As Miss Marple sat basking in the Caribbean sunshine, she felt mildly discontented with life. True, the warmth eased her rheumatism, but here in paradise nothing ever happened.
Eventually, her interest was aroused by an old soldier’s yarn about a murderer he had known. Infuriatingly, just as he was about to show her a snapshot of this acquaintance, the Major was suddenly interrupted. A diversion that was to prove fatal.
About the Author
Agatha Christie is the most widely published author of all time, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. Her books have sold more than a billion copies in English and another billion in a hundred foreign languages. She died in 1976, after a prolific career spanning six decades.
Date of Birth:September 15, 1890
Date of Death:January 12, 1976
Place of Birth:Torquay, Devon, England
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"Take all this business about Kenya," said Major Palgrave. "Lots of chaps gabbing away who know nothing about the place! Now I spent fourteen years of my life there. Some of the best years of my life, too--"
Old Miss Marple inclined her head.
It was a gentle gesture of courtesy. While Major Palgrave proceeded with the somewhat uninteresting recollections of a lifetime, Miss Marple peacefully pursued her own thoughts. It was a routine with which she was well acquainted. The locale varied. In the past, it had been predominantly India. Majors, colonels, lieutenant-generals--and a familiar series of words: Simla. Bearers. Tigers. Chota Havi--Tiffin. Khitmagars, and so on. With Major Palgrave the terms were slightly different. Safari. Kikuyu. Elephants. Swahili. But the pattern was essentially the same. An elderly man who needed a listener so that he could, in memory, relive days in which he had been happy. Days when his back had been straight, his eyesight keen, his hearing acute. Some of these talkers had been handsome soldierly old boys, some again had been regrettably unattractive; and Major Palgrave, purple of face, with a glass eye, and the general appearance of a stuffed frog, belonged in the latter category
Miss Marple had bestowed on all of them the same gentle charity. She had sat attentively, inclining her head from time to time in gentle agreement, thinking her own thoughts and enjoying what there was to enjoy, in this case the deep blue of a Caribbean Sea.
So kind of dear Raymond, she was thinking gratefully, so really and truly kind.... Why he should take so much troubleabout his old aunt, she really did not know. Conscience, perhaps; family feeling? Or possibly he was truly fond. of her . . .
She thought, on the whole, that he was fond of her-he always had been--in a slightly exasperated and contemp. tuous way! Always trying to bring her, up to date. Sending her books to read. Modem novels. So difficult-all about such unpleasant people, doing such very odd things and not, apparently, even enjoying them. "Sex" as a word had not been much mentioned in Miss Marple's young days, but there had been plenty of it--not talked about so muchbut enjoyed far more than nowadays, or so it seemed to her. Though, usually labelled Sin, she couldn't help feeling that that was preferable to what it seemed, to be nowaday--a kind of, Duty.
Her glance strayed for a moment to the book on her lap lying open at page twenty-three, which was as far as shehad got (and indeed as far as she felt like getting!).
"Do you mean that you've had no sexual experience at ALL?" demanded the young man incredulously. "At nineteen! But you must. It's vital."
The girl hung her head unhappily, her straight greasy hair fell forward over her face.
"I know," she muttered, "I know."
He looked at her, stained old jersey, the bare feet, the dirty toenails, the smell of rancid fat ... He wondered why he found her so maddeningly attractive.
Miss Marple wondered, too! And really! to have sex experience urged on you exactly as though it was an iron tonic! Poor young things...
"My dear Aunt Jane, why must you bury your head in the sand like a very delightful ostrich? All bound up in this idyllic rural life of yours. REAL LIFE--that's what matters."
Thus Raymond--and his Aunt Jane had looked properly abashed and said "Yes," she was, afraid she was rather old-fashioned.
Though really rural life was far from idyllic. People likeRaymond were so ignorant. In, the course of her dutiesin a country parish, Jane Marple had acquired quite acomprehensive knowledge of thefacts of rural life. She hadno urge to talk about them, far less to write about them-but she knew them. Plenty of sex, natural and unnatural.Rape, incest, perversions of all kinds. (Some kinds, indeed,that even the clever young men from Oxford who wrotebooks didn't seem to have heard about.)
Miss Marple came back to the Caribbean and took up the thread of what Major Palgrave was saying....
"A very unusual experience," she said encouragingly., "Most interesting."
"I could tell you a lot more. Some of the things, of course, not fit for a lady's ears--"
With the ease of long practice, Miss Marple dropped her eyelids in a fluttery fashion, and Major Palgrave continued his bowdlerized version of tribal customs while Miss Marple resumed her thoughts of her affectionate nephew.
Raymond West was a very successful novelist and made a large income, and he conscientiously and kindly did all he, could to alleviate the life of his elderly aunt. The preceding winter she had had a bad go of pneumonia, and medical opinion had advised sunshine. In lordly fashion Raymond had suggested a trip to the West Indies. Miss Marple had demurred--at the expense, the distance, the difficulties of travel, and at abandoning her house in St. Mary Mead. Raymond had dealt with everything. A friend who was writing a book wanted a quiet place in the country. "He'll look after the house all right. He's very house-proud. He's a queer. I mean--"
He had paused, slightly embarrassed-but surely even dear old Aunt Jane must have heard of queers.
He went on to deal with the next points. Travel was nothing nowadays. She would go by air-another friend, Diana Horrocks, was going out to Trinidad and would see Aunt Jane was all right as far as there, and at St. Honore she would stay at the Golden Palm Hotel, which was run by the Sandersons. Nicest couple in the world. They'd see she was all right. He'd write to them straightaway.
As it happened the Sandersons had returned to England. But their successors, the Kendals, had been very nice and friendly and had assured Raymond that he need have no qualms about his aunt. . . .