The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding
‘Grandfather doesn’t like him,’ said Sarah.
‘Well, you could hardly expect him to, could you?’ said Mrs Lacey reasonably, ‘but I dare say he’ll come round when he gets used to the idea. You mustn’t rush him, Sarah dear. Old people are very slow to change their minds and your grandfather is rather obstinate.’
‘I don’t care what Grandfather thinks or says,’ said Sarah. ‘I shall get married to Desmond whenever I like!’
‘I know, dear, I know. But do try and be realistic about it. Your grandfather could cause a lot of trouble, you know. You’re not of age yet. In another year you can do as you please. I expect Horace will have come round long before that.’
‘You’re on my side aren’t you, darling?’ said Sarah. She flung her arms round her grandmother’s neck and gave her an affectionate kiss.
‘I want you to be happy,’ said Mrs Lacey. ‘Ah! there’s your young man bringing his car round. You know, I like these very tight trousers these young men wear nowadays. They look so smart—only, of course, it does accentuate knock knees.’
Yes, Sarah thought, Desmond had got knock knees, she had never noticed it before …
‘Go on, dear, enjoy yourself,’ said Mrs Lacey.
She watched her go out to the car, then, remembering her foreign guest, she went along to the library. Looking in, however, she saw that Hercule Poirot was taking a pleasant little nap and, smiling to herself, she went across the hall and out into the kitchen to have a conference with Mrs Ross.
‘Come on, beautiful,’ said Desmond. ‘Your family cutting up rough because you’re coming out to a pub? Years behind the times here, aren’t they?’
‘Of course they’re not making a fuss,’ said Sarah, sharply as she got into the car.
‘What’s the idea of having that foreign fellow down? He’s a detective, isn’t he? What needs detecting here?’
‘Oh, he’s not here professionally,’ said Sarah. ‘Edwina Morecombe, my grandmother, asked us to have him. I think he’s retired from professional work long ago.’
‘Sounds like a broken-down old cab horse,’ said Desmond.
‘He wanted to see an old-fashioned English Christmas, I believe,’ said Sarah vaguely.
Desmond laughed scornfully. ‘Such a lot of tripe, that sort of thing,’ he said. ‘How you can stand it I don’t know.’
Sarah’s red hair was tossed back and her aggressive chin shot up.
‘I enjoy it!’ she said defiantly.
‘You can’t, baby. Let’s cut the whole thing tomorrow. Go over to Scarborough or somewhere.’
‘I couldn’t possibly do that.’
‘Oh, it would hurt their feelings.’
‘Oh, bilge! You know you don’t enjoy this childish sentimental bosh.’
‘Well, not really perhaps, but—’ Sarah broke off. She realized with a feeling of guilt that she was looking forward a good deal to the Christmas celebration. She enjoyed the whole thing, but she was ashamed to admit that to Desmond. It was not the thing to enjoy Christmas and family life. Just for a moment she wished that Desmond had not come down here at Christmas time. In fact, she almost wished that Desmond had not come down here at all. It was much more fun seeing Desmond in London than here at home.
In the meantime the boys and Bridget were walking back from the lake, still discussing earnestly the problems of skating. Flecks of snow had been falling, and looking up at the sky it could be prophesied that before long there was going to be a heavy snowfall.
‘It’s going to snow all night,’ said Colin. ‘Bet you by Christmas morning we have a couple of feet of snow.’
The prospect was a pleasurable one.
‘Let’s make a snowman,’ said Michael. ‘Good lord,’ said Colin, ‘I haven’t made a snowman since—well, since I was about four years old.’
‘I don’t believe it’s a bit easy to do,’ said Bridget. ‘I mean, you have to know how.’
‘We might make an effigy of M. Poirot,’ said Colin. ‘Give it a big black moustache. There is one in the dressing-up box.’
‘I don’t see, you know,’ said Michael thoughtfully, ‘how M. Poirot could ever have been a detective. I don’t see how he’d ever be able to disguise himself.’
‘I know,’ said Bridget, ‘and one can’t imagine him running about with a microscope and looking for clues or measuring footprints.’
‘I’ve got an idea,’ said Colin. ‘Let’s put on a show for him!’
‘What do you mean, a show?’ asked Bridget.
‘Well, arrange a murder for him.’
‘What a gorgeous idea,’ said Bridget. ‘Do you mean a body in the snow—that sort of thing?’
‘Yes. It would make him feel at home, wouldn’t it?’
‘I don’t know that I’d go as far as that.’
‘If it snows,’ said Colin, ‘we’ll have the perfect setting. A body and footprints—we’ll have to think that out rather carefully and pinch one of Grandfather’s daggers and make some blood.’
They came to a halt and, oblivious to the rapidly falling snow, entered into an excited discussion.
‘There’s a paintbox in the old schoolroom. We could mix up some blood—crimson-lake, I should think.’
‘Crimson-lake’s a bit too pink, I think,’ said Bridget. ‘It ought to be a bit browner.’
‘Who’s going to be the body?’ asked Michael.
‘I’ll be the body,’ said Bridget quickly.
‘Oh, look here,’ said Colin, ‘I thought of it.’
‘Oh, no, no,’ said Bridget, ‘it must be me. It’s got to be a girl. It’s more exciting. Beautiful girl lying lifeless in the snow.’
‘Beautiful girl! Ah-ha,’ said Michael in derision.
‘I’ve got black hair, too,’ said Bridget.
‘What’s that got to do with it?’