A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.Raymond West's niece is invited by an elderly recluse to help compile her late grandfather's diaries for publication. After only two days at their sprawling home of Greenshaw's Folly, she witnesses a murder, which only Miss Marple can solve…
A Miss Marple Short Story
by Agatha Christie
Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF
Copyright © 2008 Agatha Christie Ltd.
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Ebook Edition © JUNE 2014 ISBN 9780007560189
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Greenshaw’s Folly (#ulink_7f2bfc97-7c3f-5e60-9f7e-9fc829c19485)
‘Greenshaw’s Folly’ was first published in the Daily Mail, 3–7 December 1956.
The two men rounded the corner of the shrubbery.
‘Well, there you are,’ said Raymond West. ‘That’s it.’
Horace Bindler took a deep, appreciative breath.
‘But my dear,’ he cried, ‘how wonderful.’ His voice rose in a high screech of ‘sthetic delight, then deepened in reverent awe. ‘It’s unbelievable. Out of this world! A period piece of the best.’
‘I thought you’d like it,’ said Raymond West, complacently.
‘Like it? My dear –’ Words failed Horace. He unbuckled the strap of his camera and got busy. ‘This will be one of the gems of my collection,’ he said happily. ‘I do think, don’t you, that it’s rather amusing to have a collection of monstrosities? The idea came to me one night seven years ago in my bath. My last real gem was in the Campo Santo at Genoa, but I really think this beats it. What’s it called?’
‘I haven’t the least idea,’ said Raymond.
‘I suppose it’s got a name?’
‘It must have. But the fact is that it’s never referred to round here as anything but Greenshaw’s Folly.’
‘Greenshaw being the man who built it?’
‘Yes. In eighteen-sixty or seventy or thereabouts. The local success story of the time. Barefoot boy who had risen to immense prosperity. Local opinion is divided as to why he built this house, whether it was sheer exuberance of wealth or whether it was done to impress his creditors. If the latter, it didn’t impress them. He either went bankrupt or the next thing to it. Hence the name, Greenshaw’s Folly.’
Horace’s camera clicked. ‘There,’ he said in a satisfied voice. ‘Remind me to show you No. 310 in my collection. A really incredible marble mantelpiece in the Italian manner.’ He added, looking at the house, ‘I can’t conceive of how Mr Greenshaw thought of it all.’
‘Rather obvious in some ways,’ said Raymond. ‘He had visited the châteaux of the Loire, don’t you think? Those turrets. And then, rather unfortunately, he seems to have travelled in the Orient. The influence of the Taj Mahal is unmistakable. I rather like the Moorish wing,’ he added, ‘and the traces of a Venetian palace.’
‘One wonders how he ever got hold of an architect to carry out these ideas.’
Raymond shrugged his shoulders.
‘No difficulty about that, I expect,’ he said. ‘Probably the architect retired with a good income for life while poor old Greenshaw went bankrupt.’
‘Could we look at it from the other side?’ asked Horace, ‘or are we trespassing!’
‘We’re trespassing all right,’ said Raymond, ‘but I don’t think it will matter.’
He turned towards the corner of the house and Horace skipped after him.
‘But who lives here, my dear? Orphans or holiday visitors? It can’t be a school. No playing-fields or brisk efficiency.’
‘Oh, a Greenshaw lives here still,’ said Raymond over his shoulder. ‘The house itself didn’t go in the crash. Old Greenshaw’s son inherited it. He was a bit of a miser and lived here in a corner of it. Never spent a penny. Probably never had a penny to spend. His daughter lives here now. Old lady – very eccentric.’
As he spoke Raymond was congratulating himself on having thought of Greenshaw’s Folly as a means of entertaining his guest. These literary critics always professed themselves as longing for a week-end in the country, and were wont to find the country extremely boring when they got there. Tomorrow there would be the Sunday papers, and for today Raymond West congratulated himself on suggesting a visit to Greenshaw’s Folly to enrich Horace Bindler’s well-known collection of monstrosities.
They turned the corner of the house and came out on a neglected lawn. In one corner of it was a large artificial rockery, and bending over it was a figure at sight of which Horace clutched Raymond delightedly by the arm.
‘My dear,’ he exclaimed, ‘do you see what she’s got on? A sprigged print dress. Just like a housemaid – when there were housemaids. One of my most cherished memories is staying at a house in the country when I was quite a boy where a real housemaid called you in the morning, all crackling in a print dress and a cap. Yes, my boy, really – a cap. Muslin with streamers. No, perhaps it was the parlour-maid who had the streamers. But anyway she was a real housemaid and she brought in an enormous brass can of hot water. What an exciting day we’re having.’
The figure in the print dress had straightened up and had turned towards them, trowel in hand. She was a sufficiently startling figure. Unkempt locks of iron-grey fell wispily on her shoulders, a straw hat rather like the hats that horses wear in Italy was crammed down on her head. The coloured print dress she wore fell nearly to her ankles. Out of a weatherbeaten, not-too-clean face, shrewd eyes surveyed them appraisingly.
‘I must apologize for trespassing, Miss Greenshaw,’ said Raymond West, as he advanced towards her, ‘but Mr Horace Bindler who is staying with me –’
Horace bowed and removed his hat.