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An Amiable Charlatan

by E. Phillips Oppenheim

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But please remember, sir," he begged apologetically, "that I had never seen the lady. I sent the cables, confidently anticipating that she would disclaim all knowledge of Mr. Bundercombe. When she arrived, and I realized that she was actually his wife, I forgave him freely for all the small annoyances he had caused me: my visit to you this morning, in fact, is entirely in his interests.

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The thing happened so suddenly that I really had very little time to make up my mind what course to adopt under somewhat singular circumstances. I was seated at my favorite table against the wall on the right-hand side in Stephano's restaurant, with a newspaper propped up before me, a glass of hock by my side, and a portion of the plat du jour, which happened to be chicken en casserole, on the plate in front of me. I was, in fact, halfway through dinner when, without a word of warning, a man who seemed to enter with a lightfooted speed that, considering his size, was almost incredible, drew a chair toward him and took the vacant place at my table. My glass of wine and my plate were moved with smooth and marvelous haste to his vicinity. Under cover of the tablecloth a packet - I could not tell what it contained - was thrust into my hand.



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