The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side
Агата Кристи

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‘Oh dear, what a nasty spill! I hope you haven’t hurt yourself?’

With almost excessive goodwill she put her arms round Miss Marple and tugged her to her feet.

‘No bones broken, I hope? There we are. I expect you feel rather shaken.’

Her voice was loud and friendly. She was a plump squarely built woman of about forty, brown hair just turning grey, blue eyes, and a big generous mouth that seemed to Miss Marple’s rather shaken gaze to be far too full of white shining teeth.

‘You’d better come inside and sit down and rest a bit. I’ll make you a cup of tea.’

Miss Marple thanked her. She allowed herself to be led through the blue-painted door and into a small room full of bright cretonne-covered chairs and sofas.

‘There you are,’ said her rescuer, establishing her on a cushioned arm-chair. ‘You sit quiet and I’ll put the kettle on.’

She hurried out of the room which seemed rather restfully quiet after her departure. Miss Marple took a deep breath. She was not really hurt, but the fall had shaken her. Falls at her age were not to be encouraged. With luck, however, she thought guiltily, Miss Knight need never know. She moved her arms and legs gingerly. Nothing broken. If she could only get home all right. Perhaps, after a cup of tea—

The cup of tea arrived almost as the thought came to her. Brought on a tray with four sweet biscuits on a little plate.

‘There you are.’ It was placed on a small table in front of her. ‘Shall I pour it out for you? Better have plenty of sugar.’

‘No sugar, thank you.’

‘You must have sugar. Shock, you know. I was abroad with ambulances during the war. Sugar’s wonderful for shock.’ She put four lumps in the cup and stirred vigorously. ‘Now you get that down, and you’ll feel as right as rain.’

Miss Marple accepted the dictum.

‘A kind woman,’ she thought. ‘She reminds me of someone—now who is it?’

‘You’ve been very kind to me,’ she said, smiling.

‘Oh, that’s nothing. The little ministering angel, that’s me. I love helping people.’ She looked out of the window as the latch of the outer gate clicked. ‘Here’s my husband home. Arthur—we’ve got a visitor.’

She went out into the hall and returned with Arthur who looked rather bewildered. He was a thin pale man, rather slow in speech.

‘This lady fell down—right outside our gate, so of course I brought her in.’

‘Your wife is very kind, Mr—’

‘Badcock’s the name.’

‘Mr Badcock, I’m afraid I’ve given her a lot of trouble.’

‘Oh, no trouble to Heather. Heather enjoys doing things for people.’ He looked at her curiously. ‘Were you on your way anywhere in particular?’

‘No, I was just taking a walk. I live in St Mary Mead, the house beyond the Vicarage. My name is Marple.’

‘Well, I never!’ exclaimed Heather. ‘So you’re Miss Marple. I’ve heard about you. You’re the one who does all the murders.’

‘Heather! What do you—’

‘Oh, you know what I mean. Not actually do murders—find out about them. That’s right, isn’t it?’

Miss Marple murmured modestly that she had been mixed up in murders once or twice.

‘I heard there have been murders here, in this village. They were talking about it the other night at the Bingo Club. There was one at Gossington Hall. I wouldn’t buy a place where there’d been a murder. I’d be sure it was haunted.’

‘The murder wasn’t committed in Gossington Hall. A dead body was brought there.’

‘Found in the library on the hearthrug, that’s what they said?’

Miss Marple nodded.

‘Did you ever? Perhaps they’re going to make a film of it. Perhaps that’s why Marina Gregg has bought Gossington Hall.’

‘Marina Gregg?’

‘Yes. She and her husband. I forget his name—he’s a producer, I think, or a director—Jason something. But Marina Gregg, she’s lovely, isn’t she? Of course she hasn’t been in so many pictures of late years—she was ill for a long time. But I still think there’s never anybody like her. Did you see her in Carmanella? And The Price of Love, and Mary of Scotland? She’s not so young any more, but she’ll always be a wonderful actress. I’ve always been a terrific fan of hers. When I was a teenager I used to dream about her. The big thrill of my life was when there was a big show in aid of the St John Ambulance in Bermuda, and Marina Gregg came to open it. I was mad with excitement, and then on the very day I went down with a temperature and the doctor said I couldn’t go. But I wasn’t going to be beaten. I didn’t actually feel too bad. So I got up and put a lot of make-up on my face and went along. I was introduced to her and she talked to me for quite three minutes and gave me her autograph. It was wonderful. I’ve never forgotten that day.’

Miss Marple stared at her.

‘I hope there were no—unfortunate after-effects?’ she said anxiously.

Heather Badcock laughed.

‘None at all. Never felt better. What I say is, if you want a thing you’ve got to take risks. I always do.’

She laughed again, a happy strident laugh.

Arthur Badcock said admiringly, ‘There’s never any holding Heather. She always gets away with things.’

‘Alison Wilde,’ murmured Miss Marple, with a nod of satisfaction.

‘Pardon?’ said Mr Badcock.

‘Nothing. Just someone I used to know.’

Heather looked at her inquiringly.

‘You reminded me of her, that is all.’

‘Did I? I hope she was nice.’

‘She was very nice indeed,’ said Miss Marple slowly. ‘Kind, healthy, full of life.’

‘But she had her faults, I suppose?’ laughed Heather. ‘I have.’

‘Well, Alison always saw her own point of view so clearly that she didn’t always see how things might appear to, or affect, other people.’

‘Like the time you took in that evacuated family from a condemned cottage and they went off with all our teaspoons,’ Arthur said.
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