A month passed before Mrs Pargeter finally made her decision.

The genteel surface of life at the Devereux Hotel had settled down again. There were three new residents, all of impeccable references (and all personally interviewed by Miss Naismith before being admitted). There was a former bank manager named Mr Poulton. There was a retired airline pilot called Preston-Carstairs (a gratifyingly double-barrelled name, which Miss Naismith took great pleasure in using at every possible opportunity). And there was another aristocratic widow called Lady Jacobson. (The arrival of the latter caused intense annoyance to Lady Ridgleigh, whose only comfort was that, with a name like that, the newcomer must undoubtedly be Jewish.)

The new residents soon adapted to the little ways of the Devereux, as did Newth’s replacement, a taciturn man called Mulligan, who was a ‘born-again’ Christian and served behind the Schooner Bar with the distaste that only a total abstainer can demonstrate. He did almost everything that Newth had done (except, fortunately, stealing jewels). He did not, however, serve Miss Naismith glasses of ‘Perrier’ and she had to resort in the early evenings to the bottle of Gordon’s in her bedroom. Nor did Miss Naismith send Mulligan on little missions to the video shop for her. She was now faced with the choice of either collecting her soft porn herself or not having any. Gentility won out and she gave up her little hobby.

The surviving residents did not change a lot. They remained ‘active’. Eulalie Vance cornered each of the new arrivals in turn and treated them to tales of her passionate past. Miss Wardstone sniffed disapprovingly at everything and looked set to enjoy the life she so despised for another thirty years. Lady Ridgleigh still gave far too much of her dwindling resources to her worthless son.

The only one who changed, really, was Mr Dawlish. Since his friend’s death he seemed to have got smaller. He still spent much of his time in the bay window, looking out at the dismal sea, but, without Colonel Wicksteed’s commentary, his interest in what he saw had gone. Like Mrs Selsby before him, he seemed visibly to be fading, becoming more and more transparent. He remained fit, but no one would have been surprised to find that one morning he had simply evaporated into death.


It was at one of those moments just before Loxton came in with the tea trolley that Mrs Pargeter made her decision. It had been coming, she knew, for some time, but at that moment she was certain.

She looked around at the other residents, and she realised again what they all had in common. They didn’t look forward; they looked backwards. They had all finished their lives. They had all come to the Devereux to spiral down to a genteel death.

And that was where the late Mr Pargeter’s widow differed from them. She still had a lot to look forward to.

No, she thought, as she rose from her armchair and went to tell Miss Naismith she would soon be leaving the Devereux, I’m not finished yet.

Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату