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

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

Page 22

LaI-oh, it's you, she said. I was so frightened"
part where the lie to go on a summer house-
party where the blue Mediterranean sparkles
along the rocky shores of the French Riviera?
And in the midst of all the fun discover that one
of your party has been murdered!
That was what happened to the young people in a villa
called Alois. They were a group of Englishmen and
charming English girls resting from a too strenuous Lon-
don season. Sophia Framlingham was their hostess. To
be sure, they let her know too plainly that they wished
she hadn't invited Fred Poole, a conceited and rather
vulgar musical comedy actor. But to find him dead in
his bed-and poisoned! That was a proof of his un-
popularity that no one had dreamed could happen. Yet
they awoke one day to face this hideous fact.
Who committed the crime? Well, here are the people
whose lives were interwoven with the life of Fred Poole.
Mrs. Framlingham, the hostess, older than the others, a
woman with money, and a flair for writing on psychology.
And Nancy Rhodes, her fair little secretary. Prunella
and Joe Quentin, brother and sister-she an artist, he a
playwright and in love with a girl back home. Paul
Slade, quieter than the others, quietly in love with Pru-
nella. And the irrepressible "Rumples"-Mrs. Ruth
Jackson, who was at work on a murder mystery when
murder itself walked into Alo6s.
It was Rumples' quaint custom each night to serve
herb tea to the house-party. And beside Fred Poole's
dead body had been found a cup of herb tea. He had re-
turned late that fatal night, from a mysterious visit to
Marseilles (which was merely to see his sister-in-law,
Rosalind Poole, before she sailed for Ceylon to join Nigel
Poole. his brother). No one had heard him come in, or
seen him.
Turmoil followed the hideous discovery. A French
police commissioner took possession of Aloes. Two gen-
A group of charming young people in a house-party
on the Riviera and then in the midst of their gaiety, a
murder! Here is a very different sort of mystery story
by G.
darmes were stationed on the grounds. Clues, suspicions,
flew wildly abdut. Another house-party, near by, was
drawn into the investigation. These were friends of Mrs.
Framlingham's: Lady Humber, a pompous old noble-
woman who had leased a villa called Balmoral where she
was entertaining Prince Louis of Lemburg-Boissy; Heriot
Bannister, a member of parliament; Juniper Gregg, a
millionaire speed boat king; and her nephew, Lal Clifford.
Bit by bit it came to be realized that there was quar-
reling in the Balmoral ranks-and that its cause had to
do with Fred Poole's death. Lady Humber sent Lal over
to stay at Aloes (much to Nancy's secret delight, for she
loved him-even if his heart was wrapped up in the
thought of Rosalind Poole, the beautiful woman who was
Fred Poole's sister-in-law). Juniper Gregg, after quarrel-
ing with Heriot, was turned out-and Sophia quickly
invited him to stay at her house; for a motor-boat had
come to her shore the night of the murder and, suspecting
Juniper, she wished to observe him closely. Fred had last
been seen alive at Balmoral.
And the pocketbook-that was a clue Joe Quentin had
found. With the initial "P" and buried under a stone in
the sea. Who had put it there? Whose was it? It was
Joe who suspected, too, that Lonie, the cook (whose
crying baby had enraged Fred Poole) might not be as
innocent as she seemed.
But all these and other suspicions faded in importance
before the following astounding fact, brought out at the
coroner's inquest:
The cup of herb tea, found beside Fred Poole that
morning, had contained no trace of poison whatsoeverl
Here the story continues:
THE L1NQUEST was over; adjourned pending further
juniper Gregg rushed up to Heriot: "Come away!
Come down the garden! I've got to speak to you at
once, alone!"
Heriot was about to say that he could not wait. He
had to drive Aunt Lucinda (Lady Humber) home, and get
back himself in time to escort Sophia to the funeral at
three o'clock. Besides, he had no great desire for private
conversation with Juniper. They were hardly on speak-
ing terms since their quarrel on the motor-boat the day
before, which had resulted in Juniper leaving Balmoral.
But Juniper's face decided him to alter his mind.
Juniper was looking mentally disheveled, face wooden,
eyes startled and distressed as a baby whose pet rock-
ing-horse has suddenly loomed up, alive and enormous,
with snapping, fiery jaws. The Russian in him was
frightened-and the Scotsman was not there at all!
"What is it?" said Heriot, briefly. "Hurry up. Aunt
Lucinda wants to go back. She's all in. Inquests don't
agree with her."
"Nor with me! Look here, Heriot
" ANCY, tell Lonie to hold back dejeuner, and not
come rushing in with it while Lucinda's still here."
Sophia spoke in an undertone of warning. They were
standing at the salon window, looking impatiently out at
Juniper and Heriot walking round and round the garden.
"Why can't Heriot take her home? Anyhow, I thought
he and Juniper were cutting each other . . . Oh, Nancy,
I can't cope with any more trouble today!"
"Yes, I know. It's been horrid," Nancy agreed. "And
I suppose it's going to go on being horrid. Aunt Lucinda's
chafing, up at the gate. Paul's with her."
"Is he? That's better than nothing. But I couldn't
ask her to lunch, with the staff in this state of nerves."
"Well, Lonie says the ice hasn't come."
"Of course it hasn't. Does the ice ever come between
an inquest and a funeral on a boiling hot summer day?"
Rosalind Poole watched closely. So the servants were holding revelry! But she saw a gendarme lurking. The implication was sinister
( 22 )
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