The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side
Агата Кристи

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‘I know,’ said Miss Zielinksy, ‘wearing print dresses that rustled.’

‘I’m not sure about the print dress,’ said Mrs Bantry, ‘it may have been overalls by then. At any rate, she burst in and said there was a body in the library. I said “nonsense”, then I woke up my husband and we came down to see.’

‘And there it was,’ said Miss Zielinsky. ‘My, the way things happen.’ She turned her head sharply towards the door and then back again. ‘Don’t talk about it to Miss Gregg, if you don’t mind,’ she said. ‘It’s not good for her, that sort of thing.’

‘Of course. I won’t say a word,’ said Mrs Bantry. ‘I never do talk about it, as a matter of fact. It all happened so long ago. But won’t she—Miss Gregg I mean—won’t she hear it anyway?’

‘She doesn’t come very much in contact with reality,’ said Ella Zielinsky. ‘Film stars can lead a fairly insulated life, you know. In fact very often one has to take care that they do. Things upset them. Things upset her. She’s been seriously ill the last year or two, you know. She only started making a comeback a year ago.’

‘She seems to like the house,’ said Mrs Bantry, ‘and to feel she will be happy here.’

‘I expect it’ll last a year or two,’ said Ella Zielinsky.

‘Not longer than that?’

‘Well, I rather doubt it. Marina is one of those people, you know, who are always thinking they’ve found their heart’s desire. But life isn’t as easy as that, is it?’

‘No,’ said Mrs Bantry forcefully, ‘it isn’t.’

‘It’ll mean a lot to him if she’s happy here,’ said Miss Zielinsky. She ate two more sandwiches in an absorbed, rather gobbling fashion in the manner of one who crams food into themselves as though they had an important train to catch. ‘He’s a genius, you know,’ she went on. ‘Have you seen any of the pictures he’s directed?’

Mrs Bantry felt slightly embarrassed. She was of the type of woman who when she went to the cinema went entirely for the picture. The long lists of casts, directors, producers, photography and the rest of it passed her by. Very frequently, indeed, she did not even notice the names of the stars. She was not, however, anxious to call attention to this failing on her part.

‘I get mixed up,’ she said.

‘Of course he’s got a lot to contend with,’ said Ella Zielinsky. ‘He’s got her as well as everything else and she’s not easy. You’ve got to keep her happy, you see; and it’s not really easy, I suppose, to keep people happy. Unless—that is—they—they are—’ she hesitated.

‘Unless they’re the happy kind,’ suggested Mrs Bantry. ‘Some people,’ she added thoughtfully, ‘enjoy being miserable.’

‘Oh, Marina isn’t like that,’ said Ella Zielinsky, shaking her head. ‘It’s more that her ups and downs are so violent. You know—far too happy one moment, far too pleased with everything and delighted with everything and how wonderful she feels. Then of course some little thing happens and down she goes to the opposite extreme.’

‘I suppose that’s temperament,’ said Mrs Bantry vaguely.

‘That’s right,’ said Ella Zielinsky. ‘Temperament. They’ve all got it, more or less, but Marina Gregg has got it more than most people. Don’t we know it! The stories I could tell you!’ She ate the last sandwich. ‘Thank God I’m only the social secretary.’

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

The throwing open of the grounds of Gossington Hall for the benefit of the St John Ambulance Association was attended by a quite unprecedented number of people. Shilling admission fees mounted up in a highly satisfactory fashion. For one thing, the weather was good, a clear sunny day. But the preponderant attraction was undoubtedly the enormous local curiosity to know exactly what these ‘film people’ had done to Gossington Hall. The most extravagant assumptions were entertained. The swimming pool in particular caused immense satisfaction. Most people’s ideas of Hollywood stars were of sun-bathing by a pool in exotic surroundings and in exotic company. That the climate of Hollywood might be more suited to swimming pools than that of St Mary Mead failed to be considered. After all, England always has one fine hot week in the summer and there is always one day that the Sunday papers publish articles on How to Keep Cool, How to Have Cool Suppers and How to Make Cool Drinks. The pool was almost exactly what everyone had imagined it might be. It was large, its waters were blue, it had a kind of exotic pavilion for changing and was surrounded with a highly artificial plantation of hedges and shrubs. The reactions of the multitude were exactly as might have been expected and hovered over a wide range of remarks.

‘O-oh, isn’t it lovely!’

‘Two penn’orth of splash here, all right!’

‘Reminds me of that holiday camp I went to.’

‘Wicked luxury I call it. It oughtn’t to be allowed.’

‘Look at all that fancy marble. It must have cost the earth!’

‘Don’t see why these people think they can come over here and spend all the money they like.’

‘Perhaps this’ll be on the telly sometime. That’ll be fun.’

Even Mr Sampson, the oldest man in St Mary Mead, boasting proudly of being ninety-six though his relations insisted firmly that he was only eighty-six, had staggered along supporting his rheumatic legs with a stick, to see this excitement. He gave it his highest praise: ‘Wicked, this!’ He smacked his lips hopefully. ‘Ah, there’ll be a lot of wickedness here, I don’t doubt. Naked men and women drinking and smoking what they call in the papers them reefers. There’ll be all that, I expect. Ah yes,’ said Mr Sampson with enormous pleasure, ‘there’ll be a lot of wickedness.’

It was felt that the final seal of approval had been set on the afternoon’s entertainment. For an extra shilling people were allowed to go into the house, and study the new music room, the drawing-room, the completely unrecognizable dining-room, now done in dark oak and Spanish leather, and a few other joys.

‘Never think this was Gossington Hall, would you, now?’ said Mr Sampson’s daughter-in-law.

Mrs Bantry strolled up fairly late and observed with pleasure that the money was coming in well and that the attendance was phenomenal.

The large marquee in which tea was being served was jammed with people. Mrs Bantry hoped the buns were going to go round. There seemed some very competent women, however, in charge. She herself made a bee-line for the herbaceous border and regarded it with a jealous eye. No expense had been spared on the herbaceous border, she was glad to note, and it was a proper herbaceous border, well planned and arranged and expensively stocked. No personal labours had gone into it, she was sure of that. Some good gardening firm had been given the contract, no doubt. But aided by carte blanche and the weather, they had turned out a very good job.

Looking round her, she felt there was a faint flavour of a Buckingham Palace garden party about the scene. Everybody was craning to see all they could see, and from time to time a chosen few were led into one of the more secret recesses of the house. She herself was presently approached by a willowy young man with long wavy hair.

‘Mrs Bantry? You are Mrs Bantry?’

‘I’m Mrs Bantry, yes.’

‘Hailey Preston.’ He shook hands with her. ‘I work for Mr Rudd. Will you come up to the second floor? Mr and Mrs Rudd are asking a few special friends up there.’

Duly honoured Mrs Bantry followed him. They went in through what had been called in her time the garden door. A red cord cordoned off the bottom of the main stairs. Hailey Preston unhooked it and she passed through. Just in front of her Mrs Bantry observed Councillor and Mrs Allcock. The latter who was stout was breathing heavily.

‘Wonderful what they’ve done, isn’t it, Mrs Bantry?’ panted Mrs Allcock. ‘I’d like to have a look at the bathrooms, I must say, but I suppose I shan’t get the chance.’ Her voice was wistful.

At the top of the stairs Marina Gregg and Jason Rudd were receiving this specially chosen élite. What had once been a spare bedroom had been thrown into the landing so as to make a wide lounge-like effect. Giuseppe the butler was officiating with drinks.

A stout man in livery was announcing guests.

‘Councillor and Mrs Allcock,’ he boomed.

Marina Gregg was being, as Mrs Bantry had described her to Miss Marple, completely natural and charming. She could already hear Mrs Allcock saying later: ‘—and so unspoiled, you know, in spite of being so famous.’

How very nice of Mrs Allcock to come, and the Councillor, and she did hope they’d enjoy their afternoon. ‘Jason, please look after Mrs Allcock.’

Councillor and Mrs Allcock were passed on to Jason and drinks.

‘Oh, Mrs Bantry, it is nice of you to come.’

‘I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,’ said Mrs Bantry and moved on purposefully towards the Martinis.

The young man called Hailey Preston ministered to her in a tender manner and then made off, consulting a little list in his hand, to fetch, no doubt, more of the Chosen to the Presence. It was all being managed very well, Mrs Bantry thought, turning, Martini in hand, to watch the next arrivals. The vicar, a lean, ascetic man, was looking vague and slightly bewildered. He said earnestly to Marina Gregg:

‘Very nice of you to ask me. I’m afraid, you know, I haven’t got a television set myself, but of course I—er—I—well, of course my young people keep me up to the mark.’

Nobody knew what he meant. Miss Zielinsky, who was also on duty, administered a lemonade to him with a kindly smile. Mr and Mrs Badcock were next up the stairs. Heather Badcock, flushed and triumphant, came a little ahead of her husband.

‘Mr and Mrs Badcock,’ boomed the man in livery.
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