فصل 08 - 03

مجموعه: کارآگاه مارپل / کتاب: انگشت محرک / فصل 25

فصل 08 - 03

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II

We left the morning room and went to find Elsie Holland, who was organizing the boys’ lessons. She led us into another room.

‘Miss Holland,’ Nash said. ‘Will you tell me exactly what happened yesterday afternoon?’

‘Well, we had lunch as usual at one o’clock. Then Mr Symmington went back to the office, and I took the boys out.’

‘Where did you go?’

‘Towards Combeacre, by the field path - the boys wanted to fish. I forgot the bait and had to go back for it.’

‘What time was that?’

‘About ten minutes to three, perhaps.’

‘Did you go into the house?’

‘No. I’d left the bait in the shed.’

‘Did you see Megan or Agnes?’ Nash asked.

‘No, I didn’t see anyone.’

‘You make the tea on Wednesdays, Miss Holland?’

‘Yes. The food is all ready in the sitting room for Mr Symmington. I just make the tea when he comes in. The children and I have ours in the schoolroom.’

‘What time did you get in?’

‘At ten minutes to five. Then when Mr Symmington came in at five I went down to make his tea, but he said he would have it with us. The boys were so pleased. We even played a card game. It seems awful to think of it now - with that poor girl in the cupboard all the time.’

‘So you noticed nothing unusual when you came back yesterday afternoon?’

Her blue eyes opened very wide. ‘Oh no, Superintendent, nothing at all.’

‘And what about the week before?’

‘You mean the day Mrs Symmington…’

‘Yes. Were you out all that afternoon also?’

‘I always take the boys out in the afternoon as we do lessons in the morning. We went up on the hill - quite a long way.’

‘You didn’t go up to see Mrs Symmington when you got back?’

‘Oh no.’

Nash said lightly, ‘So no one would take the post up to her?’

‘No. Mrs Symmington used to come down and get it herself. She was usually awake by four.’

‘You didn’t think anything was wrong because you hadn’t seen her that afternoon?’

‘No. Mr Symmington was hanging up his coat and I said, “Tea’s not quite ready, but the kettle’s nearly boiling,” and he called out, “Mona, Mona!” - and then as Mrs Symmington didn’t answer he went upstairs to her bedroom… then he called me and said, “Keep the children away,” and…’

Nash said, ‘That letter she received, Miss Holland, do you think it was true that one of her sons wasn’t her husband’s?’ Elsie Holland said firmly, ‘No, I don’t. But Mrs Symmington was very sensitive and anything so unpleasant would have given her a great shock.’

Nash was silent for a moment, then he asked, ‘Have you had any of these letters?’

‘No, I haven’t had any.’

‘Are you sure? We know that the statements in them are all lies, so you don’t have to feel embarrassed.’

‘But, Superintendent, really I haven’t.’ She was almost tearful. When she went back to the children, Nash said, ‘Well, she says she hasn’t received any of these letters. And she sounds as though she’s speaking the truth. So what I want to know is, why hasn’t she received one? I mean, she’s a pretty girl, isn’t she?’

‘She’s rather more than pretty.’

‘Exactly. So why has she been left out?’

I shook my head. ‘But she’s not the only person. There’s Emily Barton, remember.’

Nash gave a small laugh. ‘You mustn’t believe everything you’re told. Miss Barton had one all right - more than one.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Because her former servant, the faithful Florence was very angry about it and told us.’

‘Why did Miss Emily say she hadn’t received any?’

‘Because the language isn’t nice.’

‘What did her letters say?’

‘That she poisoned her mother and most of her sisters!’

I said, ‘How can this mad and dangerous person be free to write all these things and we can’t see who it is?’

‘We will,’ said Nash. ‘She’ll write just one letter too many.’

‘But she won’t, will she - not after the murder.’

He looked at me. ‘Oh yes she will. You see, she can’t stop now. She needs to write them.’

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