A Christmas Tragedy: A Miss Marple Short Story
A Christmas Tragedy: A Miss Marple Short Story
A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.Whilst dining at the Bantrys Miss Marple is asked to tell a murder mystery. She recounts the time she could tell from a man’s behaviour, that he was planning to kill his wife. But at the time of the murder he had a perfect alibi…
A Christmas Tragedy
A Short Story
by Agatha Christie
Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk)
Copyright © 2008 Agatha Christie Limited.
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Ebook Edition © OCTOBER 2013 ISBN 9780007526703
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‘A Christmas Tragedy’ was first published as ‘The Hat and the Alibi’ in Storyteller, January 1930.
‘I have a complaint to make,’ said Sir Henry Clithering. His eyes twinkled gently as he looked round at the assembled company. Colonel Bantry, his legs stretched out, was frowning at the mantelpiece as though it were a delinquent soldier on parade, his wife was surreptitiously glancing at a catalogue of bulbs which had come by the late post, Dr Lloyd was gazing with frank admiration at Jane Helier, and that beautiful young actress herself was thoughtfully regarding her pink polished nails. Only that elderly, spinster lady, Miss Marple, was sitting bolt upright, and her faded blue eyes met Sir Henry’s with an answering twinkle.
‘A complaint?’ she murmured.
‘A very serious complaint. We are a company of six, three representatives of each sex, and I protest on behalf of the downtrodden males. We have had three stories told tonight – and told by the three men! I protest that the ladies have not done their fair share.’
‘Oh!’ said Mrs Bantry with indignation. ‘I’m sure we have. We’ve listened with the most intelligent appreciation. We’ve displayed the true womanly attitude – not wishing to thrust ourselves in the limelight!’
‘It’s an excellent excuse,’ said Sir Henry; ‘but it won’t do. And there’s a very good precedent in the Arabian Nights! So, forward, Scheherazade.’
‘Meaning me?’ said Mrs Bantry. ‘But I don’t know anything to tell. I’ve never been surrounded by blood or mystery.’
‘I don’t absolutely insist upon blood,’ said Sir Henry. ‘But I’m sure one of you three ladies has got a pet mystery. Come now, Miss Marple – the “Curious Coincidence of the Charwoman” or the “Mystery of the Mothers’ Meeting”. Don’t disappoint me in St Mary Mead.’
Miss Marple shook her head.
‘Nothing that would interest you, Sir Henry. We have our little mysteries, of course – there was that gill of picked shrimps that disappeared so incomprehensibly; but that wouldn’t interest you because it all turned out to be so trivial, though throwing a considerable light on human nature.’
‘You have taught me to dote on human nature,’ said Sir Henry solemnly.
‘What about you, Miss Helier?’ asked Colonel Bantry. ‘You must have had some interesting experiences.’
‘Yes, indeed,’ said Dr Lloyd.
‘Me?’ said Jane. ‘You mean – you want me to tell you something that happened to me?’
‘Or to one of your friends,’ amended Sir Henry.
‘Oh!’ said Jane vaguely. ‘I don’t think anything has ever happened to me – I mean not that kind of thing. Flowers, of course, and queer messages – but that’s just men, isn’t it? I don’t think’ – she paused and appeared lost in thought.
‘I see we shall have to have that epic of the shrimps,’ said Sir Henry. ‘Now then, Miss Marple.’
‘You’re so fond of your joke, Sir Henry. The shrimps are only nonsense; but now I come to think of it, I do remember one incident – at least not exactly an incident, something very much more serious – a tragedy. And I was, in a way, mixed up in it; and for what I did, I have never had any regrets – no, no regrets at all. But it didn’t happen in St Mary Mead.’
‘That disappoints me,’ said Sir Henry. ‘But I will endeavour to bear up. I knew we should not rely upon you in vain.’
He settled himself in the attitude of a listener. Miss Marple grew slightly pink.
‘I hope I shall be able to tell it properly,’ she said anxiously. ‘I fear I am very inclined to become rambling. One wanders from the point – altogether without knowing that one is doing so. And it is so hard to remember each fact in its proper order. You must all bear with me if I tell my story badly. It happened a very long time ago now.
‘As I say, it was not connected with St Mary Mead. As a matter of fact, it had to do with a Hydro –’
‘Do you mean a seaplane?’ asked Jane with wide eyes.
‘You wouldn’t know, dear,’ said Mrs Bantry, and explained. Her husband added his quota:
‘Beastly places – absolutely beastly! Got to get up early and drink filthy-tasting water. Lot of old women sitting about. Ill-natured tittle tattle. God, when I think –’
‘Now, Arthur,’ said Mrs Bantry placidly. ‘You know it did you all the good in the world.’
‘Lot of old women sitting round talking scandal,’ grunted Colonel Bantry.
‘That I am afraid is true,’ said Miss Marple. ‘I myself –’
‘My dear Miss Marple,’ cried the Colonel, horrified. ‘I didn’t mean for one moment –’