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Three Act Tragedy
Агата Кристи


5. Division of Labour

6. Cynthia Dacres

7. Captain Dacres

8. Angela Sutcliffe

9. Muriel Wills

10. Oliver Manders

11. Poirot Gives a Sherry Party

12. Day at Gilling

13. Mrs de Rushbridger

14. Miss Milray

15. Curtain

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Also by Agatha Christie

About the Publisher

Directed by

Sir Charles Cartwright

Assistant Directors

Mr Satterthwaite

Miss Hermione Lytton Gore

Clothes by

Ambrosine Ltd

Illumination by

Hercule Poirot

FIRST ACT (#u07fdeff0-05e8-53a1-87f6-b47085dc3b31)

CHAPTER 1 (#u07fdeff0-05e8-53a1-87f6-b47085dc3b31)

Crow’s Nest (#u07fdeff0-05e8-53a1-87f6-b47085dc3b31)

Mr Satterthwaite sat on the terrace of ‘Crow’s Nest’ and watched his host, Sir Charles Cartwright, climbing up the path from the sea.

Crow’s Nest was a modern bungalow of the better type. It had no half timbering, no gables, no excrescences dear to a third-class builder’s heart. It was a plain white solid building—deceptive as to size, since it was a good deal bigger than it looked. It owed its name to its position, high up, overlooking the harbour of Loomouth. Indeed from one corner of the terrace, protected by a strong balustrade, there was a sheer drop to the sea below. By road Crow’s Nest was a mile from the town. The road ran inland and then zigzagged high up above the sea. On foot it was accessible in seven minutes by the steep fisherman’s path that Sir Charles Cartwright was ascending at this minute.

Sir Charles was a well-built, sunburnt man of middle age. He wore old grey flannel trousers and a white sweater. He had a slight rolling gait, and carried his hands half closed as he walked. Nine people out of ten would say, ‘Retired Naval man—can’t mistake the type.’ The tenth, and more discerning, would have hesitated, puzzled by something indefinable that did not ring true. And then perhaps a picture would rise, unsought: the deck of a ship—but not a real ship—a ship curtailed by hanging curtains of thick rich material—a man, Charles Cartwright, standing on that deck, light that was not sunlight streaming down on him, the hands half clenched, the easy gait and a voice—the easy pleasant voice of an English sailor and gentleman, a great deal magnified in tone.

‘No, sir,’ Charles Cartwright was saying, ‘I’m afraid I can’t give you any answer to that question.’

And swish fell the heavy curtains, up sprang the lights, an orchestra plunged into the latest syncopated measure, girls with exaggerated bows in their hair said, ‘Chocolates? Lemonade?’ The first act of The Call of the Sea, with Charles Cartwright as Commander Vanstone, was over.

From his post of vantage, looking down, Mr Satterthwaite smiled.

A dried-up little pipkin of a man, Mr Satterthwaite, a patron of art and the drama, a determined but pleasant snob, always included in the more important house-parties and social functions (the words ‘and Mr Satterthwaite’ appeared invariably at the tail of a list of guests). Withal a man of considerable intelligence and a very shrewd observer of people and things.

He murmured now, shaking his head, ‘I wouldn’t have thought it. No, really, I wouldn’t have thought it.’

A step sounded on the terrace and he turned his head. The big grey-haired man who drew a chair forward and sat down had his profession clearly stamped on his keen, kindly, middle-aged face. ‘Doctor’ and ‘Harley Street’. Sir Bartholomew Strange had succeeded in his profession. He was a well-known specialist in nervous disorders, and had recently received a knighthood in the Birthday Honours list.

He drew his chair forward beside that of Mr Satterthwaite and said:

‘What wouldn’t you have thought? Eh? Let’s have it.’

With a smile Mr Satterthwaite drew attention to the figure below rapidly ascending the path.

‘I shouldn’t have thought Sir Charles would have remained contented so long in—er—exile.’

‘By Jove, no more should I!’ The other laughed, throwing back his head. ‘I’ve known Charles since he was a boy. We were at Oxford together. He’s always been the same—a better actor in private life than on the stage! Charles is always acting. He can’t help it—it’s second nature to him. Charles doesn’t go out of a room—he “makes an exit”—and he usually has to have a good line to make it on. All the same, he likes a change of part—none better. Two years ago he retired from the stage—said he wanted to live a simple country life, out of the world, and indulge his old fancy for the sea. He comes down here and builds this place. His idea of a simple country cottage. Three bathrooms and all the latest gadgets! I was like you, Satterthwaite, I didn’t think it would last. After all, Charles is human—he needs his audience. Two or three retired captains, a bunch of old women and a parson—that’s not much of a house to play to. I thought the “simple fellow, with his love of the sea,” would run for six months. Then, frankly, I thought he’d tire of the part. I thought the next thing to fill the bill would be the weary man of the world at Monte Carlo, or possibly a laird in the Highlands—he’s versatile, Charles is.’

The doctor stopped. It had been a long speech. His eyes were full of affection and amusement as he watched the unconscious man below. In a couple of minutes he would be with them.

‘However,’ Sir Bartholomew went on, ‘it seems we were wrong. The attraction of the simple life holds.’

‘A man who dramatises himself is sometimes misjudged,’ pointed out Mr Satterthwaite. ‘One does not take his sincerities seriously.’

The doctor nodded.

‘Yes,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘That’s true.’

With a cheerful halloo Charles Cartwright ran up the steps on to the terrace.

‘Mirabelle surpassed herself,’ he said. ‘You ought to have come, Satterthwaite.’

Mr Satterthwaite shook his head. He had suffered too often crossing the Channel to have any illusions about the strength of his stomach afloat. He had observed the Mirabelle from his bedroom window that morning. There had been a stiff sailing breeze and Mr Satterthwaite had thanked heaven devoutly for dry land.

Sir Charles went to the drawing-room window and called for drinks.

‘You ought to have come, Tollie,’ he said to his friend. ‘Don’t you spend half your life sitting in Harley Street telling your patients how good life on the ocean wave would be for them?’
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