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Authors: Dorothy Salisbury Davis

Gentleman Called

BOOK: Gentleman Called
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PRAISE FOR THE WRITING OF DOROTHY SALISBURY DAVIS

“Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Josephine Tey … Dorothy Salisbury Davis belongs in the same company. She writes with great insight into the psychological motivations of all her characters.” —
The Denver Post

“Dorothy Salisbury Davis may very well be the best mystery novelist around.” —
The Miami Herald

“Davis has few equals in setting up a puzzle, complete with misdirection and surprises.” —
The New York Times Book Review

“Davis is one of the truly distinguished writers in the medium; what may be more important, she is one of the few who can build suspense to a sonic peak.” —Dorothy B. Hughes,
Los Angeles Times

“A joyous and unqualified success.” —
The New York Times
on
Death of an Old Sinner

“An intelligent, well-written thriller.” —
Daily Mirror
(London) on
Death of an Old Sinner

“At once gentle and suspenseful, warmly humorous and tensely perplexing.” —
The New York Times
on
A Gentleman Called

“Superbly developed, gruesomely upsetting.” —
Chicago Tribune
on
A Gentleman Called

“An excellent, well-controlled piece of work.” —
The New Yorker
on
The Judas Cat

“A book to be long remembered.” —
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
on
A Town of Masks

“Mrs. Davis has belied the old publishing saying that an author’s second novel is usually less good than the first. Since her first ranked among last year’s best, what more need be said?” —
The New York Times
on
The Clay Hand

“Ingeniously plotted … A story of a young woman discovering what is real in life and in herself.” —
The New York Times
on
A Death in the Life

“Davis brings together all the elements needed for a good suspense story to make this, her fourth Julie Hayes, her best.” —
Library Journal
on
The Habit of Fear

“Mrs. Davis is one of the admired writers of American mystery fiction, and
Shock Wave
is up to her best. She has a cultured style, handles dialogue with a sure ear, and understands people better than most of her colleagues.” —
The New York Times Book Review
on
Shock Wave

A Gentleman Called
A Mrs. Norris Mystery
Dorothy Salisbury Davis
Contents

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45

46

Preview:
Old Sinners Never Die

About the Author

1

M
RS. NORRIS FASTENED THE
last bit of sheeting around the legs of the last chair in the room to be covered, and then rechecked the whole of the hooded furniture for snugness. It was not that she expected wind—or for that matter, a windless occupancy—in the shuttered house. But neither would she have ruled out the possibility of the latter, especially in this room where the late General Jarvis had in his day stirred up so much fury.

The housekeeper gave a great sigh which, finally admitting the truth to herself at least, she acknowledged to have been sent after her late employer. There was many a man walking this earth of whom it could be said he was more dead than alive, but not many in their graves of whom you could say they were more alive than dead: the spirit was strong, however weak had been the flesh. She double-checked the locks on the windows and then went quickly from the room, clutching her skirts in her hand as though to be sure all of her got out at once and closed the door.

On the whole she was glad young Mr. Jarvis had decided to close the Nyack house for the winter. A Fifth Avenue apartment overlooking Central Park was not to be complained of by its housekeeper. True, she would miss the Hudson River which she often thought better company than some of the people she knew. But it was always cranky in November, the river, and rude as winter itself to all her acquaintance who didn’t live near it. Mr. Tully, for example—her friend the detective, as she called him, not being able quite at her age to call him her beau, and having a deep aversion to the phrase “gentleman friend,” as though she would have a male caller who was not a gentleman—Mr. Tully when he came at all this weather, would take up a stance before the fire the minute he gave up his topcoat, and turn himself round and round like a hare on a spit until it was time to go home.

Which but showed, she decided on further thought while she rolled up the hall rug, how little adaptability there was in the man. City born and city bred, he would not be transplanted at his age. She wondered then if her Master Jamie had taken into consideration Mr. Tully’s attentions to her, in making his own change of winter residence.

Now here was a man—her Mister James—perceptive and considerate, and himself marvelously adaptable. He could oblige fortune and fame, or he could brook failure with the dignity of a royal pretender. He was in fact all things to at least one woman. Mrs. Norris had raised him the forty-odd years of his life.

Downstairs, she paused at the library door and asked if there was any way in which she could help him. He was packing his own books.

“Do you have the measurement of the shelves in town?”

She liked the way the words “in town” slipped from his tongue. It took out whatever sting there was for her in the change. She measured the largest of the books by the breadth of her own hand.

“They’ll fit well enough, sir, but are you taking them all?”

“Those I need,” he said.

She started from the room, but could not resist a further plea though she knew the cause lost as far as coming between him and his books was concerned. “Don’t you have the law books at the office, Mr. James?”

“Yes,” he said, continuing to pack law books.

She waited a moment at the door. “I left your father’s den to the last and it’s done now. I have only to gather up my own few bits and pieces.”

“My God,” said Jimmie, “if you feel that bad, we’d better stop for a drink.”

“I don’t feel that bad at all,” Mrs. Norris said.

“Then you don’t want a drink?”

“I didn’t say that. I’ll not be made out a hypocrite, Mr. James.”

Jimmie rubbed his chin with a dirty thumb. Certainly not if it meant doing her out of a drink at the same time. “Will you bring in the makings, then, Mrs. Norris?”

“I will since you ask it.”

When she returned with the tray, Jimmie said: “I don’t suppose Jasper will take it at all hard, your moving into the city?” There was a bit of the tease in him his father had been.

“It’s very difficult to tell,” Mrs. Norris said. “Mr. Tully’s a cool man for an Irishman.”

“I’d never have known it hearing him speak your praises,” Jimmie said slyly.

Mrs. Norris gave her shoulders a vigorous shrugging. “I was speaking of his blood, not his blather.”

“Blather,” Jimmie repeated, wiping his hands on the duster she gave him. “Isn’t that an Irish word?”

“It is a Gaelic word, Master James, and there were Gaels in Scotland while Ireland was a circle of druids.”

Jimmie laughed. “I wonder what your friend Tully would say to that.”

“He would agree likely. Mr. Tully is not a contentious man when it comes to nationalities.”

“True enough,” said Jimmie, for he knew Jasper Tully well. That long, melancholy detective was chief investigator in the District Attorney’s office, and had been through many administrations, including Jimmie’s own a few years past. He poured Mrs. Norris her usual finger of Scotch whiskey straight and mixed himself one with soda. “Do you still call him Mister Tully to his face also?” he teased. “You’ve known him for quite a while now.”

Mrs. Norris pulled an extra inch of height from her dumpy shape. “I don’t approve the informality in the world today, Mr. James. It’s made strangers of us all.”

Jimmie thought about it and then nodded acquiescence. He gave her her glass and lifted his own. He was a long moment contemplating the toast that was to be given on this occasion. It might be said that he was abandoning the house in which he had been born. Abandoning it or escaping it and the man whose personality marked it more deeply than had his own.

“To father,” he said at last. “May he rest in peace.”

Mrs. Norris paused in the act of lifting the glass to her lips. “I’m not at all certain he would have said ‘amen’ to that, Master Jamie.”

“Then, being his sole heir and executor, I shall say it for him,” Jimmie said, and added in gentle irony: “Prithy peace, amen.”

The late Ransom Jarvis, retired major general of the United States Army, had left an estate of three dollars and seventeen cents.

2

T
HE FOLLOWING MONDAY MORNING
Jimmie commenced the pattern of what he expected to set as daily routine: the reading of The New York Times at breakfast, the walk to the Lexington Avenue subway, and the reading of the Herald Tribune on the ride downtown to the Wall Street office of Johnson, Wiggam and Jarvis.

All his life he had enjoyed the setting of patterns—almost as much as he enjoyed breaking them. He had served in many capacities for a man his age, most of which had at one time or other benefited by his having been trained in the Law. He wondered if, now that he was determined to confine himself to its practice, his novitiate to politics would benefit him. He thought it likely. He had been defeated recently as candidate for governor of the state. And never had he stood so well with the very senior and very proper members of the law firm.

An unsuccessful candidacy for high political office had certain things to recommend it, he mused. More to the respectable citizenry than, say, retirement from that high office. It might be implied, albeit the matter was insusceptible of proof, that the unsuccessful candidate had been above the making of deals. Impotence therein shone as virtue. Meanwhile it was patently obvious that no one fresh out of office had any right-of-way whatever in traffic with those who had succeeded him. But he was expected to run that way all the same, and was therefore damned twice for but one failure.

Shakespeare could have made a sonnet of that, Jimmie thought, and turned to the editorial page.

His secretary greeted him with too much cheer for a Monday morning. He expected bad news. With his mail she brought him word that Mr. Wiggam was waiting to see him on a matter of urgency.

“Urgency?” Jimmie repeated. It was a word rarely used in the office.

“He came to your office himself,” the girl amended.

The placement of his office at the opposite end of the floor from the senior partners’ was a source of irritation to Jimmie. “He likes to take long walks in the morning,” he said. He was not long, however, in answering Wiggam’s summoning.

Mr. Wiggam gave the first few seconds to a visual appraisal of the junior member of the firm. The wistful lingering of his eyes on Jimmie’s midriff suggested one of two things: either he would have liked to see what there was of it encased in a vest and bound by a watch chain, or he was being nostalgic after his own lean-bellied days. Finally he inquired after Mrs. Norris. Still later he brought himself to the matter which, urgent or not, was obviously painful.

“Do you know the Adkins family?”

Jimmie furrowed his brow in thought.

“Weston, Connecticut. Particularly, have you heard of the son, Theodore Adkins?”

BOOK: Gentleman Called
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