“Miss Marple Tells a Story” is a short story by Agatha Christie from the collection The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories and also appearing in Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories. It’s about a man under suspicion of killing his wife in a hotel. Here’s a summary of “Miss Marple Tells a Story”.
Spoiler Alert! The resolution is revealed in the summary.
“Miss Marple Tells a Story” Summary
Miss Marple tells a story to Raymond and Joan about a time when she helped someone who was in grave distress. She hopes she won’t seem vain or conceited.
Late one evening, the maid showed Mr. Petherick, a friend and lawyer, into the drawing room along with another man, Mr. Rhodes, who was obviously stressed. They move to the dining room where the fire is going and have brandy.
Mr. Petherick has come for a consultation, as someone might get an opinion from a specialist as well as their family doctor, which Miss Marple can appreciate.
Mr. Rhodes’s wife was stabbed in a hotel in Barnchester, a village about twenty miles away, and he’s under suspicion. He expects to be arrested shortly. The solicitor who’ll defend Mr. Rhodes, if it goes to trial, is Sir Malcolm, a young, competent man. Mr. Rhodes isn’t completely satisfied with the proposed line of defense; it’s legally sound but ignores what actually happened—a specialist’s point of view.
Mr. Petherick wants to get Miss Marple’s general perspective on the matter. Mr. Rhodes looks skeptical of her being any use. Paying him no attention, Mr. Petherick lays out the case.
Mr. Rhodes and his wife were staying at the Crown Hotel. After dinner, they went to their adjoining rooms with a connecting door. Mr. Rhodes did some writing. At eleven, he looked in on his wife before going to bed. She was lying in bed stabbed through the heart, and had been dead at least an hour. Her main door leading to the hallway was bolted from the inside. The only window was locked. Mr. Rhodes reported that the only person who passed through his room into his wife’s was a chambermaid.
“Miss Marple Tells a Story” Summary, Cont’d
The chambermaid, Mary Hill, worked there ten years and seems quite stupid. She says Mrs. Rhodes was drowsy when she brought her a hot-water bottle. They don’t suspect her.
Witnesses at the hotel lounge confirm no one entered Mr. Rhodes’s room except he and the chambermaid. Only the chambermaid was seen leaving Mrs. Rhodes’s room.
At the inquest, Mr. Rhodes said his wife had received threatening letters from a woman, vowing revenge over her child who was injured in a car accident by Mrs. Rhodes. It was unconvincing, and even Rhodes thinks his wife made it up. It seems Mrs. Rhodes was known for exaggerating everything that happened to her. Miss Marple thinks her reputation is preventing people from realizing this situation is real.
Two unaccompanied women—Mrs. Granby and Miss Caruthers—were staying in the hotel at the time, but they weren’t seen anywhere near the room. A description of the women gives Miss Marple pause, but she doesn’t say anything. One had untidy hair; the other had short hair and dropped her g’s when she spoke.
Sir Malcolm plans on arguing that Mrs. Rhodes killed herself. This might work, but Mr. Rhodes doesn’t believe it and neither does Mr. Petherick.
Miss Marple asks about the doors and finds out the main one led into a little hallway and a bathroom before leading out to the hotel corridor. She says it’s perfectly simple.
“Miss Marple Tells a Story” Summary, Cont’d
There are only four possibilities—Mrs. Rhodes killed herself, Mr. Rhodes is guilty, the chambermaid is guilty or an unseen assailant is guilty. Mr. Rhodes protests that no one could have gone in and out unseen.
Miss Marple asks for a description of the chambermaid. Mr. Rhodes is uncertain; Mr. Petherick describes her well. She asks them to describe her own parlourmaid who let them in. Neither of them can. She explains that Mr. Rhodes only saw the uniform. Mr. Petherick spoke to her as a person.
Miss Marple explains what she thinks happened. The chambermaid entered Mr. Rhodes’s room and then went into Mrs. Rhodes’s and exited the other side. The guilty woman entered by the same door earlier and concealed herself in the lavatory. When the chambermaid left, she committed the crime, then left through Mr. Rhodes’s room.
He protests that he would have seen her. Miss Marple say he wouldn’t have if she was dressed as a chambermaid. It was the same dress; not the same woman. It was one of the single women from the hotel—Mrs. Granby or Miss Caruthers who could both have worn wigs. It’s probably Miss Caruthers.
And that’s the story. It was Miss Caruthers. Mrs. Rhodes had run over her daughter and she went mad. She followed Mrs. Rhodes a long time and planned cleverly. She’s in an asylum now.
Afterward, Mr. Petherick delivered an appreciative letter from Mr. Rhodes. Petherick asks why she thought it was probably Miss Caruthers when she hadn’t met either of them. Her dropped g’s sounded like she was playing a part.
Mr. Rhodes is remarried with a baby. They asked Miss Marple to be godmother.
(End of “Miss Marple Tells a Story” Summary)
I hope this summary of “Miss Marple Tells a Story” by Agatha Christie was helpful.