Guest of Honor
Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
PHYLLIS was an ambitious girl. After being graduated from Miss Meckey’s school she took a secretarial course, preparing herself to be the invaluable assistant of an important man. Tact, resourcefulness, energy -she had all these things. As soon as she finished lier course the school sent her to see Mr. Montjoy, the publisher; and this, she though^ was just the opportunity she sought.
What Mr. Montjoy wanted her to do, however, was to sit at a desk facing the elevator and say to visitors, “Whom do you wish to see, please? Have you an appointment?” Mr. Montjoy told her she had exactly the right voice, manner and background for this, but it seemed to her that eight years at Miss Meckey’s and a year of secretarial training deserved something better.
She accepted the position, though, because her father always insisted that he was about to become ix>or and complaining about the number of hats she was obliged to buy. So she decided that she would buy her own hats and be entirely independent of her parents except for meals and the shelter of their nxif. She Kit out there at the desk, and found it very boring.
But not for long. She saw Johnny Petrie, and Petrie saw her; it was a coup de foudre, and within three months they were engaged to be married. They debated whether Phyllis should keep her job and the knowledge of their marriage should lx* withheld from Mr. Montjoy, and they decided against this course.
“My job’s so puny anyhow,” Kiid Phyllis. “If we tell him, he’ll have to give you a raise. And a wedd ng present.”
"I’ve seen his wedding present,” Kiid Petrie. “It’s bronze panther book ends. To my certain knowledge, he’s given those panthers to three couples.” “Perhaps it’s always the same pair,” said Phyllis, “and it comes whizzing back to him as a Christmas present.”
“Anyhow we’ll get them,” said Petrie.
rT"'HEY did. But a friend of Phyllis’s was getting marr ed the next month. . . Johnny and Phyllis had a very nice wedding; Phyllis indeed looked so touchin , so ethereal, that Mr. Montjoy, after he
had taken his full quota of champagne, was moved to tell Petrie that he intended to take him into part-
nership. As soon as conditions warranted it.
The young couple went abroad for their honeymoon, and then returned to their apartment. It was a good address, but an old and sombre building, This, however, did not trouble them; they would have been en irely content, if it had not been for Selma.
One of Phyllis's first undertakings as a matron had been o engage a servant. She liad gone to an
agency and she had picked out Selma. A mistake. Selma did not like them, did not admire them; and they did not like Selma or her stem, stark ideas about cooking. But some strange bond held them together, “I can’t just suddenly discharge her,” said Phyllis, “when she’s really no worse now than she always has been. Not
unless she does something outrageous.”
“The way it’s done is this,” said Petrie. “You go snooping around on your hands and knees, and you find some dust under the bookcase, and you call her in and show her your grimy fingers. Then she gets impertinent and the rest is easy.”
“She’s never impertinent,” Phyllis assured him. “She’s simply hostile and scornful.”
They resigned themselves to Selma then, and concen-
trated upon Mr. Montjoy and the partnership. The necessary thing was to impress him. Petrie unearthed a greatgrandfather who had been a bishop; he talked about him as much as he could. When that vein petered out, he brought forward an aunt of Phyllis’s who had been drowned in the Mediterranean.
“She’s helped, a little,” he told Phyllis. “But what we need is a celebrity here, in person.”
Phyllis had this problem always in her mind, but she had found no practical solution until a letter came from her sister Nan in Chicago.
\ simply marvellous break. . . I heard from someone that Doctor Bigmayer was here, and I simply invited her, never dreaming. . . And, my dear, she came ! She stayed three days ! She is a very ravenous woman and quite uncouth, but Paul says that geniuses have this perfectly terrific willto-live. Anyhow, you can imagine how helpful it was to have the Doctor Anna Bigmayer stopping with us, and Paul has got two new commissions through it. She is going to New York, on her way home to Europe, and I think you could get her. She is the discoverer of bigadarium, the element that is lighter or heavier than some other element, I’ve forgotten which. Anyhow, it’s world-shaking. . .”
Phyllis said nothing of this to Johnny, but she went to call upon Doctor Bigmayer at her hotel. The celebrated woman was not at home, nor was she at home when Phyllis called again the next day. Without much hope, Phyllis left a little note, inviting the doctor to dine with them on Friday, and, to her surprise, got a very prompt reply.
I have much pleasure to accept your kind invitation. I shall arrive by you at perhaps five o’clock, the cocktails hour.
With all earnest good-will,
Petrie gave Phyllis a great deal of praise, and they were both filled with hope. Phyllis telephoned to Mrs. Montjoy; she apologized for such short notice.
“But of course Doctor Bigmayer is so terrifically sought after,” she said.
THE MONTJOYS accepted, and then Phyllis rang up poor old Jack. He was a personable young man of twenty-seven or so, with well-lined pockets, who had in the past, been almost engaged to Phyllis; so it seemed to her wise and humane, on his account and on Johnny’s, to speak of him always as poor old Jack. “Jack,” she said, “I want you to come to dinner on Friday, to meet a famous scientist. You won’t have to talk. Just be amusing.”
I see, ’ he said. “All right. I ’ll come, with a brave smile.” Phyllis then telephoned to the agency from which she had got Selma, and ordered an expert cook for Friday. She äjjproäched ^e^ma with a false smile.
You 11 have enough to do,” she said, “waiting on the table. I ve got someone to do the—the rough cooking.”
Then she washes the dishes,” said Selma, in a far from co-operative voice.
Phyllis took a taxi, and went to the house of that friend who had been married a month after her own wedding.
Darling, she said, “would you mind frightfully if I borrowed those panther book ends w'e gave you? Just for one day? There s an artist coming who wants to—draw them.” Because she wished the Montjoys to see their gift prominently displayed. Her friend turned a little pale.
“Phyllis, darling,” she said, “isn’t it too queer? I’ve just this moment lent them to a friend who’s giving a party. She simply begged for them. They’re so outstandingly attractive.”
It was obvious that the book ends had gone out again upon their restless way, and Phyllis said no more. She wondered if Mr. Montjoy ever saw his panthers in the homes of those to whom he had sent them, or if he sometimes met them unexpectedly in other places.
"It’s possible,” said Petrie when she spoke to him about it, “that he’s put some mark on them so that he can identify them. But if you fill the room with hydrangeas and palms he’ll never know they’re not concealed somewhere in the foliage.”
Phyllis intended to manage this dinner with quiet comj)etence. She asked her husband to come home early to make the cocktails; otherwise there was nothing for him to do.
“This is my job,” she said.
“Johnny! You’ll have to open the door. Selma’s out.
It’s either Doctor Bigmayer or the cook. Don’t make a mistake.”
Petrie went to the door.
An impressive woman stood outside, tall and portly, with greying hair and deep-set blue eyes that met his steadily. He could not tell by looking at her which of the expected arrivals she was, and he took the safe course.
“Doctor Bigmayer. . . ?” he said.
“All right,” said she.
TUTE SAW, as he led her into the drawing-room, that
-*• she wore a black satin dress with a vest of white lace embellished by touches of gold, and a high black hat. She carried with her a small suitcase of imitation snakeskin, so very soft that the sides caved inward.
But Petrie knew how tricky celebrities could be.
“Sit down,” he said cordially. “My wife will be with us in a moment.”
She sat down, very erect; her blue eyes met his calmly. There was something disconcerting in her manner.
“I'm afraid you don’t find us very scientific-minded in this country,” he said.
It was a good lead. She could now say either that people had been wonderfully, wonderfully kind to her, or that America was not yet ready to understand—whatever it was that she did. But she made no answer at all. There was great dignity in the woman; a forceful personality, but she was a little difficult.
“I suppose,” he said, “that you’ll be glad to return to your own country.” And when she still said nothing, he added winningly, “Won’t you?”
“I will not,” said she. “It is five o’clock, Doctor Bigmayer.”
“It was yourself said you were Doctor Bigmayer.”
“I thought yon were Doctor Bigmayer.”
“I am not. Mrs. Murphy is my name, and I was sent to cook a dinner.”
“Oh!” said Petrie. “I’ll—”
The doorbell rang again. This would be the real Doctor Bigmayer, and she must not find Mrs. Murphy in the drawing-room.
“This way, please!” said Petrie, and as Mrs. Murphy was too leisurely, he took her arm and led her out of the room. In the hall he met Selma.
“Look after Mrs. Murphy, will you?” he said. “Show her—”
“A telegram !” cried Selma, with an air of triumph. It was plain that she anticipated some disaster. Petrie tore open the envelope.
Regret unexpected complications prevent coming.
He was stunned. He stood there, unconsciously crushing
She ordered food, she ordered flowers, she wrote out the menu for the visiting cook, she attended to every detail. It was, of course, very inconvenient for Doctor Bigmayer to come so early, but she was ready for that, too. At halfpast four Petrie came home; at five Phyllis would have been entirely dressed, in a silver lamé frock which would astound
Mrs. Montjoy. But a few little things went wrong. She had to
send Selma out for more lemons, and a good ten minutes before the appointed hour the doorbell rang. This ought to have been impossible; in theory, all visitors were announced from downstairs by telephone, but all too often the guardian of the threshold was slack. Mrs. Murphy against the wall, while Selma regarded him, her face alight with joy.
“Wait,” he said to Mrs. Murphy, and he went into the bedroom. Poor Phyllis was adding the final touch to her nails; she was beautiful and glittering, all ready for the ixirty.
“See here, Pieface,” he said very gently. “Telegram from the Bigmayer that she can’t come.”
“Johnny ! But she did come. I heard you talking to her.”
“That was Mrs. Murphy, the cook. I thought she was this Bigmayer at first. Phil, I’m sorry—’’
“Johnny ring up Mrs. Montjoy, and tell her I’m stricken down with something.”
“But you’ve got everything ready for the dinner—this cook, and so on. Better let them come. Montjoy will understand. Ix)rd knows it’s happened to him, often enough. He gives these teas in honor of celebrated people and half the time they don’t show up.”
“That’s entirely different. His teas are SÍ) enormous that nobody notices. That last time, I thought I’d actually been talking to the man that wrote the devastating lxx)ks about conditions somewhere, and it really wasn’t anybody. Johnny !”
“What’s the matter?”
“Johnny.” She seized him by the ears. “You thought this Mrs. Murphy was Doctor Bigmayer—”
“Yes. At first.”
“Then she’s got to be Doctor Bigmayer.”
“Impossible! Everyone would see through it.”
“They wouldn’t. And if they ever did meet the real one, we could say that we’d been deceived ourselves.”
“Phyllis, no! In the first place, the accent isn’t right.” “No one knows where she comes from or what sort of accent she ought to have.”
“And in the second place, Mrs. Murphy couldn’t talk about science.”
“The others can’t, either.”
"Phyllis, it’s too much of a risk.”
"Let’s try it, Johnny.”
Unfortunately, her spirit of reckless audacity pleased him. Instead of being firm and sensible, he examined the idea. “I suppose we could control the conversation,” he said. “I’ll go and get her,” said Phyllis.
\ /fRS. MURPHY was in the maid’s bathroom, changing -*-▼1. ¡nt0 her working costume; she was tying on an apron when Phyllis took her arm and led her into the dining room. She accepted all these vicissitudes with perfect calm.
“A guest we were expecting can’t come,” Petrie explained. “And for—business reasons. . . D’you think you could take her place?”
“I could,” said Mrs. Murphy. “But I’d have to be paid extra.”
“It’s really less work—”
“It is extra,” said Mrs. Murphy.
“Look here!” said Petrie. “I’m afraid it won’t work. I mean—the others would expect you to talk about science. And you couldn’t—I mean, I don’t suppose you’re much interested in science. . .”
Mrs. Murphy said nothing, and her silence was imposing. “If she could just be like that!” said Phyllis. “Very, very
reticent.” “The silent widdy is what they call me, out where I live,” said Mrs. Murphy. “I can do it. But who will cook the dinner, at all?” “Selma’s going to be awful,” murmured Phyllis. “I’ll see what I can do with her, while you give Mrs. Murphy a few little hints, Johnny.”
Continued on page 33
Guest of Honor
Continued from page 13—Starts on page 12
Mrs. Murphy was a disconcerting pupil. She had a confidence in herself which Petrie, on such short acquaintance, could not entirely share.
“Leave it to me,” she said, in response to every suggestion.
It was impossible not to be impressed by her.
“They’ll all expect this Doctor Bigmayer to be queer, anyhow,” thought Petrie. “She understands that she’s to say as little as possible, and she’ll leave directly after dinner. Maybe she’s as good as she thinks she is.” He and Phyllis conducted a sort of rehearsal; they impersonated the guests, and they asked the sort of questions they thought would be asked.
“Doctor Bigmayer, won’t you tell me something about your wonderful work?” “When I go out, I go out,” answered Mrs. Murphy. “When I work, I work.”
“Perfect !” said Petrie. “Now here’s something else. Doctor, what is your opinion of literature in Canada?”
Mrs. Murphy showed no hesitation in answering this, or any other question.
“It is not what it used to be,” she said. Their spirits rose; they believed that this thing might be carried through successfully. But when poor old Jack was announced, they had a bad moment. He entered, a model of manly elegance.
“Doctor Bigmayer, let me present Mr. Downes. . . ”
Mrs. Murphy inclined her head, unsmiling. “It’s an honor,” he murmured, and left Petrie to talk to her while he told Phyllis about how Len and Marie had patched it up again. Then came the Montjoys.
Cyril Montjoy was a small man, but with a presence. Rather on the Continental side, he was, with a monocle and a neat little beard. His wife was pretty, fair-haired, tranquil; her clothes were marvellous. Whenever Phyllis met her, she had a moment of speechlessness, while she observed the perfection of the other. She was in black and white tonight.
With perfect poise, she greeted the bogus Doctor Bigmayer and at once began a conversation with her.
“Won't you tell me something about your wonderful work?”
Phyllis was glad to hear the soothing murmur of her voice, above all because Selma was so inexcusably slow about bringing in the cocktails. Mrs. Montjoy’s dinners always went off with flawless ease, and Phyllis had hoped for the same effect. But after an enormous interval, the poor girl was obliged to slip quietly out of the room to see what was wrong.
Selma was in the kitchen, very trim in a black suit and hat; she was drawing on a pair of white gloves.
“Selma !” cried Phyllis.
Selma explained that she was leaving; she said she could not and would not cook the dinner and wait on the table. The offer of extra money did not tempt her at all. She said she had been treated mean and, not being nobody’s slave, she did not have to put up with nothing from nobody. Phyllis, looking so tall and gracious in her silver dress, longed to pull off Selma’s hat and stamp on it, longed to fling the quails at her, one by one. She repressed these primitive instincts, however.
“Very well !” she said, calmly. “Take off your things, Selma, and put on your uniform. Take in the cocktails at once. I shall find someone to cook the dinner.”
To her surprise, Selma obeyed, and Phyllis, her knees shaking, returned to the drawing-room. Petrie was talking to Mrs. Montjoy; Phyllis approached him. “You’ve got to get me a cook at once!” she whispered.
He started violently; his social smile became strained.
“Quick !” whispered Phyllis. “Johnny, go and get a cook from somewhere!”
CELMA ENTERED with the cocktails, V and Phyllis saw her husband leave unobtrusively. Never had she admired him more. He asked no questions, made no demur. A desperate emergency had arisen and he was equal to it.
He caught up his hat and went out of the apartment. His movements were brisk and purposeful. But once outside his own door, he leaned against the wall, staring before him.
“Get a cook at once. . .?”
It was too late to apply to an agency. Could he perhaps find an unemployed cook at large in the city park? No. It would take too long.
“I’ve got to stand by Phyllis,” he thought. “But—what to do?”
Then, as so often happens in a crisis, he had an inspiration. On the floor below lived a middle-aged couple named Mewerley. They knew Phyllis’s people, and in the beginning there had been a sort of friendliness between the two households. The Petries had invited the Mewerleys to a simple little home dinner, cooked with stark realism by Selma. The Mewerleys had returned the invitation, and their cook was without doubt the pearl of the Antilles. After that, several little things had happened to make relations strained. The Mewerleys began it by telephoning at two o’clock one morning, to complain about a little musical party the Petries were giving. Phyllis had telephoned downstairs about the Mewerleys’ pet dog barking. Things like that. It was rather a feud now. And it was going to be worse.
Petrie went to a near-by drugstore and rang up the Mewerleys’ apartment. In a disguised voice he asked to speak to Catherine, the cook.
“She’s busy with the dinner now,” answered Mrs. Mewerley. “Can’t you call later?”
“No, ma’am,” .said Petrie. “Dis suttinly am ob great impo'tance.” He felt that he was doing well. “Ah suttinly got to—”
“Very well !” said Mrs. Mewerley, crossly, and in a moment a soft and tranquil voice spoke.
“This is Catherine.”
“Please don’t let anyone else know anything about this,” he began, when he realized that the accent had got lost. “Ah’ve got some money fo’ you,” he said. "Ef you’ll step up to de nex’ flo’ in five minutes.”
“Oh, yes!” said she. “All right.”
He was a little surprised by this ready and unquestioning consent. He wondered if it were a trap. But no one could ever prove that it was he who had telephoned that strange message, and surely no one could deny he had a right to stand in the hall outside his own apartment. Avoiding the elevator, he ran up the stairs, and scarcely had he reached his own floor than he saw Catherine ascending leisurely, a stout mulatto woman in a fresh white dress.
“Good evening, sir,” she said to Petrie, and looked about her.
“It was me,” said Petrie. “I mean, I telephoned.”
“You, sir?” she said, with faint reproach.
“I didn’t know you were in it. Did I draw the lucky number?”
“It’s something else,” said Petrie. “I’ll give you ten dollars if you’ll come into my apartment now and finish cooking the dinner. We have guests waiting, and—well— Mrs. Petrie and I think your cooking is— admirable.”
“Thank you, sir,” she said.
“What!” said he, amazed. “You mean you’ll come?”
“I’d be most pleased to, sir.” “Then you'll. . . It won’t be necessary for you to mention my name to Mrs. Mewerley when you tell her—”
“I shan’t tell Mrs. Mewerley anything,” said Catherine. “I’ll come at once, sir.”
X-IE HAD EXPECTED a great deal of -*• -L argument and trouble, and the actuality had the quality of a dream. It was too easy; it alarmed him. Unlocking the door, he led Catherine into the kitchen, and he returned to the drawing-room.
At first glance, all seemed to he going well. Montjoy was talking to the bogus Doctor Bigmayer with his usual élan, while she listened, a faintly ironic smile on her lips. She had a poise, an aloofness such as Petrie had seldom witnessed in a genuine celebrity. Mrs. Montjoy was flirting with poor old Jack who was very good at that sort ot thing. But something was wrong with Phyllis. She stood beside the table where the cocktail tray was, and looked quite stunned. She gave him a ghastly smile.
‘T’ve just had a telegram from Nan,” she said, and handed it to him.
He unfolded it and read it.
“Doctor Bigmayer proved a fraud stop don’t have anything to do with her stop scandal coming out in newspapers tomorrow. Nan.
He put the telegram into his pocket, and went to Mrs. Montjoy’s side. He made gallant speeches to her, while he tried to think. He had wished to make an impression upon Montjoy, so that he should get that partnership. Certainly this evening would make an impression. When Montjoy read in the morning newspapers that Doctor Bigmayer was a fraud, he would think that Petrie was the most gullible fool alive; he would for ever dismiss the idea of taking into partnership such an imbecile.
“Suppose,” thought Petrie, “that I tell him I’ve had confidential information from Washington that she’s a fraud? That would put me in rather a good light.”
But if he did that, Mrs. Murphy would have to be dismissed at once. He looked at her, and he saw that that was impossible. She was a woman of spirit and dignity; she would defend herself. There would be a scene.
He caught Phyllis’s eye, and he saw that she still thought he was wonderful. He wished that he were. His mind was becoming more and more a blank. The conversation was flagging; dinner should have been served long ago. The guests must be wondering at this extraordinary delay. He went into the pantry to mix more cocktails; he saw Catherine busy in the kitchen, with Selma helping her, and this reassured him.
“Better not try to do anything until we’ve eaten,” he thought.
A window in the house opposite was opened with a slam, and a man, a woman and a child all leaned out. He despised them for their aimless gaping. Other windows opened.
“Will you look at the smoke!” cried a voice familiar to him.
He then opened the pantry window, and as he leand out found himself looking into the face of Selma, in the kitchen window, not two feet from him.
“It's downstairs,” said she.
He looked, and he saw smoke pouring out of the Mewerleys' windows.
“Whew!” he cried, and ran back to the drawing-room.
It was empty. He glanced into the dining room; no one there. The swing-door from the pantry opened, and Selma came through, followed by Catherine.
“The firemen!” cried Selma, with a joyous lilt in her voice.
They went past him and out of the apartment, and he went after them. In the hall outside he found his party; they stood in a group, looking down the stairs. The smoke was thick and acrid.
“How thril-ling !” cried Mrs. Montjoy. “It might be advisable for us to leave the house,” said Montjoy. “Suppose we adjourn to a restaurant? Mrs. Petrie’s domestic arrangements will surely be very much upset by this—” There were voices in the hall below.
“Just step upstairs a moment, lady,” said a man. “It’s nothing but smoke now. It’ll clear out in a moment. No damage done. It was just you forgot the meat in the brerler and it caught, like.”
“It wasn’t me!” cried Mrs. Mewerley. “It was that despicable cook. She simply vanished. She left the dinner—”
She was mounting the stairs, holding her husband's arm. Halfway up they stopped. “ƒ see her!”
Mrs. Mewerley’s voice was now raised to a scream.
“I see her! She’s with those people! They’re responsible !”
It was time to act.
“Phyllis,” said Petrie, “take everyone back, and start dinner. At once.”
1_TE SPOKE clearly and curtly, and with -L -L such authority that the little herd began at once to move. All except the bogus Doctor Bigmayer, and her he held firmly by the arm.
“Catherine!” called Mrs. Mewerley, but in vain. The door of the Petries’ apartment had closed behind her.
“I shall notify the landlord!” cried Mrs. Mewerley. “I shall tell the police.”
“I’ll write to the newspapers,” said Mewerley. “It’s—”
“Wait!” said Petrie. “If you’ll let me1 speak—”
“No!” said Mewerley. “By some means unknown to me as yel, you induced our cook to leave in the midst of her preparations for dinner and—”
“Wait!” said Petrie. “I’ve got a much better cook for you. Here is Mrs. Murphy, a highly-trained professional. She will cook your dinner for you—at my expense.”
“I do not understand,” said Mrs. Mewerley, in a sort of wail. “We want our own cook. The whole thing is most confusing. Why did you take Catherine away? And where did you get this cook?”
“Mrs. Mewerley,” said Petrie, “kindly don’t ask me to explain. There may be an item in tomorrow’s newspapers, and there may not.”
“I don’t understand!”
‘T’ve got this cook for you—at my own expense. I have a sense of obligation toward my neighbors.”
“I must ask you to be more definite,” said Mewerley coldly.
“I can’t,” said Petrie.
He felt that he was lost. He could think of no possible way to account for the presence of Mrs. Murphy.
“If you’ll simply accept Mrs. Murphy, in the spirit in which I offer her—” he said.
“No !” said Mewerley. “I insist—”
For the first time Mrs. Murphy spoke. “I’m a cop,” she said.
There was a stunned silence.
“Insane!” Mrs. Mewerley hissed, to her husband. “And I believe he is, too.”
“I’m a lady detective,” said Mrs. Murphy. “Mr. Petrie, he found out there was queer goings on in this house, and he sent for me. He wanted to get me into your place, the way I could look for clues. I’m a better cook than your Catherine, besides being a cop.”
Like everyone else, the Mewerleys were impressed with her poise, her masterly calm.
“Mr. Petrie’s one wish was to save you,” she said.
“Oh! But—you don't mean we were in any danger, Mr. Petrie?” asked Mrs. Mewerley.
“It’s over now,” said Petrie.
“But I don’t understand.”
“My dear,” said her husband. “I believe Petrie is attempting to render us a genuine service. It’s better to say no more. I’ve noticed one or two little things myself—” “All clear, lady!” called the fireman from below.
Mrs. Murphy moved toward the stairs, and the Mewerleys followed her as if hypnotized. Petrie wiped his brow, pulled himself together, and re-entered his own apartment. Fatigued as he was, he had to go on. Phyllis had faith in him.
He found them all seated at the table, while Catherine, in her white dress, waited deftly upon them. He wondered where Selma was, but it didn’t matter. There were too many other things.
"We didn’t wait, Johnny,” said his wife. "Because I didn’t know how long it would take you to arrange things.”
THERE WAS a definite note of warning in her voice; her glance was charged with significance. Only, he could not tell what it signified, so he hesitated.
“Petrie,” said Montjoy, “your wife tells us that you found cause to think Doctor Bigmayerwas—fraudulent. I didn’t get that impression. I found her very straightforward. Don’t you think you were somewhat hasty in asking her to leave?”
“No,” said Petrie, boldly. “I talked to her about her work, and I could see at once that her scientific knowledge was definitely limited.”
“But bigadarium has been widely acclaimed—”
“Mark my words,” said Petrie, “you’ll find that bigadarium is bogus.”
"Well, of course,” said Montjoy, somewhat impressed by his junior’s manner, “if it turns out that you’re right, Petrie, we all owe you a debt of gratitude for getting rid of her without any sort of unpleasantness. And—if you’re right, Petrie, I’ll have to admit that your insight into human nature is extraordinary.”
“She’s definitely bogus,” said Petrie quietly. “She was highly recommended to me, but I don’t accept people at other people’s valuation. I form my own opinions.
I—well, I admit I have a sort of insight. If there’s one thing I can do, it is to understand and to handle people.”
He went on ; he felt that he was going on too long, but he couldn’t stop. Phyllis was looking fixedly at him. . . But still he continued. He pointed out his own qualities, and, for once, he made Montjoy listen to him. Had he not listened often enough to Montjoy talking about /ffmself and the reasons why he was successful? Montjoy could take this and like it. It had been a horrible evening; everything was ruined anyhow.
They went into the drawing-room for coffee and liqueurs.
“I’ve been a bumptious ass,” thought Petrie. “I’ve got in bad with everyone— Montjoy, the Mewerleys. . . Phyllis is disappointed in me. . .”
“Petrie,” said Montjoy, drawing him aside. “A word with you.”
Petrie raised his eyebrows. He was in no mood to endure reproaches.
“Petrie, I was very much impressed by the way you spoke at dinner. Hitherto, I’ve thought you were a trifle lacking in selfconfidence, but now—”
“More Kümmel?” asked Petrie. “No. I have plenty of self-confidence. It’s other people who haven’t enough confidence in me. That’s probably because I’m not boastful. I’m quiet and unassuming, yet when action is necessary, can I crack down !” “Excellent Kümmel, and an excellent dinner. . . Petrie, I’m inclined now to think that your suspicions about Doctor Bigmayer may have been based upon a sound instinct. And that sort of instinct is of the greatest value in business. Provided, of course, that it is sound. I’ll make enquiries here and there, and if you were right in this particular instance I intend to offer you an opportunity to enter the firm as junior partner.”
They went away, the Montjoys and poor old Jack. Phyllis at once took off her silver sandals and lay down on the couch, and Petrie flung himself into a chair. He was exhausted, yet calmly triumphant. He felt like one who, after scaling the bleak and icy heights, at last grasps in his hands the Edelweiss.
“Phyllis,” he said quietly, “you thought I was boring and bumptious—”
“I did not, Johnny. I thought you were cute.”
“Well, anyhow, let me tell you. I’m going to get that partnership.”
She sat up and listened; she said that he was marvellous and darling and that nothing he could get would be good enough for him.
“And, Johnny,” she said, “Selma has gone. She had a fight with Catherine and she left in a rage. Now we can live our own life.”
“Unless we get another Selma.” “Catherine wants to stay with us. She says she doesn’t like the Mewerleys. She says she likes young people who aren’t so settled in their ways. She’s a marvellous cook, and she’s so polite—”
The doorbell rang. As it was too late to fear the intrusion of guests, Petrie went in his shirt-sleeves to open the door. It was Mrs. Murphy.
“Well!” said she pleasantly. “And how did your little party go off?”
“Very well, thanks,” said Petrie.
“I’ve come,” said she, “for my hat and coat.”
“I’ll write you a cheque.”
She shook her head.
“No,” said she. “Keep it, young and lively as you are. If it was the agency had got me this steady job with Mrs. Mewerley, they’d be charging me heavy for it, and it’s a better job than any they ever found for me, the way they have favorites and no idea at all of justice. If I was able to help you out at all, I am glad of it, and they a quiet couple and her liking to clean her own silver.” “You did help us out,” said Petrie warmly. “It was an inspiration for you to say you were a lady detective.”
“Well,” said Mrs. Murphy, and for the first time he saw her smile modestly. “I have a boy friend is a cop,” she said.