So deucedly sorry to do this to you, rushing off like a fox with hounds baying aft, but you know how I am.
You have told me you’ve paid the last of my gambling debts you intend to, and I admit you’ve been more than generous in that area. And you fixed that little misunderstanding between myself and the museum over that damaged painting — which I maintain I was not to be blamed for. Oh, and that jeweler’s concerns over the diamond brooch that somehow slipped into my pocket at his establishment. Along with various incidents at the club. But I sense I’ve come to the end of much of your kindness, and that’s only too easy to understand.
Thus, I am asking for nothing more than your forbearance as I toddle quietly and quickly away from London for some unknown length of time. Oh, and for the £100 I’ve liberated from the company safe for expenses. (No safe is safe from me, ha!)
But, you see, there’s a matter of the young woman I’ve been seeing — I believe I’ve introduced you to Beatrice — and her unborn child, which she insists upon a stack of Bibles is my doing. Now, it may be or it may not be, but she’s talking the most hideous rot about marriage and family. To be frank, it’s deeply unsettling.
I’ve gone away for my nerves and hope that when Beatrice settles down I will be able to return and do the same.
I’ll write on occasion to let you know I’m well.
Most thankfully yours,
* * *
Dear Welby —
I hope this short epistle finds you in fine fettle and that the family’s import business continues to sail in, ha ha.
I’m nicely ensconced in a hotel and have done far better than usual at the tables, so I’ve got a nice assortment of pocket monies at present. The dining is excellent as is the female companionship here in Gay Paree. A different one every night! This, I must say, is the life I was born for. Oh, not that I’ve forgotten for one moment my responsibilities to the family business. But perhaps we should set up shop over here, as well, and I could tend to it — when I’m not busy with roulette and chemin de fer and the belle femmes, that is!
I nearly hate to ask, but have you had contact from Beatrice? Perhaps you’ve convinced her to forget about me. That would be pleasant.
Well, back to work, as it were.
* * *
My dear Welby!
I am shocked and distressed by the content of your letter to me, just received. How can you for even one moment hold in your head the ghastly notion that I would return to London and marry a girl so obviously beneath me merely because she claims — claims, mind! — to be great with my child? Beatrice was a pleasant dalliance but no more and she was well aware of that.
Yes, she is a lovely girl and decently intelligent and kind and all that you say. (I will someday take up with you in person your unpleasant witticism — I presume! — about her intelligence failing her only where I am concerned. How unbrotherly!) But marriage? Fatherhood? Impossible! Unthinkable! Dismiss these subjects from your mind, I insist.
My luck at the tables has taken a slight downturn and I have had to relocate to a less elegant address. Naturally, Lady Luck will surely smile on me once again soon.
Hoping all things businesslike are ticking along, and that you will find some means of ending Beatrice’s continued unfathomable interest in me, I remain,
* * *
Welby, Welby —
What a bore you are becoming! I receive a letter from my brother and open it with great expectation of friendly news from home and what do I find instead? A sermon that would do the Rev. Dr. Ephraim credit for moral lashings and solemnity.
Surely Beatrice has a family to fall back on, or some kindly male friend who would agree to walk her down the aisle and raise a ready-made child with her. It is not for me, not under any circumstances and most especially not with someone so relentlessly common.
In light of the above, I am feeling a trifle frosty toward you and am very nearly inclined not to tell you about my great win at the roulette table only last evening. I am once again in the lap of luxury — and in the lap of a charming young Parisienne whose name I never managed to get.
Welby, dear brother, I do look forward to your letters. Please give me less of the Old Testament thunder and damnation and more of the Beatrice no longer being a festering thorn in my side. Just thinking of how I lowered myself to show her a few charming evenings, and how she has repaid me with her distasteful condition, all but puts me off my escargot.
* * *
WELBY. RECEIVED TELEGRAM RE BEATRICE HEALTH. STILL UNDESIRABLE FOR ME RETURN ALSO IMPOSSIBLE. TICKETS TO SHOWS NEXT THREE NIGHTS. HOLBY.
* * *
Dear Welby —
Brace up, old man! You’re taking Beatrice’s death rather hard. She was never going to be your sister-in-law nor that child your niece so you needn’t get in such a dither about them. Rejoice, rather, for now my little problem vis-à-vis Beatrice is ended. As it happens, it is best for me that I leave Paris rather soonish and knowing I can return home in safety is a great weight off my mind.
I’ll be arriving in Dover at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Please meet me or have someone there to bear me to London.
Your prodigal brother no more,
* * *
Dear Mr. Sloan:
Let me once again express my deepest sympathies upon the death of your sister Beatrice. Hers is a loss to both our families, as is the loss of the girl she was unable to deliver. Please believe that I share your sorrow.
My errant brother, Holbrook, is returning from France and will land in Dover tomorrow evening at 5.
I fully understand the gravity of my divulging this information but feel morally bound to do so far beyond my responsibility to be my brother’s keeper.
Most respectfully yours,
* * *
DOVER — The body discovered in a rubbish pile in a disreputable alley is believed to be that of Mr. Holbrook Oakes. Mr. Oakes was the brother of Welby Oakes, owner and managing director of Oakes Importation Co., Ltd., of London, which position he assumed upon his father’s death some years ago.
Police say they have yet no leads in the murder of the younger Mr. Oakes but a nearly unlimited supply of potential suspects both in England and in France. This, they say, will make it difficult to find the guilty party or parties.