Mrs. Bantry was dreaming. Her sweet peas had just taken a First at the flower show. The vicar, dressed in cassock and surplice, was giving out the prizes in church. His wife wandered past, dressed in a bathing suit, but, as is the blessed habit of dreams, this fact did not arouse the disapproval of the parish in the way it would assuredly have done in real life. Mrs. Bantry was enjoying her dream a good deal.
She usually did enjoy those early-morning dreams that were terminated by the arrival of early-morning tea. Somewhere in her inner consciousness was an awareness of the usual early-morning noises of the household. The rattle of the curtain rings on the stairs as the housemaid drew them, the noises of the second housemaid’s dustpan and brush in the passage outside. In the distance the heavy noise of the front-door bolt being drawn back.
Another day was beginning. In the meantime she must extract as much pleasure as possible from the flower show, for already its dreamlike quality was becoming apparent.
Below her was the noise of the big wooden shutters in the drawing room being opened. She heard it, yet did not hear it. For quite half an hour longer the usual household noises would go on, discreet, subdued, not disturbing because they were so familiar. They would culminate in a swift, controlled sound of footsteps along the passage, the rustle of a print dress, the subdued chink of tea things as the tray was deposited on the table outside, then the soft knock and the entry of Mary to draw the curtains. In her sleep Mrs. Bantry frowned. Something disturbing was penetrating through the dream state, something out of its time. Footsteps along the passage, footsteps that were too hurried and too soon. Her ears listened unconsciously for the chink of china, but there was no chink of china. The knock came at the door. Automatically, from the depths of her dream, Mrs. Bantry said, “Come in.” The door opened; now there would be the
chink of curtain ring as the curtains were drawn back.
But there was no chink of curtain rings. Out of the dull green light Mary’s voice came, breathless, hysterical. “Oh, ma’am, oh, ma’am, there’s a body in the library!” And then, with a hysterical burst of sobs, she rushed out of the room again.
Mrs. Bantry sat up in bed. Either her dream had taken a very odd turn or else – or else Mary had really rushed into the room and had said – incredibly fantastic! – that there was a body in the library. “Impossible,” said Mrs. Bantry to herself. “I must have been dreaming.” But even as she said it, she felt more and more certain that she had not been dreaming; that Mary, her superior self-controlled Mary, had actually uttered those fantastic words. Mrs. Bantry reflected a minute and then applied an urgent conjugal elbow to her sleeping spouse. “Arthur, Arthur, wake up.” Colonel Bantry grunted, muttered and rolled over on his side. “Wake up, Arthur. Did you hear what she said?”
“Very likely,” said Colonel Bantry indistinctly. “I quite agree with you. Dolly,” and promptly went to sleep again.
Mrs. Bantry shook him. “You’ve got to listen. Mary came in and said that there was a body in the library.” “Eh, what?” “A body in the library” “Who said so?” “Mary.”
Colonel Bantry collected his scattered faculties and proceeded to deal with the situation. He said, “Nonsense, old girl! You’ve been dreaming.”
“No, I haven’t. I thought so, too, at first. But I haven’t. She really came in and said so.”
“Mary came in and said there was a body in the library?” “Yes.