A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.When Miss Marple dines at the Bantrys the conversation always turns to murder. Whilst Dr Lloyd was in the Canary Islands, a woman drowned in the sea. To all it seems an accident, but one eyewitness says her paid companion deliberately drowned her…
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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Ebook Edition © MAY 2013 ISBN: 9780007526482
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The Companion (#ulink_28302c81-cd95-5a8c-961b-a33f7215f6e9)
‘The Companion’ was first published as ‘The Resurrection of Amy Durrant’ in Storyteller, February 1930, and then in the USA as ‘Companions’ in Pictorial Review, March 1930.
‘Now, Dr Lloyd,’ said Miss Helier. ‘Don’t you know any creepy stories?’
She smiled at him – the smile that nightly bewitched the theatre-going public. Jane Helier was sometimes called the most beautiful woman in England, and jealous members of her own profession were in the habit of saying to each other: ‘Of course Jane’s not an artist. She can’t act – if you know what I mean. It’s those eyes!’
And those ‘eyes’ were at this minute fixed appealingly on the grizzled elderly bachelor doctor who, for the last five years, had ministered to the ailments of the village of St Mary Mead.
With an unconscious gesture, the doctor pulled down his waistcoat (inclined of late to be uncomfortably tight) and racked his brains hastily, so as not to disappoint the lovely creature who addressed him so confidently.
‘I feel,’ said Jane dreamily, ‘that I would like to wallow in crime this evening.’
‘Splendid,’ said Colonel Bantry, her host. ‘Splendid, splendid.’ And he laughed a loud hearty military laugh. ‘Eh, Dolly?’
His wife, hastily recalled to the exigencies of social life (she had been planning her spring border) agreed enthusiastically.
‘Of course it’s splendid,’ she said heartily but vaguely. ‘I always thought so.’
‘Did you, my dear?’ said old Miss Marple, and her eyes twinkled a little.
‘We don’t get much in the creepy line – and still less in the criminal line – in St Mary Mead, you know, Miss Helier,’ said Dr Lloyd.
‘You surprise me,’ said Sir Henry Clithering. The ex-Commissioner of Scotland Yard turned to Miss Marple. ‘I always understood from our friend here that St Mary Mead is a positive hotbed of crime and vice.’
‘Oh, Sir Henry!’ protested Miss Marple, a spot of colour coming into her cheeks. ‘I’m sure I never said anything of the kind. The only thing I ever said was that human nature is much the same in a village as anywhere else, only one has opportunities and leisure for seeing it at closer quarters.’
‘But you haven’t always lived here,’ said Jane Helier, still addressing the doctor. ‘You’ve been in all sorts of queer places all over the world – places where things happen!’
‘That is so, of course,’ said Dr Lloyd, still thinking desperately. ‘Yes, of course … Yes … Ah! I have it!’
He sank back with a sigh of relief.
‘It is some years ago now – I had almost forgotten. But the facts were really very strange – very strange indeed. And the final coincidence which put the clue into my hand was strange also.’
Miss Helier drew her chair a little nearer to him, applied some lipstick and waited expectantly. The others also turned interested faces towards him.
‘I don’t know whether any of you know the Canary Islands,’ began the doctor.
‘They must be wonderful,’ said Jane Helier. ‘They’re in the South Seas, aren’t they? Or is it the Mediterranean?’
‘I’ve called in there on my way to South Africa,’ said the Colonel. ‘The Peak of Tenerife is a fine sight with the setting sun on it.’
‘The incident I am describing happened in the island of Grand Canary, not Tenerife. It is a good many years ago now. I had had a breakdown in health and was forced to give up my practice in England and go abroad. I practised in Las Palmas, which is the principal town of Grand Canary. In many ways I enjoyed the life out there very much. The climate was mild and sunny, there was excellent surf bathing (and I am an enthusiastic bather) and the sea life of the port attracted me. Ships from all over the world put in at Las Palmas. I used to walk along the mole every morning far more interested than any member of the fair sex could be in a street of hat shops.
‘As I say, ships from all over the world put in at Las Palmas. Sometimes they stay a few hours, sometimes a day or two. In the principal hotel there, the Metropole, you will see people of all races and nationalities – birds of passage. Even the people going to Tenerife usually come here and stay a few days before crossing to the other island.
‘My story begins there, in the Metropole Hotel, one Thursday evening in January. There was a dance going on and I and a friend had been sitting at a small table watching the scene. There were a fair sprinkling of English and other nationalities, but the majority of the dancers were Spanish; and when the orchestra struck up a tango, only half a dozen couples of the latter nationality took the floor. They all danced well and we looked on and admired. One woman in particular excited our lively admiration. Tall, beautiful and sinuous, she moved with the grace of a half-tamed leopardess. There was something dangerous about her. I said as much to my friend and he agreed.
‘“Women like that,” he said, “are bound to have a history. Life will not pass them by.”
‘“Beauty is perhaps a dangerous possession,” I said.
‘“It’s not only beauty,” he insisted. “There is something else. Look at her again. Things are bound to happen to that woman, or because of her. As I said, life will not pass her by. Strange and exciting events will surround her. You’ve only got to look at her to know it.”
‘He paused and then added with a smile:
‘“Just as you’ve only got to look at those two women over there, and know that nothing out of the way could ever happen to either of them! They are made for a safe and uneventful existence.”
‘I followed his eyes. The two women he referred to were travellers who had just arrived – a Holland Lloyd boat had put into port that evening, and the passengers were just beginning to arrive.