A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.A poor widow contemplates marrying the wrong man – all for the sake of her beloved dog… A wonderful little story by the Queen of Crime for dog lovers everywhere.
Next to a Dog
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.
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Source ISBN: 9780007438976
Ebook Edition © MARCH 2014 ISBN: 9780007560066
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‘Next to a Dog’ was first published in Grand Magazine, September 1929.
The ladylike woman behind the Registry Office table cleared her throat and peered across at the girl who sat opposite.
‘Then you refuse to consider the post? It only came in this morning. A very nice part of Italy, I believe, a widower with a little boy of three and an elderly lady, his mother or aunt.’
Joyce Lambert shook her head.
‘I can’t go out of England,’ she said in a tired voice; ‘there are reasons. If only you could find me a daily post?’
Her voice shook slightly – ever so slightly, for she had it well under control. Her dark blue eyes looked appealingly at the woman opposite her.
‘It’s very difficult, Mrs Lambert. The only kind of daily governess required is one who has full qualifications. You have none. I have hundreds on my books – literally hundreds.’ She paused. ‘You have someone at home you can’t leave?’
‘No, not a child.’ And a faint smile flickered across her face.
‘Well, it is very unfortunate. I will do my best, of course, but –’
The interview was clearly at an end. Joyce rose. She was biting her lip to keep the tears from springing to her eyes as she emerged from the frowsy office into the street.
‘You mustn’t,’ she admonished herself sternly. ‘Don’t be a snivelling little idiot. You’re panicking – that’s what you’re doing – panicking. No good ever came of giving way to panic. It’s quite early in the day still and lots of things may happen. Aunt Mary ought to be good for a fortnight anyway. Come on, girl, step out, and don’t keep your well-to-do relations waiting.’
She walked down Edgware Road, across the park, and then down to Victoria Street, where she turned into the Army and Navy Stores. She went to the lounge and sat down glancing at her watch. It was just half past one. Five minutes sped by and then an elderly lady with her arms full of parcels bore down upon her.
‘Ah! There you are, Joyce. I’m a few minutes late, I’m afraid. The service is not as good as it used to be in the luncheon room. You’ve had lunch, of course?’
Joyce hesitated a minute or two, then she said quietly: ‘Yes, thank you.’
‘I always have mine at half past twelve,’ said Aunt Mary, settling herself comfortably with her parcels. ‘Less rush and a clearer atmosphere. The curried eggs here are excellent.’
‘Are they?’ said Joyce faintly. She felt that she could hardly bear to think of curried eggs – the hot steam rising from them – the delicious smell! She wrenched her thoughts resolutely aside.
‘You look peaky, child,’ said Aunt Mary, who was herself of a comfortable figure. ‘Don’t go in for this modern fad of eating no meat. All fal-de-lal. A good slice off the joint never did anyone any harm.’
Joyce stopped herself from saying, ‘It wouldn’t do me any harm now.’ If only Aunt Mary would stop talking about food. To raise your hopes by asking you to meet her at half past one and then to talk of curried eggs and slices of roast meat – oh! cruel – cruel.
‘Well, my dear,’ said Aunt Mary. ‘I got your letter – and it was very nice of you to take me at my word. I said I’d be pleased to see you anytime and so I should have been – but as it happens, I’ve just had an extremely good offer to let the house. Quite too good to be missed, and bringing their own plate and linen. Five months. They come in on Thursday and I go to Harrogate. My rheumatism’s been troubling me lately.’
‘I see,’ said Joyce. ‘I’m so sorry.’
‘So it’ll have to be for another time. Always pleased to see you, my dear.’
‘Thank you, Aunt Mary.’
‘You know, you do look peaky,’ said Aunt Mary, considering her attentively. ‘You’re thin, too; no flesh on your bones, and what’s happened to your pretty colour? You always had a nice healthy colour. Mind you take plenty of exercise.’
‘I’m taking plenty of exercise today,’ said Joyce grimly. She rose. ‘Well Aunt Mary, I must be getting along.’
Back again – through St James’s Park this time, and so on through Berkeley Square and across Oxford Street and up Edgware Road, past Praed Street to the point where the Edgware Road begins to think of becoming something else. Then aside, through a series of dirty little streets till one particular dingy house was reached.
Joyce inserted her latchkey and entered a small frowsy hall. She ran up the stairs till she reached the top landing. A door faced her and from the bottom of this door a snuffling noise proceeded succeeded in a second by a series of joyful whines and yelps.