Peter Ruff and the Double Four
II.1. Recalled By The Double-Four
It is the desire of Madame that you should join our circle here on Thursday
evening next at ten o'clock.
The man looked up from the sheet of note-paper which he held in his hand, and
gazed through the open French-windows before which he was standing. It was a
very pleasant and very peaceful prospect. There was his croquet lawn, smooth-
shaven, the hoops neatly arranged, the chalk-mark firm and distinct upon the
boundary. Beyond, the tennis court, the flower gardens, and, to the left, the
walled fruit garden. A little farther away was the paddock and orchard, and a little
farther still, the farm, which for the last four years had been the joy of his life. His
meadows were yellow with buttercups; a thin line of willows showed where the
brook wound its lazy way through the bottom fields. It was a home, this, in which
a man could well lead a peaceful life, could dream away his days to the music of
the west wind, the gurgling stream, the song of birds, and the low murmuring of
insects. Peter Ruff stood like a man turned to stone, for, even as he looked,
these things passed away from before his eyes, the roar of the world beat in his
ears - the world of intrigue, of crime, the world where the strong man hewed his
way to power, and the weaklings fell like corn before the sickle.
"It is the desire of Madame!"
Peter Ruff clenched his fists as he stood there. It was a message from a world
every memory of which had been deliberately crushed, a world, indeed, in which
he had seemed no longer to hold any place. Scarcely yet of middle age, well-
preserved, upright, with neat figure dressed in the conventional tweeds and
gaiters of an English country gentleman, he not only had loved his life, but he
looked the part. He was Peter Ruff, Esquire, of Aynesford Manor, in the county of
Somerset. It could not be for him, this strange summons.