Tape Measure Murder: A Miss Marple Short Story Agatha Christie A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.Miss Politt has been waiting and waiting outside Laburnum Cottage for Mrs. Spenlow, to no avail. She nervously acquires the help of the next door neighbour whose gumption and persistence reveal that Mrs. Spenlow is dead on the hearthrug. The whole of St. Mary Mead are convinced it’s Mr. Spenlow, who has shown no emotion upon his wife’s sudden death, but, with Miss Marple’s characteristic assiduity she shows that it is perhaps not that simple. And when people’s pasts catch up with them, it can make them act rashly. Tape-Measure Murder A Short Story by Agatha Christie Copyright 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: 9780007452040 Version: 2017-04-18 Contents Cover (#u507740ef-2f11-527a-9c9f-1be6de316c71) Title Page (#ucd9d4747-8eb7-5a8a-845f-ba1811a124b2) Copyright Tape-Measure Murder Related Products (#litres_trial_promo) About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo) Tape-Measure Murder ‘Tape-Measure Murder’ was first published in the USA in This Week, 16 November 1941, and then as ‘The Case of the Retired Jeweller’ in Strand Magazine, February 1942. Miss Politt took hold of the knocker and rapped politely on the cottage door. After a discreet interval she knocked again. The parcel under her left arm shifted a little as she did so, and she readjusted it. Inside the parcel was Mrs Spenlow’s new green winter dress, ready for fitting. From Miss Politt’s left hand dangled a bag of black silk, containing a tape measure, a pincushion, and a large, practical pair of scissors. Miss Politt was tall and gaunt, with a sharp nose, pursed lips, and meagre iron-grey hair. She hesitated before using the knocker for the third time. Glancing down the street, she saw a figure rapidly approaching. Miss Hartnell, jolly, weather-beaten, fifty-five, shouted out in her usual loud bass voice, ‘Good afternoon, Miss Politt!’ The dressmaker answered, ‘Good afternoon, Miss Hartnell.’ Her voice was excessively thin and genteel in its accents. She had started life as a lady’s maid. ‘Excuse me,’ she went on, ‘but do you happen to know if by any chance Mrs Spenlow isn’t at home?’ ‘Not the least idea,’ said Miss Hartnell. ‘It’s rather awkward, you see. I was to fit on Mrs Spenlow’s new dress this afternoon. Three-thirty, she said.’ Miss Hartnell consulted her wrist watch. ‘It’s a little past the half-hour now.’ ‘Yes. I have knocked three times, but there doesn’t seem to be any answer, so I was wondering if perhaps Mrs Spenlow might have gone out and forgotten. She doesn’t forget appointments as a rule, and she wants the dress to wear the day after tomorrow.’ Miss Hartnell entered the gate and walked up the path to join Miss Politt outside the door of Laburnum Cottage. ‘Why doesn’t Gladys answer the door?’ she demanded. ‘Oh, no, of course, it’s Thursday – Gladys’s day out. I expect Mrs Spenlow has fallen asleep. I don’t expect you’ve made enough noise with this thing.’ Seizing the knocker, she executed a deafening rat-a-tat-tat, and in addition thumped upon the panels of the door. She also called out in a stentorian voice, ‘What ho, within there!’ There was no response. Miss Politt murmured, ‘Oh, I think Mrs Spenlow must have forgotten and gone out, I’ll call round some other time.’ She began edging away down the path. ‘Nonsense,’ said Miss Hartnell firmly. ‘She can’t have gone out. I’d have met her. I’ll just take a look through the windows and see if I can find any signs of life.’ She laughed in her usual hearty manner, to indicate that it was a joke, and applied a perfunctory glance to the nearest window-pane – perfunctory because she knew quite well that the front room was seldom used, Mr and Mrs Spenlow preferring the small back sitting-room. Perfunctory as it was, though, it succeeded in its object. Miss Hartnell, it is true, saw no signs of life. On the contrary, she saw, through the window, Mrs Spenlow lying on the hearthrug – dead. ‘Of course,’ said Miss Hartnell, telling the story afterwards, ‘I managed to keep my head. That Politt creature wouldn’t have had the least idea of what to do. “Got to keep our heads,” I said to her. “You stay here, and I’ll go for Constable Palk.” She said something about not wanting to be left, but I paid no attention at all. One has to be firm with that sort of person. I’ve always found they enjoy making a fuss. So I was just going off when, at that very moment, Mr Spenlow came round the corner of the house.’ Here Miss Hartnell made a significant pause. It enabled her audience to ask breathlessly, ‘Tell me, how did he look?’ Miss Hartnell would then go on, ‘Frankly, I suspected something at once! He was far too calm. He didn’t seem surprised in the least. And you may say what you like, it isn’t natural for a man to hear that his wife is dead and display no emotion whatever.’ Everybody agreed with this statement. The police agreed with it, too. So suspicious did they consider Mr Spenlow’s detachment, that they lost no time in ascertaining how that gentleman was situated as a result of his wife’s death. When they discovered that Mrs Spenlow had been the monied partner, and that her money went to her husband under a will made soon after their marriage, they were more suspicious than ever. Miss Marple, that sweet-faced – and, some said, vinegar-tongued – elderly spinster who lived in the house next to the rectory, was interviewed very early – within half an hour of the discovery of the crime. She was approached by Police Constable Palk, importantly thumbing a notebook. ‘If you don’t mind, ma’am, I’ve a few questions to ask you.’ Miss Marple said, ‘In connection with the murder of Mrs Spenlow?’ Palk was startled. ‘May I ask, madam, how you got to know of it?’ ‘The fish,’ said Miss Marple. The reply was perfectly intelligible to Constable Palk. He assumed correctly that the fishmonger’s boy had brought it, together with Miss Marple’s evening meal. Miss Marple continued gently. ‘Lying on the floor in the sitting-room, strangled – possibly by a very narrow belt. But whatever it was, it was taken away.’ Palk’s face was wrathful. ‘How that young Fred gets to know everything –’ Miss Marple cut him short adroitly. She said, ‘There’s a pin in your tunic.’ Constable Palk looked down, startled. He said, ‘They do say, “See a pin and pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck.”’ Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». 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