From The Complete Miss Marple Short Stories - story first published 1956, this collection 2003 by the FolioSociety
They turned the corner of the house and came out on a neglected lawn. In one corner of it was a large artificial rockery, and bending over it was a figure at the sight of which Horace clutched Raymond delightedly by the arm.
‘My dear,’ he exclaimed, ‘do you see what she’s got on? A sprigged print dress. Just like a housemaid – when there were housemaids….’
The figure in the print dress had straightened up and had turned towards them, trowel in hand. She was a sufficiently startling figure. Unkempt locks of iron-grey fell wispily on her shoulders, a straw hat rather like the hats that horses wear in Italy was crammed down on her head. The coloured print dress she wore fell nearly to her ankles. Out of a weather-beaten, not too clean face, shrewd eyes surveyed them appraisingly.
‘I must apologize for trespassing, Miss Greenshaw’ said Raymond West as he advanced towards her…
observations: Of course she isn’t a housemaid, she’s Lady Posh Posh, and Raymond West is Miss Marple’s nephew. This is the latest Marple to get the TV treatment: the adaptation was shown tonight on British TV, and so I haven’t seen it as I write, but we can guess that the writer has expanded the plot and added some sexy bits. It has definitely been combined with another story, The Thumb Mark of St Peter, in which the love of Raymond’s life is Joyce. She has changed her name to Joan by the time we get to this one. In addition, in many of the early Marple short stories there is a regular character called Jane, even though that is Miss M’s Christian name – typical Christie, so particular about some things and so careless about others.
Horace, above, is plainly meant to be gay, though she never uses the word – in A Caribbean Mystery (on TV last week, also on the blog) another friend of Raymond’s is described as ‘a queer’, possibly uniquely in the canon.
Christie features a lot on Clothes in Books, and it isn’t only because I love her books: clothes play a hugely important part in her mysteries. She doesn’t always bother with very detailed descriptions, because she is more concerned with surface effect, what they show and what they hide. A big hat, a frock with scarlet poinsettias, a red bathing suit. Or, a spotted dressing-gown. Or, a costume for an actor or for a fancy dress (= US costume) party. All specialized kinds of disguises…
Links on the blog: Agatha Christie all over the blog, click on the label below. There’s a rather unusual lady gardener in this book, along with a splendid picture of Vita Sackville West.
The photograph is called The Gardener’s Wife and is from the Tyne and Wear Museum and Archives.