The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Agatha Christie

Part 4 out of 5


"Yes, but what about the bitter taste that coco won't disguise?"

"Well, we've only his word for that. And there are other
possibilities. He's admittedly one of the world's greatest

"One of the world's greatest what? Say it again."

"He knows more about poisons than almost anybody," I explained.
"Well, my idea is, that perhaps he's found some way of making
strychnine tasteless. Or it may not have been strychnine at all,
but some obscure drug no one has ever heard of, which produces
much the same symptoms."

"H'm, yes, that might be," said John. "But look here, how could
he have got at the coco? That wasn't downstairs?"

"No, it wasn't," I admitted reluctantly.

And then, suddenly, a dreadful possibility flashed through my
mind. I hoped and prayed it would not occur to John also. I
glanced sideways at him. He was frowning perplexedly, and I drew
a deep breath of relief, for the terrible thought that had
flashed across my mind was this: that Dr. Bauerstein might have
had an accomplice.

Yet surely it could not be! Surely no woman as beautiful as Mary
Cavendish could be a murderess. Yet beautiful women had been
known to poison.

And suddenly I remembered that first conversation at tea on the
day of my arrival, and the gleam in her eyes as she had said that
poison was a woman's weapon. How agitated she had been on that
fatal Tuesday evening! Had Mrs. Inglethorp discovered something
between her and Bauerstein, and threatened to tell her husband?
Was it to stop that denunciation that the crime had been

Then I remembered that enigmatical conversation between Poirot
and Evelyn Howard. Was this what they had meant? Was this the
monstrous possibility that Evelyn had tried not to believe?

Yes, it all fitted in.

No wonder Miss Howard had suggested "hushing it up." Now I
understood that unfinished sentence of hers: "Emily herself----"
And in my heart I agreed with her. Would not Mrs. Inglethorp
have preferred to go unavenged rather than have such terrible
dishonour fall upon the name of Cavendish.

"There's another thing," said John suddenly, and the unexpected
sound of his voice made me start guiltily. "Something which
makes me doubt if what you say can be true."

"What's that?" I asked, thankful that he had gone away from the
subject of how the poison could have been introduced into the

"Why, the fact that Bauerstein demanded a post-mortem. He
needn't have done so. Little Wilkins would have been quite
content to let it go at heart disease."

"Yes," I said doubtfully. "But we don't know. Perhaps he
thought it safer in the long run. Some one might have talked
afterwards. Then the Home Office might have ordered exhumation.
The whole thing would have come out, then, and he would have been
in an awkward position, for no one would have believed that a man
of his reputation could have been deceived into calling it heart

"Yes, that's possible," admitted John. "Still," he added, "I'm
blest if I can see what his motive could have been."

I trembled.

"Look here," I said, "I may be altogether wrong. And, remember,
all this is in confidence."

"Oh, of course--that goes without saying."

We had walked, as we talked, and now we passed through the little
gate into the garden. Voices rose near at hand, for tea was
spread out under the sycamore-tree, as it had been on the day of
my arrival.

Cynthia was back from the hospital, and I placed my chair beside
her, and told her of Poirot's wish to visit the dispensary.

"Of course! I'd love him to see it. He'd better come to tea
there one day. I must fix it up with him. He's such a dear
little man! But he _is_ funny. He made me take the brooch out of
my tie the other day, and put it in again, because he said it
wasn't straight."

I laughed.

"It's quite a mania with him."

"Yes, isn't it?"

We were silent for a minute or two, and then, glancing in the
direction of Mary Cavendish, and dropping her voice, Cynthia

"Mr. Hastings."


"After tea, I want to talk to you."

Her glance at Mary had set me thinking. I fancied that between
these two there existed very little sympathy. For the first
time, it occurred to me to wonder about the girl's future. Mrs.
Inglethorp had made no provisions of any kind for her, but I
imagined that John and Mary would probably insist on her making
her home with them--at any rate until the end of the war. John,
I knew, was very fond of her, and would be sorry to let her go.

John, who had gone into the house, now reappeared. His
good-natured face wore an unaccustomed frown of anger.

"Confound those detectives! I can't think what they're after!
They've been in every room in the house--turning things inside
out, and upside down. It really is too bad! I suppose they took
advantage of our all being out. I shall go for that fellow Japp,
when I next see him!"

"Lot of Paul Prys," grunted Miss Howard.

Lawrence opined that they had to make a show of doing something.

Mary Cavendish said nothing.

After tea, I invited Cynthia to come for a walk, and we sauntered
off into the woods together.

"Well?" I inquired, as soon as we were protected from prying eyes
by the leafy screen.

With a sigh, Cynthia flung herself down, and tossed off her hat.
The sunlight, piercing through the branches, turned the auburn of
her hair to quivering gold.

"Mr. Hastings--you are always so kind, and you know such a lot."

It struck me at this moment that Cynthia was really a very
charming girl! Much more charming than Mary, who never said
things of that kind.

"Well?" I asked benignantly, as she hesitated.

"I want to ask your advice. What shall I do?"


"Yes. You see, Aunt Emily always told me I should be provided
for. I suppose she forgot, or didn't think she was likely to
die--anyway, I am _not_ provided for! And I don't know what to do.
Do you think I ought to go away from here at once?"

"Good heavens, no! They don't want to part with you, I'm sure."

Cynthia hesitated a moment, plucking up the grass with her tiny
hands. Then she said: "Mrs. Cavendish does. She hates me."

"Hates you?" I cried, astonished.

Cynthia nodded.

"Yes. I don't know why, but she can't bear me; and _he_ can't,

"There I know you're wrong," I said warmly. "On the contrary,
John is very fond of you."

"Oh, yes--_John_. I meant Lawrence. Not, of course, that I care
whether Lawrence hates me or not. Still, it's rather horrid when
no one loves you, isn't it?"

"But they do, Cynthia dear," I said earnestly. "I'm sure you are
mistaken. Look, there is John--and Miss Howard--"

Cynthia nodded rather gloomily. "Yes, John likes me, I think,
and of course Evie, for all her gruff ways, wouldn't be unkind to
a fly. But Lawrence never speaks to me if he can help it, and
Mary can hardly bring herself to be civil to me. She wants Evie
to stay on, is begging her to, but she doesn't want me,
and--and--I don't know what to do." Suddenly the poor child burst
out crying.

I don't know what possessed me. Her beauty, perhaps, as she sat
there, with the sunlight glinting down on her head; perhaps the
sense of relief at encountering someone who so obviously could
have no connection with the tragedy; perhaps honest pity for her
youth and loneliness. Anyway, I leant forward, and taking her
little hand, I said awkwardly:

"Marry me, Cynthia."

Unwittingly, I had hit upon a sovereign remedy for her tears.
She sat up at once, drew her hand away, and said, with some

"Don't be silly!"

I was a little annoyed.

"I'm not being silly. I am asking you to do me the honour of
becoming my wife."

To my intense surprise, Cynthia burst out laughing, and called me
a "funny dear."

"It's perfectly sweet of you," she said, "but you know you don't
want to!"

"Yes, I do. I've got--"

"Never mind what you've got. You don't really want to--and I
don't either."

"Well, of course, that settles it," I said stiffly. "But I don't
see anything to laugh at. There's nothing funny about a

"No, indeed," said Cynthia. "Somebody might accept you next
time. Good-bye, you've cheered me up very much."

And, with a final uncontrollable burst of merriment, she vanished
through the trees.

Thinking over the interview, it struck me as being profoundly

It occurred to me suddenly that I would go down to the village,
and look up Bauerstein. Somebody ought to be keeping an eye on
the fellow. At the same time, it would be wise to allay any
suspicions he might have as to his being suspected. I remembered
how Poirot had relied on my diplomacy. Accordingly, I went to
the little house with the "Apartments" card inserted in the
window, where I knew he lodged, and tapped on the door.

An old woman came and opened it.

"Good afternoon," I said pleasantly. "Is Dr. Bauerstein in?"

She stared at me.

"Haven't you heard?"

"Heard what?"

"About him."

"What about him?"

"He's took."

"Took? Dead?"

"No, took by the perlice."

"By the police!" I gasped. "Do you mean they've arrested him?"

"Yes, that's it, and--"

I waited to hear no more, but tore up the village to find Poirot.



To my extreme annoyance, Poirot was not in, and the old Belgian
who answered my knock informed me that he believed he had gone to

I was dumbfounded. What on earth could Poirot be doing in
London! Was it a sudden decision on his part, or had he already
made up his mind when he parted from me a few hours earlier?

I retraced my steps to Styles in some annoyance. With Poirot
away, I was uncertain how to act. Had he foreseen this arrest?
Had he not, in all probability, been the cause of it? Those
questions I could not resolve. But in the meantime what was I to
do? Should I announce the arrest openly at Styles, or not? Though
I did not acknowledge it to myself, the thought of Mary Cavendish
was weighing on me. Would it not be a terrible shock to her? For
the moment, I set aside utterly any suspicions of her. She could
not be implicated--otherwise I should have heard some hint of it.

Of course, there was no possibility of being able permanently to
conceal Dr. Bauerstein's arrest from her. It would be announced
in every newspaper on the morrow. Still, I shrank from blurting
it out. If only Poirot had been accessible, I could have asked
his advice. What possessed him to go posting off to London in
this unaccountable way?

In spite of myself, my opinion of his sagacity was immeasurably
heightened. I would never have dreamt of suspecting the doctor,
had not Poirot put it into my head. Yes, decidedly, the little
man was clever.

After some reflecting, I decided to take John into my confidence,
and leave him to make the matter public or not, as he thought

He gave vent to a prodigious whistle, as I imparted the news.

"Great Scot! You _were_ right, then. I couldn't believe it at
the time."

"No, it is astonishing until you get used to the idea, and see
how it makes everything fit in. Now, what are we to do? Of
course, it will be generally known to-morrow."

John reflected.

"Never mind," he said at last, "we won't say anything at present.
There is no need. As you say, it will be known soon enough."

But to my intense surprise, on getting down early the next
morning, and eagerly opening the newspapers, there was not a word
about the arrest! There was a column of mere padding about "The
Styles Poisoning Case," but nothing further. It was rather
inexplicable, but I supposed that, for some reason or other, Japp
wished to keep it out of the papers. It worried me just a
little, for it suggested the possibility that there might be
further arrests to come.

After breakfast, I decided to go down to the village, and see if
Poirot had returned yet; but, before I could start, a well-known
face blocked one of the windows, and the well-known voice said:

"Bon jour, mon ami!"

"Poirot," I exclaimed, with relief, and seizing him by both
hands, I dragged him into the room. "I was never so glad to see
anyone. Listen, I have said nothing to anybody but John. Is
that right?"

"My friend," replied Poirot, "I do not know what you are talking

"Dr. Bauerstein's arrest, of course," I answered impatiently.

"Is Bauerstein arrested, then?"

"Did you not know it?"

"Not the least in the world." But, pausing a moment, he added:
"Still, it does not surprise me. After all, we are only four
miles from the coast."

"The coast?" I asked, puzzled. "What has that got to do with

Poirot shrugged his shoulders.

"Surely, it is obvious!"

"Not to me. No doubt I am very dense, but I cannot see what the
proximity of the coast has got to do with the murder of Mrs.

"Nothing at all, of course," replied Poirot, smiling. "But we
were speaking of the arrest of Dr. Bauerstein."

"Well, he is arrested for the murder of Mrs. Inglethorp----"

"What?" cried Poirot, in apparently lively astonishment. "Dr.
Bauerstein arrested for the murder of Mrs. Inglethorp?"


"Impossible! That would be too good a farce! Who told you that,
my friend?"

"Well, no one exactly told me," I confessed. "But he is

"Oh, yes, very likely. But for espionage, mon ami."

"Espionage?" I gasped.


"Not for poisoning Mrs. Inglethorp?"

"Not unless our friend Japp has taken leave of his senses,"
replied Poirot placidly.

"But--but I thought you thought so too?"

Poirot gave me one look, which conveyed a wondering pity, and his
full sense of the utter absurdity of such an idea.

"Do you mean to say," I asked, slowly adapting myself to the new
idea, "that Dr. Bauerstein is a spy?"

Poirot nodded.

"Have you never suspected it?"

"It never entered my head."

"It did not strike you as peculiar that a famous London doctor
should bury himself in a little village like this, and should be
in the habit of walking about at all hours of the night, fully

"No," I confessed, "I never thought of such a thing."

"He is, of course, a German by birth," said Poirot thoughtfully,
"though he has practiced so long in this country that nobody
thinks of him as anything but an Englishman. He was naturalized
about fifteen years ago. A very clever man--a Jew, of course."

"The blackguard!" I cried indignantly.

"Not at all. He is, on the contrary, a patriot. Think what he
stands to lose. I admire the man myself."

But I could not look at it in Poirot's philosophical way.

"And this is the man with whom Mrs. Cavendish has been wandering
about all over the country!" I cried indignantly.

"Yes. I should fancy he had found her very useful," remarked
Poirot. "So long as gossip busied itself in coupling their names
together, any other vagaries of the doctor's passed unobserved."

"Then you think he never really cared for her?" I asked
eagerly--rather too eagerly, perhaps, under the circumstances.

"That, of course, I cannot say, but--shall I tell you my own
private opinion, Hastings?"


"Well, it is this: that Mrs. Cavendish does not care, and never
has cared one little jot about Dr. Bauerstein!"

"Do you really think so?" I could not disguise my pleasure.

"I am quite sure of it. And I will tell you why."


"Because she cares for some one else, mon ami."

"Oh!" What did he mean? In spite of myself, an agreeable warmth
spread over me. I am not a vain man where women are concerned,
but I remembered certain evidences, too lightly thought of at the
time, perhaps, but which certainly seemed to indicate----

My pleasing thoughts were interrupted by the sudden entrance of
Miss Howard. She glanced round hastily to make sure there was no
one else in the room, and quickly produced an old sheet of brown
paper. This she handed to Poirot, murmuring as she did so the
cryptic words:

"On top of the wardrobe." Then she hurriedly left the room.

Poirot unfolded the sheet of paper eagerly, and uttered an
exclamation of satisfaction. He spread it out on the table.

"Come here, Hastings. Now tell me, what is that initial--J. or

It was a medium sized sheet of paper, rather dusty, as though it
had lain by for some time. But it was the label that was
attracting Poirot's attention. At the top, it bore the printed
stamp of Messrs. Parkson's, the well-known theatrical
costumiers, and it was addressed to "--(the debatable initial)
Cavendish, Esq., Styles Court, Styles St. Mary, Essex."

"It might be T., or it might be L.," I said, after studying the
thing for a minute or two. "It certainly isn't a J."

"Good," replied Poirot, folding up the paper again. "I, also, am
of your way of thinking. It is an L., depend upon it!"

"Where did it come from?" I asked curiously. "Is it important?"

"Moderately so. It confirms a surmise of mine. Having deduced
its existence, I set Miss Howard to search for it, and, as you
see, she has been successful."

"What did she mean by 'On the top of the wardrobe'?"

"She meant," replied Poirot promptly, "that she found it on top
of a wardrobe."

"A funny place for a piece of brown paper," I mused.

"Not at all. The top of a wardrobe is an excellent place for
brown paper and cardboard boxes. I have kept them there myself.
Neatly arranged, there is nothing to offend the eye."

"Poirot," I asked earnestly, "have you made up your mind about
this crime?"

"Yes--that is to say, I believe I know how it was committed."


"Unfortunately, I have no proof beyond my surmise, unless----"
With sudden energy, he caught me by the arm, and whirled me down
the hall, calling out in French in his excitement: "Mademoiselle
Dorcas, Mademoiselle Dorcas, un moment, s'il vous plait!"

Dorcas, quite flurried by the noise, came hurrying out of the

"My good Dorcas, I have an idea--a little idea--if it should
prove justified, what magnificent chance! Tell me, on Monday, not
Tuesday, Dorcas, but Monday, the day before the tragedy, did
anything go wrong with Mrs. Inglethorp's bell?"

Dorcas looked very surprised.

"Yes, sir, now you mention it, it did; though I don't know how
you came to hear of it. A mouse, or some such, must have nibbled
the wire through. The man came and put it right on Tuesday

With a long drawn exclamation of ecstasy, Poirot led the way back
to the morning-room.

"See you, one should not ask for outside proof--no, reason should
be enough. But the flesh is weak, it is consolation to find that
one is on the right track. Ah, my friend, I am like a giant
refreshed. I run! I leap!"

And, in very truth, run and leap he did, gambolling wildly down
the stretch of lawn outside the long window.

"What is your remarkable little friend doing?" asked a voice
behind me, and I turned to find Mary Cavendish at my elbow. She
smiled, and so did I. "What is it all about?"

"Really, I can't tell you. He asked Dorcas some question about a
bell, and appeared so delighted with her answer that he is
capering about as you see!"

Mary laughed.

"How ridiculous! He's going out of the gate. Isn't he coming
back to-day?"

"I don't know. I've given up trying to guess what he'll do

"Is he quite mad, Mr. Hastings?"

"I honestly don't know. Sometimes, I feel sure he is as mad as a
hatter; and then, just as he is at his maddest, I find there is
method in his madness."

"I see."

In spite of her laugh, Mary was looking thoughtful this morning.
She seemed grave, almost sad.

It occurred to me that it would be a good opportunity to tackle
her on the subject of Cynthia. I began rather tactfully, I
thought, but I had not gone far before she stopped me

"You are an excellent advocate, I have no doubt, Mr. Hastings,
but in this case your talents are quite thrown away. Cynthia
will run no risk of encountering any unkindness from me."

I began to stammer feebly that I hoped she hadn't thought--But
again she stopped me, and her words were so unexpected that they
quite drove Cynthia, and her troubles, out of my mind.

"Mr. Hastings," she said, "do you think I and my husband are
happy together?"

I was considerably taken aback, and murmured something about it's
not being my business to think anything of the sort.

"Well," she said quietly, "whether it is your business or not, I
will tell you that we are _not_ happy."

I said nothing, for I saw that she had not finished.

She began slowly, walking up and down the room, her head a little
bent, and that slim, supple figure of hers swaying gently as she
walked. She stopped suddenly, and looked up at me.

"You don't know anything about me, do you?" she asked. "Where I
come from, who I was before I married John--anything, in fact?
Well, I will tell you. I will make a father confessor of you.
You are kind, I think--yes, I am sure you are kind."

Somehow, I was not quite as elated as I might have been. I
remembered that Cynthia had begun her confidences in much the
same way. Besides, a father confessor should be elderly, it is
not at all the role for a young man.

"My father was English," said Mrs. Cavendish, "but my mother was
a Russian."

"Ah," I said, "now I understand--"

"Understand what?"

"A hint of something foreign--different--that there has always
been about you."

"My mother was very beautiful, I believe. I don't know, because
I never saw her. She died when I was quite a little child. I
believe there was some tragedy connected with her death--she took
an overdose of some sleeping draught by mistake. However that
may be, my father was broken-hearted. Shortly afterwards, he
went into the Consular Service. Everywhere he went, I went with
him. When I was twenty-three, I had been nearly all over the
world. It was a splendid life--I loved it."

There was a smile on her face, and her head was thrown back. She
seemed living in the memory of those old glad days.

"Then my father died. He left me very badly off. I had to go
and live with some old aunts in Yorkshire." She shuddered. "You
will understand me when I say that it was a deadly life for a
girl brought up as I had been. The narrowness, the deadly
monotony of it, almost drove me mad." She paused a minute, and
added in a different tone: "And then I met John Cavendish."


"You can imagine that, from my aunts' point of view, it was a
very good match for me. But I can honestly say it was not this
fact which weighed with me. No, he was simply a way of escape
from the insufferable monotony of my life."

I said nothing, and after a moment, she went on:

"Don't misunderstand me. I was quite honest with him. I told
him, what was true, that I liked him very much, that I hoped to
come to like him more, but that I was not in any way what the
world calls 'in love' with him. He declared that that satisfied
him, and so--we were married."

She waited a long time, a little frown had gathered on her
forehead. She seemed to be looking back earnestly into those
past days.

"I think--I am sure--he cared for me at first. But I suppose we
were not well matched. Almost at once, we drifted apart. He--it
is not a pleasing thing for my pride, but it is the truth--tired
of me very soon." I must have made some murmur of dissent, for
she went on quickly: "Oh, yes, he did! Not that it matters
now--now that we've come to the parting of the ways."

"What do you mean?"

She answered quietly:

"I mean that I am not going to remain at Styles."

"You and John are not going to live here?"

"John may live here, but I shall not."

"You are going to leave him?"


"But why?"

She paused a long time, and said at last:

"Perhaps--because I want to be--free!"

And, as she spoke, I had a sudden vision of broad spaces, virgin
tracts of forests, untrodden lands--and a realization of what
freedom would mean to such a nature as Mary Cavendish. I seemed
to see her for a moment as she was, a proud wild creature, as
untamed by civilization as some shy bird of the hills. A little
cry broke from her lips:

"You don't know, you don't know, how this hateful place has been
prison to me!"

"I understand," I said, "but--but don't do anything rash."

"Oh, rash!" Her voice mocked at my prudence.

Then suddenly I said a thing I could have bitten out my tongue

"You know that Dr. Bauerstein has been arrested?"

An instant coldness passed like a mask over her face, blotting
out all expression.

"John was so kind as to break that to me this morning."

"Well, what do you think?" I asked feebly.

"Of what?"

"Of the arrest?"

"What should I think? Apparently he is a German spy; so the
gardener had told John."

Her face and voice were absolutely cold and expressionless. Did
she care, or did she not?

She moved away a step or two, and fingered one of the flower

"These are quite dead. I must do them again. Would you mind
moving--thank you, Mr. Hastings." And she walked quietly past me
out of the window, with a cool little nod of dismissal.

No, surely she could not care for Bauerstein. No woman could act
her part with that icy unconcern.

Poirot did not make his appearance the following morning, and
there was no sign of the Scotland Yard men.

But, at lunch-time, there arrived a new piece of evidence--or
rather lack of evidence. We had vainly tried to trace the fourth
letter, which Mrs. Inglethorp had written on the evening
preceding her death. Our efforts having been in vain, we had
abandoned the matter, hoping that it might turn up of itself one
day. And this is just what did happen, in the shape of a
communication, which arrived by the second post from a firm of
French music publishers, acknowledging Mrs. Inglethorp's cheque,
and regretting they had been unable to trace a certain series of
Russian folksongs. So the last hope of solving the mystery, by
means of Mrs. Inglethorp's correspondence on the fatal evening,
had to be abandoned.

Just before tea, I strolled down to tell Poirot of the new
disappointment, but found, to my annoyance, that he was once more

"Gone to London again?"

"Oh, no, monsieur, he has but taken the train to Tadminster. 'To
see a young lady's dispensary,' he said."

"Silly ass!" I ejaculated. "I told him Wednesday was the one day
she wasn't there! Well, tell him to look us up to-morrow morning,
will you?"

"Certainly, monsieur."

But, on the following day, no sign of Poirot. I was getting
angry. He was really treating us in the most cavalier fashion.

After lunch, Lawrence drew me aside, and asked if I was going
down to see him.

"No, I don't think I shall. He can come up here if he wants to
see us."

"Oh!" Lawrence looked indeterminate. Something unusually nervous
and excited in his manner roused my curiosity.

"What is it?" I asked. "I could go if there's anything special."

"It's nothing much, but--well, if you are going, will you tell
him--" he dropped his voice to a whisper--"I think I've found the
extra coffee-cup!"

I had almost forgotten that enigmatical message of Poirot's, but
now my curiosity was aroused afresh.

Lawrence would say no more, so I decided that I would descend
from my high horse, and once more seek out Poirot at Leastways

This time I was received with a smile. Monsieur Poirot was
within. Would I mount? I mounted accordingly.

Poirot was sitting by the table, his head buried in his hands.
He sprang up at my entrance.

"What is it?" I asked solicitously. "You are not ill, I trust?"

"No, no, not ill. But I decide an affair of great moment."

"Whether to catch the criminal or not?" I asked facetiously.

But, to my great surprise, Poirot nodded gravely.

" 'To speak or not to speak,' as your so great Shakespeare says,
'that is the question.' "

I did not trouble to correct the quotation.

"You are not serious, Poirot?"

"I am of the most serious. For the most serious of all things
hangs in the balance."

"And that is?"

"A woman's happiness, mon ami," he said gravely.

I did not quite know what to say.

"The moment has come," said Poirot thoughtfully, "and I do not
know what to do. For, see you, it is a big stake for which I
play. No one but I, Hercule Poirot, would attempt it!" And he
tapped himself proudly on the breast.

After pausing a few minutes respectfully, so as not to spoil his
effect, I gave him Lawrence's message.

"Aha!" he cried. "So he has found the extra coffee-cup. That is
good. He has more intelligence than would appear, this
long-faced Monsieur Lawrence of yours!"

I did not myself think very highly of Lawrence's intelligence;
but I forebore to contradict Poirot, and gently took him to task
for forgetting my instructions as to which were Cynthia's days

"It is true. I have the head of a sieve. However, the other
young lady was most kind. She was sorry for my disappointment,
and showed me everything in the kindest way."

"Oh, well, that's all right, then, and you must go to tea with
Cynthia another day."

I told him about the letter.

"I am sorry for that," he said. "I always had hopes of that
letter. But no, it was not to be. This affair must all be
unravelled from within." He tapped his forehead. "These little
grey cells. It is 'up to them'--as you say over here." Then,
suddenly, he asked: "Are you a judge of finger-marks, my friend?"

"No," I said, rather surprised, "I know that there are no two
finger-marks alike, but that's as far as my science goes."


He unlocked a little drawer, and took out some photographs which
he laid on the table.

"I have numbered them, 1, 2, 3. Will you describe them to me?"

I studied the proofs attentively.

"All greatly magnified, I see. No. 1, I should say, are a man's
finger-prints; thumb and first finger. No. 2 are a lady's; they
are much smaller, and quite different in every way. No. 3"--I
paused for some time--"there seem to be a lot of confused
finger-marks, but here, very distinctly, are No. 1's."

"Overlapping the others?"


"You recognize them beyond fail?"

"Oh, yes; they are identical."

Poirot nodded, and gently taking the photographs from me locked
them up again.

"I suppose," I said, "that as usual, you are not going to

"On the contrary. No. 1 were the finger-prints of Monsieur
Lawrence. No. 2 were those of Mademoiselle Cynthia. They are
not important. I merely obtained them for comparison. No. 3 is
a little more complicated."


"It is, as you see, highly magnified. You may have noticed a
sort of blur extending all across the picture. I will not
describe to you the special apparatus, dusting powder, etc.,
which I used. It is a well-known process to the police, and by
means of it you can obtain a photograph of the finger-prints of
any object in a very short space of time. Well, my friend, you
have seen the finger-marks--it remains to tell you the particular
object on which they had been left."

"Go on--I am really excited."

"Eh bien! Photo No. 3 represents the highly magnified surface of
a tiny bottle in the top poison cupboard of the dispensary in the
Red Cross Hospital at Tadminster--which sounds like the house
that Jack built!"

"Good heavens!" I exclaimed. "But what were Lawrence Cavendish's
finger-marks doing on it? He never went near the poison cupboard
the day we were there!"

"Oh, yes, he did!"

"Impossible! We were all together the whole time."

Poirot shook his head.

"No, my friend, there was a moment when you were not all
together. There was a moment when you could not have been all
together, or it would not have been necessary to call to Monsieur
Lawrence to come and join you on the balcony."

"I'd forgotten that," I admitted. "But it was only for a

"Long enough."

"Long enough for what?"

Poirot's smile became rather enigmatical.

"Long enough for a gentleman who had once studied medicine to
gratify a very natural interest and curiosity."

Our eyes met. Poirot's were pleasantly vague. He got up and
hummed a little tune. I watched him suspiciously.

"Poirot," I said, "what was in this particular little bottle?"

Poirot looked out of the window.

"Hydro-chloride of strychnine," he said, over his shoulder,
continuing to hum.

"Good heavens!" I said it quite quietly. I was not surprised. I
had expected that answer.

"They use the pure hydro-chloride of strychnine very little--
only occasionally for pills. It is the official solution, Liq.
Strychnine Hydro-clor. that is used in most medicines. That is
why the finger-marks have remained undisturbed since then."

"How did you manage to take this photograph?"

"I dropped my hat from the balcony," explained Poirot simply.
"Visitors were not permitted below at that hour, so, in spite of
my many apologies, Mademoiselle Cynthia's colleague had to go
down and fetch it for me."

"Then you knew what you were going to find?"

"No, not at all. I merely realized that it was possible, from
your story, for Monsieur Lawrence to go to the poison cupboard.
The possibility had to be confirmed, or eliminated."

"Poirot," I said, "your gaiety does not deceive me. This is a
very important discovery."

"I do not know," said Poirot. "But one thing does strike me. No
doubt it has struck you too."

"What is that?"

"Why, that there is altogether too much strychnine about this
case. This is the third time we run up against it. There was
strychnine in Mrs. Inglethorp's tonic. There is the strychnine
sold across the counter at Styles St. Mary by Mace. Now we have
more strychnine, handled by one of the household. It is
confusing; and, as you know, I do not like confusion."

Before I could reply, one of the other Belgians opened the door
and stuck his head in.

"There is a lady below, asking for Mr Hastings."

"A lady?"

I jumped up. Poirot followed me down the narrow stairs. Mary
Cavendish was standing in the doorway.

"I have been visiting an old woman in the village," she
explained, "and as Lawrence told me you were with Monsieur Poirot
I thought I would call for you."

"Alas, madame," said Poirot, "I thought you had come to honour me
with a visit!"

"I will some day, if you ask me," she promised him, smiling.

"That is well. If you should need a father confessor, madame"
--she started ever so slightly--"remember, Papa Poirot is always
at your service."

She stared at him for a few minutes, as though seeking to read
some deeper meaning into his words. Then she turned abruptly

"Come, will you not walk back with us too, Monsieur Poirot?"

"Enchanted, madame."

All the way to Styles, Mary talked fast and feverishly. It
struck me that in some way she was nervous of Poirot's eyes.

The weather had broken, and the sharp wind was almost autumnal in
its shrewishness. Mary shivered a little, and buttoned her black
sports coat closer. The wind through the trees made a mournful
noise, like some great giant sighing.

We walked up to the great door of Styles, and at once the
knowledge came to us that something was wrong.

Dorcas came running out to meet us. She was crying and wringing
her hands. I was aware of other servants huddled together in the
background, all eyes and ears.

"Oh, m'am! Oh, m'am! I don't know how to tell you--"

"What is it, Dorcas?" I asked impatiently. "Tell us at once."

"It's those wicked detectives. They've arrested him--they've
arrested Mr. Cavendish!"

"Arrested Lawrence?" I gasped.

I saw a strange look come into Dorcas's eyes.

"No, sir. Not Mr. Lawrence--Mr. John."

Behind me, with a wild cry, Mary Cavendish fell heavily against
me, and as I turned to catch her I met the quiet triumph in
Poirot's eyes.



The trial of John Cavendish for the murder of his stepmother took
place two months later.

Of the intervening weeks I will say little, but my admiration and
sympathy went out unfeignedly to Mary Cavendish. She ranged
herself passionately on her husband's side, scorning the mere
idea of his guilt, and fought for him tooth and nail.

I expressed my admiration to Poirot, and he nodded thoughtfully.

"Yes, she is of those women who show at their best in adversity.
It brings out all that is sweetest and truest in them. Her pride
and her jealousy have--"

"Jealousy?" I queried.

"Yes. Have you not realized that she is an unusually jealous
woman? As I was saying, her pride and jealousy have been laid
aside. She thinks of nothing but her husband, and the terrible
fate that is hanging over him."

He spoke very feelingly, and I looked at him earnestly,
remembering that last afternoon, when he had been deliberating
whether or not to speak. With his tenderness for "a woman's
happiness," I felt glad that the decision had been taken out of
his hands.

"Even now," I said, "I can hardly believe it. You see, up to the
very last minute, I thought it was Lawrence!"

Poirot grinned.

"I know you did."

"But John! My old friend John!"

"Every murderer is probably somebody's old friend," observed
Poirot philosophically. "You cannot mix up sentiment and

"I must say I think you might have given me a hint."

"Perhaps, mon ami, I did not do so, just because he _was_ your
old friend."

I was rather disconcerted by this, remembering how I had busily
passed on to John what I believed to be Poirot's views concerning
Bauerstein. He, by the way, had been acquitted of the charge
brought against him. Nevertheless, although he had been too
clever for them this time, and the charge of espionage could not
be brought home to him, his wings were pretty well clipped for
the future.

I asked Poirot whether he thought John would be condemned. To my
intense surprise, he replied that, on the contrary, he was
extremely likely to be acquitted.

"But, Poirot--" I protested.

"Oh, my friend, have I not said to you all along that I have no
proofs. It is one thing to know that a man is guilty, it is
quite another matter to prove him so. And, in this case, there
is terribly little evidence. That is the whole trouble. I,
Hercule Poirot, know, but I lack the last link in my chain. And
unless I can find that missing link--" He shook his head gravely.

"When did you first suspect John Cavendish?" I asked, after a
minute or two.

"Did you not suspect him at all?"

"No, indeed."

"Not after that fragment of conversation you overheard between
Mrs. Cavendish and her mother-in-law, and her subsequent lack of
frankness at the inquest?"


"Did you not put two and two together, and reflect that if it was
not Alfred Inglethorp who was quarrelling with his wife--and you
remember, he strenuously denied it at the inquest--it must be
either Lawrence or John. Now, if it was Lawrence, Mary
Cavendish's conduct was just as inexplicable. But if, on the
other hand, it was John, the whole thing was explained quite

"So," I cried, a light breaking in upon me, "it was John who
quarrelled with his mother that afternoon?"


"And you have known this all along?"

"Certainly. Mrs. Cavendish's behaviour could only be explained
that way."

"And yet you say he may be acquitted?"

Poirot shrugged his shoulders.

"Certainly I do. At the police court proceedings, we shall hear
the case for the prosecution, but in all probability his
solicitors will advise him to reserve his defence. That will be
sprung upon us at the trial. And--ah, by the way, I have a word
of caution to give you, my friend. I must not appear in the


"No. Officially, I have nothing to do with it. Until I have
found that last link in my chain, I must remain behind the
scenes. Mrs. Cavendish must think I am working for her husband,
not against him."

"I say, that's playing it a bit low down," I protested.

"Not at all. We have to deal with a most clever and unscrupulous
man, and we must use any means in our power--otherwise he will
slip through our fingers. That is why I have been careful to
remain in the background. All the discoveries have been made by
Japp, and Japp will take all the credit. If I am called upon to
give evidence at all"--he smiled broadly--"it will probably be
as a witness for the defence."

I could hardly believe my ears.

"It is quite en regle," continued Poirot. "Strangely enough, I
can give evidence that will demolish one contention of the

"Which one?"

"The one that relates to the destruction of the will. John
Cavendish did not destroy that will."

Poirot was a true prophet. I will not go into the details of the
police court proceedings, as it involves many tiresome
repetitions. I will merely state baldly that John Cavendish
reserved his defence, and was duly committed for trial.

September found us all in London. Mary took a house in
Kensington, Poirot being included in the family party.

I myself had been given a job at the War Office, so was able to
see them continually.

As the weeks went by, the state of Poirot's nerves grew worse and
worse. That "last link" he talked about was still lacking.
Privately, I hoped it might remain so, for what happiness could
there be for Mary, if John were not acquitted?

On September 15th John Cavendish appeared in the dock at the Old
Bailey, charged with "The Wilful Murder of Emily Agnes
Inglethorp," and pleaded "Not Guilty."

Sir Ernest Heavywether, the famous K. C., had been engaged to
defend him.

Mr. Philips, K. C., opened the case for the Crown.

The murder, he said, was a most premeditated and cold-blooded
one. It was neither more nor less than the deliberate poisoning
of a fond and trusting woman by the stepson to whom she had been
more than a mother. Ever since his boyhood, she had supported
him. He and his wife had lived at Styles Court in every luxury,
surrounded by her care and attention. She had been their kind
and generous benefactress.

He proposed to call witnesses to show how the prisoner, a
profligate and spendthrift, had been at the end of his financial
tether, and had also been carrying on an intrigue with a certain
Mrs. Raikes, a neighbouring farmer's wife. This having come to
his stepmother's ears, she taxed him with it on the afternoon
before her death, and a quarrel ensued, part of which was
overheard. On the previous day, the prisoner had purchased
strychnine at the village chemist's shop, wearing a disguise by
means of which he hoped to throw the onus of the crime upon
another man--to wit, Mrs. Inglethorp's husband, of whom he had
been bitterly jealous. Luckily for Mr. Inglethorp, he had been
able to produce an unimpeachable alibi.

On the afternoon of July 17th, continued Counsel, immediately
after the quarrel with her son, Mrs. Inglethorp made a new will.
This will was found destroyed in the grate of her bedroom the
following morning, but evidence had come to light which showed
that it had been drawn up in favour of her husband. Deceased had
already made a will in his favour before her marriage, but--and
Mr. Philips wagged an expressive forefinger--the prisoner was not
aware of that. What had induced the deceased to make a fresh
will, with the old one still extant, he could not say. She was
an old lady, and might possibly have forgotten the former one;
or--this seemed to him more likely--she may have had an idea that
it was revoked by her marriage, as there had been some
conversation on the subject. Ladies were not always very well
versed in legal knowledge. She had, about a year before,
executed a will in favour of the prisoner. He would call
evidence to show that it was the prisoner who ultimately handed
his stepmother her coffee on the fatal night. Later in the
evening, he had sought admission to her room, on which occasion,
no doubt, he found an opportunity of destroying the will which,
as far as he knew, would render the one in his favour valid.

The prisoner had been arrested in consequence of the discovery,
in his room, by Detective Inspector Japp--a most brilliant
officer--of the identical phial of strychnine which had been sold
at the village chemist's to the supposed Mr. Inglethorp on the
day before the murder. It would be for the jury to decide
whether or not these damning facts constituted an overwhelming
proof of the prisoner's guilt.

And, subtly implying that a jury which did not so decide, was
quite unthinkable, Mr. Philips sat down and wiped his forehead.

The first witnesses for the prosecution were mostly those who had
been called at the inquest, the medical evidence being again
taken first.

Sir Ernest Heavywether, who was famous all over England for the
unscrupulous manner in which he bullied witnesses, only asked two

"I take it, Dr. Bauerstein, that strychnine, as a drug, acts


"And that you are unable to account for the delay in this case?"


"Thank you."

Mr. Mace identified the phial handed him by Counsel as that sold
by him to "Mr. Inglethorp." Pressed, he admitted that he only
knew Mr. Inglethorp by sight. He had never spoken to him. The
witness was not cross-examined.

Alfred Inglethorp was called, and denied having purchased the
poison. He also denied having quarrelled with his wife. Various
witnesses testified to the accuracy of these statements.

The gardeners' evidence, as to the witnessing of the will was
taken, and then Dorcas was called.

Dorcas, faithful to her "young gentlemen," denied strenuously
that it could have been John's voice she heard, and resolutely
declared, in the teeth of everything, that it was Mr. Inglethorp
who had been in the boudoir with her mistress. A rather wistful
smile passed across the face of the prisoner in the dock. He
knew only too well how useless her gallant defiance was, since it
was not the object of the defence to deny this point. Mrs.
Cavendish, of course, could not be called upon to give evidence
against her husband.

After various questions on other matters, Mr. Philips asked:

"In the month of June last, do you remember a parcel arriving for
Mr. Lawrence Cavendish from Parkson's?"

Dorcas shook her head.

"I don't remember, sir. It may have done, but Mr. Lawrence was
away from home part of June."

"In the event of a parcel arriving for him whilst he was away,
what would be done with it?"

"It would either be put in his room or sent on after him."

"By you?"

"No, sir, I should leave it on the hall table. It would be Miss
Howard who would attend to anything like that."

Evelyn Howard was called and, after being examined on other
points, was questioned as to the parcel.

"Don't remember. Lots of parcels come. Can't remember one
special one."

"You do not know if it was sent after Mr. Lawrence Cavendish to
Wales, or whether it was put in his room?"

"Don't think it was sent after him. Should have remembered it if
it was."

"Supposing a parcel arrived addressed to Mr. Lawrence Cavendish,
and afterwards it disappeared, should you remark its absence?"

"No, don't think so. I should think some one had taken charge of

"I believe, Miss Howard, that it was you who found this sheet of
brown paper?" He held up the same dusty piece which Poirot and I
had examined in the morning-room at Styles.

"Yes, I did."

"How did you come to look for it?"

"The Belgian detective who was employed on the case asked me to
search for it."

"Where did you eventually discover it?"

"On the top of--of--a wardrobe."

"On top of the prisoner's wardrobe?"

"I--I believe so."

"Did you not find it yourself?"


"Then you must know where you found it?"

"Yes, it was on the prisoner's wardrobe."

"That is better."

An assistant from Parkson's, Theatrical Costumiers, testified
that on June 29th, they had supplied a black beard to Mr. L.
Cavendish, as requested. It was ordered by letter, and a postal
order was enclosed. No, they had not kept the letter. All
transactions were entered in their books. They had sent the
beard, as directed, to "L. Cavendish, Esq., Styles Court."

Sir Ernest Heavywether rose ponderously.

"Where was the letter written from?"

"From Styles Court."

"The same address to which you sent the parcel?"


"And the letter came from there?"


Like a beast of prey, Heavywether fell upon him:

"How do you know?"

"I--I don't understand."

"How do you know that letter came from Styles? Did you notice the


"Ah, you did _not_ notice the postmark! And yet you affirm so
confidently that it came from Styles. It might, in fact, have
been any postmark?"


"In fact, the letter, though written on stamped notepaper, might
have been posted from anywhere? From Wales, for instance?"

The witness admitted that such might be the case, and Sir Ernest
signified that he was satisfied.

Elizabeth Wells, second housemaid at Styles, stated that after
she had gone to bed she remembered that she had bolted the front
door, instead of leaving it on the latch as Mr. Inglethorp had
requested. She had accordingly gone downstairs again to rectify
her error. Hearing a slight noise in the West wing, she had
peeped along the passage, and had seen Mr. John Cavendish
knocking at Mrs. Inglethorp's door.

Sir Ernest Heavywether made short work of her, and under his
unmerciful bullying she contradicted herself hopelessly, and Sir
Ernest sat down again with a satisfied smile on his face.

With the evidence of Annie, as to the candle grease on the floor,
and as to seeing the prisoner take the coffee into the boudoir,
the proceedings were adjourned until the following day.

As we went home, Mary Cavendish spoke bitterly against the
prosecuting counsel.

"That hateful man! What a net he has drawn around my poor John!
How he twisted every little fact until he made it seem what it

"Well," I said consolingly, "it will be the other way about

"Yes," she said meditatively; then suddenly dropped her voice.
"Mr. Hastings, you do not think--surely it could not have been
Lawrence--Oh, no, that could not be!"

But I myself was puzzled, and as soon as I was alone with Poirot
I asked him what he thought Sir Ernest was driving at.

"Ah!" said Poirot appreciatively. "He is a clever man, that Sir

"Do you think he believes Lawrence guilty?"

"I do not think he believes or cares anything! No, what he is
trying for is to create such confusion in the minds of the jury
that they are divided in their opinion as to which brother did
it. He is endeavouring to make out that there is quite as much
evidence against Lawrence as against John--and I am not at all
sure that he will not succeed."

Detective-inspector Japp was the first witness called when the
trial was reopened, and gave his evidence succinctly and briefly.
After relating the earlier events, he proceeded:

"Acting on information received, Superintendent Summerhaye and
myself searched the prisoner's room, during his temporary absence
from the house. In his chest of drawers, hidden beneath some
underclothing, we found: first, a pair of gold-rimmed pince-nez
similar to those worn by Mr. Inglethorp"--these were
exhibited--"secondly, this phial."

The phial was that already recognized by the chemist's assistant,
a tiny bottle of blue glass, containing a few grains of a white
crystalline powder, and labelled: "Strychnine Hydrochloride.

A fresh piece of evidence discovered by the detectives since the
police court proceedings was a long, almost new piece of
blotting-paper. It had been found in Mrs. Inglethorp's cheque
book, and on being reversed at a mirror, showed clearly the
words: ". . . erything of which I die possessed I leave to my
beloved husband Alfred Ing ..." This placed beyond question the
fact that the destroyed will had been in favour of the deceased
lady's husband. Japp then produced the charred fragment of paper
recovered from the grate, and this, with the discovery of the
beard in the attic, completed his evidence.

But Sir Ernest's cross-examination was yet to come.

"What day was it when you searched the prisoner's room?"

"Tuesday, the 24th of July."

"Exactly a week after the tragedy?"


"You found these two objects, you say, in the chest of drawers.
Was the drawer unlocked?"


"Does it not strike you as unlikely that a man who had committed
a crime should keep the evidence of it in an unlocked drawer for
anyone to find?"

"He might have stowed them there in a hurry."

"But you have just said it was a whole week since the crime. He
would have had ample time to remove them and destroy them."


"There is no perhaps about it. Would he, or would he not have
had plenty of time to remove and destroy them?"


"Was the pile of underclothes under which the things were hidden
heavy or light?"


"In other words, it was winter underclothing. Obviously, the
prisoner would not be likely to go to that drawer?"

"Perhaps not."

"Kindly answer my question. Would the prisoner, in the hottest
week of a hot summer, be likely to go to a drawer containing
winter underclothing. Yes, or no?"


"In that case, is it not possible that the articles in question
might have been put there by a third person, and that the
prisoner was quite unaware of their presence?"

"I should not think it likely."

"But it is possible?"


"That is all."

More evidence followed. Evidence as to the financial
difficulties in which the prisoner had found himself at the end
of July. Evidence as to his intrigue with Mrs. Raikes--poor
Mary, that must have been bitter hearing for a woman of her
pride. Evelyn Howard had been right in her facts, though her
animosity against Alfred Inglethorp had caused her to jump to the
conclusion that he was the person concerned.

Lawrence Cavendish was then put into the box. In a low voice, in
answer to Mr. Philips' questions, he denied having ordered
anything from Parkson's in June. In fact, on June 29th, he had
been staying away, in Wales.

Instantly, Sir Ernest's chin was shooting pugnaciously forward.

"You deny having ordered a black beard from Parkson's on June

"I do."

"Ah! In the event of anything happening to your brother, who will
inherit Styles Court?"

The brutality of the question called a flush to Lawrence's pale
face. The judge gave vent to a faint murmur of disapprobation,
and the prisoner in the dock leant forward angrily.

Heavywether cared nothing for his client's anger.

"Answer my question, if you please."

"I suppose," said Lawrence quietly, "that I should."

"What do you mean by you 'suppose'? Your brother has no children.
You _would_ inherit it, wouldn't you?"


"Ah, that's better," said Heavywether, with ferocious geniality.
"And you'd inherit a good slice of money too, wouldn't you?"

"Really, Sir Ernest," protested the judge, "these questions are
not relevant."

Sir Ernest bowed, and having shot his arrow proceeded.

"On Tuesday, the 17th July, you went, I believe, with another
guest, to visit the dispensary at the Red Cross Hospital in


"Did you--while you happened to be alone for a few
seconds--unlock the poison cupboard, and examine some of the

"I--I--may have done so."

"I put it to you that you did do so?"


Sir Ernest fairly shot the next question at him.

"Did you examine one bottle in particular?"

"No, I do not think so."

"Be careful, Mr. Cavendish. I am referring to a little bottle of
Hydro-chloride of Strychnine."

Lawrence was turning a sickly greenish colour.

"N--o--I am sure I didn't."

"Then how do you account for the fact that you left the
unmistakable impress of your finger-prints on it?"

The bullying manner was highly efficacious with a nervous

"I--I suppose I must have taken up the bottle."

"I suppose so too! Did you abstract any of the contents of the

"Certainly not."

"Then why did you take it up?"

"I once studied to be a doctor. Such things naturally interest

"Ah! So poisons 'naturally interest' you, do they? Still, you
waited to be alone before gratifying that 'interest' of yours?"

"That was pure chance. If the others had been there, I should
have done just the same."

"Still, as it happens, the others were not there?"

"No, but----"

"In fact, during the whole afternoon, you were only alone for a
couple of minutes, and it happened--I say, it happened--to be
during those two minutes that you displayed your 'natural
interest' in Hydro-chloride of Strychnine?"

Lawrence stammered pitiably.


With a satisfied and expressive countenance, Sir Ernest observed:

"I have nothing more to ask you, Mr. Cavendish."

This bit of cross-examination had caused great excitement in
court. The heads of the many fashionably attired women present
were busily laid together, and their whispers became so loud that
the judge angrily threatened to have the court cleared if there
was not immediate silence.

There was little more evidence. The hand-writing experts were
called upon for their opinion of the signature of "Alfred
Inglethorp" in the chemist's poison register. They all declared
unanimously that it was certainly not his hand-writing, and gave
it as their view that it might be that of the prisoner disguised.
Cross-examined, they admitted that it might be the prisoner's
hand-writing cleverly counterfeited.

Sir Ernest Heavywether's speech in opening the case for the
defence was not a long one, but it was backed by the full force
of his emphatic manner. Never, he said, in the course of his
long experience, had he known a charge of murder rest on slighter
evidence. Not only was it entirely circumstantial, but the
greater part of it was practically unproved. Let them take the
testimony they had heard and sift it impartially. The strychnine
had been found in a drawer in the prisoner's room. That drawer
was an unlocked one, as he had pointed out, and he submitted that
there was no evidence to prove that it was the prisoner who had
concealed the poison there. It was, in fact, a wicked and
malicious attempt on the part of some third person to fix the
crime on the prisoner. The prosecution had been unable to
produce a shred of evidence in support of their contention that
it was the prisoner who ordered the black beard from Parkson's.
The quarrel which had taken place between prisoner and his
stepmother was freely admitted, but both it and his financial
embarrassments had been grossly exaggerated.

His learned friend--Sir Ernest nodded carelessly at Mr.
Philips--had stated that if the prisoner were an innocent man, he
would have come forward at the inquest to explain that it was he,
and not Mr. Inglethorp, who had been the participator in the
quarrel. He thought the facts had been misrepresented. What had
actually occurred was this. The prisoner, returning to the house
on Tuesday evening, had been authoritatively told that there had
been a violent quarrel between Mr. and Mrs. Inglethorp. No
suspicion had entered the prisoner's head that anyone could
possibly have mistaken his voice for that of Mr. Inglethorp. He
naturally concluded that his stepmother had had two quarrels.

The prosecution averred that on Monday, July 16th, the prisoner
had entered the chemist's shop in the village, disguised as Mr.
Inglethorp. The prisoner, on the contrary, was at that time at a
lonely spot called Marston's Spinney, where he had been summoned
by an anonymous note, couched in blackmailing terms, and
threatening to reveal certain matters to his wife unless he
complied with its demands. The prisoner had, accordingly, gone
to the appointed spot, and after waiting there vainly for half an
hour had returned home. Unfortunately, he had met with no one on
the way there or back who could vouch for the truth of his story,
but luckily he had kept the note, and it would be produced as

As for the statement relating to the destruction of the will, the
prisoner had formerly practiced at the Bar, and was perfectly
well aware that the will made in his favour a year before was
automatically revoked by his stepmother's remarriage. He would
call evidence to show who did destroy the will, and it was
possible that that might open up quite a new view of the case.

Finally, he would point out to the jury that there was evidence
against other people besides John Cavendish. He would direct
their attention to the fact that the evidence against Mr.
Lawrence Cavendish was quite as strong, if not stronger than that
against his brother.

He would now call the prisoner.

John acquitted himself well in the witness-box. Under Sir
Ernest's skilful handling, he told his tale credibly and well.
The anonymous note received by him was produced, and handed to
the jury to examine. The readiness with which he admitted his
financial difficulties, and the disagreement with his stepmother,
lent value to his denials.

At the close of his examination, he paused, and said:

"I should like to make one thing clear. I utterly reject and
disapprove of Sir Ernest Heavywether's insinuations against my
brother. My brother, I am convinced, had no more to do with the
crime than I have."

Sir Ernest merely smiled, and noted with a sharp eye that John's
protest had produced a very favourable impression on the jury.

Then the cross-examination began.

"I understand you to say that it never entered your head that the
witnesses at the inquest could possibly have mistaken your voice
for that of Mr. Inglethorp. Is not that very surprising?"

"No, I don't think so. I was told there had been a quarrel
between my mother and Mr. Inglethorp, and it never occurred to me
that such was not really the case."

"Not when the servant Dorcas repeated certain fragments of the
conversation--fragments which you must have recognized?"

"I did not recognize them."

"Your memory must be unusually short!"

"No, but we were both angry, and, I think, said more than we
meant. I paid very little attention to my mother's actual

Mr. Philips' incredulous sniff was a triumph of forensic skill.
He passed on to the subject of the note.

"You have produced this note very opportunely. Tell me, is there
nothing familiar about the hand-writing of it?"

"Not that I know of."

"Do you not think that it bears a marked resemblance to your own
hand-writing--carelessly disguised?"

"No, I do not think so."

"I put it to you that it is your own hand-writing!"


"I put it to you that, anxious to prove an alibi, you conceived
the idea of a fictitious and rather incredible appointment, and
wrote this note yourself in order to bear out your statement!"


"Is it not a fact that, at the time you claim to have been
waiting about at a solitary and unfrequented spot, you were
really in the chemist's shop in Styles St. Mary, where you
purchased strychnine in the name of Alfred Inglethorp?"

"No, that is a lie."

"I put it to you that, wearing a suit of Mr. Inglethorp's
clothes, with a black beard trimmed to resemble his, you were
there--and signed the register in his name!"

"That is absolutely untrue."

"Then I will leave the remarkable similarity of hand-writing
between the note, the register, and your own, to the
consideration of the jury," said Mr. Philips, and sat down with
the air of a man who has done his duty, but who was nevertheless
horrified by such deliberate perjury.

After this, as it was growing late, the case was adjourned till

Poirot, I noticed, was looking profoundly discouraged. He had
that little frown between the eyes that I knew so well.

"What is it, Poirot?" I inquired.

"Ah, mon ami, things are going badly, badly."

In spite of myself, my heart gave a leap of relief. Evidently
there was a likelihood of John Cavendish being acquitted.

When we reached the house, my little friend waved aside Mary's
offer of tea.

"No, I thank you, madame. I will mount to my room."

I followed him. Still frowning, he went across to the desk and
took out a small pack of patience cards. Then he drew up a chair
to the table, and, to my utter amazement, began solemnly to build
card houses!

My jaw dropped involuntarily, and he said at once:

"No, mon ami, I am not in my second childhood! I steady my
nerves, that is all. This employment requires precision of the
fingers. With precision of the fingers goes precision of the
brain. And never have I needed that more than now!"

"What is the trouble?" I asked.

With a great thump on the table, Poirot demolished his carefully
built up edifice.

"It is this, mon ami! That I can build card houses seven stories
high, but I cannot"--thump--"find"--thump--"that last link of
which I spoke to you."

I could not quite tell what to say, so I held my peace, and he
began slowly building up the cards again, speaking in jerks as he
did so.

"It is done--so! By placing--one card--on another--with

I watched the card house rising under his hands, story by story.
He never hesitated or faltered. It was really almost like a
conjuring trick.

"What a steady hand you've got," I remarked. "I believe I've
only seen your hand shake once."

"On an occasion when I was enraged, without doubt," observed
Poirot, with great placidity.

"Yes indeed! You were in a towering rage. Do you remember? It
was when you discovered that the lock of the despatch-case in
Mrs. Inglethorp's bedroom had been forced. You stood by the
mantel-piece, twiddling the things on it in your usual fashion,
and your hand shook like a leaf! I must say----"

But I stopped suddenly. For Poirot, uttering a hoarse and
inarticulate cry, again annihilated his masterpiece of cards, and
putting his hands over his eyes swayed backwards and forwards,
apparently suffering the keenest agony.

"Good heavens, Poirot!" I cried. "What is the matter? Are you
taken ill?"

"No, no," he gasped. "It is--it is--that I have an idea!"

"Oh!" I exclaimed, much relieved. "One of your 'little ideas'?"

"Ah, ma foi, no!" replied Poirot frankly. "This time it is an
idea gigantic! Stupendous! And you--_you_, my friend, have given
it to me!"

Suddenly clasping me in his arms, he kissed me warmly on both
cheeks, and before I had recovered from my surprise ran headlong
from the room.

Mary Cavendish entered at that moment.

"What is the matter with Monsieur Poirot? He rushed past me
crying out: 'A garage! For the love of Heaven, direct me to a
garage, madame!' And, before I could answer, he had dashed out
into the street."

I hurried to the window. True enough, there he was, tearing down
the street, hatless, and gesticulating as he went. I turned to
Mary with a gesture of despair.

"He'll be stopped by a policeman in another minute. There he
goes, round the corner!"

Our eyes met, and we stared helplessly at one another.

"What can be the matter?"

I shook my head.

"I don't know. He was building card houses, when suddenly he
said he had an idea, and rushed off as you saw."

"Well," said Mary, "I expect he will be back before dinner."

But night fell, and Poirot had not returned.



POIROT'S abrupt departure had intrigued us all greatly. Sunday
morning wore away, and still he did not reappear. But about
three o'clock a ferocious and prolonged hooting outside drove us
to the window, to see Poirot alighting from a car, accompanied by
Japp and Summerhaye. The little man was transformed. He
radiated an absurd complacency. He bowed with exaggerated
respect to Mary Cavendish.

"Madame, I have your permission to hold a little reunion in the
salon? It is necessary for every one to attend."

Mary smiled sadly.

"You know, Monsieur Poirot, that you have carte blanche in every

"You are too amiable, madame."

Still beaming, Poirot marshalled us all into the drawing-room,
bringing forward chairs as he did so.

"Miss Howard--here. Mademoiselle Cynthia. Monsieur Lawrence.
The good Dorcas. And Annie. Bien! We must delay our proceedings
a few minutes until Mr. Inglethorp arrives. I have sent him a

Miss Howard rose immediately from her seat.

"If that man comes into the house, I leave it!"

"No, no!" Poirot went up to her and pleaded in a low voice.

Finally Miss Howard consented to return to her chair. A few
minutes later Alfred Inglethorp entered the room.

The company once assembled, Poirot rose from his seat with the
air of a popular lecturer, and bowed politely to his audience.

"Messieurs, mesdames, as you all know, I was called in by
Monsieur John Cavendish to investigate this case. I at once
examined the bedroom of the deceased which, by the advice of the
doctors, had been kept locked, and was consequently exactly as it
had been when the tragedy occurred. I found: first, a fragment
of green material; second, a stain on the carpet near the window,
still damp; thirdly, an empty box of bromide powders.

"To take the fragment of green material first, I found it caught
in the bolt of the communicating door between that room and the
adjoining one occupied by Mademoiselle Cynthia. I handed the
fragment over to the police who did not consider it of much
importance. Nor did they recognize it for what it was--a piece
torn from a green land armlet."

There was a little stir of excitement.

"Now there was only one person at Styles who worked on the
land--Mrs. Cavendish. Therefore it must have been Mrs. Cavendish
who entered the deceased's room through the door communicating
with Mademoiselle Cynthia's room."

"But that door was bolted on the inside!" I cried.

"When I examined the room, yes. But in the first place we have
only her word for it, since it was she who tried that particular
door and reported it fastened. In the ensuing confusion she
would have had ample opportunity to shoot the bolt across. I
took an early opportunity of verifying my conjectures. To begin
with, the fragment corresponds exactly with a tear in Mrs.
Cavendish's armlet. Also, at the inquest, Mrs. Cavendish
declared that she had heard, from her own room, the fall of the
table by the bed. I took an early opportunity of testing that
statement by stationing my friend Monsieur Hastings in the left
wing of the building, just outside Mrs. Cavendish's door. I
myself, in company with the police, went to the deceased's room,


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