Aunt Dimity: Detective

Aunt Dimity: Detective by Nancy Atherton Read Free Book Online

Book: Aunt Dimity: Detective by Nancy Atherton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nancy Atherton
    â€œWe’ve never been to London,” said Ruth. “But we’ve heard that it’s . . .”
    â€œ. . . rather large and terribly exciting,” Louise commented. “Our small community must seem . . .”
    â€œ. . . distressingly dull by comparison,” Ruth concluded.
    â€œNot at all,” said Nicholas. “Finch is a charming village.”
    â€œAnd it’s had its share of excitement lately,” I put in. “I can’t tell you how surprised I was to hear about what happened to Mrs. Hooper.”
    A chill seemed to pass through the room as the Pyms’ lips primmed into identical thin lines of disapproval. Nicholas, who’d been contentedly gorging himself on the sisters’ feather-light éclairs, suddenly became as still as stone.
    â€œThat’s because you didn’t know her, dear,” said Ruth. “She was a most . . .”
    â€œ. . . objectionable woman.” Louise sipped her tea before adding, “Her wake was an almost silent affair. Since no one wished to speak ill of the dead . . .”
    â€œ. . . no one spoke,” said Ruth. “Apart from the vicar, of course, and Mrs. Hooper’s son. It reminded us of the hermit’s wake . . .”
    â€œ. . . though he hadn’t a son to speak for him,” Louise informed us, “and people were silent then not because they disliked the poor fellow but because so little was known about him.”
    â€œNo one seems to know anything about Mrs. Hooper’s death, either,” I prompted hopefully, but Ruth went on as if I hadn’t spoken.
    â€œThe hermit was antisocial in his way,” she observed, “just as Mrs. Hooper . . .”
    â€œ. . . was antisocial in hers,” said Louise. “The difference being that the hermit’s ways harmed no one, whereas . . .”
    â€œ. . . Mrs. Hooper’s did a great deal of harm.” Ruth offered me a slice of seedcake. “The truly regrettable thing is that she continues . . .”
    â€œ. . . to do so much harm after her death.” Louise refilled Nicholas’s cup.
    â€œDid she harm you?” Nicholas asked.
    â€œShe was a serpent in the bosom of our village,” Louise declared. “My sister and I know how to deal with serpents.”
    The seedcake, of which I was very fond, seemed to turn to chalk in my mouth. I’d never heard the Pyms speak so bluntly about anyone.
    â€œOne avoids them,” said Ruth.
    â€œAs we avoided Mrs. Hooper,” added Louise. “Others did not and were stung . . .”
    â€œ. . . rather severely.” Ruth brushed a crumb from the tablecloth. “And now they sting each other. That’s the trouble, you see. Questions . . .”
    â€œ. . . so many unanswered questions.” Louise tilted her head to one side. “And gingerbread, of course.”
    I glanced uncertainly at Nicholas, but his eyes were fixed on Louise’s.
    â€œDid you say . . . gingerbread?” I ventured.
    â€œGilded gingerbread.” Louise nodded. “We make it every year . . .”
    â€œ. . . to give as gifts at Eastertide.” Ruth’s nod mirrored her sister’s. “Our motor isn’t functioning properly, however, and since Mr. Barlow is away from home—”
    â€œHe is?” I interrupted. I’d been counting on a conversation with the prophetic mechanic.
    â€œHe’s visiting family, we believe,” said Ruth. “Somewhere up north. Naturally, we wouldn’t trust our motor to anyone but Mr. Barlow, so we were rather hoping . . .”
    â€œ. . . that you would do us a great favor,” said Louise, “and deliver the gingerbread for us. There’s no hurry. It will keep for several days. We’ve written the names of the recipients . . .”
    â€œ. . . atop each box,” Ruth concluded.
    Nicholas deposited his empty plate on the table and stood. “Ladies,” he announced,

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