The Herb of Death: A Miss Marple Short Story
The Herb of Death: A Miss Marple Short Story
A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.Around the dinner table, Mrs Bantry recounts the tale of a dinner where everyone became ill and one young lady died from poisoning, after foxglove leaves had been mixed in with the sage and fed to everyone. The group decide that this mixed up stuffing was no accident and play twenty questions to deduce the killer…
The Herb of Death
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 © OCTOBER 2013 ISBN 9780007526710
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‘The Herb of Death’ was first published in Storyteller, March 1930.
‘Now then, Mrs B.,’ said Sir Henry Clithering encouragingly.
Mrs Bantry, his hostess, looked at him in cold reproof.
‘I’ve told you before that I will not be called Mrs B. It’s not dignified.’
‘And even less am I Sche – what’s her name! I never can tell a story properly, ask Arthur if you don’t believe me.’
‘You’re quite good at the facts, Dolly,’ said Colonel Bantry, ‘but poor at the embroidery.’
‘That’s just it,’ said Mrs Bantry. She flapped the bulb catalogue she was holding on the table in front of her. ‘I’ve been listening to you all and I don’t know how you do it. “He said, she said, you wondered, they thought, everyone implied” – well, I just couldn’t and there it is! And besides I don’t know anything to tell a story about.’
‘We can’t believe that, Mrs Bantry,’ said Dr Lloyd. He shook his grey head in mocking disbelief.
Old Miss Marple said in her gentle voice: ‘Surely dear –’
Mrs Bantry continued obstinately to shake her head.
‘You don’t know how banal my life is. What with the servants and the difficulties of getting scullery maids, and just going to town for clothes, and dentists, and Ascot (which Arthur hates) and then the garden –’
‘Ah!’ said Dr Lloyd. ‘The garden. We all know where your heart lies, Mrs Bantry.’
‘It must be nice to have a garden,’ said Jane Helier, the beautiful young actress. ‘That is, if you hadn’t got to dig, or to get your hands messed up. I’m ever so fond of flowers.’
‘The garden,’ said Sir Henry. ‘Can’t we take that as a starting point? Come, Mrs B. The poisoned bulb, the deadly daffodils, the herb of death!’
‘Now it’s odd your saying that,’ said Mrs Bantry. ‘You’ve just reminded me. Arthur, do you remember that business at Clodderham Court? You know. Old Sir Ambrose Bercy. Do you remember what a courtly charming old man we thought him?’
‘Why, of course. Yes, that was a strange business. Go ahead, Dolly.’
‘You’d better tell it, dear.’
‘Nonsense. Go ahead. Must paddle your own canoe. I did my bit just now.’
Mrs Bantry drew a deep breath. She clasped her hands and her face registered complete mental anguish. She spoke rapidly and fluently.
‘Well, there’s really not much to tell. The Herb of Death – that’s what put it into my head, though in my own mind I call it sage and onions.’
‘Sage and onions?’ asked Dr Lloyd.
Mrs Bantry nodded.
‘That was how it happened you see,’ she explained. ‘We were staying, Arthur and I, with Sir Ambrose Bercy at Clodderham Court, and one day, by mistake (though very stupidly, I’ve always thought) a lot of foxglove leaves were picked with the sage. The ducks for dinner that night were stuffed with it and everyone was very ill, and one poor girl – Sir Ambrose’s ward – died of it.’
‘Dear, dear,’ said Miss Marple, ‘how very tragic.’
‘Well,’ said Sir Henry, ‘what next?’
‘There isn’t any next,’ said Mrs Bantry, ‘that’s all.’