University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The Gender and Women's Studies Collection

Page View

Graeve, Oscar (ed.) / Delineator
Vol. 119, No. 1 (July, 1931)

Stern, G. B.
The shortest night,   pp. 22-23 PDF (1.5 MB)


Page 23

J U L Y,
"IT'S devil-craft, I teh you."
"Nonsense, Gregg. Don't be a damned fool."
"How can you account for it?"
"If they found nothing, it's because nothing was
there."
"I tell you I put it in, myself. I wasn't mad then,
though I may be now. It-it's preposterous. It's devil-
craft, Bannister."  Juniper mopped his forehead. "I
wish I'd left it all alone," he muttered, "I meant to help
. . . but I don't like it . . . I don't like it!"
"I wish you had. It was your business to have taken
the original instructions, not embark on any grotesque
fancy that came into your mind. But as for the stuff you
put in-" He suddenly switched off on to another track,
to Juniper's relief. "Of course! Don't you see what this
implies?"
But his companion was more bewildered than ever.
Heriot, impatient both of Juniper's ideas of helpfulness,
and his present slow-witted stare, rushed on: "Oh, well,
if you don't, leave it at that. I'll go straight to Cannes,
after the funeral, and see the Minister myself, if I can, and
tell him this new development. Or if he's not there, the
Prefect at Nice will have to do instead."
Rumples had slipped on a record, trying to cheer up
their depression and interrupt their bickering. A storm
was brewing. Sophia, Heriot and Paul had gone to Fred's
funeral. juniper was sitting in a corner of the salon,
moping. H rcule (Lonie's baby) was crying in the kitch-
en. And Rumples, with an irony that was too blatant to
be deliberate, had chosen: "Happy Days Are Here Again."
"I suggest," said Joe, controlling himself, "that you re-
move that record." Rumples answered: "It was the
only one I could find in the dark." For, with the vague
idea that convention demanded lowered blinds that
afternoon, Nancy had closed the somber green shutters
all over the villa, so that the rooms were stuffier than
ever.
The door opened sharply. And they all sprang up,
dreading some fresh sensation. But it was only the bath-
ing gendarme, who had missed them from the beach, and
thought it his duty, speaking no English, to stand sentinel
at the open door for a few moments in case they were
plotting mischief. They stared wanly at the gendarme,
and he glared back, concentrating on Lal, who had
toppled him that morning into the seaweed. Lal was ly-
ing on the sofa farthest from the others, pretending to be
best not to sound as heavy in spirit as she really felt.
"Well?" said Joe and Nancy and Prunella, and-less
drearily-Rumples.
It did not seem necessary to Sophia that she should
give them an account of the funeral, so she iust remarked
"It's so gray and stuffy, I believe +here's going to be a
storm. Nancy, come and help me to get out of these
things. I feel too black for words."
Paul had already disappeared to change out of the
somber clothes which enhanced his natural tendency to
look like the Prince of Denmark. He flashed Prunella a
quick smile before he went, which helped her to feel bet-
ter.
Presently he and she might perhaps go down to the
pool, alone together, for a quiet bathe, if Sopbia did not
think it outrageous of them, and if they could give the
gendarme the slip.
"aOT your notebook, Nancy?"
"G Nancy wondered if all her life long she would
inwardly wince at mention of her notebook. But she
replied in her most dutiful manner: "Yes, Sophia," and
made sure the door of Sophia's bedroom was closed.
Illustrations by WALLA4CE MORGA4N
7tii
""K
Midnight and moonlight of the shortest night in the year. Little did these gay picnickers dream that more trouble, more mystery, were imminent
"I'll come with you," suggested Juniper, who seemed to
find comfort in Heriot's decisive sanity, and to cling to it.
"No, you won't. You'll stay here and not say a word
about this to anyone."
"Why not?"
"No need to make a fool of the prince, after all he's
done for us. I imagine it can be avoided. Do you hear,
Gregg? You've got to hold your tongue. It's the least
you can do now. You've made enough trouble already,
with your Russian sense of humor."
"I meant to help," repeated Juniper. His terror had
subsided. Heriot's authority had done this for him, and
Juniper was strangely amenable. "I still think it's
devil-craft," but he hoped to be contradicted.
"Devil-cratt my hat!" And with this reassuring re-
sponse, Heriot left him.
" jHERE'S going to be a storm," said Prunella.
I "Has the ice-man come?" said Joe.
"Let's bathe," said Rumples.
"We can't, with a funeral going on," said Nancy.
"L6onie's crying," said Rumples.
"That's because of the ice-man," said Prunella.
"No, it isn't," said Joe.
"What do you mean: 'No, it isn't'?"
"Well, it isn't. I know."
"What do you know?"
"I don't know!"
". . . Jupiter! What's that?"
"That" was the first screech from the gramophone.
asleep, so that they should not talk to him; yet not wish-
ing to be alone in his room.
"I'm dripping!" burst out Juniper suddenly, and Pru-
nella said: "There's going to be a storm, and the aloe
tree will break. It's bending farther every day. It can't
bend much more without crashing. It's sure to be to-
day . . . Isn't it hateful being watched?"
Rumples, after her snub over the gramophone, had
produced a pad and a stub of pencil, and was busily com-
posing a "Shining Heartbeat." Now she looked up and
asked for a rhyme to "nosegay." Nobody could think of
a rhyme to "nosegay," except Prunella, who suggested
"post-chaise." Rumples brightly thanked her for trying,
but said that would be of no use. But could anyone
think of a rhyme to "harmony"?
The gendarme, getting bored, opened the door and
strode down the hall. He thought he heard a car arriving
at the gate; and his colligue-bah! he was mad, that one,
and of no use whatever, sitting all day in the kitchen with
Lonie.
It was Heriot's car, which had brought home Sophia
and Paul. "Won't you come in?" asked Sophia.
"No, my dear, I must get-back to my own hostess.
Don't forget that the prince and I are the last of the Bal-
morals, and the inquest has upset the old lady quite
badly."
But Sophia noticed, turning back from the porch, that
Heriot had driven off in the direction of Cannes, instead
of toward St. Raphael and Aunt Lucinda.
"Well?" said Sophia, entering the salon, and trying her
( 23 )
"If this thing hangs round much longer, we shall all
be seriously ill. It's oppressive and horrible. We must
bring it to a head as soon as we possibly can, and have
done with it. Now, at the inquest today-" Sophia
came to an abrupt halt. "Have I got some quiet-looking
pajamas, I wonder? Not mourning, exactly, but-no,
the black-and-white won't do. This is not the time to
dress up like a seaside pierrot. The beige, yes, with the
lilac spray down one trouser. Mauve, you know. Don't
let's shock the Commissaire more than we can help . . .
There, that's better. What with the heat, and that awful
lunch, and Lonie erupting grievances all the time, and
that gendarme padding about, watching us . . . Is
there only one, by the way, Nancy? I thought there
were originally two."
"The other one never leaves the kitchen. He's in love
with Lonie."
"As though the villa weren't overloaded with atmos-
phere already!" Then she fired off a question in her best
take-her-off-her-guard style, full into Nancy's face:
"What struck you as the most important point which
came out at the inquest?"
But Nancy was not going to be hurried.
"It struck me that a man who is found in bed with
poison in his body, and beside him a cup of herb tea
which he doesn't like, and without any poison in it-"
Sophia interrupted: "Yes. Well, that was obvious.
What we're looking for is the unobvious. Didn't it
strike you as odd that the police were unable to find the
taxi at St. Raphael which brought  (Turn to page 80)
1 93 1
61
WU


Go up to Top of Page