فصل 17

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فصل 17

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

The family’s general opinion was that Helen should have avoided having Monsieur Pontarlier at Enderby Hall during this particular weekend, but fortunately this strange little foreigner did not seem to know much English.

After twenty-four hours of walking round and examining the contents of the house, the heirs of Richard Abernethie were ready to say what they wanted.

‘I don’t suppose I have long to live,’ said Timothy in a weak voice. And because I loved it as a child, I would like to have the Spode china dinner service.’

‘You’re too late, Uncle,’ George said. ‘I asked Helen for the Spode this morning.’

Timothy became purple in the face. ‘Now look here, I’m Richard’s only surviving brother. That service is mine.’

‘No Uncle, the Spode’s mine. First come, first served.’

‘Nonsense!’ Timothy placed a hand to his heart, and groaned, ‘This is very bad for me. If I could have - a little brandy.’

Miss Gilchrist hurried to get it. ‘Here you are, Mr Abernethie. Please - please don’t excite yourself. Are you sure you shouldn’t go up to bed?’

‘Don’t be a fool.’ Timothy drank the brandy. ‘I’m not leaving this room until this is settled.’

‘Really, George,’ said Maude. ‘If Timothy wants the Spode service, he will have it!’

‘It’s ugly anyway,’ said Susan.

‘Shut up, Susan,’ said Timothy.

In a voice that was a little higher than his ordinary tones, Gregory said, ‘Don’t speak like that to my wife!’ He half rose from his seat.

Susan said quickly, ‘It’s all right, Greg. I don’t mind.’

‘But I do.’

Helen said, ‘George, I think it would be nice to let your uncle have the Spode.’

And George, with a slight bow to Helen said, ‘Anything you want me to do, Aunt Helen, I will!’

‘You didn’t really want it, anyway, did you?’ said Helen.

He laughed. ‘The trouble with you, Aunt Helen, is that you see things too clearly! Don’t worry, Uncle Timothy, the Spode is yours. It was just my idea of fun.’

Timothy leaned forward angrily. ‘You expected that Richard would make you his heir, didn’t you? But my poor brother knew where the money would go if you had control of it. You would have gambled it away. And he suspected you of being a crook, didn’t he?’

George said quietly, ‘Shouldn’t you be careful about what you are saying?’

‘I wasn’t well enough to come here for the funeral,’ said Timothy, ‘but Maude told me what Cora said. Cora always was a fool - but there may have been something in it! And if so, I know who I’d suspect…’

‘Timothy!’ Maude stood up. ‘You must think about your health. Come up with me and go straight to bed. Timothy and I, Helen, will take the Spode in memory of Richard. There is no problem, I hope?’

Nobody spoke, and she went out of the room supporting Timothy with a hand under his elbow.

Michael Shane laughed. ‘You know, I’m enjoying all this! By the way, Rosamund and I want that marble table in the green sitting room.’

‘Oh, no,’ cried Susan. ‘I want that for my new beauty salon - and I will put a great bouquet of wax flowers on it.’

‘But, darling,’ said Rosamund, ‘we want it for the new play. It will be absolutely right.’

‘I see what you mean, Rosamund,’ said Susan. ‘But you could easily have a painted table for the stage - it would look just the same. But for my beauty salon I’ve got to have the real thing. We will talk about it tomorrow.’

‘This house is full of so many beautiful things,’ Miss Gilchrist said. ‘That green table would look wonderful in your new salon, I’m sure, Mrs Banks. And wax flowers do look so right on that table - really artistic and pretty.’

Greg said, speaking again in that high nervous voice, ‘Susan wants that table.’

There was a moment of unease.

Helen said quickly, ‘And what do you really want, George?’ George grinned and the tension relaxed. ‘Timothy’s played the poor sick man for so long that he thinks only about what he wants and makes sure he gets it,’ said George.

‘I don’t believe there’s anything at all the matter with him,’ Susan said. ‘Do you, Rosamund?’

‘What?’

‘Anything the matter with Uncle Timothy.’

‘No - no, I don’t think so.’ Rosamund was lost in her own thoughts. ‘I’m sorry. I was thinking about what stage lighting would be right for the table.’

‘A single-minded woman,’ said George. ‘Your wife’s dangerous, Michael. I hope you realize it.’

‘I realize it,’ said Michael seriously.

Helen changed the subject deliberately, turning to her foreign guest. ‘I’m afraid this is all very boring for you, Monsieur Pontarlier.’

‘Not at all, Madame. I think it is the greatest honour that I am allowed into your family life -‘ he bowed. ‘I would like to say that this house will be perfect for my elderly refugees. What peace! I hear that there was also the question of a school coming here, run by “nuns”, I think you say? You would have preferred that, perhaps?’

‘Not at all,’ said George. ‘But what I do find strange is why they should all dress as if they lived hundreds of years ago!’

‘And it makes them look so alike, doesn’t it?’ said Miss Gilchrist. ‘I got so nervous when I was at Mrs Abernethie’s and a nun came to the door. I thought she was the same nun who came to the door on the day of the inquest on poor Mrs Lansquenet. I felt as though she had been following me round!’

‘They both had the same type of face?’ Hercule Poirot asked.

‘I suppose that must be it. The upper lip looked almost as though she had a moustache. Of course it was very foolish of me. I knew that afterwards.’

‘A nun’s costume would be a good disguise.’ said Susan thoughtfully, ‘even for a man. It hides the feet.’

‘The truth is,’ said George, ‘you don’t often look properly at anyone. That’s why there are such very different descriptions of what an accused person looks like from different witnesses in court.’

Another strange thing,’ said Susan, ‘is that you sometimes see yourself in a mirror unexpectedly and you say to yourself, “That’s somebody I know well…” and then suddenly realize it’s you!’

George said, ‘It would be more difficult still if you could really see yourself - and not a mirror image.’

‘Why?’ asked Rosamund, looking puzzled.

‘Because nobody ever sees themselves - as they appear to other people. They always see themselves in a mirror as a reversed image.’

‘But why does that look any different?’

‘Because people’s faces aren’t the same both sides. Their eyebrows are different, and their mouths go up at one side, and their noses aren’t really straight.’

With a sigh, Hercule Poirot rose to his feet and said a polite good night to Helen Abernethie. ‘And perhaps, Madame, I had better say goodbye. My train leaves at nine o’clock tomorrow morning. So I will thank you now for all your kindness. You will return now to your villa in Cyprus?’

‘Yes.’ A little smile appeared on Helen Abernethie’s lips. Poirot said, ‘You are pleased, yes? You have no regrets?’

‘At leaving England? Or leaving here, do you mean?’

‘I meant - leaving here.’ said Poirot.

‘Oh - no. It’s no good, is it, to hold on to the past? We must all leave that behind.’

‘If we can,’ Poirot said. ‘Sometimes the past will not be left. It stays next to us - it says, “I am not finished with you yet’”

‘You mean,’ said Michael, ‘that your refugees when they come here will not be able to put their past completely behind them?’

‘I did not mean my refugees.’

‘He meant us, darling,’ said Rosamund. ‘He means Uncle Richard and Aunt Cora and the hatchet and all that.’ She turned to Poirot. ‘Didn’t you?’

‘Why do you think that, Madame?’

‘Because you’re a detective. That’s why you’re here. NARCO or whatever you call it, is just nonsense, isn’t it?’

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