The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side
Агата Кристи

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(She knew very well they had nothing of the kind, but Halletts was the farthest shop possible.)

‘If all this isn’t too much—’ she murmured.

But Miss Knight replied with obvious sincerity.

‘Not at all. I shall be delighted.’

Miss Knight loved shopping. It was the breath of life to her. One met acquaintances, and had the chance of a chat, one gossiped with the assistants, and had the opportunity of examining various articles in the various shops. And one could spend quite a long time engaged in these pleasant occupations without any guilty feeling that it was one’s duty to hurry back.

So Miss Knight started off happily, after a last glance at the frail old lady resting so peacefully by the window.

After waiting a few minutes in case Miss Knight should return for a shopping bag, or her purse, or a handkerchief (she was a great forgetter and returner), and also to recover from the slight mental fatigue induced by thinking of so many unwanted things to ask Miss Knight to get, Miss Marple rose briskly to her feet, cast aside her knitting and strode purposefully across the room and into the hall. She took down her summer coat from its peg, a stick from the hall stand and exchanged her bedroom slippers for a pair of stout walking shoes. Then she left the house by the side door.

‘It will take her at least an hour and a half,’ Miss Marple estimated to herself. ‘Quite that—with all the people from the Development doing their shopping.’

Miss Marple visualized Miss Knight at Longdon’s making abortive inquiries re curtains. Her surmises were remarkably accurate. At this moment Miss Knight was exclaiming, ‘Of course, I felt quite sure in my own mind they wouldn’t be ready yet. But of course I said I’d come along and see when the old lady spoke about it. Poor old dears, they’ve got so little to look forward to. One must humour them. And she’s a sweet old lady. Failing a little now, it’s only to be expected—their faculties get dimmed. Now that’s a pretty material you’ve got there. Do you have it in any other colours?’

A pleasant twenty minutes passed. When Miss Knight had finally departed, the senior assistant remarked with a sniff, ‘Failing, is she? I’ll believe that when I see it for myself. Old Miss Marple has always been as sharp as a needle, and I’d say she still is.’ She then gave her attention to a young woman in tight trousers and a sail-cloth jersey who wanted plastic material with crabs on it for bathroom curtains.

‘Emily Waters, that’s who she reminds me of,’ Miss Marple was saying to herself, with the satisfaction it always gave her to match up a human personality with one known in the past. ‘Just the same bird brain. Let me see, what happened to Emily?’

Nothing much, was her conclusion. She had once nearly got engaged to a curate, but after an understanding of several years the affair had fizzled out. Miss Marple dismissed her nurse attendant from her mind and gave her attention to her surroundings. She had traversed the garden rapidly only observing as it were from the corner of her eye that Laycock had cut down the old-fashioned roses in a way more suitable to hybrid teas, but she did not allow this to distress her, or distract her from the delicious pleasure of having escaped for an outing entirely on her own. She had a happy feeling of adventure. She turned to the right, entered the Vicarage gate, took the path through the Vicarage garden and came out on the right of way. Where the stile had been there was now an iron swing gate giving on to a tarred asphalt path. This led to a neat little bridge over the stream and on the other side of the stream where once there had been meadows with cows, there was the Development.

CHAPTER 2 (#u5112c1bd-1ede-5ce1-8f9d-a9cc0bedcd85)

With the feeling of Columbus setting out to discover a new world, Miss Marple passed over the bridge, continued on to the path and within four minutes was actually in Aubrey Close.

Of course Miss Marple had seen the Development from the Market Basing Road, that is, had seen from afar its Closes and rows of neat well-built houses, with their television masts and their blue and pink and yellow and green painted doors and windows. But until now it had only had the reality of a map, as it were. She had not been in it and of it. But now she was here, observing the brave new world that was springing up, the world that by all accounts was foreign to all she had known. It was like a neat model built with child’s bricks. It hardly seemed real to Miss Marple.

The people, too, looked unreal. The trousered young women, the rather sinister-looking young men and boys, the exuberant bosoms of the fifteen-year-old girls. Miss Marple couldn’t help thinking that it all looked terribly depraved. Nobody noticed her much as she trudged along. She turned out of Aubrey Close and was presently in Darlington Close. She went slowly and as she went she listened avidly to the snippets of conversation between mothers wheeling prams, to the girls addressing young men, to the sinister-looking Teds (she supposed they were Teds) exchanging dark remarks with each other. Mothers came out on doorsteps calling to their children who, as usual, were busy doing all the things they had been told not to do. Children, Miss Marple reflected gratefully, never changed. And presently she began to smile, and noted down in her mind her usual series of recognitions.

That woman is just like Carry Edwards—and the dark one is just like that Hooper girl—she’ll make a mess of her marriage just like Mary Hooper did. Those boys—the dark one is just like Edward Leeke, a lot of wild talk but no harm in him—a nice boy really—the fair one is Mrs Bedwell’s Josh all over again. Nice boys, both of them. The one like Gregory Binns won’t do very well, I’m afraid. I expect he’s got the same sort of mother …

She turned a corner into Walsingham Close and her spirits rose every moment.

The new world was the same as the old. The houses were different, the streets were called Closes, the clothes were different, the voices were different, but the human beings were the same as they always had been. And though using slightly different phraseology, the subjects of conversation were the same.

By dint of turning corners in her exploration, Miss Marple had rather lost her sense of direction and had arrived at the edge of the housing estate again. She was now in Carrisbrook Close, half of which was still ‘under construction’. At the first-floor window of a nearly finished house a young couple were standing. Their voices floated down as they discussed the amenities.

‘You must admit it’s a nice position, Harry.’

‘Other one was just as good.’

‘This one’s got two more rooms.’

‘And you’ve got to pay for them.’

‘Well, I like this one.’

‘You would!’

‘Ow, don’t be such a spoil-sport. You know what Mum said.’

‘Your Mum never stops saying.’

‘Don’t you say nothing against Mum. Where’d I have been without her? And she might have cut up nastier than she did. She could have taken you to court.’

‘Oh, come off it, Lily.’

‘It’s a good view of the hills. You can almost see—’ She leaned far out, twisting her body to the left. ‘You can almost see the reservoir—’

She leant farther still, not realizing that she was resting her weight on loose boards that had been laid across the sill. They slipped under the pressure of her body, sliding outwards, carrying her with them. She screamed, trying to regain her balance.

‘Harry—’

The young man stood motionless—a foot or two behind her. He took one step backwards—

Desperately, clawing at the wall, the girl righted herself. ‘Oo!’ She let out a frightened breath. ‘I near as nothing fell out. Why didn’t you get hold of me?’

‘It was all so quick. Anyway you’re all right.’

‘That’s all you know about it. I nearly went, I tell you. And look at the front of my jumper, it’s all mussed.’

Miss Marple went on a little way, then on impulse, she turned back.

Lily was outside in the road waiting for the young man to lock up the house.

Miss Marple went up to her and spoke rapidly in a low voice.

‘If I were you, my dear, I shouldn’t marry that young man. You want someone whom you can rely upon if you’re in danger. You must excuse me for saying this to you—but I feel you ought to be warned.’

She turned away and Lily stared after her.

‘Well, of all the—’

Her young man approached.

‘What was she saying to you, Lil?’

Lily opened her mouth—then shut it again.

‘Giving me the gipsy’s warning, if you want to know.’

She eyed him in a thoughtful manner.

Miss Marple in her anxiety to get away quickly, turned a corner, stumbled over some loose stones and fell.

A woman came running out of one of the houses.
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