Endless Night
Author:Agatha Christie

Chapter 10
It was, I think, the day after that. We were in Athens.

Suddenly, on the steps of the Acropolis Ellie ran into people that she knew. They had come ashore from one of the Hellenic cruises.

A woman of about thirty-five detached herself from the group and rushed along the steps to Ellie exclaiming, "Why, I never did. It's really you, Ellie Guteman? Well, what are you doing here? I'd no idea. Are you on a cruise?"

"No," said Ellie, "just staying here."

"My, but it's lovely to see you. How's Cora, is she here?"

"No, Cora is at Salzburg I believe."

"Well, well." The woman was looking at me and Ellie said quietly,

"Let me introduce - Mr. Rogers, Mrs. Bennington."

"How d'you do. How long are you here for?"

"I'm leaving tomorrow," said Ellie.

"Oh dear! My, I'll lose my party if I don't go, and I just don't want to miss a word of the lecture and the descriptions. They do hustle one a bit, you know. I'm just dead beat at the end of the day. Any chance of meeting you for a drink?"

"Not today," said Ellie, "we're going on an excursion."

Mrs. Bennington rushed off to rejoin her party. Ellie, who had been going with me up the steps of the Acropolis, turned round and moved down again.

"That rather settles things, doesn't it," she said to me.

"What does it settle?"

Ellie did not answer for a minute or two and then she said with a sigh, "I must write tonight."

"Write to whom?"

"Oh, to Nora, and to Uncle Frank, I suppose, and Uncle Andrew."

"Who's Uncle Andrew? He's a new one."

"Andrew Lippincott. Not really an uncle. He's my principal guardian or trustee or whatever you call it. He's a lawyer - a very well known one."

"What are you going to say?"

"I'm going to tell them I'm married. I couldn't say suddenly to Nora Bennington 'Let me introduce my husband'. There would have been frightful shrieks and exclamations and 'I never heard you were married. Tell me all about it, darling' etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. It's only fair that my stepmother and Uncle Frank and Uncle Andrew should be the first to know." She sighed. "Oh well, we've had a lovely time up to now."

"What will they say or do?" I asked.

"Make a fuss, I expect," said Ellie, in her placid way. "It doesn't matter if they do and they'll have sense enough to know that. We'll have to have a meeting, I expect. We could go to New York. Would you like that?" She looked at me inquiringly.

"No," I said, "I shouldn't like it in the least."

"Then they'll come to London probably, or some of them will. I don't know if you'd like that any better."

"I shouldn't like any of it. I want to be with you and see our house going up brick by brick as soon as Santonix gets there."

"So we can," said Ellie. "After all, meetings with the family won't take long. Possibly just one big splendid row would do. Get it over in one. Either we fly over there or they fly over here."

"I thought you said your stepmother was at Salzburg."

"Oh, I just said that. It sounded odd to say I didn't know where she was. Yes," said Ellie with a sigh, "we'll go home and meet them all. Mike, I hope you won't mind too much."

"Mind what - your family?"

"Yes. You won't mind if they're nasty to you."

"I suppose it's the price I have to pay for marrying you," I said. "I'll bear it."

"There's your mother," said Ellie thoughtfully.

"For heaven's sake, Ellie, you're not going to try and arrange a meeting between your stepmother in her frills and her furbelows and my mother from her back street. What do you think they'd ever have to say to each other?"

"If Cora was my own mother they might have quite a lot to say to each other," said Ellie. "I wish you wouldn't be so obsessed with class distinctions, Mike!"

"Me!" I said incredulously. "What's your American phrase - I come from the wrong side of the tracks, don't I?"

"You don't want to write it on a placard and pin it on yourself."

"I' don't know the right clothes to wear," I said bitterly. "I don't know the right way to talk about things and I don't know anything really about pictures or art or music. I'm only just learning who to tip and how much to give."

"Don't you think, Mike, that that makes it all much more exciting for you? I think so."

"Anyway," I said, "you're not to drag my mother into your family party."

"I wasn't proposing to drag anyone into anything, but I think, Mike, I ought to go and see your mother when we go back to England."

"No," I said explosively.

She looked at me rather startled.

"Why not, Mike, though. I mean, apart from anything else, I mean it's just very rude not to. Have you told her you're married?"

"Not yet."

"Why not?"

I didn't answer.

"Wouldn't the simplest way be to tell her you're married and take me to see her when we get back to England?"

"No," I said again. It was not so explosive this time but it was still fairly well underlined.

"You don't want me to meet her," said Ellie, slowly.

I didn't, of course. I suppose it was obvious enough but the last thing I could do was to explain. I didn't see how could explain.

"It wouldn't be the right thing to do," I said slowly. "You must see that. I'm sure it would lead to trouble."

"You think she wouldn't like me?"

"Nobody could help liking you, but it wouldn't - oh I don't know how to put it. But she might be upset and confused. After all, well, I mean I've married out of my station. That's the old-fashioned term. She wouldn't like that."

Ellie shook her head slowly.

"Does anybody really think like that nowadays?"

"Of course they do. They do in your country too."

"Yes," she said, "in a way that's true but - if anyone makes good there -"

"You mean if a man makes a lot of money."

"Well, not only money."

"Yes," I said, "it's money. If a man makes a lot of money he's admired and looked up to and it doesn't matter where he was born."

"Well, that's the same everywhere," said Ellie.

"Please, Ellie," I said. "Please don't go and see my mother."

"I still think it's unkind."

"No it isn't. Can't you let me know what's best for my own mother?

She'd be upset. I tell you she would."

"But you must tell her you've got married."

"All right," I said. "I'll do that."

It occurred to me it would be easier to write to my mother from abroad. That evening when Ellie was writing to Uncle Andrew and

Uncle Frank and her stepmother Cora van Stuyvesant, I, too, was writing my own letter. It was quite short.

"Dear Mum," I wrote. "I ought to have told you before but I felt a bit awkward. I got married three weeks ago. It was all rather sudden. She's a very pretty girl and very sweet. She's got a lot of money which makes things a bit awkward sometimes. We're going to build ourselves a house somewhere in the country. Just at present we're travelling around Europe. All the best, Yours, Mike."

The results of our evening's correspondence were somewhat varied. My mother let a week elapse before she sent a letter remarkably typical of her.

"Dear Mike. I was glad to get your letter. I hope you'll be very happy. Your affectionate mother."

As Ellie had prophesied, there was far more fuss on her side. We'd stirred up a regular hornet's nest of trouble. We were beset by reporters who wanted news of our romantic marriage, there were articles in the papers about the Guteman heiress and her romantic elopement, there were letters from bankers and lawyers. And finally official meetings were arranged. We met Santonix on the site of Gipsy's Acre and we looked at the plans there and discussed things, and then having seen things under way we came to London, took a suite at Claridge's and prepared as they say in old world books, to receive cavalry.

The first to arrive was Mr. Andrew P. Lippincott. He was an elderly man, dry and precise in appearance. He was long and lean with suave and courteous manners. He was a Bostonian and from his voice I wouldn't have known he was an American. By arrangement through the telephone he called upon us in our suite at 2 o'clock. Ellie was nervous, I could tell, although she concealed it very well.

Mr. Lippincott kissed Ellie and extended a hand and a pleasant smile to me.

"Well, Ellie my dear, you are looking very well. Blooming, I might say."

"How are you, Uncle Andrew? How did you come. Did you fly?"

"No, I had a very pleasant trip across on the Queen Mary. And this is your husband?"

"This is Mike, yes."

I played up, or thought I did.

"How are you, sir?" I said.

Then I asked him if he'd have a drink, which he refused pleasantly. He sat down in an upright chair with gilt arms to it and looked, still smiling, from Ellie to me.

"Well," he said, "you young people have been giving us shocks. All very romantic, eh?"

"I'm sorry," said Ellie, "I really am sorry."

"Are you?" said Mr. Lippincott, rather dryly.

"I thought it was the best way," said Ellie.

"I am not altogether of your opinion there, my dear."

"Uncle Andrew," Ellie said, "you know perfectly well that if I'd done it any other way there would have been the most frightful fuss."

"Why should there have been such a frightful fuss?"

"You know what they'd have been like," said Ellie.

"You too," she added accusingly. She added "I've had two letters from Cora. One yesterday and one this morning."

"You must discount a certain amount of agitation, my dear. It's only natural under the circumstances, don't you think?"

"It's my business who I get married to and how and where."

"You may think so, but you will find that the women of any family would rarely agree as to that."

"Really, I've saved everyone a lot of trouble."

"You may put it that way."

"But it's true, isn't it?"

"But you practised, did you not, a good deal of deception, helped by someone who should have known better than to do what she did."

Ellie flushed.

"You mean Greta? She only did what I asked her to. Are they all very upset with her?"

"Naturally. Neither she nor you could expect anything else, could you? She was, remember, in a position of trust."

"I'm of age. I can do what I like."

"I am speaking of the period of time before you were of age. The deceptions began then, did they not?"

"You mustn't blame Ellie, sir," I said. "To begin with I didn't know what was going on and since all her relations are in another country it wasn't easy for me to get in touch with them."

"I quite realise," said Mr. Lippincott, "that Greta posted certain letters and gave certain information to Mrs. van Stuyvesant and to myself as she was requested to do by Ellie here, and made, if I may say so, a very competent job of it. You have met Greta Andersen, Michael? I may call you Michael, since you are Ellie's husband."

"Of course," I said, "call me Mike. No, I haven't met Miss Andersen."

"Indeed? That seems to me surprising." He looked at me with a long thoughtful gaze. "I should have thought that she would have been present at your marriage."

"No, Greta wasn't there," said Ellie. She threw me a look of reproach and I shifted uncomfortably.

Mr. Lippincott's eyes were still resting on me thoughtfully. He made me uncomfortable. He seemed about to say something more then changed his mind.

"I'm afraid," he said after a moment or two, "that you two, Michael and Ellie, will have to put up with a certain amount of reproaches and criticism from Ellie's family."

"I suppose they are going to descend on me in a bunch," said Ellie.

"Very probably," said Mr. Lippincott. "I've tried to pave the way," he added.

"You're on our side, Uncle Andrew?" said Ellie, smiling at him.

"You must hardly ask a prudent lawyer to go as far as that. I have learnt that in life it is wise to accept what is a fait accompli. You two have fallen in love with each other and have got married and have, I understood you to say, Ellie, bought a piece of property in the South of England and have already started building a house on it. You propose, therefore, to live in this country?"

"We want to make our home here, yes. Do you object to our doing that?" I said with a touch of anger in my voice. "Ellie's married to me and she's a British subject now. So why shouldn't she live in England?"

"No reason at all. In fact, there is no reason why Fenella should not live in any country she chooses, or indeed have property in more than one country. The house in Nassau belongs to you, remember, Ellie."

"I always thought it was Cora's. She always has behaved as though it was."

"But the actual property rights are vested in you. You also have the house in Long Island whenever you care to visit it. You are the owner of a great deal of oil bearing property in the West." His voice was amiable, pleasant but I had the feeling that the words were directed at me in some curious way. Was it his idea of trying to insinuate a wedge between me and Ellie? I was not sure. It didn't seem very sensible, rubbing it in to a man that his wife owned property all over the world and was fabulously rich. If anything I should have thought that he would have played down Ellie's property rights and her money and all the rest of it. If I was a fortune hunter as he obviously thought, that would be all the more grist to my mill. But I did realise that Mr. Lippincott was a subtle man. It would be hard at any time to know what he was driving at; what he had in his mind behind his even and pleasant manner. Was he trying in a way of his own to make me feel uncomfortable, to make me feel that I was going to be branded almost publicly as a fortune hunter. He said to Ellie:

"I've brought over a certain amount of legal stuff which you'll have to go through with me, Ellie. I shall want your signature to many of these things."

"Yes, of course, Uncle Andrew. Any time."

"As you say, any time. There's no hurry. I have other business in London and I shall be over here for about ten days."

Ten days, I thought. That's a long time. I rather wished that Mr. Lippincott wasn't going to be here for ten days. He appeared friendly enough towards me, though, as you might say, indicating that he still reserved his judgment on certain points, but I wondered at that moment whether he was really my enemy. If he was, he would not be the kind of man to show his hand.

"Well," he went on, "now that we've all met and come to terms, as you might say, for the future, I would like to have a short, interview with this husband of yours."

Ellie said, "You can talk to us both." She was up in arms. I put a hand on her arm.

"Now don't flare up, ducks, you're not a mother hen protecting a chicken." I propelled her gently to the door in the wall that led into the bedroom.

"Uncle Andrew wants to size me up," I said. "He's well within his rights."

I pushed her gently through the double doors. I shut them both and came back into the room. It was a large handsome sitting-room. I came back and took a chair and faced Mr. Lippincott.

"All right," I said. "Shoot."

"Thank you, Michael," he said. "First of all I want to assure you that I am not, as you may be thinking, your enemy in any way."

"Well," I said, "I'm glad to hear that." I didn't sound very sure about it.

"Let me speak frankly," said Mr. Lippincott, "more frankly than I could do before that dear child to whom I am guardian and of whom I am very fond. You may not yet appreciate it fully, Michael, but Ellie is a most unusually sweet and lovable girl."

"Don't you worry. I'm in love with her all right."

"That is not at all the same thing," said Mr. Lippincott in his dry manner. "I hope that as well as being in love with her you can also appreciate what a really dear and in some ways very vulnerable person she is."

"I'll try," I said. "I don't think I'll have to try very hard. She's the tops, Ellie is."

"So I will go on with what I was about to say. I shall put my cards on the table with the utmost frankness. You are not the kind of young man that I should have wished Ellie to marry. I should like her, as her family would have liked her, to marry someone of her own surroundings, of her own set -"

"A lord in other words," I said.

"No, not only that. A similar background is, I think, to be desired as a basis for matrimony. And I am not referring to the snob attitude. After all, Herman Guteman, her grandfather, started life as a dock hand. He ended up as one of the richest men in America."

"For all you know I might do the same," I said. "I may end up one of the richest men in England."

"Everything is possible," said Mr. Lippincott. "Do you have ambitions that way?"

"It's not just the money," I said. "I'd like to - I'd like to get somewhere and do things and -" I hesitated, stopped.

"You have ambitions, shall we say? Well, that is a very good thing, I am sure."

"I'm starting at long odds," I said, "starting from scratch. I'm nothing and nobody and I won't pretend otherwise."

He nodded approval.

"Very frankly and handsomely said. I appreciate it. Now, Michael, I am no relation to Ellie, but I have acted as her guardian, I am a trustee, left so by her grandfather, of her affairs, I manage her fortune and her investments. And I assume therefore a certain responsibility for them. Therefore I want to know all that I can know about the husband she has chosen."

"Well," I said, "you can make inquiries about me, I suppose, and find out anything you like easily enough."

"Quite so," said Mr. Lippincott. "That would be one way of doing it. A wise precaution to take. But actually, Michael, I should like to know all that I can about you from your own lips. I should like to hear your own story of what your life has been up to now."

Of course I didn't like it. I expect he knew I wouldn't. Nobody in my position would like that. It's second nature to make the best of yourself. I'd made a point of that at school and onwards, boasted about things a bit, said a few things, stretching the truth a bit. I wasn't ashamed of it. I think it's natural. I think it's the sort of thing that you've got to do if you want to get on. Make out a good case for yourself. People take you at your own valuation and I didn't want to be like that chap in Dickens. They read it out on the television, and I must say it's a good yarn on its own. Uriah something his name was, always going about being humble and rubbing his hands, and actually planning and scheming behind that humility. I didn't want to be like that.

I was ready enough to boast a bit with the chaps I met or to put up a good case to a prospective employer. After all, you've got a best side and a worst side of yourself and it's no good showing the worst side and harping on it. No, I'd always done the best for myself describing my activities up to date. But I didn't fancy doing that sort of thing with Mr. Lippincott. He'd rather pooh-poohed the idea of making private inquiries about me but I wasn't at all sure that he wouldn't do so all the same. So I gave him the truth unvarnished, as you might say.

Squalid beginnings, the fact that my father had been a drunk, but that I'd had a good mother, that she'd slaved a good bit to help me get educated. I made no secret of the fact that I'd been a rolling stone, that I'd moved from one job to another. He was a good listener, encouraging, if you know what I mean. Every now and then, though, I realised how shrewd he was. Just little questions that he slipped in, or comments, some comments that I might have rushed in unguardedly either to admit or to deny.

Yes, I had a sort of feeling that I'd better be wary and on my toes. And after ten minutes I was quite glad when he leaned back in his chair and the inquisition, if you could call it that, and it wasn't in the least like one, seemed to be over.

"You have an adventurous attitude to life, Mr. Rogers - Michael. Not a bad thing. Tell me more about this house that you and Ellie are building."

"Well," I said, "it's not far from a town called Market Chadwell."

"Yes," he said, "I know just where it is. As a matter of fact I ran down to see it. Yesterday, to be exact."

That startled me a little. It showed he was a devious kind of fellow who got round to more things than you might think he would.

"It's a beautiful site," I said defensively, "and the house we're building is going to be a beautiful house. The architect's a chap called Santonix. Rudolf Santonix. I don't know if you've ever heard of him but -"

"Oh yes," said Mr. Lippincott, "he's quite a well known name among architects."

"He's done work in the States I believe."

"Yes, an architect of great promise and talent. Unfortunately I believe his health is not good."

"He thinks he's a dying man," I said, "but I don't believe it. I believe he'll get cured, get well again. Doctors - they'll say anything."

"I hope your optimism is justified. You are an optimist."

"I am about Santonix."

"I hope all you wish will come true. I may say that I think you and Ellie have made an extremely good purchase in the piece of property that you have bought."

I thought it was nice of the old boy to use the pronoun 'you'. It wasn't rubbing it in that Ellie had done the buying on her own.

"I have had a consultation with Mr. Crawford."

"Crawford?" I frowned slightly.

"Mr. Crawford of Reece & Crawford, a firm of English solicitors. Mr. Crawford was the member of the firm who put the purchase in hand. It is a good firm of solicitors and I gather that this property was acquired at a cheap figure. I may say that I wondered slightly at that. I am familiar with the present prices of land in this country and I really felt rather at a loss to account for it. I think Mr. Crawford himself was surprised to get it at so low a figure. I wondered if you knew at all why property happened to go so cheaply. Mr. Crawford did not advance any opinion on that. In fact he seemed slightly embarrassed when I put the question to him."

"Oh well," I said "it's got a curse on it."

"I beg your pardon, Michael, what did you say?"

"A curse, sir," I explained. "The gipsy's warning, that sort of thing. It is known locally as Gipsy's Acre."

"Ah. A story?"

"Yes. It seems rather confused and I don't know how much people have made up and how much is true. There was a murder or something long ago. A man and his wife and another man. Some story that the husband shot the other two and then shot himself. At least that's the verdict that was brought in. But all sorts of other stories go flying about. I don't think anyone really knows what happened. It was a good long time ago. It's changed hands about four or five times since, but nobody stays there long."

"Ah," said Mr. Lippincott appreciatively, "yes, quite a piece of English folklore." He looked at me curiously.

"And you and Ellie are not afraid of the curse?" He said it lightly, with a slight smile.

"Of course not," I said. "Neither Ellie nor I would believe in any rubbish of that kind. Actually it's a lucky thing since because of it we got it cheap." When I said that a sudden thought struck me. It was lucky in one sense, but I thought that with all Ellie's money and her property and all the rest of it, it couldn't matter to her very much whether she bought a piece of land cheap or at the top price. Then I thought, no, I was wrong. After all, she'd had a grandfather who came up from being a dock labourer to a millionaire. Anyone of that kind would always wish to buy cheap and sell dear.

"Well, I am not superstitious," said Mr. Lippincott, "and the view from your property is quite magnificent." He hesitated.

"I only hope that when you come to move into your house to live there, that Ellie will not hear too many of these stories that are going about."

"I'll keep everything from her that I can," I said. "I don't suppose anybody will say anything to her."

"People in country villages are very fond of repeating stories of that kind," said Mr. Lippincott. "And Ellie, remember, is not as tough as you are, Michael. She can be influenced easily. Only in some ways. Which brings me -" He stopped without going on to say what he had been going to. He tapped on the table with one finger.

"I'm going to speak to you now on a matter of some difficulty. You said just now that you had not met Greta Andersen."

"No, as I said, I haven't met her yet."

"Odd. Very curious."

"Well?" I looked at him inquiringly.

"I should have thought you'd have been almost sure to have met her," he said slowly. "How much do you know about her?"

"I know that she's been with Ellie some time."

"She has been with Ellie since Ellie was seventeen. She has occupied a post of some responsibility and trust. She came first to the States in the capacity of secretary and companion. A kind of chaperon to Ellie when Mrs. van Stuyvesant, her stepmother, was away from home, which I may say was a quite frequent occurrence." He spoke particularly dryly when he said this. "She is, I gather, a well-born girl with excellent references, half Swedish half German. Ellie became, quite naturally, very much attached to her."

"So I gather," I said.

"In some ways Ellie was, I suppose, almost too much attached to her. You don't mind my saying that."

"No. Why should I mind? As a matter of fact I've - well, I've thought so myself once or twice. Greta this and Greta that. I got - well, I know I've no business to, but I used to get fed up sometimes."

"And yet she expressed no wish for you to meet Greta?"

"Well," I said, "it's rather difficult to explain. But I think, yes, I think she probably did suggest it in a mild way once or twice but, well, we were too taken up with having met each other. Besides, oh well, I suppose I didn't really want to meet Greta. I didn't want to share Ellie with anyone."

"I see. Yes, I see. And Ellie did not suggest Greta being present at your wedding?"

"She did suggest it," I said.

"But - but you didn't want her to come. Why?"

"I don't know. I really don't know. I just felt that this Greta, this girl or woman I'd never met, she was always homing in on everything.

You know, arranging Ellie's life for her. Sending post-cards and letters and filling in for Ellie, arranging a whole itinerary and passing it on to the family. I felt that Ellie was dependent on Greta in a way, that she let Greta run her, that she wanted to do everything that Greta wanted. I - oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Lippincott, I oughtn't to be saying all these things perhaps. Say I was just plain jealous. Anyway I blew up and I said'I didn't want Greta at the wedding, that the wedding was ours, that it was just our business and nobody else's. And so we went along to the Registrar's office and his clerk and the typist from his office were the two witnesses. I dare say it was mean of me to refuse to have Greta there, but I wanted to have Ellie to myself."

"I see. Yes, I see, and I think, if I may say so, that you were wise, Michael."

"You don't like Greta either," I said shrewdly.

"You can hardly use the word 'either', Michael, if you have not even met her."

"No, I know but, well, I mean if you hear a lot about a person you can form some sort of idea of them, some judgment of them. Oh well call it plain jealousy. Why don't you like Greta?"

"This is without prejudice," said Mr. Lippincott, "but you are Ellie's husband, Michael, and I have Ellie's happiness very much at heart. I don't think that the influence that Greta has over Ellie is a very desirable one. She takes too much upon herself."

"Do you think she'll try and make trouble between us?" I asked.

"I think," said Mr. Lippincott, "that I have no right to say anything of that kind."

He sat looking cautiously at me, and blinking like a wrinkled old tortoise.

I didn't know quite what to say next. He spoke first, choosing his words with some care.

"There has been, then, no suggestion that Greta Andersen might take up her residence with you?"

"Not if I can help it," I said.

"Ah. So that is what you feel? The idea has been mooted."

"Ellie did say something of the kind. But we're newly married, Mr. Lippincott. We want our house - our new home to ourselves. Of course she'll come and stay sometimes, I suppose. That'll only be natural."

"As you say, that would be only natural. But you realise, perhaps, that Greta is going to be in a somewhat difficult position as regards further employment. I mean, it is not a question of what Ellie thinks of her, but of what the people who engaged her and reposed trust in her feel."

"You mean that you or Mrs. van What's-her-name won't recommend her for another post of the same kind?"

"They are hardly likely to do so except so far as to satisfy purely legal requirements."

"And you think that she'll want to come to England and live on Ellie."

"I don't want to prejudice you too much against her. After all, this is mostly in my mind. I dislike some of the things she has done and the way she has done them. I think that Ellie who has a very generous heart will be upset at having, shall we say, blighted Greta's prospects in many ways. She might impulsively insist on her coming to live with you."

"I don't think Ellie will insist," I said slowly. I sounded a little worried all the same, and I thought Lippincott noticed it. "But couldn't we - Ellie I mean - couldn't Ellie pension her off?"

"We should not put it precisely like that," said Mr. Lippincott.

"There is a suggestion of age about pensioning any one off and Greta is a young woman, and I may say a very handsome young woman. Beautiful, in fact," he added in a deprecating, disapproving voice. "She's very attractive to men, too."

"Well, perhaps she'll marry," I said. "If she's all that, why hasn't she got married before this?"

"There have been people attracted, I believe, but she has not considered them. I think, however, that your suggestion is a very sound one. I think it might be carried out in a way that would not hurt anyone's susceptibilities. It might seem quite a natural thing to do on Ellie's having attained her majority and having had her marriage helped on by Greta's good offices - settle a sum of money upon her in a fit of gratitude." Mr. Lippincott made the last two words sound as sour as lemon juice.

"Well, then, that's all right," I said cheerfully.

"Again I see that you are an optimist. Let us hope that Greta will accept what is offered to her."

"Why shouldn't she? She'd be mad if she didn't."

"I don't know," said Mr. Lippincott. "I should say it would be extraordinary if she did not accepts and they will remain on terms of friendship, of course."

"You think - what do you think?"

"I would like to see her influence over Ellie broken," said Mr. Lippincott. He got up. "You will, I hopes assist me and do everything you can to further that end?"

"You bet I will," I said. "The last thing I want is to have Greta in our pockets all the time."

"You might change your mind when you see her," said Mr. Lippincott.

"I don't think so," I said. "I don't like managing females, however efficient and even handsome they are."

"Thank you, Michael, for listening to me so patiently. I hope you will give me the pleasure of dining with me, both of you. Possibly next Tuesday evening? Cora van Stuyvesant and Frank Barton will probably be in London by that time."

"And I've got to meet them, I suppose?"

"Oh yes, that will be quite inevitable." He smiled at me and this time his smile seemed more genuine than it had before. "You mustn't mind too much," he said. "Cora, I expect, will be very rude to you. Frank will be merely tactless. Reuben won't be over just at present."

I didn't know who Reuben was - another relation I supposed.

I went across to the connecting doors and opened them.

"Come on, Ellie," I said, "the grilling is over."

She came back in the room and looked quickly from Lippincott to myself, then she went across and kissed him.

"Dear Uncle Andrew," she said. "I can see you've been nice to Michael."

"Well, my dear, if I weren't nice to your husband you wouldn't have much use for me in the future, would you? I do reserve the right to give a few words of advice now and then. You're very young you know, both of you."

"All right," said Ellie, "we'll listen patiently."

"Now, my dear, I'd like to have a word with you if I may."

"My turn to be odd man out," I said, and I too went into the bedroom.

I shut the two double doors ostentatiously but I opened the inner one again after I got inside. I hadn't been as well brought up as Ellie so I felt a bit anxious to find out how double-faced Mr. Lippincott might turn out to be. But actually there was nothing I need have listened to. He gave Ellie one or two wise words of advice. He said she must realise that I might find it difficult to be a poor man married to a rich wife and then he went on to sound her about making a settlement on Greta. She agreed to it eagerly and said she'd been going to ask him that herself. He also suggested that she should make an additional settlement on Cora van Stuyvesant.

"There is no earthly need that you should do so," he said. "She has been very well provided for in the matter of alimony from several husbands. And she is as you know paid an income, though not a very big one, from the trust fund left by your grandfather."

"But you think I ought to give her more still?"

"I think there is no legal or moral obligation to do so. What I think is that you will find her far less tiresome and - shall I say catty - if you do so. I should make it in the form of an increased income, which you could revoke at any time. If you find that she has been spreading malicious rumours about Michael or yourself or your life together, the knowledge that you can do that will keep her tongue free of those more poisonous barbs that she so well knows how to plant."

"Cora has always hated me," said Ellie. "I've known that." She added rather shyly, "You do like Mike, don't you, Uncle Andrew?"

"I think he's an extremely attractive young man," said Mr. Lippincott. "And I can quite see how you came to marry him."

That, I suppose, was as good as I could expect. I wasn't really his type and I knew it. I eased the door gently to and in a minute or two Ellie came to fetch me.

We were both standing saying good-bye to Lippincott when there was a knock on the door and a page boy came in with a telegram.

Ellie took it and opened it. She gave a little surprised cry of pleasure.

"It's Greta," she said, "she's arriving in London tonight and she'll be coming to see us tomorrow. How lovely."

She looked at us both. "Isn't it?" she said.

She saw two sour faces and heard two polite voices saying, one:

"Yes indeed, my dear," the other one "Of course."
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