Doesn't that just sound like a lovely silly yet ominous title for a chapter? Sheesh... It must of course be read aloud in the proper voice. The HERB..... of DEATH!
Yes, another nice lovely nail in the coffin of Jane Helier's intellect. Yes, it'd be LOVELY to have a garden if one doesn't have to, you know, GARDEN in it.
I think out of all the characters here I probably most identify with Mrs. Bantry - likes the garden, not always good at the social niceties, and not much liking to be the center of attention for things like telling stories. It's a good thing she doesn't have her way though, since given her druthers, this story would be a very very very short chapter! But Sir Henry handles it very well, I think. (And as an aside, I can't just type "Sir Henry" without flashing back to The Hound of the Baskervilles instead!)
I find it a bit odd that Mrs. Bantry is protesting that she doesn't like "old pussies" as she calls them, and yet in a lot of the books Miss Marple herself is described as this. Maybe "they" in the Marple books and Mrs. Bantry have two different types in mind, though. Or maybe Mrs. Bantry secretly dislikes Miss Marple and has only invited her because of Sir Henry. Oooo! (Although I don't figure that's really the case, since they seem to get along quite well. Although she DOES call Miss Marple a "dreadful person" later in the story...as well as School Marm, sheesh. Maybe she *doesn't* like her.)
And as a side note, as for Sir Henry's little brief story about the dinner party and some schmuck pulling a gun off the wall, pointing and firing it, no, he's not completely innocent! Maybe guilty of manslaughter rather than murder or something, but pulling a gun, pointing it, and firing it, even if you think it's completely unloaded and harmless, is JUST BLINDINGLY STUPID. *ahem*
Back to the main story, they seem to exonerate the cook quite quickly, considering the normal "the servant done it" feeling of so many of the stories so far. :p
And it's a bit odd to think of vegetarianism as existing and being apparently well-known even back that far. That and the fad dieting - I guess some of these things aren't as modern as I thought!
Also, the "First boy... next boy" stuff reminds me of something. I *think* it's Alice in Wonderland (or perhaps Through the Looking Glass, but I think the former), I seem to recall Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee doing something along those lines. Which means this story is just mixing up its genres something awful... Carroll, the Arabian Nights, and horse racing, which puts me in mind of Dick Francis. And of course Sherlock Holmes, with the Sir Henry touch. :p
Anyhow. I think this has always been one of my favorites of the book, both because of the oddity in the narration, and the subject matter. I like having a nice quiet murder now and then, so to speak. And it has a nice little twist to it at the end.
I'm just not too sure how well I buy the motives though. I mean, wouldn't it be just as easy nearly for him to kill the young man she loved? Especially when he had so long to plan it out. Or given the fact that he already seemed to be drifting apart from Sylvia, maybe try to engineer their separation? Oh well, I guess the implication is that he was going a bit mad. Which is always a convenient motive, *sigh*.
Ascot: Mrs. Bantry mentions this, and that her husband hates it - Ascot is a famous racecourse, and the main race of the year on it (the Ascot Gold Cup I suppose, according to the wikipedia article, is also just referred to as "Ascot" sometimes IIRC. Which I imagine is what she's referring to here, but one wonders why she's even mentioning it and why they go if her husband hates it. But I can't think of anything else that would just be referred to in that fashion!
Foxglove and Sage: As a quick note, foxglove is a flower which, as noted, contains digitalis which as everyone knows is used in heart medications:
And sage, as everyone knows, is a common herb:
I can sort of see the similarity I guess, although not having handled foxglove leaves, can't really say how likely it is that a cook would go ahead and pass the foxglove leaves in for the sage. It doesn't seem totally unlikely at least, though.
Patent underwear: (which Mrs. Bantry fancies that Mr. Curle wears): I have no clue! Anyone?