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Now gorgeously repackaged, three classic tales of romantic suspense by the "New York Times" bestselling author are available once again. Reissue.
Madam, Will You Talk?
Enter four or five players.
The whole affair began so very quietly. When Iwrote, that summer, and asked my friendLouise if she would come with me on a car tripto Provence, I had no idea that I might be issuingan invitation to danger. And when we arrivedone afternoon, after a hot but leisurelyjourney, at the enchanting little walled city ofAvignon, we felt in that mood of pleasantweariness mingled with anticipation whichmarks, I believe, the beginning of every normalholiday.
No cloud in the sky; no sombre shadow on themachicolated walls; no piercing glance from anenigmatic stranger as we drove in at the Porte dela République and up the sundappled CoursJean-Jaurès. And certainly no involuntary shiverof apprehension as we drew up at last in front of the Hôtel Tistet-Védène, where we had bookedrooms for the greater part of our stay.
I even sang to myself as I put the car away, andwhen I found they had given me a room with abalcony overlooking the shaded courtyard, I waspleased.
And when, later on, the cat jumped on to mybalcony, there was still nothing to indicate thatthis was the beginning of the whole strange, uneasy,tangled business. Or rather, not the beginning,but my own cue, the point where I came in.And though the part I was to play in the tragedywas to break and reform the pattern of my wholelife, yet it was a very minor part, little more thana walk-on in the last act. For most of the play hadbeen played already; there had been love and lustand revenge and fear and murderall the blood-tragedybric-à-brac except the Ghost -- and nowthe killer, with blood enough on his hands, waswaiting in the wings for the lights to go up again,on the last kill that would bring the final curtaindown.
How was I to know, that lovely quiet afternoon,that most of the actors in the tragedy were at thatmoment assembled in this neat, unpretentious littleProvençal hotel? All but one, that is, and he,with murder in his mind, was not so very far away, moving, under that blazing southern sun,in the dark circle of his own personal hell. A circlethat narrowed, gradually, upon the HôtelTistet-Védène, Avignon.
But I did not know, so I unpacked my thingsslowly and carefully, while, on my bed, Louiselay and smoked and talked about the mosquitoes.
"And now -- a fortnight," she said dreamily. "Awhole fortnight. And nothing to do but drink,and sit in the sun."
"No eating? Or are you on a cure?"
"Oh, that. One's almost forgotten how. But theytell me that in France the cattle still grow steaks ...I wonder how I shall stand up to a beefsteak?"
"You have to do these things gradually." Iopened one of the slatted shutters, closed againstthe late afternoon sun. "Probably the waiter willjust introduce you at first, like Alice -- Louise,biftek; biftek, Louise. Then you both bow, and thesteak is ushered out."
"And of course, in France, no pudding to follow."Louise sighed. "Well, we'll have to makedo. Aren't you letting the mosquitoes in, openingthat shutter?"
"It's too early. And I can't see to hang thesethings away. Do you mind either smoking thatcigarette or putting it out? It smells."
"Sorry." She picked it up again from the ashtray."I'm too lazy even to smoke. I warn you,you know, I'm not going sight-seeing. I couldn'tcare less if Julius Caesar used to fling his auxiliariesround the town, and throw moles acrossthe harbour mouth. If you want to go and gasp atRoman remains you'll have to go alone. I shall situnder a tree, with a book, as near to the hotel aspossible."
I laughed, and began putting out my creamsand sunburn lotions on what the Hôtel Tistet-Védènefondly imagined to be a dressing-table.
"Of course I don't expect you to come. You'll doas you like. But I believe the Pont du Gard -- "
"My dear, I've seen the Holborn Viaduct. Lifecan hold no more ... "
Louise stubbed out her cigarette carefully, andthen folded her hands behind her head. She is talland fair and plump, with long legs, a pleasantvoice, and beautiful hands. She is an artist, has notemperament to speak of, and is unutterably andincurably lazy. When accused of this, she merelysays that she is seeing life steadily and seeing itwhole, and this takes time. You can neither rufflenor surprise Louise; you can certainly neverquarrel with her. If trouble should ever arise,Louise is simply not there; she fades like the Cheshire Cat, and comes back serenely when it isall over. She is, too, as calmly independent as acat, without any of its curiosity. And though shelooks the kind of large lazy fair girl who is untidy --the sort who stubs out her cigarettes in theface-cream and never brushes the hairs off hercoat -- she is always beautifully groomed, and hermovements are delicate and precise. Again, like acat. I get on well with cats. As you will find, Ihave a lot in common with them, and with theElephant's Child.
"In any case," said Louise, "I've had quiteenough of ruins and remains, in the Gilbertiansense, to last me for a lifetime. I live amongthem."
I knew what she meant. Before my marriage toJohnny Selborne, I, too, had taught at the AliceDrupe Private School for Girls. Beyond the factthat it is in the West Midlands ...
Excerpted from Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.