The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Agatha Christie

Part 3 out of 5

ESSEX hand written note: July 17th My
dear Evelyn

Can we not bury the hachet? I have found it hard to forgive the
things you said

against my dear husband but I am an old woman & very fond of you

Yours affectionately,

Emily Inglethorpe

It was handed to the jury who scrutinized it attentively.

"I fear it does not help us much," said the Coroner, with a sigh.
"There is no mention of any of the events of that afternoon."

"Plain as a pikestaff to me," said Miss Howard shortly. "It
shows clearly enough that my poor old friend had just found out
she'd been made a fool of!"

"It says nothing of the kind in the letter," the Coroner pointed

"No, because Emily never could bear to put herself in the wrong.
But I know her. She wanted me back. But she wasn't going to own
that I'd been right. She went round about. Most people do.
Don't believe in it myself."

Mr. Wells smiled faintly. So, I noticed, did several of the
jury. Miss Howard was obviously quite a public character.

"Anyway, all this tomfoolery is a great waste of time," continued
the lady, glancing up and down the jury disparagingly.
"Talk--talk--talk! When all the time we know perfectly well----"

The Coroner interrupted her in an agony of apprehension:

"Thank you, Miss Howard, that is all."

I fancy he breathed a sigh of relief when she complied.

Then came the sensation of the day. The Coroner called Albert
Mace, chemist's assistant.

It was our agitated young man of the pale face. In answer to the
Coroner's questions, he explained that he was a qualified
pharmacist, but had only recently come to this particular shop,
as the assistant formerly there had just been called up for the

These preliminaries completed, the Coroner proceeded to business.

"Mr. Mace, have you lately sold strychnine to any unauthorized

"Yes, sir."

"When was this?"

"Last Monday night."

"Monday? Not Tuesday?"

"No, sir, Monday, the 16th."

"Will you tell us to whom you sold it?"

You could have heard a pin drop.

"Yes, sir. It was to Mr. Inglethorp."

Every eye turned simultaneously to where Alfred Inglethorp was
sitting, impassive and wooden. He started slightly, as the
damning words fell from the young man's lips. I half thought he
was going to rise from his chair, but he remained seated,
although a remarkably well acted expression of astonishment rose
on his face.

"You are sure of what you say?" asked the Coroner sternly.

"Quite sure, sir."

"Are you in the habit of selling strychnine indiscriminately over
the counter?"

The wretched young man wilted visibly under the Coroner's frown.

"Oh, no, sir--of course not. But, seeing it was Mr. Inglethorp
of the Hall, I thought there was no harm in it. He said it was
to poison a dog."

Inwardly I sympathized. It was only human nature to endeavour to
please "The Hall"--especially when it might result in custom
being transferred from Coot's to the local establishment.

"Is it not customary for anyone purchasing poison to sign a

"Yes, sir, Mr. Inglethorp did so."

"Have you got the book here?"

"Yes, sir."

It was produced; and, with a few words of stern censure, the
Coroner dismissed the wretched Mr. Mace.

Then, amidst a breathless silence, Alfred Inglethorp was called.
Did he realize, I wondered, how closely the halter was being
drawn around his neck?

The Coroner went straight to the point.

"On Monday evening last, did you purchase strychnine for the
purpose of poisoning a dog?"

Inglethorp replied with perfect calmness:

"No, I did not. There is no dog at Styles, except an outdoor
sheepdog, which is in perfect health."

"You deny absolutely having purchased strychnine from Albert Mace
on Monday last?"

"I do."

"Do you also deny _this_?"

The Coroner handed him the register in which his signature was

"Certainly I do. The hand-writing is quite different from mine.
I will show you."

He took an old envelope out of his pocket, and wrote his name on
it, handing it to the jury. It was certainly utterly dissimilar.

"Then what is your explanation of Mr. Mace's statement?"

Alfred Inglethorp replied imperturbably:

"Mr. Mace must have been mistaken."

The Coroner hesitated for a moment, and then said:

"Mr. Inglethorp, as a mere matter of form, would you mind telling
us where you were on the evening of Monday, July 16th?"

"Really--I can't remember."

"That is absurd, Mr. Inglethorp," said the Coroner sharply.
"Think again."

Inglethorp shook his head.

"I cannot tell you. I have an idea that I was out walking."

"In what direction?"

"I really can't remember."

The Coroner's face grew graver.

"Were you in company with anyone?"


"Did you meet anyone on your walk?"


"That is a pity," said the Coroner dryly. "I am to take it then
that you decline to say where you were at the time that Mr. Mace
positively recognized you as entering the shop to purchase

"If you like to take it that way, yes."

"Be careful, Mr. Inglethorp."

Poirot was fidgeting nervously.

"Sacre!" he murmured. "Does this imbecile of a man _want_ to be

Inglethorp was indeed creating a bad impression. His futile
denials would not have convinced a child. The Coroner, however,
passed briskly to the next point, and Poirot drew a deep breath
of relief.

"You had a discussion with your wife on Tuesday afternoon?"

"Pardon me," interrupted Alfred Inglethorp, "you have been
misinformed. I had no quarrel with my dear wife. The whole
story is absolutely untrue. I was absent from the house the
entire afternoon."

"Have you anyone who can testify to that?"

"You have my word," said Inglethorp haughtily.

The Coroner did not trouble to reply.

"There are two witnesses who will swear to having heard your
disagreement with Mrs. Inglethorp."

"Those witnesses were mistaken."

I was puzzled. The man spoke with such quiet assurance that I
was staggered. I looked at Poirot. There was an expression of
exultation on his face which I could not understand. Was he at
last convinced of Alfred Inglethorp's guilt?

"Mr. Inglethorp," said the Coroner, "you have heard your wife's
dying words repeated here. Can you explain them in any way?"

"Certainly I can."

"You can?"

"It seems to me very simple. The room was dimly lighted. Dr.
Bauerstein is much of my height and build, and, like me, wears a
beard. In the dim light, and suffering as she was, my poor wife
mistook him for me."

"Ah!" murmured Poirot to himself. "But it is an idea, that!"

"You think it is true?" I whispered.

"I do not say that. But it is truly an ingenious supposition."

"You read my wife's last words as an accusation"--Inglethorp was
continuing--"they were, on the contrary, an appeal to me."

The Coroner reflected a moment, then he said:

"I believe, Mr. Inglethorp, that you yourself poured out the
coffee, and took it to your wife that evening?"

"I poured it out, yes. But I did not take it to her. I meant to
do so, but I was told that a friend was at the hall door, so I
laid down the coffee on the hall table. When I came through the
hall again a few minutes later, it was gone."

This statement might, or might not, be true, but it did not seem
to me to improve matters much for Inglethorp. In any case, he
had had ample time to introduce the poison.

At that point, Poirot nudged me gently, indicating two men who
were sitting together near the door. One was a little, sharp,
dark, ferret-faced man, the other was tall and fair.

I questioned Poirot mutely. He put his lips to my ear.

"Do you know who that little man is?"

I shook my head.

"That is Detective Inspector James Japp of Scotland Yard--Jimmy
Japp. The other man is from Scotland Yard too. Things are
moving quickly, my friend."

I stared at the two men intently. There was certainly nothing of
the policeman about them. I should never have suspected them of
being official personages.

I was still staring, when I was startled and recalled by the
verdict being given:

"Wilful Murder against some person or persons unknown."



As we came out of the Stylites Arms, Poirot drew me aside by a
gentle pressure of the arm. I understood his object. He was
waiting for the Scotland Yard men.

In a few moments, they emerged, and Poirot at once stepped
forward, and accosted the shorter of the two.

"I fear you do not remember me, Inspector Japp."

"Why, if it isn't Mr. Poirot!" cried the Inspector. He turned to
the other man. "You've heard me speak of Mr. Poirot? It was in
1904 he and I worked together--the Abercrombie forgery case--you
remember, he was run down in Brussels. Ah, those were great
days, moosier. Then, do you remember 'Baron' Altara? There was a
pretty rogue for you! He eluded the clutches of half the police
in Europe. But we nailed him in Antwerp--thanks to Mr. Poirot

As these friendly reminiscences were being indulged in, I drew
nearer, and was introduced to Detective-Inspector Japp, who, in
his turn, introduced us both to his companion, Superintendent

"I need hardly ask what you are doing here, gentlemen," remarked

Japp closed one eye knowingly.

"No, indeed. Pretty clear case I should say."

But Poirot answered gravely:

"There I differ from you."

"Oh, come!" said Summerhaye, opening his lips for the first time.
"Surely the whole thing is clear as daylight. The man's caught
red-handed. How he could be such a fool beats me!"

But Japp was looking attentively at Poirot.

"Hold your fire, Summerhaye," he remarked jocularly. "Me and
Moosier here have met before--and there's no man's judgment I'd
sooner take than his. If I'm not greatly mistaken, he's got
something up his sleeve. Isn't that so, moosier?"

Poirot smiled.

"I have drawn certain conclusions--yes."

Summerhaye was still looking rather sceptical, but Japp continued
his scrutiny of Poirot.

"It's this way," he said, "so far, we've only seen the case from
the outside. That's where the Yard's at a disadvantage in a case
of this kind, where the murder's only out, so to speak, after the
inquest. A lot depends on being on the spot first thing, and
that's where Mr. Poirot's had the start of us. We shouldn't have
been here as soon as this even, if it hadn't been for the fact
that there was a smart doctor on the spot, who gave us the tip
through the Coroner. But you've been on the spot from the first,
and you may have picked up some little hints. From the evidence
at the inquest, Mr. Inglethorp murdered his wife as sure as I
stand here, and if anyone but you hinted the contrary I'd laugh
in his face. I must say I was surprised the jury didn't bring it
in Wilful Murder against him right off. I think they would have,
if it hadn't been for the Coroner--he seemed to be holding them

"Perhaps, though, you have a warrant for his arrest in your
pocket now," suggested Poirot.

A kind of wooden shutter of officialdom came down from Japp's
expressive countenance.

"Perhaps I have, and perhaps I haven't," he remarked dryly.

Poirot looked at him thoughtfully.

"I am very anxious, Messieurs, that he should not be arrested."

"I dare say," observed Summerhaye sarcastically.

Japp was regarding Poirot with comical perplexity.

"Can't you go a little further, Mr. Poirot? A wink's as good as a
nod--from you. You've been on the spot--and the Yard doesn't
want to make any mistakes, you know."

Poirot nodded gravely.

"That is exactly what I thought. Well, I will tell you this.
Use your warrant: Arrest Mr. Inglethorp. But it will bring you
no kudos--the case against him will be dismissed at once! Comme
ca!" And he snapped his fingers expressively.

Japp's face grew grave, though Summerhaye gave an incredulous

As for me, I was literally dumb with astonishment. I could only
conclude that Poirot was mad.

Japp had taken out a handkerchief, and was gently dabbing his

"I daren't do it, Mr. Poirot. I'd take your word, but there's
others over me who'll be asking what the devil I mean by it.
Can't you give me a little more to go on?"

Poirot reflected a moment.

"It can be done," he said at last. "I admit I do not wish it.
It forces my hand. I would have preferred to work in the dark
just for the present, but what you say is very just--the word of
a Belgian policeman, whose day is past, is not enough! And Alfred
Inglethorp must not be arrested. That I have sworn, as my friend
Hastings here knows. See, then, my good Japp, you go at once to

"Well, in about half an hour. We're seeing the Coroner and the
doctor first."

"Good. Call for me in passing--the last house in the village. I
will go with you. At Styles, Mr. Inglethorp will give you, or if
he refuses--as is probable--I will give you such proofs that
shall satisfy you that the case against him could not possibly be
sustained. Is that a bargain?"

"That's a bargain," said Japp heartily. "And, on behalf of the
Yard, I'm much obliged to you, though I'm bound to confess I
can't at present see the faintest possible loop-hole in the
evidence, but you always were a marvel! So long, then, moosier."

The two detectives strode away, Summerhaye with an incredulous
grin on his face.

"Well, my friend," cried Poirot, before I could get in a word,
"what do you think? Mon Dieu! I had some warm moments in that
court; I did not figure to myself that the man would be so
pig-headed as to refuse to say anything at all. Decidedly, it
was the policy of an imbecile."

"H'm! There are other explanations besides that of imbecility," I
remarked. "For, if the case against him is true, how could he
defend himself except by silence?"

"Why, in a thousand ingenious ways," cried Poirot. "See; say
that it is I who have committed this murder, I can think of seven
most plausible stories! Far more convincing than Mr. Inglethorp's
stony denials!"

I could not help laughing.

"My dear Poirot, I am sure you are capable of thinking of
seventy! But, seriously, in spite of what I heard you say to the
detectives, you surely cannot still believe in the possibility of
Alfred Inglethorp's innocence?"

"Why not now as much as before? Nothing has changed."

"But the evidence is so conclusive."

"Yes, too conclusive."

We turned in at the gate of Leastways Cottage, and proceeded up
the now familiar stairs.

"Yes, yes, too conclusive," continued Poirot, almost to himself.
"Real evidence is usually vague and unsatisfactory. It has to be
examined--sifted. But here the whole thing is cut and dried.
No, my friend, this evidence has been very cleverly
manufactured--so cleverly that it has defeated its own ends."

"How do you make that out?"

"Because, so long as the evidence against him was vague and
intangible, it was very hard to disprove. But, in his anxiety,
the criminal has drawn the net so closely that one cut will set
Inglethorp free."

I was silent. And in a minute or two, Poirot continued:

"Let us look at the matter like this. Here is a man, let us say,
who sets out to poison his wife. He has lived by his wits as the
saying goes. Presumably, therefore, he has some wits. He is not
altogether a fool. Well, how does he set about it? He goes
boldly to the village chemist's and purchases strychnine under
his own name, with a trumped up story about a dog which is bound
to be proved absurd. He does not employ the poison that night.
No, he waits until he has had a violent quarrel with her, of
which the whole household is cognisant, and which naturally
directs their suspicions upon him. He prepares no defence--no
shadow of an alibi, yet he knows the chemist's assistant must
necessarily come forward with the facts. Bah! do not ask me to
believe that any man could be so idiotic! Only a lunatic, who
wished to commit suicide by causing himself to be hanged, would
act so!"

"Still--I do not see--" I began.

"Neither do I see. I tell you, mon ami, it puzzles me. Me
--Hercule Poirot!"

"But if you believe him innocent, how do you explain his buying
the strychnine?"

"Very simply. He did _not_ buy it."

"But Mace recognized him!"

"I beg your pardon, he saw a man with a black beard like Mr.
Inglethorp's, and wearing glasses like Mr. Inglethorp, and
dressed in Mr. Inglethorp's rather noticeable clothes. He could
not recognize a man whom he had probably only seen in the
distance, since, you remember, he himself had only been in the
village a fortnight, and Mrs. Inglethorp dealt principally with
Coot's in Tadminster."

"Then you think----"

"Mon ami, do you remember the two points I laid stress upon?
Leave the first one for the moment, what was the second?"

"The important fact that Alfred Inglethorp wears peculiar
clothes, has a black beard, and uses glasses," I quoted.

"Exactly. Now suppose anyone wished to pass himself off as John
or Lawrence Cavendish. Would it be easy?"

"No," I said thoughtfully. "Of course an actor----"

But Poirot cut me short ruthlessly.

"And why would it not be easy? I will tell you, my friend:
Because they are both clean-shaven men. To make up successfully
as one of these two in broad daylight, it would need an actor of
genius, and a certain initial facial resemblance. But in the
case of Alfred Inglethorp, all that is changed. His clothes, his
beard, the glasses which hide his eyes--those are the salient
points about his personal appearance. Now, what is the first
instinct of the criminal? To divert suspicion from himself, is it
not so? And how can he best do that? By throwing it on some one
else. In this instance, there was a man ready to his hand.
Everybody was predisposed to believe in Mr. Inglethorp's guilt.
It was a foregone conclusion that he would be suspected; but, to
make it a sure thing there must be tangible proof--such as the
actual buying of the poison, and that, with a man of the peculiar
appearance of Mr. Inglethorp, was not difficult. Remember, this
young Mace had never actually spoken to Mr. Inglethorp. How
should he doubt that the man in his clothes, with his beard and
his glasses, was not Alfred Inglethorp?"

"It may be so," I said, fascinated by Poirot's eloquence. "But,
if that was the case, why does he not say where he was at six
o'clock on Monday evening?"

"Ah, why indeed?" said Poirot, calming down. "If he were
arrested, he probably would speak, but I do not want it to come
to that. I must make him see the gravity of his position. There
is, of course, something discreditable behind his silence. If he
did not murder his wife, he is, nevertheless, a scoundrel, and
has something of his own to conceal, quite apart from the

"What can it be?" I mused, won over to Poirot's views for the
moment, although still retaining a faint conviction that the
obvious deduction was the correct one.

"Can you not guess?" asked Poirot, smiling.

"No, can you?"

"Oh, yes, I had a little idea sometime ago--and it has turned out
to be correct."

"You never told me," I said reproachfully.

Poirot spread out his hands apologetically.

"Pardon me, mon ami, you were not precisely sympathique." He
turned to me earnestly. "Tell me--you see now that he must not
be arrested?"

"Perhaps," I said doubtfully, for I was really quite indifferent
to the fate of Alfred Inglethorp, and thought that a good fright
would do him no harm.

Poirot, who was watching me intently, gave a sigh.

"Come, my friend," he said, changing the subject, "apart from Mr.
Inglethorp, how did the evidence at the inquest strike you?"

"Oh, pretty much what I expected."

"Did nothing strike you as peculiar about it?"

My thoughts flew to Mary Cavendish, and I hedged:

"In what way?"

"Well, Mr. Lawrence Cavendish's evidence for instance?"

I was relieved.

"Oh, Lawrence! No, I don't think so. He's always a nervous

"His suggestion that his mother might have been poisoned
accidentally by means of the tonic she was taking, that did not
strike you as strange--hein?"

"No, I can't say it did. The doctors ridiculed it of course.
But it was quite a natural suggestion for a layman to make."

"But Monsieur Lawrence is not a layman. You told me yourself
that he had started by studying medicine, and that he had taken
his degree."

"Yes, that's true. I never thought of that." I was rather
startled. "It _is_ odd."

Poirot nodded.

"From the first, his behaviour has been peculiar. Of all the
household, he alone would be likely to recognize the symptoms of
strychnine poisoning, and yet we find him the only member of the
family to uphold strenuously the theory of death from natural
causes. If it had been Monsieur John, I could have understood
it. He has no technical knowledge, and is by nature
unimaginative. But Monsieur Lawrence--no! And now, to-day, he
puts forward a suggestion that he himself must have known was
ridiculous. There is food for thought in this, mon ami!"

"It's very confusing," I agreed.

"Then there is Mrs. Cavendish," continued Poirot. "That's
another who is not telling all she knows! What do you make of her

"I don't know what to make of it. It seems inconceivable that
she should be shielding Alfred Inglethorp. Yet that is what it
looks like."

Poirot nodded reflectively.

"Yes, it is queer. One thing is certain, she overheard a good
deal more of that 'private conversation' than she was willing to

"And yet she is the last person one would accuse of stooping to

"Exactly. One thing her evidence _has_ shown me. I made a
mistake. Dorcas was quite right. The quarrel did take place
earlier in the afternoon, about four o'clock, as she said."

I looked at him curiously. I had never understood his insistence
on that point.

"Yes, a good deal that was peculiar came out to-day," continued
Poirot. "Dr. Bauerstein, now, what was _he_ doing up and dressed
at that hour in the morning? It is astonishing to me that no one
commented on the fact."

"He has insomnia, I believe," I said doubtfully.

"Which is a very good, or a very bad explanation," remarked
Poirot. "It covers everything, and explains nothing. I shall
keep my eye on our clever Dr. Bauerstein."

"Any more faults to find with the evidence?" I inquired

"Mon ami," replied Poirot gravely, "when you find that people are
not telling you the truth--look out! Now, unless I am much
mistaken, at the inquest to-day only one--at most, two persons
were speaking the truth without reservation or subterfuge."

"Oh, come now, Poirot! I won't cite Lawrence, or Mrs. Cavendish.
But there's John--and Miss Howard, surely they were speaking the

"Both of them, my friend? One, I grant you, but both----!"

His words gave me an unpleasant shock. Miss Howard's evidence,
unimportant as it was, had been given in such a downright
straightforward manner that it had never occurred to me to doubt
her sincerity. Still, I had a great respect for Poirot's
sagacity--except on the occasions when he was what I described to
myself as "foolishly pig-headed."

"Do you really think so?" I asked. "Miss Howard had always
seemed to me so essentially honest--almost uncomfortably so."

Poirot gave me a curious look, which I could not quite fathom.
He seemed to speak, and then checked himself.

"Miss Murdoch too," I continued, "there's nothing untruthful
about _her_."

"No. But it was strange that she never heard a sound, sleeping
next door; whereas Mrs. Cavendish, in the other wing of the
building, distinctly heard the table fall."

"Well, she's young. And she sleeps soundly."

"Ah, yes, indeed! She must be a famous sleeper, that one!"

I did not quite like the tone of his voice, but at that moment a
smart knock reached our ears, and looking out of the window we
perceived the two detectives waiting for us below.

Poirot seized his hat, gave a ferocious twist to his moustache,
and, carefully brushing an imaginary speck of dust from his
sleeve, motioned me to precede him down the stairs; there we
joined the detectives and set out for Styles.

I think the appearance of the two Scotland Yard men was rather a
shock--especially to John, though of course after the verdict, he
had realized that it was only a matter of time. Still, the
presence of the detectives brought the truth home to him more
than anything else could have done.

Poirot had conferred with Japp in a low tone on the way up, and
it was the latter functionary who requested that the household,
with the exception of the servants, should be assembled together
in the drawing-room. I realized the significance of this. It
was up to Poirot to make his boast good.

Personally, I was not sanguine. Poirot might have excellent
reasons for his belief in Inglethorp's innocence, but a man of
the type of Summerhaye would require tangible proofs, and these I
doubted if Poirot could supply.

Before very long we had all trooped into the drawing-room, the
door of which Japp closed. Poirot politely set chairs for every
one. The Scotland Yard men were the cynosure of all eyes. I
think that for the first time we realized that the thing was not
a bad dream, but a tangible reality. We had read of such
things--now we ourselves were actors in the drama. To-morrow the
daily papers, all over England, would blazon out the news in
staring headlines:



There would be pictures of Styles, snap-shots of "The family
leaving the Inquest"--the village photographer had not been idle!
All the things that one had read a hundred times--things that
happen to other people, not to oneself. And now, in this house,
a murder had been committed. In front of us were "the detectives
in charge of the case." The well-known glib phraseology passed
rapidly through my mind in the interval before Poirot opened the

I think every one was a little surprised that it should be he and
not one of the official detectives who took the initiative.

"Mesdames and messieurs," said Poirot, bowing as though he were a
celebrity about to deliver a lecture, "I have asked you to come
here all together, for a certain object. That object, it
concerns Mr. Alfred Inglethorp."

Inglethorp was sitting a little by himself--I think,
unconsciously, every one had drawn his chair slightly away from
him--and he gave a faint start as Poirot pronounced his name.

"Mr. Inglethorp," said Poirot, addressing him directly, "a very
dark shadow is resting on this house--the shadow of murder."

Inglethorp shook his head sadly.

"My poor wife," he murmured. "Poor Emily! It is terrible."

"I do not think, monsieur," said Poirot pointedly, "that you
quite realize how terrible it may be--for you." And as Inglethorp
did not appear to understand, he added: "Mr. Inglethorp, you are
standing in very grave danger."

The two detectives fidgeted. I saw the official caution
"Anything you say will be used in evidence against you," actually
hovering on Summerhaye's lips. Poirot went on.

"Do you understand now, monsieur?"

"No; What do you mean?"

"I mean," said Poirot deliberately, "that you are suspected of
poisoning your wife."

A little gasp ran round the circle at this plain speaking.

"Good heavens!" cried Inglethorp, starting up. "What a monstrous
idea! _I_--poison my dearest Emily!"

"I do not think"--Poirot watched him narrowly--"that you quite
realize the unfavourable nature of your evidence at the inquest.
Mr. Inglethorp, knowing what I have now told you, do you still
refuse to say where you were at six o'clock on Monday afternoon?"

With a groan, Alfred Inglethorp sank down again and buried his
face in his hands. Poirot approached and stood over him.

"Speak!" he cried menacingly.

With an effort, Inglethorp raised his face from his hands. Then,
slowly and deliberately, he shook his head.

"You will not speak?"

"No. I do not believe that anyone could be so monstrous as to
accuse me of what you say."

Poirot nodded thoughtfully, like a man whose mind is made up.

"Soit!" he said. "Then I must speak for you."

Alfred Inglethorp sprang up again.

"You? How can you speak? You do not know----" he broke off

Poirot turned to face us. "Mesdames and messieurs! I speak!
Listen! I, Hercule Poirot, affirm that the man who entered the
chemist's shop, and purchased strychnine at six o'clock on Monday
last was not Mr. Inglethorp, for at six o'clock on that day Mr.
Inglethorp was escorting Mrs. Raikes back to her home from a
neighbouring farm. I can produce no less than five witnesses to
swear to having seen them together, either at six or just after
and, as you may know, the Abbey Farm, Mrs. Raikes's home, is at
least two and a half miles distant from the village. There is
absolutely no question as to the alibi!"



There was a moment's stupefied silence. Japp, who was the least
surprised of any of us, was the first to speak.

"My word," he cried, "you're the goods! And no mistake, Mr.
Poirot! These witnesses of yours are all right, I suppose?"

"Voila! I have prepared a list of them--names and addresses. You
must see them, of course. But you will find it all right."

"I'm sure of that." Japp lowered his voice. "I'm much obliged to
you. A pretty mare's nest arresting him would have been." He
turned to Inglethorp. "But, if you'll excuse me, sir, why
couldn't you say all this at the inquest?"

"I will tell you why," interrupted Poirot. "There was a certain

"A most malicious and utterly untrue one," interrupted Alfred
Inglethorp in an agitated voice.

"And Mr. Inglethorp was anxious to have no scandal revived just
at present. Am I right?"

"Quite right." Inglethorp nodded. "With my poor Emily not yet
buried, can you wonder I was anxious that no more lying rumours
should be started."

"Between you and me, sir," remarked Japp, "I'd sooner have any
amount of rumours than be arrested for murder. And I venture to
think your poor lady would have felt the same. And, if it hadn't
been for Mr. Poirot here, arrested you would have been, as sure
as eggs is eggs!"

"I was foolish, no doubt," murmured Inglethorp. "But you do not
know, inspector, how I have been persecuted and maligned." And he
shot a baleful glance at Evelyn Howard.

"Now, sir," said Japp, turning briskly to John, "I should like to
see the lady's bedroom, please, and after that I'll have a little
chat with the servants. Don't you bother about anything. Mr.
Poirot, here, will show me the way."

As they all went out of the room, Poirot turned and made me a
sign to follow him upstairs. There he caught me by the arm, and
drew me aside.

"Quick, go to the other wing. Stand there--just this side of the
baize door. Do not move till I come." Then, turning rapidly, he
rejoined the two detectives.

I followed his instructions, taking up my position by the baize
door, and wondering what on earth lay behind the request. Why
was I to stand in this particular spot on guard? I looked
thoughtfully down the corridor in front of me. An idea struck
me. With the exception of Cynthia Murdoch's, every one's room
was in this left wing. Had that anything to do with it? Was I to
report who came or went? I stood faithfully at my post. The
minutes passed. Nobody came. Nothing happened.

It must have been quite twenty minutes before Poirot rejoined me.

"You have not stirred?"

"No, I've stuck here like a rock. Nothing's happened."

"Ah!" Was he pleased, or disappointed? "You've seen nothing at


"But you have probably heard something? A big bump--eh, mon ami?"


"Is it possible? Ah, but I am vexed with myself! I am not usually
clumsy. I made but a slight gesture"--I know Poirot's
gestures--"with the left hand, and over went the table by the

He looked so childishly vexed and crest-fallen that I hastened to
console him.

"Never mind, old chap. What does it matter? Your triumph
downstairs excited you. I can tell you, that was a surprise to
us all. There must be more in this affair of Inglethorp's with
Mrs. Raikes than we thought, to make him hold his tongue so
persistently. What are you going to do now? Where are the
Scotland Yard fellows?"

"Gone down to interview the servants. I showed them all our
exhibits. I am disappointed in Japp. He has no method!"

"Hullo!" I said, looking out of the window. "Here's Dr.
Bauerstein. I believe you're right about that man, Poirot. I
don't like him."

"He is clever," observed Poirot meditatively.

"Oh, clever as the devil! I must say I was overjoyed to see him
in the plight he was in on Tuesday. You never saw such a
spectacle!" And I described the doctor's adventure. "He looked a
regular scarecrow! Plastered with mud from head to foot."

"You saw him, then?"

"Yes. Of course, he didn't want to come in--it was just after
dinner--but Mr. Inglethorp insisted."

"What?" Poirot caught me violently by the shoulders. "Was Dr.
Bauerstein here on Tuesday evening? Here? And you never told me?
Why did you not tell me? Why? Why?"

He appeared to be in an absolute frenzy.

"My dear Poirot," I expostulated, "I never thought it would
interest you. I didn't know it was of any importance."

"Importance? It is of the first importance! So Dr. Bauerstein was
here on Tuesday night--the night of the murder. Hastings, do you
not see? That alters everything--everything!"

I had never seen him so upset. Loosening his hold of me, he
mechanically straightened a pair of candlesticks, still murmuring
to himself: "Yes, that alters everything--everything."

Suddenly he seemed to come to a decision.

"Allons!" he said. "We must act at once. Where is Mr.

John was in the smoking-room. Poirot went straight to him.

"Mr. Cavendish, I have some important business in Tadminster. A
new clue. May I take your motor?"

"Why, of course. Do you mean at once?"

"If you please."

John rang the bell, and ordered round the car. In another ten
minutes, we were racing down the park and along the high road to

"Now, Poirot," I remarked resignedly, "perhaps you will tell me
what all this is about?"

"Well, mon ami, a good deal you can guess for yourself. Of
course you realize that, now Mr. Inglethorp is out of it, the
whole position is greatly changed. We are face to face with an
entirely new problem. We know now that there is one person who
did not buy the poison. We have cleared away the manufactured
clues. Now for the real ones. I have ascertained that anyone in
the household, with the exception of Mrs. Cavendish, who was
playing tennis with you, could have personated Mr. Inglethorp on
Monday evening. In the same way, we have his statement that he
put the coffee down in the hall. No one took much notice of that
at the inquest--but now it has a very different significance. We
must find out who did take that coffee to Mrs. Inglethorp
eventually, or who passed through the hall whilst it was standing
there. From your account, there are only two people whom we can
positively say did not go near the coffee--Mrs. Cavendish, and
Mademoiselle Cynthia."

"Yes, that is so." I felt an inexpressible lightening of the
heart. Mary Cavendish could certainly not rest under suspicion.

"In clearing Alfred Inglethorp," continued Poirot, "I have been
obliged to show my hand sooner than I intended. As long as I
might be thought to be pursuing him, the criminal would be off
his guard. Now, he will be doubly careful. Yes--doubly
careful." He turned to me abruptly. "Tell me, Hastings, you
yourself--have you no suspicions of anybody?"

I hesitated. To tell the truth, an idea, wild and extravagant in
itself, had once or twice that morning flashed through my brain.
I had rejected it as absurd, nevertheless it persisted.

"You couldn't call it a suspicion," I murmured. "It's so utterly

"Come now," urged Poirot encouragingly. "Do not fear. Speak
your mind. You should always pay attention to your instincts."

"Well then," I blurted out, "it's absurd--but I suspect Miss
Howard of not telling all she knows!"

"Miss Howard?"

"Yes--you'll laugh at me----"

"Not at all. Why should I?"

"I can't help feeling," I continued blunderingly; "that we've
rather left her out of the possible suspects, simply on the
strength of her having been away from the place. But, after all,
she was only fifteen miles away. A car would do it in half an
hour. Can we say positively that she was away from Styles on the
night of the murder?"

"Yes, my friend," said Poirot unexpectedly, "we can. One of my
first actions was to ring up the hospital where she was working."


"Well, I learnt that Miss Howard had been on afternoon duty on
Tuesday, and that--a convoy coming in unexpectedly--she had
kindly offered to remain on night duty, which offer was
gratefully accepted. That disposes of that."

"Oh!" I said, rather nonplussed. "Really," I continued, "it's
her extraordinary vehemence against Inglethorp that started me
off suspecting her. I can't help feeling she'd do anything
against him. And I had an idea she might know something about
the destroying of the will. She might have burnt the new one,
mistaking it for the earlier one in his favour. She is so
terribly bitter against him."

"You consider her vehemence unnatural?"

"Y--es. She is so very violent. I wondered really whether she
is quite sane on that point."

Poirot shook his head energetically.

"No, no, you are on a wrong tack there. There is nothing
weak-minded or degenerate about Miss Howard. She is an excellent
specimen of well-balanced English beef and brawn. She is sanity

"Yet her hatred of Inglethorp seems almost a mania. My idea
was--a very ridiculous one, no doubt--that she had intended to
poison him--and that, in some way, Mrs. Inglethorp got hold of it
by mistake. But I don't at all see how it could have been done.
The whole thing is absurd and ridiculous to the last degree."

"Still you are right in one thing. It is always wise to suspect
everybody until you can prove logically, and to your own
satisfaction, that they are innocent. Now, what reasons are
there against Miss Howard's having deliberately poisoned Mrs.

"Why, she was devoted to her!" I exclaimed.

"Tcha! Tcha!" cried Poirot irritably. "You argue like a child.
If Miss Howard were capable of poisoning the old lady, she would
be quite equally capable of simulating devotion. No, we must
look elsewhere. You are perfectly correct in your assumption
that her vehemence against Alfred Inglethorp is too violent to be
natural; but you are quite wrong in the deduction you draw from
it. I have drawn my own deductions, which I believe to be
correct, but I will not speak of them at present." He paused a
minute, then went on. "Now, to my way of thinking, there is one
insuperable objection to Miss Howard's being the murderess."

"And that is?"

"That in no possible way could Mrs. Inglethorp's death benefit
Miss Howard. Now there is no murder without a motive."

I reflected.

"Could not Mrs. Inglethorp have made a will in her favour?"
Poirot shook his head.

"But you yourself suggested that possibility to Mr. Wells?"

Poirot smiled.

"That was for a reason. I did not want to mention the name of
the person who was actually in my mind. Miss Howard occupied
very much the same position, so I used her name instead."

"Still, Mrs. Inglethorp might have done so. Why, that will, made
on the afternoon of her death may----"

But Poirot's shake of the head was so energetic that I stopped.

"No, my friend. I have certain little ideas of my own about that
will. But I can tell you this much--it was not in Miss Howard's

I accepted his assurance, though I did not really see how he
could be so positive about the matter.

"Well," I said, with a sigh, "we will acquit Miss Howard, then.
It is partly your fault that I ever came to suspect her. It was
what you said about her evidence at the inquest that set me off."

Poirot looked puzzled.

"What did I say about her evidence at the inquest?"

"Don't you remember? When I cited her and John Cavendish as being
above suspicion?"

"Oh--ah--yes." He seemed a little confused, but recovered
himself. "By the way, Hastings, there is something I want you to
do for me."

"Certainly. What is it?"

"Next time you happen to be alone with Lawrence Cavendish, I want
you to say this to him. 'I have a message for you, from Poirot.
He says: "Find the extra coffee-cup, and you can rest in peace!"
' Nothing more. Nothing less."

" 'Find the extra coffee-cup, and you can rest in peace.' Is that
right?" I asked, much mystified.


"But what does it mean?"

"Ah, that I will leave you to find out. You have access to the
facts. Just say that to him, and see what he says."

"Very well--but it's all extremely mysterious."

We were running into Tadminster now, and Poirot directed the car
to the "Analytical Chemist."

Poirot hopped down briskly, and went inside. In a few minutes he
was back again.

"There," he said. "That is all my business."

"What were you doing there?" I asked, in lively curiosity.

"I left something to be analysed."

"Yes, but what?"

"The sample of coco I took from the saucepan in the bedroom."

"But that has already been tested!" I cried, stupefied. "Dr.
Bauerstein had it tested, and you yourself laughed at the
possibility of there being strychnine in it."

"I know Dr. Bauerstein had it tested," replied Poirot quietly.

"Well, then?"

"Well, I have a fancy for having it analysed again, that is all."

And not another word on the subject could I drag out of him.

This proceeding of Poirot's, in respect of the coco, puzzled me
intensely. I could see neither rhyme nor reason in it. However,
my confidence in him, which at one time had rather waned, was
fully restored since his belief in Alfred Inglethorp's innocence
had been so triumphantly vindicated.

The funeral of Mrs. Inglethorp took place the following day, and
on Monday, as I came down to a late breakfast, John drew me
aside, and informed me that Mr. Inglethorp was leaving that
morning, to take up his quarters at the Stylites Arms until he
should have completed his plans.

"And really it's a great relief to think he's going, Hastings,"
continued my honest friend. "It was bad enough before, when we
thought he'd done it, but I'm hanged if it isn't worse now, when
we all feel guilty for having been so down on the fellow. The
fact is, we've treated him abominably. Of course, things did
look black against him. I don't see how anyone could blame us
for jumping to the conclusions we did. Still, there it is, we
were in the wrong, and now there's a beastly feeling that one
ought to make amends; which is difficult, when one doesn't like
the fellow a bit better than one did before. The whole thing's
damned awkward! And I'm thankful he's had the tact to take
himself off. It's a good thing Styles wasn't the mater's to
leave to him. Couldn't bear to think of the fellow fording it
here. He's welcome to her money."

"You'll be able to keep up the place all right?" I asked.

"Oh, yes. There are the death duties, of course, but half my
father's money goes with the place, and Lawrence will stay with
us for the present, so there is his share as well. We shall be
pinched at first, of course, because, as I once told you, I am in
a bit of a hole financially myself. Still, the Johnnies will
wait now."

In the general relief at Inglethorp's approaching departure, we
had the most genial breakfast we had experienced since the
tragedy. Cynthia, whose young spirits were naturally buoyant,
was looking quite her pretty self again, and we all, with the
exception of Lawrence, who seemed unalterably gloomy and nervous,
were quietly cheerful, at the opening of a new and hopeful

The papers, of course, had been full of the tragedy. Glaring
headlines, sandwiched biographies of every member of the
household, subtle innuendoes, the usual familiar tag about the
police having a clue. Nothing was spared us. It was a slack
time. The war was momentarily inactive, and the newspapers
seized with avidity on this crime in fashionable life: "The
Mysterious Affair at Styles" was the topic of the moment.

Naturally it was very annoying for the Cavendishes. The house
was constantly besieged by reporters, who were consistently
denied admission, but who continued to haunt the village and the
grounds, where they lay in wait with cameras, for any unwary
members of the household. We all lived in a blast of publicity.
The Scotland Yard men came and went, examining, questioning,
lynx-eyed and reserved of tongue. Towards what end they were
working, we did not know. Had they any clue, or would the whole
thing remain in the category of undiscovered crimes?

After breakfast, Dorcas came up to me rather mysteriously, and
asked if she might have a few words with me.

"Certainly. What is it, Dorcas?"

"Well, it's just this, sir. You'll be seeing the Belgian
gentleman to-day perhaps?" I nodded. "Well, sir, you know how he
asked me so particular if the mistress, or anyone else, had a
green dress?"

"Yes, yes. You have found one?" My interest was aroused.

"No, not that, sir. But since then I've remembered what the
young gentlemen"--John and Lawrence were still the "young
gentlemen" to Dorcas--"call the 'dressing-up box.' It's up in the
front attic, sir. A great chest, full of old clothes and fancy
dresses, and what not. And it came to me sudden like that there
might be a green dress amongst them. So, if you'd tell the
Belgian gentleman----"

"I will tell him, Dorcas," I promised.

"Thank you very much, sir. A very nice gentleman he is, sir.
And quite a different class from them two detectives from London,
what goes prying about, and asking questions. I don't hold with
foreigners as a rule, but from what the newspapers say I make out
as how these brave Belges isn't the ordinary run of foreigners,
and certainly he's a most polite spoken gentleman."

Dear old Dorcas! As she stood there, with her honest face
upturned to mine, I thought what a fine specimen she was of the
old-fashioned servant that is so fast dying out.

I thought I might as well go down to the village at once, and
look up Poirot; but I met him half-way, coming up to the house,
and at once gave him Dorcas's message.

"Ah, the brave Dorcas! We will look at the chest, although--but
no matter--we will examine it all the same."

We entered the house by one of the windows. There was no one in
the hall, and we went straight up to the attic.

Sure enough, there was the chest, a fine old piece, all studded
with brass nails, and full to overflowing with every imaginable
type of garment.

Poirot bundled everything out on the floor with scant ceremony.
There were one or two green fabrics of varying shades; but Poirot
shook his head over them all. He seemed somewhat apathetic in
the search, as though he expected no great results from it.
Suddenly he gave an exclamation.

"What is it?"


The chest was nearly empty, and there, reposing right at the
bottom, was a magnificent black beard.

"Oho!" said Poirot. "Oho!" He turned it over in his hands,
examining it closely. "New," he remarked. "Yes, quite new."

After a moment's hesitation, he replaced it in the chest, heaped
all the other things on top of it as before, and made his way
briskly downstairs. He went straight to the pantry, where we
found Dorcas busily polishing her silver.

Poirot wished her good morning with Gallic politeness, and went

"We have been looking through that chest, Dorcas. I am much
obliged to you for mentioning it. There is, indeed, a fine
collection there. Are they often used, may I ask?"

"Well, sir, not very often nowadays, though from time to time we
do have what the young gentlemen call 'a dress-up night.' And
very funny it is sometimes, sir. Mr. Lawrence, he's wonderful.
Most comic! I shall never forget the night he came down as the
Char of Persia, I think he called it--a sort of Eastern King it
was. He had the big paper knife in his hand, and 'Mind, Dorcas,'
he says, 'you'll have to be very respectful. This is my
specially sharpened scimitar, and it's off with your head if I'm
at all displeased with you!' Miss Cynthia, she was what they call
an Apache, or some such name--a Frenchified sort of cut-throat, I
take it to be. A real sight she looked. You'd never have
believed a pretty young lady like that could have made herself
into such a ruffian. Nobody would have known her."

"These evenings must have been great fun," said Poirot genially.
"I suppose Mr. Lawrence wore that fine black beard in the chest
upstairs, when he was Shah of Persia?"

"He did have a beard, sir," replied Dorcas, smiling. "And well I
know it, for he borrowed two skeins of my black wool to make it
with! And I'm sure it looked wonderfully natural at a distance.
I didn't know as there was a beard up there at all. It must have
been got quite lately, I think. There was a red wig, I know, but
nothing else in the way of hair. Burnt corks they use
mostly--though 'tis messy getting it off again. Miss Cynthia was
a nigger once, and, oh, the trouble she had."

"So Dorcas knows nothing about that black beard," said Poirot
thoughtfully, as we walked out into the hall again.

"Do you think it is _the_ one?" I whispered eagerly.

Poirot nodded.

"I do. You notice it had been trimmed?"


"Yes. It was cut exactly the shape of Mr. Inglethorp's, and I
found one or two snipped hairs. Hastings, this affair is very

"Who put it in the chest, I wonder?"

"Some one with a good deal of intelligence," remarked Poirot
dryly. "You realize that he chose the one place in the house to
hide it where its presence would not be remarked? Yes, he is
intelligent. But we must be more intelligent. We must be so
intelligent that he does not suspect us of being intelligent at

I acquiesced.

"There, mon ami, you will be of great assistance to me."

I was pleased with the compliment. There had been times when I
hardly thought that Poirot appreciated me at my true worth.

"Yes," he continued, staring at me thoughtfully, "you will be

This was naturally gratifying, but Poirot's next words were not
so welcome.

"I must have an ally in the house," he observed reflectively.

"You have me," I protested.

"True, but you are not sufficient."

I was hurt, and showed it. Poirot hurried to explain himself.

"You do not quite take my meaning. You are known to be working
with me. I want somebody who is not associated with us in any

"Oh, I see. How about John?"

"No, I think not."

"The dear fellow isn't perhaps very bright," I said thoughtfully.

"Here comes Miss Howard," said Poirot suddenly. "She is the very
person. But I am in her black books, since I cleared Mr.
Inglethorp. Still, we can but try."

With a nod that was barely civil, Miss Howard assented to
Poirot's request for a few minutes' conversation.

We went into the little morning-room, and Poirot closed the door.

"Well, Monsieur Poirot," said Miss Howard impatiently, "what is
it? Out with it. I'm busy."

"Do you remember, mademoiselle, that I once asked you to help

"Yes, I do." The lady nodded. "And I told you I'd help you with
pleasure--to hang Alfred Inglethorp."

"Ah!" Poirot studied her seriously. "Miss Howard, I will ask you
one question. I beg of you to reply to it truthfully."

"Never tell lies," replied Miss Howard.

"It is this. Do you still believe that Mrs. Inglethorp was
poisoned by her husband?"

"What do you mean?" she asked sharply. "You needn't think your
pretty explanations influence me in the slightest. I'll admit
that it wasn't he who bought strychnine at the chemist's shop.
What of that? I dare say he soaked fly paper, as I told you at
the beginning."

"That is arsenic--not strychnine," said Poirot mildly.

"What does that matter? Arsenic would put poor Emily out of the
way just as well as strychnine. If I'm convinced he did it, it
doesn't matter a jot to me _how_ he did it."

"Exactly. _If_ you are convinced he did it," said Poirot quietly.
"I will put my question in another form. Did you ever in your
heart of hearts believe that Mrs. Inglethorp was poisoned by her

"Good heavens!" cried Miss Howard. "Haven't I always told you
the man is a villain? Haven't I always told you he would murder
her in her bed? Haven't I always hated him like poison?"

"Exactly," said Poirot. "That bears out my little idea

"What little idea?"

"Miss Howard, do you remember a conversation that took place on
the day of my friend's arrival here? He repeated it to me, and
there is a sentence of yours that has impressed me very much. Do
you remember affirming that if a crime had been committed, and
anyone you loved had been murdered, you felt certain that you
would know by instinct who the criminal was, even if you were
quite unable to prove it?"

"Yes, I remember saying that. I believe it too. I suppose you
think it nonsense?"

"Not at all."

"And yet you will pay no attention to my instinct against Alfred

"No," said Poirot curtly. "Because your instinct is not against
Mr. Inglethorp."


"No. You wish to believe he committed the crime. You believe
him capable of committing it. But your instinct tells you he did
not commit it. It tells you more--shall I go on?"

She was staring at him, fascinated, and made a slight affirmative
movement of the hand.

"Shall I tell you why you have been so vehement against Mr.
Inglethorp? It is because you have been trying to believe what
you wish to believe. It is because you are trying to drown and
stifle your instinct, which tells you another name----"

"No, no, no!" cried Miss Howard wildly, flinging up her hands.
"Don't say it! Oh, don't say it! It isn't true! It can't be true.
I don't know what put such a wild--such a dreadful--idea into my

"I am right, am I not?" asked Poirot.

"Yes, yes; you must be a wizard to have guessed. But it can't be
so--it's too monstrous, too impossible. It must be Alfred

Poirot shook his head gravely.

"Don't ask me about it," continued Miss Howard, "because I shan't
tell you. I won't admit it, even to myself. I must be mad to
think of such a thing."

Poirot nodded, as if satisfied.

"I will ask you nothing. It is enough for me that it is as I
thought. And I--I, too, have an instinct. We are working
together towards a common end."

"Don't ask me to help you, because I won't. I wouldn't lift a
finger to--to----" She faltered.

"You will help me in spite of yourself. I ask you nothing--but
you will be my ally. You will not be able to help yourself. You
will do the only thing that I want of you."

"And that is?"

"You will watch!"

Evelyn Howard bowed her head.

"Yes, I can't help doing that. I am always watching--always
hoping I shall be proved wrong."

"If we are wrong, well and good," said Poirot. "No one will be
more pleased than I shall. But, if we are right? If we are
right, Miss Howard, on whose side are you then?"

"I don't know, I don't know----"

"Come now."

"It could be hushed up."

"There must be no hushing up."

"But Emily herself----" She broke off.

"Miss Howard," said Poirot gravely, "this is unworthy of you."

Suddenly she took her face from her hands.

"Yes," she said quietly, "that was not Evelyn Howard who spoke!"
She flung her head up proudly. "_This_ is Evelyn Howard! And she
is on the side of Justice! Let the cost be what it may." And with
these words, she walked firmly out of the room.

"There," said Poirot, looking after her, "goes a very valuable
ally. That woman, Hastings, has got brains as well as a heart."

I did not reply.

"Instinct is a marvellous thing," mused Poirot. "It can neither
be explained nor ignored."

"You and Miss Howard seem to know what you are talking about," I
observed coldly. "Perhaps you don't realize that I am still in
the dark."

"Really? Is that so, mon ami?"

"Yes. Enlighten me, will you?"

Poirot studied me attentively for a moment or two. Then, to my
intense surprise, he shook his head decidedly.

"No, my friend."

"Oh, look here, why not?"

"Two is enough for a secret."

"Well, I think it is very unfair to keep back facts from me."

"I am not keeping back facts. Every fact that I know is in your
possession. You can draw your own deductions from them. This
time it is a question of ideas."

"Still, it would be interesting to know."

Poirot looked at me very earnestly, and again shook his head.

"You see," he said sadly, "_you_ have no instincts."

"It was intelligence you were requiring just now," I pointed out.

"The two often go together," said Poirot enigmatically.

The remark seemed so utterly irrelevant that I did not even take
the trouble to answer it. But I decided that if I made any
interesting and important discoveries--as no doubt I should--I
would keep them to myself, and surprise Poirot with the ultimate

There are times when it is one's duty to assert oneself.



I HAD had no opportunity as yet of passing on Poirot's message to
Lawrence. But now, as I strolled out on the lawn, still nursing
a grudge against my friend's high-handedness, I saw Lawrence on
the croquet lawn, aimlessly knocking a couple of very ancient
balls about, with a still more ancient mallet.

It struck me that it would be a good opportunity to deliver my
message. Otherwise, Poirot himself might relieve me of it. It
was true that I did not quite gather its purport, but I flattered
myself that by Lawrence's reply, and perhaps a little skillful
cross-examination on my part, I should soon perceive its
significance. Accordingly I accosted him.

"I've been looking for you," I remarked untruthfully.

"Have you?"

"Yes. The truth is, I've got a message for you--from Poirot."


"He told me to wait until I was alone with you," I said, dropping
my voice significantly, and watching him intently out of the
corner of my eye. I have always been rather good at what is
called, I believe, creating an atmosphere.


There was no change of expression in the dark melancholic face.
Had he any idea of what I was about to say?

"This is the message." I dropped my voice still lower. " 'Find
the extra coffee-cup, and you can rest in peace.' "

"What on earth does he mean?" Lawrence stared at me in quite
unaffected astonishment.

"Don't you know?"

"Not in the least. Do you?"

I was compelled to shake my head.

"What extra coffee-cup?"

"I don't know."

"He'd better ask Dorcas, or one of the maids, if he wants to know
about coffee-cups. It's their business, not mine. I don't know
anything about the coffee-cups, except that we've got some that
are never used, which are a perfect dream! Old Worcester. You're
not a connoisseur, are you, Hastings?"

I shook my head.

"You miss a lot. A really perfect bit of old china--it's pure
delight to handle it, or even to look at it."

"Well, what am I to tell Poirot?"

"Tell him I don't know what he's talking about. It's double
Dutch to me."

"All right."

I was moving off towards the house again when he suddenly called
me back.

"I say, what was the end of that message? Say it over again, will

" 'Find the extra coffee-cup, and you can rest in peace.' Are you
sure you don't know what it means?" I asked him earnestly.

He shook his head.

"No," he said musingly, "I don't. I--I wish I did."

The boom of the gong sounded from the house, and we went in
together. Poirot had been asked by John to remain to lunch, and
was already seated at the table.

By tacit consent, all mention of the tragedy was barred. We
conversed on the war, and other outside topics. But after the
cheese and biscuits had been handed round, and Dorcas had left
the room, Poirot suddenly leant forward to Mrs. Cavendish.

"Pardon me, madame, for recalling unpleasant memories, but I have
a little idea"--Poirot's "little ideas" were becoming a perfect
byword--"and would like to ask one or two questions."

"Of me? Certainly."

"You are too amiable, madame. What I want to ask is this: the
door leading into Mrs. Inglethorp's room from that of
Mademoiselle Cynthia, it was bolted, you say?"

"Certainly it was bolted," replied Mary Cavendish, rather
surprised. "I said so at the inquest."


"Yes." She looked perplexed.

"I mean," explained Poirot, "you are sure it was bolted, and not
merely locked?"

"Oh, I see what you mean. No, I don't know. I said bolted,
meaning that it was fastened, and I could not open it, but I
believe all the doors were found bolted on the inside."

"Still, as far as you are concerned, the door might equally well
have been locked?"

"Oh, yes."

"You yourself did not happen to notice, madame, when you entered
Mrs. Inglethorp's room, whether that door was bolted or not?"

"I--I believe it was."

"But you did not see it?"

"No. I--never looked."

"But I did," interrupted Lawrence suddenly. "I happened to
notice that it _was_ bolted."

"Ah, that settles it." And Poirot looked crestfallen.

I could not help rejoicing that, for once, one of his "little
ideas" had come to naught.

After lunch Poirot begged me to accompany him home. I consented
rather stiffly.

"You are annoyed, is it not so?" he asked anxiously, as we walked
through the park.

"Not at all," I said coldly.

"That is well. That lifts a great load from my mind."

This was not quite what I had intended. I had hoped that he
would have observed the stiffness of my manner. Still, the
fervour of his words went towards the appeasing of my just
displeasure. I thawed.

"I gave Lawrence your message," I said.

"And what did he say? He was entirely puzzled?"

"Yes. I am quite sure he had no idea of what you meant."

I had expected Poirot to be disappointed; but, to my surprise, he
replied that that was as he had thought, and that he was very
glad. My pride forbade me to ask any questions.

Poirot switched off on another tack.

"Mademoiselle Cynthia was not at lunch to-day? How was that?"

"She is at the hospital again. She resumed work to-day."

"Ah, she is an industrious little demoiselle. And pretty too.
She is like pictures I have seen in Italy. I would rather like
to see that dispensary of hers. Do you think she would show it
to me?"

"I am sure she would be delighted. It's an interesting little

"Does she go there every day?"

"She has all Wednesdays off, and comes back to lunch on
Saturdays. Those are her only times off."

"I will remember. Women are doing great work nowadays, and
Mademoiselle Cynthia is clever--oh, yes, she has brains, that
little one."

"Yes. I believe she has passed quite a stiff exam."

"Without doubt. After all, it is very responsible work. I
suppose they have very strong poisons there?"

"Yes, she showed them to us. They are kept locked up in a little
cupboard. I believe they have to be very careful. They always
take out the key before leaving the room."

"Indeed. It is near the window, this cupboard?"

"No, right the other side of the room. Why?"

Poirot shrugged his shoulders.

"I wondered. That is all. Will you come in?"

We had reached the cottage.

"No. I think I'll be getting back. I shall go round the long
way through the woods."

The woods round Styles were very beautiful. After the walk
across the open park, it was pleasant to saunter lazily through
the cool glades. There was hardly a breath of wind, the very
chirp of the birds was faint and subdued. I strolled on a little
way, and finally flung myself down at the foot of a grand old
beech-tree. My thoughts of mankind were kindly and charitable.
I even forgave Poirot for his absurd secrecy. In fact, I was at
peace with the world. Then I yawned.

I thought about the crime, and it struck me as being very unreal
and far off.

I yawned again.

Probably, I thought, it really never happened. Of course, it was
all a bad dream. The truth of the matter was that it was
Lawrence who had murdered Alfred Inglethorp with a croquet
mallet. But it was absurd of John to make such a fuss about it,
and to go shouting out: "I tell you I won't have it!"

I woke up with a start.

At once I realized that I was in a very awkward predicament.
For, about twelve feet away from me, John and Mary Cavendish were
standing facing each other, and they were evidently quarrelling.
And, quite as evidently, they were unaware of my vicinity, for
before I could move or speak John repeated the words which had
aroused me from my dream.

"I tell you, Mary, I won't have it."

Mary's voice came, cool and liquid:

"Have _you_ any right to criticize my actions?"

"It will be the talk of the village! My mother was only buried on
Saturday, and here you are gadding about with the fellow."

"Oh," she shrugged her shoulders, "if it is only village gossip
that you mind!"

"But it isn't. I've had enough of the fellow hanging about.
He's a Polish Jew, anyway."

"A tinge of Jewish blood is not a bad thing. It leavens
the"--she looked at him--"stolid stupidity of the ordinary

Fire in her eyes, ice in her voice. I did not wonder that the
blood rose to John's face in a crimson tide.


"Well?" Her tone did not change.

The pleading died out of his voice.

"Am I to understand that you will continue to see Bauerstein
against my express wishes?"

"If I choose."

"You defy me?"

"No, but I deny your right to criticize my actions. Have _you_ no
friends of whom I should disapprove?"

John fell back a pace. The colour ebbed slowly from his face.

"What do you mean?" he said, in an unsteady voice.

"You see!" said Mary quietly. "You _do_ see, don't you, that _you_
have no right to dictate to _me_ as to the choice of my friends?"

John glanced at her pleadingly, a stricken look on his face.

"No right? Have I _no_ right, Mary?" he said unsteadily. He
stretched out his hands. "Mary----"

For a moment, I thought she wavered. A softer expression came
over her face, then suddenly she turned almost fiercely away.


She was walking away when John sprang after her, and caught her
by the arm.

"Mary"--his voice was very quiet now--"are you in love with this
fellow Bauerstein?"

She hesitated, and suddenly there swept across her face a strange
expression, old as the hills, yet with something eternally young
about it. So might some Egyptian sphinx have smiled.

She freed herself quietly from his arm, and spoke over her

"Perhaps," she said; and then swiftly passed out of the little
glade, leaving John standing there as though he had been turned
to stone.

Rather ostentatiously, I stepped forward, crackling some dead
branches with my feet as I did so. John turned. Luckily, he
took it for granted that I had only just come upon the scene.

"Hullo, Hastings. Have you seen the little fellow safely back to
his cottage? Quaint little chap! Is he any good, though, really?"

"He was considered one of the finest detectives of his day."

"Oh, well, I suppose there must be something in it, then. What a
rotten world it is, though!"

"You find it so?" I asked.

"Good Lord, yes! There's this terrible business to start with.
Scotland Yard men in and out of the house like a jack-in-the-box!
Never know where they won't turn up next. Screaming headlines in
every paper in the country--damn all journalists, I say! Do you
know there was a whole crowd staring in at the lodge gates this
morning. Sort of Madame Tussaud's chamber of horrors business
that can be seen for nothing. Pretty thick, isn't it?"

"Cheer up, John!" I said soothingly. "It can't last for ever."

"Can't it, though? It can last long enough for us never to be
able to hold up our heads again."

"No, no, you're getting morbid on the subject."

"Enough to make a man morbid, to be stalked by beastly
journalists and stared at by gaping moon-faced idiots, wherever
he goes! But there's worse than that."


John lowered his voice:

"Have you ever thought, Hastings--it's a nightmare to me--who
did it? I can't help feeling sometimes it must have been an
accident. Because--because--who could have done it? Now
Inglethorp's out of the way, there's no one else; no one, I mean,
except--one of us."

Yes, indeed, that was nightmare enough for any man! One of us?
Yes, surely it must be so, unless-----

A new idea suggested itself to my mind. Rapidly, I considered
it. The light increased. Poirot's mysterious doings, his
hints--they all fitted in. Fool that I was not to have thought
of this possibility before, and what a relief for us all.

"No, John," I said, "it isn't one of us. How could it be?"

"I know, but, still, who else is there?"

"Can't you guess?"


I looked cautiously round, and lowered my voice.

"Dr. Bauerstein!" I whispered.


"Not at all."

"But what earthly interest could he have in my mother's death?"

"That I don't see," I confessed, "but I'll tell you this: Poirot
thinks so."

"Poirot? Does he? How do you know?"

I told him of Poirot's intense excitement on hearing that Dr.
Bauerstein had been at Styles on the fatal night, and added:

"He said twice: 'That alters everything.' And I've been thinking.
You know Inglethorp said he had put down the coffee in the hall?
Well, it was just then that Bauerstein arrived. Isn't it
possible that, as Inglethorp brought him through the hall, the
doctor dropped something into the coffee in passing?"

"H'm," said John. "It would have been very risky."

"Yes, but it was possible."

"And then, how could he know it was her coffee? No, old fellow, I
don't think that will wash."

But I had remembered something else.

"You're quite right. That wasn't how it was done. Listen." And
I then told him of the coco sample which Poirot had taken to be

John interrupted just as I had done.

"But, look here, Bauerstein had had it analysed already?"

"Yes, yes, that's the point. I didn't see it either until now.
Don't you understand? Bauerstein had it analysed--that's just it!
If Bauerstein's the murderer, nothing could be simpler than for
him to substitute some ordinary coco for his sample, and send
that to be tested. And of course they would find no strychnine!
But no one would dream of suspecting Bauerstein, or think of
taking another sample--except Poirot," I added, with belated


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