The Hound of Death: An Agatha Christie Short Story
The Hound of Death: An Agatha Christie Short Story
A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.In this supernatural tale by the Queen of Crime, a nun has memories of a past-life in an ancient civilisation and believes she can harness natural psychic powers…
The Hound 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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Source ISBN: 9780007438976
Ebook Edition © MARCH 2014 ISBN: 9780007560004
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The Hound of Death (#u38c12007-268b-5d44-86c4-9228d3381703)
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The Hound of Death (#ulink_82246f9a-fca2-52ad-a0aa-9ddba9b218b2)
‘The Hound of Death’ was first published in the hardback The Hound of Death and Other Stories (Odhams Press, 1933). No previous appearances have been found.
It was from William P. Ryan, American newspaper correspondent, that I first heard of the affair. I was dining with him in London on the eve of his return to New York and happened to mention that on the morrow I was going down to Folbridge.
He looked up and said sharply: ‘Folbridge, Cornwall?’
Now only about one person in a thousand knows that there is a Folbridge in Cornwall. They always take it for granted that the Folbridge, Hampshire, is meant. So Ryan’s knowledge aroused my curiosity.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Do you know it?’
He merely replied that he was darned. He then asked if I happened to know a house called Trearne down there.
My interest increased.
‘Very well indeed. In fact, it’s to Trearne I’m going. It’s my sister’s house.’
‘Well,’ said William P. Ryan. ‘If that doesn’t beat the band!’
I suggested that he should cease making cryptic remarks and explain himself.
‘Well,’ he said. ‘To do that I shall have to go back to an experience of mine at the beginning of the war.’
I sighed. The events which I am relating to took place in 1921. To be reminded of the war was the last thing any man wanted. We were, thank God, beginning to forget … Besides, William P. Ryan on his war experiences was apt, as I knew, to be unbelievably long-winded.
But there was no stopping him now.
‘At the start of the war, as I dare say you know, I was in Belgium for my paper – moving about some. Well, there’s a little village – I’ll call it X. A one horse place if there ever was one, but there’s quite a big convent there. Nuns in white what do you call ’em – I don’t know the name of the order. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Well, this little burgh was right in the way of the German advance. The Uhlans arrived –’
I shifted uneasily. William P. Ryan lifted a hand reassuringly.
‘It’s all right,’ he said. ‘This isn’t a German atrocity story. It might have been, perhaps, but it isn’t. As a matter of fact, the boot’s on the other leg. The Huns made for that convent – they got there and the whole thing blew up.’
‘Oh!’ I said, rather startled.
‘Odd business, wasn’t it? Of course, off hand, I should say the Huns had been celebrating and had monkeyed round with their own explosives. But is seems they hadn’t anything of that kind with them. They weren’t the high explosive johnnies. Well, then, I ask you, what should a pack of nuns know about high explosive? Some nuns, I should say!’
‘It is odd,’ I agreed.
‘I was interested in hearing the peasants’ account of the matter. They’d got it all cut and dried. According to them it was a slap-up one hundred per cent efficient first-class modern miracle. It seems one of the nuns had got something of a reputation – a budding saint – went into trances and saw visions. And according to them she worked the stunt. She called down the lightning to blast the impious Hun – and it blasted him all right – and everything else within range. A pretty efficient miracle, that!
‘I never really got at the truth of the matter – hadn’t time. But miracles were all the rage just then – angels at Mons and all that. I wrote up the thing, put in a bit of sob stuff, and pulled the religious stop out well, and sent it to my paper. It went down very well in the States. They were liking that kind of thing just then.
‘But (I don’t know if you’ll understand this) in writing, I got kinder interested. I felt I’d like to know what really had happened. There was nothing to see at the spot itself. Two walls still left standing, and on one of them was a black powder mark that was the exact shape of a great hound.
‘The peasants round about were scared to death of that mark. They called it the Hound of Death and they wouldn’t pass that way after dark.
‘Superstition’s always interesting. I felt I’d like to see the lady who worked the stunt. She hadn’t perished, it seemed. She’d gone to England with a batch of other refugees. I took the trouble to trace her. I found she’d been sent to Trearne, Folbridge, Cornwall.’
‘My sister took in a lot of Belgian refugees the beginning of the war. About twenty.’
‘Well, I always meant, if I had time, to look up the lady. I wanted to hear her own account of the disaster. Then, what with being busy and one thing and another, it slipped my memory. Cornwall’s a bit out of the way anyhow. In fact, I’d forgotten the whole thing till your mentioning Folbridge just now brought it back.’
‘I must ask my sister,’ I said. ‘She may have heard something about it. Of course, the Belgians have all been repatriated long ago.’