I love to lose myself in other men's minds.... Books think for me.

Charles Lamb

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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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Số lần đọc/download: 5641 / 97
Cập nhật: 2015-01-24 12:31:11 +0700
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ou're sure you don't mind, Miss Marple?” said Evelyn Hillingdon.
“No, indeed, my dear,” said Miss Marple. “I'm only too delighted to be of use in any way. At my age, you know, one feels very useless in the world. Especially when I am in a place like this, just enjoying myself. No duties of any kind. No, I'll be delighted to sit with Molly. You go along on your expedition. Pelican Point, wasn't it?”
“Yes,” said Evelyn. “Both Edward and I love it. I never get tired of seeing the birds diving down, catching up the fish. Tim's with Molly now. But he's got things to do and he doesn't seem to like her being left alone.”
“He's quite right,” said Miss Marple. “I wouldn't in his place. One never knows, does one? When anyone has attempted anything of that kind. Well, go along, my dear.”
Evelyn went off to join a little group that was waiting for her. Her husband, the Dysons and three or four other people.
Miss Marple checked her knitting requirements, saw that she had all she wanted with her, and walked over towards the Kendals' bungalow.
As she came up on to the loggia she heard Tim's voice through the half-open French window.
“If you'd only tell me why you did it, Molly. What made you? Was it anything I did? There must be some reason. If you'd only tell me.”
Miss Marple paused. There was a little pause inside before Molly spoke. Her voice was flat and tired.
“I don't know, Tim, I really don't know. I suppose-something came over me.”
Miss Marple tapped on the window and walked in.
“Oh there you are. Miss Marple. It is very good of you.”
“Not at all,” said Miss Marple. “I'm delighted to be of any help. Shall I sit here in this chair? You're looking much better, Molly. I'm so glad.”
“I'm all right,” said Molly. “Quite all right. Just, oh, just sleepy.”
“I shan't talk,” said Miss Marple. '“You just lie quiet and rest. I'll get on with my knitting.”
Tim Kendal threw her a grateful glance and went out. Miss Marple established herself in her chair.
Molly was lying on her left side. She had a half-stupefied, exhausted look. She said in a voice that was almost a whisper: “It's very kind of you. Miss Marple. I-I think I'll go to sleep.”
She half turned away on her pillows and closed her eyes. Her breathing grew more regular though it was still far from normal. Long experience of nursing made Miss Marple almost automatically straighten the sheet and tuck it under the mattress on her side of the bed. As she did so her hand encountered something hard and rectangular under the mattress. Rather surprised she took hold of this and pulled it out. It was a book. Miss Marple threw a quick glance at the girl in the bed, but she lay there utterly quiescent. She was evidently asleep. Miss Marple opened the book. It was, she saw, a current work on nervous diseases. It came open naturally at a certain place which gave a description of the onset of persecution mania and various other manifestations of schizophrenia and allied complaints.
It was not a highly technical book, but one that could be easily understood by a layman. Miss Marple's face grew very grave as she read. After a minute or two she closed the book and stayed thinking.
Then she bent forward and with some care replaced the book where she had found it, under the mattress.
She shook her head in some perplexity. Noiselessly she rose from her chair. She walked the few steps towards the window, then turned her head sharply over her shoulder. Molly's eyes were open but even as Miss Marple turned the eyes shut again. For a minute or two Miss Marple was not quite certain whether she might not have imagined that quick, sharp glance. Was Molly then only pretending to be asleep? That might be natural enough. She might feel that Miss Marple would start talking to her if she showed herself awake. Yes, that could be all it was.
Was she reading into that glance of Molly's a kind of slyness that was somehow innately disagreeable? One doesn't know, Miss Marple thought to herself, one really doesn't know.
She decided that she would try to manage a little talk with Dr. Graham as soon as it could be managed. She came back to her chair by the bed. She decided after about five minutes or so that Molly was really asleep. No one could have lain so still, could have breathed so evenly. Miss Marple got up again. She was wearing her plimsolls today. Not perhaps very elegant, but admirably suited to this climate and comfortable and roomy for the feet.
She moved gently round the bedroom, pausing at both of the windows, which gave out in two different directions.
The hotel grounds seemed quiet and deserted. Miss Marple came back and was standing a little uncertainly before regaining her seat, when she thought she heard a faint sound outside. Like the scrape of a shoe on the loggia? She hesitated a moment then she went to the window, pushed it a little farther open, stepped out and turned her head back into the room as she spoke.
“I shall be gone only a very short time, dear,” she said, “just back to my bungalow, to see where I could possibly have put that pattern. I was so sure I had brought it with me. You'll be quite all right till I come back, won't you?”
Then turning her head back, she nodded to herself. “Asleep, poor child. A good thing.”
She went quietly along the loggia, down the steps and turned sharp right to the path there. Passing along between the screen of some hibiscus bushes an observer might have been curious to see that Miss Marple veered sharply on to the flowerbed, passed round to the back of the bungalow and entered it again through the second door there. This led directly into a small room that Tim sometimes used as an unofficial office and from that into the sitting room.
Here there were wide curtains semi-drawn to keep the room cool. Miss Marple slipped behind one of them. Then she waited. From the window here she had a good view of anyone who approached Molly's bedroom. It was some few minutes, four or five, before she saw anything.
The neat figure of Jackson in his white uniform went up the steps of the loggia.
He paused for a minute at the balcony there, and then appeared to be giving a tiny discreet tap on the door of the window that was ajar. There was no response that Miss Marple could hear. Jackson looked around him, a quick furtive glance, then he slipped inside the open doors. Miss Marple moved to the door which led directly into the bedroom. She did not go through it but applied her eye to the hinge.
Jackson had walked into the room. He approached the bed and looked down for a minute on the sleeping girl. Then he turned away and walked not to the sitting room door but to the far door which led into the adjoining bathroom. Miss Marple's eyebrows rose in slight surprise. She reflected a minute or two, then walked out into the passageway and into the bathroom by the other door.
Jackson spun round from examining the shelf over the wash-basin. He looked taken aback, which was not surprising.
“Oh,” he said, “I-I didn't...”
“Mr. Jackson,” said Miss Marple, in great surprise.
“I thought you would be here somewhere,” said Jackson.
“Did you want anything?” inquired Miss Marple.
“Actually,” said Jackson, “I was just looking at Mrs. Kendal's brand of face cream.”
Miss Marple appreciated the fact that as Jackson was standing with a jar of face cream in his hand he had been adroit in mentioning the fact at once.
“Nice smell,” he said, wrinkling up his nose. “Fairly good stuff, as these preparations go. The cheaper brands don't suit every skin. Bring it out in a rash as likely as not. The same thing with face powders sometimes.”
“You seem to be very knowledgeable on the subject,” said Miss Marple.
“Worked in the pharmaceutical line for a bit,” said Jackson. “One learns to know a good deal about cosmetics there. Put stuff in a fancy jar, package it expensively, and it's astonishing what you could rook women for.”
“Is that what you-?” Miss Marple broke off deliberately.
“Well no, I didn't come in here to talk about cosmetics,” Jackson agreed.
“You've not had much time to think up a lie,” thought Miss Marple to herself. “Let's see what you'll come out with.”
“Matter of fact,” said Jackson, “Mrs. Walters lent her lipstick to Mrs. Kendal the other day. I came in to get it back for her. I tapped on the window and then I saw Mrs. Kendal was fast asleep, so I thought it would be quite all right if I just walked across into the bathroom and looked for it.”
“I see,” said Miss Marple. “And did you find it?”
Jackson shook his head. “Probably in one of her handbags,” he said lightly. “I won't bother. Mrs. Walters didn't make a point of it. She only just mentioned it casually.” He went on, surveying the toilet preparations: “Doesn't have very much, does she? Ah well, doesn't need it at her age. Good natural skin.”
“You must look at women with quite a different eye from ordinary men,” said Miss Marple, smiling pleasantly.
“Yes. I suppose various jobs do alter one's angle.”
“You know a good deal about drugs?”
“Oh yes. Good working acquaintance with them. If you ask me, there are too many of them about nowadays. Too many tranquilisers and pep pills and miracle drugs and all the rest of it. All right if they're given on prescription, but there are too many of them you can get without prescription. Some of them can be dangerous.”
“I suppose so,” said Miss Marple. “Yes, I suppose so.”
“They have a great effect, you know, on behaviour. A lot of this teenage hysteria you get from time to time. It's not natural causes. The kids've been taking things. Oh, there's nothing new about it. It's been known for ages. Out in the East-not that I've ever been there-all sorts of funny things used to happen. You'd be surprised at some of the things women gave their husbands. In India, for example, in the bad old days, a young wife who married an old husband. Didn't want to get rid of him, I suppose, because she'd have been burnt on the funeral pyre, or if she wasn't burnt she'd have been treated as an outcast by the family. No catch to have been a widow in India in those days. But she could keep an elderly husband under drugs, make him semi-imbecile, give him hallucinations, drive him more or less off his head.” He shook his head. “Yes, lot of dirty work.”
He went on: “And witches, you know. There's a lot of interesting things known now about witches. Why did they always confess, why did they admit so readily that they were witches, that they had flown on broomsticks to the Witches' Sabbath.”
“Torture,” said Miss Marple.
“Not always,” said Jackson. “Oh yes, torture accounted for a lot of it, but they came out with some of those confessions almost before torture was mentioned. They didn't so much confess as boast about it. Well, they rubbed themselves with ointments, you know. Anointing they used to call it. Some of the preparations, belladonna, atropine, all that sort of thing, if you rub them on the skin they give you hallucinations of levitation, of flying through the air. They thought it all was genuine, poor devils. And look at the Assassins-medieval people, out in Syria, the Lebanon, somewhere like that. They fed them Indian hemp, gave them hallucinations of paradise and houris, and endless time. They were told that that was what would happen to them after death, but to attain it they had to go and do a ritual killing. Oh, I'm not putting it in fancy language, but that's what it came to.”
“What it came to,” said Miss Marple, “is in essence the fact that people are highly credulous.”
“Well yes, I suppose you could put it like that.”
“They believe what they are told,” said Miss Marple. “Yes indeed, we're all inclined to do that,” she added. Then she said sharply. “Who told you these stories about India, about the doping of husbands with datura,” and she added sharply, before he could answer, “Was it Major Palgrave?”
Jackson looked slightly surprised.
“Well-yes, as a matter of fact, it was. He told me a lot of stories like that. Of course most of it must have been before his time, but he seemed to know all about it.”
“Major Palgrave was under the impression that he knew a lot about everything,” said Miss Marple. “He was often inaccurate in what he told people.” She shook her head thoughtfully. “Major Palgrave,” she said, “has a lot to answer for.”
There was a slight sound from the adjoining bedroom. Miss Marple turned her head sharply. She went quickly out of the bathroom into the bedroom. Lucky Dyson was standing just inside the window.
“I-oh! I didn't think you were here, Miss Marple.”
“I just stepped into the bathroom for a moment,” said Miss Marple, with dignity and a faint air of Victorian reserve.
In the bathroom, Jackson grinned broadly. Victorian modesty always amused him.
“I just wondered if you'd like me to sit with Molly for a bit,” said Lucky. She looked over towards the bed. “She's asleep, isn't she?”
“I think so,” said Miss Marple. “But it's really quite all right. You go and amuse yourself, my dear. I thought you'd gone on that expedition?”
“I was going,” said Lucky, “but I had such a filthy headache that at the last moment I cried off. So I thought I might as well make myself useful.”
“That was very nice of you,” said Miss Marple. She reseated herself by the bed and resumed her knitting, “but I'm quite happy here.”
Lucky hesitated for a moment or two and then turned away and went out.
Miss Marple waited a moment then tiptoed back into the bathroom, but Jackson had departed, no doubt through the other door. Miss Marple picked up the jar of face cream he had been holding, and slipped it into her pocket.
A Caribbean Mystery A Caribbean Mystery - Agatha Christie A Caribbean Mystery