فصل 08

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فصل 08

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CHAPTER EIGHT

Dr Larraby, when questioned by Mr Entwhistle about the possibility of Richard Abernethie being poisoned, denied it at once. ‘Entwhistle, who is making this suggestion?’

‘Abernethie never even suggested that one of his relations wanted him out of the way?’ Mr Entwhistle asked.

‘No!’

Mr Entwhistle told him of Cora’s comment at the funeral and Dr Larraby smiled.

‘My dear fellow, the explanation for that is simple. The woman is at a certain time of life - searching for excitement, unbalanced, unreliable. She might say anything. They do, you know!’

‘You may be right,’ Mr Entwhistle said, standing up. ‘Unfortunately we can’t ask her as she’s been murdered herself.’

‘What?’

‘You’ve probably read about it in the paper. Mrs Lansquenet at Lytchett St Mary in Berkshire.’

‘I had no idea she was a relation of Richard Abernethie’s!’ Dr Larraby was looking worried now.

Back at Enderby, Mr Entwhistle asked the old butler what his plans were.

‘Mrs Helen Abernethie has asked me to stay on until the house is sold, Sir.’ He sighed. ‘I appreciate Mr Richard’s generosity to me in his will, and though my married niece has asked me to go and live with them, well, it won’t be the same as living at Enderby.’

‘I know,’ said Mr Entwhistle. ‘It’s a hard new world for us old men. I wish I had seen more of my old friend before he died. How did he seem those last few months?’

‘Well, he wasn’t himself, Sir, not since Mr Mortimer’s death.’

‘No. And he was a sick man - sick men have strange ideas sometimes. I imagine Mr Abernethie did, too. Did he speak of enemies sometimes, of somebody wishing to hurt him - perhaps? He might even have thought his food was being poisoned?’

Old Lanscombe looked surprised. ‘I don’t remember anything of that kind, Sir.’

‘He invited some of his family to stay with him, didn’t he, before he died? His nephew and his two nieces and their husbands? Was he satisfied with those visits? Or was he disappointed?

Lanscombe’s eyes became cold. ‘I really could not say, Sir.’

‘I think you could,’ said Mr Entwhistle gently. ‘I liked your Master very much and so did you. That’s why I’m asking you for your opinion as a man, not as a butler. Did you feel that something was - wrong?’

‘Only since the funeral, Sir. And I couldn’t say exactly what it is.’

‘You know the contents of the will?’

‘Yes, Sir. Mrs Helen thought I would like to know. It seemed to me a very fair will.’

‘Yes, but it is not, I think, the will that Mr Abernethie originally intended to make after his son died.’

‘The Master, Sir, was very disappointed after Mr George had been here… Miss Susan he liked at once, but he didn’t like her husband at all.’

‘And the other couple?’

‘I think the Master enjoyed having them here - but he never approved of acting as a job. He said to me one day, “It’s a silly kind of life. It seems to me that actors and actresses live in a world of make-believe. I’m not sure it helps their judgment of what is right and what is wrong.” Of course he wasn’t speaking directly.’

‘No, no, I understand. Now after these visits, Mr Abernethie himself went away - first to his brother, and afterwards to Mrs Lansquenet. Can you remember anything he said about those visits on his return?’

‘The Master used to talk quietly to himself sometimes - thinking aloud - when I was in the room. He said something about not understanding what had happened to the money their father had left Timothy. And then he said something like, “Women can be fools in ninety-nine different ways but not in the hundredth.” And “You can only say what you really think to someone of your own generation. They don’t think you’re imagining things as the younger ones do.” And later he said “It’s not very pleasant to have to set traps for people, but I don’t see what else I can do.’”

Richard Abernethie had spoken of setting a trap. For whom?

Mr Entwhistle decided he should take Helen into his confidence. ‘I am going to ask you if you could stay here until the house is sold,’ he said, ‘but there is another reason why I would be grateful if you would stay on. There is a friend of mine, a man called Hercule Poirot-‘

Helen said sharply, ‘Hercule Poirot?’

‘You know of him?’

‘Yes.’ Her face was white. ‘You think - that Cora was right? That Richard was - murdered?’

Mr Entwhistle told her everything. When he had finished she said, ‘Maude and I, that night after the funeral - it was in both our minds, I’m sure. And then - Cora was killed - and I told myself it was just coincidence - but oh! If I could only be sure.

I’ve been uneasy… Not just about what Cora said that day - something else. Something that I felt at the time to be wrong.’

‘Wrong? In what way?’

‘That’s just it. I don’t know.’

‘You mean it was something about one of the people in the room?’

‘Yes - yes - something of that kind. But I can’t remember what it was. The more I think…’

‘Don’t think. That is the wrong way to try to remember something. Let it go. Sooner or later it will come into your mind. And when it does - let me know - at once.’

‘I will.’

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