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The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories

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The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories

    The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories

    Book Jacket

    SUMMARY:A priceless treasure for collectors and fans, "The Harlequin Tea Set" brings togethernine brilliant Christie stories that have remained long out of print—until now. Featuringbeloved Christie detectives such as Hercule Poirot and Mr. Harley Quin, as well as newcharacters, these stories will charm and fascinate the millions of Christie fans around theworld.

     THE HARLEQUIN TEA SET AND OTHER STORIES (1997)

     Agatha Christie

     ?

     CONTENTS

     ?

     The Edge

     The Actress

     While the Light Lasts

     The House of Dreams

     The Lonely God

     Manx Gold

     Within a Wall

     The Mystery of the Spanish Chest

     The Harlequin Tea Set

     ?

     ?

     THE EDGE

     ?

     Clare Halliwell walked down the short path that led from her cottage door to the gate. On herarm was a basket, and in the basket was a bottle of soup, some home-made jelly, and a fewgrapes. There were not many poor people in the small village of Daymer's End, but such as therewere were assiduously looked after, and Clare was one of the most efficient of the parishworkers.

     Clare Halliwell was thirty-two. She had an upright carriage, a healthy color, and nice browneyes. She was not beautiful, but she looked fresh and pleasant and very English. Everybodyliked her and said she was a good sort. Since her mother's death, two years ago, she had livedalone in the cottage with her dog, Rover. She kept poultry and was fond of animals and of ahealthy outdoor life.

     As she unlatched the gate, a two-seater car swept past, and the driver, a girl in a red hat,waved a greeting. Clare responded, but for a moment her lips tightened. She felt that pang ather heart which always came when she saw Vivien Lee, Gerald's wife!

     Medenham Grange, which lay just a mile outside the village, had belonged to the Lees for manygenerations. Sir Gerald Lee, the present owner of the Grange, was a man old for his years andconsidered by many stiff in manner. His pomposity really covered a good deal of shyness. He andClare had played together as children. Later they had been friends, and a closer and dearer tiehad been confidently expected by many - including, it may be said, Clare herself. There was nohurry, of course - but someday - She left it so in her own mind. Someday.

     And then, just a year ago, the village had been startled by the news of Sir Gerald's marriageto a Miss Harper - a girl nobody had ever heard of!

     The new Lady Lee had not been popular in the village. She took not the faintest interest inparochial matters, was bored by hunting, and loathed the country and outdoor sports. Many ofthe wiseacres shook their heads and wondered how it would end. It was easy to see where SirGerald's infatuation had come in. Vivien was a beauty. From head to foot she was a completecontrast to Clare Halliwell - small, elfin, dainty, with golden-red hair that curledenchantingly over her pretty ears, and big violet eyes that could shoot a sideways glance ofprovocation to the manner born.

     Gerald Lee, in his simple man's way, had been anxious that his wife and Clare should be greatfriends. Clare was often asked to dine at the Grange, and Vivien made a pretty pretence ofaffectionate intimacy whenever they met. Hence that gay salutation of hers this morning.

     Clare walked on and did her errand. The vicar was also visiting the old woman in question, andhe and Clare walked a few yards together afterwards before their ways parted. They stood stillfor a minute discussing parish affairs.

     "Jones has broken out again, I'm afraid," said the vicar. "And I had such hopes after he hadvolunteered, of his own accord, to take the pledge."

     "Disgusting," said Clare crisply.

     "It seems so to us," said Mr. Wilmot, "but we must remember that it is very hard to putourselves in his place and realize his temptation. The desire for drink is unaccountable to us,

but we all have our own temptations, and thus we can understand."

     "I suppose we have," said Clare uncertainly.

     The vicar glanced at her.

     "Some of us have the good fortune to be very little tempted," he said gently. "But even tothose people their hour comes. Watch and pray, remember, that ye enter not into temptation."

     Then bidding her good-bye, he walked briskly away. Clare went on thoughtfully, and presentlyshe almost bumped into Sir Gerald Lee.

     "Hullo, Clare. I was hoping to run across you. You look jolly fit. What a color you've got."

     The color had not been there a minute before. Lee went on:

     "As I say, I was hoping to run across you. Vivien's got to go off to Bournemouth for theweekend. Her mother's not well. Can you dine with us Tuesday instead of tonight?"

     "Oh, yes! Tuesday will suit me just as well."

     "That's all right, then. Splendid. I must hurry along."

     Clare went home to find her one faithful domestic standing on the doorstep looking out forher.

     "There you are, miss. Such a to-do. They've brought Rover home. He went off on his own thismorning, and a car ran clean over him."

     Clare hurried to the dog's side. She adored animals, and Rover was her especial darling. Shefelt his legs one by one, and then ran her hands over his body. He groaned once or twice andlicked her hand.

     "If there's any serious injury, it's internal," she said at last. "No bones seem to bebroken."

     "Shall we get the vet to see him, Miss?"

     Clare shook her head. She had little faith in the local vet.

     "We'll wait until tomorrow. He doesn't seem to be in great pain, and his gums are a goodcolor, so there can't be much internal bleeding. Tomorrow, if I don't like the look of him,I'll take him over to Skippington in the car and let Reeves have a look at him. He's far andaway the best man."

     On the following day, Rover seemed weaker, and Clare duly carried out her project. The smalltown of Skippington was about forty miles away, a long run, but Reeves, the vet there, wascelebrated for many miles around.

     He diagnosed certain internal injuries but held out good hopes of recovery, and Clare wentaway quite content to leave Rover in his charge.

     There was only one hotel of any pretensions in Skippington, the County Arms. It was mainlyfrequented by commercial travelers, for there was no good hunting country near Skippington, andit was off the track of the main roads for motorists.

     Lunch was not served till one o'clock, and as it wanted a few minutes of that hour, Clareamused herself by glancing over the entries in the open visitors' book.

     Suddenly she gave a stifled exclamation. Surely she knew that handwriting, with its loops andwhirls and flourishes? She had always considered it unmistakable. Even now she could have sworn- but of course it was clearly impossible. Vivien Lee was at Bournemouth. The entry itselfshowed it to be impossible:

     Mr. and Mrs. Cyril Brown, London.

     But in spite of herself her eyes strayed back again and again to that curly writing, and on animpulse she could not quite define she asked abruptly of the woman in the office:

     "Mrs. Cyril Brown? I wonder if that is the same one I know?"

     "A small lady? Reddish hair? Very pretty. She came in a red two-seater car, madam. A Peugeot,I believe."

     Then it was! A coincidence would be too remarkable. As if in a dream, she heard the woman goon:

     "They were here just over a month ago for a weekend, and liked it so much that they have comeagain. Newly married, I should fancy."

     Clare heard herself saying: "Thank you. I don't think that could be my friend."

     Her voice sounded different, as though it belonged to someone else. Presently she was sittingin the dining room, quietly eating cold roast beef, her mind a maze of conflicting thought andemotions.

     She had no doubts whatever. She had summed Vivien up pretty correctly on their first meeting.Vivien was that kind. She wondered vaguely who the man was. Someone Vivien had known before hermarriage? Very likely - it didn't matter - nothing mattered but Gerald.

     What was she - Clare - to do about Gerald? He ought to know - surely he ought to know. It wasclearly her duty to tell him. She had discovered Vivien's secret by accident, but she must loseno time in acquainting Gerald with the facts. She was Gerald's friend, not Vivien's.

     But somehow or other she felt uncomfortable. Her conscience was not satisfied. On the face ofit, her reasoning was good, but duty and inclination jumped suspiciously together. She admittedto herself that she disliked Vivien. Besides, if Gerald Lee were to divorce his wife - andClare had no doubts at all that that was exactly what he would do, he was a man with an almostfanatical view of his own honor - then - well, the way would lie open for Gerald to come toher. Put like that, she shrank back fastidiously. Her own proposed action seemed naked andugly.

     The personal element entered in too much. She could not be sure of her own motives. Clare wasessentially a high-minded, conscientious woman. She strove now very earnestly to see where herduty lay. She wished, as she had always wished, to do right. What was right in this case? Whatwas wrong?

     By a pure accident she had come into possession of facts that affected vitally the man sheloved and the woman whom she disliked and - yes, one might as well be frank - of whom she wasbitterly jealous. She could ruin that woman. Was she justified in doing so?

     Clare had always held herself aloof from the back-biting and scandal which is an inevitablepart of village life. She hated to feel that she now resembled one of those human ghouls shehad always professed to despise.

     Suddenly the vicar's words that morning flashed across her mind:

     "Even to those people their hour comes.

     Was this her hour? Was this her temptation? Had it come insidiously disguised as a duty? Shewas Clare Halliwell, a Christian, in love and charity with all men - and women. If she were totell Gerald, she must be quite sure that only impersonal motives guided her. For the presentshe would say nothing.

     She paid her bill for luncheon and drove away, feeling an indescribable lightening of spirit.Indeed, she felt happier than she had done for a long time. She felt glad that she had had thestrength to resist temptation, to do nothing mean or unworthy. Just for a second it flashedacross her mind that it might be a sense of power that had so lightened her spirits, but shedismissed the idea as fantastic.

     By Tuesday night she was strengthened in her resolve. The revelation could not come throughher. She must keep silence. Her own secret love for Gerald made speech impossible. Rather ahigh-minded view to take? Perhaps; but it was the only one possible for her.

     She arrived at the Grange in her own little car. Sir Gerald's chauffeur was at the front doorto drive it round to the garage after she had alighted, as the night was a wet one. He had justdriven off when Clare remembered some books which she had borrowed and had brought with her toreturn. She called out, but the man did not hear her. The butler ran out after the car.

     So, for a minute or two, Clare was alone in the hall, close to the door of the drawing room,which the butler had just unlatched prior to announcing her. Those inside the room, however,knew nothing of her arrival, and so it was that Vivien's voice, high-pitched - not quite thevoice of a lady - rang out clearly and distinctly.

     "Oh, we're only waiting for Clare Halliwell. You must know her - lives in the village -supposed to be one of the local belles, but frightfully unattractive really. She tried her bestto catch Gerald, but he wasn't having any."

     "Oh, yes, darling -" this in answer to a murmured protest from her husband. "She did - youmayn't be aware of the fact - but she did her very utmost. Poor old Clare! A good sort, butsuch a dump!"

     Clare's face went dead white, her hands, hanging against her sides, clenched themselves inanger such as she had never known before. At that moment she could have murdered Vivien Lee. Itwas only by a supreme physical effort that she regained control of herself. That, and the half-formed thought that she held it in her power to punish Vivien for those cruel words.

     The butler had returned with the books. He opened the door, announced her, and in anothermoment she was greeting a roomful of people in her usual pleasant manner.

     Vivien, exquisitely dressed in some dark wine color that showed off her white fragility, wasparticularly affectionate and gushing. They didn't see half enough of Clare. She, Vivien, wasgoing to learn golf, and Clare must come out with her on the links.

     Gerald was very attentive and kind. Though he had no suspicion that she had overheard hiswife's words, he had some vague idea of making up for them. He was very fond of Clare, and hewished Vivien wouldn't say the things she did. He and Clare had been friends, nothing more -and if there was an uneasy suspicion at the back of his mind that he was shirking the truth inthat last statement, he put it away from him.

     After dinner the talk fell on dogs, and Clare recounted Rover's accident. She purposely waitedfor a lull in the conversation to say:

     "- so, on Saturday, I took him to Skippington."

     She heard the sudden rattle of Vivien Lee's coffee cup on the saucer, but she did not look ather - yet.

     "To see that man, Reeves?"

     "Yes. He'll be all right, I think. I had lunch at the County Arms afterwards. Rather a decentlittle pub." She turned now to Vivien. "Have you ever stayed there?"

     If she had had any doubts, they were swept aside.

     Vivien's answer came quick - in stammering haste.

     "I? Oh! N-no, no."

     Fear was in her eyes. They were wide and dark with it as they met Clare's. Clare's eyes toldnothing. They were calm, scrutinizing. No one could have dreamed of the keen pleasure that theyveiled. At that moment Clare almost forgave Vivien for the words she had overheard earlier inthe evening. She tasted in that moment a fullness of power that almost made her head reel. Sheheld Vivien Lee in the hollow of her hand.

     The following day, she received a note from the other woman. Would Clare come up and have teawith her quietly that afternoon? Clare refused.

     Then Vivien called on her. Twice she came at hours when Clare was almost certain to be athome. On the first occasion, Clare really was out; on the second, she slipped out by the backway when she saw Vivien coming up the path.

     "She's not sure yet whether I know or not," she said to herself. "She wants to find outwithout committing herself. But she shan't - not until I'm ready."

     Clare hardly knew herself what she was waiting for. She had decided to keep silence - that wasthe only straight and honorable course. She felt an additional glow of virtue when she

    remembered the extreme provocation she had received. After overhearing the way Vivien talked ofher behind her back, a weaker character, she felt, might have abandoned her good resolutions.

     She went twice to church on Sunday. First to early communion, from which she came outstrengthened and uplifted. No personal feelings should weigh with her - nothing mean or petty.She went again to morning service. Mr. Wilmot preached on the famous prayer of the Pharisee. Hesketched the life of that man, a good man, pillar of the church. And he pictured the slow,creeping blight of spiritual pride that distorted and soiled all that he was.

     Clare did not listen very attentively. Vivien was in the big square pew of the Lee family, andClare knew by instinct that the other intended to get hold of her afterwards.

     So it fell out. Vivien attached herself to Clare, walked home with her, and asked if she mightcome in. Clare, of course, assented. They sat in Clare's little sitting room, bright withflowers and old-fashioned chintzes. Vivien's talk was desultory and jerky.

     "I was at Bournemouth, you know, last weekend," she remarked presently.

     "Gerald told me so," said Clare.

     They looked at each other. Vivien appeared almost plain today. Her face had a sharp, foxy lookthat robbed it of much of its charm.

     "When you were at Skippington -" began Vivien.

     "When I was at Skippington?" echoed Clare politely.

     "You were speaking about some little hotel there."

     "The County Arms. Yes. You didn't know it, you said?"

     "I - I have been there once."

     "Oh!"

     She had only to keep still and wait. Vivien was quite unfitted to bear a strain of any kind.Already she was breaking down under it. Suddenly she leaned forward and spoke vehemently.

     "You don't like me. You never have. You've always hated me. You're enjoying yourself now,playing with me like a cat with a mouse. You're cruel - cruel. That's why I'm afraid of you,because deep down you're cruel."

     "Really, Vivien!" said Clare sharply.

     "You know, don't you? Yes, I can see that you know. You knew that night - when you spoke aboutSkippington. You've found out somehow. Well, I want to know what you are going to do about it.What are you going to do?"

     Clare did not reply for a minute, and Vivien sprang to her feet.

     "What are you going to do? I must know. You're not going to deny that you know all about it?"

     "I do not propose to deny anything," said Clare coldly.

     "You saw me there that day?"

     "No. I saw your handwriting in the book - Mr. and Mrs. Cyril Brown."

     Vivien flushed darkly.

     "Since then," continued Clare quietly, "I have made inquiries. I find that you were not atBournemouth that weekend. Your mother never sent for you. Exactly the same thing happened aboutsix weeks previously."

     Vivien sank down again on the sofa. She burst into furious crying, the crying of a frightenedchild.

     "What are you going to do?" she gasped. "Are you going to tell Gerald?"

     "I do't know yet," said Clare.

     She felt calm, omnipotent.

     Vivien sat up, pushing the red curls back from her forehead.

     "Would you like to hear all about it?"

     "It would be as well, I think."

     Vivien poured out the whole story. There was no reticence in her. Cyril 'Brown', was CyrilHaviland, a young engineer to whom she had previously been engaged. His health failed, and helost his job, whereupon he made no bones about jilting the penniless Vivien and marrying a richwidow many years older than himself. Soon afterwards Vivien married Gerald Lee.

     She had met Cyril again by chance. That was the first of many meetings. Cyril, backed by hiswife's money, was prospering in his career, and becoming a well known figure.

     It was a sordid story, a story of backstairs meeting, of ceaseless lying and intrigue.

     "I love him so," Vivien repeated again and again, with a sudden moan, and each time the wordsmade Clare feel physically sick.

     At last the stammering recital came to an end.

     Vivien muttered a shamefaced: "Well?"

     "What am I going to do?" asked Clare. "I can't tell you. I must have time to think."

     "You won't give me away to Gerald?"

     "It may be my duty to do so."

     "No, no." Vivien's voice rose to a hysterical shriek. "He'll divorce me. He won't listen to aword. He'll find out from that hotel, and Cyril will be dragged into it. And then his wife willdivorce him. Everything will go - his career, his health - he'll be penniless again. He'd neverforgive me - never."

     "If you'll excuse my saying so," said Clare, "I don't think much of this Cyril of yours."

     Vivien paid no attention.

     "I tell you he'll hate me - hate me. I can't bear it. Don't tell Gerald. I'll do anything youlike, but don't tell Gerald."

     "I must have time to decide," said Clare gravely. "I can't promise anything offhand. In themeantime, you and Cyril mustn't meet again."

     "No, no, we won't. I swear it."

     "When I know what's the right thing to do," said Clare, "I'll let you know."

     She got up. Vivien went out of the house in a furtive, slinking way, glancing back over hershoulder.

     Clare wrinkled her nose in disgust. A beastly affair. Would Vivien keep her promise not to seeCyril? Probably not. She was weak - rotten all through.

     That afternoon Clare went for a long walk. There was a path which led along the downs. On theleft the green hills sloped gently down to the sea far below, while the path wound steadilyupward. This walk was known locally as the Edge. Though safe enough if you kept to the path, itwas dangerous to wander from it.

     Those insidious gentle slopes were dangerous. Clare had lost a dog there once. The animal hadgone racing over the smooth grass, gaining momentum, had been unable to stop and had gone overthe edge of the cliff to be dashed to pieces on the sharp rocks below.

     The afternoon was clear and beautiful. From far below there came the ripple of the sea, asoothing murmur. Clare sat down on the short green turf and stared out over the blue water. Shemust face this thing clearly. What did she mean to do?

     She thought of Vivien with a kind of disgust. How the girl had crumpled up, how abjectly shehad surrendered! Clare felt a rising contempt. She had no pluck - no grit.

     Nevertheless, much as she disliked Vivien, Clare decided that she would continue to spare herfor the present. When she got home she wrote a note to her, saying that although she could makeno definite promise for the future, she had decided to keep silence for the present.

     Life went on much the same in Daymer's End. It was noticed locally that Lady Lee was lookingfar from well. On the other hand, Clare Halliwell bloomed. Her eyes were brighter, she carriedher head higher, and there was a new confidence and assurance in her manner.

     She and Lady Lee often met, and it was noticed on these occasions that the younger womanwatched the older with a flattering attention to her slightest word.

     Sometimes Miss Halliwell would make remarks that seemed a little ambiguous - not entirelyrelevant to the matter at hand. She would suddenly say that she had changed her mind about manythings lately - that it was curious how a little thing might alter entirely one's point ofview. One was apt to give way too much to pity - and that was really quite wrong.

     When she said things of that kind she usually looked at Lady Lee in a peculiar way, and thelatter would suddenly grow quite white, and look almost terrified.

     But as the year drew on, these little subtleties became less apparent. Clare continued to makethe same remarks, but Lady Lee seemed less affected by them. She began to recover her looks andspirits. Her old gay manner returned.

     One morning, when she was taking her dog for a walk, Clare met Gerald in a lane. The latter'sspaniel fraternized with Rover, while his master talked to Clare.

     "Heard our news?" he said buoyantly. "I expect Vivien's told you."

     "What sort of news? Vivien hasn't mentioned anything in particular."

     "We're going abroad - for a year - perhaps longer. Vivien's fed up with this place. She neverhas cared for it, you know." He sighed; for a moment or two he looked downcast. Gerald Lee wasvery proud of his home. "Anyway, I've promised her a change. I've taken a villa near Algiers. Awonderful place, by all accounts." He laughed a little self-consciously. "Quite a secondhoneymoon, eh?"

     For a minute or two Clare could not speak. Something seemed to be rising up in her throat andsuffocating her. She could see the white walls of the villa, the orange trees, smell the softperfumed breath of the South. A second honeymoon!

     They were going to escape. Vivien no longer believed in her threats. She was going away,carefree, gay, happy.

     Clare heard her own voice, a little hoarse in timbre, saying the appropriate things. Howlovely! She envied them!

     Mercifully at that moment Rover and the spaniel decided to disagree. In the scuffle thatensued, further conversation was out of the question.

     That afternoon Clare sat down and wrote a note to Vivien. She asked her to meet her on theEdge the following day, as she had something very important to say to her.

     The next morning dawned bright and cloudless. Clare walked up the steep path of the Edge witha lightened heart. What a perfect day! She was glad that she had decided to say what had to besaid out in the open, under the blue sky, instead of in her stuffy little sitting room. She wassorry for Vivien, very sorry indeed, but the thing had got to be done.

     She saw a yellow dot, like some yellow flower higher up by the side of the path. As she camenearer, it resolved itself into the figure of Vivien, dressed in a yellow knitted frock,sitting on the short turf, her hands clasped round her knees.

     "Good morning," said Clare. "Isn't it a perfect morning?"

     "Is it?" said Vivien. "I haven't noticed. What was it you wanted to say to me?"

     Clare dropped down on the grass beside her.

     "I'm quite out of breath," she said apologetically. "It's a steep pull up here."

     "Damn you!" cried Vivien shrilly. "Why can't you say it, you smooth-faced devil, instead oftorturing me?"

     Clare looked shocked, and Vivien hastily recanted.

     "I didn't mean that. I'm sorry, Clare. I am indeed. Only - my nerves are all to pieces, andyour sitting here and talking about the weather - well, it got me all rattled."

     "You'll have a nervous breakdown if you're not careful," said Clare coldly.

     Vivien gave a short laugh.

     "Go over the edge? No - I'm not that kind. I'll never be a loony. Now tell me - what's allthis about?"

     Clare was silent for a moment, then she spoke, looking not at Vivien but steadily out over thesea.

     "I thought it only fair to warn you that I can no longer keep silence about - about whathappened last year."

     "You mean - you'll go to Gerald with that story?"

     "Unless you'll tell him yourself. That would be infinitely the better way."

     Vivien laughed sharply.

     "You know well enough I haven't got the pluck to do that."

     Clare did not contradict the assertion. She had had proof before of Vivien's utterly craventemper.

     "It would be infinitely better," she repeated.

     Again Vivien gave that short, ugly laugh.

     "It's your precious conscience, I suppose, that drives you to do this?" she sneered.

     "I dare say it seems very strange to you," said Clare quietly. "But it honestly is that."

     Vivien's white, set face stared into hers.

     "My God!" she said. "I really believe you mean it, too. You actually think that's the reason."

     "It is the reason."

     "No, it isn't. If so, you'd have done it before - long ago. Why didn't you? No, don't answer.I'll tell you. You got more pleasure out of holding it over me - that's why. You liked to keepme on tenterhooks, and make me wince and squirm. You'd say things - diabolical things - just totorment me and keep me perpetually on the jump. And so they did for a bit - till I got used tothem."

     "You got to feel secure," said Clare.

     "You saw that, didn't you? But even then, you held back, enjoying your sense of power. But nowwe're going away, escaping from you, perhaps even going to be happy - you couldn't stick thatat any price. So your convenient conscience wakes up!"

     She stopped, panting. Clare said, still very quietly:

     "I can't prevent your saying all these fantastical things, but I can assure you they're nottrue."

     Vivien turned suddenly and caught her by the hand.

     "Clare - for God's sake! I've been straight - I've done what you said. I've not seen Cyrilagain - I swear it."

     "That's nothing to do with it."

     "Clare - haven't you any pity - any kindness? I'll go down on my knees to you."

     "Tell Gerald yourself. If you tell him, he may forgive you."

     Vivien laughed scornfully.

     "You know Gerald better than that. He'll be rabid - vindictive. He'll make me suffer - he'llmake Cyril suffer. That's what I can't bear. Listen, Clare - he's doing so well. He's inventedsomething - machinery, I don't understand about it, but it may be a wonderful success. He's

    working it out now - his wife supplies the money for it, of course. But she's suspicious -jealous. If she finds out, and she will find out if Gerald starts proceedings for divorce -she'll chuck Cyril - his work, everything. Cyril will be ruined."

     "I'm not thinking of Cyril," said Clare. "I'm thinking of Gerald. Why don't you think a littleof him, too?"

     "Gerald? I don't care that -" she snapped her fingers - "for Gerald. I never have. We might aswell have the truth now we're at it. But I do care for Cyril. I'm a rotter, through andthrough, I admit it. I dare say he's a rotter, too. But my feeling for him - that isn't rotten.I'd die for him, do you hear? I'd die for him!"

     "That is easily said," said Clare derisively.

     "You think I'm not in earnest? Listen, if you go on with this beastly business, I'll killmyself. Sooner than have Cyril brought into it and ruined, I'd do that."

     Clare remained unimpressed.

     "You don't believe me?" said Vivien, panting.

     "Suicide needs a lot of courage."

     Vivien flinched back as though she had been struck.

     "You've got me there. Yes, I've no pluck. If there were an easy way -"

     "There's an easy way in front of you," said Clare. "You've only got to run straight down thegreen slope. It would be all over in a couple of minutes. Remember that child last year."

     "Yes," said Vivien thoughtfully. "That would be easy - quite easy - if one really wanted to -"

     Clare laughed.

     Vivien turned to her.

     "Let's have this out once more. Can't you see that by keeping silence as long as you have,you've - you've no right to go back on it now? I'll not see Cyril again. I'll be a good wife toGerald - I swear I will. Or I'll go away and never see him again. Whichever you like. Clare -"

     Clare got up.

     "I advise you," she said, "to tell your husband yourself... Otherwise - I shall."

     "I see," said Vivien softly. "Well - I can't let Cyril suffer -"

     She got up - stood still as though considering for a minute or two, then ran lightly down tothe path, but instead of stopping, crossed it and went down the slope.

     Once she half turned her head and waved a hand gaily to Clare, then she ran on gaily, lightly,as a child might run, out of sight...

     Clare stood petrified. Suddenly she heard cries, shouts, a clamor of voices. Then - silence.

     She picked her way stiffly down to the path. About a hundred yards away a party of peoplecoming up it had stopped. They were staring and pointing. Clare ran down and joined them.

     "Yes, Miss, someone's fallen over the cliff. Two men have gone down - to see."

     She waited. Was it an hour, or eternity, or only a few minutes?

     A man came toiling up the ascent. It was the vicar in his shirtsleeves. His coat had beentaken off to cover what lay below.

     "Horrible," he said, his face very white. "Mercifully, death must have been instantaneous."

     He saw Clare, and came over to her.

     "This must have been a terrible shock to you. You were taking a walk together, I understand?"

     Clare heard herself answering mechanically.

     Yes. They had just parted. No, Lady Lee's manner had been quite normal. One of the groupinterposed the information that the lady was laughing and waving her hand. A terribly dangerous

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