فصل 11

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فصل 11

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER ELEVEN

Susan lay in bed, her mind racing. She had said she did not mind sleeping in this bed where Aunt Cora…

No, no she must not think about that. Think ahead - her future and Greg’s. The building in Cardigan Street - it was just what they wanted. They could have the beauty salon on the ground floor and live in the lovely flat upstairs. And there was a room out at the back for a laboratory for Greg. And Greg would get calm and well again. There would be no more of those huge angers; of those times when he looked at her without seeming to know who she was. Once or twice she’d been really frightened. And it would have happened again if Uncle Richard hadn’t died just when he did.

Uncle Richard had nothing to live for, so his death was a good thing, really. If only she could sleep. She always felt so safe in town - surrounded by people - never alone. Whereas here… Why did she feel that there was someone in this room, someone close beside her?

Surely that was a groan? Someone in pain - someone dying! I mustn’t imagine things, I mustn’t, I mustn’t, Susan whispered to herself. There it was again… someone groaning in great pain. This was real! The groans came from the room next door.

Susan jumped out of bed and went into Miss Gilchrist’s room. She was sitting up in bed, her face twisted with pain. She tried to get out of bed but was very sick and then collapsed back on the pillows.

‘Please - ring the doctor. I - I must have eaten something…’

As soon as the doctor examined Miss Gilchrist, he sent for an ambulance.

‘She’s really bad then?’ asked Susan.

‘Yes. I’ve given her morphia to ease the pain. But it looks…’ He paused. ‘What has she eaten?’

‘We had macaroni and cheese for dinner and a milk pudding and then coffee afterwards.’

‘Did you have the same things?’

‘Yes.’

‘And she’s eaten nothing else? No tinned fish? Or sausages?’

‘No.’

The ambulance came and took Miss Gilchrist away. The doctor went with her. When he had left, Susan went upstairs to bed. This time she fell asleep as soon as her head touched the pillow.

A large number of people came to Cora Lansquenet’s funeral. Most of the villagers were there and wreaths had been sent by the other members of the family. Mr Entwhistle asked where Miss Gilchrist was, and Susan explained. Mr Entwhistle was surprised. ‘Wasn’t that strange?’

‘Oh, she’s better this morning. They called from the hospital. People do get these stomach upsets.’

Mr Entwhistle said no more. He was returning to London immediately after the funeral.

Susan went back to the cottage and made herself an omelette. Then she went up to Cora’s room and started to sort through the dead woman’s things.

She was interrupted by the arrival of the doctor, who was looking worried.

‘Mrs Banks, will you tell me again exactly what Miss Gilchrist had to eat and drink yesterday. Everything. There must have been something she had and you didn’t? ‘ ‘I don’t think so… scones, jam, tea - and then supper. No, I can’t remember anything. Was it food poisoning?’

‘It was arsenic.’ he said.

‘Arsenic? You mean somebody gave her arsenic?’

‘That’s what it looks like.’

‘Could the arsenic have got into her food or drink by accident?’

‘It seems very unlikely, although such things have been known. But if you and she ate the same things…’

Susan gave a sudden exclamation. ‘Why, of course, the wedding cake! I didn’t have any of that, though she offered me some.’ Susan explained about the cake that had arrived.

‘Strange. And you say she wasn’t sure who sent it? Is there any of it left? Or is the box it came in still here somewhere?’

‘I don’t know.’

They found the white box in the kitchen with a few very small pieces of cake still in it.

‘I’ll take this,’ the doctor said. ‘Do you have any idea where the wrapping paper it came in might be?’ They looked but they did not find it.

‘You won’t be leaving here just yet, Mrs Banks?’ His voice was friendly, but it made Susan feel a little uncomfortable. ‘No, I will be here for a few days.’

‘Good. You understand the police will probably want to ask some questions. You don’t know of anyone who - well, might have wanted to hurt Miss Gilchrist?’

Susan shook her head. ‘I don’t really know much about her. She was with my aunt for some years - that’s all I know.’

‘Right. Well, I must go now.’

The cottage felt hot and uncomfortable and when he had gone Susan left the front door wide open and she went slowly upstairs to continue going through Aunt Cora’s belongings.

There was a box full of old photographs and drawing books. Susan put them to one side, sorted all the papers she had found, and began to go through them. About a quarter way through she came to a letter. She read it twice and was still staring at it, when a voice behind her made her give a cry of fear.

‘And what have you got hold of there, Susan? Hello, what’s the matter?’

‘George? How you frightened me!’

Her cousin smiled at her. ‘So it seems.’

‘How did you get here?’

‘Well, the front door was open, so I walked in. There was nobody about on the ground floor, so I came up here. If you mean how did I get to this part of the world, I decided this morning to come to the funeral, but the car broke down, then seemed to start working again. I was too late for the funeral by then, but I thought I might as well continue the journey because I rang your flat and Greg told me you’d come to sort things out.

I thought I might help you.’

Susan said, ‘Can you take days off whenever you like?’

‘A funeral has always been an acceptable excuse for taking a day off. Anyway, I won’t be going to the office in future - not now that I’m rich. I will have better things to do.’ He paused and smiled, ‘Same as Greg.’

Susan had never seen much of this cousin of hers and had always found him rather difficult to understand. ‘Why did you really come down here, George?’

‘I came to do a little detective work to try and find out whether Aunt Cora really did know that someone had killed Uncle Richard. Now, what’s in that letter that you were reading so carefully when I came in?’

‘It’s a letter that Uncle Richard wrote to Cora after he’d been here to see her.’

How very black George’s eyes were; and black eyes hid the thoughts that lay behind them.

George said slowly, ‘Anything interesting in it?’

‘No, not exactly.,.’

‘Can I see?’

She hesitated for a moment, then put the letter into his hand. He read some of it aloud. ‘Pleased to have seen you again after all these years… looking very well… had a good journey home and arrived back not too tired…’ His voice changed suddenly, ‘Please don’t say anything to anyone about what I told you. It may be a mistake. Your loving brother, Richard.’

He looked up at Susan. ‘What does that mean?’

‘It might mean anything…’

‘Oh yes, but it does suggest something. Does anyone know what he told Cora?’

‘Miss Gilchrist might know,’ said Susan. ‘I think she listened at the door to them. But she’s in hospital; she’s got arsenic poisoning.’

‘You don’t mean it?’ George exclaimed.

‘I do. Someone sent her some poisoned wedding cake.’ George whistled. ‘It looks,’ he said, ‘as though Uncle Richard was not mistaken when he talked about being poisoned himself.’

The following morning Inspector Morton called at the cottage. ‘Arsenic was found in the small pieces of wedding cake that Dr Proctor took from here. Miss Gilchrist keeps saying that nobody would do such a thing. But somebody did. You don’t know anything that might help us, Mrs Banks?’

Susan shook her head.

‘Well, young Andrews, the driver of the post van, doesn’t remember delivering the parcel with the wedding cake in it. He can’t be sure, though, so there’s a doubt about it.’

‘But - what’s the alternative?’

‘The alternative, Mrs Banks, is that an old piece of brown paper was used to wrap the parcel that already had Miss Gilchrist’s name and address on it and a used postage stamp. That package was then pushed through the letter box or put inside the door by hand to make her think that it had come by post. It’s a clever idea to choose wedding cake. Lonely middle-aged women are sentimental about wedding cake because they are so pleased to have been remembered by the young couple.’

‘Was there enough poison in it to - kill?’

‘That depends on whether Miss Gilchrist ate all of it. She thinks that she didn’t, so I’d like to go upstairs if you don’t mind, Mrs Banks.’

‘Of course.’ She followed him up to Miss Gilchrist’s room and said, ‘I’m afraid it’s in a terrible state. I didn’t have time to clean up before the funeral and then after Dr Proctor came I thought perhaps I ought to leave it as it was.’

‘That was very intelligent of you, Mrs Banks.’ He went to the bed and lifted the pillow. ‘There you are,’ he said, smiling.

A piece of wedding cake lay on the sheet.

‘How extraordinary,’ said Susan.

‘Oh no, it’s not. Perhaps your generation doesn’t do it. But it’s an old custom. They say that if you put a piece of wedding cake under your pillow, you’ll dream of your future husband. Miss Gilchrist didn’t want to tell us about it, I suspect, because she felt silly doing such a thing at her age. But I thought that’s what it might be.’ His face became serious. ‘And if it hadn’t been for an old maid’s foolishness, Miss Gilchrist might not be alive today.’

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