A caribbean mystery by agatha christie

Chapter 1

MAJOR PALGRAVE TELLS A STORY

“Take all this business about Kenya,” said Major Palgrave. “Lots of chaps gabbing away who know nothing about the place! Now I spent fourteen years of my life there. Some of the best years of my life, too.”

Old Miss Marple inclined her head. It was a gentle gesture of courtesy. Whilst Major Palgrave proceeded with the somewhat uninteresting recollections of a lifetime, Miss Marple peacefully pursued her own thoughts. It was a routine with which she was well acquainted. The locale varied. In the past, it had been predominantly India. Majors, Colonels, Lieutenant-Generals-and a familiar series of words: Simla, Bearers, Tigers, Chota, Hazri-Tiffin, Khitmagars, and so on. With Major Palgrave the terms were slightly different. Safari. Kikuyu. Elephants. Swahili. But the pattern was essentially the same. An elderly man who needed a listener so that he could, in memory, relive days in which he had been happy.

Days when his back had been straight, his eyesight keen, his hearing acute. Some of these talkers had been handsome soldierly old boys, some again had been regrettably unattractive, and Major Palgrave, purple of face, with a glass eye, and the general appearance of a stuffed frog, belonged in the latter category.

Miss Marple had bestowed on all of them the same gentle charity. She had sat attentively, inclining her head from time to time in gentle agreement, thinking her own thoughts and enjoying what there was to enjoy: in this case the deep blue of a Caribbean Sea.

So kind of dear Raymond-she was thinking gratefully-so really and truly kind… Why he should take so much trouble about his old aunt, she really did not know. Conscience, perhaps, family feelings? Or possibly he was truly fond of her… She thought, on the whole, that he was fond of her-he always had been-in a slightly exasperated and contemptuous way! Always trying to bring her up to date. Sending her books to read. Modern novels. So difficult-all about such unpleasant people, doing such very odd things and not, apparently, even enjoying them. “Sex” as a word had not been much mentioned in Miss Marple’s young days; but there had been plenty of it-not talked about so much-but enjoyed far more than nowadays, or so it seemed to her. Though usually labelled Sin, she couldn’t help feeling that that was preferable to what it seemed to be nowadays-a kind of Duty.

Her glance strayed for a moment to the book on her lap lying open at page twenty-three which was as far as she had got (and indeed as far as she felt like getting!). “Do you mean that you’ve had no sexual experience at all?” demanded the young man incredulously. “At nineteen? But you must. It’s vital.”

The girl hung her head unhappily, her straight greasy hair fell forward over her face. “I know,” she muttered, “I know.”

He looked at her, stained old jersey, the bare feet, the dirty toenails, the smell of rancid fat… He wondered why he found her so maddeningly attractive.

Miss Marple wondered too! And really! To have sex experience urged on you exactly as though it was an iron tonic! Poor young things…

“My dear Aunt Jane, why must you bury your head in the sand like a very delightful ostrich? All bound up in this idyllic rural life of yours. Real life-that’s what matters.” Thus Raymond-and his Aunt Jane had looked properly abashed-and said “Yes,” she was afraid she was rather old-fashioned. Though really rural life was far from idyllic. People like Raymond were so ignorant.



A caribbean mystery by agatha christie