Dame Agatha Christie on an Isle of Man stamp.

The Whitechapel Jewess

Agatha Christie

‘Midge, you’d better ring up your shop.’

Midge went slowly to the telephone.

Her life had always been so entirely normal and commonplace that she felt she lacked the phraseology to explain to her employers that after four days’ holiday she was unable to return to work owing to the fact that she was mixed up in a murder case.

It did not sound credible. It did not even feel credible.

And Madame Alfrege was not a very easy person to explain things to at any time.

Midge set her chin resolutely and picked up the receiver.

It was all just as unpleasant as she had imagined it would be. The raucous voice of the vitriolic little Jewess came angrily over the wires.

‘What wath that, Mith Hardcathle? A death? A funeral? Do you not know very well I am short-handed? Do you think I am going to stand for these excutheth? Oh, yeth, you are having a good time, I dare thay!’

Midge interrupted, speaking sharply and distinctly.

‘The poleeth? The poleeth, you thay?’ It was almost a scream. ‘You are mixed up with the poleeth?’

Setting her teeth, Midge continued to explain. Strange how sordid that woman at the other end made the whole thing seem. A vulgar police case. What alchemy there was in human beings!

Edward opened the door and came in, then seeing that Midge was telephoning, he was about to go out. She stopped him.

‘Do stay, Edward. Please. Oh, I want you to.’

The presence of Edward in the room gave her strength – counteracted the poison.

She took her hand from where she had laid it over the mouthpiece.

‘What? Yes. I am sorry, Madame. But after all, it is hardly my fault –’

The ugly raucous voice was screaming angrily.

‘Who are thethe friendth of yourth? What thort of people are they to have the poleeth there and a man shot? I’ve a good mind not to have you back at all! I can’t have the tone of my ethtablishment lowered.’

Midge made a few submissive non-committal replies. She replaced the receiver at last, with a sigh of relief. She felt sick and shaken.

‘It’s the place I work,’ she explained. ‘I had to let them know that I wouldn’t be back until Thursday because of the inquest and the – the police.’

‘I hope they were decent about it? What is it like, this dress shop of yours? Is the woman who runs it pleasant and sympathetic to work for?’

‘I should hardly describe her as that! She’s a Whitechapel Jewess with dyed hair and a voice like a corncrake.’

Agatha Christie, The Hollow (1946) pp. 114-115

A young Agatha Christie

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