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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Christie Agatha

«Murder in Mesopotamia», Agatha Christie

Dedicated to

My many archaeological friends

in Iraq and Syria





by Giles Reilly, MD


The events chronicled in this narrative took place some four years ago. Circumstances have rendered it necessary, in my opinion, that a straightforward account of them should be given to the public. There have been the wildest and most ridiculous rumours suggesting that important evidence was suppressed and other nonsense of that kind. Those misconstructions have appeared more especially in the American Press.

For obvious reasons it was desirable that the account should not come from the pen of one of the expedition staff, who might reasonably be supposed to be prejudiced.

I therefore suggested to Miss Amy Leatheran that she should undertake the task. She is obviously the person to do it. She had a professional character of the highest, she is not biased by having any previous connection with the University of Pittstown Expedition to Iraq and she was an observant and intellectual eye-witness.

It was not very easy to persuade Miss Leatheran to undertake this task-in fact, persuading her was one of the hardest jobs of my professional career-and even after it was completed she displayed a curious reluctance to let me see the manuscript. I discovered that this was partly due to some critical remarks she had made concerning my daughter Sheila. I soon disposed of that, assuring her that as children criticize their parents freely in print nowadays, parents are only too delighted when their offspring come in for their share of abuse! Her other objection was extreme modesty about her literary style. She hoped I would ‘put the grammar right and all that.’ I have, on the contrary, refused to alter so much as a single word. Miss Leatheran’s style in my opinion is vigorous, individual and entirely apposite. If she calls Hercule Poirot ‘Poirot’ in one paragraph and ‘Mr Poirot’ in the next, such a variation is both interesting and suggestive. At one moment she is, so to speak, ‘remembering her manners’ (and hospital nurses are great sticklers for etiquette) and at the next her interest in what she is telling is that of a pure human being-cap and cuffs forgotten!

The only thing I have done is to take the liberty of writing a first chapter-aided by a letter kindly supplied by one of Miss Leatheran’s friends. It is intended to be in the nature of a frontispiece-that is, it gives a rough sketch of the narrator.

Chapter 1. Frontispiece

In the hall of the Tigris Palace Hotel in Baghdad a hospital nurse was finishing a letter. Her fountain-pen drove briskly over the paper.

…Well, dear, I think that’s really all my news. I must say it’s been nice to see a bit of the world-though England for me every time, thank you. Thedirt and themess in Baghdad you wouldn’t believe-and not romantic at all like you’d think from theArabianNights! Of course, it’s pretty just on the river, but the town itself is just awful-and no proper shops at all. Major Kelsey took me through the bazaars, and of course there’s no denying they’requaint -but just a lot of rubbish and hammering away at copper pans till they make your headache-and not what I’d like to use myself unless I was sure about the cleaning. You’ve got to be so careful of verdigris with copper pans. 

I’ll write and let you know if anything comes of the job that Dr Reilly spoke about. He said this American gentleman was in Baghdad now and might come and see me this afternoon. It’s for his wife-she has ‘fancies’, so Dr Reilly said. He didn’t say any more than that, and of course, dear, one knows what thatusually means (but I hope not actually D.T.s!). Of course, Dr Reilly didn’tsay anything-but he had a look-if you know what I mean. This Dr Leidner is an archaeologist and is digging up a mound out in the desert somewhere for some American museum.

Well, dear, I will close now. I thought what you told me about little Stubbins was simplykilling! Whatever did Matron say?

No more now.

Yours ever,

Amy Leatheran

Enclosing the letter in an envelope, she addressed it to Sister Curshaw, St Christopher’s Hospital, London.

As she put the cap on her fountain-pen, one of the native boys approached her.

‘A gentleman come to see you. Dr Leidner.’

Nurse Leatheran turned. She saw a man of middle height with slightly stooping shoulders, a brown beard and gentle, tired eyes.

Dr Leidner saw a woman of thirty-five, of erect, confident bearing. He saw a good-humoured face with slightly prominent blue eyes and glossy brown hair. She looked, he thought, just what a hospital nurse for a nervous case ought to look. Cheerful, robust, shrewd and matter-of-fact.

Nurse Leatheran, he thought, would do.

Chapter 2. Introducing Amy Leatheran

I don’t pretend to be an author or to know anything about writing. I’m doing this simply because Dr Reilly asked me to, and somehow when Dr Reilly asks you to do a thing you don’t like to refuse.

‘Oh, but, doctor,’ I said, ‘I’m not literary-not literary at all.’

‘Nonsense!’ he said. ‘Treat it as case notes, if you like.’

Well, of course, youcan look at it that way.

Dr Reilly went on. He said that an unvarnished plain account of the Tell Yarimjah business was badly needed.

‘If one of the interested parties writes it, it won’t carry conviction. They’ll say it’s biased one way or another.’

And of course that was true, too. I was in it all and yet an outsider, so to speak. 

‘Why don’t you write it yourself, doctor?’ I asked.

‘I wasn’t on the spot-you were. Besides,’ he added with a sigh, ‘my daughter won’t let me.’

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