The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie



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Chapter 1: I Go to Styles

The strong public interest in ‘The Styles Case’ is over now. But because the case was so famous I have been asked to write an account of the whole story, to prevent any more sensational rumours. This is how I, Captain Arthur Hastings, became involved with the affair.

I was wounded while fighting in the Great War and sent home to recover. I had no close relatives or friends, and was wondering where to stay, when I met my friend John Cavendish. John was a friendly man of about forty-five, much older than me. I had not seen him for many years, but when I was a boy I often stayed at Styles – his mother’s country house in Essex.

We talked about old times, and John kindly invited me to stay at Styles to rest. ‘My mother will be delighted to see you again,’ he added.

‘Is your mother well?’ I asked.

‘Oh, yes. Did you know she has married again?’

I was surprised. John’s mother, Emily, must now be seventy years old. I remembered her as an energetic woman with a strong personality. She married John’s father after his first wife had died, leaving him with two sons – John and Lawrence. When John’s father died, he left Styles and most of his money to Emily, his second wife – and his older son John would inherit Styles only after she died. Though this was unfair, Emily was very generous to the two boys, and they thought and spoke of her as their own mother.

Lawrence, John’s younger brother, had qualified as a doctor but then abandoned the medical profession. He lived at Styles and wrote poetry, which was not very successful.

John’s profession had once been the law, but now he and his wife also lived at Styles. I suspected he would prefer his own house, but his mother had all the money, and she liked to control everyone.

John noticed my surprise at the news of his mother’s marriage.

‘It’s making life very difficult for us, Hastings. This man, Alfred Inglethorp, arrived from nowhere, saying he was Evie’s second cousin – Evie Howard is mother’s companion. Mother employed him as a secretary. But we were shocked when she married him a few months ago. He’s twenty years younger than she is, and I’m sure he just wants her money!’

Three days later, I arrived by train at the station of Styles St Mary. John Cavendish was waiting on the platform, and his car was outside. He looked at his watch. ‘We don’t have time to collect Cynthia.’

‘Is Cynthia your wife?’

‘No, Cynthia Murdoch is the daughter of an old friend of my mother’s. Mother rescued Cynthia when her parents died, and she’s lived with us for nearly two years. She works in the hospital at Tadminster.’

It was a warm day in early July. As we drove, I admired the Essex countryside, green and peaceful in the sun. It was hard to believe that a war was being fought not far away. John said, ‘It’s very quiet here, Hastings. My wife Mary works “on the land” because so many men are away fighting. She’s up at five every morning to milk the cows. It’s a good life – or it would be, if only Alfred Inglethorp wasn’t here!’

We arrived at the fine old house. A lady, who was gardening, stood up as we approached.

‘Hullo, Evie, here’s our wounded hero! Mr Hastings, this is Miss Evelyn Howard. We call her Evie.’

Miss Howard shook my hand with a strong grip. She was a pleasant-looking woman of forty, with very blue eyes and a suntanned face. She had a large square body and a deep voice, like a man’s.

‘Come and have tea, Evie,’ said John. ‘You’ve done enough gardening for today.’

‘Yes,’ said Miss Howard, removing her gardening gloves, ‘I think you’re right.’

She led us round the house to where tea was being served in the shade of a large tree, and as we approached, John’s wife Mary came to meet us.

I’ll never forget my first sight of Mary Cavendish. She was tall and slim, with wonderful dark eyes. Although she was very calm and quiet on the outside, I imagined that inside she was wild and free. Her voice was low and clear. Suddenly I was very glad that I had come to Styles.

As we were having tea, a white-haired old lady stepped out of the house on to the grass, followed by a younger man. Mrs Emily Inglethorp greeted me with enthusiasm. ‘I’m delighted to see you again! Alfred, darling, this is Mr Hastings.’ I looked curiously at Alfred darling. He had a long black beard, and wore gold-framed glasses and strange clothes. He didn’t seem to belong there. He looked as if he should be on stage – like an actor – not here at Styles, in real life.

‘This is a pleasure, Mr Hastings,’ said Mr Inglethorp in a deep voice. Then he said to his wife, ‘Emily dearest, that cushion is damp.’ She smiled happily at him, as he brought another cushion with tender care.

It was clear that no one else liked Mr Inglethorp. Miss Howard, in particular, could not hide her feelings. But Mrs Inglethorp didn’t notice. She talked steadily, and her husband was very attentive to her. I disliked him immediately, and my first opinions are usually right.

While we drank tea, we talked of my profession. After the war I wanted a fresh start.

‘If you could do anything,’ asked Mary Cavendish, ‘what would you choose?’

‘Well,’ I said, ‘I’ve always wanted to be a detective! I had a friend in Belgium, a very famous detective. He said that method was the key to all good detective work. He was a marvellous little man, and wonderfully clever.’

‘I like a good detective story,’ remarked Miss Howard, ‘though they are often nonsense. With a real crime, the family would know who the murderer was. If I was involved in a murder, I would know him at once.’

‘The murderer might be a woman,’ I suggested.

‘Yes, but murder’s a violent crime – I think of a murderer as a man.’

‘Not if it’s poison,’ said Mary Cavendish.

‘What a horrible conversation!’ said Mrs Inglethorp. ‘It makes me feel uncomfortable. Oh, here’s Cynthia!’ A young girl in hospital uniform ran lightly across the lawn. ‘You’re late today, Cynthia. Mr Hastings, this is Miss Murdoch.’

Cynthia Murdoch was a fresh-looking young woman, full of life and energy, with beautiful red hair. She sat down on the ground beside John, and as I gave her a plate of sandwiches she smiled up at me.

‘You work in the hospital at Tadminster, don’t you, Miss Murdoch?’ I said.

‘Yes, I work in the pharmacy, with the drugs and medicines.’

‘How many people do you poison?’ I asked, smiling.

Cynthia smiled too. ‘Oh, hundreds!’

‘Cynthia,’ interrupted Mrs Inglethorp, ‘can you write a few notes for me?’

‘Certainly, Aunt Emily.’ Cynthia stood up quickly. I remembered that she was dependent on Mrs Inglethorp, who did not let her forget it.

Then Mrs Inglethorp turned to me. ‘John will show you your room, which looks out over the park. To save money because of the war, we now have a simple supper at half-past seven. And we don’t waste anything at Styles – even every little piece of waste paper is saved and sent away.’

Later on, from my window I saw John walking and laughing with Cynthia Murdoch, until Mrs Inglethorp impatiently called her back to the house. Just then I saw John’s younger brother, Lawrence Cavendish. He was about forty, with dark hair and a sad, clean-shaven face. He seemed upset about something, and I wondered what it was. The rest of the evening passed pleasantly; and I dreamed that night of John’s wife, Mary Cavendish.

The next day was bright and sunny. I spent an enjoyable afternoon walking in the woods with Mary, returning to the house at five. We met John Cavendish as we entered the hall. His face told me that something was wrong, and we followed him into the library.

‘Evie’s had an argument with mother, and she’s leaving!’ he told us.

Just then Evelyn Howard entered, carrying a small suitcase. She looked excited but determined. ‘Emily won’t forgive me for this. I told her, “Your husband is twenty years younger than you, and married you for money! Ask your Alfred how often he visits Farmer Raikes’s pretty young wife. He’s a bad man,” I said, “and I won’t be surprised if he murders you for your money!” She was very angry.’

‘What did mother say?’ asked John.

Miss Howard frowned. ‘She said, “My darling Alfred? – these are terrible lies! Get out of my house!” So I’m leaving, now.’ Nothing would change her mind, so finally John went to get the car, and Mary followed him.

When we were alone, Miss Howard leaned towards me. ‘Look after my poor Emily, Mr Hastings. They all want her money. Now I’m leaving I can’t protect her.’

‘Of course, Miss Howard,’ I said, ‘I’ll do everything I can.’

‘Keep your eyes open,’ she said, as she moved to the door, ‘and watch that devil – her husband!’ Then Miss Howard was surrounded by people saying goodbye. The Inglethorps did not appear.

As the car drove away, Mary Cavendish went to meet a tall man with a beard who was approaching the house. Her face turned red as she shook his hand. ‘Who is that?’ I asked. I didn’t trust the man from the first moment I saw him.

‘That’s Dr Bauerstein,’ said John. ‘He’s staying in the village, recovering from an illness. He’s a top London doctor, an expert on poisons.’

‘And he’s a great friend of Mary’s,’ said Cynthia.

John Cavendish frowned and suggested a walk. ‘I hate to see Evie Howard leave,’ he said, as he and I walked through the woods. ‘She’s a good friend.’

We didn’t talk much, and on our way home we met a pretty young woman, who smiled at us as we passed. ‘That’s Mrs Raikes,’ said John.

‘The one that Miss Howard-‘

‘Yes,’ said John, abruptly.

I compared Mrs Inglethorp, a white-haired old lady, to this pretty young girl, and remembered what Evelyn Howard had said. To change the subject, I said to John, ‘Styles is really a wonderful old house.’

He nodded sadly. ‘Yes, it’s a fine property. It would be mine now, if my father had made a fair will. And then I’d have enough money. I’m in debt, too, you know.’

‘Can your brother Lawrence help?’

‘He’s spent all his money on his poetry. We’re all poor. Mother has been very generous, until now. But since her marriage-‘ He stopped, frowning.

This was when I first felt uneasy. Just for a moment I had a feeling that something was badly wrong at Styles.

 

 

Chapter 2: The 16th and 17th of July

I had arrived at Styles on the 5th of July. A couple of days later, I received a letter from Evelyn Howard, saying that she was working as a nurse at the big hospital in Middlingham, fifteen miles away. She begged me to tell her if Mrs Inglethorp wanted her to return to Styles.

My days were peaceful. All that disturbed me was how often Mary Cavendish went walking with Dr Bauerstein. I admit that I didn’t understand why Mary liked him so much.

Now we come to the events of the 16th and 17th of July, which I will describe in great detail.

The 16th of July was a Monday. In the evening Mrs Inglethorp was going to read a war poem at the village concert, so in the morning we decorated the village hall. After a late lunch we rested in the garden. I noticed that my friend John seemed very excited and could not relax. After tea, Mrs Inglethorp went to lie down and I played tennis with Mary Cavendish. Though we had an early supper, we all still had to hurry to reach the concert in time.

The evening was a great success, and everyone loved Mrs Inglethorp’s reading. Cynthia acted in a short play, and stayed the night at a friend’s house.

The next morning Mrs Inglethorp had breakfast in bed, but she appeared at 12.30 and took John’s brother Lawrence and me out to lunch. On the way home, Lawrence suggested that we visit Cynthia at work. Mrs Inglethorp said that she had letters to write at home, so she would leave us at the hospital pharmacy and we could come back with Cynthia later.

At the hospital Cynthia met us, looking very cool and sweet in her white uniform, and took us upstairs to the pharmacy.

‘What a lot of bottles!’ I exclaimed, as I looked round the small room. ‘Do you know what’s in them all?’

‘Say something original,’ complained Cynthia. ‘Everyone says that! And the next thing you’re going to say is, “How many people have you poisoned?'”

I laughed and agreed.

‘If you knew how easy it is to poison someone by mistake, you wouldn’t joke about it,’ she said. ‘Come on, let’s have tea. I’ve got secret supplies in that cupboard. No, Lawrence – that’s the poison cupboard. The big cupboard – that’s right.’

After tea I followed Cynthia out to her little balcony, and she showed me the different rooms of the hospital. Lawrence stayed in the pharmacy, but after a few minutes Cynthia called to him to come and join us. Lawrence was normally very shy and awkward, especially with Cynthia, but that afternoon they talked cheerfully together. I realised that he could be very charming. After a while Cynthia looked at her watch. ‘I think I can lock up and go now.’

On the way home we stopped at the village post office so I could buy some stamps, and I bumped into a little man on my way out. To my great surprise he suddenly kissed me on both cheeks. ‘Mon ami Hastings!’ he said excitedly. ‘It is indeed my dear friend Hastings!’

‘My dear Poirot,’ I exclaimed, ‘how wonderful to see you!’ I turned to Cynthia and Lawrence. ‘This is my old friend, the great Belgian detective Monsieur Hercule Poirot,’ I explained. ‘I was talking about him the other day, but I haven’t seen him for years.’

‘I know Mademoiselle Cynthia,’ said Poirot. ‘It is thanks to Mrs Inglethorp that I am here. She has kindly given me a place to live as I am, sadly, homeless because of the war. I am very grateful to her.’

Hercule Poirot was an extraordinary-looking little man. He was only five feet four inches tall, his head was egg-shaped and his big moustache was very stiff. His clothes were always very neat, and he loved everything to be tidy and in order – indeed, he was obsessed with order. He had once been an important detective in the Belgian police, and had solved some very difficult cases.

He showed me the little house where he lived, and I promised to visit him very soon.

‘He’s a dear little man,’ said Cynthia as we drove away. ‘I didn’t know he was your friend.’

‘Did you know he was famous?’ I asked, and told her stories of Poirot’s successes until we got home.

As we entered the hall, Mrs Inglethorp came out of her study, looking upset. ‘Is there anything the matter, Aunt Emily?’ asked Cynthia.

‘Certainly not,’ said Mrs Inglethorp loudly. Then she saw Dorcas, the maid, and told her to bring some stamps into the study. ‘Yes, madam,’ said the old servant. Then after a pause, she added, ‘You look very tired, madam. Perhaps you should go to bed.’

‘Not now, I have some letters to write before the post is collected. Have you lit the fire in my room as I told you?’

‘Yes, madam.’

‘Then I’ll go to bed after supper.’

Mrs Inglethorp went into her study again, and Cynthia stared after her. ‘I wonder what’s wrong?’ she said to Lawrence. He did not seem to hear her, because he just walked away.

Cynthia and I decided to play tennis before supper, so I ran upstairs to fetch my tennis racquet. Mary Cavendish was coming down the stairs, and I thought that she was also looking strange and a little upset. ‘Where’s Mrs Inglethorp?’ she asked.

‘In the study.’

She seemed to prepare herself for something, went quickly down the stairs to the study, and shut the door behind her. A few minutes later, I passed the open study window on my way to the tennis court, and overheard Mary Cavendish. ‘Then you won’t show it to me?’ she was saying, trying hard to control her voice.

‘My dear Mary,’ replied Mrs Inglethorp, ‘it has nothing to do with that.’

‘Then show it to me.’

‘It is not what you think. It is nothing to do with you at all.’

‘Of course, I should have known you would protect him,’ said Mary bitterly.

At the tennis court, Cynthia said excitedly, ‘Aunt Emily’s had a big argument with Mr Inglethorp. Dorcas the maid told me – she was near the door. I wish I knew what it was about.’

I thought of Mrs Raikes’s pretty face, and Evelyn Howard’s warnings, but I didn’t say anything.

It was obvious that something important had happened that afternoon, and though I looked for John, I couldn’t find him anywhere. I couldn’t forget what I had overheard – what was it about?

Mr Inglethorp was in the dining-room when I came down to supper. As usual, his face had no expression, and again I thought how he didn’t seem to belong at Styles. Mrs Inglethorp came downstairs at last. She still looked upset, and there was an uncomfortable silence during the meal. Normally Inglethorp was very attentive to his wife, playing the part of a loving husband, but today he was unusually quiet. After supper, Mrs Inglethorp immediately went back to her study. ‘Send my coffee in here, Mary,’ she called. ‘I have only five minutes before the post is collected.’

Cynthia and I sat by the open window in the drawing-room, and Mary Cavendish brought us our coffee. She seemed excited. ‘Will you take Mrs Inglethorp her coffee, Cynthia? I’ll pour it out.’

‘I’ll take Emily her coffee,’ said Inglethorp. He poured the coffee, and went out of the room carrying it carefully. Lawrence followed him, and Mary Cavendish sat down.

The three of us sat in silence. The night was hot and still, and Mary said quietly, ‘It’s almost too hot. We may have a thunderstorm.’

This peaceful moment ended when from the hall I heard a voice that I knew – and disliked. Then Alfred Inglethorp came in with Dr Bauerstein, who was covered with mud. ‘What have you been doing, Bauerstein?’ asked John, coming in from the hall. ‘Have some coffee, and tell us all about it.’

‘Thank you, I will,’ laughed Dr Bauerstein, and told us that he had fallen into a river while looking at a very interesting plant. ‘I’m afraid I am very muddy and dirty.’

Just then Mrs Inglethorp called from the hall. ‘Please take my despatch-case upstairs, Cynthia. I’m going to bed.’ I stood up when Cynthia did, and John was close by me. So there were three people who could swear that Mrs Inglethorp was carrying her coffee, which she hadn’t yet tasted, in her hand.

My evening had been spoilt by Dr Bauerstein, and I was glad when at last he stood up to go. ‘I’ll walk to the village with you,’ said Mr Inglethorp, ‘I must see our land agent.’ He turned to John. ‘There’s no need to stay up. I’ll take the key.’

Chapter 3: The Night of the Tragedy

To make this part of my story clear, here is a plan showing the first floor of Styles.

It was the middle of the night when Lawrence Cavendish woke me up, a candle in his hand. ‘Mother’s very ill! We can hear her calling but she’s locked the door!’

I jumped out of bed and followed Lawrence to the door of Mrs Inglethorp’s room. John Cavendish joined us, and tried to open the door, but it was locked or bolted on the inside. Everyone in the house was now awake, and we could hear terrible sounds from inside the room. We had to do something!

‘Go through Mr Inglethorp’s room, sir,’ said Dorcas the maid. ‘Oh, my poor mistress!’

Suddenly I realized that Alfred Inglethorp was not with us. When John opened the door of his room we saw that his bed had not been slept in. But the door from his room to Mrs Inglethorp’s was also locked or bolted on the inside.

‘Go and get Dr Wilkins, at once!’ said John. ‘I’ll try the door from Cynthia’s room.’

He ran quickly to Cynthia’s room. Mary Cavendish was there, shaking Cynthia – who seemed to be sleeping very deeply – and trying to wake her up. In a moment he returned. ‘Mary says that door is bolted too. The door in Inglethorp’s room is the thinnest – we’ll break it down.’

After some effort the door finally broke open and we fell into the room, Lawrence still holding his candle. Mrs Inglethorp was lying on the bed, her whole body shaking and twisting violently. She had knocked over the table by the bed. John lit the gaslight, while I unbolted the door to the corridor.

I looked at Lawrence. His face was white, his eyes were terrified and his hand, that held the candle, was shaking so much that candlewax fell on the carpet. He was staring at something on the wall behind me, but when I turned I didn’t see anything strange. Ashes were burning quietly in the fireplace, and on the mantelpiece there were vases full of pieces of paper used to light the fire, and some ornaments.

Mrs Inglethorp seemed to be a little better, and she gasped. ‘Better now – very sudden – stupid to lock myself in.’

I looked up and saw Mary Cavendish standing near the door with her arm around Cynthia. Cynthia looked confused and very sleepy. ‘Poor Cynthia is frightened,’ said Mary. I noticed that Mary was dressed in her white land army uniform, ready for work. So it must be early – indeed, the clock said it was five in the morning.

Suddenly Mrs Inglethorp gave another cry of pain, and again her body shook and twisted violently. John and Mary tried to give her a drink of strong brandy, but we could do nothing to help.

Just then Dr Bauerstein entered the room. When Mrs Inglethorp saw him she gasped, ‘Alfred – Alfred-‘ and then she fell back and lay still. Dr Bauerstein tried to bring her back to life, but I think we all knew it was too late. Finally he stopped and shook his head.

Then Dr Wilkins, the family doctor, rushed in. ‘Very sad,’ he said quietly, looking at the bed. ‘Poor dear lady. She must have had a heart attack.’

‘But you didn’t see how violently her body shook and twisted before she died,’ said Dr Bauerstein, watching Dr Wilkins closely. ‘I’d like to speak to you in private.’ We left the two doctors alone, and I heard them lock the door to Mrs Inglethorp’s room as we went downstairs.

Dr Bauerstein’s behaviour had given me an idea. Speaking quietly so no one else could hear, I said to Mary, ‘I believe Mrs Inglethorp has been poisoned! I’m certain Dr Bauerstein thinks so.’

‘No, that can’t be true!’ gasped Mary, her eyes wide and her face pale. She looked as if she might faint. ‘Please leave me,’ she said, when I tried to help her. ‘I want to be alone for a moment.’

Although I didn’t want to leave her, I joined John and Lawrence in the dining-room, and after a short silence I asked, ‘Where is Mr Inglethorp?’

‘I don’t know,’ said John. ‘He’s not in the house.’

‘Where was Alfred Inglethorp? I wondered. What did Mrs Inglethorp’s dying words mean? What else did she want to tell us before she died?’

At last the two doctors came downstairs. Dr Wilkins looked excited, but was trying to hide it, while Dr Bauerstein’s bearded face was serious. ‘Mr Cavendish,’ said Dr Wilkins, ‘there needs to be a post mortem.’

‘Is that necessary?’ asked John.

‘Absolutely,’ said Dr Bauerstein. ‘Neither of us knows why Mrs Inglethorp died. And there will have to be an inquest.’ There was a pause, and then Dr Bauerstein gave John the two keys that locked the doors to Mrs Inglethorp’s room. ‘It’s best to keep them locked,’ he said, as he and Dr Wilkins left.

All this time I had been thinking. ‘John,’ I said, ‘do you remember my friend Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective? Let him investigate, to find out if your mother was poisoned.’

‘Rubbish!’ said Lawrence angrily. ‘Bauerstein is wrong. Wilkins didn’t think anything was wrong until Bauerstein said so. Because Bauerstein is an expert on poisons, he sees them everywhere. Mother died of a heart attack!’ Lawrence didn’t usually speak so strongly.

John hesitated. ‘I can’t agree with you, Lawrence,’ he said at last, I think Hastings is right. I know we all suspect the same person, but we may be wrong.’

My watch said it was now six o’clock. Before I went to see my friend Poirot I looked in the library downstairs, where I discovered a medical book that described strychnine poisoning.

 

 

Chapter 4: Poirot Investigates

Poirot’s house was close by, and on the way I saw a man running towards me. It was Mr Inglethorp. ‘My poor wife!’ he said. ‘I have only just heard!’

‘Where have you been?’ I asked.

‘I was with our land agent until one o’clock. I forgot the key to Styles so I slept at the land agent’s house. Dr Wilkins gave us the news this morning. This is terrible! My poor dear Emily!’ And Mr Inglethorp ran off, towards Styles.

In my opinion he was only pretending to be upset.

I knocked at Poirot’s door. He was surprised to see me so early, and as he got dressed I told him what had happened. I included every little thing I could think of, though some things I repeated or mixed up.

‘Take your time, mon ami Hastings,’ said Poirot. ‘You are excited. Later we will arrange the facts, neatly, each in its proper place. Important facts we keep, and those of no importance we throw away.’

‘But how do you decide what is important and what isn’t?’ I asked.

‘One fact leads to another,’ he said, ‘and if the next fact fits, we continue. If it does not fit, there is something missing. And a little detail that does not fit – it is important! Everything matters.’

‘I know,’ I said. ‘That’s why I’ve told you every detail.’

‘And I am pleased with you,’ said Poirot. ‘You have a good memory. But you have forgotten one important fact. You have not told me how much food Mrs Inglethorp ate last night.’

‘I don’t understand,’ I said. ‘I don’t think she ate much at all, because she was upset. Why is it important?’

‘Because if Mrs Inglethorp died of strychnine poisoning, the poison may have been in her coffee. You say the coffee was served about eight o’clock, so she drank it between eight and eight-thirty. Strychnine works quickly, in about one hour, but Mrs Inglethorp was not ill until about five in the morning – nine hours later. If she had eaten a large meal, this may have delayed the effects of the poison. But you say she ate little.’ He picked up a small briefcase. ‘Now, I am ready,’ he said.

As we hurried towards Styles, Poirot asked, ‘Mrs Inglethorp’s poor family – are they very sad and upset?’ I realized – with surprise – that although her family were shocked, they had not loved Mrs Inglethorp deeply. Poirot seemed to guess my thoughts. ‘She was kind and generous to the Cavendishes, but she was not their real mother,’ he said.

John came out to meet us as we neared the house. He looked tired and upset. ‘What’s happened is terrible, Monsieur Poirot,’ he said. ‘But at the moment we have no facts – we only suspect. And Inglethorp is back,’ he said to me. ‘We don’t know what to say to him.’ Then he handed me the two keys that Dr Bauerstein had given him. ‘Show Monsieur Poirot everything he wants to see.’

We went up to the room of the tragedy. Here is a plan of the room and its furniture.

Poirot locked the door on the inside. ‘First,’ he said, ‘I will put down my briefcase until I need it.’ But as he put his case on the round table by the window, the broken tabletop overturned, and the briefcase fell to the floor. ‘A big house, but no comfort,’ said Poirot, and began to examine the room very carefully.

He found a small purple despatch-case, with a key in the lock, on the writing-table. The key was a normal one, with a piece of twisted wire through the handle.

Then he looked at the frame of the door we had broken down, to make sure it had been bolted. Next he quietly unbolted the door that led to Cynthia Murdoch’s room. Suddenly he saw something in the bolt, which he put in a small envelope.

On the chest of drawers there was a tray, and a small saucepan on a portable stove, containing some dark liquid. An empty but used cup stood near it. Here was a very useful clue! Poirot tasted the liquid carefully. ‘Cocoa – with – I think – rum.’

Then he looked at the mess on the floor, where the table by the bed had been overturned. Lying on the floor were a reading lamp, some books, matches, a bunch of keys and the crushed pieces of a coffee-cup.

‘This is strange,’ said Poirot. ‘This cup is not just broken – it has been stepped on and crushed to powder.’ Without thinking he straightened the ornaments and vases on the mantelpiece. ‘Why? Either because it contained strychnine or – which is far more serious – because it did not contain strychnine!’

Poirot continued his investigations. He picked up the bunch of keys and chose one, very bright and shiny. With this key he opened the purple despatch-case, but then hesitated and locked it again. He put the bunch of keys, and the key we had found in the lock, in his pocket. ‘I don’t have permission to look at Mrs Inglethorp’s papers. But someone should look at them – at once!’

Next he examined the cupboard under the wash basin, and then looked closely at a round damp stain, which was hard to see on the dark brown carpet. He even smelled it. Finally, he put a few drops of the cocoa in a test tube.

‘We have found in this room,’ he announced, ‘six points of interest. One, a coffee-cup that has been crushed to powder. Two, a despatch-case with a key in the lock. Three, a damp stain on the floor, which smells of coffee. Four, a small piece of dark green fabric.’

‘Ah!’ I said. ‘That was what you put in the envelope.’

‘Yes. It may be from a dress of Mrs Inglethorp, and quite unimportant. Five, this!’ Poirot pointed to a large amount of candlewax on the floor by the writing-table. ‘This must be recent, or the maid Dorcas would have cleaned it up.’

‘Perhaps Mrs Inglethorp dropped her candle,’ I said, ‘or Lawrence Cavendish did last night – he was quite upset. He seemed to see something by the mantelpiece that upset him.’

‘That is interesting,’ said Poirot, looking around. ‘But his candle – here – is pink, and the wax on the floor is white. And Mrs Inglethorp does not have a candle, only a reading lamp.’

‘And the sixth point,’ I said, ‘is the cocoa.’

‘No,’ said Poirot thoughtfully, ‘the sixth point I will keep secret for now.’

He looked round the room and then stared at the ashes in the fireplace. Suddenly he began to examine the ashes very carefully, and finally removed a small piece of paper, half-burned – which is shown here.

‘What do you think of this?’ he asked.

The paper was unusually thick. Suddenly I had an idea. ‘Poirot!’ I said excitedly. ‘This is a piece of a will!’

‘Exactly,’ he said. ‘Just what I expected.’ He put the paper carefully in his briefcase. My mind was confused. Who had burned this will? And since the doors were bolted, how had they got into the room?

‘Now,’ said Poirot, ‘we will ask Dorcas, the maid, some questions.’ We left through Alfred Inglethorp’s room, which Poirot examined carefully, and locked both his door and Mrs Inglethorp’s door, as before.

I went to find Dorcas, leaving Poirot in the study. When I returned the room was empty – Poirot had walked out to the garden, and was admiring the flowers. ‘Beautiful!’ he said. ‘The flowers have been planted very neatly. This was done recently?’

‘Yesterday afternoon, I think. But do come in – Dorcas is here.’

‘These flowers may also be important. But, yes, I will now talk to Dorcas.’

Dorcas, the maid, wore a white cap on her grey hair. She was suspicious of Poirot at first, but soon she was talking freely. She had worked for Mrs Inglethorp for ten years and liked her very much.

‘Tell me about yesterday afternoon,’ said Poirot. ‘Mrs Inglethorp had an argument?’

Dorcas hesitated.

‘I need to know every detail of that argument,’ said Poirot. ‘Mrs Inglethorp is dead, and if she was murdered, we must catch the person who did it. So tell me, what time was this argument?’

‘It was four o’clock,’ said Dorcas. ‘I heard loud angry voices as I passed the door. “You have lied to me!” said Mrs Inglethorp. I didn’t hear what Mr Inglethorp said, his voice was too quiet. Then she said, “How dare you? I have given you a home, clothes and food! You owe everything to me! And this is how you thank me, by shaming our name!” Again I didn’t hear what he said. Finally, she said, “There’s nothing you can say. I have made my decision. I won’t change my mind because of fear of a scandal between husband and wife.”‘

‘Are you sure it was Mr Inglethorp’s voice?’ asked Poirot.

‘Oh, yes, sir, who else’s could it be? Later, at five o’clock, Mrs Inglethorp asked for a cup of tea. She looked awful – so white and upset. “Dorcas,” she said, “I’ve had a great shock.” She had something in her hand. I don’t know if it was a letter, or just a piece of paper, but it had writing on it. She kept staring at it, as if she couldn’t believe what was written there. “A few words – and everything’s changed,” she said. “I don’t know what to do. Scandal between husband and wife is a terrible thing, Dorcas. I’d keep it secret if I could.” Then Mrs Cavendish came in, so she didn’t say any more.’

‘Did Mrs Inglethorp still have the paper in her hand?’ asked Poirot.

‘Yes, sir,’ replied Dorcas. ‘Then she probably locked it in her purple case, where she keeps her important papers. She brought the case downstairs every morning, and took it back to her room every night.’

‘When did she lose the key?’ inquired Poirot.

‘Yesterday, at lunch-time, sir. She was annoyed, but she had another key – a spare key.’ Both Dorcas and I were looking curiously at Poirot. How did he know the key had been lost? Poirot smiled, and showed Dorcas the key he’d found in the lock of the purple box. ‘Is this the lost key?’

Dorcas was surprised. ‘That’s it, sir, but where did you find it? I looked everywhere.’

‘Ah, but it was not in the same place yesterday as it was today. Now tell me, does Mrs Inglethorp have a dark green dress?’

‘No, sir, she doesn’t, and nor does anybody else in the house.’

Poirot’s face showed no emotion. ‘Do you know if Mrs Inglethorp took a powder to help her sleep last night?’ he continued.

‘Not last night, sir, I know she didn’t,’ replied Dorcas. ‘She took the last one two days ago, and she didn’t order anymore.’

‘Did Mrs Inglethorp ask you to sign a paper yesterday?’ was Poirot’s next question.

‘To sign a paper? No, sir.’

‘Yesterday Mrs Inglethorp wrote some letters. Do you know who they were to?’

‘There were three letters,’ said Dorcas. ‘One was to Miss Howard and one was to Mr Wells, the lawyer. The other one, I don’t remember.’

‘Think,’ asked Poirot urgently.

‘I’m sorry, sir, but I didn’t notice.’

‘It does not matter,’ said Poirot. He didn’t look disappointed. ‘Now I want to ask you about something else. There is a saucepan in Mrs Inglethorp’s room with some cocoa in it. Did she drink cocoa every night?’

‘Yes, sir,’ said Dorcas. ‘She warmed it up when she wanted it. It’s plain cocoa made with milk, sugar and a little rum.’

‘Who took it to her room, and when?’

‘I always take it, sir,’ said Dorcas, ‘Cook makes it early, before supper. Then I take it up, put it on the table at the top of the stairs, and take it into Mrs Inglethorp’s room later.’

‘What time did you take it up last night?’

‘About quarter-past seven, I think, sir,’ replied Dorcas.

‘And when did you take it into Mrs Inglethorp’s room?’

‘About eight o’clock. Mrs Inglethorp came up to bed.’

‘Then, between seven-fifteen and eight o’clock, the cocoa was left on the table?’

‘Yes, sir.’ Dorcas looked worried, and then suddenly said excitedly, ‘And if there was salt in it, sir, it wasn’t me!’

‘Why do you think there was salt in it?’ asked Poirot.

‘I saw some salt on the tray – not when I first brought it up, but when I went to take it to Mrs Inglethorp. I should have asked the cook to make some fresh cocoa, but I was in a hurry. I thought maybe the cocoa itself was all right, and the salt was only on the tray. So I just cleaned the tray and took it in.’

I could hardly control my excitement. This was an important piece of evidence! Surely this ‘salt’ was the fatal poison, strychnine? But Poirot stayed calm, and his next question disappointed me.

‘When you went into Mrs Inglethorp’s room, was the door to Mademoiselle Cynthia’s room bolted?’

‘Yes, sir; it’s always bolted,’ replied Dorcas. ‘No one ever opens it.’

‘And was the door into Mr Inglethorp’s room bolted, too?’

Dorcas hesitated. ‘It was shut, but I don’t know if it was bolted,’ she said.

‘Did Mrs Inglethorp bolt the door to the corridor after you left the room?’

‘No, sir, but I expect she did later. She usually locked that door at night.’

‘Did you notice any candlewax on the floor yesterday?’ continued Poirot.

‘Candlewax? Oh, no, sir. Mrs Inglethorp didn’t have a candle, only a reading-lamp. And if there had been any, I would have cleaned it up.’

‘Thank you, Dorcas. You have been very helpful.’ Poirot stood up and walked to the window. ‘I have been admiring these flowers. How many gardeners work here?’

‘Only three now, sir. There’s old Manning, and young William, and a new woman gardener.’

‘Bien! Good! That is all I want to know. Thank you very much.’

As soon as Dorcas left the room, I said, ‘Poirot, this explains everything! The cocoa was poisoned, not the coffee! The poison didn’t work until the early morning, because Mrs Inglethorp drank the cocoa in the night.’

‘So you think that the cocoa – listen carefully, Hastings, the cocoa – contained strychnine?’

‘Of course! That salt on the tray, what else could it be?’

‘It could have been salt,’ replied Poirot calmly.

What could I say to that? I suddenly thought, and it was not for the first time, that poor Poirot was growing old. Then I remembered something else. ‘How did you know that Mrs Inglethorp took sleeping powders?’ I asked, ‘and about the lost key and the spare?’

‘I knew about the sleeping powders because of this.’ He suddenly showed me a small box. ‘I found it in the cupboard under the wash basin in Mrs Inglethorp’s bedroom. It was Number Six on my list of points of interest. It may not be important, but do you notice anything strange about this box – especially the label?’

I examined the box and read the label carefully: ‘”Take one powder at bedtime, if needed. Mrs Inglethorp.” No, I don’t see anything unusual,’ I said.

‘But there is no pharmacy name – and a pharmacy always prints its name on a box like this.’

I was becoming excited again. ‘Yet the explanation is quite simple,’ remarked Poirot, standing up quickly. ‘Now I have finished checking this room. By the way, whose is the smaller desk in the corner?’

‘Mr Inglethorp’s,’ I said.

‘Ah!’ Poirot tried to open the desk, but it was locked. Then he tried several of Mrs Inglethorp’s keys from the bunch in his pocket. Finally, one of the keys opened the desk. The papers inside were neatly arranged, but to my surprise, he did not examine them.

‘There were no stamps in Mr Inglethorp’s desk,’ he remarked, ‘but that’s where you might expect to find some.’ Then he looked round for the last time. ‘There is nothing else in this room – only this, from the waste-paper basket.’

From his pocket he took a dirty old envelope, which had a few words written on it. This is what it looked like.

Chapter 5: ‘Is it Strychnine?’

‘This is Mrs Inglethorp’s writing,’ I said, ‘but what does it mean?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Poirot, ‘though I have an idea. But let us now examine the coffee-cups!’

‘But why, now we know about the cocoa?’

‘Let me look at the coffee-cups, while you think about the cocoa,’ Poirot replied. The coffee-cups and the tray were still in the drawing-room. I told Poirot exactly what had happened the night before.

‘So,’ he said, ‘Mary Cavendish stood by the tray, poured the coffee and sat down with you and Mademoiselle Cynthia. Yes. Here are the three cups. And the cup of Lawrence Cavendish is on the mantelpiece.’

‘John’s cup is on the tray,’ I said. ‘I saw him put it there.’

‘Good. Five cups. But where is the cup of Mr Inglethorp?’

‘He doesn’t drink coffee.’

‘So all the cups are here.’ Poirot carefully took a drop from each cup and put them in separate test tubes. He tasted each one. At first his face looked confused, and then pleased. ‘Bien!’ he said at last. ‘I had an idea, but I was wrong. Yet it is strange-‘

Just then John came in and invited us to have breakfast. Already he seemed back to normal, as he told us that Evelyn Howard was on her way back to Styles. ‘So, Monsieur Poirot,’ he asked, ‘do you think my mother died of a heart attack?’

‘I think it is unlikely, Mr Cavendish,’ replied Poirot seriously. ‘What do the other members of your family think?’

‘Lawrence says it was definitely a heart attack.’

‘That is interesting,’ said Poirot. ‘And Mrs Cavendish?’

‘I have no idea what my wife thinks,’ said John. There was an uncomfortable silence, until John spoke again with difficulty.

‘And how do we behave to Mr Inglethorp? It’s hard to sit down to dinner with a possible murderer!’

‘It is difficult,’ agreed Poirot. ‘May I ask if you are sure that Mr Inglethorp forgot his key?’

‘I’ve no idea,’ replied John. ‘I’ll go and look in the hall drawer.’

‘No, no,’ smiled Poirot. ‘It is too late now. But if anyone had seen the key before his return, it would have been a point in his favour. Do not worry – let us have breakfast now.’

No one in the dining-room was very cheerful. Alfred Inglethorp acted the part of a man who has just lost his wife – a sad widower. Mary Cavendish looked beautiful but was very quiet, and Cynthia looked tired and ill, saying she had a headache.

‘More coffee, mademoiselle?’ asked Poirot, filling up her cup. ‘No sugar,’ said Cynthia. ‘I never have it in coffee.’ At these words Poirot became very excited, and his eyes were as green as a cat’s eyes. I didn’t understand why, but before I could ask, Dorcas came in to say that Mr Wells had arrived.

‘Mr Wells is mother’s lawyer,’ John explained. ‘Please will you join us?’ As we left the room I asked Poirot what was wrong. ‘I am worried, my friend, because Mademoiselle Cynthia does not take sugar in her coffee,’ he said, as we followed John into his study. ‘I was right to examine those coffee cups.’

Mr Wells was a pleasant man of around forty. ‘The inquest will be on Friday,’ he said to John. ‘You and – um – Mr Inglethorp will have to give evidence, though it will just be routine.’ John looked relieved, though I didn’t know why.

‘Can you help us solve this tragic affair, Mr Wells?’ asked Poirot. ‘Mrs Inglethorp wrote to you last night.’

‘Yes, she asked me to visit her, to ask my advice about something important – that’s all.’

After a moment’s thought, Poirot asked, ‘Can you tell me who inherits Mrs Inglethorp’s money now she is dead?’ The lawyer hesitated, and then replied, ‘In her last will, dated August of last year, she left everything to her stepson, John Cavendish. However, because Mrs Inglethorp remarried, that will is now no longer legal.’

‘Did Mrs Inglethorp know that?’ asked Poirot.

‘Yes, she did,’ said John, to our surprise. ‘We talked about it only yesterday.’

‘Ah! One more question, Mr Wells,’ said Poirot. ‘You said “her last will”. Did Mrs Inglethorp make other wills?’

‘At least one a year,’ said the lawyer. ‘She often changed her mind.’

‘Would you be surprised if she had made a new will?’ asked Poirot.

‘I wouldn’t be at all surprised,’ replied Mr Wells.

‘We could look for a later will in mother’s purple despatch- case,’ said John. ‘She kept her most important papers in there.’

‘There was a later will,’ said Poirot, ‘but it has now been burned.’ He gave them the piece of paper he’d found in the fireplace. ‘I think this will was made yesterday afternoon.’

‘What?’

‘Impossible!’ said both men.

‘I will prove it to you,’ said Poirot, ‘if I can speak to your gardener.’ After some discussion the gardener, Manning, was sent for. ‘Come inside, Manning,’ said John, when we heard footsteps. ‘I want to speak to you.’ Manning came into the room. Though he spoke slowly, his eyes were intelligent.

‘Mrs Inglethorp spoke to you while you were planting flowers yesterday, did she not?’ asked Poirot. ‘Tell us what happened.’

‘She told William to go to the village and bring back an official form for a will,’ said Manning. ‘Then she asked us to come in and sign our names on a piece of paper. I didn’t see what was written on it. Then she put the paper in an envelope and locked it in a purple box.’

‘What time did she speak to you?’ asked Poirot.

‘About four, I think, sir.’

‘Not earlier, at half-past three?’

‘No,’ said Manning. ‘It was after four – not before it.’

After Manning left we all looked at each other. ‘This can’t be a coincidence!’ said Mr Wells. ‘You say your mother had a violent argument that afternoon.’

‘What do you mean?’ said John, turning pale.

‘Because of the argument, your mother made a new will,’ said Mr Wells, ‘but now we will never know what it said.’

‘It’s only thanks to Monsieur Poirot,’ said John, ‘that we know there was a new will. How did you know?’ Poirot smiled. ‘An old envelope, and some freshly planted flowers.’ But before we could ask more questions, we heard a car outside.

‘It’s Evie!’ said John, looking out the window, and we went with him to meet Evelyn Howard. Her fears had come true, and I wished I had taken her warnings more seriously. If Miss Howard had stayed at Styles, would Mrs Inglethorp still be alive?

Miss Howard’s eyes were red from crying, but her direct manner was the same. ‘I came as soon as I heard,’ she said. ‘I hired a car.’

‘Come and have breakfast, Evie,’ said John. ‘Do you know Monsieur Poirot? He’s helping us investigate.’

‘There’s nothing to investigate,’ she said loudly. ‘Have they taken him to prison yet? I told you Alfred Inglethorp would murder poor Emily – and now he has.’

‘Please don’t shout, Evie,’ said John. ‘We don’t know what happened yet. The inquest is on Friday.’

‘The man will have left the country by then,’ said Miss Howard. ‘He won’t stay to be hanged. And doctors – doctors don’t know anything! My own father was a doctor, so I know what they’re like. Anyone can see that her husband poisoned her. You must find out how he did it.’

It was going to be awkward having Miss Howard and Mr Inglethorp in the same house, I thought.

While John went out for a moment, Poirot sat down with Miss Howard. She said, in a quieter voice, ‘Emily could be a selfish old woman, but I was very fond of her.’

Poirot nodded. ‘I understand, mademoiselle,’ he said seriously, ‘and because of that I want your help.’

‘I’ll help you to hang Alfred Inglethorp,’ she replied. ‘Poor Emily wasn’t murdered until he arrived!’

‘Believe me, Miss Howard,’ said Poirot, ‘if Mr Inglethorp is the murderer, he will not escape me.’

Just then John interrupted, asking me and Poirot to go upstairs to Mrs Inglethorp’s room to look at her papers. Taking the keys from Poirot, John unlocked the bedroom door, and we walked over to the purple despatch-case.

‘I locked it this morning,’ Poirot said, taking the keys from his pocket.

‘It’s not locked now,’ said John, opening the case.

‘Impossible!’ exclaimed Poirot. ‘Look – the lock has been broken!’ We all stared at each other in surprise. ‘But the door was locked!’ I said.

‘The door was probably unlocked by one of the other keys,’ said Poirot, as he walked to the mantelpiece. He looked and sounded calm, but his hands, which were straightening the vases and ornaments on the mantelpiece, were shaking violently. ‘There must have been evidence in that case that linked the murderer to the crime!’ he said. ‘Perhaps it was the paper that Dorcas saw in Mrs Inglethorp’s hand yesterday afternoon. It had to be destroyed, so the murderer risked coming in here and breaking the lock. And I’ – Poirot continued angrily – ‘I guessed nothing! I should have taken the case with me. But now it is too late – the evidence is destroyed – But is it? Is there still a chance-‘

He rushed out quickly, like a madman! Soon we heard voices downstairs. Poirot was shouting loudly, telling every person in the house what had happened. It was some time before he calmed down. ‘Will you walk with me to the village?’ he then asked me, quietly.

‘Of course,’ I said, feeling sorry for him.

As we were leaving we met Cynthia Murdoch. ‘Can I ask you a question, mademoiselle?’ said Poirot. ‘Did you ever prepare Mrs Inglethorp’s medicine?’

‘No, I didn’t,’ said Cynthia.

‘Did you prepare her sleeping powders?’

Cynthia’s face turned red. ‘Oh, yes, I did prepare some sleeping powders for her once.’

‘These?’ Poirot said, showing her the empty box which had contained powders, and she nodded. ‘Can you tell me what they were?’ he asked.

‘They were called “bromide powders”,’ replied Cynthia.

‘Ah! Thank you, mademoiselle,’ said Poirot, and again his eyes looked very green, like a cat’s.

‘I have a little idea,’ he said, as we started to walk to the village. ‘It is very strange, but it fits.’ I shrugged my shoulders – I didn’t understand. Poirot often had strange ideas.

‘Mr Wells told me that they found Mrs Ingle thorp’s most recent will,’ Poirot continued. ‘The date on it was before her marriage, and left all her money to Alfred Inglethorp. Mr Wells and John Cavendish were very surprised, and Mr Inglethorp says he didn’t know about it.’

‘All these wills are very confusing,’ I said. ‘How did that envelope tell you that a will was made yesterday afternoon?’

‘I’m sure you have written a word once or twice to make sure you have spelled it correctly,’ Poirot smiled. ‘That is what Mrs Inglethorp did. The first word has one “s” and the second – correct version – has two. To make sure, she wrote “I am possessed”, a sentence that people only normally write in a will. Then near the desk I found some mud. It was the same as the mud where the flowers were planted yesterday afternoon. I was sure that one or both of the gardeners had entered the study, because only they would have such muddy boots after the recent fine weather. Mrs Inglethorp must have invited the gardeners in, because if she just wanted to speak to them she could have stood at the window. I was sure that she had made a new will, and had asked the two gardeners to come in and sign it as witnesses.’

‘That’s very clever,’ I admitted. ‘And how did you know that the key of the despatch-case had been lost?’

‘The original key had a piece of twisted wire through the handle,’ explained Poirot. ‘This suggested that it had been taken off another key-ring. If it had been lost and found, Mrs Inglethorp would have put it back on her bunch of keys. But on her bunch I found the spare key, very new and bright. So someone else must have used the original key in the lock of the despatch-case.’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘It must be Alfred Inglethorp.’

‘Are you sure he is guilty?’ Poirot asked. ‘There are several points in his favour.’

‘I see only one – that he was not in the house last night.’

‘That is the one point against him!’ exclaimed Poirot. ‘If Mr Inglethorp was going to poison his wife, he would make sure he was not in the house. He did not have a good excuse, so either he knew what was going to happen, or he had another reason for not being there.’

I shook my head – I didn’t agree with him. ‘We will soon know who is right, said Poirot. ‘Now let us discuss other points of the case. Why do you think all the doors to Mrs Inglethorp’s bedroom were bolted on the inside?’

‘Well,’ I said, ‘though the doors were bolted, there was candlewax on the floor and the will was burned – so someone entered the room. I think Mrs Inglethorp must have let the person in herself – which means it was probably her husband.’ Poirot shook his head. ‘But Mrs Inglethorp had bolted the door to her husband’s room, and argued violently with him that afternoon. And it is possible – though unlikely – that she forgot to bolt the door to the corridor until later, towards the morning.’

Before I could argue, Poirot continued. And how do you explain the conversation you overheard between Mary Cavendish and Mrs Inglethorp?’

‘It’s hard to believe,’ I said, ‘that a woman like Mary Cavendish – so proud and quiet – would get involved in something that was not her business. Still, it isn’t important.’ Poirot sighed loudly. ‘What have I always told you? Everything is important! If the fact does not fit the theory, the theory is wrong.’

By this time we had reached Poirot’s house, and soon we were sitting by the open window, with a view of the street. The fresh air was pleasant. It was going to be another hot day.

Then suddenly we saw a young man run down the street. He looked very worried and upset. ‘It is Mr Mace, from the village pharmacy,’ said Poirot, ‘and he is coming here.’

Sure enough, Mr Mace soon knocked at the door. ‘I’ve just heard about old Mrs Inglethorp dying so suddenly,’ he said excitedly. ‘Please tell me, Mr Poirot, is it poison – is it strychnine?’

‘Only the doctors can tell us that, Mr Mace,’ replied Poirot. The young man still looked worried as he left. Poirot said thoughtfully, ‘Yes, he will have evidence to give at the inquest. And now, my friend, I need to think.’

We sat upstairs in silence, until at last Poirot sighed. ‘That is better. Now all is clearly arranged in my mind. But this case puzzles me. Me, Hercule Poirot! There are two important facts. First, is that the weather was so hot yesterday. That is the key to the puzzle.’ I didn’t understand. ‘And the second point?’ I asked instead.

‘That Mr Inglethorp wears glasses and strange clothes, and has a black beard.’

‘You are joking, Poirot!’ I exclaimed. ‘What will you say if the decision at the inquest is that Alfred Inglethorp murdered his wife?’

‘That will not happen. I will not allow it.’

I was both annoyed and amused – Poirot was so sure of himself. But then his mood changed. ‘I am thinking of poor Mrs Inglethorp,’ he said. ‘I am grateful to her and owe her a debt. She would never forgive me if I let Alfred Inglethorp, her husband, be arrested now – when I could save him!’

 

 

Chapter 6: The Inquest

Poirot was very busy before the inquest. He didn’t tell me what he was doing, which annoyed me, but I know that he met Mr Wells twice, and went for long walks in the country.

One evening I was walking near Raikes’s farm, where I met an old man who asked me if I was staying at Styles. When I said I was, he winked at me. ‘Someone else from Styles comes here often,’ he said with a laugh. ‘And that little Belgian man from the village has been here more than once.’ I walked on. So Evelyn Howard had been right!

On Friday Poirot and I attended the inquest into the death of Mrs Inglethorp. It was the job of the coroner to call witnesses to give evidence, and ask questions to find out the cause of death. The verdict would be made by the jury.

After the body had been viewed and identified, John Cavendish gave his evidence, describing his mother’s death. The medical evidence was given by Dr Bauerstein. Everyone knew he was an expert on poisons. Mrs Inglethorp, he said, had died of strychnine poisoning.

‘Could she have swallowed the poison by accident?’ asked the coroner.

‘It is very unlikely,’ said Dr Bauerstein.

‘Do you know how the poison was given?’

‘No,’ said the doctor.

‘Could the strychnine have been in Mrs Inglethorp’s coffee, which was taken to her by her husband?’

‘Possibly, but because strychnine works quickly, it seems the poison was taken much later in the evening.’

‘Could the poison have been in Mrs Inglethorp’s cocoa?’ asked the coroner.

‘No,’ said Dr Bauerstein. ‘I tested the cocoa, and it did not contain strychnine.’

‘How did you know?’ I whispered to Poirot. He only laughed, and told me to listen.

‘I am not surprised,’ Dr Bauerstein was saying, ‘that the strychnine was not in the cocoa. Cocoa – unlike coffee – cannot hide the bitter taste of the poison.’

‘So do you think that the poison was in the coffee, but that for some unknown reason it took a long time to work?’ asked the coroner.

‘Yes. But the cup is crushed, so we can’t test its contents.’ That was the end of Dr Bauerstein’s evidence. Dr Wilkins agreed with him on all points. Lawrence Cavendish was called next. His evidence was the same as his brother John’s, until he suggested a new theory.

‘I may be wrong,’ said Lawrence, ‘but my mother was taking a medicine that contained strychnine. I wondered if this medicine, taken over several months, caused her death. Or she may have taken too much by accident.’

The coroner called back Dr Wilkins for his opinion. But the doctor said that it was impossible for Mrs Inglethorp to have been slowly poisoned by her medicine over several months. She would have shown signs of being ill for a long time before, and would not have died so suddenly.

‘And she did not take too much medicine,’ Dr Wilkins said. ‘Three, or even four doses, would not have killed her. Mrs Inglethorp always had a large bottle of medicine prepared, from Coot’s pharmacy in Tadminster. She would need to drink the whole bottle to be poisoned.’

‘Could the pharmacy who prepared the medicine have added too much strychnine by mistake?’ asked the coroner.

‘That, of course, is possible,’ replied the doctor. But Dorcas, the next witness, said that the bottle of medicine was not newly- prepared. In fact, Mrs Inglethorp had taken the last dose in the bottle on the day she died.

The next witness was Mary Cavendish, who looked calm and in control. She said she had woken at four-thirty as usual, and was getting dressed for work, when she heard something heavy falling over.

‘That was the table by the bed,’ said the coroner.

‘I opened my door,’ continued Mary, ‘and we all went to Mrs Inglethorp’s bedroom door, but it was locked-‘ The coroner interrupted her. ‘We know what happened then. Now, Mrs Cavendish, please tell us what you heard of the argument the day before. You were sitting just outside the window.’ I looked at Poirot. Neither of us had known about this.

Mary Cavendish hesitated and her face grew pale. ‘I don’t remember hearing anything,’ she said. ‘I don’t listen to private conversations.’

‘You didn’t hear anything?’ asked the coroner.

Mary paused. ‘I heard Mrs Inglethorp say something about causing scandal between husband and wife – that is all.’ I’m sure the coroner thought Mary could tell us more, but he let her sit down.

The two gardeners then described how they had signed Mrs Inglethorp’s new will, at four-thirty or earlier. Cynthia Murdoch was next but had little to tell. She had been asleep, and did not even hear the table fall over. Then came Miss Howard. She showed the coroner the letter that Mrs Inglethorp had written to her on the 17th of July. It is shown here.

‘But it says nothing about what happened that afternoon,’ said the coroner, with a sigh.

‘All this talk,’ said Miss Howard loudly, ‘is a waste of time. We all know what happened!’ The coroner interrupted her quickly. ‘Thank you, Miss Howard – that is all.’

Then the coroner called Albert Mace, pharmacy assistant – the young man who had knocked at Poirot’s door. Mr Mace explained that he was a qualified pharmacist, and had first arrived in the village a few weeks ago.

‘Have you sold any strychnine recently?’ the coroner asked him.

‘Yes, sir. I sold some on Monday the 16th, at six o’clock, to Mr Inglethorp.’ This evidence astonished everyone! We all stared at Alfred Inglethorp, who looked very surprised.

‘Did Mr Inglethorp sign the poison book?’ asked the coroner.

‘Yes, sir,’ said Mr Mace. ‘Here’s the book, and here’s Mr Inglethorp’s signature.’ There was a breathless silence before Alfred Inglethorp was called to give evidence. Did he realize, I wondered, how close he was to being arrested and hanged?

‘Did you buy any strychnine on Monday?’ the coroner asked him.

‘No, I did not,’ replied Inglethorp calmly. ‘I did not sign the poison book and that is not my signature. Mr Mace must be mistaken.’

‘Please tell us then, Mr Inglethorp, where you were on the evening of Monday, 16th July.’

‘I can’t remember.’

‘That is ridiculous, Mr Inglethorp,’ said the coroner. ‘Think again!’

Inglethorp shook his head. ‘I can’t remember. Perhaps I went for a walk.’

‘Did you meet anyone on your walk?’

‘No.’

‘So you refuse to tell us where you were when Mr Mace says you were buying strychnine?’

‘Yes, I refuse,’ said Inglethorp.

Poirot could not stay still. ‘Does the stupid man want to be arrested?’ he asked me, and sighed with relief when the coroner asked a different question. ‘You had an argument with your wife on Tuesday afternoon?’

‘You are wrong,’ replied Alfred Inglethorp. ‘I did not argue with my dear wife. I was away from the house all afternoon.’

‘There are two witnesses who heard you argue with Mrs Inglethorp.’

‘They are mistaken.’

I was puzzled. The man sounded very sure.

‘Mr Inglethorp,’ said the coroner, ‘can you explain your wife’s dying words?’

‘It’s simple,’ he said. ‘In the poor light my dear wife thought Dr Bauerstein was me. He also has a beard.’

‘Ah!’ said Poirot quietly. ‘That is an idea!’

The coroner continued. ‘Did you take coffee to your wife that evening?’

‘I poured the coffee out,’ said Inglethorp, ‘but then I put it down on the hall table. When I returned to the hall it was gone.’

Even if that was true, I thought, he could still have poisoned the coffee. Just then Poirot spoke to me. ‘That is Detective-Inspector James Japp of Scotland Yard – the main office of the London police,’ he told me, pointing at the little, dark man sitting near the door. I was still staring at the London policeman when the verdict was given.

‘Murder – by some unknown person or persons.’

Chapter 7: Poirot Pays his Debts

Outside, Poirot and I waited for the Scotland Yard detective. ‘Do you remember me, Inspector Japp?’ my friend asked, when Japp came out.

‘It’s Mr Poirot!’ exclaimed the Inspector. ‘I remember we worked together several times – and you helped us catch some dangerous criminals!’

After Poirot had introduced me, Inspector Japp continued. ‘This seems a very clear case of murder,’ he said.

‘There I do not agree,’ replied Poirot.

Japp looked at him closely. ‘You’ve been here from the start, Mr Poirot, which is in your favour. But it seems clear from the evidence that Mr Inglethorp murdered his wife.’

‘Have you come to arrest him?’ asked Poirot.

‘Perhaps,’ replied Japp.

Poirot looked at him thoughtfully. ‘It is very important that you don’t arrest Mr Inglethorp,’ he said. ‘If you arrest him now, the case against him will fail at once!’

Was Poirot mad? I wondered. Surely there was too much evidence against Inglethorp!

‘I do trust you, Mr Poirot,’ said the Inspector, ‘but can you tell me why I should not arrest Mr Inglethorp?’

‘I would prefer not to,’ Poirot said, ‘but I know you need a reason. Are you going to Styles now?’

‘In half an hour, after I’ve talked to the coroner and the doctor.’

‘I will go with you. Call for me – I live at the last house in the village. At Styles I will prove to you that the case against Mr Inglethorp will not be successful in court – even if Mr Inglethorp himself will not tell you what he was doing.’

‘All right,’ said Japp. ‘I can’t see anything wrong with the evidence against him, but if you can-‘ He left to talk to the coroner.

‘What do you think, Hastings?’ asked Poirot, as we walked back to his house. ‘Why won’t Mr Inglethorp tell us where he was?’

‘If he was buying the poison, what could he say?’ I replied.

‘If I had murdered someone, I could invent an alibi!’ said Poirot.

I laughed. ‘I’m sure you could. But why do you still think that Alfred Inglethorp is innocent? Surely there is enough evidence against him.’

‘Yes, but that is the problem – there is too much evidence against him! And the evidence is so definite, so sure – as if it has been cleverly invented.’

By now we had arrived at Poirot’s house. ‘Imagine,’ he continued, ‘that Alfred Inglethorp wants to poison his wife. He openly goes to the nearest pharmacy and buys strychnine using his own name. He doesn’t poison his wife that night, but waits until after he has had a violent argument with her, that everyone in the house knows about. He doesn’t defend himself, or invent a good story to give himself an alibi. Surely no man could be so stupid!’

‘But I don’t understand,’ I said.

‘Neither do I, mon ami,’ he replied. ‘It puzzles me. Me – Hercule Poirot!’

‘But if Inglethorp didn’t poison his wife, why did he buy the strychnine?’ I asked.

‘He did not buy it,’ answered Poirot. ‘Mr Mace saw a man with a black beard like Mr Inglethorp’s, and wearing glasses and clothes like Mr Inglethorp’s. Mr Mace had only just arrived in the village and he probably had not met Mr Inglethorp before. Remember that Mrs Inglethorp got her medicine from Coot’s pharmacy in Tadminster.’

‘Then you think-‘

‘Do you remember my second important point? That Mr Inglethorp wears glasses and strange clothes, and has a black beard? Mr Mace thinks that he sold the poison to Mr Inglethorp, when really it was someone else dressed up to look like Mr Inglethorp, with a beard and glasses. The murderer is trying to make it seem that Mr Inglethorp – who is already suspected of murder – bought the poison.’

‘You may be right,’ I said, fascinated by Poirot’s words. ‘But why won’t he tell us where he was at six o’clock on Monday evening?’

‘I’m sure he will tell us if he is arrested,’ said Poirot, ‘He probably has another reason for his silence.’

I was impressed by Poirot’s opinion, though secretly I still wasn’t sure if he was right.

‘Do you now understand why Mr Inglethorp must not be arrested now?’ asked Poirot.

‘Perhaps,’ I said doubtfully.

With a sigh, Poirot changed the subject. ‘What did you think about the inquest?’ he asked. ‘The evidence of Lawrence Cavendish, for example? Do you think his mother was poisoned by her own medicine?’

‘The doctor said it was impossible, but it’s something you might think if you didn’t know about medicine.’

‘But Monsieur Lawrence studied medicine, didn’t he?’

‘Yes, he did,’ I said, with surprise. ‘That’s strange.’

Poirot nodded. ‘His behaviour has been strange from the start. He is the only person in the house who might recognize strychnine poisoning, but he still says that his mother had a heart attack. And today he suggests that his mother’s medicine might have caused her death – even though he knows that is ridiculous.’

‘It is very strange,’ I agreed.

‘And Mrs Cavendish,’ continued Poirot. ‘She certainly overheard more of the argument that afternoon, and yet she says nothing. Is she protecting Alfred Inglethorp?’

‘It seems very unlikely,’ I said.

‘But at least,’ he went on, ‘she agreed with Dorcas about the time of the argument – it was definitely about four o’clock.’ Poirot had been sure that the argument had been at four- thirty, not four o’clock. But Dorcas was sure that it was four o’clock – an hour before Mrs Inglethorp had asked for tea – and now Mary had agreed with her. I looked at him curiously. I didn’t understand why this was so important.

‘We learned other strange things at the inquest,’ he continued. ‘We learned that Mademoiselle Cynthia did not hear the table fall over in the room next door, but Mary Cavendish, on the other side of the house, did hear it.’

‘Cynthia must sleep very deeply,’ I suggested.

‘It was strange, too,’ continued Poirot, ‘that Dr Bauerstein was passing Styles so early in the morning. The coroner should have asked him what he was doing.’

‘He has trouble sleeping, I think,’ I said doubtfully.

‘That does not explain it,’ said Poirot. ‘I will keep my eye on the clever Dr Bauerstein. When people do not tell the truth, I ask myself why.’

‘Well, at least both John Cavendish and Miss Howard told the truth,’ I said.

‘One, perhaps – but not both,’ Poirot replied.

I was shocked. ‘But surely Miss Howard is always honest?’ I said. Poirot gave me a look that I didn’t understand. He was about to speak, but just then we were interrupted by a knock at the door. It was Inspector Japp.

I think everyone at Styles was shocked when Inspector Japp arrived, although after the verdict of ‘Murder’ we knew that the police would investigate. I thought that now everything was real, and not just a bad dream. A person had been murdered in this house. Tomorrow the newspapers would say:

MYSTERIOUS TRAGEDY – WEALTHY LADY POISONED

There would be photos of all the family. Things that we usually only read in newspapers were now happening to us.

We all went into the drawing-room, and to our surprise it was Poirot, not Inspector Japp, who began to speak. ‘Mesdames et messieurs’ said Poirot, ‘we are all here because the shadow of murder is over this house. Mr Inglethorp, you are suspected of poisoning your wife.’ We were all shocked when we heard Poirot speak so openly!

‘What a horrible idea!’ cried Inglethorp, jumping up. ‘I would never poison my dearest Emily!’

‘Do you still refuse to say where you were at six o’clock on Monday evening?’ asked Poirot. ‘Speak!’

Slowly, Inglethorp shook his head. ‘You will not speak?’ asked Poirot again.

‘No, I will not,’ said Inglethorp. ‘No one could really think that I poisoned my dear wife.’

‘Then I will speak for you,’ said Poirot. ‘The man who bought strychnine in the village pharmacy on Monday the 16th was not Mr Inglethorp. At six o’clock that evening Mr Inglethorp was walking with Mrs Raikes near Abbey Farm. Five people saw them together. Since Abbey Farm is three miles from the pharmacy, Mr Inglethorp has a perfect alibi!’

 

 

Chapter 8: Fresh Suspicions

There was a shocked silence. Japp was the first to speak. ‘Are these witnesses telling the truth, Mr Poirot?’

‘You must talk to them, of course,’ replied Poirot. ‘Here are their names and addresses. But yes, they are telling the truth.’

‘I’m very grateful to you, Mr Poirot,’ Japp said. He turned to Inglethorp. ‘But why didn’t you tell us this at the inquest, sir?’

‘There was a horrible rumour, quite untrue,’ said Alfred Inglethorp in a trembling voice. ‘I didn’t want any scandal.’

‘But if it wasn’t for Mr Poirot, you would have been arrested for murder!’ said Japp.

‘I was stupid,’ admitted Inglethorp. ‘But Inspector, you don’t know what other horrible things people have been saying about me.’ He looked angrily at Evelyn Howard.

‘Now, sir,’ said Japp, turning to John. ‘I’d like to see Mrs Inglethorp’s bedroom, please, and then talk to the servants. Don’t worry, Mr Poirot will show me the way.’ As we left the room, Poirot pulled me to one side. ‘Quick, Hastings, go upstairs to the other side of the house and stand by the door. Don’t move until I come.’ Then, turning quickly, he followed Inspector Japp.

As I stood by the door, I wondered why. Every room except Cynthia’s was on this side of the house. Was I to report who came or went? I waited for twenty minutes. Nobody came and nothing happened. When Poirot returned I told him I hadn’t moved.

‘You didn’t see anything? Or hear anything? A loud noise, perhaps?’

‘No,’ I said.

‘I’m not usually clumsy, but by accident I knocked over the table by the bed!’ He looked upset with himself. ‘Don’t worry,’

I said, as I looked out of the window. ‘Oh! Dr Bauerstein’s here. I know you think he’s clever, Poirot, but I still don’t like him. It was funny to see him so muddy on Tuesday.’ I told him about the doctor falling in the river.

‘Was Dr Bauerstein here on Tuesday evening?’ asked Poirot, very excited. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’

‘I didn’t think it was important,’ I admitted.

‘Not important? But Hastings, this changes everything – everything!’

I had never seen him so excited. ‘Come, we must go to Tadminster immediately!’ he exclaimed. ‘Ask John Cavendish if we can use his car.’ Ten minutes later we were driving along the road to Tadminster. ‘Now, Poirot,’ I said, ‘please tell me what this is about!’

‘Well, mon ami, now we know that Mr Inglethorp did not buy the poison, we must discover who did. Only you and Mary Cavendish, who were playing tennis, could not have bought the poison on Monday evening. Also, Mr Inglethorp said that he left the coffee in the hall. We must find out who gave Mrs Inglethorp her coffee, or who was near it. You say only Mary Cavendish and Mademoiselle Cynthia did not go near the coffee.’

‘Yes, that’s right.’ I was relieved that Mary Cavendish could not be suspected.

‘Now that Alfred Inglethorp has an alibi,’ continued Poirot, ‘the murderer will be even more careful. Is there anyone you suspect, Hastings?’

I hesitated – I did have a wild idea. ‘It sounds stupid,’ I said, ‘but I don’t think Miss Howard has told us everything. I know she was fifteen miles away, but in a car she could be here in half an hour.’

‘But I have checked,’ Poirot told me, ‘that Miss Howard was working in the hospital all afternoon and evening.’

‘Oh!’ I said. ‘But she is so sure that Inglethorp is guilty. I think she would do anything to prove it. She might have burned the new will, thinking that it was in his favour. She hates Inglethorp so much – it seems unnatural. Perhaps she tried to poison him, and Mrs Inglethorp was poisoned by mistake – though I don’t know how.’

‘You are right to suspect everybody until you can prove that they are innocent.’

‘But Miss Howard would never poison Mrs Inglethorp on purpose,’ I said. ‘She was devoted to her.’

‘That does not prove anything,’ said Poirot. ‘You can pretend to love someone. And you are right to say that Miss Howard’s hatred of Alfred Inglethorp is unnatural – though you are wrong about the reason. But I will not speak of my own thoughts.’ He paused. ‘But Mrs Inglethorp’s death does not benefit Miss Howard. The burned will was not in her favour. And there is no murder without a motive.’

I believed him, though I didn’t know why he was so sure. ‘So it wasn’t Miss Howard,’ I sighed. ‘I only thought of her because of what you said – that perhaps she wasn’t telling the truth at the inquest.’

Poirot looked at me strangely. Then for some reason he changed the subject. ‘Now, Hastings, there is something I want you to do. The next time you are alone with Lawrence Cavendish, say to him, “I have a message from Poirot. Find the extra coffee-cup, and you can stop worrying.'”

‘What does it mean?’ I asked him.

‘You know all the facts,’ said Poirot. ‘You can find out what it means.’

‘I’ll tell him – but it’s all very mysterious.’

We had now arrived at Tadminster, where Poirot visited the pharmacy for a few minutes. When he came out he told me that he had asked them to test the cocoa from Mrs Inglethorp’s bedroom.

‘But Dr Bauerstein has done that!’ I said with surprise. ‘And you yourself said that it didn’t contain strychnine.’

‘Yes, but I wanted it tested again.’ And he would not say anything else. I was puzzled, but because he had been right about Alfred Inglethorp’s alibi, I was sure that he had a good reason for his actions.

The funeral of Mrs Inglethorp took place the next day, and on Monday John told me that Mr Inglethorp was leaving Styles, and would be staying in the village. ‘It will make things easier, Hastings. We were wrong to suspect him, and we haven’t treated him well. But I still don’t like him. I don’t care that he has mother’s money, but I’m thankful that she couldn’t leave him Styles in her will – my father left the house to me after her death.’

‘Can you afford to stay here?’ I asked.

‘Oh, yes. Lawrence will live here too, and we both have our share of our father’s money. But it will be difficult.’

At breakfast that day we all felt more cheerful, except Lawrence, who for some reason seemed sad and nervous. The newspapers, of course, had pages about ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’. It seemed as if the whole country was talking about the murder. Reporters tried to enter the house, and people with cameras waited in the village. The police came and asked questions, but did not tell us anything. Did they have any idea who the murderer was, or was the case never going to be solved?

After breakfast, Dorcas came to speak to me. ‘I told Mr Poirot that no one in the house had a green dress,’ she said, ‘but I’ve remembered that there is a big wooden box in the attic, a chest where the dressing-up clothes are kept. I thought there might be a green dress in there.’

‘I’ll tell Mr Poirot, Dorcas – thank you,’ I promised.

Poirot and I went to look in the chest as soon as we could. It was a large piece of furniture, full of lots of different clothes. My friend didn’t seem to think we would find anything, but at the bottom of the chest we discovered a big black beard. ‘Aha!’ exclaimed Poirot. He looked closely at the beard in his hands. ‘It is new,’ he said, before putting it back in the chest, ‘and it has been cut to look like Mr Inglethorp’s beard.’

Once we were downstairs again, Poirot thanked Dorcas for telling us about the chest. Are the clothes inside used very often?’

‘Not very often now, sir,’ said Dorcas. ‘Sometimes the family dresses up and does some acting. Mr Lawrence is very funny, pretending to be a sort of Eastern king. And you wouldn’t recognise Miss Cynthia – all dressed up as a prince or a thief. They’re both very clever.’

‘And when he was an Eastern king,’ asked Poirot, ‘did Monsieur Lawrence wear that fine black beard in the chest upstairs?’

‘He did have a beard, sir,’ replied Dorcas, smiling. ‘It was made from my best black wool! If there’s a proper beard in that chest it must be new.’

‘So Dorcas doesn’t know about the beard,’ said Poirot thoughtfully, as we walked into the hall. ‘It was a clever place to hide it. So we too must be clever. For this I need the help of someone in the house – someone who no one knows is working with me.’

‘What about John?’ I suggested.

‘No, I don’t think so. Here is Miss Howard. I will ask her.’

‘What do you want?’ said Miss Howard, as we approached. I think she was still annoyed with Poirot for helping Alfred Inglethorp. ‘I’m busy.’

‘I would like to ask you a question, mademoiselle. Do you still think that Mrs Inglethorp was poisoned by her husband?’

‘I’ll admit that he didn’t buy the poison,’ replied Miss Howard, ‘but I still think he did it.’

‘So you still think he did it,’ said Poirot. ‘Hastings told me that the day he arrived, you said that if you were involved in a murder, you would know who the murderer was.’

‘Yes, I did say that,’ admitted Miss Howard.

‘But you don’t really believe that Mr Inglethorp is the murderer,’ said Poirot. ‘You only want it to be him. Really you think it is someone else.’

‘No, no!’ said Miss Howard wildly. ‘How did you guess? My idea is impossible – it must be Alfred Inglethorp!’ Poirot shook his head. ‘I am mad to think of such a thing!’ continued Miss Howard. ‘And I won’t tell you, or help you to -‘ She stopped.

‘I only want you to watch,’ said Poirot.

‘Yes, I am always watching – always hoping I am wrong.’

‘But if you are right, what will you do?’ asked Poirot.

‘I don’t know, I don’t know-‘

‘Miss Howard,’ said Poirot seriously, ‘this is not like you.’

‘Yes,’ said Miss Howard quietly, ‘you are right.’ She lifted her head proudly. ‘I believe in truth and justice, whatever happens.’ And with these words, she walked away.

Poirot watched her go. ‘That woman, Hastings, has a brain as well as a heart.’

‘You and Miss Howard seem to know what you are talking about,’ I said coldly, ‘but I don’t. Will you please tell me what’s going on?’

Poirot looked at me for a moment, and then shook his head. ‘No, I won’t tell you,’ he said. ‘You know what has happened – you know the facts. This is just an idea.’

I was so annoyed that I said nothing. But I decided that when I discovered something interesting and important, I would not tell Poirot.

Chapter 9: Dr Bauerstein

I walked across the garden, still annoyed with Poirot. But just then I saw Lawrence, looking for tennis balls, and he was alone. ‘I’ve got a message for you – from Poirot,’ I said to him. ‘”Find the extra coffee-cup, and you can stop worrying

‘What does he mean?’ Lawrence stared at me in surprise. ‘What extra coffee-cup?’

‘I don’t know,’ I answered. ‘I thought you would know.’

‘I don’t know anything about coffee-cups,’ said Lawrence. ‘He should ask Dorcas, the maid.’

‘So what shall I tell Poirot?’

‘Tell him I don’t know what he’s talking about,’ Lawrence replied. ‘I – I wish I did.’

Together we went inside for lunch. When the meal was over, Poirot began to question Mary Cavendish. He said he had a ‘little idea’.

‘Are you sure that the door leading from Mademoiselle Cynthia’s room was bolted?’ he asked her. ‘It was not just locked?’

‘I don’t know,’ replied Mary. ‘I said bolted because I couldn’t open it. So I suppose it could have just been locked.’

‘And when you entered Mrs Inglethorp’s room,’ Poirot continued, ‘did you look at Mademoiselle Cynthia’s door?’

‘I did,’ interrupted Lawrence suddenly. ‘It was bolted.’

‘Ah, so you are sure.’ Poirot looked disappointed. I was secretly pleased that one of his ‘little ideas’ was obviously wrong.

The two of us later walked through the park. I was still annoyed with him, but I told him that I had given Lawrence his message. ‘And what did he say?’ Poirot asked me.

‘He said he had no idea what you meant.’ To my surprise Poirot said he was glad. Then he asked me about Cynthia. ‘Where was she today? She did not have lunch.’

‘She’s gone back to work at the hospital pharmacy today,’ I told him.

‘Ah, she works hard! I would like to see her pharmacy.’

‘I am sure she would be happy to show it to you. It’s an interesting little place.’

‘Does she go there every day?’ he asked.

‘She doesn’t work on Wednesday or Saturday. Those are her only days off.’

‘I will remember,’ said Poirot. ‘She is doing important work. Do they have very strong poisons there?’

‘Yes, she showed them to us,’ I said. ‘They’re locked up in a little cupboard. She has to be very careful. If she leaves the room she takes the key to the cupboard with her.’

‘Is this cupboard near the window?’ inquired Poirot.

‘No, on the other side of the room. Why?’ I asked.

‘I just wondered, that is all. Will you come in?’ We had reached his house.

‘No. I think I’ll go for a walk,’ I answered, and said goodbye to him.

I walked through the woods, which were cool and pleasant. After a while I sat down, and soon I fell asleep. I was woken by the sound of loud voices. John and his wife were arguing – and they didn’t know l was there.

‘I won’t allow it!’ John Cavendish was shouting. ‘You’re always out with Bauerstein – everyone is talking about it!’

‘Oh,’ Mary angrily shrugged her shoulders, ‘so all you care about is the gossip!’

‘No. I don’t like the man.’

‘He’s clever,’ said Mary, in a voice of ice. ‘Not like an ordinary stupid Englishman.’

John’s face turned red. ‘So you won’t stop seeing Bauerstein?’

‘I will do what I choose. Aren’t you always out with your “friend”?’

John stepped back, and the colour left his face. ‘What do you mean?’ he said, his voice shaking.

‘I mean,’ said Mary quietly, ‘that you have no right to tell me what to do.’

John looked at her. ‘Mary’ – his voice was very quiet and gentle now- ‘are you in love with Bauerstein?’

Mary smiled strangely. ‘Perhaps,’ she said, as she walked away from him.

I made a lot of noise as I stood up, so John would hear me. ‘Oh! Hello, Hastings,’ he said, turning round as I approached. ‘Isn’t everything awful? Police in the house, headlines in the newspapers, and I’m followed everywhere by reporters.’

‘It can’t last forever,’ I said, hoping to make him feel better.

‘But that’s not the worst thing,’ said John. ‘Now Inglethorp has an alibi, there’s no one else. The murderer must be one of us – someone at Styles.’

Suddenly I had a new idea. Poirot’s mysterious actions, his hints – they all fitted together! Why hadn’t I thought of it before? ‘No, John,’ I said, ‘I don’t think it’s one of us. But it could be Dr Bauerstein.’

‘Impossible! Why?’

‘I don’t know,’ I admitted, ‘but Poirot thinks it’s him. He was very excited to hear that Dr Bauerstein was at Styles on the night of the murder. He said it changed everything. Perhaps Dr Bauerstein poisoned Mrs Inglethorp’s coffee?’

‘That would have been a big risk,’ said John. ‘And how would he know it was her coffee?’

I told him that Poirot had taken the cocoa to be tested. ‘But Bauerstein has done that already,’ said John.

‘Yes, but if Bauerstein’s the murderer, he could have had some ordinary cocoa tested instead.’

‘What about the bitter taste of the poison?’

‘That’s only what Bauerstein says. And he is an expert on poisons. Perhaps he’s found a way to make strychnine tasteless.’

‘But how did he poison the cocoa,’ asked John. ‘It was upstairs.’

‘Oh yes, it was,’ I admitted unwillingly.

Just then I had an awful idea. Had Mary Cavendish helped Dr Bauerstein? On the day I arrived she had talked about women and poison. Had Mary poisoned Mrs Inglethorp to stop her telling John something about her and Dr Bauerstein? And was this what Evelyn Howard was so afraid to believe? Yes, it all fitted together!

I made an effort to listen to John. He was saying, ‘But why did Bauerstein demand a medical examination? He didn’t need to. Dr Wilkins thought that mother had a heart attack.’

‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘Perhaps he thought it was safer, in case someone suspected poison later on.’

‘That’s possible,’ admitted John. ‘But I still don’t know why he would do it.’

I felt anxious, in case he thought of Mary. ‘I may be wrong,’ I said, ‘so please don’t tell anyone else.’

By now we had reached Styles, and John went inside. He appeared again a few minutes later, looking angry. ‘While we were out, the police searched every room in the house! I shall complain to Inspector Japp, when I next see him!’

‘Don’t worry,’ I said, as we walked to the garden, where tea was being served under the tree. Cynthia had returned from the hospital, and as I sat down I told her that Poirot would like to visit her at the pharmacy.

‘Of course, I’d love to see him,’ said Cynthia. ‘I’ll talk to him about it.’ Then she asked quietly if she could speak to me later. Of course I agreed, and after tea we walked into the woods together.

‘Well?’ I asked, when no one could see us. Cynthia sat down with a sigh, the sun shining on her beautiful red hair. ‘Can I ask your advice, Mr Hastings?’ she said. ‘You are always so kind. What shall I do? Aunt Emily said she would leave me some money, but she didn’t. Do you think I should leave Styles?’

‘I’m sure no one wants you to leave,’ I said.

‘But Mary hates me,’ said Cynthia. ‘And so does Lawrence.’

I was surprised. ‘I’m sure you’re wrong!’

‘John likes me, and so does Evie,’ continued Cynthia, ‘but Lawrence never speaks to me unless he has to. And Mary has begged Evie to stay, but not me. I don’t know what to do.’ Suddenly she started to cry.

I don’t know why I did it. Perhaps it was because she looked so beautiful and I felt sorry for her. I held her hand and said, ‘Cynthia, please will you marry me?’

To my surprise she sat up and laughed. ‘It’s kind of you, but you don’t really want to marry me – and I don’t want to marry you.’

‘Well, if you don’t want to marry me, I understand,’ I said sadly. ‘But you don’t have to laugh.’

‘You’re very sweet,’ said Cynthia, as she stood up. ‘And thank you for cheering me up.’ She laughed again as she walked away through the trees.

I was not very happy after this conversation, and I wanted something to do. I decided to go to the village to talk to Dr Bauerstein – perhaps I would learn something.

When I got there I knocked on the door of the doctor’s house, which was opened by an old woman. ‘Can I see Dr Bauerstein?’ I said pleasantly.

She stared at me. ‘But haven’t you heard? He’s been arrested.’ I didn’t wait to hear more. I ran quickly through the village to find Poirot.

 

 

Chapter 10: The Arrest

Poirot was not at home. At first I was annoyed, but my annoyance turned to surprise when I heard he had gone to London. Why hadn’t he told me? And what was he doing there?

I went back to Styles. I didn’t know what to do. Should I tell Mary Cavendish about Dr Bauerstein’s arrest? She would know tomorrow anyway – it would be in all the newspapers. I wanted Poirot’s advice, and again wondered why he had gone to London. It was clever of him to suspect Dr Bauerstein – I hadn’t thought of it.

I decided to tell John about the arrest, and ask him whether I should tell the others. ‘So you were right!’ he exclaimed. ‘I didn’t believe it at the time.’

‘Though when you think about it,’ I said, ‘it does make sense.’ We decided not to say anything, since the story would be in the newspapers the next day. But the next morning there was no mention of Dr Bauerstein’s arrest in the papers. I didn’t understand it. Had the police asked for the arrest to be kept secret? And if so, why?

Fortunately, before I left to visit Poirot he arrived at Styles. ‘Poirot!’ I exclaimed with relief. ‘I’m so glad to see you. So far I’ve told only John about Dr Bauerstein’s arrest. Is that right?’

‘Has Dr Bauerstein been arrested?’ Poirot asked calmly. ‘I am not surprised – we are very near the coast.’

I stared at him. ‘How is that connected to the murder of Mrs Ingle thorp?’

‘Dr Bauerstein has not been arrested for the murder of Mrs Inglethorp – he has been arrested for spying! He is German by birth, and I expect he has been passing information to the enemy.’ Poirot paused. ‘Didn’t you guess?’ he asked me. ‘Didn’t you think it was strange for a famous London doctor to live in a small village like this, and walk around so late at night?’

‘So Dr Bauerstein is a German spy?’ I said, amazed. ‘I had no idea!’

‘I’m sure he found Mary Cavendish very useful,’ remarked Poirot. ‘While people were gossiping about him and Mary, they didn’t notice what he was really doing.’

‘So you don’t think Dr Bauerstein was in love with her?’ I asked.

‘I do not know, but I don’t think she ever loved him. I believe she loves someone else.’

I was pleased by what Poirot said – was it possible that Mary loved me? Unfortunately, my pleasant thoughts were interrupted by Miss Howard. After looking around to make sure we were alone, she gave Poirot a piece of brown paper, obviously used to wrap a package. ‘It was on top of a wardrobe,’ she said, before quickly leaving the room.

Poirot opened the paper and put it on the table. ‘Come here, Hastings,’ he said. ‘What do you think that letter is -J or L?’ The package label was addressed to J – or L – Cavendish at Styles, and was from a well-known shop selling theatre costumes.

‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘It might be T, or L. I don’t think it’s J.’

‘I agree with you, said Poirot. ‘I think it is L.’

‘Is it important?’ I asked.

‘It means my theory is correct. I asked Miss Howard to find it, and she did – on top of a wardrobe. People often keep paper and boxes there – they lie flat and can’t be seen.’

‘So, Poirot,’ I asked. ‘Does this mean you have solved the crime?’

‘I think I know how it was done,’ he replied. ‘But I have no proof. Unless – I must talk to Dorcas!’

We went downstairs to find the old servant. ‘Mademoiselle Dorcas, I must ask you a question,’ Poirot said. ‘On Monday, the day before the tragedy, did anything go wrong with Mrs Inglethorp’s bell?’

Dorcas looked surprised. ‘Yes, sir, you’re right,’ she said. ‘The bell didn’t work on Monday, but it was repaired on Tuesday.’ For some reason Poirot seemed very pleased by this answer. As we went outside he even ran and jumped in excitement as he left me to return home.

As I watched him Mary Cavendish came towards me. ‘Why is Mr Poirot so excited?’ she asked me, smiling.

‘I don’t know,’ I replied. ‘He asked Dorcas about a bell and was very happy with her answer.’

Mary laughed. ‘How silly. He’s going out of the gate. Is he coming back today? ‘

‘I don’t know,’ I answered. ‘I can’t guess what he’s going to do next.’

Although she had laughed, I thought Mary looked sad. I began to talk to her about Cynthia, but she stopped me quickly. ‘Don’t worry, Mr Hastings. There is no need for Cynthia to leave Styles because of me.’ And with her next words I forgot about Cynthia.

‘Mr Hastings,’ Mary asked me, ‘do you think that John and I are happy together?’ I said that it wasn’t my business.

‘Well,’ she said quietly, ‘I will tell you. We are not happy.’

Mary looked up at me. ‘You are kind,’ she said. ‘I am going to tell you about myself. My father was English and my mother was Russian. She died when I was a child. My father’s job took him all over the world, and I went with him. It was a wonderful life – I loved it.’ She smiled as she remembered. ‘Then my father died. I had no money and went to live with some old aunts in Yorkshire. It was so dull, so boring – I almost went mad! Then I met John Cavendish, and married him just to escape.’

I said nothing.

‘I was honest with John,’ Mary continued. ‘I told him that I liked him, but I didn’t love him. He was satisfied, and we were married.’ She paused for a while, and frowned. ‘I think he did love me to start with, but he soon stopped. We have changed, and grown apart. Now I think it’s time for me to leave.’

‘Are you going to leave John – and Styles?’ I asked. ‘But why?’ She paused again. ‘Because this place is like a prison to me,’ she said. ‘Because I want to be free!’

At that moment I saw Mary, proud and wild, longing to escape. But before I could stop myself, I said, ‘Do you know that Dr Bauerstein has been arrested?’

‘John told me this morning,’ Mary said. ‘Apparently he is a German spy.’ Her face and voice were cold, as she suddenly stood up and walked out of the room. No, surely she didn’t love Bauerstein.

By lunch-time we had some new evidence. A letter from a music shop returned a cheque from Mrs Inglethorp. Now we knew to whom she had written her third letter.

I went to visit Poirot to tell him about the letter, but again I discovered that he was not at home. ‘He’s gone to Tadminster, to see a young lady’s pharmacy,’ I was told.

‘But I told him Cynthia didn’t work on Wednesday,’ I exclaimed. ‘Please ask him to visit me tomorrow.’

But Poirot didn’t come the next day. By then even Lawrence wanted to see him. ‘When you next see Mr Poirot,’ he said, looking nervous and excited, ‘tell him that I’ve found the extra coffee-cup!’

That was all Lawrence would tell me, so once again I visited Poirot’s house, and at last he was at home, looking thoughtful and serious. ‘What’s the matter?’ I asked, trying to make a joke. ‘Are you trying to decide whether or not to catch the murderer? To my surprise, Poirot nodded. ‘It is time to do something,’ he said, ‘but I must also think about a woman’s happiness. I must decide what to do.’

I told him about the third letter – he was disappointed but not surprised – and then I told him what Lawrence had said. ‘Ah!’ said Poirot. ‘So he has found the extra coffee-cup. That is good. Monsieur Lawrence is very clever!’

I’m not sure I agreed, so instead I asked why he had visited Cynthia’s pharmacy on a day she wasn’t there.

‘Yes, I forgot Mademoiselle Cynthia would not be there, but her colleague showed me the pharmacy. And because of this visit, mon ami, I would like you to look at three photographs – of fingerprints! Photo one shows Monsieur Lawrence’s fingerprints and photo two shows Mademoiselle Cynthia’s,’ he explained. ‘But what about those in photo three?’

‘The fingerprints in the third photo look the same as those in the first,’ I said, looking at them carefully.

‘You are right,’ said Poirot. ‘The fingerprints in photo three also belong to Monsieur Lawrence. Do you know where I found them?’

‘No,’ I said with excitement.

‘On a bottle of poison in Mademoiselle Cynthia’s pharmacy.’

‘That’s impossible!’ I said. ‘Lawrence didn’t go near the poison cupboard that day. We were all together the whole time.’ Poirot shook his head. ‘There was one moment when you were not all together,’ he said. ‘You told me that Mademoiselle

Cynthia called to Monsieur Lawrence to come and join you on the balcony.’

‘I’d forgotten that,’ I admitted. ‘And what was the poison?’

‘It was strychnine,’ he said quietly. I was not surprised.

‘But there is too much strychnine in this case,’ Poirot continued. ‘First there is the strychnine in Mrs Inglethorp’s medicine. Then there is the strychnine sold in the village pharmacy by Mr Mace. And now there is this bottle, touched by Monsieur Lawrence. It is confusing – and, as you know, I do not like confusion.’

Just then we were interrupted by the arrival of Mary Cavendish. ‘I thought I would walk back to Styles with you,’ she said to us. ‘With pleasure, madame,’ said Poirot, smiling. ‘And remember, I am always here if you need to talk to me.’ Mary did not answer.

The weather had now changed, and the wind was cold as we walked back to Styles. On the way Mary talked quickly, as if she was nervous of Poirot. When we entered the front door, we knew at once that something was wrong. Dorcas came running towards us, her face wet with tears. ‘Oh, madam! I don’t know how to tell you-‘

‘What is it, Dorcas?’ I asked. ‘What’s happened?’

‘The police!’ she said. ‘They’ve arrested Mr Cavendish! They’ve arrested Mr John!’

Chapter 11: The Case for the Prosecution

The trial of John Cavendish for the murder of his stepmother took place two months later. I won’t talk about what happened before then, except to say that Mary Cavendish totally supported her husband. Poirot himself said that Mary had forgotten her pride and jealousy and thought only of John.

‘Even now,’ I said, ‘I don’t really believe it. My old friend, John – a murderer! You should have told me.’ I remembered how I had told John that Poirot suspected Dr Bauerstein. The doctor, by the way, had been found not guilty, as there was no real proof he was a spy. He was now free.

‘Do you think that John will be found guilty?’ I asked Poirot. ‘No, my friend, I don’t think he will. I have no proof. I do not have the last piece of evidence – the last link in the chain!’

‘When did you first suspect John?’ I asked, after a pause.

‘Did you not suspect him?’ replied Poirot, ‘Even after you overheard Mrs Inglethorp and Mary Cavendish? Did you not realise that it was John who argued with Mrs Inglethorp that afternoon – not her husband? That is why Mary Cavendish did not say anything at the inquest.’

I finally understood! ‘The murderer is a clever man,’ said Poirot. ‘I must find the last link in the chain, or he will escape. There is one piece of evidence that will help John Cavendish,’ he continued. ‘He did not burn the will.’

Before the trial began, Poirot became more and more nervous. He could not find his ‘last link’. By then we were all living in London. Mary and the other people from Styles rented a house, and Poirot stayed with them. I was working at the War Office, and so could visit them often.

On the 15th of September the trial of John Cavendish began at the Old Bailey, London’s famous law court. He was charged with the murder of Emily Inglethorp, and said he was not guilty. The man defending him was Sir Ernest Heavywether, a famous lawyer. Mr Philips was the prosecutor – the lawyer trying to prove John was guilty. He started the trial.

‘This murder,’ said Mr Philips, ‘was planned in advance. John Cavendish poisoned his own stepmother, who had supported him all his life. She had been kind and generous, and let John and his wife live in comfort and luxury at Styles.

‘John Cavendish,’ went on Mr Philips, ‘was in debt and was having an affair with Mrs Raikes, a farmer’s wife. When Mrs Inglethorp discovered this, she and John Cavendish had a huge argument on the afternoon before she died. The day before, John Cavendish had bought the poison strychnine at the village pharmacy, dressed up as Mrs Inglethorp’s husband – trying to make Mr Inglethorp look guilty.

‘On Tuesday the 17th of July, after the argument with her son,’ continued Mr Philips. ‘Mrs Inglethorp made a new will. This will was burned, but it probably left everything to her husband. She had, in fact, already made a will in favour of her husband, but she probably thought that it was no longer legal because she had married again. It seems clear that John Cavendish burned this new will, thinking that he would then inherit everything when Mrs Inglethorp died.

‘When he searched the house, Detective-Inspector Japp found a bottle of strychnine in John Cavendish’s room. This is the same bottle of poison sold at the village pharmacy to the pretend Mr Inglethorp. All this evidence,’ concluded Mr Philips, ‘shows that John Cavendish is guilty of murder.’

The first witnesses for the prosecution were the same as those who spoke at the inquest, so I will not repeat their evidence.

John’s defence lawyer, Sir Ernest Heavywether, was famous all over England for frightening witnesses. He asked only two questions about the medical evidence. ‘Dr Bauerstein, does the poison strychnine work quickly?’

‘Yes,’ replied the doctor.

‘And you don’t know why it took so long to work in this case?’

‘No, I don’t,’ said Dr Bauerstein.

‘Thank you, that is all,’ said Sir Ernest.

Mr Mace admitted that he had never spoken to Mr Inglethorp, and Alfred Inglethorp himself said that he had certainly not bought the poison. Nor had he argued with his wife. Then Dorcas gave her evidence. After various other questions, Mr Philips asked her about a package that had been delivered for Lawrence Cavendish, in June.

‘Mr Lawrence was away from home in June,’ she said. ‘And Miss Howard takes care of all the packages.’ Evelyn Howard then told the court that she had found the brown paper from the package on top of John Cavendish’s wardrobe. Next an assistant from the theatre costume shop said that they had sent a black beard to Mr L Cavendish, at Styles. It had been ordered and paid for by letter, which was written on notepaper from Styles.

Sir Ernest Heavywether stood up to defend John Cavendish. ‘Did you notice the official post office mark on the letter ordering the beard?’ he asked.

‘No, I didn’t,’ said the assistant.

‘So in fact the letter might have been posted from anywhere? From Wales, for instance?’

The assistant admitted that this might be true, and Sir Ernest sat down, satisfied. That was the end of the first day of John’s trial.

‘Sir Ernest is very clever,’ said Poirot, as we went home. ‘He is trying to show that there is just as much evidence against Lawrence as against John, so the jury won’t know who is guilty.’

The next day Detective-Inspector Japp told the court about a new piece of evidence. A piece of paper had been found in Mrs Inglethorp’s cheque book, which read, ‘… when I die, I leave everything I possess to my beloved husband Alfred Ing…’ So the new will had definitely been in Mr Inglethorp’s favour. Japp also described how he had found the bottle of poison in John Cavendish’s room.

Then it was Sir Ernest’s turn to ask questions. ‘You searched the room of John Cavendish one week after the murder, and found the poison in a drawer. Was the drawer locked?’

‘No,’ replied Japp.

‘Isn’t it strange that a man keeps the evidence of his crime in an unlocked drawer?’

‘He might have put the poison there in a hurry,’ said Japp.

‘But it was a week after the murder. Wasn’t there plenty of time to destroy the poison?’

‘Yes,’ Japp had to agree.

‘The poison was found under heavy winter clothes. Is it likely that John Cavendish – during a hot week in summer – would open a drawer of winter clothes?’

‘Perhaps not,’ said Japp.

‘Please answer my question,’ said Sir Ernest. ‘Yes or no?’

‘No,’ replied Japp.

‘So it is possible that someone else put the poison in the drawer.’

‘Yes, it is possible,’ admitted Japp.

‘That is all,’ said Sir Ernest.

Other evidence showed that the signature of ‘Alfred Inglethorp’ in the pharmacy poison book was false, that John Cavendish was in debt, and that he was having an affair with Mrs Raikes. Evelyn Howard had been right about the affair – but had got the wrong man. Lawrence Cavendish then gave evidence. In June he had been staying in Wales, and denied ordering a black beard.

Sir Ernest began his attack. ‘Tell me, Mr Cavendish, if anything happened to your brother, who inherits Styles?’ John looked angry, as Lawrence’s face turned red.

‘Answer my question, please,’ said Sir Ernest.

‘I do,’ said Lawrence quietly.

‘Yes, you do,’ said Sir Ernest. And you would inherit a lot of money too, wouldn’t you?’

‘Really, Sir Ernest,’ said the judge, ‘these questions have nothing to do with the case.’

Sir Ernest changed the subject. ‘On Tuesday the 17th of July, you visited the pharmacy at Tadminster hospital. While you were there, did you unlock the poison cupboard and examine the bottles?’

‘I – I – may have done so,’ said Lawrence nervously.

‘Did you or didn’t you? Yes or no?’

‘Yes.’

‘Did you examine one bottle in particular? A bottle of strychnine?’ asked Sir Ernest.

Lawrence’s face looked pale and ill. ‘N – o – I am sure I didn’t,’ he said.

‘So why are your fingerprints on the bottle?’ inquired Sir Ernest.

‘I – I suppose I must have picked up the bottle.’

‘Did you remove any of the poison?’

‘Certainly not,’ said Lawrence.

‘Then why did you pick it up?’ continued Sir Ernest.

‘I once studied to be a doctor, so I’m interested in such things.’

‘Ah! So you are “interested” in poisons, are you? During the whole afternoon you were alone for only two minutes, but in those two minutes you suddenly displayed your “interest” in strychnine?’

Lawrence said nervously, ‘I – I With a satisfied smile, Sir Ernest said, ‘I have nothing more to ask you, Mr Cavendish.’ Everyone in the court was very excited by this, and the judge had to call for silence.

Now Sir Ernest spoke in John’s defence. He used all his experience and skill to make a good impression. ‘There is no real evidence against John Cavendish,’ Sir Ernest began. ‘The poison was found in an unlocked drawer. There is no proof that he ordered the black beard. It is true that John Cavendish argued with his mother, but he was told that Mrs Inglethorp had argued with her husband. So he thought there were two separate arguments – not that his voice had been mistaken for Mr Inglethorp’s voice.

‘John Cavendish did not,’ continued Sir Ernest, ‘buy poison from the village pharmacy. At that time he was waiting to meet someone in the woods. He had received a note with no name on it, which threatened to tell his wife Mary about his affair with Mrs Raikes. John waited in the woods but no one arrived.

‘And John Cavendish did not burn the will. He had trained as a lawyer, so John knew that Mrs Inglethorp’s previous will in his favour was no longer legal because of his mother’s marriage.

So John did not need to burn the will Mrs Inglethorp made on the afternoon of her death.

‘Finally,’ said Sir Ernest, ‘there is evidence against other people as well as John Cavendish – particularly against his brother, Lawrence.’

It was now time for John to give evidence. He told his story well. He showed the jury the note with no name on it, and talked openly about his argument with Mrs Inglethorp. ‘Finally,’ John said, ‘Sir Ernest is wrong to accuse my brother. Like me, Lawrence had nothing to do with our mother’s death.’ This made a good impression on the jury.

Mr Philips, the prosecutor, asked John about the note. ‘Does the handwriting look familiar?’

‘No, I don’t think so,’ replied John.

‘I think it looks like your own handwriting,’ said Mr Philips. ‘I think you wrote the note yourself to make sure you had an alibi. I think that really you were buying poison at the village pharmacy.’

‘That is not true,’ said John.

That was the end of the trial for the day. Poirot was frowning and looking unhappy. ‘Things are going badly,’ he said. I couldn’t help feeling glad. Perhaps the jury would decide that John was not guilty!

Back at the house, I followed Poirot up to his room. Still frowning, he picked up a pack of playing cards. Then, to my surprise, he began to carefully balance the cards on top of each other, building up a tall tower. ‘I am trying to relax,’ he explained. ‘I need to use my brain – I need to think.’

‘What’s the matter?’ I asked.

Poirot’s hand hit the table, knocking down the cards. ‘It is this, mon ami!’ he exclaimed. ‘I cannot find the last link in my chain – the last piece of evidence!’

I didn’t know what to say, so I kept quiet, watching him again place one card on top of the other. His hands never hesitated or stopped. ‘How still and steady your hands are,’ I remarked. ‘I think I’ve only seen your hands shake once.’

‘When I was angry?’ asked Poirot.

‘Yes, that’s right. Do you remember? It was when you discovered that the lock on Mrs Inglethorp’s despatch-case had been broken. You stood by the mantelpiece and straightened the ornaments and vases, though your hands were shaking-‘ I stopped suddenly. Poirot had jumped to his feet.

‘I have an idea!’ he gasped. ‘A huge idea – the last link! And all thanks to you, Hastings!’ To my surprise he kissed me on both cheeks, and ran quickly from the room.

Mary Cavendish entered at that moment, looking surprised. ‘Monsieur Poirot has just rushed outside, looking for a car. What’s the matter?’ I looked out of the window, and saw Poirot running down the street. ‘He suddenly had an idea,’ I told Mary, ‘and then rushed out.’

‘Well,’ said Mary, ‘I expect he’ll be back for dinner.’

But night came, and Poirot did not return.

 

 

Chapter 12: The Last Link

We were all curious about Poirot’s sudden departure. It was not until Sunday afternoon that he came back, with Inspector Japp. Instead of looking worried and nervous, Poirot now looked calm and confident. He asked Mary to gather everyone together in the main room of the house. ‘Madame Mary is here,’ he said as we entered the room, ‘and Miss Howard, Mademoiselle Cynthia, Monsieur Lawrence and Dorcas.’ He paused. ‘And we must wait for Mr Inglethorp to arrive. I have sent him a note.’

Miss Howard stood up immediately. ‘If that man comes into the house, I shall leave it!’ she said. It took Poirot a while to make sure that Miss Howard stayed, and a few minutes later Alfred Inglethorp arrived.

Once everyone had sat down, Poirot began to speak. ‘Messieurs, mesdames, as you all know, Monsieur John Cavendish asked me to investigate this case. When I first searched Mrs Inglethorp’s room I found three important things. One, a small piece of dark green fabric; two, a stain on the carpet near the window, still damp; three, an empty box of bromide powders.

‘I found the green fabric in the bolt of the door to Mademoiselle Cynthia’s room. No one in the house had a green dress, so it was not until later that I realized it was from a green armband – part of a land army uniform.’

There was some excited movement in the room.

‘Only Mary Cavendish worked on the land,’ Poirot continued. ‘The piece of fabric matches a hole in her green armband. So it was Mary Cavendish who entered Mrs Inglethorp’s room through Mademoiselle Cynthia’s door.’

‘But that door was bolted on the inside!’ I said.

‘When I examined the room, yes. But it was not bolted when Mrs Inglethorp died. Remember that it was Mary Cavendish who said that it was bolted. Really she bolted it later on, during the confusion. Mary Cavendish also said she heard, from her own room, the fall of the table by the bed. To test this, I asked my friend Hastings to wait by Mrs Cavendish’s room, and he did not hear anything when I knocked over the table myself. So Mrs Cavendish was not in her own room when Mrs Inglethorp became ill. She was in fact in Mrs Inglethorp’s room.’

I looked quickly at Mary. She was very pale, but smiling.

‘So, Mary Cavendish is in Mrs Inglethorp’s room,’ went on Poirot, ‘looking for something. Suddenly Mrs Inglethorp wakes up and starts to shake violently. Her arm overturns the bedside table and then she rings her bell to call the servants. Surprised, Mary Cavendish drops her candle, leaving candlewax on the carpet. She picks the candle up, and goes quickly to Mademoiselle Cynthia’s room, closing the door behind her. She runs out to the corridor, but she cannot go back to her own room without being seen. So she hurries back to Mademoiselle Cynthia’s room, and starts shaking her awake. Everyone is now knocking at Mrs Inglethorp’s door, and no one notices that Mrs Cavendish is not there.’

Poirot looked at Mary Cavendish. ‘Am I right, madame?’ Mary nodded. ‘You are right, monsieur. Please believe me that I would have told you everything if it would have helped John and his defence.’

‘Once I knew all this,’ said Poirot, ‘I could look at the other facts clearly, and finally see their true meaning.’

‘The will!’ said Lawrence. ‘Mary, did you burn the will?’

‘No I did not,’ replied Mary, and Poirot shook his head. ‘No,’ he said quietly. ‘There is only one person who could have burned that will – Mrs Inglethorp herself!’

‘Impossible!’ I exclaimed. ‘She only wrote it that afternoon!’

‘It was Mrs Inglethorp,’ said Poirot again. ‘That is why, on a very hot day, she asked for a fire to be lit in her room.’

I gasped – I had never thought about the fire!

‘It was a very hot day,’ continued Poirot, ‘and yet Mrs Inglethorp asks for a fire. Remember, to save money because of the war, all waste paper was kept. So to destroy the will – written on thick paper – Mrs Inglethorp could only think to burn it.

‘Now at first I thought that Mrs Inglethorp burned the will because of the argument. This would mean that the argument took place after, not before, she made the will. But I was wrong.

‘I thought carefully about what had happened. At four o’clock, Dorcas overheard Mrs Inglethorp say angrily, “I have made my decision. No fear of scandal between husband and wife will stop me”. She was talking, not to her husband, but to John Cavendish. At five o’clock, an hour later, she uses almost the same words, but this time with a different meaning. She says to Dorcas, “I don’t know what to do. Scandal between husband and wife is a terrible thing. I’d keep it secret if I could”. At four o’clock she was angry, but in control. But at five o’clock she is very upset, and says she has had “a great shock”. From this information I realized that the second “scandal” she spoke of was not the same as the first.

‘This is what happened. At four o’clock, Mrs Inglethorp argues with John, and threatens to tell his wife about Mrs Raikes. Mary Cavendish overhears most of this argument. At four-thirty, Mrs Inglethorp makes a new will – witnessed by the gardeners – leaving everything to her husband, just to make sure her old will is no longer legal. At five o’clock, Dorcas sees

Mrs Inglethorp – who is very upset – with a piece of paper in her hand. Mrs Inglethorp asks Dorcas to light a fire. So between four-thirty and five o’clock, something has happened. Mrs Inglethorp now wants to burn the will she has only just written.

‘As far as we know, she was alone during that half-hour. Nobody entered or left the study. Why did she change her mind?

‘This is a guess, but I think I am right,’ said Poirot. ‘Mrs Inglethorp had no stamps in her desk. We know this, because later she asked Dorcas to bring her some. I think that she wanted stamps for her three letters, so she decided to look in her husband’s desk, which was locked. One of her keys fitted the lock – I tried it myself – and she opened the desk. But instead of stamps Mrs Inglethorp found a letter – the piece of paper that Dorcas saw in her hand.

‘Mary Cavendish thought that this letter was written proof of her husband John’s affair with Mrs Raikes. She demanded to see the letter, but Mrs Inglethorp told her – truthfully – that it was nothing to do with it. Mary Cavendish did not believe her. She thought that Mrs Inglethorp was protecting John.

‘Mad with jealousy, and determined to know if her husband was having an affair, Mary decided she had to see that letter. By chance, she found the key to the despatch-case – where Mrs Inglethorp kept her important papers – which was lost that morning.

‘Early in the evening Mary unbolted the door leading into Mademoiselle Cynthia’s room. Then early in the morning, just before she went to work, she dressed in her land uniform, and went quietly through Mademoiselle Cynthia’s room into Mrs Inglethorp’s room.’

He paused a moment, and Cynthia interrupted, ‘But surely I would have woken up if Mary was in my room?’

‘No, mademoiselle,’ said Poirot, ‘not if you had been given a sleeping powder.’

‘You remember,’ – he again spoke to us all – ‘Mademoiselle Cynthia did not wake up despite all the noise in the next room. I did not think that she was pretending, so I examined all the coffee-cups carefully. Mary Cavendish had brought Mademoiselle Cynthia her coffee the night before. I had the coffee from each cup tested – and found nothing. There were six people and six cups – so I must have been wrong.

‘Then I discovered that Dr Bauerstein had also been there that evening. Seven people, not six, had drunk coffee, so there was one cup missing.

‘I was sure that the missing cup was that of Mademoiselle Cynthia. The tests showed that all the cups had contained sugar, and Mademoiselle Cynthia never had sugar in her coffee. Dorcas had also told me about the ‘salt’ on the tray with the cocoa outside Mrs Inglethorp’s room. So I took some of the cocoa to be tested.’

‘But Dr Bauerstein had done that already,’ said Lawrence quickly.

‘Dr Bauerstein had the cocoa tested for strychnine,’ said Poirot. ‘I had it tested for sleeping powder. The results showed that it did indeed contain sleeping powder.

‘So Mary Cavendish gave both Mrs Inglethorp and Mademoiselle Cynthia a harmless sleeping powder. Mary was shocked when Mrs Inglethorp suddenly became ill and died – especially when she heard the word “poison”. She thought she had killed Mrs Inglethorp! She quickly hid Mademoiselle Cynthia’s coffee-cup in a large vase, where it was discovered later by Monsieur Lawrence. She dared not touch the cocoa. She must have been so relieved when strychnine was mentioned, and when she knew that Mrs Inglethorp’s death was not her fault.’

Mary looked at Poirot. ‘All you have said is true, monsieur,’ she said. ‘It was the worst hour of my life. I shall never forget it.’

‘This is why the strychnine did not work straight away,’ explained Poirot. ‘If you take a sleeping powder with strychnine the poison does not work for some hours.’

‘I understand now,’ said Lawrence. ‘Mother drank the cocoa with sleeping powder in it after the poisoned coffee. That explains why the poison took so long to work.’

‘Yes,’ said Poirot. ‘But there is a problem. Mrs Inglethorp did not drink her coffee.’

‘What?’ Everyone was very surprised.

‘No. Remember the stain on the carpet in Mrs Inglethorp’s room? It was still damp, and smelled of coffee. Mrs Inglethorp put her coffee on the round table near the window, which overturned so that the cup fell on the floor – where it broke. The same thing happened to me when I put my briefcase on the table.

‘This is what I think happened. Mrs Inglethorp picked up the broken cup and placed it on the table by the bed. Instead of coffee, she heated and drank her cocoa. But now there is a new problem. We know the cocoa did not contain strychnine. The coffee was never drunk. Yet Mrs Inglethorp must have been poisoned between seven and nine o’clock that evening. How was it done?

‘What else did Mrs Inglethorp drink that would hide the bitter taste of strychnine?’ Poirot looked around the room. ‘Her medicine!’

‘Do you mean that the murderer poisoned Mrs Inglethorp’s medicine?’ I asked excitedly.

‘He did not need to poison it,’ said Poirot. ‘It was already there – in the medicine.’

‘I don’t understand!’ I exclaimed, very confused.

‘I will explain,’ said Poirot. ‘If you add a bromide powder to a medicine containing strychnine, it makes all the strychnine sink to the bottom of the bottle. When you took the final dose you would drink all the strychnine at once!

‘Remember that there was an empty box of bromide powders in the room. Someone added a bromide powder to the bottle of medicine, so – as I have said – all the strychnine sank to the bottom. The person who poured out Mrs Inglethorp’s medicine was very careful not to shake the bottle, so all the poison stayed at the bottom.

‘It appears that the murder was planned for Monday evening, since Mrs Inglethorp’s bell was broken, and Mademoiselle Cynthia was staying with friends. On Monday Mrs Inglethorp would have been alone in her side of the house, and would probably have died before a doctor arrived.

‘But because she was in a hurry to be on time for the village concert, Mrs Inglethorp forgot to take her medicine on Monday. On Tuesday she went out for lunch. So Mrs Inglethorp drank the last – and fatal – dose of her medicine twenty-four hours later than the murderer thought she would. Because of that delay I now have the final proof – the last link of the chain!’

We could hardly breathe for excitement, as Poirot showed us three thin pieces of paper. ‘This is the letter Mrs Inglethorp found – a letter in the murderer’s own handwriting!’

In the deathly silence, Poirot put together the three pieces of paper. ‘Dearest Evelyn,’ he read. ‘Don’t be anxious because you have heard nothing from me. It is all right – but it will be tonight instead of last night. We’ll be rich when the old woman is dead and out of the way. No one can possibly prove it was me. Your idea about the bromide powder was very clever! But we must be very careful –

‘Here, my friends, the letter stops. Perhaps the writer was interrupted. But we all know his handwriting, and we all know who he is!’

A loud scream broke the silence. ‘You devil! How did you get that letter?’ A chair was overturned as a man ran towards Poirot, who moved so quickly that his attacker fell to the floor.

‘Messieurs, mesdames,’ said Poirot proudly, ‘let me introduce you to the murderer – Mr Alfred Inglethorp!’

Chapter 13: Poirot Explains

‘Poirot,’ I said, ‘I could kill you! Why did you deceive me?’ We were sitting in the library, a few days later. John and Mary were together in the next room, and Alfred Inglethorp and Miss Howard had been arrested. Now, at last, I was alone with Poirot, and could ask him all my questions.

‘I did not deceive you, mon ami,’ he said, ‘though perhaps I let you deceive yourself.’

‘Yes, but why?’

‘Because you, my dear Hastings, are so honest! If I had told you that I suspected Alfred Inglethorp you would not have been able to hide your feelings – and he would have known I suspected him!’

‘But why didn’t you give me a hint?’ I complained.

‘I did,’ said Poirot. ‘I said – several times – that I didn’t want Mr Inglethorp arrested now.’

‘So you suspected him from the start?’ I asked.

‘Yes,’ replied Poirot. ‘When Mrs Inglethorp died, he gained more than anyone else. But at first there was so much evidence against Mr Inglethorp that I thought he must be innocent!’

‘When did you change your mind?’

‘When Alfred Inglethorp tried so hard to get himself arrested! Then I discovered that he was not involved with Mrs Raikes, so I was quite sure.’

‘But why?’ I asked.

‘If Inglethorp was involved with Mrs Raikes,’ explained Poirot, ‘he would have a good reason to be silent. There would be a scandal. But since he was not, why didn’t he say something? I decided that Alfred Inglethorp wanted to be arrested – and I was determined that he should not be arrested.’

‘I still don’t understand why he wanted to be arrested.’

‘Because, mon ami, under English law if a court decides that a man is not guilty, he cannot be arrested again for the same crime. His idea was clever! He knew that he would be suspected, so he prepared false evidence against himself. He wanted to be suspected. He wanted to be arrested. He would then produce his perfect alibi – and he would be safe for life!’

‘But how, with his alibi, did he go to the village pharmacy?’ I asked.

Poirot stared at me in surprise. ‘I thought you understood!’ he said. ‘It was Miss Howard who went to the pharmacy. She is tall, with a deep voice, and remember that she and Inglethorp are cousins – they look a little alike.’

‘Ah! I see,’ I said, as I thought about it. ‘But I’m still confused about the bromide powder.’

‘Bon! I will explain,’ said Poirot. ‘I think it was Miss Howard’s idea – she did once say that her father was a doctor. She knew that it would be fatal to add bromide to a medicine containing strychnine. Mrs Inglethorp had a box of bromide powders. It was easy for Miss Howard to add one bromide powder to the bottle of medicine. Mrs Inglethorp would not die for a few weeks. By then Miss Howard would have pretended to argue with her and left the house. No one would suspect Miss Howard. Yes, it was very clever. But they tried to be too clever – they tried to blame John Cavendish.

‘On Monday,’ he continued, ‘Mrs Inglethorp should have taken her last – fatal – dose of medicine. So on Monday, at six o’clock, Alfred Inglethorp prepares his perfect alibi. Miss Howard has previously invented a story about him and Mrs Raikes to explain his silence later. At six o’clock, Miss Howard, dressed as Alfred Inglethorp, buys the strychnine, and signs the poison book, copying John’s handwriting. To make sure that John does not have an alibi, she sends him a note – again copying his handwriting. It all goes well. Miss Howard goes back home with the poison, and Alfred Inglethorp returns to Styles.

‘But Mrs Inglethorp does not drink her medicine that night. Because of this Inglethorp makes his mistake.

‘He starts to write to Miss Howard, in case she is worried that their plan has failed. Mrs Inglethorp returns home early from lunch to write some letters. He hides his own letter quickly, in case she sees it. He locks his desk, with the letter inside, and leaves the room in case his wife makes him open his desk. He never thinks that Mrs Inglethorp will open his desk with another key – but she does, and finds his letter.

‘Mrs Inglethorp reads it, and learns that she is in danger – though she doesn’t understand what her husband is planning to do. She decides to say nothing, but immediately writes to her lawyer, Mr Wells, and burns the will she has just made in her husband’s favour. She keeps the fatal letter.’

‘So Inglethorp broke the lock of the despatch-case to find the letter?’ I said.

‘Yes,’ said Poirot. ‘The letter was the only evidence connecting him to the crime. He took a great risk to steal it.’

‘But why didn’t he destroy the letter at once?’ I asked.

‘Because that would have been an even greater risk,’ said Poirot. ‘He has only five minutes to take the letter – just before we arrive. He uses one of the other door keys to unlock the door – they were all very similar – but finds that the despatch- case is locked, and he can’t find the keys. But he has to have the letter, so he breaks the lock.

‘But he does not dare to take the letter with him. He may be seen – he may be searched. He hears Mr Wells and John leaving the study downstairs. He must quickly hide the letter – but where? The contents of the waste-paper basket are kept and, in any case, are sure to be examined. There is no fire. So what do you think he does?’

‘I have no idea’ I said.

‘He tears the letter into long thin pieces, so they look like the pieces of paper used to light the fire. Then he adds them to the other paper firelighters in the vases on the mantelpiece. No one thought to look at them,’ Poirot continued. ‘Later he can return and destroy the only piece of evidence against him.’

‘Then the letter was in the vases of paper firelighters the whole time?’ I exclaimed.

Poirot nodded. ‘Yes, my friend. That is where I discovered my ‘last link’ – thanks to you!’

‘To me?’ I said in surprise.

‘Yes,’ said Poirot. ‘You told me that my hand shook as I was straightening the ornaments and vases on the mantelpiece. Then I remembered that I had straightened all the objects on the mantelpiece earlier that morning. I wouldn’t have needed to straighten them again, unless someone else had touched them.’

‘So you rushed back to Styles and found the letter still there,’ I said. ‘But why did Inglethorp leave it there? He had plenty of time to destroy it.’

‘Ah, but he did not get the chance. He was already suspected, and when I loudly told everyone in the house that an important paper was missing, he was watched all the time. He did not dare try to destroy the letter, and had to leave Styles, leaving the letter behind.’

‘But why didn’t Miss Howard destroy the letter?’ I asked. ‘She could have done.’

‘Yes, but Miss Howard did not know the letter existed. She never spoke to Alfred Inglethorp. They were pretending to be terrible enemies, and until John Cavendish was found guilty it was too dangerous for them to meet. Of course, I had people watching Inglethorp, but he was too clever to show us the letter’s hiding place. He thought the letter was safe where it was, and it is only thanks to your lucky remark that we have caught him.’

‘I understand that now,’ I said. ‘But when did you first suspect Miss Howard?’

‘When I discovered that she had lied at the inquest about the letter she had received from Mrs Inglethorp. Do you remember the letter?’

‘Yes – more or less.’

‘When Mrs Inglethorp wrote a letter she always left large clear spaces between her words. But if you look at the date at the top of the letter you will notice that ‘July 17th’ is different. The ‘1’ was added before the ‘7’ so it said the ’17th’. So the letter was not written on the 17th, but on the 7th – the day after Miss Howard left Styles.’

‘But why?’ I asked, much puzzled.

‘Because she did not wish to show us the letter written on the 17th. Why not? Perhaps Mrs Inglethorp mentioned her suspicions about her husband – we do not know. But because Miss Howard was not telling the truth, I began to suspect her.’

‘But you told me two reasons why Miss Howard could not have committed the crime!’ I said.

‘And very good reasons too,’ replied Poirot. ‘I did not understand for a long time. Then I remembered that Miss Howard and Alfred Inglethorp were second cousins. She could not have committed the crime on her own, but she could have helped her cousin. She pretended to hate Inglethorp – but her hatred was too strong to be real. They must have been lovers long before Inglethorp arrived at Styles. They planned that he would marry this rich, old lady, make sure that she left him her money, and then poison her.

‘Everyone suspects Inglethorp, but no one suspects Miss Howard. When she returns to Styles she hides the strychnine in John’s room, and puts the beard in the attic. She makes sure that they are discovered.’

‘But why did they try to blame John?’ I asked. ‘I think there was more evidence against Lawrence.’

‘All the evidence against Monsieur Lawrence was pure chance,’ said Poirot.

‘Lawrence did act strangely at times,’ I said thoughtfully.

‘Yes, indeed,’ agreed Poirot. ‘But that was because he thought Mademoiselle Cynthia was guilty.’

‘No,’ I exclaimed, surprised. ‘Impossible!’

‘Not at all. It was possible. Perhaps Mrs Inglethorp had made a will in Cynthia’s favour. Cynthia prepared the bromide powders, and Dorcas told us that she was a very good actress – she could have dressed up and bought the poison.’

‘You are joking, Poirot!’ I said.

‘No, I am serious,’ he said. ‘Monsieur Lawrence turned so pale when he first entered his mother’s room that night, because he saw that the door into Mademoiselle Cynthia’s room was not bolted.’

‘But he told us it was!’ I said.

‘Exactly,’ said Poirot dryly. ‘So I knew it was not bolted. Monsieur Lawrence was protecting Mademoiselle Cynthia – because he is in love with her.’

I laughed. ‘You’re wrong about that, Poirot. Cynthia herself told me that Lawrence doesn’t like her.’

‘It is obvious that he loves her,’ argued Poirot. ‘He became upset every time Mademoiselle Cynthia spoke and laughed with his brother. He thought that she loved Monsieur John. When he saw that his mother had been poisoned, for some reason he thought that Mademoiselle Cynthia was involved. He remembered that Cynthia had gone upstairs with his mother that night, and he crushed the coffee-cup to powder under his feet, so the coffee cannot be tested. Then he says that his mother died of a heart attack.’

‘And what about the “extra coffee-cup”?’ I asked.

‘I was sure Mary Cavendish had hidden it. Monsieur Lawrence thought that if he could find an extra coffee-cup, no one would suspect Mademoiselle Cynthia any more. And he was right.’

‘One more question,’ I said. ‘What did Mrs Inglethorp mean by her dying words?’

‘She was trying to say that her husband had poisoned her, of course.’

‘Well, Poirot,’ I said with a sigh, ‘I think you have explained everything. I am glad it has all ended so happily. Even John and his wife are back together.’

‘Yes, thanks to me,’ said Poirot.

‘What do you mean- “thanks to you”?’

‘My dear friend, it was the trial that brought John and Mary Cavendish back together. Before the trial they had grown apart. John was involved with Mrs Raikes, and Mary pretended to love Dr Bauerstein. But I knew that they still loved each other, though they were too proud to admit it. When John was arrested I could have proved that he was innocent. But I decided that ‘a woman’s happiness’ was more important. The danger of the trial has brought these two proud lovers together again.’

I looked at Poirot in silent amazement. He was unbelievable! Only he could think that being on trial for murder would bring a husband and wife back together! My friend smiled at me. ‘No one but Hercule Poirot would have done this! But I believe that the happiness of one man and woman is the greatest thing in the world.’

His words reminded me of what had happened earlier. Mary had been lying white and exhausted on the sofa. She had jumped up when Poirot opened the door, and I had seen the look in her beautiful eyes when John entered the room and held her in his arms.

‘Perhaps you are right, Poirot,’ I said gently. ‘Yes, it is the greatest thing in the world.’

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door, and Cynthia came in. ‘I – only wanted to tell you something she said. ‘You dears!’ She kissed first me and then Poirot, and rushed out of the room again.

‘Ah,’ said Poirot. ‘She has discovered that Monsieur Lawrence does like her after all! I believe we must congratulate them.’

I sighed.

‘What is it, mon ami?’

‘Nothing,’ I said sadly. ‘Mary and Cynthia are both such lovely women.’

‘But neither one is the right woman for you,’ said Poirot. ‘Never mind, my dear Hastings. Perhaps we will investigate together again? And then – who knows?’

– THE END –




23 thoughts on “The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

  1. EnOn - English Online says:

    0:00 Chapter I: I Go to Styles.

    18:31 Chapter II: The 16th and 17th of July

    32:19 Chapter III: The Night of the Tragedy

    41:43 Chapter IV: Poirot Investigates

    1:07:16 Chapter V: 'Is it Strychnine?'

    1:33:18 Chapter VI: The Inquest

    1:45:58 Chapter VII: Poirot Pays his Debts

    1:59:08 Chapter VIII: Fresh Suspicions

    2:16:34 Chapter IX: Dr Bauerstein

    2:30:22 Chapter X: The Arrest

    2:46:54 Chapter XI: The Case for the Prosecution

    3:07:56 Chapter XII: The Last Link

    3:29:42 Chapter XIII: Poirot Explains

  2. Afra Parveen Jameel says:

    The reading is marvelous ☺️ thank you so much for posting it ❤️ please continue to post more of Agatha Christie ❤️🤗

    I have a slight suggestion:
    Can you please show a little big paragraphs on slides…. It might even make the video short 👍🏻
    Wonderful performance 🎉

  3. M Watts- Riley says:

    ".. While fighting in the Great War…";
    Which war? Were they really great? WW1
    WW2. Korean war (and yes, it WAS a war)? The war between Cicero and Kenosha?
    Hmmmm.
    -Aren't they all goddamm GREAT!!! ?
    M. IL. USA. 🇺🇸

  4. M Watts- Riley says:

    If you are learning English then this is a good spoed withwhich to learn by following. 📖
    If you know English, you'll wamt to speed it up to 1.25x for an enjoyable audio. 😃
    M. Chicago west 'burbs. IL

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