Sing a Song of Sixpence: An Agatha Christie Short Story

Sing a Song of Sixpence: An Agatha Christie Short Story
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A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.An ageing barrister begins to regret past events when an old flame asks him to investigate the murder of her eccentricwealthy aunt in a mystery that recalls an old nursery rhyme…

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Sing a Song of Sixpence

A Short Story

by Agatha Christie

Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF

Copyright © 2008 Agatha Christie Ltd.

Cover Layout Design © HarperCollinsPublishers 2014

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Source ISBN: 9780007438976

Ebook Edition © MARCH 2014 ISBN: 9780007560073

Version: 2017-04-13

‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’ was first published in Holly Leaves (published by Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News), 2 December 1929.

Sir Edward Palliser, K.C., lived at No 9 Queen Anne’s Close. Queen Anne’s Close is a cul-de-sac. In the very heart of Westminster it manages to have a peaceful old-world atmosphere far removed from the turmoil of the twentieth century. It suited Sir Edward Palliser admirably.

Sir Edward had been one of the most eminent criminal barristers of his day and now that he no longer practised at the Bar he had amused himself by amassing a very fine criminological library. He was also the author of a volume of Reminiscences of Eminent Criminals.

On this particular evening Sir Edward was sitting in front of his library fire sipping some very excellent black coffee, and shaking his head over a volume of Lombroso. Such ingenious theories and so completely out of date.

The door opened almost noiselessly and his well-trained man-servant approached over the thick pile carpet, and murmured discreetly:

‘A young lady wishes to see you, sir.’

‘A young lady?’

Sir Edward was surprised. Here was something quite out of the usual course of events. Then he reflected that it might be his niece, Ethel – but no, in that case Armour would have said so.

He inquired cautiously.

‘The lady did not give her name?’

‘No, sir, but she said she was quite sure you would wish to see her.’

‘Show her in,’ said Sir Edward Palliser. He felt pleasurably intrigued.

A tall, dark girl of close on thirty, wearing a black coat and skirt, well cut, and a little black hat, came to Sir Edward with outstretched hand and a look of eager recognition on her face. Armour withdrew, closing the door noiselessly behind him.

‘Sir Edward – you do know me, don’t you? I’m Magdalen Vaughan.’

‘Why, of course.’ He pressed the outstretched hand warmly.

He remembered her perfectly now. That trip home from America on the Siluric! This charming child – for she had been little more than a child. He had made love to her, he remembered, in a discreet elderly man-of-the-world fashion. She had been so adorably young – so eager – so full of admiration and hero worship – just made to captivate the heart of a man nearing sixty. The remembrance brought additional warmth into the pressure of his hand.

‘This is most delightful of you. Sit down, won’t you.’ He arranged an armchair for her, talking easily and evenly, wondering all the time why she had come. When at last he brought the easy flow of small talk to an end, there was a silence.

Her hand closed and unclosed on the arm of the chair, she moistened her lips. Suddenly she spoke – abruptly.

‘Sir Edward – I want you to help me.’

He was surprised and murmured mechanically:


She went on, speaking more intensely:

‘You said that if ever I needed help – that if there was anything in the world you could do for me – you would do it.’

Yes, he had said that. It was the sort of thing one did say – particularly at the moment of parting. He could recall the break in his voice – the way he had raised her hand to his lips.

If there is ever anything I can do – remember, I mean it …

Yes, one said that sort of thing … But very, very rarely did one have to fulfil one’s words! And certainly not after – how many? – nine or ten years. He flashed a quick glance at her – she was still a very good-looking girl, but she had lost what had been to him her charm – that look of dewy untouched youth. It was a more interesting face now, perhaps – a younger man might have thought so – but Sir Edward was far from feeling the tide of warmth and emotion that had been his at the end of that Atlantic voyage.

His face became legal and cautious. He said in a rather brisk way:

‘Certainly, my dear young lady. I shall be delighted to do anything in my power – though I doubt if I can be very helpful to anyone in these days.’

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