Ruddy Gore
Wiltshire threw back the mane of chestnut hair and laughed bitterly. ‘He swore that he loved me.
    And he lied.’
    ‘Love-lonely?’ quoted Phryne. ‘Oh, my dear, don’t waste your time. Plenty of pretty men, Miss Wiltshire. Some even prettier than Gwilym Evans, who would not be improved by a steak-knife in the heart.’
    ‘He hasn’t got one. A heart, I mean. I think that you had better call me Violet,’ said the actress, heaving a sigh which seemed to come from her bare feet. ‘You’re right, of course. I ought to thank you for interfering. I’ll be able to do that in a little while.’
    ‘I don’t want thanks, I want information.’
    Phryne sat down on a stool, moving aside some hanging weeds. A thin woman in a brown apron bustled in.
    ‘Make us some tea, Kit,’ said Miss Wilshire dully. ‘This is Miss Fisher.’
    Kitty Collins sniffed and busied herself with a spirit stove and a kettle.
    ‘Did you know that Walter Copland was drinking?’
    ‘Yes. Not my business. Gwil . . . Gwil said that he was waiting for him to make a hash of Sir Ruthven and was sure that he would get the part.’
    ‘He has got the part – for tonight, anyway.’
    ‘He always gets what he wants,’ she said with a brief spurt of anger.
    ‘He will always get everything that he wants and never get the one thing which he really desires –
    that’s how it works with bounders,’ observed Phryne. ‘I speak from experience. A life of misery and frustration will be his. I’ve known a lot of Gwilyms.’
    The first sign of independent thought crossed Miss Wiltshire’s ravaged face.
    ‘Yes, I think you have. The nicest thing I’ve heard in ages. Yes. Everything that he wants and not the one thing that he really desires. Very comforting. I’m glad I didn’t kill him.’
    Kitty made a shocked noise and produced two cups of tea spiked heavily with brandy. ‘There, you drink that, Miss Violet, and you’ll feel better,’
    she instructed. Phryne sipped. It was three quarters brandy with a little tea added and she put the cup carefully back into the saucer.
    ‘You’ll see,’ Phryne promised, watching the actress recover her poise. Miss Wiltshire was actually very striking, with a strong bony face, high cheekbones, brown expressive eyes and a mass of curly brown hair. Properly dressed, Phryne reflected, she would be not pretty – she could never be pretty – but jolie laide . Paris, for instance, would find her intriguing.
    ‘Mad Margaret is not the best of parts for me at the moment,’ said Violet. ‘I’m already miserable and she has that sad song about the violet under the bush and the lover gathering only roses. I’ll be better as Ruth the piratical maid of all work or Little Buttercup the bumboat woman or as Katisha. In fact, I’m going to have a lot of fun with Katisha. ‘‘There is beauty in the bellow of the blast, there is grandeur in the howling of the gale,’’ ’ she sang softly. ‘Gilbert really despised older women, you know – all his older women are ridiculous. But Sullivan was sorry for them, perhaps because he had a mistress who was older than him, so he gave them beautiful music in which to sing their degradation. That’s what makes the elderly lady parts so sought-after. I’m alternating with Agnes in them.’
    ‘Is that usual?’
    ‘No, but we’re good at different things – she has a better voice than me, I can sing patter better than she can – so the audience gets us both.’ Kitty sniffed again.
    ‘Now, what about the ghost and all the odd things? Tell me what you can. I want to solve this, preferably before the admirable Jack Robinson gets his paws on anything . . . er . . . combustible.’
    ‘I don’t believe in ghosts,’ said Miss Wiltshire flatly. ‘But someone is playing tricks and it seems to be aimed at Leila and at Selwyn Alexander. I especially don’t believe in ghosts who write notes,’
    she added. ‘Someone brought Gwil and Dupont to Leila’s room together, and

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