The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side
Агата Кристи

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‘It wasn’t poor Miss Knight’s fault. I gave her a lot of shopping to do and then I—’

‘Deliberately gave her the slip? I see. Well, you shouldn’t do it, Jane. Not at your age.’

‘How did you hear about it?’

Mrs Bantry grinned.

‘You can’t keep any secrets in St Mary Mead. You’ve often told me so. Mrs Meavy told me.’

‘Mrs Meavy?’ Miss Marple looked at sea.

‘She comes in daily. She’s from the Development.’

‘Oh, the Development.’ The usual pause happened.

‘What were you doing in the Development?’ asked Mrs Bantry, curiously.

‘I just wanted to see it. To see what the people were like.’

‘And what did you think they were like?’

‘Just the same as everyone else. I don’t quite know if that was disappointing or reassuring.’

‘Disappointing, I should think.’

‘No. I think it’s reassuring. It makes you—well—recognize certain types—so that when anything occurs—one will understand quite well why and for what reason.’

‘Murder, do you mean?’

Miss Marple looked shocked.

‘I don’t know why you should assume that I think of murder all the time.’

‘Nonsense, Jane. Why don’t you come out boldly and call yourself a criminologist and have done with it?’

‘Because I am nothing of the sort,’ said Miss Marple with spirit. ‘It is simply that I have a certain knowledge of human nature—that is only natural after having lived in a small village all my life.’

‘You probably have something there,’ said Mrs Bantry thoughtfully, ‘though most people wouldn’t agree, of course. Your nephew Raymond always used to say this place was a complete backwater.’

‘Dear Raymond,’ said Miss Marple indulgently. She added: ‘He’s always been so kind. He’s paying for Miss Knight, you know.’

The thought of Miss Knight induced a new train of thought and she arose and said: ‘I’d better be going back now, I suppose.’

‘You didn’t walk all the way here, did you?’

‘Of course not. I came in Inch.’

This somewhat enigmatic pronouncement was received with complete understanding. In days very long past, Mr Inch had been the proprietor of two cabs, which met trains at the local station and which were also hired by the local ladies to take them ‘calling’, out to tea parties, and occasionally, with their daughters, to such frivolous entertainments as dances. In the fullness of time Inch, a cheery red-faced man of seventy odd, gave place to his son—known as ‘young Inch’ (he was then aged forty-five) though old Inch still continued to drive such elderly ladies as considered his son too young and irresponsible. To keep up with the times, young Inch abandoned horse vehicles for motor cars. He was not very good with machinery and in due course a certain Mr Bardwell took over from him. The name Inch persisted. Mr Bardwell in due course sold out to Mr Roberts, but in the telephone book Inch’s Taxi Service was still the official name, and the older ladies of the community continued to refer to their journeys as going somewhere ‘in Inch’, as though they were Jonah and Inch was a whale.

‘Dr Haydock called,’ said Miss Knight reproachfully. ‘I told him you’d gone to tea with Mrs Bantry. He said he’d call in again tomorrow.’

She helped Miss Marple off with her wraps.

‘And now, I expect, we’re tired out,’ she said accusingly.

‘You may be,’ said Miss Marple. ‘I am not.’

‘You come and sit cosy by the fire,’ said Miss Knight, as usual paying no attention. (‘You don’t need to take much notice of what the old dears say. I just humour them.’) ‘And how would we fancy a nice cup of Ovaltine? Or Horlicks for a change?’

Miss Marple thanked her and said she would like a small glass of dry sherry. Miss Knight looked disapproving.

‘I don’t know what the doctor would say to that, I’m sure,’ she said, when she returned with the glass.

‘We will make a point of asking him tomorrow morning,’ said Miss Marple.

On the following morning Miss Knight met Dr Haydock in the hall, and did some agitated whispering.

The elderly doctor came into the room rubbing his hands, for it was a chilly morning.

‘Here’s our doctor to see us,’ said Miss Knight gaily. ‘Can I take your gloves, Doctor?’

‘They’ll be all right here,’ said Haydock, casting them carelessly on a table. ‘Quite a nippy morning.’

‘A little glass of sherry perhaps?’ suggested Miss Marple.

‘I heard you were taking to drink. Well, you should never drink alone.’

The decanter and the glasses were already on a small table by Miss Marple. Miss Knight left the room.

Dr Haydock was a very old friend. He had semi-retired, but came to attend certain of his old patients.

‘I hear you’ve been falling about,’ he said as he finished his glass. ‘It won’t do, you know, not at your age. I’m warning you. And I hear you didn’t want to send for Sandford.’

Sandford was Haydock’s partner.

‘That Miss Knight of yours sent for him anyway—and she was quite right.’

‘I was only bruised and shaken a little. Dr Sandford said so. I could have waited quite well until you were back.’

‘Now look here, my dear. I can’t go on for ever. And Sandford, let me tell you, has better qualifications than I have. He’s a first class man.’

‘The young doctors are all the same,’ said Miss Marple. ‘They take your blood pressure, and whatever’s the matter with you, you get some kind of mass produced variety of new pills. Pink ones, yellow ones, brown ones. Medicine nowadays is just like a supermarket—all packaged up.’

‘Serve you right if I prescribed leeches, and black draught, and rubbed your chest with camphorated oil.’

‘I do that myself when I’ve got a cough,’ said Miss Marple with spirit, ‘and very comforting it is.’

‘We don’t like getting old, that’s what it is,’ said Haydock gently. ‘I hate it.’
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