The Dressmaker’s Doll: An Agatha Christie Short Story
The Dressmaker’s Doll: An Agatha Christie Short Story
A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.What is the mystery of the velvet-suited doll that appears to move from place to place? Is someone responsible, or can it be possible that it possesses its own sinister qualities?
The Dressmaker’s Doll
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: 9780007560011
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The Dressmaker’s Doll (#u90ce9e33-ecbe-5ae8-8a08-3d3a10fc5b86)
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The Dressmaker’s Doll (#ulink_a563fd25-12d8-5953-8614-a96a41a03f82)
‘The Dressmaker’s Doll’ was first published in Woman’s Journal, December 1958.
The doll lay in the big velvet-covered chair. There was not much light in the room; the London skies were dark. In the gentle, greyish-green gloom, the sage-green coverings and the curtains and the rugs all blended with each other. The doll blended, too. She lay long and limp and sprawled in her green-velvet clothes and her velvet cap and the painted mask of her face. She was the Puppet Doll, the whim of Rich Women, the doll who lolls beside the telephone, or among the cushions of the divan. She sprawled there, eternally limp and yet strangely alive. She looked a decadent product of the twentieth century.
Sybil Fox, hurrying in with some patterns and a sketch, looked at the doll with a faint feeling of surprise and bewilderment. She wondered – but whatever she wondered did not get to the front of her mind. Instead, she thought to herself, ‘Now, what’s happened to the pattern of the blue velvet? Wherever have I put it? I’m sure I had it here just now.’ She went out on the landing and called up to the workroom.
‘Elspeth, Elspeth, have you the blue pattern up there? Mrs Fellows-Brown will be here any minute now.’
She went in again, switching on the lights. Again she glanced at the doll. ‘Now where on earth – ah, there it is.’ She picked the pattern up from where it had fallen from her hand. There was the usual creak outside on the landing as the elevator came to a halt and in a minute or two Mrs Fellows-Brown, accompanied by her Pekinese, came puffing into the room rather like a fussy local train arriving at a wayside station.
‘It’s going to pour,’ she said, ‘simply pour!’
She threw off her gloves and a fur. Alicia Coombe came in. She didn’t always come in nowadays, only when special customers arrived, and Mrs Fellows-Brown was such a customer.
Elspeth, the forewoman of the workroom, came down with the frock and Sybil pulled it over Mrs Fellows-Brown’s head.
‘There,’ she said, ‘I think it’s good. Yes, it’s definitely a success.’
Mrs Fellows-Brown turned sideways and looked in the mirror.
‘I must say,’ she said, ‘your clothes do do something to my behind.’
‘You’re much thinner than you were three months ago,’ Sybil assured her.
‘I’m really not,’ said Mrs Fellows-Brown, ‘though I must say I look it in this. There’s something about the way you cut, it really does minimize my behind. I almost look as though I hadn’t got one – I mean only the usual kind that most people have.’ She sighed and gingerly smoothed the troublesome portion of her anatomy. ‘It’s always been a bit of a trial to me,’ she said. ‘Of course, for years I could pull it in, you know, by sticking out my front. Well, I can’t do that any longer because I’ve got a stomach now as well as a behind. And I mean – well, you can’t pull it in both ways, can you?’
Alicia Coombe said, ‘You should see some of my customers!’
Mrs Fellows-Brown experimented to and fro.
‘A stomach is worse than a behind,’ she said. ‘It shows more. Or perhaps you think it does, because, I mean, when you’re talking to people you’re facing them and that’s the moment they can’t see your behind but they can notice your stomach. Anyway, I’ve made it a rule to pull in my stomach and let my behind look after itself.’ She craned her neck round still farther, then said suddenly, ‘Oh, that doll of yours! She gives me the creeps. How long have you had her?’
Sybil glanced uncertainly at Alicia Coombe, who looked puzzled but vaguely distressed.
‘I don’t know exactly … some time I think – I never can remember things. It’s awful nowadays – I simply cannot remember. Sybil, how long have we had her?’
Sybil said shortly, ‘I don’t know.’
‘Well,’ said Mrs Fellows-Brown, ‘she gives me the creeps. Uncanny! She looks, you know, as though she was watching us all, and perhaps laughing in that velvet sleeve of hers. I’d get rid of her if I were you.’ She gave a little shiver, then she plunged once more into dressmaking details. Should she or should she not have the sleeves an inch shorter? And what about the length? When all these important points were settled satisfactorily, Mrs Fellows-Brown resumed her own garments and prepared to leave. As she passed the doll, she turned her head again.
‘No,’ she said, ‘I don’t like that doll. She looks too much as though she belonged here. It isn’t healthy.’
‘Now what did she mean by that?’ demanded Sybil, as Mrs Fellows-Brown departed down the stairs.
Before Alicia Coombe could answer, Mrs Fellows-Brown returned, poking her head round the door.
‘Good gracious, I forgot all about Fou-Ling. Where are you, ducksie? Well, I never!’
She stared and the other two women stared, too. The Pekinese was sitting by the green-velvet chair, staring up at the limp doll sprawled on it. There was no expression, either of pleasure or resentment, on his small, pop-eyed face. He was merely looking.
‘Come along, mum’s darling,’ said Mrs Fellows-Brown.
Mum’s darling paid no attention whatever.
‘He gets more disobedient every day,’ said Mrs Fellows-Brown, with the air of one cataloguing a virtue. ‘Come on, Fou-Ling. Dindins. Luffly liver.’