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The Chink in the Armour   By: (1868-1947)

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" But there is one chink in the chain armour of civilized communities. Society is conducted on the assumption that murder will not be committed. "

The Spectator.



A small, shiny, pink card lay on the round table in Sylvia Bailey's sitting room at the Hôtel de l'Horloge in Paris.

She had become quite accustomed to finding one or more cards cards from dressmakers, cards from corset makers, cards from hairdressers lying on her sitting room table, but there had never been a card quite like this card.

Although it was pink, it looked more like a visiting card than a tradesman's advertisement, and she took it up with some curiosity. It was inscribed "Madame Cagliostra," and underneath the name were written the words " Diseuse de la Bonne Aventure ," and then, in a corner, in very small black letters, the address, "5, Rue Jolie, Montmartre."

A fortune teller's card? What an extraordinary thing!

Like many pretty, prosperous, idle women, Sylvia was rather superstitious. Not long before this, her first visit to Paris, a London acquaintance had taken her to see a noted palmist named "Pharaoh," in Bond Street. She had paid her guinea willingly enough, but the result had vaguely disappointed her, and she had had the feeling, all the time she was with him, that the man was not really reading her hand.

True, "Pharaoh" had told her she was going abroad, and at that time she had no intention of doing so. The palmist had also told her and this was really rather curious that she would meet, when abroad, a foreign woman who would have a considerable influence on her life. Well, in this very Hôtel de l'Horloge Mrs. Bailey had come across a Polish lady, named Anna Wolsky, who was, like Sylvia herself, a young widow, and the two had taken a great fancy to one another.

It was most unlikely that Madame Wolsky would have the slightest influence on her, Sylvia Bailey's, life, but at any rate it was very curious coincidence. "Pharaoh" had proved to be right as to these two things she had come abroad, and she had formed a friendship with a foreign woman.

Mrs. Bailey was still standing by the table, and still holding the pink card in her hand, when her new friend came into the room.

"Well?" said Anna Wolsky, speaking English with a strong foreign accent, but still speaking it remarkably well, "Have you yet decided, my dear, what we shall do this afternoon? There are a dozen things open to us, and I am absolutely at your service to do any one of them!"

Sylvia Bailey laughingly shook her head.

"I feel lazy," she said. "I've been at the Bon Marché ever since nine o'clock, and I feel more like having a rest than going out again, though it does seem a shame to stay in a day like this!"

The windows were wide open, the June sun was streaming in, and on the light breeze was borne the murmur of the traffic in the Avenue de l'Opéra, within a few yards of the quiet street where the Hôtel de l'Horloge is situated.

The other woman Anna Wolsky was some years older than Sylvia Bailey smiled indulgently.

" Tiens! " she cried suddenly, "what have you got there?" and she took the pink card out of Sylvia's hand.

"Madame Cagliostra?" she repeated, musingly. "Now where did I hear that name? Yes, of course it was from our chambermaid! Cagliostra is a friend of hers, and, according to her, a marvellous person one from whom the devil keeps no secrets! She charges only five francs for a consultation, and it appears that all sorts of well known people go to her, even those whom the Parisians call the Gratin , that is, the Upper Crust, from the Champs Elysées and the Faubourg St... Continue reading book >>

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