After lunch Harold usually joined Mrs Rice and her daughter for coffee. He decided to make no change in his usual behaviour. This was the first time he had seen Elsie since the night before. She was very pale and was obviously still suffering from shock, but she made a gallant endeavour to behave as usual, uttering small commonplaces about the weather and the scenery.
They commented on a new guest who had just arrived, trying to guess his nationality. Harold thought a moustache like that must be French - Elsie said German - and Mrs Rice thought he might be Spanish.
There was no one else but themselves on the terrace with the exception of the two Polish ladies who were sitting at the extreme end, both doing fancy-work.
As always when he saw them, Harold felt a queer shiver of apprehension pass over him. Those still faces, those curved beaks of noses, those long claw-like hands...
A page-boy approached and told Mrs Rice she was wanted. She rose and followed him. At the entrance to the hotel they saw her encounter a police officer in full uniform.
Elsie caught her breath.
"You don't think - anything's gone wrong?"
Harold reassured her quickly.
"Oh no, no, nothing of that kind."
But he himself knew a sudden pang of fear.
He said: "Your mother's been wonderful!"
"I know, Mother is a great fighter. She'll never sit down under defeat." Elsie shivered. "But it is all horrible, isn't it?"
"Now, don't dwell on it. It's all over and done with."
Elsie said in a low voice: "I can't forget that - that it was I who killed him."
Harold said urgently: "Don't think of it that way. It was an accident. You know that really."
Her face grew a little happier. Harold added: "And anyway it's past. The past is the past. Try never to think of it again."
Mrs Rice came back. By the expression on her face they saw that all was well.
"It gave me quite a fright," she said almost gaily. "But it was only a formality about some papers. Everything's all right, my children. We're out of the shadow. I think we might order ourselves a liqueur on the strength of it."
The liqueur was ordered and came. They raised their glasses.
Mrs Rice said: "To the future!"
Harold smiled at Elsie and said: "To your happiness!"
She smiled back at him and said as she lifted her glass: "And to you - to your success! I'm sure you're going to be a very great man."
With the reaction from fear they felt gay, almost light-headed. The shadow had lifted! All was well...
From the far end of the terrace the two bird-like women rose. They rolled up their work carefully. They came across the stone flags.
With little bows they sat down by Mrs Rice. One of them began to speak.
The other one let her eyes rest on Elsie and Harold. There was a little smile on her lips. It was not, Harold thought, a nice smile...
He looked over at Mrs Rice. She was listening to the Polish woman and though he couldn't understand a word, the expression on Mrs Rice's face was clear enough. All the old anguish and despair came back. She listened and occasionally spoke a brief word.
Presently the two sisters rose, and with stiff little bows went into the hotel.
Harold leaned forward. He said hoarsely: "What is it?"
Mrs Rice answered him in the quiet hopeless tones of despair: "Those women are going to blackmail us. They heard everything last night. And now we've tried to hush it up, it makes the whole thing a thousand times worse..."
Agatha Christie, The Stymphalian Birds.