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The Dead Harlequin: An Agatha Christie Short Story Agatha Christie A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.When Mr. Satterthswaite visits a new exhibit at the Harchester Galleries there is one painting with a male figure that bares a more than unusual likeness to a mysterious acquaintance of his, a Mr. Quin. And with one bold move purchases the canvas on the spot, and in another invites the artist of ‘The Dead Harlequin’ to dine with him that night. The dinner gets off on the wrong foot with the artist emphatically disagreeing with most points and an empty place at the table ready for the mysterious Mr. Quin to arrive. Conversation soon turns to the setting of ‘The Dead Harlequin,’ the doomed and ghostly house, Charnley, where so many have perished under tragic circumstances. But when a new guest is announced, it is not the expected Mr. Quin, but, famed stage comic actress Aspasia Glen, and she wants, above all else, that very painting. But, in the very moment he begins to explain she can’t have it a frantic telephone call from Alix Charnley herself interrupts them with the very same request. What is the meaning of the painting, and can it shed any light upon the grave happenings at Charnley. The Dead Harlequin 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: 9780007452101 Version: 2017-04-18 Contents Cover (#u4c59e19f-bb97-55a2-9fca-b534da48fa97) Title Page (#u0178cb24-8cf1-578c-b2f0-5e9e1f2c9ee4) Copyright The Dead Harlequin Related Products (#litres_trial_promo) About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo) The Dead Harlequin ‘The Dead Harlequin’ was first published in Grand Magazine, March 1929. Mr Satterthwaite walked slowly up Bond Street enjoying the sunshine. He was, as usual, carefully and beautifully dressed, and was bound for the Harchester Galleries where there was an exhibition of the paintings of one Frank Bristow, a new and hitherto unknown artist who showed signs of suddenly becoming the rage. Mr Satterthwaite was a patron of the arts. As Mr Satterthwaite entered the Harchester Galleries, he was greeted at once with a smile of pleased recognition. ‘Good morning, Mr Satterthwaite, I thought we should see you before long. You know Bristow’s work? Fine – very fine indeed. Quite unique of its kind.’ Mr Satterthwaite purchased a catalogue and stepped through the open archway into the long room where the artist’s works were displayed. They were water colours, executed with such extraordinary technique and finish that they resembled coloured etchings. Mr Satterthwaite walked slowly round the walls scrutinizing and, on the whole, approving. He thought that this young man deserved to arrive. Here was originality, vision, and a most severe and exacting technique. There were crudities, of course. That was only to be expected – but there was also something closely allied to genius. Mr Satterthwaite paused before a little masterpiece representing Westminster Bridge with its crowd of buses, trams and hurrying pedestrians. A tiny thing and wonderfully perfect. It was called, he noted, The Ant Heap. He passed on and quite suddenly drew in his breath with a gasp, his imagination held and riveted. The picture was called The Dead Harlequin. The forefront of it represented a floor of inlaid squares of black and white marble. In the middle of the floor lay Harlequin on his back with his arms outstretched, in his motley of black and red. Behind him was a window and outside that window, gazing in at the figure on the floor, was what appeared to be the same man silhouetted against the red glow of the setting sun. The picture excited Mr Satterthwaite for two reasons, the first was that he recognized, or thought that he recognized, the face of the man in the picture. It bore a distinct resemblance to a certain Mr Quin, an acquaintance whom Mr Satterthwaite had encountered once or twice under somewhat mystifying circumstances. ‘Surely I can’t be mistaken,’ he murmured. ‘If it is so – what does it mean?’ For it had been Mr Satterthwaite’s experience that every appearance of Mr Quin had some distinct significance attaching to it. There was, as already mentioned, a second reason for Mr Satterthwaite’s interest. He recognized the scene of the picture. ‘The Terrace Room at Charnley,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Curious – and very interesting.’ He looked with more attention at the picture, wondering what exactly had been in the artist’s mind. One Harlequin dead on the floor, another Harlequin looking through the window – or was it the same Harlequin? He moved slowly along the walls gazing at other pictures with unseeing eyes, with his mind always busy on the same subject. He was excited. Life, which had seemed a little drab this morning, was drab no longer. He knew quite certainly that he was on the threshold of exciting and interesting events. He crossed to the table where sat Mr Cobb, a dignitary of the Harchester Galleries, whom he had known for many years. ‘I have a fancy for buying no. 39,’ he said, ‘if it is not already sold.’ Mr Cobb consulted a ledger. ‘The pick of the bunch,’ he murmured, ‘quite a little gem, isn’t it? No, it is not sold.’ He quoted a price. ‘It is a good investment, Mr Satterthwaite. You will have to pay three times as much for it this time next year.’ ‘That is always said on these occasions,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, smiling. ‘Well, and haven’t I been right?’ demanded Mr Cobb. ‘I don’t believe if you were to sell your collection, Mr Satterthwaite, that a single picture would fetch less than you gave for it.’ ‘I will buy this picture,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘I will give you a cheque now.’ ‘You won’t regret it. We believe in Bristow.’ ‘He is a young man?’ ‘Twenty-seven or eight, I should say.’ ‘I should like to meet him,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Perhaps he will come and dine with me one night?’ ‘I can give you his address. I am sure he would leap at the chance. Your name stands for a good deal in the artistic world.’ ‘You flatter me,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, and was going on when Mr Cobb interrupted: ‘Here he is now. I will introduce you to him right away.’ He rose from behind his table. Mr Satterthwaite accompanied him to where a big, clumsy young man was leaning against the wall surveying the world at large from behind the barricade of a ferocious scowl. Mr Cobb made the necessary introductions and Mr Satterthwaite made a formal and gracious little speech. ‘I have just had the pleasure of acquiring one of your pictures – The Dead Harlequin.’ ‘Oh! Well, you won’t lose by it,’ said Mr Bristow ungraciously. ‘It’s a bit of damned good work, although I say it.’ ‘I can see that,’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Your work interests me very much, Mr Bristow. It is extraordinarily mature for so young a man. I wonder if you would give me the pleasure of dining with me one night? Are you engaged this evening?’ ‘As a matter of fact, I am not,’ said Mr Bristow, still with no overdone appearance of graciousness. ‘Then shall we say eight o’clock?’ said Mr Satterthwaite. ‘Here is my card with the address on it.’ ‘Oh, all right,’ said Mr Bristow. ‘Thanks,’ he added as a somewhat obvious afterthought. ‘A young man who has a poor opinion of himself and is afraid that the world should share it.’ Such was Mr Satterthwaite’s summing up as he stepped out into the sunshine of Bond Street, and Mr Satterthwaite’s judgment of his fellow men was seldom far astray. Frank Bristow arrived about five minutes past eight to find his host and a third guest awaiting him. The other guest was introduced as a Colonel Monckton. They went in to dinner almost immediately. There was a fourth place laid at the oval mahogany table and Mr Satterthwaite uttered a word of explanation. ‘I half expected my friend, Mr Quin, might drop in,’ he said. ‘I wonder if you have ever met him. Mr Harley Quin?’ ‘I never meet people,’ growled Bristow. Colonel Monckton stared at the artist with the detached interest he might have accorded to a new species of jelly fish. Mr Satterthwaite exerted himself to keep the ball of conversation rolling amicably. ‘I took a special interest in that picture of yours because I thought I recognized the scene of it as being the Terrace Room at Charnley. Was I right?’ As the artist nodded, he went on. ‘That is very interesting. I have stayed at Charnley several times myself in the past. Perhaps you know some of the family?’ ‘No, I don’t!’ said Bristow. ‘That sort of family wouldn’t care to know me. I went there in a charabanc.’ ‘Dear me,’ said Colonel Monckton for the sake of saying something. ‘In a charabanc! Dear me.’ Frank Bristow scowled at him. ‘Why not?’ he demanded ferociously. Poor Colonel Monckton was taken aback. He looked reproachfully at Mr Satterthwaite as though to say: ‘These primitive forms of life may be interesting to you as a naturalist, but why drag me in?’ ‘Oh, beastly things, charabancs!’ he said. ‘They jolt you so going over the bumps.’ ‘If you can’t afford a Rolls Royce you have got to go in charabancs,’ said Bristow fiercely. Colonel Monckton stared at him. Mr Satterthwaite thought: ‘Unless I can manage to put this young man at his ease we are going to have a very distressing evening.’ ‘Charnley aways fascinated me,’ he said. ‘I have been there only once since the tragedy. A grim house – and a ghostly one.’ ‘That’s true,’ said Bristow. ‘There are actually two authentic ghosts,’ said Monckton. ‘They say that Charles I walks up and down the terrace with his head under his arm – I have forgotten why, I’m sure. Then there is the Weeping Lady with the Silver Ewer, who is always seen after one of the Charnleys dies.’ ‘Tosh,’ said Bristow scornfully. ‘They have certainly been a very ill-fated family,’ said Mr Satterthwaite hurriedly. ‘Four holders of the title have died a violent death and the late Lord Charnley committed suicide.’ ‘A ghastly business,’ said Monckton gravely. ‘I was there when it happened.’ ‘Let me see, that must be fourteen years ago,’ said Mr Satterthwaite, ‘the house has been shut up ever since.’ ‘I don’t wonder at that,’ said Monckton. ‘It must have been a terrible shock for a young girl. They had been married a month, just home from their honeymoon. Big fancy dress ball to celebrate their home-coming. Just as the guests were starting to arrive Charnley locked himself into the Oak Parlour and shot himself. That sort of thing isn’t done. I beg your pardon?’ He turned his head sharply to the left and looked across at Mr Satterthwaite with an apologetic laugh. ‘I am beginning to get the jimjams, Satterthwaite. I thought for a moment there was someone sitting in that empty chair and that he said something to me. ‘Yes,’ he went on after a minute or two, ‘it was a pretty ghastly shock to Alix Charnley. She was one of the prettiest girls you could see anywhere and cram full of what people call the joy of living, and now they say she is like a ghost herself. Not that I have seen her for years. I believe she lives abroad most of the time.’ ‘And the boy?’ ‘The boy is at Eton. What he will do when he comes of age I don’t know. I don’t think, somehow, that he will reopen the old place.’ ‘It would make a good People’s Pleasure Park,’ said Bristow. Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». 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