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The Listerdale Mystery: An Agatha Christie Short Story

The Listerdale Mystery: An Agatha Christie Short Story
The Listerdale Mystery: An Agatha Christie Short Story Agatha Christie A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.A rich woman’s decline into poverty is seemingly arrested when she takes the opportunity to live at the late Lord Listerdale’s residence for next to nothing. Her family believe it is too good to be true - what’s the catch? The Listerdale Mystery A Short Story by Agatha Christie Copyright (#ulink_fb1946ba-36a4-56bc-a542-26beab0c8c43) Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk) Copyright © 2008 Agatha Christie Ltd. Cover design © HarperCollinsPublishers 2014 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 onscreen. 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. Ebook Edition © JUNE 2014 ISBN 9780007560226 Version: 2017-04-15 HarperCollinsPublishers has made every reasonable effort to ensure that any picture content and written content in this ebook has been included or removed in accordance with the contractual and technological constraints in operation at the time of publication. Contents Cover (#u11d7fdb1-6144-5c19-adef-142c9d23eb79) Title Page (#u5f46df7e-de05-5131-9812-77d759451164) Copyright The Listerdale Mystery (#u15f9185d-67f6-5a31-a74e-4b20812b91b3) Related Products (#litres_trial_promo) About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo) The Listerdale Mystery (#ulink_1039cb56-110a-584b-acf8-e4af2f4ee030) ‘The Listerdale Mystery’ was first published as ‘The Benevolent Butler’ in Grand Magazine, December 1925. Mrs St Vincent was adding up figures. Once or twice she sighed, and her hand stole to her aching forehead. She had always disliked arithmetic. It was unfortunate that nowadays her life should seem to be composed entirely of one particular kind of sum, the ceaseless adding together of small necessary items of expenditure making a total that never failed to surprise and alarm her. Surely it couldn’t come to that! She went back over the figures. She had made a trifling error in the pence, but otherwise the figures were correct. Mrs St Vincent sighed again. Her headache by now was very bad indeed. She looked up as the door opened and her daughter Barbara came into the room. Barbara St Vincent was a very pretty girl, she had her mother’s delicate features, and the same proud turn of the head, but her eyes were dark instead of blue, and she had a different mouth, a sulky red mouth not without attraction. ‘Oh! Mother,’ she cried. ‘Still juggling with those horrid old accounts? Throw them all into the fire.’ ‘We must know where we are,’ said Mrs St Vincent uncertainly. The girl shrugged her shoulders. ‘We’re always in the same boat,’ she said drily. ‘Damned hard up. Down to the last penny as usual.’ Mrs St Vincent sighed. ‘I wish –’ she began, and then stopped. ‘I must find something to do,’ said Barbara in hard tones. ‘And find it quickly. After all, I have taken that shorthand and typing course. So have about one million other girls from all I can see! “What experience?” “None, but –” “Oh! thank you, good-morning. We’ll let you know.” But they never do! I must find some other kind of a job – any job.’ ‘Not yet, dear,’ pleaded her mother. ‘Wait a little longer.’ Barbara went to the window and stood looking out with unseeing eyes that took no note of the dingy line of houses opposite. ‘Sometimes,’ she said slowly, ‘I’m sorry Cousin Amy took me with her to Egypt last winter. Oh! I know I had fun – about the only fun I’ve ever had or am likely to have in my life. I did enjoy myself – enjoyed myself thoroughly. But it was very unsettling. I mean – coming back to this.’ She swept a hand round the room. Mrs St Vincent followed it with her eyes and winced. The room was typical of cheap furnished lodgings. A dusty aspidistra, showily ornamental furniture, a gaudy wallpaper faded in patches. There were signs that the personality of the tenants had struggled with that of the landlady; one or two pieces of good china, much cracked and mended, so that their saleable value was nil, a piece of embroidery thrown over the back of the sofa, a water colour sketch of a young girl in the fashion of twenty years ago; near enough still to Mrs St Vincent not to be mistaken. ‘It wouldn’t matter,’ continued Barbara, ‘if we’d never known anything else. But to think of Ansteys –’ She broke off, not trusting herself to speak of that dearly loved home which had belonged to the St Vincent family for centuries and which was now in the hands of strangers. ‘If only father – hadn’t speculated – and borrowed –’ ‘My dear,’ said Mrs St Vincent, ‘your father was never, in any sense of the word, a business man.’ She said it with a graceful kind of finality, and Barbara came over and gave her an aimless sort of kiss, as she murmured, ‘Poor old Mums. I won’t say anything.’ Mrs St Vincent took up her pen again, and bent over her desk. Barbara went back to the window. Presently the girl said: ‘Mother. I heard from – from Jim Masterton this morning. He wants to come over and see me.’ Mrs St Vincent laid down her pen and looked up sharply. ‘Here?’ she exclaimed. ‘Well, we can’t ask him to dinner at the Ritz very well,’ sneered Barbara. Her mother looked unhappy. Again she looked round the room with innate distaste. ‘You’re right,’ said Barbara. ‘It’s a disgusting place. Genteel poverty! Sounds all right – a white-washed cottage, in the country, shabby chintzes of good design, bowls of roses, crown Derby tea service that you wash up yourself. That’s what it’s like in books. In real life, with a son starting on the bottom rung of office life, it means London. Frowsy landladies, dirty children on the stairs, fellow-lodgers who always seem to be half-castes, haddocks for breakfasts that aren’t quite – quite and so on.’ ‘If only –’ began Mrs St Vincent. ‘But, really, I’m beginning to be afraid we can’t afford even this room much longer.’ ‘That means a bed-sitting room – horror! – for you and me,’ said Barbara. ‘And a cupboard under the tiles for Rupert. And when Jim comes to call, I’ll receive him in that dreadful room downstairs with tabbies all round the walls knitting, and staring at us, and coughing that dreadful kind of gulping cough they have!’ There was a pause. ‘Barbara,’ said Mrs St Vincent at last. ‘Do you – I mean – would you –?’ She stopped, flushing a little. ‘You needn’t be delicate, Mother,’ said Barbara. ‘Nobody is nowadays. Marry Jim, I suppose you mean? I would like a shot if he asked me. But I’m so awfully afraid he won’t.’ ‘Oh, Barbara, dear.’ ‘Well, it’s one thing seeing me out there with Cousin Amy, moving (as they say in novelettes) in the best society. He did take a fancy to me. Now he’ll come here and see me in this! And he’s a funny creature, you know, fastidious and old-fashioned. I – I rather like him for that. It reminds me of Ansteys and the village – everything a hundred years behind the times, but so – so – oh! I don’t know – so fragrant. Like lavender!’ She laughed, half-ashamed of her eagerness. Mrs St Vincent spoke with a kind of earnest simplicity. ‘I should like you to marry Jim Masterton,’ she said. ‘He is – one of us. He is very well off, also, but that I don’t mind about so much.’ ‘I do,’ said Barbara. ‘I’m sick of being hard up.’ ‘But, Barbara, it isn’t –’ ‘Only for that? No. I do really. I – oh! Mother, can’t you see I do?’ Mrs St Vincent looked very unhappy. ‘I wish he could see you in your proper setting, darling,’ she said wistfully. ‘Oh, well!’ said Barbara. ‘Why worry? We might as well try and be cheerful about things. Sorry I’ve had such a grouch. Cheer up, darling.’ She bent over her mother, kissed her forehead lightly, and went out. Mrs St Vincent, relinquishing all attempts at finance, sat down on the uncomfortable sofa. Her thoughts ran round in circles like squirrels in a cage. ‘One may say what one likes, appearances do put a man off. Not later – not if they were really engaged. He’d know then what a sweet, dear girl she is. But it’s so easy for young people to take the tone of their surroundings. Rupert, now, he’s quite different from what he used to be. Not that I want my children to be stuck up. That’s not it a bit. But I should hate it if Rupert got engaged to that dreadful girl in the tobacconist’s. I daresay she may be a very nice girl, really. But she’s not our kind. It’s all so difficult. Poor little Babs. If I could do anything – anything. But where’s the money to come from? We’ve sold everything to give Rupert his start. We really can’t even afford this.’ Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/agata-kristi/the-listerdale-mystery-an-agatha-christie-short-story/?lfrom=334617187) на ЛитРес. Безопасно оплатить книгу можно банковской картой Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, со счета мобильного телефона, с платежного терминала, в салоне МТС или Связной, через PayPal, WebMoney, Яндекс.Деньги, QIWI Кошелек, бонусными картами или другим удобным Вам способом.
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