Sleight Of Hand – Episode 04

IT was, therefore, with some dismay that Ruth learned, a little later, that two of the young women that she liked best at St Hilda’s intended to visit the Headington Theatre.

“Of course, it’s all foolishness,” Mildred said.

“We are just going to see the tomfoolery, Ruth,” Sarah said. “Honestly.”

“Walk with us as far as the coffee house on the corner of Headly Way,” Mildred urged. “I know you won’t buy a ticket for any magic show, serious old Ruthie, but we can drink a cup of coffee together before it.”

Ruth said she would, and at half past six she and her friends strolled down the street with the sun behind them. The theatre was located before the coffee house.

As they passed by its ornate doors, two young men were entering. Ruth saw, through the dark glass of the theatre door, the profile of Sergeant Greene, standing at the ticket desk. He and his friend were pointing admiringly at a photograph of Lady Shokranka.

“She’s a striking woman,” Sarah said, looking at the hoarding outside. It was at least six feet tall.

“It’s all paint,” Ruth said. “Shall we go on?”

The policeman was leaving the ticket desk now, walking towards the exit.

“We could buy our tickets now,” Sarah said, “just in case they sell out.”

“There’ll be plenty,” Ruth said, tugging at Mildred’s coat. She did not like seeing Terence Greene gazing at the picture, and she wanted to leave.

But he was pushing the door open.

“Miss Rutherford,” he said, surprised.

Ruth nodded, and the necessary introductions were made.

“Lady Shokranka looks like a remarkable person,” Mr Unwin, Sergeant Greene’s friend, observed.

“A beauty, I’d say,” Mildred agreed.

Ruth shrugged.

“You must know that advertisements are always enhanced before printing.”

“She is certainly striking,” Terence said, looking at the hoarding, “especially if she really is this tall.” He turned and grinned, but Ruth’s small face was set in a haughty expression.

“If you like that sort of thing,” she said.

“We’re seeing the performance this evening,” Sarah said, smiling winningly at Mr Unwin.

“Well, so are we,” the smaller man replied. “Perhaps we will be seated near you.” He plucked an imaginary flower from his sleeve and handed it to Sarah. “I look forward to the magic!”

Terence laughed.

“Shall we get on?” Ruth said.


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