Only the finest young ladies attend Meadowbank School. Just don't turn your back on them. Two teachers have already met with foul play. Now Hercule Poirot is set to brave the student body before anyone else meets an untimely end.
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William Morrow Paperbacks
September 27, 2004
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Excerpt from Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie
Revolution in Ramat
About two months earlier than the first day of the summer term at Meadowbank, certain events had taken place which were to have unexpected repercussions in that celebrated girls' school.
In the Palace of Ramat, two young men sat smoking and considering the immediate future. One young man was dark, with a smooth olive face and large melancholy eyes. He was Prince Ali Yusuf, Hereditary Sheikh of Ramat, which, though small, was one of the richest states in the Middle East. The other young man was sandy haired and freckled and more or less penniless, except for the handsome salary he drew as private pilot to His Highness Prince Ali Yusuf. In spite of this difference in status, they were on terms of perfect equality. They had been at the same public school and had been friends then and ever since.
'They shot at us, Bob,' said Prince Ali almost incredulously.
'They shot at us all right,' said Bob Rawlinson.
'And they meant it. They meant to bring us down.'
'The bastards meant it all right,' said Bob grimly.
Ali considered for a moment.
'It would hardly be worth while trying again?'
'We mightn't be so lucky this time. The truth is, Ali, we've left things too late. You should have got out two weeks ago. I told you so.'
'One doesn't like to run away,' said the ruler of Ramat.
'I see your point. But remember what Shakespeare or one of these poetical fellows said about those who run away living to fight another day.'
'To think,' said the young Prince with feeling, 'of the money that has gone into making this a Welfare State. Hospitals, schools, a Health Service-'
Bob Rawlinson interrupted the catalogue.
'Couldn't the Embassy do something?'
Ali Yusuf flushed angrily.
'Take refuge in your Embassy? That, never. The extremists would probably storm the place-they wouldn't respect diplomatic immunity. Besides, if I did that, it really would be the end! Already the chief accusation against me is of being pro-Western.' He sighed. 'It is so difficult to understand.' He sounded wistful, younger than his twenty-five years. 'My grandfather was a cruel man, a real tyrant. He had hundreds of slaves and treated them ruthlessly. In his tribal wars, he killed his enemies unmercifully and executed them horribly. The mere whisper of his name made everyone turn pale. And yet-he is a legend still! Admired! Respected! The great Achmed Abdullah! And I? What have I done? Built hospitals and schools, welfare, housing... all the things people are said to want. Don't they want them? Would they prefer a reign of terror like my grandfather's?'
'I expect so,' said Bob Rawlinson. 'Seems a bit unfair, but there it is.'
'But why, Bob? Why?'
Bob Rawlinson sighed, wriggled and endeavoured to explain what he felt. He had to struggle with his own inarticulateness.
'Well,' he said. 'He put up a show-I suppose that's it really. He was-sort of-dramatic, if you know what I mean.'
He looked at his friend who was definitely not dramatic. A nice quiet decent chap, sincere and perplexed, that was what Ali was, and Bob liked him for it. He was neither picturesque nor violent, but whilst in England people who are picturesque and violent cause embarrassment and are not much liked, in the Middle East, Bob was fairly sure, it was different.