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Chapter twenty two

The next day when Lucy heard the doorbell ring, she went to answer it, expecting to see the doctor. But it was not the doctor. On the doorstep stood a tall, stylish woman. In the drive was a Rolls Royce.

‘Can I see Miss Emma Crackenthorpe, please?’ It was a pleasant voice, French perhaps.

‘I’m sorry, Miss Crackenthorpe is ill and can’t see anyone.’

‘I know she has been ill, yes; but it is very important that I see her. You are Miss Eyelesbarrow, I think. My son has told me about you. I am Lady Stoddart-West.’

‘Oh, I see,’ said Lucy.

Lady Stoddart-West continued, ‘I need to speak to Emma because of something that the boys have said to me. Please, will you ask her?’

‘Come in.’ Lucy took her visitor into the sitting room, then she went upstairs, knocked on Emma’s door. ‘Lady Stoddart- West is here. She wants to see you about something the boys have told her.’

‘Oh. Well… perhaps I ought to see her.’

Lucy led the visitor upstairs, opened the bedroom door for her to go in and then shut it.

Lady Stoddart-West moved across the room. ‘Miss Crackenthorpe? We have met before, I think, at the sports day at the school.’

‘Yes,’ said Emma, ‘Please sit down.’

Lady Stoddart-West sat in a chair beside the bed. ‘You must think it very strange of me to come like this, but the boys have been very excited about the murder that happened here.’

Emma said, ‘You think we ought to have sent your son home earlier?’

‘No, no, that is not what I think. Oh, this is difficult for me! But the boys told me that the police think that the murdered woman may be a French girl whom your eldest brother knew during the war. Is that right?’

‘It is possible,’ said Emma.

‘But why do they think that she is Martine? Did she have letters with her?’

‘No. But you see, I had a letter, from this Martine.’

‘You had a letter - from Martine?’

‘Yes, saying she would like to come and see me. I invited her here, but got a message saying she was going back to France. But then an envelope was found here addressed to her, so…’

Lady Stoddart-West said quickly, ‘When I heard this, I had to come and tell you something that I never intended to tell you. You see, I am Martine Dubois.’

Emma stared at her. ‘You! You are Martine?’

‘But, yes. I met your brother Edmund in the first days of the war. He was staying at our house. We fell in love. We intended to be married, and then Edmund was killed. I will not speak to you of that time. But I will say to you that I loved your brother very much… Then the Germans occupied France and I helped Englishmen get from France to England. That was how I met my present husband. He was an Air Force officer. When the war was over I had a new life and did not want to think about the past.’ She paused. ‘But it gave me a strange pleasure when I found out that my son’s best friend at his school was Edmund’s nephew.’

‘I can hardly believe it,’ said Emma, ‘that you are the Martine that dear Edmund told me about. But was it you, then, who wrote to me?’

Lady Stoddart-West shook her head. ‘No, no, of course I did not write to you.’

‘Then…’ Emma stopped.

‘Then there was someone pretending to be Martine, who wanted perhaps to get money from you? But who can it be? I have never said anything about it since I came to England.’ Emma said, ‘We will have to tell Inspector Craddock.’ She looked with suddenly gentle eyes at her visitor. ‘I’m so glad to know you at last, my dear.’

‘And I you.’

Emma leaned back. ‘Thank goodness, I don’t know who the poor woman was, but if she wasn’t Martine, then she can’t be connected to us!’

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