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Инфоурок / Иностранные языки / Другие методич. материалы / Пособие по домашнему чтению
ВНИМАНИЮ ВСЕХ УЧИТЕЛЕЙ: согласно Федеральному закону № 313-ФЗ все педагоги должны пройти обучение навыкам оказания первой помощи.

Дистанционный курс "Оказание первой помощи детям и взрослым" от проекта "Инфоурок" даёт Вам возможность привести свои знания в соответствие с требованиями закона и получить удостоверение о повышении квалификации установленного образца (180 часов). Начало обучения новой группы: 24 мая.

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  • Иностранные языки

Пособие по домашнему чтению

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Данное методическое пособие составлено таким образом, чтобы ряд подобранных текстов, а так же заданий к ним, могли способствовать развитию навыков чтения. Навыки чтения необходимо разрабатывать любому человеку, поскольку это помогает перерабатывать большее количество информации, экономит время, а так же ведет к овладению таким навыком как речевое общение.

Тексты для данного пособия подбирались в соответствии со стратегией, используемой при чтении текстов различных групп: углубленное чтение, ознакомительное чтение, выборочное чтение, чтение-просмотр, сканирование и быстрое чтение, с целью успешного выполнения серии упражнений, подобранных к текстам. Овладев приемами техники чтения, студенты научатся использовать их как в повседневной, так и профессиональной деятельности, то есть овладеют культурой чтения как вида речевой деятельности.

Рассказы, являясь небольшой по объему формой художественной литературы, позволяют планировать контроль понимания и обсуждения прочитанного в рамках одной пары. Некоторые исследователи утверждают, что рассказы как образцы малой прозы являются настоящей литературой, так как в них «критически осмысливается мир и человек, раскрываются возможности житейского опыта и личных переживаний».

Тексты художественной литературы создают большие возможности для накопления и уточнения знаний, о культуре страны изучаемого языка, включая знания по истории, географии, литературе и др. Вместе с тем эти тексты имеют и определенные сложности, поскольку в них органически сочетается логическая (интеллектуальная) информация с образной (эмоциональной). Культурный контекст содержит нередко реалии, относящиеся к разным сферам общения, авторский стиль и художественные средства (сравнения, гиперболы, метафоры, эпитеты). Эти трудности требуют предтекстовых, послетекстовых пояснений и некоторой адаптации.

Выбор материла для данного методического пособия был обусловлен несколькими моментами: во-первых, принадлежностью произведений к наиболее известным и популярным во всем мире и вследствие этого включенным в курс изучаемой английской литературы. Во-вторых, возможностями для расширения тематического словаря студентов. Основными целями работы с подобранным материалом являются не только углубленное изучение языка писателей, но, прежде всего, развитие навыков устной речи, чему в большей степени способствует занимательность сюжета выбранных произведений и возможности, предлагаемые текстом, для обсуждения жизненно важных проблем.

Известно, что в основе видов чтения лежат основные умения, которыми читающий пользуется во всех ситуациях. Одно из них связано с пониманием содержания, другие – с его осмыслением и переработкой. В соответствии с этим, в данном методическом пособии были подобраны тексты, а так же серия определенных заданий и упражнений, выполнение которых ведет к развитию перечисленным навыков чтения.

Тексты для данного методического пособия были специально подобраны в нарастающем порядке сложности: от простого к наиболее сложному, с постепенным переходом к следующему уровню сложности. В результате работы с текстом читающий научится оценивать текст в широком социальном и культурном контексте, а само чтение возможно будет охарактеризовать зрелостью, которую можно в первом приближении оценить как пороговый продвинутый уровень сформированности коммуникативной компетенции.






СОДЕРЖАНИЕ


  1. Text. Are Girls Slaves of Fashion ……………………………………………………….. 4

  2. Text. Raising a Million …….……………………………………………………………. 6

  3. Text. Florida Getaway ……..……………………………………………………………. 8

  4. Text. How Do Others See Americans ………………………………………………….. 10

  5. Text. Why Pandas Are Black And White ……………………………………………… 12

  6. Text. Modern Indians …………………………………………………………………... 14

  7. Text. An Alternative Cinderella ………………………………………………………... 16

  8. Text. The Importance of Being Ernest …………………………………………………. 20

  9. Text. The Body in the Library …………………………………………………………. 23

  10. Text. Rain ………………………………………………………………………………. 27

  11. Text. A Man with a Conscience ……………………………………………………….. 29

  12. Text. Jane ………………………………………………………………………………. 31

  13. Список использованной литературы ……………………………………………....... 32

  14. APPENDEX …………………………………………………………………………….33

  15. Oscar Wilde. The Importance of Being Ernest ………………………………………… 33

  16. A. Christie. The body in the library ……………………………………………………. 69

  17. W.S. Maugham. Rain ………………………………………………………………… 136

  18. W.S. Maugham. A man with a conscience …………………………………………... 159

  19. W.S. Maugham. Jane ………………………………………………………………… 170






















ARE GIRLS SLAVES OF FASHION?


When you see an old film, even if it is made only ten years ago, you are usually struck by appearance of the women taking part in it. Their hairstyles and make – up look old-fashioned, their skirts look either too long or too short, their general appearance is, in fact, slightly funny. The men taking part in the film, on the other hand, look quite nice. There is nothing in their appearance to say that they belong to an entirely different time.

This image is created by changing fashions. Over the years, the great majority of men have successfully resisted all attempts to make them change their style of dress. The same cannot be said about women. Each year a few so-called “top designers” in Paris or London make the law and women all over the world rush to follow it. This year designers decide that skirts will be short and waists will be high, zips will be “in” and buttons will be “out”. Next year the law is different and no one is surprised.

But women have only themselves to blame because they don’t want to be seen in public in clothes that are out of fashion. Sometimes they put on a dress only a few times and throw it away. Only a woman is able of standing in front of the wardrobe packed of clothes and saying sadly she has nothing to wear.

Many women spend large sums of money each year to replace clothes they have hardly worn. Fashion designers never think about such things as warmth and comfort. They think the women will put up with any amount of discomfort in order to look right.


VOCABULARY

To strike (struck, stricken)поражать

Slave раб

Old-fashionedстаромодный

Image – образ, представление

Majority – большинство

To resistсопротивляться

Lawзакон

To make lawsсоставлять закон

To rushспешить

Waist талия

Zipмолния

Buttonпуговица

To blameвинить

To wear (wore, worn)носить

Wardrobeгардероб

To replaceзаменять

Hardlyедва

To put upмириться



TASKS

  1. Find English equivalents of the following words and word combinations in the text

Даже если он сделан десять лет назад; их прически и косметика кажутся старомодными; совершенно другое время; это представление создается меняющейся модой; успешно сопротивляться всем попыткам заставить их изменить стиль одежды; женщины могут винить только себя; дизайнеры одежды никогда не думают о таких вещах, как теплота и удобство.


  1. Find synonyms of the following words in the text

  1. not modern; 2. put back in its place; 3. mental picture or idea.


  1. Finish the sentence

1. When you see an old film _________________.

2. Their hair-style and make-up look ____________.

3. The man taking part in the film, on the other hand _______________.

4. This image is created by _____________.

5. Over the years, the great majority of men have successfully resisted ______________.

6. Each year a few so called “top designers” in Paris or London make the law and women ______________.

7. Many women spend large sums of money each year _______________.

8. But women have only themselves to blame __________________.

9. Fashion designers never think about such things as ________________.

10. They think the women will put up _____________.


  1. Fill in the gaps with the following words: majority, replaced, put up with, wear, slaves, laws, blame, struck, image.

  1. When you go on a camping holiday you have to __________ with much inconveniency.

  2. Sometimes ___________ in the USA can be very strange.

  3. I don’t think girls and women are ___________ of fashion.

  4. The great ___________ of people want to live in peace.

  5. Some women don’t ______________ make-up.

  6. Bad workers often ____________ their tools.

  7. The light focused on the __________ of God.

  8. The need for a good map of London _____________ me urgent, and I decided to do something about it.


  1. What about you?

  1. Do you agree with the author? Do you really think that girls are slaves of fashion?

  2. Do you agree with the words of Anatole France: “Only the men who do not care about women are interested in their dresses. And the men who like them never notice what they wear.” Why?












RAISING A MILLION


Dominic Williams is 19 years old. Like many students of his age, he has decided to take a year off between school and university. But whereas most of his friends are travelling abroad or working for a year Dominic has chosen to raise money for medical charities. Since he started three months ago, Dominic has sent 22.000 letters to companies, celebrities and politicians, asking each to donate 5 pounds.

Most of the government ministers he has contacted have sent him back cheques. Only two ministers declined to make a donation. Instead of sending him money, they sent him letters wishing him well.

At the moment, Dominic is concentrating on sending letters to car dealers and accountants. By the end of the month he will have contacted almost every company in his local area and thousands more elsewhere. After twelve months, he will have written about 250.000 letters. ‘I’m asking for 5 pounds because I thought it would be hard for people to say “No” to that. “I’ve only got 30.000 pounds so far. So I’ve got to spend up”, says Dominic.

What Dominic really needs is a mailing machine. It would help him put stamps on the envelopes and then he could send out letters more quickly. He also wants a picture of himself with the Prime Minister. “Then I could send the picture to other Members of Parliament, and that would improve my chances of getting more donations.” Dominic says he is doing it for medical research, to improve the lives of children with incurable diseases.


VOCABULARY

To raise – зд. собирать, добывать

Whereas – в то время как

Charity – благотворительность

Celebrity – знаменитость

To decline – зд. отклонять, отвергать

To donate – преподнести в качестве дара, передать в дар, пожертвовать

Donationдар, пожертвование

To make a donation – преподнести в дар, пожертвовать

Accountant – бухгалтер

Mailing machine – машина для автоматического наклеивания марок

Incurableнеизлечимый


TASKS


  1. Answer the questions

  1. How did Dominic decide to spend his year off?

  2. In what way did he decide to raise money?

  3. Have all the ministers sent him cheques back?

  4. What is Dominic concentrating on now?

  5. Why is he asking for 5 pounds?

  6. What does he really need?

  7. Why does he want to have a picture of himself with the Prime Minister?

  8. In what way is he going to help people?


  1. Fill in prepositions and adverbs where necessary


  1. Like many students his age, he has decided to take a year ________ ________ school and university.

  2. Most _________ his friends are traveling abroad or working _________ a year.

  3. Dominic has chosen to raise money _______ medical charities.

  4. He has sent 22 000 letters ______ companies, celebrities and politicians, asking each to donate 5 pounds.

  5. Most _______ the government ministers have sent him back cheques.

  6. ________ the moment, Dominic is concentrating ______ sending letters _______ car dealers and accountants.

  7. ______ the end_______ the month he will have contracted almost every company ______ his local area.

  8. I’m asking _____ 5 pounds because I thought it would be hard ______ people to say ”No” ______ that.

  9. I have got to speed ______.

  10. A mailing machine would help him put stamps ______ the envelopes and then he could send ______ letters more quickly.

  11. He also wants a picture ________ himself with the Prime Minister.

  12. Dominic says he is doing it _____ medical research, to improve the lives _______ children with incurable diseases.


  1. What about you?

  1. Do you think that charity is important in our life?

  2. Do you know anything about people who help others?

  3. In what ways can we help other people?


4. Translate into English

1. Братья Третьяковы передали в дар Москве коллекцию собранных ими картин. Традиции благотворительности не умирают. В наши дни художник Александр Шилов передал в дар Москве все свои картины. Их можно увидеть в картинной галерее Шилова.

2. Деньги на строительство храма Христа Спасителя (Christ the Savior) были собраны за несколько лет.

3. Предложение построить дом в парке было отклонено.

4. Самые мудрые целители (healers) древности говорили, что нет неизлечимых болезней, а есть неизлечимые мысли.

5. Каждую пятницу по дороге в институт Маша давала деньги молодым людям, которые собирали средства для участников войны в Афганистане. Маша считает, что благотворительность необходима в нашей жизни. Люди, которые не думают о других, рано или поздно о них вспомнят.









FLORIDA GETAWAY

A story of Joan about her journey


This trip, I felt ready for something new, but nothing could have prepared me for my Florida getaway with three boys. For five nights and six days, I lived among them – listening to their speech patterns, observing their habits, consuming salami sandwiches, and when there was nothing else to do, watching football.

As a single woman in my twenties, with most of my female friends either seriously involved or married, finding a travel companion has gotten pretty tough. The January before last, I was determined to visit Miami, but none of my girlfriends from college could make me a company. While on the phone with Dean, a male college friend who is one of my best pals, I got to talking about my dilemma, and he invited me to come along with him and Dan and Dave – also good friends from college on their trip to Florida.

Dean then set the ground rules. I would get no special treatment. The boys would not have to apologize for crude behavior or refrain from vulgar language because I was present. Most important, they would show absolutely no mercy when it was my turn to pay at the bar. The itinerary was simple – a few days in the empty house Dean’s parents owned in Fort Lauderdale, the football game, a visit to Disney World, a drive back to Fort Lauderdale to catch our plane home. Dean would order football tickets, Dave would take care of a rental car.

We spent our first morning in Florida at a grocery store, stocking up on supplies, and for the first time since I was about seven, food shopping was actually fun. I took a much-needed break from my diet and fat-free food and discovered cookie and candy. If the boy’s weren’t going to worry about the percentage of fat in their daily food, then neither was I.

Usually on the last day of a vacation, I reach my saturation point and am ready to go home. But this time, I didn’t want the holiday to end.


VOCABULARY

Getawayбегство

To observeнаблюдать

Consumeпотреблять

To be involved (with somebody)зд. увлекаться кем-либо

Tough – зд. трудно

Pal – приятель, товарищ

To set the rulesустанавливать правила

Ground rule – основное правило

Treatmentобращение

Crudeгрубый

To refrain (from) – воздерживаться (от)

Mercy – милосердие, сострадание

Itinerary – маршрут, путь, план маршрута

Rental carвзятый напрокат

Grocery storeбакалея

Stock up – запасаться

Supplies – припасы, продовольствие

Cookie печенье

Candyконфеты

Saturation насыщение


TASK

  1. Write questions to these answers

  1. She was listening to their speech patterns, observing their habits, consuming salami sandwiches and watching football.

  2. No, it has gotten pretty tough.

  3. She was determined to visit Miami, but none of her girlfriends from college could make the trip.

  4. It was Dean, her college friend who was one of her best pals.

  5. They were the following: she would get no special treatment, the boys would not have to apologize for crude behavior or refrain from vulgar language and they would show absolutely no mercies when it was her turn to pay at the bar.

  6. It was simple – a few days in the empty house Dean’s parents owned in Fort Lauderdale, the football game, an overnight stay to visit Disney World, a drive back to Fort Lauderdale to catch their plane home.

  7. Dean would order football tickets.

  8. Dave would take care of a rental car.

  9. They spent it at a grocery store, stocking up on supplies.

  10. No, this time, she didn’t want the holiday to end.


  1. What do you think?

  1. Did you learn anything new from this text? How could you describe it?


Boring funny interesting silly useful


  1. Write your own story of a holiday and present it in the class.




















HOW DO OTHERS SEE AMERICANS?


Some people, when they first arrive in the United States, say that Americans are very friendly, open and easy-going, but after living in the United States for a while, they change their minds. One international student explained that when he first came, people helped him get settled, took him shopping, invited him for dinner, and called to see how he was. After two or three weeks, however, they stopped doing these things, and he was confused and disappointed.

The thing is Americans try to do what is necessary to help people when they first arrive. They do many things to help these people get settled and often make the new arrivals feel like a part of the family. Newcomers expect this warm hospitability to continue in the form of a solid friendship. However, Americans expect that once people are settled and have been there for a few weeks, they will begin to do things for themselves and become independent.

Many international students are often surprised at American attitude towards humor and animals. For example, one student who was staying with an American family was shocked at how they treated the family dog. “I couldn’t believe it”, he said. “The dog had a bed in the child’s room and was actually allowed to sit on the living room sofa. The dog even had its own food in cans, which is very expensive”.

American humor also seems strange at times. For instance, Americans enjoy making jokes about politicians and government policies.

In the United States, time is a matter of punctuality. People plan activities and arrange their lives around specific time. For example, in the United States, one should always arrive in time for dinner, a date, or a business appointment. While it is sometimes acceptable to arrive five minutes earlier, it is considered extremely impolite to arrive later. If other people are expected for dinner or for a meeting and you are late, everyone else will have to wait until you arrive to begin.

Americans are fond of sending greeting cards. They are printed not only for birthdays and anniversaries, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Christmas and New Year but also for graduation, Valentine’s Day, and many other events. People in the United States send get-well cards to friends and relatives who are ill and even cards to express friendship. The average American family sends about 50 cards every year. Some business people send cards to clients to maintain good-will.


VOCABULARY

Easy-goingдобродушный, покладистый

To get settledобосноваться

Confused – поставленный в тупик, смущенный

Disappointразочаровывать

Hospitalityгостеприимство

To treatобращаться

Specificконкретный

Appointmentвстреча

To make an appointment forназначить встречу на

Acceptable приемлемый

It is acceptableприемлемо

Impoliteневежливый

Get-well card – открытка с пожеланием выздоровления

To maintainподдерживать

Good-will – расположение, добрая воля, доброжелательность


TASKS

  1. Answer the questions

  1. What do people say when they first arrive in the United States?

  2. What do they say after living in the United States for a while?

  3. In what way do Americans show their hospitality to newcomers?

  4. Are many international students surprised at American attitude towards humor and animals?

  5. What jokes do Americans enjoy?

  6. What is their attitude to time?

  7. Is it acceptable to arrive earlier?

  8. Is it polite to arrive later?

  9. Are Americans fond of sending greeting cards?

  10. For what occasions are they printed?

  11. When do people in the United States send get-well cards?


  1. Find equivalents of these phrases in the text

  1. People who are easy to get on with; 2. cards expressing hope of quick recovery; 3. act or behave towards; 4. friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests; 5. detailed and precise; 6. sad at not getting what was hoped for.


3. Fill in the gaps with the words from the box


Good-will hospitality impolite treat disappointment acceptable hospitality


  1. Teenagers often don’t like how adults ___________ them.

  2. ___________ is a distinctive feature of Russian people.

  3. Prices at a new Ramstore supermarket are rather __________ . Some goods are cheaper than in the market.

  4. It is ____________ to be late for an __________.

  5. The conference was conducted in the spirit of ___________.

  6. For many people ‘perestroika’ resulted in complete _______________.


4. Translate into English

1. В странах востока считается невежливым отказаться от чашки чая, предложенной вам. 2. Приятно иметь дело с покладистыми людьми. 3. Известно, что в Австралии обосновались многие преступники, высланные из Англии. 4. Деловая встреча была назначена на пятницу. 5. Кошки любят, чтобы с ними хорошо обращались, но сами редко проявляют расположение к людям. Они слишком независимы 6. В США приемлемо опоздать на деловую встречу на пять минут, но невежливо опоздать на пятнадцать минут.


WHY PANDAS ARE BLACK AND WHITE?

A long, long time ago in China there lived a little girl called Chien Min. She had lived all her life with her father and mother in a little house on the edge of a bamboo forest. Chien Min loved animals and was always very kind to them.

One day, when it was very hot, Chien Min was walking alone along the edge of the forest. Suddenly, she heard a sound. It was a cry coming from inside the forest. She was very much afraid but the crying continued and so she decided to see what it was. She went into the forest and followed the sound. There, sitting on the ground under a big tree she found a little white ball of fur; it was a baby panda. The panda was crying and licking its front paw. There was a big thorn in it. “Oh, you poor little animal!” Chien Min ran to the little creature and sat beside her. “Give me your paw”.

At first the little white panda seemed afraid. But soon he understood and gave her his paw. Very carefully Chien Min took the torn out of its paw. The baby panda was so happy it licked her face and she stroked it. From that day, they became the best of friends. Chien Min called the panda Niao-Niao, and they played together in the bamboo forest every day. It wasn’t long before Chien Min became friends with all the pandas in the forest.

One afternoon the girl was sitting on the ground watching the baby pandas playing happily. Suddenly she saw something moving in the trees. It was a big leopard. It had been sitting in the tree waiting for its lunch to walk by. Chien Min stood up and shouted a warning. But as she was shouting the leopard jumped out of the tree top onto Niao-Niao. Chien Min forgot that she was afraid and threw a heavy stone at the leopard. “Go away, leave the panda alone!” The leopard jumped on the girl and knocked her to the ground. At that moment the adult pandas arrived. They were making a lot of noise. The leopard became afraid and ran away back into the forest. The pandas all ran to Chien Min but could do nothing. She was dead. She had given her life to save Niao-Niao.

The news of how Chien Min died went through the forest to the north and to the east and west until all the pandas in China knew what had happened.

All the white pandas met to talk about the little brave girl who had given her life for a baby panda. They cried and cried and their tears fell like rain onto the ground. They beat their paws on the ground and then wiped the tears from their eyes. Their dirty paws made black marks on their faces. Then they beat their bodies and left black marks from their dirty paws on their bodies too. Soon all the white pandas were covered with black marks.

That is why, even today, pandas are black and white. And that is why everyone who sees these beautiful animals remembers Chien Min, a little girl who gave her life to save a panda.


VOCABULARY

Edgeкрай, лезвие

To lickлизать

Paw лапа

Thorn шип, заноза

To stroke – гладить, поглаживать

Warning – предупреждение

To knockстучать

Adultвзрослый

To beatбить, ударять

To wipeвытирать


TASKS

  1. Answer the questions

  1. Do you think it is a true story or a myth?

  2. Where did Chien Min live?

  3. How did she meet the little panda?

  4. What colour were pandas at that time?

  5. Who did the leopard attack first?

  6. Why did the leopard attack Chien Min?

  7. What did panda do when they realized that the girl had given her life to save Niao-Niao?

  8. How did the pandas change their colour?


  1. Fill in the gaps with the words: the edge, wiped, stroked, beat, knocked, the thorn

  1. The girl took ________ out of cat’s paw.

  2. The house stood on ____________ of the forest.

  3. Cats like to be ___________.

  4. The leopard jumped on the girl and _________ her to the ground.

  5. They ________ their paws on the ground and then ___________ the tears from their eyes.


  1. Translate into English

1. В русской деревне была традиция класть нож в сторону хлеба. Хлеб нарезал только хозяин дома. На ночь не следовало оставлять нож на столе. 2. Кошки любят, когда их гладят. 3. В национальной галерее в Лондоне можно увидеть скульптуру «Мальчик с занозой».


  1. Think about folk tale of your country and write it down. Then have a discussion in the class.















MODERN INDIANS

In the early 1970s the native people of the Amazon Basin, or Amazonia – an area of South America that includes parts of Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and Surinam – were faced with a serious problem. Their traditional lands were being destroyed by outsiders. Central governments sent construction crews into the rain forests to build dams and high-ways.

Instead of carrying out land reform, many of the governments encouraged landless peasants to move from the mountains to the “uninhabited” rain forests. There the peasants used farming methods unsuitable for the Amazon.

In a short time, they turned the vegetation into a desert. Then they packed their families, cows, and goats and moved deeper into the rain forests destroying the land as they went. Many of the peasants gave up farming. Instead, they turned to gold mining. In the process, they poisoned the rivers and streams with mercury, killing the fish, an important part of their diet.

Some of the Indians fought back with spears and rifles, killing and being killed. Others sought refuge deeper in the rain forest. But among them were leaders who knew they could not run away forever from what the white man called “progress”. One of those leaders was Evaristo Nuquaq. Seeing his people’s environment and traditional way of life being destroyed, he decided to do something. He borrowed a canoe and went up and down the rivers stopping at every village along the way, telling everyone who would listen that they must organize if they were to survive. He encouraged another tribe to join them. Although these two tribes have traditionally been enemies, they joined together and formed a nongovernmental organization (NGO). Meanwhile, Nuquaq spoke to leaders of the other tribes in the Peruvial Amazon Basin. He encouraged them to get organized. Then he called the meeting of these leaders in Lima, the capital of Peru. He told them it was not enough to become organized on the village or tribal level. They needed a national organization, one that could influence the Peruvian central government.

So Inter-Ethnic Association of the Peruvian Jungle was set up. It immediately began working to solve the problems of all the indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon Basin. The Association reached an agreement with the Ministry of Education to train Indians to be teachers, so that primary and secondary schools would be taught by Indian teachers in both Spanish and the native language. An agreement with the Ministry of Health was reached to train one person from each village to be a health worker who would treat emergency medical problems such as bites from poisonous snakes or broken bones.

The Association obtained grants from international NGO. It also concentrated its activities on lobbying such centers of power as the United Nations, the Inter-American Development Bank, the United States Congress – any place where decisions were made that affected the well-being of the Amazon Basin and its native population. By forming partnership with international organizations, the Association has been able to influence the policies of several Latin American countries and to protect the interests of the native people.


VOCABULARY

Crewкоманда, бригада

Rain forestsтропический лес

Damплотина

Highwayшоссе

To encourageободрять, поощрять

Peasantкрестьянин

Uninhabitedнезаселенный

Nongovernmental organizations (NGO’s)неправительственные организации

Vegetationрастительность

Desertпустыня

Goat козел

Instead – вместо этого, взамен

Mining – разработка полезных ископаемых, добыча

To poisonотравлять

Mercuryртуть

Spear копье

Rifle винтовка

To seek (sought, sought)искать, стремиться

Refugeубежище

Environmentокружающая среда

To survive – выживать

Emergency – чрезвычайное положение, крайняя необходимость

Bites – укусы


TASKS

  1. Answer the questions

  1. What areas are included in the Amazon Basin, or Amazonia?

  2. What problems were the people facing?

  3. What did the governments encourage peasants to do?

  4. What farming methods did peasants use?

  5. What happened with the vegetation?

  6. What did they do then?

  7. What did many peasants turn to?

  8. What happened to environment in the process of gold mining?

  9. Did some Indians seek refuge deeper in the rain forests?

  10. Were there Indian leaders who knew they could not run away forever from the so called “progress”?

  11. What did Evaristo Nuquaq decide to do when he saw that his people’s environment and traditional way of life was being destroyed?

  12. What organization did the Indians form?

  13. What problems did Inter-Ethnic Association of the Peruvian Jungle begin to solve?

  14. What agreement was reached with the Ministry of Health?

  15. What agreement was reached with the Ministry of Education?

  16. Did the association obtaine grants from the NGO’s?

  17. In what way has the association been able to help several Latin American countries protect the interests of the native people?


  1. Say true of false? If it is false suggest the right variant.

  1. The traditional lands of native people of the Amazon Basin, or Amazonia were destroyed.

  2. The peasants used farming methods unsuitable for the Amazon.

  3. Some of the Indians fought back with the spears and rifles.

  4. Evaristo Nuquaq encouraged Indians to protect their rights.

  5. It was easy to set up Association of the Peruvian Jungle.


  1. What about your country? Have you ever had the same situation in your country? If yes, find information about it and share with the class your ideas.



AN ALTERNATIVE CINDERELLA


Once upon a time there were three sisters who lived with their widowed father. The two eldest ran a beauty parlour and a clothes shop. They were both interested in finding a rich husband. The youngest daughter, whose name was Cinderella looked after the house. Her father did not want her to start business as he wanted someone to look after him. Cinderella did not mind as she was doing a correspondence course in accountancy and marketing.

One day Cinderella decided to enter a competition in a woman’s magazine because it offered some good cash prizes. If she won one of them, it would help her finance the setting up of her own restaurant.

Around that time the newspaper were full of stories about a big party that was going to be held at the palace. It was said that the Prince wanted to find a wife and settle down. From the moment they heard about the ball, the two eldest sisters spent days and days trying to make they look beautiful. As for Cinderella, she wondered what all this fuss was about and didn’t have the slightest interest in the ball.

One morning, while she was doing some work for her accountancy course, there was a knock at the door. She opened it and saw an extraordinary woman standing there with a ridiculous-looking tiara on her head. The woman, who called herself Fairy Godmother, or FG for short, told Cinderella that she had won first prize in the magazine competition. She would have to dress up in fine clothes and go to the palace where she’d spend the night at the ball and be photographed for the woman’s magazine.

The big day arrived, and a shiny Rolls Royce came to pick her up. The man from the car hire firm said he was only on duty until midnight. Moments later a woman arrived bringing a fur coat and a diamond necklace which would be Cinderella’s just for the evening.

The palace turned out to be cold and draughty and the king was a man with a sad smile. He was almost bankrupt. Cinderella felt sorry for the man and suggested lots of ways of making money: re-organizing the kitchens, opening the palace to the public and so on.

The prince took one look at Cinderella and asked her to dance. She kicked off her glass slippers, which were killing her, and joined him on the dance floor. By this time it had turned midnight. The car hire man drove away and the woman came to collect her fur coat and necklace. Soon afterwards, Cinderella left the palace and hitch-hiked home.

The following day the newspapers were full of the big story about the prince who had fallen for a beautiful and mysterious girl who had disappeared from the palace. Her glass slippers, which she had left behind, were the only clues that would lead him to her. When Cinderella read the news, she was absolutely furious. Nethertheless, she saw quite a lot of prince because she started work at the palace as financial adviser. In no time at the entire palace was making profit again. Naturally, Cinderella refused to marry the prince but she decided to help him cut down on his drinking and involved him in useful social work in the community.


VOCABULARY

Beauty parlourсалон красоты

Correspondence courseзаочный курс

Accountancy – бухгалтерское дело (бухгалтерский учет)

Cash – зд. наличные деньги

To set up – зд. основывать, учреждать

To settle downзд. остепениться

Fussсуета

To make a fuss – поднимать шум, суетиться

Extraordinary – необычный, замечательный, выдающийся, исключительный

Ridiculous – смехотворный, смешной

Fairy Godmother – добрая фея (крестная Золушки)

Car hire firm – фирма по прокату автомобилей

Necklace – ожерелье

Draught – сквозняк

Draughty – продуваемый насквозь

Slippers – комнатные туфли, тапочки

To hitch-hike – путешествовать автостопом

Mysteriousтаинственный

To be furiousбыть в ярости

To be furious with smb. – злиться на кого-то

Nevertheless – тем не менее, хотя

Adviserсоветник

Profitприбыль

To make profitполучать прибыль

To involveвовлекать


TASKS

  1. Answer the questions.

  1. What did two eldest sisters do?

  2. What did the youngest sister do?

  3. What were they interested in?

  4. What course did Cinderella decide to enter a competition in a woman’s magazine?

  5. Were Cinderella and her sisters getting ready for the party?

  6. Whom did Cinderella see one morning?

  7. What did she look like?

  8. What prize did Cinderella win?

  9. Was Cinderella keen on doing the course?

  10. What would she get in return for the prizes?

  11. How did Cinderella get to the party?

  12. Was the palace a nice place?

  13. Was the king a happy man?

  14. What ways of saving money did Cinderella offer?

  15. How did Cinderella get home from the palace?

  16. What were the clues which Cinderella had left?

  17. Was Cinderella happy to read the newspaper story?

  18. Did Cinderella marry the prince?


2. Find these words and word combinations in the text.

Он хотел, чтобы кто-нибудь о нем заботился; Золушка не возражала; однажды Золушка решила участвовать в конкурсе; если бы она выиграла один из них, это помогло бы ей профинансировать открытие собственного ресторана; не проявляла ни малейшего интереса к балу; в дверь постучали; увидела необычную женщину; сверкающий Роллс-ройс приехал забрать ее; когда она появилась во дворце, он был почти банкротом; отказалась выйти замуж за принца.


3. Match words and phrases with similar meaning.

1. mysterious a. uncontrolled, violent

2. furious b. get a free ride with a passing car or a lorry

3. extraordinary c. a company

4. hitch-hike d. foolish, absurd

5. fuss e. very strange that cannot be explained or easily understood

6. set up f. very unusual, surprising

7. ridiculous g. unnecessary noise


4. Finish these sentences.


1. Once upon a time there lived _________________________________.

2. The eldest sisters were interested in ____________________________.

3. Her father did not want her to start a business ____________________.

4. One day Cinderella decided to enter a competition in a woman’s magazine because _______________________.

5. Cinderella suggested lots of ways of making money _______________.

6. She saw quite a lot of the prince because _____________.

7. Cinderella refused to marry the prince but she decided to help him ___________________.



5. Fill in the spaces in the story, using as many words as you like and write the end of the story.


Once upon a time a ___________ man was walking through a ________ dark forest when an old lady stopped him. She was dressed in ___________________.

“Good afternoon”, said the old lady. “I want to ask you three questions.”

“All right”, agreed the man. “What are they?”

And the old lady asked him three questions.

First, she asked him if __________________________, and he told her that _________________.

Then she asked him whether ________________________, and he told her that _________________.

At last, she asked him _______________________, and he replied, “Well, Madam, I ________________”.

“You have given me honest answers”, said the old lady, and I will reward you”.

Suddenly there was a flash of light, and ______________.



6. Translate into English


1. В Росси есть много замечательных женщин: первая женщина - космонавт Валентина Терешкова, летчица Марина Попович, обладающая более чем 100 мировыми рекордами, и многие другие. 2. В наше время не трудно основать компанию. Гораздо труднее сделать ее работу эффективной и получать прибыль. 3. В нашем институте будущие экономисты и менеджеры изучают бухучет. 4. Почему такая суматоха? Что случилось? 5. В течение многих веков баски разделены между Испанией и Францией, тем не менее, они хотят получить независимость от правительств этих стран. 6. Петр 1 был совершенно необычный царь. Его любознательность не имела границ. 7. Ученые многих стран пытаются найти таинственные существа – снежного человека, «бигфут», Нэнси. 8. Автозаправочные станции (filling stations) в Америке не принимают наличные деньги в целях безопасности. 9. Оксана и ее муж имеют салон красоты для мужчин. Они работают успешно и хотят расширить (expand) свое дело. 10. Трое моих друзей путешествовали автостопом по Европе. Многие люди приглашали их к себе, они увидели много интересных мест. 11. Лошадь опять становится популярной. В городах и сельских районах растет число ферм, ранчо и фирм по прокату лошадей. 12. Кошка спит 16 часов в сутки, тем не менее, это очень активное животное.



7. What do you think?

Did you learn anything new from this text? How could you describe it?


Boring funny interesting silly useful



















OSCAR WILDE

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST

The Persons of the Play


John Worthing

Algernon Moncrieff

Reverend Canon Chasuble

Merriman

Lane

Lady Bracknell

Honorable Gwendolen Fairfax

Cecily Cardew

Miss Prism


Other Proper Names


p. 281 Half-Moon Street

p. 283 Shropshire, Augusta

p. 285 Ernest

p. 286 The Albany

p. 287 Thomas

p. 288 Bunbury, Bunburyist, Mary Farquhar

p. 296 Grosvenor Square

p. 297 Lady Bloxham

p. 298 Sussex

p. 299 Gordon

p. 303 Hertfordshire

p. 308 Egeria, Laetitia

p. 339 Terminus, Gervase Park

p. 346 Bayswater

p. 347 Gower Street


Assignments


First Act


    1. a) Find Russian equivalents of the following phrases.

As far as smth (smb) is concerned; to set smb a good example; to approve of smth; there is no use doing smth; to account for smth; to make out; to give one’s consent to, to get into scrapes, to invent (pretend to have) a brother; to have a treat for smb; to be accustomed to smth; to clear up the point; to be aware of smth; to take advantage of smth.


b) Recall the situation in which the phrases are used.


II. Explain in English

To get into trouble; to know smth; to explain smth; to agree to smth; to make out; to have a fictitious brother; there is no point in doing smth.


III. Answer the following questions.

  1. Why did Jack call himself Ernest in town?

  2. Why did Algernon invent Mr. Bunbury?

  3. Why did Jack Worthing have no parents?

  4. What qualities must an eligible young man possess according to Lady Bracknell?

  5. Why did Gwendolen take fancy to Jack Worthing?


IV. Perform the cigarette case scene and the “interrogation” scene.


V. Speak of the structure of Act One. Into how many parts does it logically fall? Entitle each part.

VI. Translate into Russian the following passages.

pp. 288-289 Algernon: “I haven’t the smallest intention … to tell you the rules”.

p. 289 Algernon: “My dear fellow … at Willis’s?”

p. 298-299 Lady Bracknell: “The line is immaterial … the season is quite over.”


VII. Comment on the following utterances.

pp. 288-289 Algernon: “… The amount of women in London … washing one’s clean linen in public.”

p. 294 Gwendolen: “ … And I pity any woman who is married to a man called John.”

p. 296 Lady Bracknell: “I’m pleased to hear it … What is your income?”


VIII. Find the instances of the author’s ironic attitude to High Society.


IX. Give a brief summary of Act One.


Second Act


  1. Find Russian equivalents of the following phrases.

To be in favour of (p. 306); to complain of smth (p. 307); to turn into (p. 306); at a moment’s notice (p. 306); to keep a diary (p. 306); to enter smth (notes, one’s secrets) into a diary (p. 306); to lead a double life (p. 309); to have faults (p. 312); to be taken aback (p. 319); to break off the engagement (p. 321); to object to smth (p. 322); to be on good terms with smb (p. 325); to bore smb to death (p. 328); a matter of importance (p. 330); to be in trouble (p. 332).


  1. Answer the following questions.

  1. How did it happen that Algernon came to Jack’s country house under the assumed name Ernest?

  2. Why did Jack make up his mind to be rechristened?

  3. Why did Jack decide to announce the death of “cousin Ernest”?

  4. Why did Jack call Algernon a scoundrel?

  5. How did it happen that Cecily fell in love with her guardian’s “brother”?

  6. How did Gwendolen and Cecily get acquainted? Why was there some hostility between the two girls at first?


  1. Perform any dialogue scene you like best.


  1. Complete the character sketches of the two girls.

Gwendolen is rich and rather spoilt, full of silly romantic notions …

Cecily, less worldly-wise than Gwendolen, is nevertheless nobody’s fool …


  1. Comment on the following.

  1. Miss Prism’s conclusion “As a man sows, so shall he reap”. (p. 313)

  2. Canon Chasuble’s revelations about carrying his duties in the parish. (p. 313)

  3. Cecily’s lines: “It is always painful to part from people whom one has known for a very brief space of time.” (p. 318)

  4. Algernon’s statement: “Science is always making wonderful improvements in things.” (p. 334)


  1. Search Act Two for stylistic devices and say what effect the author achieves.


  1. Give a summary of Act Two.


Third Act


  1. a) Find Russian equivalents of the following phrases.

To inspire confidence (p. 339); to produce an effect (p. 335); not to care two pence about smth (p. 341); to stand in one’s way (p. 341); to give smb the opportunity of doing smth (p. 341); to be out of practice (p. 348); to be on speaking terms (p. 349).


b) Recall the situations in which the phrases are used.


  1. Answer the following questions.

  1. Why did both Jack and Algernon pretend to have a brother?

  2. What was Lady Bracknell’s opinion of Cecily as a probable party for her nephew?

  3. Why did Jack refuse outright to give his consent to Algernon’s marriage to Cecily?

  4. What was Miss Prism’s story about the child she once was in charge of?

  5. How did Jack prove that he was the very child placed by mistaken in the handbag?

  6. What relationship was discovered between Jack and Algernon?


  1. Choose a dialogue from Act Three, perform it in class and make your comments on the scene.


  1. Summarize all the circumstances and coincidences that made the plot complicated and deadlocked.


  1. Comment on the comic effect of the suggestive names of two personages of the play (Rev. Canon Chasuble and Miss Prism).


  1. Express your opinion on the following.

  1. p. 336. Gwendolen: “In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.”

  2. p. 337. Gwendolen: “How absurd to talk of the equality of the sexes! …”

  3. p. 347. Lady Bracknell: “I dislike arguments of any kind …”

  4. p. 341. Lady Bracknell: “I’m not in favour of long engagements …”


  1. Give a summary of Act Three.

  2. Complete the synopsis (summary) of the play.

Young John (Jack) Worthing arrives in London from the country, determined to marry the Honorable Gwendolen Fairfax, lovely cousin of his friend Algernon (Algy) Moncrieff.

Dropping in at Algy’s flat, Jack finds that he has to explain that he was adapted by a Mr. Thomas Cardew when he was a baby. He also explains that he calls himself Jack in the country, but Ernest in London, so that he can blame his behaviour in London on Ernest, a fictitious brother.

Their talk is interrupted by the appearance of Gwendolen and her mother, Lady Bracknell. The latter is lured into another room by Algy, and Jack proposes to Gwendolen. Gwendolen confesses that she loves him, but partly because of the name Ernest.

When “interrogated” by Lady Bracknell, Jack is forced to confess that ….


FINAL DISCUSSION

  1. Comment on the title of the play and on expressive means and stylistic devices which make the play a blaze of sparkling dialogues.

  2. Choose the funniest scene and say what type of humour (humour of situation of humour of words) is represented in it.

  3. Exchange your impressions of the play. Keep in mind that this is a play in which language is not only the means by which the characters’ feelings and beliefs are expressed but an important part of the play. It is used for a witty or comic effect to contrast with the seriousness of the theme beneath.



AGATHA CHRISTIE

THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY

Assignment 1


Chapter 1 (pp. 10-21)


  1. Be sure that you know the right pronunciation and translation of the following words. Write them down in your vocabulary books.

Colonel hysterical flamboyant

Wrap constable spouse

Butler perplexity appetizing

Incredible tawdry mascara


  1. Find the following word combinations, write them out, translate into Russian, and remember the situations in which the author used them.

To give out the prizes (p. 10), to frown (p. 11), to go to sleep (p. 11), to be awake (p. 12), to go mad (p. 12), to ring up the police (p. 13), to cast a reproachful glance (p. 13), I didn’t quite catch (p. 13), to dial a number (p. 13), to be good at smth (p. 15), to be heavily made up (p. 17), to make a discovery (p. 17), to try one’s hand at smth (p. 18), to remind smb of smth (p. 19), to throw light upon smth (p. 19), to bite one’s nails (p. 19), to look alike (p. 21).


  1. Find the following adjectives in the text of the novel, write them out. Make up your own sentences to illustrate the use of these adjectives.

Тактичный, осторожный (p. 10), приглушенный (p. 10), сдержанный (p. 11), непредвиденный (p. 14), запущенный и неряшливый (p. 16), яркий, цветистый (p. 17), кричащий, безвкусный (p. 17), невероятный (p. 18), щедрый (pp. 13, 20).


  1. Find synonyms to each of the following words.

To be finished (p. 10), to think (p. 11), husband (p.11), quickly (p.11), unmarried woman (p. 14), to get out of a car (p. 15), detective (p. 18), to be having breakfast (p. 19), to understand (p. 19), to explain (p. 20).


  1. Answer the questions:

  1. What was Mrs. Bantry’s dream about?

  2. Why did she frown in her dream?

  3. What did Mary cry out that made Mrs. Bantry awake?

  4. What was Colonel Bantry’s first reaction when his wife tried to wake him up? How did it characterize him?

  5. Colonel Bantry didn’t find anybody in the library, did he?

  6. Why was Police Constable Palk’s tone undergoing a slight modification when he heard the colonel’s voice?

  7. Was the girl murdered or strangled?

  8. Why was Miss Marple surprised when she heard her telephone ring?

  9. Why did Mrs. Bantry decide to send the car for Miss Marple?

  10. Why did Constable Palk let Miss Marple come into the library?

  11. What did Miss Marple see in the library?

  12. Who else came to see the body?

  13. What was Miss Marple famous for?

  14. What did Miss Marple think of the murder?


  1. Correct the false statements.

  1. Colonel Bantry never agreed with his wife in anything.

  2. Mary, the servant, who found the body, was very courageous.

  3. Miss Marple lived with her large family in London.

  4. The strangled girl was poorly dresses, she wore no make-up.

  5. Constable Palk did not allow Miss Marple to come into the library.

  6. Inspector Slack was a slow man who justified his name.

  7. Miss Marple said she knew what the murdered girl could have been doing in the library.

  8. Mrs. Bantry liked Selina Blake, Basil Blake’s mother.

  9. Colonel Bantry did not like Basil Blake very much.

  10. Miss Marple remarked that all those young girls looked different.


  1. Comment on the following sentences:

(p. 13). Police Constable Palk’s tone underwent a slight modification. It became less impatiently official, recognizing the generous patron of the police sports and the principal magistrate of the district.

(p. 16) Constable Palk gave way. His habit of giving in to the gentry was lifelong.

(p. 18) Colonel Melchett said with a slight chuckle, “If you ask ma, your wife’s going to try her hand at a little amateur detecting”.


  1. Translate these sentences into Russian:

“I must have been dreaming” (p. 11)

“You must have imagined it” (p. 12)

“True to his ingrained belief that the gentry didn’t let you down. Mrs. Bantry immediately moved to the door” (p. 17)

“ … they make me green with the envy” (p. 20)

“And across the old bearskin … old-fashioned comfort of Colonel Bantry’s library.” (p. 17)


  1. Be ready to speak about:

Miss Marple

Mrs. Bantry and Colonel Bantry

Constable Palk







Assignment 2


Chapters 2, 3, 4 (pp. 21-34)


  1. Revise the Assignment 1 and translate the sentences into English in writing.

  1. Миссис Бентри снился сон. Обычно она наслаждалась своими снами. На этот раз во сне ее душистый горошек занял первое место на выставке цветов, и викарий раздавал призы в церкви.

  2. Мери, служанка миссис Бентри, бросилась в комнату и сказала, что в библиотеке находится труп. Это было невероятно; казалось, что Мери сошла с ума.

  3. Полковник Бентри не хотел просыпаться, он пробормотал, что согласен со своей женой и быстро заснул опять.

  4. Но это в библиотеке полковника Бентри действительно был труп. Это был труп молодой девушки. Она была задушена. Девушка была очень молода; она была сильно накрашена. На ней было кричащее вечернее платье и дешевые серебряные босоножки. Эта яркая фигурка производила неизгладимое впечатление на всех, кто входил в библиотеку.

  5. Мисс Марпл разволновалась, когда раздался телефонный звонок. Было слишком рано для телефонных звонков. Она была старой девой, ведущей правильный образ жизни. Непредвиденные звонки были для нее источником беспокойства. С другой стороны, Мисс Марпл была местным сыщиком. Она знала всех в своей деревне. Она даже снискала славу своей способности связывать незначительные деревенские события с более серьезными проблемами таким образом, чтобы пролить свет на эти проблемы.

  6. Миссис Бентри не могла не пригласить свою подругу к себе в дом, потому что Мисс Марпл была проницательной. Она была способна предположить, кто убийца.

  7. Полицейские не любили Мисс Марпл, так как понимали, что она может взять над ними верх, потому что она знает все, что происходит в деревне.

  8. Мисс Марпл пыталась объяснить присутствие девушки в деревне. Она немного поразмыслила и пришла к заключению, что единственным объяснением был Бэзил Блейк. Он часто устраивал вечеринки, к нему из Лондона приезжала молодежь.

  9. Миссис Бентри не нравилась эта идея, потому что она очень любила мать Бэзила. Они обе увлекались садоводством, и Селина Блейк щедро раздавала черенки.


  1. Find, copy out and translate the following expressions into Russian; make up your own sentences with them taking as a basis the plot of the novel “The Body in the Library”.

To do smb in (p. 21), to set eyes on smb (p. 21), a man of the world (p. 21), the point is (p. 21), to be fast asleep (p. 22), to have a word with smb (p. 23), to leak out (p. 23), to be enthusiastic about smth/smb (p. 24), to be an early riser (p. 24), to clear one’s throat (p. 24, 26), to be jealous (p. 25), to flatter (p. 25), to behave oneself (p. 25), to come to the rescue (p. 29), common sense (p. 29), to walk with a slight limp (p. 31), at any rate (p. 32), to turn up (p. 32, 33), to be on friendly terms (p. 33).


  1. Correct the false statements.

  1. Colonel Melchett was a quiet man with a habit of rubbing his hands together when he was pleased.

  2. Colonel Melchett supposed that Colonel Bantry had strangled the girl and Colonel Bantry confessed to it.

  3. Colonel Melchett did not want to know what Colonel Bantry had been doing the previous night.

  4. Colonel Bantry said that his wife had been waiting for him the previous evening.

  5. Colonel Bantry praised Basil Blake.

  6. Basil Blake was a famous architect. Being a middle-aged person he was modesty dressed in a grey suit.

  7. Basil Blake was very polite to Colonel Melchett.

  8. Basil Blake and the young blond girl did not say a word in Colonel Melchett’s presence.

  9. Inspector Slack came to the conclusion that some of the servants knew something.

  10. Doctor Haydock informed Colonel Melchett that the girl had been murdered with a long knife.

  11. No people were reported missing.

  12. Inspector Slack was a passive man.

  13. Josie Turner was grief-stricken when she got to know that Ruby had been murdered.

  14. Josie was a servant at the Majestic. Ruby was also a servant there.

  15. When Ruby disappeared Josie went to the police at once.

  16. Josie told Colonel Melchett that she had never seen Ruby with a young man.

  17. Inspector Slack did nit do anything to help Colonel Melchett.


  1. Find the following adjectives, write them out in your vocabulary books, and remember the nouns with which they are used by the author.

Ярко-синий, оранжевый, алый, скрытный, незрелый, негодующий, усердный/старательный, трудолюбивый, ревностный/ярый.


  1. Translate these sentences into Russian.

(p. 22) “ … it doesn’t seem likely that they’re mixed up in it.”

(p. 23) “Eager watch was kept for the first appearance of the legendary creature in the village, and it may be said that as far as appearances went Basil Blake was all that could be asked for.”

(p. 27) “They’d have remembered if they’d ever seen her about in the neighborhood, they say.”

(p. 27) “It seems to me this girl must have come down from London.”

(p. 28) “Something must have brought her down here, though”, said Slack.

(p. 28) “You’ve looked through the list of persons reported missing, I suppose?”


  1. Be ready to make up a dialogue between:


  1. Colonel Melchett and Colonel Bantry:

  2. Colonel Melchett and Josie Turner.


  1. Speak on the topics.


  1. Miss Marple and her methods of investigating crimes.

  2. Ruby Keene and her cousin Josie Turner.

  3. The Bantrys.

  4. The policemen investigating the murder.

  5. Basil Blake and his wife Dinah Lee.

  6. Miss Marple and Dolly Bantry.

  7. Miss Marple and the policemen.










WILLIAM SOMERSET MAUGHAM1

RAIN2


It is recommended to divide the story into two parts.


Names of the Characters:


Macphail

Davidson

Thompson


Assignments


Part I


(pp. 25-55)


I. Read the first part of the story and find the following words and phrases, write them out, give the Russian equivalents, recall the situations in which they are used:


To heal (p. 26); to settle down (p. 26); freckled skin (p. 26); a big bug (p. 27); to put on frills (p. 27); to make smb behave (p. 28); we should keep ourselves to ourselves (p. 30); to stamp out (p. 31); to saunter (p. 31); to be prohibited by law (p. 32); to eradicate (p. 32); to be bare of furniture (p. 34); not to get a wink of sleep (p. 35); to itch (p. 35); to instill (p. 40); in the last resort (p. 43); a vague sense of guilt (p. 45); rain or fine (p. 47); vexed (p. 55).


II. Collect all the information about the Davidsons, the Macphails, Miss Thompson.


III. Get ready to discuss the story. Answer these questions:

    1. What is the setting of the story?

    2. How did the Macphails and the Davidsons happen to get friendly?

    3. How did Mr. Davidson make the natives understand what a sin was?


IV. Paraphrase the italicized word combinations using one of the phrases or words given in the box:

Rubbed out; soldiers; had very little furniture; liked (or wasn’t against it); vulgar; cheeky behaviour; immorality; loose; argued over fixing the price.


  1. “I was not averse to it myself when I was a young man,” said Dr. Macphail (p. 30).

  2. The rooms he showed them were almost bare of furniture (p. 34).

  3. He admired the effrontery with which she bargained (p. 37).

  4. I wondered at the time what she was. She looked rather fast to me (p. 29).

  5. “I don’t think she’s very suitable dressed. I must say,” said Mrs. Macphail. “She looks extremely common to me” (p. 46).

  6. There were Americans, sailors from the ships in port, enlisted men off the gunboats, … (p. 49).

  7. They say that vice is inevitable and consequently the best thing is to localize and control it (p. 49).

  8. … and Dr. Macphail quickly effaced from his lips the smile, which had come upon them (p. 54).


V. Explain the meaning of the following words and phrases in English:


Missionary; to carp; elephantiasis; half-caste; lower extremities; Red light district; blot.


VI. Translate into English.


1. Мистер Макфэйл был ранен на фронте. После того, как рана зажила, он решил поселиться в Аппи, по крайней мере, на год. 2. Мистер Макфэйл не считал миссионера такой уж важной шишкой, чтобы тот мог позволять себе задаваться. 3. Миссис Дэвидсон заметила, что они заставляли местных жителей вести себя подобающим образом. Она добавила, что им удалось изжить у них привычку танцевать национальные танцы, потому что, по мнению Дэвидсона, это вело к безнравственности. 4. Миссионеры считали, что некоторые из обычаев, к которым привыкли местные жители, следует искоренить или запретить законом. 5. Что бы ни было, Дэвидсоны имели обыкновение прочитывать главу из Библии. 6. Мисс Томпсон не нравилась ни Миссис Дэвидсон, ни миссис Макфэйл. Она казалась им довольно вульгарной и легкомысленной.


Part II (PP. 55-83)

  1. Read the second part of the story, find the following phrases and words, write out sentences with them, recall the situation in which they are used:


Щадить себя (p. 56); затевать что-то (p. 59); по пятам (p. 60); без утайки, откровенно (p. 62); воспользоваться преимуществом (p. 66); удрученный (p. 68); чувствовать себя неловко, не в своей тарелке (p. 68); начать новую жизнь (p. 71); изо всех сил (p. 77).


  1. Answer these questions:


  1. What was Miss Thompson like?

  2. Hoe did she behave on the island?

  3. What did the Davidson think of her behaviour?

  4. What measures did Davidson take to make Miss Thompson behave herself?

  5. What did Davidson want?

  6. Why did the governor agree to send Miss Thompson to San Francisco?

  7. How did the doctor try to help Miss Thompson?

  8. What is the end of the story?

  9. Comment on the final episode. Did Mrs. Davidson guess the reason for her husband’s suicide?

  10. Comment on the title of the story.


  1. Translate the sentences into Russian. Remember the italicized words and expressions:


  1. “I’ve given her every chance. I have exhorted her to repent. She is an evil woman.” (p. 55)

  2. Miss Thompson put on one reel after another. It looked as though the silence of the night were getting on her nerves. (p. 58)

  3. It’s terrible the way the men who are in authority seek to evade their responsibility. (p. 62)

  4. … but the Macphails felt suddenly bashful. They did not know which way to look. (p. 73)

  5. Dr. Macphail bent down – he was not a man to lose his head in an emergency – and turned the body over. (p. 80)


  1. Explain the meaning of the following phrases and words in English:


Rough customer (p. 57), odd jobs (p. 57), she’s getting a bit worked up (p. 58), to come down to brass tacks (p. 60), to shilly – shally (p. 62), enlisted men (p. 68), bunkum (p. 76).


  1. Translate into English:

1. Миссис Дэвидсон считала, что ее муж не щадит себя. Она сказала, что никогда не задает ему вопросов, когда он работает на божье благо. 2. Они услышали голос Дэвидсона. Он молился вслух за душу мисс Томпсон. 3. Мисс Томпсон не знала, что затевает Дэвидсон, и это пугало ее. 4. Дэвидсоны хотели, чтобы мисс Томпсон покинула остров, и мистер Дэвидсон прямо сказал об этом губернатору. 5. Доктор Макфэйл воспользовался тем, что дождь кончился, и вышел. Он отправился к губернатору, чтобы попросить его разрешить мисс Томпсон остаться на острове до тех пор, пока не придет пароход из Сан-Франциско, с тем чтобы она могла уехать в Сидней. После своего визита доктор чувствовал себя удрученным, так как в его просьбе было отказано. 6. Доктор жалел мисс Томпсон, он верил, что она хочет начать новую жизнь. 7. В конце концов, отношения Дэвидсона с мисс Томпсон стали совсем не такими, которые он проповедовал. Он понял, что он сам – обыкновенный человек со своими слабостями и грехами. Это довело его до отчаяния, и он покончил с собой.


  1. Write a summary of the story.


WILLIAM SOMERSET MAUGHAM

A MAN WITH A CONSCIENCE

(pp. 274 – 303)


Names of the Characters:

Jean Charvin

Marie – Louise

Henri Renar

Riri


  1. Find the following words, word combinations and sentences, copy them out, recall the situations in which they are used:

Слой краски (p. 275); осужденный, заключенный (p. 275); удовлетворять чьи-либо нужды (p. 275); штрафная колония (p. 275); привычные завсегдатаи (p. 276); отбывать пожизненное заключение за убийство (p. 276); отвлечь (p. 277); смертная казнь (p. 278); преступление, совершенное из ревности (p. 278); неверность, измена (p. 279); теперь, когда … (p. 279); мелкие воришки (p. 284); мошенники (p. 284); фальшивомонетчики (p. 284); ловкачи (p. 284); беспощадный (p. 287); соединять, собирать из кусочков (p. 288); неразлучный (p. 289); неизбежный (p. 289); скрывать свою муку (p. 293); принципиальный человек (p. 293); ваш ответ делает вам честь (p. 295); уколы совести (p. 295); полностью признаться кому-либо (p. 298); терпимый (p. 298); не приходя в сознание (p. 300); меня арестовали и судили за убийство (p. 301); в конце концов, я был приговорен к шести годам (p. 301); моя совесть спокойна (p. 302); в безупречном порядке (p. 302).

  1. Write out the words and word combinations that will help you characterize Jean Charvin.


  1. Write out words and phrases that describe Riri.


  1. Write out words and phrases that describe Marie-Louise.


  1. Answer the questions:

  1. Where did the action of the story take place?

  2. What kinds of people were sent to that penal settlement?

  3. What jobs did convicts do in that place?

  4. What was the narrator’s part in that entire story?

  5. What did the narrator think of crimes of passion?

  6. Why did the narrator decide to tell us that the story and not a different one?

  7. What was the motive of the crime as the narrator saw it?

  8. Who was the criminal? Describe him in detail.

  9. Why was Jean Charvin in that settlement? What was the crime he had committed?

  10. Did Jean Charvin suffer living in the settlement?

  11. What was Jean Charvin’s life before he got to the settlement?

  12. Who was Riri?

  13. Why did Jean say that Riri and he had been inseparable?

  14. Who was Marie-Louise?

  15. Whom of the friends did the girl choose as her future husband?

  16. How did it happen that it was Jean Charvin who married Marie-Louise?

  17. How did Jean Charvin betray his friend and what did he feel at that moment?

  18. What happened to Riri?

  19. Why did Jean begin to find fault with his wife?

  20. Why did he kill his wife?


  1. Translate into English.

1. Дома выглядели так, как будто их только что заново покрасили. Улицы были аккуратными и чистыми. В штрафной колонии хватало заключенных, чтобы поддерживать порядок. 2. Ворота тюрьмы были открыты, и осужденные могли свободно входить и выходить. 3. Многие отбывали пожизненное заключение за убийство. Некоторые предпочли бы смертную казнь. 4. Измена жены довела его до преступления, он убил своего соперника. Суд классифицировал это как преступление, совершенное из ревности. 5. В лагере Сен-Жан содержалось мелкие воришки, мошенники, фальшивомонетчики, ловкачи. Узники Сен-Лорана относились к ним с презрением. 6. Жан и Рири были неразлучны. Они всегда были счастливы в обществе друг друга. 7. Рири встретил Мари-Луизу, которая недавно переехала в Гавр. И Рири, и Жан влюбились в девушку. Это было неизбежно, она напоминала им экзотический цветок, потому что всю свою жизнь провела в Тонкине. 8. Мотивом преступления Жана было угрызение совести. Он предал своего лучшего друга ради того, чтобы жениться на девушке, которую они оба любили. 9. Мари-Луиза оказалась обыкновенной девушкой, довольно расчетливой. К тому же Жан больше не считал ее хорошенькой. Он находил ее довольно глупой. Он понимал, что она в этом неповинна, а он сам повинен в своем предательстве по отношению к Рири. 10. Однажды Мари-Луиза позволила себе сделать бестактное замечание, касающееся матери покойного Рири. Это разгневало Жана. Он с силой ударил жену по голове и промолвил череп. Два дня спустя Мари-Луиза умерла, не приходя в сознание. Жана арестовали, судили за убийство и приговорили к шести годам.

WILLIAM SOMERSET MAUGHAM

JANE

(pp. 315-351)


Names of the characters

Jane Fowler

Marion Tower

Gilbert Napier

Reginald Frobisher


I. Find the Russian equivalents of the following phrases, recall the situations in which they were used:


To look back (p. 315); to play a trick (p. 316); to have no notion (p. 317); to dye one’s hair (p. 317); to have a heart of gold (p. 319); dowdy (p. 319); to be short-sighted (p. 320); to be in a flutter (p. 322); I shall have a fit (p. 327); unscrupulous (p. 328); to gasp (p. 329); after mature consideration (p. 331); to be very much to the point (p. 333); honeymoon (p. 333); perplexity (p. 335); unique (p. 339); you could have knocked me down with a feather (p. 340); priceless (p. 342); irresistible (p. 343); commonplace (p. 347); to give a full account of smth (p. 348); to keep an eye on smb (p. 349); to lose sight of (p. 349); good-natured (p. 351).


II. Explain the meaning of the following words in English:


Sumptuous (p. 316); rueful (p. 318); unregenerate (p. 318); tea-cozies (p. 319); tummy (p. 323); decrepit (p. 323); facile (p. 327); innuendo (p. 331); execrable (p. 333); audacious (p. 335); buoyant (p. 343).


III. Comment on Jane’s words: “The young have no conversation” (p. 349)


IV. Translate in written forms:


p. 338 “So they went down to Italy …

p. 339 … “you are unique.”


V. Translate into English remembering the text of the story:


Безграничное чувство семейной привязанности; выглядеть на добрых пятьдесят пять; ровные зубы; выйти замуж за джентльмена, стоящего одной ногой в могиле; не знать, что сказать; дать волю своему тщеславию; это против человеческой природы; видно невооруженным глазом; преданная пара, поселиться в Лондоне.


VI. Give a summary of the story.












СПИСОК ИСПОЛЬЗОВАННОЙ ЛИТЕРАТУРЫ


1. Г. Агапова и Н. Агапова. One Page Stories. Intermediate level. Уч. пособие. – М.: Изд-во «Менеджер», 2004. – 224 с.

2. Пособие по домашнему чтению к практическому курсу английского языка. – М.: Изд-во ВЛАДОС-ПРЕСС, 2001. – стр. 6-10, стр. 112-117, стр. 140-147, стр. 153-157.

3. eBook resource, www.gutenberg.org













































APPENDEX

TEXTS


OSCAR WILDE

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNAST


FIRST ACT

SCENE


Morning-room in Algernon's flat in Half-Moon Street. The room is luxuriously and artistically furnished. The sound of a piano is heard in the adjoining room.


[Lane is arranging afternoon tea on the table, and after the music has ceased, Algernon enters.]


Algernon. Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?

Lane. I didn't think it polite to listen, sir.

Algernon. I'm sorry for that, for your sake. I don't play accurately--any one can play accurately--but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life.

Lane. Yes, sir.

Algernon. And, speaking of the science of Life, have you got the cucumber sandwiches cut for Lady Bracknell?

Lane. Yes, sir. [Hands them on a salver.]

Algernon. [Inspects them, takes two, and sits down on the sofa.] Oh! . . .by the way, Lane, I see from your book that on Thursday night, when Lord Shoreman and Mr. Worthing were dining with me, eight bottles of champagne are entered as having been consumed.

Lane. Yes, sir; eight bottles and a pint.

Algernon. Why is it that at a bachelor's establishment the servants invariably drink the champagne? I ask merely for information.

Lane. I attribute it to the superior quality of the wine, sir. I have often observed that in married households the champagne is rarely of a first-rate brand.

Algernon. Good heavens! Is marriage so demoralizing as that?

Lane. I believe it _is_ a very pleasant state, sir. I have had very little experience of it myself up to the present. I have only been married once. That was in consequence of a misunderstanding between me and a young person.

Algernon. [Languidly.] I don't know that I am much interested in your family life, Lane.

Lane. No, sir; it is not a very interesting subject. I never think of it myself.

Algernon. Very natural, I am sure. That will do, Lane, thank you.

Lane. Thank you, sir. [Lane goes out.]

Algernon. Lane's views on marriage seem somewhat lax. Really, if the lower orders don't set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility.


[Enter Lane.]


Lane. Mr. Ernest Worthing.


[Enter Jack.]


[Lane goes out.]


Algernon. How are you, my dear Ernest? What brings you up to town?

Jack. Oh, pleasure, pleasure! What else should bring one anywhere? Eating as usual, I see, Algy!

Algernon. [Stiffly.] I believe it is customary in good society to take some slight refreshment at five o'clock. Where have you been since last Thursday?

Jack. [Sitting down on the sofa.] In the country.

Algernon. What on earth do you do there?

Jack. [Pulling off his gloves.] When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people. It is excessively boring.

Algernon. And who are the people you amuse?

Jack. [Airily.] Oh, neighbours, neighbours.

Algernon. Got nice neighbours in your part of Shropshire?

Jack. Perfectly horrid! Never speak to one of them.

Algernon. How immensely you must amuse them! [Goes over and takes sandwich.] By the way, Shropshire is your county, is it not?

Jack. Eh? Shropshire? Yes, of course. Hallo! Why all these cups? Why cucumber sandwiches? Why such reckless extravagance in one so young? Who is coming to tea?

Algernon. Oh! Merely Aunt Augusta and Gwendolen.

Jack. How perfectly delightful!

Algernon. Yes, that is all very well; but I am afraid Aunt Augusta won't quite approve of your being here.

Jack. May I ask why?

Algernon. My dear fellow, the way you flirt with Gwendolen is perfectly disgraceful. It is almost as bad as the way Gwendolen flirts with you.

Jack. I am in love with Gwendolen. I have come up to town expressly to propose to her.

Algernon. I thought you had come up for pleasure? . . . I call that business.

Jack. How utterly unromantic you are!

Algernon. I really don't see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I'll certainly try to forget the fact.

Jack. I have no doubt about that, dear Algy. The Divorce Court was specially invented for people whose memories are so curiously constituted.

Algernon. Oh! There is no use speculating on that subject. Divorces are made in Heaven--[Jack puts out his hand to take a sandwich. Algernon at once interferes.] Please don't touch the cucumber sandwiches. They are ordered specially for Aunt Augusta. [Takes one and eats it.]

Jack. Well, you have been eating them all the time.

Algernon. That is quite a different matter. She is my aunt. [Takes plate from below.] Have some bread and butter. The bread and butter are for Gwendolen. Gwendolen is devoted to bread and butter.

Jack. [Advancing to table and helping himself.] And very good bread and butter it is too.

Algernon. Well, my dear fellow, you need not eat as if you were going to eat it all. You behave as if you were married to her already. You are not married to her already, and I don't think you ever will be.

Jack. Why on earth do you say that?

Algernon. Well, in the first place girls never marry the men they flirt with. Girls don't think it right.

Jack. Oh, that is nonsense!

Algernon. It isn't. It is a great truth. It accounts for the extraordinary number of bachelors that one sees all over the place. In the second place, I don't give my consent.

Jack. Your consent!

Algernon. My dear fellow, Gwendolen is my first cousin. And before I allow you to marry her, you will have to clear up the whole question of Cecily. [Rings bell.]

Jack. Cecily! What on earth do you mean? What do you mean, Algy, by Cecily! I don't know any one of the name of Cecily.


[Enter Lane.]

Algernon. Bring me that cigarette case Mr. Worthing left in the smoking-room the last time he dined here.

Lane. Yes, sir. [Lane goes out.]

Jack. Do you mean to say you have had my cigarette case all this time? I wish to goodness you had let me know. I have been writing frantic letters to Scotland Yard about it. I was very nearly offering a large reward.

Algernon. Well, I wish you would offer one. I happen to be more than usually hard up.

Jack. There is no good offering a large reward now that the thing is found.


[Enter Lane with the cigarette case on a salver. Algernon takes it at once. Lane goes out.]


Algernon. I think that is rather mean of you, Ernest, I must say. [Opens case and examines it.] However, it makes no matter, for, now that I look at the inscription inside, I find that the thing isn't yours after all.

Jack. Of course it's mine. [Moving to him.] You have seen me with it ahundred times, and you have no right whatsoever to read what is written inside. It is a very ungentlemanly thing to read a private cigarette case.

Algernon. Oh! It is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read.

Jack. I am quite aware of the fact, and I don't propose to discus modern culture. It isn't the sort of thing one should talk of in private. I simply want my cigarette case back.

Algernon. Yes; but this isn't your cigarette case. This cigarette case is a present from some one of the name of Cecily, and you said you didn't know any one of that name.

Jack. Well, if you want to know, Cecily happens to be my aunt.

Algernon. Your aunt!

Jack. Yes. Charming old lady she is, too. Lives at Tunb ridge Wells. Just give it back to me, Algy.

Algernon. [Retreating to back of sofa.] But why does she call herself little Cecily if she is your aunt and lives at Tunb ridge Wells? [Reading.] 'From little Cecily with her fondest love.'

Jack. [Moving to sofa and kneeling upon it.] My dear fellow, what on earth is there in that? Some aunts are tall, some aunts are not tall. That is a matter that surely an aunt may be allowed to decide for herself. You seem to think that every aunt should be exactly like your aunt! That is absurd! For Heaven's sake give me back my cigarette case. [Follows Algernon round the room.]

Algernon. Yes. But why does your aunt call you her uncle? 'From little Cecily, with her fondest love to her dear Uncle Jack.' There is no objection, I admit, to an aunt being a small aunt, but why an aunt, no matter what her size may be, should call her own nephew her uncle, I

can't quite make out. Besides, your name isn't Jack at all; it is Ernest.

Jack. It isn't Ernest; it's Jack.

Algernon. You have always told me it was Ernest. I have introduced you to every one as Ernest. You answer to the name of Ernest. You look as if your name was Ernest. You are the most earnest-looking person I ever saw in my life. It is perfectly absurd you’re saying that your name isn't Ernest. It's on your cards. Here is one of them. [Taking it from case.] 'Mr. Ernest Worthing, B. 4, the Albany.' I'll keep this as a proof that your name is Ernest if ever you attempt to deny it to me, or to Gwendolen, or to any one else. [Puts the card in his pocket.]

Jack. Well, my name is Ernest in town and Jack in the country, and the cigarette case was given to me in the country.

Algernon. Yes, but that does not account for the fact that your small Aunt Cecily, who lives at Tunb ridge Wells, calls you her dear uncle. Come, old boy, you had much better have the thing out at once.

Jack. My dear Algy, you talk exactly as if you were a dentist. It is very vulgar to talk like a dentist when one isn't a dentist. It produces a false impression.

Algernon. Well, that is exactly what dentists always do. Now, go on! Tell me the whole thing. I may mention that I have always suspected you of being a confirmed and secret Bunburyist; and I am quite sure of it now.

Jack. Bunburyist? What on earth do you mean by a Bunburyist?

Algernon. I'll reveal to you the meaning of that incomparable expression as soon as you are kind enough to inform me why you are Ernest in town and Jack in the country.

Jack. Well, produce my cigarette case first.

Algernon. Here it is. [Hands cigarette case.] Now produce your explanation, and pray make it improbable. [Sits on sofa.]

Jack. My dear fellow, there is nothing improbable about my explanation at all. In fact it's perfectly ordinary. Old Mr. Thomas Cardew, who adopted me when I was a little boy, made me in his will guardian to his grand-daughter, Miss Cecily Cardew. Cecily, who addresses me as her

uncle from motives of respect that you could not possibly appreciate lives at my place in the country under the charge of her admirable governess, Miss Prism.

Algernon. Where is that place in the country, by the way?

Jack. That is nothing to you, dear boy. You are not going to be invited . . . I may tell you candidly that the place is not in Shropshire.

Algernon. I suspected that, my dear fellow! I have Bunburyed all over Shropshire on two separate occasions. Now, go on. Why are you Ernest in town and Jack in the country?

Jack. My dear Algy, I don't know whether you will be able to understand my real motives. You are hardly serious enough. When one is placed in the position of guardian, one has to adopt a very high moral tone on all subjects. It's one's duty to do so. And as a high moral tone can hardly be said to conduce very much to either one's health or one's happiness, in order to get up to town I have always pretended to have a younger brother of the name of Ernest, who lives in the Albany, and gets into the most dreadful scrapes. That, my dear Algy, is the whole truth pure and simple.

Algernon. The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!

Jack. That wouldn't be at all a bad thing.

Algernon. Literary criticism is not your forte, my dear fellow. Don't try it. You should leave that to people who haven't been at a University. They do it so well in the daily papers. What you really are is a Bunburyist. I was quite right in saying you were a Bunburyist. You are one of the most advanced Bunburyists I know.

Jack. What on earth do you mean?

Algernon. You have invented a very useful younger brother called Ernest, in order that you may be able to come up to town as often as you like. I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down into the country whenever I choose. Bunbury is perfectly invaluable. If it wasn't for Bunbury's extraordinary bad health, for instance, I wouldn't be able to dine with you at Willis's to- night, for I have been really engaged to Aunt Augusta for more than a week.

Jack. I haven't asked you to dine with me anywhere to-night.

Algernon. I know. You are absurdly careless about sending out invitations. It is very foolish of you. Nothing annoys people so much as not receiving invitations.

Jack. You had much better dine with your Aunt Augusta.

Algernon. I haven't the smallest intention of doing anything of the kind. To begin with, I dined there on Monday, and once a week is quite enough to dine with one's own relations. In the second place, whenever I do dine there I am always treated as a member of the family, and sent

down with either no woman at all, or two. In the third place, I know perfectly well whom she will place me next to, to-night. She will place me next Mary Farquhar, who always flirts with her own husband across the dinner-table. That is not very pleasant. Indeed, it is not even decent

. . . and that sort of thing is enormously on the increase. The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It looks so bad. It is simply washing one's clean linen in public. Besides, now that I know you to be a confirmed Bunburyist I naturally want to talk to you about Bunburying. I want to tell you the rules.

Jack. I'm not a Bunburyist at all. If Gwendolen accepts me, I am going to kill my brother; indeed I think I'll kill him in any case. Cecily is a little too much interested in him. It is rather a bore. So I am going to get rid of Ernest. And I strongly advise you to do the same with Mr.

. . . with your invalid friend who has the absurd name.

Algernon. Nothing will induce me to part with Bunbury, and if you ever get married, which seems to me extremely problematic, you will be very glad to know Bunbury. A man who marries without knowing Bunbury has a very tedious time of it.

Jack. That is nonsense. If I marry a charming girl like Gwendolen, and she is the only girl I ever saw in my life that I would marry, I certainly won't want to know Bunbury.

Algernon. Then your wife will. You don't seem to realize, that in married life three is company and two is none.

Jack. [Sententiously.] That, my dear young friend, is the theory that the corrupt French Drama has been propounding for the last fifty years.

Algernon. Yes; and that the happy English home has proved in half the time.

Jack. For heaven's sake, don't try to be cynical. It's perfectly easy to be cynical.

Algernon. My dear fellow, it isn't easy to be anything nowadays. There's such a lot of beastly competition about. [The sound of an electric bell is heard.] Ah! That must be Aunt Augusta. Only relatives, or creditors, ever ring in that Wagnerian manner. Now, if I get her out of the way for ten minutes, so that you can have an opportunity for proposing to Gwendolen, may I dine with you to-night at Willis's?

Jack. I suppose so, if you want to.

Algernon. Yes, but you must be serious about it. I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them.

[Enter Lane.]

Lane. Lady Bracknell and Miss Fairfax.


[Algernon goes forward to meet them. Enter Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen.]


Lady Bracknell. Good afternoon, dear Algernon, I hope you are behaving very well.

Algernon. I'm feeling very well, Aunt Augusta.

Lady Bracknell. That's not quite the same thing. In fact the two things rarely go together. [Sees Jack and bows to him with icy coldness.]

Algernon. [To Gwendolen.] Dear me, you are smart!

Gwendolen. I am always smart! Am I not, Mr. Worthing?

Jack. You're quite perfect, Miss Fairfax.

Gwendolen. Oh! I hope I am not that. It would leave no room for developments, and I intend to develop in many directions. [Gwendolen and Jack sit down together in the corner.]

Lady Bracknell. I'm sorry if we are a little late, Algernon, but I was obliged to call on dear Lady Harbury. I hadn't been there since her poor husband's death. I never saw a woman so altered; she looks quite twenty years younger. And now I'll have a cup of tea, and one of those nice cucumber sandwiches you promised me.

Algernon. Certainly, Aunt Augusta. [Goes over to tea-table.]

Lady Bracknell. Won't you come and sit here, Gwendolen?

Gwendolen. Thanks, mamma, I'm quite comfortable where I am.

Algernon. [Picking up empty plate in horror.] Good heavens! Lane! Why are there no cucumber sandwiches? I ordered them specially.

Lane. [Gravely.] There were no cucumbers in the market this morning, sir. I went down twice.

Algernon. No cucumbers!

Lane. No, sir. Not even for ready money.

Algernon. That will do, Lane, thank you.

Lane. Thank you, sir. [Goes out.]

Algernon. I am greatly distressed, Aunt Augusta, about there being no cucumbers, not even for ready money.

Lady Bracknell. It really makes no matter, Algernon. I had some crumpets with Lady Harbury, who seems to me to be living entirely for pleasure now.

Algernon. I hear her hair has turned quite gold from grief.

Lady Bracknell. It certainly has changed its colour. From what cause I, of course, cannot say. [Algernon crosses and hands tea.] Thank you. I've quite a treat for you to-night, Algernon. I am going to send you down with Mary Farquhar. She is such a nice woman, and so attentive to her husband. It's delightful to watch them.

Algernon. I am afraid, Aunt Augusta, I shall have to give up the pleasure of dining with you to-night after all.

Lady Bracknell. [Frowning.] I hope not, Algernon. It would put my table completely out. Your uncle would have to dine upstairs. Fortunately he is accustomed to that.

Algernon. It is a great bore, and, I need hardly say, a terrible disappointment to me, but the fact is I have just had a telegram to say that my poor friend Bunbury is very ill again. [Exchanges glances with Jack.] They seem to think I should be with him.

Lady Bracknell. It is very strange. This Mr. Bunbury seems to suffer from curiously bad health.

Algernon. Yes; poor Bunbury is a dreadful invalid.

Lady Bracknell. Well, I must say, Algernon, that I think it is high time that Mr. Bunbury made up his mind whether he was going to live or to die. This shilly-shallying with the question is absurd. Nor do I in any way approve of the modern sympathy with invalids. I consider it morbid. Illness of any kind is hardly a thing to be encouraged in others. Health is the primary duty of life. I am always telling that to your poor uncle, but he never seems to take much notice . . . as far as any improvement in his ailment goes. I should be much obliged if you would ask Mr. Bunbury, from me, to be kind enough not to have a relapse on Saturday, for I rely on you to arrange my music for me. It is my last reception, and one wants something that will encourage conversation, particularly at the end of the season when every one has practically said

whatever they had to say, which, in most cases, was probably not much.

Algernon. I'll speak to Bunbury, Aunt Augusta, if he is still conscious, and I think I can promise you he'll be all right by Saturday. Of course the music is a great difficulty. You see, if one plays good music, people don't listen, and if one plays bad music people don't talk. But I'll run over the programme I've drawn out, if you will kindly come into the next room for a moment.

Lady Bracknell. Thank you, Algernon. It is very thoughtful of you. [Rising, and following Algernon.] I'm sure the programme will be delightful, after a few expurgations. French songs I cannot possibly allow. People always seem to think that they are improper, and either looks shocked, which is vulgar, or laugh, which is worse. But German sounds a thoroughly respectable language, and indeed, I believe is so. Gwendolen, you will accompany me.

Gwendolen. Certainly, mamma.


[Lady Bracknell and Algernon go into the music-room, Gwendolen remains behind.]


Jack. Charming day it has been, Miss Fairfax.

Gwendolen. Pray don't talk to me about the weather, Mr. Worthing. Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else. And that makes me so nervous.

Jack. I do mean something else.

Gwendolen. I thought so. In fact, I am never wrong.

Jack. And I would like to be allowed to take advantage of Lady Bracknell's temporary absence…

Gwendolen. I would certainly advise you to do so. Mamma has a way of coming back suddenly into a room that I have often had to speak to her about.

Jack. [Nervously.] Miss Fairfax, ever since I met you I have admired you more than any girl… I have ever met since . . . I met you. Gwendolen. Yes, I am quite well aware of the fact. And I often wish that in public, at any rate, you had been more demonstrative. For me you have always had an irresistible fascination. Even before I met you I was far from indifferent to you. [Jack looks at her in amazement.] We live, as I hope you know, Mr. Worthing, in an age of ideals. The fact is constantly mentioned in the more expensive monthly magazines, and has reached the provincial pulpits, I am told; and my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence. The moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Ernest; I knew I was destined to love you.

Jack. You really love me, Gwendolen?

Gwendolen. Passionately!

Jack. Darling! You don't know how happy you've made me.

Gwendolen. My own Ernest!

Jack. But you don't really mean to say that you couldn't love me if my name wasn't Ernest?

Gwendolen. But your name is Ernest.

Jack. Yes, I know it is. But supposing it was something else? Do you mean to say you couldn't love me then?

Gwendolen. [Glibly.] Ah! That is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.

Jack. Personally, darling, to speak quite candidly, I don't much care about the name of Ernest ... I don't think the name suits me at all.

Gwendolen. It suits you perfectly. It is a divine name. It has a music of its own. It produces vibrations.

Jack. Well, really, Gwendolen, I must say that I think there are lots of other much nicer names. I think Jack, for instance, a charming name.

Gwendolen. Jack? . . . No, there is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all, indeed. It does not thrill. It produces absolutely no vibrations . . . I have known several Jacks, and they all, without exception, were more than usually plain. Besides, Jack is a notorious domesticity for John! And I pity any woman who is married to a man called John. She would probably never be allowed to know the entrancing pleasure of a single moment's solitude. The only really safe name is Ernest.

Jack. Gwendolen, I must get christened at once--I mean we must get married at once. There is no time to be lost.

Gwendolen. Married, Mr. Worthing?

Jack. [Astounded.] Well . . . surely. You know that I love you, and you led me to believe, Miss Fairfax, that you were not absolutely indifferent to me.

Gwendolen. I adore you. But you haven't proposed to me yet. Nothing has been said at all about marriage. The subject has not even been touched on.

Jack. Well . . . may I propose to you now?

Gwendolen. I think it would be an admirable opportunity. And to spare you any possible disappointment, Mr. Worthing, I think it only fair to tell you quite frankly before-hand that I am fully determined to accept you.

Jack. Gwendolen!

Gwendolen. Yes, Mr. Worthing, what have you got to say to me?

Jack. You know what I have got to say to you.

Gwendolen. Yes, but you don't say it.

Jack. Gwendolen, will you marry me? [Goes on his knees.]

Gwendolen. Of course I will, darling. How long you have been about it! I am afraid you have had very little experience in how to propose.

Jack. My own one, I have never loved any one in the world but you.

Gwendolen. Yes, but men often propose for practice. I know my brother Gerald does. All my girl-friends tell me so. What wonderfully blue eyes you have, Ernest! They are quite, quite, blue. I hope you will always look at me just like that, especially when there are other people

present. [Enter Lady Bracknell.]

Lady Bracknell. Mr. Worthing! Rise, sir, from this semi-recumbent posture. It is most indecorous.

Gwendolen. Mamma! [He tries to rise; she restrains him.] I must beg you to retire. This is no place for you. Besides, Mr. Worthing has not quite finished yet.

Lady Bracknell. Finished what, may I ask?

Gwendolen. I am engaged to Mr. Worthing, mamma. [They rise together.]

Lady Bracknell. Pardon me, you are not engaged to any one. When you do become engaged to some one, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself . . . And now I have a few questions to put to you, Mr. Worthing. While I am making these inquiries, you, Gwendolen, will wait for me below in the carriage.

Gwendolen. [Reproachfully.] Mamma!

Lady Bracknell. In the carriage, Gwendolen! [Gwendolen goes to the door. She and Jack blow kisses to each other behind Lady Bracknell's back. Lady Bracknell looks vaguely about as if she could not understand what the noise was. Finally turns round.] Gwendolen, the carriage!

Gwendolen. Yes, mamma. [Goes out, looking back at Jack.]

Lady Bracknell. [Sitting down.] You can take a seat, Mr. Worthing.


[Looks in her pocket for note-book and pencil.]


Jack. Thank you, Lady Bracknell, I prefer standing.

Lady Bracknell. [Pencil and note-book in hand.] I feel bound to tell you that you are not down on my list of eligible young men, although I have the same list as the dear Duchess of Bolton has. We work together, in fact. However, I am quite ready to enter your name, should your

answers are what a really affectionate mother requires. Do you smoke?

Jack. Well, yes, I must admit I smoke.

Lady Bracknell. I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some kind. There are far too many idle men in London as it is. How old are you?

Jack. Twenty-nine.

Lady Bracknell. A very good age to be married at. I have always been of opinion that a man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing. Which do you know?

Jack. [After some hesitation.] I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.

Lady Bracknell. I am pleased to hear it. I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square. What is your income?

Jack. Between seven and eight thousand a year.

Lady Bracknell. [Makes a note in her book.] In land, or in investments?

Jack. In investments, chiefly.

Lady Bracknell. That is satisfactory. What between the duties expected of one during one's lifetime, and the duties exacted from one after one's death, land has ceased to be either a profit or a pleasure. It gives one position, and prevents one from keeping it up. That's all that can be said about land.

Jack. I have a country house with some land, of course, attached to it, about fifteen hundred acres, I believe; but I don't depend on that for my real income. In fact, as far as I can make out, the poachers are the only people who make anything out of it.

Lady Bracknell. A country house! How many bedrooms? Well, that point can be cleared up afterwards. You have a town house, I hope? A girl with a simple, unspoiled nature, like Gwendolen, could hardly be expected to reside in the country.

Jack. Well, I own a house in Belgrave Square, but it is let by the year to Lady Bloxham. Of course, I can get it back whenever I like, at six months' notice.

Lady Bracknell. Lady Bloxham? I don't know her.

Jack. Oh, she goes about very little. She is a lady considerably advanced in years.

Lady Bracknell. Ah, nowadays that is no guarantee of respectability of character. What number in Belgrave Square?

Jack. 149.

Lady Bracknell. [Shaking her head.] The unfashionable side. I thought there was something. However, that could easily be altered.

Jack. Do you mean the fashion, or the side?

Lady Bracknell. [Sternly.] Both, if necessary, I presume. What are your polities?

Jack. Well, I am afraid I really have none. I am a Liberal Unionist.

Lady Bracknell. Oh, they count as Tories. They dine with us. Or come in the evening, at any rate. Now to minor matters. Are your parents living?

Jack. I have lost both my parents.

Lady Bracknell. To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness. Who was your father? He was evidently a man of some wealth. Was he born in what the Radical papers call the purple of commerce, or did he rise from the ranks of the aristocracy?

Jack. I am afraid I really don't know. The fact is, Lady Bracknell, I said I had lost my parents. It would be nearer the truth to say that my parents seem to have lost me . . . I don't actually know who I am by birth. I was . . . well, I was found.

Lady Bracknell. Found!

Jack. The late Mr. Thomas Cardew, an old gentleman of a very charitable and kindly disposition, found me, and gave me the name of Worthing, because he happened to have a first-class ticket for Worthing in his pocket at the time. Worthing is a place in Sussex. It is a seaside

resort.

Lady Bracknell. Where did the charitable gentleman who had a first-class ticket for this seaside resort find you?

Jack. [Gravely.] In a hand-bag.

Lady Bracknell. A hand-bag?

Jack. [Very seriously.] Yes, Lady Bracknell. I was in a hand-bag—a somewhat large, black leather hand-bag, with handles to it--an ordinary hand-bag in fact.

Lady Bracknell. In what locality did this Mr. James, or Thomas, Cardew come across this ordinary hand-bag?

Jack. In the cloak-room at Victoria Station. It was given to him in mistake for his own.

Lady Bracknell. The cloak-room at Victoria Station?

Jack. Yes. The Brighton line.

Lady Bracknell. The line is immaterial. Mr. Worthing, I confess I feel somewhat bewildered by what you have just told me. To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution. And I presume you know what that unfortunate movement led to? As for the particular locality in which the hand-bag was found, a cloak-room at a railway station might serve to conceal a social indiscretion--has probably, indeed, been used for that purpose before now--but it could hardly be regarded as an assured basis for a recognized position in good society.

Jack. May I ask you then what you would advise me to do? I need hardly say I would do anything in the world to ensure Gwendolen's happiness.

Lady Bracknell. I would strongly advise you, Mr. Worthing, to try and acquire some relations as soon as possible, and to make a definite effort to produce at any rate one parent, of either sex, before the season is quite over.

Jack. Well, I don't see how I could possibly manage to do that. I can produce the hand-bag at any moment. It is in my dressing-room at home. I really think that should satisfy you, Lady Bracknell.

Lady Bracknell. Me, sir! What has it to do with me? You can hardly imagine that I and Lord Bracknell would dream of allowing our only daughter--a girl brought up with the utmost care--to marry into a cloak- room, and form an alliance with a parcel? Good morning, Mr. Worthing!


[Lady Bracknell sweeps out in majestic indignation.]


Jack. Good morning! [Algernon, from the other room, strikes up the Wedding March. Jack looks perfectly furious, and goes to the door.] For goodness' sake don't play that ghastly tune, Algy. How idiotic you are!




[The music stops and Algernon enters cheerily.]


Algernon. Didn't it go off all right, old boy? You don't mean to say Gwendolen refused you? I know it is a way she has. She is always refusing people. I think it is most ill-natured of her.

Jack. Oh, Gwendolen is as right as a trivet. As far as she is concerned, we are engaged. Her mother is perfectly unbearable. Never met such a Gorgon . . . I don't really know what a Gorgon is like, but I am quite sure that Lady Bracknell is one. In any case, she is a monster, without being a myth, which is rather unfair . . . I beg your pardon, Algy, I suppose I shouldn't talk about your own aunt in that way before you.

Algernon. My dear boy, I love hearing my relations abused. It is the only thing that makes me put up with them at all. Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven't got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.

Jack. Oh, that is nonsense!

Algernon. It isn't!

Jack. Well, I won't argue about the matter. You always want to argue about things.

Algernon. That is exactly what things were originally made for.

Jack. Upon my word, if I thought that, I'd shoot myself . . . [A pause.] You don't think there is any chance of Gwendolen becoming like her mother in about a hundred and fifty years, do you, Algy?

Algernon. All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his.

Jack. Is that clever?

Algernon. It is perfectly phrased! and quite as true as any observation in civilized life should be.

Jack. I am sick to death of cleverness. Everybody is clever nowadays. You can't go anywhere without meeting clever people. The thing has become an absolute public nuisance. I wish to goodness we had a few fools left.

Algernon. We have.

Jack. I should extremely like to meet them. What do they talk about?

Algernon. The fools? Oh! about the clever people, of course.

Jack. What fools!

Algernon. By the way, did you tell Gwendolen the truth about your being Ernest in town, and Jack in the country?

Jack. [In a very patronizing manner.] My dear fellow, the truth isn't quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl. What extraordinary ideas you have about the way to behave to a woman!

Algernon. The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her, if she is pretty, and to some one else, if she is plain.

Jack. Oh, that is nonsense.

Algernon. What about your brother? What about the profligate Ernest?

Jack. Oh, before the end of the week I shall have got rid of him. I'll say he died in Paris of apoplexy. Lots of people die of apoplexy, quite suddenly, don't they?

Algernon. Yes, but it's hereditary, my dear fellow. It's a sort of thing that runs in families. You had much better say a severe chill.

Jack. You are sure a severe chill isn't hereditary, or anything of that kind?

Algernon. Of course it isn't!

Jack. Very well, then. My poor brother Ernest to carried off suddenly, in Paris, by a severe chill. That gets rid of him.

Algernon. But I thought you said that . . . Miss Cardew was a little too much interested in your poor brother Ernest? Won't she feel his loss a good deal?

Jack. Oh, that is all right. Cecily is not a silly romantic girl, I am glad to say. She has got a capital appetite, goes long walks, and pays no attention at all to her lessons.

Algernon. I would rather like to see Cecily.

Jack. I will take very good care you never do. She is excessively pretty, and she is only just eighteen.

Algernon. Have you told Gwendolen yet that you have an excessively pretty ward who is only just eighteen?

Jack. Oh! One doesn't blurt these things out to people. Cecily and Gwendolen are perfectly certain to be extremely great friends. I'll bet you anything you like that half an hour after they have met, they will be calling each other sister.

Algernon. Women only do that when they have called each other a lot of other things first. Now, my dear boy, if we want to get a good table at Willis's, we really must go and dress. Do you know it is nearly seven?

Jack. [Irritably.] Oh! It always is nearly seven.

Algernon. Well, I'm hungry.

Jack. I never knew you when you weren't . . .

Algernon. What shall we do after dinner? Go to a theatre?

Jack. Oh no! I loathe listening.

Algernon. Well, let us go to the Club?

Jack. Oh, no! I hate talking.

Algernon. Well, we might trot round to the Empire at ten?

Jack. Oh, no! I can't bear looking at things. It is so silly.

Algernon. Well, what shall we do?

Jack. Nothing!

Algernon. It is awfully hard work doing nothing. However, I don't mind hard work where there is no definite object of any kind.

[Enter Lane.]

Lane. Miss Fairfax.

[Enter Gwendolen. Lane goes out.]


Algernon. Gwendolen, upon my word!

Gwendolen. Algy, kindly turn your back. I have something very particular to say to Mr. Worthing.

Algernon. Really, Gwendolen, I don't think I can allow this at all.

Gwendolen. Algy, you always adopt a strictly immoral attitude towards life. You are not quite old enough to do that. [Algernon retires to the fireplace.]

Jack. My own darling!

Gwendolen. Ernest, we may never be married. From the expression on mamma's face I fear we never shall. Few parents nowadays pay any regard to what their children say to them. The old-fashioned respect for the young is fast dying out. Whatever influence I ever had over mamma, I

lost at the age of three. But although she may prevent us from becoming man and wife, and I may marry some one else, and marry often, nothing that she can possibly do can alter my eternal devotion to you.

Jack. Dear Gwendolen!

Gwendolen. The story of your romantic origin, as related to me by mamma, with unpleasing comments, has naturally stirred the deeper fibres of my nature. Your Christian name has an irresistible fascination. The simplicity of your character makes you exquisitely incomprehensible to me. Your town address at the Albany I have. What is your address in the

country?

Jack. The Manor House, Woolton, Hertfordshire.


[Algernon, who has been carefully listening, smiles to himself, and writes the address on his shirt-cuff. Then picks up the Railway Guide.]


Gwendolen. There is a good postal service, I suppose? It may be necessary to do something desperate. That of course will require serious consideration. I will communicate with you daily.

Jack. My own one!

Gwendolen. How long do you remain in town?

Jack. Till Monday.

Gwendolen. Good! Algy, you may turn round now.

Algernon. Thanks, I've turned round already.

Gwendolen. You may also ring the bell.

Jack. You will let me see you to your carriage, my own darling?

Gwendolen. Certainly.

Jack. [To Lane, who now enters.] I will see Miss Fairfax out.

Lane. Yes, sir. [Jack and Gwendolen go off.]


[Lane presents several letters on a salver to Algernon. It is to be surmised that they are bills, as Algernon, after looking at the envelopes, tears them up.]


Algernon. A glass of sherry, Lane.

Lane. Yes, sir.

Algernon. To-morrow, Lane, I'm going Bunburying.

Lane. Yes, sir.

Algernon. I shall probably not be back till Monday. You can put up my dress clothes, my smoking jacket, and all the Bunbury suits . . .

Lane. Yes, sir. [Handing sherry.]

Algernon. I hope to-morrow will be a fine day, Lane.

Lane. It never is, sir.

Algernon. Lane, you're a perfect pessimist.

Lane. I do my best to give satisfaction, sir.


[Enter Jack. Lane goes off.]


Jack. There's a sensible, intellectual girl! The only girl I ever cared for in my life. [Algernon is laughing immoderately.] What on earth are you so amused at?

Algernon. Oh, I'm a little anxious about poor Bunbury, that is all.

Jack. If you don't take care, your friend Bunbury will get you into a serious scrape some day.

Algernon. I love scrapes. They are the only things that are never serious.

Jack. Oh, that's nonsense, Algy. You never talk anything but nonsense.

Algernon. Nobody ever does.


[Jack looks indignantly at him, and leaves the room. Algernon lights a

cigarette, reads his shirt-cuff, and smiles.]





































SECOND ACT

SCENE

Garden at the Manor House. A flight of grey stone steps leads up to the house. The garden, an old-fashioned one, full of roses. Time of year, July. Basket chairs, and a table covered with books, are set under a large yew-tree.


[Miss Prism discovered seated at the table. Cecily is at the back watering flowers.]


Miss Prism. [Calling.] Cecily, Cecily! Surely such a utilitarian occupation as the watering of flowers is rather Moulton's duty than yours? Especially at a moment when intellectual pleasures await you. Your German grammar is on the table. Pray open it at page fifteen. We will repeat yesterday's lesson.

Cecily. [Coming over very slowly.] But I don't like German. It isn't at all a becoming language. I know perfectly well that I look quite plain after my German lesson.

Miss Prism. Child, you know how anxious your guardian is that you should improve yourself in every way. He laid particular stress on your German, as he was leaving for town yesterday. Indeed, he always lays stress on your German when he is leaving for town.

Cecily. Dear Uncle Jack is so very serious! Sometimes he is so serious that I think he cannot be quite well.

Miss Prism. [Drawing herself up.] Your guardian enjoys the best of health, and his gravity of demeanor is especially to be commended in one so comparatively young as he is. I know no one who has a higher sense of duty and responsibility.

Cecily. I suppose that is why he often looks a little bored when we three are together.

Miss Prism. Cecily! I am surprised at you. Mr. Worthing has many troubles in his life. Idle merriment and triviality would be out of place in his conversation. You must remember his constant anxiety about that unfortunate young man his brother.

Cecily. I wish Uncle Jack would allow that unfortunate young man, his brother, to come down here sometimes. We might have a good influence over him, Miss Prism. I am sure you certainly would. You know German, and geology, and things of that kind influence a man very much. [Cecily begins to write in her diary.]

Miss Prism. [Shaking her head.] I do not think that even I could produce any effect on a character that according to his own brother's admission is irretrievably weak and vacillating. Indeed I am not sure that I would desire to reclaim him. I am not in favour of this modern mania for turning bad people into good people at a moment's notice. As a man sows so let him reap. You must put away your diary, Cecily. I really don't see why you should keep a diary at all.

Cecily. I keep a diary in order to enter the wonderful secrets of my life. If I didn't write them down, I should probably forget all about them.

Miss Prism. Memory, my dear Cecily, is the diary that we all carry about with us.

Cecily. Yes, but it usually chronicles the things that have never happened, and couldn't possibly have happened. I believe that Memory is responsible for nearly all the three-volume novels that Mudie sends us.

Miss Prism. Do not speak slightingly of the three-volume novel, Cecily. I wrote one myself in earlier days.

Cecily. Did you really, Miss Prism? How wonderfully clever you are! I hope it did not end happily? I don't like novels that end happily. They depress me so much.

Miss Prism. The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.

Cecily. I suppose so. But it seems very unfair. And was your novel ever published?

Miss Prism. Alas! no. The manuscript unfortunately was abandoned. [Cecily starts.] I use the word in the sense of lost or mislaid. To your work, child, these speculations are profitless.

Cecily. [Smiling.] But I see dear Dr. Chasuble coming up through the garden.

Miss Prism. [Rising and advancing.] Dr. Chasuble! This is indeed a pleasure.


[Enter Canon Chasuble.]


Chasuble. And how are we this morning? Miss Prism, you are, I trust, well?

Cecily. Miss Prism has just been complaining of a slight headache. I think it would do her so much good to have a short stroll with you in the Park, Dr. Chasuble.

Miss Prism. Cecily, I have not mentioned anything about a headache.

Cecily. No, dear Miss Prism, I know that, but I felt instinctively that you had a headache. Indeed I was thinking about that, and not about my German lesson, when the Rector came in.

Chasuble. I hope, Cecily, you are not inattentive.

Cecily. Oh, I am afraid I am.

Chasuble. That is strange. Were I fortunate enough to be Miss Prism's pupil, I would hang upon her lips. [Miss Prism glares.] I spoke metaphorically.--My metaphor was drawn from bees. Ahem! Mr. Worthing, I suppose, has not returned from town yet?

Miss Prism. We do not expect him till Monday afternoon.

Chasuble. Ah yes, he usually likes to spend his Sunday in London. He is not one of those whose sole aim is enjoyment, as, by all accounts; that unfortunate young man his brother seems to be. But I must not disturb Egeria and her pupil any longer.

Miss Prism. Egeria? My name is Laetitia, Doctor.

Chasuble. [Bowing.] A classical allusion merely, drawn from the Pagan authors. I shall see you both no doubt at Evensong?

Miss Prism. I think, dear Doctor, I will have a stroll with you. I find I have a headache after all, and a walk might do it good.

Chasuble. With pleasure, Miss Prism, with pleasure. We might go as far as the schools and back.

Miss Prism. That would be delightful. Cecily, you will read your Political Economy in my absence. The chapter on the Fall of the Rupee you may omit. It is somewhat too sensational. Even these metallic problems have their melodramatic side.


[Goes down the garden with Dr. Chasuble.]


Cecily. [Picks up books and throws them back on table.] Horrid Political Economy! Horrid Geography! Horrid, horrid German!


[Enter Merriman with a card on a salver.]


Merriman. Mr. Ernest Worthing has just driven over from the station. He has brought his luggage with him.

Cecily. [Takes the card and reads it.] 'Mr. Ernest Worthing, B. 4, The Albany, W.' Uncle Jack's brother! Did you tell him Mr. Worthing was in town?

Merriman. Yes, Miss. He seemed very much disappointed. I mentioned that you and Miss Prism were in the garden. He said he was anxious to speak to you privately for a moment.

Cecily. Ask Mr. Ernest Worthing to come here. I suppose you had better talk to the housekeeper about a room for him.

Merriman. Yes, Miss.


[Merriman goes off.]


Cecily. I have never met any really wicked person before. I feel rather frightened. I am so afraid he will look just like every one else.


[Enter Algernon, very gay and debonair.] He does!


Algernon. [Raising his hat.] You are my little cousin Cecily, I'm sure.

Cecily. You are under some strange mistake. I am not little. In fact, I believe I am more than usually tall for my age. [Algernon is rather taken aback.] But I am your cousin Cecily. You, I see from your card, are Uncle Jack's brother, my cousin Ernest, my wicked cousin Ernest.

Algernon. Oh! I am not really wicked at all, cousin Cecily. You mustn't think that I am wicked.

Cecily. If you are not, then you have certainly been deceiving us all in a very inexcusable manner. I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.

Algernon. [Looks at her in amazement.] Oh! Of course I have been rather reckless.

Cecily. I am glad to hear it.

Algernon. In fact, now you mention the subject, I have been very bad in my own small way.

Cecily. I don't think you should be so proud of that, though I am sure it must have been very pleasant.

Algernon. It is much pleasanter being here with you.

Cecily. I can't understand how you are here at all. Uncle Jack won't be back till Monday afternoon.

Algernon. That is a great disappointment. I am obliged to go up by the first train on Monday morning. I have a business appointment that I am anxious . . . to miss?

Cecily. Couldn't you miss it anywhere but in London?

Algernon. No: the appointment is in London.

Cecily. Well, I know, of course, how important it is not to keep a business engagement, if one wants to retain any sense of the beauty of life, but still I think you had better wait till Uncle Jack arrives. I know he wants to speak to you about your emigrating.

Algernon. About my what?

Cecily. You’re emigrating. He has gone up to buy your outfit.

Algernon. I certainly wouldn't let Jack buy my outfit. He has no taste in neckties at all.

Cecily. I don't think you will require neckties. Uncle Jack is sending you to Australia.

Algernon. Australia! I'd sooner die.

Cecily. Well, he said at dinner on Wednesday night, that you would have to choose between this world, the next world, and Australia.

Algernon. Oh, well! The accounts I have received of Australia and the next world, are not particularly encouraging. This world is good enough for me, cousin Cecily.

Cecily. Yes, but are you good enough for it?

Algernon. I'm afraid I'm not that. That is why I want you to reform me. You might make that your mission, if you don't mind, cousin Cecily.

Cecily. I'm afraid I've no time, this afternoon.

Algernon. Well, would you mind my reforming myself this afternoon?

Cecily. It is rather Quixotic of you. But I think you should try.

Algernon. I will. I feel better already.

Cecily. You are looking a little worse.

Algernon. That is because I am hungry.

Cecily. How thoughtless of me. I should have remembered that when one is going to lead an entirely new life, one requires regular and wholesome meals. Won't you come in?

Algernon. Thank you. Might I have a buttonhole first? I never have any appetite unless I have a buttonhole first.

Cecily. A Marechal Niel? [Picks up scissors.]

Algernon. No, I'd sooner have a pink rose.

Cecily. Why? [Cuts a flower.]

Algernon. Because you are like a pink rose, Cousin Cecily.

Cecily. I don't think it can be right for you to talk to me like that. Miss Prism never says such things to me.

Algernon. Then Miss Prism is a short-sighted old lady. [Cecily puts the rose in his buttonhole.] You are the prettiest girl I ever saw.

Cecily. Miss Prism says that all good looks are a snare.

Algernon. They are a snare that every sensible man would like to be caught in.

Cecily. Oh, I don't think I would care to catch a sensible man. I shouldn't know what to talk to him about.


[They pass into the house. Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble return.]


Miss Prism. You are too much alone, dear Dr. Chasuble. You should get married. A misanthrope I can understand--a womanthrope, never!

Chasuble. [With a scholar's shudder.] Believe me, I do not deserve so neologistic a phrase. The precept as well as the practice of the Primitive Church was distinctly against matrimony.

Miss Prism. [Sententiously.] That is obviously the reason why the Primitive Church has not lasted up to the present day. And you do not seem to realize, dear Doctor, that by persistently remaining single, a man converts himself into a permanent public temptation. Men should be more careful; this very celibacy leads weaker vessels astray.

Chasuble. But is a man not equally attractive when married?

Miss Prism. No married man is ever attractive except to his wife.

Chasuble. And often, I've been told, not even to her.

Miss Prism. That depends on the intellectual sympathies of the woman. Maturity can always be depended on. Ripeness can be trusted. Young women are green. [Dr. Chasuble starts.] I spoke horticulturally. My metaphor was drawn from fruits. But where is Cecily?

Chasuble. Perhaps she followed us to the schools.


[Enter Jack slowly from the back of the garden. He is dressed in the deepest mourning, with crape hatband and black gloves.]


Miss Prism. Mr. Worthing!

Chasuble. Mr. Worthing?

Miss Prism. This is indeed a surprise. We did not look for you till Monday afternoon.

Jack. [Shakes Miss Prism's hand in a tragic manner.] I have returned sooner than I expected. Dr. Chasuble, I hope you are well?

Chasuble. Dear Mr. Worthing, I trust this garb of woe does not betoken some terrible calamity?

Jack. My brother.

Miss Prism. More shameful debts and extravagance?

Chasuble. Still leading his life of pleasure?

Jack. [Shaking his head.] Dead!

Chasuble. Your brother Ernest dead?

Jack. Quite dead.

Miss Prism. What a lesson for him! I trust he will profit by it.

Chasuble. Mr. Worthing, I offer you my sincere condolence. You have at least the consolation of knowing that you were always the most generous and forgiving of brothers.

Jack. Poor Ernest! He had many faults, but it is a sad, sad blow.

Chasuble. Very sad indeed. Were you with him at the end?

Jack. No. He died abroad; in Paris, in fact. I had a telegram last night from the manager of the Grand Hotel.

Chasuble. Was the cause of death mentioned?

Jack. A severe chill, it seems.

Miss Prism. As a man sows, so shall he reap.

Chasuble. [Raising his hand.] Charity, dear Miss Prism, charity! None of us are perfect. I myself am peculiarly susceptible to draughts. Will the interment take place here?

Jack. No. He seems to have expressed a desire to be buried in Paris.

Chasuble. In Paris! [Shakes his head.] I fear that hardly points to any very serious state of mind at the last. You would no doubt wish me to make some slight allusion to this tragic domestic affliction next Sunday. [Jack presses his hand convulsively.] My sermon on the meaning of the manna in the wilderness can be adapted to almost any occasion, joyful, or, as in the present case, distressing. [All sigh.] I have preached it at harvest celebrations, christenings, confirmations, on days of humiliation and festal days. The last time I delivered it was in the Cathedral, as a charity sermon on behalf of the Society for the Prevention of Discontent among the Upper Orders. The Bishop, who was present, was much struck by some of the analogies I drew.

Jack. Ah! That reminds me, you mentioned christenings I think, Dr. Chasuble? I suppose you know how to christen all right? [Dr. Chasuble looks astounded.] I mean, of course, you are continually christening, aren't you?

Miss Prism. It is, I regret to say, one of the Rector's most constant duties in this parish. I have often spoken to the poorer classes on the subject. But they don't seem to know what thrift is.

Chasuble. But is there any particular infant in whom you are interested, Mr. Worthing? Your brother was, I believe, unmarried, was he not?

Jack. Oh yes.

Miss Prism. [Bitterly.] People who live entirely for pleasure usually are.

Jack. But it is not for any child, dear Doctor. I am very fond of children. No! The fact is, I would like to be christened myself, this afternoon, if you have nothing better to do.

Chasuble. But surely, Mr. Worthing, you have been christened already?

Jack. I don't remember anything about it.

Chasuble. But have you any grave doubts on the subject?

Jack. I certainly intend to have. Of course I don't know if the thing would bother you in any way, or if you think I am a little too old now.

Chasuble. Not at all. The sprinkling and, indeed, the immersion of adults is a perfectly canonical practice.

Jack. Immersion!

Chasuble. You need have no apprehensions. Sprinkling is all that is necessary, or indeed I think advisable. Our weather is so changeable. At what hour would you wish the ceremony performed?

Jack. Oh, I might trot round about five if that would suit you.

Chasuble. Perfectly, perfectly! In fact I have two similar ceremonies to perform at that time. A case of twins that occurred recently in one of the outlying cottages on your own estate. Poor Jenkins the carter, a most hard-working man.

Jack. Oh! I don't see much fun in being christened along with other babies. It would be childish. Would half-past five do?

Chasuble. Admirably! Admirably! [Takes out watch.] And now, dear Mr. Worthing, I will not intrude any longer into a house of sorrow. I would merely beg you not to be too much bowed down by grief. What seem to us bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.

Miss Prism. This seems to me a blessing of an extremely obvious kind.


[Enter Cecily from the house.]


Cecily. Uncle Jack! Oh, I am pleased to see you back. But what horrid clothes you have got on! Do go and change them.

Miss Prism. Cecily!

Chasuble. My child! My child! [Cecily goes towards Jack; he kisses her brow in a melancholy manner.]

Cecily. What is the matter, Uncle Jack? Do look happy! You look as if you had toothache, and I have got such a surprise for you. Who do you think is in the dining-room? Your brother!

Jack. Who?

Cecily. Your brother Ernest. He arrived about half an hour ago.

Jack. What nonsense! I haven't got a brother.

Cecily. Oh, don't say that. However badly he may have behaved to you in the past he is still your brother. You couldn't be so heartless as to disown him. I'll tell him to come out. And you will shake hands with him, won't you, Uncle Jack? [Runs back into the house.]

Chasuble. These are very joyful tidings.

Miss Prism. After we had all been resigned to his loss, his sudden return seems to me peculiarly distressing.

Jack. My brother is in the dining-room? I don't know what it all means. I think it is perfectly absurd.


[Enter Algernon and Cecily hand in hand. They come slowly up to Jack.]


Jack. Good heavens! [Motions Algernon away.]

Algernon. Brother John, I have come down from town to tell you that I am very sorry for all the trouble I have given you, and that I intend to lead a better life in the future. [Jack glares at him and does not take his hand.]

Cecily. Uncle Jack, you are not going to refuse your own brother's hand?

Jack. Nothing will induce me to take his hand. I think his coming down here disgraceful. He knows perfectly well why.

Cecily. Uncle Jack, do be nice. There is some good in every one. Ernest has just been telling me about his poor invalid friend Mr. Bunbury whom he goes to visit so often. And surely there must be much good in one who is kind to an invalid, and leaves the pleasures of London to sit by a bed of pain.

Jack. Oh! He has been talking about Bunbury, has he?

Cecily. Yes, he has told me all about poor Mr. Bunbury, and his terrible state of health.

Jack. Bunbury! Well, I won't have him talk to you about Bunbury or about anything else. It is enough to drive one perfectly frantic.

Algernon. Of course I admit that the faults were all on my side. But I must say that I think that Brother John's coldness to me is peculiarly painful. I expected a more enthusiastic welcome, especially considering it is the first time I have come here.

Cecily. Uncle Jack, if you don't shake hands with Ernest I will never forgive you.

Jack. Never forgive me?

Cecily. Never, never, never!

Jack. Well, this is the last time I shall ever do it. [Shakes with Algernon and glares.]

Chasuble. It's pleasant, is it not, to see so perfect a reconciliation? I think we might leave the two brothers together.

Miss Prism. Cecily, you will come with us.

Cecily. Certainly, Miss Prism. My little task of reconciliation is over.

Chasuble. You have done a beautiful action to-day, dear child.

Miss Prism. We must not be premature in our judgments.

Cecily. I feel very happy. [They all go off except Jack and Algernon.]

Jack. You young scoundrel, Algy, you must get out of this place as soon as possible. I don't allow any Bunburying here.


[Enter Merriman.]


Merriman. I have put Mr. Ernest's things in the room next to yours, sir. I suppose that is all right?

Jack. What?

Merriman. Mr. Ernest's luggage, sir. I have unpacked it and put it in the room next to your own.

Jack. His luggage?

Merriman. Yes, sir. Three portmanteaus, a dressing-case, two hat-boxes, and a large luncheon-basket.

Algernon. I am afraid I can't stay more than a week this time.

Jack. Merriman, order the dog-cart at once. Mr. Ernest has been suddenly called back to town.

Merriman. Yes, sir. [Goes back into the house.]

Algernon. What a fearful liar you are, Jack. I have not been called back to town at all.

Jack. Yes, you have.

Algernon. I haven't heard any one call me.

Jack. Your duty as a gentleman calls you back.

Algernon. My duty as a gentleman has never interfered with my pleasures in the smallest degree.

Jack. I can quite understand that.

Algernon. Well, Cecily is a darling.

Jack. You are not to talk of Miss Cardew like that. I don't like it.

Algernon. Well, I don't like your clothes. You look perfectly ridiculous in them. Why on earth don't you go up and change? It is perfectly childish to be in deep mourning for a man who is actually staying for a whole week with you in your house as a guest. I call it grotesque.

Jack. You are certainly not staying with me for a whole week as a guest or anything else. You have got to leave . . . by the four-five train.

Algernon. I certainly won't leave you so long as you are in mourning. It would be most unfriendly. If I were in mourning you would stay with me, I suppose. I should think it very unkind if you didn't.

Jack. Well, will you go if I change my clothes?

Algernon. Yes, if you are not too long. I never saw anybody take so long to dress, and with such little result.

Jack. Well, at any rate, that is better than being always over-dressed as you are.

Algernon. If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated.

Jack. Your vanity is ridiculous, your conduct an outrage, and your presence in my garden utterly absurd. However, you have got to catch the four-five, and I hope you will have a pleasant journey back to town. This Bunburying, as you call it, has not been a great success for you.


[Goes into the house.]


Algernon. I think it has been a great success. I'm in love with Cecily, and that is everything. But I must see her before I go, and make arrangements for another Bunbury. Ah, there she is.


[Enter Cecily at the back of the garden. She picks up the can and begins

to water the flowers.]


Cecily. Oh, I merely came back to water the roses. I thought you were with Uncle Jack.

Algernon. He's gone to order the dog-cart for me.

Cecily. Oh, is he going to take you for a nice drive?

Algernon. He's going to send me away.

Cecily. Then have we got to part?

Algernon. I am afraid so. It's a very painful parting.

Cecily. It is always painful to part from people whom one has known for a very brief space of time. The absence of old friends one can endure with equanimity. But even a momentary separation from anyone to whom one has just been introduced is almost unbearable.

Algernon. Thank you.


[Enter Merriman.]


Merriman. The dog-cart is at the door, sir. [Algernon looks appealingly at Cecily.]

Cecily. It can wait, Merriman for . . . five minutes.

Merriman. Yes, Miss. [Exit Merriman.]

Algernon. I hope, Cecily, I shall not offend you if I state quite frankly and openly that you seem to me to be in every way the visible personification of absolute perfection.

Cecily. I think your frankness does you great credit, Ernest. If you will allow me, I will copy your remarks into my diary. [Goes over to table and begins writing in diary.]

Algernon. Do you really keep a diary? I'd give anything to look at it. May I?

Cecily. Oh no. [Puts her hand over it.] You see, it is simply a very young girl's record of her own thoughts and impressions, and consequently meant for publication. When it appears in volume form I hope you will order a copy. But pray, Ernest, don't stop. I delight in taking down

from dictation. I have reached 'absolute perfection'. You can go on. I am quite ready for more.

Algernon. [Somewhat taken aback.] Ahem! Ahem!

Cecily. Oh, don't cough, Ernest. When one is dictating one should speak fluently and not cough. Besides, I don't know how to spell a cough. [Writes as Algernon speaks.]

Algernon. [Speaking very rapidly.] Cecily, ever since I first looked upon your wonderful and incomparable beauty, I have dared to love you wildly, passionately, devotedly, hopelessly.

Cecily. I don't think that you should tell me that you love me wildly, passionately, devotedly, hopelessly. Hopelessly doesn't seem to make much sense, does it?

Algernon. Cecily!


[Enter Merriman.]


Merriman. The dog-cart is waiting, sir.

Algernon. Tell it to come round next week, at the same hour.

Merriman. [Looks at Cecily, who makes no sign.] Yes, sir.


[Merriman retires.]


Cecily. Uncle Jack would be very much annoyed if he knew you were staying on till next week, at the same hour.

Algernon. Oh, I don't care about Jack. I don't care for anybody in the whole world but you. I love you, Cecily. You will marry me, won't you?


Cecily. You silly boy! Of course. Why, we have been engaged for the last three months.

Algernon. For the last three months?

Cecily. Yes, it will be exactly three months on Thursday.

Algernon. But how did we become engaged?

Cecily. Well, ever since dear Uncle Jack first confessed to us that he had a younger brother who was very wicked and bad, you of course have formed the chief topic of conversation between myself and Miss Prism. And of course a man who is much talked about is always very attractive. One feels there must be something in him, after all. I daresay it was foolish of me, but I fell in love with you, Ernest.

Algernon. Darling! And when was the engagement actually settled?

Cecily. On the 14th of February last. Worn out by your entire ignorance of my existence, I determined to end the matter one way or the other, and after a long struggle with myself I accepted you under this dear old tree here. The next day I bought this little ring in your name, and this is the little bangle with the true lover's knot I promised you always to wear.

Algernon. Did I give you this? It's very pretty, isn't it?

Cecily. Yes, you've wonderfully good taste, Ernest. It's the excuse I've always given for your leading such a bad life. And this is the box in which I keep all your dear letters. [Kneels at table, opens box, and produces letters tied up with blue ribbon.]

Algernon. My letters! But, my own sweet Cecily, I have never written you any letters.

Cecily. You need hardly remind me of that, Ernest. I remember only too well that I was forced to write your letters for you. I wrote always three times a week, and sometimes oftener.

Algernon. Oh, do let me read them, Cecily?

Cecily. Oh, I couldn't possibly. They would make you far too conceited. [Replaces box.] The three you wrote me after I had broken off the engagement are so beautiful, and so badly spelled, that even now I can hardly read them without crying a little.

Algernon. But was our engagement ever broken off?

Cecily. Of course it was. On the 22nd of last March. You can see the entry if you like. [Shows diary.] 'To-day I broke off my engagement with Ernest. I feel it is better to do so. The weather still continues charming.'

Algernon. But why on earth did you break it off? What had I done? I had done nothing at all. Cecily, I am very much hurt indeed to hear you broke it off. Particularly when the weather was so charming.

Cecily. It would hardly have been a really serious engagement if it hadn't been broken off at least once. But I forgave you before the week was out.

Algernon. [Crossing to her, and kneeling.] What a perfect angel you are, Cecily.

Cecily. You dear romantic boy. [He kisses her; she puts her fingers through his hair.] I hope your hair curls naturally, does it?

Algernon. Yes, darling, with a little help from others.

Cecily. I am so glad.

Algernon. You'll never break off our engagement again, Cecily?

Cecily. I don't think I could break it off now that I have actually met you. Besides, of course, there is the question of your name.

Algernon. Yes, of course. [Nervously.]

Cecily. You must not laugh at me, darling, but it had always been a girlish dream of mine to love some one whose name was Ernest. [Algernon rises, Cecily also.] There is something in that name that seems to inspire absolute confidence. I pity any poor married woman whose husband is not called Ernest.

Algernon. But, my dear child, do you mean to say you could not love me if I had some other name?

Cecily. But what name?

Algernon. Oh, any name you like--Algernon--for instance . . .

Cecily. But I don't like the name of Algernon.

Algernon. Well, my own dear, sweet, loving little darling, I really can't see why you should object to the name of Algernon. It is not at all a bad name. In fact, it is rather an aristocratic name. Half of the chaps who get into the Bankruptcy Court are called Algernon. But seriously, Cecily . . . [Moving to her] . . . if my name was Algy, couldn't you love me?

Cecily. [Rising.] I might respect you, Ernest, I might admire your character, but I fear that I should not be able to give you my undivided attention.

Algernon. Ahem! Cecily! [Picking up hat.] Your Rector here is, I suppose, thoroughly experienced in the practice of all the rites and ceremonials of the Church?

Cecily. Oh, yes. Dr. Chasuble is a most learned man. He has never written a single book, so you can imagine how much he knows.

Algernon. I must see him at once on a most important christening--I mean on most important business.

Cecily. Oh!

Algernon. I shan't be away more than half an hour.

Cecily. Considering that we have been engaged since February the 14th, and that I only met you to-day for the first time, I think it is rather hard that you should leave me for so long a period as half an hour. Couldn't you make it twenty minutes?

Algernon. I'll be back in no time.


[Kisses her and rushes down the garden.]


Cecily. What an impetuous boy he is! I like his hair so much. I must enter his proposal in my diary.


[Enter Merriman.]


Merriman. A Miss Fairfax has just called to see Mr. Worthing. On very important business, Miss Fairfax states.

Cecily. Isn't Mr. Worthing in his library?

Merriman. Mr. Worthing went over in the direction of the Rectory some time ago.

Cecily. Pray ask the lady to come out here; Mr. Worthing is sure to be back soon. And you can bring tea.

Merriman. Yes, Miss. [Goes out.]

Cecily. Miss Fairfax! I suppose one of the many good elderly women who are associated with Uncle Jack in some of his philanthropic work in London. I don't quite like women who are interested in philanthropic work. I think it is so forward of them.


[Enter Merriman.]


Merriman. Miss Fairfax.


[Enter Gwendolen.]


[Exit Merriman.]


Cecily. [Advancing to meet her.] Pray let me introduce myself to you. My name is Cecily Cardew.

Gwendolen. Cecily Cardew? [Moving to her and shaking hands.] What a very sweet name! Something tells me that we are going to be great friends. I like you already more than I can say. My first impressions of people are never wrong.

Cecily. How nice of you to like me so much after we have known each other such a comparatively short time. Pray sit down.

Gwendolen. [Still standing up.] I may call you Cecily, may I not?

Cecily. With pleasure!

Gwendolen. And you will always call me Gwendolen, won't you?

Cecily. If you wish.

Gwendolen. Then that is all quite settled, is it not?

Cecily. I hope so. [A pause. They both sit down together.]

Gwendolen. Perhaps this might be a favorable opportunity for my mentioning who I am. My father is Lord Bracknell. You have never heard of papa, I suppose?

Cecily. I don't think so.

Gwendolen. Outside the family circle, papa, I am glad to say, is entirely unknown. I think that is quite as it should be. The home seems to me to be the proper sphere for the man. And certainly once a man begins to neglect his domestic duties he becomes painfully effeminate, does he not? And I don't like that. It makes men so very attractive. Cecily, mamma, whose views on education are remarkably strict, has brought me up to be extremely short-sighted; it is part of her system; so do you mind my looking at you through my glasses?

Cecily. Oh! Not at all, Gwendolen. I am very fond of being looked at.

Gwendolen. [After examining Cecily carefully through a lorgnette.] You are here on a short visit, I suppose.

Cecily. Oh no! I live here.

Gwendolen. [Severely.] Really? Your mother, no doubt, or some female relative of advanced years, resides here also?

Cecily. Oh no! I have no mother, nor, in fact, any relations.

Gwendolen. Indeed?

Cecily. My dear guardian, with the assistance of Miss Prism, has the arduous task of looking after me.

Gwendolen. Your guardian?

Cecily. Yes, I am Mr. Worthing's ward.

Gwendolen. Oh! It is strange he never mentioned to me that he had a ward. How secretive of him! He grows more interesting hourly. I am not sure, however, that the news inspires me with feelings of unmixed delight. [Rising and going to her.] I am very fond of you, Cecily; I have liked you ever since I met you! But I am bound to state that now that I know that you are Mr. Worthing's ward, I cannot help expressing a wish you were--well, just a little older than you seem to be--and not quite so very alluring in appearance. In fact, if I may speak candidly--

Cecily. Pray do! I think that whenever one has anything unpleasant to say, one should always be quite candid.

Gwendolen. Well, to speak with perfect candor, Cecily, I wish that you were fully forty-two, and more than usually plain for your age. Ernest has a strong upright nature. He is the very soul of truth and honour. Disloyalty would be as impossible to him as deception. But even men of the noblest possible moral character are extremely susceptible to the influence of the physical charms of others. Modern, no less than Ancient History, supplies us with many most painful examples of what I refer to. If it were not so, indeed, History would be quite unreadable.

Cecily. I beg your pardon, Gwendolen, did you say Ernest?

Gwendolen. Yes.

Cecily. Oh, but it is not Mr. Ernest Worthing who is my guardian. It is his brother--his elder brother.

Gwendolen. [Sitting down again.] Ernest never mentioned to me that he had a brother.

Cecily. I am sorry to say they have not been on good terms for a long time.

Gwendolen. Ah! That accounts for it. And now that I think of it I have never heard any man mention his brother. The subject seems distasteful to most men. Cecily, you have lifted a load from my mind. I was growing almost anxious. It would have been terrible if any cloud had come across a friendship like ours, would it not? Of course you are quite, quite sure that it is not Mr. Ernest Worthing who is your guardian?

Cecily. Quite sure. [A pause.] In fact, I am going to be his.

Gwendolen. [Inquiringly.] I beg your pardon?

Cecily. [Rather shy and confidingly.] Dearest Gwendolen, there is no reason why I should make a secret of it to you. Our little county newspaper is sure to chronicle the fact next week. Mr. Ernest Worthing and I are engaged to be married.

Gwendolen. [Quite politely, rising.] My darling Cecily, I think there must be some slight error. Mr. Ernest Worthing is engaged to me. The announcement will appear in the _Morning Post_ on Saturday at the latest.

Cecily. [Very politely, rising.] I am afraid you must be under some misconception. Ernest proposed to me exactly ten minutes ago. [Shows diary.]

Gwendolen. [Examines diary through her lorgnette carefully.] It is certainly very curious, for he asked me to be his wife yesterday afternoon at 5.30. If you would care to verify the incident, pray do so. [Produces diary of her own.] I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train. I am so sorry, dear Cecily, if it is any disappointment to you, but I am afraid I have the prior claim.

Cecily. It would distress me more than I can tell you, dear Gwendolen, if it caused you any mental or physical anguish, but I feel bound to point out that since Ernest proposed to you he clearly has changed his mind.

Gwendolen. [Meditatively.] If the poor fellow has been entrapped into any foolish promise I shall consider it my duty to rescue him at once, and with a firm hand.

Cecily. [Thoughtfully and sadly.] Whatever unfortunate entanglement my dear boy may have got into, I will never reproach him with it after we are married.

Gwendolen. Do you allude to me, Miss Cardew, as an entanglement? You are presumptuous. On an occasion of this kind it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one's mind. It becomes a pleasure.

Cecily. Do you suggest, Miss Fairfax, that I entrapped Ernest into an engagement? How dare you? This is no time for wearing the shallow mask of manners. When I see a spade I call it a spade.

Gwendolen. [Satirically.] I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade. It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different.


[Enter Merriman, followed by the footman. He carries a salver, table cloth, and plate stand. Cecily is about to retort. The presence of the servants exercises a restraining influence, under which both girls chafe.]


Merriman. Shall I lay tea here as usual, Miss?

Cecily. [Sternly, in a calm voice.] Yes, as usual. [Merriman begins to clear table and lay cloth. A long pause. Cecily and Gwendolen glare at each other.]

Gwendolen. Are there many interesting walks in the vicinity, Miss Cardew?

Cecily. Oh! Yes! A great many. From the top of one of the hills quite close one can see five counties.

Gwendolen. Five counties! I don't think I should like that; I hate crowds.

Cecily. [Sweetly.] I suppose that is why you live in town? [Gwendolen bites her lip, and beats her foot nervously with her parasol.]

Gwendolen. [Looking round.] Quite a well-kept garden this is, Miss Cardew.

Cecily. So glad you like it, Miss Fairfax.

Gwendolen. I had no idea there were any flowers in the country.

Cecily. Oh, flowers are as common here, Miss Fairfax, as people are in London.

Gwendolen. Personally I cannot understand how anybody manages to exist in the country, if anybody who is anybody does. The country always bores me to death.

Cecily. Ah! This is what the newspapers call agricultural depression, is it not? I believe the aristocracy is suffering very much from it just at present. It is almost an epidemic amongst them, I have been told. May I offer you some tea, Miss Fairfax?

Gwendolen. [With elaborate politeness.] Thank you. [Aside.] Detestable girl! But I require tea!

Cecily. [Sweetly.] Sugar?

Gwendolen. [Superciliously.] No, thank you. Sugar is not fashionable any more. [Cecily looks angrily at her, takes up the tongs and puts four lumps of sugar into the cup.]

Cecily. [Severely.] Cake or bread and butter?

Gwendolen. [In a bored manner.] Bread and butter, please. Cake is rarely seen at the best houses nowadays.

Cecily. [Cuts a very large slice of cake, and puts it on the tray.] Hand that to Miss Fairfax.


[Merriman does so, and goes out with footman. Gwendolen drinks the tea and makes a grimace. Puts down cup at once, reaches out her hand to the bread and butter, looks at it, and finds it is cake. Rises in indignation.]


Gwendolen. You have filled my tea with lumps of sugar, and though I asked most distinctly for bread and butter, you have given me cake. I am known for the gentleness of my disposition, and the extraordinary sweetness of my nature, but I warn you, Miss Cardew, you may go too far.

Cecily. [Rising.] To save my poor, innocent, trusting boy from the machinations of any other girl there are no lengths to which I would not go.

Gwendolen. From the moment I saw you I distrusted you. I felt that you were false and deceitful. I am never deceived in such matters. My first impressions of people are invariably right.

Cecily. It seems to me, Miss Fairfax that I am trespassing on your valuable time. No doubt you have many other calls of a similar character to make in the neighbourhood.


[Enter Jack.]


Gwendolen. [Catching sight of him.] Ernest! My own Ernest!

Jack. Gwendolen! Darling! [Offers to kiss her.]

Gwendolen. [Draws back.] A moment! May I ask if you are engaged to be married to this young lady? [Points to Cecily.]

Jack. [Laughing.] To dear little Cecily! Of course not! What could have put such an idea into your pretty little head?

Gwendolen. Thank you. You may! [Offers her cheek.]

Cecily. [Very sweetly.] I knew there must be some misunderstanding, Miss Fairfax. The gentleman whose arm is at present round your waist is my guardian, Mr. John Worthing.

Gwendolen. I beg your pardon?

Cecily. This is Uncle Jack.

Gwendolen. [Receding.] Jack! Oh!


[Enter Algernon.]


Cecily. Here is Ernest.

Algernon. [Goes straight over to Cecily without noticing any one else.] My own love! [Offers to kiss her.]

Cecily. [Drawing back.] A moment, Ernest! May I ask you--are you engaged to be married to this young lady?

Algernon. [Looking round.] To what young lady? Good heavens! Gwendolen!

Cecily. Yes! To good heavens, Gwendolen, I mean to Gwendolen.

Algernon. [Laughing.] Of course not! What could have put such an idea into your pretty little head?

Cecily. Thank you. [Presenting her cheek to be kissed.] You may. [Algernon kisses her.]

Gwendolen. I felt there was some slight error, Miss Cardew. The gentleman who is now embracing you is my cousin, Mr. Algernon Moncrieff.

Cecily. [Breaking away from Algernon.] Algernon Moncrieff! Oh! [The two girls move towards each other and put their arms round each other's waists as if for protection.]

Cecily. Are you called Algernon?

Algernon. I cannot deny it.

Cecily. Oh!

Gwendolen. Is your name really John?

Jack. [Standing rather proudly.] I could deny it if I liked. I could deny anything if I liked. But my name certainly is John. It has been John for years.

Cecily. [To Gwendolen.] A gross deception has been practiced on both of us.

Gwendolen. My poor wounded Cecily!

Cecily. My sweet wronged Gwendolen!

Gwendolen. [Slowly and seriously.] You will call me sister, will you not? [They embrace. Jack and Algernon groan and walk up and down.]

Cecily. [Rather brightly.] There is just one question I would like to be allowed to ask my guardian.

Gwendolen. An admirable idea! Mr. Worthing, there is just one question I would like to be permitted to put to you. Where is your brother Ernest? We are both engaged to be married to your brother Ernest, so it is a matter of some importance to us to know where your brother Ernest is at present.

Jack. [Slowly and hesitatingly.] Gwendolen--Cecily--it is very painful for me to be forced to speak the truth. It is the first time in my life that I have ever been reduced to such a painful position, and I am really quite inexperienced in doing anything of the kind. However, I will tell

you quite frankly that I have no brother Ernest. I have no brother at all. I never had a brother in my life, and I certainly have not the smallest intention of ever having one in the future.

Cecily. [Surprised.] No brother at all?

Jack. [Cheerily.] None!

Gwendolen. [Severely.] Had you never a brother of any kind?

Jack. [Pleasantly.] Never. Not even of a kind.

Gwendolen. I am afraid it is quite clear, Cecily, that neither of us is engaged to be married to any one.

Cecily. It is not a very pleasant position for a young girl suddenly to find herself in. Is it?

Gwendolen. Let us go into the house. They will hardly venture to come after us there.

Cecily. No, men are so cowardly, aren't they?


[They retire into the house with scornful looks.]


Jack. This ghastly state of things is what you call Bunburying, I suppose?

Algernon. Yes and a perfectly wonderful Bunbury it is. The most wonderful Bunbury I have ever had in my life.

Jack. Well, you've no right whatsoever to Bunbury here.

Algernon. That is absurd. One has a right to Bunbury anywhere one chooses. Every serious Bunburyist knows that.

Jack. Serious Bunburyist! Good heavens!

Algernon. Well, one must be serious about something, if one wants to have any amusement in life. I happen to be serious about Bunburying. What on earth you are serious about I haven't got the remotest idea. About everything, I should fancy. You have such an absolutely trivial nature.

Jack. Well, the only small satisfaction I have in the whole of this wretched business is that your friend Bunbury is quite exploded. You won't be able to run down to the country quite as often as you used to do, dear Algy. And a very good thing too.

Algernon. Your brother is a little off colour, isn't he, dear Jack? You won't be able to disappear to London quite as frequently as your wicked custom was. And not a bad thing either.

Jack. As for your conduct towards Miss Cardew, I must say that your taking in a sweet, simple, innocent girl like that is quite inexcusable. To say nothing of the fact that she is my ward.

Algernon. I can see no possible defense at all for your deceiving a brilliant, clever, thoroughly experienced young lady like Miss Fairfax. To say nothing of the fact that she is my cousin.

Jack. I wanted to be engaged to Gwendolen that is all. I love her.

Algernon. Well, I simply wanted to be engaged to Cecily. I adore her.

Jack. There is certainly no chance of your marrying Miss Cardew.

Algernon. I don't think there is much likelihood, Jack, of you and Miss Fairfax being united.


Jack. Well, that is no business of yours.

Algernon. If it was my business, I wouldn't talk about it. [Begins to eat muffins.] It is very vulgar to talk about one's business. Only people like stock-brokers do that, and then merely at dinner parties.

Jack. How can you sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can't make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.

Algernon. Well, I can't eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.

Jack. I say it's perfectly heartless you’re eating muffins at all, under the circumstances.

Algernon. When I am in trouble, eating is the only thing that consoles me. Indeed, when I am in really great trouble, as any one who knows me intimately will tell you, I refuse everything except food and drink. At the present moment I am eating muffins because I am unhappy. Besides, I am particularly fond of muffins. [Rising.]

Jack. [Rising.] Well, that is no reason why you should eat them all in that greedy way. [Takes muffins from Algernon.]

Algernon. [Offering tea-cake.] I wish you would have tea-cake instead. I don't like tea-cake.

Jack. Good heavens! I suppose a man may eat his own muffins in his own garden.

Algernon. But you have just said it was perfectly heartless to eat muffins.

Jack. I said it was perfectly heartless of you, under the circumstances. That is a very different thing.

Algernon. That may be. But the muffins are the same. [He seizes the muffin-dish from Jack.]

Jack. Algy, I wish to goodness you would go.

Algernon. You can't possibly ask me to go without having some dinner. It's absurd. I never go without my dinner. No one ever does, except vegetarians and people like that. Besides I have just made arrangements with Dr. Chasuble to be christened at a quarter to six under the name of Ernest.

Jack. My dear fellow, the sooner you give up that nonsense the better. I made arrangements this morning with Dr. Chasuble to be christened myself at 5.30, and I naturally will take the name of Ernest. Gwendolen would wish it. We can't both be christened Ernest. It's absurd. Besides, I have a perfect right to be christened if I like. There is no evidence at all that I have ever been christened by anybody. I should think it extremely probable I never was, and so does Dr. Chasuble. It is entirely different in your case. You have been christened already.

Algernon. Yes, but I have not been christened for years.

Jack. Yes, but you have been christened. That is the important thing.

Algernon. Quite so. So I know my constitution can stand it. If you are not quite sure about your ever having been christened, I must say I think it rather dangerous you’re venturing on it now. It might make you very unwell. You can hardly have forgotten that some one very closely connected with you was very nearly carried off this week in Paris by a severe chill.

Jack. Yes, but you said yourself that a severe chill was not hereditary.

Algernon. It isn’t to be, I know--but I daresay it is now. Science is always making wonderful improvements in things.

Jack. [Picking up the muffin-dish.] Oh, that is nonsense; you are always talking nonsense.

Algernon. Jack, you are at the muffins again! I wish you wouldn't. There are only two left. [Takes them.] I told you I was particularly fond of muffins.

Jack. But I hate tea-cake.

Algernon. Why on earth then do you allow tea-cake to be served up for your guests? What ideas you have of hospitality!

Jack. Algernon! I have already told you to go. I don't want you here. Why don't you go!

Algernon. I haven't quite finished my tea yet! And there is still one muffin left. [Jack groans, and sinks into a chair. Algernon still continues eating.]



THIRD ACT

SCENE

Morning-room at the Manor House.


[Gwendolen and Cecily are at the window, looking out into the garden.]


Gwendolen. The fact that they did not follow us at once into the house, as any one else would have done, seems to me to show that they have some sense of shame left.

Cecily. They have been eating muffins. That looks like repentance.

Gwendolen. [After a pause.] They don't seem to notice us at all. Couldn't you cough?

Cecily. But I haven't got a cough.

Gwendolen. They're looking at us. What effrontery!

Cecily. They're approaching. That's very forward of them.

Gwendolen. Let us preserve a dignified silence.

Cecily. Certainly. It's the only thing to do now. [Enter Jack followed by Algernon. They whistle some dreadful popular air from a British Opera.]

Gwendolen. This dignified silence seems to produce an unpleasant effect.

Cecily. A most distasteful one.

Gwendolen. But we will not be the first to speak.

Cecily. Certainly not.

Gwendolen. Mr. Worthing, I have something very particular to ask you. Much depends on your reply.

Cecily. Gwendolen, your common sense is invaluable. Mr. Moncrieff, kindly answer me the following question. Why did you pretend to be my guardian's brother?

Algernon. In order that I might have an opportunity of meeting you.

Cecily. [To Gwendolen.] That certainly seems a satisfactory explanation, does it not?

Gwendolen. Yes, dear, if you can believe him.

Cecily. I don't. But that does not affect the wonderful beauty of his answer.

Gwendolen. True. In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing. Mr. Worthing, what explanation can you offer to me for pretending to have a brother? Was it in order that you might have an opportunity of coming up to town to see me as often as possible?

Jack. Can you doubt it, Miss Fairfax?

Gwendolen. I have the gravest doubts upon the subject. But I intend to crush them. This is not the moment for German skepticism. [Moving to Cecily.] Their explanations appear to be quite satisfactory, especially Mr. Worthing's. That seems to me to have the stamp of truth upon it.

Cecily. I am more than content with what Mr. Moncrieff said. His voice alone inspires one with absolute credulity.

Gwendolen. Then you think we should forgive them?

Cecily. Yes. I mean no.

Gwendolen. True! I had forgotten. There are principles at stake that one cannot surrender. Which of us should tell them? The task is not a pleasant one.

Cecily. Could we not both speak at the same time?

Gwendolen. An excellent idea! I nearly always speak at the same time as other people. Will you take the time from me?

Cecily. Certainly. [Gwendolen beats time with uplifted finger.]

Gwendolen and Cecily [Speaking together.] Your Christian names are still an insuperable barrier. That is all!

Jack and Algernon [Speaking together.] Our Christian names! Is that all? But we are going to be christened this afternoon.

Gwendolen. [To Jack.] For my sake you are prepared to do this terrible thing?

Jack. I am.


Cecily. [To Algernon.] To please me you are ready to face this fearful ordeal?

Algernon. I am!

Gwendolen. How absurd to talk of the equality of the sexes! Where questions of self-sacrifice are concerned, men are infinitely beyond us.

Jack. We are. [Clasps hands with Algernon.]

Cecily. They have moments of physical courage of which we women know absolutely nothing.

Gwendolen. [To Jack.] Darling!

Algernon. [To Cecily.] Darling! [They fall into each other's arms.]


[Enter Merriman. When he enters he coughs loudly, seeing the situation.]


Merriman. Ahem! Ahem! Lady Bracknell!

Jack. Good heavens!


[Enter Lady Bracknell. The couples separate in alarm. Exit Merriman.]


Lady Bracknell. Gwendolen! What does this mean?

Gwendolen. Merely that I am engaged to be married to Mr. Worthing, mamma.

Lady Bracknell. Come here. Sit down. Sit down immediately. Hesitation of any kind is a sign of mental decay in the young, of physical weakness in the old. [Turns to Jack.] Apprised, sir, of my daughter's sudden flight by her trusty maid, whose confidence I purchased by means of a small coin, I followed her at once by a luggage train. Her unhappy father is, I am glad to say, under the impression that she is attending a more than usually lengthy lecture by the University Extension Scheme on the Influence of a permanent income on Thought. I do not propose to undeceive him. Indeed I have never undeceived him on any question. I would consider it wrong. But of course, you will clearly understand that all communication between yourself and my daughter must cease immediately from this moment. On this point, as indeed on all points, I am firm.

Jack. I am engaged to be married to Gwendolen Lady Bracknell!

Lady Bracknell. You are nothing of the kind, sir. And now, as regards Algernon! . . . Algernon!

Algernon. Yes, Aunt Augusta.

Lady Bracknell. May I ask if it is in this house that your invalid friend Mr. Bunbury resides?

Algernon. [Stammering.] Oh! No! Bunbury doesn't live here. Bunbury is somewhere else at present. In fact, Bunbury is dead.

Lady Bracknell. Dead! When did Mr. Bunbury die? His death must have been extremely sudden.

Algernon. [Airily.] Oh! I killed Bunbury this afternoon. I mean poor Bunbury died this afternoon.

Lady Bracknell. What did he die of?

Algernon. Bunbury? Oh, he was quite exploded.

Lady Bracknell. Exploded! Was he the victim of a revolutionary outrage? I was not aware that Mr. Bunbury was interested in social legislation. If so, he is well punished for his morbidity.

Algernon. My dear Aunt Augusta, I mean he was found out! The doctors found out that Bunbury could not live, that is what I mean--so Bunbury died.

Lady Bracknell. He seems to have had great confidence in the opinion of his physicians. I am glad, however, that he made up his mind at the last to some definite course of action, and acted under proper medical advice. And now that we have finally got rid of this Mr. Bunbury, may I ask, Mr. Worthing, who is that young person whose hand my nephew Algernon is now holding in what seems to me a peculiarly unnecessary manner?

Jack. That lady is Miss Cecily Cardew, my ward. [Lady Bracknell bows coldly to Cecily.]


Algernon. I am engaged to be married to Cecily, Aunt Augusta.

Lady Bracknell. I beg your pardon?

Cecily. Mr. Moncrieff and I are engaged to be married, Lady Bracknell.

Lady Bracknell. [With a shiver, crossing to the sofa and sitting down.] I do not know whether there is anything peculiarly exciting in the air of this particular part of Hertfordshire, but the number of engagements that go on seems to me considerably above the proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance. I think some preliminary inquiry on my part would not be out of place. Mr. Worthing, is Miss Cardew at all connected with any of the larger railway stations in London? I merely desire information. Until yesterday I had no idea that there were any families or persons whose origin was a Terminus. [Jack looks perfectly furious, but restrains himself.]

Jack. [In a clear, cold voice.] Miss Cardew is the grand-daughter of the late Mr. Thomas Cardew of 149 Belgrave Square, S.W.; Gervase Park, Dorking, Surrey; and the Sporran, Fifeshire, N.B.

Lady Bracknell. That sounds not unsatisfactory. Three addresses always inspire confidence, even in tradesmen. But what proofs have I of their authenticity?

Jack. I have carefully preserved the Court Guides of the period. They are open to your inspection, Lady Bracknell.

Lady Bracknell. [Grimly.] I have known strange errors in that publication.

Jack. Miss Cardew's family solicitors are Messrs. Markby, Markby, and Markby.

Lady Bracknell. Markby, Markby, and Markby? A firm of the very highest position in their profession. Indeed I am told that one of the Mr. Markby's is occasionally to be seen at dinner parties. So far I am satisfied.

Jack. [Very irritably.] How extremely kind of you, Lady Bracknell! I have also in my possession, you will be pleased to hear, certificates of Miss Cardew's birth, baptism, whooping cough, registration, vaccination, confirmation, and the measles; both the German and the English variety.

Lady Bracknell. Ah! A life crowded with incident, I see; though perhaps somewhat too exciting for a young girl. I am not myself in favour of premature experiences. [Raises, looks at her watch.] Gwendolen! The time approaches for our departure. We have not a moment to lose. As a matter of form, Mr. Worthing, I had better ask you if Miss Cardew has any little fortune.

Jack. Oh! About a hundred and thirty thousand pounds in the Funds. That is all. Goodbye, Lady Bracknell. So pleased to have seen you.

Lady Bracknell. [Sitting down again.] A moment, Mr. Worthing. A hundred and thirty thousand pounds! And in the Funds! Miss Cardew seems to me a most attractive young lady, now that I look at her. Few girls of the present day have any really solid qualities, any of the qualities that last, and improve with time. We live; I regret to say, in an age of surfaces. [To Cecily.] Come over here, dear. [Cecily goes across.] Pretty child! Your dress is sadly simple, and your hair seems almost as Nature might have left it. But we can soon alter all that. A thoroughly experienced French maid produces a really marvelous result in a very brief space of time. I remember recommending one to young Lady Lancing, and after three months her own husband did not know her.

Jack. And after six months nobody knew her.

Lady Bracknell. [Glares at Jack for a few moments. Then bends, with a practiced smile, to Cecily.] Kindly turn round, sweet child. [Cecily turns completely round.] No, the side view is what I want. [Cecily presents her profile.] Yes, quite as I expected. There are distinct social possibilities in your profile. The two weak points in our age are its want of principle and its want of profile. The chin a little higher, dear. Style largely depends on the way the chin is worn. They are worn very high, just at present. Algernon!

Algernon. Yes, Aunt Augusta!

Lady Bracknell. There are distinct social possibilities in Miss Cardew's profile.


Algernon. Cecily is the sweetest, dearest, prettiest girl in the whole world. And I don't care twopence about social possibilities.

Lady Bracknell. Never speak disrespectfully of Society, Algernon. Only people who can't get into it do that. [To Cecily.] Dear child, of course you know that Algernon has nothing but his debts to depend upon. But I do not approve of mercenary marriages. When I married Lord Bracknell I had no fortune of any kind. But I never dreamed for a moment of allowing that to stand in my way. Well, I suppose I must give my consent.

Algernon. Thank you, Aunt Augusta.

Lady Bracknell. Cecily, you may kiss me!

Cecily. [Kisses her.] Thank you, Lady Bracknell.

Lady Bracknell. You may also address me as Aunt Augusta for the future.

Cecily. Thank you, Aunt Augusta.

Lady Bracknell. The marriage, I think, had better take place quite soon.

Algernon. Thank you, Aunt Augusta.

Cecily. Thank you, Aunt Augusta.

Lady Bracknell. To speak frankly, I am not in favour of long engagements. They give people the opportunity of finding out each other's character before marriage, which I think is never advisable.

Jack. I beg your pardon for interrupting you, Lady Bracknell, but this engagement is quite out of the question. I am Miss Cardew's guardian, and she cannot marry without my consent until she comes of age. That consent I absolutely decline to give.

Lady Bracknell. Upon what grounds may I ask? Algernon is an extremely, I may almost say an ostentatiously, eligible young man. He has nothing, but he looks everything. What more can one desire?

Jack. It pains me very much to have to speak frankly to you, Lady Bracknell, about your nephew, but the fact is that I do not approve at all of his moral character. I suspect him of being untruthful. [Algernon and Cecily look at him in indignant amazement.]

Lady Bracknell. Untruthful! My nephew Algernon? Impossible! He is an Oxonian.

Jack. I fear there can be no possible doubt about the matter. This afternoon during my temporary absence in London on an important question of romance, he obtained admission to my house by means of the false pretence of being my brother. Under an assumed name he drank, I've just been informed by my butler, an entire pint bottle of my Perrier-Jouet, Brut, '89; wine I was specially reserving for myself. Continuing his disgraceful deception, he succeeded in the course of the afternoon in alienating the affections of my only ward. He subsequently stayed to tea, and devoured every single muffin. And what makes his conduct all the more heartless is, that he was perfectly well aware from the first that I have no brother, that I never had a brother, and that I don't intend to have a brother, not even of any kind. I distinctly told him so myself yesterday afternoon.

Lady Bracknell. Ahem! Mr. Worthing, after careful consideration I have decided entirely to overlook my nephew's conduct to you.

Jack. That is very generous of you, Lady Bracknell. My own decision, however, is unalterable. I decline to give my consent.

Lady Bracknell. [To Cecily.] Come here, sweet child. [Cecily goes over.] How old are you, dear?

Cecily. Well, I am really only eighteen, but I always admit to twenty when I go to evening parties.

Lady Bracknell. You are perfectly right in making some slight alteration. Indeed, no woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating . . . [In a meditative manner.] Eighteen, but admitting to twenty at evening parties. Well, it will not be very long before you are of age and free from the restraints of tutelage. So I don't think your guardian's consent is, after all, a matter of any importance.


Jack. Pray excuse me, Lady Bracknell, for interrupting you again, but it is only fair to tell you that according to the terms of her grandfather's will Miss Cardew does not come legally of age till she is thirty-five.

Lady Bracknell. That does not seem to me to be a grave objection. Thirty- five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty- five for years. Lady Dumbleton is an instance in point. To my own

knowledge she has been thirty-five ever since she arrived at the age of forty, which was many years ago now. I see no reason why our dear Cecily should not be even still more attractive at the age you mention than she is at present. There will be a large accumulation of property.

Cecily. Algy, could you wait for me till I was thirty-five?

Algernon. Of course I could, Cecily. You know I could.

Cecily. Yes, I felt it instinctively, but I couldn't wait all that time. I hate waiting even five minutes for anybody. It always makes me rather cross. I am not punctual myself, I know, but I do like punctuality in others, and waiting, even to be married, is quite out of the question.

Algernon. Then what is to be done, Cecily?

Cecily. I don't know, Mr. Moncrieff.

Lady Bracknell. My dear Mr. Worthing, as Miss Cardew states positively that she cannot wait till she is thirty-five--a remark which I am bound to say seems to me to show a somewhat impatient nature--I would beg of you to reconsider your decision.

Jack. But my dear Lady Bracknell, the matter is entirely in your own hands. The moment you consent to my marriage with Gwendolen, I will most gladly allow your nephew to form an alliance with my ward.

Lady Bracknell. [Rising and drawing herself up.] You must be quite aware that what you propose is out of the question.

Jack. Then a passionate celibacy is all that any of us can look forward to.

Lady Bracknell. That is not the destiny I propose for Gwendolen. Algernon, of course, can choose for himself. [Pulls out her watch.] Come, dear, [Gwendolen rises] we have already missed five, if not six, trains. To miss any more might expose us to comment on the platform.


[Enter Dr. Chasuble.]


Chasuble. Everything is quite ready for the christenings.

Lady Bracknell. The christenings, sir! Is not that somewhat premature?

Chasuble. [Looking rather puzzled, and pointing to Jack and Algernon.] Both these gentlemen have expressed a desire for immediate baptism.

Lady Bracknell. At their age? The idea is grotesque and irreligious! Algernon, I forbid you to be baptized. I will not hear of such excesses. Lord Bracknell would be highly displeased if he learned that that was the way in which you wasted your time and money.

Chasuble. Am I to understand then that there are to be no christenings at all this afternoon?

Jack. I don't think that, as things are now, it would be of much practical value to either of us, Dr. Chasuble.

Chasuble. I am grieved to hear such sentiments from you, Mr. Worthing. They savor of the heretical views of the Anabaptists, views that I have completely refuted in four of my unpublished sermons. However, as your present mood seems to be one peculiarly secular, I will return to the church at once. Indeed, I have just been informed by the pew-opener that for the last hour and a half Miss Prism has been waiting for me in the vestry.

Lady Bracknell. [Starting.] Miss Prism! Did I hear you mention a Miss Prism?

Chasuble. Yes, Lady Bracknell. I am on my way to join her.

Lady Bracknell. Pray allow me to detain you for a moment. This matter may prove to be one of vital importance to Lord Bracknell and myself. Is this Miss Prism a female of repellent aspect, remotely connected with education?


Chasuble. [Somewhat indignantly.] She is the most cultivated of ladies, and the very picture of respectability.

Lady Bracknell. It is obviously the same person. May I ask what position she holds in your household?

Chasuble. [Severely.] I am a celibate, madam.

Jack. [Interposing.] Miss Prism, Lady Bracknell, has been for the last three years Miss Cardew's esteemed governess and valued companion.

Lady Bracknell. In spite of what I hear of her, I must see her at once. Let her be sent for.

Chasuble. [Looking off.] She approaches; she is nigh.


[Enter Miss Prism hurriedly.]


Miss Prism. I was told you expected me in the vestry, dear Canon. I have been waiting for you there for an hour and three-quarters. [Catches sight of Lady Bracknell, who has fixed her with a stony glare. Miss Prism grows pale and quails. She looks anxiously round as if desirous to escape.]

Lady Bracknell. [In a severe, judicial voice.] Prism! [Miss Prism bows her head in shame.] Come here, Prism! [Miss Prism approaches in a humble manner.] Prism! Where is that baby? [General consternation. The Canon starts back in horror. Algernon and Jack pretend to be anxious to shield Cecily and Gwendolen from hearing the details of a terrible public scandal.] Twenty-eight years ago, Prism, you left Lord Bracknell's house, Number 104, Upper Grosvenor Street, in charge of a perambulator that contained a baby of the male sex. You never returned. A few weeks later, through the elaborate investigations of the Metropolitan police, the perambulator was discovered at midnight, standing by itself in a remote corner of Bayswater. It contained the manuscript of a three-volume novel of more than usually revolting sentimentality. [Miss Prism starts in involuntary indignation.] But the baby was not there! [Every one looks at Miss Prism.] Prism! Where is that baby? [A pause.]

Miss Prism. Lady Bracknell, I admit with shame that I do not know. I only wish I did. The plain facts of the case are these. On the morning of the day you mention, a day that is for ever branded on my memory, I prepared as usual to take the baby out in its perambulator. I had also

with me a somewhat old, but capacious hand-bag in which I had intended to place the manuscript of a work of fiction that I had written during my few unoccupied hours. In a moment of mental abstraction, for which I never can forgive myself, I deposited the manuscript in the bassinette, and placed the baby in the hand-bag.

Jack. [Who has been listening attentively.] But where did you deposit the hand-bag?

Miss Prism. Do not ask me, Mr. Worthing.

Jack. Miss Prism, this is a matter of no small importance to me. I insist on knowing where you deposited the hand-bag that contained that infant.

Miss Prism. I left it in the cloak-room of one of the larger railway stations in London.

Jack. What railway station?

Miss Prism. [Quite crushed.] Victoria. The Brighton line. [Sinks into a chair.]

Jack. I must retire to my room for a moment. Gwendolen, wait here for me.

Gwendolen. If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life. [Exit Jack in great excitement.]

Chasuble. What do you think this means, Lady Bracknell?

Lady Bracknell. I dare not even suspect, Dr. Chasuble. I need hardly tell you that in families of high position strange coincidences are not supposed to occur. They are hardly considered the thing.


[Noises heard overhead as if some one was throwing trunks about. Every one looks up.]



Cecily. Uncle Jack seems strangely agitated.

Chasuble. Your guardian has a very emotional nature.

Lady Bracknell. This noise is extremely unpleasant. It sounds as if he was having an argument. I dislike arguments of any kind. They are always vulgar, and often convincing.

Chasuble. [Looking up.] It has stopped now. [The noise is redoubled.]

Lady Bracknell. I wish he would arrive at some conclusion.

Gwendolen. This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last. [Enter Jack with a hand-bag of black leather in his hand.]

Jack. [Rushing over to Miss Prism.] Is this the hand-bag, Miss Prism? Examine it carefully before you speak. The happiness of more than one life depends on your answer.

Miss Prism. [Calmly.] It seems to be mine. Yes, here is the injury it received through the upsetting of a Gower Street omnibus in younger and happier days. Here is the stain on the lining caused by the explosion of a temperance beverage, an incident that occurred at Leamington. And here, on the lock, are my initials. I had forgotten that in an extravagant mood I had had them placed there. The bag is undoubtedly mine. I am delighted to have it so unexpectedly restored to me. It has been a great inconvenience being without it all these years.

Jack. [In a pathetic voice.] Miss Prism, more is restored to you than this hand-bag. I was the baby you placed in it.

Miss Prism. [Amazed.] You?

Jack. [Embracing her.] Yes . . . mother!

Miss Prism. [Recoiling in indignant astonishment.] Mr. Worthing! I am unmarried!

Jack. Unmarried! I do not deny that is a serious blow. But after all, who has the right to cast a stone against one who has suffered? Cannot repentance wipe out an act of folly? Why should there be one law for men, and another for women? Mother, I forgive you. [Tries to embrace her again.]

Miss Prism. [Still more indignant.] Mr. Worthing, there is some error. [Pointing to Lady Bracknell.] There is the lady who can tell you who you really are.

Jack. [After a pause.] Lady Bracknell, I hate to seem inquisitive, but would you kindly inform me who I am?

Lady Bracknell. I am afraid that the news I have to give you will not altogether please you. You are the son of my poor sister, Mrs. Moncrieff, and consequently Algernon's elder brother.

Jack. Algy's elder brother! Then I have a brother after all. I knew I had a brother! I always said I had a brother! Cecily,--how could you have ever doubted that I had a brother? [Seizes hold of Algernon.] Dr. Chasuble, my unfortunate brother. Miss Prism, my unfortunate brother. Gwendolen, my unfortunate brother. Algy, you young scoundrel, you will have to treat me with more respect in the future. You have never behaved to me like a brother in all your life.

Algernon. Well, not till to-day, old boy, I admit. I did my best, however, though I was out of practice.


[Shakes hands.]


Gwendolen. [To Jack.] My own! But what own are you? What is your Christian name, now that you have become some one else?

Jack. Good heavens! . . . I had quite forgotten that point. Your decision on the subject of my name is irrevocable, I suppose?

Gwendolen. I never change, except in my affections.

Cecily. What a noble nature you have, Gwendolen!

Jack. Then the question had better be cleared up at once. Aunt Augusta, a moment. At the time when Miss Prism left me in the hand-bag, had I been christened already?

Lady Bracknell. Every luxury that money could buy, including christening, had been lavished on you by your fond and doting parents.


Jack. Then I was christened! That is settled. Now, what name was I given? Let me know the worst.

Lady Bracknell. Being the eldest son you were naturally christened after your father.

Jack. [Irritably.] Yes, but what was my father's Christian name?

Lady Bracknell. [Meditatively.] I cannot at the present moment recall what the General's Christian name was. But I have no doubt he had one. He was eccentric, I admit. But only in later years. And that was the result of the Indian climate, and marriage, and indigestion, and other things of that kind.

Jack. Algy! Can't you recollect what our father's Christian name was?

Algernon. My dear boy, we were never even on speaking terms. He died before I was a year old.

Jack. His name would appear in the Army Lists of the period, I suppose, Aunt Augusta?

Lady Bracknell. The General was essentially a man of peace, except in his domestic life. But I have no doubt his name would appear in any military directory.

Jack. The Army Lists of the last forty years are here. These delightful records should have been my constant study. [Rushes to bookcase and tears the books out.] M. Generals . . . Mallam, Maxbohm, Magley, what ghastly names they have--Markby, Migsby, Mobbs, Moncrieff! Lieutenant 1840, Captain, Lieutenant-Colonel, Colonel, General 1869, Christian names, Ernest John. [Puts book very quietly down and speaks quite calmly.] I always told you, Gwendolen, my name was Ernest, didn't I? Well, it is Ernest after all. I mean it naturally is Ernest.

Lady Bracknell. Yes, I remember now that the General was called Ernest, I knew I had some particular reason for disliking the name.

Gwendolen. Ernest! My own Ernest! I felt from the first that you could have no other name!

Jack. Gwendolen, it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?

Gwendolen. I can. For I feel that you are sure to change.

Jack. My own one!

Chasuble. [To Miss Prism.] Laetitia! [Embraces her]

Miss Prism. [Enthusiastically.] Frederick! At last!

Algernon. Cecily! [Embraces her.] At last!

Jack. Gwendolen! [Embraces her.] At last!

Lady Bracknell. My nephew, you seem to be displaying signs of triviality.

Jack. On the contrary, Aunt Augusta, I've now realized for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest.



















Agatha Christie.

The Body in the Library


Mrs. Bantry was dreaming. Her sweet peas had just taken a First at the flower show. The vicar, dressed in cassock and surplice, was giving out the prizes in church. His wife wandered past, dressed in a bathing suit, but, as is the blessed habit of dreams, this fact did not arouse the disapproval of the parish in the way it would assuredly have done in real life. Mrs. Bantry was enjoying her dream a good deal.

She usually did enjoy those early-morning dreams that were terminated by the arrival of early-morning tea. Somewhere in her inner consciousness was an awareness of the usual early-morning noises of the household. The rattle of the curtain rings on the stairs as the housemaid drew them, the noises of the second housemaid's dustpan and brush in the passage outside. In the distance the heavy noise of the front-door bolt being drawn back.

Another day was beginning. In the meantime she must extract as much pleasure as possible from the flower show, for already its dreamlike quality was becoming apparent.

Below her was the noise of the big wooden shutters in the drawing room being opened. She heard it, yet did not hear it. For quite half an hour longer the usual household noises would go on, discreet, subdued, not disturbing because they were so familiar. They would culminate in a swift, controlled sound of footsteps along the passage, the rustle of a print dress, the subdued chink of tea things as the tray was deposited on the table outside, then the soft knock and the entry of Mary to draw the curtains. In her sleep Mrs. Bantry frowned. Something disturbing was penetrating through the dream state, something out of its time. Footsteps along the passage, footsteps that were too hurried and too soon. Her ears listened unconsciously for the chink of china, but there was no chink of china. The knock came at the door. Automatically, from the depths of her dream, Mrs. Bantry said, "Come in." The door opened; now there would be the chink of curtain ring as the curtains were drawn back.

But there was no chink of curtain rings. Out of the dull green light Mary's voice came, breathless, hysterical. "Oh, ma'am, oh, ma'am, there's a body in the library!" And then, with a hysterical burst of sobs, she rushed out of the room again.

Mrs. Bantry sat up in bed. Either her dream had taken a very odd turn or else - or else Mary had really rushed into the room and had said - incredibly fantastic! - that there was a body in the library. "Impossible," said Mrs. Bantry to herself. "I must have been dreaming." But even as she said it, she felt more and more certain that she had not been dreaming; that Mary, her superior self-controlled Mary, had actually uttered those fantastic words. Mrs. Bantry reflected a minute and then applied an urgent conjugal elbow to her sleeping spouse. "Arthur, Arthur, wake up." Colonel Bantry grunted, muttered and rolled over on his side. "Wake up, Arthur. Did you hear what she said?"

"Very likely," said Colonel Bantry indistinctly. "I quite agree with you. Dolly," and promptly went to sleep again.

Mrs. Bantry shook him. "You've got to listen. Mary came in and said that there was a body in the library." "Eh, what?" "A body in the library" "Who said so?" "Mary."

Colonel Bantry collected his scattered faculties and proceeded to deal with the situation. He said, "Nonsense, old girl! You've been dreaming."

"No, I haven't. I thought so, too, at first. But I haven't. She really came in and said so."

"Mary came in and said there was a body in the library?" "Yes." "But there couldn't be," said Colonel Bantry. "No no, I suppose not," said Mrs. Bantry doubtfully. Rallying, she went on, "But then why did Mary say there was?" "She can't have." "She did." "You must have imagined it." "I didn't imagine it." Colonel Bantry was by now thoroughly awake and prepared to deal with the situation on its merits. He said kindly, "You've been dreaming. Dolly. It's that detective story you were reading The Clue of the Broken Match. You know. Lord Edgbaston finds a beautiful blonde dead on the library hearth rug Bodies are always being found in libraries in books. I've never known a case in real life."


"Perhaps you will now," said Mrs. Bantry, "Anyway Arthur, you've got to get up and see."

"But really. Dolly, it must have been a dream. Dreams often do seem wonderfully vivid when you first wake up. You feel quite sure they're true."

"I was having quite a different sort of dream about a flower show and the vicar's wife in a bathing dress, something like that." Mrs. Bantry jumped out of bed and pulled back the curtains. The light of a fine autumn day flooded the room. "I did not dream it," said Mrs. Bantry firmly. "Get up at once, Arthur, and go downstairs and see about it."

"You want me to go downstairs and ask if there's a body in the library? I shall look a fool."

"You needn't ask anything," said Mrs. Bantry. "If there is a body and of course it's just possible that Mary's gone mad and thinks she sees things that aren't there well, somebody will tell you soon enough. You won't have to say a word."

Grumbling, Colonel Bantry wrapped himself in his dressing gown and left the room. He went along the passage and down the staircase. At the foot of it was a little knot of huddled servants; some of them were sobbing. The butler stepped forward impressively. "I'm glad you have come, sir. I have directed that nothing should be done until you came. Will it be in order for me to ring up the police, sir?"

"Ring 'em up about what?"

The butler cast a reproachful glance over his shoulder at the tall young woman who was weeping hysterically on the cook's shoulder. "I understood, sir, that Mary had already informed you. She said she had done so."

Mary gasped out, "I was so upset, I don't know what I said! It all came over me again and my legs gave way and my insides turned over! Finding it like that. Oh, oh, oh!"

She subsided again onto Mrs. Eccles, who said, "There, there, my dear," with some relish.

"Mary is naturally somewhat upset, sir, having been the one to make the gruesome discovery," exclaimed the butler. "She went into the library, as usual, to draw the curtains, and - and almost stumbled over the body."

"Do you mean to tell me," demanded Colonel Bantry, "that there's a dead body in my library - my library?"

The butler coughed. "Perhaps, sir, you would like to see for yourself."

"Hullo, 'ullo, 'ullo. Police station here. Yes, who's speaking?" Police Constable Palk was buttoning up his tunic with one hand while the other held the telephone receiver. "Yes, yes, Gossington Hall. Yes?… Oh, good morning, sir." Police Constable Palk's tone underwent a slight modification. It became less impatiently official, recognizing the generous patron of the police sports and the principal magistrate of the district. "Yes, sir? What can I do for you?… I'm sorry, sir, I didn't quite catch… A body, did you say?… Yes?… Yes, if you please, sir… That's right, sir… Young woman not known to you, you say?… Quite, sir… Yes, you can leave it all to me."

Police Constable Palk replaced the receiver, uttered a long-drawn whistle and proceeded to dial his superior officer's number. Mrs. Palk looked in from the kitchen, whence proceeded an appetizing smell of frying bacon. "What is it?"

"Rummiest thing you ever heard of," replied her husband. "Body of a young woman found up at the Hall. In the colonel's library." "Murdered?" "Strangled, so he says." "Who was she?" "The colonel says he doesn't know her from Adam." "Then what was she doing in 'is library?" Police Constable Palk silenced her with a reproachful glance and spoke officially into the telephone "Inspector Slack? Police Constable Palk here. A report has just come in that the body of a young woman was discovered this morning at seven-fifteen "

Miss Marple's telephone rang when she was dressing. The sound of it flurried her a little. It was an unusual hour for her telephone to ring. So well ordered was her prim spinster's life that unforeseen telephone calls were a source of vivid conjecture. "Dear me," said Miss Marple, surveying the ringing instrument with perplexity. "I wonder who that can be?"

Nine o'clock to nine-thirty was the recognized time for the village to make friendly calls to neighbors. Plans for the day, invitations, and so on, were always issued then. The butcher had been known to ring up just before nine if some crisis in the meat trade had occurred. At intervals during the day spasmodic calls might occur, though it was considered bad form to ring up after nine-thirty at night.

It was true that Miss Marple's nephew, a writer, and therefore erratic, had been known to ring up at the most peculiar times; once as late as ten minutes to midnight. But whatever Raymond West's eccentricities, early rising was not one of them. Neither he nor anyone of Miss Marple's acquaintance would be likely to ring up before eight in the morning. Actually a quarter to eight. Too early even for a telegram, since the post office did not open until eight. "It must be," Miss Marple decided, "a wrong number." Having decided this, she advanced to the impatient instrument and quelled its clamor by picking up the receiver. "Yes?" she said.

"Is that you, Jane?"

Miss Marple was much surprised. "Yes, it's Jane. You're up very early. Dolly."

Mrs. Bantry's voice came, breathless and agitated, over the wire. "The most awful thing has happened."

"Oh, my dear!"

"We've just found a body in the library."

For a moment Miss Marple thought her friend had gone mad. "You've found a what?"

"I know. One doesn't believe it, does one? I mean I thought they only happened in books. I had to argue for hours with Arthur this morning before he'd even go down and see."

Miss Marple tried to collect herself. She demanded breathlessly, "But whose body is it?"

"It's a blonde."

"A what?"

"A blonde. A beautiful blonde like books again. None of us have ever seen her before. She's just lying there in the library, dead. That's why you've got to come up at once."

"You want me to come up?"

"Yes, I'm sending the car down for you."

Miss Marple said doubtfully, "Of course, dear, if you think I can be of any comfort to you."

"Oh, I don't want comfort. But you're so good at bodies."

"Oh, no, indeed. My little successes have been mostly theoretical."

"But you're very good at murders. She's been murdered you see; strangled. What I feel is that if one has got to have a murder actually happening in one's house, one might as well enjoy it, if you know what I mean. That's why I want you to come and help me find out who did it and unravel the mystery and all that. It really is rather thrilling, isn't it?" "Well, of course, my dear, if I can be of any help." "Splendid! Arthur's being rather difficult. He seems to think I shouldn't enjoy myself about it at all. Of course, I do know it's very sad and all that, but then I don't know the girl and when you've seen her you'll understand what I mean when I say she doesn't look real at all."

A little breathless Miss Marple alighted from the Bantrys' car, the door of which was held open for her by the chauffeur. Colonel Bantry came out on the steps and looked a little surprised. "Miss Marple? Er very pleased to see you."

"Your wife telephoned to me," explained Miss Marple.

"Capital, capital. She ought to have someone with her. She'll crack up otherwise. She's putting a good face on things at the moment, but you know what it is."

At this moment Mrs. Bantry appeared and exclaimed, "Do go back and eat your breakfast, Arthur. Your bacon will get cold."

"I thought it might be the inspector arriving," explained Colonel Bantry.

"He'll be here soon enough," said Mrs. Bantry. "That's why it's important to get your breakfast first. You need it."

"So do you. Much better come and eat something, Dolly."

"I'll come in a minute," said Mrs. Bantry. "Go on, Arthur." Colonel Bantry was shooed back into the dining room rather like a recalcitrant hen. "Now!" said Mrs. Bantry with an intonation of triumph. "Come on."

She led the way rapidly along the long corridor to the east of the house. Outside the library door Constable Palk stood on guard. He intercepted Mrs. Bantry with a show of authority. "I'm afraid nobody is allowed in, madam. Inspector's orders."

"Nonsense, Palk," said Mrs. Bantry. "You know Miss Marple perfectly well." Constable Palk admitted to knowing Miss Marple. "It's very important that she should see the body," said Mrs. Bantry. "Don't be stupid, Palk. After all, it's my library, isn't it?"

Constable Palk gave way. His habit of giving in to the gentry was lifelong. The inspector, he reflected, need never know about it. "Nothing must be touched or handled in any way," he warned the ladies.

"Of course not," said Mrs. Bantry impatiently. "We know that. You can come in and watch, if you like." Constable Palk availed himself of this permission. It had been his intention anyway. Mrs. Bantry bore her friend triumphantly across the library to the big old-fashioned fireplace. She said, with a dramatic sense of climax, "There!"

Miss Marple understood then just what her friend had meant when she said the dead girl wasn't real. The library was a room very typical of its owners. It was large and shabby and untidy. It had big, sagging armchairs, and pipes and books and estate papers laid out on the big table. There were one or two good old family portraits on the walls, and some bad Victorian water colors, and some would-be-funny hunting scenes. There was a big vase of flowers in the corner. The whole room was dim and mellow and casual. It spoke of long occupation and familiar use and of links with tradition.

And across the old bearskin hearth rug there was sprawled something new and crude and melodramatic. The flamboyant figure of a girl. A girl with unnaturally fair hair dressed up off her face in elaborate curls and rings. Her thin body was dressed in a backless evening dress of white spangled satin; the face was heavily made up, the powder standing out grotesquely on its blue, swollen surface, the mascara of the lashes lying thickly on the distorted cheeks, the scarlet of the lips looking like a gash. The fingernails were enameled a deep blood red, and so were the toenails in their cheap silver sandal shoes. It was a cheap, tawdry, flamboyant figure, most incongruous in the solid, old-fashioned comfort of Colonel Bantry's library. Mrs. Bantry said in a low voice, "You see what I mean? It just isn't true?"

The old lady by her side nodded her head. She looked down long and thoughtfully at the huddled figure. She said at last in a gentle voice, "She's very young."

"Yes; yes, I suppose she is." Mrs. Bantry seemed almost surprised, like one making a discovery.

There was the sound of a car crunching on the gravel outside. Constable Palk said with urgency, "That'll be the inspector."

True to his ingrained belief that the gentry didn't let you down, Mrs. Bantry immediately moved to the door. Miss Marple followed her. Mrs. Bantry said, "That'll be all right, Palk." Constable Palk was immensely relieved.

Hastily downing the last fragments of toast and marmalade with a drink of coffee Colonel Bantry hurried out into the hall and was relieved to see Colonel Melchett, the chief constable of the county, descending from a car, with Inspector Slack in attendance. Melchett was a friend of the colonel's; Slack he had never very much taken to. An energetic man who belied his name and who accompanied his bustling manner with a good deal of disregard for the feelings of anyone he did not consider important.

"Morning, Bantry," said the chief constable. "Thought I'd better come along myself. This seems an extraordinary business."

"It's - it's-" Colonel Bantry struggled to express himself "it's incredible fantastic!"

"No idea who the woman is?"

"Not in the slightest. Never set eyes on her in my life."

"Butler know anything?" asked Inspector Slack.

"Lorrimer is just as taken aback as I am."

"Ah," said Inspector Slack. "I wonder."

Colonel Bantry said, "There's breakfast in the dining room, Melchett, if you'd like anything."

"No, no, better get on with the job. Haydock ought to be here any minute now… Ah, here he is." Another car drew up and big, broad-shouldered Doctor Haydock, who was also the police surgeon, got out. A second police car had disgorged two plain-clothes men, one with a camera.

"All set, eh?" said the chief constable. "Right. We'll go along. In the library Slack tells me."

Colonel Bantry groaned. "It's incredible! You know, when my wife insisted this morning that the housemaid had come in and said there was a body in the library, I just wouldn't believe her."

"No, no, I can quite understand that. Hope your missus isn't too badly upset by it all."

"She's been wonderful, really wonderful. She's got old Miss Marple up here with her from the village, you know."

"Miss Marple?" The chief constable stiffened. "Why did she send for her?"

"Oh, a woman wants another woman don't you think so?"

Colonel Melchett said with a slight chuckle, "If you ask me, your wife's going to try her hand at a little amateur detecting. Miss Marple's quite the local sleuth. Put it over us properly once, didn't she Slack?"

Inspector Slack said, "That was different." "Different from what?"

"That was a local case, that was, sir. The old lady knows everything that goes on in the village, that's true enough. But she'll be out of her depth here."

Melchett said dryly, "You don't know very much about it yourself yet, Slack."

"Ah, you wait, sir. It won't take me long to get down to it."

In the dining room Mrs. Bantry and Miss Marple, in their turn, were partaking of breakfast. After waiting on her guest, Mrs. Bantry said urgently, "Well, Jane?" Miss Marple looked up at her slightly bewildered. Mrs. Bantry said hopefully, "Doesn't it remind you of anything?"

For Miss Marple had attained fame by her ability to link up trivial village happenings with graver problems in such a way as to throw light upon the latter.

"No," said Miss Marple thoughtfully. "I can't say that it does not at the moment. I was reminded a little of Mrs. Chetty's youngest Edie, you know but I think that was just because this poor girl bit her nails and her front teeth stuck out a little. Nothing more than that. And of course," went on Miss Marple, pursuing the parallel further, "Edie was fond of what I call cheap finery too."

"You mean her dress?" said Mrs. Bantry. "Yes, very tawdry satin, poor quality."

Mrs. Bantry said, "I know. One of those nasty little shops where everything is a guinea." She went on hopefully, "Let me see. What happened to Mrs. Chetty's Edie?"

"She's just gone into her second place, and doing very well, I believe," said Miss Marple. Mrs. Bantry felt slightly disappointed. The village parallel didn't seem to be exactly hopeful.

"What I can't make out," said Mrs. Bantry, "is what she could possibly be doing in Arthur's study. The window was forced, Palk tells me. She might have come down here with a burglar, and then they quarreled. But that seems such nonsense, doesn't it?"

"She was hardly dressed for burglary," said Miss Marple thoughtfully.

"No, she was dressed for dancing or a party of some kind. But there's nothing of that kind down here or anywhere near."

"N-no," said Miss Marple doubtfully.

Mrs. Bantry pounced. "Something's in your mind, Jane."

"Well, I was just wondering "

"Yes?"

"Basil Blake."

Mrs. Bantry cried impulsively, "Oh, no!" and added as though in explanation, "I know his mother."

The two women looked at each other. Miss Marple sighed and shook her head. "I quite understand how you feel about it."

"Selina Blake is the nicest woman imaginable. Her herbaceous borders are simply marvelous; they make me green with envy. And she's frightfully generous with cuttings."

Miss Marple, passing over these claims to consideration on the part of Mrs. Blake, said, "All the same, you know, there has been a lot of talk."

"Oh, I know, I know. And of course Arthur goes simply livid when he hears him mentioned. He was really very rude to Arthur, and since then Arthur won't hear a good word for him. He's got that silly slighting way of talking that these boys have nowadays - sneering at people, sticking up for their school or the Empire or that sort of thing. And then, of course, the clothes he wears! People say," continued Mrs. Bantry, "that it doesn't matter what you wear in the country. I never heard such nonsense. It's just in the country that everyone notices." She paused and added wistfully, "He was an adorable baby in his bath."

"There was a lovely picture of the Cheviot murderer as a baby in the paper last Sunday," said Miss Marple.

"Oh, but, Jane, you don't think he-"

"No, no, dear, I didn't mean that at all. That would indeed be jumping to conclusions. I was just trying to account for the young woman's presence down here. St. Mary Mead is such an unlikely place. And then it seemed to me that the only possible explanation was Basil Blake. He does have parties. People come down from London and from the studios. You remember last July? Shouting and singing, the most terrible noise, everyone very drunk, I'm afraid, and the mess and the broken glass next morning simply unbelievable. So old Mrs. Berry told me and a young woman asleep in the bath with practically nothing on!"

Mrs. Bantry said indulgently, "I suppose they were young people."

"Very likely. And then what I expect you've heard several weekends lately he's brought down a young woman with him. A platinum blonde."

Mrs. Bantry exclaimed, "You don't think it's this one?"

"Well, I wondered. Of course, I've never seen her close, only just getting in and out of the car, and once in the cottage garden when she was sunbathing with just some shorts and a brassiere. I never really saw her face. And all these girls, with their make-up and their hair and their nails, look so alike."

"Yes. Still, it might be. It's an idea, Jane."

It was an idea that was being at that moment discussed by Colonel Melchett and Colonel Bantry. The chief constable, after viewing the body and seeing his subordinates set to work on their routine tasks, had adjourned with the master of the house to the study in the other wing. Colonel Melchett was an irascible-looking man with a habit of tugging at his short red mustache. He did so now, shooting a perplexed sideways glance at the other man. Finally he rapped out, "Look here, Bantry; got to get this off my chest. Is it a fact that you don't know from Adam who this woman is?" The other's answer was explosive, but the chief constable interrupted him. "Yes, yes, old man, but look at it like this: Might be deuced awkward for you. Married man fond of your missus and all that. But just between ourselves, if you were tied up with this girl in any way, better say so now. Quite natural to want to suppress the fact; should feel the same myself. But it won't do. Murder case. Facts bound to come out. Dash it all, I'm not suggesting you strangled the girl not the sort of thing you'd do. I know that! But, after all, she came here to this house. Put it, she broke in and was waiting to see you, and some bloke or other followed her down and did her in. Possible, you know. See what I mean?"

"I've never set eyes on that girl in my life! I'm not that sort of man!"

"That's all right then. Shouldn't blame you, you know. Man of the world. Still, if you say so. Question is, what was she doing down here? She doesn't come from these parts, that's quite certain."

"That whole thing's a nightmare," fumed the angry master of the house.

"The point is, old man, what was she doing in your library?"

"How should I know? I didn't ask her here."

"No, no. But she came here all the same. Looks as though she wanted to see you. You haven't had any odd letters or anything?"

"No, I haven't."

Colonel Melchett inquired delicately, "What were you doing yourself last night?"

"I went to the meeting of the Conservative Association. Nine o'clock, at Much Benham."

"And you got home when?"

"I left Much Benham just after ten. Had a bit of trouble on the way home, had to change a wheel. I got back at a quarter to twelve."

"You didn't go into the library?"

"No."

"Pity."

"I was tired. I went straight up to bed."

"Anyone waiting up for you?"

"No. I always take the latchkey. Lorrimer goes to bed at eleven, unless I give orders to the contrary."

"Who shuts up the library?"

"Lorrimer. Usually about seven-thirty this time of year."

"Would he go in there again during the evening?"

"Not with my being out. He left the tray with whiskey and glasses in the hall."

"I see. What about your wife?"

"She was in bed when I got home, and fast asleep. She may have sat in the library yesterday evening, or in the drawing room. I didn't ask her."

"Oh, well, we shall soon know all the details. Of course it's possible one of the servants may be concerned, eh?"

Colonel Bantry shook his head. "I don't believe it. They're all a most respectable lot. We've had 'em for years."

Melchett agreed. "Yes, it doesn't seem likely that they're mixed up in it. Looks more as though the girl came down from town perhaps with some young fellow. Though why they wanted to break into this house…"

Bantry interrupted. "London. That's more like it. We don't have goings-on down here at least."

"Well, what is it?"

"Upon my word!" exploded Colonel Bantry. "Basil Blake!"

"Who's he?"

"Young fellow connected with the film industry. Poisonous young brute. My wife sticks up for him because she was at school with his mother, but of all the decadent useless young Jackanapes he wants his behind kicked. He's taken that cottage on the Lansham Road you know, ghastly modern bit of building. He has parties there shrieking, noisy crowds and he has girls down for the weekend." "Girls?"

"Yes, there was one last week one of these platinum blondes." The colonel's jaw dropped. "A platinum blonde, eh?" said Melchett reflectively. "Yes. I say, Melchett, you don't think…" The chief constable said briskly, "It's a possibility. It accounts for a girl of this type being in St. Mary Mead. I think I'll run along and have a word with this young fellow Braid Blake what did you say his name was?"

"Blake. Basil Blake." "Will he be at home, do you know?" asked Melchett. "Let me see, what's today? Saturday? Usually gets here some time Saturday morning." Melchett said grimly, "Well see if we can find him." Basil Blake's cottage, which consisted of all modern conveniences enclosed in a hideous shell of half timbering and sham Tudor, was known to the postal authorities and to William Booker, Builder, as "Chatsworth"; to Basil and his friends as "The Period Piece"; and to the village of St. Mary Mead at large as "Mr. Booker's new house." It was little more than a quarter of a mile from the village proper, being situated on a new building estate that had been bought by the enterprising Mr. Booker just beyond the Blue Boar, with frontage on what had been a particularly unspoiled country lane. Gossington Hall was about a mile farther on along the same road. Lively interest had been aroused in St. Mary Mead when the news went round that "Mr. Booker's new house" had been bought by a film star. Eager watch was kept for the first appearance of the legendary creature in the village, and it may be said that as far as appearances went Basil Blake was all that could be asked for. Little by little, however, the real facts leaked out. Basil Blake was not a film star, not even a film actor. He was a very junior person, rejoicing in the position of about fifteenth in the list of those responsible for set decorations at Lenville Studios, headquarters of British New Era Films. The village maidens lost interest and the ruling class of censorious spinsters took exception to Basil Blake's way of life. Only the landlord of the Blue Boar continued to be enthusiastic about Basil and Basil's friends. The revenues of the Blue Boar had increased since the young man's arrival in the place.

The police car stopped outside the distorted rustic gate of Mr. Booker's fancy, and Colonel Melchett, with a glance of distaste at the excessive half timbering of Chatsworth, strode up to the front door and attacked it briskly with the knocker. It was opened much more promptly than he had expected. A young man with straight, somewhat long black hair, wearing orange corduroy trousers and a royal-blue shirt, snapped out, "Well, what do you want?"

"Are you Mr. Basil Blake?"

"Of course I am."

"I should be glad to have a few words with you if I may, Mr. Blake."

"Who are you?"

"I am Colonel Melchett, the chief constable of the county."

Mr. Blake said insolently, "You don't say so. How amusing."

And Colonel Melchett, following the other in, understood precisely what Colonel Bantry's reactions had been. The toe of his own boot itched. Containing himself, however, he said, with an attempt to speak pleasantly, "You're an early riser, Mr. Blake."

"Not at all. I haven't been to bed yet." "Indeed?" "But I don't suppose you've come here to inquire into my hours of bed-going, or if you have it's rather a waste of the county's time and money. What is it you want to speak to me about?" Colonel Melchett cleared his throat. "I understand, Mr. Blake, that last weekend you had a visitor a… er… fair-haired young lady."

Basil Blake stared, threw back his head and roared with laughter. "Have the old cats been on to you from the village? About my morals? Damn it all, morals aren't a police matter. You know that."

"As you say," said Melchett dryly, "your morals are no concern of mine. I have come to you because the body of a fair-haired young woman of slightly… er… exotic appearance has been found murdered."

Blake stared at him. "Where?"

"In the library at Gossington Hall."

"At Gossington? At old Bantry's? I say, that's pretty rich. Old Bantry! The dirty old man!"

Colonel Melchett went very red in the face. He said sharply through the renewed mirth of the young man opposite him, "Kindly control your tongue, sir. I came to ask you if you can throw any light on this business."

"You've come round to ask me it I've missed a blonde? Is that it? Why should- Hullo, 'ullo, 'ullo! What's this?"

A car had drawn up outside with a scream of brakes. Out of it tumbled a young woman dressed in flapping black-and-white pajamas. She had scarlet lips, blackened eyelashes and a platinum-blond head. She strode up to the door, flung it open, and exclaimed angrily, "Why did you run out on me?" Basil Blake had risen. "So there you are. Why shouldn't I leave you? I told you to clear out, and you wouldn't."

"Why should I, because you told me to? I was enjoying myself."

"Yes, with that filthy brute, Rosenberg. You know what he's like."

"You were jealous, that's all."

"Don't flatter yourself. I hate to see a girl I like who can't hold her drink and lets a disgusting Central European paw her about."

"That's a lie. You were drinking pretty hard yourself and going on with the black-haired Spanish girl."

"If I take you to a party, I expect you to be able to behave yourself."

"And I refuse to be dictated to, and that's that. You said we'd go to the party and come on down here afterward. I'm not going to leave a party before I'm ready to leave it."

"No, and that's why I left you flat. I was ready to come down here and I came. I don't hang round waiting for any fool of a woman."

"Sweet, polite person you are."

"You seem to have followed me down, all right."

"I wanted to tell you what I thought of you."

"If you think you can boss me, my girl, you're wrong."

"And if you think you can order me about, you can think again."

They glared at each other. It was at this moment that Colonel Melchett seized his opportunity and cleared his throat loudly. Basil Blake swung round on him. "Hullo, I forgot you were here. About time you took yourself off, isn't it? Let me introduce you Dinah Lee. Colonel Blimp, of the county police… And now, Colonel, that you've seen that my blonde is alive and in good condition, perhaps you'll get on with the good work concerning old Bantry's little bit of fluff. Good morning."

Colonel Melchett said, "I advise you to keep a civil tongue in your head, young man, or you'll let yourself in for trouble," and stumped out, his face red and wrathful.

In his office at Much Benham, Colonel Melchett received and scrutinized the reports of his subordinates. "… so it all seems clear enough, sir," Inspector Slack was concluding. "Mrs. Bantry sat in the library after dinner and went to bed just before ten. She turned out the lights when she left the room, and presumably no one entered the room afterward. The servants went to bed at half past ten, and Lorrimer, after putting the drinks in the hall, went to bed at a quarter to eleven. Nobody heard anything out of the usual, except the third housemaid, and she heard too much! Groans and a bloodcurdling yell and sinister footsteps and I don't know what. The second housemaid, who shares a room with her, says the other girl slept all night through without a sound. It's those ones that make up things that cause us all the trouble."

"What about the forced window?"

"Amateur job, Simmons says, done with a common chisel, ordinary pattern; wouldn't have made much noise. Ought to be a chisel about the house, but not

[missing text]


Melchett said to the inspector, "You're quite sure she'd never been seen before at Gossington?"

"The servants are positive of that. Quite indignant about it. They'd have remembered if they'd ever seen her about in the neighborhood, they say."

"I expect they would," said Melchett. "Anyone of that type sticks out a mile round here. Look at that young woman of Blake's."

"Pity it wasn't her," said Slack. "Then we should be able to get on a bit."

"It seems to me this girl must have come down from London," said the chief constable thoughtfully. "Don't believe there will be any local leads. In that case, I suppose, we should do well to call in the Yard. It's a case for them, not for us."

"Something must have brought her down here, though," said Slack. He added tentatively, "Seems to me Colonel and Mrs. Bantry must know something. Of course I know they're friends of yours, sir."

Colonel Melchett treated him to a cold stare. He said stiffly, "You may rest assured that I'm taking every possibility into account. Every possibility." He went on, "You've looked through the list of persons reported missing, I suppose?"

Slack nodded. He produced a typed sheet "Got 'em here. Mrs. Saunders, reported missing a week ago, dark-haired, blue-eyed, thirty-six. 'Tisn't her. And anyway, everyone knows, except her husband, that she's gone off with a fellow from Leeds commercial. Mrs. Barnard she's sixty-five. Pamela Reeves, sixteen, missing from her home last night, had attended Girl Guide rally, dark brown hair in pigtails, five feet five "

Melchett said irritably, "Don't go on reading idiotic details Slack. This wasn't a schoolgirl. In my opinion-" He broke off as the telephone rang. "Hullo… Yes, yes. Much Benham police headquarters… What?… Just a minute." He listened and wrote rapidly. Then he spoke again, a new tone in his voice. "Ruby Keene, eighteen, occupation, professional dancer, five feet four inches, slender, platinum-blond hair, blue eyes, retrousse nose, believed to be wearing white diamante evening dress, silver sandal shoes. Is that right?… What?… Yes, not a doubt of it, I should say. I'll send Slack over at once." He rang off and looked at his subordinate with rising excitement. "We've got it, I think. That was the Glenshire police." Glenshire was the adjoining county "Girl reported missing from the Majestic Hotel, Danemouth."

"Danemouth," said Inspector Slack. "That's more like it." Danemouth was a large and fashionable watering place on the coast not far away. "It's only a matter of eighteen miles or so from here," said the chief constable. "The girl was a dance hostess or something at the Majestic. Didn't come on to do her turn last night and the management was very fed up about it. When she was still missing this morning, one of the other girls got the wind up about her, or someone else did. It sounds a bit obscure. You'd better go over to Danemouth at once Slack. Report there to Superintendent Harper and cooperate with him."

Activity was always to Inspector Slack's taste. To rush in a car, to silence rudely those people who were anxious to tell him things, to cut short conversations on the plea of urgent necessity all this was the breath of life to Inspector Slack. In an incredibly short time, therefore, he had arrived at Danemouth, reported at police headquarters, had a brief interview with a distracted and apprehensive hotel manager, and, leaving the latter with the doubtful comfort of "Got to make sure it is the girl first, before we start raising the wind," was driving back to Much Benham in company with Ruby Keene's nearest relative. He had put through a short call to Much Benham before leaving Danemouth, so the chief constable was prepared for his arrival, though not perhaps for the brief introduction of "This is Josie, sir." Colonel Melchett stared at his subordinate coldly. His feeling was that Slack had taken leave of his senses. The young woman who had just got out of the car came to the rescue. "That's what I'm known as professionally," she explained with a momentary flash of large, handsome white teeth. "Raymond and Josie, my partner and I call ourselves, and of course all the hotel know me as Josie. Josephine Turner's my real name." Colonel Melchett adjusted himself to the situation and invited Miss Turner to sit down, meanwhile casting a swift professional glance over her. She was a good-looking young woman of perhaps nearer thirty than twenty; her looks depending more on skillful grooming than actual features. She looked competent and good-tempered, with plenty of common sense. She was not the type that would ever be described as glamorous, but she had, nevertheless, plenty of attraction. She was discreetly made up and wore a dark tailor-made suit. She looked anxious and upset, but not, the colonel decided, particularly grief-stricken. As she sat down she said, "It all seems too awful to be true. Do you really think it's Ruby?" "That, I'm afraid, is what we've got to ask you to tell us. I'm afraid it may be rather unpleasant for you." Miss Turner said apprehensively, "Does she… does she look very terrible?" "Well, I'm afraid it may be rather a shock to you." "Do do you want me to look at her right away?" "It would be best, I think, Miss Turner. You see, it's not much good asking you questions until we're sure. Best get it over, don't you think?" "All right." They drove down to the mortuary. When Josie came in after a brief visit she looked rather sick. "It's Ruby, right," she said shakily. "Poor girl!

[unclear]

Goodness, I do There isn't" she looked round wistfully was not available, but brandy was and, after CT ping a little down.

Miss Turner regained her composure. She said frankly, "It gives you a turn, doesn't it, seeing anything like that? Poor little Ruby! What swine men are, aren't they?"

"You believe it was a man?"

Josie looked slightly taken aback. "Wasn't it? Well, I mean I naturally thought-"

"Any special man you were thinking of?"

She shook her head vigorously. "No, not me. I haven't the least idea. Naturally, Ruby wouldn't have let on to me if-"

"If what?"

Josie hesitated. "Well, if she'd been going about with anyone."

Melchett shot her a keen glance. He said no more until they were back at his office. Then he began, "Now, Miss Turner, I want all the information you can give me."

"Yes, of course. Where shall I begin?"

"I'd like the girl's full name and address, her relationship to you and all that you know about her."

Josephine Turner nodded. Melchett was confirmed in his opinion that she felt no particular grief. She was shocked and distressed, but no more. She spoke readily enough. "Her name was Ruby Keene her professional name, that is. Her real name was Rosy Legge. Her mother was my mother's cousin. I've known her all my life, but not particularly well, if you know what I mean. I've got a lot of cousins; some in business, some on the stage. Ruby was more or less training for a dancer. She had some good engagements last year in pantomime and that sort of thing. Not really classy, but good provincial companies. Since then she's been engaged as one of the dancing partners at the Palais de Danse in Brixwell, South London. It's a nice, respectable place and they look after the girls well, but there isn't a great deal of money in it." She paused. Colonel Melchett nodded.

"Now this is where I come in. I've been dance and bridge hostess at the Majestic in Danemouth for three years. It's a good job, well paid and pleasant to do. You look after people when they arrive. Size them up, of course some like to be left alone and others are lonely and want to get into the swing of things. You try and get the right people together for bridge and all that, and get the young people dancing with one another. It needs a bit of tact and experience."

Again Melchett nodded. He thought that this girl would be good at her job. She had a pleasant, friendly way with her and was, he thought, shrewd without being in the least intellectual.

"Besides that," continued Josie, "I do a couple of exhibition dances every evening with Raymond. Raymond Starr he's the tennis and dancing pro. Well, as it happens, this summer I slipped on the rocks bathing one day and gave my ankle a nasty turn." Melchett had noticed that she walked with a slight limp.

"Naturally, that put the stop to dancing for a bit and it was rather awkward. I didn't want the hotel to get someone else in my place. There's always a danger-" for a minute her good-natured blue eyes were hard and sharp; she was the female fighting for existence "that they may queer your pitch, you see. So I thought of Ruby and suggested to the manager that I should get her down. I'd carry on with the hostess business and the bridge and all that. Ruby would just take on the dancing. Keep it in the family, if you see what I mean." Melchett said he saw. "Well, they agreed, and I wired to Ruby and she came down. Rather a chance for her. Much better class than anything she'd ever done before. That was about a month ago."

Colonel Melchett said, "I understand. And she was a success?"

"Oh, yes," Josie said carelessly. "She went down quite well. She doesn't dance as well as I do, but Raymond's clever and carried her through, and she was quite nice-looking, you know slim and fair and baby-looking. Overdid the make-up a bit I was always at her about that. But you know what girls are. She was only eighteen, and at that age they always go and overdo it. It doesn't do for a good-class place like the Majestic. I was always ticking her off about it and getting her to tone it down."

Melchett asked, "People liked her?"

"Oh, yes. Mind you Ruby hadn't got much comeback. She was a bit dumb. She went down better with the older men than with the young ones."

"Had she got any special friend?" The girl's eyes met his with complete understanding. "Not in the way you mean. Or, at any rate, not that I knew about. But then, you see, she wouldn't tell me."

Just for a moment Melchett wondered why not. Josie did not give the impression of being a strict disciplinarian. But he only said, "Will you describe to me now when you last saw your cousin."

"Last night. She and Raymond do two exhibition dances. One at ten-thirty and the other at midnight. They finished the first one. After it, I noticed Ruby dancing with one of the young men staying at the hotel. I was playing bridge with some people in the lounge. There's a glass panel between the lounge and the ballroom. That's the last time I saw her. Just after midnight Raymond came up in a terrible taking; said where Ruby was; she hadn't turned up and it was time she'd just made a fool of herself about some young man. I thought she'd turn up all right, and I was going to give her a good dressing down when she did! Girls of eighteen are such fools."

Melchett pretended to glance through his notes. "Ah, yes, I see it was a Mr. Jefferson who went to the police. One of the guests staying at the hotel?"

Josephine Turner said shortly, "Yes."

Colonel Melchett asked, "What made this Mr. Jefferson do that?"

Josie was stroking the cuff of her jacket. There was a constraint in her manner. Again Colonel Melchett had a feeling that something was being withheld.

She said rather sullenly, "He's an invalid. He he gets upset rather easily. Being an invalid, I mean."

Melchett passed from that. He asked, "Who was the young man with whom you last saw your cousin dancing?"

"His name's Bartlett. He's been there about ten days."

"Were they on very friendly terms?"

"Not specially, I should say. Not that I knew, anyway." Again a curious note of anger in her voice.

"What does he have to say?"

"Said that after their dance Ruby went upstairs to powder her nose."

"That was when she changed her dress?"

"I suppose so."

"And that is the last thing you know? After that, she just-"

"Vanished," said Josie. "That's right."

"Did Miss Keene know anybody in St. Mary Mead? Or in this neighbourhood?" "I don't know. She may have. You see, quite a lot of young men come in to Danemouth to the Majestic, from all round about. I wouldn't know where they lived unless they happened to mention it."

"Did you ever hear your cousin mention Gossington?"

"Gossington?" Josie looked patently puzzled.

"Gossington Hall."

She shook her head. "Never heard of it." Her tone carried conviction. There was curiosity in it too.

"Gossington Hall," explained Colonel Melchett, "is where her body was found."

"Gossington Hall?" She stared. "How extraordinary!"

Melchett thought to himself: Extraordinary's the word. Aloud he said, "Do you know a Colonel or Mrs. Bantry?"

Again Josie shook her head.

"Or a Mr. Basil Blake?"

She frowned slightly. "I think I've heard that name. Yes, I'm sure I have, but I don't remember anything about him."

The diligent Inspector Slack slid across to his superior officer a page torn from his notebook. On it was penciled: "Col. Bantry dined at Majestic last week." Melchett looked up and met the inspector's eye. The chief constable flushed. Slack was an industrious and zealous officer and Melchett disliked him a good deal, but he could not disregard the challenge. The inspector was tacitly accusing him of favoring his own class, of shielding an "old school tie." He turned to Josie. "Miss Turner, I should like you, if you do not mind, to accompany me to Gossington Hall." Coldly, defiantly, almost ignoring Josie's murmur of assent, Melchett's eyes met Slack's.

St. Mary Mead was having the most exciting morning it had known for a long time. Miss Wetherby, a long-nosed, acidulated spinster, was the first to spread the intoxicating information. She dropped in upon her friend and neighbor Miss Hartnell. "Forgive my coming so early, dear, but I thought perhaps you mightn't have heard the news."

"What news?" demanded Miss Hartnell. She had a deep bass voice and visited the poor indefatigably, however hard they tried to avoid her ministrations.

"About the body of a young woman that was found this morning in Colonel Bantry's library."

"In Colonel Bantry's library?"

"Yes. Isn't it terrible?"

"His poor wife!" Miss Hartnell tried to disguise her deep and ardent pleasure.

"Yes, indeed. I don't suppose she had any idea."

Miss Hartnell observed censoriously, "She thought too much about her garden and not enough about her husband. You've got to keep an eye on a man all the time, all the time," repeated Miss Hartnell fiercely.

"I know. I know. It's really too dreadful."

"I wonder what Jane Marple will say? Do you think she knew anything about it? She's so sharp about these things."

"Jane Marple has gone up to Gossington."

"What? This morning?"

"Very early. Before breakfast."

"But really! I do think well, I mean, I think that is carrying things too far. We all know Jane likes to poke her nose into things, but I call this indecent!"

"Oh, but Mrs. Bantry sent for her."

"Mrs. Bantry sent for her?"

"Well, the car came. With Muswell driving it."

"Dear me. How very peculiar."

They were silent a minute or two, digesting the news. "Whose body?" demanded Miss Hartnell.

"You know that dreadful woman who comes down with Basil Blake?"

"That terrible peroxide blonde?" Miss Hartnell was slightly behind the times. She had not yet advanced from peroxide to platinum. "The one who lies about in the garden with practically nothing on?"

"Yes, my dear. There she was on the hearth rug strangled!"

"But what do you mean at Gossington?" Miss Wetherby nodded with infinite meaning. "Then Colonel Bantry too-" Again Miss Wetherby nodded. "Oh!"

There was a pause as the ladies savored this new addition to village scandal. "What a wicked woman!" trumpeted Miss Hartnell with righteous wrath. "Quite, quite abandoned, I'm afraid!" "And Colonel Bantry such a nice quiet man…"

Miss Wetherby said zestfully, "Those quiet ones are often the worst. Jane Marple always says so."

Mrs. Price Ridley was among the last to hear the news. A rich and dictatorial widow, she lived in a large house next door to the vicarage. Her informant was her little maid, Clara. "A woman, you say, Clara? Found dead on Colonel Bantry's hearth rug?"

"Yes, mum. And they say, mum, as she hadn't anything on at all, mum not a stitch!"

"That will do, Clara. It is not necessary to go into details."

"No, mum, and they say, mum, that at first they thought it was Mr. Blake's young lady what comes down for the weekends with 'im to Mr. Booker's new 'ouse. But now they say it's quite a different young lady. And the fishmonger's young man, he says he'd never have believed it of Colonel Bantry not with him handing round the plate on Sundays and all."

"There is a lot of wickedness in the world, Clara," said Mrs. Price Ridley. "Let this be a warning to you."

"Yes, mum. Mother, she never will let me take a place where there's a gentleman in the 'ouse."

"That will do, Clara," said Mrs. Price Ridley.

It was only a step from Mrs. Price Ridley's house to the vicarage. Mrs. Price Ridley was fortunate enough to find the vicar in his study. The vicar, a gentle, middle-aged man was always the last to hear anything. "Such a terrible thing," said Mrs. Price Ridley, panting a little because she had come rather fast. "I felt I must have your advice, your counsel about it, dear vicar."

Mr. Clement looked mildly alarmed. He said, "Has anything happened?"

"Has anything happened!" Mrs. Price Ridley repeated the question dramatically. "The most terrible scandal! None of us had any idea of it. An abandoned woman, completely unclothed, strangled on Colonel Bantry's hearth rug!"

The vicar stared. He said, "You… you are feeling quite well?"

"No wonder you can't believe it! I couldn't at first! The hypocrisy of the man! All these years."

"Please tell me exactly what all this is about."

Mrs. Price Ridley plunged into a full-swing narrative. When she had finished, the Reverend Mr. Clement said mildly, "But there is nothing, is there, to point to Colonel Bantry's being involved in this?"

"Oh, dear vicar, you are so unworldly! But I must tell you a little story. Last Thursday - or was it the Thursday before well, it doesn't matter - I was going to London by the cheap day train. Colonel Bantry was in the same carriage. He looked, I thought, very abstracted. And nearly the whole way he buried himself behind The Times. As though, you know, he didn't want to talk." The vicar nodded his head with complete comprehension and possible sympathy. "At Paddinton I said goodbye. He had offered to call me a taxi, but I was taking the bus down to Oxford Street; but he got into one, and I distinctly heard him tell the driver to go to- Where do you think?" Mr. Clement looked inquiring. "An address in St. John's Wood!" Mrs. Price Ridley bellowed triumphantly.

"That, I consider, proves it," said Mrs. Price Ridley.

At Gossington Mrs. Bantry and Miss Marple were in the drawing room. "You know," said Mrs. Bantry, "I can't help feeling glad they've taken the body away. It's not nice to have a body in one's house."

Miss Marple nodded. "I know, dear. I know just how you feel."

"You can't," said Mrs. Bantry. "Not until you've had one. I know you had one next door once, but that's not the same thing. I only hope," - she went on - "that Arthur won't take a dislike to the library. We sit there so much. What are you doing, Jane?" For Miss Marple, with a glance at her watch, was rising to her feet.

"Well, I was thinking I'd go home, if there's nothing more I can do for you."

"Don't go yet," said Mrs. Bantry. "The fingerprint men and the photographers and most of the police have gone, I know, but I still feel something might happen. You don't want to miss anything."

The telephone rang and she went off to answer. She returned with a beaming face. "I told you more things would happen. That was Colonel Melchett. He's bringing the poor girl's cousin along."

"I wonder why?" said Miss Marple.

"Oh, I suppose to see where it happened, and all that."

"More than that, I expect," said Miss Marple.

"What do you mean, Jane?"

"Well, I think, perhaps, he might want her to meet Colonel Bantry."

Mrs. Bantry said sharply, "To see if she recognizes him? I suppose oh, yes, I suppose they're bound to suspect Arthur."

"I'm afraid so." "As though Arthur could have anything to do with it!"

Miss Marple was silent. Mrs. Bantry turned on her accusingly. "And don't tell me about some frightful old man who kept his housemaid, Arthur isn't like that."

"No, no, of course not"

"No, but he really isn't. He's just, sometimes, a little bit silly about pretty girls who come to tennis. You know, rather famous and avuncular. There's no harm in it. And why shouldn't he? After all," finished Mrs. Bantry rather obscurely, "I've got the garden."

Miss Marple smiled. "You must not worry Dolly," she said.

"No, I don't mean to. But all the same I do, a little. So does Arthur. It's upset him. All these policemen looking about. He's gone down to the farm. Looking at pigs and things always soothes him if he's been upset… Hullo, here they are."

The chief constable's car drew up outside. Colonel Melchett came in, accompanied by a smartly dressed young woman. "This is Miss Turner, Mrs. Bantry. The cousin of the… er… victim."

"How do you do," said Mrs. Bantry, advancing with outstretched hand. "All this must be rather awful for you."

Josephine Turner said frankly, "Oh, it is. None of it seems real, somehow. It's like a bad dream."

Mrs. Bantry introduced Miss Marple. Melchett said casually, "Your good man about?"

"He had to go down to one of the farms. He'll be back soon."

"Oh." Melchett seemed rather at a loss.

Mrs. Bantry said to Josie, "Would you like to see where where it happened? Or would you rather not?"

Josephine said, after a moment's pause, "I think I'd like to see." Mrs. Bantry led her to the library, with Miss Marple and Melchett following behind. "She was there," said Mrs. Bantry, pointing dramatically. "On the hearth rug."

"Oh!" Josie shuddered. But she also looked perplexed. She said, her brow creased, "I just can't understand it! I can't!" "Well, we certainly can't," said Mrs. Bantry.

Josie said slowly, "It isn't the sort of place-" and broke off.

Miss Marple nodded her head gently in agreement with the unfinished sentiment. "That," she murmured, "is what makes it so very interesting."

"Come now Miss Marple," said Colonel Melchett good-humoredly, "haven't you got an explanation?"

"Oh, yes, I've got an explanation," said Miss Marple. "Quite a feasible one. But of course it's only my own idea. Tommy Bond," she continued, "and Mrs. Martin, our new schoolmistress. She went to wind up the clock and a frog jumped out."

Josephine Turner looked puzzled. As they all went out of the room she murmured to Mrs. Bantry, "Is the old lady a bit funny in the head?"

"Not at all," said Mrs. Bantry indignantly.

Josie said, "Sorry. I thought perhaps she thought she was a frog or something."

Colonel Bantry was just coming in through the side door. Melchett hailed him and watched Josephine Turner as he introduced them. But there was no sign of interest or recognition in her face. Melchett breathed a sigh of relief. Curse Slack and his insinuations. In answer to Mrs. Bantry's questions, Josie was pouring out the story of Ruby Keene's disappearance. "Frightfully worrying for you, my dear," said Mrs. Bantry.

"I was more angry than worried," said Josie. "You see, I didn't know then."

"And yet," said Miss Marple, "you went to the police. Wasn't that, excuse me, rather premature?"

Josie said eagerly, "Oh, but I didn't. That was Mr. Jefferson."

Mrs. Bantry said, "Jefferson?"

"Yes, he's an invalid."

"Not Conway Jefferson? But I know him well. He's an old friend of ours… Arthur, listen. Conway Jefferson, he's staying at the Majestic, and it was he who notified the police! Isn't that a coincidence?"

Josephine Turner said, "Mr. Jefferson was there last summer too."

"Fancy! And we never knew. I haven't seen him for a long time." She turned to Josie. "How how is he nowadays?"

Josie considered. "I think he's wonderful, really quite wonderful. Considering, I mean. He's always cheerful always got a joke."

"Are the family there with him?"

"Mr. Gaskell, you mean? And young Mrs. Jefferson? And Peter? Oh, yes."

There was something inhibiting in Josephine Turner's rather attractive frankness of manner. When she spoke of the Jeffersons there was something not quite natural in her voice. Mrs. Bantry said, "They're both very nice, aren't they? The young ones, I mean."

Josie said rather uncertainly, "Oh, yes; yes, they are. They are really."

"And what," demanded Mrs. Bantry as she looked through the window at the retreating car of the chief constable, "did she mean by that? They are really." Don't you think, Jane, that there's something-" Miss Marple fell upon the words eagerly. "Oh, I do; indeed I do. It's quite unmistakable! Her manner changed at once when the Jeffersons were mentioned. She had seemed quite natural up to then."

"But what do you think it is, Jane?"

"Well, my dear, you know them. All I feel is that there is something, as you say, about them which is worrying that young woman. Another thing. Did you notice that when you asked her if she wasn't anxious about the girl being missing, she said that she was angry? And she looked angry, really angry! That strikes me as interesting, you know. I have a feeling, perhaps I'm wrong, that that's her main reaction to the fact of the girl's death. She didn't care for her, I'm sure. She's not grieving in any way. But I do think, very definitely, that the thought of that girl, Ruby Keene, makes her angry. And the interesting point is: Why?"

"We'll find out!" said Mrs. Bantry. "We'll go over to Danemouth and stay at the Majestic yes, Jane, you too. I need a change for my nerves after what has happened here. A few days at the Majestic that's what we need. And you'll meet Conway Jefferson. He's a dear, a perfect dear. It's the saddest story imaginable. He had a son and a daughter, both of whom he loved dearly. They were both married, but they still spent a lot of time at home. His wife, too, was the sweetest woman, and he was devoted to her. They were flying home one year from France and there was an accident. They were all killed. The pilot, Mrs. Jefferson, Rosamund and Frank. Conway had both legs so badly injured they had to be amputated. And he's been wonderful, his courage, his pluck. He was a very active man, and now he's a helpless cripple, but he never complains. His daughter-in-law lives with him; she was a widow when Frank Jefferson married her, and she had a son by her first marriage Peter Carmody. They…"

Colonel Melchett was facing a much annoyed hotel manager. With him was Superintendent Harper, of the Glenshire police, and the inevitable Inspector Slack the latter rather disgruntled at the chief constable's willful usurpation of the case. Superintendent Harper was inclined to be soothing with the almost tearful Mr. Prestcott; Colonel Melchett tended toward a blunt brutality. "No good crying over spilt milk," he said sharply. "The girl's dead, strangled. You're lucky that she wasn't strangled in your hotel. This puts the inquiry in a different county and lets your establishment down extremely lightly. But certain inquiries have got to be made, and the sooner we get on with it the better. You can trust us to be discreet and tactful. So I suggest you cut the cackle and come to the horses. Just what, exactly, do you know about the girl?"

"I know nothing of her nothing at all. Josie brought her here."

"Josie's been here some time?"

"Two years, no, three."

"And you like her?"

"Yes, Josie's a good girl, a nice girl. Competent. She gets on with people and smooths over differences. Bridge, you know, is a touchy sort of game." Colonel Melchett nodded feelingly. His wife was a keen but an extremely bad bridge player. Mr. Prestcott went on, "Josie was very good at calming down unpleasantness. She could handle people well, sort of bright and firm, if you know what I mean."

Again Melchett nodded. He knew now what it was that Miss Josephine Turner had reminded him of. In spite of the make-up and the smart turnout, there was a distinct touch of the nursery governess about her.

"I depend upon her," went on Mr. Prestcott. His manner became aggrieved. "What does she want to go playing about on slippery rocks in that damn-fool way for? We've got a nice beach here. Why couldn't she bathe from that? Slipping and falling and breaking her ankle! It wasn't fair to me! I pay her to dance and play bridge and keep people happy and amused, not to go bathing off rocks and breaking her ankle. Dancers ought to be careful of their ankles, not take risks. I was very annoyed about it. It wasn't fair to the hotel."

Melchett cut the recital short. "And then she suggested that this girl, her cousin come down?"

Prestcott assented grudgingly. "That's right. It sounded quite a good idea. Mind you, I wasn't going to pay anything extra. The girl could have her keep, but as for salary, that would have to be fixed up between her and Josie. That's the way it was arranged. I didn't know anything about the girl."

"But she turned out all right?" "Oh, yes, there wasn't anything wrong with her, not to look at, anyway. She was very young, of course; rather cheap in style, perhaps, for a place of this kind, but nice manners, quiet and well-behaved. Danced well. People liked her."

"Pretty?"

It had been a question hard to answer from a view of the blue, swollen face. Mr. Prestcott considered. "Fair to middling. Bit weaselly - if you know what I mean. Wouldn't have been much without make-up. As it was, she managed to look quite attractive."

"Many young men hanging about after her?"

"I know what you're trying to get at, sir," Mr. Prestcott became excited. "I never saw anything! Nothing special. One or two of the boys hung around a bit, but all in the day's work, so to speak. Nothing in the strangling line, I'd say. She got on well with the older people, too; had a kind of prattling way with her. Seemed quite a kid, if you know what I mean. It amused them."

Superintendent Harper said in a deep, melancholy voice, "Mr. Jefferson, for instance?"

The manager agreed. "Yes, Mr. Jefferson was the one I had in mind. She used to sit with him and his family a lot. He used to take her out for drives sometimes. Mr. Jefferson's very fond of young people and very good to them. I don't want to have any misunderstandings. Mr Jefferson's a cripple. He can't get about much only where his wheelchair will take him. But he's always keen on seeing young people enjoy themselves; watches the tennis and the bathing, and all that, and gives parties for young people here. He likes youth, and there's nothing bitter about him, as there well might be. A very popular gentleman and, I'd say, a very fine character."

Melchett asked, "And he took an interest in Ruby Keene?" "Her talk amused him, I think."

"Did his family share his liking for her?"

"They were always very pleasant to her."

Harper said, "And it was he who reported the fact of her being missing to the police?"

He contrived to put into the words a significance and a reproach to which the manager instantly responded, "Put yourself in my place, Mr. Harper. I didn't dream for a minute anything was wrong. Mr. Jefferson came along to my office, storming and all worked up. The girl hadn't slept in her room. She hadn't appeared in her dance last night. She must have gone for a drive and had an accident, perhaps. The police must be informed at once. Inquiries made. In a state, he was, and quite highhanded. He rang up the police station then and there."

"Without consulting Miss Turner?"

"Josie didn't like it much. I could see that. She was very annoyed about the whole thing, annoyed with Ruby, I mean. But what could she say?"

"I think," said Melchett, "we'd better see Mr. Jefferson eh Harper?"

Superintendent Harper agreed. Mr. Prestcott went up with them to Conway Jefferson's suite. It was on the first floor, overlooking the sea. Melchett said carelessly, "Does himself pretty well, eh? Rich man?"

"Very well off indeed, I believe. Nothing's ever stinted when he comes here. Best rooms reserved, food usually a la carte, expensive wines, best of everything."

Melchett nodded. Mr. Prestcott tapped on the outer door and a woman's voice said, "Come in."

The manager entered, the others behind him. Mr. Prestcott's manner was apologetic as he spoke to the woman who turned her head, at their entrance, from her seat by the window. "I am so sorry to disturb you, Mrs. Jefferson, but these gentlemen are from the police. They are very anxious to have a word with Mr. Jefferson. Er… Colonel Melchett, Superintendent Harper, Inspector er… Slack, Mrs Jefferson!" Mrs. Jefferson acknowledged the introduction by bending her head.

A plain woman, was Melchett's first impression. Then, as a slight smile came to her lips and she spoke, he changed his opinion. She had a singularly charming and sympathetic voice, and her eyes, clear hazel eyes, were beautiful. She was quietly but not unbecomingly dressed and was, he judged, about thirty-five years of age. She said, "My father-in-law is asleep. He is not strong at all, and this affair has been a terrible shock to him. We had to have the doctor, and the doctor gave him a sedative. As soon as he wakes he will, I know, want to see you. In the meantime, perhaps I can help you? Won't you sit down?"

Mr. Prestcott, anxious to escape, said to Colonel Melchett, "Well… er… if that's all I can do for you-" and thankfully received permission to depart.

With his closing of the door behind him, the atmosphere took on a mellow and more social quality. Adelaide Jefferson had the power of creating a restful atmosphere. She was a woman who never seemed to say anything remarkable, but who succeeded in stimulating other people to talk and in setting them at their ease. She struck, now, the right note when she said, "This business has shocked us all very much. We saw quite a lot of the poor girl, you know. It seems quite unbelievable. My father-in-law is terribly upset. He was very fond of Ruby."

Colonel Melchett said, "It was Mr. Jefferson, I understand, who reported her disappearance to the police."

He wanted to see exactly how she would react to that. There was a flicker, just a nicker of annoyance? Concern? He could not say what exactly, but there was something, and it seemed to him that she had definitely to brace herself, as though to an unpleasant task, before going on. She said, "Yes, that is so. Being an invalid, he gets easily upset and worried. We tried to persuade him that it was all right, that there was some natural explanation, and that the girl herself would not like the police being notified. He insisted. Well" she made a slight gesture "he was right and we were wrong!"

Melchett asked, "Exactly how well did you know Ruby Keene Mrs. Jefferson?"

She considered. "It's difficult to say. My father-in-law is very fond of young people and likes to have them round him. Ruby was a new type to him; he was amused and interested by her chatter. She sat with us a good deal in the hotel and my father-in-law took her out for drives in the car." Her voice was quite noncommittal. Melchett thought: She could say more if she chose. He said, "Will you tell me what you can of the course of events last night?"

"Certainly, but there is very little that will be useful, I'm afraid. After dinner Ruby came and sat with us in the lounge. She remained even after the dancing had started. We had arranged to play bridge later, but we were waiting for Mark, that is Mark Gaskell, my brother-in-law, he married Mr. Jefferson's daughter, you know, who had some important letters to write, and also for Josie. She was going to make a fourth with us."

"Did that often happen?"

"Quite frequently. She's a first-class player, of course, and very nice. My father-in-law is a keen bridge player and, whenever possible, liked to get hold of Josie to make the fourth, instead of an outsider. Naturally, as she has to arrange the fours, she can't always play with us, but she does whenever she can, and as" her eyes smiled a little "my father-in-law spends a lot of money in the hotel, the management is quite pleased for Josie to favor us."

Melchett asked, "You like Josie?"

"Yes, I do. She's always good-humored and cheerful, works hard and seems to enjoy her job. She's shrewd without being at all intellectual and well, never pretends about anything. She's natural and unaffected."

"Please go on, Mrs. Jefferson."

"As I say, Josie had to get her bridge fours arranged and Mark was writing, so Ruby sat and talked with us a little longer than usual. Then Josie came along, and Ruby went off to do her first solo dance with Raymond, he's the dance and tennis professional. She came back to us afterward, just as Mark joined us. Then she went off to dance with a young man and we four started our bridge." She stopped and made a slight, significant gesture of helplessness. "And that's all I know! I just caught a glimpse of her once, dancing, but bridge is an absorbing game and I hardly glanced through the glass partition at the ballroom. Then, at midnight, Raymond came along to Josie very upset and asked where Ruby was. Josie, naturally, tried to shut him up, but-"

Superintendent Harper interrupted. He said in his quiet voice, "Why 'naturally,' Mrs. Jefferson?"

"Well-" She hesitated; looked, Melchett thought, a little put out. "Josie didn't want the girl's absence made too much of. She considered herself responsible for her in a way. She said Ruby was probably up in her room, she telephoned up to Ruby's room, but apparently there was no answer, and he came back in rather a state temperamental, you know. Josie went off with him and tried to soothe him down, and in the end she danced with him instead of Ruby. Rather plucky of her, because you could see afterward it had hurt her ankle. She came back to us when the dance was over and tried to calm down Mr. Jefferson. He had got worked up by then. We persuaded him, in the end, to go to bed; told him Ruby had probably gone for a spin in a car and that they'd had a puncture. He went to bed worried and this morning he began to agitate at once." She paused. "The rest you know."

"Thank you, Mrs. Jefferson. Now I'm going to ask you if you've any idea who could have done this thing?"

She said immediately, "No idea whatever. I'm afraid I can't help you in the slightest."

He pressed her. "The girl never said anything? Nothing about jealousy? About some man she was afraid of? Or intimate with?"

Adelaide Jefferson shook her head to each query. There seemed nothing more that she could tell them. The superintendent suggested that they should interview young George Bartlett and return to see Mr. Jefferson later. Colonel Melchett agreed and the three men went out, Mrs. Jefferson promising to send word as soon as Mr. Jefferson was awake. "Nice woman," said the colonel, as they closed the door behind them.

"A very nice lady indeed," said Superintendent Harper.

George Bartlett was a thin, lanky youth with a prominent Adam apple and an immense difficulty in saying what he meant. He was in such a state of dither that it was hard to get a calm statement from him. "I say, it is awful, isn't it? Sort of thing one reads about in the Sunday papers, but one doesn't feel it really happens, don't you know?" "Unfortunately there is no doubt about it, Mr. Bartlett," said the superintendent.

"No, no, of course not. But it seems so rum somehow. And miles from here and everything in some country house, wasn't it? Awfully country and all that. Created a bit of a stir in the neighborhood, what?"

Colonel Melchett took charge. "How well did you know the dead girl, Mr. Bartlett?"

George Bartlett looked alarmed. "Oh, n-n-not well at all, s-s-sir. No, hardly, if you know what I mean. Danced with her once or twice, passed the time of day, bit of tennis you know!"

"You were, I think, the last person to see her alive last night?"

"I suppose I was. Doesn't it sound awful? I mean she was perfectly all right when I saw her, absolutely."

"What time was that, Mr. Bartlett?"

"Well, you know, I never know about time. Wasn't very late, if you know what I mean."

"You danced with her?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact well, yes, I did. Early on in the evening, though. Tell you what. It was just after her exhibition dance with the pro fellow. Must have been ten, half past, eleven I don't know."

"Never mind the time. We can fix that. Please tell us exactly what happened."

"Well, we danced, don't you know. Not that I'm much of a dancer."

"How you dance is not really relevant, Mr. Bartlett."

George Bartlett cast an alarmed eye on the colonel and stammered, "No er n-n-no, I suppose it isn't. Well, as I say, we danced round and round, and I talked, but Ruby didn't say very much, and she yawned a bit. As I say, I don't dance awfully well, and so girls well, inclined to give it a miss, if you know what I mean too. I know where I get off, so I said 'righty ho,' and that was that."

"What was the last you saw of her?"

"She went off upstairs."

"She said nothing about meeting anyone? Or going for a drive? Or or having a date?" The colonel used the colloquial expression with a slight effort.

Bartlett shook his head. "Not to me." He looked rather mournful. "Just gave me the push."

"What was her manner? Did she seem anxious, abstracted, anything on her mind?"

George Bartlett considered. Then he shook his head. "Seemed a bit bored. Yawned, as I said. Nothing more."

Colonel Melchett said, "And what did you do, Mr. Bartlett?"

"Eh?"

"What did you do when Ruby Keene left you?"

George Bartlett gaped at him. "Let's see now. What did I do?"

"We're waiting for you to tell us."

"Yes, yes, of course. Jolly difficult, remembering things, what? Let me see. Shouldn't be surprised if I went into the bar and had a drink."

"Did you go into the bar and have a drink?"

"That's just it. I did have a drink. Don't think it was just then. Have an idea I wandered out, don't you know. Bit of air. Rather stuffy for September. Very nice outside. Yes, that's it. I strolled around a bit, then I came in and had a drink, and then I strolled back to the ballroom. Wasn't much doing. Noticed what'sername Josie was dancing again. With the tennis fellow. She been on the sick list, twisted ankle or something."

"That fixes the time of your return at midnight. Do you intend us to understand that you spent over an hour walking about outside?"

"Well, I had a drink, you know. I was well, I was thinking of things."

This statement received more incredulity than any other. Colonel Melchett said sharply, "What were you thinking about?"

"Oh, I don't know. Things," said Mr. Bartlett vaguely. "You have a car, Mr. Bartlett?" "Oh, yes, I've got a car." "Where was it, in the hotel garage?"

Neither the night porter nor the barman proved helpful. The night porter remembered ringing up Miss Keene's room just after midnight and getting no reply. He had not noticed Mr. Bartlett leaving or entering the hotel. A lot of gentlemen and ladies were strolling in and out, the night being fine. And there were side doors off the corridor as well as the one in the main hall. He was fairly certain Miss Keene had not gone out by the main door, but if she had come down from her room, which was on the first floor, there was a staircase next to it and a door out at the end of the corridor leading onto the side terrace. She could have gone out of that, unseen, easily enough. It was not locked until the dancing was over at two o'clock. The barman remembered Mr. Bartlett being in the bar the preceding evening, but could not say when. Somewhere about the middle of the evening, he thought. Mr. Bartlett had sat against the wall and was looking rather melancholy. He did not know how long he was in there. There were a lot of outside guests coming and going in the bar. He had noticed Mr. Bartlett, but he couldn't fix the time in any way.

As they left the bar they were accosted by a small boy about nine years old. He burst immediately into excited speech. "I say, are you the detectives? I'm Peter Carmody. It was my grandfather, Mr. Jefferson, who rang up the police about Ruby. Are you from Scotland Yard? You don't mind my speaking to you, do you?"

Colonel Melchett looked as though he were about to return a short answer, but Superintendent Harper intervened. He spoke benignly and heartily. "That's all right, my son. Naturally interests you, I expect?"

"You bet it does. Do you like detective stories? I do. I read them all and I've got autographs from Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie and Dickson Carr and H. C. Bailey. Will the murder be in the papers?"

"It'll be in the papers all right," said Superintendent Harper grimly.

"You see, I'm going back to school next week and I shall tell them all that I knew her, really knew her well."

"What did you think of her, eh?"

Peter considered. "Well, I didn't like her very much. I think she was rather a stupid sort of girl. Mum and Uncle Mark didn't like her much, either. Only grandfather. Grandfather wants to see you, by the way. Edwards is looking for you."

Superintendent Harper murmured encouragingly, "So your mother and your Uncle Mark didn't like Ruby Keene much? Why was that?"

"Oh, I don't know. She was always butting in. And they didn't like grandfather making such a fuss of her. I expect," said Peter cheerfully, "that they're glad she's dead."

Superintendent Harper looked at him thoughtfully. He said, "Did you hear them er say so?"

"Well, not exactly. Uncle Mark said, "Well, it's one way out anyway," and mum said, "Yes, but such a horrible one and Uncle Mark said it was no good being hypocritical."

The men exchanged glances. At that moment a clean-shaven man neatly dressed in blue serge came up to them. "Excuse me, gentlemen. I am Mr. Jefferson's valet. He is awake now and sent me to find you, as he is very anxious to see you."

Once more they went up to Conway Jefferson's suite. In the sitting room Adelaide Jefferson was talking to a tall, restless man who was prowling nervously about the room. He swung around sharply to view the newcomers. "Oh, yes. Glad you've come. My father-in-law's been asking for you. He's awake now. Keep him as calm as you can, won't you? His health's not too good. It's a wonder, really, that this shock didn't do for him."

Harper said, "I'd no idea his health was as bad as that."

"He doesn't know it himself," said Mark Gaskell. "It's his heart, you see. The doctor warned Addie that he mustn't be overexcited or startled. He more or less hinted that the end might come any time, didn't he, Addie?"

Mrs. Jefferson nodded. She said, "It's incredible that he's rallied the way he has."

Melchett said dryly, "Murder isn't exactly a soothing incident. We'll be as careful as we can." He was sizing up Mark Gaskell as he spoke. He didn't much care for the fellow. A bold, unscrupulous, hawklike face. One of those men who usually get their own way and whom women frequently admire. But not the sort of fellow I'd trust, the colonel thought to himself. Uncrupulous - that was the word for him. The sort of fellow who wouldn't stick at anything.

In the big bedroom overlooking the sea, Conway Jefferson was sitting in his wheeled chair by the window. No sooner were you in the room with him than you felt the power and magnetism of the man. It was as though the injuries which had left him a cripple had resulted in concentrating the vitality of his shattered body into a narrower and more intense focus. He had a fine head, the red of the hair slightly grizzled. The face was rugged and powerful, deeply sun-tanned, and the eyes were a startling blue. There was no sign of illness or feebleness about him. The deep lines on his face were the lines of suffering, not the lines of weakness. Here was a man who would never rail against fate, but accept it and pass on to victory. He said, "I'm glad you've come." His quick eyes took them in. He said to Melchett, "You're the chief constable of Radfordshire? Right. And you're Superintendent Harper? Sit down. Cigarettes on the table beside you."

They thanked him and sat down. Melchett said, "I understand, Mr. Jefferson, that you were interested in the dead girl?"

A quick, twisted smile flashed across the lined face. "Yes, they'll all have told you that! Well, it's no secret. How much has my family said to you?" He looked quickly from one to the other as he asked the question.

It was Melchett who answered. "Mrs. Jefferson told us very little beyond the fact that the girl's chatter amused you and that she was by way of being a protegee. We have only exchanged half a dozen words with Mr. Gaskell."

Conway Jefferson smiled. "Addie's a discreet creature, bless her. Mark would probably have been more outspoken. I think, Melchett, that I'd better tell you some facts rather fully. It's necessary, in order that you should understand my attitude. And, to begin with, it's necessary that I go back to the big tragedy of my life. Eight years ago I lost my wife, my son and my daughter in an aeroplane accident. Since then I've been like a man who's lost half himself and I'm not speaking of my physical plight! I was a family man. My daughter-in-law and my son-in-law have been very good to me. They've done all they can to take the place of my flesh and blood. But I've realized, especially of late that they have, after all, their own lives to live. So you must understand that, essentially, I'm a lonely man. I like young people. I enjoy them. Once or twice I've played with the idea of adopting some girl or boy. During this last month I got very friendly with the child who's been killed. She was absolutely natural, completely naive. She chattered on about her life and her experiences in pantomime, with touring companies, with mum and dad as a child in cheap lodgings. Such a different life from any I've known! Never complaining, never seeing it as sordid. Just a natural, uncomplaining, hard-working child, unspoilt and charming. Not a lady, perhaps, but thank God neither vulgar nor abominable. I got more and more fond of Ruby. I decided, gentlemen, to adopt her legally. She would become, by law, my daughter. That, I hope, explains my concern for her and the steps I took when I heard of her unaccountable disappearance."

There was a pause. Then Superintendent Harper, his unemotional voice robbing the question of any offense, asked, "May I ask what your son-in-law and daughter-in-law said to that?"

Jefferson's answer came back quickly. "What could they say? They didn't, perhaps, like it very much. It's the sort of thing that arouses prejudice. But they behaved very well yes, very well. It's not as though, you see, they were dependent on me. When my son Frank married, I turned over half my worldly goods to him then and there. I believe in that. Don't let your children wait until you're dead. They want the money when they're young, not when they're middle-aged. In the same way, when my daughter Rosamund insisted on marrying a poor man, I settled a big sum of money on her. That sum passed to him at her death. So, you see, that simplified the matter from the financial angle."

"I see, Mr. Jefferson," said Superintendent Harper.

But there was a certain reserve in his tone. Conway Jefferson pounced upon it. "But you don't agree, eh?"

"It's not for me to say, sir, but families, in my experience, don't always act reasonable." "I dare say you're right, superintendent, but you must remember that Mr. Gaskell and Mrs. Jefferson aren't, strictly speaking, my family. They're not blood relations."

"That, of course, makes a difference," admitted the superintendent.

For a moment Conway Jefferson's eyes twinkled. He said, "That's not to say that they didn't think me an old fool. That would be the average person's reaction. But I wasn't being a fool! I know character. With education and polishing Ruby Keene could have taken her place anywhere."

Melchett said, "I'm afraid we're being rather impertinent and inquisitive, but it's important that we should get at all the facts. You proposed to make full provision for the girl that is, settle money upon her but you hadn't already done so?"

Jefferson said, "I understand what you're driving at - the possibility of someone's benefiting by the girl's death. But nobody could. The necessary formalities for legal adoption were under way, but they hadn't yet been completed."

Melchett said slowly, "Then, if anything happened to you?" He left the sentence unfinished, as a query.

Conway Jefferson was quick to respond. "Nothing's likely to happen to me! I'm a cripple, but I'm not an invalid. Although doctors do like to pull long faces and give advice about not overdoing things. Not overdoing things! I'm as strong as a horse! Still, I'm quite aware of the fatalities of life. I've good reason to be! Sudden death comes to the strongest man especially in these days of road casualties. But I'd provided for that. I made a new will about ten days ago."

"Yes?" Superintendent Harper leaned forward.

"I left the sum of fifty thousand pounds to be held in trust for Ruby Keene until she was twenty-five, when she would come into the principal."

Superintendent Harper's eyes opened. So did Colonel Melchett's. Harper said in an almost awed voice, "That's a very large sum of money, Mr. Jefferson."

"In these days, yes, it is."

"And you were leaving it to a girl you had only known a few weeks?"

Anger flashed into the vivid blue eyes. "Must I go on repeating the same thing over and over again? I've no flesh and blood of my own no nieces or nephews or distant cousins, even! I might have left it to charity. I prefer to leave it to an individual." He laughed. "Cinderella turned into a princess overnight! A fairy godfather instead of a fairy godmother. Why not? It's my money. I made it."

Colonel Melchett asked, "Any other bequests?"

"A small legacy to Edwards, my valet, and the remainder to Mark and Addie in equal shares."

"Would - excuse me - the residue amount to a large sum?"

"Probably not. It's difficult to say exactly; investments fluctuate all the time. The sum involved, after death duties and expenses had been paid, would probably have come to something between five and ten thousand pounds net."

"I see."

"And you needn't think I was treating them shabbily. As I said, I divided up my estate at the time my children married. I left myself, actually, a very small sum. But after, after the tragedy, I wanted something to occupy my mind. I flung myself into business. At my house in London I had a private line put in, connecting my bedroom with my office. I worked hard; it helped me not to think, and it made me feel that my - my mutilation had not vanquished me. I threw myself into work" his voice took on a deeper note; he spoke more to himself than to his audience "and by some subtle irony, everything I did prospered! My wildest speculations succeeded. If I gambled, I won. Everything I touched turned to gold. Fate's ironic way of righting the balance, I suppose."

The lines of suffering stood out on his face again. Recollecting himself, he smiled wryly at them.

"So, you see, the sum of money I left Ruby was indisputably mine, to do with as my fancy dictated."

Melchett said quickly, "Undoubtedly, my dear fellow. We are not questioning that for a moment."

Conway Jefferson said, "Good. Now I want to ask my questions in my turn, if I may. I want to hear all about this terrible business. All I know is that she - that little Ruby was found strangled in a house some twenty miles from here."

"That is correct. At Gossington Hall."

Jefferson frowned. "Gossington? But that's-"

"Colonel Bantry's house."

"Bantry! Arthur Bantry? But I know him. Know him and his wife! Met them abroad some years ago. I didn't realize they lived in this part of the world. Why, it's-" He broke off.

Superintendent Harper slipped in smoothly, "Colonel Bantry was dining in the hotel here Tuesday of last week. You didn't see him?"

"Tuesday? Tuesday? No, we were back late. Went over to Harden Head and had dinner on the way back."

Melchett said, "Ruby Keene never mentioned the Bantrys to you?"

Jefferson shook his head. "Never. Don't believe she knew them. Sure she didn't. She didn't know anybody but theatrical folk and that sort of thing." He paused, and then asked abruptly, "What's Bantry got to say about it?"

"He can't account for it in the least. He was out at a Conservative meeting last night. The body was discovered this morning. He says he's never seen the girl in his life."

Jefferson nodded. He said, "It certainly seems fantastic."

Superintendent Harper cleared his throat. He said, "Have you any idea at all, sir, who can have done this?"

"Good God, I wish I had!" The veins stood out on his forehead. "It's incredible, unimaginable! I'd say it couldn't have happened, if it hadn't happened!"

"There's no friend of hers from her past life, no man hanging about or threatening her?"

"I'm sure there isn't. She'd have told me if so. She's never had a regular boy friend. She told me so herself." Superintendent Harper thought. Yes, I dare say that's what she told you. But that's as may be. Conway Jefferson went on, "Josie would know better than anyone if there had been some man hanging about Ruby or pestering her. Can't she help?"

"She says not."

Jefferson said, frowning, "I can't help feeling it must be the work of some maniac - the brutality of the method, breaking into a country house, the whole thing so unconnected and senseless. There are men of that type, men outwardly sane, but who decoy girls, sometimes children away and kill them."

Harper said, "Oh, yes, there are such cases, but we've no knowledge of anyone of that kind operating in this neighbourhood."

Jefferson went on, "I've thought over all the various men I've seen with Ruby. Guests here and outsiders - men she'd danced with. They all seem harmless enough, the usual type. She had no special friend of any kind."

Superintendent Harper's face remained quite impassive, but unseen by Conway Jefferson, there was still a speculative glint in his eye. It was quite possible, he thought, that Ruby Keene might have had a special friend, even though Conway Jefferson did not know about it. He said nothing, however.

The chief constable gave him a glance of inquiry and then rose to his feet. He said, "Thank you, Mr. Jefferson. That's all we need for the present."

Jefferson said, "You'll keep me informed of your progress?"

"Yes, yes, we'll keep in touch with you."

The two men went out. Conway Jefferson leaned back in his chair. His eyelids came down and veiled the fierce blue of his eyes. He looked, suddenly, a very tired man. Then, after a minute or two, the lids flickered. He called, "Edwards?"

From the next room the valet appeared promptly. Edwards knew his master as no one else did. Others, even his nearest, knew only his strength; Edwards knew his weakness. He had seen Conway Jefferson tired, discouraged, weary of life, momentarily defeated by infirmity and loneliness. "Yes, sir?"

Jefferson said, "Get on to Sir Henry Clithering. He's at Melborne Abbas. Ask him, from me, to get here today if he can, instead of tomorrow. Tell him it's very urgent."

When they were outside Jefferson's door. Superintendent Harper said, "Well, for what it's worth, we've got a motive, sir."

"Hm," said Melchett. "Fifty thousand pounds, eh?"

"Yes, sir. Murder's been done for a good deal less than that."

"Yes, but-"

Colonel Melchett left the sentence unfinished. Harper, however, understood him. "You don't think it's likely in this case? Well, I don't either, as far as that goes. But it's got to be gone into, all the same."

"Oh, of course."

Harper went on, "If, as Mr. Jefferson says, Mr. Gaskell and Mrs. Jefferson are already well provided for and in receipt of a comfortable income, well, it's not likely they'd set out to do a brutal murder."

"Quite so. Their financial standing will have to be investigated, of course. Can't say I like the appearance of Gaskell much, looks a sharp, unscrupulous sort of fellow, but that's a long way from making him out a murderer."

"Oh, yes, sir, as I say, I don't think it's likely to be either of them, and from what Josie said I don't see how it would have been humanly possible. They were both playing bridge from twenty minutes to eleven until midnight. No, to my mind, there's another possibility much more likely."

Melchett said, "Boy friend of Ruby Keene's?"

"That's it, sir. Some disgruntled young fellow; not too strong in the head perhaps. Someone, I'd say, she knew before she came here. This adoption scheme, if he got wise to it, may just have put the lid on things. He saw himself losing her, saw her being removed to a different sphere of life altogether, and he went mad and blind with rage. He got her to come out and meet him last night, had a row with her over it, lost his head completely and did her in."

"And how did she come to be in Bantry's library?"

"I think that's feasible. They were out, say, in his car at the time. He came to himself, realized what he'd done, and his first thought was how to get rid of the body. Say they were near the gates of a big house at the time. The idea comes to him that if she's found there the hue and cry will center round the house and its occupants and will leave him comfortably out of it. She's a little bit of a thing. He could easily carry her. He's got a chisel in the car. He forces a window and plops her down on the hearth rug Being a strangling case, there's no blood or mess to give him away in the car. See what I mean, sir?"

"Oh, yes. Harper, it's all perfectly possible. But there's still one thing to be done. Cherchez la Femme."

"What? Oh, very good, sir." Superintendent Harper tactfully applauded Melchett's joke, although, owing to the excellence of the colonel's French accent, he almost missed the sense of the words.

"Oh er I say er c-c-could I speak to you a minute?" It was George Bartlett who thus waylaid the two men.

Colonel Melchett, who was not attracted to Mr. Bartlett, and who was eager to see how Slack had got on with the investigation of the girl's room and the questioning of the chambermaids, barked sharply, "Well, what is it, what is it?"

Young Mr. Bartlett retreated a step or two, opening and shutting his mouth and giving an unconscious imitation of a fish in a tank. "Well er… probably isn't important, don't you know. Thought I ought to tell you. Matter of fact, can't find my car."

"What do you mean, can't find your car?" Stammeringa good deal, Mr. Bartlett explained that what he meant was that he couldn't find his car.

Superintendent Harper said, "Do you mean it's been stolen?" George Bartlett turned gratefully to the more placid voice. "Well, that's just it, you know. I mean, one can't tell, can one? I mean someone may just have buzzed off in it, not meaning any harm, if you know what I mean."

"When did you last see it, Mr. Bartlett?"

"Well, I was tryin' to remember. Funny how difficult it is to remember anything, isn't it?"

Colonel Melchett said coldly, "Not, I should think, to a normal intelligence. I understood you to say that it was in the courtyard of the hotel last night."

Mr. Bartlett was bold enough to interrupt. He said, "That's just it - was it?"

"What do you mean by 'was it'? You said it was."

"Well, I mean, I thought it was. I mean, well, I didn't go out and look, don't you see?"

Colonel Melchett sighed. He summoned all his patience. He said, "Let's get this quite clear. When was the last time you saw - actually saw your car? What make is it, by the way?"

"Minoan Fourteen."

"And you last saw it when?"

George Bartlett's Adam's apple jerked convulsively up and down. "Been trying to think. Had it before lunch yesterday. Was going for a spin in the afternoon. But somehow - you know how it is - went to sleep instead. Then, after tea, had a game of squash and all that, and a bath afterward."

"And the car was then in the courtyard of the hotel?"

"Suppose so. I mean, that's where I'd put it. Thought, you see, I'd take someone for a spin. After dinner, I mean. But it wasn't my lucky evening. Nothing doing. Never took the old bus out after all."

Harper said, "But as far as you knew, the car was still in the courtyard?"

"Well, naturally. I mean, I'd put it there, what?"

"Would you have noticed if it had not been there?"

Mr. Bartlett shook his head. "Don't think so, you know. Lot of cars going and coming and all that. Plenty of Minoans."

Superintendent Harper nodded. He had just cast a casual glance out of the window. There were at that moment no fewer than eight Minoan 14's in the courtyard. It was the popular cheap car of the year.

"Aren't you in the habit of putting your car away at night?" asked Colonel Melchett.

"Don't usually bother," said Mr. Bartlett. "Fine weather and all that, you know. Such a fag putting a car away in a garage."

Glancing at Colonel Melchett, Superintendent Harper said, "I'll join you upstairs, sir. I'll just get hold of Sergeant Higgins and he can take down particulars from Mr. Bartlett."

"Right, Harper."

Mr. Bartlett murmured wistfully, "Thought I ought to let you know, you know. Might be important, what?"

Mr. Prestcott had supplied his additional dancer with board and lodging. Whatever the board, the lodging was the poorest the hotel possessed. Josephine Turner and Ruby Keene had occupied rooms at the extreme end of a mean and dingy little corridor. The rooms were small, faced north onto a portion of the cliff that backed the hotel, and were furnished with the odds and ends of suites that had once represented luxury and magnificence in the best suites. Now, when the hotel had been modernized and the bedrooms supplied with built-in receptacles for clothes, these large Victorian oak and mahogany wardrobes were relegated to those rooms occupied by the hotel's resident staff, or given to guests in the height of the season when all the rest of the hotel was full.

As Melchett and Harper saw at once, the position of Ruby Keene's room was ideal for the purpose of leaving the hotel without being observed, and was particularly unfortunate from the point of view of throwing light on the circumstances of that departure. At the end of the corridor was a small staircase which led down to an equally obscure corridor on the ground floor. Here there was a glass door which led out on the side terrace of the hotel, an unfrequented terrace with no view. You could go from it to the main terrace in front, or you could go down a winding path and come out in a lane that eventually rejoined the cliff road. Its surface being bad, it was seldom used.

Inspector Slack had been busy harrying chambermaids and examining Ruby's room for clues. They had been lucky enough to find the room exactly as it had been left the night before. Ruby Keene had not been in the habit of rising early. Her usual procedure, Slack discovered, was to sleep until about ten or half past and then ring for breakfast. Consequently, since Conway Jefferson had begun his representations to the manager very early, the police had taken charge of things before the chambermaids had touched the room. They had actually not been down that corridor at all. The other rooms there, at this season of the year, were opened and dusted only once a week. "That's all to the good, as far as it goes," Slack explained. "It means that if there were anything to find, we'd find it, but there isn't anything."

The Glenshire police had already been over the room for fingerprints, but there were none unaccounted for. Ruby's own, Josie's, and the two chambermaids', one on the morning and one on the evening shift. There were also a couple of prints made by Raymond Starr, but these were accounted for by his story that he had come up with Josie to look for Ruby when she did not appear for the midnight exhibition dance.

There had been a heap of letters and general rubbish in the pigeonholes of the massive mahogany desk in the corner. Slack had just been carefully sorting through them, but he had found nothing of a suggestive nature. Bills, receipts, theater programs, cinema stubs, newspaper cuttings beauty hints torn from magazines. Of the letters, there were some from Lil, apparently a friend from the Palais de Danse, recounting various affairs and gossip, saying they "missed Rube a lot. Mr. Pindeison asked after you ever so often! Quite put out, he is! Young Reg has taken up with May now you've gone. Barney asks after you now and then. Things going much as usual. Old Grouser still as mean as ever with us girls. He ticked off Ada for going about with a fellow."

Slack had carefully noted all the names mentioned. Inquiries would be made, and it was possible some useful information might come to light. Otherwise the room had little to yield in the way of information.

Across a chair in the middle of the room was the foamy pink dance frock Ruby had worn early in the evening, with a pair of satin high-heeled shoes kicked off carelessly on the floor. Two sheer silk stockings were rolled into a ball and flung down. One had a ladder in it. Melchett recalled that the dead girl had had bare legs. This, Slack learned, was her custom. She used make-up on her legs instead of stockings, and only sometimes wore stockings for dancing; by this means saving expense. The wardrobe door was open and showed a variety of rather flashy evening dresses and a row of shoes below. There was some soiled underwear in the clothes basket; some nail parings, soiled face-cleaning tissue and bits of cotton wool stained with rouge and nail polish in the wastepaper basket, in fact, nothing out of the ordinary. The facts seemed plain to read. Ruby had hurried upstairs, changed her clothes and hurried off again where?

Josephine Turner, who might be supposed to know most about Ruby's life and friends, had proved unable to help. But this, as Inspector Slack pointed out, might be natural. "If what you tell me is true, sir about this adoption business, I mean well, Josie would be all for Ruby breaking with any old friends she might have, and who might queer the pitch, so to speak. As I see it, this invalid gentleman gets all worked up about Ruby Keene being such a sweet, innocent, childish little piece of goods. Now supposing Ruby's got a tough boy friend that won't go down so well with the old boy. So it's Ruby's business to keep that dark. Josie doesn't know much about the girl, anyway not about her friends and all that. But one thing she wouldn't stand for Ruby's messing up things by carrying on with some undesirable fellow. So it stands to reason that Ruby who, as I see it, was a sly little piece, would keep very dark about seeing any old friend. She wouldn't let on to Josie anything about it; otherwise Josie would say, 'No, you don't, my girl.' But you know what girls are especially young ones always ready to make a fool of themselves over a tough guy. Ruby wants to see him. He comes down here, cuts up rough about the whole business and wrings her neck."

"I expect you're right Slack," said Colonel Melchett, disguising his usual repugnance for the unpleasant way Slack had of putting things. "If so, we ought to be able to discover this tough friend's identity fairly easily."

"You leave it to me, sir," said Slack with his usual confidence. "I'll get hold of this Lit girl at that Palais de Danse place and turn her right inside out. We'll soon get at the truth." Colonel Melchett wondered if they would. Slack's energy and activity always made him feel tired. "There's one other person you might be able to get a tip from, sir," went on Slack. "And that's the dance-and-tennis-pro fellow. He must have seen a lot of her, and he'd know more than Josie would. Likely enough she'd loosen her tongue a bit to him."

"I have already discussed that point with Superintendent Harper."

"Good, sir. I've done the chambermaids pretty thoroughly. They don't know a thing. Looked down on these two, as far as I can make out. Scamped the service as much as they dared. Chambermaid was in here last at seven o'clock last night, when she turned down the bed and drew the curtains and cleared up a bit. There's a bathroom next door, if you'd like to see it."

The bathroom was situated between Ruby's room and the slightly larger room occupied by Josie. It was unilluminating. Colonel Melchett silently marveled at the amount of aids to beauty that women could use. Rows of jars of face cream, cleansing cream, vanishing cream, skin-feeding cream. Boxes of different shades of powder. An untidy heap of every variety of lipstick. Hair lotions and brightening applications. Eyelash black, mascara, blue stain for under the eyes, at least twelve different shades of nail varnish, face tissues, bits of cotton wool, dirty powder puffs. Bottles of lotions - astringent, tonic, soothing, and so on. "Do you mean to say," he murmured feebly, "that women use all these things?"

Inspector Slack, who always knew everything, kindly enlightened him. "In private life, sir, so to speak, a lady keeps to one or two distinct shades - one for evening, one for day. They know what suits them and they keep to it. But these professional girls, they have to ring a change, so to speak. They do exhibition dances, and one night it's a tango, and the next a crinoline Victorian dance, and then a kind of Apache dance, and then just ordinary ballroom, and of course the make-up varies a good bit."

"Good Lord," said the colonel. "No wonder the people who turn out these creams and messes make a fortune."

"Easy money, that's what it is," said Slack. "Easy money. Got to spend a bit in advertisement, of course."

Colonel Melchett jerked his mind away from the fascinating and age-long problem of woman's adornments. He said, "There's still this dancing fellow. Your pigeon, superintendent."

"I suppose so, sir."

As they went downstairs Harper asked, "What did you think of Mr. Bartlett's story, sir?"

"About his car? I think, Harper, that that young man wants watching. It's a fishy story. Supposing that he did take Ruby Keene out in that car last night, after all?" She was quite a pleasant and rather stupid girl."

"It's her friendships we're particularly anxious to know about. Her friendships with men."

"So I suppose. Well, I don't know anything. She'd got a few young men in tow in the hotel, but nothing special. You see, she was nearly always monopolized by the Jefferson family."

"Yes, the Jefferson family." Harper paused meditatively. He shot a shrewd glance at the young man. "What did you think of that business, Mr. Starr?"

Raymond Starr said coolly, "What business?"

Harper said, "Did you know that Mr. Jefferson was proposing to adopt Ruby Keene legally?"

This appeared to be news to Starr. He pursed up his lips and whistled. He said, "The clever little devil! Oh, well, there's no fool like an old fool."

"That's how it strikes you, is it?"

"Well, what else can one say? If the old boy wanted to adopt someone, why didn't he pick upon a girl of his own class?"

"Ruby never mentioned the matter to you?"

"No, she didn't. I knew she was elated about something, but I didn't know what it was."

"And Josie?"

"Oh, I think Josie must have known what was in the wind. Probably she was the one who planned the whole thing. Josie's no fool. She's got a head on her, that girl."

Harper nodded. It was Josie who had sent for Ruby Keene. Josie, no doubt, who had encouraged the intimacy. No wonder she had been upset when Ruby had failed to show up for her dance that night and Conway Jefferson had begun to panic. She was envisaging her plans going awry. He asked, "Could Ruby keep a secret, do you think?"

"As well as most. She didn't talk about her own affairs much."

"Did she ever say anything anything at all about some friend of hers, someone from her former life who was coming to see her or whom she had had difficulty with? You know the sort of thing I mean, no doubt."

"I know perfectly. Well, as far as I'm aware, there was no one of the kind. Not by anything she ever said."

"Thank you. Now will you just tell me in your own words exactly what happened last night?"

"Certainly. Ruby and I did our ten-thirty dance together."

"No signs of anything unusual about her then?" Raymond considered. "I don't think so. I didn't notice what happened afterward. I had my own partners to look after. I do remember noticing she was not in the ballroom. At midnight she hadn't turned up. I was very annoyed and went to Josie about it. Josie was playing bridge with the Jeffersons. She hadn't any idea where Ruby was, and I think she got a bit of a jolt. I noticed her shoot a quick, anxious glance at Mr. Jefferson. I persuaded the band to play another dance and I went to the office and got them to ring up Ruby's room. There wasn't any answer. I went back to Josie. She suggested that Ruby was perhaps asleep in her room. Idiotic suggestion really, but it was meant for the Jeffersons, of course! She came away with me and said we'd go up together."

"Yes, Mr. Starr. And what did she say when she was alone with you?"

"As far as I can remember, she looked very angry and said, Damned little fool. She can't do this sort of thing. It will ruin all her chances. Who's she with? Do you know?"

"I said that I hadn't the least idea. The last I'd seen of her was dancing with young Bartlett. Josie said, "She wouldn't be with him. What can she be up to? She isn't with that film man, is she?"

Harper said sharply, "Film man? Who was he?"

Raymond said, "I don't know his name. He's never stayed here. Rather an unusual-looking chap, black hair and theatrical-looking. He has something to do with the film industry, I believe or so he told Ruby. He came over to dine here once or twice and danced with Ruby afterward, but I don't think she knew him at all well. That's why I was surprised when Josie mentioned him. I said I didn't think he'd been here tonight. Josie said, "Well, she must be out with someone. What on earth am I going to say to the Jeffersons?" I said what did it matter to the Jeffersons? And Josie said it did matter. And she said, too, that she'd never forgive Ruby if she went and messed things up."

"We'd got to Ruby's room by then. She wasn't there, of course, but she'd been there, because the dress she had been wearing was lying across a chair. Josie looked in the wardrobe and said she thought she'd put on her old white dress. Normally she'd have changed into a black velvet dress for our Spanish dance. I was pretty angry by this time at the way Ruby had let me down. Josie did her best to soothe me and said she'd dance herself, so that old Prestcott shouldn't get after us all. She went away and changed her dress, and we went down and did a tango exaggerated style and quiet the Jeffersons down. She said it was important. So, of course, I did what I could."

Superintendent Harper nodded. He said, "Thank you, Mr. Starr." To himself he thought. It was important all right. Fifty thousand pounds. He watched Raymond Starr as the latter moved gracefully away. He went down the steps of the terrace, picking up a bag of tennis balls and a racket on the way. Mrs. Jefferson, also carrying a racket, joined him, and they went toward the tennis courts.

"Excuse me, sir." Sergeant Higgins, rather breathless, was standing at Superintendent Harper's side. The superintendent, jerked from the train of thought he was following, looked startled. "Message just come through for you from headquarters, sir. Laborer reported this morning saw glare as of fire. Half an hour ago they found a burnt-out car near a quarry. Venn's Quarry about two miles from here. Traces of a charred body inside."

A flush came over Harper's heavy features. He said, "What's come to Glenshire? An epidemic of violence?" He asked, "Could they get the number of the car?" "No, sir. But we'll be able to identify it, of course, by the engine number. A Minoan Fourteen, they think."

Sir Henry Clithering, as he passed through the lounge of the Majestic, hardly glanced at its occupants. His mind was preoccupied. Nevertheless, as is the way of life, something registered in his subconscious. It waited its time patiently.

Sir Henry was wondering, as he went upstairs, just what had induced the sudden urgency of his friend's message. Conway Jefferson was not the type of man who sent urgent summonses to anyone. Something quite out of the usual must have occurred, decided Sir Henry.

Jefferson wasted no time in beating about the bush. He said, "Glad you've come… Edwards, get Sir Henry a drink… Sit down, man. You've not heard anything, I suppose? Nothing in the papers yet?"

Sir Henry shook his head, his curiosity aroused. "What's the matter?"

"Murder's the matter. I'm concerned in it, and so are your friends, the Bantrys."

"Arthur and Dolly Bantry?" Clithering sounded incredulous.

"Yes; you see, the body was found in their house." Clearly and succinctly, Conway Jefferson ran through the facts. Sir Henry listened without interrupting. Both men were accustomed to grasping the gist of a matter. Sir Henry, during his term as commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, had been renowned for his quick grip on essentials. "It's an extraordinary business," he commented when the other had finished. "How do the Bantrys come into it, do you think?"

"That's what worries me. You see, Henry, it looks to me as though possibly the fact that I know them might have a bearing on the case. That's the only connection I can find. Neither of them, I gather, ever saw the girl before. That's what they say, and there's no reason to disbelieve them. It's most unlikely they should know her. Then isn't it possible that she was decoyed away and her body deliberately left in the house of friends of mine?" Clithering said, "I think that's far-fetched." "It's possible, though," persisted the other. "Yes, but unlikely. What do you want me to do?" Conway Jefferson said bitterly, "I'm an invalid. I disguise the fact, refuse to face it, but now it comes home to me. I can't go about as I'd like to, asking questions, looking into things. I've got to stay here meekly grateful for such scraps of information as the police are kind enough to dole out to me. Do you happen to know Melchett, by the way, the chief constable of Radfordshire?" "Yes, I've met him." Something stirred in Sir Henry's brain. A face and figure noted unseeingly as he passed through the lounge. A straight-backed old lady whose face was familiar. It linked up with the last time he had seen Melchett. He said, "Do you mean you want me to be a kind of amateur sleuth? That's not my line."

Jefferson said, "You're not an amateur, that's just it."

"I'm not a professional anymore. I'm on the retired list now."

Jefferson said, "That simplifies matters."

"You mean that if I were still at Scotland Yard I couldn't butt in? That's perfectly true."

"As it is," said Jefferson, "your experience qualifies you to take an interest in the case, and any cooperation you offer will be welcomed." Clithering said slowly, "Etiquette permits, I agree. But what do you really want, Conway? To find out who killed this girl?"

"Just that."

"You've no idea yourself?" "None whatever."

Sir Henry said slowly, "You probably won't believe me, but you've got an expert at solving mysteries sitting downstairs in the lounge at this minute. Someone who's better than I am at it, and who, in all probability, may have some local dope."

"What are you talking about?"

"Downstairs in the lounge, by the third pillar from the left, there sits an old lady with a sweet, placid, spinsterish face and a mind that has plumbed the depths of human iniquity and taken it as all in the day's work. Her name's Miss Marple. She comes from the village of St. Mary Mead, which is a mile and a half from Gossington; she's a friend of the Bantrys and, where crime is concerned, she's the goods, Conway."

Jefferson stared at him with thick puckered brows. He said heavily, "You're joking."

"No, I'm not. You spoke of Melchett just now. The last time I saw Melchett there was a village tragedy. Girl supposed to have drowned herself. Police, quite rightly, suspected that it wasn't suicide but murder. They thought they knew who did it. Along to me comes old Miss Marple, fluttering and Clithering. She's afraid, she says, they'll hang the wrong person. She's got no evidence, but she knows who did do it. Hands me a piece of paper with a name written on it. And, Jefferson, she was right!"

Conway Jefferson's brows came down lower than ever. He grunted disbelievingly.

"Woman's intuition, I suppose," he said skeptically.

"No, she doesn't call it that. Specialized knowledge is her claim."

"And what does that mean?"

"Well, you know, Jefferson, we use it in police work. We get a burglary and we usually know pretty well who did it of the regular crowd, that is. We know the sort of burglar who acts in a particular sort of way. Miss Marple has an interesting, though occasionally trivial, series of parallels from village life."

Jefferson said skeptically, "What is she likely to know about a girl who's been brought up in a theatrical milieu and probably never been in a village in her life?"

"I think," said Sir Henry Clithering firmly, "that she might have ideas."

Miss Marple flushed with pleasure as Sir Henry bore down upon her. "Oh, Sir Henry, this is indeed a great piece of luck, meeting you here."

Sir Henry was gallant. He said, "To me, it is a great pleasure."

Miss Marple murmured, flushing, "So kind of you."

"Are you staying here?"

"Well, as a matter of fact we are."

"We?"

"Mrs. Bantry's here too." She looked at him sharply. "Have you heard yet? Yes, I can see you have. It is terrible, is it not?"

"What's Dolly Bantry doing here? Is her husband here too?"

"No. Naturally, they both reacted quite differently. Colonel Bantry, poor man, just shuts himself up in his study or goes down to one of the farms when anything like this happens. Like tortoises, you know; they draw their heads in and hope nobody will notice them. Dolly, of course, is quite different."

"Dolly, in fact," said Sir Henry, who knew his old friend fairly well, "is almost enjoying herself, eh?"

"Well… er… yes. Poor dear."

"And she's brought you along to produce the rabbits out of the hat for her?"

Miss Marple said composedly, "Dolly thought that a change of scene would be a good thing and she didn't want to come alone." She met his eye and her own gently twinkled. "But of course your way of describing it is quite true. It's rather embarrassing for me, because, of course, I am no use at all."

"No ideas? No village parallels?"

"I don't know much about it all yet."

"I can remedy that, I think. I'm going to can you into consultation, Miss Marple."

He gave a brief recital of the course of events. Miss Marple listened with keen interest "Poor Mr. Jefferson," she said. "What a very sad story. These terrible accidents. To leave him alive, crippled, seems more cruel than if he had been killed too."

"Yes, indeed. That's why all his friends admire him so much for the resolute way he's gone on, conquering pain and grief and physical disabilities."

"Yes, it is splendid."

"The only thing I can't understand is this sudden outpouring of affection for this girl. She may, of course, have had some remarkable qualities."

"Probably not," said Miss Marple placidly.

"You don't think so?"

"I don't think her qualities entered into it."

Sir Henry said, "He isn't just a nasty old man, you know."

"Oh, no, no!" Miss Marple got quite pink. "I wasn't implying that for a minute. What I was trying to say was very badly, I know that he was just looking for a nice bright girl to take his dead daughter's place, and then this girl saw her opportunity and played it for all she was worth! That sounds rather uncharitable, I know, but I have seen so many cases of the kind. The young maidservant at Mr. Harbottle's, for instance. A very ordinary girl, but quiet, with nice manners. His sister was called away to nurse a dying relative, and when she got back she found the girl completely above herself, sitting down in the drawing room laughing and talking and not wearing her cap or apron. Miss Harbottle spoke to her very sharply, and the girl was impertinent, and then old Mr. Harbottle left her quite dumbfounded by saying that he thought she had kept the house for him long enough and that he was making other arrangements."

"Such a scandal as it created in the village, but poor Miss Harbottle had to go and live most uncomfortably in rooms in Eastbourne. People said things, of course, but I believe there was no familiarity of any kind. It was simply that the old man found it much pleasanter to have a young, cheerful girl telling him how clever and amusing he was than to have his sister continually pointing out his faults to him, even if she was a good, economical manager."

There was a moment's pause and then Miss Marple resumed. "And there was Mr. Badger, who had the chemist's shop. Made a lot of fuss over the young lady who worked in his cosmetics section. Told his wife they must look on her as a daughter and have her to live in the house. Mrs. Badger didn't see it that way at all."

Sir Henry said, "If she'd only been a girl in his own rank of life, a friend's child-"

Miss Marple interrupted him. "Oh, but that wouldn't have been nearly as satisfactory from his point of view. It's like King Cophetua and the beggar maid. If you're really rather a lonely tired old man, and if, perhaps, your own family have been neglecting you" she paused for a second "well, to befriend someone who will be overwhelmed with your magnificence, to put it rather melodramatically, but I hope you see what I mean, well, that's much more interesting. It makes you feel a much greater person, a beneficent monarch! The recipient is more likely to be dazzled, and that, of course, is a pleasant feeling for you." She paused and said, "Mr. Badger, you know, bought the girl in his shop some really fantastic presents, a diamond bracelet and a most expensive radio-gramophone. Took out a lot of his savings to do it. However, Mrs. Badger, who was a much more astute woman than poor Miss Harbottle, marriage, of course, helps, took the trouble to find out a few things. And when Mr. Badger discovered that the girl was carrying on with a very undesirable young man connected with the racecourses, and had actually pawned the bracelet to give him the money well, he was completely disgusted and the affair passed over quite safely. And he gave Mrs. Badger a diamond ring the following Christmas."

Her pleasant, shrewd eyes met Sir Henry's. He wondered if what she had been saying was intended as a hint. He said, "Are you suggesting that if there had been a young man in Ruby Keene's life, my friend's attitude toward her might have altered?"

"It probably would, you know. I dare say in a year or two he might have liked to arrange for her marriage himself though more likely he wouldn't. Gentlemen are usually rather selfish. But I certainly think that if Ruby Keene had had a young man she'd have been careful to keep very quiet about it." "And the young man might have resented that?" "I suppose that is the most plausible solution. It struck me, you know, that her cousin, the young woman who was at Gossington this morning, looked definitely angry with the dead girl. What you've told me explains why. No doubt she was looking forward to doing very well out of the business." "Rather a cold-blooded character, in fact?"

"That's too harsh a judgment, perhaps. The poor thing has had to earn her living, and you can't expect her to sentimentalize because a well-to-do man and woman as you have described Mr. Gaskell and Mrs. Jefferson are going to be done out of a further large sum of money to which they have really no particular moral right. I should say Miss Turner was a hardheaded, ambitious young woman with a good temper and considerable joie de vivre. A little," added Miss Marple, "like Jessie Golden, the baker's daughter." "What happened to her?" asked Sir Henry. "She trained as a nursery governess and married the son of the house, who was home on leave from India. Made him a very good wife, I believe." Sir Henry pulled himself clear of these fascinating side issues. He said, "Is there any reason, do you think, why my friend Conway Jefferson should suddenly have developed this "Cophetua complex," if you like to call it that?"

"There might have been."

"In what way?"

Miss Marple said, hesitating a little "I should think it's only a suggestion, of course that perhaps his son-in-law and daughter-in-law might have wanted to get married again."

"Surely he couldn't have objected to that?"

"Oh, no, not objected. But, you see, you must look at it from his point of view. He has a terrible shock and loss; so have they. The three bereaved people live together and the link between them is the loss they have all sustained. But Time, as my dear mother used to say, is a great healer. Mr. Gaskell and Mrs. Jefferson are young. Without knowing it themselves, they may have begun to feel restless, to resent the bonds that tied them to their past sorrow. And so, feeling like that, old Mr. Jefferson would have become conscious of a sudden lack of sympathy without knowing its cause. It's usually that. Gentlemen so easily feel neglected. With Mr. Harbottle it was Miss Harbottle going away. And with the Badgers it was Mrs. Badger taking such an interest in spiritualism and always going out to seances."

"I must say," said Sir Henry ruefully, "that I do dislike the way you reduce us all to a general common denominator."

Miss Marple shook her head sadly. "Human nature is very much the same anywhere, Sir Henry."

Sir Henry said distastefully, "Mr. Harbottle! Mr. Badger! And poor Conway! I hate to intrude the personal note, but have you any parallel for my humble self in your village?"

"Well, of course, there is Briggs."

"Who's Briggs?"

"He was the head gardener up at Old Hall. Quite the best man they ever had. Knew exactly when the under-gardeners were slacking off, quite uncanny it was! He managed with only three men and a boy, and the place was kept better than it had been with six. And took several Firsts with his sweet peas. He's retired now."

"Like me," said Sir Henry.

"But he still does a little jobbing, if he likes the people."

"Ah," said Sir Henry. "Again like me. That's what I'm doing now. Jobbing. To help an old friend."

"Two old friends."

"Two?" Sir Henry looked a little puzzled.

Miss Marple said, "I suppose you meant Mr. Jefferson. But I wasn't thinking of him. I was thinking of Colonel and Mrs. Bantry."

"Yes, yes, I see." He asked sharply, "Was that why you alluded to Dolly Bantry as 'poor dear' at the beginning of our conversation?"

"Yes. She hasn't begun to realize things yet. I know, because I've had more experience. You see, Sir Henry, it seems to me that there's a great possibility of this crime being the kind of crime that never does get solved. Like the Brighton trunk murders. But if that happens it will be absolutely disastrous for the Bantrys. Colonel Bantry, like nearly all retired military men, is really abnormally sensitive. He reacts very quickly to public opinion. He won't notice it for some time, and then it will begin to go home to him. A slight here, and a snub there, and invitations that are refused, and excuses that are made, and then, little by little, it will dawn upon him, and he'll retire into his shell and get terribly morbid and miserable."

"Let me be sure I understand you rightly, Miss Marple. You mean that, because the body was found in his house, people will think that he had something to do with it?"

"Of course they will! I've no doubt they're saying so already. They'll say so more and more. And people will cold-shoulder the Bantrys and avoid them. That's why the truth has got to be found out and why I was willing to come here with Mrs. Bantry. An open accusation is one thing and quite easy for a soldier to meet. He's indignant and he has a chance of fighting. But this other whispering business will break him, will break them both. So, you see, Sir Henry, we've got to find out the truth."

Sir Henry said, "Any ideas as to why the body should have been found in his house? There must be an explanation of that. Some connection."

"Oh, of course."

"The girl was last seen here about twenty minutes to eleven. By midnight, according to the medical evidence, she was dead. Gossington's about twenty miles from here. Good road for sixteen of those miles, until one turns off the main road. A powerful car could do it in well under half an hour. Practically any car could average thirty-five. But why anyone should either kill her here and take her body out to Gossington or should take her out to Gossington and strangle her there, I don't know."

"Of course you don't, because it didn't happen."

"Do you mean that she was strangled by some fellow who took her out in a car, and he then decided to push her into the first likely house in the neighborhood?"

"I don't think anything of the kind. I think there was a very careful plan made. What happened was that the plan went wrong."

Sir Henry stared at her. "Why did the plan go wrong?"

Miss Marple said rather apologetically, "Such curious things happen, don't they? If I were to say that this particular plan went wrong because human beings are so much more vulnerable and sensitive than anyone thinks, it wouldn't sound sensible, would it? But that's what I believe and-" She broke off. "Here's Mrs. Bantry now."

Mrs. Bantry was with Adelaide Jefferson. The former came up to Sir Henry and exclaimed, "You!"

"I, myself." He took both her hands and pressed them warmly. "I can't tell you how distressed I am at all this, Mrs. B."

Mrs. Bantry said mechanically, "Don't call me Mrs. B!" and went on, "Arthur isn't here. He's taking it all rather seriously. Miss Marple and I have come here to sleuth. Do you know Mrs. Jefferson?"

"Yes, of course."

He shook hands. Adelaide Jefferson said, "Have you seen my father-in-law?"

"Yes. I have."

"I'm glad. We're anxious about him. It was a terrible shock."

Mrs. Bantry said, "Let's go out on the terrace and have drinks and talk about it all." The four of them went out and joined Mark Gaskell, who was sitting at the extreme end of the terrace by himself. After a few desultory remarks and the arrival of the drinks, Mrs. Bantry plunged straight into the subject with her usual zest for direct action. "We can talk about it, can't we?" she said. "I mean we're all old friends except Miss Marple, and she knows all about crime. And she wants to help."

Mark Gaskell looked at Miss Marple in a somewhat puzzled fashion. He said doubtfully, "Do you… er write detective stories?" The most unlikely people, he knew, wrote detective stories. And Miss Marple, in her old-fashioned spinster's clothes, looked a singularly unlikely person. "Oh, no, I'm not clever enough for that." "She's wonderful," said Mrs. Bantry impatiently. "I can't explain now, but she is… Now, Addie, I want to know all about things. What was she really like, this girl?"

"Well-" Adelaide Jefferson paused, glanced across at Mark and half laughed. She said, "You're so direct." "Did you like her?" "No, of course I didn't."

"What was she really like?" Mrs. Bantry shifted her inquiry to Mark Gaskell.

Mark said deliberately, "Common or garden gold digger. And she knew her stuff. She'd got her hooks into Jeff all right." Both of them called their father-in-law "Jeff."

Sir Henry thought, looking disapprovingly at Mark, indiscreet fellow. Shouldn't be so outspoken. He had always disapproved a little of Mark Gaskell. The man had charm, but he was unreliable, talked too much, was occasionally boastful not quite to be trusted, Sir Henry thought. He had sometimes wondered if Conway Jefferson thought so too.

"But couldn't you do something about it?" demanded Mrs Bantry.

Mark said dryly, "We might have, if we'd realized it in time."

He shot a glance at Adelaide and she colored faintly. There had been reproach in that glance.

She said, "Mark thinks I ought to have seen what was coming."

"You left the old boy alone too much, Addie. Tennis lessons and all the rest of it."

"Well, I had to have some exercise." She spoke apologetically. "Anyway, I never dreamed-"

"No," said Mark, "neither of us ever dreamed. Jeff has always been such a sensible, levelheaded old boy."

Miss Marple made a contribution to the conversation. "Gentlemen," she said with her old maid's way of referring to the opposite sex as though it were a species of wild animal, "are frequently not so levelheaded as they seem."

"I'll say you're right," said Mark. "Unfortunately, Miss Marple, we didn't realize that. We wondered what the old boy saw in that rather insipid and meretricious little bag of tricks. But we were pleased for him to be kept happy and amused. We thought there was no harm in her. No harm in her! I wish I'd wrung her neck."

"Mark," said Addie, "you really must be careful what you say."

He grinned at her engagingly. "I suppose I must. Otherwise people will think I actually did wring her neck. Oh, well, I suppose I'm under suspicion anyway. If anyone had an interest in seeing that girl dead, it was Addie and myself."

"Mark," cried Mrs. Jefferson, half laughing and half angry, "you really mustn't!"

"All right, all right," said Mark Gaskell pacifically. "But I do like speaking my mind. Fifty thousand pounds our esteemed father-in-law was proposing to settle upon that half-baked, nit-witted little sly puss-"

"Mark, you mustn't! She's dead!"

"Yes, she's dead, poor little devil. And after all, why shouldn't she use the weapons that Nature gave her? Who am I to judge? Done plenty of rotten things myself in my life. No, let's say Ruby was entitled to plot and scheme, and we were mugs not to have tumbled to her game sooner."

Sir Henry said, "What did you say when Conway told you he proposed to adopt the girl?"

Mark thrust out his hands. "What could we say? Addie, always the little lady, retained her self-control admirably. Put a brave face upon it. I endeavored to follow her example."

"I should have made a fuss!" said Mrs. Bantry.

"Well, frankly speaking, we weren't entitled to make a fuss. It was Jeff's money. We weren't his flesh and blood. He'd always been damned good to us. There was nothing for it but to bite on the bullet." He added reflectively, "But we didn't love little Ruby."

Adelaide Jefferson said, "If only it had been some other kind of girl. Jeff had two godchildren, you know. If it had been one of them well, one would have understood it." She added with a shade of resentment, "And Jeff's always seemed so fond of Peter."

"Of course," said Mrs. Bantry. "I always have known Peter was your first husband's child, but I'd quite forgotten it. I've always thought of him as Mr. Jefferson's grandson."

"So have I," said Adelaide. Her voice held a note that made Miss Marple turn in her chair and look at her.

"It was Josie's fault," said Mark. "Josie brought her here."

Adelaide said, "Oh, but surely you don't think it was deliberate, do you? Why, you've always liked Josie so much." "Yes, I did like her. I thought she was a good sport." "It was sheer accident, her bringing the girl down." "Josie's got a good head on her shoulders, my girl." "Yes, but she couldn't foresee-"

Mark said, "No, she couldn't. I admit it. I'm not really accusing her of planning the whole thing. But I've no doubt she saw which way the wind was blowing long before we did, and kept very quiet about it."

Adelaide said with a sigh, "I suppose one can't blame her for that."

Mark said, "Oh, we can't blame anyone for anything!" Mrs. Bantry asked, "Was Ruby Keene very pretty?" Mark stared at her. "I thought you'd seen-" Mrs. Bantry said hastily, "Oh, yes, I saw her her body. But she'd been strangled, you know, and one couldn't tell-" She shivered.

Mark said thoughtfully, "I don't think she was really pretty at all. She certainly wouldn't have been without any make-up. A thin ferrety little face, not much chin, teeth running down her throat, nondescript sort of nose-" "It sounds revolting," said Mrs. Bantry. "Oh, no, she wasn't. As I say, with make-up she managed to give quite an effect of good looks… Don't you think so, Addie?"

"Yes, rather chocolate-box, pink-and-white business. She had nice blue eyes." "Yes, innocent-baby stare, and the heavily blacked lashes brought out the blueness. Her hair was bleached, of course. It's true, when I come to think of it, that in coloring, artificial coloring, anyway, she had a kind of spurious resemblance to Rosamund, my wife, you know. I dare say that's what attracted the old man's attention to her." He sighed. "Well, it's a bad business. The awful thing is that Addie and I can't help being glad, really, that she's dead." He quelled a protest from his sister-in-law. "It's no good, Addie. I know what you feel. I feel the same. And I'm not going to pretend! But at the same time, if you know what I mean, I really am most awfully concerned for Jeff about the whole business. It's hit him very hard. I-" He stopped and stared toward the doors leading out of the lounge onto the terrace. "Well, well. See who's here… What an unscrupulous woman you are, Addie."

Mrs. Jefferson looked over her shoulder, uttered an exclamation and got up, a slight color rising in her face. She walked quickly along the terrace and went up to a tall, middle-aged man with a thin brown face who was looking uncertainly about him.

Mrs. Bantry said, "Isn't that Hugo McLean?"

Mark Gaskell said, "Hugo McLean it is. Alias William Dobbin."

Mrs. Bantry murmured, "He's very faithful, isn't he?"

"Doglike devotion," said Mark. "Addie's only got to whistle and Hugo comes trotting along from any odd corner of the globe. Always hopes that someday she'll marry him. I dare say she will."

Miss Marple looked beamingly after them. She said, "I see. A romance?"

"One of the good old-fashioned kind," Mark assured her. "It's been going on for years. Addie's that kind of woman." He added meditatively, "I suppose Addie telephoned him this morning. She didn't tell me she had."

Edwards came discreetly along the terrace and paused at Mark's elbow. "Excuse me, sir. Mr. Jefferson would like you to come up."

"I'll come at once." Mark sprang up. He nodded to them, said, "See you later," and went off.

Sir Henry leaned forward to Miss Marple. He said, "Well, what do you think of the principal beneficiaries of the crime?"

Miss Marple said thoughtfully, looking at Adelaide Jefferson as she stood talking to her old friend, "I should think, you know, that she was a very devoted mother."

"Oh, she is," said Mrs. Bantry. "She's simply devoted to Peter."

"She's the kind of woman," said Miss Marple, "that everyone likes. The kind of woman that could go on getting married again and again. I don't mean a man's woman that's quite different." "I know what you mean," said Sir Henry. "What you both mean," said Mrs. Bantry, "is that she's a good listener." Sir Henry laughed. He said, "And Mark Gaskell?" "Ah," said Miss Marple. "He's a downy fellow." "Village parallel, please?"

"Mr. Cargill, the builder. He bluffed a lot of people into having things done to their houses they never meant to do. And how he charged them for it! But he could always explain his bill away plausibly. A downy fellow. He married money. So did Mr. Gaskell, I understand." "You don't like him."

"Yes, I do. Most women would. But he can't take me in. He's a very attractive person, I think. But a little unwise, perhaps, to talk as much as he does." "Unwise' is the word," said Sir Henry. "Mark will get himself into trouble if he doesn't look out." A tall dark young man in white flannels came to the terrace and paused just for a Adelaide Jefferson and Hugo McLean. Said Sir Henry obligingly, "is X, whom we might describe as an interested party. He is the tennis dancing pro, Raymond Starr, Ruby Keene's partner."

Miss Marple looked at him with interest. She said, "He's very nice-looking, isn't he?"

"I suppose so."

"Don't be absurd. Sir Henry," said Mrs. Bantry. "There's no supposing about it. He is good-looking."

Miss Marple murmured, "Mrs. Jefferson has been taking tennis lessons, I think she said."

"Do you mean anything by that, Jane, or don't you?"

Miss Marple had no chance of replying to this downright question. Young Peter Carmody came across the terrace and joined them. He addressed himself to Sir Henry. "I say, are you a detective too? I saw you talking to the superintendent, the fat one is a superintendent, isn't he?"

"Quite right, my son."

"And somebody told me you were a frightfully important detective from London. The head of Scotland Yard or something like that."

"The head of Scotland Yard is usually a complete dud in books, isn't he?"

"Oh, no; not nowadays. Making fun of the police is very old-fashioned. Do you know who did the murder yet?"

"Not yet, I'm afraid."

"Are you enjoying this very much, Peter?" asked Mrs. Bantry.

"Well, I am rather. It makes a change, doesn't it? I've been hunting round to see if I could find any clues, but I haven't been lucky. I've got a souvenir, though. Would you like to see it? Fancy, mother wanted me to throw it away. I do think one's parents are rather trying sometimes." He produced from his pocket a small match box. Pushing it open, he disclosed the precious contents. "See, it's a fingernail. Her fingernail. I'm going to label it Fingernail of the Murdered Woman and take it back to school. It's a good souvenir, don't you think?" "Where did you get it?" asked Miss Marple. "Well, it was a bit of luck, really. Because of course I didn't know she was going to be murdered then. It was before dinner last night. Ruby caught her nail in Josie's shawl and it tore it. Mum's cut it off for her and gave it to me and said put it in the wastepaper basket, and I meant to, but I put it in my pocket instead, and this morning I remembered and looked to see if it was still there, and it was, so now I've got it as a souvenir."

"Disgusting," said Mrs. Bantry. Peter said politely, "Oh, do you think so?" "Got any other souvenirs?" asked Sir Henry. "Well, I don't know. I've got something that might be." "Explain yourself, young man." Peter looked at him thoughtfully. Then he pulled out an envelope. From the inside of it he extracted a piece of brown tape-like substance. "It's a bit of that chap George Bartlett's shoelace," he explained. "I saw his shoes outside the door this morning and I bagged a bit just in case." "In case what?" "In case he should be the murderer, of course. He was the last person to see her, and that's always frightfully suspicious, you know… Is it nearly dinnertime, do you think? I'm frightfully hungry. It always seems such a long time between tea and dinner… Hullo, there's Uncle Hugo. I didn't know mums had asked him to come down. I suppose she sent for him. She always does if she's in a jam. Here's Josie coming… Hi, Josie!"

Josephine Turner, coming along the terrace, stopped and looked rather startled to see Mrs. Bantry and Miss Marple. Mrs. Bantry said pleasantly, "How d'you do, Miss Turner. We've come to do a bit of sleuthing."

Josie cast a guilty glance round. She said, lowering her voice, "It's awful. Nobody knows yet. I mean it isn't in the papers yet. I suppose everyone will be asking me questions, and it's so awkward. I don't know what I ought to say."

Her glance went rather wistfully toward Miss Marple, who said, "Yes, it will be a very difficult situation for you, I'm afraid."

Josie warmed to this sympathy. "You see, Mr. Prestcott said to me, "Don't talk about it. And that's all very well, but everyone is sure to ask me and you can't offend people, can you? Mr. Prescott said he hoped I'd feel able to carry on as usual, and he wasn't very nice about it, so, of course, I want to do my best. And I really don't see why it should all be blamed on me."

Sir Henry said, "Do you mind me asking you a frank question?"

"Oh, do ask me anything you like," said Josie a little insincerely.

"Has there been any unpleasantness between you and Mrs. Jefferson and Mr. Gaskell over all this?"

"Over the murder, do you mean?"

"No, I don't mean the murder."

Josie stood twisting her fingers together. She said rather sullenly, "Well, there has and there hasn't, if you know what I mean. Neither of them has said anything. But I think they blame it on me, Mr. Jefferson taking such a fancy to Ruby, I mean. It wasn't my fault, though, was it? These things happen, and I never dreamt of such a thing happening beforehand, not for a moment. I was quite dumbfounded." Her words rang out with what seemed undeniable sincerity.

Sir Henry said kindly, "I'm sure you were. But once it had happened?"

Josie's chin went up. "Well, it was a piece of luck, wasn't it? Everyone's got the right to have a piece of luck sometimes." She looked from one to the other of them in a slightly defiant, questioning manner, and then went on across the terrace and into the hotel.

Peter said judicially, "I don't think she did it."

Miss Marple murmured, "It's interesting, that piece of fingernail. It had been worrying me, you know how to account for her nails."

"Nails?" asked Sir Henry.

"The dead girl's nails," explained Mrs. Bantry. "They were quite short and, now that Jane says so, of course it was a little unlikely. A girl like that usually has absolute talons!"

Miss Marple said, "But of course if she tore one off, then she might clip the others close so as to match. Did they find nail parings in her room, I wonder?"

Sir Henry looked at her curiously. He said, "I'll ask Superintendent Harper when he gets back."

"Back from where?" asked Mrs. Bantry. "He hasn't gone over to Gossington, has he?"

Sir Henry said gravely, "No. There's been another tragedy. Blazing car in a quarry."

Miss Marple caught her breath. "Was there someone in the car?" "I'm afraid so, yes."

Miss Marple said thoughtfully, "I expect that will be the Girl Guide who's missing. Patience no, Pamela Reeves."

Sir Henry stared at her. "Now why on earth do you think that?"

Miss Marple got rather pink. "Well, it was given out on the wireless that she was missing from her home since last night. And her home was Daneleigh Vale that's not very far from here and she was last seen at the Girl Guide rally up on Danebury Downs. That's very close indeed. In fact, she'd have to pass through Danemouth to get home. So it does rather fit in, doesn't it? I mean it looks as though she might have seen or perhaps heard something that no one was supposed to see and hear. If so, of course, she'd be a source of danger to the murderer and she'd have to be removed. Two things like that must be connected, don't you think?"

Sir Henry said, his voice dripping a little, "You think a second murder?"

"Why not?" Her quiet, placid gaze met his. "When anyone has committed one murder he doesn't shrink from another, does he? Nor even from a third."

"A third? You don't think there will be a third murder?"

"I think it's just possible. Yes, I think it's highly possible."

"Miss Marple," said Sir Henry, "you frighten me. Do you know who is going to be murdered?"

Miss Marple said, "I've a very good idea."

Colonel Melchett and Superintendent Harper looked at each other. Harper had come over to Much Benham for a consultation. Melchett said gloomily, "Well, we know where we are or rather where we aren't!"

"Where we aren't expresses it better, sir."

"We've got two deaths to take into account," said Melchett. "Two murders. Ruby Keene and the child, Pamela Reeves. Not much to identify her by, poor kid, but enough. One shoe escaped burning and has been identified as hers, and a button from her Girl Guide uniform. A fiendish business, superintendent."

Superintendent Harper said very quietly, "I'll say you're right, sir."

"I'm glad to say Haydock is quite certain she was dead before the car was set on fire. The way she was lying thrown across the seat shows that. Probably knocked on the head, poor kid."

"Or strangled, perhaps."

"You think so?"

"Well, sir, there are murderers like that."

"I know. I've seen the parents. The poor girl's mother's beside herself. Damned painful, the whole thing. The point for us to settle is: are the two murders connected?"

The superintendent ticked off the points on his fingers. "Attended rally of Girl Guides on Danebury Downs. Stated by companion to be normal and cheerful. Did not return with three companions by the bus to Medchester. Said to them that she was going to Danemouth to Woolworth's and would take the bus home from there. That's likely enough. Woolworth's in Danemouth is a big affair. The girl lived in the back country and didn't get many chances of going into town. The main road into Danemouth from the downs does a big round inland; Pamela Reeves took a short cut over two fields and a footpath and lane which would bring her into Danemouth near the Majestic Hotel. The lane, in fact, actually passes the hotel on the west side. It's possible, therefore, that she overheard or saw something, something concerning Ruby Keene which would have proved dangerous to the murderer say, for instance, that she heard him arranging to meet Ruby Keene at eleven that evening. He realizes that this schoolgirl has overheard and he has to silence her."

Colonel Melchett said, "That's presuming, Harper, that the Ruby Keene crime was premeditated, not spontaneous."

Superintendent Harper agreed. "I believe it was, sir. It looks as though it would be the other way, sudden violence, a fit of passion or jealousy, but I'm beginning to think that that's not so. I don't see, otherwise, how you can account for the death of the child. If she was a witness of the actual crime it would be late at night, round about eleven p.m., and what would she be doing round about the Majestic Hotel at that time of night? Why, at nine o'clock her parents were getting anxious because she hadn't returned."

"The alternative is that she went to meet someone in Danemouth unknown to her family and friends, and that her death is quite unconnected with the other death."

"Yes, sir, and I don't believe that's so. Look how even the old lady, old Miss Marple, tumbled to it at once that there was a connection. She asked at once if the body in the burnt car was the body of the Girl Guide. Very smart old lady, that. These old ladies are, sometimes. Shrewd, you know. Put their fingers on the vital spot."

"Miss Marple has done that more than once," said Colonel Melchett dryly.

"And besides, sir, there's the car. That seems to me to link up her death definitely with the Majestic Hotel. It was Mr. George Bartlett's car."

Again the eyes of the two men met. Melchett said, "George Bartlett? Could be! What do you think?"

Again Harper methodically recited various points. "Ruby Keene was last seen with George Bartlett. He says she went to her room, borne out by the dress she was wearing being found there, but did she go to her room and change in order to go out with him? Had they made a date to go out together earlier, discussed it, say, before dinner and did Pamela Reeves happen to overhear?"

Colonel Melchett said, "He didn't report the loss of his car until the following morning, and he was extremely vague about it then; pretended that he couldn't remember exactly when he had last noticed it."

"That might be cleverness, sir. As I see it, he's either a very clever gentleman pretending to be a silly ass, or else well, he is a silly ass."

"What we want," said Melchett, "is motive. As it stands, he had no motive whatever for killing Ruby Keene."

"Yes, that's where we're stuck every time. Motive. All the reports from the Palais de Danse at Brixwell are negative, I understand."

"Absolutely! Ruby Keene had no special boy friend. Slack's been into the matter thoroughly. Give Slack his due; he is thorough."

"That's right, sir. 'Thorough' is the word."

"If there was anything to ferret out he'd have ferreted it out. But there's nothing there. He got a list of her most frequent dancing partners all vetted and found correct. Harmless fellows, and all able to produce alibis for that night."

"Ah," said Superintendent Harper. "Alibis. That's what we're up against."

Melchett looked at him sharply. "Think so? I've left that side of the investigation to you."

"Yes, sir. It's been gone into very thoroughly. We applied to London for help over it."

"Well?"

"Mr. Conway Jefferson may think that Mr. Gaskell and young Mrs. Jefferson are comfortably off, but that is not the case. They're both extremely hard up."

"Is that true?" "Quite true, sir. It's as Mr. Conway Jefferson said; he made over considerable sums of money to his son and daughter when they married. That was a number of years ago, though. Mr. Frank Jefferson fancied himself as knowing good investments. He didn't invest in anything absolutely wildcat, but he was unlucky and showed poor judgment more than once. His holdings have gone steadily down. I should say that Mrs. Jefferson found it very difficult to make both ends meet and send her son to a good school."

"But she hasn't applied to her father-in-law for help?"

"No, sir. As far as I can make out she lives with him and, consequently, has no household expenses."

"And his health is such that he wasn't expected to live long?"

"That's right, sir. Now for Mr. Mark Gaskell, he's a gambler, pure and simple. Got through his wife's money very soon. Has got himself tangled up rather badly just at present. He needs money badly, and a good deal of it."

"Can't say I liked the looks of him much," said Colonel Melchett. "Wild-looking sort of fellow, what? And he's got a motive, all right. Twenty-five thousand pounds it meant to him, getting that girl out of the way. Yes, it's a motive all right." "They both had a motive." "I'm not considering Mrs. Jefferson." "No, sir, I know you're not. And, anyway, the alibi holds for both of them. They couldn't have done it. Just that."

"You've got a detailed statement of their movements that evening?" "Yes, I have. Take Mr. Gaskell first. He dined with his father-in-law and Mrs. Jefferson, had coffee with them afterward when Ruby Keene joined them. Then said he had to write letters and left them. Actually, he took his car and went for a spin down to the front. He told me quite frankly he couldn't stick playing bridge for a whole evening. The old boy's mad on it. So he made letters an excuse. Ruby Keene remained with the others. Mark Gaskell returned when she was dancing with Raymond. After the dance Ruby came and had a drink with them, then she went off with young Bartlett, and Gaskell and the others cut for partners and started their bridge. That was at twenty minutes to eleven, and he didn't leave the table until after midnight. That's quite certain, sir. Everyone says so: the family, the waiters, everyone. Therefore, he couldn't have done it. And Mrs. Jefferson's alibi is the same. She, too, didn't leave the table. They're out, both of them out." Colonel Melchett leaned back, tapping the table with a paper cutter.

Superintendent Harper said, "That is, assuming the girl was killed before midnight."

"Haydock said she was. He's a very sound fellow in police work. If he says a thing, it's so."

"There might be reasons - health, physical idiosyncrasy or something."

"I'll put it to him." Melchett glanced at his watch, picked up the telephone receiver and asked for a number. He said, "Haydock ought to be in now. Now, assuming that she was killed after midnight-"

Harper said, "Then there might be a chance. There was some coming and going afterward. Let's assume that Gaskell had asked the girl to meet him outside somewhere say at twenty past twelve. He slips away for a minute or two, strangles her, comes back, and disposes of the body later in the early hours of the morning."

Melchett said, "Takes her by car twenty miles to put her in Bantry's library? Dash it all, it's not a likely story."

"No, it isn't," the superintendent admitted at once.

The telephone rang. Melchett picked up the receiver. "Hullo, Haydock, is that you? Ruby Keene. Would it be possible for her to have been killed after midnight?"

"I told you she was killed between ten and midnight."

"Yes, I know, but one could stretch it a bit, what?"

"No, you couldn't stretch it. When I say she was killed before midnight I mean before midnight, and don't try and tamper with the medical evidence."

"Yes, but couldn't there be some physiological whatnot? You know what I mean?"

"I know that you don't know what you're talking about. The girl was perfectly healthy and not abnormal in any way, and I'm not going to say she was just to help you fit a rope round the neck of some wretched fellow whom you police wallahs have got your knife into. Now, don't protest. I know your ways. And, by the way, the girl wasn't strangled willingly, that is to say, she was drugged first. Powerful narcotic. She died of strangulation, but she was drugged first." Haydock rang off.

Melchett said gloomily, "Well, that's that."

Harper said, "Thought I'd found another likely starter, but it petered out."

"What's that? Who?"

"Strictly speaking, he's your pigeon, sir. Name of Basil Blake. Lives near Gossington Hall."

"Impudent young jackanapes!" The colonel's brow darkened as he remembered Basil Blake's outrageous rudeness. "How's he mixed up in it?"

"Seems he knew Ruby Keene. Dined over at the Majestic quite often, danced with the girl. Do you remember what Josie said to Raymond when Ruby was discovered to be missing. 'She isn't with that film man, is she?' I've found out it was Blake she meant. He's employed with the Lenville Studios, you know. Josie has nothing to go upon except a belief that Ruby was rather keen on him."

"Very promising. Harper, very promising."

"Not so good as it sounds, sir. Basil Blake was at a party at the studios that night. You know the sort of thing. Starts at eight with cocktails and goes on and on until the air's too thick to see through and everyone passes out. According to Inspector Slack, who's questioned him, he left the show round about midnight. At midnight Ruby Keene was dead."

"Anyone bear out his statement?"

"Most of them, I gather, sir, were rather… er far gone. The… er young woman now at the bungalow, Miss Dinah Lee, says that statement is correct."

"Doesn't mean a thing."

"No, sir, probably not. Statements taken from other members of the party bear Mr. Blake's statement out, on the whole, though ideas as to time are somewhat vague."

"Where are these studios?"

"Lenville, sir, thirty miles southwest of London."

"It's about the same distance from here."

"Yes, sir."

Colonel Melchett rubbed his nose. He said in a rather dissatisfied tone, "Well, it looks as though we could wash him out."

"I think so, sir. There is no evidence that he was seriously attracted by Ruby Keene. In fact," Superintendent Harper coughed primly "he seems fully occupied with his own young lady."

Melchett said, "Well, we are left with X, an unknown murderer, so unknown Slack can't find a trace of him. Or Jefferson's son-in-law, who might have wanted to kill the girl, but didn't have a chance to do so. Daughter-in-law ditto. Or George Bartlett, who has no alibi, but, unfortunately, no motive either. Or with young Blake, who has an alibi and no motive. And that's the lot! No, stop. I suppose we ought to consider the dancing fellow, Raymond Starr. After all, he saw a lot of the girl."

Harper said slowly, "Can't believe he took much interest in her or else he's a thundering good actor. And, for all practical purposes, he's got an alibi too. He was more or less in view from twenty minutes to eleven until midnight, dancing with various partners. I don't see that we can make a case against him."

"In fact," said Colonel Melchett, "we can't make a case against anybody."

"George Bartlett's our best hope," Harper said. "If we could only hit on a motive."

"You've had him looked up?"

"Yes, sir. Only child. Coddled by his mother. Came into a good deal of money on her death a year ago. Getting through it fast. Weak rather than vicious."

"May be mental," said Melchett hopefully.

Superintendent Harper nodded. He said, "Has it struck you, sir, that that may be the explanation of the whole case?"

"Criminal lunatic, you mean?"

"Yes, sir. One of those fellows who go about strangling young girls. Doctors have a long name for it."

"That would solve all our difficulties," said Melcbett.


"There's only one thing I don't like about it," said Melchett.

Conway Jefferson stirred in his sleep and stretched. His arms were flung out, long, powerful arms into which all the strength of his body seemed to be concentrated since his accident. Through the curtains the morning light glowed softly. Conway Jefferson smiled to himself. Always, after a night of rest, he woke like this, happy, refreshed, his deep vitality renewed. Another day! So, for a minute, he lay. Then he pressed the special bell by his hand. And suddenly a wave of remembrance swept over him. Even as Edwards, deft and quiet-footed, entered the room a groan was wrung from his master. Edwards paused with his hand on the curtains. He said, "You're not in pain, sir?"

Conway Jefferson said harshly, "No. Go on, pull 'em." The clear light flooded the room. Edwards, understanding, did not glance at his master.

His face grim, Conway Jefferson lay remembering and thinking. Before his eyes he saw again the pretty, vapid face of Ruby. Only in his mind he did not use the adjective "vapid." Last night he would have said "innocent." A naive, innocent child! And now? A great weariness came over Conway Jefferson. He closed his eyes. He murmured below his breath, "Margaret." It was the name of his dead wife.

"I like your friend," said Adelaide Jefferson to Mrs. Bantry. The two women were sitting on the terrace.

"Jane Marple's a very remarkable woman," said Mrs. Bantry.

"She's nice too," said Addie, smiling.

"People call her a scandal monger," said Mrs. Bantry, "but she isn't really."

"Just a low opinion of human nature?"

"You could call it that."

"It's rather refreshing," said Adelaide Jefferson, "after having had too much of the other thing." Mrs. Bantry looked at her sharply. Addie explained herself. "So much high thinking idealization of an unworthy object!"

"You mean Ruby Keene?"

Addie nodded. "I don't want to be horrid about her. There wasn't any harm in her. Poor little rat, she had to fight for what she wanted. She wasn't bad. Common and rather silly and quite good-natured, but a decided little gold digger. I don't think she schemed or planned. It was just that she was quick to take advantage of a possibility. And she knew just how to appeal to an elderly man who was lonely."

"I suppose," said Mrs. Bantry thoughtfully, "that Conway was lonely."

Addie moved restlessly. She said, "He was this summer." She paused and then burst out, "Mark will have it that it was all my fault! Perhaps it was; I don't know." She was silent for a minute, then, impelled by some need to talk, she went on speaking in a difficult, almost reluctant way. "I've had such an odd sort of life. Mike Carmody, my first husband, died so soon after we were married it - it knocked me out. Peter, as you know, was born after his death. Frank Jefferson was Mike's great friend. So I came to see a lot of him. He was Peter's godfather, Mike had wanted that. I got very fond of him and oh, sorry for him too."

"Sorry?" queried Mrs. Bantry with interest.

"Yes, just that. It sounds odd. Frank had always had everything he wanted. His father and his mother couldn't have been nicer to him. And yet how can I say it, you see, old Mr. Jefferson's personality is so strong. If you live with it you can't somehow have a personality of your own. Frank felt that."

"When we were married he was very happy, wonderfully so. Mr. Jefferson was very generous. He settled a large sum of money on Frank; said he wanted his children to be independent and not have to wait for his death. It was so nice of him so generous. But it was much too sudden. He ought really to have accustomed Frank to independence little by little."

"It went to Frank's head. He wanted to be as good a man as his father, as clever about money and business, as farseeing and successful. And of course he wasn't. He didn't exactly speculate with the money, but he invested in the wrong things at the wrong time. It's frightening, you know, how soon money goes if you're not clever about it. The more Frank dropped, the more eager he was to get it back by some clever deal. So things went from bad to worse."

"But, my dear," said Mrs. Bantry, "couldn't Conway have advised him?"

"He didn't want to be advised. The one thing he wanted was to do well on his own. That's why we never let Mr. Jefferson know. When Frank died there was very little left; only a tiny income for me. And I didn't let his father know either. You see," she turned abruptly "it would have seemed like betraying Frank to him. Frank would have hated it so. Mr. Jefferson was ill for a long time. When he got well he assumed that I was a very-well-off widow. I've never undeceived him. It's been a point of honor. He knows I'm very careful about money, but he just approves of that, thinks I'm a thrifty sort of woman. And of course Peter and I have lived with him practically ever since, and he's paid for all our living expenses. So I've never had to worry." She said slowly, "We've been like a family all these years, only - only, you see or don't you see? I've never been Frank's widow to him; I've been Frank's wife."

Mrs. Bantry grasped the implication. "You mean he's never accepted their deaths?"

"No. He's been wonderful. But he's conquered his own terrible tragedy by refusing to recognize death. Mark is Rosamund's husband and I'm Frank's wife, and though Frank, and Rosamund aren't exactly here with us they are still existent."

Mrs. Bantry said softly, "It's a wonderful triumph of faith."

"I know. We've gone on, year after year. But suddenly, this summer, something went wrong in me. I felt - felt rebellious. It's an awful thing to say, but I didn't want to think of Frank any more! All that was over, my love and companionship with him, and my grief when he died. It was something that had been and wasn't any longer."

"It's awfully hard to describe. It's like wanting to wipe the slate clean and start again. I wanted to be me, Addie, still reasonably young and strong and able to play games and swim and dance - just a person. Even Hugo, you know Hugo McLean? he's a dear and wants to marry me, but of course I've never really thought of it, but this summer I did begin to think of it, not seriously, only vaguely." She stopped and shook her head. "And so I suppose it's true. I neglected Jeff. I don't mean really neglected him, but my mind and thoughts weren't with him. When Ruby, as I saw, amused him, I was rather glad. It left me freer to go and do my own things. I never dreamed, of course I never dreamed, that he would be so so infatuated with her!"

Mrs. Bantry asked, "And when did you find out?"

"I was dumbfounded, absolutely dumbfounded! And, I'm afraid, angry too."

"I'd have been angry," said Mrs. Bantry.

"There was Peter, you see. Peter's whole future depends on Jeff. Jeff practically looked on him as a grandson, or so I thought, but of course he wasn't a grandson. He was no relation at all. And to think that he was going to be disinherited!" Her firm, well-shaped hands shook a little where they lay in her lap. "For that's what it felt like. And for a vulgar gold-digging little simpleton! Oh, I could have killed her!"

She stopped, stricken. Her beautiful hazel eyes met Mrs. Bantry's in a pleading horror. She said, "What an awful thing to say!"

Hugo McLean, coming quietly up behind them, asked, "What's an awful thing to say?"

"Sit down, Hugo. You know Mrs. Bantry, don't you?"

McLean had already greeted the older lady. He said, now, in a slow, persevering way, "What was an awful thing to say?"

Addie Jefferson said, "That I'd like to have killed Ruby Keene."

Hugo McLean reflected a minute or two. Then he said, "No, wouldn't say that if I were you. Might be misunderstood." His eyes, steady, reflective gray eyes, looked at her meaningly. He said, "You've got to watch your step, Addie." There was a warning in his voice.

When Miss Marple came out of the hotel and joined Mrs. Bantry a few minutes later, Hugo McLean and Adelaide Jefferson were walking down the path to the sea together. Seating herself Miss Marple remarked, "He seems very devoted."

"He's been devoted for years! One of those men."

"I know. Like Major Bury. He hung round an Anglo-Indian widow for quite ten years. A joke among her friends! In the end she gave in, but, unfortunately, ten days before they were to have been married she ran away with the chauffeur. Such a nice woman, too, and usually so well balanced."

"People do do very odd things," agreed Mrs. Bantry. "I wish you'd been here just now, Jane. Addie Jefferson was telling me all about herself, how her husband went through all his money, but they never let Mr. Jefferson know. And then, this summer, things felt different to her."

Miss Marple nodded. "Yes. She rebelled, I suppose, against being made to live in the past. After all, there's a time for everything. You can't sit in the house with the blinds down forever. I suppose Mrs. Jefferson just pulled them up and took off her widow's weeds, and her father-in-law, of course, didn't like it. Felt left out in the cold, though I don't suppose for a minute he realized who put her up to it. Still, he certainly wouldn't like it. And so, of course, like old Mr. Badger when his wife took up spiritualism, he was just ripe for what happened. Any fairly nice-looking young girl who listened prettily would have done."

"Do you think," said Mrs. Bantry, "that that cousin, Josie, got her down deliberately that it was a family plot?"

Miss Marple shook her head. "No, I don't think so at all. I don't think Josie has the kind of mind that could foresee people's reactions. She's rather dense in that way. She's got one of those shrewd, limited, practical minds that never do foresee the future and are usually astonished by it."

"It seems to have taken everyone by surprise," said Mrs. Bantry. "Addie and Mark Gaskell, too, apparently."

Miss Marple smiled. "I dare say he had his own fish to fry. A bold fellow with a roving eye! Not the man to go on being a sorrowing widower for years, no matter how fond he may have been of his wife. I should think they were both restless under old Mr. Jefferson's yoke of perpetual remembrance. Only," added Miss Marple cynically, "it's easier for gentlemen, of course."

At that very moment Mark was confirming this judgment on himself in a talk with Sir Henry Clithering. With characteristic candor Mark had gone straight to the heart of things. "It's just dawned on me," he said, "that I'm Favorite Suspect Number One to the police! They've been delving into my financial troubles. I'm broke, you know; or very nearly. If dear old Jeff dies according to schedule in a month or two, and Addie and I divide the dibs also according to schedule, all will be well. Matter of fact, I owe rather a lot. If the crash comes, it will be a big one! If I can stave it off, it will be the other way round; I shall come out on top and be very rich."

Sir Henry Clithering said, "You're a gambler, Mark."

"Always have been. Risk everything, that's my motto! Yes, it's a lucky thing for me that somebody strangled that poor kid. I didn't do it. I'm not a strangler. I don't really think I could ever murder anybody. I'm too easygoing. But I don't suppose I can ask the police to believe that! I must look to them like the answer to the criminal investigator's prayer! Motive, on the spot, not burdened with high moral scruples! I can't imagine why I'm not in the jug already. That superintendent's got a very nasty eye." "You've got that useful thing, an alibi." "An alibi is the fishiest thing on God's earth! No innocent person ever has an alibi! Besides, it all depends on the time of death, or something like that, and you may be sure if three doctors say the girl was killed at midnight, at least six will be found who will swear positively that she was killed at five in the morning and where's my alibi then?" "Well, you are able to joke about it." "Damned bad taste, isn't it?" said Mark cheerfully. "Actually, I'm rather scared. One is, with murder! And don't think I'm not sorry for old Jeff. I am. But it's better this way, bad as the shock was, than if he'd found her out." "What do you mean, found her out?" Mark winked. "Where did she go off to last night? I'll lay you any odds you like she went to meet a man. Jeff wouldn't have liked that. He wouldn't have liked it at all. If he'd found she was deceiving him that she wasn't the prattling little innocent she seemed, well, my father-in-law is an odd man. He's a man of great self-control, but that self-control can snap. And then, look out!"

Sir Henry glanced at him curiously. "Are you fond of him or not?"

"I'm very fond of him, and at the same time I resent him - I'll try and explain. Conway Jefferson is a man who likes to control his surroundings. He's a benevolent despot, kind, generous and affectionate, but his is the tune and the others dance to his piping."

Mark Gaskell paused. "I loved my wife. I shall never feel the same for anyone else. Rosamund was sunshine and laughter and flowers, and when she was killed I felt just like a man in the ring who's had a knockout blow. But the referee's been counting a good long time now. I'm a man, after all. I like women. I don't want to marry again, not in the least. Well, that's all right. I've had to be discreet, but I've had my good times all right. Poor Addie hasn't. Addie's a really nice woman. She's the kind of woman men want to marry. Give her half a chance and she would marry again, and be very happy and make the chap happy too."

"But old Jeff saw her always as Frank's wife and hypnotized her into seeing herself like that. He doesn't know it, but we've been in prison. I broke out, on the quiet, a long time ago. Addie broke out this summer, and it gave him a shock. It broke up his world. Result, Ruby Keene." Irrepressibly he sang: "But she is in her grave, and oh!”

"Come and have a drink, Clithering."

It was hardly surprising, Sir Henry reflected, that Mark Gaskell should be an object of suspicion to the police.

"You say Mr. Jefferson has resolutely refused to listen?"

"Yes. I don't know that I blame him. It's not what I say to my patients, superintendent, but a man may as well wear out as rust out. A lot of my colleagues do that, and take it from me, it's not a bad way. In a place like Danemouth one sees most of the other thing. Invalids clinging to life, terrified of overexerting themselves, terrified of a breath of drafty air, of a stray germ, of an injudicious meal."

"I expect that's true enough," said Superintendent Harper. "What it amounts to, then, is this: Conway Jefferson is strong enough, physically speaking or I suppose I mean muscularly speaking. Just what can he do in the active line, by the way?"

"He has immense strength in his arms and shoulders. He was a very powerful man before his accident. He is extremely dexterous in his handling of his wheeled chair, and with the aid of crutches he can move himself about a room from his bed to the chair, for instance."

"Isn't it possible for a man injured as Mr. Jefferson was to have artificial legs?"

"Not in his case. There was a spine injury."

"I see. Let me sum up again. Jefferson is strong and fit in the muscular sense. He feels well and all that?"

Metcalf nodded.

"But his heart is in a bad condition; any overstrain or exertion, or a shock or a sudden fright, and he might pop off. Is that it?"

"More or less. Overexertion is killing him slowly because he won't give in when he feels tired. That aggravates the cardiac condition. It is unlikely that exertion would kill him suddenly. But a sudden shock or fright might easily do so. That is why I expressly warned his family."

Superintendent Harper said slowly, "But in actual fact a shock didn't kill him. I mean, doctor, that there couldn't have been a much worse shock than this business, and he's still alive."

Doctor Metcalf shrugged his shoulders. "I know. But if you'd had my experience, superintendent, you'd know that case history shows the impossibility of prognosticating accurately. People who ought to die of shock and exposure don't die of shock and exposure, et cetera, et cetera. The human frame is tougher than one can imagine possible. Moreover, in my experience, a physical shock is more often fatal than a mental shock. In plain language, a door banging suddenly would be more likely to kill Mr. Jefferson than the discovery that a girl he was fond of had died in a particularly horrible manner."

"Why is that, I wonder?"

"The breaking of a piece of bad news nearly always sets up a defense reaction. It numbs the recipient. They are unable, at first, to take it in. Full realization takes a little time. But the banged door, someone jumping out of a cupboard, the sudden onslaught of a motor as you cross a road, all those things are immediate in their action. The heart gives a terrified leap to put it in layman's language."

Superintendent Harper said slowly, "But as far as anyone would know, Mr. Jefferson's death might easily have been caused by the shock of the girl's death?"

"Oh, easily." The doctor looked curiously at the other. "You don't think-"

"I don't know what I think," said Superintendent Harper vexedly.

"But you'll admit, sir, that the two things would fit in very prettily together," he said a little later to Sir Henry Clithering. "Kill two birds with one stone. First the girl, and the fact of her death takes off Mr. Jefferson, too, before he's had any opportunity of altering his will."

"Do you think he will alter it?"

"You'd be more likely to know that, sir, than I would. What do you say?"

"I don't know. Before Ruby Keene came on the scene I happen to know that he had left his money between Mark Gaskell and Mrs. Jefferson. I don't see why he should now change his mind about that. But of course he might do so."

Superintendent Harper agreed.

"You never know what bee a man is going to get in his bonnet; especially when he doesn't feel there's any moral obligation in the disposal of his fortune. No blood relations in this case."

Sir Henry said, "He is fond of the boy, of young Peter."

"D'you think he regards him as a grandson? You'd know better than I would, sir."

Sir Henry said slowly, "No, I don't think so."

"There's another thing I'd like to ask you, sir. It's a thing I can't judge for myself. But they're friends of yours, and so you'd know, I'd like very much to know just how fond Mr. Jefferson is of Mr. Gaskell and young Mrs. Jefferson. Nobody doubts that he was much attached to them both, but he was attached to them, as I see it, because they were, respectively, the husband and the wife of his daughter and his son. But supposing, for instance, one of them had married again?"

Sir Henry reflected. He said, "It's an interesting point you raise there. I don't know. I'm inclined to suspect - this is a mere opinion - that it would have altered his attitude a good deal. He would have wished them well, borne no rancor, but I think yes, I rather think that he would have taken very little more interest in them."

Superintendent Harper nodded. "In both cases, sir?"

"I think so, yes. In Mr. Gaskell's, almost certainly, and I rather think in Mrs. Jefferson's also, but that's not nearly so certain. I think he was fond of her for her own sake."

"Sex would have something to do with that," said Superintendent Harper sapiently. "Easier for him to look on her as a daughter than to look on Mr. Gaskell as a son. It works both ways. Women accept a son-in-law as one of the family easily enough, but there aren't many times when a woman looks on her son's wife as a daughter." Superintendent Harper went on, "Mind if we walk along this path, sir, to the tennis court? I see Miss Marple's sitting there. I want to ask her to do something for me. As a matter of fact, I want to rope you both in."

"In what way, superintendent?"

"To get at stuff that I can't get at myself. I want you to tackle Edwards for me, sir."

"Edwards? What do you want from him?"

"Everything you can think of. Everything he knows and what he thinks. About the relations between the various members of the family, his angle on the Ruby Keene business. Inside stuff. He knows better than anyone the state of affairs. And he wouldn't tell me. But he'll tell you. Because you're a gentleman and a friend of Mr. Jefferson's."

Sir Henry said grimly, "I've been sent for, urgently, to get at the truth. I mean to do my utmost." He added, "Where do you want Miss Marple to help you?"

"With some girls. Some of those Girls Guides. We've found half a dozen or so, the ones who were most friendly with Pamela Reeves. It's possible that they may know something. You see, I've been thinking. It seems to me that if that girl was going to Woolworth's she would have tried to persuade one of the other girls to go with her. So I think it's possible that Woolworth's was only an excuse. If so, I'd like to know where the girl was really going. She may have let slip something. If so, I feel Miss Marple's the person to get it out of these girls. I'd say she knows a thing or two about girls."

"It sounds to me the kind of village domestic problem that is right up Miss Marple's street. She's very sharp, you know."

The superintendent smiled. He said, "I'll say you're right. Nothing much gets past her."

Miss Marple looked up at their approach and welcomed them eagerly. She listened to the superintendent's request and at once acquiesced. "I should like to help you very much, superintendent, and I think that perhaps I could be of some use. What with the Sunday school, you know, and Brownies and our Guides, and the orphanage quite near. I'm on the committee, you know, and often run in to have a little talk with the matron and their servants. I usually have very young maids. Oh, yes, I've quite a lot of experience in when a girl is speaking the truth and when she's holding something back."

"In fact, you're an expert," said Sir Henry.

Miss Marple flashed him a reproachful glance and said, "Oh, please don't laugh at me Sir Henry."

"I shouldn't dream of laughing at you. You've had the laugh on me too many times."

"One does see so much evil in a village," murmured Miss Marple in an explanatory voice.

"By the way," said Sir Henry, "I've cleared up one point you asked me about. The superintendent tells me that there were nail clippings in Ruby's wastepaper basket."

Miss Marple said thoughtfully, "There were? Then that's that."

"Why did you want to know Miss Marple?" asked the superintendent.

Miss Marple said, "It was one of the things that well, that seemed wrong when I looked at the body. The hands were wrong somehow, and I couldn't at first think why. Then I realized that girls who are very much made up, and all that, usually have very long fingernails. Of course, I know that girls everywhere do bite their nails; it's one of those habits that are very hard to break oneself of. But vanity often does a lot to help. Still, I presumed that this girl hadn't cured herself. And then the little boy Peter, you know, he said something which showed that her nails had been long, only she caught one and broke it. So then, of course, she might have trimmed off the rest to make an even appearance, and I asked about clippings and Sir Henry said he'd find out."

Sir Henry remarked, "You said just now 'one of the things that seemed wrong when I looked at the body.' Was there something else?"

Miss Marple nodded vigorously. "Oh, yes!" she said. "There was the dress. The dress was all wrong."

Both men looked at her curiously. "Now, why?" said Sir Henry.

"Well, you see, it was an old dress. Josie said so, definitely, and I could see for myself that it was shabby and rather worn. Now, that's all wrong."

"I don't see why."

Miss Marple got a little pink. "Well, the idea is, isn't it, that Ruby Keene changed her dress and went off to meet someone on whom she presumably had what my young nephews call a 'crush'?"

The superintendent's eyes twinkled a little. "That's the theory. She'd got a date with someone, a boy friend, as the saying goes."

"Then why," demanded Miss Marple, "was she wearing an old dress?"

The superintendent scratched his head thoughtfully. He said, "I see your point. You think she'd wear a new one?"

"I think she'd wear her best dress. Girls do."

Sir Henry interposed, "Yes, but look here, Miss Marple. Suppose she was going outside to this rendezvous. Going in an open car, perhaps, or walking in some rough going. Then she'd not want to risk messing a new frock and she'd put on an old one."

"That would be the sensible thing to do," agreed the superintendent.

Miss Marple turned on him. She spoke with animation. "The sensible thing to do would be to change into trousers and a pullover, or into tweeds. That, of course I don't want to be snobbish, but I'm afraid it's unavoidable, that's what a girl of - of our class would do."

"A well-bred girl," continued Miss Marple, warming to her subject, "is always very particular to wear the right clothes for the right occasion. I mean, however hot the day was, a well-bred girl would never turn up at a point-to-point in a silk flowered frock."

"And the correct wear to meet a lover?" demanded Sir Henry.

"If she were meeting him inside the hotel or somewhere where evening dress was worn, she'd wear her best evening frock, of course, but outside she'd feel she'd look ridiculous in evening dress and she'd wear her most attractive sports wear."

"Granted, Fashion Queen, but the girl Ruby-"

Miss Marple said, "Ruby, of course, wasn't, well, to put it bluntly Ruby wasn't a lady. She belonged to the class that wear their best clothes, however unsuitable to the occasion. Last year, you know, we had a picnic outing at Scrantor Rocks. You'd be surprised at the unsuitable clothes the girls wore. Foulard dresses and patent-leather shoes and quite elaborate hats, some of them. For climbing about over rocks and in gorse and heather. And the young men in their best suits. Of course, hiking's different again. That's practically a uniform, and girls don't seem to realize that shorts are very unbecoming unless they are very slender."

The superintendent said slowly, "And you think that Ruby Keene-"

"I think that she'd have kept on the frock she was wearing, her best pink one. She'd only have changed it if she'd had something newer still."

Superintendent Harper said, "And what's your explanation, Miss Marple?"

Miss Marple said, "I haven't got one yet. But I can't help feeling that it's important."

Inside the wire cage, the tennis lesson that Raymond Starr was giving had come to an end. A stout middle-aged woman uttered a few appreciative squeaks, picked up a sky-blue cardigan and went off toward the hotel. Raymond called out a few gay words after her. Then he turned toward the bench where the three onlookers were sitting. The balls dangled in a net in his hand, his racket was under one arm. The gay, laughing expression on his face was wiped off as though by a sponge from a slate. He looked tired and worried. Coming toward them he said, "That's over." Then the smile broke out again, that charming, boyish, expressive smile that went so harmoniously with his sun-tanned face and dark, lithe grace. Sir Henry found himself wondering how old the man was. Twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five? It was impossible to say. Raymond said, shaking his head a little, "She'll never be able to play, you know."

"All this must," said Miss Marple, "be very boring for you."

Raymond said simply, "It is sometimes. Especially at the end of the summer. For a time the thought of the pay buoys one up, but even that fails to stimulate imagination in the end."

Superintendent Harper got up. He said abruptly, "I'll call for you in half an hour's time, Miss Marple, if that will be all right?"

"Perfectly, thank you. I shall be ready."

Harper went off. Raymond stood looking after him. Then he said, "Mind if I sit for a bit?"

"Do," said Sir Henry. "Have a cigarette?" He offered his case, wondering as he did so why he had a slight feeling of prejudice against Raymond Starr. Was it simply because he was a professional tennis coach and dancer? If so, it wasn't the tennis, it was the dancing. The English, Sir Henry decided, had a distrust for any man who danced too well. This fellow moved with too much grace. Ramon - Raymond - which was his name? Abruptly, he asked the question.

The other seemed amused. "Ramon was my original professional name. Ramon and Josie. Spanish effect, you know. Then there was rather a prejudice against foreigners, so I became Raymond, very British."

Miss Marple said, "And is your real name something quite different?"

He smiled at her. "Actually my real name is Ramon. I had an Argentine grandmother, you see." And that accounts for that swing from the hips, thought Sir Henry parenthetically. "But my first name is Thomas. Painfully prosaic." He turned to Sir Henry. "You come from Devonshire, don't you, sir? From Stane? My people lived down that way. At Alsmonston."

Sir Henry's face lit up. "Are you one of the Alsmonston Starrs? I didn't realize that."

"No, I don't suppose you would." There was a slight bitterness in his voice. Sir Henry said, "Bad luck… er all that." "The place being sold up after it had been in the family for three hundred years? Yes, it was rather! Still, our kind have to go, I suppose! We've outlived our usefulness. My elder brother went to New York. He's in publishing doing well. The rest of us are scattered up and down the earth. I'll say it's hard to get a job nowadays when you've nothing to say for yourself except that you've had a public-school education. Sometimes, if you're lucky, you get taken on as a reception clerk at a hotel. The tie and the manner are an asset there. The only job I could get was showman in a plumbing establishment. Selling superb peach- andlemon-colored porcelain baths. Enormous showrooms, but as I never knew the price of the damned things or how soon we could deliver them, I got fired."

"The only things I could do were dance and play tennis. I got taken on at a hotel on the Riviera. Good pickings there. I suppose I was doing well. Then I overheard an old colonel, real old colonel, incredibly ancient, British to the backbone and always talking about Poona. He went up to the manager and said at the top of his voice: "Where's the gigolo? I want to get hold of the gigolo. My wife and daughter want to dance, yer know. Where is the feller? What does he sting yer for? It's the gigolo I want." Raymond said, "Silly to mind. But I did. I chucked it. Came here. Less pay, but pleasanter. Mostly teaching tennis to rotund women who will never, never be able to play. That and dancing with the wallflower daughters of rich clients! Oh, well, it's life, I suppose. Excuse today's hard-luck story." He laughed. His teeth flashed out white, his eyes crinkled up at the corners. He looked suddenly healthy and happy and very much alive.

Sir Henry said, "I'm glad to have a chat with you. I've been wanting to talk with you."

"About Ruby Keene? I can't help you, you know. I don't know who killed her. I knew very little about her. She didn't confide in me."

Miss Marple said, "Did you like her?"

"Not particularly. I didn't dislike her." His voice was careless, uninterested.

Sir Henry said, "So you've no suggestions?"

"I'm afraid not. I'd have told Harper if I had. It just seems to me one of those things! Petty, sordid little crime, no clues, no motive."

"Two people had a motive," said Miss Marple. Sir Henry looked at her sharply.

"Really?" Raymond looked surprised.

Miss Marple looked insistently at Sir Henry, and he said rather unwillingly, "Her death probably benefits Mrs. Jefferson and Mr. Gaskell to the amount of fifty thousand pounds."

"What?" Raymond looked really startled, more than startled, upset. "Oh, but that's absurd, absolutely absurd. Mrs. Jefferson - neither of them could have had anything to do with it. It would be incredible to think of such a thing."

Miss Marple coughed. She said gently, "I'm afraid, you know, you're rather an idealist."

"I?" He laughed. "Not me! I'm a hard-boiled cynic."

"Money," said Miss Marple, "is a very powerful motive."

"Perhaps," Raymond said. "But that either of those two would strangle a girl in cold blood-" He shook his head. Then he got up. "Here's Mrs. Jefferson now. Come for her lesson. She's late." His voice sounded amused. "Ten minutes late!"

Adelaide Jefferson and Hugo McLean were walking rapidly down the path toward them. With a smiling apology for her lateness, Addie Jefferson went onto the court. McLean sat down on the bench. After a polite inquiry whether Miss Marple minded a pipe, he lit it and puffed for some minutes in silence, watching critically the two white figures about the tennis court. He said at last, "Can't see what Addie wants to have lessons for. Have a game, yes. No one enjoys it better than I do. But why lessons?"

"Wants to improve her game," said Sir Henry.

"She's not a bad player," said Hugo. "Good enough, at all events. Dash it all, she isn't aiming to play at Wimbledon." He was silent for a minute or two. Then he said, "Who is this Raymond fellow? Where do they come from, these pros? Fellow looks like a Dago to me."

"He's one of the Devonshire Starrs," said Sir Henry.

"What? Not really?"

Sir Henry nodded. It was clear that this news was unpleasing to Hugo McLean. He scowled more than ever. He said, "Don't know why Addie sent for me. She seems not to have turned a hair over this business. Never looked better. Why send for me?"

Sir Henry asked with some curiosity, "When did she send for you?"

"Oh… er when all this happened."

"How did you hear? Telephone or telegram?"

"Telegram."

"As a matter of curiosity, when was it sent off?"

"Well, I don't know exactly."

"What time did you receive it?"

"I didn't exactly receive it. It was telephoned on to me, as a matter of fact."

"Why, where were you?"

"Fact is, I'd left London the afternoon before. I was staying at Danebury Head."

"What? Quite near here?"

"Yes, rather funny, wasn't it? Got the message when I got in from a round of golf and came over here at once."

Miss Marple gazed at him thoughtfully. He looked hot and uncomfortable. She said, "I've heard it's very pleasant at Danebury Head and not very expensive."

"No, it's not expensive. I couldn't afford it if it was. It's a nice little place."

"We must drive over there one day," said Miss Marple.

"Eh? What? Oh or yes, I should." He got up. "Better take some exercise, get an appetite." He walked away stiffly.

"Women," said Sir Henry, "treat their devoted admirers very badly." Miss Marple smiled, but made no answer. "Does he strike you as rather a dull dog?" asked Sir Henry. "I'd be interested to know."

"A little limited in his ideas, perhaps," said Miss Marple. "But with possibilities, I think oh, definitely possibilities."

Sir Henry, in his turn, got up. "It's time for me to go and do my stuff. I see Mrs. Bantry is on her way to keep you company."

Mrs. Bantry arrived breathless and sat down with a gasp. She said, "I've been talking to chambermaids. But it isn't any good. I haven't found out a thing more! Do you think that girl can really have been carrying on with someone without everybody in the hotel knowing all about it?"

"That's a very interesting point, dear. I should say definitely not. Somebody knows, depend upon it, if it's true. But she must have been very clever about it."

Mrs. Bantry's attention had strayed to the tennis court. She said approvingly, "Addie's tennis is coming on a lot. Attractive young man, that tennis pro. Addie's quite nice-looking. She's still an attractive woman. I shouldn't be at all surprised if she married again."

"She'll be quite a rich woman, too, when Mr. Jefferson dies," said Miss Marple.

"Oh, don't always have such a nasty mind, Jane. Why haven't you solved this mystery yet? We don't seem to be getting on at all. I thought you'd know at once." Mrs. Bantry's tone held reproach.

"No, no, dear, I didn't know at once, not for some time."

Mrs. Bantry turned startled and incredulous eyes on her. "You mean you know now who killed Ruby Keene?"

"Oh, yes," said Miss Marple. "I know that!"

"But, Jane, who is it? Tell me at once."

Miss Marple shook her head very firmly and pursed up her lips. "I'm sorry Dolly, but that wouldn't do at all."

"Why wouldn't it do?"

"Because you're so indiscreet. You would go round telling everyone or if you didn't tell, you'd hint."

"No, indeed, I wouldn't. I wouldn't tell a soul."

"People who use that phrase are always the last to live up to it. It's no good, dear. There's a long way to go yet. A great many things that are quite obscure. You remember when I was so against letting Mrs. Partridge collect for the Red Cross and I couldn't say why. The reason was that her nose had twitched in just the same way that that maid of mine, Alice, twitched her nose when I sent her out to pay the accounts. Always paid them a shilling or so short and said it could go on to next week, which, of course, was exactly what Mrs. Partridge did, only on a much larger scale. Seventy-five pounds it was she embezzled."

"Never mind Mrs. Partridge," said Mrs. Bantry.

"But I had to explain to you. And if you care, give you a hint. The trouble in this case is that everybody has been much too credulous and believing. You simply cannot afford to believe everything that people tell you. When there's anything fishy about, I never believe anyone at all. You see, I know human nature so well."

Mrs. Bantry was silent for a minute or two. Then she said in a different tone of voice, "I told you, didn't I, that I didn't see why I shouldn't enjoy myself over this case? A real murder in my own house! The sort of thing that will never happen again."

"I hope not," said Miss Marple.

"Well, so do I, really. Once is enough. But it's my murder, Jane. I want to enjoy myself over it."

Miss Marple shot a glance at her. Mrs. Bantry said belligerently, "Don't you believe that?"

Miss Marple said sweetly, "Of course, Dolly, if you tell me so."

"Yes, but you never believe what people tell you, do you? You've just said so. Well, you're quite right." Mrs. Bantry's voice took on a sudden, bitter note. She said, "I'm not altogether a fool. You may think, Jane, that I don't know what they're saying all over St. Mary Mead, all over the county! They're saying, one and all, that there's no smoke without fire; that if the girl was found in Arthur's library, then Arthur must know something about it. They're saying that the girl was Arthur's mistress; that she was his illegitimate daughter; that she was blackmailing him; they're saying anything that comes into their heads. And it will go on like that! Arthur won't realize it at first; he won't know what's wrong. He's such a dear old stupid that he'd never believe people would think things like that about him. He'll be cold-shouldered - and looked at askance whatever that means! - and it will dawn on him little by little, and suddenly he'll be horrified and cut to the soul, and he'll fasten up like a clam and just endure, day after day. It's because of all that's going to happen to him that I've come here to ferret out every single thing about it that I can! This murder's got to be solved! If it isn't, then Arthur's whole life will be wrecked, and I won't have that happen. I won't! I won't! I won't!" She paused for a minute and said, "I won't have the dear old boy go through hell for something he didn't do. That's the only reason I came to Danemouth and left him alone at home - to find out the truth."

"I know, dear," said Miss Marple. "That's why I'm here too." The dead girl was on the point of becoming Mr. Jefferson's adopted daughter. Two people had a motive in seeing that this should not happen. Those two people are Mr. Gaskell and Mrs. Jefferson."

The valet's eyes displayed a momentary gleam. He said, "May I ask if they are under suspicion, sir?"

"They are in no danger of arrest, if that is what you mean. But the police are bound to be suspicious of them and will continue to be so until the matter is cleared up."

"An unpleasant position for them, sir."

"Very unpleasant. Now to get at the truth, one must have all the facts of the case. A lot depends, must depend, on the reactions, the words and gestures, of Mr. Jefferson and his family. How did they feel, what did they show, what things were said? I am asking you, Edwards, for inside information, the kind of inside information that only you are likely to have. You know your master's moods. From observation of them you probably know what caused them. I am asking this, not as a policeman but as a friend of Mr. Jefferson's. That is to say, if anything you tell me is not, in my opinion, relevant to the case, I shall not pass it on to the police." He paused.

Edwards said quietly, "I understand you, sir. You want me to speak quite frankly; to say things that, in the ordinary course of events, I should not say, and that, excuse me sir, you wouldn't dream of listening to."

Sir Henry said, "You're a very intelligent fellow, Edwards. That's exactly what I do mean."

Edwards was silent for a minute or two, then he began to speak. "Of course I know Mr. Jefferson fairly well by now. I've been with him quite a number of years. And I see him in his 'off moments, not only in his 'on ones. Sometimes, sir, I've questioned in my own mind whether it's good for anyone to fight fate in the way Mr. Jefferson has fought. It's taken a terrible toll of him, sir. If, sometimes, he could have given way, been an unhappy, lonely, broken old man well, it might have been better for him in the end. But he's too proud for that. He'll go down fighting, that's his motto. But that sort of thing leads, Sir Henry, to a lot of nervous reaction. He looks a good-tempered gentleman. I've seen him in violent rages when he could hardly speak for passion. And the one thing that roused him, sir, was deceit."

"Are you saying that for any particular reason, Edwards?"

"Yes, sir. I am. You asked me, sir, to speak quite frankly."

"That is the idea."

"Well, then, Sir Henry, in my opinion the young woman that Mr. Jefferson was so taken up with wasn't worth it. She was, to put it bluntly, a common little piece. And she didn't care tuppence for Mr. Jefferson. All that play of affection and gratitude was so much poppycock. I don't say there was any harm in her, but she wasn't, by a long way, what Mr. Jefferson thought her. It was funny, that, sir, for Mr. Jefferson was a shrewd gentleman; he wasn't often deceived over people. But there, a gentleman isn't himself in his judgment when it comes to a young woman being in question. Young Mrs. Jefferson, you see, whom he'd always depended upon a lot for sympathy, had changed a good deal this summer. He noticed it and he felt it badly. He was fond of her, you see. Mr. Mark he never liked much."

Sir Henry interjected, "And yet he had him with him constantly?"

"Yes, but that was for Miss Rosamund's sake. Mrs. Gaskell, that was. She was the apple of his eye. He adored her. Mr. Mark was Miss Rosamund's husband. He always thought of him like that." "Supposing Mr. Mark had married someone else?" "Mr. Jefferson, sir, would have been furious." Sir Henry raised his eyebrows. "As much as that?" "He wouldn't have shown it, but that's what it would have been." "And if Mrs. Jefferson had married again?" "Mr. Jefferson wouldn't have liked that either, sir." "Please go on, Edwards."

"I was saying, sir, that Mr. Jefferson fell for this young woman. I've often seen it happen with the gentlemen I've been with. Comes over them like a kind of disease. They want to protect the girl, and shield her, and shower benefits upon her, and nine times out of ten the girl is very well able to look after herself and has a good eye to the main chance." "So you think Ruby Keene was a schemer?" "Well, Sir Henry, she was quite inexperienced, being so young, but she had the makings of a very fine schemer indeed when she'd once got well into her swing, so to speak. In another five years she'd have been an expert at the game."

Sir Henry said, "I'm glad to have your opinion of her. It's valuable. Now, do you recall any incidents in which this matter was discussed between Mr. Jefferson and the members of his family?" "There was very little discussion, sir. Mr. Jefferson announced what he had in mind and stifled any protests. That is, he shut up Mr. Mark, who was a bit outspoken. Mrs. Jefferson didn't say much - she's a quiet lady - only urged him not to do anything in a great hurry."

Sir Henry nodded. "Anything else? What was the girl's attitude?"

With marked distaste the valet said, "I should describe it, Sir Henry, as jubilant."

"Ah, jubilant, you say? You had no reason to believe, Edwards, that" - he sought about for a phrase suitable to Edwards - "that… er her affections were engaged elsewhere?"

"Mr. Jefferson was not proposing marriage, sir. He was going to adopt her."

"Cut out the 'elsewhere' and let the question stand."

The valet said slowly, "There was one incident, sir. I happened to be a witness of it."

"That is gratifying. Tell me."

"There is probably nothing in it, sir. It was just that one day, the young woman chancing to open her handbag, a small snapshot fell out. Mr. Jefferson pounced on it and said, "Hullo, kitten, who's this, eh?"

"It was a snapshot, sir, of a young man, a dark young man with rather untidy hair, and his tie very badly arranged. Miss Keene pretended that she didn't know anything about it. She said, 'I've no idea, Jeffie. No idea at all. I don't know how it could have got into my bag. I didn't put it there.'"

"Now, Mr. Jefferson, sir, wasn't quite a fool. That story wasn't good enough. He looked angry, his brows came down heavy, and his voice was gruff when he said, 'now then, kitten, now then. You know who it is right enough." She changed her tactics quick, sir. Looked frightened. She said, 'I do recognize him now. He comes here sometimes and I've danced with him. I don't know his name. The silly idiot must have stuffed his photo into my bag one day. These boys are too silly for anything!' She tossed her head and giggled and passed it off. But it wasn't a likely story, was it? And I don't think Mr. Jefferson quite believed it. He looked at her once or twice after that in a sharp way, and sometimes, if she'd been out, he asked her where she'd been."

Sir Henry said, "Have you ever seen the original of the photo about the hotel?"

"Not to my knowledge, sir. Of course I am not much downstairs in the public apartments."

Sir Henry nodded. He asked a few more questions, but Edwards could tell him nothing more.

In the police station at Danemouth Superintendent Harper was interviewing Jessie Davis, Florence Small, Beatrice Henniker, Mary Price and Lilian Ridgeway. They were girls much of an age, differing slightly in mentality. They ranged from "county" to fanners' and shopkeepers' daughters. One and all, they told the same story. Pamela Reeves had been just the same as usual; she had said nothing to any of them except that she was going to Woolworth's and would go home by a later bus.

In the corner of Superintendent Harper's office sat an elderly lady. The girls hardly noticed her. If they did they may have wondered who she was. She was certainly no police matron. Possibly they assumed that she, like them, was a witness to be questioned. The last girl was shown out. Superintendent Harper wiped his forehead and turned around to look at Miss Marple. His glance was inquiring, but not hopeful. Miss Marple, however, spoke crisply, "I'd like to speak to Florence Small."

The superintendent's eyebrows rose, but he nodded and touched a bell. A constable appeared. Harper said, "Florence Small."

The girl reappeared, ushered in by the constable. She was the daughter of a well-to-do farmer, a tall girl with fair hair, a rather foolish mouth and frightened brown eyes. She was twisting her hands and looked nervous. Superintendent Harper looked at Miss Marple, who nodded. The superintendent got up. He said, "This lady will ask you some questions." He went out, closing the door behind him.

Florence looked uneasily at Miss Marple. Her eyes looked rather like those of one of her father's calves.

Miss Marple said, "Sit down, Florence."

Florence Small sat down obediently. Unrecognized by herself, she felt suddenly more at home, less uneasy. The unfamiliar and terrorizing atmosphere of a police station was replaced by something more familiar, the accustomed tone of command of somebody whose business it was to give orders.

Miss Marple said, "You understand, Florence, that it's of the utmost importance that everything about poor Pamela's doings on the day of her death should be known?"

Florence murmured that she quite understood.

"And I'm sure you want to do your best to help?" Florence's eyes were wary as she said of course she did. "To keep back any piece of information is a very serious offense," said Miss Marple.

The girl's fingers twisted nervously in her lap. She swallowed once or twice. "I can make allowances," went on Miss Marple, "for the fact that you are naturally alarmed at being brought into contact with the police. You are afraid, too, that you may be blamed for not having spoken sooner. Possibly you are afraid that you may also be blamed for not stopping Pamela at the time. But you've got to be a brave girl and make a clean breast of things. If you refuse to tell what you know now, it will be a very serious matter, indeed very serious, practically perjury, and for that, as you know, you can be sent to prison." "I-I don't-"

Miss Marple said sharply, "Now don't prevaricate, Florence! Tell me all about it at once! Pamela wasn't going to Woolworth's, was she?" Florence licked her lips with a dry tongue and gazed imploringly at Miss Marple, like a beast about to be slaughtered. "Something to do with the films, wasn't it?" asked Miss Marple.

A look of intense relief mingled with awe passed over Florence's face. Her inhibitions left her. She gasped, "Oh, yes!"

"I thought so," said Miss Marple. "Now I want you to tell me all the details, please."

Words poured from Florence in a gush. "Oh, I've been ever so worried. I promised Pam, you see, I'd never say a word to a soul. And then, when she was found, all burned up in that car oh, it was horrible and I thought I should die, I felt it was all my fault. I ought to have stopped her. Only I never thought, not for a minute, that it wasn't all right. And then I was asked if she'd been quite as usual that day and I said 'Yes' before I'd had time to think. And not having said anything then, I didn't see how I could say anything later. And after all, I didn't know anything, not really, only what Pam told me." "What did Pam tell you?" "It was as we were walking up the lane to the bus on the way to the rally. She asked me if I could keep a secret, and I said yes, and she made me swear not to tell. She was going into Danemouth for a film test after the rally! She'd met a film producer just back from Hollywood, he was. He wanted a certain type, and he told Pam she was just what he was looking for. He warned her, though, not to build on it. You couldn't tell, he said, not until you saw how a person photographed. It might be no good at all. It was a kind of Bergner part, he said. You had to have someone quite young for it. A schoolgirl, it was, who changes places with a revue artist and has a wonderful career. Pam's acted in plays at school and she's awfully good. He said he could see she could act, but she'd have to have some intensive training. It wouldn't be all beer and skittles, he told her; it would be hard work - did she think she could stick it?"

Florence Small stopped for breath. Miss Marple felt rather sick as she listened to the glib rehash of countless novels and screen stories. Pamela Reeves, like most other girls, would have been warned against talking to strangers, but the glamour of the films would have obliterated all that.

"He was absolutely businesslike about it all," continued Florence. "Said if the test was successful she'd have a contract, and he said that as she was young and inexperienced she ought to let a lawyer look at it before she signed it. But she wasn't to pass on that, he'd said that. He asked her if she'd have trouble with her parents, and Pam said she probably would, and he said, 'Well, of course that's always a difficulty with anyone as young as you are, but I think if it was put to them that this was a wonderful chance that wouldn't happen once in a million times, they'd see reason.' But anyway, he said, it wasn't any good going into that until they knew the result of the test. She mustn't be disappointed if it failed. He told her about Hollywood and about Vivien Leigh, how she'd suddenly taken London by storm, and how these sensational leaps into fame did happen. He himself had come back from America to work with the Lenville Studios and put some pep into the English film companies."

Miss Marple nodded.

Florence went on, "So it was all arranged. Pam was to go into Danemouth after the rally and meet him at his hotel and he'd take her along to the studios. They'd got a small testing studio in Danemouth, he told her. She'd have her test and she could catch the bus home afterward. She could say she'd been shopping, and he'd let her know the result of the test in a few days, and if it was favorable Mr. Harmsteiter, the boss, would come along and talk to her parents."

"Well, of course, it sounded too wonderful! I was green with envy! Pam got through the rally without turning a hair - we always call her a regular poker face. Then, when she said that she was going into Danemouth to Woolworth's, she just winked at me."

"I saw her start off down the footpath." Florence began to cry. "I ought to have stopped her! I ought to have stopped her! I ought to have known a thing like that couldn't be true! I ought to have told someone. Oh, dear, I wish I was dead!"

"There, there." Miss Marple patted her on the shoulder. "It's quite all right. No one will blame you, Florence. You've done the right thing in telling me."

She devoted some minutes to cheering the child up.

Five minutes later she was telling the girl's story to Superintendent Harper. The latter looked very grim. "The clever devil!" he said. "I'll cook his goose for him! This puts rather a different aspect on things."

"Yes, it does."

Harper looked at her sideways. "It doesn't surprise you?"

"I expected something of the kind," Miss Marple said.

Superintendent Harper said curiously, "What put you on to this particular girl? They all looked scared to death and there wasn't a pin to choose between them, as far as I could see."

Miss Marple said gently, "You haven't had as much experience with girls telling lies as I have. Florence looked at you very straight, if you remember, and stood very rigid and just fidgeted with her feet like the others. But you didn't watch her as she went out of the door. I knew at once then that she'd got something to hide. They nearly always relax too soon. My little maid Janet always did. She'd explain quite convincingly that the mice had eaten the end of a cake and give herself away by smirking as she left the room."

"I'm very grateful to you," said Harper. He added thoughtfully, "Lenville Studios, eh?"

Miss Marple said nothing. She rose to her feet. "I'm afraid," she said, "I must hurry away. So glad to have been able to help you."

"Are you going back to the hotel?"

"Yes, to pack up. I must go back to St. Mary Mead as soon as possible. There's a lot for me to do there."

Miss Marple passed out through the French windows of her drawing room, tripped down her neat garden path, through a garden gate, in through the vicarage garden gate, across the vicarage garden and up to the drawing-room window, where she tapped gently on the pane. The vicar was busy in his study composing his Sunday sermon, but the vicar's wife, who was young and pretty, was admiring the progress of her offspring across the hearth rug. "Can I come in, Griselda?"

"Oh, do Miss Marple. Just look at David! He gets so angry because he can only crawl in reverse. He wants to get to something, and the more he tries the more he goes backward into the coal box."

"He's looking very bonny, Griselda."

"He's not bad, is he?" said the young mother, endeavoring to assume an indifferent manner. "Of course I don't bother with him much. All the books say a child should be left alone as much as possible."

"Very wise, dear," said Miss Marple. "Ahem I came to ask if there was anything special you are collecting for at the moment?"

The vicar's wife turned somewhat astonished eyes upon her. "Oh, heaps of things," she said cheerfully. "There always are." She ticked them off on her fingers. "There's the Nave Restoration Fund, and St. Giles' Mission, and our Sale of Work next Wednesday, and the Unmarried Mothers, and a Boy Scouts Outing, and the Needlework Guild, and the Bishop's Appeal for Deep-Sea Fishermen."

"Any of them will do," said Miss Marple. "I thought I might make a little round with a book, you know if you would authorize me to do so."

"Are you up to something? I believe you are. Of course I authorize you. Make it the Sale of Work; it would be lovely to get some real money instead of those awful sachets and comic pen wipers and depressing children frocks and dusters all done up to look like dolls… I suppose," continued Griselda, accompanying her guest to the window, "that you wouldn't like to tell me what it's all about?"

"Later, my dear," said Miss Marple, hurrying off.

With a sigh the young mother returned to the hearth rug and, by way of carrying out her principles of stern neglect, butted her son three times in the stomach, so that he caught hold of her hair and pulled it with gleeful yells. They then rolled over and over in a grand rough and tumble until the door opened and the vicarage maid announced to the most influential parishioner, who didn't like children, "Missus is in here."

Whereupon Griselda sat up and tried to look dignified and more what a vicar's wife should be.

Miss Marple, clasping a small black book with penciled entries in it, walked briskly along the village street until she came to the crossroads. Here she turned to the left and walked past the Blue Boar until she came to Chatsworth, alias "Mr. Booker's new house." She turned in at the gate, walked up to the front door and knocked on it briskly. The door was opened by the blond young woman named Dinah Lee. She was less carefully made up than usual and, in fact, looked slightly dirty. She was wearing gray slacks and an emerald jumper.

"Good morning," said Miss Marple briskly and cheerfully. "May I just come in for a minute?" She pressed forward as she spoke, so that Dinah Lee, who was somewhat taken aback at the call, had no time to make up her mind. "Thank you so much," said Miss Marple, beaming amiably at her and sitting down rather gingerly on a period bamboo chair. "Quite warm for the time of year, is it not?" went on Miss Marple, still exuding geniality.

"Yes, rather. Oh, quite," said Miss Lee. At a loss how to deal with the situation, she opened a box and offered it to her guest. "Er… have a cigarette?"

"Thank you so much, but I don't smoke. I just called, you know, to see if I could enlist your help for our Sale of Work next week."

"Sale of Work?" said Dinah Lee, as one who repeats a phrase in a foreign language.

"At the vicarage," said Miss Marple. "Next Wednesday."

"Oh!" Miss Lee's mouth fell open. "I'm afraid I couldn't-"

"Not even a small subscription, half a crown perhaps?" Miss Marple exhibited her little book.

"Oh er… well, yes. I dare say I could manage that." The girl looked relieved and turned to hunt in her handbag.

Miss Marple's sharp eyes were looking round the room. She said, "I see you've no hearth rug in front of the fire." Dinah Lee turned round and stared at her. She could not but be aware of the very keen scrutiny the old lady was giving her, but it aroused in her no other emotion than slight annoyance. Miss Marple recognized that. She said, "It's rather dangerous, you know. Sparks fly out and mark the carpet."

Funny old tabby, thought Dinah, but she said quite amiably, if somewhat vaguely, "There used to be one. I don't know where it's got to."

"I suppose," said Miss Marple, "it was the fluffy woolly kind?"

"Sheep," said Dinah. "That's what it looked like." She was amused now. An eccentric old bean, this. She held out a half crown. "Here you are," she said.

"Oh, thank you, my dear." Miss Marple took it and opened the little book. "Er… what name shall I write down?"

Dinah's eyes grew suddenly hard and contemptuous. Nosy old cat, she thought. That's all she came for, prying around for scandal. She said clearly and with malicious pleasure, "Miss Dinah Lee."

Miss Marple looked at her steadily. She said, "This is Mr. Basil Blake's cottage, isn't it?"

"Yes, and I'm Miss Dinah Lee!" Her voice rang out challengingly, her head went back, her blue eyes flashed.

Very steadily Miss Marple looked at her. She said, "Will you allow me to give you some advice, even though you may consider it impertinent?"

"I shall consider it impertinent. You had better say nothing."

"Nevertheless," said Miss Marple, "I am going to speak. I want to advise you, very strongly, not to continue using your maiden name in the village."

Dinah stared at her. She said, "What, what do you mean?"

Miss Marple said earnestly, "In a very short time you may need all the sympathy and good will you can find. It will be important to your husband, too, that he shall be thought well of. There is a prejudice in old-fashioned country districts against people living together who are not married. It has amused you both, I dare say, to pretend that that is what you are doing. It kept people away, so that you weren't bothered with what I expect you would call 'old frumps.' Nevertheless, old frumps have their uses."

Dinah demanded, "How did you know we are married?"

Miss Marple smiled a deprecating smile. "Oh, my dear," she said.

Dinah persisted, "No, but how did you know? You didn't, you didn't go to Somerset House?"

A momentary flicker showed in Miss Marple's eyes. "Somerset House? Oh, no. But it was quite easy to guess. Everything, you know, gets round in a village. The… er… the kind of quarrels you have typical of early days of marriage. Quite - quite unlike an illicit relationship. It has been said, you know, and I think quite truly, that you can only really get under anybody's skin if you are married to them. When there is no - no legal bond, people are much more careful; they have to keep assuring themselves how happy and halcyon everything is. They have, you see, to justify themselves. They dare not quarrel! Married people, I have noticed, quite enjoy their battles and the… er… appropriate reconciliations." She paused, twinkling benignly.

For an interval Dinah stared at Miss Marple. Then she said incredulously, "Basil? Murder? Are you joking?"

"No, indeed. Haven't you seen the papers?"

Dinah caught her breath. "You mean that girl at the Majestic Hotel. Do you mean they suspect Basil of killing her?"

"Yes."

"But it's nonsense!"

There was the whir of a car outside, the bang of a gate. Basil Blake flung open the door and came in, carrying some bottles. He said, "Got the gin and the vermouth. Did you-" He stopped and turned incredulous eyes on the prim, erect visitor.

Dinah burst out breathlessly, "Is she mad? She says you're going to be arrested for the murder of that girl Ruby Keene."

"Oh, God!" said Basil Blake. The bottles dropped from his arms onto the sofa. He reeled to a chair and dropped down in it and buried his face in his hands. He repeated, "Oh, my God! Oh, my God!"

Dinah darted over to him. She caught his shoulders. "Basil, look at me! It isn't true! I know it isn't true! I don't believe it for a moment!"

His hand went up and gripped hers. "Bless you, darling."

"But why should they think- You didn't even know her, did you?"

"Oh, yes, he knew her," said Miss Marple.

Basil said fiercely, "Be quiet, you old hag!… Listen, Dinah, darling. I hardly knew her at all. Just ran across her once or twice at the Majestic. That's all, I swear that's all!"

Dinah said, bewildered, "I don't understand. Why should anyone suspect you, then?"

Basil groaned. He put his hands over his eyes and rocked to and fro.

Miss Marple said, "What did you do with the hearth rug?"

His reply came mechanically. "I put it in the dustbin."

Miss Marple clucked her tongue vexedly. "That was stupid, very stupid. People don't put good hearth rugs in dustbins. It had spangles in it from her dress, I suppose?"

"Yes, I couldn't get them out."

Dinah cried, "What are you talking about?"

Basil said sullenly, "Ask her. She seems to know all about it."

"I'll tell you what I think happened, if you like," said Miss Marple. "You can correct me, Mr. Blake, if I go wrong. I think that after having had a violent quarrel with your wife at a party and after having had, perhaps, rather too much er… to drink, you drove down here. I don't know what time you arrived."

Basil Blake said sullenly, "About two in the morning. I meant to go up to town first; then, when I got to the suburbs, I changed my mind. I thought Dinah might come down here after me. So I drove down here. The place was all dark. I opened the door and turned on the light and I saw - and I saw-" He gulped and stopped.

Miss Marple went on, "You saw a girl lying on the hearth rug. A girl in a white evening dress, strangled. I don't know whether you recognized her then-"

Basil Blake shook his head violently. "I couldn't look at her after the first glance; her face was all blue, swollen; she'd been dead some time and she was there in my living room!" He shuddered.

Miss Marple said gently, "You weren't, of course, quite yourself. You were in a fuddled state and your nerves are not good. You were, I think, panic-stricken. You didn't know what to do."

"I thought, Dinah might turn up any minute. And she'd find me there with a dead body, a girl's dead body, and she'd think I'd killed her. Then I got an idea. It seemed, I don't know why, a good idea at the time. I thought: 'I'll put her in old Bantry's library. Damned pompous old stick, always looking down his nose; sneering at me as artistic and effeminate. Serve the pompous old brute right,' I thought. 'He'll look a fool when a dead lovely is found on his hearth rug.'" He added with a pathetic eagerness to explain, "I was a bit drunk, you know, at the time. It really seemed positively amusing to me. Old Bantry with a dead blonde."

"Yes, yes," said Miss Marple. "Little Tommy Bond had very much the same idea. Rather a sensitive boy, with an inferiority complex, he said teacher was always picking on him. He put a frog in the clock and it jumped out at her. You were just the same," went on Miss Marple, "only, of course, bodies are more serious matters than frogs."

Basil groaned again. "By the morning I'd sobered up. I realized what I'd done. I was scared stiff. And then the police came here. Another damned pompous ass of a chief constable. I was scared of him, and the only way I could hide it was by being abominably rude. In the middle of it all, Dinah drove up."

Dinah looked out of the window. She said, "There's a car driving up now. There are men in it."

"The police, I think," said Miss Marple.

Basil Blake got up. Suddenly he became quite calm and resolute. He even smiled. He said, "So I'm in for it, am I? All right, Dinah, sweet, keep your head. Get onto old Sims, he's the family lawyer, and go to mother and tell her about our marriage. She won't bite. And don't worry. I didn't do it. So it's bound to be all right, see, sweetheart?"

There was a tap on the cottage door. Basil called, "Come in."

Inspector Slack entered with another man. He said, "Mr. Basil Blake?"

"Yes."

"I have a warrant here for your arrest on the charge of murdering Ruby Keene on the night of September twentieth last. I warn you that anything you say may be used at your trial. You will please accompany me now. Full facilities will be given you for communicating with your solicitor."

Basil nodded. He looked at Dinah, but did not touch her. He said, "So long, Dinah."

Cool customer, thought Inspector Slack. He acknowledged the presence of Miss Marple with a half bow and a "Good morning," and thought to himself, smart old pussy; she's on to it. Good job we've got that hearth rug. That and finding out from the car-park man at the studio that he left that party at eleven instead of midnight. Don't think those friends of his meant to commit perjury. They were bottled, and Blake told 'em firmly the next day it was twelve o'clock when he left, and they believed him. Well, his goose is cooked good and proper. Mental, I expect. Broadmoor, not hanging. First the Reeves kid, probably strangled her, drove her out to the quarry, walked back into Danemouth, picked up his own car in some side lane, drove to this party, then back to Danemouth, brought Ruby Keene out here, strangled her, put her in old Bantry's library, then probably got the wind up about the car in the quarry, drove there, set it on fire and got back here. Mad sex and blood lust, lucky this girl's escaped. What they call recurring mania, I expect.

Alone with Miss Marple, Dinah Blake turned to her. She said, "I don't know who you are, but you've got to understand this: Basil didn't do it."

Miss Marple said, "I know he didn't. I know who did do it. But it's not going to be easy to prove. I've an idea that something you said just now may help. It gave me an idea the connection I'd been trying to find. Now, what was it?"

"I'm home, Arthur!" declared Mrs. Bantry, announcing the fact like a royal proclamation as she flung open the study door.

Colonel Bantry immediately jumped up, kissed his wife and declared heartily, "Well, well, that's splendid!"

The colonel's words were unimpeachable, the manner very well done, but an affectionate wife of as many years' standing as Mrs. Bantry was not deceived. She said immediately, "Is anything the matter?"

"No, of course not Dolly. What should be the matter?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Mrs. Bantry vaguely. "Things are so queer, aren't they?"

She threw off her coat as she spoke, and Colonel Bantry picked it up carefully and laid it across the back of the sofa. All exactly as usual, yet not as usual. Her husband, Mrs. Bantry thought, seemed to have shrunk. He looked thinner, stooped more, there were pouches under his eyes, and those eyes were not ready to meet hers. He went on to say, still with that affectation of cheerfulness. "Well, how did you enjoy your time at Danemouth?"

"Oh, it was great fun. You ought to have come, Arthur."

"Couldn't get away, my dear. Lot of things to attend to here."

"Still, I think the change would have done you good. And you like the Jefferson’s."

"Yes, yes, poor fellow. Nice chap. All very sad." "What have you been doing with yourself since I've been away?"

"Oh, nothing much; been over the farms, you know. Agreed that Anderson shall have a new roof. Can't patch it up any longer." "How did the Radfordshire Council meeting go?" "I well, as a matter of fact, I didn't go." "Didn't go? But you were taking the chair-" "Well, as a matter of fact, Dolly, seems there was some mistake about that. Asked me if I'd mind if Thompson took it instead."

"I see," said Mrs. Bantry. She peeled off a glove and threw it deliberately into the wastepaper basket. Her husband went to retrieve it and she stopped him, saying sharply, "Leave it. I hate gloves." Colonel Bantry glanced at her uneasily. Mrs. Bantry said sternly, "Did you go to dinner with the Duffs on Thursday?" "Oh, that? It was put off. Their cook was ill." "Stupid people," said Mrs. Bantry. She went on, "Did you go to the Naylors' yesterday?"

"I rang up and said I didn't feel up to it; hoped they'd excuse me. They quite understood." "They did, did they?" said Mrs. Bantry grimly. She sat down by the desk and absentmindedly picked up a pass of gardening scissors. With them she cut off the fingers, one by one, of her second glove.

"What are you doing Dolly?"

"Feeling destructive," said Mrs. Bantry. She got up. "Where shall we sit after dinner, Arthur? In the library?"

"Well… er I don't think so eh? Very nice in here or the drawing room."

"I think," said Mrs. Bantry, "that we'll sit in the library."

Her steady eyes met his. Colonel Bantry drew himself up to his full height. A sparkle came into his eye. He said, "You're right, my dear. We'll sit in the library!"

Mrs. Bantry put down the telephone receiver with a sigh of annoyance. She had rung up twice, and each time the answer had been the same. Miss Marple was out. Of a naturally impatient nature, Mrs. Bantry was never one to acquiesce in defeat. She rang up, in rapid succession, the vicarage, Mrs. Price Ridley, Miss Hartnell, Miss Wetherby and, as a last resort, the fishmonger, who by reason of his advantageous geographical position usually knew where everybody was in the village. The fishmonger was sorry, but he had not seen Miss Marple at all in the village that morning. She had not been on her usual round. "Where can the woman be?" demanded Mrs. Bantry impatiently, aloud.

There was a deferential cough behind her. The discreet Lorrimer murmured, "You were requiring Miss Marple, madam? I have just observed her approaching the house."

Mrs. Bantry rushed to the front door, flung it open and greeted Miss Marple breathlessly. "I've been trying to get you everywhere. Where have you been?" She glanced over her shoulder. Lorrimer had discreetly vanished. "Everything's too awful! People are beginning to cold-shoulder Arthur. He looks years older. We must do something, Jane. You must do something!"

Miss Marple said, "You needn't worry Dolly," in a rather peculiar voice.

Colonel Bantry appeared from the study door. "Ah, Miss Marple. Good morning. Glad you've come. My wife's been ringing you up like a lunatic."

"I thought I'd better bring you the news," said Miss Marple as she followed Mrs. Bantry into the study. "News?"

"Basil Blake has just been arrested for the murder of Ruby Keene." "Basil Blake?" cried the colonel "But he didn't do it," said Miss Marple. Colonel Bantry took no notice of this statement. It was doubtful if he even heard it. "Do you mean to say he strangled that girl and then brought her along and put her in my library?"

"He put her in your library," said Miss Marple, "but he didn't kill her."

"Nonsense. If he put her in my library, of course he killed her! The two things go together!"

"Not necessarily. He found her dead in his own cottage."

"A likely story," said the colonel derisively. "If you find a body why, you ring up the police, naturally, if you're an honest man."

"Ah," said Miss Marple, "but we haven't all got such iron nerves as you have Colonel Bantry. You belong to the old school. This younger generation is different."

"Got no stamina," said the colonel, repeating a well-worn opinion of his.

"Some of them," said Miss Marple, "have been through a bad time. I've heard a good deal about Basil. He did ARP work, you know, when he was only eighteen. He went into a burning house and brought out four children, one after another. He went back for a dog, although they told him it wasn't safe. The building fell in on him. They got him out, but his chest was badly crushed and he had to lie in plaster for a long time after that. That's when he got interested in designing."

"Oh!" The colonel coughed and blew his nose. "I… er never knew that."

"He doesn't talk about it," said Miss Marple.

"Er… quite right. Proper spirit. Must be more in the young chap than I thought. Shows you ought to be careful in jumping to conclusions." Colonel Bantry looked ashamed. "But all the same," his indignation revived "what did he mean, trying to fasten a murder on me?"

"I don't think he saw it like that," said Miss Marple. "He thought of it more as a as a joke. You see, he was rather under the influence of alcohol at the time."

"Bottled, was he?" said Colonel Bantry, with an Englishman's sympathy for alcoholic excess. "Oh, well, can't judge a fellow by what he does when he's drunk. When I was at Cambridge, I remember I put a certain utensil… well… well, never mind. Deuce of a row there was about it." He chuckled, and then checked himself sternly. He looked at Miss Marple with eyes that were shrewd and appraising. He said, "You don't think he did the murder, eh?"

"I'm sure he didn't."

"And you think you know who did?"

Miss Marple nodded.

Mrs. Bantry, like all ecstatic Greek chorus, said, "Isn't she wonderful?" to an unhearing world.

"Well, who was it?"

Miss Marple said, "I was going to ask you to help me. I think if we went up to Somerset House we should have a very good idea."

Sir Henry's face was very grave. He said, "I don't like it."

"I am aware," said Miss Marple, "that it isn't what you call orthodox. But it is so important, isn't it, to be quite sure to 'make assurance doubly sure,' as Shakespeare has it? I think, if Mr. Jefferson would agree-"

"What about Harper? Is he to be in on this?"

"It might be awkward for him to know too much. But there might be a hint from you. To watch certain persons, have them trailed, you know."

Sir Henry said slowly, "Yes, that would meet the case."

Superintendent Harper looked piercingly at Sir Henry Clithering. "Let's get this quite clear, sir. You're giving me a hint?"

Sir Henry said, "I'm informing you of what my friend has just informed me. He didn't tell me in confidence that he purposes to visit a solicitor in Danemouth tomorrow for the purpose of making a new will."

The superintendent's bushy eyebrows drew downward over his steady eyes. He said, "Does Mr. Conway Jefferson proposes to inform his son-in-law and daughter-in-law of that fact?"

"He intends to tell them about it this evening."

"I see." The superintendent tapped his desk with a penholder. He repeated again, "I see." Then the piercing eyes bored once more into the eyes of the other man. Harper said, "So you're not satisfied with the case against Basil Blake?"

The superintendent's mustaches quivered. He said, "Is Miss Marple?" The two men looked at each other. Then Harper said, "You can leave it to me. I'll have men detailed. There will be no funny business, I can promise you that."

Sir Henry said, "There is one more thing. You'd better see this." He unfolded a slip of paper and pushed it across the table.

This time the superintendent's calm deserted him. He whistled. "So that's it, is it? That puts an entirely different complexion on the matter. How did you come to dig up this?"

"Women," said Sir Henry, "are eternally interested in marriages."

"Especially," said the superintendent, "elderly single women!"

Conway Jefferson looked up as his friend entered. His grim face relaxed into a smile. He said, "Well, I told 'em. They took it very well."

"What did you say?" To endow a hostel for young girls working as professional dancers in London. Damned silly way to leave your money. Surprised they swallowed it as though I'd do a thing like that." He added meditatively, "You know, I made a fool of myself over that girl. Must be turning into a silly old man. I can see it now. She was a pretty kid, but most of what I saw in her I put there myself. I pretended she was another Rosamund. Same coloring, you know. But not the same heart or mind. Hand me that paper; rather an interesting bridge problem."

Sir Henry went downstairs. He asked a question of the porter.

"Mr. Gaskell, sir? He's just gone off in his car. Had to go to London." "Oh, I see. Is Mrs. Jefferson about?" "Mrs. Jefferson, sir, has just gone up to bed." Sir Henry looked into the lounge and through to the ballroom. In the lounge Hugo McLean was doing a crossword puzzle and frowning a good deal over it. In the ballroom, Josie was smiling valiantly into the face of a stout, perspiring man as her nimble feet avoided his destructive tread. The stout man was clearly enjoying his dance. Raymond, graceful and weary, was dancing with an anemic-looking girl with adenoids, dull brown hair and an expensive and exceedingly unbecoming dress. Sir Henry said under his breath, "And so to bed," and went upstairs.

It was three o'clock. The wind had fallen; the moon was shining over the quiet sea. In Conway Jefferson's room there was no sound except his own heavy breathing as he lay half propped up on pillows. There was no breeze to stir the curtains at the window, but they stirred. For a moment they parted and a figure was silhouetted against the moonlight. Then they fell back into place. Everything was quiet again, but there was someone else inside the room. Nearer and nearer to the bed the intruder stole. The deep breathing on the pillow did not relax. There was no sound, or hardly any sound. A finger and thumb were ready to pick up a fold of skin; in the other hand the hypodermic was ready. And then, suddenly, out of the shadows a hand came and closed over the hand that held the needle; the other arm held the figure in an iron grasp. An unemotional voice the voice of the law, said, "No, you don't! I want that needle!" The light switched on, and from his pillows Conway Jefferson looked grimly at the murderer of Ruby Keene.

Sir Henry Clithering said, "Speaking as Watson, I want to know your methods. Miss Marple."

Superintendent Harper said, "I'd like to know what put you on to it first."

Colonel Melchett said, "You've done it again, by Jove, Miss Marple. I want to hear all about it from the beginning."

Miss Marple smoothed the pure silk of her best evening gown. She flushed and smiled and looked very self-conscious. She said, "I'm afraid you'll think my 'methods,' as Sir Henry calls them, are terribly amateurish. The truth is, you see, that most people, and I don't exclude policemen, are far too trusting for this wicked world. They believe what is told them. I never do. I'm afraid I always like to prove a thing for myself."

"That is the scientific attitude," said Sir Henry.

"In this case," continued Miss Marple, "certain things were taken for granted from the first, instead of just confining oneself to the facts. The facts, as I noted them, were that the victim was quite young and that she bit her nails and that her teeth stuck out a little as young girls' so often do if not corrected in time with a plate, and children are very naughty about their plates and take them out when their elders aren't looking."

"But that is wandering from the point. Where was I? Oh, yes, looking down at the dead girl and feeling sorry, because it is always sad to see a young life cut short, and thinking that whoever had done it was a very wicked person. Of course it was all very confusing, her being found in Colonel Bantry's library, altogether too like a book to be true. In fact, it made the wrong pattern. It wasn't, you see, meant, which confused us a lot. The real idea had been to plant the body on poor young Basil Blake, a much more likely person, and his action in putting it in the colonel's library delayed things considerably and must have been a source of great annoyance to the real murderer. Originally, you see, Mr. Blake would have been the first object of suspicion. They'd have made inquiries at Danemouth, found he knew the girl, and then found he had tied himself up with another girl, and they'd have assumed that Ruby came to blackmail him or something like that, and that he'd strangled her in a fit of rage. Just an ordinary, sordid, what I call night-club type of crime!"

"But that, of course, all went wrong, and interest became focused much too soon on the Jefferson family to the great annoyance of a certain person."

"As I've told you, I've got a very suspicious mind. My nephew Raymond tells me in fun, of course, that I have a mind like a sink. He says that most Victorians have. All I can say is that the Victorians knew a good deal about human nature. As I say, having this rather unsanitary - or surely sanitary? - mind, I looked at once at the money angle of it. Two people stood to benefit by this girl's death you couldn't get away from that. Fifty thousand pounds is a lot of money; especially when you are in financial difficulties, as both these people were. Of course they both seemed very nice, agreeable people; they didn't seem likely people, but one never can tell, can one?"

"Mrs. Jefferson, for instance. Everyone liked her. But it did seem clear that she had become very restless that summer and that she was tired of the life she led, completely dependent on her father-in-law. She knew, because the doctor had told her, that he couldn't live long, so that was all right, to put it callously, or it would have been all right if Ruby Keene hadn't come along. Mrs. Jefferson was passionately devoted to her son, and some women have a curious idea that crimes committed for the sake of their offspring are almost morally justified. I have come across that attitude once or twice in the village. "Well, 'twas all for Daisy, you see, miss," they say, and seem to think that that makes doubtful conduct quite all right. Very lax thinking."

"Mr. Mark Gaskell, of course, was a much more likely starter, if I may use such a sporting expression. He was a gambler and had not, I fancied a very high moral code. But for certain reasons I was of the opinion that a woman was concerned in this crime."

"As I say, with my eye on motive, the money angle seemed very suggestive. It was annoying, therefore, to find that both these people had alibis for the time when Ruby Keene, according to the medical evidence, had met her death. But soon afterward there came the discovery of the burnt-out car with Pamela Reeves' body in it, and then the whole thing leaped to the eye. The alibis, of course, were worthless."

"I now had two halves of the case, and both quite convincing, but they did not fit. There must be a connection, but I could not find it. The one person whom I knew to be concerned in the crime hadn't got a motive. It was stupid of me," said Miss Marple meditatively. "If it hadn't been for Dinah Lee I shouldn't have thought of it the most obvious thing in the world. Somerset House! Marriage! It wasn't a question of only Mr. Gaskell or Mrs. Jefferson; there was the further possibility of marriage. If either of those two was married, or even was likely to marry, then the other party to the marriage contract was involved too. Raymond, for instance, might think he had a pretty good chance of marrying a rich wife. He had been very assiduous to Mrs. Jefferson, and it was his charm, I think, that awoke her from her long widowhood. She had been quite content just 'being a daughter to Mr. Jefferson.' Like Ruth and Naomi only Naomi, if you remember, took a lot of trouble to arrange a suitable marriage for Ruth."

"Besides Raymond, there was Mr. McLean. She liked him very much, and it seemed highly possible that she would marry him in the end. He wasn't well off and he was not far from Danemouth on the night in question. So, it seemed, didn't it," said Miss Marple, "as though anyone might have done it? But, of course, really, in my own mind, I knew. You couldn't get away, could you, from those bitten nails?"

"Nails?" said Sir Henry. "But she tore her nail and cut the others." "Nonsense," said Miss Marple. "Bitten nails and close-cut nails are quite different! Nobody could mistake them who knew anything about girls' nails - very ugly, bitten nails, as I always tell the girls in my class. Those nails, you see, were a fact. And they could only mean one thing. The body in Colonel Bantry's library wasn't Ruby Keene at all."

"And that brings you straight to the one person who must be concerned. Josie! Josie identified the body. She knew she must have known that it wasn't Ruby Keene's body. She said it was. She was puzzled, completely puzzled, at finding that body where it was. She practically betrayed that fact. Why? Because she knew none better where it ought to have been found! In Basil Blake's cottage. Who directed our attention to Basil? Josie, by saying to Raymond that Ruby might have been with the film man. And before that, by slipping a snapshot of him into Ruby's handbag. Josie! Josie, who was shrewd, practical, hard as nails and all out for money."

"Since the body wasn't the body of Ruby Keene, it must be the body of someone else. Of whom? Of the other girl who was also missing. Pamela Reeves! Ruby was eighteen, Pamela sixteen. They were both healthy, rather immature, but muscular girls. But why, I asked myself, all this hocus-pocus? There could be only one reason: to give certain persons an alibi. Who had alibis for the supposed time of Ruby Keene's death? Mark Gaskell, Mrs. Jefferson and Josie."

"It was really quite interesting, you know, tracing out the course of events, seeing exactly how the plan had worked out. Complicated and yet simple. First of all, the selection of the poor child, Pamela; the approach to her from the film angle. A screen test; of course the poor child couldn't resist it. Not when it was put up to her as plausibly as Mark Gaskell put it. She comes to the hotel, he is waiting for her, he takes her in by the side door and introduces her to Josie, one of their make-up experts! That poor child, it makes me quite sick to think of it! Sitting in Josie's bathroom while Josie bleaches her hair and makes up her face and varnishes her fingernails and toenails. During all this the drug was given. In an ice-cream soda, very likely. She goes off into a coma. I imagine that they put her into one of the empty rooms opposite. They were only cleaned once a week, remember."

"After dinner Mark Gaskell went out in his car to the sea front, he said. That is when he took Pamela's body to the cottage, arranged it, and dressed in one of Ruby's old dresses, on the hearth rug. She was still unconscious, but not dead, when he strangled her with the belt of the frock. Not nice, no, but I hope and pray she knew nothing about it. Really, I feel quite pleased to think of him hanging… That must have been just after ten o'clock. Then back at top speed and into the lounge where Ruby Keene, still alive, was dancing her exhibition dance with Raymond. I should imagine that Josie had given Ruby instructions beforehand. Ruby was accustomed to doing what Josie told her. She was to change, go into Josie's room and wait. She, too, was drugged; probably in the after-dinner coffee. She was yawning, remember, when she talked to young Bartlett."

"Josie came up later with Raymond to 'look for her,' but nobody but Josie went into Josie's room. She probably finished the girl off then with an injection, perhaps, or a blow on the back of the head. She went down, danced with Raymond, debated with the Jefferson’s where Ruby could be and finally went up to bed. In the early hours of the morning she dressed the girl in Pamela's clothes, carried the body down the side stairs and out. She was a strong, muscular young woman. Fetched George Bartlett's car, drove two miles to the quarry, poured petrol over the car and set it alight. Then she walked back to the hotel, probably timing her arrival there for eight or nine o'clock. Up early in her anxiety about Ruby!"

"An intricate plot," said Colonel Melchett.

"Not more intricate than the steps of a dance," said Miss Marple.

"I suppose not."

"She was very thorough," said Miss Marple. "She even foresaw the discrepancy of the nails. That's why she managed to break one of Ruby's nails on her shawl. It made an excuse for pretending that Ruby had clipped her nails close."

Harper said, "Yes, she thought of everything. And the only real proof you had was a schoolgirl's bitten nails."

"More than that," said Miss Marple. "People will talk too much. Mark Gaskell talked too much. He was speaking of Ruby and he said, her teeth ran down her throat, but the dead girl in Colonel Bantry's library had teeth that stuck out."

Conway Jefferson said rather grimly, "And was the last dramatic finale your idea, Miss Marple?"

"Well, it was, as a matter of fact. It's so nice to be sure, isn't it?"

"Sure is the word," said Conway Jefferson grimly.

"You see," said Miss Marple, "once those two knew that you were going to make a new will, they'd have to do something. They'd already committed two murders on account of the money. So they might as well commit a third. Mark, of course, must be absolutely clear, so he went off to London and established an alibi by dining at a restaurant with friends and going on to a night club. Josie was to do the work. They still wanted Ruby's death to be put down to Basil's account, so Mr. Jefferson's death must be thought due to his heart failing. There was digitalis, so the superintendent tells me, in the syringe. Any doctor would think death from heart trouble quite natural in the circumstances. Josie had loosened one of the stone balls on the balcony and she was going to let it crash down afterward. His death would be put down to the shock of the noise."

Melchett said, "Ingenious devil."

Sir Henry said, "So the third death you spoke of was to be Conway Jefferson?"

Miss Marple shook her head. "Oh, no, I meant Basil Blake. They'd have got him hanged if they could."

"Or shut up in Broadmoor," said Sir Henry.

Through the doorway floated Adelaide Jefferson. Hugo McLean followed her. The latter said, "I seem to have missed most of this! Haven't got the hang of it yet. What was Josie to Mark Gaskell?"

Miss Marple said, "His wife. They were married a year ago. They were keeping it dark until Mr. Jefferson died."

Conway Jefferson grunted. He said, "Always knew Rosamund had married a rotter. Tried not to admit it to myself. She was fond of him. Fond of a murderer! Well, he'll hang, as well as the woman. I'm glad he went to pieces and gave the show away."

Miss Marple said, "She was always the strong character. It was her plan throughout. The irony of it is that she got the girl down here herself, never dreaming that she would take Mr. Jefferson's fancy and rum all her own prospects."

Jefferson said, "Poor lass. Poor little Ruby."

Adelaide laid her hand on his shoulder and pressed it gently. She looked almost beautiful tonight. She said, with a little catch in her breath, "I want to tell you something, Jeff. At once. I'm going to marry Hugo."

Conway Jefferson looked up at her for a moment. He said gruffly, "About time you married again. Congratulations to you both. By the way, Addie, I'm making a new will tomorrow."

She nodded. "Oh, yes. I know."

Jefferson said, "No, you don't. I'm settling ten thousand pounds on you. Everything else goes to Peter when I die. How does that suit you, my girl?"

"Oh, Jeff!" Her voice broke. "You're wonderful!"

"He's a nice lad. I'd like to see a good deal of him in the time I've got left."

"Oh, you shall!"

"Got a great feeling for crime, Peter has," said Conway Jefferson meditatively. "Not only has he got the fingernail of the murdered girl, one of the murdered girls, anyway, but he was lucky enough to have a bit of Josie's shawl caught in with the nail. So he's got a souvenir of the murderess too! That makes him very happy!"

Hugo and Adelaide passed by the ballroom. Raymond came up to them. Adelaide said rather quickly, "I must tell you my news. We're going to be married."

The smile on Raymond's face was perfect a brave, pensive smile. "I hope," he said, ignoring Hugo and gazing into her eyes, "that you will be very, very happy."

They passed on and Raymond stood looking after her. "A nice woman," he said to himself. "A very nice woman. And she would have had money too. The time I took to mug up that bit about the Devonshire Starrs. Oh, well, my luck's out. Dance, dance, little friend, and Raymond returned to the ballroom.







































W.S. MAUGHAM

RAIN


It was nearly bed-time and when they awoke next morning land would be in sight. Dr. Macphail lit his pipe and, leaning over the rail, searched the heavens for the Southern Cross. After two years at the front and a wound that had taken longer to heal than it should, he was glad to settle down quietly at Apia for twelve months at least, and he felt already better for the journey. Since some of the passengers were leaving the ship next day at Pago-Pago they had had a little dance that evening and in his ears hammered still the harsh notes of the mechanical piano. But the deck was quiet at last. A little way off he saw his wife in a long chair talking with the Davidsons, and he strolled over to her. When he sat down under the light and took off his hat you saw that he had very red hair, with a bald patch on the crown, and the red, freckled skin which accompanies red hair; he was a man of forty, thin, with a pinched face, precise and rather pedantic; and he spoke with a Scots accent in a very low, quiet voice.

Between the Macphails and the Davidsons, who were missionaries, there had arisen the intimacy of shipboard, which is due to propinquity rather than to any community of taste. Their chief tie was the disapproval they shared of the men who spent their days and nights in the smoking-room playing poker or bridge and drinking. Mrs. Macphail was not a little flattered to think that she and her husband were the only people on board with whom the Davidsons were willing to associate, and even the doctor, shy but no fool, half unconsciously acknowledged the compliment. It was only because he was of an argumentative mind that in their cabin at night he permitted himself to carp.

"Mrs. Davidson was saying she didn`t know how they`d have got through the journey if it hadn`t been for us," said Mrs. Macphail, as she neatly brushed out her transformation. "She said we were really the only people on the ship they cared to know."

"I shouldn`t have thought a missionary was such a big bug that he could afford to put on frills."

"It`s not frills. I quite understand what she means. It wouldn`t have been very nice for the Davidsons to have to mix with all that rough lot in the smoking-room."

"The founder of their religion wasn`t so exclusive," said Dr. Macphail with a chuckle.

"I`ve asked you over and over again not to joke about religion," answered his wife. "I shouldn`t like to have a nature like yours, Alec. You never look for the best in people."

He gave her a sidelong glance with his pale, blue eyes, but did not reply. After many years of married life he had learned that it was more conducive to peace to leave his wife with the last word. He was undressed before she was, and climbing into the upper bunk he settled down to read himself to sleep.

When he came on deck next morning they were close to land. He looked at it with greedy eyes. There was a thin strip of silver beach rising quickly to hills covered to the top with luxuriant vegetation. The coconut trees, thick and green, came nearly to the water`s edge, and among them you saw the grass houses of the Samoaris; and here and there, gleaming white, a little church. Mrs. Davidson came and stood beside him. She was dressed in black, and wore round her neck a gold chain, from which dangled a small cross. She was a little woman, with brown, dull hair very elaborately arranged, and she had prominent blue eyes behind invisible pince-nez. Her face was long, like a sheep`s, but she gave no impression of foolishness, rather of extreme alertness; she had the quick movements of a bird. The most remarkable thing about her was her voice, high, metallic, and without inflection; it fell on the ear with a hard monotony, irritating to the nerves like the pitiless clamour of the pneumatic drill.

"This must seem like home to you," said Dr. Macphail, with his thin, difficult smile.

"Ours are low islands, you know, not like these. Coral. These are volcanic. We`ve got another ten days` journey to reach them."

"In these parts that`s almost like being in the next street at home," said Dr. Macphail facetiously.

"Well, that`s rather an exaggerated way of putting it, but one does look at distances differently in the J South Seas. So far you`re right."

Dr. Macphail sighed faintly.

"I`m glad we`re not stationed here," she went on. "They say this is a terribly difficult place to work in. The steamers` touching makes the people unsettled; and then there`s the naval station; that`s bad for the natives. In our district we don`t have difficulties like that to contend with. There are one or two traders, of course, but we take care to make them behave, and if they don`t we make the place so hot for them they`re glad to go."

Fixing the glasses on her nose she looked at the green island with a ruthless stare.

"It`s almost a hopeless task for the missionaries here. I can never be sufficiently thankful to God that we are at least spared that."

Davidson`s district consisted of a group of islands to the North of Samoa; they were widely separated and he had frequently to go long distances by canoe. At these times his wife remained at their headquarters and managed the mission. Dr. Macphail felt his heart sink when he considered the efficiency with which she certainly managed it. She spoke of the depravity of the natives in a voice which nothing could hush, but with a vehemently unctuous horror. Her sense of delicacy was singular. Early in their acquaintance she had said to him:

"You know, their marriage customs when we first settled in the islands were so shocking that I couldn`t possibly describe them to you. But I`ll tell Mrs. Macphail and she`ll tell you."

Then he had seen his wife and Mrs. Davidson, their deck-chairs close together, in earnest conversation for about two hours. As he walked past them backwards and forwards for the sake of exercise, he had heard Mrs. Davidson`s agitated whisper, like the distant flow of a mountain torrent, and he saw by his wife`s open mouth and pale face that she was enjoying an alarming experience. At night in their cabin she repeated to him with bated breath all she had heard.

"Well, what did I say to you?" cried Mrs. Davidson, exultant, next morning. "Did you ever hear anything more dreadful? You don`t wonder that I couldn`t tell you myself, do you? Even though you are a doctor."

Mrs. Davidson scanned his face. She had a dramatic eagerness to see that she had achieved the desired effect.

"Can you wonder that when we first went there our hearts sank? You`ll hardly believe me when I tell you it was impossible to find a single good girl in any of the villages."

She used the word good in a severely technical manner.

"Mr. Davidson and I talked it over, and we made up our minds the first thing to do was to put down the dancing. The natives were crazy about dancing."

"I was not averse to it myself when I was a young man," said Dr. Macphail.

"I guessed as much when I heard you ask Mrs. Macphail to have a turn with you last night. I don`t think there`s any real harm if a man dances with his wife, but I was relieved that she wouldn`t. Under the circumstances I thought it better that we should keep ourselves to ourselves."

"Under what circumstances? "

Mrs. Davidson gave him a quick look through her pince-nez, but did not answer his question.

"But among white people it`s not quite the same," she went on, "though I must say I agree with Mr. Davidson, who says he can`t understand how a husband can stand by and see his wife in another man`s arms, and as far as I`m concerned I`ve never danced a step since I married. But the native dancing is quite another matter. It`s not only immoral in itself, but it distinctly leads to immorality. However, I`m thankful to God that we stamped it out, and I don`t think I`m wrong in saying that no one has danced in our district for eight years."

But now they came to the mouth of the harbour and Mrs. Macphail joined them. The ship turned sharply and steamed slowly in. It was a great landlocked harbour big enough to hold a fleet of battleships; and all around it rose, high and steep, the green hills. Near the entrance, getting such breeze as blew from the sea, stood the governor`s house in a garden. The Stars and Stripes dangled languidly from a flagstaff. They passed two or three trim bungalows, and a tennis court, and then they came to the quay with its warehouses. Mrs. Davidson pointed out the schooner, moored two or three hundred yards from the side, which was to take them to Apia. There was a crowd of eager, noisy, and good-humoured natives come from all parts of the island, some from curiosity, others to barter with the travellers on their way to Sydney; and they brought pineapples and huge bunches of bananas, tapa cloths, necklaces of shells or sharks` teeth, kava-bowls, and models of war canoes. American sailors, neat and trim, clean-shaven and frank efface, sauntered among them, and there was a little group of officials. While their luggage was being landed the Macphails and Mrs. Davidson watched the crowd. Dr. Macphail looked at the yaws from which most of the children and the young boys seemed to suffer, disfiguring sores like torpid ulcers, and his professional eyes glistened when he saw for the first time in his experience cases of elephantiasis, men going about with a huge, heavy arm or dragging along a grossly disfigured leg. Men and women wore the lava-lava.

"It`s a very indecent costume," said Mrs. Davidson. "Mr. Davidson thinks it should be prohibited by law. How can you expect people to be moral when they wear nothing but a strip of red cotton round their loins?"

"It`s suitable enough to the climate," said the doctor, wiping the sweat off his head.

Now that they were on land the heat, though it was so early in the morning, was already oppressive. Closed in by its hills, not a breath of air came in to Pago-Pago.

"In our islands," Mrs. Davidson went on in her high-pitched tones, "we`ve practically eradicated the lava-lava. A few old men still continue to wear it, but that`s all. The women have all taken to the Mother Hubbard, and the men wear trousers and singlets. At the very beginning of our stay Mr. Davidson said in one of his reports: the inhabitants of these islands will never be thoroughly Christianised till every boy of more than ten years is made to wear a pair of trousers."

But Mrs. Davidson had given two or three of her birdlike glances at heavy grey clouds that came floating over the mouth of the harbour. A few drops began to fall.

"We`d better take shelter," she said.

They made their way with all the crowd to a great shed of corrugated iron, and the rain began to fall in torrents. They stood there for some time and then were joined by Mr. Davidson. He had been polite enough to the Macphails during the journey, but he had not his wife`s sociability, and had spent much of his time reading. He was a silent, rather sullen man, and you felt that his affability was a duty that he imposed upon himself Christianly; he was by nature reserved and even morose. His appearance was singular. He was very tall and thin, with long limbs loosely jointed; hollow cheeks and curiously high cheek-bones; he had so cadaverous an air that it surprised you to notice how full and sensual were his lips. He wore his hair very long. His dark eyes, set deep in their sockets, were large and tragic; and his hands with their big, long fingers, were finely shaped; they gave him a look of great strength. But the most striking thing about him was the feeling he gave you of suppressed fire. It was impressive and vaguely troubling. He was not a man with whom any intimacy was possible.

He brought now unwelcome news. There was an epidemic of measles, a serious and often fatal disease among the Kanakas, on the island, and a case had developed among the crew of the schooner which was to take them on their journey. The sick man had been brought ashore and put in hospital on the quarantine station, but telegraphic instructions had been sent from Apia to say that the schooner would not be allowed to enter the harbour till it was certain no other member of the crew was affected.

"It means we shall have to stay here for ten days at least."

"But I`m urgently needed a Apia," said Dr. Macphail.

"That can`t be helped. If no more cases develop on board, the schooner will be allowed to sail with white passengers, but all native traffic is prohibited for three months."

"Is there a hotel here?" asked Mrs. Macphail.

Davidson gave a low chuckle.

"There`s not."

"What shall we do then?"

"I`ve been talking to the governor. There`s a trader along the front who has rooms that he rents, and my proposition is that as soon as the rain lets up we should go along there and see what we can do. Don`t expect comfort. You`ve just got to be thankful if we get a bed to sleep on and a roof over our heads."

But the rain showed no sign of stopping, and at length with umbrellas and waterproofs they set out. There was no town, but merely a group of official buildings, a store or two, and at the back, among the coconut trees and plantains, a few native dwellings. The house they sought was about five minutes` walk from the wharf. It was a frame house of two storeys, with broad verandahs on both floors and a roof of corrugated iron. The owner was a half-caste named Horn, with a native wife surrounded by little brown children, and on the ground-floor he had a store where he sold canned goods and cottons. The rooms he showed them were almost bare of furniture. In the Macphails` there was nothing but a poor, worn bed with a ragged mosquito net, a rickety chair, and a washstand. They looked round with dismay. The rain poured down without ceasing.

"I`m not going to unpack more than we actually need," said Mrs. Macphail.

Mrs. Davidson came into the room as she was unlocking a portmanteau. She was very brisk and alert. The cheerless surroundings had no effect on her.

"If you`ll take my advice you`ll get a needle and cotton and start right in to mend the mosquito net, she said, or you`ll not be able to get a wink of sleep tonight."

"Will they be very bad?" asked Dr. Macphail.

"This is the season for them. When you`re asked to a party at Government House at Apia you`ll notice that all the ladies are given a pillow-slip to put their - their lower extremities in."

"I wish the rain would stop for a moment," said Mrs. Macphail. "I could try to make the place comfortable with more heart if the sun were shining."

"Oh, if you wait for that, you`ll wait a long time. Pago-Pago is about the rainiest place in the Pacific. You see, the hills, and that bay, they attract the water, and one expects rain at this time of year anyway."

She looked from Macphail to his wife, standing helplessly in different parts of the room, like lost souls, and she pursed her lips. She saw that she must take them in hand. Feckless people like that made her impatient, but her hands itched to put everything in the order which came so naturally to her.

"Here, you give me a needle and cotton and I`ll mend that net of yours, while you go on with your unpacking. Dinner`s at one. Dr. Macphail, you`d better go down to the wharf and see that your heavy luggage has been put in a dry place. You know what these natives are, they`re quite capable of storing it where the rain will beat in on it all the time."

The doctor put on his waterproof again and went downstairs. At the door Mr. Horn was standing in conversation with the quartermaster of the ship they had just arrived in and a second-class passenger whom Dr. Macphail had seen several times on board. The quartermaster, a little, shrivelled man, extremely dirty, nodded to him as he passed.

"This is a bad job about the measles, doc," he said. "I see you`ve fixed yourself up already."

Dr. Macphail thought he was rather familiar, but he was a timid Man and he did not take offence easily.

"Yes, we`ve got a room upstairs."

"Miss Thompson was sailing with you to Apia, so I`ve brought her along here."

The quartermaster pointed with his thumb to the woman standing by his side. She was twenty-seven perhaps, plump, and in a coarse fashion pretty. She wore a white dress and a large white hat. Her fat calves in white cotton stockings bulged over the tops of long white boots in glace kid. She gave Macphail an ingratiating smile.

"The feller`s tryin` to soak me a dollar and a half a day for the meanest sized room," she said in a hoarse voice.

"I tell you she`s a friend of mine, Jo," said the quartermaster. "She can`t pay more than a dollar, and you`ve sure got to take her for that."

The trader was fat and smooth and quietly smiling. "Well, if you put it like that, Mr. Swan, I`ll see what I can do about it. I`ll talk to Mrs. Horn and if we think we can make a reduction we will."

"Don`t try to pull that stuff with me," said Miss Thompson. "We`ll settle this right now. You get a dollar a day for the room and not one bean more."

Dr. Macphail smiled. He admired the effrontery with which she bargained. He was the sort of man who always paid what he was asked. He preferred to be over-charged than to haggle. The trader sighed.

"Well, to oblige Mr. Swan I`ll take it."

"That`s the goods," said Miss Thompson. "Come right in and have a shot of hooch. I`ve got some real good rye in that grip if you`ll bring it` along, Mr. Swan. You come along too, doctor."

"Oh, I don`t think I will, thank you," he answered. "I`m just going down to see that our luggage is all right."

He stepped out into the rain. It swept in from the opening of the harbour in sheets and the opposite shore was all blurred. He passed two or three natives clad in nothing but the lava-lava, with huge umbrellas over them. They walked finely, with leisurely movements, very upright; and they smiled and greeted him in a strange tongue as they went by.

It was nearly dinner-time when he got back, and their meal was laid in the trader`s parlour. It was a room designed not to live in but for purposes of prestige, and it had a musty, melancholy air. A suite of stamped plush was arranged neatly round the walls, and from the middle of the ceiling, protected from the flies by yellow tissue paper, hung a gilt chandelier. Davidson did not come.

"I know he went to call on the governor," said Mrs. Davidson, "and I guess he`s kept him to dinner."

A little native girl brought them a dish of Hamburger steak, and after a while the trader came up to see that they had everything they wanted.

"I see we have a fellow lodger, Mr. Horn." said Dr. Macphail.

"She`s taken a room, that`s all," answered the trader. "She`s getting her own board."

He looked at the two ladies with an obsequious air.

"I put her downstairs so she shouldn`t be in the way. She won`t be any trouble to you."

"Is it someone who was on the boat?" asked Mrs. Macphail.

"Yes, ma`am, she was in the second cabin. She was going to Apia. She has a position as cashier waiting for her."

"Oh!"

When the trader was gone Macphail said:

"I shouldn`t think she`d find it exactly cheerful having her meals in her room."

"If she was in the second cabin I guess she`d rather," answered Mrs. Davidson. "I don`t exactly know who it can be."

"I happened to be there when the quartermaster brought her along. Her name`s Thompson."

"It`s not the woman who was dancing with the quartermaster last night? " asked Mrs. Davidson.

"That`s who it must be," said Mrs. Macphail. "I wondered at the time what she was. She looked rather fast to me."

"Not good style at all," said Mrs. Davidson.

They began to talk of other things, and after dinner, tired with their early rise, they separated and slept. When they awoke, though the sky was still grey and the clouds hung low, it was not raining, and they went for a walk on the high road which the Americans had built along the bay.

On their return they found that Davidson had just come in.

We may be here for a fortnight, he said irritably. "I`ve argued it out with the governor, but he says there is nothing to be done."

"Mr. Davidson`s just longing to get back to his work," said his wife, with an anxious glance at him.

"We`ve been away for a year," he said, walking up and down the verandah. "The mission has been in charge of native missionaries and I`m terribly nervous that they`ve let things slide. They`re good men, I`m not saying a word against them, God-fearing, devout, and truly Christian men - their Christianity would put many so-called Christians at home to the blush - but they`re pitifully lacking in energy, They can make a stand once, they can make a stand twice, but they can`t make a stand all the time. If you leave a mission in charge of a native missionary, no matter how trust-worhy he seems, in course of time you`ll find he`s let abuses creep in."

Mr. Davidson stood still. With his tall, spare form, and his great eyes flashing out of his pale face, he was an impressive figure. His sincerity was obvious in the fire of his gestures and in his deep, ringing voice.

"I expect to have my work cut out for me. I shall act and I shall act promptly. If the tree is rotten it shall be cut down and cast into the flames."

And in the evening after the high tea which was their last meal, while they sat in the stiff parlour, the ladies working and Dr. Macphail smoking his pipe, the missionary told them of his work in the islands.

"When we went there they had no sense of sin at all," he said. "They broke the commandments one after the other and never knew they were doing wrong. And I think that was the most difficult part of my work, to instil into the natives the sense of sin."

The Macphails knew already that Davidson had worked in the Solomons for five years before he met his wife. She had been a missionary in China, and they had become acquainted in Boston, where they were both spending part of their leave to attend a missionary congress. On their marriage they had been appointed to the islands in which they had laboured ever since.

In the course of all the conversations they had had with Mr. Davidson one thing had shone out clearly and that was the man`s unflinching courage. He was a medical missionary, and he was liable to be called at any time to one or other of the islands in the group. Even the whaleboat is not so very safe a conveyance in the stormy pacific of the wet season, but often he would be sent for in a canoe, and then the danger was great. In cases of illness or accident he never hesitated. A dozen times he had spent the whole night baling for his life, and more than once Mrs. Davidson had given him up for lost.

"I`d beg him not to go sometimes," she said, "or at least to wait till the weather was more settled, but he`d never listen. He`s obstinate, and when he`s once made up his mind, nothing can move him."

"How can I ask the natives to put their trust in the Lord if I am afraid to do so myself?" cried Davidson. "And I`m not, I`m not. They know that if they send for me in their trouble I`ll come if it`s humanly possible. And do you think the Lord is going to abandon me when I am on his business? The wind blows at his bidding and the waves toss and rage at his word."

Dr. Macphail was a timid man. He had never been able to get used to the hurtling of the shells over the trenches, and when he was operating in an advanced dressing-station the sweat poured from his brow and dimmed his spectacles in the effort he made to control his unsteady hand. He shuddered a little as he looked at the missionary.

"I wish I could say that I`ve never been afraid," he said.

"I wish you could say that you believed in God," retorted the other.

But for some reason, that evening the missionary`s thoughts travelled back to the early days he and his wife had spent on the islands.

"Sometimes Mrs. Davidson and I would look at one another and the tears would stream down our cheeks. We worked without ceasing, day and night, and we seemed to make no progress. I don`t know what I should have done without her then. When I felt my heart sink, when I was very near despair, she gave me courage and hope."

Mrs. Davidson looked down at her work, and a slight colour rose to her thin cheeks. Her hands trembled a little. She did not trust herself to speak.

"We had no one to help us. We were alone, thousands of miles from any of our own people, surrounded by darkness. When I was broken and weary she would put her work aside and take the Bible and read to me till peace came and settled upon me like sleep upon the eyelids of a child, and when at last she closed the book she`d say: `We`ll save them in spite of themselves.` And I felt strong again in the Lord, and I answered: `Yes, with God`s help I`ll save them. I must save them.`"

He came over to the table and stood in front of it as though it were a lectern.

"You see, they were so naturally depraved that they couldn`t be brought to see their wickedness. We had to make sins out of what they thought were natural actions. We had to make it a sin, not only to commit adultery and to lie and thieve, but to expose their bodies, and to dance and not to come to church. I made it a sin for a girl to show her bosom and a sin for a man not to wear trousers."

"How?" asked Dr. Macphail, not without surprise.

"I instituted fines. Obviously the only way to make people realise that an action is sinful is to punish them if they commit it. I fined them if they didn`t come to church, and I fined them if they danced. I fined them if they were improperly dressed. I had a tariff, and every sin had to be paid for either in money or work. And at last I made them understand."

"But did they never refuse to pay?"

"How could they?" asked the missionary.

"It would be a brave man who tried to stand up against Mr. Davidson," said his wife, tightening her lips.

Dr. Macphail looked at Davidson with troubled eyes. What he heard shocked him, but he hesitated to express his disapproval.

"You must remember that in the last resort I could expel them from their church membership.""

"Did they mind that?"

Davidson smiled a little and gently rubbed his hands.

"They couldn`t sell their copra. When the men fished they got no share of the catch. It meant something very like starvation. Yes, they minded quite a lot."

"Tell him about Fred Ohlson," said Mrs. Davidson.

The missionary fixed his fiery eyes on Dr. Macphail.

"Fred Ohlson was a Danish trader who had been in the islands a good many years. He was a pretty rich man as traders go and he wasn`t very pleased when we came. You see, he`d had things very much his own way. He paid the natives what he liked for their copra, and he paid in goods and whiskey. He had a native wife, but he was flagrantly unfaithful to her. He was a drunkard. I gave him a chance to mend his ways, but he wouldn`t take it. He laughed at me."

Davidson`s voice fell to a deep bass as he said the last words, and he was silent for a minute or two. The silence was heavy with menace.

"In two years he was a ruined man. He`d lost everything he`d saved in a quarter of a century. I broke him, and at last he was forced to come to me like a beggar and beseech me to give him a passage back to Sydney."

"I wish you could have seen him when he came to see Mr. Davidson," said the missionary`s wife.

"He had been a fine, powerful man, with a lot of fat on him, and he had a great big voice, but now he was half the size, and he was shaking all over. He`d suddenly become an old man."

With abstracted gaze Davidson looked out into the night. The rain was falling again.

Suddenly from below came a sound, and Davidson turned and looked questioningly at his wife. It was the sound of a gramophone, harsh and loud, wheezing out a syncopated tune.

"What`s that?" he asked.

Mrs. Davidson fixed her pince-nez more firmly on her nose.

"One of the second-class passengers has a room in the house. I guess it comes from there."

They listened in silence, and presently they heard the sound of dancing. Then the music stopped, and they heard the popping of corks and voices raised in animated conversation.

"I daresay she`s giving a farewell party to her friends on board," said Dr. Macphail. "The ship sails at twelve, doesn`t it?"

Davidson made no remark, but he looked at his watch.

"Are you ready?" he asked his wife.

She got up and folded her work.

"Yes, I guess I am," she answered.

"It`s early to go to bed yet, isn`t it?" said the doctor.

"We have a good deal of reading to do," explained Mrs. Davidson. "Wherever we are, we read a chapter of the Bible before retiring for the night and we study it with the commentaries, you know, and discuss it thoroughly. It`s a wonderful training for the mind."

The two couples bade one another good night. Dr. and Mrs. Macphail were left alone. For two or three minutes they did not speak.

"I think I`ll go and fetch the cards," the doctor said at last.

Mrs. Macphail looked at him doubtfully. Her conversation with the Davidsons had left her a little uneasy, but she did not like to say that she thought they had better not play cards when the Davidsons might come in at any moment. Dr. Macphail brought them and she watched him, though with a vague sense of guilt, while he laid out his patience. Below the sound of revelry continued.

It was fine enough next day, and the Macphails, condemned to spend a fortnight of idleness at Pago-Pago, set about making the best of things. They went down to the quay and got out of their boxes a number of books. The doctor called on the chief surgeon of the naval hospital and went round the beds with him. They left cards on the governor. They passed Miss Thompson on the road. The doctor took off his hat, and she gave him a "Good morning, doc.," in a loud, cheerful voice. She was dressed as on the day before, in a white frock, and her shiny white boots with their high heels, her fat legs bulging over the tops of them, were strange things on that exotic scene.

"I don`t think she`s very suitably dressed, I must say," said Mrs. Macphail. "She looks extremely common to me."

When they got back to their house, she was on the verandah playing with one of the trader`s dark children.

"Say a word to her," Dr. Macphail whispered to his wife. "She`s all alone here, and it seems rather unkind to ignore her."

Mrs. Macphail was shy, but she was in the habit of doing what her husband bade her.

"I think we`re fellow lodgers here," she said rather foolishly.

"Terrible, ain`t it, bein` cooped up in a one-horse burg like this?" answered Miss Thompson. "And they tell me I`m lucky to have gotten a room. I don`t see myself livin` in a native house, and that`s what some have to do. I don`t know why they don`t have a hotel."

They exchanged a few more words. Miss Thompson, loud-voiced and garrulous, was evidently quite willing to gossip, but Mrs. Macphail had a poor stock of small talk and presently she said:

"Well, I think we must go upstairs."

In the evening when they sat down to their high tea Davidson on coming in said:

"I see that woman downstairs has a couple of sailors sitting there. I wonder how she`s gotten acquainted with them."

"She can`t be very particular," said Mrs. Davidson.

They were all rather tired after the idle, aimless day.

"If there`s going to be a fortnight of this I don`t know what we shall feel like at the end of it," said Dr. Macphail.

"The only thing to do is to portion out the day to different activities," answered the missionary. "I shall set aside a certain number of hours to study and a certain number to exercise, rain or fine - in the wet season you can`t afford to pay any attention to the rain - and a certain number to recreation."

Dr. Macphail looked at his companion with misgiving. Davidson`s programme oppressed him. They were eating Hamburger steak again. It seemed the only dish the cook knew how to make. Then below the grama-phone began. Davidson started nervously when he heard it, but said nothing. Men`s voices floated up. Miss Thompson`s guests were joining in a well-known song and presently they heard her voice too, hoarse and loud. There was a good deal of shouting and laughing. The four people upstairs, trying to make conversation, listened despite themselves to the clink of glasses and the scrape of chairs. More people had evidently come. Miss Thompson was giving a party.

"I wonder how she gets them all in," said Mrs. Macphail, suddenly breaking into a medical conversation between the missionary and her husband.

It showed whither her thoughts were wandering. The twitch of Davidson`s face proved that, though he spoke of scientific things, his mind was busy in the same direction. Suddenly, while the doctor was giving some experience of practice on the Flanders front, rather prosily, he sprang to his feet with a cry.

"What`s the matter, Alfred?" asked Mrs. Davidson.

"Of course! It never occurred to me. She`s out of Iwelei."

"She can`t be."

"She came on board at Honolulu. It`s obvious. And she`s carrying on her trade here. Here."

He uttered the last word with a passion of indignation.

"What`s Iwelei?" asked Mrs. Macphail.

He turned his gloomy eyes on her and his voice trembled with horror.

"The plague spot of Honolulu. The Red Light district. It was a blot on our civilisation."

Iwelei was on the edge of the city. You went down side streets by the harbour, in the darkness, across a rickety bridge, till you came to a deserted road, all ruts and holes, and then suddenly you came out into the light. There was parking room for motors on each side of the road, and there were saloons, tawdry and bright, each one noisy with its mechanical piano, and there were barbers` shops and tobacconists. There was a stir in the air and a sense of expectant gaiety. You turned down a narrow alley, either to the right or to the left, for the road divided Iwelei into two parts, and you found yourself in the district. There were rows of little bungalows, trim and neatly painted in green, and the pathway between them was broad and straight. It was laid out like a garden-city. In its respectable regularity, its order and spruceness, it gave an impression of sardonic horror; for never can the search for love have been so systematised and ordered. The pathways were lit by a rare lamp, but they would have been dark except for the lights that came from the open windows of the bungalows. Men wandered about, looking at the women who sat at their windows, reading or sewing, for the most part taking no notice of the passers-by; and like the women they were of all nationalities. There were Americans, sailors from the ships in port, enlisted men off the gunboats, sombrely drunk, and soldiers from the regiments, white and black, quartered on the island; there were Japanese, walking in twos and threes; Hawaiians, Chinese in long robes, and Filipinos in preposterous hats. They were silent and as it were oppressed. Desire is sad.

"It was the most crying scandal of the Pacific," exclaimed Davidson vehemently. "The missionaries had been agitating against it for years, and at last the local press took it up. The police refused to stir. You know their argument. They say that vice is inevitable and consequently the best thing is to localise and control it. The truth is, they were paid. Paid. They were paid by the saloon-keepers, paid by the bullies, paid by the women themselves. At last they were forced to move."

"I read about it in the papers that came on board in Honolulu," said Dr. Macphail.

"Iwelei, with its sin and shame, ceased to exist on the very day we arrived. The whole population was brought before the justices. I don`t know why I didn`t understand at once what that woman was."

"Now you come to speak of it," said Mrs. Macphail, "I remember seeing her come on board only a few minutes before the boat sailed. I remember thinking at the time she was cutting it rather fine."

"How dare she come here!" cried Davidson indignantly. "I`m not going to allow it."

He strode towards the door.

"What are you going to do?" asked Macphail.

"What do you expect me to do? I`m going to stop it. I`m not going to have this house turned into - into..."

He sought for a word that should not offend the ladies` ears. His eyes were flashing and his pale face was paler still in his emotion.

"It sounds as though there were three or four men down there," said the doctor. "Don`t you think it`s rather rash to go in just now?"

The missionary gave him a contemptuous look and without a word flung out of the room.

"You know Mr. Davidson very little if you think the fear of personal danger can stop him in the performance of his duty," said his wife.

She sat with her hands nervously clasped, a spot of colour on her high cheek bones, listening to what was about to happen below. They all listened. They heard him clatter down the wooden stairs and throw open the door. The singing stopped suddenly, but the gramophone continued to bray out its vulgar tune. They heard Davidson`s voice and then the noise of something heavy falling. The music stopped. He had hurled the gramophone on the floor. Then again they heard Davidson`s voice, they could not make out the words, then Miss Thompson`s, loud and shrill, then a confused clamour as though several people were shouting together at the top of their lungs. Mrs. Davidson gave a little gasp, and she clenched her hands more tightly. Dr. Macphail looked uncertainly from her to his wife. He did not want to go down, but he wondered if they expected him to. Then there was something that sounded like a scuffle. The noise now was more distinct. It might be that Davidson was being thrown out of the room. The door was slammed. There was a moment`s silence and they heard Davidson come up the stairs again. He went to his room.

"I think I`ll go to him," said Mrs. Davidson.

She got up and went out.

"If you want me, just call," said Mrs. Macphail, and then when the other was gone: "I hope he isn`t hurt."

"Why couldn`t he mind his own business?" said Dr. Macphail.

They sat in silence for a minute or two and then they both started, for the gramophone began to play once more, defiantly, and mocking voices shouted hoarsely the words of an obscene song.

Next day Mrs. Davidson was pale and tired. She complained of headache, and she looked old and wizened. She told Mrs. Macphail that the missionary had not slept at all; he had passed the night in a state of frightful agitation and at five had got up and gone out. A glass of beer had been thrown over him and his clothes were stained and stinking. But a sombre fire glowed in Mrs. Davidson`s eyes when she spoke of Miss Thompson.

"She`ll bitterly rue the day when she flouted Mr. Davidson," she said. "Mr. Davidson has a wonderful heart and no one who is in trouble has ever gone to I him without being comforted, but he has no mercy for sin, and when his righteous wrath is excited he`s terrible."

"Why, what will he do?" asked Mrs. Macphail.

"I don`t know, but I wouldn`t stand in that creature`s shoes for anything in the world."

Mrs. Macphail shuddered. There was something positively alarming in the triumphant assurance of the little woman`s manner. They were going out together that morning, and they went down the stairs side by side. Miss Thompson`s door was open, and they saw her in a bedraggled dressing-gown, cooking something in a chafing - dish.

"Good morning," she called. "Is Mrs. Davidson better this morning?"

They passed her in silence, with their noses in the air, as if she did not exist. They flushed, however, when she burst into a shout of derisive laughter. Mrs. Davidson turned on her suddenly. "Don`t you dare to speak to me," she screamed. "If you insult me I shall have you turned out of here."

"Say, did I ask M. Davidson to visit with me?"

"Don`t answer her," whispered Mrs. Macphail hurriedly.

They walked on till they were out of earshot.

"She s brazen, brazen," burst from Mrs. Davidson.

Her anger almost suffocated her.

And on their way home they met her strolling towards the quay. She had all her finery on. Her great white hat with its vulgar, showy flowers was an affront. She called out cheerily to them as she went by, and a couple of American sailors who were standing there grinned as the ladies set their faces to an icy stare. They got in just before the rain began to fall again.

"I guess she`ll get her fine clothes spoilt," said Mrs. Davidson with a bitter sneer.

Davidson did not come in till they were half way through dinner. He was wet through, but he would not change. He sat, morose and silent, refusing to eat more than a mouthful, and he stared at the slanting rain. When Mrs. Davidson told him of their two encounters with Miss Thompson he did not answer. His deepening frown alone showed that he had heard.

"Don`t you think we ought to make Mr. Horn turn her out of here?" asked Mrs. Davidson. "We can`t allow her to insult us."

"There doesn`t seem to be any other place for her to go," said Macphail.

"She can live with one of the natives."

"In weather like this a native hut must be a rather uncomfortable place to live in."

"I lived in one for years," said the missionary.

When the little native girl brought in the fried bananas which formed the sweet they had every day, Davidson turned to her.

"Ask Miss Thompson when it would be convenient for me to see her," he said.

The girl nodded shyly and went out.

"What do you want to see her for, Alfred?" asked his wife.

"It`s my duty to see her. I won`t act till I`ve given her every chance."

"You don`t know what she is. She`ll insult you."

"Let her insult me. Let her spit on me. She has an immortal soul, and I must do all that is in my power to save it."

Mrs. Davidson`s ears rang still with the harlot`s mocking laughter.

"She`s gone too far."

"Too far for the mercy of God?" His eyes lit up suddenly and his voice grew mellow and soft.

"Never. The sinner may be deeper in sin than the depth of hell itself, but the love of the Lord Jesus can reach him still."

The girl came back with the message.

"Miss Thompson`s compliments and as long as Rev. Davidson don`t come in business hours she`ll be glad to see him any time."

The party received it in stony silence, and Dr. Macphail quickly effaced from his lips the smile which had come upon them. He knew his wife would be vexed with him if he found Miss Thompson`s effrontery amusing.

They finished the meal in silence. When it was over the two ladies got up and took their work, Mrs. Macphail was making another of the innumerable comforters which she had turned out since the beginning of the war, and the doctor lit his pipe. But Davidson remained in his chair and with abstracted eyes stared at the table. At last he got up and without a word went out of the room. They heard him go down and they heard Miss Thompson`s defiant "Come in" when he knocked at the door. He remained with her for an hour. And Dr. Macphail watched the rain. It was beginning to get on his nerves. It was not like our soft English rain that drops gently on the earth; it was unmerciful and somehow terrible; you felt in it the malignancy of the primitive powers of nature. It did not pour, it flowed. It was like a deluge from heaven, and it rattled on the roof of corrugated iron with a steady persistence that was maddening. It seemed to have a fury of its own. And sometimes you felt that you must scream if it did not stop, and then suddenly you felt powerless, as though your bones had suddenly become soft; and you were miserable and hopeless.

Macphail turned his head when the missionary came back. The two women looked up.

"I`ve given her every chance. I have exhorted her to repent. She is an evil woman."

He paused, and Dr. Macphail saw his eyes darken and his pale face grow hard and stern.

"Now I shall take the whips with which the Lord Jesus drove the usurers and the money changers out of the Temple of the Most High."

He walked up and down the room. His mouth was close set, and his black brows were frowning.

"If she fled to the uttermost parts of the earth I should pursue her."

With a sudden movement he turned round and strode out of the room. They heard him go downstairs again.

"What is he going to do?" asked Mrs. Macphail. If

"I don`t know." Mrs. Davidson took off her pince-nez and wiped them. "When he is on the Lord`s work I never ask him questions."

She sighed a little.

"What is the matter?"

"He`ll wear himself out. He doesn`t know what it is to spare himself."

Dr. Macphail learnt the first results of the missionary`s activity from the half-caste trader in whose house they lodged. He stopped the doctor when he passed the store `and came out to speak to him on the stoop. His fat face was worried.

"The Rev. Davidson has been at me for letting Miss Thompson have a room here," he said, "but I didn`t know what she was when I rented it to her. When people come and ask if I can rent them a room all I want to know is if they`ve the money to pay for it. And she paid me for hers a week in advance."

Dr. Macphail did not want to commit himself. "When all`s said and done it`s your housed We`re very much obliged to you for taking us in at all."

Horn looked at him doubtfully. He was not certain yet how definitely Macphail stood on the missionary`s side.

"The missionaries are in with one another," he said, hesitatingly olf they get it in for a trader he may just as well shut up his store and quit."

"Did he want you to turn her out?"

"No, he said so long as she behaved herself he couldn`t ask me to do that. He said he wanted to be just to me. I promised she shouldn`t have no more visitors. I`ve just been and told her.

"How did she take it?"

"She gave me Hell."

The trader squirmed in his old ducks. He had found Miss Thompson a rough customer.

"Oh, well, I daresay she`ll get out. I don`t suppose she wants to stay here if she can`t have anyone in."

"There`s nowhere she can go, only a native house, and no native`ll take her now, not now that the missionaries have got their knife in her."

Dr. Macphail looked at the falling rain.

"Well, I don`t suppose it`s any good waiting for it to clear up."

In the evening when they sat in the parlour Davidson talked to them of his early days at college. He had had no means and had worked his way through by doing odd jobs during the vacations. There was silence downstairs. Miss Thompson was sitting in her little room alone. But suddenly the gramophone began to play. She had set it on in defiance, to cheat her loneliness, but there was no one to sing, and it had a melancholy note. It was like a cry for help Davidson took no notice. He was in the middle of a long anecdote and without change of expression went on. The gramophone continued. Miss Thompson put on one reel after another. It looked as though the silence of the night were getting on her nerves. It was breathless and sultry. When the Macphails went to bed they could not sleep. They lay side by side with their eyes wide open, listening to the cruel singing of the mosquitoes outside their curtain.

"What`s that?" whispered Mrs. Macphail at last.

They heard a voice, Davidson`s voice, through the wooden partition. It went on with a monotonous, earnest insistence. He was praying aloud. He was praying for the soul of Miss Thompson.

Two or three days went by. Now when they passed Miss Thompson on the road she did not greet them with ironic cordiality or smile; she passed with her nose in the air, a sulky look on her painted face, frowning, as though she did not see them. The trader told Macphail that she had tried to get lodging elsewhere, but had failed. In the evening she played through the various reels of her gramophone, but the pretence of mirth was obvious now. The ragtime had a cracked, heart-broken rhythm as though it were a one-step of despair. When she began to play on Sunday Davidson sent Horn to beg her to stop at once since it was the Lord`s day. The reel was taken off and the house was silent except for the steady pattering of the rain on the iron roof.

"I think she`s getting a bit worked up," said the trader next day to Macphail. "She don`t know what Mr. Davidson`s up to and it makes her scared."

Macphail had caught a glimpse of her that morning and it struck him that her arrogant expression had changed. There was in her face a hunted look. The half-caste gave him a sidelong glance.

"I suppose you don`t know what Mr. Davidson is doing about it?" he hazarded.

"No, I don`t."

It was singular that Horn should ask him that question, for he also had the idea that the misssionary was mysteriously at work. He had an impression that he was weaving a net around the woman, carefully, systematically, and suddenly, when everything was ready, would pull the strings tight.

"He told me to tell her," said the trader, "that if at any time she wanted him she only had to send and he`d come."

"What did she say when you told her that?"

"She didn`t say nothing. I didn`t stop. I just said what he said I was to and then I beat it. I thought she might be going to start weepin`."

"I have no doubt the loneliness is getting on her nerves," said the doctor. "And the rain - that`s enough to make anyone jumpy," he continued irritably. "Doesn`t it ever stop in this confounded place?"

"It goes on pretty steady in the rainy season. We have three hundred inches in the year. You see, it`s the shape of the bay. It seems to attract the rain from all over the Pacific."

"Damn the shape of the bay," said the doctor.

He scratched his mosquito bites. He felt very short-tempered. When the rain stopped and the sun shone, it was like a hothouse, seething, humid, sultry, breathless, and you had a strange feeling that everything was growing with a savage violence. The natives, blithe and childlike by reputation, seemed then, with their tattooing an their dyed hair, to have something sinister in their appearance; and when they pattered along at your heels with their naked feet you looked back instinctively. You felt they might at any moment come behind you swiftly and thrust long knife between your shoulder blades. You could not tell what dark thoughts lurked behind their wide-set eyes. They had a little the look of ancient Egyptians painted on a temple wall, and there was about them the terror of what is immeasurably old.

The missionary came and went. He was busy, but the Macphails did not know what he was doing. Horn told the doctor that he saw the governor every day, and once Davidson mentioned him.

"He looks as if he had plenty of determination," he said, "but when you come down to brass tacks he has no backbone."

"I suppose that means he won`t do exactly what you want," suggested the doctor facetiously.

The missionary did not smile.

"I want him to do what`s right. It shouldn`t be necessary to persuade a man to do that."

"But there may be differences of opinion about what is right."

"If a man had a gangrenous foot would you have patience with anyone who hesitated to amputate it?"

"Gangrene is a matter of fact."

"And Evil?"

What Davidson had done soon appeared. The four of them had just finished their midday meal, and they had not yet separated for the siesta which the heat imposed on the ladies and on the doctor. Davidson had little patience with the slothful habit. The door was suddenly flung open and Miss Thompson came in. She looked round the room and then went up to Davidson.

"You low-down skunk, what have you been saying about me to the governor?"

She was spluttering with rage. There was a moment`s pause. Then the missionary drew forward a chair.

"Won`t you be seated, Miss Thompson? I`ve been hoping to have another talk with you."

"You poor low-life bastard."

She burst into a torrent of insult, foul and insolent. Davidson kept his grave eyes on her.

"I`m indifferent to the abuse you think fit to heap on me, Miss Thompson," he said, "but I must beg you to remember that ladies are present."

Tears by now were struggling with her anger. Her face was red and swollen as though she were choking.

"What has happened?" asked Dr. Macphail.

"A feller`s just been in here and he says I gotter beat it on the next boat."

Was there a gleam in the missionary`s eyes? His face remained impassive.

"You could hardly expect the governor to let you stay here under the circumstances."

"You done it," she shrieked. "You can`t kid me. You done it."

"I don`t want to deceive you. I urged the governor to take the only possible step consistent with his obligations."

"Why couldn`t you leave me be? I wasn`t doin` you no harm."

"You may be sure that if you had I should be the last man to resent it."

"Do you think I want to stay on in this poor imitation of a burg? I don`t look no busher, do I?"

"In that case I don`t see what cause of complaint you have," he answered.

She gave an inarticulate cry of rage and flung out of the room. There was a short silence.

"It`s a relief to know that the governor has acted at last," said Davidson finally. "He`s a weak man and he shilly-shallied. He said she was only here for a fortnight anyway, and if she went on to Apia that was under British jurisdiction and had nothing to do with him."

The missionary sprang to his feet and strode across the room.

"It`s terrible the way the men who are in authority seek to evade their responsibility. They speak as though evil that was out of sight ceased to be evil. The very existence of that woman is a scandal and it does not help matters to shift it to another of the islands. In the end I had to speak straight from the shoulder."

Davidson`s brow lowered, and he protruded his firm chin. He looked fierce and determined.

"What do you mean by that?"

"Our mission is not entirely without influence at Washington. I pointed out to the governor that it wouldn`t do him any good if there was a complaint about the way he managed things here."

"When has she got to go?" asked the doctor, after a pause.

"The San Francisco boat is due here from Sydney next Tuesday. She`s to sail on that."

That was in five days` time. It was next day, when he was coining back from the hospital where for want of something better to do Macphail spent most of his mornings, that the half-caste stopped him as he was going upstairs.

"Excuse me, Dr. Macphail, Miss Thompson`s sick. Will you have a look at her."

"Certainly."

Horn led him to her room. She was sitting in a chair idly, neither reading nor sewing, staring in front of her. She wore her white dress and the large hat with the flowers on it. Macphail noticed that her skin was yellow and muddy under her powder, and her eyes were heavy.

"I`m sorry to hear you`re not well," he said.

"Oh, I ain`t sick really. I just said that, because I just had to see you. I`ve got to clear on a boat that`s going to `Frisco."

She looked at him and he saw that her eyes were suddenly startled. She opened and clenched her hands spasmodically. The trader stood at the door, listening.

"So I understand," said the doctor.

She gave a little gulp

"I guess it ain`t very convenient for me to go to Frisco just now. T went to see the governor yesterday afternoon, but I couldn`t get to him. I saw the secretary, and he told me I`d got to take that boat and that was all there was to it. I just had to see the governor, so I waited outside his house this morning, and when he come out I spoke to him. He didn`t want to speak to me, I`ll say, but I wouldn`t let him shake me off, and at last he said he hadn`t no objection to my staying here till the next boat to Sydney if the Rev. Davidson will stand for it."

She stopped and looked at Dr. Macphail anxiously.

"I don`t know exactly what I can do," he said.

"Well, I thought maybe you wouldn`t mind asking him. I swear to God I won`t start anything here if he`ll just only let me stay. I won`t go out of the house if that`ll suit him. It`s no more`n a fortnight."

"I`ll ask him."

"He won`t stand for it," said Horn. "He`ll have you out on Tuesday, so you may as well make up your mind to it."

"Tell him I can get work in Sydney, straight stuff, I mean. Tain`t asking very much."

"I`ll do what I can."

"And come and tell me right away, will you? I can`t set down to a thing till I get the dope one way or the other."

It was not an errand that much pleased the doctor, and, characteristically perhaps, he went about it indirectly. He told his wife what Miss Thompson had said to him and asked her to speak to Mrs. Davidson. The missionary`s attitude seemed rather arbitrary and it could do no harm if the girl were allowed to stay in Pago-Pago another fortnight. But he was not prepared for the result of his diplomacy. The missionary came to him straightway.

"Mrs. Davidson tells me that Thompson has been speaking to you."

Dr. Macphail, thus directly tackled, had the shy man`s resentment at being forced out into the open. He felt his temper rising, and he flushed.

"I don`t see that it can make any difference if she goes to Sydney rather than to San Francisco, and so long as she promises to behave while she`s here it`s dashed hard to persecute her."

The missionary fixed him with his stern eyes. "Why is she unwilling to go back to San Francisco?"

"I didn`t inquire," answered the doctor with some asperity. "And I think one does better to mind one`s own business."

Perhaps it was not a very tactful answer.

"The governor has ordered her to be deported by the first boat that leaves the island. He`s only done his duty and I will not interfere. Her presence is a peril here."

"I think you`re very harsh and tyrannical."

The two ladies looked up at the doctor with some alarm, but they need not have feared a quarrel, for the missionary smiled gently.

"I`m terribly sorry you should think that of Dr. Macphail. Believe me, my heart bleeds for the unfortunate woman, but I`m only trying to do my duty."

The doctor made no answer. He looked out of the window sullenly. For once it was not raining and across the bay you saw nestling among the trees the huts of a native village.

"I think I`ll take advantage of the rain stopping to go out," he said.

"Please don`t bear me malice because I can`t accede to your wish," said Davidson, with a melancholy smile. "I respect you very much, doctor, and I should be sorry if you thought ill of me."

"I have no doubt you have a sufficiently good opinion of yourself to bear mine with equanimity," he retorted.

"That`s one on me," chuckled Davidson.

When Dr. Macphail, vexed with himself because he had been uncivil to no purpose, went downstairs, Miss Thompson was waiting for him with her door ajar.

"Well," she said, "have you spoken to him?"

"Yes, I`m sorry, he won`t do anything," he answered, not looking at her in his embarrassment.

But then he gave her a quick glance, for a sob broke from her. He saw that her face was white with fear. It gave him a shock of dismay. And suddenly he had an idea.

"But don`t give up hope yet. I think it`s a shame the way they`re treating you and I`m going: to see the governor myself."

"Now?"

He nodded. Her face brightened.

"Say, that`s real good of you. I`m sure he`ll let me stay if you speak for me. I just won`t do a thing I didn`t ought all the time I`m here."

Dr. Macphail hardly knew why he had made up his mind to appeal to the governor. He was perfectly indifferent to Miss Thompson`s affairs, the missionary had irritated him, and with him temper was a smouldering thing. He found the governor at home. He was a large, handsome man, a sailor, with a grey toothbrush moustache; and he wore a spotless uniform of white drill.

"I`ve come to see you about a woman who`s lodging in the same house as we are," he said. "Her name`s Thompson."

"I guess I`ve heard nearly enough about her, Dr. Macphail," said the governor, smiling. "I`ve given her the order to get out next Tuesday and that`s all I can do."

"I wanted to ask you if you couldn`t stretch a point and let her stay here till the boat comes in from San Francisco so that she can go to Sydney. I will guarantee her good behaviour."

The governor continued to smile, but his eyes grew small and serious.

"I`d be very glad to oblige you, Dr. Macphail, but I`ve given the order and it must stand."

The doctor put the case as reasonably as he could, but now the governor ceased to smile at all. He listened sullenly, with averted gaze. Macphail saw that he was making no impression.

"I`m sorry to cause any lady inconvenience, but she`ll have to sail on Tuesday and that`s all there is to it."

"But what difference can it make?"

"Pardon me, doctor, but I don`t feel called upon to explain my official actions except to the, proper authorities."

Macphail looked at him shrewdly. He remembered Davidson`s hint that he had used threats, and in the governor`s attitude he read a singular embarrassment.

"Davidson`s a damned busybody," he said hotly.

"Between ourselves, Dr. Macphail, I don`t say that I have formed a very favourable opinion of Mr. Davidson, but I am bound to confess that he was within his rights in pointing out to me the danger that the presence of a woman of Miss Thompson`s character was to a place like this where a number of enlisted men are stationed among a native population."

He got up and Dr. Macphail was obliged to do so too.

"I must ask you to excuse me. I have an engagement. Please give my respects to Mrs. Macphail."

The doctor left him crest-fallen. He knew that Miss Thompson would be waiting for him, and unwilling to tell her himself that he had failed, he went into the house by the back door and sneaked up the stairs as though he had something to hide.

At supper he was silent and ill-at-ease, but the missionary was jovial and animated. Dr. Macphail thought his eyes rested on him now and then with triumphant good-humour. It struck him suddenly that Davidson knew of his visit to the governor and of its ill success. But how on earth could he have heard of it? There was something sinister about the power of that man. After supper he saw Horn on the verandah and, as though to have a casual word with him, went out.

"She wants to know if you`ve seen the governor," the trader whispered.

"Yes. He wouldn`t do anything. I`m awfully sorry, I can`t do anything more."

"I knew he wouldn`t. They daren`t go against the missionaries."

"What are you talking about?" said Davidson affably, corning out to join them.

"I was just saying there was no chance of your getting over to Apia for at least another week," said the trader glibly.

He left them, and the two men returned into the parlour. Mr. Davidson devoted one hour after each meal to recreation. Presently a timid knock was heard at the door.

"Come in," said Mrs. Davidson, in her sharp voice.

The door was not opened. She got up and opened it. They saw Miss Thompson standing at the threshold. But the change in her appearance was extraordinary. This was no longer the flaunting hussy who had jeered at them in the road, but a broken, frightened woman. Her hair, as a rule so elaborately arranged, was tumbling untidily over her neck. She wore bedroom slippers and a skirt and blouse. They were unfresh and bedraggled. She stood at the door with the tears streaming down her face and did not dare to enter.

"What do you want?" said Mrs. Davidson harshly.

"May I speak to Mr. Davidson?" she said in a choking voice.

The missionary rose and went towards her.

"Come right in, Miss Thompson," he said in cordial tones. "What can I do for you?"

She entered the room.

"Say, I`m sorry for what I said to you the other day an` for - for everythin` else. I guess I was a bit lit up. I beg pardon."

"Oh, it was nothing. I guess my back`s broad enough to bear a few hard words."

She stepped towards him with a movement that was horribly cringing.

"You`ve got me beat. I`m all in. You won`t make me go back to `Frisco?"

His genial manner vanished and his voice grew on a sudden hard and stern.

"Why don`t you want to go back there?"

She cowered before him.

"I guess my people live there. I don`t want them to see me like this. I`ll go anywhere else you say."

"Why don`t you want to go back to San Francisco?"

"I`ve told you."

He leaned forward, staring at her, and his great, shining eyes seemed to try to bore into her soul. He gave a sudden gasp.

"The penitentiary."

She screamed, and then she fell at his feet, clasping his legs.

"Don`t send me back there. I swear to you before God I`ll be a good woman. I`ll give all this up."

She burst into a torrent of confused supplication and the tears coursed down her painted cheeks. He leaned over her and, lifting her face, forced her to look at him.

"Is that it, the penitentiary?"

"I beat it before they could get me, she gasped. "If the bulls grab me it`s three years for mine."

He let go his hold of her and she fell in a heap on the floor, sobbing bitterly. Dr. Macphail stood up.

"This alters the whole thing," he said. "You can`t make her go back when you know this. Give her another chance. She wants to turn over a new leaf."

"I`m going to give her the finest chance she`s ever had. If she repents let her accept her punishment."

She misunderstood the words and looked up. There was a gleam of hope in her heavy eyes.

"You`ll let me go?"

"No. You shall sail for San Francisco on Tuesday."

She gave a groan of horror and then burst into low, hoarse shrieks which sounded hardly human, and she beat her head passionately on the ground. Dr. Macphail sprang to her and lifted her up:

"Come on, you mustn`t do that. You`d better go to your room and lie down. I`ll get you something."

He raised her to her feet and partly dragging her, partly carrying her, got her downstairs. He was furious with Mrs. Davidson and with his wife because they made no effort to help. The half-caste was standing on the landing and with his assistanc he managed to get her on the bed. She was moaning and crying. She was almost insensible. He gave her a hypodermic injection. He was hot and exhausted when he went upstairs again.

"I`ve got her to lie down."

The two women and Davidson were in the same, positions as when he had left them. They could not have moved or spoken since he went.

"I was waiting for you," said Davidson, in a strange, distant voice. "I want you all to pray with me for the soul of our erring sister."

He took the Bible off a shelf, and sat down at the table at which they had supped. It had not been cleared, and he pushed the tea-pot out of the way. In a powerful voice, resonant and deep, he read to them the chapter in which is narrated the meeting of Jesus Christ with the woman taken in adultery.

"Now kneel with me and let us pray for the soul of our dear sister, Sadie Thompson."

He burst into a long, passionate prayer in which he implored God to have mercy on the sinful woman. Mrs. Macphail and Mrs. Davidson knelt with covered eyes. The doctor, taken by surprise, awkward and sheepish, knelt too. The missionary`s prayer had a savage eloquence. He was extraordinarily moved, and as he spoke the tears ran down his cheeks. Outside, the pitiless rain fell, fell steadily, with a fierce malignity that was all too human.

At last he stopped. He paused for a moment and said:

"We will now repeat the Lord`s prayer."

They said it and then, following him, they rose from their knees. Mrs. Davidson`s face was pale and restful. She was comforted and at peace, but the Macphails felt suddenly bashful. They did not know which way to look.

"I`ll just go down and see how she is now," said Dr. Macphail.

When he knocked at her door it was opened for him by Horn. Miss Thompson was in a rocking-chair, sobbing quietly.

"What are you doing there?" exclaimed Macphail. " I told you to lie down."

"I can`t lie down. I want to see Mr. Davidson."

"My poor child, what do you think is the good of it? You`ll never move him."

"He said he`d come if I sent for him."

Macphail motioned to the trader.

"Go and fetch him."

He waited with her in silence while the trader went upstairs. Davidson came in.

"Excuse me for asking you to come here," she said, looking at him sombrely.

"I was expecting you to send for me. I knew the Lord would answer my prayer."

They stared at one another for a moment and then she looked away. She kept her eyes averted when she spoke.

"I`ve been a bad woman. I want to repent,"

"Thank God! thank God! He has heard our prayers."

He turned to the two men. "

"Leave me alone with her. Tell Mrs. Davidson that, our prayers have been answered."

They went out and closed the door behind them.

"Gee whizz," said the trader.

That night Dr. Macphail could not get to sleep till late, and when he heard the missionary come upstairs he looked at his watch. It was two o`clock. But even then he did not go to bed at once, for through the wooden partition that separated their rooms he heard him praying aloud, till he himself, exhausted, fell asleep.

When he saw him next morning he was surprised at his appearance. He was paler than ever, tired, but his eyes shone with an inhuman fire. It looked as though he were filled with an overwhelming joy.

"I want you to go down presently and see Sadie," he said. "I can`t hope that her body is better, but her soul - her soul is transformed."

The doctor was feeling wan and nervous.

"You were with her very late last night," he said.

"Yes, she couldn`t bear to have me leave her."

"You look as pleased as Punch," the doctor said irritably.

Davidson`s eyes shone with ecstasy.

"A great mercy has been vouchsafed me. Last night I was privileged to bring a lost soul to the loving arms of Jesus."

Miss Thompson was again in the rocking-chair. The bed had not been made. The room was in disorder. She had not troubled to dress herself, but wore a dirty dressing-gown, and her hair was tied in a sluttish knot. She had given her face a dab with a wet towel, but it was all swollen and creased with crying. She looked a drab.

She raised her eyes dully when the doctor came in. She was cowed and broken.

"Where`s Mr. Davidson?" she asked;

"He`ll come presently if you want him," answered Macphail acidly. "I came here to see how you were."

"Oh, I guess I`m OK. You needn`t worry about that"

"Have you had anything to eat?"

"Horn brought me some coffee."

She looked anxiously at the door.

"D`you think he`ll come down soon? I feel as if it wasn`t so terrible when he`s with me."

"Are you still going on Tuesday?"

"Yes, he says I`ve got to go. Please tell him to come right along. You can`t do me any good. He`s the only one as can help me now."

"Very well," said Dr. Macphail.

During the next three days the missionary spent almost all his time with Sadie Thompson. He joined the others only to have his meals. Dr. Macphail noticed that he hardly ate.

"He`s wearing himself out," said Mrs. Davidson pitifully. "He`ll have a breakdown if he, doesn`t take care, but he won`t spare himself."

She herself was white and pale. She told Mrs. Macphail that she had no sleep. When the missionary came upstairs from Miss Thompson he prayed till he was exhausted, but even then he did not sleep for long. After an hour or two he got up and dressed himself, and went for a tramp along the bay. He had strange dreams.

"This morning he told me that he`d been dreaming about the mountains of Nebraska," said Mrs. Davidson.

"That`s curious," said Dr. Macphail.

He remembered seeing them from the windows of the train when he crossed America. They were like huge mole-hills, rounded and smooth, an they rose from the plain abruptly. Dr. Macphail remembered how it struck him that they were like a woman`s breasts.

Davidson`s restlessness was intolerable even to himself. But he was buoyed up by a wonderful exhilaration. He was tearing out by the roots the last vestiges of sin that lurked in the hidden corners of that poor woman`s heart. He read with her and prayed with her.

"It`s wonderful," he said to them one day at supper. "It`s a true rebirth. Her soul, which was black as night, is now pure and white like the new-fallen snow. I am humble and afraid. Her remorse for all her sins is beautiful. I am not worthy to touch the hem of her garment."

"Have you the heart to send her back to San Francisco?" said the doctor. "Three years in an American prison. I should have thought you might have saved her from that."

"Ah, but don`t you see? It`s necessary. Do you think my heart doesn`t bleed for her? I love her as I love my wife and my sister. All the time that she is in prison I shall suffer all the pain that she suffers."

"Bunkum," cried the doctor impatiently.

"You don`t understand because you`re blind. She`s sinned, and she must suffer. I know what she`ll end-dure. She`ll be starved and tortured and humiliated. I want her to accept the punishment of man as a sacrifice to God. I want her to accept it joyfully. She has an opportunity which is offered to very few of us. God is very good and very merciful."

Davidson`s voice trembled with excitement. He could hardly articulate the words that tumbled passionately from his lips.

"All day I pray with her and when I leave her I pray again, I pray with all my might and main, so that Jesus may grant her this great mercy. I want to put in her heart the passionate desire to be punished so that at the end, even if I offered to let her go, she would refuse. I want her to feel that the bitter punishment of prison is the thank-offering that she places at the feet of our Blessed Lord, who gave his life for her."

The days passed slowly. The whole household, intent on the wretched, tortured woman down-stairs, lived in a state of unnatural excitement. She was like a victim that was being prepared for the savage rites of a bloody idolatry. Her terror numbed her. She could not bear to let Davidson out of her sight; it was only when he was with her that she had courage, and she hung upon him with a slavish dependence. She cried a great deal, and she read the Bible, and prayed. Sometimes she was exhausted and apathetic. Then she did indeed look forward to her ordeal, for it seemed to offer an escape, direct and concrete, from the anguish she was enduring. She could not bear much longer the vague terrors which now assailed her. With her sins she had put aside all personal vanity, and she slopped about her room, unkempt and dishevelled, in her tawdry dressing-gown. She had not taken off her nightdress for four days, nor put on stockings. Her room was littered and untidy. Meanwhile the rain fell with a cruel persistence. You felt that the heavens must at last be empty of water, but still it poured down, straight and heavy, with a maddening iteration, on the iron roof. Everything was damp and clammy. There was mildew on the wail and on the boots that stood on the floor. Through the sleepless nights the mosquitoes droned their angry chant.

"If it would only stop raining for a single day it wouldn`t be so bad," said Dr. Macphail.

They all looked forward to the Tuesday when the boat for San Francisco was to arrive from Sydney. The strain was intolerable. So far as Dr. Macphail was concerned, his pity and his resentment were alike extinguished by his desire to be rid of the unfortunate woman. The inevitable must be accepted. He felt he would breathe more freely when the ship had sailed. Sadie Thompson was to be escorted on board by a clerk in the governor`s office. This person called on the Monday evening and told Miss Thompson to be prepared at eleven in the morning. Davidson was with her.

"I`ll see that everything is ready. I mean to come on board with her myself."

Miss Thompson did not speak.

When Dr. Macphail blew out his candle and crawled cautiously under his mosquito curtains, he gave a sigh of relief.

"Well, thank God that`s over. By this time tomorrow she`ll be gone."

"Mrs. Davidson will be glad too. She says he`s wearing himself to a shadow," said Mrs. Macphail. "She`s a different woman."

"Who?"

"Sadie, I should never have thought it possible. It makes one humble."

Dr. Macphail did not answer, and presently he fell asleep. He was tired out, and he slept more soundly than usual.

He was awakened in the morning by a hand placed on his arm, and, starting up, saw Horn by the side of his bed. The trader put his finger on his mouth to prevent any exclamation from Dr. Macphail and beckoned to him to come. As a rule he wore shabby ducks, but now he was barefoot and wore only the lava-lava of the natives. He looked suddenly savage, and Dr. Macphail, getting out of bed, saw that he was heavily tattooed. Horn made him a sign to come on to the verandah. Dr. Macphail got out of bed and followed the trader out.

"Don`t make a noise," he whispered. "You`re wanted. Put on a coat and some shoes. Quick."

Dr. Macphail`s first thought was that something had happened to Miss Thompson.

"What is it? Shall I bring my instruments?"

"Hurry, please, hurry."

Dr. Macphail crept back into the bedroom, put on a waterproof over his pyjamas, and a pair of rubber-soled shoes. He rejoined the trader, and together they tiptoed down the stairs. The door leading out to the road was open and at it were standing half a dozen natives.

"What is it?" repeated the doctor.

"Come along with me," said Horn.

He walked out and the doctor followed him. The natives came after them in a little bunch. They crossed the road and came on to the beach. The doctor saw a group of natives standing round some object at the water`s edge. They hurried along, a couple of dozen yards perhaps, and the natives opened out as the doctor came up. The trader pushed him forwards. Then he saw, lying half in the water and half out, a dreadful object, the body of Davidson. Dr. Macphail bent down - he was not a man to lose his head in an emergency - and turned the body over. The throat was cut from ear to ear, and in the right hand was still the razor with which the deed was done.

"He`s quite cold," said the doctor. "He must have been dead some time."

"One of the boys saw him lying there on his way to work just now and came and told me. Do you think he did it himself?"

"Yes. Someone ought to go for the police."

Horn said something in the native tongue, and two youths started off.

"We must leave him here till they come," said the doctor.

"They mustn`t take him into my house. I won`t have him in my house."

"You`ll do what the authorities say," replied the doctor sharply. "In point of fact I expect they`ll take him to the mortuary."

They stood waiting where they were. The trader took a cigarette from a fold in his lava-lava and gave one to Dr. Macphail. They smoked while they stared at the corpse. Dr. Macphail could not understand.

"Why do you think he did it?" asked Horn.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders. In a little while native police came along, under the charge of a marine, with a stretcher, and immediately afterwards a couple of naval officers and a naval doctor. They managed everything in businesslike manner.

"What about the wife." said one of the officers.

"Now that you`ve come I`ll go back to the house and get some things on. I`ll see that it`s broken to her. She`d better not see him till he`s been fixed up a little."

"I guess that`s right," said the naval doctor. When Dr. Macphail went back he found his wife nearly dressed.

"Mrs. Davidson`s in a dreadful state about her husband," she said to him as soon as he appeared. "He hasn`t been to bed all night. She heard him leave Miss Thompson`s room at two, but he went out. If he`s been walking about since then he`ll be absolutely dead."

Dr. Macphail told her what had happened and asked her to break the news to Mrs. Davidson.

"But why did he do it?" she asked, horror-stricken.

"I don`t know."

"But I can`t. I can`t."

"You must."

She gave him a frightened look and went out He heard her go into Mrs. Davidson`s room. He waited a minute to gather himself together and then began to shave and wash. When he was dressed he sat down on the bed and waited for his wife. At last she came.

"She wants to see him," she said.

"They`ve taken him to the mortuary. We`d better go down with her. How did she take it?"

"I think she`s stunned. She didn`t cry. But she`s trembling like a leaf."

"We`d better go at once."

When they knocked at her door Mrs. Davidson came out. She was very pale, but dry-eyed. To the doctor she seemed unnaturally composed. No word was exchanged, and they set out in silence down the road. When they arrived at the mortuary Mrs. Davidson spoke.

"Let me go in and see him alone."

They stood aside. A native opened a door for her and closed it behind her. They sat down and waited. One or two white men came and talked to them in undertones. Dr. Macphail told them again what he knew of the tragedy. At last the door was quietly opened and Mrs. Davidson came out. Silence fell upon them.

"I`m ready to go back now," she said.

Her voice was hard and steady. Dr. Macphail could not understand the look in her eyes. Her pale face was very stern. They walked back slowly, never saying a word, and at last they came round the bend on the other side of which stood the ir house. Mrs. Davidson gave a gasp, and for moment they stopped still. An incredible sound assaulted their ears. The gramophone which had been silent for so long was playing, playing ragtime loud and harsh.

"What`s that?" cried Mrs. Macphail with horror.

"Let`s go on," said Mrs. Davidson.

They walked up the steps and entered the hall. Miss Thompson was standing at her door, chatting with a sailor. A sudden change had taken place in her. She was no longer the cowed drudge of the last days. She was dressed in all her finery, in her white dress, with the high shiny boots over which her fat legs bulged in their cotton stockings; her hair was elaborately arranged; and she wore that enormous hat covered with gaudy flowers. Her face was painted, her eyebrows were boldly black, and her lips were scarlet. She held herself erect. She was the flaunting quean that they had known at first. As they came in she broke into a loud, jeering laugh; and then, when Mrs. Davidson involuntarily stopped, she collected the spittle in her mouth and spat. Mrs. Davidson cowered back, and two red spots rose suddenly to her cheeks. Then, covering her face with her hands, she broke away and ran quickly up the stairs. Dr. Macphail was outraged. He pushed past the woman into her room.

"What the devil are you doing?" he cried. "Stop that, damned machine."

He went up to it and tore the record off. She turned on him.

"Say, doc, you can that stuff with me. What the hell are you doin` in my room? "

"What do you mean?" he cried. "What d`you mean?"

She gathered herself together. No one could describe the scorn of her expression or the contemptuous hatred she put into her answer.

"You men! You filthy, dirty pigs! You`re all the same, all of you. Pigs! Pigs!"

Dr. Macphail gasped. He understood.





































W.S. MAUGHAM

A MAN WITH A CONSCIENCE

St. Laurent de Maroni is a pretty little place. It is neat and clean. It has a Hotel de Ville and a Palais de Justice of which many a town in France would be proud. The streets are wide, and the fine trees that border them give a grateful shade. The houses look as though they had just had a coat of paint. Many of them nestle in little gardens, and in the gardens are palm trees and flame of the forest, cannas flaunt their bright colours and crotons their variety; the bougainvilleas, purple or red, riot profusely, and the elegant hibiscus offers its gorgeous flowers with a negligence that seems almost affected. St. Laurent de Maroni is the centre of the French penal settlements of Guiana, and a hundred yards from the quay at which you land is the great gateway of the prison camp. These pretty little houses in their tropical gardens are the residence of the prison officials, and if the streets arc neat and clean it is because there is no lack of convicts to keep them so. One day, walking with a casual acquaintance, I came upon a young man, in the round straw hat and the pink and white stripes of the convict’s uniform, who was standing by the road-side with a pick, lie was doing nothing.

"Why are you idling?" my companion asked him.

The man gave his shoulders a scornful shrug.

"Look at the blade of grass there," he answered. "I’ve got twenty years to scratch it away."

St. Laurent de Maroni exists for the group of prison camps of which it is the centre. Such trade as it has depends on them; its shops, kept by Chinese, are there to satisfy the wants of the warders, the doctors and the numerous officials who are connected with the penal settlements. The streets are silent and deserted. You pass a convict with a dispatch-case under his arm; he has some job in the administration; or another with a basket; he is a servant in somebody’s house. Sometimes you come upon a little group in the charge of a warder; often you see them strolling to or from the prison unguarded. The prison gates are open all day long and the prisoners freely saunter in and out. If you see a man not in the prison uniform he is probably a freed man who is condemned to spend a number of years in the colony and who, unable to get work, living on the edge of starvation, is drinking himself to death on the cheap strong rum which is called tafia.

There is an hotel at St. Laurent de Maroni and here I had my meals. I soon got to know by sight the habitual frequenters. They came in and sat each at his little table, ate their meals in silence and went out again. The hotel was kept by a coloured woman, and the man she lived with, an ex-convict, was the only waiter. But the Governor of the colony, who lives at Cayenne, had put at my disposal his own bungalow and it was there I slept. An old Arab looked after it; he was a devout Mahommedan, and at intervals during the day I heard him say his prayers. To make my bed, keep my rooms tidy and run errands for me, the commandant of the prison had assigned me another convict. Both were serving life sentences for murder; the commandant told me that I could place entire confidence in them; they were as honest as the day, and I could leave anything about without the slightest risk. But I will not conceal from the reader that when I went to bed at night I took the precaution to lock my door and to bolt my shutters. It was foolish no doubt, but I slept more comfortably.

I had come with letters of introduction, and both the governor of the prison settlements and the commandant of the camp at St. Laurent did everything they could to make my visit agreeable and instructive. I will not here narrate all I heard and saw. I am not a reporter. It is not my business to attack or to defend the system which the French have thought fit to adopt in regard to their criminals. Besides, the system is now condemned; prisoners will soon cease to be sent out to French Guiana, to suffer the illnesses incidental to the climate and the work in malarial jungles to which so many are relegated, to endure nameless degradations, to lose hope, to rot, to die. I will only say that I saw no physical cruelty. On the other hand I saw no attempt to make the criminal on the expiration of his sentence a useful citizen. I saw nothing done for his spiritual welfare. I heard nothing of classes that he could attend in order to improve his education or organized games that might distract his mind. I saw no library where he could gel books to read when his day’s work was done. I saw a condition of affairs that only the strongest character could hope to surmount. I saw a brutishness that must reduce all but a very few to apathy and despair.

All this has nothing to do with me. It is vain to torment oneself over sufferings that one cannot alleviate. My object here is to tell a story. As I am well aware, one can never know everything there is to be known about human nature. One can be sure only of one thing, and that is that it will never cease to have a surprise in store for you. When I had got over the impression of bewilderment, surprise and horror to which my first visit to the prison camp gave rise, I bethought myself that there were certain matters that I was interested to inquire into. I should inform the reader that three-quarters of the convicts at St. Laurent de Maroni are there for murder. This is not official information and it may be that I exaggerate; every prisoner has a little book in which are set down his crime, his sentence, his punishments, and whatever else the authorities think necessary to keep note of; and it was from an examination of a considerable number of these that I formed my estimate. It gave me something of a shock to realise that in England far, far the greater number of these men whom I saw working in shops, lounging about the verandahs of their dormitories or sauntering through the streets would have suffered capital punishment. I found them not at all disinclined to speak of the crime for which they had been convicted, and in pursuance of my purpose I spent the better part of one day inquiring into crimes of passion, I wanted to know exactly what was the motive that had made a man kill his wife or his girl. I had a notion that jealousy and wounded honour might not perhaps tell the whole story. I got some curious replies, and among them one that was not to my mind lacking in humour. This was from a man working in the carpenter`s shop who had cut his wife`s throat; when I asked him why he had done it, he answered with a shrug of the shoulders: Manque d`entente. His casual tone made the best translation of this: We didn`t get on very well. I could not help observing that if men in general looked upon this as an adequate reason for murdering their wives, the mortality in the female sex would be alarming. But after putting a good many questions to a good many men I arrived at the conclusion that at the bottom of nearly all these crimes was an economic motive; they had killed their wives or mistresses not only from jealousy, because they were unfaithful to them, but also because somehow it affected their pockets. A woman`s infidelity was sometimes an occasion of financial loss, and it was this in the end that drove a man to his desperate act; or, himself in need of money to gratify other passions, he murdered because his victim was an obstacle to his exclusive possession of it. I do not conclude that a man never kills his woman because his love is spurned or his honour tarnished, I only offer my observation on these particular cases as a curious sidelight on human nature. I should not venture to deduce from it a general rule.

I spent another day inquiring into the mailer of conscience. Moralists have sought to persuade us that it is one of the most powerful agents in human behaviour. Now that reason and pity have agreed to regard hell-fire as a hateful myth, many good men have seen in conscience the chief safeguard that shall induce the human race to walk in the Way of righteousness. Shakespeare has told us that it makes cowards of us all. Novelists and play-wrights have described for us the pangs that assail the wicked; they have vividly pictured the anguish of a stricken conscience and the sleepless nights it occasions; they have shown it poisoning every pleasure till life is so intolerable that discovery and punishment come as a welcome relief. I had often wondered how much of all this was true. Moralists have an axe to grind; they must draw a moral. They think that if they say a thing often enough people will believe it. They are apt to state that a thing is so when they consider it desirable that it should be. They tell us that the wages of sin is death; we know very well that it is not always And so far as the authors of fiction are concerned, the playwrights and the novelists, when they get hold of an effective theme they are disposed to make use of it without bothering very much whether it agrees with the facts of life. Certain statements about human nature become, as it were, common property and so are accepted as self-evident. In the same way painters for ages painted shadows black, and it was not till the impressionists looked at them with unprejudiced eyes and painted what they saw that we discovered that shadows were coloured. It had sometimes struck me that perhaps conscience was the expression of a high moral development, so that its influence was strong only in those whose virtue was so shining that they were unlikely to commit any action for which they could seriously reproach themselves. It is generally accepted that murder is a shocking crime, and it is the murderer above all other criminals who is supposed to suffer remorse. His victim, we have been led to believe, haunts his dreams in horrifying night-mares, and the recollection of his dreadful deed tortures his waking hours. I could not miss the opportunity to inquire into the truth of this. I had no intention of insisting if I encountered reticence or distress, but I found in none of those with whom I talked any such thing. Some said that in the same circumstances they would do as they had done before. Determinists without knowing it, they seemed to look upon their action as ordained by a fate over which they had no control. Some appeared to think that their crime was committed by someone with whom they had no connection.

"When one`s young, one`s foolish," they said, with a careless gesture or a deprecating smile.

Others told me that if they had known what the punishment was they would suffer, they would certainly have held their hands. I found in none any regret for the human being they had violently bereft of life. It seemed to me that they had no more feeling for the creature they had killed than if it had been a pig whose throat they had cut in the way of business. Far from feeling pity for their victim, they were more inclined to feel anger because he had been the occasion of their imprisonment in that distant land. In only one man did I discern anything that might appropriately be called a conscience, and his story was so remarkable that I think it well worth narrating. For in this case it was, so far as I can understand, remorse that was the motive of the crime. I noticed the man`s number, which was printed on the chest of the pink and white pyjamas of his prison uniform, but I have forgotten it. Anyhow it is of no consequence. I never knew his name. He did not offer to tell me and I did not like to ask it. I will call him Jean Charvin.

I met him on my first visit to the camp with the commandant. We were walking through a courtyard round which were cells, not punishment cells, but individual cells which are given to well-behaved prisoners who ask for them. They sough I after by those to whom the promiscuity of the dormitories is odious. Most of them were empty, for their occupants were engaged in the various employments. Jean Charvin was at work his cell, writing at a small table, and the door was open. The commandant called him and he came out. I looked into the cell. It contained a fixe hammock, with a dingy mosquito-net; by the side of this was a small table on which were his bits and pieces, a shaving-mop and a razor, a hairbrush and two or three battered books. On the walls were photographs of persons of respectable appearance and illustrations from picture papers, lie had been sitting on his bed to write and the table on which he had been writing was covered with papers. They looked like accounts. He was a handsome man, tall, erect and lean, with flashing dark eyes and clean-cut, strong features. The first thing I noticed about him was that he had a fine head of long, naturally-waving dark brown hair. This at once made him look different from the rest of the prisoners, whose hair is close-cropped, but cropped so badly, in ridges, that it gives them a sinister look. The commandant spoke to him of some official business, and then as we were leaving added in a friendly way:

"I see your hair is growing well."

Jean Gharvin reddened and smiled. His smile was boyish and engaging.

"It`ll be some time yet before I get it right again."

The commandant dismissed him and we went on.

"He`s a very decent fellow," he said. "He s in the accountant`s department, and he`s had leave to let his hair grow. He s delighted."

"What is he here for?" I asked.

"He killed his wife. But he`s only got six years. He`s clever and a good worker. He`ll do well. He comes from a very decent family and he`s had an excellent education."

I thought no more of Jean Gharvin, but by chance I met him next day on the road. He was coming towards me. He carried a black dispatch-case under his arm, and except for the pink and white stripes of his uniform and the ugly round straw hat that concealed his handsome head of hair, you might have taken him for a young lawyer on his way to court. He walked with a long, leisurely stride, and he had an easy, you might almost say a gallant, bearing. He recognised me, and taking off his hat bade me good-morning. I stopped, and for something to say asked him where he was going. He told me he was taking some papers from the governor`s office to the bank. There was a pleasing frankness in his face, and his eyes, his really beautiful eyes, shone with good will. I supposed that the vigour of his youth was such that it made life, notwithstanding his position and his surroundings, more than tolerable, even pleasant. You would have said that here was a young man without a care in the world.

"I hear you`re going to St. Jean to-morrow," he said.

"Yes. It appears I must start at dawn."

St. Jean is a camp seventeen kilometres from St. Laurent, and it is here that are interned the habitual criminals who have been sentenced to transportation after repeated terms of imprisonment. They are petty thieves, confidence men forgers, tricksters and suchlike; the prisoners of St. Laurent, condemned for more serious offences look upon them with contempt.

"You should find it an interesting experience," Jean Charvin said, with his frank and engaging smile. "But keep your pocket-book buttoned up, they`d steal the shirt off your back if they had half a chance. They`re a dirty lot of scoundrels."

That afternoon, waiting till the heat of the day was less, I sat on the verandah outside my bedroom and read: I had drawn the jalousies and it was tolerably cool. My old Arab came up the stairs on his bare feet, and in his halting French told me that there was a man from the commandant who wanted to see me.

"Send him up," I said.

In a moment the man came, and it was Jean Charvin. He told me that the commandant had sent him to give me a message about my excursion next day to St. Jean. When he had delivered it I asked him if he would not sit down and have a cigarette with me. He wore a cheap wrist-watch and he looked at it.

"I have a few minutes to spare. I should be glad to." He sat down and lit the cigarette I offered him. He gave me a smiling look of his soft eyes. "Do you know, this is the first time I`ve ever been asked to sit down since I was sentenced." He inhaled a long whiff of his cigarette. "Egyptian. I haven`t smoked an Egyptian cigarette for three years."

The convicts make their own cigarettes out of a coarse, strong tobacco that is sold in square blue packets. Since one is not allowed to pay them for the services they may render you, but may give them tobacco, I had bought a good many packets of this. "How does it taste?"

"One gets accustomed to everything and, to tell you the truth, my palate is so vitiated, I prefer the stuff we get here."

"I`ll give you a couple of packets." I went into my room and fetched them. When I returned he was looking at some books that were lying on the table.

"Are you fond of reading?" I asked. "Very. I think the want of books is what I most suffer from now. The few I can gel hold of I`m forced to read over and over again."

To so great a reader as myself no deprivation seems more insupportable than the lack of books.

"I have several French ones in my bag. I`ll look them out and if you care to have them I`ll give them to you if you can come along again."

My offer was due only in part to kindness; I wanted to have another chance of a talk with him.

"I should have to show them to the commandant. He would only let me keep them if there was no doubt they couldn`t possibly corrupt my morals. But he`s a good-natured man, I don`t think he`ll make any difficulties.

There was a hint of slyness in the smile with which he said this, and I suspected that he had taken the measure of the well-meaning, conscientious chief of the camp and knew pretty well how to gel on the right side of him. It would have been unjust to blame him if he exercised tact, and even cunning, to render his lot as tolerable as might be.

"The commandant has a very good opinion of you."

"He`s a fine man. I`m very grateful to him, he`s done a great deal for me. I`m an accountant by profession and he`s put me in the accountant`s department. I love figures, it gives me an intense satisfaction to deal with them, they`re living things to me, and now that I can handle them all day long I feel myself again."

"And are you glad to have a cell of your own?"

"It`s made all the difference. To be herded with fifty men, the scum of the earth, and never to be alone for a minute - it was awful. That was the worst of all. At home, at Le Havre, that is where I lived, I had an apartment, modest of course, but my own, and we had a maid who came in by the day. We lived decently. It made it ten limes harder for me than for the rest, most of them, who have never known anything but squalor, filth and promiscuity."

I had asked him about the cell in the hope that I could get him to talk about the life that is led in those vast dormitories in which the men are locked from five in the evening till five next morning. During these twelve hours they are their own masters. A warder can enter, they told me, only at the risk of his life. They have no light after eight o`clock, but from sardine-tins, a little oil, and a rag they make lamps by the light of which they can see enough to play cards. They gamble furiously, not for love, but for the money they keep secreted on their bodies; they are unscrupulous ruthless men, and naturally enough bitter quarrels often arise. They are settled with knives. Often in the morning, when the dormitory is opened, a man is found dead, but no threats, no promises, will induce anyone to betray the slayer. Other things Jean Charvin told me which I cannot narrate. He told me of one young fellow who had come out from France on the same ship with himself and with whom he had made friends. He was a good-looking boy. One day he went to the commandant and asked him if he could have a cell to himself. The commandant asked him why he wanted one. He explained. The commandant looked through his list and told him that at the moment all were occupied, but that as soon as there was a vacancy he should have one. Next morning when the dormitory was opened, he was found dead on his hammock with his belly ripped open to the breast-bone.

"They`re savage brutes, and if one isn`t a brute by the time one arrives only a miracle can save one from becoming as brutal as the rest."

Jean Charvin looked at his watch and got up. He walked away from me and then, with his charming smile, turned and faced me.

"I must go now. If the commandant gives me permission I will come and get the books you were kind enough to offer me."

In Guiana you do not shake hands with a convict, and a tactful man, taking leave of you, puts himself in such a position that there can be no question of your offering him your hand or of refusing his should he, forgetting for a moment, instinctively tender it. Heaven knows, it would have meant nothing to me to shake hands with Jean Charvin; it gave me a pang to see the care he had taken to spare me embarrassment.

I saw him twice more during my stay at St. Laurent. He told me his story, but I will tell it now in my words rather than in his, for I had to piece it together from what he said at one time and another, and what he left out I have had to supply out of my own imagination. I do not believe it has led me astray. It was as though he had given me three letters out of a number of five-letter words; the chances are that I have guessed most of the words correctly.

Jean Charvin was born and bred in the great seaport of Le Havre. His father had a good post in the Customs. Having finished his education, he did his military service, and then looked about for a job. Like a great many other young Frenchmen he was prepared to sacrifice the hazardous chance of wealth for a respectable security. His natural gift for figures made it easy for him to get a place in the accountant`s department of a large exporting house. His future was assured. He could look forward to earning a sufficient income to live in the modest comfort of the class to which he belonged. He was industrious and well-behaved. Like most young Frenchmen of his generation he was athletic. He swam and played tennis in summer, and in winter he bicycled. On two evenings a week to keep himself fit he spent a couple of hours in a gymnasium. Through his childhood, his adolescence and his young manhood, he lived in the constant companionship of a boy called, shall we say for the purposes of this narrative, Henri Renar whose father, was also an official in the Customs. Jeanand Riri went to school together, played together, worked for their examinations together, spent their holidays together, for the two families were intimate, had their first affairs with girls together, partnered one another in the local tennis tournaments, and did their military service together. They never quarrelled. They were never so happy as in one another`s society. They were inseparable. When the time came for them to start working they decided that they would go into the same firm; but that was not so easy; Jean tried to get Riri a job in the exporting house that had engaged him, but could not manage it, and it was not till a year later that Riri got something to do. But by then trade . was as bad at Le Havre as everywhere else, and in a few months he found himself once more without employment.

Riri was a light-hearted youth, and he enjoyed his leisure. He danced, bathed and played tennis. It was thus that he made the acquaintance of a girl who had recently come to live at Le Havre. Her father had been a captain in the colonial army and on his death her mother had returned to Le Havre, which was her native place. Marie-Louise was then eighteen. She had spent almost all her life in Tonkin. This gave her an exotic attraction for the Young men who had never been out of France in their lives, and first Riri, then Jean, fell in love with her. Perhaps that was inevitable; it was certainly unfortunate. She was a well-brought-up an only child, and her mother, besides her pension, had a little money of her own. It was evident that she could be pursued only with a view to marriage. Of course Riri, dependent for the while entirely on his father, could not make an offer that there was the least chance of Madame Meurice, Marie-Louise`s mother, accepting; but having the whole day to himself he was able to sec a great deal more of Marie-Louise than Jean could. Madame Meurice was something of an invalid, so that Marie-Louise had more liberty than most French girls of her age and station. She knew that both Riri and Jean were in love with her, she liked them both and was pleased by their attentions, but she gave no sign that she was in love with either. It was impossible to tell which she preferred. She was well aware that Riri was not in a position to marry her.

"What did she look like?" I asked Jean Charvin.

"She was small, with a pretty little figure, with large grey eyes, a pale skin and soft, mouse-coloured hair. She was rather like a little mouse. She was not beautiful, but pretty, in a quaint demure way; there was something very appealing about her. She was easy to get on with. She was simple and unaffected. You couldn`t help feeling that she was reliable and would make anyone a good wife." Jean and Riri hid nothing from one another and Jean made no secret of the fact that he was in love with Marie-Louise, but Riri had met her first and it was an understood thing between them that Jean should not stand in his way. At length she made her choice. One day Riri waited for Jean to come away from his office and told him that Marie-Louise had consented to marry him. They had arranged that as soon as he got a job his father should go to her mother and make the formal offen. Jean was hard hit. It was not easy to listen with eager sympathy to the plans that the excitable and enchanted Riri made for the future. But he was too much attached to Riri to feel sore with him; he knew how lovable he was and he could not game Marie-Louise. He tried with all his might to accept honestly the sacrifice he made on the altar of friendship.

"Why did she choose him rather than you?" I asked.

"He had immense vitality. He was the gayest, most amusing lad you ever met. His high spirits were infectious. You couldn`t be dull in his company."

"He had pep," I smiled.

"And an incredible charm."

"Was he good-looking?"

"No, not very. He was shorter than me, slight and wiry; but he had a nice, good-humoured face." Jean Charvin smiled rather pleasantly. "I think without any vanity I can say that I was better-looking than Riri."

But Riri did not get a job. His father, tired of keeping him in idleness, wrote to everyone he could think of, the members of his family and his friends in various parts of France, asking them if they could not find something, however modest, for Riri to do; and at last he got a letter from a cousin in Lyons who was in the silk business to say that his firm were looking for a young man to go out to Phnom-Penh, in Cambodia, where they had a branch, to buy native silk for them. If Riri was willing to take the job he could get it for him.

Though like all French parents Riri`s hated him to emigrate, there seemed no help for it, and it was determined, although the salary was small, that he must go. He was not disinclined. Cambodia was not so far from Tonkin, and Marie-Louise must be familiar with the life. She had so often talked of it that he had come to the conclusion that she would be glad to go back to the East. To his dismay she told him that nothing would induce her to. In the first place she could not desert her mother, whose health was obviously declining; and then, after having at last settled down in France, she was determined never again to leave it. She was sympathetic to Riri, but resolute. With nothing else in prospect his father would not hear of his refusing the offer; there was no help for it, he had to go. Jean hated losing him, but from the moment Riri told him his bad news, he had realised with exulting heart that fate was playing into his hands. With Riri out of his way for five years at least, and unless he were incompetent with the probability that he would settle in the East for good, Jean could not doubt that after a while Marie-Louise would marry him. His circumstances, his settled respectable position in Le Havre, where she could be near her mother, would make her think it very sensible; and when she was no longer under the spell of Riri`s charm there was no reason why her great liking for him should not turn to love. Life changed for him. After months of misery he was happy again, and though he kept them to himself he too now made great plans for the future. There was no need any longer to try not to love Marie-Louise.

Suddenly his hopes were shattered. One of the shipping firms at Le Havre had a vacancy, and it looked as though the application that Riri had quickly made would be favourably considered. A friend in the office told him that it was a certainty. It would settle everything. It was an old and conservative house, and it was well known that when you once got into it you were there for life. Jean Charvin was in despair, and the worst of it was that he had to keep his anguish to himself. One day the director of his own firm sent for him.

When he reached this point Jean stopped. A harassed look came into his eyes.

"I`m going to tell you something now that I`ve never, told to anyone before. I`m an honest man, a man of principle; I`m going to tell you of the only discreditable action I`ve ever done in my life."

I must remind the reader here that Jean Charvin was wearing the pink and white stripes of the convict`s uniform, with his number stencilled on his chest, and that he was serving a term of imprisonment for the murder of his wife.

"I couldn`t imagine what the director wanted with me. He was sitting at his desk when I went into his office, and he gave me a searching look.

`I want to ask you a question of great importance,` he said. `I wish you to treat it as confidential. I shall of course treat your answer, as equally so.`

I waited. He went on:

" `You`ve been with us for a considerable time. I am very well satisfied with you, there is no reason why you shouldn`t reach a very good position in the firm. I put implicit confidence in you.`

"`Thank you, sir,` I said. `I will always try to merit your good opinion.`

" `The question at issue is this. Monsieur Untel is proposing to engage Henri Renard. He is very particular about the character of his employees, and in this case it is essential that he shouldn`t make a mistake. Part of Henri Renard`s duties would be to pay the crews of the firm`s ships, and many hundreds of thousand francs will pass through his hands. I know that Henri Renard is your great friend and that your families have always been very intimate. I put you on your honour to tell me whether monsieur Untel would be justified in engaging this young man.`

"I saw at once what the question meant. If Riri got the job he would stay and marry Marie-Louise, if he didn`t he would go out to Cambodia and I should marry her. I swear to you it was not I who answered, it was someone who stood in my shoes and spoke with my voice, I had nothing to do with the words that came from my mouth.

"`Monsieur le directeur, I said, `Henri and I have been friends all our lives. We have never been separated for a week. We went to school together; we shared our pocket-money and our mistresses when we were old enough to have them; we did our military service together.`

" `I know. You know him better than anyone in the world. That is why I ask you these questions.`

" `It is not fair, Monsieur le directeur. You are asking me to betray my friend. I cannot, and I will not answer your questions.`

"The director gave me a shrewd smile. He thought himself much cleverer than he really was.

`"Your answer does you credit, but it has told me all I wished to know.` Then he smiled kindly. I suppose I was pale, I dare say I was trembling a little. `Pull yourself together, my dear boy; you`re upset and I can understand it. Sometimes in life one is faced by a situation where honesty stands on the one side and loyalty on the other. Of course one mustn`t hesitate, but the choice is bitter. I shall not forget your behaviour in this case and on behalf of Monsieur Untel I thank you.`

"I withdrew. Next morning Riri received a letter informing him that his services were not required, and a month later he sailed for the far East."

Six months after this Jean Charvin and Marie-Louise were married. The marriage was hastened by the increasing gravity of Madame Meurice`s illness. Knowing that she could not live long, she was anxious to see her daughter settled before she died. Jean wrote to Riri telling him the facts and Riri wrote back warmly congratulating him. He assured him that he need have no compunctions on his behalf; when he had left France he realised that he could never marry Marie-Louise, and he was glad that Jean was going to. He was finding consolation at Phnom-Penh. His letter was very cheerful. From the beginning Jean had told himself that Riri, with his mercurial temperament, would soon forget Marie-Louise, and his letter looked as if he had already done so. He had done him no irreparable injury. It was a justification. For if he had lost Marie-Louise he would have died; with him it was a matter of life and death.

For a year Jean and Marie-Louise were extremely happy. Madame Meurice died, and Marie-Louise inherited a couple of hundred thousand francs; but with the depression and the unstable currency they decided not to have a child till the economic situation was less uncertain. Marie-Louise was a good and frugal housekeeper. She was an affectionate, amiable and satisfactory wife. She was placid. This before he married her had seemed to Jean a rather charming trail, but as time wore on it was borne in upon him that her placidity came from a certain lack of emotional ardour. It concealed no depth. He had always thought she was like a little mouse; there was something mouse-like in her furtive reticences; she was oddly serious about trivial matters and could busy herself indefinitely with things that were of no consequence. She had her own tiny little set of interests and they left no room in her pretty sleek head for any others. She sometimes began a novel, but seldom cared to finish it. Jean was obliged to admit to himself that she was rather dull. The uneasy thought came to him that perhaps it had not been worth while to do a dirty trick for her sake. It began to worry him. He missed Riri. He tried to persuade himself that what was done was done and that he had really not been a free agent, but he could not quite still the prickings of his conscience. He wished now that when the director of his firm spoke to him he had answered differently.

Then a terrible thing happened. Riri contracted typhoid fever and died. It was a frightful shock for Jean. It was a shock to Marie-Louise too; she paid Riri`s parents the proper visit of condolence, but she neither ate less heartily nor slept less soundly. Jean was exasperated by her composure.

"Poor chap, he was always so gay," she said, "he must have hated dying. But why did he go out there? I told him the climate was bad; it killed my father and I knew what I was talking about."

Jean felt that he had killed him. If he had told the director all the good he knew of Riri, knew as no one else in the world did, he would have got the post and would now be alive and well.

"I shall never forgive myself," he thought. "I shall never be happy again. Oh, what a fool I was, and what a

cad."

He wept for Riri. Marie-Louise sought to comfort him. She was a kind little thing and she loved him.

"You mustn`t lake it too hardly. After all, you wouldn`t have seen him for five years, and you`d have found him so changed that there wouldn`t have been anything between you any more. He would have been a stranger to you. I`ve seen that sort of thing happen so often. You`d have been delighted to see him, and in half an hour you`d have discovered that you had nothing to say to one another."

"I dare say you`re right," he sighed. "He was too scatter-brained ever to have amounted to anything very much. He never had your firmness of character and your clear, solid intellect."

He knew what she was thinking. What would have been her position now if she had followed Riri to Indo-China and found herself at twenty-one a widow with nothing but her own two hundred thousand francs to live on? It was a lucky escape and she congratulated herself on her good sense, Jean was a husband of whom she could be proud. He was earning good money. Jean was tortured by remorse. What he had suffered before was nothing to what he suffered now. The anguish that the recollection of his treachery caused him was worse than a physical pain gnawing at his vitals. It would assail him suddenly when he was in the middle of his work and twist his heartstrings with a violent pang. His agony was such that he craved for relief, and it was only by an effort of all his will that he prevented himself from making a full confession to Marie-Louise. But he knew how she would take it; she would not be shocked, she would think it rather a clever trick and be even subtly flattered that for her sake he had been guilty of a despicable act. She could not help him. He began to dislike her. For it was for her that he had done the shameful thing, and what was she? An ordinary, commonplace, rather calculating little woman.

"What a fool I`ve been," he repeated.

He did not even find her pretty any more. He knew now that she was terribly stupid. But of course she was not to blame for that, she was not to blame because he had been false to his friend; and he forced himself to be as sweet and tender to her as he had always been. He did whatever she wanted. She had only to express a wish for him to fulfil it if it was in his power. He tried to pity her, he tried to be tolerant; he told himself that from her own petty standpoint she was a good wife, methodical, saving and in her manner, dress and appearance a credit to a respectable young man. All that was true; but it was on her account that Riri had died, and he loathed her. She bored him to distraction. Though he said nothing, though he was kind, amiable and indulgent, he could often have killed her. When he did, however, it was almost without meaning to. It was ten months after Riri`s death, and Riri`s parents, Monsieur and Madame Renard, gave a party to celebrate the engagement of their daughter. Jean had seen little of them since Riri`s death and he did not want to go. But Marie-Louise said they must; he had been Riri`s greatest friend and it would be a grave lack of politeness on Jean`s part not to attend an important celebration in the family. She had a keen sense of social obligation.

"Besides, it`ll be a distraction for you. You`ve been in poor spirits for so long, a little amusement will do you good. There`ll be champagne, won`t there? Madame Renard doesn`t like spending money, but on an occasion like this she`ll have to sacrifice herself."

Marie-Louise chuckled slyly when she thought what a wrench it would be to Madame Renard to unloose her purse-strings.

The party had been very gay. It gave Jean a nasty turn when he found that they were using Riri`s old room for the women to put their wraps in and the men their coats. There was plenty of champagne. Jean drank a great deal to drown the bitter remorse that tormented him. He wanted to deaden the sound in his ears of Riri`s laugh and to shut his eyes to the good-humour of his shining glance. It was three o`clock when they got home. Next day was Sunday, so Jean had no work to go to. They slept late. The rest I can tell in Jean Charvin`s own words.

"I had a headache when I woke. Marie-Louise was not in bed. She was sitting at the dressing-table brushing her hair. I`ve always been very keen on physical culture, and I was in the habit of doing exercises every morning. I didn`t feel very much inclined to do them that morning, but after all that champagne I thought I`d better. I got out of bed and took up my Indian clubs. Our bedroom was fairly large and there was plenty of room to swing them between the bed and the dressing-table where Marie-Louise was sitting. I did my usual exercises. Marie-Louise had started a little while having her hair cut differently, quite short, and I thought it repulsive. From the back she looked like a boy, and the stubble of cropped hair on her neck made me feel rather sick. She put down her brushes and began to powder her face. She gave a nasty little laugh.

" `What are you laughing at?` I asked.

" `Madame Renard. That was the same dress she wore at our wedding, she`d had it dyed and done over; but it didn`t deceive me. I`d have known it anywhere.`

"It was such a stupid remark, it infuriated me. I was seized with rage, and with all my might I hit her over the head with my Indian club. I broke her skull, apparently, and she died two days later in hospital without recovering consciousness."

He paused for a moment. I handed him a cigarette and lit another myself.

"I was glad she did. We could never have lived together again, and it would have been very hard to explain my action.

"Very."

" I was arrested and tried for murder. Of course I swore it was an accident, I said the club had slipped out of my hand, but the medical evidence was against me. The prosecution proved that such an injury as Marie-Louise had suffered could only have been caused by a violent and deliberate blow. Fortunately for me they could find no motive. The public prosecutor tried to make out that I had been jealous of the attentions some man had paid her at the party and that we had quarrelled on that account, but the man he mentioned swore that he had done nothing to arouse my suspicions and others at the party testified that we had left the best of friends. They found on the dressing-table an unpaid dressmaker`s bill and the prosecutor suggested that we had quarrelled about that, but I was able to prove that Marie-Louise paid for her clothes out of her own money, so that the bill could not possibly have been the cause of a dispute. Witnesses came forward and said that I had always been kind to Marie-Louise. We were generally looked upon as a devoted couple. My character was excellent and my employer spoke in the highest terms of me. I was never in danger of losing my head, and at one moment I thought I had a chance of getting off altogether. In the end I was sentenced to six years. I don`t regret what I did, for from that day, all the time I was in prison awaiting my trial, and since, while I`ve been here, I`ve ceased to worry about Riri. If I believed in ghosts I`d be inclined to say that Marie-Louise`s death had laid Riri`s. Anyhow, my conscience is at rest, and after all the torture I suffered I can assure you that everything I`ve gone through since is worth it; I feel I can now look the world in the face again."

I know that this is a fantastic story; I am by way of being a realist, and in the stories I write I see verisimilitude. I eschew the bizarre as scrupulously as I avoid the whimsical. If this had been a tale that I was inventing I would certainly have made it more probable. As it is, unless I had heard it wit my own ears I am not sure that I should believe it. I do not know whether Jean Charvin told me the truth, and yet the words with which he closed his final visit to me had a convincing ring. I had asked him what were his plans for the future.

"I have friends working for me in France," he answered. "A great many people thought al the time that I was the victim of a grave miscarriage of justice; the director of my firm is convinced that I was unjustly condemned; and I may get a reduction of my sentence. Even if I don`t, I think I can count upon getting back to France at the end of my six years. You see, I `m making myself very useful here. The accounts were very badly kept when I took them over, and I`ve got them in apple-pie order.

There have been leakages, and I am convinced that if they`ll give me a free hand, I can stop them. The commandant likes me and I`m certain that he`ll do everything he can for me. At the worst I shan`t be much over thirty when I get back."

"But won`t you find it rather difficult to get work?"

"A clever accountant like me, and a man who`s honest and industrious, can always get work. Of course I shan`t be able to live in Le Havre, but the director of my firm has business connections at Lille and Lyons and Marseilles. He`s promised to, do something for me. No, I look forward to the years to come with a good deal of confidence. I shall settle down somewhere, and as soon as I`m comfortably fixed up I shall marry. After what I`ve been through I want a home."

We were sitting in one of the corners of the verandah that surrounded my house in order to gel any draught there might be, and on the north side I had left a jalousie undrawn. The strip of sky you saw with a single coconut tree on one side, its green foliage harsh against the blue, looked like an advertisement for a tropical cruise. Jean Gharvin`s eyes searched the distance as though to see the future.

"But next time I marry," he said thoughtfully, "I shan`t marry for love, I shall marry for money."




























W.S. MAUGHAM.

JANE

I remember very well the occasion on which I first saw Jane Fowler. It is indeed only because the details of the glimpse I had of her then are so clear that I trust my recollection at all, for, looking back, I must confess that I find it hard to believe that it has not played me a fantastic trick. I had lately returned to London from China and was drinking a dish of tea with Mrs. Tower. Mrs.Tower had been seized with the prevailing passion for decoration; and with the ruthlessness of her sex had sacrificed chairs in which she had comfortably sat for years, tables, cabinets, ornaments, on which her eyes had dwelt in peace since she was married, pictures that had been familiar to her for a generation; and delivered herself into the hands of an expert. Nothing remained in her drawing-room with which she had any association, or to which any sentiment was attached; and she had invited me that day to see the fashionable glory in which she now lived. Everything that could be pickled was pickled and what couldn`t be pickled was painted. Nothing matched, but everything harmonised.

"Do you remember that ridiculous drawing-room suite that I used to have?" asked Mrs. Tower.

The curtains were sumptuous yet severe; the sofa was covered with Italian brocade; the chair on which I sat was in petit point. The room was beautiful, opulent without garishness and original without affectation; yet to me it lacked something and while I praised with my lips I asked myself why I so much preferred the rather shabby chintz of the despised suite, the Victorian water-colours that I had known so long, and the ridiculous Dresden china" that had adorned the chimney piece. I wondered what it was that I missed in all these rooms that the decorators were turning out with a profitable industry. Was it heart? But Mrs. Tower looked about her happily.

"Don`t you like my alabaster lamps?" she said. "They give such a soft light."

"Personally I have a weakness for a light that you can see by," I smiled.

"It`s so difficult to combine that with a light that you can`t be too much seen by," laughed Mrs. Tower.

I had no notion what her age was. When I was quite a young man she was a married woman a good deal older than I, but now she treated me as her contemporary. She constantly said that she made no secret of her age, which was forty, and then added with a smile that all women took five years off. She never sought to conceal the fact that she dyed her hair (it was a very pretty brown with reddish tints), and she said she did this because hair was hideous while it was going grey; as soon as hers was white she would cease to dye it.

"Then they`ll say what a young face I have."

Meanwhile it was painted, though with discretion, and her eyes owed not a little of their vivacity to art. She was a handsome woman, exquisitely gowned, and in the sombre glow of the alabaster lamps did not look a day more than the forty she gave herself.

"It is only at my dressing-table that I can suffer the naked brightness of a thirty-two-candle electric bulb," she added with smiling cynicism. "There. I need it to tell me first the hideous truth and then to enable me to take the necessary steps to correct it."

We gossiped pleasantly about our common friends and Mrs. Tower brought me up to date in the scandal of the day. After roughing it here and there it was very agreeable to sit in a comfortable chair, the fire burning brightly on the hearth, charming tea-things set out on a charming table, and talk with this amusing, attractive woman. She treated me as a prodigal returned from his husks and was disposed to make much of me. She prided herself on her dinner-parties; she took no less trouble to have her guests suitably assorted than to give them excellent food; and there were few persons who did not look upon it as a treat to be bidden to one of them. Now she fixed a date and asked me whom 1 would like to meet.

"There`s only one thing I must tell you. If Jane Fowler is still here I shall have to put it off."

"Who is Jane Fowler?" I asked.

Mrs. Tower gave a rueful smile.

"Jane Fowler is my cross."

"Oh!"

"Do you remember a photograph that I used to have on the piano before I had my room done of a woman in a tight dress with tight sleeves and a gold locket, with her hair drawn back from a broad forehead and her ears showing and spectacles on a rather blunt nose? Well, that was Jane Fowler."

"You had so many photographs about the room in your unregenerate days," I said, vaguely.

"It makes me shudder to think of them. I`ve made them into a huge brown-paper parcel and hidden them in an attic."

"Well, who is Jane Fowler?" I asked again, smiling.

"She`s my sister-in-law. She was my husband`s sister and she married a manufacturer in the north. She` been a widow for many years, and she`s very well-to-do."

"And why is she your cross?"

"She`s worthy, she`s dowdy, she`s provincial. She looks twenty years older than I do and she`s quite capable of telling anyone she meets that we were at school together. She has an overwhelming sense of family affection, and because I am her only living connection she`s devoted to me. When she comes to London it never occurs to her that she should stay anywhere but here - she thinks it would hurt my feelings - and she`ll pay me visits of three or four weeks. We sit here and she knits and reads. And sometimes she insists on taking me to dine at Claridge`s and she looks like a funny old charwoman and everyone I particularly don`t want to be seen by is sitting at the next table. When we are driving home she says she loves giving me a little treat. With her own hands she makes me tea-cozies that I am forced to use when she is here and doilies and centrepieces for the dining-room table."

Mrs. Tower paused to take breath.

"I should have thought a woman of your tact would find a way to deal with a situation like that."

"Ah, but don`t you see, I haven`t a chance. She`s so immeasurably kind. She has a heart of gold. She bores me to death, but I wouldn`t for anything let her suspect it."

"And when does she arrive?"

"To-morrow."

But the answer was hardly out of Mrs. Tower`s mouth when the bell rang. There were sounds in the hall of a slight commotion and in a minute or two the butler ushered in an elderly lady.

"Mrs. Fowler," he announced.

"Jane!" cried Mrs. Tower, springing to her feet "I wasn`t expecting you to-day."

"So your butler has just told me. I certainly said today in my letter."

Mrs. Tower recovered her wits-.

"Well, it doesn`t matter. I`m very glad to see you whenever you come. Fortunately I`m doing nothing this evening."

"You mustn`t let me give you any trouble. If I can have a boiled egg for my dinner that`s all I shall want."

A faint grimace for a moment distorted Mrs. Tower`s handsome features. A boiled egg!

"Oh, I think we can do a little better than that."

I chuckled inwardly when I recollected that the two ladies were contemporaries. Mrs. Fowler looked a good fifty-five. She was a rather big woman; she wore a black straw hat with a wide brim, and from it a black lace veil hung over her shoulders, a cloak that oddly combined severity with fussiness, a long black dress, voluminous as though she wore several petticoats under it, and stout boots. She was evidently short-sighted, for she looked at you through large gold-rimmed spectacles.

"Won`t you have a cup of tea?" asked Mrs. Tower.

"If it wouldn`t be too much trouble. I`ll take off my mantle."

She began by stripping her hands of the black gloves she wore, and then took off her cloak. Round her neck was a solid gold chain from which hung a large gold locket in which I felt certain was photograph of her deceased husband. Then she took off her hat and placed it neatly with her gloves and cloak on the sofa corner. Mrs. Tower pursed her lips. Certainly those garments did not go very well with the austere but sumptuous beauty of Mrs. Tower`s redecorated drawing-room. I wonded where on earth Mrs. Fowler had found the extraordinary clothes she wore. They were not old and the materials were expensive. It was astounding to think that dressmakers still made things that had not been worn for a quarter of a century. Mrs. Fowler`s grey hair was very plainly done, showing all her forehead and her ears, with a parting in the middle. It had evidently never known the tongs of Monsieur Marcel. Now her eyes fell on the tea-table with its teapot of Georgian silver and its cups in old Worcester.

"What have you done with the tea-cozy I gave you last time I came up, Marion?" she asked. "Don`t you use it?"

"Yes, I use it every day, Jane," answered Mrs. Tower glibly. "Unfortunately we had an accident with it a, little while ago. It got burnt."

"But the last one I gave you got burnt."

"I`m afraid you`ll think us very careless."

"It doesn`t really matter," smiled Mrs. Fowler. "I shall enjoy making you another. I`ll go to Liberty`s to-morrow and buy some silks."

Mrs. Tower kept her face bravely.

"I don`t deserve it, you know. Doesn`t your vicar`s wife need one?"

"Oh, I`ve just made her one," said Mrs. Fowler brightly.

I noticed that when she smiled she showed white, small and regular teeth. They were a real, beauty. Her smile was certainly very sweet.

But I felt it high time for me to leave the two ladies to themselves, so I took my leave.

Early next morning Mrs. Tower rang me up, and I heard at once from her voice that she was in high spirits.

"I`ve got the most wonderful news for you," she said. "Jane is going to be married."

"Nonsense."

"Her fiance is coining to dine here to-night to be introduced to me, and I want you to come too."

"Oh, but I shall be in the way."

"No, you won`t. Jane suggested herself that I should ask you. Do come."

She was bubbling over with laughter.

"Who is he?"

"I don`t know. She tells me he`s an architect. Can you imagine the sort of man Jane would marry?"

I had nothing to do and I could trust Mrs. Tower to give me a good dinner.

When I arrived Mrs. Tower, very splendid in a tea-gown a little too young for her, was alone.

"Jane is putting the finishing touches to her appearance. I`m longing for you to see her. She`s all in a flutter. She says he adores her. His name is Gilbert and when she speaks of him her voice gets all funny and tremulous. It makes me want to laugh."

"I wonder what he`s like."

"Oh, I`m sure I know. Very big and massive, with a bald head and an immense gold chain across an immense tummy. A large, fat, clean-shaven, red face and a booming voice."

Mrs. Fowler came in. She wore a very stiff black silk dress with a wide skirt and a train. At the neck it was cut into a timid V and the sleeves came down to the elbows. She wore a necklace of diamonds set in silver. She carried in her hands a long pair of black gloves and a fan of black ostrich feathers. She managed (as so few people do) to look exactly what she was. You could never have thought her anything in the world but the respect-able relict of a north-country manufacturer of ample means.

"You`ve really got quite a pretty neck, Jane," said Mrs. Tower with a kindly smile.

It was indeed astonishingly young when you compared it with her weather-beaten face. It was smooth and unlined and the skin was white. And I noticed then that her head was very well placed on her shoulders.

"Has Marion told you my news?" - she said, turning to me with that really charming smile of hers as if we were already old friends.

"I must congratulate you," I said.

"Wait to do that till you`ve seen my young man."

"I think it`s too sweet to hear you talk of your young man," smiled Mrs. Tower.

Mrs. Fowler`s eyes certainly twinkled behind her preposterous spectacles.

"Don`t expect anyone too old. You wouldn`t like me to marry a decrepit old gentleman with one foot in the grave, would you?"

This was the only warning she gave us. Indeed there was no time for any further discussion, for the butler flung open the door and in a loud voice announced:

"Mr. Gilbert Napier."

There entered a youth in a very well-cut dinner jacket. He was slight, not very tall, with fair hair in which there was a hint of a natural wave, clean-shaven and blue-eyed. He was not particularly good-looking, but he had a pleasant, amiable face. In ten years he would probably be wizened and sallow; but now, in extreme youth, he was fresh, and clean and blooming. For he was certainly not more than twenty-four. My first thought was that this was the son of Jane Fowler`s fiance (I had not known he was a widower)come to say that his father was prevented from dining by a sudden attack of gout. But his eyes fell immediately on Mrs. Fowler, his face lit up, and he went towards her with both hands outstretched. Mrs. Fowler gave him hers, a demure smile on her lips, and turned to her sister-in-law.

"This is my young man, Marion," she said.

He held out his hand.

"I hope you`ll like me, Mrs. Tower," he said. "Jane tells me you`re the only relation she has in the world."

Mrs. Tower`s face was wonderful to behold. I saw then to admiration how bravely good breeding and social usage could combat the instincts of the natural woman. For the astonishment and then the dismay that for an instant she could not conceal were quickly driven away, and her face assumed an expression of affable welcome. But she was evidently at a loss for words. It was not unnatural if Gilbert felt a certain embarrassment, and I was too busy preventing myself from laughing to think of anything to say. Mrs. Fowler alone kept perfectly calm.

"I know you`ll like him, Marion. There`s no one enjoys good food more than he does. She turned to the young man. "Marion` s dinners are famous. "I know," he beamed.

Mrs. Tower made some quick rejoinder and we went downstairs. I shall not soon forget the exquisite comedy of that meal. Mrs. Tower could not make up her mind whether the pair of them were playing a practical joke on her or whether Jane by wilfully concealing her fiance`s age had hoped to make her look foolish. But then Jane never jested and she was incapable of doing a malicious thing. Mrs. Tower was amazed exasperated and perplexed. But she had recovered herself-control, and for nothing would she have forgotten that she was a perfect hostess whose duty it was to make her party go. She talked vivaciously; but I wondered if Gilbert Napier saw how hard and vindictive was the expression of her eyes behind the mask of friendliness that she turned to him. She was measuring him. She was seeking to delve into the secret of his soul. I could see that she was in a passion, for under her rouge her cheeks glowed with an angry red.

"You`ve got a very high colour, Marion," said Jane, looking at her amiably through her great round spectacles.

"I dressed in a hurry. I daresay I put on too much rouge."

"Oh, is it rouge? I thought it was natural. Otherwise I shouldn`t have mentioned it." She gave Gilbert a shy little smile. "You know, Marion and I were at school together. You would never think it to look at us now, would you? But of course I`ve lived a very quiet life."

I do not know what she meant by these remarks; it was almost incredible that she made them in complete simplicity; but anyhow they goaded Mrs. Tower to such a fury that she flung her own vanity to the winds. She smiled brightly.

"We shall neither of us see fifty again, Jane," she said.

If the observation was meant to discomfit the widow it failed.

"Gilbert says I mustn`t acknowledge to more than forty-nine for his sake," she answered blandly.

Mrs. Tower`s hands trembled slightly, but she found a retort.

"There is of course a certain disparity of age between you," she smiled.

"Twenty-seven years," said Jane. "Do you think it`s too much? Gilbert says I`m very young for my age. I told you I shouldn`t like to marry a man with one foot in the grave."

I was really obliged to laugh, and Gilbert laughed too. His laughter was frank and boyish. It looked as though he were amused at everything Jane said. But Mrs. Tower was almost at the end of her tether, and I was afraid that unless relief came she would for once forget that she was a woman of the world. 1 came to the rescue as best I could.

"I suppose you`re very busy buying your trousseau," I said.

"No. I wanted to get my things from the dress-maker in Liverpool I`ve been to ever since I was first married. But Gilbert won`t let me. He`s very masterful, and of course he has wonderful taste."

She looked at him with a little affectionate smile, demurely, as though she were a girl of seventeen.

Mrs. Tower went quite pale under her make-up.

"We`re going to Italy for our honeymoon. Gilbert has never had a chance of studying Renaissance architecture, and of course it`s important for an architect to see things for himself. And we shall stop in Paris on the way and get my clothes there."

"Do you expect to be away long?"

"Gilbert has arranged with his office to stay away for six months. It will be such a treat for him, won`t it? You see, he`s never had more than a fortnight`s holiday before."

"Why not?" asked Mrs. Tower in a tone that no effort of will could prevent from being icy.

"He`s never been able to afford it, poor dear."

"Ah!" said Mrs. Tower, and into the exclamation put volumes.

Coffee was served and the ladies went upstairs. Gilbert and I began to talk in the desultory way in which men talk who have nothing whatever to say to one another; but in two minutes a note was brought in to me by the butler. It was from Mrs. Tower and ran as follows:

Come upstairs quickly and then go as soon as you can. Take him with you. Unless I have it out with Jane at once I shall have a fit.

I told a facile lie.

"Mrs. Tower has a headache and wants to go to bed. I think if you don`t mind we`d better clear out."

"Certainly," he answered.

We went upstairs and five minutes later were on the doorstep. I called a taxi and offered the young man a lift.

"No, thanks," he answered." I`ll just walk to the corner and jump on a bus."

Mrs. Tower sprang to the fray as soon as she heard the front door close behind us.

"Are you crazy, Jane?" she cried. "Not more than most people who don`t habitually live in a lunatic asylum, I trust," Jane answered blandly.

"May I ask why you`re going to marry this young man?" asked Mrs. Tower with formidable politeness.

"Partly because he won`t take no for an answer. He`s asked me five times. I grew positively tired of refusing him."

"And why do you think he`s so anxious to marry you?"

"I amuse him."

Mrs. Tower gave an exclamation of annoyance.

"He`s an unscrupulous rascal. I very nearly told him so to his face."

"You would have been wrong, and it wouldn`t have been very polite."

"He`s penniless and you`re rich. You can`t be such a besotted fool as not to see that he`s marrying you for your money."

Jane remained perfectly composed. She observed her sister-in-law`s agitation with detachment.

"I don`t think he is, you know,, she replied. "I think he s very fond of me."

"You`re an old woman, Jane."

"I`m the same age as you are, Marion," she smiled.

"I`ve never let myself go. I`m very young for my age. No one would think I was more than forty. But even I wouldn`t dream of marrying a boy twenty years younger than myself."

"Twenty-seven," corrected Jane.

"Do you mean to tell me that you can bring yourself to believe that it`s possible for a young man to care for a woman old enough to be his mother?"

"I`ve lived very much in the country for many years. I daresay there`s a great deal about human nature that 1 don`t know. They tell me there`s a man called Freud, an Austrian, I believe -"

But Mrs. Tower interrupted her without any politeness at all.

"Don`t be ridiculous, Jane. It`s so undignified. It`s so ungraceful. I always thought you were a sensible woman. Really you`re the last person I should ever have thought likely to fall in love with a boy."

"But I`m not in love with him. I`ve told him that. Of course I like him very much or I wouldn`t think of marrying him. I thought it only fair to tell him quite plainly what my feelings were towards him."

Mrs. Tower gasped. The blood rushed to her head and her breathing oppressed her. She had no fan, but she seized the evening paper and vigorously fanned herself with it.

"If you`re not in love with him why do you want to marry him?"

"I`ve been a widow a very long time and I`ve led a very quiet life. I thought I`d like a change."

"If you want to marry just to be married why don`t you marry a man of your own age?"

"No man of my own age has asked me five times. In fact no man of my own age has asked me at all."

Jane chuckled as she answered. It drove Mrs. Tower to the final pitch of frenzy.

"Don`t laugh, Jane. I won`t have it. I don`t think you can be right in your mind. It`s dreadful."

It was altogether too much for her and she burst into tears. She knew that at her age it was fatal to cry; her eyes would be swollen for twenty-four hours and she would look a sight. But there was no help for it. She wept. Jane remained perfectly calm. She looked at Marion through her large spectacles and reflectively smoothed the lap of her black silk dress.

"You`re going to be so dreadfully unhappy," Mrs. Tower sobbed, dabbing her eyes cautiously in the hope that the black on her lashes would not smudge.

"I don`t think so, you know," Jane answered in those equable, mild tones of hers, as if there were a little smile behind the words. "We`ve-talked it over very thoroughly. I always think I`m a very easy person to live with. I think I shall make Gilbert very happy and comfortable. He`s never had anyone to look after him properly. We`re only marrying after mature consideration. And we`ve decid ed that if either of us wants his liberty the other will place no obstacles in the way of his getting it."

Mrs. Tower had by now recovered herself sufficiently to make a cutting remark.

"How much has he persuaded you to settle on him?"

"I wanted to settle a thousand a year on him, but he wouldn`t hear of it. He was quite upset when I made the suggestion. He says he can earn quite enough for his own needs."

"He`s more cunning than I thought," said Mrs. Tower acidly.

Jane paused a little and looked at her sister-in-law with kindly but resolute eyes.

"You see, my dear, it`s different for you," she said. "You`ve never been so very much a widow, have you?"

Mrs. Tower leaked at her. She blushed a little. She even felt slightly uncomfortable. But of course Jane was much too simple to intend an innuendo. Mrs. Tower gathered herself together with dignity. "I`m so upset that I really must go to bed," she said. `We`ll resume the conversation to-morrow morning."

"I`m afraid that won`t be very convenient, dear. Gilbert and I are going to get the licence to-morrow morning."

Mrs. Tower threw up her hands in a gesture of dismay, hut she found nothing more to say.

The marriage took place at a registrar`s office. Mrs. Tower and I were the witnesses. Gilbert in a smart blue suit looked absurdly young, and he was obviously nervous. It is a trying moment for any man. But Jane kept her admirable composure. She might have been in the habit of marrying as frequently as a woman of fashion. Only a slight colour on her cheeks suggested that beneath her calm was some faint excitement. It is a thrilling moment for any woman. She wore a very full dress of silver grey velvet, in the cut of which I recognised the hand of the dressmaker in Liverpool (evidently a widow of unimpeachable character), who had made her gowns for so many years; but she had so far succumbed to the frivolity of the occasion as to wear a large picture hat covered with blue ostrich feathers. Her gold-rimmed spectacles made it extra ordinarily grotesque. When the ceremony was over the registrar (somewhat taken aback, I thought, by the difference of age between the pair he was marrying) shook hands with her, tendering his strictly official congratulations; and the bridegroom, blushing slightly, kissed her. Mrs. Tower, resigned but implacable, kissed her; and then the bride looked at me expectantly. It was evidently fitting that I should kiss her too. I did. I confess that I felt, a little shy as we walked out of the registrar`s office past loungers who waited cynically to see the bridal pairs, and it was with relief that I stepped into Mrs. Tower`s car. We drove to Victoria Station, for the happy couple were to go over to Paris by the two o`clock train, and Jane had insisted that the wedding-breakfast should be eaten at the station restaurant. She said it always made her nervous not to be on the platform in good time. Mrs. Tower, present only from a strong sense of family duty, was able to do little to make the party go of well; she ate nothing (for which Icould not blame her, since food was execrable, and anyway hate champagne at luncheon) and talked in a strained voice. But Jane went through the menu conscientiously.

"I always think one should make a hearty meal before starting out on a journey," she said.

We saw them off, and I drove Mrs. Tower back to her house.

"How long do you give it?" she said. "Six months?"

"Let`s hope for the best," I smiled.

"Don`t be so absurd. There can be no best. You don`t think he`s marrying her for anything but her money, do you? Of course it can`t last. My only hope is that she won`t have to go through as much suffering as she deserves."

I laughed. The charitable words were spoken in such a tone as to leave me in small doubt of Mrs. Tower`s meaning.

"Well, if it doesn`t last you`ll have the consolation of saying `I told you so,`" I said.

"I promise you I`ll never do that."

"Then you`ll have the satisfaction of congratulating yourself on your self-control in not saying `I told you so.`"

"She`s old and dowdy and dull." "Are you sure she`s dull?" I said. "It`s true she doesn`t say very much, but when she says anything it`s very much to the point."

"I`ve never heard her make a joke in my life."

I was once more in the Far East when Gilbert and Jane returned from their honeymoon, and this time I remained away for nearly two years. Mrs. Tower was a bad correspondent and though I sent her an occasional picture-postcard I received no news from her. But I met her within a week of my return to London; I was dining out and found that I was seated next to her. It was an immense party - I think we were four-and-twenty like the blackbirds in the pie - and, arriving somewhat late, I was too confused by the crowd in which I found myself to notice who was there. But when we sat down, looking round the long table I saw that a good many of my fellow-guests were well known to the public from their photographs in the illustrated papers. Our hostess had a weakness for the persons technically known as celebrities, and this was an unusually brilliant gathering. When Mrs. Tower and I had exchanged the conventional remarks that two people make when they have not seen one another for a couple of years I asked about Jane.

"She`s very well," said Mrs. Tower with a certain dryness.

"How has the marriage turned out?"

Mrs. Tower paused a little and took a salted almond from the dish in front of her.

"It appears to be quite a success."

"You were wrong, then?"

"I said it wouldn`t last and I still say it won`t last. It`s contrary to human nature."

"Is she happy?"

"They`re both happy."

"I suppose you don`t see very much of them."

"At first I saw quite a lot of them. But now..." Mrs. Tower pursed her lips a little. "Jane is becoming very grand."

"What do you mean?" I laughed.

"I think I should tell you that she`s here tonight."

"Here?"

I was startled. I looked round the table again. Our hostess was a delightful and an entertaining woman, but I could not imagine that she would be likely to invite to a dinner such as this the elderly and dowdy wife of an obscure; architect. Mrs. Tower saw my perplexity and was shrewd enough to see what was in my mind. She smiled thinly.

"Look on the left of our host."

I looked. Oddly enough the woman who sat there had by her fantastic appearance attracted my attention the moment I was ushered into the crowded drawing-room. I thought I noticed a gleam of recognition in her eye, but to the best of my belief I had never seen her before. She was not a young woman, for her hair was iron-grey; it was cut very short and clustered thickly round her well-shaped head in tight curls. She made no attempt at youth, for she was conspicuous in that gathering by using neither lipstick, rouge nor powder. Her face, not a particularly handsome one, was red and weather-beaten; but because it owed nothing to artifice had a naturalness that was very pleasing. It contrasted oddly with the whiteness of her shoulders. They were really magnificent. A woman of thirty might have been proud of them. But her dress was extraordinary. I had not seen often anything more audacious. It was cut very low, with short skirts, which were then the fashion, in black and yellow; it had almost the effect of fancy-dress and yet so became her that though on anyone else it would have been outrageous, on her it had the inevitable simplicity of nature. And to complete the impression of an eccentricity in which there was no pose and of an extravagance in which there was no ostentation she wore, attached by a broad black ribbon, a single eyeglass.

"You`re not going to tell me that is your sister-in-law," I gasped.

"That is Jane Napier," said Mrs. Tower icily.

At that moment she was speaking. Her host was turned towards her with an anticipatory smile. A bald-ish white-haired man, with a sharp, intelligent face, who sat on her left, was leaning forward eagerly, and the couple who sat opposite, ceasing to talk with one another, listened intently. She said her say and they all, with a sudden movement, threw themselves back in their chairs and burst into vociferous laughter. From the other side of the table a man addressed Mrs. Tower: I recognised a famous statesman.

"Your sister-in-law has made another joke, Mrs. Tower," he said.

Mrs. Tower smiled.

"She`s priceless, isn`t she?"

"Let me have a long drink of champagne and then for heaven`s sake tell me all about it," I said.

Well, this is how I gathered it had all happened. At the beginning of their honeymoon Gilbert took Jane to various dressmakers in Paris and he made no objection to her choosing a number of gowns after her own heart; but he persuaded her to have a `frock` or two made according to his own design. It appeared that he had a knack for that kind of work. He engaged a smart French maid. Jane had never had such a thing before. She did her own mending and when she wanted `doing up` was in the habit of ringing for the housemaid. The dresses Gilbert had devised were very different from anything she had worn before; but he had been careful not to go too far too quickly, and because it pleased him she persuaded herself, though not without misgivings, to wear them in preference to those she had chosen herself. Of course she could not wear them with the voluminous petticoats she had been in the habit of using, and these, though it cost her an anxious moment, she discarded.

"Now, if you please," said Mrs. Tower, with something very like a sniff of disapproval, "she wears nothing but thin silk tights. It`s a wonder to me she doesn`t catch her death of cold at her age."

Gilbert and the French maid taught her how to wear her clothes, and, unexpectedly enough, she was very quick at learning. The French maid was in raptures over Madame`s arms and shoulders. It was a scandal not to show anything so fine.

"Wait a little, Alphonsine," said Gilbert. "The next lot of clothes I design for Madame we`ll make the most of her."

The spectacles of course were dreadful. No one could look really well in gold-rimmed spectacles. Gilbert tried some with tortoise-shell rims. He shook his head.

"They`d look all right on a girl," he said. "You`re too old to wear spectacles, Jane." Suddenly he had an inspiration. "By George, I`ve got it. You must wear an eyeglass."

"Oh, Gilbert, I couldn`t."

She looked at him, and his excitement, the excitement of the artist, made her smile. He was so sweet to her she wanted to do what she could to please him.

"I`ll try," she said.

When they went to an optician and, suited with the right size, she placed an eyeglass jauntily in her eye Gilbert clapped his hands. There and then, before the astonished shopman, he kissed her on both cheeks.

"You look wonderful," he cried.

So they went down to Italy and spent happy months studying Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Jane not only grew accustomed to her changed appearance but found she liked it. At first she was a little shy when she went into the dining-room of a hotel and people turned round to stare at her - no one had ever raised an eyelid to look at her before - but presently she found that the sensation was not disagreeable. Ladies came up to her and asked her where she got her dress.

"Do you like it?" she answered demurely. "My husband designed it for me."

"I should like to copy it if you don`t mind."

Jane had certainly for many years lived a very quiet life, but she was by no means lacking in the normal instincts of her sex. She had her answer ready.

"I`m so sorry, but my husband`s very particular and he won`t hear of anyone copying my frocks. He wants me to be unique."

She had an idea that people would laugh when she said this, but they didn`t; they merely answered:

"Oh, of course I quite understand. You are unique."

But she saw them making mental notes of what she wore, and for some reason this quite `put her about.` For once in her life when she wasn`t wearing what everybody else did, she reflected, she didn`t see why everybody else should want to wear what she did.

"Gilbert," she said, quite sharply for her, "next time you`re designing dresses for me I wish you`d design things that people can`t copy."

"The only way to do that is to design things that only you can wear."

"Can`t you do that?"

"Yes, if you`ll do something for me."

"What is it?"

"Cut off your hair."

I think this was the first time that Jane jibbed. Her hair was long and thick, and as a girl she had been quite vain of it; to cut it off was a very drastic proceeding. This really was burning her boats behind her. In her case it was not the first step that cost so much, it was the last; but she took it ("I know Marion will think me a perfect fool, and I shall never be able to go to Liverpool again," she said), and when they passed through Paris on their way home Gilbert led her (she felt quite sick, her heart was beating so fast) to the best hairdresser in the world. She came out of his shop with a jaunty, saucy, impudent head of crisp grey curls. Pygmalion had finished his fantastic masterpiece: Galatea was come to life.

"Yes," I said, "but that isn`t enough to explain why Jane is here to-night amid this crowd of duchesses, cabinet ministers and such like; nor why she is sitting on one side of her host with an admiral of the Fleet on I the other."

"Jane is a humorist," said Mrs. Tower. "Didn`t you see them all laughing at what she said?"

There was no doubt now of the bitterness in Mrs. Tower`s heart.

"When Jane wrote and told me they were back from their honeymoon I thought I must ask them both to dinner. I didn`t much like the idea, but I felt it had to be done. I knew the party would be deadly and I wasn`t going to sacrifice any of the people who really mattered. On the other hand I didn`t want Jane to think I hadn`t any nice friends. You know I never have more than eight, but on this occasion I thought it would make things go better if I had twelve. I`d been too busy to see Jane until the evening of the party. She kept us all waiting a little - that was Gilbert`s cleverness - and at last she sailed in. You could have knocked me down with a feather. She made the rest of the women look dowdy and provincial. She made me feel like a painted old trollop."

Mrs. Tower drank a little champagne.

"I wish I could describe the frock to you. It would have been quite impossible on anyone else; on her it was perfect. And the eyeglass! I`d known her for thirty-five years and I`d never seen her without spectacles."

"But you knew she had a good figure."

"How should I? I`d never seen her except in the clothes you first saw her in. Did you think she had a good figure? She seemed not to be Unconscious of the sensation she made but to take it as a matter of course. I thought of my dinner and I heaved a sigh of relief. Even if she was a little heavy in hand, with that appearance it didn`t so very much matter. She was sitting at the other end of the table and I heard a good deal of laughter; I was glad to think that the other people were playing up well; but after dinner I was a good deal taken aback when no less than three men came up to me and told me that my sister-in-law was priceless, and did I think she would allow them to call on her. I didn`t quite know whether I was standing on my head or my heels. Twenty-four hours later our hostess of to-night rang me up and said she had heard my sister-in-law was in London and she was priceless and would I ask her to luncheon to meet her. She has an infallible instinct, that woman: in a month everyone was talking about Jane. I am here to-night, not because I`ve known our hostess for twenty years and have asked her to dinner a hundred times, but because I`m Jane`s sister-in-law."

Poor Mrs. Tower. The position was galling, and though I could not help being amused, for the tables were turned on her with a vengeance, I felt that she deserved my sympathy.

"People never can resist those who make them laugh," 1 said, trying to console her.

"She never makes me laugh."

Once more from the top of the table I heard a guffaw and guessed that Jane had said another amusing thing.

"Do you mean to say that you are the only person who doesn`t think her funny?" I asked, smiling.

"Had it struck you that she was a humorist?"

"I`m bound to say it hadn`t."

"She says just the same things as she`s said for the last thirty-five years. I laugh when I see every-one else does because I don`t want to seem a perfect fool, but I am not amused."

"Like Queen Victoria," I said.

It was a foolish jest and Mrs. Tower was quite right sharply to tell me so. I tried another tack.

"Is Gilbert here?" I asked, looking down the table.

"Gilbert was asked because she won`t go out without him, but to-night he`s at a dinner of the Architects` Institute or whatever it`s called."

"I`m dying to renew my acquaintance with her."

"Go and talk to her after dinner. She`ll ask you to her Tuesdays."

"Her Tuesdays?"

"She`s at home every Tuesday evening. You`ll meet there everyone you ever heard of. They`re the best parties in London. She`s done in one year what I`ve failed to do in twenty."

"But what you tell me is really miraculous. How has it been done?"

Mrs. Tower shrugged her handsome but adipose shoulders.

"I shall be glad if you`ll tell me," she replied.

After dinner I tried to make my way to the sofa on which Jane was sitting, but I was intercepted and it was not till a little later that my hostess came up to me and said:

"I must introduce you to the star of my party. Do you know Jane Napier? She`s priceless. She`s much more amusing than your comedies."

I was taken up to the sofa. The admiral who had been sitting beside her at dinner was with her still, showed no sign of moving, and Jane, shaking hands with me, introduced me to him.

"Do you know Sir Reginald Frobisher?"

We began to chat. It was the same Jane as I had known before, perfectly simple, homely and unaffected, but her fantastic appearance certainly gave a peculiar savour to what she said. Suddenly I found myself shaking with laughter. She had made a remark, sensible and to the point, but not in the least witty, which her manner of saying and the blind look she gave me through her eyeglass made perfectly irresistible. I felt light-hearted and buoyant. When I left her she said to me:

"If you`ve got nothing better to do, come and see us on Tuesday evening. Gilbert will be so glad to see you."

"When he`s been a month in London he`ll know that he can have nothing better to do," said the admiral.

So, on Tuesday but rather late, I went to Jane`s. I confess I was a little surprised at the company. It was quite a remarkable collection of writers, painters and politicians, actors, great ladies and great beauties; Mrs. Tower was right, it was a grand party; I had seen nothing like it in London since Stafford House was sold. No particular entertainment was provided. The refreshments were adequate without being luxurious. Jane in her quiet way seemed to be enjoying herself; I could not see that she took a great deal of trouble with her guests, but they seemed to like being there, and the gay, pleasant party did not break up till two in the morning. After that I saw much of her. I not only went often to her house, but seldom went out to luncheon or to dinner without meeting her. I am an amateur of humour and I sought to discover in what lay her peculiar gift. It was impossible to repeat anything she said, for the fun, like certain wines, would not travel. She had no gift for epigram. She never made a brilliant repartee. There was no malice in her remarks not sting in her rejoinders. There are those who think that impropriety, rather than brevity, is the soul of wit; but she never said a thing that could have brought a blush to a Victorian cheek. I think her humour was unconscious and I am sure it was unpremeditated. It flew like a butterfly from flower to flower, obedient only to its own caprice and pursuivant of neither method nor intention. It depended on the way she spoke and on the way she looked. Its subtlety gained by the flaunting and extravagant appearance that Gilbert had achieved for her; but her appearance was only an element in it. Now of course she was the fashion and people laughed if she but opened her mouth. They no longer wondered that Gilbert had married a wife so much older than himself. They saw that Jane was a woman with whom age did not count. They thought him a devilish lucky young fellow. The admiral quoted Shakespeare to me: "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety." Gilbert was delighted with her success. As I came to know him better I grew to like him. It was quite evident that he was neither a rascal nor a fortune-hunter. He was not only immensely proud of Jane but genuinely devoted to her. His kindness to her was touching. He was a very unselfish and sweet-tempered young man.

"Well, what do you think of Jane now?" he said to me once, with boyish triumph.

"I don`t know which of you is more wonderful," I said. "You or she."

"Oh, I`m nothing."

"Nonsense. You don`t think I`m such a fool as not to see that it`s you, and you only, who`ve made Jane what she is."

"My only merit is that I saw what was there when it wasn`t obvious to the naked eye, he answered.

"I can understand your seeing that she had in her the possibility of that remarkable appearance, but how in the world have you made her into a humorist?"

"But I always thought the things she said a perfect scream. She was always a humorist."

"You`re the only person who ever thought so."

Mrs. Tower, not without magnanimity, acknowledged that she had been mistaken in Gilbert. She grew quite attached to him. But notwithstanding appearances she never faltered in her opinion that the marriage could not last. I was obliged to laugh at her.

"Why, I`ve never seen such a devoted couple," I said.

"Gilbert is twenty-seven now. It`s just the time for a pretty girl to come along. Did you notice the other evening at Jane`s that pretty little niece of Sir Reginald`s? I thought Jane was looking at them both with a good deal of attention, and I wondered to myself."

"I don`t believe Jane fears the rivalry of any gir under the sun."

"Wait and see," said Mrs. Tower.

"You gave it six months."

"Well, now I give it three years."

When anyone is very positive in an opinion it is only human nature to wish him proved wrong. Mrs. Tower was really too cocksure. But such satisfaction was not mine, for the end that she had always and confidently predicted to the ill-assorted match did in point of fact come. Still, the fate seldom give us what we want in the way we wan it, and though Mrs. Tower could flatter herself that she had been right, I think after all she would sooner have been wrong. For things did`not happen at all in the way she expected.

One day I received an urgent message from her and fortunately went to see her at once. When I was shown into the room Mrs. Tower rose from her chair and came towards me with the stealthy swiftness of a leopard stalking his prey. I saw that she was excited.

"Jane and Gilbert have separated," she said.

"Not really? Well, you were right after all."

Mrs. Tower looked at me with an expression I could not understand.

"Poor Jane," I muttered.

"Poor Jane!" she repeated, but in tones of such derision that I was dumbfounded.

She found some difficulty in telling me exactly what had occurred.

Gilbert had left her a moment before she leaped to the telephone to summon me. When he entered the room, pale and distraught, she saw at once that something terrible had happened. She knew what he was going to say before he said it.

"Marion, Jane has left me."

She gave him a little smile and took his hand.

"I knew you`d behave like a gentleman. It would have been dreadful for her for people to think that you had left her."

"I`ve come to you because I knew I could count on your sympathy."

"Oh, I don`t blame you, Gilbert," said Mrs. Tower, very kindly. "It was bound to happen."

He sighed.

"I suppose so. I couldn`t hope to keep her always. She was too wonderful and I`m a perfectly commonplace fellow."

Mrs. Tower patted his hand. He was really behaving beautifully.

"And what is going to happen now?"

"Well, she`s going to divorce me."

"Jane always said she`d put no obstacle in your way if ever you wanted to marry a girl."

"You don`t think it`s likely I should ever be willing to marry anyone else after being Jane`s husband," he answered.

Mrs. Tower was puzzled.

"Of course you mean that you`ve left Jane."

"I? That`s the last thing I should ever do."

"Then why is she divorcing you?"

"She`s going to marry Sir Reginald Frobisher as soon as the decree is made absolute."

Mrs. Tower positively screamed. Then she felt so faint that she had to get her smelling salts.

"After all you`ve done for her?"

"I`ve done nothing for her."

"Do you mean to say you`re going to allow yourself to be made use of like that?"

"We arranged before we married that if either of us wanted his liberty the other should put no hindrance in the way."

"But that was done on your account. Because you were twenty-seven years younger than she was."

"Well, it`s come in very useful for her," he answered bitterly.

Mrs. Tower expostulated, argued, and reasoned; but Gilbert insisted that no rules applied to Jane, and he must do exactly what she wanted. He left Mrs. Tower prostrate. It relieved her a good deal to give me a full account of this interview. It pleased her to see that I was as surprised as herself, and if I was not so indignant with Jane as she was she ascribed that to the criminal lack of morality incident to my sex. She was still in a state of extreme agitation when the door was opened and the butler showed in - Jane herself. She was dressed in black and white as no doubt befitted her slightly ambiguous position, but in a dress so original and fantastic, in a hat so striking, that I positively gasped at the sight of her. But she was as ever bland and collected. She came forward to kiss Mrs. Tower, but Mrs. Tower withdrew herself with icy dignity.

"Gilbert has been here," she said.

"Yes, I know," smiled Jane. "I told him to come and see you. I`m going to Paris to-night and I want you to be very kind to him while I am away. I`m afraid just at first he`ll be rather lonely and I shall feel more comfortable if I can count on your keeping an eye on him."

Mrs. Tower clasped her hands.

"Gilbert has just told me something that I can hardly bring myself to believe. He tells me that you`re going to divorce him to marry Reginald Frobisher."

"Don`t you remember, before I married Gilbert." said you advised me to marry a man of my own age. The admiral is fifty-three."

"But, Jane, you owe everything to Gilbert," said Mrs. Tower indignantly. "You wouldn`t exist without him. Without him to design your clothes, you`ll be nothing."

"Oh, he`s promised to go on designing my clothes," Jane answered blandly.

"No woman could want a better husband. He`s always been kindness itself to you."

"Oh, I know he`s been sweet."

"How can you be so heartless?"

"But I was never in love with Gilbert," said Jane. "I always told him that. I`m beginning to feel the need of the companionship of a man of my own age. I think I`ve probably been married to Gilbert long enough. The young have no conversation." She paused a little and gave us both a charming smile. "Of course I shan`t lose sight of Gilbert. I`ve arranged that with Reginald. The admiral has a niece that would just suit him. As soon as we`re married we`ll ask them to stay with us at Malta -you know that the admiral is to have the Mediterranean Command - and I shouldn`t be at all surprised if they fell in love with one another."

Mrs. Tower gave a little sniff.

"And have you arranged with the admiral that if you want your liberty neither should put any hindrance in the way of the other?"

"I suggested it," Jane answered with composure. "But the admiral says he knows a good thing when he sees it and he won`t want to marry anyone else, and if anyone wants to marry me - he has eight twelve-inch guns on his flagship and he`ll discuss the matter at short range." She gave us a look through her eyeglass which even the fear of Mrs. Tower`s wrath could not prevent me from laughing at. "I think the admiral`s a very passionate man."

Mrs. Tower indeed gave me an angry frown.

"I never thought you funny, Jane," she said, "I never understood why people laughed at the things you said."

"I never thought I was funny myself, Marion," smiled Jane, showing her bright, regular teeth. "I am glad to leave London before too many people come round to our opinion."

"I wish you`d tell me the secret of your astonishing success," I said.

She turned to me with that bland, homely look I knew so well.

"You know, when I married Gilbert and settled in London and people began to laugh at what I said no one was more surprised than I was. I`d said the same things for thirty years and no one ever saw anything to laugh at. I thought it must be my clothes or my bobbed hair or my eyeglass. Then I discovered it was because I spoke the truth. It was so unusual that people thought it humorous. One of these days someone else will discover the secret, and when people habitually tell the truth of course there`ll be nothing funny in it."

"And why am I the only person not to think it funny?" asked Mrs. Tower.

Jane hesitated a little as though she were honestly searching for a satisfactory explanation.

"Perhaps you don`t know the truth when you see it, Marion dear, she answered in her mild good-natured way.

It certainly gave her the last word. I felt that Jane would always have the last word. She was priceless.

1 Maugham W.S. Rain and Other Stories. M., 1997. Pages in Assignments refer to this edition.

2 See the biography of the author in Unit 6. (Практический курс английского языка 2 курс (под ред. В.Д. Аракина).







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Данное методическое пособие составлено таким образом, чтобы ряд подобранных текстов, а так же заданий к ним, могли способствовать развитию навыков чтения. Навыки чтения необходимо разрабатывать любому человеку, поскольку это помогает перерабатывать большее количество информации, экономит время, а так же ведет к овладению таким навыком как речевое общение. Тексты для данного пособия подбирались в соответствии со стратегией, используемой при чтении текстов различных групп: углубленное чтение, ознакомительное чтение, выборочное чтение, чтение-просмотр, сканирование и быстрое чтение, с целью успешного выполнения серии упражнений, подобранных к текстам. Овладев приемами техники чтения, студенты научатся использовать их как в повседневной, так и профессиональной деятельности, то есть овладеют культурой чтения как вида речевой деятельности. Тексты для данного методического пособия были специально подобраны в нарастающем порядке сложности: от простого к наиболее сложному, с постепенным переходом к следующему уровню сложности. В результате работы с текстом читающий научится оценивать текст в широком социальном и культурном контексте, а само чтение возможно будет охарактеризовать зрелостью, которую можно в первом приближении оценить как пороговый продвинутый уровень сформированности коммуникативной компетенции. 
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