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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Christie Agatha
 

«Evil Under the Sun», Agatha Christie

To John

In memory of our last season in Syria

 

Chapter 1

I

 

When Captain Roger Angmering built himself a house in the year 1782 on the island off Leathercombe Bay, it was thought the height of eccentricity on his part. A man of good family such as he was should have had a decorous mansion set in wide meadows with, perhaps, a running stream and good pasture.

But Captain Roger Angmering had only one great love, the sea. So he built his house-a sturdy house too, as it needed to be, on the little windswept gull-haunted promontory-cut off from land at each high tide.

He did not marry, the sea was his first and last spouse, and at his death the house and island went to a distant cousin. That cousin and his descendants thought little of the bequest. Their own acres dwindled, and their heirs grew steadily poorer.

In 1922 when the great cult of the Seaside for Holidays was finally established and the coast of Devon and Cornwall was no longer thought too hot in the summer, Arthur Angmering found his vast inconvenient late Georgian house unsaleable, but he got a good price for the odd bit of property acquired by the seafaring Captain Roger.

The sturdy house was added to and embellished. A concrete causeway was laid down from the mainland to the island. ‘Walks’ and ‘Nooks’ were cut and devised all round the island. There were two tennis courts, sun-terraces leading down to a little bay embellished with rafts and diving boards. The Jolly Roger Hotel, Smugglers’ Island, Leathercombe Bay, came triumphantly into being. And from June till September (with a short season at Easter) the Jolly Roger Hotel was usually packed to the attics. It was enlarged and improved in 1934 by the addition of a cocktail bar, a bigger dining-room and some extra bathrooms. The prices went up.

People said:

‘Ever been to Leathercombe Bay? Awfully jolly hotel there, on a sort of island. Very comfortable and no trippers or charabancs. Good cooking and all that. You ought to go.’

And people did go.

 

II

 

There was one very important person (in his own estimation at least) staying at the Jolly Roger. Hercule Poirot, resplendent in a white duck suit, with a panama hat tilted over his eyes, his moustaches magnificently befurled, lay back in an improved type of deck-chair and surveyed the bathing beach. A series of terraces led down to it from the hotel. On the beach itself were floats, lilos, rubber and canvas boats, balls and rubber toys. There was a long springboard and three rafts at varying distances from the shore.

Of the bathers, some were in the sea, some were lying stretched out in the sun, and some were anointing themselves carefully with oil.

On the terrace immediately above, the non-bathers sat and commented on the weather, the scene in front of them, the news in the morning papers and any other subject that appealed to them.

On Poirot’s left a ceaseless flow of conversation poured in a gentle monotone from the lips of Mrs Gardener while at the same time her needles clacked as she knitted vigorously. Beyond her, her husband, Odell C. Gardener, lay in a hammock chair, his hat tilted forward over his nose, and occasionally uttered a brief statement when called upon to do so. 

On Poirot’s right, Miss Brewster, a tough athletic woman with grizzled hair and a pleasant weather-beaten face, made gruff comments. The result sounded rather like a sheepdog whose short stentorian barks interrupted the ceaseless yapping of a Pomeranian.

Mrs Gardener was saying:

‘And so I said to Mr Gardener, why, I said, sightseeing is all very well, and I do like to do a place thoroughly. But, after all, I said, we’ve done England pretty well and all I want now is to get to some quiet spot by the seaside and just relax. That’s what I said, wasn’t it, Odell? Justrelax. I feel I must relax, I said. That’s so, isn’t it, Odell?’

Mr Gardener, from behind his hat, murmured:

‘Yes, darling.’

Mrs Gardener pursued the theme.

‘And so, when I mentioned it to Mr Kelso, at Cook’s-He’s arranged all our itinerary for us and beenmost helpful in every way. I don’t really know what we’d have done without him!-well, as I say, when I mentioned it to him, Mr Kelso said that we couldn’t do better than come here. A most picturesque spot, he said, quite out of the world, and at the same time very comfortable and most exclusive in every way. And, of course, Mr Gardener, he chipped in there and said what about the sanitary arrangements? Because, if you’ll believe me, M. Poirot, a sister of Mr Gardener’s went to stay at a guesthouse once, very exclusive they said it was, and in the heart of the moors, but would you believe me,nothing but an earth closet! So naturally that made Mr Gardener suspicious of these out-of-the-world places, didn’t it, Odell?’

‘Why, yes, darling,’ said Gardener.


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