Mr. McGrath Refuses an Invitationby@agathachristie

Mr. McGrath Refuses an Invitation

by Agatha ChristieJuly 18th, 2023
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The letters were gone! Having once made up his mind to the fact of their disappearance, there was nothing to do but accept it. Anthony realized very well that he could not pursue Giuseppe through the corridors of the Blitz Hotel. To do so was to court undesired publicity, and in all probability to fail in his object all the same. He came to the conclusion that Giuseppe had mistaken the packet of letters, enclosed as they were in the other wrappings, for the Memoirs themselves. It was likely therefore that when he discovered his mistake he would make another attempt to get hold of the Memoirs. For this attempt Anthony intended to be fully prepared.
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The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. Mr. McGrath Refuses an Invitation

VII. Mr. McGrath Refuses an Invitation

The letters were gone!

Having once made up his mind to the fact of their disappearance, there was nothing to do but accept it. Anthony realized very well that he could not pursue Giuseppe through the corridors of the Blitz Hotel. To do so was to court undesired publicity, and in all probability to fail in his object all the same.

He came to the conclusion that Giuseppe had mistaken the packet of letters, enclosed as they were in the other wrappings, for the Memoirs themselves. It was likely therefore that when he discovered his mistake he would make another attempt to get hold of the Memoirs. For this attempt Anthony intended to be fully prepared.

Another plan that occurred to him was to advertize discreetly for the return of the package of letters. Supposing Giuseppe to be an emissary of the Comrades of the Red Hand, or, which seemed to Anthony more probable, to be employed by the Loyalist party, the letters could have no possible interest for either employer and he would probably jump at the chance of obtaining a small sum of money for their return.

Having thought out all this, Anthony returned to bed and slept peacefully until morning. He did not fancy that Giuseppe would be anxious for a second encounter that night.

Anthony got up with his plan of campaign fully thought out. He had a good breakfast, glanced at the papers which were full of the new discoveries of oil in Herzoslovakia, and then demanded an interview with the manager, and, being Anthony Cade, with a gift for getting his own way by means of quiet determination, he obtained what he asked for.

The manager, a Frenchman with an exquisitely suave manner, received him in his private office.

“You wished to see me, I understand, Mr.—er—McGrath?”

“I did. I arrived at your hotel yesterday afternoon, and I had dinner served to me in my own rooms by a waiter whose name was Giuseppe.”

He paused.

“I dare say we have a waiter of that name,” agreed the manager indifferently.

“I was struck by something unusual in the waiter’s manner, but thought nothing more of it at the time. Later, in the night, I was awakened by the sound of some one moving softly about the room. I switched on the light, and found this same Giuseppe in the act of rifling my leather suit-case.”

The manager’s indifference had completely disappeared now.

“But I have heard nothing of this,” he exclaimed. “Why was I not informed sooner?”

“The man and I had a brief struggle—he was armed with a knife by the way. In the end he succeeded in making off by way of the window.”

“What did you do then, Mr. McGrath?”

“I examined the contents of my suit-case.”

“Had anything been taken?”

“Nothing of—importance,” said Anthony slowly.

The manager leaned back with a sigh.

“I am glad of that,” he remarked. “But you will allow me to say, Mr. McGrath, that I do not quite understand your attitude in the matter. You made no attempt to arouse the hotel? To pursue the thief?”

Anthony shrugged his shoulders.

“Nothing of value had been taken, as I tell you. I am aware, of course, that strictly speaking it is a case for the police——”

He paused, and the manager murmured without any particular enthusiasm:

“For the police—of course——”

“In any case, I was fairly certain that the man would manage to make good his escape, and since nothing was taken why bother with the police?”

The manager smiled a little.

“I see that you realize, Mr. McGrath, that I am not at all anxious to have the police called in. From my point of view it is always disastrous. If the newspapers can get hold of anything connected with a big fashionable hotel such as this, they always run it for all it is worth, no matter how insignificant the real subject matter may be.”

“Quite so,” agreed Anthony. “Now I told you that nothing of value had been taken, and that was perfectly true in a sense. Nothing of any value to the thief was taken, but he got hold of something which is of considerable value to me.”


“Letters, you understand.”

An expression of superhuman discretion, only to be achieved by a Frenchman, settled down upon the manager’s face.

“I comprehend,” he murmured. “But perfectly. Naturally, it is not a matter for the police.”

“We are quite agreed upon that point. But you will understand that I have every intention of recovering these letters. In the part of the world where I come from, people are used to doing things for themselves. What I require from you therefore is the fullest possible information you can give me about this waiter, Giuseppe.”

“I see no objection to that,” said the manager after a moment or two’s pause. “I cannot give you the information offhand, of course, but if you will return in half an hour’s time I will have everything ready to lay before you.”

“Thank you very much. That will suit me admirably.”

In half an hour’s time, Anthony returned to the office again to find that the manager had been as good as his word. Jotted down upon a piece of paper were all the relevant facts known about Giuseppe Manelli.

“He came to us, you see, about three months ago. A skilled and experienced waiter. Has given complete satisfaction. He has been in England about five years.”

Together the two men ran over a list of the hotels and restaurants where the Italian had worked. One fact struck Anthony as being possibly of significance. At two of the hotels in question there had been serious robberies during the time that Giuseppe was employed there, though no suspicion of any kind had attached to him in either case. Still, the fact was significant.

Was Giuseppe merely a clever hotel thief? Had his search of Anthony’s suit-case been merely part of his habitual professional tactics? He might just possibly have had the packet of letters in his hand at the moment when Anthony switched on the light, and have shoved it into his pocket mechanically so as to have his hands free. In that case, the thing was mere plain or garden robbery.

Against that, there was to be put the man’s excitement of the evening before when he had caught sight of the papers lying on the table. There had been no money or object of value there such as would excite the cupidity of an ordinary thief.

No, Anthony felt convinced that Giuseppe had been acting as a tool for some outside agency. With the information supplied to him by the manager, it might be possible to learn something about Giuseppe’s private life, and so finally track him down. He gathered up the sheet of paper and rose.

“Thank you very much indeed. It’s quite unnecessary to ask, I suppose, whether Giuseppe is still in the hotel?”

The manager smiled.

“His bed was not slept in, and all his things have been left behind. He must have rushed straight out after his attack upon you. I don’t think there is much chance of our seeing him again.”

“I imagine not. Well, thank you very much indeed. I shall be staying on here for the present.”

“I hope you will be successful in your task, but I confess that I am rather doubtful.”

“I always hope for the best.”

One of Anthony’s first proceedings was to question some of the other waiters who had been friendly with Giuseppe, but he obtained very little to go upon. He wrote out an advertisement on the lines he had planned, and had it sent to five of the most widely read newspapers. He was just about to go out and visit the restaurant at which Giuseppe had been previously employed when the telephone rang. Anthony took up the receiver.

“Hullo, what is it?”

A toneless voice replied.

“Am I speaking to Mr. McGrath?”

“You are. Who are you?”

“This is Messrs. Balderson and Hodgkins. Just a minute, please. I will put you through to Mr. Balderson.”

“Our worthy publishers,” thought Anthony. “So they are getting worried too, are they? They needn’t. There’s a week to run still.”

A hearty voice struck suddenly upon his ear.

“Hullo! That Mr. McGrath?”


“I’m Mr. Balderson of Balderson and Hodgkins. What about that manuscript, Mr. McGrath?”

“Well,” said Anthony, “what about it?”

“Everything about it. I understand, Mr. McGrath, that you have just arrived in this country from South Africa. That being so, you can’t possibly understand the position. There’s going to be trouble about that manuscript, Mr. McGrath, big trouble. Sometimes I wish we’d never said we’d handle it.”


“I assure you it’s so. At present I’m anxious to get it into my possession as quickly as possible, so as to have a couple of copies made. Then, if the original is destroyed—well, no harm will be done.”

“Dear me,” said Anthony.

“Yes, I expect it sounds absurd to you, Mr. McGrath. But, I assure you, you don’t appreciate the situation. There’s a determined effort being made to prevent its ever reaching this office. I say to you quite frankly and without humbug that if you attempt to bring it yourself it’s ten to one that you’ll never get here.”

“I doubt that,” said Anthony. “When I want to get anywhere, I usually do.”

“You’re up against a very dangerous lot of people. I wouldn’t have believed it myself a month ago. I tell you, Mr. McGrath, we’ve been bribed and threatened and cajoled by one lot and another until we don’t know whether we’re on our heads or our heels. My suggestion is that you do not attempt to bring the manuscript here. One of our people will call upon you at the hotel and take possession of it.”

“And supposing the gang does him in?” asked Anthony.

“The responsibility would then be ours—not yours. You would have delivered it to our representative and obtained a written discharge. The cheque for—er—a thousand pounds which we are instructed to hand to you will not be available until Wednesday next by the terms of our agreement with the executors of the late—er—author—you know whom I mean, but if you insist I will send my own cheque for that amount by the messenger.”

Anthony reflected for a minute or two. He had intended to keep the Memoirs until the last day of grace, because he was anxious to see for himself what all the fuss was about. Nevertheless, he realized the force of the publisher’s arguments.

“All right,” he said, with a little sigh. “Have it your own way. Send your man along. And if you don’t mind sending that cheque as well I’d rather have it now, as I may be going out of England before next Wednesday.”

“Certainly, Mr. McGrath. Our representative will call upon you first thing to-morrow morning. It will be wiser not to send anyone direct from the office. Our Mr. Holmes lives in South London. He will call in on his way to us, and will give you a receipt for the package. I suggest that to-night you should place a dummy packet in the manager’s safe. Your enemies will get to hear of this, and it will prevent any attack being made upon your apartments to-night.”

“Very well, I will do as you direct.”

Anthony hung up the receiver with a thoughtful face.

Then he went on with his interrupted plan of seeking news of the slippery Giuseppe. He drew a complete blank, however. Giuseppe had worked at the restaurant in question, but nobody seemed to know anything of his private life or associates.

“But I’ll get you, my lad,” murmured Anthony, between his teeth. “I’ll get you yet. It’s only a matter of time.”

His second night in London was entirely peaceful.

At nine o’clock the following morning, the card of Mr. Holmes from Messrs. Balderson and Hodgkins was sent up, and Mr. Holmes followed it. A small, fair man with a quiet manner. Anthony handed over the manuscript, and received in exchange a cheque for a thousand pounds. Mr. Holmes packed up the manuscript in the small brown bag he carried, wished Anthony good morning, and departed. The whole thing seemed very tame.

“But perhaps he’ll be murdered on the way there,” Anthony murmured aloud, as he stared idly out of the window. “I wonder now—I very much wonder.”

He put the cheque in an envelope, enclosed a few lines of writing with it, and sealed it up carefully. Jimmy, who had been more or less in funds at the time of his encounter with Anthony at Bulawayo, had advanced him a substantial sum of money which was, as yet, practically untouched.

“If one’s job’s done with, the other isn’t,” said Anthony to himself. “Up to now, I’ve bungled it. But never say die. I think that, suitably disguised, I shall go and have a look at 487, Pont Street.”

He packed his belongings, went down and paid his bill, and ordered his luggage to be put on a taxi. Suitably rewarding those who stood in his path, most of whom had done nothing whatever materially to add to his comfort, he was on the point of being driven off, when a small boy rushed down the steps with a letter.

“Just come for you, this very minute, sir.”

With a sigh, Anthony produced yet another shilling. The taxi groaned heavily and jumped forward with a hideous crashing of gears, and Anthony opened the letter.

It was rather a curious document. He had to read it four times before he could be sure of what it was all about. Put in plain English (the letter was not in plain English, but in the peculiar involved style common to missives issued by Government officials) it presumed that Mr. McGrath was arriving in England from South Africa to-day—Thursday, it referred obliquely to the Memoirs of Count Stylptitch, and begged Mr. McGrath to do nothing in the matter until he had had a confidential conversation with Mr. George Lomax, and certain other parties whose magnificence was vaguely hinted at. It also contained a definite invitation to go down to Chimneys as the guest of Lord Caterham, on the following day, Friday.

A mysterious and thoroughly obscure communication. Anthony enjoyed it very much.

“Dear old England,” he murmured affectionately. “Two days behind the times, as usual. Rather a pity. Still, I can’t go down to Chimneys under false pretences. I wonder, though, if there’s an inn handy? Mr. Anthony Cade might stay at the inn without anyone being the wiser.”

He leaned out of the window, and gave new directions to the taxi driver, who acknowledged them with a snort of contempt.

The taxi drew up before one of London’s more obscure hostelries. The fare, however, was paid on a scale befitting its point of departure.

Having booked a room in the name of Anthony Cade, Anthony passed into a dingy writing-room, took out a sheet of notepaper stamped with the legend Hotel Blitz, and wrote rapidly.

He explained that he had arrived on the preceding Tuesday, that he had handed over the manuscript in question to Messrs. Balderson and Hodgkins, and he regretfully declined the kind invitation of Lord Caterham as he was leaving England almost immediately. He signed the letter “Yours faithfully, James McGrath.”

“And now,” said Anthony, as he affixed the stamp to the envelope. “To business. Exit James McGrath, and Enter Anthony Cade.”

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