Short summary - The Pale Horse - Agatha Christie

British literature summaries - 2020

Short summary - The Pale Horse
Agatha Christie

Mark Easterbrook, a man of scientific warehouse and rather conservative views, once observes a scene that struck him in one of Chelsea bars: two girls dressed scruffy and too warm (thick sweaters, thick woolen stockings) clung to each other because of a gentleman, grabbed each other's hair , so much so that one of them, redhead, broke up with whole shreds. The girls are being separated. The red-haired Tomazina Tuckerton responds to expressions of sympathy that she did not even feel pain. After leaving Tommy, the owner of the bar tells Mark about her: a wealthy heiress settles in Chelsea, spends time with loafers like her.

A week after this chance meeting, Mark sees in The Times an announcement about the death of Tomazina Tuckerton.

A boy runs after the priest, Father Gorman, and calls him to the dying Mrs. Davis. The woman, panting, with all her might, tells Father Gorman about the terrible atrocity and asks to put an end to it. The shocked priest, not fully believing the terrible story (maybe this is just a product of feverish delirium), nevertheless goes into a small cafe and, having ordered a cup of coffee, which he hardly touches, writes down the names of people named by the woman on the turned up piece of paper. Remembering that the housekeeper did not sew up a hole in his pocket again, Father Gorman hides the note in his shoe, as he had done more than once. Then he heads home. He is stunned by a heavy blow to the head. Father Gorman staggers and falls ... The police, who discovered the priest’s corpse, are at a loss: who needed to kill him? Unless the matter is in a note hidden in a shoe. There are several names: Ormerod, Sandford, Parkinson, Hesket Dubois, Shaw, Harmondsworth, Tuckerton, Corrigan, Delafontein ... Police inspector Lejeune and intrigued Dr. Corrigan, a forensic surgeon, call Lady Hesket Dubois on the phone to find her number in the directory. It turns out that she died five months ago.

One of the witnesses interviewed in the murder of Gorman’s father, pharmacist Mr. Osborne, claims to have seen the man following the priest and gives a clear description of his appearance: sloping shoulders, large hooked nose, prominent Adam's apple, long hair, and tall stature.

Mark Easterbrook with his friend Hermia Radcliffe (impeccable classic profile and a hat of brown hair), having watched Macbeth at the Old Wick Theater, they go to dinner in a restaurant. There they meet a friend, David Ardingley, a professor of history at Oxford. He introduces them to his companion, Pam. The girl is pretty, with a fashionable hairstyle, with huge blue eyes and, as Mark says, “impossibly stupid.” The conversation is about the play, about the good old days, when "you hire a killer and he removes whoever is needed." Suddenly, Pam enters into a conversation, noting that now you can deal with a person, if necessary. Then she becomes embarrassed, confused, and in the memory of Mark from all that has been said, only the name "White Horse" remains.

Soon, the “White Horse”, as the name of the tavern, in a much less sinister context, appears in a conversation between Mark and a friend of the writer, author of detective stories, Mrs. Oliver. Mark persuades her to take part in a charity event organized by his cousin Rode.

Mark accidentally meets with Jim Corrigan, with whom he had once been friends, at fifteen years ago, in Oxford. It comes to a mysterious list found in Gorman's father. The late lady Haskett Dubois had aunt Marcus, and he was ready to guarantee that she was respectable, law-abiding and had no connection with the underworld.

Mark participates in a celebration organized by Road. "White Horse" is near the house of Rhodes in a suburb of London. This is not a tavern, this is a former hotel. Now, in this house, built in the 16th century, three women live. One of them, Tirza Gray, a tall woman with short hair, is engaged in the occult sciences, spiritualism and magic. The other is her friend Sybil Stamfordis - a medium. Dressed in oriental style, hung with necklaces and scarabs. Their cook Bella is known as a sorceress in the district, and her gift is hereditary - her mother was considered a witch.

Rode is led by Mark, Mrs. Oliver, and a red-headed girl nicknamed Ginger (by profession she is a painting restorer) to visit her neighbor, Mr. Winables, an extremely rich and interesting person. Once he was an inveterate traveler, but after suffering several years ago, polio can only move in a wheelchair. Mr. Winables is about fifty; he has a thin face with a large hooked nose and a friendly disposition. He is pleased to show guests his beautiful collections.

After that, the whole company goes to the White Horse tea party at the invitation of Tyrza Gray. Tyrza demonstrates to Mark his library, which contains books related to witchcraft and magic, among which there are rare medieval publications. Tyrza claims that science has now expanded the horizons of witchcraft. To kill a person, it is necessary to awaken in him a subconscious desire for death, then he, having succumbed to some self-hypnosis, will inevitably and soon die.

From a casual conversation with Mrs. Oliver, Mark finds out about the death of her friend, Mary Delafontein, whose last name he saw on the list found from Gorman's father.

Mark ponders what he heard from Tyrza. It becomes clear to him that with the help of the three sorcerers living in the White Horse villa, people who want to get rid of their loved ones have successfully resorted. At the same time, the sanity of a person living in the 20th century prevents him from believing in the action of witchcraft forces. He decides to find out the mystery of mysterious deaths, to understand whether three witches from the White Horse can really kill a man, Mark asks his friend Hermia for help, but she is absorbed in her scientific studies, Mark’s “medieval sorceresses” seem to her utter nonsense. Then Mark resorted to the help of Ginger-Ginger, a girl whom he met at a festival near Rhodes.

Ginger, whose real name is Katherine Corrigan (another coincidence!), Wants to help Mark. She advises him, under any pretext, to visit the stepmother of Tomazina Tuckerton, now the owner of a huge inheritance. Mark does this without difficulty finding an excuse: the Tuckerton house, it turns out, was created according to an unusual project by the famous architect Nash. At the mention of the "White Horse" on the face of the widow Tuckerton there is a clear fear. Ginger at this time is looking for Pam, from whom Mark first heard about the "White Horse". She manages to make friends with Pam and find out from her the address of a man by the name of Bradley, who lives in Birmingham. Those who need the help of the White Horse turn to this person.

Mark visits Bradley, and it becomes clear to him how the murder is ordered. For example, a client contacting Bradley claims that his rich aunt or a jealous wife will be alive and well at Christmas (or Easter), and Mr. Bradley will bet with him that no. The winner (and it always turns out to be Mr. Bradley) receives the amount for which the bet was made. Upon learning about this, Ginger decides to portray Mark's wife (his real wife died fifteen years ago in Italy when she was driving her lover in a car - this is Mark’s old wound), which supposedly does not give him a divorce, and he cannot marry Hermia Radcliffe.

Concluding an appropriate bet with Bradley, Mark Easterbrook with a heavy heart, worried that jeopardizes the life of Ginger, goes to the Villa White Horse. He brings - as ordered - an item belonging to his "wife", a suede glove, and is present during a session of magic.

Sybil is in a trance, Tyrza puts a glove in some device and sets it with a compass, Bella sacrifices a white cockerel, whose blood is smeared with a glove.

Under the terms of the contract, Mark had to leave London, and now he calls Ginger daily. On the first day, she was fine, nothing suspicious, only an electrician came in to take a meter, some woman asked what kind of cosmetics and medicine Ginger preferred, and another one - for donations for the blind.

But the next day, Ginger has a fever, a sore throat, and aching bones. The frightened Mark returns to London. Ginger is put in a private clinic. Doctors find her pneumonia, but the treatment is slow and not very successful. Mark invites Pam to dine. In conversation with her, a new name pops up - Eileen Brandon, who once worked in an office for taking into account consumer demand, somehow related to the White Horse.

Mrs. Oliver calls Mark and talks about how his aunt died (she learned about this from her new maid, who had previously worked for Lady Hasket Dubois). Her hair came out in shreds. And Mrs. Oliver, with her writer's memory and detective inclinations, remembered that her recently deceased friend, Mary Delafontein, was also climbing her hair. Here? Mark gets up a fight in the bar, Tomazina Tuckerton, and he suddenly realizes what is happening. Once he happened to read an article on thallium poisoning. People who worked at the plant were dying from a variety of diseases, but one symptom was common - everyone had hair loss. Thanks to timely intervention, Mark Ginger is beginning to be treated for thallium poisoning.

Mark and Inspector Lejeune are dating Eileen Brandon. She talks about her work at a consumer accounting firm. She went around people on the list and asked a series of questions regarding their consumer interests. But she was embarrassed that the questions were asked haphazardly, as if for averting eyes. At one time, she consulted with another employee, Mrs. Davis. But she did not dispel her suspicions, rather, on the contrary. “This whole office is just a sign for a gang of bandits,” was Mrs. Davis's opinion. She told Eileen that she had once seen one man leaving the house, “where he had absolutely nothing to do,” carrying a tool bag. It becomes clear that Mrs. Davis fell a victim to the “gang of bandits,” and the disclosures that she shared with her father Gorman cost him his life.

Three weeks later, Inspector Lejeune with a sergeant, Mark Easterbrook and pharmacist Mr. Osborne (who considers Winables to be the murderer of Gorman's father) arrive at Mr. Vinables’s villa. The inspector talks to the owner of the house and, apparently, suspects him of leading the organization of the killings. In addition, a package with thallium was found in a shed in the garden near Winables. Lejeune makes extensive accusations against Mr. Winables, returning to the evening when Father Gorman was killed. Osborne does not stand it and begins to assent, shout excitedly, as he saw Mr. Winables. However, Lejeune refutes his allegations and accuses Osborne of killing the priest, adding to this: “they would sit quietly in their pharmacy, maybe everything would get away with you”. Lejeune began to suspect Osborne a long time ago, and the whole visit to Mr. Winables was a thoughtful trap.

Mark finds Ginger in the White Horse villa, which has lost its sinister inhabitants. Ginger is still pale and thin, and the hair has not grown back as it should, but the former enthusiasm glows in his eyes. Mark hints Ginger in love, but she requires a formal offer - and receives it. Ginger asks if Mark really doesn’t want to marry “his Hermia”? Remembering, Mark pulls out of his pocket the other day a letter from Hermia, in which she calls him to go to the Old Vic Theater for the "Vain Efforts of Love". Ginger decisively breaks the letter.

“If you want to go to Old Vic, you will only go with me now,” she says in a tone that allows no objection.