فصل 03

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فصل 03

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CHAPTER THREE

As he returned south to London by train, Mr Entwhistle thought about what Cora had said, and how everyone had reacted.

Maude had exclaimed, ‘Really, Cora!’

Somebody else had said, ‘What do you mean?’

And at once Cora had said, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean - oh, but I did think from what he said - and his death was so sudden! Oh, please forget that I said anything at all - I know I’m always saying the wrong thing.’

And then there had been a discussion about Richard Abernethie’s personal belongings. The house and its contents, Mr Entwhistle said, would be sold.

Cora’s unfortunate comment had been forgotten. After all, Cora had always been, if not subnormal, embarrassingly naive. She had always said unwelcome truths.

Mr Entwhistle’s thoughts stopped there. Yes, it was because Cora’s comments were true, that they were so embarrassing!

When Mr Entwhistle had looked at Cora earlier, she had not looked like the girl he had known. But Cora’s mannerisms were still there - such as the way she tilted her head to one side as she spoke. He remembered two phrases now.

But I did think from what he said…’ and ‘His death was so sudden.’

Yes, Richard’s death had been sudden. Richard’s doctor had said only months ago that if Richard looked after himself, he might live two or three years. Perhaps longer.

Well, doctors could never be sure about how each patient would react to a disease. And Richard Abernethie had no great wish to live after his son Mortimer’s death because there was no child or grandchild of his to inherit his fortune and his business.

During the last six months, Richard, who had obviously been searching for an heir, had invited to stay with him, at different times, his nephew George, his niece Susan and her husband, and his niece Rosamund and her husband. Richard had also briefly visited his hypochondriac brother, Timothy.

The will that Richard had eventually made told Mr Entwhistle how disappointed he was with all of them.

Mr Entwhistle remembered what Cora had said earlier that day, ‘I did think from what he said…’

He asked himself, What did Richard say? And when did he say it? Did Richard visit Cora Lansquenet or was it something he wrote in a letter to her which made her ask that shocking question: ‘But he was murdered, wasn’t he?’

Further along the train, Gregory Banks said to his wife, Susan, ‘That aunt of yours must be completely mad!’

‘Aunt Cora? Oh, yes.’

George Crossfield said sharply. ‘She really shouldn’t say things like that. It might put ideas into people’s heads.’

Rosamund’s husband, Michael, said, ‘I think George is right. It’s so easy to start people talking.’

‘Well, would it matter? It might be fun,’ said Rosamund.

‘Fun?’ Four voices spoke at once.

‘Having a murder in the family,’ said Rosamund. ‘And if he was murdered, who do you think did it? His death has been very convenient for all of us. Michael and I are completely broke. Michael was offered a really good part in a play if he could afford to wait for it, but he couldn’t. Now we’ll have enough money for our own play if we want to.’

Nobody was listening. They were thinking about their own futures.

‘Now I can put my clients’ money back in their accounts before they notice it’s missing,’ thought George.

Gregory thought, ‘Now I can escape from this prison I’m in.’

Susan’s hard, young eyes softened as she looked at her husband. She suspected that Greg loved her less than she loved him - but that only strengthened her feelings. Greg was hers; she would do anything for him. Anything.

Maude Abernethie, who was staying the night at Enderby, wondered if she should offer to stay longer to help Helen with the clearing of the house. But she really had to get back to Timothy to look after him. He had expected that most of Richard’s fortune would come to him and he would be annoyed - and that was so bad for his health.

She sighed, then smiled. Things were going to be much easier now, financially. They could spend money on plants for the garden, for instance.

Helen Abernethie sat by the fire in the sitting room at Enderby Hall. How worried she had been lately about money. Now, thanks to Richard, all that was over.

Helen looked at the bouquet of wax flowers that stood on the green marble table. Cora had been sitting beside it when they had been waiting to go to the funeral. She had been so pleased at being back in her old home. Oh, but the way Cora had asked, ‘But he was murdered, wasn’t he?’

The faces all round, shocked, staring at her!

And suddenly, seeing the picture of everyone clearly in her mind, Helen frowned. There was something wrong with that picture. Was it an expression on someone’s face? Was that it? Something that should not have been there?

No, she didn’t know what it was - but there had been something, somewhere, that was wrong.

Meanwhile, in the cafe at Swindon Railway Station, a lady in black was waiting for the connecting train to Lytchett St Mary, where she lived. She was eating cakes and looking forward to the future.

All those faces - when she had said that about murder! Well, it had been the right thing to say.

She smiled like a happy child. She was really going to enjoy herself at last.

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