Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot's Christmas

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Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot's Christmas
  • Название:
    Hercule Poirot's Christmas
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
  • Жанр:
    Классический детектив / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2007
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • ISBN:
    ISBN-13: 978-1579127350
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    4 / 5
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Hercule Poirot's Christmas: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Agatha Christie


Hercule Poirot's Christmas


My dear James

You have always been one of the most faithful and kindly of my readers and I was seriously pertubed when I received from you a word of criticism.

You complained that my murders were getting too refined – anaemic, in fact. You yearned for a ‘good violent murder with lots of blood’. A murder where there was no doubt about its being murder!

So this is your special story – written for you. I hope it may please.

Your affectionate sister-in-law

Agatha

Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?

Macbeth

Part 1. December 22nd

I

Stephen pulled up the collar of his coat as he walked briskly along the platform. Overhead a dim fog clouded the station. Large engines hissed superbly, throwing off clouds of steam into the cold raw air. Everything was dirty and smoke-grimed.

Stephen thought with revulsion:

‘What a foul country – what a foul city!’

His first excited reaction to London, its shops, its restaurants, its well-dressed, attractive women, had faded. He saw it now as a glittering rhinestone set in a dingy setting.

Supposing he were back in South Africa now…He felt a quick pang of homesickness. Sunshine – blue skies – gardens of flowers – cool blue flowers – hedges of plumbago – blue convolvulus clinging to every little shanty.

And here – dirt, grime, and endless, incessant crowds – moving, hurrying – jostling. Busy ants running industriously about their ant-hill.

For a moment he thought, ‘I wish I hadn’t come…’

Then he remembered his purpose and his lips set back in a grim line. No, by hell, he’d go on with it! He’d planned this for years. He’d always meant to do – what he was going to do. Yes, he’d go on with it!

That momentary reluctance, that sudden questioning of himself: ‘Why? Is it worth it? Why dwell on the past? Why not wipe out the whole thing?’ – all that was only weakness. He was not a boy – to be turned his this way and that by the whim of the moment. He was a man of forty, assured, purposeful. He would go on with it. He would do what he had come to England to do.

He got on the train and passed along the corridor looking for a place. He had waved aside a porter and was carrying his own raw-hide suitcase. He looked into carriage after carriage. The train was full. It was only three days before Christmas. Stephen Farr looked distastefully at the crowded carriages.

People! Incessant, innumerable people! And all so – so – what was the word – so drab–looking! So alike, so horribly alike! Those that hadn’t got faces like sheep had faces like rabbits, he thought. Some of them chattered and fussed. Some, heavily middle-aged men, grunted. More like pigs, those. Even the girls, slender, egg-faced, scarlet-lipped, were of a depressing uniformity.

He thought with a sudden longing of open veldt, sun-baked and lonely…

And then, suddenly, he caught his breath, looking into a carriage. This girl was different. Black hair, rich creamy pallor – eyes with the depth and darkness of night in them. The sad proud eyes of the South… It was all wrong that this girl should be sitting in this train among these dull, drab-looking people – all wrong that she should be going into the dreary midlands of England. She should have been on a balcony, a rose between her lips, a piece of black lace draping her proud head, and there should have been dust and heat and the smell of blood – the smell of the bull-ring – in the air…She should be somewhere splendid, not squeezed into the corner of a third-class carriage.

He was an observant man. He did not fail to note the shabbiness of her little black coat and skirt, the cheap quality of her fabric gloves, the flimsy shoes and the defiant note of a flame-red handbag. Nevertheless splendour was the quality he associated with her. Shewas splendid, fine, exotic…

What the hell was she doing in this country of fogs and chills and hurrying industrious ants?

He thought, ‘I’ve got to know who she is and what she’s doing here… I’ve got to know…’



II

Pilar sat squeezed up against the window and thought how very odd the English smelt…It was what had struck her so far most forcibly about England – the difference of smell. There was no garlic and no dust and very little perfume. In this carriage now there was a smell of cold stuffiness – the sulphur smell of the trains – the smell of soap and another very unpleasant smell – it came, she thought, from the fur collar of the stout woman sitting beside her. Pilar sniffed delicately, imbibing the odour of mothballs reluctantly. It was a funny scent to choose to put on yourself, she thought.

A whistle blew, a stentorian voice cried out something and the train jerked slowly out of the station. They had started. She was on her way…

Her heart beat a little faster. Would it be all right? Would she be able to accomplish what she had set out to do? Surely – surely – she had thought it all out so carefully… She was prepared for every eventuality. Oh, yes, she would succeed – she must succeed…

The curve of Pilar’s red mouth curved upwards. It was suddenly cruel, that mouth. Cruel and greedy – like the mouth of a child or a kitten – a mouth that knew only its own desires and that was as yet unaware of pity. 

She looked round her with the frank curiosity of a child. All these people, seven of them – how funny they were, the English! They all seemed so rich, so prosperous – their clothes – their boots – Oh! undoubtedly England was a very rich country as she had always heard. But they were not at all gay – no, decidedly not gay.

That was a handsome man standing in the corridor… Pilar thought he was very handsome. She liked his deeply bronzed face and his high-bridged nose and his square shoulders. More quickly than any English girl, Pilar had seen that the man admired her. She had not looked at him once directly, but she knew perfectly how often he had looked at her and exactly how he had looked.

She registered the facts without much interest or emotion. She came from a country where men looked at women as a matter of course and did not disguise the fact unduly. She wondered if he was an Englishman and decided that he was not.

‘He is too alive, too real, to be English,’ Pilar decided. ‘And yet he is fair. He may be perhaps Americano.’ He was, she thought, rather like the actors she had seen in Wild West films.

An attendant pushed his way along the corridor.

‘First lunch, please. First lunch. Take your seats for first lunch.’ 

The seven occupants of Pilar’s carriage all held tickets for the first lunch. They rose in a body and the carriage was suddenly deserted and peaceful.

Pilar quickly pulled up the window which had been let down a couple of inches at the top by a militant-looking, grey-haired lady in the opposite corner. Then she sprawled comfortably back on her seat and peered out of the window at the northern suburbs of London. She did not turn her head at the sound of the door sliding back. It was the man from the corridor, and Pilar knew, of course, that he had entered the carriage on purpose to talk to her.

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