The Call of Wings: An Agatha Christie Short Story
The Call of Wings: An Agatha Christie Short Story
A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.After a close encounter with death, a materialistic man becomes entranced by strange music. Torn between the freedom he craves and the money he loves his behaviour becomes erratic. He attempts to track down the man without legs who plays the music…
The Call of Wings
A Short Story
by Agatha Christie
Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF
First published 2008
Copyright © 2008 Agatha Christie Ltd.
Cover design © HarperCollinsPublishers 2013
Agatha Christie asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work
A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library
This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental
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Ebook Edition © OCTOBER 2013 ISBN: 9780007526772
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The Call of Wings
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‘The Call of Wings’ was first published in the hardback The Hound of Death and Other Stories (Odhams Press, 1933). No previous appearances have been found.
Silas Hamer heard it first on a wintry night in February. He and Dick Borrow had walked from a dinner given by Bernard Seldon, the nerve specialist. Borrow had been unusually silent, and Silas Hamer asked him with some curiosity what he was thinking about. Borrow’s answer was unexpected.
‘I was thinking, that of all these men tonight, only two amongst them could lay claim to happiness. And that these two, strangely enough, were you and I!’
The word ‘strangely’ was apposite, for no two men could be more dissimilar than Richard Borrow, the hard working East-end parson, and Silas Hamer, the sleek complacent man whose millions were a matter of household knowledge.
‘It’s odd, you know,’ mused Borrow, ‘I believe you’re the only contented millionaire I’ve ever met.’
Hamer was silent a moment. When he spoke his tone had altered.
‘I used to be a wretched shivering little newspaper boy. I wanted then – what I’ve got now! – the comfort and the luxury of money, not its power. I wanted money, not to wield as a force, but to spend lavishly – on myself! I’m frank about it, you see. Money can’t buy everything, they say. Very true. But it can buy everything I want – therefore I’m satisfied. I’m a materialist, Borrow, out and out a materialist!’
The broad glare of the lighted thoroughfare confirmed this confession of faith. The sleek lines of Silas Hamer’s body were amplified by the heavy fur-lined coat, and the white light emphasized the thick rolls of flesh beneath his chin. In contrast to him walked Dick Borrow, with the thin ascetic face and the star-gazing fanatical eyes.
‘It’s you,’ said Hamer with emphasis, ‘that I can’t understand.’
I live in the midst of misery, want, starvation – all the ills of the flesh! And a predominant Vision upholds me. It’s not easy to understand unless you believe in Visions, which I gather you don’t.’
‘I don’t believe,’ said Silas Hamer stolidly, ‘in anything I can’t see, hear and touch.’
‘Quite so. That’s the difference between us. Well, good bye, the earth now swallows me up!’
They had reached the doorway of a lighted tube station, which was Borrow’s route home.
Hamer proceeded alone. He was glad he had sent away the car tonight and elected to walk home. The air was keen and frosty, his senses were delightfully conscious of the enveloping warmth of the fur-lined coat.
He paused for an instant on the kerbstone before crossing the road. A great motor bus was heavily ploughing its way towards him. Hamer, with the feeling of infinite leisure, waited for it to pass. If he were to cross in front of it he would have to hurry – and hurry was distasteful to him.
By his side a battered derelict of the human race rolled drunkenly off the pavement. Hamer was aware of a shout, an ineffectual swerve of the motor bus, and then – he was looking stupidly, with a gradually awakening horror, at a limp inert heap of rags in the middle of the road.
A crowd gathered magically, with a couple of policemen and the bus driver as its nucleus. But Hamer’s eyes were riveted in horrified fascination on that lifeless bundle that had once been a man – a man like himself! He shuddered as at some menace.
‘Dahn’t yer blime yerself, guv’nor,’ remarked a rough-looking man at his side. ‘Yer couldn’t ’a done nothin’. ’E was done for anyways.’
Hamer stared at him. The idea that it was possible in any way to save the man had quite honestly never occurred to him. He scouted the notion now as an absurdity. Why if he had been so foolish, he might at this moment … His thoughts broke off abruptly, and he walked away from the crowd. He felt himself shaking with a nameless unquenchable dread. He was forced to admit to himself that he was afraid – horribly afraid – of Death … Death that came with dreadful swiftness and remorseless certainty to rich and poor alike …
He walked faster, but the new fear was still with him, enveloping him in its cold and chilling grasp.
He wondered at himself, for he knew that by nature he was no coward. Five years ago, he reflected, this fear would not have attacked him. For then Life had not been so sweet … Yes, that was it; love of Life was the key to the mystery. The zest of living was at its height for him; it knew but one menace, Death, the destroyer!
He turned out of the lighted thoroughfare. A narrow passageway, between high walls, offered a short-cut to the Square where his house, famous for its art treasures, was situated.
The noise of the street behind him lessened and faded, the soft thud of his own footsteps was the only sound to be heard.