Going Up in Smoke

It was a May morning and Carmen Borden had just been arrested for murder.

Miss Marple leaned back in her chair, doing a pattern Mrs Bantry had sent her - it was a camel flanked by two palm trees, but Jane Marple, without her glasses, had embroidered the leaves of the palm tree golden-brown and the camel a shocking hue of green.

It was the kind of Sunday morning Miss Marple enjoyed, for no-one would drop in to the little house, and most of St Mary Mead would be at church. She had been advised to avoid churchgoing for a month, at least, but she had managed to persuade Dr Haydock to allow the vicar to visit her every Wednesday morning. And, of course, it was so nice to have a day to spare on the garden.

'Cherry!' Miss Marple called. 'Dear, would you mind seeing if the lobelias need replanting? I fancy that new gardener hasn't done an altogether too meticulous job of it.'

Cherry Baker, Miss Marple's housekeeper, dutifully peered into the garden, sticking her head outside the kitchen window. Much to her dismay, she discovered an ample elderly woman trampling on those poor dear lobelias on her way to the door.

'Hello, Jane,' the woman beamed as she entered. 'I haven't seen you since that business...'

'I recall perfectly, Carrie Louise,' Miss Marple smiled gently, twinkling her china-blue eyes at her former schoolmate. 'Cherry, this is Mrs Serrocold.'

'It's actually Mrs Lemon now, or it very soon will be. I'm engaged again, Jane, and I hope to God I'm lucky this time,' Carrie Louise announced, speaking cheerfully over Cherry's darkly muttered undertones of crushed lobelias.

'Oh, but that's lovely, Carrie Louise. Have you come to invite me for the wedding? Yes? Of course I shall attend! I suppose Ruth is coming down from America as well? That sounds charming.'

Often, when a person utters the word 'charming' earnestly, they risk sounding affected and artificial, but in Miss Marple's case, it was perfectly natural and suited her down to the ground.

Miss Marple was already formulating a wardrobe in her mind - the plaid skirt was too shabby for a wedding, and she certainly wouldn't dream of wearing that silk frock - it was little more than a negligee! Had she given away her cream-colored frock at the Vicarage sale? No, thank goodness,
she'd wear that to the wedding, then, and it was a lovely pattern, and so generous of Raymond to treat his aunt every now and then two lovely little things.

'Who is Mr Lemon?' Miss Marple asked, quietly, for this was a secondary matter.

'He's a French teacher at the grammar school - no, I don't mean he is French, only that he teaches it to twelfth-form students. I met Stewart at a fete about a year ago, and he has two sons who get on quite well with Gina.'

'I'm so very happy for you, my dear. I believe you said the wedding was on the twenty-fourth? Of course I should come - I'd be delighted to. And how is dear Gina?'

At the subject of her 'dear child', Carrie Louise smiled in a distant manner. 'She's gone off to New Zealand and taken up with a young doctor. I don't suppose she'll return soon, and certainly not for my wedding.'

'Well, you have some time to yourself, then, dear, and it's always so very enjoyable when one is privy to some.'


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