The Harlequin Tea Set by Agatha Christie

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The Harlequin Tea Set by Agatha Christie

Mr. Satterthwaite clucked twice in vexation. Whether right in his assumption or not, he was more and more convinced that cars nowadays broke down far more frequently than they used to do. The only cars he trusted were old friends who had survived the test of time. They had their little idiosyncrasies, but you knew about those, provided for them, fulfilled their wants before the demand became too acute. But new cars! Full of new gadgets, different kinds of windows, an instrument panel newly and differently arranged, handsome in its glistening wood, but being unfamiliar, your groping hand hovered uneasily over fog lights, windshield wipers, the choke, etcetera. All these things with knobs in a place where you didn’t expect them. And when your gleaming new purchase failed in performance, your local garage uttered the intensely irritating words: “Teething troubles. Splendid car, sir, these roadsters Super Superbos. All the latest accessories. But bound to have their teething troubles, you know. Ha, ha.” Just as though a car was a baby.

But Mr. Satterthwaite, being now of an advanced age, was strongly of the opinion that a new car ought to be fully adult. Tested, inspected, and its teething troubles already dealt with before it came into its purchaser’s possession.

Mr. Satterthwaite was on his way to pay a weekend visit to friends in the country. His new car had already, on the way from London, given certain symptoms of discomfort, and was now drawn up in a garage waiting for the diagnosis, and how long it would take before he could resume progress towards his destination. His chauffeur was in consultation with a mechanic. Mr. Satterthwaite sat, striving for patience. He had assured his hosts, on the telephone the night before, that he would be arriving in good time for tea. He would reach Doverton Kingsbourne, he assured them, well before four o’clock.

He clucked again in irritation and tried to turn his thoughts to something pleasant. It was no good sitting here in a state of acute irritation, frequently consulting his wristwatch, clucking once more and giving, he had to realize, a very good imitation of a hen pleased with its prowess in laying an egg.

Yes. Something pleasant. Yes, now hadn’t there been something – something he had noticed as they were driving along. Not very long ago. Something that he had seen through the window which had pleased and excited him. But before he had had time to think about it, the car’s misbehavior had become more pronounced and a rapid visit to the nearest service station had been inevitable.

What was it that he had seen? On the left – no, on the right. Yes, on the right as they drove slowly through the village street. Next door to a post office. Yes, he was quite sure of that. Next door to a post office because the sight of the post office had given him the idea of telephoning to the Addisons to break the news that he might be slightly late in his arrival. The post office. A village post office. And next to it – yes, definitely, next to it, next door or if not next door the door after. Something that had stirred old memories, and he had wanted – just what was it that he had wanted? Oh dear, it would come to him presently. It was mixed up with a color. Several colors. Yes, a color or colors. Or a word. Some definite word that had stirred memories, thoughts, pleasures gone by, excitement, recalling something that had been vivid and alive. Something in which he himself had not only seen but observed. No, he had done more. He had taken part. Taken part in what, and why, and where? All sorts of places. The answer came quickly at the last thought. All sorts of places.

On an island? In Corsica? At Monte Carlo watching the croupier spinning his roulette wheel? A house in the country? All sorts of places. And he had been there, and someone else. Yes, someone else. It all tied up with that. He was getting there at last. If he could just… He was interrupted at that moment by the chauffeur coming to the window with the garage mechanic in tow behind him.

“Won’t be long now, sir,” the chauffeur assured Mr. Satterthwaite cheerfully. “Matter of ten minutes or so. Not more.”

“Nothing seriously wrong,” said the mechanic, in a low, hoarse, country voice. “Teething troubles, as you might say.”

Mr. Satterthwaite did not cluck this time. He gnashed his own teeth. A phrase he had often read in books and which in old age he seemed to have got into the habit of doing himself, due, perhaps, to the slight looseness of his upper plate. Really, teething trouble! Toothache. Teeth gnashing. False teeth. One’s whole life centered, he thought, about teeth.

“Doverton Kingsbourne’s only a few miles away,” said the chauffeur, “and they’ve a taxi here. You could go on in that, sir, and I’d bring the car along later as soon as it’s fixed up.”

“No!” said Mr. Satterthwaite.

He said the word explosively, and both the chauffeur and the mechanic looked startled. Mr. Satterthwaite’s eyes were sparkling. His voice was clear and decisive. Memory had come to him.

“I propose,” he said, “to walk the road we have just come by. When the car is ready, you will pick me up there. The Harlequin Cafe, I think it is called.”

“It’s not very much of a place, sir,” the mechanic advised.

“That is where I shall be,” said Mr. Satterthwaite, speaking with a kind of regal autocracy.

He walked off briskly. The two men stared after him.

“Don’t know what’s got into him,” said the chauffeur. “Never seen him like that before.”

The village of Kingsbourne Ducis did not live up to the old world grandeur of its name. It was a smallish village consisting of one street. A few houses. Shops that were dotted rather unevenly, sometimes betraying the fact that they were houses which had been turned into shops or that they were shops which now existed as houses without any industrial intentions.

It was not particularly old world or beautiful. It was just simple and rather unobtrusive. Perhaps that was why, thought Mr. Satterthwaite, that a dash of brilliant color had caught his eye. Ah, here he was at the post office. The post office was a simply functioning post office with a pillar box outside, a display of some newspapers and some postcards, and surely, next to it, yes there was the sign up above. The Harlequin Cafe. A sudden qualm struck Mr. Satterthwaite. Really, he was getting too old. He had fancies. Why should that one word stir his heart? The Harlequin Cafe.

The mechanic at the service station had been quite right. It did not look like a place in which one would really be tempted to have a meal. A snack, perhaps. A morning coffee. Then why? But he suddenly realized why. Because the cafe, or perhaps one could better put it as the house that sheltered the cafe, was in two portions. One side of it had small tables with chairs round them arranged ready for patrons who came here to eat. But the other side was a shop. A shop that sold china. It was not an antique shop. It had no little shelves of glass vases or mugs. It was a shop that sold modern goods, and the show window that gave on the street was at the present moment housing every shade of the rainbow. A tea set of largish cups and saucers, each one of a different color. Blue, red, yellow, green, pink, purple. Really, Mr. Satterthwaite thought, a wonderful show of color. No wonder it had struck his eye as the car had passed slowly beside the pavement, looking ahead for any sign of a garage or a service station. It was labeled with a large card as “A Harlequin Tea Set.”

It was the word “harlequin” of course which had remained fixed in Mr. Satterthwaite’s mind, although just far enough back in his mind so that it had been difficult to recall it. The gay colors. The harlequin colors. And he had thought, wondered, had the absurd but exciting idea that in some way here was a call to him. To him specially. Here, perhaps, eating a meal or purchasing cups and saucers might be his own old friend, Mr. Harley Quin. How many years was it since he had last seen Mr. Quin? A large number of years. Was it the day he had seen Mr. Quin walking away from him down a country lane, Lovers’ Lane they had called it? He had always expected to see Mr. Quin again, once a year at least. Possibly twice a year. But no. That had not happened.

And so today he had had the wonderful and surprising idea that here, in the village of Kingsbourne Ducis, he might once again find Mr. Harley Quin.

“Absurd of me,” said Mr. Satterthwaite, “quite absurd of me. Really, the ideas one has as one gets old!”

He had missed Mr. Quin. Missed something that had been one of the most exciting things in the late years of his life. Someone who might turn up anywhere and who, if he did turn up, was always an announcement that something was going to happen.

Something that was going to happen to him. No, that was not quite right. Not to him, but through him. That was the exciting part. Just from the words that Mr. Quin might utter. Words. Things he might show him, ideas would come to Mr. Satterthwaite. He would see things, he would imagine things, he would find out things. He would deal with something that needed to be dealt with. And opposite him would sit Mr. Quin, perhaps smiling approval. Something that Mr. Quin said would start the flow of ideas, the active person would be he himself. He – Mr. Satterthwaite. The man with so many old friends. A man among whose friends had been duchesses, an occasional bishop, people that counted. Especially, he had to admit, people who had counted in the social world. Because, after all, Mr. Satterthwaite had always been a snob. He had liked duchesses, he had liked knowing old families, families who had represented the landed gentry of England for several generations. And he had had, too, an interest in young people not necessarily socially important. Young people who were in trouble, who were in love, who were unhappy, who needed help. Because of Mr. Quin, Mr. Satterthwaite was enabled to give help.

And now, like an idiot, he was looking into an unprepossessing village cafe and a shop for modern china and tea sets and casseroles, no doubt.

“All the same,” said Mr. Satterthwaite to himself, “I must go in. Now I’ve been foolish enough to walk back here, I must go in just – well, just in case. They’ll be longer, I expect, doing the car than they say. It will be more than ten minutes. Just in case there is anything interesting inside.”

He looked once more at the window full of china. He appreciated suddenly that it was good china. Well made. A good modern product. He looked back into the past, remembering. The Duchess of Leith, he remembered. What a wonderful lady she had been. How kind she had been to her maid on the occasion of a very rough sea voyage to the island of Corsica. She had ministered to her with the kindliness of a ministering angel and only on the next day had she resumed her autocratic, bullying manner, which the domestics of those days had seemed able to stand quite easily without any sign of rebellion.

Maria. Yes, that’s what the Duchess’s name had been. Dear old Maria Leith. Ah well. She had died some years ago. But she had had a harlequin breakfast set, he remembered. Yes. Big round cups in different colors. Black. Yellow, red, and a particularly pernicious shade of puce. Puce, he thought, must have been a favorite color of hers. She had had a Rockingham tea set, he remembered, in which the predominating color had been puce decorated with gold.

“Ah,” sighed Mr. Satterthwaite, “those were the days. Well, I suppose I’d better go in. Perhaps order a cup of coffee or something. It will be very full of milk, I expect, and possibly already sweetened. But still, one has to pass the time.”

He went in. The cafe side was practically empty. It was early, Mr. Satterthwaite supposed, for people to want cups of tea. And anyway, very few people did want cups of tea nowadays. Except, that is, occasionally elderly people in their own homes. There was a young couple in the far window and two women gossiping at a table against the back wall.

“I said to her,” one of them was saying, “I said you can’t do that sort of thing. No, it’s not the sort of thing that I’ll put up with, and I said the same to Henry and he agreed with me.”

It shot through Mr. Satterthwaite’s mind that Henry must have rather a hard life and that no doubt he had found it always wise to agree, whatever the proposition put up to him might be. A most unattractive woman with a most unattractive friend. He turned his attention to the other side of the building, murmuring, “May I just look round?”

There was quite a pleasant woman in charge and she said, “Oh yes, sir. We’ve got a good stock at present.”

Mr. Satterthwaite looked at the colored cups, picked up one or two of them, examined the milk jug, picked up a china zebra and considered it, examined some ashtrays of a fairly pleasing pattern. He heard chairs being pushed back and turning his head, noted that the two middle-aged women still discussing former grievances had paid their bill and were now leaving the shop. As they went out of the door, a tall man in a dark suit came in. He sat down at the table which they had just vacated. His back was to Mr. Satterthwaite, who thought that he had an attractive back. Lean, strong, well-muscled but rather dark and sinister looking because there was very little light in the shop. Mr. Satterthwaite looked back again at the ashtrays. “I might buy an ashtray so as not to cause a disappointment to the shop owner,” he thought. As he did so, the sun came out suddenly.

He had not realized that the shop had looked dim because of the lack of sunshine. The sun must have been under a cloud for some time. It had clouded over, he remembered, at about the time they had got to the service station. But now there was this sudden burst of sunlight. It caught up the colors of the china and through a colored glass window of somewhat ecclesiastical pattern which must, Mr. Satterthwaite thought, have been left over from the original Victorian house.

The sun came through the window and lit up the dingy cafe. In some curious way it lit up the back of the man who had just sat down there. Instead of a dark black silhouette, there was now a festoon of colors. Red and blue and yellow. And suddenly Mr. Satterthwaite realized that he was looking at exactly what he had hoped to find. His intuition had not played him false. He knew who it was who had just come in and sat down there. He knew so well that he had no need to wait until he could look at the face. He turned his back on the china, went back into the cafe, round the corner of the round table and sat down opposite the man who had just come in.

“Mr. Quin,” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “I knew somehow it was going to be you.”

Mr. Quin smiled.

“You always know so many things,” he said.

“It’s a long time since I’ve seen you,” said Mr. Satterthwaite.

“Does time matter?” said Mr. Quin.

“Perhaps not. You may be right. Perhaps not.”

“May I offer you some refreshment?”

“Is there any refreshment to be had?” said Mr. Satterthwaite doubtfully. “I suppose you must have come in for that purpose.”

“One is never quite sure of one’s purpose, is one?” said Mr. Quin.

“I am so pleased to see you again,” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “I’d almost forgotten, you know. I mean forgotten the way you talk, the things you say. The things you make me think of, the things you make me do.”

“I – make you do? You are so wrong. You have always known yourself just what you wanted to do and why you want to do it and why you know so well that they have to be done.”

“I only feel that when you are here.”

“Oh no,” said Mr. Quin lightly. “I have nothing to do with it. I am just – as I’ve often told you – I am just passing by. That is all.”

“Today you are passing by through Kingsbourne Ducis.”

“And you are not passing by. You are going to a definite place. Am I right?”

“I am going to see a very old friend. A friend I have not seen for a good many years. He’s old now. Somewhat crippled. He has had one stroke. He has recovered from it quite well, but one never knows.”

“Does he live by himself?”

“Not now, I am glad to say. His family have come back from abroad, what is left of his family that is. They have been living with him now for some months. I am glad to be able to come and see them again all together. Those, that’s to say, that I have seen before, and those that I have not seen.”

“You mean children?” “Children and grandchildren.” Mr. Satterthwaite sighed. Just for a moment he was sad that he had had no children and no grandchildren and no greatgrandchildren himself. He did not usually regret it at all.

“They have some special Turkish coffee here,” said Mr. Quin. “Really good of its kind. Everything else is, as you have guessed, rather unpalatable. But one can always have a cup of Turkish coffee, can one not? Let us have one because I suppose you will soon have to get on with your pilgrimage, or whatever it is.”

In the doorway came a small black dog. He came and sat down by the table and looked up at Mr. Quin.

“Your dog?” said Mr. Satterthwaite.

“Yes. Let me introduce you to Hermes.” He stroked the black dog’s head. “Coffee,” he said. “Tell All.”

The black dog walked from the table through a door at the back of the shop. They heard him give a short, incisive bark. Presently he reappeared and with him came a young man with a very dark complexion, wearing an emerald green pullover.

“Coffee, All,” said Mr. Quin. “Two coffees.”

“Turkish coffee. That’s right, isn’t it, sir?” He smiled and disappeared.

The dog sat down again.

“Tell me,” said Mr. Satterthwaite, “tell me where you’ve been and what you have been doing and why I have not seen you for so long.”

“I have just told you that time really means nothing. It is clear in my mind and I think it is clear in yours the occasion when we last met.”

“A very tragic occasion,” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “I do not really like to think of it.”

“Because of death? But death is not always a tragedy. I have told you that before.”

“No,” said Mr. Satterthwaite, “perhaps that death – the one we are both thinking of – was not a tragedy. But all the same…”

“But all the same it is life that really matters. You are quite right, of course,” said Mr. Quin. “Quite right. It is life that matters. We do not want someone young, someone who is happy, or could be happy, to die. Neither of us wants that, do we. That is the reason why we must always save a life when the command comes.”

“Have you got a command for me?”

“Me – command for you?” Harley Quin’s long, sad face brightened into its peculiarly charming smile. “I have no commands for you, Mr. Satterthwaite. I have never had commands. You yourself know things, see things, know what to do, do them. It has nothing to do with me.”

“Oh yes, it has,” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “You’re not going to change my mind on that point. But tell me. Where have you been during what it is too short to call time?”

“Well, I have been here and there. In different countries, different climates, different adventures. But mostly, as usual, just passing by. I think it is more for you to tell me not only what you have been doing but what you are going to do now. More about where you are going. Who you are going to meet. Your friends, what they are like.”

“Of course I will tell you. I should enjoy telling you because I have been wondering, thinking you know about these friends I am going to. When you have not seen a family for a long time, when you have not been closely connected with them for many years, it is always a nervous moment when you

are going to resume old friendships and old ties.”

“You are so right,” said Mr. Quin.

The Turkish coffee was brought in little cups of oriental pattern. All placed them with a smile and departed. Mr. Satterthwaite sipped approvingly.

“As sweet as love, as black as night and as hot as hell. That is the old Arab phrase, isn’t it?”

Harley smiled over his shoulder and nodded.

“Yes,” said Mr. Satterthwaite, “I must tell you where I am going, though what I am doing hardly matters. I am going to renew old friendships, to make acquaintance with the younger generation. Tom Addison, as I have said, is a very old friend of mine. We did many things together in our young days. Then, as often happens, life parted us. He was in the Diplomatic Service, went abroad for several foreign posts in turn. Sometimes I went and stayed with him, sometimes I saw him when he was home in England. One of his early posts was in Spain. He married a Spanish girl, a very beautiful, dark girl called Pilar. He loved her very much.”

“They had children?”

“Two daughters. A fair-haired baby like her father, called Lily, and a second daughter, Maria, who took after her Spanish mother. I was Lily’s godfather. Naturally, I did not see either of the children very often. Two or three times a year I either gave a party for Lily or went to see her at her school. She was a sweet and lovely person. Very devoted to her father and he was very devoted to her. But in between these meetings, these revivals of friendship, we went through some difficult times. You will know about it as well as I do. I and my contemporaries had difficulties in meeting through the war years. Lily married a pilot in the Air Force. A fighter pilot. Until the other day I had even forgotten his name. Simon Gilliatt. Squadron Leader Gilliatt.” “He was killed in the war?” “No, no. No. He came through safely. After the war he resigned from the Air Force and he and Lily went out to Kenya as so many did. They settled there and they lived very happily. They had a son, a little boy called Roland. Later when he was at school in England I saw him once or twice. The last time, I think, was when he was twelve years old. A nice boy. He had red hair like his father. I’ve not seen him since so I am looking forward to seeing him today. He is twenty- three – twenty-four now. Time goes on so.”

“Is he married?”

“No. Well, not yet.”

“Ah. Prospects of marriage?”

“Well, I wondered from something Tom Addison said in his letter. There is a girl cousin. The younger daughter, Maria, married the local doctor. I never knew her very well. It was rather sad. She died in childbirth. Her little girl was called Inez, a family name chosen by her Spanish grandmother. As it happens I have seen Inez only once since she grew up. A dark, Spanish type, very much like her grandmother. God, I am boring you with all this.”

“No. I want to hear it. It is very interesting to me.”

“I wonder why,” said Mr. Satterthwaite.

He looked at Mr. Quin with that flight air of suspicion which sometimes came to him.

“You want to know all about this family. Why?”

“So that I can picture it, perhaps, in my mind.”

“Well, this house I am going to, Doverton Kingsbourne it is called. It is quite a beautiful old house. Not so spectacular as to invite tourists or to be open to visitors on special days. Just a quiet country house to be lived in by an

Englishman who has served his country and returns to enjoy a mellow life when the age of retirement comes. Tom was always fond of country life. He enjoyed fishing. He was a good shot and we had very happy days together in his family home of his boyhood. I spent many of my own holidays as a boy at Doverton Kingsbourne. And all through my life I have had that image in my mind. No place like Doverton Kingsbourne. No other house to touch it. Every time I drove near it I would make a detour and just pass to see the view through a gap in the trees of the long lane that runs in front of the house, glimpses of the river where we used to fish, and of the house itself. And I would remember all the things that Tom and I did together. He has been a man of action. A man who has done things. And I – I have just been an old bachelor.”

“You have been more than that,” said Mr. Quin. “You have been a man who made friends, who had many friends and who has served his friends well.”

“Well, if I can think that. Perhaps you are being too kind.”

“Not at all. You are very good company besides. The stories you can tell, the things you’ve seen, the places you have visited. The curious things that have happened in your life. You could write a whole book on them,” said Mr. Quin.

“I should make you the main character in it if I did.”

“No, you would not,” said Mr. Quin. “I am the one who passes by. That is all. But go on. Tell me more.”

“Well, this is just a family chronicle that I’m telling you. As I say, there were long periods, years of time when I did not see any of them. But they have been always my old friends. I saw Tom and Pilar until the time when Pilar died – she died rather young, unfortunately – Lily, my godchild; Inez, the quiet doctor’s daughter, who lives in the village with her father -“

“How old is the daughter?”

“Inez is nineteen or twenty, I think. I shall be glad to make friends with her.”

“So it is on the whole a happy chronicle?”

“Not entirely. Lily, my godchild – the one who went to Kenya with her husband – was killed there in an automobile accident. She was killed outright, leaving behind her a baby of barely a year old, little Roland. Simon, her husband, was quite broken-hearted. They were an unusually happy couple. However, the best thing happened to him that could happen, I suppose. He married again, a young woman who was the widow of a squadron leader, a friend of his and who also had been left with a baby the same age. Little Timothy and little Roland had only two or three months in age between them. Simon’s marriage, I believe, has been quite happy enough though I’ve not seen them, of course, because they continued to live in Kenya. The boys were brought up like brothers. They went to the same school in England and spent their holidays usually in Kenya. I have not seen them, of course, for many years. Well, you know what has happened in Kenya. Some people have managed to stay on. Some people, friends of mine, have gone to Western Australia and have settled again happily there with their families. Some have come home to this country.

“Simon Gilliatt and his wife and their two children left Kenya. It was not the same to them and so they came home and accepted the invitation that has always been given them and renewed every year by old Tom Addison. They have come, his son-in-law, his son-in-law’s second wife, and the two children, now grown-up boys, or rather, young men. They have come to live as a family there and they are happy. Tom’s other grandchild, Inez Horton, as I told you, lives in the village with her father, the doctor, and she spends a good deal of her time, I gather, at Doverton Kingsbourne with Tom Addison, who is very devoted to his granddaughter. They sound all very happy together there. He has urged me several times to come there and see. Meet them all again. And so I accepted the invitation. Just for a weekend. It will be sad in some ways to see dear old Tom again, somewhat crippled, with perhaps not a very long expectation of life but still cheerful and gay, as far as I can make out. And to see also the old house again. Doverton Kingsbourne. Tied up with all my boyish memories. When one has not lived a very eventful life, when nothing has happened to one personally, and that is true of me, the things that remain with you are the friends, the houses, and the things you did as a child and a boy and a young man. There is only one thing that worries me.”

“You should not be worried. What is it that worries you?”

“That I might be – disappointed. The house one remembers, one has dreams of, when one might come to see it again it would not be as you remembered it or dreamed it. A new wing would have been added, the garden would have been altered, all sorts of things can have happened to it. It is a very long time, really, since I have been there.”

“I think your memories will go with you,” said Mr. Quin. “I am glad you are going there.”

“I have an idea,” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “Come with me. Come with me on this visit. You need not fear that you’ll not be welcome. Dear Tom Addison is the most hospitable fellow in the world. Any friend of mine would immediately be a friend of his. Come with me. You must. I insist.”

Making an impulsive gesture, Mr. Satterthwaite nearly knocked his coffee cup off the table. He caught it just in time.

At that moment the shop door was pushed open, ringing its old-fashioned bell as it did so. A middle-aged woman came in. She was slightly out of breath and looked somewhat hot. She was good-looking still, with a head of auburn hair only just touched here and there with grey. She had that clear ivory-colored skin that so often goes with reddish hair and blue eyes, and she had kept her figure well. The newcomer swept a quick glance round the cafe and turned immediately into the china shop.

“Oh!” she exclaimed, “you’ve still got some of the Harlequin cups.”

“Yes, Mrs. Gilliatt, we had a new stock arrive in yesterday.”

“Oh, I’m so pleased. I really have been very worried. I rushed down here. I took one of the boys’ motorbikes. They’d gone off somewhere and I couldn’t find either of them. But I really had to do something. There was an unfortunate accident this morning with some of the cups and we’ve got people arriving for tea and a party this afternoon. So if you can give me a blue and a green and perhaps I’d better have another red one as well in case. That’s the worst of these different-colored cups, isn’t it?”

“Well, I know they do say as it’s a disadvantage and you can’t always replace the particular color you want.”

Mr. Satterthwaite’s head had gone over his shoulder now and he was looking with some interest at what was going on. Mrs. Gilliatt, the shop woman had said. But of course. He realized it now. This must be – he rose from his seat, half hesitating, and then took a step or two into the shop.

“Excuse me,” he said, “but are you – are you Mrs. Gilliatt from Doverton Kingsbourne?”

“Oh yes. I am Beryl Gilliatt. Do you – I mean…?”

She looked at him, wrinkling her brows a little. An attractive woman, Mr. Satterthwaite thought. Rather a hard face, perhaps, but competent. So this was Simon Gilliatt’s second wife. She hadn’t got the beauty of Lily, but she seemed an attractive woman, pleasant and efficient. Suddenly a smile came to Mrs. Gilliatt’s face.

“I do believe… yes, of course. My father-in-law, Tom, has got a photograph of you and you must be the guest we are expecting this afternoon. You must be Mr. Satterthwaite.”

“Exactly,” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “That is who I am. But I shall have to apologize very much for being so much later in arriving than I said. But unfortunately my car has had a breakdown. It’s in the garage now, being attended to.”

“Oh, how miserable for you. But what a shame. But it’s not tea time yet. Don’t worry. We’ve put it off anyway. As you probably heard, I ran down to replace a few cups which unfortunately got swept off the table this morning. Whenever one has anyone to lunch or tea or dinner, something like that always happens.”

“There you are, Mrs. Gilliatt,” said the woman in the shop. I’ll wrap them up in here. Shall I put them in a box for you?”

“No, if you’ll just put some paper around them and put them in this shopping bag of mine, they’ll be quite all right that way.”

“If you are returning to Doverton Kingsbourne,” said Mr. Satterthwaite, “I could give you a lift in my car. It will be arriving from the garage any moment now.”

“That’s very kind of you. I wish really I could accept. But I’ve simply got to take the motorbike back. The boys will be miserable without it. They’re going somewhere this evening.”

“Let me introduce you,” said Mr. Satterthwaite. He turned towards Mr. Quin, who had risen to his feet and was now standing quite near. “This is an old friend of mine, Mr. Harley Quin, whom I have just happened to run across here. I’ve been trying to persuade him to come along to Doverton Kingsbourne. Would it be possible, do you think, for Tom to put up yet another guest for tonight?”

“Oh, I’m sure it would be quite all right,” said Beryl Gilliatt. “I’m sure he’d be delighted to see another friend of yours. Perhaps it’s a friend of his as well.”

“No,” said Mr. Quin, “I’ve never met Mr. Addison, though I’ve often heard my friend Mr. Satterthwaite speak of him.”

“Well then, do let Mr. Satterthwaite bring you. We should be delighted.”

“I am very sorry,” said Mr. Quin. “Unfortunately, I have another engagement. Indeed -” he looked at his watch – “I must start for it immediately. I am late already, which is what comes of meeting old friends.”

“Here you are, Mrs. Gilliatt,” said the saleswoman. “It’ll be quite all right, I think, in your bag.”

Beryl Gilliatt put the parcel carefully into the bag she was carrying, then said to

Mr. Satterthwaite: “Well, see you presently. Tea isn’t until quarter past five, so don’t worry. I’m so pleased to meet you at last, having heard so much about you always, both from Simon and from my father-in-law.”

She said a hurried good-bye to Mr. Quin and went out of the shop.

“Bit of a hurry she’s in, isn’t she?” said the shop woman, “but she’s always like that. Gets through a lot in a day, I’d say.”

The sound of the motor bicycle outside was heard as it revved up.

“Quite a character, isn’t she?” said Mr. Satterthwaite.

“It would seem so,” said Mr. Quin.

“And I really can’t persuade you?”

“I’m only passing by,” said Mr. Quin.

“And when shall I see you again? I wonder now.”

“Oh, it will not be very long,” said Mr. Quin. “I think you will recognize me when you do see me.”

“Have you nothing more – nothing more to tell me? Nothing more to explain?”

“To explain what?”

“To explain why I have met you here.”

“You are a man of considerable knowledge,” said Mr. Quin. “One word might mean something to you. I think it would and it might come in useful.”

“What word?” “Daltonism,” said Mr. Quin. He smiled.

“I don’t think – ” Mr. Satterthwaite frowned for a moment. “Yes. Yes, I do know, only just for the moment I can’t remember -“

“Goodbye for the present,” said Mr. Quin. “Here is your car.”

At that moment the car was indeed pulling up by the post office door. Mr. Satterthwaite went out to it. He was anxious not to waste more time and keep his hosts waiting longer than need be. But he was sad all the same at saying goodbye to his friend.

“There is nothing I can do for you?” he said, and his tone was almost wistful.

“Nothing you can do for me.”

“For someone else?”

“I think so. Very likely.”

“I hope I know what you mean.”

“I have the utmost faith in you,” said Mr. Quin. “You always know things. You are very quick to observe and to know the meaning of things. You have not changed, I assure you.”

His hand rested for a moment on Mr. Satterthwaite’s shoulder, then he walked out and proceeded briskly down the village street in the opposite direction to Doverton Kingsbourne. Mr. Satterthwaite got into his car.

“I hope we shan’t have any more trouble,” he said.

His chauffeur reassured him.

“It’s no distance from here, sir. Three or four miles at most, and she’s running beautifully now.”

He ran the car a little way along the street and turned where the road widened so as to return the way he had just come. He said again,

“Only three or four miles.”

Mr. Satterthwaite said again, “Daltonism.” It still didn’t mean anything to him, but yet he felt it should. It was a word he’d heard used before.

“Doverton Kingsbourne,” said Mr. Satterthwaite to himself. He said it very softly under his breath. The two words still meant to him what they had always meant. A place of joyous reunion, a place where he couldn’t get there too quickly. A place where he was going to enjoy himself, even though so many of those whom he had known would not be there any longer. But Tom would be there. His old friend Tom, and he thought again of the grass and the lake and the river and the things they had done together as boys.

Tea was set out upon the lawn. Steps led out from the French windows in the drawing room and down to where a big copper beech at one side and a cedar of Lebanon on the other made the setting for the afternoon scene. There were two painted and carved white tables and various garden chairs. Upright ones with colored cushions, and lounging ones where you could lean back and stretch your feet out and sleep, if you wished to do so. Some of them had hoods over them to guard you from the sun.

It was a beautiful early evening and the green of the grass was a soft deep color. The golden light came through the copper beech and the cedar showed the lines of its beauty against a soft pinkish-golden sky. Tom Addison was waiting for his guest in a long basket chair, his feet up. Mr. Satterthwaite noted with some amusement what he remembered from many other occasions of meeting his host – he had comfortable bedroom slippers suited to his slightly swollen gouty feet, and the shoes were odd ones. One red and one green. Good old Tom, thought Mr. Satterthwaite, he hasn’t changed. Just the same. And he thought, “What an idiot I am. Of course I know what the word meant. Why didn’t I think of it at once?”

“Thought you were never going to turn up, you old devil,” said Tom Addison.

He was still a handsome old man, a broad face with deepset twinkling grey eyes, shoulders that were still square and gave him a look of power. Every line in his face seemed a line of good humor and affectionate welcome. “He never changes,” thought Mr. Satterthwaite.

“Can’t get up to greet you,” said Tom Addison. “Takes two strong men and a stick to get me on my feet. Now, do you know our little crowd, or don’t you? You know Simon, of course.”

“Of course I do. It’s a good few years since I’ve seen you, but you haven’t changed much.”

Squadron Leader Simon Gilliatt was a lean, handsome man with a mop of red hair.

“Sorry you never came to see us when we were in Kenya,” he said. “You’d have enjoyed yourself. Lots of things we could have shown you. Ah well, one can’t see what the future may bring. I thought I’d lay my bones in that country.”

“We’ve got a very nice churchyard here,” said Tom Addison. “Nobody’s ruined our church yet by restoring it and we haven’t very much new building round about so there’s plenty of room in the churchyard still. We haven’t had one of these terrible additions of a new intake of graves.”

“What a gloomy conversation you’re having,” said Beryl Gilliatt, smiling. “These are our boys,” she said, “but you know them already, don’t you, Mr. Satterthwaite?”

“I don’t think I’d have known them now,” said Mr. Satterthwaite.

Indeed, the last time he had seen the two boys was on a day when he had taken them out from their prep school. Although there was no relationship between them – they had different fathers and mothers – the boys could have been, and often were, taken for brothers. They were about the same height and they both had red hair. Roland, presumably, having inherited it from his father and Timothy from his auburn-haired mother. There seemed also to be a kind of comradeship between them. Yet really, Mr. Satterthwaite thought, they were very different. The difference was clearer now when they were, he supposed, between twenty-two and twenty-five years old. He could see no resemblance in Roland to his grandfather. Nor apart from his red hair did he look like his father.

Mr. Satterthwaite had wondered sometimes whether the boy would look like Lily, his dead mother. But there again he could see little resemblance. If anything, Timothy looked more as a son of Lily’s might have looked. The fair skin and the high forehead and a delicacy of bone structure. At his elbow, a soft deep voice said,

“I’m Inez. I don’t expect you remember me. It was quite a long time ago when I saw you.”

A beautiful girl, Mr. Satterthwaite thought at once. A dark type. He cast his mind back a long way to the days when he had come to be best man at Tom Addison’s wedding to Pilar. She showed her Spanish blood, he thought, the carriage of her head and the dark aristocratic beauty. Her father, Dr. Horton, was standing just behind her. He looked much older than when Mr. Satterthwaite had seen him last. A nice man and kindly. A good general practitioner, unambitious but reliable and devoted, Mr. Satterthwaite thought, to his daughter. He was obviously immensely proud of her.

Mr. Satterthwaite felt an enormous happiness creeping over him. All these people, he thought, although some of them strange to him, seemed like friends he had already known. The dark beautiful girl, the two red-haired boys, Beryl Gilliatt, fussing over the tea tray, arranging cups and saucers, beckoning to a maid from the house to bring out cakes and plates of sandwiches. A splendid tea. There were chairs that pulled up to the tables so that you could sit comfortably eating all you wanted to eat. The boys settled themselves, inviting Mr. Satterthwaite to sit between them.

He was pleased at that. He had already planned in his own mind that it was the boys he wanted to talk to first, to see how much they recalled to him Tom Addison in the old days, and he thought, “Lily. How I wish Lily could be here now.” Here he was, thought Mr. Satterthwaite, here he was back in his boyhood. Here where he had come and been welcomed by Tom’s father and mother, an aunt or so, too, there had been, and a great-uncle and cousins. And now, well, there were not so many in this family, but it was a family. Tom in his bedroom slippers, one red, one green, old but still merry and happy. Happy in those who were spread round him. And here was Doverton just, or almost just, as it had been. Not quite so well kept up, perhaps, but the lawn was in good condition. And down there he could see the gleam of the river through the trees and the trees, too. More trees than there had been. And the house needing, perhaps, another coat of paint but not too badly. After all, Tom Addison was a rich man. Well provided for, owning a large quantity of land. A man with simple tastes who spent enough to keep his place up but was not a spendthrift in other ways. He seldom traveled or went abroad nowadays, but he entertained. Not big parties, just friends. Friends who came to stay, friends who usually had some connections going back into the past. A friendly house.

He turned a little in his chair, drawing it away from the table and turning it sideways so that he could see better the view down to the river. Down there was the mill, of course, and beyond the other side there were fields. And in one of the fields, it amused him to see a kind of scarecrow, a dark figure on which birds were settling on the straw. Just for a moment he thought it looked like Mr. Harley Quin. Perhaps, thought Mr. Satterthwaite, it is my friend Mr. Quin. It was an absurd idea, and yet if someone had piled up the scarecrow and tried to make it look like Mr. Quin, it could have had the sort of slender elegance that was foreign to most scarecrows one saw.

“Are you looking at our scarecrow?” said Timothy. “We’ve got a name for him, you know. We call him Mister Harley Barley.”

“Do you indeed,” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “Dear me, I find that very interesting.”

“Why do you find it interesting?” said Roly, with some curiosity.

“Well, because it rather resembles someone that I know, whose name happens to be Harley. His first name, that is.”

The boys began singing, “Harley Barley, stands on guard, Harley Barley takes things hard. Guards the ricks and guards the hay, Keeps the trespassers away.”

“Cucumber sandwich, Mr. Satterthwaite?” said Beryl Gilliatt, “or do you prefer a home-made pate one?”

Mr. Satterthwaite accepted the home-made pate. She deposited by his side a puce cup, the same color as he had admired in the shop. How gay it looked, all that tea set on the table. Yellow, red, blue, green, and all the rest of it. He wondered if each one had his favorite color. Timothy, he noticed, had a red cup, Roland had a yellow one. Beside Timothy’s cup was an object Mr. Satterthwaite could not at first identify. Then he saw it was a meerschaum pipe. It was years since Mr. Satterthwaite had thought of or seen a meerschaum pipe.

Roland, noticing what he was looking at, said, “Tim brought that back from Germany when he went. He’s killing himself with cancer smoking his pipe all the time.”

“Don’t you smoke, Roland?”

“No. I’m not one for smoking. I don’t smoke cigarettes and I don’t smoke pot either.”

Inez came to the table and sat down on the other side of him. Both the young men pressed food upon her. They started a laughing conversation together.

Mr. Satterthwaite felt very happy among these young people. Not that they took very much notice of him apart from their natural politeness. But he liked hearing them. He liked, too, making up his judgement about them. He thought, he was almost sure, that both the young men were in love with Inez. Well, it was not surprising. Propinquity brings these things about. They had come to live here with their grandfather. A beautiful girl, Roland’s first cousin, was living almost next door. Mr. Satterthwaite turned his head. He could just see the house through the trees where it poked up from the road just beyond the front gate. That was the same house that Dr. Horton had lived in last time he came here, seven or eight years ago.

He looked at Inez. He wondered which of the two young men she preferred or whether her affections were already engaged elsewhere. There was no reason why she should not fall in love with one of these two attractive young specimens of the male race.

Having eaten as much as he wanted – it was not very much – Mr. Satterthwaite drew his chair back, altering its angle a little so that he could look all round him.

Mrs. Gilliatt was still busy. Very much the housewife, he thought, making perhaps rather more of a fuss than she need of domesticity. Continually offering people cakes, taking their cups away and replenishing them, handing things round. Somehow, he thought, it would be more pleasant and more informal if she let people help themselves. He wished she was not so busy a hostess.

He looked up to the place where Tom Addison lay stretched out in his chair. Tom Addison was also watching Beryl Gilliatt. Mr. Satterthwaite thought to himself: “He doesn’t like her. No. Tom doesn’t like her. Well, perhaps that’s to be expected.” After all, Beryl had taken the place of his own daughter, of Simon Gilliatt’s first wife, Lily. “My beautiful Lily,” thought Mr. Satterthwaite again, and wondered why for some reason he felt that although he could not see anyone like her, Lily in some strange way was here. She was here at this tea party.

“I suppose one begins to imagine these things as one gets old,” said Mr. Satterthwaite to himself. “After all, why shouldn’t Lily be here to see her son.”

He looked affectionately at Timothy and then suddenly realized that he was not looking at Lily’s son. Roland was Lily’s son. Timothy was Beryl’s son.

“I believe Lily knows I’m here. I believe she’d like to speak to me,” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “Oh dear, oh dear, I mustn’t start imagining foolish things.”

For some reason he looked again at the scarecrow. It didn’t look like a scarecrow now. It looked like Mr. Harley Quin. Some tricks of the light, of the sunset, were providing it with color, and there was a black dog like Hermes chasing the birds.

“Color,” said Mr. Satterthwaite, and looked again at the table and the tea set and the people having tea.

“Why am I here?” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “Why am I here and what ought I to be doing? There’s a reason.”

Now he knew, he felt, there was something, some crisis, something affecting – affecting all these people or only some of them? Beryl Gilliatt, Mrs. Gilliatt. She was nervous about something. On edge. Tom? Nothing wrong with Tom. He wasn’t affected. A lucky man to own this beauty, to own Doverton and to have a grandson so that when he died all this would come to Roland. All this would be Roland’s. Was Tom hoping that Roland would marry Inez? Or would he have a fear of first cousins marrying? Though throughout history, Mr. Satterthwaite thought, brothers had married sisters with no ill result. “Nothing must happen,” said Mr. Satterthwaite, “nothing must happen. I must prevent it.”

Really, his thoughts were the thoughts of a madman. A peaceful scene. A tea set. The varying colors of the Harlequin cups. He looked at the white meerschaum pipe lying against the red of the cup. Beryl Gilliatt said something to Timothy. Timothy nodded, got up and went off towards the house. Beryl removed some empty plates from the table, adjusted a chair or two, murmured something to Roland, who went across and offered a frosted cake to Dr. Horton.

Mr. Satterthwaite watched her. He had to watch her. The sweep of her sleeve as she passed the table. He saw a red cup get pushed off the table. It broke on the iron feet of a chair. He heard her little exclamation as she picked up the bits. She went to the tea tray, came back and placed on the table a pale blue cup and saucer. She replaced the meerschaum pipe, putting it close against it. She brought the teapot and poured tea, then she moved away.

The table was untenanted now. Inez also had got up and left it. Gone to speak to her grandfather. “I don’t understand,” said Mr. Satterthwaite to himself. “Something’s going to happen. What’s going to happen?”

A table with different-colored cups round, and – yes, Timothy, his red hair glowing in the sun. Red hair glowing with that same tint, that attractive sideways wave that Simon Gilliatt’s hair had always had. Timothy, coming back, standing a moment, looking at the table with a slightly puzzled eye, then going to where the meerschaum pipe rested against the pale blue cup.

Inez came back then. She laughed suddenly and she said, “Timothy, you’re drinking your tea out of the wrong cup. The blue cup’s mine. Yours is the red one.”

And Timothy said, “Don’t be silly, Inez, I know my own cup. It’s got sugar in it and you won’t like it. Nonsense. This is my cup. The meerschaum’s up against it.”

It came to Mr. Satterthwaite then. A shock. Was he mad? Was he imagining things? Was any of this real?

He got up. He walked quickly towards the table, and as Timothy raised the blue cup to his lips, he shouted.

“Don’t drink that!” he called. “Don’t drink it, I say.”

Timothy turned a surprised face. Mr. Satterthwaite turned his head. Dr. Horton, rather startled, got up from his seat and was coming near.

“What’s the matter, Satterthwaite?”

“That cup. There’s something wrong about it,” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “Don’t let the boy drink from it.”

Horton stared at it. “My dear fellow -“

“I know what I’m saying. The red cup was his,” said Mr. Satterthwaite, “and the red cup’s broken. It’s been replaced with a blue one. He doesn’t know the red from blue, does he?”

Dr. Horton looked puzzled. “D’you mean – d’you mean like Tom?”

“Tom Addison. He’s color-blind. You know that, don’t you?”

“Oh yes, of course. We all know that. That’s why he’d got odd shoes on today. He never knew red from green.”

“This boy is the same.”

“But – but surely not. Anyway, there’s never been any sign of it in – in Roland.”

“There might be, though, mightn’t there?” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “I’m right in thinking – Daltonism. That’s what they call it, don’t they?”

“It was a name they used to call it by, yes.”

“It’s not inherited by a female, but it passes through the female. Lily wasn’t color-blind, but Lily’s son might easily be colorblind.”

“But my dear Satterthwaite, Timothy isn’t Lily’s son. Roly is Lily’s son. I know they’re rather alike. Same age, same-colored hair and things, but – well, perhaps you don’t remember.”

“No,” said Mr. Satterthwaite, “I shouldn’t have remembered. But I know now. I can see the resemblance too. Roland’s Beryl’s son. They were both babies, weren’t they, when Simon remarried. It is very easy for a woman looking after two babies, especially if both of them were going to have red hair. Timothy’s Lily’s son and Roland is Beryl’s son. Beryl’s and Christopher Eden’s. There is no reason why he should be colorblind. I know it, I tell you. I know it!”

He saw Dr. Horton’s eyes go from one to the other. Timothy, not catching what they said but standing holding the blue cup and looking puzzled.

“I saw her buy it,” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “Listen to me, man. You must listen to me. You’ve known me for some years. You know that I don’t make mistakes if I say a thing positively.”

“Quite true. I’ve never known you to make a mistake.”

“Take that cup away from him,” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “Take it back to your surgery or take it to an analytic chemist and find out what’s in it. I saw that woman buy that cup. She bought it in the village shop. She knew then that she was going to break a red cup, replace it by a blue and that Timothy would never know that the colors were different.”

“I think you’re mad, Satterthwaite. But all the same I’m going to do what you say.”

He advanced on the table, stretched out a hand to the blue cup.

“Do you mind letting me have a look at that?” said Dr. Horton.

“Of course,” said Timothy. He looked slightly surprised.

“I think there’s a flaw in the china, here, you know. Rather interesting.”

Beryl came across the lawn. She came quickly and sharply.

“What are you doing? What’s the matter? What is happening?”

“Nothing’s the matter,” said Dr. Horton, cheerfully. “I just want to show the boys a little experiment I’m going to make with a cup of tea.”

He was looking at her very closely and he saw the expression of fear, of terror. Mr. Satterthwaite saw the entire change of countenance.

“Would you like to come with me, Satterthwaite? Just a little experiment, you know. A matter of testing porcelain and different qualities in it nowadays. A very interesting discovery was made lately.”

Chatting, he walked along the grass. Mr. Satterthwaite followed him and the two young men, chatting to each other, followed him.

“What’s the Doc up to now, Roly?” said Timothy.

“I don’t know,” said Roland. “He seems to have got some very extraordinary ideas. Oh well, we shall hear about it later, I expect. Let’s go and get our bikes.”

Beryl Gilliatt turned abruptly. She retraced her steps rapidly up the lawn towards the house. Tom Addison called to her:

“Anything the matter, Beryl?”

“Something I’d forgotten,” said Beryl Gilliatt. “That’s all.”

Tom Addison looked inquiringly towards Simon Gilliatt.

“Anything wrong with your wife?” he said.

“Beryl? Oh no, not that I know of. I expect it’s some little thing or other that she’s forgotten. Nothing I can do for you, Beryl?” he called.

“No. No, I’ll be back later.” She turned her head half sideways, looking at the old man lying back in the chair. She spoke suddenly and vehemently. “You silly old fool. You’ve got the wrong shoes on again today. They don’t match. Do you know you’ve got one shoe that’s red and one shoe that’s green?”

“Ah, done it again, have I?” said Tom Addison. “They look exactly the same color to me, you know. It’s odd, isn’t it, but there it is.”

She went past him, her steps quickening.

Presently Mr. Satterthwaite and Dr. Horton reached the gate that led out into the roadway. They heard a motor bicycle speeding along.

“She’s gone,” said Dr. Horton. “She’s run for it. We ought to have stopped her, I suppose. Do you think she’ll come back?”

“No,” said Mr. Satterthwaite, “I don’t think she’ll come back. Perhaps,” he said thoughtfully, “it’s best left that way.”

“You mean?”

“It’s an old house,” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “And an old family. A good family. A lot of good people in it. One doesn’t want trouble, scandal, everything brought upon it. Best to let her go, I think.”

“Tom Addison never liked her,” said Dr. Horton. “Never. He was always polite and kind but he didn’t like her.”

“And there’s the boy to think of,” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “The boy. You mean?”

“The other boy. Roland. This way he needn’t know about what his mother was trying to do.”

“Why did she do it? Why on earth did she do it?”

“You’ve no doubt now that she did,” said Mr. Satterthwaite.

“No. I’ve no doubt now. I saw her face, Satterthwaite, when she looked at me. I knew then that what you’d said was truth. But why?”

“Greed, I suppose,” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “She hadn’t any money of her own, I believe. Her husband, Christopher Eden, was a nice chap by all accounts but he hadn’t anything in the way of means. But Tom Addison’s grandchild has got big money coming to him. A lot of money. Property all around here has appreciated enormously. I’ve no doubt that Tom Addison will leave the bulk of what he has to his grandson. She wanted it for her own son and through her own son, of course, for herself. She is a greedy woman.”

Mr. Satterthwaite turned his head back suddenly.

“Something’s on fire over there,” he said.

“Good lord, so it is. Oh, it’s the scarecrow down in the field. Some young chap or other’s set fire to it, I suppose. But there’s nothing to worry about. There are no ricks or anything anywhere near. It’ll just burn itself out.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Satterthwaite. “Well, you go on, Doctor. You don’t need me to help you in your tests.”

“I’ve no doubt of what I shall find. I don’t mean the exact substance, but I have come to your belief that this blue cup holds death.”

Mr. Satterthwaite had turned back through the gate. He was going now down in the direction where the scarecrow was burning. Behind it was the sunset. A remarkable sunset that evening. Its colors illuminated the air round it, illuminated the burning scarecrow.

“So that’s the way you’ve chosen to go,” said Mr. Satterthwaite.

He looked slightly startled then, for in the neighborhood of the flames he saw the tall, slight figure of a woman. A woman dressed in some pale mother-of-pearl coloring. She was walking in the direction of Mr. Satterthwaite. He stopped dead, watching.

“Lily,” he said. “Lily.”

He saw her quite plainly now. It was Lily walking towards him. Too far away for him to see her face but he knew very well who it was. Just for a moment or two he wondered whether anyone else would see her or whether the sight was only for him. He said, not very loud, only in a whisper,

“It’s all right, Lily, your son is safe.”

She stopped then. She raised one hand to her lips. He didn’t see her smile, but he knew she was smiling. She kissed her hand and waved it to him and then she turned. She walked back towards where the scarecrow was disintegrating into a mass of ashes.

“She’s going away again,” said Mr. Satterthwaite to himself. “She’s going away with him. They’re walking away together. They belong to the same world, of course. They only come – those sort of people – they only come when it’s a case of love or death or both.”

He wouldn’t see Lily again, he supposed, but he wondered how soon he would meet Mr. Quin again.

He turned then and went back across the lawn towards the tea table and the Harlequin tea set, and beyond that, to his old friend Tom Addison. Beryl wouldn’t come back. He was sure of it. Doverton Kingsbourne was safe again.

Across the lawn came the small black dog in flying leaps. It came to Mr. Satterthwaite, panting a little and wagging its tail. Through its collar was twisted a scrap of paper. Mr. Satterthwaite stooped and detached it – smoothing it out – on it in colored letters was written a message:

Congratulations. To Our Next Meeting

“Thank you, Hermes,” said Mr. Satterthwaite, and watched the black dog flying across the meadow to rejoin the two figures that he himself knew were there but could no longer see.

4 thoughts on “The Harlequin Tea Set by Agatha Christie

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