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The Body in the Library

By Margaret Sullivan,2014-11-04 16:56
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The Body in the Library

    Body In The Library

    Book Jacket

    SUMMARY:Agatha Christie's genius for detective fiction is unparalleled. Her worldwidepopularity is phenomenal, her characters engaging, her plots spellbinding. No one knows thehuman heart—or the dark passions that can stop it—better than Agatha Christie. She is trulythe one and only Queen of Crime.

    The Body in the LibraryThe body of a beautiful blonde is found in the library of GossingtonHall. What the young woman was doing in the quiet village of St. Mary Mead is precisely whatJane Marple means to find out. Amid rumors of scandal, Miss Marple baits a clever trap to catcha ruthless killer.

Agatha Christie - The Body in the Library

    CAST OF CHARACTERS

    Dolly Bantry -- Mistress of Gossington Hall, and wife of Colonel Arthur Bantry who was caughtin a chain of circumstances that nearly proved too much for him.

    Jane Marple -- Her uncanny predilection for village parallels enabled her to solve mysteriouscrimes.

    Colonel Melchett -- Chief Constable of the County.

    Inspector Slack -- An energetic, and somewhat tactless, police official.

    Basil Blake -- A very rude, spirited young man, whose studied insolence covered a great fear.

    Dinah Lee -- Blake's equally spirited girl friend, who had a secret of her own.

    Ruby Keene -- A young dancer reported missing from the Majestic Hotel at Danemouth.

    Josephine Turner -- Professional dancer and hostess at the Majestic Hotel; Ruby Keene's distantcousin and sponsor.

    Superintendent Harper -- Of the Glenshire Police; he was inclined to be soothing.

    Adelaide Jefferson -- Conway Jefferson's daughter-in-law, who could have told much more thanshe chose.

    George Bartlett -- A guest at the

    Majestic, he was young, single, and almost too famous.

    Peter Carmody -- Conway Jefferson's grandson, who had a keen interest in criminology.

    Mark Gaskell -- Conway Jefferson's son-in-law, keen, ruthless, and disarmingly frank.

    Conway Jefferson -- A dynamic personality confined to a wheelchair.

    Raymond Starr -- Young tennis and dance pro at the Majestic, he was suave, smooth, andpersonable, with an eye for the main chance.

    Sir Henry Clithering -- Retired ex-commissioner of the Metropolitan

    Police; a friend of Conway Jefferson and the Bantrys, with great respect for Miss Marple's"ability."

    . . . . . .

    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 thedisapproval of the parish in the way it would assuredly have done in real life. Mrs. Bantry wasenjoying 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-morningnoises of the household. The rattle of the curtain rings on the stairs as the housemaid drewthem, the noises of the second housemaid's dustpan and brush in the passage outside. In thedistance 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 fromthe 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 heardit, 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 aswift, controlled sound of footsteps along the passage, the rustle of a print dress, thesubdued chink of tea things as the tray was deposited on the table outside, then the soft knockand the entry of Mary to draw the curtains. In her sleep Mrs. Bantry frowned. Somethingdisturbing was penetrating through the dream state, something out of its time. Footsteps alongthe passage, footsteps that were too hurried and too soon. Her ears listened unconsciously forthe 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 bethe 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 Maryhad really rushed into the room and had said -- incredibly fantastic! -- that there was a bodyin the library. "Impossible," said Mrs. Bantry to herself. "I must have been dreaming." Buteven 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. Bantryreflected 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 promptlywent to sleep again.

    Mrs. Bantry shook him. "You've got to listen. Mary came in and said that there was a body inthe 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. Hesaid, "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." "But there couldn't be," saidColonel Bantry. "No no, I suppose not," said Mrs. Bantry doubtfully. Rallying, she went on,"But then why did Mary say there was?" "She can't have." "She did." "You must have imaginedit." "I didn't imagine it." Colonel Bantry was by now thoroughly awake and prepared to dealwith the situation on its merits. He said kindly, "You've been dreaming. Dolly. It's thatdetective story you were reading The Clue of the Broken Match. You know. Lord Edgbaston finds abeautiful blonde dead on the library hearth rug Bodies are always being found in libraries inbooks. I've never known a case in real life."

    "Perhaps you will now," said Mrs. Bantry, "Anyway Arthur, you've got to get up and see."

    "But really. Dolly, it must have been a dream. Dreams often do seem wonderfully vivid when youfirst wake up. You feel quite sure they're true."

    "I was having quite a different sort of dream about a flower show and the vicar's wife in abathing dress, something like that." Mrs. Bantry jumped out of bed and pulled back thecurtains. The light of a fine autumn day flooded the room. "I did not dream it," said Mrs.Bantry firmly. "Get up at once, Arthur, and go downstairs and see about it."

    "You want me to go downstairs and ask if there's a body in the library? I shall look a fool."

    "You needn't ask anything," said Mrs. Bantry. "If there is a body and of course it's justpossible that Mary's gone mad and thinks she sees things that aren't there well, somebody willtell you soon enough. You won't have to say a word."

    Grumbling, Colonel Bantry wrapped himself in his dressing gown and left the room. He went alongthe passage and down the staircase. At the foot of it was a little knot of huddled servants;some of them were sobbing. The butler stepped forward impressively. "I'm glad you have come,sir. I have directed that nothing should be done until you came. Will it be in order for me toring up the police, sir?"

    "Ring 'em up about what?"

    The butler cast a reproachful glance over his shoulder at the tall young woman who was weepinghysterically on the cook's shoulder. "I understood, sir, that Mary had already informed you.She said she had done so."

    Mary gasped out, "I was so upset, I don't know what I said! It all came over me again and mylegs gave way and my insides turned over! Finding it like that. Oh, oh, oh!"

    She subsided again onto Mrs. Eccles, who said, "There, there, my dear," with some relish.

    "Mary is naturally somewhat upset, sir, having been the one to make the gruesome discovery,"exclaimed the butler. "She went into the library, as usual, to draw the curtains, and -- andalmost stumbled over the body."

    "Do you mean to tell me," demanded Colonel Bantry, "that there's a dead body in my library --my library?"

    The butler coughed. "Perhaps, sir, you would like to see for yourself."

    "Hullo, 'ullo, 'ullo. Police station here. Yes, who's speaking?" Police Constable Palk wasbuttoning up his tunic with one hand while the other held the telephone receiver. "Yes, yes,Gossington Hall. Yes?... Oh, good morning, sir." Police Constable Palk's tone underwent aslight modification. It became less impatiently official, recognizing the generous patron ofthe police sports and the principal magistrate of the district. "Yes, sir? What can I do foryou?... I'm sorry, sir, I didn't quite catch... A body, did you say?... Yes?... Yes, if youplease, sir.... That's right, sir.... Young woman not known to you, you say?... Quite, sir....Yes, you can leave it all to me."

    Police Constable Palk replaced the receiver, uttered a long-drawn whistle and proceeded to dialhis superior officer's number. Mrs. Palk looked in from the kitchen, whence proceeded anappetizing smell of frying bacon. "What is it?"

    "Rummiest thing you ever heard of," replied her husband. "Body of a young woman found up at theHall. In the colonel's library." "Murdered?" "Strangled, so he says." "Who was she?" "Thecolonel says he doesn't know her from Adam." "Then what was she doing in 'is library?" PoliceConstable Palk silenced her with a reproachful glance and spoke officially into the telephone"Inspector Slack? Police Constable Palk here. A report has just come in that the body of ayoung woman was discovered this morning at seven-fifteen "

    Miss Marple's telephone rang when she was dressing. The sound of it flurried her a little. Itwas an unusual hour for her telephone to ring. So well ordered was her prim spinster's lifethat unforeseen telephone calls were a source of vivid conjecture. "Dear me," said Miss Marple,surveying the ringing instrument with perplexity. "I wonder who that can be?"

    Nine o'clock to nine-thirty was the recognized time for the village to make friendly calls toneighbors. Plans for the day, invitations, and so on, were always issued then. The butcher hadbeen known to ring up just before nine if some crisis in the meat trade had occurred. Atintervals during the day spasmodic calls might occur, though it was considered bad form to ringup after nine-thirty at night.

    It was true that Miss Marple's nephew, a writer, and therefore erratic, had been known to ringup at the most peculiar times; once as late as ten minutes to midnight. But whatever RaymondWest's eccentricities, early rising was not one of them. Neither he nor anyone of Miss Marple'sacquaintance would be likely to ring up before eight in the morning. Actually a quarter toeight. Too early even for a telegram, since the post office did not open until eight. "It mustbe," Miss Marple decided, "a wrong number." Having decided this, she advanced to the impatientinstrument and quelled its clamor by picking up the receiver. "Yes?" she said.

    "Is that you, Jane?"

    Miss Marple was much surprised. "Yes, it's Jane. You're up very early. Dolly."

    Mrs. Bantry's voice came, breathless and agitated, over the wire. "The most awful thing hashappened."

    "Oh, my dear!"

    "We've just found a body in the library."

    For a moment Miss Marple thought her friend had gone mad. "You've found a what?"

    "I know. One doesn't believe it, does one? I mean I thought they only happened in books. I hadto argue for hours with Arthur this morning before he'd even go down and see."

    Miss Marple tried to collect herself. She demanded breathlessly, "But whose body is it?"

    "It's a blonde."

    "A what?"

    "A blonde. A beautiful blonde like books again. None of us have ever seen her before. She'sjust lying there in the library, dead. That's why you've got to come up at once."

    "You want me to come up?"

    "Yes, I'm sending the car down for you."

    Miss Marple said doubtfully, "Of course, dear, if you think I can be of any comfort to you."

    "Oh, I don't want comfort. But you're so good at bodies."

    "Oh, no, indeed. My little successes have been mostly theoretical."

    "But you're very good at murders. She's been murdered you see; strangled. What I feel is thatif one has got to have a murder actually happening in one's house, one might as well enjoy it,if you know what I mean. That's why I want you to come and help me find out who did it andunravel the mystery and all that. It really is rather thrilling, isn't it?" "Well, of course,my dear, if I can be of any help." "Splendid! Arthur's being rather difficult. He seems tothink I shouldn't enjoy myself about it at all. Of course, I do know it's very sad and allthat, but then I don't know the girl and when you've seen her you'll understand what I meanwhen I say she doesn't look real at all."

    A little breathless Miss Marple alighted from the Bantrys' car, the door of which was held openfor her by the chauffeur. Colonel Bantry came out on the steps and looked a little surprised."Miss Marple? Er very pleased to see you."

    "Your wife telephoned to me," explained Miss Marple.

    "Capital, capital. She ought to have someone with her. She'll crack up otherwise. She's puttinga good face on things at the moment, but you know what it is."

    At this moment Mrs. Bantry appeared and exclaimed, "Do go back and eat your breakfast, Arthur.Your bacon will get cold."

    "I thought it might be the inspector arriving," explained Colonel Bantry.

    "He'll be here soon enough," said Mrs. Bantry. "That's why it's important to get your breakfastfirst. You need it."

    "So do you. Much better come and eat something, Dolly."

    "I'll come in a minute," said Mrs. Bantry. "Go on, Arthur." Colonel Bantry was shooed back intothe dining room rather like a recalcitrant hen. "Now!" said Mrs. Bantry with an intonation oftriumph. "Come on."

    She led the way rapidly along the long corridor to the east of the house. Outside the librarydoor Constable Palk stood on guard. He intercepted Mrs. Bantry with a show of authority. "I'mafraid nobody is allowed in, madam. Inspector's orders."

    "Nonsense, Palk," said Mrs. Bantry. "You know Miss Marple perfectly well." Constable Palkadmitted to knowing Miss Marple. "It's very important that she should see the body," said Mrs.Bantry. "Don't be stupid, Palk. After all, it's my library, isn't it?"