Philomel Cottage: An Agatha Christie Short Story Agatha Christie A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.Recently swept off her feet, after a week of courting, the newly married Alix Martin is a woman obsessed by a reoccurring dream of her new husband’s murder. Each time she can see the murderer clearly and it is the mild mannered man she had almost married wreaking his revenge. But, what is worse is that at the end of the dream she thanks the murderer. Alix, perplexed and confused calms herself in their pretty garden when their gardener, two days early, wishes her a happy trip and says he’s sad to hear that the couple may never return. More than perplexed Alix is now scared, is the simple gardener confused or is she? Philomel Cottage A Short Story by Agatha Christie Copyright (#u40d28195-3d00-5bc1-ac3d-d4f7a8a58ad4) Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk) Copyright © 2011 Agatha Christie Ltd. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books. EPub Edition © 2011 ISBN: 9780007452156 Version: 2017-04-18 Contents Cover (#u2077b846-7c89-50eb-ae72-3aaa176b2e03) Title Page (#u726e75ca-f39d-5b38-b14d-45635f573f34) Copyright Philomel Cottage Related Products (#litres_trial_promo) About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo) Philomel Cottage (#ulink_0c68fa27-7092-506a-882d-1c6a3eded8d5) ‘Philomel Cottage’ was first published in Grand Magazine, November 1924. ‘Goodbye, darling.’ ‘Goodbye, sweetheart.’ Alix Martin stood leaning over the small rustic gate, watching the retreating figure of her husband as he walked down the road in the direction of the village. Presently he turned a bend and was lost to sight, but Alix still stayed in the same position, absentmindedly smoothing a lock of the rich brown hair which had blown across her face, her eyes far away and dreamy. Alix Martin was not beautiful, nor even, strictly speaking, pretty. But her face, the face of a woman no longer in her first youth, was irradiated and softened until her former colleagues of the old office days would hardly have recognized her. Miss Alex King had been a trim business-like young woman, efficient, slightly brusque in manner, obviously capable and matter-of-fact. Alix had graduated in a hard school. For fifteen years, from the age of eighteen until she was thirty-three, she had kept herself (and for seven years of the time an invalid mother) by her work as a shorthand typist. It was the struggle for existence which had hardened the soft lines of her girlish face. True, there had been romance – of a kind – Dick Windyford, a fellow-clerk. Very much of a woman at heart, Alix had always known without seeming to know that he cared. Outwardly they had been friends, nothing more. Out of his slender salary Dick had been hard put to it to provide for the schooling of a younger brother. For the moment he could not think of marriage. And then suddenly deliverance from daily toil had come to the girl in the most unexpected manner. A distant cousin had died, leaving her money to Alix – a few thousand pounds, enough to bring in a couple of hundred a year. To Alix it was freedom, life, independence. Now she and Dick need wait no longer. But Dick reacted unexpectedly. He had never directly spoken of his love to Alix; now he seemed less inclined to do so than ever. He avoided her, became morose and gloomy. Alix was quick to realize the truth. She had become a woman of means. Delicacy and pride stood in the way of Dick’s asking her to be his wife. She liked him none the worse for it, and was indeed deliberating as to whether she herself might not take the first step, when for the second time the unexpected descended upon her. She met Gerald Martin at a friend’s house. He fell violently in love with her and within a week they were engaged. Alix, who had always considered herself ‘not the falling-in-love kind’, was swept clean off her feet. Unwittingly she had found the way to arouse her former lover. Dick Windyford had come to her stammering with rage and anger. ‘The man’s a perfect stranger to you! You know nothing about him!’ ‘I know that I love him.’ ‘How can you know – in a week?’ ‘It doesn’t take everyone eleven years to find out that they’re in love with a girl,’ cried Alix angrily. His face went white. ‘I’ve cared for you ever since I met you. I thought that you cared also.’ Alix was truthful. ‘I thought so too,’ she admitted. ‘But that was because I didn’t know what love was.’ Then Dick had burst out again. Prayers, entreaties, even threats – threats against the man who had supplanted him. It was amazing to Alix to see the volcano that existed beneath the reserved exterior of the man she had thought she knew so well. Her thoughts went back to that interview now, on this sunny morning, as she leant on the gate of the cottage. She had been married a month, and she was idyllically happy. Yet, in the momentary absence of the husband who was everything to her, a tinge of anxiety invaded her perfect happiness. And the cause of that anxiety was Dick Windyford. Three times since her marriage she had dreamed the same dream. The environment differed, but the main facts were always the same. She saw her husband lying dead and Dick Windyford standing over him, and she knew clearly and distinctly that his was the hand which had dealt the fatal blow. But horrible though that was, there was something more horrible still – horrible, that was, on awakening, for in the dream it seemed perfectly natural and inevitable. She, Alix Martin, was glad that her husband was dead; she stretched out grateful hands to the murderer, sometimes she thanked him. The dream always ended the same way, with herself clasped in Dick Windyford’s arms. She had said nothing of this dream to her husband, but secretly it had perturbed her more than she liked to admit. Was it a warning – a warning against Dick Windyford? Alix was roused from her thoughts by the sharp ringing of the telephone bell from within the house. She entered the cottage and picked up the receiver. Suddenly she swayed, and put out a hand against the wall. ‘Who did you say was speaking?’ ‘Why, Alix, what’s the matter with your voice? I wouldn’t have known it. It’s Dick.’ ‘Oh!’ said Alix. ‘Oh! Where – where are you?’ ‘At the Traveller’s Arms – that’s the right name, isn’t it? Or don’t you even know of the existence of your village pub? I’m on my holiday – doing a bit of fishing here. Any objection to my looking you two good people up this evening after dinner?’ ‘No,’ said Alix sharply. ‘You mustn’t come.’ There was a pause, and then Dick’s voice, with a subtle alteration in it, spoke again. ‘I beg your pardon,’ he said formally. ‘Of course I won’t bother you –’ Alix broke in hastily. He must think her behaviour too extraordinary. It was extraordinary. Her nerves must be all to pieces. ‘I only meant that we were – engaged tonight,’ she explained, trying to make her voice sound as natural as possible. ‘Won’t you – won’t you come to dinner tomorrow night?’ But Dick evidently noticed the lack of cordiality in her tone. ‘Thanks very much,’ he said, in the same formal voice, ‘but I may be moving on any time. Depends if a pal of mine turns up or not. Goodbye, Alix.’ He paused, and then added hastily, in a different tone: ‘Best of luck to you, my dear.’ Alix hung up the receiver with a feeling of relief. ‘He mustn’t come here,’ she repeated to herself. ‘He mustn’t come here. Oh, what a fool I am! To imagine myself into a state like this. All the same, I’m glad he’s not coming.’ She caught up a rustic rush hat from a table, and passed out into the garden again, pausing to look up at the name carved over the porch: Philomel Cottage. ‘Isn’t it a very fanciful name?’ she had said to Gerald once before they were married. He had laughed. ‘You little Cockney,’ he had said, affectionately. ‘I don’t believe you have ever heard a nightingale. I’m glad you haven’t. Nightingales should sing only for lovers. We’ll hear them together on a summer’s evening outside our own home.’ And at the remembrance of how they had indeed heard them, Alix, standing in the doorway of her home, blushed happily. It was Gerald who had found Philomel Cottage. He had come to Alix bursting with excitement. He had found the very spot for them – unique – a gem – the chance of a lifetime. And when Alix had seen it she too was captivated. It was true that the situation was rather lonely – they were two miles from the nearest village – but the cottage itself was so exquisite with its old-world appearance, and its solid comfort of bathrooms, hot-water system, electric light, and telephone, that she fell a victim to its charm immediately. And then a hitch occurred. The owner, a rich man who had made it his whim, declined to let it. He would only sell. Gerald Martin, though possessed of a good income, was unable to touch his capital. He could raise at most a thousand pounds. The owner was asking three. But Alix, who had set her heart on the place, came to the rescue. Her own capital was easily realized, being in bearer bonds. She would contribute half of it to the purchase of the home. So Philomel Cottage became their very own, and never for a minute had Alix regretted the choice. It was true that servants did not appreciate the rural solitude – indeed, at the moment they had none at all – but Alix, who had been starved of domestic life, thoroughly enjoyed cooking dainty little meals and looking after the house. The garden, which was magnificently stocked with flowers, was attended by an old man from the village who came twice a week. As she rounded the corner of the house, Alix was surprised to see the old gardener in question busy over the flower-beds. She was surprised because his days for work were Mondays and Fridays, and today was Wednesday. ‘Why, George, what are you doing here?’ she asked, as she came towards him. The old man straightened up with a chuckle, touching the brim of an aged cap. ‘I thought as how you’d be surprised, ma’am. But ’tis this way. There be a fête over to Squire’s on Friday, and I sez to myself, I sez, neither Mr Martin nor yet his good lady won’t take it amiss if I comes for once on a Wednesday instead of a Friday.’ ‘That’s quite all right,’ said Alix. ‘I hope you’ll enjoy yourself at the fête.’ ‘I reckon to,’ said George simply. ‘It’s a fine thing to be able to eat your fill and know all the time as it’s not you as is paying for it. Squire allus has a proper sit-down tea for ’is tenants. Then I thought too, ma’am, as I might as well see you before you goes away so as to learn your wishes for the borders. You have no idea when you’ll be back, ma’am, I suppose?’ ‘But I’m not going away.’ George stared. ‘Bain’t you going to Lunnon tomorrow?’ Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/agata-kristi/philomel-cottage-an-agatha-christie-short-story/?lfrom=334617187) на ЛитРес. 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