Mystery at Geneva

Rose Macaulay

Mystery at Geneva An Improbable Tale of Singular Happenings
by Rose Macaulay
Author of "Dangerous Ages," "Potterism," etc.
Copyright 1922.

As I have observed among readers and critics a tendency to discern satire where none is intended, I should like to say that this book is simply a straightforward mystery story, devoid of irony, moral or meaning. It has for its setting an imaginary session of the League of Nations Assembly, but it is in no sense a study of, still less a skit on, actual conditions at Geneva, of which indeed I know little, the only connection I have ever had with the League being membership of its Union.
HENRY, looking disgusted, as well he might, picked his way down the dark and dirty corkscrew stairway of the dilapidated fifteenth century house where he had rooms during the fourth (or possibly it was the fifth) Assembly of the League of Nations. The stairway, smelling of fish and worse, opened out on to a narrow cobbled alley that ran between lofty mediaeval houses down from the Rue du Temple to the Quai du Seujet, in the ancient wharfside quarter of Saint Gervais.
Henry, pale and melancholy, his soft hat slouched over his face, looked what he was, a badly paid newspaper correspondent lodging in unclean rooms. He looked hungry; he looked embittered; he looked like one of the under dogs, whose time had not come yet, would, indeed, never come. He looked, however, a gentleman, which, in the usual sense of the word, he was not. He was of middle height, slim and not inelegant of build; his trousers, though shiny, were creased in the right place; his coat fitted him though it lacked two buttons, and he dangled a monocle, which he screwed impartially now into one brown eye, now into the other. If any one would know, as they very properly might, whether Henry was a bad man or a good, I can only reply that we are all of us mixed, and most of us not very well mixed.
Henry was, in fact, at the moment a journalist, and wrote for the British Bolshevist^ a revolutionary paper with a startlingly small circulation; and now the reader knows the very worst of Henry, which is to say a great deal, but must, all the same, be said.
Such as he was, Henry, on this fine Sunday morning in September, strolled down the Alle Petit Chat, which did not seem to him, as it seems to most English visitors, in the least picturesque, for Henry was a quarter Italian, and preferred new streets. and buildings to old. Having arrived at the Quai du Mont Blanc, he walked along it, brooding on this and that, gazing with a bitter kind of envy at the hotels which were even now opening their portals to those more fortunate than he the Bergues, the Paix, the Beau Rivage, the Angleterre, the Russie, the Richemond. All these hostels were, on this Sunday morning before the opening of the Assembly, receiving the delegates of the nations, their staffs and secretaries, and even journalists. Crowds of little grave-faced Japs processed into the Hotel de la Paix; the entrance hall of Les Bergues was alive with the splendid, full-throated converse of Latin Americans (" Ah, they live, those Spaniards!" Henry sighed); while at the Beau Rivage the British Empire and the Dominions hastened, with the morbid ardour of their race, to plunge into baths after their night journey.
Baths, thought Henry bitterly. There were no baths in the Allee Petit Chat. All his bathing must be done in the lake and cold comfort that was. Henry was no lover of cold water: he preferred it warm.
These full-fed, well-housed, nobly cleaned delegates.... Henry quite untruly reported to his newspaper, which resented the high living of others, that some of them occupied as many as half a dozen rooms apiece in the hotels, with their typists, their secretaries, and their sycophantic suites.
Even the journalists, lodging less proudly in smaller hotels, or in apartments, all lodged cleanly, all decently, excepting only Henry, the accredited representative of the British Bolshevist.
Bitterly and proudly, with a faint sneer twisting his lips, Henry, leaning against the lake-side parapet, watched the tumultuous arrival of the organisers of peace on earth. The makers of the new world. What new world? Where tarried it? How slow were its makers at their creative task! Slow and unsure, thought Henry, whose newspaper was not of those who approved the League.
With a sardonic smile Henry turned on his heel and pursued his way along the Quai towards that immense hotel where the League Secretariat lived and moved and had its being. He would interview some one there and try to secure
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