Những trận chiến lớn nhất chính là những trận chiến trong tâm trí chúng ta.

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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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Chapter 8 - A TALK WITH ESTHER WALTERS
his place isn't what it used to be,” said Mr. Rafiel, irritably, as he observed Miss Marple approaching the spot where he and his secretary were sitting. “Can't move a step without some old hen getting under your feet. What do old ladies want to come to the West Indies for?”
“Where do you suggest they should go?” asked Esther Walters.
“To Cheltenham,” said Mr. Rafiel promptly. “Or Bournemouth,” he offered, “or Torquay or Llandrindod Wells. Plenty of choice. They like it there-they're quite happy.”
“They can't often afford to come to the West Indies, I suppose,” said Esther. “It isn't everyone who is as lucky as you are.”
“That's right,” said Mr. Rafiel. “Rub it in. Here am I, a mass of aches and pains and disjoints. You grudge me any alleviation! And you don't do any work. Why haven't you typed out those letters yet?”
“I haven't had time.”
“Well, get on with it, can't you? I bring you out here to do a bit of work, not to sit about sunning yourself and showing off your figure.”
Some people would have considered Mr. Rafiel's remarks quite insupportable but Esther Walters had worked for him for some years and she knew well enough that Mr. Rafiel's bark was a great deal worse than his bite. He was a man who suffered almost continual pain, and making disagreeable remarks was one of his ways of letting off steam. No matter what he said she remained quite imperturbable.
“Such a lovely evening, isn't it?” said Miss Marple, pausing beside them.
“Why not?” said Mr. Rafiel. “That's what we're here for, isn't it?”
Miss Marple gave a tinkly little laugh. “You're so severe-of course the weather is a very English subject of conversation-one forgets- Oh dear, this is the wrong coloured wool.” She deposited her knitting bag on the garden table and trotted towards her own bungalow.
“Jackson!” yelled Mr. Rafiel. Jackson appeared.
“Take me back inside,” said Mr. Rafiel. “I'll have my massage now before that chattering hen comes back. Not that massage does me a bit of good,” he added. Having said which, he allowed himself to be deftly helped to his feet and went off with the masseur beside him into his bungalow.
Esther Walters looked after them and then turned her head as Miss Marple came back with a ball of wool to sit down near her.
“I hope I'm not disturbing you?” said Miss Marple.
“Of course not,” said Esther Walters, “I've got to go off and do some typing in a minute, but I'm going to enjoy another ten minutes of the sunset first.”
Miss Marple sat down and in a gentle voice began to talk. As she talked, she summed up Esther Walters. Not at all glamorous, but could be attractive-looking if she tried. Miss Marple wondered why she didn't try. It could be, of course, because Mr. Rafiel would not have liked it, but Miss Marple didn't think Mr. Rafiel would really mind in the least. He was so completely taken up with himself that so long as he was not personally neglected, his secretary might have got herself up like a houri in Paradise without his objecting. Besides, he usually went to bed early and in the evening hours of steel bands and dancing, Esther Walters might easily have- Miss Marple paused to select a word in her mind, at the same time conversing cheerfully about her visit to Jamestown. Ah yes, blossomed. Esther Walters might have blossomed in the evening hours.
She led the conversation gently in the direction of Jackson.
On the subject of Jackson, Esther Walters was rather vague.
“He's very competent,” she said. “A fully trained masseur.”
“I suppose he's been with Mr. Rafiel a long time?”
“Oh no-about nine months, I think.”
“Is he married?” Miss Marple hazarded.
“Married? I don't think so,” said Esther slightly surprised. “He's never mentioned it if so-”
“No,” she added. “Definitely not married, I should say.” And she showed amusement.
Miss Marple interpreted that by adding to it in her own mind the following sentence: “At any rate he doesn't behave as though he were married.”
But then, how many married men there were who behaved as though they weren't married!! Miss Marple could think of a dozen examples!
“He's quite good-looking,” she said thoughtfully.
“Yes-I suppose he is,” said Esther without interest.
Miss Marple considered her thoughtfully. Uninterested in men? The kind of woman, perhaps, who was only interested in one man. A widow, they had said. She asked: “Have you worked for Mr. Rafiel long?”
“Four or five years. After my husband died, I had to take a job again. I've got a daughter at school and my husband left me very badly off.”
“Mr. Rafiel must be a rather difficult man to work for?” Miss Marple hazarded.
“Not really, when you get to know him. He flies into rages and is very contradictory. I think the real trouble is he gets tired of people. He's had five different valet-attendants in two years. He likes having someone new to bully. But he and I have always got on very well.”
“Mr. Jackson seems a very obliging young man?”
“He's very tactful and resourceful,” said Esther. “Of course, he's sometimes a little-” She broke off.
Miss Marple considered. “Rather a difficult position sometimes?” she suggested.
“Well, yes. Neither one thing nor the other. However-” she smiled-“I think he manages to have quite a good time.”
Miss Marple considered this also. It didn't help her much. She continued her twittering conversation and soon she was hearing a good deal about that nature-loving quartet, the Dysons and the Hillingdons.
“The Hillingdons have been here for the last three or four years at least,” said Esther, “but Gregory Dyson has been here much longer than that. He knows the West Indies very well. He came here, originally, I believe, with his first wife. She was delicate and had to go abroad in the winters, or go somewhere warm, at any rate.”
“And she died? Or was it divorce?”
“No. She died. Out here, I believe. I don't mean this particular island but one of the West Indies islands. There was some sort of trouble, I believe, some kind of scandal or other. He never talks about her. Somebody else told me about it. They didn't, I gather, get on very well together.”
“And then he married this wife. 'Lucky'.” Miss Marple said the word with faint dissatisfaction as if to say “Really, a most incredible name!”
“I believe she was a relation of his first wife.”
“Have they known the Hillingdons a great many years?”
“Oh, I think only since the Hillingdons came out here. Three or four years, not more.”
“The Hillingdons seem very pleasant,” said Miss Marple. “Quiet, of course.”
“Yes. They're both quiet.”
“Everyone says they're very devoted to each other,” said Miss Marple. The tone of her voice was quite noncommittal but Esther Walters looked at her sharply. “But you don't think they are?” she said.
“You don't really think so yourself, do you, my dear?”
“Well, I've wondered sometimes...”
“Quiet men, like Colonel Hillingdon,” said Miss Marple “are often attracted to flamboyant types.” And she added, after a significant pause “Lucky-such a curious name. Do you think Mr. Dyson has any idea of-of what might be going on?”
“Old scandal-monger,” thought Esther Walters. “Really, these old women!”
She said rather coldly, “I've no idea.”
Miss Marple shifted to another subject. “It's very sad about poor Major Palgrave isn't it?” she said.
Esther Walters agreed, though in a somewhat perfunctory fashion. “The people I'm really sorry for are the Kendals,” she said.
“Yes, I suppose it is really rather unfortunate when something of that kind happens in an hotel.”
“People come here, you see, to enjoy themselves, don't they?” said Esther. “To forget about illnesses and deaths and income tax and frozen pipes and all the rest of it. They don't like-” she went on, with a sudden flash of an entirely different manner-“any reminders of mortality.”
Miss Marple laid down her knitting. “Now that is very well put, my dear,” she said, “very well put indeed. Yes, it is as you say.”
“And you see they're quite a young couple,” went on Esther Walters. “They only just took over from the Sandersons six months ago and they're terribly worried about whether they're going to succeed or not, because they haven't had much experience.”
“And you think this might be really disadvantageous to them?”
“Well, no, I don't, frankly,” said Esther Walters. “I don't think people remember anything for more than a day or two, not in this atmosphere of we've-all-come-out-here-to-enjoy-ourselves-let's-get-on-with-it. I think a death just gives them a jolt for about twenty-four hours or so and then they don't think of it again once the funeral is over. Not unless they're reminded of it, that is. I've told Molly so, but of course she is a worrier.”
“Mrs. Kendal is a worrier? She always seems so carefree.”
“I think a lot of that is put on,” said Esther slowly. “Actually, I think she's one of those anxious sort of people who can't help worrying all the time that things may go wrong.”
“I should have thought he worried more than she did.”
“No, I don't think so. I think she's the worrier and he worries because she worries, if you know what I mean.”
“That is interesting,” said Miss Marple.
“I think Molly wants desperately to try and appear very gay and to be enjoying herself. She works at it very hard but the effort exhausts her. Then she has these odd fits of depression. She's not-well not really well-balanced.”
“Poor child,” said Miss Marple. “There certainly are people like that, and very often outsiders don't suspect it.”
“No, they put on such a good show, don't they? However,” Esther added, “I don't think Molly has really anything to worry about in this case. I mean, people are dying of coronary thrombosis or cerebral haemorrhage or things of that kind all the time nowadays. Far more than they used to, as far as I can see. It's only food poisoning or typhoid or something like that, that makes people get het up.”
“Major Palgrave never mentioned to me that he had high blood pressure,” said Miss Marple. “Did he to you?”
“He said so to somebody-I don't know who. It may have been to Mr. Rafiel. I know Mr. Rafiel says just the opposite-but then he's like that! Certainly Jackson mentioned it to me once. He said the Major ought to be more careful over the alcohol he took.”
“I see,” said Miss Marple, thoughtfully. She went on: “I expect you found him rather a boring old man? He told a lot of stories and I expect repeated himself a good deal.”
“That's the worst of it,” said Esther. “You do hear the same story again and again unless you can manage to be quick enough and fend him off.”
“Of course I didn't mind so much,” said Miss Marple, “because I'm used to that sort of thing. If I get stories told to me rather often, I don't really mind hearing them again because I've usually forgotten them.”
“There is that,” said Esther and laughed cheerfully.
“There was one story he was very fond of telling,” said Miss Marple, “about a murder. I expect he told you that, didn't he?”
Esther Walters opened her handbag and started searching through it. She drew out her lipstick saying, “I thought I'd lost it.” Then she asked, “I beg your pardon, what did you say?”
“I asked if Major Palgrave told you his favourite murder story?”
“I believe he did, now I come to think of it. Something about someone who gassed themselves, wasn't it? Only really it was the wife who gassed him. I mean she'd given him a sedative of some kind and then stuck his head in the gas oven. Was that it?”
“I don't think that was exactly it,” said Miss Marple. She looked at Esther Walters thoughtfully.
“He told such a lot of stories,” said Esther Walters, apologetically, “and as I said, one didn't always listen.”
“He had a snapshot,” said Miss Marple, “that he used to show people.”
“I believe he did... I can't remember what it was now. Did he show it to you?”
“No,” said Miss Marple. “He didn't show it to me. We were interrupted-”
A Caribbean Mystery A Caribbean Mystery - Agatha Christie A Caribbean Mystery