A Fairy in the Flat/A Pot of Tea: An Agatha Christie Short Story
A Fairy in the Flat/A Pot of Tea A Short Story by Agatha Christie
Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF
Copyright © 2008 Agatha Christie Limited.
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Source ISBN: 9780007438983
Ebook Edition © MARCH 2014 ISBN: 9780007560080
‘A Fairy in the Flat’ and ‘A Pot of Tea’, the two opening chapters of the 1929 book Partners in Crime, were first published together as ‘Publicity’ in The Sketch, 24 September 1924. It set the scene for a continuous run of twelve Tommy and Tuppence stories, in which Agatha Christie parodied well-known literary detectives.
Mrs Thomas Beresford shifted her position on the divan and looked gloomily out of the window of the flat. The prospect was not an extended one, consisting solely of a small block of flats on the other side of the road. Mrs Beresford sighed and then yawned.
‘I wish,’ she said, ‘something would happen.’
Her husband looked up reprovingly.
‘Be careful, Tuppence, this craving for vulgar sensation alarms me.’
Tuppence sighed and closed her eyes dreamily.
‘So Tommy and Tuppence were married,’ she chanted, ‘and lived happily ever afterwards. And six years later they were still living together happily ever afterwards. It is extraordinary,’ she said, ‘how different everything always is from what you think it is going to be.’
‘A very profound statement, Tuppence. But not original. Eminent poets and still more eminent divines have said it before – and if you will excuse me saying so, have said it better.’
‘Six years ago,’ continued Tuppence, ‘I would have sworn that with sufficient money to buy things with, and with you for a husband, all life would have been one grand sweet song, as one of the poets you seem to know so much about puts it.’
‘Is it me or the money that palls upon you?’ inquired Tommy coldly.
‘Palls isn’t exactly the word,’ said Tuppence kindly. ‘I’m used to my blessings, that’s all. Just as one never thinks what a boon it is to be able to breathe through one’s nose until one has a cold in the head.’
‘Shall I neglect you a little?’ suggested Tommy. ‘Take other women about to night clubs. That sort of thing.’
‘Useless,’ said Tuppence. ‘You would only meet me there with other men. And I should know perfectly well that you didn’t care for the other women, whereas you would never be quite sure that I didn’t care for the other men. Women are so much more thorough.’
‘It’s only in modesty that men score top marks,’ murmured her husband. ‘But what is the matter with you, Tuppence? Why this yearning discontent?’
‘I don’t know. I want things to happen. Exciting things. Wouldn’t you like to go chasing German spies again, Tommy? Think of the wild days of peril we went through once. Of course I know you’re more or less in the Secret Service now, but it’s pure office work.’
‘You mean you’d like them to send me into darkest Russia disguised as a Bolshevik bootlegger, or something of that sort?’
‘That wouldn’t be any good,’ said Tuppence. ‘They wouldn’t let me go with you and I’m the person who wants something to do so badly. Something to do. That is what I keep saying all day long.’
‘Women’s sphere,’ suggested Tommy, waving his hand.
‘Twenty minutes’ work after breakfast every morning keeps the flag going to perfection. You have nothing to complain of, have you?’
‘Your housekeeping is so perfect, Tuppence, as to be almost monotonous.’
‘I do like gratitude,’ said Tuppence.
‘You, of course, have got your work,’ she continued, ‘but tell me, Tommy, don’t you ever have a secret yearning for excitement, for things to happen?’
‘No,’ said Tommy, ‘at least I don’t think so. It is all very well to want things to happen – they might not be pleasant things.’
‘How prudent men are,’ sighed Tuppence. ‘Don’t you ever have a wild secret yearning for romance – adventure – life?’
‘What have you been reading, Tuppence?’ asked Tommy.
‘Think how exciting it would be,’ went on Tuppence, ‘if we heard a wild rapping at the door and went to open it and in staggered a dead man.’
‘If he was dead he couldn’t stagger,’ said Tommy critically.
‘You know what I mean,’ said Tuppence. ‘They always stagger in just before they die and fall at your feet, just gasping out a few enigmatic words. “The Spotted Leopard”, or something like that.’
‘I advise a course of Schopenhauer or Emmanuel Kant,’ said Tommy.
‘That sort of thing would be good for you,’ said Tuppence. ‘You are getting fat and comfortable.’
‘I am not,’ said Tommy indignantly. ‘Anyway you do slimming exercises yourself.’
‘Everybody does,’ said Tuppence. ‘When I said you were getting fat I was really speaking meta-phorically, you are getting prosperous and sleek and comfortable.’
‘I don’t know what has come over you,’ said her husband.
‘The spirit of adventure,’ murmured Tuppence. ‘It is better than a longing for romance anyway. I have that sometimes too. I think of meeting a man, a really handsome man –’
‘You have met me,’ said Tommy. ‘Isn’t that enough for you?’
‘A brown, lean man, terrifically strong, the kind of man who can ride anything and lassoes wild horses –’
‘Complete with sheepskin trousers and a cowboy hat,’ interpolated Tommy sarcastically.
‘– and has lived in the Wilds,’ continued Tuppence. ‘I should like him to fall simply madly in love with me. I should, of course, rebuff him virtuously and be true to my marriage vows, but my heart would secretly go out to him.’
‘Well,’ said Tommy, ‘I often wish that I may meet a really beautiful girl. A girl with corn coloured hair who will fall desperately in love with me. Only I don’t think I rebuff her – in fact I am quite sure I don’t.’
‘That,’ said Tuppence, ‘is naughty temper.’
‘What,’ said Tommy, ‘is really the matter with you, Tuppence? You have never talked like this before.’
‘No, but I have been boiling up inside for a long time,’ said Tuppence. ‘You see it is very dangerous to have everything you want – including enough money to buy things. Of course there are always hats.’
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