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J. S. Fletcher
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 228 pages of information about The Rayner-Slade Amalgamation.
His salary of a thousand a year (to which was to be added a handsome, if varying commission) enabled him to pick and choose; the house which he did choose, in the immediate neighbourhood of Lancaster Gate, was of the luxurious order; its private rooms were models of the last thing in comfort, its public rooms were equal to those of the best modern hotels.  If you wanted male society, you could find it in the smoking-room and the billiard-room; if you desired feminine influences there was a pleasing variety in the drawing-room and the lounges.  You could be just as much alone, and just as much in company as you pleased—­anyway, the place suited Ambler Appleyard, and there he had lived for two and a half years.  And during a good two of them, the young lady whom he knew as Miss Slade had lived there too.

With Miss Slade, Appleyard, as fellow-resident in the same house, was on quite friendly terms.  He sometimes talked to her in one of the drawing-rooms.  He knew her for a clever, rather brilliant young woman, with ideas, and the power to express them.  It was evident to him that she had travelled and had seen a good deal of the world and its men and women; she could talk politics with far more knowledge and insight than most women; she knew more than a little of economic matters, and was inclined, like Appleyard himself, to utilitarianism in all things affecting government and society.  But of herself she never spoke directly; all Appleyard knew of her concerns was that she was engaged in business of some nature, and went to it every morning as regularly and punctually as he went to his.  He judged that whatever her business was she must be well paid for it, or must possess means of her own; nobody, man or woman, could possibly live at that boarding-house, or private hotel, as its proprietors preferred to call it, for anything less than four guineas a week.  Well—­here was the explanation of Miss Slade’s business; she was evidently private secretary to Mr. Franklin Fullaway, and competent to do business at a place like Rothschild’s.  And why not?—­yet ... why did she call herself Miss Slade at the boarding-house and Mrs. Marlow in her business capacity?

“And yet why shouldn’t she?” asked Appleyard of himself.  “A woman’s a right to do what she likes in that way, and she isn’t necessarily deceitful because she passes as a single woman in one place and a widow in another.  I daresay she could give a very good reason for all this—­but who’s got any right to ask her for one?  Not me, certainly!”

He had no intention of asking Miss Slade anything when he left the City for Bayswater that evening, but chance threw him into her immediate company in one of the lounges, where, after dinner, they met at a table on which the evening newspapers were laid out.  As Miss Slade picked up one, Appleyard picked up another—­certain big, strong letters on the front sheets of both gave him an opening.

“Have you read anything about this affair?” he asked, with apparent carelessness, pointing to a row of capitals.  “This extraordinary murder-robbery business which is becoming the talk of the town?  Murders of three people—­theft of nearly three hundred thousand pounds’ worth of jewels—­and fifty thousand pounds reward!  It’s colossal!”

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