A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.About to elope to South Africa with her lover, a wife receives the news that her husband's financial empire is collapsing. Should she carry through with it or return to help her husband, or will the story have an unexpected twist?
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 Ltd.
Cover Layout Design © HarperCollinsPublishers 2014
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Source ISBN: 9780007438976
Ebook Edition © MARCH 2014 ISBN: 9780007559992
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‘Magnolia Blossom’ was first published in Royal Magazine, March 1926.
Vincent Easton was waiting under the clock at Victoria Station. Now and then he glanced up at it uneasily. He thought to himself: ‘How many other men have waited here for a woman who didn’t come?’
A sharp pang shot through him. Supposing that Theo didn’t come, that she had changed her mind? Women did that sort of thing. Was he sure of her – had he ever been sure of her? Did he really know anything at all about her? Hadn’t she puzzled him from the first? There had seemed to be two women – the lovely, laughing creature who was Richard Darrell’s wife, and the other – silent, mysterious, who had walked by his side in the garden of Haymer’s Close. Like a magnolia flower – that was how he thought of her – perhaps because it was under the magnolia tree that they had tasted their first rapturous, incredulous kiss. The air had been sweet with the scent of magnolia bloom, and one or two petals, velvety-soft and fragrant, had floated down, resting on that upturned face that was as creamy and as soft and as silent as they. Magnolia blossom – exotic, fragrant, mysterious.
That had been a fortnight ago – the second day he had met her. And now he was waiting for her to come to him forever. Again incredulity shot through him. She wouldn’t come. How could he ever have believed it? It would be giving up so much. The beautiful Mrs Darrell couldn’t do this sort of thing quietly. It was bound to be a nine days’ wonder, a far-reaching scandal that would never quite be forgotten. There were better, more expedient ways of doing these things – a discreet divorce, for instance.
But they had never thought of that for a moment – at least he had not. Had she, he wondered? He had never known anything of her thoughts. He had asked her to come away with him almost timorously – for after all, what was he? Nobody in particular – one of a thousand orange growers in the Transvaal. What a life to take her to – after the brilliance of London! And yet, since he wanted her so desperately, he must needs ask.
She had consented very quietly, with no hesitations or protests, as though it were the simplest thing in the world that he was asking her.
‘Tomorrow?’ he had said, amazed, almost unbelieving.
And she had promised in that soft, broken voice that was so different from the laughing brilliance of her social manner. He had compared her to a diamond when he first saw her – a thing of flashing fire, reflecting light from a hundred facets. But at that first touch, that first kiss, she had changed miraculously to the clouded softness of a pearl – a pearl like a magnolia blossom, creamy-pink.
She had promised. And now he was waiting for her to fulfil that promise.
He looked again at the clock. If she did not come soon, they would miss the train.
Sharply a wave of reaction set in. She wouldn’t come! Of course she wouldn’t come. Fool that he had been ever to expect it! What were promises? He would find a letter when he got back to his rooms – explaining, protesting, saying all the things that women do when they are excusing themselves for lack of courage.
He felt anger – anger and the bitterness of frustration.
Then he saw her coming towards him down the platform, a faint smile on her face. She walked slowly, without haste or fluster, as one who had all eternity before her. She was in black – soft black that clung, with a little black hat that framed the wonderful creamy pallor of her face.
He found himself grasping her hand, muttering stupidly:
‘So you’ve come – you have come. After all!’
How calm her voice sounded! How calm!
‘I thought you wouldn’t,’ he said, releasing her hand and breathing hard. Her eyes opened – wide, beautiful eyes. There was wonder in them, the simple wonder of a child.
He didn’t answer. Instead he turned aside and requisitioned a passing porter. They had not much time. The next few minutes were all bustle and confusion. Then they were sitting in their reserved compartment and the drab houses of southern London were drifting by them.
Theodora Darrell was sitting opposite him. At last she was his. And he knew now how incredulous, up to the very last minute, he had been. He had not dared to let himself believe. That magical, elusive quality about her had frightened him. It had seemed impossible that she should ever belong to him.
Now the suspense was over. The irrevocable step was taken. He looked across at her. She lay back in the corner, quite still. The faint smile lingered on her lips, her eyes were cast down, the long, black lashes swept the creamy curve of her cheek.
He thought: ‘What’s in her mind now? What is she thinking of? Me? Her husband? What does she think about him anyway? Did she care for him once? Or did she never care? Does she hate him, or is she indifferent to him?’ And with a pang the thought swept through him: ‘I don’t know. I never shall know. I love her, and I don’t know anything about her – what she thinks or what she feels.’
His mind circled round the thought of Theodora Darrell’s husband. He had known plenty of married women who were only too ready to talk about their husbands – of how they were misunderstood by them, of how their finer feelings were ignored. Vincent Easton reflected cynically that it was one of the best-known opening gambits.
But except casually, Theo had never spoken of Richard Darrell. Easton knew of him what everybody knew. He was a popular man, handsome, with an engaging, carefree manner. Everybody liked Darrell. His wife always seemed on excellent terms with him. But that proved nothing, Vincent reflected. Theo was well-bred – she would not air her grievances in public.
And between them, no word had passed. From that second evening of their meeting, when they had walked together in the garden, silent, their shoulders touching, and he had felt the faint tremor that shook her at his touch, there had been no explainings, no defining of the position. She had returned his kisses, a dumb, trembling creature, shorn of all that hard brilliance which, together with her cream-and-rose beauty, had made her famous. Never once had she spoken of her husband. Vincent had been thankful for that at the time. He had been glad to be spared the arguments of a woman who wished to assure herself and her lover that they were justified in yielding to their love.
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