Three Act Tragedy – Agatha Christie
THREE ACT TRAGEDY
Mr. Satterthwaite sat on the terrace of Crows Nest and watched his host, Sir Charles Cartwright, climbing up the path from the sea. Crows Nest was a modern bungalow of the better type. It had no half timbering, no gables, no excrescences dear to a third-class builders heart. It was a plain white solid building – deceptive as to size, since it was a good deal bigger than it looked. It owed its name to its position, high up, overlooking the harbour of Loomouth. Indeed from one corner of the terrace, protected by a strong balustrade, there was a sheer drop to the sea below. By road Crows Nest was a mile from the town. The road ran inland and then zigzagged high up above the sea. On foot it was accessible in seven minutes by the steep fishermans path that Sir Charles Cartwright was ascending at this minute.
Sir Charles was a well-built, sunburnt man of middle age. He wore old grey flannel trousers and a white sweater. He had a slight rolling gait, and carried his hands half closed as he walked. Nine people out of ten would say, Retired Naval man – cant mistake the type. The tenth, and more discerning, would have hesitated, puzzled by something indefinable that did not ring true. And then perhaps a picture would rise, unsought, the deck of a ship – but not a real ship – a ship curtailed by hanging curtains of thick rich material – a man, Charles Cartwright, standing on that deck, light that was not sunlight streaming down on him, the hands half clenched, the easy gait and a voice – the easy pleasant voice of an English sailor and gentleman, a great deal magnified in tone.
No, sir, Charles Cartwright was saying, Im afraid I cant give you any answer to that question.
And swish fell the heavy curtains, up sprang the lights, an orchestra plunged into the latest syncopated measure, girls with exaggerated bows in their hair said, Chocolates? Lemonade? The first act of The Call of the Sea, with Charles Cartwright as Commander Vanstone, was over.
From his post of vantage, looking down, Mr. Satterthwaite smiled. A dried-up little pipkin of a man, Mr. Satterthwaite, a patron of art and the drama, a determined but pleasant snob, always included in the more important house-parties and social functions (the word
and Mr. Satterthwaite appeared invariably at the tail of a list of guests.) Withal a man of considerable intelligence and a very shrewd observer of people and things.
He murmured now, shaking his head, I wouldnt have thought it. No, really, I wouldnt have thought it.
A step sounded on the terrace and he turned his head. The big grey-haired man who drew a chair forward and sat down had his profession clearly stamped on his keen, kindly, middle-aged face.
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