The Dressmaker’s Doll: An Agatha Christie Short Story
Fou-Ling turned his head about an inch and a half towards his mistress, then with disdain resumed his appraisal of the doll.
‘She’s certainly made an impression on him,’ said Mrs Fellows-Brown. ‘I don’t think he’s ever noticed her before. I haven’t either. Was she here last time I came?’
The other two women looked at each other. Sybil now had a frown on her face, and Alicia Coombe said, wrinkling up her forehead, ‘I told you – I simply can’t remember anything nowadays. How long have we had her, Sybil?’
‘Where did she come from?’ demanded Mrs Fellows-Brown. ‘Did you buy her?’
‘Oh no.’ Somehow Alicia Coombe was shocked at the idea. ‘Oh no. I suppose – I suppose someone gave her to me.’ She shook her head. ‘Maddening!’ she exclaimed. ‘Absolutely maddening, when everything goes out of your head the very moment after it’s happened.’
‘Now don’t be stupid, Fou-Ling,’ said Mrs Fellows-Brown sharply. ‘Come on. I’ll have to pick you up.’
She picked him up. Fou-Ling uttered a short bark of agonized protest. They went out of the room with Fou-Ling’s pop-eyed face turned over his fluffy shoulder, still staring with enormous attention at the doll on the chair …
‘That there doll,’ said Mrs Groves, ‘fair gives me the creeps, it does.’ Mrs Groves was the cleaner. She had just finished a crablike progress backwards along the floor. Now she was standing up and working slowly round the room with a duster.
‘Funny thing,’ said Mrs Groves, ‘never noticed it really until yesterday. And then it hit me all of a sudden, as you might say.’
‘You don’t like it?’ asked Sybil.
‘I tell you, Mrs Fox, it gives me the creeps,’ said the cleaning woman. ‘It ain’t natural, if you know what I mean. All those long hanging legs and the way she’s slouched down there and the cunning look she has in her eye. It doesn’t look healthy, that’s what I say.’
‘You’ve never said anything about her before,’ said Sybil.
‘I tell you, I never noticed her – not till this morning … Of course I know she’s been here some time but –’ She stopped and a puzzled expression flitted across her face. ‘Sort of thing you might dream of at night,’ she said, and gathering up various cleaning implements she departed from the fitting-room and walked across the landing to the room on the other side.