AGATHA CHRISTIE By the Pricking of My Thumbs
By the Pricking of My Thumbs
By the pricking of my thumbs Something wicked this way comes. MACBETH
CHAPTER 1 Aunt Ada
Mr and Mrs Beresford were sitting at the breakfast table. They were an ordinary couple. Hundreds of elderly couples just like them were having breakfast all over England at that particular moment. It was an ordinary sort of day too, the kind of day that you get five days out of seven. It looked as though it might rain but wasn’t quite sure of it.
Mr Beresford had once had red hair. There were traces of the red still, but most of it had gone that sandy-cum-grey colour that red-headed people so often arrive at in middle life.
Mrs Beresford had once had black hair, a vigorous curling mop of it. Now the black was adulterated with streaks of grey laid on, apparently at random. It made a rather pleasant effect. Mrs Beresford had once thought of dyeing her hair, but in the end she had decided that she liked herself better as nature had made her. She had decided instead to try a new shade of lipstick so as to cheer herself up.
An elderly couple having breakfast together. A pleasant couple, but nothing remarkable about them. So an onlooker would have said. If the onlooker had been young he or she would have added, ‘Oh yes, quite pleasant, but deadly dull, of course, like all old people.’
However, Mx and Mrs Beresford had not yet arrived at the time of life when they thought of themselves as old. And they had no idea that they and many others were automatically pronounced deadly dull solely on that account. Only by the young of course, but then, they would have thought indul-gently, young people knew nothing about life. Poor dears, they were always worrying about examinations, or their sex life, or buying some extraordinary clothes, or doing extraordinary things to their hair to make them more noticeable. Mx and Mrs Beresford from their own point of view were just past the prime of life. They liked themselves and liked each other and day succeeded day in a quiet but enjoyable fashion.
There were, of course, moments, everyone has moments. Mr Beresford opened a letter, glanced through it and laid it down, adding it to the small pile by his left hand. g–Ie picked up the next letter but forbore to open it. Instead he stayed with it in his hand. He was not looking at the letter, he ras looking at the toast-rack. His wife observed him for a few moments before saying,
‘What’s the matter, Tommy?’
‘Matter?’ said Tommy vaguely. ‘Matter?’
‘That’s what I said,’ said Mrs Beresford.
‘Nothing is the matter,’ said Mr Beresford. ‘What should it be?’
‘You’ve thought of something,’ said Tuplnce accusingly.
‘I don’t think I was thinking of anything at: all.’ ‘Oh yes, you were. Has anything happened?’
‘No, of course not. What should happen?’ lie added, ‘I got the plumber’s bill.’
‘Oh,’ said Tuppence with the air of one enlightened. ‘More than you expected, I suppose.’
‘Naturally,’ said Tommy, ‘it always is.’
‘I can’t think why we didn’t train as plumbers,’ said Tuppence. ‘If you’d only trained as a plumber, I could have been a plumber’s mate and we’d be raking in money day by day.’
‘Very short-sighted of us not to see these opportunities.’ ‘Was that the plumber’s bill you were lookirxg at just now?’ ‘Oh no, that was just an Appeal.’ ‘Delinquent boys – Racial integration?’
‘No. Just another Home they’re opening for old people.’
‘Well, that’s more sensible anyway,’ said Tuppence, ‘but I don’t see why you have to have that worried look about it.’ ‘Oh, I wasn’t thinking of that.’ ‘Well, what were you thinking of?.’
‘I suppose it put it into my mind,’ said Mr Beresford.
‘What?’ said Tuppence. ‘You know you’ll tell me in the end.’ ‘It really wasn’t anything important. I just thought that perhaps – well, it was Aunt Ada.’
‘Oh, I see,’ said Tuppence, with instant comprehension.
‘Yes,’ she added, softly, meditatively. ‘Aunt Ada.’
Their eyes met. It is regrettably true that in these days there is in nearly every family, the problem of what might be called an ‘Aunt Ada’. The names are different – Aunt Amelia, Aunt Susan, Aunt Cathy, Aunt Joan. They are varied by grandmoth-ers, aged cousins and even great-aunts. But they exist and present a problem in life which has to be dealt with.