فصل 06

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فصل 06

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CHAPTER SIX

‘It’s very good of you to come,’ said Maude Abernethie, as she led Mr Entwhistle to a very old car. ‘I’m sorry about this old thing. In fact, it broke down when I was coming back after the funeral. I had to walk a couple of miles to the nearest garage and stay at a small hotel while they fixed it and that upset Timothy. I try to keep things from him as much as possible - but some things I can’t do anything about - Cora’s murder, for instance. I had to ask Dr Barton to give him something to calm him down. It seems so strange for someone to break in and murder her in the middle of the afternoon. If you broke into a house, surely you’d do it at night - and there must have been times during the day when both Cora and her companion were out and the house was empty. It doesn’t make sense to commit a murder unless it’s absolutely necessary.’

Does murder ever make sense? It depended, Mr Entwhistle thought, on the mind of the murderer.

They arrived at a very large house which badly needed painting.

‘We have no servants,’ said Maude slightly angrily as she led the way in. ‘Just a couple of women who come in every morning. If I have to go out in the afternoon, Timothy is completely alone.’

Maude led the way into the sitting room where she had already put tea things by the fireplace, and seating Mr Entwhistle there, disappeared. She returned in a few minutes’ with a teapot and homemade cake.

Looking at Maude in the light of the fire, Mr Entwhistle suddenly felt sad. Maude Abernethie had not had any children but she was a woman built for motherhood. Her hypochondriac husband had become her child, to be guarded and watched over.

Poor Maude, thought Mr Entwhistle.

‘It is good of you to come, Entwhistle.’ Timothy raised himself up in his chair as he held out a hand. ‘I mustn’t do too much,’ he said. ‘The doctor’s forbidden it. You’ll have to do everything for me, Entwhistle. I can’t go to the inquest or be bothered by business of any kind connected with Cora’s estate. What happens to Cora’s share of Richard’s money? It comes to me, I suppose?’ Saying something about preparing dinner, Maude left the room.

‘The sum left invested for Cora,’ said Mr Entwhistle, ‘goes equally to you and George, Rosamund and Susan.’

‘But I’m her only surviving brother! I couldn’t believe it when Maude came home and told me about Richard’s will. I thought she’d made a mistake. She is the best woman in the world, Maude - but women don’t understand money. I don’t believe she even realises that if Richard hadn’t died when he did, we might have had to leave our home here. That is a fact!’

‘Surely if you had asked Richard…’

Timothy gave a short laugh. ‘I did say once to Richard that this place was getting a bit expensive to run and he said that we would be much better off in a smaller place altogether. It would be easier for Maude, he said! Oh no, I wouldn’t have asked Richard for help. But I can tell you, Entwhistle, that the worry affected my health badly. Then Richard died and I felt so relieved about the future. But what hurt me was how Richard left his money. I assumed that he would leave everything to me. He came here - not long after Mortimer’s death - because he wanted to talk about the family. We discussed young George - and Rosamund and Susan and their husbands. Both of those girls have made bad marriages, if you ask me. Well, I thought Richard was asking for my advice because I would be head of the family after he died, and so I thought the control of the money would be mine.’

In his excitement Timothy had kicked aside the blanket that covered his legs and sat up straight in his chair. He looked, Mr Entwhistle thought, a perfectly healthy man.

‘Will you have a drink, Entwhistle?’

‘Not quite so soon. Maude has just given me an excellent tea.’

Timothy looked at him. ‘She’s a capable woman. Maude. She even fixes that old car of ours - she’s a good mechanic in her way, you know.’

‘Yes, I hear the car broke down coming back from the funeral. Timothy, I don’t know how much Maude told you about the funeral and the relatives. Cora said that Richard had been murdered. Perhaps Maude told you.’

Timothy laughed. ‘That’s just the sort of thing Cora would say!’

Maude came into the room and said firmly, ‘I think, Timothy dear, that Mr Entwhistle has been with you long enough. You really must rest. If you have arranged everything…’

‘Oh, we’ve arranged things. I’ll leave it all to you, Entwhistle. You’ll see to Cora’s funeral - won’t you? We shan’t be able to come, but send an expensive wreath from us.’

Mr Entwhistle left for London by the breakfast train the following morning.

When he got home, he telephoned a friend of his.

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