The seven dials mystery – Agatha Christie
ON EARLY RISING
That amiable youth, Jimmy Thesiger, came racing down the big staircase at Chimneys two steps at a time. So precipitate was his descent that he collided with Tredwell, the stately butler, just as the latter was crossing the hall bearing a fresh supply of hot coffee. Owing to the marvellous presence of mind and masterly agility of Tredwell, no casualty occurred.
“Sorry,” apologised Jimmy. “I say, Tredwell, am I the last down?”
“No, sir. Mr. Wade has not come down yet.”
“Good,” said Jimmy, and entered the breakfast-room.
The room was empty save for his hostess, and her reproachful gaze gave Jimmy the same feeling of discomfort he always experienced on catching the eye of a defunct codfish exposed on a fishmonger’s slab. Yet, hang it all, why should the woman look at him like that? To come down at a punctual nine-thirty when staying in a country house simply wasn’t done. To be sure, it was now a quarter past eleven which was, perhaps, the outside limit, but even then –
“Afraid I’m a bit late, Lady Coote. What?”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” said Lady Coote in a melancholy voice.
As a matter of fact, people being late for breakfast worried her very much. For the first ten years of her married life, Sir Oswald Coote (then plain Mr.) had, to put it baldly, raised hell if his morning meal were even a half-minute later than eight o’clock. Lady Coote had been disciplined to regard unpunctuality as a deadly sin of the most unpardonable nature. And habit dies hard.
Also, she was an earnest woman, and she could not help asking herself what possible good these young people would ever do in the world without early rising. As Sir Oswald so often said, to reporters and others: “I attribute my success entirely to my habits of early rising, frugal living, and methodical habits.”
Lady Coote was a big, handsome woman in a tragic sort of fashion. She had large, dark, mournful eyes and a deep voice. An artist looking for a model for “Rachel mourning for her children” would have hailed Lady Coote with delight. She would have done well, too, in melodrama, staggering through the falling snow as the deeply wronged wife of the villain.
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