Miss Marple glanced up over her knitting.
‘That you had a bad shock last night.’ She added gently: ‘Hadn’t you better tell me all about it?’
Gwenda walked restlessly up and down.
‘I think I’d better go and see a psychiatrist or someone.’
‘There are excellent mental specialists in London, of course. But are you sure it is necessary?’
‘Well—I think I’m going mad … I must be going mad.’
An elderly parlourmaid entered the room with a telegram on a salver which she handed to Gwenda.
‘The boy wants to know if there’s an answer, ma’am?’
Gwenda tore it open. It had been retelegraphed on from Dillmouth. She stared at it for a moment or two uncomprehendingly, then screwed it into a ball.
‘There’s no answer,’ she said mechanically.
The maid left the room.
‘Not bad news, I hope, dear?’
‘It’s Giles—my husband. He’s flying home. He’ll be here in a week.’
Her voice was bewildered and miserable. Miss Marple gave a gentle little cough.
‘Well—surely—that is very nice, isn’t it?’
‘Is it? When I’m not sure if I’m mad or not? If I’m mad I ought never to have married Giles. And the house and everything. I can’t go back there. Oh, I don’t know what to do.’
Miss Marple patted the sofa invitingly.
‘Now suppose you sit down here, dear, and just tell me all about it.’
It was with a sense of relief that Gwenda accepted the invitation. She poured out the whole story, starting with her first view of Hillside and going on to the incidents that had first puzzled her and then worried her.
‘And so I got rather frightened,’ she ended. ‘And I thought I’d come up to London—get away from it all. Only, you see, I couldn’t get away from it. It followed me. Last night—’ she shut her eyes and gulped reminiscently.
‘Last night?’ prompted Miss Marple.
‘I dare say you won’t believe this,’ said Gwenda, speaking very fast. ‘You’ll think I’m hysterical or queer or something. It happened quite suddenly, right at the end. I’d enjoyed the play. I’d never thought once of the house. And then it came—out of the blue—when he said those words—’
She repeated in a low quivering voice: ‘Cover her face, mine eyes dazzle, she died young.
‘I was back there—on the stairs, looking down on the hall through the banisters, and I saw her lying there. Sprawled out—dead. Her hair all golden and her face all—all blue! She was dead, strangled, and someone was saying those words in that same horrible gloating way—and I saw his hands—grey, wrinkled—not hands—monkey’s paws … It was horrible, I tell you. She was dead …’
Miss Marple asked gently: ‘Who was dead?’
The answer came back quick and mechanical.
CHAPTER 4 (#ulink_df3bc1fa-08ea-5e39-91f4-6829ed9e3a7f)
For a moment Gwenda stared at Miss Marple, then she pushed back the hair from her forehead.
‘Why did I say that?’ she said. ‘Why did I say Helen? I don’t know any Helen!’
She dropped her hands with a gesture of despair.
‘You see,’ she said, ‘I’m mad! I imagine things! I go about seeing things that aren’t there. First it was only wallpapers—but now it’s dead bodies. So I’m getting worse.’
‘Now don’t rush to conclusions, my dear—’
‘Or else it’s the house. The house is haunted—or bewitched or something … I see things that have happened there—or else I see things that are going to happen there—and that would be worse. Perhaps a woman called Helen is going to be murdered there … Only I don’t see if it’s the house that’s haunted why I should see these awful things when I am away from it. So I think really that it must be me that’s going queer. And I’d better go and see a psychiatrist at once—this morning.’
‘Well, of course, Gwenda dear, you can always do that when you’ve exhausted every other line of approach, but I always think myself that it’s better to examine the simplest and most commonplace explanations first. Let me get the facts quite clear. There were three definite incidents that upset you. A path in the garden that had been planted over but that you felt was there, a door that had been bricked up, and a wallpaper which you imagined correctly and in detail without having seen it? Am I right?’
‘Well, the easiest, the most natural explanation would be that you had seen them before.’
‘In another life, you mean?’
‘Well no, dear. I meant in this life. I mean that they might be actual memories.’
‘But I’ve never been in England until a month ago, Miss Marple.’
‘You are quite sure of that, my dear?’
‘Of course I’m sure. I’ve lived near Christchurch in New Zealand all my life.’
‘Were you born there?’
‘No, I was born in India. My father was a British Army officer. My mother died a year or two after I was born and he sent me back to her people in New Zealand to bring up. Then he himself died a few years later.’
‘You don’t remember coming from India to New Zealand?’
‘Not really. I do remember, frightfully vaguely, being on a boat. A round window thing—a porthole, I suppose. And a man in white uniform with a red face and blue eyes, and a mark on his chin—a scar, I suppose. He used to toss me up in the air and I remember being half frightened and half loving it. But it’s all very fragmentary.’
‘Do you remember a nurse—or an ayah?’
‘Not an ayah—Nannie. I remember Nannie because she stayed for some time—until I was five years old. She cut ducks out of paper. Yes, she was on the boat. She scolded me when I cried because the Captain kissed me and I didn’t like his beard.’
‘Now that’s very interesting, dear, because you see you are mixing up two different voyages. In one, the Captain had a beard and in the other he had a red face and a scar on his chin.’