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Grace Hansen

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Ebook "A Caribbean Mystery"
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Tác giả: Agatha Christie
Thể loại: Trinh Thám
Biên tập: Yen
Language: English
Số chương: 37
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Cập nhật: 2015-01-24 12:31:11 +0700
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t was mid morning on the beach below the hotel.
Evelyn Hillingdon came out of the water and dropped on the warm golden sand. She took off her bathing cap and shook her dark head vigorously. The beach was not a very big one. People tended to congregate there in the mornings and about 11.30 there was always something of a social reunion. To Evelyn's left in one of the exotic-looking modern basket chairs lay Seсora de Caspearo, a handsome woman from Venezuela. Next to her was old Mr. Rafiel who was by now doyen of the Golden Palm Hotel and held the sway that only an elderly invalid of great wealth could attain. Esther Walters was in attendance on him. She usually had her shorthand notebook and pencil with her in case Mr. Rafiel should suddenly think of urgent business cables which must be got off at once. Mr. Rafiel in beach attire was incredibly desiccated, his bones draped with festoons of dry skin. Though looking like a man on the point of death, he had looked exactly the same for at least the last eight years-or so it was said in the islands. Sharp blue eyes peered out of his wrinkled cheeks, and his principal pleasure in life was denying robustly anything that anyone else said.
Miss Marple was also present. As usual she sat and knitted and listened to what went on, and very occasionally joined in the conversation. When she did so, everyone was surprised because they had usually forgotten that she was there!
Evelyn Hillingdon looked at her indulgently, and thought that she was a nice old pussy.
Seсora de Caspearo rubbed some more oil on her long beautiful legs and hummed to herself. She was not a woman who spoke much. She looked discontentedly at the flask of sun oil. “This is not so good as Frangipani,” she said, sadly. “One cannot get it here. A pity.” Her eyelids drooped again.
“Are you going in for your dip now, Mr. Rafiel?” asked Esther Walters tactfully.
“I'll go in when I'm ready,” said Mr. Rafiel, snappishly.
“It's half past eleven,” said Mrs. Walters.
“What of it?” said Mr. Rafiel. “Think I'm the kind of man to be tied by the clock? Do this at the hour, do this at twenty minutes past, do that at twenty to-bah!”
Mrs. Walters had been in attendance on Mr. Rafiel long enough to have adopted her own formula for dealing with him. She knew that he liked a good space of time in which to recover from the exertion of bathing and she had therefore reminded him of the time, allowing a good ten minutes for him to rebut her suggestion and then be able to adopt it without seeming to do so.
“I don't like these espadrilles,” said Mr. Rafiel raising a foot and looking at it. “I told that fool Jackson so. The man never pays attention to a word I say.”
“I'll fetch you some others, shall I, Mr. Rafiel?”
“No, you won't, you'll sit here and keep quiet. I hate people rushing about like clucking hens.”
Evelyn shifted slightly in the warm sand, stretching out her arms. Miss Marple, intent on her knitting-or so it seemed-stretched out a foot, then hastily she apologised. “I'm so sorry, so very sorry, Mrs. Hillingdon. I'm afraid I kicked you.”
“Oh, it's quite all right,” said Evelyn. “This beach gets rather crowded.”
“Oh, please don't move. Please. I'll move my chair a little back so that I won't do it again.”
As Miss Marple resettled herself, she went on talking in a childish and garrulous manner. “It seems so wonderful to be here. I've never been to the West Indies before, you know. I thought it was the kind of place I never should come to and here I am. All by the kindness of my dear nephew. I suppose you know this part of the world very well, don't you, Mrs. Hillingdon?”
“I have been in this island once or twice before and of course in most of the others.”
“Oh yes. Butterflies, isn't it, and wild flowers? You and your-your friends-or are they relations?”
“Friends. Nothing more.”
“And I suppose you go about together a great deal because of your interests being the same?”
“Yes. We've travelled together for some years now.”
“I suppose you must have had some rather exciting adventures sometimes?”
“I don't think so,” said Evelyn. Her voice was unaccentuated, slightly bored. “Adventures always seem to happen to other people.” She yawned.
“No dangerous encounters with snakes or with wild animals or with natives gone berserk?” (“What a fool I sound,”) thought Miss Marple.
“Nothing worse than insect bites,” Evelyn assured her.
“Poor Major Palgrave, you know, was bitten by a snake once,” said Miss Marple, making a purely fictitious statement.
“Was he?”
“Did he never tell you about it?”
“Perhaps. I don't remember.”
“I suppose you knew him quite well, didn't you?”
“Major Palgrave? No, hardly at all.”
“He always had so many interesting stories to tell.”
“Ghastly old bore,” said Mr. Rafiel. “Silly fool, too. He needn't have died if he'd looked after himself properly.”
“Oh come now, Mr. Rafiel,” said Mrs. Walters.
“I know what I'm talking about. If you look after your health properly you're all right anywhere. Look at me. The doctors gave me up years ago. All right, I said, I've got my rules of health and I shall keep to them. And here I am.” He looked round proudly. It did indeed seem rather a miracle that he should be there.
“Poor Major Palgrave had high blood pressure,” said Mrs. Walters.
“Nonsense,” said Mr. Rafiel.
“Oh, but he did,” said Evelyn Hillingdon. She spoke with sudden, unexpected authority.
“Who says so?” said Mr. Rafiel. “Did he tell you so?”
“Somebody said so.”
“He looked very red in the face,” Miss Marple contributed.
“Can't go by that,” said Mr. Rafiel. “And anyway he didn't have high blood pressure because he told me so.”
“What do you mean, he told you so?” said Mrs. Walters. “I mean, you can't exactly tell people you haven't got a thing.”
“Yes you can. I said to him once when he was downing all those Planters Punches, and eating too much. I said. 'You ought to watch your diet and your drink. You've got to think of your blood pressure at your age.' And he said he'd nothing to look out for in that line, that his blood pressure was very good for his age.”
“But he took some stuff for it, I believe,” said Miss Marple, entering the conversation once more. “Some stuff called-oh, something like-was it Serenite?”
“If you ask me,” said Evelyn Hillingdon, “I don't think he ever liked to admit that there could be anything the matter with him or that he could be ill. I think he was one of those people who are afraid of illness and therefore deny there's ever anything wrong with them.”
It was a long speech for her. Miss Marple looked thoughtfully down at the top of her dark head.
“The trouble is,” said Mr. Rafiel dictatorially “everybody's too fond of knowing other people's ailments. They think everybody over fifty is going to die of hypertension or coronary thrombosis or one of those things-poppycock! If a man says there's nothing much wrong with him I don't suppose there is. A man ought to know about his own health. What's the time? Quarter to twelve? I ought to have had my dip long ago. Why can't you remind me about these things, Esther?”
Mrs. Walters made no protest. She rose to her feet and with some deftness assisted Mr. Rafiel to his. Together they went down the beach, she supporting him carefully. Together they stepped into the sea. Seсora de Caspearo opened her eyes and murmured: “How ugly are old men! Oh how they are ugly! They should all be put to death at forty, or perhaps thirty-five would be better. Yes?”
Edward Hillingdon and Gregory Dyson came crunching down the beach. “What's the water like, Evelyn?”
“Just the same as always.”
“Never much variation, is there? Where's Lucky?”
“I don't know,” said Evelyn.
Again Miss Marple looked down thoughtfully at the dark head.
“Well, now I give my imitation of a whale,” said Gregory. He threw off his gaily patterned Bermuda shirt and tore down the beach, flinging himself, puffing and panting, into the sea, doing a fast crawl. Edward Hillingdon sat down on the beach by his wife. Presently he asked, “Coming in again?”
She smiled-put on her cap-and they went down the beach together in a much less spectacular manner. Seсora de Caspearo opened her eyes again. “I think at first those two they are on their honeymoon, he is so charming to her, but I hear they have been married eight-nine years. It is incredible, is it not?”
“I wonder where Mrs. Dyson is?” said Miss Marple.
“That Lucky? She is with some man.”
“You-you think so?”
“It is certain,” said Seсora de Caspearo. “She is that type. But she is not so young any longer-Her husband-already his eyes go elsewhere. He makes passes-here, there, all the time. I know.”
“Yes,” said Miss Marple, “I expect you would know.”
Seсora de Caspearo shot a surprised glance at her. It was clearly not what she had expected from that quarter. Miss Marple, however, was looking at the waves with an air of gentle innocence.
A Caribbean Mystery A Caribbean Mystery - Agatha Christie A Caribbean Mystery