Poirot thought the joke in poor taste. At the edge of the pool was a body in a puddle of red paint, and standing over it, pistol in hand, was a hysterical woman. But Poirot quickly realized that the paint was actually blood--and the corpse was all too real!
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William Morrow Paperbacks
June 30, 2002
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Excerpt from The Hollow by Agatha Christie
At six thirteen am on a Friday morning Lucy Angkatell's big blue eyes opened upon another day and, as always, she was at once wide awake and began immediately to deal with the problems conjured up by her incredibly active mind. Feeling urgently the need of consultation and conversation, and selecting for the purpose her young cousin, Midge Hardcastle, who had arrived at The Hollow the night before, Lady Angkatell slipped quickly out of bed, threw a negligee round her still graceful shoulders, and went along the passage to Midge's room. Since she was a woman of disconcertingly rapid thought processes, Lady Angkatell, as was her invariable custom, commenced the conversation in her own mind, supplying Midge's answers out of her own fertile imagination.
The conversation was in full swing when Lady Angkatell flung open Midge's door.
'-And so, darling, you really must agree that the weekend is going to present difficulties!'
'Eh? Hwah!' Midge grunted inarticulately, aroused thus abruptly from a satisfying and deep sleep.
Lady Angkatell crossed to the window, opening the shutters and jerking up the blind with a brisk movement, letting in the pale light of a September dawn.
'Birds!' she observed, peering with kindly pleasure through the pane. 'So sweet.'
'Well, at any rate, the weather isn't going to present difficulties. It looks as though it has set in fine. That's something. Because if a lot of discordant personalities are boxed up indoors, I'm sure you will agree with me that it makes it ten times worse. Round games perhaps, and that would be like last year when I shall never forgive myself about poor Gerda. I said to Henry afterwards it was most thoughtless of me-and one has to have her, of course, because it would be so rude to ask John without her, but it really does make things difficult-and the worst of it is that she is so nice-really it seems odd sometimes that anyone so nice as Gerda is should be so devoid of any kind of intelligence, and if that is what they mean by the law of compensation I don't really think it is at all fair.'
'What are you talking about, Lucy?'
'The weekend, darling. The people who are coming tomorrow. I have been thinking about it all night and I have been dreadfully bothered about it. So it really is a relief to talk it over with you, Midge. You are always so sensible and practical.'
'Lucy,' said Midge sternly. 'Do you know what time it is?'
'Not exactly, darling. I never do, you know.'
'It's quarter-past six.'
'Yes, dear,' said Lady Angkatell, with no signs of contrition.
Midge gazed sternly at her. How maddening, how absolutely impossible Lucy was! Really, thought Midge, I don't know why we put up with her!
Yet even as she voiced the thought to herself, she was aware of the answer. Lucy Angkatell was smiling, and as Midge looked at her, she felt the extraordinary pervasive charm that Lucy had wielded all her life and that even now, at over sixty, had not failed her. Because of it, people all over the world, foreign potentates, ADCs, Government officials, had endured inconvenience, annoyance and bewilderment. It was the childlike pleasure and delight in her own doings that disarmed and nullified criticism. Lucy had but to open those wide blue eyes and stretch out those fragile hands, and murmur, 'Oh! but I'm so sorry...' and resentment immediately vanished.
'Darling,' said Lady Angkatell, 'I'm so sorry. You should have told me!'
'I'm telling you now-but it's too late! I'm thoroughly awake.'
'What a shame! But you will help me, won't you?'