While She Sleeps (A Mystery Novel)
Miss Loveapple has always had an unusual belief in her incredible luck. However, her luck is about to run out when she becomes a target of a cruel serial killer. Unaware of the danger, she goes through a number of insane situations escaping the death by a mere wonder. How long will she last?
Ethel Lina White (1876-1944) was a British crime writer, best known for her novel The Wheel Spins, on which the Alfred Hitchcock film, The Lady Vanishes, was based.
While She Sleeps (A Mystery Novel)
CHAPTER TWO. A Vacuum Cleaner
Table of Contents
During the early hours, Miss Loveapple never forgot that she was mistress of three houses. Later on, she might become supplementary Staff and cheerfully do the heavier work for which Elsie was less adapted by nature; but she always made her toilet at leisure and breakfasted in dignity.
When she came down the shallow stairs, she wore a full-skirted house-coat, pale yellow in colour and patterned with brilliant flowers. It enhanced her natural opulence and suggested prosperity allied with bounty. As the sun-shining through the window behind her-gilded her hair to the semblance of a halo, she might have been a seasonal goddess, bearing her largesse of floral trophies, but also open to a deal with the market gardener.
As usual, she paused on the half-way landing, in order to appreciate the beauty of the property to which she was most attached. Although it had cost more to furnish her London house, she had sunk most money in the Pond House, by installing central heating and remaking the garden.
It was a pleasant Georgian building, panelled in white wood and spaciously but wastefully planned, with broad landings and superfluous steps. There were only two reception-rooms and three bedrooms, but all were large and finely proportioned. None of her houses contained an official maid's-room to mitigate her standard of perfection. She and Elsie chose their sleeping-quarters-and changed them again-according to season and caprice.
Everything looked especially pleasant that sunny morning. The parquet-flooring of the hall advertised her own 'elbow grease.' A vase of second-crop pale-blue delphiniums was reflected in a mirror on the wall. Humming a tuneless melody, Miss Love-apple strolled into the dining-room, which, owing to its superior dimensions-was also the living-room.
The drawing-room looked out on to the front lawn, which was shaded with beech-trees. Here there were only a few flowers-violets under the windows and bulbs planted in the grass. The dining-room, however, ran the entire length of the house and had windows at either end.
In accordance with the general colour scheme, its furnishings were white, relieved with pale green-an extravagant choice which was criticised locally. It had vindicated her by remaining fresh and clean, although even she attributed this to her own labour, rather than luck.
As she crossed to the table, where her breakfast was keeping hot in a chafing-dish, she stared approvingly at the carpet.
'It certainly paid me to get a vacuum,' she reflected. 'I ought to have one in London, too. If I budget strictly over my holiday, perhaps the rent will run to one.'
She cut a piece of bread and threw out crumbs for the birds on the front lawn before she walked to the back windows, to admire the garden. She had transformed it from a gloomy wilderness to its former old-world charm. The pond-which lent its name to the house-had degenerated to a stagnant pool, enclosed with a low railing and shadowed by willow-bushes. Advised by the local builder, and even doing some of the work herself, the hollow had been filled in and the water enclosed in sunken shallow tanks planted with lily-pads. Here, too, was her herb-garden, her famous rose-patch, her perennial-border and the vegetables which won so many prizes.
As she gazed through the window, she sniffed the appetising odour of bacon which Elsie was frying for her own breakfast. The maid was unable to share her mistress' grilled kidneys, owing to a dislike of 'insides'-a disability which Miss Loveapple quoted with a queer pride as proof of Elsie's refinement.
Reminded of her appetite, she sat down at the table and made a large meal, beginning with cereal and ending with toast and honey. When she had finished, she lit a cigarette...
By a strange coincidence, her action synchronized with that