The Rajah’s Emerald: An Agatha Christie Short Story
The Rajah’s Emerald: An Agatha Christie Short Story
A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.James has found himself at the fashionable resort Kimpton-on-Sea, all due to the persuasion of the young Grace who during the last few months of their courtship has become distinctly uppish. Amongst the upper echelons of society, including the Rajah of Maraputna, James feels distinctly disgruntled and out of place. Eager to both irritate and win over his sometime girlfriend, James bypasses the queue to the beach changing rooms and ducks into the private huts before impressively being the first in the sea. But, in his hurry to not be apprehended he jumps back to the huts, changes at lightning speed only to realise he is suddenly in the possession of a rather sought after object. Dabbling in a little detective work James throws himself into the breach.
The Rajah’s Emerald
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)
Copyrig© 2011 Agatha Christie Ltd.
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EPub Edition © 2011 ISBN: 9780007452163
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The Rajah’s Emerald
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‘The Rajah’s Emerald’ was first published in Red Magazine, 30 July 1926.
With a serious effort James Bond bent his attention once more on the little yellow book in his hand. On its outside the book bore the simple but pleasing legend, ‘Do you want your salary increased by £300 per annum?’ Its price was one shilling. James had just finished reading two pages of crisp paragraphs instructing him to look his boss in the face, to cultivate a dynamic personality, and to radiate an atmosphere of efficiency. He had now arrived at a subtler matter, ‘There is a time for frankness, there is a time for discretion,’ the little yellow book informed him. ‘A strong man does not always blurt out all he knows.’ James let the little book close, and raising his head, gazed out over a blue expanse of ocean. A horrible suspicion assailed him, that he was not a strong man. A strong man would have been in command of the present situation, not a victim to it. For the sixtieth time that morning James rehearsed his wrongs.
This was his holiday. His holiday? Ha, ha! Sardonic laughter. Who had persuaded him to come to that fashionable seaside resort, Kimpton-on-Sea? Grace. Who had urged him into an expenditure of more than he could afford? Grace. And he had fallen in with the plan eagerly. She had got him here, and what was the result? Whilst he was staying in an obscure boarding-house about a mile and a half from the sea-front, Grace who should have been in a similar boarding-house (not the same one – the proprieties of James’s circle were very strict) had flagrantly deserted him, and was staying at no less than the Esplanade Hotel upon the sea-front.
It seemed that she had friends there. Friends! Again James laughed sardonically. His mind went back over the last three years of his leisurely courtship of Grace. Extremely pleased she had been when he first singled her out for notice. That was before she had risen to heights of glory in the millinery salon at Messrs Bartles in the High Street. In those early days it had been James who gave himself airs, now alas! the boot was on the other leg. Grace was what is technically known as ‘earning good money’. It had made her uppish. Yes, that was it, thoroughly uppish. A confused fragment out of a poetry book came back to James’s mind, something about ‘thanking heaven fasting, for a good man’s love’. But there was nothing of that kind of thing observable about Grace. Well fed on an Esplanade Hotel breakfast, she was ignoring a good man’s love utterly. She was indeed accepting the attentions of a poisonous idiot called Claud Sopworth, a man, James felt convinced, of no moral worth whatsoever.
James ground a heel into the the earth, and scowled darkly at the horizon. Kimpton-on-Sea. What had possessed him to come to such a place? It was pre-eminently a resort of the rich and fashionable, it possessed two large hotels, and several miles of picturesque bungalows belonging to fashionable actresses, rich Jews and those members of the English aristocracy who had married wealthy wives. The rent, furnished, of the smallest bungalow was twenty-five guineas a week. Imagination boggled at what the rent of the large ones might amount to. There was one of these palaces immediately behind James’s seat. It belonged to that famous sportsman Lord Edward Campion, and there were staying there at the moment a houseful of distinguished guests including the Rajah of Maraputna, whose wealth was fabulous. James had read all about him in the local weekly newspaper that morning; the extent of his Indian possessions, his palaces, his wonderful collection of jewels, with a special mention of one famous emerald which the papers declared enthusiastically was the size of a pigeon’s egg. James, being town bred, was somewhat hazy about the size of a pigeon’s egg, but the impression left on his mind was good.
‘If I had an emerald like that,’ said James, scowling at the horizon again, ‘I’d show Grace.’
The sentiment was vague, but the enunciation of it made James feel better. Laughing voices hailed him from behind, and he turned abruptly to confront Grace. With her was Clara Sopworth, Alice Sopworth, Dorothy Sopworth and – alas! Claud Sopworth. The girls were arm-in-arm and giggling.
‘Why, you are quite a stranger,’ cried Grace archly.
‘Yes,’ said James.
He could, he felt, have found a more telling retort. You cannot convey the impression of a dynamic personality by the use of the one word ‘yes’. He looked with intense loathing at Claud Sopworth. Claud Sopworth was almost as beautifully dressed as the hero of a musical comedy. James longed passionately for the moment when an enthusiastic beach dog should plant wet, sandy forefeet on the unsullied whiteness of Claud’s flannel trousers. He himself wore a serviceable pair of dark-grey flannel trousers which had seen better days.
‘Isn’t the air beau-tiful?’ said Clara, sniffing it appreciatively. ‘Quite sets you up, doesn’t it?’
‘It’s ozone,’ said Alice Sopworth. ‘It’s as good as a tonic, you know.’ And she giggled also.
‘I should like to knock their silly heads together. What is the sense of laughing all the time? They are not saying anything funny.’
The immaculate Claud murmured languidly:
‘Shall we have a bathe, or is it too much of a fag?’
The idea of bathing was accepted shrilly. James fell into line with them. He even managed, with a certain amount of cunning, to draw Grace a little behind the others.
‘Look here!’ he complained, ‘I am hardly seeing anything of you.’
‘Well, I am sure we are all together now,’ said Grace, ‘and you can come and lunch with us at the hotel, at least –’
She looked dubiously at James’s legs.
‘What is the matter?’ demanded James ferociously. ‘Not smart enough for you, I suppose?’
‘I do think, dear, you might take a little more pains,’ said Grace. ‘Everyone is so fearfully smart here. Look at Claud Sopworth!’
‘I have looked at him,’ said James grimly. ‘I have never seen a man who looked a more complete ass than he does.’
Grace drew herself up.
‘There is no need to criticize my friends, James, it’s not manners. He’s dressed just like any other gentleman at the hotel is dressed.’
‘Bah!’ said James. ‘Do you know what I read the other day in “Society Snippets”? Why, that the Duke of – the Duke of, I can’t remember, but one duke, anyway, was the worst dressed man in England, there!’
‘I dare say,’ said Grace, ‘but then, you see, he is a duke.’
‘Well?’ demanded James. ‘What is wrong with my being a duke some day? At least, well, not perhaps a duke, but a peer.’
He slapped the yellow book in his pocket, and recited to her a long list of peers of the realm who had started life much more obscurely than James Bond. Grace merely giggled.
‘Don’t be so soft, James,’ she said. ‘Fancy you Earl of Kimpton-on-Sea!’