TRIANGLE AT RHODES By Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot sat on the white sand and looked out across the sparkling blue water. He was carefully dressed in a dandified fashion in white flannels and a large panama hat protected his head. He belonged to the old-fashioned generation which believed in covering itself carefully from the sun. Miss Pamela Lyall, who sat beside him and talked ceaselessly, represented the modern school of thought in that she was wearing the barest minimum of clothing on her sun-browned person.
Occasionally her flow of conversation stopped whilst she reanointed herself from a bottle of oily fluid which stood beside her.
On the farther side of Miss Pamela Lyall her great friend, Miss Sarah Blake, lay face downwards on a gaudily-striped towel. Miss Blake’s tanning was as perfect as possible and her friend cast dissatisfied glances at her more than once.
“I’m so patchy still,” she murmured regretfully. “M. Poirot—would you mind? Just below the right shoulder blade—I can’t reach to rub it in properly.”
- Poirot obliged and then wiped his oily hand carefully on his handkerchief. Miss Lyall, whose principal interests in life were the observation of people round her and the sound of her own voice, continued to talk.
“I was right about that woman—the one in the Chanel model—it is Valentine Dacres—Chantry, I mean. I thought it was. I recognized her at once. She’s really rather marvellous, isn’t she? I mean I can understand how people go quite crazy about her. She just obviously expects them to! That’s half the battle. Those other people who came last night are called Gold. He’s terribly good-looking.”
“Honeymooners?” murmured Sarah in a stifled voice.
Miss Lyall shook her head in an experienced manner.
“Oh, no—her clothes aren’t new enough. You can always tell brides! Don’t you think it’s the most fascinating thing in the world to watch people, M. Poirot, and see what you can find out about them by just looking?”
“Not just looking, darling,” said Sarah sweetly. “You ask a lot of questions, too.”
“I haven’t even spoken to the Golds yet,” said Miss Lyall with dignity. “And anyway I don’t see why one shouldn’t be interested in one’s fellow creatures? Human nature is simply fascinating. Don’t you think so, M. Poirot?”
This time she paused long enough to allow her companion to reply.
Without taking his eyes off the blue water, M. Poirot replied:
“Qa depend. ”
Pamela was shocked.
“Oh, M. Poirot! I don’t think anything’s so interesting—so incalculable as a human being!”
“Incalculable? That, no.”
“Oh, but they are. Just as you think you’ve got them beautifully taped— they do something completely unexpected.”
Hercule Poirot shook his head.
“No, no, that is not true. It is most rare that anyone does an action that is not dans son caractere. It is in the end monotonous.”
“I don’t agree with you at all!” said Miss Pamela Lyall.
She was silent for quite a minute and a half before returning to the attack.
“As soon as I see people I begin wondering about them—what they’re like—what relations they are to each other—what they’re thinking and feeling. It’s—oh, it’s quite thrilling.”
“Hardly that,” said Hercule Poirot. “Nature repeats herself more than one would imagine. The sea,” he added thoughtfully, “has infinitely more variety.”
Sarah turned her head sideways and asked:
“You think that human beings tend to reproduce certain patterns? Stereotyped patterns?”
“Precisement, ” said Poirot, and traced a design in the sand with his finger.
“What’s that you’re drawing?” asked Pamela curiously.
“A triangle,” said Poirot.
But Pamela’s attention had been diverted elsewhere.
“Here are the Chantrys,” she said.
A woman was coming down the beach—a tall woman, very conscious of herself and her body. She gave a half nod and smile and sat down a little distance away on the beach. The scarlet and gold silk wrap slipped down from her shoulders. She was wearing a white bathing dress.
“Hasn’t she got a lovely figure?”
But Poirot was looking at her face—the face of a woman of thirty-nine who had been famous since sixteen for her beauty.
He knew, as everyone knew, all about Valentine Chantry. She had been famous for many things—for her caprices, for her wealth, for her enormous sapphire-blue eyes, for her matrimonial ventures and adventures. She had had five husbands and innumerable lovers. She had in turn been the wife of an Italian count, of an American steel magnate, of a tennis professional, of a racing motorist. Of these four the American had died, but the others had been shed negligently in the divorce court. Six months ago she had married a fifth time—a commander in the navy.
He it was who came striding down the beach behind her. Silent, dark— with a pugnacious jaw and a sullen manner. A touch of the primeval ape about him.
“Tony darling—my cigarette case ..
He had it ready for her—lighted her cigarette—helped her to slip the straps of the white bathing dress from her shoulders. She lay, arms outstretched in the sun. He sat by her like some wild beast that guards its prey.
Pamela said, her voice just lowered sufficiently:
“You know they interest me frightfully … He’s such a brute! So silent and —sort of glowering. I suppose a woman of her kind likes that. It must be like controlling a tiger! I wonder how long it will last. She gets tired of them very soon, I believe—especially nowadays. All the same, if she tried to get rid of him, I think he might be dangerous.”
Another couple came down the beach—rather shyly. They were the newcomers of the night before. Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Gold as Miss Lyall knew from her inspection of the hotel visitors’ book. She knew, too, for such were the Italian regulations—their Christian names and their ages as set down from their passports.
Mr. Douglas Cameron Gold was thirty-one and Mrs. Marjorie Emma Gold was thirty-five.
Miss Lyall’s hobby in life, as has been said, was the study of human beings. Unlike most English people, she was capable of speaking to strangers on sight instead of allowing four days to a week to elapse before making the first cautious advance as is the customary British habit. She, therefore, noting the slight hesitancy and shyness of Mrs. Gold’s advance, called out:
“Good morning, isn’t it a lovely day?”
Mrs. Gold was a small woman—rather like a mouse. She was not bad- looking, indeed her features were regular and her complexion good, but she had a certain air of diffidence and dowdiness that made her liable to be overlooked. Her husband, on the other hand, was extremely good-looking, in an almost theatrical manner. Very fair, crisply curling hair, blue eyes, broad shoulders, narrow hips. He looked more like a young man on the stage than a young man in real life, but the moment he opened his mouth that impression faded. He was quite natural and unaffected, even, perhaps, a little stupid.
Mrs. Gold looked gratefully at Pamela and sat down near her.
“What a lovely shade of brown you are. I feel terribly underdone!”
“One has to take a frightful lot of trouble to brown evenly,” sighed Miss Lyall.
She paused a minute and then went on:
“You’ve onlyjust arrived, haven’t you?”
“Yes. Last night. We came on the Vapo d’Italia boat.”
“Have you ever been to Rhodes before?”
“No. It is lovely, isn’t it?”
Her husband said:
“Pity it’s such a long way to come.”
“Yes, if it were only nearer England—”
In a muffled voice Sarah said:
“Yes, but then it would be awful. Rows and rows of people laid out like fish on a slab. Bodies everywhere!”
“That’s true, of course,” said Douglas Gold. “It’s a nuisance the Italian exchange is so absolutely ruinous at present.”
“It does make a difference, doesn’t it?”
The conversation was running on strictly stereotyped lines. It could hardly have been called brilliant.
A little way along the beach, Valentine Chantry stirred and sat up. With one hand she held her bathing dress in position across her breast.
She yawned, a wide yet delicate cat-like yawn. She glanced casually down the beach. Her eyes slanted past Marjorie Gold—and stayed thoughtfully on the crisp, golden head of Douglas Gold.
She moved her shoulders sinuously.She spoke and her voice was raised a little higher than it need have been.
“Tony darling—isn’t it divine—this sun? I simply must have been a sun worshipper once—don’t you think so?”
Her husband grunted something in reply that failed to reach the others. Valentine Chantry went on in that high, drawling voice.
“Just pull that towel a little flatter, will you, darling?”
She took infinite pains in the resettling of her beautiful body. Douglas Gold was looking now. His eyes were frankly interested.
Mrs. Gold chirped happily in a subdued key to Miss Lyall.
“What a beautiful woman!”
Pamela, as delighted to give as to receive information, replied in a lower voice:
“That’s Valentine Chantry—you know, who used to be Valentine Dacres —she is rather marvellous, isn’t she? He’s simply crazy about her—won’t let her out of his sight!”
Mrs. Gold looked once more along the beach. Then she said:
“The sea really is lovely—so blue. I think we ought to go in now, don’t you, Douglas?”
He was still watching Valentine Chantry and took a minute or two to answer. Then he said, rather absently:
“Go in? Oh, yes, rather, in a minute.”
Marjorie Gold got up and strolled down to the water’s edge.
Valentine Chantry rolled over a little on one side. Her eyes looked along at Douglas Gold. Her scarlet mouth curved faintly into a smile.
The neck of Mr. Douglas Gold became slightly red.
Valentine Chantry said:
“Tony darling—would you mind? I want a little pot of face cream—it’s up on the dressing table. I meant to bring it down. Do get it for me—there’s an angel.”
The commander rose obediently. He stalked off into the hotel.
Marjorie Gold plunged into the sea, calling out:
“It’s lovely, Douglas—so warm. Do come.”
Pamela Lyall said to him:
“Aren’t you going in?”
He answered vaguely:
“Oh! I like to get well hotted up first.”
Valentine Chantry stirred. Her head was lifted for a moment as though to recall her husband—but he was just passing inside the wall of the hotel garden.
“I like my dip the last thing,” explained Mr. Gold.
Mrs. Chantry sat up again. She picked up a flask of sunbathing oil. She had some difficulty with it—the screw top seemed to resist her efforts.
She spoke loudly and petulantly.
“Oh, dear—I can’t get this thing undone!”
She looked towards the other group—
Always gallant, Poirot rose to his feet, but Douglas Gold had the advantage of youth and suppleness. He was by her side in a moment.
“Can I do it for you?”
“Oh, thank you—” It was the sweet, empty drawl again.
“You are kind. I’m such a fool at undoing things—I always seem to screw them the wrong way. Oh! you’ve done it! Thank you ever so much—”
Hercule Poirot smiled to himself.
He got up and wandered along the beach in the opposite direction. He did not go very far but his progress was leisurely. As he was on his way back, Mrs. Gold came out of the sea and joined him. She had been swimming. Her face, under a singularly unbecoming bathing cap, was radiant.
She said breathlessly, “I do love the sea. And it’s so warm and lovely here.”
She was, he perceived, an enthusiastic bather.
She said, “Douglas and I are simply mad on bathing. He can stay in for hours.”
And at that Hercule Poirot’s eyes slid over her shoulder to the spot on the beach where that enthusiastic bather, Mr. Douglas Gold, was sitting talking to Valentine Chantry.
His wife said:
“I can’t think why he doesn’t come…
Her voice held a kind of childish bewilderment.
Poirot’s eyes rested thoughtfully on Valentine Chantry. He thought that other women in their time had made that same remark.
Beside him, he heard Mrs. Gold draw in her breath sharply.
She said—and her voice was cold:
“She’s supposed to be very attractive, I believe. But Douglas doesn’t like that type of woman.”
Hercule Poirot did not reply.
Mrs. Gold plunged into the sea again.
She swam away from the shore with slow, steady strokes. You could see that she loved the water.
Poirot retraced his steps to the group on the beach.
It had been augmented by the arrival of old General Barnes, a veteran who was usually in the company of the young. He was sitting now between Pamela and Sarah, and he and Pamela were engaged in dishing up various scandals with appropriate embellishments.
Commander Chantry had returned from his errand. He and Douglas Gold were sitting on either side of Valentine.
Valentine was sitting up very straight between the two men and talking. She talked easily and lightly in her sweet, drawling voice, turning her head to take first one man and then the other in the conversation.
She was just finishing an anecdote.
“—and what do you think the foolish man said? ‘It may have been only a minute, but I’d remember you anywhere, Mum!’ Didn’t he, Tony? And you know, I thought it was so sweet of him. I do think it’s such a kind world—I mean, everybody is so frightfully kind to me always—I don’t know why— they just are. But I said to Tony—d’you remember, darling—‘Tony, if you want to be a teeny-weeny bit jealous, you can be jealous of that commissionaire.’ Because he really was too adorable…
There was a pause and Douglas Gold said:
“Good fellows—some of these commissionaires.”
“Oh, yes—but he took such trouble—really an immense amount of trouble—and seemed just pleased to be able to help me.”
Douglas Gold said:
“Nothing odd about that. Anyone would for you, I’m sure.”
She cried delightedly:
“How nice of you! Tony, did you hear that?”
Commander Chantry grunted.
His wife sighed:
“Tony never makes pretty speeches—do you, my lamb?”
Her white hand with its long red nails ruffled up his dark head.
He gave her a sudden sidelong look. She murmured:
“I don’t really know how he puts up with me. He’s simply frightfully clever—absolutely frantic with brains—and I just go on talking nonsense the whole time, but he doesn’t seem to mind. Nobody minds what I do or say— everybody spoils me. I’m sure it’s frightfully bad for me.”
Commander Chantry said across her to the other man:
“That your missus in the sea?”
“Yes. Expect it’s about time I joined her.”
“But it’s so lovely here in the sun. You mustn’t go into the sea yet. Tony darling, I don’t think I shall actually bathe today—not my first day. I might get a chill or something. But why don’t you go in now, Tony darling? Mr.— Mr. Gold will stay and keep me company while you’re in.”
Chantry said rather grimly:
“No, thanks. Shan’t go in just yet. Your wife seems to be waving to you, Gold.”
“How well your wife swims. I’m sure she’s one of those terribly efficient women who do everything well. They always frighten me so because I feel they despise me. I’m so frightfully bad at everything—an absolute duffer, aren’t I, Tony darling?”
But again Commander Chantry only grunted.
His wife murmured affectionately:
“You’re too sweet to admit it. Men are so wonderfully loyal—that’s what I like about them. I do think men are so much more loyal than women—and they never say nasty things. Women, I always think, are rather petty.”
Sarah Blake rolled over on her side towards Poirot.
She murmured between her teeth.
“Examples of pettiness, to suggest that dear Mrs. Chantry is in any way not absolute perfection! What a complete idiot the woman is! I really do think Valentine Chantry is very nearly the most idiotic woman I ever met. She can’t do anything but say, ‘Tony, darling,’ and roll her eyes. I should fancy she’d got cottonwool padding instead of brains.”
Poirot raised his expressive eyebrows.
“Oh, yes. Put it down as pure ‘Cat,’ if you like. She certainly has her methods! Can’t she leave any man alone? Her husband’s looking like thunder.”
Looking out to sea, Poirot remarked:
“Mrs. Gold swims well.”
“Yes, she isn’t like us who find it a nuisance to get wet. I wonder if Mrs. Chantry will ever go into the sea at all while she’s out here.”
“Not she,” said General Barnes huskily. “She won’t risk that makeup of hers coming off. Not that she isn’t a fine-looking woman although perhaps a bit long in the tooth.”
“She’s looking your way, General,” said Sarah wickedly. “And you’re wrong about the makeup. We’re all waterproof and kissproof nowadays.”
“Mrs. Gold’s coming out,” announced Pamela.
“Here we go gathering nuts and may,” hummed Sarah. “Here comes his wife to fetch him away—fetch him away—fetch him away…
Mrs. Gold came straight up the beach. She had quite a pretty figure but her plain, waterproof cap was rather too serviceable to be attractive.
“Aren’t you coming, Douglas?” she demanded impatiently. “The sea is lovely and warm.”
Douglas Gold rose hastily to his feet. He paused a moment and as he did so Valentine Chantry looked up at him with a sweet smile.
“Au revoir,” she said.
Gold and his wife went down the beach.
As soon as they were out of earshot, Pamela said critically:
“I don’t think, you know, that that was wise. To snatch your husband away from another woman is always bad policy. It makes you seem so possessive. And husbands hate that.”
“You seem to know a lot about husbands, Miss Pamela,” said General Barnes.
“Other people’s—not my own!”
“Ah! that’s where the difference comes in.”
“Yes, but General, I shall have learnt a lot of Do Nots.”
“Well, darling,” said Sarah, “I shouldn’t wear a cap like that for one thing… .”
“Seems very sensible to me,” said the General. “Seems a nice, sensible little woman altogether.”
“You’ve hit it exactly, General,” said Sarah. “But you know there’s a limit to the sensibleness of sensible women. I have a feeling she won’t be so sensible when it’s a case of Valentine Chantry.”
She turned her head and exclaimed in a low, excited whisper:
“Look at him now. Just like thunder. That man looks as though he had got the most frightful temper. .”
Commander Chantry was indeed scowling after the retreating husband and wife in a singularly unpleasant fashion.
Sarah looked up at Poirot.
“Well?” she said. “What do you make of all this?”
Hercule Poirot did not reply in words, but once again his forefinger traced a design in the sand. The same design—a triangle.
“The eternal triangle,” mused Sarah. “Perhaps you’re right. If so, we’re in for an exciting time in the next few weeks.”
- Hercule Poirot was disappointed with Rhodes. He had come to Rhodes for a rest and for a holiday. A holiday, especially, from crime. In late October, so he had been told, Rhodes would be nearly empty. A peaceful, secluded spot.
That, in itself, was true enough. The Chantrys, the Golds, Pamela and Sarah, the General and himself and two Italian couples were the only guests. But within that restricted circle the intelligent brain of M. Poirot perceived the inevitable shaping of events to come.
“It is that I am criminal-minded,” he told himself reproachfully. “I have the indigestion! I imagine things.”
But still he worried.
One morning he came down to find Mrs. Gold sitting on the terrace doing needlework.
As he came up to her he had the impression that there was the flicker of a cambric handkerchief swiftly whisked out of sight.
Mrs. Gold’s eyes were dry, but they were suspiciously bright. Her manner, too, struck him as being a shade too cheerful. The brightness of it was a shade overdone.
“Good morning, M. Poirot,” with such enthusiasm as to arouse his doubts.
He felt that she could not possibly be quite as pleased to see him as she appeared to be. For she did not, after all, know him very well. And though Hercule Poirot was a conceited little man where his profession was concerned, he was quite modest in his estimate of his personal attractions.
“Good morning, madame,” he responded. “Another beautiful day.”
“Yes, isn’t it fortunate? But Douglas and I are always lucky in our weather.”
“Yes. We’re really very lucky altogether. You know, M. Poirot, when one sees so much trouble and unhappiness, and so many couples divorcing each other and all that sort of thing, well, one does feel very grateful for one’s own happiness.”
“It is pleasant to hear you say so, madame.”
“Yes. Douglas and I are so wonderfully happy together. We’ve been married five years, you know, and after all, five years is quite a long time nowadays—”
“I have no doubt that in some cases it can seem an eternity, madame,” said Poirot dryly.
“—but I really believe that we’re happier now than when we were first married. You see, we’re so absolutely suited to each other.”
“That, of course, is everything.”
“That’s why I feel so sorry for people who aren’t happy.”
“Oh! I was speaking generally, M. Poirot.”
“I see. I see.”
Mrs. Gold picked up a strand of silk, held it to the light, approved of it, and went on:
“Mrs. Chantry, for instance—”
“Yes, Mrs. Chantry?”
“I don’t think she’s at all a nice woman.”
“No. No, perhaps not.”
“In fact, I’m quite sure she’s not a nice woman. But in a way one feels sorry for her. Because in spite of her money and her good looks and all that”—Mrs. Gold’s fingers were trembling and she was quite unable to thread her needle—“she’s not the sort of woman men really stick to. She’s the sort of woman, I think, that men would get tired of very easily. Don’t you think so?”
“I myself should certainly get tired of her conversation before any great space of time had passed,” said Poirot cautiously.
“Yes, that’s what I mean. She has, of course, a kind of appeal …” Mrs. Gold hesitated, her lips trembled, she stabbed uncertainly at her work. A less acute observer than Hercule Poirot could not have failed to notice her distress. She went on inconsequently:
“Men are just like children! They believe anything. .”
She bent over her work. The tiny wisp of cambric came out again unobtrusively.
Perhaps Hercule Poirot thought it well to change the subject.
“You do not bathe this morning? And monsieur your husband, is he down on the beach?”
Mrs. Gold looked up, blinked, resumed her almost defiantly bright manner and replied:
“No, not this morning. We arranged to go round the walls of the old city. But somehow or other we—we missed each other. They started without me.”
The pronoun was revealing, but before Poirot could say anything, General Barnes came up from the beach below and dropped into a chair beside them.
“Good morning, Mrs. Gold. Good morning, Poirot. Both deserters this morning? A lot of absentees. You two, and your husband, Mrs. Gold—and Mrs. Chantry.”
“And Commander Chantry?” inquired Poirot casually.
“Oh, no, he’s down there. Miss Pamela’s got him in hand.” The General chuckled. “She’s finding him a little bit difficult! One of the strong, silent men you hear about in books.”
Marjorie Gold said with a little shiver:
“He frightens me a little, that man. He—he looks so black sometimes. As though he might do—anything!”
“Just indigestion, I expect,” said the General cheerfully. “Dyspepsia is responsible for many a reputation for romantic melancholy or ungovernable rages.”
Marjorie Gold smiled a polite little smile.
“And where’s your good man?” inquired the General.
Her reply came without hesitation—in a natural, cheerful voice.
“Douglas? Oh, he and Mrs. Chantry have gone into the town. I believe they’ve gone to have a look at the walls of the old city.”
“Ha, yes—very interesting. Time of the knights and all that. You ought to have gone too, little lady.”
Mrs. Gold said:
“I’m afraid I came down rather late.”
She got up suddenly with a murmured excuse and went into the hotel.
General Barnes looked after her with a concerned expression, shaking his head gently.
“Nice little woman, that. Worth a dozen painted trollops like someone whose name we won’t mention! Ha! Husband’s a fool! Doesn’t know when he’s well-off.”
He shook his head again. Then, rising, he went indoors.
Sarah Blake had just come up from the beach and had heard the General’s last speech.
Making a face at the departing warrior’s back, she remarked as she flung herself into a chair:
“Nice little woman—nice little woman! Men always approve of dowdy women—but when it comes to brass tacks the dress-up trollops win hands down! Sad, but there it is.”
“Mademoiselle,” said Poirot, and his voice was abrupt. “I do not like all this!”
“Don’t you? Nor do I. No, let’s be honest, I suppose I do like it really. There is a horrid side of one that enjoys accidents and public calamities and unpleasant things that happen to one’s friends.”
“Where is Commander Chantry?”
“On the beach being dissected by Pamela (she’s enjoying herself if you like!) and not being improved in temper by the proceeding. He was looking like a thunder cloud when I came up. There are squalls ahead, believe me.”
“There is something I do not understand—”
“It’s not easy to understand,” said Sarah. “But what’s going to happen that’s the question.”
Poirot shook his head and murmured:
“As you say, mademoiselle—it is the future that causes one inquietude.”
“What a nice way of putting it,” said Sarah and went into the hotel.
In the doorway she almost collided with Douglas Gold. The young man came out looking rather pleased with himself but at the same time slightly guilty. He said:
“Hallo, M. Poirot,” and added rather self-consciously, “Been showing Mrs. Chantry the Crusaders’ walls. Marjorie didn’t feel up to going.”
Poirot’s eyebrows rose slightly, but even had he wished he would have had no time to make a comment for Valentine Chantry came sweeping out, crying in her high voice:
“Douglas—a pink gin—positively I must have a pink gin.”
Douglas Gold went off to order the drink. Valentine sank into a chair by Poirot. She was looking radiant this morning.
She saw her husband and Pamela coming up towards them and waved a hand, crying out:
“Have a nice bathe, Tony darling? Isn’t it a divine morning?”
Commander Chantry did not answer. He swung up the steps, passed her without a word or a look and vanished into the bar.
His hands were clenched by his sides and that faint likeness to a gorilla was accentuated.
Valentine Chantry’s perfect but rather foolish mouth fell open.
She said, “Oh,” rather blankly.
Pamela Lyall’s face expressed keen enjoyment of the situation. Masking it as far as was possible to one of her ingenuous disposition she sat down by Valentine Chantry and inquired:
“Have you had a nice morning?”
As Valentine began, “Simply marvellous. We—” Poirot got up and in his turn strolled gently towards the bar. He found young Gold waiting for the pink gin with a flushed face. He looked disturbed and angry.
He said to Poirot, “That man’s a brute!” And he nodded his head in the direction of the retreating figure of Commander Chantry.
“It is possible,” said Poirot. “Yes, it is quite possible. But les femmes, they like brutes, remember that!”
“I shouldn’t be surprised if he ill-treats her!”
“She probably likes that too.”
Douglas Gold looked at him in a puzzled way, took up the pink gin and went out with it.
Hercule Poirot sat on a stool and ordered a sirop de cassis. Whilst he was sipping it with long sighs of enjoyment, Chantry came in and drank several pink gins in rapid succession.
He said suddenly and violently to the world at large rather than to Poirot:
“If Valentine thinks she can get rid of me like she’s got rid of a lot of other damned fools, she’s mistaken! I’ve got her and I mean to keep her. No other fellow’s going to get her except over my dead body.”
He flung down some money, turned on his heel and went out.
It was three days later that Hercule Poirot went to the Mount of the Prophet. It was a cool, agreeable drive through the golden green fir trees, winding higher and higher, far above the petty wrangling and squabbling of human beings. The car stopped at the restaurant. Poirot got out and wandered into the woods. He came out at last on a spot that seemed truly on top of the world. Far below, deeply and dazzlingly blue, was the sea.
Here at last he was at peace—removed from cares—above the world. Carefully placing his folded overcoat on a tree stump, Hercule Poirot sat down.
“Doubtless le bon Dieu knows what he does. But it is odd that he should have permitted himself to fashion certain human beings. Eh bien, here for a while at least I am away from these vexing problems.” Thus he mused.
He looked up with a start. A little woman in a brown coat and skirt was hurrying towards him. It was Marjorie Gold and this time she had abandoned all pretence. Her face was wet with tears.
Poirot could not escape. She was upon him.
“M. Poirot. You’ve got to help me. I’m so miserable I don’t know what to do! Oh, what shall I do? What shall I do?”
She looked up at him with a distracted face. Her fingers fastened on his coat sleeve. Then, as something she saw in his face alarmed her, she drew back a little.
“What—what is it?” she faltered.
“You want my advice, madame? It is that you ask?”
She stammered, “Yes … Yes… .”
“Eh bien—here it is.” He spoke curtly—trenchantly. “Leave this place at once—before it is too late. ”
“What?” She stared at him.
“You heard me. Leave this island.”
“Leave the island?”
She stared at him stupefied.
“That is what I say.”
“It is my advice to you—if you value your life.”
She gave a gasp.
“Oh! what do you mean? You’re frightening me—you’re frightening me.”
“Yes,” said Poirot gravely, “that is my intention.”
She sank down, her face in her hands.
“But I can’t! He wouldn’t come! Douglas wouldn’t, I mean. She wouldn’t let him. She’s got hold of him—body and soul. He won’t listen to anything against her … He’s crazy about her … He believes everything she tells him— that her husband ill-treats her—that she’s an injured innocent—that nobody has ever understood her . He doesn’t even think about me any more—I don’t count—I’m not real to him. He wants me to give him his freedom—to divorce him. He believes that she’ll divorce her husband and marry him. But I’m afraid . Chantry won’t give her up. He’s not that kind of man. Last night she showed Douglas bruises on her arm—said her husband had done it. It made Douglas wild. He’s so chivalrous . Oh! I’m afraid! What will come of it all? Tell me what to do!”
Hercule Poirot stood looking straight across the water to the blue line of hills on the mainland of Asia. He said:
“I have told you. Leave the island before it is too late. .”
She shook her head.
“I can’t—I can’t—unless Douglas .”
He shrugged his shoulders.
Hercule Poirot sat with Pamela Lyall on the beach.
She said with a certain amount of gusto, “The triangle’s going strong! They sat one each side of her last night—glowering at each other! Chantry had had too much to drink. He was positively insulting to Douglas Gold. Gold behaved very well. Kept his temper. The Valentine woman enjoyed it, of course. Purred like the man-eating tiger she is. What do you think will happen?”
Poirot shook his head.
“I am afraid. I am very much afraid…
“Oh, we all are,” said Miss Lyall hypocritically. She added, “This business is rather in your line. Or it may come to be. Can’t you do anything?”
“I have done what I could.”
Miss Lyall leaned forward eagerly.
“What have you done?” she asked with pleasurable excitement.
“I advised Mrs. Gold to leave the island before it was too late.”
“Oo-er—so you think—” she stopped.
“So that’s what you think is going to happen!” said Pamela slowly. “But he couldn’t—he’d never do a thing like that . He’s so nice really. It’s all that Chantry woman. He wouldn’t—He wouldn’t—do—”
She stopped—then she said softly:
“Murder? Is that—is that really the word that’s in your mind?”
“It is in someone’s mind, mademoiselle. I will tell you that.”
Pamela gave a sudden shiver.
“I don’t believe it,” she declared.
The sequence of events on the night of October the twenty-ninth was perfectly clear.
To begin with, there was a scene between the two men—Gold and Chantry. Chantry’s voice rose louder and louder and his last words were overheard by four persons—the cashier at the desk, the manager, General Barnes and Pamela Lyall.
“You goddamned swine! If you and my wife think you can put this over on me, you’re mistaken! As long as I’m alive, Valentine will remain my wife.”
Then he had flung out of the hotel, his face livid with rage.
That was before dinner. After dinner (how arranged no one knew) a reconciliation took place. Valentine asked Marjorie Gold to come out for a moonlight drive. Pamela and Sarah went with them. Gold and Chantry played billiards together. Afterwards they joined Hercule Poirot and General Barnes in the lounge.
For the first time almost, Chantry’s face was smiling and good-tempered.
“Have a good game?” asked the General.
The Commander said:
“This fellow’s too good for me! Ran out with a break of forty-six.”
Douglas Gold deprecated this modestly.
“Pure fluke. I assure you it was. What’ll you have? I’ll go and get hold of a waiter.”
“Pink gin for me, thanks.”
“Same for me. What about you, M. Poirot?”
“You are most amiable. I should like a sirop de cassis.””
“A sirop—excuse me?”
“Sirop de cassis. The syrup of blackcurrants.”
“Oh, a liqueur! I see. I suppose they have it here? I never heard of it.”
“They have it, yes. But it is not a liqueur.”
Douglas Gold said, laughing:
“Sounds a funny taste to me—but every man his own poison! I’ll go and order them.”
Commander Chantry sat down. Though not by nature a talkative or a social man, he was clearly doing his best to be genial.
“Odd how one gets used to doing without any news,” he remarked.
The General grunted.
“Can’t say the Continental Daily Mail four days old is much use to me. Of course I get The Times sent to me and Punch every week, but they’re a devilish long time in coming.”
“Wonder if we’ll have a general election over this Palestine business?”
“Whole thing’s been badly mismanaged,” declared the General just as Douglas Gold reappeared followed by a waiter with the drinks.
The General had just begun on an anecdote of his military career in India in the year 1905. The two Englishmen were listening politely, if without great interest. Hercule Poirot was sipping his sirop de cassis.
The General reached the point of his narrative and there was dutiful laughter all round.
Then the women appeared at the doorway of the lounge. They all four seemed in the best of spirits and were talking and laughing.
“Tony, darling, it was too divine,” cried Valentine as she dropped into a chair by his side. “The most marvellous idea of Mrs. Gold’s. You all ought to have come!”
Her husband said:
“What about a drink?”
He looked inquiringly at the others.
“Pink gin for me, darling,” said Valentine.
“Gin and gingerbeer,” said Pamela.
“Sidecar,” said Sarah.
“Right.” Chantry stood up. He pushed his own untouched pink gin over to his wife. “You have this. I’ll order another for myself. What’s yours, Mrs. Gold?”
Mrs. Gold was being helped out of her coat by her husband. She turned smiling:
“Can I have an orangeade, please?”
“Right you are. Orangeade.”
He went towards the door. Mrs. Gold smiled up in her husband’s face.
“It was so lovely, Douglas. I wish you had come.”
“I wish I had too. We’ll go another night, shall we?” They smiled at each other.
Valentine Chantry picked up the pink gin and drained it.
“Oo! I needed that,” she sighed.
Douglas Gold took Marjorie’s coat and laid it on a settee.
As he strolled back to the others he said sharply:
“Hallo, what’s the matter?”
Valentine Chantry was leaning back in her chair. Her lips were blue and her hand had gone to her heart.
“I feel—rather queer… .”
She gasped, fighting for breath.
Chantry came back into the room. He quickened his step.
“Hallo, Val, what’s the matter?”
“I—I don’t know . That drink—it tasted queer. .”
“The pink gin?”
Chantry swung round his face worked. He caught Douglas Gold by the shoulder.
“That was my drink … Gold, what the hell did you put in it?”
Douglas Gold was staring at the convulsed face of the woman in the chair. He had gone dead white.
Valentine Chantry slipped down in her chair.
General Barnes cried out:
“Get a doctor—quick. .”
Five minutes later Valentine Chantry died. .
There was no bathing the next morning.
Pamela Lyall, white-faced, clad in a simple dark dress, clutched at
Hercule Poirot in the hall and drew him into the little writing room.
“It’s horrible!” she said. “Horrible! You said so! You foresaw it! Murder!”
He bent his head gravely.
“Oh!” she cried out. She stamped her foot on the floor. “You should have stopped it! Somehow! It could have been stopped!”
“How?” asked Hercule Poirot.
That brought her up short for the moment.
“Couldn’t you go to someone—to the police—?”
“And say what? What is there to say—before the event? That someone has murder in their heart? I tell you, mon enfant, if one human being is determined to kill another human being—”
“You could warn the victim,” insisted Pamela.
“Sometimes,” said Hercule Poirot, “warnings are useless.”
Pamela said slowly, “You could warn the murderer—show him that you knew what was intended…
Poirot nodded appreciatively.
“Yes—a better plan, that. But even then you have to reckon with a criminal’s chief vice.”
“What is that?”
“Conceit. A criminal never believes that his crime can fail.”
“But it’s absurd—stupid,” cried Pamela. “The whole crime was childish!
Why, the police arrested Douglas Gold at once last night.”
“Yes.” He added thoughtfully, “Douglas Gold is a very stupid young man.”
“Incredibly stupid! I hear that they found the rest of the poison— whatever it was—?”
“A form of stropanthin. A heart poison.”
“That they actually found the rest of it in his dinner jacket pocket?”
“Incredibly stupid!” said Pamela again. “Perhaps he meant to get rid of it —and the shock of the wrong person being poisoned paralysed him. What a scene it would make on the stage. The lover putting the stropanthin in the husband’s glass and then, just when his attention is elsewhere, the wife drinks it instead … Think of the ghastly moment when Douglas Gold turned round and realized he had killed the woman he loved. .”
She gave a little shiver.
“Your triangle. The Eternal Triangle! Who would have thought it would end like this?”
“I was afraid of it,” murmured Poirot.
Pamela turned on him.
“You warned her—Mrs. Gold. Then why didn’t you warn him as well?”
“You mean, why didn’t I warn Douglas Gold?”
“No. I mean Commander Chantry. You could have told him that he was in danger—after all, he was the real obstacle! I’ve no doubt Douglas Gold relied on being able to bully his wife into giving him a divorce—she’s a meek- spirited little woman and terribly fond of him. But Chantry is a mulish sort of devil. He was determined not to give Valentine her freedom.”
Poirot shrugged his shoulders.
“It would have been no good my speaking to Chantry,” he said.
“Perhaps not,” Pamela admitted. “He’d probably have said he could look after himself and told you to go to the devil. But I do feel there ought to have been something one could have done.”
“I did think,” said Poirot slowly, “of trying to persuade Valentine Chantry to leave the island, but she would not have believed what I had to tell her. She was far too stupid a woman to take in a thing like that. Pauvre femme, her stupidity killed her.”
“I don’t believe it would have been any good if she had left the island,” said Pamela. “He would simply have followed her.”
“You think Douglas Gold would have followed her? Oh, no, mademoiselle, you are wrong—you are completely wrong. You have not yet appreciated the truth of this matter. If Valentine Chantry had left the island, her husband would have gone with her.”
Pamela looked puzzled.
“And then, you see, the crime would simply have taken place somewhere else.”
“I don’t understand you?”
“I am saying to you that the same crime would have occurred somewhere else—that crime being the murder of Valentine Chantry by her husband.”
“Are you trying to say that it was Commander Chantry—Tony Chantry— who murdered Valentine?”
“Yes. You saw him do it! Douglas Gold brought him his drink. He sat with it in front of him. When the women came in we all looked across the room, he had the stropanthin ready, he dropped it into the pink gin and presently, courteously, he passed it along to his wife and she drank it.”
“But the packet of stropanthin was found in Douglas Gold’s pocket!”
“A very simple matter to slip it there when we were all crowding round the dying woman.”
It was quite two minutes before Pamela got her breath.
“But I don’t understand a word! The triangle—you said yourself—”
Hercule Poirot nodded his head vigorously.
“I said there was a triangle—yes. But you, you imagined the wrong one. You were deceived by some very clever acting! You thought, as you were meant to think, that both Tony Chantry and Douglas Gold were in love with Valentine Chantry. You believed, as you were meant to believe, that Douglas Gold, being in love with Valentine Chantry (whose husband refused to divorce her) took the desperate step of administering a powerful heart poison to Chantry and that, by a fatal mistake, Valentine Chantry drank that poison instead. All that is illusion. Chantry has been meaning to do away with his wife for some time. He was bored to death with her, I could see that from the first. He married her for her money. Now he wants to marry another woman— so he planned to get rid of Valentine and keep her money. That entailed murder.”
Poirot said slowly:
“Yes, yes—the little Marjorie Gold. It was the eternal triangle all right! But you saw it the wrong way round. Neither of those two men cared in the least for Valentine Chantry. It was her vanity and Marjorie Gold’s very clever stage managing that made you think they did! A very clever woman, Mrs. Gold, and amazingly attractive in her demure Madonna, poor-little¬thing-way! I have known four women criminals of the same type. There was Mrs. Adams who was acquitted of murdering her husband, but everybody knows she did it. Mary Parker did away with an aunt, a sweetheart and two brothers before she got a little careless and was caught. Then there was Mrs. Rowden, she was hanged all right. Mrs. Lecray escaped by the skin of her teeth. This woman is exactly the same type. I recognized it as soon as I saw her! That type takes to crime like a duck to water! And a very pretty bit of well-planned work it was. Tell me, what evidence did you ever have that Douglas Gold was in love with Valentine Chantry? When you come to think it out, you will realize that there was only Mrs. Gold’s confidences and Chantry’s jealous bluster. Yes? You see?”
“It’s horrible,” cried Pamela.
“They were a clever pair,” said Poirot with professional detachment. “They planned to ‘meet’ here and stage their crime. That Marjorie Gold, she is a cold-blooded devil! She would have sent her poor, innocent fool of a
husband to the scaffold without the least remorse.”
Pamela cried out:
“But he was arrested and taken away by the police last night.”
“Ah,” said Hercule Poirot, “but after that, me, I had a few little words with the police. It is true that I did not see Chantry put the stropanthin in the glass. I, like everyone else, looked up when the ladies came in. But the moment I realized that Valentine Chantry had been poisoned, I watched her husband without taking my eyes off him. And so, you see, I actually saw him slip the packet of stropanthin in Douglas Gold’s coat pocket… .”
He added with a grim expression on his face:
“I am a good witness. My name is well-known. The moment the police heard my story they realized that it put an entirely different complexion on the matter.”
“And then?” demanded Pamela, fascinated.
“Eh bien, then they asked Commander Chantry a few questions. He tried to bluster it out, but he is not really clever, he soon broke down.”
“So Douglas Gold was set at liberty?”
Poirot’s face grew stern.
“I warned her,” he said. “Yes, I warned her . Up on the Mount of the Prophet . It was the only chance of averting the crime. I as good as told her that I suspected her. She understood. But she believed herself too clever . I told her to leave the island if she valued her life. She chose—to remain. .”[/sociallocker]