By Margery Sharp (1905-91).
First appearance: Collier's Weekly, February 3, 1956.
Filmed in 1962 as The Notorious Landlady (IMDb HERE).
Short short story (6 pages).
"Sherrard's apartment was his castle; in Cecilia he'd found exactly the right person to sublet it. Or had he? Was she witch or woman, wanton or wonderful?"In Sherrard's narrow universe, what mattered most wasn't whether or not Cecilia was a murderer but whether she might be something far worse . . .
. . . The first conclusion he came to was that if a nice woman like his Aunt May thought Mrs. Tablet hadn't shot her husband, there must be at least some ground for thinking that she had. . . .
. . . "It's like a new pin. I took her out to lunch. We talked about you a lot. I should say she's not only a remarkably nice woman, but a fine judge of character." . . .
|Three people you won't find in the original story|
. . . Sherrard discovered that he had been deceiving himself. He knew perfectly well why he was uneasy. He was uneasy because while it is one thing to sublet one's flat to a woman who didn't shoot her husband, it is quite another to introduce her, even in absentia, to one's simple but millionaire friend. . . .
. . . THE preliminaries were fairly banal: on the evening of June 5, 1954, after a cocktail party at their second-floor flat in Cashmere Mansions, Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Tablet violently quarreled. What wasn't so banal was the result: Mr. Tablet being shot dead. . . .
. . . Sherrard at this point felt considerable sympathy with Mrs. Tablet. There are heroes and heroes—some, in civil life, a damned nuisance . . .
. . . Cecilia Tablet, thought Sherrard, was either an extraordinarily honest woman or else an extraordinarily accomplished liar. . . .
. . . "Since the case, they've been inseparable. Where Mrs. Tablet goes, there goes Miss Brown also." . . .
. . . He found it difficult to reach a conclusion. What he'd heard, he now realized, was what, subconsciously, he'd expected to hear—the unpronounceable word as if it were whispered . . .
. . . Sherrard got the point without difficulty. A millionaire's wife's pin money might well keep a Miss Brown in affluence. He found the whole matter extremely distasteful . . .
. . . Malcolm—the signs were only too obvious—was plodding steadily on toward matrimony. And while it is one thing to let one's flat to a woman one doesn't think shot her husband, it is quite another to see her marry one's oldest friend. . . .
. . . Sherrard stared at her. He had a wide knowledge of human nature (see Profile of a Correspondent in one of the Sunday papers), he had been used all his life to backing his judgment, and successfully, of whatever fellow creatures crossed his path. He still couldn't make up his mind about Mrs. Tablet. . . .
- Margery Sharp is best-known for her children's fiction, especially The Rescuers series as filmed by Disney; see HERE for her filmography.
- She also wrote for adults; see Wikipedia HERE for more.
- Some of her stories appeared in EQMM in the '40s, '50s, and '60s; see the FictionMags listing HERE.
Category: Did she or didn't she—and if she did, will she do it again?