A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.A new bride is murdered in Cabin 66 on a cruise to Egypt, while her husband is ashore with other passengers. Their travelling companion Hercule Poirot finds that his holiday has become an investigation…
Problem at Sea
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 © 1999 Agatha Christie Ltd.
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Source ISBN: 9780007438969
Ebook Edition © MARCH 2014 ISBN: 9780007559985
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Problem at Sea
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‘Problem at Sea’ was first published in the USA in This Week, 12 January 1936, then as ‘Poirot and the Crime in Cabin 66’ in The Strand, February 1936.
‘Colonel Clapperton!’ said General Forbes.
He said it with an effect midway between a snort and a sniff.
Miss Ellie Henderson leaned forward, a strand of her soft grey hair blowing across her face. Her eyes, dark and snapping, gleamed with a wicked pleasure.
‘Such a soldierly-looking man!’ she said with malicious intent, and smoothed back the lock of hair to await the result.
‘Soldierly!’ exploded General Forbes. He tugged at his military moustache and his face became bright red.
‘In the Guards, wasn’t he?’ murmured Miss Henderson, completing her work.
‘Guards? Guards? Pack of nonsense. Fellow was on the music hall stage! Fact! Joined up and was out in France counting tins of plum and apple. Huns dropped a stray bomb and he went home with a flesh wound in the arm. Somehow or other got into Lady Carrington’s hospital.’
‘So that’s how they met.’
‘Fact! Fellow played the wounded hero. Lady Carrington had no sense and oceans of money. Old Carrington had been in munitions. She’d been a widow only six months. This fellow snaps her up in no time. She wangled him a job at the War Office. Colonel Clapperton! Pah!’ he snorted.
‘And before the war he was on the music hall stage,’ mused Miss Henderson, trying to reconcile the distinguished grey-haired Colonel Clapperton with a red-nosed comedian singing mirth-provoking songs.
‘Fact!’ said General Forbes. ‘Heard it from old Bassington-ffrench. And he heard it from old Badger Cotterill who’d got it from Snooks Parker.’
Miss Henderson nodded brightly. ‘That does seem to settle it!’ she said.
A fleeting smile showed for a minute on the face of a small man sitting near them. Miss Henderson noticed the smile. She was observant. It had shown appreciation of the irony underlying her last remark – irony which the General never for a moment suspected.
The General himself did not notice the smile. He glanced at his watch, rose and remarked: ‘Exercise. Got to keep oneself fit on a boat,’ and passed out through the open door on to the deck.
Miss Henderson glanced at the man who had smiled. It was a well-bred glance indicating that she was ready to enter into conversation with a fellow traveller.
‘He is energetic – yes?’ said the little man.
‘He goes round the deck forty-eight times exactly,’ said Miss Henderson. ‘What an old gossip! And they say we are the scandal-loving sex.’
‘What an impoliteness!’
‘Frenchmen are always polite,’ said Miss Henderson – there was the nuance of a question in her voice.
The little man responded promptly. ‘Belgian, mademoiselle.’
‘Hercule Poirot. At your service.’
The name aroused some memory. Surely she had heard it before –? ‘Are you enjoying this trip, M. Poirot?’
‘Frankly, no. It was an imbecility to allow myself to be persuaded to come. I detest la mer. Never does it remain tranquil – no, not for a little minute.’
‘Well, you admit it’s quite calm now.’
M. Poirot admitted this grudgingly. ‘A ce moment, yes. That is why I revive. I once more interest myself in what passes around me – your very adept handling of the General Forbes, for instance.’
‘You mean –’ Miss Henderson paused.