the mark who was Alcott. His performance reached its climax with the production of a rabbit which Alcott had apparently been concealing about his person ever since he had climbed on to the stage.

He was rewarded by being crowned with a paper hat in the shape of a guardsman's busby. All the children cheered at the merry sight.

The performance ended with everyone singing ‘God save the Queen', led by Mr Dilley on the guitar. After that the clergyman climbed on to the stage, thanked Mr Dilley—and Alcott—for the entertainment, and announced that it was now tea time. There was a mad rush for the food.

One of the little girls had run to Mr Dilley who, guitar in hand, had climbed down from the stage, followed by a red-faced Alcott, still wearing his busby. He made for Walker and Bates, having first promised the little girl, Lizzie by name, that he would play and sing her favourite song, which turned out to be Marie Lloyd's hit, ‘My old man says follow the van'.

Alcott's busby was enraging Walker almost as much as the egregious Mr Dilley was.

‘For God's sake, Alcott, take it off,' he roared. ‘He's been dancing you round London for the last week, like the fool you are. Why wear a brand to prove it?'

Mr Dilley stared at Walker. ‘You only had to ask me, Inspector,' he said mildly. ‘I'd have told you that I've been helping to finance a home for abandoned children and orphans. With the assistance of the Salvation Army, and Father Anselm here.'

Father Anselm, who had been standing watching them, his face not quite so soft as Walker had at first thought, said, ‘I am sure that I speak for us all when I say how grateful we are to Mr Dilley. He does not only give us his money. As you have just seen, he also gives us his time.'

‘A proper saint, Mr Dilley,' agreed Walker, through his teeth, snidely.

‘Oh, indeed. And now, gentlemen, some tea. I understand from Mr Dilley that you are police officers, searching for some miscreant, and that you have been misdirected. Allow me.'

Before Walker could stop him, the deluded and deceived wretch, Alcott, was accepting a cup of tea and a sandwich and Bates was not slow to follow him.

Walker was suddenly alone with Mr Dilley.

‘You haven't fooled me,' he told him savagely. ‘You gave Alcott the run around, I'll grant you that, and I should have checked his information, not gone off half-cocked.'

Cobie inclined his head. ‘True,' he said, lifting his guitar and playing a few chords of a ballad which included the words, ‘If you want to know the time, ask a policeman', which he sang in a pleasant, baritone voice.

‘Oh, very funny, I'm sure,' snarled Walker. ‘But you're
a villain, Grant, Dilley, Horne, whatever you call yourself, and I
you're a villain. One day I'll prove you are, where there aren't pious fools about who think you're some sort of saint to stop me from throwing you into the slammer.'

‘Oh, I do so agree with you there,' Cobie told him earnestly. ‘About being a saint. It's very far from the truth. I'm sorry that you didn't like my tricks. My foster-brothers and sisters used to love them.'

‘I don't like you or your tricks, whether they're on the stage or on the streets of London, Mr Grant—if that's your real name.'

Cobie played a flourish on the guitar, and said, ‘Aye, there's the rub, Inspector Walker. I have no real name, you see. You may call me what you please. Why don't you have a cup of tea and a bun, like your colleagues? You'll feel better after something to eat. I always do.'

‘It would choke me,' Walker returned morosely. ‘What I want to know is, what the hell is your game, Grant? Tell me that.'

‘Life,' Cobie told him with a grin. ‘Life's my game, Walker, and I make up the rules by which I play. As you do. Tell me, do your superiors know that you are disobeying them by pursuing me? No, don't answer, your face says it all. You're as bad as I am, Walker, only you won't admit it.'

Walker knew at last why men killed. He swung away, roaring at Alcott and Bates to follow him. His last sight of Mr Dilley was of him singing his promised song to a bewitched little girl who was gazing up at him as though he were Lord God Almighty.

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