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Herbert Bayard Swope

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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 9 - MISS PRESCOTT AND OTHERS
he story I heard,” began Miss Prescott, lowering her voice, and looking carefully around.
Miss Marple drew her chair a little closer. It had been some time before she had been able to get together with Miss Prescott for a heart-to-heart chat. This was owing to the fact that clergymen are very strong family men so that Miss Prescott was nearly always accompanied by her brother, and there was no doubt that Miss Marple and Miss Prescott found it less easy to take their back hair down in a good gossip when the jovial Canon was of their company.
“It seems,” said Miss Prescott, “though of course I don't want to talk any scandal and I really know nothing about it-”
“Oh, I quite understand,” said Miss Marple.
“It seems there was some scandal when his first wife was still alive! Apparently this woman, Lucky-such a name!-who I think was a cousin of his first wife, came out here and joined them and I think did some work with him on flowers or butterflies or whatever it was. And people talked a lot because they got on so well together-if you know what I mean.”
“People do notice things so much, don't they,” said Miss Marple.
“And then of course, when his wife died rather suddenly-”
“She died here, on this island?”
“No. No, I think they were in Martinique or Tobago at the time.”
“I see.”
“But I gathered from some other people who were there at the time, and who came on here and talked about things, that the doctor wasn't very satisfied.”
“Indeed,” said Miss Marple, with interest.
“It was only gossip,” of course, “but-well, Mr. Dyson certainly married again very quickly.” She lowered her voice again. “Only a month I believe.”
“Only a month,” said Miss Marple.
The two women looked at each other.
“It seemed-unfeeling,” said Miss Prescott.
“Yes,” said Miss Marple. “It certainly did.” She added delicately, “Was there-any money?”
“I don't really know. He makes his little joke-perhaps you've heard him-about this wife being his 'lucky piece'-”
“Yes, I've heard him,” said Miss Marple.
“And some people think that means that he was lucky to marry a rich wife. Though, of course,” said Miss Prescott with the air of one being entirely fair, “she's very good-looking too, if you care for that type. And I think myself that it was the first wife who had the money.”
“Are the Hillingdons well off?”
“Well, I think they're well off, I don't mean fabulously rich, I just mean well off. They have two boys at Public School and a very nice place in England, I believe, and they travel most of the winter.”
The Canon appearing at this moment to suggest a brisk walk. Miss Prescott rose to join her brother. Miss Marple remained sitting there.
A few minutes later Gregory Dyson passed her striding along towards the hotel. He waved a cheerful hand as he passed.
“Penny for your thoughts,” he called out.
Miss Marple smiled gently, wondering how he would have reacted if she had replied: “I was wondering if you were a murderer.”
It really seemed most probable that he was. It all fitted in so nicely, this story about the death of the first Mrs. Dyson. Major Palgrave had certainly been talking about a wife killer-with special reference to the “Brides in the Bath Case”. Yes. It fitted. The only objection was that it fitted almost too well. But Miss Marple reproved herself for this thought. Who was she to demand Murders Made to Measure?
A voice made her jump-a somewhat raucous one.
“Seen Greg any place. Miss-er-”
Lucky, Miss Marple thought, was not in a good temper. “He passed by just now-going towards the hotel.”
“I'll bet!” Lucky uttered an irritated ejaculation and hurried on.
“Forty, if she's a day, and looks it this morning,” thought Miss Marple. Pity invaded her. Pity for the Luckys of the world, who were so vulnerable to Time. At the sound of a noise behind her, she turned her chair round.
Mr. Rafiel, supported by Jackson, was making his morning appearance and coming out of his bungalow.
Jackson settled his employer in his wheelchair and fussed round him. Mr. Rafiel waved his attendant away impatiently and Jackson went off in the direction of the hotel.
Miss Marple lost no time. Mr. Rafiel was never left alone for long. Probably Esther Walters would come and join him. Miss Marple wanted a word alone with Mr. Rafiel and now, she thought, was her chance. She would have to be quick about what she wanted to say. There could be no leading up to things. Mr. Rafiel was not a man who cared for the idle twittering conversation of old ladies. He would probably retreat again into his bungalow, definitely regarding himself the victim of persecution. Miss Marple decided to plump for downrightness.
She made her way to where he was sitting, drew up a chair, sat down, and said: “I want to ask you something, Mr. Rafiel.”
“All right, all right,” said Mr. Rafiel, “let's have it. What do you want-a subscription, I suppose? Missions in Africa or repairing a church, something of that kind?”
“Yes,” said Miss Marple. “I am interested in several objects of that nature, and I shall be delighted if you will give me a subscription for them. But that wasn't actually what I was going to ask you. What I was going to ask you was if Major Palgrave ever told you a story about a murder.”
“Oho,” said Mr. Rafiel. “So he told it to you too, did he? And I suppose you fell for it, hook line and sinker.”
“I didn't really know what to think,” said Miss Marple. “What exactly did he tell you?”
“He prattled on,” said Mr. Rafiel, “about a lovely creature, Lucrezia Borgia reincarnated. Beautiful, young, golden-haired, everything.”
“Oh,” said Miss Marple slightly taken aback, “and who did she murder?”
“Her husband, of course,” said Mr. Rafiel, “who do you think?”
“Poison?”
“No, I think she gave him a sleeping draught and then stuck him in a gas oven. Resourceful female. Then she said it was suicide. She got off quite lightly. Diminished responsibility or something. That's what it's called nowadays if you're a good-looking woman, or some miserable young hooligan whose mother's been too fond of him. Bah!”
“Did the Major show you a snapshot?”
“What-a snapshot of the woman? No. Why should he?”
“Oh-” said Miss Marple. She sat there, rather taken aback. Apparently Major Palgrave spent his life telling people not only about tigers he had shot and elephants he had hunted but also about murderers he had met. Perhaps he had a whole repertoire of murder stories. One had to face it. She was startled by Mr. Rafiel suddenly giving a roar of “Jackson!” There was no response.
“Shall I find him for you?” said Miss Marple rising.
“You won't find him. Tomcatting somewhere, that's what he does. No good, that fellow. Bad character. But he suits me all right.”
“I'll go and look for him,” said Miss Marple.
Miss Marple found Jackson sitting on the far side of the hotel terrace having a drink with Tim Kendal.
“Mr. Rafiel is asking for you,” she said.
Jackson made an expressive grimace, drained his glass, and rose to his feet.
“Here we go again,” he said. “No peace for the wicked. Two telephone calls and a special diet order. I thought that might give me a quarter of an hour's alibi. Apparently not! Thank you Miss Marple. Thanks for the drink, Mr. Kendal.”
He strode away.
“I feel sorry for that chap,” said Tim. “I have to stand him a drink now and then, just to cheer him up. Can I offer you something, Miss Marple? How about fresh lime? I know you're fond of that.”
''Not just now, thank you. I suppose looking after someone like Mr. Rafiel must always be rather exacting. Invalids are frequently difficult-"
“I didn't mean only that. It's very well paid and you expect to put up with a good deal of crotchetiness-old Rafiel's not really a bad sort. I meant more that-” he hesitated.
Miss Marple looked inquiring.
“Well-how shall I put it-it's difficult for him socially. People are so damned snobbish-there's no one here of his class. He's better than a servant-and below the average visitor-or they think he is. Rather like the Victorian governess. Even the secretary woman, Mrs. Walters, feels she's a cut above him. Makes things difficult.” Tim paused, then said with feeling: “It's really awful the amount of social problems there are in a place like this.”
Dr. Graham passed them. He had a book in his hand. He went and sat at a table overlooking the sea.
“Dr. Graham looks rather worried,” remarked Miss Marple.
“Oh! We're all worried.”
“You too? Because of Major Palgrave's death?”
“I've left off worrying about that. People seem to have forgotten it-taken it in their stride. No-it's my wife-Molly. Do you know anything about dreams?”
“Dreams?” Miss Marple was surprised.
“Yes-bad dreams-nightmares, I suppose. Oh, we all get that sort of thing sometimes. But Molly-she seems to have them nearly all the time. They frighten her. Is there anything one can do about them? Take for them? She's got some sleeping pills, but she says they make it worse-she struggles to wake up and can't.”
“What are the dreams about?”
“Oh, something or someone chasing her. Or watching her and spying on her. She can't shake off the feeling even when she's awake.”
“Surely a doctor-”
“She's got a thing against doctors. Won't hear of it. Oh well, I daresay it will all pass off. But we were so happy. It was all such fun- And now, just lately- Perhaps old Palgrave's death upset her. She seems like a different person since...”
He got up.
“Must get on with the daily chores-are you sure you won't have that fresh lime?”
Miss Marple shook her head.
She sat there, thinking. Her face was grave and anxious. She glanced over at Dr. Graham. Presently she came to a decision. She rose and went across to his table.
“I have got to apologise to you. Dr. Graham,” she said.
“Indeed?” The doctor looked at her in kindly surprise. He pulled forward a chair and she sat down.
“I am afraid I have done the most disgraceful thing,” said Miss Marple. “I told you, Dr. Graham, a deliberate lie.”
She looked at him apprehensively.
Dr. Graham did not look at all shattered, but he did look a little surprised. “Really?” he said. “Ah well, you mustn't let that worry you too much.” What had the dear old thing been telling lies about, he wondered; her age? Though as far as he could remember she hadn't mentioned her age. “Well, let's hear about it,” he said, since she clearly wished to confess.
“You remember my speaking to you about a snapshot of my nephew, one that I showed to Major Palgrave, and that he didn't give back to me?”
“Yes, yes, of course I remember. Sorry we couldn't find it for you.”
“There wasn't any such thing,” said Miss Marple, in a small, frightened voice.
“I beg your pardon?”
“There wasn't any such thing. I made up that story, I'm afraid.”
“You made it up?” Dr. Graham looked slightly annoyed. “Why?”
Miss Marple told him. She told him quite clearly, without twittering. She told him about Major Palgrave's murder story and how he'd been about to show her this particular snapshot and his sudden confusion and then she went on to her own anxiety and to her final decision to try somehow to obtain a view of it.
“And really, I couldn't see any way of doing so without telling you something that was quite untrue,” she said, “I do hope you will forgive me.”
“You thought that what he had been about to show you was a picture of a murderer?”
“That's what he said it was,” said Miss Marple. “At least he said it was given him by this acquaintance who had told him the story about a man who was a murderer.”
“Yes, yes. And-excuse me-you believed him?”
“I don't know if I really believed him or not at the time,” said Miss Marple. “But then, you see, the next day he died.”
“Yes,” said Dr. Graham, struck suddenly by the clarity of that one sentence. The next day he died...
“And the snapshot had disappeared.”
Dr. Graham looked at her. He didn't quite know what to say.
“Excuse, Miss Marple,” he said at last, “but is what you're telling me now-is it really true this time?”
“I don't wonder your doubting me,” said Miss Marple. “I should, in your place. Yes, it is true what I am telling you now, but I quite realise that you have only my word for it. Still, even if you don't believe me, I thought I ought to tell you.”
“Why?”
“I realised that you ought to have the fullest information possible. In case-”
“In case what?”
“In case you decided to take any steps about it.”
A Caribbean Mystery A Caribbean Mystery - Agatha Christie A Caribbean Mystery