Sweet Danger

Sweet Danger

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Overview

Designed to appeal to the book lover, the Macmillan Collector's Library is a series of beautifully bound pocket-sized gift editions of much loved classic titles. Bound in real cloth, printed on high quality paper, and featuring ribbon markers and gilt edges, Macmillan Collector's Library are books to love and treasure.

Albert Campion is called in by the British government to establish ownership of the tiny but oil-rich principality of Averna on the Adriatic Coast. The aristocratic but impoverished Fitton family are laying claim to it but the deeds are nowhere to be found. The Fittons live in the eccentric Suffolk village of Pontisbright where much of this lively mystery takes place. Campion is particularly taken with the young flame-haired Lady Amanda who later in the series becomes his wife. Amanda however declares she’ll marry him ‘when she’s ready.’ With the help of his loyal chums, and his sidekick, the ex-convict Magersfontein Lugg, Campion and the Fittons are up against a criminal financier and his heavies to claim ownership of Averna.

With an introduction by bestselling Scottish crime writer, Val McDermid.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781509826797
Publisher: Macmillan Collector's Library
Publication date: 05/16/2017
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 629,843
Product dimensions: 3.80(w) x 6.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Margery Allingham was born in London in 1904. The child of two writers, she grew up in the village of Layer Breton near Colchester and spent much of her childhood writing stories and plays. Her first novel, Blackkerchief Dick, was published in 1923 when she was only 19. Her breakthrough came in 1929 with the publication of The Crime at Black Dudley, which introduced Albert Campion, the gentleman sleuth who went on to become her most famous character and featured in eighteen further novels and numerous short stories establishing her as one of the four queens of the golden age of crime. Margery Allingham died in 1966 and her husband, Philip Youngman Carter, completed her final Campion novel, The Cargo of Eagles.

Date of Birth:

May 20, 1904

Date of Death:

June 30, 1966

Place of Birth:

London

Place of Death:

Colchester, Essex, England

Education:

Endsleigh House School, Colchester; the Perse School, Cambridge; and the Regent Street Polytechnic, London

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

In Confidence

A SMALL window in the sunlit, yellow side of the Hôtel Beauregard, Mentone, opened slowly, and through it a hand appeared, which, after depositing a compact brown suit-case upon the sill, speedily vanished.

Guffy Randall, who was allowing his car to roll in a leisurely fashion down the gentle slope to the sharp right-angle turn which would bring him to the front of the hotel and lunch, pulled up and observed the now closed window and the bag with that air of polite yet careless interest, which was his chief characteristic.

It seemed such a foolish thing to do, this leaving of a small brown portmanteau upon the sill of a shut, first-floor window. Mr Randall was stolid, nordic, and logical. He also had the heaven-sent gift of curiosity, and thus it was that he was still gazing idly at the hotel wall when the sequel of the first incident occurred.

A glazed ground-floor window was opened cautiously, and a small man in a brown suit began to climb out. It was a very small window, and the unconventional departer seemed more anxious to watch what he was leaving than to see where he was going, so that he came out feet first, his knees resting upon the sill. He moved with remarkable agility, and as Mr Randall watched he saw to his astonishment a hand replace an unmistakable revolver in a strained hip pocket.

The next moment the new-comer had closed the window, hoisted himself carefully to his feet, and, stepping on a pipe-bracket, pulled himself far enough up to retrieve the bag. Then he dropped silently on to the dusty path and set off down the road at a sprint.

The young man caught a glimpse of a small, pink, rat-like face and scared red-rimmed eyes.

Naturally the obvious explanation occurred to him, but he felt all the mistrust which the Englishman abroad feels towards any judicial system he does not understand, coupled with a vigorous horror of becoming involved in it in any way. Moreover, he was hungry. The day was as hot and as lazy as only a day on the French Riviera out of season can be, and he felt no personal animosity towards any impecunious hotel guest who must resort to undignified methods of departure, so long as he himself were not inconvenienced.

He turned the Lagonda gently into the palm-lined street which ran round the bay, and drove slowly through the ornate iron gates to the hotel entrance.

As he pulled up in the wide gravel parking place, he noted with relief that the hotel was by no means crowded. Rugby, Oxford, and the shires had produced in Guffy Randall at the age of twenty-eight an almost perfect specimen of the younger diehard. He was amiable, well-mannered, snobbish to the point of comedy and, in spite of his faults, a rather delightful person. His cheerful round face was hardly distinguished, but his very blue eyes were frank and kindly and his smile was disarming.

At the moment he was returning from the somewhat trying experience of conducting an aged and valetudinarian dowager aunt to an Italian spa, and having now deposited her safely at her villa was proceeding quietly homeward along the coast.

As he set foot in the cool ornate vestibule of the Beauregard, conscience smote him. He remembered the place well, and the benign face of little M. Étienne Fleurey, the manager, returned to him.

It was one of Guffy's most charming peculiarities that he made friends wherever he went and with all sorts of people. M. Fleurey, he remembered now, had been the most estimable and obliging of hosts, whose small stock of Napoleon brandy had been nobly produced at a farewell gathering at the end of a hectic season some few years before. In the circumstances, he reflected, the least thing he could have done was to have given the alarm after the mysteriously departing stranger, or, better still, to have chased and apprehended him.

Regretful, and annoyed with himself, the young man decided to do what he could to remedy his omission, and, giving his card to the reception clerk, desired that it might be taken immediately to the manager.

M. Fleurey was a person of great importance in the little world encompassed by the walls of the Beauregard. Minor strangers spent whole fortnights in the hotel without so much as setting eyes upon the august cherub, who preferred to direct his minions from behind the scenes.

Nevertheless, within a few minutes young Mr Randall found himself in the little mahogany-lined sanctum on the sunny side of the forecourt, with M. Fleurey himself pumping his hand and emitting birdlike chirrups of welcome and regard.

M. Fleurey was definitely ovoid in figure. From the top of his shining head he sloped gently outwards to a diameter on the level of his coatpockets, whence he receded gracefully to the heels of his immaculate shoes.

Guffy was reminded of a witticism of the earlier season which had related how M. Fleury had been tapped on the soles of his feet so that, like Columbus's egg, he should be able to stand.

For the rest, he was a discreet, affable soul, a connoisseur of wine and a devout believer in the sanctity of the noblesse.

It began to dawn on Guffy that M. Fleurey was more than ordinarily delighted to see him. There was an element of relief in his welcome, as though the young man had been a deliverer rather than a prospective guest, and his first words put all recollection of the unconventional departure he had just witnessed out of his mind.

'Name of a name of a little good man,' said the manager in his own language, 'it is of an astonishing clarity to me that you, my dear Monsieur Randall, have arrived by the express intervention of Providence itself.'

'Really?' said Guffy, whose French was by no means perfect and who had only caught the sense of the latter part of the sentence. 'Anything up?' M. Fleurey spread out his hands deprecatingly and a frown ruffled for an instant the tranquillity of his forehead.

'I don't know,' he said. 'When you came in I was in a quandary – as you would say, in a flummox. And then, when your name appeared, I said to myself, "Here is my deliverer; here is the man of all others who will most help me." The noblesse are as an open book to you, M. Randall. There is no one with any pretension to title whom you have not met.'

'Here, I say, don't pin your faith to that,' said Guffy hastily.

'Well, shall we say no one of any importance?'

M. Fleurey turned to his desk and his visitor saw that this glistening pantechnicon, usually so immaculate, was now littered with reference books, most of them ancient volumes, greasy with much thumbing. Burke and Dod were well to the fore, and a large crested pocket-handkerchief lay upon a square of tissue paper on top of a London telephone directory.

'Imagine my perplexity!' said M. Fleurey. 'But I will explain.'

With the air of a man who is anxious to relate his troubles, but not without paying due compensation to the feelings of his listener, he produced two glasses and a decanter from a small cupboard in the panelling, and a few seconds later Guffy found himself sipping rare Amontillado while his host talked.

M. Fleurey had a flair for the dramatic. Opening an enormous register, he pointed to three names half-way down the last page.

'Mr Jones, Mr Robinson, and Mr Brown of London,' he read. 'Is not that sinister? I am no cabbage. I was not born yesterday. As soon as Léon pointed out these entries to me I said, "Ah, there is mystery here."'

Guffy, while wishing to congratulate M. Fleurey on his powers of detection, if only in gratitude for the sherry, was not very impressed.

'I've never heard of them,' he said.

'Wait ...' M. Fleurey lifted one finger to heaven. 'I have observed these visitors. They are all three young; unmistakably of the noblesse. One of them has – how shall I say it? – the manner. The others wait upon him with the care and the deference of courtiers. The manservant is mysterious.'

The Frenchman paused.

'Even this,' he continued, raising his voice and adopting the throaty murmur of the fashionable diseur, 'even this would not be in itself of interest. But this morning Léon, my maître d'hôtel, received a complaint from a fourth visitor whose room backs the suite occupied by Mr Brown of London. This visitor – a negligible person – ninety francs a day and vin du pays – declared that his room had been ransacked – how do you say? – rendered to bubble and squeak. Nothing had been stolen, you understand.'

M. Fleurey lowered his voice on the past participle as though apologizing for using it in the presence of his guest.

Guffy nodded, indicating that, as between one man of the world and another, he was aware that such things did happen.

'I went up to the room myself,' confessed the manager like one admitting to a servile act. 'It was indeed upsydaisy. The miserable owner, while he did not actually accuse anyone, indicated that he suspected the manservant, W. Smith, of the affair. Now, my friend – ' the manager set down his glass – 'you perceive my situation. There is nothing I desire more in my hotel than the presence of royalty incognito, and nothing I desire less than confidence tricksters, clever thieves, or the hoi polloi making game. Now this last is impossible; these people are the noblesse. I am experienced. I served my apprenticeship. I know. But which of the other alternatives is correct? I have here the handkerchief of Mr Brown. You see the crest. There is only one like it in all these books of information.'

He picked up a little battered leather-bound volume and, turning over the yellow pages, pointed to a rudely drawn design with the single word underneath it: 'Averna.'

'There is no account in this book of the owners of that crest, and the book is lent to me by the Municipal Librarian. But you see, there it is. The crest, usurped or not, is a genuine crest. What shall I do? If I am unduly inquisitive my visitors will go. If they are confidence tricksters I shall have been fortunate, but if they are not, then my reputation, the reputation of my so beautiful hotel for courtesy, intelligence, and, as you would say, "wise guyishness", will be done, gone, exploded – pouf! – like a carnival balloon.'

'I'd like to see these people,' said Guffy. 'Any chance of my getting a squint at them without them seeing me?'

'My enchanting friend, the thing is no sooner said than done. Come here.'

The little plump man tiptoed across the thickly carpeted room as though he feared the floor were unsafe.

Guffy swallowed the last drop of his sherry and followed.

M. Fleurey slid back a little hatch in the panelling, and, to his complete astonishment, Guffy found himself looking through a small round window high up in the north wall of the lounge. The ornate moulding on the other side successfully hid the peep-hole, and the whole of the lounge lay spread out beneath like a new-angle photograph.

'This,' said M. Fleurey with pride, 'is my quarter-deck. From here I can see my passengers, my crew, the life of my whole establishment. Keep back as much as possible – forgive me, but these subterfuges are necessary.'

Guffy moved obligingly and regarded the scene below with interest, now that his first amazement had subsided. The huge cream-and-amber room below was sparsely dotted with people, but there were enough to make his task difficult had it not been for the excited little manager at his side.

'Look, my friend,' he said. 'In the corner by the window. Ah, the palm obliterates the head of Mr Brown. Nevertheless, wait for a moment. We can already see the others.'

The young man peered down at the elegant little group round the corner table. He saw one sleek brown head, one black one, and the third man was, as M. Fleurey had said, hidden behind the palms.

As Guffy stared, one of the men turned and he caught sight of his face. An exclamation escaped him.

M. Fleurey tugged his sleeve impatiently.

'You recognize them?' he demanded. 'Are my fears at rest? I implore you, my friend, to tell me!'

'Half a minute ...' Guffy pressed his face against the glass of the peephole in an effort to catch a glimpse of the man in the shadow.

The brown-headed 'equerry' he had recognized immediately as Jonathan Eager-Wright, probably the most daring amateur mountaineer in Europe and a member of one of England's oldest families. He was a shy, retiring person who was seldom in England, and who treated his place in Society with a wholly unwarrantable contempt.

Guffy grew more and more curious. He had no doubt that he would recognize the second man the moment he turned his head. Surely those tremendously square shoulders and those tight brown-black curls, making his head look like the back of a shorn lamb, could belong to only one person in the world: Dicky Farquharson, the brilliant young son of old Sir Joshua Farquharson, chairman of Farquharson & Co., the Anglo-American mining engineers?

Having recognized two old friends, Guffy's first impulse was to reassure M. Fleurey and hurry down to the lounge, but something odd in the behaviour of the pair held his attention and his curiosity. It seemed to him, watching from his place of vantage above them, that Messrs Farquharson and Eager-Wright were much more subdued than usual. There was a strange formality about their dress and their manner.

The man in the corner appeared to be absorbing, not to say dominating, them.

Although, of course, he could not hear what was being said, Randall received the impression that they were listening deferentially to the other's harangue; that their laughter was polite to the point of affectation; and that, in fact, they were behaving like men in the presence of royalty.

How two such unlikely persons could possibly have come together in such a situation was beyond Guffy's powers of conjecture. As he watched, both young men suddenly drew out pocket lighters and simultaneously offered the third of the trio the flame.

Eager-Wright, it seemed, was the favoured one, and the third man bent forward to light his cigarette.

As Guffy stared, a pale, somewhat vacant face came into view. Sleek yellow hair was brushed back from a high forehead and pale blue eyes were hidden behind enormous horn-rimmed spectacles. The expression upon the face was languid and a little bored. The next instant he had leant back again.

'By George!' said Mr Randall. 'Albert Campion!'

The next moment his shoulders began to heave and he turned a crimson, distorted face to the startled manager.

'You weep!' the little man ejaculated. 'You are alarmed – you are amused – yes, no?'

Guffy clutched at the desk for support, while the little manager danced round him like an excited Pekingese.

'My friend,' he expostulated, 'you keep me in suspense. You bewilder me. Do I laugh or am I abased? Is my hotel honoured or is it degraded? Is it the noblesse or is it some racket of malefaction?'

Guffy controlled himself with an effort. 'God only knows,' he said. And then, as the little man's face fell, he clapped him vigorously on the shoulder. 'But it's all right, Fleurey, it's all right. You know – au fait – quite the thing. Nothing to get distrait about.'

And then, before the manager could press for further information, the young man had flung himself out of the door and raced down the stairs, still laughing, to the lounge.

As he went, Guffy reflected upon the beauties of the situation. Albert Campion, of all people, being seriously mistaken by the good Fleurey for minor royalty was a story too magnificent to be lightly dismissed. After all, it might almost be true; that was the beauty of Campion; one never knew where he was going to turn up next – at the Third Levée or swinging from a chandelier, as someone once said.

As Guffy crossed the vestibule he had time to consider Campion. After all, even he, probably one of that young man's oldest friends, knew really very little about him. Campion was not his name; but then it is not considered decent for the younger son of such a family to pursue such a peculiar calling under his own title.

As to the precise nature of the calling Guffy was a little fogged. Campion himself had once described it as 'Universal Uncle and Deputy Adventurer'. All things considered, that probably summed him up.

Although what he could possibly be doing at the Beauregard playing prince with two men like Farquharson and Eager-Wright to help him was beyond the scope of Guffy's somewhat inelastic imagination.

He hurried across the lounge, his round face beaming, the pricelessness of the joke still uppermost in his mind. He laid a hand on Farquharson's shoulder and grinned at Campion.

'What ho, your Highness!' he said, and chuckled.

His laughter died suddenly, however. The pale vacuous face into which he stared did not alter for an instant, and Eager-Wright's iron hand closed over his wrist like a vice.

Farquharson rose hastily to his feet. His face betrayed nothing but consternation. Eager-Wright had risen also, but his warning grip did not slacken.

Farquharson bowed slightly to Campion. 'Sir,' he said, 'may I present the Honourable Augustus Randall, of Monewdon in Suffolk, England?'

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Sweet Danger"
by .
Copyright © 1933 Margery Allingham.
Excerpted by permission of Ipso Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1. In Confidence,
2. H.R.H. Campion,
3. The Man Higher Up,
4. 'Here's Mystery',
5. The Miller,
6. Tongues in Trees,
7. Cain's Valley,
8. Unwelcome Stranger,
9. Question Time,
10. Big Business,
11. The Grand Manner,
12. Visitation,
13. 'Ware Amanda,
14. The Churchworkers,
15. The Stricken Drum,
16. Before the Storm,
17. The Crown,
18. Doctor Galley's Unusual Practice,
19. Pourboire,
20. To Meet Ashtaroth,
21. Truth in the Well,
22. The Millpool,
23. Late Extra,

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