فصل 08

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Chapter eight

Fresh Suspicions

There was a shocked silence. Japp was the first to speak. ‘Are these witnesses telling the truth, Mr Poirot?’

‘You must talk to them, of course,’ replied Poirot. ‘Here are their names and addresses. But yes, they are telling the truth.’

‘I’m very grateful to you, Mr Poirot,’ Japp said. He turned to Inglethorp. ‘But why didn’t you tell us this at the inquest, sir?’

‘There was a horrible rumour, quite untrue,’ said Alfred Inglethorp in a trembling voice. ‘I didn’t want any scandal.’

‘But if it wasn’t for Mr Poirot, you would have been arrested for murder!’ said Japp.

‘I was stupid,’ admitted Inglethorp. ‘But Inspector, you don’t know what other horrible things people have been saying about me.’ He looked angrily at Evelyn Howard.

‘Now, sir,’ said Japp, turning to John. ‘I’d like to see Mrs Inglethorp’s bedroom, please, and then talk to the servants. Don’t worry, Mr Poirot will show me the way.’ As we left the room, Poirot pulled me to one side. ‘Quick, Hastings, go upstairs to the other side of the house and stand by the door. Don’t move until I come.’ Then, turning quickly, he followed Inspector Japp.

As I stood by the door, I wondered why. Every room except Cynthia’s was on this side of the house. Was I to report who came or went? I waited for twenty minutes. Nobody came and nothing happened. When Poirot returned I told him I hadn’t moved.

‘You didn’t see anything? Or hear anything? A loud noise, perhaps?’

‘No,’ I said.

‘I’m not usually clumsy, but by accident I knocked over the table by the bed!’ He looked upset with himself. ‘Don’t worry,’

I said, as I looked out of the window. ‘Oh! Dr Bauerstein’s here. I know you think he’s clever, Poirot, but I still don’t like him. It was funny to see him so muddy on Tuesday.’ I told him about the doctor falling in the river.

‘Was Dr Bauerstein here on Tuesday evening?’ asked Poirot, very excited. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’

‘I didn’t think it was important,’ I admitted.

‘Not important? But Hastings, this changes everything - everything!’

I had never seen him so excited. ‘Come, we must go to Tadminster immediately!’ he exclaimed. ‘Ask John Cavendish if we can use his car.’ Ten minutes later we were driving along the road to Tadminster. ‘Now, Poirot,’ I said, ‘please tell me what this is about!’

‘Well, mon ami, now we know that Mr Inglethorp did not buy the poison, we must discover who did. Only you and Mary Cavendish, who were playing tennis, could not have bought the poison on Monday evening. Also, Mr Inglethorp said that he left the coffee in the hall. We must find out who gave Mrs Inglethorp her coffee, or who was near it. You say only Mary Cavendish and Mademoiselle Cynthia did not go near the coffee.’

‘Yes, that’s right.’ I was relieved that Mary Cavendish could not be suspected.

‘Now that Alfred Inglethorp has an alibi,’ continued Poirot, ‘the murderer will be even more careful. Is there anyone you suspect, Hastings?’

I hesitated - I did have a wild idea. ‘It sounds stupid,’ I said, ‘but I don’t think Miss Howard has told us everything. I know she was fifteen miles away, but in a car she could be here in half an hour.’

‘But I have checked,’ Poirot told me, ‘that Miss Howard was working in the hospital all afternoon and evening.’

‘Oh!’ I said. ‘But she is so sure that Inglethorp is guilty. I think she would do anything to prove it. She might have burned the new will, thinking that it was in his favour. She hates Inglethorp so much - it seems unnatural. Perhaps she tried to poison him, and Mrs Inglethorp was poisoned by mistake - though I don’t know how.’

‘You are right to suspect everybody until you can prove that they are innocent.’

‘But Miss Howard would never poison Mrs Inglethorp on purpose,’ I said. ‘She was devoted to her.’

‘That does not prove anything,’ said Poirot. ‘You can pretend to love someone. And you are right to say that Miss Howard’s hatred of Alfred Inglethorp is unnatural - though you are wrong about the reason. But I will not speak of my own thoughts.’ He paused. ‘But Mrs Inglethorp’s death does not benefit Miss Howard. The burned will was not in her favour. And there is no murder without a motive.’

I believed him, though I didn’t know why he was so sure. ‘So it wasn’t Miss Howard,’ I sighed. ‘I only thought of her because of what you said - that perhaps she wasn’t telling the truth at the inquest.’

Poirot looked at me strangely. Then for some reason he changed the subject. ‘Now, Hastings, there is something I want you to do. The next time you are alone with Lawrence Cavendish, say to him, “I have a message from Poirot. Find the extra coffee-cup, and you can stop worrying.’”

‘What does it mean?’ I asked him.

‘You know all the facts,’ said Poirot. ‘You can find out what it means.’

‘I’ll tell him - but it’s all very mysterious.’

We had now arrived at Tadminster, where Poirot visited the pharmacy for a few minutes. When he came out he told me that he had asked them to test the cocoa from Mrs Inglethorp’s bedroom.

‘But Dr Bauerstein has done that!’ I said with surprise. ‘And you yourself said that it didn’t contain strychnine.’

‘Yes, but I wanted it tested again.’ And he would not say anything else. I was puzzled, but because he had been right about Alfred Inglethorp’s alibi, I was sure that he had a good reason for his actions.

The funeral of Mrs Inglethorp took place the next day, and on Monday John told me that Mr Inglethorp was leaving Styles, and would be staying in the village. ‘It will make things easier, Hastings. We were wrong to suspect him, and we haven’t treated him well. But I still don’t like him. I don’t care that he has mother’s money, but I’m thankful that she couldn’t leave him Styles in her will - my father left the house to me after her death.’

‘Can you afford to stay here?’ I asked.

‘Oh, yes. Lawrence will live here too, and we both have our share of our father’s money. But it will be difficult.’

At breakfast that day we all felt more cheerful, except Lawrence, who for some reason seemed sad and nervous. The newspapers, of course, had pages about ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’. It seemed as if the whole country was talking about the murder. Reporters tried to enter the house, and people with cameras waited in the village. The police came and asked questions, but did not tell us anything. Did they have any idea who the murderer was, or was the case never going to be solved?

After breakfast, Dorcas came to speak to me. ‘I told Mr Poirot that no one in the house had a green dress,’ she said, ‘but I’ve remembered that there is a big wooden box in the attic, a chest where the dressing-up clothes are kept. I thought there might be a green dress in there.’

‘I’ll tell Mr Poirot, Dorcas - thank you,’ I promised.

Poirot and I went to look in the chest as soon as we could. It was a large piece of furniture, full of lots of different clothes. My friend didn’t seem to think we would find anything, but at the bottom of the chest we discovered a big black beard. ‘Aha!’ exclaimed Poirot. He looked closely at the beard in his hands. ‘It is new,’ he said, before putting it back in the chest, ‘and it has been cut to look like Mr Inglethorp’s beard.’

Once we were downstairs again, Poirot thanked Dorcas for telling us about the chest. Are the clothes inside used very often?’

‘Not very often now, sir,’ said Dorcas. ‘Sometimes the family dresses up and does some acting. Mr Lawrence is very funny, pretending to be a sort of Eastern king. And you wouldn’t recognise Miss Cynthia - all dressed up as a prince or a thief. They’re both very clever.’

‘And when he was an Eastern king,’ asked Poirot, ‘did Monsieur Lawrence wear that fine black beard in the chest upstairs?’

‘He did have a beard, sir,’ replied Dorcas, smiling. ‘It was made from my best black wool! If there’s a proper beard in that chest it must be new.’

‘So Dorcas doesn’t know about the beard,’ said Poirot thoughtfully, as we walked into the hall. ‘It was a clever place to hide it. So we too must be clever. For this I need the help of someone in the house - someone who no one knows is working with me.’

‘What about John?’ I suggested.

‘No, I don’t think so. Here is Miss Howard. I will ask her.’

‘What do you want?’ said Miss Howard, as we approached. I think she was still annoyed with Poirot for helping Alfred Inglethorp. ‘I’m busy.’

‘I would like to ask you a question, mademoiselle. Do you still think that Mrs Inglethorp was poisoned by her husband?’

‘I’ll admit that he didn’t buy the poison,’ replied Miss Howard, ‘but I still think he did it.’

‘So you still think he did it,’ said Poirot. ‘Hastings told me that the day he arrived, you said that if you were involved in a murder, you would know who the murderer was.’

‘Yes, I did say that,’ admitted Miss Howard.

‘But you don’t really believe that Mr Inglethorp is the murderer,’ said Poirot. ‘You only want it to be him. Really you think it is someone else.’

‘No, no!’ said Miss Howard wildly. ‘How did you guess? My idea is impossible - it must be Alfred Inglethorp!’ Poirot shook his head. ‘I am mad to think of such a thing!’ continued Miss Howard. ‘And I won’t tell you, or help you to -‘ She stopped.

‘I only want you to watch,’ said Poirot.

‘Yes, I am always watching - always hoping I am wrong.’

‘But if you are right, what will you do?’ asked Poirot.

‘I don’t know, I don’t know-‘

‘Miss Howard,’ said Poirot seriously, ‘this is not like you.’

‘Yes,’ said Miss Howard quietly, ‘you are right.’ She lifted her head proudly. ‘I believe in truth and justice, whatever happens.’ And with these words, she walked away.

Poirot watched her go. ‘That woman, Hastings, has a brain as well as a heart.’

‘You and Miss Howard seem to know what you are talking about,’ I said coldly, ‘but I don’t. Will you please tell me what’s going on?’

Poirot looked at me for a moment, and then shook his head. ‘No, I won’t tell you,’ he said. ‘You know what has happened - you know the facts. This is just an idea.’

I was so annoyed that I said nothing. But I decided that when I discovered something interesting and important, I would not tell Poirot.

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