‘Someone’s taken ill,’ said Miss Zielinsky shortly.
‘Oh dear, I’m sorry. Can I do anything?’
‘I suppose there’s a doctor here somewhere?’
‘I haven’t seen any of our local doctors,’ said Mrs Bantry, ‘but there’s almost sure to be one here.’
‘Jason’s telephoning,’ said Ella Zielinsky, ‘but she seems pretty bad.’
‘Who is it?’ asked Mrs Bantry.
‘A Mrs Badcock, I think.’
‘Heather Badcock? But she looked so well just now.’
Ella Zielinksy said impatiently, ‘She’s had a seizure, or a fit, or something. Do you know if there’s anything wrong with her heart or anything like that?’
‘I don’t really know anything about her,’ said Mrs Bantry. ‘She’s new since my day. She comes from the Development.’
‘The Development? Oh, you mean that housing estate. I don’t even know where her husband is or what he looks like.’
‘Middle-aged, fair, unobtrusive,’ said Mrs Bantry. ‘He came with her so he must be about somewhere.’
Ella Zielinsky went into a bathroom. ‘I don’t know really what to give her,’ she said. ‘Sal volatile, do you think, something like that?’
‘Is she faint?’ said Mrs Bantry.
‘It’s more than that,’ said Ella Zielinsky.
‘I’ll see if there’s anything I can do,’ said Mrs Bantry. She turned away and walked rapidly back towards the head of the stairs. Turning a corner she cannoned into Jason Rudd.
‘Have you seen Ella?’ he said. ‘Ella Zielinsky?’
‘She went along there into one of the bathrooms. She was looking for something. Sal volatile—something like that.’
‘She needn’t bother,’ said Jason Rudd.
Something in his tone struck Mrs Bantry. She looked up sharply. ‘Is it bad?’ she said, ‘really bad?’
‘You could call it that,’ said Jason Rudd. ‘The poor woman’s dead.’
‘Dead!’ Mrs Bantry was really shocked. She said, as she had said before, ‘But she looked so well just now.’
‘I know. I know,’ said Jason. He stood there, scowling. ‘What a thing to happen!’
CHAPTER 6 (#u5112c1bd-1ede-5ce1-8f9d-a9cc0bedcd85)
‘Here we are,’ said Miss Knight, settling a breakfast tray on the bed-table beside Miss Marple. ‘And how are we this morning? I see we’ve got our curtains pulled back,’ she added with a slight note of disapproval in her voice.
‘I wake early,’ said Miss Marple. ‘You probably will, when you’re my age,’ she added.
‘Mrs Bantry rang up,’ said Miss Knight, ‘about half an hour ago. She wanted to talk to you but I said she’d better ring up again after you’d had your breakfast. I wasn’t going to disturb you at that hour, before you’d even had a cup of tea or anything to eat.’
‘When my friends ring up,’ said Miss Marple, ‘I prefer to be told.’
‘I’m sorry, I’m sure,’ said Miss Knight, ‘but it seemed to me very inconsiderate. When you’ve had your nice tea and your boiled egg and your toast and butter, we’ll see.’
‘Half an hour ago,’ said Miss Marple, thoughtfully, ‘that would have been—let me see—eight o’clock.’
‘Much too early,’ reiterated Miss Knight.
‘I don’t believe Mrs Bantry would have rung me up then unless it was for some particular reason,’ said Miss Marple thoughtfully. ‘She doesn’t usually ring up in the early morning.’
‘Oh well, dear, don’t fuss your head about it,’ said Miss Knight soothingly. ‘I expect she’ll be ringing up again very shortly. Or would you like me to get her for you?’
‘No, thank you,’ said Miss Marple. ‘I prefer to eat my breakfast while it’s hot.’
‘Hope I haven’t forgotten anything,’ said Miss Knight, cheerfully.
But nothing had been forgotten. The tea had been properly made with boiling water, the egg had been boiled exactly three and three-quarter minutes, the toast was evenly browned, the butter was arranged in a nice little pat and the small jar of honey stood beside it. In many ways undeniably Miss Knight was a treasure. Miss Marple ate her breakfast and enjoyed it. Presently the whirr of a vacuum cleaner began below. Cherry had arrived.
Competing with the whirr of the vacuum cleaner was a fresh tuneful voice singing one of the latest popular tunes of the day. Miss Knight, coming in for the breakfast tray, shook her head.
‘I really wish that young woman wouldn’t go singing all over the house,’ she said. ‘It’s not what I call respectful.’
Miss Marple smiled a little. ‘It would never enter Cherry’s head that she would have to be respectful,’ she remarked. ‘Why should she?’
Miss Knight sniffed and said, ‘Very different to what things used to be.’
‘Naturally,’ said Miss Marple. ‘Times change. That is a thing which has to be accepted.’ She added, ‘Perhaps you’ll ring up Mrs Bantry now and find out what it was she wanted.’
Miss Knight bustled away. A minute or two later there was a rap on the door and Cherry entered. She was looking bright and excited and extremely pretty. A plastic overall rakishly patterned with sailors and naval emblems was tied round her dark blue dress.
‘Your hair looks nice,’ said Miss Marple.
‘Went for a perm yesterday,’ said Cherry. ‘A bit stiff still, but it’s going to be all right. I came up to see if you’d heard the news.’
‘What news?’ said Miss Marple.
‘About what happened at Gossington Hall yesterday. You know there was a big do there for the St John Ambulance?’
Miss Marple nodded. ‘What happened?’ she asked.
‘Somebody died in the middle of it. A Mrs Badcock. Lives round the corner from us. I don’t suppose you’d know her.’
‘Mrs Badcock?’ Miss Marple sounded alert. ‘But I do know her. I think—yes, that was the name—she came out and picked me up when I fell down the other day. She was very kind.’
‘Oh, Heather Badcock’s kind all right,’ said Cherry. ‘Over-kind, some people say. They call it interfering. Well, anyway, she up and died. Just like that.’