Labours Of Hercules By Agatha Christie

But elsies scream might have been heard if he were

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Unformatted text preview: round the lake and then back through the pinewoods. It really was lovely.33 A waiter came out and received orders for tea. Mrs. Rice went on, her needles flying vigorously: "Elsie had a letter from her husband. She mayn't come down to tea." "Her husband ?" Harold was surprised. "Do you know, I always thought she was a widow." Mrs. Rice shot him a sharp glance. She said dryly: "Oh no, Elsie isn't a widow." She added with emphasis: "Unfortunately!" Harold was startled. Mrs. Rice, nodding her head grimly, said: "Drink is responsible for a lot of unhappiness, Mr. Waring." "Does he drink ?" 210 "Yes. And a good many other things as well. He's insanely jealous and has a singularly violent temper." She sighed. "It's a difficult world, Mr. Waring. I'm devoted to Elsie, she's my only child -- and to see her unhappy isn't an easy thing to bear.55 Harold said with real emotion: "She's such a gentle creature.55 "A little too gentle, perhaps.55 "You mean --55 Mrs. Rice said slowly: "A happy creature is more arrogant. Elsie's gentleness comes, I think, from a sense of defeat. Life has been too much for her.55 Harold said with some slight hesitation: "How--did she come to marry this husband of hers ?55 Mrs. Rice answered: "Philip Clayton was a very attractive person. He had (still has) great charm, he had a certain amount of money--and there was no one to advise us of his real character. I had been a widow for many years. Two women, living alone, are not the best judges of a man's character.55 Harold said thoughtfully: "No, that's true.55 I 211 He felt a wave of indignation and pity sweep over him. Elsie Clayton could not be more than twenty-five at the most. He recalled the clear friendliness of her blue eyes, the soft droop of her mouth. He realised, suddenly, that his interest in her went a little beyond friendship. And she was tied to a brute. .. . II That evening, Harold joined mother and daughter after dinner. Elsie Clayton was wearing a soft dull pink dress. Her eyelids, he noticed, were red. She had been crying. Airs. Rice said briskly: "I've found out who your two harpies are, Mr. Waring. Polish ladies — of very good family, so the concierge says." Harold looked across the room to where the Polish ladies were sitting. Elsie said with interest: "Those two women over there? With the henna-dyed hair? They look rather horrible somehow — I don't know why." Harold said triumphantly: "That's just what I thought." Mrs. Rice said with a laugh: "I think you are both being absurd. You 212 can't possibly tell what people are like just by looking at them." Elsie laughed. She said: "I suppose one can't. All the same / think they're vultures!5' 'Ticking out dead men's eyes!35 said Harold. "Oh, don't," cried Elsie. Harold said quickly: "Sorry." Mrs. Rice said with a smile: "Anyway th...
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