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Peter Ruff and the Double Four

I.1. Introducing Mr. Peter Ruff
There was nothing about the supper party on that particular Sunday evening in
November at Daisy Villa, Green Street, Streatham, which seemed to indicate in
any way that one of the most interesting careers connected with the world history
of crime was to owe its very existence to the disaster which befell that little
gathering. The villa was the residence and also - to his credit - the unmortgaged
property of Mr. David Barnes, a struggling but fairly prosperous coal merchant of
excellent character, some means, and Methodist proclivities. His habit of sitting
without his coat when carving, although deprecated by his wife and daughter on
account of the genteel aspirations of the latter, was a not unusual one in the
neighbourhood; and coupled with the proximity of a cold joint of beef, his seat at
the head of the table, and a carving knife and fork grasped in his hands,
established clearly the fact of his position in the household, which a somewhat
weak physiognomy might otherwise have led the casual observer to doubt.
Opposite him, at the other end of the table, sat his wife, Mrs. Barnes, a
somewhat voluminous lady with a high colour, a black satin frock, and many
ornaments. On her left the son of the house, eighteen years old, of moderate
stature, somewhat pimply, with the fashion of the moment reflected in his pink tie
with white spots, drawn through a gold ring, and curving outwards to seek
obscurity underneath a dazzling waistcoat. A white tube-rose in his buttonhole
might have been intended as a sort of compliment to the occasion, or an
indication of his intention to take a walk after supper in the fashionable purlieus of
the neighbourhood. Facing him sat his sister - a fluffy-haired, blue-eyed young
lady, pretty in her way, but chiefly noticeable for a peculiar sort of self-
consciousness blended with self-satisfaction, and possessed only at a certain
period in their lives by young ladies of her age. It was almost the air of the cat in
whose interior reposes the missing canary, except that in this instance the canary
obviously existed in the person of the young man who sat at her side, introduced
formally to the household for the first time. That young man's name was - at the
moment - Mr. Spencer Fitzgerald.
 
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