فصل 01

مجموعه: کارآگاه هرکول پوآرو / کتاب: بعد از مراسم / فصل 1

فصل 01

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CHAPTER ONE

Old Lanscombe, the butler at Enderby Hall, shook his head. Soon they would be coming back from his Master’s funeral. Mr Richard Abernethie had been a good employer. He had died very suddenly, aged sixty-eight. Although he was ill, the family doctor thought that he would live for another two years. Ah, but the Master had never recovered from his son’s death, six months before. Mortimer Abernethie’s death was a huge shock because he was such a strong and healthy young man.

Mr Richard was twenty-four when his father, Cornelius, died, and he had gone straight into the family business. He ran it successfully while keeping a very happy home in this huge Victorian house. He was like a father to his younger brothers and sisters. Now Leo, Laura, Geraldine, and Gordon were dead, only Timothy and Cora were left. It had been twenty-five years since Lanscombe had seen Cora, and he hadn’t recognized her when she arrived before the funeral. She had grown so fat - and was dressed in a loose black dress with too many black necklaces! Well, Miss Cora had always been a bit - well, strange.

She had remembered him all right. ‘Why, it’s Lanscombe!’ she had said, and seemed so pleased to see him. Ah, they had all been fond of him in the old days.

Now cars were arriving, bringing the family home, and Lanscombe showed them all into the green sitting room.

A few minutes later, standing in front of the fireplace, Mr Entwhistle, the family lawyer, looked round. He did not know all the people there very well - some he had only met before the funeral and he needed to sort them out in his mind before he read the will. When he saw old Lanscombe handing round drinks, Mr Entwhistle thought, ‘Poor old man - he’s nearly ninety, and half blind. Well, he’ll have that nice little inheritance from Richard.’

Leo Abernethie’s widow. Helen, he knew well. She was a very charming woman of fifty-one. It was strange that she had never married again after Leo’s death, he thought.

Mr Entwhistle moved his attention on to George Crossfield, Laura Abernethie’s son. Laura had left very little money when she died five years ago. George was a lawyer and a handsome young man - but there was a dishonest feel about him.

Now which of the two young women was which? Ah yes, that was Rosamund, Geraldine’s daughter, looking at the wax flowers on the green marble table. She was a beautiful girl, but silly. She was an actress, not a very good one, and she had married an actor, Michael Shane, fair-haired and handsome. And he knows he is, thought Mr Entwhistle.

Susan, the late Gordon Abernethie’s daughter, would be much better on the stage than Rosamund, Mr Entwhistle thought - she had far more personality. She also had dark hair and eyes that were almost golden in colour. Beside her was Gregory Banks, the man she had just married. He was a pharmacist’s assistant! In Mr Entwhistle’s world, girls did not marry men who worked in a shop. The young man, who had a pale face, seemed uncomfortable.

His eyes went on to Mrs Maude Abernethie. A big, sensible woman, she had always been a good wife to Timothy, who had been an invalid for many years. Mr Entwhistle suspected that Timothy only imagined that he was ill, that he was a hypochondriac, in fact.

Then Mr Entwhistle looked next at Cora Lansquenet. Her mother had died giving birth to her. Poor little Cora! She was an awkward girl, always saying the wrong thing. She met Pierre Lansquenet, who was half French, at art school. At the time, Cora’s brother, Richard Abernethie, suspected that Lansquenet was looking for a rich wife, but Cora, who was not rich, ran away and married him anyway. They spent most of their married life in seaside towns that other painters seemed to live in, as well.

Lansquenet was a very bad painter, but Richard had generously given his young sister an income. Lansquenet had died twelve years ago, and now here was his widow, back in the home of her childhood, exclaiming with pleasure whenever she recalled some childish memory.

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